Posts tagged with Parenting

Put on your own oxygen mask first

I’m not a big fan of unsolicited parenting advice. It makes me uncomfortable, annoyed, and even anxious. Does that stop me from receiving it? No. Does that stop me from doling it out to others? No. It’s a sickness. As soon as we become parents (and sometimes before even that happens), we want so badly to help each other in the trenches that it just falls out of our mouths before we can stop it. Everyone means well. Even if their advice is moronic.

Recently though, I was given some advice that changed the level of happiness in our home. Actually, it’s mostly just my happiness, but whatever. That stuff filters through us all.

Some friends were over at our house for dinner and I was lamenting over the days when I got to eat my food when it was still hot and didn’t get interrupted every two bites for drink refills and requests for more noodles. That’s when our friend Palmer shared his own personal parenting philosophy: Put on your own oxygen mask first.

What the heck is that? He explained it as such: Just like they tell you on airplanes, put your own oxygen mask on first. If you’re breathing fine, then you’re more able to help your child. Therefore, eat your dinner first. Get your drink first. Take care of you FIRST. Then, tend to your children.

My head spun. To be honest, I thought it was an incredibly selfish way to parent when he said it. What was my purpose on this Earth as a mother if it wasn’t to take care of my children’s every need? They were my first priority and I couldn’t possibly be happy if they needed something.

He went on to explain that as a parent, if you’re starving while you’re running back and forth to the kitchen at your kids’ every whim, chances are you’re cranky and irritable. You’re probably not being the best parent. In other words, you’re hangry (angry + hungry = hangry). So, if you instead fix your plate, eat and then call your children to the table, you’re in a much better position to help care for them. It made sense, but I wasn’t quite sold. Dinner was our family time. I hated the thought of segmenting it out.

I ate cold food for two more weeks before I tried it out. I swear, the heavens opened up and shined down the day I did. My food was hot. It was delicious. No one bothered me. The girls were happily watching A Bug’s Life in the next room and were oblivious to the fact that it was dinnertime. When I was done, I called them in. They ate and I was able to enjoy them and help them without the tiniest bit of irritation. My husband took notice of the difference and was instantly a fan. He now has even started taking the girls into another room many days so I can eat in absolute peace before they join me.

My fears of it ruining family time were unwarranted. I’m able to finish my meal and then sit and enjoy our time together without concern for scarfing down my food before the next request. It’s been such a great change for us, that I’ve been slowly implementing this advice to other aspects of our life. I used to use every gift card or coupon we had on the girls. The result was that the girls had an overabundance of clothes and stuff while I scrambled to safety pin straps back together on my own clothes. These past few months I stopped doing that. I used the gift cards for me. The girls also used to get the good quality lotions while I would buy off-brand moisturizer for myself. Last month, I splurged on myself and used the cheaper stuff on them. Their skin looks the same and I finally got rid of the flakes I’ve been cursing for years. I’ve also recognized that for me to be happy, I need to schedule time for me to do something I enjoy, not just run them around to activity after activity. We now share our “fun” budget with things for me and my husband as well as our children.

The whole dynamic in our home is shifting. I’m getting happier, and my mood is rubbing off on the rest of my family. My friend is a genius. I wish I’d adapted this philosophy sooner. Of course, there are times when I still struggle with feeling selfish.

And then I remember just how much I like hot food.

Sometimes a large beer helps too

Sometimes a large beer helps too by Megan Spreer

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My parenting has reached an all new low

There are most definitely hills and valleys to this parenting gig. I’m in a very low and dark valley right now. My days are exhausting and I feel as though I yell more than I laugh with my children. They’re testing boundaries and my brain is desperately trying to keep up, let alone get one step ahead. Despite my best efforts, it all came crashing down this week.

I had to throw away the deck of Skipbo cards because more had been eaten than had been used in play. I was still scraping Playdoh out of the carpet after the kids snuck it into their bedroom. I had been trying to paint a set of bunk beds that we found on a Facebook Buy, Sell, Trade group during nap time, but no one was napping for me all week. Every five minutes someone was whining that they lost their drink cup. I was frustrated. I was flustered. I was so excited when preschool drop off time came on Monday. The excitement was short-lived.

While escorting the oldest in to her class, the little one had a diarrhea blow out that soaked the arm of my sweatshirt. Yay. We hurried home in a car reeking of ick. I was in such a hurry to get us cleaned up and get naps started that I just threw my sweatshirt into the washing machine, started it up, and put B in her bed. Twenty minutes later, I realized that I’d done the worst thing that a social media professional and work from home mom could have possibly done:

I WASHED MY IPHONE.

It had been in my sweatshirt pocket. I ran to the laundry room and opened the washer door. It was lying lifeless under a pile of soaked clothes. Devastation ensued.

I consulted Dr. Google. I buried it in a bag of rice. I prayed. I pleaded. I sucked up my pride and emailed my husband. Nothing worked. It was gone. It was also the straw that broke the camel’s back. I cried. And cried. And cried some more. We had no phone insurance. We had no upgrades. My phone was my only tether to the outside world during marathons of Peppa Pig and continuous verses of Wheels on the Bus. It was how I kept up with clients, got industry updates, stayed in touch with friends, and got to level 50 on Candy Crush (don’t judge). I was going to wither away alone with these children who were currently driving me insane. The world was over. (Rational thinking didn’t live here that day, obviously.)

As I sat there with wet, ugly cry face, the tide in our house shifted. The oldest, who was now home from school, told me over and over “Mommy, it’ll be okay.” B came over and put her head in my lap and smiled up at me. They put aside their crazy antics and rallied because one of our own was hurting. I felt better. I was succeeding in raising little people who knew how to be there for others no matter how ridiculous that person was being about a situation. Granted, they had no idea that their mother was crying over an electronic device and her own stupidity. They were still there, though. Just as I hug and console them when they cry about running out of waffles, my girls rose to the occasion too.

It gave me hope that, again, I’m not totally screwing this whole parenting thing up. I may be rapidly depleting our finances, but at least I’m not raising little jerks. Now, I’d love to tell you that everything has been sunshine and rainbows since then. If you are or have ever been a parent of a toddler and a preschooler, you’ll know that that’s a laughable statement. But I have finally been able to put things in a better perspective and I’m climbing out of this valley. My sister told me this week “This is just a season you’re in. It’ll pass so quickly and one day, you’ll miss it.”

I can’t wait until I miss this.

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Parents, Stop Parenting Other Parents

It never ceases to amaze me how people ignore or completely throw out the idea of social norms when it comes to parents. Fellow moms and dads, so-called experts and relatives don’t hesitate to offer advice and seem to love to tell people how to do their job as parents. It’s weird to me. I mean, you’d never go up to a married couple and say, “Hey! You guys should limit each other’s screen time and also, only use positive words when you converse.” So why is it cool to tell another parent how to do navigate their own relationship with their child?

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see an article, infographic, or status update on Facebook that tells me I’m doing something wrong as a parent. This week’s list: don’t give your kids Red 40 food dye, don’t have an epidural, don’t let your kids wear a coat in their car seat, don’t spank your child, don’t buy your kids gender specific toys, and don’t let your baby cry it out. Don’t, don’t, don’t. So many don’ts.

Why are we so fixated on telling each other what we shouldn’t do? Why are we so quick to point out what each other is doing wrong? Is it so we can feel better about our own decisions? I hear it or read it everyday. We are policing and parenting each other rather than focusing on our own kids and our own struggles. The rules that you have in your house won’t necessarily work for mine. The rules for my kids may make everyone in your house crazy.

Parenting is the toughest job I’ve ever done. The worst part is I won’t see the main results of all of my hard work until years down the line. I’m constantly worried that I’m screwing it all up without all of the criticism from other people. I don’t need the help.

You had a natural childbirth sans epidural? That’s impressive. I gave birth to an eight pound baby after my epidural wore off and I never want to do that without drugs again. I felt no magic and awe that you speak of. I felt pain and wanted to die. But, I respect your crazy. Please respect mine. Don’t tell me I’m a bad mom and drugged my baby for selfish reasons. I was a better mom, more quickly with the juice. That’s just how I work. And you work differently. That’s cool.

The same goes for every other argument. My girls love pink. We buy pink toys. Your boy likes pink? Cool! Get him the pink stuff too! Need to let Junior cry safely in his crib so you can pull yourself together? You do what you need to do to survive, fellow parent.

In 2015, let’s shift how we talk to each other about parenting. Instead of all of the “don’ts”, let’s shift to building each other up with the positive. Our kids aren’t going to be the ones who say “Hey Dad! You did a great job teaching me how be a better listener. Thanks for that time out.” So, I’ll do it. You should too. When we see our parent friends and even random strangers doing an awesome job with their kids in a tough situation, tell them. Let’s build each other up in times of triumph rather than seeking all of the things we see each other doing wrong. Cuz let’s be honest, we’re all messing this up in our own unique way. ALL OF US.

We should probably just start crowd funding our kids’ therapy now, right?

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I Broke Christmas

Please don’t be angry with me, but I have a confession: You know those crazies who go out shopping the day after Thanksgiving? The ones who wait in ridiculously long lines to score loot for deeply discounted prices? The ones who now go out before they’ve even finished chewing their turkey?

I’m one of them and I’m sorry.

It’s not that I have no respect for Thanksgiving. I don’t try to score a big screen TV either. It’s honestly that I love Christmas so much that I absolutely can’t wait a second longer for it to begin. For me, Black Friday (err--Thursday) shopping with my sister and friends jumpstarts my holiday in the happiest way. (But to be real, I really wish it didn’t begin until Friday like it’s supposed to.)

There is a major problem with my extreme love of Christmas though (aside from the fact that I now shop while others should be enjoying Thanksgiving). I get so excited that I overspend. Every single time. Every potential gift I see makes me imagine the recipient's face when they open it and I lose my head. I spend and spend and forget to pay attention to the totals. I broke our Christmas.

Last year, I racked up so much on my credit card that we’re STILL paying it off. Yikes. It still hurts.

I’m all about teaching my kids that Christmas isn’t about gifts and that you should be financially responsible, always. Yet, I seemed to have missed the lesson myself. So I had to get myself in check this year. I had to reel in the spending, hide the credit card, and remember what really makes Christmas magical. I needed to get back to the spirit of the holidays and teach my children the same thing. I WILL fix it.

So, this year, I’m only getting the girls four gifts each. It’s based on this idea I got from my sister-in-law who got it from Pinterest. The whole premise is this: You only get each child something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. One gift for each category. It’s genius. You can have them guess which gift is which. You can label each gift with printable tags (also on Pinterest). You can personalize it however you want. I loved it because it makes Christmas morning like a fun game in itself. But the biggest plus is that it has helped keep me in check while shopping this year. I have literally left a line to check out so I could put a toy back on the shelf when I realized that I’d already fulfilled my girl’s “Something I want” item. It’s not been easy, but our bank account is so much happier (i.e. My husband is happier). And when I think of future Christmases when our kids ask for even more expensive items, I know I’ll love the me who implemented this game plan now.

For the sake of realness though, I’ll be honest, I still felt a huge void at the thought of only buying my kids four things when I decided to take this new tradition on. In order to help curb my crazy, we’re doing a lot of fun holiday themed activities this month:

  1. Ice skating day with family
  2. Homemade advent calendar
  3. Felt christmas tree
  4. Holiday light tour
  5. Visit to see Santa
  6. Cookie making day
  7. Elf on the Shelf
  8. Christmas movies with popcorn
  9. Dance parties to Christmas music
  10. Magical trips to the Christmas section of Target (just to look)

So far, the plan is going marvelously. The girls are loving everything to do with Christmas. It’s made me realize that when I was putting most of the emphasis on Christmas morning gifts, the rest of the season lost its sparkle. Now that we’re doing things for the holidays all month long, the girls are excited everyday to see what fun thing we have planned. And I promise you, I’m not even going all out Pinterest mom on this either. Somedays we do nothing but stay in our pajamas and listen to Christmas music. Thankfully, because my littles are still easily entertained, this is enough.

Why didn’t I think of all this on my own?! And sooner?

Thank you, dear sister-in-law and the people of Pinterest. Our Christmases will now have magic before we even have to spike the egg nog.

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Keepin’ it real: My kids have dirty mouths

It’s that time of year again. Rest assured, I’m not talking about the holidays right now. You don’t need me to tell you that they’re here. Hobby Lobby did that back in August when they put out their Christmas decorations. No, I’m talking about the biannual reminder that I fail miserably at some aspects of parenting. We visited the dentist office this week.

Hooray.

I’m not a big fan of the dentist. I take my children more often than I even make myself go in. I blame my childhood. As a kid, I was such a fan of candy, sugary snacks, pop and juice that even though my poor mother took me to regular cleanings, I almost always had at least one cavity. This has continued into my adulthood. So to me, one trip to the dentist means at least two visits that week and there will be pain, followed by a numb face that will prevent me from eating for eight or so hours. Therefore, I’m not fond of sitting in that banana shaped chair.

So I have made taking my kids regularly, a priority. I want them to see it as a routine that is somewhat enjoyable and not scary. I even made sure to take them to a fun, pediatric dentist in town that has TVs, sugar-free treats, butterflies and toys throughout the office. My girls love it. The fact that they think the dentist is an outing on the same level as a visit to the library is huge to me.

However, it’s still not fun for me even when I’m not the one being drilled on. While the ladies in the office are fantastic, I end up leaving feeling like I’ve already failed my children’s dental hygiene. (To be fair, I’m not doing a spectacular job.) They start every appointment asking how often we brush their teeth.

“They brush them mostly alone, once a day-ish.”

Time of day? “In the morning.”

Strike one and strike two right off the bat. This hygienist reminds me that I should be assisting them every time and that they should brush morning and night. Even if I can’t get two sessions in, night time brushing is crucial. Well, super.

Then she asked what they drink at home. “Milk, juice and sometimes water.”

She says I’m supposed to be limiting non-water drinks to meal times and brushing teeth after drinking anything sugary. Super duper. We’ve not been doing that. At all.

Strike three. I’m out, right? She continued on by asking what they snack on. Oooo! Oooo! I’m gonna win this question, I know it! They told me at HJ’s first appointment to skip fruit snacks, fruit rolls, and dried fruit. DONE. “They eat grapes, cheese sticks and crackers, mostly.” EHHHHH. Wrong answer. Apparently, crackers have a tendency to collect in teeth crevices and will need to be brushed out when they’re finished eating.

Good God. I can’t win. I CANNOT follow these crazy children around with a toothbrush all day. Do you know how many snacks they consume in a day?!

Next up to discuss was flossing. I just laughed. I’m lucky to remember to floss my own teeth. I could count the number of times I’ve flossed my three-year-old’s on one finger. It’s a battle to get my kids to let me help them brush their teeth and to keep them from swallowing their toothpaste. Flossing?! Yeah, right.

I’m sorry if you’re a teeth person. And I’m sorry if this whole post grosses you out. I’m a terrible maintainer of my children’s mouths. Unless I’m feeding them, catching their vomit or checking for a tooth to determine if they’re teething, I just have no more energy to care about what’s going on in there. My days are spent making sure they’re eating right(ish), learning shapes and numbers and keeping them from killing themselves by diving off their toy box. Their baby teeth that will fall out in a few years, aren’t at the top of my priority list.

But like I say after EVERY visit, I’m going to be better. We’re going to brush every night. We’re going to attempt to remember to floss. And I will continue to eat their fruit snacks for them.

(It’s totally to protect their teeth, I swear.)

B's first dentist visit

B's first dentist visit by Megan Spreer

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Fine, Be a Witch

My 3-year-old is killing me. There’s a daily battle of wills going on at our house, and I feel like I’m losing. HJ now has her own opinion. Oh, does she have opinions.I’ve been anxiously waiting for the day I would learn her favorite color, hear her sing her favorite song, and be told the name of her best friend. I couldn’t wait to be able to talk to her about her own ideas and see how she sees her world. And now, that that day’s here, I’m getting schooled. To be honest, I thought this was gonna go way differently. I thought it was going to be easier. You hear that sound? That’s karma laughing at me.

This girl has her own preferences, favorites and answers to everything. She’s no longer my little copycat. She’s ALL HJ. She loves the color pink, Peppa Pig, mac & cheese, and looking up horse videos on YouTube. She refuses to dance with me in the car and she tells me to stop when I sing along to the radio. As much as I love watching the person she is becoming take shape….holy crap. This is getting hard. She doesn’t like the clothes I pick out for her every morning. She screams bloody murder every time I touch her hair with a brush. She even told me that she prefers her dad to me. Thanks, kid.

But the first of her big decisions came a few weeks ago while we were discussing Halloween costumes. There was a rule in my house growing up that we could dress up as whatever we wanted as long as it wasn’t gory, nasty or just plain scary. It was a rule I hated at the time as I wanted to have the bleeding wounds and axes sticking out of my head. I thought it was so cool. I loved being scared and scaring others. My mom, of course, vetoed every awful costume I dreamt up. Therefore, my costumes consisted of a bride, Snow White, a (tasteful) saloon girl, a baby, and a clown (which, to me, is pretty dang scary).

Now that I’m the mom, I tooootally get it. I can’t stand the idea of my sweet, adorable babies dressing up as something awful. I can’t see them as zombies, monsters or vampires. I want them to be cute little animals, princesses or even a hilarious orange Oompa Loompa.

So, naturally, HJ wanted no part of my Halloween vision. Her choice: a spooky witch.

Because OF COURSE that’s what she’d pick. Generic, lame and scary. Out of everything out there, that’s the only thing she wanted. I tried everything to sway her. I brought home catalogs, we looked through Pinterest, and we scoured Amazon. I even suggested Glenda, the beautiful, nice, and pink(!) witch from The Wizard of Oz. Nope. She turned down everything remotely pretty and kept requesting the ugly, black and scary witch costumes. I was dying a little inside.

One night when I was still searching to the ends of the Internet for something other than the costume she wanted, my husband pulled me out of my stubborn control freak mindset. He reminded me that when HJ was born, I made a promise that I would always be supportive of what she wanted to be and the person she would chose to become. I would do my job as a parent to teach her right from wrong, but for the trivial stuff, it was going to be all her.

Ugh. He was right. This is her life, and she is the one behind the wheel. I’m just Miss Daisy in the backseat until I get kicked out. I’m firmly planted in that backseat for a while, but it’s still the BACKSEAT. I did not realize that this promise would kick in so soon. And that it makes sense to include conceding Halloween costume decisions too.

But what kind of message would I be sending to her if I said no to her choice of costume? That because it wasn’t my favorite choice that it was bad? Or that she wasn’t capable of exercising her own creativity? I just couldn’t stand to set a negative tone this early on. I want her to be comfortable and excited about her choices, especially when they’re good or even harmless. I want to teach her to trust herself when she makes a choice that makes her happy. If I fight her on things like this now, where will we be when the decisions get really hard?

I’m probably overthinking this, but I feel good about one of my first parenting milestones. I’m choosing my battles and sitting out this round. She’s going to make a lovely, generic, spooky witch this year. And I think I should get extra candy for being a good sport.

(Plus, at least I still have B to dress however I want.)

HJ, the witch

HJ, the witch by Megan Spreer

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5 Things I Want to Tell New Parents

There are so many things that I wish someone had told me when I first became a mom, and I’m not talking about which diapers to use or which baby carrier is the best. I read enough reviews to figure that stuff out. The things I needed to know were the things that nobody says. These are the things that parents are afraid to admit because they think people will judge them or call them lousy parents.

But you know what? I’m going to be the one to say it. I know that I’m a good (enough) mom. I love my kids with every inch of my being and I try my hardest to do my best. That’s really all I can be. I’m not Beyonce. I’m not June Cleaver. I’m me. That’s all I can be to my kids. I will also be sure to pay their therapy bills later. See? We’re covered.

Without any further delay, here are the things I wish someone would have just come out and said to me:

  • Some days you won’t like your kids. Yep. I know to you new moms and dads out there, this sounds awful, but trust me, the day will come. You’ll still love them to the depths of your soul, but there will be days when you’ll entertain the idea of shipping them off far, far away even for just a couple hours.

  • You will question whether or not you’re screwing this whole thing up. Join the club. We all have moments when we are positive that we are doing the whole parenting thing wrong. ALL OF US. Don’t stress. Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to try again. And even if you screw up again, recite this in your head. It helps: http://wellcommons.com/users/photos/2...

  • You’ll miss your child-free days. This won’t be every day. It probably won’t even be very often, but there will come a time (or several) when your friends without kids will tell you about an amazing show they saw or a concert followed by a late dinner and night of exploring the city. And you’ll have a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the Google-impaired). You may not want to trade your days of Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer, but you’ll still miss those carefree days when you were sleep deprived because of fun, not crying, tiny humans.

  • There will be days when you don’t recognize yourself. Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes you’ll experience. Duh, right? You go from being just you to being someone’s mom or dad. Every step and misstep you take is being watched and evaluated by very impressionable people. Things that used to be incredibly important to you will become trivial or even forgotten. You will shift. You will adapt. You will still be you...even if you can’t see yourself just yet. Just hold up. You’re still there.

  • You will be scared of EVERYTHING. Ebola outbreaks, gunmen in schools, rises in Autism diagnoses, severe weather alerts and salmonella in peanut butter used to just be concerning headlines in the news. Now that you’re a parent, they are things that could potentially happen to your family. Every story of a child with cancer makes you picture your child in that scenario. Every headline you read will feel like it’s happening to you, specifically. Protecting and caring for your children is hard. This world sure doesn’t cut us any slack either. As much as you want to put your kids in a bubble, don’t. That will only make them weird.

When you’re chest deep in this new parenting gig of yours, I promise, the good will completely outweigh all of this crazy. Hearing your baby giggle for the first time will make you wonder how you were ever happy before this tiny creature was created. It’s a giddy, stressful, exhausting, beautiful, and educational time. Don’t worry, we all got your back. (Unless we need you to have ours right now because our kid just broke something expensive.)

Our first day as parents

Our first day as parents by Megan Spreer

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Mama needs to put down the phone

My husband and I have been discussing our (particularly MY) phone use lately. The conversation has been mostly focusing on the amount of time I spend behind my phone screen, not necessarily how I’m using it. Let’s just say these conversations get quite tense at times.

That’s sugarcoating it, by the way.

As a social media consultant, blogger and work-from-home mom, I’m on my phone A LOT. I’m never without it. It’s become another extension of me, kinda like a third arm. It’s impossible for me to ever do one of those Facebook Fasts people talk about or go on vacation and turn off my phone. It’s never gonna be possible for me. It’s too much ingrained in my job, my life and me as a professional.

It’s not just about work though. I’ve had several other mom friends admit their own phone addictions to me. Our phones, tablets and computers are very important to us. It’s like the old school definition of “it takes a village” has evolved into the Internet. No longer do we call up our mom or girlfriend when we have a question about our kid’s rash. We Google it. I recently made the best pie crust of my life and it didn’t come from an old family recipe, it came from Pinterest. HJ’s favorite shoes came from a Facebook swap shop group. At the touch of a button, I can connect with groups of moms from all over the world via social media and ask questions, support each other AND enjoy adult conversation. Best part? I can do it all silently during nap time. It’s a huge blessing.

But if we’re being really honest here, even I started to recognize my problem. My phone is also a crutch. It’s an addiction. And it’s a hindrance. When I’m bored, I pick up my phone. When the kids are playing, I pick up my phone. When I’m waiting to meet up with a friend, I pick up my phone. Even when I’m not working, I am. I’m still checking blogs, news feeds and viral stories. I’m watching my kids do hilarious things through my phone screen rather than in real life. I’m surfing Pinterest rather than having a conversation with my husband. My kids have even started calling me out by saying, “Mommy put the phone down!”

THAT is a problem. However, it’s a problem I don’t know how to fix. I’m at home many days with no one else but my small children. My phone is my desperate lifeline to the outside world: a world with things other than Peppa Pig, the Fresh Beat Band, ABCs, and constant whining for snacks. I have anxiety just thinking of the possibility of being home an entire day without an Internet connection. I need the distraction. I need the ability to escape, even if it’s only for five-minute increments.

Isn’t that sad? You can say yes.

While it’s not all bad, the fact that I don’t know when to put the phone down is not something I’m proud to say. I’m working through it and making a conscious effort to try other things when conversations lull or a spare moment pops up. I’m trying the whole “ask a question to drum up a new conversation” when people get quiet and reading a book to wind down at night. So far I’m failing horribly, but I’m not giving up. Squashing this habit is way more difficult than I’d anticipated. I’ll get there though. I will find that happy middle ground.

Other moms and dads, do you find you have a small addiction to your phone or tablet? What has helped you detach?

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Teach them about sex, the right kind

This is a hard time to raise girls. It’s not because of all of the reasons I’d thought would make it difficult either. The newest dolls, dresses, Barbies, dance classes and the like aren’t the things that scare me as they grow older. Worries about missed curfews and too many after-school activities aren’t so much on the radar either.

The thing that has me worried right now is that someday, someone out there won’t see one of my daughters for the brilliant, incredible person she is and instead will see an object for sexual gratification.

I don’t like the term “rape culture,” but we do live in a world where sex is considered the goal. In college, I remember the bar scene and the conversations happening around me. I remember so many bad decisions being made, some even by myself. Sex is on someone’s brain and it’s someone’s goal for many evenings. Guys (and girls) high five each other for “getting some,” and an intimate act becomes somewhat of a game. It trivializes it to a point that makes it seemingly no big deal to so many.

That’s what scares me. What if, some day, my daughter has too many drinks? What if a “nice” guy tells her he’ll drive her home? What if he takes advantage of her state and takes her to his house? What if some innocent kisses go too far? And then, what if everyone blows it off as a “boys will be boys” incident or worse, blame her for getting drunk in the first place?

I grew up surrounded by the mindset that you didn’t dress in a certain way, you didn’t go to certain places, and you didn’t drink to excess if you didn’t want bad things to happen to you. Now that I’m a parent, I realize the error in my previous thinking. Why should the VICTIM ever be to blame? Why should my daughters not get to make the same mistakes and learn from them as your sons without the risk of being sexually assaulted? Why is the responsibility on their shoulders to not be attacked against their will?

No. No. No. This HAS to stop. Someday I’d love to have a son. I’d love to watch his dad teach him to play basketball (because let’s be real, I’m still afraid of the ball). I’d love to see him grow up to be the kind of guy that everyone laughs with and wants to have around. I’d also love to help break away from today’s current mindset of how boys can act. I will teach him that it’s not okay to publicly ogle someone’s body. I will teach him that catcalling and whistling has no place on a city sidewalk. I’ll also be sure he knows that sex is something that’s important, intimate, and very, very private. It’s not something to high five your boys about.

That being said, these are also lessons I will be teaching my girls. Just as we ask boys to not behave this way, we must follow suit as women. It’s not empowering to sleep around. It’s not being a feminist to disregard the connection you’re supposed to feel to the person with whom you’re sleeping. It’s not cool to forget the name of the guy who spent the night last night. I say this because I want to help spare them from hurt. From heartache. From antibiotics.

I will be honest with them about my past and the mistakes I made getting to where I am now. I will answer questions as best as I can. I will not sugarcoat things, but I also won’t teach them to be prudes. Sex is a wonderful (and awesome) thing. But we’re in this mess because our society views it as trivial.

So I ask, if it’s so trivial, then why are so many getting hurt?

Be safe. Be respectful. And please, let’s teach THAT to our children.

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Saying Goodbye to My Baby

One of the things I struggle with as a parent is saying goodbye to each stage and welcoming new stages without sadness. No matter how proud and excited I am for my girls to reach a new milestone, there is always a tinge of sadness that another part of their babyness is gone forever.

HJ went to her first day of preschool this week. I was genuinely excited for the day to be here. My eldest child is a textbook extrovert. She thrives in social settings and loves having activity after activity to participate in. As a work-from-home mom, I’m pretty awful at providing these things for her myself. So, I knew preschool was going to be a home run for her. As soon as we chose the right place for us, I was counting down the days until she could start.

I was actually surprised with myself at how okay I was with the whole thing. I didn’t even have a hint of anxiety as the day drew near. We’d picked out her outfit, got her backpack ready, painted a canvas bag for spare clothes, and talked all summer about her new school. She needed it. Just like I need my nights with my girls, she needs to get out there with her own thing. It’s scary how alike we are sometimes.

So I don’t know why I was surprised when the sadness hit me like a ton of bricks the morning before I dropped her off. She was dressed in her new outfit with her long hair in pretty little curls down her back. She looked so giant. I kept staring at her and I realized, that’s the baby who used to belly laugh when I pretended to eat her toes. That’s the tiny tot who used to say “Too too” in place of thank you when I gave her cheese. My tiny baby is a big girl and I’ll never get to snuggle her chubby baby cheeks again. In fact, those memories of a cheerful, smiley baby were only going to get fuzzier and fuzzier as time went on.

My baby was gone.

The tears rolled down my face as I looked at her. As much as I was excited for her, I was so very sad that chubby rolls were being replaced with macaroni pictures and paste. Just like the sadness that rolls over me with every box of baby clothes I pack up, it felt like I was packing up another box of memories. We’ve reached the time in her life where she doesn’t only need me. She needs shapes, colors, friends, routine, dancing and running. She’s finally to the point where she’s going to start figuring out things on her own. She’s her own person, not just merely my baby.

She’s going to preschool. She’s going to make her own friends. She’s going to learn to love, to be hurt, to be a friend, to say sorry and to forgive. She’ll form her own opinions and interests. She’s going to think I’m embarrassing and deny kisses goodbye in front of people. She’s going to learn that soccer is a thing and probably ask us to enroll her in a league. She’s going to learn things from people that aren’t her father and me. I was going to have to learn to step over to the sideline.

All of these thoughts were racing through my head as silent tears were free falling. My very intuitive child looked up at me. She got up, grabbed my face in her hands and climbed into my lap.

“I rocky you, Mommy?” she said.

That’s what I needed, right then. As we rocked back and forth, I realized that she’ll always need me. Whether it’s to take care of me or for me to take care of her, it is silly to be sad. We have so many adventures ahead of us.

(And soooo many fish-themed coloring pages to hang up from her first day.)

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