Tag Archives: parenting

Jane’s First Day of School

1 Sep

Yesterday was Jane’s first day of school.

At 2 years, 7 months, my little baby went off to preschool.

I thought there would be tears on somebody’s part:  mine or hers.  Or possibly both.

But instead, it was one of the best days we’ve shared so far.

Jane was giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to get dressed, put on her little backpack and bound down the front stairs to clamber into the car seat she usually refuses to even go near.  When we arrived at the school parking lot, she nearly pulled my arm out of the socket trying to get me to “Hurry up!

So many people have asked whether I am sad, but it’s quite the opposite.

I’m happy.  Happy that the day went off without a hitch.  Happy that my little Jane was so excited about her first day of school.  Happy that my plan of preparing her for this day by reading countless books about going to school and watching re-runs of “going to school”-type television episodes seems to have worked.  Happy that I chose to stay at home when I did.  Happy that the past two months after I quit have been purposefully spent creating an atmosphere of love and happiness and security in our little nest.  Happy that she’s ready to fly.

And off she goes . . .

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My Little Parrot: Censoring Children’s Playlists

23 Aug

I love that Jane loves music.

She has her favorite songs, like “I’m Yours,” by Jason Mraz, which she can sing by heart from start to finish, and classics from my parents’ time like “A Summer Song,” by Chad and Jeremy.

We don’t censor what she listens to.

Today she looked up at me and repeated over and over, “I really f@$ed it up this time!”

I was proud of her for her great musical taste and for being able to so clearly pick out the lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man” without me singing them to her.  Is it time for us to start playing the clean version?

I don’t recall my mother ever censoring my music choices.

I suppose I was much older than Jane is now before I started hearing swear words in my favorite songs.  When we were young we mostly listened to Anne Murray, The Carpenters and Olivia Newton-John (I’m talking the early 70s, pre-Grease albums).  Those were all lyrically dreamy and feel-good songs where the songbirds would never dream of cursing in the main chorus.

In the early 80s, I began the slow transition to contemporary easy-listening and finally found my way to the good stuff when I was around 8 years old.  Even then, the subject matter of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” or Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” completely eluded me.  Even if I heard extensive profanity in the heavy metal and rap I eventually listened to, it didn’t really matter to me then.  I just loved the music.

It’s probably the same for Jane, whose extensive vocabulary doesn’t (yet) include profanity.

So perhaps the only real reason to censor what she listens to is the fear of reproach from other parents, and possibly reprimand from her preschool teacher, if she suddenly belts out something inappropriate.

I’m not sure that’s reason enough.

What do you think?  Do you censor your child’s playlists?

{MINDFUL MONDAY} Adventures Of A Working Mom Staying At Home: Weeks Three to Five

15 Aug

Looking back, Weeks One and Two were seriously hectic.  Luckily, we were on vacation for Weeks Three and Four.

Even though it technically wasn’t a “vacation” vacation – more a visit home to the in-laws’ – it was wonderful to get away from our routine and put some distance between working life and my new life at home with the kids.

In fact, our holiday turned out to be just what I needed to clear my head and get a grasp of what it is to be with family and focus on being together.

Last week, Week Five, ended up being my first real taste of what it is to be a stay-at-home-mom.

And you know what?  I loved it.  Jet lagged babies and all.

No interesting thoughts or details or stories to share with you, unfortunately, because seven days of warm, peaceful, contentment doesn’t make for much in the way of a blog post.

The Good Mother: Selfless or Selfish

20 Jun

Most parents lashed out at Rahna Reiko Rizzuto when she confessed that she left her children in order to pursue her own dreams and find herself after five years of motherhood.  Readers practically flayed her on the stake, condemning her for choosing herself over her children.  Was it really necessary to accuse her of being “worse than Hitler“?  Does being a good mother really mean we have to give up being ourselves, sacrificing our identities at all costs?

Before children, I had always been somebody, whoever that somebody might have been: the ugly duckling (towering two feet above my still-prepubescent second grade classmates with startling B-cups, braces, coke-bottle glasses, and a hideous Dorothy Hamil do), the funny one (to compensate for the unattractiveness), the pretty one (the universe works in mysterious ways), the brain (until being out-nerded a hundred fold at an academic college), the flirt (*ahem* the slut), the trusty best friend (except that one time I was a boyfriend-stealing backstabber) and the ambitious career woman (temporarily on hold).

At every stage, regardless whether I hated it or milked every second, I knew who I was and I was free to be “me.”

But after my first, Jane, was born, I stopped being anyone or anything that I used to know.  For three months, I was what can only be described as a giant udder of liquid sustenance, good for nothing more than a sleepless shoulder to spit up on and an all-night eardrum to wail into.  Any semblance of my former selves were gone.

Pretty?  Sure – if you consider 30 pounds of mushy mom weight, blood-shot eyes and blotchy, sleep-deprived skin attractive.  Brainy?  Definitely – if you’re talking a “mom brain” that boasts a two-second maximum short term recall and makes me put bananas in the freezer, socks in the microwave and the kettle in the fridge.  Funny?  Well, at most, maybe funny-looking.

But I thought to myself,

“Okay, this is motherhood.  I’m a mom, and I’ll take that any day over a shiny blowout, skinny jeans without a muffin top, and alone time for myself.”

Then just as I had gotten used to the idea of being a mother:  *poof* it vanished.  A stranger came to my house every day to be a surrogate mother to my little girl while I dragged my zombie-self to work.

My colleagues (all men) had bets going on whether I would return after maternity leave and if I would continue working full-time.  Desperately hanging on to my old workaholic self, I set out to prove them wrong and to prove to myself that I hadn’t become any “less” of a lawyer or a “worthless” mom in the workplace.  Even after getting knocked up three months back to work, suffering through six months of morning sickness and taking care of Jane – not yet even a year old, I kept grinding day and night and telling myself, “I’m a lawyer dammit; it’s what I do; it’s who I am.”

But when Sam was born and the sleeplessness and stress multiplied exponentially, I realized:  something had to give.  I couldn’t be the old career only-focused “me” anymore.  I was a mom now, too – whatever that meant.

So I scaled back to a part-time schedule and gave up my hard-driving professional identity to focus more on my new emerging self:  a combination of part mom, part lawyer and random parts of my pre-children identities.  (No; none of the interesting ones like the backstabbing slut have made a reappearance!).

I still struggle to figure out how to be the best mom, the best attorney and the best “me,” after Jane and Sam blew my vision of who “I” was to smithereens.  There are days I wholeheartedly embrace my motherhood and would give anything to be a SAHM.  And then there are days I wish I could do exactly what Rizzuto did – reclaim my pre-babies life or be “that 1950s mother we idealize who was waiting in an apron with fresh cookies when we got off the school bus and wasn’t too busy for anything we needed until we went to bed,” like the part-time mom whom Rizzuto describes.

{Guest Post} Surviving Five Kids and Fundraisers

13 Jun

Hello there, would you like to buy a $3 candy bar? How about seven pounds of frozen cookie dough? Not much of a sweet tooth, huh? That’s okay, how about a pepperoni roll, tickets to the pancake breakfast—or maybe the spaghetti dinner? Oh. You’re on a diet. I understand—I would be, too, if I didn’t have kids. Maybe you would be more interested in a magazine subscription? Or a high-fragrance, flameless, candle substitute? Maybe a discount card that offers insignificant savings from places you rarely visit? Ooh, better yet, forget the card; I’m selling a whole discount book. Where are you going? Wait! Don’t forget to swing by the carwash so kids who have never washed a vehicle in their lives can scratch up yours! Just drop your spare change in the can on your way out!

Most of us would never dream of asking our coworkers for money and are naturally averse to peddling subpar ware to our friends and loved ones. But, as always, our children can lead us to do crazy things. As soon as those babies are born, you find yourself abandoning civilized banter around the water cooler in favor of pressuring everyone to buy Bingo cards for basketball, coffee mugs for Cub Scouts, and potted plants for PTA.

My children and their non-stop roster of activities have turned me into a one-woman mini-mall of useless, overpriced purchasing opportunities. Not only do the kids bring them home from school, fundraising is a part of every sports team, club, and organization that they join. Some are optional, some are mandatory, but all come with a healthy dose of guilt to show your support by sacrificing your friends. I used to try to participate in every fundraiser that my children were asked to join, but it didn’t take long to realize that not only was this an impossible task, it was also the quickest way to alienate my entire peer group. I needed to choose my sales carefully.

School fundraisers are sneaky. They claim to be optional, which leads me to chuck them out, along with all of the fliers, advertisements, and other folder spam that seems to come home with my children every week. But, without fail, within a few days, the kids begin to ask how much “we’ve” sold so far, and I’m stuck like a deer in the headlights. Telling them that “we” aren’t participating leads to whining and fear that they are going to be the only children in the school who won’t win a fluorescent plastic yoyo boomerang for every hundred dollars’ worth of coffee they sell.

I was once suckered into a school fundraiser that “just” required me to fill in the names and addresses of 15 innocent friends and family members so that the company could hound them mercilessly (but with no obligation!).My son begged me to participate; he had already been primed at school that he would get a prize just for turning in those addresses, and he couldn’t bear to miss out on a prize. So I gleaned names from my rolodex and solicited for contact information on Facebook, pointing out to friends that my sweet little boy would win just through their cooperation. I compiled the list, sent it off to school with my son, and waited anxiously to see what kind of little trinket he would score from my hard work.

He walked through the door that afternoon with a huge smile on his face. Oh boy! He dug through his book bag for his prize and proudly pulled out… a piece of butterscotch candy. And they didn’t even spring for the Werther’s Originals! It was just a tiny, generic piece of hard candy wrapped in clear cellophane, as though the Fundraising Gods had fished it out of the pocket of their grandmother’s sweater, blew the lint off, and dangled it in front of my child like a carrot.

I was later guilted into participating in the school’s annual candy bar sale. Once committed to selling a box, if you couldn’t peddle all $50 worth of the chocolate, you were obligated to foot the remainder of the bill yourself. But the box featured name-brand candy bars of a decent size, so I figured we could probably manage to sell a box to put a smile on the kids’ faces. But what we didn’t take into account was the fact that every child in a 20-mile radius would also be selling the exact same thing. Our student-saturated neighborhood became a ridiculous display of children nagging their parents for money and selling candy bars to each other, all happy to have not only sold their entire box, but to have purchased a pile of candy in the process. Never again.

Sports teams and dance classes, however—now those are fundraisers I will sell my soul (and dignity) for. These sales don’t earn my kids plastic knick-knacks that I’ll step on in the middle of the night. Instead, the sales’ profits chisel away at the mountainous accumulation of tuitions, fees, and uniform purchases that threaten to bury my family and move us into a luxury refrigerator box downtown. Every nickel or dime I can squeeze from my loved ones is less dough that I have to shell out to every extracurricular institution in the tri-county area.

So the next time you see your friend coming toward you with a guilty grin, trying to interest you in some lollipops for Little League or raffle tickets for racquetball, pull out your wallet and contribute what you can. Putting out a few bucks not only helps a friend in need, but when the time comes for your child to bring home a catalog of wrapping paper and stationary to sell, you will have a list of people who are already indebted to your cause.

The Outlaw Mom would like to thank Leigh Ann Wilson of Surviving Five for guest blogging today and for her incredibly helpful – and hilarious – insight into the world of children’s fundraisers!  At Surviving Five, Leigh Ann blogs about her “crazy, often chaotic” life as a stay at home mom with 5 small children (ages 7, 6, 4, 3, and 2).  For more pricelessly heartwarming and humorous posts on family and motherhood, hop on over to her blog now!

Gender Roles

7 Jun

Jane is at the age when she soaks in absolutely everything we say and do.  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not exactly model-worthy behavior.

In some ways, it’s great that she absorbs everything.  For instance, she can count to ten in Spanish, not because we taught her or because anyone speaks Spanish at home, but because she’s a veritable Sesame Street sponge and memorizes everything from the program.

But I wonder what else she’s soaking in.

Does she already know who and what she is?  Is she aware that she is a girl and of the social rules that inevitably will apply to her just by virtue of being female?  Does she know that she’s supposed to be a member of the “weaker” sex?

According to a physician source, when a child with ambiguous genitalia undergoes surgery to receive definite girl parts or boy parts before the age of 3, he or she is more likely to make the transition smoothly than a child over three.  Apparently, the idea of being a girl or a boy does not completely gel before then.

Looks like I have just a few more months to influence Jane’s notion of what it means to be a girl or a boy.  And maybe I can get this concept to work to her advantage so she isn’t so aware of – and trapped by – traditional, outdated notions of male and female roles.

Or maybe I already have:

Jane:  I need help fixing this toy.  I think it’s broken.

Hubby:  I’ll help you.  Should we get the tool box?

Jane:  No.  Mommy will fix it.  She has a hammer.  You need to go wash the dishes.

Image from Porn for Women.

Bedtime Stories

1 Jun

This is my toddler’s brain:

Image via Elements4Health

This is my toddler’s brain on TV:

Once upon a time there was a brother and a sister.  They lived in a castle in a land that’s not so far away.  One day they wanted to eat at a restaurant.  But then they saw a dragon.  He wanted to eat their graham crackers.  So they said, “Swiper, no swiping!”  But they weren’t scared.  Ghosts are just pretend.  Come on, Super Readers:  to the rescue!  How do you pretend to be a ghost?  The first step is to be white.  What else can we use?  “Oh, Toodles!”  What does the word “ghost” start with?  The letter G.  What sound does the letter G make?  “Guh.”  Hooray!  We’re on our way to save the day!  Let’s build a doghouse for the dragon and the ghost.  But what if they don’t want to be rescued?  Mission completion, Mateys.

-as told to me by Jane, 2.25 years old

Is too much television helping or harming her brain development?

That’s a whole ‘nother blog post.  I just had to share this oddity of spontaneous storytelling with you.

Bonus points if you can name all of the children’s television programs referenced.

{Answer:  Team Umizoomi; Bubble Guppies; Dora The Explorer; Go Diego Go; Super Why!; Elmo’s World; Sesame Street; Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; Special Agent Oso; Word World; Wonder Pets; Backyardigans; Little Einsteins; Jake and the Neverland Pirates}

I Taught My Daughter To Throw Like A Girl

10 May

I don’t know if it would be accurate to say I underestimate children, or my own kids in particular, but sometimes I find myself wondering how in the world these tiny, little things can do so much on their own without prompting or guidance from adults.

I’m not referring to walking or talking or learning to climb down the stairs backwards, which a child would learn on her own even if we never coached her at all.  I’m talking about things like a 2 year old teaching herself to use a tricky bubble wand, learning to command an iPhone after a couple of tries so that she has perfected the “swiping” technique and can turn on and access any application without assistance, or perfectly applying Dior’s Rouge Dior lipstick in Mazette without smearing it all over her face.  (Clearly the coordination and tumbling ability did not come from me, but the interest in cosmetics – like her love of shoes – must be genetic).

And I swear we have never taught Sam to throw a ball, but by 11 months he has perfected his overhand throw and boy, can he throw the ball.

On the other hand, Jane has barely managed to master a weak underhanded throw, even after we spent months trying to teach her the skill.  Maybe she can’t throw because we tried to teach her instead of letting her learn how to throw a ball naturally.

Worried that she wouldn’t be able to throw the ball overhead since she was just a baby, we practiced gentle underhanded throws with Jane.  Months later,  she won’t even consider throwing the ball with her hands overhead.  By contrast, Sam, who taught himself how to propel the ball at full speed, would never have considered an underhand throw from the very beginning.

Perhaps it’s not that I underestimate children, but that I overestimate a parent’s role in teaching her child certain things.  Maybe I’m putting too much stock in my ability to teach my kids what I think they should do when it would be more effective and meaningful to concentrate my energies on how I think they should think.

I mean, if Jane throws a ball like a girl, she’ll get by just fine in life.  But if she thinks like I’ve taught her to throw, she won’t survive.

A Happy Day for Mothers

8 May

You could say that becoming a mother of two in a span of less than 1.5 years has thrown me for a bit of a loop.  The contrast between life before kids and life after two under two is ever so stark and has me loving, hating and laughing at the differences between now and then.  What do I mean?  Well, consider my definitions of happiness before and after children.

Happiness Before Children Was

  1. Being able to sleep the day away and wake up in time for dinner.
  2. The whole complicated getting ready ritual, which could take up to two hours before a night out.
  3. Being able to spend 1.5 hours at the gym to finish my entire cardio and weights routine every day.
  4. Leisurely browsing through Gourmet magazine for recipes and then strolling down the grocery aisles deciding whether to buy imported or domestic mustard.
  5. Spending entire days canvassing every mall and boutique in a 100 mile radius to fashion the perfect outfit.
  6. Conquering my hunger and successfully adhering to my strict diet of steamed vegetables and boiled egg whites.
  7. Zipping around town in my fancy sports coupe with red leather seats.
  8. Watching movies on our large flat screen in the peace and quiet of the living room.
  9. Planning nights out with the girls and ideas for dates.
  10. Being with family.

Happiness After Kids Is

  1. One uninterrupted night of sleep every two weeks.
  2. A shower without any little people underfoot and using a separate shampoo and conditioner.
  3. Running after the kids – even if it means getting dirty and sweaty before heading to the office.
  4. Correctly guessing what Jane might agree to eat today – and luckily finding the ingredients in the back of the refrigerator.
  5. Finding something without dirty handprints and dried baby food on it to squeeze into that makes me look not totally offensive.
  6. Watching my children stuff their cheeks full of food like little squirrels who will be hibernating for the longest winter in history.
  7. Driving around in my comfy, crumb-filled car with my two sleeping babies in the backseat.
  8. Watching 10 minutes of 30 Rock on the tiny tube in the family room between the time the kids go down and falling asleep.
  9. Planning kids’ birthday parties and playdates.
  10. Being a family.

All in all, I suppose that whatever happiness happens to mean at any given moment, to be happy is happiness enough for me.

What makes you happy about life after becoming a mom?

Hope you are having a Happy Mother’s Day!

Miss Manners (Why It Feels Like I’m Dating My Daughter)

21 Apr

Right after Hubby and I had nicely settled into a routine of comfort and familiarity – which became even more relaxed after the first pregnancy – Jane had the idea of growing into a full-fledged human being with a keen awareness of her surroundings.

But Jane’s awakening, which started around 15 months, has been more taxing than I anticipated.  It’s as if I’ve been thrown back to those awkward dating days of always having to put your best foot forward that I was glad to get rid of after getting married.  (You know what I mean . . . sneaking out of bed early to put on your “no makeup” makeup!)

Now I have to put on my best face again.  This time, it’s for Jane’s benefit.

Being a role model to Jane means that I must exemplify at every moment how I think she should conduct herself.  I can’t very well expect her to be polite if I don’t say “please” and “thank you.”  And why would she monitor her choice of words or care about her appearance, if I give in to swearing in front of her and running around town in ratty sweat pants all the time.

Like the old dating days, now I have to:

  • Mind my manners at all times, including being graceful and poised at home and in public.
  • Curb all bodily noises.
  • Clean up my vocabulary.  (This means not only avoiding a potty mouth, but choosing a rich spectrum of words in our dialogues like “The colors you chose for your painting are very bright and remind me of the springtime colors from the garden” instead of a lazy, “Great!” or “Awesome!”).
  • Stop being so lazy.  (If she sees me keep house the way I’m naturally inclined to, she will grow up to be a terrifyingly slovenly pig).
  • Keep up my health and fitness.  (While she might not care whether I’m a size 2 or a 10, she will adopt the sluggish lifestyle I’ve perfected after three years of not exercising and eating for two if I’m not careful).
  • Maintain my highlights, manicure and wardrobe.  (Again, if she sees a slob, she’ll be a slob).
  • Be witty and cheerful every day, even if I’m actually feeling like a grump.
  • Think of new and interesting “dates” and activities on a daily basis.

Just looking at this list is exhausting, especially when there is no prospect of the familiar “comfort zone” in sight!  I suppose in the end, though, I’ll benefit from stepping it up, too.  And I’m sure Hubby won’t mind if I get out of these sweat pants.

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