Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas!


Christmas is here. Right here.

Our graham cracker houses

Cut out cookies

Our frozen ornaments, hanging on our teepee. 

Aaaand, finally, the tree is up!
I love a silver tree.

Plus, as a bonus, the cutest picture of Clark and Milo ever

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

here comes christmas, ready or not.

Well, my christmas tree is not up and I've done almost no shopping. How did it come to this? And now anxiety has gripped my throat so that I can't breathe deeply. It seems I believed making graham cracker houses and chocolate dipped pretzels and cut out cookies were more important holiday activities than shopping. Which, come to think of it, they are. Except now it's December 21st and in 4 days I still have to have gifts for kids and parents and in-laws. Cousins and nieces are simply going to have to receive their boxes after the holiday. Same for the video card I'll be sending out electronically..... there's no way for holiday cards to find themselves done and addressed and mailed. A simple impossibility. Perhaps I'm learning to acknowledge my limitations.

I hope I have pictures of the projects we've been doing. One of my favorites is the outdoor ornaments Frances and I made the other day. The idea came from this blog, and they used cranberries; I didn't have cranberries, and getting to the grocery is yet another activity that's falling off my list, so I used limes which are green and celebratory, I figured. I did use the Artful Parent's learning curve--for example, I put one lime slice in the muffin tin and then water just to cover it. I froze those for a while, then added the yarn and another lime slice, then water to the top, then froze all. Don't they look lovely?

Note that I said Frances and I did this project; I've started to leave Clark out of some of these activities, and without much guilt. He was part of the graham cracker houses (in retrospect, I should have just bought the damn gingerbread house kit since I was not going to commit to baking the gingerbread myself. The graham cracker houses were not as easy as I expected) but I spent a good bit of time saying, "Clark, sit down. Please stop shaking the table. Okay, only one more piece of candy. Don't sit on the table, Clark. In your chair. Could you please stop moving for a moment?!" Man, he makes me nutso sometimes. Constantly in motion, constant activity, constant throwing of things. Constant, constant. In the end I just released him: "Clark, go. Go play over there. Legos. You want legos?" and I finished his house.

Good enough parenting. That's the aim, remember?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


When my husband read the last post, the one about the woman at airport security with two tiny children, he got rather irritated with me. Since he was with me at the airport he of course knew the whole story, and he called me out for the part I neglected to include, which I didn't because the post was already long and I didn't think it was necessary in order to make my point, when in fact it makes the point even stronger and clearer. Also, Mitch felt I was unfairly ragging on dads, on men, when the problem is much larger than that, as you will see.

So. After the dad came and took the boy from me, and after I'd put my shoes in the plastic bin and my backpack on the conveyer belt, and after I'd walked through the metal detector, I sat down on a bench to put my shoes back on and generally organize myself. That was when I noticed the mom in the middle of a circle of security folks who were helping her take the baby wrap off, patting her down, going through her suitcases. (of course they were.) I stood by the entrance to the terminal to wait for Mitch, and the little boy tried to dart by me (unwatched as he was for the moment, because his mother was needlesstosay dealing with other shit). I sort of blocked his way, trying to keep him in the general security area rather than running loose in the terminal, but he was determined and going toward something specific, and when I turned, there was his grandmother. I assume that's who she was; in any case a woman older than his mom who was smiling and holding her arms out to him, and he clearly knew and trusted her. 

So not only had the mom been left by the dad to deal with both kids on her own, but the grandmother (we're going to call her that for the sake of simplicity) was there somewhere too, not helping. Again, I know nothing. Maybe she too was dealing with passports and hassle from TSA and no one meant to leave the mom by herself. But I don't think so. If that were the case, then why was the grandmother not over by the mom and toddler just then, while the mom was being patted down, trying to do as they asked and hold out her arms while also holding the baby? Why had the dad or the grandmother not offered to hold the baby? Why were the grandmother's arms empty, not even a bag to carry? Why wasn't she helping????

The point is that it's not just the non-maternalness of men that mistakenly assumes the mom's got it under control. It's ALL of society that believes moms are the only ones responsible for the children. Maybe in past times, when households and neighborhoods were multigenerational, it looked like the mom was doing all the work, but she wasn't--not if it was going smoothly. 

And this is an interesting issue, because I find it bleeding over into my own perception of my parenting. There are times when I ask Mitch to take the kids so I can do--whatever--run errands or go out with friends or go to a doctor's appointment, and I feel guilty, like I'm shirking my duties, because my duties are the children. I feel like I'm not supposed to ask for help with them. The first few days of Frances's life this issue was already in play. I had a rough recovery, couldn't stand for more than a few minutes. But I felt like I had to do everything. Mitch finally said, "I want to help. I want you to tell me how I can help." It was hard for me to accept, to wake him in the night after I'd nursed simply to say, "Would you mind changing the baby's diaper?" I felt like it was silly for us both to be up... I was already up nursing; I should be able to also change her and swaddle her and rock her back to sleep. Truth was, I needed the help. I needed to not be getting in and out of bed so much, because it was painful, and I needed to know someone was there to help me if I asked. 

Someone there to help if you ask. Isn't that what we all need? Just to know that? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

because we're all in the same big boat

I've been away from the blog because we've been away on vacation! To LA! Without kids! Mitch was invited to present at UCLA and I went along while my mom stayed with Frances and Clark. Sunshine! Ocean views from our (Santa Monica) hotel! It was fabulous and warm (I left here with a tiny bit of snow on the ground, and returned to much more snow on the ground. I had to dig the car out in just my little sweatshirt and no gloves...), and I got to see two old friends, which was renewing in ways I didn't see coming. 

We took the redeye home. Redeyes always seem like a good idea--get on the plane at 11:30pm (which means an extra full day in LA) then sleep while in transit (cuz why would you want to be awake for that anyway?) and arrive at 9am, rested and ready for the day. But the reality is that you step onto the plane already bleary eyed and then only sleep in 2 minute increments because you're sitting upright in a tiny airplane seat forcryingoutloud and besides, the seatbelt sign keeps dinging on and off. 

At least my mom stayed an extra day here, so I could sleep once we got home. It all worked out. 

At LAX there was a young mom at security with a baby strapped to her chest--maybe 3 months old? I had been watching the baby earlier with a kind of yearning I've become familiar with and will discuss later, and I didn't realize until I heard the screaming that she had a toddler too. My guess is he was not yet two, and the poor mom was trying to get her million bags organized for security and the kid kept running off. She'd go get him and drag him back by the arm, and drag him she had to because as soon as she touched him he went boneless and screamed and flopped on the floor. A couple of times she left him there on the floor for a moment, lolling around on the ground, while she again tried to organize baby crap diaper bags shoes belts phones on the conveyor belt, and the kid would get up and run off. Then she'd go get him, and again with the screaming and flopping. She couldn't pick him up or get a good grip on him because of the baby on her front who thankfully wasn't hollering too; he was rather mesmerized by the lights on the ceiling. 

As soon as the security fella checked my ID with his little pen light and scribbled on my boarding pass with his highlighter, I made my way to the mom and toddler. At that specific moment she was simultaneously trying to hold him by the arm and lug a suitcase up onto the conveyor belt, and he was 90% on the floor. I just said, "Let me help you," and scooped him up. I didn't know if he'd let me hold him, but he did, and the crying didn't get any louder though it didn't let up any either. I didn't worry about that, just let him cry and tried to jolly him a bit and simply keep him from running off while the mom dealt with everything else. She looked so surprised when I picked him up, and then enormously grateful, and then she paused and stood there a moment, her hair falling in her face. It took me a minute to realize she was crying. 

Before that moment I sympathized with her (and greatly) but when she started to cry I suddenly knew what she was feeling, and I could feel the echo of it in my own chest. I remembered the exhaustion and desperation and trying-my-best-because-what-else-is-there-to-do-but-slog-through and oh I felt for her. I should have known she would cry. That's what I always did when strangers rescued me. The reason the tears come at those moments of rescue is because 1) the sheer gratitude that someone else sees your suffering and simply wants to help is overwhelming, and 2) you would be doing nothing but crying anyway if only you were able to pause for a moment to feel what it is you're feeling. 

The mom only cried for a moment and then got it together and thanked me, and thanked me again, and then again, and that was when I realized she didn't even speak english. Damn, she must have been even more overwhelmed than the average distressed mom. 

And THEN. The dad appeared. Seriously. Where the hell had he been? Had he just been at a different conveyor belt station, leisurely taking off his shoes and getting his bags in order and ignoring the screaming? Good grief. He didn't even take the kid from me right away. What the hell??? She was already wearing the baby, probably sleep deprived and sore nipples, her back aching from the wrap, and why was she left to drag the toddler around in the first place? Damn. Although we've come a long way, it's true that women are still assumed to be the ones fully responsible for the kids. Hello postpartum depression! And then the dads don't understand why the moms are emotional or overwhelmed. Or worse: sometimes they don't even notice. 

Now, to be fair, I don't know anything about their situation. Maybe he was dealing with legal crapola and passports and being hassled by TSA while she tried to get their shit through security. That they were of another culture (unnamed) I see as relevant. It's a culture that's typically rather misogynist. But still, if I can see she's struggling and I don't even know her, can't he? 

But the flag I'd like to fly here doesn't have to do with dads, but with us moms and the others we witness. I want to call you to action: Help those moms you see struggling! Help each other! And I think it's important to not just ask, "Do you need any help?" politely waiting to be invited and perhaps uncertain about interfering. Instead, straight up offer: "What can I do?" or "Here, let me hold the groceries while you get the baby in the stroller." When Frances was 5 months old I flew with her by myself to NYC, and as I got to my seat on the plane, the woman in the row behind just stood up, held out her arms, and said, "I'll hold the baby while you get settled." I almost cried then too, so grateful not only for the help, but also that someone would know the struggle inside me. 

Being a mom of a tiny baby feels so lonely, so alone. When most people see a mom and a baby, all they see is the baby and her incredible cuteness. What a beautiful thing to have other people see us moms too, and know our struggle behind the sweetness that is the baby. Both exist at the same time: the wonder of a small baby, and the anxiety and fear and exhaustion of being a mom. We need to tell each other we're not alone, give a shout of support--You can do this! and remind each other that there are people around willing to help, to be kind, to offer a hand.