Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Still Waiting!

When I had my first baby, a dear friend who doesn't have children, gave me some advice. She asked me to please remember my friends who don't have children. I quickly responded that I would of course never forget any of my friends, but she went further into explaining how easily women can forget their past identity when they become a mother. I took her advice to heart, and I have never forgotten it. When I became a mother I tried to include my friends into my new world, but the two worlds didn't always fit. Soon enough many of my close friends joined motherhood as well, and we connected once again.

There are still are friends though who haven't had children. Some because they don't want to, some because they desperately want to but it hasn't happened yet, and some who fall somewhere in between. I try to make sure I am still the friend who I was before I had kids, but I do fall short sometimes. There is a lot less time social time available, and a lot of the social events these days are centered around families and kids. Sometimes when I call a close friend of mine who doesn't have kids, I try really hard to talk about everything in my life but my kids. It's really challenging.

Recently, my friend found out that she and her husband were not going to be able to have their own biological children. They had tried to get pregnant on their own. They did a few rounds of fertility treatment, and they even tried to use her eggs she has frozen from a few years back. All attempts were unsuccessful and they were depleted financially and emotionally. Their doctor recommended that they consider a donor egg, so that she could still experience pregnancy and childbirth. This was not an easy decision and she needs to take time deciding, when the one thing she doesn't really have on her side is time. One day on the phone she came straight out and asked me what I thought she should do. I could not give her an answer. She has to find it on her own, but I began to think what would I do if I were in her situation.

Within a month of her telling me this, another friend shared a very similar dilemma. She and her husband also tried fertility treatments and are now beginning the process of adoption. While month after month of hoping for a possibility of pregnancy comes and goes, two of her co-workers who sit beside her have both gotten pregnant with their second children. As I was listening to her, I thought of how so many women struggle with this journey into motherhood. There is so much identity tied into who we are as women.  There are many women who are happy, content and complete without having to become a mother, and yet society still begs an answer from them on why they don't have children. If it is a choice for women to have children or not, or not a choice if whether or not they can have them, we all could use a bit more sensitivity on these very sensitive subjects.

Having had two healthy children on my own, I don't take for granted how hard they were to come by. Months of trying, miscarriage, and three horribly difficult pregnancies, I can say from this side that it was quite a ride. A worthwhile ride, but not an easy one at all. My friend's rides now are equally filled with hurdles and they will get over them too. At the end of the road, if they want it they can both have a baby. It may not come in the package they were expecting but with a little bit more waiting, their baby will come.

In the meantime, I am committed to my friendships with them. With or without children.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Studies say...

The last thing I wrote was about being impressionable. Nothing challenges my confidence level more than when my children have a meltdown and I can't seem to help them out of it. I start looking at them and wonder if there might be something wrong with them. After trying so gently to talk to them, and they still continue on hysterically, I begin to lose my patience. I quickly try to reference all the tools I have read about in parenting books. I've read not to raise your voice since losing control only makes them feel more panicked, and your yelling will only add to their meltdown. I have also read to stop what ever you are doing and get eye level with your kid, and acknowledge what they are feeling. I have also read that ignoring your child completely during their freak out can be effective. So after so many conflicting reports, I can understand why I am paralyzed sometimes and can't figure out which tactic to try. Oh also, everything I read says to stay consistent -- so there's that.

Every night when I make dinner, I begin my dance. I am reminding one to please focus and do homework, while I attempt to keep the other one from snacking right before dinner. Its the same routine, and I work really hard to get a balanced, healthy and somewhat appealing meal on the table. The end result is usually the same and my husband and I eat while they ask if they could be done after two bites. They say they tried it but don't really like it. After researching so many kid friendly meals, testing recipes, and spending time and money on cooking I am shot down by these little humans. If they scarf down some bland rice dish I have carefully unseasoned for them and say they like it, I am thrilled. I have won them over again. This is the most emotionally abusive relationship I have ever been in. It works both ways though. I make them eat fruits and vegetables and threaten to take away dessert. I tell them they will not grow strong without muscle foods. I tell them they will not have smart brains without superfoods. I tell them the dentist said no gum, and the Dr. said only dessert. Then I read another article about making sure kids have some sugar so that it isn't taboo, then I read another one saying that sugar will kill us all.

In moderation is the advice these days in screen time. No one is really there for you though when that thirty minute show is over and your kid is so angry at you for turning it off. Or when you are the only parent who doesn't let your kid have an iPod touch, no one prepares you with the law degree needed to handle that argument. I wasn't aware of the post-tv show watching zombie that would be replacing my child, or that they would be glued to the couch unsure of how to use their legs again. It's healthy to watch a little television though. After all, that is how we wind down at the end of the day. The taboo thing applies here too though, so best not to take it away completely. I personally don't have my kids watch it during the week. Studies show kids are much more active and creative when you take it off the table. 

"They" say it is best not to tackle more than one issue with your child at a time, so if my son is pulling his sisters hair, screaming, and kicking — which one do I tackle first? I have tried to train him to wake up and say "good morning" instead of asking me for Batman or a chocolate chip cookie. Today it didn't work though. I sat on his floor and quietly responded to every “Mommy, I want to watch batman." I didn't raise my voice, I didn't give in, I didn't ignore him. I simply explained (like many books have instructed) that we don't watch Batman in the morning, and my answer is final. I also told him that when he ready to talk about something else, I will be right here. I did as "they" say and he didn't. So then I ignored him, not because I was trying a different approach, but because after 20 minutes of hearing, "Mama" yelled, I was paralyzed by all of the options and opinions swimming through my head. As of right now, parenting books are no longer welcome on my nightstand. I'm choosing sleep, and self-preservation. Studies say some alone time will do me good.





Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Home


We just got back from a trip to New York for Thanksgiving. On the flight there, a passenger complemented the kids on how well they traveled. I explained that they have been taking this flight since they were newborns. She asked if New York was home or LA, and for a second I hesitated. Los Angeles is home now, but New York will always be home too. I stumbled and said, “Well, we live in LA, but NY is where I grew up, so I guess that is home too." I'm not sure she wanted that much information but she got the truth.

It took me less than twenty four hours, six layers of clothing, three crowded subway trains, and two freezing children to remember why I prefer to raise children in Los Angeles, but NY always pulls out all the stops in the end and does something to impress me. I took the kids to see the Thanksgiving day parade balloons being inflated. What was once an activity that involved showing up the night before Thanksgiving to a street corner, has now become a much bigger event. The secret is out and it is almost as crazy to see the blowing up of the balloons as trying to go the parade itself. Regardless, I wanted to take the kids. We got off at the right subway stop but then was instructed to walk down four more blocks to enter the line. So even though I tried my best to avoid the extra walk in the cold, it was a necessity to get to the entrance of the line. As the three of us followed the crowd, my five year old said he was cold and wanted to go home. I didn't know if he meant the NY home or the LA home, but either way I wasn't going to ask. We came that far, we weren't turning around.

When we finally got to the start, I realized this was only the security check part, and that we would then have to enter a four block winding line. It was then that I patted myself on the back for living in LA. I resented all the accessories we had to wear to stay warm, I resented the huge crowd of people around us, and I wondered if my son was old enough to handle this outing. We finally got passed the check and into the line. There was no going back now. We would see the balloons no matter how long it took. It was that point of no return moment that my son said, "Mommy, I have to go pee pee." Perhaps he wasn't quite old enough yet after all.

 I looked around and there really was no way out of the line. I asked him to hold it a little bit, and then I wondered what I should do. If he wet his pants he would freeze and we were a good hour away from our house. I suggested he go to the side of the crowd and I could shield him, but he held on to his dignity, and pleaded that we find a bathroom. All of the apartment buildings along the street were barricaded off so we couldn't even get there if we tried. I kept in the line hoping he would get distracted, but then he just tugged my arm and began to cry. "Mommy, I need to go pee pee." I had to figure this out. Police were everywhere blocking all of the barricades making it impossible to exit the line and also impossible to have a little boy do a wee without being seen. I decided to ask one for help. I walked to the closest cop and explained my situation. He paused and said " I don't really know what to tell you" then I think he took pity on my panicked little boy and said to follow him. He would see if he could find us a port a potty. He said the best he could do afterward was bring us back to the spot in line where we got out. We followed him to a toilet, and when we got there it was locked. He went off to find a key and when he opened it, he said it was pretty clean. We all decided to use it because who knew when we would find a bathroom again. When we got out I asked the kids if they still wanted to see the balloons. The start of them all was right across the street from where we were standing so we got a quick look, but I didn't know if they wanted to go all the way back in line.

The police man didn't wait for the kids to answer, he said "follow me" and brought us right to the front of the kine. He wished us a Merry Christmas, and I was so thrown by his kindness and willingness to help us. I was also thrown with him wishing us a Merry Christmas before Thanksgiving so I responded by saying thank you and wished him a Happy New Year.  We were all so giddy as we said goodbye. Giggling my daughter asked why I said "Happy New Year," and I explained to her that I just felt like he had done us such a big favor I had to make my well wishing last a long time. We all laughed. We had a great time looking at the balloons up close, and by the end of the night I was falling back in love with New York.

We had a nice stay in the city. We played in the park, saw the leaves changing, and enjoyed seeing loved ones. Families are never without little complications here and there, but overall it was a very satisfying visit. Home is where the heart is and wherever I am, I try to bring my heart. It was good to go home and it is good to be back in my California home now too.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

All not Only

Before my husband and I got married, we had long conversations, discussion and debates about how we were going to raise our children. We agreed on basic parenting ideas, that we wanted our kids to take piano lessons, that they should be athletic but not at the cost of our Saturdays, and that treats are fun in small doses. We both were raised similarly in many ways, except religion. For a time, we wondered if we could make this difference work. We sought out the advice of friends, family members, and even religious experts. Just like when I had to see seven doctors in my twenties before I found the one that said I didn't need surgery to remove an extra rib I have. We had to do a lot of searching to find the answers we needed.

Many religious groups believe an individual has to choose one religion to be. That learning and practicing more the one will confuse a child. We found a very liberal rabbi who explained to us that he felt religion was for adults, traditions are for children. That resonated with us, and we began to celebrate all holidays together. We share the meaning behind all holidays, but we don't push beliefs, and instead focus on the common moral values that both our religions share. Together my husband and I believe that you don't have to only be one religion and that one person can feel included in all religions if they chose to be. Sadly, I am not sure every religion would agree that all are welcome.

The way we see religion is similar to the way I think about language or music: we don't have to teach our children one language and say that is all they are capable of understanding. Even if they don't become fluent in more than one language they can certainly learn another. We don't only get enjoyment from one type of music. I can equally be moved by Tchaikovsky and Nirvana. I don't have to choose one, so why do I have to choose one religion? All have so many common threads and yet so many elements that are unique and should be available to all — not only a few.

Recently my daughter was invited to be part of a Jewish youth group. She was excited to be a part of it and we encouraged her, because it had a social justice component and was part of an organization that as far as we knew was pretty liberal and welcoming to interfaith families such as ourselves. However, when she finished her first meeting which was planning a laser tag event, we noticed that she wrote down "invite only Jewish friends." I got a bad feeling immediately. It just didn't feel, look or sound right.  I was sure (or maybe I was just hoping) that she must have written it down incorrectly. Or that what the woman leading the program meant to say was invite whoever you want but remind your friends it's a Jewish-themed event. Or anyone who has an interest in playing laser tag, making backpacks for kids in need, and being with kid who share a Jewish connection or interest in some way are all welcome. That wasn't what was said though. So we all had a big talk about it.

This is a delicate topic. One that has many layers to it. HistoricallyJudaism unlike some of the major religions is not missionary based. It is not looking to recruit new members, and feels very exclusive. As a result there are many issues with it getting smaller in numbers. Temples charge money for families to be members and if they don't join and just want to come to holiday services it can be extremely expensive. Personally, I don't want to have to join a club to feel spiritual or welcome. Every year I seem to try a new temple, looking for a place that won't break the bank, that is liberal enough for an interfaith family and that is welcoming. I'm still searching.

It seems dated to me to have to chose only one religion. Years ago I remember reading an article about a mixed race child who struggled with his identity because he felt pressure to pick one race. Fortunately mixed race children are more common now and so it is less of a struggle to have to connect with only one part of who they are. If there was a youth group and the leader said, “Only invite your white friends" that would be called racism, and white supremacy. Not sure how saying "only" could ever feel right in any invitation. If only those of Indian decent could practice yoga, the rest of the world would be missing out. I think we are all missing out on so many wonderful teachings that all religions can offer because only a few are welcome. 


My daughter didn't go to the event. She was disappointed but understood that until all were welcome it wasn't right. This situation was a learning experience for all of us. My husband felt that if our daughter wanted to invite him as her friend he wouldn't be welcome. I explained that for so many years what he was feeling was what most Jews and minorities feel often in their lives. It doesn't feel good. The world isn't going to change overnight, and sadly it feels worse than ever right now, but I cannot condone any exclusive un-welcoming "initiations." If I have to start my own social justice/religious, culturally rich groups I will — and loud and clear, it will be known that all are welcome.





Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Sick Day For You (and Me)

My daughter is home sick today. Not crazy scary sick, just a bit run down and under the weather. This morning when I woke her up, I tried to convince her she was okay enough to go to school. She had no fever, but she just didn't look right. Then she sat up -- and threw up. The reality sunk in fast then. She was going to have to stay home.

Her body does this when she is wiped out. She throws up, sleeps for a while and then perks back up, and is fine for school the next day. In that single moment when I realized that this day wasn't going according to plan, I literally walk around in circles for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do first. My son still had to go to school, so I needed to get him ready. I needed to cancel my job for the day. My son didn't like the break up in his own routine, and thought that if his sister wasn't going to school than he didn't need to either. My husband had to stay home while I ran him to school, making him late to work. It was a shift from the routine, and when we were all a bit thrown by it.

Once the shock wore off and I was back home, I was secretly happy to not have to go anywhere. My schedule is so packed these days between being a personal school bus (3 round trips a day), working, writing, and all the other "work" I have as a mom. I consistently have unfinished projects or unfolded laundry waiting for me whenever I get home. I remember reading something some life coach put out once that living your life to the fullest doesn't consist of getting through your to-do list. I like that idea, but I like getting through my to-do list even more. I am not always on time. I am not crazy late but I often run 5 minutes behind, and when I told my friend I wanted to change this she asked me why I felt I ran late to things. I told her because I like to squeeze as much life into a day as I can. We only get one go around on this merry go round so I like to stuff in as much as I can.

Sometimes, I need to slow down though, and I am so out of practice that it takes my kid being sick for me to chill out. So, I am not grateful that she is sick, but I am grateful to have her home with me today. We spent time chatting, reading, cuddling, and just hanging out. I made some calls I needed to make, and had more than a half an hour to sit down here and write this. I love not looking at the clock, and losing track of time. I love just being, and not doing, and by tonight when I get cabin fever I will love that everyone goes back to school tomorrow!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Don't Tell Me What To Do

Saturday morning I got my kids up and dressed and asked, then told them that we needed to walk across the complex we live in to go look at a table that was for sale. I have wanted to make an art table for them for quite some time, and I finally put my mind to it to get it done. Craigslist came through for me this week and one of the listings was a short walk away. This could have been the easiest Craigslist exchange to date, except my daughter decided she didn't want to come. At nine we are not leaving her home alone yet, even if we are only walking nearby. Also, I wanted her to have a say in the table since it was for her too. She dug in her heels though and decided to go down the path of most resistance.

She is mostly pretty easy going, except for when she is not. Being stubborn and headstrong comes with any kid from time to time, but there is something about her stamina that continues to baffle me.  She doesn't throw down a fight often but when she does, there is a fire in her. I am sure at some point this will come in handy, but I myself don't find it particularly helpful at the moment. After much crying, whining, begging and asking "why do I have to go?" she did make it out of the house with us. She cried all the way there, and even tried a few times to slow us down. I defined the word manipulative to her, then the word irrational, and eventually took to ignoring which feels horrible all around and the most challenging for me.

This age is most interesting to me. Pretty amazing mostly, since she is like a little grown up with how well she can articulate herself. She is passionate about so many wonderful things that she discovers. She is more independent an capable than ever, and yet still loves a good cuddle. She goes off to sleep away camp, sleep overs, and to play at friend's houses with out looking back, but randomly she will protest a walk to look at a table, and I am reminded that she still has some of that little kid in there. I dislike the term Tween, but I get it at the same time. She is learning that her body might change in the next few years, that she will become a "woman", but yet she is still a kid. Its confusing, and a lot to take in.

She stopped crying and we looked at the table. With her help we decided it was a fit for us and we bought it. On the way home, when she was calm I asked her what happened. She said "mommy, you told me I shouldn't do anything I don't want to do." I stopped, took a moment, and explained what I meant when I said that. I explained that no one likes to be told what to do, but sometimes we have to do things anyway. I explained though the difference between things we are not comfortable doing or don't feel right and the things that are maybe just not fun. I am still not entirely sure she was ever really confused in the first place, but I thought I should make the distinction to be clear.

If her quick change of moods, and assertion of will are any indication of what is coming in her teens, then I best up my game. It's a fine line for her right now between Independence and needy. Topped with not wanting to be told instead of asked. My husband and I can both relate to that. I believe he to said to me yesterday "Don't tell me what to do" and I could have avoided that if I had phrased things a bit more respectively. This is delicate territory for us all.  Fortunately, I don't need go table shopping with kids again anytime soon.
                                  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hold On Tight!

Like everyone out there who decided to go into this whole parenting thing, I experience those unbearably frustrating moments where my kids are melting into a pile of tears. For whatever the reason may be at that particular time, their world has seemingly fallen apart. They can no longer function, they forget how to speak full sentences, and their shrieking volume could send dogs running. It seems that in those moments there is nothing I could possibly say that would make them feel better. In fact any attempt at calming them with words just send them up another octave of upset.

I once asked my daughter what I can do to help her during those times. Unlike much parenting advice out there about letting kids cry until they get out of the tunnel, my daughter's tunnel could last for hours. The tunnels in these articles seem to last under ten minutes. My son could probably squeeze out a meltdown in ten minutes, but my daughter..she has stamina. She put together a list and even detailed it with pictures. She said breathing would help her, holding Baa (her stuffed lamb,) sitting quietly in her room, and lastly a hug. I thought this was an amazing discovery, all of these tools. So the next time she got upset I took out the paper and much to my chagrin the first three on the list she wouldn't even try. After quite some time she said, “Mommy, can I have a hug?" It was then and there that I promised myself that no matter how angry I am, no matter how frustrated, how upset, I would never deny them a hug when requested.

My son is now at a less than lovely stage. His world seems to revolve around us serving him exactly how he expects. When it doesn't go his way, which it won't because it doesn't work that way, he falls apart. He is falling a part a lot lately. There is a limit to how much I will negotiate the word "no" with him,. When I draw that line in the sand he will do anything possible to try to erase that I put it there. At that point I start looking forward to the kind of man I want to raise and there is no going back for me. I will not feed his narcisism, because the outcome of that is not a good human, and I am in the business of putting a good person out there. 

After his shorter journey through the tunnel, clammy from crying against the hard wood floor, I can hear his crying slow. I approach him and ask him if he would like a hug. He doesn't give much of an answer but I can vaguely make out a nod. I pick him up and put him in my arms and he falls into me. We sit together for as long as he needs. I will never let go first. I breath him in, and after a few moments, dry his eyes. We usually find something to laugh about and we move on.

I hope they always ask me for a hug when they need one. Sometimes when my daughter is upset and cranky and can't even figure out why, she asks for a hug. If heaven forbid there is day when both of them lose it, I am exhausted from dealing with them. I am drained of all of my superpowers and don't know how I will ever make it to their bedtimes. Then my husband comes home, and before he can get sucked dry by our spawn, I say, "Can I have a hug?" 


It really is good stuff.


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