It’s OK, You Can Say It: Kids are Assholes

Parents of the World (but Moms, specifically):

It’s time we all come clean. In the year of our lord 2017, surely we should be able to drop the act and stop lying to ourselves and each other about an important and fundamental truth: kids are assholes.

Yes, children are beautiful little cotton candy clouds made of kisses and sunshine. I’m not a some heartless Cinderella-stepmom type who resents their kids and I certainly don’t want to see them suffer. The people closest to me in life would probably say I’m actually too nice to my kids when I should be stricter. I’m a firm believer (albeit rather reluctantly) that in most cases, it’s the behavior and not the kid who is “bad.” You know, positive redirection rather than negative consequences, taking advantage of “teachable moments,” setting boundaries and offering choices, and various other mumbo jumbo concepts we cling to as parents to evaluate whether our parenting matches up with who we think we are and what we believe in.

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The cutest little jerk you ever did see.

But I’m not going to bore you with a listicle of ways you can be a “good” parent- mainly because I’m also a firm believer that as long as you’re doing your best and actually interested in being a good parent, your version of being a “good” parent will likely look very different than mine, and who am I to judge? This entire post was inspired by a conversation between me and my best friend and our friend, who happens to be a guy and who does NOT have children. The conversation went something like this:

Brutally Honest Bestie: “So I’m standing with the other moms at this little girl’s birthday party and the host mom comes over and says ‘I really can’t stand my daughter right now’ and all the other moms let out a sigh like ‘Oh my god, it’s not just me!?’ It was like we’d all been waiting for one of the other moms to say it so we could talk about how much we don’t like our children sometimes. [Editor’s note: this birthday party was at 9 in the goddamn morning. Yet another example of another woman being a better mom than me, because you’d be able to name your own price for a winged pig on Priceline before I’d attend almost any optional event at 9 in the morning.]

Friend With No Kids: “Really? People really only talk about how their kids are miracles and all that.”

Me: “Oh, yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Being a mom is awesome. I’d definitely choose it all over again if I had to. But kids are total assholes.”

FWNK: “That’s funny, man. I’ve never heard anybody say that, like ever. That’s so good to know.”

And that is exactly why I’m writing this: Kids are assholes and seriously, no one talks about it. They’re tiny little assholes who think the world exists solely for them, yet are also completely and utterly dependent on you for pretty much everything. Mom and dad are idiots who know nothing yet, paradoxically, need to have the answer to any and every question a kid could ever have because, duh. You’re the grown up. (There’s no point being old if you don’t even know how to play Minecraft on expert or fly an airplane, your four year old is just sayin’.)

They stomp around the world without knowledge of basic social norms or manners or obvious facts like the heat coming from the stove means it’s hot- like, really fucking hot– and you shouldn’t touch it with your bare hand. And then you’ve got to answer deep ass, existential decisions on-the-spot like “What does it say about me as a person that I don’t appreciate having to tell this tiny person not to touch the big thing literally radiating heat for a tenth time and am almost certain the skin on the palm of their hand will grow back just fine if I let them get a little singed in the name of learning from experience.”

Omw to be an asshole.

They insist on wearing cowboy boots that are just a hair too small, despite your repeated protests that they’ll make their feet hurt by the end of the school day, and- lo and behold!- the little shit comes running to your car in tears insisting that it’s your fault that they have blisters on their disobedient little pinky toes, leaving you and your bright pink cheeks simmering in shame as the extended day teachers shake their heads disapprovingly at the mom who can’t even be bothered to put her kid in shoes that actually it.

Yeah, kids are dicks. They really are. They can’t help it. The little shits can’t even be bothered to know they shouldn’t be. And to add insult to injury, they don’t think they’re assholes. And I guess that’s where we come in: we’re here to dedicate most of the best years of our lives to ensure that by the time they hit adulthood, we’re not adding to the

I know that my personal ever-evolving parenting philosophy revolves around not unleashing two more assholes into a world filled to the brim with jerks and pricks and douchebags aplenty. That and something about making sure they never doubt that I love them. I, like most (all? I hope all) parents, love my kids so much that I can’t even really fathom the depth of it.

But yeah, kids are dicks. And just in case no one has said it to you, you’re not the only one who thinks so and it doesn’t mean you love them any less.

For those about to complain about me breastfeeding in public, I salute you: A sarcastic open letter

Are you the kind of person who feels uncomfortable when you see a woman breastfeeding in public? Don’t you wish she’d just go home- where she belongs, AMIRIGHT?- and handle that icky stuff in private like a rational human being? Never mind the hungry, probably wailing baby she has with her. You’re just trying to finish your Big Mac over here and I get that.

Well, I am guilty of breastfeeding in public because I’ve got this crazy idea in my head that when my baby has a need, I should meet it. I’m sure you’re sympathetic to the fact that I’d rather my son not grow up to be a woman hating sociopath because he never felt like his mother cared about him, but also I mean, at what cost? Y’know?

I’m so sorry that you can’t handle knowing that my boobs are exposed under this floral print Eddie Bauer privacy cover that I paid twenty bucks for just in case I needed to hide my shameful milk bags from the innocent gaze of a supposedly mature adult. I know it must be traumatic for you: I’m over here with these big, luscious, fleshy mammaries that you’d typically be more than happy to stare at, but they’re practically bursting at the seams with milk and existing for a purpose other than your sexual enjoyment. This baby gets to pop a nipple in his mouth on demand but you’ve got to stand behind the counter here at Smoothie King with your eyes focused somewhere other than my amazing, massive cleavage or else you’re considered rude. What’s up with that?

Look, I know where you’re coming from. It’s downright un-American for boobs to do anything other than fill out white ribbed tank tops that become see-through when sprayed down with the same hose you use to rinse off your Dodge Challenger right before you coat that bad boy in Turtle Wax and drive on down to the beach for an epic game of ultimate frisbee with your bros. I can appreciate that. Why should I be over here sustaining life in the same public space as you? Perhaps it IS bad etiquette for me to expect a little bit of common courtesy when I just want to discreetly feed my son while carrying him around the zoo in a Baby Bjorn. You’re totally justified in telling me how gross it is.

I also understand how unfair it is that I chose to go and get myself knocked up but then expect special treatment when I need a fifteen minute break at work to pump so I can relieve the excruciating pressure and discomfort when my breasts get engorged with milk. It’s definitely not your problem. If you can’t get fifteen minutes to sit in your car, listen to Nickelback, and smoke a joint, why should I be able to sit somewhere other than a broom closet and kick my feet up, jam my boobs into suction cups, and express milk? It’s just ridiculous.

There are so many compelling arguments about why breastfeeding in public is disgusting, weird, and just plain wrong. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe we should just outlaw breastfeeding altogether. I mean, it’s not like it’s a beneficial, magical practice that provides babies with awesome developmental advantages or anything. It’s not like it’s the most natural thing a mother can do and it definitely isn’t as though it makes it easier for moms to accomplish tasks while out and about that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to leave the house to do. We aren’t talking about something important here; we’re just taking about breastfeeding.

Boobs are for fun, not for food.

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Just shameful.

Little thighs, big needles

Today was a lazy day. Aside from a trip to Freebirds for lunch and a quick jaunt into Toys R Us, we stayed in the house all day. Lord knows, Mommy needs the rest. The road trip drained me, despite the dangerous levels of Red Bull that Liz and I consumed. (Despite? Because of? You be the judge.) Yes, I am a flawed human being who occasionally poisons her body with Red Bull, that most toxic and detestable of chemical concoctions.

At least we looked good as a unit.

Elliott Olivia's romper

Elliott Olivia’s romper

Grayson in camo

Grayson in camo

 
I originally intended to go to the grocery store, but everything on my list could wait except for the baby Tylenol for Grayson and- lucky me- Toys R Us sells baby Tylenol. My poor little man had his two month checkup yesterday and I actually let them immunize him. I’m so on the fence about vaccines for babies. On the one hand, I don’t like it. At all. I think it’s silly that a two month old baby should have three needles that look as long as his little thighs are thick jabbed into him to prevent a slew of diseases that he could easily be vaccinated against at a later, more developed age. I didn’t have Ellie vaccinated after we left the hospital until well after she turned one and, lucky me, she didn’t develop polio or get tetanus. The only reason I gave in and let them vaccinate Grayson is because of the hassle I dealt with when I finally put Ellie into daycare and had to have her vaccinated for admission. She had to get so many vaccines at one time that it seemed like I did her a disservice by waiting for something that the public school system makes unavoidable. Because of the fact that Grayson may have to go into daycare at an earlier age than she did, I figured it would probably make more sense to have it done now.

I know vaccination is a controversial issue. I’d love to get some opinions from readers. Did you have your children vaccinated at the recommended ages? Did you wait? Did you skip it altogether? What were your reasons for your personal decision?

Modern Conveniences: Friend or Foe?

I am constantly coming to certain realizations about the small, everyday batshit crazy experiences that make up the essence of being a parent. A mother, specifically. Being a mother, to me, means doing all sorts of things that just don’t make sense. It is a game of contradictions in which the very things that are frustrating and exhausting are often the most rewarding and the easy way out often results in feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Common sense is often the corner stone of good parenting, but it rarely ever seems to actually make sense.

For example, yesterday I made the incredibly smart decision to take my children, both under the age of three (2 1/2 and 2 months, specifically) on a road trip to Oklahoma and back. Now, just so you know that I’m not actually insane, it was a very necessary trip that I don’t regret making. My seven year old sister Jocelyn got to stay at my house and spend two weeks with me and the kids and our older sister Liz and, since I only see Jocelyn once a year, it was totally worth it. The trip to Oklahoma was meant to help our dad by meeting him roughly halfway between Houston (where I live) and Kansas City, Missouri (where he lives).

If it meant I’d get to spend time with Jocelyn, I’d definitely do it again. She’s an amazing kid. My kids are amazing kids. All of us in a car from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m… not so amazing. I can’t lie, though. The trip went a lot smoother than it could’ve. There was no hitting or extended bouts of fussiness. Considering the infant and the toddler in the car, things could’ve been a lot more hectic. The biggest hiccup was when Ellie spilled 3/4 of a bottle of water all over herself, her car seat, and the floorboard beneath her. Aside from that, it was as easy a ride as you could have when facing 13 hours of driving.

The crazy lesson that I learned was that the easy way isn’t always the best way when it comes to dealing with my children. A lot of people talk about finding the convenient way to tackle the everyday tasks of parenting and, believe me, I am a believer in the thirty minute meal and yes, I let Ellie watch TV for an hour while I sweep and mop or cook dinner. I am not a perfect parent, nor am I a Stepford Wife (though, I do have my Stepford tendencies). On the road, though, the convenient options are just garbage, particularly when it comes to eating. It was bad enough that she spent a couple of hours altogether in front of a screen because at a certain point in the return trip, educational games on the iPad was the only thing that could prevent a marathon of crying and kicking the back of the driver’s seat. Just to add insult to injury, we had to eat whatever food we could get from a drive thru along the way. (Even when we stopped at our destination in Oklahoma and ate as a family, the only decent restaurant in that area was Chili’s. I. HATE. CHILI’S.)

I tried to plan ahead a little bit by buying juice boxes and a six pack of bottled water so we wouldn’t give into the temptation of soda, but I didn’t do very well in the snacks department. We got breakfast sandwiches from Sonic when we first set out and they actually weren’t too bad. Mine was just bacon on bread (because I don’t eat eggs) and Ellie and Jocelyn split an egg and sausage breakfast burrito. We skipped the drinks and only got one order of tater tots to split between the two girls, Liz, and myself. It definitely turned out better than the donuts I originally planned to get.

We drove straight through lunch, snacking on Funyuns and our hopes that the road would lull the girls to sleep for a little nap. It didn’t. Then we got to Durant, Oklahoma, where we met my dad at Chili’s and ate. Ellie had two ears of corn on the cob and a big plate of broccoli. I had a salad and a side of mac and cheese. It was the least spectacular meal we’ve ever eaten, but at least it wasn’t fries and nuggets.

After such a light lunch, we found ourselves hungry again around 9 p.m., of course. Luckily, there was a Buc Ee’s outside of Huntsville where we’d stopped on our way out of Houston. (If you aren’t familiar with Buc Ee’s, I’m sorry. They are easily the best place to stop and gas up, use the restroom, and buy snacks and souvenirs in the state of Texas.) We stopped and everyone used the restroom, including Grayson. The deli turned out to be a godsend because when Ellie asked for Cheetos as a snack, I obliged but didn’t realize how hungry she was until Liz and I decided to split a chicken Caesar wrap on an herb tortilla. I gave Ellie a piece of the chicken (impressively, white meat and fresh) and then another and then she was asking for more. I ended up marching back into Buc Ee’s and ordering another wrap, but I paid the $1.50 for double meat, which I had them put on the side. I felt much better about her having chicken and Cheetos for dinner, rather than snacking her way to a full stomach.

The impromptu dinner, however, made me feel extremely guilty and it got me thinking about how most of the convenient options for food and entertainment these days lead me straight to guilt every time. As I handed Ellie my iPad to keep her occupied, I was hit with another pang of guilt. Should I feel that way though? The game was educational and interactive. Every time she sees the letter A and says “Mommy, A is for alligator” or something similar, it’s certainly partially due to the educational games she plays on my iPad. Still, something about the glow of the screen reflected on her face makes me feel bad about myself as a mother. It’s like the words “lazy, irresponsible mom” were projected on her forehead. Am I the only one who feels guilty about indulging in modern conveniences?

On the opposite end of the spectrum are all of the things I do as a mother that are definitely not convenient. Every time I swap a load of cloth diapers from the washer to the dryer, I am reminded of the extra effort I am putting into my motherly duties and, most of the time, the extra fulfillment I feel in doing it. Yes, cloth diapers require more work than opening a box of disposables, slapping one on his butt, and tossing it in the trash after he soils it but the comfort I take in knowing that my son’s bottom isn’t resting on chemical-soaked plastic makes it totally worth it. The same goes for every meal I make that involves more than ten or fifteen minutes of prep work and thirty minutes of cooking. Yes, spending an hour and a half making a meal is definitely work, but the end result is a meal that is almost always better than the quick ones I whip up when I’m in a hurry.

It’s not surprising to me that I feel better about the decisions I make when I avoid options that offer convenience at the expense of substance, but it does surprise me a bit how much guilt I am racked with when I take advantage of those options. More and more, I find myself purposely choosing the more cumbersome road when deciding what to do with my children. It’s more work, but more rewarding. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Parenting is the ultimate thankless job, and yet the most rewarding thing I think I’ll ever do in my entire life. I figure I might as well make the most of it.

The Great Foreskin Debate

I’m in a bunch of Facebook groups dedicated to parenting. From cloth diapering to natural parenting and even just parenting in general, the groups are a great place to share funny stories and advice and ask questions and get real life answers from other mamas and just kind of come together to appreciate all of the wonderful and frustrating and rewarding and often comical experiences that go along with being a parent.

Earlier this evening while my older sister Liz and I were on our way to dinner [at Fadi’s. yum!], we got to talking and breastfeeding came up. I admitted that I have judgmental thoughts about women who don’t breastfeed their babies, but I would never want to make someone feel bad about their decision. While I don’t agree with it, every woman has the right to decide what she does for her children (as long as she isn’t harming them) and I do understand that breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing for everyone. I was lucky enough to have a pretty easy time with it, or rather, as easy a time as you can have with something that leaves you with tugged-on, chapped, achy nipples and leftover stretch marks from your breasts inflating and deflating every few hours. (I went from a B cup to a D cup and back down to an A cup with my first pregnancy. I’m somewhere in the vicinity of a D cup now after my second.) I know it’s a personal decision and that’s why I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about it, though if someone is weighing the pros and cons, I’m happy to deliver my most compelling argument in favor of sharing their precious mommy milk.

That particular conversation made me reflect on one of the groups I’m in on Facebook and a post that has since been deleted. A cloth diapering mama posted a question about having to switch to disposable diapers because her son’s circumcision wasn’t healing properly and she needed to put vaseline on it to keep the skin from fusing together and, as most veteran cloth diapering mamas know, petroleum is not cloth diaper friendly. A few of the responses to the question were very opinionated mamas shaming her for circumcising her son. It was pretty disheartening, not because those mamas were so strongly anti-circumcision, but because the group was supposed to be a safe place for mamas to ask questions and get honest, real life answers from people with experience. It kind of felt like a betrayal of the entire idea of a support group, which is essentially what these groups are. Not all support groups have to be about negative things. I love the idea of a group of women having a forum for their positive and negative experiences. One of my favorite things to talk about is my children and parenting in general. I like listening to other people talk about the way they choose to raise their children and the conscious decisions they make to maintain a certain lifestyle that they believe in. Whether it’s “crunchy” mamas or their “silky” counterparts who take advantage of all the modern-day conveniences that are available to the public, I like to hear their stories because it helps me realize what I feel strongly about and develop the opinions and convictions that shape my own lifestyle and parenting philosophies. How can mamas share freely and honestly when they’re afraid of the backlash of other mamas who don’t agree?

I can understand both sides of the circumcision coin. It is a pretty gruesome procedure when you think about it. You’re electing to have part of your newborn baby’s body sliced and it isn’t a particularly necessary thing to do. You are making a decision on your child’s behalf that is irreversible. In the context of females, circumcision is horrific and, in the United States, illegal.

The arguments on the flip side are just as compelling. The procedure itself is quick and isn’t traumatic. It’s a completely unnecessary flap of skin that will not be missed. It makes personal hygiene much easier for boys and, according to some studies, makes the likelihood of transmitting HIV much lower. Unlike its female counterpart, male circumcision doesn’t effect the quality of sex. And then there’s the religious aspect.

All of these factors played a role in my decision to have my son circumcised. In the end, it came down to a simple comparison. My dad isn’t circumcised and adamantly recommended that I have my son circumcised. My step-dad, who’s Jewish, is and was also on board with my decision. I don’t know a single circumcised man who laments the loss of his foreskin, but I do know a few uncircumcised men who wish their parents had made that decision for them and had it done and saved them the hassel of dealing with it. If my son ends up disappointed because he doesn’t have it, he can make the decision not to have his own sons circumcised and chock my decision up to the inevitable mistakes that parents will make throughout a child’s lifetime. I let my two year old eat mac and cheese even though I know it has artificial coloring in it. I had my son circumcised. I am not a perfect mother.

I guess that’s part of why I felt so strongly about the people who responded by shaming the mama who posted the question. None of us are perfect as parents. No matter what decisions a parent makes, there will always be an argument against it and in favor of something else. There is no such thing as the right answer when it comes to choosing how to parent your child. All we can do is our best to raise happy, healthy children who become positive additions to the world. At least, that’s my two cents.

Confessions of a crazy mama

I have a confession to make.

When I told my mom, she thought I was joking at first. She told me that if I want to do it, she won’t try to stop me but she won’t have anything to do with it when I come visit.

When I told my best friends and my sister, they all looked at me like I was crazy. It was such a foreign concept to them. I got a lot of raised eyebrows and skeptical “Okaaaayyy..” responses.

When I told my grandma, she said “Good for you. I did it when I was younger, too.”

Well, I don’t care what they all say and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I confess..

I am a cloth diapering mama.

Not only am I a cloth diapering mama, but I’m excited about being a cloth diapering mama.

I have never pictured myself navigating my way around safety pins and big sheets of fabric. I’m not trying to learn any complicated folds or master the art of wrangling a baby into a piece of cloth. When I say I’m a cloth diapering mama, I am not talking about your grandma’s cloth diapers. I’m talking about some fancy ass, very modern cloth diapering.

Today’s cloth diapering involves all sorts of different types of diapers, methods, and materials, but I have built a modest stash of what are called pocket diapers. Pocket diapers resemble a fluffier, cuter version of a disposable. They wrap around the baby’s bottom the same way, but have velcro or snaps that hold them in place the same way a disposable functions. The inside is lined with fabric (mine are fleece) and have pockets that you stuff various absorbant materials into depending on how heavy of a wetter your kiddo is. Some inserts are microfiber, some are cotton or bamboo. There are actually quite a few different materials. The outer layer of the diapers are usually laminated fabric or polyurethane so they’re waterproof. There’s really such a wide variety of options available that it’s difficult to generalize, which is one of the many things that are so freaking awesome about CDing (as it’s called by us super cool people in the know).

I love that a cloth diaper is totally customizable from the inside out. You can control exactly how absorbant the diaper is, you have complete control over the material that is up against your baby’s most private of areas. You can choose the fabric the diaper is made of and choose any cute design you can find, you can choose the closures. If your baby has chubby legs or skinny little chicken legs like my little man, you can adjust the rise of the leg holes. You choose what you wash them in so you know exactly what chemicals your diapers are treated with before you put them on your baby’s tush. And as if all of that isn’t enough, cloth diapers are something like a bajillion times cheaper over the long run than disposable diapers. [Editor’s note: I did not use scientific methods to arrive at that figure. It’s an estimate.] Also, there’s the wonderful bonus of knowing that you aren’t responsible for dumping thousands of disposable diapers into your local landfill.

My personal decision was fueled by my partner’s terrible case of very severe eczema. After reading that babies with a parent who has eczema are much more likely to be affected, I decided that it might be best to cloth diaper Grayson and avoid the additives and potential irritants in most disposable diapers. I didn’t use cloth for Ellie and everything was fine, but I was interested in cloth even back then. I’ve read articles citing the potential carcinogenic additives in disposables and it’s horrifying that this self-regulating industry would be so interested in profit that they’d risk the health of babies. Maybe these things won’t take effect until all of these babies are well into their adulthood, but it’s just disgusting that for many people, the toxins, carcinogens, plastics, glues, and other junk that diapermakers put in their products are unavoidable.

I’m still very new to cloth diapering and don’t purport to know everything about the practice, but I have researched the topic at great length and feel very confident in my decision. We’re using pocket diapers (Charlie Bananas, BumGenius 4.0s, and Alvas), but we also have half a dozen Flip diaper covers, which I haven’t slapped on Grayson’s bottom yet. I have about sixty microfiber inserts to go inside the 30 pocket diapers, 10 bamboo inserts, and maybe two dozen prefolds, so I only have to wash every two or three days. The Charle Banana one sizes actually fit my tiny little man when the elastic inside is on the x-small setting, but I can’t wait to use the covers once Grayson adds a couple pounds to his tiny frame and his delicious little chicken legs actually fit into them. Surprisingly enough since most of the women in the cloth diaper groups I’m in on Facebook frequently post about their husbands not being entirely on board, John hasn’t complained yet and actually supports this endeavor completely. When the Charlie Banana brand went on clearance at Target for around $44 for a six pack (usually $120, which I refused to pay), he gave me money to go take advantage of the sale. He’s really into eco-friendly things and, of course, saving money. He’s so much more green (and frugal) than I am. I really want to adopt more of this good habits when it comes to money and being environmentally conscious, but I could probably write a dozen posts about how great he is and how he makes me a better person. I’ll save that mush for another time, maybe.

My mom doesn’t understand why anyone would elect to wash poopy diapers rather than just toss a disposable in the trash, but I did my first load of diaper laundry and it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I actually preferred it to regular laundry, which usually piles up until John finally gets frustrated and takes care of it. Maybe I’ll get tired of it. Maybe I’ll last until he potty trains and maybe I won’t, but so far, it’s working out well for my little family. Grayson seems to like them just fine and his Nana even changed his cloth diaper the other day without instruction from me, although she was awestruck at how “fancy” the cloth diapers are these days.

Mama likes them, Daddy likes them, Grayson likes them.

That’s all  you can really ask for, right?