To My Child

To My Child

I hope you learn that life isn’t fair.  But that that doesn’t mean it is all bad.

I hope you smile at people, even strangers, and look people in the eye.

I hope you chew with your mouth closed.

I hope you learn how to listen – really listen – to others when they need to be heard, and to the quiet beat of your own heart.

Headed down the path together.

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you learn to win and lose with grace.

I hope you love and appreciate the beautiful, intricate, amazing body you’re in.

I hope you can be silly for the joy of it, and can laugh at yourself and with others kindly.

I hope you have good manners and know when to use them (almost always) and when to relax them.

I hope you trust. In others, and in yourself.

I hope you know how to make something with your own brain and hands – a song, food, a painting, a stone wall.

I hope you learn, without too many tough consequences, that attempts to escape problems, hurt, and heartbreak never really work for long.

Flying!

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you pick up after yourself.

I hope you decide that it is wise and healthy to get enough sleep.

I hope you learn how to advocate for yourself without demanding, complaining or whining.

I hope you understand that stuff is just stuff.

I hope you learn you can expect goodness, but not perfection, from other people. Or from yourself.

I hope you learn how to own up to your own misdeeds, mistakes and slights without excuses, blame or deflection.

I hope you keep learning, about the world, about other people, and about yourself.

I hope you work in any small or large way to make your community, corner, city, world, a tiny bit more just and beautiful.

And I hope you know that when in doubt, you should just put stuff in the trash, and not the garbage disposal.

First Day and Everyday

Pickle

First grade starts next week.

First grade for my kind, freckled thinker who is finding his voice, and up at night pondering the merits of inboard motors.

He will be fine.  What choice does he have other than to be fine, to navigate his life on his own, at least a little bit, and figure out the way of the world through the small, significant, triumphs and heartbreaks of childhood.

The skinny-legged boy with the too-big backpack (aren’t they all?) will walk into school and I will drive away.  And get a coffee.  And drive to work.  I will not worry.

I am ready for the big moments.

I am ready for first steps, lost teeth, first days.  I am ready to watch them glide away without training wheels, to sound out books on their own, to tie their shoes.

My tender heart catches when I least expect it.

When the biggest helps the littlest with his shoes.

When the middle uses a big word I haven’t heard her use before.

When the wobbly toddler gait all of a sudden becomes smooth and coordinated.

We may mark the time with first steps and first days.  But it is those tiny changes, the ones we almost don’t see, that add up to people, our people, growing a hair’s width every night.  Our little people whose lives slowly and beautifully start to become their own, separate from us.  One millimeter, one second at a time.

In the cool dark, the clock ticks and they sing our bedtime songs with lyrics of their own.  And then a quiet pause as they drift away into dreams that are theirs alone.

 

 

You Get What You Need

I want a cup of tea.

Not herbal. The real stuff. With milk and sugar.

And I want someone to make me popovers.

Which I will eat warm with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.

 

I want someone to wash my duvet cover and then put it back on my comforter. Because if we’re honest with each other, that is a four-person job.

 

I want a week to declutter, shuffle and reshuffle, purge (stuff, not vomit – though both usually make you feel better), think about writing something, nap.

 

I want dinner to be done, meals planned. But really, I want to do that stuff myself.

I want a bedside clock for my husband that isn’t the brightest clock on the planet.

I want the socks paired.

Oh the socks.

 

I want not to worry about the four RSVPs, camps, birthday party to plan.

I want to be grateful that I have parties, camps, birthday parties to worry about.

I want new work shoes that I don’t have to break in.

I want to use the hours between 8:30pm and 10:30pm wisely at least once a week.

I want to figure out how on earth to spend more time being and less time doing.

 

I want to cook every day. Walk every day. Sleep more. Pick up less. Read to my kids more. Explore more. Love more. Give more.  Fight more for the things I think are worth fighting for. And sit on a blanket on the grass in the sun.

 

I want to spend more time doing silly and creative things, and less time wondering what could have possibly spilled on the floor to make it that sticky.  I want more time with my kids. I want more time with my husband. I want more time by myself.

I want more time having grown-up conversations. With wine. I want more music in my house. I want less dust. I want my kids to eat less yogurt.

 

I want more dancing in my life.

 

And I want the thank you notes to write themselves.

 

A happy home. ❤️

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

Questions and Answers

Pickle is 4.5 years old.  I’ve already fielded some tough questions.  Why is the sun hot? Why are grandmas called grandmas?  Did they have to cut you to get the baby in your tummy? Why do we have seasons?  But today’s question was the hardest.

Pickle was sitting in the rear row of the minivan, gazing out the window.  The heat was cranked up, since the thermometer read “12” and Frozen was playing loudly (per Plum’s request, of course).

“Why do people die?”  he asked.

“WHAT?!” I yelled.  It was hard to hear his soft voice over the heater vents and Idina Menzel.

“WHY DO PEOPLE DIE?”  he yelled back.

I paused.  I turned down the radio, and the heat.

“Are you worrying about that?” He nodded.  “Pickle, all living things die.  I know that sounds scary, but it is just the way the world works.”

“Even cars?”

“Well, cars aren’t alive, but cars break and stop, and their parts wear out.  Just like our parts can wear out or stop. Remember how I told you about Grandpa Harvey?  How his heart broke, and they couldn’t fix it? How they couldn’t make it better?”  He nodded again.

I looked in my rearview mirror.  He was thinking.

I wanted to be honest.  I wanted him to know about the bad things, the bad people, the sadness, but I want him to love this life, to live fully and freely and to be happy despite those things.  I wanted him to know that maybe there is a heaven, that maybe there isn’t.  I wanted him to know that there are things I don’t know.  Though at 4 years old, I’m sure he is comforted by the fact that I probably know everything. Because moms and dads do.

His brow furrowed.  “Will it hurt?” he asked, lip trembling.

“Will it hurt when you die?”  He nodded.  “Pickle, I don’t know.  I don’t know what it is like to die.  I know that sometimes it hurts, and sometimes it doesn’t.  But I do know that you have a very long time to live before that.  Maybe even a hundred years.”  I hoped with all of my heart that I was telling him the truth.

I wasn’t sure, after the very normal morning we’d had, why these thoughts were running through his head.

I wanted to comfort him.  I am the fixer, after all.  I am the mom.  According to Pickle, I am even “a little bit magic.”  I can tell him when he’s going to throw up.  I know when he has thwacked his sister, even if he has denied it.  I know where his misplaced toys are, the t-shirt he wants to wear.  I know things.  I’m the mom. It’s what we do.

“Pickle, I wish I had better answers for you.  I wish I knew why we died, or if it will hurt.  But I don’t know.  All I know is that you have a lot of things left to do.  You’ll play basketball, you’ll learn to drive. You can grow up big and tall like Dad, you can get married and have your own babies if you want.  Do you think you might want to do that?”

He paused, took a breath, and caught my eye in the rearview mirror.  “Yeah,” he said nodding, mind made up, “I think I want to do that.”

 

Pickle

Full or Fumes

You’ve just filled up your gas tank when you see the sign “Next Gas Station 6 Miles – Last Services for 9,000 Miles”.

Yeah, that’s what parenting is like.

Fumes, I tell ya!

I may be a little slow on the uptake since it took me nearly three years to figure this out: the breaks don’t come when you need them.

You get a breather, but it is at mile 0.25 of the race, not mile 10.

You put some gas in the tank but then have to drive until you are limping home on fumes.

With kidlets, nothing quite happens how or when you need or expect it to.

The other day, I had a day all to myself. (That bold font doesn’t add nearly enough emphasis.) The kidlets were at school and my office was closed.  The stars align like that about twice a year.  I had big dreams of a relaxing, yet productive day.   I planned out my day over and over in my mind – the places I’d go! the things I’d accomplish! the wonderful break it would be!

And it wasn’t a bad day.  I took a long shower, got a pedicure, had a nice lunch, wrote some thank you notes that were becoming embarrassingly tardy, caught up on a DVRed episode of Downton while sipping coffee.

But it was kind of like prom.  The preparation and anticipation was the best part.  The prom itself?  Kind of a letdown – just a dance with fancy clothes, with the same people you saw every day.  My day was filled with things I would have done anyway, just over the course of a month and not a day.

My day to myself came at a time when I wasn’t desperate for a break.  The kids were on the mend from the dreaded winter bugs, folks had been sleeping relatively well, work was busy but manageable, my sniffles had cleared, and the holidays were cleaned up and put away.  My parenting mood was more like “I got this, kind of!” rather than, “Help me! I’m drowning!”  My tank was ¾ full.

It is a parenting challenge – perhaps a life challenge? – that I haven’t figured out how to manage.  The breaks, the respite, the calm, the recharging, rarely come when I need them most.  So I don’t feel like I take full advantage, and end up with nothing saved up for the trying days and nights that come so often when raising two very small people, nurturing a marriage, working full-time, managing a household, and not losing myself completely in the process.

I’m not sure how exactly, but I need to work on keeping my tank a little more full.  And embrace those breaks more fully when I do get them.  Another item for the to-do list…

 

Where’s the Good Stuff?

Where’s the good stuff? What IS the good stuff?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am happy, and grateful for my blessed life. I am. But in the last few weeks, with my return to work, and conversations with other moms, I’ve been pondering motherhood, the challenges, and the triumphs. A lot of moms I know have felt particularly challenged as of late. I’ve heard stories of frazzled nerves, endless second-guessing, exhaustion, work-life balance problems, losing oneself to this kiddo-endeavor, and attempting to find oneself after such a loss.

Recently, while discussing our new babies, my sister said, “I love her, but when will I like her?”

Nail. On. Head.

Kids are a lot of work. And they aren’t really all that fun, especially at the beginning. So why do we do this? And does it ever get easier? Will I ever feel like I’m doing more than just getting by?

I have been pondering those dark mommy days, and what we can turn to in the tough times to get us through (besides wine, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and crying, that is). Are there tangible returns to mommyhood besides someone to care for us in old age (because they have to, right?)? Some days, a smile from a new little human is enough. But, and I know this is mommy-heresy to say this, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. Any of it. But I guess that’s the point after all…

My kiddos are here to make me a better person. The potholes in my character – the good personality traits that I am missing, or that have been worn away – my kiddos are there to help me learn to patch them.

  • Three days of two-year-old tantrums? Time for me to work on kindness and patience (and homicidal tendencies.  I joke, I joke).
  • Mr. Pickle wants my hard-earned last cookie? Let’s work on generosity.
  • Plum needs some new clothes, but I’ve been wearing the same two ratty old bras for the last 3 years? Plum’s needs trump; I’m working on selflessness.
  • Kiddos are running me ragged and I’m at my wit’s end? I need to work on balance and asking for help.

Some days I want to stomp my foot like an impetuous toddler and whine that I just don’t want to. I don’t want the self-improvement, the mirror held up to my behaviors. I don’t want to participate in this kiddo-led quest for mommy betterment. But I try to remind myself, that in my little corner of the world, we are working very hard to help make good, kind human beings. I’m starting from scratch with my little doodlebugs, and my doodlebugs are working on the betterment of their imperfect-but-working-on-it, 34-year-old Mom and Dad.

What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting…

A friend of mine just recently wrote a thoughtful and honest overview of what life after birth was for her.  (In the interest, at least for the time being, in keeping this blog anonymous I won’t link to it).  But trust me, I was there.  She had a rough few weeks.

And I chuckled when I read about her sitting alone at night with her breast pump and swearing it was talking to her.  I had the same experience, except my pump actually repeated the name of my boss over and over, like this, “Chad Sock! Chad Sock! Chad Sock!”  (No, that’s not his real name either.)  It freaked me out.  And made me wonder about my subconscious desires.

Overall, I think I handled the transition to mommydom pretty well.  I like to be informed – I read the books, I asked friends for good 1st time mom advice, I put together a nursery (though, I wasn’t a maniac about this), I took the childbirth class and prenatal yoga (which is a story for another day) and I did all the mommy prep I thought I could. I knew that I could do it – both the birth part, and the mom part, though I didn’t know what either one would be like.

But what was the best preparation?  Not setting myself up for failure.

I didn’t have too many expectations.  I tried not to put pressure on myself.  And I recognized that I would only have a modicum of control over most of my life for the next few months (okay, years, who am I kidding!).  I focused on being flexible.  I didn’t harbor any fantasies of sweet-smelling, quiet babies, napping while I baked.  I tried not to harbor any fantasies at all.  I promised myself that it was okay to learn as you go, to be frustrated, to be sad, to be tired, to BE.  I knew I’d love my new arrival without expectations, and just for being  himself/herself, so I tried to give myself the same care and courtesy.  All I knew was that childbirth would be hard, and the days and months after childbirth would be harder. And I was right.

It was hard.  It was really really hard.  My brother-in-law had it right when he said, “Everyone says it will be hard, but no one tells you exactly what ‘hard’ means.”  It is hard in an entirely new way.  Your life is completely changed. I remember thinking, “Three days ago, I could do what I want.  Today, I cannot do what I want, I cannot pee when I want, I cannot sleep when I want, I cannot go when/where I want, I cannot eat when I want.”  It isn’t all bad, but goodness, it IS a shock to the system in every way.

I wish I could find the blog entry I read recently that defined parenthood like this:

EVERYTHING IS DIFFICULT AND AWESOME.

And that is exactly right.  That is exactly what I have found parenthood to be.

So.  My advice to new moms?  Enough with the expectations.  Cut yourself some slack.  Take it day-by-day.  Ask for help (I was bad about this and I vow to change this time around).  Know your limits.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Acknowledge contradictory feelings (you can love a little baby with all your heart, and still feel a little resentful about how much your life has changed and how sore and tired you are – that doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human).  Don’t stress if you don’t fall in love with your newborn right away – you’ll feel awed, responsible, etc. but how often do people fall in love at first sight?  This person is completely new to you!  Don’t worry about doing it all right – there’s no such thing as perfection, and if there was, it’d be boring and impossible to maintain.

Welcome to the greatest adventure of all!

Footnote: As discussed in this blog entry, Mommyhood is really hard.  But for those mommies with PPD it can also be terrifying, excruciating, and life-changing in a really bad way.  If you think you or your loved one may be suffering from PPD, do know that you’re not alone and take steps to reach out, get help, and heal!  ❤