Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Post Tantrum Stress Disorder

Well, today started out like any other day with a supreme space out by Mommy who didn't start the get-dressed-eat-breakfast-and-pretend-to-forget-to-brush-their-teeth until 20 minutes before the school bus was about to arrive, naturally progressed into an episode of Cheerios miraculously scattering all over the kitchen floor by themselves, and an inevitable tumble out of the high chair by Child #2 who, like her big sister, can do everything by her absolute self.

It seems as though falling out of a highchair really puts a damper on her mood, though. Mine too.

Making routines is easy. Following them? Not always. If you look through the pictures on my phone one day, you might notice that I have captured my children doing ordinary things. Some people live for the applause, my kids live for paparazzi. I've discovered that I can get them to do almost anything if I take a picture of it and promise to send it around (my family can attest to the various pictures that they have received of children getting dressed, shampooing their hair, and flossing their teeth.)

When the pictures don't work, that's when we get stuck. And usually end up in a tantrum. On account of I won't compromise about menial things. Like washing hands with soap and going to bed, for instance. My friend Chaya has taught me that tantrums can affect even the best of mothers and we may not recognize that we are harboring past traumas of when our children, in scientific terms, Lose It. Some of you may resonate with the official diagnosis of Post Tantrum Stress Disorder. Don't feel ashamed, it's pretty common.

Symptoms include headaches, memory loss surrounding your decision to have children, Google searches of how to put a string cheese back together, and a strong desire to crawl under your bed.

Treatment options are much better. You can try chocolate, ice cream, manicures, and showers that last more than five minutes. Success varies. More research is needed. All ideas welcome.

Some other helpful terms from my Dictionmommy:

Pinstressed - (adj.) Me, on Pinterest. See DIY.

DIY - (v.) Do it yourself? Destroy it yourself? 
Martyr-dumb - (n.) Rescuing your child from your spouse's strict discipline and then realizing you are now stuck with the toddler who is wailing about the sun being in the wrong part of the sky. 

Thermomentor - (n.) The person you call to find out if you should take your child to the doctor. Usually not the doctor. Usually the mother. And usually she says, "I don't know. I had babies a long time ago. Call your sister."

Vaccscene - (n.) No matter where in the world you are, you will know when my kid is getting shots. We are the family that scares all the little kids still in the Waiting Room because we make it sound like war is going on inside the Examination Room. That's how we roll.

Dinnerd - (adj.) The mom who tries to make cutsie stuff out of the vegetables she is serving, but fails. See Pinterest and DIY.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Carefully Crazy

Everyone on social media makes fun of social media. Right?

I've noticed a trend among us mothers posting pictures of our children in quite precarious positions:

Stuck under a table.

Sitting in the drivers seat.

Standing on the high chair tray.

Hanging out of the dog's mouth.

Swinging from a sibling's arm.

Climbing over railings.

I'm curious to know if anyone has an actual equation to help moms recognize when it's time to put the camera down. I'm certain it would include variables such as distance between mom and child, distance between child and hospitalization, and the photograph's level of cuteness. I imagine special circumstances might take into account evidence of successful trials of the exact dangerous activity in the past. Oh, and birth order. That's the most important factor: is this the first, second, or tenth child?

I was once a Mother of One. So were you.

And I bet you went to those same family parties that I went to. And you watched those Mothers of More. And you judged. There they were eating calmly, without a single child on their lap, pulling their hair, or grabbing their legs under the table and untying their shoes. And they would converse with others, and laugh, and drink cups that had liquid poured all the way to the top.

And there you were running after your one little kid who didn't even run himself. And everyone would try to convince you to relax, sit down, enjoy the party.

And you were all, "OMIGOSH, are these people FOR REAL? Hello, my baby is the most PRECIOUS gift I have ever received. I would NEVER just let my BAJILLION-dollar jewelry run around the backyard unsupervised, no way am I letting my CHILD get more than three feet away from me! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THREE FEET IS?!" And then and there you swore to your righteous, committed, actually-care-about-my-kids self that you would never, ever NEGLECT your kids the way that other mothers do. And you promised yourself that no matter how many kids you had, each would get the exact same special treatment. And then you went home and read a parenting book that told you to Rock On. And you called every indignant mother that you knew and launched your Ultimate Parenting Plan.

And then...you had another kid.

Nothing screams "Born Second" like a saggy diaper. Or snot that's wiped with the very shirt your kid is wearing. Or tantrums that are observed as though they were being conducted by someone else's kids. Or that call out at the family party that sounds like, "Hey, has anyone seen Rivka lately? Lemme know if she needs me, K? I'm just gonna eat a few courses here."

My children really do have different experiences in life. The first one has an album full of newborn pictures in which she yawned, went to sleep, moved a finger, and then yawned again. The second child has newborn pictures that are blurry because I was chasing after the older one who was pushing her in a doll stroller. The first one didn't know what chocolate chips were until it was time to potty train; the second one has already located the hiding spot. I told the whole world about each milestone that the first one achieved; I'm not even sure what the second one is supposed to be doing these days, but she keeps my busy so I assume she's on target. I cried when the first one got shots; I wish I could give my second one the shots myself and avoid going out to the doctor. I was a nervous wreck when the first one started preschool; I almost "accidentally" left the second one behind after her sister's orientation.

Oh and by the way? I know that those of you with more than two kids are laughing at me now. Don't Hello, Don't Hello, Don't Hello.

But let's call a truce and make a pact that no matter what number child we are snapping pictures of, if they are gonna end up in the doctor's office, let's make a safe photo op later. Trust me, they'll do something carefully crazy and you'll capture it.

"My loud voice is coming. I'm really trying to tell it to go away but it's trying to pop out. Quickly go get your shoes like I asked you to!"

"Oh I really want you to help me cook but it's very dangerous if you get near the counter when I have raw meat out."

"My voice isn't functioning well enough to read a book so let's save it for first thing tomorrow morning."

"Absolutely, Mommy is also going to sleep now. Just gonna kiss you good night and go right into my bed."

Friday, October 18, 2013

These are the Moments

In my world of nursery, diapers and play dates, spirituality often comes to me at random moments. These moments are fleeting, and despite my efforts to make them last or to repeat them, they simply disappear. It’s not that I’m not taking the time to connect with G-d, although I could put in more effort in that area, it’s that my mind is always in multiple places at once and I feel as though I can never make these moments truly meaningful.
Sometimes, though, there are little moments that absolutely take me away.
On Friday, the second day of Sukkos, I experienced such a moment. That morning, my sister had left to the hospital to deliver her 3rd child (ka”h). The day of waiting at home was an anxious one, as we could not contact my sister or brother in-law because it was Yom Tov. It was also a crazy busy, oh-my-g-d-I-am-never-having-two-sets-of-twins one, as I found myself acting as a second mother to her two children who are close in age to my own two children. With naps and tantrums and snacks and bathroom reminders, it was as un-spiritual of a day as it could possibly be.
About an hour before Shabbos my brother-in-law came rushing through the door. The labor was not progressing as expected and he needed to prepare food and anything that they would need before Shabbos started. As he left back for the hospital he asked me, “Can you please light candles for your sister tonight?” I immediately said that I would, but I remained standing at the door staring after him, long after he had gone. I don’t know why I couldn’t move. I don’t know why it meant so much to me.
I didn’t have so much time to think about it because there were four kids who needed to get into pajamas; two of whom were not thrilled to be sharing their Mommy and Tatty and two of whom were missing their Imma and Abba immensely. And then it was time to light.
I carefully helped the two older girls step up to the table and light their candles. And then it was my turn.
I lit one…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight candles.
Eight candles.
And I was overcome.
My sister is more to me than just a sister; she is also my best friend. We have done so many things for each other over the years. Some incredibly embarrassing (how exactly is a kallah supposed to pull up her stockings when her nails are wet?) and some just incredibly special (she was there with her own two kids helping me while I went through postpartum depression); but nothing felt as enormous to me as this. That evening, my sister entrusted me with a Mitzvah that is so uniquely special to her and to her family. She entrusted me with their Neshamos and with the light that is her duty to bring into this world.
To my dear sister, I hope I did you justice.
I couldn’t tune out the giggles, and whispers, and whines from the kids, so I instead allowed that to be the background music as I davened for their growth. I davened that they should continue in the way of Torah as you and I do and that one day they should cover their own eyes and bentch licht for beautiful families of their own. I davened that they should have as special a connection to their siblings as we do with each other and that they should always be there for each other in the best of ways.
And I’m not gonna lie. I davened that they would all go to bed nicely too.
Tonight, I am back at my house and you are at yours. We will be lighting our own candles miles away from each other, but you have helped to make my experience more meaningful. I think of that now; I think of the night that I lit eight candles, the night that I was forced to connect to Hashem in a more meaningful way because I was promising to do your part for you.
And so, most of all, I will pray that with our candles, we will be able to fill the world with the ultimate light of Moshiach.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Public Shame Me

As a teacher, I am often the recipient of unsolicited advice from my students, my colleagues, and of course, my own parents who have been teachers for years. The kids usually advise me to give more recess and less homework, but the adults tend to give me great tips about almost everything.

Sometimes, though, their advice sucks.

The other day a staff member in my school suggested to me a solution to the incessant (and incredibly aggravating) note-passing that is going on among students (what they have to talk about so urgently that they cannot possibly follow along in class is beyond me. And then they spend all night on the phone.) Her suggestion was to "catch" a note being passed and read it aloud to the class.

Her reasoning, "They will be so embarrassed when the entire class hears what they wrote, they'll never do it again." I'm not a hater of old school policies, but this one really disturbed me. Since when is humiliating students a teaching method??

But hey, can I blame her? Public shaming is all the rage. Think about all those pictures you've seen online about the parent forcing their child to stand in a heavily populated area wearing a sign that said, "I was twerking," or "I shoplifted," or "I am a bully." In an age where we are FINALLY recognizing how detrimental bullying can be, and at a time when we are putting so much effort into bully prevention, why on earth are we modeling that very same behavior?

Certainly we would all agree that if a group of children would force an individual child to stand at the corner wearing a sign declaring her shortcomings, that would be bullying. Why, then, are our actions exempt?

If you're going to use public shaming as a means of parenting, go ahead. Just one condition: stand next to your kid and wear a sign too.

"I'm the idiot who lets my children watch Miley Cyrus's sickening objectification of women and sexuality."

"I'm the incompetent parent who isn't getting my child the help that they need."

"I'm the parent who believes bullying is okay for adults."

No child is perfect (kids, when you're all grown up and reading this, kindly refer to previous posts to confirm your almost-but-not-quite perfect behavior), but no parent is either. Instead of placing blame one-sidedly and shaming your child into submission, why don't you explore where you may have gone wrong or what you can do to help them.

I've made my billboards, where are yours?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Motherly Mystification

Today I discovered that I have a lot of unanswered questions about Toddlers and Preschoolers (I've been advised that a nearly four-year-old no longer falls under the category of toddler, so I'm down to one preschooler, one toddler, and no patience. Haha, kidding about the patience.)

Anyway, I'm feeling quite perturbed by some physical phenomena I am noticing in my children. Take this for example.

Here is a list of things my kids can hear from up to 600 yards away:
1. The suction breaking on the refrigerator door.
2. A bag of popcorn being removed from the pantry.
3. The word "chocolate" being whispered in another room.
4. The nail polish brush as it sweeps across my finger.

And yet, they somehow miss all of this:
1. "NO!"

Or even this:
1. Please come here.
2. Please pick that up.
3. It's time to eat.
4. Let's go brush your teeth.

Their muscular health is also of great perplexity to me.

They can:
1. Walk uphill to the park.
2. Run away from me.
3. Run away from me with toys in their hands.
4. Make rounds through the grocery store.

They cannot:
1. Walk uphill on the way home.
2. Pick up their toys.
3. Carry their plates to the sink (toddler exempt)
4. Bring me a tissue from the bathroom.

I brought this up with my pediatrician but he just looked at me strangely for a while. Then he said, "Should I just say that it's all normal?" I guess he had a long day.

Personally, every day is a long day.

Especially days that start extra early.

There is only one number that all children need to learn from birth: the number SEVEN. It's when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Chaya knows that she is not supposed to leave her room until she sees "a seven with two dots" on her clock. 7:00 7:01 7:02 7:03....you get the idea.

Interestingly enough, that rule only manages to cover us 2/7 days. Y'know, because emergencies come up and she has to get to us quickly. Yesterday she came out at the-six-with-two-dots because her hair was in her eyes. She had real tears. Note to self: bad days can get worse when you mistake your child for a snooze button.

It's understood that when you start the day off on the wrong foot, it usually does not get better from there. It's come to the point where I look so harried a mere two hours after waking that Chaya now asks me to stay at the top of the stairs while she boards the school bus alone. #wellIdon'tevenhello

Oh, let us not forget to mention:

"I put a powder vitamin in your water. It's like arnica, so now even if we don't put arnica on your legs before you go to sleep, they won't hurt you while you try to fall asleep."

"Oh, that cat isn't allowed into houses. That's what it says on the collar right there. Shucks."

Friday, October 4, 2013

I don't Hello

I was like a fully charged battery my whole life. Then I had kids.

------ battery remaining: 30%

But that's not the only way I'm similar to my iPhone.  For example, I'm expensive.

And high maintenance.

And it's not good to leave me out in the rain.

And I haven't relaxed at a beach since I was pregnant with my first, so my white phone and I are similar in color.

And my brain has multiple tabs open at once.

And they all have trouble loading.

And I have a serious problem in the department of auto-correcting the spelling and grammar of others'.

And I often have to delete something from my memory to make room for something new.

Aaaaand, I can make creepy smiles.

If I'm being honest here (and when am I ever not?) I should really say OUR phone. Because my daughter has reminded me on multiple occasions, both by force and nonstop nagging, that it is really important to share. It is possible that there are more apps on my phone dedicated to her enjoyment than to my needs. Getting her a fake phone worked for close to ten seconds.

I'm proud and thankful that she is exuding signs of intelligence but it's been a busy week here buying and installing new locks on all the doors leading outside (she is tall enough and strong enough to open the ones we've had until now), hiding my treats more efficiently (she checks the freezer daily), destroying evidence of summer (am I really supposed to pull the pool out and reattach the hose? This weather is confusing,) and of course, trying to remain a step ahead of her in the Parenting Game.

I was misled when I was told that backtalk starts in the teens. Maybe that's when the intent starts but toddlers are pretty good at smarting back answers. I know she isn't doing it out of spite but sometimes I just stare back at her because I'm completely stumped about what to do next.

"I was crying for the water and not using my words because you aren't allowed to speak when you have food in your mouth."

"I'm not going to say 'I don't care!' when you tell me something; I will just say 'I don't hello!' (in the same belligerent tone) because that's a nice way to say it."

"I can't let Rivka play with me because I might move in a lot of directions and she might get hurt."

Listen, I can't expect myself to be fully functioning on 30% now, can I? Mama's gotta recharge every once in a while. So here's the breakdown of how to earn back battery:

Chocolate - 5%
Alcohol - 5%
Chocolate and Alcohol together - 20% (synergy, folks)
An hour alone - 15%
An hour alone in a shopping mall with someone else's credit card - 80%

And I think I need to add in taking time to sit down and do something you like, such as writing :) Because I'm starting to feel a little bit recharged.

My house could use a cleaning, the toys need to be put away, I haven't yet started cooking for Shabbat, I have a few loads of laundry waiting to go in, and I have some last minute shopping to do. But you know what?

Quite frankly, I just don't hello =D

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oh, I have a blog?

Somewhere in between the past few weeks of packing, going, staying, coming, eating, packing, going, staying, coming, eating, I think you get the idea, I lost the will to write. And eat. But the writing procrastination lasted a lot longer than the eating.

Last time I checked in was before I decided to drive seven hours with my two beautiful girls. Just me, the girls, and my two younger brothers who both don't drive. Let us say that I seriously overestimated my ability to keep my eyes open while driving for 7 hours and severely underestimated my baby's crying stamina. I'm talking three hours straight of, "MOMMY!! ALL DONE BYE BYE!!" My poor brothers tried to woo her with food, silly faces, songs, more food, and then even more food. Her big sister looked on in horror and announced, "Rivka is screaming, Mommy! She is making a really bad choice." Except I was the one who made the really bad choice.

There was one blurry moment, three hours away from home, when we stopped to get gas and the machine would not read the credit card, and the attendant pointed to the porta-potty when my daughter needed to go, and the baby was in my arms still shrieking, that I nearly called my husband to tell him we were not going to move another inch. But I did the math and realized that I'd just be waiting six hours with Screamer. And who knows what Big Sister might think up in all that time.

So we persevered. And then Big Sister announced that she had to you-know-what. And you-know-when. And so we pulled over with a package of 100 wipes that we completely used up and a pair of toddler underwear that we left on the side of the road. Somewhere in me I am working up the effort to care about the next person who shoplifts from Walmart and gets stuck cleaning that mess. But I was already on my 6,000th hour volunteering with my own kids so....

Anyway, we made it back alive. And I am writing this post so that I don't pop up in a month from now and say it wasn't so bad and we should try it again.

This month has been one of lost routines so as my daughter became more creative in her ploys for longer playtime, more candy, more food, more candy, more food, and more candy, I became more creative in my responses:

"The lollipops actually need to charge now."

"Sure you can have this candy...oh boy, what's that mark there? I hope it's not mold."

"Oh this chocolate is sour, let's put it in the fridge till tomorrow."

"The Dentist just called. She said you can have just one of these candies so which do you choose?"

"We are taking an Eating Break now because the food has to think about you eating it."

In other news? The baby has emerged as the winner in Baby Rivka vs. Childproofed Cabinets. I've got to go save my plastic containers!