Monthly Archives: July 2013

Always Mama

M is really future focused these days.  He talks a lot about what he is going to do when he grows up.  Tonight, he was going on and on about when he is an adult and has his own car.  He said he will drive us around.  One of us will be in the front seat, the other will be in the back in a booster seat that he says we will get from Ingles, the local grocery store.  

His development is exploding these days.  New words and ideas are coming so fast it is hard to keep up.  I see my boy in the faces of ten-year olds we come across at the park.  I can feel the time being sucked away.  All of this future talk is a little emotional for me, another part of the letting go that begins the moment they emerge from the womb.  And that, to me, is the hardest part of parenting.

When he was telling us where we will sit in his car, S asked him what he will call me when he is older,

“Will you call her mom or mama?”

“I will always call her mama.”

Sweet comments like that make the hard parts of parenting a little easier.  I guess that is something else to put in my pocket for those really challenging days.


I’m a Really Great Papa

images-6My son is in love with his bunny. Baby Bunny Betsy, if you will.  Today, for the first time in his life, he took a stuffed animal in the car and to the playground.  He held on tight to her while they climbed and went down the twisty slide or while steering the car or whatever adventure was on tap.  This is big for my boy as he has never really attached to one object.

The past four or five days, Bunny is where it is at.  He will tell me that she is crying, then rush off to the rocking chair because rocking calms her.  When he drinks water in bed while trying to fall asleep (which is often), he makes sure bunny has some too, “But not too much so she doesn’t pee in the bed.”

The best part of all of this was when he said this morning, “I’m a really great papa!”  He said it over and over again, thrilled with the fact that he had made the connection between caring for something and being a parent.  I was thrilled to see this blatant example of the empathic, nurturing boy we are raising.  In that moment, I felt proud.  One day, when he is holding his own child (way,way,way down the road), I will remind him of this early practice and of how he was meant for the role.



Hocus Pocus

imagesI made a decision the moment I looked into my son’s eyes to never lie to him.  We talk about where meat comes from and what it means to die.  We don’t do Santa Claus and won’t do the Tooth Fairy.  I know that may sound harsh.  That’s just the way it is.  (Don’t worry: He finds magic in lots of other places!)

What I haven’t decided is if making-up stories counts as lying?  I think not?  Here is the situation:  A few nights ago we three were deep into battle over flossing and brushing M’s teeth.  He was yelping and covering his mouth with both hands anytime one of us came near.  Exhausted, we watched as M darted for the door only to find S’s foot holding it closed.  He didn’t notice her foot and just kept tugging at the door, getting frustrated and then, finally, giving up.

At that moment, it dawned on me (maybe on S…but let’s pretend it was me for the sake of the story): Here is a golden opportunity to change to game.  So, I/we told him that the door had a magic spell on it and wouldn’t open until he flossed, brushed and said the magic words, ‘hocus, pocus, open the door-us’.

Can you guess what happened next?  You are right!  It fucking worked!  Four nights running, we have not battled over his oral hygiene.  There have been no battle of wills.  If it looks like one is coming down the pike, we just invoke the magic spell and ta-da!

I realize that this story may have us crossing very close to lying territory.  That part I am not so keen on.  The lack of battles?  Well, that I love.



imgres-2As my son was falling asleep tonight, green bouncy ball in one hand, he started whispering something to me.  There was just enough light in the room for me to recognize the white of his teeth as he smiled. “jaja-jo” was what I heard.  I asked him to repeat.  It came across the same.  “Once more?” I asked knowing I was now pulling him farther from sleep.  “Cujo,” he said loudly with a bigger smile.

“That’s what you call our dog.  Why do you call him that?”
“I’ll tell you when you are bigger.”

Their tiny brains are amazing.  He sits there watching the light disappear outside his windows, running through the events of the day.  Eyes wide open, his breathing deepens as he remembers walks or play dates or, perhaps, when I needed a few minutes alone and gently escorted him to his room for my ten kid-free minutes.

Despite this being my least favorite time of year (humidity+heat=VERY unhappy Betsy), we have been rather busy.  New adventures, new friends.  All of these new things and he thinks about ‘Cujo’ right before he falls asleep.  While their brains are amazing, they are also quite strange.



As my son is going to sleep at night, he traces the lines of my face or pats my arm or touches my elbow. I love these moments. I know that they go against the ultimate goal of him sleeping, but I can’t help myself. His touch is so light and sweet, it melts me. I pretend to be asleep, but really I am so deeply in love with that boy that it is overwhelming in these moments. When the room is dark and he is touching my nose or my eyelids, there is no question about our biology or him wanting Ima more. There are no monsters in the closet or kids who say mean things. There are no teenagers being gunned down or people dying in wars. None of that exists. It is just me and him, the love between a parent and a child. I have needed that lately.

I was talking about the news with a friend earlier this week. She talked about how, a while back, she had to disconnect from the news in order to protect her sanity. Sometimes I think this is what I need to do also. I think the accessibility of information makes me a distracted parent. I might think about Trayvon Martin or Cory Montieth or whatever sad headline flashes across my screen when I should be focusing on my son.

So, when it is my night to put M to bed, the tracing reminds me to be fully present. No screens, no sounds. Just breathing and being together. Connected in a really special way.


Rain, rain. Go away?

It has rained every day except one for as long as I can remember. The rivers are swollen. Everything outside that is not metal is covered in mildew. Serotonin levels are on a fast decline. You get the picture.

Today, the sun was out for most of the day (after a rain shower this morning, of course). My boy and I had a nice berry-hunting kind of walk this morning before the depth of the humidity really set it. When it is 90% humidity and 85 degrees, the only think I want is for the rain to come, soaking us and our clothes for some momentary relief. It is only then, when you want it to come, that the clouds part and the brilliant rays you thought you were longing for beat down on you like moist fire. It is an all together unpleasant experience.

You may be asking yourself, “What does that have to do with parenting?” Well, it translated into spending as much of the day as possible sleeping in the direct path of a window air conditioner or at someone’s house who has central air. This weather makes me really grumpy. My boy seems to be unfazed by any changes in weather. He wants to hike in the rain, walk naked in the snow, wear fleece pants in June. It is all the same to him. Me, I want to crawl in bed and stay there until the leaves start to change colors. At the end of today, I feel d-o-n-e. Done. My boy was quite pleasant today. We had some lovely company. All I can think about is getting this post up and going to sleep in the hopes that tomorrow might bring 50% humidity and 65 degrees. I know that is a pipe dream and that come February I will be saying that I can’t wait for the heat of summer. But tonight, I can wait. I can wait a long, long time until it is this gross outside again.


A Hunting We Will Go

il_fullxfull.244918128One of the advantages of living on a college campus is that the opportunities for exploring with a toddler are pretty much endless.  This is especially true on our campus.

Now that summer is in full swing, M and I have a favorite activity.  We pack some water and a berry bucket and we go hunting.  We will spend several hours walking in the woods, along the river, through gardens in search of the ripest blueberries, blackberries and in desperate search for the last remaining strawberries.  While we hunt, we sing songs and talk about our adventures.

Today, after our bucket was full, we made our way to the cabin in the garden and spent some time enjoying our berries from the comfort of an old porch swing.  We then walked up to the weekly garden market and listened to someone play an African instrument, a ngoni.

On days like today, my gratitude spills over.  On the really tough days, when toddlerhood rears its ugly head, I try to remember days like today and hope I was able to save a little of that gratitude in a safe place for just such an occasion.  On days like today, I am reminded that this really is all there is.



Today has been a whopper of a day.  My sleep-deprived child woke up with fire coming out of his eyes, a steaming dragon.  Since 5:30 a.m., that child has been with us.  My sweet, compliant, snuggly boy has gone into hiding.

Could there have been a better night to try a new approach to sleep training?  I think the answer is yes, but we did it anyway.  We have allowed ourselves to become his sleep crutch.  He is a pain in the ass (chatting, singing, whispering, asking questions) for a LONG time.  Regardless of what we tell him, he flip-flops sides of his bed about twelve times, requesting a blanket adjustment and that his water cup be relocated to the new side.  He wants his back patted and his hand held.  And we, in desperation for some quiet at the end of a long day, have acquiesced.  I know we are responsible for digging the hole that we once again find ourselves in.  Regardless, it sucks.

It sucks to hear him crying for companionship.  It sucks to hear him sad about these changes.  It sucks that he isn’t one of those kids who came out of the womb asleep.  It just sucks.


PS.  If your kid is a good sleeper and can put himself to sleep unaided, please don’t comment on this post.  If you do, I will hunt you down and make my crazy-ass shih tzu move in to your house.  And, trust me, you don’t want that.

Close Your Eyes

M is a bright child.  Yes, I realize most parents would say this about their own kids.  He has been potty trained since 20 months, knows his ABCs and the location of several states on a map.  He is curious and asks a lot of questions and doesn’t forget a thing.  He does not, however, know how to close his eyes when prompted.

We have this sweet book about various animals closing their eyes and going to sleep.  When it comes time for each animal to close its eyes, M contorts his face only reaching partial closer despite the tremendous effort.  His nose travels north, his cheeks follow suit actually causing his lower eyelids to migrate, more like when you are a little constipated or dropping stuff off at the landfill.

We have shown him 10,000 times how to relax one’s face and how to gently allow your upper lid to touch the lower.  It was quite comical for a long time, but now I have decided that is the reason he continues to take an hour to fall asleep.  If he could only learn to close his eyes, it would take ten minutes.  Ten lovely, calm, reflective minutes.  Instead, his inability to close his eyes has caused countless nights of chaos.

So, tomorrow we are going to practice again.  I will softly coax his eyelids together with the palm of my hand again and again until he gets it.  When he gets it (because he will), then he will go to bed easy…by 8:00…and sleep until 7:00…and not make a peep in between.


Peeling Eggs


Tonight, M insisted on a hard-boiled egg for dessert.  He was given the choice of fruit or cereal with almond milk.  He chose a hard-boiled egg.  Not only did he choose an egg, but he also insisted he peel the egg himself.  I pictured this before I acquiesced: huge chunks of egg going to waste along with the shell, pieces of shell everywhere, early evening chaos.  But what transpired instead was a bit of a monumental moment.  My son peeled an egg.  My 2 1/2-year old peeled an entire egg by himself.  He got all the pieces of shell in the sink and rinsed the egg off before eating it.  Then it hit me (like it does from time to time).  There will come a time when he leaves us and peels all his own eggs.  I watched him working tonight and thought about the adult he will grow into.  I thought about how his hands will be bigger than mine and how he will probably have to bend down to give me a hug (his donor was like, 6’2″). I pictured him standing at his own sink teaching his son how to peel an egg.

Time is passing rather quickly.  The milestones are coming daily.  I read an article on the Brain, Child website today:  The first line, “The cruelest truth of parenting: If you do it right, they leave.”  That hit me in my gut.  I had to close my computer for a while before I could finish the essay.

I guess that is a harsh reality that I need another 16+ years to prepare for.  I will need to experience the angst of teenagers in order to appreciate the quiet when he is gone.  I will need him to stay out past curfew or tell me he hates me or whatever else it is we did as teenagers that made our parents a little less morose when we left home.  I know I will miss the smell of his skin.  That is for sure.

When he was a tiny baby, we would put shirts we had worn in his crib so that he could smell  us while he slept.  I think I will have to sneak one of his out of his stuff before he drives away and tuck it neatly under my pillow.