Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From sleepless nights to potty training: Reflections on my two-year journey as a mother

It's the night before my sweet little Kaylee Bug turns two years old.

I came in here to write after spending a short while with her before bed, where we read her favorite new book - Ladybug Girl, and she asked to say her "pears" (prayers) - prayers in which she frequently thanks Jesus for things like Captain Feathersword from The Wiggles, as well as other important things like candy, Costco and Grandma.

After the reading of the book (and my refusal to read the book again), the pears, and the stalling, I succumbed to her request of "Mommy yay down, too?"

So, this little mommy yayed down, too.

And, in those little moments, I realized how far we'd come in two years.

We made it through postpartum depression and anxiety, an overwhelming sense of when in the hell am I going to figure this whole motherhood thing out (answer = uh, never), very sleepless, unpredictable nights, the horror of teething, so many firsts, so many laughs and tears and holycrapIamgoingtoLOSEit moments.

We've made it through so much. And while I will always remember those really, really hard times - the belief that I would literally never sleep again, the terrifying panic and worry, the worse-than-contractions-kind-of-pain I had after giving birth, the insane sleep deprivation, the unbearable irritability, our 9-month battle with breast feeding, Kaylee's refusal to take naps for her first 12 months of life, multiple trips to the ER and a stay in the children's hospital, and did I mention the sleep deprivation? - I can honestly tell you that I don't have anywhere near the vivid imagery of those events that I did months ago. The emotional pain of those struggles fades more and more as time goes on, believe it or not, and I thank God for that.

When I look back on the last 2 years, those really sucky moments are not what stands out most to me anymore. For the longest time, I couldn't get past those haunting memories. I felt like they were so deeply etched in my mind, and for the longest time, I had a hard time believing things would get much better, or that it would ever become easier for me to look back and not have those be the most dominating memories I had of being a mother.

Will I ever completely forget what that junk was like? Oh, heck no. I will always remember how real and how difficult those days and months were. But now, I'm able to see myself as an even tougher woman for actually surviving all that. Those were bumps in the road that helped me grow, helped me learn more about myself, and helped to stir up a passion in myself to help other women who are either in that boat now or who have been there in the past.

Now, when I play that little slideshow in my head of the past 2 years, I see things like Kaylee taking her first steps in our office, and then later that night, taking more steps out in the living room after Dennis bribed her with a cookie.

I see her enjoying her first bite of cake, courtesy of my Dad.

I see her running all the way across a soccer field, just to get to the dirt border around the outside so she can play in the dirt and rocks instead of the soft grass.

I see a little girl who decided all on her own that it was time to start potty training, and who pretty much always thinks it's okay to just sit all the live long day on the toilet and "go potty more!" only to get off the toilet, state matter-of-factly, "Don't pee on da floor" and then proceed to pee on the floor.

I see her jacking a can of V8 out of the fridge and toting it around pretending to drink out of it as she walks around the house, and then saying, "Ahhhhh" after she's finished with her pretend drink.

I see a little girl who knows her ABC's and sings the Ippy Pider (Itsy Bitsy Spider) song all on her own.

I see a little girl who uttered, "Dammit!" in Wal-Mart today after I dropped a box of pasta off the shelf.

I see all the times Kaylee's face lit up each and every time Uncle Colin and Sarah came home from college after she'd gone months without seeing them.

I see my spunky little smiling, energetic, funny, smart, absolutely beautiful baby girl.

And, finally, I see myself as a damn good mother.

I no longer see a failure who still can't keep the house clean, who occasionally swears and loses my patience and struggles to stay sane some days. I no longer see a mess of a mom who never had it together.

Now I see a woman who balances a marriage, a job, friendships, family, being a mother, and trying to have some time to myself, among other things like oh, paying the bills and planning meals and countless other super-fun responsibilities.

I see a woman who still swears and loses my patience and struggles to stay sane, but now I see that as normal, rather than seeing it as a character flaw. I still don't have it together many days, and I know I will never "arrive" at a place where I'll have it all together. That'd be a load of crap. I see a mama who does her best and who realizes, more often than not, that that's all I can do.

Forget the pressure to be the perfect mother, to have a clean house, and to be Pollyanna. Screw than, man. It's just not me.

I see the way my daughter has turned out, and I know I've done okay. And I know I will do okay.

While I may not be proud of everything I do and the way I react to everything, I realize that's just fine. And I realize that my daughter needs to see that. She needs to see her mama as human. As imperfect and sometimes messy. As one in need of a daily happy pill and some time to myself, and a good, healthy dose of Grey's Anatomy once a week.

We made it.

We made it two years. And while she tries my patience like no other, she just keeps getting more fun.

Fun enough to give me the crazy notion that it's finally time to do this whole thing over again.

God help me...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The day my kid said "Dammit."

It's a day all of us parents dread. We hope and pray it won't happen to us, but deep down, we all know it's just a matter of time.

It's the day our child says their first cuss word. You swear up and down you'll watch your mouth around your child and you will not be THAT parent, the one whose child says bad words.You vow to be a better parent than that. You will always set a good example. That's what you tell yourself.

But, really - that's probably what you told yourself. Before you had kids. Because before we have kids we all swear there are certain things that we'll never allow, but then we end up allowing them anyway, because you learn to pick your battles, and you learn that while Barney may inspire you to chuck things through your picture window, he can also be your best ally when it comes to taking a shower or getting 30 minutes of quiet time to yourself when you're standing on the brink of insanity.

So, some months ago, one of us opened the hall closet only to find that a crayon had been shoved under the door such that when we opened said door, the crayon scraped a huge streak of color across our lovely hardwood floors. The adult in question uttered, "Dammit!" upon seeing the bright red streak on the floor. Pretty much immediately, Kaylee said it, too. Plain as day. Great.

Dennis tried to fool her into thinking it was "rabbit" and not "dammit" that actually came out.

Then came an oh-so-innocent sounding string of, "Dammit! Rabbit. Dammit. Dammit. Rabbit. RABBIT!"

Not exactly a redemption there, folks.

At first we really reacted to it. "No, Kaylee! We don't say that!" and on and on. We tried to correct her, but we found it actually made the situation even worse. She loved the reaction, and she'd just cock her head to the side, turn up the cuteness by about 76 notches, smile that irresistible smile and then whisper it..."Dammit?"

So, we changed gears. We consciously made the choice to become terrible parents by actually deciding to ignore her when she said it. I know! Despicable, right? If you want to take away my nomination for Mother of the Year, I'm sorry to tell you you're too late. I'm pretty sure I lost it on January 1st (dammit).

Anyway, ignoring it has seemed to work best. But, we can definitely tell when Kaylee's about to say it. She'll say, "That's a bad word! Don't say that!" And then we know a tiny little "dammit" is just around the corner.

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not writing about this because I'm all proud of my child's newly expanded vocabulary.

I'm writing about this because I'm not perfect. Dennis isn't perfect, and we don't have a perfect child. We're just doing the best we can, and if that means that our nearly-two-year-old sometimes utters "dammit" (always in perfect context, by the way...), then oh well.

We feed her. We love her. We bathe her. We play with her. We do the best we can.

And that's good enough for me.

This post is loosely based on writing prompt #4 from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, going on all day long over at Mama's Losin' It.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Little bit of this, little bit of that.

I hate it when so much time goes by without writing, but it's been happening more and more, and I think it's just the nature of where I'm at in life right now. There's certainly no shortage of things to write about, but I just haven't taken the time to sit down to form the thoughts into words.

Kaylee and I have been spending less time at home during the week and more time out doing things. She is just in love with the zoo (as am I), and slowly, but surely, she's getting used to sitting on the tiny benches at story time long enough to actually listen to the story. This weekend will be her first gymnastics lesson also.

She's just changing so fast that I can hardly believe she'll be two at the end of this month. She's taken it upon herself this last week or so to start using the potty, which is freaking awesome. Hellooo! Still not out of diapers, but definitely very, very interested in the potty, so that's pretty darn big. We're also back in our habit of hitting the Mommy and Me exercise class, which does wonders for my mood and my overall sense of well-being.

I'm still a Martha Stewart in training, cooking up more yummy stuff. I've got several pictures ready so I can share some new ideas with you. I'm also still loving reading, although I'm not able to get through books so fast at the moment with all that's going on.

So - nothing earth shattering going on over here. Nothing super witty to say. Just feeling the itch to write some more. That's all.