Talking to a parent vs. a non-parent 

On co-sleeping:

  • Non-parent: Wait, what is co-sleeping?
  • Me: Penny sleeps in my bed.
  • Non-parent: Oh. That sounds… weird.
  • Me: It’s actually quite common in many other cultures. According to some studies I have read, co-sleeping can be very beneficial to a baby and child’s physiological and emotional wellbeing. I can totally send you some links to articles I have found helpful on the topic!
  • Parent: You are co-sleeping?
  • Me: Yup.
  • Parent: Hey, whatever works!
  • Me: Nothing works. More coffee?
  • Parent: Please.

On eating:

  • Non-parent: So what do your kids eat?
  • Me: Well, it kinda depends on the day. I just try to introduce a variety of food as often as possible. I’ve read it can take up to twelve tries for a kid to accept a new food! Now that Walter is older I try to have him help in the kitchen so he feels a bit more invested in different foods.

  • Parent: What did you guys have for dinner last night?
  • Me: Penny ate a fistful of ketchup and then yelled at a green bean. I think maybe Walter found some crackers under the couch? He seemed fine because he had a bunch of advent calendar candy earlier.

On screen time:

  • Non-parent: You actually let your kids use screens? I read that Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids use iPads.
  • Me: Well there are a lot of great educational materials out there. Having worked in children’s television myself, I know how much research and thought goes into creating content. Recently we have gotten into watching OK Go music videos and then trying to build our own Rube Goldberg machines! Of course I limit and monitor my children’s screen time, but I definitely see both sides to it.

  • Parent: Daddy finger, daddy finger where are you?
  • Me: I’ve blocked all of the surprise egg videos on YouTube Kids.
  • Parent: I keep forgetting to record my kid opening new toy boxes. Those people make millions!
  • Me: How old is Ryder? Where are his parents? Who is funding the whole operation – the tax payers of Adventure Bay?

On potty training:

  • Non-parent: How’s the whole potty training thing going?
  • Me: Well, we are doing what we can, but so far from what we’ve experienced and read it really happens on each kid’s own timeline. 

  • Parent: What size diapers do high schoolers wear? This is never happening. 
  • Me: I’m just hoping he eventually gets tired of my incompetence and trains himself. 



On free time:

  • Non-parent: Do you miss the freedom you had before having kids?
  • Me: Sure, I miss being more spontaneous. But we are lucky- Jon’s parents are always helping us out and watching the kids so we can have date nights as often as possible. And they watch the kids a couple of times a week so I can have some alone time and do stuff like shower and send emails!

  • Parent: We haven’t had a date night in months.
  • Me: I’m just looking forward to being able to pee without an angry audience.

On nap time:

  • Non-parent: Nap time must be the best. You are so lucky. I wish I could nap everyday.
  • Me: Yeeeaaaahhhh, it doesn’t really work like that.

  • Parent: Nap time is the woooorst.
  • Me: I did the math and so far in 2016 I have spent approximately 400 hours driving the kids in circles to nap every afternoon. Four. Hundred. Hours. I could have hobbies! Read books! Or at least clean something. Instead I drink a lot of coffee, listen to podcasts, and drive in circles. But hey, whatever works.
  • Parent: Nothing works. More coffee?
  • Me: Please.

The Most Useful Phrases in Parenting

I have been a parent for over three years now. You know this because I remind you daily via Facebook, Instagram, text message (if you are lucky), and FaceTime (if you are my dad). So with all the practice I have under my belt, I have basically figured out how to communicate perfectly with young humans. 

Here are the most useful phrases in parenting. I know this not because they are the first things that come out of my mouth during moments of frustration, but because they work. Every time.

  • “Just go to sleep!” – Your child could be wide awake, rolling around the bed, but the moment you utter this phrase her eyes close and her breathing falls into a soothing rhythm. 
  • “Calm down!” – I mean, what’s more calming than being told to be calm, especially when spoken to in a shrill, exasperated voice? Note: shouting “Relax!” is also instantly relaxing.
  • “WHY ARE YOU CRYING?” – This is a genius one: the crying child is asked a question and obviously knows the answer. He stops crying in order to tell you the answer in a calm, steady voice and voilà! He is no longer crying!
  • “Just eat it. You’ll like it.” – If your child isn’t eating kale then you probably haven’t told her she will like it if she just tries it. 
  • “Stop doing that to your sibling.” – An instant end to all sibling squabbles, followed immediately by peaceful playtime. 
  • “It’s time to go.” – All activity will stop, shoes will be located and willingly put on, and you will be out the door in record time.
  • “No.” – I never have to say this more than once. It’s always understood and respected the first time. 

So there you have it! The solution to all of the sleep, eating, and disciplinary issues you will come across as a parent! 

Required Reading for Parents of Toddlers or Waiting for Godot with my Toddler

Godot

There are a lot of parenting books out there. I know because I own most of them. Notice I say I own them but not that I have read them. I haven’t. I have them diligently stacked on my bedside table, collecting dust. I’m not sure why I leave them next to my bed considering I am currently bed-sharing with my 8 month-old and therefore the light on my bedside table is never turned on, making it impossible to study up on how to handle the next day. I’m usually just far too busy parenting to read about how to parent. Or to dust, as seen here.

parenting books

After a couple of recent conversations with Walter, who is now a full 3 years old, I realized that the parenting books, while probably super helpful in a lot of ways, are not the books that would make me feel sane. What I needed to read I already read in college.

My parents introduced me to Theater of the Absurd when I was a young teen. I remember going to theaters in Buffalo and walking away with my mind blown and feeling really angry that they made me sit through something I could not wrap my head around. I hated it.

Freshman year of college I went to my school’s rendition of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. It was in a small black box theater near my dorm. I loved it. I studied it in my Theater of the Absurd class when I was a junior.

I will share a passage that has helped me recently. It’s long, but no longer than the amount of time it takes to convince Walter to change his shirt in the morning.

ESTRAGON: (having tried in vain to work it out). I’m tired! (Pause.) Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Godot.
ESTRAGON: Ah! (Pause. Despairing.) What’ll we do, what’ll we do!
VLADIMIR: There’s nothing we can do.
ESTRAGON: But I can’t go on like this!
VLADIMIR: Would you like a radish?
ESTRAGON: Is that all there is?
VLADIMIR: There are radishes and turnips.
ESTRAGON: Are there no carrots?
VLADIMIR: No. Anyway you overdo it with your carrots.
ESTRAGON: Then give me a radish. (Vladimir fumbles in his pockets, finds nothing but turnips, finally brings out a radish and hands it to Estragon who examines it, sniffs it.) It’s black!
VLADIMIR: It’s a radish.
ESTRAGON: I only like the pink ones, you know that!
VLADIMIR: Then you don’t want it?
ESTRAGON: I only like the pink ones!
VLADIMIR: Then give it back to me.
Estragon gives it back.
ESTRAGON: I’ll go and get a carrot.
He does not move.
VLADIMIR: This is becoming really insignificant.
ESTRAGON: Not enough.
Silence.
VLADIMIR: What about trying them.
ESTRAGON: I’ve tried everything.
VLADIMIR: No, I mean the boots.
ESTRAGON: Would that be a good thing?
VLADIMIR: It’d pass the time (Estragon hesitates.) I assure you, it’d be an occupation.
ESTRAGON: A relaxation.
VLADIMIR: A recreation.
ESTRAGON: A relaxation.
VLADIMIR: Try.
ESTRAGON: You’ll help me?
VLADIMIR: I will of course.
ESTRAGON: We don’t manage too badly, eh Didi, between the two of us?
VLADIMIR: Yes yes. Come on, we’ll try the left first.
ESTRAGON: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?
VLADIMIR: (Impatiently). Yes yes, we’re magicians. But let us persevere in what we have resolved, before we forget. (He picks up a boot.) Come on, give me your foot. (Estragon raises his foot.) Higher! (Wreathed together they stagger about the stage. Vladimir succeeds finally in getting on the boot.) Try and walk. (Estragon walks.) Well?
ESTRAGON: It fits.
VLADIMIR: (taking string from his pocket). We’ll try and lace it.
ESTRAGON: (vehemently). No no, no laces, no laces!
VLADIMIR: You’ll be sorry. Let’s try the other. (As before.) Well?
ESTRAGON: (grudgingly). It fits too.
VLADIMIR: They don’t hurt you?
ESTRAGON: Not yet.
VLADIMIR: Then you can keep them.
ESTRAGON: They’re too big.
VLADIMIR: Perhaps you’ll have socks some day.
ESTRAGON: True.
VLADIMIR: Then you’ll keep them?
ESTRAGON: That’s enough about these boots.
VLADIMIR: Yes, but—
ESTRAGON: (violently). Enough! (Silence). I suppose I might as well sit down.
He looks for a place to sit down, then goes and sits down on the mound.
VLADIMIR: That’s where you were sitting yesterday evening.
ESTRAGON: If I could only sleep.
VLADIMIR: Yesterday you slept.
ESTRAGON: I’ll try.
He resumes his foetal posture, his head between his knees.
VLADIMIR: Wait. (He goes over and sits down beside Estragon and begins to sing in a loud voice.)
Bye bye bye bye
Bye bye—
ESTRAGON: (looking up angrily). Not so loud!
VLADIMIR: (softly). Bye bye bye bye
Bye bye bye bye
Bye bye bye bye
Bye bye…
Estragon sleeps. Vladimir gets up softly, takes off his coat and lays it across Estragon’s shoulders, then starts walking up and down, swinging his arms to keep himself warm. Estragon wakes with a start, jumps up, casts about wildly. Vladimir runs to him, puts his arms round him.) There… there… Didi is here… don’t be afraid…
ESTRAGON: Ah!
VLADIMIR: There… there… it’s all over.
ESTRAGON: I was falling—
VLADIMIR: It’s all over, it’s all over.
ESTRAGON: I was on top of a—
VLADIMIR: Don’t tell me! Come, we’ll walk it off.
He takes Estragon by the arm and walks him up and down until Estragon refuses to go any further.
ESTRAGON: That’s enough. I’m tired.
VLADIMIR: You’d rather be stuck there doing nothing?
ESTRAGON: Yes.
VLADIMIR: Please yourself.
He releases Estragon, picks up his coat and puts it on.
ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Godot.
(Pages 76-79)

If I already had children when I studied this, I’m pretty sure my paper would have looked like this:

Lauren Macey
Theater of the Absurd

Waiting for Godot with my Toddler

Estragon is a three year old. Vladimir is his mother. There is nothing absurd about this. This is the most average display of daily life committed to paper. I’ll not insult your intelligence by continuing on for the rest of the five required pages because we both know there is nothing more to say here.

Here is a conversation I have had with Walter on Monday.

Mother finishes securing baby into her car seat outside of Walter’s school. Walter is standing by Mother’s side outside of their minivan.
MOTHER: Okay, Walter. Let’s get in the car. We are going to the car wash.
WALTER: The car wash?
MOTHER: Yes. There is bird poop on the car. We need to get it washed.
WALTER: Bird poop? I wanna see it.
MOTHER: (sighing). Okay. (She picks up Walter and carries him around to the front of the car.) See there? That’s bird poop.
WALTER: Oh. (Pause). What is that?
MOTHER: It’s bird poop.
WALTER: Oh. (Pause). He had to work hard to poop. Sometimes it’s hard. (Pause). What is that?
MOTHER: It’s bird poop.
WALTER: Oh.
Mother brings Walter to the side of the car to put him in his car seat. He thrashes wildly.
MOTHER: (slightly frustrated). Walter! What’s wrong? We are going to the car wash.
WALTER: No car wash! Nooo! I want to see the bird poop!
MOTHER: You (takes a beat. Exhales slowly through circled lips.) You want to see the bird poop again?
WALTER: (joyfully). Okay!
Mother carries Walter back to the front of the car.
MOTHER: There it is.
WALTER: What is that?
MOTHER: It’s bird poop.
WALTER: Oh. (Pause). What is that?
MOTHER: It’s bird poop.
WALTER: Oh.
Mother carries Walter back and successfully secures him into his car seat. She gets into the front seat, buckles her seatbelt, and turns on the van.
MOTHER: Alright, off to the car wash!
WALTER: NO. CAR. WASH.
MOTHER: (sighing). Okay. Fine. No car wash. We will go home.
WALTER: Okay! (Pause). Where we go-nin?
MOTHER: We are going home.
WALTER: Oh. (Pause). Where we go-nin?
MOTHER: We are going home.
WALTER: To the blue house?
MOTHER: Yes. To our blue house.
WALTER: Oh. (Pause). Where’s the blue house go-nin?
MOTHER: The blue house doesn’t move. It stays where it is.
WALTER: Oh. Okay!

I work hard at answering Walter’s constant, repetitive questions all day long. All. Day. Long. They start while he is still lying in bed before we go downstairs to start the day. They continue through every activity. They cover things he has never seen before, things he sees every day, things I don’t know the answer to, things I don’t feel like answering. I know it’s the way children work at this age – they like repetition. They are figuring out the world around them. They are expanding their vocabulary.

I have started to look at this daily repetition as art. I am living on a stage in a small, black box. Sometimes I have no audience. Sometimes my audience is however many Facebook friends haven’t hidden me from their feed. Sometimes my audience is a toddler with no pants on and an 8 month-old gleefully biting my shoulder. Most days I imagine receiving a standing ovation as I crawl into bed at 9:00 PM.

If you need me, I will be responding to “Vladimir” from now on.

Citation:
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot: Tragiccomedy in 2 Acts. New York: Grove, 1982. Print.

The Wrong To Do List

I love lists. Sitting down to work on my daily To Do list is one of my favorite moments of the morning. Checking things off my To Do list makes me feel accomplished, productive, and important. I’m one of those people who completes a task, picks up my To Do notebook in giddy anticipation of Xing out another item, realizes in despair that said item was not included on the list, then I write it in and immediately X out the newly added item. Part of me hopes Jon will catch sight of my impressive number of Xs when he gets home from work and think “Wow, she managed to accomplish all of that while watching two children? I sure made the right choice fusing my DNA with hers into two additional human beings. They are destined to make this world a better, more productive place.” That’s probably what partners think when they come home to their stay-at-home spouses, right? I haven’t actually asked Jon because I’m afraid of the real answer.

Anyway, there are many times where I look at my mostly unchecked list at the end of the day and wonder how I managed to spend that many hours not doing anything, or at least anything I had outlined as important to accomplish. I recently realized my problem isn’t that I’m not productive enough, it’s that I’m working off the wrong list in the first place.

This is what my current To Do list typically looks like:

– Give Penny vitamin D
– Go to the post office
– Clean the downstairs bathroom
– Iron clothes
– Towel laundry
– Start basement organization
– Make grocery list
– Organize photos from last week
– Call Honest Company because I accidentally ordered the wrong size diapers, again
– Respond to emails and texts from friends to make sure you don’t end up alone without a friend in the world

This is the list I SHOULD be working from if I want to maintain my self-esteem as connected to my productivity:

– Wake Walter up while internally begging that he will be in a good mood
– Trick Walter into getting ready for school
– Drop Walter off at school while feeling wracked with guilt as he clings to me like I’m dangling from a rescue helicopter and he’s treading water in the middle of the ocean
– Feel guilty for looking at my phone too much
– Wonder how my phone use will inevitably impact the development of my children
– Uninstall Facebook out of guilt
– Reinstall Facebook out of boredom
– Beg Penny’s teeth to pop through her gums faster
– Donate clothes that require ironing
– Feel guilty that the only way I get my son to nap is by driving in circles
– Remind myself that checking the time will not get Jon home any faster
– Immediately hand off both children when Jon arrives home
– Ask Jon “I don’t know, what do YOU want for dinner?”
– Immediately apologize for my tone
– Reminisce with Jon about our lives before children
– Tell each family member how much I love them
– Beg Walter to put his diaper back on
– Clean up floor
– Question my decision to bed-share with Penny
– Reassure myself that it’s okay, we’re okay. It’s all okay.
– Lay in bed for about three hours reading eBooks from the library on my phone
– Remind myself to drink less caffeine tomorrow

If that was my To Do list then I would feel super accomplished every day. All that worry would be productive and I’d get to X it out and move on. Sure, some days I might end up feeling guilty that I didn’t feel guilty enough that day, but the self-canceling properties of that would short-circuit my brain long enough to get distracted by something equally important, like “do we still have any ice cream? I should add that to tomorrow’s list.”

To Do

Don’t all those Xs make me extra attractive?

 

We bought a minivan.

We bought a minivan. No, this is not a “I used to be cool before I became a parent” entry. I was never cool. If you are reading this and went to high school with me, then you can corroborate that fact. Besides, I love the minivan. The doors open at the push of a button, which is super helpful considering I am often carrying approximately 70 pounds of humans and materials while approaching my vehicle. This is not an exaggeration:
– Walter weighs about 37 pounds
– Penny weighs about 20 pounds
– Penny’s car seat weighs 10 pounds
– The diaper bag I’ll say weighs 3 pounds. It’s probably more, but the bathroom scale is upstairs and I’m downstairs, so I’ll just say that to make the final number round.

The van also yells at me when I’m backing up and am about to hit something, which is helpful because my children are also often yelling at me and so I tend to get distracted while backing up. Or going forward. Or forgetting to shift into gear to go forward or backward. Or also, wait, is the parking break still on? Shit. Don’t say that. Yes, I know mom just said it but just, just don’t tell dad you heard it from me, okay?

The van also has a center console for snacks. A snacksole. The manufacturer might not say specifically that it is for snacks, but it definitely is. What else would you be putting in there that you need to hide away from people, who are obviously peeking into your windows to see what snacks you have lying around. And the handy location makes it super easy to throw food at the children who are yelling at you.

The van also has storage for all the things that simultaneously maintain your parental sanity while making you feel insane with clutter. I have three strollers for two children because… easier?

The one thing the van is missing, however, is a butler who will potty train my toddler and nurse my baby to sleep. Get on that, Kia.

The van is a visual representation of our growing family. We no longer fit in our small, compact cars that handled two great, four not so much, and any additional humans not at all. We are bigger and more spread out – although actually I am not bigger as I have lost all the baby weight and am just down to the weight I was unhappy with BEFORE I had babies, and I cannot in good conscious blame that on my babies any longer – just on the intoxicating chemical reaction that happens in my brain when I eat ice cream.

I don’t have a problem with the minivan, with what it represents and the social stigma attached to it. The hard part for me is having to part with the Toyota Prius in the process. We brought Walter home from the hospital in that car, going from a family of two to three. I gave birth to Penny in that car (and then had it professionally cleaned by a bio-hazard team). We brought her home in it, too, transforming to a family of four. But even more difficult is that it was my mom’s last car. It’s the last car she ever drove. It’s the last car I ever rode in with her. When she died, my family decided to give her car to Jon, and it became a daily part of our lives that she is still connected to, that was touched by her hands. I was so tempted to just keep three cars… because, I mean, Walter’s going to be learning how to drive in only, what, 14 years? We should probably keep it. Okay, sure, it has 180K miles and my Versa only has 80K. And yes, our driveway only fits two cars and there is no street parking in our town for half of the year. Thankfully my father is taking the car back and we don’t have to trade it in. I want our family to keep driving it until the engine dies, and even then I’ll probably just put a lawnmower engine in it and let Walter drive it around the yard and no, officer, my toddler is not driving a car around our yard, he’s driving an extra-large Power Wheels that has great gas mileage.

 

Minivan.JPGJon, smiling on the outside / dying on the inside. We love you!

 

Penny’s Yelp Review of Every Meal She’s Ever Had

Mom’s Boobs has been my favorite watering hole since I was born in October 2015. Rumor has it Mom’s Boobs shut down for refurbishment from November 1, 2014 – October 8, 2015. Apparently the previous patron was a bit rough on the place, what with his tongue tie and eventual growth of teeth. I’m pleased to say it was well worth it – this place is the best!

Mom, the proprietor of this joint, works hard to make sure the food is always fresh. Sure, the menu is a little one-note with milk as the only option, but honestly I wouldn’t order anything else anyway. I love that she serves it at a balmy human body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I refuse to have it any other way! The bearded man has tried to give me milk from Mom’s Boobs in a fake boob, but I sure didn’t fall for that bologna! The nipple was confusing, like, it’s chewy – do I chew it? I knew if I made a big enough fuss that Mom would serve it up for me herself. An added bonus of only drinking from the source is that Mom can never be away from me for more than about an hour and a half. This means I get to go to Book Club, Girls’ Night Out, and I’m sure if she ever had a “date night” with the bearded man I’d get to come along too – so fun!

My favorite meals include:
– Midnight snack
– 2:00 AM snack
– 4:30 AM snack
– 5:15 AM snack
– Breakfast
– Second breakfast
– Elevensies
– Pre-lunch snack
– Lunch
– Post-lunch snack
– Nap snack
– Snacking while asleep
– Don’t put me down! I’m nap snacking! snack
– Post-nap snack
– Pre-dinner snack
– Dinner, preferably while she tries to eat dinner herself
– Post-dinner snack
– Pre-bed snack
– Sleeping snack

I’m sure you won’t be surprised by my rating:

5 out of 5 stars!

The pros:
– Comfortable seating at chef’s table
– Fresh food made just for me
– Owner doesn’t mind if I pass out at the bar

The cons:
– Sometimes I drink all of the milk and have to wait for her to make more
– Owner occasionally has an attitude problem between the hours of midnight and 6:00 AM.

So be it for a big meal, quick snack, or just some quiet one-on-one time with Mom, I foresee myself coming back here very frequently in the immediate future.

Penny Yelp

Super exclusive Chef’s Table – open 24 hours a day / seating for one

Walter’s Yelp Review of This Morning’s Breakfast

I’ve been coming to Mom’s Place since I started solid foods back in 2013. The meals and service can be hit-or-miss, but the prices can’t be beat. So I had my usual server again this morning. She’s usually pretty good at reading my mind and guessing what I’m going to request before I request it, so I had a glass of milk ready and waiting for me on the table along with a side of truck videos on the iPad. She then served me lukewarm/semi frozen mini pancakes on, get this, a plate. A plate! Seriously? I immediately demanded they be served in a bowl. This made them like 100x more delicious. I usually prefer my mini pancakes to be fully frozen, but I let it slide this time. She then proceeded to keep offering me different fresh fruits, which I obviously turned down immediately. She seems to have some sort of secret fruit agenda but I’m not gonna fall for it. She also repeatedly denied my requests for marshmallows, specifically the big, white ones. I know they have them in stock because the same server gave me one yesterday for the price of me letting her clip my fingernails. But I figure I’ll just keep asking throughout the day until I eventually break her down – I know she can’t resist the way I pronounce them “marshmeadows.”

Service: I basically have the same server every time I come here, which is every day, usually for three meals and multiple snacks. She’s here so much you’d almost think she lived here or something. And listen, I know looks aren’t everything, but I’m pretty sure she was wearing her pajamas. Seriously. This is your job, can’t you at least be semi-professional? And she kept yawning and sipping her coffee. This is not your break time. This is your time to serve my every need, preferably anticipating them before I make them known, but then definitely deciphering them when I get upset for seemingly no reason. You will get a break in ten years when I am a preteen and I’m mad at you for some other indecipherable reason and don’t want to talk to you.

Two final minor complaints about this visit:
1. For some reason, the server seem to be offended when I kept trying to cough in her face. I don’t see the problem here.
2. There was a crying baby in the restaurant. Now normally I know that’s not the server’s fault, but this time I’m going to blame it on her. Sure, technically the baby was my sister, but it was still an inexcusable distraction from my meal.

The moment you’ve all been waiting for – the rating:

4 out of 5 stars

The cons:
– server needs a shower
– server tends to serve food and drink in the wrong containers e.g. milk in the wrong color cup
– server tries to steal moments for herself, such as excessive phone checking and coffee drinking
– secret fruit and vegetable agenda
– kitchen and dining area need a serious deep clean

The pros:
– convenient location and hours
– flexible menu
– despite all the negatives about the server, I really, seriously love her

See you at lunch!

yelp breakfast