Reminders

Every day it’s something. Old Easter candy on a shelf or Facebooks thoughtful, yet careless “memories”. Everywhere you look, there is something that reminds us of moments passed.

Those moments, at one time, were plans. They were a holiday or a special occasion that we looked forward to. Something we were mentally preparing for. Getting excited about. All marked on our calendars with anticipation for its inevitable arrival.

And then it passes. We barely have time to clean up the wrapping paper or go through the photographs before we are on to the next.

And I think that’s what parenting is in a way. Not all the time, but seemingly most. We are present for all the things, and in a single breath, our minds go to the future. Sometimes only returning to the past when given a reminder to do so.

We have had a very special day marked on our calendar since February. This Friday, my four year old will be attending a Pre-K Screening. With an incredibly limited allotment of slots (I believe 16!) and several dozen 4 year olds applying, the odds aren’t in our favor. He desperately wants to go “to school.” He goes to preschool now at a daycare but he knows there is something different about Pre-K. I think it’s the bus ride.

I imagine this feeling of anxiety and anticipation will be the same when it’s time for college. Perhaps this Pre-K thing will prepare me for those feelings. And while the college days are far in our future, maybe this blog post will be my reminder. A reminder that if I can emotionally make it through this time of transition. This time of acknowledging that my oldest, is in fact, growing up. That big things are happening, and in turn, passing. Well then, maybe I’ll be able to remember that everything will be ok.

Anti-Anxiety

I have known for a while now that I have high anxiety. A couple of years ago I mentioned it to my doctor. She prescribed some medicine and we scheduled a follow up appointment for a couple weeks later to check in on how it was working. I never took the medicine. I convinced myself that the timing wasn’t right. And that the side effects would make me tired, and perhaps hinder my work performance. When the follow up appointment came, I (somewhat) jokingly asked if there was an anti-anxiety medicine for people who were too anxious to take anti-anxiety medicines. The joke didn’t land and we sat in silence for a couple of seconds.

Lately, I’ve been a bit more observant of the anxiety triggers. And there are many. Something as mundane as getting gas. Insert your card, keep card inserted, REMOVE CARD RAPIDLY!!! Gets me every time. And if I happen to pull up to a pump which has both gas and diesel….My god. What a roller coaster that is.

My oldest son is also anxious. I worry that I have projected that onto him. He’s only 4 and seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders at times. A few weeks ago we went to a party with other families. We were all playing outside and a little girl asked my son to get in a wagon. I, needlessly frantic, spoke up and said “oh no! Hold on, Hold on! Let me make sure its not wet in there first!” I approached the wagon and this 6 year old girl, looked up at me, and with the most unrestrained, rational and impulsive voice said “it’s ok…”

And it was ok. Even if it was wet. It was ok. Even if he got covered in mud. It was ok. All of it, whatever happened with that wagon, everything would’ve been ok.

A six year old inadvertently changed my thought process. She put my parenting into perspective. She made me pause, breath, evaluate. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’m going to buy her a pony.

Milestones

Nikola brought his first rock home. I feel like this is a stage every kid goes through. Right? At some point, children just become little geologists for an unspecified amount of time.

There’s no warning, it just happens one day. And their cups runneth over with pride at their procured find. While nothing distinctive to the adult eye sets it apart from the others that liter the yard, a child sees something special. It’s theirs.

As a parent, you may get weighed down from carrying a mini gravel pit in your pocket. And stupidly, selfishly, you may off-load some of these rocks. But make no mistake – if you pick up another to replace one of “theirs” they will know. Undoubtedly, somehow they will know that there’s an imposter amongst the group. Which more often than not causes them to cascade into fits of despair.

Their rock; their thing that they found and chose all on their own – is gone. And when you put it that way, it actually is quite sad.

Nikola is about to turn 3. And these milestones keep coming. They are bittersweet. He’s growing up, and doing all the typical growing up things that children do. Collecting rocks is just one of them.

And so for now, I promise that whatever he choses to collect; whatever items he wants to amass, I will let it be his. Perhaps one day we’ll have enough to start our own Hardscaping business. Who knows.

In the meantime, I just have to remember to start checking his pockets before doing the laundry.

The Will and the Weigh

Tenacity is something I lack. Thankfully, that disadvantageous trait didn’t pass down to my children.

I will watch Nikola try to tie my shoe for minutes on end. We haven’t even begun to teach him how to tie shoes. His current footwear trends are more of the Velcro persuasion. Efficient. But he doesn’t let his naivety stop him. No Siree. He will weave and wind the strings unceremoniously until he concludes that the task is complete. The shoes are tied to his satisfaction. I then spend minutes on end untangling a mess. This makes us very late for most things.

Soon after my initial feeling of pride, the slightest tinge of envy creeps in. To have an unwavering sense of resilience in the face of the unknown is admirable to say the least.

Other than this blog I don’t keep up on most of my endeavors. And even with this, the consistency and dedication comes in waves. While the desire is there, the motivation is increasingly lacking.

This past December I started something I was unsure of. I didn’t tell anyone other than those in my immediate circle. I wanted to lose weight first and foremost, but the overall goal is to be healthier and make better choices. The timing coincided with the new year unfortunately. I didn’t want to have this perceived as a “New Years Resolution.” The stigma that comes along with losing weight on January 1st is too much. I almost felt it I’d be jinxing it if I told anyone. So I didn’t.

I diligently used the Noom app. Which I fell in love with from the moment I downloaded it. I ordered a scale. I logged my meals. I weighed myself every day as directed. I got an incredible stationary bike. I did all of the things I was supposed to do. And as of today, I’ve lost 25 pounds.

My back pain has subsided. I feel better, overall. And I’m only half way to my goal. I’m looking forward to the continued work and my newfound tenacity to accomplish what I set out to over 4 months ago. And I will look to my children as continued muses. I will embody their resiliency the best I can.

It’s really amazing what a child can teach you.

Parkour

I am absolutely, 100% certain that Parkour was accidentally invented by parents of a toddler as a joke. And somehow it just…caught on.

Have you ever just sat and observed a toddler in their natural habitat?

I gaze upon my son stumbling, rolling, jumping, crawling, hopping, and most often of all, falling and it just amazes me.

I mean, for one, the energy that he exudes is enviable to say the least. My god! The things I could get done with just an ounce of it.

But the uncertainty is what really amazes me- I don’t think that there is any predetermined end point. There is no well conceived plan as to what “obstacle” he’ll tackle next. He just gets after it.

Pillow on the couch?

Maybe he’ll jump over it. Maybe he’ll grab it and roll around with it. Maybe he’ll use it as an catapult, a shitty one, but one nonetheless, to his next landing spot, where he will launch himself onto another hard to semi-hard surface.

I have sent myself into many a coughing fit by the frequency and ferocity of my audible gasps. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” is a constant whisper in the house.

And for the most part, they are all the same. All toddlers. I’m around many, and they are just….wild…. To different degrees of course, but each of them has it in them. Somehow, somewhere,. Perhaps it’s well hidden. Incognito mode can only be maintained for so long before they go rogue. It is uncontained, uncontrived and absolutely effing nuts…

“Alexa, order ice packs”

Thanks for your entry, buuuttt…..Mmno thanks.

I entered a writing contest. I’ve never done that before. I didn’t actually tell anyone that I had until right. now.

The challenge was to write a complete story in 100 words or less, below is the non-fiction story I wrote. It was not chosen as a winner.

The Invasion

They came under the cover of night. In the newly fallen snow.  Upon the banks of my grandmother’s beach.  Stealthily; hundreds of them.

Their evening presence only given away by their footprints. Townspeople came to gander at the sight of it. Questions loomed for weeks as to the identity of the unsolicited visitors.

As the curiosity started to quell; a knock at the door.  A representative from the United States Navy.  He told my great-grandfather of the Navy’s mock landing on their beach. Then came the offer: “Seventeen thousand for your land.” 

There now stands the Cutler, Maine Navy Base.

The trials and tribulations of a toddler

I don’t like the phrase “terrible twos.” He’s not really terrible per se. But he can be a bit of tyrant.

He rules as a totalitarian. In the moments of utter despair; not to be tempted with reason or chocolate chips.

Tempers flare and all tactics have been exhausted. The cusp passed so quickly, you didn’t even know you were at it.

Talking past the point of no return. The tailspin cometh. Tears inevitably start with a trickle, and then comes a bellow reministint, I imagine, of someone being tarred and feathered

There is no turning back. The tantrum is upon us. We are in the thick of it now. Taming it takes time. And sometimes, nothing else.

It’s up to him.

The taboos that come along with punishment of children are many. Time-outs being the most widely talked about. Mostly identified by an older generation. When you a have a baby, many gifts are given. But the most consistent are advice and subsequent judgement when said advice goes unfollowed.

The implementation of a time out is tricky. While removing a child from an environment may be helpful in tampening the theatrics; leaving them alone to deal with “big emotions” may be counter productive in the long run. Thats what “they” say anyway.

Who knows?

Not me. I have said many times that parenting is just trial and error. Try something, if it doesn’t go well, then try something else. That’s all any of us can do.

This post was brought to you by the letter T and the number 2

These times, they do try us.

When my office started working remotely, a colleague started sending us weekly emails to keep us connected. Usually asking us an engaging question that conjures a quick response. Last weeks was a doozy. She asked us to send in a brief summary of a situation that’s been made difficult by the pandemic. No sugar coating. No filters. She called it “Truth telling Tuesday”. Below was my response.

To: Sarah

Subject: Your timing is impeccable

When I saw this come across my email yesterday, I wasn’t sure what truth to tell.  The Petrov household has had its fair share of trials and tribulations during the pandemic, but once the moment passes, they all seem a bit insignificant.  We move on.  Checking for scars, collecting our new “triggers.” And we as parents start mentally preparing for the next, inevitable, $hit show.  

My dear, sweet Nikola, sensing my dilemma of not knowing what to write about, wanted to help.  So, at 7pm, during our first reading of “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus”, he looked at me, and I swear, it was like a telepathic exchange. With his eyes, he employed the widely Meme’d idiom “hold my beer”.  And that’s when things went South. Which, in turn, forced us North – To Maine Med ER.

The scream crying came fast and strong.  An ear ache was the instigator.  The medicinal properties of children’s Tylenol were no match for the ailment. And thus, a trip to urgent care was required.  Looking at the clock and knowing that time was not on our side, I scooped up Nikola, and ran as fast as an out of shape woman carrying a 35-pound wailing toddler can.  No time to change out of slippers.  A sacrifice was made.  

A frantic phone call to the urgent care imploring them to please wait for us was to no avail.  We arrived at 8:02 to a dark and locked building.  An additional phone call to his pediatrician and a turn of the heal.  We were off for the 45-minute ride to Portland.  The ER nurses and doctors made quick work of our visit.  For which I am eternally grateful.  

A prescription for an antibiotic would be the cure.  And all I’d need to do, because of the hospital pandemic rules, would be to exit the building, go back to the garage, get myself and cranky toddler back in my car, drive to the main entrance, find parking, get out, get my child out, walk in that entrance, sign in, a left and then a right, and alas our pharmaceutical refuge awaits. 

We purchased the healing, bubblegum smelling concoction, without insurance.  My new insurance card wouldn’t work.   Because, well, Its 2020.  A quick late evening jaunt in a foggy, super shady Portland neighborhood to return to our car. And an end to the adventure was in sight.  I could smell it.  But first, I thought it best to give Nikola his first dose of medicine before we started home.  He looked at me and said “I feel good, mama” I assured him we should take it anyway.  Just to be safe. And then he puked everywhere…. And then that was what I smelled.

Please. Do not tell me what self-care is and what it is not.

There are a few posts going around that have inevitably infiltrated my social media newsfeed, seemingly dozens of times over. They all talk about how going to the grocery store or target, by yourself doesn’t count as “Self-Care.”And I tried to get on board with it. I did. But something just didn’t sit right with me.

And I figured out why…Because it does count. If you want it to, it does. If it makes you feel good and rejuvenated….It does. Stop telling me it doesn’t. Stop forcing the idea that it isn’t enough. Stop telling me that I’m not doing “self-care” right.

With that being said, I’m not you. Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs to be fulfilled. None more or less valid than the other. So, if it doesn’t do it for you; bring you peace contentment..than by all means, pursue other endeavors. No judgement. You do you. But leave me out of it.

Now, the basis of the posts I’ve read is that these tasks are chores. And performing a chore for your family doesn’t count. And if you do take time for yourself you feel guilty for leaving your family.

I feel guilt for everything. I say “I’m sorry” more often than your average Canadian. And I’ve closely, introspectively thought about this for days. And when I think of the “guilt” they are referencing, in context, to me, it more closely resembles empathy. It is a weird, cross-breed of two traits that humans can possess. And it deserves a word in and of itself. We’ll it guiltathy.

I don’t feel guilt for leaving my children to be by myself for a little while, necessarily. I more so feel empathy for the person watching my children. Not that they are a couple of heathens, but watching children is hard. Two kids, ages 2 and 5 months is tricky. I know! I’ve been there. Every day. And that’s where the empathy comes from, right? You pray that they are good. You hope that they take their naps. And use their nice words and listening ears. You will them to be the little angels you know they are when you’re not around. Because you know how hard it is when they aren’t.

The other day, both kids went to daycare for the first time. We just started sending our 5 month old a couple of days a week. After dropping them off I came home sat down, enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched the Today show. I then had the most leisurely shower I have taken in, perhaps a year. And it was incredible. I came out feeling like a new woman. It may have been the fact that I shaved my legs unhurriedly and didn’t miss nearly as many spots as I normally do. It may have been the fact that I was able to think up some creative writing things that had been floating around my head. It may have been the loud singing echoing through the upstairs. It was me.. I was singing… It doesn’t matter what it was, all that matters is that it was enough. For me.

And perhaps tomorrow it won’t be. And I’ll have to find something new. Maybe I’ll come back to those posts and try and get some ideas. Regardless of how this parenting/self-care thing pans out, I don’t think mothers should be told “you’re doing it wrong” right now. We’re all trying our damnedest here.

Enough is as good as a feast

What is enough? It’s an age old question that seems to be having a revival these days. These times of pandemic pandemonium have sent parents and people alike careening towards self-reflection and perhaps more aptly, uncertainty.

While I certainly considered myself to have been wading in those worried waters. I have come out of it on the other side. Because of my good friend Mary Poppins.

Nikola loves Mary Poppins. Watching it no less than 3 times a day while his daycare was closed. Mostly just during the song and dance numbers. During the the toughest weeks of isolation, it was on a constant loop in our house. We have all made deviations from the “plan.” The grandiose visions of healthy daily meal plans, perfectly structured socially distant outings, vision boards of pristine schedules adhered to down to the minute. The invariable feast of almost constant stimulation. All of the things that social media projects that inevitably makes you feel less than when the plan collapses around you. As it almost always does. It doesn’t matter if you have children or not: The above was just an example. This is most everyone these days.

Everyone is dealing with some form of a question in which the repercussions of their answer or choice is unknowable. And while life itself tends to trend similarly – The questions seem bigger now. The impact of our choices seems larger. Looming over us like an ominous storm cloud. A storm we’re not sure we’ll survive.

The question I’m hearing the most from all around me is “is it enough?”

“It” is so many things. To different people. “It” can be:

  • My abilities
  • My patience
  • My concern
  • My time
  • My adaptibily
  • My skill
  • My moral compass
  • My beliefs
  • My faith

I could go on for days, as I’m sure most of you could too.

During this time of isolation, we as humans have gone through periods of trying to provide those around us and ourselves with a feast when “enough” will do. At times draining ourselves dry of energy, clarity, motivation. All of the things we need in order to feel fulfilled. We can’t do that to ourselves. We need to feel good about our day. What we did or chose not to do. Being comfortable with decisions we’ve made, because it was enough. I think we owe it to ourselves to at least try.

And speaking from a parenting perspective: I am absolutely certain that there is no such thing as an “expert” in the realm of parenting. I don’t believe it for a second. All I am sure of is that if you are an active parent who has their child’s well-being at heart than I have no doubt what you’re doing is enough. And I’d be willing to bet that more often than not, it more closely resembles a feast. I hope some people can find comfort in that.