From one mother to another

The US presidential race has as a special place in my heart (others might call it indigestion). Two election cycles ago, I remember sitting on the edge of my couch waiting, counting the minutes, as ballot totals rolled across the bottom of the television screen. One way or another, I knew my life would never be the same. It was the evening before my eldest son was born.

I won’t go into the details too much, but suffice it to say, Kiddo wasn’t particularly interested in leaving the mothership.

After an incredibly long day over which I convinced myself more than once, I must be dying, a rather loud pink thing lay in the room with me. The whole process had given my immediate family ample time to fill the waiting room, (did I mention how very long of a day it was?) and though my mom was never far, soon my hospital room became a revolving door of other well-wishers.

During one visit, my sister smiled at me as she commented with a hint of disbelief, “you’re a mom now.”

I suppose, I technically was by the definition of the word, but I sure didn’t feel all that different, well any more different than being exhausted and more than a wee bit bloated (understatement of the year). My dad likes to tell us about how when my brother was born, time simply stopped until my brother’s eyes (and lungs) opened. I didn’t have that moment, I didn’t experience that new parent glow. I will admit, I felt a little cheated. And tired. And disgusting. And maybe even a bit of a fraud. I felt a lot of I’s. Weren’t moms supposed to be self-sacrificing? My mom sure is. She’d taken the last week off work at the hint that Kiddo might finally decide to arrive with nothing to show for it. Shouldn’t my first and foremost thoughts now be centered on that wailing, hungry, pink thing and not about how none of this day had gone to my plan?

Please do not think I didn’t want my son. I very much did! I just sort of thought that being maternal would be, oh I don’t know,.. more instinctive. So I read parenting books. I did all the things that moms were supposed to do, and my son slept, pooped, and cried without so much as a thank you. I told myself I didn’t need much. A simple coo would do! I read more books, watched how-to videos and solicited recommendations. Kiddo slept and cried some more. People used to tell me I’d make a great mom some day. I was beginning to suspect they were wrong. I wanted to cry too. My mom had made motherhood look so easy. All I wanted now was to be was to be just a little like her (and sleep, lots and lots of sleep).

“After I lost, I slept like a baby: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry.” – John McCain to Stephen Colbert on losing the presidential election.

Then late one night, some days if not weeks later, as I sat with Kiddo in a rocking chair, humming the melodies of songs my mom used to sing to us before bed, I suddenly realized I was no longer hesitant to return him to his crib because I feared he might wake. I simply did not want to let him and this moment go. Perhaps I was still being selfish, but there are worse things to be selfish about. But it did make me wonder, when had the transition happened?

I decided it was best not to question it. The exact hour of the change didn’t matter, only that I finally felt like a proper parent (even if I still don’t always feel like I know what I am doing). At the same time, I became even more in awe of my mom. Going through the whole process with one child had been exhausting, but somehow she’d managed to survive it more than once.

One day, quite some time later, my mom confessed that she was never much of an infant person either. It turns our early days weren’t all that different after all. But she also told me that as much as I adore my children now, it just gets better. What she may not realize is the same can be said about her.

Mom, I still wish I might one day learn to be half as good a parent as you. Love you.

Happy mother’s day.

me and my mom
me and my mom

A birthday wish for my son

Happy Birthday bannerCake crumbs still spotted the table and chairs, remnants from his brother’s birthday party when LT first began asking if it was now time to plan his celebration, an event that wouldn’t take place for several months. Each time he asked, he announced loudly and repeatedly that he was done being three and ready to be four.

Over the next several weeks, there were few mornings (or evenings) in which LT did not ask us for an update on the number of days left until his birthday. This was new for him as he’d never expressed all that much interested in his birthday before. Eventually, I came to realize that he had gotten it into his head that his world would suddenly be made different by the simple act of raising one additional finger when adults asked him how old he was. He told me he was going to get a bunk bed and sleep on the top. He was going to stay up late every night and was going to get to do homework (the boy is actually looking forward to this – proving ignorance is bliss). I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him that no, not all his dreams of big-kid-hood would be coming true, at least not this year (except the part about getting a new bed – let’s be clear, LT, that’s not happening).

Then the countdown was over and it was the evening before his big day. I told him, this is the last day you are going to be a three-year-old. Tomorrow, when you wake up, you are going to be four. His eyes got big as the reality of his situation sunk in. As I pulled the blankets around him and leaned in to kiss his forehead, he looked at me and said, “I no wanna be four. I wanna be three forever.”

I did what most mothers (or fathers) would in this situation. I gave him a bone-crushing hug and told them that I would like him to stay three very much too. Then I wished him good night and snuck into another room to wrap his presents, because, unfortunately, a wish to stay forever the same is about as likely to come true as is him actually enjoying homework once he starts bringing it home on a regular basis.

I adore my littlest boy. I love his hugs, his laugh, and his insanely honest observations. It makes sense that I want him to remain exactly how he is now, but, as I sat there on the floor trying to avoid papercuts while keeping tabs on the tab, I started wondering about that look on his face and what he said. After so many weeks of anticipation, so much yearning to be four, what now caused the about-face? Sadly, the only thing I can come up with is this – he is my son.

I am the kind of person who falls in loves with the idea of things but can then become terrified if there is even a fraction of a chance of the idea becoming reality (I love the beach, but am scared to swim in the ocean for example). It is one of the reasons it took me so long to start pursuing writing in the first place. I have to admit, I take comfort in the status quo. I know exactly where my place is and what is expected of me. I am fortunate. The status quo has thus far been good to me.

But the status quo is not what dreams are made of. It can be like never going hungry but also never enjoying a slice of cake (and oh, how I enjoy a good piece of cake). And so, as he blows out his candles (and I blow out mine because it was my birthday party too), I am promising myself that I will challenge it. It may not be today or tomorrow, but when the opportunity comes I am going to squash the butterflies in my stomach and face it. So then, when it is my son’s turn, he might do the same, unafraid, for no other reason than this – he is my son.

 

 

A lump of intestinal fortitude

Kiddo jumped out of bed this morning almost as if his body was as connected to the light switch as was the lamp. As I lifted him up to give him a hug I was hit once again by how long his legs have grown. With his eyes level with mine, his feet dangled only a foot or so above the floor. He grinned and hugged me back.

Kiddo came to my book launch with a flower in hand. He has seen my name on the cover and my picture in the back. Kiddo loves that mommy wrote a book. He wants to one day write one too. He knew that mom had been celebrating, but this morning wasn’t about mom. Today is Kiddo’s 7th birthday.

volcano birthday cake
I lava birthday cake

Even though this week we are celebrating big time in the Potts household, I am reminded of another birthday when things weren’t going quite our way.

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to post this, but here goes – sorry in advance mom.


It was the day of my nephew’s birthday party. Both of my boys were eager to join their cousin and several of his friends at a nearby indoor playground. Within seconds, my eldest was running in between the various bounce houses and jungle gyms, having adventures with kids. His brother, LT, on other hand, made no effort to join their games.

Instead, LT walked over to me with his arms outstretched, a wordless request to be picked up. Once in my arms he rested his head on my shoulder while the rest of the world partied around us. There are so many people out there who want their children to be special, but special isn’t always all it is cracked up to be.

It started back when the hubby and I noticed a large lump in LT’s lower left abdomen. We had detected a similar lump the year before and had rushed to radiology only to learn that the lump’s source was nothing more than a hardened brick of fecal matter. We were told how to treat it and after a few long days it eventually passed. It wasn’t the last time. He has a chronic condition, so when this new lump formed, we thought we knew how to make it better, only what worked before didn’t seem to completely do the trick.

His doctor told me in no uncertain terms that we weren’t working hard enough. Triple his dose (like a colon blow for kids). Eliminate potential food sources like dairy and bread (the only food he enjoys – natch). Increase his fluids and his level of activity. Don’t give him a choice in the matter (oh – that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time). “You have to brace yourself to go to war.”

He wasn’t kidding (perhaps he has met my son after all). It is a wonder we haven’t had a knock at our door from a concerned neighbor considering the frequent sounds of pain coming from the bathroom. Finally, just as I was beginning to wonder if we needed to schedule surgery, it happened – a major crack in the dam (just in time for the party). We were exhausted. LT, from the process, the rest of us from watching the tears stream down his face as he begged for it to stop all the while pretending it was anything other than completely heart-wrenching (you’re doing great honey!).

He cried when we returned to the restroom later that day. I fought back my own tears. But we got through it because we had to. Eventually, his cry tapered off and he looked at me and said, “I a brave boy?” I nodded and told him how proud I was of him. The next day was easier, as was the day after that.

I apologize to my mom who I know reads this blog, but I cannot think of any better way to say the following:

Shit happens. Shit hurts. Shit doesn’t always make sense.

It doesn’t matter if it is in the form of an earthquake, a riot, or the very literal variety. Shit makes us scared. Shit makes us angry. Shit makes us question everything, including our beliefs or our resolve.

And yet if we try to avoid it or ignore it, we grow weaker and when it hits (which it will) it is ten hundred times worse. There is a reason we refer to a courageous person as one who has intestinal fortitude. Adversity may make us cry, but we have to find a way to push through, to seek answers, make adjustments, or offer comfort where we can.  So that the next time it hits, we are braver, stronger, and faster to respond. That is the only way to ensure that next time, it too will pass.

On your mark, get ready to race…

Monster Jam, Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Image courtesy of Flickr

My eldest son is currently enrolled in year-round school which means that he goes to school for nine weeks and has a three-week break. As our day jobs don’t provide the same flexibility of schedule (especially after two weeks of snow days), and because the last time we left kiddo unsupervised for a significant period of time he racked up over $90 in app store charges (time to change ye ole password), we decided it was best to find him some alternative dedicated care for his next break. Thankfully his various grandparents offered to take him in.

We packed his bags and sent him on his way leaving his brother, aka my Little Lord Tyrant, as the sole representative of their generation. I’ll refer to him as LT from hereon for simplicity. Based on previous days apart, I had expected LT to wander around the house in search of his brother. There was wandering, but it wasn’t in search of his brother, it was in search of his brother’s things. It was enough to make me wonder if LT had actually been the one to purchase all those apps in the first place (he is diabolical like that).

Being a second born myself, I thought at first how nice it must be for him to be the center of mommy and daddy’s attention for a few days, but as they say, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. “Blaze! Bouncy Tires,” my boy demanded for the 100th time in two days (the DVR is both blessing and curse). Resistance would be futile, and everyone knew it.

For those of you who have not had the good fortune to have caught this show, it is about a monster truck named Blaze and his monster truck friends who have adventures structured around words like adhesion and inertia (it’s actually a pretty good show…on the first few viewings). Each episode features a song about the episode’s topic, many of which catchy enough to remain stuck in your memory for the next fortnight, but not enough for you to particularly enjoy them being there.

The show has only been on the air for a single season meaning there are only a few episodes, but as far as my son is concerned they could have stopped at one, “Bouncy Tires.”

Summary:

Human mechanic orders tires that bounce instead of roll (why these were originally ordered is never explained. There are also tires covered in feathers. It is best not to question her supply chain management strategy). A talking truck which looks like a dinosaur installs them without mechanic’s permission and without understanding the consequences. High stakes drama (gasp – will Blaze reach his friend in time?!?) and problem-solving ensues.

As the theme song began, I desperately sought a diversion. Thankfully I recently received a copy of “What If” by Randall Munroe. The book’s tagline states it is a book about scientific answers to absurdly hypothetical questions. Yep, that’ll do.

Speaking of questions, why is it that children so love watching a single show over and over again while the same activity threatens to transform an adult brain into a quivering pile of gray pink goo?

The answer (according to The Atlantic) is because repetition is the easiest way to process information. There is so much their growing minds are trying to process day in and day out that seeing the same show, or reading the same book for the millionth time is like a vacation. Repetition then is chocolate for your brain. Yes, it can potentially cause rot and decay if used to excess, but can make a number of new ingredients a lot less threatening.

“Here, try these roasted grasshoppers!”

“I’ll pass.”

“They are covered in chocolate…”

“How much chocolate?”

“Triple dipped.”

“Hmm, maybe just one.”

Full disclosure – I’ll try any food at least once (except dog – you have to draw the line somewhere).

As I mentioned last week, I have finished rewrites for my second novel and am in the process of polishing it to a high gloss (or at least an eggshell finish), but then what? Do I wait for feedback and give my creative mind some time off? That would be the easy thing to do, but then it would make getting back into the creative habit that much harder. Like LT, I have to keep up my routine. I guess then the only choice will be to begin work in earnest on my next project while I wait.

…1, 2, 3, Let’s Blaze!

We are in this together

One of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurship is the feeling of being completely in charge of your own destiny. You get to make the decisions. You are responsible for your business’ success. This feeling is great, as long as things go according to plan. But when have things ever gone according to plan? Employees might get stuck in traffic, or not show. Suppliers might go out of business leaving you scrambling to find an alternate. Customers might decide at the last minute that they would be better of going with the competition. Then, being in charge is stressful. It is up to you to make sure your company does what it promises it will do, delivers what and when it says it will.

Together we can do this
image from wikipedia

For that reason, I was okay when the hubby announced he was going to have to work late, hoping to close a deal more than two years in the making. We are a team. I would solo parent for the evening so that he could do what he had to do. It was no problem. Except for one thing. I had completely forgotten about it, and was then utterly mentally unprepared.

I collected the boys as I typically do. 6 has recently discovered Pixar’s Wall-E and decided that the balance of the car ride home was the perfect opportunity to hone his robot impression. He’s pretty good, but I feel he really nailed it on the second try. He certainly didn’t need the twenty something follow-up attempts. Why mess with perfection?

When I arrived at day care to pick up 3 (yes, 3 – we are finally out of the terrible twos!), I was informed that my son hadn’t been feeling like his chipper self that day. He was complaining of a tummy ache. My gut clenched up. I have a number of meetings with visitors in my office this week. Of course he would be coming down with something.

I saw the empty spot where my husband parks. Oh no. That was tonight?! Suddenly I felt very much alone.

6 decided he didn’t feel like bringing in his school things. 3 didn’t feel like eating. 6 insisted on playing with a loud helicopter toy next to the phone while I attempted to talk to their dad. 3 didn’t want to go upstairs for his bath, wear the pajamas I had picked out, or pretty much anything at all that he hadn’t first instigated (oh that’s right… we are in the trying threes).

The next morning, the hubby needed to sleep in. He hadn’t gotten home until well into the morning hours. I was going to be on my own… again. I rushed around the house trying to get both boys ready as quietly, but as quickly as possible. We are going to miss the bus! ¡Ándale! Mach Schnell! (English wasn’t getting through to my boys – I had to mix it up). Ugh, I thought, no time to pack a lunch for myself. I was going to be late. What a way to start my day…

As I frantically herded them through the door, 6 asked me, ‘Mom? Why are you so mad?’

The question stopped me in my tracks. Was I stressed? Absolutely. Did I need to be? Absolutely not. If I would have stopped focusing on all the reasons I should be stressed I might have noticed that 6 had helped pack his bag that morning. 3 had willingly worn everything I brought him and had tip-toed so as not to wake daddy. Both had helped put their dishes in the machine after breakfast. They were pitching in as they were able. They reminded me that while I might be the only parent awake, I wasn’t alone. We were in this together.

So what if I was a few minutes late, or didn’t have a packed lunch? We’d somehow survive, but I might never get this moment back.

The past and the future can be equally blinding. When you fixate on either, you risk failing to see what you need to do in the present. I stopped. I took a breath. I told my boys I wasn’t mad along with a thank you. They might think I was thanking them for their help, but I was really thanking them for the reminder to be mindful of the present. When I told them I loved them, they smiled and hugged me back. For that moment, it was enough.

mindfulness
image from flickr