over-sharing

A few days ago I saw a headline on people.com, “Kristen Bell’s 5 year-old is Still in Diapers”. Very quickly many thoughts went through my head.

First- judgement. I can admit it. 5 seems really old to be in diapers.

Then, secondly- solidarity. My 5 year old daughter is still in diapers overnight. Her pediatrician shook off any concern I had at her wellness appointment and told me not to worry at all.

Finally I was a bit horrified at the entire thing. I was mad at myself for clicking the link and also disgusted at myself for being part of the problem with celebrity gossip. I was also fairly sure Ms. Bell was probably going to have some explaining to do with her husband, Dax Shepard, about the whole thing anyway.

For those of you who don’t know about Ms. Bell and Mr. Shepard’s family, they have been extremely protective of their children while maintaining their own chosen celebrity lives. I really admire this. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert”, and many of his views on a child’s right to privacy have reshaped my own views with my own children and how I expose them online.

Like most women my age with children, I’ve shared most aspects of my kids lives with the extended “friends” and “followers” I have on social media. There’s really nothing better to do during those hazy days of newborn babyhood. I didn’t really give it much deep thought, I’d post a picture of my kid with a funny caption and that was it. Being a mother made my own identity feel “less than”, after all, I no longer do much beyond taking care of my kids, and my kids are infinitely more photogenic than I.

Around the time I created this blog I did have some trepidation about how exactly much I wanted to share- at least when it came to giving out their full names and posting pictures of them. I know if I go through the archives there’s a few photos of their faces, but I think I’ve avoided using more than their first initials to identify them. While I don’t have thousands of readers or anything on my blog, it does feel like a uniquely personal space that is really open to anyone to read, and I felt like my children deserved a bit of anonymity when it came to it.

It was a few years ago when my eldest started requesting I stop sharing every picture of him on Facebook. He was around seven at the time. He didn’t mind if I shared some, but he wanted to approve of them first. This request sort of blew my mind. He had the understanding of privacy and I had to honor his request.

As time has gone on, I’ve completely deleted my Facebook, but I still maintain an Instagram account. I’m souring on using it as much as I did, because, after all, it’s part of the big beast of FB anyway, but I’m still addicted to the photo-scroll. However, this year I heard a podcast (Armchair Expert) where it was discussed on social media companies and ‘big data’ may one day (or even are currently doing….) be able to make predictions and judgements on our children through just photos alone. Like, in the movie Minority Report. Like, my innocent children being pigeonholed from birth.

They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask for any of this.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of block as much of their faces as I can with my social media. My posts have gotten a lot less cute, but I’m okay with that. I haven’t resorted to using emojis to conceal their faces (like the Bell/Shepard family does), but this very subtle change makes me feel like I’m sharing my life but not exploiting them.

I’m probably being an alarmist. I’m paranoid and I love a good conspiracy theory. But at the most basic level, I’ve come to terms with the idea that my children do deserve some protection online and my own decision to share my life online extends only to my own self. Yes, my kids are a part of myself and my identity, but I respect them as individuals and once they are old enough they can put as much (or as little) of themselves out there as they chose.

This brings me back to the Diaper-gate headline with Kristen Bell.

The day after the first headline, People published a new one. “Kristen Bell’s Daughter Only in Diapers At Night”.

Hooray.

Why this was ever newsworthy is beyond me. She had made the statement on a podcast with a fellow mother and they pulled out a throwaway story and made a huge deal out of it. I feel bad for her.

But these are our times we live in. I’m writing in my little read, but deeply personal blog (I’m not writing for any other reason than for myself) but one day someone could take a line or post and make a story about it. I as a parent have a delicate line to balance. I love to share my life with people who know me, and I enjoy writing on this platform whenever the mood strikes me. I have a nagging bother at the back of my mind to erase the line at the beginning of this post disclosing my daughters overnight-diaper needs. It’s perfectly normal and not anything to worry about, yet, why share?

Ms. Bell only told the story as a way to explain how every child is different. Her first potty trained extremely easily at 21 months old, and her second is throwing her for the loop. I have similar results with my kids; all potty trained at different ages with varying degrees of success.

Sharing these stories is important so other mothers don’t judge themselves. How I wish I had read testaments from women on how difficult breastfeeding could be when I struggled with my first; I reached out to every person I knew for advice and mostly heard back, “It wasn’t hard for me!”. We are already so hard on ourselves as mothers and in the glossy picture perfect world of social media it is nice hear from other women that they don’t have it all figured out and no one is perfect. But it just goes to show how easy the story can twist from being a personal story of mothering to direct judgment on the child itself.

There is no easy answer. You can’t avoid online life and data tracking and even though I’ve deleted accounts and photos of my kids from social media, I know they aren’t really gone from the “cloud” and everything I put on the inter webs is out of my control once I push post. But I am going to make a conscious effort to continue to be mindful about how I share my children’s lives online and I think this whole diaper-headline is a perfect example of why it’s important.

Diagnosis: Princess Power

It’s happened.

I swore to myself it wouldn’t; the day she was born someone put a silly pink bow hat on my daughter’s head, and it was then I vowed; I’m going to keep her away from the girly stuff. All the frilly, lacy, pink stuff that is having a little little girl just isn’t my style and I wanted to raise my daughter to think independently and not conform to the standard stereotypical gender role of “little princess”.

It worked, for a bit. I mean, prior to age 2 and prior to her having the ability to form an opinion and express it clearly, it was pretty easy avoiding Disney princesses and crowns.

But slowly, the princess culture seeped in to her life.

She’s the only girl out of eight cousins on her father’s side of the family, so for every birthday and Christmas, our generous extended family has fun buying her girly toys. I get it it. Superhero’s and Star Wars for seven nephews/sons/grandsons is tiresome and any break from the routine is welcome. So she can get a poofy dress up skirt and parade around in it with joy, no big deal … as long as we don’t highlight the word princess, it’ll be ok, or so I thought.

And last year she went through a serious butterfly phase. Around the time she started wanting to choose her clothes everyday, she started demanding only butterfly shirts. That was a fun indulgence. Before we moved she wanted her new room to be a butterfly room, which gave me a lot of fun options to decorate with. In my mind, while butterflies are girly, they aren’t as “bad” as a princesses.

But sometime this summer my little girl dropped the obsession with butterflies and moved straight onto the princess train.

Sigh.

What do you want to be when you grow up, Lu?

A princess.

What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?

A princess!

What do you want to play when we are at the playground, sweetie?

Princess Luella!

She’s obsessed. Any paraphernalia we purchase with a cheap Disney synergy tie-in gives her glee. She’ll just sit and look at books with the darn princesses for hours. And nothing, nothing, lights up her face more than when we call her “Princess”.

And that’s my struggle. I want her to be a strong, independent, kind person in the world, and want her to follow her passions but also be a hard worker and someone who values inner strength and beauty more than outer, yet …. the pleasure on her face when I indulge her and call her Princess while tucking her in at night, man, that’s hard to fight. She was absolutely adorable dressed up as Ariel over Halloween, and if I can give her a sticker book with the princesses in it and it entertains her for hours, what’s the harm, really? What am I fighting, exactly?

She’s three. This phase should pass, eventually, right? Shouldn’t I just let her have this phase while it’s still pure and just because they’re pretty, now, while she’s little? Why and I trying to force my own distaste of it all on her? Her being into princesses doesn’t mean I, the mom, am raising her to literally think she’s an actual entitled princess… she will still work hard and be empathetic and know her smarts are far more important than her looks because those are the values we are instilling in her.

So, I’m okay with it. I’m going to smooth her hair, call her princess because it makes her smile, let her pretend and dress up and let her enjoy all the stupid plastic Disney crap because she’s a child and this is just a phase. And trying to control what she likes isn’t the type of mom I aim to be.

Playground Politics

*This goes out to the parents out there* …. Think back, to your days before “parent” was a label applied to you. What were your thoughts on children, moms and dads, and discipline? What sorts of behavior would you witness with rolled eyes and scoffing?

*This goes out to the parents of multiple children out there* …. Hey! Remember when you had one child and they consumed your world? Every moment you had eyes on them, you knew their quirks and had no doubt of their brilliance and uniqueness? Remember going to the playground and following their every step, every triumph of a ladder rung climbed, every round on the slide? Did you ever see some random, disheveled child pushing your precious out of the way and wonder aloud: “Whose kid is this??”

My personal answers to the questions above are probably pretty obvious.

Before I had E, I didn’t think about parenting at all. I had very little interaction with children beyond the ones I encountered at work, and I usually observed every scream or whimper or booger-streaked face with disgust.

That is, until I had a baby, and my entire life revolved around just E. I thought I had it figured out. I brought him to the playground every single day, rain or shine or wind or snow…. I hovered and hemmed and hawed over him at all hours of the day. I’d see sloppy looking moms parading their multiple offspring off and watch in horror as they pushed, shoved, and ran amok. And, I judged. Oh, how I judged.

But then I had two babies in a little under two years. Suddenly, the playground as a destination because a “trip”, a big “deal”. Beyond that, I started to see the play areas as a place for “them” and the benches along the side of the structures as “my” place. The luxury of sitting back and watching them do whatever it is they wanted seemed like a no brainer.

And my eyes were opened to the phenomenon of “parents of one”. I don’t judge them, because I was them for four and a half years, but looking through the playground scene with my new lenses of a “mom of three”, I started to realize how different I was from them. Usually its Mom and Dad following every step of little Jr and their adventures in the structures, with lots of “Be Careful!” And “Oh look at you!” Meanwhile, I’d be in a corner, trying to appear forgotten. I want my kids to play, but I don’t feel the need to follow them everywhere.

This brings me to today; another playground trip on a warm November afternoon. The sun was bright. I have a quiz to study for and three kids under my watch (as the hubby is flying for a few days) so I foolishly thought I’d have time to look over notes at the local playground. I forgot it’s a weekend. I should have realized every other parent in our suburb had the same idea as me: enjoy the sun while we can. And I should have realized that while I’m perfectly okay with watching the 2-year-old climb up a slide the wrong way, the vast majority of parents out there (especially the ones with only one kid) frown upon such behavior.

So, what should have been a relaxing escape from our house, became an internal struggle of my own. I don’t want to be “that mom” whose children are causing issues, I don’t want someone to see my little L and H seemingly alone and assume their parents aren’t mindful of the abduction risk of unsupervised children, but I also know that particular playground, being fully fenced, is pretty safe. I know that kids want to climb up slides backwards and I know that they don’t need me there “just in case”. So it becomes a show, and I have to act. Because I care too much about what everyone else thinks. Their frantic anxiety becomes my frantic anxiety.

After an hour or so I was sick of chasing H so I told the kiddos it was time to go home. To play in our own backyard. And guess what? In the privacy of my own home, confined in the fully fenced back yard, I can sit and study over the pulmonary system and even read a novel without worrying about H and L taking turns going upside down, down the slide. I guess it’s true: there’s no place like home.

Struggles of the Student Mom

My blog is two years old! It’s amazing to think about where I was two years ago, when I started this blog as an outlet and break up of time, to where I am today. Two years ago I was snuggling newborn baby H and deep into that newborn bliss. I can say without hesitation my fourth trimester with H was the most enjoyable fourth I had of my three kids; I was confident, secure in my parenting choices, and H was the best newborn I’ve ever known. The kid scarcely cried and loved his swing so while I was deep into nesting mode (not leaving the house) I really had a lot of free time on my hands.

Hence Suburban Doldrums.

Now, H is two and very opinionated, loud but still a sweetie- we have a new home in a new state, and I’m in my third semester of pre-nursing courses. This semester I’m taking A&P 2 and it’s consuming most of my free time.

Don’t get me wrong, I really love learning about our body and how it works. It’s just dense material and takes a lot of deep concentration to learn. It also means any time I’m not studying, caring for my kids, or cleaning my new house my brain is completely fried so I can not bear to read anything for pleasure, yet alone try to update the old blog.

Of course, as I type this I’m doing the old college trick of PROCRASTINATION- I’m sitting in the college library with my various notebooks and binders trying to study for the midterm exams and I’m finding any excuse to avoid it. That’s alright though….. this quick check-in is enough for now. Yes, I’m still here, yes I still mean to write occasionally, and yes my status of a part-time-student-mom is all time consuming. One day, friends, one day I’ll be as diligent with the updates as I am about studying the systems of the heart, blood vessels and immune systems. Just not in this current season.

the joys of a little boy

Holden is my baby, the youngest of three, and my second son. But in so many ways he’s my first “boy”. My eldest, Eli, was a shy, studious toddler with a fixation on doors and trains and books and was quiet until he was 3. Literally. He didn’t really start talking until then, and this was after 18 months of speech-language therapy. Compared with our second child, Luella, Eli was easy as a toddler. Luella has her moments of drama and misbehavior, but she is also capable of focused play and is a pretty good listener.

But Holden. Man, Holden.

He’s that toddler who climbs. Climbs up high and dances at the top and dares you to stop him from repeating it once you drag him back down. He really enjoys pushing stools up to the kitchen counter and grabbing whatever he can reach, which is quite a lot. It’s terrifying to admit, but I’ve turned my back to him for seconds only to come back and see him brandishing a knife that I thought was out of reach. His grin as he waves it at me is mischief defined.

As I’m typing this out I’m realizing I just should ban him from the kitchen forever.

It’s just so obvious to me that he delights in naughtiness. When I tell him “no” his face lights up and he looks absolutely pleased with himself. He’s the first kid of mine to actually want to play in the toilet and the dog bowl and with the cleaners we store under the sink (which is child proof but he grabs for them whenever he can slide his quick hands past us when we open the cabinet doors).

He also enjoys carrying toys around and hitting me in the face with them, or his sister or brother if I’m not around. “Holden, are you going to hit me with that?” I’ll ask and he’ll wind up his arm and say, “Noooo” right before taking aim.

Okay, now I’m making it sound like he’s just this terror of a child who likes violence and danger and obviously there’s way more to him than that; it’s just funny to me how much of a boy I’ve got on my hands here. He needs limitations and constant supervision and this Mom has had two older kids who didn’t need a hawk-eye kept of them all day long, so the adjustment for me is hard.

Plus, for all his trouble-making, he’s insanely sweet and cute and those moments seem more tender because of his other stinky side. For example, today at the library program, whenever there was a toy prop for a song (like bells or bean bags) he’d bring me one first, before getting himself one. The kid’s not even 18 months old yet but he’s spoiling his mom. He hands me the toy and I swear winks before turning back around for one for himself.

And he’s just as likely to plant spontaneous kisses on my face, randomly, as he his to try and beat me with a metal toy truck. The kisses far outnumber the hitting and there’s nothing quite like having my rascal toddler bring me a book to snuggle up on my lap with. He melts my heart faster than butter on a frying pan with these moments.

They say every child is different, and this is true. My kids are all individuals but I never really thought my sweet baby would turn out so much more “boy” than his older brother, and even this, my third-time go-round with a young toddler, it’s a different ride and trip daily. My Holden is exasperating and funny and thrill-seeking and sweet and I finally have an understanding of what those moms who use the hashtag “boy mom” are all talking about.

Oh Holden. Stay my little sweet menance forever, sweet boy.

the next great exercise fad

If you want a dynamic, cardio-blast of a workout, one that tests your muscles in ways you’ve never dreamed, have I got the program for you. It’ll give your body AND mind a workout like you’ve never experienced.

All you’ve got to do is put a pair of gloves on my 2-year-old daughter. She’s 28 pounds of pure energy and within 10 minutes of wrestling her, you will sweat like you’ve never sweat before, your limbs will protest (because you will somehow use ALL four of your limbs trying to pin the cannon-ball-that-is-L down) and most importantly, you’ll have to do another round because SHE WILL IMMEDIATELY TEAR THE GLOVES OFF.

Please note any mental breakdown on your part is expected and not covered under my limited liability.

L is available for rent in the Tri-State area on cold days. Just come to my house about an hour before I need to leave and if you manage to put gloves on the kid and she keeps them on you can have my 401k. Thanks.

 

the postpartum body

This photo is slightly hideous, but I am sharing it with a purpose. It was taken about 12 hours after I pushed out that little bundle cradled in my right arm. Now, look at the belly. Big, right?

Rewind to just minutes before the picture. I had said goodbye to Husband, bigger kids, and mother in law. H & I had the whole evening together in the hospital alone.

I got up out of my bed to pee, and marveled at my quickness. Even though I delivered H at the same weight I was at when I had L, this pregnancy felt heavier. H was my biggest baby, but only by three ounces. I had polyhydramnios and I carried him high until the end.

I also went to 41+2 weeks with him. Getting up out of bed the final three weeks of pregnancy was a workout. My agility disappeared and I felt like I was being tortured in some cruel joke of a hidden reality TV show I didn’t know I starred in.

So, anyway, as I got up to pee, I felt light. I looked down and my belly looked flat. I practically skipped to the bathroom, caught a glimsp of myself and instantly wanted to take a picture of my new svelte self. I scooped H up, and smiled with my new little baby.

Photos don’t lie. I looked at the image on the camera and honestly couldn’t believe that belly was attached to me. It was a total body dysmorphic moment. Even though, in my head, and even when I looked in the mirror with my eyes, I felt thinner and lighter, the camera showed I still passed for 41 weeks pregnant.

I’m glad I didn’t delete the picture. I wanted to. But today, six weeks postpartum and feeling especially flubby, I can see that I’ve progressed from that moment, that high moment of feeling great, to something smaller.

I feel absolutely fantastic this postpartum period. I’ve returned to working out, I’m walking daily, and my mood is high. I almost don’t want to look in the mirror at myself, because what I see in the reflection doesn’t correlate with how I feel inside. But, the past few days, this high is fading. I’ve forgotten how huge and weighted I felt during pregnancy, and now I’m starting to look at myself and judge myself more harshly. Just being not pregnant isn’t enough, I want to look “amazing”.

Why is it we can gain weight gradually, over forty weeks, while growing life, but we expect ourselves to drop it in a mere matter of a month? I look at my wardrobe and besides yoga pants, leggings and maternity clothes, nothing fits. My jeans give me an uncomfortable reminder of the fat squeezing over the waistband. I falsely tell myself I can’t hide behind my pregnancy fat anymore, I must look prime and fit and perfect.

If anything, my appetite right now is higher than while pregnant. H has gained four pounds since birth and I’m also pumping an additional 20 ounces a day for donation. Breastfeeding makes me a beast-feeder and between that and my physical activity, I haven’t limited myself at all. Besides, I’d rather plateau at my current weight (about 20 pounds lighter than I was at delivery) and be able to feed my baby that mess with my supply somehow.

I’m also facing the upcoming holiday season. Food and drinks and candy and … temptation everywhere.

I’m trying to stay mindful. I’m trying to only eat when hungry, and only eat whole foods. I’ll try to prioritize staying kind to myself and body, not expect a “perfect” body to soon (not that I never had a perfect body) and most of all, keep in mind this all takes time.