Photojournalists are often forced to make a tough moral decision when they see something terrible happening: step in and try to stop it, or step back and document it.
Anyone else feel the weight of this ethical conundrum? Like, on an hourly basis?
Sitting around the table on a lazy morning not long ago, I casually asked my son what he wants to be when he grows up. I expected him to say something silly, like Lightning McQueen or a dinosaur, but instead he very matter-of-factly and without hesitation answered, “a chef.”
I did a spit-take with my pretend tea.
This post is most satisfyingly read when lustily narrated in your head by Beyoncé. I’ll give you a minute to go put on some slow jams. Light a candle if you’re feeling fancy. This one goes out to my number one (and only!) husband.
Hey there, Hot Dad.
Did you know that you, along with all the other Hot Dads of the world, have to do approximately nothing to get our attention? That’s right. You have to do little more than exist in the vicinity of your children, and we get hotter than a malfunctioning Lite Brite.
Remember the last time you and I took all the kids out together? I was holding our two oldest on each of my hips, sweating bullets as I went through every trick in the book to distract them and keep up the appearance of having well behaved children? No one really noticed, but that’s totally fine. Seriously! It’s my job, right? Nothing to see here. No big deal that I am owning this situation and basically earning the rights to that #1 Mom mug in this moment — in heels. I live to serve!
But I looked over at you, doing nothing but snapping your gum at the smiling baby in your arms, and then glanced at our surroundings. Women, from all directions, were gazing at you with glimmering, doe-eyed expressions. From little girls to that biddy with the walker, they were spellbound.
Marking the beginning of each new year is a barrage of promises geared toward self-improvement, even for hard-working moms. In fact, considering how much advice is out there telling us how to mother the right way, it often seems that New Years resolutions were made just for us! Everyone has an opinion on how to improve our parenting skills, so be sure to cross-reference your personal list of weaknesses with this list I’ve compiled — or, as I like to call it, How to Be the Perfect Mother in 2015:
So much of parenthood is spent worrying about our children’s educations — ensuring they meet their milestones, giving them the academic edge to get into the best schools, filling their time with activities that will teach them how to love learning. And while these things have their value, I’m starting to realize not only how much they already know, but also how much my kids teach me every day. I now have three children under four, and already they have taught me some of life’s most important lessons and shown me, in their own simple ways, how to embody the values we all strive to live by.
It starts with a dribble of snot licked away from a thoroughly chapped upper lip. Oh crap, that forehead is so warm and balmy. Your tummy hurts? Like you’re hungry or like you have to — OH GOD, RUN!
I’m doused in hand sanitizer and baby tears before I even have time to say “acetaminophen.”
There comes a time in all of our lives when childhood begins to wane, and along with it the magic and belief in Santa. I remember the hollow sadness accompanying the realization that Christmas would never be the same again. I knew I’d never again look up in the sky on Christmas Eve and feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end at the possibility of seeing a sleigh dart past the stars. I knew I’d never again awaken in the middle of the night to the sounds of crinkling paper and jingle bells, my heart pounding with exhilaration and fear.
In the years that followed, Christmas became less of a whimsical affair and more of a standard family get-together. My siblings would all come back into town and we’d get to see the cousins again. We’d take bets on which unwitting guest (usually someone’s friend or date) would get sick from eating the turkey our grandma “refrigerated” on the porch and who’d get drunk first off her famous homemade eggnog. There would be brunch and movie marathons, gift cards and wish lists.
But the magic was decidedly gone. There was no rush to hop out of bed before the sunrise, no exuberant squeals at the sight of a sooty boot print by the fireplace. The cookies didn’t even taste as sweet as they once did. I accepted the void as just another one of those grown-up realities we all have to come to terms with at some point.
A few weeks ago, however, I found myself turned completely around in the car, wagging a pointed finger at my kids in the backseat with a reindeer-shit-eatin’ grin on my face, singing along with the radio, “YOU BETTER BE GOOD, FOR GOODNESS SAKE,” in that classic mom fashion that would have made my teen self cringe.
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my toddler gave to meee:
12 play-place viruses
11 mismatched dress shoes
10 stepped-on Chex squares
9 glittery sneezes
8 cups a spilling
7 boo boos swelling
6 pre-used Q-tips
5 sticky huuuuugs
4 chats with Siri
3 loud fits
2 naked Barbies
And a heavy diaper full of cold peeeeee
Our Christmas angel is a tradition I started last year. Inspired by Elf on the Shelf, the kids wake to find a short note from her each morning. Unlike Elf on the Shelf, though, she is not super creepy and she only notices the kids’ good behavior.
“There are so many toys out, we can’t even walk across the room,” I said to my kids the other day, after stepping on what I swore would be the last block to pierce my bare foot ever again. “Time to pick up. Let’s start with this puzzle.”
My three-year-old responded with his new favorite word: “No.”
“No? Can you toss the pieces into the box like a basketball?” I countered. No. “…’Kaaay. Let’s count how fast you can do it!” No. “You’ll get a sticker for your chart if you just — “ Nope.
Out of tricks, the pleas turned into threats: “If you don’t start taking care of your toys and helping to pick up a little bit, I’M going to clean up with my GARBAGE BAG.” It was a tactic I had recently learned from a friend, and I was eager to see if it would work on my own brood.
“Okay, Mommy.” Record screeches.
“WHAT? Okay?? You don’t care if I throw this puzzle away? This puzzle you LOVE?”
“No, throw it away,” he said, without even looking up from whatever other game he had started playing.
Flabbergasted, I realized he had called my bluff, and I now had no choice but to get rid of this perfectly good puzzle. I theatrically placed it in a garbage bag and awaited his tumult, but he was utterly unfazed.
With Christmas coming, I worry about the sheer quantity of STUFF that clutters our lives. We are so lucky to be able to afford all we can with three children, and lucky to have friends and family who have the means to spoil them. We have toys on rotation, toys that are forgotten about, clothes that go unworn because we have been given so much. It’s an admittedly good problem to have, but it makes me wonder how we can teach our children contentedness in a world of such abundance, where material items are completely expendable to them because they are always showered with more.