The Grief In Growing Up

Last night, I put my littlest baby girl in her own bed, in her own room, for the first time.

I should have been happy. Happy she’s growing up. Happy to have my own room back. Happy I don’t have to worry about my husband snoring her awake in the middle of the night. It marks the beginning of the end of so many sleepless nights and early mornings. In real life, this is where I’d insert a joke about how I haven’t slept through the night in five years, and how great this move will be because if I put Desitin on my toothbrush one more time during the hazy edges of the day, my mouth is going to suffer an identity crisis.

But as I laid her in her bed and walked away last night, all I could feel was a gripping sense of loss.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! But Please Don’t Touch Me

I woke up this morning with my sleeping two-year-old’s finger up my nose, her skull resting squarely on top of mine, and I’m pretty sure her hot mouth-breath was steaming the lines out of my forehead.

I have spent hours upon hours today with many small children — whom I love dearly! — climbing on my body, pulling at my clothes, wiping their fluids on me. They poke me, squeeze me, sneeze on me, rub their faces into me, curl up on me, and wrap their limbs around me so tightly I have nightmares of being squeezed to death by squids when I finally close my eyes at night.

And although I love you too and always strive to make us a priority, I’m going to ask that you keep your sexy man hands to yourself for a hot minute. Mama needs some PERSONAL SPACE before I can mentally switch gears from mom to wife.

So please keep the following in mind before you turn up the slow jamz:

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our kids spent a solid three minutes today pinching my stretched-out bellybutton before I felt the baby’s diaper thundering in my bare hand. So I’m going to need you to hold your horses.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t even peed since I woke up this morning. And during that solitary trip to the bathroom, our newly potty trained child followed me in… and offered to wipe me. So let’s just pause a moment while I try to burn that endearing hypothetical out of my immediate chain of thoughts.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I’m wearing the same bra I wore yesterday and then fell asleep in last night. And then the baby spit up into my cleavage and it pooled there for awhile until this bra soaked it up and I forgot about it. So I’m going to need some time to regroup, and maybe to torch the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that’s sitting on the kitchen counter under the spatter of orange macaroni powder.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our daughter wiped her nose on my arm today, then examined it and told me it was mashed bananas. (It was not.) So why don’t you just keep your distance until I can scrub both the arm and the memory?

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just spent 85 percent of the day on my knees. Let me beat you to the punch line of that joke by telling you it was spent scraping dried spaghetti sauce off the floor, rounding up approximately a billion sensory beans, and scrubbing pee-pee out of the carpet. So as sexy as my hole-in-the-knees mom pants are, I’m going to go ahead and take a breather.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but that crazed look in my eye is the result of repeated exposure to toys that light up, honk, or sing “Let It Go” in Spanish. So please don’t be offended when you find me huddled in a dark corner rambling incoherently to myself instead of waxing poetic about romance tonight.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I cooked three meals today with the big kid wrapped around my leg, the little one on my hip sucking my ponytail, and the middle one sprawled on the floor crying to be held. Or danced with. Or guided through “the biggest jump ever.” So for dessert, I think I’ll have an order of silent meditation — make it a double!

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just (finally!) got the baby down, and I have already bartered with God about letting her stay asleep this time. If we wake her, I will likely have to nurse her for another twenty minutes, and to say my ta-tas are experiencing an identity crisis in moments like these is the understatement of the year. So let’s just be quiet for, I dunno, six more hours.

I love you, you are super hot, and I swear I will make us my priority again soon (maybe next Valentine’s Day?). But today, our kids were so ON me they might as well have still been INSIDE me, and I desperately need to recharge before I can look into your dreamboat eyes and think of anything but how good it would feel to shut mine and pass out.

So for now, let’s just enjoy some champagne and strawberries that haven’t been cut into quarters. Let’s sit by the fire and remember why we fell in love a lifetime ago. Hold me close throughout the night, shielding me from the toddler who tries to jump on my face at 3 a.m. Thanks for understanding — your ability to love me through this season of marriage (and willingness to wipe up all the spills while I recharge) boosts our prospects for tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Child, My Teacher

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.

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I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus In Exchange For An Hour Alone With a Cheesecake

santa

Dear Santa,

I know I haven’t been a good girl ALL year. I lied to the kids about what really happened to the Oreos at nap time. Taught my little ones a few choice words during some particularly stressful mealtime preps. I may have even tricked them into an early bedtime once or twice to catch some alone time with the hubs. But I’ve been trying really hard to be the best wife/mother/friend I can be, and overall, I think I’ve come out on top — at least B-plus range! The hospital bill we just got in the mail says all I’m getting for Christmas this year is last month’s epidural, but if you’re feeling generous and my name comes up on the “good” list, I hope you’ll take my wish list into consideration:

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A Parenting Guide to Gratitude

‘Tis the season to be thankful, and it can be hard for many of us to pull ourselves out of our exhausted, overworked, eye-twitching world to realize just how lucky we are. Everyone knows we’re grateful for our spouses and kids and homes, but it takes a little something extra (usually vodka) to find gratitude in the tantrums and leaky diapers of daily life. Luckily for all you worse-for-wear parents out there, I will now illustrate how to dig deep and turn any less-than-perfect parenting moment into a reason to beam with gratitude. You can thank me later!

SITUATION NO. 1: In the epic struggle between your sense of shame and need for sustenance, the grocery store (and whatever children you’ve mistakenly brought with you) is winning. Maybe they ran out of car carts. Maybe the deli was offering slices of the wrong color cheese or the lobsters weren’t available for a meet-and-greet. Maybe you had to bag your own groceries next to a display of loosely packaged cookies within your child’s reach and said display is now laying scattered on the floor, crunching under your non-car-cart wheels. MAYBE you just made the mistake of having more than one kid with elbows and decided to strap them next to each other in a metal cage on wheels for an hour, hoping for the best.

TRY THE THANKFUL APPROACH: Thank you, grocery store, for never failing to create an incredibly humbling atmosphere in case I start to get too cocky about my parenting skills. The tantrums you elicit combined with your patrons who can’t resist telling me how full my hands are (without ever offering to help soothe a single thrashing, screaming toddler they don’t know… weird!) remind me that I am but a discarded cheese wrapper at the bottom of the shopping cart of life. If not for your weekly reminder, I’d have nothing but toddler church farts and garbage-can-tastings to keep me grounded. I vow to never give annoying, unsolicited parenting advice to anyone again, ever.

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What I Want My Daughters to Know About Life After Birth

To my daughters:

They say the pain of childbirth is the kind of pain you forget. I can vouch for that, and would add that the sentiment extends beyond the delivery room. Most of us don’t like to talk about it, but there’s often a pain — both physical and emotional — that bleeds into the days and weeks that follow, no matter how much your heart is bursting with love. With three successful deliveries under my belt, I’ve managed to forget about that pain each time until I find myself treading in it once again.

New baby euphoria is great if you experience it, and the relief of feeling an immediate bond to your newborn is downright overwhelming. But my experience of those first few days has shown that mixed in with the rainbows and butterflies is also a messy, hormonal whirlwind that makes new mothers doubt every fiber of their capability. In the days following each of your births — between the physical recovery, the stress of newborn care, and the hormones– I have always found myself thinking, WHAT HAVE I DONE? and WHOEVER THOUGHT I WAS CAPABLE OF HANDLING THIS MUST HAVE BEEN DRUNK.

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