No Good, Very Bad Day

My hands smell faintly of shit.

Let me back up a bit. T was warm when we put him to bed last night. This morning he clearly had a fever, how high I didn’t know because the damn thermometer only gave a reading of 97 or 98. He also had a sore throat.

I have vowed to be the kind of Mom who sends her kid to school unless the need for an ambulance is involved. On the 4th day of kindergarten I broke that vow. C had his three year well visit today at 10, so I brought sick T along for the ride.

sick t

In the doc’s parking lot. He was passed out at 9:45am. And no, I have no idea what is going on with his tongue.

Let’s just say that getting a nearly catatonic kid plus a kid having a tantrum on the scale to grab their weights was quite the workout for the nurse and me. It was also loud enough for the occupants of the waiting room down the hall and around the corner to have a blow by blow of events, which I’m sure they appreciated. Because they got to feel good that their children were not embarrassing them in public.

T doesn’t have strep. And I’m really bummed. Not because I’m a raging asshole. (Oh who am I kidding, I am a raging asshole, but that part comes later in the post) If he had strep the antibiotics would ensure that he would feel better tomorrow. And that he could go to the birthday party he was looking forward to. Along with his first swimming lesson since he was about one. Instead I can’t do anything to help him. He is going to feel like total garbage for the next several days.

I’m sure C will catch it in time to miss his first day of school preschool on Monday. Speaking of C, he has rocketed up the growth chart from the 3% in weight one year ago all the way up to 5% today. This kid is so painfully thin that I’m scared people will think I’m starving him. If we manage to get him up to double digits in weight by the time he gets there in age perhaps I’ll stop obsessing that Child Protective Services is going to show up at my door demanding that I prove I’m giving him three square meals a day.

We got home and ate our lunch. The boys finished first and T collapsed back on the couch while I gave both boys a marshmallow, a bribe for making it through the flu shot at the doc’s. And yes, the doc gave the all clear for T to get the vaccine. He’s fever was only 100.5. And yes, the nurse and I had to hold T down together while he thrashed and screamed in anticipation of the shot. And yes, I cried a little.

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Poor sick kid couldn’t bring himself to eat the marshmallow.

I settled back at the table to bolt the rest of my lunch before taking C up for his nap. Two minutes later C walked into the room and proclaimed, “I pooped!”

I whipped around. There was poop on his thigh and leg. There was poop hanging off his butt. There was poop all over both his hands. In what feels like slow motion I watched him put one hand and then the other in his mouth.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed. But it was too late.

“DO NOT MOVE!” I’d scared the hell out of him. He wasn’t moving, but he was also weeping.

I carried him to the bathroom by his shoulders. He tried to reach out for me and it was like a demon with a voice several octaves below mine has possessed me. “DO NOT TOUCH ME!”

He cried harder.

I used baby wipes to get the chucks and streaks of poop off of him. The crying continued. I was focused on not puking, therefore I was unable to provide comfort.

We awkwardly climbed the stairs with me holding his wrists. I used an obscene amount of soap all over him, washing his hands about six times. I finally thought they no longer smelled like shit.

When I got him in bed for his nap I notice his hands still smell like shit. As do mine.

He sniffled and asked to go downstairs to pick out a toy that he could sleep with. In perhaps my worst parenting moment of the year I tell him that he can only have a toy to nap with when he figures out how to poop in the potty. Ah, there is the part where I’m a raging asshole!

It would be fair to call him potty trained when it comes to pee. He wears underwear whenever he is awake. The pee accidents are few and far between and usually my fault for not reminding him to go. And here is where my denial of a toy is even more assholic. Please, feel free to judge my shitty parenting. He is scared to poop in the potty.

I have no idea how to get past his fear. I feel bad for him. Most days I have more patience with the shit accidents. But I am so fucking sick of it. I am sick of cleaning crap off the floor, off his body, I’m sick of the ground in shit in his underwear. I’ve actually thrown several pairs away because I cannot face trying not to puke in the utility sink while I scrub.

Help me friends. Help me. How do I convince him that he doesn’t need to be scared of pooping in the toilet? Also, if you know a trick for getting the smell of shit off of C and my hands I’d love to hear it!

c cupcake

I love him. I feel terrible for losing patience with him. I want him to shit in the fucking toilet.

Last Days of School

A year ago I watched the mother of one of T’s classmates struggle with the reality that her child was leaving the comfort of our extraordinary preschool and moving on to kindergarten. The transition proved painful for both mother and child. I sympathized with my friend, but I did not understand her sadness. In fact, I told her it simply wouldn’t be a big deal for T and me. She had the grace not to tell me I was full of shit.

Five years into this parenting gig and I still feel a twinge of annoyance when a more experienced parent tells me how my family will feel or act during an upcoming phase of development. “We are different” I think, “They don’t know us. We are special.” At the same time I cannot resist breaking it down for parents with kids younger than mine. I hear myself explaining what is coming and I hate myself for being that person. Especially as I see the look on the face of whatever friend I’m speaking to. I can see what is running through their head, “We are different. She doesn’t know us. We are special.”

At the beginning of last week I dropped the boys off at school and on my way out found this in T’s mailbox:

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Last fall we were asked to fill the paper with words that described who we hoped T would be as an adult.

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That hair. I miss that crazy hair so much.

Friday was the final day of school. During the week laminated photos that decorated the boys’ classrooms trickled home with them. But the little poster of our hopes for T was the first. I lifted it out of the mailbox and suddenly my throat was burning and tears flooded my eyes. I made it to the car before the ugly crying began.

That friend of mine? I emailed her and confessed I was wrong last year. Both T and I were struggling with his upcoming transition to kindergarten. I asked for advice on how she got through it.

A year ago I was so excited for the following fall I couldn’t see straight. T would have the same teachers that he adored. C would be going to school as well. He threw a fit every single day of spring semester when we dropped T off because he wanted to stay. And the fact that I was going to have a couple of hours a day to myself helped tremendously. Our small transition included the loved and familiar for T, exactly what C needed developmentally, and a fucking break for me. Life was great. Transitions were great. Why would kindergarten be any different?

Oh, pompous, naive, foolish Karen. When will you get over yourself and start actually listening to the more experienced parents?

The unknown is hard for both T and me. Watching his anxiety rise as he realized he wouldn’t be able to bring his much loved teachers with him to elementary school was heartbreaking. His fear is real and I ache for him. I’m also kind of furious that he is growing up. His delicious little boy body is getting harder and harder to lift. His limbs dangle everywhere when he crawls into my lap. The last five years have been the fastest of my life and I know time will only continue to fly by with more speed. Even if I didn’t believe it the first time a well meaning, experienced parent told me.

walking away from preschool

T walking away from preschool for the last time on Friday. Again, I was able to save the ugly crying for the car. Victory.

preschool T

The boys attend (Um, I mean C attends and T attended…sniffle) a laboratory school on the SU campus. Undergrads and grad students work with the children each semester. The assignments include these lovely bound books made for each child that tracks development over the semester. Here are the covers of T’s 6 books.

toddler room C

And C’s first two.

I Checked My Privilege…It’s Pretty Staggering

You and I have a lot in common, Tal Fortgang. My parents also belonged to the first generation of college graduates in their families. My father worked hard and from humble beginnings went on to become a wealthy man. I too worked hard in school and while I didn’t attend an Ivy, I did graduate from one of the Seven Sisters. Ok, so you have a penis and I (as my four year old son likes to say) have a vagina for a penis. And I’m nearly twice your age. But when I was 19 I would have agreed with your op-ed completely.

I’m pretty ashamed of that.

When I was 19 I was proud and humbled by my grandfather’s youth. He was the son of an Italian immigrant who came to this country legally. Because it was easy to come to this country legally at that time. And I’ll bet you a lot of dough he would have come whether it was legal or not. My grandfather left school and a terrible home at age 12. He rented a room and got a job. He worked hard in grocery stores for his entire career. It was my father who achieved the American dream of wealth through hard work. My grandfather performed the hard work part of that equation, he just never was lucky enough with the wealth part. As my dad likes to say, it’s better to be lucky than to be smart. And he is one of the smartest men I’ve ever met.

Your grandparents’ history is horrific. In no way do I wish to diminish their suffering. But the evil visited upon your family several generations ago does not somehow lessen your privilege as a while male at an Ivy League school today.

Your hard work and your privilege and your family history are three separate entities. Your privilege does not negate your hard work or family hardship just as your hard work and family hardship do not negate your privilege.

I don’t know anything about your particular circumstances, so I’ll share how my privilege positively influenced my life. I worked my ass off to get into an elite college. With my parent’s full support. I never had to get a job in high school. I was free to concentrate on academics and extra curricular activities that colleges so prize. I never had to worry about student loans or a job while in college. I got one so I could have some spending money, but I didn’t need one. If I had gotten an internship once I’d finished school instead of a job my parents would have continued to bankroll me as I would have been resume building for my career. Yes, I worked very hard. But I received priceless support along the way.

At some point during my college years I started to pay a little attention to the people around me. I attended the most expensive college in the country at that time. Many of the students were on financial aid and the amount of debt they were amassing was a constant worry. They had jobs to pay for their books. I had an account at the bookstore and didn’t even look at the prices. After my junior year I moved to Manhattan and commuted to school. I lived in a neighborhood filled with recent immigrants. It still feels obscene to compare my privilege to theirs.

One of my closest friends at college had been in foster care. His family lived paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from disaster. I remember lamenting to him, in the kind of shameful and tone deaf way only a 20 year old can manage, about my guilt at how I’d been given so much in life. He told me to shut the fuck up. He was poor. It sucked. He would do anything for a rich dad and he’d enjoy the hell out of it.

It was one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had in my life. Complaining about my privilege was not a mistake I’d make again. Instead I would remember to be grateful and aware. I would never miss an opportunity to speak with my vote, supporting candidates who were concerned with income inequality and discrimination.

I’ve spent my life trying to be a decent contributing member of society. There have been good years and bad years. You are right, everyone has their own story. Mine is suffering from a pretty severe mental illness. My 20s were ugly. I like to think I’m a hard worker. I’m proud of a lot of what I’ve done. My husband is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. He is a college professor at an excellent private university. He is a fierce feminist and I could not be more proud of him. His research is heavy on community activism and engagement. He teaches in the design school and I’ll be honest, his paycheck is decidedly middle class. I’m currently a stay at home mom to our two sons, a choice my 19 year old self would have scoffed at. Turns out that living an affluent lifestyle isn’t that important to us.

Here’s the thing, though. Our privilege colors every choice we make. The financially responsible decision would be for me to get a job. But having a parent at home with our boys before they enter kindergarden is of the utmost importance to us. We are squeaking by, but the reality is we have a safety net the size of Texas. We will never be one emergency away from financial catastrophe. I get the feeling that you never will be either. I recognize how that reality influences my choices and give me freedom, how incredibly lucky I am, how few other people have the same luxury. And I am grateful. Because it would be disingenuous and frankly offensive not to be.

I’m also mad as hell that my circumstances are those of the few. That people who are every bit as smart and hardworking as I am are in much more precarious situations because they don’t have a wealthy parent. That safety net you and I have? It should extend to everyone.

Listen, your hard work should be lauded. Full stop. End of thought.

Let’s move on. Also? You should be grateful for your privilege.

You need to recognize the difference between the two. And when you do perhaps you can be part of the solution.

Sincerely,

Karen Cordano

 

Toy Section

We were at Target and had some time to kill while the pharmacy filled a prescription. Naturally T asked to go to the toy section. As we walked to the aisle with the Transformers I noticed the family already there. The father was a mountain of a man, physically intimidating. The mother was his opposite, a tiny slip of a woman with a hard face. Not kind judgements, but I’m trying to tell this story honestly. There was a baby in the shopping cart and a boy between the age of my kids walking around. The boy was being downright nasty to his parents and the Dad was getting angry. Frankly, the Dad was scaring me a little.

I turned the cart and headed for the lego aisle instead. The family made me uneasy. Again, not very kind. I was making a snap judgement, an unfair judgement, a judgement I try to prevent T from making when he looks at strangers.

The boys were having a blast looking at the Star Wars legos. I was having a pretty big internal struggle over avoiding the other family. The kid and the Dad were audibly bickering, but suddenly the father erupted. His shouting was so violent that my heart started pounding and I had goosebumps on my arms. “I AM SICK OF YOUR FUCKING SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT.”

T looked at me questioningly. I was frozen to the spot. I wasn’t a little scared anymore, I was terrified. If this man would talk to his three year old that way he might rip the head off a stranger who suggested he should tone it down.

T knew something was wrong, he looked at me for help and all I could do was stare blankly at him.

Listen, I know on this blog I swear like a sailor. But the truth is I try not to swear in front of the kids. I nag Z not to swear in front of them either. It isn’t cute to me when a kid says fuck or shit. Call me old fashioned, call me a raging hypocrite, but I don’t want my kids talking like that. And I try not to swear in anger. I try not to yell, “Fuck you!” at Z when we fight. To me swear words are fun, screaming them at someone equals loss of control loss and poisonous vitriol. I certainly have gone there in my life, more than I’d care to admit, but over the last nearly 16 years I’ve been with Z I try my damndest not to.

The poor kid being yelled at. I felt sick for him. What three year old deserves to be spoken to that way? Of course he was being a brat when I saw him earlier. He was clearly modeling behavior.

Z and I yell at the boys. Lately T has gotten a bit mouthy with me. Is it because I yell at him? Am I creating a monster? How different am I from that Dad? Is it just a slippery slope? How can I judge that man when I engage in a toned down version of the same behavior? Do I think I’m a better parent because I don’t yell in public or swear or lose total control? Is he actually more honest than I am?

The yelling stopped and I heard the family move away. I suggested T follow me in the opposite direction as I pushed C in our cart. Eventually we made our way back so T could salivate over his beloved Transformers. But I felt uncomfortable, ashamed, dirty even for the rest of our trip. Should I have spoken up for the poor kid? Who is going to protect him? What should I have said to T? He looked to me for answers and I gave him nothing. How dare I judge the family in the first place? How dare I feel momentarily vindicated in that judgement when the man freaked out?

Smart friends, what would you have done? What do you do when your kid is exposed to behavior you find abhorrent? What should I have done?

The most important task I have as a parent is to teach the boys to be decent humans. Yesterday I felt like a failure, a fraud.

chocolate drool

How about a funny picture to lighten things up? How about some post-dessert chocolate drool from my sweet mess of a boy?

Even More Questions For My Smart Friends

Question One

Woke up on the mend health-wise. The boys even let us sleep in until 6:30, so Z and I were scrambling a bit to start the day. In order to save time I didn’t do my usual stretches before heading out the door for my jog. Ok, so my chest still is a bit tight. I might have hacked up a violently yellow and nearly solid luggie (sorry) and blown an alarming amount of snot out of my nose. But really, I am feeling better than I was. And I did skip an extra day of jogging to I could recuperate.

So smart exercising friends of mine, can you tell me why I developed the worst stitch of my life about a tenth of a mile in? At first I thought I would just slowly jog through the pain (located on the right side about a third of the way up between my pelvis and bellybutton). Less than half a mile along I found myself walking even though I was very clearly telling my body to stop being a baby and continue jogging. The pain started to ease a bit, but I knew Z was late to work already and I couldn’t add a bunch of extra time to my work out. At about .6 of a mile I turned around and headed home, rather horrified by my defeat. Halfway home I tried jogging again, did not make it far before the stitch came back and the sharp pain was too much. Walked the rest of the way with my tail between my legs. What the fuck, smart friends? Was it skipping stretching? Still being a little sick? This is my first stitch since starting the exercising. And at the beginning I was drinking a huge cup of coffee before heading out. I’m pissed, kind of embarrassed, and I really don’t want this to happen tomorrow.

Question Two

Hey smart friends who are shampoo free! Hi there fellow hair hippies! Here’s the deal. November will mark two years since I’ve stopped using shampoo. While the baking soda/apple cider vinegar combo is not perfect I’ve been happier with it than I have with regular shampoo and conditioner. And I have really loved getting into the habit of only washing once or twice a week. Until I started exercising almost three months ago. When I exercise I sweat. Like a whore in church. Who has just jogged two miles. My hair is wet and gross and just rinsing with water does not cut it. I jog five days a week so suddenly I am using baking soda/apple cider vinegar 5 days. And my hair feels disgusting. I’ve tried less baking soda and less vinegar. Still gross. My hair feels like it has a film on it and it is really dull. What gives? I am so close to throwing in the towel and going back to shampoo and conditioner. Because if I need to choose between the two it is the shampoo free that is going to go.

Sorry for the selfish and boring “help me!” post. Picking up my parents at the airport this afternoon, so posting is going to be on the light side this week. Not that no posts over here is going to be crushing to anyone, just thought I’d provide the info….

daddy home

Look who’s home. He forgot to pack a razor and didn’t shave for the whole trip. Looked like a stranger when he got home.

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The face of a child who has been up to no good.

piano percher

Perching on the piano. No pants, of course.

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Here’s the hair unfiltered. Also not really combed and not fully dry from my shower, but personal grooming is not my forte. I’m super excited about the new sweater I’m wearing, though. Yay JCrew clearance sales for 75% off the original price! Yay trompe l’oeil! Yay Peter Pan collars!

Under 11 Minutes

Friends, have you been thinking about starting an exercise program? Have you not done it? Perhaps because you’ve been psyching yourself out for, oh, about two decades? I am here to tell you that you can do it. Seriously. You. Right there. You can do it.

A month ago I couldn’t run for two blocks without stopping. This morning I jogged for more than 1.5 of 2 miles.

I’m not trying to blow smoke up your ass about how easy it is or how it will transform your life or figure.

Here’s the truth. I weigh more now than when I started. My jeans are tight. I’m kind of pissed about it. When I jog my thighs rub together. The junk in my trunk moves up and down so violently I’m scared I’m going to be bruised. I’d gone less than one tenth of a mile this morning when I told myself it was too hard, there was no possible way I was going to make it. My chest was tight, I wished I had my asthma inhaler with me.

Here’s the truth. Somehow I did it. I kept going until the mapmyrun lady informed me I’d reached a mile (further down the path than yesterday-mapmyrun’s GPS doesn’t seem to be terribly accurate). When the lady interrupted the music I realized I’d only heard two songs, a third was just starting, And then she told me the time-I’d broken 11 minutes.

More truth: I’m not kind of pissed I’ve been working out for a month and have actually gained weight. I’m really pissed. Super duper pissed. But. When I heard the time this morning I didn’t give a flying fuck. I was amazed at what my middle aged body could achieve.

I am amazed that I am sticking with it. I am amazed that I am doing something really hard. I’m amazed that I’m starting to feel pretty damn terrific, weight be damned. And dare I say the anxiety hasn’t been as acute? It might be a placebo effect-I’ve been told exercise will help me for so long I absolutely believe it. It’s not like I’m not taking a chill pill every day anymore. It’s not like I don’t have anxiety attacks. I had a pretty nasty one just last night. But overall I really do feel better.

I’ve been putting off doing cardio for nearly 20 years. I used to say that if someone was chasing me with a gun I would simply lie on the ground and ask them to shoot me rather than run away. I don’t think I was joking. And yet, here I am thrilled because I’m actually doing this jogging thing. Believe me, I was a hopeless case. I promise, if i can do it you can do it.

broke 11 min

Red faced, dripping with sweat, no filter, and fiercely proud of myself. I have been boring my friends to tears on Instagram and FB with the selfies post workout. I am sorry about that. But the advice and encouragement I’ve been getting have helped me troubleshoot and stick with it.

boat tree house in progress

Z is making the boys a boat treehouse. Looks like it is going to be pretty fantastic.

A little progress video.

Our Non-Talker

When I give completely unsolicited advice to parents who are getting ready to have their second kid it goes something like this: “The great thing about the second time is it is a million times easier. You know you have the ability to keep a newborn alive. It really takes the pressure off and lets you enjoy the baby. But the hard thing is you think you have this parenting thing figured out. You don’t. Because every kid is different. You can’t just do the exact same thing. You have to recognize and respond to the needs of each kid individually.”

Pretty great advice, if I do say so myself.

It would be fantastic if I could, you know, follow it.

C, our wacky and cuddly and fearless and frustrated and frustrating C. He is a very different kid from T. And yet we seem unable to adjust our expectations to fit his needs. I worried because he was such a late walker. My expectations were based upon what his brother did-the boys are almost exactly two years apart. T was walking during his second Christmas, so during C’s first Christmas, when he was a tiny baby, I daydreamed about the next year when he would be walking. As we got closer and closer to that Christmas I was more and more upset that C wasn’t reaching the milestone. Why was I putting that pressure on him? His walking or not walking had nothing to do with Christmas or our family’s enjoyment of it.

A year ago I would imagine having conversations with C over this summer. The summer before T turned two he was speaking in complete sentences and could recite his ABCs. C says “bye bye”. He can mimic the number of syllables in a word. He hums the Star Wars theme. He says ball. Other than that his vocalization sounds like Young Frankenstein in the Putting On the Ritz scene. And while it is fucking adorable it is also frustrating as hell.

Months ago our pediatrician told me I should contact the state to have him evaluated if he did not steadily add new words between then and his second birthday, August 31. I’ve tormented myself over it. On the one hand I don’t want to be the panicky Mom who wastes state resources over a kid who is fine. On the other hand I don’t want to do nothing and find out he needs help. After a lot of hand wringing and talking to Z we decided to do nothing until he starts preschool in the fall. His school has a wonderful partnership with another school that works with special needs kids. If he is having a speech delay that requires intervention he will be quickly identified and given help. So we do have a plan.

But why does this delay in his development bother me so much? There are other kids in our extended family who talked late. And you’d never know it today. On his college application he isn’t going to have to disclose that he didn’t talk as he approached his second birthday. Hell, it isn’t going to matter to us a year from now when this is all behind us.

Why don’t I focus on the great parts of his development? He is a master climber. He approaches physical feats with an astonishing lack of fear. He completely understands everything we say to him and has the ability to follow direction.

Part of the problem is the frustration. He is frustrated with us. My Mom smartly pointed out that he thinks he IS talking and he doesn’t understand why we can’t figure out what he is saying. We are frustrated with him. Life would be so much easier if he could communicate with us!

If we are honest with ourselves we gave T tons of more individual attention when he was C’s age. Because he was the only kid. We haven’t taken the time to sing the alphabet song 85 million times to C. We haven’t gone over colors with him until we were blue in the face. We don’t spend ages reading book after book to him. We aren’t the same parents that T had. Because we are juggling two kids. And T is standing in our faces very clearly articulating his needs. It’s easy to respond to them because we don’t have to play 20 questions to do it.

For C’s sake and for my sake I need to chill the fuck out. My worries about his development are a waste of time and resources-two things that are already at a premium. Intellectually I know that I am not helping him. He is his own person and he is figuring out life as a pace that is perfect for him. We need to respect and respond to that.

So do you know what I’m doing now? Imagining next summer when C is potty trained and we don’t have to change diapers anymore. T potty trained a few weeks after his turned two and a half and had it figured out pretty quickly. C will be almost three by next summer. I’m giving him a couple of extra months in my mind.

Because that makes it reasonable….

K and C cry

C and me post workout. Z was taking T to school and little man felt left out. Another piece of the puzzle. Poor kid wants to do whatever big brother does.

The boys have been enjoying our luxurious pool.