Parenthood: You’ve Turned Me Into An Idiot

dinosaur chicken nuggets

I stole these and ate them.

I’ve done a few dumb things in my lifetime; like that time I paid a strip mall tattoo artist to script the word ‘hope’ across my left hip. It seemed like a wonderful idea when I was nineteen. Two kids and a decade-and-a-half later, and it looks as if somebody scrubbed that little tattoo with a useless pencil eraser, wrung it out to dry, and then ran it over with a tiny steamroller. It’s faded and stretched and most days I wish it would disappear.

Apart from a few other relatively minor offenses, I had a pretty good head on my shoulders for my first thirty years of life…That is, until I had babies of my own. I’m not sure if it was “mommy brain” or sleep deprivation that took the wheel after the birth of my oldest daughter, but I am certain of one thing. The total number of stupid things I’ve done in the past four years far exceeds the total from the three decades prior. Here are five recent examples of times where my brain has departed for vacation, leaving my body behind. (Please note: I had to limit myself to five because otherwise this post would take two days to read.)

1. I forgot to buckle my daughter into her car seat (don’t call CPS.)
This one still makes my stomach turn whenever I think about it. I took my kids shoe shopping because the oldest grows out of sneakers every month. Since my kids are typically decent little humans in public, I figured it would be an uneventful trip. Au contraire, dear readers. My oldest had a near-meltdown in Payless because I wouldn’t let her choose the brilliant strobe-light Disney princess sneakers which were two-sizes too small. My youngest was throwing shoes and eating tissue paper while I wrangled my three-year-old into a pair that wouldn’t pinch her feet or induce seizures. The cashier was swearing at me in silence.

We eventually made it to the car and I buckled the baby in while my oldest yelled repeatedly that she wanted to wear her new shoes. I climbed into the front seat, gave her the shoebox and drove ten miles down the road without a second thought. When we reached our destination, she screamed that she wasn’t buckled in, and I nearly vomited on the steering wheel. For the next week, she told everyone we encountered that “Mommy made a bad mistake,” despite the fact that I begged her not to let on because I felt like the most horrible parent ever.

2. I stole chicken nuggets from Target (don’t call the cops.)
The full account of this particular parenting fail can be found here. In summary, I accidentally stole chicken nuggets from my favorite store. They were dinosaur-shaped and delicious.

3. I’ve left my keys on the roof of my car and driven away (five times.)
“Why the BLEEP is that dude honking at me and yelling?!?” I live in a state where this behavior is typically a sign that you’ve done something egregious (like driving 1.5 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. We are a patient and understanding people here in Massachusetts.) My first reaction: throw my hands up in a grand gesture of exasperation and yell into the rear view mirror. Nevermind the fact that the guy (or guys, as I’ve committed this offense multiple times) was actually trying to tell me that my house keys were on my car roof as I was flying down the highway/driving down our main road/sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a suburban street.

4. I left my two-year-old alone with my phone (she called the cops.)
One Sunday morning at 7AM, I made the mistake of taking a bathroom break while my two-year-old sat peacefully in front of an episode of Doc McStuffins. The Doc may have been in, but my brain was out to lunch because I left my phone beside her on the couch. Three minutes later, I returned to a terrifying scene: my daughter holding my mobile, swiping and tapping incessantly. She managed to call 911 and four people in the time it took me to go pee and wash my hands. Thankfully, emergency services never showed up at our house.

5. I burned a hard boiled egg.
This happened. I’m not proud and I’m terrible in the kitchen. Lesson: don’t leave an egg in a pan of water over an open flame for an hour.

These are just a handful of examples. I’ve got an entire arsenal in my brain filled with moments of recent stupidity. On the bright side, parenthood has also made me smarter in a number of ways, but that’s a different post for a different day. Do you have any parenting fails or “mommy brain” moments to share? You know you want to get them off your chest!

Guest Post: Raising My Spirited Daughter

Hi Everyone! Today, I’m trying something a little different. My wonderful blogging friend Ali reached out to me recently to inquire about guest posting here on The Momma Review. I was pretty excited because: a. I absolutely adore her blog, Run.Knit.Love.; and b. I’ve been busy and I haven’t shared any awesomeness here in a while. Ali is awesome. She’s a talented writer, she’s down to earth and funny, and she is also blessed with a spirited child. Thank you, Ali, for sharing your post. Parents of spirited children UNITE!

Without further ado, here’s Ali’s story of her spirited daughter. Leave her some comment love, visit her blog, or follow her on Facebook for more fun reading!

Sleeping by the door.

Sleeping by the door. Photo credit: Ali Wilkinson

I knew before my daughter was even born that we were going to be in for a wild ride. I was around 18 weeks pregnant, and had been feeling those sweet little butterfly kicks for a few weeks. I was walking down the street, talking to a coworker, when all of a sudden that girl MOVED. A little bump arced across the corner of my shirt, and I could feel her pompom-sized butt stretching out as far as fetusly possible, turning around, and settling back into a more comfortable position. “Uh oh,” I thought, “this one is going to be trouble.”

My daughter is what the parenting books politely describe as “spirited.” Spirited could also be described as strong-willed, hot-tempered, obstinate. She has stayed in her room for over an hour rather than change her diaper, loudly voicing her displeasure throughout. She has staged a mini hunger strike rather than try a bite of broccoli. She has fallen asleep against the door of her room while I hold the door shut, fighting against naptime.

As frustrating as it can be – and it is often unspeakably, maddeningly frustrating – I love having a spirited child. She knows what she wants and is willing to fight to get it, even if it is unattainable. (Sorry, no Nutella and jelly sandwiches for breakfast.) She constantly surprises me with her grit and determination – reaching the top of the play structure while older kids look on; strapping herself into her car seat by herself at age 2.5 (but oh my goodness, that was an excruciating 20 minutes). She is her own strongest advocate. She is also fiercely loving, loyal, curious and smart. And, despite being the middle child and the only girl in this family, there is not a sliver of a chance that she is going to get lost.

My greatest hope for my daughter is that she holds on to her spiritedness as she grows into womanhood. This world needs more women who can stand up for what they want, who aren’t afraid to strive for something that seems out of reach, who are comfortable saying no and have the conviction to stand by that.

So my goal, and my struggle, as I raise this spirited child of mine is to nurture that spiritedness while still maintaining the role of parent. I want her to feel heard, and to feel like her views matter. And, when warranted, I want to be flexible enough to accommodate her. For instance, if she wants to wear three skirts instead of just one skirt, well why not? The problem is that line gets slippery. She wants to wear her leopard print pajamas to school? Well, I guess so. They’re warm and they cover her body. She wants to wear just legwarmers and a t-shirt in January? Well…. At some point you’ve got to draw the line. And she is always looking for exactly where that line ends and trying to nudge it slightly further.

It is a tough job staying firm on those lines, especially knowing that resistance is likely to be met with a big emotional response. And honestly, I feel like I’m maybe 50-50 on making the right call. But I keep working at it. I don’t want her to think that she is in charge around here because, for crying out loud, she’s two years old. But I also don’t want her to feel disregarded. Because if she can embrace her fierceness and vulnerability, her power and conviction, she is going to get things done. She is going to take up space in this world.

She showed me at negative 22 weeks that she could move things much bigger than her – I have no doubt that if given the chance, she will move mountains.

This post originally appeared here.

We Cannot Go Back; Only Forward

You were behind me last week in the Target checkout line with your partner beside you and your new baby sleeping peacefully in his infant car seat. I was there buying god-knows-what with my two daughters and my husband. He was wrangling our three-year-old as I fumbled around for my credit card while holding my squirmy 13-month-old. Despite all the activity, I noticed: your red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes and the bags underneath them. Your hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail and you were both wearing soft pants and tattered beach sweatshirts at two o’clock in the afternoon. I found my card and asked how old your baby was, and you replied quietly, “He’s a week old.”

Instead of regaling you with congratulations and well wishes, the words fumbled out of my mouth before I could stop and think about how they might be received: “It gets easier. Someday you won’t feel this tired.” I’m not sure if I lied or told the truth, as some days with my little ones are still challenging and exhausting, but it seemed like what you needed to hear at the time. There was something about the look on your face and the tone of your response that made me think so. It was a familiar expression: like looking at my own reflection when my first child was a newborn, and again after the birth of my second. You smiled genuinely and thanked me. I hope you believed me and realized that my words were rooted in kindness and empathy, not judgement.

Our brief interaction at the checkout made me reflect on how our lives are intertwined by these small moments in time, as well as think about my own experiences as a new mother. I remembered all the beauty, love, exhaustion, and pain; all the smiles and tears. The feeling of being so hopeful and anxious about this new life and all its promise. The fear, excitement, overwhelm, and confusion. How every phase felt endless as it happened, but passed so much more quickly than I can even fathom. Right now, I find myself mourning the end of those peaceful nighttime feedings, the weight of warm, scrunched up little bodies pressed against my chest, the sleepy smiles and those first hints of recognition.

My babies are so much bigger, and I’m happy that we’re here. We’ve gotten to know each other and we aren’t quite so tired all the time. Their sleep patterns are predictable, and I’m able to go through life without shedding tears of exhaustion daily. (You’ll get there too, new mom at the Target checkout.) But sometimes when I see a mother and her newborn, it makes me long for those early weeks and wish I could go back for just a little while to fall in love with them again for the first time and nuzzle their tiny heads. I regret all the moments I wished they’d grow faster and sleep longer because now we’re concluding the baby phase and we cannot go back; only forward. It’s bittersweet and I get a lump in my throat if I think about it too long.

A blogging friend of mine wrote recently about how she’d reached a point of acceptance after mourning the baby phase. I can only hope that someday I get there too.

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