A Patriotic-ish Person’s Guide to Celebrating America

At the risk of attracting a whole lot of hate, I’m going to put something out there: It feels wrong to be celebrating America right now.

I’ve never been someone who goes full-on Betsy Ross during the month of July, but usually the sight of red, white and blue on every corner doesn’t give me a wicked case of the stress shits.

But lately, oh boy. Thinking about celebrating America just feels wrong.

If the definition of patriotism is “having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country,” under normal circumstances, I could get behind that. I’d express all kinds of devotion to a country that supported the people who lived there, regardless of their race, color, gender, creed, and economic class. I’d vigorously support somewhere that didn’t turn a blind eye to the environment, or to people who needed medical treatment, or refuge (to say the least).

But right now? I’ve got about as much desire to show devotion and support for the current administration (notice I didn’t say country) as I do toward taking a bath in a tub of maggots.

Now this is where it gets complicated, as even though the current administration is the face of our nation, it is NOT representative of our whole country.

I like to think of it as an ugly bruise on an apple, or an ill-fitting lid on a can of tuna. You wouldn’t throw away the whole apple, just because it has a bruised spot, or an entire can of tuna just because the lid pops. That ain’t right! (J/K, throw that can o’ danger out STAT #botulism #youmightdie).

Prior to Trumpy and his Band of Misfits, America accomplished some pretty rad things, and seemed to be on track for continuing its progression into awesomeness. Things like healthcare, and equality and the environment were looked at with the same importance as making rich people richer, or at least it seemed that way to my admittedly privileged, white, middle-class self. I mean, my birth control was free! Go America, right?!

And then Trump came and shat in the soup, and now I don’t want to celebrate, or even admit I am American, though my pale skin and inability to speak another language might give that away.

But here’s the thing; America is so much more than this bullshit administration.

And even more, Trump and his bullshit administration have given me something to celebrate about this country, and it’s pretty amazing.

America was founded by a bunch of people who were like “Dude, you’re cramping my style so I’m going to GTFO and do my own thing.” And those same kinds of people still live here. They start things like Alt National Parks, and Alt NASA. They march for women, and for equality, and for LGBTQ rights, and for science. They donate to foundations that help people who need it most. They pay for school lunches when the system is so broken, kids might not get to eat. They believe Black Lives Matter, and that we need to #SayHerName.

Yes, America is filled with badasses who love and care and work and fight tirelessly to ensure the American dream still exists for anyone interested in pursuing it. They just don’t happen to be at the head of the ship.

So yeah, the thought of celebrating America might feel weird, but only if you judge America by its cover. When the flags are flying, and the hotdogs are burning, I’m going to raise a cold one to the Americans who represent a country I’m proud to call home, because of them. Though if any of ‘em wake my sleeping baby, I’ll cut a bitch.

Yes, Your Kid Is a Jerk (But So Is Mine)

This might sound crazy, but save for a time or two, I don’t think I’ve been directly judged by another mom. Or at least not vocally.

I’m sure there have been plenty of times when someone saw me doing something and thought in their heads I was a lunatic, but I honestly can’t think of a time when a fellow parent has approached me in a public setting (not online, that’s a different story) singled me out, and said something that made me question if I was a good parent.

For the most part, fellow parents are actually really supportive. Even the ones who at first glance look like they would judge me and my dirty mom hair, if the ice is broken, we typically end up having a lot in common. I’m not saying judgmental parents aren’t out there, but for me, they aren’t the source of my parenting insecurities and mom guilt.

Nope. That’d be my kids.

For however willing kids are to offer up a slobbery kiss and sticky-handed hug, they are even more ready to inform me of their deep displeasure at whatever atrocity I’ve just committed (PANTS? Who even wears pants, mom, you loser!). And fellow parents, regardless of their look, are often more than willing to open up and agree: Kids can really be jerks.

As it turns out, kids are self-centered, demanding, impatient, unreasonable, and loud little shits. They are terrible listeners, and bold boundary testers. They have no filter and generally can’t read social cues. If an adult ever acted that way, they would be labeled as a world-class asshole, and avoided at all costs. But kids are usually just called cute.

Kids don’t appreciate how much work you put into making sure they are fed, clothed, safe, and happy. They don’t realize the cost providing these things comes at. They don’t care how tired you are, or lonely you feel. On a near-daily basis, they find ways to make you question if you’re doing this right, because surely if you were, they wouldn’t be acting this way. Right?!

Yes, they love you, but it’s a very one-sided love at this stage.

Rather than finding competition and judgement from other parents, more often than not I’ve found solidarity in knowing I’m not alone in my feelings. Everyone’s kid can be a little jerk. Everyone worries they are doing it wrong. Everyone loves their kid, but also wonders if somehow they will screw this up so badly, they will raise someone who doesn’t give a waive of thanks when they are merging into traffic.
(Okay, that might just be me.)

I know mom-shaming and mom-judging is real, but I think the real culprit behind mom guilt is often our own kids who, through the process of growing up and learning how not to be little jerk, treat us pretty terribly.

To be clear, I’m not blaming them, but rather thinking instead of taking out our frustration on fellow moms who are going through the same thing, maybe we can open up, admit our kids are sometimes unbearable jerks, and help support each other while we wait for them to be old enough to vocalize their sincere thanks. Which, if I’m being honest, might take 30 years.

So cheers, fellow parents. This is hard. Kids are jerks. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means you’re paying attention.

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It’s Not About Cheetos

Can we talk about Cheetos?

Cheetos get kind of a bad wrap. Their electric orange color isn’t exactly natural, and the ingredient list reads more like a Chemistry 101 stock shelf inventory than something you’d willingly eat.

Because of this, some people don’t let their kids eat them, which I totally get. My kid didn’t have her first Cheeto until recently, but not necessarily because I was intentionally withholding them.

Well, sort of.

Recently I’ve noticed that in a quest to be a perfect parent (whatever that means) I find myself fighting with her about all kinds of little things. Wearing appropriate clothing, limiting screen time, wearing a coat when it’s cold, not climbing up the slide, not eating junk food like Cheetos… You know, all the little things you deal with when you have a three year-old who is going on seventeen, and wants to try things her way before ultimately settling on whatever you were recommending.

This conflict isn’t just reserved for three year-olds, but rather begins much younger with societal pressures to do the very best thing from minute one. Pressure to be the perfect vessel, who has a perfect delivery, who breastfeeds, and who successfully gets their perfect baby to sleep in their empty crib, allowing them to find time to exercise to get back to their pre-baby weight within 15 minutes of giving birth. Pressure to encourage tummy time, and independent sleep, and skin-to-skin, and exposure to 30,000 words a day, and a diverse palate of organic purees, and and and…

I spend so much of my day focusing on these little things that it’s easy to lose sight of the most important lesson of all: Kindness.

Above all else, raising kind children is the most important thing to me, as kindness is the glue that holds us all together. Kindness crosses cultures and genders and species, and gives us hope that all is not lost.

Being a perfect parent isn’t about withholding Cheetos. It’s not about successfully abiding by the AAPs screen time guidelines. It has nothing to do with how many tutus your kid wears to school that day, or if you co-sleep or sleep train. Breastfeeding or formula feeding or unmedicated births or every-drug-in-the-hospital births aren’t hallmarks of the perfect parent. None of this matters in the long run if your kid grows up to be an asshole.

Of course I’m oversimplifying this a bit, as we all are trying to make decisions that will benefit our kids in the long run. Like limiting their Cheeto consumption. But more than focusing on if the decision I’m making is best for my child based off some outside recommendation, I’m going to start focusing more on daily lessons of kindness, on celebrating kindness, and practicing kindness.

And sometimes that kindness comes in the form of a snack-sized bag of Cheetos.

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If You Aren’t Outraged…

Some people think political rants don’t belong on humor pages or mom blogs, but I disagree.

We are living in a time of unprecedented political upheaval, with new developments coming in by the day regarding our new commander in chief’s plans for destroying our country through fear-mongering and hatred.

Being a mother, I am horrified of what the world might look like for my children if this monster is left unchecked. Being a mother, I feel directly responsible for teaching my children that this kind of cruelty, bigotry, and intolerance won’t stand. 

So while I try to keep it light and funny over here, I also need to keep it real. I am furiously, feverishly, and forever opposed to the Trump regime. I will not keep silent, nor can I offer up distraction from the scary changes that are taking place daily in the White House.

My own dad long ago offered up the saying, “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention,” and for me those words have never had more meaning.

If you aren’t outraged, kindly leave in peace. I’ve seen enough and heard enough from Trump’s supporters to know you can’t change stupid. But if you are outraged, and you are wondering how to parent in these times, know you aren’t alone.

We will keep up the funny, but we will also keep it real. And when our kids asked up what we did when a dictator tried to take over America, we will tell them we fought like hell to make it right.

On Less (and More)

 

To have, or not to have. That should have really been the question.

With the holiday season in full swing, and packages showing up at the door on a nearly daily basis, it seems the answer to that would be To Have.

But boy, does that not sit right.

Today, after finding myself staring longingly at a brand new giant shiny suburban who was pumping gas in front of my considerably smaller and less shiny car, I couldn’t help but notice the pang of desire coursing through my veins.

It was so big. And so shiny. “Think of all the things we could put in there!” my inner hoarder squealed, as my outer being took notice of the countless bar wrappers, receipts, sippy cups and assorted toys littering the floor of our perfectly functional, if not much smaller (and cheaper) mini-SUV.

Normally, this tendency to want the bigger, newer, faster thing doesn’t generally appeal to me, and I sincerely find myself being happy with what I already have. In fact, most of the time, rather than desiring to have more, I am scheming ways to have less. Less clothes! Less shoes! Less glassware (am I the only one who swears glasses multiply up there in those cabinets?)!

But if I’m being completely honest, I am really struggling maintaining this policy of less-is-more with the kids.

And not only because they are hoarders. (And hot damn, are they hoarders!)

Really the struggle is born from (admittedly perceived) necessity, and a desire to give them the very best. Not the very best, shiny, newest toy, but the very best chances to develop into the fullest, most well-rounded people they can be.

We have art supplies up the wazoo to help spark our kids’ inner artists. We have books coming out our ears to help develop good readers. We have blocks spilling out of baskets, and Magna-tiles scattered around the floor to encourage whatever part of your brain develops when you build shit, and then deliver a bitchin’ karate chop to knock it down. We have letters on the fridge, and number flash cards, and animal stickers and play-doh, and dolls and a kitchen set and musical instruments and and and…

Every single day I think “This is too much shit. Today I will get rid of half of this shit.” But then the other part of me thinks “This is a totally normal amount of shit. I will not touch this shit.”

And that part keeps winning, because sadly, I think that part is right.

I am certain there are ways to encourage your child to participate in an assortment of activities that would help booster all the different parts of their brains that are waiting to be tapped. You could take them to concerts and museums, and only get books from the library. You could let them use rocks and sticks to practice their building, and mud to do their painting. You could involve them in the kitchen instead of letting them play cook in their tiny kid-sized kitchen that has no less than 100 separate pieces of plastic and wooden food that end up spread all over your house (aaaaaaaaaaaah!).

All of that would work. But it would come at a cost, in every sense of the word.

As appealing as it seems at times, to live in a nearly empty house that isn’t ALWAYS littered with toys and books and broken crayons (by result of making a conscious decision to live this way), ultimately it isn’t for me.

And so I fill my house with books, and blocks, and paint, and dolls, all of which teach different lessons, and all of which are beloved.

Less certainly can be more, and some day we will pare down. But at this stage in the game, stressing less about having more (and being thankful this is even something that I think about) is what I’ll be focusing on this holiday season.

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Except this toy. Less of this is definitely more.

 

 

What We Mean When We Say Enjoy Every Second

If one were ever inclined to purposefully turn a barely sane mother-on-the-verge into a tornado of rage, they must only utter the words, “Enjoy every second.”

This message is treasured by experienced mothers as if it were a cure-all salve made from unicorn tears. When delivered, it often comes with a knowing smile, and gentle pat on the arm. “Enjoy every second, dear,” says the Grandma at Target while your kid is standing in the checkout isle, pants around their ankles, screaming because you won’t buy them a bottle of rainbow vodka, and the Richard Simmons workout DVD they are white-knuckle clutching in their angry little fist.

Having someone tell me to enjoy every second used to make me want to Hulk-out. It is literally impossible to enjoy every second, and on that merit alone, it’s a dumb thing to say. So much of parenting is tedious and tiring and frustrating and NOT enjoyable in any way shape or form, and anyone who puts that kind of unrealistic pressure on me is obviously clinically insane, and is instantly discredited.

Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.

And then I had a second kid.

Holy time warp, Batman.

Getting my daughter from birth to two and a half, when her brother was born, felt like an eternity. Actually it felt like five or six eternities, because every step was foreign. Every move was questioned, every decision scruitinized. Every cry she let out (and there were a whole metric shit ton of them), was agonized over because I never knew how to handle them, nor could I ever pin point the cause of them.

Having someone casually suggest I enjoy ANY second of that made me want to throat punch them.

But since the birth of her brother, it’s all I can do to NOT focus on these fleeting seconds.

Since his birth almost 10 months ago, not only has he nearly turned into a toddler, but my daughter is now a little girl. Her body is long and lean, and capable of carrying her own things. Her brain is quick and sharp, constantly suprising me with how much she knows. There is not one ounce of baby left in her, and only the teeniest bit of toddler lingering in her graceful movements and wild laughter.

Seeing this makes me acutely aware of how quickly these 10 months have gone. It makes it easier to sit and stare, while my son naps in my lap, trying to etch every lash, every wrinkle, every puff of tiny baby breath into my brain, because I know in another blink of an eye, he will be a boy.

Knowing this, and watching it all happen with lightening speed, I now understand why strangers tell you to enjoy every second.

Parenting is hard, and parenting tiny humans, especially in the beginning, is dock-a-spaceship-on-a-satellite hard (that’s probably a thing, right?). Even if your focus isn’t on “perfection” merely surviving early parenthood is hard enough. Babies, it turns out, are assholes a lot of the time! Spouses can be super freaking annoying about alllllll kinds of things when you’re learning how to parent together. Parents and in laws can cross every boundary you can think of (well, maybe not every one), and make you want to rip out whatever hair hasn’t already fallen out. Work! Pets! That rabbit turd of a man Trump!

All of this is normal (except Trump), and all of this is hard. But all of this serves as a distraction from the magic that is seeing your baby turn into a human in just a few short months.

Of course if the old woman in the checkout line could corner you for 15 minutes, and your half-naked toddler would stop screaming about the Richard Simmons workout DVD so that you could actually hear her quiet wisdom, she’d tell you all of this. But she only has one second of your attention, which is why she condenses it down to three words.

Enjoy every second. Because damn, does it go by fast.

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Dear Husband, Before I Leave You To The Wolves Otherwise Known As Our Children

Dear Husband,

Much like Frodo, and his band of miniature misfits, you’re about to embark on a journey of great danger, confusing situations, and lots o’ poop ‘n screamin’. Okay, I don’t remember any poop in LOTR or The Hobbit, but as we all know, everybody poops. Even hobbits. Even Gandalf. Probably even orcs.

But(t), I digress.

In 8 short weeks, I will be jetting off to Vegas, and leaving you and our beloved children for four whole days. Having never left the children under your exclusive care for this long before, I think it’s fair to say we are both a solid level orange on the Holy Shit meter.

What will happen? How will you do it? What about bedtime? What about nap time? What about vegetables? How will you ever find the super secret parking spot at the park, or remember to pack an extra onesie in the diaper bag for the inevitable zoo poo that happens somewhere between the Tigers and the Komodo dragons? HOW WILL YOU DO IT?!?!?! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!

Before you pull the emergency exit handle, and pop out of this seemingly doomed airship in hopes of parachuting down to greener pastures, let me remind you of something: You have been a dad for exactly as long as I’ve been a mom. Exactly.

Every second of every minute, every hour, every day, every month, and every year, you’ve been a dad to our kids.

You know every freckle on our daughter’s face, every squeal and squeak she’s ever made. You could trace the cowlick on our son’s head with your eyes closed, and get him to smile even in the midst of his worst moods. You know what they need, when they need it, and (theoretically) how to get it to them.

Now of course it’s not so simple as knowing what they need, and them then accepting it. There will be battles. Oooooh will there be battles. But that’s not unique to you being there, and me being gone. I battle with them all day, every day over all the things they will battle you over. Shoes, pants, not eating cat hair… You will see.

But you will also survive, and they will survive, largely in part because you are not an Orc. You will have to get creative. You will have to be okay with an 8000% temporary increase in screen time, and a 9000% decrease in dishes involving eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. But you will figure it out, and in the end, we will all be better for it.

So when the going gets tough, and the boy is screaming like a Dingo is sizing him up for dinner, and the girl is running around the couch naked with a spatula covered in grape jelly, just remember that we live in North America and there are no Dingos. But grape jelly is going to be a bitch to get out of the sofa, so maybe address that before tending to the littlest member of our tribe.

The only difference between us is my milk ducts are lactating, and yours are shriveled and useless. But you aren’t useless. You’re amazing and capable and old enough to buy beer to calm your frazzled nerves at the end of the day.

If you need me, I’ll be by the pool, probably without my phone. If it’s really serious and someone has been bleeding for a while, call the front desk and have them come get me.

xoxo


Image credit: Frodo