Month: December 2016

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.

 

 

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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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