Archives for posts with tag: parenthood

Covered in reminders of things to do, woman freaks out!

I know I joke a lot about the boys. Like, a lot. I post a lot about their funny and absurd situations and sayings. And I share hilarious memes about how insane parenting is. But sometimes, it’s so hard and draining. Really really really really…..hard.

This week has been one of those weeks juxtaposed with incredible exciting news and progress in my work life.

My seven year old being home and not going to camp, like we planned this summer, has made things super challenging for me. I am balancing four different worlds of work, plus two kids, full time.

I have a three year old that hasn’t been sleeping in his bed which means, I haven’t been getting sleep.

I’ve dragged them to meetings and coffee shop write sessions. I’ve carted them to and from swim lessons, piano, summer camp (little one is still in his), doctor appointments, make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and snacks so many damn snacks, all while balancing my work load. And this is the job, I know that. I’ve done it for 7.5 years.

Yesterday I had a huge moment in my writing career and they managed to destroy it for me. I am going to say it, and it sounds harsh because they’re kids, but sometimes kids are crazy. Sometimes, they don’t act right. I love them, I would kill for them, I would die for them but yesterday, they didn’t act right.

I had a meeting with my writing coach and what turned into a kid free meeting transitioned to one kid and then after a preschooler morning tantrum begging to stay home, transitioned into me dragging two kids across the city to sit in a coffee shop quietly while I met.

They forgot what the word quiet meant. Erased it from their cognitive function. They were so bad. Jack was challenging me and just disrespectful and defiant. Alex followed his lead. A meeting that I paid an hour for lasted less then thirty minutes. Because I decided to cut it short, after the second “I have to poop, mommy!” statement came. Yes, somehow, two preschooler poops in under thirty minutes.

During one of the brief moments we had to chat before another interruption, she said that the way I was diving into the characters and how I portray these family relationships could really make this book a hit.

Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear those words? I have dreamed of writing a novel since I was a child. And my children, interrupted that blissful bubble within seconds by complaining and throwing things and acting so rude.

I couldn’t even relish that comment. I didn’t even get two seconds of pure bliss about it.

I know this post may seem whiny and complainy, but I truly don’t do this a lot with my kids. I take it all with a grain of salt, mostly. I crack jokes and find the absurd humor in how wild a ride this is. Because it is. And if you don’t fucking laugh, you will just sit in a corner and cry about it. And that’s no fun.

But this time was different. It was too far. This time was a dream of mine and all I asked for was for them to sit quietly on their devices, which you would think would be amazing. Unlimited unsupervised screen time! They couldn’t. They wouldn’t. They didn’t. They refused.

Moms have limits. Edges. Every so often our precious bundles of joy nudge a little too close and, boop, we go over that edge. This was me yesterday. Right over the edge. I am burnt out, to say it gently.

Being a working mom, especially a work from home freelancer extraordinaire mom is fucking hard. I am expected to be a full time mom and a full time writer/officer/director/secretary (these are all the hats I wear). I wear them by choice. They are all passion projects. I want to wear them. But I also want someone to cut me some fucking slack, coughcoughkidscoughcough.

I don’t have a lot of mom in me today. I have been lazy. I haven’t been able to focus on my book, which I should still be riding that comment/thought, but I was just staring at my document and nada. I did feel all of this that I poured into this post. Maybe this will help. Writing is my catharsis, after all. Maybe I will use what happened yesterday in the book somehow, twisting and turning that moment into the story I have been pouring every fiber of my being into. Art imitates life.

But today, today, I wanted to feel sorry for myself. Tomorrow, tomorrow they go away for the weekend with Grandma. Tomorrow, I reset. Tomorrow, I write.

 

 

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Quietly and methodically, I pushed open the door. Muscle memory, knowing exactly which way to turn the handle and how far to inch it open. Just enough to squeeze through. Barely breathing and moving my body with control, so as not to make even the slightest sound. A routine of silence and careful movement engrained in me.

Tonight, my movement stops suddenly. My eyes are greeted by a pile of pencil shavings gathered on the white carpet. My head turns up, a blanket half falling off the top bunk obscures the bottom bunk and I am too short to get a good look at the occupant of the top bunk.

It was him. My top bunk occupant. I know that. He asked for a pencil sharpener before I sang his goodnight song.

You must have a conversation about how there’s a better way to dispose of these at night.

Then, I paused.

Pages and pages of his drawings.

His comics.

His self-illustrated fiction stories.

His desire to be a video game designer.

That was how he spent first grade. There are piles of these works and pieces strewn about his desk and bedroom. At first glance, it appears to be messy chaos. When I look deeper, I see a collection of carefully created art work.

He cradled a stack of multi-colored papers and a sketchbook under his arm as he climbed into bed. Balancing up the ladder with the free arm, careful not to drop his blank canvases.

I didn’t pay much attention at the time. No, bedtime is a circus, and I am usually struggling to stay afloat and keep them moving through the routine. Wrangling them from balls of energy running circles around me, to bouncy balls instructed to stay in their beds, and finally to restful angels with black eyelashes dusting their faces, restful, recharging, asleep.

He must have been furiously drawing to gather that many shavings. The artist in front of my eyes slowly morphs from a sweet-faced seven year old into a serious and focused artist.

When he made his way down from his top bunk and into the living room, he was clutching his sketchbook.

“Mommy? Remember when we were, um, watching, that behind the scenes of Inside Out last night? Well, I was wondering, what do you think, which one of these is better?”

He opened his sketchbook to two different pages with sunsets.

“I like them both. One is more realistic and one is more abstract,” I replied.

Beaming, he nodded, “That’s what I was doing!”

This is a passion. He is a creator. He possesses an artist’s soul. From drawing, to sewing, to beadwork, to building legos, to playing piano. Art is always flowing from his small fingertips and into the world. I watch my hyper flips on the couch can’t sit down during dinner little boy, transform into a focused diligent quiet young man.

He sat through an hour of interviews at the end of Inside Out learning how they developed the film. Just listening to these professional break down their artistic process. A seven year old was as enthralled with this process as he was the actual film.

“When I grow up, I am going to work for Pixar!”

The shavings can stay. The shavings will go unmentioned. I will simply vacuum them up, on my own time. Keeping any seeds of doubt or hesitation away from him. Embracing his artistic collateral damage.

 

 

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2:50 a.m., I was shaken out of my slumber. I felt jarred but quickly recognized the  rhythm of the tiny hand pats that disrupted my dreams. I lift the eye mask from my eyes, shifting it to my forehead. My eyes focus, as well as they can in a dark room without my glasses.

My three year old is the patter. A tender aged child.

“Mama. I need water” he mumble-whined. It’s his special middle of the night voice. It sounds muffled and far away. But I know it anywhere. This wake-up call is not a rare occurrence. At the minimum he does this once a week. Sometimes more.

“Mmm. Ok.” I murmur. Still asleep. I take the ear plugs from my ears and place them on my nightstand.

Gathering myself I sit on the edge of my bed. His little body against my knees.

“Ok. Mama get you some water. Then we go to your bed?”

I scoop him up in my lap. His face nestled in to my neck. It’s their spot. Always the right side of my body. The crook between my neck and shoulder seems perfectly molded for my children’s faces. No matter their size.

“Do you want one of your water bottles?”

“Yeah mama,” still his middle of the night mumble-whine.

“Ok. Let’s get you one. Then mama put you in your bed.”

“No, mama. I go sleep in your bed.”

I’m silent this time. Knowing better than getting him all worked up. The less we talk about it the better. It’s what works for him.

Carrying his 33 pounds, groggy across the house, I fumble through the dark kitchen cabinet and find a water bottle. No lid. I set him down on the ground and sigh. Squinting, luckily I remembered my glasses, I rummage through the clean dishwasher. Finding the straw and lid. Relief. The sound of water hitting the plastic fills the silence of the 3am kitchen. The city is eerily silent at that time. The cacophony of city sounds silenced
I hand him his water bottle and scoop him up. He finds his spot. Soft skin against mine. His breathing vibrating through my body.

“No mama. I sleep in you bed,” he noticed I took a different path. The path to his room.

“Mmm you’re a big boy. You have to sleep in your bed sweetheart,” I wonder in my head if I should just bring him with me. No. The doctor says to put him in his bed. I have an arbitrary cut off time. 4 a.m. If it’s after 4 a.m. I will just scoop him up and snuggle for a bit. He didn’t make my made-up cutoff.

I rock him. I sing to him. I reassure him he’s ok in his bed. Slowly I make our way closer to his pile of plushies and blankets.

“No. Mama. No. I sleep with you!” He continues his lament. My heart aches to cave. But we’ve already started. He’s in his bed.

“Mama tuck you in. Want another song? Which one do you think?” No answer. I sigh and pick rock-a-bye-baby. I don’t like the ending to that one. But it’s the first song that entered my sleepy brain. His eyes get heavy and close. I know he’s still alert though. I rub his face.

“Don’t go mama”

I sing one verse of the ants go marching. Then I kneel down next to his bed. Settling in. I’ll have to wait until his breathing slows and his eyes stay closed.

Every few seconds they flutter open. Checking in. The check-ins begin to spread out.
I sit there watching his face. My own eyes heavy. They keep shutting. But I know. I must wait. I sit until the breathing slows and eyes stay closed.

Back in my own bed, I keep hearing “mama” In my head. And my tired mind wanders to the children in Texas. The tender aged ones especially. Who are waking up scared and thirsty and seeking the comfort of their mama’s arms. And they’re not allowed. The caregivers aren’t even allowed to hug them.

Tossing and turning I finally fell back asleep. It was restless and sweaty with some nightmare where I was trying to escape some unknown villain.

Pat pat pat. I am jarred awake, yet again. I pull my eye mask off, for the second time in hours. A taller form hovers over my bed. My seven year old. The sun beams around the curtains.

“Mommy? I had a nightmare.”

Silently, I scooch over and pat the outside of the bed. I catch a glimpse of a small smile that spreads across his cheeks. His mind is settling. He has me. He crawls in, and buries his face in my pillow, inches from my head. I wrap my blankets around him and bring my hand to his head. I run my fingers against the grain of his freshly buzzed scalp. I like the scratchiness of that.

Again, my mind wanders back to the mothers whose children are being held in tent cities in hundred degree heat. I bet some of those mothers like how it feels when they run their fingers through their child’s freshly buzzed hair. I bet their seven year olds would still seek their comfort when they have a nightmare. Except now they are all living a nightmare and cannot manage to get into each other’s arms. Because, the American Government has separated them.

I feel blessed and heartbroken. I get to comfort my boys when their sleep is disrupted. The children at the border, their whole world has been uprooted and changed and disrupted and the very simple act of laying in their parent’s arms has been stolen from them too.

I work for a refugee organization. I have been there for over a year now and it is the greatest pride of my life. The thing is, no parent would choose to uproot their family and flee across hundreds and thousands of miles to an unknown future, unless the place they were living was absolutely terrible and unsafe. The idea of making that arduous journey while not knowing where exactly you may end up, is a beacon of hope compared to the circumstances that triggered the need to flee.

There is no luxury of planning this trip. There is no Traveolicity for refugees. They don’t have the option of seeking asylum from the comfort of their home, sitting on their Crate and Barrel couch with their laptop on their lap. That is not the situation. They are trying, with all their might, to save their children’s lives.

That is how these families end up here. That is why these families end up here. They seek safety and a better life for their children. I dare anyone who has children and thinks separating parents and children is acceptable, to consider that. Consider what you would do if your choices were, watching your children suffer or fleeing to a country that used to plea, give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I challenge you to consider. I challenge you to empathize. I challenge you to care. I challenge you to imagine how it would feel if you couldn’t comfort your babies when they cry in the dark.

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Yes, we wore these to see the film.

I have been waiting some fourteen years to see this sequel. My kids have been waiting a handful of years. I feel like their waiting pales in comparison to mine, so I argue that I was more excited than they were to see this film. We were all pretty into it though. And what’s more exciting than dressing up like characters together and going to see a film on a Saturday afternoon? For us, not much else. We are nerdy-nerds. And totally comfortable with that.

This movie did not disappoint. It was so engaging and funny. It has many feminist themes to it, including balancing modern mother and womanhood. Being a working mom. It covered mom-guilt and changing familial dynamics when a mom goes back to working outside of the home. It showed Elastigirl becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of being the star and finding herself again. This is something that many mothers will instantly recognize and relate to. So often, we lose ourselves, especially in the years when the kids are little. It is hard to shift out of mom mode and into woman mode, and it can be scary. At some point though, you find the balance and you begin to cherish your life outside of your kids. Or rather, you begin to give yourself permission to feel enjoyment without them and enjoyment with them. You begin to shed some of the crushing guilt, so that it becomes just this low-grade subtle guilt. I argue, it never really goes away, it sort of lingers in the background. We adapt and get better at managing it.

I couldn’t help but feel the twinge of guilt myself when today, my child said he would rather I quit writing and quit helping refugees so I could just devote all of my attention to him (and his brother, but he didn’t explicitly mention the still sharing my attention with another human thing) I explained to him I can’t do that because I like, no love, what I do. And I am doing exciting things. Mind you, this was at the Field Museum, and we were spending the entire day together, my attention and time was theirs. But littles, they always want more!

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Back to the film. Another one of my favorite things, and this goes for the first film as well, is that it explores marriage problems and joys that married couples with kids encounter. It didn’t shy away from those themes the second time around. It puts these issues in front of the audience faces with humor. It’s very relatable and I couldn’t help but look over a few times at my husband and chuckle. I think this is one of the key reasons why I feel so drawn to this franchise. They address these topics head on and they do it so intelligently. It all rings true and even though these are cartoons, adults will relate to Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl’s dynamics, problems, love, and bond.

Jack-Jack is certainly adorable. I cannot get enough of his giggle and they did a great job with presenting his multitude of powers. Perhaps, he is the most incredible of the Incredibles. It was precious and hilarious. Arguably, the best relationship in this film is Jack-Jack and Edna Mode. When you see it, you will understand. Perfection!

Mr. Incredible’s taste of exactly what motherhood entails was spot on and again, hilarious. Hilarious is a theme in this film! My husband is super hands-on with our kids and is truly my partner, but when it comes down to it, I end up carrying a lot of the parenting load because, they want me or they need me or because my schedule is more flexible (the perks of working remotely and being a writer). Moms will thoroughly appreciate seeing what Mr. Incredible’s transformation from cocky/confident about dealing with things, to totally wiped out because, kids are damn hard to take care of.

I cannot wait to see this film again and I know it will end up on our regular rotation of afternoon movie sessions on the couch. It was a hit with all of us. If you haven’t seen it and loved the first, go! You will not be disappointed.

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Life After Food Allergies

Your entire family comes to a halt when your son is diagnosed with food allergies. It’s hard on your son. Hard on you and your husband. Hard on your older son. You micromanage meals. You read every single ingredient on packages. You hesitate before parties. Who is bringing what? “Don’t feed him anything without asking me first.” You want to vomit when you send him off to school, alone. Your new normal causes a cosmic shift at home. You settle into the uncomfortable new normal. The allergy years rage on.

The day comes, the moment you dreamed about. Oral Food Challenge Day. You don’t sleep the night before, tossing, turning, worrying. Certain he will react. Heart races. Sweat oozes. Vomit feeling returns.

You sit in the hospital while hours inch by. You talk to doctors and nurses. You smile. Its fake. A thin façade one wrong tap away from crumbling. Mamas wear this veil often.

You restrain your hysterical son as they put the IV in. He bites you. He hits you. He yells “NO MOMMY, DON’T DO THIS!” The child psychologist they brought in to “keep him calm and talk him through this” is useless, slumped against the wall. You wonder how much it cost you to pay for her slump. You cling to your brave facade. You watch every second of the procedure, needle piercing that perfect skin you love to kiss so much.

When you walk out of Lurie Children’s Hospital, you are in a state of shock. He passed. He is done. You are done. Your family is done! It doesn’t feel real. Dreamlike trip down the hospital elevator. It was a long stressful day. You tried explaining to a three year old why he had to eat the food you swore makes him sick. He doesn’t understand any of this. You had to train him to be his own advocate. The cost of safety frightened him, maybe forever.

You buy the offenders. Banana. Avocado. Kiwi. Bring them home. House is stocked with forbidden foods. Old forbidden foods. He won’t eat even one bite of banana. Still insisting it makes him sick, that he doesn’t like that, that he hates them.

You offer to make banana cookies. Let’s make this fun! He helps. He smiles. Big brother helps, he is very excited, bananas are his favorite. You bake the cookies. Let them cool. Hand him one cookie. He takes a nibble, yuck! “They are gross mama,” he says.

You sigh, and let it go. Big brother likes the cookies. You like them even more and end up eating most of them. They taste like banana bread. You offer banana with breakfast. “No.” Banana with lunch? “No.” You let it go for a day, a week, “banana?” “No! Bananas make me sick, mama.” You smile. “Not anymore sweetheart, but we can try again later.”

You peel a banana. You don’t scrub your hands and handle his food at the same time. You wipe your hands on a towel, not panicking that he might have a reaction. You feel free. The burden of reactions no longer dragging you into the abyss.

You bring avocado back to Taco Tuesday. The whole family likes this. You never really stressed the avocado allergy, because toddlers and babies don’t have much time to get their hands on one of those. He tries that. “Too spicy” Normal three year old reaction. You feel a wave of relief.

You go to the closet to grab something. Your eyes linger on the epi-pens. “I should toss those.” You don’t You close the door. Turn off the light. Walk away. Maybe later.

You sneak a banana into your smoothie. He loves your smoothies. He drinks that. He doesn’t know. You feel sneaky but victorious.

School tells you they had banana with lunch. He wouldn’t eat it. “I no eat the banana mama.” “It’s ok. Maybe when you’re six!” “Yeah when I’m six!”

You thought the other side of food allergies meant life going back to the first normal. You were wrong. It laid way for another new normal. You slipped on a new worry: that you caused permanent damage.

You look in the mirror, shake your head. You fought for him. You took the punches and bites. You cleaned up the vomit. You rushed him to the ER. You demanded answers from doctors. You made lists. You made documents. You had a medical binder. You HAD to teach him to be safe. It was life or death after all. You are strong. The other side of food allergies is your next journey. He outgrew the offenders. He will outgrow the fear.

I wrote this piece specifically for a writing contest. Alas, I did not win. Such is the life of a writer. Moments of unadulterated joy and success followed by a dark pit of despair and failure. There are rarely middle moments of mediocrity. Or maybe there are, but they get lost in the whirlwind of highs and lows. In my younger years, I think this moment of failure may have destroyed a bit of me. I am sad, of course, but this is not the only thing I have going for me. It is part of the writer’s life. We don’t win them all. Not every reader will enjoy our writing. Maybe you will hate this piece below. I am not sure. I am not sure I care. I wrote it. It is true. It is honest. It is a part of my very being, always lingering behind my happiness. This sadness that engulfed me when my grandma died. A sadness that never quite leaves. It ebbs and flows throughout my day dreams and middle of the night over-thinking sessions. So here is a brief story about my grandma, her life and death. It is not the whole story, I need an entire book for that, but a glimpse into one of the relationships that shaped the woman I am. 

She Was Too Tired

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My grandma and I were always close. Summers spent climbing the trees in her never ending yard. Was the yard really as expansive as I remember? It seemed to go on and on. Sleepovers with cuddles on the couch. “Grandma can you play with my hair some more?” The answer was always yes. Her long nails, scratching my scalp for hours on end. Was it really hours? I am not sure, but to me, it felt like she had all the time in the world to play with my hair. Tantrums ignited by having to leave the comfort of her walls. Six-year-old me even ran away from home. Riding my bike across town. Knocking on her backdoor. “Can I live with you? Mom and Dad won’t let me do what I want to do.”

I have this photo of her, my grandpa, and my firstborn son. Sitting on the couch, smiles on all their faces. He was six months old. The only child of mine she got to meet. As I was folding hand-me-down clothing for my youngest son, I came across the onesie from the photo. I stopped. My hands shaking. My stomach began to churn. Gingerly twisting the fabric between my fingers. Tumbling back in my memory to that afternoon. She was on the other side of my camera. Smiling at me.

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When I was eight months pregnant with my youngest son, my grandma died. I was sitting in my backyard, watching my three-year-old son play in the sand when my phone rang.

When I walked into her hospital room, nausea enveloped by body. She was hooked up to so many tubes. A giant mask on her face. The hum of oxygen penetrating the empty spaces around us. My grandma, who I used to tell “you’s not fat grandma, you’s fluffy!” looked so thin and frail in that bed. The next few days were a blur. Me and my round belly, waddling back and forth from the hospital. Sitting by her side, with my grandpa, with my dad.

Then came hospice. We got her settled into her room. Everyone gone, only my parents and I remained. I walked over to her, leaned down, and kissed her. Whispering, “get some rest grandma. I will see you tomorrow.”

She took my advice. The next and last time I saw my grandma, whose very presence oozed warmth and grandma-ness, was in her coffin. Unborn baby in my belly. An unborn baby she would never take a photo with. An unborn baby whose middle name would be the very name she gave her own son, my dad. She was too tired to find out how the story ended. She needed her rest.

 

*Special thank you to my friends and personal editors who volunteered and helped me edit this piece. I am eternally grateful to you and your intelligently sharp eyes. Ashley, Taryn, and Amanda. A writer is nothing without a great editor. Thank you! Thank you to my mom and husband who both told me this was a great piece and are always cheering my writing on. I could send them a run-on sentence jotted on a gum wrapper and they would say it was great! Thank you for believing in my writing no matter what.* 

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It’s not hard to believe that the little snuggly burrito in this photo is the seven year old young man that shuffled out of his room this morning. Looking taller. Or maybe that is just my mom colored glasses, biased to the fact that you’re a year older. Your face aglow with joy as you took in our birthday tradition. A room. A kitchen. A house. Decorated to celebrate the wonder that is your life.

That’s how time works. That is why it’s not hard to believe. It slaps me in the face every year. Baby burritos grow into young men. Seven. Seven is official. Seven is maturity. Seven is making your own breakfast. Seven is needing less help. Seven is a mom’s eyes lingering over your dimples and less round cheeks. Lost in in a sea of memories of soft downy hair, soft blankets, and baby scent. Tumbling back in time to hours spent on a couch from three homes ago, breastfeeding you for hours on end. Two souls, unsure of the new life ahead, sleeping, waking, sleeping, waking, but not moving much. Taking time to discover motherhood and infanthood.

Seven is a mom rambling on about scenes from a lifetime ago. Seven is exploration. Seven is picking up your little brother to show him things too high for his three year old length to reach. Seven is moods. Seven is opinions. Seven is bubble gum. Seven is best friends. Seven is letting you fly on your own, just a pinch more. That’s hard. Seven is never sitting still. Oh, well, that has been every year. That is you. Not unique to only this year of life. Seven came too fast. Seven will end too fast. Eight will be here when I blink next.

Motherhood is a bittersweet exploration of life. Elation and indescribable joy tightly intertwined with heavy sinking sadness. Each year your child grows, you celebrate their milestones and joys while knowing in the very abyss of your soul that you are letting go in subtle delicate ways. That is my journey to honor. That is my burden to absorb. For you, sweet, caring, emotional, intelligent, stubborn, honest, funny human, I long for you to absorb the wonder that is seven. Seven is beautiful. Seven is you.

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I wrote this piece the morning of the Las Vegas shootings. It began as a stream of consciousness. I had to do something. I had to get the thoughts in my brain out somehow. As I wrote, I decided it would be the piece I submitted for the Resistance Writing Workshop. I scrapped another piece I had written (and was stuck on the ending). After many revisions and taking into account my classmates’ and instructor’s edits/thoughts/ideas, then letting it sit for a while, for some reason unable or afraid to face it once more, then ultimately sitting down to dig in and edit once more, a title change, and some additions/removals to the body, I am sharing it below. 

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Mass Shootings from a Mother’s Perspective 

I remember precisely where I was when news of Sandy Hook broke in 2012. I was folding laundry in my bedroom, my oldest son, not yet two years old, napping. Maybe I was listening to music or something. I don’t remember that particular detail. I was oblivious to the terror taking place. A new mom, only a year under my belt. Folding, folding, folding, folding, and humming along. My phone buzzed, a text from my husband. Asking if I had seen the news about the elementary school shooting. I hadn’t. I checked the internet and made my way downstairs to turn on the news. That news morphed into an increasingly tragic narrative. Stomach churning at every confirmed update. How? Why? Babies, these are babies. Spinning, slow motion. My world changed that day. I was a mom now. That could be my baby. You see things differently when you have children, things hit you harder or in ways they didn’t before your heart left your body, walking around this dangerous, and all too often, hideous world.

I remember crying as I watched the news later that night, that narrative still increasingly tragic. The death count being confirmed. Something bubbling up inside of me. Outrage! Names and faces being shared. Acid in my throat! Babies. So many babies. Nausea!

My son playing on the floor in our living room, his little body giggling with joy and happiness. His chubby little face, smiling, dimples deep in those chubby cheeks, so pure and innocent. Christmas was around the corner. Those babies wouldn’t get a Christmas. Gifts were already under Christmas trees, awaiting joyful reactions in the early hours, groggy parents beaming, satisfied, happy. Now, those parents would wake up on Christmas morning, destroyed, something so profoundly important, shattered and missing. I wanted to throw up thinking of their pain. My heart physically hurt, looking at my child, thinking how much I love him and knowing how much they love their children. Those small, fragile bodies, laying cold in that school, alone, dark, parents unable to hold them. The image is enough to make me collapse from grief.

I really thought our country would change after that. I was hopeful. Surely, this had to be the last straw. The slaughter of 20 small children would force us to look in the mirror and examine our interpretations of amendments written long ago. When a single musket ball, which took minutes to reload, were the rights and arms referenced. I knew we would do something to take these firearms, that can slaughter and maim so many in a matter of seconds, out of civilian hands.

I was wrong. Nothing changed. People, lobbies, NRA, they fought back harder. “Guns don’t kill people!” Except, yes, they do. They kill babies and adults, children trying to get an education, and people trying to dance at a nightclub, and people enjoying a music festival, or a holiday party, or shopping at a mall, or watching a movie. They slaughter people. They tear human bodies to shreds. They make internal organs explode. They leave bodies riddled with gaping holes. They destroy communities.

This morning I sat on my couch in the dark. My three year old had crawled into my bed in the early hours, I had to rub his face to get him to fall back asleep. By then, my alarm went off, and I rolled out of bed, groggy, making my way to sip coffee and do a crossword puzzle. I made the mistake of checking my New York Times app, what was going on this Monday morning? The first headline put that all too familiar pit back in my stomach. It said there were 20 dead and 200 injured. An hour later, when I turned on the TV, the numbers had more than doubled, each.

I thought things would change after Sandy Hook. Yet, here we are. Again and again and again and yet again.

Since Sandy Hook, I have had a second child. That two year old I played with on the floor is now almost seven. The same age as those sweet babies at Sandy Hook. In first grade, those dimples, and humor, and all love. My sweet boy. Nothing about this fight has changed though. We have not learned, or rather the stubborn ones have been more effective at resisting than those of us who want real change.

A mass shooting is considered four or more victims. On average, every day in America there is more than one mass shooting. They may not all make national headlines, but they’re happening. And then there are these ones where casualties reach astronomical numbers. Can we truly wrap our heads around those numbers from behind our TVs or computers? I try to. I try to think of the hundreds of families who entire lives just broke into a thousand pieces.

Depressingly, I think overall, there is a disconnect. People move on. This will last for a few days, maybe weeks, until the next big news story breaks. We will move on, the viewers. The families and victims will always have an angry painful scar and deep gaping hole. There is no shifting focus for them. After some unpredictable amount of time, this will happen again. People will offer “prayers for fill in the blank!” Share images of skylines of that locale, or maybe a filter of the local flag over their profile photo. Temporary option chosen, of course. It is temporary for those not directly affected. Prayers for them. For a day. Prayers haven’t helped. They don’t do anything to change our reality. If they did, surely Sandy Hook would have been the last straw. It wasn’t, not remotely.

I crave change. I can feel the desire churning in my belly. Bubbling and brewing, confusion setting in over how this is still a debate. Every day I send my boys to school. Some days fear creeps up, whispering loudly behind my smiling goodbye eyes. Will today be a safe day? Who was that stranger walking by the school? Are the security measures enough? Parents living with the fear of their children not coming home from classrooms, places of supposed safety.

Our children live through active shooter drills. “Mommy, we all had to be quiet in the classroom. The police walked by to check doors. They wiggled the handle! My teacher got in trouble because she forgot to lock ours.” He was in Kindergarten. Kindergarteners. Five and six year olds.

The familiar fear crept up this morning. I dropped two small boys off at their schools. Kissed their sweet, innocent faces goodbye, my fear masked by my loving mom face. The thought of nightmarish possibilities lingered behind my smiling goodbye eyes. The lump in my throat was my escort home.

We cannot police minds. We can try to search for warning signs and suspicions. See something, say something, or so it goes. Mental health does play a critical role in these incidents. It is a factor, but it is not the only one. The ease with which people can access these weapons designed for war, capable of mass murder, plays an even larger role. The type of weapon used plays a role in the outcome. This man, I won’t say his name, I refuse, would not have been able to stab nearly 500 people in a matter of minutes. It is as simple as that. The slaughter that happened wouldn’t have been an option with a knife.

Over 500 hundred people were injured at this festival. 500. Close your eyes for a moment and think about how large that number is. There are less than 500 students in my son’s entire school. That is how massive the carnage is. Almost 60 people were slaughtered, and that number may rise in the next hours, days, weeks, months even.

When will we learn? What will it take? When will “The deadliest mass shooting in US history!” finally be a large enough total? What is the magic number? Will someone you know be a part of it? Will I?

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Depending on the moment, down to the second, my desire to have a third child has been susceptible to change. Are both boys peacefully sleeping on me? Their dark eyelashes dusting their skin? Chests rhythmically rising and falling with a small snore escaping their perfectly tiny noses? Oh, the urge to create another perfect tiny human radiates through all my bones, sinew, and joints. Are both boys in the middle of a literal knock out fight, screaming, “THAT’S MINE!” and punching each other? My uterus curls up into a ball, holding a small knife out, yelling, “come near me and someone gets cut!” That is how easily I could switch between the idea of adding another human to our brood.

I love my boys. I don’t have a desire to have a girl specifically (people ask that a lot), but sometimes the lure of newborn scent and snuggle is tough to resist. Reflecting on baby photos of my rapidly growing boys can make me tenderly remember those hours rocking them in gliders, nursing them to sleep. Pressing down the memories of desperate desire for sleep and the battles of breastfeeding. The urge pops up every so often, while I simultaneously and loudly lament, “I am definitely DONE having babies.” The thought was there: the consideration then the dismissal. Shooing away my husband as he hugged me and said, “let’s make a third!” But the choice was ultimately mine.

Until last week. Last week that was taken away from me by my own body. Or at least, I learned about this new version of me. Without getting into the nitty gritty details of that, because I am not sure I am ready to, the bottom line is this: my ability to have more babies has become very unlikely. Writing that out sent a chill through my body. I can describe the moment I received the news. I happened to answer my doctor’s call in the middle of the park last Thursday morning. All of the children running around me in slow motion, voices distorted, my head spinning. Knowing when I hit the red end button, I had to turn around, with a smile, and ask my boys if they wanted to go grab lunch yet.

I am only thirty-two years old. I know I have two gorgeous, funny, adorable, sweet, snuggly, happy boys. I know that. I love them more than anything in this world. I live for them, if it wasn’t clear through my countless articles and posts I have written. I am thankful they’re mine. This doesn’t mean a part of me didn’t die last week, literally. It did. Even if I have already produced two amazing tiny humans. That part of my life is dead now, over. There will be no more newborn scents or wails drifting through our halls. There will be no more onesies or swaddles. There will be no more little genetic combos of my husband and myself.

Until last week, It was my choice to make or not make. That was a power piece I held. If two years from now, both boys in school full time, I missed that baby stage so much, I could have added another to our bunch. That was always a possibility. Choice. I had a choice.

I have anxiety, so of course, I have been replaying a lot in my own brain the last few days. Living in my head. Yesterday I let myself breakdown entirely. Today, I have emerged from the fog. I gave myself one day of mourning and now it is back to my usual routine. As I walked to the grocery store, headphones in, I thought about the fact that I started having babies when I was twenty-five. These days, that is considered young. I remember my OB saying to me “you are the youngest woman in my practice, except my teen moms.” This used to annoy me. Today, I am eternally grateful. What if we hadn’t decided to try for Jackson when I was that young? What if I had said no to Jason about trying to have Alex just before Jackson turned three? What if I had insisted on waiting? The thought breaks my heart.

I feel like I lost a little piece of something last week. Regardless of the fact, that at this moment in life, I didn’t want another baby, it was still my choice to make. I had more time to make that choice. Who knows where we will be in a couple years. Maybe maybe maybe. This doesn’t change our family in any literal sense at this moment, but I do feel different. I feel broken. I feel like a failure. I feel trapped in my own body. I feel like I am incapable. Of what? I am not sure. A female’s worth doesn’t revolve around baby-making, I know that. I am so much more than “just a mom.” There is more to me than that part of my life, but it is a part and a big one.

Back to that internal battle, only this time it isn’t over whether I want another baby or not. Rather, it’s that I am not broken because I can’t have another baby. It’s that in time, I will accept this new normal of my body and life. For now, I just look back at the serendipitous moments that led to me having two children before the ability to do so was prematurely snatched away from my grasp.

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My oldest son is finishing up Kindergarten next week. I have been having an internal struggle with this stage of life we are leaving behind. The idea of First Grade seems harder for me to accept than Kindergarten was. There is still something that makes them feel so little while they are in Kindergarten. It is their toe dip into the big world of education. With First Grade looming in the wings, I cannot help but feel that there is one last piece of babyhood I am quickly losing my grip on.

My son will not be having a Kindergarten graduation ceremony. It is just how things worked out at his school this year. I am a little sad about that. I have even toyed with the idea of staging my own at home. (I am only half joking) I am sure I can find a cap and gown on Amazon in a pinch. I am not above doing something silly like that!

Recently, I overheard some people talking about how they find no value in any childhood graduation ceremonies. They even went to far as to say High School graduation is unimportant. I could not disagree with them more. I find value in celebrating these kinds of events. I cherish those moments. I am not a perfect parent and I never pretend to be. We all have our moments. When it comes down to it though, I cherish these important moments of my children’s lives. I go out of my way to create happy moments together.

We try our hardest to use positive reinforcement with our boys. I said we try. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we end up yelling. Every parent loses their patience once in a while. However, we value the concept and practice of positive reinforcement. This morning we cheered on our toddler who cleaned up a mess he created yesterday. He got high-fives and a ton of praise. Despite the fact that he was being straight up destructive when he threw my container of ear plugs around my bedroom. His face was a big cheesy grin when he heard us praise his clean up job. As a parent, you learn when to let go of the lesson and bring on the encouragement. It can be a balancing act, but you adapt. When you think about it, staging small graduation ceremonies for Preschool, Kindergarten, Middle School, and then the big one in High School, creates the ultimate method of positive reinforcement. You are creating happy and celebratory memories. You are encouraging them to work hard and follow through.

Childhood memories have value later in life. Close your eyes and think back to your happiest childhood memory. Maybe it was a family vacation, maybe a certain holiday, maybe it was a normal day that ended up being so silly and fun, maybe it was a graduation ceremony. The examples are endless. There is even a chance you had a hard time picking just one happy childhood memory. The Wall Street Journal examined the importance of childhood memories. The research determined that when children are able to recall childhood memories, they learn to cope better and have an easier time adjusting later in life. It helps them to develop their own sense of self. This allows them to reflect on their lives and see if they have stayed the same as a person or if they have changed and grown. When they recall happy memories, for example, a large happy life event that involves their family (think Kindergarten graduation ceremony), they learn to value family moments. The reason all of these internal changes occur is because children learn from their recalled memories as they mature.

There is a point in having a graduation ceremony for a child. There is lifelong value in that. Sure, it is not the only way to promote healthy, happy, and positive memories. There are so many opportunities in childhood for happiness. It is one way though. One which should not be scoffed at. How miserable are you as a person to scoff at a happy little afternoon for a child? When we value creating happy moments for our children, we are preparing them for a lifetime of living and learning.

I will do my best to make my son’s last day of Kindergarten memorable, even without a structured graduation ceremony. I always have him hold up signs on his first and last day of school. I started in pre-school. I already have my supplies to make next week’s sign. We will do something fun after I pick him up. He can choose dinner that night. I am not above having a box of goodies for him to open when he walks back through our door a First Grader. I am so proud of him for working so hard this year! Kids work hard in school. Their brains are growing, synapses firing, they create and absorb new knowledge! That is something to celebrate and encourage. What value is there in making a child feel like the work they accomplished is stupid and a waste of time? None, there is none. What will create a better world? Lifting up these tiny humans who will one day be in charge. Lifting them up high and celebrating their lives, happiness, joy, and success will only make our world a better and brighter place.

If I had my way, I would throw my children a graduation every year. I cannot wait to see how they both grow over the next school year, even if a piece of me is sad to watch my babies grow. I cannot wait to be a part of the happy childhood memories that will shape their adult selves.