Human waste. Bodily secretions. Discharges. Emissions. Call them what you will, but these are the bane of my existence. My entire life has been spent avoiding these at all costs. First, as a grade school boy, I utterly detested the loogies that my friends would hurl across the playground during recess. Disgusting! I would have nothing to do with the farting contests. Gross! And I would never ever go #2 at school. Ever.
Moving ahead to my college years, and I saw an uptick in my exposure to vomit. But no matter how much I drank or how nauseous I was, my vomit would only be expelled in the privacy of my own room. I felt horrified to let others watch as my waist constricted three sizes smaller and my mouth opened wider than a snake eating a chicken. College also saw an uptick in expulsion of my DNA, especially during interactions with other equally amorous persons, but that particular secretion is beyond the scope of this blog. However, suffice it to say that with the AIDS crisis during my college years, ANY exposure or contact with bodily fluids would blow the anxiety level through the roof. I’m sure that has led to my hyper vigilance in regard to said fluids.
Now here I am, a middle age parent, and with that comes a new set of issues. My bladder insists on feeling like it’s going to explode at the most inopportune times: car rides with the children and no restrooms in sight that can easily be visited with three kids in tow, or just as I’m fiddling with front door key, trying desperately to get it into the keyhole while holding my bladder as well as my one-year old in my arms, and then finally getting in the door but getting beat to the toilet by two toddlers who “really really have to go.”
I’m in a happy monogamous marriage, so the past issues of sharing body fluids are just that – a thing of the past. At 52 and with three kids, we may not see my DNA as frequently as we would like, but this is also beyond the scope today! Puking is also few and far between, since I barely drink alcohol or spend time at bars. Occasionally I’ll eat some bad sushi, but it’s rare.
Ah yes, but now I have the three boys who have given me new fluid experiences. First there’s the pee. I lecture and lecture about aiming when one pees in the toilet, but still I find more urine outside the toilet and on the seat than in the toilet itself. I also plead with them to please please remember to flush after pooping, but still I’m left with a pleasant surprise waiting for me when I enter the bathroom, which is sometimes hours after they’ve made their deposit. It’s gotten to the point where now every time I enter a bathroom I immediately flush FIRST.
Of course, unlike our two older toddlers, our one-year old is nowhere near potty-trained, so I have to deal with the diaper changes that have taught me that poop comes in many varieties of color, amount, consistency, and odor. I’m not fond of any of them. And I’ll do anything not to change a diaper in front of another grown-up. It brings me right back to grade school. And I certainly don’t want to discuss the varieties, amount, etc., with anyone. Sometimes I will get detailed reports from our one and only babysitter after her time with the baby, including the types of secretions, frequency, etc. Please, just tell me everything went well and leave it at that.
Since our one-year old has been fighting a cold and fever for the last three days, I’ve been battling the attack of the fluids. There’s no way he has a mean bone in his body, but I could swear he is trying to infect me with a rhinovirus or two. He has coughed in my face. He has tried to pry my lips open with a snotty finger just for the fun of it. He has pointed his nose right at me and sneezed rainbow-colored secretions. He has thrown up various amounts of milky white vomitus over much of my arms, chest, and clothes. I’ve had to pick his nose (since these said secretions do dry up) and wipe his rear more times than I can count.
Finally I throw in the towel and put up the white flag. I surrender to it. I come to terms with my pending illness. My husband the doctor says to count seven days after one of our boys gets a cold, and that will be when mine will start, and of course he’s right. It comes with the territory. So the boys will start feeling better and I will start feeling worse. And right about then I will roll over and whisper lovingly into my husband’s ear these two words for him: “Start counting.”
By Lisa Regula Meyer
Today marks the start of the holiday shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans take to the malls in droves looking for spectacular deals on the latest, greatest thing for this year. Or at least it had been the start of the shopping season until the recent craze of opening earlier and earlier began. So this year while most of us are home enjoying a holiday feast with our loved ones, retail employees will be stocking shelves and ringing up orders of people who can’t wait another day to spend.
I’ll admit that I have a vested interest in maintaining the day off that had been far more common just a few years ago, as Dwight works in retail. Having a day off to celebrate the holiday with family is also something that I believe is just plain the right thing to do. It’s not often that families today have a day set aside that everyone can be together, between more businesses being open more hours, and many people working more than one job. The biggest irony that I see is the messaging that we send- give thanks and treasure time with those you love on one hand, and love is equal to a purchase, but especially a deeply discounted one, on the other hand. It’s a sad way to start the season, in my opinion, focusing on the purchases and the profits instead of being together.
I realize that their are some people who want to work on the holiday to earn extra income for the holidays, and I hope that those are the people who are the ones staffing the Thanksgiving retail floor, but I also know that at most stores these will be mandatory work days to make sure that staffing levels are high and customer service is up. Wouldn’t valuing families mean paying people enough that a day off with their own families was a sacrifice that they could afford?
As much as I may be complaining, I’m thankful that- for the most part- we’ll have some time together as a family this holiday season. I cooked for our kin that can make it, and lit a candle for those that couldn’t. It’s entering the end of the semester, which is a busy time for the students and teachers alike, and we have both in Dwight’s side of the family. I’m thankful for the chance to do what I love and teach biology to undergraduates. I’m thankful to have my dissertation done and submitted, and my hooding coming up. I’m thankful for the families that I’ve seen through the family building process, and child-free friends who remind me of my more carefree days before kids (and let Kenny and I participate in their big Random Acts of Kindness endeavors).
Being thankful for these things makes me want similar privileges- family, friends, living wages, education- for other families as well.
By: Rob Watson
There have been times of war when conventional forces were not enough. Situations were too complicated and too tenuous in a fragile balance. It was in these moments, that a special force was sent in to perform functions that emphasized cultural, and training skills in working with foreign environments, hostage rescue, combat search and rescue (CSAR), security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian de-mining, counter-proliferation, and psychological operations. This force was the Green Berets.
In February of 1979 violence in New York Subways was at a point of anarchy. Curtis Sliwa founded an organization called The Guardian Angels, made up completely of volunteers. They were unarmed and patrolled in a group to stop crimes in the subways. They trained themselves to make citizens arrests for violent crimes. Today, they patrol as well as conduct education programs and workshops for schools and businesses These protectors are identified by red jackets, white t shirts and …. Red Berets.
We now have a situation where the assistance of a set of protectors is desperately needed. We are just a little over a month into the new school year, and we already have over a dozen deaths in schools due to bullying. Last week, the word “faggot” was twittered over 217, 000 times (according to nohomophobes website, 2.5 million times since July).
Last September, two 13-year olds , Trae Schumaker and Cade Poulos, ended their lives. Both suicides were the response to bullying.
In the case of Cade, school officials rushed to state that bullying was not involved and local media went so far as to suggest that Batman was the culprit. Family and friends have stated bluntly, however, the cause was bullying.
I ache for the families and friends of these boys. I also ache for the families and friends of the children in the coming weeks who will do the same thing that these boys did. And they will if we do not prevent it from happening. I look at my sons and imagine the horror if something like this happened to us. The idea hurts me so deeply, I cannot even express it. It hurts me so much that I am willing to take an idea and throw it out into the world.
We cannot look to school administrators to solve this. Administrations appear to be addressing bullying as a matter of clerical record, and not seeking to identify individuals in pain, or to focus on environments that inspire it. They may never be able to in fact.
All of us who care must understand what is happening. In the book “Hold On to Your Kids”, Gordon Neufeld PhD and Gabor Mate, MD describe the relationship between a parent and their young child, “The attachment brain assigns the child to a dependent mode while the adult takes a dominant role.”
Once the child grows towards adolescence and is in a peer driven environment, those attachments transfer. Neufeld and Mate write, “When the subjects are children and children, the outcome can become disastrous. Some children seek dominance without assuming any responsibility for those who submit to them, while other children become submissive to those who cannot nurture them… Children (or adults) become bullies when striving for dominance is not coupled with the instinctual sense of responsibility for those lower on the pecking order. The needs of others are demeaned rather than served, vulnerability is not safeguarded but exploited, weakness evokes mocking instead of helping and in place of concern, handicaps trigger ridicule.” When this dysfunctional dependence situation is placed in a world that supports homophobia, misogyny and values around athletic prowess and trendiness, the bully is now armed and dangerous.
We need to realize that there has to be another level of defense beyond the school administrations which clearly can’t or won’t do enough. We need to affect the young person’s pathology where the victims are looking to peers for validation, where the peers are not equipped to provide it, and bullies feel empowered by exploiting it.
So. Here is my proposal. I am calling for the formation of the “Rainbow Berets”, concerned peer groups to stand up to the issues that inspire bullying. Groups that are visible in their schools to be safe confidants of those being bullied, and to help educate those whose actions are bullying. These groups would advocate for peers to seek to nurture each other and change the paradigm.
My son, Jesse, seeks out older kids who he sees as “cool”. “Cool” often translates as aloof, “bad ass”, untouchable. The mantra for the Rainbow Beret has to be “Cruel does NOT equal Cool.”
Cruel does NOT equal Cool.
If you are reading this, care about the bullying issue and are a parent, a teacher, a school administrator or a school student, then this is your moment for action. I am asking you to take this up and make this a reality, otherwise your caring will turn to sorrow as yet another child kills him or herself in your community. I am begging you to get active. Here is how:
1. Like the Rainbow Beret Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rainbow-Berets.
2. Post your brief bio, and tell the world why you care. Then share that post with all others in your school or community who you think will join your efforts. Encourage them to also like the Face book page and to state their intent to join in the comment section of your post.
3. Meet with your group, get educated on bullying, and identify a “uniform” that will identify you as peer helpers. Rainbow berets are just suggestions. You can literally make and don them, or come up with another kind of badge.
4. Meet with your school administrators and get their permission, as well as let them know of your intent.
5. With their help, promote the existence of your group around your school. Find ways that people can approach you confidentially and let you know their feelings and problems.
Under NO circumstances should your group retaliate or commit any aggression towards identified bullies. At most, you would approach an alleged bully and inform them that their actions are causing harm. Do this as a team, not an individual. Find out the motivation behind the bullying action and try to help. Often the “bully” is also a victim themselves in another situation.
6. If the alleged bully is unwavering and boastful over their aggressions, do not threaten or coerce them. DO report the situation however. One of the biggest issues bullied kids have is being in a “he said/he said” situation that administrations can’t take action on. If your team can unearth the truth and report it, your witness to admissions of intent will give the administration something they can work with.
7. Help match those feeling bullied with nurturing people. Ultimately, they need to feel self-empowered, but in the meantime, they need peers who will help build up their self esteem, not tear it down.
8. Post your experiences on the Rainbow Beret Facebook page. Post helpful materials and resources. Post about what worked and positive resolutions. This will inspire other Rainbow Berets in other schools, other cities, other states and even…other countries.
9. Appreciate yourself as a hero. If you do this, if you take action, you will see people around you feel better about themselves. Other Rainbow Berets in your group will realize the benefits of finding out what they can accomplish through caring about others, and those who have been bullied will find ways to cope. What you need to know is that without your efforts, some of these people would have taken tragic actions, and though you will not know this for sure, you actually saved lives.
Will this work? That is really up to you. This will work if the people who care take action. It will not work if well intentioned people allow apathy or fear to disable them.
So… please step up, and at the very least, share this. Sometimes with the help of a friend, we can change our whole perspective of the world we live in. And that is the point.
As a parent myself, I am going to walk the talk. I am taking this plan to the principal of my son’s school and will ask him to present it to the Parent’s Association. I hope you do something similar. Please.
I’m thankful for Alen, who over the last ten years has been referred to first as my boyfriend, then lover, partner, domestic partner, better half, and now, thanks to the judicial system, my spouse. Soul mate, man, mate, and partner-in-crime also come to mind, although we have never broken any laws together (well maybe if we were in a state in the deep South.) Alen has the patience of a saint, the brain of an Einstein, and the body of a supermodel, but best of all he is incredibly loving and kind to me. I can’t imagine Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) without him.
I’m thankful for my three sons, and not the television show, but the reality that is my life. Now ages 6, 5 and 1 (yes, my life is a math equation), Devin, Dylan & Dustin amaze us in every way possible, every hour of every day. Watching them grow up in front of our eyes to become awesome individuals has been and will continue to be one of the greatest joys of my life. I wish that I can see them and be with them for their entire long lives; alas, the math just doesn’t work out in my favor. That’s why I will live each day to the fullest and enjoy every moment.
I’m thankful for my health and fitness. Yes, at nearly 52 years of age, things don’t work as well as they used to. But I do have my memories. I can remember catching the winning touchdown in Pop Warner. I can remember winning my first triathlon and my first 10K, and any that came after that. I can dream about my solo bicycle ride across the US (5500 miles), my swim race around the island of Key West (12 ½ miles), and my first Hawaii Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I’m not in that kind of shape right now, be it because of lack of desire, lack of time, or lack of sleep, but I’m so thankful that I had the chance to compete at that level and enjoy every bit of that lifestyle. I’m hoping to get back into it some day, but if not, I’m still happy to say remember when.
The rest are miscellaneous thanks that end up allowing me to live a truly blessed life. I’m thankful for my friends, who make me laugh or give me a supportive pat on the back. I’m thankful for manicures, massages, and movies. I’m thankful for the roof over my head and the American soil beneath my feet. I’m thankful that my boys want to cuddle with me and that my parents want to speak to me. I’m thankful for the drivers that let me on the road during traffic, and for the baristas that truly want me to have a great day. And I’m thankful to those that read this blog weekly or when they can, and to those who take a second to send me a comment or note.
Thanks to all. And Happy Thanksgiving!
Over the last five years, my husband and I have gone to almost 250 movies. Every week, thanks to our good – I mean great – friend and surrogate to our two youngest sons, we have enjoyed a date night. We’ve stuck with Saturday night for almost all of them, although in the last two months or so we have been giving Friday night a trial run with moderate to good success.
Some might say we are stuck in a rut, but we don’t see it that way. We still enjoy our standing date, which starts with a meal of some kind. Lots of time we go to a street in Los Angeles that has a wonderful cluster of Asian delights, and we chow down on sushi or Pho food. Or we hit a local Thai place. And occasionally we will do the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that’s located in the same mall as our usual movie pick. The buffet is quantity over quality, so we have to be extra hungry to hit that one.
Next we get a massage. Once a month we will make our Burke Williams appointment (we are members) for the royal treatment. Sad to say, but this is most often our least favorite massage. We just never really found this place worth the expense. Our favorite is a place directly across the street from the movie theater. It’s an open room with a dozen massage tables and about two dozen massage “therapists” who are roaming the vicinity, ready to work at the sound of the voice of a nice woman who is always at the front desk. She seems like the Queen Bee of the place, and they listen to and obey her every word, or at least we think they do. No one in the joint speaks any English.
The massage starts in the sitting position, with your feet soaking in some seriously searing water. They pay special attention to your upper back, neck, and shoulders. Next you switch to the face-up position while they dry off your feet and rub them thoroughly, including all the spaces between all your toes. They work their way up your legs (as best they can since you are completely dressed in date night clothes), and then proceed to stretch your hips and back. Finally you’re face down, at which point they’ll start at the top and work down to your feet, pushing and probing and squeezing as they go. It always ends with some drumming and slapping on your person. Not exactly a happy ending.
Every “therapist” does the same routine, as if the same master has taught him or her. There’s no privacy, the soft music is mediocre at best, and it’s difficult to communicate with these people, but somehow it works for us. We have, over time, found the “therapists” we like the best and we ask for them by name. We are able to call ahead and reserve a time (they have no reservation system to speak of – we noticed our massage times written on a napkin by the phone at the front desk once when we arrived) and everyone is very friendly, although I wish they would eat less garlic and smoke fewer cigarettes between massages. When it’s over we are happy to hand over our $25 each for an hour of a happy relaxing time, plus tip.
After being fed and feeling calm, it’s time for the movie. We always get a large popcorn and large Diet Coke to share. We always sprinkle on some Nacho Cheese seasoning that’s available, and we always use the bathroom just before heading in to the reserved stadium seating. We will always use the bathroom on the way out of the theater (due to the large Diet Coke), at which time I will stand in a stall and always check in to Facebook and give my one sentence review of that week’s movie. My man will always be waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish posting, and upon my departure from the bathroom will always ask, “So what did you think”? Always. We will always buy some ice cream on the way home, and we will always always enjoy the rest of the night.
This is our time to reconnect, get romantic, and be alone, without our beautiful boys. I love returning home late at night and peeking in on the boys, marveling at just how beautiful they look as they lay there sleeping. I’ll usually cover them in their blankets (do all kids toss off their blankets at night?), kiss them good night, and thank my lucky stars that I have date night every week. With a special guy, that is.
As happy an occasion as it is, the first birthday of your last baby is also filled with lots of sorrow and nostalgia. Of course I’m glad that we’ve made it through the first 365 days relatively unscathed, although his forehead has had more than his fair share of bruises now that he is cruising around the floor at a respectable pace.
I mean, I want him to develop normally, hitting all the milestones right on time with all the hoopla that comes along with them.
But as cliché as it sounds, it all goes so darn fast, and even faster when it’s your last time through the racecourse. As an example, I cannot believe my son is already in size 4 diapers. He went from N to 4 in the blink of an eye. At least I learned, and this took me three children to learn, to move up faster in diaper size than you think you need to, because before you know it the bodily waste is squirting out the sides and up the back at the worst possible time, like when you are in a rush or when you are far from home and forgot any change of clothes. I also now know that, except for maybe your first purchase of a larger diaper size, stick to small amounts (i.e. don’t buy the huge warehouse-size boxes) so you don’t get caught half way through your supply of diapers that are now too small but you use anyway because these rectangular absorbent things are expensive.
I’m also crying in my pillow about the loss of the use of formula. It says right on it “0 – 12 months” which couldn’t be much clearer. Stop using it! However, I’m stretching out my last couple of cans under the guise of “the transition”, which is the period of time where I feed him formula with increasing amounts of fat-free cow’s milk mixed in. I refuse to throw out even one scoop of this “gold powder”, which costs twice as much as anything I personally eat. And besides the money, I’m really going to miss the convenience of the powder. I just need water, which I always carry, and the powder, and he is fed. In just a few days it’s going to take a LOT more planning. And I know he is going to be a big eater. He has been watching his two older brothers devour food for a whole year, and the little food we have already fed him (a little bite here, a little nibble there) has been no problem for him.
The cute clothes are another thing. Even though I tried to weed out his brothers’ hand-me-downs, there were still some clothes that I never got to even try on him! The hand-me-downs I did get to use allowed me to relive the first years of my older sons – I could picture them in the Gap shirt and the cute overalls as if it were yesterday. Now I have a friend who is pregnant with her third son, so like a conveyor belt the clothes are going from my washer/dryer directly to her storage room, with little more than a tear or two from me.
Have you ever watched a parade, and then at the end of the parade the sanitation workers and the street sweepers are right on its tail, cleaning up to erase any sign that a parade (and the thousands of spectators) had just come by? Our house is starting to feel this way, and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Then again, just the other day my spouse made this statement as we watched our one-year old giggle and clap to music: “The three beautiful boys we have made it easy to imagine having a fourth one.”
Anyone have any newborn hand-me-downs?
By John Jericiau
My spouse and I are coming up on ten awesome years together. We marked the calendar from our first date together: June 11th, 2004. Most of our hetero friends start the clock as of the date of their wedding, but since we weren’t afforded that opportunity until June 21st, 2008 (during a small window when California said we could before putting a stop to all but the first 18,000 gay couples who got hitched), we include the four years prior to our marriage in our calculations. For us I wouldn’t really call it a wedding, since as of yet we have not blurted the “’til death do us part” speech to each other in front of 200 of our closest friends and family at a fabulous venue as we stand ankle-deep in sand on a beautiful tropical beach. Instead I dragged him to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s office in beautiful downtown Norwalk, CA the night before his birthday with our two oldest sons, signed some legal documents, kissed on the lips in front of someone representing religion, and then continued on our way to Newport Beach to enjoy the night in a ritzy hotel.
The almost 10 years have been a whirlwind adventure to say the least. Starting a business together, more job responsibilities for him, the title of stay-at-home dad for me, and another son later, we’re about to start on the second decade of our relationship. It’s mind-boggling. It’s hard to believe. And it’s better than ever.
We have our moments, don’t get me wrong. A lot of them. At times I wonder if two men can actually cohabitate. But that’s the minority of the time. Most of the time it works, and I think it’s because we complement each other.
I say complement, not compliment, although for sure the one with an ‘i’ has helped us through some tough patches as well (do you know how sexy you look when you’re screaming at me?) What I’m really referring to is complement with an ‘e’, which in the dictionary means:
Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
For us, it’s how the cool, detached man is attracted to the warm, outgoing one. It’s how the disciplined one admires the free spirit. The smart one is in awe of the even smarter one.
We even work well in the parenting department. Not so much as good cop/bad cop, but rather one of us is softer, more inclined to cuddle, and more freely says to the boys “I love you” just because, and uses “don’t worry, everything will work out” for almost any other reason. The other imparts wisdom and shares the tools needed to navigate this great big scary world. In sickness, one of us barely flinches until an offspring has over a 103-degree temperature or has bright red blood spurting out of a major artery. The other worries about the effect of our iPhones on their development, and seriously considers homeschooling a viable option for our boys (I can’t imagine it, although it sounds like it’s working for many families.)
Bottom line is it’s working. We are growing as people, as parents, and as a couple. And I cannot wait to report back in ten more years, because deep in my heart I know that everything will work out. I love you, babe.
It wasn’t until 3:11pm this afternoon when I plopped into a chair behind a booth at my boys’ school fundraising carnival that I realized that it was the first time I had sat down all day. Up since a 6am nudge in my bed as my middle son crawled under the covers, interrupting a perfectly good dream with lots of REM, I’ve been going and going and going. But it’s Saturday, so what do I expect?
My spouse was missing the annual Halloween Carnival as he filled his head with spreadsheets and expense reports at his almost brand new MBA curriculum halfway across the country. Hence the empty spot in my bed in which my middle son could invade. I hold no grudges against my husband whatsoever. I encouraged him to go for yet another advanced degree. I really truly am super proud of him. But it does leave me alone with our three boys at times. I’d go ahead and miss a carnival here and there, if I could. But I can’t. As the room parent (think teacher’s pet) for my kindergartener’s class, and an active parent for my first grade class, it is my duty (along with many other parents) to make sure that this event goes off without a hitch. Our childrens’ futures depend on it – or at least their music and art classes.
We had prepared since the beginning of the school year for this day, or at least it feels like it. Emails, signups, meetings, and more emails. The PTA royalty would send me the information and ask me to forward it to the parents in my class, “but add your own spin on it, something that complements your personality.” I PUT IT ALL IN CAPS.
The carnival started at 10am, and we wanted to get there early, but a last minute birthday party invitation thwarted our plans. The invitation wasn’t actually sent last minute – I just accepted it last minute. A Mad Science birthday party trumps the start of any carnival. We even had to bag the weekly gymnastics class in the park across the street due to the triple schedule conflict that we faced. Even the calendar of my iPhone didn’t know how to deal with the three events. Life is one big constant exercise in prioritizing.
While the boys were fixated on the slime-making scientist at the party, I had my almost one-year old in my arms feeding him different solids that are age-appropriate, and he was doing really well. Bits of strawberry, pieces of watermelon, and some crackers. He was doing really well – I thought so anyway, as did the moms in the room who would as usual keep one eye trained on me to follow what I was doing. “I’ve got this”, I thought. I decided to try the smallest piece of broccoli, and that’s when it all unraveled. After a couple of gags, my son proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor, table, and each of us, and I immediately thought this would cause a delay in our rush to the carnival. I ran us to the restroom and managed to rid us both of the vomitus that was on us. Back at the party, I cleaned up the floor where I had been standing, and got us back on schedule.
Finally at the carnival, it really was a beautiful day and an awesome event. Due to the hard work put in by many in the weeks prior to the event, it practically ran itself. This carnival has been going on since at least the ‘70s, and they’ve got it down to a science. And due to the location of this public school in a community of affluence, lots of entertainment types and lots of paparazzi littered the area.
The boys had a fabulous time, using up every one of the $100 worth of tickets I purchased for the rides and attractions at the carnival. But Daddy was getting tired. Really tired. So when I plopped on the above-mentioned chair at 3:11pm in the afternoon, no one was surprised when I blurted out THANK YOU JESUS. That’s just who I am.
This parenting gig is incredible. As a stay-at-home dad, my life is filled with so many milestones and memories and happiness and joy. Each day our three boys amaze us with new words and deep thoughts and unconditional love. The experiences that my husband and I are sharing are at times so profound that they bring us closer and closer together as the fabulous years go by. We are getting close to hitting ten of those fabulous years.
With all that being said, it’s time to set the record straight. Parts of this job really suck. And I’m not talking about the obvious. Not the poop you find on your forearm after a diaper change. Not the sleep deprivation that comes with the newborn months. No, I’m talking about the less obvious ones. The ones that parents from past generations don’t speak about, but would chuckle knowingly when they are brought up in conversation by new parents. Here are four of these unspeakables, in no particular order.
The boys might be at the park with Papa, or sound asleep in their beds in the dead of the night, but no matter. It’s always the same. Right around the time that I have started letting the water run through my hair after the shampoo, the screams of pain start. The cries for help commence. The sounds of muffled suffocation sear through the air. I used to turn off the water and listen, but I have learned that it’s just a curse. My mind is playing tricks on me. I stick my head out of the shower and listen to the silence for a second of two before returning to my asylum that used to be so enjoyable and relaxing but now is nothing but a quick soaping and a rushed rinse.
Dining in restaurants
We might as well take the meal money and flush it down the toilet; it’s almost the same as trying to eat out. We’ve tried toys and crayons and iPads and iPhones, but inevitably an individual of short stature will scream bloody hell about the shape of his pancake or the inequality of fries on his plate compared to his brother. Forget about reading the Sunday paper or glancing at email. Others demand your full attention. Even eating your meal becomes a challenge and a balancing act, as without fail someone will want to sit on your lap just as your piping hot food arrives. I’ve gotten used to eating cold eggs.
These three hours used to be good times. Working out at the gym after work, catching up with friends at an impromptu meal, or even just sitting and watching some mindless Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight while digesting my pasta with my feet up on the coffee table. Now they have become a frantic three hours of homework, meal preparation for boys of starkly different tastes and meal requirements, baths, reading, and then finally pleading for everyone to stay in bed and go to sleep. We don’t even try to feed ourselves until at least 9:30pm, if we have still have the energy to raise a utensil to our mouth.
Three boys, two men, and a friend/surrogate who spends half her time at our house – we all make a lot of dirty laundry, I get it. And throw in washing sheets (some more frequently due to bedwetting), the throw rugs that surround our toilets (boys have bad aim), and the uniforms from twice-weekly swim lessons, twice-weekly basketball, twice-weekly gymnastics, and a weekly Crossfit class – and we’ve got an always-running washer/dryer. Each day as the laundry finishes drying it gets piled on my bed as high as the ceiling fan, and each night I have to stand there and fold it, sort it into piles by owner, and restock it in the appropriate location. If I don’t get to the restocking part due to time constraints or a boy or two waking up unexpectedly for water or a pee or a cry, then the sorted clothes have to wait. They quickly start to pile up on our dresser until they teeter-totter and finally collapse, necessitating a refold.
As bad as these things sound, it’s really a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise our sons and get them ready to go out in the world on their own. And before they start making their own families, I will be sure and let them in on these good times. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
One of the perks of being the parent of young kids is making new friends. It all comes at such a good time too. Once you start having kids, in a natural and gradual way the friends you had in your single, childless years start fading away. I’m not bitter about it, although there are some friends from years gone by that I would love to reconnect with. But I don’t blame them. A new parent’s world is so child-centric that anything else is very secondary, and friends can sense the changes. Six years ago, when I was caring for my 8-month old son when my second son was born, I was lucky to find my phone let alone use it. When I wasn’t cleaning bottoms I was cleaning bottles or floors or laundry. And when I wasn’t doing that I was napping. There was little time for anything else, especially something like chatting on the phone for hours on end with a friend.
Unfortunately, like a garden that gets no water, friends that didn’t hear from me just wilted away. Those relationships suffered. They didn’t understand that I what I really could’ve used was some help – something as simple as their company – at that stressful and challenging time. But again, I don’t blame anybody. They were as clueless as I was before I was a parent myself. I didn’t know that new parents were so sleep-deprived, or so hungry for even a few minutes of time alone.
Friendships and their importance to me have changed as I have gone through life. In elementary, grade school, and even college, I placed so much pressure on myself to have everyone like me that it was quite obsessive. Deep, meaningful relationships suffered as I spread myself way too thin. Class president here, this club there. A sport’s team here, a volunteer group there. Hang out with the jocks, and then turn around and mix it up with the brainiacs. Way too much! Even my romantic relationships suffered, as evidenced by the fact that my college sweetheart nearly married me, a closeted gay guy! I never let anyone get to know the real me, which is sad because the real me was/is a really cool guy.
As I was bicycling across the country by myself between college and the rest of my life, I decided that some things were really going to have to change. I needed to come out, of course, but also I needed to shrink my circle of friends down from hundreds to a manageable handful. Moving across the country helped with that, and so did announcing that “Yep, I’m gay!” at my high school reunion. That caused more shrinking than a cold swimming pool! Sixty days alone while cycling an average of 91 miles per day really gets your wheels turning. I made the decision to try to make a handful or fewer friends. I think I succeeded. Granted, quite an abundance of those “friends” turned into a romantic interlude of various durations (varying from one night to three years), but over the years I did have a few who became just friends, and really good ones at that.
But like I said, having three boys in tow is like an incredibly effective bug repellent – it keeps everyone away. No one has any idea what to do with you. For example, when is the last time that friends without kids met at a park? So quite naturally, fellow parents become your new friends, since you’re all in the same boat. And the timing couldn’t be better. Your old friends are gone, and you are just clawing your way out of the isolation period (i.e. the newborn months). Slowly, you start connecting. A fellow parent at a pre-toddler music class here, someone else at your neighborhood park there. This is all well and good, but you hit pay dirt once your kids enter elementary school.
Play dates, birthday parties, picnics, and more!
Field trips, after school activities, and sports teams galore!
That’s where I am now – weeding through the literally hundreds of parents available to find those few who are going to make it through the long haul. I already have a few who have made it a couple of years since preschool, but because we have dispersed to different elementary schools, I’m sure that, like me, they can feel the pressure to let go and focus exclusively on our own schools for companionship and friendship. We’re fighting hard to make it work. Newer friendships are blossoming too, and I’m meeting some really nice parents that I’m trying to do fun things with. I just hope our kids can get along as well as we do.