A Day of Yes

No.  It's a word you say often as a parent.  It is unavoidable.  You can't escape it.  

But this week, we had a day of yes. O and I decided to drive up from a local family vacation so she could attend her last swim lesson, and since it was just the two of us, everything suddenly felt rarified and special. 

O: Can we roll down the windows and listen to rock and roll?

K: Yes.

O: Can we swim in the deep pool before my lesson?

K: Yes.

O: Can we have chocolate chocolate chip pancakes with a whip cream face for dinner?

K: Yes.

O: Can we go snuggle on the blanket on the lawn and look at the stars?

K: Yes.

O: Can I stay up aaaaaaaallllllll night?

K: Yes.

She made it until 9:30, and as I carried her to bed, she almost looked like my baby again, but only for a second. 

Yes to rock and roll. Yes to a swim in the cool deep water. Yes to the stars. Parenting is hard, but too often I set myself up for failure. I forget that it's ok to enjoy it, that an extra half hour of stars and snuggling is worth more than a clean kitchen. 

I'm going to remember to take the joy that my children are offering me, to say yes as often as I can.


O:  I am going to scrub and scrub my skin until it is so beautiful, like a princess.

K: Why?

O: Because princesses have beautiful skin, because they are not real, not like the dinosaurs, who are real and have scaly skin with feathers and bumps. 

I am not raising princesses.  I am not raising tom boys. I am not raising girls.  I am raising two people, who happen to be female.  

Don't call them bossy. They are assertive and have excellent leadership qualities.  Don't call them dramatic. They have big feelings and are learning how to express them.  Don't help them on the playground or in the store.  What may look like laziness on my part is a studied choice. I am hanging back, purposely, working very hard to show them how to help themselves.

Don't make assumptions about who they will play with, how they will play, or what they will play with.  They don't. They just play.  Don't compliment them on their pretty dresses or tell them that they are cute.  Trust me, they hear that often enough.  

Ask them what their favorite books are, or how flowers grow, or to tell you a story.  Ask them what they are thinking about. They will tell you, or rather, O will tell you on P's behalf.  

I am raising two people, who happen to be female.  They are fierce.  They will have to be.  

Shake, Rattle, Roll, Repeat

O: I missed it.  I missed the earth shake. 

We had an earthquake this week, a pretty good shake.  O slept through it and P was eating a banana and therefore, barely noticed. We live right at the epicenter, so while family and friends who live relatively close by barely registered it, we certainly felt it.  It was not the biggest quake I've ever experienced, I grew up here and remember Northridge, but it was the first time I can remember that an earthquake really scared me.  I lay in bed afterwards wondering, if this had been the big one, or if it was a precursor to the big one, what would we do, where would we go?

We are prepared.  We have supplies and water in a safe spot.  We know how to turn off the main gas line.  We have a point of contact outside of California that all of our family knows to get in touch with in case we can't call within the state.  We have a spot, a local park, where we would meet if we were separated and  our home wasn't safe. Still, it is different, somehow, with two tiny people.  The idea that my arms holding them wouldn't be enough to keep them safe keeps me up at night.  There will be another one, it is only a matter of time.  

planning to add some toys and basic art supplies to our home and car kit 

planning to add some toys and basic art supplies to our home and car kit 

This weekend, we are going to check all of our supplies, pull them out, replace what might need replacing and add a bottle of whiskey for good measure.  This rumble was a good reminder.  We live on a living planet.  There are things we can do to be ready when she sneezes.  

Here is a list of resources that Jim (code name: Captain Safety) used to help put together our home and car emergency kits and some resources on teaching children about earthquake safety:

United States Geological Survey: Talking to kids about earthquake safety

Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety: What to do before, during and after an earthquake

List of Recommended Items for a Basic Emergency Kit

Our Pre-packed Emergency Kit -We purchased a kit from this company for a family of four, but we have supplemented it with other things from the resources above.  



The Gap

O: Mommy, what did you do before I got here?

There is this gap between the type of parent you imagine you will be and the type of parent you are. The hypothetical conversations about attachment parenting, discipline, rules, and diapers that take place between partners or friends are the breeding ground for those definitive statements about things we'll never do. They start from a seed of judgement but grow from our own self-doubt and fear.  

I try to look back on pre-O Kate's ideas about parenthood fondly and gently.  I admire her enthusiasm and regret only her absolutism.  I try to remember her when I'm talking to people who don't have children yet.  I try to stifle my laughter, my eye roll, or my snide remarks, when they share with me the things they think they'll never do.

I forgive her for her naïveté.  She couldn't know. She couldn't know how terrible and wonderful it would be all at once.  She couldn't know how much she would be willing to give up for sixty-seconds of uninterrupted silence.  She couldn't know how the long stretches of complete boredom and drudgery would be punctuated by moments of sheer, blinding, white-hot bliss.  She couldn't know how badly she would need community, how isolating and lonely being a parent can be.  She just couldn't.  

The type of parent that I am today is kinder, more loving, and more flexible than pre-O Kate could ever imagine.  She dances in the rain, does cartwheels, and goes to bed without finishing the dishes. She has learned that there is joy in the smallest things.  She eats ice cream right out of the container and has french fry parties.  She makes mistakes, big, terrible, unfixable mistakes, that she forgives herself for and learns from, or at least tries to.  I could have never even conceptualized the parent that I am, because the parent that I am has been shaped and molded by who my children are becoming.  I owe them a debt of gratitude for that. 

Unsolicited Advice for New Parents

O: Mommy, you are the best mommy I've ever had. 

On that stellar recommendation, I have distilled all of my parenting experience into a single piece of universally applicable advice for any and all new parents.  Everything, other than this gem, is just situational guess work and opinion.  Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Cry it out or attachment? Stay at home or back to work? These are choices you get to make.  I have no input or insight to share, because what worked for my family may or may not work for yours. Ok, here it is: 

Clearly I know what I'm talking about.  Look how happy and well adjusted she is.  She looks like this ALL the time. 

Clearly I know what I'm talking about.  Look how happy and well adjusted she is.  She looks like this ALL the time. 

Get a heating pad, plug it in and leave it on or near your rocking chair.  BAM. That's it.  

Full disclosure: I'm two kids and nearly four years in and I just did it a week ago.  Don't make the same mistake I did.

To everyone else, the already-parents, the never-been-parents, the parents-of-grown-adult-children, hush.  Let these sweet new families have some peace.  Don't scare them with stories of poop in the tub, the 5:00am feeding that lasts until noon, or the panic they will feel the first time that baby sleeps for more than two hours.  They'll know soon enough.  If they need you, they'll ask.

Make them dinner, but don't tell a woman who is eight months pregnant to sleep while she can. Drop off cookies, but don't ask about their birth plan, or, even worse share your own harrowing tale. Offer to come over and hold the baby for twenty minutes so she can go take a shower and promise to leave right after, but, please, don't comment on how she is feeding, clothing or washing her baby, partner, or hair.  

New parents, know you can always ask. Someone will have an answer for you, and you get to hear that answer, listen to your heart, and make a choice.  Some of those choices will be right. Some of them will be wrong. All of those choices will be yours, and it will be ok.  You know more than you think you do.  

But, I am serious about that heating pad thing.