I am tired of all the things that paint parenting as a picture of sugar drops and sunshine. Sometimes being a parent is really, really hard.
Yesterday, I picked up our 21-month-old daughter from daycare. Because we live in New York City, I take the subway from work to school, pick her up and stroll about fifteen minutes home. The walk on the way there is lovely. Birds chirping. Just one or two business causal men or women clicking their way to work in sensible shoes. Sometimes just us for a whole city block, my sweet daughter turning her head to look up at me.
The walk home is a different world—people spill out of bars, blowing smoke in my toddler’s path. Tourists line up on the sidewalk five across and then walk as slow as possible until I loudly say, “Excuse me!” and they look at each other like, “Oh, it’s just another rude New Yorker.”
On this particular day my dear daughter was in a toddler-esque mood. She was fussy, hot and hungry. She refused to get in her stroller until I finally lured her in with a Mum-Mum. When her snack ran out, she screamed “MUM MUM!” until we reached the place where we sometimes get a juice and a muffin and then started screaming “JUICE, MUFFIN! JUICE, MUFFIN!” That continued until we reached the fruit stand guy where he got an earful of “BANANA! BANANA!”
I pulled over and tried to reason with her: “Daddy is making dinner. Let’s stop yelling so we can get home and see Daddy. Do you want to go home and eat a nice dinner?” She sniffed back her tears and nodded. I felt great. I was a good mom. I reasoned with a toddler and she listened! I got back behind the stroller and started to push.
“CARRY! CARRY! CARRY! CARRY!”
I pulled over again and said, “You’re too heavy. Mama can’t carry you and push.” Tears streamed down her little face and she reached her arms out to me. I sighed, unhooked her straps and pulled my daughter into my arms. Then, tendons straining, I tried to hold her and push the stroller. I got five feet. “You’re going to have to walk.” And walk she did, still screaming, “CARRY! CARRY!” A horrible lady turned around and hissed, “Control your child.” A beautiful couple without child looked at us like we were an unsightly blemish on their evening.
She started pulling out into traffic and at the same time a crazy homeless man came up to us trying to get me to give him money.
I could feel a panic from deep inside my belly. I felt it rise up and mix with an at-the-edge frustration and more than a little anger. I was mad at New York, the people in it, my kid and most of all, myself. As I felt the panic cocktail boil up inside me and reach my throat, I couldn’t control it even if I wanted to.
“Get in the stroller! Now.” I yelled it. An older woman turned to look at me in horror. “What are you looking at?” I yelled at her.
Really crying now, she let me put her back in her stroller. I reached down and held her little wet hand. I felt awful.
When I got home, I told my husband I needed to go for a walk. The world had felt like it was closing in and I had totally lost control. I was ashamed. I had yelled.
When I got home, my little girl was eating her dinner. She looked up at me and put her salmon covered hands on either cheek. She pulled me toward her and gave me a big milk mustache kiss. It was the best feeling in the world.
This parenthood thing is a crazy ride and sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down. To breathe. To shoo the crazies away and ignore the “you’re a bad mom” looks. To sit on a dirty city stoop and calm my upset child—to sit there for hours if I need to. To understand that these tough moments are just blips in time and that my sugar drops and sunshine and salmon covered hands are waiting for me just around the corner.
I recently saw a Huffington Post article about how to talk to your daughter about her body and I really loved what it had to say.
In a nutshell, girls get pretty turned around when it comes to body image and anything we can do at home to minimize the “you must look like this perfect person” message, the better.
I think for a lot of people that means to not call your daughter fat, but it means so much more than that. It means not talking about your daughter’s body at all. It means not letting other people (within your control) talk about your daughter’s body. It means educating your daughter (and everyone in your family) on the reason we friggin’ eat food (for energy and strength) and the right choices to make when eating. Food should make you feel good, not shitty. You should listen to your body when it tells you it’s hungry or full. Feeling strong and healthy is the best feeling in the world. Exercise is awesome.
It also means not dieting in front of your daughter.
OK, now please allow me to inch my way off my soapbox. I don’t do these things—any of them. I have tried every diet ever invented ever. In fact, I started dieting when I was thirteen years old and have been dieting ever since (except when I was pregnant and I decided I was allowed to eat every possible thing in sight). I often deprive myself even though I’m starving because I feel like I need to lose a couple of pounds. I binge eat on the weekends, cramming in my splurges before Monday arrives. Because, like, it’s the weekend. I exercise out of guilt and not out of joy. I talk about my body in a negative way, even when I’m feeling like I look pretty OK. Even when people tell me I look good, I say things like, “Well, for someone who had a baby” or “Oh, it’s just the dress.”
I did all these really bad, not-great-role-model things until now. Well, until about three weeks ago. About three weeks ago, I decided to develop the relationship with food and exercise that I hope our daughter someday has. I realized, with great certainty, that if we, her parents, don’t live a healthy lifestyle, then we’re not really giving her a fighting chance to live one.
Sam and I found a yoga class we love. We even find times to go together! I deleted my Weight Watchers account and although it felt like I was cutting off a limb, I know how to eat well without counting points or anything else. We stopped drinking Diet Snapple and switched to a low-calorie, all natural tea. Most importantly, I tell myself that every time I eat or drink something, it’s a choice. And I put myself in my little girl’s tiny shoes and try to make the right one.
I was recently wearing an empire waisted dress and had an embarrassing, “Congratulations!” incident where someone assumed I was pregnant because it looked bump-like in that area.
Here’s the deal: When you have a baby, your body is never the same. Unless, of course, you’re Princess Kate and your magical fairy godmother zaps your stomach and makes it look like you were never pregnant. Or if you have a baby in your early 20’s maybe.
The fact is, right after you have a baby, you look pregnant. Other facts include that you may look like you’re pregnant way after you have a baby.
It is never OK to ask someone if they’re pregnant. Not ever. It’s none of your god damn business. Even if they are, like, eight months pregnant and waddling all over the place and their ankles are swollen and even if they are, like, in labor. Please, please don’t ask. Trust me, if a woman wants to discuss the fact that they are growing a human in their uterus, they will bring it up. It’s our bodies. It’s personal.
I’ve also included a trusty diagram in case this was confusing in any way.
Charlie had a huge tantrum after school because she refused to wear her stroller straps. I pulled over and told her we were not leaving until she put her straps on. A man (in a suit) shouted out me, “Nice f-ing place to park, bitch!” I do not love New York today.
Her hands are still so small, but to me they’re huge. They’re no longer fat baby, “screw on” hands; they’re little girl hands and I don’t know when that happened.
She’s really funny, with her own sense of humor. She gets jokes. She can read people so well. She knows when we’re mad and says, “Sowy” and hugs us.
She has not mastered “ch” so “cheese” is “keese” and “chair” is “cair.” She is “Carlie” and she shouts it proudly. CARLIE! A month ago she called herself “The Baby.”
She is so independent. She wants to use “poons” when she eats and refuses help. She demands to walk home from school and stubbornly pulls her arms out of her straps, “Carlie walk!” I tell her she has to stay in her stroller because it would take us hours to walk at her pace. And then I get mad at myself because I’m always in a god damn rush.
She knows every kids’ name in her class and she knows which cup goes with which kid. I can barely remember her teachers’ names and I am reminded every day that kids take in everything. And I want all the things my kid takes in to be completely amazing.
She has “duck curls” and I could spend hours doing braid-y things to her hair, but she barely lets me put pigtails in and some days she tells me, “No hair.” She only lets us brush her teeth if she is also holding a toothbrush.
She knows what she wants at all times. This morning she woke up and told us, “Eggies, bread, peas.” The last part was “please” not actual “peas.”
When I lay next to her before she goes to sleep, she slides a little arm under my neck and says, “huggie.” It’s one of my few, slowed down, quiet moments and It makes my heart explode into a gazillion little love pieces.
Love you, little Carlie.
Charlie had her 18-month checkup today. I am so proud of that kid. She said, “Hi, Doc!” when the doctor walked in the room. She didn’t cry when he gave her a shot. She told him that her bandaid was yellow. When i dropped her at school, her teachers had all the kids sitting in a row. They held up a color and had each kid say the color. I friggin’ love that place. This is not just a “make sure your kid stays alive” type place. We are so lucky.
Apparently, it was Teacher Appreciation Day on Tuesday. They even put up a sign at school reminding everyone. I missed it. My NYC, get to where you’re going as fast as humanly possible attitude made me miss the giant sign telling me to thank Charlie’s teachers for, like, keeping her alive and well every single day. And, not to make excuses, but, Sam had to work late every night this week and our sitter was away.
The next day, there was a thank you to all the parents who took the time out to wish them a happy day or gave them a gift. I felt horrible! More than horrible. I felt like the worst parent ever because I honestly couldn’t be more thankful to them.
Sam wanted to send them something, but I thought it was overkill since we had forgotten (OK, I had forgotten). So I got them a card and gave it to her head teacher with a giant apology. Today I saw it was hung up in their cabinet. Life please slow down a little. Chicken with her head cut off is not a great look for me.