Here’s a fun fact: As children grow they develop fine motor skills.
So I did what everybody does, I told him, scolded him really:
“Do not ever unbuckle your car seat. It is not safe. Do you understand me? You will get a time-out for that! It is very, very, very important. Do you understand? ”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Him: “Yes, Momma.” He still called me Momma then.
He could tell when Momma wasn’t messing around. I was using my stern voice, my serious face and my angry eyes. Mission accomplished.
But my little Houdini is not my only kid. I had had five kids in all. The three-year-old was just the oldest. Twin girls, twice, came after. Yes, They are Twins, Yes, they are Twins, Too. Consequently, we didn’t get out much. Taking a preschooler, two toddlers and two infants to any store — well, this was not an outing that a person takes lightly. So sometimes when I had to run errands and my mother was with me we would buckle the kids in the car and my mom would stay with them while I would run in and out of stores. It got us out of the house, sometimes the kids would get their naps using this method, and it gave me a little break.
The very next day after the car seat unbuckling incident and lecture, my mom and I decided to load the kids and run some errands. We pulled into the local pharmacy and I ran in. As per usual, my Mom stayed with them in the car. I was gone only a few minutes.
When I came out, my mom was standing outside of the car, all five kids were still strapped in — inside.
The doors were closed.
“This can’t be good,” I thought.
My mother was distraught. Almost in tears.
“I can’t get in.” She said. “The babies started to cry and I got out to calm them down. I — I — I — closed the door . . . and now it’s locked.”
We, the adults, were locked out. The children were locked in. Turns out I was right. This wasn’t good. The keys were in the car.
I tried not to panic. After all, the car was running and the air conditioning was on, so they wouldn’t cook in there . . . but still, it’s not good to leave five children alone in a car and I didn’t know how much gas I had.
Options: I could run home and get an extra set of keys. But that would take too long, and my mother was losing it. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the kids. My husband was never really available during the day and worked too far away, anyway. I could call my Dad to do it, but he’s hard to get a hold of . . . so . . . I guess I’d have to call the police to break into the car. This was not a proud moment. “Why? Why, do I ever leave the house?” I wondered.
Well, hello there, Mr. Panic.
Then I remembered — my son — the big boy, the one who has motor skills!!! The boy can get out of his car seat and unlock the door!!! He has the ability. He has the manual dexterity. I’ve seen him do it — just yesterday. “It was worth a try,” I thought.
And so . . . one day after having scolded the boy for unbuckling his car seat and making him promise never to do it again —
I begged, “Honey,” I spoke kindly but loudly through the closed window, “Momma wants you to UNBUCKLE YOUR CAR SEAT and UNLOCK the door!”
He looked away from me. “Clearly,” his three-year-old mind must have reasoned, “This is some sort of test and I’m not going to fall for it, nope nope.”
I cooed, “No Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay, really, Momma says it’s okay, PLEASE get out and let us in. Please, you won’t be in trouble!!!! I promise!!!!”
I saw him roll his eyes toward the ceiling, away from me. His hands stayed at his sides. He was more still than any three-year-old could possibly be. It was impressive, really.
My mother was crying by this time and apologizing, she felt really, really badly. But I had to get to the kids.
Me to my statue-like son, “Honey, please. Please!!!!!! It’s okay, I promise. Get out of your car seat. Momma needs you to get out of your car seat! PLEASE!!!”
This child would not even acknowledge that I was talking to him. Again, it was impressive. And comical. I had literally just made him promise never to get himself out of his car seat and here I was begging him to do just that. It was like a sitcom.
“Pleeeeeeease!!!! Momma says it’s okay.” But that boy was NOT going to fall for my obvious trickery. “Momma said no,” he must have thought, “Momma said no.”
We had started to draw a crowd. I was beginning to tear up, too. The girls were useless, too young to manipulate their car seats, arms to short to reach the locks. And . . . they’d started to cry again.
This was not good.
In the end, my obedient son never unbuckled his car seat. Some nice gentleman drove me home (I wasn’t far, and thankfully I’d left the house unlocked). I got my spare keys and everybody was fine.
—- Except my mother. It took her a long time to recover.
We didn’t go out for a while after that and when we did, no matter what the kids were doing, my mother never got out of the car again.
Just Me With . . . five car seats, a mom, and a son who had learned his lesson, damn it.
I’m not an exercise monger, but I’ve always been active one way or another. I’ve only thrown my back out three times in my life. The first time was at the beach. It was a drive-by water gun shooting incident initiated by my nieces and nephew.
My niece, the driver, drove up all slow like, the mini-van door silently opened, and her brother opened fire (water) on my sisters and I, which included his own mother. We scattered. I pivoted hard to dive into the brush to avoid the assault. They hit and drove off quickly into the night. My sisters and I walked back to the beach house — dripping and sore. By the next day I couldn’t move. It only lasted a day, though.
Fast forward to last year. I was laying a natural flagstone patio in my back yard. And by “I” — I mean “I”. I had help from guy friends for a couple of days for the really big stones, see Friends Without Benefits, but most days I was on my own. I’m always so careful with my projects, safety first, safety last, safety always. After the drive-by incident I have been living by the mottoes: “Lift with your knees, not your back” and “Take your time.” But one night after I’d completed the work for the day, actually after I’d completed the whole patio, I made a mistake. Instead of getting up to get my toolbox, I turned to grab it. I was probably already weakened from the heavy lifting anyway, but it was that quarter turn that got me down, literally. I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. After two or three days of back pain and walking funny, I got better. Still, I was benched from hard labor for a couple of weeks.
This was supposed to be part of my trying to manage my chronic depression. Changing what I can, acknowledging what I can’t, making attainable goals, knowing that I can’t do it all, taking care of me. Blah, blah, blah. I had gotten off the daily meds, see Getting Off The Meds, but I still have to be able to combat the depression without them. Universally the pros say that exercise is key. Now, I’ve been extremely physically active over the last couple of years, practically speaking. In addition to dealing with five kids, I’ve packed up, moved and renovated a house. I’m talking about being on ladders, heavy lifting, digging, up and down stairs constantly. But much of that work is done now. I thought I would try to start running. It’s cheap and effective.
Always so careful, I decided that running on a nice rubber track would be easier on my body and bones, plus I could keep track of how far I have gone and avoid being seen by the general public. I was surprised at how well I was able to keep going, running painfully slowly but continuing nonetheless. Mind you, I hate running, but I knew it would be good for me. I used to run track in school, which I loved, but absent the chance of getting a medal at the end, well, running for the sake of running has never been as fun for me.
Coming off of the back to school preparation with five kids, who can be difficult (autism, anxiety, depression), I was feeling overwhelmed. Still, I had been so proud of myself about getting the things done on my do-to list, getting the paperwork and physicals ready for five kids in a more timely fashion than in previous years, making sure they had the school supplies and clothing needed to start school, getting organized, girls’ hair done, etc. and having done all of this after having taken the kids on our first cross-country road trip.
Despite my careful planning, budgeting, “to do” lists and many trips to stores, one of my daughters (the anxious one) flipped out about not having “the right” pair of sneakers for volleyball try-outs. I tried to tell her that she has the perfect shoes to wear for the first day, actually for the whole season — basketball shoes. Volleyball is played on the basketball court, so that made sense to me. Plus, if she made the team and actually needed different shoes we could deal with that later. She wasn’t hearing it. She also refused to acknowledge that fact that even if I wanted to, I could not take her shoe shopping in one hour we had before her dad was scheduled to pick her up for the dinner visit (he doesn’t do any of the school preparation —- don’t ask). I tried to tell her that by the time we got to the store, parked and looked at shoes it would be time to come home. She did not believe me. Instead, she became furious with me. She was completely agitated. She said everyone would notice she had the wrong shoes. The more I told her that was not the case, the angrier she got, accusing me of causing her never to be prepared.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies lines, from a woman to her grown daughter: “I never should have encouraged you to speak.” I talked to my babies incessantly, so they would learn. Now? They spew nastiness at me.
We weren’t going to the store and she was angry about it. She was completely convinced that she would not be prepared for try-outs and would be embarrassed. And that this was all my fault.
I had not anticipated this. This was not on my things to do list. I tried to explain that she would not be the only one wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court. (By the by, I know this for a fact because her three sisters would be there, also wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court). She wasn’t hearing that, saying that people (always these unnamed people) would notice her shoes because her shoes were different from her sisters’ black basketball shoes because her shoes have a red swoop (gasp!) Whoa. I did not see that coming either. I tried to explain that if she chose not to wear her basketball shoes she could wear her other sneakers. Her response? They were too small . ( She was wearing them at the time.) I explained that if she’s grown out of her every day sneakers and needed new ones that I would take her to get some but I just could not take her then (because of the visitation order and all, which pisses me off, too, but I digress.)
Why couldn’t she understand?
But she was being completely unreasonable. Generally speaking, an unreasonable person cannot be reasoned with. This I know. I must have forgotten it then, though.
So many things send this child into a frenzy — from having a braid that doesn’t hang properly, to someone burping in the car, to thinking everyone will notice that her sister’s hair is longer, to seeing a bug, to hearing someone talk about a book or movie, to being asked if her homework is done, to someone using her soap, to not being the first at . . . well, everything. etc. Note to parents of boys: This is not typical girl behavior. This is over the top. I’m only scratching the surface here.
I lost it.
Well, I lost sight of the fact that there was no reasoning with her. I wanted her to understand. I was tired of the back talk and the refusal to hear common sense — i.e. there is simply no time to go to the store right now! So when she tried to walk away from me, I blocked her. Physically blocked her. I just wanted her to hear me say that — yes she would be prepared for try-outs, that no one will notice her shoes, that I will take her shopping when the schedule permits. I don’t know, maybe I wanted some recognition for trying to get her what she needs, if not everything she wants. Mostly, I didn’t want her to walk away from me while I was talking.
So I blocked her. Or at least I tried. Rookie mistake.
My body was already weakened by my previous day’s running. This child is my smallest child, but she’s strong . . . and headstrong.
She dropped to all fours, like some sort of ninja wrestler, and began to push by me . . . with her head!
I admit, this pissed me off. “This child was not going to physically intimidate me.” Or so I thought.
I reached down to pull her up. (Lift with your knees, not your back, lift with your knees not your back, LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES, NOT YOUR BACK!!!!!!)
But it was too late.
I had reached down and pulled up. It was classic poor lifting technique. I heard a snap, felt a sudden pain in my left lower back and fell to the floor.
She stepped over me. I was roadkill.
Volleyball? Really? Clearly this child has missed her calling — I’d say wrestling or football are in her future — or prison.
This back injury has by far been the worst and the longest.
I rested it. It started to feel better. Then a different child wanted her hair flat ironed for her class picture. I thought I could do it, if I took my time and rested. No, the bending or whatever, the next day I was almost as bad as the first day. Then I caught a cold from another daughter who has a disgusting habit of letting her used tissues lie about the house. But, of course, when I caught it, I got it much worse than she had it. Every time I coughed or sneezed or had a chill it sent my back into spasm. That was the first week.
The second week came with one gig and two back-to-school nights which prohibited any real rest for me. Too much walking and lifting. For the gig I had to swallow my pride and out of necessity asked a fellow musician help me carry and set up my gear. At the last minute, though, he couldn’t help. I often rely on the kindness of strangers, and got the sound man to help, I had no choice. But it was not ideal, and it was stressful. Then I came home to children who had not done their homework or cleaned up after themselves. My progress regressed. So sore.
Later in the week I had to attend two back-to-school nights, one of which in theory required me to be in four places at once, eight periods in a row. I felt beat down. But the kicker was when the anxious ninja wrestling child had yet another fit because she needed my help with her homework — at midnight. She had refused to do it earlier. She refused to let me rest. I could not remove her physically and she followed me where ever I went. She was in tears worrying that she would be in trouble and unprepared. Again, somehow, it was all my fault. Still, my help, in her world, must not include actually talking to her or reviewing the assignment. No, no, it consisted of me just sitting being there and taking the verbal assault from a child who is truly distressed and anxiety ridden. (I’m looking to get her some help, in case you’re wondering.) It was hard to sit in one position while she worked so I thought, stupidly, “I’ll empty the dishwasher.” ( “Resting” my back had turned my house into potential Hoarders episode). So, I carefully leaned over to pick up one plate, just one plate . . . and . . . snap!
My progress had regressed yet again.
The pain! It had gotten so bad I actually went to the doctor, not usually my thing. He gave me muscle relaxants, told me to take Tylenol, gave me back exercises, and I got a flu shot.
Oh yeah, and did I mention the dog was sick? She was vomiting and had diarrhea all over the downstairs, the floors are tile and therefore easy to clean — but not if you can’t bend over. Lovely.
By the time the dog was pooping blood I figured she had to go to the vet. She weighs only 12 pounds yet I had trouble picking her up. I made the girls go with me to help. I had a back spasm at the vet parking lot, good thing the girls were with me, they had to check in for us while I was outside leaning against the railing, waiting for the spasms to subside long enough to go in.
The Vet said, “You don’t look like you’re doing too good.” Yeah, ya think? Embarrassing. Painful. Typical.
Well, things got bad before they got better, the cold with the back spasms continued throughout the weekend. The kids went with their Dad for their half-weekend, which left me to deal with the dog’s poop and vomit — alone.
The kids had only been gone for 34 hours but when they got back they immediately asked me,
“What’s wrong with your face, Mommy? Why do you have droopy eyes like Daddy?”
“I do not have droopy eyes!!” My indignant response. (I have my suspicions as to why Daddy has droopy eyes, but I digress.)
I was deeply hurt. I mean, I was in pain and I had a cold and certainly was not at my best, but still there was no need to insult my looks. When I finally hobbled to a mirror I was slapped with understanding. Bumps, welts, and swelling all over my face, neck, shoulders. Lovely.
Then the itching began. Lovely and fun.
What was it? The muscle relaxants? The flu shot?
Back to the doctor, who determined I had developed hives . . . probably from the Ibuprofen, and told me to switch to Acetaminophen.
More attempts to rest my back, which meant no housework, but I still had to do everything else. Not to mention the anxious child and the depressed child have been fighting . . . a lot. But I kept my physical distance. I’ve learned my lesson. And I had another gig, which required moving the gear again. But this was week three and I’d started to feel a little bit better. I thought I could handle it. I moved my gear slowly, using my knees, not my back. I asked for and accepted help when I could get it, but I was still alone. I’m always alone . . . I digress again. At least by this time the hives were small and couldn’t be seen from a distance, even though my face felt like sandpaper. No matter, nobody was going to be touching me. Sigh. I got my gear moved and played the gig. But the next day?
Apparently the pain was just packing up to move elsewhere. Since the gig I have had excruciating constant pain from my hip to my knee. Both interior muscular and exterior pain — it hurts to the touch like a burn. The internet gods tell me that this is sciatica, nerve damage which can follow a back injury. Whatever, it hurts.
This time I just made a call to the doctor, because I don’t feel like going anywhere. (Plus, I’m afraid he thinks I have a crush on him by this point.) My doctor referred me to physical therapy. I’m still taking the muscle relaxants and I can also take sleeping pills, he advised, since I’ve been unable to sleep. Let’s hope I don’t end up on Intervention. (Wow, a Hoarders and Intervention reference in the same post, A&E should be paying me, but I digress, yet again.)
In the meantime, the demands from my kids are unrelenting. At least the dog got better. But the complaints from the kids about our house being too small and that everybody else has an iPhone and iPad and “I’m so bored” coupled with, can you pick me up or . . . can you take me . . . can you buy me . . . and can I do . . . blah, blah, blah . . . Well, it’s all a bit much these days. Feeling this badly for so long has not helped my depression. I’m coming up on week four. The tears are back, one time in public. Ugh.
My grand plans for taking care of me, taking charge of some things, well, everything has been “back-burnered.” heh heh. Actually, this sh*t ain’t funny.
My load is a bit too heavy right now. Ask my back.
Anyone out there considering running? — Or having children, for that matter? Give me a call. I’ll have you channel surfing on your couch, popping birth control pills and swaddled in a body condom in no time.
Just Me With . . . a different kind of “back story.”
Last night I went to a jam session. I took my kids and one of their friends. I have hopes that someday my kids will participate. They take lessons, they have some chops, but they don’t have the confidence or drive to get up there. So last night they were there to listen. Still, something beautiful happened. They clapped . . . for me.
I played multiple times, I took solos, and after each, they clapped . . . for me. (In case you’re wondering, they weren’t the only ones.) But as I look back on it today, the fact that I got applause from “those people I made” is something I really needed. They were there, in my element, watching/listening and clapping at the appropriate times. They showed genuine appreciation for the music, for me, and for the other musicians. They may never get up there. But they know their mom can, does and loves it. They know I have credibility with other musicians — something which has nothing to do with them or being their mom.
I’ve had a hard time with my particular situation, the demands on me, my current place in life and the journey that brought me here. I’d been feeling a bit beat-down lately. Periodically, or sometimes consistently, leaving the “me” behind to meet the needs of my children and be there for them had been taking a toll. I’m a sensitive person, but you gotta have a thick skin to raise people, and sometimes, it’s well . . . hard. But last night, things were different, so different things were almost upside down. I wasn’t one of the many supportive parents taking pictures and cheering my kids on at a school performance or sporting event. They were there watching, clapping for and taking pictures of — me. And it was good — to play music, it was good to have a respectful audience, it was good to back burner the “mom” nameplate yet still have the children with me. In short, it was good to be Just Me.
After a while it was getting late, and they were ready to go, as was I. As we got up to leave I was asked to play one more set. The kids didn’t seem to mind that much. I played. They clapped. No complaints. At the end of he night I thanked them for coming. (Mind you they did get some food out of the deal.) But the lack of eye-rolling, whining, fighting and squirming — and their applause . . . they don’t even know how much I needed that.
Sometimes a girl just needs a little applause. I may call my mom and just clap for her.
Just Me With . . . my music and my kids . . . . just being me.
My diapering days are long gone. But they were substantial. Four in diapers in the day, five at night. But there are some things I will never forget and my tween and teen children and others seem to enjoy Baby B’s potty training fiasco. So here it goes.
At the time I had four in diapers. The older twins were nearing potty training age and showed signs of readiness. I, however, was not ready to potty train toddler twins with infant twins in tow and an active 3-year-old. My mom, though, bless her heart, kept nudging me, “They’re ready. They’re ready. When are you going to train them? ” She was insistent. I caved.
My way of potty training is not my mother’s. I never did sit a baby on potty at certain times and wait until something comes out. No offense to my mom, and kudos to her –but she never had more than one kid in diapers. She and Daddy were smart or lucky enough to space their children accordingly. No, my method is to wait until the kid is really ready, then take the diaper off. Now you can’t go out much during those first few days. And there will be mess and laundry, but the kid will get to the potty eventually and get something in it. Just one of the twins was showing the readiness signs so I thought I’d train one at a time (I figured it would quiet Mom down some even just doing one kid).
Bye Bye Wee Wee! Someone had lent us this little cartoon video on potty training “Once Upon a Potty” where the little one walks around naked learning how to use the potty. Sometimes the wee wee and poo poo were on the floor, but when the kid got it in the potty it was like a Mardi Gras celebration. The child is depicted as so, so proud and makes a big deal out of waving goodbye to the wee wee and poo poo as it is flushed away. It was cute. And it went along with my potty training method.
Now this is where I must have lost my mind. For some reason we left the house. We hardly ever left the house, potty training or not. I mean two sets of twins, it’s not fun to go anywhere. That day my mother had come over to help me with the kids and for some ill-advised reason — we left the house. I must have blocked on the reason.
The singleton was at pre-school. We only had the girls. Maybe that’s why we left the house. Why, why? Often if I had to go somewhere and I’d get my mom and she’d sit in the car with the kids while I ran in the store, etc. But why did we go out that day, during the grandmom pressured potty training?
Whatever the reason, we were out. And, of course, the older twins got hungry. I was unprepared, ill-equipped for this inevitability. Did I say we didn’t go out much? Plus all my babies were breast-fed and I never got used to packing up bottles or snacks if we did go out. (Got Boobs? Okay, we can go.) So we stopped for fast food (again, not something I was accustomed to, so for the kids it was a rare treat).
Of course — the grabbing of the crouch and the simple word from Baby B,
Damn. Now, of course, I know this is all a scam. Children at this age just like to see bathrooms in other places and will always ask to go to the potty when they are anywhere else but home. Still, any person around a potty training child knows that you’ve got T minus 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . to get to a toilet — that is if they really have to go, which you don’t know until you try. So, I had to take her. She didn’t have a diaper on, remember? So I had to take her to a public bathroom, a public bathroom at McDonald’s. And it wasn’t particularly clean (surprise). And this is a GIRL! I tried to check the seat for errant piss. I did the toilet paper on the seat thing in record time and then . . . . (tinkle, tinkle, tinkle) — would have been music to my mother’s ears but she was sitting out in the comfort of the restaurant area — not in the small sticky stinky dirty McDonald’s bathroom. I was just — well, pissed. (Pun intended.) I did the “Good Job!!” cheer and implored her not to touch anything. But I was pissed. Pissed that the primary motivation for my doing this was the softly consistent and disturbingly effective pressure from my mom — and all the moms that came before me (or so it seemed).
My baby girl (well, one of them) was proud and playing and dancing around the bathroom. She was still so toddler-ish. I washed her hands and while I was trying to keep her from sitting on the McDonald’s bathroom floor in front of the toilet, I washed mine. In my head I was making plans for bath time when we got home (for both of us).
Then, my little girl turned,
put her hands ON the toilet seat,
stuck her head INTO the toilet
and yelled “BYE BYE, WEE WEE!!!!”
I was horrified.
I was disgusted.
I was done.
Clearly in my mind, if the baby-child is not old enough not to put her head in a public toilet, then perhaps she is not ready for potty training. When we got home and washed up, I put a diaper back on my girl. I was flustered and annoyed at myself for not trusting my own instincts.
There have been times in life where I will freely admit that I should have listened to my Mom. This was not one of them.
At that moment, as far I was concerned, Baby B would wear a diaper until she took it off herself, drove to Victoria’s Secret and bought herself her own panties from money she made from her job as a Superior Court Judge.
In the end, it was only a few months until both girls were ready for potty training and they were trained quickly, without incident (but with. of course, the requisite accidents along the way). We were eventually able to leave the house.
Lesson learned? The time has to be right — for everybody.
Just Me With . . . NO kids in diapers.
The day I became a mother — otherwise known as my son’s birthday — is today. He’s 15. I haven’t had a good week with my Ex-husband, and my episodic depression is rearing its ugly head, so I’m a little more pensive than usual. I think back to my fears when I was pregnant that first time. I’d read too many magazines and seen too many articles, not unlike what we all see today online, about how having children takes the spontaneity out of life, that romance dwindles. I was an employment attorney at the time so I dealt daily with glass ceiling issues and the “Mommy Track” — so while I was ridiculously happy about having this planned child, I was also afraid that it would ruin my career, finances, body, sex life, and marriage. Maybe I was just being a nervous mother-to-be after having been child-free for so long, maybe it was just the pregnancy mania. Maybe somewhere deep inside I had reason to be insecure. Never in my wildest nightmares, however, would I have imagined not having a birthday dinner with my son on his birthday because it is Daddy’s day for that. That was never part of the plan.
So now, I wait. I had to tell the Ex that I got a cake so that he wouldn’t beat me to the punch. (It wasn’t supposed to be like this). And the boy will be so tired from having had school, sports and straight with his Dad; he probably won’t have much time for me anyway. Still, I’ll go through the tradition of a cake and small gifts. I’ll have his friends over another time. I made a Happy Birthday poster last night. One of the sisters helped decorate it. I don’t always do things like that, but I’m feeling so vulnerable these days, and I’m noticing that we don’t celebrate things enough, especially since the separation and especially since the move to smaller digs. So I made a poster. I wanted to find a newborn picture of him to attach. It was a little bittersweet to see those pics of me, the Ex and the newborn baby boy. We were so happy. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea what was down the road.
But now I sit. I grew him in my belly, I birthed him, I nursed him. Yet my rights are determined by a mutually agreed upon (ha!) court order. Damn. Told you I was feeling a little blue. But I’m alone now. I’m allowed. I’ll pull it together for the little celebration. In case you’re wondering, the Ex and I have, in the past, shared some holidays/celebrations, but it stopped working, it really never did. Why that is the case is beyond the scope of this post. So now it is what it is. I am, of course, thankful for a healthy, happy first-born. He changed my life. He’s a good kid.
So Happy Birthday, Boy. But this is more than his birthday, it is the anniversary of the day I became a mother, and all that that implies.
Just Me With . . . a birthday cake.