Monthly Archives: April 2016

Black and white or a bit of grey

It is no secret that I have strong opinions. This post will touch on 90% of the hot issues of parenting. Consider yourself warned.

I’ve always had strong opinions but getting pregnant and having a baby has made a lot of my parenting opinions stronger. Now there are plenty of things on my “I said I never would and instead do it all the time” list but there are also plenty of things that I am set on and opinionated about. I’ve noticed lately that I no longer talk about/respond to group posts about breastfeeding. I feel strongly about breastfeeding but as I am no longer doing it I just leave that space for other folks to discuss. There are other things that I feel strongly about but don’t discuss. Circumcision is a perfect example. I speak out on circumcision whenever anyone asks for opinions but I normally stay pretty quiet about it. If I find out a friend is having a boy I might say, “I’d be happy to talk about our experience with leaving our son intact” but I leave it at that. These two things, two big issues of conflict in the parenting community, fade away as kids grow.

As fast as those fade out I am finding new ones fading in. In the past couple of days I have been reading a lot of mom group posts about spanking and time outs. There is a lesbian mom group I am in where people recently discussed on a thread how effecting spanking is in their family. To be honest, I was blown away. I am very anti spanking. I’m not going to list my reasons here because either you know and agree with them or don’t and don’t care and that is what it is. But it was shocking to me to see so many people in favor of it. I am also very anti the traditional time out model. I think there are a lot of things that people consider time out that not sitting in the corner with your nose to the wall for a set number of minutes but there are folks who do that to which is mainly what I take issue with. In groups people talk about that being effective for them. One woman mentioned that she is anti time out but when she upset her daughter recently her daughter said, “mama go to the corner!” and she realized that her daughter’s daycare did time out. But it is a great daycare…

I think about the controversial issues of early parenthood and how they fade out and these new issues and how they are going to stick around much longer. And then I realized that the next step is navigating friendships with these issues. After our New York trip went bust our friends from Michigan talked about coming to see us. It didn’t work out as they could come the same time Lesley’s mom is coming and that was a huge relief to us. One of the reasons why is because I know they are not on the same page as we are with these issues. I know that because we have known each other for a long time and I’ve seen them parent and heard them talked. I felt like we dodged a bullet by not having to deal with it.

I always think we’ll be fine because we live in this hippie utopia but then I realize that people here, people we know, think differently than we do. People all parent differently. And we are now at a time where these things will come up. That makes me twitchy.

The other night Lesley was putting Gus to bed. He has been a completely bear to get down lately and she had a migraine. She was trying to go the distance with him and sat on the floor next to his bed, rubbing her eyes. He looked at her and said, “Mama sad? Mama crying?” It was the first time we have heard him identify an emotion. He knew she was upset and was concerned. This makes this idea of navigating different parenting styles on the forefront of my mind – he senses it, he worries, and I don’t want him to be in a situation where he sees kids punished for struggling with their emotions.

So I am left wondering how these things are navigated. What is black and white and what is a grey area? What do we let go and what do we stand up to? Everyone parents differently and the standard rhetoric is to do what works for you. But what happens when what works for other people is something that does not work for me to have Gus around?

Stuff

The car mishap has turned into the car saga. We still don’t have our car back and are now paying out of pocket for our rental car. They are hoping to have our car back to us by the 27th meaning that in addition the the $500 deductible we will be paying $240 for the car rental out of pocket. We tried to figure out if we could live car free for a week – in the end it wasn’t super practical unless we canceled everything we absolutely did not have to do. So paying for the car it is.

This means that our bad financial place is now worse. Not all of our bills will be paid this month – not even close. We’re living on credit cards that will be close to maxed when payday hits. The good news is we will be caught up next month and on top of that I think I can afford to get a haircut which is a big win right now. Credit card balances will remain but I tell myself what I always tell myself: Someday we won’t pay for daycare and will never have financial troubles again.

Except you and I both know that is not true. I can fix our current financial crisis by putting an extra $600 to bills next month. I can put an extra $600 to bills but I can’t ever find a way to save money? Why is that?

Stuff. The answer is stuff. We all have it, we all buy it. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Lesley and I used to have and buy ourselves more stuff but really don’t do a lot of that anymore. In general our stuff has gotten more expensive. While we used to buy random stuff at the thrift store now we buy cast iron griddles. So there’s that – We buy less, but fancier things. But the real killer? The kid. We buy the kid stuff.

In my head I know better. Child has so so many toys and his favorite? A set of measuring cups and a salad spinner. I know this is true about kids. I tell other people this is true about kids. Yet I still buy him toys. I try to tell myself it isn’t bad. I only buy him stuff on sale or used. I buy good quality brands. I resell stuff when we aren’t using it. But the reality is I still buy it.

Now I am not saying Gus has 9000 toys. If we counted outside toys and his kitchen we could fit all his stuff in the back of a pickup. If we didn’t count outside and kitchen it would all fit in a crib. He has more than he needs, yes. We have a box in his closet of future birthday/holiday toys I have gotten used or on clearance. We have an elaborate wooden dollhouse with furniture and other various accessories stores that he will get for Christmas – I spent around $100 on it. I will buy him something for his birthday (one of our favorite toy companies is coming out with a new barn this fall he will surely love) but then will probably grab something from the box so we keep holiday type stuff fairly simple. We’re trying to be better about rotating toys around some and we do get rid of stuff. Most of the stuff he has now are more for the next stage then now toys. I justify things however I can.

But it’s not just toys. Who can stop buying kids books? Who? Who doesn’t have favorite kid book authors? Who has that self control? I want to meet that person. (Again, we buy used.)

And then clothes. Look, my kid wears a lot of fancy kid clothes. We have a favorite kids clothing brand. I’ve been known to be appalled at the idea of him wearing carter’s when we are going to be with other people. I am a children’s clothes snob. I am not proud. We buy used or on great sales. But you know what? I way overbought long sleeve shirts and we just had a heat wave where I realized I under bought short sleeve shirts. So I got 5 shirts for $20 from the grocery store. And they are cute. I know this. I know he is cute in whatever. But still, I buy my freaking toddler fancy clothes. So many clothes.

I don’t know what portion of my budget this eats up. It honestly is what keeps me from budgeting well. Gus stuff and going out to eat are for sure our spending leaks and our ability to semi weather this financial crisis really proves that. It shows me that if I could get that better under control I could save more, pay off debt faster, and do more things. But I struggle so much with it and don’t know why. Do I feel guilty about working so buy Gus things? I know it is important to me that our house is fun – I want our house to be where Gus and his friends want to play. But realistically, we don’t do much of that. Most play dates in this town are during working hours so we don’t often have people over. I think some of it comes from his age – I don’t know what he will be into next so I want him to have a variety of stuff to explore? I’m not sure.

When we are all together we play outside or wherever we can run free. We read books. Toys rarely come out. I’m working on developing more activities we can do over the weekend. Structured things that we can spend a little time doing – painting or drawing, sensory play, ect. Our lives so rarely involve the stuff yet there it is. Why do we buy stuff? Why do we keep stuff? I value time. I value experiences. I’m trying hard to buy less but am so interested in what drives me to buy more.

Time

Last night I snatched up a rare opportunity and met a friend for a last minute drink while Lesley did bedtime. While I was with my friend we ran into some other friends and were chatting. These are all people I know from our baby/toddler class/group so we all have kids the same age. The topic of sleep came up briefly and a friend mentioned that whenever they try to change something in their daughter’s routine it takes them 45 minutes to get her to sleep. Ha. Tonight it took me over an hour and a half to get Gus to sleep. It regularly takes me that long. Tonight was not pleasant and at points I was not my best. But in the struggle I fell asleep in his chair with him. I woke up a bit later, not sure how long we’d been asleep, and put him in bed. I’ll take the struggle any time for those moments.

A few weeks ago my dad came to visit. We were chatting about something about the stress of parenting – our lack of time and lack of clean house. The pile of laundry that lives on our couch. My dad is a clean, organized man. He doesn’t like clutter or mess. So it surprised me when he told us to not fold the laundry. Not to waste our time.

My dad told me something I knew, both because I have heard it and felt it but it is different coming from your parents’ mouths. My dad told me that in the end, we’ll just wish we had more time. It doesn’t matter if we work or stay home. It doesn’t matter what our parenting philosophies are. All parents look at their adult kids and wish they had more time when they were little.

I’m trying to let go. I wish my house was cleaner. I wish laundry got folded AND put away but I’m done cleaning during Gus time. I pick up a bit here and there but I’ll clean during naps, I clean after bedtime some. But during the time we have to play we play. I’m not the best at living in the moment, I’m not the best at enjoying every second of hour and a half bedtime. But I sure as hell am not going to spend my kid’s only childhood washing floors.

 

This guy. Have I ever told you Lesley makes adorable kid bowties?

  

Peeping through the neighbor’s fence. Future pervert.

  

Playing baseketball.

 

Man hating and fatherless kids

I recently had a falling out with a good friend of mine (I know, I’m on a roll!). I don’t really want to get into it much here so the short version (my take on things) is that logistically it is hard if not impossible for us to maintain a friendship as she has allergies to some of our living things so struggles to spend time in our house and doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers. She doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers because, in her opinion, I hate men.

I don’t hate men. I hate patriarchy. I hate mansplaining. I hate manspreading. I struggle a lot with men’s complete unawareness about these things. I actually like said friend’s boyfriend a lot. I don’t know him well but have always had what I thought to be pleasant interactions with him. In talking to Lesley about this conversation with the friend she pointed out that she is positive I have said the words, “I hate men” to my friend. And you know what? She’s right. I can’t tell you when or in what context I did but I am sure I have said it. This friend is my closest talk to about anything friend. I know I have talked to her about a particular guy friend of mine. A big time mansplainer who, in my opinion, is sometimes kind of crappy to his wife (not abusive necessarily but the kind of guy who says, “No, I won’t help with that. That’s your job.”). I’m sure in those conversations I have let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Ugh, I hate men.”

I have been thinking a lot about this and what it means to have a child, particularly a boy one although some of these themes are present no matter what your child’s gender is. The biggest lesson here is to be aware of my language. While I know I don’t hate all men, and Lesley knows that, and many of your know that, would my child? If I said I hate men in front of my four year old son in the future how would he feel about that? I have no issue saying “The patriarchy is so screwed up” in front of him though which is really the point of my statement. This whole thing serves as a great reminder to choose my words carefully.

The other thing it has me thinking a lot about is the men in our lives. (I think I have talked about this before but if I don’t remember I doubt you do so here it is again!) I want Gus to have good examples of men in his life. Often times when I meet men I subconsciously size them up. Am I a harsher judge of them than I am of women? I wonder sometimes if I really only like men with quiet and submissive personalities – if I find fault in loud, outgoing and outspoken men when I value these attributes in women. I feel as though I am constantly combing through people to find 3 or 4 good examples of men to keep in Gus’ life.

I hung out with men at three different points this weekend. We had another game night with the craigslist folks. (It was all fine and then, at the very end of the night where it was after midnight and I just wanted them to leave, he talked about a new sushi place they went to and how to service was terrible. He said, “We were in a room where everyone else was oriental and they all got better service than me did.” I thought calling folks “oriental” was something we all knew wasn’t okay by now? Maybe not?) While the man of this couple is nice they have a weird relationship dynamic. She mentioned at some point that she had not drank since last time we were together except a few glasses of wine with a friend one night. He was upset because he did not know she had had wine with a friend and they are working on having more open communication. I am sure there was more to the story than I gathered but it was weird. I never expected to have him around Gus a lot but it has really made me wonder if I am too harsh on men – to quick to dismiss them for minor flaws.

The next place we hung out with men was at a friend’s kid’s birthday party. It’s interesting to watching moms and dads together with kids. In this scenario many of the moms chatted while the dads watched kids play outside. There are a few dads who I have met before who I think are awesome dads. I have a bit of a friend crush on one of the dads. But in this scenario am I doing something I really hate – giving huge props to dads for being awesome for interacting with their kids? When looking at men am I less harsh of a judger when they have kids and appear to be good dads? Am I looking for examples of good dads for Gus or good men? Are all good dads good men? Will all good men be good dads?

The third man was a dinner/playdate at our house with a couple we’ve done one on one stuff with a few times before. They are newer friends but we really like them. Our boys are a month apart and play well together. The adults are nice and fun and we have similar interests (beer). And the dad is a great dad. He’s great with his son and read Gus book after book as Gus crawled in his lap. He’s a good husband and they have a nice dynamic together. He’s a good dad and appears to be a good man. But what are the criteria I use to decide this?

Ultimately one of the most important things for me is that Gus has stable people in his life. I want to develop friendships with people that he knows like he would know extended family. I want that circle of people to include men. To build that maybe it doesn’t matter if I think they are good men because they are good dads. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I am a harsher critic of men then of women. All that matters is if folks, men and women alike, don’t annoy me so much that I want to hang out with them regularly for years. While my language does matter the root of my preferences does not – I want stable men in Gus’ life and I am sure as hell not going to hang out with ones that annoy me.

Disconnect

The car is getting repaired. We only have a rental car for 20 days and are on day 6. They expect the work to take 3 weeks from today. We’re going to try out the bike route to daycare and then work this weekend to see if we think we can make it a week car free. We could without a doubt if it weren’t for daycare. Daycare is a bit far in the opposite direction from work. But I really don’t want to pay more to have the car another week.

We tried to find a way to get to New York this summer but ultimately decided not to go. My bestie understands. She’s thinking they’ll come west for a Napa weekend in the fall. My sister lives in Napa so we all would have a free place to stay. It is a vacation that could totally work for us and we could still see each other.

Things are stressful but moving along and slightly better. But I’m struggling. I go through these periods from time to time and eventually they ease but I am feeling disconnected.

I feel disconnected from old friends. We planned the New York trip with another family (three total). The other family kept trying to come up with solutions that really just made me go into more and more detail about our finances. It made me feel shitty to have to continually explain the fact that we have decent incomes but live paycheck to paycheck. In my everyday life I don’t stress about this a lot because I know long term we won’t pay childcare forever but I don’t want to sit and explain my financial situation to anyone.

I feel disconnected from a lot of moms. I’m sick of seeing pictures of other people’s kids during the day. I’m sick of the reminder that everyone around me doesn’t have to work and I do. We both choose to work. We choose our life. But sometimes it feels really bad to watch everyone in every mom group set up midday playdates and hikes and our daycare has been too busy to send our midday pictures lately and I just sit at work and stare at my phone waiting to see my kid.

I feel disconnected from about 90% of people I know because I have different opinions than them about the presidential primaries and I am tired of the ugliness surrounding it.

I feel disconnected from my wife because she plays hockey 2-3 nights a week and when she is home I feel like we have so much to do and we never enjoy each other. Because my dad was in town this weekend and one night after Gus went to bed Lesley went out by ourselves for one hour and had a beer and it was amazing and now I am crying knowing that it will likely be months before that happens again.

I feel disconnected from my kid because we are taking swim lessons Monday and Wednesday and while it’s fun it’s during our only time with him and I want to read him books. He begs us to play with him while we get ready in the morning and make dinner and night and fell asleep tonight crying “outside” and it breaks my cold tiny heart.

I feel disconnected from my home because it’s trashed and I can’t enjoy a messy house.

I feel disconnected from myself because when I am stressed I can’t move. I can’t figure out what to possibly do. I don’t know where to start. I just want to sit on my couch and eat sacks of McDonalds. But instead I ate dry semi-stale Honeycombs.

The immediate stress is resolvedish. It’s working out. But the aftermath is still hanging around.

Ka-smash

For those of you who have been following along you know that we’ve had a rough 2016. Gus has been sick pretty much non stop which often involves us being sick. MRSA, ear infection, constant cold and now we have entered the world of pink eye. Two victims claimed already and I am guessing I am next. We seriously cannot catch a break.

We used money from our tax return to fence in our front yard. In some ways it feels frivolous to me and in others it was something that had to happen. Gus needs to run. He needs to be busy and active and most days that involves him tearing apart every inch of our house while I watch in awe and wonder why I thought this kid thing was a good idea. But now we enter a sunny time and we can let him run outdoors without the fear of him running into the road. It needed to happen. It is not a luxury. The neighbors would have stared if we just put a rope between the two trees in our yard and tied him to it. And the trees are super close together so it would have been pointless anyway. So we got the fence built and it sure is pretty and sure did cost $500 more than the estimate.

I did the math. We were starting this month $151 in the red.

And then I smashed the car.

On my way to work this morning I got in an accident. I am okay although now a bit sore. But I have a wicked cough, the kind that makes your whole body hurt, so who knows if that is it. The accident was my fault. I was on the highway (after dropping Gus off) and it was stop and go traffic and the car in front of me stopped and I goed. Our car has some serious damage, theirs is fine. I managed to drive it to a nearby dealership who suggest I tow it to their collision center a half mile away because it shouldn’t be driven. I did, it lives there, and some day soon someone is going to call me about fixing it.

I made the insurance claim and cried to so many strangers in person and on the phone. The next step was getting a rental car which the dealership does. I go in, the nice lady is helpful, and she asks for my credit card and license. Things I don’t have. Things I don’t have because two weeks ago Lesley lost my wallet. Week one was hoping we’d find it, week two was trying to find time to go to the DMV. So here I am, at the dealership, no way to rent a car. I’m displeased with Lesley (Note: People look at your strange when they ask for you license and you pause then say, “I am going to fucking murder her.”) and calling her on the phone. I (not so nicely) explain the situation. She comes on the bus from work (an hour commute), she rents the car, and we head home to get stuff for me to go get my license.

Online it says you need your birth certificate. I keep mine in the “E for Emily” file folder. Which was not in the file cabinet. Or anywhere in the house. We search. We search. Half hour passes when I remember that we have a fire safe. It’s in there, of course. We go to the DMV, get my license, add me to the rental car so I can pick Gus up from daycare. (We had a friend lend us a carseat until our new one arrives. You can’t use a car seat after an accident. [What this means varies by seat but our seat’s policy is any accident and seat is no good.] I ordered his new seat today and it will get here Tuesday. Insurance will reimburse me.)

So we wait to hear about the car. We have a $500 deductible. Remember how we were already $151 in the red due to fence? Yeah. Take a look at that math. 

  
The fence + car means we definitely can’t go to New York this summer. A trip we have been planning for over a year. A trip to see my best friend who has a one year old I have never met and I have a one year old she has never met. I can’t even begin to talk about this whole part of things now.

It’s 9 pm and Lesley is in bed because she feels terrible. I’m finishing this and feeding the dog and heading there. Our house is a mess. My dad comes for the weekend tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I’m going to wake up with pink eye.