You Smell!

Yes our boys have reached that age. It is now uncool for Mom and Dad to say “I love you” in a public setting. They might be shunned at school if one of their friends were to hear us express our love for them. Now as they get out the car for baseball, school, or a sleep over they no longer give me a hug from the back seat and say those three words. I’m lucky if I get a “Bye dad” or the male head nod (guys you know what I’m talking about.) They slam the car door, no longer looking back at me as I watch them disappear.

This kind of stung at first, knowing they were reaching that stage where their parents are seen as “uncool,” listen to weird music, hugs are unwanted and Kisses from mom are nearly toxic while in public.

After a little thought I came up with an idea, a code that I could say to them that would express my love for them while maintaining their sense of parental separation. Only they would know what I meant, none of their friends would get it.  “You smell!” I yelled as they left they car. They only turned for a moment shook their head and smiled.  “It means I love you,” and now I can yell it as loud as I want to and only they understand. “You smell too dad.” they laugh back, and I smile. I win this round of the war of coolness.

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The Baby Weight

I’ve been staring at the boxes in my closet for over a year now. Those carefully marked boxes of pre-pregnancy clothes. At first, I was kind to myself. I went out and I bought exactly two pairs of pants in a larger size so I could go back to work – secretly hating myself for being 2 pant sizes larger than my pre-pregnancy weight.

I started out with the idea that I should lose the weight slowly, scared that any dieting would have an adverse effect on breastfeeding. I promised I would lose the baby weight by my birthday, then Christmas, then Keira’s first birthday… Before I knew it, that year had passed and I was still carrying around 15 pounds of weight from a pregnancy long past.

I stared at my closet of poorly fitting close and the boxes up high that I still didn’t fit into. I wondered to myself time and again: At what point do I just give up and buy bigger clothes? Slowly I was convincing myself that my body was already “ruined” by age, by “letting it go”, by waiting too long to lose weight. And with managing a career, a marriage and three kids, I just couldn’t convince myself that I had time to devote to making my body a priority. To be fair, I wasn’t asking to be a size 2. I wasn’t asking to lose 50 pounds. I just wanted to have my body back.

And just when I was ready to give up and go on my shopping spree, my sister-in-law posted a picture of herself on vacation: sporting a brand new bikini and 55 pounds lighter than the last time I saw her.

Okay, I admit. My first reaction was wanting to punch her.

Once I got over myself, I really stopped to think about how great it was that she was able to lose that sort of weight. She has her own career, marriage and two kids, so why couldn’t I do that very same thing? Every road block I threw up as reasons why I just can’t lose weight, her one picture destroyed.

Well, alright, Amy! Game On!

“Enjoyment, Motivation, Focus and Determination.”

In Defense of Dads

On a busy day home with the kids, I saw a tweet float past my twitter feeds: “Dad-Mom Role Reversal- What happens when Dad stays home?” I thought it sounded good for Jason, who stays at home with the kids more often than I do, and forwarded it along to him without reading it. What I found out was that this article had deeply upset him. Instead of being a supportive article for working mothers about having dads stay home with the kids, it was a list of ways that dads don’t measure up to moms. Following this article, I ran across a slew of other articles that were different subjects but all had same same context: Dads just can’t cut it.

The problem with these articles is that they measure dads against moms as if dads are just a substitute for when mom isn’t around. This hardly seems fair. We wouldn’t look down on a dad for not breastfeeding his child or a mom for not properly teaching her son to fish. So why would we look down on a dad for not being a mom?? Dads do not cease to be a man just because they’re home with the kids. And why treat men as though their value is diminished when they’re home supporting and nurturing the most important people in our lives: our children.

Years ago, Jason worked from home part time while the kids were in school. When the kids were off of school, he was there with them. Was the house absolutely spotless? Well, no. Did the boys always leave the house matching? Ha. Uh, no. (Seems my boys lack the “matching” gene.)

But the kitchen was always picked up and dinner was always made. The kids made it to soccer and baseball practice on time. Jason was involved with their sports and coached them on how to do better. Homework was always complete and the boys felt confident in their schooling. Their grades soared, they had less problems at school, and in the evenings, since a lot of this work was done ahead of time, I had time to sit and teach them German words and phrases.

Life was good. There was a sense of relaxation knowing that while not everything was done up to my Type A Mom standards, the big stuff, the stuff that mattered most to our family, was taken care of. And most importantly, the kids were happy.

Bringing a baby into the house puts a new spin on the home life. The learning curve and the stakes seems higher. But the nice part about being a new mom is that people understand when things aren’t under control. No one expects a clean house and dinner on the table when you’ve been home all day with an infant. How is that any different than when dad begins his journey of staying home with the kids?

Children are a whole new language (for both parents) and it takes an entire immersion into their world to fully understand how to keep their lives and the house under control. Maybe if we granted dads the compassion and understanding that we extend to new moms, we’d find that dads are just as capable of running the show. With a dash of fart jokes on the side.

Of Age and Adoption

When Anthony was born, I was 17 years old and only months away from graduating high school. And Ethan, he was born when I was 18.

Now, I  might seem weird to some people if they didn’t know the whole story: my boys were adopted.

I get weird looks sometimes as I walk out with the boys or if I’m asked about the age of my kids at work. People are surprised to hear that I could have a 10-year-old at my age. My first response was initially to explain the situation, “oh, well you see, they’re adopted. We just finalized the adoption last Christmas.”

But that came out weird. That makes it sounds as if we haven’t  been raising them for years and haven’t been a part of their lives since they were born. Eventually, I began explaining the entire situation to anyone who would ask.

When I got pregnant with Keira, it added another complication to the age question. “Oh, is this your first baby?”

“Well, kinda.”

“Ha! How can it only ‘kinda’ be your first?” Again, I would have to explain the entire story.

Once, while I was out with all three of my kids, a complete stranger remarked on the boys and how well-mannered they were. “Are they all your children?” I nodded and along came the eye-brow raise as she surveyed my age and surveyed the boys’ ages. Instinctively, I began my speech on how they were actually adopted…. until, I looked over at Ethan.

While he was originally beaming at the woman for complimenting him, he started to look down and shuffle his feet, uncomfortable with the fact that I had called out that he was adopted. He was different. He didn’t belong. I could see these thoughts float across his face.

What was I thinking? Was trying to explain away the possibility that I was a “teen mom” worth the discomfort I was putting on my child? Why was it more important for me to be less uncomfortable than the security and belonging of my son? It wasn’t.

The following week, Ethan, Keira and I went on a trip to our favorite grocery store. I saw a woman baby wearing her baby and immediately struck up a conversation. Her baby was only 4 days older than Keira. She turned and looked at Ethan, “oh, is he your son as well?” I beamed and nodded. She turned to me and I could see that look starting to cross her face….

“I have a 10-year-old at home, too. It’s such a great help to have older siblings! They’re fantastic older brothers!!” She laughed and we talked on for a bit before parting ways. Ethan grabbed my hand, looked up at me and smiled.

Social Media and Parenting

Imagine, if you will, Billy Mays sitting at a computer…

“Tired of waiting for Billy to bring over the new girlfriend to show her all his funny baby pictures? Do your kids avoid you having any interaction with their cool friends? Does Jane make you park around the corner from the school to pick her up?

“Well, now you don’t have to! You can get all the lovely social interaction with your children and their friends! And even their friend’s friends! With Social Media, not only can you show Billy’s new chick all his baby pictures, but you can share it with all his future girlfriends and their parents! Did Jane dance funny for you when she was 8? Wanna share those sweet moments of Billy and Grandma pinching his checks? Social Media can do all that and more!

“But wait there’s more!! Login today and sign up from all the different forms of social media and you share all those moments with friends 24 Hours a day! That’s right! Your kids don’t even have to be awake to be embarrassed anymore!”

– Okay now the serious note.

After I wrote this, Kirsten had the following conversation with Anthony after school:

Anthony: “Hey mom? Remember that silly picture you put on Facebook?? Well, now the whole world has seen it!”

Photo in Question - Posted with Permission of Tween.

Kirsten: “What exactly do you mean ‘the whole world’?”

Anthony: “Well, Ben’s mom saw it and showed Ben and now everyone at school knows about it!”

There I was writing what I thought was a funny article about how social media allows us a quicker and easier way to embarrass our children. Every parents right and responsibility.  But then Ethan, our nine year old, puts in his two cents:

Ethan: “Dad isn’t that cyber bullying?”

Dad: “Well, it’s different…wait…maybe…not really. It’s really about the intent, honey. Mom and I don’t share these photos and captions with the intent to humiliate you but to rather show how cute you are as kids.”

Ethan: “ohhhhh….but it’s still embarrassing.”

So, as social media grows and changes, maybe we need to step back and look at how it changes the interactions of the family. Do your kids have access to social media? Should they be allowed to not friend you? At what level do we trust them and let them interact with the social world with out us? Do we become cyber stalkers and read every email, every Facebook comment, every tweet?

Luckily, I have some time to think about this. For you parents already dealing with this, what do you think? What have you learned?

If You Hear It Enough…

A friend of mine commented that he felt like if you were smacked with the same thing over and over again, you’d eventually start to believe it. (I, of course, had to tell him “you’re a penguin! *slap* You’re a penguin! *slap*” But anyhow….) This really got me thinking about moms and what we deal with on a regular basis.

How many moms have a bad self esteem after they give birth? How many moms feel like they aren’t as pretty as they used to bed? And slowly nip themselves on every little thing that has changed on their body. Suddenly, we’re completely self-conscious and it shows in the way we dress, the way we interact, and the way we feel about ourselves in all aspects of our lives.

You know, I get it. I get when something seems out of the norm that we feel self-conscious about it. Maybe you think you have a large nose. Or your breasts are smaller than most. Or your hips won’t fit into “normal” cut jeans. Yes, I get it! I may not agree with it – but I get that feeling out of the “norm” can cause self-consciousness.

What I don’t get is that mamas are being self-conscious about things that are completely NORMAL.

I remember the summer before I got pregnant. I was at the neighborhood pool with the boys. They were splashing around while I relaxed in the recliners. I looked over at the baby pool area to see a young mother self-consciously splashing around with her toddler. I noticed that her bathing suit was a deep purple – to hide any sort of body imperfections – and came up high on her chest with a “grandma skirt” covering most of her thighs. It looked so odd to me to see a 20-something woman swimming around in a swim suit I’d expect to see on someone who was 65. I looked down at my own swimsuit, modest (no need to get my kids teased at the pool) but still modern. The only thing I could determine was that having her baby had made her too self-conscious to be comfortable in a typical bathing suit even though looking at her, she seemed to have one of the fittest body types at the pool!

Pregnancy and childbirth comes with changes to our body. Maybe that means stretch marks across the stomach. Maybe hips have permanently widened.  Or maybe breast shapes changed. There’s an immeasurable amount of changes that can take place. It’s all completely NORMAL!

It’s time to stop listening to those “beauty” advertisements telling us that stretch marks, wide hips, or changing breasts are a bad thing. It’s time to stop letting companies tell us that these items make us less of a beautiful woman. Why would the very things that mark the miracle our body has performed – the very things our body was designed to do – make us less beautiful as a woman?

To combat the negativity of these advertisers, let’s encourage the moms of today! Tell your wife she’s beautiful in her skin. Encourage your friends that those wider hips really emphasize her hour glass figure. Say anything that reinforces her natural beauty as a woman. Say it again and again and again. Because eventually, she’ll finally start to believe you.

You Can’t Always Just Fix it…

One of the hardest lessons I have learned am still learning, not only as a parent, but as a husband is you can’t always fix the problems. The best thing you can do is listen, let them get things off their chest. Even if you think you know the answers, just keep them to yourself. Sometimes people just need someone to hear their frustrations so they don’t feel alone. I’ve struggled with this for much of my life. I’m a fixer, could be because I’m male, Sagittarius, or even that my name means healer. For whatever reason, I am constantly trying to fix the problems my family brings to me. What is that really teaching my children though? Run to Daddy, he’ll make it better. Lately I’ve been trying to give my boys more freedom, but with it comes more responsibility for their own actions or inactions. I think I’ve said to Ethan about 100 times. “Well what’s the solution.” He generally already knows that answer himself and doesn’t need me, he just needs more confidence in himself.

I’ve hard the hardest time when it comes to Kirsten, nothing hurts my heart worse than to see my wife frustrated and crying over something I have absolutely no control. It literally drives me insane, but I can’t let it. It won’t help her work through things if I’m acting mad and frustrated, too. Not to give away my secrets, but I’ve found that if I listen and ask questions instead of over solutions she work through at least the emotions, if not a possible solution for her problems.

You can’t always just fix it… but you can always be there to listen when they want to talk.

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