That Girl

Our first child was a boy. My husband felt that way all along, and I wasn't really sure. But when he was born, and we knew, it seemed right. "Of course we had a boy first. It's what I always wanted."

When I was pregnant the second time, I knew immediately that it was a girl. Maybe it's because I thought I could will that baby into being a girl or that I really believe in positive thinking and actualizing. Either way, when she was born and we knew, it was the same. "Of course she is a girl. It's what I always wanted."

But she was difficult, our girl. She came out screaming at us and it seemed like she didn't stop until she was nine months old. The only time she took a break was to nurse, or to cat nap in the Moby wrap on my shoulder.

Looking back I wonder if she knew she was a second child and decided she was going to get the same amount of cuddles and adoration that her brother – as an only child – had received before her. Smart girl. I can say confidently that I held her as much as, if not more than, I did her brother.

These days, they have switched it up on us. She is the easy one and he is the tough one. I anticipate this will be the first of several swaps as they grow up but I appreciate that so far they have the decency to balance each other out. I doubt they will be so kind to us in their teenage years.

For now, I am enjoying seeing my baby girl become a little lady. Every time she picks up a Barbie doll or wants to wear a Cinderella dress to the grocery store or demands three wardrobe changes before lunchtime, I think to myself "she is mine. She was meant to be mine."

I have never given much thought to nature vs. nurture, and both my kids had a pretty even balance of "girl", "boy", and "gender neutral" toys until they starting choosing for themselves. Now T's room is wall-to-wall action figures scattered all over the floor and under his covers while A's floor is littered with discarded clothing and accessories – hers and her dolls'.

I think these tiny humans are who they are. It is my job to help them and guide them, but I am loving who they appear to already be on their own. One of the great joys of being a mom thus far has been sitting back and watching them become the people they were meant to be.

Can New Moms & Old Moms Be Friends?

There is this scene in "When Harry Met Sally" where the title characters are debating whether men and women can ever really be friends. It is a recurring theme throughout the film, which I am sure you know. (If you don't know, I'm not sure how we know each other because I believe in and quote this movie like other people do the Bible.) And because I often relate my real life to my favorite movies, I had a play date the other day that made me think of a similar conundrum with a twist:

Can new moms and old moms ever really be friends? 

"New" and "old" are of course in reference not to age but amount of time entrenched in motherhood. I'd say the cutoff for newbies is one year, but it is open for debate. It also factors in how many children you have, so maybe new moms are new moms until they welcome another small human into their world. Because all of us "old" moms know how much more things seem to change upon arrival of the second one – not just double, as one might imagine, but exponentially.

What brought me to this conundrum was a playdate with a friend who I hadn't seen since my baby shower when I was expecting T. It's been a loooong time. She is now a new mom to a 16ish month old boy, expecting a little girl this summer. We were always friendly, attended each other's weddings, etc. and seemed to have a good rapport. So when she mentioned getting together, I thought "sure, why not?"

In retrospect, there were so many "why nots." The most obvious being that she is still a "new mom" and I am an "old mom." She still travels with snacks for her kid. She hasn't succumbed to allowing the television to babysit her child yet. Her kid doesn't kick, or hit, or bite other kids – yet. See the pattern here? "Still, yet." Because all of us old moms would wager a guess that these are things – like many others – that will change in the coming months with the arrival of baby number 2.

So when A decide to act like her bedroom was a steel cage match and the prize was her toys, rather than that she was having a new friend over to play, I think my old friend/new mom was more than a little shell-shocked and horrified. Add to that an infinite chorus of T screaming "Moooooommmmm, can I play Angry Birds on your iPad? Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeee?" and we had a recipe for the worst play date EVER. Whereas my "old mom" friends wouldn't bat an eyelash, because they know what I know – we've all been there at one stage or another, with one kid or another.

I have to give my old friend/new mom credit, she toughed it out for longer than I would have as a new mom to T. She was gracious about A being vicious, ill-tempered and mean. She even offered up the obligatory "we should do this again sometime" on her way out the door.

But my husband (who is benefited/cursed by having a home office and got an earful of our ill-fated playdate) summed it up best when he emerged from his office after the wailing had finally abated and said, "so, you'll never see her again." To which I replied, "of course I will. In about six months or a year, when she's an old mom."

Until then, to my old friend/new mom – thank you for trying to be gracious and putting on a brave face. I forgive you for whatever you told your husband about my children when you recapped the event. And I look forward to hanging out again sometime in several months – I bet we'll be able to laugh about this then.

PS The inspiration for this post came partially from K, for when I told her about our ill-fated play date, I believe her response was something along the lines of "Oh L, you know better than to hang out with new moms." And yes, I do.

Hoping for the Best –

There is this saying, "Hope for the best, expect the worst," which I have always found annoying and pessimistic. Perhaps it is because I am what my husband calls "overambitious" – not with everything I undertake, only with things that involve our children and "outings."

He will look at me as I am on my way out the door, off for my latest "adventure" with our children, and just kind of smirk. Like, "Really? You think this will go well for you? Good luck!" And these are not overly ambitious adventures. I am talking about going to the mall. Or the grocery store. Or the Children's Museum.

And it is not that my husband is an asshole – sadly, he is often correct, which I am reminded of a few hours later when I return home. It looks a little like this:

Me: "NEVER again. Do you know what YOUR CHILDREN DID? Are you aware of how they behave in public? Horrible. It was horrible. They were kicking (each other) and screaming (mostly at me) and people were STARING.

Him: "Where are they now?"

Me: "WHAT? WHO? Oh, THEM? They're in the car, in the garage. I ran in to pee by myself before I get them."

Him: (Trying – failing – to suppress a self-righteous "I told you so" smirk) "I see. I'll grab them."

Here's the thing. I get these ideas in my head of the things I *should* be doing with the children. Like taking them out and teaching them how to behave in public. I feel pressured by Facebook frenemies and their annoying pictures of their perfectly well-behaved children; by mommy friends who make their own organic Play-Doh; by mommy bloggers who seem to have it a lot more together than I do.

I don't want my kids to feel like they came up short in the parent lottery because I am not the kind of mom who buys Moon Sand (too much cleanup) or bakes with them (I prefer booger-less baked goods, athankyouverymuch) or smiles and says "it's okay, love" no matter what they have gotten into (anyone who knows me know that I can be shrill – okay, I yell). And one thing I got from my own parents was that there are a lot of things you can do with kids to make up for the other stuff. So I keep trying, dragging them out into the world, and failing miserably.

But maybe I am not, in fact, failing miserably. Maybe I need to readjust my expectations – hope for the best and expect the worst. That way, the day we make it through the checkout line without temper tantrums and pitying looks, it will feel like a tremendous success. And there are days where I am reminded of a different perspective when T says to me, "Mumma, this was a really fun day." He doesn't remember that I yelled, or he screamed, or A threw a tantrum when it was time to leave. He remembers only that we did.

An Open Letter to T’s Preschool

Earlier in the week I received an email from T's preschool. It said:

"Hi All,

Parents have asked for a family class list for play dates and birthday parties. Attached is a copy of the family class list."

Perhaps it should have bothered me that said list included my home address and cell phone number, but I am pretty sure that most of Jack's classmates are internet (iPhone) savvy enough to Google us and find basically the same information, so… who cares. What alarmed me about this particular electronic communication was the thought process that followed:

1. Birthday parties? Wait, so if T doesn't get invited to any birthday parties after the distribution of this list, does that mean he is the smelly kid in class? Or the kid who picks his nose? Shoot, he does that annoying throat-clearing thing now, which we keep joking about is like that kid on The Middle that whispers to himself all the time…

2. Again – birthday parties? T is turning 4 next week, does that mean I am supposed to invite other kids to his birthday party? (The birthday party that is still more of an abstract concept than an actual plan at this point, but still…)

3. Play Dates?! Substitute the words "play dates" for "birthday parties" in thought #1. Repeat with thought #2.

Am tempted to reply all with this:

"Hi all,

I am T's mom. In spite of my asking (bordering on nagging) T to tell me about his day every day upon pickup, he prefers to spend his post-preschool ride home alternately hounding me to listen to "Country Girl" on the radio or demanding to play Angry Birds on my cell phone. Therefore, I have no idea whether he has formed friendships with any of your children and if so what their names might be. We might like to invite some – or all – of you to his upcoming birthday party. Unless your kid mentioned that T is the smelly kid in class, or the nose picker, or the kid who incessantly clears his throat, in which case you can disregard this entire message.

I look forward to hearing from (at least one of) you soon. Even if you want to email me anonymously and confirm that yes, T is any of the above 'that kid'."

My Love/Hate Relationship With Car-Carts

I have two kids under the age of four. From time to time – most often fueled by a fear of what may happen if we don't get out of our pajamas and our house – I take them both grocery shopping with me. Yesterday was one of those lucky days. And it went a little something like this:

T: Ooooh Mumma, I want to ride in the car cart. (For those of you who don't have these – and I'm not sure who you are because if we have them in Maine you must have them where you are – they are these horrific kid cars attached to the front of shopping carts. People put children in them and then the small people are completely obscured from parental view. If you aren't careful, your kid could likely climb out in produce and you might not notice until you get to dairy. But I digress…)

Me: Internal struggle while I weigh the pros (quiet, happy, seemingly well-behaved children) with the cons (germs, e coli, germs, the fact that one or both of them are likely to lick some part of the car cart or their hands or eat food off of it). I relent. And because we were in the parking lot when we spotted the vehicle in question, I couldn't even do a quick wipe with those cart sanitizer wipes. Which might be fine, because I'm pretty sure there is enough alcohol in those wipes to intoxicate my children from the aforementioned licking, eating and finger sucking.

Anyway, the trip through the grocery store went (mostly) smoothly. T: definitely "rested" his cookie on the seat of the car cart then ate it; ditto for A with a piece of cheese. So gross, but once you commit to the car cart you just kind of have to go with it and bathe them in baby wipes once they return to their carseats.

Segue to dinner time. T is wandering around the house mumbling "Mumma, it's so cold in here." Considering that he usually strips down to his Captain America underpants the second we walk in the door, I wasn't overly alarmed. Until I noticed that, for once, he was fully clothed. And apparently freezing, in spite of the flaming red cheeks that he was also sporting.

A little less than 24 hours – and a sleepless, very feverish night where I compulsively googled "meningitis symptoms" and "supermarket shopping carts causing toddler death" – later I can confirm that he has a nasty bug, most likely the flu. Which I am blaming entirely on the car cart.