Parenting

Elves

I love Christmastime.  I love the lights.  The joy.  The goodwill.  I love it even more through the eyes of my little guy.  He is SO excited.  Oh. MY. Goodness.

Everything about Christmas excites him.  Ho ho.  Baby Jesus.  Lights. Monsters. Trees.  Not to mention presents.

After we put up our tree, I wrapped a couple of gifts and put them under it right next to Massimo’s nativity play set.  Clearly, I didn’t think that part through.  As soon as he saw the presents, he ran to them saying:  “I so excited!  My presents!  Batman! Spiderman! All that!”

Uh oh.

I responded, very sweetly, “no baby, those aren’t for you and we can’t open presents until Ho Ho comes.”

And he wailed.  He cried and cried and didn’t understand.  His feelings were hurt because (1) those were not his presents–in fact none of the presents were his, and (2) I wouldn’t let him open them.

Oh the horror.

Then I made mistake number 2.  I left the room to attend to a biological need.  When I returned, I found Massimo and an unwrapped gift.

“Massimo,”  I said.  “That wasn’t for you.”

Again, he wailed.  He cried and cried and cried.  It was a great parenting moment.  I had sucked the joy of Christmas out of my two year old baby.

I also thought it was a teaching moment.  A moment to teach my two –almost three year old–a little bit about self control.

So, the next day–I wrapped more gifts.  Again, I put them under the tree next to his nativity set.  Again, he was confused.  He cried and wailed.  He wanted to open the new gift.  Which was either Batman or Batman’s house.  (Have I mentioned that my child wants Batman, Spiderman, Batman’s house, all that–and that up until right about now I’ve not been so sure about embracing the superhero theme at 2).

One thing quickly became clear, if I was going to teach him self control–I needed help.  And I needed help from someone Massimo loved and respected.

Luckily, we have our very own elf–Bobby Gi Gi.  It can be kind of a hassle trying to figure out new places to put him every nigh.  And, to be very honest, I can’t imagine that I’ll be able to remember to move him every night during Christmas until he no longer believes that Bobby is magical.  But for now, Bobby is magical.

So the next night, Bobby went to the North Pole and returned with a letter to Massimo from Ho Ho.  In the letter, Ho Ho asked Massimo not to open any more gifts until Mommy told him he could.  Ho Ho said he was busy working on Batman and Spiderman but if Massimo kept opening the gifts under the tree, he would have to give Batman and Spiderman to another little boy.

Massimo hasn’t opened any more gifts under the tree.

Thank you Bobby Gi Gi and Ho Ho.

Love,

J

 

 

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Wellness

The Time for Gratitude

Every night before I put Massimo to bed, I ask him to tell me what he’s grateful for.  He usually says “Mama, Nana, Da, Buddy, Robin, etc.”  Sometimes he leaves out a couple of people but it is always the people who he finds most important in his life.  It is never a thing.  It is always the people who he is grateful for.

Having just wrapped up Halloween (which by the way was super fun with a two year old–I’ll have to blog about that later),  we are now preparing for Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday for so many reasons.  Importantly, it is the only holiday that Madison Ave has not quite figured out how to bastardize.  It is also the best holiday because it is one that forces us all to consider what we are grateful for–instead of what we need or want.

A gratitude practice is good way to cultivate happiness.  Many wellness experts suggest the use of gratitude journals.  I find them very helpful.  If I write down three things that I’m grateful for in the morning, I am better able to focus on my haves than my have nots that day.  Prayer is also a good way develop a gratitude practice.  Thanking God for your individual blessings is a another way to focus on what we have rather than what we perceive we are missing.

The past year and half of my life has been rather hard.  I suffered a major professional disappointment and am quite sure that I was wronged.  I then removed myself from that disappointing and unhealthy situation and ended up in an even more unhealthy environment.  Now, I’m in a happy and healthy environment–for which I am very grateful.  Although my current environment is not perfect, it could have been so much worse–I could be stuck in my last environment without an end in sight.

During this time of professional disappointment, my heart has overflowed with love for my little boy.  Every time I look at him I am reminded of just how lucky I am.   The stars aligned and God shined his grace right down on me the minute he decided to put this amazing child in my life.  Focusing on the blessings of joy and love has (mostly) provided me the sanity to cope with the choppy professional waters I’ve been swimming in.

I do have to admit that sometimes its very hard.  Sometimes I just feel like throwing my hands up in the air, crying, and giving up.  But I know that the stars will again align and God will again bestow his grace on me in a way that will make all of this struggle worth it.  In the meantime, I’m forever grateful for the people that I have in my life–particularly Massimo.  Even a two year old can tell you that people are much more important than things or status or power.

Love,

J

 

 

Fertility · Single Mom

Elderly Primigravida: Not for Virgin Marathon Runners

Massimo doesn’t know this but, when he was in his Mommy’s belly–I called him Baby Sue.  Two procedures, almost daily doctor visits, daily shots, blood tests every other day, and finally my little nugget was conceived.

Eight weeks later–I was back in the doctor’s office.  This time it was the normal OB/GYN.  I was pretty excited–but I had enough of doctors.  At that point, I would have been just fine if I’d never seen another doctor in my life.  Don’t get me wrong–I was incredibly grateful for the skills that they had used to create the life that was growing inside of me but I would have preferred to be grateful from afar.

I had a vision of a beautiful natural child-birth.  With candles and a bathtub.  There would have been music–maybe even chanting.  It would be painful but worth it.

I even picked the doctor’s office that was affiliated with the one and only midwifery center in my area.  The office had the highest natural childbirth rate in my state and the doctor I picked ran the midwifery center.

After my eight week exam, the doctor invited me into his office–where he discussed his vision of my child-birth.  We were not on the same page.  I’m not even sure we were reading the same book.

I explained to him that I was interested in learning more about the midwifery center and wanted to “register” to have my birth there.  The doctor, who appeared to be 78, scoffed!

“You wouldn’t run a marathon for the first time at 37, you can’t have natural childbirth for the first time at 37.  You will RUIN OUR NUMBERS!!!!!!!”

I envisioned the following response: “I burst out in tears, lunged across the desk, grabbed his lab coat and shouted at him.  Don’t you understand!  I’ve had enough of your type!  I just want to have this baby and be left alone!  And you, you crotchety old man!  Its 2014.  Not 1914.  Put me on the list for the midwifery center and I’ll show you a marathon!”

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn’t do any of that.  I did nearly burst out in tears but I got up and left.

I was scared.  Pregnancy is scary.  Exciting but scary.  I think the medical field does a good job of making it even more scary.

Three years later and I’m STILL scared. Does that ever go away?  I have my doubts.

After the doctor’s appointment, I went home dejected but did NOT give up the hope of having a natural childbirth.

I soon received an email from my doctor with the notes from that day’s appointment.

It contained the following diagnosis: Elderly Primigravida.

Love,

 

J

 

 

 

Parenting · Working Mom

Riding with the Toddler

It seems to take much longer to get ready in the morning when I have to take Massimo to school.  However, I read somewhere that it takes, on average, two and a half extra minutes to get a toddler ready to go with you than it takes on your own.  Two and a half minutes–For just a few years.  Those are precious two and a half minutes.

Until this past April when my mom retired, I took Massimo to school about three or four times a week.  That made for both long mornings and long weeks.  When she retired, she started taking him into school.  While I’m super grateful for the help (and the shorter days and shorter weeks), I realized this morning how much I’ve been been missing out on.

This morning was the only day this week that I took Massimo to school.  Boy was it fun. Yes, I had to contend with a kind of grouchy child who did not want to go to the bathroom, change his diaper or get dressed.  I also had to feed him at 5:30 am (even though he is fed breakfast at school)–he wanted “hotcakes” and fries (lucky for him we had one of the two).

Then, instead of allowing me to load the car with the various paraphernalia that I needed, he insisted on coming with me and getting in the car –even though I wasn’t quite ready to leave.  I loaded him in the carseat in the dark (which is more fun than a barrel of monkeys)–and he was COLD and thirsty.  Please note, he was cold because I had put a sweater on him–which would have been warm enough if Mr. Patience would have let me run out to the car to turn the heat on.

Back in the house I went to get him a blanket and a bot bot (cup–for those of you who don’t speak toddler).   I came back out and warmed him up with the blanket.  As I was snuggling him tight with the blanket, he told me that he was scared of my shadow.  This is new.  My child isn’t scared of anything–let alone shadows.

Once I had him snugly in the carseat, I realized mommy had left her bot bot (a.k.a. coffee) in the house.  Can’t forget that.  I ran quickly back into the house and picked up my bot bot. And finally, we were off.

We chatted and sang the whole way to school.  He counted to ten.  We sang the ABC song, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, the Wheels on the Bus (he knows all the moves and noises), and maybe a few others that I’m missing.  He’s learning so much these days and his vocabulary is expanding a LOT.  The things he says. . . . “OH MY DOODNESS”–is his new phrase and there is absolutely nothing cuter in my life right now.

When we arrived at Debbie’s house (his teacher is Debbie–so he calls daycare her house), we had to take the blanket with us because he was COLD….brrrr he said.  I realized then that I’d packed everything but the kitchen sink in the car this morning. . . . and his cookies we baked last night for school.

Love,

 

J

 

Single Mom · Working Mom

Giving Back to Society

Every now and then, I get a wild hair up my tail and decide that I need to join a group to give back to society.  Ultimately, I know that I’m very bad about joining and participating in groups.  I don’t know why that is but sometimes I feel like I need an additional social outlet that also makes me feel like I’m contributing something other than legal opinions and raising a child to this world.

I felt one such wild tail last year around this same time when I almost joined a philanthropical group of women.  Almost for a number of reasons.  Mostly, because I was too tired.  When I say too tired, I mean literally too tired.

I went to one meeting at the leader’s house.  She lived in a swanky neighborhood and had her house decorated for Halloween.  She had painted glasses for all of us (I wish I had time to paint glasses).  We had wine and nice conversation.

During the “happy hour,” before the actual meeting, several of the women asked me the same question:  “Do you work?”  To which, I responded –yes, I’m a lawyer.  But I thought, do I work?  Doesn’t everyone work?  What is this not working that you are alluding to?  Who doesn’t work?  And how can I get that job?

After the happy hour, we had the meeting where all of the fundraising activities were discussed.  It was very clear to me that they were all very into raising money for a really good cause–which was what appealed to me in the first place.  When the meeting was over, our host told us to take our painted glasses with us and bring them back at the next meeting.

I drove home but I was so tired.  Massimo wasn’t really sleeping all night long.  I woke up at O dark thirty in the morning and my commute was really bad.  I nearly nodded off on the way home from the meeting.

I still have my glass.  Every now and then I see it in the cabinet.  It stares at me, reminding me how bad I am at joining groups and how I really should give that nice lady her glass back.

Love,

J

 

Parenting · Wellness

Are you happy Mommy? Are you happy?

You can’t pour from an empty cup.  Remember to take care of yourself first.

There are very few things that have more impact on my child than my own emotional well-being.

Massimo often asks me if I’m happy.  I usually respond, “of course, baby you’re with me.”  He smiles.

The other day, I changed it up a bit.  He ran away from me in the parking lot at school.  It wasn’t a very busy parking lot–no one else was there. But that’s not really the point.  He ran away and pretended it was a game and he wouldn’t come back.  I’m sure that some parent somewhere would have just the antidote to that situation.  But I didn’t.  I chased him until I could grab his hand and then swiftly walked him back to my car.

I didn’t say a word to him.

As we reached the car, he said “are you happy mommy, are you happy?”  In the sweet little voice that only he has.

I didn’t respond.

I put him in his car seat.  I got into the driver side and started to drive away.

Again, “are you happy mommy?  are you happy?”

Finally, I said “No, I’m not happy.  You ran away from me in a parking lot and you did not come back.  You could have gotten hurt very bad.  And that would have made Mommy very sad.  So, no, Mommy is not happy right now.”

He promptly exploded into a terrible cry.  I didn’t have to chastise him.  I didn’t have to really do all that much except tell him that I wasn’t happy–and he was immediately upset.

Now, I’m not certain that he will change his behavior the next time.  He may.  He may not.  I don’t want to set my expectations all that high.

The point is though, that children–even two-year old self-absorbed ones–want their parents to be happy.  My child wants that so much–that when I tell him I’m not–he cries.

It is impossible to be happy all time.  Sometimes life gets in the way of happiness.  Sometimes we just have a bad day, or week, or month, or year.

But here’s the thing–I don’t think that happiness is a place.  It is more of a state of mind.  In order to get to that state of mind, I often employ a variety of techniques.

Here are my tried and true methods of finding a little place of happiness (in no particular order):

(1) A gratitude journal.  Sit down on a regular basis and write down three things that you are grateful for.  When I focus on the things I have to be grateful for, I become less focused on the things that I am unhappy about.  I employ this with Massimo every night–I ask him what he is grateful for.

(2)  Exercise.  It increases my endorphins and my sense of well-being.  It also helps quiet my mind.  I find yoga particularly helpful–an hour and half in a hot room will make me forget all of my troubles.  But any form of exercise will do.  Just find your flow.

(3) Pray.  I’m not the most religious person or “best” the Christian you will ever meet.  Of that much, I’m certain.  I’m also certain of God’s grace.   I see it everyday in my son and  I experience it in nature.

(4) Meditation.  According to a Zen proverb, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”  Meditation is amazing.  It gives me time to just sit still–time to release all of the negatives and just focus on the moment.  It may not work for you, if it doesn’t–just try siting still for five minutes–without interruption.

(5) Journaling.  I find if I write down what’s on my mind, it is easier for me to let it go.  If I can let it go, it no longer consumes me.

(6) Nature.  Being outside in nature has a calming effect.  It can be anywhere–somewhere fancy on an exotic trip.  Or at the local park.  Being outside in nature makes me realize that I’m part of a bigger universe–that any problems that I face are just hiccups along the way.

(7)  Reaching out to someone for help.  This can be a therapist or a friend.  It is just helpful to have someone else to talk about my worries with.   This is why social networks (not necessarily online social networks) are very important to single parents.

(8)  Cry.  If all else fails, I go for a drive and cry.  I cry big crocodile tears.  Or if I am feeling saucy I wait until Massimo is in bed, have a glass of wine and cry those same big crocodile tears.  Either way, when I’m done feeling sorry for myself, I pull up my big girl pants and move forward because I’ve got things to do.

I think it is even more critical to recognize that children are not the person to talk about your worries with.  Children rely on their parents to take care of them and their parents’ emotional well-being is important to them.  They do not need to know their parents’ problems or be their parents’ therapist.  They are children–and if there is one time that life should be all about rainbows and butterflies–it is childhood.

Of course, basics are important.  Sustenance.  A home.  Heat.  Food.  But once those basics are met, a parent’s own well-being seems to be the next most important thing.  If the parent’s emotional needs are met, they are better able to meet the needs–both emotional and physical– of their children.

If you have other methods, please share!  If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please like, comment and share.

Love,

 

J

 

Parenting · Single Mom

The Child is Just Fine, Thank You Very Much.

Before you judge me, make sure your life is perfect.–Clint Eastwood

Older women can utter the most judgmental words ever spoken to younger women.  Especially, when it comes to parenting, lifestyle choices, and appearances.

It is possible that other demographics (older men, younger women, and younger men) harbor the same thoughts but they do not dare speak them aloud.

Older women do not care.  They seem to think that they can–indeed that it is their God given obligation to –tell younger women exactly what they think.  No holds barred.  I have considered that maybe I’m not being fair here.  I could be too quick to stereotype.  We all make judgments based on our own personal experiences–and that’s what I’m doing here.  I’ll explain.

Two years ago, I traveled to a conference for work and took 3 month old Massimo.  During the conference, I attended–with Massimo in tow–a BBQ held at the home of one of the “leaders” of our organization.  Massimo wasn’t the only baby there–in fact–another attorney and her husband attended with their baby who was several months older than Massimo.

Oh, how they swooned.  Massimo was a very handsome baby.  We compared the two babies–their size.  Massimo was larger even though younger–which (by the way) meant exactly nothing.  Everything was going pretty well.  Massimo was well-behaved and there were no major accidents. . . . . at least until one of the older female “leaders” of our organization accidentally opened her mouth.

She asked me about my husband.  I told her I wasn’t married.  Although I’m sure it was quite obvious to her that the fact that I had no husband was not all that important to me–it was to her– and she continued to pry.

“Well, what about his father? Where is he?”

“He isn’t around,”  I responded and then quickly tried to change the subject.  Having none of it, she persisted.

“Well, that’s not good for the baby!” Awkward silent moment.  I walked away.

To be fair, I am not sure she would characterize her interaction with me as an accident.

I was at a work function, with a “leader” of my organization–who by the way–I had never met until that  moment.  Of course, her opinion of my life did not matter to me but no mother –particularly a new mother–wants ANYONE to tell her that the choices that she makes aren’t “good for the baby.”

Here’s the thing, this lady literally had no business telling me what her opinion of my life choices were.  They were quite simply none of her business.  But she hit a nerve.

The story line that single parenting (particularly single motherhood) is bad for children is a time-honored tale.  “Single mothers” have their own demographic–beside which appears higher rates of poverty, school failure, and other “problems” with the children as they grow up.  Indeed, the children of single mothers are destined to fail.  At least that’s what we’ve been told.

In fact, that story is not exactly true–and it does not have to be.

Mathilde Brewaeys from VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam conducted a study comparing the well-being of children growing up in single-mother-by-choice and heterosexual two-parent families and found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development.

According to her, “the assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict.”  Ms. Brewaeys explained “however, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father. Single-mothers-by-choice knowingly make the decision to raise their child alone, in contrast to unintended single mothers. Little research has been done on the specific features of these single-mothers-by-choice families and whether there are differences between them and heterosexual two-parent families in terms of parent-child relationship, parental social support and well-being of the children.”

The study was a comparison of the well-being of children between 18 months and 6 years old.  69 of the children were raised by women who had knowingly chosen to raise their child alone and 59 were raised by mothers from heterosexual two-parent families.

Based on the results of the study, Ms. Brewaeys reported that children growing up with single-mothers-by-choice appeared to enjoy a similar parent-child relationship as those in heterosexual two-parent families.  She also said “a strong social network is of crucial importance.”

I am certain that she’s right about this last point.  It is hard enough being a parent.  Its super stressful to know that you are entirely responsible for the well-being of another human.  That’s why a support network is important.  It is allows a single mom (or dad) to have someone to reach to for help.  It also allows the single parent an opportunity to have conversations and participate in activities apart from their children.

Of course, it is always possible that some of the choices that I make not be “good for the baby.”  But, I think it’s that way with any parent–married or single.  We all try to make the best choices we can make and make those decisions based on enough information.  Inevitably, we will, on occasion, make bad ones but that’s all a part of life–and they are our choices.  Not anyone else’s.

At the end of the day, I know that the child is going to be just fine and I have to hope that whatever bad choices that I make will be just enough to make him an interesting adult.  If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please be sure to like, comment and share.

Love,

 

J

 

#singlemombychoice #singleparenting #singlemom