keep the babies safe

As a rule of thumb, I keep my list of goals as a parent very simple. The reason behind this is two-fold: For one, I'm realistic. I know I'm going to really fuck it up a time or two. Plus, fewer goals equals fewer opportunities to fail and in twenty or so years, I'd like to be able to actually believe that I didn't suck more than I did. The other reason is that the things I deem goal-worthy-- meaning, the things I will allow myself to lose sleep over-- are few and far between.


Quite frankly, I don't give a shit if my kids drank breastmilk exclusively or formula as a baby or eat kale voluntarily or survive on nothing but Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I don't care if my kid gets straight A's or is labeled "academically gifted" or is an athletic or musical prodigy. Nor do I care about their enthusiasm to do anything other than watch another Barbie movie for the four thousandth time. I mean, I care of course. But I won't allow those things to be the measure of the kind of mother I am or the kind of humans my kids are. Those are all just minor details that, in twenty years, nobody will give a shit about, including me, their mother, the one who currently begs them to eat their god damn kale.


I only devote my parental energy to four things and doing them to the best of my ability with the hope that one day, maybe they'll eat more kale than they eat sugar and treat everyone equally and with love.


Help them stay safe. 

Encourage them to be brave. 

Remind them to have fun. 

Don't be an asshole so they won't be an asshole.


That's what Joe and I focus on every day, some days much more successfully than others, in the hopes that Marlo, Edie, and Knox turn into semi-decent human beings. They are reasonable, doable, and universally appropriate. They are simple to explain and easy for a child to remember. They are the foundation of our family's credo and though we don't always follow them perfectly, for the most part, they guide the way. 


And it used to feel like enough, like if we just remain consistent and stay true to our beliefs, we'd most likely raise well-adjusted humans who we actually like and not just because we share the same genetic make-up. But lately, for so many reasons-- which include but are not limited to the latest tragic school shooting-- it feels like nothing will ever be enough to prepare them for the cruelty of the world they're up against. This world feels brutal, more unpredictable, and full of what the fuck's that I am having a hard time explaining to an inquisitive, precocious almost-six-year-old. I don't have a simple answer for Marlo when she asks me why she has to practice lockdown drills. I don't know what to tell her when she asks me who would be sad enough to come and hurt her and her friends.



This weekend, Marlo told me that if someone were in her school and trying to hurt her friends, she wouldn't hide. Instead, she told me, she'd break the rules and try to protect her friends because "that's the right thing to do and you always tell me to do the right thing." I had to leave the room so she didn't see the silent sobs escaping from me. 


Marlo was recently awarded the Kindness Award from her class. So it makes complete sense to me that she would want to protect her friends. She's an empath and a natural-born advocate therefore I'd expect nothing less from her. And it's admirable, sure. It's a sign that whatever Joe and I are doing may be working towards shaping a woman who radiates goodness. That's our goal, after all. However, as far as I know, most kindergarteners still need the occasional help wiping their own ass so surely protecting each other from foreseeable death needn't be their responsibility? Hell, Marlo isn't even entirely sure what she would be protecting them from. But I do. I'm heartbreakingly aware of what to be afraid of because I spend my nights awake thinking of the children who have died over the last ten years-- children the same age as Mo-- and how their parents didn't get to hold them again at night. I wake up at night haunted with the fear they must have experienced and it shatters me. 


I'm livid that what once felt comforting due to its' simplicity and the inarguable applicability, now feels inadequate. It's no longer as easy as keeping them safe in parking lots and convincing them that the dentist isn't trying to kill them with the water pik or yanking them by their elbows not a second before they jump into the deep-end of the pool without their floaties. It now includes preparing them for how to not get shot at their god damned school. 


Clueing Mo in on just how fucked up our world is feels like an unnecessary robbing of her innocence. She is so blissfully unaware of the big bad world around her and her sweet little shoulders shouldn't bear the weight of it' reality just yet. It's my hope that the reality will morph into one that doesn't need to be feared but I can't make her any promises. As a result, I'm left wondering how I tell my oldest baby that it's okay to not be brave in that moment. I'm forced to now discourage one of the pillars I've built my parenting manifesto on. I don't know how I tell her that what I need is for her to stay alive. 


I've spent the last few days off and on in tears. I'm heartbroken and bitterly angry. I feel helpless knowing that no amount of conscious or intentional parenting of mine or yours will guarantee protection for my own babies because the problem is so much bigger than a few golden rules are capable of handling. I'm sure the parents of the kids who lost their lives in Florida had very similar principles. I'm sure they encouraged their kids to be kind and brave and to not be an asshole, too. But it didn't protect them and it sure as shit isn't comforting the empty arms of the parents who will be burying their children this week.  


I don't know where to go from here. All I know is that we have to work harder to protect our babies so future generations don't grow up accepting that school shootings are inevitable. We have to protect our babies so kids don't think that being brave and doing the right thing means jumping in front of a blaze of bullets. 


We have to keep our babies safe. We have to keep our babies alive. We just have to. 


It wasn't until Knox spit up the full contents of his last bottle down the inside of shirt that I lost it. I stood in the kitchen eating nacho-flavored tortilla chips as Edie sat on the plastic potty for the third consecutive hour yelling at me that she didn't have to go and that she wants to wear diapers forever and I began sobbing. And through the tears, all I could think of was Jim Gaffigan's stand up bit where he talks about what having kids feels like....


"Imagine you're drowning. And then imagine someone throws you a baby..." 


Life feels a lot like that right now. Like I'm drowning in reflux and potty training and weaning and sleep training and sleep depravation and a postpartum identity crisis. I don't want to complain. It feels so ridiculous to complain about such privileged problems, problems I chose to submerge myself in when I CHOSE to stay at home with our children. I want to be able to say that I feel on top of the world and that being a mother is the greatest and that I feel fulfilled by the monotony. But today, I won't say that.

Because, today, I can't say that.

Today, I am going to acknowledge the feelings that nobody wants to talk about because we worry that it makes us look like an ungrateful asshole. And it may make me look like an asshole but today, I don't really give a shit. 


Because today, I don't so much like being a mom.


Today I wish I didn't feel like I'm drowning. Today, I wish my life wasn't ruled by monotony. Today, I wish I had a taste of my old, carefree, childless life. Today, I wish I didn't feel like crying into my tortilla chips was my only option. Today, I wish I didn't always smell like one of their bodily functions or that my clothes weren't always stained by one of them wiping their dirty mouths. Today I wish I didn't only buy clothes that are solely functional and "play-date appropriate". Today, I want to know what it feels like to have an identity outside of my kids. Today, I resent how all-consuming it is. Today, I wish I didn't have the responsibility of keeping it together in front of the three people who are the source of why I am struggling to keep it together. Today, I wish I could go on strike and tell everyone in my house to fuck off.


Today, I wish my hair wasn't falling out and I weighed ten pounds less than I do. Today, I wish my boobs didn't look like sad, empty bags of nothing. Today, I wish my idea of a good time wasn't just a nap that isn't interrupted by a toddler jumping on my face. Today, I envy the boozy brunch crowd. Today, I envy the women who don't have chronic hemorrhoids from pushing out three children. Today, I wish I could drop everything and do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it, and that I didn't have to leave a detailed list of directions for whoever I leave in charge of who I'm running from.


Today, I'm allowing myself to resent my husband. Today, I'm allowing myself to say that it isn't fair that he doesn't have to grow, birth, or feed humans with his body or deal with postpartum hormones. Today, I'm admitting that it isn't fair that he never has to look in the mirror and struggle with not recognizing who he sees staring back at him. Today, I'm letting myself be angry that whether or not I stay at home with our kids, the bulk of the day-to-day responsibility of raising our kids will always fall on me. Today, I'm calling it bullshit that he will never have to know the depth and darkness that I experience battling postpartum hormones nor will he ever fully understand it.


Today, I wish it were me leaving the house each morning to escape the noise, the arguing, the tantrums, the ass-wiping. Today, I wish it were me who could go out of town for a week and and eat a hot meal at a hotel bar by myself while I talk to strangers. Today, I wish it were me who has the important job with an official title; the job you can't wear yoga pants to, the job that allows you to consult other adults about things other than whether or not your charges pooped today. 


Today, I won't preface these feelings with the I love my kids, I really do speech. Today, I wish I didn't feel an ever-present guilt because of a fucked-up culturally engrained myth of the perfect mother. Today, I don't care that there will always be some aspect of motherhood that I could most certainly be doing better at. Today, I'm not going to acknowledge the persistent anxiety that has attached itself to my experience of motherhood like the fucking life-draining leech that anxiety is. Today, I'm going to admit that sometimes, I don't want to fucking cuddle at bedtime. Or ever, actually. Today, I'm going to admit that when my kids yell at me, it takes more self-control that I ever knew I possessed to not scream back even louder and call them an asshole. 


Today, in this very moment, I'm going to admit that I'm struggling.


Today, as I type this, I'm reminding myself that it's okay to not be okay all of the time.


Today, crying into nacho-flavored tortilla chips felt better than eating nacho-flavored tortilla chips.


Today, I will not feel guilty for being human. 


Today, I will validate my feelings in the name of self-care. 


Today, I feel like I'm drowning. 



Today, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

Life Lately

Edie prefers to wear her sister’ underwear over her bathing suit in lieu of clothes. A few pats on the back always accompany her hugs-- a trait her father shares. She tells me to go take a nap when I use a tone that she isn’t a fan of. If I’m about to lose my temper, she reminds me to take a deep breath and then asks me, “Mom, are you happy now?” Yes, I am, because it is impossible to stay unhappy around you. When I ask her if she wants to start using the potty like a big girl, she simply responds with a “No thanks. I’m good.” She talks to herself while playing and is happiest sitting in my lap. She refers to her brother as Knoxy or Bubby. She thinks PENIS is the funniest thing to say at the dinner table. She likes to tell people she meets that she was born in New York.


Marlo is currently in that grey area between innocence and an alternative that makes my insides hurt. As such, she's asking such very big questions— questions I don't always have answers to. Mom, why are people mean? Why is that person homeless? Why did someone kill the King? (Referring to Martin Luther King, Jr.) She has a hard time keeping a lid on her emotions. She doesn't walk or run; she skips. She can't decide if she loves or hates or loves her sister. She has anxiety about staying safe. Like me, she can't watch a show or movie without asking 1,001 questions. (Side note: I am now starting to understand why Joe becomes so annoyed when we watch television together.) She sneaks gulps of my iced coffee when I'm not looking. She will ask for one-on-one Mama Time when she needs it. She has very strong opinions on shrimp, mushrooms, and my bangs. All negative, in case you were wondering.


Knox is our last and, as a result, my forever baby. He's taking his time doing everything unlike his eager and over-achieving sisters. His favorite activities include farting, cuddling, and vomiting. He prefers sleeping as close to me as possible and loathes naps. He's helped us reach our health deductible before February so he's productive and efficient (and maybe an over achiever after all). He is Edie's baby twin minus the auburn hair. He makes you work for his laughs and smiles.


Focusing on these seemingly unimportant details has become my lifeline during a time where I feel as though I am drowning.


Drowning while holding a baby. Or three.  


I am touched out and overstimulated by the constant noise. I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of raising decent humans and underwhelmed by the process of doing so. The worry I feel on a daily basis is all-consuming while the day-to-day logistics of keeping three kids on their different schedules is exhausting. So, I not only want to focus on these seemingly unimportant details; I NEED to focus on them. Otherwise, I fear that I will lose sight of why this job is such a beautiful one and I'll begin to resent it.


Life, within the scope of motherhood, feels rather impossible right now. There is only surviving the day and counting the hours until bedtime. There is washing bottles and wiping asses and cleaning up spit-up off of the couch. There are weaning hormones that make you weepy and sad for no reason. There is exhaustion and there is begging your toddler to take a nap because you're tired of being yelled at. There is cleaning up mess after mess and opening forty-seven bags of cheddar bunnies and doing all of the things you said you'd never do. It frequently feels like a tsunami of things that will never get done and, along with that tsunami, comes with it a current of guilt for not doing all of the things and for doing them all well. Motherhood is a repetitive slap in the face even when you see it coming. 



But as impossible as it all feels right now, it’s a chapter of my life that I never want to lose memory of. I desperately want to remember how loved I am by my kids in the moments I deserve it the least. I want to remember the relief I feel when Joe pulls into the driveway after work because my team mate is home and I can’t do any of this without him. I want to remember the dinners with my girlfriends where we sit around a table, drinking wine, talking about how much we love our kids while also admitting that we're so happy to be away from them. I want to remember how intense all of the feelings that accompany this chapter are and how, in spite of where motherhood falls short, I've never felt more fulfilled or more sure of my place in the world.


Which is Marlo, Edie, and Knox' mom. 


And it is because of being their mom that during those times when I don’t feel like smiling or cuddling or playing, I do it anyway. Because any other option is unacceptable. When I struggle, I show my kids that life inevitably ebbs and flows and beauty lies within the resilience and graciousness we force ourselves to fight for. When I cry from emotional depletion and exhaustion, I get my shit together, apologize, and I show up. 


And showing up should be the only measure I use to judge the kind of mother I am. 


Not that time I lost my patience or raised my voice. Not whether I breastfed for a year or weaned after three months or formula fed from day one. Not if I let my kids eat goldfish for dinner. Not if my kid has perfect attendance. Not if my almost three year old still uses a paci because I just don’t want to fight that battle. Not if my house is perfectly styled or if there is a leftover macaroni noodle from dinner three nights ago. Not if I buy all the ugly plastic Fisher-Price shit instead of bougie organic wooden toys. Not the times I stuck my kids in front of the tv (including my infant) because I needed five minutes of not being touched. Not the ten pounds I can't lose. Not the home-cooked vegetable-heavy meals. Not the extracurricular activities. Not the PTA participation. 


Just showing up.


 They're crazy. But they're  my  crazy. And I'm so thankful.

They're crazy. But they're my crazy. And I'm so thankful.