“The World Ain’t All Sunshine and Rainbows, Sweetie.”

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“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa

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I have written before about how I think we over-coddle our kids these days, always making them feel like winners even when all they are is a solid mediocre. It’s rare these days for our children to feel like they did anything less than come in first; so, the sucker punch of not winning, when you tried really hard and truly, deeply thought you deserved to win, is a totally unfamiliar feeling.

Recently, my 11 year old daughter and her tween ethnic dance group participated in a competition. These girls practiced on their own well in excess of what the teacher demanded. They propped each other up. They were ready to hit is out of the park on the day of the show. And you know what? They did. It was a well-coordinated symphony of smiles and movement with pops of color in an eye-pleasing fashion. It was truly a joy to watch.

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The girls were the last in their age group and genre to perform so when they hit the final dazzling pose of the dance I thought for sure they were going to win. But they did not. They didn’t even place. Everyone, girls and parents alike, was very disappointed. Like many, I was not sure why the girls didn’t win and it did bug me. So I said to my daughter in the aftermath of the dance competition, “That sucks but you practiced a ton, did a great job, and should be proud of that and move on.”

Personally, I thought this was a parenting highlight for me.

Someday my kid might not get into Harvard and she will be disappointed. She may not ever know the algorithm of the admissions committee but I want her to be proud of the accomplishments that gave her the feeling that she was competitive enough to apply. Someday the guy she has a crush on may end up dating another girl and she will be disappointed. She may not ever know what he saw in the other girl that she lacks but I want her to know that she is charming and beautiful and worthy of so many boys’ interests. Someday my adult daughter will apply for a job and walk away from the interviewing thinking she nailed it. But she still might not get the job.

Sometimes no matter how great and amazing and talented we are, we don’t get chosen. Occasionally, it is because we actually think we are better or more competitive than we really are; but, more often there is just an idiosyncratic way that these things play out in they eyes of those doing the choosing whether or not the choosers are utilizing strict guidelines.  In the weeks after the competition, I have silently followed along as a number of other parents a launched an email trail of their disappointment. The initial disappointment brimmed into anger and then to demands to know what the judging criteria were, what the ethnicities of the judges were (in case they could bias the results), etc. There is a draft letter now that is presumably being sent to the leadership of the organization that hosted the event.

I get the disappointment but I don’t get the zeal to defend the girls’ honor so to speak. I have no idea if the other girls feel that same way as their parents. But, I do know that I don’t want my daughter to expect her parents to get into fighting mode whenever things play out in a way that doesn’t go her way because it’s a life skill to know when to move on. And, while I do want her to be brave enough to fight the fight when warranted (think Civil Rights Movement, Marriage Equality….,) I don’t want her to get worked up in a tizzy every single time things don’t go the way she was hoping.  Life is simply too short to be in fighting mode that often. Rather I want her to learn to be proud of the interest, and the effort, and the lessons learned from each and every experience whether or not she walks away with a championship ribbon.

If we don’t let our kids experience disappointment and maybe even occasional heartache–fair or unfair– they will always believe that life is all sunshine and rainbows. I hope I am raising my kid to weather the clouds and storms that will surely occasionally cast a shadow on her adult life so that she can be resilient and keep moving forward. “That’s how winning is done.”

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Anti-terrorism 101 and Tearful Timeouts

Rule number 1.

You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

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Why is this trauma mama writing about terrorism?  Well, because I have been negotiating with terrorists for the past 9 years and now it is coming to bite me in the a**.

I confess, I live with two terrorists.  One has light brown skin, curly dark hair, and is 34 ½ inches tall.  The other is covered in red fur and weighs 140lbs.

It all started 9 years ago when this lovely cuddly face entered my life.  Otis Benjamin, our beautiful Bullmastiff puppy was our first child.  And, he was an easy puppy.  Easy to potty train, fast to learn “sit”, “stay” and other commands.  But then, he hit his adolescence and I was not mentally prepared for it.  Almost every day posed a new problem.  Otis ate a hole in our wall and is in the corner looking like a crack addict with white powder all over his face?  My fault, I probably don’t walk him enough.  Otis ate the washing machine?  Yes, this really happened and again, my fault because I’m sure he was bored.  You can see where this is heading.  Luckily, as usual, my husband stepped in, took control and there were no more negotiations.  He was told to do something, and it was expected that he obey 100% of the time.  If he didn’t obey, there was no cajoling, pleading, or persuading (my modus operandi) being done.  He got punished.  I probably should have prefaced this by stating that outside of the hospital, I am a wimp.  I just couldn’t punish him.  I thought being nice and sweet and understanding would lead my 140lb dog to obey because he would know I loved him.  I thought, if I am “mean” to him and punish him, he won’t love me anymore.  I know, I can hear all of you chuckling because, duh, my dog doesn’t think like that.  He just wants to eat, sleep and know the rules so he stays out of trouble and in our laps.  Yep, I said laps.  He weighs more than me, but don’t tell him that!

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My child, my lovely happy easy baby boy is now 19 months old and has become a hitter.  He hits everything and everyone – including Otis.  I’m not going to lie it is pretty funny watching a 28 pound little human go after a gigantic dog who just rolls over on him, but it isn’t right.

Wikipedia defines terrorism as “the systematic use of violence as the means of coercion for political purposes”.  Although my child obviously has no political purpose and he isn’t necessarily violent, his behavior has taken my household hostage.  I have tried re-direction, saying “no”, saying “no” louder, and even giving him cookies to have him stop hitting.  This is now the second time I have negotiated with a terrorist.  The first time has resulted in a 140 pound dog who although loves me and protects me with all his heart, doesn’t listen to me at all.  About anything.  In fact, I’m pretty sure he is laughing at me on the inside whenever I tell him to do something.

Two days ago, I was showing my son pictures of himself on the phone (his favorite activity and yes, I know that definitely makes him my child) and out of nowhere he slaps me in my face.  In a resolve to not have another living being in my house that won’t listen to me, we had our first time out.  I did it.  Despite the ever present evil Mommy guilt and deep rooted concern that my child doesn’t love me, I disciplined him.  I told him “time out”, plopped his little behind in a chair, held his hands and let him cry.  Did I tear up a little bit?  Sure.  Was it hard?  Absolutely.  Was my husband on the couch watching us and laughing at me and how hard I was taking it?  Of course.  But I did it, and that leads me to the following:

Three promises to my son as we enter toddlerhood.

  1. I promise to try and understand.

I get it, it must suck.  You completely understand what is going on, you have definite wants and needs, but you don’t have the words for it.  All you have are hand gestures, emotions and a few words to try and convey sometimes very particular ideas/wants/wishes/needs.  Just try it.  Try to tell your friend/spouse/significant other what you want for dinner with a vocabulary that consists of doggie, ball, up, off, cow, light, fan, bye bye, and night night.  It is absolutely okay for you to have emotions, get frustrated, and be upset and I promise to try and understand and be patient with you.

2.  I promise to discipline you.

You are going to want to be popular one day.  You are going to want friends, be invited to parties, and most likely, play sports.  You are going to want to be successful in life.  And this is one way in which I can help you achieve that success.  Discipline will show you the rules, what is right and wrong, how to behave at home and in public, and most importantly how you treat other people – whether you like them or not.  Although you hate your time out chair, your time out chair will play a role in you achieving your dreams.  You will be a better person because you understand what “no” means.

3.  I promise to love you.

Even when you go noodle bodied on me in the grocery store and I can’t pick you up because when I try you remain limp and everyone is staring at us and thinking how terrible of a mother I am surely because their toddler is having a meltdown, I will love you.  It hurts me when you cry, but I love you too much to give in.  I love you too much to allow you to behave in ways that in the future will only hurt you.  And even during the hopefully brief times that you are mad at me, know that I will always love you.

My kid drinks toilet water and I eat baby food.

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Being a trauma mama, I often get asked via many different versions, “How do you do it all?”.  My usual answer, honestly, is that I don’t.  I joke all the time that my life is a perfectly orchestrated out of tune symphony.  I don’t do anything perfectly, and the great thing is, regardless of whether a mom works in an office or stays at home, none of us do.  But, I do have some keys to my semi-success.

1.  Great supporting cast.

My husband is amazing.  Seriously, I could write a whole book on how wonderful he is, and how lucky I am.  I pray every day he doesn’t wake up and realize how much better he is than me and bolt.  He is patient, he is kind, an amazing father and even better husband.  He understands my career, and never makes me feel guilty for choosing it, even when the hours stretch into consecutive days that I am not at home.

2.  Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Another trauma mama told me earlier on.  You don’t pay someone to play with your kid so you can clean your house.  You pay someone to clean your house so you can play with your kid.  She put it so bluntly, and this advice just clicked for me.  So, that is what I do.  I’m not ashamed, I will gladly put it out there.  I only do laundry and dishes in emergency situations, and I am okay with that.  I know some domestic goddesses may shake their heads at this and pity my husband.  Well, I will join you in pitying my husband, but see #3.

3.  Have a back like a duck, and let some water roll off of it.

No matter again whether you are an in-home or out-of-home working mom (because, let’s face it, we all are Working), people are going to comment, and quite frankly, probably be judgmental at times.  You know what, that’s okay.  They are entitled to have an opinion, and you are entitled to not give a s*&# about their opinion.  Sorry to be sexist, but I think this is one of the hardest things for women to accomplish.  Consciously or subconsciously I think most females are raised to become people pleasers.  And overall, I think that is fine because you do win more people over with honey versus vinegar.  My advice, however, is that you Choose which people you want to please.  I want to please my husband, my family, and friends, not the entire world and especially not the Mean Girl Mommy Army.  I swear this exists, as I have been subjected to many a conversation at social events for my husband where I am usually one of a small percentage of out-of-home working moms in which I am asked, “Don’t you miss your baby?  I could never just leave my child at home like that!”.  I am almost always tempted to say that no, I don’t ever miss my child and yes, I leave him home alone every day with a bowl of milk and cheerios on the floor next to the dog bowl to fend for himself.  A quick message to all the Mean Girl Mommies:  Do everyone a favor and stop.  Maybe you are unhappy or insecure in your own life, and stop that too.  We all make mistakes, we all wish we could be our own version of “perfect”.  We have so much knowledge and advice from our own individual experiences that no matter how different of lives that we lead, I think everyone could benefit from sharing and supporting, instead of sniping.

4.  Laugh.

So many things happen in the life of my family that I am sure would drive other people nuts, but again in the vein of letting things roll off of backs, I have learned to laugh.  Another bowl broken?  Well, at least no one is bleeding.  The dog puked and my baby is trying to clean it up?  Well, maybe he will at least be a child who likes to keep his room clean.  Etc, etc.  This sounds odd, but in a way, I am fortunate for my career to involve life and death situations, because it puts a nice perspective on the rest of my life.  When you see people die, witness the moment when breath leaves their body, have to tell their loved ones that they are no longer with us and see the realization and heartache reach their eyes, a little puke in the house doesn’t seem so bad.  I mean, after all, my child is at least healthy enough to be able to climb into dog vomit and splash happily around in it.

A few weeks ago, while my husband was out of town and I was trying to get ready for a playdate with another couple and their child, I heard one of the most dreaded sounds a mom can hear… splashing in a toilet.  I turn around and my child is dipping his little 17 month old hand into the toilet, licking his hand, then dipping it back in.   In slow motion, I see his hand headed back towards his mouth (for I guess a second taste?), I run over and grab him while maybe mumbling a bad word or two under my breath.  And then, I laughed!  My next thought was, at least my toilet was just cleaned the day before (see aforementioned #2).  And even more shocking than laughing about it is that I refuse to feel guilty about it.  Sure, it is not ideal to have your child sample toilet water and I know some germaphobes are out there washing their hands while they read this, but if this is the worst thing that my child experiences in his life, then go ahead and hand me my medal now.

One thing that I don’t like to delegate because I enjoy is grocery shopping.  But again, this sometimes comes at a cost.  Later that week, I got home late and hadn’t been able to make it to the grocery store in over a week.  I was starving, there was nothing to eat in the house for humans with molars, and yep, I did it.  I ate a baby food pouch and baby puffs for dinner.  My husband might have looked at me a little funny, but hey, at least it was low calorie, and I can’t be the only one because the food popped up in My Fitness Pal when I logged my dinner!

I tell these stories to encourage acceptance of the “imperfectness” of our lives.  Let’s not be embarrassed or ashamed about our family mishaps or even think that they represent how “good” or “bad” we are as mothers or wives, because these are the stories that make our families special and unique.  So share your stories, ladies!  Because my kid drinks toilet water and I eat baby food.