Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Parent I Thought I'd Be Vs. The Parent I Actually Am

Have you ever noticed how judgmental people who aren’t parents can be?  And none are more judgmental than a woman who is pregnant with her first child.  Take, for example, the tall, elegant, pregnant woman with the long, gorgeous, chestnut hair tottering around on three inch heels who sat at the table next to mine at Panera back when Iris was only seventeen months old. 

I admit that I had not gotten to take a shower that morning.  And then Iris and I had gone to the farmers’ market.  In July.  With the heat.  And the humidity.  And I will also admit that it probably wasn’t my best plan.  But, good idea or not, I ended up at Panera for lunch sitting sweatily in the only clean clothes I could find that morning (I was proud that they actually matched) at a table next to this pregnant lady and her work friends.  And, while I ripped Iris’s sandwich up into bite-sized pieces so she could eat it and kept Iris from trying to pick up my soda (because no one wants a caffeinated baby), I knew I was looking....well, like I hadn’t showered and had spent the morning outside in the heat and humidity. 

Then I heard the following conversation.

Judgmental Pregnant Lady: (in what she clearly thought was a whisper, but which could probably have been heard back in the kitchen) Do you see that woman over there?
Work Friend #1: (loud-whispering back) Which one?  The one with the baby? 
Judgmental Pregnant Lady: Yeah…
Work Friend #2: (interrupting) That baby is darling!
Judgmental Pregnant Lady: (interrupting back and glaring at her friend) Too bad her mother looks so….gross.  It’s like she just gave up.  I tell you, I’m not going to give up like that after I have my baby.  I’ll at least put on some makeup.  Sheesh!

At the time, hearing that made me feel pretty bad about myself.  Now?  Now it just makes me laugh.  Because, c’mon, you just know Miss Judgmental Pregnant Lady crapped herself during the delivery, didn’t get to shower for two weeks afterwards because her baby was breastfeeding 24/7, and learned, by the time her baby was six months old that if she waited to go out until she got a shower and could put on makeup, that she was never going to get to leave her house ever again.

And, while I could get mad at people who are judgmental like that, why would I when I was once one of them?   Oh, I rarely said anything out loud, but, back before I had Iris, I passed my fair share of judgments and thought my fair share of when-I-have-a-kid-I’ll-never thoughts.

Want an example?


I’ve got several.

I thought I would be a parent who used cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers.  After all, cloth diapers are better for the environment, cheaper, and would help in potty training when the time came.  Surely I would not be the kind of parent who put my own convenience over the benefits to the child and the environment.

The reality?  When Iris was four months old, we learned we’d be moving from the Cincinnati area to North Carolina.  Until we closed on our new home in North Carolina, we were going to live in a tiny, little, temporary apartment.  It did not have a washer or dryer.  Screw cloth diapering! Viva la convenience!

I also thought I would be a parent who made her own babyfood.  I even got a babyfood maker for my birthday four months after Iris was born.  Surely, food I made myself would be better for Iris, right?  And it didn’t seem too hard, right?


Iris hated babyfood.  I spent the better part of the morning trying to get her to eat maybe two spoonfuls of the crap.  If it was food she liked.  Which wasn’t often.  So, what?  I was supposed to spend all of my free time making eighteen different kinds of babyfood in the hopes the Iris would like one of them on that particular day???  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!  What is this “free time” of which you speak??  Ha!  No mother of a transitioning-to-solid food baby actually has any free time.

Oh, oh, also?  Before Iris was born, I actually said…OUT LOUD…that I was not going to let her watch any television before she was two years old.  And, at two years old, she’d only get to watch an hour a day.  And, even then, she’d never get to watch all those princess movies, ever.


Yesterday?  When I was feeling unwell and could not possibly play any more games or put together any more puzzles?  By 11:00am, we had watched Disney’s Tangled.  Twice.

Are you horrified?

Well, it’s not like my intentions went to hell in a handbasket as soon as I gave birth.  No.  The reality of having a child sets in much more slowly and insidiously than that.

It started out when Iris was about four months old and I wanted to take a shower.  She was no longer happy or entertained by sitting in a bouncy seat in the bathroom.  Which meant she screamed her fool head off the entire time I was in the shower.  No, really, she screamed and yelled and cried.  So, I’d try to take the quickest shower in all of recorded history…washing only those parts of me that might smell, and then I’d get half-dried-off and stand around naked with a towel clutched to my bosom, water dripping from my hair down my back, holding her and trying to calm her down for an hour or so.  It was easier to not bathe.  Easier, but more depressing. And kind of stinky.

So, I started putting the bouncy seat in front of Yo Gabba Gabba and showering with the bathroom door open so I could peek out and see her.  She was happy.  I was clean.  Win-win.  And I comforted myself that it was only 20 minutes.

Then, Iris got older and got mobile and I still needed to fix dinner and do laundry sometimes.  Jack’s Big Music Show to the rescue!  And then, sometimes, I really needed a break from playing blocks and chasing her around the kitchen and family room and pulling her off the dog who did not appreciate being used as a steed.

Then, Iris got even older and some of her friends got into the princesses.  And when they could talk?  Apparently, they talked about the princesses. And then Iris started talking about the princesses.  And then the Disney channel showed The Princess and the Frog one afternoon.  And then my mom bought Iris every Disney princess movie she could get her hands on.  And now Iris is the perfect example of what happens when the Princess Industrial Complex gets ahold of your daughter.  

And I still try to limit how much television she watches.  And, if I think something is too scary or inappropriate for her age, I’ll turn it off.  And she still loves books more than television. And she will play, with the television off, for hours, by herself, making up stories and having her princess dolls and stuffed toys and pirate dolls act them out.  And there is nothing she loves more than running around outside.  Or inside.  Or anywhere.  And, so, I think she’s doing pretty okay, despite my utter failure to live up to my own expectations.

So, I’ve accepted that, like with everything else, we make plans and reality comes in and bashes them over the head with a sledgehammer.

And then we make different plans.

In Which I Have to Apologize. To My Vagina. (And, I Swear, Not Every Post Is Going to Involve Bodily Fluids. Really. I Promise.)

Yesterday I was pretty mean to my vagina. 

Wait, that sounds wrong.  Let me try again...

Yesterday, I blamed my vagina for things that, it turns out today, weren’t my vagina’s fault.

Let’s start with the fact that I have my period.  (Yeah yeah, I know, TMI.  Suck it up and deal, people.  We’re all adults.  Women get periods.  Cope.)  So, I was already mad at my vagina for that.  I know it’s perfectly normal and means my body is functioning in the way it’s supposed to and all that, but it’s still annoying. So the conversations between me and my vagina were already less-than-friendly.

Me: Really? My period?  NOW?
My Vagina: What?
Me: You do know I’m trying to potty train the child, don’t you?
My Vagina: You do know that your uterus and ovaries are pretty much in charge of the whole when-you-get-your-period thing, don’t you?
Me: Well, THEY aren’t listening to me.
My Vagina: And now I’m not listening to you, either.  Bitch.

My vagina can be pretty nasty sometimes.

So, is it any wonder that I blamed my vagina when, yesterday, I started getting the symptoms of what I thought was a yeast infection? 

Me: Seriously??!?!?!???!???!????? 
My Vagina: What?
Me: You have GOT to be KIDDING ME!!!!  You’re just mad at me because I blamed you for my period and now you’re getting all passive-aggressive on me?  This is a really crappy way to deal with your anger, you know.  I DO NOT NEED THIS RIGHT NOW!!!!!
My Vagina: This is not about me.
Me: Whatever.  I hate you.
My Vagina: Fine.

After which, I ended up going to urgent care to see the doctor who said that any physical tests would be mucked up by the fact that I had my period.  I glared at my vagina.  Who was still not speaking to me.  And then he just gave me a prescription for Diflucan to treat the yeast infection and told me to take it right away and I should feel better the next day.

Cut to this morning, when, instead of feeling better, I actually felt worse.
Me: &#*$^@&#*@
My Vagina: (refusing to speak to me)
Me: Why do you hate me so much?
My Vagina: I keep telling you this is NOT MY FAULT!
Me: Then whose fault is it????
My Vagina: (turning her back and refusing to even look at me)
Me: Whatever.  Bitch.

Cut to me going to my regular doctor who tested my pee and told me I don’t have a yeast infection, I have a UTI.

Which is not my vagina’s fault at all.

Uh oh.

So, this afternoon, after starting an antibiotic and while drinking the first of what will probably be seventeen glasses of cranberry juice, I had to apologize.  To my vagina. 

I’m still waiting to see if she accepts my apology.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Still Fail At Potty Training

I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter. 
I love my daughter.

Do you think if I say it enough, I will be able to drown out my feelings of utter and complete inadequacy?

See, Iris and I started potty training rather intensively twelve days ago.  And I expected that it would take some time for Iris to really get it.  I expected that I’d be cleaning up various bodily wastes for a while.  But TWELVE DAYS????

Oh, don’t get me wrong, if she were still peeing in her panties, we’d be back in diapers.  I’m not delusional.  She got the peeing part of potty training within a few days.  And, today, she can be in the middle of playing or (this morning) in the middle of Target, sitting in a cart, in a toy aisle, and tell me she needs to go to the potty.  This is cause for some level of celebration. 

But I cannot celebrate because I am too busy cleaning up poop.


Oh, she’s pooped.  Everywhere but the potty.  And I’m not talking about we-were-on-our-way-but-just-didn’t-make-it-to-the-potty-on-time.  I’m talking about she will be playing and I will ask her if she needs to poop.  She will say no with utter certainty.  Then, ten or fifteen minutes later, she will, with tears in her eyes, say “Mommy I pooped!” and there will be a sizable turd in her panties.  Or on the floor.

I have tried rewards:

Me: Iris, if you poop in the potty, you get a (in a super-excited voice that makes me feel
like a demented game-show hostess) candy bar!


Me: Iris, when you poop in the potty, you get this Ariel doll!!!  (it’s a Barbie-sized
            Disney Princess Ariel doll she says she really wants)

I have tried gentle threats:

Iris: Mommy, can I wear a princess dress?
Me: When you poop in the potty, you can wear a princess dress.
Iris: But I want to wear a princess dress!!
Me: Not until you poop in the potty.
Iris: Oookay.


Me: Iris, if you keep pooping in your panties, we will have to put you back in diapers like a baby.  You don’t want to be a baby, do you?
Iris: (giving me the stink-eye) I’m not a baby!  I’m a little girl!
Me: But little girls poop in the potty.  Babies poop in their panties.  You’re being a baby.
Iris: NO!
Me: Sweetie, if you poop in the potty, you’ll be a little girl!  Next time, can you poop in the potty?
Iris: Okay.  I will!

I have tried peer pressure:

Me: Iris, do you know who poops in the potty?
Iris: Who?
Me: B____ (this is her best friend).
Iris: She does?
Me: Yes!  Do you know who else poops in the potty?
Iris: Who?
Me: K________ (this is her other best friend).
Iris: Yes?
Me: YES!  Don’t you want to poop in the potty like B____ and K_______?
Iris: YES!!!!

I have tried modeling correct behavior and employing jealousy (eg: I tell her/show her I am pooping on the potty and then eat a candy bar in front of her and tell her that I get to eat a candy bar because I have pooped on the potty). 

Do you know which of these techniques has worked?  NONE OF THEM, DAMMIT!

And, to make matters worse, not only are these conversations not working, they all make me feel utterly ridiculous.  You know, I used to negotiate with prosecutors to try to keep someone from having to spend the rest of their life in prison.  Now, what am I doing?  I am negotiating with a toddler to try to get her to not poop on the floor. 

Can we all just acknowledge how ludicrous that is?

The other mothers I know who are potty training seem to be doing well….their kids are pooping in the potty with aplomb.  Even the boys (who, I have been told are harder to potty train and tend to potty train later than girls).  There is a girl in Iris’s preschool class that is fully five months younger than Iris who is fully potty trained. 

You know what this means?  It means I suck at this.

And my kid is going to go to college wearing Depends.
P.S.  I promise not all my posts will be about potty training, it's just what I'm going through right now and if I have to suffer, you have to suffer.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Fail at Potty Training and The Birds and the Bees. In The Same Day.

Warning: This post talks about potty training a toddler.  That means it’s a little gross and involves TMI.  If you’re squeamish, look away.  If you’re a parent, you’re probably fine.  If you’re not a parent, continue reading at your own peril and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My daughter, Iris, is almost three.  Which means we’re working on potty training pretty intensively these days.  Honestly, this task is frustrating and kind of gross.  But, it’s going relatively well.  Iris has gotten the concept of peeing in the potty.  We’ve had several accident-free days.  In a row.  But only when it comes to peeing.

Pooping?  Is another story.

Iris is my little once-a-day pooper.  Has been since birth.  Which means we don’t get a lot of chances to practice pooping on the potty.  Add to that the fact that she is stubborn and, apparently, doesn’t want to poop on the potty and we have a child that is less-than-potty-trained, a mommy who has had to dump poop from panties into the toilet (which involves more poop-falling-on-the-floor-which-I-then-have-to-pick-up-off-the-floor-to-put-in-the-toilet than I care to think about) and constipation.

We’re having fun around here. 

Anyway  as part of the potty training, I'm trying to model the correct behavior for Iris. Which means she frequently accompanies me into the bathroom to watch me on the toilet.  Which is weird, but effective.  It is especially weird when she checks the contents of the toilet before I flush.  She will look in the toilet and say, "you peed!" or "you pooped!" all excited.  I'm not even going to get into how odd this feels. 

(Although it does not feel any weirder than sitting around with other mothers who are also potty training and realizing that, for the last two hours, you’ve all pretty much just been talking about poop.)

But, this whole process has acquired a new level of strangeness because I got my period yesterday.  Yay?

So, without thinking about it, after I got my period, I was still letting Iris accompany me to the bathroom. The scene goes like this: I pee.  I wipe.  I show her how I pee and wipe. I get up to pull up my pants and Iris checks the contents of the toilet.....

"IT'S RED!!!!!!!!!!" she screeches.  "Mommy, it's RED!!!!!!!"


Oooooh crap.

I have to quick kneel down (pants still unzipped) and tell her that, yes, I know it's red, but it's okay because Mommy has her period, which is perfectly normal.

She asks what a period is.


But I have to tell her something.

So, I tell her it's something that happens to mommies sometimes that is perfectly okay. 

She asks if it's going to happen to her. I tell her that, yes, it will, but not for a very long, long time.  Thankfully, this seems to satisfy her.

Until the next time she has to pee. 

When she sits on the toilet, pees, then looks at me, worried: "Is it going to be red?  I don't want it to be red."  She starts to cry.  “I don’t want it to be RE-E-E-E-D-D-D!!”

So, I take her off the toilet to show her that it's not red. 
She is much relieved. 

I am not much relieved.  Because, for the rest of the day, every time she pees, she asks me if it's going to be red.

Having kids is a strange experience.

By Way of Introduction....

My name is Betsy.  I am a failed spinster.  I think, when you reach the age of 32 and you’re married to your work and you don’t even have a boyfriend and you figure you’re going live alone for the rest of your life with just your dogs for company, you can call yourself a spinster.  When you then meet the man of your dreams and marry him (three years later, when you're 35), you have to call that a failure of spinsterhood.  Although, I can’t say I mind being a failure in this particular category.

I am also a recovering attorney.  For a decade, I was a criminal defense attorney working as a public defender.  I was very good at it.  Apparently, I have a talent for trial work.  I actually liked it while I did it.  I loved collecting stories about my work.  I loved telling stories about my work (disclaimer: nothing that violated attorney-client privilege, though).  Then I got married, quit my job, moved to a whole new state, and realized that I didn’t miss practicing law.  The only things I truly miss about the work are the stories and feeling like I am competent.

And, speaking of competence (or lack thereof): I am also the mother of a toddler.  More correctly, I am the stay-at-home-mother of a toddler.  I hate it when people say that “being a mom is the hardest job” in the world.  I’m pretty sure that shoveling poop out of the sewers is a harder job.  Probably so is being the President of the United States (or any other country).  But, I can say unequivocally, that being the mother of a toddler is a more difficult job than being a criminal defense attorney.  That is because, in the great competition over who is more unreasonable, toddlers or criminal defendants, the toddlers are winning.  Also, when you are a criminal defense attorney, you have whole days and weeks and even months when you feel like you are competent at your job.  When you are a stay-at-home mother?  You might feel competent for 30 full seconds every other week.  If you are lucky. 

No one tells you this before you have kids.

They should.
Instead, there are a lot of moms out there blogging and pinning things on Pinterest and tweeting about how amazing their kids are and how fulfilled they feel and making me feel like a failure because, while their kids are having a magical, fun-filled, Pinterest-y childhood, I’m lucky if I get a shower. 

Having kids is hard, people.  Sure I love my daughter more than I ever thought possible, and mothering her is rewarding and there are sublime moments and blah blah blah. But, a lot of days, I can’t get dinner cooked or the laundry done because my child is literally climbing on me like I am a human jungle gym and there are so many toys strewn around the floor that I’ve given up on my family room looking like anything other than Romper Room and if I have to watch Yo Gabba Gabba or Dora the Explorer or freakin’ Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one more time I’m going to lose my ever-loving mind.  Never mind cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming or, holy CRAP is it time to plan the child’s BIRTHDAY PARTY already???!??!??!??!

When am I supposed to have time to make actual CRAFTS?

*standing up*

My name is Betsy.  I am forty years old.  I am a failed spinster.  I am a recovering attorney.  I am the mother of a toddler.  I fail at Pinterest.  My life is messy.  It’s okay.