Kids Are Resilient

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It took a hurricane, where I have been mandatorily sequestered by my job, to be able to write a blog post since having a second child.

That sums up life with 2 kids.

The experience of upgrading to a family of 4 is different than I anticipated. I expected virtually no sleep. I expected chaos. I expected some emotions– lots of emotions. I expected to feel guilty and that I would be unable to handle it all at times. I expected lots of frozen pizzas, Publix subs and Paw Patrol.

And all of the above occurred.

Months before having my second baby, Troy, I did my usual over-preparation. I read all the books/blogs/Google posts the Internet offered. I interrogated every mother of multiples I know. I spent plenty of quality time with my first born. I went to Washington D.C. with my husband on a mini-getaway. I made lasagnas and enchiladas and casseroles for the freezer. Lastly, I completed the proverbial Costco trip, where I stocked up on paper products and poultry for the first 8 weeks.

And while all that was somewhat helpful…. Here are a few noted differences that Google didn’t offer….

Type A to Type Free!

I have this personality trait where I like to manage and control everything. I’m as Type-A as they come. I like to put a positive spin on it—I am leader, dependable, organized. But I’m sure my family and friends would have some other choice words for it. As it turns out, 3 is my limit. Controlling the lives of 3 people is my limit. I could keep 3 people alive relatively well—3 schedules, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners. Brian, Mason and I. My breaking point was July 12, 2016. I had to give it up. It turns out other people are perfectly capable of cutting off sandwich crusts, grocery shopping and singing Wheels on the Bus. This addition of another tiny human has forced me to delegate and give up control. While this is anxiety-provoking, it’s been a long time comin’. (Did I mention I have to relinquish control of my home and both of my children for an unknown amount of days during a Category 4 hurricane?) So hello, New Traci…. Traci who isn’t in charge of all of the things…. Nice to meet you, you’re better this way.

No More Sacred Nap Time

With my first son, Mason, 2 months felt like 2 years as I adjusted to taking total care of a new human being. With my second baby, I blinked and Troy was 2 months old. I feel that I missed out on his newborn stage. The sweet, snuggly first few weeks of having a newborn were taken in a sense because of the other life I have to take care of—his toddler brother. With Mason, I spent  baby’s nap time rocking him for hours while I enjoyed his sweet face and whatever new season of Orange Is The New Black was out on Netflix. With my second son, I spend his nap time trying to keep Mason from coloring the walls, peeing on the floor or touching sharp objects (and when I am lucky I scarf food, drink coffee and shower). I am constantly reminded that my time will always be divided now, and I will never get the same one-on-one time that I got when I had just one child.

Team Lapierre

I like to think Brian and I did a fairly good job of being teammates when we had and only son. We both work fulltime and opposite schedules, so there were plenty of times where we each had to watch our son independently or complete household tasks. We didn’t know it then, but we actually had plenty of downtime with just 1 child. If, at any point, one of us wanted to selfishly (ha!) go to Target or Home Depot alone, it was possible. There was always the possibility of the other parent being able to pick up the slack so that the other one could “slack.” With 2 offspring, all bets are off. When Brian comes to me to tray and take 2 hours to mow the lawn on a Saturday, I get a pit in my stomach. I beg him to do it during someone’s nap time so that I won’t miss out on his help. He is the best teamplayer, and having 2 kids really gives him the opportunity to shine. Taking on the toddler and the 2-month-old solo is a two-man job, preferably 3. I’m not opposed to a sister-wife at this point… any applicants?

#OldestChildProblems

The biggest challenge I have had as a new Mom is helping my toddler understand what his new normal is. My first son was the center of the universe for 2 years and 3 months. When he spoke, we jumped. We woke up on Saturdays and asked him what he wanted to do, and if he said “go see lions,” we went to see lions. If he said he wanted pancakes, we would go to the grocery store just to get the supplies to make them, with blueberries of course. Brian and and I didn’t do ourselves any favors by treating him like this, because when Troy came, Mason’s world changed drastically. Mommy can’t always rock him in his favorite chair on-demand anymore, and sometimes we can’t go to the park. And sometimes a Grandma or a Grandpa or an Aunt picks him up from daycare, and he doesn’t see his parents for a few days. Sometimes he has to stay in the house all day, and do “nothing,” because that’s how his parents were able to survive the day. In response to these drastic changes, he cries. Or he says his new favorite sentence, “That’s not nice!” Or, he throws toys or tantrums. For me, the hardest part of having a second baby is dealing with the emotions of my first baby, and not feeling guilty about it. I have to remind myself that he’s not starving or without a place to sleep or unloved, and he is fine. He is just a boy learning how to have a brother. (And lucky for my conscience, he won’t remember this time in his life.)

Twice the Love

When I was at the end of my pregnancy with Troy, I would rock Mason to sleep with tears in my eyes every night for the last 3 weeks. I was always afraid that my sweet, second child would steal me away from Mason and I wouldn’t get to say “Goodbye.” I cringe when I think about it, but approximately 2 minutes after Troy was born, I asked to see Mason. I wanted to know where he was and how he was and make sure someone knew what he liked for dinner and where his favorite jammies were. The idea of “splitting the love” between 2 kids was mind-boggling. I was always afraid that I would never love them equally. It’s unbelievable how quickly I have noticed the differences between the 2 boys, and how I appreciate them. The only comparison I can find to describe it is how I love my parents equally and differently. Where my Mom is fun and feisty, my Dad is cool and calm. They are completely different, and I love them both the same.

Becoming Brothers

When I had Mason, I remember right around 6 weeks old, when I reached a supreme level of sleep deprivation and was ready to give up, he smiled at me. I swore I could last another 6 years of sleep deprivation to just see that smile all day. This time around, the smile was great and all, but there is nothing more beautiful than watching Troy SMILE at Mason. It’s as if he remembers Mason’s voice from inside the womb. When Mason runs through the front door and asks to see his brother, shrieking with excitement, it’s the best feeling. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks, “Where’s my baby?” When I look at them, sometimes I catch glimpses of what they will look like as they get older. I think about what our family pictures will look like 10 years from now, or what their graduation photos will look like. I picture them arguing over trucks, or French fries or Christmas presents. I picture Troy starting middle school and Mason walking into school with him the first day. I can see them becoming brothers.

Since having Troy, I often find myself repeating things I used to hear my mother say so often when I was growing up. “Kids are resilient,” or “You kids don’t come with a handbook,” or “I can’t wait ’til you have kids and you see what this is like,” and “Well, I did the best I could.”

My husband and I are imperfect humans doing an imperfect job trying to raise these two perfect boys. And I’m grateful that kids, well, “they’re resilient.”

 

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The Mommy on the Bus Says, “I Go to Work”

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My son has a new passion for singing.

He graces us with his voice at all hours of the day and night, specifically when he sings himself to sleep at bedtime and naptime. He has several tunes he enjoys, but the song he sings most frequently is “The Wheels on the Bus.”

He loves to demonstrate his knowledge of people and animals, and the sounds and noises they make.

A few weeks ago he started saying that all the Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, Aunties and Uncles on the bus say “I Love you.” His favorite is the Cat on the bus says “Meow Meow Meow,” followed by the Mason on the bus “jumps up and down.” (Followed by lots of Mason jumping)

Pre-K has taught him that the Mommy on the bus says, “Shh Shh Shh,” which I’m actually okay with. I do say that often when we go grocery shopping or to restaurants, and I’d probably say it if we ever actually rode a bus.

But a couple nights ago while cooking dinner, I hear him loudly singing from his truck table, The Mommy on the Bus says, “I go to work.”

At first I thought I heard him wrong. He’s only been speaking words for about 10 months of his life, so surely he had that part wrong. The Mommy may have said, “I go to Target” or “I go to sleep” or even the dreaded “shh shh shh” but not “I go to work.”

Then my husband came home.

He confirmed the impossible—he had been hiding from me that Mason had been secretly singing that for quite a while when I would leave for my night shifts at work.

In my head I immediately started to defend myself– Two-year-olds notoriously repeat things they hear often. I have a ritual of giving him and kiss and a hug, telling him I am going to work, and I will see him in the morning when he wakes up. He always gives me a hug and kiss and says “Bye Mommy” or “Mommy go to work.” Then he goes back to playing with my husband or the dog. On bad days, (days when he hasn’t napped well or he has some monstrous teeth coming in or he’s just sick of being 2), he kicks and screams and cries “Mommy Mommy No Mommy Mommy.”

There are no words to describe days like this, except that they suck.

I hate leaving when his little 26-month-old self (yes, I just said that) needs his Mommy, and I have to go to work.

It sucks.

So when I heard this nasty little verse, I felt tears well in my eyes. I felt guilt (shocker, what’s new!) I felt sad. I felt angry. I felt embarrassed. I felt resentful.

I started saying to myself:

“Plenty of Moms work.”

“At least you work nights, so you only miss out on time with him at bedtime.”

“Daycare is good for him—he knows this stupid, effing song word-for-word because he goes there.”

“He’s more balanced because he gets alone time with me and Brian individually.”

“He will think of women as equal when he grows up.”

“He will grow up to admire the job his Mom does and brag about it.”

And while all of these statements make me feel better for a few moments, the truth is that this song is just one reminder of so many that the decision to work IS a difficult one. I chose to go back to work when Mason was around 9 months old, and it is still a decision that I make on a daily basis— the decision to go to work.

Most weeks I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. (From what I remember about being a stay-at-home-mom, I had the exact same feelings then, too.)

The only thing harder than leaving your needy, sticky, moody toddler is staying home alone with them for 10+ hours every day.

For me, work was the only thing that was able to provide me balance from my obsession with being a new mom. I became addicted to routines, feedings, schedules, strict nap times, and not letting any other adult soul watch my baby because no one else could do it “like me.” While every day I feel like I leave a 2-ft-tall piece of me back at my house, singing “The Mommy on the Bus Goes to Work,” the benefits to my mental health and relationships outweigh the consequences.

I am an extrovert to the core, and I enjoy so many things about work. I like driving in the car singing my music on the way there, getting my iced, decaf, French vanilla coffee at 3am, and talking to my co-workers and comparing Pinterest crockpot fails. Many of my work peers are also working moms with young children, and I enjoy sharing stories with them about toddler tantrums and where to find the discount wine that they require.

Above all, I feel pride doing the job I do. As a 911 dispatcher, every minute I make a difference. Every phone call or radio transmission I take is important, and it keeps my community safe and functioning. As a new Mom I feel out of my comfort zone so often, while work is familiar. I know how to do THAT right.

And here’s the thing—Mason doesn’t have any negative feelings toward those 8 little words— The Mommy on the Bus Goes To Work. He sings it while smiling and smashing trucks together. Mommy works, she says shhh, she grocery shops, she gives hugs and kisses, she watches Paw Patrol, and at bedtime– she goes to work.

He knows nothing different.

I’ve been wondering how I could write about being a working mom for quite some time, and the only way to accurately talk about it is to say that any choice—the choice to work, stay at home or work from home—they are all very hard choices to make.

All of them come with their own baggage and feelings of guilt. I know many stay-at-home-mom’s who chronically feel pressure to socialize their children more, or teach them more, or minimize screen time more or spend as little money as possible because “they don’t contribute.” (There’s really nothing farther from the truth on that last one.) I know the feelings of isolation, and psychosis and boredom that accompany spending 60+ hours a week with a wordless human who only know how to react to feelings physically. On the contrary, I know the chronic feeling of jealousy towards women who get to spend all this short,precious time with their young children.

Fortunately, there are no proven statistics that children of working mothers grow up feeling abandoned or having the inability to feel. There are also no proven statistics that children of stay-at-home-moms are mute hermits that are unable to befriend other children in Kindergarten and live at home until they are 35. We all get the equal opportunity to try our best to not mess them up, and we all succeed and fail at times doing this. (They all have the same probability of ending up on Intervention because we chose to work or not.)

I’d like to say this post has some special, happy ending where I feel triumphant because I work. Or, I’d like to say that my son’s song prompted me to spontaneously become a stay-at-home-mom and live minimally.

Neither are true.

Instead, I will listen to my son singing the Wheels on the Bus, try not to feel bad when he sings about Mommy going to work, and enjoy telling the story to my co-workers over an iced coffee at 3am in between answering 911 calls.

 

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The Two Most Important Words a Mother Can Tell A Child

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Today I went to Target.

A trip to Target looked so much different pre-baby. I would meander to Starbucks first to pick up my Venti Hibiscus refresher (with black tea instead of green). Then I would peruse the clothes, followed by the shoes, and then the house goods. I would be texting with multiple people for the duration of my excursion. About 90 minutes into my trip, my cart full of new sandals, another black maxi dress, a box of Q-tips and an unnecessary, nautical-framed picture, I would start to “shop.”

Today, I spend more time preparing for Target than actually shopping. I separate my list into aisles for convenience and speed. Produce/paper products/meats/frozen foods/miscellaneous. (And during pregnancy, I add the “sugar” section to my list) I pack a bag full of diapers, wipes, Paw Patrol toys, pouches, goldfish, gummy fruits and at least 7 trucks. In case I end up completely up a creek, I have secret pockets with pacifiers and the Ipad tablet, full of data to waste on YouTube videos of fire trucks driving down the street.

So today, Mason and I brave Target. We are both in pretty decent moods. He’s super excited about the police car his Dad got him a few days earlier, so he’s busy making siren sounds and I’m busy playing Supermarket Sweep. Around the middle of our excursion, he starts to get a bit antsy, but nothing to be concerned about yet. I move along to round 1 of my back up supplies, and he’s completely satisfied with smashing fistfuls of goldfish into his mouth while I finish picking out coffee creamer.

At this point, I’m feeling like I am in 6th grade, being forced to run the mile, and I have just finished 3 out of 4 laps around the track. My cheeks are red, I’m at the back of the class, but I’m doing okay, and I know I can finish. The checkout is always the worst for some reason. It’s like he knows he only has 5-10 minutes left to lose his shit in front of everyone, and he’s contemplating if he should do it today or not. On this date, I have my Target Cartwheel app to scan (if I forget to get that thing scanned I won’t get my free $10 gift card for those 72 yogurts I bought.) I also have a gift card to use, a few coupons, and my final form of payment. I take a deep breath, unload that cart, and hope for the best.

I am greeted by a pleasant 18-year-old with a handwritten, “sticker” name tag. (My heart immediately jumps into my chest, because without that official piece of plastic, I’m unsure if she will be able to complete this transaction without the necessary experience.) We make great small talk, she even plays a short game of peek-a-boo with Mason, and I immediately am relieved. We are going to make it.

Then, after my app and my coupons and my gift cards were scanned, the computer froze.

The aisle light is switched on.

The supervisor is called over the radio.

The lady behind me in line folds her arms and huffs.

I look at Mason, gauging exactly how many minutes of “cool” I have left, and I try and maintain some composure and positivity. He looks at me, like a tiger sniffing its prey. He smells the fear in me, and he tries to stand up in the cart and simultaneously take off his black Nike sneakers. He starts crying because he can’t do both at once. I ask him in my “I’m a good Mom” voice to sit down nicely, in which he responds, “No, Out, Shoes off!”

I cave very quickly and whip out the Ipad, which, somehow, for the first time ever, has absolutely zero power left. The blinking battery sign is coinciding with the heartbeats I can hear in my head, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom. You lose! You lose! You lose! You lose!

I see the supervisor come over, and with a line of 4 people/other-Moms-with-perfect-children behind me, we are pushed to a separate register to try and get this purchase done. I feel angry, annoyed and irritated, and I immediately start to blame everyone inside my head.

“What is the problem? What is wrong with their equipment? Why couldn’t that girl figure it out? Why can’t this one, she’s the supervisor? Why didn’t I come on a Monday morning alone? Why am I me???”

Then, out of some magical, Mother’s Day powers I had flowing, I decided to try something completely different. Something I don’t think I’ve ever tried in the 2 years and 3 weeks I’ve been a parent. I calmly thought to myself, “Traci, you have nowhere to be. You are literally going home to eat pizza with your kid and your husband and maybeeeee go on a walk. Cool the hell down and relax and talk to your child.”

So I did.

I shoved all my coupons and cards and apps at the Target supervisor, who began to rescan every item in my cart, and I surrendered.

Without speaking, I picked up Mason, put him back in his seat, put his shoes on while he kicked and he screamed, and I said—

Show Me.”

Show me your trucks.”

Show me your feet.”

Show me your eyes.”

Show me what a happy/sad/mad face looks like.”

Show me what noise Jake makes.”

Show me how you dance.”

Show me how you sing Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star.”

Show me how hard you can give me a hug.”
And that little boy laughed. And he danced. And he sung.

Did he ever sing.

He grabbed my cheeks and pulled my face to his and he gave me the wettest, grossest kiss I’ve ever received, to go with the strongest face hug I’ve ever gotten, and I he said, “I love Mommy.”

 

I spend so much time on this blog “venting” or “commiserating” or really just telling exaggerated, entertaining stories about the struggles of being a parent. The truth is—the gift of being a parent, the gift of being a mother to a son — is the most rewarding, beautiful, fulfilling feeling I have ever had in my life. I was not truly living before April 11, 2014.

I feel so ignorant to have ever thought I was.

While motherhood is all of those things, it’s simultaneously the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. (I say that with my fingers crossed, and ever so quietly, because I know in a few weeks it’s about to get so much harder with two—Just let me live in ignorant bliss for a few more weeks, please.)

The most difficult thing about being a Mother is “being present in all the places.” Being present at work, with my husband, during phone conversations and with my son all day long is mentally exhausting. There is no “me time” or time to “recharge.”

There is simply time to sleep and eat, on the good days.

It is a gift to be a Mother. It is a gift that I often take for granted. I am blessed with a funny, feisty, fiery, happy, healthy and handsome little boy that thinks I am the greatest person in the entire world. (Well the world of the 10 people he knows)

I miss the days of day-drinking, dinners and day-dreaming at Target, and I like to write about them often and about how much my life has changed. Along those lines, I would never go back to a day where I didn’t have Mason.

My goal this Mother’s Day weekend is to be present with my son. I want him to show me more flowers. I want him to show me where Swiper the Fox is hiding in our house. I want him to show me how he “puts his socks on.” I want him to show me his book about airplanes for the 800th time.

Like anything in life, the harder it is the more rewarding it is. This holds true to toddlers as well.

I am no fool.

I know that very soon there will be a day when my son doesn’t want to show me everything, or anything, and definitely not with the same enthusiasm he shows now.

I love this little boy for “showing me” how to live outside my comfort zone, be more flexible, and try my best to be more present.

Happy Mother’s Day to me. I deserve it!

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The “G” Word

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Wednesday 3/23/16: My Guilt Schedule

(Reader’s note: This is one morning in my life. There are many mornings with much less stress and guilt….like Sundays….but this day makes for a good blog post so I’m going with it)

6:23 am

I walk in the door after working an 11-hour night shift at my job as a 911 dispatcher. Per usual, the second I walk in the front door (directly adjacent to my 1-year-old’s bedroom) I drop my Tervis. I cringe, don’t move for approximately 4 minutes while the front door remains open, close my eyes and pray I haven’t woken him up. I feel guilty.

6:35 am

After putting my purse down, taking my shoes off, and tiptoeing down the hallway to my bedroom, I crawl into bed about 5 minutes before my husband’s alarm goes off. He stirs and rolls over, simultaneously making the poor dog and cat reposition and adjust. When the 4 of us have found comfortable placement in the king size bed, my husband’s alarm goes off. I disturbed the last 5 minutes of his sleep. I feel guilty. (**Most days** some days I try to purposely jostle them all around feeling resentment for the fact that they have all been asleep for the last 6 hours while I was at work…which also, much later, makes me feel guilty)

6:43 am

Mason stands in his crib, throwing stuffed animals and pacifiers (yes he still has them—Guilt!). He repeats, “Mama, Mama, Mama” until I reply back from my bedroom “Mason, Mason” or actually enter his room and say “Good Morning baby man.” Exhausted, I pick him up, give him a kiss, ask him how he slept, change his diaper, and put him down so he can say his “good mornings” to the cat and dog. He follows me into the kitchen, where I can’t find a clean cup to give him milk. (Guilt!) He reaches his hands up, asking his 6-month-pregnant mother to pick up his 32-lb self. I tell him, “Mommy can’t pick you up right now.” I feel guilty. After I wash a cup, we hold hands and walk into the living room to watch his choice of Dora the Explorer or Mickey Mouse Club. (GUILT!) Maybe 2 episodes (Guilt Guilt!)

My husband flies into the kitchen to turn on the Keurig, grab his lunch (that is sometimes not made from the night before…because I forgot…Guilt!) and say goodbye and “I love you” to us. I feel guilty that I barely saw him yesterday, or this morning, and I know tonight I will see him a whole 90 minutes before I head back to work.

7:35 am

After Mason’s morning “show/s,” I ask him what he wants for breakfast. He usually says cookies or pizza (Guilt!) He truly does like everything. Most mornings I “intend” to scramble eggs with spinach and a side of blueberries (ha!), but today, like most others, he gets a handful of cheerios and a pouch of smashed fruit. I feel guilty. Actually, the fruit pouch gets consumed on the way to daycare in the car. (Eating in the car—Guilt! Daycare—Guilt!)

Side note—I’m not quite sure what parents did before these pouch things. I really can’t imagine my life without these mixed fruit and veggie pouches.

7:50 am

There is usually some sort of tantrum or explosion over getting dressed. Today it was because he didn’t want to wear his black shoes (sneakers). He wanted to wear his blue shoes (sandals). He kicked his feet and ripped his socks off, crying out “blue shoes, blue shoes!” And I think to myself….Please don’t do this today. Please stop. Why can’t he just wear the blue shoes, anyways? Why do I care? Do I give in now and let him wear the blue shoes? (Guilt! Guilt! Guilt!)

7:55 am

We drive to daycare while I try and make positive conversation with my 1-year-old in the backseat.  I feel guilty for not seeing him for the next 6 hours or reading him a book before 8 am (wow…just typing that out loud makes me sound irrational). I point out every fire truck, ambulance, garbage truck, motorcycle or dump truck on the way. I probably annoy the crap out of him. (Guilt!)

8:10 am

At drop off, I am always either in my work clothes from the night before, or my “Mom” attire. Mom attire includes some sort of work out pants that are probably from pre-pregnancy and ill-fitting, along with the same boring maternity shirt or zip-up jacket to cover the hideous pants. (Guilt!) I don’t think my son’s ‘teachers’ even know what my hair looks like when it’s done, and they’ve definitely never seen me with make up.

One day I want to bring them in a picture of me on my wedding day and say, “See! I didn’t always look like this!!” (Guilt!)

I watch Mason excitedly run down the hallway, holding the door for me, the other kids and their parents, and run into his ‘classroom’ to play with…you guessed it…trucks. I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I will see him after lunch, and most days, he says, “Ok Mama!” and he blows me a kiss or gives me a big hug and waves ‘bye.’ While leaving him has gotten easier, especially when I see how much he enjoys it, I still feel guilty. So guilty.

(On this day specifically, I forgot it was ice cream truck day, and I didn’t have the $4 for my son to get ice cream. My son will have to watch 12 other peers eat ice cream today while he eats peanut butter crackers. GUILT GUILT GUILT)

8:30 am

I get straight to bed. I text my husband, “Goodnight, I love you, I’m sorry I forgot your lunch.” And he says “Goodnight, beautiful. It’s ok I wanted Chik Fil A anyways. I love you.” I laugh to myself, and I fall right asleep.

I wake up at 9:30 am, 11:00am and for good at 12:30 pm, all in a state of panic. I’m always afraid I slept “all day”.

The rational me says, Traci, You are supposed to sleep all day. You work at night.

The Guilty Mom in me says, Mason was at daycare yesterday. He shouldn’t go 2 days in a row. You forgot ice cream day. You better take chicken out for dinner and make sure there’s some vegetables to eat. You need to walk this poor dog that hasn’t been outside since yesterday. You need to unload the dishwasher. You need to vacuum- there’s dog hair literally everywhere. You need to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. You need to send a “Thank You” card to Holly for Mason’s gift. You need to set a phone reminder to remember to pay Bank of America. You need to ask Mom or Ashley to watch Mason next weekend so you can go to a wedding. You need to schedule your next doctor appointment…because oh, yeah…you’re pregnant by the way! And because of this, you need to get some damn khaki pants that fit!!

I am still fighting the balance battle.

I don’t think it’s one that can ever be won.

I think there will be phases where I’m better at it than others….Phases where I feel more and less guilty throughout motherhood. I will never be the perfect Mom. I will never be the perfect employee. I will never be the perfect wife. I will never be the perfect daughter or sister or friend. But for some reason I always feel pressure to.

I remember back in Grad school for Counseling we learned several techniques to assist clients with anxiety. I believe these techniques, these ‘reality check ins,’ could easily apply to mothers experiencing the Mom Guilt.

When a feeling of guilt arises, I can evaluate if the thought is rational or irrational, choose to pick the rational option, and move forward.

For example:

Irrational: I feel guilty that I am not a stay-at-home-Mom.

Rational: I love my job and the purpose I feel doing it. I love my co-workers and the adult conversation. When I was a stay-at-home-mom, I was not fulfilled.

New thought: I will not feel guilty for working!

 

Irrational: I feel guilty that sometimes I want to spend time alone, or do something for me, like get a pedicure, go to Target, or go to the movies.

Rational: Getting pedicures, shopping and going to the movies are all positive, effective ways to relieve stress and fill myself up. I need to do things like this so I’m not a raging lunatic and drive others away from me.

New thought: I think I’m going to get a pedicure tomorrow.

 

Irrational: I feel guilty that Mason goes to daycare.

Rational: Mason love daycare. Mason loves seeing other kids. Mason loves the daily activities that daycare provides, like reading, singing, dancing, playing outside and doing arts and crafts. In reality, daycare does a WAY better job of helping him learn and grow socially than I could do on my own. And also, I pay for it, so I should use it.

New thought: Mason is well-balanced because he gets the opportunity to be around Brian, me, his grandparents and everyone at daycare. I won’t feel guilty that I take my son to daycare.

 

Irrational: I feel guilty that I don’t cook dinner every night.

Rational: Let’s be real Traci, I don’t think any household in America cooks healthy dinners every night. Brian, Mason and I all look forward to Taco Tuesdays at Tijuana Flats.

New thought: I will not feel guilty about Taco Tuesdays.

 

I’m sure baby number 2 will add new ways for me to feel Mom Guilt. How will I spread my love and time between 2 children? How will I feel about not having the same quality time with Mason that I get now? How will I maintain what few, solid relationships I have right now?

I’m not sure yet.

But I will start by not feeling guilty about tacos.🙂

 

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Dating at Toys R Us

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Every weekend begins with the decision Brian and I have to make:

Do we keep the 20-month-old tornado at home and try to get chores done? Or, do we find an activity, usually involving the outdoors and snacks, to occupy him and burn his unnecessarily high amount of energy?

Today, we decided to choose the latter, and peruse Toys R Us.

With my typical no make-up, no hair done, gym shorts and a t-shirt, we begin our family outing. My purse is filled with its usual—2 diapers, a half-empty and dried-out pouch of wipes, a paperback I haven’t picked up in 6 months, a Vtech toy truck, 2 pouches of some sort of smashed fruit and a crushed sack of Cheez-its.

I love the weekends because there are two of us– two of us to stop him from running face first into a Dodge Caravan, or face-planting into a shopping cart, or climbing shelves and destroying things like a spider monkey.

We didn’t really have an agenda this particular afternoon. Mason has been speaking 2-3 new words a day lately, the latest one being “Oh S*!%”—with correct connotation and placement (like the time he couldn’t crawl out of the pool at swim lessons). Due to this language boom we decided to do the appropriate thing and buy him an alphabet puzzle, or some sort of word association game. While we try and steer him away from the aisles of trucks, Category 5 Hurricane Mason decides he ONLY wants to participate in things on the ‘Thomas the Train’ aisle. So there we stand. We enjoyed 5-10 glorious minutes “of peace” while he “played trains” with a curly, blond-haired boy of equal height and stature.

Right about the time we were going to try and pry him away, the curly-haired boy’s father says, “He’s obsessed with this thing. He will do this for hours.”

This phrase, this simple acknowledgement of the similarities that our boys share, it’s everything. It’s an in. It’s a pick up line!

Brian and I felt 21 again, sitting at Salty Dog or Gator’s Dockside, getting asked, “Hey, what are you drinking?”

I felt my cheeks burn. I felt giddy. I felt HUMAN ADULT CONNECTION.

This small intro into the train world continued into further discussions. The father was standing there with a Britax stroller/car seat combo and a 5-month- old son. Being pregnant myself, Brian and I inquired about how life with two boys is. Do they nap at the same time? (No) Is it really THAT hard? (Yes) Do you ever get time alone? (No)

His wife returned about 20 minutes into our conversation, looking as “equally-exhausted-but-trying-not-to-look-it” as me. The 4 of us stood in the Thomas aisle discussing pacifiers, nursing, date nights (or lack thereof), grandparents help, our sons’ mutual love for climbing onto the kitchen tables and trying to jump off, working full-time while having kids, use of the Ipad (only in the car of course), cage-free/ organic /Archer Farm chicken nuggets and tequila (ok, the tequila was just wishful thinking).

Brian and I fell hard.

We sadly parted ways at the Thomas aisle, with a “Best of Luck” and “Have a great weekend.”

After a fantastic “first date,” we forgot to get a number. Or a Facebook request. Or even a name to try and stalk them on Facebook and request them.

They were truly the “ones who got away.”

I walked away with so many feelings. I asked myself, do we really have room in our life to “date” right now? If I don’t have time to wash the sheets or run the robot vacuum, I definitely don’t think so. With Brian working days, me working nights/weekends and Mason being…Mason… it’s exhausting to even think of “getting to know” new friends. While I yearn for the connection I felt in the Toys R Us aisle, the tingly feeling of meeting someone who truly understands all aspects of your struggle, it’s difficult to wrap my head around the first year or so of “getting to know” a new couple.

Without a solid year of knowing someone, there are so many unanswered questions and factors to determine friendship potential. Do you let your 2-year-old watch Mickey Mouse? Do you skip nap times to allow for shopping trips or beach days or the zoo? Do you let your kids eat French fries and/or donuts? Do you drink wine? How do you feel about the Florida Gators? Or fozen pizza as a sensible dinner?

What I DO barely have time for, is meeting the occasional new mom at story time, or the park, and beginning a surface relationship, where we share coffee and stories of our sleep from the night before. We share woes of Target tantrums and “what do I make for dinner?” and we don’t have any expectations of ever seeing each other again.

I DO have time approximately once every 2-3 weeks to share a 30-minute conversation with my friends of over a decade where I can hop right into conversations about Mason (or my) bodily fluids. My people who I dated decades ago who have seen me at my weakest and my best. My people who already understand my insane sleep schedule, forgive me when I forget to call when I said I would, and understand when I have to go because my kid is screaming about his broken fire engine truck while I am trying to chase the dog through the neighborhood and simultaneously have a phone conversation. My people.

I DO have time to have 3-day long text conversations. Ones where my friend asks, “How are you feeling?” and I respond 36 hours later with, “Tired,” and she replies 12 hours later, “Cool. Me too. And I ate a cronut for breakfast. Have you tried those yet?”

I DO have time to talk to my mom every day. My mom who, like my husband, still never knows when I am working, or sleeping, or driving, or cooking dinner or running errands. My Mom who has to listen to me end a phone conversation with “I gotta go Mason is trying to grab a pot of boiling water,” or “I gotta go Mason is unlocking the back door” or “I gotta go I haven’t slept in 24 hours,” or “I gotta go I don’t want to talk.”

I DO have time on Saturday afternoons to conquer Toys R Us with my husband and go on multiple “first” dates with other couples. I have time to have mutually beneficial conversations that most likely won’t lead to anything more than a fantastic pep talk and vent session. I have time to sit in the Thomas the Train aisle and peacefully watch my son enjoy pressing all the lights and sirens while I enjoy him not breaking a bone or splitting open any skin.

This parenting thing isn’t easy, and contrary to what I thought, it isn’t getting any easier. I live for any moments of connection or empathy or mutual understanding that I get from my 20-year-long friends to the people I’ve met once in the Thomas aisle. We are all on one team against the little humans—Team “Keep Them Alive and Make Them Good People.”

It’s a good Team to be on.

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Love Ya Like a Sista!

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I have spent 30 years on this planet. (Well, 29 years and 355 days)

All but 16 months of them I have spent with Ashley.

She knows my story. My whole story. She’s my sister.

She can finish my sentences. She can finish my memories. If I start telling a story about being scared to stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s house when we were 5 and 6 years old, she will finish the story with, “yes and you made me wake up at 3am and read with you.” (and roll her eyes)

I would dare to say that she knows me better than anyone– Probably better than my mother or my husband. Sometimes, I think she knows me better than I know myself. She knows quirky things, like my infatuation with reading and my simultaneous affliction with terrible television like Teen Mom. We can start text conversations with, “So how about Janelleeeeeee?”

She knows that on any given day my most favorite thing to do is get a pedicure and go out to lunch…but only places that offer chips or bread prior to the meal ( where she always lets me devour at least ¾ of either while she nibbles at her meager share).

She has been doing my hair since back when she worked in my mom’s salon in high school. (She now owns her own successful salon.) At times when I walk in and request to go dark, she refuses because she knows I have a 20-year-history of “going-dark-and-hating-it” and making her switch me back to blonde.

She knows that anytime “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, or N Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” or “Love Shack” come on the radio we are going to have to take a break from conversation to sing. Terribly.

She knows code words — Words that with just a few syllables mean so very much more. They are more like instant throwbacks, and she gets them without skipping a beat. Girls Inc, River Reach, the yellow Jeep, Puccini’s, the Casino story, the Cement Pond, Moose Dog, Cutty Sark, Peckerwood and “It’s a Monkey Year!”

Over the years she is not the person I always go to about “stuff.” Ashley isn’t a “stuff” sort of girl. She is easy, effortless and drama-free. She doesn’t need to process things externally for hours over a few glasses of wine (although anytime I want to, she is willing to). From my entire life’s perspective, she is my first encounter with a long-term relationship, with its ups and downs, and how to overcome and commit and empathize and love.

Ashley is fiercely loyal and unwavering. It’s something I have come to expect and don’t always appreciate or acknowledge. She will always be there. I won’t know what life will be like when she’s not. In many ways, Ashley has been a part of making me the person I am. As the oldest child, we did everything together, and I always had to do it first. From soccer tryouts to jumping off of a diving board to golf lessons to calling the pizza man for delivery to being a Freshman to driving to moving out to having a baby….the oldest goes first. But there is something so special about having someone to share all the “firsts” with. I am the talker, the plan-maker and the boss lady, and Ashley is laid back, easygoing and flexible. I like to take credit for her demeanor, because as our personalities coincided over the decades, she had to adapt to my strong personality and become the calm, peaceful, flexible woman that everyone loves. (Also the one who hates confrontation and “talks” because someone has always done that for her)

As we grow into adulthood, our relationship has taken on different forms. My sister was there when I got engaged. She was the person who told me I’d be crazy to not marry my husband and that he is the only person who could tolerate me for 50+ years. (It’s like she was passing the baton, really) She was the planner and organizer and spender for my bridal and baby showers. She heard my son take his first breaths at 9:40 pm after standing in a hospital room with me for 14 hours.

The first few months of Mason’s life I could not have handled without the support of my sister. She would drive the 2 hours from Naples to West Palm on a weekly basis to snuggle her nephew, make me a turkey sandwich, and let me shower and sleep. She always comes with smiles and gifts. Those (very infrequent, of course) times when I am frustrated, anxious, overwhelmed and snippy, Ashley is the only person I want to be around because she knows how to tolerate it, help me fix it and always forgives.

As I enter my 30th year in a few days, I look forward to seeing how my relationship with my sister continues to grow, and all the ways we will continue to need each other and support each other. Most notably, we are both having babies in 2016 within 7 weeks of each other. (A big thank you to our family and husbands for tolerating TWO pregnant Coates girls over the holidays….alcohol –free!)

A relationship nearly equal to that of a sibling is that of cousins. I anxiously await the chance to watch the dynamics between these kids as they grow. Who will be the “Ashley” of the 3? Who will be the “Traci”? Who will be the wild card that we all ask, where did you come from?

As Mason approaches 2 years old and his budding personality begins to appear, I look forward to watching the changes a sibling brings to his life as well. I sense a little “Traci” in him, as he goes about the house independently organizing his trucks and blocks and not wanting anyone to touch his items. He is fiery and spunky and strong-willed. He is just about ready for an “Ashley” to come around and teach him that he has to share, and sometimes, do things he doesn’t want to do.

He doesn’t know it yet, but the most important person in his life will be here in a few months.

He will never remember life before this person.

He will never know life without this person.

His person is coming.

 

Love you, Ashley.

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I Just Want to Go Where Everybody Knows My Name, and Everybody Loves the Florida Gators.

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In the last 2 years, I have officially “grown up.”

I have less than 5 months left in my 20’s.

I am unable to function without 5 hours of sleep (or 5 cups of coffee.)

I drink water with my wine, and only on nights that include one of the following: no work in the morning, help with Mason in the morning or Christmas morning.

I have a membership to Costco, a mortgage and Mom jeans. (well, that’s what my husband calls them.)

This week, the biggest reminder that I am becoming “middle-aged” is that I am not living in Gainesville, FL celebrating the fall semester this August. My Timehop app showed me this morning how I have spent approximately the last 10 years posting status’s or pictures about ‘back to school’ at the University of Florida. This year, I am not starting a new semester, I am not standing in line for used Counseling or Chemistry textbooks, I am not waiting in traffic on Archer Road to be the 20th person in line at Bento for an Ahi Tuna Bowl (nom), and I am not enjoying $5 pitchers and 50 cent wings at Gator’s Dockside every night the first week of school.

Instead, this week, I am working my 40 hours, wiping a nose or a butt at least once an hour, meal and budget-planning and selfishly wishing I was back “home.”

Moving to a new town, having my first child and starting a new job is a lot of “new” in the last 16 months. After a decade in Gainesville, I got accustomed to a certain level of familiar– a marriage really. Gainesville and I had a 10-year relationship before our separation. I knew what he liked and didn’t like. He knew what made him tick. Palm Beach and I, in comparison, are just becoming acquainted. We don’t know each other yet. We aren’t established. We don’t finish each others’ sentences. We are at the very beginning.

So this post is dedicated to some moments of nostalgia—an ode to my Alma Mater—a memoir of “my happy place.”

-I miss going on walks through campus and at the Stadium. I miss going at night in the Winter when it was 50 degrees. I miss living somewhere that it was safe enough to do this. Somewhere where 50,000 people my age were awake and invigorated by life (or Natural Light…depending on the person)

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-I miss learning. I miss getting my syllabus each fall and highlighting the shit out of it and writing everything in my planner (only to be changed several times by professors throughout the semester who didn’t understand or respect my need to adhere to the schedule)

-I miss seeing the colors Orange and Blue everywhere.

I have a very vivid memory of being out to dinner with my Dad at Outback Steakhouse when I first moved to Gainesville in 2004. The whole restaurant was painted in jerseys, banners, signs and humans with Orange and Blue. I remember hating it. I had just moved to Gainesville 4 days prior, and after crying continuously for the 4 days, my Dad drove the 4.5 hours to come up to stay for the night to prevent me from moving home. Every time I went to Outback over the 10 years I lived there, I remembered this night…even if it was just for a moment. I respect this night, and how it reminds me to ‘give myself time.’

And slowly, over time, I became one of the humans wearing the nauseating color combination.

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– I miss the production that is College Football. I miss going to Gator City on Friday night to “celebrate the game.” I miss waking up at 6am after going to bed at 3am to move my car to an acceptable tailgating location. I miss feeling lousy from the night before and rallying the energy to continue “celebrating” the Gators and somehow getting to Midtown to feel that glorious day drinking fuzzy feeling. I miss wearing sweaters and watching a night game against Alabama and eating hot dogs or Publix subs and playing corn hole or flip cup with best friends and random strangers. I miss sleeping in on Sunday, and watching all my fellow Gainesvillians make their way to Chipotle around 2:30pm when they are able to leave the house hung-over.

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-I miss feeling strong. I miss feeling unstoppable. I miss feeling confident. I miss feeling like I could do anything. In college, my life motto was “Send me a challenge and I will conquer it.”

Motherhood has made me feel like I can barely hold the pieces together. My new life motto has become “Stay alive and keep the kid alive.” While I feel strong in completely new ways, the emotion I feel most as a parent is humility.

-I miss my places and my people. I miss the familiar.

I miss Norman Hall and how it feels wet and damp in that 100-year-old smelly building. I miss being awake on night shift at the Crisis Center and feeling all the feely feelings. I miss Dragonfly and those mother-flippin-Wontons that cost $2 a bite. I miss walking into Durty Nelly’s and seeing the beer-soaked table where my boyfriend of 3 months named “Dirt” first asked me to move into his 1-bedroom apartment with him. (And 8 years later, is my husband ……named Brian) I miss walking the streets of midtown smiling cheek-to-cheek holding my friends’ hands and singing “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I miss going to Ginnie Springs and floating down that river 4 times and not even caring what I looked like in a bathing suit or how sunburnt I got.

I miss being able to give directions. I miss knowing what to order. I miss knowing exactly how long it takes to get places in traffic. I miss knowing which aisle at Publix has the Old El Paso taco kits and where my Lean Cuisines are. I miss knowing which Dunkin Donuts have drive thru’s. I miss knowing which dog parks aren’t crowded.

I am grieving the loss of my college years, and it has been brought to the forefront as I jealously watch new generations of 20-somethings move in and out of this transient town. Some, like me, getting the most bang for their buck and staying the better part of a decade.

It would feel right if this ended like most of my blog posts with a nice little “happy ending” paragraph wrapped in a bow about how difficult but rewarding being a Mom is. A nice little line about how my life is better now because I’m married and a have a great job and beautiful son and live by the beach.

This is all true. And I wouldn’t trade any of it to linger in Gainesville. It’s no longer my time. But simultaneously, I am allowing myself to grieve Gainesville…quite similarly to the way I grieved my hometown when I moved to UF in 2004. I am allowed to grieve my stress-free, careless, poor, student life and all the people and places that accompanied it. I am allowed to reminisce and treasure these memories.

Just thinking of this special place and writing about it makes me smile. If there were a song playing as I visualize Exit 384’s sign to Gainesville from I-75, it would be the theme song to “Cheers.” I just want to go where everyone knows my name, and everyone loves the Florida Gators.

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