Little Ears, Big Words: Why we need to stop the hateful rhetoric but keep up the fight.

As parents we sometimes joke about little ears listening, or we are caught off guard when our young child repeats something we didn’t think they heard. And sometimes, children don’t let us know right away that they’re listening, but boy are they listening. And if you think the topic is too mature and they just don’t get it…think again.

I can remember a time when I was pretty young, maybe around 2nd grade, and my parents were worried about a presidential election.  I remember learning that “democrats were good” and “republicans were bad.”  I didn’t know what either of those words meant, but I knew I was glad we were democrats because I wanted to be good.

At 8 years old the world is pretty black and white. There’s good and there’s bad. I remember walking into school feeling proud that “we” had won. I kept waiting for a friend to bring it up so I could ask some questions because I wasn’t 100% clear on why democrats were good and republicans were bad, but politics didn’t really come up during second grade recess.

Now I realize, of course, that the world is quite complicated and not all democrats are good and not all republicans are bad. However, it has taken me some serious soul searching, reflecting, debating and listening to accept that.

I hate to admit this, because I want to think of myself as open-minded, but I definitely hold a bias against republicans. I know that isn’t fair, but it’s also not surprising given our current political climate.

However, knowing this about myself and recognizing my own bias, helps me engage in more thoughtful debate. I acknowledge my prejudices and try to open my mind to another point of view. I haven’t yet changed my mind on any issue, but I have definitely gained a better understanding of where others are coming from.

There’s no denying that I’m frustrated with the current administration and I’m baffled by the outrageous behavior of our president and, more incredibly, the numerous senators, congressmen, congresswomen and voters supporting his actions. However, I do not think that dignifies the destructive rhetoric that is plaguing our news, social media and entertainment arena.

We are so desensitized to inappropriate, hateful rhetoric that we are forgetting our children can hear us. And that goes for both sides. Whether you believe we are desensitized because of the hateful rhetoric coming from the top, or you think it’s the hateful response coming from those that didn’t vote for this president, engaging in hateful, non-productive name calling isn’t a solution.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by what I see on facebook, the news and other outlets. I’m embarrassed for democrats because I want to think we are “better than that.” I’m embarrassed for republicans because hateful rhetoric is becoming their norm. Of course, not all democrats and not all republicans are using hateful rhetoric, but enough engage in this unproductive back and forth that it’s monopolizing our news feed.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be the thought police. Of course everyone has the right to speak their mind and use strong language to emphasize their outrage. Not only do we have the right, we have the duty to acknowledge and fight inappropriate governing and racist, sexist, hateful language and actions. I just think we need to put some more thought into word choice.

Let’s teach our children that disagreement is ok, debate is good, different opinions make this country well rounded. Let’s also teach our children that when our government becomes disgraceful, harmful and divisive it’s time for action. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Talk to your kids about ways to take action without compromising their integrity. Have age appropriate conversations with your kids about the current political climate, government and the implications of both. But even more importantly, exemplify those methods: Marches, peaceful protests, standing up to someone when they say something racist, sexist, or hateful.

When your son or daughter sees you standing up for what is right it will give them the confidence to do the same, and you better believe they are going to copy your methods.

We need to change the future narrative for our children, and that includes “fighting fair.” It isn’t always easy, especially with the current administration, but it’s crucial if we want to change this political climate, protect our freedoms, and pursue happiness.

Oh, and go freaking vote. We have the opportunity to make some changes this November. Let’s do this.

Toddler years are really freaking hard…for toddlers.

Wait, what? Girl, “the struggle is real” is about us moms, not our toddlers. Well….I totally get that and I 100% agree and coffee is life. But…here’s what changed my mind.

My kids and I have been in the best music program in the country (universe? Too strong? Ok, North America) since Grace was 9 months old, she’s 4 years old now. My son has been in it since he was 6 weeks old and miss Sophia was tagging along at the ripe old age of 2 weeks old because ain’t no one got time to find a sitter for number 3.

This session Grace has a new favorite song, “Hiné Ma Tov.” A few nights ago Grace asked me to sing that song to her, and even though I’ve heard this song a million times, I could not produce it on my own. I couldn’t think of the tune and I certainly couldn’t think of the words. Grace told me that it was ok and she would teach me the words. She might not have had them perfectly, but definitely better than what I could do. And I still struggled to “repeat after her.” After about five minutes of this I was exhausted. My brain couldn’t take much more.

The next day we were in the car and the song came on again (because I don’t even know what popular music sounds like anymore) and I tried to listen super carefully to hear the words and the tune and the beat and I nearly had to pull over. It was taking almost all of my energy and focus. I do not know any Hebrew and I struggle with remembering tunes.

I stopped trying to learn the words to the song and I started thinking about my three kiddos, all at very “trying” ages. Even though I find their constant questions, messy exploring and meltdowns exhausting, I cannot even imagine all the energy it takes to master all they do every day. Every single thing is new or newish to them.

In music class, our instructor will occasionally tell us to use our less dominant hand for a hand movement in order to experience new movements and uncomfortable coordination in the same way our toddlers do everyday.

Good grief, of course my toddlers are having meltdowns. Henry is probably beside himself with all the processing. He’s a super sensitive kid, he hides behind the couch any time anything gets too emotional, happy or sad! So on top of learning all the typical daily tasks like language, manners, emotions, how to eat, how to regulate physical expression, he’s also picking up on EXTRA emotions, extra nuances in the mood and reacting to them, trying to control those reactions and process them and I need coffee.

Grace is sensitive in a different way, she’s like a silent sponge. Until she’s not silent, then she’s like a regurgitating memory robot explaining every single moment of her day and asking three to four hundred questions about each event. Like, how did she store that up all day? And why does she always wait until 7:58pm to tell me everything and try to process it all. I ask her about her day all the time, she has so many opportunities to share.

And then there’s crazy Sophia. She’s almost 20 months and the world is absolutely her oyster. She is soaking things up, trying things out, talking non-stop gibberish, trying to keep up with her siblings and has the most tantrums of all my kids. She has them about once an hour and they aren’t long lived, but they’re dramatic. My guess is that once she can talk these tantrums will decrease, or at least change in shape.

So, if I stop lamenting the challenges of motherhood for a moment and think about it from our children’s perspective it helps me deal with the exhaustion of mothering. How fitting that it took a Hebrew song about brothers and sisters sitting together in unity for me to realize that when our kids are being their most trying is when they need the most support and it is really freaking hard to be a toddler.

I forgot picture day.

Yesterday, September 25th, I remember thinking I had something to do on September 26th, but could not remember what. I eventually accepted that nothing extra was happening and I fell asleep.

I woke up at 7:30am this morning, Wednesday, September 26th, and all three children were still asleep because of course they were. We actually needed to be up by 7am to get Grace to pre-school at 8:15am, so naturally my children slept in. They only get up crazy early on Saturday mornings. Love them.

Anyway, you need some background info: on Wednesdays only Grace goes to pre-school because we love her more than Henry. Kidding. She goes 3x a week and Henry goes 2x a week because of their ages and our finances.

I tried to wake up Grace but she was grumpy and sleepy and didn’t want to go to school. Then we entered some kind of time warp and all of a sudden it’s 8:07am. Two things happened at 8:07am this morning.

1. I remembered it was picture day. In my mind I could suddenly see the tiny slip of paper saying Wednesday, September 26th, picture day. I vaguely remembered an email suggesting something similar.

2. I shoved Grace out of the bed and said TIME TO GET UP.

Good start, good start.

Grace wasn’t super thrilled about her rude awakening. Henry woke up super congested and grumpy. I told Grace I was going to have to brush her hair because it was picture day. She started sobbing (before I even started) and then continued to sob as I brushed, so I couldn’t face braiding her hair. We both agreed on a head band instead. She looked crazy. Super puffy hair, super puffy face from crying, and a crazed look in her eyes. Good times, good times.

I threw some clothes on Henry that were clean and didn’t look terrible just in case he was supposed to have his picture taken too, even though he doesn’t usually come to school on Wednesdays. Sophia had a tank top on her that was about 3 sizes too big, her arm and neck were in through the neck hole and the other arm was through an arm hole, and I put a clean diaper on her. Win.

I splash some coffee into a mug, shove children’s feet into shoes, and throw everyone into the van as quickly as I can. We fly into school only 10 minutes late. I go in with Grace to her classroom and mouth “sorry” to the teacher, then Henry’s teacher sees me and asks me if Henry is coming for picture day? “Well, he can, I mean, he’s in the car right now, no, not alone, with Sophia, haha, don’t arrest me, haha, never-mind, I’ll go get him”

I bring Henry in and he’s confused but happy.

I assume pictures were taken. I’m hopeful that enough time passed for Grace’s face to recover from the trauma of getting her hair brushed. Last year at picture day Henry sobbed and had to be held by a teacher so he wouldn’t run away. I didn’t hear anything about him ruining picture day for everyone, so I’m thinking today’s a win.

I let my son pretend sticks are guns and here’s why.

I have a 3 year old son who is funny, energetic, crazy, sensitive, sweet, playful and fills my heart with more joy than I could have imagined. He’s the middle kid of three, right smack-dab between two sisters. He swings wildly between wanting to be a pirate to a unicorn to a tiger. His favorite color is blue, he loves running, jumping, throwing balls, painting his nails blue, dancing, singing, and what he calls “shoot guns.” Herein lies the problem.

Let me begin by noting: I am one liberal mama and I cannot stand guns. I am going to be that mom who asks playdate moms if they keep a gun in the house, and if they do, it better be unloaded, locked, and I want to physically see where it is stored and how. If not, my kid won’t be playing there.

When we found out we were having a little boy I knew that helping my little guy grow into a kind, sensitive, thoughtful man was my top priority. When I was pregnant with him I made a mental list of things I would never let him do and a list of things I would encourage him to try. At the top of my list was “I will never let him pretend to shoot a gun. Ever”

Then he turned two-and-a-half and literally everything became a sword, a bow and arrow or a “shoot gun” as he calls them. Anything can be a shoot gun… hands, water-guns, pieces of paper, train set tracks and most often, sticks. My heart sank. Scary statistics went screaming through my mind:

– Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for American children.¹

– Over 2,700 children and teens (ages 0-19) are shot and killed every year.²

– More than 14,000 are shot and injured every year.²

Nope, I was putting a stop to this. No son of mine would be pretending to shoot anything. I explained to Henry, ad nauseam, about the danger of guns, the implications of even pretending to shoot one. I read him books about being adventurous with other, less realistic and less dangerous weapons. Pirates with swords, wizards with wands, writers with pens!!! He enjoyed the stories, listened to what I had to say, but his little toddler body just could not stop turning everything into “shoot guns.”

We were at my in-laws house and he found an old toy gun that looked like a hunting rifle. I lost my mind. I made them get rid of it. I could tell I seemed crazy, but there’s a big difference between a child playing pretend with a stick and a child, a toddler, becoming familiar with a realistic looking gun and thinking it’s a toy. Nope. Nope. Nope.

The pretend rifle at Grammie and Pops was removed, but I couldn’t remove every train track, toy train, piece of paper, stick or his little hands!! It’s extremely difficult to teach your toddler not to dabble in the abstract pretend play that is turning a stick into a gun.  This kid has an imagination and a desire for adventure that rivals my ability to control what he does every. waking. moment.

But, I was so fed up with the gun play. One day I had, had enough. He was in our front yard, had picked up a stick, and was pointing it at the tree making a funny noise and telling me he was “shooting a dragon.” I knelt down to him and explained that guns hurt people, they aren’t toys and he can never touch one. I was almost in tears, which may sound dramatic, but school shootings are so common now that they don’t even hold headline news and I’m devastated over our country’s lack of interest in gun control. And I’ll be damned if my son is going to think guns are toys.

After I explained, once again, about how guns hurt people and I know he doesn’t want to hurt anyone so could he please put the “shoot gun” down, he put his chubby little hand on my shoulder and said, “mommy, my shoot gun doesn’t hurt people, it has water come out to spray the dragon, not hurting.” Then he leaned in and whispered, “also it’s not really a shoot gun, it’s a stick.”

Well, damn. He has been listening! His “shoot gun” shoots water. It is a stick and he is 3.

I will certainly continue to educate him on the importance of safe-play, the danger of actual guns, the importance of never, ever touching anything that even looks like a gun. But, if he wants to pick up a stick and point it at an imaginary dragon and tell me he “got the dragon” I’m going to let him.

Stats are from Everytown for Gun Safety Research and following references.

  1. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, Leading Causes of Death, United States. Data from 2016. See also: Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017; 66(5).)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data used a 5 year average, 2012-2016.

Thanks for the love, Scary Mommy

Scary Mommy

I started writing my blog because I realized Facebook wasn’t the right platform for what I wanted to do. My facebook friends were sick of seven paragraph updates on my parenting adventures. They told me they were sick of these long posts by commenting things like, “you should start a blog” and “you should really start a blog” and “you are clogging my newsfeed, please go start a blog.”

Being the people pleaser that I am, I obliged. And wow, am I glad I did. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the enthusiasm! Your encouragement was exactly what I needed to get myself into gear and post, post, post. I’m even starting to “feel like a blogger.”

And, Guess what?! Scary Mommy is publishing an article I submitted. They are publishing it around September 21st. I’m pretty darn excited. Scary Mommy is my favorite site for parenting articles and I literally sprinted down the stairs and jumped onto the treadmill my husband was running on to tell him about getting a submission accepted. I can’t even pretend to be cool about this. I. AM. STOKED.

And, guess what again??!! Scary Mommy accepted a second article to be published on September 25th! I’ll post a link when it’s live!

Mom Brain.

We all know it’s a thing. In fact, some of us know it’s a real, scientifically researched thing. We know it’s something to joke about, acknowledge and do our best to combat, right? Wrong!!! I think we need to take a second and rewire our opinion on this one!

Mom brain typically means forgetting something you did, heard or said two seconds ago. It can mean walking into a room three times before remembering why you were going in there. It can mean staring at a fellow mom for a little too long before remembering their name, or not, “I know it’s not Carrie, I’m pretty sure it’s Liz, it might be Eliza, no, no, that’s not right. Stephanie? Amanda? Ugh, I’ll just smile and wave.”

But we are all ignoring a few really important things about mom brain, the amazing things. The things that mom brain’s are wired for to keep us all safe, comfortable and strong AF. Instead of spending energy beating yourself up for the mom brain forgetfulness, or the racing thoughts or anything else, start to embrace this new mindset, this mom brain is doing some pretty amazing things.

I might forget why I got the chicken nuggets out of the freezer when I can see my little ones eating their PB&J’s, but you better believe my Spidy-Mom-Senses go on full alert when my baby, who is upstairs in her bedroom with the door shut, starts coughing.

I might have forgotten my third child’s shoes and have to carry her into music class, but you bet I can carry my other toddler at the same time who is having a meltdown about the pavement of the parking lot being too hot, even though he’s wearing shoes. Am I also holding my oldest child’s hand so she doesn’t feel left out? You betcha. My mom brain makes me mentally strong and the physical part just follows. It’s like I have six arms in the parking lot.

I might have forgotten to bring my kids to gymnastics, but that’s because my brain was preoccupied with the millions of other things I’m doing for my kids. We’ll make it to gymnastics next week and I’ll continue to mentally juggle all the things.

It’s exhausting, it’s confusing, it’s complicated, but it’s making me strong. And it’s not that my partner isn’t on board, he so totally is! He helps with diapers, with bedtime routine, with cooking, with most of the things….but whatever way his brain is wired, it’s not mom brain and he doesn’t think about all the things the way I do.

The next time you forget something and you curse your mom brain, take a second to think of one great thing that, that mom brain did for you! Did you notice your kiddo was upset even though they weren’t talking about it? Did you notice your kid was about to do something dangerous before they even did it? Did you hear your baby crying a mile away? These Spidy-Mom-Senses are real, and they’re all thanks to mom brain!!!

Is this seriously still a debate? Fed is best.

Fed is best. Why is this even a debate?

Do I think it’s important to try breastfeeding first, sure, but only if the mother wants to. Wait, what??!!! What about the baby? Well, I hate to ruffle feathers, but I actually think the mom is more important, or whoever the primary caregiver is.

All three of my kids were fed differently as babies, but they’re all doing pretty well, and I’m assuming that that’s in part because they were fed. 

My first baby was huge. Like, a giant. I hate to brag, but I grew a baby that was 10 pounds 11 ounces….*inside* my womb. Feeding her was no joke. And, in fact, I was lucky because my milk came in super early, she was feeding all the time and she was gaining weight like a champ. I was nailing this new breastfeeding thing! Right?

Hahahaha.

So wrong. So, very, very wrong.

At the hospital the nurses kept congratulating me on “fabulous milk production” like I was intentionally rocking this. They told me my baby was a great eater….well, right? She was huge. I mentioned to the nurses that I didn’t think I was doing this right and my concerns were dismissed because she was gaining weight and feeding regularly. So, I went home thinking everything was fine and I’m just a wimp when it comes to breastfeeding.

But I got home from the hospital and I was like, should breastfeeding hurt this much? Should I be bleeding? I mean, she doesn’t even have teeth. Should I be resenting my newborn daughter every time I feed her because of the pain? Finally, some saint said to me, “you know, you don’t have to breastfeed, you can use formula” and I just broke down. I started sobbing and felt overwhelmed with relief. I don’t have to endure this anymore? Cool, cool, let’s get some formula right now.

After that I was a much better parent. I actually wanted to feed my baby and even more importantly, we enjoyed our time together rocking, feeding, and no one was crying in pain. Also, my sweet little babe started sleeping through the night at 4 weeks old. So, for baby number one, formula really was best, all things considered. And if we aren’t considering all things, aka, mom’s health too, then what on earth are we doing?

Baby number two I was able to nurse until he was about four months old, then my supply dipped and so I supplemented with formula and that, of course, didn’t increase supply, so by four or five months he was fully on formula. It didn’t feel like a huge deal to me. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself for breastfeeding for a good few months, and I didn’t really worry about him switching to formula too much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the mom guilt was there, boy was it there. But, I got over it, fed my baby and he’s now a strapping young 3 year old.

then there is baby number three. She was the worst. For some reason I felt this desire to try to breastfeed her for a full year. I felt like I finally had the hang of parenting (because at that point I was really just keeping tiny humans alive) and I was determined to finally get the hang of breastfeeding.

Well, Sophia threw a lot of wrenches into my plan. By month four I was so over it. I found out I had to give up dairy and soy and I was miserable, she was not gaining weight, it was a mess. I tried to switch her to formula, but couldn’t find one that worked with her delicate little system and it was exhausting. I mean, let’s be honest, if there had been a formula that didn’t cause pain and terrible reflux to my baby I totally would have given that company all my money. But, as it was, I gave up dairy and soy and eventually things got easier.

At Sophia’s 1st birthday party I mentioned that I was pretty stoked I had made it a full year breastfeeding! Turns out that talking about feeding your child with your breasts can make the party feel awkward. But I was proud. I made eye contact with my husband after it went to crickets and he gave me a thumbs up and said, “that’s amazing, Katie! You’re amazing” which, is really all I wanted to hear. The party continued and Sophia is doing well and I’m amazing.

Just kidding, I’m a mess. Always. But my whole point is this: feed your baby so they grow. Don’t use something stupid like water and miracle grow, but formula isn’t bad and don’t forget to prioritize your mental and physical health. You can’t keep your baby healthy and thriving if you aren’t! It is selfless to put yourself first as a parent in this situation.

And, don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% supportive of breastfeeding. I do think there are more health benefits inside a bottle of breastmilk than a bottle of formula, I think there is something really special about the bond created while nursing, but I think there is a much bigger issue at play. Mom’s mental and physical health directly impact baby’s well being. Formula is good, breastfeeding is better, but taking care of both you and your baby is best, whichever option that means. So, I’ll say it again, fed is best.

Comment from my friend Cassia Mangin and it’s too important not to share. It’s also spot on.

“Fed is best. Supported mothers is better. Absolutely I believe in women’s choice with our bodies -no matter what- I also believe our choices aren’t made in a vacuum, which means that we have to examine context if we want things to be better.

Shaming a mother for her choices is NEVER okay, breast or bottle or whatever.

But, imagine for a moment, what choices would be made if formula – a billion dollar industry that has zero interest in your health or your baby’s health, wasn’t handed out so easily in the hospital unless it was necessary or requested, and it was that amazingly easy to get a breast pump for free instead? Imagine if everyone had access to an actual IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) rather than the “lactation consultant” at the hospital who may or may not be truly qualified and up to date on good information? What would happen if women were physically, mentally, and financially supported postpartum during the 4th trimester so we (and our hormones) could HEAL properly and bond with our child, instead of jumping right back into life and stress and pressure? IMAGINE what would happen if pregnancy and labor and birth and postpartum and infancy and just women’s bodies ffs were looked at as natural human things rather than medicalized in order to be capitalized on.

I am totally not emotionally invested in whether someone else breastfeeds or chooses formula. But I am PASSIONATE about making sure you actually have a choice, and in this culture and in this country right now, I don’t believe we truly do.

It is actual fact that breast milk cannot be duplicated and is in fact what is scientifically best for human infants. I am also INCREDIBLY grateful for formula since it is what nourished my oldest when my breastfeeding journey with her didn’t work out so well. She would have starved otherwise.

I do agree that we need to stop having this debate and instead turn our attention and our energies where it belongs – burning the current system to the ground and making it better for women and children.

If women were better supported and more secure, this wouldn’t be a debate anymore. Arguing this debate and saying it shouldn’t be a debate ignores the underlying issues at best and perpetuates the debate (that continues to deflect our attention from those profiting from mothers being unsupported) at worst.” -Cassia Mangin

Isn’t she the best?! Thanks, Cassia!!!!