Prescribed Staycation

Staycation

If you read my blog last week, you know that I’m still working on my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel, and I was hoping to use this week to finish it because it’s our spring break. Yes, we’ve had other spring breaks in which we traveled – my kids’ first plane ride was over spring break – but this year, we’re having a well-deserved staycation. Since November, we’ve taken two big road trips and two trips to Disney. With another big road trip looming this summer, the idea of leaving home for a fifth month in a row didn’t appeal to me (or our budget).

So far, the kids and I have been to the dentist and the doctor; my elder son had a baseball game and piano lesson; we went to story time at our favorite indie book store and had lunch out with my husband; we visited my grandmother for an afternoon; we even saw a movie in the middle of the week – all the normal stuff that I did before I started working full-time again (except for the movie in the middle of the week part – I had to do something a little spring break-y). I’ve even gotten eight hours of sleep every night – doesn’t that sound like heaven? My main goal was just to be a homebody. My kids have ridden their bikes a lot and made pillow forts on the couch – things that we don’t always have time to do when school’s in session. They’ve had the chance to be boys (and I’ve had the chance to write).

Unfortunately, kids these days just don’t get the chance to be kids as much as they should. They’re overscheduled either because their parents both work full-time, and so they assume the children should also be occupied 40 hours of every week, or the stay-at-home moms want to have “freedom” when the kids are out of school – in other words, a kid-free house. While I am a huge proponent of structure for children, that doesn’t mean that they need to be up at 6:30, out the door by 7:30, and spending until 5:00 that night in day camps and kids’ gyms and sports and play groups and you-name-it.

One mom of now-adult children told me that she always felt like a cruise director when it came to her kids’ vacations, and while some of us may admire the Pinterest moms who have cool crafts and activities planned for every play date, what’s wrong with sending the kids out the door and just letting them play? If you’re at home with the kids, that doesn’t mean you have to helicopter 24/7. On the other hand, if you work full-time, you need to remember that your precious time off needs to be split between “me” time and kid time. A teacher I know once told a full-time working mom that, instead of signing her daughter up for a week of camp, the mom needed to take that week off to spend at home with her daughter. What a novel idea!

I know that many people don’t have the choice but to work full-time, but there’s something wrong if both of you are so busy that you can’t find the time to read to your child for five minutes before bedtime. Or go out for ice cream on the weekends. I know of a mom who gave up a great career when she had a harsh wake up call; after losing two family members, she realized that if something were to happen to her, her kids wouldn’t miss out on much more than a kiss right before bedtime. The money took a backseat to being able to be the one to pick her kids up from school.

Remember the 1989 movie Parenthood with Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen? Remember how Steve Martin’s character is the overworked, underpaid, baseball coach dad of three with another on the way? Remember how, when complaining about not getting a promotion, his wife is more worried about him missing their kids’ upbringings, not the money? Yeah, she got it.

In his book The Christian Moral Life, Timothy F. Sedgwick writes that, while many take issue with the idea of sacrifice (such as losing one’s self in giving everything up for some other), “[t]he broader meanings associated with sacrifice arise from the original Latin meaning of sacrifice, which was to make something sacred or to perform a sacred act.”

Keep it sacred by keeping your children at the forefront. That sometimes means having a date night or a mini vacation away from them. But it also means coming back. It means letting them be kids – and being there to experience their childhood with them. Sometimes the only medicine needed is a vacation day with your child, snuggling on the couch and reading every picture book in the house.

Sound anticlimactic? If you’re thinking, But this isn’t what I thought I was signing up for when I became a parent, you’re right. It never is. It’s a whole lifetime of sharing amazing/frustrating/sleep-deprived/joyful moments with a unique human being that wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for you.

The Baby’s Crying? No, Really, I Hadn’t Noticed

baby gull screaming feed me

Baby Gull Screaming, “Feed Me!” (Photo credit: minicooper93402)

 

Sometimes being a mother is the most wonderful thing in the world. Sometimes it’s a minute-by-minute battle, and I’m surprised at the end that there aren’t any casualties. Sometimes it’s just plain boring, and I can’t help but feeling slightly jealous of the footloose and fancy-free folks, going to the movies or even on a quick road trip on a whim, while I’m stuck at home. But after a particularly trying evening recently, when I felt like admitting defeat, I stopped myself in the middle of wishing for a mommy vacation. It’s the whole be careful what you wish for thing. I will take a trying evening with my children any night over the empty, nightmarish nothingness of not having them at all.

Right now, my thirteen-month-old, who is a challenge on a good day, is cutting five teeth, three of which are molars. Now, this kid doesn’t sit quietly by and let things happen to him. When he is in pain, he lets you know about it. He lets the guy down the street know. I’m pretty sure he’s trying to let our family in Colorado know. This is all new to me. With my elder son, cutting teeth was not fun. With Ian, it’s unbearable. I am pretty sure that hell is full of poorly written fan fiction, burnt popcorn, and a never-ending soundtrack of Ian cutting teeth.

I am not a stay-at-home mom. I’m a part-time-work-velcro-baby-on-the-hip mom. It worked really well with my first child, and it’s not that it doesn’t work this time, just that, when you bring your kid with you to work, it’s distracting when he starts to scream. And the screaming isn’t limited to teething.  It’s Ian’s mode of communication, and has been since he left the womb. Happy screams, sad screams, mad screams, screams when he’s hungry, screams when he’s thirsty, screams when he’s tired, screams when he wants attention, screams when he’s excited, even screams while he is sound asleep. But the teething screams are the worst.

Someone once told me, “I had a child like that; it was so hard until he learned to talk.” Granted, Ian’s vocabulary is limited, but he knows sign language and can communicate that way—when he chooses. That’s my problem, I know, because I haven’t enforced it like I did with Peter. But even if I were more vigilant, how much would it help? When he was only a week old, his pediatrician said (as Ian turned purple in the face and wailed at the top of his lungs), “Oh, this one likes to be held.” And I thought, Have we already ruined him? Is he dependent on another person to make him happy? What a terrible thought that he might not be able to self-soothe. At two months, when he would only go down in his crib if he was nursed or rocked to sleep, I called his doctor in desperation and finally got permission to let him cry it out. It was excruciating, but he eventually slept.

So at work earlier this week, Ian had one of his screaming moments when a little eighty-five-year-old lady came in. I cannot count how many times I’ve apologized to customers for how loud he is. Usually he’s just happy-loud, but it’s still distracting. Or with the teething, I get a lot of understanding nods and sympathy. But this particular time, this lady actually asked me to take him away. She said she’d never heard anything like it in her life and didn’t want any chance of hearing it again. And I thought, Really? Have you never been in a restaurant when a kid had a meltdown? Have you never been to the grocery store or a park or any place where children go? (Turns out she used to be a stewardess, which makes the whole thing even more baffling.)

I in no way condone parents ignoring their children when they throw tantrums or reenforcing bad behaviors by giving in, but there’s a big difference between the kind of public meltdown that children use to get what they want and real crying. It bothers and embarrasses me when Ian acts out in public (Peter, too, but nine-point-five times out of ten, it’s Ian), and if the normal methods of soothing don’t work, my husband or I take him out. It’s the polite thing to do and what I expect of other parents.

I guess what drives me nuts about the other day is that I fixed the problem; he was already quiet. I wanted to say, Lady, do you have to continue to make me feel like an inadequate parent? I know that I’m not doing as good a job with him as I did with his brother; you don’t have to remind me by covering your ears and looking at him like he has a third eye. I clung to Ian, feeling for him because I knew he was in pain. At the same time, I wanted to tell the woman that at least she could leave, while I was stuck.

But there I go again, thinking the wrong thing. I don’t want to be away from my baby, really. I want him to be well-behaved, a joy to others. But I also want him to be himself, and if that means he’s more spirited than his brother, I just need to work a little harder. I also need to work on myself, and my patience, in particular. And maybe, if I live to see eighty-five, instead of being judgmental and hurtful by saying, “Please, take him away. I can’t handle that. How can you stand it?”, I’ll remember my own trials (all water under the bridge by then, right?) and show compassion to harried young mothers.