I remember this day, eight years ago, like it was yesterday. Except I was on copious amounts of morphine and I was recovering from a major abdominal surgery. I had my little boy eight years ago today and that was hands down one of the best days of my life. It was also the most monumental. I remember looking down at that tiny little face and it just took my breath away. I felt myself transform in that moment into a mother. I felt like I was having this grand metamorphosis. It was the start of me raising and shaping a tiny human so that one day he may be fit for society. I remember looking around me after having this revelation and wondering how in the hell the world still looks the same when my entire life had just changed so much.
Boy let me tell you, laying in that bed, I never for a second thought raising my son was going to be easy, but nothing could have prepared me for what it was really going to be like. There are no books, articles, or ancient scripts that can put into words just how much your babies can rock your world. I was not prepared for the first time he smiled, I swear angels were singing. The first time he walked, you could have knocked me over with a feather because I was just so stunned. When he started speaking I never thought I had heard a sound quite as sweet. There are so many joyous times for me to look back on and it still makes my heart so happy. But there are truly hard times too. The first time he was sick just broke my heart, there was nothing I could do for him and I just had to watch him suffer. I never realized how much I could miss him until he went on a trip with his grandparents for the first time. And I never thought my heart could break into so many pieces when he told me he hated me once. There is nothing I would change about him or any of the things we have experienced together. They have shaped him into this little person with such a large personality.
Every year when his birthday rolls around it startles me a little bit more. I thought five was hard because he was leaving me to go to school, but eight just kind of took my breath away. I feel like it’s just going to hit me harder every year because he is growing up so fast and my little baby is turning into this wonderful young man right before my eyes. I am so proud of him everyday. I love you so much, Brody Bretton.
I took my one year old to the park this morning. I typically take him early so it’s not too hot for his little porcelain skin. The park we usually go to is empty that early in the morning. I decided this morning to change it up and try out a new playground. Little did I know that I was in for a treat. We get there and I’m shocked by the sheer number of stay at home moms in spandex and oversized sweaters. At first I think, these are my people. Leggings ARE pants damnit! But then I get closer. And see that while they may be decked out in gym gear, they have their hair done and makeup on at this ungodly hour and I immediately don’t trust them. I take my nugget onto the playground and I’m trailing behind him as he gets acclimated and I begin to notice that all of these mom’s are speaking to each other in these unnaturally cheery falsettos and I can see way too many of their teeth. “It’s fine,” I think to myself, “they’re probably definitely not cyborgs” and we keep playing. That is when I pick up on the next thing: every time their kids misbehave I see them grab their kid by the arm and get very close to their ear and whisper. Oooookay. So I take my little to one of those cars that sit on a giant spring that rock back and forth and let him play when another child climbs in next to him. His mother quickly followed and we stood there for a minute in semi-comfortable silence until her son reached over and screeches “ELMO!!!” and tries to take my son’s Elmo plush. She quickly grabs her son’s arm and does the creepy whisper-threat in her son’s ear. At this point the kid is not having any of her passive-aggressive parenting bullshit and he proceeds to try to push my kid out of the car. The other mother then looks at me with her giant Xanax eyes and says in her stepford wives voice, “so sorry! It’s the terrible twos you know! Boxer just doesn’t want to play by the rules! I didn’t have this problem with my daughter, Flower!” I give her my best “I’m going to agree with you so you don’t murder me smile” and grab my son under the pretense of walking the trail around the park. Once we got out of the eyeline of the most-definitely-cyborg park mom’s we got in the car and left. From now on, I think we’ll stick with our regular park. But if I ever need a little Xanax with my coffee I know where to go!
Watching your kids grow up is a truly amazing, humbling, hectic, mesmerizing thing to behold. When I had my first child I was thrilled at every milestone and “first” and while I enjoyed it, I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the next new thing because I was so enthralled with him. I loved watching him learn to walk, and talk, and learn to use a spoon and graduate from formula to real food and all the little things in between. I didn’t necessarily want time to speed up so I could see him develop more, but I was just so excited! I would proudly exclaim, “look at this masterpiece I created and behold his intelligence!” Let me tell you about this baby’s hair. He had a head full from the moment he was born. It started off as a deep auburn and then turned into a bright orange and he had some Shirley Temple ringlets that went down to the middle of his tiny back. We decided when he was 10 months to cut his hair because his daddy was deploying and he wanted to be there for his first hair cut. I welcomed the change, it was another wonderful “first” for me to witness.
Fast forward seven years and I’m sitting here with my 15 month old with wispy strawberry blonde hair that hangs in his eyes and is curly and long in the back. He has what can only be described as “Donald Trump” hair, but I just can’t bring myself to cut it right now. You see, he is my last baby. I had my tubes removed when I had him. So while I sat and watched my oldest with wonder and excitement, my reactions with my one year old are laced with trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I am still amazed at his milestones, but with each one that passes, I am reminded that it will be the last “first.” I watch him toddle around the living room and I’m reminded that in the not so distant future he will be potty training and going off to school and my days will be spent working instead of playing airplane and cleaning cereal off my floor.
I’ve had a lot of people ask and plea for me to cut his hair, and I know they mean well. But know this, I can’t control him growing up but I can hold off on that hair cut until I’m ready to experience that last “first” so be patient with me while I slow down time while I still can.
The PTO program at my 7y/o’s school is not quite as aggressive as the ones that are portrayed on television, but they have their moments. I remember walking into his school for the first time for the “Meet the Teacher” event before he started Kindergarten. We came in through the front door and we’re immediately accosted by a bright, smiling, as-stepford-as-she-could-get-in-north carolina-mom. She asked my husband and myself if we wanted to join the PTO. Her smile pierced my soul and I vaguely remember shaking my head yes, as if I were in some sort of trance. She asked us for five dollars and then cheerfully says, “Here! Have a Smencil!” The fuck is a Smencil? It’s a scented pencil. I distinctly remember ours smelling like root beer and myself being pregnant at the time, wanted to vomit. I walked around feeling dazed as we visited all the booths for kiddie sports leagues and clubs and then we went to meet our son’s teacher. After it was all over, we went to leave and had to pass the PTO booth again and were accosted once more and urged to join. After reminding the far-too-pleasant PTO seductress that we had already signed our lives away, we left with our Smencil, and without my soul.
After we got home, I called my mom and was telling her about the teacher and all the sports my son wanted to do and then I casually mentioned that I joined the PTO. Radio silence. And then my mom started laughing and asked me in between her hysterics why I would do such a thing. Let me explain something about myself, I am not the group activities kind of person. I am not introverted, I just don’t give a shit to sit in a circle jerk making bright colored posters that nobody pays attention to. It’s not that I don’t support their efforts, and I have no problem donating to the cause, but I don’t want to be involved like that. I quickly realized my grave mistake and I was horrified. When the time came for the first meeting, it turned out that only one of us would be able to attend, so my husband went. What a guy, right? I felt a little sorry he had to go. I’ve seen enough pornos to know what happens when you get a group of sexually frustrated moms together with apple juice and ginger snaps. It’s nothing anybody wants to see, so I didn’t feel THAT bad. He came home an hour later and reported that they just announced upcoming fundraisers and then were sent on their merry way. We paid five bucks for them to read off a piece of paper they sent home with my son for free? Needless to say, neither of us went back again.
Good on those parents that are willing to sit through those meetings and to come up with the different ways to raise money for the school, but I will not be one of them. I will, however, buy your doughnuts and your wrapping paper. You can keep your fucking Smencils though.
I was three years old when my parents split up. I still remember the day my dad left. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I remember following him around the house as he packed things up and handing him random odds and ends. I remember him saying goodbye to my older brother and myself at the end of the driveway. He kissed my forehead and one of his tears spilled onto my cheek and then he was driving down the road in his Dodge Shadow. After that I can recollect seeing him at random intervals, and it was often in different places because he moved around a lot. I was discussing this with my mom the other day, when I have these flashes of memory, they rarely include my father, but I can clearly see the place the memory happened. My dad was not super present in my life. He often didn’t pick us up when it was his turn for visitation, and when he did, there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction. He worked third shift and we spent most of the visit playing quietly while he slept. None of this really registered with me until I was older. In fact, it didn’t hit me that I had an absentee father until my 16th birthday. My mom had remarried at this point and we lived in North Carolina with my step-father. My dad was suppose to drive up from Florida to pick us up to spend the Christmas holidays with him. He didn’t show up and he didn’t call until New Year’s Eve, my birthday. I remember sitting on the living room floor talking to him and wondering in my head why he didn’t even mention his reason for not picking us up. When we got off the phone I broke down and I was sobbing into my mother’s arms asking why my dad didn’t want me. This was a defining moment for me, it was the moment that I stopped making excuses in my head for why he wasn’t there, and it’s when I stopped seeing him as my dad.
I had another father figure in my life. My mom remarried when I was eight. He was a very different kind of man than my father. He had a hard work ethic and he did his best to make up for my own father’s shortcomings. He taught me how to cook and introduced me to new food. He used to take us on these amazing cross country trips every summer. I got to see and experience most of our country and Canada because of him. We went camping and had barbeques and we looked like a nice perfect family. He had a lot of physiological problems and it ultimately led to his company forcing him into retirement. This did not sit well for his mental health. He became agitated and sullen having to sit at home and the man we used to know faded away. I had begun rebelling and getting into drinking and recreational drugs use at around 17 years old. Two days before my 18th birthday he kicked me out. I stayed with a friend for a while and then ending up moving to Florida with my dad. I got a phone call from my mom a few months later telling me that my step-father took his life. By this time my mom and he had moved to Texas for the drier climate. I flew out there to be with her and we began repairing our relationship.
I made a lot of questionable decisions in my life and a lot of them had to do with these two men in my life. Most of the bad decisions I made involved getting into equally turbulent relationships with men who were horrible to me and ignored me. I was borderline obsessive with trying to make these doomed unions work because I didn’t want more men to leave me. I was convinced there was something wrong with me that made the men in my life leave and I was determined to fix it. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I sought out other broken men because they (have you guessed it by now?) reminded me of my father. I became stronger and I developed a voice for myself. I’m still not “fixed” by any means, but I am working on it.
I still have some contact with my father. I see him about once a year, but he is still very much the same person he was all those years ago. I wanted my children to have the opportunity to know the man who aided in my conception, but I do my very best to make sure that they will never know the hurt and the pain, and that they will never have to seek his approval. They have a wonderful father to look up to and I am so grateful for that. They have a strong mom, like I did, to shelter them from the worst of it and I have faith that they will turn into reasonably well balanced individuals who use their formative years for personal growth rather than attention seeking.
There is so much controversy on the subject of breast vs bottle in regards to feeding babies. If you find yourself meandering through any mommy group online, you are bound to find a heated discussion on the topic. Nothing else in the parental community gets them more riled up than a good old discussion on how other people feel you should be caring for your children.
When I had my first son, I was 20 years old and the thought of breastfeeding made me very uncomfortable. I didn’t even attempt to do it. As soon as he was born, I didn’t even acknowledge the nurses fluttering about asking if I wanted to try nursing my new bundle. I stopped them, and asked for the bottle. My son did great, he gained the appropriate amount of weight and did not have any adverse effects to the formula. He is a strong and healthy seven year old who very very rarely gets sick.
It was a different scenario when my second child was born. I was 27 this time around and more comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. Plus it would save us tons of money. My goal was to make it at least six months on the boob, but I was secretly hoping I would make it the full year. When he was born, he latched on really well when I was in recovery for my C-section. I was hopeful. We got into our regular room and it became apparent over the next 48 hours I was there that he didn’t like my nipples. We tried different positions and nothing was working. We moved to the pump and the little bit of colostrum we could get out we fed him with a syringe. On my last day there this heavenly lactation consultant came in the room and introduced me to the breast shield. For those of you that don’t know, it’s basically a silicone pad that fits over the breast with a nipple on it. It makes it easier for the baby to suckle if you, like me, aren’t equipped with long enough nipples. We tried it and immediately he latched on. I was so excited to not have to pump every meal. The elation didn’t last long, I had a very hard time getting my supply up. I was power pumping and eating right and dancing naked in a bowl of snails during the full moon. Nothing was working and my supply was rapidly dwindling. After much frustration, I made the decision to switch him to formula. I was estatic. He was getting full, and in turn sleeping better and was in a better mood in general. He, too, is also a very healthy child.
The point here is, what works for some, doesn’t work for others. And hell, some women just don’t want to breastfeed. That doesn’t make them selfish. As long as their babies are receiving the proper nutrition, who gives a shit? Let other people raise their kids how they see fit and don’t be a sanctimonious ass hat.
I started my journey to motherhood on March 25, 2009 when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I had so many emotions. I was 20 years old and set to marry my husband two months later. Fear was the largest feeling by far and large. As time went on, that began to fade into excitement. My sweet little boy was born in November and while I was battling some demons within myself, I was so in love. Being a mom was the most exhausting job I had ever taken on, but it was so worth it to watch this little human I had literally made from scratch inside my body, flourish and grow before my eyes. Shortly after he turned six, I found out I was carrying my second little boy. If I thought the first time around was a beautiful and humbling experience, it was nothing when I watched my seven year old son look at his newborn brother with such love and adoration.
With all that being said, I am by no means a perfect mother. I have no clout to give anyone advice on how to be a good parent because I am learning every single day how to do that myself. I falter every step of the way. I am sometimes short tempered and irritable. I don’t always have the energy or the want to sit on the floor for endless rounds of board games or Legos. But I try. Sometimes when I’m so bleary-eyed from being up at all hours with a 14 month old who still doesn’t want to sleep through the night, I want time to speed up so they are both in school and I have time to be an adult again. But in the very next moment both of my gorgeous boys sit on my lap and hug me so tight I want time to stop all together. So I want to say this to my kids: while you may think that I nag and harp and make you eat too many vegetables or don’t give you enough time to play video games, please know that everything I do, I do for you. I go without simple pleasures or time to sleep in because I am too busy molding you into men that are going to do great things in life. Men who are going to treat women well, and handle your business and do whatever it takes to be successful and happy in life.
In parting, the one piece of advice I feel qualified to give to every single parent out there is to cherish your children. Hold them close and enjoy every single sticky, messy kiss, every squeal of Glee, every tantrum and fit, and everything in between. Childhood is over before you know it and your kids are out in the real world and living their own lives and we, as parents have to take a backseat at that point to their new experiences. Soak it all up while you can so you have something to remember when they are grown.