Connected

Charlotte’s school was closed for parent teacher conferences yesterday, so after my 9:30 a.m. meeting with her teacher, I took her to the play area at an outdoor mall. While she played, I sat with my cross stitch, occasionally glancing up at the giant climbing structure to make sure my kid was making good choices. (Making good choices. Sitting with my cross stitch. Those are the sorts of things I say now… I barely recognize myself anymore.)

After a bit, another mom sat down to my right with a little girl who appeared to be the same age as Charlotte. A few minutes later, I was joined on the left by another little girl and her mom. She proceeded to answer a work-related call while I stitched on. She was only two feet away from me, so I swear it wasn’t really eavesdropping when I heard her say to her colleague, “School is closed for parent teacher conferences today, so I’m basically working from my phone.”

Interesting. But maybe this parent teacher conference closure was a thing that affected more than just Charlotte’s preschool. They often time their closures to coincide with LAUSD’s schedule, so maybe it was a LAUSD thing?

A few minutes later, our daughters started playing together. We smiled at them and asked each other how old our kids are.

She’s 5 and her preschool is closed today.

Mine’s 3.5 and hers is, too. What school does she go to?

And that was when we discovered that our kids go to school together.

We were chatting about the school, and discovered that our daughters both had the same teachers their first year there. From there, we went on worshiping those teachers for a while because they are truly just the most amazing people. Especially Teacher J, whose virtues we extolled extensively. That’s when the previously silent third mother leaned over to us…

I hate to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhearing. Teacher J is my best friend. She’s my daughter’s godmother.

/end scene

I’ve replayed all of this in my mind several times since yesterday. I mean, this is one of the largest cities in the world. What are the chances that I’d end up sitting next to these two women whose lives are so connected to my own? There are a million playgrounds all over. We weren’t close to school. We weren’t even at one of the most popular spots.

Imagine if the conversation had been different. Imagine if we’d been complaining about the school, or gossiping about Teacher J, who also happens to be the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends. Imagine the bridges that might have been burned and the community connection we might have missed out on.

I mention this because it seems like the digital world is overflowing with that sort of nastiness, lately. Online, it’s almost impossible to avoid “those” people who seem to exist solely to criticize other mothers and try to discredit their feelings and experiences. The virtual cloak of a social media account and a keyboard seems to add a tremendous amount of fuel to the bonfire of these so-called mommy wars that the media loves to exploit.

Someone is feeding their child solids before 6 months of age? Oh my gosh. Better pounce on that mom to tell her about how her uneducated feeding choices are going to negatively impact that child for the rest of its life.

Formula feeding? Blasphemy! Let’s publicly shame that mom for her refusal to put her child’s welfare before her own comfort.

That child is always staring at a screen! Does she ever pay attention to him/her?

Frankly, the negativity and divisiveness in the mom world is no better than the harsh polarization of the political world. I can’t help but wonder what motherhood would look like if we invested half of the energy we spend tearing each other down in building each other up.

The world is a small place. We are all connected to one another somehow. If not through shared schools or mutual acquaintances, then certainly through this next generation of humans we’re busy raising the best we know how.

I see you out there doing your best. I hope you see me doing mine. We don’t have to be lifelong besties, but can we at least extend the sort of compassion to one another that we’d like to see extended to our children on the playground?

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It’s me. It’s totally me.

I’ve been silent about this issue for a while, but I think it’s time to come clean. Sit back and relax while I tell you the story about how I found myself in another woman’s dark hotel room a few weeks ago.

It started out innocent enough. A lovely friend from our little blog community was visiting L.A. for a work thing. She wasn’t staying especially close to me, but I told her I’d pick her up from the airport and we could go hang out and have a few drinks.

We ended up sitting outside on the patio of a brewery in a marina. The sky was blue, the ocean breeze was—um—breezy—and the sun was as intense as the fight for a parking space.

Eventually, we settled with burgers and beers. It was nice. Conversation was easy—after all, we’ve “known” each other for years. There was nothing uncomfortable about the experience except the damn sun. After two beers, we decided we really needed to find shade.

How perfect that there was a bizarre and almost totally empty little wine bar downstairs. We ordered a bottle of wine and a few glasses of water, and sat down to enjoy.

It was right around then that I noticed that the nagging little headache I’d had for a while was starting to intensify. I drank my water, but after a few sips of wine, my head strongly informed me that I should stop drinking. I’m honestly not sure how long we sat there. It could have been 20 minutes or it could have been an hour. All I know is that by the time we stood up to leave, I was feeling pretty woozy.

It wasn’t terribly far from the brewery to her hotel, and I honestly thought I’d be fine. I figured that after I dropped her off, I could grab a bottle of water and some Excedrin before heading home.

I made it approximately one mile from the brewery before my body told me that this wasn’t going to work. We were stopped at a red light when I spotted a drug store, and I told my lovely friend that I was going to stop and use the restroom there real quick.

I had just turned into the parking lot when I realized that I was going to be sick. NOW. My head didn’t care that I was in the car with someone I literally just met a few hours ago. I hit the brakes, threw open the car door, and threw up right there while stopped in the middle of the parking lot. I didn’t even have time to take off my seatbelt. I’m so grateful I managed to get that door open.

Now, imagine you’re my friend, and you’re sitting there in the car after a long day of travel and being social. You’ve had a nice time, but you’re really looking forward to getting back to your empty hotel room where you can have the giant bed all to yourself. And then the person responsible for getting you safely to your hotel starts puking. Fantastic, right?

I somehow managed to go into the drug store to purchase Excedrin, Clorox wipes, and a bottle of water. I cleaned the part of the car door that had not escaped my projectile stomach contents and popped a few Excedrin. I silently contemplated which would kill me first: the migraine or the total humiliation. Whichever it was going to be, it would be great if it could be quick.

My poor friend had a few choices:

  1. Run. Totally understandable. I wouldn’t blame her one bit.
  2. Drive. Grab the keys from her incapacitated tour guide and get behind the wheel of a strange car in a strange city to find a strange hotel.

I will be eternally grateful that she chose option 2. Upon arriving at the hotel, she suggested that perhaps I should come sit in her room for a few minutes until the Excedrin kicks in? I agreed. She went to the lobby to check in while I went to the lobby restroom and threw up.

You can’t take me anywhere.

This saint of a woman lead me to a comfortable chair in her hotel room, turned out the lights, and let me sit there to contemplate whether they’d at least give her a “fresh” room if I died right there in that chair.

Around 8 pm after a bit of back and forth with Catch via text, it was determined that I was in no shape to go anywhere, so Catch would drive the hour to pick me up. Saint Blog Friend walked to the store for some necessities for the room. I decided that being upright wasn’t helping my head, and laid down on the floor for a few minutes until I realized it probably wouldn’t be great if my friend returned from the store and found me on the floor.

Eventually, Catch arrived to take me home. Although I am always happy to see her, I don’t think I have ever been so relieved.

I’m still trying to sort out how to appropriately thank my friend for being so kind to me when I was at my absolute worst. She could very easily have ordered an Uber in that drugstore parking lot and left me to fend for myself, but she didn’t. I’d offer to name my next child after her, but she knows as well as I do that that’s an empty promise because there’s not going to be a next child. Maybe a next dog, but somehow I think that’s probably not quite right either.

In the meantime, if you’re headed to Los Angeles and you’d like to hang out, I’d like to suggest the following:

1. READ THIS AGAIN.

Still want to hang out?

2. Have someone you trust read this post and see what they think.

They said it’s fine?

3. Reevaluate your level of faith in that person.

Deodorant

We all know that I’m no social media influencer. I’m sharing this information because I’ve spent years trying to find an aluminum-free deodorant that actually works for me, and I’m really excited that I finally found something. I paid full price for this deodorant on a late night online shopping whim, and this post is in no way sponsored.

That said, Lume Deodorant has been life changing for me. I discovered it when I was goofing off on my phone late at night when I should have been asleep. This ridiculous video popped up in a Facebook ad, and for some reason I watched it from start to finish. Afterward, I read approximately ten thousand online reviews of the product, and surprisingly, they were overwhelmingly positive. Even though I felt pretty damn ridiculous spending $14 on a stick of deodorant, I decided to give it a shot.

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This stuff is awesome. Ever since I started taking Zoloft, I’ve been sweating like a fountain. I don’t understand why this drug makes me sweat so much, but it drove me so crazy that I actually tried to lower my dose. It turns out that excessive sweating is vastly preferable to excessive anxiety, so I’m learning to accept/tolerate the issue. I’m also using a lot of deodorant.

One of many things that I appreciate about Lume is that it’s not an antipersperant. Lume allows your body to sweat (which is healthy!) but it doesn’t allow your body to stink. This might take some getting used to if you’ve been using a traditional antiperspirant for years and aren’t used to feeling dampness under your arms, but I promise you’ll adapt.

Lume doesn’t contain baking soda, which can irritate skin. (Not to mention that the granular nature of baking soda isn’t particularly comfortable to apply.) It’s also cruelty free, which is a huge check in the pro column for me.

The web site says that it will control body odor for 72 hours, which I have yet to experience. I’ve only been using it for 3 weeks and I get about 12 solid hours out of it at this point. As I said, though, Zoloft makes me sweat like a marathon runner in July when all I’ve actually done is a few laps around the air conditioned supermarket. Lume has worked better for me than even the clinical strength stuff you can pick up at Target.

Another huge issue I have with deodorant is the scents. For some reason, I am incredibly sensitive to the smell of deodorant itself. Some of the scents out there are just nauseating to me, and every time I would find one that I could tolerate, it would be discontinued.  Apparently the general public does not appreciate citrus-y scents with the same level of enthusiasm that I do. (If Dolce & Gabbana ever stops making their Light Blue perfume, I will need counseling.) For that reason, I was really concerned that the natural lavender and sage scent in Lume would be too much for me. I’m really glad I took a chance and ordered that scent anyway, because I actually love it. A lot. I kind of wish there was a matching hand lotion or something. They also have an unscented option, which I have not yet tried.

Anyway, I’m not going to keep rambling about this stuff. I love it. It works for me. You can order it here. Pro tip: I was on the fence about ordering both the tube and the stick, but the combination was $$ so I decided to go for just the stick. At checkout, they offered an incentive to add the tube to my order for an even better price, and I went for it. There’s really no difference between the two, but the stick will leak if it gets too warm, so if you’re looking for portability (like leaving it in a gym bag in a hot car) I recommend the tube.

Comfort

Sometimes, when my daughter needs me for comfort, I find myself trying to memorize the feel of her in my arms… the smell of her hair… the rise and fall of her chest… I soak it all in and appreciate the privilege of being someone she seeks comfort from.

Other times, I want to crawl under my bed and hide from her like the dog does because I am so damn sick of being needed.

There really isn’t an in between. It’s either magical or it’s torture. She is either magical, or she’s torture.

No higher high. No lower low. That is my motherhood experience.

French Toast

A few weeks ago, I made a thousand pancakes for the freezer. I did it because for the last year, Charlotte has asked for pancakes EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.

Since she eats them so often, I try to make them as healthy as possible. I blend up about half a bag of frozen spinach, an overripe banana, and whatever produce-type stuff I have on hand that needs to be used up (riced cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, blueberries, etc.) with milk and eggs, add it to Kodiak Cakes pancake mix, and voila. Pancakes. We even water down her syrup.

The last few weekends, Catch has made french toast in an attempt to mix things up. It’s been great. The kid loves french toast. It’s a nice weekend treat.

This morning, Charlotte woke up and after a few minutes of cuddles in her bed, she said she was ready for breakfast. She wanted french toast. I told her we don’t have any bread and that french toast is for the weekends. Cue the ultimate meltdown. A) The kid is NOT a morning person, and B) her ideas about food have become about as inflexible as you can get without literally starving yourself. It’s not that she doesn’t like things, it’s just that she only wants what she wants when she wants it, and all attempts to convince her otherwise are painful for everyone involved.

So there she is, lying on the floor of her bedroom kicking and screaming about french toast all before I’ve had a single sip of coffee. I basically just groan and walk away.

Eventually, I am able to coax her to the table to eat some of the gazillion pancakes taking up space in our freezer. I silently congratulated myself on the win until I realized what comes next… getting dressed.

If her ideas about food are inflexible, her ideas about clothing are like reinforced steel. It’s not like we even care what she wears provided that what she picks out is weather and situation appropriate. Beyond that, she has a wide variety of attire to suit her every whim, and she can have at it.

Lately, she refuses to wear anything but long-sleeve dresses with leggings underneath. That’s fine, because it’s been plenty cool enough and we stocked up on cotton play dresses for school.

Today, though… sigh.

Today, it is warm. Beautiful, sunny and almost 80 degrees. This is not the kind of day when you go outside to play in a long sleeve dress and pants.

Unless you’re Charlotte.

Oh, how she fought me this morning. It was painful.

Honey, these are called cartwheel shorts–you wear them under your dress and they’re just like leggings, but they won’t be as hot.

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!! THOSE ARE TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!! I DON’T WANT TO WEAR THAT! *collapses in hysterical heap on floor*

Repeat ad nauseam until I give up and walk out, telling her she can wear whatever she wants because I’m not going to make any further suggestions. When she finally emerged from her bedroom, she was wearing a short-sleeved, but very heavyweight cotton dress with navy blue leggings and water shoes with no socks, which are not permitted at school.

She knew. She stood there giving me that look of challenge and defiance that 3 year olds are so good at. I sat down and drank my coffee. Her grandfather was taking her to school today, and I knew he wouldn’t let her out of the house in those shoes. I also knew that she wouldn’t fight him the way she fights me.

By the time she left for school, I think the whole house breathed a sigh of relief. I hate mornings like this, where it’s just one battle after the next. I do try to choose my battles, but there was no way I was making french toast this morning. Normally, even if I don’t want a full on battle of wills to ensue, I still at least try to tell her why I’m suggesting the opposite of what she wants so that she’ll eventually be able to connect those dots herself. Long sleeves and pants + 80 degree spring day = hot. That sort of thing. Also, that gives me the opportunity to whisper I told you so behind her back later when she starts complaining.

So now, the house is quiet. The dogs are asleep. The windows are open, and the spring breeze is blowing in. I am sitting here folding two loads of her little clothes–all those long sleeve dresses and leggings–and suddenly, I found myself thinking of the parents out in the world who no longer get to fight with their kids about what’s for breakfast or what they’re going to wear because their kids were killed by guns in classrooms or school hallways where they should have been safe.

I know this was a very roundabout way of reaching that point, but I think it’s important to stop and recognize what a gift these frustrating mornings with my child are.  I am with her, and she is with me. Even if we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, we are breathing the same air and sharing the same space. How many mothers out there in the world right now would give anything to be sharing one of these grouchy mornings with their child?

In the wake of these recent suicides by survivors and their families, I wish every voter and politician in this country could stop for a moment to imagine what that empty space in a morning must feel like. I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think that their right to own a weapon is greater than a parent’s right to be able to argue with their child in the morning about french toast.

Best Part of the Day

Every night at dinner, we sit at our table together and take turns telling each other what the best part of our day was. It’s a nice little ritual that started months back, and now it’s just expected. Charlotte loves that time, and after we’ve all had a turn, she will frequently offer up her “nother” favorite part of her day and request that we also share our “nother” favorite parts of our days. Many times, I find myself telling her that right now—all of us talking about our days over dinner—is the best part of my day.

I know it sounds like a Campbell’s Soup commercial from the 80s. The reality is that there are days when I want to tell Charlotte that the best part of my day was dropping her off at school, or that it hasn’t happened yet because she’s still awake. There are plenty of times when the best part of my day doesn’t involve her at all, and those days rattle her a bit—often leading her to prompt me for “nother” moments until I finally mention something that involves her.

Today, the best part of my day was logging into Blackboard to see that I got an A on a final project that started at the beginning of this term and then consumed my days and nights for a solid week before I turned it in. It also elicited more frustration than any other project I’ve tackled since returning to the academic world.

It was a quiet little victory that gave me a lot to think about, because the project involved creating a social media marketing strategy for a start-up family photography business. Frankly, I chose the business with my own interests at heart, and being forced to sit down and research/audit the market and the competition gave me some incredible insight that makes me feel like I could actually have some success at this if I gave it a shot.

That will be the moment I lead with at the dinner table tonight, and afterward I’ll probably throw the kid a bone and tell her that the “nother” best part of my day was watching her at swim lessons.

Going back to school has been so valuable. Not necessarily because of the learning, because although I’m enjoying it, it’s not exactly “news” after working in communications for 18 years. It’s more that it’s reassuring me that I do know my strengths, and that they are real assets. It helps to quiet the significant part of me that struggles with imposter syndrome.

Soon, I’ll tackle the resume that hasn’t been touched in a decade and hope it will lead to some equally awesome best parts of my day.

Perfectionism

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things. It’s not exactly a surprise, because my mom is a perfectionist to a point that it’s basically unhealthy. This concerns me. I do not want to allow myself to let it get that bad, because it interferes with her life.

So perfectionism. Turns out that I’m kind of addicted to getting A’s on my school work. I mean, it’s one thing to work hard to do a good job and get an A. That’s healthy. What’s not healthy is me sitting here seething because my professor took FOUR points off of a 100 point assignment, and I am making assumptions about the reason. It’s also not healthy that I am refusing to go onto Blackboard to view his comments on my paper because the thought of it makes me so anxious I could puke. I mean seriously. 96/100 is still an A. I still have a high A in the class. So WTF is my problem?

For all I know, he knocked four points off for some legit reason rather than the reason I think it might be, but THAT makes me anxious, too. I hate making mistakes. I mean, I make mistakes all the time, but for some reason my brain has zeroed in on this need for perfectionism in my schoolwork. Work that is often completed and submitted at night after the kid has gone to bed and I am bleary-eyed and desperate to finish and get to bed. So is it really any surprise that I might make a mistake or two?

Am I truly expecting myself to get straight A’s all through this program while parenting a small child and ultimately also going back to work? I mean, it would be nice, but it would also be nice to not kill myself trying to achieve that objective. And it would be REALLY nice not to spend more evenings riddled with anxiety about logging into Blackboard because I will be unable to ignore that little red flag telling me that I have new grades/comments to check and I’m afraid to see them.

A 96 is a good grade. Heck, it’s a GREAT grade if you compare it to my high school report cards! (Not that I wasn’t smart. I just refused to do my work.) There is NOTHING wrong with a 96. Except that it’s not perfect, and apparently my brain desires perfection. It’s unhealthy. I have to find a way to get past this so I can just be HAPPY that I got an A even if it’s not a 100%.

My other professor knocked off one point out of 100 for two typos this week, which feels dramatically more acceptable than 4 points for some strange reason. Can someone please just turn my brain off? This is ridiculous.

Spoiler:  I just checked, and I was kind of right that my ethics paper regarding media coverage of school shootings offended the major metropolitan newspaper editor in him, but he was kind of right also, because there were some points I should have explored a bit deeper. I really need to let this go.

Notes from SAHM-hood

I spent 3 hours this morning baking heart-shaped pretzels for my daughter’s class party tomorrow. Then I spent another hour cleaning up the mess from when the pot of boiling water and baking soda exploded everywhere. I’m still not done cleaning. If anyone has any genius solutions for cleaning streaks of baking soda from in between the layers of the oven door, I’m all ears.

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Tomorrow is the party, which is where I will be from 9:30-11:30, handling setup and food and facilitating a craft and story time for the kids. Then, Charlotte will throw the ultimate fit when it’s time for me to leave because she’s had to share me with her classmates for the last 2 hours and she was already on the brink of a breakdown because her best friend wouldn’t let go of my hand.

Next week is grandparents day at school, which coincides with the bake sale. I have “volunteered” to bake cookies for the bake sale. They need to be “individually packaged” and “visually appealing.” Then, I “volunteered” for a 3-hour volunteer shift at the bake sale. Volunteered is in quotes because I am a room parent and although they say we are volunteering, it is actually expected of us. Supposedly it was all in the contract I signed when I agreed to be a room parent. Clearly, I did not read the contract before signing my life away.

The day after the bake sale, I have “volunteered” to sell tickets to the school’s gala for a few hours before/after drop off.

Speaking of the gala, all room parents are responsible for creating a project of some sort to be auctioned off at the gala. Fortunately, my wife has been a tremendous help on this. So much help, in fact, that I volunteered to help two other room moms with their auction projects. When my wife accused me of over-committing myself, I threw my hands up in the air muttering something about “making friends with these people.” Because you know—when you’re trying to make friends, it’s always best to segregate them into a group you frequently make fun of (*cough*we call them the Range Rovers*cough*) and refer to them as “these people.”

Somewhere in the midst of all of that, there is a ridiculous amount of my own schoolwork to accomplish, parenting to attend to, dogs to walk, a house to maintain, and a marriage to weed and water. And tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. We still have to fill out the Paw Patrol cards we bought for Charlotte’s friends. And maybe I should shower at some point.

I also really need to start thinking about finding employment or generating some sort of income again because we are drowning in debt.

Being a stay at home parent is absolutely nothing like I imagined it would be. Most days, I find myself complaining about it. At the same time, I dread the day that this is not my life anymore. As much as I don’t find it particularly fulfilling, I do see how it benefits our family for me to be here, doing these things I never imagined I’d be doing. I don’t want to emerge from this little stay-at-home-parent-cocoon I’ve nestled myself into. I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it.

Career 2.0

Ever since I quit my job, it has been haunting my dreams. At least a few times a week, I have vivid and intense recurring stress dreams about returning to work there after an extended absence. I’ll start showing up for work and jump right back into things, and then something will happen—it’s never clear what—and suddenly I am trying to leave again, but it turns hostile and bizarre right around that point. Last night it included me having a total nervous breakdown triggered by my former boss’s belittling chuckle

I’m writing about it here today because I would love to get a handle on these dreams. I’m tired enough courtesy of our 3 year old who doesn’t appreciate sleep the way she should, and I don’t need to be waking up in a cold sweat with a racing heart thinking about work that is not mine anymore.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the root of these dreams is the unknown. I know that my financial cushion is running out faster than I could have imagined, and I have no real plan for what’s next. The fear I experience in these dreams is not literally about ending up working there again, but it is about not knowing what the future of my career will look like.

When I chat with people about the future, I’m quick to answer that I’d like to get into copywriting because it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and I’m reasonably good at it. The catch is that being a freelance copywriter means leaving behind the corporate structure with steady paychecks, benefits and retirement. I don’t know how on earth I could make that work. My salary has always been larger than Catch’s, and we rely on that. Giving it up is terrifying.

Much as I love the quips from people in my life that I should pursue photography as a career, it’s just not reasonable. As a hobby, yes. I’m not going to stop taking pictures. I just don’t see myself being able to make a career of it. Not in Los Angeles. The market here for photographers is over saturated as it is, and most of them are immensely talented and educated in their craft on a level that I’m just not interested in pursuing. I am already paying through the nose for a communications degree, and I feel it will serve me well.

Giving up my freedom is equally terrifying. I am LOVING this time away from the corporate world. I feel like I’m finding myself right now. I am thoroughly enjoying my (straight A) student status. I love being able to be present when my daughter needs me. I love that we have the flexibility of only one work schedule to accommodate—and since that schedule is a teacher’s schedule, it gives us so many opportunities to take off when we want/need to. Although it is fairly intense, my schoolwork is completely portable, so as long as I have an internet connection I can work from anywhere. I love this life.

We are rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the day I quit. ONE YEAR. It has literally flown by. I’d like to have steady work lined up by the time Charlotte starts her final year of preschool in September, but I’m so afraid of that change. I need to start slowly working to accept the reality that I can’t live in this beautiful bubble forever.

I quit my job with the absolute confidence that everything was going to be okay and that this was going to be an important turning point in my life. I think these dreams have been shaking that confidence a bit, and I can’t let them. It’s too important for me to keep my head in the game. I don’t know exactly what Career 2.0 is going to look like, but I know I can’t let the residual yuck from Career 1.0 call the shots.

Motherhood

Charlotte was in our bed this morning when I opened my eyes. She had an accident in her bed last night, and rather than peeling back sopping layers on her bed, we just changed her and put her in bed with us.

She woke up so happy. Rolling around and goofy in her mismatched, grabbed-from-the-drawer-in-the-dark-of–night pajamas. She was smiling her brightest smile with shining eyes, cooing at Twix, who was cuddled on Charlotte’s pillow. I watched her, and thought about how she is truly just a beautiful child. Inside and out. When Charlotte smiles, everyone smiles.

Soon, we were forced from our little cocoon of wiggly cuddles into the throes of the morning routine.

“Mama, can I watch Blaze on my computer please?” she asked as she swung her legs out of bed.

“What are the rules in the morning? First potty, then breakfast, then you get ready for school. If we have time, THEN, you can have your computer for a bit.”

I knew in that instant that it was all over. My happy, beautiful child was about to transform into a kicking, screaming, emotional wreck incapable of reason. I was right.

The next hour was basically one series of standoffs and horrific tantrums after the next. She didn’t need to go potty. She wouldn’t. She was going to go pee on my bed. I’m a bad mom. She wants Little Mama RIGHT NOW.

Then, she told me she wished I wasn’t even alive, and then she could just be with Little Mama. That was basically the lowest blow she has ever dealt. I walked away.

Within a minute, she was pleading with me to come back. “Don’t leave me alone! I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE!” she screamed for the world to hear.

All I wanted in that moment was to be alone. If I could have blinked and made her disappear to preschool, I would have right then.

After something like 45 minutes of this battle of wills over going potty and getting dressed, she grew tired. At that point, I don’t even think she knew what she was fighting about. She was just screaming for the sake of screaming. She grabbed her sunshine blanket and tearfully crawled into my lap and laid in my arms like she did when she was a baby. I rocked her a bit as we talked quietly about making good choices and about how there are consequences for bad choices. She closed her eyes and cuddled into me.

Now, she is at school. I told her teacher that she’d be staying for extended care this afternoon and that I’d pick her up around 4. Her teacher just posted a photo of her dancing with one of her best friends and their smiles are total perfection. I miss her, now. It’s pouring rain outside and the thunder is so powerful that it’s shaking the house and causing the power to surge and flicker on and off. I keep thinking about how I could go pick her up from school and we could spend the day cuddled up on the couch watching whatever Nick Jr. shows she wants with a giant bowl of freshly popped popcorn.

I’m sharing this because I can’t be the only mother in the world who feels like having a three year old is a bit like being in an abusive relationship. They smile and you melt because they are just so lovely. That smile gives you life. Then, they turn around and spew their unique brand of emotional abuse, and when it’s over, they need you to comfort them. You know you need some space, but you are addicted to that smile and find yourself craving it the moment they’re away.
I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but there are mornings like this when I wish I could just curl up with the dogs and a bottle of champagne and forget about my parental obligations for a while. A few days? Maybe a week? Just long enough to relieve the ever present crick in my neck from sleeping with my arm around her because if I don’t, she will scream, “SNUGGLE MEEEEEEE!” until she wakes up the whole neighborhood.

Parenthood. It’s the only abusive relationship that binds you both legally and morally.

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