Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For

Alright, folks, it's time to get real and by real I mean say all the things that parents are REALLY grateful for and not just say I love my family, my kids and my cat.  I wrote a little thank you on my surrogate blog a few weeks ago, but since posting that I have thought of a few more things that deserve some thanks.  Here goes.

1. I'm thankful for microwave ovens.  Yes, I know that there is more and more research about how heating plastic in the microwave causes all sorts of health problems.  And yes, changing the light bulb in the microwave is more complex than Sandra Bullock getting home in Gravity.  But let's face it, when you have two screaming kids there is nothing better than nuking some mac-n-cheese in a ceramic bowl in two minutes.  Lord knows how our parents endured our screams waiting for the water to boil, cooking the pasta, melting the cheese, etc.  The microwave also makes pretty good cookies and cakes in a mug for Daddy on those days when his stress level is high from hearing screams.

2. I'm thankful for Costco.  Kids need so much stuff.  If you can't find it at Costco, you probably don't need it.  We get cheap diapers, organic milk, year-round blueberries, toys, clothes and more from there.  Sometimes, for those extra long days of parenthood, we also buy some booze for Daddy!

3. I'm thankful for TiVo and Netflix.  I know the Powers That Be in the pediatric community say no TV until at least two years old.  I did really, really, really well with that for a long time.  At about 18 months or so I came to the conclusion that out of the 50 or so hours I spend with the boys awake each week it really is OK to turn on Barney for 20 minutes once a week.  The guilt that I am rotting their minds and causing ADHD lessens after 5 minutes when, for the first time in hours, I finally get to sit and zone out for a couple minutes. 

4. I'm thankful for Facebook.  It's true, Facebook steals our pictures, hoards our personal information and watches us like we're contestants on Big Brother but it also gives me a pseudo-connection to the outside world when I'm stuck at home listening to The Bear Went Over The Mountain on replay for 7 hours straight.  (Seriously...that's not made up.  I actually heard that song for 7 hours one day.)  Friends on Facebook give me great advice on car seat safety, recommendations on booster seats, where to bring my old baby clothes for tax deductions and, most importantly, links to really important articles like 31 Things No One Tells You About Becoming A Parent.
5. I'm thankful for Skype and Facetime.  Even though reheating dinner in the microwave only takes a couple minutes, it's still great to have Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle M., or Aunt A. show up on video to distract the kids for a few minutes and stop pulling down my pants as I try to put food into (non-cancer causing) microwave safe dishes.  More importantly, it's pretty cool that the boys know their family by face and not just a voice.  The extended family can be a part of Aaron and Jeff's lives in a much stronger way.  Everyone can see Jeff sneeze all over my hand or watch Aaron put puzzle pieces into the VCR.  In some ways watching the boys through video is better than in real life: there is no way to smell when a diaper needs changing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Parents vs. Non-Parents

When I saw kids throwing tantrums I used to wonder why some parents didn't try anything and everything to console their children.  I couldn't imagine not trying to connect with that distressed little boy or girl.  I would get mad at a parent who didn't try to calm a temper with a hug or some gentle words.  Now, as a parent of kids who throw tantrums, I understand on a totally new level.  There are times that I ignore all the screaming and flailing and kicking.  I usually know when it's a real problem.  If someone slips and bangs his head on a table, that's a problem.  If someone can't get a 14th cracker in five minutes, that's not an emergency and I won't spend my precious energy trying to soothe a wounded soul.  Yes, I know that to him 13 crackers isn't enough and it means the end of the world...but sometimes it's OK to not get what you want in life.  I think at almost 20 months my boys are old enough to learn that lesson.  So, over the last few months, I have slowly turned into one of those parents who doesn't jump through flaming hoops and cross shark infested waters to make sure my child never sheds a tear.

Derek and I recently took a trip to the east coast to visit my family.  It was our second plane ride and the experience was a lot different than the first plane ride for a lot of reasons.  I forgot to write about our first one because so much was happening at that time so let me go back in time for a minute...

The first plane trip was to the west coast for Christmas.  The boys were about nine months old.  Traveling with them was a lot of work just due to the fact that we had blankets, diapers, formula, strollers, car seats, extra clothes, pacifiers, toys, snacks, etc.  Nevertheless, the flights there and back went pretty smoothly.  Both boys slept a good deal of the time, pooped/peed a little (changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom really does look like a contortionist act!) and made friends with the sweet flight attendants.  I found out one attendant had adopted two kids and she was so helpful always checking in on the boys, getting us milk and even cleaning our bottles after the boys had a drink.  I was with Jeff on the way out and the cutest thing was that he fell asleep during the descent with his hand wrapped around a couple of my fingers.

This recent plane trip - about two months ago - was a little more chaotic.  There was less poop but more screaming and wriggling around.  Now that the boys are mobile and more energetic sitting for a few hours is practically impossible.  Most of my pictures these days are blurry because they never stop moving.  

Anyway, when we got to the airport to fly home from our recent trip on Thursday night our flight was delayed.  As Derek talked with the woman at the check in desk - who clearly saw the kids and me with him - she was frantically checking her computer to see if there was any way to get us on an earlier flight.  She checked a lot of things on her computer and twice got up from her desk to check some other things.  She gave us friendly advice on the food situation before and after the security checkpoint and advised us to go to another gate after security to try to get on an earlier flight.

Our flight was soon canceled and we were re-booked for Friday morning.  Our flight took off Friday without a hitch and when we were in the air I asked the flight attendant for a milk for the boys.  She said she would go check.  When she came back to me her answer was, "We only have one milk."  I looked at her wondering why it wasn't in her hand and all she said was, "If you want anything else let me know."  I wanted to scream back, "Sure, my 18 month old kids will take a beer and a diet Coke" but I just said there wasn't anything else she could do.  About half an hour later I got stuck standing by the bathroom holding Jeff as the drink cart blocked me in.  I stayed standing by the bathroom for about 10 minutes as they finished up drink service.  Jeff is always happier being up high so I didn't bother trying to get back to my seat.  The flight attendant moved her cart into the bay and didn't make eye contact with me or even ask me if I wanted a drink so I missed my opportunity to get my free soda.

Which people in these stories do I think has kids and which ones don't?  Probably not too hard to figure out.

I was the second flight attendant not to long ago.  I recently apologized to a friend for my cluelessness about life as a parent.  I said I felt bad when I had told her a few years ago, "Let's go have lunch.  You can bring your kid along.  That's fine."

What I didn't realize is that getting out of the house with an infant/toddler requires planning that rivals invading a small country.  You have to think about car seats, strollers, nap schedules, snacks on the way, what does the kid eat/not eat, how many diapers to bring, will I need toys, is this a kid friendly place, etc.  "Bring your kid along" is much easier said than done. 

I have started to understand why people with kids often are friends with people with kids.  I have been yelled at for missing birthday parties, lunches, plays, and more from people who don't have kids.  I have been told I disappointed people for cancelling plans due to a sick child or because I had good intentions to go out but wound up being too exhausted to get my shoes on and head out the door.  On the flip side, I have had offers of help from people who have older kids and know what it's like to be dealing with babies and toddlers.  One of the things that no one prepares you for in parenthood is how it strains friendships.  On the plus side, it has bonded me with some friends who I haven't seen in a while who have young children too.

This is my apology, on record, to all the parents who have kids older than mine.  I will no longer tell any parent to just make it work.  And to anyone who knows a parent, understand that sometimes we can't just make it work.  Who a few years I might just get a bunch of apologies when they join this crazy Parenthood Club.