To Moms

I can’t believe we can do this, guys, but we’re doing it.

Moms, you are cool. Even if you didn’t get to wash your hair today and you have the theme song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stuck in your head – you are so cool. Even if you’re wearing yoga pants with weird banana stains on them. Even if you feel like you don’t have enough time, and the time you do have is sometimes too filled with rushing. You’re cool.

Moms, you’re crafting moments of joy and learning and you’re softening times of hurt and pain. Sometimes you’re annoyed and freaking out because your kid does stuff that might hurt him, but those annoyed moments are important  and part of the equation too. You’re working on your own, or in a team to build the bedrock of your kids’ lives and it’s wonderful.

You’re worrying. A lot. Maybe so much that it’s just a din in the background now. Maybe worrying is like a white noise machine only it’s techno music and it has fangs. It beeps and blaps loudly at you in the middle of the night. But you know it’s because you love so much.  You’ve got to think there’s something incredible about an emotion so strong that it can hulk-smash its way around your whole life.

Moms, when you teach, comfort, re-direct, and model behavior for your kid, you’re painting the landscape of their awesome little psyches. Look – your kids are awesome.

Please feel proud. And tired. And joyful. And exhausted. But definitely feel proud. And take a minute to reflect on how cool you are. You are so flipping cool, mom.

(Happy Mother’s Day)

flower__high_resolution_wallpaper_for_tablet_ image from onemillionwallpapers.com

MC Baby DJ

My daughter loves music. She jubilantly shouts requests at me from the backseat of the car, or the tub, or her crib –

– “Jumpin’!” = See How I’m Jumping Jumping Jumping (A fave from her music class)

– “Come!” = She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain

– “Be Back!” = Bring Back My Bonny to Me

She’s literally never once asked me what I feel like listening to. Unbelievable.

BabyMusicImage from http://www.3rtherapies.co.uk/music.htm

It brings me an incredible amount of joy to hear her sing, see her smile and bop…but guys, I’m living in a black hole of kid’s music. I didn’t fully realize this until this past week. I found an artist that I love. Someone I hadn’t listened to before, and whose songs are not familiar to me. His lyrics are dark and hopeful and human and twisty. Songs about sex and religion and longing and sweetness and desperation. They took root in my soul and inspired me.

It was kind of a revelation: “Oh my god, I love music.”

I realized that most of what I read, watch, and listen to right now all speaks to the “Mom” piece of my identity. I LOVE that piece of my identity. It’s awesome and bright and strong – but it’s not the whole thing. I actually lived a bunch of years before having a kid and those years were filled with really compelling music and poetry and books and movies.

It got me thinking about making space for the other stuff, and how I should go about doing that. It’s important for me to be as whole a person as I can be, and I think feeding the creative soul is a piece of that.

Lately I’ve been reading a few articles about people who are at war with the term “Mommy”. I agree that it’s jarring to be so completely categorized all the time – but on the other hand, being a mom is a huge deal that’s awesome and takes over your life. I don’t mind it at all. I’m such a mom. All that, in my opinion, is great as long as you nurture the whole person – it’s not an either or as far as I can tell.

I’m going to try (try is all I can do) to make the time to put on headphones and read books that feature story elements other than the alphabet and puppies – at least sometimes.

Being kind to your body-out loud.

Women who have struggled with their weight do this thing sometimes, and I do it too.  I make off-handed comments about the imperfection of my body .* It’s a pretty obvious defense mechanism. I think, deep inside, there’s a piece of me that feels as vulnerable as I did when I was in fifth/sixth/seventh grade, when my body didn’t exactly conform to the clothing my mom and I bought at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. I’d spend all day wondering if everyone thought I was a gross chub-monster who had no right to be wearing anything but a full-body tarp/poncho hybrid.

70s-dresses-caftan

Everything that ever happened in those years – success, good grades, friendships, hair catastrophes, depression, crushes – it all happened against a constant drumbeat of self-doubt. And it all came from feeling insecure about my rapidly changing body.

That was before I knew that people, in general, are too caught up in their own business to even care what you look like, unless they are being mean. And if they are being mean – they probably have a whole story you don’t know about. And it’s probably a tough one.

But today, even as a happy adult who feels personally fulfilled, I can fall back into the trap of body insecurity. I can sometimes say things out loud, or type things on the internet that poke fun at myself. I’m trying not to though, and I’ll tell you why. My kid.

I don’t have any control over what she’s going to experience during her school days, but I can try to give her the gift of a mom who only ever expresses joy and appreciation about her body. I want that to be the norm in my house.

Here are a few things I can think about to help that process along.

  • My arms are strong and I can hold that kid all day. I would if she’d let me, but she doesn’t let me. She’d prefer to run around.
  • The milk from my breasts fed and nourished her for the first year (and change) of her life. THAT’S A LOT OF MILK, THANKS BREASTS.
  • You won’t catch me in short shorts, but my legs let me run after her, or for myself.
  • My belly made room for a human being inside it. That’s flexibility.

Sure, motherhood has a big something to do with this line of thought. All I know is this – the best thing I can do for my kid’s perception of her body, is to love my own and show appreciation for what it can do. The worst thing I can do is verbally abuse myself.

I know that I can’t manage her experience, but I want her to build science fair projects, have crushes, decide if and when she ever wants to take dance class – with nothing playing in the background but the steady beat of confidence and optimism, and the quiet knowledge that she’s perfect just the way she is. Me too.

 

* Healthy eating, exercise, all that good stuff, is vitally important, this is definitely not designed to contradict that. Still on Weight Watchers, still counting those points, still want a cheeseburger…

Mirror mirror on the wall – how dare you, sir.

Spring is here! I’m like 99% sure! I can tell because I can’t find weather-appropriate clothing and have needed to put sunscreen on my fair haired baby’s chubby cheeks twice already.

After I gave birth last February, apparently a few months occurred. It’s hard for me to say  how much of March-December 2013 was real and how much I hallucinated for lack of sleep. Like, did Matthew McConaughey’s career trajectory really improve the way I think it did, or was True Detective just a fever dream from hell? I may never know.

Anyway, recently, the little love of my life is turning into a legitimate toddler and sleeping like a human instead of a robot that runs on milk and sunlight alone. The ramifications of this are huge. I’m sleeping more and seeing a bit more clearly. This change in perception holds true for mirrors and scale numbers.

As I’ve previously posted on Facebook, I’ve re-joined WeightWatchers. I joke about it, but I’m actually feeling really pumped up to get in shape and enjoy the warm weather. With nursing, etc, the ruling principal around my diet was – if it’s here and non-toxic I can eat as much of it as I want. Now that we’re moving past the nursing phase, I gotta reel it in, and it’s really not so bad.

Remember fruit? Guys, and vegetables? They are less exciting than leftover chicken wings and mashed potatoes, but it turns out they can do the job. I’m only 2 and a half weeks in, but as of right now I’m on track and ready to go.

Keep it vernal.

woodersonL-I-V-I-N

 

Mom’s broken, baby’s a Gryffindor.

A short list of times I’ve felt broken in the past three days:

  • Looking online at baby clothes, I cry
  • Hearing a snippet of Mr. Rogers on NPR fund drive,  I cry
  • Watching Pharrell perform “Happy” on the Oscars, I cry
  • Being out with friends, seeing a missed call from the babysitter, trying not to cry because I’d like to at least give the impression that I am a functioning adult
  • Watching the little bean nap, I cry
  • Thinking about watching her nap as I type this list….you get the point.

I’ve been trying to figure out these emotional surges and intensities. This child makes me so happy, why am I always trying not to cry? Why is it so hard to bear? I think I figured out the answer and it’s way simpler than I could have imagined. Love. Duh.

Being this girl’s mother is like being hit by a monster truck of love, and it’s nonstop. It’s terrifying. How can one little person be in charge of so much emotion? But she is. As she’s growing up, her personality is really starting to shine and I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT. Yesterday she walked through Barnes and Noble with me, holding a pink gardening shovel and pretending to dig holes in the carpet. When she sees her Dinosaur book, she roars. She had more fun wielding a straw as a magic wand during breakfast yesterday than I thought was humanly possible.

accio first pancake

Totes a Gryffindor.

My heart hurts. OUCH ALL THE TIME.

And that’s just the happy. There’s also the teething, tears, and head bumps that send her screaming. We’re feeling all of it together.

I’m over-empathetic by nature, and seeing the world through her eyes is a wild, wild ride for this mom. So, I feel kind of broken because the way I “work” is no more. The old systems have been made obsolete, and I’m living in little bean’s world.

When I got that missed call the other night I was at a loud bowling ally with a bunch of people. One of my friends asked if I was OK and I just responded, “Yeah. Motherhood has broken me.” It sounded dour, but this is what I meant. It’s broken, for sure, but in a good way.

ACCIO NAPS!

Writing Toddler-Brave

“A thing is about to happen here that has not happened since the Elder Days. The Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong” – Gandalf

This quote comes to mind when I see my 11 month old daughter moving around lately. Yeah, I’m comparing my beautiful girl to an anthropomorphized tree. Stay with me for a minute.

She’s always been a go-go kind of girl, but you can tell now that she’s feeling the power. She’s taken a few teeny steps and her confidence is sky high. My father watches her most afternoons and yesterday he created a Les Miserables-like barracade to keep her in the safety of her play area. I watched her grab a heavy wooden stool and pull it out from underneath an exersaucer like the damn hulk. To give you context, that would be like a regular sized person managing a picnic table.

She’s taken one or two little spills but it’s not really slowing her down. She wants to explore, to throw her weight around, to see what her strong little gams can do. She knows no fear.

So, I’m terrified.

If you watch Sherlock, you know how he can look at someone and a lot of white text appears on the screen – all the things he’s able to tell about a character just by looking at her “cat lover, size 10, long term boyfriend, etc.” – That’s kind of what I’m like with worst case scenarios. I can look at a laptop cable and see at least 35 ways that this child could hurt herself with it. All the scenarios swarm like flies and 35 is a low ball figure, obviously.

But I wanted to take a minute and think about what she’s feeling right now and how cool that actually is. Do you remember a time when you felt strong and invincible? It’s hard for me to conjure up that kind of memory. But this kid is moving through the world with the expectation that everything is awesome and she’s discovering new ways to manipulate objects, transport herself, and express herself every day. It’s amazing!

When I’m drafting, I want to try to be a toddler-writer. Just go for it! There’s no REAL staircase for you to fall down, so see what’s happening in that dark room Mom doesn’t want you to go into! Is that a cliff? How far can you hang over it? YOU ARE INVINCIBLE! Eat that dust-bunny, fool!

Revising might be a different story all together. That’s the time for adult thoughts, foam padding, and baby gates. But I’m really trying to un-childproof my brain for getting a first draft on paper again. Little baby bean is quite a source of inspiration.

And constant anxiety about her physical safety. That too. But mostly inspiration.

Being good enough for baby in 2014

I want my daughter to:
– Exercise for joy, to feel good and healthy
– Eat things that make her body function at its best
– Feel excited about her talents
– Nourish her relationships and her creativity
– Be free from unnecessary anxiety and guilt
– Know the difference between things that deserve energy and things that don’t
– Spend alone time when she needs it
– Have a bulletproof sense of self that is grounded in love
– Be stoked about any projects she’s taking on
– Be kind to everyone (including herself)

I hear that kids learn by example. So, this is my 2014 to-do list.

I’m doing a really good job

Lesson in female-hood:
The correct response to “You look great!” is any of the following:
  • “Ugh, thanks, I feel like I’m gaining weight.”
  • “Haha YOU do!”
  • “You’re so nice.”
  • “That’s weird, I feel like roadkill. Like a rust-stained raccoon whose limp carcass has been tossed from lane to lane by the indifferent, relentless traffic of life.”*
The incorrect answer is:

  • “Thanks, I feel good!”
I highly doubt if anyone employs this communication style with more consistency than I do. I’m the queen of the nice-dodge. You shoot a compliment at me and I can back-bend in slow motion like Neo to get out of the way.
matrix-59-neo-dodge-bullets
But you know, it’s not that impressive, I’m not like, super flexible or anything. It’s really not a big deal.

EXHAUSTING.
Why communicate this way? Because no one likes a bragger. Taking credit for something is a particularly uncool thing to do for women. I don’t know why. It’s quite insidious because the less you give yourself credit, the less likely you are to feel good about the very real, very wonderful accomplishments you might have under your belt.

I got up early this morning with my baby. I hugged her a bunch, fed her, and changed her into some warm winter clothes. We played and she was cracking me up with her hilarious little personality. She’s learning how to wave, so we waved and cheered and sang a lot. I put together all her milk, food, clothes, diapers, etc and carried the supplies, and her, down to the car. We drove to her babysitter’s house and I dropped off a happy baby. I came back home to work and began to answer emails.

Then I had this thought. This wild, crazy thought: I did a really good job.

Not every day feels like that, but today did. And I want to own it. There are things I’m doing a bad job with, and I talk about those a lot, but here’s something that I did successfully. It’s simple, obviously, just getting a baby up and ready for the day. I don’t think I deserve a medal (I would take a cookie), but I think that this quiet reflection on a job well done is important.

I want to challenge you guys to acknowledge your victories, because it feels good. There are always ways to feel less-than, but I bet you have done something today that was totally kick-ass. That success is yours, just as much (probably more than) any failures. So, own it.

*Amy Schumer created a sketch about this topic a few months ago if you want to look it up. It’s very funny, but also super harsh. Harsher than dead raccoons. It’s pretty pitch perfect though, if you want to look her up.

The Grow Clinic: You can help!

Hi you guys!
We’re collecting baby supplies for The Grow Clinic!
Why?
Operating out of Boston Medical Center, the clinic does a lot of outreach, and is able to serve the members of our community who need help the most. With a focus on infants who have been diagnosed with Failure to Thrive – approx 10% of their patients are homeless according to the webiste, and 85% rely on federal health insurance.

We started a baby supplies drive to help. This was inspired by panic related to the government shutdown. I was thinking about families who need help from WIC and what would happen if the funds dried up while congress continues to…well you know.

How can I help?
Here is an UPDATED LIST OF PRIORITY SUPPLIES for The Grow Clinc!
– Hypoallergenic formula
– Baby food (stages 1 and 2 – sweeter foods are preferred)
– Sippy cups
– Plastic baby spoons
– Flintstones Complete chewable vitamins or equivalent
– Diapers in size 3 and up
[They will also take new board books, boots, tons of stuff – and I’ll bring whatever is donated over to them. I just wanted to focus the effort on the high priority supplies that the representative said they needed most.]
Where?
Bring’em on down to:

* THE WINTHROP PUBLIC LIBRARY CHILDREN’S ROOM: 2 Metcalf Square, Winthrop, MA 02152
The library hours are: Tuesday 1-7pm, Wed 1-6pm, Thurs 1-6pm, Fri 1:30-5pm, Sat 10-5pm

* IMPROVBOSTON in Central Square:  40 Prospect St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 576-1253

tgc box library

What if I just want to donate some money and you can go shopping?

That’s great! I set up a Paypal account for those of you that might want to help but are either far away, or unable to stop by a drop location.

You can look me up on Paypal at erin.m.petti@gmail.com to donate a few dollars for a Costco run. If you do this, please also send me an email so that I can confirm that your donation went through. This is my first time trying any of this and I want to make sure that we open up every opportunity to donate and help.

***

PHASE 1: Complete

Superwoman Maile Shoul has already completed phase one of this project by collecting donations via Paypal and making a trip to Target. She and the wonderful Harry Gordon picked up:

– Three containers of hypoallergenic formula

– Ten containers of baby food

Harry Gordon being incredible on Saturday.

Harry Gordon being incredible on Saturday.

These supplies were dropped off at The Grow Clinic this morning and will go right to helping families in need.

YEAH!

This has been a wonderful experience so far and I thank you all so much for your support.

Lots of love. Seriously, lots.
Erin

The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center: http://www.bmc.org/pediatrics-growclinic/services.htm

Haircut: I am not a sexy space bandit from the future.

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Not me.

Anyway, I’m thinking about cutting my hair. When I was pregnant I got the luxurious lioness’ mane because, you know, hormones and crap. It’s nice. But then I gave birth to baby and those hormones stopped hormoning.

The result? Lots of my hair is falling out. Even though I was forewarned about this, it continues to shock me. I mean, it’s dramatic.

The fact that I haven’t had a haircut since 2011* helps not at all. I’m a grown woman, for goodness sake. On a good day I look like a happy earth mama from the early 70’s.  On a bad day, the aunt with a severe expression in a family portrait taken in the 1800’s.

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Lots of articles I’m reading suggest that new moms whose hair is falling out get a cute, short haircut. To this I respond, “help.” When Googling “cute, short haircuts” I come up with this kind of business over and over again:

michelle-williams_glamour_10apr13_rexfeatures_b_592x888

Just FYI, I’m neither super thin, nor coy, nor a person who has time to put on makeup most days. Also, I’ve literally never robbed a bank in the future.

So, I’m freaking out. I need this business off my head, but it feels like an emotional decision, which is nuts. As my hair grows I get to feel like Linus with his security blanket. Even though I know it looks terrible, it’s easy to hide behind. I think we equate long hair with femininity and it becomes an identity issue.

But it’s bravery time. My shower drain can’t take much more abuse and I read about “hair tourniquets” which is apparently a thing where your hair can wrap tightly around baby’s arm and cause a lot of discomfort and pain so YEAH I GET IT HAIRCUT TIME.

Ugh.

Why are all the cool people getting dystopian pixie cuts? Any alternate looks to  Sexy Space Bandit you want to recommend?

*A note: I wrote “2011”  as ha ha hyperbole and then realized that it is actutally true. So, things are dire.