You know you do it. I know I do it. I think everyone does it. Vanity checks itself in and we just can’t help ourselves. I want to look my best, I want people to think I look like that all the time, no really, that’s how I look.
What am I talking about? You know. When you post Facebook or Flickr pics or some carefully crafted Shutterfly photo album, you make every effort to upload only your most flattering pictures.
Not that one, my head looks big. Oh not that one, one eye is shut. DEFINITELY not that one, holy muffin-top pouring out of the top of my jeans.
I read a post on BlogHer titled Own Your Beauty. And while a beautifully written post, it challenged each reader to start a self-potrait project and take pictures of yourself everyday. An interesting idea indeed. But I pushed it aside. I’m not sure I had the energy or care to really pony up, snap and post my own picture everyday. Yawn. Who needs it.
But then I kept thinking about it. Would I even have the ovaries to post a pic of myself everyday in the first place? On the days when I don’t like how I feel. On the days when my muffin-top seems to pour out and smother any “feel good” vibes I may have had about myself? No way. I don’t want to. I don’t think people want or care to see it. I don’t think it’s worth it.
And then I got to thinking about the things I don’t like about myself. And how relative it all is. I am well aware I’m just up in my own mind about it. I know these are my own weird particular issues. And I know all of these things drag me down, blind me to the rest of it and render me impossibly self-conscious.
It is so frustrating. Because on the flip side I understand (in a very secure, logical way) that I’m a regular woman and I look just fine. I get that these insecurities are all just silly. I know I’m better than that anyway.
Because I’m a feminist, dammit. I read The Beauty Myth in college (required reading for every woman, totally changed my life). I GET IT. I know how messed up our standards of beauty are in this country. I KNOW we need to love ourselves and not let any of this misogynistic crap get us down. To hell with them!
So why do I look over at my husband and shyly tell him I feel awful about myself sometimes? What the hell is that about? How can I claim these rational ideals with pride but they still can’t push me past my own hang-ups?
Because everyone has their stuff. I have my stuff.
I hate my glasses. They represent some ugly ducking part of my childhood that I wore over my face. Growing up, I truly believed that no cute boy would ever really see past them. And then I said, screw it, glasses are who I am. Rock on. It’s MY identity. And yet, when I got contacts at 20, I felt like some new person. As if I had just gotten reconstructive surgery and they had just removed an enormous wart off my face. I was free!
I hate my front tooth. Long story but it was shattered by a piece of a telephone when I was 15. And I have not had the funds to really fix it. I hate hate hate it.
I could go on. But the point is WE ALL COULD GO ON. With a laundry list of stuff we can’t stand about ourselves. And I would bet every single dollar in my savings AND my Kia that even the most lovely women in the world have a list as equally long as yours and mine. And you might say “F them, what have THEY got to complain about?”
Yeah, exactly. None of it makes sense. Beauty may be something society determines but WE have ourselves all carved up and hidden thanks to our own subjective, warped preconceptions.
So, as a small form of social protest, here’s my salute to my own beauty this morning.
(This will be my only pic. In fact, I do NOT have the ovaries, the time or the focus to take pics of myself everyday.)
I’m not showered. My teeth aren’t brushed. My split ends haven’t been trimmed since June. I am wearing an old T Shirt I got at BlogHer 08. My recently obsessed over lines on my face are smiling back at you. And my fab, in need of a prescription update glasses are front and center. And so is my stupid tooth, glaring out for the world to see.
But it is me. And I swear to you — taking a deep breath and infusing my heart with every lesson I ever learned in The Beauty Myth right now, I swear to God — I look just FINE. Really.
But don’t get me wrong. I won’t be posting my muffin-top, one eye closed, tooth glaring pics on Facebook from now on or anything. Hellllll no.
I’m just being “SELF-AWARE” right now. And promising to you all that “I GET IT”.
Damn. What a mess.
Vanity, self-worth, beauty, all of it.
There is no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever.
Here’s hoping you find your beauty and hold on to it tightly whenever and where ever you find it. TIGHT I tell you. Those pretty days, those awesome hair days, those I look SO DAMN CUTE in my jeans days… hold on to them. Revel in them. Roll around in them. And take pictures and pin them up and remind yourself that THAT is YOU.
Now excuse me. It’s time I go have a shower, get on with my day, and (good Lord woman, brush your hair at least) stop fixating on everything I see in the mirror.
The brain is an amazing thing. It takes flying leaps of faith and swears to truth – when there is nothing. It fills in gaps with synaptic trickery to cover over painful voids. It holds on to years of experience and pieces together something realistic – simply because it remembers. It relies on the empirical but bases its final verdict on emotion. It simply wants to believe.
Yeah, well, it seems that when someone close to you in your life passes away, you experience the same kind of thing.
Phantom Mom Phenomenon.
No, it’s not what you think. My mother has not appeared to me in a shimmering, white form next to my bed insisting I buy a replacement pumpkin Mickey ball.
At least, not that I am aware of.
No, I’m talking about that phenomenon where you swear that person is really still there. Still alive. Still sitting in her office in her DC home playing solitaire at her computer with one cigarette smoldering in her ashtray, furry slippers on her feet and an Ensure on ice on the desk.
My father knows what I’m talking about. Without thinking, he has caught himself calling out her name while waking up in the morning. He finds himself picking up her usual groceries at the store. He assumes she is home when he arrives, her shoes tucked neatly by the door seemingly filled only minutes before.
I struggle in my own ways too. I assume that the call coming in from “DC Home” on my cell is always my mother – as it has been for years. And even when it’s my father’s voice, it takes a moment to register because my mind has simply given my mother’s voice a little extra gravel and depth – she just needs to clear her throat. No wait. She’s dead. It’s Dad. Whoa. Ok. Hi Dad.
And I have been having these recurring dreams recently. Or maybe they’re nightmares. I’m not sure. To put it in the words of the lovely Beyonce, it could be a “sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare“. Whatever you call it, my brain convinces me on a regular basis that my mother is in fact very much alive.
Cruel isn’t it? Although I am guessing this is all probably very typical. Nevertheless, here’s how my dream goes…
In my dream, my mother’s death is only her family’s collective nightmare. In my dream, it is early in the morning and we are all gathered in front of my living, breathing mother. Fresh from our beds, we stare in utter shock, while she stares back at us and laughs. We tell her we thought she was dead. “I’m FINE” she insists. “No really.” And she looks back at us again like we’ve lost our ever-loving minds. And then we ask her how she pulled off the memorial service, the whole casket thing. “Because Mom, you really looked dead.” But she seems to insist we all just had some doozy nightmares. No big deal. She is currently alive and well. And then she goes into full “Mom mode” listing off all the chores we need to accomplish, which stores we need to hit first, full of sass, full of too much “get up and go” that instinctively makes me roll my eyes and prepare myself to become her daylong personal assistant. It’s so real. She IS alive in that dream. And in the end we are all entirely convinced, shaking our heads at our assumptions, letting the nightmare fade away. It was just a bad dream. My mother isn’t dead. Phew, phew (even though we have to do chores now), PHEW.
But of course I wake up and she is dead. And that wonderful dream seems more like a nightmare. As wonderful as that moment was, the truth unlocks a fresh wave of grief. My brain, the tricky minx, brought her back to life. My brain knew exactly how to make her breathe and talk and task-master us with chores once again. My brain had convinced me.
But why do I have the urge to call my brother when I wake up and share with him that she’s actually fine? That she insisted she was, no REALLY.
Who knows. I mean, our brains are pretty smart things, right? And they may know something our rational, consciousness does not. Something could actually be setting off alarm bells deep within telling us she IS here. Somehow. Around. And fine. Whether she is real because of our rich, vivid memories, or she is now something more other-worldly and deeply spiritual. Maybe she is filling her own void in a new and different way.
I believe that. I do. But still. She’s gone. And my brain and I miss her.
My mom spent the last four Halloweens with us. She loved watching the kids get dressed up and carve pumpkins. She gladly held down the the fort and gave out candy while we set off to trick or treat. And last year, she helped me make a ghost for our front yard. I remember her finding the perfect gauzy material from the store. I remember her confidently running her hands over it, knowing exactly how much would work. After all, she had made these for my brother and I many years in a row, many years before. And before I knew it, she had created the very same ghost I grew up with, fresh from my childhood.
So yes. This Halloween, her ghost is here. In some way or another. In my dreams. In my memories. In my front yard. Or how she more often feels – only a breath away, over my shoulder, wishing me peace and whispering “I’m FINE. No really.”
If you’re a mother, busy with kids and work and married and have very little time for making new friends, you might have a good idea of what I am talking about when I refer to “Mom Dating”. And this weekend, as I was moving out one of my dearest friends and neighbors down the street – entirely too aware of the enormous void she would leave in my life – I knew it was time for me to get back in the game. I need to wipe the grape jelly off my kids faces, put something not so wrinkled on, buck up and start “Mom Dating” again.
As an overly eager college grad years ago, finding new friends was never hard to do. School and then work handed over heaps of new friends to sort through and bond with. But as I became (er… I guess it’s categorized as) a “grown-up”, those school and work friends and I have all dispersed, married and created lives of our own. Sure we call, we facebook, we skype. But we don’t have each other right here. For the spontaneous “bring the kids over for movie night, don’t forget the wine” kind of thing. For the “can you watch my kids so I can have the minimum number of eyes on my parts during my annual” times. For even the “if you let me borrow a stick of butter, I’ll share this raw cookie dough with you” moments.
So, to fill this particular empty void in our lives, we “grown ups” have to on-purpose, fully on the prowl, get out and start Mom Dating. It’s actually no different than regular dating except that it’s done on playgrounds and there is no fretting over how long you hold each other afterwards.
Ugh, but I cringe at the idea. Why? Like real dating, there are always some hurdles we must leap before finding “the one”. Like real dating, we have to put ourselves out there and risk rejection. Certainly trial and error has to be a part of the process but, when it comes to Mom Dating, I know what I am up against.
When I’m scoping for moms, I keep my eyes open all the time for thirty something-ish mothers that kind of seem a little bit like me, trailing a pack of kids who seem no more or less wild than my own. I often find them in bookstores, grocery stores, Target. But really the best places to troll for moms are: playgrounds (it is the ultimate common ground), school or playgroup (your kids know each other, you see each other regularly, its kind of perfect), kid’s extracurriculars (didn’t you know Little League and karate were really all about YOU?), and libraries. One time I totally exchanged digits with a very cool mom at the library. Before she moved away (grumble grumble, Florida can be so transient sometimes) we were even kind of BFFs for awhile.
Giving the Right Impression
So now you’ve spotted a mom. But before she might allow her children to be anywhere near yours, you really need to give the right impression. Firstly, always have your kids with you. A hassle (I know) but really, like the chick magnet cute dog my husband had in college, its the perfect ice breaker and establishes you as a 100%, genuine mom – just like her. You want to immediately portray that “Hi there! I’m a normal, regular mom too. See all of my screaming monsters that I’m trying reeeally hard not to yell too much at so I don’t scare to you off?”
Don’t Come on Too Strong
So I can usually break the ice and get this far ok. I’ll have my kids with me (check) and am usually not afraid to say something to another mom (er… check.) But, I’m warning you, be very careful at this very initial stage of friendship. When you first talk to another mom, (please, whatever you do) don’t come on too strong. While I’m not afraid to say hi, I am often too quick to try to relate, get comfortable and then (*cringe*) overshare. And that probably comes off kind of stalkerish and weird when I’m all “Hey, howya doin’, I sooo have cramps today, don’t they suck? I think my kid just pooped his pants, I gave him too many raisins, do raisins make your kids poop too much? My name is Caroline by the way, here’s my blogger business card, wanna email me?…” Shocking, isn’t it, when they don’t respond and then quickly shoo their kids away. Don’t come on too strong, ladies. Eeeeasy does it.
Find Something (Anything) Other than Kids in Common
This is the tough part. You’ve found that you’re both past the initial niceties and have launched into the next level of chat about where your children go to school, where you live, what your partners do. But then the real stuff starts to creep in, as it should. And the real stuff is what makes your friendship something… well, real. Where you’re from, how you raise your kids, what kind of values you have and then (*red lights flashing* warning, warning) in come your politics, religion, status stuff (if you even care) and the rest of it. This is about when you’ll learn whether the other mom is a just a ” ‘Hi, how are you?’ when you pass in Target” kind of mom, or a “regular playdates and lets friend each other on facebook” kind of mom, or a for real “pour your heart out late night over bottles of wine, BFF” kind of mom.
Please take note however. You don’t have to have absolutely everything in common. My dear friend who I just packed out of her house was not of the same political “persuasion” as me. And that’s a big one. While we had a couple rocky conversations, our friendship truly superseded that and it was, to the core, at the BFF level. Diversity and difference can make a friendship go round if you’re honest and accepting of one another.
You’re Friends but What About the Rest of the Family?
And now for one final and very important hurdle. While you and this mom chat regularly and truly seem to be connecting – do your children? Do THEY have anything in common with each other? And even if they do, what about your husbands or partners? Can your significant others hang out and enjoy each other’s company on a regular basis too? Because THAT’S the golden ticket friendship right there. If your family and your new friend’s family connect and enjoy watching the game on Sunday over a couple beers and a few burgers on the grill, hold on and don’t let go. That is a rare and important treasure to be sure.
So. Here I go. If you are a mom that happened to get my blogger business card (*smacking head* why can’t I just write my number on a Publix receipt with a crayon like every other mom), please know I mean no harm. I swear, I’m not a weird stalker chick. I’m just a regular mom who is sick of herding cats kids all day, looking for other moms who get it.
Maybe I need to put an ad in the paper. Maybe there is an online mom dating service. Maybe there is speed mom dating up at the local neighborhood clubhouse. If I can, I’ll try it – because taking the risk and finding a one of a kind kindered spirit is always ALWAYS worth the hassles of Mom Dating. Wish me luck.
My three year old is asleep. My six year old is tossing a baseball to himself in my parent’s living room, side stepping baskets of dying flowers. My father is away, following up with the tasks of an executor. And I am sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by recently printed off pictures of my mother.
But there is one new addition to our family here too. It has slipped suddenly into our lives while the reality of my mother’s passing sinks in. This new member is grief.
When I first stepped back into my parent’s house, only a day after my mother was found here, grief was looming and effusive, filling every space. While I sat on her bed, it wrapped itself around me and held on tightly. Breathing seemed impossible.
But then the tasks of death pushed grief into the shadows for a time. Tasks almost as horrendous as grasping the concept that my mother is gone. Grief waited though and wound itself back around my heart during the most unexpected moments until I was able to beat it back again. We all had so much to do.
I was asked how I found the strength to speak at my mother’s funeral. Well. All of it, everything we’ve had to do has been horrifying and equally difficult to do. Finding an appropriate funeral home. Picking out an urn. Picking out a cremation casket. Discussing the process of embalming. Picking out her last outfit. Slipping on her wedding ring. Doing her last load of laundry, washing away her scent from her clothes. Cleaning her last dishes in the sink. Searching through her pictures, looking for her face before I forget any of it. Writing her obituary. Informing her friends and neighbors. And speaking besides her open casket at her funeral.
All of it. Equally horrifying. And equally impossible – however absolutely necessary – to do.
Grief slinks back into the corner more often as the days go by. But it is always there. Waiting for a peaceful moment. Waiting for me to find some trinket of hers or for some memory to come rushing back. Waiting for me to drive her car and see her hands – my hands – on the steering wheel. Grief finds its opening. It slips back over my shoulders, holding me close, muffling out the world, overwhelming my senses, until sadness flows through my soul, oozes back out of my body and ebbs again.
I’m getting used to it being there. As I am getting used to her death. I have become familiar with the cycle grief assumes in my day to day life. It must process through. I can’t do much else other than brace myself, wait for it make it’s mark and move along. It always does.
However we are desperately grateful for our best booster against grief – my mother’s greatest acheivement: her grandchildren. Their laughter, their games, their wonder, their constant expectation of regularity push grief further away and into a very small place where we can all watch it from the corner of our eyes. Children allow us to cope and move forward. Children officially prove to us that the world keeps spinning and her love lives on through them.
While my three year old continues to nap, I am off to start the process of clean up. We certainly don’t want to scour this place of my mother’s presense (we will never be ready for that), but its time to throw away her toothbrush, her recently purchased make-up, pack her hair brushes, toss out that last cigarette butt of hers and wash her ashtray, put away her bedside items, discard her overly worn slippers and store her clothes. All of it is equally horrifying, with grief nipping at my heels and my son tossing his ball in the air amoungst the flowers and pictures in the living room. Onward.
Sure. I could blame my short blogging absence on all of the family I have been hosting over this past week. That’s right. I could make them the scape goat. (And yeah, it IS kind of their fault, which I mean in the nicest way, because family is faaar more important than our blogs anyway… right?) But this absence really isn’t their fault. No. It was something else.
I blame that fancy bit of recently hip social media called Twitter.
Now it’s not as if I have been exactly tweeting like a crazy woman all this time either. Like I said, family has been in town. I haven’t had all that much “one on one” snuggle time with my PC really. But when I DID have time, what did I do? I reduced what could have been perfectly entertaining and interesting posts of about two or three paragraphs… into 140 characters.
I mean, come on now. I’d like to fancy myself a writer. And blogging is the BEST thing ever for a writer. No one edits you, you just rock it, write it out, say what you want. Such freedom. It is NOT a task. It is never a chore. Blogging is something I relish. So writing a funny two or three paragraph post about something quirky that happened that day is HARDLY work.
And yet, I chose to spend what little time I had to tweet it instead. Bad. So bad. I mean, it even takes some thinking and intellectual wrangling to get that true intention captured in 140 characters. Its like a challenge. Lets see how I can mush an entire afternoon into one sentence.
Ugh. The writer in me is simply disgusted.
Tweeting is NOT blogging.
And choosing to tweet rather than blog when I had the time simply dimmed the lights around here for far too long. (I know its only been about a week but to ME, that’s a blogger’s eternity.)
I can’t help but think of that song “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
NO I am NOT a blogging star but still, just like the twitter warning, something IS technically wrong here. Twitter has the potential to do some real blogger damage. And I had been warned about the perils of twitter before, but now I get it.
We can’t let Twitter rip the blogging carpet out from under us.
We can’t let perfectly good posts with wonderfully descriptive sentences become chopped, edited and stunted into grammatically incorrect blurbs quickly forgotten and forever lost in some mindless twitter graveyard.
We can’t stop blogging for the quick, however empty, satisfaction of a fast tweet and a couple “@” replies.
We’re better than that, right?
Ok, ok. I know I am really just mad at myself for ignoring my blog. I have missed my time here. I really heart Morningside Mom and I am taking it out on twitter. And its hardly like I WON’T be tweeting now. (Snort, cha right.)
But if I have some time on my hands and a funny story to share, I need to prioritize my blog over twitter. And that goes for reading too. If I have some time on my hands to read, I need to prioritize my google reader over catching up on tweets. Content over 140 characters. Structure, description, real words, beginnings, middles and ends over an answer to the question “What are you doing right now?”
So twitter. I get you. I do. I kind of love you sometimes too. But my aim is to be a fabulous blogger and writer – not a totally popular, excessively followed micro-blogger. So while I will love you and enjoy you for what you are, I can’t let you kill blogging for me – or for any of us. I won’t let you. Even all those videos on MTV got old eventually. But the music never did.
In my mind and in my car
we can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far.
Pictures came and broke your heart
put the blame on VTR.
Video killed the radio star.
(By the way, this song is SO much better than its video. What the hell is that about? Was it very intentional irony? Really bad drugs? A limited budget? Or did the Buggles actually think their video was so damn cool and on point? Makes me wonder how many of us think our tweets are just as good as our blog posts. Something to consider. Check it out…)
Sometimes I start into my day only to realize the world is out to get me. Before the sun has even begun to peak through the trees beyond our back ponds, I have got it alllll figured out – the universe has my backside in its cross hairs.
Oh, you think I’m over reacting? I’m not. This is real. This is war and apparently I am decidedly the axis of evil. Stay on my side, ok? Don’t turn against me too. We need to round up our forces. Let me repeat myself. The world is out to get me. Help.
Here’s what happens. When I wake up on those mornings, right away I know. Something isn’t quite right. As soon as they run out to the living room, my pajama clad children have upped their whines to decibels which call dogs for miles. I know their shtick. They probably have it all planned (you know, who would nag me about what and for how long) way before I get them out of bed. Oh and one of my boys has coincidentally sprouted a cold- green boogers flowing forth, awaiting my tissue. What – did he spend the entire day before licking shopping cart handles in preparation?
And then I arrive in the kitchen and the dishes are certainly dirtier than they were when I went to bed. What? Was my husband up late night dirtying extra plates just for fun? And no PRE-RINSE!?!?!!!!! No pre-rinse??? So now its all crusted FOREVER!!!!!! I’m speechless.
And what was that? The garbage men have come and gone a full hour before they normally do? Oh, right. Bloody typical. And then, while I try and make a hasty one slipper on, one slipper off mad dash out to the corner with the trash anyway, the whole thing dumps over. Someone over filled it, someone broke its wheel, someone wants to make me miserable.
Don’t you SEE whats going on here?
I know then and there, while my children pretend not to scheme behind my back over their bowls of cereal, its time to get my game face on. Oh yeah. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know when someone has pasted a “drive me frickin’ nuts today” sign on my back. I can hear the snickering from my children, my husband, the trash men. I know their game.
And then my husband emerges and my anger turns inward. He hasn’t even made eye contact. He hasn’t even said good morning. He hardly knows I exist.
I look like shit, don’t I?
That’s right. My husband doesn’t even think his own wife is attractive. What should I expect. Not like I even have time to look nice EVER. Not like we ever GO on any DATES or anything so why should I bother, right? I’m going to be 36 this year. I am merely the dried up, raisin husk of the woman he married 9 years go.
“Good morning.” He says. Pffft. If you say so. Don’t toy with me. There will be no response back, thank you very much.
Shoes are lost. Uniform shirts aren’t clean. SOMEONE forgot to tell me the yogurt drinks for packed lunches are out (what am I, a mind reader). The cat is clawing the priceless Afghan carpet (that my father brought home from Kabul, hand woven by a woman with nothing and here my cat CLAWS at it?!?!). And I am pretty sure it’s going to be overcast and cool today. (Hello? It’s Florida!? We don’t DO imperfect weather.)
And my husband thinks I am unattractive. I don’t get on the Wii Fit enough. I keep eating those damn Hershey’s kisses. What is it with the chocolate lately? And I am quite sure it was planted in my house to make me fat anyway.
Fine so then my husband and son leave for the day. Fine. Just leave me here. Alone with my tantruming two year old where we will be stuck in “same shit, different groundhog day” hell. In 10 minutes I am going to get hassled for a snack and “not that one, not that one either, NOOOOO not THAT one NOOOOOO!!!!!” In an hour I am going to be picking up what didn’t get in a potty. Awesome. And in 5 hours and 23 minutes, I will spend 56 minutes battling said child, wooing him to nap while he refuses to and immediately loses his mind because in actuality he needs that frickin nap like I need my sanity. Like I need those bloody Hershey’s kisses. (Guess whats for lunch.) So good-bye husband. Dessert me again. Go enjoy adults and conversation and quiet trips to the bathroom BY YOURSELF.
Oh and I need to write. That’s right. I need to find inspiration and get about five posts written. Because I need to bust my ass for a job that pays me chump change on a GOOD day. Right. So lets figure out what I’m going to write. Ok. While I sit here alone on groundhog day and get repeatedly whacked by a light saber. Sure. There are so many interesting things to write about that inspire me daily. WHACK. Yes, so many new and fascinating things which happen in my very own house that I must write them ALL down. WHACK. I am simply brimming with inspiration. WHACK WHACK.
So finally, I give up. A shower is my only hope. A shower always helps. Assuming there is still hot water. Assuming the soap isn’t all out leaving me with an empty container in its place or my two year old doesn’t decide to pull the entire entertainment system down on top of himself right when I turn on the water because that could very well happen – he’s plotting it all right now I tell you, cackling evilly to himself.
So, however resigned, I wander into the bathroom. And there I see it. A blue plastic case, popped open and… empty but for the last week of placebo pills.
So I am quite sure by now that I do in fact have a blogger guardian angel. No, I do. And I need to light a candle on her behalf every night and thank her for all she brings my way.
So what is it this time?
Well. I was emailed by a friend/colleague/reader of mine the other day and asked if I would like to be part of an phone interview with (here it is, folks…) Chandra Wilson. She is the enormously talented actor who plays Dr. Bailey on “Greys Anatomy”. It turns out she is a spokesperson for the Treat With Care Campaign and is working with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association to advocate for the safe use of children’s over the counter medication. Would I be interested in participating in the call and interviewing her as a mom blogger?
Um. Yeah. I think so.
Some quick back story here. Now, like households everywhere, I watch “Greys” regularly. It’s a fabulous show. But here’s the thing. Of ALL the characters (McSteamys and McDreamys included), my stand alone, top of the pile, absolute favorite character on that show is Dr. Bailey. Her character is an incredible example of a smart, witty, relatable hard working mother who digs in and scraps for what she believes in. I stand by Dr. Bailey with every episode. Just ask my husband. When the credits roll, I clutch a couch pillow to my heart and confess my solidarity with Dr. Bailey. She simply rocks that show.
And last Friday I got to interview her.
That couch pillow? Yeah, it kind of got thrown in the air a bit.
Ok. So down to the nitty gritty. What is the Treat With Care Campaign all about?
Before we start, I must confess something. I am not sure if this deems me as being highly unprofessional, but I didn’t write down the conversation word for word so I could transcribe the interview exactly as it went here. Sorry about that folks. Color me a wee bit star struck, I got caught up in the convo – talking and writing just wasn’t going to happen. But I did take notes and will do my damnedest to do it all justice here for you. So here we go. (And its a little long but like I care. It’s Chandra Wilson for pete’s sake!)
Once we all called in, we heard a little bit from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA). They are a non-profit, consumer focused association supported by the makers of many over the counter medications (OTCs). The Treat With Care Campaign is their initiative to encourage the safe use of children’s OTCs. The USFDA recently changed its OTC recommendations and now suggests they be used for children 4 and older (as opposed to previous labels recommending use for ages 2 and older). And with that, Chandra Wilson was introduced to us as their spokesperson for the Treat With Care Campaign and we were welcomed to ask her questions.
Chandra greeted us all and I couldn’t help but smile. I know that voice! She was very encouraging and certainly seemed happy to speak with us. So, as I gathered myself, rallying whatever bit of professionalism I had, I couldn’t help but think the following:
“Its Dr. frigging BAILEY!!! Ok, she sounds cool. In fact, she seems a whole lot sweeter than what I expected. Like the softer, gentler, more relaxed twin of Dr. Bailey. And shes a mom! And here she is just chatting away with us! Bah! Must not freak out but I SO TOTALLY AM!”
So then it was my turn to ask a question. Anxious, shameless and a little bit starstruck, I jumped right in. As a mother of a 3 year old, I asked her how this campaign has changed how she cares for her son when he has a cough or cold.
She explained to us it has changed her life a great deal. Before, she never thought twice about about treating her child’s cough or cold the way she might treat her own. But since becoming involved in this campaign, she has learned the following tips:
Read labels and never give your child more than the recommended dose
Store medications out of reach AND out of sight of your children. The flavors can be enticing, so she even turns the labels with the cute grapes inward
Never use an OTC for children younger than the recommended age of four or under (unless prescribed otherwise by a doctor)
Never use adult medications for children
Never use any medication for the purpose of making your child sleepy
(Can I just say here that as she was carefully listing these tips, I started slipping back into a “Greys” state of mind. Since she is clearly informed about this topic, she suddenly sounded a little more like Dr. Bailey and I had better listen to these points or else she was going to get the Chief involved and make us interns pay! …Oh for crying outloud. SNAP OUT OF IT CAROLINE! Sheeesh.)
She then talked about how she works hard to focus on nutrition and hydration when her child is sick. And when her little one is truly miserable, she always refers to her Pediatrician for cough or cold medications.
So with the new OTC recommendations, I know that I have been nervous about using any OTCs at all for my children. Are they really safe?
Well, she explained that the problems have occured when parents have misused OTCs or children have taken OTCs on their own and over-dosed. In fact, the FDA found this was occurring more often with children under the age of 4, hence the changes on labels. She told us that this campaign is simply just a good reminder to everyone about how to use OTCs – they are safe if they are used correctly.
So should we always ask a pediatrician before we use an OTC, even if the child is over 4?
(Ugh, duh, was this a stupid question? Whatever. I asked it.)
She said that we should use our common sense as parents. But yes, certainly discuss the use of any meds with our pediatrician. She has found that since she has been involved in this campaign, she always contacts her pediatrician whenever she is in doubt – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The other bloggers asked questions too of course, and she was so nice to everyone. (Although I do feel a bit guilty. Maybe I asked too many questions? Maybe I jumped in there too often? My apologies to the other bloggers, I think I sort of lost my mind a bit. Ok. Let it go.) But ultimately, she came back to the same points I’ve already mentioned and made sure to underscore the importance of using OTCs safely. Then the CHPA rep asked us if we had any further questions.
Heh. I did, of course. (Shocker of all shockers.)
I asked Chandra that I was pretty sure all of our readers would love to know how she balances being a mother with such a demanding career.
She explained that she has a great support team in place. She has a day to day schedule and tries to stick with it. And while she has a plan in place, she always makes room for the human factor. Things can change daily and she tries to accommodate accordingly. Sometimes her kids might come to work or maybe one has to get to camp – whatever it is, she just tries to make room for it just like we all do.
And with that, it was time to say good-bye.
Ack. So what did I do? I couldn’t help myself.
While I was thanking her, I just had to get a little gushy. (Groan.) I blurted out that I really appreciate the character she plays since she is a hardworking mother, and she sets such an important example. She said that’s why she loves Dr. Bailey too – she’s real, strong but certainly not perfect. I told her I think that shes fantastic in her role and thanked her for it. And she was so damn nice back. She really was. Did I make a fool of myself gushing a bit there? Eh, maybe. Probably. But who cares. You know why? She has brought such a great character to my Thursday evenings, she SHOULD be thanked you know?
(Ok, Chandra? If luck would have it and you are reading this? I really mean it. Thank you. Dr. Bailey is a fantastic character. And sure sure, its because there are amazing writers for Greys but REALLY. It is *YOU* who makes Dr. Bailey who she is. YOU bring this character to life. You have reached so many people with your fabulous acting and I just have to say it again. Thank you.)
Stop laughing at me, readers o’ mine. Its ok, I can gush NOW. Its my blog, so I can be out of my mind now, its kind of what I do here, right?
But really, the best part of the whole conversation was just how real and relaxed it was. Because she is not a doctor, she is a working mom just like so many of us. We laughed about our kids, we swapped stories, we talked about how important it is to protect our children. And at the end of our half hour, I was a little sad to say good-bye.
So, if you want to see more of Chandra, here are a couple clips you should watch. First, here is the Treat With Care OTC PSA.
And then, this is the real “non Dr. Bailey” Chandra on Ellen. How cool is she? No, really! She is so damn cool, a mom like us, she loves her soaps and she doesn’t know how to work her TIVO. Yup, I really heart her. (I know, enough with the gushing, but I can’t make any more of a fool of myself here than I already have right?…) – so… rock on Chandra!!!
Thank you again, Chandra Wilson and CHPA for this opportunity.
As much as I try to deny it, my children are growing up. (Damn.) My sweet little two year old C. is going to be three this summer. I have even begun the process of enrolling him in school part time this fall. Its hard to believe that in a mere nine months, I won’t have a child home with me full time.
How did that happen?
And where does that leave me?
In 2003, I quit my full time job to be home with my children. And soon, over five years later with two kids in school and a huge gap in my resume, I have to figure out how I am going to help earn more for this family. Times are tough everywhere. We are lucky my husband is even employed. I am an able bodied person, so back to work with me. If this all sounds familiar, it should because I have been stressed about this issue before. Its one I go round in circles about. I think we all do.
But here’s the thing. This past year, some amazing things have happened for me. I am beginning to feel that I need to pay careful attention to whats going on around me. The signs are there. It seems that something real may waiting for me in my future. I know this sounds like I am buying into some new age hocus pocus… *Shrug* Well. I don’t know. Maybe I am. Because I almost feel like the universe – and all that is beyond me - is quietly trying to tell me something. You might remember I have noticed this before. And all of those crazy signs I was talking about then still just keep popping up everywhere.
This way, this way. Over here. Come this way…
So, if we are going to go there, and get all spiritual up on this blog, I think I am going to go ahead and practice a tried and true lesson from the heavens. I have heard that in order to get what you want, you must ask for it. So that’s what I am going to do. I am going push aside those feelings of “I shouldn’t ask for anything, I don’t deserve anything more, I have enough” and just simply ask the powers that be for a little favor.
To all that are listening, whether they be up at the pearly gates or right here next to me as I type this post (cue the inspirational Enya music, switch on the hallowed lights from the heavens) - this is what I hope I can do to earn my keep around here:
I want to write.
(Shocking, I know.)
But I want to be paid to write. And I adore blogging, really I do, and I plan to keep doing it. But am I the next Dooce? I don’t think so. My life is really not interesting enough to have a well paying blog about… err… little ol’ me.
But I would love to write articles, be paid to post on other blogs, write reviews, write editorials in magazines or online… shoot, whatever it is, I just want to write and make some extra scratch for groceries or (eeks, this seems like a lot to ask) maybe even a car payment.
Now if you are a parent blogger, writing from home like I am, I am betting you are having a good laugh right about now. Because this is probably exactly what you want too. You know how great writing is. You can work from home and then be there for your children when they get home from school. You set your own hours and you take on as much work as you can handle. Its kind of ideal, right? Yeah, that’s what I think too.
Well, even if every other parent blogger wants to do what I hope to do, so what. It still can’t hurt to ask, right?
So. To the powers that be. Whoever is out there, up there, over there, right here pushing mystical buttons and pulling heavenly levers… could you just make a note? Maybe tag me and set me aside for something that seems to fit my needs down the road a bit? I’m not asking to be Editor in Chief of Redbook or the next Jen Weiner, I just want to love what I do… and write. Then maybe I can help pay some bills around here and make sure T. is getting his homework done before he turns on the Wii. It’s not too much to ask, right? I hope not.
Anyway. Back I go to stumbling down this path, with no clue where it will take me, uncovering the tiny little signs that are pointing me this way. I know I keep checking myself, questioning my faith in it all, saying “Well, I don’t know, I’ll try it for now but lets not get our hopes up.” But then, right at my feet, another sign will appear. And if I look very, very closely it says the same thing that they all do. It simply says ”write, write, write”. So I am.
When it comes to my son and any accessment about his education or development, I seriously lose my mind. No I mean it. I’d like to think that with most things in my life, I can keep a fair, rational, logical perspective on things. I don’t cry too much. I am realistic. Whatever, I can be cool. But for some reason, when it comes to my son and school or anything to do with how he’s growing up, I completely and utterly lose my frigging tree. A crazy lady, frothed and pleading, takes over my brain and there seems that nothing can be done. Are you relating to this? Or are you fanicated by another parenting train wreck post from me? Well, go ahead. Read on. I’m warning you though. I’m a nut job and I’m going to prove it.
When my wonderful Aunt S. was raising her son, she used to tell me about this insanitything that happens to moms. My Aunt S. is a speech pathologist. And apart from being super smart about children’s development, she just kind of “gets it”. She is surrounded by amazing resources and she has been blessed with a very level head about raising children. But she used to tell me all the time that when it came to her discussing own child, all reasoning went out the window and some crazy lady took over. She would just kind of… loose it.
Oh. Seriously. You would not BELIEVE how I get what she was saying now.
Ever since the day my son was born, I have hung on every word any “specialist” might share with me. As I’ve mentioned before, my son had a pretty rough start. So if I am talking to ANY variation of child expert (and I mean ANY kind), I kind of loose it. Friends or family that happen to be teachers, substitute teachers, doctors, nurses, speech pathologists (I’ve got two in my family), or even just moms… or even people that have maybe even seen a kid before… once, I babble endlessly to them about my son. And I can’t stop. When they ask “How is school going”, I know they are expecting a quick “fine” back. Huh. Well, not me. My mind simply sees a green light, social norms fall away and I just… go for it. I launch into a detailed account about his social and educational development. What this teacher said, what friends I think and hope he is playing with, what test score he got, what I think is REALLY going on, after all I know best, I’m his mom. Right? RIGHT?!?!?!!! And as they quickly try to change the subject, I corner them into telling me that T. is doing “Great. Just GREAT. Really. He is.” And I calm my panting, wipe my brow and scramble to get a grip.
The irony? T. is a pretty smart kid. He really IS doing great.
(I’m holding back here. Really. I am. Don’t go on about Caroline. Don’t do it, girl!!!)
So yeah, he’s a smart kid. But that doesn’t satisfy me. And it’s not *HIM* that I am pushing (I don’t think?) it’s everything around him. If he is acing his reading, I wonder if the school is challenging him enough. If he is struggling with subtraction, I gasp and shake my head and fold my arms and ask my husband outright “Who the hell thinks subtraction is a good idea in Kindergarten? I mean, Come on!!!”
And what did me and my crazy lady within get to experience last week? The first parent-teacher meeting of the year of course. (Bum, bum BUM!!!) So there we were, early for our appointment. I paced out front, the children tackled each other on the sidewalk, and my husband stood there with his hands in his pockets, kind of breaking out into hives about being anywhere NEAR a classroom. (A brilliant man, but clearly he’s never been a fan of sitting still for class. Did I tell you he’s a college coach?)
When they called us in, all I could think was “Be calm. Be normal. Be NICE. And most of all. DON’T BE THAT PARENT.” We sat down, them across from us, record books cracked open, guarded smiles on their faces. And I know exactly why they were guarded too. Because they have dealt with freak after FREAK of parents marching in and demanding and flipping out and gushing about how THEIR kid is so uber amazing. Poor teachers. How annoying. Not me, not this parent, I GET it.
“So yes. Mr and Mrs. Morngsidemom, T. is doing very well. Very quiet. Pays attention….” And on it goes. But the more they talk, the more I butt in “Yes, did I tell you about his birth trauma? Oh, she knows but you didn’t hear about it? Maybe its just good you know, just to give you some context.” or “Hes very quiet because he is a ‘LISTENER’, thats how he PROCESSES the world (Heh, like I’m some expert.). He may not respond right away because he is LISTENING and is taking every bit in, I promise you.” “Mmmm, hmmmmm….” they say.
But c’mon. Even *I* know better. I know he’s off thinking about light sabers and speeders and which Star Wars episode is his favorite. But its like I can’t help it. There is some strange urge within to justify everything he says or does. To explain it. To tell them he is BRILLIANT DAMMIT, BRILLIANT. And by the time I have jumped into hyper-speed talking and gesticulating and demanding and flipping out and gushing about how MY kid really IS uber amazing… I realize, the teachers are just sitting there. Blink. Blink. With guarded smiles plastered to their wonderfully patient faces. Oops. I did it YET again.
So then, when we got back home from the meeting, per the Math teachers suggestion, I calmly (nervous laughing as I type this) sat down with T. and his subtraction homework. “Hon, maybe a number line is a good idea. You think? Here’s how it works! Stop coloring. Pay attention. Hey. Think dammit! A number line. Ok. Count forward or backward… ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION??!!?!! YOU’RE SUCH A SMART BOY YOU CAN DO THIS!”
Ok, I swear, I am not like that. Ask my husband, he sees “homework time” go down. But thats what the freak show, crazy lady, jumping around in my head is saying. Fer real.
Anyway, so I showed him the number line. And we worked on it together. And he got it and sailed through his homework. And that was that.
However. Have I wanted to harass his lovely (really, shes so wonderful) math teacher with a little follow up email??? Oh ho, yes. I wanna so bad. I bet it would go something like: ”I printed a number line for him, it really works for him, if you’d just make sure he has one when he’s doing his work, that would really help, because he really understands the concepts, he’s such a smart kid, really, I swear, its just the WAY he PROCESSES things, a LISTENER, remember? I’m his mom, I know, so could ya get him a number line? MMM, thanks. That would be greeeaaaat.”
But nope. I haven’t done that yet. (Restraint being my middle name and all…) Although, I asked T. in the car yesterday, “So!” (-all calm and relaxed like-) “Did you tell your teacher that you would like to use a number line with your subtraction?”
“Oh! Oh that’s ok. So.” (Clearing my throat. Totally chilled out about the WHOLE topic.) ”How was your quiz then?”
(SCREEEEEEECH, my car swerved all over the road, I was filled with utter glee.)
“I am SOOOO PROUD OF YOU!!!!!” (beaming at that point, cars honking everywhere, but I. Am. BEAMING.) “But, uh, how did you do it without a number line?”
“I just used the one in my head. Mom? C. is picking his nose again. And wiping it on me….”
Yeah, well. THAT about sums it up, right?
Anyhow, for those of you who have made it all the way through this rambling post, this is only one small chapter in my epic novel of parenting madness. Someone needs to just tell me to frigging quit it. Someone needs to smack the crazy lady OUTA me. Someone needs to make sure I am not completely screwing him up at school. I don’t want EITHER of my kids to feel like they need to be perfect. I just want them to try to do their best.
And me. As a mom. Wondering (desperately, wildly, dramatically) how my kids will turn out, I guess they can’t expect me to be perfect either. I just am going to try to do my best.
(As for all you “experts” who I corner on a regular basis? My most humble, insanity riddled apologies. At least I am aware of the problem. Oh and by the way? C. hasn’t even started school yet… bum, bum, BUUUUUUM!)
Yesterday, my 2 yo son was entirely too ripe for naptime. And he was pissed about it. At 33 lbs, and taller than ANY of his peers, he is a force to be reckoned with. Watching him stand there in a froth of tantrum and exhaustion, I came at him low – like a wrestler – to keep my balance and scoop him up before he took me out. As anticipated, the fight was on. Kicking, screaming, thrashing – I did all that I could to hold on to him and make a break for the bedroom. And as I was almost there, he took a huge swipe at me with unclipped finger nails. He scraped my face and it hurt. Anger flared inside me. And then, as I passed through the doorway to his bedroom, he thrashed out yet again and managed to push hard on the door frame with his feet. As a result, drove me - hard – into the door frame on the opposite side. And it HURT. So what did I do? I put him on the ground and swatted at his bum.
I have NEVER spanked either of my children over the 5+ years I have been a mother. And I said I never would. But I did. NOT because I thought it was a good idea. NOT because I thought it would teach him something. I did it because I was really mad and wanted to get him.
Wow. There I said it.
Oh, my stomach clenches at the memory - I felt so terrible in that moment. I scooped him up and rocked him and whispered to him while those horrible waves of mommy guilt washed over me, seeping in, soaking everything.
How was he? Well, when I swatted him, he hardly noticed. I think he thought I was pushing him into the room. He cried no more or no less. He only slowed his crying once I started rocking him. He was so damn tired, that poor baby. So I put him in his crib, he laid right down, I rambled about a thousand “I love you”s, and that was that.
But that wasn’t that for me. After all these years, after all the thousands of temper tantrums that I have muscled through, why did that one drive me to spank him?
Ok, so lets talk about spanking. It’s really one of those hot button topics with moms. Some do it, some don’t. Either way, parents tend to feel strongly about why they do or don’t. And we can all get uppity and self righteous about why we do or don’t - but I don’t judge another parent’s choices on that. I just decide how I want to parent my own children.
And what are my feelings about spanking? I don’t think it works. I don’t think it particularly hurts a kid physically, but I just don’t think it accomplishes a damn thing. If anything, it sends a message that hitting for a bad behavior is ok. I think it tells your kid it’s ok to strike out physically in a time of anger. I am just not a fan of negative reinforcement. I have managed to get my kids to mind – or not – just fine without it.
(Until now. Gulp. Just swimming in guilt here.)
Now, I was spanked. Am I all screwed up because I was spanked? Nope. Did I learn to hit people because I was hit a few times when I really got in trouble? I don’t think so. So knowing that, I don’t judge anyone who spanks their kids – or I try really hard not to. I have just been pretty dug in about the fact that *I* don’t want to do it with my kids. Bottomline: I don’t want any hitting under my roof, I don’t care for what purpose, and that’s that.
So, I broke my rule yesterday, and swatted my baby’s bum. And, as I’ve mentioned, I am up to my nose in a sea of mommy guilt. But I have friends who are rolling their eyes so loudly right now, telling me to get over it. Telling me he needed a good swat, telling me to stop being so damn guilty all the time, telling ME to stop be so damn self-righteous. Telling me people screw up and none of us are perfect parents.
Eh, I guess.
I still had to call my husband and admit my mistake. And while he agrees with the no spanking thing, he was hardly impressed. Just kind of “Oh wow… What was HIS problem?”
But I think the other thing that bugged me about the moment was my intention. Again, I didn’t spank him because I wanted to teach him a lesson and felt this would be a good method to do so. I did it because I was hurt and mad – and I snapped. Obviously, I hardly went crazy. This wasn’t child abuse, I know that. But it scares me how me – miss “anti-conflict, peace loving, can’t we all just get along” Caroline – could snap and want to hit her very own child.
I know I am not alone here. I know parents are driven to moments like this. I know friends who have had to walk away, lock themselves in their bathroom and count to 50, with their child pounding on the door outside. The everyday, monotonous, groundhog day, water dripping on our foreheads constant of whining, crying, hitting, kicking, throwing can just… get to us. No matter how much we love them. However, we should never NEVER act on that anger or frustration in the heat of the moment. Never.
No matter how unhurt he was (or even if he hardly noticed), spanking him in that moment (when I don’t believe in doing it anyway) was wrong.
So, yeah. I need to let it go. And blogging about it is my way of publicly apologizing for it I think. So this is my penance. Please don’t call child services on me. I learned my lesson, that’s for sure.