September 27, 2007

Day 549: Picking our battles

A lot of my issues with motherhood have stemmed from the fact that it turns out I am a bit of a control nut. Who knew? Lurking beneath this ultra-cool and laid back exterior is a big old type A personality. I like schedules. I like patterns. I like for things to make sense. Maddie however, like most 18-month olds, is more a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-diapers kind of a girl.

Some moms are able to admit the truth, which is that their kids control their lives. I am still in denial on that one, but I am learning to focus my need for control on a few select issues. For example, it has become strangely important to me that she does not stand up on the couch, on the footstool, anywhere other than the ground, really. We have daily battles over it, she and I, but I am intent on winning. Having some level of control on these tiny, irrelevant issues seems to make it easier for me to deal with the complete chaos that reigns supreme over the rest of our lives.

The other day we were finishing up a few errands and I told her it was time to go to the car. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, because she panicked. She ran out of my reach and onto the Starbucks patio, inadvertently cornering herself. Realizing she had no escape route, she dropped to the sidewalk and started crying, literally rolling underneath the tables to get away from me. All I could do was stand there and stare at her in disbelief. There are places where it is acceptable to roll around on the floor, but really Starbucks isn’t one of them. It’s not the type of atmosphere they’re going for, you know?

There was a time when this type of public display would have had me cringing with embarrassment, but I was surprisingly okay with it. She may roll around in filth and spilled cappuccinos, but at least she doesn’t stand on the sofa. Like a mom friend of mine once told me, you pick your battles. I may not be picking the right ones, but it’s good enough for now.


September 23, 2007

Day 545: TV and tantrums

Last night I was entirely convinced I had the sweetest, smartest, most lovely baby in the entire world. She was dancing, she was giggling, she was making silly faces and giving away sloppy kisses. Fast forward to this morning, she's a little monster. And I don't mean that in an adoring motherly way, like "Oh, look at my silly little monster." I mean she's down right miserable. Seems somebody woke up on the wrong side of the crib. I shouldn't judge her, I guess, I wake up in a bad mood some mornings, too. Maybe she was up all night pacing the mattress worrying about bills and renovations and the fact that the highlight of her life these days is the upcoming TV season. Oh wait, or maybe that was me.

It could have something to do with the fact that she also woke up with a rash all over her body. Or they could be two totally unrelated issues. See how much I have learned in 18 months of motherhood? I've learned that sometimes nothing makes any sense! Back to the rash, though, I cannot figure out where it came from. Unless she snuck off in the middle of the night and rolled around in poison ivy. But that is a stretch, even for her. So I'm just hoping it goes away, and it takes her bad little attitude with it.

Now, let's talk about that TV season, shall we? The Office! Prison Break! House! I suppose even Grey's, although that Meredith gets on my last nerve, and Izzy's not much better. But who I am kidding, I will be watching of course. Is it impossibly pathetic and sad that premiere week is, with the possible exception of Christmas, my favourite week of the year? Never mind, don't answer that. Happy viewing!

September 17, 2007

Day 539: Can't we all just get along?

I didn't expect the world to change just because I had a kid. Actually, I should correct that. I did expect my world to change, but I didn't think everybody else should have to accomodate that. I knew we wouldn't be going out to fancy restaurants, I understood movies were a thing of the past. I didn't even feel particularly strongly about breastfeeding in public (although I completely support and applaud that right, for the record - no need to come burn your bras on my front lawn). I guess my point is that I knew the earth would not stop spinning simply because I decided to have a baby; I knew that if sacrifices were to be made they would be my own.

All that being said, I did expect some basic human decency to be extended my - sorry, our - way. Seems I was aiming a bit too high. This weekend I packed our bags, summoned my courage, and took Maddie grocery shopping with me. I had a list of things to get (a mental list, of course. I'm not organized enough for an actual list) and set off equipped with a steely determination. I think any mom of a toddler knows that a trip to the grocery store becomes a monumental task. You need to be in peak mental condition. I thought that I was, until we hit our first hurdle before we even entered the store.

So I am standing at the carts, loonie (that's our rather bizarre name for the Canadian dollar coin, for my international friends out there) in one hand, Starbucks in another, diaper bag over the shoulder and baby on the hip. I manage to free a cart, only to find the baby restraint - entirely vital to a succesful trip in our case - was broken. Luckily, there was a woman beside me who had also just paid for a cart. "Hi," I said, all smiles, "Can we just switch carts, mine doesn't have a baby strap." I nodded to the kid yanking on my hair as I pushed my cart towards her. Her answer? "No, I'm in a rush." Seriously. No, I am in a rush.

I was dumbfounded. I shouldn't have been, though, because this stuff happens all the time. There are lone drivers stealing the family parking spots, completely able-bodied and baby-free people pushing ahead of strollers onto mall elevators, lazy sloths sitting on the bus while some parent juggles two kids and five grocery bags.

Like I said, I don't expect people to go out of their way to make our lives easier. I don't ask them to put up with screaming or to change diapers. But is a bit of simple kindness here and there too much to ask?

September 11, 2007

Day 533: Eating out with your baby (a cautionary tale)

Fernando and I had typically naïve and optimistic parenting philosophies before we had a child. I remember conversations about how we would tote the baby along to art galleries to foster an interest in culture, and haul her around on trips overseas to give her some perspective on her place in the world. Then she arrived, of course, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that we were lucky to survive a trip to the mall never mind a trek through sub-Saharan Africa. In my defence, though, I did take her to the art gallery once. She screamed (rather rudely, I thought) throughout my entire discussion of the Impressionist movement and then promptly vomited all over the marble floor.

When I was pregnant we were out for dinner one evening and were entirely impressed to see a couple at the restaurant ordering up a plate of sushi for their toddler. Sushi! Well, we were all over that. It was quickly decided that we would definitely be taking our kid to restaurants all the time. Curry houses, sushi bars, seafood joints, fine dining, the works. Not only would we get that quality family time together, but we would be wisely encouraging the development of both a sophisticated palate and good table manners. Fast forward 18 months and our planned culinary adventures have been downgraded to the point where we are restricted to White Spot or Boston Pizza. And even those outings require monumental effort. It just seems much more tempting to stay at home, where Maddie can scream and run about and chuck food to her little heart’s content. Were it up to me, that is exactly what we would do. But Fernando insists that we get her used to going out, bless him.

And so we found ourselves sharing a corner booth with our rather demanding dining partner once again the other night. Once the meal itself arrives things get a bit easier, it is the waiting that is the killer. She sits in the highchair for about 3 minutes before she starts getting antsy. We cycle through the entire contents of the diaper bag – snacks, juice, toys, books, games – and that buys us another 4 minutes or so of relative calm. She starts straining, grunting, yelling, getting progressively louder as she attempts to break free. We break out in a sweat, knowing that things are about to get ugly. The waitress stops by to see how things are going. “Oh, fine, thanks,” shooting a panicked glance towards the kitchen. We order a drink to dull the pain. By this time we’re bordering on causing a scene, we’re feeling the irritated glares of our fellow diners. We give in and let her out of the chair. She, sensing her opportunity, of course runs for the door, banging into unsuspecting wait staff and patrons as she goes. Fernando heads after her and they spend a few minutes blowing fish faces against the restaurant window outside while I down my glass of house white.

And then, from the kitchen – CRASH! – the unmistakable sound of a tray of dishes being dropped. Out comes our waitress, apologetic, telling us, “Sorry guys, that was yours, it’ll just be a little while longer.” What she clearly doesn’t understand is that a “little while” to her is an eternity to a toddler. And even longer to the parents who are trying to contain her.

Ah, there is nothing quite so relaxing as a quiet dinner out, no?

September 10, 2007

My Britney

So last night I took a break from spit-polishing the floors, knitting Maddie’s fall wardrobe and baking for the homeless to curl up on the couch and catch a bit of the MTV Video Awards.

Those who know me possibly know where this is going. But if you don’t, I should probably first make a confession: I love The Brit. Otherwise known as Britney Spears. Through the innocent schoolgirl period, the years with Justin Timberlake (still really hoping for a reunion there), the predictable red-string Kaballah phase and subsequent Madonna make-out session, the Vegas wedding, the real wedding, the Cheetos and the children, and of course the sad and appalling public spiral. I’ve sometimes been embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve always loved her.

But this past week it seemed like the hope might not have been misplaced after all. We saw some happy family photos. There was a new song that was (gasp!) actually not an assault on the senses. I’m telling you, Maddie loves it. And that girl’s got taste. And there was the VMA opening gig, apparently endless rehearsals in the works. She was hanging with P. Diddy (is he still using the P.?), things were turning around. Until last night.

My lord, what happened last night? The wig was atrocious. The bedazzled bra and panties were a very questionable choice. The lip synching was a disaster. The dancing, if you could call it that, was laughable. I swear she busted out a shoulder shimmy that I did in a grade 5 dance recital – only I am pretty sure I did it with considerably more flair. She looked like she’d shown up expecting to crash on the couch and watch movies but instead was squeezed into some cheap sequined lingerie and thrown on stage for amateur hour. In front of millions of people.

So what is it? Madness? Addiction? Depression? Plain old fatigue? All of the above? Let’s set aside the fact that she has children depending on her for a minute. Whatever she has been doing, or whatever has been done to her, the results are not pretty. I love her still, but the girl needs serious help.

September 07, 2007

Day 529: Road rules

Here is something about me that perhaps you didn’t know: I don’t talk on my cell phone while driving. I'd like to say that this is because I am responsible and don’t want to be distracted from the road, but in truth I know it is because 90% of the time my cell phone is lying uncharged and abandoned at the bottom of the diaper bag. So it might be more accurate to say that I don't talk on my cell phone period. But that's beside the point.

During a drive to the mall with Mads the other day (our weekly pilgrimage to the holy land), I realized that in terms of distraction, talking on the phone would be the least of my concerns. In the course of a trip I sing, I dance, I tickle, I play, I feed, I soothe… oh, and I drive, too. The funny thing is that it has all become second nature to me. I didn’t even realize I was doing any of it until I found myself sitting stalled at a green light while I finished off the actions to Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Then I started paying attention and realized just how much effort these little drives of ours require. But surely I'm not the only mom doing this stuff:

  • fishing through the diaper bag to find a snack, opening said snack, and passing it over my head to my backseat passenger

  • locating the sippy cup, spilling the contents all over myself, rethreading the lid, and handing it back to Mads

  • Performing the actions for a wide variety of songs, from Itsy Bitsy Spider to I’m a Little Teacup
  • (admittedly the seatbelt gets in the way when I reach the “tip me over and pour me out” part)
  • Using the pause of a red light for a quick game of “headrest peek-a-boo”

  • Performing an ongoing monologue (as she's not the best conversationalist) detailing every inch of the scenery - "Maddie, see the bus? Those kids are going to school! You'll be going to school one day (inside voice: hallelujah!). Oooh! A bird! Look at that silly bird. What does that bird say? He says 'Caw! Caw!' Hey, see that mailbox? Wow, pretty red mailbox...."

  • Headbanging along with Maddie to the sounds of Bananaphone
  • (headbanging is her newest thing, she rocks out)
  • Performing the signature mom move: a blind, one-handed retrieval of lost and abandoned toys/books/blankets/snacks on the floor directly behind me (only to have the returned item heaved overboard yet again)

I could go on, but you get the point, I’m sure. No wonder I'm exhausted when we reach our destination! And I can only imagine it gets worse when you have more than one kid and you have to add refereeing backseat fights to your litany of driving tasks. Yes, it seems the days of leisurely trips - much like the days of two-piece swimsuits and daily showers - are far behind me.

Suffice to say, those backseat dvd players - you know, the ones my pre-baby self said I would never use because my kid would know better than to whine in the car, and besides that wouldn't even be interested in such trivial things as television - are starting to look like a pretty good option.