Category Archives: trials and tribulations

The Next Time

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from the social worker at the girls’ school. This didn’t set off any alarm bells; when you have a kid with an IEP (which we do, for Eleanor and her language disorder), sometimes you get calls from the social worker to schedule or follow up on meetings. I assumed this was one of those calls.

It was not. I don't need to be saved. I can do that myself!

“I’m calling to let you know that Eleanor and another female student experienced some behavior from some boys that was making them uncomfortable,” the social worker said.

“Oh?” I said, small red-alert lights flashing in my mental peripheral vision.

“Yes, Eleanor was uncomfortable talking about it. She was embarrassed, but she was able to write it down in enough detail that we could question the boys, and they admitted the behavior.”

“What … what exactly happened?”

“It sounds like the boys were whispering things in the girls ears and making thrusting motions at the girls.”

“Oh, no.” Sinking feeling. “That’s not good.”

“Well, Eleanor was very helpful and we have encouraged her to tell an adult right away the next time something like this happens.”

“Um, how many times has this BEEN happening?!”

“There was apparently one incident last week in music class, and then again this week. We have called all the parents involved. Eleanor was very helpful.”

I got off the phone in a daze, sent off a text titled “MOTHERFUCKER” to Chad, who was out of town on business, and promptly burst into tears. Because she’s NINE. And they are already talking about  THE NEXT TIME. And of course they are, because of course there will be a next time. Of course there will be a next time that she is made uncomfortable, or worse, just by virtue of her precious, beautiful, female body.

You know it’s coming, as the mother of a daughter. I mean, as a parent of any kid, you know the time will come when your kid encounters prejudice or bias or just plain-old assholery from the world, and you won’t be there to kick the assholes back to where they came from. But especially as a mother of daughters, you know that some – maybe even most – of that ugliness will be related somehow to her femaleness, and to the seriously fucked up sexual attitudes we’ve developed in this culture. Maybe I should have been ready for it earlier, only you can’t ever be ready for it. You cannot be ready for the punch to the gut that reminds you that no, you can’t protect your daughters from it. They’re going to have to run the gauntlet themselves, just like you did.

So I managed to calm down before I went to pick the girls up from their after school program, wondering if Eleanor would want to talk about it or if she would be too embarrassed, running through all the various worst-case scenarios that my anxiety-driven demons could come up with. (Would she be permanently scarred? Unable to make eye contact? Wearing a huge scarlet A on her chest?)(Note: anxiety-driven demons are usually way, way off base. Also apparently they read too much Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

Eleanor was her usual buoyant self, chattering with her friends, forgetting her shoes, excited to see me. Anxiety levels decreasing. As we’re getting in the car, I say “I hear you had kind of a tough day today.”

“Oh, the social worker called you?”

“Yeah,” I say, like it was totally no big deal and we’re discussing the weather or something. “What happened with those boys?”

“Oh, mom, they were being totally inappropriate and saying REALLY inappropriate things and it was making me super uncomfortable. They were doing it to all the girls. Like sex stuff and penises and what boys do and making noises (she made uh-uh groans and thrusting motions while a piece of my soul slowly died), and it was gross.”

“Yuck. That sounds SUPER gross. That is not ok for those boys to do that. So who spoke up about it?”

Eleanor gave a little half grin. “I did.”

I high-fived her and told her I was so proud of her, and that she did exactly what she was supposed to do. And we talked about how sexual harassment feeds on silence and that lots of girls don’t tell people about it because they feel embarrassed and like they did something wrong or they might get in trouble, but how it’s NEVER your fault if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, and it’s not tattling to tell grown-ups about that stuff. And she said it was really weird to be in a room with three grownups (the principal, the vice-principal and the social worker) and just one kid (her) and how they kept telling her it was a “safe space” but it was totally embarrassing to talk about so finally she just wrote it down. And I told her again that the social worker had said how helpful it was that Eleanor was able to do that, and again how proud I was of her and that she did exactly the right thing.

And we went to get dinner and talk about other things, like the upcoming caucus, and weekend plans, and normal life stuff. And I came out of the evening an odd mixture of sad, angry, proud and hopeful. But like, 45% sad, 60% angry, 75% proud, and 32% hopeful. 212% feelings. THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE IN HERE, PEOPLE.

Hug your babies. Raise your boys to respect. Raise your girls to speak up. Hope for a better tomorrow. Cry for the hard today. Love wins.

(This post was written with Eleanor’s permission.)

Nobody said this was gonna be easy

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” —Elizabeth Stone


I have often said that my main experience of motherhood is one of having my heart cracked open, over and over again. In the main, this is a good thing; open-heartedness is better than the alternative, and I can state with absolute conviction that motherhood has made me a more patient, compassionate, and forgiving person. I know many functioning adults who evolve these qualities all on their own; apparently I had to spawn to get them.

But sometimes having a cracked-open heart hurts. And last night was one of those times.

Eleanor, my oldest kid, is not happy about us moving south. This didn’t exactly come as a surprise; she’s almost 10, and she’s at that weird tween crossroads where your friends and school life are starting to become more important than your family. My youngest, Sylvia (almost 7) is sad to be leaving Minnesota and her friends, but she’s also excited to get a new house, and be closer to Gramma and Grampa, and try new things. But for Eleanor, there is only sadness. The first thing she did when we told them about the move was cover her face with her hands and burst into tears. And declare that she wasn’t moving.

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Learning curve

A friend of mine posted a link to an old Anna Quindlen column about different stages of motherhood. It’s a lovely essay, all about Quindlen looking back on previous incarnations as an Anxious Mother, a Frustrated Mother, an Inexperienced Mother, an Angry Mother, etc. She talks about the various parenting books she looked to in her search for how to do it right, and the mistakes she made along the way, and how the only thing she really regrets about the early years is not being in the moment enough, not appreciating each phase along the way. It’s poignant without being sappy, wise without being sanctimonious, and lots of commenters talked about how it made them cry.

It made me cry, too, but not, I’m guessing, for quite the same reasons as most readers. This was the paragraph that did me in:

I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

I’ve talked here before about my unfortunate talent for projecting horrible futures for myself and my loved ones. It’s a hallmark of the anxiety-prone, and I have it in spades. I have a hard enough time controlling it even when there’s absolutely nothing going wrong, so you can imagine the vicious thought-circles I’ve been  spinning since the Hatchling got diagnosed with a language disorder. Which in my mind always looks more like A LANGUAGE DISORDER. Some things we’ve learned about the disorder since the initial diagnosis:

  • The specific disorder is called Mixed Receptive/Expressive Language Disorder. Some people can understand language just fine, but have a hard time using it themselves; some people can speak language normally, but have a hard time understanding what other people say to them. The Hatchling has problems with both.
  • Nobody knows what causes this type of disorder in its developmental form (which is to say that in some cases it can be the result of brain injury or severe neglect, but in the absence of those factors nobody knows)
  • The disorder is NOT typically associated with lower-than-average intelligence
  • The disorder IS typically associated with all kinds of academic problems, from reading and math disorders to ADHD, not to mention depression and other psychological problems stemming from the social effects of not being able to use language very well.
  • Sometimes, with early intervention, the disorder can be remediated. Sometimes, despite early intervention, it can’t.

So basically this is just super fun and full of rainbows and unicorns, except for how it totally is the opposite of that. As is often the case with issues like this, since the diagnosis we’re much more aware of the extent of the disorder. It’s like getting the diagnosis allowed us to recognize it where before we were just shoving it under the carpet, so to speak. A few weeks ago we were looking at some old family videos of the Hatchling when she was about two, and – now that we know what to look for – we could hear so clearly how apparent it was even then. The non-verbal babble, the searching for words, was all there. And now that she’s five, the difference between her language and her peers’ is getting really noticeable. She can manage simple sentences and basic exchanges back and forth, but add in any level of abstraction or more than, say, three ideas at one go and she’s pretty much lost. What makes it even trickier is that her sociability and confidence are still above normal, so she naturally tries to lead play activities and reach out to new friends wherever she meets them … friends who respond to her sunny nature positively, but are already beginning to back off a little when they realize that they can’t always understand what she’s saying.

It’s killing me, y’all. Seeing her struggle or shut down when the words are too overwhelming, seeing the changing social dynamic with her friends, it’s KILLING me. I’ve been having a hard time doing the necessary research on the disorder and treatment possibilities because I practically have a panic attack every time I think about it for too long. I find myself getting horribly jealous when friends post stories or videos about their kids learning to read or write, or doing anything advanced for their age. I fucking HATE that kind of jealousy. It’s such an ugly response to anything. And I get so paranoid about helping the Hatchling to use language appropriately that I sometimes go a little overboard. This morning I actually told her that she couldn’t pretend to be a dog because she’s a little girl and she needs to talk like a little girl. No, really. I TOLD MY KID SHE COULDN’T PRETEND TO BE A DOG. What the hell? Not to mention, how can I even spend any time whining about this when I should be focusing on helping my daughter? You know, the person who actually has the language disorder? Gah.

So what does all this have to do with me crying at one of the more innocuous sections of the Quindlen column? I think what it comes down to is the loss of my imagined future  – both immediate and distant – with my oldest daughter. For all that I attempt to live in the present moment and practice detachment, I’m only human. Just like anyone, I dream about possible futures for me and my family, and just like anyone, I base those dreams on what I know of the past and the present. You know, like I was a gifted reader so maybe my kids will be. My family is good with languages so maybe my kids will be. Given my kids heritage, I don’t imagine they’ll grow up to be Olympic athletes, for example, or accountants. Given their backgrounds, I thought, it was reasonable to expect that they’d be outgoing, do well in school, have a flair for the artistic. It’s not that I’m wedded to a certain specific future for my kids, but I thought I had a good sense of the range of possibilities, both the potential positives (honors society!) and the potential negatives (drugs!) A language disorder was, frankly, nowhere on the horizon, and I just can’t seem to orient myself to this new reality.

I wish that I could leap into the future and, like Quindlen, look back on decades of parenting foibles with an affectionate smile for my former self, and the assurance that everything turns out OK. Maybe the Hatchling will be one of the lucky ones, and we’ll be able to laugh at posts like this. Maybe someone will develop a new treatment that works wonders. Maybe living with a lifelong language disorder won’t be as awful as I think. I’d give a lot to know that it all ends well. But of course I don’t get to do that, anymore than parents of typically developing kids do. And it may be that I never get to do that. What I do get to do, what I have to work on after all, is the same thing that Quindlen advises: be in the moment. Don’t be in such a hurry. Treasure the doing it a little more, and the getting it done a little less.

And when all else fails, there’s always bourbon.

That is one big fucking molehill

Anyone who’s been a parent for any time at all will tell you that it’s not like you expected it to be. I’m sure this is exactly the kind of statement that drives non-breeders crazy, but I can’t help it: some things in life require experiential knowledge, and parenting is one of them. As the oldest of six kids and a regular babysitter, I figured I had a pretty good general idea of what I was getting into with the parenting thing. I wasn’t naive enough to think I didn’t have anything to learn, but I thought I had the basics down. This, of course, is kind of like assuming you’ve nailed the basics of oil painting because you majored in art history. It’s not a totally irrational assumption, but it does happen to be a wrong one. Which is just my super smooth way of saying that if I had to condense my experience of parenting into a single sentence it would be something like, “I didn’t know it would be like this!”

The constant unexpectedness of parenting comes in all kinds of forms: positive, negative and everything in between. Some things you embrace, some you brush off, and some you run smack into like a two-foot-thick brick wall. We’re currently having a brick wall moment around these parts, because the Hatchling – my reason for starting this here blog – has recently been diagnosed with a language disorder. “What the hell is a language disorder?” you are no doubt asking. I know I sure was. There’s no pithy answer, but basically what it means for the Hatchling is that in a lot of situations, she finds it difficult or impossible to use language to communicate. Lemme just take a moment to recover from the nausea that writing that sentence produced. Okay.

So, like most impairments of this type, the diagnosis has been a long time coming. Language has never been the Hatchling’s strong suit; she babbled charmingly as a toddler, but it took a while for her to convert the babble into actual words and sentences. I worried about it in a vague way, but her pediatrician seemed to think she was fine and there was nothing I could put my finger on. We assumed it was just her way of developing and it would work itself out. When she was three (in 2009) she started preschool, and about 1/2 way through the year her teacher pulled me aside to ask if the Hatchling had done her pre-K screening yet, because she was acting kind of weird sometimes in the classroom. Again, it was nothing she could really put a finger on, but it seemed like sometimes the Hatchling didn’t understand what you were saying when you gave her instructions, or she would sort of go vacant in the middle of an activity. So we took her in for the early childhood screening session, and she passed with flying colors. I even told them ahead of time that I had some concerns about her language development, but they didn’t see anything, so whew, right? No worries. All good … except I would still occasionally have interactions with the Hatchling that would leave me vaguely anxious, feelings that I dismissed because, let’s face it, it’s not exactly unusual for me to feel vaguely anxious and mostly it’s a mountains out of molehills situation.

Then, this last winter, her completely different preschool teacher at her completely different preschool ALSO pulled me aside to express some concerns about the Hatchling. And just like everyone else, she couldn’t quite put a finger on it, there just seemed to be something a little “off” about her and had I noticed anything like that at home? And of course I had, here and there, so we agreed to get the Special Ed. teacher who serves the school to do some observations and then we’d go from there. And thus began the months-long process of observations and reports and needing further testing and doing the testing and waiting for the results and meeting about the results and the results are: Language Disorder. Significant Language Disorder. In other words, to quote the 12 page single-spaced report we got this morning, “Her language samples provided evidence of significant difficulties producing meaningful, accurate and organized language.”

I recognize that things could be a lot worse. The Hatchling could have a terminal disease, or a more severe impairment, or we could not be catching this so early, leaving her to struggle through school without knowing why. We’re fortunate to live in a state that will provide some support for the Hatchling once she starts Kindergarten, to live in a metro area where there are resources available to us we might not have elsewhere. All of this is true. But let me tell you: it still sucks a metric fuck-ton of suckage to sit in a meeting at 8:00 in the goddamn morning and be told that your kid has a level of disability which – at the very least – will make it really hard to be successful in school, not to mention any social or emotional effects it will have or might already be having. The thought that this language disorder could make the Hatchling lose her sunny outgoing friendliness … well, I’ll start crying again if I think too long about it.

If I’m honest, though, I think what I’m most worried about in this whole scenario is that I won’t come up to snuff in the parenting department. This is not my subtle way of asking for compliments on my fortitude or excellent mothering capabilities – I’m really fucking scared about it. I mean, this is the kind of situation where I’m supposed to draw on all my reserves of strength and be a pillar of support for my kid and my family, right? Only I’m not at all sure that I have any reserves, and god knows I’m plumb out of patience and temper has never really been my strong suit. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I’m EXTREMELY verbal. Me and language are, like, super BFFs. So not only do I know bupkiss about dealing with language disorders, but I also can’t imagine a task I’m less temperamentally suited to handle. I can’t imagine anything more frustrating than having thoughts and feelings and ideas and not being able to speak them. It kills me to think this might be a life sentence for the Hatchling. I don’t want to fuck this up.

I’m trying to take a Buddhist approach. I’m trying to stay in the moment, to “expect nothing.” Buddha taught that the practice of mindfulness not only allows us to fully experience our lives, but it also enables us to respond effectively to the curveballs that life seems to enjoy throwing at our heads. This is one of the Buddhist paradoxes that really hits me where I live. All evidence to the contrary, I tend to convince myself that dwelling on past issues or trying to project into the future will somehow help me be better prepared for whatever shit comes down the pike. What it really does, of course, is just cloud my judgment and perceptions so that I’m too freaked out and preoccupied to respond to anything. Focusing on the here and now allows me to see clearly what a sweet and loving child the Hatchling is, how willing she is to embrace new experiences, how easily and quickly she makes friends, and how far she’s come with her language in the past year. It reminds me that I don’t have to climb the whole fucking mountain right this very minute – I just have to take this particular step. I find some hope in the present moment. Yeah, I didn’t know it would be like this. But then none of us ever really does.

Mothering, Multi-tasking, and Buddha: Part 1

So. It’s been, what, nine months since I last blogged? Nine months. One explanation for the extended radio silence is probably that I’ve been blogging in one place or another since 2004, for chrissake, and it was time for a little sabbatical. The other explanation is that, mentally at any rate, this last year was pretty much the bottom of the barrel, in this Squab’s experience. I have really been struggling, and the horrible, dreary, never-ending winter we had this year sent me into a bit of a tailspin. I mean, man: this was a rough winter. Rough enough that I think it deserves its own special name. Let’s call it the WINTER FROM HELL, shall we? That has an appropriately evil ring to it. So the WINTER FROM  HELL came along and brought with it a fog of depression that simply refused to disperse. Here’s a fun thing about depression and blogging: Just when you could probably benefit most from the support of your lovely blog readers, you’re too fucking tired to write. Or do anything, really, except lie on the couch eating junk food, fending off your children, feeling guilty about fending off your children, and counting the minutes until your partner gets home to cope with things. (See? It’s even depressing to READ about it!)

So. There was depression and the WINTER FROM HELL and lack-of-coping. And then there were anti-depressants and beginning-to-cope. And then there were even more anti-depressants and thawing temperatures, and now we’re coping at basically normal levels, which means there’s still considerable room for improvement but Mr. Squab is no longer responsible for literally every household task and I can look toward the future with reactions other than “meh” or “I cannot DO THIS.”

Except that, actually, I’m trying not to look towards the future so much, because I’m working on living in the moment. And that’s because I’ve had the white over-educated middle-class middle-aged liberal agnostic version of a spiritual awakening. That’s right, folks: I’ve found Buddha. I mean, it’s not like I’d never encountered Buddhism before. There was a family friend who joined a buddhist monastery and would tell funny stories about it, for example. And my acting teacher in college both engaged in and taught a lot of Buddhist and Daoist practices, which for a while I also engaged in regularly. In a mostly uneducated way, I thought Buddhism was “cool,” sort of like yoga and vegetarianism and non-violent protests were “cool.” But it was never something I looked to for spiritual satisfaction.

And then I had kids, and I obscurely felt like I should have some formal approach to their spiritual and moral education, but I couldn’t find anything that felt like the right fit. In past eras I’ve been a practicing Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopalian (not, obviously, at the same time), so I thought of re-entering those communities first. As a child and even through college I was quite firmly christian in my beliefs, if a bit denominationally vague, but since then I’ve gotten more and more agnostic about the whole thing, and attending a christian church seemed like it would tax my sense of moral honesty. In grad school I regularly attended a lovely Unitarian church, which worked in part because you can pretty much believe whatever the hell you want and still be Unitarian. It’s a good haven for the ex-faithful who like the community aspect of religion but are a bit iffy on the dogma. So I thought about checking out my local UU congregation, which would be a handy place of worship (do you worship at a UU church? Seems more like a place of ponder. Or maybe a place of discuss? But I digress), since it’s attended by approximately 65% of my circle of friends. But that didn’t feel quite right either. It looked good on paper, but I couldn’t seem to summon the wherewithal to herd my family there of a Sunday morning. So I let the spiritual education issue slide onto my mental back burner and hummed happily along, until the WINTER FROM HELL hit and suddenly it wasn’t my kids who needed a community of faith so much as it was me, desperate for some kind of spiritual rope to cling to so I wouldn’t drown in my own sea of malaise. (Note to self: Sea of Malaise would be a great name for an Emo band.)

Where was I? Oh, right: drowning. Well, as none of you will probably remember, a couple of years ago I was discussing Asian religions with my kids’ pediatrician, like you do, and he offered up the Zen phrase “expect nothing” as a good mantra for parents of young children. “Expect Nothing” as in, don’t go projecting into the future about what will happen to your children, who they’ll become, how you’ll fail them or not fail them or ANY of it because the truth is, you have no goddamn idea what’s going to happen and thinking about it is just making you crazy. Sort of the Zen version of not borrowing trouble and crossing that bridge when you come to it. This phrase really resonated with me, probably because it’s a concept almost totally foreign to my nature. I expect shit, you know? All kiiiiiiiiiinds of shit. Good shit, bad shit, and every kind of shit in between: I expect it. But I can also really see, especially since I’ve had kids, how much trouble – how much needless trouble – that expectation causes, and how much better off I’d be if I could get a little more Zen. So I started trying to catch myself when the expectation mode kicked in, and remind myself to “Expect Nothing.” Round about the same time, I discovered John Muth’s wonderful children’s book Zen Shorts, about a Zen panda named Stillwater who moves in next door to three kids and becomes a beloved friend and companion. Muth based the book around a series of classic Zen parables, and, like the phrase from our pediatrician, these stories kept coming back to me. You know how people talk about the universe giving you signals? I don’t know if I believe in that, but … looking back, I can also kind of see what they mean.

OK, so fast forward to the WINTER FROM HELL, the struggling, the drowning, etc. In an effort to do something – anything – to claw my way out of the morass, I started meditating now and then. It’s something I used to do semi-regularly in college and grad school, and I thought it might be a way to get some much-needed mental space. Wanting to find techniques for more effective meditation, I dug out some old comparative religion books from school and flipped to the eastern philosophies section. I started getting more and more interested in Buddhism. What was the philosophy? The history? What differentiated the various schools of Buddhism? I approached it like the scholar I’ve been trained to be. I sought out more comparative religion books, bought some Buddhist magazines to see what the contemporary literature was, got some of that literature – I basically went on a Buddhism reading orgy, and y’all: it made a lot of freaking sense. I dunno exactly what it was, but something about the combination of having kids and trying to survive the WINTER FROM HELL made me, like, the perfect receptacle for Buddhist wisdom. Life is suffering? YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT IT IS. Suffering is caused by attachment? I FINALLY GET WHAT THAT MEANS. Suffering can be eliminated? YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY THAT MAKES ME. The means of relief is following the teachings of the Buddha? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP!

And that’s where we’ll leave it for tonight. Tune in Friday for Part 2, in which I will actually address the first two-thirds of the post title: Mothering and Multi-tasking.

This week is kicking my ass and it’s only Monday

Hi. How are things? Long time no see. Look, so here’s the deal: last Friday I went in to the doctor’s office to get some drugs for my seasonal allergies. It was a new doctor, recommended by a friend, and I thought a standard allergy visit would be a good way to break in the relationship. Then they took my blood pressure, and it was 171/110. That’s BAD, in case you were wondering. Bad enough that the rest of my visit was spent doing things like getting an EKG and hearing things like “high potential for stroke.” Left the office with blood pressure meds and a return ticket for this morning. Spent the weekend trying not to panic about high BP (panic = not good for blood pressure), got to doc’s office around noon, and found out two things right off the bat: 1) my blood pressure was exactly the same as it had been on Friday, despite the meds, and 2) the blood test they had previously done indicated that I have type two diabetes.



Or, perhaps more accurately:


Only with less shouting and more crying. Ahem.

Those of you who have followed this here blog for a while will recall that I had high blood pressure and gestational diabetes with both pregnancies. AND IT SUCKED. And, I’m not gonna lie to you, one of the reasons I haven’t been to a doctor since my last postnatal checkup was that I was so goddamn tired of being a high-risk medical case. SO SICK OF IT. So happy to rejoin the ranks of the relatively healthy. So ready not to have to *think* about my health or lack thereof all the goddamn time. At the same time, the last couple of months have been kind of really totally rough, mentally speaking (you know how I haven’t been posting so much? Yeah. That.) Not the kind of thing you can put a finger on, but, you know: stressing about money, not having a career path, feeling isolated, lack of identity outside parenting, feeling angry and frustrated all the time, feeling like the anger and frustration are making you a horrible parent and wife, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Call it “stay-at-home-parent-malaise.”And I was just getting myself psyched up to deal with THAT problem when, whammo: blood pressure and diabetes. For fuck’s sake. Just to contextualize my mental state, I will tell you that my first reaction to the diabetes news was, “Great. Everyone I tell about this is going to think it happened because I’m fat.” Healthy, no? Really, totally balanced. Because I definitely have friends like that. Sigh.

Anyway. The good news is that my new doctor so far seems really awesome (thanks for the recommendation, Scott!), and not only did she NOT tell me I needed to lose some weight (and if you want to know why that’s a big deal, go here or here), she also told me with great confidence that we would get me back to pre-diabetic health and lifestyle by October. “Both of these conditions are totally treatable. We are just going to be aggressive about this.” I’m trying to take this in stride, focus on the positive – it’s good that they found this early, it’s a motivation for the whole family to be healthier, it’s not a life sentence – but I’m also Just. So. Tired of it.

Any words of wisdom on getting over life hurdles would be appreciated. Except the ones that tell me to think of all the other people in the world who have it worse than I do, because goddammit, I already DO that and it just makes me feel even WORSE.

I write letters

Dear Molars,
You suck. Why you gotta hurt so much coming in? Moreover, why you gotta come in four at a time? That just seems like unnecessary zealousness on your part. Christ, the Sprout is only ten months old. Surely she doesn’t need to get ALL of her teeth this month. Take a break, already!

The Squab

Dear Evolution,
What the hell? How can it be a good idea for it to hurt like hot pokers in your mouth when your teeth are coming in? I mean, what if we were in the wild and the Sprout, distracted out of her little mind with teething pain, was unable to defend herself from ravening predators? THOSE GENES WOULD NOT BE PASSED ON, NOW, WOULD THEY? In related news, teething pain is making the Sprout so unbelievably cranky that I may soon be returning her to the wild, just so the rest of us can get a decent night’s sleep. If Child Protection Services want to know who’s responsible, tell them to talk to Charles Darwin.

The Squab

An earful

Mr. Squab and I both had chronic ear infections as children. When I was three I even had my adenoids taken out, and I think I had tubes in my ears more than once. So I just sort of assumed that our kids would be equally susceptible, and was pleasantly surprised when the Hatchling made it through the first three years of her life with only two mild ear infections to show for it.

Then we had the Sprout, and the Hatchling started preschool, and I don’t know if either of those facts are relevant, but LORD, we cannot escape the ear infections this year. If it’s not one kid, it’s the other, and often both at the same time, and while the Sprout just gets kind of cranky and doesn’t sleep well with hers, the Hatchling just completely disintegrates. She won’t show the first sign of being ill until the pain is so bad she can’t cope, and then she has a complete and total meltdown. The first time it happened was on a weekend, so the Hatchling was able to parasitically attach herself to me until the antibiotics kicked in. This time, no such luck. She started melting down yesterday afternoon and kept pathetically asking me to “sit wight here and snuggle wif me,” which I mostly could not do because the Sprout is, you know, a BABY, and has not yet mastered the art of self-entertainment.

But the real pathos kicked in today. After an early doctor’s appointment this morning, we went to Target to fill her prescriptions. She immediately requested to ride in the cart (unusual); did not want to get out to peruse the toy section (uncommon); did not want to get a treat while the prescription was getting filled (unprecedented); did not want to get McDonald’s for lunch (unheard of); and then ASKED to go “night-night” at 11:45 am, after only about 15 minutes of Return of the Jedi (completely wackadoo). She didn’t even stir when I went in to put the Sprout down for her nap a few minutes ago. She is, in fact, a pathetic specimen of a Hatchling, and I wish we could win the lottery or something so we *could* both be home and I *could* just hang out with her in the rocking chair all day. (Also, because: LOTTERY! FREE MONEY!) But alas, that winning ticket eludes us and I can only be thankful that she’s passed out in her bed and not wailing for me to comfort her while I’m trying to change the baby’s diaper. Speaking of which, I believe I’ll go try to pass out on my own bed for a few minutes while both kids are unconscious. Here’s hoping those antibiotics kick in soon!

Parenting FAIL.

I have a terrible temper. No, really. I’m a pretty patient person, so it takes a lot for me to lose my temper, but when I do … it’s not pretty. I don’t know if it’s my Prussian forebears or just my own personal inadequacy, but it’s a fault I’ve been working on for years and years. I’m a person of intense feelings, which can be wonderful when you’re talking about joy or love or empathy, but when it comes to anger I have a difficult time regaining control once I’ve lost it.

I come from a family of yellers. Our anger doesn’t usually last a long time (I have a hard time sustaining it longer than 30 minutes) and we’re not passive-aggressive, thank Maude, but in my family, when you’re mad, you yell. When I was a teenager, I had some doozies of yelling matches with my parents – fights that have gone down in family legend and probably caused all of my younger siblings to experience some level of PTSD. We all survived it, but looking back I wish we’d been able to find a way to manage those years with less screaming on everyone’s part. However, we didn’t, and so – like a lot of you, I’d imagine – my model of parenting consisted of spanking when young and yelling when older. I don’t blame anyone for that, mind you – like most parents, my mother and father did the best they could with the tools they had available to them, and, hey, I turned out OK. I just wonder if there was another way, sometimes.

It’s something I’ve really been trying to come to terms with as I parent my own kids. The spanking thing has been pretty easy to avoid. Not that I don’t understand the impulse, but it’s something we decided not to do a long time ago, and the social pressure against it (at least in our parenting and peer circles) reinforces that decision. The yelling/losing of temper issue has been much more difficult. It wasn’t until sometime this last year that I even seriously considered that it might be possible to parent (mostly) without yelling. Not in a repress-your-emotions-and-go-insane kind of way, but in a head-it-off-at-the-pass kind of way. I do know that yelling is rarely effective for me. I do know that I hate to see the Hatchling mimicking my or Mr. Squab’s angry behavior (with her dolls, for example). So I’ve been thinking about it, and trying some different techniques, and seeing what I can do about controlling my epic temper, particularly in the area of parenting.

I’ve been having a particularly difficult time with it this autumn, as all of our tempers have been tried by the ridiculous cycle of illness we’ve been experiencing, in addition to which the Hatchling is clearly entering into a “disequilibrium” phase and is trying my patience to the utmost on her bad days. This afternoon was a real nadir. Both the Hatchling and the Sprout woke up from their naps in absolutely foul moods, which in the Sprout’s case manifested itself in nonstop cranky fussing, and in the Hatchling’s case manifested itself in vicious temper tantrums approximately every five minutes. EVERYTHING was wrong and EVERYTHING was my fault. Make her ask for things politely? TANTRUM. Give her the snack she just asked for? TANTRUM. Ask her to pick up the toy she just threw at your head? TANTRUM. Turn on her favorite movie in the hope that it will calm her down? TANTRUM. You get the idea. Lots of “NO!” and “IT’S NOT FAIR!” and general “AAAAAAAAHHHH!” And I just … Could. Not. Take it. I tried patient reasoning. I tried calmly giving her options. I really, really tried. And then I started yelling. And then I found myself in the kitchen, slamming the stainless steel coffee pot on the counter to relieve my feelings. And finally, I put on a jacket and put the Sprout in her warm fleece and told the Hatchling that we were going outside to wait for Daddy and she could come if she wanted. And when she started pitching a fit about getting on her shoes and jacket, I just took the baby, and walked out to sit on the back steps.

We were out there for all of about five minutes, and I left the doors open so I could hear what was going on. But oh, it felt like failure. I was sick to my stomach afterward and I still feel totally deflated and defeated. Because, you know: SHE’S THREE. Of course she’s going to have bad, tantrum-y afternoons. And I know it’s just because she’s going through some kind of mental growth spurt, and this is how it works, and in a few weeks or (ack) months I’ll have my happy girl back on a more full-time basis. She’s three: she gets to act that way. Not without consequences, sure, but three-year-olds get a pass on losing control of themselves occasionally. Thirty-eight-year-olds, not so much.

Why is it so hard? What can I do to get better? I know you’ll tell me to cut myself some slack, and I do – I’m not interested in being anything like a perfect parent, even if that were possible. But I really don’t want to lose it again like I did today, or, god forbid, even worse. (I mean, if a three-year-old can punch my buttons this hard, what the hell will I do with two teenagers?) There has to be a better way. Anyone have any tips?

Srsly. I am not even kidding.

So I was all set this morning to post something a little cheerier and, uh, less purgative (HA!) than the previous post, since all of us seemed to be well on the road to recovery after our hellish session with the zombie death flu. Mr. Squab went off to work and I was just going to take the girls for a quick check at the doctor’s office to make sure there were no major secondary infections (both girls had been pretty stuffy with a nagging cough).

Turns out the Hatchling has an ear infection in her right ear.

The Sprout has a double ear infection.

And to top it off, while we were over at a friend’s house for lunch trying to ignore said ear infections and enjoying the amazing weather in her backyard, the Sprout barfed – repeatedly – all over the patio. So when we thought that she had gotten off with a lighter version of the bug? Yeah, not so much.

The kicker is that while the Sprout was puking on herself, me and the patio furniture, my first reaction was not, Christ, here we go again or Oh, poor baby, or even Why does the universe hate us? but rather Hey! we’re outside where we can just hose everything down! Maybe our luck is finally turning!

Y’all: when your eight-month-old ralphing on your friend’s cobblestone pavers is the best thing that’s happened to you in a week, you know you have seriously hit rock bottom. We are officially at the point of absurdity. Anything else is just grist for the mill.