One of the benefits of blogging is leaving words and stories for my kids. I sincerely hope that I live to be 100 and then I tell my boys every story that I possibly can think of about my life, but I know they will always want more, because I know I always want more. My dad died when I was 21, and my heart aches sometimes when I think about all the things I wish I could ask him – all the stories he didn’t have time to tell me.
Right now is a special time, full of adorable and hilarious memories. I do write about my boys a little, but not as much as I could. And, given my lack of bandwidth for deep and meaningful blogging recently, I find myself inspired to write in listicles. Hence, my new plan – writing a list of five adorable memories from my family’s current season of life.
When I’m putting Edgar to bed, we play a new game. I say, “Excuse me Edgar excuse me Edgar excuse me Edgar,” and he starts giggling and says, “What?!” Then I tell him I love him. He BEGS for this game – until he’s in ornery three-year-old mode, and then he says, “DON’T SAY EXCUSE ME MOMMY.” And then we have a talk about using nice voices.
Jonas is talking! He says hi, bye, thank you, and more. AND – as we recently discovered – if we say, “Ready… Set…,” Jonas will say “GO!” with enthusiasm and a huge smile. Edgar loves being the one who says Ready Set.
We started a tradition of the Night Night Fairy coming to visit Edgar before bed. This started when we were having a really hard getting him through all the tasks that need to be accomplished before bed. The Fairy leaves him a book or two, pajamas, and a stuffed animal. He loves it.
Jonas makes this super-duper-scrunched-up face sometimes when he smiles. I started singing him a song to the tune of “Smelly Cat” from Friends: Scrunchy Face, Scrunchy Face, why are you so scrunched up? Scrunchy Face, Scrunchy Face, you are so scrunched! It is a silly and ridiculous family song. Edgar is obsessed with it and loves singing it to Jo Jo.
Edgar is super into the Curious George books lately. I didn’t remember them well, but they are a little longer and the stories sort of meander. (“This story is called Curious George Gets A Medal – but on page 12 he’s running away with a cow from a farmer and then hiding in a night shirt and there’s no medal in sight?”) It’s fun to notice Edgar’s attention span expand and to get excited for reading longer books as he gets older. (HARRY POTTER FTW!)
I haven’t decided how often I’ll post a listicle like this, but I’m sure there will be more. Stay tuned, because these kids keep getting cuter!
It can be hard to feel like yourself when you are busily parenting all day every day.
You are always YOU. Yet there are different versions of you. Mommy Kerriann doesn’t do all the same things that Just Plain Kerriann does. She doesn’t always like all the same things.
For example – Mommy Kerriann loves the beach, but might opt out of a beach trip under certain circumstances. Mommy Kerriann might decide that the amount of preparation and gear and attentiveness involved with bringing a baby and a pre-schooler to the beach might fall into the category of Not Worth It.
But, Just Plain Kerriann? That girl will NEVER EVER EVER pass up a beach trip. It won’t happen. A spontaneous beach trip that makes no logical sense in the grand scheme of life is one of the things that makes her Just Plain Kerriann.
I often reference one of my favorite podcasts, The Girl Next Door, in my blogging. One of the co-hosts of The Girl Next Door, Erica Ladd, sometimes mentions the times she asked herself this question as an overwhelmed new parent: What makes me feel like myself?
I love this question. It forces you to think back to B.P. – Before Parenthood. What were you like? What were the things that made you who you are? I think a lot about the kind of mom I want to be, but I sometimes forget what makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann. I have to squeeze my eyes shut and remember – when I was in college, when I was doing AmeriCorps, when I worked at an outdoor ed center – those times in my life when I felt very Kerriann – what specifically was it that made me feel like me?
I feel like myself when I get to spend time at a coffee shop all by myself with my journal, a book, and my laptop.
I feel like myself when I am wandering around a used bookstore.
I feel like myself when I am being silly, playful, and creative. Like when I make up funny and nonsensical stories to make Edgar or Tamara laugh out loud. Or when I turned Edgar’s bedtime routine into a treasure hunt. (The treasure was a library book we’d read 30 times already, but he didn’t seem to mind.)
I feel like myself when I’m reading a really great book, one that I have trouble putting down and want to prop up and read while I eat my breakfast or read frantically while I’m stopped at a stoplight.
I feel like myself when I blow dry my hair. Like, all the way blow dry it so that it feels and looks healthy.
I feel like myself when I spend time with an old friend.
I feel like myself when I have energy! For me to feel energetic, this usually means I’m running regularly and eating well.
This list is a work in progress, as are most of my lists! I hope to add to it whenever I discover something else that makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann.
What makes YOU feel like Just Plain You – not Mommy/Daddy You or Work You?
Who I am as a mother is also who I am as an individual.
I also have REALLY not been checking things off on my bucket list. Like, I really haven’t. There are only a handful of items checked off, and they are mostly things that are simple and close to home, like hiking and playing at the creek on our property.
And that is 100% okay! I love having a list of activities to look into when I’m feeling like we need an adventure or an activity. But when it comes down to it, I’m not really a bucket list kind of person. I like to take each day as it comes, and I like to have as much spontaneity as possible. I have been enjoying quality time with friends. I’ve been coming up with creative crafty things to do with Edgar. I’ve introduced Special Time with Edgar, which is the hour or two when Jonas naps in the morning, when we can do things that are challenging to do while Jonas is awake, like painting, yoga, or making rainbow rice. Edgar loves it; I’ve been noticing lately how much he benefits from having one-on-one time with a parent, without that parent having to make sure Jonas isn’t crawling upstairs or trying to eat crayons.
I’m still going to try to check off a few items, and I’m still going to make a bucket list for fall if I can get around to it. I’ll check in on my progress again at the end of the summer.
When I was an Adoptive-Parent-In-Waiting, before Edgar came home, people would tell me, “You should go out and do all the things you won’t be able to do after you have a baby.”
It was never that simple. And I would never say that to anyone who was a parent-in-waiting like me, true as it may be. Yes, you probably should go out and do all the things you won’t be able to do after you have a baby, like staying out late or taking great trips. The problem is, if you’re like me, you don’t want to do any of those things; you just want a baby to love and snuggle for the rest of your life.
The only time when I was able to appreciate my status as a childless parent-in-waiting was when I was sick.
I hate being sick. I know, everyone hates it. But I really do. I hate feeling limited. I dislike the pain and discomfort.
Additionally, I have a couple of weird mental habits that arise when I’m sick. First, I always think that I’m ‘making it up’ – that I’m either not sick at all or not as sick as I’m feeling. I don’t trust that my stomach actually hurts or that I am actually experiencing fatigue. That’s why things like a fever or a strep test are incredibly helpful for me. When there is a calculable measurement that can be used to pronounce me Sick or Not Sick, it allows me to stop questioning things and just rest.
My second hang-up about being sick is even weirder: I automatically think that if I’m sick, it is somehow my fault. I haven’t been eating well enough, I’m not exercising the way I should, I don’t wash my hands as consistently as a mom with two young kids should.
It all adds up to me becoming a little down, even slightly depressed, whenever I get sick. But Pre-Kids Kerriann would just sink into it all. Not the depression, necessarily. But Pre-Kids Kerriann was really good at just saying, “I’m sick today. Shut it all down,” and then watching Netflix while eating trail mix for the rest of the day.
During the adoption wait, when I got sick, I was very aware that I was “enjoying” my sick days in a way that would not be an option after I became a parent. Once I had kids, I would not be able to spend the entire day on the couch watching old episodes of Veep. Once I had kids, I would not be able to eat all my meals on the couch and have “all my meals” consist of mostly Skittles, which to me are medicinal because they are practically cough drops. Once I had kids, I wouldn’t be able to put off any and all household responsibilities until I felt better, because dirty dishes can wait but dirty diapers cannot.
It was a strange thing to be grateful for during that stressful and painful two years that I was an Adoptive-Parent-In-Waiting. But I was grateful. Every single time I came down with a head cold or a stomach bug, I thought to myself, At least you can just be sick right now. This is the one thing in life that definitely will NOT be better when you have a baby.
Fast forward to 2019, when I am a happy mom with a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old, and I am currently on the mend after experiencing a super-annoying stomach bug for the last three days.
You guys – parenting while you’re sick is the worst. I am not the best mom on sick days. I am disengaged, and I lack creativity. I woke up one day, tired and nauseous, and I knew I had seven hours to get through until Edgar’s nap time. We watched a few episodes of Daniel Tiger, which is a pretty rare treat in our house. I stumbled through making them breakfast. I allowed Jonas to pull every book and every puzzle off the bookshelf. Then I looked at my watch and it was 7:45 a.m. SEVEN FORTY FIVE! It felt like I’d been awake and mommying for 19 hours by that point, and I wasn’t even two hours into the day.
Sometimes I do wish I could magically have one of those Pre-Kids sick days, when I can 100% focus on resting and recuperating. But then – my kids are pretty awesome, and I’m a pretty happy mom. So I will power through my sick days with as much grace and gratitude as I can muster.
There are two boys under three in my house. Once the second kid’s eyes are closed (or, in the case of the two-year-old, once he is safely stowed away in his room, rolling around on his bed talking to himself), I race downstairs and I immediately engage in a preplanned naptime activity. Usually, this means writing a blog post. Lately, it has meant packing for trips. Sometimes I spread out note cards on the floor and I work on my novel.
The important thing is that I immediately get going with something productive. And, to be clear, I have a pretty broad definition of what is productive. Sometimes what I want to accomplish is watching a soccer game or taking a nap. But even relaxing activities require some prep on my part – like queuing up the game so I don’t get distracted by dishes or limiting my morning caffeine intake so that I can crash while the boys sleep.
Then there are other days. Days when I’ve been so busy running around after the boys that I haven’t given any thought at all to what I’d like to accomplish during naptime. That never feels as good to me.
Those unproductive days end up being okay too. Things get done or else they don’t, and it’s always just fine. But I’m still amazed at how much planning it seems to take just to be a functional human and adult compared to my spontaneous twentysomething self. That girl liked to not plan anything, and it was delightful.
It’s the middle of the afternoon as I type this, and it’s naptime – and it’s one of those naptimes that I didn’t fully plan out ahead of time. I did make arrangements to go for a run while Tamara got Jonas down for nap, so that got done right away. Since I got back from running, I’ve kind of been puttering around – straightened up a little, wrapped a baby shower gift for a friend, read a few pages of Fleishman Is In Trouble. While I love being productive, I also enjoy puttering around. It’s relaxing, in a way, to have a piece of my day that’s a little bit aimless.
Today, I rate my naptime productivity at about a 6, because I wrote this ENTIRE blog post (woohoo!) and ran for thirty minutes. No dishes were done, but you know what? I recently retook the Enneagram test and it turns out I’m a 4, and we’re really bad at getting things done if we’re not feelin’ it. So it could not be helped, clearly.
This post makes me laugh, because it’s as aimless and meandering as a naptime full of puttering around. In Typical Kerriann style, I am going to seize control and turn it into a list of tips for Naptime Productivity right now:
Step 1: Plan ahead!Typically nap time is not long enough to allow for spontaneity.
Step 2: Keep your commitments. If you decided to spend the kids’ nap time reading, don’t let the dirty laundry boss you around.
Step 3: Be realistic. It is RARE for me to write an entire blog post during a single naptime, and my blog posts are pretty short. I feel better when I make a goal like Read a little of my book rather than Read three chapters. Because Edgar and Jonas have no idea how many chapters I’ve read when they decide to pop open their eyes and start Mommying me.
Step 4: Give yourself permission to NOT be productive.Though I haven’t done it much lately, I love napping when the boys nap. I do feel like Step 1 is EXTREMELY important if you want to nap while your kids nap; you need to be mentally and physically prepared ahead of time so you don’t end up too wired or stressed to nap.
That’s all I’ve got, and I can hear Jonas starting to babble. Time’s up!
I was chatting with two other mothers, a few months after my first son was born, and the conversation shifted to a topic I’ve always found strange.
“Thomas is already engaged to Elizabeth,” one of the mothers joked. Her son, Thomas, was three, and the other woman’s daughter, Elizabeth, was just a few months younger. “They’ve been betrothed since birth.” They laughed together and I smiled awkwardly, the way I do when I’m feeling uncomfortable but don’t want to cause unnecessary conflict.
I have always found this habit – joking about babies or young children dating or flirting or marrying – weird and awkward. I’ve gotten a lot more uncomfortable with it since becoming a parent myself. It might have to do with not wanting to adultify children when they’re little, which I (unfortunately) see happening all over the place. Like when a mom at the library saw her toddler son smiling at me and asked him teasingly, “Are you flirting, Jacob?”
What is the follow up to this comment? I smiled awkwardly (yet again), and then I started thinking about my other concern, other than adultifying little kids. My other concern is about the assumptions we make about the sexual preferences of our kids from a very young age. I wondered if the Library Mom would have teased her son about flirting if I was a man. I don’t know this woman at all, so it’s impossible to guess. But my experience has been that people make these kinds of flirting jokes only in a male/female interaction, and to me that’s a sign that our society (or at least my neighborhood) is still a pretty heteronormative place. I don’t hear a lot of jokes about boy babies being betrothed to other boy babies, or about girl toddlers flirting with other girl toddlers.
There are so many assumptions that we make about the people our kids will grow up to be. We make assumptions about the things they’ll like and the things they’ll do. And when I say the assumptions WE make – I am including all the woke progressive people in the world as well.
Let’s take Thomas, for example, who is (jokingly) betrothed to Elizabeth. Let’s fast forward fifteen years to Thomas dating.
Why have we already decided that Thomas will be dating a female?
It’s 2019, and the world is more accepting of the LGBT community. The two mothers I mentioned in my opening story are both straight, and they have been welcoming and supportive of my same sex marriage and our adoption of two children. They are open-minded, welcoming, progressive, and loving.
But they are assuming that their children will be straight. And there’s a thirteen-year-old gay girl, ashamed and scared, inside of me that wants to cry when she realizes this.
One of the things that made being gay and coming out painful for me was that the world assumed I was straight. There was a default sexual preference, and it was straight; to be anything other than straight required me to “come out” of a closet, even if I hadn’t realized I was in a closet at all. Having to come out implies that there is a “norm” sexual preference and that you have to identify yourself as other if you don’t share that preference.
When I think about my two sons and their potential romantic lives, what I want is for them to never have to worry about “coming out.” They could be presumed straight, and then come out of the closet in adolescence or young adulthood, like I and many others did. But – should they have to? Why, in 2019, would we still be making assumptions about our children’s sexual preferences?
I don’t want to make any assumptions about my sons, but it’s a natural thing that we do. It’s human. We have to be extremely conscious and intentional if we want to not make assumptions about others. I catch myself caught up in it all the time when I meet an adult my age who is great with kids who doesn’t have any children of their own. I start wondering if they want kids, or if they’re hoping to grow their family. It takes intention and effort for me to remind myself that wanting to be a parent (a feeling that is intensely strong for me) is not something that every adult in the world feels.
It takes effort. It takes intention. It takes change.
We’re all learning and growing, as individuals, as families, as societies. During my experiences as an LGBT young adult, the world learned to accept, and to respect. The federal law for same sex marriage came into effect four months after our wedding day. The next step, in my opinion, is for us to move from accepting to not assuming.
Now, rewind back to my awkward smile after Thomas’s mother and Elizabeth’s mother were laughing about their children getting married someday. Remember how I often just smile awkwardly at these moments?
Well, that day, I sort of didn’t.
“What if your kids are gay?” I blurted out gracelessly.
I wish I could say that this conversation evolved into a courageous talk with me expressing my thoughts and feelings eloquently and the moms hearing it. But it didn’t. They kind of laughed and nodded, agreeing with me that this was possible. I didn’t say much else to follow up.
But I asked the question, and I asked it out loud. That’s big for an introvert and overthinker like me.
The main point of this post is that my sons, Edgar and Jonas, are not yet available for betrothal. They’re too young, and too unwilling to bathe, for any marriage arrangements to be made. They also haven’t decided yet if they want to get married, or who they’d like to be boyfriends or girlfriends with someday, if anyone. And my hope is that, rather than a big, significant coming out talk, what they experience is an ongoing, accepting, and loving conversation with their parents and their community about who and what they love, with nothing assumed and everything on the table.
They’re adorable and lovable. They’re also irrational, illogical, and exhausting.
Our older son, Edgar, is two years old, and I truly love this age. He is cuddly and sweet. He loves to learn and to be independent. But MAN – when he gets thrown off by something, whether it’s hunger, needing to poop, or the fact that his favorite bulldozer shirt is in the laundry, it takes an enormous amount of patience to help him through it.
The tone for our day is set during the first moments of the morning, and on weekdays, our day starts early. Edgar has to wake up by 6 a.m. at the latest if we’re going to get him to school and get me to work on time. Usually, I am downstairs, getting dressed and gathering my things for work, and I hear Edgar start to toss and turn on the baby monitor. Sometimes he’s still sound asleep at 6 a.m. and I have to wake him up. No matter what the situation is, I can expect some resistance on his part. It might be just some mild wrestling with his pajama shirt because he doesn’t want to take it off, or (worst case scenario) every single step of the getting ready process is a struggle – Edgar struggling against every task that needs to get done, and me struggling to keep myself calm and composed.
I have found a trick for helping our mornings to go smoothly, and I think it’s a metaphor for one of my overall parenting strategies. It also has almost nothing to do with actual parenting.
The trick is: Get your coffee first.
Brewing the coffee is one of our morning tasks, and either Tamara or I usually get it going soon after we wake up. But, even if Edgar has been rolling around and calling out “Time to wake up?” to me for a little while, I make sure that I have a steaming hot cup of coffee, turned brown paper bag color with half-and-half, in my hand when I climb the stairs to get Edgar’s morning going.
I found out by accident that this was something I needed. I noticed that my voice was calmer and I felt less rushed to get him moving if I had already just done this tiny thing for myself. I think that sometimes, as a mom with young kids, there are times when we can only realistically engage in tiny moments of self-care.
That’s why there are days when I hear Edgar starting to fuss and roll and wake up, and I ignore the mommy instinct to go cuddle him immediately, and I wait until the coffee is ready. I pour it into my favorite mug, I add half and half, and I climb the stairs to Edgar feeling like I can take my time and enjoy our first few moments together. I can enjoy them – and I am the best at enjoying them when I get my coffee FIRST.
My big picture parenting strategy is: you have to give yourself oxygen first. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. You also can’t teach your kids to live a calm and happy life if you’re not living that way yourself.
So get your coffee first – whatever that means for you. Then you’ll be able to exude the endless amounts of patience, silliness, and wit it takes to navigate life with kids. Or at least, you’ll give it a pretty good shot.