Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Mom Confessions, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the accident.

This morning, Caro fell off the couch and landed on her head. I'm sure the neighbors heard the loud thunk as her skull made contact with the floor, and I'm sure they heard the hysterical sobbing that took place directly afterward. What they didn't hear was me quietly congratulating myself for letting her do it.

record scratch

Yup, you heard me. I'm GLAD she fell off the couch and hurt herself, and I'll tell you why in two words: Experiential. Learning. No amount of me telling Caro "we sit on the couch" was going to make her, well, *sit* on the couch if she actually wanted to stand on it. She's a toddler, they are little scientists, fucking up and learning from it is kind of their bag. I spent about two weeks repeatedly telling her to sit down when she was actually standing on the couch and it got me exactly nothing except a low level of frustration. I had three choices:

1: continuously provide verbal cues to direct her behavior
2: remove the opportunity to make an unsafe choice
3: let her learn through the consequences of her own actions

I was sick of telling her what to do, not to mention that I can't always be watching her climb on the couch to catch the behavior in time for a verbal cue. What happens if she gets up on the couch while I'm washing dishes or sorting laundry or in the bathroom alone (what luxury!)? Well, she would learn that I didn't always tell her to sit, so it clearly wasn't always important and could be disregarded. Not gonna work, next option.

I'm not getting rid of my couch so she won't fall off of it and bust her ass. Nope. Not gonna happen. NEXT!

This is where you come in, dear reader. I let her climb, I let her fall and I let her cry (for a moment or two, anyways). We'll see how this plays out, of course, but I'm betting that she'll only hurt herself one or , max, two more times before she either A) sits the fuck down or, more likely, B) starts paying enough attention to stand on the couch without taking a header off it. Suits me either way.

Ooh, this brings up another interesting anecdote. Last week, I let Caro eat chalk. Yeah, because she does this thing where she's a toddler and PUTS EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE INTO HER MOUTH. While I totally get that this won't happen forever, I have officially let go of my control over this. I can't possibly scour every environment for gross things that I don't want in her mouth, at least not while maintaining my current level of sanity and caffeine consumption. And, guess what? I am willing to bet that 90% of the stuff I don't want in her mouth, she also doesn't want in her mouth. She just doesn't know it yet. So, yeah, she ate chalk and it was gross and she got pissed and got over it. I've got $10 that says she doesn't eat chalk again. Although it was cute when her tongue was purple...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This I Believe

This past weekend, I gave a homily during a lay-lead service at our church. I felt like a minor celebrity, with all those lovely people congratulating me and telling me how much they enjoyed it; several people asked for copies, and one even said it should be published! So, by popular request, here is my homily, entitled "This I Believe":

Good morning. I’m Kim Hersey, and I believe in you. I believe in people, and I trust that they are good. I know we’re selfish and imperfect, but that’s ok. In fact, I prefer my people that way.

I believe in Love, and I believe It is good. I believe we're all going to the same place, but how much we enjoy the journey is up to us. I believe in priorities – I believe that being happy should be priority number one.

I believe in the miracle that is my daughter and I believe man alone cannot make that brand of perfect. I believe that childhood is beautiful. I believe in magic and whimsy, so I can give them to my children before they lose the faith. (Sometime around when they stop thinking kissing is gross, I imagine.)

I believe in wearing sexy underpants, even if no one will see them.

I believe in the healing powers of music, water, coffee and friends. I believe that work goes more smoothly with love, and wine goes better with laughter.

I believe in reading.

I believe cardio isn't the only necessary exercise for your heart.

I believe in honesty in communication. I believe in communication in relationships. I believe first dates don't have to be awkward but that, sometimes, it's part of the fun.

I believe in small victories: finding a good parking space; having all the ingredients for dinner; remembering to pack something needed; a hug just when you wanted one.

I believe that the greatest deficit our country faces is that of love for one another and I believe we need to start working on that now.

I believe in community. As Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The community you build has a unique advantage over your family - you get to choose them. Life is a team sport, y’all, pick a good starting lineup.

I believe in ice cream. Especially chocolate kinds. I believe that people are like flavors of ice cream. They might not be my favorite, but they’re all pretty good and I believe it’s important to remember that someone likes them best.

I believe in ritual and spirituality. I believe everyone needs these elements in their lives. You may count brush strokes when you’re brushing your teeth, or kneel in prayer at the same time everyday, but everyone has ritual. Humans thrive on it, and I think that’s beautiful.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, but there may not be logic to that reason. I believe that every tough situation will work out. But that doesn’t mean it will work out the way we want it to.

I believe that we all have deep-seated geographical preferences of which we are oftentimes unaware. I think it’s important to take note of where your body feels most at home, where your spirit feels most at peace.

I believe that catharsis - the process of releasing emotion through or because of art - is a necessary, wonderful, freeing aspect of the human condition. How lucky we are to see a play, watch a film or read a book and cry for the characters! How attuned we are to the collective to feel such empathy for figments and imagined hardships! If we can cry for the fictional characters we meet, what can’t we do for one another?

I believe in body modification. If our bodies are temples, I believe we deserve to decorate them for worship however we see fit. Somebody once asked me if I thought God had given me a nice enough body. I responded that Frank Lloyd Wright designs beautiful houses, but if I lived in one, I’d still want to put up my own curtains.

I believe that as long as a person is being safe, sane and consensual, it’s not my place to judge or tell him or her what to do. This is a struggle, and it only gets harder as I get better and better at using my mom voice. On the other hand, I fully believe that people tell others what to do not out of a sense of coercion or manipulation, but out of love. This might be foolish of me, but I can’t help it. I also believe that when people drive dangerously, it’s because someone they love is having a baby and they must arrive in time. It’s nice to believe the best of people, if only because it makes road trips easier.

I believe children are far more capable than adults generally give them credit for. I believe we are robbing the next generation of their self-confidence and courage by insisting they are unqualified and unskilled and need our help. I believe in free-range parenting.

I believe that hydration is happiness and sunscreen is your friend.

I believe it’s a waste to chew bubblegum and not blow any bubbles.

I believe that something doesn’t have to be real to be true. There are lots of examples of this, and they mostly come from Star Wars.

I believe in gratitude. I’ve found that the two easiest ways to be happy are to be grateful and to perpetuate kindness through my actions. There was a preschool in Montana that gave the kids capes and called them “superheroes of kindness.” Three and four year olds ran a food drive and passed out flowers to strangers. Best. Superpower. Ever.

I believe we can all find peace within ourselves, and I believe that my journey to that includes helping others find theirs. I look forward to hearing what you all believe, in time, as I get to know you individually. Also, I have a sewing machine in case you’d like to make capes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Are you in some special club or something?"

Yes. Yes I am. I'm in the special club of women who wanted to make friends with their bodies after having kid(s). And this, girls and boys, is why I bought myself a corset for my birthday.

I could have gotten myself anything, and I tend to go for the more useful gifts (for myself, anyway). But not this time, oh no. This year, I was going for pure decadence, pure luxury, pure sensuality. I loved my pregnant body with a passion. Before pregnancy, I had only been really, truly, happy with my body on the rare occasions when I was corseted (Ren Faire, anyone?).

So, for my first birthday post-baby, I went to Ren Faire and I bought a corset. And, I'll tell you something: I. Looked. HAWT. I had missed my tiny waist so much! I had missed my huge boobs being huge (?). I had missed my hips swaying and being all...hippy. I think I just got off topic.

Anyways, here are some pictures of my birthday trip to Ren Faire:

Caroline loved Mama's hip scarf :D

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Fucking Mother's Day or, sometimes having a kid is like having an abusive husband.

Do you remember, way back last August, when Caro was barely a month old, and I wrote about how obsessed I was with her? Well, I think it's safe to say that the honeymoon is over. I'm realizing now that having a child is less like being secretly in love with your best friend and more like having an abusive husband. They have a ridiculous amount of needs that you need to meet for them and you can rest assured that you'll never be good enough for them and they will let you know when you disappoint.

As frustrating as it sometimes is, and as exasperated as I undoubtedly become, she is still totally worth it. You know what's not worth it, though? Getting all worked up for Mother's Day. Here's a realization: Mother's Day is just like a birthday or any other greeting card holiday - pretty much just another day. I still have to do laundry and be the sole care provider for aforementioned abusive husband-esque infant. So, please, do everyone a favor and stop asking moms what fabulous plans they have for today. Chances are they're just getting on with the business of being moms and keeping shit together for everyone else. Maybe they'll get a card, though.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The things they don't tell you about parenting

I could write a freaking book, y'all. It would have chapter headings like:

Moving When You Have a Baby, or: How Paying a Babysitter Will Save Your Sanity
Human Gestation takes 10 months, Not 9 (Joke's On You, Preggo)
Teething: A Primer in Losing Your Sanity and Sleep Simultaneously
Who Needs a Lover When You Can Have Coffee

I just wish there had been some book or something that could have prepared me for this. Why do we have so many parenting taboos? Where was my parenting sensei? I wanted to be a grasshopper, dammit. I wanted to know what it was really going to be like! Lots of moms say "but you can never really be prepared for what it's going to be like the first time, you just have to do it." Maybe I wouldn't have been able to fully understand the implications of any information thrown my way, but it sure as shit would have been helpful to have it. Like after I got pregnant my mom decided to say "Oh, yeah, all the women in our family are extremely fertile." THIS IS INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO ME YEARS AGO.

This begs greater questions: why is there a culture of silence surrounding parenthood and especially motherhood? Why do we feel the need to show an outward face of perfection to even those closest to us? We have these conventions, and then we get online or with a group of other parents and we vent about all the awful parts of parenthood because we have no other outlet. We talk to childless people like our lives are perfect, and talk to other parents like we're on the verge of alcoholism or baby shaking.

These issues are connected to other problems: our parenting culture has started presenting a face of fear mongering and unfair judgment. We scare the shit out of each other, and appraise others' value as parents based on how seriously they take these imaginary or bizarrely perceived threats. Amongst the more offbeat parenting community, there is sometimes an "eco-machismo" attitude. "Your parenting choices are killing the earth, and mine aren't;" "how can you let your kid play with plastic branded crap?"

We are so afraid to honestly and openly talk with each other about our experiences, we're afraid we're doing it all wrong. And that fear won't allow us to seek knowledge to help us on this path; instead, we lash out at others' in judgment to hide our own insecurities. We join parenting sites and forums to dish out our advice to others and quietly compare ourselves to them to feel better about our choices. We have a great lip service: "you make the choices that are best for your family," "if it works for you, that's great." But, secretly, we're thinking how lucky our children are to have us are parents and some of these other yahoos that are procreating without a clue about what to do. Here's the best kept parenting secret: none of us know what we're doing. We just wake up everyday and love our kids and try to make it through. We're doing our best. Our choices are informed by our parenting philosophy, previous experience, and our own needs. I, for one, don't think those choices should be informed by fear of mortification or appraisal by other people - parents or not.

Parenting is a mixed bag, and that's ok - so is life. Some days are great, and you never want them to end. Some moments make up for the bad days. And sometimes it's all you can do to get the baby in bed and have a glass of wine and force yourself to let it all go. The challenges of parenting are nothing compared to the challenge of making hard choices and standing confident in those decisions in our current parenting culture. Go ahead, y'all. Open up. Tell me the bad and the good and let's brainstorm creative solutions to your parenting problems. Let's help each other through this. We're all lost in the woods here - there's no sense in us wandering alone.

I was a great parent (before I had kids...)

Before I had Carrie, I knew I was going to be a great parent. I didn't understand how some people let their kids get so dirty. Bananas in their hair? How could they let their kids do that?

How could some people give their children painkillers around the clock? Sure, the kid is teething, but that level of medication surely isn't necessary.

How could some people ignore their children when they cry? Can't you see that love and affection is a basic human need just like food? Clearly, that child was crying out for a little bit of attachment parenting.

And then I had a baby and went back to work and guess what? It turns out I'm some people, too. Do I wash Carrie? Yes. Every day? HAH! I wish I had time for that craziness. Do I let her get bananas in her hair? Um, she self-feeds now, so she gets all manner of crap in her hair and I'm just happy that some of it makes it into her mouth. Do I dose her with motrin when she's teething? You're damn right I do, or we wouldn't get any sleep. Do I snuggle her every time she cries? Nope. Cause Mama's gotta pee sometime.

I find myself watching Carrie smear snot and apple juice all over herself and everything within reach while I blithely sip coffee and text my best friend about the details of my life. I somehow register the dropping of a sippy cup from a high chair, but I don't stop typing or break my train of thought to pick it up until a meltdown is imminent. On the other hand, I take Carrie to the museum to meet a guinea pig and tell her about the relationship between the animal she's babbling to and a capybara. Also what "ovoviviparous" means. So maybe I'm doing alright, even if I am some people.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lifetime Cribs - Love 'Em or Leave 'Em

So Carrie and I are (finally) moving out of my parents' house and my mother is graciously buying a crib as a housewarming present - score! I went to Babies R Us and picked exactly the one I wanted. When my choices are finite like that, and I need a specific and hard-to-find feature (low sides), choosing is easy. And then my mom asked me to look on Diapers.com and pick something from there (hello, free shipping on this insanely large and heave purchase!) And that's when the (proverbial) shit hit the fan.

See, this is a big purchase. I'm looking at lifetime cribs, they convert into toddler beds and full-size beds; which means I'm looking at a piece of furniture that Carrie will be using until she's my age (Goddess willing and the creek don't rise). That's a lot of pressure to put on me. What if she hates it later on? What if the finish is all wrong for her personality or the headboard just isn't compatible with her favorite pair of handcuffs? How do you choose something for a baby to last them their whole life? This is getting nuts.

Add to that the fact that I'm just over five feet tall and need a crib I can lower her into on the lowest setting - sans stepstool because I'm not a fucking toddler - and what do you get? I'm staring at a selection of 441 different cribs with absolutely no idea which one to pick. Dammit.

In the end, I'll probably pick something I like the look of and she'll just have to like it. And feel terrible about it forever. Ah, the joys of motherhood.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The air is filled with that sound. The sound of helicopter parents.

THWUMP THWUMP THWUMP as they carry their kids' backpacks and lunchboxes after school

THWUMP THWUMP THWUMP as they put away their kids' laundry

THWUMP THWUMP THWUMP as they zip up every jacket, button every pair of jeans and tie every shoe

THWUMP THWUMP THWUMP as they micromanage how their children can sit, stand, talk, sing and play

Here's a little friendly advice from your friend Kim: back away from your children. You're not preparing your kids for the real world of immediate, logical consequences and creative problem solving by hovering over them every minute of the day. If you spend 90% of your interaction with your kids telling them what to do and how to do it, why are you surprised when they stop listening? If your significant other or best friend spent all your time together nagging you about the way you exist, when you were just doing your best, you would stop listening, too.

Let's talk about logical consequences a little bit. When your kid is 28, and working, and the boss asks him or her to complete a task, what do you think will happen? Either your kid does it, or not. Boss isn't going to give reminders. Boss isn't going to walk Kid through it. If it's not done on time, Kid will be reprimanded or fired. You can't step in to save Kid at that point. All you can do is raise your kid to understand consequences and the power of his or her choices.

I've been really getting into Love & Logic lately specifically for this reason. Love and Logic is about making your word "gold" instead of "garbage." Request something one time, and pray you don't screw it up by endlessly reminding your progeny (or the kids you nanny, in my case) and see what happens. I'm not nagging anymore, we're all having fun and the best part? It works.

I'm not saying that I don't worry about my kid, or that the littles I watch sometimes don't really get on my nerves. ("Miss Kim, is it snack time? Miss Kim? MISS KIM?"--"What time do you think it is?") But what I am saying is that when I let go of the fear of everything not being perfect, I enjoy spending time with kids more. I fully intend to raise Caroline as a Free-Range Kid. I'd rather teach her that she is able to solve her problems and take care of herself than teacher her that I'm in control.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Epidurals Anonymous

Lately, I've been running across a lot of media that makes me feel like less of a mother. Seriously, stop judging my choices, society. I'm tired of hearing that my child will be stunted because my milk supply disappeared. I'm tired of "natural childbirth this" and "prenatal yoga" that. I'm sick of people acting like your labor experience is only valid if it's "long, arduous and difficult." And I'm especially sick of people acting like they are better mothers because they felt every contraction. It's not right to make your birth or parenting choices because of others' expectation for you. As one commenter on that blog pointed out, "I often feel like there is an implication that any child who isn't born "naturally" is to be pitied, or will suffer irreperable harm." I mean, come on, people! If the baby is happy and healthy, who gives a flying fuck how it got here??

I had an epidural. I was young and scared. Oh, my God, I was so scared. How can I possibly explain what it feels like to go into labor with no coach, no particular doctor, no proud papa and no place to call a home of your own? How can I describe what it was like to get up at 4 a.m., after enduring twelve hours of contractions alone and in the dark, and smell the blood before I even saw it? I. Was. Terrified.

So, yeah. I had an epidural. And it was a great decision for me. I vaguely remember telling my anesthesiologist that I loved him. And when breastfeeding was more painful than labor and I started seeing pieces of my nipple sticking to my nursing bra when I took it off, I let it go. And you know what? I'm a better mom because of it. I was able to bond with my daughter instead of crying every time she needed to eat. I was able to sleep during my labor so I had the energy to push when the time came.

I'm just don't want to be anonymous anymore, so I'm coming out: I had an epidural. And I love my child. Those two aren't mutually exclusive.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sometimes, You Just Can't Save the Dog

This is a thing that I say when you just have to cut your losses: you can't always save the dog. Like right now: I wanted to write a post about the whole you-can't-save-the-dog story, and now Caro is grumpy and so we're going for a walk instead. Scratch that, we're going to find her diaper and put it back on, then we're going for a walk.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Not to Wear (baby edition)

Sometimes, when nobody else is home, I walk around in my underpants. Not all the time, and not just because, but I do. And you know what? So does Carrie!

So, last night, Caroline ate dinner (like you do) and got food all over herself (like you do) so I took her dirty clothes off. This was about an hour before bath time, so no way was I going to put clean clothes on her for an hour. I've got priorities, and that's not them. Knowing my mother would make some comment about Caroline not being dressed, I put a (really cute) pair of bloomers on her and also a headband, just for fun. And what happens? "Why isn't she wearing any clothes?" It's not like I parade my naked child around in public for fun, y'all. Except I would maybe at the beach, because naked babies at the beach are stinking adorable.

What this all really comes down to is this: I'm pretty sure I lost my ability to dress myself, but my daughter always looks like Clinton and Stacey's lovechild. (Although that's not possible, because Clinton is gayer than Peter Pan in ice skates.)

I used to plan what I was going to wear each day, and lay out my clothes the night before. I wore accessories. Shoes that weren't sneakers. Socks that matched. And now? Carrie is pretty much always wearing something super cute that all matches with jackets, socks, shoes, hats and blankets to match. And me? It's a small miracle everyday that I make it out of my pajamas.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Invest in a good pair of headphones, or forget this business all together.

Self-soothing is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot on parenting blogs, in parenting books and by other parents (most notably mine). It's a phrase I lived my life by, counting down the days until it would be developmentally appropriate to get Carrie started on the track to self-soothing which would grow in time, I thought, into a sense of independence. Right. Here's the thing, y'all: life is full of revision. Your final draft isn't due until the end, all the rest is proofing. I just couldn't do it. Listening to munchkin "cry it out" was the most painful thing I've ever done. I felt like a bad mom, sitting outside the closed bedroom door, just listening to her. Sometimes it was more of a whine, sometimes just a tiny fussy noise, but the screams were the worst. At that point, you're supposed to go in and soothe the child without picking her up. Yeah, bump that.

You know what I learned, dear reader? Instead of teaching her that she can put herself to sleep, I'm teaching her that Mama will comfort her when she cries. And that's just dandy by me. In fact, I like that she wants to snuggle to sleep. I like knowing that being near me is that comforting for her. And I love the way her mouth falls open and her thumb falls out when she's finally asleep.

The way I figure it, independence is super important, for sure. But we're just not there yet. So be it.