Max at 5 years old

August 27, 2008

Dear Max,

I’ve been thinking and thinking about how to capture who you are at 5-years-old, but its almost impossible.  You are so funny, charming, intense, curious, loving, sensitive, wise, and above all PASSIONATE.  Your enthusiasm for everything is amazing and very infectious.

The last year has been incredible for you.  You were in a unique pre-school class that emphasized community, rituals and study of topics that you, the students, chose.  Your class started the year studying bees and ended with raptors and even now, 4 months after you stopped learning about raptors, you still say, “Look, a raptor!” every single time we see a hawk, or for that matter, a crow.  The ability you have to absorb, retain and give back accurate information about different topics seems endless.

Anything mechanical fascinates you.  You have always loved car washes but now that Daddy found that you can watch them on YouTube, they have become an obsession.  You can navigate the site and watch your favorite carwashes at will.  In fact, a visit to a car wash has become an excellent reward for good behavior! Last week, you actually asked me to find a video of a generator after Daddy showed you the school house rock video about electricity.  And when I found a very academic video of one, you watched the entire thing.

You are passionate both in things you love and things you don’t.  You can throw an amazing tantrum and have a hard time getting a hold of yourself once you work yourself up.  When people anger or hurt you is when you really get yourself worked up – you are a lot like me that way and I hope you learn early to let those feelings pass quickly.  Luckily, that doesn’t happen too often.

You do, however, show your enthusiasm for most things with the most vigorous, loud and bright expression.  Listening to you sing songs in the car (Sarah Barelis “Love Song, the theme to Little Mermaid, Abba’s Dancing Queen) is so entertaining.  Even though many of the words and expressions are unfamiliar, you get them all right and sing mostly on tune.

The one thing you love best, Max, is TALKING.  Your vocabulary and your ability to express yourself is truly amazing.  Adults everywhere we go comment on your conversational skills, so I know its not just ‘Mommy bias”.  You use your words to express enthusiasm, worries (you already have lots, which worries me, so go figure where that came from), your curiosities and things you *know* to be true, whether or not they are.  And you use your words to constantly and passionately express your love.  Especially of me.  You may not believe this when you are 16, but at 5 you tell me every single day in many different words and ways that you love me, that I am the best mommy ever, that the love in your heart is for me.  You call me your sweetheart and give me the biggest, tightest hugs I’ve ever had.  At 5, you still ask for ‘upee’ and I try to accomodate you whenever possible because I know someday, probably soon, those requsts will end.

As a big brother, you are protective, loving and typically ‘mean’.   You torture your sister but you are the first to come to her defense, even physically (not like you at all) if someone hurts her.  When you see each other in passing at camp or school, I hear from the teachers that you regularly hug each other and play together.  You and Sophie play tons of imaginative, role-playing games at home and Daddy and I love to see that.

You and your Daddy are so close.  Its amazing how much you can help him already with projects around the house.  Daddy can make you laugh unlike no other person and you love him so much for it.  Lately, you’ve given up on pj’s to sleep ‘like Daddy’ in boxers and a t-shirt.  And you look so cute in them.

Today was your first day of kindergarten.  Although I felt nostalgic, I didn’t cry, which many parents did.  I think I know in my heart that you are so ready to learn, so smart and capable that I know you will not get lost in a school with larger classes.  And I will help you learn to get the most out of every situation while you are in school.  I will always look out for you, even when you don’t like it.  Overall, Max, I TRUST you.  I know you can handle whatever comes your way and that if you can’t, you will know when to look for help.  I am so proud of you, my boo boo bear, my big kid, but always my baby.

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Hurt

December 7, 2007

Last night, I hurt my daughter. Before last night, I had never hurt her before. No, I did not touch her in any way. We had hosted our playgroup and it was miserable. S. shoved a boy and hit him with a toy in the head. This level of physical aggression was unusual behavior for her, not the hitting or pushing (which she definitely does at the level of many 2 year olds) but hitting with an object or doing anything more than just a shove when a child has a toy she wants. Everyone had left and we were all in the kitchen when she came up to me, snuggled into my leg and suddenly bit me hard. I don’t know what happened to me. At first, I just yelled, “You can NOT bite me.” When she started to laugh, I got down in her face. With all the rage in my body and heart I screamed at her in a voice I don’t think I’ve ever heard before, no less used with my children. I screamed “YOU CAN NOT BITE ME.” The look on her face was of total confusion and genuine fear. She burst into tears, I rushed off to the office and locked myself in, leaving my husband to deal with her. I could hear her screaming, “I want my mommy,” and my husband telling her that she bit mommy, so now mommy was by herself.

I have never in my entire life been so ashamed of myself. I sat in the office and cried harder than I have in years, coming out to check her while I was still sobbing. I realized the damage I did was more than just scaring S. by screaming at her when for the next half-hour she kept asking me, “Mommy happy now?” When I said that I was ok, she would say, “Mommy smile?” I was still so shaken that I couldn’t really smile. I put her to bed, read her the four stories she chose, rocked her and sang to her in our usual routine. But I felt broken, and she felt insecure, constantly interrupting my songs to say, “Mommy happy now?” In the middle of the night she woke crying out and my husband went to her before I heard her. By the time I was conscious enough to think of going to her, she was back in her crib and quiet and I did not want to rouse her. But I know in my heart that she woke up like that because of the way the night ended.

Instead of falling back to sleep, I lay awake and cried for two hours. My husband hugged me and reassured me but there was nothing he could do to make me feel better. I made a very small child feel insecure in her relationship with her mother. At 2 1/2 years old she is already aware of what it feels like to think you are responsible for someone else’s emotions. I put her in the position of trying to make me happy, when that is the last thing on this earth that she should need to worry about. I took away a little bit of my child’s innocence long before it should have been taken.

We had a nice morning today, S. & I. A trip for a bagel, a visit to the library, a small shopping outing which included a long game of chasing Mommy. All day I looked at her, trying to see if there was any hint of mistrust or hesitancy in her behavior and found none. Her trust in me is back today, but I don’t think I will ever trust myself. in the same way. One can argue that I’ve learned something and will ‘never act that way again’ or that she should ‘learn a lesson about biting’. But even if those goals were achieved, S. & I paid too high of a price. Yes, she is only 2 1/2 and she will probably forget. But I believe that feeling of me causing her true fear leaves a ghost of itself in her heart. I hurt her and in turn hurt myself.

Big & Small

October 20, 2007

Dear M.

Tonight we went together, just you and I, to a kids service at the Temple. I watched you stand under the pretend tent the Rabbi formed and the excited look on your face as you peeped out from under it looking for me. You remind me every day of how wonderful the world is when you are small. Things that look small to me are big to you – a makeshift tent, the bounty of cookies on the table after the service, an unexpected surprise as small as a trip to your favorite restaurant. At times I watch you and your sister and I wonder if I ever felt that way about the world. Then I remember how much I loved going to a restaurant on a rainy night with your grandparents and how special it felt to me to be inside a brightly lit place, warm and full, looking out on the wet world going by. Your wonder is something I wish I could bottle for you and give you back when you are my age and you look at the world and see too much – too much to care about, too much to do, too much noise. I want to give you as much wonder and as much excitement about the small things as I possibly can every day. By watching you find so much joy, maybe I can learn how to make the little things seem big again.

Short

October 1, 2007

I am short. Physically, I am 5’2″. More importantly, my temper is very short, especially with those I love the most. I don’t know how or when I became like this. And I worry about Max & Sophie. I really don’t want my kids’ memories to be of me irritated or impatient with them. My dad was so tough on us because of his own issues/demons, and my strongest memories of him parenting us was of my brother and I desperately trying not to do something that would put him in a ‘bad mood’ or else waiting with baited breath for when his mood would suddenly change. I can’t be like that and I won’t. While my father never physically hurt us, the cost of living with someone who was so unpredictable is one I’m still paying, even in my late 30’s. I’m convinced my ‘issues’ with stress & depression are partially biological but even more a part of the environment in which I grew up, when I never knew whether or not my dad would be in one of his moods, or whether or not my parents would be getting along.

For so long I’ve felt that I have had to protect my parents. As a kid and teenager, I never felt I could confide in them for fear that it would upset them. I played soccer for years even though I hated and dreaded it to the point of feeling physically ill because I knew it would upset them if I told them I wanted to quit. Now, the patterns are set and I don’t talk to them about how I really feel about anything. My mom calls ME when my father is having a tough time and asks me to come up with solutions. I resent it. I hate it. If in the past I’d perhaps had the type of relationship where I truly felt I could dump everything I needed to on them , maybe I wouldn’t feel so resentful now. But instead I’m sick of it, and I cry and cry because I feel so alone. My brother can’t be there for anyone other than himself and his kids. My husband is there for me in every way, but he can’t be my parent. I am the oldest in my family in every way. And now I have these two beautiful people and somehow I feel like I’m way too young to be their parent.

My dear, sweet Sophie…

You turned 1-year-old on Saturday. This has been the fastest year of my entire life. We are always so busy, you and I and Max and Daddy.  I’ve watched you grow from a 6-lb-peanut to a 17-lb-peanut, but I haven’t documented all the changes you’ve gone through nearly as thoroughly as I wanted to.

Life with you and your brother is so challenging and hectic. I want you to know that even though your baby book may not be complete, every second I spend with you is the most important in my life. I fall in love with you every day. I want you to always know that you are my sweet girl, my dream-come-true. I didn’t know I was having a baby girl before the second you came out, and I wanted you with all my heart and so much longing that I could hardly breathe.

From day one you were a sweet, mellow and easy baby. You ate well, slept so-so (not through the night til you were 9 months-old), and smiled and smiled and smiled.  You army-crawled at 9 months and mastered the full-on crawl at 10. As of 12 months, you are pulling up and cruising a little – you can even stand for a few seconds on your own, but you don’t seem to want to take any steps. You got two bottom teeth at 10-months, and we are still waiting for any more to appear. You know several words – Mama, Dada, Bah-bay (baby), hiiiiii (in a sweet high-pitched voice), uh-oh, and many baby signs. Every time the phone rings, you put your hand up to your ear and say “Hiiiiiiiii. Dada.”

As you’ve grown and change, your personality has started to come through more and more. You are a STRONG girl – strong-willed and independent. You tend to wait until you can do something well and then you go for it. You are sweet and happy and you love to cuddle. You LOVE your daddy and your big brother who you smother with drool-y kisses. You dive right into situations with lots of people and other kids with no hesitation and a lot of enthusiasm. You explore your world with joy and love and your big smile melts the hearts of total strangers.

Having you in my life makes me think so much about what kind of person I am. I want so badly to set a good example for you as a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife and a friend. I see the world differently through your eyes. I will always do my best to show you how to be yourself and how to think for yourself. I will always try to understand and help you navigate the pressures of society women deal with every day. And I will always hug and kiss you, even when you don’t want me to. I love you, my sweet Sophie Rae. You are my Mrs. snugglebottoms, my princess, my dream.

Love,
Mommy

Stress

July 19, 2006

Its 3:25 a.m. Sophie is up crying, again. She is 10 1/2 months-old, and in that time, I think I’ve consistently slept through the night for maybe 4 or 6 weeks, and not consecutively. She is not an easy sleeper, although we work on it.

I can’t believe its taken me this long to realize the hell the lack of sleep is wreaking on my physical body. For me, sleep is key to managing stress. I would do anything, ANYTHING, to be the kind of person who can manage a day with my kids on just a few hours of sleep a night, but I can’t. I become a physical and emotional wreck – psoriasis starts on my scalp, I’m constantly ingesting antacids, I snap at Max at the drop of a hat. And neither can I control the things that keep my daughter from sleeping well – recurring croup, teething, or the million other things that seem to disturb her delicate sleep patterns. But there are nights like this, when I’ve been up in the middle of the night so many days, no, weeks, in a row, that I literally sit here shaking, not only with the stress of listening to her struggle to get to sleep, but with the stress of knowing that tomorrow and the next day will be hell as I try to manage two young kids when I feel like I can hardly function. I get so frustrated with myself because my husband helps on weekends (and weeknights if I’m desperate) and its still never enough.

We have chosen to do ‘cry-it-out’ with Sophie. Its an awful, difficult choice, but it is the only thing that has worked with her in the past, and we tried just about everything else to get her to learn to fall back to sleep on her own in the middle of the night. Every time something disturbs her sleep – illness, teething, whatever – we start again. And the hell of sleeplessness starts again for me.  I’ll get through it as I always do, but the toll it is taking on me makes me wonder about the toll it is taking on my children.

Coming Out

May 27, 2006

Today I posted my blog address on Kristin's site Debaucherous and Dishevelled (see the links on the right), the first public 'coming out' for me as a blogger. I had to fight with all my strength the constant, tedious 'I'm not as good as everyone else' voice that echos through me ever single time I think about trying something new. I really cannot figure out why or where that voice comes from, but its held me back for so long. I am smart, a good communicator and I'm confident in many ways, but my habit of comparing myself to others is incredibly self-limiting.

I look back at my past (before getting married and having 2 kids in 4 years) and I really cannot believe that I didn't have enough self-confidence to take some of the chances that I think would've greatly influenced my life. I berate myself for not living abroad, going to graduate school, taking more risks with pre-mommyhood career.  The flip side of that, of course, is that had I taken those risks, been more decisive, I may not be where I am today. I am grateful every single day for my sweet, amazing husband, my healthy, happy, easy-going kids, and the life we live. Really, what I've wanted more than anything up until now is exactly what I have. So, I can't say I have any regrets, just a strong resolve to take risks with less fear of what others think, of failing, of missing out on something else. So, despite the ringing words of self-doubt bouncing around my head, I'll write my blog and do my best not to worry about whether or not I'm as good, or better, or worse than anyone else. I received a very sweet comment today (and a very encouraging one as well) and it felt SO amazing to touch someone else.

Max

May 24, 2006

My sweet Max.  You are 3-years-old and the most charming, funny little person I've ever met.  You are also by far the most loving.  You tell me 1,000 times a day that you love me and when I say "I love you" back, you say "Awww, thanks Mom."  It makes me simultaneously chuckle and tear-up every single time.

Yesterday, our nanny, Jessica, was watching you and I told you I needed to rest in my room because I had a headache.  You put up none of your usual fuss and stayed in the family room with Sophie and Jessica.  Thirty minutes after I'd gone into my room, I heard you say in a tiny voice, "Mommy?"  I said, "Yes, sweetie?"  You walked in to my room and said, very softly, "Mommy, I have a headache, too."  I asked you if you wanted to rest with me and you said yes, cuddled up to me, and then proceeded to demand some of my poorly-hidden candy for the next 10 minutes.  

A few highlights of the last few days:

  • You organizing Daddy and I to play 'Ring-Around-The-Rosie' in the kitchen last night.  You are detail oriented, making sure we first held hands, then made a big circle before declaring, "This is my favorite game!"  You started each round with the 'do-do-do's' that must be on the version you play at school.  Daddy and I were laughing so hard we could barely sing.
  • On the way to Dr. Maria's office (again – this time for Sophie), you asked if the animal there was a piggybunny.  Its a guinea pig.
  • Every time I pick you up from preschool, you say "Mommy, I had FUN today!"  Every single time.
  • Spontaneously starting to sing to Sophie in the car when she was not feeling well.  When you made her laugh, you said "Mommy, I made her feel better!"  Such a proud big brother.  You talk all the time about how you are excited for her to call you BiBo Max (big brother Max).

This time with you is flying by so quickly.  You drive me crazy with your non-stop chattering and questions, but you are so smart and funny and clever.  I know some day you won't want to be with me as much, so I try to cherish these moments every day.  Your joy in the every-day things of life shows me a new world each and every day I'm lucky enough to spend with you.

Love,
Mommy

Unhinged

May 10, 2006

For the first time in 10 months, my breasts are unhinged. I am NOT wearing a nursing bra despite the fact that I'm still nursing my daughter. I could not take one more day of seeing my breasts showing through my tee-shirts thanks to these seamed, misshapen, thin material-ed, nipple-showing, ugly-ass bras. So Sophie and I detoured to Victoria's Secret on our way to pick up Max from preschool where I purchased a non-underwired 'Ibex' (isn't that some animal in Africa) bra. It rocks. I feel, dare I say, perky! And I'm wearing my new Michael Storrs t-shirt (ug, $39 for a t-shirt, but its so cute). With white Bermuda shorts and a straw hat and my new high-heeled cork sandals. I actually feel somewhat attractive and confident.

One of my worst habits is comparing myself to other people and today at Trader Joe's (the god of my food world) I looked at a hot mama all dressed funky and cute and felt jealous, for a second. Then I realized that for once I was wearing clothing that fit, a bra that made me perky and had the ultimate accessory – my cutie pie Max – and I stood a little taller.

The First

May 5, 2006

Ok, I have to start this blog somewhere, so I might as well start by writing about why I haven't been blogging since I set this up, or for that matter, for the past few years.  I know I can write, I know I write decently, and I love writing.  BUT…

I absolutely hate keeping a journal. Its so strange and somehow narcissistic to me, although I have no problems with people who do. So, ablog which will have no readers for the imminent future (other than my husband, who I'm not even sure I WANT to read this), seems an awful lot like a journal. Its just so awkward to me.

Yet every night as I sit here reading other people's blogs, I think of things I would like to write about and how much pleasure I get from reading others' experiences. So, here I go.

Background:
Stay-At-Home Mom w/2 kids. Max is 3, and Sophie is 9 months old.

I've been a SAHM since Max was born, other than a short return to a job that just wasn't worth the time away from him. I did some contract work for a short time, but then planned to get pregnant again, so I didn't pursue it any further. I love being with my kids, but I'm terrified of 'building my life' around them. They are my heart, my joy, my love (along with my hubby, of course) and I can see myself getting so caught up in their lives. I haven't found my passion in life yet, other than my family. I feel like I have potential to make some sort of contribution to this world, but feel some pressure for it to be outside of the home. Yet, I do take pride in cooking well, keeping house, my sweet, happy kids and our happy marriage.

So far, this is really a boring blog. I'm going to eat a Tofutti Cutie. Mint chip is the best.