Long Days and Short Years

*I wrote this post sometime this summer. I am so terribly behind on blogging, but I wanted to share it with you today.*

These days are long.

These days like today, where this boy sent me on a roller coaster of emotions ranging from elated to exhausted to angry to proud to exasperated to in awe.

This boy who just today threw 3 temper tantrums, drank my Starbucks, opened and ate a watermelon in the middle of the grocery store, stuck modeling clay to his bedroom wall, stuck his penis through the hole of a CD, tracked poo throughout the house, dumped out an entire jumbo bag of cat food in the laundry room and then tried to put the cat in the bath.

Just today, I found myself apologizing to the grocery store cashier for the half eaten dripping watermelon he had to ring up so we could exit the store, and saying the phrases, “Please take your penis out of the CD.” “Why is there poo on your foot?” “How did this entire bag of cat food wind up on the floor?” “We do not put cats in baths.”

But on this same day, this boy said, “You are the beu-ti-est Mommy I eber seen.” And my heart smiled. Just today, this boy was thoughtful enough to pack a snack in his Daddy’s work bag and say, “Daddy, you can take this snack to work to share with your friends.” Just today, this boy and I shared a lovely evening walk.

Yes, these days are long.

But these years are short.

This boy will be three years old in September. In just three years he has changed dramatically from a helpless infant to a thoughtful, smart, challenging, adorable, child. He has formed complex thoughts and a personality all his own.

This boy has entered my life and it has been a whirlwind ever since. He has changed me completely, and my love for him at times is so intense that it feels overpowering. This boy has taught me more about life and love in the three years I have known him than I ever could have put together on my own. And I am so aware that my time with him is limited. It will not be long before his world expands beyond this one we have created together. It will not be long before he is old enough to make his own grocery store trips and buy his own Starbucks and take care of his own pets. It will not be long before Mommy and Daddy are no longer the center of his world and he is no longer my sweet little boy.

Yes, these years are short.

“The days are long but the years are short.” – unknown, but my favorite quote since becoming a mommy

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Cleaning Monsters are the Best Kind

I may have accidentally on purpose created a monster.

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I am kind of a neat freak. I can not focus on much unless I am in a clean environment. Clean surroundings give me peace. Maybe it’s weird, but cleanliness is extremely important to me. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, God and I are really close.

Keeping things clean has become much more difficult since having a child. In learning how to be a mother I also had to learn how to let the house go a little bit, especially when my son was a baby and I was having trouble functioning, let alone maintaining child care and a clean home.

Not that my son is older and I am finally feeling like myself again, my clean house mode is right back on track. It has been for a while, and since my son is with me every single second of every single day, he sees all of the work that I do.

The neat thing about the toddler stage is that toddlers really do notice EVERYTHING. It is such an impressionable stage, one where you can almost SEE them learning things and processing information, and one where they learn something new every single day. The scary thing about the toddler stage is that they notice EVERYTHING.

So while as parents we know to watch our language and behavior and not to expose our son to anything that we don’t want him to pick up on, we also have to be aware of what we expose him to indirectly.

Apparently, I have indirectly made my son a neat freak.

He will not go to bed before we straighten the living room. And by “straighten the living room” I mean put all of his toys away, fluff the couch pillows, and vacuum.

When we wake up in the morning, he will not go downstairs until we have made up the bed and emptied the hamper of all the dirty laundry to take downstairs and wash.

Whenever I am walking around tidying up, he will say “Mommy, we like a clean house, don’t we?”

The last time my brother and sister and law came to visit they tracked in a bit of dirt as they walked in the door. Which was really no big deal, except my son said, “Oh no!” and ran to get his little sweeper and dust pan.

The one area of the house he is not concerned with is the kitchen, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it might just be because he is too short to see the counters.

And one of his favorite activities is to mop with the Swiffer Wet Jet. He loves squirting the liquid and then wiping the mop over it.

Up close and personal with my little cleaning monster and his Swiffer

I really don’t think this is a terrible thing. The house I grew up in was pretty messy. Not scary messy like Hoarders, but messy enough that I was sometimes embarrassed to invite friends over. I realize I am incredibly lucky that my worst childhood memory is lack of vacuuming and too much dusty stuff, but I think everyone has something from their childhood that they would like to improve on for their kids. For me, it’s wanting my son to grow up in a clean house.

So while his behavior may be a tad dramatic for an almost three-year-old, I think it is just a part of teaching him to value cleanliness. And won’t he be a good catch for someone one day if he loves to keep things clean?

The problem is, sometimes I am exhausted and I just don’t feel like cleaning one more thing. There are times when it really would be fine to let the house sit in a state of disarray. But my son demands that it be kept up, even if the only thing I want to do is sit like a lump on the couch.

I love him for keeping me accountable, but sometimes, I kind of regret teaching him about cleaning all the things.

What have you taught your child accidentally on purpose? 

Life Lessons From The Toddler

He sat in the swing at the new park and I pushed him back and forth, back and forth.

“Mommy! Up sky!”

I pushed him higher.

“Mommy, I see pretty trees, and a swide, and birds, and a baby!”

“Yes,” I answered, “this park has a lot of things to look at. I see a sandbox over there.”

“And Mommy? I will tell you some-ing. I see ladies and some mans!”

“Yes, there are ladies and men here and children just like you.”

“Uh-huh Mommy,” he nods in agreement before refocusing on the feel of the swing going back and forth.

“And Mommy? I will tell you some-ing one more time. Mans have penises but ladies do not have penises. But I have a penis! And Daddy has a penis!”

I nod my head. I’m pretty sure this conversation is audible to the penis-less ladies swinging their children beside us.

“And Mommy? You are a lady. But I am a boy. But you are a gul. So you not have a penis. But guls have bottoms. And boys have a penis AND a bottom!”

I nod my head again. The other moms have decided to go play at the sandbox away from the swings. It’s probably a coincidence.

“And Mommy? Mommy, are you listening?”

“Yes sweet boy, I’m listening.”

“But it’s ok, Mommy, if you not have a penis. We can get one at the store for you.”

Pause.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” I reply as I continue to search for the correct way to respond.

Pause.

“Yes, Mommy,” says my toddler with a defining nod.

“Would you like to get out of the swing now?” I ask.

After pondering my question, he says, “Ummmm no. You can just push me.”

There was silence now as I pushed him higher and higher. We felt the breeze blow and heard birds chirping. Sounds of children’s laughter drifted up into the air and I felt a sense of calm and relaxation.

“And Mommy? You ‘member I peed in the ice cream? And I peed in the potty? And I peed in the floor? You ‘member Mommy?”

“Yes, I do remember that. You pee in a lot of places.”

“Yes Mommy.”

“And Mommy, you ‘member that one day I was a baby?”

“Yes, you were a baby but now you are a big boy.”

“Yes, that’s right! And Mommy…”

“Look! Your friend is here! Would you like to get out of the swing and play?”

“Oh yes Mommy yes yes!”

As I help him get down from the swing and watch him run off, he turns to me as says, “Mommy, I am going away. You stay right here, Mommy.”

And so began our morning at the park. Luckily, this exchange was followed by a visit with a Mommy friend and coffee. Who doesn’t love starting their day with a play date, gorgeous weather, and a conversation about penises?

It’s A Small World

In the course of daily life I tend to lack reflection on the big picture. My world is a constant exercise in toddler emmersion. I spend my days fixing snacks, going to activities age appropriate for a two-year old, wiping my son’s bottom, doing laundry, doing dishes, straightening the house, paying bills, and occasionally loosing myself in a book. That’s it. That’s my world. Those are my conversation pieces.

My world has become small.

This past week I visited with my family and was re-awakened to the fact that there’s so much more to the world than just the small fragment I am constantly exposed to.

There were conversations about finances, technology, master’s degrees, running, church, relationships, work. There were conversations about who we know and updates on friends doing different things like living abroad, getting married, or welcoming children of their own. There was a remembrance of life before a toddler.

I love my world of immersion. I enjoy our pace and our schedule and even my constant state of exhaustion because in the midst of it all I have a sweet little boy to love on every day.

But visits with friends and family remind me that there is so much more to this world. There are so many areas I have yet to explore. It is possible to go an entire day without talking about “the potty.” Who knew?

I am so proud to know the people in my family and the friends that carry my heart. I am so grateful for the way they choose to spend their time and that I am able to weave my story in with theirs, however so briefly, so that it becomes a part of my awareness. There was life before a toddler when my world seemed big and full of possibilities. There is life now, filled with daily tasks that sometimes make me feel that the walls of my life have closed in, and I am contained in a small existence. There will be life after a toddler when my world may once again open up to new possibilities and experiences.

So, for now, I will stay in my world of immersion and containment. And one day, when we are both ready, my son and I will each open our worlds to new possibilities and experiences. Until then, I’m enjoying this view from the sidelines.

We Have a Babysitter. His Name is Clifford.

I am a stay-at-home mom who used to be a kindergarten teacher and a nanny. I have spent a lot of time taking care of children. I know a lot of activities and crafts and songs and games that I can play with my toddler. So, ideally, my son would spend all day, every day, in an enriched learning environment filled with activities and songs and age appropriate stimulation.

However, I am also married to an anesthesia resident. That means that I do not get regular help. That means that my husband is routinely gone anywhere from 12 to 16 to 24 hours at a time. So the whole husband-comes-home-at-five-and-helps-with-the-evening-routine thing just isn’t a consistent part of my life. We also don’t live near family, and don’t have the resources for a scheduled babysitter, so I take on a majority of childcare and household responsibilities by myself.

As much as I would love to say that my child is always engaged in developmental play and on a good schedule and everyday is wonderful, that’s just not true.

Sometimes, I have phone calls to make that require no toddler screams in the background. Sometimes, the dishes and laundry need my attention more than Thomas and the train table. Sometimes, I need a break more than once every 24 hours.

So sometimes, TV is my babysitter. I monitor the content. Clifford, Thomas, Curious George, Caillou, and Peep and the Big Wide World are some rotating favorites. My child is aware of the Sesame Street gang and can recognize the Barney theme song. These are all facts that I’m not particularly proud of, but I’m not really ashamed either.

Spending every single moment engaging my son just isn’t realistic. There are bills to pay and business calls to make and a house to clean and dinners to cook; often without the help of a spouse. And then there are those moments when I have just lost my patience or my ability to deal with the constant needs of a two-year old in the prime of his terrible twos, and it might be better for him to watch TV than deal with a strung out Mommy.

TV is my helper. It helps me do the dishes and the laundry and the phone calls. It helps me get a break from my other wise never-ending care of a demanding toddler. It helps me balance parenting, household maintenance, life administration, and every so often; my sanity.

My son isn’t being raised in front of a TV, but it is a fixture in our lives. He will grow up with a lot of different activities and experiences, and I guess TV is just going to be one of them. As much as I hate to admit it, I really do depend on that little bit of animated entertainment every day. So thank you, Clifford and the gang, for your contribution to my child’s life. I’m not sure I could do it without you.