Being Brave

Updated to Add April 11, 2016: I PASSED! I passed, I passed, I passed. No way I could’ve pulled it off without my family and without Themis Bar Review. Legit.

Original Post February 23, 2016:

I’ll cut to the chase: I’ve realized that no matter what failures I experience in my professional life, it could never touch the fear of Max’s premature birth, the anxiety of a high risk pregnancy, or intensity of Eleanor’s very fast birth. Reflection on my children, their births, and their natures allowed me to feel brave. Brave enough to face my fears of being incapable and unintelligent.

Failure does not make me less valuable as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, employee – person. Character is creature of perseverance, not success. Full stop.

Long Form: I saw a blog a while ago that was aimed at helping women who had “lost themselves to motherhood.” I immediately felt guilty that I didn’t feel that way at all. Am I a horrible mother? I don’t feel “lost to motherhood” at all – does that mean I’m not invested enough in my children? In the wise philosophy of T. Swift I quickly allowed myself to shake it off. I know why I haven’t lost myself to motherhood – it’s because I found myself in motherhood. No, I don’t mean to imply that my entire state of being is validated because I’ve had two children – it’s that my children have made me brave enough to be truly comfortable with who I am.

When I came across this post I was standing on the precipice of what can best be described as a really intimidating but entirely administrative task in nature. I started studying for this exam back in October in the midst of buying and starting the process of renovating our home – plus you know – the two small children, marathon training, and my full time job. It felt beyond intimidating, but upon reflection I realized my life was never going to feel “slow.” It was time to jump off the side of the pool – for a second time. I failed the Bar Exam when I took it in February of 2012. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child, uninsured, and utterly broke. My head was not in the clearest place. All of that aside, I tried my hardest. I did. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Still failed. That feeling sucks. No pretty or poetic words can soften that. It sucked. I was unfamiliar with putting in that amount of work and effort and still failing. Just 30ish hours after receiving news of my failure I went into premature labor. My husband was at his father’s funeral across the country. Everything had fallen apart.

One of my greatest struggles in life has been battling my self-doubt. I wasn’t as smart as my friends, so I tried to be cool. I’m not particularly cool. I made (make) an ass out of myself a lot. If I’m not the smart girl and I’m not the cool girl, who was I? Failing the Bar Exam amplified these feeling to about the 100th degree, but I’m nothing if not stubborn so onward I marched as a new mom and a law school grad who couldn’t practice law. While I was equal parts humbled and annoyed, with my husband and my family’s support, life turned itself around. That said, not a day has gone by since the moment I didn’t see my name on that Pass List that I haven’t thought about the Bar Exam. I knew I’d have to face that son of a bitch again. I’m too stubborn not to.

I’ve often joked that Max is my Zen master. He is a bundle of feelings and empathy. He is ever present in the moment but often lost to what he is feeling. It’s hard, but damn it’s beautiful. He will touch people, impact them, and guide them. He is my rock in the storm. I started to realize that nothing could ever frighten me more than his premature birth. Touring the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hours before his birth, without his father by my side, created the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt. I don’t know what to call it exactly, but no other level of fear or intimidation I’ve ever experienced could touch it. He has taught me that overwhelming feelings are hard but beautiful. I need to be present. I need to live presently in my feelings, express them, mourn them, love them, allow them to be a part of me.

If Max is my master of patience and empathy, Eleanor is bravery personified. Both of my births were unmediated, but I fully contend that the first one felt nothing like the second. That amount of pain shouldn’t be allowed to exist on an earthly plain. After a pregnancy that felt like a 9 month long red-wine-hangover, that girl tore out of me, on her whim, in just two hours time. Then she screamed when any non-family member attempted to touch her and immediately set about the task of nursing – which she did rather successfully with really very little guidance or input from me. At a year old her general demeanor is laid back, but make no mistake, her spirit radiates tenacity. She is not to be ignored.

These two little beings came from me and from the man I’ve chosen to spend my life with. If these qualities are a part of them, they must be a part of us, a part of me.

I must face hard feelings, like insecurities about my intelligence and abilities. I must forgive myself for being intimidated. I must be fully present in my fears in order to face them. I must be tenacious in my efforts to better my life. I must not ignore myself.

These lessons are so much bigger than the Bar Exam. Sure, as a test it’s intimidating as hell but I’ve likely blown it way out of proportion in my mind. It’s an exam based in memorization – not a strong point of mine. But with Eleanor’s example and Max’s perspective in hand I tried again.

I don’t know if I passed yet. I suspect it’ll be narrow either way. Either way, I’m proud.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me

I’m a social media addict. I post at least once or twice a day on multiple different platforms. I’m not ashamed. Sure I concede its touch narcissistic, but some of my best friendships and business networking has come through the relationships I fostered on Twitter and Facebook. Even so, I find it a bit self-important when people post a “I’m taking a break or quitting this site” status. That said, when I’ve taken a short breaks in the past friends who don’t know me in real life have actually grown concerned for my well-being, so I’m putting something here.

Until February 23rd-24th I’m working on what is a large, intimidating, and exciting goal: I’m retaking the Bar Exam. While I don’t suddenly want to practice law, it has weighed on me as “unfinished business” and it’s become a bit of a personal vendetta. I failed the exam (by only a few points, sigh) when I took it in February 2012 right after I graduated from law school. I was pregnant, uninsured, and unemployed. It was a trying time. Thankfully I landed in a position where a legal license wasn’t needed and my life and my finances quickly recovered the post-professional degree slump. I’ve identified that a traditional legal career isn’t for me, but I feel like my law school experience is incomplete.

Anyhow, I’m studying all 17 subjects for the two day Uniform Bar Exam alongside my full time job, training for my races, and remodeling our house – not to mention the two kids and lack of sleep.

I need to focus. Checking in is distracting. Constant news and information input is draining. I’m deactivating and disappearing for awhile – for my own good.

I’ll be back.

I am still lurking on Instagram until February or so because it’s easier to ignore throughout the day. I’m @peltoinspace.

Smooches.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me!

A Tale of Two Boobs 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…”

…and about there the metaphor would get too depressing and thankfully inaccurate. This isn’t a post about London and Paris in the French Revolution – it’s about my boobs. More specifically it’s about breastfeeding.

An act that is fulfilling yet sacrificing and ripe with optimism teetering on potential heartbreak. So many feelings are wrapped up in caring for our children and the very vulnerable act of nursing seems to carry a special emotional impact for many mothers, or at least it always has for me.

I’m standing at the beginning of the end of my time as a breastfeeding mother and bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Using the  Bryan Health Nursing Nook at the Pinnacle Bank Arena while attending an event.

Let’s get the political part of this out of the way right quick, shall we? My stance is clear: Your boobs, your body, your business. I know tons of fabulous mothers who formula fed their babies. You go ladies. Love your babies and do what works for you. I breastfeed because it works for me and that choice isn’t a judgement on anyone’s decisions. We have enough to worry about without making each other feel like crap. OK, now that’s done.

My son got his last drop of breast milk around 7 months. He was born early and never really got the hang of nursing. We would occasionally nurse for comfort but he was never good enough at it to take his meals that way. I pumped. I pumped A LOT. For the first two months I triple fed (first you nurse, second you bottle feed breast milk or formula, third you pump, then after a a short break you start all over) – which is to say I did nothing but worry about milk. After two months I gave up the nursing piece of puzzle and just let myself become an exclusive pumper. It was fine I suppose, but it’s a logistical night mare. I was proud of my dedication to pumping and given the fear wrapped up in Max’s premature birth I think it gave me something to feel in control of. It was fulfilling, but it was exhausting. When I stopped pumping I felt free. Perhaps a bit of sentimentality came with that, but mostly I felt as though a burden had been lifted. I knew that if I had to do that again with our second child I may not make it very long.

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Got Mommy’s Milk? Eleanor does.

Eleanor came along and turned everything I knew about birth and babies on it’s head. Her birth felt nothing like Maxwell’s and her demeanor was similar. Within 20 minutes of being born she found her own way to my breast and nursed for almost a half hour. Since then she has (lovingly) picked up the name Eleanor “I could eat” Magilton. I was unfamiliar with those early weeks of marathon nursing session. Max had been in the NICU his first two weeks, then after that he mostly bottle fed. Eleanor and I spent hours camped out on the couch nursing. This drove 2.5 year old Max nuts, but was generally heaven for her and I. Eleanor is an excellent nurser and I am excellent at nursing her.

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Glamorous: Nursing on the floor of the indoor playground at 3 months old.

She will be a year old in about a month and half. She does not seem remotely interested in weaning. I’m beginning to feel a bit differently. After her birthday I plan to begin a very slow decline to weaned. I’ll hold on to the nighttime nursing for a long while I’m sure, but even that is just part of the inevitable end. Eleanor is our last baby, biologically anyway, and the gravity of that is not lost on me. This is the last time I will nurse.

I sincerely hope I don’t end up knowing when our last moment of breastfeeding happens. I don’t think I could handle it. I’m ready to move past the world of babies and into the world of children and I’m more than ready to have my autonomy back – but that closeness, that sense you’re endlessly needed, the bond.

I’m really going to miss that.

 

An 80 Pound Net Gain.

I have lost 80 pounds. Eighty. Damn, that sounds like a lot. It doesn’t feel like I had 80 pounds to lose.  Granted, I’m sort of cheating. I’m counting from the day I gave birth, so about 15 pounds was lost in just two hours. Regardless, it’s a nice round number.

I’m going to use real numbers here, so everyone applaud my bravery.

On the day I gave birth to my second child I weighed 248 pounds. The baby did not weigh 48 pounds. I did not gain a huge amount during the pregnancy. In fact, I gained only 20-ish pounds. The baby also did not weigh 20 pounds. For everyone who isn’t a math whiz, that means I was overweight (228 pounds) when I got pregnant. I narrowly crossed that all feared 200 pound mark during my final year of law school, which coincided with my first pregnancy.

Law school is stressful, pregnancy makes it more so, and nachos make me feel better. No regrets. Truly, really, I’m not kidding: no regrets.

I’ve been a variety of weights in my adult life. Some of this was the result of crash diets, “fat blocking” supplements, 1,000 calorie a day regiments, meal replacement bars; the whole gamut. When I look back on all those days and pictures there is one actually uplifting thing that sticks out to me: despite those terrible plans, I always generally liked my look. I never felt as totally comfortable as I’m beginning to now, but I always thought I had at least a little something going for me.  I wish I could go back and tell myself to focus on that. Tell myself to build on that spark of self-esteem rather than obsessively calorie count.

Hind sight, amiright?

I understand that women who aren’t being featured in an inspirational Glamour exclusive aren’t generally supposed to call themselves attractive – it’s an open invitation for every person on the internet to loudly determine whether or not they’d sleep with you (I’d probably just “friend-zone” you anyway, brah) or explain that you can’t possibly be healthy if you’re over 130 pounds. I don’t really care these days. Not because I’ve come to some fully self-assured perfect place, but because I’m too tired to genuinely care if other people think I’m too jiggly to be hot.

I’ve got my two young kids, an old home we’re remodeling, my marriage and my career to manage: take your harmful social constructs elsewhere.

Of course, confidence (or tiredness) isn’t an “end all be all.” I have insecurities. I don’t like every little piece of myself every day, all the time. I simply like the majority of myself, the majority of the time. That spark of self-confidence was a brilliant place to start a new outlook.

Breastfeeding did a lot of the calorie-burn heavy lifting that led to the weight loss, but I exercised every single day and have learned to be mindful of everything I eat. I’m proud of those changes. I won’t discount the extra push I get from nursing, but I certainly didn’t lose weight like this nursing my first baby. Most of this was me.

In my recent efforts to get healthy my focus has been on a few key goals:

  • What does 1,800 to 2,000ish calories a day look like and feel like? Eat about that. Sometimes you need to say no to food you like. Sometimes you should say yes. DO NOT OBSESS. Just be in the ball park, don’t fret over the seat number.
  • Walk (which later transformed into a wonderful running habit) a minimum of one mile per day. I love tracking data (nerd alert!) Tracking my routes and weekly and monthly mile counts truly delights me. Check out my #mileaday feed on Instagram, @peltoinspace, for my daily walking and running pictures, often exploring UNL East Campus.
  • Try new exercise and fitness challenges that sound pleasurable. If I would rather do laundry than a particular activity, let it go guilt free. It’s not for me.
  • Be outside often. Make sunshine a priority.

Surprise! That worked. It still works. Really well, in fact. My brain and body are in a really good place. I’m celebrating that. Sure, the weight loss is cool, but the person I was 80 pounds ago was amazing, bad ass, tough, hot, all of it. I refuse to discredit her.

What I want to celebrate isn’t what I’ve lost, but what I’ve gained from these 80 pounds.

Let’s do 8 things, because 80. It’s on theme.

  1. My babies. I made both of my babies carrying that weight. That body nourished them and held them. I’ll always be grateful for my pre-pregnancy and pregnant body.
  2. Surprisingly, I gained confidence when I hit my heaviest weight. At my highest (non-pregnant) weight I didn’t really feel conventionally attractive, so I explored less conventional styles that didn’t “require” the body I didn’t think I had. I had purple, blue, and pink hair. I started making my red lipstick a habit. I established my personal style (I call it “Hipster Stevie Nicks”). I was so confidently myself. I started to value my vessel, and at this point I really starting putting my body related self-esteem struggle to rest. From there it was so much easier to be mindful and work on small consistent goals. I learned to START with the self-esteem, not wait for it to come once I reached some arbitrary numeric goal.
  3. Playing on the floor sucks less. Far and away, the best part of losing 80 pounds is the impact it’s had on my relationship to my kids. Life is so much easier when you’re not carrying the equivalent of two of your preschooler before you even pick him up. I’m all about making life easier. This helps!
  4. My relationship with food is changing and growing. I had a notable “starving college student” attitude for years; when it’s there take it, eat it all, and never ever say no to food. Now I’m able to look at the left over pizza in the break room and say, “This isn’t the last time I’ll ever be offered pizza. I’ll say no this time and enjoy it during a time when it’s more fun to indulge.” On the flip side, sometimes I still eat the break room pizza and make a mental note that I should skip the nightly wine and popcorn. Balance, people, who knew? I use a food-dairy app to help me with this. I hope someday to drop the app, but for now it helps me keep track of what I put in my pie hole. My memory tends to get patchy when melted cheese is involved. Recording my food helps keep me honest with myself.
  5. I have good parents. A woman raised in this culture doesn’t get to proclaim that she’s valuable, attractive, likable, or deserving without adults in her formative years who told her that confidence isn’t just OK, it’s mandatory. Because they had gentle but high expectations of me I was forced to acknowledge my inherent worth. I hope I can give this to both my children – I hope they know they have value for simply existing. When one feels worthy of moving mountains, one tends to try.
  6. Jeans, my old foe. It’s a love/hate relationship. We’re back to solidly loving each other. Someone who loves unique style as much as I do would be remiss not to mention how much easier shopping in non-plus sizes is. Note, it should NOT be this way and I hate it, but I won’t pretend it hasn’t made shopping easier.
  7. Podcasts or simply silence. Choosing to be active every single day is a wonderful self-care driven act. Between kids, students, work, emails, bills, you know, life, it’s sometimes a challenge to truly enjoy something that’s just mine. My podcasts, listened to while I huff it around lunch, are my time. I did this before too, but I make more of a point of it now. Once I got into running I started to forgo the ear buds all together. Running for over an hour, just paying attention to city around you, is some good therapy.
  8. I realized I’ve always felt pretty damn hot, and wow, that clarity has been empowering.

I may continue to lose weight as I continue to challenge myself with running. That’s cool.

I’m happy with my vessel wherever it takes me.

What a god damn gift that is.

Finding Ten

The past 5 or 6 years have included a lot of growing pains. This is, obviously, normal. Law school, marriage, and entering parenthood are all significant transitions. As my three year old can tell you, transitions are hard. In the haze of these growing pains facades are not manageable. I ran out of time to be anything but authentically myself. What a stroke of luck that was.

o91zstBFqUE3gAWRWMe-RaM_txhxRTkuMHnCz-ZxElsI think the first time I realized I wanted to be cool, but that I wasn’t, was when I was around 11. I was overweight (the horror!), I dressed too brightly, I talked too loudly, I unpretentiously memorized Shakespearean sonnets, I built erector set vehicles, and I was weird. In reflection, I was fucking awesome. Unfortunately, other 11 year olds didn’t uniformly agree. To be clear, I was not bullied. Of course the re were unpleasant moments – the quintessential junior high and high school stuff – but I was never the repeat target of unkind behavior. I had friends, who also thought I was weird, but seemed to like me anyway. So, it’s disappointing that at the age of about 11, I started to try to cage my songbird.

I was desperate to be cool. It was a slow build through my teens and twenties. This effort to be cool ranged from being a total poser about certain bands or activities, to trying so hard to be a girl who could dance, to mostly harmless recreational drug use, to smoking (which I still hate and miss dearly), to lying about having certain experiences, to sometimes being unkind to people didn’t deserve it. These behaviors are not entirely unique, but in sum, I was the “trying too hard” girl.

This started to taper off in my early twenties – largely because I met my husband who loved me so deeply (and didn’t buy my bull shit) that my confidence grew. Of course though, these habits still pop up. Everyone wants to be liked, but by-and-large I lead with my true self these days.

As the intense desire to impress others diminished the need to figure out my “new normal” grew – and there she was. Me at 10, before the media and the pressure got to me. Before I knew there was a difference between cool and uncool. She is still here, that young girl: fearless, confident, full of wonder and desperate to share her enthusiasm with anyone who will listen.MDLnGhrFbsFqhoU04BsNUuTndLJC9v6x0xH0ncAQjhI

She does not worry if she’s smart enough. She knows she’s smart enough and that if she doesn’t get something right away it’s OK. She’ll learn. She loves to learn.

She sees her body as tool to accomplish her goals, not as an indicator of her worth.

She knows how to be kind.

She helps other people, even when she doesn’t feel like it.

She listens to her mother because age and experience do count for something.

She gets crazy haircuts.

She wears mismatched head scarves.

She has fun.

I lost her for 20 years, but she was there the whole time.

This IS Having It All

When one works at a University the end of August and the first few weeks of September are the busiest of the year. Everyone from students, faculty, staff, and our families is just a little on edge. The past few weeks have been, in a word, unpleasant. Not bad exactly, for my life is much too nice to be bad, but stressful.

Last week I was running behind in the morning, which if we’re being honest, is basically the norm. Emails and calls were blowing up my phone as students were locked out of the online classrooms I manage. I forgot my lunch. Our three year old crying because we’ve forced him to wear a shirt. Just then I received multiple email alerts on finalizing paperwork to purchase our home, right as we’re working to sell a home my husband inherited with his brothers, right as we decided to buy a new car. The baby just learned to crawl and I just remembered I forgot to get the gates out of storage. We have multiple students immigrating to the United States in various stages of the Visa and U.S. introduction processes. When they arrive the culture shock sets in the same week classes start. I try to be available to them 24/7, and right then, I was needed. Our son, well our son is three. He wasn’t having it. He’s never “having it.” But last week, on that day, we had a particularly terrible drop off at school and my heart was broken (and he was still mad over being forced to wear clothing).

As I pulled away from the daycare, blaring Green Day’s Basket Case, I  sarcastically said out loud to no one, “you really can have it all!”  I let my frustration fester for a moment but also snorted at the truth of my sentiment.

This IS having it all. Every last little bit of it. I can “have it all” and so can you – it’s just that sometimes having it all is a bit overwhelming.

I have the happy marriage, the fulfilling career, the perfect babies, the 401(k), and the mini van. It’s wonderful. It’s what I’ve worked for. It’s what I’m grateful for every day. It’s also still life. Life is messy, silly, complicated, tragic, wonderful, everything.

So is it possible to “have it all?” Yes. Absolutely. I’m so so sorry.

2014 Park Challenge

Posted August 2014:

In April of 2013 my then almost-one-year-old son Maxwell and I embarked on a journey to visit every ‘Lincoln Parks and Recreation’ city park that includes a playground. There are 78 in total. This week, in August 2014, we finished.

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The top two questions I get from friends and colleagues about the park challenge are (1) “Good God, why?” and (2) “Do you have a ranking system?”

“Good God, why?” and “Do you have a ranking system?”

I’m going to try to cover both of those here, but as type-A as I might be (and boy, am I) there is no ranking below. In fact, I’ve actively NOT done that, which I’ll explain. However, you can see our favorites by looking at the photos marked with the double asterisks in the park photos at the bottom of this post.

“Why?” That’s a fair question and one I asked myself a lot around parks 5 through 77.

There are a few reasons so let’s start with the first one: money. A variety of circumstances leading up to our son’s birth left us beyond broke the first year of his life. Not “we can’t go out to dinner or movie” broke, but “the electric company is threatening to shut off our lights” broke. It was humiliating and scary. I won’t go into the ins-and-outs of middle-class-post-professional-degree-poverty here (others have done it much better), but it suffices to say, at the time daycare and certainly enrichment activities just weren’t an option. My current full time position started as a part time position and my days home were boring. We needed something to do and that something had to be free. This also leads to my second “why.”

Whenever someone says “there’s nothing to do here” about Lincoln, I assume they would feel equally as bored anywhere else. Entertainment abounds when you’re open to it. If you’re willing to drop some cash, there is a concert, play, show, film, networking event, and so on somewhere almost every night of the week. But Lincoln is also fabulous for the frugal by choice or the frugal by circumstance. You can’t swing a bat without hitting a free to almost-free community event or public area. This is something I felt was worth exploring further.

The last “why” is simple and obvious to anyone who knows me: I am a goal orientated, list-loving, overzealous moron. Why go to the nearby parks when we could go to ALL THE PARKS?

The last “why” is simple and obvious to anyone who knows me: I am a goal orientated, list-loving, overzealous moron. Why go to the nearby parks when we could go to ALL THE PARKS? I used the Lincoln Parks and Recreation website to look up our nearby parks and saw this long glorious list that could be sorted by playgrounds! The idea dawned on me and I felt it would be a fun challenge. My husband reacted to the initial plan with common reactions to schemes, “you don’t have to do this,” “WHY?” and “don’t freak out if you never finish it, ok?” All fair comments. Later on, Morgan even took Max to several of the parks and has remained supportive, if not baffled, by my drive to finish this.

Anyhow, that’s why and how we got started.

“Which parks are the best?” Certainly we had a range of experiences and had some favorites, but it feels wrong to “rank” them or tell a neighborhood their park is the “worst” one – this is not meant  to reprimand those who have asked me to rank the parks, but a conclusion I came to near the end of this experience.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Parks budget, community revitalization, or the effects of poverty on children, but I do know children need a place to explore. Many children need that place to be accessible while mom or dad is at work and available without an admission fee. This experience truly opened my mind to the importance of free public space to a community. Sometimes gross, sometimes pristine, having a place to go, a place that is theirs, matters to kids.

This experience truly opened my mind to the importance of free public space to a community. Sometimes gross, sometimes pristine, having a place to go, a place that is theirs, matters to kids.

This was cemented to me as our own financial and professional lives changed throughout the duration of this challenge. We could suddenly afford to go to Children’s Museum (and it’s a wonderful place – seriously, if you can, visit) but we also kept marching through Lincoln parks. There were still lots of kids at those parks. The parks weren’t always wholesome. Sometimes we found condoms, liquor bottles, underwear, and countless shoes (this isn’t the fault of Lincoln Parks and Recreation, often the cleaning and trash trucks pulled up while we there, but is a reality of any publicly used space). But almost always, we found other kids there playing, regardless of the state of the park.

I didn’t start this as an exercise in learning about and appreciating our community, but that is absolutely what it turned into.

I didn’t start this as an exercise in learning about and appreciating our community, but that is absolutely what it turned into. These parks are spread all over Lincoln and they led Max and me into many different neighborhoods and subdivisions. I know my city better as a result of this challenge. I met a ton of awesome parents and picked up some great parenting tips. I saw some examples of how I would rather not parent my children. We met a ton of awesome kids who played with Max and made our day. We met a ton of rude or unpleasant children. That’s life. I should note, those trends did not adhere to certain neighborhoods. Assholes live everywhere, as do awesome people.

…those trends did not adhere to certain neighborhoods. Assholes live everywhere, as do awesome people.

Max won’t remember this part. He’s too young for a sense of stewardship to the community to be ingrained in him as a result of this. But, damn if that kid didn’t get to play. Over the year and a half I’ve seen his physical skills develop rapidly. He can confidently climb ladders, build with gravel, push the swings, and tackle any slide. He loves to roll in the grass and blow seeds off of dandelion heads. He watched me pick up trash and talk with and worry over other kids. He got an education too, just a different one.park2

Max won’t remember this part. He’s too young for a sense of stewardship to the community to be ingrained in him as a result of this. But, damn if that kid didn’t get to play. …He got an education too, just a different one.

Now, in response to, “what challenge will you do with your second child?” (I’m currently 4 months pregnant) I can confidently say, “Not a one.” This was a lot of work, and while enlightening, the real reason we finished is because the idea of being labeling a quitter enrages my inner competitive sensibilities.

We will continue to patron our nearby parks, pick up litter, brag about our city, and make it a goal to go outside every single day, but lists? I think I’ll take a break from lists for a while so we can focus on our real jobs: playing.

Edited to Add: We were featured in our local newspaper! Lincoln Journal Star, ‘King of the Slides Hits all 78 Lincoln Playgrounds’ , Monday September 15, 2014

Elsbeth Magilton
August 2014

 

Motherhood at 5:57am: a second installment 

At 5:57am the baby starts to fuss. Freshly awake I grope around in the dark and realize my husband has fallen asleep on the couch. I’m alone in bed. I get up to retrieve the baby from her crib across the room. I spite the fact we still share a room while wondering how people with more bedrooms deal with having to walk that far this early. I scoop up a drooly mess of tears and needs. She immediately curls into me, happy for the reassurance she didn’t wake up alone in the world. I take her back to my bed. I build a pillow wall where my husband normally is and I lay us down facing each other, the baby sandwiched. A nursing fort. I doze as she nurses and hums to herself happily. I wonder if other babies hum while nursing. I try to remember if her brother did that and find I can’t recall either way, which makes me a bit sad. She has her fill and sleepily rolls back and fourth deciding if she will let us get another hour of sleep. She concludes that we will and snuggles into my side. Her bald little head tucked gentle into the bend of my elbow. She should smell like spit up and stale pee, but she doesn’t. I inhale her. She smells like ours. Soft and quiet like this she is romantic vision of motherhood every woman has after seeing the blue plus sign. At just about 7 months old she is a contented but a curious and determined little soul and she compliments our family perfectly. The cat, whose tail intrigues her, feels this less so. I sigh and curl over her, pressing my lips into her pillowy and almost comically large cheeks. Oh my daughter. You, my darling, are something. 

There is no finish line.

Last night I searched for “infant developmental timelines” to explain our daughter’s re-occurrence in night waking and nursing. I was immediately inundated with awful YOU PARENT WRONG posts. These sorts of debates, “experts,” and forums really got to me with our first child. I was certain that every behavioral bump in the road was a result of terrible choices made on my part or was going to a permanent fixture in our life. The debates and varied advice over sleep training, bottle feeding, pumping, formula, sleep sacks, swaddles, room sharing, bed sharing, baby led eating, weaning, baby wearing, walkers, and so on stressed me out beyond belief. Now I find myself mostly just annoyed (especially if they manage to get to me).

Our first child is only three, I’m far from a parenting expert (a title I would find suspect regardless), but I have figured one thing out for myself: I should not parent as if there is a finish line, because there isn’t.

There isn’t a ceremony when he turns 25 where all the other parents from the same year congregate, and those with the most categorically successful children are applauded for selecting the superior sleep ideology 24 and a half years ago.

As parents you do what you think is best in that moment. Sure, there are some helpful studies we can reference along the way, but most will be replaced approximately 18 years from now when we will have no chance to employ the new wisdom.

So hey there, competitive, law-school driven, type-a self: THERE IS NO WINNING. STOP TRYING TO WIN. I “win” by having a rich and healthy relationship with the small humans I’ve created. This can be created thousands of different ways and will depend on the child, where I am as a person, our marriage, where we live, our professions, etc… There is no race to be won here, only adjustments and probably lots of hugs and laughs.

Babies and children, like adults, change. All the damn time humans change. It’s infuriating but inevitable. Hey self, find a sure-fire way of getting Max to bed? Next week/month/year it won’t work. That doesn’t mean I’m a shitty mom. It means he is growing, changing, and developing. Our life and schedule will grow and change with him and his sister. That’s OK. This too shall pass. I won’t be arguing over bedtime with him when he’s 30. I promise.

To quote the great Doctor Who “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”

I’ve come to believe parenting is a lot like that. It’s not like “sleep training directly creates a CEO with 100k salary.” It’s more, “we made this choice about sleep options because it worked for our baby and life style, so we slept better and had a better family dynamic so our children were more relaxed and enjoyed school, and as such they’ve gone to fruitful lives” or “we tried that sleep method and were miserable so instead we did this and as such had a better family dynamic so our children were more relaxed…” You get the idea.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is this: Don’t get lost searching for a finish line that doesn’t exist. The only prize in parenthood if getting to know, love, and respect this brand new human you had a hand in making and influencing. Try to enjoy it, won’t you?

A Day In The Life

Baby blows out diaper.

Mom leaves baby in highchair to start bath.

Baby puts hand in diaper.

Cat sniffs highchair tray.

Baby rubs poop hand on cat.

Mom yelps.

Cat runs.

Poop, pear purée, breast milk rice cereal and fur everywhere.

Mom reconsiders all life choices up until this point.