28 Days of Play: Who Doesn’t Play With Their Children?

youplustwoparenting

I sat on the couch, my legs curled beneath me, my pregnant belly wedged on a throw pillow. My husband lay beside me, watching a miscellaneous sporting event on television. Our toddler slept soundly upstairs. I skimmed a parenting book. That summer I flipped through hordes of books, worrying about my daughter adjusting to life as a big sister.

I shifted positions on the couch. “Hey babe,” I said. “It says to help our children develop healthy self-esteem, we should participate in “child directed play” for at least ten minutes every day.” I laughed.

“Are you kidding me?” He responded, “Who doesn’t play with their kids for ten minutes a day?”

“Exactly.” What kind of mom doesn’t spend ten minutes playing with their children? 

****

Well, ah … things have changed. I’m a different mother than I was lying on that couch.

Check out the rest of my essay over on You Plus 2 Parenting’s 28 Days of Play where throughout February writers share their honest feelings about playing with their children.

A Trip Away

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It’s hard for me to leave my kids – nearly impossible. I may be in the minority. I know other mothers who went on solo vacations away from their children months after they were born. I felt differently. I didn’t want to leave them. The idea of leaving them brought on major anxiety. After my first child was born, my husband and I argued about taking vacations away. He wanted them and I didn’t. My feelings stemmed from a mixture of anxiety, hormones from breastfeeding, control freak tendencies and my own childhood memories when my mother took trips away.

***

On a side note, readers, please have patience for those people in your life who struggle leaving their children. Their decision to opt out of a weekend away is not about their friendship with you/ their love for their husband/ or the importance of the event, it is about them having the faith to leave their heart/the center of their life’s orbit in the care of someone else and trust that everything will be okay. They will be missed but not forgotten. This takes a lot of faith. Some parents understand that if they leave it will be fine and others need some time to figure this out.

***

As time passes, I realize the importance of taking mini vacations. I realize my most precious little people will thrive while I’m away. Most importantly, I want to be an example of a mother who is more than just a wife and mother. A mother who is a woman. A woman that likes to have fun. A multidimensional woman who values family, friendships, adventures, self-care and pursues her dreams.

***

“Mama, you’re going to a Bachelorwet party?” My three-year-old asks, her mispronunciation may be the cutest thing ever.

“Yep, a Bachelorette Party in Miami,” I chime. I’ve been anxious about this trip for several months, but as it approaches my excitement increases.

“What’s a Bachelorette Party?” The girls ask.

“It’s a party you have with your girlfriends before you get married.” I say.

“I want to have my Bachelorette Party in the jungle,” my five-year-old declares.

“Pretty cool,” I say. My mind races, I am pathetically nervous about this weekend:

  1. I haven’t seen my roommate from college in years (in which I became a mom to three kiddos) and I don’t know any of the other women joining her on this weekend.
  2. It has been a long time since I’ve been out after 10pm in Denver, let alone Miami.
  3. I am slightly intimidated by the other women on the trip. These women are successful, from New York City and Los Angeles – I think, clearly, cooler than a stay-at-home-mom from Denver.
  4. In situations where I don’t know anyone, I’m embarrassed to say, my husband has become my security blanket. I think this happens to a certain degree after nine years of marriage, especially for introverts who struggle to leave the couch.
  5. I have never left all three children.
  6. I could die in a plane crash. My husband would be left alone with three small children. I visualize him remarrying a beautiful young thirty-something (perhaps 20-something) immediately and my children calling her “mom” as I become a distant memory. For this highly paranoid reason, I haven’t taken solo flights away from my kids. FYI, I’m aware that there is a higher probability of me dying in a car than a plane crash, but for some reason air travel makes me paranoid. It would be very unhealthy if I was this anxious every time I got in the car.

***

The trip could have gone in a number of different ways, but in the end it was amazing.

I felt good. I went on a shopping spree, which was really a declaration of having possession of my body again –no more pregnancies or breastfeeding. I bought a couple of amazingly “hot Miami” dresses to wear out at night. I bought some bootie sandals like these –  seriously, they make any outfit.

I called my twin sister and told her that if I died in a plane crash, she would have to move to Colorado and tell my children stories about their real mom every day. She told me to “Shut-Up”, but promised she would in the case of my death.

I got on a plane with a small purse. (Other parents will recognize the miracle of this moment). I brought this book and finished listening to this Podcast.

I was ambitious. I packed this book and this book as back up, but I didn’t read either of them.

The afternoon I arrived I sat on the beach and ordered a fresh watermelon drink spiked with vodka and drank it in the sand.

I discovered there is such thing as a selfie stick. As someone who can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve taken a selfie, I came to appreciate the invention (you can take group photos of everyone without anyone stepping out of the picture) and now realize why other people’s selfies are way better than my own (it takes practice).

My beautiful friend from college and I caught up.

I met her amazing friends from New York City and Los Angeles. They seemed intimidating, but they are REAL and so much FUN. My husband can spend days with a group of men and come away with few personal details. Forty-eight hours with these women and we became friends, we listened to each other’s stories, took a break from our lives, shared and connected.

I realized Colorado girls have style too.

I didn’t talk about my kids. Okay, I shared a couple of pictures and funny stories.

I enjoyed hearing – “What, you have three kids? I can’t believe it.” It turns out I don’t have a MOM tattoo stamped on my forehead.

I appreciated and loved my husband from a far. He didn’t complain once about single parenting while I was away.

A five hour flight delay, I came home to freezing temps and a windshield of solid ice. Refreshed. Exhausted. Out of routine. Back to the grind. I ordered some new lipstick, which is always a good “Me” sign.

I See You

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Invisible – (def.) Unable to be seen.

As a child, I played a superhero game. If you could have any superpower what would it be? The choices included: invisibility, flying, superhuman strength, x-ray vision and many others. We chose our special power and argued why our power was the best. We told each other what we would do if we could fly, disappear or see through walls.

Now as an adult, I am struck by invisibility. The more I consider being invisible, it becomes clear that it is not a super power at all. As I observe the world, my people, my friends and myself, so much loneliness, violence and unhappiness stem from the noxious feeling of being unseen.

 *****

The baby screams, giant tears roll down his plum colored cheeks. His shrieks pierce the air. He won’t nurse. He won’t sleep. He won’t stop. His mother bounces up and down, jogging in place and holding him in her arms. Her tears join his.

“I see you,” she whispers. “You exist. I see you. I hear you. I love you.” Her endless bouncing creates a rhythm behind her words.

 *****

An elderly man sits hunched over on a park bench. He closes his eyes, tilting his face to the sun. He lives alone. Every day he circles the park and sits on this bench. This year more friends are dead than alive. His wife is dead. The pendulum of life shifting, as he navigates his closing chapters. A young man sits down beside him and asks him about his day. He waits for an answer. He listens to the old man’s story.

I see you.

*****

A cool autumn morning, a mother heaves a 40lb double stroller into the back of her dirty minivan while the baby sobs in his car seat. She attempts to slam the trunk and the stroller topples down on her leg. She swears. The baby cries. Tears fill her eyes. An older woman slowly walks a straggly mutt down the opposite sidewalk. The creak of her knees is almost audible. “A mother’s strength,” she marvels as she watches the bewildered young mother.

Her words are a gift.

I see you.

 *****

A doctor knocks on the door of her patient’s room. A woman sits on the reclined patient chair. Her legs stick to the tissue, separating her from the plastic seat. Her tired eyes scan the doctor’s face, anxious to hear the test results. The doctor sits down beside her. She asks her how she feels? The doctor listens and talks to the patient the way she would want a physician to talk to her or her family member. The results aren’t good. The patient’s eyes fill with tears. Her doctor grabs her hand. “I am so sorry,” she says.

She hugs her patient.

I see you.

*****

A woman walks through a busy mall. Tears distort her vision. Grief guts her. She feels invisible. A part of her is gone and will never return. She wonders about his last thoughts, words and feelings. A stranger approaches her and looks at the woman’s swollen red face. The stranger doesn’t cringe at the sight of snot streaming from her nose. “Can I help you?” The stranger asks, wrapping her arms around the adult who feels more like a child.

“He died,” the woman gasps.

“I am so sorry.” The stranger whispers and holds her crumpled body.

I see you.

 *****

Every day he works. Every day he leaves the house while his wife and children sleep, buried in stuffed animals and down comforters. He drives to the office. This man could be anyone. He types notes, sees patients, writes briefs, calls clients, bags groceries, builds houses, fixes pipes, answers phones and sells stocks. For years he gives 100% of himself to his job with no recognition.

The daily grind, is this what life is about? Will these be my days for the next 30 years? He thinks. He is drained. He feels like an invisible cog in the corporate machine.

Then his supervisor visits his office. “Wow, I’m impressed. The corporate office recognizes how hard you work. It’s impressive. What can we do for you?”

I see you.

*****

She sits on her couch. The children play on the floor. The house is a mess, half finished puzzles, broken crayons, papers cut into millions of odd shaped slices cover the hard wood floor. The baby nurses, sucking every last bit of energy out through her chest. Disappointment settles on her shoulders. She wanted the house to be clean before her husband got home. Dinner is not ready. Bills cover the dark granite counters. This is my job, she thinks, and today I failed.

Her husband walks in the door. He puts his coat and bag down on the counter stool.  He walks to his wife on the couch and kisses her head. “Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for working so hard today.” His words, a balm, lift the weight from her shoulders. “Let’s order pizza,” he says, cradling the phone in his hands.

I see you.

*****

A little girl sits on the pavement during recess. She picks up a piece of sidewalk chalk and draws a picture, right next to the four square court. Some girls in her class giggle, bolting by her in a streak of color. She loves to play but she doesn’t know how to join the group. She sits on the pavement, feeling invisible.

Then, a girl with short blonde hair approaches her. She wears a Star Wars t-shirt and pink pants. “Race me,” she shouts. The quiet girl on the pavement hesitates, but then jumps up and runs.

The challenge to race – a life raft for a lonely girl in a sea of children.

I see you.

*****

Recognition, empathy and connection, small acts that have the power to heal marriages, friendships, employee dissatisfaction and improve foreign policy. Everyone feels better when they are SEEN.  A little act that goes so far.

Oh, if we practiced SEEING each other – what a wonderful world it would be.

My Love/Hate Relationship with my Blog

I love blogging. I hate blogging. I vacillate between extremes. I don’t have any writer/blogger friends, so I don’t know if my love/hate relationship with blogging is normal, or a sign that maybe I’m not cut out for it.

Recently, Nina Badzin wrote a post “Wondering About Other Writers” in response to Kristen Ploetz’s post “Nine Things I Wonder About Other Writers”. Many other writers commented on these posts and others wrote responses on their own blogs. I found all the posts fascinating because I often wonder about other writers. What stuck out most prominently was that most of these writers have formed an online community of support. Her second question hit home. “How much of your “real life”  family and/or closest friends read your blog?” Many responded that most of their “real life” friends and family do not read their blogs regularly. I realized that I have not formed a wide audience online separate from my real life family and friends. Instead, I am the annoying person who publishes my posts on my personal Facebook page and begs real life friends to visit my website.

Oh, I have made so many cringe worthy missteps throughout the process of blogging. I may have committed every single blogging faux pas. I blindly entered this world and stumbled through the creation of my blog on wordpress. I didn’t think it through or map out what I wanted to write about. I named it denvermommy.wordpress.com (ughhh!!!) because I thought I might want to discuss parenting in Denver and it was the only moniker available. I sent embarrassing emails to bloggers I followed about whether or not I should create a blog (sorry Aiden Donnelly Rowley). I wrote embarrassing comments on other people’s blogs with links back to my pieces.  I read somewhere that that was how to build an audience (it’s not).  There were embarrassing typos. I shutter rereading my earlier posts.  I wish I could edit every one of them.

Oh, how I cringe. I was clueless and I still am for that matter.  For instance, I am publicly admitting all my prior blogging mistakes rather than playing it cool.

For anyone thinking of starting a blog, here are my thoughts, my likes, dislikes, things I wish I had known, and a tiny bit of advice.

What I love:

  • I love telling stories.
  • I love the writing practice. Truly, the more you write, the more you improve.
  • I love that I rediscovered my love of writing and storytelling.  As a stay-at-home mother, writing this blog keeps me sane.  I need a creative outlet, something outside of parenting small children.
  • I love having an audience.
  • I love the connections I make with random people. I receive emails from old friends and strangers, telling me that they appreciate my stories and they relate to my experience, highlighting the notion that none of us are alone on this parenting journey.  Our experiences feel unique, but they are pretty damn similar to other mothers around the world.
  • I love that I am getting published. It provides validation that my writing does not completely suck.
  • I love that I have received paid work opportunities, stemming directly and indirectly from this blog and literally putting myself out there.

What I dislike (hate is a strong word)

  • I dislike the self-promotion aspect of blogging. I want people to read what I write, but I hate publishing it on Facebook.  It’s a double edged sword, because if I don’t publish it on Facebook no one will visit my website and I want people to visit my blog.   I created Justine Solot Writer page, so I wouldn’t have to harass my friends and family, but I often still do.
  • I dislike caring whether the post gets any “likes” or “shares”. When I started blogging, I felt as if I returned to junior high school as the awkward unpopular kid. The good news is that I am beginning to care less.
  • I am an introverted person who thrives on connections. I am a sharer, but it sometimes feels uncomfortable writing about my life and sharing it with the world.
  • I dislike the blogging rules, perhaps I dislike the idea of following certain criteria to deem one’s blog successful.
    • Rule (1): At a minimum, one must publish posts each week.
      • I strive to write weekly, but I can’t find the time to keep up. Sometimes I am able too, which feels great, but then we all get sick and I don’t write for ages.
      • It is true that in order to create an audience one must post regularly. Each time I publish an essay I recruit a couple of new followers.
      • There is a balance, write, but do not write too much.
        • Some bloggers write multiple posts a week. I don’t know if they do this to gain followers, but it annoys me to receive several emails a week from the same blog.
    • Rule (2): One must visit as many other blogs as possible to obtain more followers. Again, this ties into feeling obligated to write weekly.
      • In order to court followers, you must comment on other blogs in hopes that those bloggers will visit your blog, comment, and follow you back.
      • Sometimes this happens, and sometimes it does not.
      • Visiting as many blogs as possible and commenting on everything feels disingenuous.
      • I love reading other writers’ blogs. In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of my free time perusing what other people write.
      • If you take the time to find them there are amazing writers all over the Internet, but it is hard to find them.
      • It is important to let other writers know that you are reading and appreciate their words. Initially, I read other’s work, but I didn’t always comment. Now, I realize the importance of voicing my appreciation.
        • My issue lies with bloggers that comment to comment and play the game of “I comment on your blog, so you comment on mine.” This feels uncomfortable to me.
        • On the other hand, it feels uncomfortable to comment on someone’s work and never ever have them visit your website.
    • Rules, rules, rules – there are so many rules that tell you how to obtain blogging success – i.e. certain days to publish, twitter, etc.  If I ever decide to get serious about blogging, I may need to look into these rules.  One day I may actually sign up for twitter. :)
  • I am beginning to dislike (feel uncomfortable) writing about my children.
    •  I write stories inspired by my life. Currently, my life revolves around my young children, so it follows that my stories are about my children. I feel fine writing funny stories about my baby and preschooler, but I am beginning to feel it’s inappropriate to write about my Kindergartener. “Mom, that’s embarrassing,” is a phrase that regularly comes from her mouth, regarding the music we listen to at school drop-off, her Dad’s Steelers jersey, and my show and tell suggestions. I think the frequent use of “that’s embarrassing” is a sign that I need to stop writing about her on my blog.
    • In 2015, I hope to explore more topics (writing, books, social issues, short stories, etc.)

Advice & Tidbits:

  1. Visit Nina Badzin’s Blog. She offers honest advice about creating a blog and her own experience developing her writing career. What is magnificent about Nina is there is no ego involved in her advice. She is not competitive about her writing and helping other aspiring writers out.
  2. Visit Beyond your Blog, a site that lists places to be published “beyond your blog”.  There are many other websites that offer writing advice.  I am a blogging novice, so I love to discover new ones.
  3. Sign up for Bloglovin. I learned about this from Nina. I follow blogs via Bloglovin and I get one daily email that contains new posts from all the blogs I follow. This way my inbox is not inundated with emails from numerous blogs. Also, since Facebook may not be sharing everyone’s posts, this is a great way to stay up to date without worrying about social media.
  4. Write weekly if possible. It gets you in a good rhythm and helps you build an audience. The more you write, the more you improve. In 2015, I strive to write more often.
  5. FYI, you won’t make money blogging unless you create the next Scary Mommy, Momastery, Dooce, or Enjoying the Small Things. However, you might make money from opportunities that arise as a result of your blog or writing.
  6. Do what feels comfortable, but also do what feels uncomfortable.  I sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing my writing on my blog.  However, writing publicly has been enormously rewarding.  To a certain extent, I feel as if I am realizing a dream.  I finally feel as if I am on the path to becoming a “real writer” and have concrete aspirations as to where I want my work to appear in the future.
  7. If you want to create a blog, then create one.  The blog will grow and morph with you.  You can’t let fear and failure prevent you from following a dream.  The blog isn’t my dream, but writing is, and a blog is a great stepping stone for those of us who dreamed of writing.
  8. If you want to be a writer, then start writing.
  9. Fake it until you make it, (and then confess how little you know publicly on your blog, oh, maybe that’s just me).

For my fellow bloggers, do you have any advice for those of us starting out?  Does anyone else have mixed feelings about blogging? Is my love/hate relationship normal?  How do you feel about sharing stories about your children?  Is it important to continue posting on your blog while trying to get published other places as well?

I am off on vacation, so I may not respond to comments right away, but I would love to hear what any readers think…

Sweet Baby James

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You are only one, but there is so much to say about you.

We contemplated whether or not to have a third baby. Did we have room for one more? Did we have the patience, the stamina, and the mental reserve to have three kids under five-years-old? We didn’t know if we did, but when I looked at family photographs, a part of me knew that someone was missing.

You were missing.

 ****

In April 2013, my dad died and one month later I discovered I was pregnant with you. It was a hard pregnancy. There was my grief. Then your dad tore his achilles tendon and could not drive or walk for two months. That fall, your dad lost his cousin and a childhood friend.  The doctor told me that each subsequent pregnancy feels harder on a woman’s body. My body hurt. Pregnant with two preschoolers and an injured husband, I was exhausted.

People often said, “Don’t worry third babies just go with the flow.” Pregnant with my third, I clung to this adage wholeheartedly.

In my head, I thought you would just roll with the punches. Your dad hoped you would be a garden gnome baby who would sit and sleep in your baby carrier and be toted to all of your sisters’ activities. We did not think to contemplate the alternative, which was the ultimate jinx.

Colic.

You screamed. You cried like a screeching car alarm, hardly breathing. You turned purple screaming. The color vanished from your lips.

The definition of colic is constant and inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week, for at least three months. The definition sounds nice compared to your screaming. You screamed all day every day for months. I dreamed of only three hours of crying.

You screamed at home. You screamed in the car. You screamed in the stroller when I walked your sisters into preschool. You screamed at the supermarket.

“Is he tired?”

”Is he hungry?”

“Does he need to be changed?”

“Is he cold?”

A chorus of suggestions from well meaning strangers followed me wherever I went.

When my four-year-old daughter’s teachers asked about her baby brother, she responded, “He cries a lot,” which may have been the understatement of the year.

Initially, I marveled at the patience of your two big sisters since your scream became the soundtrack of our lives.  We couldn’t hear ourselves think. I marveled at my husband’s patience. He would never have maintained his cool so well with our first baby.

We were all so patient, but then …

Your two-year-old sister lost her cool. As you screamed in your car seat, she put her hands over her ears and started crying and yelling at the top of her lungs, “BABY, STOP SCREAMING,” repeatedly on every drive.

The sheer noise level of our drives was mind altering.  This may have been the point where the rest of us lost our minds.  My hearing permanently diminished.

Was it reflux? We tried gripe water, Zantac, Prevacid, and Chamomile tea. I eliminated everything from my diet.

You cried. You screamed. You didn’t sleep. You were up every hour for months on end.

I worried that you would never smile. I prayed there was nothing wrong with you. Were you in physical pain? Was there something wrong with your brain or your nervous system?  Your screams pierced our psyches.

My spirit wilted. Were we going to be okay? Denial, I kept smiling.

At this point, there were a handful of people that were my saviors, your grandmothers, who were the only people I trusted to watch you as you screamed inconsolably, a couple of friends who listened empathetically, but most of all there was my twin sister.  She maintained my sanity.  I have never been so grateful for our relationship. She had a newborn as well, a daughter two months older than you. Every day I dropped my big girl at preschool and endured the stares as you shrieked in the stroller. I drove around in my minivan, talking to my sister on Bluetooth, as you endlessly shrieked in the back seat. She spent countless morning hours on the phone with me as I drove my screaming baby. She never told me she couldn’t hear me. She never complained. She never told me to call her back. She talked to me about life as you screeched inconsolably in our ears. This is love.

One conversation stands out.

“Having a third baby is not so bad.” I commented as I pulled out of my alley. “You should definitely have a third baby.”

“Justine, are you crazy?” she said. “I talk to you every day.  You may be the reason I never have a third child.  You can’t tell me what your doing is easy. I can’t stand it when my baby screams like that for five minutes. What you’re experiencing is so hard!” She acknowledged what I couldn’t say out loud.  Silly, but her words meant everything.

At two months, you smiled and the family breathed a collective sigh of relief. You laughed. Milestones came and time passed. The colic vanished with the size 2 baby diapers.  Colic became a distant memory.

****

Your beginning makes me think of an Edward Abbey quotation, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

You are the most amazing view.

You are joy, love, and enthusiasm. You stretch your arms and reach for everyone in the family – an equal opportunity spreader of love.

When I cradle you, you wrap your arms around my neck, pulling my face close to your soft cheek.

You give giant open mouth kisses to everyone in the family, sucking on our noses, cheeks, and mouths.

“This is hilarious,” your big sister giggles as you dive mouth first for her nose. (These kisses may have something to do with this being the worst cold season we have ever experienced).

Adored. We swoon in your presence.

You love your big sisters, but they may love you more. This Thanksgiving, the curmudgeony three-year-old proudly told her teachers that she was thankful for her baby brother.

We are all thankful for you.

You have zero personal space. Your two big sisters smother you with hugs whether you want them or not. They grab you, and you either laugh or you scream.

You don’t talk yet, but your desires are known. You watch me fix a snack for your sisters and you shriek loudly until the same snack is placed on your tray. I fill a glass of water and you scream because you are thirsty too.

You scream until your needs are met.

Meals are loud.

Life is loud.

You already know you must fight for what you want. Your three-year-old sister steals your toy and a guttural howl escapes your mouth. Your arm stretches to grab it back. This may be her favorite game, anything you like she takes instantly.

At six-months-old, you saw soccer balls in the grass and kicked your feet wildly with excitement. You chase balls around the house, pushing and throwing them and then crawling after them at rocket speed.

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Much to your dad’s joy, you sit in front of the basketball hoop outside and reach up with your arms to try to place the ball in the hoop.

You and Deets (our dog) are equally obsessed with tennis balls.

You started crawling at 7.5 months.

You are a lover of all things dangerous – stairs, toilets, sockets, and electrical chords.

You don’t know how to walk but you climb step stools and stand on your tippy toes to grab anything elicit from the counter.

You stand on your tiptoes and pull colored pencils off the girls’ art table.

You bump your head on the coffee table at least a thousand times a day. You don’t go around tables or chairs instead you go through them and are constantly stuck in chair legs, rungs, and sandwiched in between end tables and couches.

You see an open baby gate and throw your crawl into high gear in hopes that you make it to the stairs before me. We have started constructing giant barriers of beanbag chairs and toy baskets to block you off from dangerous areas of the house. You summit our manmade obstacles and we make them higher. Cru, our old Basset Hound, barks constantly at the barricades . Again, we are so loud.

The girls screamed angrily in their highchairs when the dogs ate crumbs from their laps. You giggle with delight when the dogs lick your feet.

“Hi,” you wave, so pleased with your ability to communicate. Your wave is an exaggerated opening and closing of the fingers. I say hi, and your fingers immediately respond. I tell you to say goodnight to your dad and sisters, and your fingers open and close dramatically.

You laugh hysterically at my jokes and funny sounds.

You have the hazel eyes of your namesake.

You have a one-year-old mullet of thin old man hair that makes us smile.

You are beautiful.

We survived your first year.  My last baby, every moment is nostalgic. Every milestone is as wonderful as those accomplished by your two big sisters. As I felt with them, you truly are the smartest, most coordinated, most loving, and most beautiful baby in the world.

How did we get so lucky three times?

You put giant smiles on all of our faces. Our hearts soar for you.

“My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” (Tom Robbins)

Three-Year-Old Wild Thing

“Santa is watching,” I tell my daughter who appears to be dangerously close to putting a large pot over her baby brother’s head.

“Oh no,” she cries, collapsing in a heap on the hardwood floors. She cries inconsolably, gasping for breath. “I am so naughty,” she wails. I sit down on the floor and wrap my arms around her body and give her a tight squeeze.

“It’s okay,” I whisper. “It’s not yet Christmas, you have time to be better,” I rub her back with my hand. My words are the opposite of soothing.

She bolts upright. “I CAN’T,” she screams. “I want to stop being naughty, but I can’t.” She is distraught and realizes that behaving is not a possible. “SANTA WILL NEVER BRING ME ANY PRESENTS,” real tears stream down her cheeks.

This is the seasonal variation of her wailing, “I want to be good, but I just CAN’T,” or “I want to stop crying, but my tears just won’t stop.”

*****

I walk into my daughter’s preschool classroom. I love picking my three-year-old up from school. Typically, she runs at me with open arms, yells “Mama” and grabs hold of my legs. I never get greetings like that. Today I walk into her classroom. My daughter is huddled in the corner behind a table. She looks up, sees me, and screams, “GO AWAY,” at the top of her lungs. These public greetings can be embarrassing. I approach her and her shrieks grow louder. She opens her mouth wide and ROARS.

“What are you doing? We’ve got to go.” I snap, kneeling down beside her. She holds a Ziploc baggy that contains a chocolate in her hands and like a wild animal she tears at it with her teeth.

“What are you doing?” I repeat, slightly horrified by her animalistic behavior.

“I want my treat,” she growls. The teacher told her she could not have a treat until she finished her healthy food. My daughter’s lunchbox sits full on the table.

“Maybe you shouldn’t put treats in her lunchbox,” her teacher suggests as we exit the classroom.

 ****

“MOM,” my baby howls. I glance at the clock, 2:30am, jump out of bed, and run to her room. “There are spiders,” she murmurs still half asleep. “Mommy snuggle,” she implores. I lie down in her bed, placing my head on a stuffed animal. I try to fall back to sleep. Moments later, she barks, “MOM SIT IN THE CHAIR!” She doesn’t want me to share her bed, the bratty child wants me to sit in the chair by her bed.

 Seriously? I think. Are you kidding me? Last time I climb in her bed.

****

The baby screams and instantaneously, she screams, “I didn’t do it.”

“What do you mean you didn’t do it?” I say. The three-year-old and the crying baby sit beside each other next to the steps.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Oh, I just bumped his chin against the stairs.” She answers innocently. “Is that bad?” Her grin is devilish.

This kid thinks she can get away with anything, and she probably can.  In the future, I just hope she uses her charm for good and not evil.

****

A professional family photo shoot at Wash Park, my wild child pops a squat in the middle of the very public field. There is no shame in her game.

****

We are at the playground, waiting for her big sister to get out of school. I push my wild child on the swing.

“Try pumping,” I say, she knows how to pump her legs, but she has no desire to do it on her own.

“DO OR DO NOT, THERE IS NO TRY,” she croaks in her best Yoda voice.

Okay, Yoda, you win. You may have the force on your side, but you are dangerously close to sliding to the Dark Side.
Solot summer 2014-9874

Photo credit: Julie Harris Photography

THANK YOU TEACHER

In the trenches of my daughter’s infancy, I dreamed about the independence of kindergarten.  Fast forward five years later, kindergarten snuck up on me. I began having nightmares about her being lost in the classroom, middle school, mean girls and more mean girls.  Terrified, anxious, and unsure were words that described my emotional state.  You can read about it here.

Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story, my daughter loves kindergarten.  This Thanksgiving I am thankful for her amazing kindergarten teacher who eased my worries .  Please check out my “Thank You Note” to her over on the Huffington Post.

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justine-solot/a-thank-you-note-to-my-daughters-kindergarten-teacher_b_6201260.html