I’m looking for the Surgeon General. I’m determined to uncover who is this ambiguous being who has the authority to issue ominous warnings and rules on a whim, without ever checking with those it affects.
Surgeon General, we have a bone to pick.
Boruch Hashem, two weeks ago I gave birth to another little beautiful baby…boy! With the help and support of my dear friend Ep E. Dural, who always stands firmly and supportively at my side through each birth, (well, except at baby #3, which I still haven’t forgiven him for, but I will save that for another time!) I’m not a big fan of unnecessary pain, and I enjoyed every moment of the pain free labor and delivery, truly experiencing the wonder of it all.
And with the announcement of “It’s a boy!” I couldn’t stop my response from escaping, “Are you sure, can you check one more time?!”
They were sure, and I assumed that anyways, because by now I’m a tried and proven Mom of Boys. I’ve earned my title. What ten years and a band of boys have done to me is pretty wild. I can just imagine what another ten years will do…they’ll be walking on the ceiling, I’ll smile and wave and go back to what I was doing without even taking a picture.
So back to the Surgeon General … apparently the Surgeon General is not a mom…because this Surgeon General decided that it was best for new moms if they closed down the nursery in this particular group of hospitals and require all moms to room in with the new baby….huh?
If you’re one of those moms who prefer that, well, we don’t talk the same language. The best advice I ever received was before my first was born…a dear friend advised me; send the baby to the nursery for the night! For your good and the baby’s good! You will go home from the hospital well slept and you can catch up on your sleep deprived nights for months to come! Don’t feel guilty, you have to take care of yourself!
Yes, best advice ever.
I’ve gotten a good night sleep and come home a step ahead, not a sleep deprived mess.
Well, enter Surgeon General…with his new ideas.
Baby was born at 10:39 PM. By 1 AM, all quieted down and I was pretty exhausted. With the nurses finally giving me some peace and quiet, and the baby asleep in my room, I started drifting off…1:10 baby was up…fed him again, put him back in his little bassinet thing, laid back in the awkward hospital bed…1:40, he’s whimpering again…1:50 he’s back asleep, 2:20 he’s back in my arms…I adjust the bed, up and down, trying to find comfort and trying not to fall asleep while sitting up feeding the baby…after all, the nurses told me that the Surgeon General says not to fall asleep while sitting in bed holding the baby…yet another clue it’s not a mom, because falling asleep isn’t something a mom can control…
2:40 he’s back asleep…3:10 he’s whimpering…3:30 they need to check vitals…4:00 they need to clean the bathroom…4:10 he’s up…and I’m hitting the 24 hour mark of being awake…
Where is that Surgeon General?? You’re telling me this arrangement leaves moms well rested and more competent to take care of the baby upon arrival at home?!
At 5:00 am I call one of the friendly nurses and plead with her, please oh please can you watch my baby for a little so I can get some sleep…
And the nurses are so sweet and nice in this little small town hospital, and three hours of sleep is granted!
Ready to take on the day…of course, sleep while the baby sleeps…in between nurses coming in and out, doctors checking in….filling out paperwork, another cleaning crew to clean the bathroom, meals being served (my lonely kosher tray of a banana and an apple juice…it’s good my husband brought me some goodies of my own)…
And the day continues, with a total of 41 minutes nap time…And the night begins, I bemoan my tiredness to the visiting nurse of the hour, inquire about this know-it-all Surgeon General who obviously never slept in a room with a newborn or has never experienced interrupted sleep…11 PM we’re both asleep, 11:30 we’re both up, including the visiting nurse…12 AM we are both asleep, 12:20 we are both up..by 3 AM I call a nurse and she kindly takes the baby for 3 hours…and a total of 3 hours of sleep is under my belt.
If I find that Surgeon General…I’m already planning my lawsuit.
I leave the hospital more sleep deprived than I’ve been in 5 years.
No, Mr. Surgeon General, your plan did not work. Depriving new moms of their precious little sleep is not the way to send them home to start motherhood responsibilities in their best shape and form.
I’m not a first time mom-you can’t sell me a boat like that.
And all the articles I’ve read that nursing creates the same hormones the brain secretes during sleep or something like that, so really, you’re just as well rested whether you sleep or nurse all night…I don’t buy it.
I remember sitting bleary eyed in bed, nursing my oldest, wondering where that hormone was and what was wrong with me that I was so tired…
Nursing at night is tiring. It’s sleep depriving. No sugar coating it. It’s not easy. Period.
But I do it anyway. For as long as I can, so long as it isn’t affecting my daytime functioning as a mom. It’s part of the uniqueness and joy of motherhood. But let’s not pretend it’s not tiring!
And hence the reason a sleepful night right after childbirth is so dire; to me, it’s like refilling the fuel tank (which goes on empty after childbirth), and the full tank goes a long way.
So, dear Surgeon General, I will find you. And you have a lot of explaining to do.
I love reading Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I never subscribed to it, but for some reason they keep sending me the issues. I find that it’s a great place to get ideas that never work in real life. But I still enjoy looking at it; I enjoy seeing the colors, styles and decor of dream houses – that stay dreams.
And then there’s the practical tips page; the ones that promise you the easiest solutions to all your problems, guaranteed to work and fail proof.
I don’t know who writes them, but it’s certainly someone with little life experience.
Or someone who was never a mom.
So I was reading this must-try brilliant answer to all of life’s challenges, an easy way to get organized:
Post a dry erase board on the refrigerator and every time you remember something, run out of something or need something, just jot it down on the board and presto, at the end of the day your list is made and nothing is forgotten.
Great idea, no?
Well, I laughed out loud and couldn’t help imagining what would happen if I tried this in my house.
I’d start the day off with breakfast, and we’d run out of cheerios. I’d quickly jot it down on the whiteboard.
The kids get dressed, and I notice 5 year old has yet another pair of pants with ripped knees; I quickly jot down to buy more size 5 pants..
I remember I need to make dentist appointments, and I quickly jot it down.
Ran out of mayo, no problem, it’s already on the list.
More tissues. There it goes, onto the whiteboard.
No more trying to remember things; the white board is doing it for me!
Somewhere between supper and bedtime, one of my kids – don’t know if it’ll be 3, 5, or 7 year old, will notice the whiteboard. And the dry erase marker.
And there are fewer things more tempting to little hands than a dry erase board. I’d say it comes in at a tie to a Sharpie marker.
And in one little swift giggly move, gone would be my list. And the contents of my brain. And a whole days work. With no way of ever getting it back. And in it’s place would be some indecipherable modern art drawing, probably with Sharpies.
Yes, dear dry erase board and brilliant ideas writer in Better Homes and Gardens, please put a disclaimer with such ideas that for reasons of sanity, not to try it at home until the kids are married and have moved out.
Which reminds me of an important rule I follow when it comes to filtering all advice, especially the unsolicited type:
Not all advice is good advice, and not all good advice is good advice for everyone.
For me, my Little Yellow Notepad works. For some it’s Post It notes or a spiral notebook. Good old fashion ink-on-paper.
And even if little hands get hold of it and try to destroy any level of organization I’ve worked so hard on establishing, I can always get on my hands and knees, collect all the bits and pieces and tape them back together.
Trust me it works; I’ve tried it.
What is it with us moms that we never tire of hearing about other people’s kids’ crazy antics? There’s such a thrill and satisfaction in seeing someone else’s house covered in flour, marker on someone else’s white couch or even just toys strewn across the floor from wall to wall.
I can look at photos of such stuff and listen to people talk about it for hours on end.
And I know I’m not the only one!
And the truth is, I think I know why.
Because it validates me. Of course I know it can’t just be my kids and my house; but there’s nothing like seeing it to feel comforted.
And so hence the obsession.
Somethings are funny only when it’s not my own kids.
The other day I was at an event with some of my kids.
I was talking with some people near the food table, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the table lifting upwards slightly. As a mom, that didn’t startle me. That’s a normal thing.
But I was sure I knew who was under the table, making it happen, and I could feel the annoyance at my kids rising for hiding under the table.
Ready to call my sons’ names and demand they come out, two little heads popped out from under the table.
And miracle of miracles, they did not belong to my family!
The annoyance was gone.
Actually, I thought it was funny. Cute. Whatever. It really wasn’t a big deal, didn’t disturb me in the slightest and totally didn’t matter.
But more than that, I was amazed. Where did the annoyance go? How’d that happen so quickly??
Why, if it was my own kids, would it bother me so greatly? And why, when I discovered I wasn’t related to the culprits, did I barely give it a second thought?
I filed that image in my mental mommy files, one to keep in mind when my kids are up to something like that the next time – other kids do that too. It’s OK!
And that goes back to the obsession; we so enjoy seeing other kids doing stuff like that.
Yesterday was a good example of a day that would have been funny if I was with someone else’s kids. It was Wednesday, the no school day. It’s the day of the week that the four younger ones are home with me. And it’s always an action packed day.
7 and 5 year old found a wilting lulav branch in the garage; after fighting over it for ten minutes or so, they went out to the backyard to play some game that I decided not to see. But the winner of the game was apparently the neighbor, because that’s the backyard the lulav branch ended up landing in.
Great, just what I needed. Another reason for the neighbor to be annoyed at us.
Off they went, back to the garage, hunting for something else.
In they came with a big grin and a bottle of diet coke they had found hiding in the garage fridge, that one of our guests had left behind. They were ready to make a L’chaim and enjoy it, but I crashed the party and poured it out.
Back they went, looking for some more stuff.
And on it went.
They went to play in the backyard again; I had to make supper, it was getting late and we had to get to swimming lessons.
And then one year old came walking in, looking a lot dirtier than when he had gone out. The firepit and all its ashes had been “sprinkled” on him…
Pretty funny, if it was someone else’s kids.
And back to trying to finish up my quick dinner; but this time with the helpers indoors. And the salt contents poured on the floor once again, in a nice neat mountain.
And the love-hate relationship I had with the water dispenser on the kitchen door…well at that moment it was all hate, with ice shooting across the kitchen.
And three year old gave himself a nice beard with the new markers, a combination or orange and brown. To match the colors of his arms.
Five year old was pretty proud of his red marker “nail polish.”
And I noticed they moved their tic-tac-toe game to the couch, and I mean literally to the couch. There on the armrest was a nice tic-tac-toe board, that I hoped would come off with a clorox wipe. But I had no time to allow myself to be annoyed.
We had to get to swimming lessons – so off we went.
Three year old with a multi colored beard, and 1 year old looking like he came through the chimney..
Only after arriving, did I notice that no one had bothered taking their shoes with them.
And they were all as happy as can be.
And I used all my effort to imagine that this crew of adorable little wreckers were someone else’s kids, because then I’m sure, at that moment, I’d be happy too.
I’ve never skateboarded in my life. And truth be told, I probably never will. I’m a very feet-on-ground person, as opposed to a feet-on-wood-with-wheels type. But this avid skateboarder was explaining to me the simple technique of skateboarding; you just ride it out. So if you’re going down a steep incline and you feel out of control, you just ride it out, let the skateboard do the driving.
I couldn’t help but envision myself zooming down some slope, screaming and flailing my arms and jumping overboard half way down. Like I said, it’s not my type of thing.
But that line kept repeating itself in my mind; it’s so simple, you just ride it out.
Because it’s so similar to parenting.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the tantrums and chaos of the moment when living amongst kids. There’s always something going on, unless they are all asleep. And it’s so easy to lose myself in the details; and it doesn’t end. It doesn’t solve the tantrum. It doesn’t solve the chaos, the cries or the havoc. It only fuels it; the more negotiating and threats, the more the havoc rages.
Because when I stop to think about it, the solution really is; just ride it out.
Ride out the tantrums. Ride out the brawls. Right out the chaos. Without getting caught up in the details.
Like this morning.
My husband does the early-early shift at 6am. I take the late morning shift, at the not-as-early-but-still-early time of 7:30am. But being that my bedroom is above the kitchen, I can hear lots of the morning fun. But that’s ok, because I don’t have to deal with it.
So at 6:50 there was my five year old crying at the top of his lungs that he wanted the curly spoon.
I knew exactly what was going on. My set of cutlery comes with a small spoon with indentations; I honestly have no idea what it is for. But I do know that somewhere along the lines one of the kids named it the curly spoon, and I also know it’s accountable for many morning tantrums in my house.
And there it was; 3 year old was using it, five year old wanted it and all I heard was the repetitive ear splitting cries of “I want the curly spoon!”
And on it went. I heard my husband calmly tell the boys to work out how to take turns. Five year old wouldn’t hear of it. His idea of dealing with it was to whack three year old. Well, curly spoon became three year old’s breakfast spoon.
And five year old kept crying.
And I knew there was only way this tantrum would end; ride it out.
And so I listened from the safety of my bed.
My husband calmly reminded him he can use it next, but he had to wait. And continued on with his morning stuff.
And the crying continued.
It took a while. But no threats and no long-winded rationalizing conversations. That would have been like jumping off the skateboard mid ride. There was nothing rational to discuss, nothing of sense to be explained.
And so my husband was just riding it out.
And then three year old brightly said, “I’m done, you’re turn!” and five year old happily started his cereal.
Just like that, the havoc was over (till the next incident…).
When I got downstairs at 7:30, you’d never know anyone had an unhappy start for the morning.
My initial instinct was; I am throwing that curly spoon in the garbage! Now! It’s caused enough chaos in this house!
But the truth is, that wouldn’t solve it. They’d find something else to fight over.
The main thing was how to deal with it.
It IS like skateboarding; sometimes the only way to deal with the situation is by riding it out.
“What grade is he in?”
Oh no, not that conversation again!
I answer while trying to hide my impatience, knowing the next question coming from this fellow mom.
“Really? How old is he?”
Do I need to really answer? Do you really care how old he is? But I’m too polite, I casually answer anyway.
“How can that be, isn’t he too young for that grade? Why did you push him up?”
I smile sweetly, not reflecting my annoyance.
No, he obviously is not too young, or the school wouldn’t allow him in that class. Like I said, does it bother you?!
And I marvel once again at a familiar mommy trait that surfaces so often amongst well-meaning moms when in conversation.
We get uptight when we hear that someone else’s child appears to be “ahead” of ours. A grade ahead, a subject ahead, even a shoe size ahead.
You name it, despite that fact that it’s so irrelevant, it pushes that mommy-alert button. And we take it as our mission to share some unsolicited advice of why our fellow mom should doubt her decision.
See, my son is one of the younger ones in his class, second to youngest to be precise. Considering the not-so-typical schooling he had, with kids that were not his age, he learnt different skills at a different rate than if he was in a plain old boring typical school. That, together with his extremely sharp, energetic and quick mind, made the decision which grade to put him in all the more critical. Some kids will just go with the flow wherever they are. And some kids won’t.
So it was a choice between being the oldest of one grade or youngest of the other.
It was a choice between keeping him challenged and on his toes and or make him suffer in boredom, relearning skills and material he knew and therefore he’d drive his teacher crazy.
It was a decision for the parents, namely myself and my husband, who know our dear son the very best, to decide.
And each option had pros and cons. It was not simple. But one side eventually outweighed the other, and we made our decision. He would do much better as the youngest of the class, where he would be challenged.
One thing I hadn’t counted on, however, was the abundance of self doubt that would be induced by so many well meaning moms!
I know, I have been the receiver of the above conversation more times than I can count. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being made to doubt my own decision. The panic. The worry.
Am I ruining my child?
Help, what if this will destroy his self esteem?
What if I’m ruining his chances of success in life?
The what-ifs are endless!
But I’ve learned how to fight the self doubt.
See, it’s pretty simple.
I’m the mom. My husband is the dad. We know our kids best. And until someone lives with someone else’s children, they’re really not qualified to give an opinion.
It’s a big responsibility to decide where to place your child; some schools offer no flexibility, Some schools do offer options; like the schools my kids attend. And so I need to trust myself.
I’ve met some moms who are adamant that they’re kid should be the oldest in the class; kind of gives the kid the upper hand over the rest of the class.
And that’s where I get to exercise my commitment of not judging other moms’ decisions, because I strongly disagree with that sentiment!
Personally, my opinion is, someone has to be the oldest and someone has to be the youngest. So that’s not the most important factor in my decisions.
I prefer to consider their social skills, their nature, how they are stimulated and how they are challenged.
And so when the conversation starts up again and I say, “Yes, he is one of the younger kids in the class,” I take a deep breath to remind myself firmly; I’m the mother, I know my kid best.
And I make a mental note of a golden mommy rule; no one appreciates unsolicited advice about their kids. And even more importantly, don’t ever judge another mom’s decisions.
So to all my fellow moms out there making these decisions, listen up; you can find professional advice advocating both sides. You can get opinions from everyone down to the bus driver and the mailman. Why, you can even ask the wonderful wide world of Facebook and get to hear from every and any non professional in the region! There’s no end to the options!
But will it help make a decision? Or just make you doubt your gut feeling?
Forget the professionals; use your motherly instincts.
You know your kid best. Despite what other moms will tell you.
It’s been a long writing break; I’ve been busy. Busy making menus.
It all starts with Rosh Hashanah – time to get those menus together!
I start browsing cookbooks and Facebook groups for the newest, most exciting recipes.
Pomegranate fig salad; Carrot leek tartlets; Honey crusted apple something or other.
The options are endless, but I make sure to stick to my golden rules; only try recipes with ingredients I recognize and names I know how to pronounce.
That usually saves me from shopping at 8 different stores to find ingredients and then using every bowl in the kitchen to assemble a 15 step recipe.
Pies and creams, yes. Tortes, pavlova, ganache, no.
I finalize and get to work; 6 meals, 12 side dishes, 18 salads. And even though the first meal is for 65 people, that still doesnt faze me…I’m full steam ahead! I have one day at home with just me and the sleeping 18 month old – I cram a weeks worth of work into a few hours.
I’m feeling smug – I’ve got it all down pat. Never mind the 35 lbs of Challah in the freezer that I made two weeks ago. This Tishrei is going to be a cinch!
Great desserts, creative tasty sides, not too unhealthy desserts… Meal 1…meal 2…meal 5…
Funny how the food is looking less appetizing, the tantalizing sides less appealing….and meal 6 at last. I barely finish my plate and eye the cereal and milk hungrily.
I don’t want to see chicken and meat, no matter how well disguised, for a long time.
Not more than a day or two later, it’s menu time again.
Yom Kippur. 2 pre fast meals. 1 break fast for 50. Help. Do we really need to serve food? I push it off another day…and then face the cookbooks. Time to keep it simple. Things that don’t need much advance prep. Yom Kippur comes and passes. By the time the break fast arrives, what do you know, the appetite is back.
And so is the ambition. Succos menus, here we come!! 18 salads, 12 sides, 6 mains. I’m not quite as creative as pre Rosh Hashana mode, but definitely better than pre Yom Kippur. Only ingredients I can pronounce. Only names of recipes that are easy to identify. I’m satisfied with the results and ready to get to work.
Another few intense hours that all the kids are out, and I work without taking a moment to breathe, once again patting myself on the back for the many Challahs in the freezer (which I am in denial about the dwindling supply…)
Meal 1, nice salads, some new recipes. Meal 2…meal 3….meal 4…let’s skip the salads and just eat main dishes…meal 5….lets skip the mains and just eat the salads….meal 6…let’s just have tuna sandwiches…I don’t want to see this food anymore!
Chol Hamoed. A break at last.
What, we need to eat supper on Chol Hamoed too??
Hot dogs will do. Pizza (home made, but still a good change) the next night. The kids are thrilled and so am I!
And then I face reality; the challah supply is gone. Gone!
I roll up my sleeves, and this time with a kitchen full of little underfoot helpers, we bake challah. I begrudgingly pull out my dear, trusty Bosch mixer…and we get to work.
Well, I get to work while the kids are undoing my work. I take out the sugar. I turn around and it’s gone. 3 year old walked off with it. I take out the salt, turn around and it’s gone. Five year old is hiding in a corner with it. Newly walking climbing 18 month old is sitting as a centerpiece on the dining room table, center stage, waiting for mommy to flip out and take him off. One of his favorite games. I run to relocate him, at the cost of the flour disappearing. This is nooooot working.
I work on fast forward, safeguarding my ingredients and getting the dough done.
And then it’s time to face the real fun…no, it can’t be…there must be a mistake…
It’s time to make menus!!
I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.
Who can think of food? Who wants to think of food??
And yes, I think of all those oh-so-smart Yom Tov advice giver people who give such great tips like – whatever you make, make double or triple of and freeze….fill your freezer….
Who has time to double, triple recipes and fill the freezer when there’s barely enough time to get today’s to do list done!
It’s inevitable…I gotta get working. More chicken and meat.
I’m even sick of pastry dough. How many different foods can you hide in pastry dough!?
So I bake some cakes and tell the kids we’ll just eat cake for each meal.
I go back to the basics. The regular recipes. the ones that are so simple they don’t even have a descriptive title.
Like chicken. Potatoes. String beans.
And meal 1 comes…meal 2…meal 3…
Now that I’m not spending so much time obsessing over foods, I can actually think about the holidays.
And I realize it’s almost done. Where have 21 holiday meals gone??
Meal 4…meal 5…and meal 6 rolls around, to the tune of more chicken and gefilte fish.
And what a beautiful month it was.
And I can’t wait to have cereal and milk for supper tomorrow night.
His eyes were gleaming.
“I entered the raffle for the Ipad! I can’t wait to win!”
I tried to share my 9 year old’s naive enthusiasm, but it wasn’t working.
Uh oh, I don’t want him to be disappointed when he doesn’t win. What’s the chances of winning anyway? I better help him realize he might not win.
“You think you’ll win?” I ask causally.
“Of course I’ll win. I just don’t know if I’ll keep it, or sell it. If I sell it, there’s so many things I can do with the money!” And he starts listing the endless options of what he can buy..rrI’m already seeing the disappointment when he doesn’t win, and it’s too painful.
What was that article I read about helping kids deal with disappointment…5 Things Every Parent Must Know To Help Their Child Succeed…right, I better start now.
“Well, you know, alot of people entered the raffle, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win.”
I see the gleam leaving his eyes…
Oh no, I’ve taken away his enthusiasm, help!
What was it that I read the other day in that other parenting article…Building Enthusiasm is Building the Future, right, help them build their enthusiasm.
“Well, don’t worry, you still have a good chance at winning, I’m sure you can win. It’s definitely possible!”
The gleam is back; he’s making his wish list of what apps he’ll download.
Uh oh, but he might not win. And even if he does, he certainly is not downloading whatever app he wants…not every app on there is made for kids!
What was it I read in that other parenting article…What Every Mom Needs to Know About Their Child’s Independence…Right, give independence but keep your authority.
“Y’know, even if you win, you can’t just download every app you want. We’d have to discuss it before you download it.” A look of disappointment crosses my son’s face.
Now I’ve taken away his confidence! That didn’t go right; he needs to feel a sense of control! What was that article I read the other week…right, Don’t Make the Control Mistake, give your child a chance to assert his authority, let him feel like he has some control so he can make better choices.
“Oh, of course, you can make some choices. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to choose some of the apps.” Phew, I see the relief wash over his face. Now he’s back to the different selling options. If he can sell it for double the price, he can really make a lot of profit…
Oh no, what was it I read in that other parenting article the other week, The Five Rules of How to Prepare Your Child for the Real World. Right, kids need to understand that there’s acceptable and unacceptable; you can’t just name the price or do something outrageous. I better stop him before he gets hit hard with disappointment in the real world. And so I try again.
“Well, you might want to sell it, but who says someone will buy it? And if the price is too high, no one will be interested…”The disappointment is back, I can see it on his face. The enthusiasm is nowhere to be seen.
Grrr, I ruined it again! This not working out like any of those brilliant articles!! Why do those things always work like a charm on paper, and in real life, the conversations just don’t work like that!!
I’m ready to start in again, another recent article coming to mind…
And then I stop. My head is spinning, and I have a feeling my son feels the same.
What am I doing? Who says I need to answer everything?
Forget the millions of articles, just listen. All he wants is for you to listen!
I take a deep breath. I’m determined to get it right.
“So you’d be really happy if you won, right?”
And just like that, his enthusiasm, naivete, excitement and entrepreneurship is back.
He’s talking a mile a minute. I can see his little mind spinning with new ideas, new hopes, new dreams.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
I almost ruined it.
He’ll learn. He’ll learn disappointment and achievement. He’ll learn winning and losing.
And sometimes I know it’ll be painful for me to witness, but I will do the one thing those many articles forget to emphasize.
I will listen.
Keep my mouth closed, and just listen.
Truthfully, that’s the best thing a mom can give.