Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Try to Cheer Me Up...I Dare You

I've been in sort of a funk for the past few days for no particular reason - woke up on the wrong side of the bed, got my panties in a wad, someone peed in my cheerios... take your pick.  Nothing monumentally bad happened - just normal life hiccups that normally don't bother me much.  I hit my head on the car door and actually cried.  While checking out at Walmart, I wanted to bop the lady in front of me for being so monumentally slow.  And, I about chunked a pack of tillapia fillets across the kitchen when I discovered they weren't yet defrosted.  I just seem less able to let the little stuff roll off my back.  And, Mom, for the record, I am getting enough sleep, I took some ibuprofen, and I don't think putting cold water on it is going to help.  I did go to yoga yesterday, which helped but only temporarily.  I really have no explanation for why, ever so often, I am just in a pissy mood.  I feel impatient and irritable, and I want to yell at everyone, especially in traffic.
Maybe it's hormones, or moon phases or my chakras are out of alignment.  Who knows?  But it's got me thinking about all those stupid motivational sayings, like "You choose your attitude," and that bullshit about how many muscles in your face it takes to frown versus smile.  It's not that I don't think you have to work at being in a good mood sometimes, and it's certainly true that no one wants to hang around with someone who's eternally negative.  BUT, aren't we all allowed to be in a bad mood from time to time?  AND, do I have to have a really good reason for it?  If you were never in a bad mood, would you even appreciate the times you feel fabulous?
Lately it seems that, as an American culture, we have started to expect ourselves to be happy all the time and have a good attitude about everything.  Because of this, for years, I felt guilty for being sad or depressed or angry.  Because of this, I'd often fight being in a bad mood, which ironically only made it worse.  I started to realize, that is really messed up!
It is human to feel bad sometimes, and it doesn't have to be because someone died.  It is normal to have an off day and  want to cry because you burned dinner sometimes.  So, to anyone reading this, I officially give you permission to be pissed off, depressed, irritated or sad.  Next time you feel that way, wallow in it for a while.  Let yourself really REALLY feel it.  Flop down on the bed and cry or stomp around the house slamming things, if you feel like it.  Give a really good, loud primal scream while you're sitting in traffic, if you need to.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Then, in a couple of hours or days, even, when you're feeling a bit better, go do something to cheer yourself up.  Take a bath, go running, have drinks with friends, or sit in the backyard on that nice, soft Saint Augustine grass and watch your kids play.  We all feel bad sometimes.  Don't dwell too much on why; just accept it, feel it, and when you're good and ready, get over it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making Time to Hold Hands

Never fear, Momma Files fans!  I didn't forget my pledge to write every week.  Jason and I got back from Cancun on Monday, and it's taken me until now to get to my blog, but here I am.  It was a great trip.  We were gone for four days.  It was for Jason's brother's wedding, and we had a blast.  It rained the first couple of days, but we had fun anyway.  And we spent every possible moment on the beach the next two sunny days.  It was funny how undisappointed (is that a word??) we were about the rain.  Yeah, I missed the beach at first, but one of the things I was looking forward to on this trip was reading and doing crossword puzzles without interruption - two great rainy day activities.  Jason and I managed to entertain each other with some more couple-oriented activities during the rain as well. 
It got me to thinking how my idea of vacation has changed, now that we have Jack.  When we go on vacation with Jack, we usually have a good time, but we come home feeling exhausted, like we need a vacation from our vacation.  All I want out of a weekend sans child is some "me" time, some couple time and some relaxation.  There are things you simply don't or can't do as much with your spouse when you have a kiddo.  I mean, yeah, Jack goes to bed at eight, but after that, we pretty much sit on the couch, have a glass of wine and veg out in front of the tv.  We talk about doing something more constructive with that time - playing a board game or getting some chores done, but without fail, we simply don't have the energy.  We might exchange a few funny or exasperating stories from the day, but we rarely talk about anything serious or even terribly interesting. 
When we go on vacation by ourselves, Jason and I have the chance to rest and spend our energy on each other.  We talked about Jack a lot, true, but we also discussed past vacations, told childhood stories and talked about things we want to do in the future.  We laughed and cussed and told dirty jokes without worrying about who was listening.  We actually finished conversations.  We held hands a lot, too.  I didn't even realize that we don't do that anymore.  When we're with Jack, one of us is always holding his hand or carrying him.  I forgot how sweet and reassuring it is to hold Jason's hand.
All this made me realize how important it is to make a point to stay connected to your spouse.  It's something that may happen naturally before you have kids, but with children, it definitely takes a concerted effort.  Whether it's making a point to kiss them and ask, "how was your day?" and actually listen to their response when they get home or going on a whole vacation, just the two of you, it is vitally important. 
I completely see how some people finally pack their kids off to college or wherever, and then look at each other like total strangers.  Your primary and ongoing twenty-four/seven task as parents is to raise your children, and it takes a ridiculous amount of time and energy.  It's hard to have any left for each other.  So, while having a goal to connect significantly and intimately on a daily basis may be unrealistic, I do finally understand why date nights are so important.  While it might seem you're doing the best for your kids when you spend all your time and energy on them, they do need to know that Mom and Dad are people, too.  I think we're actually setting a good example for Jack when we make time for ourselves and our marriage.  Aside from the fact that we can be better, more patient parents when we have a chance to recharge, some day Jack is going to be an adult.  And hopefully, he'll fall in love with someone he wants to commit himself to, and we will be his foremost example.  I hope he can look at mine and Jason's relationship and think, "I want to have what my parents have."  Even if he thinks we're crazy and rolls his eyes at us because we can't work the hologram function on our tv remote, he'll look at his parents and see love, friendship and something worth emulating.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ode to Two-Year-Olds (a.k.a. Isn't my son, Jack, great?)

I know my thousands of loyal followers all thought "wtf??" when I didn't post yesterday.  But don't worry Momma File fans, I am making up for it today.  Yesterday, unbeknownst to me, was no-nap Monday.  Jack neglected to inform me ahead of time, so I spent almost an hour in his room pretending to be asleep while he be-bopped around his bed.  "Eyes... nose..," he exclaimed while pointing to (and in some cases mushing) my facial features with nary a yawn in sight.  At 2:15, we gave up and left his room to play trains and have a snack.  I love my son, but I do really look forward to that hour nap, in which I get a few things done or just lie on my bed and read a book.  On no-nap days, it's a long stretch until 7:00, when Jason gets home.
I have to say, despite their nefarious reputation, I do love two-year-olds.  I love that Jack can actually ask for a snack and even tell me what he'd like to eat, instead of my trying to guess what his point-and-grunt strategy means.  I love that he can do things for himself, and I even love that he tries to do things himself that are well beyond his ability, like carry a full watering can across the porch.  I love that he doesn't mind spending some time playing by himself.  I really can't say I miss the shriek-every-time-Momma-leaves-the-room-for-two-seconds phase.  I love watching him immersed in his play.  He talks to his "guys" and cars completely unselfconsciously, describing what he's doing.
One of the greatest things about this stage is the explosion of language.  Jack overheard me telling a story to Jason last night, and the phrase he latched onto was "not paying attention" (my reference to another mother and her unsupervised hellion child at the playground.)  Jack happily marched around declaring, "pay tenten" for the rest of the evening.  Another funny language thing Jack does is refer to himself as "I-you,"  or sometimes just "you."  He also calls Jason and me, "me" at times.  You can see how this might happen.  It can be quite confusing for adults not privy to Jack's code.  If he wants to do something himself, he will yell loudly, "I-you!  I-you!"  at which point other adults will look at me quizzically.  I explain, "he wants to do it himself."  The other adults say, "oh," but still remain quizzical looking.
It's true Jack, like most two-year-olds, can be willful, frustrating and maddeningly stubborn.  It's hard not to lose my cool when I ask him to take his dinner plate to the kitchen, and instead he grins devilishly and takes off running and giggling towards the living room.  And I do tire of the routine in which Jack chooses to totally ignore a question I've asked him.  Here's how that ones goes:

Me:  Jack, do you want cheese or peanut butter for lunch?
Jack continues playing with his cars, as if I have not spoken.
Me:  Hellooo??  Cheese or peanut butter?
Jack:  Stares at me but says nothing.
Me:  Fine, peanut butter it is.
Jack (wailing):  No, no, no!  Cheese, cheese, CHEESE!!

Yes, it gets old.  But all in all, I love the little person he's turning into.  I love his blossoming imagination, and I love how the simplest things, like the garbage truck picking up our trash, are the highlights of his life.  I know this has turned into a bit of (as Simon Cowell would say) self-indulgent nonsense, as I babble on about how great my kid is.  Really though, two is one of my favorite ages in all children.  I try to soak up the little great moments, because as cliche as it is to say, it's true:  it all goes by so so fast.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grow Old Gracefully??

There was a commercial for a line of anti-aging cosmetics  when I was a kid that showed a model at the end saying, "Grow old gracefully?  I intend to fight it every step of the way."  Then, she flashed a gorgeous capped-tooth smile and with a swoosh of her hair, the commercial ended.  Being young, I rolled my eyes at it and wondered why people couldn't just relax and grow old.  I mean, it's a losing battle, right?  Why get your panties in a wad trying to fight it?  Besides, the whole idea seemed sort of vain to me (a very hypocritical thought coming from a thirteen-year-old.)
So now I'm 34 and the idea of anti-aging cosmetics doesn't seem so ridiculous.  I am abashed to admit, I own more than one tube of expensive goop aimed and reducing wrinkles and sun damage spots.  I do my research and try to make sure I'm not shelling out dollars for stuff that doesn't really work, but I still feel silly about it at times.  And, while the proto-wrinkles don't bother me (yet) I am a bit distressed by the dark spots - results of my sun-worshiping high school days.  What I wouldn't give to go back and tell myself to put on a little sunscreen for godsakes, not that I would have listened.
I've thought a lot about why it's so important to me and just about everyone else in the world to stay young-looking.  Part of it is simply that I have looked the same my whole adult life, and it is a bit distressing to see my familiar image in the mirror sporting unattractive changes.  Though I'm past caring very much what others think of my appearance, I still care about what I think.  After all, humans are innately aesthetic creatures.  That's why we hang art on our walls and put chotchkeys on our end tables.  We like to look at things...well, that we like to look at.  The same goes for the mirror.  Even if we're not out there in the dating scene still trying to attract a mate, we want to see something we like when we look in the mirror.
I think it's an exercise in futility to try to completely renounce our tendency to like pretty things, be it a vase on the dining room table or nail polish on toes.  We want to be attractive and young-looking because we have to be with ourselves all the time, because it's in our nature.  That being said, I do want to avoid an unhealthy obsession with staying young.  After all, I might win the battle in reducing my hyperpigmentation for now, but I will ultimately lose the war.  I will get old, I will get wrinkles and I will eventually not qualify for what our society views as "attractive."  So what's the point?  Why try?  Maybe it's just because I can't help myself.  I can't just sit there an watch those age spots get worse.  And really, what's wrong with wanting to look my best?  Why should I feel guilty or vain because I'd like to stay looking young as long as I can without resorting to an addiction to plastic surgery?  Am I really setting a bad example for my children if I dye my hair?  While I don't want my children to think there is something wrong with getting older, I also don't want to pretend I like my hair its natural color, either.  I want my children to learn to be true to themselves and also not to judge other people because they're naturally old and gray OR because they dye their hair and had a face lift.  I guess the bottom line is, I'm going to do my own thing - whatever feels right for now.  And the message to my children is, "I am who I am, and I'm not apologizing to anyone for it."