How to make a princess tiara, if your daughter hates things pressing on her head and you kinda hate the whole PRINCESS thing

We knew this day would come some day. Z finally discovered princesses.

That's the trouble with playdates. In fact socialization in ALL FORMS is to blame, I'm sure. Maybe we were better off with no friends. (Okay, not really.)

Whatever. I knew we couldn't fight the tulle tide forever. The princess phase can't be that bad, can it?

(Don't answer that.)

After her initial exposure to the dangerous Disney-fied agents known as The Princesses (TM), Z started asking to use her birthday crown for dress-up purposes. Which I don't allow, as it would no doubt ruin the crown rather than treat it in a way befitting all my time and effort.

So. There are a ton of cheap tiara type things out there, but most are of the plastic/metal/sharp/pointy variety. Problem is, my girl hates sharp pointy things and can barely tolerate barrettes in her hair, let alone trying to put scratchy metal teeth into her sensitive scalp. So I set out to make an easy, soft princess crown/tiara. (Which does a princess wear: a crown or a tiara? Excuse me, teacher, if I do not have the appropriate vocabulary for a princess phase, am I excused?)

(No? Okay, fine.)

1. Start with something soft and squishy, preferably something that's meant to be worn on a head. It's nice to find something in your child's favorite color. Cheap is good. So is dorky, apparently.

A 50 cent visor from the craft store never looked quite so dorky before, which is saying something.

2. Turn it upside down and have a flash of brilliance.

BRILLIANCE, I tell you.

3. Assemble scissors (or craft appropriate knife-like item), glittery things, craft glue and newspaper (to serve as a melty pacifier for your youngest youngen', to smudge newsprint all over your fingertips and to which you'll permanently adhere your fingers).
4. Inform three year old of the impending tiara creation. Allow time for the inevitable, LITERAL bouncing off walls with excitement.
5. Twist out the plastic coil, lay visor flat and cut into a tiara/crown-like shape of your choice.
6. Consult three year old about the design of glittery bling.
7. Spend the next 20 minutes implementing this design yourself while your three year old refuses to help, preferring to bounce around the room and spill the tiny glittery bits all over the floor because she doesn't like to get glue on her hands even though you insist she won't get glue on her hands.
8. Get glue all over your hands.
9. Stop part way through because your three year old is too excited about it to wait and MUST WEAR NOW.

10. Finish glittery design once three year old calms down.
11. Watch as three year old makes everyone wear it. EVERYONE. (No, not even the dog was spared, though she didn't last long enough for pictures).


Open heart, locked toilet

When Z was a baby and toddler, I distinctly remember looking at baby-gear catalogs and wondering Who could possibly need all these baby-proofing things? Door knob covers? Toilet locks?

I mean, I am a bit of a Nervous Nelly but aren't toilet locks a little... paranoid? Are these parents hanging out in their bathrooms, dropping their kids' favorite toys into the toilet or something?

I had read the experts and formed opinions based on what they said and on what my somewhat sensitive but physically mellow baby did. By the end of her first year, a potent mixture of cluelessness and fear and ego prevailed: I was pretty sure I had it all figured out and I tried really hard not to judge other moms too much when I saw them wrangle kids with very different behaviors.

One of the best parts about having two kids is how much it has opened me up, in my heart, in my head. For me, having one kid closed me, more than a little bit. With just Z tucked under my arm, I was MORE clingy and MORE clutch-y to my ideas, my information, my opinions. In a small, judge-y recess of my brain, I thought surely, if they had just applied my tested and expert-approved methods, their kid would act like my kid, right?

I needed my opinions to be TRUE.

I knew every child was different, on an intellectual level. But when faced with a kid behaving in a completely new way, I sometimes had to remind myself of it.

Now, I GET it. I really, really get it.

E is so different from Z. SO. DIFFERENT. CG and I know a few things this time around that we learned with Z and applied to E. But mostly, we're swimming in new waters UPSTREAM every day. And it never fails to shock me, how our DNA could combine twice and make such different little people.

Z was delayed in her gross motor skills and didn't really ever crawl, while E has been crawling up a storm since she was 6 months old. How much of this difference is because Z was my first baby and I spent endless hours sitting by her, reading to her, playing with her and with E, I took the advice of everyone who said "Ignore the baby, pay attention to the toddler because the baby won't know the difference"? Was Z born more sedentary or was her inactivity due to the fact that she didn't need to go very far for entertainment and attention as it (ME) always came to her (and rarely left)? E may be more adventurous, more stimulation-seeking by nature but, as I realized after her little adventure last week, she may also go in search of attention and entertainment because it so infrequently comes to her. When Z was an only child, my world revolved around her. With E, I'm always trying to stash her somewhere so that I can get things done.

It suddenly hit me this weekend, as CG took Z to visit her aunt and uncle for two days. Several times over the last two days, I spent whole hours sitting on the floor with E, just sitting there, reading books, rolling balls, stacking blocks.

I couldn't remember if I'd ever done that with E. EVER.

And then, I watched E crawl away from me, toward the pointy corners and electric cords, with her pterodactyl screech and a gleeful grin over her shoulder: you watchin' me, Mom? She is thrilled when I come running to take something out of her mouth, move her away from an edge. It isn't so much that she wants to get away from me.

She wants me to run toward her.

She wants my attention.


To get back to my earlier question: were these other parents hanging out in bathrooms dropping their kid's favorite toys into the toilet?

No. They are busy, plopping their babies on the bathroom floor while they peed and washed their hands, turning their backs for ONE SECOND to find that their beloved child, the one who is surrounded by beautiful toys made from virgin, organic, free-range alpaca wool, the one who is ready for adventure by nature, has silently crawled 10 feet and opened the toilet lid to plunge her fingers into the swirling water while gumming the toilet seat.

(Oh, E, she loves those toilet seats.)

If Z made me into a self-proclaimed, in-my-own-head-only expert on child rearing, E has made me into a true beginner. That zen 'beginners mind' stuff? RIGHT HERE, BABY.

So, who could possibly need toilet locks?

Us, that's who.


Last class

Yesterday was Z's last ballet class of the session, which meant parents could come in and watch the last half of class.

We were so excited, she was so excited.

We were so proud, she was so proud.

CG took the afternoon off of work to come and see her. Watching her reach for his hand after she had crossed the floor, we both knew how much it meant to her to have him there.

My mom always said that when she watched me dance, I was the only one on the stage.

That was how I felt yesterday.


Momsomnia v. 268

That I can't sleep tonight isn't surprising really, given what I see when I close my eyes.

It's a nightmare, except it really happened today, so in addition to the terrifying visuals I have the added benefit of true guilt and real fear.

I am in front of the open oven, hands grasping two foil-wrapped sweet potatoes for dinner. I had placed E by the sofa, 10 yards away, surrounded by toys but I can hear that she is at the gate that blocks the stairs to the basement, as there is the telltale rattle of metal on metal. I am relieved that she is far away from the hot oven. She is safe and I am almost done.

She is safe.

Then I hear a strange sound from E. Grunting, definitely. Scared, maybe.

Just a little too far away.

I run for the gate. Which is open.

I look down the stairs and there she is, 6 steps down, crawling toward her big sister who is singing and drawing at my desk in the basement, out of sight.

I gasp or shriek or choke, I'm not sure which, maybe all three. At the sound, she looks back toward me and begins to fall. It's a tumble for the first step, then a flailing log roll, sideways down the next 6 or so steps to the bottom. She picks up speed as she goes, of course, as do I.

At the bottom now, we're both screaming. I grab her, clutch her to me and instinctively run to Z. Circle the wagons.

I tremble and shriek some more, until the real tears come. Then I stare at E, her pupils, her limbs, looking for signs of harm. She stops crying quickly and lunges for the pointy tip of the yellow pencil in Z's hand, then the floor. Time to crawl some more.

I call the pediatrician. I call CG. The nurse says all the things I already know: You're lucky the stairs are carpeted. No loss of consciousness is good. Check her pupils, watch for vomiting, sleepiness, changes in behavior. She's resilient. She's probably fine. Stay put. CG comes right home, takes me in his arms, appears not to hate me for breaking the first rule of motherdom: Do not break the baby.

I thought I closed the gate.
I must not have latched it.
It was just a minute.

She was already half way down the stairs.

There's dinner to make and an evening appointment for CG to keep and I limp through the usual dinnertime insanity, keeping a wary eye on E all the while. E keeps crawling toward the gate at the top of the basement stairs and rattling it. Rattling me.

At the end of dinner, E starts rubbing her eyes and I breathe in sharply. DANGER! SLEEPINESS!

CG touches my back and says gently, because he knows me and he's kind: It's her bedtime. She's just tired.

I nurse her, crying, stroking her face and her hair. I place her in her crib, apologize one last time and wish I had prayers to say to protect her.

I wish I could flash forward to tomorrow morning when she wakes up and crawls to the baby gates to rattle them some more and show me she's okay, she's tough, she's ready for more adventures.

I wish I could flash back to putting the sweet potatoes in the oven and make it not happen, at least check that freaking gate.

(Here's where you tell me all about how you, or your child, or your Rhodes Scholar, All-American brother fell down 50 flights of stairs as a kid and is perfectly fine.)

(Now that I've exorcised that, maybe I'll be able to sleep. Maybe?)


For me, everything stiffens with age

Things get out of whack. The baby's not taking her third nap all the time. The preschooler is fighting bedtime, with endless pleas for water, indiscriminate whining and "I don't know how to close my eyes".

It takes a while for me to figure this out. I cling to my old schedule. But it was working so well, these past few months! That last phrase is my first clue. It's been months since a change in schedule. I'm attached. The kids are moving on.

So we take a look at our schedule with fresh eyes. We cut out the baby's third nap entirely. We make the preschooler's dinner and bedtime earlier and cut back on desserts and sweets in general. Our whole afternoon is rejiggered and I stumble around for the first week trying to figure out how to make dinner and keep the baby awake and happy and get the bedtimes moving quicker and after a few weeks.....SUCCESS! LOOKIEME! I BE FLEXIBLE! Only two naps a day FOR SURE and a much happier baby. The preschooler stops whining at bedtime and goes happily to sleep without any labored demonstrations about how one moves one's own eyelids so as to facilitate that RUMORED thing they call SLEEP.

And it goes on working in that way for weeks, months.

*Big pat on my own VERY FLEXIBLE (if arthritic) back*

Until it doesn't any more. The baby isn't always taking her first nap. The preschooler is whining and fighting bedtime.

And here I am, still clinging to THE SCHEDULE! It was working! What HAPPENED??

While the kids are adapting to new seasons, have new needs, new developmental stages to go through, I am still clinging to the old season, the old needs, the old developmental stages.

Same old, same old.


To be read the day she says "I hate you"

Like most moms of little ones, I hear from mothers with older children, grown children, about how precious this time is and how much more difficult it becomes. It's often hard to hear that, because it sometimes seems to negate what's hard here and now.

And it often terrifies me. What would it feel like to have someone I've loved for so long say they hate me?

I don't pretend to know what it's like to mother a teenager or grown child. But I sure do hope that I've learned a few things that apply.

(And I like to address myself in the third person.)


Dear future self,

She doesn't mean it. Not like it sounds. Not like you think.

She's angry or scared or in pain. She's hurting inside and she's letting it out the only way she knows how.

Could be she's just plain bored and testing, poking you with words to see how powerful she is.

Maybe she's angry that you set a boundary and are keeping it (GOOD FOR YOU!). Or maybe she's angry at nothing that makes any sense to you but it does to her. Or maybe it doesn't make any sense to anyone. No matter, her anger is still natural, normal, developmental. Any patience and fortitude and calm you are able to muster is commendable, an Olympic parenting feat deserving of a shiny medal to add to all the others you've earned. Any tears or rants on your part are understandable and forgivable.

(There is a lot of forgiveness to go around.)

Maybe it's hormonal. You, of all people, can understand what that's like, right? When you wake up and are inexplicably frustrated and angry and THE WORLD JUST SUCKS and you can't figure out why or where to put it so you tuck it inside all day and soldier on and then you just can't anymore and you unleash it at people who are close and safe. It's not right, it's not okay, but you can understand it just a bit, can't you?

Maybe she's feeling like it's easier to try out being angry at you than being scared or sad or vulnerable. Maybe she's wanting to be separate and this I hate you is about as separate as it can get when she still lives under your roof and has to eat your food and ask for money for clothes that she's not even sure are the right ones and you say they're too expensive and she can only pick one sweater but which one is the right one? Which one will make elementary/middle/high school/LIFE okay? Easy? Which one??

("None"? Well, there's a reason to be angry right there.)

Remember how when she was little she would bite you just to feel your flesh on her teeth or how she would laugh and flout your stern, serious warnings just to see what would happen or scream and stomp at the smallest inconveniences just because she could and she knew you would still love her? How you'd get a hold of yourself and try to listen to her antics with half an ear while watching the whole scene from a distance trying to figure out what is really happening, what is she really saying? I'm hungry? I'm tired? I'm overwhelmed?

Why is being alive so freaking hard sometimes

It's just like that now, I think. Reacting appropriately is not as simple, of course, as giving her a nap, a sip of juice, a quiet corner and a hug. But you learned a lot then and you need to remember it all now because the basic ideas still apply. To not take things personally. To be reasonable but firm on your family rules. To work at hearing what she's really trying to say underneath the bluster and charge. To hold some space for you both to breathe. To be the adult (even if she's one now too). To walk away when it's just too difficult for either of you to be the people you want to be. To be quick to apologize when you are in the wrong and quick to forgive when she is.

To be the one to say "I love you" even when all you're hearing is "I hate you".


your past self, Clueless But Hopeful Mama

PS. If you're feeling tempted to look upon those early years of her life with wistful, fond, rose-colored glasses, remember that though they were simpler, they were challenging in their own way. Remember the numbing insanity of not sleeping. Remember her fire-breathing tantrums in public, in front of hoards of strangers. Remember feeling so lost and alone and yet having NO TIME to yourself, ever.

And then remember how she began to teach you that love is a clumsy verb and an imperfect muscle and a messy noun on that first day you held her. And she's still teaching you.


Sometimes when she nurses....

...I hold E's hand and she holds my finger and her still, heavy weight on me feels like the only thing that matters or exists in the whole world.

...I find myself thinking C'mon, let's go, we have to go to that thing, just a little faster, are you done yet?

...she won't stay still, she pulls my hair, scratches at my face, grabs at my clothing, tears at my flesh, kicks at my side and the chair and my chin and I wish she would FOCUS and SETTLE and soon we are both DONE.

...I start to sing, usually "There is someone that I love so" to the tune of "And Bingo was his name-o", and she always smiles, first with her eyes and the corners of her mouth, then she pulls off to smile with her whole face as she watches my lips intently, tiny neurons firing inside her head, and neither of us notice or care that milk is pooling in the dark recesses of her neck folds and my bra.

...I hear Z calling for me or crying for help or crashing into something and I wish I knew if she really needed me and I wish Z didn't always pick this time to fall apart and I wish I could divide myself in two and stay here with E and run to Z all at once.

...I hold E and I remember Z being this little and I try to cement this feeling in my mind and body, knowing that I will forget no matter how hard I try not to.

...I think of all kinds of blog posts I want to write and turns of phrase that mean something to me and people I need to call and things I need to remember to tell CG and I can't write them down and I know they will be gone by the time I get to the computer or some paper.

...I hold E stiffly at first, breathless after running for her, maybe not wanting her to cry for a second longer than necessary, maybe mentally still somewhere else. Then my shoulders sink an inch or three and I breathe in and out and I feel the slight tingle that means I am here, really here, if only for a few minutes.

....I think about all the other women in the world, over the centuries, who have known this bond, who have loved someone like this, and I feel a little less alone and a little less scared about the state of the world.

...I think this is truly the most useful I have ever been and will ever be.

...I imagine the skin on my belly opening up and swallowing her whole, back to the place where she used to reside, where I could hold her completely and never let go.





Snip! Snip!

"Snip! Snip!" is what my mom always says under her breath when she sees an older woman with long hair. She is of the opinion that women of a certain age shouldn't have long hair. Period.

I used to think it was a funny tic of hers. I found it surprisingly close-minded, given my mother's usually open-minded take on things. Who's to say what length your hair should be? Is this the army? If it looks good on you, if you like it, who cares?

Lately, I've been growing my hair long. Mostly, I've been too greedy with my precious 'away' time to spend it at a hair salon (gym, here I come!) but, to be honest, there is something else at work besides neglect: I harbor fantasies of long, youthful, Pantene-commercial-worthy locks. Like many women, I go through phases with my hair. And apparently my current hair phase is "wishing I was 10 years younger with a different life".

I am married. I live in a small town. I have two kids and dog and a mortgage and house with a white fence out back. I am 37. I don't like to use the hair dryer or the flat iron and when my hair grows past my shoulders, I pretty much put my hair in a perma-ponytai 24/7. These all add up to a typical, sensible, bobbed haircut, no?

Mom, am I old enough to merit your "Snip! Snip!"?

When I pick up People magazine on my bedside table at the gym, I am stunned by the photos of famous women in their late thirties. Through plastic surgery or hair extensions or damn good genes or all of the above, they often look amazing, glamorous and youthful. Many of them, most of them, have thick, LONG, gorgeous hair. But some of them look rather sad, like they want the world to think they are still 18. Like they're clinging to something that is fading away.

Then, when I pick up Good Housekeeping or Redbook and read the personal articles written by mere-mortal women my age with their almost-always-bobbed haircuts, I am often struck by how they look rather old, like Capital M MOMS.

These are my options, it seems. I can either grasp and clutch at my fading youth with Botox and hair-extensions or I can succumb to gravity in elastic-waisted, newscaster-bobbed oblivion. There's got to be some middle ground here somewhere.

Speaking of elastic-waisted, I'm officially out of my maternity and first-and-fourth trimester jeans. (Yay!) E is 9 months old and I'm getting back into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes. But one old, favorite pair of jeans in particular just won't cut it anymore.

I bought these AG jeans a couple of years before I got pregnant with Z. They were an expensive splurge and I wore them ALL. THE. TIME. They fit me well and I felt comfortable in them.

About a year after I had Z, I was able to squeeze back into them, as long as I had a long, blouse-y shirt to cover the Top O' the Muffin. They weren't quite as effortless to wear as they had been but they were okay, passable, You look good FOR A MOM.

Now I can once again squeeze myself back into them. But on closer inspection you can see that the proportions are wrong and the rise is just too darn low for me now. Sure the top button closes but it makes my belly looks like a boneless Sharpei that's been stuffed into a tube sock. It's not pretty. (And it makes me understand why women get tummy tucks. I could just "Snip! Snip!" it right off.)

Then, those jeans looked, and felt, great. Now, I think I need to let them go. I can let this go.

So earlier this week, I went to our local outlet mall and bought myself a pair of decent, higher cut jeans. I'm not going to win any pageants in them but they actually fit and I don't have to constantly check that the Sharpei is covered.

I also got my hair cut. I've accepted that without hair extensions and serious time devoted to boring things like hair drying and straightening, my hair isn't ever going to look like a Pantene commercial. That I am more than my hair and my bought-in-my-twenties jeans. That youth is fleeting but youthfulness is a feeling with no expiration date.

I can let this go, without "letting myself go".

Long hair and old, too-tight jeans. More youthful or more lazy/desperate?

More sensible bob, more sensible jeans, more acceptance.
(Plus, let's be honest, the darker wash is just more flattering and less... 1999.)


Safety notice

The Clueless But Hopeful Co. regrets to announce the discovery of a sudden acceleration problem in its latest model, the 2009 E seen here:

Customers report numerous speed related incidents with the 2009 E, often causing damage to people and/or property (not to mention psyches). Reports indicate that normal crawling was in effect until one day, without warning, it seems the accelerator got stuck. This model not only accelerates suddenly but also instinctively, immediately, finds the most dangerous direction in which to do so.

Anecdotal reports also include the 2009 E suddenly being able to reach previously unreachable items such as the video monitor camera, the inside of the toilet bowl and the top of the dinner table. A gleeful cackling sound often emanates from the 2009 E during the acceleration episodes. Customers are advised to listen for, and heed, this sound, though total silence does not BY ANY MEANS indicate safety.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a fix for this problem at this time. Customers are advised to keep careful watch over the 2009 E for their safety and the safety of others.


I love several people at once too, just not that way

There are many good reasons to Google your blog title from time to time. It's a good idea to check and see if someone is referencing you or if another blogger is using your title either by coincidence or outright plagiary.

Or if someone has written a book about ...an r-rated subject ....with a title similar to your blog title.

Because WOW.


How to make a pair of curtains in a weekend (give or take 6 months)

1. Immediately after arriving in your new home, ignore all the boxes and all the mess and spend your free time fantasizing about the Most Important task of all: making curtains for your daughters' bedrooms.
2. Browse the internet looking for ideas for weeks on end. Fall down an etsy-hole into fabric wonderland. Buy enough fabric samples to clothe a small army (of brightly colored flower people).
3. Borrow "Even Morons Can Make Curtains!" book from the library.
4. Fall in love with one of the gajillion fabric samples you bought. During Thanksgiving, enlist aunts and uncles to persuade Z it is her favorite fabric as well.
5. Spend a tense hour calculating hems and seam allowances. Use calculator on the sly. Order necessary fabric.
6. Receive fabric. Lay it over your desk chair rather than putting it away because you will surely be making those curtains ANY DAY NOW.

6. Holidays/Snowmaggedon/Arizona/American Idol/stack of New Yorkers/whohastimetomakecurtainsanyway??
7. Renew "Even Morons Can Make Curtains!" book from the library.
8. During one random "quiet time", sit down at desk/sewing table and stare at fabric. Suddenly remember spending an entire week sewing a "daisy chain" dress in college and winding up with one sleeve two inches longer than the other. Sweat. Walk away.
9. Renew "Even Morons Can Make Curtains!" book from library.
10. Decide that you'd like to make some dress-up clothes for Z for her birthday. Which is suddenly next month (!?@!@#@#*$@!). Realize that the curtains come first.
11. Renew "Even Morons Can Make Curtains!" book from library.
12. Wake up and decide that TODAY IS THE DAY. Nap/quiet time WILL be spent measuring, pressing, cutting, and pinning.
13. (Realize that you might really enjoy sewing if it wasn't really just a whole lot of measuring, pressing, cutting and pinning.)
14. Baby who always naps DOESN'T NAP on the one day where there is motivation for curtain making. Give up all hope curtains will ever be made. Consider making the hanging fabric on your desk chair a permanent "loose slipcover".
15. When you can't get a sitter for a much needed date night, spend your Saturday night measuring, pressing, cutting and pinning.
16. Start sewing a long side seam, feeling fresh and optimistic. Everything is pinned and pressed and lined up as the machine hums happily along and you wonder why you didn't start this sooner IT'S SO EASY AND FUN until suddenly you've moved off your perfect line somehow and the fabric puckers just a bit and then you zag back which is probably the WRONG thing to do but it's too late YOU'VE DONE IT NOW and you just can't seem to sew a straight line or find an easy rhythm TO SAVE YOUR LIFE and then it all seems like yet another metaphor for your life and you want to give up and throw something heavy like oh say THIS SEWING MACHINE but by then your seam is done, for better or worse.
17. Sew a few more seams just like that.
18. Finally! After just a few feverish hours! You have two panels with side seams and a rod pocket (that's what she said)! Look around for someone to chest bump! Briefly consider waking up child to hang the curtain panels and gauge hem length (and possibly chest bump).
19. Wonder if child will wake up during a midnight curtain hanging.
20. Wait 'till the morning, barely.
21. Hang curtains and decide on hem length. Briefly consider leaving them unhemmed because there they are! Hung and almost done!
22. Hem them during video time, with small non-video watching child gnawing on thigh.
23. TA DA!!!

24. Order fabric for E's curtains.
25. Renew
"Even Morons Can Make Curtains!" book from the library.


The Unolympic Parent

Watching the Olympics last month made me think a lot about parenting. Who doesn't love the moment when someone wins a medal and immediately runs to their mom? What mom doesn't think, even for just a moment, about how amazing that must be for the mother watching her baby win glory, in front of the whole world?

I always love the back story montages full of grainy photographs of the athletes as wee babes strapped into skates and skis. It made me think about all the activities we could be pushing Z into right about now. Now that she's almost four, we could be enrolling her in soccer, basketball, ballet (done!), gymnastics, horseback riding (we live in BIG TIME horse country), t-ball, tennis, swimming, karate, etc. etc. etc. Kids her age are already learning an instrument, another language, underwater basketweaving I'M SO SURE.

I feel just a teeny bit of pressure and responsibility, as if this is the critical age for her to start something. At this age, we could suggest/cajole/bribe for her participation in any number of somethings. And I have the sense that if she doesn't start now or soon and wants to pick it up at the ripe old age of 8 or so, she'll be left behind.

As with most things in parenting, I'm struggling to find a balance. I want to expose her to many different things so that she can discover what really lights her up inside. I want her to be well-rounded and adventurous. I want her to feel prepared and capable, like she can jump into a playground game of.... anything.

I don't want her to get left behind, in anything.

But I also want her to have quiet days with lots of time for open-ended play. I want her to know that she doesn't have to perform or strive or win for our approval and love. I want her to discover things on her own, when she's interested and ready.

More than anything, I want her to have a relaxed childhood.

I have a feeling there are no Olympics in our future. And I'm so, so, SO fine with that.


Second child mama

Dear Z,

You are a first child and I am a second child, so I'm not sure I totally get you. This is clearly an impediment to me really understanding you.

I watch as grown-ups often ignore you and go nutso over your baby sister and I am struck by the fact that I never experienced that. Every time you are ignored as people go bonkers over your baby sister, I see your face harden. This somehow softens me.

I watch you watch your sister with sidelong, wary glances. You want a playmate but she's too delicate. You want me to yourself but she's always around. You want to play with your toys in peace but she's always in your face, grabbing at your toys, climbing in your lap. You want to squash her but you know that results in your immediate banishment. You sometimes do it anyway.

I am constantly searching for empathy and I work hard to imagine what it must be like for you as an older sister since I just don't know.

I tell you often that I always wanted a baby sister and it's true. I tell you often how you're a great big sister and E is lucky to have you and it's true.

Sometimes I wish that I could tell you I know exactly how you feel. But I can't because I don't.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Dear E,

You are a second child and so am I, so I'm sure I totally get you. This is clearly an impediment to me really understanding you.

When I watch you with your sister, I can't help but immediately empathize with your plight. You are always looking up, reaching up, following, wanting what you can't have but it's right in front of you. When I put you down on the floor and your sister is nearby, you immediately crawl over to where she is. You want to be with her, do what she's doing, play with what she's playing with, or should I say teethe whatever she's playing with.

I remember this feeling. I remember following my brother around, desperate to do what he was doing. It seems to me that being a second child is defined by following and reaching but never quite getting what you want. Or maybe that's just you, today, at this moment. Or maybe that's just me, in my head.

I am constantly searching for true empathy for you, the ability to put aside my own memories of being a baby sister so that I can really see you. I try to understand you as a baby sister, have an open mind and imagine what it must be like for you, since I just don't know.

Sometimes I think I know exactly how you feel, but I don't.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama

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