Mamapedia National Voices
Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.
by Vicky of "The Pursuit of Normal"
Photo by: iStock
When I was a young mom, one of the best things I did was join a moms group. Every Tuesday morning in a musty meeting room at the back of a church I sat with other moms and enjoyed fellowship, tips for parenting and More
I read the email and felt like I had been physically slapped across the face.
“Allison would like to be permanently removed from your mailing list.”
I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had been so careful not to overwhelm my friends and family as I started my new home-based business. Of course, I dreamed that everyone would jump at the opportunity to support me and help me get started but did not expect it. When I found out my once close friend Allison was engaged, I sent her an invitation to consider the bridal registry, which I thought she would love. Kitchen tools, after all, are a major registry item.
And instead I got a “remove me forever from your distribution list” reply.
It hurt. A lot. But what hurt worse was when the invitation for the wedding never arrived. And then, when I learned she’d had her first baby because her gmail profile picture now showed her holding a newborn.
It took all of those instances to realize that I had been dumped. Permanently. And I did not understand why. I thought I’d been dumped over a Pampered Chef registry but in reality, she’d let me go a long time before that.
Although I thought we were close friends, she was just not that into me.
Allison and I became friends on a military deployment. We were in our mid-twenties, both serving in the Air Force, and both new to our military unit. Shortly after Allison joined the unit, we deployed overseas in support of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although we had met each other back in the States, we had not spent much time together before the deployment. We were randomly assigned to the same tent – a tent with eight other women, in the middle of a very sandy, hot, place. Out of this situation, new friendships began to arise.
In a way, our relationship could somewhat be compared to a season of The Bachelorette. Not because we were looking for a romantic relationship, but because we were in a remote location with no outside distractions or responsibilities beyond our jobs. Certainly not exotic in a good way, but none-the-less, a place where bonds were created where they may not have formed in our “real” lives.
There was little to distract us when we were not working. We lived in a tent with sheets draped as privacy “walls.” Our living spaces were just big enough for a twin sized bed and a wall locker. It was like one big re-occurring slumber party. Only we were in the hot desert. Fighting a war.
There was no television, unless you had a portable DVD player, and our options for entertainment in the off hours consisted of hanging out with your tent mates, working out at the gym, going to the coffee tent/library, or enjoying one of your three allowed adult beverages each evening. We spent most of our free time playing cards and just talking.
Away from our “normal” lives, Allison and I discovered that we had a great deal in common. We hit it off quickly and settled into an easy friendship. If we were not working our shift, we would eat together, go to the gym together, and drink our three beers together. We talked about everything. We shared an interest in foreign policy and history and loved discussing these topics. We were pals. I thought we were on the road to being besties.
We returned from the deployment and stayed close friends as we returned to “normal” lives for a short time, before going back for another deployment. December 28, 2003, we left for the sandbox again. We arrived, cleaned out the tent and set up our spaces. Allison and I were right next to each other.
This deployment was longer than our last one had been. And there was more activity as well. Iraq had gone from being happy to have us there to road side bombings and terrible incidents such as the four American contractors who were murdered and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. We worked long hours and had little time for play.
Somewhere along the line, I began to notice that Allison seemed to spend less time with me. I was working 14 hour shifts from 6pm to 8am, so we no longer had meals together and we were on opposite sleep schedules. On my night off (every 4th night) we would meet up to enjoy our beverages together and hang out, but she had begun to make some other close relationships with the girls she spent more of her time with.
I did not realize how much our friendship had degraded until one evening when a horrible event took place. I prefer not to discuss the details around this situation, but it was humiliating and degrading and it was a time in which I really needed a friend. I sat in my little room alone for over 24 hours. I waited for Allison to come check in on me but she never came. In my greatest need, she abandoned me.
The event caused a lot of drama and friction in our unit. I felt shunned by many people who had once been my friends. And then there were others who unexpectedly befriended me and defended me. Allison was not one of those people. She avoided me until the smoke cleared.
After that point, she acted like nothing had ever happened. At no point did she ever ask me about my side of the story. At no point did she ask me if I was okay. She completely avoided it. That stung viciously, but I forgave her and moved on. I certainly did not want to dwell on the incident, and I did not want to lose a friendship I treasured.
Over the next year, we continued on with a very friendly relationship. We still spent time together outside of work and hung out at work. I believed that our friendship was strong. But I think down deep I knew that we had crossed a threshold that could never be “un-crossed.” Our relationship would never be completely restored.
In 2005 I moved to a different base. We spoke on the phone and emailed occasionally, but it was usually me who initiated contact. Until one day we stopped calling. Just emails.
Then came the big blow. I cried when I was not invited to her wedding. She had cut the ties. I was not important to her and never would be.
It would be so easy to say I just moved on and got over it. After all, I have plenty of friends who care for me. But that isn’t the way it works, is it? I grieved that relationship, and like a desperate girl, I made plenty of attempts to reach out and restore our friendship. But she never reached back.
Why does it hurt so badly when someone doesn’t care for us the way we care for them? And why, when we have other people who do love us tremendously, do we let it get under our skin so?
When my daughter Kathryn died, reality slapped me hard. That was the moment I realized life was precious and I just had to let it go. I had to let Allison go, as she had done to me years before. I finally allowed myself to do so.
I let her go, but my heart will always ache for the friendship we once had. I’ll never really understand why she was just not that into me.
Have you ever been dumped by a friend that you thought was a close friend? Did you get over it?
Alexa Bigwarfe is a freelance writer and author. She co-authored Lose the Cape: Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive and edited/contributed to the book Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. She launched her writing with the blog No Holding Back as an outlet for her grief after the loss of one of her twin daughters to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). She now writes largely about advocacy, maternal, infant, and children’s health topics. Alexa is a wife, mother of three, dog owner, and advocate. She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
Recently, my four-year-old daughter has become interested in genitalia. Not just her own, but other childrens’, too. While I’m not a prude, I do want to make sure I send her the right message. The one I never received.
I always taught my children the anatomically correct names for their body parts. My girls know they have a vagina and my boys, a penis. While some criticize my choice, (because my kids have, on occasion, yelled “penis” or “vagina” in front of company), I think it has been a smart one. I have never believed in giving silly and cute names to genitals. Also, experts encourage parents to teach their children that real names are best.
The other day my daughter thought it would be interesting to touch her two-year-old brother’s penis. I did my best to distract her and told her, “that is his private area. We don’t touch other people’s private places.” Whew, done. Awkward and strange, but handled well. I patted myself on the back and moved on. But, she hadn’t.
“Okay, but I can touch my vagina.” She replied. Whooza, here we go.
I, as the mother to four children had somehow dodged this bullet with my first two but obviously, my time had come. Again, I do not want to shame my children or make them feel like their bodies are bad or dirty. I realize I am about to give advice that can shape her for the rest of her life. No pressure.
I refer to parenting books because I’m no expert. I want to foster positive body feelings while downplaying my own discomfort. Is that possible? And now that I’m here, why am I so uncomfortable? The books and websites say it is fine and even healthy for children to explore their own bodies. The lesson, we as parents, should pass along is about privacy. Our kids should understand that while it is natural to be interested in their own privates, they should explore them in private.
I begin to sweat as I hear my daughter mention how touching her own privates is fine, because they’re hers. I smile, she is smart and she is right. Why, if she is so unashamed, should I be feeling so self-conscious?
I sit her down and remember back to the times I’ve had to talk to my older children about babies, after all they’d seen me have several. I wanted to be honest, but not overwhelm them with more information than they needed. Again, a fine line. I told them that moms and dads would give each other “special hugs” because they loved each other.
My older daughter (also four at the time) responded, “Can we give you a special hug?”
I thought quickly, “You can hug me like you always do, but not a special hug that makes a baby. Those are only for moms and dads.”
Done. They seemed content and I hadn’t lied or made something amazing sound shameful. Many friends have told me they’ve used the ‘special hug,’ with their own children.
But, the hug seems so much different than my four-year-old’s curiosity about her own body. I know, even as I tell people about my dilemma, that I make them uncomfortable. I suppose the best thing I can do is to reiterate what I’ve already said.
I will not shame my child and I will not create negative thoughts about her body.
I never felt open and proud of my body; instead I’ve always felt self-conscious and ill at ease in my own skin. And this is one of my first steps to instilling confidence in my little girl. I want her to feel proud and comfortable. I want her to own the body she will wear for the rest of her life. I reassure her again that it is, in fact, her body, and exploring it is okay, but remind her that we don’t touch other people’s privates or let them touch ours.
I notice that after saying these things, she smiles and walks away, having already moved on. She’s ready to go outside and swing in the sun.
Do you feel uncomfortable teaching your children about body issues because you are still carrying around some of your own?
Nicole Johnson is a fiction writer, blogger and stay at home mom raising four children, a dog, a cat and a husband. She fears birds, anything with the potential to cause fire, and Disney World. She loves scary movies, books with ambiguous endings and all things dark, absurd and funny. Her blog, Suburban Sh!t Show: Tales from the Tree-Lined Trenches chronicles her life in the sh!t show, and she can be found on Facebook and Twitter, which is her new obsession because it forces her to get to the damn point.
When I was a young mom, one of the best things I did was join a moms group. Every Tuesday morning in a musty meeting room at the back of a church I sat with other moms and enjoyed fellowship, tips for parenting and wife’ing, a free breakfast and the blissful freedom that comes from knowing someone else is watching your two year old for a while.
We shared stories of tantruming toddlers and picky eaters while we snacked on Monkey Bread and hard boiled eggs. Even more nourishing than the food, however, was the wisdom shared by the Seasoned Moms. This special breed of wise, older moms had lived to tell the tale of motherhood. Looking back of course, I realize these ladies were probably in their 40’s. Not at all what you’d consider “old.” I’m just shy of 40 and I’m certainly not old! These women were survivors who made it to the other side of parenting. Their kids could make their own meals, dress themselves and even left the house for hours upon hours as they ventured to the magical far-off place toddler moms could only dream of… school. Their kids had whole conversations without one mention of traveling little girls with backpacks and maps or purple dinosaurs. They didn’t repeat the same questions over and over even though they heard the answer 5.8 seconds earlier. And most importantly, these kids wore underwear- real underwear that was free of sticky tabs and wrestling matches to put them on.
The Seasoned Moms circulated throughout the room looking for a Young Mom in distress. We were easy to find as we sported the signature dark circles and repeatedly searched the doorway for nursery workers coming to get us because our child was falling apart. Many of us could be found huddling around the coffee while shoving food in our faces. We’d become accustomed to eating like this at home as our toddlers attempted to climb the cabinets or sneak out the back door, so we often forgot how to behave in public.
Seasoned Moms spotted us Newbies right away and like fairy godmothers, they fluttered around us, wrapped a comforting arm around our shoulders and asked the question every new mom feared… “How are you doing?”
Such a simple question with a complex maze of answers. “I’m tired, frustrated and lonely. I’m never going to lose this baby weight. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m pretty sure I’m ruining my kid.” And as I wept into my Betty Crocker Farmers Breakfast Casserole, these women offered me comfort and encouragement and, most importantly, peace. They shared stories of tantrums thrown both at home and ((gasp)) in public, failed meals, bad decisions and constant doubt and second-guessing. They made me feel normal.
As I left each week and I retrieved my 2 year old who inevitably pushed some other kid because he was in “that phase,” I was a little less mortified by his behavior because the Seasoned Moms promised me someone else’s kid would be doing the pushing next week.
It’s easy to forget those early years as they are replaced by thousands of days filled with new experiences. Then suddenly, you see one of those Young Moms and you’re reminded of what it was like to be in her shoes. Suddenly, you are the Seasoned Mom.
Two days ago, as I dropped my guys off at camp, I witnessed a mother’s nightmare: a kid completely losing his shnizzle at drop-off. I’m talking about the full-on crying, screeching, hanging-on-to-mom’s-leg, meltdown. We’ve all been there. I don’t care how well adjusted your kid is, every kid goes through this at some point. And as many of the other moms gave her a wide berth to work it out, all I wanted to do was run up to her and tell her 7 simple things:
1. You’re not a bad mom.
2. You’re kid isn’t freaking out because you don’t spend enough time with her.
3. You’re kid isn’t freaking out because you spend too much time with him.
4. The kid next to you, who is happily waving to mommy as she skips away, is not a better kid and does not have a better mom. We’ve all got issues.
5. You may never know why your kid is crying because just like the rest of us humans, he sometimes has feelings that are completely irrational and illogical. So stand strong. Tell him that you love him. Remind him that you’ll be here as soon as camp is done. Give him a really big squeeze and send him on his way.
6. It’s pretty much a guarantee your kid will not be the only one freaking out today. Take solace in that.
7. It’s OK to climb into your car and cry because it hurts seeing your kid in distress. And when the tears slow and the snot stops dripping, go back to #1: You’re not a bad mom.
I’d like to say I ran up to her and said those things. But I was too afraid I’d freak her out or overstep my boundaries (and I didn’t have any Monkey Bread to share). So, as I passed her as she stealthily hid behind the steering wheel of her car, I made eye contact, paused for a moment and gave her a subtle nod and the Mom Smile. The one that says, “I know what you’re going through. We’ve all been there. It’s going to be OK. You’re normal, and so’s your kid.”
I guess I’m the Seasoned Mom now.
Vicky Willenberg is is a wife, mother and obsessive volunteer at her sons’ school. She works in Digital Marketing and Communications while juggling the class bake sale, folding laundry from two weeks ago and searching for the dog who escaped, yet again. You can find her chronicling the good, the bad and the hilarious on her blog, The Pursuit of Normal and on Facebook and Twitter Vicky has been featured on Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Mamapedia and BlogHer. She’s also had the privilege of being published in both HerStories Project anthologies.
Are you a bitch? No? Don’t think so? I bet some would disagree with you. You see, I don’t think I am a bitch. I think I am quite nice, but it seems I have gotten quite the bad rap. And you know what? I am sick of it. And for those of you shaking your heads in disagreement, no you’re not a bitch, you are loved, you are a good mother and kind and you love animals so much that you have three rescues (and one pure bred just to shake things up), guess what?
I AM A BITCH.
I discovered last week that I am surrounded by people who have suggested that all I do is nag and complain. I spout things like “pick your clothes up off the floor… washing your hair only counts if you use shampoo… that is a sink not a dishwasher,” and so on. All. The. Time.
No one likes this. If you are thinking stop, just make like Elsa and let it go. Well sister, I am one step ahead of you. I stopped. Full shampoo bottles line the kids’ tub and wet towels lay molding on their floor.
I told a friend I didn’t want to be the wife who was always saying, “please put toilet paper on the roll when you are done, and if a light bulb is out please change it,” but I also can’t be the only person in a family of five to do it.
She said that I should see what happened if I ignored it and didn’t nag. I told her I had already conducted the grand “ignore it,” experiment.
“What happened,” she asked.
“We wiped our asses with paper towels in the dark.”
So yes, I am the meanie who makes kids eat spinach, and put dishes in the dishwasher, set the table and feed the animals. And I do it to spare the entire generation of millennials from having to write snarky blog posts about the “post-millenials,” who look in the dishwasher for eggs and stare at the sink in disbelief once they leave home while wondering why the sink is broken and the dishes aren’t magically being transported to the neat machine next to it to get clean. Yes, millenials, you are welcome.
But there are no thanks. There are scowls and disdainful remarks like, “why do you hate me so much”. But no one says, “thank you for preventing me from moving out one day and having moldy towels and cockroaches in my college dorm.”
So I am done with that. They can walk around with smelly heads and sleep next to stinky towels, but I cannot, I repeat I cannot ignore the SUMMER READING LIST.
And thank you. I mean it. I really want to thank from the bottom of my itsy, bitsy, ice cold heart, whoever put the word SUGGESTED on my children’s summer reading list. Because, guess what? Guess who is the asshole now? That’s right, me!
Last year, I could say that was all fine and good, live in filth, but you must read. Now, when I say that, the kids say “it’s suggested reading.” WTF? What is this? Why would school say it’s suggested when what they mean is, one more thing for mom to enforce?
Today, when I told my child I was taking pool time away until she reads she said, “I cannot finish five books.”
I gave my standard line. “Fine, but you will write a letter to your third grade teacher explaining exactly why you chose not to do your summer reading.”
This is what I got.
Dear Miss XXX
I did not finish my reading because it was a suggestion. Google says a suggestion means “an idea or plan put forward for consideration.” I have considered reading five books but think two is a better idea. I am excited for third grade.
I can’t win. Cannot win. So I am suggesting to my children that if they would like to live in homes with roofs, hot water and free of roaches, that they need to think of me as their ally in achieving these goals.
However, should they choose to discard my suggestions, they are free to find jobs now, get to the store, buy their sugary summer cereal, pay for their pool memberships, score rides there, and make sure to get rides to the sports shop to buy their three million dollars worth of Under Armour Sports crap. I will be at home, relaxing with my summer reading, enjoying the life we have as the result of people, namely their parents, having done things they didn’t want to do approximately 87% of the time.
Do you feel like all you do is nag?
Helen is a stay at home mom to three kids, three cats and two dogs. When she isn’t chasing one of said creatures through the woods she enjoys blogging at Bubble Gum Chic. She sees humor in the chaos of a life well lived. She also sees the therapeutic value of shoe shopping. You can also find her on Twitter.
Summer is well underway, and I spent my morning the same way I’ll spend the rest of my summer mornings: chasing a child while he tries to dodge my slaps of sunscreen.
Today I was lucky. I was able to land a couple of good smacks along the ridge of his nose and his forearms. But not without his Kermit flail that he usually reserves for when he’s told to unload the dishwasher.
It’s summer and that means time for sunscreen wars.
Ask your kids why they hate sunscreen and they’ll spit their reasons out like seeds in a watermelon eating contest:
Too much creeper touching.
I don’t like to be manhandled.
It takes too long.
My clothes stick to it.
It feels itchy when it dries.
I don’t like to stand and have people rub cream into me.
You make me look like a little kid when you don’t blend it in.
You don’t blend it in.
You’re bad at blending it in.
I don’t need it because I’ve never had a sunburn.
Yeah, right! Maybe it’s because I’m so damn GOOD at my job!
What my children forget is that parenting is not a democracy and that means sunscreen use is not debatable. No votes will be taken. It will not come down to you voicing your choice.
I hate sunscreen season and have tried to find ways to lessen the hysterics and wails that come with the months of June July August. I’ve fallen into the trap of following sunscreen-trauma-lessening-advice like, Let them feel independence and they will cooperate! I took my kids to the store and let them pick out their own sunscreen. Purple sunscreen is what they decided.
You know what happens to a kid when he sees you slathering purple on his arms and forearms and is screaming so loud about This is why I don’t have friends! that he drowns out your own screams of “IT BLENDS IN!” You end up going back to the shimmery pearl hue of Coppertone.
Here’s some more parenting forum advice of shared sunscreen strategies that I got suckered into, Let them decide where to apply it first.
“OK, honey, since you’re a big kid now, I’m going to let you tell me where you want the sunscreen to go first. See, because you are in charge.”
“Nowhere.” That’s what they told me. “Nowhere is where I want the sunscreen to go first.”
I tried even more genius suggestions from parenting groups:
Get the sunscreen stick!
Nope. Strike one. My kids screamed that I would get it mixed up with the purple glue stick. Make a mistake like that once and they never forget.
Apply it while they sleep!
Nope again. What you’ll get instead is one sunscreen stained $89.00 bedspread from Pottery Barn.
Sunscreen them up while you put in a movie!
You know what’s worse than a stained $90 bedspread? A stained thousand dollar sofa.
And my own solution:
Apply while they sit with a cotton candy tub in front of them. Bingo. And my go-to ever since.
Today, I’m wiser than I was 18 years ago in my first summer as a parent. I bark out orders in a baritone developed across two decades, so I tell my kids to take a deep breath and hold it, ‘cause mama’s spraying and she’s a human titanium dioxide crop duster. So get ready, young’uns, and make a mad run out of the cloud and toward toxin free air.
After I’ve sprayed them down, I ask them if they want to hear the story again about the number of nose reconstructive surgeries I had to witness while assisting a dermatologist in a job after college. They throw five bottles of sunscreen at my head and beg me to make them look like Data in Star Trek.
My children may never give up their resistance movement. But as long as I’m in charge of their health, my summer will begin and end with a sunblock stick SPF60 to their faces. With the noon day sun, I’ll move into a heavier SPF80 cream for all over their bodies. If their protests continue, their day will feature pictures of skin cancer. More swatting away of my sunscreen filled hands will just grow into a homeschooling unit of science experiments about the sun and potential damage of its powerful rays.
But it won’t be all terror and trauma around sunblock season. I’ve got some fun set aside too. Like scheduled refreshing sunblock breaks during the day. I take the light approach then and let them use spray versus stick. And while everyone is going in for summer haircuts, I’m letting my three go for the built-in scalp and face protection of a Shaggy do. Ear tips, foreheads and back of the necks are now safer with less struggle. The little one looks adorably… like a tiny Einstein.
I have accepted that as much as I dread it, my kids will continue to fight me as long as the sun rises in the sky. Other than applying sunblock at home to minimize public spectacles, there really isn’t a whole lot more that we can do. And I’m not giving up the sunscreen way of life.
Any desperate measure is acceptable in the name of Sun Safety to me. I will use myself as a walking caveat – “look at me” I say, and show them my sun spotted cheeks. While they sit frozen in terror, I dab a blob on each of their cheeks, noses, foreheads and say “Let me rub it in. I’m getting better at blending now!”
Solidarity, my fellow sun protectors. Remember that you are not alone in your misunderstood ways. Find strength and resolve in knowing that all we do, we do in the name of love.
Slather on. And sunblock the crud out of your crew!
Right here kids. Damage from the summer of ’85.
Alexandra Rosas is a national storyteller and mother of three. She lives in a small town where she tries hard to go unnoticed. She fails miserably. You can follow her on Twitter or keep up with her blog, Good Day, Regular People.