Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Miss Preschool/Summer is Very Long

The truth is, I am not that great entertaining small children for extended periods of time.

I have no degrees in early childhood education.  And to this day, despite my 5.5 years experience hanging out with kids pretty much non-stop, I am baffled, overwhelmed and emotionally and physically exhausted after spending large chunks of time with them.  Why don't kids just listen so we can all get along?  Would it be so hard to just cooperate?  Really?

The babe finished the extended program at her preschool last Friday and we have been together since noon of that day.  First I was overwhelmed with the emotion surrounding the babe finishing 3 years of preschool and saying good bye to all the people who have been a part of our daily life for years.  Now I am just overwhelmed by the prospect of making it to Kindergarten start day on Monday, August 27th.

To make things more interesting, I decided last Thursday that I (or more precisely, the little guy) was all done with diapers.  That has meant the little guy has been in "big boy" underwear for almost 6 days.  Perhaps I didn't chose the best time to embark on this potty training adventure, but I just couldn't take it anymore.

The little guy's best buddies have all started wearing big boy underwear and I was running out of excuses.  I realized that I was the lazy one, not my son, as I was engaging in more of my typical "enabling" style of parenting.  By continuing to put him in a diaper, I was continuing to signal that it was OK if he used it instead of a toilet.  When things require more work (like breaking pacifier habits and potty training), I tend to want to put them off until I feel strong enough to deal with them.  My strength comes from hitting my breaking point, and the last diaper full of stinky poop was apparently my breaking point.  Now I am cleaning up stinky poop from underwear instead of diapers, but I have committed to seeing this through to the other side...however disgusting the process may be.  

In terms of being a good stay-at-home mom, I am fully aware that I am better with one kid at a time than two.  It's the truth and I am not ashamed to say it.  For now, and for the next month, I am with two kids and since I love them, I know we will make it through.  But it is not always going to be pretty.

To all you mothers out there who are overwhelmed by the summer months, you are not alone.  To all you mothers out there who are having a blast with your kids this summer, I salute you.

And now I must head upstairs to intervene in the screaming of my children.  Today's "quiet time" was apparently a "failure."  Luckily it's summer break and we can always try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Her Hair

You may recall me mentioning the babe's amazingly awesome black hair.  My daughter was blessed with hair from her father's side of the family and while it has a few red streaks from my side, it is mostly just stunning black hair.

Last week as we were driving home from school (she is in the "extended program"), the babe asked me when she would be able to dye her hair.  We were at a red light and I had to turn my head around to look at her and see if she was being serious.  She continued, "when am I going to be old enough to dye my hair, Mama?"

I took a deep breath and asked her why she wanted to dye her hair.  She told me she wanted it to be blonde like a lot of the girls at school.  My heart sank.  I told her what I just told you above, "Sweet heart, you have amazing black hair and you are lucky to have it.  You don't need to look like everyone else."  

This all reminded me of an independent film my husband and I watched recently called Shades of Ray. The 2008 film is about a twenty-something American man raised by his white mother and Pakistani father.  Throughout the movie he questions his identity and struggles to figure out a way to "fit in" despite the fact he is from a mixed family.

The film struck a chord with me.  It had me wondering if my kids will have similar experiences growing up in a pretty white culture and if they will struggle with their half and half identity (my husband is of Indian descent - the South Asian kind).  Is the babe's desire to dye her hair blonde at age 5 just the beginning of a longer process or was it just a one off experience?  I have a feeling it may be the former.

While Washington, D.C. is culturally diverse and there are a lot of kids of mixed descent, you can still easily find yourself in a room full of only white people.  Is that something the babe is starting to notice?
I suppose all I can do is help guide her as she starts to figure out her place in the world.  I truly hope both my kids realize how cool it is to come from such a rich background and that they'll be able to use that knowledge in positive ways as they become their own people.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Critics

My recently published article on being a stay-at-home mother has brought out a few choice comments on my selfishness, calculating and not likable nature, and general immaturity.

I appreciate a good debate but never want to shove my views down other people's throats.  You can believe what you want and I don't feel the need to try and convince you otherwise.  All I want is the opportunity to be honest about all this motherhood stuff, because frankly, I think that honesty is lacking in most of the motherhood conversations I see.

Not to draw attention to my critics, but the following comment, which was published on Forbes, is too unbelievable not to post.  Did she actually read what I wrote?

"Thanks for sharing this.

I had a stay-at-home mother and breadwinner father and hated it, so I really like to see women get out of this victimized mentality. Taking adult responsibility for yourself is really important for your children.

I don’t understand why you are seeing your husband as not responsible for half the unpaid work of the family. And if he wishes to outsource some of that by paying for child care or housekeeping or something, that is his responsibility.

And you need to be making money to shoulder your share of the burden. You should be taking responsibility for earning the money to cover half the basic expenses of the family, such as housing, health insurance, food, taxes, education. That is what adults do.

This is not just about you and your indulging your husband and his career as though he is an infant himself or indulging yourself and your victimization as though you are an infant yourself.

Please, for the sake of your child, consider becoming an adult."

And here I was thinking being a stay-at-home mom was a responsible thing to do.  While I am not always the most mature person around, I like to think being responsible for a home and two children is pretty "adult" like behavior.

Before Their Time

It started a few months ago with Charlotte's Web.

We decided it was time to dive into the all time classic tale with the babe.  I love the book and have always had a special place in my heart for Wilbur the pig.  As we made our way through the story, I began dreading Charlotte's impending death.  I wasn't sure how the babe would take it and I wasn't sure what I would say to comfort her.  When Charlotte died I had to stop reading as I couldn't stop crying.  The babe yelled down to my husband, "Mama's crying and she can't read anymore!"  Apparently I didn't need to explain anything to her.  I was the one who couldn't handle the tiny spider's death.

We recently traveled to Canada for my dear little brother's wedding.  It was a spectacular event that brought much joy to our family and friends.   

Right before we left for Canada, a dear friend of my husband's family passed away.  My husband and I managed to make it to the funeral in Ottawa to pay our respects.  While I have only known the family a few years, I could not help but weep during the service.  To see so many people grieve and go through such an extreme loss is an overwhelming experience.  How do you say goodbye to a loved one and carry on?    

A few days later, on the day of my brother's wedding, we received news that my Uncle's youngest brother had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 51 while on vacation with his family.  The news shook us all.  I can not stop thinking of his wife and two children.    

This past week my husband's colleague lost his 47-year-old brother.  He also leaves behind a wife and two children.

And yesterday 12 people lost their lives while attending a movie in Colorado.

How can we make sense of it all?  And how do we adequately celebrate our lives and the lives of our families and loved ones while we are living them?  Too often we get stuck in the crap that life throws at us.  Where do we find the strength to remember that every day is a gift?  

I am not sure I will ever be able to adequately explain death to the babe and the little guy.  I am not sure we ever grow up enough to understand or explain it.  It will happen to each and every one of us at some point and as yesterday's events solidify, we don't know when, where or why.  All we can do is try to live our lives in the best way we can and love those who bring us joy.  As my Uncle's late brother said, it is not the years you have lived but the life you have lived in those years.     

Friday, July 20, 2012

The New Superwoman

My son and I have been doing a "superman" pose in swimming lessons every morning.  He puts his hands above his head and pushes off from the steps into a superman glide...or a three-year-old's version of a superman glide.

Sometimes the teacher mentions doing a "superwoman glide," but not too consistently. 

Needless to say, I was blown away when I heard about a real superwoman, Marissa Mayer.  Not only is she the new CEO of Yahoo Inc., but she is only 37 years-old and is six months pregnant with her first child.  I was glancing over the Wall Street Journal when I saw an article, For Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Two New Roles, discussing her upcoming dual roles of CEO and mother.  

My jaw seriously dropped to the floor.  I couldn't process it all!  Not that I want to compare myself to her or make this about me, but reading the article made me realize what you can accomplish by such a young age and made me wonder about my list of accomplishments.  I'm about to turn 37 and I'm still serving as the Director General, Ministry of Home Affairs for the Ryan Jyoti Clan (although I used to write and do advance work for the former Chairman of Yahoo when he served on the board at my old think tank...but I digress).

My husband and I went back and forth about how challenging her dual roles will be.  Yahoo needs serious help and being a new Mom is pretty exhausting work.  Our discussion ended up focusing on what help money can buy you, and if money is enough to make the role of new mother "easy."  There are some things people feel comfortable paying others to do for them, and the more money you have, the longer the list grows.  Where do you draw the line?   

Is Mayer's compensation ($100 million over the next five years) enough to pay for every service a new parent would need?  My husband thinks yes; I think no.  Can you really off load ALL the responsibilities new parents face?  It is the outsourcing of parenthood.  I hope Yahoo gives her the support she will need to fulfill some of the more critical aspects of her upcoming role of mother.

I remember how I felt in the weeks and months after having my babies, and I tell ya, I could barely return congratulatory emails, let alone put on a suit and go kick corporate butt.  While Mayer may be confident she can handle it now, I wonder how her perception will change once she is in the thick of it.  There are things that happen to a woman's body, brain and heart after she has a baby, and no amount of "help" can change that.  While I admit I'm a total light weight, I wonder how many women can effectively work through their maternity leave without having a breakdown from the pressures involved?

Anyway, all the power to our newest version of superwoman.  I sincerely wish her and Yahoo all the best and hope she proves that you can have a new baby and be a successful CEO.  It would be an awesome first.   

Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I just had a piece on being a stay-at-home mom published on a great site, LearnVest, that you may want to check out.  The article is also up on Forbes.  

Let me know what you think!

Monday, July 16, 2012


According to our friends over at Merriam Webster Dictionary, an "Enabler" is "one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior."

I hate to say it, but for many, many years, my husband and I have been guilty of enabling our children's secret addiction...the pacifier.  I am talking about one bedtime pacifier in the mouth, and one in each hand.  Minimum.

My 5.5 year old and 3.5 year old have been in love with their pacifiers (or "baas" as they call them) since birth.  To say the pacifier has played a VERY important role in our lives would be an understatement.  My kids would "need" pacifiers to fall asleep, run to their rooms to take a "hit" off them when they were upset, and tried daily to sneak them out of their rooms so they could enjoy more frequent use.  The babe would suck on one pacifier, switch to another and suck on that one, switch to another and suck on that one, and so on and so on.  I found it disturbing, to say the least.

It became evident our offspring were not going to give up the pacifier on their own, as my husband and I had hoped.  We repeatedly encouraged the kids to stop "using," but for years our words fell on deaf ears.  And frankly, we didn't have the guts to do anything about it.  They say to pick your battles and we already had a long list.

More recently, however, the babe started to clue in that other kids her age do not use pacifiers and have not used pacifiers for some time.  She was at the point where she was embarrassed by her pacifier use and was openly talking about wanting to quit.  Whenever she would boldly state that she was going to sleep without them, she would break down and give in to her desire to be soothed by her baas.  It hurt (for numerous reasons) to watch her battle with what had become a true addiction.

The little guy was at the point where he would run to his room countless times a day just to suck on his pacifiers.  He would wail for his baas whenever he was upset and frequently agreed to nap because he would get to use his sweet plastic pacifier.

Our amazing pediatric dentist had indicated that the extended pacifier use was altering their tooth and jaw development and needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later.  She suggested poking holes in all the pacifiers so the kids would not enjoy the same sucking sensation and would quit on their own.  We tried.  It didn't work.

It was evident the problem was not going to handle itself.  After researching different "methods," we came to the conclusion that we had to go cold turkey.  We didn't make a big deal out of it.  We didn't psyche the kids out.  We didn't bury the baas in the garden or give them to a baby in need.  My husband simply collected all of the pacifiers, "threw them away" (i.e. hid them in his sock drawer), and told the kids they didn't need them anymore.  The process of breaking up with the pacifier had begun.  

Long story short, the kids have now made it 10 nights.  It is now safe to say they've kicked the ugly habit.  The babe, who has relied on her pacifier for two more years than her brother, had a tougher time with it.  There were some very sad withdrawal moments which were tough to deal with, but ultimately, both our kids have proven to themselves that they can self soothe and fall asleep without those nasty little things.

My kids aren't relying on a crutch anymore.  My husband and I are no longer enablers.  We are a better family because of it.  We have achieved a new level of freedom, and it feels good.  Really good.

The Stories Stuck in My Head

Greetings!  I have logged on to explain my recent absence.  The little guy has been done "school" and home with me full-time since mid-May (about the time of my last post).  He is not a fan of watching me write, and I am not a fan of plopping him in front of the TV while I write.  This means, I do not write.

You may recall I have no ability to write/focus/make sense in the evenings.  As such, I have sadly been unable to share all the stories stuck in my head with you.  All I can do is ask for your patience this summer as I muddle through my least favorite D.C. season with my kiddies.  I will be back at it with gusto come September when the little guy enters preschool five mornings a week.  Until then, I will try and share some periodic updates from the front lines of summer parenting.  Hope you're all doing well out there!