humor

Some types of sex that parents of young kids might actually be having

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d follow on a post from two weeks ago where I responded to a viral post on Scary Mommy about parents and sex. My complaint about this post was that it was so incredibly depressing; central to many of the “types of sex” was the implication that the wife wasn’t an especially happy participant, that after becoming parents men continue to want sex and women occasionally comply.

And so, just for fun, I’ve tried to construct something that resembles what I was hoping for when I clicked on that link in the first place.

  1. TV Sex:

Don’t think too hard about the fact that this is probably what your own parents were doing while you were watching Saturday morning cartoons on NBC every single week. In the era of Netflix, you’ve got a range of choices, but you’ve got to get it right. Barney, for instance, will no longer work since your older child has decided it’s condescending. Dinosaur Train would be a safer bet, except that when Dr. Scott the Paleontologist appears between segments the toddler often starts wandering the house and calling for you. Right now Blue’s Clues is the safest bet because it holds your toddler’s attention and inspires a fond nostalgia in your older child. You have exactly twenty-three minutes. Go.

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  1. Empty House Sex:

This is often prearranged, though it might happen twice in a year that you spontaneously discover that both of your children are gone and you are home. Just the novelty of that is enough to turn you on. You have a window of that that allows for some preparation. Brush your teeth beforehand or maybe even take a shower because, you know, you want this to be really special. Lie in bed for at least ten minutes afterwards and pretend together that you never had children. Feel slightly guilty about that as you get dressed and prepare to welcome them home.

  1. Middle-of-the-night Sex:

Roll over to spoon in the middle of the night and discover that your partner is also awake. Kiss passionately, both of you surprised that this is actually happening. Ruin the moment a little by wondering at what point the baby will wake up because you’re pretty sure he will. Continue on anyway. Try to be silent. Laugh together at how obvious and silly the squeaking bed sounds when you are keeping other noises to a minimum.

  1. Discussion Sex:

In between kisses ask: Did you remember to call in that refill? and, Did my W-2 forms ever come in the mail? Feel a little embarrassed when your partner points out that these questions aren’t enhancing the mood. You actually are enjoying this, it’s just that life’s daily tasks flood in and recede like a tide. Fight the urge to ask about that weird stain that appeared on the carpet last week, or if we need to buy diapers next time we go to Costco. Return the kiss instead.

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I am Santa. Santa is me.

As I write this, Smoke is sitting in the bed next to me looking at comic books, claiming he wants to stay up all night. He has Christmas Fever. When I told him it wouldn’t be possible for him to stay awake from now until Christmas, he responded “It’s only seven days away.”

I’m humoring him, just a little, by letting him stay up late with me tonight. It’s better than turning out the light and hollering at him every five minutes because he won’t settle down.

Two nights ago I helped him write this Christmas list for Santa.

 list

I will transcribe it here for you.

Santa- I! want for Christ[mas]

A Science Kit!

Angry Birds Transformers Teleporters!

The! Minerals Mommy Kellie uses in the Bath

A Whole Box Of Candy Canes (every kind)

Dumbledore’s Castle (Lego Set)

The Dark Fortress (Lego Set)

Jay’s Thunderator (Lego Set) [I later learned that the product is actually called Jay’s Thunder Raider]

Double-sided Tape

Bat-coptor (Lego set)

I’ve got to say, I’m finding it hard to juggle my duties as mom and Santa, and I find it hard to know where one of us ends and the other begins.

When I was a child, Santa’s role was clearly defined. He came down our chimney, filled our stockings and ate our cookies. All of the presents under the tree came from Mom and Dad.

We haven’t drawn such clean lines in our family. We don’t have a chimney, so I don’t know how to explain how he enters our house. Santa fills stockings, but Smoke is under the impression that he’s in charge of all the gift-giving too.

I let him believe this since this is what his friends all think, and I don’t want to muddy the waters. But the waters are muddy. How will I explain that Santa looked into it and decided that (s)he really didn’t want to spend fifty dollars on a video game accessory (see the second item on the list), or hundreds of dollars on a Lego fortress?

Santa has already come through with a science kit, bath minerals, and double-sided tape. The box of candy canes (every kind!) seemed like a no-brainer but is turning out to be hard to find. Sadly, I notice socks aren’t on the list…

To be sure, Santa will bring some of Smoke’s friends more, and some of them less. I’ve no doubt that Santa will bring someone Dumbledore’s Castle, or extravagances Smoke hasn’t even dared to dream of yet, and I’ve no idea how I’ll explain why Santa seems to play favorites.

Holiday-Grumpy-Cat-Internet-Meme

Meanwhile, I’ve already purchased more than I intended to. I find my eyes glazing over in the Target or in our local toy store, hopelessly torn between wanting to keep things simple and imagining Smoke’s disappointment when he opens the last gift and begins to enumerate all of the missing items on the list.

“You realize these are just suggestions?” I asked as we were writing. “Santa’s not going to get you everything you ask for.”

Smoke gave me a confused look. “It’s not suggestions,” he told me. “It’s a list.”

The Most Excruciating Time of the Year

When it comes to Christmas, there are two kinds of people I’ve never really understood.

The Would-Be Elves: people who think it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The Sullen Humbugs: the people who constantly refer to the holidays as being “hard” or something to “get through.”

For most of my adult life, I would have categorized Christmas mostly along the lines of minor pain in the ass with a few bright spots. I like other people’s light displays, but I don’t feel like going to the trouble of putting up my own. I like giving gifts, but I never feel like I’ve given enough. I like sweets, but I’d prefer a nice batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to an endless array of shortbreads and fudges. Still, I can almost bring myself to understand that for the Would-Be Elves, a season of lights and crafting and gift-giving is just what they need to make it through the dark season.

elfspaghetti4

The Sullen Humbugs I had a harder time with. Sure, I’ve felt a fleeting sense of malaise on every Christmas morning I remember, a fear that nothing is as special as it’s supposed to be, but it struck me that the humbugs attributed more power to the holiday than it really had. What exactly was so “hard” about a month where people hung up lights and shopped a lot?

This year I’m starting to get it.

Smoke is six this year, which makes him Christmas’s target audience. He’s no longer afraid of Santa like he once was. (Several years ago, we had to leave Santa a note requesting that he not come in the house.) Smoke is old enough to understand that he’ll be getting presents, but he can’t quite measure time the way an older child can, which means that, I imagine, it feels to him like Christmas could arrive at any moment. It could be tomorrow, or it could be three months from now. And so, he’s living in a state of suspended anticipation. That’s intense.

To amp it up even further, he’s around twenty-five other kids all day who feel the same way and are feeding off of each other. I witnessed the pure synergy of this earlier this week when I dropped Smoke off in the kindergarten line and one of his classmates, a gentle boy who I’m fond of, was wearing a Santa cap. “Ho, ho, ho!” he said, and all the kindergarteners screamed in delight. “Ho, ho, ho!” he said again and again and again. This was a joke that would never grow old.

On Sunday Kellie bought a Christmas tree, but by the time she got it home it was dark and she was tired. The ornaments were still in boxes stored in the shed. When explained to Smoke that they wouldn’t be decorating the tree that night, he was genuinely dismayed. I had assumed it was pretty much impossible for a six-year-old to hold onto disappointment continuously for longer than an hour, but at bedtime he still looked glum; his lower lip had never returned to its usual spot.

The next morning, after eating an iced gingerbread cookie, he was the most distracted squirrely version of himself I’d seen in weeks and it took everything I had to get him ready for school and out the door. As I buckled him into his car seat, I hissed “We are NOT doing any more sugar in the mornings!” Smoke, barely registering my anger, replied, “I’m just so excited to decorate the tree tonight, I can’t think of anything else!” “Really?” I said, amazed that this tree could hold so much power for him.

Deer Show

Add to the chaos that Stump, who will be two next month, is fascinated with a) the concept of a tree indoors, b) lights, and c) shiny round balls (e.g. ornaments). In short, it’s as if Christmas trees were specifically designed as a decoy for him to systematically dismantle. So far he has pulled on the cords, leaned forward to suck on the lights, tried to hug the tree, pulled on branches, shaken branches, detached ornaments from their casing and hurled them at the floor.

To cope with all of the above, I’ve got a single strategy, a video that Kellie picked up at Costco for seventeen dollars, a purchase that I was initially critical of and which Stump now refers to as “Deer Show.” To distract Smoke from his perpetual anticipation, to keep Stump from tearing apart the Christmas tree, I am hosting daily screenings of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. So far the audience consists only of a towheaded baby in a diaper and a six-year-old in PJs hopping all over the couch, but if you ever find yourself needing a break from the holidays, feel free to drop in for the Deer Show. It will be playing and we’ll clear a spot for you.

How to Survive Thanksgiving

  1. Don’t make any plans to travel. You’re not up for that. Sure, the idea of spending four consecutive winter days at home with your kids may sound daunting, but you’ll make it.
  1. Don’t try to get invited anywhere either. If you go to someone else’s home, you’ll just spend the afternoon chasing after the toddler, or keeping an eye on whoever is supposed to be chasing the toddler.
  1. Consider inviting people over, but don’t follow through. It looks like Thanksgiving is just going to be your family of four. Let go of any lingering fears that this is a sign you’ve become a social pariah.
  1. There’s a turkey in your freezer, so you’re all set on that front. Delay the unthawing process because there’s no room in your refrigerator. Tell yourself that the cold water submersion process will work just fine.
  1. Don’t even consider beginning any of your cooking projects until you’ve gone for a long holiday run. Get drizzled on and smell the wood smoke. Listen to the frogs; say hello to the llamas.
  1. Tell your wife to take the toddler out visiting so that you can make a pumpkin pie with your older son. Remark on how enjoyable the day has been so far.
  1. Get the turkey in the oven more or less on time, even though the toddler has woken up way too early from a nap, and he insists on being held. It’s hard to prepare a turkey with one hand. Dismiss your concern that the inner cavity still felt partially frozen.

decorating

  1. Watch the house descend into chaos right around five—an hour past the time you had hoped to eat. For some reason, though the potatoes and salad are ready, the turkey stays at 140 degrees. Consider hopefully that maybe your thermometer is broken and start carving at the turkey. Realize it’s not your thermometer; the turkey is raw in places. Tell your older son that yes, he can decorate the dining area. Take note that “decorating”, to him, means spreading blankets on the floor and piling every stuffed animal he owns on top of them. Try to remain calm as the toddler promptly dismantles these decorations, and both of your sons wind up hitting each other and in tears.
  1. Try not to take it too personally that your older son won’t eat Thanksgiving dinner because he’s too busy screaming in his room. Try to understand that those decorations were, for whatever reason, very important to him, especially the unsharpened pencils that he laid at every place setting. Consider that someday he might be a world-renowned decorative genius and then this moment will make more sense. Try not to make a big deal out of the fact that you spent half of the day cooking and now no one can really eat. Remind yourself that holidays are weird. They just are.
  1. Find consolation in the fact that your son more or less gets over himself and eats two servings of mashed potatoes. Follow his instructions when, between dinner and dessert, he asks you to sit on the couch with your wife. He has a card to present. It’s a classic of sorts: one of those turkeys made from a handprint, with a Thanksgiving poem inside. He made it in kindergarten. Fawn over it. Remember that you’re all supposed to say what you’re grateful for. No one gets too creative, and that’s okay. You’re all just grateful for each other. Even the toddler gets in on the spirit, rattling off everyone’s name.
  1. Whip some cream. Eat some pie. Decide that this holiday has been no better and no worse than the vast majority of holidays you can remember.

Tday

In which I learn that my lactation superpowers have limits

I never wanted to be that parent on an airplane, the one with the baby who screams and won’t stop, and up until yesterday I hadn’t been. I thought I had it figured out, that my choice to practice extended breastfeeding meant that I always had the proper tool to quiet my little ones. But if there’s a cardinal rule of parenting it’s this: the moment you get cocky about anything is the moment you dig your own grave.

Yesterday we flew from Seattle to Boston—a five-hour flight—and Stump, who is currently eighteen months, screamed for an hour straight. I’m worried that an hour sounds unimpressive, so allow me to add a little detail.

It began only a few minutes after we boarded, probably around the time that Stump figured out the airplane was going to be his temporary prison, that he would be loosely confined to my lap for an indefinite period. It was nap time, and he’d already been confined to the car seat and later the stroller since he’d awoken at six. And so, he began screaming and thrashing with all of his bobcat strength.

IMG_1276

“Ten minutes,” I told myself, trying to restrain him so that he wouldn’t kick or head butt the large elderly man who shared our row—did I mention I was traveling sans partner? I figured once the plane started moving, Stump would settle. I’d nurse him (awkwardly, hiding from the old-man-neighbor), and he’d easily fall asleep. Whatever passengers he was annoying would calm down, wipe their foreheads and think: that baby’s not so bad.

The plane started moving. I tried to nurse him. He complied for a moment, then bolted away, arching back and screaming. I rushed to cover up my nipple. We repeated this at least four times until I gave up on the power of lactation to calm him. In my world, this is the sign of a serious problem. I held him and rocked him and begged him and shushed him and tried not to break down and cry. “You have to go to sleep,” I hiss-whispered.

“He’ll give it up eventually,” the old man reassured me. I wondered: what if he didn’t? What if he cried for the entire five hours and eight minutes? I told myself that even if this happened, the flight would end eventually, but I knew that every hour would feel like a decade. Those five hours would add up to longer than I’ve even lived.

The old man got up to use the restroom, and on his way back I overheard a woman offer to trade seats with him so that he could relax. He told her “Oh no; it’s fine.”

Stump was still screaming when I felt him fart through his diaper. It was an especially stinky fart for a baby, and it wafted right up into my face. It was then that I began to suspect that I understood the problem. Minutes later, I checked his diaper, and saw a tiny brown turd. He leaned into me crying. His crying was different than his screaming—it contained a hint of relief. He leaned into me, pooing, just letting it all go.

You see, Stump is a guy who poops on the move, not in his car seat, not in his stroller, and definitely not while his mom is force-nursing him. I wanted to get on the PA system and announce: “Fellow Passengers. He Just Had to Poop. Everything is Going to be Fine.”

Instead I dug through my bag for a diaper and wipes. Red-faced and sweaty, I carried my stinky baby to the bathroom and changed him on top of the toilet while he continued to scream. He screamed as I washed my hands and he screamed all the way back to his seat. But when I offered my breast he took it and instantly melted into a puddle of sleeping baby. My fellow passengers wiped their brows and collectively thought, That baby has issues.

Reasons to Love PMS

http://www.scrapbooksnstickers.com/Store/Products/Item/-100-118/2/1580.html

Early this morning, as my partner prepared to leave for work, some part of me thought it would be a good idea to engage her in an argument. Stump had woken up at 4:30, and so I’d been lying in bed for over an hour, trying to nurse him back to sleep, while simultaneously nursing my resentment over a comment my partner had made several days earlier. At 5:30, when Stump sat up and decided he was awake for good, I got up, found Kellie in the shower, opened my mouth, and released all of my venom. My period is due in two days.

I’m not normally like this, and therein lies the problem. Brooding comes naturally to me, but complaining doesn’t. All day long and into the night, every day and every night, I feel things and I think about them. I think about whether or not I should say them out loud. Usually, I choose not to.

Kellie is the opposite. She complains as she goes. She doesn’t brood. My emotions are a mystery to her—and by “mystery”, I don’t mean a puzzle that she longs to solve; I mean simply that she doesn’t know about them. I mean, she does in theory know that I have feelings, but if she’s not thinking about her own feelings, if she’s not constantly gauging every word she hears or says, assessing her own reactions, why would she be worried about mine?

Because of this, Kellie does not understand my PMS. She thinks it’s an annoyance that she has to put up with as part of the contract of being married to me. She does not see the benefit to me losing my cool—quite predictably—once a month.

Here’s an analogy. Some years ago, I took my dog Winston to a trainer because he was exhibiting aggressive behaviors, growling at kids as they ran by him, nipping at me if I tried to look at his hurt paw. The trainer introduced me to the concept of bite threshold.

http://www.chicagonow.com/steve-dales-pet-world/2013/04/timmy-barks-the-real-lassie-story/

All dogs, she said, are capable of biting another dog or human, but some dogs require far more to provoke them than others. The way she explained it, even Lassie could bite Timmy, but it would require the perfect combination of circumstances, say a thunderstorm at night and Timmy is wearing a mask and approaching Lassie while holding a large stick. But say you get a dog with an ultra-low threshold. It might just take a toddler waddling towards his food dish and he’s all up in her face.

bite+threshold+2

Illustration of how triggers,  individually, may not provoke an aggressive response

http://reactivechampion.blogspot.com/2011/09/good-dogs-bite-too-why-you-need-to.html

Illustration of how triggers, when combined, may push a dog to snap

So let’s say most days my bite threshold is relatively high. I’m no Lassie. I’m prone to growling in the evenings when I’m tired and the kids are tired and everyone’s resisting each other. But I also let a lot of stuff roll off my back.

On PMS days, my threshold suddenly drops. I’m like the sick dog in the above graphic. I might never like “getting my head touched” but on the average day, you’re never going to know that. But scratch me between the ears on a low threshold day and—SNAP! Now you know.

And here’s where the analogy breaks down. I realize that you don’t ever want your dog to snap, but in the case of your partner, you want her to say what’s on her mind sometimes, even if it comes out at 5:30 am when you are in the middle of enjoying your morning shower and expected the house to be quiet for the next forty-five minutes or so. You need her to explain to you, in no uncertain terms, the various reasons why she hates it when you scratch her head, and you do this All The Time. Come on. You want that. Don’t you?