Not surprisingly, motherhood is packed with an assortment of learning experiences. You learn that you can function on roughly twenty minutes of sleep. You learn that actually, no, four diapers is not enough to pack for your first long outing with an infant.
You learn enough about this tiny new human in your life to fill several books.
But you learn a lot about yourself, too. Sometimes it’s great. (“Hey! I am pretty good at X!”) Sometimes it’s not.
Recently, I learned that I am incredibly uncomfortable with failure.
I don’t feel like that sentence adequately describes the emotional turmoil I experienced when I had this revelation. Let me back up.
A couple of weeks ago, we attempted potty training. Yes, I heard from all the people that this was probably crazy. Yes, I realized that I was also packing for an out-of-state move, so, in hindsight, I should probably have predicted a few bumps.
But Vivi is so smart! She was already exhibiting all the traits of a toddler ready to potty train! She had even successfully peed in the potty a few times! And I had read a book! (Because I have always read a book.) I was so prepared to power through a week of intense training and emerge proud, victorious, and diaper-less.
And then real life set in.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but the essential details of this training method say your kid needs to be naked until they start to get the concept of going in the potty. Obviously, this leads to quite a few accidents. Meaning I was cleaning up a lot of pee. And, yeah, some poo. To be fair, Vivi was actually making really good progress. She went from being totally clueless about what her body was doing to being able to tell me about a second before it happened that she needed to potty. But a week after we started, I hit a breaking point.
For one, I was out of time. I had blocked out one week, and I simply couldn’t dedicate the rest of the month to this project because of the aforementioned move.
For another, my nerves were shot. It’s almost embarrassing how frazzled needing to catch Vivi peeing left me. But every night when I could finally put a diaper on her to go to sleep, I felt like it was the first time I exhaled all day.
One night, every time I would start to drift off, I would fall into a dream where I would be looking at Vivi just as she started to pee on the floor. I would wake up literally lunging to grab her, adrenaline pumping through my already exhausted body.
In short, I was a wreck.
It probably didn’t help that my life was completely turned upside down. We still didn’t know where we were living post-move, I had so. much. packing. to do, and we were beaten out on a house that we wanted to buy. Plus, I hadn’t really left the apartment for five days. Nothing felt like it was going right, and every time I would have to get on my knees to wipe up a puddle of urine, it felt like a personal insult.
That night I kept having the horrible lunging dream, I finally got out of bed around 3 a.m. to read the part of my book about troubleshooting. In short, it said that if your child is 18-20 months, they are capable of being trained, but they are most likely going to need more time. Time I didn’t have.
So, at 3:32 a.m., I made a deal with myself: I would give it two more days, and if Vivi didn’t show serious signs of picking it up, we would put it off until we were settled in our new place. A bunch of people had also warned me that moves can cause even well trained toddlers to regress, and the thought of taking steps backward was literally bringing me to tears.
Two days later, Vivi had improved, but not to the point where I felt like I could comfortably leave her unattended or even leave the house with her diaper-less. So I called it. The diaper went back on, and life continued as it was. (Except that now Vivi tells me whenever she’s peeing in her diaper.)
It was then that I had to face the music: I had failed.
Granted, no one likes to fail. But I realized that it embarrasses me on a deep, dark level. And, having realized, this, I felt embarrassed that I was so embarrassed. Because this wasn’t really failure, right? It’s a set-back. It’s bad timing. Why do I care so much? But I found myself in a position that, no matter how much I tried or focused on the problem, I had to admit defeat.
Defeat is really not my forte.
But, in happier news, this experience has also taught me how to let myself off the hook. Yes, things didn’t go according to my (arbitrary) plan. But we’ll try again, and Vivi will probably pick it up quicker with this experience under her belt (and once she’s in an environment where everything isn’t topsy-turvy). Vivi doesn’t hold it against me (or maybe she does? Guess we’ll have to wait for her memoir to know for sure…), so I can let it go too.
Parent readers, tell me about your own parenting “failures.” Did you beat yourself up as much as I do?
1. Buy a bunch of boxes weeks out from your move date whilst smugly telling yourself, “Gosh, I’m so on the ball! This will be done in no time.”
2. Spend the next week staring at boxes with remorse because #momlife.
3. Two weeks from your deadline, start attempting to pack at least five boxes a day when you first get up.
4. Promptly abandon this plan because your toddler keeps taking things out of the boxes or demanding to be held while you pack. Nap time packing it is!
5. Spend half an hour debating which toys she won’t notice if you pack now. Spend subsequent half hour asking yourself why you even have those toys. Deal with subsequent meltdown when she asks for packed toys the next day.
6. Repeatedly stub your toe/smack your funny bone while chasing toddler through growing towers of boxes. Consider burning it all for the insurance money, but stop because, well, you’re setting an example.
7. After bedtime, pour some rosé in a plastic cup (because the glass ones are packed) and tell yourself this will all be over soon.
New York is the first boyfriend I never had.
That sounds weird to say because, obviously, I had a first boyfriend. But that boyfriend was Joey, and we always dated a little more seriously, with a little more direction. What I mean to say is, New York is the first boyfriend I would have had if I had been a high schooler in a movie in 1997.
We met through friends while I was in school, and my crush was immediate. After a couple years of long-distance flirting, we made things official. The drama was almost immediate (“You make it so hard to be with you sometimes! I mean, have you seen these broker fees??”), but New York always made it up to me.
New York took me on some of the best dates of my life. New York made me cry. Like all best relationships, New York introduced me to some of the best people now in my life.
I fell in love here. I got married and had a baby here. My daughter’s birth certificate will forever read “New York City.”
But, like most first relationships, I always knew it wouldn’t last forever.
I’ve always said I would give New York ten years. It has been almost eight, but, honestly, New York years are like dog years, and I feel like I’ve been here 20.
And as the years went on, the flaws in our tenuous love affair became more and more glaring. I found myself using the word “hate” more often. “I hate how hard it is to get your laundry done!” “I hate how hard it is to find parking!” “I hate how everything is a little bit more challenging here!”
“I hate it here.”
The words fell from my lips so easily, but they still came with a pang of guilt.
Eventually, I became that girl who knew it was over but was still holding on. I held on because there were still occasional good times, there were still reasons to stay, but in my heart I knew New York would never commit to me.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what it came down to. I wanted commitment. I wanted consistency. I had aged out of New York, and I was fully okay with that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about New York and me because, well, we’re leaving. After eight years (as of May 23rd), I’m officially packing my bags and getting out of Dodge. I’m not going to lie, I’m super excited about having a new state and new home on the horizon, but, like any good first boyfriend, nostalgia still beckons. New York will always have eight of some of the most important years of my life. And (once I no longer have to deal with the traffic, the people, the schleps to the laundromat) I know I’ll always think of it fondly. I’m proud of each one of those eight years.
But I’m ready for a new adventure.
Also! As blog readers (if you’ve stuck through these numerous dry spells of posting when I was waiting, waiting, waiting to have something to tell you guys), this is actually great news for you. Because a move and a new house are sure to be rife with blog post ideas. I know, I can smell your relief from here. So stay tuned, friends!
In some ways, being a parent give you a lot of perspective. You suddenly appreciate your own parents. You reprioritize everything. You stop caring about everything being perfect all the time. (Mostly.)
In other ways, being a parent makes you lose all sense of time, space, and perspective.
Most of the time, Vivi is a really good kid. Like, really good. She’s happy. She’s friendly. She’s smart. She’s sweet. I hit the jackpot, folks.
And then…well, then, other times, things go differently.
A couple of weeks ago, we were at one of our religious meetings. I had spent the night at a friend’s house (she’s pregnant and her husband was out of town AND I DON’T NEED TO EXPLAIN TO YOU WHY I AM ALMOST 30 AND HAVE SLEEPOVERS), so I didn’t see Vivi until the meeting at 2:45.
As soon as I got there, I could tell she was in a funny mood.
Not funny ha-ha. Not funny like a clown. Funny like, “Huh…maybe we should all go back to bed and try again tomorrow.”
She was also only wearing a shirt and tights because DADS. That part was actually hilarious. But I digress…
I heard about five minutes of the entire hour-and-a-half meeting because Vivi started to shriek as soon as the talk started. I spent the rest of the time in the lobby watching her literally sprint in dizzying circles around me while yelping every 15 seconds. Any time I would try to make her stop and calm down, she would full-on smack me in the face. I would discipline her, she would “apologize” (can you really take a toddler apology seriously? you know they don’t mean it), we would return to the public eye, and the spectacle would continue.
Everyone who walked by would give me a sympathetic smile or ask what was wrong with her. “I don’t know, it’s the strangest thing — there’s nothing about this in the manual!!!” I would rave at them. In my head. Out loud, I would say, “I think she’s just tired.” Or teething. Or hungry.
OR A TOTAL MONSTER.
Because, in those moments, in the darkness of parenting, you are convinced that this is your new demon baby and it is never, ever leaving. Your happy kid? Gone. And it’s probably your fault. It’s probably that time you let her eat a non-organic banana because she needed a snack and it’s all they had at the coffee shop. And now, look what you get for forgetting a dietarily appropriate snack: a demon baby. Your welcome, terrible mom.
Even if you don’t blame yourself for getting to this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s your fault that you are not a good enough mom to make the terror stop. Your new baby dictator will now rule for the rest of her days, and all you can do is pretend like you know how to discipline her and hold your breath to see if anything works. Scary voice? No. Pow-pow? Nada. Sticking her in a chair until she says she’ll be good? Nice try, Mom. If that is your real name!!!
Hopefully, by the time you get over a year into this gig, you at least have the rational state of mind to remind yourself (even if you don’t believe it) that this too shall pass. Remember the puking days? Remember the non-sleeping days? Remember the crying-all-day-for-no-apparent-reason days? You thought those would all last forever too, and look at you now. So you grit your teeth and count the minutes until bedtime, all with the faint hope that she will wake up tomorrow your sweet, wonderful baby again.
So back to the day in question. I’d like to tell you that we both had some kind of epiphany where we came to terms and understood each other and returned peacefully for the end of the meeting. But that’s not what happened. What happened is she started doing this thing where she would look me dead in the eye and open her mouth and just scream and scream and scream until she needed to take a breath.
The scariest part? She never broke eye contact. And her eyes were very clearly saying, “What are you going to do about it?”
And here’s what I did: I handed her to a friend and ran to the bathroom to cry. And then I came out, grabbed my stuff and Vivi, and we left. We just went home. Where she could scream and I could cry, and no one could see or judge us.
And eventually bed time came. And the next morning, things were better.
Because that is parenting. It’s crying and worrying you’re screwing it all up one day and loving the crap out of that little perfect monster the next.
So I’m trying not to worry too much if I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. If I don’t know what I’m doing ever. Because we’re figuring it out, all of us. And tomorrow? Things will be better.
It is amazing to me how much Vivi’s approval means when it comes to my cooking.
Let’s be clear: I don’t let Vivi dictate what we eat in any way. I don’t think toddlers have developed enough palates to know what is “good,” and I think we all know that, if they had their way from the first stages of solid foods, they would just eat bananas and buttered pasta for the rest of their days.
In short: I’m the boss of dinner, and Vivi either eats what I make or doesn’t eat.
Which, of course, means sometimes she doesn’t each much, especially when we’re introducing new foods. The French have a philosophy that if your kid is a picky eater, it reflects more on their character — and your parenting — than any other behavior. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I definitely feel a sense of failure when Vivi refuses a meal or throws some food on the ground (which, in our house, is grounds for ending the meal completely).
It’s my fault her palate isn’t developed enough.
I should have served in more distinct courses.
I shouldn’t have let her have that bite of (insert random snack) an hour ago, it totally squashed her appetite.
I should have cooked it differently.
I’m totally screwing this whole thing up.
Basically, I’m insane.
But just when I’m convinced I’ve blown it and she’s only going to eat meatballs for the rest of her childhood, we have a meal that goes perfectly. She eats every bite of shrimp and rice and broccoli without any fuss and asks for more broccoli (this seriously happened!), and suddenly we’re all going to be just fine.
Im always on the lookout for veggie-packed recipes to make sure Viv gets as many servings as possible. I posted on Instagram about some veggie muffins I make for Vivi, and a few people asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here. Enjoy!
Zucchini + Carrot+ Apple Muffins
2 zucchini, shredded with excess moisture removed
3 carrots, shredded with excess moisture removed
1 apple, pitted and shredded with excess moisture remove
(For all of the above, I run them through my juicer and use the dry pulp. Just be sure to remove all apple seeds before juicing.)
1/2 cup apple sauce (no sugar added)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl, then add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Scoop into ungreased muffin tin (I use papers). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden and inserted knife removes cleanly.
The muffins are very soft from all the veggies, so I suggest freezing what you don’t eat right away and thawing when you want to eat them so they don’t spoil. They are much more savory than sweet, so add a dollop of honey butter if you need a bit more sweetness.
Adapted from The Lean Green Bean.
One of Vivi’s characteristics that I’m most proud of is her love for books. As a lifelong reader, I love seeing my own passion reflected in her every time she toddles over with a new thing to read.
That being said, when your toddler asks you to read the same book for the sixth time in rapid succession, you start to get a little desperate for options. Not that I know anything about that (no, I have never hidden a book so she couldn’t ask me to read it again, how could you even suggest that?!)(yes, I have.), but in case this is a problem that you have, I’ve rounded up our favorite books that Vivi truly never tires of and I don’t even mind reading again and again.
I should also preface that the bulk of these books have been gifts from my friend Erin. She has some kind of sixth sense about what books to buy for a toddler, and she rarely misses. (I credit her years in entertainment media, as well as a long stint working in a children’s bookstore during high school.)
I tell you what: Babies love a lift-flap book. And if you combine it with anything that creates an opportunity to practice animal sounds, Vivi will eat it up. We’ve read this charming book so many times, the spine is currently held together with shipping tape. That is love, people.
Like so many of Vivi’s books, I have this one almost entirely committed to memory. Which would probably be annoying, except this hilarious book is actually pretty fun to read. Plus, it’s full of awesome vocabulary words (like kaleidoscope, aghast, and locomotion) that it will be pretty adorable to hear Vivi say in the coming months.
Here’s a tip for parents looking for books to buy their kids: The more words, the better. Trust me; if you think it’s hard to read a board book seven times over, try doing it with a book lacking a script. It’s painful. BabyLit books eschew the original classic plots in favor of primer-style educational books, and Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites because it includes full-sentence excerpts from the original book as a way to teach your toddler about different kinds of weather. Pride & Prejudice is also pretty good.
I had always heard that parents had a love-hate relationship with this book prior to becoming a parent, but we’re pretty big fans in this house. The rhyme is catchy (I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree!), and Vivi always seems impressed with my alphabetical rapping skills. (Come on; if you read this book without pretending like you’re rapping, you are missing out.)
If you have known Vivi since she was born, odds are you have had this song stuck in your head at one point or another. We have always been huge Susan Boynton fans, but Personal Penguin has been the book/song that has gotten us through some of the darkest baby moments. Oh, you didn’t know there was a song? Allow me (warning: you WILL have this stuck in your head for the rest of your life, but it’s actually pretty cute so you might not care):
So…what are your toddler book suggestions? Share ’em in a comment below!
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