Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Motherhood Sacrifice

Motherhood is all about sacrifice. For centuries mothers have been giving up what they want and need in order to accommodate the more pressing demands of their children. We give up sleep, leisurely meals, perky breasts, time, energy, you name it. We happily give it all up to raise these beautiful little creatures and have them prosper and grow into their oversized personalities.

For the past five years I have been working every weekend in order to be able to be home during the week with my kids and avoid paying drastically for child care. My kids see more of me and I don't have to worry about who is caring for them on which day. I have sacrificed many a party, girls' night, dinner out, and basically most other regular event that happens on a weekend. I get the occasional weekend off, savoring every minute of it when I'm not rushing to make the most of it. Now that my oldest is in second grade, I miss out on his life most of all. He's at school all week while I'm home, and I spend most of the day sleeping when he's home on the weekends. It's lame, but it works for our family right now.

Next week I am doing something that is totally radical in the world of motherhood: I am going on vacation by myself. That's right, I said it. No husband, no kids, just girlfriends for five days in Florida. The opposite of sacrifice. Next week I am giving myself a well earned break from the chaos and taking a little sacrifice back. Feels totally reckless as I have never done anything like it before. I travel a lot, but I always take my kids with me. This year I had very little money, but airline miles I could only use myself. Hmmm, what to do?

Ignoring the waves of panic that wash over me at night (How will they be OK without me? Will I be able to will our plane to stay in the air and make it to the other side? Will the house crumble into dust from neglect or be condemned from filth when I return? Am I traumatizing them by taking myself away for so long?) I soldier on because I am downright psyched about this trip. We are staying on a houseboat (is there anything cooler than that?) and planning to fill our days with beach, snorkels, and tropical cocktails. My goal is to relax enough for the next seven years until I get another vacation like it.

I am nervous about it because I am trained to sacrifice. It feels wrong to do something that is just for me. I'm not sure how that guilt was ingrained into me, but here it is. Wherever I go, this invisible umbilical cord has me attached to my children and I can't help but worry about where they are when they aren't with me. I think this feeling may never dissipate, and that it may be the permanent connection that makes motherhood such a powerful force.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Screen Free Challenge

This week Francisco propositioned Nathan with a challenge he couldn't refuse. We seem to be raising a house full of gamblers, because we can't help but place wagers on many of life's daily activities. This week's challenge: Give up the screen.

Francisco bet Nathan fifty dollars that he couldn't go one month without screen time. That includes TV, video games, computer, or the beloved parental iPhone. I quickly joined in on this challenge, as I spend most of my day squawking at someone to "turn that damn thing off!" I added fifty dollars of my own, and for Nay the bet was sealed. If he can go until March 3rd without watching anything, he'll get a whopping hundred bucks. Woah.

It's been two days and Nathan is like a tiny alcoholic. "Mom, this is really hard! Does YouTube count? Does it count as a screen if we are in New Jersey?" He's steadfast in his desire to earn such a massive sum of money for his seven year old pockets, so he has yet to break down, and I keep reminding him that the first week will probably be the hardest. This is the first time that he has voluntarily given up his precious screens. I have often cut him off for a week or two at a time, to bring us back to reality and keep him from becoming too glazed over, but somehow this is very different. There is no reminding, threatening, or sneaking around. He truly just wants to win this challenge.

I have been impressed with how many books he has already plowed through, how his week's worth of homework was completed in one night, and how we have done enough science experiments to write a book.  It's slightly painful to have to wake up as early as he does (he used to sneak downstairs and watch TV before I was even conscious), but I like having his full attention and interest back. I hope he can persevere to win the money, and I really hope this makes a change for our family in the long run. I'll let you know.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Dental Shame

Today is the first (of many) appointments for Sofie to see her pediatric dentist to correct a problem that apparently has been going on for some time unbeknownst to me: her rotten teeth.

If you want to feel like a bad parent try taking your four year old to the dentist, only to find out that more than half of their teeth have melted away with decay. Apparently this is something I should have recognized ages ago, and how could I have waited so long to address this massive dilemma?

Wait. Back up. Hold the phone with your holy-hygienist guilt trip. Aren't these teeth supposed to fall out? Aren't these the set that kids are given so that when their parents don't notice the dark holes appearing in the nether regions of their mouths we can try again with a fresh set of bigger, stronger teeth? I am confused (while still feeling downright shameful that this has happened to MY child, I can't help it, mother guilt is the strongest emotion known to man).

Francisco was more horrified to hear about the $2000 price tag that accompanies Sofie's lengthy dental procedures (and yes, that's WITH the dental insurance) than he was to hear about the teeth themselves. He figures this is the practice run. "No one in MY country ever had these baby teeth fixed, and the people still seem to grow new teeth. We eat fine! What's the problem?" But this from the man who had two of his molars yanked out instead of filled when they bothered him. Not sure he's qualified to make this decision either.

She has to go this morning for fillings, caps, and laughing gas, and then five more times to address all of the many damaged teeth. I don't know if this is warranted, I am not a dentist, but merely a horrified parent who will believe pretty much anything these people tell me. At the same time I am torn between the medical lectures and "how could you"s and the pull of not wanting to put her through this and the strain of our already thin-stretched pockets.

There should be a manual for this kind of thing. How the hell is any parent supposed to know what to do? We brush regularly, don't sleep with bottles of apple juice, what more do you want from me? I am reminded of my mother being lectured by a well known asshole dentist in my town more than 25 years ago when my brother and I each had a mouthful of cavities. The dental shame is apparently passed on through the generations.