Birthday Parties: Learning to be Flexible as a Mom

Birthday Parties: Learning to be Flexible as a Mom; My son's fourth birthday was stressful as hell. And yet I learned a lot about adapting to unexpected circumstances. (Photo: Kid blowing out candles on a birthday cake as a man lights them.)

The band-aid was the first sign of trouble.

My parents, my in-laws, Chris, and I were all rushing around, trying to set up Sprout’s fourth birthday party. A few days earlier, Sprout had badly cut his ring finger and now the band-aid was peeling off. Like all children, Sprout takes his band-aids Very Seriously. While we have a plentiful supply of Thomas the Train band-aids at home, my current stash was limited to Star Wars. “Look, I have Star Wars band-aids!” I exclaimed, trying to work up an adequate level of enthusiasm. “I don’t want Star Wars band-aids! I want Thomas!” he cried. After much whining, including an exclamation of “I don’t want to watch Star Wars!,” my mom resolved the situation. She offered to “make” a dinosaur band-aid from a plain bandage and dinosaur stamp.

This dramatic arc was solid foreshadowing for the rest of his birthday party.

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Five Surprising Ways I’m My Father’s Daughter

5 Surprising Ways in Which I'm My Father's Daughter; Photo: Man in baseball cap holding a sharp stone in front of a river

“You look just like your mom.” Those are always the first words out of anyone’s mouth who knows my mom and is meeting me for the first time. Admittedly, my mom and I have many things in common. Namely, a talkative nature and knack for strong opinions. But lately, I’ve been noticing more and more the ways that I’m like my dad.

On first glance, my dad and I don’t seem to have much in common. My good high school friend once half-joked that he had never heard my dad talk. That was obviously false, but had enough truth to it to be funny.

But for all that our personalities are different, his influence has definitely rubbed off on me.

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What You Don’t See

“So what time do you get home?” I asked. I desperately wanted to know how my friends had managed to solve the conundrum of living in the suburbs with young kids – how to spend time with them while also getting them to bed at a reasonable hour. They had just told me that they got their one-year-old to bed by 7:30 pm, a feat that has never happened at our house.

“6:30,” my friend replied, shrugging. “We grab her something out of the fridge and do the bedtime routine.”

I blinked. They didn’t have dinner together. Or much time together at all on weekdays. I literally had not considered that possibility.

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The Before and After of Motherhood

Text: "The Before and After of Motherhood / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Woman climbing on the side of a cliff.

I was never cool. All of those things women lament about giving up when they have kids? I never did them. Instead, my transformation as a mom has been more subtle but no less radical.

I never went out clubbing. Okay, I did, but I usually complained that it was too loud or too crowded or played music I didn’t like. My husband worked nights and weekends for years and I wasn’t going to go alone, so it was a rare occasion at best.

I never dressed up in perfect makeup and stiletto heels. Mascara makes my eyelashes stick to my face. Lipstick makes my lips feel weird. I’ve never even tried to wear stilettos. The only time I’ve ever been in full makeup was my wedding; it felt like a mask.

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The Power of a Hug

The Power of a Hug.png

I know this is kissing, but we seriously have zero photos of us hugging.

My arms wrapped around him, grasping him, clutching him. I squeezed his sides as hard as I could. His back straightened under my arms. I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek against his chest.

This scene has played out over and over again between my husband and I throughout the 16 years of our relationship.

In a park before a high school make-out session on a picnic table. In my college’s parking lot, just before he drove away for another six weeks. In our kitchen next to a sink piled high with dishes.

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7 Ways My Three-Year-Old is Already Too Clever

Text: "7 Ways My Three-Year-Old is Already Too Clever / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Picture: A brain with arms lifting weights

“What’s that?” my son said, pointing into the bathroom. As I looked to see what he was talking about, he ran in the opposite direction. At that moment, I realized that my son, at the tender age of three, had pulled one of the oldest tricks in the book.

I’m not the type of parent to brag about my child being “gifted.” But I do suspect that with a mom who often thought she was smarter-than-thou as a child (yes, me) and a father who’s an unrepentant wiseass, Sprout is already more clever than I am. Here are just a few of the ways:

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The Exasperation of a Blank Baby Book

Photo: Baby book titled "Baby's First Year" on a tabletop; Text: "The Exasperation of a Blank Baby Book / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

Blank. Just blank. The empty page after empty page of my eight-month-old’s baby book stared at me in accusation. Even his name wasn’t filled in. Really? Crap.

I specifically bought this book because it was supposed to be “easy.” Just a page a month for the first year. How much time could that take? Apparently too much.

Was it that I didn’t love Little Bird enough to bother chronicling his important moments? While the guilt that beats at my brain wanted that to be the right answer, I know in my heart it’s not true. I adore my children. And I’ve spent a ton of time and effort capturing their childhood. I probably have hundreds of photos of Little Bird alone, much less those with his brother.

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