Sour Patch Kid

My toddler is laying down across my lap as I sit cross legged on the floor prepared to do my best animal noises as we read the same book for the thirtieth time. Unprovoked, and no warning provided she bites my thigh so hard, I’m certain an immediate bruise will appear. In my head, I’m angry, shocked, and honestly, in pain. On the outside I am no different , I literally YELP hoping to scare the shit out of her so she is too scared to bite again. I’ve been instructed by daycare, the doctor, and most online resources to say something like, “No biting, that HURTS mommy.” My husband comes over to give me, the victim, attention. Our low budget performance is just one episode in a very long season. Her tiny razor blade teeth have broken skin and I’m one moment away from biting her back (I will never try this). She comes back up to me, she looks so sorry. She presses her forehead on mine, takes her tiny little mitts and puts one on either side of my face and kisses my nose. She wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes me as hard as she can. She’s saying sorry the only way she knows how. The non-verbal apology was what brought me to actual tears. She has big emotions, big feelings, she’s impulsive, she’s smart, she’s opinionated, she’s excited and most of all she’s a sour patch kid. Everyone assures me that biting is normal, however, Dylan’s never been bit at daycare…except for that one time and I responded “oh great!” And daycare told me, “well she stuck her fingers in a friend’s mouth.”

huge smile & bigger teeth.

I hear other moms talk about how their baby was bit at daycare. I nod along, “oh how awful, I’m so sorry that happened!” As I hand Dylan a walnut as part of our rigorous ‘bite hard’ training.

Sometimes I mention that I have a biter and people are always curious if daycare will kick us out. Daycare is, honestly, the only helpful outlet. Providing instructions, advice, and some sympathy to the mother of a sour patch kid. Will they kick us out? I haven’t been told that will happen and no one has ever mentioned it. Is it possible though? At this rate, it is highly likely.

I’m constantly curious at the number of parents who silently hate us due to the numerous incident reports my toddler has been a part of. Who has been bit and bruised by my spirited child? What’s the appropriate response by me? Incident reports are anonymous at daycare. At daycare, Dylan, is “friend.” I assume their incident reports read: “[Your Child] was bit by a friend, this incident was unprovoked. Your child is an angel, and was attacked.” Maybe that’s my anxiety. I usually read them from my perspective and cannot help but laugh. I truly am sorry that my baby bites, it’s awfully frustrating, and painful. I’ve been on the receiving end numerous times and I have to live with the shame. At the same time, I think she’s a hilarious monster with a huge personality. I move on with my day by telling myself these parents must assume there are numerous biters. If someone ever approaches me rudely about it, I’ll lie and pretend they have the wrong mom… “I know, that poor mom who has to deal with their child that… (looks around and lowers my volume as if I’m saying something taboo) bites.” I’d plant seeds of empathy and hope I’ve altered the mind of a Karen. The truth is I want her to stop biting more than you. I am directly impacted and the wounds of my embarrassment far outlast the bite marks on your child’s… forehead/arm/leg/wherever. So, to everyone she’s hurt: I’m sorry, know that I am. We are working hard to correct the behavior. There is no rule book for sour patch kids. Our day is filled with a series of guesses followed by some hoping for the best.

And to the moms of the biters: your child is fierce, excited, and passionate. One day you won’t have been the victim of a bite in months. You’ll look back and like everything else, barely remember this time. I hope what remains is the personality that drives their wild side, and the spirit of a child who cared enough to demand what they wanted (even by bite force) before they could communicate it appropriately. Empathize and understand if people get frustrated with you and your small shark, but don’t let it take up too much space in your head. I assure you, this phase will pass. At least that’s what people keep saying… I’m still waiting.

The past couple of weeks.

I haven’t been writing. Well, let me rephrase that, I haven’t been writing anything worth sharing. Life has been moving on, with its fair share of funny Dan stories. I can’t remember any of them at the moment, but I’m hopeful for 2021- I think it’s gonna be hilarious (for me, at home). In the meantime, I’ll recap my past couple of weeks. Usually I wouldn’t post my time recap in blog form, but I just read a post the other day and I think the weekend recaps are more entertaining during the pandemic. Like wtf are you doing to keep yourself entertained when you can’t go anywhere. Now that is interesting. I assure you, I have no creatives ideas or ways to fill your time, just sarcastic comments about the everyday.

I had the entire week of Christmas off. It was super jam packed of activities. I had a few shows to watch and roughly three presents to wrap. Understandably, I needed to wind down so one of the nights I had two margaritas and woke up with a gnarley hangover and an absurd amount of anxiety. I decided to TaKe iT eAsY for the subsequent days that followed, didn’t want to get too overwhelmed with all my ✨cHrIsTmAs PLAnS✨

On Christmas Day, Dylan spiked a fever of 104/105. Cool cool coool. She’s fine, right? Babies just get fevers this high because they are little, right? I actually stayed pretty calm even though she was literally ON FIRE (cue jack jack from the Incredibles making himself light on fire). The next night the same thing happened, so I brought her in. The doctor tested for strep throat which was negative and did a COVID test. I brought her home, and she had a fever again but seemed, generally, fine.

Forty-eight hours after the doctor’s appointment, I get a call from Phyllis from the MN Dept of Health (MDH) doing a COVID-19 tracing call. I guess Dylan has COVID, the fever was reducing and the symptoms were subsiding. It was a blessing in disguise to receive the results after the symptoms were generally gone. I would have been a mess, otherwise. I felt anxious, guilty, frustrated, annoyed, and scared. To be fair, at this point I still hadn’t received physical results from my clinic. Just Phyllis’s word and a COVID case number sent via email from her Rose International email address. Rose International is the third party that was hired by the MDH which I found while Googling. At first glance, I was truly confused because I watch Schitts Creek and was convinced I’ve been given fake COVID results from Moira as part of an upcoming musical comedy to be performed by the Jazzagals. Anyway, after some research and the realization Moira was not involved, I went on to answer Phyllis’s tracking questions, including: Has Dylan been prison in the last 14 days?” & “Can we mark the address listed as a COVID positive address (these are my words not hers).” I asked Phyllis if my home counted as a prison? We laughed at my obvious joke, and I assured her, Dylan hasn’t been convicted of any serious crimes. I was fairly concerned about the MHD marking my home as a ‘COVID positive’ house. Would someone be arresting us? Would I get a scarlett C+ spray painted on my garage door? The ramifications of such a marking swirled in my head but Phyllis assured me it was a virtual notation for first responders should we need an ambulance. Dylan nor I has been arrested since the call, but I’ve made myself an easy target and I somehow feel like a criminal. Probably, in part, because we single handily shut down our daycare room. I hope the parents whose children are in the same room as us feel some relief as their child isn’t being bitten by my child for the time being. Not for long though, she’s coming back at full strength and she’s hasn’t seen other humans besides her parents for too long.

My husband and I are exhausted, clawing at the same walls that have so graciously kept us and others safe. Although filled with gratitude and perspective, as I build my emotional intelligence, I’ll admit this: I have my five senses (they haven’t been stripped by COVID) but I am losing my damn mind. I am extremely self aware and understand that we are quarantined for a short time period, how others are suffering immensely and I just have to stay home. I get it. But how many days in a row can I stick pipe cleaners in a water bottle and call it an activity? I guess as many as it takes Haha. Some parts of the day we’ve been thriving. Sledding, playing outside, and having dance parties. While she was sick, she even watched ten minutes of tv with me. At one point we made edible paint out of Greek yogurt and food coloring and she didn’t paint a single stroke. She shoved every last drop into her mouth or near it.

I know I won’t remember the chaos over the past couple of weeks, the anxiety I felt, the guilt, the nights she never fucking slept, the mind numbing task of reading the same book over and over, and the endless meals she threw on the floor. I’ll only remember her signing “more” after each run down our small sledding hill, the huge hugs, and the adorable giggles. She’ll ask me, “mom, was it scary when I got COVID?” And I’ll LUCKILY be able to say… “oh, a little bit but we had so much fun.”

Subconsciously, I’ll definitely remember it all though. Every step back into my home will send shivers up my spine for some time.

Raising Dads – Part 3: a Random Weekday Evening.

This is an excerpt of a random weekday evening. Its a peak into the mundane arguments we have, and the ordinary process of our nights. I wrote this the night it happened and just read it back to my husband, Dan. We were both laughing as we remembered the events and he is still standing by his initial opinion outlined below.

Dinner is over. I look at my daughter, Dylan, she’s sitting in her high chair moving her hand from left to right as fast as she can making a windshield wiping motion. She’s done eating and if I want to avoid all her leftovers from hitting the floor, I have to act fast. I somehow consistently remain unprepared for this constant occurrence. I stand up, walk over to grab the washcloth on the kitchen island ten feet from our meal and run back to wipe Dylan’s hands and face, abruptly, stopping her after dinner ritual. I take her out of the high chair and am holding her.

Dan asks, “when you were going to get the rag, why didn’t you bring your plate to the sink? It was on the way.”

I stand with my eyes wide open and pause for a moment comprehending what he asked and wondering if I heard him right? I set Dylan down on the ground, and she takes off. After careful thought and consideration, I react. Dylan is at the fridge trying to shove her Melissa and Doug brand wood magnets into her mouth, and I ask him, “oh I’m sorry, does my process not make sense to you? What? Is it out of order?” He responds, “you never grab your plate, so I always have to.”

Dan is task driven, efficient, an executor, and is a modern day Danny Tanner. The ship he runs is a Special Operations Craft with rules in place and a specific task to complete. If you step out of line you threaten the task at hand and the safety of the ship. The ship I run is one of those booze cruise pirate ship excursions in Mexico. It’s laid back, easy going, but still adheres to a schedule. We are headed in a general direction, I am responsible for the people on board, but there are drinks served. There are pros and cons to each. Dan will accomplish a mission efficiently, correctly, and relax later. I will accomplish a mission in the time allotted, missing a detail, but we will have fun doing it.

The night continues and we discuss priorities. I explain my priority is always our child and while I appreciate a clean kitchen the timeline of when it gets done can be flexible. He acknowledged my thought and ensured me that he agreed. We left that night with the following understanding: Clean baby followed by clean kitchen.

Fast forward two nights.

Dinner is over, and Dylan’s nighttime routine commences. Dan is done eating and stands up from his chair to grab her. She holds up both hands showing us her palms and then the back of her hand, signing “all done”. She starts screeching while windshield wiping her high chair tray. Tonight there is a rag already at the table, a proactive task in which Dan has completed and I am mildly impressed. Dan lifts Dylan out of her chair, and puts her on the ground, while he asks, “Can you come get her?” She looks up at me with avocado covered hands and food stuck to her pants. He takes the rag and starts to wipe up her high chair, I’m grinning and say, “Are you serious?” Dylan is standing near his leg trying to eat the pieces of food she previously threw on the floor. The high chair tray is spotless and he’s completed the first task on the checklist in HIS head but overlooking the tiny green avocado monster who stands at our feet. He starts laughing as self awareness washes over him, he bends down and wipes Dylan’s hands and face. He stands up, and I ask, “No, why didn’t you bring your plate to the sink?”

Three ways I Put Myself First.

Below is a short list of how I ensure I have time to do things that are important to me.

1. I sleep trained in order to have time to myself at night. Sometimes I use the time to watch Bravo, maybe I’ll work out, write, meal-prep, or put the baby to bed, call grandma over and go to dinner.

Did you know sleep training (crying it out) is controversial? I love curling up in bed, phone in hand, watching a good sleep training fight unfold right before my eyes in the facebook comments of a “Mom Group.” Women on either side of the argument are prepped as fuck. They have multiple sources, an army of people logged on ready to back them, and a bibliography in case anyone requires sources properly formatted (APA style, MLA style, Chicago style… they’ve got it). Facebook group moderators comment on the post and remind everyone “this is a safe space, please remember to be kind” when in reality they’ve lost all control. In elementary school, we used to have Peer Mediators. Peer Mediators walked around in turquoise vests with a clipboard looking for fights amongst their peers that required mediating. They had an action plan and a process to solve the problem. Facebook moderators are modern day virtual Peer Mediators but they don’t have a worksheet for anyone to fill out to and the escalation chain has very few repercussions. A shout out to our Facebook moderators in 2020! What a role you have taken, I see you. As I continue to scroll, reading through each comment, I wonder “how does anyone have this kind of time?” Meanwhile, I’ve read both sides of the argument, creeped on each mom involved and have decided the winner of the debate. I have my opinion but never engage. I sleep trained my baby. Her demeanor was right and my intuition told me to. Was it awful? I can’t remember. Odds are she never will either. I haven’t noticed any lasting, subconscious effects on either of us, but I’ll keep you updated. Bedtime usually starts at 7pm and 99 out of 100 times, until 6:30am. I don’t have any facts to support my decision, and I’m not passionate one way or another. I am passionate about finding what works for you. However, if sleep training is YOUR passion, let’s discuss.

Honestly, I’ve got all night.

2. I send my child to daycare because I like to work. I like to problem solve, schmooze, and circle back. I enjoy the irony of a meeting that could be an email, and a corporate bro just trying to climb the corporate ladder.

The first day I dropped her off, I handed her to one of the girls at our daycare, looked around thinking, “that’s it?” I walked out the door and to my car, touched the handle of the door and immediately started crying. I cried for the next hour and on and off for the remainder of the day. I relinquished control on something I worked so hard to create. I never cared so much or worked so hard on a project and handed it off for someone else to finish. Each and every weekday for the next eighteen years I will drop off my creation and when I pick her up, she will be slightly altered. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. But from that day on, I wouldn’t mold her alone. A tough pill to swallow, and also a sigh of relief. A tangible reminder to take it all a day at a time. By day 3 of daycare, this realization slowly faded. The reality of life set in and I asked myself, “Is daycare open Saturday?”

3. Sometimes, I’m the non-default parent.

Here’s a quick instruction guide for making a dad an alternate default parent: When the baby is really little, leave the baby with its father. Everyone will likely be fine and it’ll save you some headache later. Don’t come back for hours. Trusting dad to be resourceful is okay, I promise. You’ll walk in the door and the baby will immediately be back in your arms. Know that. Expect that. Laugh at that. Your partner will wonder how you do it so often. “How do you care for the baby and yourself? There is so much to think about,” they’ll say. Dad now knows what it’s like to carry the mental load for a brief period of time. As the baby gets older leave for longer and ask them to help you with more tasks. “Can you go to Target and buy her some leggings?” If they can’t figure out this task, teach them. They’ll start to understand how new clothes appear in drawers. After small incremental lessons, you’ll have created a default parent…right before your eyes.

To summarize: set expectations, teach, and don’t have a baby with an asshole if you can help it.

Got it?

Three Conveniences of the Non-Default Parent

Below is a limited list I’ve compiled with the help of my due date group (A group of women I met on Facebook- Initially, we had our due dates in common, but it has now grown into a group of roughly 300 women that have a lot more in common) to bring to light what it means to be the non-default parent.

The non-default parent is loosely defined as the parent who is in charge ONLY when overtly stated. The non-default parent isn’t required to announce when they leave the room, because the default parent is always on duty. The non-default parent takes bathroom breaks in peace, and will likely never be prepared with any childcare essentials when leaving the home. Although not all statements listed below are true for every family, its important we use these as a starting point when determining our parental status.

**These conveniences do NOT necessarily reflect the actions of my own husband (or myself) and instead are gathered to provide a well rounded view into households across the country.**

1. When the non-default parent has been deemed “primary caretaker” for a period of time, they assume the default parent wants to be checked on while they are not directly in charge of the child at that given moment but still within the home.

Scenario: “Hey, can you watch the baby? I need to get ready before dinner. Your parents will be here any minute.” I walk into my bedroom, head for the closet to grab an outfit, I rummage through my three t-shirt’s, and ten pairs of leggings hoping that I have a pair of jeans. I find what I’m looking for, praying to the universe that they are stretchier than I remember, and the take-out meals haven’t caught up to me. I put one leg in followed by the other, jump and shimmy into the heartless denim, when I hear, faintly, from the living room, “should we go check on mom?” Loud stomps like thunder to the bedroom foreshadow the storm to come. I’m uncomfortable, I haven’t worn jeans in months and they are not sympathetic like the Lululemons that came before them. I’m sweating because the physical act of finding the jeans and putting them on has me out of breath, I look in the doorway and see a runny nosed toddler and my husband about to say “we came to ch—-. Without a single thought, I exclaim, “could you EVER just give me FIVE minutes?”

2. The non-default parent needs help changing diapers, as if the struggles are different for the non-default parent.

Scenario: The default parent requests the non-default parent change a diaper, understanding entirely the one sided WWE Smackdown that is about to take place. The non-default parent walks into the ring with the toddler, the brawl begins. It starts out slow, the non-default parent clearly taking the lead. The toddler is on her back and things are going well for the non-default parent. The toddler starts with her signature move and flips to her stomach and is quickly in a standing position. The non-default parent isn’t alarmed and flips the toddler on her back. The non-default parent hands the toddler a baby wipe. With the toddler distracted, the non-default parents continues with the diaper change. All of a sudden in a blink of an eye the toddler has flipped over and is standing again, this time without pants on. The non-default parent continues the same move over and over, as the toddler refuses to do anything but get back up. The non-default parent, although, confused and frustrated has a trick up their sleeve. The default parent hears a scream from the bedroom door, “Honey, can you come hold her down? She won’t stop flipping over.” The default parent reluctantly decides to help. The default parent enters the ring, holds down the toddler, and the diaper is changed. Two hours later, the default parent changes a diaper without any assistance.

3. The non-default parent golfs…unbothered by the default parent.

Scenario: “Hey babe, do you mind if I golf with my buddies this weekend? It’s Jack’s college roommate’s brother’s birthday and they need a fourth.” “Who? What?” “Alright, will you be home for bedtime?” (Haha, personally, I would never be this cool.. only three questions for a golf outing? Let’s be honest, I’d negotiate my next escape or a large purchase in this deal. However, this is my blog, and I can write the default parent as chill as I want.) The following weekend, the default parent has plans. Thirty minutes into the outing the default parent’s phone dings. Three new messages.

Where are her pants?”

“What should we eat for lunch?”

I can’t find a bottle?”

The default parent responds, “bottom left drawer, chicken nuggets, cabinet to the right of the sink. The non-default parent responds, “thanks, we just wanted to check on you… ”