We did that.

When my daughter was fifteen months she was going through a small sleep regression. For a few nights she would stand in her crib and scream her head off. This was out of the ordinary, she has been the best sleeper since she was tiny and I like to think my husband and I had a lot to do with it. We set a good sleep foundation, We read the books and put it into practice. Some people think and literally say out loud directly to me… ‘You’re just lucky. Your next will be crazy’ Maybe you psychopath…but we worked hard at it too, and if you don’t give my husband and I credit for every good characteristic of my first born, you’re dead to us. We did this, haha. The work that I put into it, and her fairly relaxed demeanor has my bar high, and my patience low. If she takes more than ten minutes to fall asleep, I am sent into a spiral of anxiety. I am not complaining, I am just saying its made me weak. In my opinion, her routine is of utmost importance, my threshold for a shift in the routine is almost zero, and so far I haven’t had any issues. We rarely need to ‘go with the flow’ or keep her up past her bedtime. People say stuff like, “its nice if she can fall asleep anywhere.” People’s conjecture made me think having her on a strict routine was going to make me less flexible or cool. Her routine is what provides me freedom. Having my baby at a restaurant so I can finish a cocktail is not how I want to spend my free time and the truth is, I let her change my day to day, my entire life, and I love it. I’ve never needed her to sleep in an obscure location, and I’ve never thought, “damn.. I wish she could just sleep in that chair.” Leave the passing out in chairs to my husband on the nights she is with Grandma.

Anyway, for some reason during this sleep ‘regression’, I threw one of those pacifiers with the stuffed animal attached into her crib and she fell right asleep clenching that giraffe like it was all she fucking had and sucking that pacifier like Maggie Simpson. Perfect, that solved my immediate issue and I was back to my regular scheduled Bravo show. It was either a pacifier or I’d hold her until college. Those were the options as I saw them. From fifteen months on, the pacifier has been lovingly called, “Waffe” short for Giraffe in toddler dialect, and a staple in our home. A friend, a comfort item, her favorite thing. I constantly call it by the name she’s given it and walk around the house looking for “Raffe” or “Raffie” sounding like a fucking imbecile. Sort of like when adults refer to the bathroom as ‘potty.’ If I ever say that and a child isn’t present, smack me over the head with a bottle of UV Blue, and make me take a warm pull of it out of water bottle, because I AM NOT AN ADULT at that point.

She’ll be two next month, and before bed the other night I grabbed her pacifier and noticed she had bitten the tip almost completely off. Shit. This was a choking hazard. In that moment, I put my safety hat on and cut the tip off knowing this was going to be a shit show. I wasn’t ready for the tears and this was absolutely not a milestone either of us were ready for, emotionally. Societal pressure and the potential dental catastrophe sat in the back of my mind. She cannot have a pacifier anymore, now is the time. I only have enough bandwidth to mentally prepare for one set of braces. We aren’t going to be one of those families who has to do the whole set twice, not on my fucking watch and definitely not on my dime. I didn’t have time to explain, it was bed time, she was already over tired. Our usual nighttime routine commenced and continued through the tears, she would look look at her giraffe and chuck it across the room, then scream for it hoping her biggest fear wasn’t actually true. She sobbed in her crib for over thirty minutes and I walked in and picked her up. She sat in my lap and was calm, we read one more book and I placed her back in her crib upon her request. In the presence of others, she was fine. It was when she was alone with her thoughts that the heartbreak hit. After I turned the knob on her door, and walked out of her room, I grabbed my keys and yelled to my husband, “going to Target.” I pulled into the parking lot and ran into the store during a torrential downpour, walked to the baby aisle, grabbed a giraffe wubbanub, looked at the new Ulta section, picked up a Morphe eye pallet and left. I left the store with an easy out and a gift for me. When I came back home, she was still awake but silent, literally twiddling her thumbs. Eventually she fell asleep. I threw her her giraffe’s understudy, recently purchased from Target, into my closet hoping he didn’t need to steal the show during a 2am dramatic reenactment of a few hours prior.

The next morning, I was expecting a child who forgot. Forgot the heartbreak, forgot about her giraffe issues, and was ready for a new day. Instead I walked into her room, she rustled about, saw that I was in there, and sadly said, ‘waffe paci fall out’ trying to fight back tears. I told her Giraffe grows with her, and Giraffe knew she was ready for the pacifier to fall off. I explained that as we get bigger, things change and we have to let go so we can have lots of time for more fun things. We talked about other fun things she was going to do that day. As she started to cheer up, we left for daycare. She asked to bring her giraffe in the car and she held onto it the whole ride there. We arrived at daycare, she put it in the cup holder of her car seat and said, ‘bye bye waffe, paci fall off’ and asked me to pick her up. I walked her to the door and she gave me the biggest hug, her mood was solemn or maybe mine was and she was completely normal. I left daycare drop off a crying mess. Her emotion was something I’ve felt before, and watching her go through it was worse than I imagined. Her reaction was true sadness and no drama. I don’t stick my foot in my mouth about parenting, often. I didn’t have big claims of things i would *NEVER* do. I have a few, but nothing has blown my mind except for the emotional attachment I feel to her reasonable emotions. I always thought moms were crazy for feeling deeply saddened by literally nothing. The joke is on me.

My husband and I picked her up from daycare since we had plans after. I asked about her giraffe since I wanted an open line of communication and a sense of preparedness as we approached bedtime. Without missing a beat she said, “mom cut paci off,” not mad, not sad, just matter of fact. My sympathy immediately turned to defensiveness, “I cut it off and it probably saved your life, it was a choking hazard.” She went to bed that night, and didn’t give a shit about her giraffe.

There is no moral or theme here. I don’t have an uplifting message, I just felt like writing this story. But my parting words are as follows: Maybe my words got her through, maybe she decided distraction by daycare was the best medicine. Either my words or my checkbook, my husband and I are still responsible for impeccable coping mechanisms which is another great characteristic of my first born. We did that.


Post Pandemic Bucket List – Suburb Edition

I think about ‘next summer’ a lot. Hoping each outing isn’t a contemplated decision where I need to remember every individual I came in contact with on any given day in case they need to be alerted of possible COVID exposure. I can’t wait for a time where I don’t need to justify every in-person interaction, or forget to put on my mask at daycare drop-off and hope the person behind me doesn’t think I’m wildly irresponsible when in reality, I didn’t even realize until I was in the car. These are my own insecurities, I get it. Until then, I’ll dream of my bucket list. Each item ready to be checked off, and a step toward another NeW nOrMaL. Below are a few items from my bucket list, the suburb edition.

1. Go to Chili’s: Listen, the restaurant experience is one I thoroughly enjoy. I love a new trendy spot with a menu item that is the talk of the town, a beautiful bar and fancy drinks. I’ll pay $12 for a spicy margarita, I don’t give a shit. Restaurants are mini vacations, and I’m a goddamn tourist.

However, it is the chain restaurant that welcomes me home. It is the chain restaurant that understands I’m flat broke after my voyage into the city for a culinary experience and now I’m just looking for two entrees, one kids meal, a pint of beer and the bill to be at my table before I even ask. The chain restaurant understands the parking situation necessary for a mom who thinks she’s too cool for a van, but looks at automatic sliding doors and questions the futuristic vision of the Yukon and it’s creators. The chain restaurant runs like a well oiled machine, the food is mediocre but it is consistent, and when you have a child who rather eat plain ketchup over an award winning…anything, you choose a restaurant who pours salt on some beef, cooks it, freezes it, microwaves it, and calls it an ultimate burger for $10.99.

We’ll walk inside and it will be jam packed. I’ll think to myself, who the fuck is eating at a Chili’s? I’ll walk to the host stand, “two adults, one high chair” (no clue when babies stop using high chairs, so assuming Dylan will be in a high chair? Otherwise ‘one booster seat’). The host will say that the wait is about 15 minutes, and hand me one of those buzzers. Dan and I will walk with Dylan to the bar (can babies be in the bar area?) I’ve forgotten all rules, but I will do whatever I want until I get yelled at. We’ll shuffle our way to the bar, its packed because we live in a suburb and the options are limited. 2020 is a passing thought, and I am happy to be rubbing shoulders with strange people. We get drinks, and our buzzer rings, it is in Dylan’s mouth when it starts buzzing. We hand it over to the host stand (wiped off of course, I didn’t forget everything from the pandemic) and are seated at the table. They give Dylan a paper menu and crayon’s and she goes bananas. The waiter will come up to the table, He’ll be way too excited and recite the longest list of specials, we’ll decline and he will finally begin to take our order, he’ll say, “we’ll start with MOM” and that is a moment I’ve been waiting for. Followed by “and dad,” Dan will order chicken crispers with honey mustard, and I’ll order some sort of smokehouse combo, because I’m still unsure what kind of food Chili’s specializes in. We’ll eat, pay our bill totaling $30, and on our way out see our neighbor we barely interact with in the cul de sac but feel obligated to say hello when out at a restaurant.

2. Become friends with my neighbors (i.e. the one I saw at Chili’s) : I love seeing the inside of people’s homes and during the pandemic I feel like that’s been a huge miss for me. I guess I didn’t know my neighbors pre-pandemic, but I’ll become friends with them post pandemic, I promise. We don’t live in one of those new cookie cutter neighborhoods, but we live in one of those older cookie cutter neighborhoods, and I think that’s actually more exciting. Like how have you decorated your 90s oak kitchen? I want to see who painted their oak cabinets white with silver hardware, and compare how their original windows are holding up. I want to ask questions like “is that the original deck?” and then tell you how much mine cost because I’m still appalled and also definitely bragging because ours is composite. I can’t wait until someone tells me their plans to stain their deck one weekend, and I’ll say, “oh you don’t have composite?” Like they are absolute losers! Hah! Do any of our neighbors still have accordion closet doors, because we do, and I’m looking for new ideas. I’m here for inspiration and ease. Nothing like a quick walk down the block for some small talk and a beer out of someone else’s refrigerator. We’d be hanging out on the deck, and I’d go inside to use the restroom. No need to tell me where it is, mine’s in the same spot!

3. Join community theatre: Truly, I’ve been dying to be in a play. Something about the idea of declining an invite for “rehearsal” thrills me. “Oh I’m sorry, that’s opening night and I’m ‘woman #3!’ I can’t get past the audition though and I certainly can’t sing. Not even a note, so it definitely can’t be a musical. How often is play practice for community theatre? I can only make it once, maybe twice a week if I’m the lead and, certainly, I’d be the lead. I have a lot of caveats and not much action, but I swear to god, the second the curtain is lifted on the pandemic a star will be born! Well I sure hope so anyway, it would depend on the play. Last time I looked they were doing a play called “Tina’s purple purse” (or something not even close to that but it was about a mouse and purse). My debut onto the small stage isn’t going to be a play about a mouse, I can promise you that. I’m passionate about this bucket list item but like all my passions, not passionate enough to play a talking animal (unless animated, obviously). Anyway, I’ll invite you all to opening night, we’ll have an after party at Chili’s and you can meet my new “cast” friends. We’ll have inside jokes that happened at dress rehearsal and laugh at lines we forgot and improvised. I’ll probably take myself too seriously after my foray into community theatre, but that’s showbiz.

Each day I feel closer to my post pandemic dreams. Until then, I’ll place my orders to go, wave to my neighbors as I drive by in my car, and prepare my audition monologue. Cheers to us post pandemic, it’s gonna be wild. By wild, I definitely just mean, the same as before but with hand sanitizer and a touch of gratitude for a few months at least.

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.

Nineteen Ninety Eight

What was it like to be an adult in the late 90s? Also, what was it like to raise a child in the late 90s? That had to be nice, right? Were things *easier?* The current decade allows for many conveniences, but do they outweigh the bad? I can’t decide. Toddler moms of decades past say things like, “oh, it wasn’t so different.” Honestly, I have a hard time believing that, the information overload kills me and there are a lot of rules. Did you know you’re not supposed to give kids Orajel anymore? Haha, maybe you knew.. I didn’t. Well, until a *concerned* mom told someone else in a Facebook group.

I am not ONLY talking about being a mother in the 90s as a collective society, either. I’m also referring to me, specifically. Who would my husband, Dan, and I be without social media throughout extremely formative years, without smart phones, Google, and social media. Growing up sitting in inflatable chairs purchased from Limited Too certainly had a butterfly effect on my entire human existence. Who would I be without that experience? What would my job be? Would I have had a child at 25 because Instagram wasn’t around to convince me I should be traveling? What kind of mom would I be without Pinterest. How the hell would I know the latest superfoods? How would I be marketed to if there wasn’t an algorithm. Would I even know the term, algorithm?

Although the alternate reality where I am an adult in 1998 will never be known, let me paint an evening for you, because that’s what I like to do in my spare time. I think of fiction scenarios based on real life events, and if there’s an argument, I always win.

Dan and I are 30, Dylan is 1 but the year is 1998. To preface this, I was actually 8 in 1998 and my only memories include watching Toy Story, going to basketball practice, and slicking back my ponytail tight. I loved Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and so badly wanted braces. I have no clue if all my references are right, but if you feel like fact checking- please, go right ahead, Karen.

Dan sits down on the couch grabbing the remote control. He points it towards our entertainment system and clicks ‘power on,’ a laugh track fills the room, as Ray Ramono’s voice is heard throughout the main level and into the kitchen. “Can you turn that down?” I yell to Dan sitting on the couch. I prepare dinner while Dylan is on the kitchen floor next to me. She’s drinking kool-aid out of a bottle, and playing with an old Beanie Baby.

I have my hands in a bowl of ground beef trying to mix in random ingredients while simultaneously reading the notecard my mom hand wrote her meatloaf recipe on, in between step 1 and step 2, I ask Dan, “hey, this weekend, we should send Dylan to your parents so we can start to paint that main wall three shades darker. I’d love a feature wall in here and think it will give the room a Tuscan feel.” He continues to nod along, but isn’t actually listening.

Once dinner is prepared we sit down at the table, the news is now on providing a low buzz of background noise. “Mark McGwire hits his 70th home run of the season,” reports the man on NBC who is wearing a ridiculously large suit. The home run race of the MLB season keeps us excited while the Clinton scandal keeps us on our toes. We continue to eat dinner, discussing Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Bill, and Monica. Halfway into dinner, the phone rings, I get up to answer, “Hello?” “Good evening Ma’am, this is Blockbuster video, your rental, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is two days overdue, Thank you.” I hang up the phone, and turn to the dinner table with a furrowed brow and a sharp tongue.

Dan, I TOLD you “Saving Private Ryan” is a new release, so its a two day rental. Where is it?” Dan looks up from his meal, confused and calm.”I don’t know, probably in the VCR?” “Can you drop it off at Blockbuster after dinner?” I angrily ask.

As I am clearing out plates from the table, Dan is in the family room. I see him walk up to the VCR, bend over so he’s eye level with the shelf it sits on, flip the VCR flap up revealing the film in the player. He closes it, and starts shuffling the other videos sitting nearby. I lift Dylan out of her highchair and place her on the floor, she runs to her Fisher Price red barn and grabs a plastic cow, she bangs it on the side of the coffee table as Dan steps around her looking for the VHS. He can’t find it. “Is it downstairs?” I ask. He bends down to look under the coffee table and says “No… I didn’t bring it downstairs.” Adding the late fees in my head, I remind Dan sarcastically, “you could easily buy an iMac with the late fees you’ve paid Blockbuster!” He scoffed while trying to outwit me, “I’ll never need an Apple product…”

As the evening progresses we drop the subject, I put Dylan to bed, and retire to my bedroom. I turn on my Panasonic and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ starts playing. I close my eyes and sigh, remembering two evenings before when I fell asleep before barely getting into the movie. I removed it from the VCR downstairs after Dan had watched it. I get out of bed, and grab the video, embarrassed, and continue down the stairs to the kitchen looking for Dan to apologize. Once I arrive on the main level, he isn’t there. He must be in the basement. Although this is a lesson in humility, it doesn’t have to be. I walk over to the family room, and bend down. I open the plastic roof of Dylan’s Fisher Price red barn, and place the VHS to “find” in the morning while we play. As I return upstairs, lay back down in my bed, I turn on my tv and laugh at my sneaky solution.

The next morning, I walk downstairs. Dan and Dylan are playing in the family room. Dylan is picking up her toy animals and placing them in front of the toy barn, Dan peaks in the red barn and pulls out Saving Private Ryan with an annoyed look on his face. Internally, I realize I am wrong, but when harmless plans are executed, I am not one to ruin them with small details. He turns to me and says, “Kara, I found the movie.. apparently Dylan hid it.” I respond casually, never admitting my mistake, “thanks, will you return it today?” He answers, “Yea- I’ll leave in a bit.” After a small pause he adds, “Hey! Imagine if you could always pull movies out of a magic Redbox..”

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… ”

Five Pre-Pandemic Parenting Assumptions

Below is a brief list of Parenting Assumptions I made pre-pandemic. Well, you know what they say about people who assume...

1. I assumed parenting would involve more time out of the house. I dreamt of brunches at my favorite cafe in St. Paul, The French Hen Cafe. I’d sit and drink a mimosa, and Dylan would make a mess. I’d pretend to clean up after her hoping the server would swing by with a broom and relieve me of my duty. I’d say, “I’m so sorry about this mess” and she’d say, “not to worry” with a big smile on her face when in reality she was thinking… ‘why do people bring babies out to eat?’ We would take a family picture and post it to Instagram and everyone would think, ‘she has it TOGETHER!’ Dan and I would get into the car, and I’d look at him and say, “lets never leave the house again.”

Instead, Dan or myself prepares meals while Dylan screams.

2. I assumed we would go on vacation by now. I wanted to experience a treacherous plane ride. I wanted to regale Dylan about the first time she experienced TRUE leisure as an infant. I think fondly about the parent I thought I would be, but never got a chance to be. I had high hopes of being a mommy travel blogger. You know the one… I’d wear a monochromatic camel outfit and strut my expensive stroller through an unknown land. THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME, COVID TOOK THAT FROM ME!

3. I assumed we’d have a giant FIRST birthday party. It was going to be a Groovy ONE theme and I’d invite all my friends. We’d wear hippie attire, and drink all night. I’d put on the invitation, “Please donate to the charity of [my] choice”, knowing that you would bring the host (me) alcohol instead. I’d stock my wine fridge, and be set for the winter.

Instead, I bought this single balloon and we ate Costco cake.

4. I assumed I could take Dylan to target without anxiety. We would stroll the aisles while she looked at the colors in awe. I’d show her the home section, and we would laugh and she would inevitably cry. Dylan would eat the cart and I wouldn’t care, because ‘germs are good and they help build an immune system.’ Women would come up to me and tell me how cute she is, they’d ask “how old?” (Such a stupid question, who cares? I always ask it too, but why?) and I’d say “she just turned one” and they’d say “is she walking?” and I would respond with “she’s wobbling” or something equally as dumb. Dylan and I would continue our expedition into the joys of consumerism as we moved on to the pajama aisle.

5. I assumed I’d be less concerned with a runny nose. I recently emailed Dylan’s pediatrician with the subject line: Runny Nose – Day 250 followed by a detailed entry of the highs and lows of the past 250 days. I remember the days of rational thought, and I think about them often. Lately, they’ve been replaced with a fear based mindset and absolute positivity we’ve contracted the virus at any sight of a minor symptom.

Instead, I send my doctor anxiety driven questions.

Here’s to many more years of making an ass out of you and me!