Why most of our parenting mistakes won’t leave a scar

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This is a photo of Neve’s right hand.

I took it to remind myself that the vast majority of mistakes I make as a parent, and regularly beat myself up about, are minor missteps that won’t permanently damage my 2 daughters.

Here’s the backstory: last year, on Mother’s Day (thanks, Painfully Ironic Universe!), I was stealing a few minutes to read a section of the New York Times on our sunny back porch – which we’d just started to use again, thanks to climbing springtime temps – when Neve, then a couple of months shy of turning 2, explored her way into a functionally dead food processor. (We’d temporarily parked it on the porch, so that we’d remember to take it out with the garbage.)

Neve’s hand found, and clutched at, a blade; blood appeared in a small, awful smile across the side of her palm, and she screamed.

Being terrible in a crisis, I freaked out, wrapping my arms around her and crying as Joe fetched a wet, cold washcloth. We held the cloth against her hand, and Joe called his father, who’s a doctor; he recommended applying butterfly bandages, so I ran to the CVS down the block, frantically searching the aisles. When I returned, we did our best to clean and cover the wound, then we discussed our next move.

Or Joe threw out options while I hyperventilated. It’s all kind of cloudy now. You know how it is. Continue reading

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Surprised by Joy: Toddler Edition

Neve, after she recently squished a Smurf. (Or colored her hands in "washable" blue marker. One of those.)

Neve, after squishing a Smurf with her bare hands. Or applying “washable” blue marker to her palms. One of those.

Part of the bedtime ritual around here consists of me carrying Neve – after she’s been changed into her jammies and had her teeth brushed – upstairs to her room while chanting “Books with Mommy, books with mommy” repeatedly, climbing one step for each syllable. It’s catchy.

So catchy that Neve usually sings along quietly, anticipating the time we lie sideways on the queen bed in her room (which used to be the guest room before we moved the crib in there) each night by lamplight, reading “Corduroy,” “Silly Sally,” “Bear Snores On” and other books, our heads sharing the same pillow.

Even though Lily has her own reading time with Joe or me before she goes to sleep, she’s lately asked to be part of “books with Mommy.” So of course I said yes, but told her that Neve gets to choose the books.

We grab a second pillow, I lie between my girls – who like to snuggle under their old baby blankets while I read – and we read. Which is lovely, because only lately has Neve been engaged in books Lily would enjoy, too. Books with a story. (She’s getting there, I’ve been thinking. Her little brain’s developing, just as her vocabulary is exploding.)

So last night, after an unusually peaceful night, wherein the girls even helped Joe make quesadillas for dinner, we enjoyed “books with Mommy” together and Lily left the room for her own bedtime preparations.

I lifted Neve into her crib, and at first, things went as they usually do. She flopped out on her stomach in the darkness, with a blanket over her, and I rubbed and patted her back through the bars.

Normally, she’s out in minutes – she’s my easy sleeper, folks, believe me – but last night, she was restless. And that’s when a small miracle occurred. Continue reading

Vacation, all I ever wanted…

In late August, after a summer spent looking (jealously, longingly) at other people’s glamorous vacation photos on Facebook, the Grekin-McKee family finally got to venture up north for our own annual vacation, up at Camp Michigania, near Pestoskey. (Yes, Joe and I had to take an entire day off of work while the kids were in daycare to prepare and pack – good Lord, does packing for a trip with young kids take forever – but we finally got on the road the following morning.)

For those unfamiliar, Michigania is a family camp (affiliated with the University of Michigan Alumni Association) that’s set up to provide fun, scheduled activities (or, in the case of babies and toddlers, cheerful supervision) for kids a few hours each day, thereby giving the parents a chance to do things they don’t often get to do. Like sleep.

This was our third year at Michigania, and in most ways, it was the best so far. We’d gone the first available week, in mid-June, in the past two years, when the weather was a bit rainy and chilly. This year, we grabbed at one of the last remaining available spots during the camp’s last week of operation, at the end of August. And other than a little rain on the afternoon of first full day, we had gorgeous weather throughout.

Things from the start were promising, since we were blissfully vomit-free (poor Lily had gotten carsick near the end of the trip each of the previous two years). Admittedly, I was watching her like a hawk – at one point, when she covered her mouth with her hand, I insisted we pull over, get her out of the car, and walk her around a bit – but we did it. Lily even said, when we got out of the car to check in, “I didn’t have any throw ups, Mommy! Just burps.” Indeed. Continue reading

Drawing the line – where?

Hell’s parking lot (a representation)

After getting away on my own for a fantabulous gal pal weekend, I had a lovely night with Lily (and Joe) at a winter-themed library storytime on a recent Monday night. We all danced to songs, made marshmallow/pretzel/chocolate chip snowmen, cut out paper snowflakes, and made snowy pictures with glue and instant potato flakes. We all enjoyed ourselves, and Lily couldn’t have been happier as we headed back down the block, through the snow, to our house.

So here I was, thinking, “Wow, things are really going great.” And when Joe reminded me that I’d be flying solo with Lily the following night, because he needed to go to an evening board meeting for the brass band he used to play for. No problem, right? He’d just been on his own with Lily all weekend, and she’d been an angel throughout. This should be a cake walk.

By now, when I think such things, I should automatically assume the worst. Yet I never do. Despite my generally cynical persona, I have an irrepressible optimistic streak when it comes to my own life. So I couldn’t possibly see the dark night of the parenting soul that lay before me. Continue reading

I’m dreaming of a “White Christmas” sing-along screening

Early this past fall, I took Lily to the nearby second-run movie theater to see if she might sit through “Toy Story 3” (we’d previously had a failed attempt when taking her to “How to Train Your Dragon”). I thought it might be a good option for the post-nap, pre-dinner portion of the day because, A, Joe had to work and prepare for his upcoming trial; B, the weather was expected to cloud over; C, it seemed more her speed than “Dragon” was going to be; and D, I really wanted to see the movie. (Yes, I’m that selfish.)

Amazingly, though the theater was already dark when we entered, and I had to feel my way carefully to a couple of empty seats, Lily sat in my lap and watched the movie in its entirety.

Now, she didn’t respond to things in the movie; she didn’t laugh at things, or even smile, from what I could tell. But at the same time, she didn’t get scared at times when I worried that she might (when the toys are headed toward an incinerator, for instance) because she didn’t understand enough to BE scared.

And generally, because Lily wasn’t reacting to the movie, I ended up feeling really guilty for taking her before she was probably capable of enjoying it. Had this been about me and my intense desire to watch a movie in a theater again – an event that’s become a rare treat? Did I let that yearning cloud my judgment as a parent?

I grasped at straws later, to make myself feel a little better. When Lily saw her Mr. Potato Head and said, “He was in the movie,” I thought, “YES!!” and asked, like a desperate, smitten teenager, “Did you like the movie?” “Yeah,” she said. But keep in mind, that might be her answer, too, if I were to ask her, “Do you think we should stay in Afghanistan?” or, “How about a toddler enema?” Continue reading

Briefs

– Strangely, about six weeks ago, our little barfly, who liked to stay at daycare playing with me until the folks there threw us out at 6 p.m. each day, started wanting to go home immediately upon seeing me. So much for her being the Norm Peterson of the place. She still runs to me and gives me a big hug when I arrive, but now, rather than struggling to unbutton my jacket and urging me to stay, she then runs to her coat and says, “I want to go bye-bye.” Don’t know why this change occurred when it did, after more than a year of ritualized behavior, but there you are.

– For some reason, Lily didn’t want to take home three of her art projects (a painted apple, a painted pumpkin, and a colored turkey) from daycare. She spotted them packed in her lunch bag and said, “I don’t want to take those home. Leave them here.” Well, the pieces had been taken down and replaced with new projects, so I said, “No, they either get thrown in the trash can here, or we take them home. Why don’t we take them home, so Daddy can see them?” I thought for sure that the prospect of tossing them would alter her thinking on the matter. But by now, Mommy should know better than to try to outsmart a toddler. “Let’s throw them in the trash,” she said, grabbing them and walking toward the cabinet where the room’s wastebasket was. She dumped them in without a thought and went to do her new, patented coat flip so we could go home. Bizarre. And so random.

But something that was heartbreakingly sweet that came of the whole thing was that before Lily threw out the pieces, and I was asking if we could please take them home, she looked at me earnestly, brought her palm to her chest and said, “You can take me home, Mommy. But you can’t take the apple or the pumpkin.” She said this again as we walked home together, and I said, “I will happily take you home, sweetie, because I love you like crazy.” And it’s true.

The push-pull of parenting is so baffling. I make sure to give myself a little me-time each day before walking over to pick her up from daycare, but once I start heading there, I always have the urge to sprint there, because I suddenly can’t wait anymore to see her. It’s like I’m suddenly going to burst from missing her. Yes, she’ll surely do something to drive me absolutely batty shortly thereafter; but there’s just no explaining this crazy experience. Contradictions abound. Continue reading

Halloween fun

She’s so cute that it hurts sometimes 🙂

Halloween was super-fun this year. Lily had vacillated for weeks about being either a monkey or a princess, but then Joe found an Abby Cadabby costume online, and that was all she wrote.

She went door-to-door with her little friend Michael, a two year old who lives across the street, and they had a marvelous time running from house to house with toddler abandon.

Lily got an early handout from a neighbor (who also snapped the photos).