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When You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

(Alternate Title: You Know, Like You Always Are)

I decided that my July challenge was necessary because I had been feeling really blah about myself lately. Understandably: my baby was now one (there is no more margin for forgiveness of “I’ve just had a baby!”), I was still having to buy clothes in sizes much bigger than my pre-maternity wardrobe (which sits mournfully in Rubbermaid totes in my garage, and I no kidding visit it from time to time, pulling out clothes with whimsy and longing, and sigh over what I once was), and you know, it’s summer. While I’ve never ever felt especially slender or lithe, summer just brings the realization that Oh, honey, lithe should not even be in your vocabulary.

I realized, though, that I may be a bit hard on myself.

The first event was when I sent Bryan to pick up a tshirt for me. Our city was having their annual LGBT Pride parade and I really, really wanted a tshirt (even though I couldn’t attend). I asked him to pick up an XL for me, because that’s what I’m comfortable in. They only had Larges when he got there, so he told the vendor, “Well, I guess I’ll have to lose some weight to wear this, huh?” I heard Bryan retelling this story at a family gathering and my ears heard, “Well, my wife will have to lose some weight to wear this, won’t she?”

HE DID NOT SAY THAT. My mind twisted the words around and my heart broke. I whipped around with tears in my eyes and my whole family jumped to defend Bryan and talk me down.

Why did my mind hear that?

Then I had a dream a couple of nights later. Preface: we’ve been catching up on all four seasons of Game of Thrones (so, so good). I dreamed that I was a girl in Littlefinger’s (Lord Bayelish) brothel. Except my mind couldn’t quite make the jump to what Littlefinger looked like, so my pimp was this guy:

That’s right: my pimp was The Old One in the Backstreet Boys. (I’m sure he has a name.)

So, as if that’s not ridiculous enough – which, come on, right? Backstreet’s back, alright! – I was lined up with the other girls when a guy came in looking for a good time, and Old Dude was all, “Please, help yourself to whatever strikes your fancy.”

The guy glanced my way, and Backstreet said, “Oh, no, not that one. She’s our heavyweight. She’s only good for breeding.”

OH MY EFFING GOODNESS.

My psyche is so terrible to me! Why do we do that to ourselves?

HE’S A FREAKING BACKSTREET BOY, FOR PETE’S SAKE.

Anyway. In other news, I’m doing well on my challenge. I haven’t had any soda, only water and coffee (and occasionally coconut water) and unsweet tea. Turns out I rather hate unsweet tea, so I’ve only had that once or twice. I’ve eaten really, really clean. I haven’t noticed any difference at all anywhere – mentally or physically – but I’m sticking to my guns. (I’ve always gathered that it takes two weeks for any change to cycle through anyway.)

Also, I wore a bathing suit this past weekend. I debated not doing it, because ugh right?, but I wanted to say that I spent the weekend with my kids enjoying the holiday. So we did. No one (outside of my head) said a word to me about looking like a beached whale. Because I am – BY FAR – my own worst enemy.

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To the Working Moms: Don’t.

Don’t. Don’t apologize. Just stop it. Stop it now.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve apologized in the last two weeks. “I’m sorry, but” and “I’m so sorry to say this” and “I’m just really sorry.” And this weekend, I had an incident where I naturally started to apologize – again. As I was crafting my self-deprecating apology, I realized¬†I did nothing wrong.¬†

And the more that I centered around that, the more that I enveloped my fragile ego with the stout truth of my truly NOT being in the wrong, I realized that I was angry about it. I was angry that my natural response was to apologize. Blanket apologies. I’m the Oprah of unwarranted apologies. And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) And YOU get an apology! (Sorry!) APOLOGIES FOR EVERYONNNNNEEE!

Don’t apologize anymore. If you were truly in the wrong, yes: apologize. Apologize and correct the error. But if something just went wrong, or something you could’ve fixed went haywire (but you weren’t asked to fix it), or you’re just in the line of fire – STOP APOLOGIZING.

Bryan came to my office and had lunch with me last week. It was a gorgeous day, so we grabbed lunch from the visiting food truck and sat outside in the sunshine. It was the day that I had suffered a mild Facebook breakdown* about the #BanBossy campaign.

*it was mild in both MY meltdown measuring system and mild for a meltdown to have occurred on Facebook. Man, Facebook is sometimes a trainwreck of Miley Cyrus proportions, am I right? God bless Zuckerberg.

My issue with the term “bossy” is not specific to women being labeled as bossy. I honestly think that the campaign should’ve been called “Ban Bitchy”, but let’s just acknowledge that the greater Facebook community is not ready for those bumperstickers just yet. Bitch, I take issue with. It’s been a long while since I’ve been called a bitch, but be aware that I have. Many times. Yet most folks who work with me – and most of my immediate coworkers are male – would never list “bitch” in the adjectives to describe me. But I have ovaries, so “bitch” comes with the territory. Especially when I’m asking a male coworker to do something he may not necessarily want to do.

While waxing poetic on the campaign, I mentioned that someone in my program once remarked to me that we still have a gender equality issue within our midst. I told him this surprised me because I honestly don’t see that. But she mentioned that every time she gave an answer – and she’s a female engineer – it has to be validated by a male peer before it’s considered “correct.”

“How do we raise our boys to be smarter than that?” I asked Bryan.

“I hope they won’t see the gender line at all,” he answered.

“They will,” I said, hopeless. “It’s there. Of course they will.”

“They know their mom is incredibly smart. Hopefully that’s enough. They see you working – hard – and hopefully that’s enough. You’re building the next great rocket, for heaven’s sake.”

So stop apologizing. Stop apologizing because your kids go to daycare or because you can’t make the class party or when you can’t make a late meeting because you have to pick up your kids. Do you know what happens when MEN in the industry leave early to pick up kids? They’re LAUDED. PRAISED FOR THEIR COMMITMENT TO THEIR FAMILY. What a great dad! they all say.

STOP APOLOGIZING. You are doing the best that you can. And I know that you’re like me: you work overtime like an insane person, picking up the slack of others so that you feel like you’ve proven yourself; you rush from work to pick up your kids, angry that you’ll have to slapdash dinner together again, wondering how badly your screwing up your kids; your weekends are no luxury, filled with a million chores and loads of laundry and soccer games and grocery lists, and there’s not enough hours in there to even sit down. You are like me. You have no time for yourself. You see pictures of yourself years ago, pining for the body you felt was too fat at the time and for the free time you thought was so scarce back then. You feel like asking for help is admitting defeat, and on the rare occasion that you do ask, it may be denied and you reel. You are like me. It doesn’t matter the industry, the wage, the career path.. you are like me.

I need to stop apologizing. I have never shied from accepting blame, and I will continue to do so – when it’s valid. But there is no reason to apologize as an opening or closing statement anymore.

You are like me – you love your kids more than the breath in your lungs, and you wonder every single morning if you’re doing irreparable harm to them by trudging off to a cube or a desk or a counter. You would take any harm or illness or downfall for your children. You second guess every single decision you make in parenting – and then second guess your second guessing. The sleepless nights of infancy simply morph into the sleepless nights of teenage angst and then the sleepless nights of missed curfews. You are like me, and I’m like you.

Don’t apologize to anyone who doesn’t deserve it anymore.

I am so, so proud of you and what you’re doing.

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This Complete Stranger I Grew Inside of My Body

“Your hair!” everyone exclaims. “What made you cut it?”

The answer is the same: Vinnie pulls my hair. Always has. Pulls HARD. Pulls out handfuls. Laughs maniacally while doing it. And although my brain can make the logical distinction that He’s just a baby, Sarah, my heart was taking it personally. He seemed to enjoy it, somehow. Enjoyed hurting me. It was bothering me, in a way I couldn’t articulate, so I just decided instead to cut off over 8″ of hair.

“I just don’t understand this baby,” I will say, while sighing. Bryan will smile and dismiss me, understandably, because who can’t understand a baby? Especially one that you – YOURSELF – gestated?

He is, in the nicest sense, a bruiser of a child. At 98% percentile of length and 75% percentile in weight, the child is in 18 month clothes. (He is currently 8 months old.) When he stands up to walk and I hold his hands, I barely have to bend over. (Depending on shoes, I may not have to bend over at all.) He is gargantuan, and this is foreign to a short person like myself.

Because he’s so big, everything he does is magnified by ten. There is no quiet playing with this child. There is no gentle, no subtle. There is LOUD. And BANGING. And ROUGH.

He is happy though, God bless him. He is all smiles, all the time. This is probably his saving grace, because he doesn’t believe in sleep. While Tony was a marvelous sleeper (and still is), Vinnie sleeps maybe thirty minutes from sun up to sun down. Some days it’s less than that.

Which means that the minute he gets home and gets confined to a high chair, he’s out like a light.

Christmas

Friday

Valentine’s Day

Days that end in “y”

And then he sleeps – hard – until the middle of the night. And then he’s awake! AND MY GOD, YOU SHOULD BE AWAKE TOO! LET’S PLAY!

Don’t get me wrong – he’s a happy baby. Talkative and vocal about the issues that matter most to him.

And MY GOD, is he adored by his brothers.

Picture by Bryan, who swears that he does not take fuzzy pictures..

But the baby just felt so foreign to me.

I know they say that you may not immediately bond with your baby. But they very rarely extend that to “and may not for, you know, eight months or so”. So I’ve been swimming along, taking care of this baby that I SWEAR I birthed myself but have no real intimate knowledge of.

Then just this last week, we were up early on one of the snow days, and something was different. He was looking at me, but seeing me too. This was new. It’s one of those things that BabyCenter or whomever delivers your weekly email says happens WAY EARLIER – along with, you know, sleeping through the night and crawling – and I realized it. He saw me. He smiled, watching my mouth intently. He suddenly had human qualities that I could identify with, instead of demonic possession of the happiest kind. He grabbed at my hair, now significantly shorter, and pulled both hands down and I realized – he is pulling me closer to him.

Ever since that morning, I’ve tried to find that realization in him again. I’ve noticed that he pulls at my hair when he’s overjoyed at something. His emotions – like everything else about him – are larger than life, and he cannot seem to embody them all. (He’s always been like this about sleepiness and stress; I’m embarrassed it never occurred to me that he would also react this way to joy or love.) His screeching – which is just That Pitch that makes your head vibrate – is now immediately tied to seeing me for the first time when I pick him up. His discussion with me (with me, not at me) is now lively.

I am not proud of this. I am not proud that I’ve spent eight months looking at my baby and wondering where he came from, wondering if I would ever understand him the way I do Tony.

I am not proud that it took me eight months to realize that they are different children.

But it’s where we are. And that’s okay. He’s a sweet, happy baby. And I’m glad that I get to meet him.

Unrelated – I just find this pic hysterical. Duck lip baby.

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Happy Birthday to My Six Year Old

I’ve tried to write this several times now, but this last month has pretty ugh decimated our household. Vinnie’s had a double ear infection for weeks, then you had a sinus infection, then you and I started tech weeks for DIFFERENT shows, then Vinnie had RSV, and you woke up vomiting, and my LORD.

The other day when I picked you up from school, Dan Folgerberg’s “Another Auld Lang Syne” came on the radio. Right before the sax solo, I said, “You wanna hear something crazy? You came out to meet the world riiiiiiiight now.”

And you, my beautiful boy, cocked your head to listen to the saxophone play and said, “Mom. That’s just not crazy at all.”

Because to you, it’s not odd that I would’ve labored for a day straight, only to have you make your grand entrance to a melodic interlude. You have always been MY child, scared of imperfection so always waiting to show your light. The child who would sit and babble alone in his room, while I greedily swallowed it all through the baby monitor. You wouldn’t talk in front of us until you had it perfected. You were the child who had to learn sight words, because sounding it out in from of us was just NOT an option.

Today, in a couple of hours (you naturally waited until fifteen minutes till curtain), six years will have passed since you gave me a reason to sob at the end of “Another Auld Lang Syne”. Oh, my child, you are simply one of my top four favorite things in all the world.

Ever since I was very young, I have always said a silent prayer before I set foot on stage. It helps me focus and remember what’s important, and I feel impervious once I’ve said it.

Dear Lord, please keep my steps in time, my voice in tune, and let me be a light to those who are seeking refuge from the darkness.

And my child, you are that to me.

You are a pretty splendid little person, Tony Maloney. Thank you for being my best fwend.

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And Then He Was Mobile.

I have already screwed up NaBloPoMo, so there you go. Seriously, I was disappointed in myself, and I started to have a pity party, but then I realized that I was late for three things and not long after, I fell asleep. My Life: One Big Party.

Tony and I sauntered into daycare this afternoon to pick up Vinnie, and they proudly announced that he rolled over today. A few times.

And it’s one of those weird things, where you’re both ecstatic and really really sad. I am thrilled that he’s growing – and not rolling over has been killing his five month old soul – but Y’ALL. He’s, like, MOBILE now.

(I am trying to deflect my mom guilt that he rolled over at daycare first and not with me. OH IT’S THERE, DON’T WORRY.)

I’m keenly aware that he’s the last baby, and how fast time moves by is so bittersweet.

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