In Which My Coping Mechanism Might Get the Better of Me

You guys, I prefer pragmatic to pessimist. I don’t always assume the worst will happen but I do prepare for the worst so that I can make the most of it if it does happen. When the worst case scenario is suddenly reality, I’m often past it before it can get the better of me. I’m pretty sure my former therapist (not former because she wasn’t awesome, which she is, former because I am mostly sane and mostly broke. Voila. Former.) would call this negative fortune-telling or some such. It’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy though, as I said, the worst rarely happens.

Aha, you say, but you’re dwelling on the negative! And I’ll concede that you could look at it that way. But, in almost all situations, I’ve come up with solutions long before you could call it dwelling. Flight being cancelled? Out of my control. Not self-fulfilling negativity. But, because I considered the possibility, I’m usually able to bounce back (at least when not stranded with my family) and make the best of it. It’s a coping mechanism, not something I spend all day doing.

Coping with not having a baby has been well within the “dwelling” zone. Again, I reject the idea that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, though my mother would certainly insist that by even considering it, I’m making it come true. While I agree that our thoughts have power, I’m not caving on this one, if I’m thinking myself unpregnant, then I’ll eat my hat.



That has left me in a difficult position. I’m coping with this. Debra and I have been keeping a running list of all the reasons why just having one child is a really good idea. But now I’m late and I have to admit, having just one sounds great. I’m afraid I’ve dug a very uncomfortable hole.

So I’m late, but only by a day and the pregnancy test I took still screams negative. As has been the case this entire cycle, I have no symptoms of anything. No PMS, no anything. I’m not down with this, as you can imagine. This coping strategy suddenly is making things very…awkward.


Surely You Mean Congratualtions

I always thought eloping was romantic. Or, at least, perfectly practical (and romantic) especially when saddled with feuding in-laws, controlling parents, or judgmental friends. Depending on the location, it is a practical money-saver, too, with weddings typically being enormous, drooling, cash-consuming, beasts. And, if you’re an introvert, eloping ensures you won’t have to spend an evening with people you love but wish would just go home. I don’t know whether it’s adulthood, or marriage, or parenthood or a combination of the three, but I’m not so sure I dig elopements (how is that even a word?) anymore.

I’ll be honest with you because, let’s face it, I am always honest with you (much to everyone’s discomfort I expect) and tell you that suddenly eloping seems somewhat shameful. I saw some of you bristle just then right through my screen. I know. The outrage. I could never expect to understand your situation! And I don’t. I don’t understand it. But I’m not questioning it. I’m not even thinking about it as I wish you congratulations because that’s the only acceptable thing to say when someone marries (or otherwise has a happy event). My approval is certainly not necessary or sought and is, of course, irrelevant to the wonderful happiness you are experiencing. You, dear readers, would never do such a thing, but I have seen people’s curiosity get the better of them to the point where it seemed questioning or expressing shock was the appropriate answer. Congratulations. THAT is the appropriate answer.

All things considered, Debra and I eloped. In our case, we couldn’t imagine how to bring our families together to celebrate what, to them, wasn’t something real. I mean, it’s real. And they are supportive, and have always been except for that one spot of time but now it’s over and done with thank goodness, but to them marriage comes with a certificate and a person of god. As gay individuals in the state of Virginia, we were short on the certificate side which, frankly, rendered the rest of it irrelevant.

Here’s what we did do: we spent months talking about the where, when and how. We ordered 100 creamy roses, we bought rings and clothing, we wrote vows, we dreamed of and ordered a wedding cake, we rented a house on the beach and then, in front of seagulls, exchanged vows barefoot in the sand. There was no certificate, but even our families would have conceded god was present. We called our parents when we cut the cake. We sent announcements from the local post office the next day. It was right for us, just as everyone else’s ceremony (or lack thereof) is right for them.

Since the only appropriate word inward is congratulations, I turn outward to wonder, why elope? Why suddenly show up married having not even told close friends? Why skip the trappings of celebration? Are you afraid someone will talk you out of it? Are you ashamed of your decision? Are you worried there will be judgement? In the social media age, why does your status update elicit so much of this ?!@#!? Does none of that make you question the decision itself? There aren’t hard and fast answers to any of it and, obviously, it’s none of my business. Congratulations!

I’m thinking a lot about marriage these days, anyway. I’m a little jealous of my gay friends* who head off to be married (in droves, now that there are benefits involved) and I wonder at our decision to stand fast, unmarried, until we can marry in our own state and be recognized equally. Does that protest have power? I waffle somewhat and then am stymied by the details and questions. How is this different than it was in 2005? We can still go to Massachusetts (or a number of closer states) to be married, just as we could then. And it will have no meaning in our own state, just as it did then. Our families still live far away and we would still have to explain that our shiny new certificate means little but confusion in our own state. We’re not so bull-headed as to stay on the other side of the fence if there are real financial benefits to be had from filing together. That remains to be seen and is a decision best suited to our financial manager. Funny, isn’t it, that a man named Rex in Chesapeake, Virginia could tell us to get married and we would.

I’m only going to marry Debra once (more) and I want to be able to do so without a single shadow in my mind. But if Rex says the word and it seems that yes, the benefit is significant, we’ll do another version of eloping. We’ll head to some courthouse, in a state not our own, with our families and friends far away and exchange solitary vows. I’m not digging elopements these days. But congratulations, by god, congratulations.

*You and I (some of us anyway), we have mutual friends (or readerships, if you don’t want to go that far) that went recently to get married. And we are so proud and happy for them. It says more about me than I’ve written here that I think their marriage is a beautiful, perfect, wonderful, totally, deserved, special thing and the only word in my mind is congratulations, inward OR outward.

Also, if you made it this far you probably have plenty to add to the conversation. Whether you plan to share it or not, suffice to say that as always, I’m just having an opinion however uninformed or outrageous it is. Vive la différence.


And THAT’S Why I Haven’t Called

My mother emailed this week. I was just wondering, she said, if potty training was going badly. That must be why you haven’t called, she helpfully added.

She’s right though. I’m conspicuously absent even in my own head. As if drawing attention to myself will out me as a terrible parent and unreasonable partner, equally unsuccessful at both. One who can’t figure out how to work a toddler. One who can’t figure out how to work her own body. One who leaves her wife in the lurch to keep the house running. I’m getting the better of myself here. I’m not having much fun being me. And so no, mom, I haven’t called. Be thankful.

The last two weeks have been ridiculously difficult. RR screams and cries a lot. I tried to come up with a better word than a lot but constantly seemed harsh; she is (sort of) sleeping. You’re stuck with a lot. The last two nights she has woken up crying three or four times. Wrassling her out the door and into the car could be considered a strength training exercise. Yes, we use the word wrassling around here.

We got an email from her teachers today, suggesting that she return to diapers. Torn between cheering and crying, Debra and I split forces and she called the school director (to make sure we wouldn’t get kicked out for this eventually) and I called our doctor (to make sure we weren’t damaging RR somehow). It seems we all agree. Back to diapers, shelve the panties and pull-ups, and wait.

I think it will happen quickly, though I haven’t been right about much lately. I think she just isn’t ready right now. I also think that, when she is ready, she’ll switch with fewer problems. This? This has been killing me. Do you know what it’s like not to talk to yourself at all? No internal thoughts? Nothing other than: Time to do this. Now this. Now stop doing that and do this. It’s like I somehow unintentionally got on auto-pilot. New school, new semester, new students, potty training, tantrums, wake-ups, whining, weeping. There’s no ROOM for any thoughts.

Back to diapers we go. Tell you what, it’s going to be a MUCH nicer weekend.



Please Tell Me It’s Just Three

If I could have put sound effects up there instead of a title you would have heard a series of door slamming, wailing, I wanna do its!

Please tell me this is just three. Please tell me that the obsessive counting (ten more times mama!) and persistent repetition to keep to the routine (NONOTLIKETHAT let me do it again!) is just a stage. Please tell me that lining up perfume bottles, opening and re-closing doors, and demanding we return the sheet she never uses just because it’s supposed to be there is not going to turn into something we have to manage. Please tell me that I won’t be repeating things like BEEK A BEEK A BEE in exactly the right octave and pace forever. And that I won’t have remind my wife to do it also because HAVEN’T YOU HEARD HER SAYING MAMA DO IT DO IT BEEK A BEEK A BEE for the last five minutes?

That she won’t always have to line up her plate and cup and bowl on the precise edge of the table and don’t you dare touch it because I will cut you.

That she won’t continue to make me leave a room if I haven’t come into it just the way she asked.

That she won’t repeat actions ad infinitum until it happens just the right way.

As someone with her fair share of hurdles in life courtesy of my particular genetic lottery “winnings,” I truly hope this really is just three. I find myself going out of my way not to inadvertently create new routines for her. No, of course I don’t mind a shirt then pants then shoes routine. Or a brush teeth wash hands pajama routine. But the let me shut the door holding the handle this particular way and god help you if you so much as look at me funny routine isn’t working for me. And neither are the rituals she’s accumulating in order to be able to undertake any activity. Bedtime not only includes songs and stories but also climbing up a balance ball like a mountaineer! and jumping up and down ten times not in trouble (she says because I told her 20 was too many. Once. Months ago.)

I assume routines are comforting. After all, she’s a teeny tiny cog in a really big wheel and it must be nice to control something. I just don’t like the colossal tantrums that result from being moved past a ritual into actual progress. Please tell me it’s just three.

This S*** Is For The Birds

You guys, potty training. It’s killing me (still). All I want to do is wait for the magical day (and I’ll know it is such by the sunbeams twinkling with glitter and breakfast appearing lickety-split on my plate when I put it on the table) when she decides she wants to use the potty. I mean, she’s not going to want to sit around in a soggy pull-up forever. Sooner or later, peer pressure or a basic desire for cleanliness will kick in and she’ll say, yup, totally time for the potty.

I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “Oh, just wait. Once they start pooping like real people you’ll want to tie them to the potty til they get it.” or some other well-meaning, less-torturey variation. And yeah, I get it. It’s a shitty job (har) but it’s a blip on my life radar. I’ve hung out in a morgue*. A little poo doesn’t really rate. And honestly, it’s more important to me that she work on what she’s working on right now, whatever that is. That approach has worked well so far – though not without anxiety on our part – and she’s a happy, healthy, smart kid who can (most of the time) articulate her feelings and interact with the rest of humanity in a way that reflects our family ideals of civility and respect. Yes, I’m totally talking about a three-year-old. See? How can you force potty training on that?

While we were at the dentist on Tuesday, the hygienist (who was wearing Bambi scrubs) greeted RR (who was playing with one of the abacus type toys with round, multicolored beads). I asked RR if she knew what was on the hygienist’s shirt and she looked at me blankly.

“Bambi?” the hygienist prompted.
“Deer?” I nudged, knowing full well that Bambi is, and ever will be, cervus non grata in our home**.
“I’m playing with planets.” RR deadpanned.

You guys, I didn’t know she knew what a planet was.

It’s killing me. Last weekend, after much panty-wearing, panty-changing, peeing willy-nilly, and potty-nagging, she rocketed down the hall, flung herself on her little potty and flooded it, my hands, and the floor. I was holding the potty insert at the time, having just been cleaning the single solitary drop of pee she’d deigned to put into it minutes earlier. We rewarded her and she hasn’t done it since (or even been willing to consider it).

I’d like to think that she’d get it if I could just watch her cross and uncross her legs all day but I know from experience that staying home has nothing to do with her desire to use the potty. Last Saturday was a fluke, I’m afraid. During the week, we ship her off to school where she sits on the potty at regular times (always at diaper change so, really, what’s the point of that?) but never pees. On weekends we put her in panties when we’re at home but, let’s face it, the child still takes 3-4 hour naps. She’s not AWAKE enough to be in panties much of the time.

And here’s the kicker and it’s a big one. She’s supposed to be potty-trained before she moves to her new school in mid-August. I am so worried that she won’t be that I’m having strings of bad dreams that involve the school kicking us out, her peeing all over the parking lot sobbing, getting scolded for deceiving them, and finding ourselves suddenly and completely without childcare at the start of our busiest work season. I have no idea what to do. I’m torn between taking time off for a heartless potty bootcamp and crossing my fingers and hoping for the best over the next four weeks.

I suppose I’m not really looking for suggestions but if you have any besides the following – or if you’re looking for some yourself! – here’s what hasn’t worked:

Sticker rewards
Toy rewards
Candy rewards
Peer pressure (mama gets an M&M for peeing)
Leaving every door open
Potty books
Potty apps
Potty videos
Sitting at regular times
Panties regardless of trainedness
Constant changes of panties
Naked time
Keeping a potty in the room with her
Having her sit when we sit
Telling her it’s the last diaper and showing the empty bin
Letting her decide when she’s ready

And frankly, we’re back to that. Looking at that list, we appear to be inconsistent potty fanatics but this is a list collected over a period of time and we’re not dumping (heh) it all on her at once. It feels terrible to force this on her when I just don’t think she’s ready. I don’t know what I’m going to do if she can’t go to school. Seriously. I don’t know.

*To be clear, I wasn’t sipping lemonade and eating nachos. It was more hanging out in the sense of hanging out to dry, hanging on a limb, hanging by a thread and so forth.

**I’m down with Disney, but not with that damn deer. Fire! Death! Destruction! Abandonment! No.

Not When She’s 16

I can’t count the number of times we’ve said this to each other. We may or may not have been crying into pints of ice cream at the time. Who am I kidding, we’ve never done that. Whole pizzas, perhaps, but I’m definitely putting ice cream on the “to cry into” list because I’ve read that salt is really good with chocolate.

In fact, we probably should have just named RR “Not When She’s 16” because it entirely sums up her personality. There we sit, watching the latest debacle that is our daughter’s development thinking: Huh. Well. She won’t not be able to do this when she’s 16, right? She’ll figure it out. And then we go back to giving her grapes to add.

For example, RR would not roll over. At 4 months, she had not made any effort to roll over. We both know that I haven’t read a single baby book – relying on you all to keep me from losing my mind – because I am not the sort of person who can be trusted with rules. I’m not that sane. I do, however, look at an occasional developmental milestone chart, find I’m on some emotional roller coaster of epic proportions, and talk myself off the ledge. I asked the doctor why RR wouldn’t roll over. SHE talked me off a ledge. We resorted to the only thing that has kept us going: There’s no way she’ll be 16, on the couch with her boyfriend or girlfriend, fooling around, and NOT be able to roll over. She’ll figure that shit out damn quick.

She won’t be 16 and not be able to…
sit up.
feed herself.
stack blocks.
roll over.

Anytime I think about her driving a car, going on a date, or slamming the door to her room, I remind myself that she won’t do any of those things without figuring out how to roll over. It works. I don’t think I’ve ever actually SEEN her do it, but I know she can. Finally.

And so here I am. She can’t figure out how to pull down her pants. Or pull them up. The child will be THREE in June and she has never tried to take off her own clothes. She looks baffled when I suggest she might try taking off her own diaper or unfastening her own shoe. With potty training upon us, this pants thing is pretty critical. She can hop on one foot. She can spell more than a handful of words. She has the musical rhythm of a Rolling Stone. But she can’t pull down her elastic pants.

That’s okay though. She treats the idea of the potty like it’s the devil come to swallow her ass. This weekend we tried the panty technique, going through 7 pairs of shorts and panties in the space of an afternoon. On the final attempt, handfuls of rabbit pellet-esque droppings spilled onto the floor and rolled under every possible piece of furniture, her having eaten something that didn’t give her the…flow…she needed. Never once did she attempt the potty. But I’m pretty damn sure she won’t be 16 and not able to use the potty. Pretty sure.

Potty training is one thing for which folks have plenty of advice because every kid seems to have their own secret to unlock. We are trying (or have tried): waiting until she shows interest, watching her friends, pull-ups, elastic waistbands ad infinitum, naked time, panties all day, potty books, not worrying about it. We are not despairing. Mostly. And, most importantly, to her I believe we actually appear laid back about it. Which is why I have you. Because she can’t go to her new school in August unless she’s potty trained and that’s about 13 years shy of 16.

We’re in trouble, Elmo.


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Montessori + Thanks

I just wanted to tell you that you are fantastic and I appreciate all the article links and thoughts.  Also, D has pointed out that not only do we need to visit and apply, we also have to be accepted.

That’s a whole other can of public/private worms for another time.  Sounds like a terrible STD, doesn’t it?


We’re contemplating a switch to a different school.  There are all sorts of reasons why our current one deserves suspicion but the enumeration would range from pointless to outrageous.  Overall, the reasons fall just short of the “act now” range and so we’ve been comfortable maintaining the status quo.  We’re engaged (and if we weren’t, we’d definitely be in the act now stage) but the pile of concerns is beginning to outweigh our desire to push through a fix.

This next school year will be the first year she can attend our Montessori school*.  We’re visiting on Tuesday to see if the values and the pace of the day suit our family.  Our family doctor highly recommends the school and we’re friends with other Montessori fans, including a teacher and parent alums.   Everyone raves about the experience and says “helpful” things like, “RR is where?! She should really move to Montessori.” and “My kids went there and they are spectacular superheroes.  In fact, look right there, our sons are just now saving that old lady from a falling piano!” (and they are).  We’ve read about the philosophy and reviewed our local school’s literature in detail.  Everything – even the ever critical google – seems to be pro–Montessori.  When I try to find information that will help me determine if Montessori is right for RR, I see things like, “Do you want your child to be respectful and independent?”  and “Do you want your child to learn self-motivation and problem solving skills?” Well, no, of course not.  Come to think of it, I think I’d like her best if she just sat there and moaned.  No Montessori for her!

Before the internet gets its Montessori feathers ruffled (not you, of course, you are as always moderate and inspired in your thinking), I think it’s a good idea for RR and for us.  Many of our current concerns would evaporate and I expect we’d see her fit right in.  She plays independently, she likes to work, I think she would benefit from being in a classroom with older children.  Overall, the philosophy seems to be in line with our own.  I’d have to get over my aversion to elastic waistband pants though.  I know it’s easier for small children but ugh…

So here are my primary concerns:

  • The school is designed so that some (many?) of the kids will attend for a half-day and the rest is “after-care”.  I’m concerned this climate will mean she’s barely looked after in the afternoons or not stimulated in any way.  I realize this is a holdover opinion from other after school programs I’ve encountered – things reserved for kids whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t get them and where bullies roamed wild as teachers just waited for pick up time.  We can’t stay at home.  We wish one of us could but, since the illustrious state of Virginia is disinclined to offer us any rights at all, work it is.  In fact, pick-up time is earlier, eliminating the wiggle room we have now.  I don’t want her (or our family) to be considered less than in any way because one of us doesn’t stay at home.  
  • There are an inordinate number of days off.  Huge spans of time.  For example, two full weeks in August.  The full week of Thanksgiving.  Two full weeks around Christmas.  What do people do with their kids during all the days off (and snow days, too)?  We don’t have that much vacation time unless we divide and conquer but then we’d never be able to take any substantial time off as a family.  I know this is coming as we face public school but right now it seems scary and overwhelming.  
  • Finally, I wonder what happens if RR decides she’s not interested in working on specific skills?  I wish I knew how to ask that question without sounding like an asshole but there it is.  I want her to go to school to learn and grow and develop and be the best version of herself but I’m not entirely certain that letting her set the pace will result in a well-rounded child.  This is the child who will tuck herself behind the recliner in her room and read when we have company.  She’s not exactly warm and fuzzy.  

Surely, this is where you tell me that all of my fears are unfounded and that visiting the school is our best bet.  Check.  We’re off to see things in action on Tuesday and, since we have to make a decision on our current school by the 31st, we’ll have to choose sooner rather than later**.  If you know us at all, you know that six months is a normal timeframe for decision making – we don’t waffle, we just like to ponder.  For example, would you believe we’ve been considering Montessori since she was born and we STILL haven’t settled on a position?  Of course you would.  So tell me, do you have any insights?  Did you attend Montessori?  Did/does your child?  What do you do when your child has more days off than you do?  How do you ask the school questions without sounding like an asshole?  But then, isn’t that my perennial question?

* Yes.  It meets the criteria and is affiliated with the organization.

** Lest it sound like we haven’t considered other options, I assure you that we’ve considered a range of the town’s church preschools, nanny situations and independent/specialty schools, an alarming amount of which use comic sans in their communications.

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