I write this, lying here in the dark of our room. The red digital numbers on the clock reading 11:13. Meg is asleep next to me, while one of our cats, Jasper nudges his way between us to curl in for a night’s sleep.
At the foot of the bed sits the cradle that’s been in Meg’s family for generations, and seen all three of our little ones rest their heads in it.
In there tonight sits our youngest, just shy of six months old, alternating between sleep and rapid bouts of coughing, worse now than when I took her to the doctor’s earlier today out of fear of an ear infection. The ears were clear and the best diagnosis for her recent and regular bouts of misery and blood curdling screaming were chalked up to the perfect storm of teething, gas, and bad eczema all over her body. The doctors offered some dietary change suggestions for Meg, cutting out things like dairy and peanut butter among others to narrow down what it is in the breast milk that could possibly be leading to such widespread redness.
And as our nearly six month old coughs her way through the night, our two year old has already thrown up twice in bed, leading to impromptu washings of her, her clothes and sheets. Upset stomach? Another virus? The second round of flu that’s been in the headlines? Or just a bug? I don’t know.
*Post-script note: Since writing this, there were two more incidents of vomiting throughout the night, with more washings, sheet strippings, and washes to the point that we started running out of sheets and pillows. And by this point, I had taken position on the floor next to her for the rest of the night.
And as they slumber, here I lay, feeling utterly helpless. There’s few feelings worse than watching your children sick, looking to you for aid and only being able to do so much for them before having you put them back to bed and tell them it will be alright, even if you’re not quite sure when it’ll be…hoping that if we are convincing to them that perhaps we might be able to convince ourselves too.
There are some downright awesome shirt designs out there for kids. Our two year old daughter’s shirt with cartoon marshmallows joyously leaping into a mug of hot chocolate, or our five year old son’s red shirt with a timeless/retro shiny metal robot swirling through the air leaving a rainbow behind him. Or the the overlapping rainbow silhouettes of a stegosaurus wearing sunglasses.
I have a ball looking at all the fun graphic shirts as we stroll through the kid’s section of stores. And to be honest, as I initially wrote this, I was intending it to be a bit of a gripe with shirt selections for our son as he moves from size 5 to 6.
For a long time I had noticed that those awesome, creative, happy designs on shirts are becoming harder and harder to find once you move beyond a size 5. No, for a while it seemed that once you hit size 6, the clothing industry primarily focuses all its creative energy to the same, tiring theme of “extreme!” or “in your face!” designs that are so eye-roll worthy, I feel like I’m in a bad TV show trying to be hip.
And my biggest question was, “why?”
Why was it that so many clothing manufacturers (and retailers) make such an incredible shift from fun to cliche “extreme!” with the step up from one age/size to the next? Not only from a consumer standpoint, but a cultural one. In a world that could use more thought, more care in each of us, no matter our age, why would we push upon impressionable young boys (I say that because this is mostly seen in young boy’s clothing versus the girls) this image/statement through wardrobe that once you hit six, get ready to be in your face, get ready to be tough, get ready to be extreme?
I’m a believer that variety is the spice of life, but there seemed to be smaller and smaller variety for boys starting at this age. I couldn’t understand why options for young boys were being narrowly limited to skulls and crossbones, camo, or sayings like “prove it!”
It felt as if we as a society push them toward a peg they’re subconsciously told they need to fit into instead of allowing a child of 5, 6, 7, etc, just be a kid, to relish in the fun, the silliness, and imagination that is childhood and allow them to discover who they are on their own, free of the stereotypes that adults seem to think matter.
However, as I mentioned, this may have started out as a gripe, but is turning into some appreciation. I’ve noticed recently that this is now so much the overwhelming case I once found it to be when we’d walk through the kid’s clothing racks at stores. And I’m grateful for that. A trip through Kohl’s young boys section may not have all the cute designs of their Jumping Beans for toddlers to preschool age, but there seems to be much less of the “in your face,” tough guy” stuff I once felt was everywhere I turned while we shopped. The same goes for Target, which seems to, by my notice anyway, increased selection of clothing for young boys with cool geometric and color designs, animals, dinosaurs, and less harsh words and a great focus on discovery and kindness.
I for one am incredibly grateful. I’m sure there are many stores out there too, I just mention these two as a pair of the larger box stores in our area. And of course, there’s always great selections from individual clothing designers that you can find with a little bit of time online. And whether it’s a shift from the manufacturers, the retailers, or just an individual taking the time to shop online through smaller merchants, it’s worth the time and effort. Because spreading even a little bit more happiness through a shirt that makes us smile is the kind of chain reaction of brightness we need more of in the world.
And there is an upside to the question of wardrobe for young boys. Our little guy chooses his own clothes when he gets up and dressed each morning and more often than not as of late, we’ve noticed he bypasses pictures, characters, logos, etc, and goes with solid colors, stripes, or other wardrobe items that remain neutral in their appearance. It may sound a bit bland, but what we’ve come to realize is that his choices allow his own individual personality to shine through, not cluttered by a shirt with a saying, or even that adorable little robot flying through the air I love so dear.
Maybe in the end each child finds what their individual style is, how it fits into who they are, and of course, as we parents all know from our own childhoods, that’ll change time and time again.
I really hate letting things go to waste. Yes, that statement is at odds with my aversion to clutter and desire for less, but in this particular case, I’m thinking about food. It never fails that when garbage night rolls around each week, we find ourselves with some slices of bread that’s starting to go, or fruit that’s past its prime and starting to turn. In times past, this may have found a home in the garbage bag while our sense of regret finds a home in our minds. But recently, I’m pretty proud that we’ve been finding a way to make sure that even those items get a new life or use.
And the answer lies right outside our kitchen window.
In our new digs of the past year, we’re not that far from some wooded areas and in the middle of the night last winter, up with our second child who couldn’t fall back asleep, Meg looked out the bedroom window to see a deer staring back at her. Since that night, throughout the winter months when food is not as plentiful in the woods, they come as one, sometimes in packs of three or even five and feast on the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder hanging from a tree in our backyard.
So now when that (non-citrus) fruit starts to go, or when the kids want an apple but don’t finish all of it, or even the apple core I have left over from lunch, out into the backyard it goes under the tree, where the next morning, if not within a few hours, it’s disappeared, gobbled up by our neighbors the deer, or squirrels, or perhaps that plethora of beautiful birds that frequent the place.
Will seeing me find an alternative to tossing away the leftover fruit rub off onto our kids? I don’t know. I’d like to hope so. Sometimes it feels like it’s an uphill battle to try and keep this planet in better shape than we found it, but if something like not throwing out certain types of food that makes a welcomed meal to the wildlife outside our door can make even a small difference, I’m all for it.
Parenthood can be a lot of things. Exciting. Frustrating. Heartwarming. Exhausting. Joyous.
And sometimes, parenthood can be spending your Saturday night picking the lock on your bathroom door because a certain five year old boy was curious about what would happen if he pushed the button inside then closed it behind him on the way out.
So it was to the internet we went to learn just what it takes to work a push-button lock from the other side and how it all operates.
It’s amazing what you can learn about things you have in your daily lives but don’t think too much about until you need to.
After about 20 minutes and a trial run of various tools, from screwdrivers of varying sizes, a nail file, and other household tools that didn’t work or reach what they needed to, it was a paperclip from the desk drawer that proved to be just what was needed to reach far enough into the lock from the small opening and pop the lock on the other side.
So while initially and admittedly frustrated, some patience, along with the power of a paperclip, paid off.
For my next trick, I pick the vault lock of the Gotham National Bank! Mwa-ha-ha!
I was driving our son to school recently when, staring out the back window at the houses and businesses passing us by, he suddenly asked why one of the kids at school didn’t want to be his friend.
“I say hello and I’m nice to them, but they tell me they don’t want to be my friend.”
This was not a conversation I expected to get into within the time frame of a car ride to school. But, there we were. We were doing this, whether I was ready or not, so I had to wing it.
I said, “Buddy, not everybody has to like you. Or us. You are a wonderful person. You are kind. You are smart. You are funny, and you have the biggest heart of anyone I know. You are all those things. But even with all that, there are still going to be people you come across who just, no matter how nice you try to be, will not be the same. It doesn’t mean you should stop being who you are, please don’t do that, but just remember that there are going to be people who just don’t want to be friends. With you. With me. With anyone. You have to keep being you and let the people who don’t want to be a part of that go.”
It’s okay when people don’t click together. You are choosing who you spend your time with, so why spend the time and energy on someone who takes all your energy, your support, and your air?
Even adults struggle with this. How many of us deal with toxic people in our lives, or our workplace, who no matter how nice you try to be, no matter how much you reach out, you’re constantly left feeling drained and defeated as if you did something wrong. We grown-ups are not immune to these feelings either. Even we need to learn to continue on our way and not expend all we have to give for nothing but drainage in return.
It was only within a few days later that he told us that he saw this schoolmate and cheerfully greeted them with a “Good morning!” to receive a mean-spirited “Duh!” in response. I asked him what happened after that, to which he said “I just smiled and kept on going my own way.”
Keep on your own way. It’s the only way that’s right for you.