The one with the regret

The one with the regret

I’m not the kind of person who typically regrets anything. I have a huge parenting regret though, and I didn’t even realize it until this weekend.

I’ve struggled with eating disorders since I was 13 years old. That’s just over a quarter of a century dealing with an eating disorder for those of you who know me and are doing the math. I WISH I was as fat as I was when I first thought I was fat. Mother eff…I REALLY wish I was as fat as I was when I was when I was 3 months in to post baby, depression fueled anorexia. If you know me now, you’ll see that I CLEARLY beat anorexia though. I mean, I’m not morbidly obese or anything (even if that’s what I see in the mirror…thanks to the eating disorder brain), but my body definitely says “loves tacos and tequila…and all the rest of the food.”

Here’s where this leads to the regret. I think it must be a universal thing that kids love the water. I have yet to meet a kid that doesn’t love to swim, slip-n-slide, run through sprinklers, or anything that involves a swimming suit and water. I live by some amazing lakes, we can swim in the river, and we have a pretty kick ass rec center pool. Do you want to know how many times I put on a swimming suit and took advantage of any of those experiences with my kid? Aside from a year or so where I had someone in my life who was seeing me naked on the regular, so it didn’t really matter how fat I thought I looked in a swimming suit at the lake with him and the kids (his and mine, not ours), I can count them on one hand. That’s not to say my kid was totally deprived of all water experiences. I just didn’t experience them with him. I sat on the sidelines, like so many other moms, terrified of what people would think of me if I just put on the damn bathing suit and joined my kid in the water.

This weekend, my best friend brought his kids to the tiny town I live in. They stayed at a hotel, partly so they had their own space with no questions back home as to the sleeping arrangements at my place, and partly because it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve had a toddler in my house, and it is NOT a toddler friendly place. (That, and I don’t have TV, so I needed something to help with the cool factor that I would have otherwise been COMPLETELY lacking…) Of course, since there are no Hilton properties in my town, and I refuse to willingly spend any of my money on any Marriott property ever, I just picked the nicer of the 2 hotels near my house, and made sure the pool was in working order before I made reservations for them.

Because this friend is one of the few people in the world I feel 100% comfortable around, you can bet I joined them in the pool, and you know what? Those kids didn’t care one bit that I am without a doubt packing around a few thousand (slight exaggeration) extra pounds. They didn’t care that once my top was wet, it clung painfully and uncomfortably close to my food baby. (Alright, alright…it wasn’t PHYSICALLY painful and uncomfortable….but you guys…I have an eating disorder brain, and the mental struggle was real.) You know what they did care about? They cared that I could balance on one foot, while the 9-year-old stood on my thigh, counting to 3 before I pushed him as high as possible out of the water so he could come crashing back down in to it for maximum splashing. They cared that I could lift the 3-year-old out of the water and on to the side so he could jump back in to me, and make sure I kept his head out of the water over, and over, and over again. They cared that I could do that for 2 solid hours, two different times that day. ALL they cared about was that there was someone there, playing with them, in the freaking water. The sheer joy was infectious. I haven’t had so much fun in the town where I live in YEARS.

I missed out on the one and only chance I had to experience things like this with my own kid. I missed out on that kind of pure joy because I was too damn worried about what other people would think if they saw me in a swimming suit, and after this weekend, I regret the hell out of that.  It’s one of the few things I’d change if I could rewind and try again. So learn from me being soooooo incredibly stupid, and just put on the damn swimming suit and play in the water with those tiny humans of yours. They’ll never forget it, and either will you.

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Eight years ago today

Eight years ago today

It was 8 years ago today, I know because Facebook memories told me so, that I took my kid, and the girl who I had spent the previous 7 years as her “other mother” (a name given to me by her own amazing mother) to a music festival 3 hours away. It was Friday during the first week of school, and I picked them both up as soon as it was over and we took off to a town 3 hours away so my kid could see the band he wanted to see the most, Finger Eleven. I was the meanest mom in the world for not letting him skip the 3rd day of school so he could make sure he saw all of his favorite band, but that was quickly forgotten as soon as we arrived at the festival, and again when we went back for the second day.

Not that it had anything to do with the music festival, but that was also probably the last year that my kid didn’t actually hate me. I don’t mean the “You won’t let me play with my friend, you’re making me do homework, I can’t have McDonald’s for dinner for the 4th time this week,” I hate you either. The kind of I hate you that I was getting thrown at me was the “It’s your fault I don’t have a dad at home, or someone who wants to be my dad, because nobody can stand to be around you, you never do anything for me, I’m practically raising myself because you’re always at work, it’s your fault I am not doing well in school, we never do anything fun,” kind of hate. You know, the mean, spiteful kind of hate. The punching holes in my walls, breaking everything in the house, underage smoking and drinking, kind of hate. It’s the kind of hate that has left me crying in the shower on more occasions that I will ever admit, wondering where I went so horribly wrong as a parent.

This weekend, I had the chance to talk to another friend of mine, and was completely blown away when I heard that they were having similar problems with their oldest. I listened for 3 hours as this person told me about all of the problems and trials they were having with one of their children, even though the family background couldn’t possibly be more of a polar opposite to the family background at my house. This child was raised in a 2 parent, affluent household, with FAR more conveniences than my kid had, and with the added benefit of one parent working, and the other at home, able to be there for the children at any given time of any given day. This family shouldn’t be having the same problems with their kid as I am with mine. It just doesn’t make sense…at all, right?!

Towards the end of this 3 hour conversation, I realized that we had so much more in common than I ever thought we could. Both of us felt like we had failed at some point as a parent, and couldn’t for the life of us figure out where we went wrong. Both of us saw our value as a person tied directly to how these humans we had raised turned out as adults, and as the conversation wrapped up, we realized we had BOTH come to the conclusion (her through professional counselling and me through boozy conversations with my best friends) that we both gave our children all of the tools we possibly could to be decent humans. They were loved. They had all of their necessities taken care of. They each had plenty of opportunities for the fun extras. They were safe. They had seen first hand how they SHOULD treat other people for their entire lives. How they chose to use these tools was not a reflection on how they were raised, rather it was a reflection of who they were choosing to be, no matter how heartbreaking it was as a parent to watch them turn in to little assholes who didn’t care about anyone but themselves.

So be kind to people you meet; you never know who’s raising teenagers, and in the stolen words of one of the coolest people I’ve met this year, “Hug your people y’all.” (Seriously though, those people raising teenagers who are being assholes for no apparent reason definitely need your hugs.)

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On what it’s REALLY like being a parent

On what it’s REALLY like being a parent

High school health classes are REALLY missing the boat on the whole preventing teen pregnancy by sending students home for the weekend with a robot baby thing. Yeah, it’s annoying to have to wake up and feed, change, or play with the robo-baby, but that’s all over with in 2 or 3 days, and you’re back to life as normal. Do you want to really give your children an idea what it’s like to be a parent? Skip the robo-baby and give them a toddler who hasn’t napped in 3 days, an 8-year-old who just lost screen time privileges, a pre-teen ball of hormones, or a teenager who thinks they’re entitled to EVERYTHING, and has the attitude to go along with it. You want to teach kids what it’s like to be a parent before they’re a parent? Those are all better options than a baby robot. Scar them for life with some real parenting obstacles.

Here is a much more accurate depiction of what it’s really like to be a parent. Imagine you’re drowning, and you see someone headed your direction in a boat, and you think you’re being rescued. The boat stops and they throw you a life-preserver. You catch it, relieved for a split second until you realize it’s made of concrete, and the people in the boat aren’t even looking back while you just keep on continuing to tread water. Then you just repeat that for the rest of forever.

On watching your kid’s heart break

On watching your kid’s heart break

It’s a fact, you don’t make it through life unscathed. It chews you up and spits you out every chance it gets, but no matter what you’ve been through, it’s a special kind of hell watching your child be disappointed, let down, and hurt over and over and over again by people who are supposed to care.

I get heartbreak. It’s been one hell of a quarter century. Your parents don’t get divorced and force you to move away from your home in the middle of your Junior year without some heartbreak. You don’t find out you’re pregnant and give up on your dreams of being a litigator or doctor (I had some HUGE ambitions) without some heartbreak. You don’t consider an abortion, then change your mind, almost die in childbirth, wake up from a surgery that saved your life and left you unable to have children ever again, give up on dating because nobody wants to raise someone else’s kid in their early 20’s to God only knows at what age that’s not  a problem anymore, without ever having the option of having their own children and you just can’t take that rejection again, raise a kid completely on your own, and do everything you can to make sure that kid is never at a loss for life’s necessities without some freaking heartbreak.

My kid has an amazing extended family on my side. They included him in everything and always made every effort to make him feel important. The situation on the other side of the DNA couldn’t have been a more stark contrast though, and I couldn’t stand the thought of him thinking they didn’t care, so every Christmas, and every birthday, there was always something from Grandma Voldemort. (Obviously that’s not her name, and I’d call her Grandma Satan, but there were like 10 times in 19 years that she was actually kind to him.) “Grandma V” always sent gifts for Christmas. “Grandma V” always sent money in a card for his birthday. I carried on that charade for WAY longer than I ever should have had to. Back up….I never should have had to carry on that charade, because Grandma V should have ACTUALLY done those things. Still, it worked, because my kid thought Grandma V was a saint. He was under my carefully constructed illusion that she cared.

Grandma V was right up there on that pedestal that his dad was on, and every time he slips in to asshole mode and tells me that he had a horrible childhood, that he didn’t get to do ANYTHING fun growing up, that he “practically raised himself” because I was at work all the time, that it’s my fault he didn’t have a dad at home growing up, or anyone that wanted to be around me enough to act like a dad to him because I’m a bitch, I fight back the tears, and the urge to completely shatter his image of both of them. I’ve spent almost 2 decades wishing they would fall off that damn pedestal. For nearly 2 decades, I’ve wanted to be able to say to them “That first step off your high horse is going to be a bitch honey. Tuck and roll.”

I think they’ve finally stumbled. I don’t think the ground that pedestal is on is as firm as it once was, and the worst part about it is that instead of finally feeling vindicated, my mom heart is breaking in to a million pieces again. It kills me to have him call and ask “Did I get a card from Nana today,” or “Did I get any mail,” knowing full well that I didn’t send it this year, and she probably didn’t either. All I want to do is tell him the truth when he says “maybe it got lost in the mail,” but the truth is, his birthday was over a week ago, and even though someone (probably the other half of his DNA) has him under the impression that he’s getting one, that card just isn’t coming.

“Yeah bud, it’s probably lost in the mail,” I repeat back to him, because I get heartbreak, and I’m not going to be the one who breaks his.

Sometimes you just have to jump off the wagon.

Sometimes you just have to jump off the wagon.

I have seriously been kicking some serious butt in the “no sugary sweets or soda” department. It happened completely by accident. I started using these products during the week before Halloween. They completely killed my sugar cravings, and since I wasn’t craving it, I wasn’t eating it. It was truly a miracle, not even the myriad of Reese’s peanut butter goodies were tempting.

I didn’t realize how overly sweet so many of the things we eat are until I went a while without it. A few weeks ago, when the kid was home, I figured I’d be nice and take some food like substance from McDonald’s home for him to eat. I grabbed his cheeseburgers and sweet tea and headed home with it. When I absent-mindedly took a sip of his sweet tea, I almost spit it out. The crap was pure liquid sugar with ZERO tea taste whatsoever.

Perfect. Tastebuds reset. Sugary crap is sweet again. Life was good. And then came Christmas treat season.

Some family members dropped off chocolate covered pretzles, which the kid ate all of without asking. No problem; I don’t need them anyway. The plate of cookies he devoured, still no problem. But when my friend sent home a box of goodies that included Oreo truffles, which TBH, are probably the best treat ever, too sweet or not, the kid wasn’t getting the chance to eat them all. I told myself “just one,” and I was convinced I could stop at that. It was sickeningly sweet, but so good. I really could have stopped at just one too, but then I remembered what a little butthead the kid had been earlier that day, so I ate the other 3 too, just so he couldn’t have them. All of the sugar gave me a massive headache, but not as big as the one that he’s been (from time to time) for 18 years and running.

It was worth it. I’d do it again, but next time, I’d probably wait until he sees the last one, and then I’d take it so he couldn’t have it.  It would be much more satisfying, in the Jimmy Kimmel “I told my kids I ate all of their Halloween candy” way if he knew what kind of goodies he missed out on because I actually don’t HAVE to share when he’s being a giant a-hole. Sometimes you fall off the wagon; sometimes you jump off on purpose for the greater good…

The Obligatory Christmas Update

The Obligatory Christmas Update

You know those cutesy Christmas letters that normal people send out with a family picture…that they took in like August, because they have their sh*t together and actually plan these things? Yeah…I’m not one of those people. I tried to be. I really did, but after killing myself year after year to take care of Christmas by myself, putting up the 300 ornament, front room clearing monstrosity of a tree, baking the cookies, buying the neighbor gifts, attempting to make it look like the kid had sufficient presents under the tree (a REALLY hard task when there is only one person buying stuff for one kid), all while trying to also keep the little snot humble, I gave up on it.

I had partially given up on it 3 years ago, because the kid refused to help clean up HIS messes everywhere in the house, and I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. I replaced the ginormous tree with a little pre-lit potted tree that sat on my coffee table. The gifts he received looked a whole lot more impressive surrounding that than they did underneath the tree from the previous years. PLUS, I got to pretend we were being “simplistic” instead of the truth: I was too damn depressed to deal with it.

The gigantic Christmas Weed didn’t make a return the next year either, as Mr “I’m too cool for my mom” woke me up on Christmas morning and said “Can I open my presents so I can go to my friend’s house?” When I told him his friends were spending time with their parents, he retreated to his room for the rest of the day so he could talk to those friends who were also forced to stay home with their families through whatever form of social media the “cool kids” were using at the time.

Last year…hard pass on the real tree again. Actually, it was a hard pass on Christmas spirit altogether around our place, since the kid spent most of his time declaring his absolute contempt for having to wash his own clothes and pick up after himself by telling me at every chance he had that he couldn’t wait until he was 18 so he could just move out. In an effort to find something that didn’t completely suck about the season last year, I bought Christmas gifts for the adorable little boys of an incredibly appreciative friend, and of course my own spawn as well. As appreciative as this friend was, my kid was the complete polar opposite, asking if I kept the receipts so he could just go get the money, before muttering a quick “Thanks though” and leaving to go to what ever friend he was making horrible decisions with at the time, which brings us to this year’s obligatory Christmas update.

Dear friends and family,

It’s definitely been a year of ups and downs. Coming off of a tumultuous 2016, we didn’t expect 2017 to be quite as eventful but boy were we wrong about that one!

The kid turned 18 this year, but his attitude reverted back to that of a 2-3 year old. Fresh off of his ticket for minor possession of tobacco and curfew violation during the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend, he celebrated his birthday with a realization that stupid things done now come with much higher consequences.

During the summer, he finally got a job when one of his mom’s friends took pity on him. Surprisingly things were going well with that, until he realized a couple of months later that you actually have to show up to work and lose the attitude to keep your job. He moved out when his mom continued to expect him to do far too much around the house. Cleaning up after himself, washing his dishes, and expecting him to NOT put holes in walls, doors, and mirrors were simply unacceptable rules to have to live with.

Apparently, having not learned anything during Thanksgiving 2016, he rounded out the year with a minor consumption ticket, and since we live in Utah, there will be some pretty hefty fines and possible jail time to go along with that one. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of that is the fact that he’s 18, so the meanest mom in the entire world won’t have to shoulder ANY liability for that one. It’s truly a miracle he’s still alive though, since in a desperate attempt to sound much cooler than he is, he likes to brag that he blew a .55 (I’m not planning a funeral, so obviously he didn’t) when the officer broke up the little shindig that he and the rest of his idiot squad were partying at. .55 and still standing….it’s a true Christmas miracle!

Now for the worst mom in the world….the one who “ruined the kid’s childhood,” 2017 wasn’t a complete loss. She spent some time with some truly amazing people in Minnesota and Washington, DC as the “green haired girl from Utah” trying to get our current Congress to do the right thing and fund cancer research, close a loophole keeping seniors from getting life saving medical services, and other awesomeness. In an effort to keep from joining the parenting ranks of Casey Anthony, she learned how to deflect stress with painting, which she actually kind of kicks ass at. It’s a good thing painting is cheaper than a defense attorney, because the kid certainly gives her plenty of reasons to need one. Yes, she’s still single. No, that probably won’t change ever. Yes, she’s still the black sheep of the entire family…..for now.

2017 can officially suck it, and we look forward to seeing you all in 2018, hopefully still on this side of the Grey Bar Hotel. Merry Christmas, and here’s to a new freaking year!

What’s your name?

What’s your name?

In an effort to remember that my kid isn’t ALWAYS a giant teenage asshole (let’s be honest, some days that’s a giant mother forking struggle!), it’s probably time to reminisce about the times when he was actually kind of cute and fun to be around.

First, I have to admit that once upon a time, I thought Wal-Mart wasn’t that bad of a place to shop. I got smarter and realized it’s actually a portal to Hell disguised as a discount store, but before that, I shopped there, because as a single parent, you need to save money, and at one point in our lives, we’ve all been brainwashed in to thinking that’s the place to do it.

On one such shopping trip with the kid, we were standing in a ridiculously long line waiting to buy whatever we couldn’t live without. Side note: WHY do they do this? Really, there’s like 500 checkstands and 3 of them are open. Have you EVER been in a Wal-Mart that has more than half of their cash registers open? I didn’t think so. Those 500 checkstands are a myth. They’re there to make you think that at any given time there could be 2000 other people in the store and ALL of them will want the stuff you’re thinking you might need someday, so you should buy it all now before someone else can. It’s a fantastic way to boost sales.

Anyway, I digress…as I was unloading things for the cashier, this sweet little lady behind us was making faces at my 2-year-old and talking to him in that voice we all use with babies, animals, and stupid people.  After a minute or so she asked him “What’s your name sweetheart?”

As plain as day, he responded “Damn it Bryan, no!”

At that point I should have known what the next 16+ years had in store. Instead, it was all I could do to not just literally die laughing at the horrified expression on her face. If only I knew how many times I was going to utter those words, I probably would have just gone ahead and named him “Damn it Bryan, no.”