Mama Worries About You. Except When She Doesn’t.

At only 1 year of age, Baby Grouch has taught me how (approximately) 8230753 lbs of mommy-love can be squeezed into a teensy, tiny, Grinch-sized heart.  She’s also taught me that the equivalent poundage of terror can be packed into that same cubic volume.

Like some anxiety-riddled, futuristic camera, my brain captures images of Baby Grouch in worst-case scenarios.   It would be easy to get sucked in and dwell on this imaginary album and give myself multiple heart attacks each day.  I have to refocus my mental camera constantly, to appreciate the real view in front of me. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes the refocusing of the Crazy-Brain Camera feels less like rotating the lens of an SLR and more like trying to swivel the steering wheel of a semi truck that lacks power steering.

With that in mind, here’s my letter to Baby Grouch about my anxieties and my corresponding, seemingly rare, moments of clarity and sanity.

Dear Baby Grouch,

Mama worries about you.

When you are asleep, she checks on you once before she herself tucks in. Sometimes twice.  Even though she knows you are probably okay, sometimes the silence scares her. She is reassured by the rising and falling of your chest.  She marvels at the fascinating science of DNA inheritance, as she observes you fast asleep with one leg bent at the knee, up in the air, crossed over the other, just like your father sleeps. She admits, without remorse, that she has, on occassion, slightly disturbed your slumber in order to hear you emit an audible sigh.

While you are at daycare, she knows you are in good hands, but she has moments of panic that a tragic mishap will take place. A slip. A fall.  An accident.   She might even work herself up into an unwarranted frenzy at the prospect of a trivial busted lip.  When she walks in to pick you up, and sees your happy, healthy self at play (with both lips intact) a breath she didn’t realize was wedged in her chest escapes out of her mouth.  She is so relieved that she doesn’t even mind the smashed graham cracker in your hair or the dried snot under your nose smearing all over her shirt as she gives you a grateful embrace hello.

Every time she hears a news story of a shooting, a car accident, a drowning – she thinks to herself that losing you in such a fashion would be unbearable, unimaginable, fall-on-your-knees-with-your-mouth-hanging-open horrifying.  Every time she hears a harrowing story when she’s in the car, at work, watching television or out with friends, for a split second she replaces your wide eyed, grinning, gap-toothed face with the victim’s. She morbidly imagines the photograph that would accompany your news story, one of you scrunching up your nose in excitement, or one of you smiling, with your eyes open wide – two almost-perfect orbs, the left slightly narrower than the right – showing off your favorite doll to the camera.  During this brief gruesome flash, she holds back the tears that threaten to pour off her lashes. She manages to keep herself together as she almost falls apart at the mere reminder that bad things happen to good people all of the time. Depending on where she is, this can sometimes be embarassing. But it can not be helped.

When she’s at work, as a high school teacher, hearing snide remarks and bullying tones and hurtful words coming from the mouths of some of the kids, she pictures you as a teen, getting crushed by broken friendships, broken promises and broken hearts.  It pains her even now to think of your inevitable heartache in the future.  She knows that even though some people make it through high school unscathed, no one makes it through life without some significant rough patches.

But your Mama doesn’t always worry.

While you play you are cheery and you are able to amuse yourself, yet you love to share your joy and engage with those around you.  You bang toys together, on the table, on your head.  You laugh.  You give them to me, then take them back, then give them to me again. You hug your baby and kiss your Elmo.  You make “fish” face and surprised “oh!” face and your sideways head tilt “cute” face for the purpose of amusing those around you.  You stack your blocks, and joyfully knock them over with a Boom!  If you fall while you’re exploring, you get back up.  You are strong.  You babble as you page through your books and point at the images you look at.  You are smart.  Oh so smart!  And also silly.  A winning combination for life.

While at daycare you grow and learn and improve your skills.  She’s watched you perform independent tasks since you were only months old and continues to hear reports of how you excel.  And she’s proud.  She also hears periodic reports of your strong-willed nature, your refusal to follow an occasional rule when you don’t want to, or to want to sometimes do things on your own terms.  No one can make you crawl up the steps or eat a cheese quesadilla or sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch, if you don’t want to.  And for this, she is also proud. Mama would worry if her daughter didn’t sometimes question what she was told to do.

When you’re older she knows that while you’ll mature and learn new things, you’ll essentially be the same person that you are now.  People may go through different phases and stages, but they really don’t change all that much, in the long run.  You’ll be strong. You’ll be smart.  You’ll be silly.  And Mama will still be proud.  And even with her anxieties and worries now, she knows in her gut that you will be okay.

Mama worries, but knows that you will be okay.
Mama worries, but knows that you will be okay.

Life Lessons We Can Learn From A One Year Old

Parenting is the ultimate responsibility – as guardians we are charged with the terrifying intimidating task of teaching another human being how to BE.  It can be overwhelming to think that you (often accompanied by a partner) are responsible for preparing your little one to deal with every aspect of life.  Gulp.

But, in addition to being alarming, scary and fatiguing, parenting can also be edifying.  As most parents quickly realize, their child is often the wise one, and we’re the students, learning from them.

Today is Baby Grouch’s 1st birthday.  Here’s a few life lessons she’s got all figured out, that I absolutely always might need to occasionally work on.  Thank you, Baby Grouch, for reminding me, this past year, what the important things in life really are.

1.  Amuse yourself.  She can find joy in anything.  Listening to The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, opening the lid of her singing picnic basket to hear the tune, she smiles and dances. Uninhibited, unselfconscious. She pages through her books, she giggles at her stuffed monkey and she kisses her baby.  She finds satisfaction in her surroundings, even if that includes ultra-analysis of the cat toys in the living room or the branches and dead leaves on the lawn.

2.  Start each day anew.  She wakes up happy, babbling to herself, singing.  She plays with her feet, the bumper in her crib or she delights herself by pushing the button to turn her crib aquarium on, then off, then back on again.  She awakes refreshed and ready to start the day.

3.  Learn from others.  She looks at you, and pays attention.  When you speak to her, she studies your eyes, then your mouth, then looks back at your eyes.  When you say “bye bye” or “those are shoes“, she studies the motion or the object, memorizing the terms and practices saying the words (suze!) or performing the actions herself.  She’s not judging whether or not the person coaching her is “good enough” to teach her.  She learns from everyone around her.

4.  Give positive feeback.  When you pay attention to her, she smiles, and tries to make you smile right back. She’ll interact by grinning and pointing and making small talk (mimi!  doh!  beebeebee!) and she’ll let you know when she likes something.  She doesn’t hide her appreciation of kindness, beauty or surprises.

5.  Get excited about the little things.  She gets excited about oatmeal and graham crackers and milk. And especially garden tomato flavored puffs.  She gets a thrill when we’re driving with the windows down, the wind blowing her hair.  She gets so excited, in fact, that she does a little sideways dance, from her hips to her head and shrieks with joy as her hair swirls around her face.

6.  Play.  Observe.  Manipulate.  Test.  Bang.  Taste. Turn over.  And over.  Squeeze.  She does things that make her happy and keep her busy.  A one year old never says, “I’m bored”.

7.  Touch.  Hug.  Trust.  She lets you know she loves you with kisses and pats and long looks.  She squeezes and sighs with contentment and leans in close, to snuggle.  You don’t have to be able to say “I love you” to be able to show it.

8.  Push away.  She lets you know when she’s had enough.  Too much contact, too much noise, too many people.  She can say “no more” and not feel badly about it because she knows it’s what she needs.

9.  Maintain healthy habits.  She eats when she’s hungry and stops when she’s full, even if there are “only a few spoonfuls left”.  Even with the tomato flavored puffs!  She runs around (and around, and around and around…) when she needs to expend some energy and lounges back in her chair, with her left foot propped up on the arm, when she needs to recoup. She does downward dog and child’s pose and savasana without knowing that those are yoga poses that her mama some people pay big bucks to practice at a studio.

10.  Work hard.  Being a baby is hard work.  She knows she isn’t going to be able to grab that toy or chew on that corner of the couch or reach something breakable high on a shelf without some effort.  Some training.  If you’ve been around babies recently, you’ve heard them grunting while at play.  That’s the sound of struggle.  It takes resolution and pushing oneself to learn to roll over, to climb stairs, to maintain balance.  She works and works and works and we can all see her efforts being paid off while simultaneously learning what else in the house needs to be baby-proofed.

What life lessons have your little ones reminded you to focus on?

Life Lessons We Can Learn From A One Year Old
Life Lessons We Can Learn From A One Year Old

Badges of Honor

I have been practicing yoga for almost 5 years now – I began on the recommendation of my family doctor, when I was struggling with anxiety.   From the moment I started, I was surrounded by teachers I connected with and have missed very few weeks without attending a session ever since.  It has changed my life; it has made a tremendous difference in improving my anxiety and mental health.  It has also tightened and toned me up a bit, which is not my purpose for practicing but is a nice added bonus.

I practiced yoga throughout our struggle to conceive, and was lucky enough to be able to continue throughout the entire duration of my pregnancy with Baby Grouch. For as much as I practice, I oddly only have one yoga shirt, which I love.  It is long and fits perfectly, so I never have to think about it, adjust it or mess with it.  Or rather, it used to be that way.  I stretched out the belly from practicing while carrying the baby, but haven’t yet found a suitable replacement so I’m still wearing the same coral shirt I’ve had for years.

The only problem with this, is that now, when I’m in shoulder stand, my shirt, that used to stay snugly on my hips, now slides up to my boobs and exposes my belly. And there’s not much I can do about it, once I’m in shoulder stand, other than stare right up at my stomach, since my hands are pinned to the floor and turning your head in this posture can damage your neck.  So, at least once a week for the past year, I’ve had a few minutes to stare at my post-baby saggy pooch.  The fat underneath my belly button has been stretched out, so when I’m upside down, the skin sort of crookedly hangs a bit over my belly button.  It’s not very pretty.

I think everyone’s heard the cliché about mothers who are “proud” of their stretch marks, their flabby underbellies.  They’ve “earned their stripes” yada yada yada. It used to annoy me, and still does, a little.  I can understand being proud of your children, or proud of who you are as a mother, or the choices you have made.  But, what’s the deal about being proud of your inability to get back into pre-baby shape?  I didn’t get it.

And now I sort of do.  Except, I still don’t think PRIDE is the correct term.  You can’t really be proud of something you have so little control over.  The timing of your conception, how easy or hard your pregnancy was, and how long you were in labor are not anything to be proud of, in my opinion, since our bodies, for the most part, are going to just do what they do.  For the most part we did not earn anything, other than being able to truly appreciate a cold salami sandwich and a stiff drink after 9 months of abstaining.

Pride isn’t the right term, at all.  But, honor is.  What an honor it is, to have the privilege of becoming pregnant, to carry around your baby as he or she grows inside you.  What an honor to feel every kick, every hiccup, every movement.  What an honor it is to give birth to a child, no matter how laborious or exhausting the process.  And a stretched out pooch is my mark that resulted from me being able to experience all of those positive things.

It’s an honor to have a child, to be exposed to her freedom, to experience her joy and to witness her little personality emerging before me.  To be humbled and honored by the process and the person does not mean that conception, pregnancy, or labor are not difficult.  And we all know that parenting is hard…..really hard.  So, it’s okay as a mother to take a moment to honor myself, and my mental sanity, even if that means exacerbating the paunch by indulging in Doritos and wine on a semi-regular basis.  There’s something to be said about making sure to honor the part of you that demands to be happy and satisfied.

So today at yoga, I was reminded not to dwell on the pooch or be disgusted by the saggy skin.  But, to embrace it and remember that I am honored and lucky to have stretched out my favorite shirt, as well as my abdomen.

What’s your badge of honor?


The Anti-Photo Contest Photo Contest Entry

My dad sent me information about a “Sweet Pea” photo contest at our local credit union.  I was excited.  And then disturbed.  And then resigned.

When I first heard about the contest, I thought to myself, “Baby Grouch is a sure winner of this contest!  She’s a knock-out; even people I don’t know will vote for her!  As I rifled through my mental Facebook Rolodex, I thought to myself, “I’m sure I could get a lot of my family and friends to vote for her!”  And for a nano-second I greedily thought this was a good idea.  After all, the winner of this baby photo pagent/popularity contest wins a pretty hefty photo prize package.

But then, I thought about it more.  Why are we giving money and prizes to the most beautiful child (clearly, mine) whose parents have the most extensive and supportive social network? (again, clearly mine)

Do I REALLY need this photo package?  Am I that hard up?  Or could I pay for any photos I wanted?

Do I deserve to get a prize because my daughter is stunning (she is), and because she is lucky enough to be surrounded by an amazing support group of family and friends? (she is)  Does it make sense to celebrate and give more to those who are already celebrated and have more?  

I’m not saying I’m not a little greedy or a little self-absorbed or a little vain.  I’m not saying I’m not proud of my daughter or excited to win prizes, or that I don’t think parents should be proud of what their child looks like, because on a given day, one or two of those things might be true.  Or maybe all of them at once, right this very second.

What I’m saying is, it bothers me that we look up to unattainable and unnecessary standards of beauty and ignore the beauty of the weird, the unusual, the quirky.  It bothers me that we pretend to be wise and informed and intelligent yet we look down on those who have different forms of wisdom, know different kinds of information or have a different kind of intelligence than we do.  We embrace excess and conformity and exclusion and fakeness and ignore the beauty of honest and unique and real.  And we ignore need.  Or we don’t ignore it – and we mock it.  We berate it.  We insult it.  And that gets me all riled up.

So then I had an idea.

I would submit my Sweet Pea’s photo in the contest.  But, instead of her big, round eyeballs and two-toothy grin and her little brown-haired head cocked cheekily to one side, I’d submit a photo of the back of her head.  What if everyone who entered this contest submitted a photo of the back of their child’s head?  Would we vote for what kid had the cutest back of the head?  Who cares about the back of a head? And if we don’t care about the back of a head, why do we care so much about the front of a head?  Then I started getting cheeky.  Butt-cheeky.  What if I sent in a photo of her bum?  Would my blog readers support me enough to earn enough votes in this popularity contest to win this thing with a butt pic? Okay, maybe I was drinking too much wine.  But, you get my point.


Cute back of the head and little bum chasing the kitty.
Cute back of the head and little bum chasing the kitty.

For the “Why do I think my child is the perfect Sweet Pea? portion of the application, I’d say “Because she’s she“.  Because she is.  And what about the rest of the kids who have backs of heads and who are “they”?  Their parents might argue that they deserve some recognition and a photo prize package.  And they do.  All of them.  Because everyone does, not just the stunning beauties and popularity queens and if we all ignored faces and friend counts, the contest would just be a lottery.  As it should be.  Does it make sense to celebrate and give more to those who are already celebrated and have more?  

You with me on this?  There are more important things to get prizes for than societal imposed beauty standards and popularity contests.  Like 3749850357982q743 pajillion more (I’m quite sure that q in there is some mathematical variable that makes this number even huger than it already looks).

But, my husband brought up a good point.  He said, “Don’t ruin something someone else put together, just because you don’t like it.  Just don’t enter the contest if you don’t think it’s a good idea“.  And, I couldn’t really argue with that. Because then I started picturing some poor worker who was trying to do her job well and be nice by giving away a nice photo package and I didn’t want to make said worker feel bad either.  Sigh.  I think I’m getting too soft.

So, instead of making some sort of societal statement, I thought maybe I would enter Baby Grouch’s picture after all.  The wide-eyed, two-toothy picture, not the one of her bum.  Maybe by doing this I’d be selling out.  Or maybe I would just be admitting I really wanted the photo prize package after all.

The Best Things About Being The Parent Of An Infant

1.  The sheer beauty.  Being able to behold the smooth skin, big eyes, and oversized head on a bitty frame is a luxury.  Unselfconscious and unaware of just how perfectly formed they are makes them even more delicious.

2.  The absolute happiness.  It is impossible to not smile when your child is smiling, to not laugh when she is laughing, to not play, when she is playing.  Everything is new and exciting.  Happiness is contagious and your child is the most infectious.

3.  It makes you become a better person.  You want your child to be kind and caring and happy. You want her to exhibit strength and grace.  There are no shortcuts for making this happen – so you work on calmness and patient feedback and love with limits.  You work to demonstrate kindness and strength and grace to your child, your spouse, your friends and family, and yourself. (Note that I didn’t say you would actually achieve this each and every time).  It is somewhat shocking when you realize raising a child really means having to grow up yourself.

4.  It makes you want to remain healthy.  They see what you’re eating and see what you’re doing and no one wants their child to imitate them sitting on the couch eating vats of orange chicken and wontons day after day.  No matter how delicious that may be.  You want to be around for the long haul.  As a result, you might just find that even though you’re sleep deprived and lacking in core strength, you’re paradoxically the most fit you’ve been in years and you feel better than ever.   It will not mean, however, that you ever lose your intense cravings for orange chicken and wontons or wine paired with Doritos.

5.  The physical affection.  I think we underestimate the healing power of physical touch.  Snuggles and cuddles and hugs and kisses.   Even though you might get the occasional headbutt or scratched cornea from a tiny finger, the positive aspects far outweigh the dangerous ones. The beautiful weight of a child on your lap, leaning their back into your chest or the feel of a small hand resting on yours, is the ultimate comfort.

6.  The hahahahhas.  You laugh all the time.  You see your face in photographs that were taken without you knowing and are shocked by the person who is smiling in the image.  That person looks so cheerful!  And you realize you weren’t ever this joyful before.  Babies are silly and kooky and hilarious. You are constantly har-de-haring at their goofy faces and snorty sounds and primitive dance moves.

7.  It makes you appreciate your hobbies.  No matter what they may be.  As adorable and amazing as your child is, you still need a little bit of alone time.  You will never again take for granted a half an hour of jogging, an hour of crafting or a quiet evening spent sipping wine and watching trashy television.  A happy parent makes for a happy child.

8. It makes you feel complete. You realize you don’t need to stay up late and go to the bars.  You don’t need to go out after work every day for coffee with friends.  You still might do these things sometimes, but 90% of the time you don’t want to do anything else but hang out with your family because a hole you didn’t know existed in your heart has been filled.  It’s a little startling to discover that a wounded, gaping hole you weren’t even aware resided in your chest before, is now stuffed to the gills.

What do you think the best thing about being the parent of an infant is?

Parenting (Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

Traits I Inherited From My Dad

My dad is pretty awesome. Happy Father’s Day, Pa!  Love ya.

1.  Eat healthfully.  Have an apple a day.  Don’t eat just to eat.  Enjoy cottage cheese as a delicious protein-punched snack.  Except also love pizza.  And love it with a passion.

2.  Make smart financial decisions.  Don’t overspend.  Save, save, save.  And then save some more. I didn’t follow this advice so well, however I did marry my husband, and he does this, so I count it as a win for myself.

3.  Be creative.  My dad once created this elaborate hoax where he and my younger sister “kidnapped” the neighbor’s Santa Claus around Christmas-time.  He wrote ransom letters and thought he was really helping the family nextdoor get into the holiday spirit.  Turns out, he actually traumatized those poor children, who thought Santa was in danger and that they weren’t getting any presents.  It still makes me laugh out loud when I think about this.

4.  Have incredibly large eyebrows.  Ok, eyebroW. Black one(s).  This one wasn’t so much a lesson learned, but more of a genetic characteristic.  A very bountiful one.

5.  Love your spouse.  My dad writes my mom little love notes and draws her pictures and writes her poems to tell her how much he adores her.  He’s been doing this now, for over half of his life.  It’s beautiful.

6.  Love your family.  Even your children or your wife or your siblings, when they are assholes going through a rough patch.  Maybe especially then.

7.  Get pissed off about things.  And act, for about 1 minute, like these things are the most important thing on the planet.  Especially if they’re not.  This doesn’t only come from my dad, I come from a long line of people who get pissed off over things.  Countertops.  Lights.  Carpets.  I don’t get pissed off so much over those things, but definitely over others and I think sometimes the “passion” over countertops and lights and carpets comes across much more strongly than it is really felt.

7.  Be committed.  Not to a mental hospital.  Well, yes, if you need one.  But, that’s not what I mean.  If you say you’re going to do something, do it.  If you are going to be married, be faithful.  If you are working with others, be honest.  Don’t do anything half-assed.

8.  Have at least a little bit of fear of getting Alzheimer’s.  And, maybe the gene.  We won’t really know for sure for a while now, but we know it runs in the family.  The good news is, we know how to love creatively, and how to save, and how to get pissed off, and how to remain committed, despite the pissing and moaning.  So, we should be okay.

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3 a.m. Feedings

3 a.m. feedings

are more than feedings.

They are snuggles and safety and softly sung songs.

They are cozy and comfortable and contented.


Or discontented.


They are waffle printed and lavender scented.

They are sniveling and sweating and shushing,

and are viewed through puffy eyes, crusted with sleep.

They are restless and fatiguing and short.


Or long.


And they are beautiful.

It feels good to be needed

and good to be comforted.

And this won’t last forever.


It won’t be long until I drive you crazy

and you drive me mad

and you’re old enough to drive away.


It won’t be long until you aren’t so joyful.

So transparent.

So dependent.

Or free.


But for now, you are.

And bellies and hearts are full. 

English: A sleeping male baby with his arm ext...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • A Song (

Call Me a Fanfaron This Week

Ok, I’m going to be a little boasty, braggy, hippity hoppity.  I can’t help it, I just might explode – this week has been sort of amazing.  I have had a lot of horribly dark weeks, and this one is shiny and bright and remarkably different than those.

FRIDAY: I am starting a support program for students on the Autism Spectrum at the high school I work in – we will be piloting it, starting in September.  A local news channel  interviewed me last week, along with a parent and student in the program, and ran a segment about the program on the 5 o’clock news.  Bonus: My excessive facial hair was not overly noticable, even with the high def cameras.

SATURDAY:   A record number of views today on my Accidental Marathoner post made my day!  I also got a piece of “fan mail” in the form of a message on my fb page from someone who had enjoyed the post.  The message said this:

Congratulations on your achievement! Besides it being your own personal achievement, you’ve inspired countless others you’ll never know. This is … a great thing in light of ALL the events of the past week. 4 of my children will run in the Illinois Marathon this coming Saturday (the first for all of them!). I shared your Accidental Marathoner blog with them….truly inspiring, very much the truth, they agreed. I just wanted you to know that what you write makes a difference.

Um, can you say BEST EMAIL EVER?!

SUNDAY:  I ran my first marathon.  Despite not running for two years before having my baby, and running the race 7 months post-baby (the point being: I did not feel NEARLY as strong as I think I should feel before running a marathon), I decided to just go for it. I had a great experience, and my time beautifully corresponded with the whole reason I ran the marathon in the first place.

MONDAY: Our news story aired a second time, on the local news channel’s morning program.  I could also walk down the stairs pretty comfortably – something I was not anticipating after the 26.37 miler the day before.

TUESDAY:  Baby Grouch got her 2nd tooth.  I know I had nothing to do with this, but I sort of feel like I do because I MADE HER (Double bonus:  I MADE A BABY –  still pretty excited about that).

WEDNESDAY:  I thought Saturday went well, but today I was completely overwhelemed with the number of views, replies and comments on my post in honor of Infertility Awareness Week.  This far surpassed my previous record on Saturday of most views on a post.  I had a lot of people share the Top 10 list, and there were so many women who said that this hit the nail on the head, that it said what they felt, but were often too afraid to say.  It is sort of amazing when you realize you aren’t alone, and there are so many others who understand you.

THURSDAY:  I dropped the cap to my water bottle, but then immediately caught it ON MY SHIN before it hit the floor and I lifted my leg up to return said cap to my hand.  Clumsy and yet SO coordinated at the same time.

And ALSO, I got my first piece of hate mail!  It was very exciting and occurred in the form of another blogger posting about how my Infertility Awareness Post pissed her off. HAH!  She didn’t actually point out much that she didn’t like about it, other than a) my agressive tone (absolutely guilty as charged, that was the idea) and b) when I said infertiles didn’t want to hear pregnant people complaining about their whaleish pregnant bodies.  Her huffiness made more sense when I noticed she had JUST written a post about how horribly whaleish she’s feeling because she’s got a big pregnant body (I’m paraphrasing here).  I get it.  Other side of the coin and all that.  I’m not offended that she got offended.  Plus, the fact that she hated it helped me raise awareness even more, so I thank her for helping me accomplish my goal.

Perhaps I was linked into her post an effort to draw more readers to her blog.  If that’s the case, I guess the joke’s on her, because I’m really a half-assed blogger and I don’t have that many readers! She must think I care deeply about my readership numbers since she felt the need to point out to me that she wouldn’t have bothered complaining about my post publically if she had noticed ahead of time that I wasn’t a “big time blogger”.

FRIDAY:  A few months ago I entered my infertility story (the nice one, not the bitchy one) into a writing contest.  And guess what? I won a $400 prize package –  money towards a vacation destination and also money towards future services at the fertility center that hosted the contest.  Maybe enjoying a free weekend away will make my husband less annoyed that my face is constantly shoved into my computer keyboard.

I also utilized the word “fanfaron” which came in my word-a-day email this week.  I never remember to practice those words.

Ok, I’m done.  I’ll be humble again, now that I got that out.

For all you jealous types, don’t worry, I’m sure next week I’ll get rear ended, drop my cell phone in the toilet and my cat will pee all over the living room carpet.  Because, that’s how life works.

On Gratitude and Compassion.

This is the week where we are reminded to reflect on what we are thankful for.  This year my biggest gratitude and thanks go to Baby Grouch.

She makes me happy simply because she is she.  I am grateful for her smiles, her snores, her little grasp on my finger, her cuddles and coos.  I’m grateful for her cries and her tears and for the exhaustion that comes from her waking me up at all hours of the night.  I’m grateful for every tiny bit of her being.

She is a really good baby, very content and calm most of the time.  There was one night when she screamed bloody murder – and nothing could be done to console her.  She continued to shriek and shriek for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was about 40 minutes.  Unlike the annoyance that I imagined I might someday feel when my child didn’t stop screaming, I surprised myself by feeling compassion.  I knew she wouldn’t be crying without a reason and I just wanted her to be happy again.  I wasn’t angry, and I just calmly did what I could to try to help.

Within my years teaching high school students, I’ve worked with upwards of a thousand high school students.  For all of those years, at least some of my students have been considered “at risk” and there is a substantial number of them have been said to have behavior problems in other people’s rooms.  From what I’ve heard, some of them have really been little fuckers, I must admit.  In my classroom, however, there are very few students I would have classified in that way.  That’s not to say they didn’t sometimes do things they weren’t supposed to, but by punishing the action and not the child – by approaching each outburst with compassion and empathy – I haven’t had to deal with too much – and I’d say that all of my students have been, and are, really great people.

Well, all except two.  Two of them I thought were pretty evil and beyond help.  During my second year of teaching there was Steve, and my 5th year of teaching there was Michael.  It’s okay to be honest here, right?

Okay, okay, in all reality, those two probably just needed help beyond what I was capable of giving. But, see how easy it was for me to put the blame on them? To say that there must be something wrong with THEM, when really it was ME who couldn’t help?

Unlike babies, teenagers (and adults) don’t always cry at the exact moment when something is wrong.  More often than not, this unhappiness manifests in some other form, and is often redirected at sources other than the real problem.  When someone lashes out angrily, or cruelly or even violently, we can condemn the behavior, but we need to look at that person with compassion and do what we can to help.  Maybe they have sensory issues, maybe they have a cognitive impairment, have poor coping skills, are dealing with depression or mental illness, have anger issues due to neglect or abuse, or were just never taught how to use good judgement.  We need to remember that good people can do stupid things.  Even horrible things.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions or that poor choices shouldn’t have consequences.  Not at all.  But, we sometimes need a reminder that it is incredibly easy for those of us who are so lucky to have support, love, guidance, strong role models, financial means and good health, to judge the actions of others who do not have the benefit of these gifts.  But just because it is easy doesn’t make it okay.

It’s so easy to sit back in our cushy lives, look down our noses and arrogantly scoff, “What is wrong with these people?”  Well, guess what,  there is probably a LOT wrong. And the reason we don’t act that way is because we are LUCKY, not just because we are so much better than everyone else.  Instead of judging, we need to all have a little more compassion.

This is why despite the incessant bashing of teachers – calling us lazy, calling us greedy,  politicians taking away health care, and pensions and our funding, and increasing class size – despite all of this, I still love my job, because, like so many of my colleagues, I choose my “core curriculum” to include empathy and compassion.

I’m so grateful for Baby Grouch, and the happiness she has given me, and for her reminding me what I already know, but what is so easy to forget.

Oh, and I’m also thankful for wine.  Very, very thankful for wine.

This post is a part of Yeah Write #84.  If you like what you read, vote for me on Thursday 🙂

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