NO.

Hank Humor, Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood

Today, we crossed over.

Not the lovely kind of “let’s cross over,” though, Liz Gilbert-style. There was no “attraversiamo” here, no “let’s.” I had no say in the matter.

No–the crossing over I experienced today landed me right smack dab in uncharted territory. And it has definitely not been lovely.

Today, my two-year-old-in-one-week cherub and I took a parenting turn for the worse.

We boldly entered the Land of NO.

And so farit is terrifying.

Terrifying–because today; in one crazy, irrational display of toddler manipulation, that adorable little cherub figured out that he doesn’t HAVE to do what mama says.

He figured out that he can, in fact, do the exact opposite if he wants to. And all he has to do is say NO.

But here’s what really gets me. He could already say no! And it was so cute–those first few weeks–whenever he used his new word!

Me: Do you want some more strawberries, Hank? 

Hank: (in precious singsong) Umm, no-oh! 

Me: (still in new-parent la-la-land) Awwwww! Isn’t that cute? He said “No!” He is so SMART! Another real WORD! And look how he makes his mouth into that round little “o” shape! Goodness, that’s just adorable!

What happened to THAT no? How did we morph from darling baby no to demon-child banshee-screaming NO!?

Overnight.

Whatever it was, it flipped like a switch in that smart little brain this morning. On the stairs. In “time-out.” (Another relatively new concept.)

It went like this:

Me: Hank, please. Mama needs to go to work, so I need you to be a good boy and let me change your diaper so we can get you dressed.

Hank: NO!

Me: You don’t tell mama NO. We are changing your pants whether you want to or not!

Hank: *rolls eyes*

Me: Don’t you roll your eyes at mama!

Hank: *scrunches both eyes shut. Juts chin out defiantly *

Me: (inner monologue) God, help me. I am clearly not qualified to raise this child. 

Hank: *eyes still closed*

 

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Mischief. Personified.

 

The rest of our day brought more refusals, more time-outs, more counting-down-from-fives and a lot more NO. The demon-child version. I have never heard so much unexplained screaming. I have never done so much daytime praying. Or counting to ten. Or taking deep breaths.

All I could think about, all day, was how right all those people were about the “Terrible Twos.” Apparently, we have entered them. Exactly one week early.

I get it, now–all those toddler tantrum jokes and memes. I get the meltdown over not getting “the blue cup.” We had one today because Hank wanted the BLUE paci.

(But not THAT blue paci.)

I see why cutting the sandwich bread the wrong way can cause a full-on come-apart. Hank came-apart over mandarin oranges because the sections had already, (thanks to mommy) come apart.

(Which HE had wanted to do. Himself.)

Drew Barrymore’s picture of her daughter, sprawled across the Disneyland concrete, in full-on kid-fit, makes so much more sense to me now. Because now, I have seen my own child, spread eagle on the kitchen floor, kicking and screaming, for who-knows-why, exactly.

I tried to channel Drew’s cool, collected calm all day while my toddler’s world crashed down all around us. But it is harder than I thought.

Just ignore it.

Just forge ahead, go on with your day.

He will eventually get over it.

OK–but WHEN?

How on earth, a small, hardly-speaking toddler can out-wit and out-stubborn a grown adult with a Masters in Education is beyond me. (And more than a little embarrassing.)

Today–in all of its glory–left me wishing for my baby back. The baby who didn’t argue; the one who laid there, cooing and smiling as I changed his diapers, whenever I damn well pleased.

The baby who weighed nine manageable pounds, not the thirty-plus of rough-and-tumble I can hardly hold onto, kicking and bucking on the carpet, dirty diaper dangling perilously by one tab.

The baby who never told me NO.

I would do anything to swap him out, for one of those again. Maybe just for a few days, just until I can figure out how to handle this new, scary world we just landed in. I would gladly rock the baby keeping some new tired mama up around the clock. That–I was great at. Those days, I knew what I was doing. Because whatever I did, always seemed to work.

Today–nothing seemed to work–except my smart little boy’s brain as it filed away notes on how to outsmart his mama.

I don’t know if I am cut out for this. I need an emergency crash course in Toddler.

STAT.

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Smile, Hank! (Now doesn’t that just look like the face of an angel?)

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Faith, Motherhood

I wear a special silver medal around my neck each day. A delicate, flower-bordered medal from France; the image of Mary with her sweet baby Jesus on her lap. This medal is what I hold onto when I need a little divine intervention, a little extra patience, or a bit of maternal support as I feel (and pray) my way through motherhood.

My whole life, I have felt a special connection with that sweet young mother, our holy Mary. The ultimate mother. The Mother of God

Maybe it’s because I have been raised Catholic all my life, or maybe just because I have always wanted to be a mother above all else. But for whatever reason, Mary has always been my comfort. I can’t remember when I started directing my prayers her way, but I still almost always choose Mary herself to pray to.

Those long painful years when I wanted a baby more than anything? I wore my Mary medal of comfort around my neck and prayed to her at night to please bring me my own baby, someday.

I think she must have heard me, because eventually, she did. When my miracle baby started to grow in my tummy, I felt more connected to her than ever. Two years ago this month I was four months pregnant, and singing at a beautiful baptism mass at our church brought me to tears. I couldn’t take my hands off my belly. My tiny baby had just started to move in the weeks prior, and he danced in my tummy that entire mass as we joyfully sang about Emmanuel; the baby Jesus who was coming soon. Just like in the Bible when Elizabeth’s baby boy (John the Baptist!) danced in her tummy at the sound of pregnant Mary’s voice when she entered the room, (in Luke 1:41) he was also leaping with joy. I think both babies knew the Lord was near; they could feel the Holy Spirit.

And a few months later, during those long-but-wonderful, exhausting first weeks and months of motherhood; it was still Mary to whom I prayed. Constantly. I asked her for guidance, for patience, for energy. I asked her to help me be a good mother, like she was.

I guess it’s my blind faith that makes me know, without a doubt, that she was a good mother. I guess we don’t really know that she was–we never hear all that much about Mary actually mothering; we simply believe that she gave birth to her baby boy that first Christmas night and laid him in that manger. We all know how the story goes; there was no room at the inn, but she made do anyways. In a barn. She did what she had to do, like all mothers do (and have done, throughout the ages). She did the best she could, with what she had to work with. And mamas have been emulating her ever since.

We also know that Mary accepted her role with pure grace–her only warning a visit from the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38). She accepted her life-changing news wholly, and without questioning. 

Talk about pressure! It’s daunting enough to bring any child into this world, but to carry the Son of God? And raise him? Now that’s some serious motherhood pressure! 

Even though I always felt connected to Mary, I didn’t really–fully–get it until I became a mother myself. I can’t imagine her anxiety during that pregnancy. Her hopes and her fears for her child’s future. The beautiful, yet brutal beginning to their family story–what with Joseph almost leaving her when he heard the news, and then the whole having a baby in a barn adventure. Yikes!

Talk about grace!

Hail Mary, full of grace.

I often wonder whether mother Mary was funny, or playful, or if she was all business. But I never wonder whether or not she was a good mother. I know that she was. 

Mary has guided me through many a tough time, insprired me to be an accepting and open-minded mother, and comforted me on countless occasions. I believe that in spite of our many differing views in our myriad faiths, we can all benefit from keeping Mary in our hearts and our minds. Even if it is just the idea of Mary.

As a proud Catholic, I acknowledge that our fierce adoration of the Blessed Virgen Mary may at times garner us criticism from other Christian sects; but I personally believe that our high esteem for her is something that the Catholic faith has gotten right. 

I think Pope John Paul II nailed it when he said:

“At the centre of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving Mother of the Redeemer, she was the first to experience it: ‘To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator’!”

Hail Mary, full of grace. 

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

My dear fellow mamas–past, present, or future:

This holiday season, and beyond; take comfort in the grace of the Blessed Virgen Mary, and find her peace in the craziest moments of motherhood. She is watching over all of us, with love. 

(And personally, I think she watches over the mamas just a tiny bit more closely.)

Ave Maria, Gratia Plena.