Monday, July 15, 2013

Finding GLEE

RIP Cory.
I started watching Glee when I was pregnant. Specifically, seasons 1 - 3. My love for it didn't last into season 4 when they introduced new characters and essentially removed the Rachel-Finn storyline. When I was watching it, I found a lot of comfort in two things: the music and the romance.

Music transforms our emotions. I'm not a musical person, unless you consider karaoke and a desire to be a rockstar (aka dressing up as Jem from Jem & the Holograms) as being musical. But I love music. I am married to a musician. That's how much I love it. I married it. With Glee, I was transported to the fantasy world that exists in my mind where we can sing and dance all of the time and specifically use music to help us change our emotions or society, or express ourselves when talking doesn't feel like enough.

I rely on music in my day-to-day life, too: when my son is fussy about a diaper change, we sing Wheels on the Bus; when I need to be pumped about going to physical therapy I play Joyful Joyful from Sister Act 2 (I realize this is strange but I really need to be uplifted because PT - while helpful - makes me sad); when my son is playing in the tub during bath time, I make up little songs about his bath toys; and when one of us is feeling sad, I sing You Are My Sunshine. My Granny always had music playing in the house as we were growing up, specifically Big Band songs that I still listen to now. Hearing those songs makes me feel like she's in the room with me.

When I started working on my romance novel, I programed a Huey Lewis station into Pandora. His songs hit the right tone of sentimentality and goofiness that I'm looking for in my story. The music keeps me motivated. My novel brings me to the second thing I loved about Glee's first seasons: the romance. I was a huge fan of Finn and Rachel and their ridiculously complex and cute high school love. (Well, maybe not that complex. I didn't understand why the writers didn't take Finn to NYC with Rachel. I would have enjoyed watching new adults trying to find their way in love and life in the big city. I guess I just love NYC.)

When I learned yesterday that Cory Monteith, the actor who played Finn, had died (presumably alone) at the age of 31 in Vancouver, I was sad. Death always makes me sad. I'm particularly sad in this case because a part of my pregnancy story is gone. I'm sad for his family; his mother must feel the loss of her son acutely (I know I would). I'm sad, too, because Cory had recently undergone rehabilitative treatment for addiction, something he struggled with as a teen. In my opinion, it was very courageous of him to share his story of teenage addiction with us.

In these moments, I need something to do, something to outweigh the sorrow. First, I'm going to listen to some music, something uplifting. Second, I'm going to send out good vibes to his family and friends. Third, I'm going to donate to an organization that specifically helps teens with addictions.Teen Addiction Anonymous educates and engages teens to overcome addictive behavior through the unconditional support of our Teen AA 12 step program.

Finally, I'm going to hug my family and tell them I love them. Maybe I'll sing it to them...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meant to Be

The tone of my whole life is "meant to be". For example, the evolution of this blog. I started writing it while I was pregnant, living here in Chicago. During my pregnancy, my friend and former Tuesday Funk co-host gave me the name of a lactation consultant just in case I needed any help with breastfeeding. Turned out I did need the assistance of a lactation consultant, and this wonderful woman named Jane O'Connor came to my house on Thanksgiving when my son was only a week old.

She suggested I become a member of Neighborhood Parents Network (NPN) as a way to interact with other moms. It took me a few months to finally follow her advice and I wish I had joined sooner! I signed up for the Work From Home Moms Group. During one of the group's monthly breakfast meetings, an opportunity to meet other moms and talk about balancing life while working from home and, most importantly, socialize, which can be harder for those of us who don't leave the home for work, I met the editor of NPN's Parent to Parent Newsletter. We became fast friends because she is one of the nicest people on the planet. When she suggested I send a piece to the newsletter, I panicked. I really did not want to disappoint the nicest person on the planet!

They published one of my blog posts and recently, NPN's own blog has linked to my blog. If you're visiting from NPN - HI! Thank you for checking out my site and I hope you're not too disappointed. I don't update this site regularly enough. I want to, I want to write on it every day. I'll aim for once a month!

Here's a little info about me (in case you were wondering):
  • I'm 34 years old
  • My son is 20 months old (we just stopped breastfeeding in June - and we both miss it but I do think it was the right time)
  • I met my husband at a bar (specifically, Moody's on Broadway) he and a friend (later our best man) crashed our party
  • The first time we hung out was at a karaoke night 
  • Our song is "Single Ladies" (yup, we sang that together)
  • I love writing, movies, singing in the shower, dancing at my desk, and being silly
You can follow me on twitter, too (@sararosswitt)!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To latch or not to latch: How much household safety is too much?

On Mother’s Day, my 18-month old son was having a meltdown. Unfortunately, my hands were full with dinner and my husband was manning the grill. I had just pulled potatoes from the oven. I closed the oven door, set down the hot potatoes and prepared to attend to his tears and frustration. However, he’d grabbed the oven door, and as he thrashed against it, it opened. I watched in slow horror as it yawned back, felt the hot air blast against my skin, and saw my son fall back with the door on top of him.

Thankfully, my son didn’t let go of the oven’s handle. He wasn’t burned, only terrified. The fall didn’t hurt him much, either. My husband and I quickly shut the door and scooped up are very scared son.

We simultaneously said out loud, “We need an oven lock!”

Getty Images (c)
This morning, he put a toy in the toilet. When I told my husband, he said we should get a toilet lock. I saw where he was going with this, but I paused. How many safety devices did we need? My husband wasn’t wrong in thinking we should protect our son, but what would a toilet lock save him from? Dirty water? Sure, the toilet lock will save us from clogs and potential plumbing repair and icky situations.

We have safety knobs for our stove, outlet covers, and gates at our stairs. We replaced the door knob in his room from the lever handle, which was easy for him to open, to a round knob. We have some latches on our cupboards, mostly to keep him out of the dishes, as all of our cleaning supplies are kept up high. Large items like bookshelves, the TV, and dressers are latched to the wall.

It’s not a wrong instinct for us to want to protect our children, but when does it cross the line from protection to risk aversion? If there isn’t some risk, children will not learn consequences. Consequences help our children to make smarter decision. If we safeguard everything, will they expect the rest of the world to be safe, to step outside and have no need to worry about danger or risk?

As explained in Bill Bryson’s At Home, childhood has always been full of dangers. “Coroners’ rolls for London in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries include such abrupt childhood terminations as drowned in a pit, bitten by sow, fell into pan of hot water, hit by cart-wheel, fell into tin of hot mash, and trampled in crowd.” Bitten by a sow?!

I wondered what my Granny would’ve done had she had her 9 children with all of these safety features available. Then, it struck me she wouldn’t have done a thing. She watched my cousins from infancy to age 5 when every single safety item was available yet she had none of them in her home. My cousins’ have fared well; they are 18 and 19-years old now. Sadly, I can’t ask her what she would’ve done differently. She passed away 7 years ago.  

I’m in favor of the oven lock. It’s terrifying to think of my son burning himself, but I think we’ll skip the toilet lock or the blinder winders. So, I guess we’ll find a balance (which is probably the only place I find balance as a parent…more on that in another post).

In case you’re interested, here’s a good link to ways to safeguard your home for children: Household Safety Checklist.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"No woman should have to explain her childlessness. It is, quite simply, nobody else’s damn business."

She is HOT.
I love Helen Mirren. She is a treasure. I'm so glad her interview in Vogue prompted this article: Helen Mirren Confronts the Final Female Taboo

Please forgive me, this post is going to be more scattered than usual. This article touched a rawness in me that I haven't explored in a long while. Prior to becoming a mother, I felt (or thought or maybe imagined) a pressure from society to marry and have children. By 'society', I may mean my family. Some of their pressure was loving, some just came from a place of ignorance (or even meanness).  I also felt a kind of stigma from my peers as the unwed, non-mother, not-in-a-long-term-relationship, haven't-been-in-a-long-term-relationship-in-years. Or maybe it was pity?

I'm not trying to be unkind to my family or my friends. I realize I could have misconstrued their concern as judgement. 

Still, I didn't feel any less alone in my childlessness and aloneness as I approached my mid-30s.

So I'm still very sensitive to the Helen Mirrens of the world.  Women who, for whatever reason - a reason they don't need to explain to me - are not mothers, a choice that we should support, accept, and move beyond.

Interestingly, the author of this article as well as Helen Mirren, have been quite kind to other women, saying that they never get pressure from other women. Really? REALLY? As a new mom, I know I have fallen into that awful stereotype of bullying my friends (wed or not) to have children. My reason was selfish: I felt lonely in the beginning of motherhood, being one of the only people in my friend group to have baby. I was charting unknown territory and I desperately wanted someone to be on that ship with me.

I hate that I immediately became one of the people who I didn't like, a person who made someone feel bad or isolated in their life choices. It's as bad as if a feminist told me that being a mother makes me less of a feminist. If someone said that to me, I would be furious. "Why does being a mother preclude me from being a feminist? Isn't it about choice?!"

Have we whittled down women into one of two roles: the mother and the not mother? Is that all women can aspire to be?

I don't think so, and I look forward to the day when there is no stigma attached to deciding not to have children. I'm happy being a mother and I want my friends and family members to also be happy in whatever way the choose.

I enjoy writing about my experiences as a mother. I love hearing about other women's experiences with it as well. There is an abundance of literature on motherhood, the article is correct in stating that parenting is an industry. Businesses have learned that parenting sells. What a dreary world it would be if business ONLY catered to parents.

There is a restaurant in my neighborhood that my husband and I adore which refuses to serve children. It is strictly 21 and up, no exception ever. I love this. It would be lovely to go there randomly on a Saturday afternoon with my family but I like that this is at least one place where I can go and not feel guilty about being out enjoying me time without my son (while he is home with a sitter). I don't have to watch what I see or eat or drink and I don't have to look at any other children and feel pangs of "oh he should be here" guilt. Nope. Not there. There it is okay to be a child-free adult.

While I do love writing or reading about motherhood, it is not all I want my life to be, not the only thing I want to be defined as. The same as the amazing Dame Helen Mirren doesn't want to be defined as the not-mom (though I'm pretty sure she will be remember for so, so much more).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Resurrecting Edward Furlong

I have no idea if Eddie is still working. I hope so! I hope he is doing well! We need more T2s in our lives.

Oh, little Eddie! Photo courtesy of US Magazine.
I'm not just reminiscing about Edward Furlong, this is a follow-up to yesterday's post. I want to be clear that divorce does not create or cause Terminators or the end of days.

Unless you break up with Skynet... 
Rather, I felt the point of the post was the future is uncertain. There could be Terminators. We simply don't know.

Though yesterday's post discussed the fear or worry associated with divorce, we didn't touch on how ending a relationship can be healing, healthy, or in some circumstances, necessary (safety, etc.). The end of one thing - childhood, a relationship, a job - can be the beginning of quite another great thing.

Look? He left Terminator and modeled for Calvin Klein!
At P&P, we are simply reflecting on change inherent to the human experience. Divorce is part of that experience. (And woo boy, have we had some changes! Where do I begin with my body? Let's call it lumpy. But we'll talk about that in a later post.)

How do we talk about change with our children? There are big changes they'll have to confront at different ages. Take for example Natalie's daughter. How do you explain divorce to a 4-year old? What about death, say of a relative, a friend, or a pet? What about more minor changes but ones that are still quite impactful: loss of a job, changing schools, moving, or a new teacher?

In the previous post, we wondered aloud how to confront a moment like this as an adult. Now, how do we as parents confront these moments with our children? There is the first step, steeling ourselves and saying "It's going to be okay." But where do we go with step 2.

Well, according to people who know these things (family counselors), the next step is simple honesty in terms they would understand. A 4-year old doesn't know what the word (or perhaps has never even heard the word) 'divorce' means, so you wouldn't start there. A 8- or 9-year old would have heard the word and may understand what it means. In either case, present the information slowly, don't overload them all at once. Next, listen. They may have questions or concerns. Hear them.

Finally, and I think this is really important, allow yourself and your children to be around caring friends (whether this is family, or a playgroup, a team, or a faith-based group).

"Look, in the next movie I'll be blond. Then, Christian Bale." Photo: The Daily Beast

I've found that friends keep me grounded and prevent me from sliding too far into darkness. Friendship isn't just good for sharing laughs or shoulders to cry on, it can actually make you happier. (See here, here, and here.)

And that's what I love about this blog. Friends sharing their experiences as parents. P&P is thankful for that!

"No fate but you make." Kyle Reese AKA Michael Biehn AKA my first boyfriend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Divorce Causes Terminators

Below is a guest post from P&P's dear friend and contributor, Natalie. What I love about this post is how she is willing to be open and raw for us. So often as parents (or at least me) we want to shield our children, which may include shielding the truth from them or shielding our emotions, but she reminds us that honesty is okay, is important, because we don't need to know the answers since we don't know the future. 

This week at P&P we're going to focus on openess and letting go, being aware that we cannot control every detail of our lives. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did! - SRW

Because the future has Terminators.

I am 30. I am also married with a young child. I am your average middle class working mom. That is just a little background so you know where I am coming from. 

I have to consider myself an adult at this point: I have the child, the husband, the mortgage, the job that pays for the health insurance. That is about as adult-ish as you get; I even drive a station wagon with stickers on the back window and change in the glove compartment for parking meters. Yet it wasn’t until recently that two contradictory feelings popped up in me: 1. I started to feel like an adult (or maybe feel my age is more accurate) and;  2. I began to realize that no one is truly ever "grown up".

What caused these opposite emotions? My first adult divorce. Not mine, but a friend's. I met my husband at my co-worker's wedding. My husband was the brother of the bride (my co-worker), we hit it off and began dating. Within a year we were living together and engaged. My co-worker eventually became my sister-in-law, and she and her husband were the best of both worlds -- my friends and my family. They were the kind of couple that everyone thought would be together forever: easy-going, fun-loving and most importantly, happy. But within the last year they encountered personal problems and things began to unravel. Two months ago we were told they were separating, by Christmas we heard the final decision. Divorce.

This divorce has me reeling because, yes, I too thought they would be together forever and because I love them both. But also…well…we don’t ever grow up do we? I watched my aunt’s marriage disintegrate over lies and pain, I watched friend’s parents divorce, always comfortable that my parents would never do that. Until my Dad left my Mom (for his knocked up girlfriend who was half his age,  cough cough…you don’t hear any lingering resentment, do you?) when I was in high school. All of those relationship endings were what adults were doing. They obviously had it figured out and were making decisions and being adults about it. I was mostly a kid looking in on a world that I didn’t understand, and somewhere along the way I grew up but never really looked back with a new perspective, I still viewed those moments the way my child or teenage self did.

This divorce is different. We are adults. We were supposed to make it work, do what our parents couldn’t manage. We feel like adults. And yet… we aren’t, are we? We are still those same scared kids who don’t really understand what we are feeling or why. Sometimes we are just stabbing blindly in the dark and we don’t know how things will turn out. And that is what gets me…all those years ago I assumed the adults in my life had a clue about what they were doing and now I realize, much like myself, they didn’t. When my mom would hug me and tell me it was going to be ok, like I do with my daughter, she wasn’t really saying that she was sure it was going to be okay but rather that  she was going to try to make it okay.

This divorce is frightening because it is a mirror. I can see my own relationship struggles in it more clearly than I ever could looking back through the lens of my parent’s marriage.  Suddenly, days after my 30th birthday and facing another new year, I feel more like my mother and less like me, more like an adult and less like the wild teenager I left behind. More afraid of divorce because it is in my lexicon as a present tense and not just a past tense. It's okay, because like my mother, I will make it okay. 

Also, I am pretty sure I am going to rock the senior living house like I am Blanche from the Golden Girls, so I have something to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You Are a Good Mom

We mothers are hard on ourselves. Mothers are hard on other mothers and society in general is hard on mothers. Right now there is a lot of chatter about Adam Lanza's mother, which I won't discuss here, nor will I add any more to the discussion of that tragedy. However, it has created a lot of 'bad mom' chatter.

So I just wanted to say something positive. You're a good mom.

When my son was 2 months old, I took him to work with me (long story short: I work from home for a government agency that insisted I have a badge that I HAD to pick up right away, which meant taking my son who I was breastfeeding and snuggling all of the time with me, I had no nanny and honestly didn't want to be away from him for the 3+ hours it would take me to get my badge) and he slept the entire time I was there, disturbing no one. Nearly everyone was delighted to meet him, as they had worked with me the previous year during my pregnancy.

I work for an agency of mostly older males. As we stood in the lobby of the building preparing to leave, they oohed and aahed over his sleepy face and tiny hands. They recalled their own children and sighed wistfully about their some-day grandchildren. I received hugs and pats on the back and "he is beautiful, good job!" Then I was approached by a man I'd never met who asked me how old was my son. "2 months," I replied.

"BAD MOM! BAD MOM!" He yelled at me, at everyone around us, loudly while shaking a finger in angry gestures at me. "You should not have brought him out before 3 months. Babies have to stay in the house for 3 months. I tell all my kids, keep them babies home for 3 months. No, no. You're bad."

Two security guards stepped closer to me as I zipped the car seat cover over my son to shield him from the cold. "My son is well," I replied. It was all I could say. I pushed his stroller out quickly, waving good-bye and feeling my face flame with embarrassment. I heard the security guards arguing with the man, telling him kids were different today. It was the first time a complete stranger passed judgement on my parenting skills. It hurt and scared and saddened me.

Yet, I knew it wouldn't be the last. We are a culture full of judgement. I do it myself all of the time. We are culture of negativity as well. Moms aren't alone in this criticism or judgement, either. Dads receive a lot of negative attention and worried glances if they take their children out without a woman close by ("could he be abducting that child?!).

Parents will and should shut out most of the noise, the negativity, and the judgement, but being a parent is a tough job. We need support, we need positivity, we need society telling us "you're good". Maybe not all the time and certainly there are people who are simply bad parents (see: my own bio mom). The majority of us are good and I want to tell you that.

You're a good mom.
You hugged your child today. You listened. 
You spent some time on your own to recharge.
 You played or helped with homework or read a book to your child(ren). 
You made mistakes. You were forgiven. You forgave. 
You said, "I love you". 
You're good.