Death of a Writer Mama

This past week, I took Daniel to get registered for kindergarten. It hasn’t really hit me yet that come September, Daniel will be going to big-boy school, as we’ve been calling it. It hasn’t really struck me yet that within a few months, I’ll no longer have a preschooler on my hands, but an honest-to-goodness school kid. That means he’ll be doing homework, coming home from school later (although the school district’s idea of "full-day kindergarten" doesn’t quite match up to my definition, i.e. "What do you mean they’ll get out at 1pm on Mondays? That’s no different from what he does now.").  And it means I’ll probably be writing less and less about Daniel as he starts to gain his own identity.

The thing is, though, when was the last time I wrote about him in the Cafe anyway?

It’s not because I don’t have anything to say. Daniel’s been growing by leaps and bounds, and he amazes me everyday with what he says and does. And it’s not because I’ve been blogging less due to time issues (which, given the choice between blogging and working on a story that has a definitely deadline, which do you think I picked? Hmmm…been awful quiet at the Cafe, hasn’t it?). Actually, that is a good thing because it means I have been writing, which is always glorious. And yes, I have started actually writing out the 2nd draft of Willow as of this week. And boy oh boy, just the prologue alone is turning out GRRRRREAT!

I guess I haven’t been writing about Daniel because, well, I’m not really defining myself as a stay-at-home Writer Mama anymore.

When I first started writing seriously, I just had Daniel and was getting used to staying home without going out to the job or speaking to another adult about grownup issues. Where I lived, there really wasn’t much of anything else to do except do the whole ‘stay-at-home’ thing. Join playgroups, attend MOPS, go to parks, libraries, open gym, anything to get some sort of variety in my life. And at some point, I realized, hold on–I’m staying at home, raising our son. Didn’t I always say I wanted to do that and be a writer? Well, I got the at-home part down pat. Where does the writing part come in?

So I started taking workshops and going to writer groups and most importantly, I wrote. I wrote about everything I could think of. When I wasn’t writing stories, I wrote essays. When it wasn’t essays, it was blogs about my son. And since I was doing the whole Mommy thing, I considered myself a "Writer Mama", because at the time, it was my profession: writing and mothering.

But now, my profession has expanded to that of HR Assistant. In fact, ever since we’ve moved to Madison, I’ve gotten involved in a whole number of things that’s outside motherhood. I’m a co-worker, Wiscon book club member, scifi/fantasy writing group attendee. And a lot of what Daniel and I used to do, like going to the library or out to the gym to hang with other kids, is pretty much covered by him going to preschool. And Daniel is getting to the point where I do want to limit what I write about him, to protect his privacy (I can hear him now in 10 years—"Yeah, but what about all those potty training things you posted?" And I’ll tell him, "Kid, after all you put me through, be grateful I didn’t post pictures, you stubborn little—" and that will shut him right up.)

I haven’t stopped mothering. Oh, good gracious, no. I’m still involved in teaching and disciplining him. We still go to the park, and the library (though not as often as I like). He’s my pride and joy, and I take great delight in watching him play and work, when he isn’t getting on my nerves.

At the same time though, I’m finding that I deeply miss the community of Mommies I connected with because I had nothing else to do. Granted, if I hadn’t started writing, there would’ve been many, many days I would have been bored out of my skull. And I haven’t found the same kind of community here yet, though I’m sure they’re out there. In fact, I should start actively looking for a group that has working mommies in their midst.

And I know what you’re thinking. If I like doing the stay-at-home thing so much…nope. Not gonna finish that. Let me just take the liberty of rolling my eyes and saying, "Yeah, yeah, I know…"

In the meantime, I guess, "Writer Mama" doesn’t work for me exclusively anymore. Instead, I’m a "Part-time Working Writer Mama"? No, that sounds like I do it all part-time. "Working Writer Mama"? No, that implies that I’m a full-time worker. "Part-time Worker, 3/4-time Writer, Full Time Mama"?

Hmmm…gotta work on that….

It’s rest time; Cafe going on Christmas hiatus

So if I was Daniel a couple of years from now, I’d be like, “Wait a minute. We live about an hour away from Wisconsin Dells, with all the water parks and rides and fun, fun, fun…and we can go up anytime we want, and you didn’t tell me? Why aren’t we up there EVERY SINGLE DAY?!?!?

And the part of me that’s Daniel’s mom would be like, “Well, yes, sure it’s fun, but we can’t be up there every day.”

And the Daniel me would be like, “WHY NOOOOOOOT?!?!”

And the Mommy me would say, “Because we don’t have the money to go up, and even if we did, if you go up every single day, eventually you’d get bored and don’t want to go anymore.”

And the Daniel me would be all, “YOU SUUUUUUUUUCK!”

And the Mommy me would say, “All right. Time Out. NOW.”

And the Daniel me would stomp off, all sucky and pouty, and the Mommy me would be all “DON’T YOU MAKE THAT FACE AT ME!” and then there would be tears and gnashing of teeth and high drama, yadda, yadda, yadda…

The point being…I need a break.

Actually, I’ve needed one ever since I finished my short story and sent it off to WOTF. The relief in knowing that’s done, in combination with all the Christmas parties that’s been happening here, has made me one tired chick. I need to recharge, start going to bed a little earlier, get my creativity meter back to full again. And seeing that most of my energy nowadays seem to be focused on reading through the Willow draft (now that She’s All Light is done, I’ve been zipping through Willow; sometimes getting 3-4 chapters done a week instead of just 1-2. Now that’s nice), I’ve decided to cut down on my writing chores a bit. That means that the Cafe will be closed for a couple of weeks.

This will be a good thing. There’s some cleaning out I’ve been meaning to do, like taking down links I don’t go to anymore and doing some reorganization. I’ve also wanted to re-evaluate what exactly I want the Cafe to do. It feels like I’ve moved away from a lot of the mothering posts I did when I started the cafe–which makes sense, me no longer being a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, it seems like my book reviews are quite popular. Don’t know why…considering that everyone and his grandmother can post a book review. But go figure.

Anyway, don’t expect much from the blog in the next couple of weeks. I’m not going to be on total hiatus–there’s probably going to be a goody for you pretty soon, and if something really catches my interest, I’ll post it here. But don’t expect long winded posts either.

And yes, it is super, super cool to live an hour away from an awesome place. This past Monday, we spent a day at a water park. Yes, it was a balmy 85 degrees inside while outside the temperature read 9. Yes, I floated in a wave pool while overhead music played “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”. Yes, if I was Daniel and a few years older, I would be be begging to go up to Wisconsin Dells from now until I graduate with a PhD from UW-Madison.

But luckily, Daniel is only four. And apparently, he doesn’t like rushing water tunnels that disappear into pitch blackness…especially if ‘Mommy’ went into it head-first screaming her lungs out. It feels good to know that I probably contributed to my son’s first traumatic experience.

And on that note, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good rest.

End of a Stay-At-Home Era…at Least for Now….

Today is my last day as a stay at home mom. Well, for now, anyway.

Phase I of settling into Madison is complete. All the boxes are put away, things are somewhat in their rightful place again, we’re not tripping over things–much. All we got left is small things, putting up pictures, finding a system to do laundry that doesn’t involve just tossing everything on the floor, etc. Now that we have settled, it’s time to start Phase II–going back into the work force. (Stage III–finding a writer’s group, will proceed in June. Stay tuned as I figure that out.)

I would love to say that the decision to go back to work was agonizing, soul-searching, deeply conflicting against my inner values. If I so happen to run into any die-hard stay-at-home mothers who shake their heads at my predicament, perhaps I would say that. But really, the truth is, it wasn’t that hard a decision at all. A part-time job opened up at the place my hubby now works, so I decided to apply and what-do-you-know, they hired me. So I start tomorrow. Just like that.

The main factor in all this is the word “part-time”. Back when my hubby and I discussed this, I was pretty clear that when I did go back to the working world, I wanted to do it part-time. Partly (grumble…grumble…using the same stem of word twice. such a no-no…) because I wanted time to adjust to working again, partly because I wanted time to focus on Willow (which I am building back up to. Really.). And partly because, well, I guess I don’t want to give up my status of stay-at-home mom. Not just yet.

But the real reason why I’m going back to work? Real reason? I’m bored.

When Daniel came into our lives four years ago, I felt that the best thing for Daniel…and for me…was to stay at home with him. It was great. Not only did I learn how to care for a baby, but I also got to teach things to him, basic things like eating and walking, but also fun things like singing and playing and dancing. He saw me cleaning and working at home, interacting with other mothers. I took him to the library, read him books, did playgroups and crafts (though the latter didn’t happen until his late threes, considering that he barely sat still do to anything crafty). As he transitioned from baby to toddler to sass-back preschooler, I slowly begin to realize that there’s a limit to how much I can teach him. I can introduce him to new music and new places, but when it comes to teaching skills like putting together puzzles or how to put on his shoes, well, I suck. Immensely.

The problem is, I think I have very little patience for those sort of things. I subscribe to magazines like Wondertime and Parenting, and they’re filled with happy mothers happily showing their happy kids to do happy things. And for three years, I can say that I was that type of mother. But then, something happened. Daniel started getting more independent. I started expecting more from him…perhaps more than he was ready to do. I remember back when we started potty-training him again, and I was trying so hard to get him how to stand and pee, rushing him into the bathroom whenever his dad was in there so he could see how to do it (Hubby didn’t really appreciate that.) Daniel, of course, wasn’t having it.

Sometime afterwards, Daniel went to go spend the night over a friend’s house. The next day, I’m working, Daniel’s playing in his room. I see him run into the bathroom, so I glance in to make sure he’s okay–and he is using the washroom standing up. Flabbergasted, I asked him, “How’d you do that?” To which Daniel shrugged and said, “Drew does it.” (Drew being his friend).

At that moment, I realized:

  1. Daniel’s doesn’t need me all that much anymore.
  2. Daniel needs other kids in his life.
  3. I think I’ve taught him everything I know.
  4. What’s the point of staying at home if all he does is watch TV and play by himself?

Now, obviously I know that there are tons of more things to teach him. I know that Daniel still needs me, will in fact need me for a long time (unless he’s in his 30s and still living at home. Then we’ll have a problem). But I think we’ve reached a point in our lives where Daniel will benefit from being around kids his own age, having an outside teacher, learning to be a little boy without his mother hovering around. The boy is ready, eagerly ready, for preschool.

So I guess this is challenging my view of motherhood. It seems that the idea of being a mother is not being there for your children, but rather, it’s to make your children more independent so they don’t have to rely on you forever. In other words, I think that I just worked myself out of the stay-at-home job. Motherhood seems to be a influx thing. And that’s cool. I really had fun doing it. In fact, I know that when the next kid shows up, I’ll most likely do the same thing. But at the same time, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do the stay-at-home thing forever.

Well, this has turned out to be a rambling post. I think I better go and make the most of my last day staying at home all day. There’s laundry to do, bills to pay, books to put on the bookshelf…

Bleh. Forget it. I’m taking Daniel out to get some ice cream.

In honor of April being Poetry Month…a Poem from Daniel

5:53pm

Spoken in the bathroom:

================================
“The angry poop is scared and mad.
It wants to fight.”
================================

Wow.

What else can you say to something like that?

Maybe I should bring back his Word of the Month.

And just like that he was…dare I say it…potty trained?

Yesterday, I was going over Daniel’s clothes, I came across a full pack of Pull-ups. That made me glad because that meant that I didn’t have to go to the store for new ones. Then I thought, wait…when exactly did we get these? A month ago? And it’s still full?

Then I realized, except at night, Daniel doesn’t really use his pull-ups anymore. And except for the rare occasion, he doesn’t wet his bed. And a few weeks ago, he actually started going number 2 in the bathroom now. Most of that stems from the fact that he doesn’t have a nap anymore…he’s quite happy to play quietly in his room listening to his CDs now. But for several weeks now, he has actually come up to me to say, “Mommy, I gotta go poo!” And then, he goes to the bathroom and does it. No more denials. No more dancing up and down…well, actually, he does still do that. But now, he recognizes that feeling as the need to pee.

Somehow, Daniel has become…dare I say it? Potty trained.

I’m quite impressed, considering that I did nothing really to encourage him to go number 2. I figured that once he figured out the peeing part, the going poop would come about by and by. And to my utter surprise, it did. Oh, there were times when I did blow a gasket when he’d do it in his underwear during his naptime, but really, that was my fault for leaving his underwear on instead of putting on a pull-up. And now, seeing that he doesn’t do that anymore, I don’t really worry about it (much).

Hmmm…of course, in my scant experience of three years now, I don’t want to proudly crow that he’s fully potty-trained yet. After all, we’re in the midst of preparing for a move. There’s a very good chance that a relapse will occur once we move to a new place, away from familiarity. But that’s okay too. I’m not going to knock him if suddenly, he does want to use Pull-ups again for a while. With all the logistics of this move, I’m surprised that I myself haven’t reverted back to infancy.

But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this. I have a kid who’s out of diapers, and that’s pretty extraordinary. Now if I can get him to eat his vegetables, everything will be nice and groovy.

Another sign that life as you remember is becoming obsolete…

Okay, think back. Way back. Remember back when they had the Fisher Price record players? Come on, if you’re a product of the 70s, of course you do.

Fisher price records

It came with plastic records that you pop it on the turntable, wind up the crank, put the ‘needle’ on and out came music box nursery tunes like “Jack and Jill”, “Humpty Dumpty” and “Edelweiss”. (How exactly a Roger and Hammerstein song qualified as a nursery song is beyond me, but that’s beside the point). I know I had one as a kid; in fact, every kid I knew had one. So imagine my delight when I went to my son’s playgroup and found one of these that a parent brought in.

Oddly enough, none of the kids seemed interested in it–they wanted to play with the bikes and balls and other toys we bring out for them. So I decided to wind it up and show the kiddies how it’s done, old school. Pretty soon, I had a whole bunch of two-and three-year-olds surrounding me. I felt pretty good…until this happened:

Daniel (coming up): Ooh! CD!
Me: It’s not a CD. It’s a record player.
Daniel: I wanna play the CD!
Me: No…no…see, it’s called a record player. See, you put this on here.
Another kid: Where’s the volume? I can’t hear it.
Me: Well, you gotta turn the dial here…
Yet another kid: I wanna fast forward.
Me: You’ll have to get another CD…er, record…I mean…
More kids: I wanna play the CD!!!
Daniel: No, I want the CD. <put record on the turntable> It’s not playing, Mommy.
Me: Well…you gotta put the needle on…NOT LIKE THAT!!! Gently…gently…
(Daniel listens for two seconds, then wanders off to ride a bike.)
Me: Uh…
Same kid from before: These CDs won’t play right. Borrrring.
(All the kids wander off, leaving a blinking Mommy and a Fisher Price record player playing Edelweiss.)
Me: Sighhhhhhhhhhh.

Big boy, Big pants, Big Bed, Big Yikes!

So you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard much about the potty training in our household. I decided to start over again around the end of May, and, aside from the human sprinkler incident, I don’t think I’ve written about it since.

To be honest, there’s really not much to talk about.

Daniel’s got the peeing part down pat. The drama I went through around this time last year just isn’t surfacing at all. Many times, he wakes up in the morning dry. I know pretty much by schedule now when he has to go (usually after lunch). Granted, he’s got the bladder of a camel, but my hubby stresses out over that more than I do (“Do you need to go potty? How bout now? Now? Okay, go potty now!).

I think I’m more relaxed about it because, well, we go through the same schedule every day. I can recognize when he really does have to go–usually when he starts running around the house, not in a ‘I’m running just to have fun’ way, but more in a compulsive, ‘Something’s wrong and if I run around, maybe it will go away’. Don’t ask me how I can tell the difference between the two. I just know. (though with the latter, occasionally he makes a whimpering noise like a puppy.)

I’ve realized that my main goal now is not to make him go potty all the time, but to get him to recognize that when he has to go, he should go to the potty. So that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s nothing special. No big tricks. No huge drama. No stresses over “Whyyyyy isn’t he getting it? WHYYYYY?!?!” I’m just taking it slow.

It’s amazing what a huge difference it is when a kid is ready to potty-train.

Now granted, I didn’t say Daniel was potty-trained. When it comes to going number 2, he just doesn’t have a handle on it yet. He’d much rather wait until I put pull-ups on him and he takes his nap. Part of the reason is that for the longest time, he slept in a crib, so he wasn’t able to get out to do his business.

Well, as of yesterday, our boy is cribless. He now sleeps in a ‘big-boy’ bed.

He’s ready for it. I can tell. Granted, it’s made his naptimes pretty much non-existent (once he started climbing out of his crib, I’ve caught him several times playing when he should be napping). I even had to stop writing this blog a couple of times to go up and yell at him to quit stomping around in his new boots and lie down. But, you know, I’m not really going to push him to nap. The boy is free, now, free to do whatever he likes in what he’s beginning to see as his room. I want to teach him that there are times to run about, and there are times to be quiet (so Mommy can do her writing). And he’s learning. Just like he’s learning how to go potty.

So what if he doesn’t go poop yet. So what if he still needs the occasional verbal prodding to make him go. So many books make out potty-training that’s magically over in a day, perhaps a week. I’m finding that’s so not the case, at least not with Daniel. This will probably be a long-term thing, perhaps not fully being resolved until he’s four or so. And you know what? That’s cool.

Last week, for the first time, he wore his big boy underwear all day. Not one accident. Even his daddy was impressed. It means that our little toddler is well on his way to becoming a little boy. It’s nice to think that I have a hand in that–when he’s 20 years old and says, “Hold up, I gotta use the washroom,” I’ll grin, because I taught him how to do that. Makes me feel a little proud of myself.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that the next post about Daniel will have plenty of four-letter words along with some random, obscure, nonsense that would result from me banging my head against the keyboard. But that’s in the future. Let me revel in the now.

Oh. Wait. I hear stomping upstairs. Looks like the future is now.