Sunday, October 13, 2013

The T42 post

Or should I say the "Obligatory" T42 Post?

In the last month it struck me that I could have another baby.

I know it seems absurd that I haven't considered it much before this. Owen is 3-1/2 and I'm 42. So if it was going to be on my radar, it probably should have been before now.

When Owen was about 1-1/2 I felt a brief (I believe hormonal) urgency to have another one asap. But the feeling dissipated as the craziness of life with a toddler took over, and a couple of years went by.

Just recently I met up with, for the first time, a group of SMCs in my city. For a long time I've been on the look-out for a community of SMCs here. I knew of other women who were trying but not others who were being. Then all of a sudden there were 4.

We met in a park. Owen is the oldest by over 2 years. And all of them, to a person, talked about when they were having another.

I was somewhat floored. Really? Like, you can do that? As a single mom? And you have no worries about it? yes, yes, and nope, not really.

I must say it did get me to thinking. I realize, yes, technically, I could have another. And wouldn't that be nice for Owen, both now and in the far future, to have a bigger family.

Until now it's been the practicalities that have kept me away from this decision. Like, how would I travel? How would I deal with the logistics of work and childcare and illnesses and etc? And how would I afford it?

But the more I ponder the more I realize that there's a lot more to my hesitance than mere practicalities. I think that if it really was about practicalities, I'd find a way. When I really start to analyze it comes down to a quality of life that I'm still seeking, and that I want for Owen, and that I'm not sure I can provide for two.  My thoughts in a nutshell:

1)  I love Owen's age and the independence it has brought to our lives. Don't get me wrong, I loved being a mom to an infant and (most of the time) a two year old, but three is just awesome. This is partially because of the variety of things we can do together, including going exploring for the day without a set plan (something I have always loved to do), while not worrying quite so much about schedules of eating and sleeping. I love going on adventures whether it is the beach or taking the train to Boston to a museum, and I realize how happy it makes me. And I love doing these things particularly with Owen. If I have another baby we'd be essentially "holed up" again for the next 3 years, encumbering my ability to share these experiences with Owen just as he's getting to the perfect age (5, 6, 7) to enjoy them the most.

2)  I love to travel. One of my dreams is to save money (ha!) and begin to take substantial trips with Owen abroad when he is at the right age (not sure when that might be, 10? 11?). I would love to go to South America, Africa, Asia, etc, and I picture this as something that will create special and important experiences for Owen as well as be just plain fun. If I have another child, this will not be possible either logistically or financially.

3) I want to buy a better home for Owen and me. I've touched on this before, but we are "stuck" in a condo at the moment and I want to find a modest single family in the part of town I want to be in. I would be in a bind for housing if I had another---too cramped to stay where we are but too financially pressed to move somewhere else. Having the right home is really important to me. I think about it literally. every. day.

4) Another thing I've thought about a lot are my particular struggles with parenting. I'm doing well, I think, with a few hiccups here and there but I'm not sure how I would take the stress of two. I am an introvert. I need a lot of alone time. At this point, I get my alone time after Owen is in bed, and that's about it. If I had no alone time (who knows when baby #2 will sleep?), I don't think I would be a very effective parent, nor would I enjoy it very much. I think maybe it is best for me to focus on the one relationship I have rather than potentially compromise my relationship with both children because of my lack of inner calm.

5) I really would like to socialize and date at some point in the future. (Ok, nobody *wants* to date. I mean have a relationship.) This has felt impossible for me since becoming a mom (see #4 and need for alone time). And how would this work, exactly, with #2?

I'm sad to turn away from the possibility of T42 (and I know for a fact that if I were partnered, I would definitely have more than one child). But this is definitely the right decision for my life, and for Owen's life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Opportunities and quandaries

So, I am one of four finalists for a very good job. I already have a very good job (one that fits my education, experience, and talents and that is fulfilling and fun), but recently I've started looking around to see if there might be other opportunities that are also appropriate, fulfilling, and fun but that, er, pay better. So last Spring I applied for a job and it is finally in the interviewing stage, a day-long (plus) on-campus interview.

There's no point in really hashing out the pros and cons until an offer is made, but here's the big question: is a significant (I mean a little less than double my current salary) pay increase really worth moving 1/2 way across the country, uprooting myself and my little boy, and starting over?  My number one complaint of the last 8 years in this job, especially the last 3-1/2 since having a child, has been my pay. I dream of having more fiscal freedom (by which I mean not going into debt just to pay for the bare necessities on a monthly basis). Forget about college savings and retirement: this just is NOT happening. And it's starting to really weigh on me.

But since they called me and seemed interested I've been having a true existential crisis. I worry that I am too quick to give up a good thing (see the good qualities of my job above). Not to mention that we are finally, *finally* finding a larger community in this city after 8 years. Owen's new school is awesome, the parents are awesome, and we've already seen a nice increase in our social interactions and friendships. Aside from the cost of living and the winters, the area is great. The job is VERY family friendly. I can leave when I need to. The fact is, the unknowns in a new position (and one that pays more, thus more pressure I suppose) are almost overwhelming to me. I'm not sure I can bring myself to move Owen, either. He is only three, so maybe it's best to do this now if it's going to happen, though.

The other job is within 2 hours driving of family. Currently, I am a good 14 hour drive, or plane ride, to family.

I know, it's impossible. I think I need to focus on the good things about our life and be patient. The money will come. I am hoping for a promotion in the next couple of years and the money will get easier once Owen goes to Kindergarten. I will probably stay here, but the temptation is looming. We shall see. The interview will be very revealing I am sure.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The magic of time out

Things have improved *markedly* since my last post!  I felt like I was floundering and completely ineffective in controlling Owen's tantruming, and that was bringing up some bad behavior (can we say tantruming?) of my own. Feeling a lack of control on my part has never been good for my temper.

I bought a couple of books on behavior and discipline and they have been so helpful. Note to self: BUY A BOOK next time I have a parenting challenge. There really is wisdom out there--and with the lack of a partner and family in close proximity I need a sounding board, even if it's made of bound paper. :)

Both books are basically advocating the time-out method, with slightly different emphases. I think we all know inherently what the time-out method is, and what it's supposed to do, but nonetheless reading about the best method---including what NOT to do---is really important if it's going to be useful and also uphold your child's self esteem not to mention strengthen--not damage--your relationship.

Having a plan, knowing that I am not alone (you mean child isn't the only one who demands ice cream first thing in the morning and then whines and cries and sometimes hits when he doesn't get it? What a revelation!! Sometimes we really do think we are the only ones...)...this has really helped me to deter my anger in dealing with Owen's behavior....not to mention the numerous accounts of how damaging not to mention ineffective parental anger is on so many levels. Modeling bad behavior is just the beginning. I don't want to damage my relationship with my son, who I love more than anything in the world and hope to have a close and special relationship with for our entire lives!! 

So far, the method has been quite effective. I am using a 1-2-3 warning system, with certain offenses (ie physical behaviors like hitting, scratching, pinching) leading to an immediate time out...which he HATES SO MUCH, omygod. But since we started this two weeks ago he has responded well to warnings (delivered in a short but not angry tone) and we have only gotten to time-out a very few times. I am also reminding him that certain situations sometimes make him tantrum, and also telling him calmly when he's starting to get mad so that he knows to try to control himself. I'm also curbing my desire to talk about everything incessantly. So ineffective. Discipline and move on. It's a work in progress, but I think we are really improving. And I feel SO much better about any "incident", knowing that I was in control and that I treated Owen in a firm but fair and consistent way.  This has done wonders all round. Changed my life. Highly recommend.  (I need to go write my Amazon book reviews now. :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013


What an amazing summer we are having. I guess the "not having to go into work" thing really agrees with both me, and Owen. I need to figure out a way to do this every summer!  Sabbatical is the best.

We've been taking advantage of the AMAZING weather on the East Coast for the last month. We've been outside constantly, to the beach, hiking, to the various attractions. It's been SO much fun.

Through it all, though, I'm dealing with some difficult behavior right now with Owen. He has been going into what I'll call "rages"--like tantrums, I guess, but directed toward me with uncontrollable anger that results in hitting, scratching, and biting. It's really hard to take, especially on certain days when I am not at my best. What sets him off? The most mundane things, of course: chiefly, when I say "no" to something he really wants to have, or thinks that he should have (like ice cream first thing in the morning, yet another video after he's already watched 2, etc). Yesterday, it was leaving the park. It was time to go and lunchtime was already past, and we really needed to get in the car. I gave numerous warnings and tried to gently direct him toward the car. He was not having it. He went into an absolute rage and began scratching me (ow, it really does hurt!). At the point of no return at this point, I had to literally stuff him into the car. This, of course, only made him more angry. He raged the entire 15 minute ride home, to the point where I was worrying about his vocal chords and bruising from the car seat straps. As we were nearing our house he THREW A FULL JUICE BOX box at my head, THEN the cup holder from his car seat!  I cannot tell you how angry that made me. I know, it's exactly the wrong response---to meet uncontrollable anger of a 3 year old with your own barely-controllable anger. But wow did that piss me off. And wow, I yelled.

What a nightmare!  When we got home, I proceeded with the punishment (which he is fully aware of at this point) for hitting, scratching, etc, which is to go to his room and be in his room by himself. He hates it, of course. And he begins wailing at the door, which I need to lock for any of this to have any effect whatsoever. It makes me feel like the evil stepmonster.

After he has recovered and we've hugged (and after I have cried--I cannot help it), I try to talk to him about anger and how angry he was and what he did, something like this "boy, you sure were angry, honey, and Mommy got angry, too. Boy, we were both yelling and that was no fun at all. I love you, sweetie, but hitting and scratching Mommy is just not acceptable. And yelling is no good either. .. etc" This is the usual tone of the "reconciliation" and then he moves on happily whereas I am usually an emotional wreck for the entire rest of the day.

I want to emphasize that I don't see anything particularly alarming in Owen's behavior, at least not yet. I have had the experience of spending time with a wildly tantruming 3-4 year old (my nephew), who would wail and rage for 2-3 hours EVERY DAY, and Owen is not even close. So at this point I am not concerned that there is "something wrong" with Owen, especially given his age, and the ease with which he recovers from these events (and their relative infrequency).

But what happens is that I really beat myself up over these events. I think about how I acted in the moment (the anger in the car after being belted by two things in the head---how could I have acted differently I ask myself?). THE biggest challenge I have faced as a parent has been dealing with my own anger. I have a very hot temper and there have been a few moments in the last 2 years where I have lost my temper and yelled like a banshee. It kills me, emotionally, every time. For days. I hate myself in those moments and think about how much I hated it when my father directed his unfounded and inappropriate anger toward me. I am working on this. I know that the most important thing for me is to talk to Owen about these incidents, and to talk about "when Mommy got angry" as well as when he got angry.

At the same time, as indicated by my short reference to my own upbringing above, this is really bringing out some challenges from my own childhood---the fear that I have somehow "done this" to Owen. WOW, isn't parenting just the best at bringing this stuff up?

I also realize how we all go through this as parents, but on different issues. My best friend had a childhood where she was constantly moving and felt abandoned by her father and sometimes her mother. As a mother, she is really struggling with weaning, with separating or leaving her son for even short period, with even letting him cry for one second. I didn't have ANY issues whatsoever with that stuff. But I understand why she would.

But the anger...eegads, that's my cross. And anger has such a stigma. I've carried the stigma of being a "hot tempered" lady my entire life.  It can be hell on relationships, and I know that it has been the demise of one or two of those, or at least part of the demise. But my closest friends have also made me realize that anger (when controlled of course) has been a source of strength for me, pushing me to set and reach goals and to make things happen in my life.

I am really going on a tangent here, but it's getting to the meat of what this post is about. Owen is fine--happy, smart, creative, imaginative, loving, and sweet. I am also feeling extremely happy, strong, and optimistic right now in my life. And our love for each other is crazy intense and just the best of all worlds. But I see anger as the main challenge of our relationship, like, forever.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Snarky birthday party rant

Beware, a snarky little post to follow. If I offend anyone whose birthday party tendencies run counter to mine, then I do apologize!

We have attended several birthday parties for 1, 2, and 3 years olds in the last few months. Today was the most recent.

At one party, we were there for two hours and no cake, no ceremony, nothing. Finally the mom said just in passing that she wasn't doing a cake---"all that sugar."

[sound of brakes squeeling]. OKaaaaay. Your choice. Can we leave now?

Really, I don't mean to be a jerk but two hours is a long time at a birthday party full of 1, 2, and 3 year olds when your 3 year old son keeps asking when the cake will arrive.

Do I need to stop telling Owen to expect cake at birthday parties now? HAVE WE COME TO THIS oh progressive Northeast??

And what is the deal with taking the gifts swiftly to another room where they are never seen again? This has happened REPEATEDLY at kids' birthday parties lately!! It is now commonplace that presents are opened behind closed doors after the guests leave. Is it somehow unsavory to acknowledge that there will be material things given, to a one year old, at a birthday party? (It's not that I don't understand this objection, but if that is indeed the problem, then don't accept gifts in the first place I say).

If I buy a cute little teddy bear and dress it up in a birthday outfit for a 1 year old I adore (as in today's party), then by-gosh I want to see him open it. And it's not just about me---Owen was SO excited that he picked out the gift and wrapped it, and he was very confused by the whole thing.

I guess I just don't understand the reasoning behind these things. Clearly, I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

Ok, I am done now.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My little "runner"

On our way back from Western NY to New England, Owen and I stopped in NYC for 2 nights to visit one of my dearest friends, her husband, and their 2 year old boy. My friend and her husband had to move to Abu Dhabi and they spend their summers in NY to get away from the heat of the Persian Gulf. She "had to" move there because her husband did not get tenure in his professorial post at X university in my town, and was lucky to get another academic job T an American university with an outpost in Abu Dhabi. The tenure nightmare was a painful process that went on for over two years and unfortunately culminated in my friend moving all the way to the opposite side of the world with her then 2 month old son. It was a sad time. We had so many plans about raising our boys together. She was my closest confidant and best emergency support person in my town. And I haven't found a replacement.

But we had a wonderful time in New York! Wait, let me preface: I was scared. Owen is what I would characterize as a "runner." Ever since he could walk he has put me through hell by taking off RUNNING in public places. Unlike many children who run and look back at their parent and then return, Owen would just go, go, go. As he has gotten older, I've started to run after him less (if I can still see him) to show him that Mommy doesn't just start running when he does. This isn't a game. But it can be really scary, especially when there are dangers. For instance, he will tear full speed around a corner in a store and have no sense for the potential of a careening shopping cart on an adjoining aisle. Or, as in NY he will run down the sidewalk toward the cross street barely heeding my voice of warning as I run after him.

I've had many moments of hyperventilation as you can imagine. Just last spring, he "took off" (ie: I turn my back for a moment and he is gone) while we were are at a very crowded outdoor plant sale. The tables were set just so, just at his height, and on little hills, so that I absolutely could not locate him. After about 3 minutes (3 minutes is a LONG TIME when you cannot locate your 3 year old child), I seriously started to panic--chest pain, shortened breath, the whole 9. Every. single. scenario was going through my head, and I was trying to calm myself so that I could seek out the proper help. After another minute or maybe two, there he was, coming around the end of a table.

This summer we went to a large complex of retired battleships with Owen's cousins. I could NOT believe how UN-kid friendly it was. These huge old ships had almost no railings and many many drops and falls. Well, Owen took off up a very steep ladder/staircase to another "deck" of the ship. I started after him but by the time I was at the top of the stairs he was gone, into the inner cabins of the ship (circuitous does not describe it) and to god knows where. I couldn't see him or hear him, and there was a 20 foot drop onto the deck below. He wouldn't answer my calls. I COMPLETELY panicked. I was yelling his name at the top of my lungs and had lost all control of my senses except to keep looking and calling. Time ticked on. It must've only been a couple of minutes but it felt like hours. I finally found my way to the other side of the deck and there he was with my sister-in-law.

I try to impress upon him the dangers of this behavior (and how it affects me, too), and I DO think it is finally starting to sink in. Suffice to say, there was a lot of prep work for our trip to New York. And I've started to talk to him about consequences. Firstly, of course, the danger to life and limb and the danger of losing Mommy, and secondly, consequences. Like, if you do this, you will be in trouble.

Discipline does not come naturally for me. I am working on it.

It went fine (although I must say, props to you NYC moms. I don't know how you do it day in and day out! All that stroller hauling and door pulling and not-very-helpful-fellow-citizenship!). We even took a subway ride (a big fear of mine for obvious reasons) and with my consistent coaching and reminding he stayed near me. In fact, he did great. He held my hand consistently as we trudged through the world's biggest toy store and stayed within arms' reach. I think the whole thing made an impression on him. Since then, we've been to the grocery store here at home and rather than running out of my sight as per usual he stayed nearby and checked in with me. This change in behavior is a godsend, I cannot tell you. My blood pressure will surely benefit.

A picture of Owen and his friend on the piano at said toy store:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking back, looking forward

I have been in NY state since July 4, staying with my parents on an extended time away from the city. Owen is in a morning day camp and I am starting to dig into my sabbatical project. is a kind of lecture/performance/artistic venue and because of this, Owen's day camp consists of visits from the resident ballet dancers, opera singers, and concert violinists. I'm excited that he's having the experience--so different from the typical emphasis of nursery school--even though he probably doesn't realize how unique it is. I hope to come back every year to give him some continuity with this place. Many people have been coming every summer all their lives. Maybe he'll have friends for a lifetime. This is something I wish I had--a deeper connection to the people here. Maybe Owen will have it instead.

I think about that alot. I want Owen to have deep connections, lifelong friends, and so many things that I feel in some ways I am lacking myself. I have had many close friends throughout my life, from every stage, but I've been crap at keeping up with people and I've moved so much that I am basically out of touch with many of them. My closest friends still live in the Bay Area, and I see them when I can. But I've lost touch entirely with my childhood friends and it saddens me sometimes. I wish I had prioritized friendships and relationships over career in my late 20s and 30s. But I didn't, and I don't think I would've even if I'd known then what I know now. Nowadays, it's so much more difficult to find and keep close friends--at this age, with all of our busy lives. I often feel very alone and bereft of friends.

About a year ago, I found out about the death of a close friend from college. The crazy thing is, I found out about it SIX YEARS AFTER HE DIED. This is how out of touch I am with old friends.

Ok, back up. He was not just a friend, but the most intense and real love of my life. We were together for about 4 years, including the last two years of college, but he was older than me and he left our college town. He was a total drifter and we eventually moved on because we were never in the same place. When he met the woman he would eventually marry, we fell out of touch completely. What we had was very special and intense, and I can see how even retaining a friendship with me would have been difficult while pursuing a new relationship. Anyway. He died. Of melanoma. And I found out because I was doing genealogical research on and I searched for his name because he had never showed up ANYWHERE, like Facebook or anything, and I was always wondering WHERE IS HE?? And there appeared his obituary. From six years ago. You can imagine how I felt at that moment. He had been in the ground for six years.

I found some pictures of us that my parents have here and it makes me long for those days of freedom and happiness and joy and friendship and bonds that you had in college. I miss him, and I miss those days. He was a soul mate; he was so full of life, more than anyone I've ever known. So his death is particularly hard to come to terms with.

This sounds really strange but part of me thinks that he has been watching over me. I don't know why but the way that Owen arrived in my life---it was so meant to be and so full of luck---I can't help but think about it.

I cry about it even now. I wish I could have said goodbye.

Where am I going with this? I guess I feel a bit lonely, and sad. I am so lucky to have my little boy, who makes me feel joy every day of my life. I want him to have a life full of love and enduring, meaningful relationships. If there is one thing I hope I can do as a parent it will be to foster that, and to impress upon him that success in life is not defined by money but by love, friendship, and deep connections.