The Weight of it

I had my first awareness that I was heavier than my friends when I was in sixth grade.  We had a tire playground at my elementary school (literally, it was made out of tires) and I was following my friends through one of the structures and noticed I was struggling a bit to fit where they had navigated easily.  Judging from childhood pictures of Brian, he was overweight even earlier than me because there are chunky pics of him by about four years old.  By adulthood, both he and I tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds before we finally managed to lose and then maintain healthy (although not skinny) weights  long-term (he lost the weight before I met him, me after we met and partially inspired by his story).

Julia is five and a half and at her five year checkup she was in the 95% percentile for weight but also in the 75% percentile for height.  In other words, she’s not THE fat kid, but she’s not as skinny as most of her friends.  Other than a belly that sticks out (which to be fair, even many skinny kids have) Julia doesn’t look overweight when she stands by herself.  She’s got round cheeks and an adorable booty, but she doesn’t look heavy per se.  Put her next to her friends though – the gazelle-like Laney, the petite Kasey and Karma, the positively model-esque physique of Eva and suddenly Julia starts to look a bit…. bigger.

This causes a tremendous deal of parenting stress for me.  I don’t want her to be bullied for her weight, don’t want her to feel different, don’t want her to have low self-esteem.  Yes, I know she is only five, but I feel like if I screw her up in some way (because all parents screw up their kids somehow), this might be the one I end up causing.  So I worry, even though I don’t think I am doing nearly enough and likely doing ineffective or potentially even harmful things about it.  Here’s a short list of my crimes:

  • Using food as a reward.
  • Using food as a punishment (i.e. not giving her a cookie at the diner if she behaves badly).
  • Refusing to give her something else to eat if she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Giving in and giving other things to her when she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Letting her eat meals that mostly involve her favorites of mac and cheese or cheese sandwiches instead of pushing harder for healthy options.
  • Insisting she be served a meal of healthy options that I am fairly certain she won’t actually eat.

How do you get a picky carb loving five year old to eat healthy?  We don’t let her have dessert regularly and we don’t keep juice in the house but we’re not tyrants. She gets ice cream on Wednesdays with Grandma & Papa and that cookie at the diner on Fridays.  She also gets chocolate milk once a week with school lunch and most weekends she gets to have one mini chocolate after lunch.   But she eats the same things for dinner most nights – mac and cheese, cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, sometimes with a side of the rare fruit or vegetable she’ll eat. I don’t mind the nuggets (compared to the meals that are strictly carbs and cheese) because it’s one of the only meat things she’ll eat.  She seems to have a textural issue with meat although I’ve seen her eat the occasional cheeseburger.

In case you were wondering why she doesn’t eat what we eat – we aren’t there yet with dinner because she goes to bed so early.  I come home early on Diner Friday so we can eat together but that means that she also goes to bed late that night.  I suppose we could keep her up later Saturday and Sunday too, but an overtired picky eater is less than fun to eat with, so it hardly seems worth it.

So what does she eat? She’ll eat American cheese and occasionally mozzarella but no other cheese.  She’ll eat pancakes and waffles but not french toast.  Bananas, apples and grapes are ok but not strawberries, pineapple or blueberries.  Peppers are fine, and the occasional carrot, but no broccoli, peas or anything else green.  Any food she doesn’t like is “disgusting”.  She’ll occasionally try new things but often either gag on them or spit them out.  There will likely be crying.

We never ever talk to her about her weight or her body.  We talk about eating less carbs, more variety of foods, how important it is to try new things, but never ever in the frame of her size.  But I worry.  That she’ll keep getting bigger. That she’ll realize it.  That we’re the ones making her this way.   Despite being so picky, she’s obsessed with food.  She thinks about it all the time.  At parties where there are less healthy foods out like chips, she’d eat 100 if I didn’t stop her.  Am I making her this way by restricting what she eats?

Brian and I both passionately love food, could eat it to excess if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Neither of us, despite working hard at keeping ourselves in more reasonable shape, will ever be skinny.  I don’t think she’ll ever be skinny either, you can look at her wrists and see just from the size of her bones that she’ll be a bit more sturdy. But that doesn’t mean she is destined to be fat either.  I know the route to keeping her somewhere in between is to give her both healthy foods and a healthy attitude towards food even when the food is not healthy.  But I’m not sure I am able to deliver on that properly at this point based on my confused and complicated path with food and weight in my own past.

I’d love to hear from some of my fellow moms of their ideas and suggestions for how to address this?  Book suggestions are welcome as well, if you know of any good ones.  I know there are tips for picky eaters, but what about picky eaters that are also overweight?  Is she overweight? See, I’m in the dark here.  Many people tend to reach out to me via text, email or in person as opposed to writing comments on this blog (how come guys? I’ll look more popular if you comment on my blog!), so I will collect all the feedback across sources and share it with everyone in a future blog, as I assume I can’t be the only mom who deals with this.  Thanks in advance!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing up – the working parent dilemma

I know I haven’t written in a few weeks, and I apologize to the five of you who read this blog. Well, maybe slightly more than five people read it, but it’s not like I have thousands begging for my new content, so I figured I could get away with it.   The main reason I haven’t written is that I started a new job about a month ago and it’s been pretty busy.

I made a move from the agency side to the ad tech side in my field, which is social media.  This may sound like jargon to some of you, but the main point of me calling out this transition is that I just left a thousand person company that’s been in business 25+ years for an established but still relatively small startup that has just under 150 people and has been around for 7 years.  It was founded by college students, so the founders are also a good ten years younger than me.  This could have been a risk as a mom to go to a company that is small and young in both business and median age but so far it has been really great.

The company has a flexible working policy, which includes unlimited vacation days and no mandatory work hours, although a good amount of the people work on a schedule that fairly closely matches standard office hours. The policy is extremely helpful as a mom because to be part of a family with two working parents pretty much requires flexibility.  Although I am extremely busy so far every day and doing some work at night (which is pretty similar to my other jobs) I have been able to work from home already a few times. I’ve also managed to leave most days around 5:15, which means that I actually get home before Julia is asleep (she’s in bed already, but I get to chat with her for a few minutes, which is awesome).

This past Friday I worked from home so we could attend an event at Julia’s Kindergarten. It was an end of the year “Family Appreciation Day” held by her class.  It was adorable, the kids dressed up and performed a few songs and dances for us and I almost cried from cuteness.  But it was at 1:50 pm. It’s hard enough to go in to work late when there are events in the morning, But a 1:50 start time means that at best you’re getting a half day at work.  Let’s not forget that we work in the city and her school is in our home town in the suburbs.  I worked from home in the morning, but Brian had to take a 12:37 train to get back for it.

And this is just one of the events going on at the end of the year.  Thursday they had a field trip, which we didn’t volunteer for to be a chaperone, just like I didn’t volunteer for the last field trip a few weeks ago. Next week is a Flag Day performance (at 9:30 in the morning, which effectively means if I go I won’t be able to get to work until about noon with my commute if I go).  Then I just found out there is Field Day on the same day as Flag Day, if I wanted to go back to the school three hours later to watch that. And if I wanted to send my nanny in my place, too bad, because the school doesn’t allow siblings to attend so she wouldn’t be able to bring Luca. Then there’s the last day of school.  I figured unlike the first day of school, I wouldn’t stay home for it, until I found out that her kindergarten class parents have arranged for a pool party after school.  Unfortunately the last day of school pool party is the same week as Camp Orientation night which I am already leaving work early to attend, so I don’t think I can make both.

Then there’s first day of camp, which starts the Monday after school ends, and which I have to go to because our new nanny has never been there before and I want to make sure she has the process down.  And yes, I have a nanny.  And parents and in-laws who help out once a week each.  We’ve got something approximating a village working to raise our kids and we still can’t do it all.

How is a two parent working family supposed to manage all this?  I think this is a particularly challenging situation for families who commute longer distances like we do.  An event at school becomes not just the 30 or 60 minutes for the actual event, but then at least an hour and half past that – other than morning and evening rush hour, the trains around here only go into/from the city once every 30 minutes.  Then it’s a forty plus minute train ride (no expresses outside of rush hours) and then the subway trip to the office.  If I worked fifteen minutes away like some of the moms do, I’d only miss an hour or two at work at most.  But that’s assuming they have flexible schedules like I do, which is not entirely likely.  There are plenty of people who’d have to use up half or a whole of one of their few precious vacation days to attend these events.  And if they are one of the moms who only has an after school sitter and not a nanny like we do, that also means that the bulk of the rest of their vacation days are used for school breaks.

I know that traditionally women used to stay home, and that certainly there are plenty of stay at home moms still around. But it’s been at least 30-40 years that women have by and large been a major part of the work force, and I don’t understand how businesses (and schools) have not evolved to the needs of working parents (including dads).  There are certainly some great steps forward  – paternity leave policies that didn’t exist in the past, and more work from home flexibility for many workers because of computers and the internet.  But I feel like there is still a fundamentally flawed system yet not one that there feels like there’s an obvious answer to.

I can think of a few things that would help out on both sides.  Free wifi on commuter trains like the metro north where we live could help parents going into work late/leaving early score an extra 30-60 minutes of work while they commute.  More schools could have early drop off programs because if parents are regularly getting into work later than their counterparts, it doesn’t make it so easy to leave early.  Schools could offer affordable paid school vacation alternatives, like rec programs that would make it easier for parents to use days off for special events at school and not just because their kid has a winter break.  Businesses could offer a certain amount of “life event” days.  One of my former companies had these but they were limited to things like moving, bereavement or honeymoons.  Add in the option for 2-3 kid days a year would give a little relief.

I understand that I speak from a place of privilege, and that I have more resources and financials at my disposal than many parents.  So if it’s this hard for me, I can imagine how much harder it is for parents with less flexibility, less financial resources and less family around.   But regardless of the scale of who has it worse, the main point is this – we fundamentally need to figure out ways to make thing easier for working parents to be there for their kids.  Any ideas?

Party Pooper

Stick a fork in me. I am DONE.

I just spent 3 hours at a 5 year old’s birthday party, and I would like to make a confession. I hate birthday parties. I hate planning them. I hate going to them. (To be clear, I’m talking about kid parties, but you probably got that.) I do realize this is totally not about me. My son had a blast, and to be fair, it was a fantastic party at the science museum. They had breakfast, did some coloring, and then saw the butterfly exhibit. After that, a discussion of vertebrates and invertebrates where the kids got to touch a turtle, a salamander, a ferret, and see a scorpion light up under a blacklight. And then cake. So yeah. Pretty cool. Thanks kid parents! Now you’ve upped the ante and I’m totally stressed about MY kid’s 5th birthday party. Did I mention I hate planning parties?

Due to work scenarios, I am often the parent that goes to birthday parties. Now, remember, I have two kids. One is a fairly mellow, rules-following, people-pleasing 4.5 year old, and the other is the rules-don’t-apply-to-me, bull-in-a-china-shop almost-two-year old. Elliott, the 4 year old, wants me to sit with him and participate with him in the crafts or activities that are happening. Townes, the 2 year old wants to be running headlong in the other direction to get into something he should probably not be getting into. Then there is me. Caught in the middle, trying to please one kid, and keep the other from killing himself, while simultaneously trying to connect with the parents because I’m new-ish to this city and I’m trying to make and nurture new friendships. Juggling act.

Parties in someones home are ideal for me, although admittedly maybe not as fun for the kids. I like a finite space. Museums have twists and turns and stairs and corridors that Townes will surely want to explore and can disappear down one in the blink of an eye. That kid is FAST. Although in any setting, he will find a way to keep me on my toes, whether its grabbing a water bottle and tipping it all over himself, or pushing a chair up to the counter and attempting to get into the birthday cake. Oh yeah–and I was in the middle of a conversation with that mom about their summer vacation plans and I just freaking ghosted her, and probably will not see her again until next birthday party.

I find myself saying sorry a lot at birthday parties. Sorry to Elliott, who thought I had abandoned him as I raced around the corner to find Townes. Sorry to the host that Townes just destroyed the pipecleaner bracelet station, sorry to some parent that I had to turn and bolt in the middle of our conversation.

Birthday parties we’ve hosted up to this point pretty low key. Invite the kids over to our house to run around and be crazy, maybe color or run through the sprinkler or have a mini baseball game in the backyard. Hot dogs and cupcakes, beer for the parents. Basta cosi. But I feel like 5 is the gateway to the other side. Renting rooms, booking kid gyms, having cooking classes. My laissez faire party planning ain’t going to cut it anymore.

End of the party! Time for party favors! Guess how I feel about party favors? UGH. Bags of tiny things that the 2 year old will want to grab and possibly eat, and the 4 year old will be enamored with for 15 minutes then will get scattered to the winds in my house. Cheap trinkets that I will surreptitiously round up and dispose of as soon as I’m sure Elliott has forgotten about them. And we all do it, because we all do it. Its a vicious cycle. You gotta have party favors! Have a party with no favors? Unthinkable.

We take our gift bag and say our thank yous and head for the door. Lather, rinse, and repeat. We have another birthday party tomorrow.

The Cult of Motherhood

So, raise your hand if you participated in some Mother’s Day tea or other event at your child’s school this year. Adorable, right? I imagine these things are all pretty similar, so you probably had a morning much like mine. I showed up to a little breakfast of danishes and fruit and juice. (My toddler was thrilled because there is only one food group to a toddler: carbs). We all sat in a circle on the rug and the kids sang songs to us. You Are My Sunshine, Happy Mother’s Day to You! and my own personal favorite: MOTHERP. Oh, you don’t know MOTHERP? I didn’t either. Here goes:

M is for the Many things you gave me
O is for the Other things you gave me
T is for the Thousand things you gave me
H is for the Hundred things you gave me
E is for Everything you gave me
R is for the Rest of the things you gave me
P is for the Presents that you gave me
Put them all together and they spell MOTHERP!
(children dissolve into giggles)

The kids then went around and took turns saying “I love my mother because…” First up was Emme, who revealed “I love my mother because she lets me help her do laundry.” Right on, kid. You are welcome at my house anytime. Elliott offered up “I love my mother because she takes me to play basketball at the basketball court.” Hmmm, well…it’s actually Dad that does that, but OK. I’ll take it. I freeze when I’m put on the spot like that too. We were then presented with handmade gifts. Elliott’s class made necklaces. That’s a picture of the one he made me up there at the top of this post. I love it! Not made of macaroni, and thus pretty wearable in public. All in all, super heartwarming. File it in the memory bank to keep you warm when they become ungrateful teenagers, right?

And so here we are. Mother’s Day has passed, and school ends next week, and then summer vacation. Oh and somewhere there in the hazy heat of summer, Father’s Day happens, doesn’t it? Fathers don’t get invited to school for a breakfast in their honor. Father’s don’t get serenaded, and told why they are loved in front of a whole class of kids. (Fathers don’t get handmade necklaces, but they’re probably not too broken up about that.) In the midst of summer vacation, our dads are getting shafted, which is why I think we need to move Father’s Day up a bit (or have year-round school, but that’s an essay for another time).

Sure, you can have your own Father’s Day celebration at home and do all those things-make breakfast, sing songs, etc. But I think there is something to be said about preparing as a class and giving the idea that dads deserve praise too the reinforcement of a group celebration.

What I’m getting at is the abolishment of the Cult of Motherhood. Having a class party for moms and not dads enforces the idea of the Cult of Motherhood for our offspring’s impressionable minds. Yes, it’s super awesome to have a day and a celebration for the hard work I do as a mom. And yes, I think that even today moms still do in many circumstances more of that heavy lifting of parenthood for a variety of reasons. But dads are in the trenches too, and the more we send a message of equality to our kids, the more equal the future will become.

The Cult of Motherhood is killing us. You know what it is, even if you’ve never given it much thought until reading these lines. The Cult of Motherhood says that being a mother is the most important job a woman can do. The Cult of Motherhood degrades those that can’t have kids or don’t want to have kids. The Cult of Motherhood shames working moms, and lays guilt at all of our feet whenever we choose something for ourselves over our children. The Cult of Motherhood celebrates Pinterest Moms and perfect homemade birthday cakes, and highly-planned crafting afternoons that most of us won’t ever live up to. The Cult of Motherhood has got to go.

Every time you watch a movie where the dad is a bumbling idiot played for laughs, know the Cult of Motherhood is alive and well. Have you ever seen a woman out in the wild with a misbehaving child? Chances are the people around are wondering why SHE can’t get her child under control. See a man out with a child having a tantrum, and I’d place bets that people are thinking, “Aw. That poor dad sure is having a hard time!”

I watch competent dads every day. Dads that I am exposed to are not these bumbling sit-com fathers. They are killing it. And if they aren’t killing it, they are having the same struggles of parenthood that moms are. We can’t keep putting moms on on a pedestal and expect them to know everything, while we perpetuate the idea that fathers know nothing. Fathers know. Fathers parent, they don’t babysit. Let’s raise up the dads and tear down some pedestals and start leveling this playing field a bit.

Equality will only come from a shift in thinking that includes dads more, and singles out mothers less. We don’t need to fight for maternity leave, we need to fight for parental leave. Every parent deserves to bond with a new baby, and have time to adjust to the upheaval that brings to your life. And it needs to be encouraged that dads TAKE that paternity leave. Just to have it available and not use it does nothing. And Dads need a celebration all their own with a classroom full of kids singing to them.

So, let’s move Father’s Day up to the 2nd Sunday in April, and get some lyrics together for a new song called FATHERP. Get crackin’.