Guilt and Photography

I feel like my life, parenthood especially, is a constant struggle against time. Time is moving too swiftly or too slowly, leaving me either breathless in its wake or frustrated and eager for what comes next. My coping mechanisms, of which I have two- guilt and photography, are inadequate.

When I think of how quickly my kids are growing up my heart squeezes with the early pangs of nostalgia. All too soon my house will be empty of squeals and giggles and the pitter-patter (actually much more like elephant thumps) of little feet. As much as I long for peace and quiet, I know that’s my eventual reward and I don’t want it too soon. I may crave physical space, (must we always be touching?) but I know that I will never again have the heat from their small forms curled affectionately against my body; my hand will be forever bereft of their little hands to hold. I will no longer be the embodiment of safety and comfort.

Stay young, kids. Stay naive and sweet and full of that open bursting joy that comes with childhood. Stay small. Stay here- in my arms, under my roof, driving me crazy- for a while longer.

I’m sorry I’ve been impatient. Yes, I want to hear you sing that song again. Yes, I’ll watch your cartwheels and bike tricks and monkey bar accomplishments.

Another snack? Sure, my darlings.

Yes, I will tuck you in again and read another story. I’m sorry I get annoyed when you come back downstairs. Let’s go up together and savor these moments.

Anything. You can have anything and everything from me.

Guilt and longing. So I take photos. I take hundreds of them trying to freeze time, hold on to this. If I can capture that messy haired, barefooted moment of exalted summertime little-kid-ness, then it will stay with me forever. If I take photos of all of this, then surely my guilt will be assuaged.

Look, life, I’m not impatiently waiting for them to get bigger and put themselves to bed. I’m savoring. SAVORING! So you can slow down a bit. I get it.

But it doesn’t slow down. It can’t. Click.Click. I take more pictures.

At the same time, these very same people who I long to hold onto but who move through my arms inevitably, liquid and beautiful and unattainable as quicksilver, drive me completely crazy. Their noise and movement are constant and relentless against my senses, completely overwhelming. I just want a break.

Just a moment’s peace, please! Please stop asking me for this or that.

Please let me walk away. No, I don’t want to watch.

Please stop fighting.

Do you have to make noise at all times? Can’t you be still for just a moment?

Seriously, you’re hungry again?

Look around you at all we’ve provided for your enrichment and entertainment. You have books and toys and bikes and a big yard with a freaking swing set in it! There are hoses and sprinklers and balls and a stream and woods full of mysteries to explore!

Go! Go away and do the things!

Puddle gazing

Oh, look how adorable! Heads together they study some small puddle. Click.Click. And now, look how they chase each other around the house on their bikes. Click.

Their shouts and laughter follow them as they move through their world at a dizzying pace, everyday growing infinitesimally larger, infinitesimally closer to leaving all of this behind for the trappings of bigger kids, leaving me behind as a relic of their littleness, no longer wanted as desperately as I’m wanted now. Click.Click.Click.Click.

Guilt and longing. So I take photos.  

Why I’m afraid of summer vacation

Summer vacation is around the corner and I’m afraid. The hours of unstructured time yawning before me, stretching unfathomably far into the future, have me quaking in my flip-flops. The very fact that I’m filled with dread speaks to my clear maternal deficiencies. According to the internet, other mothers feel excited about all the “quality time” summer affords them. They see sprinklers, trips to the zoo, and happy exhausted children experiencing childhood without the stress and rigors of school. I see something much more sinister that mostly involves whining, yelling, tears over dropped popsicles, and sweat.

Are my children worse than everyone else’s? Perhaps other people’s children wake to a day of nothingness and think: I can ride my bike, read in the shade, chase butterflies, and enjoy my youth today! Mine don’t. Mine wake up early and already bored; the water in the sprinkler is too cold and the sun at the amusement park is too hot; the water guns got run over by the lawn mower and they don’t wanna read a book in the shade.

I suspect that it’s me that’s worse. The other mothers head off their children’s boredom by constantly organizing outings and activities. My children are insatiable though. We could spend all morning at a water park only to have them complain of boredom before we’ve made it out of the parking lot on our way home. They will play games, but only if I play with them. And here lies the crux of the problem: I don’t want to play with them. (See what I mean about maternal deficiency?) Those other mothers must enjoy the time spent with their children. I love my kids. I really do. Just thinking about them squeezes my heart in that slightly uncomfortable desperate way. But I like them more in theory than in practice.

At five and eight, their charms are not quite fully developed. Their jokes suck and their manners leave much to be desired. They’re not very good at games; they cry easily; and they whine and complain over every discomfort and delay – a mosquito bite or feeling peckish is the end of the world. I’m not much of a people person to begin with, but if I have to be around people I prefer adults, specifically the ones who have actually interesting things to say, actually funny senses of humor, and basically never ever fart on me.

We have some local day camps which my kids love. It’s a win-win situation as none of us really excel at dealing with unstructured time. The drawback is my guilt over sending them. After all, I’m supposed to be cherishing this time because it all goes so fast. Soon my little kids will be big kids, worse teenagers, and then they’ll move out and I’ll pine for these days. Today’s guilt transformed into tomorrow’s regret. They want so badly to play with me now and they’ll want nothing at all to do with me soon. Now’s the time I have to instill all the values in them, build the trust so they come to me when they’re grappling with serious problems, make sure they never drink and drive. I should be doing all of that while we cut star shapes out of watermelons and cover the driveway in chalk art.

But no matter how much I wish it, I’m not that Pinterest mom. I can’t keep my house organized with just 2 minutes per day, and I can’t spend a day with my kids without all of us fraying our last nerves. And so I’ll live with dread now, guilt soon, and regret further on. Bring on camp!

 

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Tips to Survive the Summer Sun

It’s officially the time of year when parents struggle to smear their children with various lotions and sprays, all very much against the will of the children themselves. For their part, the kids complain bitterly about sunscreen application (how bad can it really be?) and react to mosquito bites without an ounce of reasonable proportion.

Fun!

Fun or no, sun protection is a must. I had my first basal cell removed when I was 30. Skin cancer is serious, people, and having spots cut out of you hurts and leaves scars. Whether you’re a fair-skinned burner like me, or easily tan to golden brown, the sun is not your skin’s friend.

My kids have never had a sunburn, despite both being fair and spending summer days primarily not allowed indoors. I take sun protection seriously.

Quick tips for protecting your family from the sun:

  1. Hats – have plans for a day at the beach or a shade-starved park? Everyone wears a hat, in addition to sunscreen. (At the beach or pool? Swim shirts are a must. – the less skin showing, the less struggling with wriggly kids you have to endure.)
  2. Do you really need sunscreen today? It’s sort of cloudy, after all. Here’s a tip I learned after a developing a blistering burn on a cloudy day – if you squint looking at the sky, then you need sunscreen!
  3. Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more often if sweating or playing in water.
  4. Size matters. A little dab will not do ya when it comes to sunscreen. To achieve the SPF protection listed on the bottle, you need to apply about a golf ball sized blob to your (average adult) body. (Good thing kids are smaller!)
  5. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your family from both UVA and UVB rays with SPF of 15 or higher.

There are so many different types of sunscreen out there, which is good, because I’ve found that it takes an arsenal. It is not a one-size-fits-all product. I have a variety at home, keep a few in my car and purse, and bring at least 3 with me to the beach. Here’s what I keep in my sunscreen arsenal:

  1. For my sensitive skinned child I find that the physical barrier sunscreens (those that contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide) work better than the chemical based sunscreens. The only downside with these is that they are more difficult to rub in and can make your kids look like Casper.
  2. For my hard to catch child I use a high SPF (30+), sweatproof, waterproof sports sunscreen. These blend in easily and I can usually cover him before he decides that standing still for me is optional.
  3. Generally I prefer lotions over sprays, but sprays have their place too. They are perfect for quick touch ups for hard to reach places like feet in sandals (and my own back).
  4. A day at the pool or beach means reapplications to wet skin. Thankfully, they’ve developed sunscreens that actually go on wet kids. These are a must have!
  5. One of the best things I’ve found is sunscreen/bug repellant combos. You can even find some lotions that offer a physical sunscreen in addition to deet free bug protection. Do they smell delicious? No, but they work!
  6. When my kids are at camp they each carry a small bottle of easily rubbed-in sunscreen. Turns out, they don’t mind doing it so long as it’s fast and they don’t turn white. (They will lose these, so don’t send them with your large bottle of expensive lotion. Invest in a few travel sized ones instead.)

Sunscreen application is not the highlight of anyone’s summer, but it’s non-negotiable. Considering my kids’ reaction to mosquito bites and splinters, I’d like to avoid dealing with sunburn forever if possible.

Sunscreen Micrographic

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by CHPA which has provided me compensation to write about the safe and appropriate use of OTCs. All content, views, and opinions are my own.

For more sun smart tips check out: http://www.knowyourotcs.org/2013/07/tips-to-ensure-youre-sunscreen-savvy/

CHPA