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Baby Accessory

I’d love to say I got my stuff accomplished today. I’d love to say I felt that surge of productivity, that high you get when you got a little creative time in for you on the side. But the week writing this, I was about cleaning up after the party, laundry, and baby.

Fiona reading from

Mostly, It feels like I’m biding my time. Waiting for relief from someone to be free enough to finish the projects I owe other people.

It can feel like I’m a computer desktop with a dozen tabs and programs open and running. And I’m chugging to finish all the tasks simultaneously. It’s slow going and inefficient and yet is all that can be done on this old computer.

Fiona reading from

Some days I say, Fiona just wants to sit on my head. She wants to be my lovely baby accessory. One that drools and shrieks and sits on your head.

The job of being a parent is an extraordinarily hard one and not for the faint of heart. Our humanity comes in to trip us up so often, it often a miracle we get anything accomplished or create functional families. But we do. And we do. Thank goodness for miracles.

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She’s eyeing up my head. How much of me will she need in the next minute, hour, or day. And is that a sneeze? Oh not a cold. She’ll be in permanent hat mode until weeks end. Sigh. And I end up with it too.

The Fixing Chair : How Discipline Means Love

 I’m a Mean Mommy. My husband is a Mean Daddy. As a result, our son is a charming and mostly- confident little guy. He trusts and respects our authority. The secret to this? Discipline. I’m not talking about the “go out in the backyard and cut your own switch” type of discipline. We show our child we care enough to teach him right from wrong, respect for authority, and we hope he will grow to have self-discipline, self-esteem, and self-confidence. We began this parental journey not having a clue how to do this.

I had many of those mother moments when I felt lost and incompetent. I loved my out of control two-year old but my arsenal was empty after one too many shoot outs at the OK Corral. While desperately skimming my stack of library books to create a battle plan for a toddler counterattack, I stumbled on a book by renowned author T. Berry Brazelton who explained that discipline shows your children they matter.

By age two, they very well know right behavior from wrong. My two year-old knew had me duped until his hand was within striking distance of the no-no, a cat’s tail or lamp, and he shot me the look. If children decide they are loved by your reaction to their behavior, then if you don’t correct them, they assume they’re unworthy. Brazelton also wisely pointed out, if you give them too much praise, they doubt you, and if the only attention they get is negative attention, they will make sure they get their fill.

Kids crave boundaries because they are proof of love and safety. I set non-negotiable boundaries with him. Typing them and posting them so we all knew what they were. These can include the family’s rules of what is permissible or off-limits to touch, how to behave, or how to treat people or animals. The opposite of setting boundaries, following through, and showing your kid the validity of your word, is showing your child they don’t matter.

The administration of the pre-stated consequences for breaking the understood rules and boundaries is discipline. Preceded by a verbal warning, the disciplinary action should be fair and age appropriate. If the child’s next choice is to disobey anyway, he/she has chosen to engage in the battle to see who wins. They are hoping you win.

He says “no” but he came to live with me, my friend once said. Too many choices in his world will make his little brain explode. Continually overwhelmed, children can become “control freaks” trying to quell their fear of a world they’ve been led to believe they have control over but don’t. If there are no trustworthy consistent internalized boundaries, children can then carry these fears and become controlling anxious adults. Sound like anyone you know?

Consistency, my husband reminded me, is another important part of discipline providing trust between parent and child. The three year-old wonders if thirty-nine seconds later, you still mean what you said. What about on Tuesdays? Or if the wind is from the North? As his parents, we compared notes on no-no’s, administered the same discipline, and noticed we had a child who mostly minded us. Consequently, he was given a little more freedom. He trusted that if he’d been given a warning and still chose to misbehave, I would put him in what we called the “Thinking chair.” He called it the “Fixing chair.”

This was our chosen disciplinary device and the number one best thing we established to help us parent, thanks to my husband who was brave enough to put our son in the chair for his very first two minutes. The thinking chair method became, I explained why he was in there, kept him there for as many minutes as his age, and then re-explained why he was there and asked for his apology if necessary. In the following two years, it has been used as an either/or choice as in, “Stop hitting the kitty or sit in the thinking chair”. It’s been an exile destination for distracting toys. And I have put myself there when I needed to calm down.

The result of discipline, expectations, and boundaries will be a child who can fly from the nest and thrive. If we ask our children to stay reliant, we rob them of the opportunities and joys they are entitled to as humans. Your boundaries, self-discipline, and trust become theirs. The happy ending is the creation of an independently thinking confident child. Knowing you’re loved is powerful stuff.

Fiona from the Thinking Chair on

Happy First Birthday Fiona Marie

Fiona turned one today. She is truly One-derful. She’s been busy making sure she could walk and talk like a legitimate toddler. As she moves across the room, she puts her hands in the air and her hips slowly pivot like she’s wading through a lagoon. And she’s such a talky girl. She’s already got Mama, Dada, and Gat and talking with such inflection it’s fascinating. She’s moving on and we will celebrate her first birthday this weekend with a little gnosh and cake.

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As you may know, her appearance in our lives was miraculous. At the age of 45, desperate to not have Eamon be the only child I had with Mr. Right, I conceived her. I was ready to let the Universe decide my fate and it did.

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She’s a miracle to me and I could gush but instead, let me tell you about Fiona’s impact on the other people in our life. In one year, Mark’s Mom and Dad, in their late 70′s, were blessed with two miraculous granddaughters. All the grandparents are delighted beyond words. There’s a special bond for grandparents and the children glow in their eyes.

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My son loves her so much and she him. Like the moon and the stars. They are so smitten with each other. Crazy cute. Her Daddy is done for and I am looking forward to seeing this little girl get the love and attention from him that she is entitled to. To watch the love expound exponentially within a family is an amazing gift.

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And her gift to me? She has shown me that I can be my best me, love me and all I do, and that will be the role model I am for her. To ask to be treated with respect from my life. To make the creative most of my days, and to continue to laugh and cook and play and be fearless so that she may know her life is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Fiona from The Thinking Chair on

Happy Birthday Fiona.

You silliness feeds my soul.

Your beauty is breathtaking.

Your love bottomless.

We love you Mrs. Boodge.

Loser Mommy

This is a piece I published on Divine Caroline two and a half years ago. Back when Eamon was an only child.  My son is nearly nine now but I always liked this piece. So enjoy the rebroad.

I really hope my six-year-old turns out sweet and functional. I am doubtful, especially when I realize my humanity will be to blame for his dysfunction. Never have I been so aggravated or heartbroken by anyone. Not even by my ex-husband, a man who yelled first and was bigger than me. My son was two when I realized I was the “yeller” mom I’d sworn I’d never be.

There are weeks when I could blame my PMS or the full moon for the discourse in my house. It still doesn’t make it less stressful. And if I’m not feeling like the strongest, wisest, most confident mother, the little guy can smell the doubt like a predator smells blood. And that’s his cue to go into uber-obnoxious mode. Maybe because he’s scared that if I’m not driving, he’ll have to? It amounts to a car wreck all the same.

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My husband told me last night that, after being tested one and two and three times by our son during bath time, for which he had to calmly reply, correct the child, or just wade through the wreckage, he said he was done. I said imagine having that feeling when it’s only nine o’clock in the morning and you have the rest of the day to be tested. Guess what? You fail the parent test.

There is this June Cleaver expectation in my head that I’m supposed to be calm and patient and easygoing with my child, always. Stern and gentle. Wise and silly. Instead, I feel like I’ve spent a good part of our six years together tolerating him in public, berating him in private, and not being proud of myself in my head.Where the hell's the DS from

The morning of the Little League parade, he chose Shredded Wheat cereal for breakfast, let it get soggy, and then demanded a bagel instead. This was not the first time this had happened. As I knew this would happen, I fought my first inclination to yell. Instead, I engaged him in a conversation about what led to the sogginess and what he thought we could do to solve this ongoing problem. He suggested he could talk less and eat more quickly. Bravo for both of us.

Throughout the day, when applicable, I reminded him that Mommy had made a better choice that morning by not choosing to yell. Leading by example is easier said than done. Even if I could just find the power to nod and smile because he’ll move out soon enough. Surely, the feelings of incompetency will diminish after he’s gone to college. And here comes three months of summer! Wish him luck.

The Truth For Her

Having a baby inspires empowering choices

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we might never have made prior.

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Suddenly self-respect and self-love are ours to model,

Baby and me Fiona

our parting gift to them.

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So I ask, how do we tell the truth about who we used to be

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and maintain our self-respecting Mommy-ness?

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Separate who we were from who we are

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 and be so cautious to not smear our fear all over their beautiful little faces?

This was inspired by a comment I made here.

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