Tag Archives: kids

Sick Child Shoes

No doubt, you’ve all been in my shoes before, and they’re not pretty shoes. They are not bright red stilettos, made for dancing. They are not ballet slippers.

They are the shoes of a mom with a sick child. They are flat, and worn, and maybe a bit tired from over-work. The soles are hanging off and they are covered in splatters.

Walking in these shoes can be confusing; sometimes, you are sure your child is exaggerating. The dramatics of belly-rubbing and painful howls are just too much to believe. Instead of letting your kid stay home to vegetate on the sofa, you send her to school anyway.

And here’s when the mom-of-a-sick-child-shoes seem to suddenly become a size too small: when two hours after dropping her off, the school nurse calls, asking that you reclaim her as soon as possible. The throat is red; the temperature is high; the Oscar-worthy dramatics have calmed down and are a mere memory, as the silent child now lies still.

And then, there are the times that are just the opposite. There are times when you’re just a little bit duped. Weary of the daily demands of parenting, you’re too tired to diagnose or to consider. You march into your kid’s room in the wee morning hours wearing a nice pair of Italian leather wedges, and march out wearing the mom-of-a-sick-child shoes that you chose to put on all by yourself. In your heart of hearts, you know your little trooper needs to take off his Transformers PJ’s and get up and go. But no…you oblige.

This is what moms far and wide refer to as a mental health day. I’m quite sure, after having lived through a few myself, that the “mental health” is more concerned with the lady in the now-raggedy shoes, instead of with a kid who should be wearing a school uniform instead of a My Little Pony nightgown.

“Mental Health” days are not about bad parenting. They are not about trying to buck the system, or about not giving a hoot. In my experience, mental health days are our moments or admitting how important our pediatricians and other medical professionals are in our lives. It is our moment of saying: “Heck, I just don’t know!”

When the thermometer reads as borderline and the throat looks a little red…but not TOO red…we make this small concession to sanity and err with the PJs and the really awful cartoons. We wish we had a quick and effortless doctor’s appraisal to pull out of our back pocket BEFORE the school bus arrives–but we don’t. In these moments, we tend to take the path of least resistance…we go with the flow.

I wonder sometimes what lesson we teach our children on this one special day every year, this borderline sick day, this weird holiday when we pretend with our child that her condition is worse than it is. We always say something like “We both know you really weren’t THAT sick–don’t expect to get away with this ever again.”

As we turn away we may grin a little, remembering our own falsely amped-up fevers and the moaning and groaning bellyaches of our childhoods. Then, once we leave the room and our questionable behavior really hits home, we wonder: are we accidentally teaching a lesson that learning isn’t important? Are we teaching that exaggerating is okay? Are we teaching something that will come to haunt us?

Whatever the appraisal turns out to be, most all parents are guilty of the “mental health day” at least once during a child’s upbringing. Although I can’t condone this as a fitting regular behavior, or even a good one, I condone it as being fully human.

Sometimes we walk in the ugly sick child shoes because we have to; at other times, we do it because we’re just too damn tired to put on a pair of heels.



Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the humorous essay collection for women, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age.” She has read her work on NPR radio and it has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, including The Writer, Funny Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many parenting magazines. Find out more at KaraMartinezBachman.com or follow her on Twitter, @80sMomKara.

The Dream

My oldest, telling me his dream last night:

“So I’m in this room with Hannah (girl he’s been crushing on forever) and she’s with her friends. I have no pants on (because, of course, it’s my son) and she wants me to come sit with them. I have to tell her no, because I have no pants on. Then Bill Clinton walks in with his son and asks me to come with them. I have to tell them no too, because I have no pants on. Then I woke up.”

I’m not done trying to decipher this, but how does he know to have a dream with Bill Clinton and an issue with no pants???

Our Kitchen

It’s where we began. Our kitchen. It was the hub of our family, where we cooked, ate, laughed, played with pots and pans, looked out the window while doing dishes and imagined, remembered and lost ourselves in thought. It’s where you grew up.

It’s where you both taught me that no toy could compare to the fun and excitement of banging on the pots with the wooden spoon, or using the silicone baking cups with a bowl full of watery bubbles to create bubble art. I remember chubby hands, covered in soapy fun touching my cheek. I remember the smile, baby teeth still perfect, cheeks still holding on to toddler plumpness. I remember the way your hair curled; the way you would twirl your hair with your fingers and suck your thumb, coated in soap and all. I remember you showing your baby brother how to make bubble art, how you both laughed so hard it hurt to take a breath, because there was almost no room for breath with all the joy you were inhaling.

I remember the time the two of you baked banana bread together – standing on chairs, one reading directions and one holding the stir spoon. You were both so proud of yourselves. I remember our breakfasts around the table – no tv, no distractions, just us. Talking about the day, the dreams you’d each had the night before. That table held your Lego creations, the remnants of your play-doh masterpieces. We filled it with our cookies, breads and fudge each holiday. I wiped baby hand prints of mashed sweet potatoes and peas from its top and then later, toddler fingerprints and too soon, young boy handprints.

It’s where you both stood one morning, dish towel draped ceremoniously over your arm, your brother pulling out my chair as you welcomed me to my table. You’d prepared a wonderful breakfast of yogurt with sugar sprinkles, toast with butter on one half and coffee with so much creamer, it was nearly white. You and your brother had worked so hard to prepare breakfast for me as a surprise. The love I felt for you both and from you both, took my breath away.

It’s where we began each birthday, the table set with a plate full of sprinkled doughnuts, a fruit salad and each of your gifts, brightly wrapped and full of fun potential. It’s where we ate each birthday meal of pizza, tacos or hamburgers, laughing and enjoying the passing of another year. We marked each of your inches on the corner wall in red, amazed to see how quickly the marks were rising.

It’s where I have some of my happiest memories, our kitchen.

We’ve moved and our kitchen is not the same. With the move came time and with time came you each growing apart. The fights are more frequent, the harsh words sting more. Our new kitchen is bigger and at times, I’m lost. I miss the four close walls, where we would get lost too, but in the joys of childhood. I miss the laughter from the two of you as you slid around the kitchen floor being worms, or dogs or whatever mythical creature you’d dreamt up that morning.

I miss our kitchen. I miss those days of being young. I’m struggling now to figure out this new role I play, no longer having my cheek caressed with soapy hands or seeing the joy on your face when you make me breakfast. I understand this is how it has to be and I’ll be patient. Until we get through these harder years, while you pull away more and more. I’ll wait. I’ll try not to fight it, but I won’t always be successful. And when the day comes, when you and your brother are once again in the kitchen, grown men, laughing about your own family antics, I’ll feel at ease again. I’ll pull out the pots and pans, wooden spoon and bowl. I’ll fill it with warm, soapy water and the joy will engulf me once again, as I watch your kids experience the joy of childhood. In our kitchen.


It’s Magical This Time of Year

Tis the season, that magical time of year

When the Elf on the Shelf comes, to spread some cheer

His gangly red limbs, my boys do adore

His weird ass smile I do deplore

Each night in panic, at midnight I wake

Rushing to move him, so much at stake

My boys still believe, the magic is real

But I hate this elf, that’s just how I feel

Each night must be better than the one before

I’m out of ideas, I’ll scour the internet no more

Maybe this year Jingle comes with a letter

“I’m old these days and I’m not getting better

It’s all I can do to get here each night

So I’m staying put in the line of sight

No more flour angels, no more Lego scenes

I’m old, I’m tired, and you know what that means?

I’m retiring next year, this Christmas is it

I’m moving to Maui; no more Christmas sh*t.”

He’ll sign it with love, my boys will cry

“Why is Jingle retiring Mommy, why oh why?”

I’ll look at their faces, all sweet and sad

And tell them it’s because their fighting, made Jingle mad.

Dear New Neighbor, Please Let me Explain

Hello new neighbor and welcome to the neighborhood. I wanted to apologize for not stopping by to say a proper hello and welcome; I feel terrible for being so rude. I saw you wave this morning and I wanted you to know I was trying to wave back. Turns out, I hadn’t put the lid on my coffee mug correctly, and as I raised my hand (and coffee mug) to say hi, it spilled all over my lap. Ouch! THAT was why you only heard me drive by and exclaim, “Oh for f&ck’s sake, you’re an idiot!” That was NOT directed at you but I understand how, with my window rolled down, me making eye contact and then belting that out, you would think it was directed at you. I was late to an appointment because the dog had decided to roll around in his sh*t that morning, which I had to clean up before leaving. I was frazzled which explains why the lid was not tightly on my mug.

After this exchange, and the ones previously (blush), I thought I should write a little note to explain things, so you don’t end up quickly moving to the other side of the street when walking by, or telling your kids they cannot come play at the “weird” neighbor’s house.

Last weekend, when I was walking my dog, I did wave (yay me) and noticed you looked odd when you waved back. I couldn’t figure out why and assumed you were just a little snooty and rude. It wasn’t until I got home, that I realized I was wearing my pink rhinestone studded tiara. That might have looked a little crazy. See, my son bought me the tiara for Christmas last year and said it made him sad I never wore it. In truth, I hadn’t been able to find it and was unpacking a box from our move (over a year ago) and found it! So I put it on to make him happy, then forgot I had it on and took the dog for a walk. I am NOT that woman who wears a tiara to walk the dog. Well, I guess I AM that woman but, well, you get it. I’ll need to let the other neighbors know too. Who would have thought it would be THAT night, that I meet 5 of our new neighbors!

I also wanted to explain the conversation you heard in the backyard the other day. As you’ve seen, I have 3 boys between the ages of 7 and 12. It gets a little wild here! I was not really going to tape up my son’s butthole with duct tape if he did not stop farting on his brother’s head. I mean, I would love to (because the farts are never-ending it seems) but I would never really do that.

When I was on my deck and I yelled that if my son asked me one more time to come wipe his butt, I was going to make him start wiping mine – that was only said in frustration. I am completely capable of wiping my own butt, obviously, and of course would never make my son do that. I just get tired of telling my 12 year old to wipe his own butt. You get it right?

I also need to apologize because my oldest told me you came by the other day to borrow our ladder. I guess my son told you he couldn’t ask me because I was having Mommy’s Naked Time. See, the only way to ensure my boys don’t barge into my room looking for me, is to tell them I am naked. Then they knock. So sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, I escape into my room to play a little Candy Crush without interruption and I tell them I am dressing and naked. I only take a half hour or so, but I guess they have now dubbed it Mommy’s Naked Time. Ha, ha, boys…You can come borrow the ladder tonight if you still need it.

Finally, I am so sorry for this afternoon when my youngest came to your house asking if you knew where I was. I know you were a bit panicked but everything was ok really. They’d been fighting all afternoon. When I went into the bathroom to yell at them to stop, they were having a “sword fight”…with their pee. I kind of lost it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get the pee off the ceiling and the dog was standing there licking the floor. I just needed to be alone. I told them to all go to their rooms and I hid in my closet. Sometimes, I hide in there, where everything smells clean and it is dark and no one can find me. I guess my youngest decided to leave his room to come looking for me and freaked when he couldn’t find me. I am sorry he frightened you enough to call the police (I don’t know where he came up with the idea that I had been kidnapped) and that you had to deal with that whole scene.

I’m really a nice woman and usually a very good neighbor. I would love to have you over for dinner, I think the kids will get along better (I’ve talked to my boys about never using the dried dog poo in the backyard as bullets in their Nerf guns, so that shouldn’t be an issue anymore if the kids play Nerf wars. I am so sorry your kids had to experience that).

Let me know if you’re free soon and we’ll plan something. I have lots of wine to choose from. Or beer. We also have rum, vodka, tequila, and well, we can find something you might like.


Your New Neighbors.

My Square Peg

I’ve been waking up every day a failure. I’ve started my days with a host of hopes, plans, good intentions and patience. I’ve ended my day’s hopeless, behind on tasks, forlorn and impatient. Why? Because I am a mother. I have 2 young sons who are full of life, big ideas, vibrant energy, questions about the world, frustrations, energy, fears and a little more energy. And one of my boys is different. I remember the first time I read an article in a magazine and it referred to the writer’s situation (the same situation I am in) as raising a child with “disabilities.” I was shocked. I was taking a bath after having put the boys to bed and relishing in having some alone time to read. I had been looking forward to the article on the cover, hoping it might offer some insight or hope for my situation. I ended the article indignant that the author had called my child disabled. Disabled? I had never in my sons 12 years thought of him as disabled. He’s completely normal, all 12 years of awkward teeth coming in, bad haircuts (that he refuses to comb into a good haircut), mismatched clothes and gangly limbs. Normal. But as I sat soaking, I began to think about “normal.” Was he normal? My body lit up and I could feel the shock in my blood, as my mind screamed, “No!” I had goosebumps sitting in the warm water.

My son is different. He is silly and playful like most 12 year old boys, but he does not know when to stop. He sings a song – repeatedly. Again and again and with each iteration, his voice gets louder, shriller, until whomever is nearby harshly demands he stop. Which most times leads him to look up, perplexed and ask, “Stop what?” He does not sit still; constantly moving, shaking his legs, humming – anything that involves the opposite of stillness. He cannot concentrate on most day-to-day tasks like brushing his teeth, homework, cleaning his room, or school. He hyper focuses on other things like television, Lego’s, or the idea of going to buy a new toy. He is unable to sit and listen to a conversation without interrupting, asking questions, making comments or changing the subject. He wants to make people laugh more than anything, but he does not know when to stop. When the laughs stop, he does not. He’s just “too.” Too loud, too fidgety, too silly, too unfocused, too rude, too oblivious for most people. He’s the quintessential square peg in a round world. Jagged edges, hard to grasp and a little clunky.

I am constantly told by people and family, “He just needs more…” Their more translates to rules, discipline, consequences, restrictions, schedules. And I am left feeling like less. Less of a good parent, less of a disciplinarian. Less of a whole person because my son is normal, with disabilities. If they only knew how we have tried those things. Repeatedly and without success. Clamping down just does not work for him.

ADHD is talked about so much these days; everyone has heard of it, everyone has an opinion about it and yet, I am having trouble finding people who understand what it is like to live it. What it is like to watch this little person, who you are responsible for raising into a functioning big person, struggle. Every. Single. Day. To watch them consistently be told they are not doing it right, not doing enough, lacking, and failing, simply because he is himself. To be the parent of someone who you love almost more than your next breath, but who constantly takes from you. Who just by being themselves, leaves you a little less whole. Who requires so much time, energy, constant giving from you, that you end your day as a self-perceived failure. “If only I’d…” and the only’s stack up, daily, and leave you so weighted down, sometimes all you can do is take one single breath at a time and hope it’s enough.

But lately there’s a shift in me. The more I read and experience with my son the more I think I’ve had it all wrong. I lay in bed at night and think back on our day, the week, the whole time I have had the privilege of being my sons mother, it’s hit me, “Disabled my a*&!!” The older he gets the more I find myself hating “normal.” I get to laugh with him and explore this BIG world he lives in and I know – my son is what this world needs. Creativity, a big thinker, someone who is not happy just mooing his way blindly in the herd. Someone who wants and wants BIG. Someone who cares for others in a way that at times, makes me cry with shame. Because he is showing me all the beauty and goodness of him and his world and it’s a world I have not been living in and may not always understand but it’s a glorious world. A world where learning can happen standing, hopping or humming. Where learning history could move beyond writing about it to being an epic movie created on his iPad. Or a drawing complete with a small dragon in the corner because hell, why not?? Where humming while he eats, with his leg up on the chair, does not have to mean he has no class or manners. It could mean he is processing his day and making connections with what he learned and the song he is humming. OR, it could just mean he is humming. But in the end, it does not mean he is lacking.

He shows me the beauty and chaos of being a kid with ADHD, someone who doesn’t always fit in. Someone who challenges the norm. And someone who has so much to offer this world, I get chills thinking of what he could teach ME. What he could teach us. My square peg might not fit in this round world, but he’ll find a way I believe, to make his way. And I am seeing that I should count myself one of the luckiest mother’s in the world to get to watch him and learn from him. He’ll soon make his sharp corners an asset and maybe even, the norm.


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