I don’t like you, Mommy

“I don’t like you, Mommy,” I whispered into my mother’s ear. “I love you.” I giggled, tickled with myself. I thought I was the cleverest 5-year-old she could ever meet. I nestled into her lap, certain I would fit there forever.

I asked her a few years ago if she remembered this moment, which is still so vivid in my mind. She said, “No, but do you know what I do remember? I remember the exact moment when I realized your world no longer revolved around me.”

I asked her to tell me about it. She declined.

Fast forward, oh, about a thousand years. I have my own daughters. They are 6 and 8 years old. I am their favorite person. Of course, if they’re hanging out with just my husband, he’s their favorite person. Or if I’m forcing them to do their homework, he’s again the easy favorite. Seems fair.

When I pick up my oldest, Zaffron, from school, her face brightens and she yells, “Mommy!” with the same delight I used to have when I heard the tinkling, tinny music from the ice cream truck down the street. “Ice cream!”

She even pulled the “I don’t like you, I love you” joke on me recently. “I got you, didn’t I?” she asked grinning.

I grinned too. But with a small tug of anxiety. This is all so temporary.

Zaffron and I were standing across from her school hand in hand. When a boy she has a crush on walked near us, she casually dropped my hand. After he passed by, she grabbed it again, not missing a beat. That was last Monday. Last Thursday, the scenario repeated itself. This time, her little hand didn’t seek mine out after the boy had passed. As we walked silently to her classroom, she was perfectly content, completely unaware she had skipped that second step, so vital to reassuring me of my place in her heart.

Yesterday in the car, where most of the important stuff comes up, I realized boys aren’t the only things that might force the gap between us wider.

My husband and I adopted Mgazi, my youngest, from Africa when she was 2 years old. We’ve always been very open with her about her adoption, sharing as many details as are age appropriate.

“Mommy, would it be OK if I loved my other mommy too?” she asked.

“Your Africa mom? Of course! You can love her as much as you want, honey.”

“Will you be mad if I love her more than you?”

Zaffy couldn’t take it. “What the heck are you talking about? You don’t even know that lady!”

“Mgazi, you are going to find that, as the years go by, you will love lots of people in different amounts. Sometimes lots. Sometimes not so much. Someday you might feel that you love your Africa mommy more than me. That’s OK.”

“Don’t be mad, but I think I love her more than you right now.”

A sigh from Zaffy.

“It’s OK, Zaff. You too, Gaz. You love your Africa mom just as much as you need to.”

I spoke with as much love and reassurance as I could muster. After all, she’s only 6. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She hasn’t seen her birth mother since she was three days old.

I’ve got time.

My mother says she knew exactly when things were different between us. Like a Band-Aid that was suddenly ripped off. My Band-Aid, which is Hello Kitty by the way, is being pulled off more slowly, gradually revealing the bittersweet heartache I’ll endure as my children grow up and away from me, bit by bit.


This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, an amazing parenting site where parents let loose, under the title, Mom’s Growing Pains: The Sweet Sorrow of Raising Kids.

(photo credit: arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net)


Want to be a better mom? Leave the kids at home!

I’m a selfish parent, which makes me kind of a crappy parent. I have a solid distaste for parenting logistics. I can’t stand making school lunches. I hate filling out permission slips. Counting out the exact change for a field trip, sealing it in an envelope, and tucking it into my daughter’s backpack for safe delivery drives me insane. Why? A rock-hard nugget of knowing nestled deep inside my belly tells me I’ll be counting out that same damn change the very next day because said child managed to lose said envelope.

It’s not that I don’t recognize or experience the joyful parts of parenting as well. I love the cuddles, the kisses, the pride of witnessing a flash of insight — “Mommy, I get it! A bus actually stops at the bus stop! Whoever named it that must have been really smart.”

It’s just that the day-in-day-out drudgery sometimes outweighs the wonder. I’m a woman with dreams and aspirations and no time to pursue them because I’m too busy shuttling, cleaning, cooking, and all-round bedazzling. I am, in point of fact, more than a mother. I think. In my lowest moments, I resent having ever gotten involved with this parenting business in the first place.

Of course, the minute I lay eyes on one of my daughters I’m immediately ashamed. Unless the child is whining. Or sticky.

In 2010, the situation had become such that I had nearly checked out of our family altogether. I became a zombified version of myself. Granted, other factors besides my aversion to mommy logistics were involved. But it did seem that my main purpose in life was to fill the roles everyone else needed me to fill —as a wife, mother, and adoption advocate. I was never just Kristine, and I was terribly unhappy. I began modeling for my daughters the exact type of woman I hoped they would never become.

So I did something I considered quite drastic. I went to Paris for ten days. Alone. With no kids, no husband, and no particular plan. I was completely free to make decisions affecting no one but myself. Red or white wine with my moules-frites? How about both? I can get drunk if I want to. There’s no homework to review. No laundry to wash. I was accountable to no one but myself.

It was freeing. And restorative. I got a full night’s sleep for ten delicious nights — in a row. For the first time in years, I had true quiet time. This gave me the chance to examine my life from an unrushed distance. What was working? What wasn’t? Why was I so unhappy when all my problems were First World ones?

No, I didn’t find all the answers. But I did get to know myself again. And I discovered that I actually liked her quite a bit. I uncovered a compassion for her that had previously been absent.

And I realized this: Parenting may be primarily what I do, but it is not fully who I am.

Am I still a selfish parent? Hell yes. Am I still a crappy parent? Pretty much. I wish I could say that I left that part of myself in France, but I didn’t. Thanks to some time alone, however, I now know that I can be a better mother to my children if I parent them as a whole person — with a little bit of Post-Paris Kristine mixed in.


This post was originally published at Families in the Loop under the title, More Than a Mom: Why I Traveled to Paris Alone. I’m very grateful for their support.



Thoughtless Words Get Me Into Trouble (Again)

Families in the LopSo, I was asked to contribute to a Chicago parenting site called Families in the Loop last month. Their tagline is “where parents let loose.” In other words, they say what they actually think, not what they are supposed to think. And they swear a lot. (They’re all kinds of awesome.)

So, I wrote this piece called “All I Want for Christmas is to Knock Out My Kid’s Two Front Teeth.” Zaffy had lost her top front tooth, her third one. And it was upsetting to her, just like losing her first two. She vacillated between exhilaration and terror. Laughing and crying. Poor thing didn’t know what to feel.

I felt sorry for her. But I was also annoyed. That’s what got me into trouble. She turned on me when I helped her with her tooth and then I turned on her in a very un-grown-up like way.

It’s not always funny.



Parenting Fail: Feeling Like a Big Pile of “Sheet”

She had begged me to help her get her tooth out. So I did. And immediately after it came out, the little stinker accused me of some insidious plot to rid her of her teeth, like I could sell them on Craigslist. (Hmmm, note to self …)

It was awful, being 180’d in this way by my seven-year-old after I tried so hard to help her. The first thing that popped into my head was “you little shit.”

I didn’t say it out loud, of course. I just thought it in my head for a second before it disappeared. Not even a second – a nanosecond.

But it didn’t go away. It became a permanent thing the moment I decided to include it in my previous FITL post. I made yet another of my quite frequent dumbass parenting decisions. I let Zaffron read the post before I submitted it.

“Why did you call me little sheet?” Zaffron asked.

Oops. I had forgotten I included that part.

“Actually, honey, if you read carefully, you’ll see that Mommy didn’t call you a little sheet. I called you a little … Sweetie, if you read extra carefully. you’ll see I didn’t call you anything at all. I only thought it in my head.”

“But you typed it down.”

My five-year-old piped in. “You typed it down, Mom.”

“Mgazi, this isn’t your conversation.” I pulled Zaffron close to me. “Zaffy, I didn’t actually think that.” Eek! My first lie (of the day). “I just wrote that I thought that.”

“But you always say that you write what actually happens in our family.”

“Well, that’s not exactly true, honey.” Damn. Did it again. A full 96% of what I chronicle is spot on. “Sometimes I exaggerate. Remember we talked about the word ‘exaggerate?’”

“Oooh, Zaffy, I think Mommy is lying to you.”

“Mgazi! This is none of your business!”

“But you are zaggerating to Zaffy!”

I shot back my standard response for when my children are right and I am wrong. “Go clean your room!”

“Mommy,” Zaffy asked, “What exactly is a sheet?”

And so I told her, being sure to demonstrate the proper pronunciation. Then I gave her permission to use the word, so long as she wasn’t at school and she used it appropriately.

“Were you using it appropriately when you told the public you think I’m a little poop?”


I had actually hurt my daughter.

This was not my regular parenting fail, which could be smoothed over with jokes and a few kisses. As Zaffron pulled away from me, her face displayed the confusion, sadness, and disbelief that her mother would turn on her in this way.

I felt like a big pile of sheet.


This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, an amazing blog run by some incredible women in Chicago. I’m grateful for their support.

[photo credit: photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net]


All I Want for Christmas Is to Knock Out My Kid’s Two Front Teeth

Wow. That title sounds bad.

Would it be better if I told you that she asked me to do it?

My daughter had thrown herself face-down on my bed and I heard a muffled, “Please, I just want this over with.”

“What’s that?” I was barely paying attention, absorbed as I was in making a mental list of the presents I needed to buy so my husband would have something to give me on Christmas morning.

“Just get it out of me. I don’t want to do this anymore.” My 7-year-old flipped over, flailing her arms and legs. “PULEEEEZ! Please, please, please! I want it out!”

Since I was pretty sure she wasn’t giving birth, I decided that she must be talking about her loose tooth. A top front tooth had been loose for months. During the last few days, it had been aggravating her to no end.

“Okay,” I said, “Let’s see what we can do.” We sat facing each other on my bed and recreated a scene we had acted out twice before with her bottom teeth. “First, I’m going to twist it to the right.”

I began turning her tooth slowly until she pulled back with a gasp. “Ahhh!”

“Eeew!” I answered with a shudder. “Okay, again, but the other way this time.” I gingerly twisted her tooth to the left.

“Ow, ow, ow!” Zaffy pulled away, covering her mouth with her palm.

“Eeew!” I flapped my hands at my sides. “Ick!”

“Mommy! Why are you saying ‘ick?’”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that wiggling her tooth out of its socket gave me the heebie jeebies, so I semi-lied.

“It’s just that I hate hurting you, honey. It goes against a mother’s nature.”

This wasn’t a lie per se; it just didn’t apply to this particular situation. I couldn’t have cared less about what she was feeling. I was more concerned with not puking on my candy cane-striped sheets because I found the whole endeavor so gross.

My daughter patted me on the shoulder and shook her head, saying, “Mom, it’s just part of the job. Sometimes a mother has to hurt her child. Please get this tooth out of my mouth.” She looked me in the eyes. “I’m begging you.”

Dutifully, because it was part of my job, I knocked my knuckle against Zaffy’s front tooth, putting a little bit more force behind each try until I felt the crunchy, wet crackle of the tooth’s connective ligaments snap and give way. I suppressed a gag.

Zaffy threw both hands over her mouth and her eyes widened in surprise. “What have you done?”

“What do you mean?” Was she turning on me?

“What did you do? Why did you do this? I never wanted this!” She started to cry.

“Are you kidding me, you little … ?” I stopped. To finish the sentence wouldn’t have been very merry, and I’d been trying awfully hard to have the holiday spirit.


“Are you kidding me, Zaffron?” I asked. “You begged me to do this. You actually used the word!”

“I did not. You made me do this. I want the tooth back! PUT … IT … BACK!”

“Zaffy, remember when we talked about the word ‘ambivalent’?”

“Mommy! Pay attention!”

I stared at her.

“I’m not going to look cute for Christmas!”

“Oh for God’s sake, is that what you are worried about?”

Zaffron gave me a look that only a daughter can give a mother, the one that communicates her deep desire to never have emerged from the likes of you, and ran out of the room.

I walked to the kitchen, where my husband was making eggs for the kids.

“Zaffy lost her tooth,” I said.

I heard a distant yell from another room. “I didn’t lose it! Mommy knocked it out!”

I sighed and returned to my bedroom, defeated by my latest parenting fail.

When it was time to get into the car and drive to school, Zaffron sidled up to me and slid her arms around my neck. “You helped me lose my tooth,” she whispered in my ear and gave me a hug.

“Is that your way of saying you’re sorry?” I asked, hugging her back.

She squeezed tighter. “I’m really not sure.”


This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, I’m very grateful for their support.

[Photo credit: westy48 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA]