How to Have The Perfect Life

Recently my father commented to me that he loved seeing photos of my children on Facebook.

“They’re always smiling and so happy,” he noted.

It felt great to hear, but I felt I needed to point out what seemed to be obvious.  “Thanks but they’re always smiling in the photos because I’m not posting the other ones.”

For there is a game to be played on Facebook – the I have the best life ever game – and the weapon of choice is the photo selection.  For the uninitiated, here are the (very personalized) rules:

1. Do not ever post when you are on vacation because potential robbers could be alerted to the fact that you are not at home guarding your valuables.  Oh, but you just took the most awesome photo on your beach chair with your manicured feet pointing to the white sand beach and the clear blue sea beyond and you know you’d get so many likes and “I’m jealous!” comments that one tiny photo post wouldn’t hurt and did the photo include your mimosa at eleven a.m.?  Yes it did!  So of course you post, and then you hope your alarm system is functioning.

2. It’s Halloween.  Or Purim.  Or whatever costume party day of the year.  And you picked out the most adorable outfits for your children ever that if Ellen saw them she would totally showcase your kids on her show.  A hot dog and a hamburger, a cheerleader and football player, the whole family dressed as members of The Avengers.  You’ve paid money for these overpriced pieces of cloth and your kids are going to be insanely adorable in them.  Except when one kid decides it’s the scariest costume in the world and refuses to wear it.  It’s a dilemma to be sure.  On the one hand, you want to be a good parent and not force them to do something they’ll hate.  On the other hand, how can everyone know that you’re a good parent if you don’t have photographic proof of them looking adorable in a monster costume?  So you do what any good parent worth their salt does – you try a bribe.  “Just put on the costume for a picture and you get a cookie?”  No dice.  The kid didn’t inherit your sweet tooth and while his dentist might be pleased it’s really cutting into your motivational skills.  And so you take a picture of one costumed-cutie and one well-at-least-he’s-dressed-cutie and you realize they’re still the most adorable things ever.  You do not take a photo of all the candy you sneak from their bags later that night.

3. It snowed quite a bit this winter.  And of course that meant everyone had snow pictures.  If you had a dime for every snowman, sledding, snow angel and snowball fight picture you saw you could almost afford to buy a new snowblower.  So how could you possibly make your snow photos stand out from the rest?  You arrange a photo of your family doing it all at once – making snow angels, a snowman and having a snowball fight.  The attempted snow angels are thwarted when your children realize they cannot get up from laying the snow.  Which they think is the funniest thing ever and then pretend their bodies have gone limp as you try to lift them up.  And you wish you had taken a weight lifting class because lifting limp children in heavy snow outfits is really really horrible.  The snowball fight begins on a better note as your children quickly warm to the idea of hurling anything at each other with impunity.  But as the snowballs begin to fall apart in their mittens you realize this is not the best sort of snow for making snow balls.  And as the thought of not being able to lob things at one another is crushed, your children decide to take matters into their own hands and just throw anything they can at each other.  Including your phone with its camera.  Which you kind of deserve for having attempted to make them have a snowball fight.  I’ve just heard people do this but it’s not me, okay??  So you just take a photo of them hugging each other after the fight (made possible with a bribe of making popcorn inside because all good parents use bribes and if I say it enough it will be a fact).

But of course, the true winners of the I have the best life ever game are actually the people who post no photos at all because they are far too busy living life and appreciating its wonder as it comes to take out their camera and click away let alone think of posting on social media.  They are just too far above it all to be bothered.  I do not like those people and let’s not speak of them again.

How to Get Work Done at Home

Some days you have planned out so well for maximum productivity you almost want to pat yourself on the back.  You’re going to drop the oldest child off at school, then take the youngest to childcare at your gym.  But instead of working up a sweat, you’ll set up your labtop in the cafe and work on a project for the two hours allowed.  Then a lunch at home plus some reading will lead to a lengthy nap for your son where you’ll get even more work done.  Yes, you are a logistical genius.

So when your five year-old comes down the stairs in the morning and holds her stomach while declaring that she doesn’t want to eat anything for breakfast, you are sure you just haven’t offered the right food to get her going.

“Oatmeal?”

“No.”

“Cereal?”

“No.  Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

It is then that you start to feel a crack in your plan.  But it’s only going to be temporary, you just have to give her the right motivation to go along with your schedule.

“Pudding?”

“No.”

Dear Lord, it’s serious.

A temperature is taken with no high fever detected.  You pace back and forth, wondering how you can convince her that she’ll likely feel better as soon as she sees her teacher and friends at school when…holy, that sound isn’t…no!  Get to the toilet! The Toilet!!

But it’s too late.  Her dinner from last night has made an appearance and she is not going to school.

So your schedule is a little off.  No school or childcare at the gym and precious time is spent giving a bath and restoring your carpet to its natural off-white color and smell.

The solution is clear.  The Little Mermaid is put into the DVD player, liquid is filled into containers and two children are placed on the couch along with a barf bag.

You go to the living room to set up your computer and start working.  About ten productive minutes fly by when you hear your name being called over and over again in two increasingly distraught voices.

Upon entering the television room you catch your children’s conversation.

“It’s my bag to barf in!  Mommy said so!”

“No, mine!”

Of all the toys and items in all your house you never expected them to fight over a barf bag.  At least it’s an empty one.

You take your youngest child upstairs with you to play with his train table.  About five minutes of productivity fly by when your son decides the trains don’t want to stay on the tracks but instead need to travel over your legs, up to your shoulders and then down onto your labtop.  Which looks like fun.  Which looks like it should be his toy in his lap.

And so the labtop gets put away and you get to play trains for an hour or so.

But this day is still salvageable.  Because there is still the part of the day known as naptime where you can get work done.

And when naptime approaches you go through your son’s normal routine.  Books, diaper change, and into bed.  Except his legs start to buckle and his head starts to shake.

“No.”

“What do you mean, no?  It’s naptime.”

“No.”  And he wiggles out of your arms down the stairs to where his sister is playing with her sticker book.

Try as you might, it seems the presence of his sister home from school is too much of a distraction to have naptime today.  At all.  Even an hour later.  Even two hours, three crackers, four pages colored and five books later.

By the time your children are finally in bed for the night, you realize that you have gotten work done.  It’s just the kind of work that’s measured more in books read and trains pushed and jello made than in words written.

So you feel accomplished.  Sort of.  And you hope that the doctor’s office in correct in assuming your daughter just has a twenty-four hour bug so that the next day you can be productive again.  And maybe you can work in some book reading as well.

How to Become Your Child’s Favorite

When you’re a mom and you have a new baby, you’re likely it’s favorite person in the whole world.  You give them food, keep them clean, and have the voice they’ve heard the most for the past nine or so months.  They might cry when others hold them or only fall asleep in your arms.  You love them and know you are loved right back.

Being their favorite person can last for a while, maybe even a whole lifetime.  Or maybe you have a child who wakes up from every nap and asks for their Dada, even though every freakin’ weekday you explain that Dada is at work, where he always is during the day, and it’s just you.  And your son looks at you, disappointed but resigned, and you know you are not his favorite.


Or maybe you have a child who waits outside his classroom for the first day of preschool to start, surrounded by classmates who scream and moan and clutch their parents and caregivers hands in disbelief that they will soon be parted.  And through this sea of emotional turmoil, your son somehow finds the strength to push your hand away and walk into his classroom with glee.  You go over to him and tell him to have fun and be good and that you’ll miss him.  He looks at you, wondering why you are still there.  Then he smiles at the teaching assistant.  And you know you are not his favorite.


Or maybe you have a child who welcomes his grandparents and wonderful baby-sitters into his house with clapping and smiles and does not notice when you leave or even when you return.  And you know you are not his favorite.


Then one day you take your child on a trip to Florida and start his very first day at Disneyworld.  It is exciting and new for him at first.  He holds Grandma’s hand and then Grandpa’s and rides on his Dad’s shoulders.  But then you get in line for the It’s a Small World After All ride.  And maybe it’s the heat or the crowd or a part of him senses he is about to be trapped on a ride hearing a song he will never be able to get out of his head, but all of a sudden he lets out a blood-curdling scream and races to you.  For it is only in your arms that he finds enough comfort to calm down again.  And he holds onto you as though his life depended upon it.  And you are his favorite.
The lesson here is clear.  To become your child’s favorite, put them in a new and seemingly terrifying situation such that they are so overwhelmed they must regress to their infant state to feel safe.


And it will be glorious to be your child’s favorite once again.  Only you.  It means your child really, truly loves you best.  It also means that despite having two feet that walk & a stroller to ride in, he will want you and only you to carry him throughout the entire magic kingdom.  The magic kingdom is 107 acres, and you get to carry him across all of it.  Yep, just you.  His favorite.


Um, so, just asking for a friend here…how do you get un-favorited again?

How to Deal With the Hard Questions

One of the most interesting things about raising kids is being asked all of the thoughtful, crazy, unpredictable questions that if asked by an adult you might wonder what substances they had recently digested.

            Some of these questions are understandable: “If everyone loves Halloween, why can’t we have it every day and make everybody happy?”

            Some of these questions lead to greater discussions about health and responsibility: “Why isn’t ice cream a good breakfast?”  “Well where can I throw the crumbs?”

            Some questions fill you with pride: “If I love Bubbe and Pop Pop and Grandma and Grandpa more everyday does my heart get bigger?”

            Some questions make you worry: “Do you know where I left my brother?”

            Some questions come ready with an answer: “Mommy, if I don’t have my TV show right now do you know what I’m gonna do?  I’m gonna not be happy, Mommy.  That’s what I’m gonna do.”

            Some questions aren’t so much a question as a statement: “Mommy, can I have Sophie over for a playdate because I told her she can come over so you have to call her mommy.”

            And then there are those questions that come as you’re slicing an apple to go with dinner: “Mommy, how did we get into your tummy as babies?”

            And with those questions, you take a pause, and with some surprise listen to your husband answer in the most perfect way possible: “Yes, you were babies in Mommy’s tummy.”

            Unfortunately, this does not fly with your five year-old daughter.  So she tries again: “Daddy, but how did we get in her tummy?”

            And so he gives another perfect answer: “Isn’t it amazing you were in her tummy once?”

            “Daddy, you’re not making any sense.”

            “Yeah, that happens sometimes.”

            With the answer and question session successfully completed with no knowledge given and the uncomfortableness pushed off for at least another day, you sit and eat.  And are asked: “Why can’t Valentine’s Day be every day?”