Sometimes the rewards of parenting is about small victories

My precocious, intelligent son can count to 13 (to 30 with some help), knows all his ABC’s, as well as the sounds that each of those letters make, and he remembers things that happened when he was barely 2 years old.

At 6 months old, we briefly tried elimination communication. It worked, but only for about a month.

And yet as we come upon his 4th birthday less than 2 weeks from now, he is not even close to potty-trained.

That’s right: I’m admitting to the whole wide Internet that my almost-4-year-old is not potty-trained. I try not to mention it because inevitably I get either judgmental looks (and heavy silence) and/or ignorant remarks. Neither of which help the situation.

He was just starting to get potty-trained last year when I was laid off from my job, and therefore his routine was basically turned on end. Although he enjoyed being home with me most of the time, both of us transitioning to an at-home situation made for very poor potty training environment. Then he went through a contrary stage, which can only be described as the terrible 3’s (he got over it, thankfully). And then we moved.

An entire year full of transitions is just a difficult time for a child to be potty-training, so he just decided he wasn’t even going to try.

What I know about my son’s disposition is that he knows what he can do — and what he believes he can’t do, he won’t try for fear of failure. (Sounds a lot like me, actually.) Despite a lot of coaxing, praising, bribing, and cajoling, he just would not sit on the potty at the right times to do the right things.

An attempt around December 2009, before we moved. Unsuccessful.

Recently, I taped a potty chart at child’s eye level in our guest bathroom. We bought a brand-new truck potty (basically it makes a “vroom-vroom” sound when something hits the bottom of the bowl). I told G that when he acquired 10 stickers on his chart, he got to choose a toy from Target. And he acquired stickers by going pee or poop in the potty.

I think I put up that potty chart sometime in June. Today, G acquired his 10th sticker (and his 11th!) and got to open the Leapfrog Tag that my father had bought for him this past weekend.

I have to say, this made me feel pretty good, especially when he used the potty a second time. In the past year or so, there have been many times when I have felt a failure. Failing at keeping a job, failing at being an effective, successful stay-at-home mother, failing at helping my child reach the simple milestone of potty-training. It doesn’t matter that he’s one of the smartest children I know, that he has a sense of humor to rival his father’s, that he kisses my face and tells me every day “I love you, Mama,” that he can put together sounds in words that basically means he’s doing some rudimentary reading. This one thing, the darn potty, has kept me from feeling like anything like a good parent.

Today, I experienced the feeling of a small victory, and I realize that the feeling is still not much more exciting than any other day. And then it struck me: parenting isn’t about anything huge. Most parents don’t have kids who win Nobel prizes, or become President of any country — or even a company. It’s about the little things that prove that sometimes, they’re hearing what we say, following our examples, and incorporating our beliefs and values.

I’m going to try to remember this feeling and this revelation, and hope that our lives are full of small victories — and that I’m observant enough to recognize them.

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Recipe for chicken tortilla soup

I’m really good at following recipes, but this one I had to improvise on because I lost the original recipe! It came in one of those fliers from Trader Joe’s. It took me a couple of tries to get it just right. You can get the ingredients almost anywhere (including Trader Joe’s of course). This is the “cheat” version, which uses canned versions of everything but of course you can make everything from scratch separately if you’re not as lazy as I am (or just not very patient).

Also, it’s a good way to use up all those broken tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag.

Ingredients:

about a half-pound of chicken (I like chicken breast and then I cube it, but you can use anything)

one carton of chicken broth/stock (or you can make your own)

one can of corn

one can of black beans (drained and strained, so the soup doesn’t turn gray)

one small jar of prepared salsa (I like the chunky salsa from Trader Joe’s but you can also use Pace) — I sometimes can get away with about 3/4 jar

For garnish: broken tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese

Directions:

1. Cook the chicken. I typically just go ahead and boil it in the broth and then bring it back down to a simmer.

2. Add corn and beans. Stir stir stir.

3. Add salsa. Stir stir stir.

4. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

5. You’re done. Eat.

The Lazy Girls’ Reasons for Breastfeeding

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), I’m resurrecting our blog. Hurray, right? YAY!

Although my son has been weaned for over a year, I still think back fondly to those 2 1/2 years that he could be comforted by nursing. The benefits of breastfeeding have been touted in the news over and over again; do you guys really need to hear that? No. Mostly because many women? Are STILL not listening. They come up with excuses why they didn’t even try, or worse, that the medical facility that they gave birth in didn’t offer any support for it.

Those are all issues that are too big for me to deal with, but what’s easy for me is to share with you why I breastfed my son.

It’s because I. Am. Lazy.

What? Breastfeeding takes so much of your time! The baby is attached to you 24/7! How do you ever get anything done? You might say that. But if you just think about it as a 10-15 pound growth on your breast and carry on with your day, it’s not so bad.

Let me start over because that might sound gross to some (all) of you. I should just make a list. Here you go, Kat’s Reasons Why Breastfeeding is the Lazy and Easy Way to Feed Your Child:

1. You don’t have to pack anything. Seriously, NOTHING. Well, OK, you need to pack diapers so you can catch what comes out after. I never packed a nursing cover (jackets, burp cloths, or my own shirt usually sufficed), I never packed pacifiers (after the 4th month, when G would just reject them by spitting them out), bottles, formula, or anything like that. So easy!

This is what a milk coma looks like.

2. Because you don’t have to pack anything, there is nothing to forget at home or have to buy at the store at 2 in the morning. Listen, almost anyone who knows me will tell you that besides being lazy, I have a horrible memory problem. I’d forget my head if it weren’t screwed on, and I’d forget my boobs at home if they weren’t permanently attached. When G started eating solids, I’d always forget to pack snacks for him, which is why so many people saw me nursing in public. Breast milk is always fresh, always available, doesn’t run out (and require Daddy to run to the grocery store in the middle of the night) and never forgotten at home.

3. It doesn’t take as long. Yes, it takes about 4-6 weeks to “get the hang of it,” and bottle-feeding is very straightforward from the word go. But I believe that the initial time and patience to learn how to breastfeed again appeals to my lazy side. Why? Once again, if G was crying or required any kind of comfort, all I had to do was lay him in my lap. By the time he was 8 months, he would stop crying before he even latched on because he figured out what was coming. This is why I think breast milk has magic in it. It can stop almost any healthy child from crying. Seriously. TRY IT. It takes less than 3 seconds to place your child in your lap and whip out your breast (yeah, by the time G was 3 months old, I could really do it that quickly!).

I really appreciated this time aspect when G was waking up every 2 hours in the middle of the night. I wondered how I would have gotten any sleep at all if I had to prepare a bottle for him every time. (Also add to this the fact that I am also clumsy as well as lazy. I bet I’d drop an uncapped milk bottle at least once a night.) Actually, I would have probably sent my husband to do it. Because of this time aspect, in the first 3 months of G’s life, my husband only had to wake up 3-4 times to help me. Since he was still working full-time during the day, I felt he should get his sleep at night. G and I napped during the day.

4. I don’t have to do as much washing. If I had to choose 2 chores that I don’t hate, it’s laundry and washing dishes — but only those hard-working, type-A people enjoy cleaning. I am not one of those people. When G was in school, yes, I had to wash bottles, but there were definitely fewer of them than if he had bottle-fed full-time. Also, breast milk stains, whether in the bottle or on clothes, are easier to get out of clothes than formula or milk stains, or any food or dirt stains. You just throw it in the wash and let the detergent take care of it.

5. Related to this is the fact that breastfed poops don’t stink as bad and are easier to wash. As someone who did a lot of babysitting for extra money, I’ve changed my share of diapers. And phew, were they stinky! My son was the first exclusively-breastfed diaper that I had changed, and guess what? The smell ain’t so bad. AT ALL. The best description I’ve heard of is buttered popcorn. Yes, it really does smell like buttered popcorn! Also, in the unfortunate event that you get baby poop on the baby’s clothes or heaven forbid, on YOUR clothes, you know what you do, lazy girl? Just throw those clothes in the washing machine. You don’t even have to rinse it out first! It also means that there are fewer clothes ruined. (Not that they can wear them for very long; if my baby is normal, then he grew out of clothes so quickly, he wore some things barely once.)

6. It’s cheaper. Do I really need to pull out that chart that shows how much families spend on formula for the first year? I found a website that says it costs $1,000-$2,300 for the first year on formula. But that doesn’t even take into account the water (to mix with the formula as well as to wash the bottles), the bottles, and the things you need to clean the bottles. Cheaper is cheaper is cheaper is FREE (especially if you don’t need to pump). Breastfeeding is free. In tough economic times, anything you can get for free is good (well, almost anything). Sure, I ate like a hungry gorilla for the first 6 months of my son’s life, so we might have spent a bit more on food — but not $2,300 worth of food. Which brings me to my next point:

7. It’s a great weight-loss program. It’s not just about how breastfeeding contracts the uterus (which it does — it’s that thing inside your abdomen area that causes what I fondly refer to as the “mom pooch”), but I found that I ate much better when I was breastfeeding than when I wasn’t. Basically, my subconscious told me, “Whatever you’re putting in your mouth eventually goes into your child’s mouth, too.” I didn’t reject the occasional cheeseburger or anything, but I drank lots more water (felt thirsty all the time anyway and then it just became a habit) and craved veggies like crazy. Not that this will necessarily work for you. But it’s a good reason to start, right?

8. When I was working, I had the excuse to really take those 15-minute breaks. I pumped milk while working full-time until my son was 13 months old. I was the last of my working-mom group that was still pumping, too. My coworkers ragged on me about it, but I persevered. I said it was because my son was allergic to regular formula but part of it was that I enjoyed getting away from the hustle and bustle for a few minutes each day. I brought a book or magazine, or I called my mom for some idle chit-chat.

I’m grateful for the California laws that requires my employer to provide a place for me to pump as well as mandates that I take my breaks to pump. Other employers might not be so flexible, but technically they break the law if they don’t let you. And it’s becoming more common for mothers to assert their rights to these laws, so although employers might complain about it, it’s still your right as a mother to them.

9. When my son was a toddler, he let me hold him still for more than 10 seconds at a time. Mothers of toddlers would appreciate this. When they get mobile and start discovering the world outside of that little bubble of Mom ‘n’ Me, they move like the speed of light, getting into everything and putting their fingers and hands where they shouldn’t and getting so dirty they need a bath every other hour. But the highlight of my day was coming home from work with him, and he would sit in my lap and nurse for at least 10 minutes. It was our way of reconnecting, of communicating, of saying, “Hi, how are you? I missed you for the past 8-10 hours.” This was actually the last nursing session we kept and was the hardest to wean from.

After about a year of being weaned, he still stays close to Mama.

In a society where we’re so eager for our children to grow up and be independent, I wanted to let him be a baby for as long as he wanted. Because I knew the time would come too soon when he wouldn’t want to be a baby anymore, and I would have no choice about it. I’m not sure why our society believes that we should teach our children to be independent as soon as they’ve exited the womb. There is nothing wrong with keeping your children close especially in the first few days, months, or even years in their life. In fact, their instinct (which is pretty much all they’ve got at this point) is to be close to their mothers first and other caregivers second. So why do we fight it? I don’t get it, so I don’t subscribe to it. My kid is sticking next to me for as long as he wants.

10. I’m too lazy to think of a number 10. So here are another 101. Plus, my kid is trying to climb all over me …

How to get to 5 years of marriage without really trying

Today is our 5 year wedding anniversary. My husband and I have been together for 10 years, but we’ve only been married for 5. I have never been the person who ever thought she could be a part of a successful marriage (see: divorced parents), but when I got married to Brian, I didn’t have a doubt that we’d last. In fact, about a week into our relationship, I was sure we’d be together forever.weddingkiss

I think about what makes our relationship so “easy.” We don’t fight often (probably less than once a year — and usually it’s because I’m hormonal). We like each other’s families and friends. Our friends and families like us.

I feel really blessed. What if we had never found each other? I would probably still be single, or trying to make it work with the wrong person. Or maybe, I would have found someone that I’m compatible with, in a different way. But my life would have turned out completely different.

I’m trying to think back on what makes our relationship work. I’ve made a list, for those who are still trying to make it work, and for those who are struggling to find someone to work with.

1. Know yourself and what you need in life (not just what you want). Know what kind of person you can tolerate, and what kind of person can tolerate you. And then, know what traits you appreciate in other people, not just romantic parters, but friends. Think about why you started to date people, and why you decided to break up. When I was in high school and college, I had a huge crush on Dean Cain. My crush slowly faded when I realized that he was probably a womanizer, and the basis of my crush was mostly because he looked good in glasses and a suit. (Business suit and Superman suit, both.)

There are deal-breakers — know what yours are. You love kids, but your partner doesn’t want any. If you find that faith and religion are a priority but your partner doesn’t, that’s a biggie. Figure out what you want your life path to be, and if your partner’s seems to be going in a whole other direction, that’s a problem. Some things are negotiable or compromise-able (future kids’ names, living in one town over another). Some things are not.

I’m really fortunate to have found someone who looks good in a suit and glasses. But also someone who can tolerate my endless days of reading, my forgetfulness and absentmindedness, and my habit of putting my cold feet under his warm butt.

2. Make reasonable choices and be patient. We made the choice to get married when we did, when we had enough money to live on our own and when we were done with school. We made the choice to have a child when we did, after we had gotten married and when other parts of our lives were otherwise stable.

I am terrible at being patient. When Brian and I first started dating, I wanted to get married right away. But it was a good idea to wait. We had time to get to know each other and find a groove as a couple. When we got married, I wanted to have a child right away, but I also knew that it was a good idea to settle into being a Married Couple.

3. Make each other laugh. Brian and I always find it funny when single people say they are looking for someone with  “a sense of humor.” Everyone has a sense of humor; but is your potential partner’s sense compatible with yours? Nothing makes me happier than when I say something clever and Brian laughs uncontrollably. And I think I make him feel the same way when I laugh at him.

Laughter makes life easier.

4. Communicate, and don’t play games. I really think that communication is our best point. Anyone who isn’t willing to be honest with you isn’t in a place to be in a lasting relationship. We are honest about almost everything; now that we’ve been together for 10 years, almost nothing is a surprise. To some people, that might be boring. It’s not, for us. It is a comfort to know what to expect from the person that you’re sharing your life with.

From the beginning, we’ve set ground rules on our relationship, and we’ve even revised them since then. We don’t play games, and we are honest with what we’re feeling. I think this has helped us to understand each other more easily.

Avoid people who don’t call you back (even though they have all the time in the world) or who don’t take your concerns seriously. People who break up to make up. That’s game-playing. This is love and life. Contrary to all those anecdotes, it’s not a game. In love, both people are supposed to win. In fact, everybody is supposed to win.

5. Acknowledge and make peace with your own faults. Acknowledge and make peace with your partner’s. Look, I know I’m not the most organized person in the world. I cry too easily and on most days I’d rather stay at home and read a book than go out. With respect to Brian, I will reveal only one of his faults and that is that he believes he looks really good when he wears his hair in a faux-hawk.

If there is something that annoys you about your partner and it is something that you can’t live with, then maybe this is not the right person for you. Think about all of the energy you will expend trying to “improve” upon this fault; that’s why some relationships are hard — too much time trying to change or modify the other person’s behavior.

On the other hand, I’ve spent the past 10 years trying to improve upon my own faults, especially the ones that get on Brian’s nerves. I have tried to be better at putting things back where they belong. I’m trying to talk things out when I’m angry, rather than running away or clamming up. I am trying to look at him when he’s wearing a faux-hawk, without laughing.

6. If trustworthy people don’t like him, listen to their concerns. In my defense, all of the guys I have dated, my family has liked a lot. But when they spoke to me about their concerns with each guy, I realized later that they were right. Listen to your closest confidantes when they voice their concerns about your partner to you. Take what they have to say into consideration. Sometimes they’re wrong, and they really don’t know your partner — but other times they’re right and you’ll be thankful.

7. Have a positive attitude about your relationship — not just with each other but to everyone else. As much fun as it is to complain about your significant other or to hear the funny stories about other people complaining about theirs, I think it’s important to have a united front when facing the world. If you have grievances to air regarding your relationship, you should air them out with your partner FIRST.

Also, it sucks when you find out from other people what your partner doesn’t like about you. And lots of times, you’ll find out. I wish I could count the number of times people have tattled to me about what Brian has said — but he already told me before.

8. The best person for you is the person who inspires you to be the best version of yourself. When Brian and I first started dating, all the good things that I knew about myself, I wanted to improve upon. I wanted to help everyone; to be a nicer person to people; to be more generous and even to look nicer physically. I wanted to feel good in a way that made other people feel good.

Ignoring family and friends, doing poorly in school or in work, seeking unhealthy and dangerous activities, keeping secrets, or changing your personality — if your partner inspires you to do any of these things, it doesn’t make for a healthy foundation for a relationship.

9. There is a difference between sacrifice and compromise. Sacrifice pretty much means no one wins because you both give up everything. Compromise means working together to achieve a common goal. If a relationship has too much sacrifice, it means you’re working too hard and not being happy. If you’re working hard AND not happy, then why are you there?

10. Have faith. Whether or not you believe in God or a Higher Being, have faith in yourself that you will find the right person, that you will make the right decision, that you are good enough for a healthy, happy relationship. When I first started to seriously pray, it took about 6 months before Brian and I found each other. I think that is actually really fast. (I must have called the hotline to heaven.) I knew the right person was out there for me, and during the time I waited, I was having a great single life. It was probably the best time of my life up to that point.

Although at the time I was grieving for the death of my grandmother, I saw it as an opportunity to find love in my friends and my living family members. Of course there were still low points. But I knew that if I wanted something and made myself emotionally and mentally ready for it, I would have it.

And I did.

I don’t know if these tips will help other people who are in relationships, or who are seeking relationships. I just know that this is what worked for Brian and me. OK, so it’s what worked for ME. Who knows what works for Brian.

It’s OK to like your kids

I really like hanging out with my kid. I mean, I really do. I’d rather bring him somewhere than have a grandparent or even my own husband watch him. I have not spent more than 2 nights in a row away from my son, and he’s just turned 3.

We were inseparable from Day 1.

We were inseparable from Day 1.

I find that this is quite rare. Most parents are leaving their child in the care of a non-parental caregiver at as young as 1 month old. I can’t even imagine leaving him for a non-emergency reason at that age. For one thing, breastfeeding isn’t firmly established yet, and it would affect milk supply. Secondly, a child needs his mother.

I really think that the biological process of breastfeeding serves a societal and bonding purpose as well. When babies are first born, they nurse anywhere from 8 to 100 times a day (I’m not exaggerating — well, OK, I’m not exaggerating much). The process of birth is a shocking experience to all parties to begin with, but at least Mom knew a bit about what to expect. Baby didn’t! First he was all cozy in the nice, dark, warm place, and all of a sudden he was shoved out of the place and into the noisy world!

Breastfeeding is the way to keep baby comforted. The Montgomery glands on the breast not only stimulate milk production, but the emit a smell that is similar to the way that amniotic fluid smells. So coming to the breast is quite similar to being back inside, for a newborn. That’s why they like to spend so much time there — it smells like what they’re familiar with.

I can understand a night away from the stress. I really, really can. My son spends Saturday nights at my in-laws nearly every week now. But I feel that if you’re trying to get away from your baby prior to the 3-4 month mark, then there’s a problem. Why don’t you like your baby? Is post-partum depression an issue? BOND WITH YOUR BABY!

I can also understand pressure from relatives who want to spend time with the baby. But they can do so for a couple of hours at a time, during daylight hours. There isn’t really a reason for a baby to stay overnight with grandparents or other relatives because the relative needs to be with him. No, the only thing a baby really needs is his mother, her milk, and a clean bottom. Period.

I believe that all of our physical closeness in our immediate and extended family has fostered a loving, affectionate child. Knowing that he can come back to us means that he is comfortable being independent when we’re not there. Before he falls asleep, my son will often kiss me and murmur, “I love you, Mama.” He knows that above anyplace in the world, my favorite place to be is right next to him — even though I’m not always there. Although a child may not remember being away from his or her parents at 2 or 3 months old, perhaps the parents’ attitude about it can be picked up by the child.

Although I have learned a lot after I became a mother, I knew always that once this child was born, I’d still want to be right beside him for a long time. So much emphasis in our society is placed on raising an independent child. But a solid foundation of independence is built on love, support and learning. Parents should do that. And a kid can’t learn to be independent if he feels like his parents don’t like him all that much.

My baby’s 3

Last month, the original Crispy Bata (aka Gavin) turned 3.

I'm 3!

I'm 3!

Some of you may be thinking, “What? How did he all of a sudden turn 3?”

I am thinking the same thing. And I see this kid every day of my life.

I looked at some older pictures of my son, and it’s amazing the kind of transformation they do from scrawny, screaming newborn to, well, scrawny, screaming 3-year-old. I’m sure  some people who have known me since I was a scrawny, screaming 3-year-old myself, and they’re probably wondering how I did it, too.

I have always thought of myself as a very self-aware selfish person. As a single adult, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. There might be if you are the primary caregiver for any other person, but otherwise, it’s OK to be selfish. The only person you can really count on is you. So it’s good practice to look out for No. 1.

When I found out I was pregnant with G, it still felt completely natural though. I still felt selfish, but as he was a part of me, it was like I was selfish on his behalf. Everything starting from that point was for the well-being of this child first, me second. There are things about my child-rearing experience that I thought I’d never do (like park him in front of the TV for a half-hour or more while I wash dishes or complete some other chore), and I have found that I am a stronger person than I initially thought I was. And perhaps in many ways, even before G, I wasn’t always just thinking about No. 1.

Now that G is a very active, rambunctious, clever, healthy 3-year-old, I celebrate my 3 years and 9 months as a mother. I didn’t think I could do it, partly because I had so many awesome mother figures in my life (my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and many of their friends). How could I live up to that?

But when I look in my son’s face, and he only has eyes for me, I know. I just love him. And he appreciates that. For the past 3 years, that’s all I really needed to know. I didn’t realize it, but my mother (and her mother) taught me that, and showed it to me by example.

I know that this period of “mama is the best!” only lasts so long. I cherish the moments. If he wants to be a baby, I let him (within reason). If he feels like being a big boy the next minute, that’s OK too. That’s the thing about being 3. Before too long, he will really be too old to want to be a baby … and he really won’t want to be treated like one.

I’m glad I had such amazing mother figures in my life because they showed me to relish each moment about being a mom. They showed me that even the painful parts are necessary to raising your child right, and they are worth it for the moments when your child, wearing a dishtowel cape, kisses you on the face and says, “Superman loves you” with such sincerity that you know it will be true as long as you love the little Superman back.

Gavin at less than 1 week old

Gavin at less than 1 week old

Babies are not like sneakers

OK, so I keep this Word file on my computer of potential subjects that I want to discuss at length in this blog. And I was perusing the topics earlier this week and I came upon “babies are not like new sneakers” somewhere in the middle.

I couldn’t figure out what the heck I was thinking. “That doesn’t even make any sense!” I must have been sleep-deprived, or perhaps really hungry when I wrote it down, pressed “save” and exited the program.

Then I remembered that it all had to do with this lady that I tried not to watch too carefully at Wienerschnitzel. I’m going to write about it now, before I forget again.

Pretty sure the bib is almost completely useless in this instance.

Pretty sure the bib is almost completely useless in this instance.

Sometimes after his swim class, I would take Gavin to Wienerschnitzel. Now, I used to be one of those people who said I would never feed my child junk food or fast food, but when your kid wants a hot dog AND NOTHING ELSE, you tend to go with feeding him Wienerschnitzel rather than let him starve (or scream “HOT DOG!!!!!” like a banshee all the way home).

Anyway, so back to the lady. She was probably in her 60s, and she had 2 small girls with her. I’d guess that these girls were around 3 and 5, and they were probably the lady’s grandchildren. I assumed they were eating hot dogs like my one-track-minded toddler, but it turned out that they were eating ice cream. Our particular Wiener place also served Tastee Freez (or however you spell it).

Throughout the meal (or snack), this lady kept admonishing the kids, “Don’t get ice cream on your dress” and “Be careful with the ice cream.” Which, you know, is totally understandable. Because these kids were basically wearing EASTER DRESSES. To Wienerschnitzel. On a weekday. I tried not to pass judgment. Perhaps this woman was bringing her grandchildren to a party or something.

When my son had almost had his hot-dog fill, the lady four tables away exclaimed, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO GET ICE CREAM ON YOUR DRESS! Now it’s RUUUUUIIIIINNNNED!”

I swear, it sounded like that.

Those two little girls, to their credit, were relatively quiet in the face of their grandmother’s (let’s face it) full-out tantrum. But their grandma made a huge spectacle in this hot dog joint, continuing to make remarks about how the dress was ruined, and how she had warned the girls multiple times not to get ice cream on their dresses.

You guys, I really, REALLY tried not to pass judgment. I TRIED. But I have to say this.

It was a 3-year-old girl. My son was not too much younger than her, and at the moment, he had ketchup on the sides of his mouth. But then, at the same time, he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. That’s what a toddler should be wearing when eating. The woman was acting as if the child purposely and knowingly smeared ice cream on her beautiful Easter dress, in order to piss off her apparently very uptight grandma.

Dear Grandma: If you don’t want ice cream or ketchup on clothes … the child should be eating naked. If ice cream or ketchup (or other messy, staining food) gets on your child’s clothing, it is completely YOUR fault for dressing that child at all!

What does this have to do with sneakers? I remember when I was in elementary school, and I’d get a new pair of sneakers for school or my birthday or whatever. I’d spend so much time and energy just making sure I didn’t get a single scuff or dirt mark on them. And then when I’d inadvertently get them messed up, it was like they weren’t new shoes anymore. They were TAINTED forever. Sure, I still wore them. But they just weren’t “new sneakers” anymore.

Kids aren’t like new sneakers. They are actually still really awesome even after they get ice cream stains on their brand-new shirts or ketchup on their pants. If my son has to look immaculate for any occasion, I let him run around in a diaper and undershirt until it’s time for pictures or whatnot, and then I put the fancy clothes on him. If it is too cold for that, he gets “play clothes” until the Kodak moment.

Anytime he goes to school or the babysitters’ or his grandparents’ house, I fully expect that he will get dirty, that he will fall down, that he will somehow have a scrape or bruise that wasn’t there before I dropped him off. And in my eyes, it is completely OK. (Disclaimer: There is a difference between regular kid scrapes and child abuse, by the way. I’m talking about the regular cuts and bruises that comes with a kid’s curiosity and propensity to get into stuff he shouldn’t. A parent knows the difference.) It is part of being a kid — in fact, it is part of being a human being. We have tried really hard not to react too much when Gavin falls down or otherwise hurts himself, so that he learns how to deal with things himself, and/or learns to come to us if in fact he is seriously injured. Of course, when he fell 3 feet from a ladder at the playground today (he is fine), I couldn’t help but cry with him.

But ice cream on fancy clothes? Unlike the sneakers, I’m still going to love my child just as much before. Unless he takes his hand and purposefully wipes his shirt with it, I know the drips of food all over him are the result of being a child with limited motor skills, not because he wants to ruin my life or add 20 minutes of cleanup time to our routine. Unlike the sneakers, which get replaced every year, this kid is for keeps and I’m just going to continue cleaning him up, patching up his scrapes, and washing his ketchup-stained clothes.