Herding Cats Has Got Nothing on Herding Toddlers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We’re all familiar with the phrase “herding cats,” oft used in the business world to describe a difficult group to manage.

As the parent of a toddler, I submit we change this phrase to “herding toddlers.” Even a single toddler is nigh impossible to manage.

I’ll solve your cat problem right now: simply walk in front of the group of cats holding a stinky fish. They’ll immediately fall into line and follow wherever you go. Easy peasy.

Anyone who has tried to get a toddler dressed, convince them to eat, keep them on a schedule, get them to sleep, or care about your priorities knows how tedious, infuriating, and thankless it is.

Why do I have to tell my daughter 50 times per meal to “keep eating”? Why doesn’t she just want to eat, godammit? How about when it’s 40 degrees outside and she insists on wearing a princess dress, then complains about how cold she is? She also wants to wear her least sensible footwear to the playground and then can’t get good footing on the jungle gym because of those flimsy Mary Janes. She conveniently forgets the daily bedtime routine we follow to help her wind down and get ready to sleep. Etc, etc, etc.

I must apologize for my rant. At breakfast this morning as I pleaded with my daughter to just eat her meal for the love of God, I thought ‘I’m going to have to be carted away to the mental asylum.’ And you know what? I can’t wait! 

This is the very definition of insanity, people — doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. To raise a child is to have insanity become your norm.

There’s no fish stinky enough to pull these toddlers into line. What worked yesterday won’t work today. And you can’t make bribes be your MO forever, because you’ll raise a child with unrealistic expectations, and worse, someone who no one else will find lovable.

I’d accept the challenge of herding cats over toddlers any day. And if anyone out there has found the magic bullet to motivate toddlers into compliance, please — enlighten me!

Eat, Pray, Live

I escaped the east coast winter for five magical days in San Diego

Photo courtesy of the author

I didn’t speak to my younger sister for ten years. For an entire decade it was as though she had never existed. She who, as a little girl, sat on our shared bed holding her blankie and weeping because she wasn’t getting hugged enough after our parents split up.

As adults, we argued often. More often, we had fun together, but the spats lasted longer and longer. Then, I cut her out of my life. The birth of my daughter thankfully brought us back together.

She says that the first five years were deserved – until she quit drinking. But that means there were still five years wasted. Of the mistakes I’ve made in my life, this is one of the most painful. But we’re doing what we can to make up for lost time.

I spent the past five days in San Diego, to celebrate my sister’s fortieth birthday. This visit focused on purifying the temple of the body: we observed a plant-based diet, did yoga and walked more than 15,000 steps every day, and attended a Hare Krishna temple service. We ogled ground squirrels, pelicans, seals, and lizards. As we soaked up the sun, I was immensely appreciative for the 80-degree weather, having left snow flurries behind me in the NE. While also being spoiled with 8-10 hours of sleep each night, it was a mental health break in all respects.

I greatly admire the progress my sister has made in her life. She is accomplished: a college professor who is also a photo shoot stylist and a world traveler. She brings positivity to others’ lives and builds community. She decided not to become a parent because she didn’t feel she had the patience, and I respect the hell out of that. Above all, I would characterize her as a doer. She took care of me for a week last spring after I underwent a major surgery, she’s a fun and loving aunt to my daughter, and she cares about fashion despite everyone in our family being born into tie-dye and sandals. She’s a natural optimist despite hailing from a background that instills anything but.

I’ve just lived a week in her shoes, and a glorious week it was. She could sell this experience: healthy eating, daily exercise, massage, wildlife viewing, lots of rest. For me, as a mother who works full time, in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of a freezing NE winter, these days of sun, exercise, and rest were just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you, reader, are likewise finding ways to take care of yourself. We all deserve a break, especially in these trying times.

Lost in Lake Charles

How I was foiled by a sugar packet

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I shivered inside my puffy, gray coat, a hand-me-down from my older sister. I hadn’t expected it to be cold in Louisiana, even in December. My navy blue corduroy pants and purple Puma sneakers weren’t keeping me warm enough, and I wished my family would hurry up and join me outside. Shoving my hands deep into my pockets, I shrugged my shoulders up to my ears.

It was our first time visiting Granddad in Lake Charles. He lived in a two-story condo in the middle of a long, narrow brick building, surrounded by many others. From the outside, his condo looked just like the rest.

I was waiting for my younger brother Ben to return. Moments earlier we had snuck out, down one of the winding concrete pathways that connected all the buildings. Huddling together, we’d lifted our palms to reveal the single sugar packet we’d each pocketed from the bowl next to the coffee maker. We grinned at each other before eagerly tearing our packets open. The paper had crinkled loudly in the hush of the early winter morning as I poured its contents into my mouth. The granules stuck together at first in a clump, like sand, then resigned. As they dissolved, I gulped the sweetness down.

“I’m gonna go get more!” Ben then said.

I said I would wait outside, since our family would be leaving soon for breakfast at a nearby restaurant. In my brother’s absence I stood and looked around at the rows of buildings angled like branches on a Christmas tree. The grass between the pathways wore a coat of glistening frost, but since the sky was pale blue, I knew it wouldn’t snow. The sky always went gray before a snowstorm in New Hampshire, where we lived.

Nobody was coming to meet me on the pathway, so I started back toward what I thought was Granddad’s place. I walked back and forth along the same row several times, unable to recall the house number.

My footsteps quickened as I frantically tried to find something I recognized. Heart pounding rapidly, I could see my breath as I sucked in the dry, crisp air through a wide mouth. I was afraid Mom and Dad would leave without me, not noticing I was missing.

I stopped where I was and started to cry. If only I hadn’t left the condo to eat sugar in secret, I would still be safe and warm with my parents and siblings.

Suddenly, I heard my father calling my name. He had come looking for me! I wasn’t abandoned after all.

“Dad!” I shouted. “I’m over here!”

I spotted him down by the next building. He was wearing a beige wool fedora with a pinched front crown and a small pheasant feather sticking out of the hat band. I ran to him and collapsed into his arms with relief when he knelt to comfort me.

Six Inches Under

A hamster’s demise

Source: National Geographic

It was bad timing when my teddy bear hamster passed away.

I sensed it was Coy’s last night on earth when his usual frenetic movements became exaggeratedly slow. I watched him through the side of his glass cage, smiling down at him like a mother who loves her child with all her heart and fights to remain positive for his sake despite knowing he isn’t well.

Dad had made pasta for dinner, and I placed a piece of tomato sauce-topped rigatoni before Coy. He sat up on his haunches, gently pulling the noodle upright between his paws, and began to nibble it with his eyes half-closed. It took him a long time to finish the meal. I continued monitoring him as he wobbled into his bed, curled up amongst the cotton fluff, and went to sleep.

In the morning, the first thing I did was check on Coy. I gently stroked his soft, golden fur, and felt that his body was cold and lifeless. I was grateful he had gotten to enjoy one last tasty morsel before passing away.

I had expected to bury Coy beneath the cherry tree in the back yard at our family’s former house, a rental property in a different town. Each spring, the tree blossomed in a gorgeous display of nature at its finest. I couldn’t picture a more ideal spot for a grave, where fresh bouquets of pale pink blossoms would be deposited.

Burying Coy outside our new house wasn’t an option. My younger sister, having interred her own deceased hamster a few weeks earlier, was traumatized the next morning to find that a scavenger had exhumed the tiny corpse, and likely eaten it for a midnight snack. I was adamant that my precious pet be laid to rest in the peaceful spot I had preselected for him, which presented a significant challenge given that we no longer lived there.

“Just put him in the garbage can,” Mom suggested.

“No!” I squealed. “He’s going to get a proper burial.”

As the only person with transportation who could be convinced to help me achieve my goal, I set about pleading with my older sister Karina. I had Coy nestled inside his bed-turned-coffin and a shovel ready for the journey, I said. It would be a quick in-and-out job, I assured my sister.

After school, we loaded the miniature coffin and shovel into the back seat of Karina’s burgundy Beetle and set out to accomplish the task. To my horror, the floodlights above the garage at the rental property were on, which implied there were new occupants. My hopes were dashed as we passed without stopping.

Karina, sensing my despair, assured me we would try again the following day. With the coffin and shovel still sitting in her car, she drove us to the old house again twenty-four hours later. When we found the outside lights still on, we returned home defeated once more.

The following afternoon, I asked Karina if we were going to do a third drive-by. She surprised me by saying she’d already gone to our old house directly after school. Deciding that enough was enough, she’d dashed into the back yard with the coffin and shovel in hand, quickly buried Coy beneath the cherry tree, then sped off before anyone could have the chance to ask her what on earth she was doing.

The risk my sister took on my behalf was heartwarming. No one had ever before made so great a sacrifice for me. Karina had given me the gift of closure, and through her kind gesture lightened my grief.