Friday, April 15, 2011

They'll Be Potty Trained at 18 Months

One of the things I dread about parenthood is diapers and everything that comes with it.  I would definitely not be aunt of the year if it came down to diaper changing.  I avoid it like the plague that it is.  I can tolerate the number ones.  Once, I got stuck with a fully loaded diaper and I thought I was going to be sick.  The stench was so offensive and as I was changing it, I felt this lump rise up from the pit of my stomach and get lodged into my throat.  I became nauseated and I couldn't stop gagging as my eyes from welled with water.  It was as awful as I thought it was going to be.

I hear parents joke about disgusting bodily fluids becoming projectile and getting in the worst places, like in mommy's hair or on daddy's rented tux.  I have to say that I am not amused by these stories.  It completely grosses me out.   Some claim that it comes with the territory, you're earning your stripes, or that you get used to it.   Parents like to downplay how horrible something like this is.  I don't think I'll ever stop being disgusted by someone else's excrement, even if it is from my own child.

Of course, I will have to learn to cope with this at least for a little while.  I guess I technically could move out to a farm somewhere and let my children wander around without anything on and teach them to squat in a field or something and just hose them off when they're done.  Alas, I do like city life and this condo will be really hard to sell.  So, I guess I'm stuck with learning to cope and potty training them as soon as possible.

According to my husband's family legend, my husband was potty trained at 18 months.  I don't think I knew this was even possible, but now that I know it can be done, it's on.  I will buy up every book and employ every technique I can to minimize my exposure to anything becoming projectile that shouldn't.

So, when I have kids, I will potty train them at 18 months.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Will Send Them to Camp

Anyone who has known me since childhood shouldn't be surprised by what will follow in this post: a full out gushing about my summer experiences at Camp Juliette Low.

I was first introduced to Camp Juliette Low through a cousin who I accompanied to a Camp Reunion at the age of nine.  It only took a very short weekend to spark a love and fondness for a place that remains with me to this day.  I don't remember the details on how I sold my mother on the idea of sending me back the next summer as a camper, but whatever methods I employed, I am so glad it worked.  Camp was expensive, but the experience was priceless.

When I began at CJL as an official camper, it was the summer of 1990.  We were sorted into one of four units by our age group.  A unit consisted of approximately 28 girls and 4 counselors.  The unit as your at camp homestead, featured a cluster of tents, four girls to a tent, generally arranged around the centrally located counselors' tent.  Our tents were perched upon large wooden platforms with army-like canvas that provided more than adequate shelter from the rains.  The tents remain, but in my early years as a camper, the American Camping Association had yet to frown upon latrines and cold showers as bathroom facilities for young girls.  That's right, no flushing toilets.  I promise, it was not as traumatic as it seems.  In fact, I would regard it to be much less disgusting than today's port-a-johns at your local concert or festival.

As I write this, I am beginning to realize that I could spend this entire post just describing the set up and facilities.  In an effort to make this as succinct as possible, I will move on.  The all girl's camp is nestled on top of Lookout Mountain.  Trails and paths wind throughout the property to the lake, the swimming hole with the sliding rock and swinging bridge, the soft rocks, which I think my words would fail to capture the magic of, woods, and open fields.

Days at camp pass far too quickly in a whirlwind of daily chores and kapers, activities (such as archery, sailing, horseback riding, arts and crafts to name a few), incredible home cooked meals, unit time, swimming, and campfires at night.  All of this happens to the camp's own personal soundtrack boasting a choir of angel voices which happen to be those of all the girls there.  The culture of song and singing that is so inherent to camp life is almost a phenomena of camp living on its own.  We had songs for EVERYTHING and we sang all the time.  We had unit songs we sang on our way to meals or activities.  We sang all of our blessings for our meals.  We sang while we were doing our chores.  We even had a singing competition at the end of the session.  I sincerely believe that the gift of song and music in some magical way fostered the sense of sisterhood and friendship that had an ability to grow at an exponential rate.

Friends at camp are made so fast.  As a young girl, I guess I didn't think much of it.  Now that I am grown, I am kind of amazed that intense bonds form between friends in a matter days.  Some of these bonds still exist today.  One of the things I loved about camp was the friends I made and only got to see year after year each summer.  We would keep in touch throughout the school year with letters.  Remember pen pals?  I regret to say that I've lost touch with a good number of girls that made my camp life the amazing experience that it was.  Fortunately, I can at least keep up with them now through Facebook.  :)

Outdoor life was pretty familiar for me before I started camp.  My parents would take us camping, so the rustic atmosphere of camp life wasn't completely foreign to me.  CJL really fostered my love for the outdoors and I think her primary way of doing this was through lessons in outdoor skills.  Even at the tender age of 10, I learned to safely use an ax to chop wood, collect firewood, build a fire, cook a meal on said fire, extinguish it properly, and make it appear as if I was never there.  I also learned knot tying, lashing (creating things and structures with only rope and sticks), and how to pee in the woods.  These activities were exercises in team work and confidence-building that have remained with me throughout my life.  There is something quite empowering about a 10 year old girl learning essential life survival skills.

CJL created a sisterhood of young girls and women in which a strong character and spirit of community were esteemed and celebrated.  Being a young, growing girl can be wrought with the pain of social peer cruelty, self-doubt and self-conciousness.  For some reason, CJL seemed to be an escape from all of that for me.  I never found those dynamics among my peers at camp.  In fact, I always felt like I was the best version of myself during my days at CJL.

My husband and my friends have heard my drone on and on about individual stories and excerpts of my camp life that support all of my sentiments.  In fact, I think I could write an autobiography on the impact of a camp experience for a growing girl, but no amount of words could do justice to the essence that is just CJL.   I think you have to experience it for yourself.   I fear my words now fail to truly capture what it means to grow up through CJL.  So I will close with this:  CJL remains one of the most meaningful and influential experiences I have had in my life.

I hope that if I am blessed with a daughter, that she will share the same love and affinity for Camp Juliette Low.  I know I need to prepare myself now that she may not adore it to the same degree as me, and rest assured I will be heartbroken if she doesn't.

At the very least though, when I have kids I will send them to camp.  Even if it's not my beloved Camp Juliette Low and even if it is only once.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Is What I'll Tell Them About Why I Started This Blog

I have always been a couple of years behind my friends when it comes to transitioning into the next stages of life.  I guess this started in college.  I probably really wasn't ready to be on my own at 18, but that's a story for another day.  Long story short, I didn't graduate college until 24.  I didn't become interested in settling down and becoming more responsible until about 27, and I didn't get married until I was 30.  On a global scale, I probably am among the average.  In comparison to my friends and family, I'm a little behind.  I am perfectly okay with this.

With that said, I am not completely ready to have children.  I will celebrate my first wedding anniversary next weekend and I am really enjoying my life as a newlywed.  I feel like we have a very limited time to enjoy each other as husband and wife in a way that is much more simple now before kids are brought into the picture.    Currently, I want to focus on building a strong marital foundation and continue learning about my husband in ways that were impossible before we were married and living together.

Although I am not ready to actually have a baby yet, I am interested in parenthood in ways I've never been before.  For some time now, I have been devising plans and ideas of what kind of mother I want to be and what kind of people I want my kids to grow up to be.  I think it's pretty natural.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that most parents have all done the same.  I've always enjoyed writing, but I've never really had anything to write about other than my own life and let's face it, this blog is much more interesting than my personal blog.  At least, that's what my blog statistics are telling me.  I figured that people might take some of things I write personally.  I wrote about this on My About page.  Another thing my blog stats tell me, that people haven't read it, which further justifies the reason for this post.

My whole intent here is to write a blog that interests and amuses people and creates conversation around a topic that I am obviously very interested in.  I want to remember all the things I say now.  What I write are genuine thoughts and opinions and in 10 years, I will be curious about what I thought and felt about these things now.  Hopefully, in the future, it will help me keep perspective when I encounter non-parental types like me who have all these fabulous ideas and notions about a life experience they haven't had yet.

As I've watched my friends and family members enter into parenthood one by one, I've observed a very natural occurrence:  parenthood is like its own fraternity. I've watched my own friends become closer and bond with each other over their children.  Honestly, parenthood can be socially divisive in some ways. Children are a natural and frequent topic of conversation.  Parent-only friends get together for play dates.   And let's be honest with ourselves, no one likes to be left out of anything, well, at least not me.   So, this blog for me, even though I am on the periphery with my parent friends, allows me to engage in some of the dialog about parenthood in ways that I otherwise wouldn't be included in.  Even though I don't have kids, I am interested in them.  

I know I've started something on a very touchy subject.  People take parenting very personally.  I imagine that you should. I don't need kids to know that being a parent is a really hard job.  I also realize that most parents are doing the best that they can.  Some of my thoughts or opinions may seem critical and judgmental, but I don't see anything wrong with that.  This is why:  criticism and judgment have their place in our society.   I think they are essential tools in helping us observe what's going on around us, categorize how we feel about certain things, and thus, allow us to develop and strengthen our own personal value systems.  So yes, I sometimes cannot decide what I will or won't do without observing what some parents are doing and figuring out where it aligns with my ideals and priorities for raising a kid.  But please make no mistake, if you do something that I write against, I do not think less of you as a person (unless you are letting your kids run wild through a restaurant.)  Rather, I am merely putting an idea out there and offering it up for rebuttal.  I learned a lot from my post about kid leashes.  Some of my readers gave me perspectives I had never even considered.  I welcome that dialog and conversation.  It allows my opinions to evolve and gives me a better understanding on parental behavior and perhaps, the world at large.

My aim in my writing about these topics is mostly to entertain. I thought it would be amusing for myself and others, if I documented these thoughts.  I am well aware that, well I'll let Robert Burns take it from here:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

I know I am taking a big risk with this blog.  I am offering myself up for what could be future humiliation and certainly, the same criticisms and judgements that I've unleashed on my readership.  What has surprised me most about this blog is the sense I get from people, that they can't wait for some kind of revenge that will naturally occur once I do have kids, just because I've journaled my opinions and ideas about parenthood without actually being a parent.  I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I write here and for some reason, I imagine that if I do change my mind, there will be readers out there who will think they've clinched some some of victory at my own admission of erroneous thought and will boast "I knew it! or I told you so!"  And that is fine if they do.  I will take all of that then the way I hope my readers take what I write now, with a grain of salt.

If you do not agree with what I write, I welcome you to offer up a counter argument and help me understand your point of view.  I regard myself as an open-minded person and I am happy to consider other ways of thinking.  My theory on this blog is that if you take anything I write personally, then you are taking me too seriously.

I hope you all will stay with me on this journey, not so that you can rub my face in my wrong words in the future, but so that you can find amusement in some of my naivety, and hopefully offer your own opinions and experiences to help shape and mold my ideas, and witness first hand (one day) the evolution of a woman to a mother.