Let Me Tell You About My Vasectomy

Warning: I am going to talk about male genitalia in this post. I will not be using cute words and will even being sharing a link to a video of a real operation on real testicles. If any of these things make you uncomfortable, this may not be the post for you.
As anyone reading this blog knows, we have four children and our fourth, Isabel, was not planned. Isabel’s birth was not an easy one (you can read about it here), and it’s likely Crystal’s body would not respond well to another pregnancy. Because of this we would have to do away with the idea of having another homebirth and likely have to go with a c-section. Since we already thought we were done having children before we had Bits, and because of the health risks it could pose to Crystal if she were to get pregnant again, we decided to take a permanant step towards making sure that doesn’t happen.

Why Vasectomy?

There are a lot of options when it comes to semi-permanent contraception. Most of them are left to the women in the relationship to take care of. These all typically work by changing hormones in the body which can lead to a whole host of side effects both physical and emotional. Women also have a surgical option with tubal ligation. Similar to a vasectomy, a tubal ligation can be a relatively quick operation, and have a quick recovery time (1-2 weeks). Tubal ligation can also come with some scary side effects like the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy if the operation fails, which can be life threatening.
While the risk of complications from tubal ligation is fairly low, when it came time to make a choice about birth control, we chose vasectomy. As a man I don’t have to deal with any of the pain of pregnancy or child birth. We’ve had four children, thats a lot of pain and discomfort. It’s only fair that when either one of us could get an operation to prevent future pregnancy, it would be me. The risks of vasectomy are lower, the side effects and complications are rarer, and really how could I justify putting Crystal through anything more at this point?
While I think it makes sense to get a vasectomy, it could be more expensive for you. Because of the current state of healthcare, sterilization operations are typically better covered for women. This means it could cost you some money out of pocket if it’s not fully covered under your insurance.

My Experience

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started researching vasectomy. After some reading I found most articles focused on a few common themes:
  1. Vasectomy is the most painful and emasculating procedure a man could go through.
  2. It’s not a big deal, you are back to normal in a few days.
  3. I had seven days of recovery and I am going to whine about it like I was near death.
The first type of article tended to appear on sites dedicated to “Men’s Issues”, like which Rolex is best for you next dinner party, or tips on the perfect one-night stand. The second article tended to show up on medical sites, and the third was mostly found on sites dealing with men’s health, and were just frustrating to read.
In reality the experience was great. I’m not going to say I would go get it done for fun, but compared to what I originally thought it might be like, getting a vasectomy wasn’t a big deal.

The Procedure

I had Crystal drive me to my appointment, I was still a little unsure of how I would feel after the operation. From the time she dropped me off at the door, to the time she picked me up outside was about 40 minutes. Crystal had just enough time to go get some gas, grab some coffee, and drive back. The procedure itself was exactly what I expected thanks to the great video of an actual patient procedure on my doctor’s (Dr. Monteith) website.
Before he started I was given a local antesthetic from a special device that uses pressurized air to force the antesthetic into the skin. This was the most painful part of the procedure, and it was barely enough to make me flinch. After that I was completely numb and did not feel the rest of the procedure.

If you have any questions about the procedure I highly recommend checking out Dr. Monteith’s video series. He goes through the whole process including after care

Recovery

Recovery was the part of the procedure I was most worried about. The weekend is really the only time Crystal can get any relief from the weekly circus, and I didn’t want to be stuck in bed or on the couch while Crystal wrangled the children. The weekend is typically packed with things like grocery shopping and cleaning, and it’s hard enough to get those things done when we are both in good health.
For anyone thinking about getting a vasectomy I can say that, in my case, a lot of the stories I had read were over exhagerated. Immediately after the procedure was complete, I can only describe the feeling I had as “moderate pressure”. It felt like something was squeezing my testicles. Not to the point of being painful though, it kind of rode the line between discomfort and pain. This prompted me to walk, as Crystal said, “like a cowboy”. Sleeping was a little difficult that night, but that was more because I was afraid of tearing open my incision.
The day after the procedure was the most painful, and the pain spread up into my lower abdomen. It was only a slight pain, and more of a tightness. If I sat down for too long and got up I felt like I had to stretch. Ibuprofen was enough to keep things at bay though.
So far the worst part about recovery was the itching. I hadn’t really thought about it before I started researching, but prior to going in, you have to shave your scrotum. This is to make it easier to perform the operation and also make sure nothing gets in the incision afterward. If you aren’t used to doing this it can be pretty awkward and uncomfortable. A key to staying comfortable is to keep your testicles as stationary as possible. This is why they recommend tight fitting briefs for the first few days after the procedure. I must have changed the type of underwear I was using about four times the first day, just trying to find something comfortable. In the end tighty-whities were a solid winner.
Over the next several days bruising really started to show, almost to a worrying amount. More than half of my scrotum was bruised, but after some reading online it seemed the amount of bruising I saw was normal. By the end of the fourth day the bruising had subsided and the itching died down; I could barely even tell I had anything done. We went grocery shopping a week after the procedure. I thought I felt fine until I pushed a full shopping cart (with Bits riding along) up a small hill. I definitely felt a dull pain after that. It wasn’t bad, but it was there to remind not to overdo it. It faded away quickly and I was back to feeling mostly normal.
It is now three weeks after the procedure and I feel completely fine.

Tips

Everyone is going to have a slightly different experience, but I think in general I can give you a few tips if you plan on getting a vasectomy:
  • Make sure you can take it easy the day of the operation and the day after, no heavy lifting
  • Stairs can be a little awkward, so if you can do anything to avoid them on the first two days I would
  • Wear the tight underwear! Keep your testicles as stationary as possible
  • You are going to have to shave your scrotum. If this isn’t something you normally do, do it a few weeks in advance to get used to. The last thing you want is to cut yourself a few days before you have your operation
  • Even if you aren’t going to the same doctor as I did, check out his video series, it is very informative: https://www.bestvasectomy.com/videos/

October – Hello Fall

What the heck happened to October? My plan of blogging and posting weekly was thrown out the window. We were so absurdly busy, I feel like we barely had a second to breathe.  At the end of September the kids tracked out (a short break from year-round school) and the time flew by.  Here’s a little update on our adventures.

FARE’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk

If you read this post, you know that this year I volunteered to help organize the Food Allergy Heroes Walk.  Helping turned into becoming the Walk Chair, because go big or go home right?  It consumed a little more of my time than I expected but it was good.  It felt great for me to be involved in something that I am passionate about again.  Which I didn’t realize that I missed until now.

It was a crazy busy day.  I was so thankful that my brother and (new) sister in law came into town to help out.  They woke up early, schlepped tables and boxes, took pictures, and kept an eye on the kids while I was busy running around like a mad woman. Their support means a lot to us!  I don’t know that I can thank them enough.

With the help of others in the Triangle, we raised $9,173! It was a little short of our goal, but still really awesome.  If you would like to donate to FARE and to our team there is still time, we are accepting donations through the end of the year.

http://fare.foodallergy.org/site/TR/Walk/HeroesWalk?team_id=14046&pg=team&fr_id=1311

The Wilkinson’s Take the Beach

Directly after the FARE Walk, we woke up the next morning and drove two and a half hours to the coast for a much-needed, week-long beach vacation.  I love the beach, it’s my happy place and I want to live there.  Last year I hinted to Mark that I wanted to go for my Birthday (10/12) and I forgot that he doesn’t take hints well and we didn’t end up going.  This year I took matters into my own hands and in January we booked a place at our favorite beach (and I won’t tell you where because I want to keep our quiet island, quiet.) for My Birthday Week ™.

This trip was extra special because my brother, sister in law, and my parents met us there.  This was the first time that my parents had ever been to the NC Coast and being Michigan Lake People, I knew they’d love the island vibe.  My brother and sister in law had never been to the ocean EVER! So we were excited to play host and show them our favorite place in the state.

The weather was pretty great, despite us visiting the NC Coast often, we’d never been in October.  I’ve decided that it’s my new favorite time to be there, not too hot, the sun isn’t as intense, and the beach is practically empty.  We played on the beach ate fresh seafood every night, and generally had a great time.  It was also really nice to spend time with my brother and sister in law, I feel like we haven’t ever really gotten to spend that much quality time together since we’ve been adults because life is so busy.  They also got to spend a lot of time with our kids, which I know they really enjoyed. I hope to make this an annual thing.

I was not ready to go home at all, besides getting an awesome tan I really enjoyed us all being disconnected for a week.

A Plague on Your House

While all of this was going on, Eli decided it would be the perfect time to get antibiotic resistant strep.  After a trip to Urgent Care, 2 trips to the family doctor, 3 oral antibiotics, 1 antibiotic butt shot, strep swabs for the whole family and serious talk of removing his tonsils, we finally got a negative strep test. So he gets to keep those tonsils, for now.

The poor kid hasn’t felt good for an entire month and I feel like he is just now getting his “Eli” back.  By some miracle, no one else in the house has gotten it.  Of course, now that I’ve said that out loud and put it on the internet, everyone’s going to get it.

Fall Baseball

This year we decided to sign Oliver up for fall baseball.  He’s been playing in the Spring for the last three years, the league that he is currently on does fall baseball as well.  The benefit of the playing in the fall is that there are fewer kids so there is more time to really work on the basics.  It’s less competitive and there is more of an emphasis the basics.

He had a really good season and we saw a lot of growth. Especially in his batting, in fact, he got the team “Batman” award for the most improved batting this season.  I love watching him play, but I am always glad when it’s over because adding baseball three days a week adds a special kind of crazy to our lives.

Fall Festivities

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I love fall.  Everything about it.  The weather here in NC is beautiful, still warm but the oppressive humidity of the summer is gone.  Besides being my Birthday Month, it kicks off the Holiday Season for me and getting the house all fun and decorated.  We also have a plethora of Birthdays (Mark, Zoe, Oliver) that happen from October to January.

In between the FARE Walk and our vacation, we did all out usual fall stuff.  Pumpkin Patch field trips, getting pumpkins at the North Carolina State Farmers Market and making Halloween costumes.  Of course, we also went Trick or Treating and this year we participated in a Teal Pumpkin (read more about why we love Teal Pumpkin here) Trunk or Treat that was really fun.

Back to School

This track out was over in a flash.  I think part of it was how busy we were, but there another part was because we traveled right smack in the middle.  It broke up the three weeks really nicely.  By the time the kids were driving each other nuts it was time to go back to school.  It’s crazy that all three have only been in school full time for 9 weeks and I have already gotten used to the kind of calm with just me and Bits home most of the day.  Man, four kids are loud together!

We had that usual transition week where we got back into the swing of homework, getting up in the morning, and getting to bed on time.  We survived to the second week, which brought us Zoe’s first fifth-grade chorus performance. So we had extra rehersals after school for that.  She did so well!  It brought back a lot of memories of when I was in middle and high school choir.   I am secretly am hoping she keeps it up.

Over 1,000 words later, that’s what we’ve been up to.  I promise to be better about blogging.  I have a few posts swirling in my head that I hope to work on through the end of the year, including Zoe’s Birth Story (for her 11th birthday!), how to make a beach trip with kids easier, and a little about how we do the holidays.

Solo Parenting

I’m incredibly thankful that I have an amazing partner to help me survive all the crazy. I’m also so lucky that he has an amazing job that keeps him home with us most of the time. He also does just as much around the house and takes just as much of a part in raising our kids as I do. So when he does have occasional travel, it’s rough.  Its four against one alllllll day long.

I have an immense amount of respect for those moms that have partners that travel regularly or have military spouses. They’re better women than me. I honestly don’t think I could do it. Even now when I know that Mark has travel coming I dread it. Everything in our daily lives is set up for a two-parent household. We divide and conquer a lot. One of us will make dinner while the other is taking Oliver to Baseball. Mark takes Zoe early to chorus one day a week so I don’t have 45 minutes to kill between drop-offs. It’s what works for us.

Survival Mode

Currently, I’m on day one two three (that’s how long it took me to write this post) of a seven-day trip to Seattle for Mark. When the kids went to bed tonight I started looking at my calendar for the week and instantly felt totally and completely overwhelmed. It’s not that this week is any busier than any other week, it’s pretty normal, but looking at it as the one person responsible is a lot. That’s actually how I describe much of my life. A lot. A lot of kids, a lot of commitments, a lot of expectations.

Since this trip wasn’t a surprise, I’ll tell you how I’ve prepared for it. My secret is lower expectations. It’s saying, “that’s just not going to happen” and being ok with that. (Read here how I learned to say no to balance my life.) It’s being realistic about what I’m actually going to be able to get done.

For example, mid last week I got a notice that it’s conference week at the kids’ school. Surprise! (That’s a whole different rant.) I just can’t. I can not take four kids, especially the feral two-year-old, to conferences for three kids by myself, that’s a minimum of three hours. Nope. Just not happening. There is a phone conference option, but unless their teachers want to hear me yelling at the kids the whole time or they want to call after 8:30pm it’s not going to work. So, I said no. My two kids that don’t need it, I checked in via email, and the one I feel needs more support we will have a conference next week. When I have backup.

We meal plan, which I swear I’m going to post about one of these days. When I was planning out this week, I aimed low. That meant planning Dino nuggets, breakfast for dinner, and rotisserie chicken from Kroger rather than the usual, more involved meals. I also planned my more complicated meals toward the beginning of the week and knowing from experience that my “fuck it” level would be high by Thursday. It’s also knowing that I’ll probably switch it up a few times through the week just because life happens.

It’s also no secret that I tend to be a type A personality, planner. Last week I tried to get all the extra “stuff” done that I could. This meant going to the grocery store before Mark left. Making sure I was caught up on laundry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t fold it, it’s festering in baskets in the hall.) Doing any big cleaning projects ahead of time. Truth is, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m cleaning a toilet this week or vacuuming unless a glitter bomb explodes in my living room. My goal is to keep the house standing and the garbage from overflowing. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m giving myself permission to “slack off”.

Expect a Little More

As I pulled away from the airport I said to the kids “Alright. We’re going to have a good week, as long as we can all hold it together. I know you’re going to miss your Dad, but we can do this.” The big two know that they are going to be expected to help more than normal. That may mean watching Bits while I take a shower or be more on top of picking up after themselves.

And typically the big kids will step up to the plate. For example, this morning Zoe got up, got herself ready and once she was done with breakfast and when I wasn’t down with the boys and Bits, she had started making lunches. If she had made the coffee it would have been a perfect morning. Oliver took the initiative this morning to get all his baseball stuff together for tonight. I’m a firm believer, that if you set up the expectations they’ll rise to the occasion. For the most part, that’s how it’s worked for us.

Remember to Breathe

It’s easy to get super caught up in all the things that everyone else needs and forget about you. If you read this post, you know that I’m trying to be better about self-care. My goal for this week while Mark is gone is to not totally lose myself. I’m not talking about my nightly glass of wine as self-care. I am going to try to make sure that I actually stop and do some things for ME this week. I am not exactly sure what that is yet, I’ll try to update as I get through the week. Maybe a girls night in? Maybe I’ll wonder Target with Bits while the big three are in school. Mostly, just try not to lose my shit while I count down the minutes until Mark is home.

When You Get a Case of Mom Burnout

We’ve all been there. The kids are making us crazy, we’re short tempered, we’re exhausted, the house is a disaster but it’s just not getting picked up. Everything and everyone is on our last nerve. It’s not any one things that contribute to us getting to that point, but what can we do to keep from getting Mom Burnout? I’ve never planned on being a Stay At Home Mom. I honestly feel like I’m not very good at it. I am not a domestic goddess by any means. I don’t particularly enjoy play dates or mommy and me classes. I like having my own “thing” that gives me a purpose. Previously that was my job or volunteering with Safe Kids as a CPST. Currently, I’m working with FARE to coordinate the Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk (Learn more about why here). But I still feel like I get that Mom Burnout feeling from the daily grind.

A lot of the time, it sneaks up on me. I’ll notice that I’m snapping a little more at the kids or Mark. Or I’ll find myself irritated with little things, like the tiny socks I seem to find all over the house. Or it’s just a general feeling of the “can’t evens”.

How do you keep from getting to the breaking point? I’ve found that it’s important for me to try to head it off at the pass. Life with four kids (or any kids for that matter) gets crazy. It’s easy to let the week fly by in survival mode as we coordinate baseball schedules with chorus practice, make sure homework is done and everyone eats at least one meal a day with vegetables. Often when I look at the schedule on Saturday as I’m meal planning I think it’s going to be a long week but in reality it flys by.

Self-care

Self-care is a big buzz word in the mom community right now, but you know what? It’s important. When we’re rushing through the week and I’m trying to take care of everything and everyone else it’s easy for my needs to fall by the wayside. You can’t fill from an empty cup and I can bet if you asked 10 moms, 8 of those would admit to Mom Burnout and the other two are probably lying.

How do I do self-care? Sometimes it’s little things like watching trash TV during nap time instead of folding laundry or retreating to take a long hot shower with Pandora on loud while Mark does bedtime. Or maybe it’s saying “fuck it” to making that pan roasted pork loin for dinner and popping in a big old tray of Dino Nuggets because vegetables are overrated.

Sometimes I need to get out of the house alone. Grocery shopping, coffee (alone or with another mom), or getting my nails done, running some errands where I don’t have to buckle and unbuckle the car seat 37 times. Heck, even going to get an oil change on my Swagger Wagon can help. Sometimes it feels good to just have a little space to breathe without someone trying to climb back into your body (Eli and Bits are the most guilty of this) for an hour or two or four.

Date night is another way I do self-care. That seems sort of weird right? Being on a date is not by yourself, but being connected to my spouse helps keep me grounded. We need time when we’re Mark and Crystal instead of Mom and Where is Mom. We are better parents and better partners when we take that time for us. (Read more about how we stay connected here)

Have a Moms Night Out. Sometimes you need to get out with your “tribe” and relax a little. Have some drinks, talk about all the absurd stories about the shit your kids pulled this week. These are the people that get it because they’re in the trenches too. Remember 8 of your 10 friends need it because they’re suffering from Mom Burnout too.

Just Say No

There was once a time when I was absolutely over-committed. I was the master of taking on too much. Make cupcakes for school? SURE! Go on that field trip? ABSOLUTELY! Volunteer for that school committee? WHY THE HELL NOT? I’ll tell you why….. Mom Burnout.

Something I have learned in my old age is that it’s ok to say no. When someone asks you and you don’t want to do it, don’t. There is no need to feel guilty that you just can’t make 75 SunButter sandwiches cut into triangles for the preschool picnic. Three kids with school conferences in one week? It’s ok to skip conferences for the kid that is doing great in school and to check in by email instead. It’s ok to skip that play date because, for the love of God, you just need the baby to take a nap today. Protect your time, it’s ok.

There is no reason that you should feel guilty for being realistic. There is only so much you can take on and it’s ok because you’re human. Stretching yourself too thin is a disservice to yourself and your family. Everyone already has enough stress in their lives. Don’t add to it because you feel obligated to do all the things. So what if Jimmy’s mom is on the PTA?

Next time you look at your calendar and you have 5 things scheduled for Tuesday night, I want you to say no to at least 3 of those things. Practice saying “That’s just not going to work for us.” It feels good, I promise. And next time you start feeling that hint of Mom Burnout, as soon as your partner gets home, take that glass (bottle) of wine up to your bathroom, close and lock the door, blast your own Pandora station (with swears!), fill the tub and take a second to breathe and center yourself again.  You’ve got this!

Food Allergies – When Take Out Is Anything But Easy

There are sometimes when I want to phone it in as a mom. This week for example, Sunday we were in the ER with one sick kid who was home from school until Wednesday. (He’s fine, weird virus that mimicked appendicitis) I’ve been battling a cold since late last week, by Monday it hit me full on and I couldn’t deny I was sick anymore. Tuesday night, I didn’t want to feed anyone dinner. I was just drained. What’s a mom to do? Order carry out!

But it’s not that simple. Pizza you say? Well, we’d have to find something gluten (this is currently a dietary choice more than allergy, but a consideration for now), dairy, soy, nut and tomato free. How about boxed mac n cheese? That’s three kinds to meet everyones needs. Dairy free Daiya, gluten free Annie’s, and regular Annie’s. Frozen chicken tenders and fries? One kid has a potato allergy, so we have to make regular and sweet potato fries, plus gluten free and regular chicken tenders. At that point is it really easier??

Eating out presents the same challenges. We have a handful of safe places and we tend to stick with those. Those options are often not cheap either, ever feed a family of six at Chipotle? That’s a $40 affair, easy. Especially as the kids get older, the bigger two are at the weird in between stage, where a kids meal isn’t enough and the adult meal is too big.

I have people ask me a lot how we manage with our food allergies. I never really have a great awe inspiring answer. We manage because we have to, it’s our life. We cook from scratch most of the time, not because I’m a super awesome amazing mom, but because finding safe convenience foods is not an easy task. We tend to make healthier choices because of it. I’m grateful for that, but damn, sometimes I just want to pop a frozen pizza in the oven.

Raising Boys

I often say that I don’t care what my kids do when they grow up as long as they’re good people. This is mostly true, but I will confess that I worry more about my boys in this respect than I do my girls. I want to raise good husbands, amazing fathers, respectful men. You’d think this would be easy, but I’m finding as they get older it’s not at all.

Pressure from Society

Recently I was shopping for some t-shirts for Eli. I had some time to kill while I was sitting at a therapy appointment (#momlife). The poor kid never gets anything new, part of the hazards of being the little brother just a few years behind your older brother.

I wandered over to The Children’s Place, one of my go tos for cheap clothes that I don’t care if they ruin with paint at school. I get about 4 emails a day from them about sales and coupon codes, did I mention they were cheap? As I was scrolling through the usual sports shirts, tv characters my kids don’t know because we don’t have cable, etc. I saw one that caught my eye. It said, “I never finish anything”.

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It bothered me. A lot. I kept scrolling through the clearance adding some matchable shorts and plain color Ts to my cart as I went. Fine, whatever, don’t like it, don’t buy it. Then, I came across this one….

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I started to get annoyed. What terrible messages we are sending our boys. They don’t have to clean up after themselves? Oh right, that’s women’s work. I kept scrolling, but I was grumbling the whole time. Until I got to these……

 

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That was the straw. I emptied my cart. Absolutely not. I will not be shopping there anymore. I sent pictures to Mark, with a rant about how we are setting our boys up for failure. I stewed about it on the drive home, and through dinner. Then I took to my Facebook page after bedtime because I was still stewing.  I was just going to post on my personal page, but after some encouragement (it didn’t take much, honestly) I decided I was going to post on The Children’s Place’s Facebook page and Twitter. I’m still waiting for a response, by the way. It’s been weeks.

When we dress our boys (or any kid, really) in a shirt that says “I don’t care” we’re sending them a message that says “you don’t have to care”. I see it all the time in the media, little boys being portrayed as lazy, video game playing freeloaders. Fathers being portrayed as someone to be waited on by their wife with no responsibility for their own children. I will not stand for that with my boys.

This is just one example of a way we’re failing!  And I know what people are thinking, girls, get it just as bad. And I totally agree that we’re also stereo typing our girls to be princesses and housewives. I’ll talk about that another time.

Same Standards

We hold those boys to the same standards we do Zoe (and eventually Bits). They’re responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Starting in Kindergarten they are folding and putting away their own laundry. (which eventually evolves to washing it) Oliver does dishes, cleans the bathroom when he pees all over it, they fix their own breakfasts, they sweep. We don’t limit the boy’s chores to stereotypical “man’s work”. They live here too, just because they have a penis doesn’t mean they can’t operate our vacuum.

I’ve said it before, it’s important to me that all of my kids are able to self-sufficient humans when they’re adults. I will not have a child that doesn’t know how to clean their house when they get older because mom did it for them. It’s absurd that right now, in 2017, there are moms doing laundry for their college aged boys. This needs to stop. Right now.

It Teaches Respect

I’m fairly certain that my boys have a lot more respect for “what I do all day” when they have to help out. They know that dinner doesn’t magically appear. They know that it takes work to have clean floors and it’s annoying when someone makes a mess.  They also see their father taking his fair share of household duties.  Mark does dishes, vacuums, and cooks, just like I do.  There is no delusion for them that men “don’t have to” help around the house.

They also respect our space more when they are made to help maintain it. I love it when Bits comes barreling through a room and one of them yells “I just cleaned that up!” It’s vindication for all the times they’ve done it. They know how much work it takes.  They also respect others peoples spaces, when they go to friends houses they help pickup no questions because it’s not optional here.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work.  I get a lot of pushback, especially from the almost 8-year-old.  And this is just one of the things that I worry about when it comes to the boys.  As they grow I feel the need to pound certain things into their head, respect for women, consent, and that because they are middle-class white boys they are in no way better than ANY of their peers.  Right now, with everything going on in the world, this is a hard job, and I worry all the time that we’re not doing a good enough.

In Defense of the Early Bedtime

Every day, I can’t wait for my kids to go to bed.  I’m sure that most parents would sympathize with this, it’s not that I don’t love my children, but they require me to be “on” all day long.  Toddler’s and Preschooler’s don’t typically accept “phoning it in”. By about 5 pm, I’ve answered all the questions I can muster and I just need a minute to myself so that I can think about something other than where the “cool car” is, which transformer is the strongest, where the poop goes when you flush the toilet….. and and and….. There are days when I am counting down until they are in bed.

Our kids go to bed early by most peoples standards.   All of our Tiny Humans are in bed, lights out, between 7 pm and 8 pm.  Weekends, school nights, summer breaks, it doesn’t matter.  Bedtime is pretty strictly enforced.  Frankly, we’ve caught some flack for this, but it works for our family.

It’s not something that we set out to do, honestly, when Zoe was little she fell into her own schedule and it happened to be that she was ready for bed by about 8 pm.  Part of this was because she wasn’t a napper past a year old, she was just exhausted by that time.  She played hard all day and was so busy she was ready.  As it turned out, we came to really enjoy that time together after she went to bed.

Despite Mark’s early work schedule, he was still (and still is to some extent) a night owl, and I worked retail hours so I was up late anyway. We found this was a great time for us to hang out, watch a show, talk about our days, and connect with fewer distractions (read here about ways we stay connected).  It was nice to have that time together, just the two of us.

It seems that all our kids have gotten the Early Riser Gene ™ from Mark.  When they’re up before the sun they tend to be ready for bed pretty early.  By about 7 pm they’re starting to meltdown.  Keeping them up later leads to them being overtired and then they don’t sleep well.  Thus, tired the next day, which shows in their behavior.  It’s a pretty vicious cycle.   So, we have to anticipate their needs, because as kids, they can’t always tell us what their bodies are telling them, and enforce that early bedtime.  I know how I feel when I’m totally exhausted, imagine how that feels when you are young and can’t identify the feelings. I personally enjoy being around well-rested kids, as opposed to overtired heathens.

As we’ve had more kids, that early bedtime is even more important to us and to our relationship.  During the day even if we are both at home, the kids want our attention.  And honestly, we want to give it to them.  When we are all together, no work, no school, we try to make that time family time.  I’ve come to realize that it’s important because soon enough, they’re not going to want to hang out with us.  I want to squeeze out every bit of this time that we can.

But that time ends promptly at 7:30 pm.  Because I want to have that glass of wine without someone asking me what it tastes like, and we’re going to watch a movie that’s not animated and has swears.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this blog post, Zoe came downstairs and asked if we would consider a later bedtime for her.  She is almost eleven and in 5th grade, she is currently in bed by 8 pm, which is the same time as her sister who is two. We asked what she proposed, she said 9:30 pm.  After encountering my raised eyebrow, she walked that back,  and we compromised with 8:30 pm and we would start trying that on the weekends before trying on school nights.  We also decided that we still didn’t want to see her smiling face after 8 pm, so she had to be upstairs working on something quiet.  She said, “I know, Mom.  After we go to bed you drink wine and watch your favorite shows.” So true, Zoe. So true.