Just One Pi-Vacy

Once you have children, using the restroom becomes a spectator sport. Sure, you could lock the door in a futile attempt to get a little bit of alone time, but then, you risk either:

1. Your child shrieking, “MOMMY COME BACK MOMMY WHERE ARE YOU MOMMY OPEN THE DOOR MOMMY MOMMY MOOOOOOMMMMMYYYYY” over and over again – making it virtually impossible to concentrate on doing your business

OR

2. Your child being so unnaturally quiet that all you can imagine is that they must have somehow learned to operate the oven and stuck their whole body in there – making it virtually impossible to concentrate on doing your business.

So…open door policy it is.

The only time I do lock the door is when it is that time of the month for me. I open the cabinet underneath my sink and I discreetly grab a tampon from my stockpile (seriously, if we had a nuclear holocaust, I’d be using tampons as my black market currency). Then, I tell Katie, “Katie, Mommy needs some privacy.” I lock the door to our bathroom and do what needs to be done while Katie sobs in the room next door.

Well, one morning a few months back, I noticed that the house was eerily quiet- a sure sign that something was amiss in the house of Reichert. A search for Katie found her in front of my bathroom cabinet with a virtual rainbow of tampons splayed out before her: the green super absorbent, the yellow mediums, and the purple lites. Kind of Mardi Gras-ish, if you think about it. She gleefully announced, “Mama- Katie has pi-vacy too! I like pi-vacy! More pi-vacy!” as she continued to dump box after box of tampons onto the floor. Rather than correct her faulty vocabulary (I mean, do you really want to introduce the word “tampon” to a toddler?), I scooped her up and restocked my hoard.

Since then, Katie and I have been sporadically toying with potty training. Sometimes she’s cooperative, sometimes she’s not. One afternoon, I could tell she really needed to poop. She’s farting like a dog who ate a casserole of baked beans and then chased it with a big head of cabbage. I place her on her little potty and wait. And wait. And wait. She sits there and chatters on and on. Once in a while, she gets up to check and see if any progress has been made (no). Finally, I think, well, perhaps she’s uncomfortable with me as an audience? She was in a pretty vulnerable position: naked from the waist down with me towering over her with a frenzied look in my eye, chanting over and over again, “Just try to do a poopy. You can do it, Katie. ” I mean, some people can’t perform under pressure, right? So I ask her, “Katie, do you need some privacy?”

A big smile comes on her face and her eyes light up. She yells, “YES! I NEED PI-VACY!” and begins to sprint bare bottomed to my bathroom. Perplexed at first, it finally dawns on me- she’s after my stash. I chase after her and do a full body tackle to keep her from wreaking havoc on my feminine hygiene products. I pick her up and she starts thrashing and kicking me over and over again. With the fury and despair of a young Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, she bellows, “PI-VACY!!! PI-VACY!!!!!! JUST…..ONE……PI-VACY!!!!!!”

I am so ready for menopause.

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Them Pearly Whites

When Sarah was 10 months old, we enrolled in a Mommy and Me type class at our local community center. This class was, for me, a lifeline in many ways as I was trying to figure out the ins and outs of being a new stay at home mom. I met several “co-workers” and ultimately, both Sarah and I forged some wonderful, lasting friendships.

During the class, we moms would have some playtime with our children with a teacher who led us in some group play activities. Then, we would leave the children with their teacher and retreat to a classroom of our own where a parent educator would facilitate a discussion on various topics related to raising children: discipline, sleep issues, nutrition, etc. We tried not to let it degenerate into a bitch session about our spouses but I have to admit, we all got in a few zingers as well about our beloved partners.

Well, for one such discussion, a hygienist from a local dentist office came to do a presentation on taking care of our children’s teeth. I remember our roundtable of first time moms recoiling in horror as the dental hygienist presented poster board sized pictures of the open mouths of various two to four year old patients. Their poor little teeth were riddled with tooth decay, fillings, and crowns. Some even had pulled teeth. As if to drive the point home, she specifically said, “These are all children from YOUR community.” So not random children from the mountains of Appalachia with, perhaps, no access to dental expertise. But rather, children of parents who live in our fairly well-off and well-educated suburb. Despite this commonality, I do remember thinking with much judgement and righteousness: what kind monsters/morons are these parents? Are they giving their kids Mountain Dew in a bottle? Seriously, some people are just not fit to parent.

Do I have to connect the dots for you or can you figure out where this is going for yourself?

Fast forward 2.5 years. Sarah bites into a pickle and howls in pain, “MY TOOTH! MY TOOTH!! MY TOOTH HUUUUUURRRTS!!!!!” A trip to our dentist revealed that Sarah had a massive cavity on her very back molar. The dentist’s first approach was to give Sarah some laughing gas and then, treat the cavity. This path was quickly abandoned when it became apparent that the entire office would need to assist in holding a terrified and screaming Sarah down so that the dentist could do her work.

So Plan B: go to an ambulatory surgery center where Sarah would be put under general anesthesia. The dentist would then go in and fix the cavity while an anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, numerous dental assistants, nurses, and other support staff would assist. We’d go in at 6:30 in the morning and hopefully, be out by noon or so.

I don’t want to overdramatize what happened because I am painfully aware of parents who have children who are seriously ill. This was a simple cavity and it was an easy fix. But having Sarah put under general anesthesia was one of the worst things I’ve experienced as a parent. We all have those days, as a stay at home mom, when you just wish on all that is holy that your child could be still for 10 minutes so you can get whatever task you are working on completed. But when I cradled Sarah in my arms as she slumped into unconsciousness in a matter of seconds, I was terrified. She was so still and so quiet. I’ll never forget that awful feeling and the guilt I had knowing we had only ourselves to blame for the situation at hand.

Luckily, everything went well. Though instead of the filling that the dentist was hoping to do, Sarah ended up having a root canal and a crown…I know, what kind of mom am I??!?!! A three year old with a root canal? The mind reels.

But wait…there’s more! In addition to the pain and duress we caused our daughter, all told, this procedure ended up costing us thousands of dollars. Chris and I had deliberately decided earlier that year not to enroll Sarah in our dental plan. The premiums were so high, as was the deductible. With the hubris conferred to us by our combined masters degrees from a fairly reputable business school backing us up, we felt that we would be better off just paying for the usual two check ups out of our own pockets. In our misguided effort to beat the system, we ended up paying for our dentist’s time, her staff, the anesthesiologist and his staff, the supplies and equipment needed for the procedure, as well as the facility fees for the surgery center. So not only were we negligent parents from an oral health perspective, we weren’t too bright fiscally either.

So, moral of the story: Sarah never had a cavity again and we signed her up for dental insurance right away. Ha ha! Guess again, suckers!!! Never overestimate our skills as responsible parents or as rational decision makers. No, in fact, her recent check up revealed that Sarah has ANOTHER cavity. And….wait for it….we never enrolled her in our dental plan! I mean, what were the chances it would happen twice, right?

Again, the doctor hopes to treat her in the office under laughing gas. If this does not go well, we will have to go to the University of Minnesota for a consult and then, the procedure. I have been preparing Sarah since our appointment about how imperative it is that she allow the dentist to do this in the office. With the theory that knowledge is power, I’ve told her exactly what will happen, the instruments that will be used, that it will be uncomfortable, and that things will smell, taste, sound, and look funny. It might even be a little scary but she needs to let the dentist do her work. Sarah has solemnly sworn her full cooperation.

But Chris’s approach may be more effective. When he found out about the need for yet another procedure, his response was, “Promise to buy her many, many things if she can get through it.” What a dynamic duo we are.

Party Post-Mortem

For the record, let it be noted that on January 21st at 4:31PM, a mere 4.5 hours after her 6th birthday party had ended, Sarah turned to me and, in a brisk, business-like tone, asked, “Now…can we talk about my 7th birthday party?”  I am 100% sure it would have been even sooner but she was occupied with ski school for about 2.5 hours immediately after her party.  This girl is formidable.

So yes, number 6 has come and gone and now, we have number 7 to negotiate (even as I write this, I am mumbling, “I am stronger than Sarah. She is not the boss of me.”).  And I have to say, the party yesterday was not the 8th circle of hell that I was anticipating.  In fact, I found myself actually, dare I say it, enjoying it…without the aid of mood enhancing drugs!  I had time in the middle of it all to witness and appreciate the joy on my daughter’s face.  Chris and I even had a moment where we locked eyes across the room and smiled with pride and joy!  And reflect!  And savor!  Yes! <Insert fist pump here>  Of course, this was before we had to pay the bill which was equivalent to more than double my monthly car payment back in grad school, but believe me when I say, up till that moment, I felt giddy and flush with parenting success.

Which brings us to this post.  What made this year’s party different than the last three parties?  Maybe it was because I knew that this would be the last such circus we’d ever host (for Sarah anyway….God help us with Katie).  Or maybe it was because the folks at Way Cool Cooking School could NOT have been better (seriously, Chef Jeff was amazing with the girls).  Or maybe I finally have learned to loosen my Type A++ personality into a much more go with the flow Type A- personality.  While all these may be contributing factors to the successful party, I think I know what the answer is to a happy, almost stress free children’s birthday.  Lean in closer and let me share my newfound wisdom with you.

All these years, I have been under the misguided assumption that a child’s birthday party requires children running amok.  Allow me to present Exhibits A, B, and C.

Exhibit A- Three year olds running amok at Little Gym:

Exhibit B-  Four year olds running amok at Pump It Up (please note that Sarah has actually landed on her head):

Exhibit C- Five year olds running amok at Kiddywampus:

But in reality, what you need is a party where the the principal activity requires the children to be seated!  What an A-HA moment this was for me!  I had 20 girls with their rears parked for almost 2 hours while they prepped, cooked, and consumed their pizzas, muffins, and pancake sundaes.  I was not in a flop sweat chasing after party goers who seemed more like rabid animals rather than the human beings they were purported to be.  There was no chance of kids hurtling their bodies at one another in a what can only be described as some misguided attempt to dance.  No possibility that an errant paint brush would poke another kid in his/her eye, blinding them for life.  No fear that I was just one tug of the fire alarm away from a lawsuit!  No!!  I present to you Exhibit D- Six year olds NOT running amok at Way Cool Cooking School:

Even Katie at  two years of age stayed on her butt for the majority of the time.  It was a birthday party miracle.

And now, my mind is racing.  This could be a major paradigm shift in children’s parties and party locations.  Birthday parties at spinning classes!  Chair factories! City buses!  Casinos!!!  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

So go forth, my fellow parents, and plan your own children’s festivities armed with this knowledge.  If I can just help one other mom or dad in this otherwise painful rite of passage, I feel like the past three years of suffering will not have been in vain.