What’s Wrong with an Only Child?

By August 14, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

Hours after undergoing a C-section to deliver our first son, still hooked up to an IV and a urinary catheter, still recovering from weeks in the hospital after a traumatic pre-labor experience that involved a dog, overwhelmed with emotion and feeling like my body had been sliced in half and stapled back together, my husband asked about having a second child.

And he wasn’t kidding.

Luckily for him, I couldn’t get out of the hospital bed to strangle him.

There was no way I could even think about a second child. Not after a difficult pregnancy. Not after a C-section. Not after the first couple of weeks, when I thought I would never sleep longer than two hours again in my life.

Moms always say we forget the pain, the suffering, the swollen nipples, the sleepless nights spent Googling every symptom your baby seems to have. We forget it all — and then we have that second or third child.

But I haven’t forgotten yet. I remember every moment spent hugging the toilet, every laborious step to my front door when I was carrying 20 pounds of extra weight, every minute I suffered at the hands of a breast pump, every nap I never got. Oh, I remember.

But now that Landon is almost 9 months old, and he’s crawling (albeit backwards), laughing all the time, napping regularly, eating anything I put in his mouth and sleeping 12 straight hours a night (knock on wood), I have to admit I’m thinking about that second child.

Not because I loved the newborn stage and wish Landon wouldn’t grow up so fast. And not because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m considering it because I worry about him being an only child — and I don’t know what that will mean.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with onlies. To be sure, many of my friends don’t have siblings and they’re fine. (They don’t like to share, but otherwise, they’re fine.) And a few of my friends decided to have just one child, and they’re raising onlines in glorious fashion.

But my husband and I have siblings — he has a younger brother; I have two sisters and a brother — and we see the value in those relationships.

But there’s a lot to consider on both sides.

For example, the cost. Already, college tuition for one child is going to bankrupt us. Our spending has tripled since Landon, with diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, clothing and toys to buy. We do way more laundry, we sleep far less, we rarely surf. And that’s just with one child.

I have a couple of friends who decided to have just one kid. They rationalized that, with one child, they could provide the best, everything the child needed, with the opportunity to travel, attend private school, enroll in art and music classes, get tutoring. With two, they’d have to sacrifice.

But I have friends who are raising more than one kid — and love it. The kids play together (rather, keep each other occupied), they learn valuable socialization skills, they love each other (most days), they’re not lonely.

It’s a tough decision.

I also have to factor in my age because, quite honestly, I’m older and the chances of me having a healthy child — or just a child in general — are greatly reduced every year I wait. I’m lucky: Landon is healthy, happy, loves to sleep, loves to eat. And he’s cute. That helps.

There’s no guarantee for No. 2.

It’s a hard decision — and one that I have to make quickly.

I’m worried that I won’t know how to raise a well-adjusted kid in general, much less an only child who needs to learn valuable social skills that come from being around others. And I don’t want him to be alone when we’re gone. He doesn’t have many cousins — and none who live here — and that concerns me.

Every day I feel differently. When I see posts on Instagram of sisters on trips or brothers playing in the backyard, my heart swells and I want that for Landon. But when I’m looking at preschool tuition and working on our family budget, I realize we can barely afford this little guy.

So what do I do?

Well, for now, I’m just going to enjoy this phase in Landon’s life, where he has my full and undivided attention. And maybe I’ll go back and read my pregnancy journal. Because maybe I am forgetting after all!

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To Everyone, From an Overwhelmed Mom

By July 13, 2017 #BabyFox, Happy Shots, Musings

On assignment with me to a bakery in Kalihi

Dear Everyone I Know,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I couldn’t make your bridal shower. I’m sorry I missed that meeting (and the one before that, too). I’m sorry that I forgot to mail your birthday card for the last two years.

I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your email sooner. Or your text. Or your message in Facebook. Or your Instagram comment. Or your tweet. Or picked up the phone and listened to my 17 messages. Or returned any of those calls.

I’m sorry I spend most of my time feeding, bathing, dressing, undressing, moisturizing, soothing, entertaining and cooking for someone other than myself.

I’m sorry my days are a blur of diapers and baby food and laundry and Swiffering and walking dogs and feeding chickens and washing dishes. Somehow, I’ve managed to fit in important things, like writing stories for my job, interviewing sources, meeting with coworkers, paying bills, applying for preschools (yes, already) and visiting doctors. I’m lucky if I have time to take a shower or brush my teeth, much less meet friends for drinks after work or go to yoga class. (I don’t even know where that mat is anymore.)

And I should apologize to my son, too, who’s had to tag along with me on assignments — to farms, to media previews at restaurants, to meetings, to the office, twice to a bar. Poor kid. At least he can’t say his first year of life wasn’t interesting.

Taking a nap on the shoulder of a coworker

Visiting a pig farm in Wai‘anae

Yes, I knew life would change once I got pregnant. But, I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize just how much it would. I thought I could balance it all. Work, friends, family, dogs, volunteering, surfing, reading a book every now and again. I had done it before. What would be so hard about adding one more (little) thing to my schedule?

I found an old daily planner — remember those? — from just a few years ago. On one particular weekend in August, I went to work, had a doctor’s appointment, got my legs waxed, met a friend for lunch, played tennis, surfed three times, hiked with the dogs, met another friend for lunch, went to dinner in Waikīkī, stayed over at a hotel with girlfriends, brunched the following morning and went to dinner at my parents’ house. All in a 36-hour period.

Want to know what my schedule is like now? Except for the part where I jump in the shower, down a can of Diet Coke (sometimes warm) and get as much work done as I can, the rest of my day revolves around the baby. The only breaks I have are when he’s playing happily by himself (which can last 30 minutes, if I’m lucky) and napping (which can range from half an hour to two hours). And, during those breaks, I’m either working or cooking dinner or making baby food or washing clothes or folding clothes or vacuuming or cleaning toilets or disinfecting everything or scrolling through Instagram or looking for my iPhone.

I’m not complaining. Not at all. This life, albeit not the one I had imagined, is pretty awesome. Unpredictable, frustratingly challenging, outrageously fun. I never knew I could carry a carseat (occupied by a large child), a diaper bag, a fold-up beach tent, a bag of towels, sunscreen and a Hydroflask up and down 22 steps. Right there, I should get an award.

But, I’ll admit, I’m not myself anymore. I can’t seem to return phone calls or respond to emails promptly. I’m too lazy to check Facebook, so I rarely read messages. I keep meaning to send cards or pass on recipes. I can’t meet friends for dinner — or even breakfast, for that matter. I can’t do epic hikes (at least not with the baby) or commit to anything — because I just never know. I don’t know if I can make it to weekly taiko classes or train regularly for the marathon. I don’t know if I can find childcare to attend that luncheon or restaurant opening or baby lūʻau.

I was commiserating with a friend of mine, a mother of a toddler and an infant who still works full time — who I don’t see very often despite living less than a mile away. But we text, often at strange times, when we’re in the midst of something exceedingly mundane, like pumping breastmilk or staring blankly at the ceiling in sheer exhaustion. “That’s the mom life,” she wrote. “Always feeling guilty no matter how much you give … I have no friends anymore.”

I laughed at that last part.

I feel like an awful friend, a worse employee, a terrible sister, daughter, wife, cousin, neighbor, coworker. I can’t seem to be there for everyone like I used to. I never usually forgot birthdays, I always planned extravagant anniversaries and parties, I loved buying gifts and writing letters. Now, I order takeout, send gifts through Amazon and text instead of call. I decline invitations and back out of any responsibility I know I can’t see through. Sometimes I hate the person I’ve become.

How do moms do it? How do they whip up Pinterest-worthy meals — from scratch! — while raising an infant, whom they’re still breastfeeding, work demanding jobs and still find time to flat-iron their hair before leaving the house?

I’m hoping all the perfect mothers I see on Instagram who seem to have it all together really don’t. Otherwise, I’m going to delete my account and start reading the newspaper again.

But it was the last part of my friend’s text that stuck with me: “But that’s OK,” she wrote. “My family is the priority now.”

That’s what makes this whole thing feel so foreign to me. Before marrying my husband and having this child, I didn’t have this kind of family. My “family” then really just consisted of friends, dogs and neighbors. Now I have this other, new family — one with a husband and child — and I’ve had to re-prioritize. So, while at one point in my life, my family looked very different, I treated them the same way I do this little new one. It’s just this family — namely, the small human — is very demanding and needy.

So I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, not done, won’t do, and probably will never do in the future. But right now, I’ve got something I need to take good care of. Hope you understand.

Sincerely and with gratitude,
A Very Overwhelmed Mom

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16 Years of Surf and Counting

By June 26, 2017 Musings, The Daily Dish

ns. One, you needed a board, and I didn’t have one. Second, you needed a way to transport the board (that I didn’t have) to the beach.

My cousins all surfed, mostly on the West Side. In fact, one surfed competitively; another — her sister — is a master paddler. But I was so much younger — 10 years at least — that by the time I was interested, they weren’t surfing anymore. Or they moved away. Or they had kids. It was just me — and no board.

So, after I had moved back home from Chicago, after I had gotten a job that would afford me a car (with racks) and a board (used), I decided, OK, I’m doing it. I was single, I had a lot of free time, I was going to surf as much as humanly possible.

And I did.

I bought a used 9-foot Tanaka board for $300 — which I still have — outfitted my silver Honda Civic with hard racks and went down to Waikīkī every single morning.

Up until I got pregnant last year — I stopped surfing at five months — I went down to the beach just about every morning. Always at Queen’s, always before sun up, and always eager to start my day in the surf.

Over the years, I surfed at different breaks — Diamond Head, Tongg’s, Chun’s, Rest Camp, Rockpiles, a few spots in Maunalua Bay, on Maui and Kaua‘i, in New Zealand and Ireland, in Fiji and Costa Rica — but I always came back to my home break. To Waikīkī.

The dawn-patrol group at Queen’s has become a family of sorts. (I used to see them more than my actual family, to be honest.) What started off as friendly banter in the lineup had turned into such a close relationship we’ve traveled to Vegas and Japan together, we have breakfast just about every morning together, we celebrate birthdays and weddings and retirements together. Strong arms and a mental break aside, surfing had given me this rare gift — of true friendship — that was completely unexpected.

Me in Tavarua, Fuji, in 2009.

All female team for a contest in Waikīkī, a few summers ago

Getting ready to paddle out at a river-mouth break in Costa Rica, 2012.

Cracking up with the Old Guys, who knows when.

Surfing has become such a cool thing to do — and to say you do. And I almost hesitate to tell people it’s my hobby. I still refuse to call myself a “surfer.” I surf, it’s a verb, it’s not my occupation. And it aggravates me when people pick up the sport to subscribe to a lifestyle that’s purely born out of a marketing campaign. I don’t do it because it’s cool or because my friends are doing it or because it gets likes on Instagram. I do it because it’s fun, it fuels my soul, it’s a great workout, I love being in the water, it’s how I hang out with my friends and I can’t bring my phone with me to the lineup.

And surfing has never defined me. I surf, yes. (And I do own more boards than I’d like to admit.) But I also hike, play tennis, shoot hoops, hit taiko drums, bake, swim, garden, look for native birds, dance, travel, write and read. I even twirl a baton. I don’t sit around and talk about surfing all day long (like a lot of my classmates in high school did) or chase waves or plan trips around swells or call in sick because surf’s up. There’s so much more to do. Surfing is just part of my life. It’s not my whole life.

Now, though, life has changed. The Old Guys have all told me that when they had kids, they stopped surfing, some for 20 years. I really didn’t think that would happen to me. Why would I stop surfing? Just because I had a baby? Actually, yes. Having a baby changes a lot.

While I do get in the water at least once a week — thanks to a very generous mother-in-law and a husband who lets me run away on Saturday mornings — I don’t surf nearly as much or as often as I used to. (It’s not the safest to surf wearing your baby in an Ergo. Plus, it’s hard to paddle out with that thing on.) But you know what? It’s OK. I miss it — but not enough to hate my life and regret having this baby. Not even close. I love spending this time with the little guy. And I know, soon enough, we’ll both be paddling out to the lineup together. And that will make surfing even better.

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Oh, the Mommy Shaming is Real

By June 20, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

When I tell people I stopped breastfeeding a couple of months ago because my milk supply suddenly stopped, I get mixed responses.

Most of my friends get it and are supportive. Others offer me condolences and apologies, which are well-intended. And then a few — and these are usually people I don’t know well — shake their heads disapprovingly or look at my child as if he were just rescued from an animal shelter.

Apparently, this “mommy-shaming” is a real thing — and it’s more common than you think. According to a new study, nearly two-thirds of women claim they are mommy shamed by others, with their in-laws and parents being some of the worst offenders. What are they being shamed about? How they displcine their child, what they feed their child and whether they use a bottle or not. (I’m not sure what the “or not” is. A sippy cup? Out of our palms? A shot glass?)

And here’s the even harsher fact, one that wasn’t discussed in this study: We all do it, too.

Moms can sometimes be the most critical. We’re mean about it, rude, judgmental. We give other moms disapproving looks, shake our heads, roll our eyes, gossip, criticize, post on Facebook, write blogs. We think we know what we’re doing, that our way is the best way, that everyone else should follow our lead. We raised awesome kids, right? So, do what I did and you’ll have awesome kids, too!

I wish it were that easy.

Truth is, there are myriads of ways to raise kids, and they are plenty of reasons why parents do what they do. And there’s really no way of knowing what’s really going on.

I remember talking with a first-time mom months ago who was very defensive about her choice to use formula instead of breastfeed. She opted to take medication that would pass through her breastmilk, so she gave her son formula. I get it. Of course she was going to use formula. But she had been made to feel badly about her choice and thought she had to defend herself. And that’s too bad.

As long as we’re making the best decisions we can at the time we’re making them, and we’re considering our options, keeping our child the priority, I can’t see how we can go wrong.

We don’t know what every situation is for every mom. Maybe she works at a job where pumping isn’t an option. Maybe she can’t afford a super-fancy preschool or organic baby food. Maybe she has three other kids who need attention, too. The bottom line is, we just don’t know. And if we don’t know, we shouldn’t be quick to judge.

I know I’ve been judged for my choices to let my dogs lick my baby, to take him to the beach before he was six months old, to drag him around with me on interviews, to stop breastfeeding, to feed him store-bought baby food, to let him sleep in a rocker, to use Pampers over Huggies, to vaccinate my child, to not post his photos on social media, to let my mother-in-law watch him on Sundays so I can surf and feel normal, for traveling to Japan with an infant. And everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about it. But I’m doing the best I can, to make decisions every step of the way that I’m OK with, that keep our child safe and happy.

And I will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. But there’s not a single parent out there who did everything right. None. But we try, and that matters.

Look, we’re always going to judge. It’s what we do as humans. But let’s be a little more compassionate, too.

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Three years, three dogs and a baby

By June 14, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

The other day I was looking through photos from a hike my husband and I did two years ago.

We trekked across the spine of the Ko‘olau Mountains that connects Moanalua Valley to the top of Hāʻiku Stairs. It took us seven long, sweaty hours, and there were moments — oh, I remember them in detail — when I wanted to give up, call 911 and get rescued off the ridge.

But my husband, who spends most of his spare time either in the mountains or underwater, simply kept going, stopping to listen to my whining and reassuring me that we weren’t going to die. At least not today.

This is just one reason why I adore my husband. From the day I met him — three and a half years ago, at 5 a.m., at the beach in Waikīkī — he’s always been supportive, always encouraging me to do whatever I want, but making sure I’m OK, too. He has more faith in me — like, to finish the hike — than I do, and that’s exactly what anyone should have in a partner.

Six months ago, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, frustrated and feeling like a complete failure at this whole mom thing. I wasn’t sleeping, my milk supply was pathetic, and I felt like I’d never be a normal human again.

My husband joined me on the floor and, without judgement, said, “It’s going to be OK. You’re doing a great job.”

Of course, I didn’t believe him at first. I felt like I was actually doing a horrible job. But his kind, supportive words were enough to get me up from the cold floor and trudge back to the living room where I had another 20 minutes of painful pumping to do.

Oh, I complained about it. I whined and cried. But, in reflection, he was right, at least about the first part. It turned out to be OK. We’re OK. The baby is alive and thriving. I’m alive, our dogs are alive. We did it — just like he said we would.

People often ask me what it was about my husband that led me to marry him after knowing him for just six months. And I’ve often answered that it was a combination of things: He’s really smart, responsible, funny, generous. (He’s also cute, and that helps.) But it really came down to one thing — his kindness. Even when he’s angry or irritated or frustrated or tired. In the end, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone or anything (with the exception of rats). He apologizes, he explains, he tries hard. His kind heart is what did it for me.

Our marriage is very much like that trail. It’s tough and challenging but beautiful and rewarding, too. And I’m lucky to have a partner who will stick by my side, put up with my whining, and help me along the way.

Happy Anniversary, Kai!

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