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Bold & Strong: Coffee Chat With Dads Being Dudes – Michael & Weston

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By Melissa Face

I just began this blog series last month, titled it Coffee Chats With Moms, and I’m already veering away from that name. It’s for a great reason, though: it’s June, and it’s time to celebrate fatherhood! 

I was scrolling through Instagram when I first saw Dads Being Dudes. The logo caught my attention right away, and then I read their description. “Two dudes being new dads. Join our journey of parenting.” 

How cool! Parenting tips and support for new fathers! I had to know more, so I reached out to the founders of the Dads Being Dudes podcast, Michael and Weston, and asked if we could chat over coffee. They were almost as excited as I was! Here is what they had to say:

 

Me: What is your favorite coffee drink?

Michael: I eat pretty healthy, so during the week I just have my coffee black, no cream or sugar. However, if I splurge on the weekend then my favorite “cheat” coffee is an iced mocha with extra cream and sugar from Dunks.

Weston: My favorite coffee by far is a sweet vanilla cream cold brew from Starbucks.

 

Me: What gave you the idea for the Dads Being Dudes podcast, and how did you get started?

Michael: I’ve always wanted to start a business or a brand but could never figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I had the idea for a surfing podcast with one of my best friends, but he shot the idea down. Once I had the idea for a podcast in my head, the excitement took over and I wanted to start something ASAP. That led me to thinking about all the times I wanted to learn something about becoming a father but didn’t have the time to read. I started digging into dad podcasts but couldn’t find one I liked the vibe of, so I decided I should start my own. I pitched the idea to my best friend who is also a new dad and he was in. From there we got to work on the concept.

 

Me: How do you and your co-host know each other?

Michael: We actually met through our brothers. I was new in town and our two older brothers were in the same grade and became friends. They introduced us and ever since then we’ve been best friends. That was 16 years ago now.

 

Me: Did you always hope to be a father?

Michael: Yes, I did. My parents got divorced when I was in 3rd grade, and I didn’t talk to my dad for about 12 years. We have a great relationship now, but that missing link made me always want to be the best dad I could be.

 

Me: What are you most excited to teach/share with your child?

Weston: The thing I’m most excited to teach my son is sports, I think golf especially because that is also something you can do together and a sport you can play forever.

 

Me: What kind of dad do you want to be?

Weston: The kind of dad I want to be is the calm dad, doesn’t often get mad dad, and always around dad. I want to see my son grow and watch him do whatever he enjoys. My parents always came to my sporting events from little league to high school and that really meant a lot and felt good always having them around. I hope to do the same.

 

Me: How involved do you plan to be? Diaper changing? Late-night feedings?

Michael: I plan to be very involved as a dad. My wife is a saint and deserves to have me help at least 50% of the time. I plan on doing the diaper changes, late night feedings and as many baths as I can. I think it’s a great opportunity to do them together and have some good laughs when we mess up.

 

Me: How are you currently supporting your wife during pregnancy?

Michael: This is actually the topic of episode 3 of our podcast.  I think the biggest way that I can be supportive is simply just being there for her. We have a great relationship, so I’m able to make a lot of jokes and “make fun” of the changes she’s going through. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it definitely makes us laugh. However, I know her very well so I know when she’s not in a mood for a joke and just needs the more “supportive husband” to be there for her and just listen.

 

Me: What are some funny dad mess-ups you’ve heard or made?

Weston:  1. I told my wife to take notes on me changing a diaper and later realized I was actually putting the diaper on backwards. 2. I was tossing around a ping pong ball as Ollie was lying down on his play pad. I then forgot to catch it and smashed it off his forehead. 3. Twice when we were still at the hospital, I was holding Ollie and I was holding him so tight that I was actually making him overheat and the nurse got worried and had us strip him so he would cool off.

 

Me: Who is the best TV dad?

Weston: One TV dad that comes to mind is Al Bundy from Married With Children. He was an absolute riot and just seemed like no matter how tough times were he still managed to keep the family happy and going. 

 

Me: Do you think dads get a bad rap that they don’t deserve?

Michael: I do think that dads get a bad rap. I would say it’s mostly self- induced though. One of the first things I did upon becoming a new dad was join some dad facebook groups. Most of the content people share is uplifting and positive, but there are some who post stereotypical things such as being a “money maker” or their wife “nagging them”. This group is obviously what sticks out to the public. I focus on the positives, but I think as a whole, dads can be categorized into that bad group and it’s unfortunate because I see a lot of great dads out there who are involved with their kids.

 

Me: What do you think moms need to understand about dads?

Weston: One thing I think moms need to understand about dads is that we can actually take care of the baby when you need to get things done or leave for a while. We do want to help even if you don’t ask. We can always help, we just need to put down the tools, video games, grill spatula, TV remote, weed whacker, and the beer.

Michael and Weston are hilarious and down-to-earth. They don’t hold anything back in their weekly podcasts (check out the Mother’s Day minisode), and they are gaining quite the fan base. Since I reached out to them, I have seen their followers nearly double on Instagram and for good reason. They regularly post dad hacks, funny quotes, and advice for men who are entering the world of bottles, burp cloths, and boppies (if you don’t know what those are, you will soon). 

Dads Being Dudes is a breath of fresh air in the world of fatherhood, but don’t take my word for it. See for yourself at one of the links below!

 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dads_being_dudes/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dads-Being-Dudes-114969293480201

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF4SZdBno1ew4rdneEsu-DA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_dadsbeingdudes

Website: https://www.dadsbeingdudes.com

 
***I Love You More Than Coffee is available for preorder. Order your copy here.

 

Bold & Strong: Coffee Chats With Moms – Dawn Elliott

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by Melissa Face

When I decided I wanted to celebrate the upcoming release of my book, I Love You More Than Coffee, with a series of coffee chat blog posts, I knew Dawn had to be my first featured mom. If you’ve read my book, you already know that like coffee, she plays a vital role in my life. And if you haven’t read it yet, well, her quotes are another great reason to order your copy today!

Dawn and I both began our motherhood adventures about nine years ago. We have supported each other through pregnancies, attended kids’ birthday parties, and complained about sleepless nights and potty training. 

Our journeys toward womanhood, however, began in the mid-90s, when we sat cross-legged in cheerleading kilts on the sidelines of our school’s football field. That is important to note because something Dawn and I both value as moms is maintaining our identity as strong, intelligent, interesting women.

Identity is a major theme in my essay collection, and when I was narrowing down cover designs with my project editor, I asked Dawn to weigh in. “I think you need a lipstick stain on the lid of the to-go cup,” she said. “It would add a pop of color and a nod to womanhood.” 

I agreed.

There are many adjectives appropriate for my friend of nearly thirty-five years, but candid is probably the most suitable. Everyone needs a friend who will tell it like it is, whether it’s letting you know that your current camera angle is emphasizing your double chin or that a blouse you recently bought would serve better as a shower curtain. 

There’s no one more fun for a girls’ weekend, brunch date, or shopping trip. And obviously, there’s no one better to chat with over a cup of coffee. Today, I’m having a nonfat latte. It’s my go-to when I have the chance to enjoy coffee and conversation.

Me: What does your pandemic situation look like?

Dawn: Well, just before it began, I accepted a new job that I’m still learning. While I’m grateful for employment, the transition to working from home has not been an easy one. It’s tough being needed all day, you know? I mean, I’m needed at work, too. But not to wipe butts or get snacks. It’s a different level of need.

 

Me: So, I’m guessing you miss your morning trips to Wawa and Starbucks?

Dawn: Yes! A white mocha was my morning reward after getting two kids ready and dropping them off at two different schools. Now, coffee feels more like a habit than a treat.

 

Me: Did you always imagine you would become a mom?

Dawn: Not always. As a child, I did see myself as a mother one day. As a college student, that idea was abandoned. When I met my husband, I just assumed we would have a family at some point after marriage because “that’s what you do”, and I knew he would be a loving father. About five years into marriage, we decided to start trying, and I experienced infertility. Coming to the realization that I may never have a child of my own was devastating. I grieved not being able to give my husband his own child as well. In that year of infertility struggles, I emotionally and physically ached to be a mother.

 

Me: What advice do you have for new moms?

Dawn: 1. Let the baby sleep in the hospital’s nursery.  2. Be wary of having a grandparent stay with you the first few weeks. The help may be wonderful, but if Grandma is always rushing to pick up the crying baby or to change the diaper, then Dad may not feel the need to help as much. 3. Don’t ignore your own needs. Take a shower every day; paint your nails, etc. Whatever makes you feel better about yourself, do it.

 

Me: Do you have any mom hacks to share?

Dawn: Hack for moms with infants: Always have a flat, cloth diaper near. They are perfect for burping, cleaning spit up, and wiping up after nursing. Hack for moms with older kiddos: Have your child eat breakfast in the car on the way to school or daycare. Individual packs of mini muffins have saved us a lot of time in the morning. No shame in my mini muffin game.

 

Me: What makes you a great mom?

Dawn: As a mom of boys, it is important for me to raise them to be strong, yet sensitive and respectful of the value of a woman. I think showing love in multiple ways makes me a great mom. Physical touch like hugs and kisses, making up fun games to play with them, letting them help cook, encouraging their creativity with fun art projects, and even disciplining are ways I show my love for them. I also believe stability is comforting to children. My husband and I work well as a team to give them that.

 

Me: What part of motherhood is your biggest struggle?

Dawn: Is there just one part? All of the struggles are equally big because I’m raising humans! I think my struggle with guilt may give me the most grief. I have guilt that I cannot meet the needs of my family and my own desires in life. It is impossible to give 100% to everything and everyone.

 

Me: What song best describes your current motherhood situation?

Dawn: “All Mixed Up” by 311. My husband and I are both currently working from home due to Covid-19, and the boys are staying home from daycare as well. I’m “All Mixed Up” because at any moment I have to switch from being Mama, to Dawn the wife, to Dawn the employee. And when I manage to sneak outside and hide on the platform of the playset, I get to be just me.

“It’s funny,” Dawn said, post interview. “I had the hardest time answering the question about what makes me a good mom.”

She isn’t alone in that respect. Many of us are critical of ourselves and each other. I follow a few parenting sites, and it seems articles are frequently pitting moms against each other. Stay-at-home moms are on one side of the ring, and working moms are on the other. A recent headline on a popular site read, “Stay-at-Home Mom Hopes Others Will Now Finally Realize What It’s Like.” 

I read the headline. Then I unfollowed.

There are benefits and drawbacks of most every parenting situation. The best thing to do is surround yourself with a support system that lifts you up and makes you laugh. Hang out with moms who celebrate the hilarity of motherhood that connects us all. Spend time with mothers who allow you to vent without trying to “fix”. Look for a mom who acknowledges that you are doing fine even if your situation is different from hers. Find a mom who will tell you that your daughter’s Pusheen sticker is stuck to your boob when you meet virtually for coffee. 

Find a Dawn. 

 

***I Love You More Than Coffee is available for pre-order. Order your copy here!

 

Follow me on Facebook @MelissaFaceWrites for monthly giveaways!

 

Quaranteam: Our New Normal

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by Melissa Face

It’s 9:00 on Monday morning, and I feel a rush of cool air on my back where my comforter should be. The mattress dips gently to one side as my six-year-old climbs into my bed. She flings her arm across me and snuggles up to my back. I turn to face her, and she smiles, forming small cracks in the remnants of bubble gum toothpaste that decorate her mouth. 

“Mom?” she asks.

It’s the first question of the day. There will be at least nine hundred and eighty-seven more.

“Do you think our house is tired of us being at home?”

I yawn and search for an answer that will satisfy her.

“I don’t,” I say with authority. “Our house is happy that we are here and safe. It misses our laughter when we are at work and at school.”

“But does it think we’re too noisy?” she asks. “Do you think it’s tired?”

“I know I am!” I laugh. “But I guess we should get up anyway and have breakfast. Your brother has been up for an hour.”

Delaney and I head downstairs to decide between waffles or cereal and fruit or yogurt. Our morning routine is pretty similar each day: breakfast, Bible study, school work, and outside time. We are lucky to have what we need: water, food, toilet paper, and each other.

On mornings like this one, I am grateful that I can recognize everything that is good about our current situation.

Most mornings when I work, I don’t see my kids at the start of their day. Instead, I text my husband to check on them from my classroom while my computer and I both wake up.

“How were the kids this morning? Did Delaney eat? Did they get to school on time?” 

His response, though slightly different each day, almost always involves a breakfast or wardrobe struggle.

Not only has the pandemic allowed us to begin our days together, but now I also get the best part of my children’s day. Just a few weeks ago, our lives felt so hectic. We were a frazzled family of four: two working parents, two kids at school, and the need to fit dinner, baths, homework, and a few minutes of playtime into the last tiny chunk of the day. Most evenings, the kids were tired and grumpy, and my husband and I were, too. Quarantine has allowed me to work from home and for us to split up many of these tasks throughout the day. Overall, there has been less yelling, fussing, and grumbling.

Flexible dress is another pandemic perk. Despite our efforts to plan ahead and pick out clothing the night before, wardrobe issues are a regular problem in our house. There is almost always a last minute change in shirt choice or leggings that results in Delaney wearing a very interesting outfit to school.

Thankfully, there is no quarantine dress code. We’ve worn pajamas all day a few times, and we’ve dressed up for an outdoor, Easter photo shoot. On the other days, Delaney has taken full advantage of her creative options and worn a Christmas shirt, a Heartstrings turtleneck and jacket from my childhood, a Pusheen t-shirt her brother made, and leggings and a jacket that matched mine. There has been pattern mixing, color clashing, and attire that could be considered seasonally inappropriate. But no one cares. No one sees us. And Delaney is thrilled that her creativity isn’t being stifled by unreasonable parents.

Perhaps the best thing that we are experiencing from our quarantine time is our almost constant closeness. We walk together, eat together, read together, and watch movies together. At any point in the day, it’s common for one or both kids to snuggle up to me on the couch and rest their heads in my lap.

“Tell me what it was like when you were a kid,”Evan says. “What was something that made you scared? What was one of the best Christmas gifts you ever got? Was anybody ever mean to you in school?”

I answer each of his questions, and we talk until we are both sleepy. 

I know we are only a few weeks into our mandated quarantine. I know people are sick, tired, and worried. I worry a lot at night, too. I know businesses are suffering and people are struggling, and I hate all of that. 

But when life around us begins to return to normal, I hope some things don’t. 

 

How We Quarantined: Week #2

 

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By Melissa Face

This week was difficult for many of us.

I found out that I will not be returning to room 301 with my incredibly talented sophomores, and we will have to spend the remainder of our year connecting virtually. That brought on a whole new wave of sadness and uncertainty. How will I make sure they are getting what they need? How will those without internet access continue to work on their assignments? How will I juggle homeschooling my two children and instructing my tenth graders? And for the love of God, why isn’t Google Classroom allowing me to set up a new class??

This week I felt more stress and anxiety about the pandemic, which likely came from reading too many online articles late at night. As a result, I had multiple nightmares about ventilators and food shortages.

  In fact, I felt so negative that I thought about not writing about week two at all. I could just wait and see what week three was like and maybe I would have something more positive to say. But that would be hypocritical of me. I tell other people all the time that it’s okay to not be doing okay, and it’s okay to admit it. So it needs to be okay for me to do the same. I must embrace the fact that I’m not going to feel optimistic about this situation all the time.

I also remembered that writing is one of the main ways I cope with my feelings, and ignoring that now would be doing myself a great disservice. I would be missing out on the opportunity to sort, deal, plan, and put things into perspective. 

This week was definitely more challenging than last week, but there were still plenty of great moments with my children and my friends.

 

Here are some things that were especially helpful this week:

 

  1. Venting – I called my mom and asked her to just listen to my frustrations. I didn’t need advice or for her to fix anything; I just needed to get all the ick out. I needed to explain how overwhelming it felt to be responsible for my students at school and my two at home and that I wasn’t sure I could do it all. She listened while I shared, and then we moved on to more pleasant topics. 
  2. Shopping – I bought a dress online. I don’t know when I will wear it, but I’m excited about trying it on when it comes in the mail. It gives me something to look forward to, and that is important. I also bought a new novel from one of my favorite local bookstores, and that is being shipped my way as well. Thank you, Chop Suey!
  3. Participating – We tried to be involved with every opportunity that came our way this week. The kids connected with their teachers through Zoom meetings; Evan talked to his friend through FaceTime, and we walked to the end of our driveway to see the teacher parade. Thank you, Walton teachers and staff! That was definitely the highlight of our week.
  4. Exercising – We continued our gratitude walks, basketball games, and Wii Dance competitions. We’re getting good at a couple of the dances, so look out! We’re going to have some serious moves for TikTok this summer. 
  5. Laughing – My friend and I shared funny “working from home” videos via text and created several song parodies related to the quarantine. Remember the 311 song, “Don’t Stay Home?” The new lyrics are:  “Please stay home this time, oh please stay home. We all have to; we don’t want to.” And I love singing that new Taylor Swift song to my kiddos. It goes: “I promise that you’ll never find a mother like me. I’m the one you want to be, stuck with in quarantine…” Know it?

 

Because this week was difficult emotionally, I wasn’t as structured with the kids or myself. We slept in later, wore pajamas more often, and took more frequent breaks. If either of them showed signs of frustration with their school work, we stopped and went outside or watched a quick show. 

The most positive part of quarantine so far is that my kids are neither bored nor unhappy. They continue to find things to do even when I’m not entertaining or instructing them. They also seem to be thrilled to have me at home with them each day, and for that simple fact, I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Perspective is so important.

Best of luck to everyone in week three!

How We Quarantined: Week #1

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by Melissa Face

For starters, I am acknowledging that I am in one of the more fortunate situations during this pandemic. I am a teacher, so I do not have to go out in public, and I don’t have the worry of not being paid. I also am able to be at home with my children and help them navigate this unusual time in our lives while providing a little instruction and a lot of love.

Our first week of quarantine wasn’t perfect, but there were many perfect moments. And like most things that go well, the week started with a plan. We made charts for both kids last weekend and gave them goals to achieve in the categories of household chores, academics, and a few others. We also allowed them to make a wishlist of a couple of items they would like to have once the quarantine is over. We hung up their charts and wishlists where they can see them every day. It has helped them stay motivated and focused on something positive. 

Here are a few other things that went well in our first week that we will definitely continue:

 

1. Gratitude Walk – Each day we have taken a walk. On the way down the drive, we talk about all of our stressors and worries. We get them out, and I give them both a chance to vent and share. My six-year-old, Delaney, was worried that Pusheen might get stung by a bee because she left him outside. Stress is relative, right? The point is that they get a chance to talk and be heard. Then, on the way home, we talk about things we are grateful for. We haven’t repeated anything yet, and all three of us are excited to continue this part of our routine next week.

 

2. Support Others From Home – We are staying at home for the foreseeable future unless we absolutely have to go out. We have also felt compelled to help our favorite local businesses who are not receiving the patronage they are used to. So, we have ordered from a few of the small businesses who are out delivering. And we share posts of other online businesses we care about. It’s a really easy way to help people who are working hard get through this time.

 

3. Creative Learning – We have used the websites that my children’s teachers have recommended (IXL and Reading Eggs), but we have also done more learning activities on our own. Evan (3rd grade) is currently reading a novel and a nonfiction book about natural disasters. He does a lot of independent study and vocabulary lessons with topics he finds interesting. Delaney (kindergarten) has practiced writing sight words with sidewalk chalk and baking supplies. There were also several times this week when we put the academics aside and just played. And I feel really good about that because life is so weird right now.

 

4. Get Moving – While we haven’t stuck to a strict schedule this week, there were a few things that were always part of our day, and exercise was one of them. We played basketball, soccer, and went for walks. If we had to stay inside, we did Wii dance. It’s so much fun, and it never hurts to learn a few new moves. (There may be a video on Evan’s YouTube channel, but I’m not including a link. You’ll have to dig for it:)

 

5. Letter Writing – We reached out to several classmates and asked for mailing addresses so the kids could write letters and keep in touch with their friends. (And they’re writing, so they’re learning.) Walking to the mailbox is another part of our routine and something we all look forward to. And today was fantastic because the kids had a new letter. Thank you, Janice! You are so good to us!

 

6. Social Media – There are times when I’ve found social media to be overly negative and a major time suck. But this week it has been a welcomed source of comic relief. Posts and memes have provided distractions and many laughs. (Tell us what your kids and pets are doing, but refer to them as your coworkers.) Plus, social media has allowed the kids to connect with their classmates, see their teachers’ faces, and watch the animals at the Cincinnati Zoo (3:00 pm each day). 

 

I have read a lot of “how-to” books over the years, but How To Homeschool Elementary Students While Providing Remote Instruction to High School Sophomores and Preparing for a Book Launch in the Midst of a Pandemic was not one of them. There are a few things that we wish we had done differently during our first week of quarantine, but we can iron out some kinks next week. 

Delaney is looking forward to wearing her dance costume to “class” next week, and Evan wants to wear a sports jersey. And I don’t have to tell them that it’s not appropriate for school. 

Good luck in week #2, everyone. Be kind and patient with your children and especially with yourselves.

Five Tips for Book Events

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Cookies by Shirley Dietz

 

By Melissa Face

While I am still about a month away from the retail release day of my essay collection on parenting, I Love You More Than Coffee, I have had copies in hand since December. And because I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet (and take advantage of Valentine’s Day shopping opportunities), I have been holding pre-launch events since early February. So far I have been having a blast and learning more about the process than I ever imagined. For anyone who is preparing for a book launch or who is already hosting readings and signings, here are a few things that have worked well for me:

1. Celebrate It! – I treated my first couple of events with the same celebratory attitude as I do my children’s birthday parties. They are pretty similar, after all. From its conception, my book has been a great source of pride (and hard work), and now that it is out in the world, I want to throw it a party! There are so many ways to do this, but some things include making goody bags with treats and bookmarks, and serving cookies or other snacks at an event. This works especially well if the food item fits your book theme. Celebrating and advertising look a lot alike, but celebrating has a much more positive connotation. Remember, though, that the most important thing to convey is genuine excitement about your book. If you aren’t excited about your “baby”, you cannot expect anyone else to be.

2. Host at Popular Venues – While book events are no longer confined to bookstores, it is helpful to choose a location that is popular in the community. This way, when the author and the venue co-host on social media, there is a draw from regular supporters of the venue, even if they don’t know the author. Plus, co-hosts can find fun, creative ways to promote each other’s products. I held my first event at a local coffee shop (perfection!) because coffee is in the title of my book. They created a special drink menu (for the day), themed to several essays in my collection. This made my event more personal with guests able to purchase drinks like the “Mommy van Gogh” and “Sleepless Nights”, and it created no extra cost for my co-host or me. 

3. Have Fun With Themes – Play off the themes in your book when selecting giveaway items and venue locations. I am fortunate to have “love” and “coffee” in my book title, which makes theming pretty easy. I have taken advantage of Valentine’s Day and numerous gift items related to love and coffee. If your book’s themes are less conducive to marketing, consider working something around a main character or even the book’s setting. Check out nationaldaycalendar.com for some inspiration. People love posting and commenting about days like National Coffee Day, which happens to be Tuesday, September 29, in case you were wondering. Take advantage of it!

4. Read for Your Specific Audience – Considering one’s audience is one of the first lessons a writer learns, and it is vital when preparing for a reading. My book is a collection of essays on parenthood, and I have a variety of themes and topics from which to choose. So far I have read something different at each event. When I was invited to speak at a local Rotary Club meeting, for example, I knew that would not be the best place to read, “…this morning I have wiped poop off two different butts, and neither was my own. How is your day?” They may have laughed, and they likely would have understood, but I took the time to find something geared to an older, more reserved crowd. I was glad I did.

5. Anticipate Questions – Expect all types of questions from guests at your event – from the interesting to the intrusive. Prepare some responses in advance that are honest yet upbeat. If someone asks how many books you have sold (this is rude, by the way), simply tell them that you aren’t sure. And in that moment, how could you be? Someone could be adding your book to their online shopping cart right that instant, so there is no way you could possibly know how many copies you have sold. At one of my events, a lady asked me how I planned to compete with websites she could visit to read about parenting topics for free. I told her that my book was marketed as a gift book for parents, and it’s hard to wrap up a website for Mother’s Day. She did not buy my book at that event, and that is okay. Expect strange questions, and have a few responses prepared so you can remain positive on your day of celebration.

Holding my book for the first time this past December was one of the best moments of my life. At that point, my dream had already come true, so everything that happens from now on with sales and publicity will only be a bonus. Of course I want to sell books, but that isn’t the only measure of my success with this project. I’m having an amazing time, and I hope this is the first of many publications.

Best of luck to you and your “baby”!

 

 

Something Unicorn

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By Melissa Face

I read the best meme the other day. “Motherhood means I’m willing to die for you, but don’t ask me to make you dinner,” it said.

I felt that deep in my core.

Want me to rub your back for an hour because you were up coughing last night?

No problem.

Need to sit in my lap and watch the same animal video over and over until my phone battery dies?

You got it.

Want me to wear matching JoJo Siwa bows with you when we go out for ice cream?

I’m your girl.

I’m up for most of the challenges of motherhood, but mealtime is the one event that makes me want to throw up that white flag and surrender to the unreasonable culinary requests of my children.

Having a child with a nut allergy already presented a big challenge. Evan can’t have anything that contains tree nuts or is manufactured in a facility where they are processed. Then, this same child decided to become a vegetarian about a year ago, so he began obtaining his protein from eggs, beans, and peanut butter.

Our weekly dinners of grilled chicken and fish morphed into black bean burgers and vegetarian nuggets. My husband and I have adjusted well to this switch, though; veggie burgers are pretty tasty.

While the three of us are often on the same page of the dinner menu, there’s one more family member to consider: six-year-old Delaney. She has no true allergies or dietary restrictions, yet she swears off a new food every week.

“Oh no. I don’t eat green beans anymore,” she said the other day.

Green beans. Delaney has eaten green beans since I spooned them out of Gerber jars. But now, five years later, they simply don’t suit her.

Then there’s the issue with pasta.

“Remember the old days when I used to eat red sauce on my pasta?” Delaney smiled up at her dad as he prepared a special butter sauce just for her.

“That was last week, Delaney. Last week you ate red sauce on your pasta,” he responded.

How quickly things change around here, especially with Delaney. She is always putting a kink in the meal plan.

Throughout the holiday season, her interest in unicorns mushroomed into a full-fledged obsession. She would only wear unicorn clothing, and she would only eat what she described as “unicorn food.”

“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked her one day during winter break.

“Uhm…something unicorn!”

“What does that even mean, Delaney?”

“It’s easy! Something sparkly or rainbow!”

Rainbow?  What can I make with rainbows that my child will eat? Sprinkles? They are pure sugar. How about rainbow sprinkles mixed into Greek yogurt? That’s a semi-nutritious breakfast option. 

Delaney ate her unicorn yogurt in record time, and it really wasn’t the worst meal she’s ever had. But we needed to figure out another way to meet the unicorn requirement and get our daughter to eat something healthy.

My husband had a brilliant plan. He arranged all of Delaney’s favorite fruits and vegetables in a rainbow display on her plate. She had rows of beets, corn, carrots, grapes, and avocado. It was gorgeous. 

But she wouldn’t eat it. She turned her nose up at it and refused to take a bite.

“The things are touching,” she complained. “All of the foods are touching!”

I realize that we should be stricter with her at times, perhaps make her sit at the table until she has eaten something substantial, or limit her options at meal times. But we have tried these tactics. I have sat at the table with Delaney for over an hour before. My husband has, too. I have watched her gag on food we insisted she try, and I’ve lost sleep because she was willing to go to bed without dinner one night when we didn’t cater to her picky ways. My child went to bed hungry, and I felt awful.

Dinner time, what should be a pleasant opportunity for catching up and discussing our days, is more of a battle of wills in my house. It’s an exercise of mental strength and stamina, a guessing game of “what is my child going to eat tonight?”, a vicious cycle of heating up food and allowing it to cool off again. And again. And again.

Early in parenthood, I swore I would never let my children dictate our dinner menu. We wouldn’t allow that. I imagined smiling, grateful children who happily tried the food that we placed in front of them. But I’m starting to think that children who are agreeable at meal times are mythical creatures. They are the real unicorns.