Control and “The Science of Parenthood”


One of the most frustrating parts of parenthood is the assumption that you have control of anything. You know it’s true. I see you over there nodding.

And yet, we keep trying. When my kids were toddlers, my diaper bag would always be stuffed full, ready for every possibly eventuality: extra diapers and underwear, wipes galore, changes of clothes for them, change of clothes for me, wipes galore, first-aid kit, toys, wipes galore, snacks, toys, snack, snacks, more wipes, toys, children’s’ motrin, adult motrin etc, etc. Sometimes I’d actually use them (like the time G picked and ate so many blueberries, washed them down with apple juice and carrot sticks, and ran around and around in the sun and then puked, not once but twice, all over himself and all over the back seat of the car on the drive home.) More often than not, I didn’t need every item in my bag but I felt assured and confident that I was prepared for everything. My husband, on the other hand, would simply scoop up a child and head out – with barely a diaper or a wipe on him and have a perfectly successful outing. Nary a blow-out, projectile barf or low-sugar-induced meltdown. I never understood why that happened. Isn’t it ironic? (Secretly I wished for a spectacularly embarrassing poop incident, but alas.) The laws of probability were rarely on my side.

Whether it was strategizing a feeding schedule that would surely induce an infant to sleep through the night or, even now, figuring out how to inspire bribe motivate a child to assist with the laundry, the sad truth of the matter always is: parents have no/limited control over the outcome.

Because kids.

So when I read the new book “The Science of Parenthood,” created by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler, I saw myself on every single page. I laughed. I cried. Then I chuckled some more.

Because kids.

The book is chock-full of pithy humor, colorful cartoons and amusing/helpful decision trees, each aiming to decipher and decode the “science” behind the daily irony of life as a parent, the choices we make as we stumble through, trying to make sense of it all. From pregnancy, to the challenges of interacting with our spouses, other kids and other members of the parenting species, the book analyzes the entire spectrum of parenthood through the tongue-in-cheek lenses of biology, chemistry, physics and math. Now, I’m not going to spoil this book for you but I did want to extract a few choice excerpts that spoke to me. Like, directly to me. If you’d have been there, you’d have seen me nodding vigorously, maybe sobbing gently or more likely, convulsing with laughter.

Here’s one from the section on Biology, in the chapter entitled: Post-Birth Conditions Your OB Might Forget to Mention (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You!):

“Acquired Distraction Disorder: Marked by an impatient Now, what were we talking about?, Acquired Distraction Disorder (A.D.D.) is the progressive loss of the ability to follow a train of thought. A.D.D. typically develops among parents with toddlers who’ve just learned how to run. The adult brain becomes overwhelmed with the strain of excessive multitasking and begins shutting down “nonessential” functions to conserve energy for chasing tiny humans intent on leaping from garden walls and licking electrical outlets. Fortunately, A.D.D. lasts only until middle school, when children stop interacting with their parents altogether.”

Equally amusing was the chapter entitled: Poopology 101: The Gushy, Gassy, and Gooey. I’ll save you the, um, colorful details  but I know you will see yourself on this page. Wait, that sounds bad.

I most definitely identified with the section that served to (ironically) update the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-V or the “psychiatrists’ bible”):

“Delusions of Launder: The perpetual belief that one day, eventually, the laundry will get “finished.” Symptoms: Moms laboring under this delusion may initially appear upbeat, even enthusiastic, aiming to dominate the heaps of dirty clothes and pee-soaked toddler bedding. But as the laundry piles grow, these moms can sink into a depression as they ruminate on existential questions such as Where does all this laundry come from? and Why is all this laundry here? Fixating on “finishing” the laundry may lead to secondary physical problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, the result of folding endless pairs of teeny-tiny socks and superhero underwear.”

Other highlights to look out for: the Beverage-to-TV Index, the pie chart analysis of where your kids’ food actually goes, the Law of Urinary Dynamics, and the Wintertime Scatter Graph that investigates that annual dilemma “where did all the gloves go?”

And, I’m fairly sure the venn diagram on page 218 pretty much sums up my life right now.

Bottom like: I am no scientist. I’m just a parent, trying to make sense of it all, trying over and over to impose some iota of control over something that is scientifically uncontrollable. “The Science of Parenthood” sums it all up brilliantly. You can buy it for yourself (to reassure you) or for a friend (to reassure him or her they are not alone) over here.

Because kids.

the law of when you kid needs to poop


Everyone Has A Story

Life flies by, days mesh together, events and people skim past, barely breaching our periphery. We exist in a state of self-centeredness, driven by a compulsion for the security of routine; barricading ourselves from those who are seemingly insignificant or who have the potential to precariously tip the balance of control one way or the other. Avoiding those who irritate, their presence a friction, rippling the order.

I’ve been victim to this; I am a victim of this. Grasping to the routine, to the known. Head-down in the daily business of my life and my family’s purpose. It’s an addictive comfort, until it consumes you and, all of a sudden, you realize that days, weeks, months have passed; nights thick with insomnia.

And then, boom, something happens. Be it as big as tragedy, as delightful as serendipity, as random as reading.

You are shaken awake; your eyes prised open, heartbeat racing, high on perspective.

Suddenly, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about everyone else.

And this is how it should be.


For the Love of …. Laundry

This is going to sound warped and you are probably going to think I’m nuts or completely abandoning the mothership and womanhood and all that. But here goes:

I love doing the laundry.

Yup, you read that right. I love doing the laundry.

Sure, I complain about it like everyone else, but that’s just to give off the appearance of being harried and frustrated by the regularity and dullness and domesticity of those large, often pungent, sometimes sticky piles of clothing that are either strewn about or heaped up in dank corners. (Why do they never all make it into the hamper?)

The reality is that I actually relish – yes, that’s right – relish the process of converting the mess, wrinkles and smell into fragrant, smooth and orderly piles.

There’s also a certain OCD element in me that appreciates the anticipation of timing the laundry just right so that I can be one step ahead of someone being out of clean underpants. If I time it right, we can (hopefully) avoid the meltdowns when the batman jammies are not available or someone’s favorite T-shirt can’t be found. Or, heaven forbid, when there are only clean skirts or skorts instead of shorts or pants (guranteed to incite whines and tears from my 5-year old tom boy.) Plus, during the summer months, there’s the extra thrill of ensuring that there’s always a regular supply of clean towels, swim suits and changes of clothes for two kids for camp.

I’ll often secretly inhale from a big of clean clothes, fresh from the drier. That smell, to me, is almost as pleasurable as the buzz I get from that first sip of coffee in the morning.

Next, I’ll turn on the TV and methodically take each laundered item and create piles. Socks, underpants, facecloths in one pile, everything else in the other. And then I’ll fastidiously fold each item and create more piles sorted by kid, by item (shorts in one pile, T-shirts in another). I often finger each item as I handle it, smoothing out the wrinkles and fondly remembering something entertaining or interesting about my son or daughter when last they wore it. As I inspect each item, I muse over how much they’ve grown, calculating how many more wears these pants might get before the eventual holes at the knees , or how many more Marmite/sardine stains her tops can withstand before they must be forced out of commission. I recall the source of each piece of clothing, which store or from whom it was handed down (thank heavens for hand-me-downs!) I think about the upcoming season and whether last Spring’s clothes will fit them come Fall. I hope so, because the hand-me-downs are running low….

Finally, in front of me, roughly eight orderly, uniform towers of neatly folded and sorted clean clothes. Then begins the process of putting them away, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, making sure that the rotation of yet-to-be-worn clothes takes place.

This complete, detailed and yes, maniacal, process happens at least once a week. It’s fantastic!

Woe betide he who messes with the process.

Actually, the truth is my husband willingly folds laundry. Except he folds it differently from me. Which causes this whole internal battle in me in which I have to talk myself into accepting that the folding is not being done my way. Gratefully accept the assistance. Get over myself, in general. It works most of the time, though I do admit to often checking in the kids’ closets and drawers after he’s done putting their clothes away and reorganizing stuff.

Any men reading this probably think I am a lunatic. Or maybe they recognize this behavior and witness it in their own homes. But, my fellow Moms, I bet I am not alone here. Maybe you are not as controlling as me about the laundry. Maybe you are. Maybe it’s some other aspect of household management?

Tell me …. do you enjoy doing the laundry as much as me?


I’m a Control Freak: Resistance is (Almost) Futile

This past week’s vacation opened my eyes to the fact that I am a control freak. Not necessarily controlling of people, but very much controlling of my surroundings and the order of things. This may come as a surprise to you. Or maybe not?

The first realization came when I decided to totally disconnect from work: the definition of a vacation, surely? Handing off control of the day-to-day management of my accounts to my teams was a relatively easy step – they kick ass, after all. Every aspect of each client’s work was detailed and delegated. The stuff I could control, that is. The fact is that, working in PR, you are only ever in control of maybe 50 percent of your day. Events can take a turn in a nanosecond. So abdicating that which might happen and which I couldn’t control while lying poolside required a leap of faith. Not that I don’t trust my teams to do great work; more the realization that I wouldn’t be part of the process and, quite frankly, they could get it done with out me.

Next, pre-vacation organization, akin to a military operation. Making sure everyone is equipped with sufficient clothes, toys, sunscreen and so on was the easy part. Packing even was straightforward. It’s all the household management stuff that gets complex. Ensuring we had just enough groceries to feed us the days up to our vacation but not so much that it would spoil while we were away. And making sure there were basics in the cupboards for immediate consumption upon our we return. Ditto for laundry. Ensuring all the items needed for vacation were clean and dry in time and making sure there were sufficient clean clothes to come home to. It’s all in the details, the planning. General Patraeus would be proud of me.

Vacation travel: I must be in charge of the passports and travel documentation, always.

At the hotel: the immediate urge to unpack and arrange our stuff. Order must be established and maintained, especially if we are all sharing the same living space. And while I’m not overly OCD about hygiene, hotel bathrooms skeeve me out big time. Sharing hotel bathrooms with kids and a husband who tend to deposit damp towels and toothpaste lids on to the floor makes my skin crawl. Sand on bathroom and bedroom floors drive me nuts. Crushed chips and Cheerios on my bed push me over the edge.

And then there’s the topic of routine. I love routine. I’m addicted to routine. Just like a child, it gives me structure, predictability and yes, control. But a vacation is all about relinquishing routine, letting go, que sera sera and all that. While I’m first to admit that my main priority for this vacation was to sit my the pool and do nothing, the reality was I was not alone. We all needed feeding, clothing, bathing. entertaining. In short, we needed a vacation routine, but one much more flexible and fun than the home routine, of course. I was happy to oblige, to lay the groundwork, think ahead, plan out the details.

Coming home is, in truth, a control freak’s nirvana. Because order and routine needs re-establishing. Cases need unpacking, things need putting away, clothes need laundering, the empty fridge needs re-stocking. Ahhhh! This has been my day today and I’ve enjoyed every single second of it. Don’t tell anyone, but I was even looking forward to it.

So while I’m certainly no Christian Gray, I am self-aware and I realize that letting go and letting be is just not in my DNA. If I don’t think of and manage these things, who will?  To quote Adrian Monk, “it’s a gift …. and a curse.”


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