June 2008


Posted by Duff

I don’t care how anyone feels about my parenting.

That’s not true.

If I respect your opinion, and you treat me with respect, I care what you think. I assure you, there is no harsher critic of my parenting than the Dervish me.

I had a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” crisis over others’ opinions of breastfeeding that nearly split my psyche in three.  It’s hard to forget how that judgement, so freely given, stung. If I ever thought I had any right to govern what another woman should do with her breasts, I am now cured of that ignorance.

That was just one of many issues. Several times during the Dervish’s first year, my husband was accosted by supposedly well-meaning women our mothers’ age or older, stating that the Dervish was not dressed warmly enough. These women hadn’t seen me and my three thermometers constantly checking for fever. Outcome: the Dervish runs warm, and everyone pays if she overheats, period.

We let the Dervish climb too much. As if we had a choice. Her menus (though healthy, balanced meals) aren’t varied enoughWe held her too much as an infant. How is that possible? She doesn’t need a pacifer. This last one makes me want to invite all assailants to stand in the corner and smell themselves. Where were they during colic? During marathon teething when she wouldn’t accept anything else?

I. was.there. I have been since that very first second. This is why she comes to me first.  I am the one who finds myself next to her bed before I realize I am awake. Me.  There is nothing, no one, more important in my life. I have always done and will always do my best.

And so will you. Who knows your kid better than you? Not me.

When the Dervish was 8 weeks old, I ventured out with her for the first time, alone. It took me that long because she was prone to screaming herself purple for hours (her doctor assured me this was ‘normal’ fussiness) and I was prone to sweating myself stupid as a consequence. Anyone who ever heard her pitch during this phase said, “Dear God.

Before long, the Dervish hit her high note. I couldn’t unbuckle her from the carseat — my fingers just didn’t work. Suddenly, a grandmotherly woman (who said she could hear her from the other end of the warehouse store) was at my side, rubbing my arm. I finally got the Dervish free. As I rocked her, the woman said,

 “How lucky this baby is to have a mother who loves her as much as you do.”

That one sentence moved mountains. I wish I knew who she was, so I could send her some chocolate dipped, flower-shaped pineapple of gratitude. Her words are a gentle reminder whenever I need them, the kind of judgement all parents can benefit from.

This past weekend, some good friends who are pre-baby came over for dinner and our evening routine. These are two socially and morally responsible people with good intentions. They understand that all kids, like all adults, are different. Their opinion matters. And after the Dervish streaked on her way to the bathtub and brandished a wood door stopper and attempted to set new records in couch diving, they said, without prompting, “You guys are good parents.”

We hope so. We try so hard. We doubt ourselves daily. We feel tested. Like most parents. And since we won’t see the long-term results of our efforts for years, we need to hear — and tell each other — when we’re doing an admirable job.

Next time I see you, I plan to tell you as much. But if we’re chasing after our children and I forget, please know that I meant to pass judgement. The good kind.

 

 

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Posted by Fitz

I’ll never forget the day that my friend looked me in the eye and asked, “Why do people keep asking me if I’m having so much fun with the baby?  Can someone please tell me what is fun about this?!”

In the daily grind of life with The Bean, I find myself thinking a lot about that question.  While I love her with all of my heart and absolutely have had many a fun moment, some days just don’t fit that description.  Actually, “fun” wouldn’t be the word I’d pick to describe most of my days – they are built mostly around the same routine, with mostly predictable ebbs and flows in delight and crankiness.  On both of our parts.

I know for sure that the experience I’m having now definitely wouldn’t have qualified as “fun” pre-Bean.   Back then, it was about trying a great restaurant, going to a bar until the wee hours of the morning, or jetting off on a last-minute vacation.  It certainly didn’t include getting up at 6:30 a.m. every single day to begin the same routine as the day before, and I definitely didn’t think I’d know all of the verses to The Wheels on the Bus.  Sometimes, I feel like I should have thought a little bit more about what my day-to-day routine would look like with a baby, instead of idealizing days filled only with kisses, long naps, and coos. 

Then, as soon as I start to contemplate going back to work full-time as a form of escape, I remember that that wasn’t much fun, either.  While the money would be a nice boost, and while it would be really nice to have a (much) wider circle of adults to talk to during the day, I’d miss the little moments with The Bean that I’ve come to rely on – you know, the way she blows a giant raspberry as soon as I feed her a giant spoonful of oatmeal, then giggles with delight; or how I know exactly when it’s time for a nap just by watching her rub her little eyes.  At the very least, I know more about what The Bean wants from me than I did with some of my previous bosses!

So, all in all, I guess my expectations of “fun” are what have to change – not my current situation.  It has taken me a lot to admit that I didn’t really love the career that I built over the past decade, and to be brave enough to find enjoyment in staying home with The Bean to watch her grow.  It has been a leap of faith, but it has been fun to get to know the little girl who now rules my proverbial roost.  Just not in the way I expected.

Posted by Duff

It’s probably wrong even to think about ways the Dervish can use her marketable skills to finance her college education, right?

graduate

As soon as the young, terrified intern said, “Congratulations, you have a daughter”, he and my husband exchanged a look laden with responsibility, after which my husband said, “Now comes the hard part — keeping her off the pole.”

He was trying to relax a very kind doctor who was obviously keyed up from his first delivery. But that was the first concrete moment of parenthood: It had become our number one priority to raise a self-assured, self-reliant person. All parents want their children to have options, which requires education, and that costs money.

For someone who just sat through her fourth mortgage closing to offset the rising cost of oil, I have a suprisingly abject fear of aggressive financial planning.

Don’t you dare say 529 to me, because I’ll put my fingers in my ears and sing Rihanna’s “Umbrella“. You don’t want that to happen.

I have an old-school savings plan in place (a piggy bank, a few bonds, a few CDs) and 15 years to scrape the cash together. But I want the money in hand, all of it, now. And out of desperation, I came up with the following:

(Please note that no Dervishes were harmed during the following money-making scheme dreams):

  • She could model for it. Except that I can’t bring myself to put her up for judgement against other kids. She has boundless self-esteem and she wouldn’t care, but I would. There will be plenty of time for her to get edged out in attractiveness and personality by her peers.  And, she won’t let me brush her hair. So that’s out.
  • Her screams could loop in horror movies. Colic is over, but night terrors live on. They may as well serve a purpose, right? If I could remember I am a person with a brain during one of these episodes, I might be able to record one. Scratch that.
  • Government Agencies could use her whines to break terrorists. Though that might be cruel and unusual punishment for everyone involved. That kind of mewling can burst ear drums. It’s a good thing my wedding crystal is still in storage.
  • Military’s Youngest Drill Sargeant? She certainly knows how to bark orders at and demand feats of strength of those she outranks. There is probably an age requirement, though, and I’m not sure basic training would tame her, since currently, discipline is the height of hilarity.

These are my best ideas to date. As charming as the Dervish is, I don’t think anyone will pay to watch her top her fingers with olives, evade soap, or transport dandelion heads in the trunk of the Dervishmobile.

The good news is she’s already raiding my purse, her father’s pockets and all Take a Penny/Leave a Penny cups. The girl’s a natural saver.

Pussycat Dolls, back off.

 

The era of the belly shirt is way over – especially for babies! 

With the gorgeous weather we’ve been having lately, The Bean has been wearing adorable dresses and tanks to keep cool – but that little belly kept poking out anytime she moved.  The only solution, of course, was a sleeveless onesie, which proved harder to find than a post-partum mother who had yet to shed a tear.  I scoured all of the typical baby stores in the area – Babies R Us, Target, Walmart, and Carter’s – and had no luck finding any in plain white (Gerber does carry sleeveless onesies in colors and prints – click here to see them).  Luckily, a friend turned me on to Essential Whites, an online store that offers great quality, soft, unisex cotton onesies in all shapes and sizes.

If you buy several onesies at once, you often get one free (I got four for the price of three, paying about $32 for the whole order including tax and shipping).  The shipping was fast, washing instructions were included, and they are some of the softest onesies I’ve ever come across. 

The Bean now loves her sleeveless Essential Whites, and I love them, too – not only does she have the coverage she needs, but it cracks me up to see her in what I consider to be my little Italian grandfather’s old man tank top.  

Happy shopping!

Amid the well wishes, name discussions and diaper recommendations of pregnancy, there are a few things your foremothers leave out when passing the torch.  

Maybe lies of omission? They’d never admit your butt looks big in that skirt when asked, but instead steer you to a more flattering cut. It’s not your butt’s fault, but rather the skirt’s fault. Focus shifted.

Likely, they have just forgotten. You’d have to, if you want more than one child. It has taken me two years (and chats with friends who’ve recently given birth) to believe that you really do forget the minor details of those early weeks and months.

Here are some of my recent rememberings:

Breastfeeding can be challenging. A good latch is key, but just one on the ring.  In the early weeks (or months) your baby may nurse, round the clock, every 2 hours for up to 30 minutes. That leaves you 90 minutes in between, and less time for sleep. Pumping too? There is algebra involved in calculating free moments. Essentially, you will have someone (or something) attached to your breasts most of the time, and unless you have hobbies I don’t know about, that takes getting used to.

If that sounds intimidating, know that you can reach your goal, and that you’re bound to be more successful with support systems in place pre-baby. Find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding group and/or a friend or family member with experience. Kellymom.com is also a fantastic resource.

*(mymomgenes is Switzerland on the issue of breast vs. formula feeding — what works best for your family is best).

You are about to lose a hand. Or two. Birth rarely causes amputation, but babies take up free hands quickly. You’re still going to be hungry, thirsty, need to pee, etc. Stock up on one-handed foods. Keep beverages close to any feeding or rocking location. Have several baby carriers handy (such as slings, wraps or the perennial favorite, the Bjorn) and you might just get both hands back for a few minutes at a time while your baby stays close to you.

And, your baby might not want to be put down. My biggest mom shock. Yikes. I thought babies slept in cribs, bounced in bouncers, played on playmats. Some do, I’m told. Some don’t. Carriers help. From experience, I can agree with the experts who say meeting your infant’s need for comfort and affection during awake time (and unrelated to sleep training – another Switzerland issue ) builds self-soothing capability. Yes, I know it seems counter-intuitive. Thank you to the Dervish for forcing this realization upon an unwilling pupil. The girl is nothing if not tenacious. And confident.

To quote my labor midwife: “I was totally unprepared for how un-fun the first sixth weeks would be“.  Vacations featuring umbrella drinks are fun. Trying to figure out your newborn  is — different. There is awe, there is love, but there is little positive reinforcement from your taskmaster, and an abundance of criticism, if you take infant protests personally (who doesn’t take them personally? I need to meet this person).  It gets much, much better. Soon.

Bonding isn’t always instantaneous. I’m sure you know parents who say it was, and that’s great — for them. If it takes some time for you, you’re not alone,  you’re not deficient, and you’re probably someone I would be friends with, if you’d have me.  Relationships take time to grow, usually through shared experience. Why should this one be any different? Now, if you feel like you can’t function, or your baby would be better off without you, or you’d be better off without your baby, everyone who loves you suggests you talk to your ob/gyn or midwife yesterday. You deserve to feel better than that, and you can. Get support today.

Carseats are hard to maneuver. Why doesn’t someone design an ergonomically friendly model that doesn’t force funny bones askew for the banging? Secret: no one is judging as you load and unload the seat and baby from your car or shopping cart. There isn’t a spotlight or an announcer crowing, “Here’s a new mom who doesn’t know what she’s doooingggg!”

You’re doing great. Honestly.

What am I (happy to be) forgetting? Please share so other moms and moms-to-be can benefit from your experience:

 

Posted by Fitz

I am afraid.

When I was little, I was afraid of a bunch of things – kidnappers, the fish that bit us in my grandmother’s lake, that I wouldn’t get my first kiss till I was 54 – but nothing too big.  As an adult, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be fearless, pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do the things that I considered terrifying (traveling to a foreign, non-English speaking country alone, moving to NYC to live with girls I hardly knew, braving needles and self-administered injections to conceive the baby I wanted so terribly).  I felt so empowered after conquering things that made me feel anxious and nervous, but I’ve lately come across something that I just can’t shake.

My mortality has slapped me in the face.

Now that The Bean is in our lives, I feel so vulnerable for all of us.  I give her extra tight hugs, and always tell my husband that I love him before he leaves the house – what if the last thing he heard was, “I thought you said you’d do that?!”  I don’t want any of us to be gypped by the sometimes cruel hand of fate.  I wish I could protect my little family inside of a bubble and keep them safe and sound…but what kind of life would they have if I did?  My husband would hate it, aside from the always hilarious Seinfeld references he could make.  The Bean wouldn’t get to do any of the things that I think have made me a better person, not to mention explore the world for herself. 

I used to get so annoyed with my dad when he’d call out “Be scareful!” whenever we left the house (I’m talking every time we walk out the door, even now that I’m 33), but I get it now.  When you have a kid, mortality becomes a reality instead of a far-flung concept.  It’s your job to protect them from the bad stuff, and that means you have to stick around in order to do it (realizing that some things, no matter how tragic, are simply out of our control).  I know I, like all of you, would go to the ends of the earth to protect my loved ones.  I just hope I get the opportunity to do so.

If this all sounds a little morbid, it’s because I’m having surgery today.  It’s a minor procedure and I’ll be home before Oprah, but I’m still scared.  What if something were to go horribly wrong?  My head knows beyond a doubt that everything will be fine, but could someone please explain it to my heart?  My heart is screaming at me to put it off, cancel it – even though it’s going to really help me – because how could I possibly leave my husband and The Bean by themselves?  I’ve made myself feel a little better (and my poor husband a nervous wreck) by making him promise that the two of them will find a new (and hopefully better!) lady to love and take care of them if the worst does happen…but you bet your bippy that I’m waking up from that anesthesia.  What other choice do I have?

Schmaltzy challenge of the day: Hug your loved ones a little tighter.  And be scareful!

 

Posted by Duff

If you’re like me, you’ve ended more than one day since becoming a parent by crawling into bed, a human raisin. Certain that day was somehow longer than the time-space contiuum would deem possible.

It’s a special kind of exhaustion reserved for a day spent with a teething infant or a tree frog who speaks beginner violin.  A day at a seemingly thankless job during which you ran in circles, got in your own way and saw no progress whatsoever.  A night when gratitude escapes you and your last thought is, “Thank God today is over.”

On the surface, not a good day. Tears were shed, cool lost, bargains unstruck and bribes rejected, dishes left crusting over in the sink, and you’re sure you’ll find something sticky – somewhere unexpected – tomorrow.

However, this day was more important than those that go far more smoothly. More was accomplished from this one day of struggle than during a month of easier days, it just isn’t apparent yet.

Because progress is painful. Think back to braces. Starting your career. Dialation. Nothing worth achieving ever came without effort. Nothing truly appeciated came before absence.

These days are the very evidence of progress. Of a tooth breaking the gumline, of leaps in motor and communication skills, of a mother thickening her skin and building confidence.  Today, you shouldered the concrete blocks that serve as a foundation of much better days to come. And one of those days will be tomorrow.

But for now: sweet, beautiful, coma-like sleep.
 

 

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