October 2008

We’re thrilled to introduce you to our first guest blogger!  Binky is the fabulous author of her own blog, 24 Hours a Day 7 Days a Week, and is a great writer and an even greater mom.   We hope you enjoy her article as much as we did!

When it comes to parenthood, there’s not a single way to act or a lone way to feel. From the first day a mother-to-be sees the vast selection of pre-natal vitamins arrayed before her,  it is apparent that this whole with-child thing is about choice.

Formula or breast milk? Ferber or the Family Bed? Robeez or Pediped? Becoming a parent is one decision that will be made over and over for the rest of your life.

My husband likes to think that he has control over everything. His actions are dictated by rational thought. With the birth of our first child, he did not automatically feel the intense emotional bond that is touted everywhere from Kodak commercials to a grandmother’s cribside coos. Nor did I. Part of the reason may have been the emergency c-section under general anaesthesia for which neither of us was present (he, physically; me, consciously). But more than than that, it is the fact that people can come at one universal experience from very different directions, and can retreat on similarly varied paths.

When I was pregnant, my husband did not care to feel the baby move under the stretch of my stomach. In fact, it skeeved him out. He prefers things to be on the surface, where he can control them. Anything else is other-worldly. It’s alien. It’s a disturbing, if not somewhat interesting, abstraction.

The bond did not come at birth, either. A being cannot gain my man’s affection simply by existing. Our daughter (nicknamed “The Boss” on my blog) had to earn it–by learning to speak, control her bodily functions, and give him the respect he thinks he deserves. In the meantime, he didn’t change a whole lot of diapers. He didn’t cater to caterwauled whims or brandish a pacifier. He stood back.

It took The Boss about three years to do it, but she successfully attained favored status with her daddy. The words of adoration just roll off his tongue. She’s “so cute.” She’s “so smart.” He misses her “so much” when he goes to work. Now he is front and center. He comes home to games of hide-and-seek. He puts her to bed and reads her two books. When she cries out in the dark he’s the one to go groggily across the hall to see what’s wrong.

My husband’s love is a slow build. The foundation is solid but construction is slow. I know this isn’t everybody’s way of working. I also know it isn’t necessary for him to conform to others’ standards. He can’t be the best father he can be by trying to be someone else.

I think he knows now that he can’t control everything. It’s a lesson parenthood teaches us from the get-go. But that doesn’t mean he can’t try. It’s his prerogative. He is becoming a father according to his own history, his own ethics, and his own timetable. Sometimes I’m frustrated by his way of doing things just as he is frustrated by mine. But I know he’s a good dad. So does he. This man who thinks he’s never wrong is right about that.

On my own blog, I consider myself a story-teller–or maybe a slicer-of-life–more than an advice-giver, but here today in My Mom Genes I will say this: raising children isn’t about being like the others. It’s about being a parent.

Posted by Duff

This weekend was our neighborhood’s annual Halloween Parade and Yard Party. Everyone meets up, kids in costume, circles the block once accompanied by a wireless tape recorder of Halloween sounds, and then has snacks/plays in the hosts’ yard.

It’s pretty cute. We even had some clapping spectators.

This year, The Dervish refused her costume. Ironic, since I can’t keep her “Ladybug Coat” off her when she’s stampeding around the house (and Heaven forbid I try to take it off her for meals or bathtime). So she was the only kid dressed in street clothes amid glitter, feathers, fur and assorted head pieces. I put the ladybug hood on my head, instead.

She was also the only kid not interested in the table of cupcakes, cookies and donuts, retreating instead to the playscape, sandbox, and a collection of playground balls.

She likes to be distinctive. And fortunately, active and chocolate-free. Good stuff.

The hosts’ neighbor’s child immediately came over to protect what she must have staked out as her territory, and eyed The Dervish warily. When The Dervish left the slide to play with a  (read: the wrong) ball, The Neighbor Child yelled for her mother who yelled back instantly, “You’re fine.” and went back to her discussion.

The Dervish made The Neighbor Child nervous for a while longer, whooping it up in leaves that were awaiting bagging. Other children drifted over until all were in the play area and practicing their own brand of Sandbox Politics.

And that’s when I noticed The Dervish amid the backdrop of Other People. How small she is, even though she’s only a year younger than many of those kids. How she stands out to me as if there is a spotlight on her. How this feeling isn’t unique: all parents must see their children in this way. 

In the moment, I worry about how she’ll handle herself amid disagreements, bullies, and personalities she doesn’t care for. What if her personality will be one that others don’t care for? Will she change for the wrong reasons?

And I wonder if (and hope) she’ll be the one who tells a bully to pipe down. Will she protect someone who can’t stand up for herself? Will she bring the shy child into her game? 

I watch her watch other kids, do what they do. Or choose not to. Or do it differently. I see her moving seamlessly amid a group that she appears not to notice, and am amazed by her two-year old grace.

She picks up a ball and attempts a basket. The ball falls backward, behind her head, and she is unfazed. She is only a few yards away, but it seems like there is an ocean between where she stands now and where we started out together.

This is only the beginning.

There are so many variables, and she is one herself.

Oh, pre-pregnancy body, how I miss thee.  I did not appreciate you when I had you….always torturing you with low-carb this and high protein that, spending entire weekends drinking the best red wine the local restaurant had to offer, and dragging you to the gym when you really needed to sleep past 9:00 a.m.  I miss you, pre-pregnancy body, and I wish I could go back and treat you how you deserved to always be treated.

If I had to do it all over again, I would look at how teeny your waist was instead of berating you for not quite fitting into the size six jeans that were clearly meant for a pre-pubescent praying mantis.  I would compliment your strong chin, relishing the fact that there was only one.  I would look at your skin…unlined, unshadowed, well-moisturized…and appreciate how good we had it.

Unfortunately, pre-pregnancy body, I threw you away like yesterday’s trash.  I know it was for the best reason in the world, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but that doesn’t mean I yearn for the days when a muffin top was actually on a muffin and the Weight Watchers leader didn’t recognize me from my frequent meeting attendance.  If only I knew how to revel in your glory, and feel good about all of the gifts we shared instead of always thinking we weren’t good enough.  If only we were confident enough to never have been self-conscious in a bikini or to have declared ourselves unfit for the tube top.  We had it made, pre-pregnancy body, and we didn’t take advantage of it.  I’m sorry.

To make up for the cruel and careless way I’ve treated you, I promise to make things different for my Bean.  I promise to do everything in my power to raise her with a confident, accepting, grateful attitude towards her body.  I will stop making self-deprecating jokes about my own shape (well, after this post anyway), and will teach her to treat her body with respect.  I don’t want her to grow up feeling uncomfortable about her body, like I did.  She’ll have her own demons to face and will have to learn with experience much like her mother has, but I’ll teach her to love herself, her health, and her strength.  I will teach her she is gorgeous regardless of weight or shape, and will try to shield her from the image that society teaches women to covet.  I will love her, as you loved me despite my ignorance, and help her to appreciate herself.  It’s the least I can do.  Thank you.

Posted by Duff

A couple of days ago, my husband made the (optimistic) mistake of taking a rambunctious two-year-old to a clothing store. Without a stroller.

The days are getting cooler, The Dervish is getting bigger, and she needed a new coat immediately.

It didn’t go well. The Dervish mentioned she would have preferred to go to the library, and unzipped and freed herself from the coat she was wearing (that my husband was holding onto since she wouldn’t hold hands) and dove under clothing racks while her father searched quite desperately for her size. Other shoppers, especially those without children (or at least those smart enough to shop without children if they did have them), did not appreciate her energy.

I am certain that we have both judged parents of out of control toddlers before. Karmically, I recommend not doing this.

He found her size, but she wouldn’t try it on. But he was spent. She’s not a hang-by-your-side-in-public kind of girl, even if she’s chained to your leg when it’s your turn to go potty. So he went to pay.

As he held her, shrieking, and fumbled for his wallet, she peppered his face with a series of surprisingly targeted blows. The woman in front of him noticed, but took that opportunity to discuss the virtues of a piece of clothing (that she might or might not buy at some point but not this moment) with the cashier.

“I’ve really been enjoying this blend,” she said matter-of-factly, as The Dervish had an Exorcist moment just behind her.

When they made it to the car,  my husband called his best friend,  a father of three. He received no words of wisdom, and told me he drove to the supermarket with tears in his eyes, frustrated that as kind as we are to her, we could have a child so angry with us. I have known this man for six years. He has only cried once, when our dog died.

It is still hard for both of us to accept that she is as Dervish as she is.

There are countless Dervish qualities that are positively exquisite and leave us feeling so blessed that it is easy to laugh (after the fact) at the sheer force of her will. She has amazing focus. She loves so purely and so completely, it takes our breath away.

It’s just that she disapproves just as deeply.

She lives each day like it’s a pile of leaves to be jumped in. As long as she doesn’t have to wear gloves.

My husband tried to take the tags off the new coat last night, and I stopped him. “Let’s wait until she’s willing to at least try it on.” I said.

We tried twice more to no avail. The tags remain.

Posted by Fitz

I’m sure you’ve seen her.  She’s the mom who can fashion a quick bib out of a pantiliner, a bobby pin, and a hair elastic.  She’s the one who – when you’re faced with a blowout of epic proportions in a public place – can produce not one, but several packs of wipes for your use.  She always has anything you could possibly need when out and about, whether it’s a healthy snack (for your baby or for you!), the right reference book for whatever is ailing you, extra formula, or tools to fix the wheel on your broken down stroller.

You guessed it – she’s a MacGyver Mom!

The MacGyver Mom is the one mom friend that you have to have.  You never go out with her without learning something.  She has a bag of tricks that you couldn’t fit in your house, never mind in your stroller.  She inspires you to carry more gear – like a first aid kit on a short walk – and get more organized.  I always leave my MacGyver Mom friend (Hi Kara!) feeling way pumped to get my act together and have all of the right things on hand for any possible situation, but it never really happens.

Case in point: after the aforementioned blowout situation, I swore that I would put a little bag in my car with a couple extra sets of clothes, wipes, diapers, and other necessities (outside of the ones I carry in my diaper bag).  I put the package together the very next day, put it in the back of my SUV, and waited.  I eventually needed it just a few days ago, and guess what – I never changed the season or size of the extra clothes, and had diapers that were too small.  It was okay in a pinch, but I think you get my drift – I am no MacGyver Mom.  I do my best, I get by, but there’s no way you’ll see me solving any baby issues with a pen, a rubber band, and a roll of paper towels.  Sigh.

It’s a recurring theme in my posts of late, but I guess there’s just always another mom that you’d like to take parts of and put them into your own personality.  I’m always learning from my MacGyver Mom and all of my other amazing mom friends, and am proud to say they are in my life.  From them, I’ve learned that one person cannot be everything she’d like to be – although she can always try harder!  I’ve also learned that one person is just enough as she is – because her friends will always be there to provide any extra help that she may need.

Posted by Duff

Yesterday, my husband and I took The Dervish to the local pumpkin patch.

She couldn’t have cared less about the pumpkins. Those that were in tact, that is. She gravitated toward the smashed pumpkin area and tried to re-affix broken stems, went and waved to the llamas, and introduced herself to a scarecrow.

She has never been one for the planned photo-op.

As she found her way to row upon row of multi-colored mums, a young, obviously new couple walked into the patch, hand-in-hand. The woman spotted The Dervish lavishing affection on bloom after bloom.

Hi flower. How you doing? Awwwww, love you, sweet flower.

In between threading my way through the colors and admonishing The Dervish not to pluck flowers and fill her pockets, as I know she’s inclined to do, I caught the young woman’s eye. And her obvious appreciation of the budding botanist before her.

The Dervish and her father went to chase each other in the hay maze, and I sunned myself on a bale of hay, watching the couple choose a pumpkin, then a mum. They held hands, walking slowly, a whole lazy day ahead of them.

And I felt envy. But if I’m honest with myself, I have already had my turn at that, and here’s where it led. I’m Dervishful, and happy. Not a sleeping-late, sit my couch all afternoon watching football kind of weekend-haver. An entirely different kind of enviable.

When we got home from the patch, my husband mentioned the couple, and how they might have spent their day in comparison to how we spent ours. And of course, being him, he made a reference to an activity that the newly in love and child-free spend a lot of their weekends engaging in.

“I envy them.” he said.

“I know,” I said. “We were them once, though. That’s what got us here. One day they could be us.” I hugged him, and The Dervish came careening across the room to hug our legs in punctuation.

Posted by Fitz

The Bean has been in part-time daycare now for a month, and we have definitely learned some things.  Some were expected, some weren’t, but they all are giving us insight into her ever-flourishing personality and what our world will look like when she’s 13.   I hope that, by sharing these lessons, that you can have a quick laugh, commiserate, and be inspired to share your own learnings in the comments section!

  1. I can survive dropping my baby off to spend the day with strangers.  They do a good job caring for her, and I can in turn do a good job doing whatever it is that I do.  Daycare has given me peace of mind, and I’m relieved.
  2. No one will ever keep The Bean as neat and clean as I will.  And I have to get over it.
  3. Even one year olds (or, I suspect, teachers with sweet teeth!) expect cupcakes to be brought in on birthdays.  Who knew? 
  4. Kids will eventually nap at daycare – they are so tired from playing that they don’t have a choice! Woot!
  5. It is really cool to walk in to pick up The Bean and find her intently playing with her little friends.  It melts my heart every time to see her so happy in their midst.
  6. It’s never too early to start fundraising for your daycare.  Is anyone interested in buying a pie to be delivered in time for Thanksgiving?  Did I mention that I hate fundraising, but will be obligated to buy at least two pies?
  7. Seeing a group of toddlers sitting in their chairs around the snack table makes me think forward about 30 years, when they’ll be doing the same thing for endless meetings at the job of their choosing.
  8. A really cool, good, new playground is just as good as Disney World to a toddler (especially if she has never heard of Disney World).
  9. The activities conducted at daycare are helping The Bean to learn more.  I can see it already.
  10. She still loves us.

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