February 2009

Posted by Duff

The Dervish has graduated from her obsession with polka dot pajama pants, and has now attached her affection to a fleece hat with a similar pattern.  I’m told that some kids carry a security blanket, some wear one. Mine is the latter, easy to spot in an indoor crowd.

The following is a recap of a recent coversation in our house:

The Dervish: Mommy, I want to wear my hat.

Me: Honey, we just washed your hair. It’s wet. When it dries, you can wear your hat.

Note: she is afraid of the hair dryer.

The Dervish:  I want to wear my hat.

Me: Your hair is all wet. When it dries, you can wear your hat.

The Dervish:  Wear my hat?

Me: When your hair dries. Sweet love of my life.

The Dervish:  My hat?

Me: Soon, honey. Not yet.

The Dervish:  HAT! HAT! HAT! HAAAAAT!

Me: Hey, look over here at the kitty.

The Dervish:  “Hi Mommy. Can I have my hat, please?”

Me: Let me see if your hair is still wet. Hmmm. Not quite yet. Want to read Dr. Seuss?

The Dervish:  “Where’d my hat go?”

Me: Hmm, I don’t know. Why don’t y0u go look for it?

The Dervish: (Sigh.) Ok. (disappears, returns a moment later wearing her hat. Apparently, I hadn’t hidden it very well.)

That’s when I gave up. Her hair was almost dry, anyway. I snuck in and plucked it off her sweet head while she was sleeping, and tucked another one under her arm in its place.

It has to get washed sometime. As for her hair, no one who doesn’t wash it has seen it in weeks, so I guess it doesn’t matter how well it’s brushed.


Posted by Fitz

The Bean has a new game in which she runs up to me, grabs the bottom of my shirt, and pulls it up to slap my belly.  She’s not discreet about it, either: my shirt is often hoisted past my bra strap (front or back), and she squeals with delight as soon as she catches a glimpse of the pasty, out of shape, embarassing flesh that calls itself my stomach.  We play this “game” about 100,000 times a day, and it seemingly never gets old (for her).  For me, it’s a different story altogether.

You all know that I’ve struggled with getting back in shape after IF treatments and pregnancy left me looking like Fitzy the Hut.  I’m close to where I want to be – if 25 lbs over my wedding weight can be considered close – but I’ve lost some momentum of late.  I convinced myself that this new shape (which is somehow a little more pearish than it’s ever been before) is perfectly fine, and that I’m happy being my current size.

Well, I lied.  To myself, the worst possible person to lie to.

Having The Beanie show my stomach to my husband, my parents, the people at playgroup, strangers at the mall, ad nauseum ad infinitum has been a big wakeup call.  I’m ashamed of this belly, its rolls, and it’s whiteness.  I’m embarassed that I haven’t worked harder.  I’m petrified that I will pass my body issues onto my little girl who is perfect in body, mind, and soul.  I never want her to feel the way that I’ve felt throughout most of my life…that my body is always lacking in one way or another.  I’m obsessed, and always have been, frankly – and that’s not where I want my Bean to spend her energy.  I want her to recognize that her body is healthy and strong, and perfect just the way it is.  I want to rid myself of my own demons so she doesn’t see me wrestling with them, and so they never have a chance of taking root in her own mind.

I’m writing about this even though I think it’s vain, self-centered, and horrifying.  I’m writing about it as a public declaration that I’m going to get my mind and my body back under control so I can be a better role model to my little girl.  I’m writing about it so I can solve the problem before it affects my daughter, who is the most precious, beautiful thing in my world.  And I’m writing about it to ask for your support.

I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t struggled in some way with her body image, and I’d love to hear from those of you who are winning this particular war.   How did you do it?  How do we make peace with ourselves?  How do we teach our daughters to be confident despite the onslaught of size-O stars and constant media bombardment?

This isn’t going to be an easy fix, but I’m confident that some hard work and self-tanner can at least solve the problem of my ugly belly.  I’m more worried about the brain, to be honest.

Posted by Duff

Since we opted not to find out MC’s sex, my mind has been left to wander. 

 I expected The Dervish to be a boy. I grew up in a neighborhood of firstborn boys, I have an older brother, it was just what I pictured. But as my pregnancy progressed, I took into account that my husband’s family had produced 17 consecutive boys over a 33-year period, and became more convinced it was time for a girl.

I was still shocked to meet her, but now I can’t imagine a firstborn son. I love having a daughter (though I wish she’d let me brush her hair rather than brushing me away with a direct Get out of here before pulling on one of three fleece hats).  You have to love her for it.

I feel incredibly lucky to be trusted with the fragile task  of raising a headstrong girl to be a confident woman.  Overwhelmed, but lucky.

It won’t be long before I meet MC. I try to imagine that moment, and how a random, sub-microscopic reaction will shape our family. My husband and I both feel very strongly that he is a boy.  I’m a little frightened of that feeling, because I don’t know how to be a mother to a boy. (Not that I knew how to be a mother to anyone before I was one). I feel more sure of the girl name I fought for than the boy name we’re still debating. I never had a sister and know lots who have recommend it.

Conversely, I wonder if I hear “It’s a girl.” if feelings of “I will never have a son.” will creep in amid “I’ll never be pregnant again.”  I already worry that sisters = competition.  If The Dervish will be sad to share her Daddy and her Papa with another girl.

These thoughts are a waste of time, though. MC already is who s/he is. Already has a tendency to be left- or right-handed, like certain foods, grow to a certain height.

I’m glad I don’t get to decide any of it, because I know I would choose wrong. I know I can’t imagine this person to be half as exactly-as-MC-should-be as MC will be. 

MC, you can thank The Dervish for that. She painstakingly paved the road to her parents’ humility, brick by frustrated brick.

Please be exactly who you are.

Posted by Fitz

Now that the Bean has taken to flailing and screaming if she doesn’t get her way, I thought it was time to read some books on parenting toddlers.  I really enjoyed The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp and used most of its techniques with great success, so imagine my joy when I discovered The Happiest Toddler on the Block!  “Ah,” I thought to myself.  “This toddler tantrum thing will be a cinch.”

The main concept of the book is that toddlers don’t think like us – their brains are immature (obviously), and they can’t reason or react like older kids and adults do.  The author describes toddlers as “little cavemen”, who basically storm around their worlds wanting what they want when they want it.  Their instincts crumble when stressed or upset, and we have to meet them where they are instead of expecting the opposite.  I was intrigued reading this, because it makes perfect sense to me.

So, how do you manage this, especially when you’re in the mall and your kid is practically chewing through her stroller straps for a chance at running free down the wide, carpeted aisle?  The author’s answer is what he calls “Toddler-ese”, basically, a crude language that mimics how a toddler thinks and feels when they are stressed out.  Essentially, you mimic a percentage of the child’s emotion and give words to what they are likely thinking – “Bean wants out of that stroller!  Bean wants to run!  Run, run, run!” – so they feel heard and can calm down and begin to problem solve with you.  Again, this made so much sense to me – I basically teach the same concepts when facilitating a management class on active listening, and it works.  I put the book down feeling pretty darn confident about how the next chapter of my story would go…I’d diffuse tantrums before they started, and we’d have a peaceful little household.

Yeah, right.

I’ve tried the techniques, and they actually do work – if by “work”, you mean that your toddler forgets about what she’s upset about because she’s too busy laughing at you for talking like Fred Flinstone.  I’ve found that the song “Elmo’s on your diaper, Elmo’s on your diaper, Elmo’s on your diaper, and he’s super cool!” was more effective at getting the Bean to not roll over in a pile of poo than saying “Bean is mad, mad, mad.  Bean doesn’t want her diaper changed!”, but that could be because I’m not that confident speaking Toddlerease quite yet.  I’ll keep trying, because The Happiest Baby on the Block was such a lifesaver and because I respect Dr. Karp’s methodology, but I think I need to find a few other techniques in addition to those listed in Happiest Toddler in case I don’t get the hang of it.  When it comes to toddler tantrums, I want my box of tricks to be bursting at the seams.

Posted by Duff

I’m on the cusp of my third trimester with MC, and what I really want to be thinking about is what color we’re going to paint the nursery or choosing the right name for an entire person, or how to prepare The Dervish for a change that she may or may not be ready for.

Next in line is how I’m going to wrap my brain around being the mother of two, how to balance the varying needs of a newborn and a just-about-three-year-old, and updating the household budget. These things, while less fun, need to be figured out.

But I really don’t want to have to worry about my job.  Or how I’m going to make it to every early meeting on time  when as it is (thank you, deoderant), amid the I Want to Wear My Pajamas to Daycare strike and the You Can’t Catch Me tappity-tap dance, I am barely making it. I can’t imagine how, short of mutating into an octopus, I’m going to get two out of the house at the end of the summer.

Please, MC, don’t hate your carseat.

And I don’t want anyone in a position to rate me professionally questioning  if I will be able to hack it upon my return (If I question it, that’s my business). But the doubt hangs there, unspoken. 

I wonder when it became a crime to just do my job, rather than trying to steal my boss’s job, and then go home to my family.  I wasn’t privy to that memo.

If it’s any indication of how this weighs on me, the other night I dreamt I was on a conference call and when it was my turn to present, I was completely caught off guard, because I had been reading a book.  If you knew how infrequently I read these days (and believe me, I am painfully aware), this dream is ridiculous.

How am I going to make this work?

I know it will mean even more planning, less sleep, a little more housework left undone. I hope that these sacrifices will keep me in a paycheck, and still in one piece. That I’ll still get ten minutes of hot shower every day, a haircut when I need it, and a few minutes here and there with my husband when we aren’t discussing how to allocate funds or solve a behavioral issue. Just a few pleasant minutes before we pass out, another day accomplished.  

It shouldn’t have to be like this, for any of us. 

I want to focus on slowing down the evenings and weekends that streak by so mercilessly that I can barely remember The Dervish as she was yesterday. I just know that she is different, and older, today.

Even if we could find another way to cover that pesky oil bill, I don’t feel like a Stay At Home Mom at heart. But sometimes the daily squeak of the hamster wheel makes it all feel so…pointless.

I’m open to suggestions.

Posted by Fitz

The Bean is starting to talk up a storm!  She has an impressive vocabulary (according to her proud mom), and seems to be coming up with new words every single day.  It’s amazing to watch her repeat words that we’ve been saying to her for her whole life, and it’s cool to see her start to call people by their names (especially my brother, who has somehow earned the name “Doo Doo” – hysterical).

Her ability to refer to people by their given name has brought up a debate between The Bean’s father and I.  How should we teach her to address our friends?  Should they be Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Joe and Barbara?  Should the rules be different depending on the level of closeness to said friends?  We’re not big on calling people “aunt” and “uncle” if they aren’t related, so that isn’t an option for us.  Our friends with older kids seem to be veering on the side of first names, but I’m not necessarily comfortable with that.  Growing up, I always referred to my friends’ parents as Mr. and Mrs.; in fact, many of them scold me today when I still call them that despite the fact that we’re all adults and they have asked me to stop.  It’s what I was taught, and what I’m used to – it’s hard for me to change that.

Because of the way I was brought up, I feel that it’s important for The Bean to use “Mr. and Mrs.” to address my friends.  It shows respect, it shows who the kids are and who the grown ups are, and it harkens back to a day when better manners were used all around.  The interesting part of this debate for our family is this: how do we teach The Bean to call a friend Mrs. Ryan when her kid is calling me Fitz?  Will The Bean feel awkward about it?  Will her friends make fun of her for it?  Will our friends respect our decision?  Will we have the strength to persevere with our usage of formal titles when it seems that no one around us is in our camp?

This seems like too much controversy for a seemingly small decision, but it’s a decision I want to make consciously.  We have a long way to go before The Bean would actually be able to say some of the last names our friends are wielding, but it’s important for us to start modeling the right behavior now so she is used to the title when she can say it.  Perhaps it’s time for a sit down with our friends to see if we’re on the same page and can be consistent with our little ones.  Or, perhaps it’s time to realize that this is just one more decision where, as parents, we need to make the best decision for our family and let other families do the same.  Either way, I’ll be Mrs. Fitz to the kids on my block.

What is your family’s answer to this debate?  Share your answers in our comments section.

Posted by Duff

Have I mentioned how great two years old can be?

The Dervish has reached an Honest phase. When you ask her what she’s doing (because you suspect she’s getting into trouble), she will confess instantly, and without shame.

Some recent answers: Digging through the trash for Daddy’s medicine (a cough drop); Chasing the kitty. I pulled his tail; Swimming in the ocean (really, across a hardwood floor).

Sometimes I don’t have to ask. She’ll come into the room and announce that she just spit apple juice behind her bed.  Since this never yields a pleasant reaction, I’m not quite sure the reward she gets, but I appreciate her candor.

Of course, her complete lack of artifice also delivers some winners: Your belly is big. I smell something bad. Mommy, dont touch me – get out of here.

Soon enough, this will flip flop. She won’t take me into her confidence to make it easier to protect and teach her, and she may spare my feelings when I’ve got spinach in my teeth or she really just wants to be left alone but endures me to be polite or wrangle another cookie.

It never stays the same for very long.

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