Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Don’t Freak Out It’s Just A Baby

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Last week I was rummaging around in my cabinet for two sippy cups to give Linc and Finn. Somehow we own 473 take and toss cups and ZERO take and toss cup lips. Why am I apparently tossing just lids? Where did they go? And why doesn’t my Target sell JUST lid replacements? I ended up with one blue lid on a red cup for Linc and an old Lansinoh baby bottle for Finnegan. I gave them each a splash of chocolate milk in with their regular milk and then enjoyed the silence while I made coffee.

But while I was standing there watching them, it occurred to me that Finnegan was drinking out of a bottle even though Finnegan never took a bottle. I think my husband force-fed him a couple while I was at a conference when he was 9 months old. And I should probably count the one night in the hospital as a newborn when he needed to go under the jaundice lights. But for the most part, he rejected any milk that didn’t come straight from the source. But here he is, standing in the kitchen, happily feeding himself as if he’s been doing it his whole life, using one of the MANY bottles I purchased over the years out of desperation (none of my children took bottles despite my efforts, half-hearted or full-hearted).

And then it occurred to me I don’t remember introducing him to cow’s milk. He probably picked up a cup that belonged to someone else one day and drank it, and the next time he saw me pouring milk he just grunted to indicate he wanted some and now he drinks milk. I don’t know if it was after he turned one. I don’t know how much he drinks daily. I don’t know if he cares if it’s whole milk or 2% or organic or FairLife or whatever. He has no obvious preferences for any of it – Finnegan would like something milk-like in some sort of drinkable container, now please.

This is such a change from what life was like as a brand new mom. I remember literally agonizing over Evan’s milk intake (or lack thereof). And I don’t even have to remember, because this blog exists and if you go back to the archives around early 2010 you can see me write post after post about how he didn’t like food, how he wouldn’t take cow’s milk, how I was afraid he would never stop breastfeeding, how he made himself gag if he ate so much as a Cheerio, and how I worried SO MUCH ALL THE TIME about whether or not I was doing things right. I tried at least four different kinds of milk out of DOZENS of different sippy cups trying to convince a one-year-old he should drink it. I wasted so much time and energy and mental space trying to figure out a baby because it was my first time ever having a baby and I had no idea what I was doing.

Now my baby is almost 9 and there is all sorts of new stuff to worry about (no really, can someone explain why Minecraft is still so popular? and tell me which YouTube channels are appropriate?). But I’ve had three more babies and with each one the baby-ages have gotten easier. Finnegan knows three signs that cover all his needs: nursies, please, and night night. He will bring me a diaper if he needs one. He could go up and down stairs a full year before I ever let my first baby even try. He likes people, he likes new things, he likes food, he likes naps, he likes being worn, he likes walking, he tags along 6 days a week to other people’s activities and never complains. The thing is, I didn’t do ANYTHING to get this baby to be so agreeable. I cannot tell you how to get the same baby. My suspicion is benign neglect plays a big part, a result of having a zillion children.

The problem is there is literally nothing you can say to a new mom to get her to stop worrying. There is no way to gain the confidence you need to be a more chill parent without seeing your kids survive their toddler years despite your mistakes. Parenting is not one size fits all for anyone. You can read libraries full of books and talk to a thousand other parents and get all the advice in the world and still not do everything right. Especially if you take ALL the advice, because often it is in direct conflict. Parenting is learned by being thrown in the deep end and that’s terrifying when you don’t know how to swim, no matter how many books about swimming you’ve read.

But after 9 years of swimming I went from dog paddle to dedicated athelete…and now I’m back to somewhere around hobbyist. Basically I have forgotten everything I worked really hard to learn about babies with my first. The only thing that still applies is they need to be fed, they need a lot of sleep, and they’re adorable so you don’t abandon them. That seems to always be true.

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Things I Am Giving Up And Things I Am Not

Monday, December 4th, 2017

So here’s the thing: I am not a quitter. I have kept up my 365 project for 3 full years now, and I plan to do it again next year. I’ve been trying to catch up on laundry since 2008 and I haven’t given up on that even though I’m pretty sure it’s hopeless. And I made it through 362 weeks (that’s almost 7 years) of iPhone photos. But I don’t think I’m going to catch up. My phone isn’t making it easy to move my photos, the program I use to resize them isn’t recognizing the folders, and the amount of work it takes to get it all together just doesn’t fit in my schedule anymore. I’ve also completely failed to take photos with my phone several days in the past few weeks because if it’s in my hand the baby tries to steal it and if it’s in my purse I’m not taking pictures. No matter how many times I SAY I’m not going to stop, I think it’s time to admit I’m done.

That doesn’t mean I’m letting the blog die. I’m going to go back to more life-documenting with my real camera. I take photos literally every day for my 365 but haven’t been sharing them here. In 2018, the plan is a weekly/bi-weekly post of those pictures, so I have all my projects (years of pregnancy, baby and kid stories, adventures and thoughts +daily life photo documentation) in one place. I’m just working on not letting myself feel like a failure over something as stupid as blog posts, so I feel like making an announcement that I am quitting officially will help.

Besides letting my iPhoneography slip, I’ve actually been holding things together pretty well. Mostly.There was a day last week where I got off the phone from discussing one of the many adult problems I am currently juggling and I briefly considering just canceling everything. Like, just not doing any of it. Not taking the babies to their doctor’s appointment, not calling the plumber, not doing the dishes, not moving the laundry to the dryer, not taking Caroline to ballet, not putting Lincoln on the bus to school, not making dinner, not taking a picture, not changing the dog’s foot bandage, not taking out the trash…nothing. LIFE IS CANCELED.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. None of those things go away and dealing with the consequences of not doing them is going to be more annoying than just doing them. Plus my four small humans don’t let me get away with skipping meals or bedtimes or activities they want to go to. It’s good, really. If I didn’t have all these kids I might let myself slip slowly – instead of just wearing my slippers to the bus stop, I might not leave the house at all. Instead of having a fun day baking with the kids and then eating a handful of mints, I might sit on the couch and eat a pint of ice cream every night. Instead of spending maybe probably definitely too much on presents to make this Christmas extra magical, I might let the sadness of missing E this month overwhelm me.

Speaking of E, I finally had a chance to talk to my husband over Thanksgiving. It was such a relief. Even if we don’t get him back for a lot longer, being able to update him on everything that’s been going on and let him know that we’re OK.

And we are. Ok, I mean. Operation Keep Them Busy has been a raging success. December is officially here and we have plans almost every single day. We kicked off the month with the train to the North Pole followed by a day of holiday fun in Mystic. We haven’t been to the aquarium in a couple months and Finnegan was REALLY into it. We’ll be headed back soon so he can run around squealing at the fishes.

Oh and we saw Elsa. Caroline and Linc were in heaven.

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Deployment Milestones: A Brief List

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A few of the deployment milestones we’ve reached since August:

  1. The day of.
  2. When you wake up the morning after and realize this is just the FIRST DAY.
  3. The moment you get caught up on laundry and put away your spouse’s last item of clothing.
  4. What feels like the first major crisis.
  5. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “Well, actually he’s deployed so I’ll probably just decide on my own because I haven’t heard from him and I’m not exactly sure when I will and things are complicated so…”
  6. A holiday.
  7. The first REAL major crisis.
  8. When you finally get an email.
  9. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “No, it’s just me”.
  10. The first trip to urgent care.
  11. That moment when you make a big financial decision you wouldn’t usually dream of making alone.
  12. First major crying breakdown.
  13. The first OMG WHAT am I even going to do major crisis.
  14. When some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you just say “OK” because it’s easier.
  15.  Doing something you hate and usually your spouse would do but that’s not an option.
  16.  Using your power of attorney.
  17. Losing 10 lbs because being on a diet is easier alone.
  18. Completely throwing your diet out the window because being alone is horrible.
  19. When you wake up one morning and realize this is totally normal now.
  20. HALFWAY.

We’re not at that last one yet, but it’s getting closer every day.

 

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I’m Totally Fine Except When I’m A Mess

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Ways in which I am totally, completely, 100% keeping it together:

  1. I’ve taken the trash and recycling out in time every week so far.
  2. I’m almost caught up on laundry and dishes (as much as it’s really possible to be with a house full of children to clothe and feed).
  3. I cleaned the bathroom floor on my hands and knees with a sponge.
  4. I scrubbed out the sink with lots of chemicals, so it’s nice and white.
  5. I dropped off the bin of clothes and the baby swing at the consignment shop.
  6. All the Halloween decorations are up!
  7. I made an important but unpleasant phone call, like a grown up does.
  8. I have a photo session scheduled for Saturday, complete with a contract, childcare, and a fun new location.
  9. I stopped eating a pint of ice cream every night and I’ve lost five pounds.
  10. All four children were washed with soap and water last night.

 

Ways in which I am completely, unquestionably, 100% falling apart:

  1. The dog has a broken nail and even though I keep cleaning it and wrapping it I’m pretty sure he’s going to need very expensive vet treatment.
  2. I have a huge stack of school papers I haven’t even read yet, half of which needed to be signed and sent back last week.
  3. I have a huge bruise from walking into a parking sign, a ripped toenail from tripping on the carpet, and a painful cut on my elbow that is of mysterious origin.
  4. Evan and Caroline are both now signed up for super expensive activities and I don’t actually know how I’m going to pay for it.
  5. I forgot to order groceries so the kids will be eating PB&J for dinner again.
  6. The light in the upstairs hallway burned out and I cannot figure out how to take the cover off to replace the bulb.
  7. The tires for the snow blower are at a tire shop somewhere. I haven’t figured out where or gone to get them.
  8. The lawn is a disaster.
  9. I haven’t drunk a single thing that didn’t contain caffeine in weeks.
  10. I spend far too much time fighting with jerks on the internet because I need somewhere to direct my frustration.
  11. Every bedroom in the house is a mess.
  12. I saw a mouse the other day but haven’t caught any mice in the mouse traps so there is still a mouse somewhere.
  13. I’ve planned to go for walks/get coffee/have playdates/get together with at least a dozen friends and not followed through or shown up for any of them.
  14. I forgot to meet the bus at the corner yesterday.
  15. The baby chewed through my computer cord, like he’s a rabid animal.

So right now the mess side is definitely winning. If I can hold it together until Sunday I can move some of my to-dos to the finished column and slowly, s l o w l y, slowly maybe shift the balance over so I don’t feel like I’m slipping into chaos. It’s going to mean saying no to some stuff I don’t want to say no to, being a little more patient with my children who cannot seem to remember simple things like “wash the shampoo out BEFORE turning off the shower”, and maybe drinking a bottle of water every once in a while.

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Parenting in Public Is About 75% Nodding And Smiling

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

When you are in a public or semi-public space with your child/ren, people are going to talk to you about those children. And when strangers talk to you in public, they have a tendency to say some really stupid things. Try to remember that 99.99999% of the time they are just talking to you because you are there and their mouths are capable of forming words. I am an expert at having people talk to me because I haven’t yet learned the art of making absolutely no eye contact. Also, my children like strangers (I’m pretty sure they were switched at birth. All of them. Individually.)  So when Grandma Grabbyhands starts petting Caroline’s hair, instead of screaming “STOP TOUCHING ME STRANGE LADY”, Caroline insists on chatting about how she’s four and a half and loves horses and goes to school and one time on the bus her friend Michael threw up right on the floor.

Here is a brief list of things strangers might say to you in public that make you do the slow double blink. Remember, none of these things are personal. They would probably say them to a brick wall if the wall appeared to be listening:

  • Calling your boy a girl or your girl a boy. Your beautiful little girl could be wearing a pink, sparkled, ruffled gown with high heels and full make-up, her long curly hair braided and tied in bows and holding a giant flashing sign that says “I AM A GIRL”…and some lady at the grocery store is still going to say “He’s so sweet, what’s his name?” I promise this is not what is going to send your kids to therapy, so just smile a nod and say “Matilda Jane”. Then you can laugh and point as she struggles to comprehend why you would name your son Matilda. Or maybe don’t laugh and point, just stick with the smiling and nodding.
  • Saying “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” You probably, literally, do not. Most parents I know cannot parent without at least one free hand so we have found a whole list of ways to keep them available: babywearing, carts, strollers, leashes, whatever. This is just stranger-talk for “I see you have some small children in your vicinity”. Non-responses to this comment include: “Yep, children are a blessing”, “I sure do!”, “Really, it’s not so bad” or the perennial favorite: JAZZ HANDS while you nod and smile.
  • Making completely arbitrary comments over your child’s physical attributes that are probably wrong. Someone looks at your child who is in the 3rd percentile for height and says “She’s so tall!” Or they see your 99th percentile in the grocery store and say “What a little peanut!”. These are just words people are saying because they want to make a comment. They might as well  say “She is wearing blue!” or “Your baby has feet!” Unless you are at a medical doctor during a medical doctor appointment and it’s the medical doctor who looks at your very small child and says “What a chub!”, do not react. Nod and smile.
  • Asking you if the baby is sleeping through the night. THIS IS A TRICK QUESTION. They do not care if your baby is sleeping through the night. What they want to do is tell you about their baby or their cousin’s baby or their hairdresser’s nephew’s mailman’s baby who either a) started sleeping through the night at 4 days old, b) still doesn’t sleep through the night at 10 years old, or c) refused to take this stranger’s advice and now their baby is broken. Do not waste your time forming a truthful and accurate answer. They are not listening. Just said “Mostly!” and then nod and smile during what is sure to be a fascinating story.
  • Giving you ridiculous or outdated advice. Again, unless it’s your pediatrician telling you a little Jack Daniels is the perfect cure for teething pain, nod and then smile and then nod some more to disguise the fact that your eyeballs just rolled out of your head. (If it is your pediatrician, may I gently suggest you look for a new one?) These people will insist that they raised children who have survived to adulthood, which means you should do everything they did or your children will diiiiiiiie.

via GIPHY

I know it can be really really hard to simply nod and smile all the time. When the people doing these things are inescapable – because you are trapped next to them on a bus or because you live with them – it is incredibly frustrating. But I promise you, 90% of the time they are not being malicious, they are just talking because at some point human beings evolved the ability to speak and they are afraid if they don’t use that ability as much as possible they will lose it.

Nod and smile. Nod and smile.

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