Put a Bib on It


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Celebrating with PRIDE

Celebrating #lovewins!When the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage came down last week, our family was thrilled. My husband and I consider ourselves allies and have supported gay marriage (and other LGBTQ rights) for as long as I can remember.

The decision came down the day before the Pride Festival in Cincinnati, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We hadn’t made plans to attend this year, but on Saturday morning felt like we couldn’t miss celebrating such an historic event.

I found some rainbow pants in our daughter’s drawer and headed downtown. Elliot had never been to a parade before, and she was not disappointed. Think about it from a 14-month-old’s perspective: people in colorful costumes, lots of balloons, bright lights and music. Add in the fact that everyone was waving “to her” and saying her favorite word (“Yay!”), and that little girl was in heaven.

And so were we. Just like I can’t remember a time when interracial marriage was illegal, my daughter is now growing up in a world where marriage is between two people who love each other—any two people. She’ll understand that some families have a mommy and a daddy, some families have two mommies, and some families have two daddies. She won’t think anything about that is strange.

When my daughter grows up, she’ll be able to get married—no matter who she falls in love with. That makes my mama heart very, very happy.

#lovewins


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Will I Miss My Babies?

Will I miss these little days? I'm not sure.The general refrain when you have small children is to cherish every moment, because it goes by so fast. I am guilty of endlessly reminding myself not to wish away these little days, even when I feel like screaming and crying given how hard and tedious they can be, because I’m sure someday I’ll want them back again.

So, imagine my surprise when a friend of mine, another writer, insisted quite the opposite.

“Trust me, you won’t want them to be small again. The conversations get so much more interesting when they’re older.”

Nobody says this. Sure, parents of older children have lots to say about what’s great about this age or that, but they always seem to pine for these years, for the excessively needy under-fives. And while there’s something truly endearing about my nearly three-year-old when she’s drawing ghosties and pumpkins, putting her Stormtrooper action figures to bed and generally doing her best to be the Wednesday Addams of a daughter I’ve always wanted, she turns right around and repeatedly kicks her sister in the belly and runs off to willfully pee in her undies and I’m. Just. Done.

I see mamas with older daughters, sharing strawberry smoothies at my favorite coffee haunts or browsing middle-grade or YA books at a local bookstore, and I just think, how cool. That will be us someday times two, Miss E and Little Sister and me having adventures that little resemble those we have now: play dates and park visits and zoo romps that nearly always end in tears from overtiredness.

And while I’m sure there will be challenges of a different kind when they’re older, and while already I long for Little Sister’s slumbering body to be smaller and less restless than she is everyday becoming, I’m excited to see who my girls will grow up to be, for them to teach me about something more than how to be patient.


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The Whole Truth

Parenting is hard.

I don’t care who you are, what you do, how much money you have, where you live, how you parent, or even how many children you have. It’s hard.

I have many friends that have recently become parents and this topic has become a common theme. I ask how things are going and they always start with the rainbows and butterflies of parenting. But then I ask, “No, really. How is it going?”

And then the whole truth comes out.

Sleepless nights, inconsolable crying, tension and stress, tantrums, post-delivery discomforts, breastfeeding pains. These are the things we feel like we have to hide from others, that we aren’t fantastic parents if we don’t have giggles and smiles all day long. Facebook does an injustice to future parents, painting a picture that children are easy to care for, parents sharing pictures only of the happy moments. Where is the picture of Jack inconsolably crying at two in the morning when you have to be up at five? Where is the picture of Johnny figuring out how to open the front door and taking off down the driveway, or Susie laying in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store screaming because she can’t have a bag of Skittles?

We all have good days and we all have bad days. We all have good moments and we all have tough moments. When you’re having a tough moment, try to remember the wonderful things. Take a breath. If you are able put your baby in a safe place and take a parent time-out, do it. Phone a friend, a relative, anyone who has had children, and vent to them, let out your frustrations. Because one thing I have learned for sure is that if I let my negative emotions get the best of me, nothing gets better.

Parenting might be hard at times, but remember you’re not in this alone. Others have been there before, others will go through what you’re going through in the future. Build yourself a support system. Parenting is hard for everyone.


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Mirror, Mirror

EllimirrorHearing the doctor say, “It’s a girl!” was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I get girls. I grew up in a family of all girls. I have 23 cousins on my dad’s side — 20 of whom are girls. Having a girl just seemed right to me and I was thrilled.

Fast forward a year, and I’m still thrilled to have a daughter. I love dressing her and controversial as it may be, I love the sweet little hair bows and the ridiculous little shoes. I’m comfortable with the intersection of feminism and girlie-girl-ness, and I believe that my daughter can be a strong woman who wears dresses. Or pants. Or giant hair bows.

Having a daughter also gives me pause, though. Particularly when it comes to bodies. Perhaps even more particularly when it comes to her body and my body. My daughter is gorgeous. Totally and completely perfect. I have no doubt that she will continue to be just as perfect as she gets older, and I want her to always feel exactly that way.

I look in the mirror at my post-baby body and my eyes immediately go to the part where my pants don’t fit the same (or perhaps even really at all) and the circles under my eyes (note to self: get eye cream) and the way my hair turns frizzy the second that the air gets humid each summer.

These aren’t the things I ever want my daughter to notice. I want her to look in the mirror and see the beautiful blue color of her eyes and the way her eyelashes seem to be never-ending. The way her cheeks are so smoochable, her belly button so adorable and her feet so precious, even if they are a combination of her father’s square shape with my weirdly long toes.

So how do I keep her from noticing the “bad” things and focused on noticing the good? I’m pretty sure it starts with me. This is a “do as I do” sort of thing, not just a “do as I say.” If I want her to notice the great things about herself, then I need to be doing the same. She needs to hear me say, “Thank you,” when someone tells me they love my smile, not, “Really? Because I feel like my teeth look weird.” She needs to know that I care about being healthy and strong, not skinny.

I owe it to my daughter to do better. I owe it to her and her future self to create a space in our home that is accepting and positive.

I owe it to myself, too.


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Only Child

Our family feels complete with just one child. And I'm okay with that.I have been thinking a lot lately about the possibility of having another child. In large part, that is because I get the question ALL. THE. TIME.

“About time for another,” they say.

“Doesn’t Ev want a sister or brother?”

Ugh. It stresses me out thinking about it. I am “no spring chicken” as my mother says, but a) rude and b) it’s 2015. Having all of your babies popped out by the time you are 35 is a thing of the past. I realize that the complication risks go up as I age, but I just don’t feel like I need to make that decision right this second.

And if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I want another.

Ever.

There, I said it. I know that the readership of this blog just took a collective gasp at the thought of intentionally choosing to have only one child, but it’s true for me right now. I also know lots of folks are wondering why. Those closest to me know that I’ve talked about having lots of children most of my life and are wondering what changed. Well, the biggest answer to that question is that what changed is that I became a parent. I know what to expect and to expect the unexpected. There is so much to parenthood that doesn’t go according to plan, or according to my needs and my schedule, so many illnesses, unforeseen costs, sleepless nights (read: weeks), irrational fears, etc. Ev is at such an independent place, too. The thought of starting over seems overwhelming right now.

There is a tiny piece of me that worries that I should have another child for Ev; that I am being a selfish parent by not giving him a sibling to play with and help care for. I find justification in child care. The boy has been in child care since he was nine weeks old. He has had to share things, including attention, his whole life. His social development is arguably right on track. (I say arguable because there’s a good chance he’s pushed another child while I’m writing this.)

There is also my husband. We had always talked about having more than one child, or at least attempt one more time to try and have a girl. I was worrying over talking with him about my change of heart, but it just so happens that he was feeling the same way.

I said, “What happens if we wake up one day and regret we never had another child but it’s too late?”

His reply?

“We’ll adopt.”

Please don’t get me wrong: the joys of parenthood far out weight the tribulations. I cannot imagine my life without my son. I love him so much it hurts. I know that there is never a good time to add to the family and that having another child just adds that much more joy. But, I think our family feels complete. And until I start feeling incomplete, I’m not ready to make any changes.


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Why I Love My Daughter’s Pediatrician

We didn’t follow a very scientific procedure when it came to choosing a pediatrician. I asked friends for some recommendations, chose one who was very close to our house and went to meet with him. We knew within 30 seconds of shaking his hand that he would be perfect for us.

So, maybe it was a bit more complicated than that.

We had identified a few things that were really important to us, like the fact that our doctor would be in favor of vaccinations (and perhaps even require them of patients). We wanted a practice that had a 24-hour nurse line so that we could call at 3:00 a.m. when our baby had a fever (which, knock on wood, hasn’t happened yet). My husband and I were both very small babies, so it isn’t surprising that our daughter barely hits the lowest line of the growth charts. Because of that, we also wanted someone who would be supportive of breastfeeding and not quick to suggest formula if our daughter was tiny.

There are some wonderful, and unexpected, things we love about our pediatrician, as well. He’s our age, which is pretty young for a doctor. He has two young children of his own, and because he is knee-deep in parenting himself, his empathy feels very real. It can be easy to dismiss concerns when you haven’t had young children for 20 years and you know that in the grand scheme of things, the concerns of new parents are so tiny and unimportant. But when your baby wakes up for the fifth time in one night that concern feels very big and very important. We really like that he “gets it,” and is dealing with this right alongside us.

We also love the balance he brings to our concerns. He takes them very seriously, but is also very calm and level-headed. Our daughter is a “scooter,” meaning she’s developed this strange way of getting around where she sits on her bottom and scoots herself around. It’s efficient and works for her—and it’s both adorable and hilarious—but we were questioning whether she would miss mastering any important milestones because of her unique way to move. Our doctor explained what things she needed to hit, checked the muscle tone in her legs and back to make sure they were developing appropriately and then reassured us that her funny way of getting around is just fine. He could have dismissed our concerns out of hand without checking. He could have immediately referred us for physical therapy. His approach reassures us that he would catch anything important, while also reminding us that kids develop differently and that our daughter is just fine.

Throw in the fact that he explained to us that one-year-olds learn through play and how important it is for us to read to her every day, and I think we’ve hit it out of the park.


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Talking Makes the Difference

I want to raise a smart child. Honestly, what mama doesn’t? But is there something in particular that I should or could be doing to ensure that my little Bryce is brilliant? Should I be sitting down for multiple hours every day, making him practice his letters or numbers? Should I practice with flash cards daily or maybe purchase lots of expensive “educational” toys?

I will admit that I am no expert, but I did get a degree in early childhood and have met a variety of children and have spent time reflecting on what it is that makes the difference.

In my opinion, the most beneficial thing you can do for your child (or any teacher can do for their student), is to talk with them. And even though I completely believe that every child’s potential is different, I think every child has a chance to reach their maximum potential. Answer their millions of questions. Talk about the things they are experiencing. Just talk.

You might wonder what you’re going to talk about. I have a few ideas.

Bryce and Daddy check out a fire truck, and Daddy tells him about all of the parts he is seeing.

Take your child to experience real things. Take them to the zoo, a baseball game, the aquarium, the park, the grocery store, the post office. Talk with them about everything they are experiencing.

Read to your child. Every day. Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to help a child prepare for reading and learning.

Bryce loves to help feed the dogs!

Let your child help you. Sure, it might take longer now, but think of all the learning going on! Talk with them about what you are doing, then let them try and talk with them about what they are doing.

Use the materials and toys you have at your house to help facilitate learning. If your child loves to build with blocks, talk about the colors and shapes of the blocks, their sizes, the sounds they make when they fall over.

You can purposefully set up opportunities that will allow you to have conversations with your child, but sometimes things just happen naturally. It’s okay to follow their lead. Talk about that ant that is crawling around that they can’t take their eyes off of. Talk about your safety concerns when they’re running across the couch. Children are sponges; give them something to soak up!

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