Put a Bib on It

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I Only Listen to Daddy

What to do when your child challenges you... but not your partner.Lately, Ev is really pressing the limits with me. He has been yelling and hitting when he isn’t getting his way, not listening, and persisting in doing the opposite of what I ask or tell him to do. I am well aware that this is all part of a toddler’s natural development. I have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and have actually helped write parenting tips on addressing a toddler’s challenging behavior. So why am I feeling so inept?

If I’m going to be completely honest, it’s really frustrating that Ev isn’t as challenging when he is interacting with his dad. My husband is good in stressful situations because he is keeps an even tone and is very matter of fact, and though Ev prefers me when he’s feeling tired or cranky or sad, he prefers his dad the rest of the time. Just this morning when I asked Ev about his friends, referring to those at child care, he listed two children and his daddy.

I know my husband  means what he says and says what he means, but I am guilty of giving in to Ev. I was venting to my husband about the challenges we’ve been facing and he suggested being more firm. So when I say one more song in the rocking the chair, then it is one more song in the rocking chair and bed, no matter what. I left that conversation with my husband feeling a little defensive.

The next morning, when Ev should have been getting in the car as I asked him to because I was worried he would get cold, he ran around the yard.  It was freezing out, literally 5 degrees, so I was very cold and annoyed. When I went to get Ev, he started crying because his hands were cold, and because he didn’t get to eat any snow. As I was strapping him in his car seat I told him if he would have listened to me, his hands wouldn’t be as cold and he would have had a chance to eat some snow. He responded with, “I don’t listen to you. I only listen to Daddy.” That hurt.

I don’t mind being the nurturing parent. I am nurturing by nature and will continue to be, but I am also going to start being a bit more firm. Because Ev needs to realize it’s important to trust and respect mommy and daddy.

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A Good Day

Some days we feel like we can do it all. But being a parent means our good days give us energy for our not-so-good days.There are some days when I love being Miss E’s mama.

I don’t mean that to say I don’t love being her mother every day, but rather that there are days where the minutiae of parenthood can bring me joy, rather than simply be the dull chores I think we all must admit they sometimes can be. Diaper changes.  Challenging meal times. Grocery shopping with a curious toddler.

For me, yesterday was one of those days. There was a moment when I looked down at her, happily playing in a shallow storage bin with a slotted spoon and a plastic container of dry oatmeal while I worked at the kitchen counter, preparing meals to bake and freeze, and I thought, I can do this. I can do this well.

And I did, yesterday. I sang us through diaper changes, I liberated Miss E’s high chair tray before she could toss the remains of her peanut butter sandwich on the floor, I packed a special snack for the grocery store and tickled and chatted with her to keep her from getting grouchy while we waited in a long, pre-Thanksgiving line. People complimented her temperament, her hair cut. I bundled her in a blanket and raced the cart back to the car, eliciting giggles before I unloaded reusable bags full of yet more ingredients for tasty, home-cooked meals (and cheddar bunnies; I have learned of late no toddler pantry is complete without cheddar bunnies). It felt good, to be in control. To make her happy. To feel happy myself.

We’re definitely settling into a routine, which is a signal to me to enjoy it while it lasts. Because it won’t. It’s happened before: I’ve gotten comfortable, confident, slept real stretches of dreamy sleep at night. And then everything changed. Miss E learned a new, daunting skill, got four teeth at the same time, discovered new emotional buttons to push. And I had to start over again, figure out what she needed, what I needed to do differently, how we were going to work together in this new place we were suddenly living in. It’s rough, sometimes. But this is my life now. Ours.

As I’m writing this, it’s still yesterday, so I’m still feeling like the empress of my own little universe. I don’t know if tomorrow will be as fine as today was, if we’ll laugh and play and understand each other. But I can hope.

And at least I’ve already got dinner covered.

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Girls Won’t Be Girls

Boys and girls are only a little different, neurologically speaking. So why do we make such a big deal out of it?Within the past few weeks Miss E has adopted a behavior that causes everyone who witnesses it to melt into puddles of adoring, pliable goo. Or just to say, “Aww.”

While it began with a small stuffed teddy bear, she will now hold just about anything close to her chest in a tight squeeze and lovingly pat said object. Stuffed animals. Her sippy cup. A bundle of cloth wipes. Anything.  And we are, of course, continually reinforcing this behavior by practically peeing ourselves with cute every time she does it. I’m not ashamed. I just hope she’ll turn these tender impulses on the cat, who is balding for love of her and her grabby little fists.

But what’s got me thinking about this in another light is an afternoon we spent with one of her friends and his parents, a boy near her age who delighted us with an equally dear display of his own: whenever he saw something with wheels – the bigger the better – he began to gasp and point and grin in overwhelming excitement. His joy was so profound that when I found a book about tractors among Miss E’s enormous collection, I passed it on to his mother.

I can’t help but wonder for these two little people, too young even to know that they are a little boy and a little girl in a social sense, what’s going on here? As parents I’m sure the four of us are acknowledging and encouraging all the positive behaviors our children exhibit, gender “typical” or otherwise. But I’d be lying if I said the thought that Miss E is acting like a girl and her friend is acting like a boy hasn’t crossed my mind, no matter what I believe to be true about gender, because I’m just as much a product of our culture as she is bound to be. But she doesn’t have to grow up with my baggage, and I’m happy as she grows to grow, too, in how I think about the things that she does.

I honestly don’t know what’s going on with all of the patting, but I believe my daughter’s temperament has a great deal more  to do with her behavior than the fact that she is a girl. She’s already a deeply social creature, which a friend pointed out may be the real source of her desire to comfort inanimate objects (and to beam at the responses she receives when she does). Whatever is going on here, I know a day will come when Miss E will recognize that she is a girl and begin to amass an understanding of what that means. I can only hope that when she does begin to construct that knowledge, it will include being daring (enough to climb steep stairs and big kid jungle gyms), calculating (the precision required to stack two, three, four blocks high), so strong and nurturing. Because daddy’s been waiting for a hug for months.

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I love technology (and that’s okay)

"I absolutely feel like it is possible to enjoy the little things, the simple and timeless pleasures of parenthood, and still participate in a modern, technology rich culture. This is the world we live in now, and I embrace what brings joy and moderate the rest. "

There’s a lot of talk about kids and technology, both in what they should and shouldn’t be exposed to, and how their parents ought to be using it. Or, as it happens, not using it.

Like just about everything else, I feel like there’s an enormous spectrum of what’s appropriate and what works for each individual and each family. I am absolutely guilty of using my smart phone to check in with friends on Facebook or flood Instagram with pictures of Miss E trying every new thing, though there’s always that little voice in the back of my head encouraging me to stop click-clicking and get down on the floor with her and play. And I usually do. But those few minutes with my device? That’s a part of my life, and it’s going to be a part of Miss E’s life, too. Already she’ll pull my tablet into her lap, her little pointer finger tapping on the screen and looking at me expectantly, as though expecting me to offer her the password. While it’s my sincere hope to limit her screen time to zero until she’s two, I don’t harbor any delusions that she won’t enjoy video games and silly cartoons as much as her mama and dad, when the time comes.

Without technology, I wouldn’t have captured the soft, snuffley little sounds she used to make when she was just a month old, lying on a blanket in the nursery with my iPod recording beside her head. When I discovered these files months later, having forgotten them in the haze of new parenthood, I was elated. I still listen to them when I need cheering, and I expect I will in years to come. I don’t remember her coos this clearly, and it’s an incredible gift to have them forever (or for as long as there’s a compatible means of playing them, I’m crossing my fingers).

If it weren’t for my obsessive camera toting, I wouldn’t have taken this picture. While it was a delight for my husband and I, it was made even more special when I shared it (again, on Facebook) to the comments of friends and family, one of whom remarked that her expression was not only a happy one, but one of complete trust in her dad. And that’s not something that occurred to me, and that’s a face I’m sure we’ll want to remember when she’s fourteen. The friend in question? She lives on another continent. Our ability to communicate thanks to prolific social media, and the privilege of being able to share my daughter with her as she grows, is something I cherish.

I absolutely feel like it is possible to enjoy the little things, the simple and timeless pleasures of parenthood, and still participate in a modern, technology rich culture. This is the world we live in now, and I embrace what brings joy and moderate the rest.


On Choosing a Legal Guardian

Deciding who will care for your child if the unthinkable should happen to you is an ENORMOUS decision. What's a parent to do?At a recent mom’s night in with the friends I made during our childbirth class, the topic of legal guardianship came up. My husband and I have talked before, and at length, about our hopes (and fears) for Miss E’s future should something happen to us. But we hadn’t done anything formal. We haven’t created living wills or named guardians for her if the worst should happen. The conversation with my friends, however, really got me wound up about it. I knew it was past time to make it official. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to be unclear about our wishes. Well, the last thing besides our untimely demise.

My husband and I had both pretty much already decided who we wanted to ask, and we were in agreement but he was still doing some Googling on the subject (we are a generation who Googles everything). One of the recommendations he found said that the first step in choosing a guardian for your children is accepting that you will never believe anyone is as perfect a parent for your child as you are. It made us laugh, and made me think the writer of that particular article is a far more confident parent than I am.

But still.

Asking someone to raise your child in your absence is an enormous thing. Because we decided to make the rest of our lives about her when we started trying to get pregnant, and that’s exactly what we’re asking of her guardians. She’s our whole world. Could she ever be anyone else’s?

I think so.


How to Survive Your Child’s First Haircut

A child's first haircut is a big step... for mom and dad! How do you cope?Step one, seek professional help.

From your stylist or your parents or your grandparents for the actual scissor-wielding portion of the event, from a therapist for the anxiety that follows because your baby is not a baby anymore. If, like me, you have only your husband and Facebook to tell you everything is going to be alright, you probably won’t believe them.

Step two, don’t do it alone. Not only because of the crying (yours, perhaps, and certainly your child’s), but because of the inability of a toddler to sit completely still for more than three seconds. Especially when there are sharp objects in close proximity to the squishy parts of their faces. For us, the high chair was ideal. My husband held her hands and covered her eyes and it felt like torture for at least two of us.

Step three, breathe.

Step four, do it fast. We were lucky because we really only needed to cut Miss E’s hair out of necessity (her bangs were in her eyes and she abhors barrettes). I can’t imagine having a little guy or gal who might need more than a few quick snips. While I hesitated the first time I went for it, I dove in the second time and only evened her out a bit after that. It took about ten seconds.

Step five, accept that those ten seconds have aged your child six months. Or more. I can’t explain it, really, but Miss E has been seeming more and more like a little girl and less like a baby all the time, but trimming her bangs has framed her face in such a way that it makes everything stand out. Her toothy grin. Her tantrums. Her mad fine motor skills now that her visual acuity has no doubt vastly improved. I’ve got a better picture of the child lecturing me on the finer points of Ewok culture than I’ve had since the day we met. I can just see the person she’s going to be, and while I know she’s been in there all along, it’s breaking my heart to say goodbye to her baby self. My jolly, cooing gal is no more, replaced by a screeching, block-pitching, adorable fiend. I know we said goodbye to her several months ago, but now, it’s really real.

At least I saved her hair clippings, if I can’t save her littleness.


We Go Together

How did you handle your first long separation from your child?I’ve been anticipating six days away in nerd heaven since March, and while I had some anxiety about leaving Miss E for so long – mostly to do with maintaining our nursing relationship, since I’m not ready to give it up and I know it’s best for her to nurse until age two – I felt confident in my husband’s abilities to comfort and care for her and I thought for sure I’d be having a good enough time that I’d be able to cope.

I was so, so wrong.

For two days I missed my little family, but I managed alright. While I noticed families absolutely everywhere, I felt sure that there was no way I could have managed to enjoy myself with Miss E in tow (though I have to admit, the babies in costume were irresistibly adorable).

By the third day I found myself crying and resenting the distance and time between us. Now I’ll admit I am a ridiculous homebody and have been known to get the sniffles when I’ve been away from my husband for more than a few days, so it’s not like this behavior was without precedent. But I just wasn’t prepared for how intense my anxiety would be, how distracting my loneliness, even though I was among friends.

I ended up buying a bus ticket to come home a day early, and it was 50 bucks and nearly ten hours well spent. When I laid eyes on my little pajama clad gal in her car seat grinning and wondering over her absent mama, I felt immediately and immensely relieved. Once we were home and she was settled in her crib after nursing – thank goodness! – my husband asked me if I’d missed him, too. And I had, in the ways that I was used to, and in a new way, too. I’d missed my husband and I’d missed our daughter. I missed being a part of a family.

So next year, we’re going together.