Put a Bib on It


Co-Sleeping Controversary

Like many other parenting decisions, co-sleeping is a controversial issue. Everyone has an opinion. There are those who offer scientific proof on the benefits of co-sleeping, and those who speak passionately about the risks. From advertisements depicting an infant in a bed with a butcher knife to articles that discuss the powerful bond generated between a parent and a child sharing the same bed, it can be difficult to get a clear picture of the issue.

I slept in my mom’s bed until I was about 10-years-old, but my husband and I both agreed we would not have Ev in our bed. The primary reason was that we were scared one of us would smother him in our sleep. And that alone was reason enough  for us. Although if I were being completely honest, there is a piece of me that didn’t want to share my bed with one more living creature as it’s already filled with a husband and two dogs.

When we first brought Ev home from the hospital, keeping him out of our bed was really hard. He lost weight right after being born, as most infants do, but he was not gaining it back as fast as the pediatrician wanted so I was instructed to feed him every two hours. As most new parents may remember, that’s every two hours from the start of the feeding, so it felt like I was literally feeding him around the clock. Plus, as a new mom, I was paranoid and I wanted us to be sleeping in the same room. I kicked into survival mode and found a few solutions worked. One night, Ev slept in his infant seat because he slept well in it and I needed sleep (he slept for 4 hours, which was a record at that time). One night I slept upright with Ev in my arms, which was a last resort, but I had to do it. And for several nights, I slept on the floor in Ev’s room while he slept in his crib. Ev got into a sleep routine quickly and began sleeping through the night at 9 weeks and then falling asleep on his own at 6 months. Things got a lot easier.

Until now. Ev is going through some separation anxiety, I think. At bed time although he isn’t fighting on us on going to sleep, he really doesn’t want us to leave the room. The past few nights we have just stood outside his room where he can see us and he falls right to sleep. If he wakes in the night, same thing, he needs to see us. We have both found it easier just to lay on his floor and fall back asleep in there, which brings up the issue of co-sleeping again. It has me questioning if we made the right decision to keep him out of our bed. All of this would be a whole lot easier if we just brought him in our bed with us.

What is easy isn’t always right. I don’t want to start an unhealthy habit just out of convenience and so far, Ev sleeping in his own bed has been working. I’m not going to say that I’ll never let Ev sleep with us, because I’ve learned “never” is an awfully bold word for a parent to use. But I will say that we will do what it takes to keep connected with Ev and help him feel safe and secure at bedtime.

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Is it too early to be thinking about kindergarten?

When deciding on your child's education, it's never too early to start planning.

My son is 2-and-a-half and we are already thinking about kindergarten. Currently, Ev attends a lovely child care where he is consistently engaged in developmentally appropriate activities that I know are preparing him for kindergarten. For me, kindergarten readiness doesn’t mean things like being able to read and hold a pencil the correct way, but getting a good foundation for learning by playing. That’s exactly what he’s getting in his current program. Ev has a real connection with his teacher, and everyone in his program knows his temperament, his fears, his likes and has great communication with us. I really am quite happy with it. However, I’ve never been one to wait for something to break before I fix it.

My husband and I have started thinking about Montessori education, which is an early childhood philosophy neither of us knows much about. I have visited an early childhood Montessori classroom right down the street from my office and really liked what I saw. If we chose this program for Ev, he would start when he turned 3. I know part of the curriculum is to support a child’s development of self-control and many of the materials are self-correcting in order to support independence. I can really see Ev being successful in an environment like that. The classroom is also a mixed age group, ranging in children aged 3 to age 5 or 6, as it includes kindergarten. Again, I think Ev could really learn a lot from other children because he is quite social. If it this were a good fit, Ev could stay though kindergarten, giving us one additional year to find the best elementary school. It is also about 15 minutes less of a commute both before and after school.

This is such a hard decision. Do we pull Ev from a learning environment that we know he loves to try something new that we think he might like? What if he isn’t successful? What if Ev doesn’t develop self-control? Would Montessori still be a good fit? Are we jumping the gun with thinking about kindergarten already? Is location and convenience a “good enough” reason to consider changing programs?

Really, my husband and I just want to do what is best for Ev. Both of these programs are high quality, so the truth is, he would benefit from both. This is a win/win situation. I’ve added our name to the waiting list at the Montessori program, so we have some time to decide which “win” we want.

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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.


I Don’t Want Another Baby (Yet)

Starting a family is one thing. Growing a family is another.I expected to want another baby by now, but I just… don’t.

I’ve been trying to write this blog for weeks, months, and started and stalled several times. Maybe because I think once I’ve written it I’ll change my mind. Maybe because I think it’s too personal. Maybe because I think it makes me seem selfish, or nuts, or both. But all of my reasons for trying for another baby now (flexible work schedule, children who will be close in age, my advancing age) just don’t seem like enough.

My husband and I both want more children. Eventually. I don’t think of our family as complete with just our daughter, though the idea that she’s “just” anything is crazy. She’s everything. And maybe that’s why the idea of bringing another little being into the world terrifies me, why when I think of another baby I just think of Miss E as a baby, and want to be with her again in all of her little moments. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore her at this age. She laughs in all of the right places when we read a story together. She rocks pigtails. She tells me which foods she wants to eat, and is getting a whole lot better about not just throwing the ones she doesn’t. But would I cuddle her sweet newborn self again? In a heartbeat. In half a heartbeat.

I’m not fretting about sleep or money or space (though I probably ought to be), only this: am I ready to love another person? Explosive, fall to pieces, all consuming love? I felt similarly unsure and scared just before she was born, but this is different, bigger, wilder, because now I know just how much just one little person can change me.

Maybe I’ll never want another baby quite as much I wanted Miss E, or maybe I will but it just won’t feel the same. Your first baby is always your first baby, and that thrill of expectation, at least for me, doesn’t seem like it could be the same when you aren’t just starting a family, but growing it.

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I’m a Bossypants and I’m Sorry

My daughter's good at pushing buttons and so am I. How to educate parents without telling them what to do?Receiving unwanted parenting advice is as inevitable as getting peed on… and in some instances, even less desirable. I’ve felt firmly even before Miss E arrived that how I parent is my own business, and how you parent is yours. But lately I’ve been asking myself, at what point does sharing and educating become overbearing, or risk seeming like telling someone else what to do with their child?

I recently entered the debate surrounding the no-good-terrible Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity™ seat from Fisher-Price on my personal Facebook page, and it started a respectful but worrisome back-and-forth with my friends and family (there’s now a petition to have them recalled). I’ve been privileged to work in an environment at 4C for Children where I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about how young children learn and thrive, and it feels only natural to me to share that knowledge when and where I can, especially when confronted with something that has the potential to be harmful to a child’s development.

But, it’s not that easy.

I don’t want to tell other people what to do. But I do want them to make educated decisions. And I haven’t figured out yet how to share the things that I’ve learned without running the risk of seeming like I’m saying everybody ought to parent the way I parent (I don’t even have this figured out with my husband yet, much to our mutual chagrin). This is never, ever what I want to do. But I know sometimes that’s how it seems, and I feel like an incredible jerk for it (even though I know I’m going to do it again and again and again, forgive me).

What upsets me most about the iPad bouncy seat isn’t that parents are buying it and using it, but that a huge company with so many resources and research at their disposal chooses to market something they must know will be abused as educational, seducing parents who just want the best, just want to give their kids a head start. I feel the same way every time I see a baby in a carrier without proper support, or in a forward-facing car seat when it’s still so much safer for them to be rear-facing. The companies with the power and the money to choose to do good, to market safe, stimulating products for children just never seem to. And honestly, who can blame them? Whatever their mission statement, their bottom line is profit. They’re telling you what to buy, but I know I’d far prefer a recommendation from a friend, or an educator, or a pediatrician.

So what’s the solution? I honestly don’t know. Chances are I’ll keep running my mouth until I figure it out, though.


Wide Awake

Even though both Jillian and I have been down this road before, I’m going to talk about sleeping. Again. Or perhaps this time I should say the lack thereof. Because Ev’s always been a good sleeper, waking consistently around 7:00 a.m., I can’t complain too terribly that now he has been waking up by 5:30 (and twice as early as 4:30!)

But I can seek suggestions or at least some commiseration. This started right around when Daylight Savings Time started so I chalked it up to adjusting to the new schedule. But that was almost a month ago now. We have tried pushing his bedtime later, thinking that he would sleep later, but that did not work. He just got up at the same early time, but was even more cranky and irritable. We have tried telling him it isn’t time to get up and treating it as though it was any other unreasonable time in the middle of the night but will not go back to sleep. I could manage this new schedule (I think) if Ev woke up raring to go and was able to last until nap time, but he is waking up tired. He has even fallen asleep on the way to child care.

I did some reading and found some information that made sense to me. It said that maybe Ev isn’t getting enough sleep so he isn’t sleeping soundly. Meaning, if I put him to bed earlier, maybe he would sleep longer. It also suggested having him in bed 4 – 5 hours after he wakes up from nap. Seems simple.

I began last week thinking I’d move Ev’s bedtime up to 7 or 7:30 (he gets up from nap at child care between 2 and 2:30 usually). But by the time I got Ev home, dinner on the table, him bathed, pajamas on and books read, it was past 8:00. My evening was stressful because I felt like we had to pack so much into a tiny period.

I also hate the adult time I am losing. We can choose to be up for an hour or two after Ev goes to bed for adult time, watching reality television or doing the dishes, or we can go to bed when Ev does so we aren’t as tired as he is in the morning. I am trying to get to work earlier so I can leave earlier, but some days that is easier than others.

If adjusting his schedule just isn’t working for us, my hope is that this is just a phase. Only time will tell.

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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.