Monday, June 28, 2010

Good Behavior

When I started this blog I promised myself there would be at least a couple of posts a week. It drives me crazy when blogs I follow have no new content for weeks on end. Clearly that didn’t end up happening. I then told myself that one post a week would be reasonable. Clearly that didn’t end up happening either. Turns out writing is hard. I’ve been having a little case of writers block; four posts started and I’m not happy with any of them. Let’s see if attempt number five sticks…

At 29 I got my first job in retail. It was an incredibly eye opening experience. I got to regularly watch families engaging in terrible and inappropriate behavior in public. The younger folk I worked with would just look at the families in disgust, while I was married and being pressured by my sweet husband to get knocked up so I found myself often thinking “Holy shit, I must do whatever possible to make sure that is NEVER me. Cause it could be.” OK, honestly I only thought that some of the time. The rest of the time I too would just watch in disgust.

I have my theories about behavior in retail settings including that people have to adhere to societal norms for the most part, and they subconsciously realize that the only place they can get away with unacceptable behavior is somewhere they don’t know anyone. Somewhere they have been told the customer is always right. But I think that is a post for another time. I’ll include some shoplifting stories like the one involving raw chicken cutlets in a woman’s bra.

This is all by way of saying it turns out I am really old fashioned when it comes to how children behave. It is imperative to me that T listens to me and his father and treats others with respect. I’ve always been very judgey (Oh yes, I am what I criticize) about those families that let their kids run wild in public, or who yell at their kids over and over to no avail, or who tell their kids “No!” and don’t do anything when the kid ignores them. But it turns out when you are actually a parent being a firm disciplinarian is much harder than it looks from the outside. You love the little person in front of you so much that you just want to make them happy. Also having the patience to work with that little person, to be on him all the time to make sure he isn’t touching grown up stuff, or the cat’s water, or the trash AND providing a distraction is frankly a pain in the ass. Embarrassing, but true.

A side note about the hard work of parenting: Recently someone said to me “You are so lucky that Thomas is such a good sleeper. Because whether or not kids sleep well is just luck of the draw.” I replied that I was lucky, but when I thought about it some more I realized luck has nothing to do with it. T was a terrible sleeper for a long time. I mean, I can’t get through a blog post without returning to the sleep or CIO topic. His sleep feels like the central issue of our lives. It totally rocks that he takes 2 naps a day and sleeps for 11+ hours a night. But it is not luck. It was a tremendous amount of hard work and tough choices for both Z and me. And there are backslides all the time. The first night we were home after vacation he cried for an hour at bedtime. Didn’t do it once during all the upheaval and strange beds on vacation, but he totally lost it when he was back in his comfort zone. Anyway, we put in all this hard work and T made huge improvements. But it is just overwhelming and exhausting to think that we have to put that much work in every time we want to teach him a new thing. One of the biggest surprises of motherhood is how damn hard it is all the time, how much fucking work it is. Makes me want to thank my own Mom yet again for everything she did for me…

Now that T is mobile I feel like the only thing I say to him is “THOMAS! NO!” all day long. A few weeks ago we had a wellness visit at the pediatrician’s and I told her about this frustration. I even demonstrated my very firm words to him. Poor T looked at me with such confusion. I apologized profusely for confusing him. Her response was our job as parents is to teach our children how to navigate this world. She said that she sees permissive parents in the office all the time and they are creating people that no one wants to be around, that they are doing a real disservice to those kids. She said I wasn’t being too mean by speaking sharply to him and to keep it up.

Of course that positive reinforcement was very comforting, but it doesn’t make trying to teach him how to behave any easier. And 10 months might seem early to start with this stuff, but he really is a sharp little guy. His language comprehension is growing by leaps and bounds. He even says a few words. He can understand “Thomas, go get your ball and bring it to me.” So he certainly understands “No.”

What tips to you parents out there have for raising a respectful and well behaved little person? What tricks worked for you? Did you obsess about it as well?

Little T and Big T on a boat.

T's first word. This was taken exactly a month ago. He now also says "cat" and "ball". No joy with "Mama", but he says dadadada all day long although we don't think he connects it to Z yet.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Years Start Coming And They Don't Stop Coming

In the summer of 99 I graduated from college, got engaged, and took a trip to Winston-Salem, NC to visit Z’s family. As we drove around WS that summer the song All Star by Smash Mouth constantly played on the radio. It’s a fun song, but the reason I loved it was the lyric “The years start coming and they don’t stop coming”. It seemed like a rather poignant and almost melancholy thought inserted into a pop-y rock song.

I was 22 at the time. The years didn’t seem like they were going to fly by to me. I enjoyed the brief moment of longing and sadness in the song because I’ve always been a sucker for longing and sadness especially when they are inserted into seemingly fun and happy ditties.

Well. Here we are 11 years later and it turns out the years do start coming and then they do not stop coming. And I have the feeling I have no idea how fast they will continue to come. In a couple of days Z and I will have our 12th anniversary of our first meeting which turned into our first date and was also the first (and last) time I stayed up all night painting the town red. And in a few months we will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.

So there has been a lot of reminiscing going on at our house. Thankfully we’ve been focusing on the happy stuff. We’ve been over the sad stuff enough times so looking back at the good is a refreshing change.

All those distant memories feel even more distant now that we have T. His arrival has naturally changed everything. Change is so charged for me. I dreaded it when I was pregnant. I felt like I was in mourning for my youth and freedom. I knew one chapter of my life was coming to a close and that has never been easy for me. Change much smaller than having a child has undone me in the past. When we moved out of our first apartment in Williamsburg Brooklyn I stood in the empty living room on our last night there and wept. Z lived there when we met, I moved in within the year, we spent our engagement there and lived there when we were first married. It was the end of the beginning of our life together and I wasn’t ready to give it up.

While T was in my belly he also represented the end of a part of our lives. The problem was I felt like I had wasted that part being emotionally ill. I felt my chance to be young and selfish was coming to an end and I’d wasted it. I guess my fears were true, but thankfully I don’t care. T is worth it. And I’ll have different opportunities.

Most of my day is spent with T, and not just with him but touching him. There really is something magic about baby skin and baby smell. It is such a pleasure to run my hands over his unblemished perfect skin and smell his sweet and sweaty head when I hold him tight.

Next to T Zeke suddenly seems to be approaching middle age. And so do I. If we hadn’t had him I think we would have continued to think we were very young, both physically and in spirit. But when I kiss Z I notice how rough his skin now is. When I look at my hands I also notice a new roughness. We aren’t old fogies by any stretch of the imagination. But we aren’t kids any more. We don’t look like kids and we don’t have the concerns and problems of kids. And that’s OK. We are happier than we could have imagined as parents. And we still would have been approaching middle age if we hadn’t become parents. It would have just taken us longer to figure it out.

And anyway, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming so even if we weren’t happy with this phase another one is always on the way.

My boys hamming it up at a sheep shearing event.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Parenthood Is Not a Competitive Sport

Parenthood is not a competitive sport. We should be able to put our idealistic and naïve ideas out into the world without worrying about the distain or incredulity or jealously or insecurity of other parents. We should be proud of our accomplishment and ideals and we should learn from our failures.

And if there is a parenting stance out there that we agree with and we are proud of we should be able to celebrate it even if we are being a little insufferable about it! Why not enjoy the stuff we believe in and we are doing right? This is such a frustrating job that we need to pat ourselves on the back every once in a while.

So what about the parenting stuff we read that we disagree with?

Before I was a mom there was a ton of stuff I was sure I’d do differently, from the type of diapers I use to Cry It Out. The Cry It Out thing tortures me. It keeps me up a night. I am deeply ashamed that we cannot comfort our son at night without him thoroughly waking up or becoming even more inconsolable. Do articles criticizing CIO bother me? Yup. Hell, they hurt me a lot. Because I’d love to not have to do it. But I also know my kid and it is the only way he can get to sleep and stay asleep.

When I read those CIO articles for half a minute I do want to write a response telling the author to get off her fucking high horse. But what would that serve? I’d feel better (and very self righteous) for a minute. But you know what? I’d look like a jerk. And my point, even if it was good, even if it was right would be lost, and I hate to lose. So in the past when I have taken to my keyboard to disagree with an article I’ve tried not to mock or lash out or belittle (I can do all that in the privacy of my home with Z as my audience). Whoever wrote that article or agreed with it is entitled to her opinion just as I’m entitled to mine. But there is a better chance she will listen to my opinion if I’m not insulting her or her intelligence.

So I’m going to continue to be proud of myself every time I nurse my son (even if I’m also quaking in fear that he is going to bite). I’m going to be proud when I open the freezer and see all the colorful cubes of baby food I made for him waiting to be used.

I’m also going to try my damndest not to beat myself up over the crying at bedtime. I’m going to try and not be envious or angry about moms that have good sleepers. I’m going to try and prevent myself from feeling like less when I read articles that say CIO inflicts permanent damage. And if I read or hear something that I absolutely disagree with I’m going to engage in a way that will make that other person listen rather than just dismiss me for being mean.

Who the hell knows if I will succeed? I don’t have a great history of keeping insecurities at bay. But very soon I’m going to be attempting to teach T to be a thoughtful and compassionate person. I’m hoping to teach by example and I have quite a bit of work to do myself on both counts before he’ll be able to take me seriously.

And now I'll get off my fucking high horse. Here's T hanging out in his pool on Memorial Day.