Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From the mouths of babes Pt. 2

I turned 26 today, which has caused me to look back at my life a little and congratulate myself for acheiving so many of the things I wanted to.  One of those things of course, is being a mom.  Sometimes it's crazy and I want to run away, or leave the kids on some nice lady's doorstep, but overall, the little fun moments that happen make all that go away. Today has been one of those days full of those little moments. What a great birthday present!

This morning, Patrick took his socks off. I'm not sure why he took them off, but there he was, standing next to me as I nursed Carter, complaining that his feet were cold.  So I asked him, "Where are your socks?"  and he says, "They're not on me."  Well, yes, obviously... so I laughed and he laughed because I was laughing. Then I said to him, "Well, where did you take them off?" asking about the location in the house that he took them off, but he said, "I took them off my feet mommy."  I laughed so hard that Carter decided it was too much to try and continue eating... he looked up and smiled at Patrick and I while we were laughing (though I'm sure Patrick had no idea what was funny) and it was a great moment.

Later, while Carter was sleeping, Patrick and I were reading Richard Scarry's Things That Go.  Patrick was very excited to identify fire trucks and choo-choo-trains and strange little cars like the carrot car and pickle truck and the two-seater crayon car.  Then he looks at me and says "I'm going to jump in that story, and get in that crayon car and drive and drive and drive to the colouring book!"  Another similar one is "I'm going to get in the story and get in that skid-steer-loader and DIG some DIRT!"  He says dig and dirt like it's hard work, while puffing out his little chest.  I just think it's funny that he thinks to say he needs to get in the story before he can do whatever task he sets his mind to. 

Patrick and Carter are both napping right now.  Normally, this is a time of relief for me.  A time where I can get my bearings (and the house in reasonable shape) or have a nap myself, but today I'm just filled with so much love for them that I kind of want them to wake up. 

Now... to go peer in at them sleeping.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More jibber-jabber...

This one will consist of cute things my sons say....

My second, Carter, has been jabbering for awhile now... today he came up with "Baa-ba-ba-ba-ba" and the other day it was "Gooooom, goom goom goom goom."  Ah baby talk... how I will miss thee when thou hast gone.  Fortunately, I think I can possibly get through a few more pregnancies, so it'll be awhile till that well dries up.  I'm really fascinated with the development of language in children.  My earliest memories are shortly after I began speaking, and there is quite a bit of research to support the theory that we experience life through language. Perhaps we'll save the intellectual babble for another time.

When I opened the curtains in the living room this morning to reveal a bright sunny day, my son Patrick stood on the armchair and exclaimed "I see the world! It's the world outside mommy."
The next thing I knew, he was jumping up and down on the chair saying "Hello trees! Hello grass! Can you come inside and play with me?!"  Where does he come up with this stuff?

Lately, as in the last three weeks, he's had a bit of an obsession with the landfill.
I'd better explain: My husband is a contractor, and makes somewhat frequent trips to the landfill with construction waste. Sometimes he'll take Patrick with him, and Patrick finds it very exciting because he's into track-hoes and loaders and bulldozers and land-rollers ect... all of which you can see at the landfill.
He comes home saying "We saw a BIG, BIG bulldozer!" while standing on his tip toes with wide eyes. He says "BIG BIG" with feigned effort, perhaps to indicate that whatever he's referring to is just that hard to comprehend.
He also prays that God blesses the landfill at mealtimes, and every night, without fail, he says to us "When I get up in the morning, I will go pee, then we'll go to the landfill."
And every time we're about to go out somewhere, be it to the grocery store or to the park he says something along the lines of "We're going to get in the car (or truck) and drive and drive and drive to the... LANDFILL!"
Some kids like Disneyland or even just the playground... mine thinks the landfill is where it's at.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mom enough? Sure am!

Whoa, whoa, whoa! 
So I was just sitting down for my morning email/facebook-check and coffee when I was confronted with - no, bombarded with a barrage of tweets, news articles, comments on articles, blogs, comments on blogs and this:
Apparently I'm a few days behind, since I was, rather ironically, busy parenting my two sons and enjoying Mother's Day.  However, the question "Are you mom enough?" has been on my mind for a long time. Two years, eleven months and twenty-one-and-a-half days to be exact, which is the age of my first son plus nine-months in-vitro.

I think all mothers, regardless of parenting-philosophy ask themselves this question over and over.  The debate starts well before a crying baby is placed in your arms, and arguably before sperm meets egg and conception happens.  Will I be a good mother? Am I a good mother? What is a good mother?

The last few days have seen much debate on motherhood, attachment parenting and what makes a good mom. Here's a sampling of what's out there, in case you missed it:

Kate Pickert's article in Time is about attachment parenting, a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears, a much-revered parenting expert.  Pickert outlines the so-called requirements of attachment parenting; co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended breastfeeding... and speculates that this philosophy toward child-rearing may be causing women to be a little over-zealous and possibly to expect too much of other women who may not be doing the same thing.

From CBC's The Current website:
In her new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, the French feminist philosopher Elisabeth Badinter doesn't take long to stir the pot.

The object of this book is to defend the right of women to make their own choices and to take issue with this idea that you are a bad mother if you bottle feed your baby, if you put your kid in daycare and if you work. And what bothers me terribly is that because of this return to nature, the idea is that there is now this one unique model of motherhood which implies that everyone who doesn't fit that model should be condemned.
Some commentary on this book from a few women:

From Dr. Claire McCarthy, who practiced attachment parenting:
http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/mdmama/2012/05/what_being_mom_enough_really_means.html

From Stephanie Peatling, Australian Political Correspondent:

I also read in the newspaper this morning about the new movie "What to Expect When You're Expecting," based on the pregnancy book.  Wow.  Life for moms just gets better when all your trials and tribulations are being foisted upon the world from Hollywood's perspective too.

In my humble opinion, trying to wade through the wreckage that is the age-old parenting debate is difficult at best.  Until I had my kids, I didn't know anything about parenting except what I'd gleaned from my own upbringing, and now, I know too much. It's a case of information overload.  As parents we've entered the candy store with a zillion choices and the idea that we just want the best that's out there.

I actually shed tears this morning thinking about the incredible pressure that women are under to be good mothers.  The modern mother is not only expected by our society to have and nurture babies, but to look amazing, have a clean home and on top of that, a fulfilling career outside the home either before, after or during parenthood.  I keep asking myself whether or not these are societal pressures, or if we, as women, have imposed these upon ourselves. 

I cry out for the mother who would like to read stories to her children before bed at night, but can't because she's got to work two jobs to pay their rent.  Would anyone question her quest to put food on the table and keep a roof over her children's head?

I cry out for the stay-at-home mom who attends her ten-year high-school reunion and feels inferior when she finds that most of her female classmates have had fulfilling careers thus far as lawyers and doctors and journalists and still look as young as they did at eighteen.

I cry for the women who feel like they need to be everything to everyone. The women who feel they need to raise children using methods prescribed by society and not their own common sense or intuition; The women who feel they must "one-up" their friends by finding the best methods to teach their children to eat, sleep, talk or walk. The women so hell-bent on being supermom that they forget to do what's most important - just loving your children in whatever form that takes.

There are mothering techniques that have merit and those that don't.  However, those that don't tend to go by the wayside pretty quickly, like the post-Depression-era idea that if you pick up crying babies, they'll want an unhealthy amount of attention (source: my Grandma). 

I think a lot is expected of mothers - and rightly so.  We have been given the responsibility of raising the future generation.  This could be (and is) looked at by some as a huge burden, a daunting task that will take time, energy and sacrifice.  It is and it will. 

It is also, and I think, above all, a gift.  We have the chance to raise the future generation; to play the biggest part in forming the young people that will grow up to inherit our world; we give them the foundation for which they base their lives.  So I think, instead of thinking about the best way to do it, we should embrace the challenge and simply live it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"He looks hungry..." and other useless parenting advice.

As a relatively new parent, I've received lots of advice in the past 2-and-a-bit years pertaining to nearly everything, from sleeping and eating habits, to what kind of socks to buy.  I have gone looking for some of this useful information in books, online or from friends and family who are happy to share their experiences.  But what I'd like to address now is unsolicited advice...

Sometimes this kind of advice is helpful. No parent is perfect and we all need a little help somtimes.  But when you become a parent, it seems that the experts come out of the woodwork. Who knew that everyone you know (and sometimes those you don't) would feel they have the answers to raising your children? Not only that, but that they feel somehow entitled to impose this information on you in one of these forms:

The direct: This kind of advice is typically given either by someone who sees a problem and genuinely wants to help, or by someone who thinks they know best. It's hard to tell which sometimes.
When I was potty-training my first, I didn't really seek any advice, because I had a plan. When it was brought to the attention of friends and family members, I was inundated with strategies and encouraging comments like "Don't worry if he doesn't get it the first day." (Helpful) and "Well, it's just harder to potty-train boys." (Not helpful, since I only have boys to potty train so far.)   After about a week, my son had going to the potty down pretty well. Now he's even going without announcing that he has to go, which makes me glow with pride, since my husband and I developed our own mish-mash of methods and succeeded without massive interruption to our busy life.

The indirect: When someone tells you what they did or are doing and adds "It worked/works for us." 
Sometimes this is fine.  Friends of mine have given me great ideas, and though I wasn't looking for feedback, I am thankful they gave it in an unassuming way. 
Other times, the idea is stupid, unhealthy, unsafe or just not what you want to do. 
In my life, some of the ideas I've deemed stupid have been repeatedly brought up in this way.  I will never put honey on a pacifier so my child will take it; I will never shave a nearly bald baby's head so that their hair will grow in thicker; and I don't think looking in the mirror will damage a baby psychologically (all true stories btw).

The passive aggressive: This advice is typical of somebody who has a definite opinion but wants you to think they respect yours.
"Well I'm not telling you what you should do but..."  Oh but you ARE.  Clearly, you think I should be doing this if you're even mentioning it! 

The helicopter: These are the worry warts. They really do mean well when they follow your child around and help them with each little task, but there are times when you just want to slap them silly.
I encountered a mother in the waiting room at a vaccination clinic who noticed a small scratch on her 18-month-old's neck.  She then proceeded to call his father and his nanny to interrogate each of them regarding where and when he obtained this small scratch.  The child continued to play happily beside her, not bothered in the least by the scratch.  I thought of reminding her that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but I held my tongue.

The grave look of disapproval: This isn't really advice per se, but it is basically inevitable that you as a parent will be wordlessly criticized at some point in your adventure. 
Picture this. You're in the grocery store and your child starts to yell that he wants whatever tasty treat is right beside him at the checkout.
Option A: You say no and your child begins to flail their arms and throw their sippy cup and tantrum with a scream so shrill you think maybe half the people in the store are now on their way to being deaf.  To top this off, the cashier is now looking at you with a "grave look of disapproval". 
Option B: You decide, hey, the kid has been alright through this whole shopping ordeal, maybe they deserve a little reward. You say "You can have it if you ask nicely." Said child says "Please can I have..." and you put it on the conveyor to buy.  You then turn around to see the older lady behind you giving you the "grave look of disapproval."
This is a no-win situation.  You might feel bad for making the cashier's day just a little more hellish. You might feel bad that you've given your child candy and an old lady disapproves. But the cashier and the old lady don't have to live with your kids. You do. You're the parent. So ignore these imbeciles and parent away.

The glib observation: I'm convinced that these are things people say to fill the air. They should almost always be ignored because they're offered by people who don't know what they're talking about, but think that they do.
Examples:  I was at a thrift store browsing the racks of barely-worn baby clothes when my second baby was 2 weeks old.  He began to fuss and out of nowhere an elderly lady appeared and said, "He looks like he might be hungry."
I just looked at her and said "Yes. He might be." But what was I to do about it right then? What would she have said if I just, in the words of a friend "popped the boob out right there"? 
Another time I was at the public health clinic with a nurse, who looked at my first son and said "Hmmm, he might not be getting enough tummy time. His head is kind of flat at the back."
First of all, my son's head is shaped exactly like his dad's where his skull does not bow out at the top of the neck.  This is not a deformity caused by leaving him on his back too much, as the nurse implied.  I know this, so I tersely explained this and we moved on.  

Like I said at the beginning, unsolicited advice is not blanketly bad, but come on people! Give a mother a break! Sometimes I'd just like the benefit of the doubt.  I'd like to think that the way that my husband and I choose to parent our kids works for us and for them on a functional level, and that maybe, just maybe, they'll turn out to be well-adjusted, functioning adults as a direct result. 

When it comes to advice, it's best to wait till you're called upon to give it. That way, you can be assured of its value.