To my future self:

September 24, 2011

Dear Future Me,

Someday, perhaps someday soon, you will have a brand new babe in your arms again, and you will be delirious with lack-of-sleep. I am here to remind you of a few things, because you are not one of those people that deals well with little sleep. Some people in this world function perfectly well on 5 hours of sleep. You are not on that team, my friend. You are a champion sleeper. In fact, you are better at sleeping than you are at many, many other things. Like sports involving motion. Or sneezing.

So here we go:

1. Do you remember that first time you gave Ivy a bath by yourself, when Dan was working a night shift at the hospital? You couldn’t figure out how to get her into and out of the tub without dropping her, or possibly drowning her, and she wouldn’t quit screaming? Remember that? Okay, if that scenario should repeat itself in the future, do not, I repeat DO NOT get into the tub with the baby. At least, don’t do it with your clothes on next time. It really won’t make anything better. I promise.

2. At some point in time, all babies resist the carseat. And babies, especially older babies, love keys. Baby keys and fake sets of keys might as well be dog toys. No, I take that back. Dog toys are also fascinating. Fake keys are more like, oh, I don’t know, that $74 developmental toy that your baby couldn’t care less about. Your keys, your really real keys, are where it’s at. I’m sure there is a valid developmental explanation for this, but as far as you’re concerned, it really doesn’t matter. The keys, they’re so handy, they’re right there in your hand! And so you might be tempted to give your keys to the squirmy thing in the carseat that looks more like a screaming paperclip than your sweet bundle of love. And if it gets you out of the Target parking lot without stares and whispers or calls to Child Protective Services, great. Do it. Those keys are hers if it gets that kid strapped in and properly oriented. Bonus points if all her clothes stay on. What you should NOT do, however, is close the doors to the car without snatching those keys back. Because! Ha ha hahahahah. Because, moron, your baby is 100% guaranteed to lock herself in a sealed car on a hot day. She couldn’t get a spoon into her mouth if she starving, and she can’t do jack with that $74 developmental toy, but those buttons on the electronic keychain? She was practicing in the womb for that shit. So, yeah. Now is when you  should really worry about CPS coming to take your baby away.

3. And speaking of CPS… Don’t leave a full beer bottle in the same room as your toddler, mmmkay?

4. Okay. This probably isn’t something that you’re going to need reminding about… but then again, you really function poorly without sleep. So I might as well remind you that to check a suspicious diaper, you should gingerly pull back the uppermost margin of the diaper. The outside uppermost margin, if at all possible. What you should not do is stick your whole hand down that sucka like you’re looking for eggs under a chicken. Because there aren’t any eggs, mamacita. Best case scenario, your hand will be moist and smell like low tide. Best. Case. Scenario.

 5. And while we’re on the subject of poo… an infant not pooping for three days does not necessarily constitute an emergency. But should you choose to go the suppository route, you might as well put the kid in the bathtub to start with. Also, I wouldn’t frown at goggles and a nose clip. At the very least, be ready to aim, duck, and dodge. Sorry.


6. Baby teeth are effing sharp, dude. And if you can’t remember what I’m talking about, you should spend five minutes imagining that you’re nursing a furious chipmunk as a mental preparedness exercise.

7. And speaking of wildlife, perspective is important. It’s one of the first things to go when you’re in the blur, so I’d like to remind you that you do not have to forage or regurgitate to feed your offspring. Also, you don’t have seven at once, every two years. Right?! If we have 15 kids in five years, you are totally on your own. And my parting words will include “spay and neuter.”

Of course, it occurs to me that you will have two children when you read this letter. And I have NO IDEA! what that’s like. But considering your performance with Ivy, I’m pretty sure we’ll be in way over your head.

Smooches,

Stephanie
(2011 vintage)

PS: I am not pregnant, y’all. Not even a little bit. Unless you can get pregnant from eating reese’s peanut butter cups. This is just a brain dump of  infant stuff before it all becomes a warm fuzzy glow.

Fish Oil

August 29, 2011

Before I became a mom, I often felt like other people had so much more figured out than I did, when it came to being a grown-up. They always looked well groomed, they never had hangnails, if I dropped in on their homes unexpectedly, their sinks were never full of dirty dishes, and their beds were always made. There was never laundry (clean or dirty) sitting on the couch, and their homes did not appear to have ever participated in a rollicking game of Find The Smell.

MY house, on the other hand… I guess you could say that as the person that lives in my house, I see it at its worst. But it was at its worst maybe kind of frequently? And I guess you could question my friends’ sense of timing, with respect to made beds, flushed toilets and dirty laundry. Or my personality, which is a confused blend of laissez faire and perfectionist. And you could assume that I am maybe exaggerating a little. But only a little.

The point is that I’ve never been totally secure in my placement in the upper 50th percentile of adults when it comes to being an adult. I struggle, and I compare myself to others ceaselessly. Yes, I know. Huge opportunity for personal growth, yo. In fact, I’m pretty sure other people compare themselves to their friends much less than I do.

So.  Ha ha ha.  SO!

Now I’m a mother! And holy mustard, are there ever opportunities for personal growth associated with THAT. There are a million books on how to care for a wee babe, and a million-times-that ways to feel like you’re doing it wrong, and about 47-times-that things that you never knew were crucial to your child’s ability to one day balance her checkbook, but are, and now it’s too late, you’ve missed it, she’s toast. (But it’s not too late to feel guilty about it! Also, you should probably feed her algae and fish oil supplements to compensate for your lousy parenting. I mean, do you even care??)

In addition to all that, there’s the patience thing. And while Peach is a totally awesome kid, we are smack-dab in the middle (sweet baby Cletus, please tell me we are smack-dab in the middle and not just getting on this ride) of the boneless, floor embracing histrionics (or “Miss-trionics” as I have been referring to them) that erupt when I leave the room, when I pick her up, when I put her down, when I insist that she wear a diaper, when I remove dog toys (or occasionally –ONLY occasionally, SPCA, relax– the dog) from her mouth, or prevail in my need for possession of the keys to our car when we’re standing in a parking lot in the rain. I’m heartless. And yet, some days are very, very (veryveryveryveryvery) trying.

A few days ago, around 4pm, we were running out the clock until bedtime on a day that had seen one abbreviated nap (instead of the usual two). Peach was this.close. to making one of our heads spin around, and I decided that instead of fighting this one, I’d postpone my dinner preparations, and just relax with her in her playroom. I also decided that I would indulge in a beer. Judge me if you will, but it wasn’t a negligent decision. That part comes next.

I grabbed a beer, took a swig, and went into the playroom where Peach was collapsed on the floor in a fit of boneless wailing and carrying-on. I set the beer down, had a seat and asked her if she wanted to read a book with me. The Miss-trionics continued unabated. So I got up from my chair and started having a grand time with her Duplos. Finally, she picked herself up, and decided that Duplos were so yesterday. She started playing contentedly (by herself) with a puzzle. And I started wondering if I was doing this wrong. Should I be empathetic to her tantrums, instead of ignoring them? Was it normal for a 15-month-old to suffer from demonic possession? Do they even make straight-jackets for toddlers? Clearly, these questions demanded answers. Immediately. I ran to get the baby book and google “straight jackets for toddlers” (don’t waste your time, the answer is no. Not yet, anyway.). Then the doorbell rang, and the dogs went bonkers and knocked over a stack of unpacked-but-homeless crap items. Peach realized she was missing the action and started wailing.

When the door was answered, the cra items re-stacked, I went to pick up Peach and walked with her back to the door. We chatted with our visitor, said goodbye, and I picked her up. I kissed her neck and said something to make her laugh, and realized that I reeked of beer. Our visitor must think that I’m a total lush! How completely embarassing. I only had one sip…… sniff. sniffsniffsniff.

I ran back to the playroom with Peach in my arms, panicked, thinking that I was going to have to explain my drunk baby to the paramedics. But lo and behold, the beer bottle was exactly where I’d left it. I breathed a sigh of relief. But I didn’t smell beer on my breath. I did, however, smell a LOT of beer. In fact, the playroom smelled like a frat house. Shit.

I found the beer bottle almost exactly where I’d left it. But the quantity of beer missing was not equal to a single sip. More like three good gulps. Do babies even like beer?? I stepped towards Peach to examine her person more carefully, and my foot squelched on the rug. Aww, hello beer puddle, you smell like college!

From the number of paper towels it took to soak up that puddle, I strongly suspect that Peach dumped one entire bottle into the carpet, did a 007 number over the baby gate and into the kitchen, opened a second and took it back to the play room to act as decoy. I really doubt that she drank more than a teaspoon. Granted, she was emotional and clumsy. But if that’s any indication of inebriation, she may need an intervention. (Also not invented yet. I checked.) At any rate, she survived. Checkbook balancing ability TBD, but I’m optimistic. I’ve got fish oil.

—————

When I told Handsome about my, erm, foible, the man who has been harangued by yours truly on many an occasion for being unaware and negligent (mostly with water) (sometimes coffee) (never beer), could have been all “What is the matter with you? Do you have any idea how to explain a drunk baby to the paramedics? Of course not, you pathetic excuse for a mother, that’s why I’m the doctor.” (Actually, we’re both doctors, imaginary Handsome.) Instead, he hugged me and said “Do you see now how these things just happen?” Which pretty much settles who the better parent is. And I’m okay with that.

Handsome is way into old literature. Like, “olde” literature. Olde English tales, Olde Norse Myths. The olde-r, the better. He’s actually working on a Master’s degree in Dusty Tomes in his spare time. As part of his course work, he’s re-reading Beowulf. Did you know a new translation was just released? This is quite exciting and blahblarghblah we now own yet another copy of Beowulf. Like you care!

Anyway, this afternoon Handsome was in the playroom with Peach, and I overheard the following:
“Peach, you wanna read a story with me? Ooh, let’s read Beowulf together! This is a very good story, it’s about a warrior! And it’s written in alliterative verse! Doesn’t that sound like a good story? Yeah? Ok! Let’s read Beowulf!
[pause]
‘Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long, he hears ‘Click, clack, moo…'”

Potty wanna cracker?

August 17, 2011

Lately, Peach, my 15 month old prodigy, has been pointing to her diaper just before soiling it. I gave some thought to potty-training (or potty-learning, if you prefer), but decided that until she can understand the phrase “you need to wait 5 five minutes” there was really no point. Let me paint you a picture:

Peach: Mmm! Mmhhnn! [points emphatically to crotchal region while mid-errand]

MerryMommy: Okay, sugar, we are about 450 aisles away from the potty. Hang on!! [I ditch the cart, channel Evil Kenevil and discover that I can parkuor our butts across Target. But there are massive casualties: Granny Parker’s “good” hip, one slightly squished stoner kid, my right ankle, my forehead, my gallbladder, the entire laundry aisle, and Peach’s pants, which now that I’ve stopped ricochetting off displays, I realize were wet before I even had my Evil Kenevil face in place.]

Peach: Mmm! Mmhhnn! [points emphatically to an animal cracker]

MISSION FAILURE

But… reluctant to let a golden moment slip away, and thinking that one less poopy diaper to clean up is ONE LESS (Hey-O!!), I decided to buy her a little baby potty and see if I could help her build an association. I mean, even if we only use it for pooping at home, it would still totally rock. my. world.

So now, I predicted, when she points to her diaper, I shall declare it “Potty time!” and sit her upon it. Brilliant. Excellent parenting, me. I will give me a 15% raise this quarter.

Except, the potty is an excellent drum! It’s a charming tricorn hat! It’s a fantastic bucket! And determining what fits in the potty is her raison d’etre. I’ve kind of given up on the whole “potty time!” thing because by the time I find the potty (under her crib, behind the couch, in her toy bin, or hey! in the dishwasher, why not?) the diaper has taken one for the team.  So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I found her morning snack in herpotty cafeteria tray.

Judging Judy

August 17, 2011

Did I mention that I’m a mother? To a sweet, bright-eyed bundle of energy? Peach is 15 months old. These 15 months of parenthood, and the 9 months of prep work that preceded it, have taught me that voicing your opinions about parenthood, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, vaccinating, daycare, cloth diapers, co-sleeping, discipline, diet, routine, and a whole host of other topics, can get you into hot water with friends and acquaintances very, very quickly. And when the social buffers are removed? Yikes. The comment streams on parenting blogs can be absolutely toxic.

I’ve also been giving a lot of thought to how I want to raise my daughter to become a strong, brave, kind, curious and generous soul. Bullying stories that make “Lord of the Flies” look like an afterschool program are in local and national news. Marketing to elementary-schoolers glorifies self-entitled, sexualized princesses. I shake my head at how screwed up our daughters’ world is when people talk about girls being KIND to one another, like it’s some kind of miracle. Something is very wrong with our culture when girls (or ANYONE, for crying out loud!) are expected to turn into mean people.

And it occurred to me today, while reading a wonderful essay from New Mom on the Blog on Pregnant Chicken that these two things, the way mothers judge each other and the way our daughters act, might be related. This is not some ponderous epiphany. A righteous mama snarking about another mom co-sleeping (or not) with her four-year-old isn’t unusual. Neither is an 11 year-old slamming her classmate’s taste in music. Maybe —just maybe— if our daughters saw their mothers exercising understanding, restraint, kindness and compassion in all corners of our lives, our daughters would have a better frame of reference for how to be kind people.

And if you need a role model to help get you started on being compassionate and understanding, check out New Mom on the Blog for a fantastic example of how to be kind, with a backbone. It’s possible.