Monday, August 24, 2015

When we're not friends with our kids.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were playing with your best friend, and you said you wanted to pretend to be a magic unicorn and then she said she wanted to be a magic unicorn too, and then you told her not to be such a copycat, and she said, "If you don't let me be a magic unicorn, I'm not going to be your friend anymore!"

I feel like saying that to my kid sometimes.

I mean, outwardly I'm always very loving and patient and whatnot (obvs), but when I'm going downstairs to get a bottle ready at 4:00 am while my child whines mercilessly, I'm inwardly screaming, "I'M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND ANYMORE!"

I love my daughter at every moment of every day, but I don't always like her.

Beets, not blood.

In the blissful, pre-teething days, I could hardly conceive of not liking Rhonda. She was so angelic nearly all the time, and slept so much, that I actually liked her almost all the time. Even when I was teetering on the edge of being a little sick of her doing things like sinking her little nails into my face, she'd go down for a nap, I'd get a little reading time, and we'd be pals again. No harm done.

But these days--although she's still probably sleeping more than most babies her age, for which I should be grateful--things can get a little tense between us.

I try to empathize, I really do. I mean, she basically has little razors poking through her gums. And she can't feed herself, and therefore has no proof that she will actually be fed when she's hungry (despite overwhelming evidence). Who wouldn't be upset about that? She probably cries less than I would in her situation.

But still. I'm kind of looking forward to the days when I can say, "I'm going to get you some food now," and she'll believe me and just sit quietly with her hands folded in her lap. And then eagerly chow down on a plate full of fruits and vegetables with her full set of teeth.

It's totally going to happen that way, right?

And then we can be friends again.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Learning in overdrive.

My baby is constantly surprising me these days.

It used to be that time could not possibly go by more slowly. I wished my baby could do something--anything--other than lie there and stare at me. I anxiously awaited the day she would first smile, the day she would first laugh, the day she would first hold her own head up, the day she would first roll over.

At some point, I came to peace with the things she couldn't do and started appreciating her babyhood.

It's a good thing, except that whenever she does something new, I'm met with a variety of mixed emotions. First it's What? No, she didn't do that. She can't do that yet. 

Denial transitions to pride: Wow! I can't believe you did that! Great job! 

Righteous pride dissolves into self-righteousness: I don't think most babies can do this at her age. She must be a genius! I must be an amazing parent! 

Comparing turns into tears: No! She shouldn't be doing this yet! MY BABY'S GROWING UP!!!

This happened a few weeks ago when she figured out how to get into a sitting position all on her own. It was a magical and confusing moment. I looked up from my book and saw her sitting up and said to my husband, "Wait--did you sit her up like that?"

"Nope," he said. "She must have learned how to do it on her own."

And unlike rolling over, which was a very slowly-progressing skill, she demonstrated her new abilities several more times for us that night.

A couple weeks ago, she learned to crawl, and it was the whole process all over again.

And then just a couple days ago, she started pulling herself up to standing. I'd notice some progress in that direction, but I hadn't expected her to actually accomplish it so soon. It's crazy how she learns things so quickly these days.

I love it.

But I hate it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Should I protect my child, or should I challenge her?

This is a question I find myself constantly asking, as a new parent. Even though my baby's not even a year old, I still have to decide whether I'm going to give her the freedom to learn on her own or protect her from all the frightening and difficult things in the world. 

There are obvious benefits to protecting our children, whether it's from sharp knives or scary movies. We want our kids to grow up feeling loved and safe. We don't want them to get hurt. 

But on the other hand, it doesn't really help to try to protect our kids from everything. For one thing, we literally can't. They live in a world with hot surfaces and mean people, and it's no use trying to pretend those things don't exist. And even if we could protect them from everything, should we? We don't do our kids any favors by sheltering them too much. We have to give them some freedom to learn on their own. 

My daughter is only seven months old and I'm already asking myself every other minute, "Is this an instance where I need to protect her, or challenge her?" 

I mean, first off, she is a baby, so I usually choose to protect her (as well I should). Obviously, I don't let her play with dangerous things or leave her to play unsupervised. But I'm not talking about physical protection: I'm mostly talking about putting her in situations that are difficult for her to manage. 

One of the biggest issues for me (and for just about every mom of an infant) is sleep. I think that's why we can be so adamant about our own sleep philosophies (and so critical of those who disagree with us). Moms who advocate attachment parenting say, "We need to protect our babies! Anyone who lets their child cry it out is throwing their baby to the wolves!" Moms in favor of crying it out roll their eyes and say, "We need to let our children learn how to sleep! Anyone who rocks their baby to sleep is being a helicopter parent!" 

I mean, first of all, let's stop criticizing each other, but that's a conversation for another day. Those of us new parents who are trying to figure out what to do with our own children are pulled in two different directions, constantly wondering if we're "babying" our babies too much, or not making them feel loved and safe enough. 

Personally, I do let my own child cry it out because it's what works for us. But I also jealously guard her sleep times. My husband and I don't generally stay out past 8:00 pm, because we don't want to allow the baby to get too tired. I don't go out much during the day because the baby takes a lot of naps and I want to be sure she can sleep in her own crib. (If I do go out, I'll cut my outing short if the baby seems sleepy.) 

Some parents might see this as over-the-top. I usually see it as a way to protect my daughter, to show her that she's important to me. I want to protect her from getting overtired. I want her to feel that she can always sleep somewhere that's comfortable for her. 

But yesterday, my husband and I decided to challenge her. 

Our friends invited us out to a movie in the park. I immediately wanted to respond "no"--even though we hadn't seen these friends in a while and we'd been wanting to get together with them. The movie started at my daughter's bedtime, which meant we'd be out way too late for her and she'd be cranky. 

But my husband thought we should go. He convinced me that we'd be able to get the baby to sleep in our arms--and if she was really too tired and wouldn't sleep, we could always go home. So I agreed, with some trepidation. 

And guess what? It was completely fine. Yes, the baby had some difficulty when she started to get tired. But she also had a wonderful time playing in the park and seeing new people. And she eventually did fall asleep in my lap without much fuss. 

It was a situation she didn't usually experience, but she got a chance to prove herself. She got a little lesson in "the world doesn't revolve around you." My husband and I had a good time and we actually got to stay out past 8:00. 

I wouldn't want to do it every night, or even every week. But every once in a while, I try to remember that even a seven-month-old baby needs a little challenge in her life. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My baby's seven months old and she's practically all grown up.

Lately I've started getting this weird feeling. It's something I didn't expect to experience until my daughter was at least 12 years old.

It's kind of a combination of my-baby's-really-growing-up and my-baby-doesn't-need-her-mother-anymore. My little girl can do all kinds of things now, like rolling all over the place. Also, she makes friends very easily, which is nice and everything but it kind of feels like she doesn't want to play with Mommy anymore.

I started noticing it when we went to visit my husband's parents. Everything was new and different, and suddenly Mom wasn't the most entertaining thing in the room anymore. Before, I could get her to giggle just by looking at her; at Grandma's house, where everything but me was exciting as all get out, I had to perform a circus act just to get her to crack a smile. Half the time, she wouldn't even look at me. (Grandma and Grandpa, of course, got all the grins.)

I know, I know. My child is seven months old, not fifteen years old. She still adores me (I was relieved to find, after we came home from vacation, that I could get her to smile at me again), and she still can't even feed herself. But I can't shake the feeling that my daughter is beginning to understand the world, and Mommy is more like a piece of the set than a primary character.

I'm actually starting to miss the days when she would do nothing all day but sleep, eat, and stare at me. The two of us would have thrilling, sleep-deprived staring contests, because we had nothing better to do. (At least, that's what I remember now that I've had time to romanticize things. At the time, I felt like all I was doing was watching TV, and gazing into my child's eyes was not as fun as I'd hoped.)

But there was one night at Grandma's that made things better. I was holding my baby and singing to her before putting her down for the night, and for the first time, she turned her head toward me and snuggled with me. She wanted to be near me.

So maybe I'm not the most exciting person in her life, but I realized that being a mom isn't about being exciting. It's about being a permanent fixture in your child's life--boring, maybe, but always there, always reliable. I don't want to be a busy, mysterious mom; I want to be a mom that my daughter can always count on. I don't want to surprise her. I want her to know, without a doubt, that I'll be at every sports game and piano recital, and I'll be there to comfort her when she skins her knee at the playground.

She can go out and play in the big, colorful, exciting world, but I'll know--and more importantly, she'll know--that I'll be there to snuggle with at the end of every day.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Things I loved in July.

1. Scribd. I tried a free trial of this service this month and it was really fun. It's basically all-you-can-read ebooks and audiobooks--read (or listen to) as many books from their database as you want for one flat monthly rate (it's been called "Netflix for books"). They don't have many brand-new books, but they have plenty of bestsellers from the past couple years and I found a whole lot to read. I concluded that although I enjoyed the trial quite a bit, I really prefer reading paper books to ebooks or audiobooks. (It doesn't have anything to do with "the death of literature" or any of that. I just prefer the paper book experience.) However, I did enjoy reading a couple of books there that I wasn't able to find in my local libraries.

2. Mystery Show. Every episode, spunky host Starlee Kine solves a mystery. Not huge mysteries, just the little mysteries of life (for example, how tall is Jake Gyllenhaal? I positively adored the way that episode ended). It's fun and if you like podcasts you should totally try it out.

3. Cazookies. Take some cookie dough and put it in a ramekin. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes. Put ice cream on it (vanilla bean is our favorite, but you have my permission to go crazy). Classy and delicious enough to serve to guests, but easy enough to eat it on a weeknight. We may or may not have eaten way too many of these this month.

4. Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Another podcast! (Sorry I'm such a hipster.) If you've enjoyed any of Gretchen Rubin's work (of Happiness Project fame), you'll like this podcast. (And if you've never read Gretchen Rubin, this is a really easy way to find out if you might like her books.) Rubin chats with her sister, Elizabeth, about happiness and how to get more of it. Even though I read both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home (and I plan to read Better Than Before, her new book about habits), this podcast is a good kick in the pants for me to actually put stuff into practice.

5. This dessert. Perfect with all the summer berries. And like cazookies, it's both easy and classy (and a little on the lighter side).

6. While I haven't followed all the recipes exactly, I've found great inspiration here for making my own baby food. It has recipes for both babies and toddlers.