Friday, December 5, 2014

You're not 1 yet

I just ordered the cake, so I guess it's're turning 1.  I'm not sure how it happened.  It was yesterday that I wrote Letter to my First-Born, and now here you are; this sweet, joyful little person who bounces his butt to Taylor Swift,  is in love with a mangy stuffed bunny (named "bunny"), and laughs when people sneeze.

You don't know it yet, but things are about to change for you out in the world.  In 9 short days, they'll call you a toddler, they'll give you the OK for regular milk, you'll have your first party.  But me, I'll still be calling you baby, I'll still be nursing you, and while I will enthusiastically sing happy birthday to you at your party, all I'll be thinking about is the day you came to me a year ago on that snowy December night... the most peaceful, beautiful face I had ever seen, beaming with a light that hasn't ever gone out.  I'm happy, of course, that you are growing, but if I'm expected to just let it happen without a fight, well, they don't know your mama (it's a proverbial "they", by the way; there is no specific evil force aside from Father Time at work here).  I'm not there yet.

But, lucky for me, you're not 1 yet.  So I can slow it down just a little before you're tossed out of babydom into the noisy, messy world of toddlerhood, just to savor that sweet baby essence a bit more, and to let you in on a little 11 months and 21 days, you already know pretty much everything you need to know.  Sure, it'll be nice when you're over 3 ft tall and can say crazy ass stuff like your brother, but today, your heart and soul are already perfect.  Blow out (or spit at) the candle, start drinking out of a sippy and running around, but really, please, for this mama's sake, don't actually change a thing.  Especially these things.

- That smile -- when you smile, your whole face sparkles.  I swear it does, ask anyone.  You have some kind of innate radiance; you've had it from the minute you were born, and I only wish it could be bottled.  Something, someday, will make you sad, I know (yes, something aside from us taking  the shoes you want to lick away from you) wish is that you're always able to see the world through this same lens.

-You adore your brother, and he adores you.  I know you'll fight one day over toys and friends and life (hopefully not about girls, please don't fight over that)....but my wish is the current open-mouthed kisses and chasing after him when he leaves the room is actively altering your DNA such that deep down, no matter what, you will always have each other's backs.  He already advocates for you having 5 more minutes before your bedtime every night, so I can tell you that at 3, he already has yours.

-Your openness.  I know you can't really complain much yet, but there's an ease about you.  You already know how to go with the flow and adapt to change.  I hope you always raise your hand when things are really important to you, but that you are also able to roll with the punches and be open to life's ebbs and flows.  

-Your courage.  Before you jump off a couch you hesitate and make sure there is some kind of support there, but then you jump -  no holds barred.  I love that.  I hope you always jump when it feels right.

-Your affection.  For me, for your daddy, for your brother, for that mangy bunny.  You hug and kiss everything like you really mean it.  People will tell you boys shouldn't be so sweet, but I can tell you that strongest men I know really are.  Plus, girls dig it. 

-Your passion.  For food, for sports, for animals (ugh but the cat love may have to change)...whatever it is, you act with intention, you love with gusto.  Please don't get lazy, please stay passionate and (for your mama's sake), please continue eating copious amounts of food.

So fine, I know I'll get over this whole birthday thing, and we will have so much fun when you can talk and sing and run like your brother.  But in my heart, you will always be this perfect, sweet baby.  And down the line, when we're seeing you off to college (or you're selling your multi-billion dollar start-up, that would be fine too), I hope I am still reminding you not to change these same things; that you will still know that how perfect you've always been in my eyes.  Thank God you're not 18 yet. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

On Sleep Training (just kidding)

Who else is sick of reading judgy parenting articles, and then the articles and social media posts judging the judgy parenting articles?  I can hardly stand it anymore, so I have to go on an ironically judgy rant.  I belong to a couple of those FB mom-groups which, for the most part, are a great platform for exchanging information and offering encouragement.  But in the past 48 hours, I've seen 4-5 incendiary posts on one of these platforms about sleep training, followed by some commentary that is equally as self-aggrandizing and divisive.  Sure, I suppose I could stop reading it, but gawking at mommy wars is something like driving by a car know you might see something that will upset you, but you just can't help yourself.

The current tagline among moms is judge lest you be judged.  But these types of posts and the commentary that follows show that that's not really what's happening.  Which begs the question for me... is it really possible to NEVER judge the parenting of another mom?  Maybe we are setting some unrealistic expectations and could look at it another way.  After all, don't we all have a few issues that we feel really strongly about?  Presumably, when we make choices related to those issues, it's after evaluating the options and ultimately determining what we think is "best."  I think it's natural that when we see someone else making a different choice about the same thing that we - dare I say it - make a judgment.

If you're not sure if you do it, don't worry, you do.  Whether it's sleep training or nursing or vaccines or discipline or private school or epidural or processed food or iPads or extracurriculars or TV or working, there is SOMETHING you care enough about that makes you react, sometimes not in a positive way.  Sometimes we admire another's choice, if it's something we wish we could have done.  But other times, maybe most of the time, what is perceived as "judgment" is really just a guttural reaction to something that helps affirm our own sense of what is or isn't right for us.  Feeling affirmed and validated isn't a bad thing in it of itself.  We all need it, from time to time.  In your first few years of being a parent, everything is new and you are often unsure that you're doing the right things.  But in the rare moments when you feel confident that you are making good decisions for your family, it's ok (I think) to bask in it a little, even if what made you realize that is seeing someone else do it differently.

However, putting other people's choices down and taking offense in a debate is an entirely different story. Internet commentary has put all mother-in-laws since the dawn of time to shame.  I have never thought, let alone said, that someone was a bad parent for doing X, but have I noted (to myself) that X is not something that would be right for me?  Sure.  Have I given myself a proverbial pat on the back when I hear of some problem we have worked hard (and successfully) to prevent?  Sure.  Do I feel miffed if someone tells me they'd do something differently than I do?  Sometimes.  I think making these judgments from time to time and feeling defensive when you're challenged is inevitable when you care so much about doing "right" by your kids.

Perhaps the message shouldn't be, "don't judge" but, instead, to forgive others when they do and be mindful when you find yourself doing it, as it may be a good opportunity to reflect on your own choices.  We should share information, but if we don't like information that's being shared, we can choose to disregard it and not take its circulation as a personal attack.  We can acknowledge that our strong opinions can coexist with those of others. We can stop working ourselves into a tizzy trying to justify our choices to perfect strangers (sometimes really to justify to ourselves that they are the right ones for our family).  A person who feels strongly against sleep training just won't ever see it the other way.  And that's ok.  There's probably something they do that you think is ridiculous.  That's ok too.  Judge away.  Let's all just stop taking it personally.  After all, in a few short years our kids will make us feel like we did everything wrong anyway :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Tell the truth Experienced Moms and Dads, do you ever walk by the couples who are clearly expecting their first know the ones - they are euphorically walking hand-in-hand (in the city, because that's where they still live), leisurely perusing baby books at a bookstore, enjoying an inordinately long dinner while discussing an upcoming "babymoon" -- are you quietly (but loudly in your head) thinking...HA!  you don't know what you're in for!  Even as you congratulate your ever-growing inner circle who are starting to have children, and express all the right, trite -isms like "welcome to parenthood!"....are you really thinking, "thank god we're not the only ones!"  Not that I would ever rain on that "we're pregnant and so excited" parade for anyone...aside from the inconveniences and discomforts of pregnancy for the women, it is one of the happiest times in a couple's collective life.  You're filled with such anticipation and excitement and relief because you are on a road that you may have fantasized about your whole life...there is an abundance of love and well-wishes from every corner, families coming together, it's like a 9 month-long wedding without the booze (wait, that doesn't sound so great, but you get the point). 

In reality, though, that over-the-moon couple who is casually taking a walk by the lake is soon about to experience the biggest shake-up of their lives and they can't even see it coming.  Sure, they've heard about the lack of sleep (but we'll read Babywise and be sleeping through the night at 9 weeks, right?) and the colic (but we'll just shh, swaddle, swing, right?) and all of the other evils of the "fourth trimester" that obviously can ONLY be combatted with the ancient practices of gas drops, under-stimulation and eat/play/sleep...but the secret that only the Experienced Moms and Dads can tell you is that as hard as all of that stuff is, it's not what actually rocks your world.  The first few months, and perhaps the whole first year, are all about survival, but while you are wholly focused on the survival of your baby (and yourself), there is something else independently going on that no book, friend, mother, anything can really prepare you for.  You are becoming a parent, and man can that throw you for a loop.  At some point, whether it's months or even years after your child is born, it hits are no longer the person you once were.  And I don't mean that every part of you centers around your children...but how you perceive the world, your relationships, your priorities, your all experiences a shift, some subtle and some extreme, some great and some not so great.  Just enough such that you'll have moments where you don't quite know who you are anymore.  This can be extremely disconcerting.  Especially when you realize that this new life is here to stay.  You are forever-more, first and foremost a parent.  It outlasts separation, and death.  You will never love anything more, you will never worry less, you will always be busy and tired, you won't ever make an important decision without considering them first.  There won't be endless dinners out or casual book shopping for a while.  It's the most wonderful, yet also the hardest thing you'll ever experience.  And it's forever.  Gulp.

But parenthood is also an ever-evolving state of being,  You never know what's coming next, or how it will affect you and the decisions you make for your life.  So accepting the sheer permanence of it all is hard enough; but also learning how to be open to changing and evolving in ways that are unfamiliar and unpredictable is damn near terrifying.  Yet - once you accept that it's happening - it can also be exhilirating.  Although there are things about myself I really miss (like the ability to stay awake through a movie), I am slowly learning to embrace this new stage as an opportunity.  Having children has forced me to focus on what I really care about, what I'm willing to speak up about, what I need to work on.   What really makes me happy.  This sort of exercise takes work and change takes courage.  I don't know all of the answers.  But I'm depending on my kids to teach me how to be agile. 

So, Experienced Moms and Dads, next time you see a blissful soon-to-be-parent casually shopping for a crib (while you run in and out of BabysRUs in 2.4 seconds with everything on your list so you can be back at home in time for nap), go easy on them.  They don't know the changes they're in for, it's true.  But knowing that they'll soon experience goodnight kisses, Saturday morning snuggles and the "you won't believe what he said today" recountings with their spouse at the end of the day should reassure you that they'll eventually be just fine.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Remember When

I think I'm officially in a new era.  It started to hit me after having my first kid, but at that point we still lived in the city and we still mostly ran around with the same crowd, many of whom were still single.  But now, 2 kids and a move to the suburbs later, I'm looking around and realizing that life is pulling everyone I know in different directions - whether it's marriage, or kids, a move to the suburbs, a move out of state, a job change.  It's all exciting and entirely normal, of course, but I'm looking into the barrel of a few of my best girl friends moving away and, well, I'm a bit wistful.  Wistful of a time when we would stay out until 4am on a Tuesday, when we'd wake up late on a Sunday and eat cheese fries in bed, talk about something other than men and kids (like what, I couldn't tell you), when we actually spoke on the phone, when we'd pile up in an old car to Madison and eat Steak n Shake both ways, when friends from Indy, Wisconsin, Nashville, wherever, would come and crash on our couch without notice, when brunch was not something you had to plan a month in advance.

I don't long to return to that time, but it is hitting me that it really is in the past now...soon it will sound like high school and college memories that you rehash every time you hang out with your friends from those eras, stories that are old but that can always be revived as if they happened the day before.  The "remember when" conversations.  It is quite wonderful to have friendships that span across the different eras of your life.  Your REALLY old friends knew you when you wore braces, still remember your parents' phone number,  saw you drunk for the first time...they understand why you ended up with your particular significant other and why you chose your profession because they knew all of your exes and studied for the SATs with you.  Then college/grad school/20s friends came into the mix...they found you as a kid and helped you become a grown-up, they were with you when you found out you passed the bar, they helped your boyfriend pick out a ring, they came to your first dinner party, they know what you actually do for a living.  It's surprising, at first, when you start to call these ones your best friends too, but at some point you realize they know you just as well, or even better, than some of those really old ones.

Some people fall out as you pass through these stages, but the ones who stick, they're yours for life.  There is no saying goodbye to them, but as lives change, inevitably so do the rhythms of your relationships.  I think a part of me had fantasized that we could enter the next stage - of settling down, raising kids - all in tact.  But in reality many of my close friends live in different cities, and those who live nearby are getting busier such that getting together takes planning and effort.  It seems I am entering a new era of friendship, of meeting people through our kids, becoming a part of a neighborhood.  These new people won't know how awesome I looked in jinco jeans, won't know what our go-to karaoke songs were, and may never know my maiden name, but they'll probably end up knowing my kids better than some of my old friends do, they'll drink wine in our backyard on Sundays and help us out when we lock ourselves out of the house.

One day, perhaps, I might even be able to call them best friends.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The New Normal

After almost 15 weeks at home with my two kids, I'm officially back at work.  I was riddled with angst in the weeks leading up to "the day."  The thought of coming back made me physically nauseous, made me regularly cry.  I just couldn't imagine actually waking up in the morning, taking a shower, and walking out the door.  Mind you, this is my second time returning to work after having a baby.  I should have known what to expect, right?  It should have been easier?  It wasn't.. it was actually much harder.  This time I was leaving 2 babies.  I hadn't really thought of the fact that I would also be getting 3.5 months with my 2.5yr old and leaving him would sting too.  Being with a newborn all day by yourself can be rather isolating, but having a sidekick toddler with you who sings "wheels on the bus" in the background while you nurse and frequently asks to hold and kiss the baby makes the newborn experience much more entertaining (although having the toddler in the mix means getting a nap in for yourself is damn near impossible).  My experience during this maternity leave was, just, different.

But then, just like that,  it was over.  As is the case with any day you're hoping never comes, my return date came so fast that I was completely unprepared and in denial until the last minute (at 11 o'clock the night before I found myself asking where is my work laptop?  where are my keys?  oh i guess i need to pack up my pump?).  In the morning, I woke up, took a shower, and actually walked out the door (well, after nursing my baby, packing my lunch, getting pooped on, frantically reminding our new nanny of a million different things, making a cup of tea that would do nothing to wake me up, etc., etc., etc).  But, I did it.  I left.  And I was sad, of course.  I knew I wasn't going to get my big morning hug from my waking toddler and I wasn't going to see my baby's sweet smile all day long.  I knew I would miss them.  But that's not really what made me sad.  The most common refrain you will hear from everyone when you go back to work is that you will get used to it and that it will get easier.  And they are 100% right.  It does get easier.  You get back into the working world and remember how great it is to sit and eat an uninterrupted lunch while surfing the web.  You appreciate having adult conversations, feeling smart again, showering every morning.  You become current on the news and songs on the radio.  You always miss your kids, but when you have a great caretaker and are reassured they are thriving, you worry less and less.  You treasure the time you have with them when you get home.  If they are fine, you are fine, and it becomes the new normal.  But that's precisely what has made me sad this time.  A part of me doesn't want me to just get used to all of it - only seeing them a couple hours in the evenings, not doing the school pick-up/drop-offs, not having breakfast with them.  A part of me is asking whether I want to get used to it.  Sure, when you work outside the home full-time you also skip out on much of the mundane home routine - which can be exhausting and repetitive - and you tend to make every minute you do have with your kid count, something you may not do if you are always with them.   But whether we like to admit it or not, we do miss out on things with our kids when we are away.  Not the big things, they catch you up on that stuff.  But some of the little things...the conversations in the car after school, the non-rushed morning cuddles, playing soccer in the driveway before lunch.  You have to ask yourself, is what I'm doing worth missing those things.  It's an extremely complicated question, because it requires you to evaluate your career (where is it going? am I in the right one?), your finances (could we afford different choices?  what do we want to be able to provide for our family?), your values (what kind of example do I want to set for my kids?), your parenting (are my kids in the best possible care? would they actually be better off with more time with me?), and yourself (what will make me the most happy? what are my life goals?).   I'm afraid that if I get used to the new normal, I'll stop actively making that assessment.  It's a running dialogue in the mind of almost every working mom I know, and yet I think at some point, it's easier to get used to the status quo and move on.  Mainly because answering those questions may result in taking a big risk on a new path, which is utterly terrifying (at least for me).  But this time, I'm fighting the urge to completely adjust, just for a minute, to make sure I'm on my right path.  And I don't know, maybe I'll never be completely sure that I'm making the best decisions, but isn't it worthwhile to continue to test and re-test our choices?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy BabyMama

We passed the 12 week mark a couple weeks back.  The fog is starting to lift.  I am able to think clearly again, even about things other than the baby.  My body has adjusted to the sleep deprivation such that waking up 2-3x/night feels totally normal (and, sadly, like an improvement).  I don't even remember what sleeping all night long feels like (actually, I do, and it was awesome, but I'll pretend).  Life is much busier, I have a to-do list I can't start and sometimes I want to have adult beverages during the daytime, but, this time around, I have to say that I actually feel....happy.

If I sound surprised by that, it might be because I am.  With my first son, 12 weeks hardly felt like a milestone.  The day passed and I was still a sleep-deprived, perhaps somewhat depressed, definitely somewhat overwhelmed first-time mom.  He cried.  A lot.  He hardly slept.  He nursed constantly.  I felt mentally and physically kaput.  And I was pissed that the books promised that everything would get easier after we passed the magical 12 week mark.  My baby didn't miraculously stop being colicky, he didn't suddenly seem adjusted to post-womb life, and I didn't feel much better.  I wondered if I was supposed to be enjoying it more.  I wondered if I was strong enough to be a mom.  It felt like a neverending cycle, a spinning wheel I couldn't get off, and sometimes I wanted to.  But then I felt greatly disappointed in myself and guilty for having such thoughts, so I didn't say much about it (aside from passive-aggressively taking it out on myself, my husband, my family - oops).  It did pass eventually, probably around month 5, but I still wondered what it was....was it the fussy baby (or was he normal?  how are you supposed to know what normal is with your first?)...was it hormones, was it sleep deprivation, was it simply the life adjustment (or shall we say, upheaval) that comes with having a kid?  I couldn't pin it down.  But now, after having another experience to compare it to, I'm convinced.

It was (mostly) the baby's fault.

Ok, ok, yes not sleeping while your hormones are tanking and while you are trying to figure out how to be a mom all take a toll on your mood.  But dealing with all of that while also taking care of a colicky newborn takes your emotional well-being to a different place.  I remember reading that the "unlucky" parents of colicky children often experience depression, marital difficulties, etc - what??  A crying baby can ruin your entire goddamn life?  How could that be?  But if you get one, especially if you don't know you have one because you're a first-time parent who has been told she should "enjoy every moment", you start to lose your mind. 

Now with my second son, I'm having a completely different experience.  This sweet little creature has given me an overwhelming feeling happiness from the day he was born.  And it hasn't wavered, not when I have been up all night, not when both of the kids (and I) got sick, not when I was pumping and dumping in the middle of a wedding while my husband hand-fed me pizza (true story).  He cries, of course,  but not for long periods.  He is consolable and happy.  And, therefore, so am I.  People are quick to point out that I'm probably also a lot less stressed this time, and of course that is true.  But I am even more sleep deprived than the first time, a lot more busy taking care of 2 on my own the last few months, and have half the maternity leave, and yet I feel a sense of peace that I did not feel the first time at this same point...I think so much of it is due to the endless smiles of my Nevin and the constant hilarity of my Noah (that colicky little first-born turned out to be the funniest, smartest and sweetest toddler).  Your children - for better or for worse - can so poignantly affect your emotions in a way no one else can.    

So if you think you have a fussy or colicky baby, you probably do.  Go easy on yourself, and know that it will pass.  Don't feel guilty when you feel low.  Vent to a friend who has gone through it when it gets really bad (thanks AK!), because others won't get it.  When others comment on their "easy babies", just keep in mind that your baby may become a perfect toddler (which, btw, is better!) and your next kid will feel like a breeze.  You are not "unlucky" (ahem, Mr. Weisbluth)....every baby is a blessing.  And no matter what your baby is like, it is impossible to "enjoy every moment" as a parent....the true goal is to feel joy through it all.