Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Infant's Perspective

Back cover picture.
"Preferred Attire: Naked With Tasteful Scarf"
When my baby writes a tell-all book about her infancy, it will be titled something like "Suburban Guantanamo."  It will chronicle the indignities she suffered at the hands of various parents and caretakers, many of whom claimed to be blood relatives, as they stuffed her into snowsuits resembling arctic animals, day after winter day. She will note the absurdity of putting an infant in a snowsuit without ever putting the infant in the snow; "I'm not saying this violates the Geneva Convention, but I'm not saying it's NOT a violation, either."

"An hour or two later, they're at it again, this time removing the snowsuit. Apparently it annoys them when I'm content.  Someone immediately jumps to undress, re-dress or change me.  They don't seem to hear my protests, over their hushes and grins and rapid maneuvers to confine my flailing limbs in garments. Their smiles, meant to soothe me, are usually offensive; must be nice to don sleeves only when you feel like it.

And just when I think I'll get a moment to myself, they assume I peed again. Do I enjoy sitting in a wet diaper?  No, not really.  But do I celebrate being forced on my back, feet lingering at my nose as a cold, wet wipe makes its way across my bottom?  Dirty diaper please. With the remarkable advances in diaper technology, this is a no brainer."

I imagine some discussion of baby dresses, second in utility only to size-3-months sandals.  "What makes you think I want to sit on bunched up pink tulle?  The fact that I stopped wrestling with the huge bow you strapped on me, a sequined head-belt of sorts?  I was losing the battle to win the war.  Imagine my unbridled glee when I ended up in this flamboyant web of an outfit anyway."

She will conclude with a chapter devoted to hats, because "it's never cold enough in New York to make hat-layering a thing.  Throw a hood on me and let's take that walk.  I'm wearing a onesie, pants, pants (not a typo), socks, a sweater, and naturally, the snowsuit. We've been through enough today."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rules of the Suburbs

Moving to the suburbs is among the compromises new parents make when the crib/storage bench no longer fits in the bedroom/playroom because they were gifted an unwieldy toy that their kid saw/loved before they had a chance to hide it in the closet/pantry and return it later.

Having just gotten used to sleep deprivation and come to terms with newborn hair loss, a new adjustment must take place.  This list serves as an impractical tool for navigating the suburban initiation.

1.  Plan ahead. For literally everything.  Owning a car (and you must own at least one) should make last minute plans easier, but nothing gets done in the suburbs without prior notice.  Everyone is over scheduled and super busy and you would think you're dealing with CEOs and heads of state rather than the Joneses.

I have an hour available 2 Sundays from today.  Lets catch up over string cheese.
Takeaway: Don't try to make plans with one of your new neighbors for this weekend.  Their rejection will compel you to explain why/how you are possibly free this weekend, and I don't need to tell you this is an uncomfortable and unnecessary thing to do.  Want a summer playdate? Send out your requests with your winter holiday greetings.  (Want a carpool? And you just moved in? lol).

2.  Learn the unspoken rules of the railroad.  They make no sense, so save this part of my list for your first few weeks.

To sit in an empty 2-seater section, scoot down to the window; someone else will definitely need a seat during rush hour so don't make them ask you to move.

Not rush hour.

Same for a 3-seater *unless* someone is already at the window. If so, sit in the aisle seat, leaving an empty spot in the middle.  I don't know why.  I suppose the (non existent) awkwardness of sitting directly next to someone is greater than the obnoxiousness of forcing someone to ask for a seat.  And when they do ask, DO NOT move to the middle seat to give the third person the aisle. Rookie move. You're admitting to being a weirdo who didn't want to sit near the window guy but will now do so anyway. Instead, get out of your seat (as everyone else is shuffling in and the aisle barely accommodates one physically fit person at a time), let Third in, and sit back in your aisle seat, proudly making thigh-to-thigh contact with only one stranger.

3.  Keep up with neighborhood real estate.  I still can't manage to (care to) do this, and my social life has suffered as a result.  Know the houses that are for sale, the houses that recently sold, and the houses that will be on the market soon because the Joneses are divorcing or upgrading or died of suburban boredom.  Be ready to opine on prices, house styles, and your next renovation.  Name drop the guy you will use for this upcoming project, without actually using his name. Just "our patio guy."  The days of supers and building handymen are behind you; soon, when someone asks for a painter recommendation, you'll have a fastest guy, cheapest guy, and highest quality guy. Don't call them that to their faces.

4.  Plan ahead. Oh I get it now.  You live an eternity away from anywhere you'd want to go, you have at least one child (if you don't have more, people will ask you why not, because we don't erect white picket fences around our private lives, only our backyards), and you drive a mini-apartment that screams "I never have to parallel park."  The mental preparation, alone, takes up to a week.

5.  Be prepared to see everyone everywhere.  Chances of anonymity are slim, and bumping into someone you know is no longer an unexpected treat.  It's something you account for in budgeting time.

Hoping not to see anyone, because laundry day and a bad hair day happened to land on grocery shopping day (which is now a thing)?  Good luck with that.  You'll probably recognize people just getting into your car.

And yes you will have to drive there.

But, if you picked the right place, the sense of community and neighborhood bond helps make the absurdly long trip to pick up milk worthwhile.  (It's just milk. How is there nothing closer).

Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Things I Don't Believe In

1. Ketchup on pasta. I will never understand why kids enjoy the taste of this, and I will never offer this culinary abomination to my children. I am no food snob. I've melted cheese onto oatmeal, and have eaten mayo sandwiches. But encouraging a child to assault her taste buds in this manner basically goes against my religion.

2. And while we're on food--I don't believe in kids menus, the small section where the most unhealthy items at a restaurant reside. Kids can enjoy fried food off their parents' plates and the regular menu, but let's not define their options this way. And it contradicts all parental food propaganda. Rude.

3. Sleep training. Ha just kidding. I'd rather repeat high school than discuss any sensitive parenting issue with The Internet. What I meant is sleep silence. Like the tooth fairy, this only exists in the world of children. As an adult (maybe), as an adult parent (probably), and certainly as an adult parent woman (mother, for short), sleep consists of sprints of restfulness separated by noisy bouts of snoring, crying, snorting, coughing, suspicious house creaks, "mama," and/or refrigerator openings (none of which are your own except the last one). A mother is the "princess and the pea" of sounds.

4. Dressing kids up for daycare. This is a source of discord in my home, but there are few days when it is a real decision. Usually, time constraints and toddler fashion instincts take over and the fact that she has never gone to school in pajamas (note: I did not say she has never gone to school in the clothes she woke up in that morning) is an incredible feat in itself. My husband loves dressing up our 3 year old and I get it, it's cute. My daughter rarely chooses impractical outfits, and if she must wear her pink tutu skirt over grey fleece sweatpants then so be it. But in theory, the utilitarian in me is ardently opposed to the gorgeous jeans and button down shirts my husband would choose, the restricting dresses and hair-tugging bows in which our kid looks amazing, because it takes a photoshoot or an occasion or at least a weekend before I will choose style over comfort for a little kid.

(Yes, it can be both stylish and comfortable- I'm talking about when it's not. Let's also assume I don't purchase intentionally hideous comfort clothes, although with the little accent she still has going, I'm tempted to source my childhood "immigrant in America in the early 90s" pictures for attire inspiration. I have not yet acted on this temptation.  Largely because size 3T windbreaker jackets with fluorescent geometric patterns have been hard to find).

5. Thong diapers. My sister nixed this as a business idea and I no longer believe in it either. We may have missed an incredible business opportunity but she was probably right. Impractical.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Becoming That Mom (part 1 of infinity)

"It's enough to just display the pictures," you told yourself.  The kids alone.  You with each kid. Your husband with both. A family picture. And passport photos, for good measure.

That's sufficient notice of the fact that you're a mom.  Enough imagery to evoke compliments on a slow day in the office, sympathy on a busy one, and to qualify as decor in your office away from home.

And yet a compulsion snuck in the moment your child brought her first project home.  Her "just a Wednesday in daycare" project.  The one you left on the dining room table for a couple of days, then neatly filed in a folder.  You wouldn't be that parent, you told yourself.

But months passed, and the projects kept coming.  They even got better - or, at the very least, different.  New colors, new materials, new Xerox copied templates.  Your sister claimed one.  "It's cute when the young girl displays her niece's artwork," you sternly stated, during one of your no-nonsense talks with yourself.  "Do not be that mom."

But it's a tale as old as time, and we all know how it ends.  You brought the project to work.  In fact, you snuck the project to work because your daughter, trying to save what is left of your professional identity without knowing it, refused to relinquish it.

This will add some color, you weakly justified.  Ambiance. Whimsy. Democracy.

You thumb tacked your daughter's tree to your wall.  Near your list of matter numbers and upcoming deadlines.  And now, the only way to explain this objectively unremarkable item (no offense babylove, there's abundant other proof of your intellect and artistry), is to claim that it is not your kid's work.  To suggest that there's a reason beyond misplaced parental pride for presenting this art.  To put the burden on the viewer to conjure up scenarios in which this paper in the shape of a tree, with green dots and pink tissue paper, belongs on the wall of your corporate law office.

However, it doesn't matter if they believe you. It is irrelevant whether or not they begin to wonder about the potentially creepy, potentially genius origins of the art.  You've become that mom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blizzard of 2015 - Parental Recap

Toddler in snow: rarely vertical.
Yes, it was in fact a blizzard of historic proportions, but most of the devastation was suffered on the interior of houses with children staying home from school. There was also a nice amount of snow outside, which presented a good learning opportunity for parents whose kids are now old enough to enjoy it.

What I discovered is the following.

I would [almost] rather retake the bar exam than get my toddler dressed, undressed, and redressed for the outdoors. You layer her up, haul the puffy ball of toddler out the door, place her down gently and uncertainly, and wait 6 seconds before she tumbles and yells, for the first of a hundred times, “I can’t get up.” To enjoy the snow, they have to be warm, but to be warm they have to be 90%-immobile chubby stick figures.

Understandably, she analogizes snow and sand. On vacation, she peed in the ocean without repercussions (yes, the ocean you swim in), and now she wants to freely pee again. “No love, you can’t pee in your clothes.” “No, you cannot remove your clothes and pee on the snow.” “Let’s quickly go inside and go back out again.”  “You don’t need to go anymore? You’re lying but I will gratefully play along.”

In an inappropriately goal-oriented manner, you work on building a snowman out of the uncooperative, powdery snow. When humpty-dumpty isn't calling for mama helplessly (and joyfully, unless you linger), she is smashing the modest sized balls you have managed to put together. You get irrationally annoyed, but hold it in because you’re out there for her, not yourself, and … remember that time you became an adult?

Snow mittens for toddlers fit about as well as oven mitts on adults. When your kid’s patience runs thin (and toddlers are known for their patience) -- when the thumb falls out of the thumb hole one too many times, or she realizes she’s as effective at handling snow with her mittens as she is at handling food with chop sticks -- you have about 3 minutes to get back indoors. Your toddler’s initial glory-filled moment of hand-agility and sensory glee is rapidly replaced by a shocking pain of the fingers. You will be frustrated at her shock: “I literally just told you it would be cold if you removed your mittens, you know that it is cold because you face-planted into the snow several times, and you are a sufficiently developed human being to understand this basic logic (according to grandma, you are a remarkably developed child prodigy so please, work with me).” You will then be frustrated at your toddler’s sense of urgency, because the time it took to get her fully dressed was rivaled only by the time it took you to (until now, unsuccessfully) persuade her to go back indoors. But now she sees her hands getting red, her sand (I mean, snow) toys call out to her but her fingers don’t listen, and though she doesn't know of “frostbite,” she screams as if her fingers are a snowflake away from detaching.

You rush into the house less carefully than you had planned. Snowwater is everywhere and you can’t decide whether you should undress her first or tear off some of your own layers to better assist her. She continues yelling, but only because she already has so much momentum that it would be wasteful to give up. Shortly thereafter, your clothes and her clothes lay dangerously close to the boots and the melting situation that is taking over your house but nothing matters because you finally got her a snack, her cheeks are rosy and bladder empty, and you think (aloud, within earshot of your husband) about what a remarkable parent you are.

And with ricotta pancakes and other breakfast foods for dinner, your first parental snow day is complete. Congratulations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

First-time parent, many times.

With a second baby in my house, I find myself struggling to understand why people assume "second time moms" are so much wiser.  Yes, I've already gone through the hazing process that is life with a newborn, and I have learned some common pitfalls.  I place fewer panicked phone calls to pediatricians and friends in the medical profession (from whom I don't take "no" or "I just do billing" for an answer), and there are various rites of passage behind me.  Yet there is a great deal that continues to puzzle me, even in the early childhood years with which I have amassed some experience.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that you only "learn from your mistakes" with the first child if your kids are spaced a cool 15-20 years apart.

Toddler shoelaces - one missing notch on my mom belt (if that's a real accessory, it's hideous).  I assume there's a reason kids' laces are as long as jump ropes, but my savvy parenting sense tells me it's not to double as jump ropes.  I am left with no choice but to eye kids' shoes wherever we go, because that's the creepiest possible solution.

"Yes they go on and on my friend..."
After three years, I also remain unable to discuss payment with nannies without feeling like it cheapens what we have together, and I can't get my child to pose for the camera without her Stepford Toddler smile replacing her natural one.  There are many hot-button child-rearing topics I am still developing a stance on, and sleep remains the biggest mystery to me, despite having heard of little children who engage in this activity for extended periods of nighttime.  I've read plenty [of Facebook questions and comments] regarding remedies for postpartum hair loss, but have yet to learn how to keep that hair off and out of my infant.  My baby's onesie is a Swiffer of loose hair, and I'd be lying if I claimed that it's only on her onesie and not her head and hands and mouth too.  I know it's disgusting when you read about it; don't worry, in real life it's merely nauseating.

Tender parenting moments flood social media.  I get it - you are physiologically bound to view your child as the most stunning specimen of perfection.  But few parents reflect on anything else, even when they're not busy savoring fleeting morsels of youth and inadvertent childhood comedy.  Like the fact that in the first few months, you'll get a bad grip on your newborn as you awkwardly pick her up, and a small part of you (if it's baby #14; a large part of you if it's the first born) will feel like you inflicted some permanent damage.  At the very least, you will reprimand yourself (in your head, but moving your lips like a sleep deprived crazy person) for not paying enough attention while handling a tiny helpless human.  Or, I've heard, your iPhone will slip out of your hand during middle-of-the-night nursing and land atop the infant, making you wonder if you ever really were a good person.  You'll make up for it a few months later, gracefully removing a splinter as daddy helplessly looks on, feeling utterly heroic. (No offense dads. Remember the time your wife informed you that her car is always still moving as she shifts into park?).

Experience doesn't make you an expert because, as they say, every child is different.  It's true, even if it's something they write on allergy pamphlets at the doctor's office.  So you might continue being unable to predict when your kid needs her food cut up, and when, with tears in her eyes, she will teach you that two halves do not equal one whole.
Three bows or I go nowhere.
You won't avoid video recording your toddler as she repeats curse words (who knows where she picked those up) because you'll conveniently forget that she replays those videos when she gets your phone in the evening.  You'll wake up to her smiling face the next morning singing "oh ****, oh ****, oh ****, oh ****" (they have the memory of elephants) and you'll probably think: worth it.  

Or you may read this, finding it to be among the dozen other parenting articles you've related to, and wonder why you're up for the fifteenth time this night if it's all for an overwhelmingly universal experience, and you should know, too, that no other toddler will use "kalaboo" as the default answer to questions that stump her or, conversely, insult her intelligence ("awww do you like that banana babyyyyy?" I'm eating it, am I not?  "Kalaboo.")  Like your kid, my daughters love me in the generic Hallmark way kids love their parents, but at night she also institutes an "iloveyoukiss" policy, which she has recently supplemented with her pilot "iloveyouhug" program.  Those experiences are deliciously unique and your own.  

So what's my point?  Instead of your friend the "third time mom," call her a "first time mom for the third time."  She'll love it. (She'll probably hate it).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Eyes of a Toddler

The eyes. Windows to the soul. They are revealers of secrets, and divulgers of desires. Absorbers of beauty, expellers of truth. But so much more. The eyes of toddlers are so. much. more.

It is the look in her eyes that warns you seconds before she intentionally tips over a bowl of soup. A beautiful gaze that signals: "cancel all phone calls and trips to the bathroom for the next 38 minutes, I will be screaming maniacally." With a bat of the lashes, you know. You just know that accidentally breaking her Magnatiles tower was an act of war, and you will either spend the rest of the afternoon bowing to her wishes or you will have no rest of the afternoon. With one glance you're informed that she will not be letting go of your shirt, whether you're flashing the entire congregation or not.

It is those same eyes that automatically switch from panic to relief as she seeks you out in a crowded room. In them you see gratitude for building the Magnatiles tower with her inside, forgiveness for handling the soup situation with less patience (and more volume) than necessary, and some remaining maniac as she winds down from the tantrum. Pure sincerity as she asks you for just one more cookie. And that same look as she requests another one. With a hint of mischief in her eyes, she selects the longest book for bedtime reading, with a look of boundless excitement she hides in the usual hiding spot. It is not just with powerlessness that she begs you to avoid entering her room (for more time to smear diaper cream everywhere, you suspect); it is also with deep comfort. Pure, simple love, as she prepares you for her strongest bedtime hug. And determination, hours later, as those gorgeous eyes of your sweet child remain open, in bed, at midnight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apology To My Infant

Little munchkin: I am compelled to apologize for certain facts of your young life.  None of these incidents are, individually, overwhelmingly negative, and most occur simply by virtue of your birth order. However, it will be years before you reap the benefits of being second born, and in the meantime I have some ‘splaining to do.

First, I'm sorry for sometimes emphasizing developmental milestones you have not yet reached. "Well the baby doesn't even walk yet! Of course she doesn't have to eat tomatoes." You see, it can be a useful tool in getting your sibling less hungry or less nude. Just know that by no means are you expected to walk or sing or eat soup by one month old.  People double your age can't even do so.  And I assure you that what sounds like an insult is always a last resort attempt to protect your face. "Let's play in a different room, the baby can't even catch a ball."

In addition, I didn't intend to suggest to your sister that your every movement results in poop, but that's what I have inadvertently accomplished. Sometimes it's for your own safety- "don't touch her, she just pooped!" Sometimes it's an explanation. "I'll play with you as soon as I clean the baby's poop." It can be an excuse - "Not sure what that smell is. I guess the baby pooped" - or a lazy response to your sister's curiosity - "that face she's making? Must be pooping." We should have focused on your sweet and contagious smile, but this poop thing took over.  My bad.

I must apologize for our choice of entertainment too, as I have recently realized how depressing 90% of Russian kids songs are. Your father and I are experiencing a cultural awakening of sorts, which boils down to this: Soviet era poems, nursery rhymes, and songs from children’s cartoons and movies. Upon researching the song lyrics and reading them at the pace of a 6 year old, it turns out they are all unbearably nostalgic and almost exclusively about lost youth.   Upbeat tunes that should sing of frolicking in sunny fields instead describe the rapid floating away of time.  Yesterday? Gone.  Seriously, little child, it's gone forever but hey, the best is yet to come.  (A reference, I assume, to jobs, bills, and car repairs).  It seems that a Soviet childhood is incomplete without awareness of the simultaneous loss of childhood.   The other 10% of songs bear the distinct aftertaste of communism ("a good friend doesn't ask too many questions").  Please accept the Russian language that I hope you will retain as an apology for this poorly timed reminder to carpe diem and avoid the KGB.  And in that vein - you might have a Russian accent as you enter preschool. It’ll fade, but will be hilarious while it lasts.

You may have expected to be the only one waking throughout the night, and for your sleep, at least at night, to be otherwise undisturbed. I'm sorry that's not true in real life. Your toddler kin has begun waking for water (which she requests extraordinarily loudly and suddenly) or for a good old fashioned 2 a.m. tantrum. When that happens, I can almost see you rolling your eyes. "For all the time you spent putting me to sleep, one would think you'd try harder to keep me asleep. It's fine, I'll just nurse all night." You may have some choice words for your sister as well. Do I take responsibility for this situation? Yes. But know that I'm not thrilled about it either.

"Honey, is the baby sleeping?" "Nope"
Finally, no apology to you would be complete without explaining why I allow your sister to "help with the baby." They say it encourages bonding, decreases resentment. In fact, there has been a lower incidence of toddler-on-infant violence at our residence when our big girl puts on the baby's socks (minus a toe or two), unzips her onesie, or carries her to the car. Kidding about that last one, but you know who to thank when you two become best friends. Can we agree it was worth the occasional cold toe or rough unswaddling? I'll ask again later. Way later.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Maternity Leave "Vacation"

There are few women at work with kids, particularly in the junior ranks, and both my male and female peers seem to have a wholly inaccurate (although wildly appealing) idea of what maternity leave entails. The brunches and happy hours, movies, late mornings, leisurely coffee dates, spa afternoons...surely this describes a mother's luxurious 3 months off. Maybe with an occasional newborn diaper change, and toddler feeding. The below, a somewhat more accurate account, is something to keep in mind for those skeptical of the maternity leave vacation...those enjoying relatively unfettered access to sleep, showers, and socializing.

Food: In the mornings, you tend to eat whatever your toddler left on her plate. If chef mom made her specialty, you will be enjoying soggy cereal half stuck to the plate by the time you get there. Sometimes you make oatmeal, and suffer the tantrum that results when you take a spoonful from her after she gave you permission but then changed her mind.   Other times, when you are overdue for a trip to the store, you feed your child cherry tomatoes and crackers, or cheese and a banana, or bread and sour cream. On those days, you and your toddler eat together. This quality time may or may not outweigh your feelings of guilt over a meal that looks like Christmas during wartime.

One of you will inevitably be famished as lunch time comes and goes. You have either been sneaking junk all afternoon and will be too full to even think about food (although it's for someone else...a small child, in fact). Or you get so caught up in the two hour ordeal of packing for the park, that you responsibly feed your child while neglecting to eat yourself. By the time you get home, you can't shovel food in fast enough. As you put a cookie between two pickle slices, you hope this nursing-induced ravenous appetite subsides by the time you return to work so you don't have to look like an animal there too.

Entertainment: You must occupy your toddler while keeping your infant alive. These tasks are mutually exclusive during the beautiful moments when your toddler floods the baby with Lenny-style squeezing, suffocating love, when she takes out her frustration at being told she's too rough by attacking the baby's head, or when she explores how far an ankle, wrist or finger can twist. You say things like "stop licking your sister's head," and come up with a different, self serving explanation each time you're asked why the baby has to sleep again ("because you didn't clean up your toys").

To keep the baby minimally deformed, you go to the park. With 40 diaper bags strapped to your bus of a double stroller, you realize you didn't bring your 2.5 year old's water bottle. Maybe you can keep her dehydration at bay by offering her a pack of diapers or whatever other crap you brought with you.

You let your kid go to the sand box, and her friends' caretakers roll their eyes at you for being too permissive because, it seems, there is no greater annoyance than shaking dry sand off a child. You then keep your daughter away from the sprinklers (because you also forgot a change of clothes), and are presumed to be a childhood-robbing monster by others. Having impressed everyone there, you feel only moderate shame when your kid follows around a mom dispensing food to her kids, drooling and staring at them with her green eyes, silently conveying starvation. As you drag your child away, you don't bother telling the mom that 15 of your bags are filled with snacks.

Comfort: Our pediatrician instructed that the baby should wear one layer more than we are wearing, but then clarified - don't go by mom, her hormones are crazy now. Joke's on you funny guy, profusely sweating is how I lose weight.

Luckily, there are other treats in the post partum experience. Whether you gave birth naturally or by c-section, you may also be popping painkillers while either learning to sit again, or waiting for your organs to shuffle back into place and avoiding the sight of your stomach.

Finally out of the hospital gown and disposable underwear, you peer into your closet, eager to return to your regular wardrobe. You quickly learn that not being pregnant and not needing pregnancy clothes aren't the same, but clothes don't really matter when you spend 80% of your day semi-topless and 20% being spit up on. In public, you accessorize your half toplessness with a draped sheet and baby legs dangling on the side. This is a cue for grandfatherly men to sit near you and compliment your newborn.

Leisure: OMG SO MUCH LEISURE. Seriously, all you do is take 1-3 hour naps all night, with a quick hour long nursing-burping-diaper change in between. A solid two naps later, your toddler is up for PLAY TIME! MORE RELAXATION.

Then, when the baby is sleeping and your toddler is occupied playing with knives or whatever, you sneak to the computer to place an order on Amazon. Or wash dishes. Or laundry. Or pick up meatballs from the living room carpet. And you wonder what you would be doing at work now, what your friends are doing, as you bump into them on Facebook.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Lady In The Street And A Mom In The Office

  • I have Bandaids in my wallet and stray toddler socks in my purse.  It’s hard being professional and ladylike when old fruit pouches fall out of your purse as you’re reaching for your legal memo.  The double burden of women.
  • If I call the nanny and don’t hear back within 5 minutes, my imagination runs wild and nothing in the office matters.  I will not respond to emails, will not continue my work, and will not pick up my office phone.  I will eat chips, harass my husband, and redial my house until I hear that everything’s fine and that [latest horrible thing I heard/read on the mainstream/weird news] did not happen.  More than the absentmindedness, the half zipped dresses and the cell phones in the fridge, this ability to conjure up worst case scenarios and fully convince yourself of their likelihood (as in, 100% likelihood) until the very moment that the grave injury turns out to be a splinter and the missed phone call turns out to be a missed phone call, is what defines “mommy brain.”
  • I wear flats and change into heels for meetings.  I get tired just thinking about the ladies who wear heels all day long and who also attend after-work happy hours.  When I see them in the elevator, I resolve to wear makeup and contacts more often…or at least shower.
  • My phone has no storage left because of all the baby pictures on it from only about 10 different occasions, each with endless variations of the same photo that I can’t get myself to delete because it seems wrong.  When my phone will no longer place calls because of lack of storage, I hesitantly delete the indecipherable blurry pictures of what is probably the floor.
  • I have learned to keep a nice looking outfit or two in the office for the inevitable days that I come in wearing an old t-shirt under my suit jacket, or have failed to coordinate colors getting dressed in the dark.  I learned the hard way, frantically running to a nearby store for a plain black dress after an email giving 30 minutes notice before a big meeting.  I didn’t want to wear the baggy skirt that I thought was something else (something not embarrassing) when I put it on.  Why do I have obese grandmother clothes in my closet?  A question for another day.
  • I make lists of recipes, notes for the nanny (i.e., passive aggressive instructions), and miscellaneous tasks on unsaved documents at work.  I never remember to close them before calling the help desk, and cringe when they remote in to my computer and get a solid glimpse of my legal work.  (“Buy toddler underwear, figure out what size” “Peel carrots” “For nanny: don’t share a fork with my kid; do get all food off washed dishes, I’ll take over 90%” “stop being a B to nannies” “buy summer shoes, measure her feet” “why do you not know any sizes”).
  • I gauge the productivity of my day in terms of both accomplishments in the office, and time spent with my daughter.  Cuddle time only counts for one of those.  Reading a lot may work for either, depending on content.  Productivity is off the charts when there is more food in the fridge than on the floor (breakfast ice cream facilitates my growth, but I guess that’s not toddler-appropriate growth), and when the entire family looks presentable for a reasonable amount of time (intentionally vague standard).
  • I find time to summarize how my life differs from almost all the female associates in my office, but have not completed my legal research or resolved my child's shoelessness (and, if you were reading carefully, underwearlessness -- but that's an awkward and uncomfortable word ... and state of being).

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Are they wiser, or are we more progressive

The judgmental honesty of past decades has almost fully given way to political correctedness, but old ladies still got it (and at the supermarket, they flaunt it).

We were at Trader Joe's a little while ago, with our daughter in the shopping cart seat.  This made it easier for her to attract the attention of strangers - much to her delight, even when she feigned shyness.  An older lady, probably in her 70s, came up to us, gushing.  "Oh my, those cheeks.  She's adorable."  Then the inevitable Q&A session of the not too-busy-for-everything elders.  "How old is she" followed by "does she talk yet" and then a nod so thick with reserved judgment I almost apologized.

She wasn't old-school enough to lecture me, but was not eager to express how "ok" it was, how babies progress differently, that hearing two langauges temporarily slows speech development, or that her own kids did not speak until high school.  I would expect this latter response from a mom of my generation, and it wouldn't do much more for me than this lady's blatant smirk.  I appreciated her almost-direct honesty, however unsolicited, and if she had proceeded to teach me the way they forced langauge on kids when she was parenting, I might have taken some mental notes before rolling my eyes and marvelling at how much more enlightened we are these days.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"But I'm an angel" she says with her eyes as she wakes up, heels still lodged in daddy's ribs

This is "Lia."  That's not her name but that's what she will sweetly answer if asked.

She maximizes her weight and limbs to control the central 80% of our bed; blankets may not touch her. She articulates her demands by finger pointing, two words, or one word hidden in a gibberish sentence. She will not repeat herself and you have three guesses.

She is a certified Master of the I-Phone, and her nemesis is the lock screen. Her other nemesis? Slivers of street lamp light reflected on the walls. Who invites them in at night, and why don't they move? They are simultaneously dull and disruptive, the worst kind of guests.

The boss enjoys extorting sweets from her grandparents, sleeping in 2-3 hour stretches, and taking all the clothes out of her dresser. Her dislikes are eating in any place meant for eating, bedtimes before midnight, dogs that are sensitive about their eyes, and spoons. She firmly believes that if crayons were meant only for paper, they wouldn't work so well everywhere else.

Her snacks must, I repeat must, come in two's. ("A lot" is also acceptable. "Handful" is ok if there are a lot of them).

Violate any of the aforementioned rules, and she will walk away screaming. Or she may lay on the floor, sullenly, quietly, and stare past you. Either way, you will understand that you have ruined her life. Of course, you can fully redeem yourself by offering snacks, the currency of toddlerhood. Just know that this is no time for hugs, which are earned and not stolen in a flustered attempt to fix what you just broke.

Hugs, incidentally, are her way of saying: "parenting...you haven't failed yet." While the world stops for you during those fleeting, unbearably sweet moments, she will find a new- albeit mischievous and most likely messy- way to express her love. But no worries, you'll have plenty of time to clean up as soon as you arrange for a cartoon. Please. Just one. (At a time).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Attachment Parenting (AP): My 2013 Top 5 List

I give myself some poetic license to make fun of attachment parenting crunchy moms because, to the extent reasonable and feasible, I consider myself a member and, at all other times, a groupie and wannabe.  So I'm going to state the obvious, what's on most of our parents' minds. Y'all is crazy.

My observations and experiences in the world of AP are as follows:

1.  We cosleep and night nurse. I wake up to an adorable smiling baby and it melts my heart. Which needs thawing by the time morning rolls around. My daughter prefers to sleep perpendicularly between my husband and me.  This is most efficient, permitting her to kick his face (I didn't believe it until I saw it.  80% sure it's deliberate) while simultaneously manhandling me under the guise of nursing.  With both tasks completed, she can go back to sleep just as we fully awaken.
I eventually found that during slow periods at work, taking a 20 min. nap in the room I used to pump in helps revive me.  My queen size bed at home has nothing on that pleather two-seater couch in a room with no windows and under fluorescent lights, and I relish those rare moments of glorious sleep punctuated by the startling, high pitched Blackberry dings of incoming emails.  Those are some of the beautiful and fleeting moments of parenting.

2.  I have been describing food wrong all my life.  A dish is edible based on the *lack* of ingredients.  Your apples and blueberries fruit salad is of interest to others if, and only if, it is properly identified as #glutenfree #refinedsugarfree #vegetarian #dairyfree #organic #nongmo #intact #novax #raw.  Cut up apples with blueberries does qualify as a recipe, and the fact that it really never includes gluten, white sugar, or foreskin is besides the point.

3.  Family drama consists of keeping your extended family's processed foods out of your children's guts, ignoring criticism of your weird sleeping arrangements and refusal to use mainstream baby products, and passionately arguing against punishment and cry it out.  (Although isn't CIO just punishment for an infant).  There's a solid exchange of links to "studies" going on during the work week.

4.  Breastfeeding.  Oh my goodness, breastfeeding.  I do it, I extended do it, and I find it incredibly important.  I even stick breast milk in every baby orifice at the first hint of illness.  However, the movement to normalize nursing has resulted in hyper-publicizing it.  Peeing, brushing your teeth, and eating vegetables are also normal and healthy parts of mothering and of life, but I don't see many pictures of Gisele doing those things.

My husband and I once experimented with those tasteful, frame-able nursing pictures.  They came out looking more "hobo flashing baby with pale boobs" than "artsy hottie nourishing child."  There was a level of over-exposure that even the most open-minded mama would prefer not to see.  That camera eventually made its way to Europe, during my first visit to meet my husband's parents.  One cozy evening we gathered around the computer to view a slideshow of the hundreds of pictures we took of our baby, forgetting that those nursing gems were on there.  Suffice it to say that I will not be taking nursing pictures in the near future.  That evening, the stern father in law I just met (and wasn't sure whether to awkwardly hug or warmly hand-shake), my formal mother in law, my husband, and I stood uncomfortably in sudden silence (no more oohing and ahhing at the cute baby) as each picture danced its way across the screen and lingered for what felt like hours.

5.  It is expected that you follow every like-minded blog and Facebook group, comment with supportive advice to other mamas (where have all the papas gone?), and post questions that a quick Google search would answer.  If you're not a stay at home mom, you are likely to miss out on many of these posts and discussions, but, not judging or anything, where is the whole "attachment" part of attachment parenting if you're at work all day.

There you have it guys, I'm strapping on my Beco and off to the co-op.  (Just kidding, I'm at work, but maybe this weekend).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oh those modern parents...(they're not doing it all wrong)

This morning, I came across an article titled “This Young Mother Has Something Serious To Say.  You Might Not Like It, But You’ll Probably Love it” (at http://www.viralnova.com/this-young-mother-is-sick-of-how-kids-are-being-raised-heres-her-controversial-blog-post/, about and including the original blog post by Stephanie).  I didn’t love it.  I may not be exactly the “modern parent” that Stephanie is referencing, but I can identify the trends she complains about, many of which I agree with and therefore follow, and must respectfully disagree.  That said, I think this argument will ultimately boil down, as many do, to the need for moderation.

First, it is a blatant oversimplification to equate every kid’s childhood experience with his/her future expectations as an adult.  By immediately responding to my child’s cries for help or attention, she will not grow up to expect her professors or employers to do the same for her, any more than giving her a treat after a stressful doctor visit will condition her to expect a raise after completing a difficult work assignment.  She will not be blind to the realities of the world simply because I chose to buy her another ice cream cone when her first one dropped instead of teaching a 2 year old some deep life lesson about loss and materialism.

By validating her emotions and tending to her needs – even when silly, repetitive, or expressed in the form of a tantrum (and by “tending” I don’t mean “giving in to”) – I seek to foster her confidence and to instill in her, from a young age, the understanding that her desires are not meaningless, her opinions are valued, and her needs are important.  At least to her parents.  And while she will learn to rely on her parents, she will not expect waiters to give in to her every whim.  Or teachers, or bosses.  If I let her reach her tiny (usually sticky) palms into my food and retrieve whatever she wants, she will not think this is acceptable with other people.  But if she tries to do this with others, she will be rejected, and it will be ok.  She has no expectation of blind, loving, unconditional acquiescence from strangers, and will therefore take such rejection in stride.  For this same reason (and lesson), I also won’t reprimand her for trying.  She will learn it on her own.  Two years old is the time for lessons as these, not for Ms. Manners lectures (although, that adult’s reaction will naturally help develop her awareness of social norms).

Is it possible that she will become too dependent on her parents?  Maybe, and we would address it when she’s old and confident enough to understand that she must learn to stand on her own two feet.  She will internalize that lesson logically, reasonably – no longer emotionally.  It will be about independence, not abandonment, and I will be assured that we have encouraged her, supported her, and raised her into a strong woman who knows what she wants, knows how to pursue it and, if things don’t go her way, knows how to move on.

I believe there is a proper age for teaching about feelings and emotions, for instilling confidence and a sense of self-importance.  Safety concerns come to mind most easily, and I want my daughter to be able to speak (or blabber) her mind (or gut reactions) if she doesn't like something, even if she has to tell an adult “no,” and even if she has to yell it.  At this toddler stage, I want her to know that it’s not rude or inappropriate.  She can interrupt me; she has the right to be both seen and heard.  After this is firmly established, lessons about politeness, patience, and self-sufficiency will be more timely and more easily absorbed.

Maybe latchkey kids grew up independent and self-reliant - they had no choice but to be.  I’m striving to raise my daughter in a way that is driven by concerns other than bare necessity, and I am lucky to have that luxury.  We are no longer in the 40’s and 50’s.  Bullying, like the author noted, is no longer defined by taking someone’s lunch money.  It involves a horridly public assault on a young child’s privacy, vulnerabilities, and flaws.  And yes, it is horrid for a teenager, even though as late-20-something "grown ups," we know that it's just not that bad.  When a boy's lunch money was taken away a generation ago, after being pinned against a locker and given a wedgie (chalk that up to Saved by the Bell reruns), that embarrassing moment could not be known to teenagers across the country, who could then chime in with their own hurtful comments.  No.  A few kids in the hallway laughed about it, and of course it was easier for the victim to rebound from this experience.  So, without a protracted discussion about the obvious difficulties of a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. centered youth, perhaps “coddling” is necessary, even if you’d like to term it a necessary evil.  “Modern” parenting gives children an unshakable foundation, stronger than parents had to (or could) establish in the past, before sending them out to “modern” middle/high school life.

Finally, I do not understand the recurring negative portrayal of parents who make their children their “whole world.”   Perhaps this modern parent has outgrown her party days, all her friends also have kids, she is active in her community, and she finds time for herself (her interests, her husband, her Hulu queue) when her toddler is sleeping or with her parents, or while she is at work.  And lately, I’m at work a lot.  The rest of my time goes to my daughter, and she knows she’s my world.  It’s fine.  She doesn’t think she’s the center of The World, or the center of the gas station attendant’s world, or of her friend’s mommy’s world.

So before suggesting that “modern parents” are raising pansies and primadonnas, maybe we should give proper heed to the nuances of this conversation.  And let’s circle back in 20 years.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why Technology Isn't Ruining Our Relationships

I have read many articles lately bemoaning the effects of technology on true, personal interactions.  These arguments have irked me just a little bit more each time I came across them.

It’s true, we no longer write letters and send them snail mail.  I’m sure the contents of our email correspondence are less thoughtful, possibly shorter. We stare into our phones, "liking" captioned pictures of cats and giving advice to strangers, while sitting at a silent dinner with our spouses, who are doing the same.  We disappear into iPads on our commute home, neglecting to stop and smell the “roses” (the urine-scented mold of the subway) and make small talk with the friendly commuter beside us (a drunk, sweaty teen).  We hide behind hashtags, acronyms and emoticons.  We don’t call to set up a lunch date, even though that quick phone call could lead to catching up in ways that we won’t get to do over lunch.  It’s easier to text.  We see our friends less often than we’d like to, and substitute reunions with group email chains.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so “busy” all the time.  
But we also get to see pictures of college roommates’ kids and pets daily, tell childhood friends details about our lives that would not have made it on paper, and respond “unsubscribe” to emails from frat boy cousins attaching unsavory pictures.  We email people who would never receive traditional mail from us, and text those whom we would not bother calling.  We wish happy birthdays to otherwise forgotten high school classmates, and congratulate Facebook friends on new jobs, apartments and accomplishments.  Maybe “happy bday” from the girl who sat behind you in 7th grade Social Studies is ultimately meaningless to you; maybe not.   
Because of the "obsession with," "overreliance on," and "domination of" electronic forms of communication, I know more about my friend’s daily activities in Germany than about my neighbors’ lives.  But no, that’s not exactly what they mean when they complain about our online lives taking over.  The fact that I’m aware Masha had beer and olives for lunch does not come at the expense of my involvement in my community at home.  When my neighbors and I have nothing in common but a zip code, I’ll spend my time reconnecting with friends further away, and finding others who share my interest of gardening, zebras, or French.  We may even form true friendships.
Yes, electronic communication also means I don’t have to visit my friend to see her new baby.  After all, she live-tweeted the entire labor and delivery in more detail than I would want to know about my own childbirth experience.  I can even have Amazon ship her a diaper bag; “gift option”? yes, please.  But I should visit her, it’s what people do.  When she starts accepting guests, I should come over and help her break up the monotony of days with a newborn.  I’ll listen to her birth story (pretending I didn’t throw up in my mouth repeatedly when I read about it online 5 minutes after it happened), and maybe even watch her baby as she indulges in a much needed shower.  And I assume she would do that for me.
I don’t feel unconnected, overconnected, or lonely, as they say I might, despite my hundreds of "friends," "connections," or "followers,” and it would be silly to attempt enumerating all the ways in which our real lives have been enriched by our online existence.  The list is endless and irrefutable, and your phone book and community center have nothing on it. 
Have our relationships with the people physically closest suffered as a result?  Perhaps, but only if we have let this happen.  
What we are missing, and mourning the loss of, is not pre-internet times of genuine connection between people.  Rather, it’s good old fashioned nostalgia; we miss the past, inevitably better, because we were younger then.  We are becoming hyper aware of the difference between a game of paintball in the woods with 20 people, and a game of "kill everyone" (I'm not up on video game trends but I think that's the usual concept) alone in your room, against 100 others alone in their rooms.  We’re increasingly sensitive to the need to put our phones away once in a while.  So your preference for Candy Crush and Facebook poking instead of game nights and dating is your fault.  There’s a way to reap the benefits of technology without losing the human touch, and blame yourself, not the existence of internet, if you can’t strike a balance.  Real and cyber lives do not have to be mutually exclusive; your internet interactions should be enjoyed responsibly.