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, 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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NYC blunders

About a week ago, I rolled my eyes watching a young guy in slacks and a button down, clearly heading to work, bump into the turnstiles on his way into the subway- having forgotten to swipe. "Worth a shot," I snickered silently. The station was empty and the abrupt stop did not seem to return his mind to the present.  I don't think he even saw me catch his awkward moment.

But, it seems, karma strikes even for sarcasm not vocalized, eye-rolling not seen.

As I pondered tonight's dinner, conjuring up an image of my fridge and seriously debating all the alternatives (all two alternatives), I, too, neglected to swipe my Metrocard. However, I was walking into a large station at rush hour, and in a massive crowd of purposeful commuters, professional New Yorkers, preparers of the Metrocard in advance. 

The line doesn't stop for you; the next person swipes before you've even cleared the turnstile.

Therefore, the eager home-bound gentleman behind me inadvertently humped me (intentional humps are a different, sweet nuance of traveling the NYC subway system) just as we both realized my mistake, and as an insult to the non-physical but very real injury of marching into a turnstile that wasn't given the signal to turn.  

I recovered gracefully, as anyone would do in my situation, and: (1) frantically rummaged through my Mary Poppins purse to find my card amid lunch containers, candy, socks, and mail, (2) swiped my card, and (3) proceeded onto the platform head down, weaving into the crowd to lose the humper and all witnesses - who, I'm sure, had no interest in following me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Haircut, hold the sass

I decided to go for a spontaneous haircut yesterday, and told the lady to cut off a lot.  I’ve come a long way from the time I cried after a haircut, before I even got out of the chair, and traumatized the relatively innocent hairdresser who was just following my parents’ instructions (I believe they were: “make her look like a boy” – maybe not verbatim).  My resulting fear of haircuts was marked by years of infrequent and unnoticeable trims until, oddly, I just stopped caring.  I can’t even blame it on post-baby carelessness, although imperfect bangs are just not going to break things for me at this point.  It happened before, when I must have realized that (a) if I tell them to make sure I can still put my hair up for the gym (it’s ok…they don’t know me, and it makes me feel good to say that), ponytail-able hair can’t be atrocious and (b) what’s that thing about hair?  Oh yeah, it grows.  So now I don’t think too much before going.  I get fed up with my hair, schedule a cut, and go to enjoy the wash/head massage, make small talk with the staff, and strut around with my blown out hair for a few days afterwards.  And, this time, rant to my friends about the judgmental B that cut my hair.

Yes lady, it’s been 6 months since I last got a haircut.  Actually, closer to 8 but I told you 6.  And I do, in fact, want you to cut off more than you keep suggesting, but that’s because it’s the style I want now, and not in order to “go another 6 months.”  When you ask how often I blow dry my hair and then sympathetically offer a cut to accommodate my “busy lifestyle” without knowing anything about my lifestyle, you make me want to give you $4.65 as a tip.  If I wasn't leading a “busy lifestyle” that just barely explains (but does not excuse) my less-than-daily straight hair, what are you saying your low maintenance cut will accommodate?  For some reason, you seem to have pegged me as a lazy lesbian that accidentally stumbled into your upper west side venue.  

P.S.  Your roots are grown out, and I think we stopped wearing sunglasses as headbands all day, indoors, at work. It's not even summer yet.

And the haircut was decent, thanks.