Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bring on 2013

I feel like I should do some sort of re-cap or best-of post as this year draws to a close, but today I’ve been busy building Lego and playing Play-doh with BB#1, while BB#2 is snowboarding for the first time with his dad. Our living room is still littered with half-built Lego sets the boys got for Christmas. Also, I never make resolutions, so why start now?

I only recently started this blog, but I hope to keep it up in 2013 (is that a resolution? okay, fine). Right now it’s sort of a mish-mash of rambling thoughts, snippets of daily life, and reflections on parenting. I’ve got notes for a number of new posts, but like the line says, life is what happens…So far, my most-read post has focused on education, and I definitely have more thoughts on that subject!

Highlight of the year? Probably our family vacation to California. Lowlight? Career (or lack-of).

I should be more reflective, I suppose, but really, this is a day like any other. I’ll spend it with my three favourite boys, and I look forward to doing just that in 2013.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year to you and yours. Let’s all share a cup of kindness yet, shall we?

 

 

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My Kid Just Said (Part 7)

Playing a guessing game in the car on the way to early Christmas dinner at Grandma’s:

BB#1, 8 years old: I’m thinking of something that doesn’t exist.

BB#2, 5 years old: God?

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My Kid Just Said (Part 6)

BB#2 to BB#1: Did fake Santa come to your class today? Fake Santa came to my class.

Me: How do you know he was fake?

BB#2: The strings from his beard.

Yes, that would be a give-away.

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The Best of the Worst Baby Advice

After attending a baby shower recently, I got to thinking about how much advice new parents receive. Sometimes it’s solicited, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But even good, well-intentioned advice won’t always work for other mothers and their babies. Parenting is not one-size fits all, and there is no magic bullet, no matter what the bazillion books out there tell us (psst, there is always another book saying the complete opposite!) I still think it’s important for parents to share their experiences—I know I’ve learned a lot from other mothers, and clearly I have advice to offer.

But here are some tidbits I was given when I was expecting my first child that I will not be passing on:

You need to drink milk to make milk.

Erm, can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk in order to produce food for their own young? Can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk at all? Yes, nursing moms need to keep hydrated, but we are not cows, our babies are not calves, and human milk is not a dairy product. So if cow’s milk is not your beverage of choice, no, you don’t have to start drinking it in order to successfully breastfeed your human baby.

Crying is good for babies’ lungs.

Crying is how babies communicate, not how they exercise. Yes, there are going to be times you can’t do anything to stop it—when you’ve nursed her, changed her, picked her up, burped her, rocked her, nursed her again, passed her to your partner, put her down, picked her back up, and she still cries. But it is our job as parents to hear those cries, respond to them as best we can, and comfort our child through it even when nothing seems to help.

Don’t pick him up too much.

Here’s the thing. You can’t spoil a baby with love. Nurturing independence in your child is a process, something that takes approximately 18 years, not 18 months. And it happens despite us—those of you with strong-willed toddlers and teens will know what I mean. So let your baby be a baby while he’s a baby. Pick him up, hold him, comfort him. Need free hands? Try a carrier. Need help? Ask for it. Need to put him down because you are overwhelmed and need to collect yourself (or maybe you just need to use the bathroom, it happens)? Do it. Then take a deep breath, go back in, and pick him up.

If you let her in your bed, you’ll never get her out.

Some babies sleep fine in a crib in another room. Others don’t. Don’t be surprised if yours wants to be with you day—and night. Most adult humans like to sleep with another person close by—so why on earth wouldn’t our children? If you chose to share sleep in some fashion, there will come a time when your child won’t need you to put her to sleep, or back to sleep. In fact she’ll need you to wake her up. And it will happen before you know it. I promise.

Babies don’t feel/remember pain.

I once bit my baby’s finger (don’t ask). Another time I cut him with the baby nail clippers. Judging by the crying, yeah, he felt pain. No, he probably doesn’t remember. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt at that moment, or that I felt any less terrible about it. So I fail to see the logic in putting tiny babies through unnecessary pain now vs. later. If it would hurt him later, it’s going to hurt him now.

Babies should only eat every 4 hours.

Not any baby I’ve ever met. That said, every baby is different. Just because mine needed to nurse at least every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first year or more doesn’t mean that’s so for every mom and baby pair. Yours might need to nurse more often. Or less. But for most newborns, 4 hours is way too long to go between feedings. Even at night. Sure, some will sleep longer stretches early on, and that’s normal (lucky you!) But so is frequent waking. So is waking again after several months of sleeping through. Read your baby’s cues, and don’t listen to people who say “she can’t be hungry again!” Yes, actually she can be, or she could have another reason to nurse (comfort, teething pain, fighting off a cold, growth spurt…) And yes, just when you get used to one routine, it can change (comfort, teething pain, fighting a cold, growth spurt…). So don’t get too hung up on schedules or what a book says she “should” be doing, or what she did last week or last month, or what your friend’s baby is doing, or even what your other babies did.  Meet the needs of the baby you have now, who is the only one who can tell you what those needs are.

It’s harder on you than it is on the baby.

Sorry, I don’t buy it. A baby crying himself to sleep, for example, doesn’t have the logic to know mom and dad are in the other room and this is “for his own good”. He just knows he is upset and alone and the people he depends on to keep him alive aren’t responding. And if the adults have to comfort each other through it, or phone someone for support, or go online looking for virtual hugs to “stay strong”, imagine how the baby feels. If you were upset, would your partner tell you to “self-soothe”? And if he did, wouldn’t you want to smack him?

Babies over [insert weeks, months or pounds] don’t need to eat in the night.

I once read babies over 12 pounds don’t need to eat in the night. Mine would have been 12 pounds at, oh, around 3 weeks old. So no, I wasn’t going to deny my newborns food and comfort because they were bigger than average. In fact I’d argue they needed to eat more often because they were bigger than average. But regardless of size or age, babies aren’t waking in the night to eat just to mess with their parents. When she no longer needs to eat in the night, she’ll stop (but just FYI, that doesn’t always mean she’ll stop waking in the night…)

Have your babies close together so they can be friends.

I’m not telling you not to have them close together. I feel family planning is up to, well, the family. I was not ready to have another any sooner than I did, but that’s me. I just hate this statement because closeness in age is no guarantee they’ll get along—and a big gap doesn’t mean they are doomed not to. That has more to do with personality in my opinion. Which is something you can’t pre-plan. But the main reason I hate comments about family size, parental age, age gap, sex etc. is—you never know what is going on in other people’s homes and hearts. It’s rude to tell parents of an only child they “should” have more no matter what—but what if those parents did want another child? What if they’ve been trying for years? What if they’ve experienced a loss? Now imagine how hurtful those comments are.

Parenting is a tough job. The last thing we need to hear is that we’ve already messed up by having children too young or too old, by having too many or too few, having them too close together or too far apart, or that we should “try again” for a child of a different sex—especially when some of these things aren’t even within our control, no matter how we try to plan them. So, let’s all just make our own family planning choices, and go with “no comment” on the family planning choices of others, agreed?

What was the best of the worst baby advice you received?

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One Gun Added On to the One Gun

I recently read two blog posts (here and here) I could relate to, as the pacifist mother of boys who play with guns. Full disclosure: I had to re-write that first sentence a few times because the fact is, I never thought I’d be the mother of boys who play with guns. But if I’m totally honest, I am, and they do.

As my mother has reminded me on occasion, there were going to be no toy weapons in MY house. I could see no reason why children would ever need to re-enact violence of any kind. Yes, I heard the stories about boys making guns out of Barbie dolls and pieces of cheese. Wasn’t going to happen here.

We did well for a while—I remember the pride my husband and I felt when our first child had to ask what that toy was some kids on our street were playing with. He’d gotten to the age of three without recognizing a gun, even a toy one. Yes, combined with the fact he’d never eaten at McDonalds either, we were feeling pretty chuffed about our parenting.

It was probably not long after that that the first toy sword made it into our home. To be fair, I had suggested dress-up clothes as a gift idea, and probably specifically knights or pirates, both of which he was interested in at the time. And my sister gave me the accompanying sword off to the side, just in case. In fact, I had been tossing any gun or gun-like accessory that came with any toy he was given (we avoided purchasing any toys like that ourselves). Because that was the rule: no guns.

But I reasoned, how would a knight fight a dragon without a sword, and anyway, it’s not as if he’d actually ever get a real one and do damage with it. It was fantasy, totally unrealistic, and not the same as a toy gun. Not at all. Later, when a tussle between him and his baby brother ended in a poked eye, the sword went in the garbage. I wasn’t against toy swords per se, but clearly our boys were not ready for them. That lasted a few years, until the lightsabers arrived (with the caveat that if there’s any eye-poking, we all know where the lightsabers will end up.)

And then there was the question of water guns. They don’t LOOK real, and what kid doesn’t like to spray or get sprayed with water on a hot summer day? I tried to go with “squirters”, I even got some dinosaur heads that were supposed to spritz. They never worked. Nothing ever worked quite as well as a big ole gun, even if I refused to call it that. Not that that ever fooled my boys.

Eventually, other toy guns started trickling in. I’m not even sure how it happened—I suspect it was the Lego. A lot of our Lego belonged to my husband, and in the bin were some tiny guns and swords. It didn’t seem right to throw them out, they were practically antiques, and anyway, most of the new sets we were starting to accumulate had weapons; blasters or lightsabers or spears. I guess I could have “disappeared” them too, but…Besides, at this point the boys had realized they could BUILD a gun out of Lego. Or, you know, a piece of toast bitten in a certain way. Or a stick in just the right shape.

Then there are video games. Don’t panic: they don’t play “Call of Duty” or anything. But if you’ve ever played a video game, you might have noticed, many of them involve “blasting”, “zapping”, “spraying”, “targeting”. It’s sort of all shooting, isn’t it? I find it more and more difficult to tell them they can’t play games with guns in them, but can play games with “pea-shooters”.

Through all this, I’ve held on to a ban against realistic-looking, life-sized toy guns. Perhaps that’s not much of a standard. I guess my thinking has been, handguns are for killing people, and they are not fantasy in our world. Then again, swords weren’t just for decoration or polite fencing matches back in the day, so yes, you can question my fuzzy logic. Maybe I’m more zen, maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’ve given up. I don’t know. But I like to think I still have a line, even a faint one.

There is something else I hold on to though. My husband, who firmly believes no one needs a handgun, and agrees that there will never be a real one in our home, has fired guns. Has enjoyed playing first-person shooter games. And is one of the kindest, gentlest, most respectful, least violent people you’ll ever hope to meet. My boys—yeah, they play shooting games. And: they are also not particularly aggressive children. Knock wood, they have never been in a fight at school (to be honest, I worry they get pushed around by more aggressive kids if anything—but that’s another story). I’m not saying playing with toy guns, or seeing violence in movies and in video games, hasn’t had, or won’t have, an effect on them. But I do think it’s entirely possible this is very normal behavior after all, and that my boys will still grow up good men like their dad. And maybe even pacifists.

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My Kid Just Said (Part 5)

“That last one almost made me cry, I liked it so much.” BB#2, 5 years old.

This after listening to Bing Crosby sing “I’ll be Home For Christmas”. Me too, buddy, me too.

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Breastfeeding Dads

My husband is a very private person who is not at all interested in the online space or social media, so you normally won’t see too much about him on this blog. However, we are co-parents so it’s pretty hard to write about the boys without some mention of their father.

And he’s a pretty amazing dad. He’s crazy about his boys, and it’s mutual. He’s loving, playful, interested, involved, and a terrific role model. He reads bedtime stories, takes them to their activities and appointments, plans parties, tickles them, hugs them, talks to them, plays Lego for hours, teaches them to ride bikes, to ski, to swim. When they were babies, he wore them in a carrier, changed their diapers, burped them, dressed them, comforted them, bathed them, fed them their first solids. You know, normal parent stuff. So it was no surprise to me when I read an article about a recent study (on a terrific site about all things fathering) that found dads of exclusively breastfed babies (as ours were) are as involved as dads of bottlefed babies. To me it’s almost one of those “they had to study that?” studies. Of course the parent-child bond is about more than feeding!

Full disclosure: in the first days of BB#1’s life, my husband was involved in finger-feeding him pumped milk through a tube due to latch issues—but I suspect he’d have traded that “bonding experience” for an easier start to breastfeeding and parenthood. But after that, if BB#1 had a bottle of pumped milk, it was generally given by me, since I was the parent home with him during the first year of his life. And BB#2 never took a bottle from anyone. The idea that my husband didn’t bond with the boys because he didn’t give them bottles is, frankly, laughable. Besides, I hated pumping and was never very successful at it. If I’d felt I had to pump or that I had to get BB#2 to take a bottle when he was clearly not interested, that would have been stress our family didn’t need. There were already so, so, so many other things my husband was doing to help care for his children.

However, the study also found that some fathers feel “inadequate” about their inability to breastfeed. To this I say “and?” I don’t mean that to sound cold. It’s just I think that’s the natural state of being of the new parent: mother, father, breastfeeding, or bottlefeeding. I breastfed, and certainly still felt inadequate a lot of the time. It’s not surprising new fathers can feel the same way—babies are hard work! There may be reasons to introduce a bottle—to reduce dads’ potential feelings of inadequacy about being biologically incapable of breastfeeding is not one of those reasons.

Another finding that surprised me: the vast majority of fathers in the study rated professional breastfeeding assistance as “unhelpful”. I am not certain what type of professional help is meant here. I personally had a lot of professional advice in a variety of forms, and the helpfulness varied greatly:

Obstetrician: non-existent.

Maternity ward nurses: less than helpful (at times, detrimental).

Pediatrician: seemed to focus more on giving me permission to wean when things were difficult than in helping me succeed.

Public health nurse: fairly helpful.

Certified lactation consultant: the main reason I was finally successful with my first baby.

Midwives: though by the birth of my second child, I was fairly knowledgeable and very determined to succeed, built-in breastfeeding support is one of the reasons I suggest first-time parents-to-be consider midwifery. It might save them from dealing with some (or all) of the professionals above.

Without knowing the what sort of professional help the fathers in the study are referring to, it’s hard to surmise why they found it so poor. But my husband is one father who would suggest new parents seek help from a certified lactation consultant if they run into any issues breastfeeding. Unbelievably, not all professionals that work with moms and babies are actually experts in lactation.

My husband and I are very much equal when it comes to parenting, but there were two things he couldn’t do: give birth, and breastfeed. The fact that he completely and unselfishly supported me in my efforts by doing pretty much everything else in those early days so I could focus on feeding our baby, even if it meant he was left out of that small part of the equation, is one of the many reasons he’s an amazing father.

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