5.28.2010

Converting to a toddler bed also converted Momma into a toddler

This is some seriously exciting stuff!


  
Tools!



It took me four hours to get Hollis to take a nap and in that four hours, which I depict above in photographs as nothing short of painfully cute and adorable, I was reduced to a yelling, temper-tantrum-throwing, hair-pulling lunatic.  I found myself on a merry-go-round of emotions where a petulant, exhausted, and frustrated toddler took turns ebbing and flowing in and out of my emotional frame of mind with an educated, sedate, patient woman.  

What a surprise it was to discover that not only was there a 3-foot toddler in the room, but there was also a 5'5" toddler there as well: Me.

This whole thing started because potty-training is going swimmingly.  We spend the mornings pantsless, diaper-up to leave the house and for naps, go pantsless for the evening, then get re-diapered for sleep.  Lots of peeing and pooping in the potty going on around here and it's been ridiculously easy, and, dare I say, fun.  I mean, clapping my hands and doing a little jig because there's a giant toddler turd in the potty evokes something primordially excited in me.

Occasionally, he would call for me to come get him out of his crib and I didn't hear him or couldn't come right away and I'd find that he'd peed or pooped in his diaper - sorta counter-productive with the whole potty-training thing.  Also, he's been climbing out of (and into) his crib a bunch this week.  Therefore, the conversion from crib to toddler bed felt spot on.

Anthony converted it in the morning and Hollis clamored all over it, squealing in delight.  He bounced on the mattress and touched all the tools as Daddy talked about how exciting it was to have a "big boy" bed.  I talked about how once he was put in it he had to stay in it, "Just like Mommy and Daddy do in theirs."  He nodded and clapped his hands and was, what I thought, very sophisticated about it all.

Oh, how wrong I was!  

And it's not a reflection on Hollis, on the contrary, it's a reflection on me and my wildly out of line expectations.  Did I really think I'd be able to baby-whisper him into a bed the first go around?  I read a couple of books to him in the rocker and tucked him in.  I even dragged his book box next to the bed so he wouldn't have to "get up" to get more.


An extremely exciting book (and a glowing Bus-Owl on the dresser).
(Hours since nap time started: 1/2)


 (Hours since nap time started: 1/2)


 
Note the book box beside the bed (yeah, not a very good idea).
(Hours since nap time started: 1/2)


In the end, he did eventually sleep, but not before I'd completely embarrassed myself.  When I was shouting at him, then apologizing for being cranky, he would just look at me as if to say, "I know how that feels," and then smile gently at me.  I lost all sense of control, of who I was as a parent.  

In the first hour, I felt good: full of energy and ambition.  Hour Two was a little less romantic and I was reduced to "if this/then that" statements.  I struggled mightily with age-appropriate/consequence-appropriate statements, such as, "Hollis, here are the rules.  You can only ever have your blankie and paci IN the bed, not out of it, so if you get out of your bed, you have to leave them here [in the bed]," or "If you touch Bus-Owl, I will turn Bus-Owl off," and "If you open and close the door again, I will take the blankie away for a while."

And then I found myself saying ridiculous things like, "If you get into this drawer again, I will have Daddy change the bed back to a crib."  Yeah - I said that last one in a fit of desperation and hated ever syllable that came out of my mouth.


 (Hours since nap time started: 2 3/4)


 (Hours since nap time started: 3)


Yeah... just wasn't working out.
(Hours since nap time started: 3 1/4)

I threaded all this negativity with lots of encouraging statements like, "I know you can do this!  This is so exciting!" and "I know this is such a great thing!  I'm so excited for you!  I know you're just bursting at the seems!"  I knew how big this was for him.  I knew it was practically like moving to a different country or sticking his hand into [insert gross/dangerous thing here].  I have a feeling that me asking him to fall asleep within the normal amount of time (30 minutes or so) was tantamount to someone asking me to not go shopping immediately after cashing a winning Lotto check.

But ask I did, and answer me he did.  And perfectly.

By the third and fourth hours I was just hanging by a thread.  I thought my face was going to split open and an alien pop out of my face.

In the end he did sleep.  I think I was equally as exhausted as he was.  My back was killing me again, I didn't get to work out (because of the nap time drama), and I felt like the biggest shit on the planet for wantonly expressing every emotion I had to a 2 1/2 year old.  


  So now he's tucked in, but the curtain is pulled back like a canopy.
(Hours since nap time started: 3 1/2)
 

Who needs a dark room in which to nap??
(Hours since nap time started: 4)

Later that night I literally hissed at Anthony about something and slammed a couple more doors and locked myself in the closet to contemplate my navel.  I don't like feeling like I didn't do my best.  Likewise, I don't like feeling my best wasn't good enough. 

The next day, however, was grand and so was today.  It's as if our ugly interlude never happened and the crib never existed - which, of course, makes me feel worse for even losing my shit like that in the first place since I should have trusted my little guy and his mysterious ways - and we have always slept in beds and napped with freedom to run about the cabin.

A couple of days past all of this and I can now admit that I was under duress due to pain and my own fatigue and that I was seeking order and control from a toddler with entirely different ideas.  Hollis had his own plans for the day and Mommy's fragile ego and self-control be damned, he was going to execute them with delight (and right he should).  His abandon upset my order.  Plain and simple.  I'm really going to have to work at integrating his enthusiasm and energy into my own plans, otherwise I'm looking at a lifetime of shitty days.

Next up, remembering all of this the next time I get tangled up in my desire to control things and lose my shit like a crazy lady under a bridge.

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5.17.2010

Fly on the wall anonymous post: What I'm afraid to tell you


(This is the first in (what I hope will be) a series of anonymous posts from readers, called Fly on the Wall. These posts are the things you wish you could share with your universe, but for whatever reason can't.

I want everyone in the world to have a place to share (I am a trained counselor, after all). I think it's crucial to mental health and happiness, I really do. Not putting into words the feelings you bear is paramount to letting a sore fester: expunge it, share it, shed light on it, chew it, work it out. Even anonymously and in confidence, the power of moving something from just you and your thoughts into the real world can be felt.


Please show your support for this author's bravery and story. And thank you, author, for your efforts.)



What I'm afraid to tell you


I heard a lot when I was pregnant from women who suddenly understood their mothers so much better after their own children arrived. "Oh, now that I've done it I totally understand how much my Mom loves me." and, "We're closer than ever, it has deepened our relationship." I was suspicious, afraid to believe it, but deep down secretly hopeful that maybe we would finally understand one another.


My mother and I have a rocky relationship. She was an excellent provider to a very small person. My childhood is full of good memories and laughter. However as I approached adulthood it became abundantly clear that our path, as adults, would be quite different. Our personalities are incompatible with friendship. Our values somehow misaligned. Add on to that a history of teenage conflict and... it was over.

There are things that can be said between a mother and daughter that you can never take back and never forgive. Those things have been said out loud. There is no going back for me.



I soldier on, faking through the steps that mothers and daughters are supposed to do- the weekend visits, the phone calls.


When I finally had children I hoped for some kind of revelation, some kind of magical connection that would appear between us. Instead I feel further apart from her than ever before. I force myself to give in to those occasional visits but I dread them more every time. I find my head thinking, "Ok, a child's relationship with their grandparent is special, something to treasure. Just suck it up and let them figure out their own path. It's good for kid to experience different ways of doing things."


Meanwhile my heart is screaming, "NO NO NO MINE MINE MINE."


Clinically I try to separate my relationship with her from what my child's will be. Emotionally I am at war. I wrestle with my desire to pick them up and keep them away from her. A primal instinct in me screams over and over to claim my child as MINE, not HERS. But there isn't any harm waiting- just a loving grandma. I'm not sure what I'm trying to protect them from. All old scars and battles stand in relief every time I am with her and throw me right back into the past. My emotions rage completely outside my control.


I don't think our mother/daughter relationship is salvageable and frankly I'm not interested in "working on it." I can appreciate the excellent job she did getting me this far but every time we're together I just want to escape. My adrenaline goes through the roof; every action grates on my nerves. It's too much, too long. I promise myself over and over, "I'm going to be a different mother. I'm going to do things differently. I'm not destined to repeat her mistakes."


Unfortunately I have no issues sharing my child with anyone else. Only her. I'm happy to share with anyone else and don't feel these same crazy urges. It intensifies the awkwardness of it all. What kind of mother doesn't want their kids to spend time with their grandmother?


And each time after she's gone I lay awake into the night wondering if I'm some kind of monster. And if the people around me knew would they think the same thing?

5.16.2010

Daily Digby: Everyone deserves a 20-minute rake

Coolest iPhone app for kids EVER: Talking Carl

I'm an iPhone junky.

I was a total skeptic at first thinking, "What the hell do I need internet for on my phone? Games? 'Apps'?? I just need something that makes calls and I'm good."

Oh, how naive I was.

Hollis was born in October of '07. Shortly after that I inherited Anthony's first generation iPhone. I graciously accepted it and was eager to use the camera feature, but really nothing else.

To my own (great) surprise I used that phone CONSTANTLY - mostly while I breastfed - and I breastfed everywhere, all the time: in the car, in the store, in the Nordy's "sitting room," in the vet's office, in the doctor's office, at my mom's house, friends' houses, parks, coffee houses, whatever, whereever, and whenever. You get my drift.

And as romantic as it might sound that a mother should stare peacefully and contentedly at her innocent babe suckling her breast, that was about 30 seconds of each nursing. Then I was looking for something to occupy myself... with one hand. (As all you breastfeeding mothers know, one-handed entertainment is hard to come by with a wee one attached to your chest.)

Enter the iPhone's many amusing features including (and espectially) the internet and games.

So that's my history. I'm hooked. Anthony's hooked. Just about everyone else I know is hooked, too.

And now, I'm a little ashamed to admit, Hollis is hooked, too.

We started out slow with toddler puzzles and cute games that helped him to listen to instructions and learn object names, etc. I only used them as a last resort crutch in restaurants or while visiting with a friend whom I wasn't quite ready to say good-bye to, yet. I never just handed him the phone so he'd fade into the background din of my surroundings. Therefore, the iPhone is a very special treat to him and each time I hand it to him there's a new, amazing thing for him to mess with for toddler-eternity.

Today, I found the pièce de résistance of toddler games: Talking Carl. It echos back anything it "hears" in a little elfin voice. You can also tickle him and he giggles; poke him and he exclaims; and pinch him and he growls.

I'm telling you, Hollis played with Carl for 2 hours. TWO HOURS, people!! That's like 14 lifetimes in Toddler Time. And the laughter it evoked! The sheer amazement and thrill! Holy crap, it was like he was being tossed in the air, tickled, and eating a lollipop all at the same time!! He "poked Carl" and "talked with Carl" and begged to "Poke Carl more!" as soon as he was finished eating breakfast.

Anyhoo, go download Talking Carl. I swear even you will love it.

video
Hollis workin' old Carl (and Anthony snoring).

5.13.2010

Self indulgence and the meaning of Life




This is me this morning at approximately 8:30 am. I slept in my makeup. My hair is pulled back in a ponytail. I felt sad, heavy, enlightened, raw, beautiful... like me. I wanted to see what that looked like so I flipped on the webcam and this is what I got.

I look like my mother. I look like my father. I am a full-fledged adult now, just like they were in my memories. I am feeling more like them by day, by the minute. It seems the complexity of adulthood is now firmly set on my shoulders, boggling my mind. It's like I'm trying to pin the tail on the motherfucking donkey. I'm blindfolded and dizzy. In total darkness and disoriented. I have more compassion for what they went through as people than I ever thought I would.

I understand their movements, their thoughts, why they did what they did. And considering that neither one of them was a fulfilled, happy human being, the fact that I'm relating to their own journeys upsets me. I was hoping for an adulthood free of agonizing doubt and wanting what I can't have.

It boils down to this: What is the meaning of Life? To Success? Is it in wanting what you have? Or in knowing the difference between now and later?

The question isn't is the secret wanting nothing and being happy with nothing?, but about being content with what's in front of you, both now and later. Are you only successful and happy in Life if you have what you think you want? Can you be secretly happy? Retroactively happy? -- And I can insert any number of adjectives to replace happy. Like: fulfilled, content, sated, gratified, satisfied, accomplished.

Am I even thinking of the right words to apply to a life??

Jesus, this makes my head hurt.

It wasn't that long ago that most of the human population on the planet was consumed with the most basic needs of Maslow's Hierarchy. Today I feel so horribly lost somewhere in the tip of all of it.

::

That image of my tattoo, that indelible mark that I hastily needled into my tender skin in January, it is a constant reminder that I am free to be me. I love that ink more with each passing day and can't ever imagine not having it to admire whenever I choose.

I feel like I am a rock that has been thrown across a river. I was gripped, handled roughly, fondled with admiration, then I was slung with a heavy arm away from that tender hand high into the sky. -- The view from here is beautiful, by the way. I can see the meadow beyond the riverbanks and crisp, white clouds above me. Birds are nesting, bunnies are making bunny-love, deer nibbling shoots from the ground.

My life seems so plotted and yet so blurry. How is that even possible??

He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

- William Blake


5.11.2010

Paving the way



This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I was pregnant I had only one or two things clear in my mind about how I wanted to parent. I wasn't going to spank and I was going to breastfeed. That was it.

Looking back on it it's almost funny how little mental work I'd put into it considering how vast the work is now. As a parent I think about the minutiae: the tone in which I express my message, my body language, do the consequences fit the request?, age- and development-appropriateness, consistency between me and Anthony, the list goes on and on.

Something I also think about is the example I'm setting for the other mothers and mothers-to-be in my life. I really do. Are they going to see me and Hollis together and have pleasant associations or are they going to be dreadful? Will lunch and play dates be something to look forward to or cringe from? Will my friends and family find it more easy or difficult to stand behind me?

And, proudly, I can say that I have created a space within my loved ones that is supportive, applauding, and inspirational.

I'm actually somewhat shocked by it. I've never really been one to inspire anyone to do anything except maybe drink too much. But recently several important people in my life have gone out of their way to tell me what an inspiration I am to them when they see me traveling this Motherhood Trail with Hollis. Those words touch me deeply given my great conflicts about staying home and still growing as a woman.

They have told me that I am gentle and kind to Hollis, that I show them how different parenting can be from what they experienced as kids. They're surprised (and thrilled) at how friendly and happy Hollis is and that makes things that might startle them (like a pants-less Hollis running around) easier to digest.

I don't do Time Outs and I don't hit, yell, threaten, or deprive. How in the world do I get Hollis to "behave"? They wonder and watch. Basically, it's a symbiotic relationship of respect, honesty, and safety. I let Hollis be Hollis and he trusts me. That's pretty much it. I'm also consistent, firm, kind, respectful, and humble. Daily, I am challenged and daily Hollis and I have our run-ins, so I'm not trying to say he's a robot child, or even a dog, but we manage pretty damn well, I think. (Damn, this is weird to be tooting my own horn like this, but this is the assignment, so I'm going for it!)

I want everyone to look at me and my son and see that there really is an alternative to hitting, yelling, yanking, scaring, and bullying. There is! I also want to share with everyone my belief that Hollis is a person, but a small, developing one. His brain is growing and not remotely as sophisticated as my own and therefore I will use my superior intellect to form appropriate expectations. I will always talk about my parenting education, my philosophies, and my goals with anyone who'll listen because if I can affect just one person, even minutely, then I feel we're one step closer to returning to a gentle, natural focus of parenting versus the Puritan ideal of original sin, spoiling baby, and rigid, unfair expectations.

Two and half years into parenting I know I'm a rookie, but I'm also a veteran. It's a weird dynamic being so new, yet feeling seasoned. I really hope that I continue to be an inspiration, both to my friends and family and to myself.
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

5.07.2010

Cool prizes (but not from me)

My lovely friend Elisa at Globetrotting in Heels (you might remember her from my A Worthwhile Post series) is having a giveaway.

And let's be honest. I will never do something like this for my readers (I'm just not that organized to find stuff like this), so I thought I'd pass it on to you guys. Her gifts are amazing and her rules are pretty easy. And I like it that you have to put a little elbow grease into it. I mean, you're signing up to get something for free, after all.

So, pop on over to her blog. Follow her on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway, subscribe to her feed, and pick out your top 3 favs from the 5 artists who are participating in her giveaway. Then write a quick blurb about it on your blog and pop on her button. Bam! You're good to go!

Have fun!

5.05.2010

It's just a color. Or is it?

Today I had a battle at Nordstrom's.

Not with the very nice, timid, bespectacled sales woman. Not with my curious, friendly, excited 2 1/2 year old. Not with my wallet and self control. But with myself, my feminism, my fears, and my lifelong conditioning regarding gender appropriate things.

Last year I bought Hawk a pair of nice brown Crocs (and don't even get me started on how ugly I think they are, but as far as practical shoes go for 100+ degree weather and the ease with which they slip on they are simply magical). I deliberately chose brown because it's a neutral color as far as fashion goes, as well as gender.

I've always avoided traditional "boy clothing." I never buy things with footballs, baseballs, or fishing lines on them, or pithy little sayings on the front about his "manliness" or "masculinity." (Likewise, I will never dress my little girl in anything that says something about her "perfection" or "princess-like" qualities so long as I'm in charge of making the fashion decisions.) I buy pink shirts whenever available and I also buy him dolls and kitchen sets and we watch The Little Mermaid on demand (ad nauseum).

His room is yellow with a nature/kitschy look. I don't think anyone would necessarily walk into his room and think, "A little boy lives here." They would certainly know a child occupied it, but that's about it. There's a cheetah with an eye patch, an etched dove, artwork by my sister, and felt birds on the walls. A heart pillow on the wooden rocking chair and baskets full of stuffed animals, blocks, and books round out the look.

I also encourage him to be sensitive, thoughtful, careful, and loving. I applaud his efforts at making friends by being gentle, friendly, and curious. I let him explore our world by "applying" makeup with my big fluffy brushes and stomping around with my stilettos on his chubby toddler feet. I am patient with him when he balks at slides and high jumping points and I always listen to him and stop when he says, "No" to tickling, playing, kissing, whatever.

However, despite all my efforts, this time of omnipotent control over what goes on Hawk's body is coming to a close and I am being faced with my own misgivings. He is developing strong preferences for certain things. Like the shirt with the tractors all over it that his Granddad sent him. Or the shirt with the airplane on it that his Nana mailed for his birthday. He has little to no interest in things with animals on the front, it's all gears, vehicles, "robots" (whatever he thinks looks like a robot).

So while I'm not crazy about all these "typically" masculine things I feel pretty ok with it. I think to myself, "Well, he's coming by it honestly at least" and I go about my day. But today when given the choice of color of Crocs Hawk went straight for the hot pink ones.

Let me set the scene a little bit more. I gather up 7 pairs of Crocs (that's right, SEVEN) and lay them all out on the floor: two navy blue and one each of bright blue, kelly green, glowing orange, lavender, and hot, hawt pink. I'm thinking to myself that I'm really cool with whatever he picks. I mean, hey! I'm laying out pink ones, right? I'm an evolved mother!

So when he dives for those pink ones immediately I am suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of embarrassment. First at the idea of him running around for the next year in pink shoes, then at myself for being embarrassed in the first place. What difference does it make? Ever?? Not just now at 2, but even at 12 or 17? If the kid wants to wear pick effing shoes, then he should wear pink effing shoes.

But I know Hawk and he's only been able to pick colors lately (he usually has no preference). I ask him again if he really wants the pink ones. He tosses them aside and picks up the bright blue ones. I instantly feel relieved and then guilty. My guilt makes me ask him yet AGAIN if those are the shoes he really wants. He puts the blue ones down and oohs and ahhs over the ghastly orange ones. Now I'm screwed. I've completely confused him and I'm still unable to get him to pick the shoes that would make mommy most comfortable (that'd be the more fashion-neutral navy blue ones, by the way).

I've read about other parents struggling with this issue (like Dad Who Writes and Annie @ PhD in Parenting) and I have friends who talk about working on the balance between their children's desires and their own adult biases. The bottom line is that yes, we know the implied gender difference between a pair of pink shoes and blue, but children at this age do not. Yes, they might get harassed at the playground, but is it really our job to shelter them from the impact of their decisions? Good or bad?

And why am I feeling so strongly about pink shoes on my son? I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn't feel anything like this regarding a daughter wanting to wear camouflaged Crocs.

Did I mention that I'm evolved?? Hahaha!


There will come a time when fitting in is paramount and I'm sure I'll be cringing then, too, as Hawk acts rough and tough and says and does ridiculous things to "prove" his boyness to other boys (and girls). Then it will eventually level out in late adolescence as he becomes more comfortable with himself and he finds the right balance within who he is and wants to be (whatever that may be). At least this is what I hope happens.

But for now, I am going to go to great lengths to let him enjoy the full spectrum of his rainbow, no matter which color or object it might be made of. If it includes robots, trucks, tractors, and pink shoes, then so be it.

And so, in the end, Hawk got his pink shoes.







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