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A Quick Reminder

When our Bug was little, I wrote an article about not talking about your kids.

Not because it’s annoying to other people (alright, a little bit because of that). But mostly because our kids are people whose privacy should be respected.

Today, I was reminded why I wrote that article.

Old Habits

I still slip into the bad habit of talking about my kids. The other day, I even went so far as to talk about them in front of them.

It makes me cringe to think about it. Our oldest is smart and observant, and he listened as I compared and contrasted him with his brother.

How was he not going to notice? I’m ashamed of myself.

The Consequences

So today, I shouldn’t have been baffled when the Bug did his best to live up to the picture I had painted of him earlier in the week.

We were having a social-distanced get-together for ice cream with distant relatives, some of whom we’d never met.

Suddenly, our Bug was behaving totally uncharacteristically. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.

He Explains

When we got home, he was still behaving strangely. He looked up at me with his big beautiful eyes and said, “Mama, I’m shy.”

At first I was miffed. But then I remembered the conversation he had overheard earlier in the week.

That’s when I realized that his weird behavior was on me.

All he wanted to do was try and live up to the description he had overheard me give of him. He’s a sensitive and sweet boy; of course he wants to conform to what he thinks his mama wants from him.

So Zip Up, Mama.

It killed me to see my son try and fit himself into a mould I’d made for him. A mould that, though perhaps true in some ways and at some moments, was too simplistic to be accurate.

It’s the same lesson I keep thinking I’ve learned: Zip it, lady. Stop it. Just don’t talk about your kids.

But I can talk with my kids. And in the morning, I think the first thing I need to say to my son is, “I owe you an apology.”

Power Trippin’ No

50. Just Say No: Write about the power you felt when you told someone no.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“No.”

Such a tiny little word, and yet! And yet how powerful!

I’ve come up with lots of different ways to say “no” these days. As a mom, I think it’s important to have a variety of ways to destroy your child’s happiness.

“Now’s not the time, love.”
“Not likely.”
“Never in a million years.”
“Heck no!”
“What, do you think I’m stupid or something?”
“Ix-nay.”
“Let’s all have a big tall glass of nope.”

It feels like I have a whole arsenal of “no” weapons, ready at a moment’s notice!

A Bit Carried Away

At one point, though, I realized that perhaps it was getting a bit excessive.

This dawned on me when my three-year-old threw himself on the floor and screamed when I told him, “No, you can’t play the piano.”

That’s normal, you think. Any three-year-old would throw a fit about something like that.

True, but hear me out.

I have fairly high noise tolerance. This piano has survived lessons from four kids: it’s not like it’s delicate. My kids aren’t that rough. We had just finished one activity and hadn’t yet moved on to another. He had washed his hands and everything.

Could It Be That…

Perhaps I was saying “no” too much??

But how can that be?! I must be FIRM with my children! They can’t have everything they want!

This is true. They cannot have everything they want. But not everything has to be a battle. After all, we got the piano for the kids to enjoy!

So after watching him scream for a minute, I thought to myself, “Do I really care enough about this situation to worry about seeming inconsistent if I change my mind?”

The answer was (you guessed it!), NO. No, I didn’t care that much.

“You know what, love? Why not? Of course you can play the piano. Go ahead.”

Picking Your Battles

His face immediately cleared, and he clambered up onto the piano stool and started plonking away. He didn’t last long, and soon became interested in his trains.

Noise gone. Happy child. Happy mother.

That was a battle that didn’t need to happen. Others definitely need to happen (like reasonable bedtime, brushing your teeth and OMG STOP EATING TOOTHPASTE HOW DID YOU FIND IT GAAAAAAH).

But when we’re all cooped up at home together, and things are tough enough as it is, picking your battles is an important skill to learn.

It’s also good to realize that sometimes…

“Yes” Is Powerful, Too

(Or, if “yes” feels too permissive, try, “What the heck? Knock yourself out, kid.”)

Cake Exhaustion

I’m too tired to write.

Why? Because I decorated a cake today.

And then ate too much of it.

Our Bear turned three today, and BOY is he three. You know. A threenager. He’s adorable, hilarious, fun, funny and EXHAUSTING.

He requested a Thomas-themed birthday with a “Thomas cake.” Luckily, what a “Thomas cake” actually was was up to me.

Inspired

I wanted my cake to look like this beaut’ from Living Well Mom:

What I got was this:

Two things are evident here:

  1. My phone is old and the camera is crap;
  2. My cake decorating skills are not as good as Living Well Mom’s.

Here’s another view for good measure:

The Reception

“It’s Thomas!” he shouted as I approached with the cake. He was delighted.

But then he realized that the Thomas on the cake was actually his toy mini Thomas (thoroughly washed before being placed on the cake). And he was none too pleased about that.

Here he is, removing Thomas from the cake:

The cake was delicious. The buttercream frosting was particularly tasty.

(It helped that the cake was the devil’s food cake box from Betty Crocker. Hey, my time and effort went into the decorating, NOT the baking.)

Happy birthday to our little man. Here’s to another waltz around the sun with you.

What’s For Dinner?

This is Day 5 in a series of essays based on a writing prompt. I never thought I’d keep it up this long…

5. Food: What’s for breakfast? Dinner? Lunch? Or maybe you could write a poem about that time you met a friend at a cafe.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Mama! What’s for breakfast?”

“Mama, what are we having for lunch?”

“Mama, I don’t want that for dinner! I hate that!”

“Mama, we had this yesterday.”

“Mama this is yucky.”

“Mama, you KNOW I don’t like scrambled eggs!”

“Mama, why don’t you EVER make ANYTHING I like?!”

“Mama, but it’s green!”

“Mama, it’s gone mushy.”

“Mama! I dropped some!”

“Mama, it’s on the floor.”

“Mama, can I put ketchup on it?”

“Mama! Can I have bread? With butter on it?”

“MAMA! I WON’T EAT IT!”

*Gagging sounds*

“Mama… It came back up…”


Mi amor, it’s absolutely delicious. Gracias.

Sigh

Let’s be Honest: Parenting is Tedious

Yeah, I said it!

PARENTING IS TEDIOUS!

C’mon, you all know it’s true. Yes, we adore our children. Yes, we share precious, unforgettable moments with them.

But let’s be real: those precious moments are balanced by an equal number of mind-numbingly dull interactions.

Most of our time as parents is taken up with negotiating somewhat healthy food into our children’s mouths, cleaning up after them and listening to them tell long, rambling stories that MAKE NO SENSE and HAVE NO POINT.

*Sigh*

Endless Needs

As a very wise (and honest) friend once said to me, the tedium of parenting comes from endless kids’ needs coming before our own.

As parents, we have to prioritize the survival of our children: clothing, feeding and getting them to school/daycare. Or just getting them through the day.

As a result, our needs come second (if at all).

I really admire those parents who can continue with their pre-kids activities with apparently as much dedication as ever. In my experience, while some things must continue (work, for instance), something always must give way in the face of our children’s needs.

I guess that is the sacrifice of parenthood.

Guilt Again…

In our family, we have each given up something in the face of parenthood. In my Chico’s case, it’s doing the sports he loves. For me, it’s been a career.

This is where the Mom-Guilt-Monster raises its ugly head.

I think: but if we don’t model self care and prioritizing of our interests to our children, how will they learn to take proper care of themselves?

I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m hoping we’ll all learn to strike a balance.

And in any case, even if we think we have everything right and we’re doing everything perfectly, I bet you our kids will grow up to complain to their therapists about us, anyway. Ha!

Picture Day Pitfalls

Last week we saw the poster up on the front door at school and got the flyers in our cubbies:

Picture day! Hooray!

The Bug and the Bear were pretty excited, and we went clothes shopping on Friday afternoon.

We picked some cute plaid shirts, some nice trousers, and the boys got to choose some fun items, too.

We have a rule in our house. The boys choose their clothes on a daily basis. I only require that they dress appropriately for the weather, but then they have full autonomy.

However, on special occasions, Mama gets to choose.

Since they usually get to pick, I rarely run into problems when it comes to special occasion dressing.

Normally, I give them a choice on those occasions. We’ll lay out some nice shirts and trousers for them to pick from.

For Picture Day, however, I was adamant. Bug was to wear his lederhosen.

Yes, lederhosen!

They’re beautiful, green leather, Bavarian lederhosen. They fit him perfectly, and come with a sweet coordinated plaid shirt embroidered with edelweiss.

For the Bear, we put him in a little Bavarian checked button-down shirt with a jaunty boiled-wool hat given to him by his aunt and uncle.

They look so handsome. Their shirts are pressed, their hair is combed… But then…

Remember, everyone:

NEVER EVER LET YOUR CHILDREN EAT THEIR BREAKFAST IN THEIR PICTURE DAY CLOTHES.

Or, if you do, don’t serve scones with strawberry jam.

lonely-in-the-playground

Lonely at the Playground

How often do you see parents reading at the playground anymore? Or chatting amongst themselves? Or even looking at their phones?

Not much, I’d guess.

I’ve spent a few months in the US, and the experience of going to the playground is entirely different here.

In Germany, parents would congregate in one area of the playground. Grownups would stand around chatting with each other, occasionally helping a child out, kissing a booboo or intervening when children’s interactions came to tears.

Otherwise, though, parents mainly talked amongst themselves, leaving the kids to do their thing.

Here, it’s completely different.

In the last few months of visiting various playgrounds in our new town, the only parents I have chatted with have been almost exclusively Germans. I’ve only had a nice conversation with one American Mom.

Most of the time I find myself sitting on a bench by myself, watching my kids play.

The other day, I realized what’s happening.

Parents aren’t interacting with each other because they’re too busy entertaining their kids.

Longing for playground socializing

As a newcomer to the area, I thought taking my kids to the playground would be a great way to meet other parents. Not so.

Small chats do happen, and people aren’t unfriendly. But most folks are so busy with their kids that they won’t stop long to talk.

At first it made me wonder if I was doing something wrong or somehow neglecting my children. Then I looked around and spotted my boys, one happily playing on the slides, another dangling upside-down from the monkey bars. They were fine.

They didn’t want or need me to entertain them. And frankly, I wasn’t much interested in the monkey bars.

So now I bring my book

Perhaps it makes me look antisocial, sitting there reading. I try to glance up regularly to look around and see if there are any other parents hankering for a good old-fashioned playground chat.

If you see me reading at the playground, don’t worry about interrupting. Chances are, I’d welcome the opportunity to meet someone new.

Lessons My Kids Teach Me

Three times in the last month, my Bug has had a major freak out over a minor boo-boo.

The first time, he completely lost it and went into full-on meltdown mode when I tried to clip his toenails. Normally, this is a non-issue. He’s fine with it. But this time he freaked out, started screaming, crying, howling and kicking his legs around.

The second time, a large scab on his knee came part-way off and was tugging and pulling uncomfortably. We sat down for me to look at it. When I told him I needed to cut it off so that it wouldn’t hurt him, he completely lost it.

Today was the latest episode. He got a splinter in his hand. He trustingly gave me his hand to look at. When I told him that I would have to take it out, he balled his hand into a fist, snatched it towards his chest, burst into tears and wouldn’t let me near it.

He was paralyzed by the idea of being hurt.

Of course, there’s not much I can do in these situations. Either I wait for him to calm down (which takes forever, if he does at all), or I would have to hog-tie him and pin him down in order to do what needs to be done. Not an option, as it’s probably illegal.

As you can imagine, these incidents are intense, frustrating, and pretty traumatizing for both of us. And even though I try to stay calm myself, I feel rage building inside me the longer his freakout lasts.

And then, just like that, it’s over! The splinter is out, the scab is removed, the toenails are cut–all painlessly.

Someone throws a switch in his brain and he’s suddenly back to being 100% fine. Yes, there are tear tracks down his face, but he’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The child that moments ago was shrieking bloody murder is now gazing at me peacefully, a big relieved grin on his face.

But I’m still mad.

I cannot throw that switch and suddenly go back to all-fine-mode. I’m angry that he nearly burst my eardrum with his shrieking. I’m mad that he didn’t trust me not to hurt him. I’m ticked off that something so simple has become such a drama.

But he remembers none of that. He has moved on to his next moment. Probably a cool leaf, a comic book, or a funny fart noise.

Do all children live so totally in the moment? Or is it just mine? And how can I learn to do that?

How can I learn to let the frustration, the anger and the stress melt away to nothing? To move on so quickly to happier thoughts?

Is my inability to do this part and parcel of being a grownup? Is it some of the magic of childhood that we adults lose?

Or maybe, just maybe, I can learn to do as he does with practice. Maybe I can learn to take a deep breath, look back into his enormous, teal-green eyes and see that the bad moment has passed.

A good one has begun.

Favorite Parenting Books

Oh, what the heck. I do not like to be called a “Mommy blogger,” but I’m going to go ahead and give some recommendations for our favorite parenting books.

When our first son was born, I often turned to forums like babycenter.com for advice. I read online articles and discussion boards. None of them helped assuage my anxiety.

Finally, as I wrote in an earlier blog article, I decided to quit the internet, and to use just a few trusted resources. Here are some of them.

Favorite Parenting Books for Pregnancy

Getting email updates is fine (especially if they’re funny), but nothing beats a well-researched book.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

  • What we liked: It’s packed full of research-based information, well-organized and easy to refer back to.
  • Not so hot: It’s pretty dry reading, but that’s about the only negative.

From Tiny Tot to Toddler: This is a free guide provided by the Quebec government to expecting parents, and is therefore not available outside of Quebec. The link might help you find out how to get a copy. It is FANTASTIC.

This is often referred to as “the bible” by healthcare providers in Quebec. If you have any questions about your pregnancy, or your baby, they often ask, “Have you checked in the bible?” It is CHOCK full of really useful information.

  • What we liked: EVERYTHING IS IN HERE. You can look things up by symptom, name, stage, etc.
  • Not so hot: Because it’s government materials, they provide ONLY official recommendations, and might frown on practices like co-sleeping, or other more “folksy” remedies or recommendations.

The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin

Penny Simkin is a well-known US-based doula, and her book is for those accompanying pregnant moms. My brother gave this book to Chico to read while I was pregnant, and he found it extremely informative (especially the part about “very rapid labor”…).

Favorite Parenting Books for Newborns

Once the little one comes along, you’ve got a whole new set of questions. We continued to refer regularly to Tiny Tot. We also found What to Expect the First Year very useful.

  • What we liked: Well organized, easy to refer to, and often addressed the concerns we were facing in the right time frame (it’s organized by month).
  • Not so hot: It’s quite categorical, and can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not doing what they say. It’s also got a LOT of information, which can be overwhelming, but I think that’s a common pitfall with these kinds of books.

With our Bug, we didn’t need to worry much about sleeping issues. He was born an olympic champion of a sleeper. Our Bear, however, gave us a bit more trouble on the sleeping front, and so we consulted:

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth

  • What we liked: It gives pointers that you can put into practice right away, and offers a variety of ideas and potential plans for getting your kid either into a good sleep pattern or back into one when they’ve gone through a transition.
  • Not so hot: It’s heavy on data and statistics, which is reassuring but also dry. That’s why there’s a handy “how to use this book” section at the beginning.

Favorite Parenting Books for Food and Feeding

BLW (or baby-led weaning) is all the rage right now, and we did refer to the book for some information. It’s Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. We did not end up going whole-hog, but did a combination of BLW and old-fashioned spoon feeding.

Again, Tiny Tot was an amazing resource for beginning solids. It has a whole guide for what kinds of foods to give, including portion size recommendations, etc. It’s got a chart that you can use to tick things off as you keep adding foods, and great suggestions for what to try, and how to prepare it.

Favorite Parenting Books for Behavior

As our Bug got older and we started facing the famous “terrible twos” and “threenager” phases, we looked to some books for advice on behavior management.

Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp

  • What we liked: It provides actionable things that you can put to use IMMEDIATELY, and you will see immediate positive results, if you’re willing adjust your behavior and try something new.
  • Not so hot: It’s SO AMERICAN, and kind of makes you feel like an idiot. But whatever, it works.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

  • What we liked: It challenged us to think differently about how we approach situations, and was also immediately effective.
  • Not so hot: It’s coming from a very Christian background (assuming churchgoing, etc.), which is fine with us as we are Christian, but might not appeal to others. It also assumes that Mom is staying at home full-time with the kids, which is a bit frustrating, but again, does not invalidate the precepts of the book.

Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki

I’ve learned that potty training is a polarizing topic among parents these days. We had the attitude that potty training is taught, and that our son was ready to be taught when he was a little over two years old. We did not subscribe to the wait-until-they’re-ready theory, and wanted to help our son out of diapers as soon as possible, for our sanity and for the environment.

  • What we liked: This is a no-nonsense guide, with a healthy dose of reality and a great sense of humor. Her style really fit our parenting style, and when we approached potty training as a fun, teaching-learning activity, it made it relatively smooth.
  • Not so hot: I have trouble thinking about what is not so hot in this book. Other people I have spoken with don’t like the pressure they feel to get their kid out of diapers, or worry that the pressure of potty training will have an adverse effect on their children. In my mind, if you’re pressuring your kid to potty train, you’re not really following this book, and you’ll have an uphill battle to face.

The Best Parenting Advice Ever…

Usually comes from your doctor, close friends and/or family, and your own instincts. These books might give you information and tools, but you’re the one who decides what to do with them.

stop_talking_about_your_kids

Mamas: Stop Talking About Your Babies

It’s only natural; you’ve just had a baby. What else is there to talk about? Poopy diapers, how he sleeps, nursing, and just how ADORABLE he is when he smiles!

But mamas, you really need to stop talking about your babies. Here’s why:

Your babies are people whose privacy should be respected.

What? Not what you were expecting, right?? You thought I was going to tell you that you’re boring everyone, and no one wants to hear you talk about your baby, right? Well, perhaps. But there’s more to it.

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about my baby. I will talk about my baby with anyone who shows even a remote interest. My Bug (who really is no longer much of a bug) is, to me, the most amazing little person in the world, and given half the chance, I will talk your ear off about how awesome he is.

But the thing is, aside from that being kind of obnoxious for my listeners, it’s also kind of obnoxious for my child.

Here’s an example. A few months back, I kept commenting to acquaintances that my little guy wouldn’t nap during the day. It became my main kvetch: I couldn’t get anything done because he wouldn’t nap.

A few weeks later, when all that had changed completely (because, let’s face it, everything in babyland is a phase and is over quickly), I was out with a group of ladies (sans babies) and someone made a comment that struck me.

She said, following on a conversation about someone else’s baby, “Well, at least your kid sleeps during the day, unlike Jane’s baby, who is always awake and crying.”

My first instinct was to protest the falsehood of this statement, and defend my child. But then I realized that the only person who had given this woman that impression of my child, was me.

It was an unfair representation of my Bug (who is perfect in every way, obviously), and I had no one but myself to blame.

A Reformed Big Mouth

So what is the point? The point is that our babies are our family, and our family deserve our complete loyalty. And I would argue that loyalty includes discretion; not talking about our family members willy-nilly, or spilling all their secrets.

Remember, that even though your baby is currently a little blob of a person, unable to express him or herself articulately, he or she is still a person. Just like we know we shouldn’t bad-mouth our spouses to others, we shouldn’t discuss our babies’ every concern with all and sundry.

Your Discretion Will Earn Their Trust

Now I’m not saying you can’t share anecdotes or concerns, or perhaps swap advice or strategies with other parents. I’m just saying that after that experience, and a couple others like it, I’m going to try to be more discrete about what I say about my kiddo. I now ask myself, “Would I want someone sharing this information about me?” If the answer is no, then I zip up.

So mamas, remember: there is such a thing as over-sharing, but the concern isn’t so much boring your audience, but mortifying the person you’re sharing about. Some things should be kept private, and if we get into the habit now of guarding our family’s secrets and being discrete, our kids will grow up knowing that they can trust us to listen and not spill our beans to everyone.

And isn’t our kids’ trust worth everything?