Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toddlerhood

As I was planting my pansies today, it occurred to me that I have a lot to learn about being a mom. Fortunately, my son has a knack for teaching me.

Take planting pansies, for example. I did this covertly, under cover of naptime, when he couldn't witness this putting of plants into the soil. About a month or so, I'd planted a carnation while he was outside playing and watching. I can't count how many times that carnation has since been pulled out, even after having transplanted to another part of the yard. Learning how he learns-- "I watched it go in, so I know it's capable of being pulled out"-- teaches me to take care for next time, and assures a better result than a thousand no's.

When he woke from his nap, I decided to help him foster a caring attitude toward these pansies. We got his shoes on and took a water bottle outside. I showed him where the "new flowers (were) growing" and let him "spill water" on the new plants. He loved it. I explained how we were going to be careful for the growing plants. "Is growing" is a favorite phrase of his when we notice plants, and I knew those words would mean something to him that my adult explanation couldn't.

Speaking of learning from toddlers, I'd like to share an idea that's worked pretty well for me. When I discover that the kids are starting to want to negotiate about snacks and food, a snack box really helps. Using a sandwich-sized box, I put in food as I see fit at the beginning of the day. Some cheese, nuts, fruit or veggies (peeled, ready to eat), crackers...enough for a few nibbles. Throughout the day, when the kids are hungry for a snack, I just tell them to go get their box. When the "more such-and-such" requests start, you can simply redirect them to the box. "Oh, I don't have that for you right now. Go check in your box." Being consistent really helps, as does keeping their requests in mind; we can fulfill those at mealtime, and use the advantage of knowing what they want. I do think that we can use our children's interest in food to help us plan meals they'd like to eat, but at this age, it seems there's always something that our children are busily telling us they want.

My kid gets directive about the stereo. All day long, "Music on!" or "Music off!" is heard throughout our house. I've had to decide when I want to honor his requests and when my own desires require him to wait to get what he wants. Speaking respectfully to him has helped a lot. At that point, I tell him when he can have what he wants. Whether it's music or food, being clear in my head before speaking to him and putting my decision out there really helps him know that I mean what I say and that I'll keep my word. The following-through is essential to helping him relax when he doesn't immediately get his way.

So, I'm hoping the pansies stay firmly in the ground. And I hope someone can use the snackbox idea. It's helped me a lot. Toddlers are a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a whole lot of Little Person Flexing Their Personality. We ask them to do a lot of stuff, so I'm not surprised at what's being asked back. It reminds me to mind my own tone of voice, to say please, and to try being pleasant even when I feel grumpy. Because I don't want a little bossy boy imitating my PMS voice, really.

We are growing up as people, no matter how old we are. I'm a little achy with the growing pains, but if my son can take it, so can I.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Story and Name that Book

Sometimes, the best free stuff you can find on Craig's List is the story about the item. Check this one out before it goes away...hilarious.

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/zip/1076522022.html

We have a new game around the house. It's called "Name That Book"...kind of like Name That Tune, but harder to decipher. Joaquin has a knack for randomly quoting a series of words or phrases...often onomonopeac (I'm hoping that's word...you know, words that evoke the sound they are representing!) words like "rattle rattle" and "hiss hiss"... The Frog and Toad books seem to be the greatest contributor of source material. For a few days, he walked around repeating "big and brown", leaving me scratching my head until I read the book.

Now it's become a game. "Robins laughing", "still there" or "around the corner" pop up frequently. Typical to toddlerhood, we are guessing at his words in some way or another. I finally figured out that "sing Cat Song" meant The Owl and the Pussycat.

He's a smart kid. I've got a lot of cat-ching up to do!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Not Perfect Mama

I could hear him singing. Joe, singing "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear. Years ago I used to read this poem out loud at street readings when out with our poetry group, The Irradiated Poets. We used to read on street corners during First and Last Thursdays, and compared to much of the stuff I wrote and read, Lear's poem was something I always felt comfortable reading in front of the "not having sex yet" set.

Big laugh there, hopefully.

Mamas aren't perfect. I know I'm not.

While reading a book last night, one on child rearing (I won't say which one, because some of it's worth reading), I was taken aback by the regal tone of the author. The subject was colicky babies, and the author asserted that the parental caregiver--usually the mom, right?-- should stay calm and nurturing while their child screamed and screamed and screamed.

Oh, goodness gracious.

Some people know that I'm currently working on a book on parenting. So let me explain---this whole "parents should have superhuman responses to dire situations" thing is exactly the opposite message of what parents need. I've worked with colicky babies. Being told to hold and nurture them constantly to counsel the child through their trauma does not help parents.

I wanted to write the author and ask if any of her kids had colic.

Really. Although I believe that a lot of cases of colic can be treated through chiropractic work, many parents don't have this information available to them. For many parents, colicky babies are the curve ball life threw at their face. Babies who cry for hours, then finally nod off to sleep, to wake up two hours later and begin crying again. It's exhausting. My son wasn't colicky, and I was constantly tired. I can't imaging being the 24/7 parent of a colicky baby and having to be present and supportive.

It's when I read things like this that I think parents, especially mothers, need a good long break. We don't wear capes and have names like "Mighty Mama" or "Warm Womb Woman". We are incredibly human. My advice to parents with colicky babies would be to put them down when necessary and go into another room to catch your breath and count to a hundred. They will not be damaged by this. And then come back and hold them again.

It seems that there's an incredible amount of pressure on women to be every little thing to their children. We must provide intellectual and emotional support, notice and identify all of our children's interests and be unconditionally nurturing. Unlike Atlas, we aren't depicted as carrying the world--instead, we are 'just' caring for our kids. But we aren't allowed to screw it up, either.

Mothers are carrying a burden that we should seriously question. Whether we home school or send our kids to public school, guess what? There will always be someone out there to criticize our decisions. If we do or don't breastfeed, if we chose to cosleep or not, there will always be people on both sides of the fence, either congratulating us on "doing the right thing" or telling us how we've made our lives harder than they needed to be.

Isn't it crazymaking?

So, here and now, I'd like to stand up at the meeting of IMA--Imperfect Mom's Anonymous. "Hi, I'm Hazel and I'm an imperfect mom. I lose my temper occasionally, causing me to swear under my breath when my son pulls new plants out of the soil. I sometimes make him ride in the stroller, because it will take forever when he walks and I really want to get to the coffee shop so he will play with the toys there and leave me alone for five minutes. Motherhood doesn't make always me glow; it makes me glower at times and wonder if I've turned into Mr. Burns from the Simpson's, because I feel so damn cranky and set in my ways. I can go into a coma of boredom while playing with him. And he's my kid and I love him to pieces and wouldn't trade him for all the warm summer afternoons of trashy magazines and beer on the chaise like I used to have before I got knocked up."

It's not that I'm not polishing the halo, or playing horseshoes with it-- I just never got one. And that's the crux of this rant, I suppose. I think we should do our best, whenever possible, and also be allowed to be mediocre sometimes without sweating it or thinking that our kiddos are missing out on something major. Frontier women didn't get this much leisure time to worry about every little thing their child was feeling. Perhaps, with all their hand-washing the clothes and making the cheese and butter, this distraction was a good thing. I can't say for sure. But we've got to be nicer to each other as parents and accept that no one is going to do it perfectly. No one has all the answers. And if you have to go into another room for a minute of peace, you shouldn't feel bad about it.

So, here's to the Imperfect Mamas. Playdate at my house--see you there.