Motherhood Defined

June 5, 2014

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I have an inquisitive four-year-old. He wants to learn about everything. I mean everything. In full detail. Then, he wants to pretend to be whatever it is that he learned about.

Last week it was chimpanzees. For a week he was outside cracking nuts with rocks on a log.

One day, he even refused to eat anything a chimpanzee wouldn’t eat. Because he would “only pretend” to eat the bugs, by dinner time he was so famished he ate an entire steak. I guess nuts and berries weren’t quite enough for this growing boy.

Today, I was outside trimming trees and cutting back our overgrown bushes. As I stood inside our small dogwood tree, I told him I felt like a bird.

“That’s because we are birds” he said.

“We are?” I asked, “I thought we were chimpanzees.”

“Today we are birds and we have to build a nest up really high to protect us from predators” he explained.

For the next half hour he ran around cawing like a crow, yelling “Predator! Predator!”

I didn’t think much about it until he pointed to a van driving around our cul-de-sac with their window down. “Predator!” he screamed, pointing at them. I went with it. I didn’t know who they were. Nothing wrong with a little stranger danger.

After he tired of running around, he really wanted to make a nest. I told him that birds fly around and collect things like twigs, grass, and dirt to make their nests. He looked at all the trimmings on the ground from the trees I’d been cutting and asked him he could use them. Of course I told him he could.

“We are a whole family of birds.” he told me as he began to build his nest on the ground next to me. “You can be the Mama bird.”

“I like being the Mama. That’s a good idea.” I replied.

“And then you can lay the eggs and sit on them.” he continued.

“Well, what if I don’t want to sit on them?” I asked.

“You have to. Daddy doesn’t want to do it. And I don’t want to do it.” he explained. I felt like this was all the sudden becoming a gender stereotype and I didn’t like where it was heading. I wanted him to think of mothers within many roles.

“That’s not fair. I have to sit on eggs all day while you and Daddy get to go out and do fun things?” I got a little defensive.

“It is fair.” he said, matter-of-factly.

“How do you suppose?” I asked for clarification.

He looked at me, as if I were crazy and said, “Because it’s the most important job. You have to make sure the baby is safe if a predator comes.”

And with that, he defined “motherhood” in it’s purest form. My son either has a future in politics (because he knows what people want to hear) or he has a greater understanding of the world than most adults. This kid amazes me.

 

The Child Philosopher

May 14, 2014

IMG_1529When I was pregnant with my oldest and found out I was having a boy, I was terrified. I was just about as girly as you could get. I had no idea what to do with a boy. That was four-and-a-half years ago.

As I was outside with my both of my boys this morning, working in the garden, I had to wonder if I would even have a garden had I had a girl first. As sexist as it is, the only reason I started gardening was to make sure I didn’t pass my “girly” behaviors of running away from bugs onto my son. Had he been a girl, I wouldn’t have even thought about making her comfortable with bugs.

When I started my garden three years ago, I had to fight my inner demons to be out there, covered in dirt. Today, it energizes me to get my hands dirty, make the yard beautiful, and provide food for my family. It amazes me how much I have changed over the past few years all because I was given a boy and the opportunity to grow.

Maybe every parent grows exponentially with each and every child. I don’t know. I only know my own experiences. This boy opens my eyes to so much in life and makes me a better person every day. Today, as I pulled weeds and daydreamed about how great it would be to have software that could record our thoughts so the good ideas could always be recollected, he found a small hole in our fence, which backs up to a greenbelt. He decided it would be the perfect way to feed all the animals in the forest. He sat there for hours putting scraps of weeds and grass through that little hole.

He eventually tired of it and came to me and told me about his animals in his zoo. I asked where their cages were. With eyes full of wisdom, he looked at me and said, “Look around, Mommy. We are the only ones in the cage.”

And with that, I grew a little bit more.

Just to be clear, my younger son makes me grow too. With him, I grow more aware of cleaning up after myself and locking everything behind me, lest he ingest it and have to be rushed to the hospital.

Knee-High Naturalists

June 13, 2012

Exploring Nature with ToddlersI try to expose my son to a variety of interests, even if I don’t particularily like it. Like bugs. You see, it is my belief (as sexist as it may be) that all men should protect the women in their lives from bugs and rodents. It is their duty. So, in raising a little man, I think it is important to expose him to those things so there will be no fear. As long as I am raising a boy, chivilery will not die!

When I saw the opportunity to sign up for a toddler workshop called “Knee-High Naturalists” I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to expose my son to something I naturally wouldn’t want to do myself. The program advertised walking along the water and discovering all sorts of nature; birds, rocks, plants, and yes, bugs.

The morning of our adventure, as I was getting ready, I attempted to create excitement. In my peppiest voice (which, I must admit isn’t all that peppy and sounds rather unnatural on me) I said, “We’re going to do something really fun today! We are going to go walk along the water and find birds and plants and bugs!”

Then I remembered that my son doesn’t like bugs the way most boys do (surprise, surprise). When he sees them outside he normally says “Go home bug!” and proceeds to tell me he doesn’t “really like that bug.” So, I quickly tried rewording our morning outing and said, “Doesn’t that sound fun?! Do you want to see some birds!?”

To my surprise he responded, “And bugs!” with excitement.

“Yeah! And bugs! How fun!” I said, trying to keep the excitement going. He reached his hand out toward me and said, “I’m going to touch them!”

That surprised me. “You are?” I asked.

Then he took his hands and pretended to hold a baseball bat. He started to swing it. “And hit them with my bat!” he proudly exclaimed.

And there we have it. He wants to torture the bugs, not explore them. I think it’s a step in the right direction. At least he’s not running away from them.

Cedar River Education Center- North Bend, WA

If you live in the Seattle area, the Cedar River Education Center at Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend offers the Knee-High Naturalists program once a month, throughout the summer. We ended up having a blast. We learned about weather as our guide helped point out different aspects of it on our nature walk. The program is designed for children three and under and is only $5 per adult. The Education Center has a whole slew of things to explore. It is a mini, hands-on science center. That, by itself, is worth the trip.

I’m so glad I found this, because we will be returning. Next month’s topic? Bugs. Time to put my big-girl pants on.

 
 
To register for the program you may email CRWProgram@seattle.gov or call 206-733-9421.  Rattlesnakek Lake is located off of I90, exit 32. 
 
 

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Hello Pot, Meet Kettle

November 2, 2011

I recently read a blogpost about the top 10 moms to avoid/ignore. The problem is, we can’t avoid these moms because they are us. We are all guilty of being at least one, if not all, of these types of moms at some point toward others.

The author’s list (paraphrased below) includes the following types of moms. As you read through, think about how you could fit into each category. (If you can’t see yourself, please read #5 again.)

1. The critical mom. A new mom admits to pumping her breast milk instead of nursing so she could tell how much her son was eating. The critical mom spends the next 10 minutes lecturing her  for  “depriving her son of the nutritious fats that baby only gets from nursing.”

2. The smug mom. This mom, whose 11-month-old daughter walks, is shocked to discover your 14-month-old does not. Her immediate reaction is to ask if you are worried your child is behind, then she condescendingly assures you he is “probably” fine. 

3. The antisocial mom.  This is the mom who reacts as if you had just asked her for her bank account information when you try to start a conversation.

4. The buzz-kill mom. This mom is Debby Downer. She can quote Web-MD and knows the statistics for statewide kidnapping.

5. The perfect mom. Her kid is a better walker, talker, and eater than yours and she’s more than happy to share how your kid can be just as perfect — if you give her the chance.

6. The backstabbing mom. She’s your best friend/biggest supporter when you’re around but as soon as you’re out of sight (or earshot) she’s picking your parenting prowess apart.

7. The insensitive mom. A new mom with a chronic illness confides in another mom that she feels guilty for taking medication during her pregnancy. The insensitive mom replies, “Oh I never could have done that. I couldn’t have lived with myself if something had been wrong with my baby.”

8. The negative mom. This mom is always complaining about her kid, her marriage, her job… 

9. The judgmental mom. Her way is the only way. Period. 

10. The worst-case-scenario mom. This mom is always thinking about what could go wrong. What if her three-month-old doesn’t get into the right kindergarten? What if her kid tries finger foods and chokes? What if the stranger in the park is actually a kidnapper? 

Everyone chooses to raise their children in the way they think is best. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. It is hard not to be judgmental toward parenting styles which differ from yours. So, we smile and nod, and tend to ignore unwanted advice. By doing so we become the “backstabbing mom.”  If we offer advice to try and “help” we become the “perfect mom” or the “critical mom.” These stereotypes are impossible to avoid, because we only need to look in a mirror to find them.

What works for some will not work for others. If someone does it differently than you, does that mean their choice is wrong? Yes. Wrong for you. Maybe not wrong for them. The best part about life is that we are all given the opportunity to screw up our offspring, in whatever way we choose. Next time you are out and about and find yourself annoyed with the “perfect mom” who is telling you about her perfect child, take a moment to reflect on what you are doing/saying at the moment. Perhaps you are being the “antisocial” or “buzz-kill” mom.

We can’t be all be perfect moms who always say or do the right thing around other moms. We would be living in a creepy Stepfordian world. Be yourself. If others don’t like it, talk to someone else.

End note to the author of the orignal post: I liked your piece. This is not an attack, just an observation. Your examples were great and I could relate to each and every one of them.

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For the Love of Boob

September 27, 2011

Consider this my coming out of the closet post. No need to jump to any conclusions here, people… I’m not a lesbian. I’m coming out of the closet that I know so many women hide in. The extended nursing closet.

You see, breastfeeding a newborn is a beautiful, natural experience which is highly recommended to all new mothers. We are repeatedly told “breast is best” and the attachment formed between mother and her breastfed baby are stronger than you can ever imagine. So much so, in fact, that those who choose to (or must resort to) formula feed a newborn can feel ostracized in our society. But something happens along the way where it all the sudden becomes taboo to breastfeed. When in the nursing relationship does this occur?

When my son was born, my goal was to breastfeed for 3 months. I was told by several people that I would never make it that long, and I believed them. The first 3 months are by far the hardest. It is time consuming, demanding, uncomfortable, and emotionally draining at first. I began to doubt any special attachment was forming. I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby any more so than when I would feed him a bottle of pumped milk. I had doubts we would ever make it. As my deadline approached, I noticed that I was getting the hang of it, and so was my baby. My milk supply started to even out and I wasn’t having nearly as much difficulty.

I figured since it was getting easier, I would extend my goal to be 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. The next three months made a world of difference in our nursing relationship. I was pumping less frequently and feeding on demand. This helped my milk supply stabilize so I wasn’t becoming uncomfortably engorged anymore. I stopped obsessively watching the clock to make sure the baby was being fed every 2-3 hours and started listening to my baby’s cues on when to feed. My son was becoming stronger and was able to support his own weight better, so my arms weren’t becoming so tired from holding him up all the time. Overall, it was becoming a much more delightful experience. I only ever received positive feedback from bystanders about breastfeeding.

Then, the 6-month mark hit. People started asking me when I would start weaning. I was constantly given suggestions on how to introduce formula into his diet. If I would just give him some cereal before bed, he wouldn’t wake up so often… It didn’t feel right to me. Our nursing relationship had improved so much, that I felt there was no reason to stop it now. I moved my deadline to breastfeed until at least 12-months-old.

Those 6 months were great. I was starting to feel that special bonding I thought I was missing in the beginning. There is something special about a nursing baby looking into your eyes and seeing the gratitude and appreciation beaming from their tiny little face. If you stop nursing before a baby really develops controlled facial expressions, you never experience that.

As the 12-month mark approached, the weaning “suggestions” became stronger and stronger. Maybe it’s because I know what I used to think before I had my son, that I “heard” these suggestions so strongly. If a child is old enough to drink cow’s milk, he doesn’t need mama’s milk… If a child is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old for it… Your baby will sleep through the night if you stop nursing… Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… 

None of that is true, by the way, but it is the way our society thinks. My son was not sleeping through the night at 12-months-old, so it was tempting to try weaning just to get him to sleep. Again, I listened to my intuition and kept nursing him when he needed it. (He did start sleeping through the night, all on his own, around 15-months, by the way). He is now 19.5-months-old and still nursing when he needs to. Most of the time it is only before he sleeps (naps and night time) and in the morning. But, from time to time he asks to nurse during the day too. When he does, it is only for a few seconds, but I figure there is something causing him to feel uneasy and nursing just reassures him his mommy is there for him.

I still get comments from time to time about weaning him. But, as my dad said to me the other day, “I’d tell you that it may be time to cut him off from [breast milk], but I know you well enough to know that you are going to do as you damn well please.” Well said, Dad, well said.

I never, in a million years, would have thought that I would be nursing a toddler. In fact, I am pretty sure I would have thought it was gross or sick before. But, as with many things in life, we often shut out the ideas which we do not understand. And extended nursing, my friends, is something you will never be able to understand unless you have made it to that point.

So there I am… out of the closet. Don’t ask me when I am going to wean, because I don’t know. I suppose I will keep nursing him as long as he needs it, or until it becomes uncomfortable for me to continue.

As an ending note: My examples given as to the negative feedback I have heard about extended nursing (as seen above) are simply not true. If a child is old enough to ask for it, he is too old for it… Babies, from day one “ask” to be fed. Just because they become more proficient in communicating their needs does not mean those needs disappear. A child will sleep through the night if you stop breast feeding…  I can’t say for certain, because I didn’t try it, but I have heard from others who did, that weaning their child did not make them sleep through the night, it just eliminated an easy way to get them back to sleep. Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… not true… Cow’s milk is formulated for baby cows. Breast milk is formulated for baby humans. I trust God knows what he’s doing.

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Being a MomSomewhere along the path of life, my style preference has changed from Banana Republic to Eddie Bauer. How did this happen? It really should not have come as a surprise to me. When I was a little girl I used to go through magazines and catalogues and pick out my future family. I always seemed to find “my family” in the Lands End catalogue. Perhaps I was always partial to the rugged outdoorsy look and have been living a lie all these years in cashmere tops and heels.

Everyone says that becoming a parent changes everything. Before I was a parent, I didn’t understand what they meant. I don’t think you can understand it until you experience it. Yes, you expect the sleepless nights and the poopy diapers, but there are so many more personal transformations that take place.

Here are 10 examples (in no special order) of how motherhood has changed me:

1. Going to bed at 10:00 (or before) no longer seems lame. (Okay, who am I kidding… now I just have an excuse to do it, I never thought it was lame.)
2. I think my body went through a permanent transformation during pregnancy. None of my clothes seem to fit anymore. Sure, I have yet to lose that extra 5 pounds of baby weight (yeah, it’s defiantly from being pregnant a year and a half ago and NOT from eating all those baked goods and lack of exercise), but does 5 pounds really make that much of a difference?  It has created a sort of identity crisis for me. I walk into a store and I don’t even know what size I wear anymore.
3. I feel extraordinarily sad for people who can’t have children and even for those who think they don’t want them. I know, it’s a personal choice and parenthood isn’t for everyone, but I still wish everyone the kind of happiness it has brought to me. And, if there was a small piece of me who was pro-choice before (and there was), it is gone.
4. I see no point in spending a lot of money on clothes during my childbearing years when my body is just going to keep changing. If I do go shopping I only buy the staples of any wardrobe, like jeans and cotton t’s with an occasional sweater here and there. And I now have the annoying habit of looking at a shirt and thinking, “Oh, that’s cute, and it would still fit for a while if I happen to become pregnant again.”
5. My feet are a half size larger than they used to be. That better not happen with every pregnancy. They are already big enough.
6. Since I never really had a chest, I wanted one. Now that I have one, I want it to go away. Give me back my B’s.
7. When I was little I always wanted a boy and twin girls (That was the “family” I always made, as stated above. Their names were Michael, Annabelle, and Abigail.) Now the thought of having multiples scares the crap out of me. One newborn is a lot to look after. I know you adapt, but… still scary.
8. I used to schedule my life around television. Now I rarely watch it.
9. I was a worrywart before, but now I have PMS (my brother coined that phrase when we were young telling my mom she was suffering from Paranoid Mother Syndrome). And now, I am extra cautious around people I don’t know thanks to Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jaycee Dugard. Thanks for the nightmares. I needed those.
10. I used to embrace the glorious differences in people, but now when I see a man dressed in heels, a fur coat, and a cowboy hat I think, “Get away from my child, Freak!”

What unexpected changes did you see in yourself upon entering parenthood?

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