Adventures along the journey to parenthood

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Developing One’s Own Parenting Philosophy

My view on parenting philosophies is similar to my view on religions: You can find some wisdom and truth in just about any of them, and you can probably find some silliness and examples of unhealthy extremism in just about any of them as well. I don’t think it’s healthy to form a blind allegiance to any one philosophy or faith: Life is too complicated to be captured so simply. They’re all the best fit for some child out there somewhere, and since every kid is different, every kid will need a different combination of approaches. Soon after Archer’s birth I read Pamela Zuckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I had been overwhelmed in guilt from trying to adhere to parenting pressures when it came to nursing, attachment parenting, loving every moment with my kid, never letting your kid hear the word “no”, sleep theories, etc. I found her book to be a refreshing shift in perspective, and though I don’t agree with every point she makes, it helped me loosen up and establish some relaxed parenting goals, such as:

1. Making a priority to have adult time: Archer has his own room far away from ours. Putting all baby toys and junk away when he goes to bed and not reading parenting books. Dining with Ted and relaxing in the backyard. Having nights away from baby, both solo and as a couple. Taking days off of work to do just do my own thing, or take a day date with Ted. Shopping, hair cuts, walks, gym. I don’t feel bad dropping my kid at daycare. I don’t feel bad not missing him if we’re apart for a day. I see it as healthy for us to each get our space and in turn, enjoy our quality time together.

2. Having high expectations of Archer’s palate: No “baby food”, Archer eats what we eat – bean soup, kale smoothies, spicy ethnic dishes, fish, donuts, all manner of veggies and fruits and meats and beans. Not to be discouraged if he doesn’t like a certain food a certain day – keep offering a wide variety and encouraging him to try at least one bite of each thing, but not forcing beyond that.

3. Giving Archer the space and respect to figure things out on his own, even when it means some frustration in the process: How toys go together or comes apart, fighting and crying over toys with another toddler, tackling stairs and how to climb onto furniture, getting trapped under a piece of furniture and coaching him on how to find his way out, settling himself to sleep, finding a way to entertain himself while I get ready for work. I hear some protests and whines, but usually he’s able to move on from it. And of course if he really gets upset, I come to his rescue with comfort and hugs.

4. Allowing Archer to take risks and explore, even though it means sometimes getting hurt. Thankfully there haven’t been serious injuries but there have been a few cat scratches, tumbles down a few stairs or off of furniture, bumps on the head at the playground. We try not to have a big reaction when he falls, because 99% of the time he’s fine: We tell him he’s OK so he knows not to be afraid of falling down. Sometimes you’re going to hurt a little – it’s part of the deal.

5. Giving a lot of freedom within firm limits: We keep a pretty strict bed time (7pm). Never allowed: Touching the record player, the cats’ water bowl, the garbage/recycling bins or  the electrical sockets. No going in the street without an adult. No to putting potentially harmful and swallow-able non-food items (rocks, mulch, trash, and bugs) in his mouth. I allow a little bit of foilage and dirt. 🙂

6. Expecting and teaching social skills and manners: Say thank you when someone pays you a compliment, greet and say goodbye to everyone you interact with. Not throwing fits or food at the dinner table. Down the road: Using “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” for anyone outside his closest circle of adults. Paying attention even when you aren’t interested in what someone is saying. Not interrupting while someone is talking. Learning to make friendly conversation with anyone.

Below is a blog post from an author who found wisdom in several parenting values from different cultures, some of which seem to even contradict each other (it’s important to let a child feel and deal with frustration VS attend to your child’s every need every time). I can see the value and limitations in each of them.

Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?

By Christine Gross-Loh

The eager new mom offering her insouciant toddler an array of carefully-arranged healthy snacks from an ice cube tray?

That was me.

The always-on-top-of-her-child’s-play parent intervening during play dates at the first sign of discord?

That was me too.

We hold some basic truths as self-evident when it comes to good parenting. Our job is to keep our children safe, enable them to fulfill their potential and make sure they’re healthy and happy and thriving.

The parent I used to be and the parent I am now both have the same goal: to raise self-reliant, self-assured, successful children. But 12 years of parenting, over five years of living on and off in Japan, two years of research, investigative trips to Europe and Asia and dozens of interviews with psychologists, child development experts, sociologists, educators, administrators and parents in Japan, Korea, China, Finland, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, Brazil and elsewhere have taught me that though parents around the world have the same goals, American parents like me (despite our very best intentions) have gotten it all backwards.

Why?

We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a kindergartener in the German forest whittling away on a stick with a penknife. His teacher, Wolfgang, lightheartedly dismissed my concern: “No one’s ever lost a finger!”

Similarly, Brittany, an American mom, was stunned when she moved her young family to Sweden and saw 3- and 4-year-olds with no adult supervision bicycling down the street, climbing the roofs of playhouses and scaling tall trees with no adult supervision. The first time she saw a 3-year-old high up in a tree at preschool, she started searching for the teacher to let her know. Then she saw another parent stop and chat with one of the little tree occupants, completely unfazed. It was clear that no one but Brittany was concerned.

“I think of myself as an open-minded parent,” she confided to me, “and yet here I was, wanting to tell a child to come down from a tree.”

Why it’s better: Ellen Hansen Sandseter, a Norwegian researcher at Queen Maud University in Norway, has found in her research that the relaxed approach to risk-taking and safety actually keeps our children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re capable of. Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained when we talked, “is to let them take… risks.”

Consider the facts to back up her assertion: Sweden, where children are given this kind of ample freedom to explore (while at the same time benefitting from comprehensive laws that protect their rights and safety), has the lowest rates of child injury in the world.

Children can go hungry from time-to-time.

In Korea, eating is taught to children as a life skill and as in most cultures, children are taught it is important to wait out their hunger until it is time for the whole family to sit down together and eat. Koreans do not believe it’s healthy to graze or eat alone, and they don’t tend to excuse bad behavior (like I do) by blaming it on low blood sugar. Instead, children are taught that food is best enjoyed as a shared experience. All children eat the same things that adults do, just like they do in most countries in the world with robust food cultures. (Ever wonder why ethnic restaurants don’t have kids’ menus?). The result? Korean children are incredible eaters. They sit down to tables filled with vegetables of all sorts, broiled fish, meats, spicy pickled cabbage and healthy grains and soups at every meal.

Why it’s better: In stark contrast to our growing child overweight/obesity levels, South Koreans enjoy the lowest obesity rates in the developed world. A closely similar-by-body index country in the world is Japan, where parents have a similar approach to food.

Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.

The French, as well as many others, believe that routinely giving your child a chance to feel frustration gives him a chance to practice the art of waiting and developing self-control. Gilles, a French father of two young boys, told me that frustrating kids is good for them because it teaches them the value of delaying gratification and not always expecting (or worse, demanding) that their needs be met right now.

Why it’s better: Studies show that children who exhibit self-control and the ability to delay gratification enjoy greater future success. Anecdotally, we know that children who don’t think they’re the center of the universe are a pleasure to be around. Alice Sedar, Ph.D., a former journalist for Le Figaro and a professor of French Culture at Northeastern University, agrees. “Living in a group is a skill,” she declares, and it’s one that the French assiduously cultivate in their kids.

Children should spend less time in school.

Children in Finland go outside to play frequently all day long. “How can you teach when the children are going outside every 45 minutes?” a recent American Fulbright grant recipient in Finland, who was astonished by how little time the Finns were spending in school, inquired curiously of a teacher at one of the schools she visited. The teacher in turn was astonished by the question. “I could not teach unless the children went outside every 45 minutes!”

The Finnish model of education includes a late start to academics (children do not begin any formal academics until they are 7 years old), frequent breaks for outdoor time, shorter school hours and more variety of classes than in the US. Equity, not high achievement, is the guiding principle of the Finnish education system.

While we in America preach the mantra of early intervention, shave time off recess to teach more formal academics and cut funding to non-academic subjects like art and music, Finnish educators emphasize that learning art, music, home economics and life skills is essential.

Why it’s better: American school children score in the middle of the heap on international measures of achievement, especially in science and mathematics. Finnish children, with their truncated time in school, frequently rank among the best in the world.

Thou shalt spoil thy baby.

Tomo, a 10-year-old boy in our neighborhood in Japan, was incredibly independent. He had walked to school on his own since he was 6 years old, just like all Japanese 6-year-olds do. He always took meticulous care of his belongings when he came to visit us, arranging his shoes just so when he took them off, and he taught my son how to ride the city bus. Tomo was so helpful and responsible that when he’d come over for dinner, he offered to run out to fetch ingredients I needed, helped make the salad and stir-fried noodles. Yet every night this competent, self-reliant child went home, took his bath and fell asleep next to his aunt, who was helping raise him.

In Japan, where co-sleeping with babies and kids is common, people are incredulous that there are countries where parents routinely put their newborns to sleep in a separate room. The Japanese respond to their babies immediately and hold them constantly.

While we think of this as spoiling, the Japanese think that when babies get their needs met and are loved unconditionally as infants, they more easily become independent and self-assured as they grow.

Why it’s better: Meret Keller, a professor at UC Irvine, agrees that there is an intriguing connection between co sleeping and independent behavior. “Many people throw the word “independence” around without thinking conceptually about what it actually means,” she explained.

We’re anxious for our babies to become independent and hurry them along, starting with independent sleep, but Keller’s research has found that co-sleeping children later became more independent and self-reliant than solitary sleepers, dressing themselves or working out problems with their playmates on their own.

Children need to feel obligated.

In America, as our kids become adolescents, we believe it’s time to start letting them go and giving them their freedom. We want to help them be out in the world more and we don’t want to burden them with family responsibilities. In China, parents do the opposite: the older children get, the more parents remind them of their obligations.

Eva Pomerantz of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has found through multiple studies that in China, the cultural ideal of not letting adolescents go but of reminding them of their responsibility to the family and the expectation that their hard work in school is one way to pay back a little for all they have received, helps their motivation and their achievement.

Even more surprising: She’s found that the same holds for Western students here in the US: adolescents who feel responsible to their families tend to do better in school.

The lesson for us: if you want to help your adolescent do well in school make them feel obligated.

I parent differently than I used to. I’m still an American mom — we struggle with all-day snacking, and the kids could use more practice being patient. But 3-year-old Anna stands on a stool next to me in the kitchen using a knife to cut apples. I am not even in earshot when 6-year-old Mia scales as high in the beech in our yard as she feels comfortable. And I trust now that my boys (Daniel, 10, and Benjamin, 12) learn as much out of school as they do in the classroom.

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The highs and the lows and the zen

Ellyn and Erin both shared a blog post from a pastor who has 3 sons under age 5. His article has now been re-printed in multiple publications. It’s refreshing to see this new era of parenting where folks can be very honest about the hardships and annoyances in addition to the joys of parenting. For people who are considering having kids, I think it can become a little scary – like “Gosh, is it really that bad? It seems like all anyone talks about anymore is how awful it is.” But I think this new trend of exposing the ugly side of child rearing is in response to years of moms feeling like they can only say how wonderful it is (and it IS wonderful). There is a pressure to put on a big happy grin 100% of the time, and to be perfectly composed and in control at every moment – at least that’s the image parents saw as their guide for decades. Regardless of if you were up all night with a sick child or haven’t had an afternoon to yourself in six months. You didn’t see images in a magazine or parenting book of a mom sighing in relief and mixing a cocktail the second her kid went down for a nap (though I bet this has changed).

We all want to do right by our kids. That’s a fear and anxiety most parents can relate to. For some that fear and pressure dominates their lives and happiness more than others.

In my own short experience as a parent, I’ve learned that the highs are especially sweet and joyous and the lows are especially maddening and overwhelming. They each pass. The beautiful shining moments I try to fully embrace because I know it is a fleeting little special blip in time: Archer shrilling with joy as I play with his feet. Archer proudly sitting in his little kid chair after figuring out how to climb in it by himself. Archer marching through the house on a mission to transport blocks from the couch to the chair. Archer bringing a book over to me and curling up in my lap to be read to. Archer playing peek-a-boo. Archer smiling and toddling over to me as fast as he can when we’ve been a part for 10 hours (or 20 minutes), hugging my legs or reaching his arms up wanting to be held by his momma. How sweet is that? I know these moments are precious and will disappear. 10-year-old Archer will have a whole new bag of tricks, but not these.

When I’m gritting my teeth, it’s harder to appreciate the moment for what it is, but I try my best and continue to take deep breaths and reassure myself that this too will pass. And it does. And I almost always laugh at it later: Archer pooping in the bathtub right as the bath ends, then we have to clean out the tub and start all over. FINALLY ready to leave the house for work with Archer in hand, my purse, my work computer, his diaper bag, my lunch, his bottles, my coat, the car keys, we’re locking up the door, and then I get a huge splurge of spit up all over my work outfit, after struggling to find something spit-free to look presentable in from the start. Archer crying, whining, fussing for hours, and it’s only 9am and I’m already exhausted. In these moments I have a flash of “How can I do this?” but then I sigh and I do it and usually, it’s not that bad. At least not looking back on it.

There’s no way to know when either will happen and what each day will bring. Someone at work mentioned how it makes all other annoyances in the world seem trivial. If I’ve had a high stress day at work, it is forgotten within 10 minutes of being at home – because I have no choice but to be in the moment with my son, and as we’ve all been told, living in the present moment (as opposed to focusing our thoughts on the past or future) is the best way to live. This is why Archer is a zen master.

Here’s my favorite lines from Steve:

“You’re not a terrible parent. You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning. One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are over-saturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.

So, maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next president who knows how to read when she’s 3 and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.”

Read his full article below, it’s great:

To Parents of Small Children: Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud

By Steve Wiens

I am in a season of my life right now where I feel bone-tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes burning exhausted.

I have three boys ages 5 and under. I’m not complaining about that. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I know that there are people who would give anything for a house full of laughter and chaos. I was that person for years and years; the pain of infertility is stabbing and throbbing and constant. I remember allowing hope to rise and then seeing it crash all around me, month after month, for seven years. I am working on another post about infertility that will come at a later date.

But right now, in my actual life, I have three boys ages 5 and under. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week, when Isaac told my sister-in-law that, “My daddy has hair all over.” Or when Elijah put a green washcloth over his chin and cheeks, and proudly declared, “Daddy! I have a beard just like you!” Or when Ben sneaks downstairs in the morning before the other boys do, smiles at me, and says, “Daddy and Ben time.”

But there are also many moments when I have no idea how I’m going to make it until their bedtime. The constant demands, the needs and the fighting are fingernails across the chalkboard every single day.

One of my children is for sure going to be the next Steve Jobs. I now have immense empathy for his parents. He has a precise vision of what he wants — exactly that way and no other way. Sometimes, it’s the way his plate needs to be centered exactly to his chair, or how his socks go on, or exactly how the picture of the pink dolphin needs to look — with brave eyes, not sad eyes, daddy! He is a laser beam, and he is not satisfied until it’s exactly right.

I have to confess that sometimes, the sound of his screaming drives me to hide in the pantry. And I will neither confirm nor deny that while in there, I compulsively eat chips and/or dark chocolate.

There are people who say this to me:

“You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”

I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold them under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.

If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown — please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.

We know it’s true that they grow up too fast. But feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now, that list is way too long. Not every moment is enjoyable as a parent; it wasn’t for you, and it isn’t for me. You just have obviously forgotten. I can forgive you for that. But if you tell me to enjoy every moment one more time, I will need to break up with you.

If you are a parent of small children, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can’t believe you get to be around these little people. But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:

You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do. She’s obviously using a bizarre and probably illegal form of hypnotism.

You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.

You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.

You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.

You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.

You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.

You’re not a terrible parent.

You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.

One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.

So, maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next president who knows how to read when she’s 3 and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.

So, the next time you see your friends with small children with that foggy and desperate look in their eyes, order them a pizza and send it to their house that night. Volunteer to take their kids for a few hours so they can be alone in their own house and have sex when they’re not so tired, for heaven’s sake. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they’re doing a good job. Just don’t freak out if they start weeping uncontrollably. Most of the time, we feel like we’re botching the whole deal and our kids will turn into horrible criminals who hate us and will never want to be around us when they’re older.

You’re bone-tired. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that you lost it in a way that surprised even yourself.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You’re not alone.

Germs are our friends

The New York Times had an article today I was happy to see: It’s OK to pass your kids a bunch of germs! Every time Archer eats a mysterious who-knows-how-old food particle off the floor, or licks a toy at the library that has been licked by 10,000 other kids, or walks into the room with one of our filthy shoes in his mouth — part of me cringes, but then I shrug and think “well, it’ll just build his immune system”. Ha! I’m right!

My wonderful and caring mother-in-law works for the Kentucky Dental Association and takes great concern with everyone’s oral hygiene. It’s great, Archer has 3 different cool baby toothbrushes! This new research flies in the face of what she’s been preaching about sharing saliva/spoons, but it makes me relax just a little more about the whole germ thing. Though I have to say, I never “sucked my kid’s pacifier clean” – I don’t get the logic to this thinking: I have no illusions that my spit is any cleaner that whatever gunk was on the paci in the first place.

Interesting side note mentioned in the article: “Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies.” One more reason it’s preferable to avoid a C-section if possible.

Sucking Your Child’s Pacifier Clean May Have Benefits

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR

For years, health officials have told parents not to share utensils with their babies or clean their pacifiers by putting them in their mouths, arguing that the practice spreads harmful germs between parent and child. But new research may turn that thinking on its head.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.

The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.

The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.

“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes.”

Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies. But whether a mother who puts a child’s pacifier in her mouth or feeds the child with her own spoon might be providing similar protection is something that had not been closely studied, said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the lead author of the study.

In fact, health officials routinely discourage such habits, saying they promote tooth decay by transferring cavity-causing bacteria from a parent’s mouth to the child’s. In February, the New York City health department started a subway ad campaign warning parents of the risk. “Don’t share utensils or bites of food with your baby,” the ads say. “Use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”

In the new study, doctors at the University of Gothenburg and elsewhere followed a group of about 180 children from birth. The children were examined regularly by a pediatric allergist, and their parents were instructed to keep diaries recording details about food introduction, weaning and other significant events.

By the age of 18 months, about a quarter of the children had eczema, and 5 percent had asthma. Those whose parents reported at least occasionally cleaning their children’s pacifiers by sucking them were significantly less likely to develop the conditions — particularly eczema — and blood tests showed that they had lower levels of a type of immune cell associated with allergies. Analyses of the children’s saliva also showed patterns that suggested the practice had altered the kinds of microbes in their mouths.

The researchers then looked to see if the method of childbirth provided any additional protection.

It did. The children who were delivered through Caesarean section and whose pacifiers were rinsed or boiled had the highest prevalence of eczema, nearly 55 percent. The group with the lowest prevalence of eczema, about 20 percent, were born traditionally and had parents who cleaned their pacifiers in their mouths.

But are these parents also transmitting harmful infections to their children?

The bacterium that causes dental cavities, Streptococcus mutans, is highly contagious. Studies show that children can be infected at a very young age, and that the strain they pick up is usually one that they get from their mothers. That is why health authorities tell parents to do things that can lower the rate of transmission to their children, like not sharing utensils or putting their mouths on pacifiers.

But Dr. Joel Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said those efforts are misguided, since parents are bound to spread germs simply by kissing their children and being around them. “This notion of not feeding your baby with your spoon or your fork is absurd because if the mom is in close proximity to the baby you can’t prevent that transmission,” he said. “There’s no evidence that you can avoid it. It’s impossible unless you wear a mask or you don’t touch the child, which isn’t realistic.”

Dr. Berg, who does salivary research at the University of Washington, said the new findings underscore something he has been telling his patients for years, that “saliva is your friend.” It contains enzymes, proteins, electrolytes and other beneficial substances, some of which can perhaps be passed from parent to child.

“I think, like any new study, this is going to be challenged and questioned,” he said. “But what it points out pretty clearly is that we are yet to fully discover the many and varied benefits of saliva.”

This blog is being reborn!

My old Brooklyn roomie is having a kid! She told me that she found this blog helpful in navigating the parent-to-be waters. Really? Wow. It got me thinking that maybe I have gained a little bit of knowledge and experience along the way.

So I figured that a year and 2 months later is a good time to breathe some new life into this thing. If nothing else, it is a great resource for me as a place I can collect articles, recommendations from friends, and anything else related to child rearing – an endless mystery and art. And for those of you not on Facebook, you’ll get plenty of Archer pictures. He’s a saucy young man now nearing 15 months old. And he has a baby sister on the way! She’s due to arrive around September 13th. He won’t know what hit him.

I’ll continue to be a sloppy blogger, but for those of you thinking about doing the kid thing one day or on your way there, I hope this might be insightful in some way. Hit me up with questions, it’ll give me something to write about. 🙂

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New adventures and new photos!

Now that we’re all recovering from the shock of the first two weeks, we’re having some fun! We’ve been lucky to have beautiful weather ever since Archer’s birth. This means trips to the zoo, Waterfront park, various grandparents’ houses, as well as walks in the neighborhood, fires in the backyard, and reading on the porch. Archer really enjoys being outdoors and going for walks. We’ve also learned that he love bath time and I think he’s looking forward to swimming judging by the way he kicks his legs in the tub.

Check out the slideshow for photos with lots of family and from our various adventures:

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Blasted into a new universe!

I’ve thought about this blog often, but haven’t had the energy or time to dedicate to an entry since Archer’s birth 3 weeks ago. When he sleeps, I’m usually showering, eating, or sleeping — or perhaps sweeping, going through piles of mail, or doing laundry. Every once in a while Ted and I sneak out for a quiet moment on the porch or manage to watch 30 minutes of TV.

So, as it turns out, parenting a newborn is a lot of work! Who knew? (just kidding)

Of course we knew, but also knew there was no way to really prepare for all the change. That has proven true. I felt very prepared for pregnancy and for birth – there was very little anxiety on my part and things went smoothly and calmly throughout – relatively speaking (I’ll post my birth story soon). But suddenly having a child to care for 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives was a major kick in the gut — in the first week after Archer’s birth I felt like I was experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Postpartum Depression, and bereavement over the death of my freedom and childless life. Sound dramatic? It was! I was really shocked at how intense it all felt to me – sometimes I felt hopeless, or like we’d made a mistake and I just cried my eyes out over it. I’m usually pretty good at keeping myself together, but I totally lost it. It was daunting to think of accomplishing anything or thinking about the future even in terms of hours or days. I thought “Why didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be like this?!” I do wonder now if there was anyway I could have been better prepared or warned – but maybe there isn’t. I recently talked about these feelings with another new mom and she agreed, saying that at first “I loved my child, but I didn’t like her”: During that first week it just seems like the baby is placing non-stop demands on you and giving very little in return. I couldn’t really see a personality in Archer or much of a connection between us and I thought maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t emotionally connect with my kid. I also felt selfish for being so upset over losing my comfortable “perfect” life.

That was week one. Now we’re starting week four and the scene is very different. I enjoy sitting on the porch and nursing Archer. it seems like maybe he’s starting to look at me a little bit. His hands are more active and engaging as he grabs at my shirt or my hand. I enjoy rocking him in my great-great-grandmother’s rocking chair and listening to the radio and watching him stare at me as he falls asleep. I get very little sleep, but the sleep I get feels so good! I savor it. We’ve taken lots of walks so I’m getting to spend more time outdoors, something I often lament that I don’t do enough of. So although even the smallest tasks such as using the bathroom or drinking a glass of water now seem to revolve around Archer instead of me, having him around is also providing new opportunities – discovering new bands I enjoy on the radio, catching up on world news, spending more time on my porch, rocking myself and Archer into a peaceful state.

I’ve gotten a whole lot of support from my family and from Ted. We had around the clock care from my parents and sister for the first week – something we hadn’t planned on, but quickly realized we needed when all 3 of us were crying by 4a.m. our first night at home. A few moms have reached out to tell me their very honest accounts of how difficult their first weeks were – it helps normalize my experience and I realize that things are OK. I am OK. Archer is OK. I’ve benefited so much from all of this support.

It’s hard to get things done, but I kind of enjoy the zen quality of that fact. I have to very much live in the moment. I’ve tried to write this entry 3 different times, but Archer came calling and my plans for 10 minutes of journaling had to be abandoned. I like how present tense everything is right now. I have no idea what the world will feel like to me and Archer a week from now, let alone a month from now.

An old camp counselor of mine just wrote to me: “These are such wonderful times. Remember.” I’m glad she told me to remember. It’s easy to focus on the stress and uncertainty rather than the joy and specialness of it all. I really savored pregnancy and I shall endeavor to savor this period as well, despite the exhaustion. By everyone’s account, these first weeks and months fly by and we’ll look back fondly on them and miss them even! I think Archer and I are both feeling rather bewildered by one another, but we’re both getting more comfortable with the situation, and, I daresay, enjoying each others’ company more and more. I want to enjoy how special this little person is.

3 weeks!

 

Archer: Day 6

First walk – check!

First doctor appointment – check!

Lots of doting grandparents – check!

This kid is doing great. Here’s a few more shots – click on any photo to see larger versions of them all: