|August 28, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
The good news about childhood stages is that they all pass pretty quickly. Every time something comes up with Dylan that frustrates me, it’s over before I know it.
There was one point where he was constantly trying to fidget with my other nipple while nursing. I wondered if I should get a nursing necklace. I worried that it was time to lay down the nursing manners law. But I just quietly communicated my preference to him, and then a couple of weeks later he wasn’t even trying it anymore. As quickly as a problem seemed to be arising between us, it faded. He had a habit of nipple-biting there for a bit, too, but that has ended as well.
For awhile, Dylan was trying to take his diaper off at every chance. He mastered hook-and-loop diapers, then snaps, then snaps even when the diaper was on backwards, then hook-and-loop and snaps even when he had pants on over them. Argh! Eventually all that worked with some reliability was pinned prefolds, and even those he would sometimes be able to remove. And then, just like that, a few days ago I noticed that he’s stopped doing that. Even running around in just a diaper, he’s stopped trying to take them off all the time. I can go back to using all of our varieties of diapers.
Over the last couple of weeks, Dylan’s climbing skills have ramped up, and for a couple of days there, I was kind of frantic keeping up with his new ability to practically climb the walls. But I grow as he grows, we settle into his stages together. Today he can climb as many things as he could a week ago, but he’s better at it and I’m less nervous, and he wants to do other things, too. It isn’t just this mad dash to climb everything in sight. Somehow it just doesn’t seem like the problem it did a week ago.
The good news about childhood stages is that they pass pretty quickly.
The bad news about childhood stages, of course, is that they pass pretty quickly.
The good news about childhood stages is that they all pass pretty quickly. The bad news is… (Click to tweet this.)
|August 27, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Check out this video about an episode of What Would You Do, a hidden camera show about public moral situations. This one is about child abduction.
In case you can’t see the video, here’s the short version. A participating little girl stands on a sidewalk and an adult male actor walks by, grabs her by the arm, and drags her away. The goal is to see what the public would do if a kid were being abducted. The abductor-actor sometimes acts like he’s scolding her and sometimes doesn’t say anything, while the girl yells, “You’re not my dad! Someone help me!” Many people stare but don’t help. Eventually a couple of guys begin to intervene and are let in that it’s for television. Then there’s an interview segment about the experiment.
I don’t want to focus on child abductions. Let’s talk about parenting.
In the interview, the abductor-actor tries to blame the inaction of the public on the Bystander Effect, which is when lots of people see something but none report it or help because they all assume someone else will. At least one interviewed bystander on the show talks about thinking someone else would take care of it. But I wonder how many people even thought what they were seeing was unusual. In order for the Bystander Effect to be in play, the people watching have to know they’re seeing a problem.
How is the behavior of the “abductor” fundamentally different from behavior we often see from parents?
One of the guys who stepped up to help says, “First I thought she was being a little disobedient, but then [the abductor wasn't] sayin’ nothing.”
Imagine if instead of being silent, the abductor was saying things like, “Come on, I don’t have time for this! We have to get to practice! We’re already late! Your brother is waiting in the car! Wait until I tell your mother!” Then nothing about the situation is really unusual at all, is it?
The interviewer wonders if people thought, “It’s just a kid acting up,” echoing the first assumption of the rescuer guy.
Instead of blaming the kid – ”acting up”, “being disobedient” – why doesn’t anyone assume it’s the parent being an asshole? And why wouldn’t they intervene if it is a parent?
Okay. Back up.
One of the valuable concepts I’ve learned from social justice activists is the idea of “centering”. Centering is about whose voices and opinions are focused on in a conversation and whose voices and opinions are pushed to the background. Because our culture works so hard to ignore the experiences of certain kinds of people, this concept is important all the time. The voices, opinions, and experiences of marginalized or oppressed people are all too frequently pushed to the side in favor of the opinions and experiences of privileged people.
Children are marginalized people in our society. Adults have a lot of privilege. I’m going to explore the idea of children as an oppressed class in future posts, but if that’s something that interests you right now, this adult privilege checklist is a good place to start reading. For now, I think we can all at least agree that children are smaller and weaker than their adult caregivers, and children have a lot fewer emotional and social resources at their disposal than adults do.
As I said in Compassion for Every Perspective, not everyone can give compassion to everyone else at all times. Sometimes we make choices about who we’re going to side with and how much energy we have for offering our support.
Let’s go back to my McDonald’s scenario from Parenting Isn’t Hard:
Say I’m in a McDonald’s. In a booth near me is what appears to be a romantically involved man and woman enjoying a meal together. Near the end of the meal, the woman accidentally knocks her soda over and it spills over the table and floor. The man leaps to his feet and yells, “Oh my god! I told you to be careful with that!” He grabs her by the arm and drags her out of the booth. “That’s the last time you get to have a medium drink!” He shoves her off to the side while he starts to clean up. “Go stand by the door, we’re going home right now.” After an initial little gasp at the spilled drink, the woman remains silent, body slack, eyes averted.
I would be horrified to witness this scene. I would worry about the verbal lashing, and I would worry about the physical aspects. Probably most people would be concerned on some level. However, when I witnessed that scene with, instead of a woman, a 10 year old child, no one batted an eye. It doesn’t even stand out. Doesn’t register. Some might even consider it “good discipline”.
But, it’s not. It’s just abusive. We would not say about the man, “Well, relationships are hard. He’s probably just having a bad day. Cut him some slack.”
As I said in Okay, Parenting Is Hard, I really do understand it when parents treat their kids in less than ideal ways. There are enormous pressures on parents, and we’re pretty much going it alone. There’s no village. Our society does very little to truly support parents and is also quick to blame parents for any perceived shortcoming in the child.
A separate issue is that our culture does even less to support children. One of the ways in which we don’t support children is when we leave unaddressed the issue of their parents physically and emotionally abusing them.
I do believe that parents deserve far more compassion and support for their situations, even when I think their behavior towards their kids is abusive. However, I think it is more important for me to speak up for the kids who have far fewer voices on their side.
In the issue of parents physically manhandling their children and verbally berating them, I choose to speak out publicly on behalf of children. When I talk about how I see people treating children, I choose to center the perspective of the children.
I hope that others will increasingly do the same.
If I get upset with Dylan and yell at him, grab him, smack him, or belittle him, I hope that my partner and my friends are gentle with me, that they understand where I’m coming from, and that they know I love him. Of course. But for crying out loud, I also hope they don’t just brush it off, act like it’s no big deal, or pretend it’s just all part of the definition of parenting. I hope they instead treat it like a problem that needs to be fixed. My problem that needs to be fixed by me, and by them if it’s something they can help with and something I need help with.
But it’s not Dylan’s problem to fix, except inasmuch as he’s the one stuck being the target. It’s not his “misbehavior” that’s the problem – it’s my anger, or my weariness, or my lack of social support. I hope my friends are his friends, too, and they don’t see him as the right and natural recipient of my violence but instead support BOTH OF US in finding other ways to relate.
I wish my culture didn’t make it so easy to be assholes to kids. But there it is. It’s easy to be mean to your kids. Plenty of people don’t even think there’s anything wrong with being mean to kids. There are multitudes of voices saying it’s perfectly acceptable to yell at your kids, drag them by the arm, call them names, belittle their concerns, etc. And even if you do feel judged and criticized as a parent, as an adult you have lots of support available to you, even if it’s just commiserating with other parents on the internet.
On the other hand, where are the voices sticking up for the bodies, rights, and opinions of the kids? There aren’t nearly as many of those. In fact, too many attempts to speak up on behalf of children are drowned out in favor of centering the viewpoint of the parents or casting the child as the villain.
I repeat, again, for the record, I really do understand that parenting is a difficult job, that parents have bad days, and that parents don’t always live up to their best ideals. I understand that, and I have compassion for parents, including myself when I fall short of my own ideals.
Children need more people standing up and saying that the way the kid in the McDonald’s was treated is wrong. The way the girl in the video up there was treated is wrong. That’s not just “parenting”. It’s violence. It’s mistreatment. It needs to be addressed. I don’t know exactly how to address it, other than to keep looking and to keep talking about it.
But kids need more people on their side, and I’m going to be one of those people.
|August 24, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
It’s really hard to find places where Dylan can do whatever he wants without a bunch of No’s following him around. Joshua says maybe I shouldn’t worry about this so much, since we are pretty damn permissive parents. When I forget this, all I have to do is remind myself about the stairs. Most parents I’ve been around don’t let kids play on the stairs and don’t let them throw things down the stairs. But we play games with Dylan on the stairs, including games that involve throwing things down them. So there’s really no need to worry about Dylan being too restricted.
But the desire for places where he can do whatever he wants are also about me. Sometimes I want a break from keeping such a close eye. Yes, there are nap times. But I’m lazier than that. I need more than two hours a day to be a non-attentive parent. Besides, I frequently use nap time to nap myself. If I want an “awake break”, it often has to be while Dylan is awake, too.
Dylan loves to be outside, so you’d think that being outside here at The Wallow would be a fine place for him to run around. But, no. Our outside is teeming with stuff he can’t get into. Since he lives here, he’s had time to discover them all! The barn is full of ladders to climb, paint cans to upend, and heavy things to squish toes with. The front yard has a duck pond, herbs he likes to try to kill, and a ledge to fall off of. The patio has trash cans, free-roaming bird shit, and another ledge to fall off of! Hanging out with Dylan outside here sometimes requires a lot of management.
Off we go into the world to find a relaxing place.
There are a couple of parks we go to and a little water park we visit with friends. Dylan can pretty much do whatever he likes here, and I can sit back and relax. He will eventually run out of ways to entertain himself, though, and want more interaction from me. And sometimes he bugs other people by wanting to grab their stuff and be in their space, and of course I get involved then and steer him elsewhere.
Sometimes Dylan is in a chill mood, and we can do something that interests me like shopping at Goodwill or our awesome used bookstore. He’ll just be along for the ride in the cart or a carrier. That’s relaxing, too, but it’s not the same as finding a place where I can just lay back and read or something while he does whatever he wants.
I’m writing this post from Chuck E Cheese.
Say whatever you will about the shitty pizza, the frantic lights and sounds, and all the naked bids to get you to spend too much money. I know all that stuff. But here’s what else I know: I’ve been sitting in this booth for 3 hours reading and typing away while Dylan has the time of his life pushing buttons, pulling levers, and ignoring me entirely. It doesn’t even require buying tokens. Dylan is plenty happy to just interact with the machines and watch the people. He’s not old enough to understand the games.
When I’m a little stressed out or when Dylan has had enough of me following him around saying no, the ability to settle into a environment like this really is valuable. I’m glad it exists.
What other ideas do you have for a place to completely relax with a toddler?
|August 20, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
When I see a less-than-ideal interaction between a parent and child, I can see the parent’s perspective, and I know that the parent deserves compassion.
Kids are trying sometimes. Navigating our isolationist, kid-hating, parent-hating culture with kids can be extraordinarily difficult. Enduring the watchful public with a screaming baby or toddler is misery. Trying to coax socially approved behavior from a tween with an audience is a complex feat.
Navigating our isolationist, kid-hating, parent-hating culture with kids can be extraordinarily difficult. (Click to tweet)
Add to all of that the reality that parents have the same moods and trials other people do on top of the parenting that never stops. So maybe you have the screaming baby AND you’re sick as a dog. You have a defiant eye-roller in the middle of the grocery store when you ALREADY dealt with a bitchy boss for 8 hours today. You’re cold. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re frantically busy. You’re anxious. You’re depressed.
And then it’s not like this parenting thing makes a lot of sense all the time. Expert advice swings wildly between extremes. You and your partner and your doctors and your relatives all disagree on the right things to do. You know it’s somehow all your fault if your kids don’t turn out perfect, and goddamn that’s a lot of pressure.
And on top of everything, all the time, is that unrelenting NEED that kids have. They need so much time, so much energy, so much attention, so much touch, so so much need, and so much of it is really just a need for YOU. They need and want and demand and pull, pull, pull from you and sometimes you just want to break from the all-encompassing need.
So good grief, it’s really completely understandable that you got a little snippy in the grocery store or didn’t touch your child with perfect gentleness or lost your shit over the spilled drink or told your kid to just fucking shut up already the 87th the kid asked, “Why?”
I understand. I get it. I know what it’s like to feel judged in public, too, so I know how much it sucks to know that whatever you’re doing, someone thinks you’re doing it wrong.
This parenting thing, especially parenting in public, is hard.
|July 31, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
I know that I’m a permissive parent. I don’t care about “nursing manners”. I think kids should be free to bang on tables and run around restaurants. I think it’s best to be liberal with the ice cream.
Every now and then it flits through my mind that maybe I’m too permissive.
But then I listen to Dylan’s day with an ear towards “no”, and this is what I hear:
- No, you can’t climb on that chair. Or that chair. Or that one.
- No, you can’t touch the stove. Or the oven.
- No, you can’t touch that cabinet.
- No, you can’t open the freezer.
- No, you can’t grab that marker.
- No, I’m not going to give you my drink.
And that’s just the kitchen. Just during breakfast. As for the rest of the day…
- No, you can’t climb on that table.
- No, you can’t grab the stuff on that shelf.
- No, you can’t go into the bathroom. Or that one. Or if you’re in there with me, no, you can’t grab the toilet paper. Or that magazine.
- No, you can’t pull down that curtain.
- No, you can’t have anything on that desk.
- No, you can’t get out of the carseat right now. Or now. Or now.
- No, you can’t take off your diaper.
- No, you can’t climb the diaper table.
- No, you can’t touch the cat.
And that’s the inside. When we’re outside, there’s even more.
- No, you can’t go in that part of the barn.
- No, you can’t touch that fence. Or that one. Or that one.
- No, you can’t open that bin.
- No, you can’t play in the ducks’ water.
- No, you can’t eat that off the ground.
- No, you don’t get a say about when we go in or out.
- No, I won’t put you down, or No, I can’t pick you up.
The life of a small child can seem overrun with barriers and boundaries every step of the way. When I worry that I’m too permissive, all I have to do is listen. If you really pay attention to a day in the life of a child it’s hard to honestly think that more restriction is warranted.
When I really listen to Dylan’s day, to his life, I become even more committed to finding as many ways to say yes as I possibly can.
|July 12, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
We needed some more pallets for constructing our new big compost bins, and I headed out yesterday to pick up some free ones listed on Craigslist. Turns out they had some smaller sized pallets, too, that I snagged certain I could find something to do with them.
After getting them home and pondering them a bit, I figured one pallet was just the right size for a tabletop for Dylan. I could make a picnic table!
I used our table saw to slice boards off a second pallet to make the seats.
Then I cut up a third pallet to make the base. Some extra boards I cut up to make boosters to make the tabletop just a bit taller. Dylan helped the whole time, of course!
Here you can sort of see how the seat boards nestled into the base.
A few screws later, and there ya go! A baby-sized picnic table!
I may sand it a bit and even paint it, but I’m also pretty happy with it just the way it is. Especially since it was mostly free and took less than an hour to make.
|July 8, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
As Dylan becomes a toddler his nursing is getting more physically chaotic. He’s wigglier. He kicks. He fidgets with his hands. Lately he’ll nurse from one boob for 5 seconds, then switch, then back again. He even does this in his sleep sometimes which I think is terribly adorable.
Kellymom describes possible toddler nursing antics with this list:
“Kneading, patting, twiddling, scratching, pinching, grabbing mom’s nose, biting, pulling at mom’s shirt, playing with or pulling mom’s hair, blowing raspberries on mom’s breast, breastfeeding standing up, breastfeeding upside down, acrobatic breastfeeding…”
Yep, Dylan does ‘em all.
I’ve heard that I’m supposed to put a stop to all this. I should be teaching nursing etiquette or manners. I especially should get busy putting the boot down now before he gets older, bigger, and even more active and set in his ways.
I’m having a hard time getting worked up over it all.
The thing is, breastfeeding is almost all of Dylan’s nutrition. He plays with a lot of other food but doesn’t really ingest all that much. Plus, my boobs are a huge source of comfort and care for him. I just don’t feel inclined to start making a bunch of rules about how he can access his food and comfort.
I don’t put up with things that hurt me, like the occassional biting. But the rest of it I can let go. I even delight in it. Some of it is even convenient for me, like his ability to nurse from more positions.
I read a forum post on this topic recently, and I was put off by the number of women with seemingly angry declarations of, “IT’S MY BODY!” Well, yes, of course it is. But nursing is something we do together, and I don’t think it makes much sense to have a battle for my autonomy against a child over his main source of food and comfort. Especially since the whole thing is so temporary.
Surely MY BODY can wait until next year or so, and I can still be Dylan’s environment for awhile.
Maybe I’ll change my mind when Dylan is even bigger, longer, and wigglier. And if you are looking for ways to curb the antics at the boob, that Kellymom link has some gentle suggestions.
But for now, for us, wiggle away my little nursling!
|June 7, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
I love every single thing about you. This year with you has been the best year of my life. I am smitten, head-over-heels in love, and just the very sight of you is enough to take my breath away. Consequently, I have a gazillion photos of you. Trying to pick out just a few for this post was a losing proposition. So instead, collages!
You’ve been walking for about four months now, and you love to get into everything, and real non-toy objects have always been what interests you. You love going where Joshua and I go and doing what we do, and you love trying to figure things out. All things mechanical capture your attention. Here you are trying to drive two different trucks, riding with Joshua on the lawnmower, figuring out the lawnmower wheel, the bike wheel, and working on the bike with me.
I love how much of our lives are outside. I couldn’t be happier that Joshua and I moved to The Wallow before you were born. This is simply a wonderful place for you to grow up. You’re never in a bad mood outside. So much to touch, to see, to explore!
We started giving you solid food just before you turned six months old. You try everything we eat, and you like almost everything. Here you are making a mess with mashed potatoes, buried in a bowl of guacamole, sitting on the floor with an apple, and taking a bite out of Joshua’s nose!
As many different foods as you’ve tried and loved, food is still a pretty small part of your diet, and you’re almost entirely breastfed still. I love breastfeeding, you love breastfeeding, and neither of us shows much sign of giving it up any time soon.
And here you are sweetly sleeping. You can sleep anywhere you’re safe and comfortable, which mostly means on me or on Joshua.
Having a phone that can take pictures means that I can capture so much of our lives. I love to look back over our photos because you can really see how much fun we’re having here in this life we’re building together.
As this posts today on your birthday, we’re away at Euphoria for your third burn. At Euphoria last year you were only 10 days old, and now a whole year has gone by. A wonderful, glorious, perfect year. I’m sure we’re having a great time at Euphoria because everywhere I am you are happy to be, and everywhere you are I am happy to be.
Good grief, there are just no words that express how much I love you. I hope that you know.
Thank you for you.
|June 4, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting, Radical Self-Acceptance|
Here are some facts:
There is NO evidence that eating too many cookies makes children fat.
There is NO evidence that eating fewer cookies will make fat children thinner.
Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or a liar.
Doctors, children’s book authors, and parents should all be informed about this, because anything else amounts to shaming children about their bodies. And that should never happen, even when the bodies in question are little teddy bears in story books.
|May 30, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Dylan likes my singing.
That’s not a very interesting sentence. He’s a baby; I’m his mama; he’s not too hard to please.
But singing is a huge thing for me. It is a thing tied up with being on display and being required to perform and not being allowed to err. It is a thing at which one should be good or else one should not do, says the voice in my head.
I know that voice is wrong. But. I can’t sing louder than it, so the taunt sticks around.
At times in my life I have been praised for my singing, but being praised doesn’t help. It just reinforces that this is, in fact, an activity of skill and evaluation. Every time I open my mouth to sing I am painfully aware of all my technical shortcomings.
Yesterday while driving in the car, I sang old barely remembered rock songs with Joshua, and I didn’t mind that I stumbled around the words, and I didn’t notice whether I stayed on key or not. I caught myself really enjoying myself, and it felt amazing.
And all this is because Dylan likes my singing. I sing him silly songs and soulful songs and sad songs and sleepy songs and rap songs and pop songs and country songs and made-up-on-the-spot songs and songs I remember being sung to me as a baby and he likes it every time, every song, every note that leaves my mouth.
This does more than just heal my relationship with my voice.
It changes everything.
A quote from Toni Morrison (which I got from here):
There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. . . . Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. . . . Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me -– whatever that was -– but somebody actually needed me to be that. . . . If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want.
When I read that phrase, “the most liberating thing that ever happened to me,” I immediately thought of me, Dylan, and the singing. My baby likes my singing, and I daresay that I become complete as a human being as a result.
Good grief, that can’t be right. Surely I have dreams and goals and some kind of loftier purpose than helping my baby fall asleep or giving him the giggles.
But, you know, some of the popular dreams and goals and purposes these days suck. They’re full of shit. They don’t make the world a better place and they don’t sit softly in the soul.
But I open my mouth and a song comes out and a tiny new person is comforted or delighted, and that tiny person, and me, and the world are all a little better off for it. A little more free. A little more peaceful. A little more who we are, and a little more right where we belong.
Dylan likes my singing, and I am liberated, finally right here where I belong.