Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Completes the Baby Stage

Guess who's potty trained?

At three and a half, and over six months of accidents, non-compliance, and frustration, it's official. Aaron is potty trained.  (Want to know the secret? There isn't one. Kids will stop crapping their pants when they're good and ready. So throw the books away and deal with that as fact.)  And to make matters even... more... he's finally decided use his monkey-like powers to climb in and out of his crib.  So daddy is taking the front of his crib off today, giving him his first 'big boy' bed.*

*Yes, at three and a half.  I have held on to the crib with bloody fingernails with both of my children. I'm all about containment, people.  

It hit me, last night, that these two momentous events are proof that we have exited the baby stage.  My babies aren't babies anymore.  They aren't toddlers.  They're... what is the word for this age?  I'm leaning toward 'big little monkeys'.

It is impossible to compile everything one learns while being a mother. Especially in the first years. I keep thinking back to all the advice I got during my pregnancies, both solicited and unsolicited.  Some of it was so spot-on, so important, that I feel I owe money to the person who gave it to me.  And some of it... well... some of it I wish I had ignored.  So here's my list of baby-truisms, for whatever they are worth.

1.  Take as many pictures and videos as you want.  Videos especially.  

Every few months, an article goes viral about how we need to turn our phones off and be present with our children.  They are reminders that we are social-media junkies and time-wasting jerk-parents.  Of course, some of that is true.  Turn off the phones and play with your kids.  But for all the times I'm grateful I've done that, I'm equally grateful for the times I've pulled the phone out to take a video. When my kids are teenagers and hate my guts, I have a computer full of videos like these to keep me happy:

2.  It's okay to not love the baby-baby phase.

Full, true confession.  I really struggled-- a lot-- through the infant stage.  Breastfeeding was so difficult for me and brings back unpleasant memories.  Recovering from a vaginal birth, recovering from a  C-Section... not fun.  Doing those things on no sleep while feeling chained to the house... especially not fun.  For the longest time, I've felt like a bad mom for not loving that time, especially when so many people told me to cherish every moment.  Every woman is different in this, and it's okay to know that.  I prefer pants-pooping toddlers to wailing newborns, and that's just the truth of it.

Cute as hell, though.  Cute. As. Hell.

3. Beware the parent wearing rose-colored glasses.  

Something happens to a parent after their child turns about five, and continually gets worse as the child grows.  They forget, black-out, or otherwise choose not to remember the truth of things.  They say things like, 'My first born never cried! I swear! He was a perfect angel!'  And you, the new mom who hasn't showered in three days, comforting your wailing three-month-old, want to punch that person in the face.

I've caught myself doing this, too.  It's a survival mechanism.  'Anna was a much easier baby,' I'll say, comparing her to Aaron, when the truth of the matter was that she didn't sleep, cried until she made herself puke, and refused to feed herself until after she turned one.  It's the same reason women 'forget' the pain of childbirth-- survival of the species.  But I wish someone had told me that when I had little, little babies and thought I was losing my mind.

4.  People's definitions of things vary WIDELY.  

As I have complained often, loudly, and for many years, I didn't sleep for a very, veeeery long time. There were a few good bouts here and there, some lasting more than a few days, but for the most part, I didn't sleep.  THIS MADE ME INTO A PSYCHO CRAZY PERSON.

To this day, when someone brags about their six-week old who 'sleeps through the night', I get pangs.  Violent ones.  But I have realized over the years that people define 'sleeping through the night' very differently.  According to the myriad sleep books I read, 'sleeping through the night' means a six hour stretch, somewhere around the month-two month mark.  That could be 9:00pm-3:00am.  Or 7:00pm-1:00am.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

I am a normal human being, who defines a decent night of sleep as 10:00pm-6:00am.  If my kid is awake at 1:00am and up every hour until 6:00am, THAT AIN'T SLEEPING  THROUGH THE NIGHT.

Same applies to a child being 'a good eater', or 'an easy traveler', or 'potty trained'.  People define those things very differently. Quite frankly, I can't wait until the day where I say something like, 'oh, my kids were pretty good sleepers', and actually mean it.  It will mean my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, and probably will not move for the remainder of my existence on earth.

5.  The right thing to do is what works for your family. 

A friend gave me this advice at my baby shower, and oh, how true it is.  True regarding the day-to-day logistics of life, and true regarding the overarching job of creating a working family unit.  I have luxuries many mothers don't have.  I also have challenges many mothers don't have.  So the choices I make must be what works for US, and not what a book tells me should work for the life I don't have.

And this, more than anything, is the advice that sticks with me now that my babies aren't babies anymore. A woman in her thirties can easily figure out what works, logically.  She's probably a master at juggling schedules, multi-tasking, and keeping everyone else happy.  Well, at least alive.  But the challenge is taking the family unit we created-- whatever it looks like-- and accept it for what it is. Accept it, and then embrace it with gratitude.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Resolves, in 2016

Dude.  It's 2016.  Can you even?

I'm starting to understand what people are talking about when they talk about the chaos of the holidays.  We had some serious chaos over the last couple of months, but also some serious down time (strep throat and a Christmas Eve fever will do that to a family).  There's chaos I make time for, like cooking huge quantities of food:

And Santa:

But plenty I don't make time for, like the Elf on the Shelf stuff and a barrage of presents.  So, all in all, the holidays were manageable, the kids felt some serious magic, and the Christmas decorations are packed and put away on January 4.  For the win!

I've been blogging here for a long time, so anyone reading knows how much I love a good list.  Every New Year I get annoyed when people post anti-New Year's Resolution downers such as, "Why your resolutions are bound to fail", and "Why not choose to be a good person every day, not just January 1?"  I get that, but I have to say that's just not the reality for me.  I love making New Year's Resolutions, and very often keep them.  So take that, haters.

I've been thinking a lot about my 2016 list, so here goes.  Subject to change, as always:

1.  Meditate

Yup, you knew that was coming.  I'm a big ol' yoga hippie now, and meditation is extremely difficult for me.  I'm going to aim for two minutes a day.  That's it.  Two quiet minutes.  I hear the benefits are amazing-- we shall see.

2.  Teach independence

I have these wonderful, wise, and kind neighbor friends, who (lucky for me) have older children.  I went out with them last week and we talked about the importance of teaching kids to do things themselves and understand natural consequences for their actions.  I AM TRULY TERRIBLE AT THIS.  I spend so much of the day chasing after my kids, picking up after them, doing things for them that they should be doing themselves.  No more, 2016!

3.  Look for the 'value add' before saying yes to anything

This is an extension on my revelations in my last post, but it's worth making a priority this year.  I'm getting much better at saying no to things, but still struggling with seeing each and every moment as valuable.  Often, I'm trying to fill my days (and I do-- I fill them to the absolute brim).  So, before saying yes, I'm going to look at the value it adds to me, my community, my family.  If it's something that's just filling time and keeping us busy, then it's a no.

4.  Stop feeling responsible for other people's happiness

Ah, this is the biggie for me this year.  You know those people who have a party, and the whole time they're going around asking people if they're having a good time, if they need anything, what else they can do?  That is me.  I come from a long line of people like this: always caught up in the feelings of other people.  It seems noble, but it's actually a huge energy suck and waste of time.  A woman in her thirties can't make other people happy-- she simply isn't that powerful.  I'm going to let go of that this year, if it kills me.

5.  Disconnect

I love our connected world, I love social media, I love all of it.  However,  when I look at the parts of it that are valuable to me, it's a small percentage of the actual time I use it. Take email, for example.  How many junk messages do you get in one day?  I get about 100,000 (slight exaggeration).  How many friends on Facebook do you have that post things constantly that you either don't like or don't care about?  Unsubscribe, unfriend, disconnect.  (Especially as the elections near, amiright??)  Connect in the ways that are valuable, and disconnect from the crap that isn't.

Happy 2016, friends!