Monday, August 18, 2014

Without a toddler in the house ...

... You do not wake up to the incessant call of "Mom ... Mom ... Mom!"

... You don't trip over blocks and cars and all manner of noisy toy on your way to the kitchen to blearily slice somebody's banana before you've even had the chance to make coffee.

... You can stare at your 2-month old for 5 whole minutes without being interrupted.

... You discover that said 2-month-old loves to smile and makes the most adorable gurgling and cooing sounds when you talk to her.

... You additionally find that said 2-month-old has just discovered her toes but only knows them as the wonderful wiggly things that fit in her mouth and not yet as appendages attached to her body.

... You can leave water glasses randomly strewn about the house without fear of someone deciding they look like a good toy and then spilling their contents on your phone.

... You can wash dishes without a little "helper".

... There's no Elmo.

... There's no potty training drama.

... There's no wrestling a little monster into pajamas and then convincing him it's time to sleep despite all the tears and whining to the contrary.

But there's also ...

... no one to help you load the washing machine and dryer (seriously, he loves to help with laundry)

... no games of "This Little Piggy"

... no surprise knee-level attack hugs that nearly knock you over

... no giggle-filled bedtime stories

... no slobbery little kisses that must last exactly as long as the toddler wants and be given to every person in the house before it's time for bed.

This list brought to you by my #toddlerfreeweek (thanks to my parents). As you can see, I'm mostly enjoying it, but by next weekend I'll be glad to have my little monster back.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Working Mom

Last Friday was quite a day for me. It had really been a long week and by Friday I was just shot. Unfortunately Friday is usually one of my busiest work days and this one was exactly that. Let's see if I can remember how to recap it.

Midnight: Infant awakens demanding food. (This is normal.)

2AM: Infant awakens demanding food. (Wait, didn't we already do this?)

4AM: Infant awakens demanding food. (You better be going through a growing spurt, otherwise this is just mean.)

5:30AM: Alarm goes off reminding me that I'm supposed to leave for work early this morning, so I need to hop in the shower before the husband and the toddler wake up. Hit the snooze button instead.

5:55AM: Toddler awakens. (Apparently I turned the alarm off instead of hitting snooze.) Force toddler onto the potty and decide to do a wet wipe sponge bath (one of the advantages of having small children) instead of a shower, since husband is now waking, too.

6:00-6:54AM: General chaos as everyone awakens and demands their various clothing, breakfast, and entertainment needs be met immediately. Eventually there is coffee.

6:55AM: Five minutes before I plan to walk out of the door the infant again demands food. Realize that if I feed her now I won't have to pump the minute my 8AM meeting is over, so decide to risk running late.

7:20AM: Finally in the car and on the way to work 20 minutes later than planned (toddler demanded my help - not his father's - putting on his shoes, even though his father was the one taking him to daycare.)

8:05AM: Arrive at work only 5 minutes late (I love Friday morning lack of traffic) and get into the monthly department meeting at which I'm supposed to talk with enough time to compose myself before it's my turn. But when it's my turn my brain is so mushy that the new products I'm demoing get explained with phrases like "Check it out yourself, it's pretty self-explanatory" rather than actually, you know, explaining how they work.

11AM: Am too busy making fun of the raving conspiracy rant that someone abandoned in our printer that I forget my first pump break of the day.

12:20PM: Finally realized that I forgot that pump break and frantically race to my other "office" followed by a rushed trip to the closest fast food joint to pick up lunch on the remaining few minutes of my lunch break.

4:45PM: Second pump break of the day.

5-6PM: Am so busy actually working that I forget to spend time on Pinterest meal planning for next week (I try to do a lot of my grocery shopping after work on Fridays).

6:15PM: stop at the Costco closer to work and slightly out of my way rather than the one closer to home because I'm running on fumes and need to fill up with cheap Costco gas as well as reasonably priced bulk items.

6:55PM: getting back into my car after the Costco trip and husband calls asking me to pick up C batteries for the infant's swing (does anything besides infant swings use C batteries?), so rather than head back into Costco, hit up the next mass merchandiser on my way home and grab myself a pop, because I need caffeine desperately, but know that if I have coffee this late I won't be able to fall asleep until the infant wakes up for her midnight feeding.

7:45PM: Arrive home to pandemonium. Toddler has been fed, but is cranky and ready to get ready for bed. Infant is hungry and tired. Husband is playing video games. Luckily, I get the infant. Husband wrestles toddler onto the potty and then into pajamas and bed.

8:30PM-midnight: For some dumb reason, both husband and I stay up insanely late doing nothing that I can actually remember now a few days later. I think I was on my computer. Facebook? Probably.

Monday, August 4, 2014

S@!t Toddlers Say

So, I heard my son swear for the first time. I should have known it was coming. He's started repeating everything I say directly to him, so it was only a matter of time before he repeated the word I muttered under my breath when I dropped something while breastfeeding his sister (making me unable to retrieve the item until she was done).

As much as I'd prefer my two-year-old didn't swear, I swear an awful lot in his presence. Okay, I swear an awful lot, period, but I come by it honestly. My dad's ability to swear creatively led my brothers and I to tell our confused friends that he was fluent in French. This more than anything recently has made me feel guilty about not setting a better example for my kids.

Speaking of my father, another thing my son has been saying lately that my father would believe is worse than swearing is mispronouncing "grandma" and "grandpa", both as something sounding roughly like "bama". Since my son says "uh" in front of everything it comes out sounding like "Obama". My father is of the political camp fiercely against our current President and my son is set to spend a week with him later this month. This should be interesting ...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Love and Discipline

Before I went on maternity leave I went on a binge checking out piles of books on both pregnancy and parenting. I blame the hormones. Of course, adding a new baby to a house that already contained a 2-year-old meant that I didn't get through most of those books before I'd already renewed them the maximum number of times. However, two really stuck out for me and I made the time to finish them.

These books address either side of what I've decided to call the parenting coin - love and discipline. Essential to parenting in my mind is that children grow up feeling safe, secure, and loved, but also have structure, rules, and discipline to keep them grounded and help them grow into responsible and independent adults. Both of these books are a response to fear-based parenting and teach parents how to create a vision for what kind of parents they want to be and gives them the confidence to go on in love and respect for their children's futures.

The first book, Grace Based Parenting: Set Your Family Free by Tim Kimmel, on the face of it focuses on the love part (which Kimmel refers to as grace). However, by parenting with grace, you also give your kids the tools to mature emotionally and handle the pressures of adult life, setting them up for strong futures.

Kimmel discusses the pitfalls of both authoritarian and permissive parenting, showing that parents who rigidly require their children to follow a strict set of rules grow up either unprepared for the temptations of the outside world or resentful of all authority figures, while children of parents who let them have whatever they want and only introduce but never enforce their values grow up with no respect for their parents' wishy washy belief system. Grace-Based Parenting strikes a balance, creating clear boundaries for children, but also inviting them into conversation about these boundaries so that everyone understands the values behind them. This also allows children to influence their parents' decisions, but only when it stays within the boundaries of the parent's previously defined values.

Often it seems that Christian parenting books are more focused on the discipline part of parenting, making sure your kids grow up as perfect examples of Christianity, so this focus on grace was a breath of fresh air for me. Instead of focusing on making sure that your children grow up learning to follow x set of rules "because the Bible says", it focuses on how you raise your kids to understand why the Bible choose to lay out these principles, attempting to show your children the bigger picture outside their little world, because, let's face it, all of us need a reminder to look outside our own bubbles every now and then.

It also speaks to a part of living a Christian life that has always bothered me. So many believe that part of setting a good Christian example involves avoiding temptation, which isn't all bad, but there's this misguided belief that the farther you separate yourself from temptation, the better Christian you are. And so you homeschool your kids to avoid them hearing bad words or learning bad things from non-Christians, you only listen to Christian music and only let your kids have access to Christian websites and watch Christian shows and read Christian books. But what happened to spreading the story of Jesus to all people? If you're not living in the secular world, how can you relate to those who aren't already Christ-followers? How can you spread the Gospel?

Kimmel points out that it's not things that are evil, it's intentions that turn you away from God that are sinful. For example, your kid asking to dye their hair a crazy color because they think it would be fun is a totally different thing than your kid huffing off in a rage and dying their hair because they know it will make you angry. In both cases it's not the hair dye that's evil, but in the second, the child's attitude is certainly not one of honoring their parents.

Finally, I loved that this was fundamentally a book about how every parent and every child is different and how what works for one parent or child may not work in another situation and that's perfectly fine because God allows us infinite ways to serve and honor him while still being true to ourselves. It so nice to hear a Biblical argument against peer pressure, especially when that pressure is sometimes coming from fellow Christians. But maybe it got me a little too focused on addressing the needs of each child individually because I started second-guessing my decisions and wondering if I should let my toddler do whatever crazy thing he was doing because he wasn't in danger of injuring himself, and maybe he just wasn't ready to sit on the potty yet.

Then I read Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later by Denise Schipani, and reminded myself that he's only two. All he knows is that sitting on the potty is something new and he likes nothing better than unchanged routines, so, really, it's my job as the parent to nudge him toward a new skill he is perfectly capable of mastering. And really, forcing him to sit on the potty when he doesn't want to isn't going to break his little soul.

By "Mean Mom" what Schipani really means is something more like an old-fashioned mom, one who didn't spend her life carting her kids from event to event, but instead told the kids to go outside and play until it was time to come in for supper. Granted, in many neighborhoods today parents wouldn't be allowed to let their children roam free like that anymore, but is it really so bad if the kids want to run next door and just hang out with the neighbor kids without having some sort of structured activity or parent hovering in the background?

Like Kimmel, Schipani is big on being intentional in your parenting, deciding ahead of time what kind of parent you want to be, so that when things come up, you'll be better equipped to stick to your guns and raise your kids the way you intended instead of letting their incessant demands run you.  As she says many times, your kids job is to push the envelope and see what you'll let them get away with; your job is to provide firm and consistent boundaries.

Schipani's main beef is with today's Helicopter Parents, but most of her issues could be summed up by saying that Helicopter Parenting is largely fear-based. We are now obsessed with keeping our children safe and with making sure they take advantage of every opportunity available to them and that every possible talent they might have is being nurtured appropriately. But really, why are we being so hyperattentive to our kids' needs? Is it because we're actually helping them or because we're afraid that other parents will judge us? Schipani would argue that many time it's the latter.

Basically I feel like a much stronger parent now after reading these two books that encourage parents to raise children with a balance of love and discipline so that one day they will become adults who can think for and take care of themselves.