Five Things That May Exclude Me From the Mommy Club

Right now there is such a Mommy culture. Maybe there always has been and I just didn’t notice till I became a mom myself. Or maybe technology has given moms a new way to connect and share experiences. The Internet has definitely played its part with an abundance of mom centric memes and blogs. And I have to admit I love it. I love reading parenting blogs, especially comedy ones. Laughing at the struggles we share can be so cathartic. I do find, however, that while I can totally relate to so much of the mom culture there are a few of the biggest mom stereotypes that just aren’t me. Jokes about those things still make me laugh at times but don’t give me the same “Preach, sister” type feeling. So can I still join the mommy club if:

1. I Don’t Like Wine

 

With the exception of a couple really sweet ones like plum wine (which I’m not sure actually counts as wine) I’m not a wine fan. Which not only makes me an outcast as a mom but probably as a woman in general. I do love super froofy drinks with umbrellas in them though, so there’s that. If I’m going to drink it’s probably going to be a mixed drink or hard cider or something similar and I rarely drink anymore. I have the most fun drinking when I’m in a group of friends and that doesn’t happen often sans kids these days. I’d rather have a cup of herbal tea to unwind or a bowl of ice cream or another sweet treat during my brief grown-up time after the kiddo’s in bed. Which I guess pigging out after bedtime is a mommy cliché too, so that might still keep me in the running.

2. I’m Not That Annoyed by Children’s Television. 

 

Like most adults I don’t find watching Dora for hours on end a laugh riot. And when I go to turn on some grown-up tv after bedtime and Netflix is still on the kid profile “Oh God no” are usually the exact words going though my head. But I’m not nearly as annoyed by children’s programming as I thought I would be. (I am annoyed by the constant cartoon theme songs running through my head though). Maybe I’ve just gotten used to it but it doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. Admittedly, even though experts recommend you engage with children while they watch tv, I often put it on when I’m busy or need a rest and am not really watching. But I do still directly see quite a bit of it. I also cheat sometime and try to get Miss Independent to watch cartoons I actually like. They’re usually meant for kids a bit older than her and are rarely educational (yes, she watches educational tv too) but it saves a bit of my sanity. And yes, I’ve always had kids shows that I’ve liked to watch. I watched children’s cartoons quite a bit before I was a mom. Now, however, no matter how much I love a kids show or movie I absolutely will not watch it when there aren’t kids present.

3. I’m Not That Annoyed by Noisy Toys

I always assumed I would hate loud toys. How many times did I hear people say sarcastically “His mom and dad are going to love me” while buying a talking/singing/noise making toy as a birthday or Christmas present? But they rarely bother me unless I’m having one of those days. Similar to the cartoons they do annoy me when they go off and there’s not a kid playing with them. Like the ones that start talking just because you walked by them. Otherwise, I’m pretty good at tuning them out.

4. I’m Not into Pinterest

 

Look, I tried.  I really did. Everyone was all “Pinterest! Pinterest! Pinterest!” and I was like “Sounds cool, I’ll check it out.” Maybe I’m not as bright as I think I am but I find it completely overwhelming. I’ve pinned a few things but I really can’t figure where I should even start. It takes so much time to filter though anything you search for and find what you want, it just isn’t worth it to me. I guess some people find that fun but it just gives me a headache. I’m also not the kind of mom that spends a lot of time setting up cute little crafts and structured activities for my kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). Sure, we make leaf rubbings and hand turkeys and do some educational or just fun activities now and then and I’ve made a few home-made toys. But I’m more of the hand my kid a bunch of art supplies and say “go for it” type mom. I’ll happily waste hours on Facebook but Pinterest sends me running.

5. I Don’t Wear Yoga Pants Unless I’m Staying Home or Going to the Gym

 

The furthest I get from my house in yoga pants (besides the gym) is walking my dogs around the neighborhood. To be clear, I’m not one of those anti-yoga pants people. If that’s what you’re comfortable in, go for it. It’s just not me. Even around the house I’m more likely to wear pajama pants than yoga pants. I have a few pairs I wear at home occasionally. Mostly my R2D2 ones my husband got me for Christmas. I think they’re hilarious in the combination of the mom stereotype and my predilection for the nerdy.


I’m all about dressing for comfort but I prefer to throw on some jeans, cargo pants or shorts before I run out somewhere. I don’t get all dolled up or anything, my hairs always in a braid and I almost never wear make-up, I just like wearing “real pants” to the store. But I totally won’t think any less of you if you’re wearing yoga pants.

So, there you have it. Am I even allowed to be a mom if I don’t wear yoga pants to Target to buy more wine? On the other hand, my house is a mess, at any given time I’m likely to be hiding somewhere eating chocolate, I do direct sales, I post too many pictures of my kid on Facebook and I’ve been known to discuss which local libraries have the best children’s programs with other moms while watching our kids at the park. Oh and of course I have a blog where I write about mom things (sometimes). So maybe I fit in the Mommy Club okay after all.


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No, I did not have a “Positive Birth Experience”

I’m going to tell my birth story, I guess really my daughter’s birth story as I don’t exactly remember my own birth. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, except that I think it’s more for myself than for people reading it. I’m not going to go out of my way to use explicit details for shock factor but I’m also not going to sugar coat it or leave out anything relevant because it might be considered yucky. So if you’re squeamish about such things you might want to close your eyes during the icky parts. If you’re reading this and are pregnant or hope to be pregnant someday, my intent is not to freak you out, I know many women who had the beautiful (although of course still not easy) birth of their dreams.

After having my sweet girl, I felt traumatized, like shutting myself in the bathroom and bawling uncontrollably remembering it, traumatized. I thought this was super weird until I read that a surprising number of mothers show symptoms of PTSD after giving birth. Now, I would never dream of comparing my experience with that of soldiers or people who have experienced horrible attacks on themselves or others and have PTSD as a result. So nobody freak out that I’m comparing giving birth to the extreme horrors some people have experienced and I also know many women have more traumatic experiences giving birth than I (like these poor women who I just read about before posting this). But all the same, I felt traumatized. Luckily, much of this feeling has faded as I forget not what happened that day but exactly how it felt, physically and emotionally.

I didn’t have much of a birth plan beyond epidural. Sure, I did my pregnant yoga with hip opening poses and lots of kegels to prepare but I didn’t have a detailed plan. I did however have the beautiful moment imagined vividly. That moment when after all the hard work the OB would give me my new baby and love and relief would wash over me, knowing labor was over and I’d done it and have my amazing baby in my arms. I was terrified of the whole thing of course but also excited. I would spend hours watching those real life birth shows on tv. I knew it wouldn’t be exactly as I imagined, things never are, but I was sure I would have my moment.

A little background. It was a Sunday, I worked leading warm-ups for performers at EPCOT at 6:30 am. Being just over three weeks from my due date I had brought the paper work for my medical leave to take to health services (which is in the cast parking lot of EPCOT) on a break. I didn’t get that turned in. I planned on packing my overnight bag for the hospital that afternoon after work. My dad was visiting from Arkansas and planning to leave the next day, my mom (my parents are divorced) planned on coming the next weekend expecting to be there when I went into labor. My husband had a job in Louisiana where he was there for two weeks then home for two weeks alternately. He was to be gone for work the two weeks leading almost up to my due date so I was hoping the baby would wait till he was home. In a stroke of luck, he was home because he hadn’t started the hitch leading up to my due date yet because she was early. In another stroke of luck, one of my best friends had offered to pick my husband and dad up and take them to Star Wars Weekends at Disney Hollywood Studios while I was at work, as we only had one car in Florida.

So, I lead warm-ups most the morning, even joking with a couple of people that I felt like baby was sitting high and wouldn’t be coming for a while. I was so very wrong. (I wasn’t to the “I need to get this baby out of me now” point in pregnancy yet). My lunch break was at 9:00 am but I had some pretty long breaks later because there were fewer warm-ups in the afternoon, so I’d usually sleep during my lunch break (which is totally legit because I wasn’t getting paid) then eat during a later break. EPCOT was awesome for warm-up coach lunch naps because the warm-up room was (likely still is) isolated and not used for anything else. So I was snoozing on a warm-up mat with the lights out when I felt a little wet in my underwear region. I’d learned that sometimes when your water breaks it can be a slow leak (if the baby is blocking the fluid in) rather than a gush but hoped it was just normal discharge. I went to the bathroom then tried to go back to sleep. I had a bit more leakage before my next group came in but still wasn’t going to admit my water had broken. Only two girls were in my warm-up session right after my lunch break. I led them in taking a deep breath and started marching in place when there was a much bigger whoosh of liquid. Not the Niagara Falls that happens when all the fluid comes out but much more than I could ignore. I squeaked out “go ahead and self warm-up” and rushed from the room. I went straight to the base where we check in for shifts and told the base captain (yes, that’s a thing at Disney), who also happened to be pregnant “Either my water just broke or I peed my pants, either way I need to go home.” She contacted a manager and got me cleared to leave in no time. I called my husband and asked where they were and he said they had just gotten to the Disney Hollywood Studios parking lot, I said “Great, now come to the EPCOT cast parking lot because I think my water broke.” (Remember how I was lucky my friend picked them up for Star Wars Weekends? Otherwise my husband and dad would have been 30 minutes away with no car). I think my husband was even more freaked out than I was. I packed up my stuff, changed clothes, told the costuming department there were bodily fluids on the company sweatpants I was wearing etc. and met my ride in the parking lot.

I ate a little of my lunch in the car, knowing they wouldn’t let me eat after I was admitted to the hospital. I also called ahead as I was told to do and the nurse on the phone sounded a little skeptical. When we got there instead of going to the maternity ward we were ushered into a waiting room to await an ultrasound since the nurse was indeed skeptical that my water had broken and I hadn’t just had a typical pregnant lady potty accident. Till this point I had never had a contraction, not even any Braxton Hicks. While waiting I kept feeling like I really had to go to the bathroom then it would pass after a moment, it wasn’t till after the ultrasound that of course confirmed I was in labor, that I realized those “got to go” feelings were contractions.

Once I was settled in my room the nurse got all up in my business and got the rest of the fluid out. I thought there couldn’t be much left but boy was there. We were a little worried that she was technically premature but since she would be considered full term in just a few days we weren’t overly worried. Since it was early in the labor we expected to be there for the long haul, assuming baby wouldn’t come till the middle of the night or the next morning. I called my roommate (we rented a spare room in our house to her) who was super excited about the whole baby thing, and told her the news. I told her not to leave work early because it would probably be a while but she came right away anyways. (Of course I called other family members etc but they were all out-of-state). So I ended up with my husband, dad, friend and roommate chilling with me in the delivery room. But I wasn’t great company as the contractions grew worse. I knew I couldn’t get an epidural till I’d dilated to a certain point and I assumed I wasn’t there yet and having babies hurt, so I didn’t ask for the epidural. When the nurse had last checked on me the contractions were still mild, by the time she came back they were very painful (I don’t think I can describe the amount of pain to someone who hasn’t been there). She asked if I wanted the epidural and I said yes but it takes a half hour to actually get it after it’s requested. She checked to see how I was progressing, which involves checking how dilated the cervix is (it needs to dilate to 10 cm) with fingers, not fun. Anyways as she checks me she says something like “Wow! You’re already at a…” and I’m thinking she’s going to say maybe four when she says “seven! I better go call the doctor.” Realizing the contractions were no longer mild if I’d progressed so much she offered me a narcotic while I waited for the epidural. I accepted her offer because I was in a lot of pain and how often do you get offered legal narcotics? (That was a joke, I’ve never even tried marijuana). The drugs pretty much just made me sleepy. I had been somewhat nervous about the epidural (as the nurse who taught my baby delivery class said “Does an epidural hurt? Yes. Does it hurt more than a baby ripping out of your vagina? No”) but I was so out if it from the narcotic that I was falling asleep as they gave me the epidural.

Some women can’t even feel when they’re having contractions with the epidural but I was one of the ones that still felt the pressure, just not the pain. The narcotic wore off quickly and I felt pretty good with the epidural. It also wasn’t long before I was in full labor. They sent my friend and roommate out of the room since the policy was only two people could be in the room besides medical staff. And honestly I wasn’t sure I wanted them to see a baby come out of my vagina anyways. The nurse told me baby was coming so fast she’d probably be out in just a few pushes. It was near the end of her shift but she was so confident we’d be done before her shift ended she filled out all the paper work she could (besides time of birth etc). The doctor came in and I was ready. I started pushing on contractions and after just a few pushes they could see the head. I was ecstatic I was almost done. But then I pushed and pushed some more and more and still no baby. The nurses shift ended and another came in, she was a little more forceful telling me to push, not in a bad way, she was trying to get that baby out. I was watching the clock knowing they usually don’t let you push for more than two hours before going to a c-section. I pushed and pushed with all my strength. I’m vaguely aware that they did some stuff to try to progress the labor and make sure baby was okay.

A few minutes before the two-hour mark I heard the doctor tell the nurse he was worried there was “cord involvement” and he told me the thing I’d been dreading, I would have to get a c-section. I burst into tears. I can’t begin to describe how devastating this was to me. He quickly said the right thing “It’s not your fault, you did a great job pushing.” I was so worried the epidural had made me unable to push hard enough, which can happen. And I didn’t fully believe him that it wasn’t my fault. Along with many other comforting things the OB mentioned it would just be a tiny scar in my bikini area, which was the last thing I was worried about, so I couldn’t believe he’d mentioned it. In hindsight many women probably are worried about it even in that moment. In fact it’s easy to worry about weird things in all the stress and exhaustion. I was totally upset at all the time I’d spent doing hip opening exercises for nothing, which is kind of silly.

They prepped me and wheeled me to the OR. I was shaking uncontrollably, freezing because of the medication and the cold OR. They put hot towels all over me which would work till I’d overheat and ask them to take them off, till I was freezing again and so on. My husband was the only one allowed to go with me. (Apparently he could see the surgery through a gap in the curtains they put up). I don’t know how to describe how it felt because the epidural saw that it didn’t exactly hurt but it still felt awful. It was such intense pressure, I can only think of uncomfortable but it went far, far beyond discomfort. The worst was right as they got her out of course, when they said she was out I was relieved thinking it was finally almost over. I was so out of it but I still remember listening anxiously for her cry. I didn’t hear the first one, the anesthesiologist said “Did you hear that, it was your baby.” And I said “It was?” Then immediately heard her second cry and was able to relax a little.

Minutes later they brought my baby girl over to me, put her head so close to my face I couldn’t even see her, told me to kiss her and whisked her (and my husband) away. I was a mess by this point, okay I’d been a mess for a long time by that point but it was only getting worse. I lay there for what seemed like hours as they stitched me up, there was so much more of that intense pressure and some pain as well. Even then I assumed it felt like much longer than it was because of how horrible it was. I noticed a bag of blood hanging next to me, it occurred to me I might be receiving a blood transfusion but in the state I was in I came up with another explanation as to why there was a bag of blood hanging next to me. I’m sure it was a completely crazy and incomprehensible explanation but it made sense at the time. I’d tell what you what that explanation was but much like a dream I can remember I had it but not the details. The anesthesiologist stayed with me talking to me and comforting me, I think she even stroked my head. I knew in the part of my mind that was still logical that my husband should be with the baby but I desperately wanted him with me. Near the end I started whining that I just wanted it to end. I could her my pathetic voice and was even slightly embarrassed at my weakness. As if the medical staff were thinking “Sheesh, lady can’t even handle two hours of active labor followed by hours of surgery she’s awake for.”

Eventually it did end. When I finally got to hold my sweet baby, I was barely aware that I had a baby, I didn’t even notice her little nose was crooked. I was robbed of my beautiful moment. It wasn’t all bad of course, I still enjoyed my baby just not fully and my whole gang of birth cheerleaders was there supporting me and cooing at baby. Now I remember less of the time after I came out of surgery but even a couple of weeks later when I watched the video, I had no memory of much of it. Breast feeding was super important to me, like super-duper important but I didn’t even bat an eyelash when the nurse said they’d give her more formula because I was in no shape to try breast-feeding. (We have video of my husband making sure they used a syringe for her first formula feeding to avoid nipple confusion and asking the OB if I’d be able to breast feed when I came out. It was so sweet because he knew how important it was to me). I was in so much pain but I’ll get to that in a moment. Over the next while I learned that it wasn’t just my perception of time fooling me but I had indeed been in the OR for two hours after she was born. They told my husband it would be about a half hour, so needless to say, he was worried. Baby girl didn’t turn her head how she was supposed to in the birth canal and was wedged in. I was pushing hard enough, I was just pushing her head repeatedly against by pelvic bone. This had caused me internal damage and banged her up a bit too. Luckily babies are made for this and her crooked nose and bruises healed just fine. I did, obviously, get a blood transfusion, well two to be precise. I don’t want to be over-dramatic, it’s not like I was at death’s door but they don’t just give blood transfusions for the hell of it. (Also, thank you so much to all those who donate blood).

The pain was intense, I could barely move and could only sleep with narcotics at first. When they got me out of bed the next day, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Thankfully, one of nurses eventually realized how bad my pain was (I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal) and got the doctor to give me the good stuff which helped tremendously. (She was then my favorite nurse ever). I was an emotional wreck for some time, my hormones were way more out of whack in the weeks after giving birth than they were while I was pregnant. It didn’t help I had an immensely hard time breast-feeding but that’s a whole other blog post. You usually picture people in the hospital dying to get out but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go home and it was harder when I got there. There were no handles on my bed or by the toilet to help me get up and no nurses just a buzzer away. My friends and family were a tremendous help as I recovered.

I go over it and over it in my head. Wondering if I hadn’t had the epidural maybe I could have moved around and gotten baby to turn her head. I love natural births in theory but I’m not a person who can choose pain when I could avoid it, without a hugely compelling reason. Or maybe I would have still needed a c-section and they would have knocked me out which is less safe. I’ll never know. I respect every women’s right to choose her birth plan. But after my experience it’s hard for me to understand how women can choose c-sections without a major medical reason. Don’t get me wrong I’m so glad a c-section saved my baby’s life and possibly my own that day. And actually, definitely saved my life as a baby since I was born via emergency c-section myself after getting tangled in the umbilical cord and was moments away from having permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen. (I may not remember my birth but I have heard the story).

Now I have a rambunctious, brilliant, beautiful three-year-old. I would go through all that again and more for her. But it drives me crazy when people say things like “Well, the only thing that matters is you have a healthy baby.” Because while that is absolutely the most important thing, it’s not the ONLY thing that matters. Mommy matters too. Us mammas will go through our entire lives willingly and happily putting our kids first but we don’t cease to matter.

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Balancing Act

Our society is obsessed with labeling people and parents are no exception. You’ve got helicopter parents, free-rage parents, crunchy parents, attachment parents, Tiger parents, minimalist parents and the list goes on. Most of these labels are based on extremes but what about the rest of us? Those of us that don’t fit neatly in a pre-packaged label? I’m guessing really, the majority of parents are in this somewhere in between limbo.

So the next time I’m discussing parenting techniques with a group of moms, I’m calling myself a Balanced Parent (if that title is already in use for something else or there’s another name for what I’m talking about, I’m unaware and apologize). Balanced Parent can describe a wide range of parents. We’re the parents who pick and choose what works best for our families and find compromise is often best. Balanced Parenting is practical parenting and sometimes flexible patenting.

I’m constantly seeing huge arguments about the extremes from juice consumption to discipline to screen time. And I’m not here to attack any one stance but does it have to be no juice or unlimited juice? I’m the parent who goes with some juice, not unlimited juice, not no juice, just a moderate amount of juice. Screen time? In moderation. (Okay, some days we have too much screen time but I try). I’m the parent who sometimes makes organic spinach salad with avocados for dinner and sometimes stops at the drive thru. I’m not about to let a newborn cry it out but I’m not opposed leaving a young infant crying for a few minutes while I use the bathroom or finish shoveling dinner into my mouth. I try different discipline techniques to see what works best with my daughter. I make so many mistakes and could do so much better but I look at the research and the trends and my personality, my values and my family and make the best choices I can.

Of course all of us lean one way or the other on certain issues. I’m much more towards the free range end on the helicopter parenting scale but I’m not quite on the extreme either. And I think all parents have their issues that they are more extreme about than others and I’m sure I’m no exception. There’s nothing wrong with extremes sometimes but personally, I find moderation and compromise to be the answer for me most of the time.

So, somewhere between constantly barking orders at your kids and letting them run wild, between helicopter and free range, between a strict exacting schedule and no routine at all, between letting them eat whatever they want and having a restrictive all healthy diet there is (cue dramatic music) The Balanced Parent.

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How to Give Parenting Advice

The best way to give parenting advice….DON’T. Okay, that’s not entirely true, I should say don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Otherwise this would be a very short (possibly better?) blog post. I don’t think there’s a person over 20 who hasn’t weighed in with a little unwanted parenting advice at one point or another. And I’m no exception, I’m sure, but as a parent I’ve got to say it’s annoying as hell to get. So I want to lay down some ground rules for how and when it’s appropriate to give parenting advice. Most of this can be applied to any advice but parenting can be a particularly touchy subject.

First off to the advice givers, I know you’re trying to be helpful. I know it’s frustrating to watch patents make, what you view, as mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I have bit my tongue (or I guess typing finger) after seeing adorable “baby’s first solids” pictures on Facebook featuring babies way too young for solids or eating in an unsafe reclined position. Or many other things that make my mommy self cringe. But I keep quiet. Sure, I may post a general article on my newsfeed about the appropriate pediatrician recommended time to start solids but I try (with all my might) to not single out parents for a lecture. Because I hate when people pull that crap with me. I think that’s the difference between advocating for parenting methods you agree with and giving unwanted advice.

What it boils down to is that every family is different and each parent must decide the best way to raise their own kids. Just because something works for you or you read it works or it worked for your cousin’s, friend’s, sister’s, fiancé’s, mother, does not mean it is right for every family! If you’re a seasoned parent (parent of older or already grown kids) your advice to new parents can be so valuable but remember, safety guidelines and recommendations may have changed since your kids were itty bitty. If you’re on the receiving end of the offending advice, I’ve found smiling and nodding to be a tried and true response.

How do you know advice is wanted? Is the person who’s talking about their child happy with what is happening? Do they use the word “help”? Are they flat-out asking for advice? Unless it’s pretty obvious the parent is asking for advice in person or online, it’s probably best to keep your trap shut. Of course there at times when the tone of the conversation, especially in person, implies the parent is not adverse to some friendly advice. It’s also surprisingly possible to have a friendly non-judgmental conversation about your different parenting styles with another parent.

If advice seems welcome here’s how to give it. Avoid saying things like “you need…” and “you have to…” and “you can’t…” And instead say things like “we had that problem and here’s what worked for us…” Or “I read an article about that and here’s what it recommended…” You get the point (I hope), always make a suggestion and not a command. So, frustrated mom says “I don’t know what to do, I’m so exhausted! I just can’t get little Timmy to sleep at night.” You might say “That happened to us with Sam at that age, I know how difficult it can be. The Wonderful, Magic Sleep Method (not real) worked for us. I’d be happy to give you more information about it or lend you the book if it sounds like something you might like to try.” Notice how you didn’t say anything condescending about her parenting or blame her for the problem? (Of course if there’s a situation where you have serious concerns about a child’s safety and welfare, different steps may need to be taken).

If you are a person who does not have children and does not have a Masters in child development or some other child related expertise, parents generally don’t want to get advice from you. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s not to say a person without children can never, ever give some parenting advice, occasionally it might be useful but tread lightly, very lightly. It’s not that your friends who are parents don’t value your friendship and opinion but would a football player ask advice from someone who’s never played football? Experience counts, even in parenting. Also, every parent knows, as soon as you hold that little newborn bundle of joy, your world changes in ways you never imagined possible. And it continues, the discipline method you were sure you would use for a toddler may just melt away as you get to know YOUR toddler instead of just A toddler. I was planning on having Miss Independent weaned by a year but as I learned more and experienced our own relationship, that changed and we nursed many months past the one year mark. Those of you who don’t have kids yet might be surprised by how quickly that parent you gave a smug, judgmental smirk to the other day can become yourself. (Keep telling yourself your kids will be different). You really can’t know exactly what kind of parent you’ll be until you’re living it. That being said sometimes a non-parent has experienced something with a child they’re close to or heard something from a family member or read something that’s useful to a parent friend’s situation. It’s okay to put that useful tidbit out there if you use extreme tact and caution. You probably want to start with something like “I haven’t been there so I can’t know exactly what you’re going through but this article I read (or whatever) might be helpful to you.” Definitely don’t say something like “Well, my sisters baby never cries because she…” At least not unless you want to get smacked.

I’ve noticed a lot of very nice, well-meaning people can end up alienating friends with bossy advice. If you think that might be you, please remember, your way may be the best way for you but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for everyone. And if you put someone on the defensive straight away, they’re probably not going to listen to a word you say. I’m sure some who know me will read this and remember less than tactful advice I’ve given them and I’m sorry for those times. Everyone slips up and says something they shouldn’t have sometimes but I think being mindful of those times can make them less frequent. I have to give a shout out to the play group we’re in, I always feel comfortable talking openly about any parenting subject without feeling judged for my choices. And I never see a hint of those mommy wars everyone’s always talking about with them. (I can say that of most my other friends as well). All parents make mistakes, so please don’t be harsh on those parents that make different mistakes than you do. We’re all trying to raise our children the best way we know how and building each other up rather than tearing each other down is definitely the way to go. If someone wants your opinion, they’ll probably ask for it, otherwise silence is golden.

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Children Will Listen

I’ve been seeing the saying “Teach your children how to think, not what to think” (I couldn’t find the origins of the quote, if you know please enlighten me) a lot lately and I not only agree with it wholeheartedly but I am very grateful to my own parents for raising me in this manner. And I hope most sincerely I’m able to teach my own children (I say “children” meaning my daughter and hypothetical second child) using this wise saying as a guide.

One of my pet peeves is when I ask someone their opinion and that person says “I was raised to think…” or “raised to believe…” All I can think is “I wanted YOUR opinion, not your parent’s opinion.” I sincerely hope I never hear my daughter say either of these things. Of course we have to instill certain attributes and values on children. For instance kindness, patience, honesty. They need to know to treat people with respect even those who are different from themselves. So honestly I would love to hear my daughter say “I was raised to be hardworking” or “respectful” or “open-minded.” But by the time someone reaches adulthood their thoughts, beliefs and opinions should be their own. Of course parents will always have an effect on their child’s opinions and beliefs whether it’s because their children look up to them and mimic them or because they want to rebel by choosing opposing beliefs.

But if we don’t indoctrinate our children with our exacts opinions and beliefs how can we guarantee they will turn out just like us? We can’t. And even though that was a silly and exaggerated question, it’s scary (by scary I mean totally terrifying). Of course we want our kids to share our beliefs and our likes and dislikes. It’s hard as a parent when you’re super excited to share something you love with your children and they’re just not that interested. The difficult truth is that parents create individual complete people not clones of ourselves (or mini mes if you like). And that’s absolutely necessary to the advancement of society. If everyone thought exactly like their parents there would be no new inventions, no new styles of art and architecture, no innovations at all. If everyone thought just like their parents we would still have slavery in the United States and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Each generation faces challenges that the previous generations never imagined. If a child is taught only to parrot their parents beliefs how are they supposed to adjust to these new circumstances? Most likely they will just cling to whatever someone else tells them to believe. Whether it be friend, politician, celebrity or talk show host. I actually had someone tell me they had to agree with everything the president at the time did because he belonged to the same political party as the president. I don’t care what political party you belong to, that’s just a ridiculous line of thought. I certainly don’t agree with everything every politician in my political party does. The point of political parties is to determine your own opinions then join the party you agree with most, not just join a party and agree with everything they tell you (sorry side tangent). Is that really how we want our children to operate? As cattle just waiting to be herded? Also consider that every adolescent will rebel to some extent, otherwise they wouldn’t learn how to be adults, even if it’s just to like a TV show you hate (not even necessarily an inappropriate show just one you don’t care for). If you strongly indoctrinate your children with all your beliefs they’re more likely to choose to rebel by adopting the exact opposite beliefs. While if you teach them to think for themselves they are less likely to oppose your beliefs just for rebellion’s sake. Some children will thankfully learn to think for themselves despite their parents best efforts to sabotage them.

If you’re sure teaching your children to think for themselves will cause them to disagree with you then perhaps you should reexamine your own beliefs and opinions. Did you gain your own opinions through careful analysis of information or do you just hold tightly to your preconceived notions, unwilling to look at any evidence that contradicts them? I am fairly confident that my daughter, with her own careful thought, will come to many of the same conclusions I have. If having your children think too much about what you’re teaching them is a bad thing, then how can what your teaching them be good? Do your opinions have so little to back them up that you can’t give your children other points of view without seeing the fallacy of your own? If you are confident your opinions are sound then there is much less to fear. Being individuals your children will probably grow up to disagree with you to an extent but at least they will have the ability to make their own way in the world.

By now I hope your thinking “By George, she’s right! But how do I teach my children to think for themselves?” This is where I have to confess I’m not an expert on child development but I can tell you how I plan on raising my daughter to be a free-thinker. (I also have to confess I stole some of this from my parents). First off I’m going to let her be an individual and support her in whatever she enjoys. I’m a Star Wars watching, comic book reading nerd and a theatre majoring, art museum patronizing artist (pronounced ar- teest). I haven’t voluntarily watched a sporting event in….I don’t even know how long, never maybe. Despite all that, I will expose my daughter to sports, admittedly probably not as much as the stuff I like but I will let her try them out. Perhaps she will find a particular sport to be her passion in life or just a fun way to get some exercise and meet new friends. Either way if that’s what she wants to do I will go to every game I possibly can and cheer for her till I am hoarse. That’s just one example but you get my point (I hope).

Now for the harder part, when my daughter asks me about a difficult issue I won’t just give her my opinion as fact. First off, I will ask her what she thinks. If she has any thoughts on the subject I will discuss them with her, pointing out the merits and flaws in her thought process. Then I will give her both my own and opposing opinions. I will explain position but also let her know any good arguments the other side has, most positions on issues have good arguments even if I disagree with them. There are some exceptions, most notably prejudice. I can’t very well tell her the good arguments in favor of racism because there aren’t any. But for most questions I will tell her both sides and let her decide. When she is a child she will probably agree with me but as she grows she may discover she doesn’t agree with me on everything. Most importantly it will teach her to look at both sides of an argument and draw the best conclusions she can from the information she has. It is also useful to be able to analyze situations in this way in personal life. It can really help end a personal argument if you really consider the other persons point of view.

Okay, this is where I’m going to lose some (more?) people but if you disagree please keep reading till I’ve made my point. Yes, I believe this applies to religion too. I know religion is not based in facts and reason but in faith. The question is (if you’re religious) do you want your children to develop genuine personal faith or just a pale reflection of your own faith? If you are a religious person take your kids to services, celebrate and teach them about your holidays (or why you don’t celebrate holidays), let them know what you believe and how strong your belief is. At the same time, let them know there are many other belief systems, don’t judge or talk meanly about other belief systems. Let you kid go to church with a friend of another faith. Don’t try to keep your children from learning about other spiritual and religious beliefs and even no belief in a higher power. Let them question, how can they grow their own faith without questioning? If you’re atheist, agnostic or just not very religious, don’t mock religion in front if your children. Explain to them why you don’t believe in or question the existence of a higher power but also let them go to services with a friend, let them explore the possibility. Forcing religious beliefs on children can result in the same opposition rebellion I mentioned earlier. I know it scares a lot of people to think of their children not choosing the same spiritual path they have chosen but it is a deeply personal choice and one each person needs to choose for themselves.

Most importantly make sure your children know you love them no matter what. Whatever choices they make, whatever paths they follow, whatever opinions they form, they need to know they are loved and supported. A child needs to know that nothing could make their parent(s) stop loving them. Be an example, if you want your children to agree with your beliefs and opinions, live by them. Children are always observing and often listen more intently when we’re not talking to them than when we are. Never forget children are little sponges absorbing everything they see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Guide them, teach them, listen to them. Let them learn, let them explore, let them question, let them be their own persons and live their own lives.

*I have since seen the quote I didn’t know the origins of attributed to Margaret Mead.

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photo taken by https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reflections-by-Christine-Photography/333679582164

Cuteness

In honor of my daughter, little T’s second birthday, here are some of the adorable things she has said and done over the past year.

This time last year, although she had said “mama” and “dada” before, she called everything including us “doggie.”

When she was still nursing and just starting to talk in full sentences, she revealed her observant nature.
T: “Daddy’s boobs are yummy.”
Me: “Daddy doesn’t have boobs. Daddy’s a guy and guys don’t have boobs. Only girls have boobs.”
T: “Guys have nipples.”
Touché

Comforting Daddy.
Daddy: “I’m getting too old for this.”
T: “Daddy’s old.”
Daddy: “Yes, Daddy’s old.”
T: “That’s okay.”

At the pediatrician’s office little T kept knocking on the inside of the exam room door before the doctor came in.
Me: “Who’s at the door ?”
T: “The doctor……Dr. Seuss!”

When Daddy accidentally set the car alarm off.
“Uh oh! The car’s barking!”

She revealed her caring, helping nature when she dropped a toy cookie into the homemade toy pictured below.

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She tried to get the lid off and on failing looked in the slot and said “Don’t worry cookie we’ll get you out!”

Demonstrating that she understands the concept but not the limitations of Siri.
(Holding a phone) “Siri, get us cereal.”

In the car, while I was lost no less.
T: “Uh oh! I can’t find it.”
Me: “Can’t find what?”
T: “I can’t find my car engine.”
Me: “Oh no, how are you going to drive your car without an engine?”
T: “That’s a good question.”

She loves the book The Last Basselope which ends with everyone saying goodbye to the Basselope then it flying away. We have another book called Wave which has no words just beautiful illustrations of a little girl’s interaction with the waves at the beach. When we get to the last page of Wave which is the little girl waving goodbye to the ocean as she leaves with her mom, little T says “Her saying ‘goodbye ocean see you another day’ …and then the ocean flew away.”

A debate (again in the car). It went something like this but much longer.
Me: ” Don’t make a big mess back there.”
T: “Mommy likes big messes!”
Me: “No, Mommy does not like big messes.”
T: “Mommy likes big messes.”
Me:” No Mommy doesn’t.”
T: “Yes, Mommy does.”
Me: “Mommy doesn’t like big messes. I hate big messes.”
T: “Daddy likes big messes.”

The day after her party at breakfast.
“No, balloon not (meaning can’t) have my spoon!”

Her absolute insistence that the below little girl is the below frog’s mommy.

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Picture from Fisher-Price Busy House Little People Play and Sound published by Publications International, Ltd.

It’s so amazing to have all this cuteness in my life I felt I needed to share it with you, even though this is only a tiny fraction of it. I’m sure I’ll think of more adorable examples as soon as I publish this but I hope it brought a smile to your face.

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A Few of Mom’s Favorite Things

So, I haven’t posted in a while. I do however have some ideas, none of which I’ve really gotten started on. But its okay because I did come up with a verse of a mom version of A Few of My Favorite Things while cleaning the kitchen. I have to give credit to my husband for helping. Feel free to add more verses.

Big hugs and kisses
And freshly washed dishes.

Tickling wee toes
And peeing with the door closed.

Nap time is here, no more kid’s songs to sing.
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the dogs bark.
When the screams start.
When nap time has passed.

I simply remember that bedtime is near
And then I’ll be free at last!

(This is just meant to be fun and silly. I don’t want any scolding from those who think parenting should be constant joyous rainbows).