Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching My Son to Not Be Like the New President

Yesterday, as I drove Oren and Erez to daycare, I had NPR on the radio. I don’t often listen to the news on the daycare commute because I am nervous about the kids picking up on bits and pieces of information that might not be age appropriate, but with everything going on – Trump’s first press conference, the leaked dossier, etc., I was overly curious about what was going on in the news.
Of course, the words “President-Elect Trump” were spoken on the radio within seconds of my turning it on. And Oren, ever the curious child, asked me when Trump was going to become the president. When I told him Trump would be president within the next few weeks, Oren looked thoughtfully out the window. Then he looked at me and smiled.
“Trump says girls are PIGS!!” he said, and started laughing.
I hadn’t told Oren that Trump had called a woman a pig. He had heard it from a girl in his preschool class back in September, when the campaigns were heating up. From that point on, whenever he has heard Trump’s name, he has the same reaction: Trump says girls are PIGS!
And I have had to have the same conversation with him. Over and over and over again.
“Oren,” I say, “It was absolutely wrong of Mr. Trump to call a girl a pig. That is name calling, and it hurts people’s feelings.”
Oren looked at me. He GETS it, but he still doesn’t seem to REALLY get it. He’s four years old. To him, saying the words “poopy” and “fart” is REALLY funny. He thinks calling people animal names is funny, too. He doesn’t understand that the word “pig” and “cow” are used to degrade a person and make them feel fat and shameful.
 “Oren,” I continue, “There are some words that SEEM funny, but they aren’t funny, and people use them to hurt other people’s feelings. If someone called ME a pig, I would be really sad. Would you want someone to call Mommy a name that would make me sad?”
Oren shook his head.
“Sometimes, even important people can behave badly, and can do mean things. Even the president.”
And that is the end of the conversation. For a while. Until the next time Trump’s name is mentioned and Oren remembers that Trump said girls are pigs.
Unfortunately, this is a conversation I think I am going to be repeating many, many times in many different ways over the next four years. I think about Oren evolving from a four year old preschooler into an 8 year old grade school boy all in the era of Trump, and it scares me. As his awareness of the world around him grows, and he is more mindful of news and politics and our country, I know I am going to have to continue to run interference between our president’s words and my son’s interpretations of those words. I am going to have to have to continue to explain that our chosen leader doesn’t always say nice things, doesn’t always treat people with respect, and doesn’t always lead by example.
As we ready ourselves for the inauguration next week, I find myself filled with concerns I never imagined myself having. How am I going to teach my children to respect others, show kindness to their peers, to speak with empathy, and to exhibit restraint and care, when their president is unable to do so?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Happiest Baby is the One I Have Had the Least to Do With

When Erez was born back in February, I was a little worried. After the relatively relaxed and blissful week long stay in the hospital, we transitioned home, and he almost immediately started exhibiting colicky behaviors. He would cry for hours on end and there was little I could do to console him. I would walk/bounce him around the house, make soft shush-shush noises in his ears, give him gripe water, gas drops, and whatever else I could find that would possibly offer my boy a little solace.
As it turns out, it was a formula issue. I felt guilty enough for not breast-feeding my baby boy, having breastfed my other two kids. Knowing that formula was giving him serious issues and discomfort KILLED me. Figuring out which formula worked for Erez quickly became my number one priority.
And I DID find a formula that worked for him. Once we made the switch, it was only a matter of two or three days before my unhappy newborn transformed into a happy baby. Since then, Erez has become our HAPPIEST baby. His resting face is “smiley face”. He is always giggling and cooing, and on the rare occasion when he DOES cry, it is always for a very valid reason.
I should be thrilled, right? I mean, my baby boy is AMAZING. He is the kind of baby parents dream of having. He is the Gerber baby, only happier. He seriously has a personality that inspires me, and he is only six months old.
So what’s my issue?
My happiest baby is the one I have had the LEAST to do with.
I went back to work exactly 8 weeks after Erez was born. I felt like I had to. I liked my job, and I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to have to go through a whole new job search to find a job I liked LESS.
So, as a full-time working mom, I see Erez briefly in the mornings and in the evenings, and get to spend a good amount of time with him on the weekends. I cuddle with him in my bed at night. But that is it.
With my first born, my eldest, I worked only part time and pretty much attached her to my hip for the first year of her life. I wore her in slings, held her incessantly, breastfed her on demand. With my second son, I took a year off from work so I could be with him ALWAYS.
It’s not that they were UNhappy babies. But they were not THIS happy. They were never as happy as Erez is, every single day of his life.
I know that babies are born with their own personalities and all, but this happiness situation has caused me to seriously question how much of an effect my attachment parenting had on my other two kids. Maybe it negatively impacted them? I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but did breastfeeding make my other kids LESS happy?
I know Erez loves me. He looks for me in a room, he reaches for my hair or my face, he smiles (of course!) from ear to ear when I pick him up at daycare in the afternoon. But I am not the center of Erez’s universe, the way I was for my other two. His life does not depend on me the way theirs did. I am not his food source, his transportation, and his constant playmate the way I was with the others.
Here’s the thing. Right now, I am at a place where I don’t WANT to be totally depended on. I kind of feel overwhelmed with momhood. I occasionally feel the urge to run away from all the responsibilities that come with being a mom. I have seriously been craving “me” time, and have been wanting to rediscover the part of me that is not a mommy, that has been pushed to the backburner over the last six years. So why, when I am craving more independence, do I still wish I was so much more important to my baby and so much more a factor of his happiness?
Like many people, I like to feel needed. I like to feel valued. I like to feel deeply loved. It makes me feel big and great and purposeful.
I truly hope I can experience those feelings with Erez. I hope I can learn to embrace his happiness, not as a sign of what I may have done wrong with my other kids, but what I have done right with all of them. I hope I can see it not as a result of me having less time to love him, but as a result of him feeling loved despite our limited time together. I hope I can take pride in his happiness, rather than using it to question my own value.

I hope I can feel all those things. I’m just not there yet.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Considering a third baby? Read this.

If you are even considering getting pregnant with a third child, it is important for you to know certain things.

Needless to say, I won't be the only one warning you about how your life will change once the third baby arrives. You will get many warnings about life with three kids, both warranted and unwarranted, from many different people. 

When you go to the bank in the third trimester of your third pregnancy, the bank teller will smile sweetly at you and ask you if you are expecting your first baby. When you smile back sheepishly and tell her that you are expecting your THiRD child, her expression will change. She will know the balance in your savings account, and she will suddenly be telling you with her eyes that you CANNOT afford a third child. 

She may be right.

When you and your family bravely go to Chuck E. Cheese one night for dinner during your thirty seventh week of pregnancy, the manager will specifically come over to you, corner you, and tell you with a very tired face that he too has three children. He will share with you that he is working seven jobs including this one, just so he can send his children to college. He will say that the third child changed EVERYTHING, and you will sense that he does not mean "change" in an amazing, exciting, revelatory way. 

He may be right.

Many many other people will warn you that you and your husband are about to be to be outnumbered, as if you and your children are at war with one another, and you are about to LOSE that war.

They may also be right. 

Listen. Having a baby, whether it be your first or your ninth, is always incredible. Babies are beautiful creatures. Everything they do, even the expressions they make when they are farting, is adorable. There is no denying the cuteness. But no matter how cute that baby is, the reality of life with three kids is pretty UN-cute.

For instance, your day is going to begin at 3:30 a.m. No, you are not suddenly going to become a morning news reporter. You probably chose not to pursue news reporting as a career because you specifically wanted to avoid having to wake up at 3:30 a.m. And yet... Your adorable baby will wake you up at 3:30 am, screaming for nourishment.  You will feed him, burp him, change his diaper, and rock him back to sleep. At 4:30 am, your middle child will wake up, completely convinced it is time for breakfast. You will show him the dark sky outside his bedroom window, tuck him back into bed, kiss him on the forehead, and tell him not to open his eyes for another three hours. By about 4:45, you will JUST be falling back to sleep when your oldest child will wake up, begging you to help her find her iPad so she can watch YouTube videos of things being made out of Play Doh. At 5:15, your middle child will wake up again, and will threaten to cry loud enough to wake the baby if you don't bring him downstairs for breakfast immediately. So you will bring him downstairs and you will feed him Cocoa Puffs.

Also, you are going to immediately brew a very BIG pot of coffee. You are going to drink 3/4 of the pot before 6 am.

Getting your family out the door of your home is going to take 27 days of planning. You will need maps, strategies, back-up plans, emergency contacts, and a member of the military to make it happen. Your eldest child will somehow forget to wear socks or shoes. Your middle child will wear all of his clothes backwards, will take fifty seven hours to decide what he wants to bring to school for show and tell, and will suddenly want to talk to you about every rock in your front yard before he gets into the mini van. Your baby will hate his car seat so much and will cry so hard it will make him spit up all over his onesie and blanket, so you will have to change him, and then you will get him back into his car seat just in time for him to poop in his diaper.

You will have exactly thirty four seconds to get your own body ready to leave the house in the morning. Your self-maintenance routine will have to be uber efficient, and will need to be able to be completed during the time you are idling in your mini van at a red light or stop sign. You will keep your deodorant and your eyeliner in your pocketbook and you will not care that the man in the car next to you is staring at you as you stick your left hand under your right armpit while applying your eyeliner with your right hand.

You are going to need to make sure your place of employment offers a very liberal "sick day" policy, because for 359 days out of the year, at least one of your children will be ill with something very highly contagious. On the days when your children are NOT deathly ill, you will go to work feeling like you are going to accomplish a lot. Twenty minutes later, the principle of your eldest child's school will call to tell you your daughter stuck a bead up her nose and they can't get it out. 

You will know all of the names of all of the staff at the pediatrician's office. You will have a chair that you consider YOUR chair at the pediatrician's office. You will seriously consider bringing a sleeping bag and camping out in the hallway outside the pediatrician's office just so you can save on gas.

You are no longer going to eat at meal times. Dinner will be spent holding and feeding your baby with one hand while pouring ketchup, buttering noodles, cleaning juice spills, cutting chicken, peeling apples, and wiping faces with your other hand. If you intend to eat, you will need to make yourself a plate of something edible, hide it under your shirt, and sneak into the bathroom to eat it in under four minutes. You will need to learn to consume food without ever needing to actually chew it. 

Also, your eldest child will become obsessed with collecting very teeny tiny toys that are exactly the right size for your baby to choke on.

Also, your two older children will love coming up with new fun games like "let's see who can stick their fingers as far into the baby's eyes as possible" or "who can break the baby swing by using it as a human catapult?"

Getting all three of your children to bed is going to take eight and a half hours. You will need to fill up 2 water bottles, break up six arguments over who gets to play with what toy during bathtime, brush 40 teeth, read 81 books, and sing 172 lullabies. Your eldest will try on seven different pairs of pajamas before settling on the ones she wants. Your middle child will ask 2,693 questions about the universe. Your baby will spit out his pacifier nine million times and cry every single time it happens.

And finally, at 1:37 am, you will feel relaxed enough to watch a few seconds of TV and fall into a deep, deep slumber, until you are once again woken at 3:30 am.

And yet, despite this crazy life, you will have zero regrets. Why? Because everything that third baby does is going to be absolutely adorable.