Monday, August 8, 2011

If We Don't Teach Her, She Won't Learn

Is abuse and neglect the only form of bad parenting? Is everyone really just doing the best they can?

I'm going to go easy on you and hand out the answers; no and no.

Can I preface this post with something? I believe I am a good parent. I know enough to know I'm doing some things right. I am absolutely consumed with love for her. I play with her, I talk to her, and I don't cover up her faults. I tell her she's beautiful but not nearly as often as I tell her she's smart. I feed her well balanced meals nearly all of the time, but I do not keep her from the occasional fun snack. I care about who she is going to be enough to discipline her now, while still making sure I talk kindly to her, more often than sternly. Even though it can be difficult, we take her out and about; we do not stay housebound. We do so because we know our struggles now will help her shape up into a well experienced, socialized person. And dealing with one year old tantrums is much easier than 5 or 6 year old tantrums. We know if we don't teach her, she won't learn. We know her entire life, her tiny section of the world, is so shaped and influenced by us it is almost scary. We fully understand what an honor and a blessing it is to have been given this child and we try our absolute hardest to not take it for granted.

All of that is not to say I am the perfect parent. Or even close to it. It's not to say I don't get frustrated, that I never give in and let her eat graham crackers for breakfast, that I don't ever get lazy or have never hid the book I am sick of reading over and over. Because I do. I have and I am and I'm sure I will again.

It is, however, to say I give it an earnest shot. Every day. I consciously think about how what I'm doing- or not doing- affects her. Is it for her or is it for me? I don't just think about the mess, I think about if the mess is worth it. It almost always is. I don't just think about how hot it'll be sitting outside, I think about the joy she experiences chasing the dogs, throwing rocks in the garden and splashing in her pool. I don't simply consider how much work it is to wake up early, shower, dress, feed and car seat her, I consider how important it is to us that she grows up going to church. I may get frustrated about it, but I don't let the fact that I know she probably won't eat it deter me from taking the time to make her a healthy meal. I don't eat things in front of her that I don't want her eating, and I try not to stay up too late, knowing morning always comes at the same time and I won't be nearly the parent I could be if I'm not well rested.

No one ever said it was easy. But someone (lots of people, actually) did once say that things worth doing are rarely easy.

Parenting is so much more than the required feeding, bathing, nail-clipping, sheet washing, car seat safety-knowing of many parenting books. And I will say it now and say it again, but abuse and neglect are not the only form of poor parenting. In fact, I'd wager to say it is much more difficult to be in the 'good' parent category than the 'poor.' We are not all doing the best we can. If you are letting your kid live in front of the TV, not getting down on the floor to play with and read to them, spending more time doing things for yourself, and disregarding behavioral and safety standards, you are a bad parent in my book. Yeah, you may not be starving or hitting your kid, but they, too, will suffer from your (lack of) parenting.

Having a bad or lazy day doesn't make you a bad parent. Nor does taking time for yourself. That is not the point I am aiming to make. What makes you a bad parent is consistently not doing what is best for your child. Being as every kid is different, what your child needs may vary slightly from what other children need, but overall, kids need much of the same. Time, attention, love and you. So often those things are even more important than the basic physical needs.

It really irks me when people say we're all just doing the best we can. Not only is that a horrible excuse, it makes people who probably know they aren't being a great parent believe that they're doing enough. We are shaping lives. We are taking blank slates and turning them into chalkboards full of answers, and to do any less would not only be doing a disservice to the individual, but our world as a whole.

(I apologize if this comes off as negative; it was written out of frustration. I am so sick of watching parents who don't stop their pre-parent lifestyle or who are far too selfish continue to treat their kids as if they're no more than caged pets that just need food and clean bedding every now and then. If you know me, you know I am oh so very against big government, but I sure wish you had to get a permit to get the privilege of parenting.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Black and White

How different can two pregnancies be? Believe me, I'm certainly not complaining. While this pregnancy has me plastered to the couch for entirely different reasons than my first (read: could. not. stop. puking.) it has been treating me oh so much nicer. Sure, I have no motivation or energy to do anything. And yeah, I'm still basically living on the couch. But the puking? So much further and farther between than before.

Reagan- 8 Weeks (Awful picture)
Little Gummy bear- 9 Weeks

 With Reagan, I simply couldn't eat. The thought, sight, sound, smell and taste of anything but applesauce would send me running to the bathroom. With this little one, as soon as I start feeling nauseous, if I can convince myself to eat something, I typically feel better within about ten minutes. Even further on in the pregnancy with Reagan, I never really had strong cravings, but I most certainly had strong aversions. With this pregnancy, it is craving central. If you've never truly had a strong pregnancy craving, you can't understand how 'strong' they are. I heard it described once as the feeling of an anxiety attack coming on if you don't get what you're craving. And while at one point that sounded absolutely ridiculous to me, I can now stand firmly behind it. Because I've been there. Because if I didn't get that homemade hamburger patty, pan fried with onions, I am not so sure I would have lived to see the next day. My palms got sweaty, you guys. This is serious business.

These pregnancies have truly been black and white.Well, except for the fact both babies grew in my uterus and were put in said uterus by the same man.

I have been far more paranoid this go around than I was with Reagan. I don't know if it has to do with me having more knowledge, with the pregnancy being easier or the fact that I belong to a Facebook group of 300+ moms expecting in January 2012, and have seen more than I care to count leave the group due to miscarriage. It breaks my heart and always leaves me wondering, why am I so lucky? There really isn't an answer. I'm just blessed beyond measure.

In other differences, that are probably far too much to share but what the heck?- modesty and pregnancy are not friends. With Reagan, helllooooo constipation. This one? Lets just say I wish Kaopectate was safe during pregnancy. With my first I thought I had sore boobs; my boobs hadn't seen anything yet. Super with a capital S sensitive plus the little leech still nursing means if anything comes within a mile radius of them, I turn into the Wicked Witch of the West lickidy split. With my first I didn't so much as chew one Tums. This one? Holy moly heartburn. I'm two UTIs in this go around, which is something I have never experienced before, pregnant or not. I hope to God to never experience it again. With Reagan I lost 15 pounds in the first trimester, lived off of applesauce and didn't get out of bed. This one I have yet to gain any weight but certainly haven't lost any, I eat my normal appetites worth and, well, I still probably wouldn't get out of bed but this go around I have a toddler. That changes things. A lot.

In his usual fashion, Rob has been a champion. In the very beginning I couldn't stomach doing the dishes so he would come home from work, clean the kitchen, make dinner and be on Reagan duty. He was great the first go around, but having a one year old makes things more difficult, and he just takes it all in stride. He never rolls his eyes at my cravings and, while he certainly makes fun of me for them, he still always offers to head up the road to get it for me.

The pregnancies being so different have me truly thinking this one is a boy, though my record for guessing isn't great. (Note: I'm always wrong.) Truly, honestly, we will be super happy either way. I loved having sisters growing up and think it would be so fun to have two little girls so close in age. Not to mention cheaper because we already have (tons and tons and tons) of girl clothes. (By typing that, I would like to have it known that I am not, under any circumstance, promising to not buy more.) But we also both would, at some point, like to have a little boy thrown in the mix. Our poor family is surrounded by far too much estrogen, so a little more testosterone probably wouldn't hurt. Either way we're psyched to find out (13 days and counting! Assuming the little bugger cooperates...) and get started on the nursery!

Perhaps the very best thing about this pregnancy is Reagan's obsession with the 'baba' in my 'baba'. (Yes, 'baby' and 'belly' sound the exact same coming out of her mouth.) I truly didn't think she'd comprehend it at all. And while I know she doesn't actually understand, she remembers we said I have a baby in my belly and LOVES to wave 'bye bye' to (I don't really get that one) and kiss and kiss and kiss the baby in there. All the time. If we're sitting on the couch she lifts my shirt and pats my belly. If we're in the shower, she waves at my belly. If we're cuddling in bed, she kisses my belly. The girl loves babies, and even though she probably thinks I have absolutely lost my marbles saying there is one in my belly, she takes my word for it. I'm hoping her love for all things baby carries through to the actual baby that will come home to stay, but she is also quite the Mama's girl, so I guess we'll just have to see.

Monday, August 1, 2011

All Before Noon...

It isn't entirely uncommon to hear someone wonder under their breath what stay-at-home-moms even do all day. Typically it makes me Livid with a capital L. And even more typically it comes from a non-parent. Because if you were a parent, you'd know.

You would know that getting out of bed isn't even something you get a few minutes alone to do anymore because "MAMAMAMAMAMAMA! Ouooot! Ouooot!" is being screamed from the crib next door. Your first morning pee becomes less of a time to continue to wake up and more of a battle to save the toilet paper from it's shredded fate. And pausing before flushing to excitedly examine and wave bye-bye to your pee isn't on your list of 'most relaxing ways to greet the day' either.

You would be impressed with how still-asleep you can be while changing an incredibly full diaper as the toddler tries to escape and the dogs prance around begging to go outside. Zombie like, you take the dogs to the door, and to avoid a full blown tantrum in your first ten minutes of the day, you follow them out so the toddler can play too. Because God forbid anyone or anything ever goes outside without her joining. Within seconds, you're fishing a pajama-clad toddler out of her kiddy pool, who is now screaming (shhh...don't wake the neighbors) not from being wet, but from being dragged inside. You round up the dogs and carry your thrashing, whining, dripping child back into the house, call your husband to tell him you're awake while you strip the kid, put a new diaper on (two in about twenty minutes if you're counting) and get the already distracted toddler her morning milk.

Against your desire to have her not watch any TV you turn on the one show you do let her watch in hopes to get a few minutes to check your email, indulge in your guilty pleasure of Facebook and read a few blogs before moving on to clean the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen that is very messy from the previous day because using your child-free time after bedtime cleaning a kitchen is the very last thing on your list of things you want to do. So you simply don't.

Unfortunately, the TV isn't enough to keep her attention off of the clanging of unloading the dishwasher so you either A.) unload as fast as you can, breaking every 30 seconds to tell her 'no' as she climbs into the dishwasher and move her back into the living room or B.) give up and promise yourself you'll do it at nap time. Clean kitchen or not, you move onto making breakfast. Scrambled eggs with cheese and ham, whole wheat pancakes slyly stuffed with fruit and veggie puree, fresh toast made with homemade wheat bread with extra eggs, or steel cut oatmeal with homemade applesauce, in addition to a banana, peaches or nectarine, cottage cheese or yogurt, and a sippy cup of water or a blended fruit smoothy with wheat germ. You feel like supermom for a minute for taking the time to make your kid such a healthy meal, but the feeling quickly slips away, because if she is even willing to give it a try, she now requires a spoon or fork meaning she will manage to not get a single bite in her mouth. Silently you curse the toddler eating stage. You realize you forgot to feed yourself as you're cleaning her tray and picking at her leftovers . Gross? Yeah, but whatever.

After a sponge bath cleaning breakfast off every inch of her, (and you and her seat) you're on the floor reading 'Moo, Baa, La La La' for the 4,897th time. Forget the fact that you haven't read an actual book for yourself since the day she was born. Goofy rhymes and silly stories are whats in your queue, and its all made worth it by the quietly sitting-in-your-lap toddler who says and signs 'more' before you're even done reading the last page. Tickle session, hugs, kisses, "ni-nights", "love yous" and nap time. You trip over toys on the way back from her room, pick up a few, shrug off the rest and fall onto the couch. Because its exhausting. Because it is constant. Because you love her enough to feed her well, to play with her on the ground and to forgo your own desires so she can have hers (Which is always you. Well, and graham crackers when you give in.) Because you are her everything. Because its only 11AM and you haven't gotten anything of visible worth done, but you have a well rounded, healthy toddler, who is learning in leaps and bounds, attempting to repeat everything you say and do, and is happy. She is happy. And while there is no doubt it is all exhausting, there is also no doubt that it is all worth it.