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Archive for the ‘Babies’ Category

Posting has become harder for me lately. The kinds of things I want to talk about in this space – cooking for my family, planning for the holidays, complaining about ridiculous things – seem so glib and frivolous what with the state of the world. I don’t want to ignore the grief and fear and outrage so many people are feeling so acutely these days. But nor do I want to post about those things; I am fully aware that my existential dread is not worth discussing in depth, and I don’t feel like I have anything substantial to contribute to the existing conversations around All Of This.

When I seek out content online, it is typically to distract me from what’s going on in the world. Yes, I try to stay informed, but I can’t linger too much or I want to crawl into bed and sob forever. Instead, I want to spend my free time reading blog posts about baby names and holiday gift suggestions and how people spend their day and what people are doing with the veggies from their latest CSA and what it’s like to send a child to college. Things that are fun and, sure, sometimes, important, but maybe not important important, you know? (Are you blogging these days? Leave me a link. I want to read your posts.)

So today I am trying to push through the resistance that comes from not wanting to be too cheerful in the face of (another) tragedy and talk about something frivolous and unimportant.

I want to talk about phases.

Carla is at the intersection of several, shall we say, “challenging” phases. The phase where she is four, so she obviously knows MUCH better than me what she should be doing at any given moment which results in me asking her to put on her shoes fifty times and then just putting them on myself because we are already 14 minutes late for school. The phase where she screams when she (perceives she) is Deeply Wronged. (She has NEVER been a tantrum thrower, so this is startling and I am Not A Fan.) The phase where she eats nothing (we have been here before, at least). Mornings are especially fun around my house, is what you should take from all this.

It is so very difficult, when you are in the midst of a phase, to see it as A Phase rather than The Way Things Shall Be Until The Bitter End. I am only looking at these as phases because I was complaining to my friend the other day and she very calmly said, “Gosh, phases always last about two weeks longer than you think they should.” And all of a sudden, I realized that yes! These were phases! They will not last forever! (Also: Two weeks? Hahahahaha, friend.)

Sure, I want to “enjoy every minute” and I certainly am not trying to wish time away. It goes by fast enough. But also sometimes being a parent SUCKS and I wish these phases would end more quickly.

Of course, the trade off is that one phase ends only to usher in a new, perhaps equally challenging phase.

BUT there is a bright side. An annoying bright side, for those of us who are Not At This Particular Stage Yet. But a bright side nonetheless and I am grasping at anything to keep me upright here people. The bright side is that once this phase passes, it will (probably) cease to seem that bad.

This must be biological, right? The way I sometimes think fondly of pregnancy and daydream about being pregnant again. When pregnancy – for me – was not just smiling strangers and baby hiccups and cute maternity clothes. Oh no. It was twenty-five weeks of all-day-every-day morning sickness. And sudden onset crying. And it lasted for FORTY-TWO WEEKS. It was NOT GREAT. Stop rose-coloring those pregnancy glasses, me.

But the same goes for challenging childhood phases! And I know it’s not just me. My mother and mother-in-law have this rosy vision of their own children and how perfect they were. It’s kind of dispiriting – almost insulting – in a way, to have your parent look at your child, shaking her head in utter disbelief, saying, “Boy, I never went through this with my kids! They were perfect!”

Okay, okay. I am exaggerating for effect. When they talk about how perfect their kids were (and you realize “their kids” are me and my husband, right? so perhaps there is a little creative license based on audience going on here), they are not doing it in comparison to how un-perfect Carla is. (Obviously, she IS perfect.) They are not jerks. And my mom even has a story about how she once took me to the doctor and asked him what was wrong with me, because I was driving her so absolutely crazy. But it doesn’t seem like she remembers the specifics of that particular challenging phase, just that it happened.

(And, to be fair, I haven’t yet asked her about the Challenging Teen Years. I am still too close to them to hear her discuss them without dismay and chagrin. So there could be some doozies awaiting me. Let’s get through the early childhood years first, shall we?)

What I’m saying is, it’s one thing to be smack in the middle of a challenging phase and another thing entirely to be looking back at it through the gauzy mist of the past. Perhaps it would be therapeutic to take a good hard look backward at some phases and remember them as they were, rather than as the dewy memories of an idyllic babyhood they have somehow become. And then remind ourselves that those phases ENDED and today’s phases will too.

The Pumping Phase. Worst. Ever. I produced a lot of extra milk, and the only way to not choke my baby was to pump before feeding her. And then, because she got enough nourishment from just one side, to pump the other side, again, afterward. I spent what felt like most of the day attached either to my child or to that horrific breast pump. It was a Very Challenging Phase but it ended.

The Spitting Up After Every Meal Phase. Oh. My. Goodness. That was so frustrating. And wet. I’m sure it had to do with all the extra milk. But I still had to feed the child, you know? And she spat up every single time. We got some of those cloth diaper inserts to use as burp rags, and then got a huge pile more, because we went through ten or more a day. And we had to buy huge stacks of pajamas because I’d have to change Carla after every feeding. (Which, if you recall, was every two hours at some point. EGADS.) I lived in tank tops and nursing bras because I could rotate them out every time the spit up landed on me. That phase sucked. But we eventually got through it.

The Refusal to Sleep on Her Own Phase. Oh, Carla. Until she was… two? Older? (See, how quickly I have forgotten?), Carla would not fall asleep unless my husband or I was holding her or at the very least in the room with her. My husband spent portions of many nights asleep on the floor in front of her crib. Because I could not fall asleep on the floor, I remember singing her endless verses of lullabies and then trying to back very slowly out of the room without her noticing. Very rarely successfully. UGH. That was rough. But it’s over now!

The Reckless Disregard for Personal Safety Phase. There was a time when Carla had the speed of a cheetah and the caution of those wild squirrels that leap out in front of your car as you drive through your neighborhood. There was one incident where she dashed into a PARKING LOT and I almost died right there, so certain was I that she would be crushed by a car. She used to run pell-mell down the halls of her school, completely oblivious to things like commands and other people and immovable obstacles. There was a memorable heart-stopping few moments at Target when she took off down an aisle and out of my sight. Now, at least, she has some sense that streets and parking lots are dangerous and that she needs to keep me in sight at all times. The phase ended, and I no longer have to carry her everywhere for fear that she will escape and fling herself off a cliff.

The Putting Everything in Her Mouth Phase. Yuck. I was not a fan. My floors were much cleaner, but still. I am glad this one’s in the rear view.

The Potty Training Phase. This one is partially my fault, because I got it into my head that she should potty train at age two even though I don’t think she was quite ready. And then it’s partially her daycare’s fault, because the classroom teacher decided she was going to potty train the entire class at the same time (why? WHY????), and then a few weeks later she quit. In any event, I am SO GLAD THIS ONE IS OVER.

The Postpartum Phase. This really has nothing to do with Carla, but when I look back on it, I wonder if I had some form of PPD or post-partum anxiety. I was so afraid to leave the house. There’s a picture of me and my husband and Carla together in a park when she was twelve days old. It’s super cute, and one of the first of the three of us together. But I don’t really like it because it carries with it all these bad feelings. I remember so clearly how awful that trip was, how afraid I was that something would happen to her, how hyper-aware I was of how soon we’d need to head home so I could pump and feed her, how upset I got when Carla started to cry. It seems as though she and I stayed in the house pretty much the entire time I was on maternity leave, even though she was a summer baby and the weather was (presumably? I don’t remember.) great. I was so fixated on all these potential horrors, constantly worrying that she was sick or there was something wrong with her, so afraid to put her in the car, afraid even to let her spend time alone with my husband or my mom, just in case something happened to me or her at that very moment. I needed to be there. I couldn’t miss out. Add that to the endless pumping/breastfeeding cycle and it wasn’t the happiest time. So very glad that ended.

Of course, there are other phases that I truly miss. Like when Carla was learning to talk, and every day meant a few new words to practice and delight over. Like when she was a snuggly, happy six-month-old who stayed in one spot. Like when she called me Mama.

And there are other phases she’s in the midst of now that I never want to end: The Wakes Up Singing Phase. Or the Phase Where She and Her Friends All Compare Outfits and Jewelry the Second They See Each Other at School (it is ridiculous and adorable). Or the Phase Where She Wants to Help Me in the Kitchen. Or the Voice-Texting Daddy Super Sweet Things Phase. Or the Just Learning How to Read Phase. Or the “I Love You So Much I Never Want to Live Anywhere Without You” Phase.

She is a joy and a delight and I am glad to hold on to the good phases and let the bad ones fade into the detritus of memory.

What are the childhood phases you really miss? The ones that couldn’t have ended soon enough? And the ones you are not looking forward to? (Me, I’m just trying to focus on getting through TODAY. I am not even thinking about the Door Slamming Phase or the Boy-Crazy Phase or the Upsetting Report Card Phase.)

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Ocean.JPG

The only ship on that entire vast sea is barely a white fleck on the horizon.

Well, after all that gift discussion (after which I begrudgingly admit that even though my husband has The Exact Opposite Feelings on the topic to me, he is not the only one and maybe I should give him a break), my family visited my in-laws for spring break and I brought lots of wearable gifts my mother-in-law has bought us over the years, and she noticed and commented on ALL of it, in an affirming I’m-so-happy-you-actually-wear-that! sort of way. And I was glad.

We had SUCH a nice time over spring break, and I think the nicest part of all was that Carla was SO EASY.

She is a happy, affectionate, inquisitive child who tends toward the super-high-energy end of the energetic spectrum. Which, in the hands of her introvert, prefers-to-lie-on-the-couch-quietly-and-read-a-book-by-herself mother, can translate into exhausting. We have kept past vacations to an X-day limit because she gets bored and then the energy cranks up to 7,000 and she begins bouncing off the walls and furniture. But this year, mainly because of an incompatibility between airline ticket prices and reasonable flight times (I am NOT boarding a plane for home with my gets-more-energized-the-more-tired-she-gets toddler at eight p.m. thank you very much), we ended up staying a full week. And it was GREAT. Everything was great.

Carla was a peach of a traveler, both ways. She happily walked around the airport (with us, obviously) before our flight, looking at all the glorious toys in the many gift shops and newsstands, asking us to add a variety of items to her birthday list. She was excited about everything: the airplanes lined up outside the airport, going through security, people traveling with dogs, wearing her little penguin backpack, getting on the plane, having her own seat, plane snacks, seeing the clouds, seeing the ocean from the windows, watching Sofia appisodes over and over (she has an Amazon Fire tablet for kids that keeps her busy and happy for hours), landing, waving at friendly strangers, running full-steam to hug her grandmother when we left the concourse.

While we were in Florida, she was GREAT. She ate well, she was happy and charming. She was enthusiastic about every one of the seven million projects her grandmother had set up for her. She was happy vegging in front of the TV whenever the grown ups needed a minute. She loved the pool, the beach, the boat we took to a little island, the ocean, shells, lizards, local dogs, collecting rocks, watering the plants, pretending to drive her grandfather’s car, going to restaurants, eating ice cream. All of it. She went to bed late pretty much every night we were there, and napped maybe twice, and yet she was good natured and happy to play by herself or happy to play with a grown up, just happy in general.

Great. She was great.

So of course all of this has me thinking – maybe more concretely than usual – about babies, and how great they are, and how yes they are challenging sometimes but look! it all turns out so GREAT!

Listen: DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. I’m just musing here. I’m just thinking idly, happily, about a topic (babies) that interests me to no end. It doesn’t mean anything.

My husband and I are 95% certain that Carla is IT. There are many many wonderful, valid, reasonable reasons to have more than one child; there are – despite those who may disagree – an equal number of wonderful, valid, reasonable reasons to have just the one. (Or none! If that’s your choice!) So we are very comfortable with that near-decision.

But it is a near-decision, not a final one. We haven’t taken any measures. We haven’t donated the large pile of baby stuff in our basement. We haven’t stopped talking about it.

It’s just that the conversations always turn to, We love having just Carla. We feel complete. We feel happy.

But…

I still think about Another Baby, every day. Carla was such a great baby, and watching her grow and learn and develop her personality has been such a complete wondrous delight; part of me feels so sad that I won’t get to experience that with another baby.

Following nearly two weeks of Carla At Her Best, it’s easy to imagine that another baby might be doable. I’m not saying I WANT another baby. I’m just saying that, before, I couldn’t picture at ALL how a tiny, needy infant would work into our family. Because Carla is a hands-on, all-hands-on-deck kid. Now, I have this glimpse of what a more mature Carla might be like: (slightly) more serene, more independent, more able to channel that immense energy into activities that don’t put her in immediate danger and leave me whirling.

Anyway, it has me thinking, five years wouldn’t be such a bad distance between two siblings.

Let us forget the fact that we were on vacation and so we were removed from our normal pattern of life… and that we were much more relaxed and less time pressured than on a normal day… and that Carla had not her normal one-most-of-the-time, sometimes-two adults but four to attend to her every whim… and that prior to spring break, I had a week-long stomach bug, which was horrendous, and Carla was just off, complaining of a tummy ache and not eating anything much at all, so by comparison OF COURSE everything is easier… and FOUR ADULTS. Let’s not take ANY of those factors into consideration when we look at how easy it has become to parent my nearly-four-year-old. Instead, let us jump headlong into LET’S THINK ABOUT MORE BABIES.

Clearly, I have become infected with some sort of tropical brain-altering disease. So let’s turn this discussion away from ME (and, as much as it may hurt to clamp your hand over your mouth, away from Why We Need Another Baby) and toward YOU and the infinitely interesting topic of baby spacing.

What, for you, is the ideal spacing between siblings? Has your opinion changed – perhaps after you experienced the spacing in real time? What is your own experience with any siblings you have – are you a good distance apart? What are the plusses and minuses?

My brother and I are six years apart. That’s a big gap in many ways; when I went off to college he was still in middle school. Six years represents a huge difference in interests and pursuits and abilities. I wouldn’t say we’ve ever been close, although we certainly love (and like) each other. As adults, we don’t talk particularly often, but we have a good time when we’re together. For (possibly false) reference, I read or heard somewhere that a six-year age difference is like having two only children, which has plusses and minuses.

A former colleague of mine has two boys five years apart. She maintains that five years is the PERFECT distance. The older child is old enough to be helpful and self-entertaining when the baby is born. You’re far enough out of the nursing/no-sleeping infant stage that it doesn’t seem as daunting anymore. The older child is in school part of the day. There won’t be two children in college at the same time. Other reasons that I didn’t pay close enough attention to at the time, because I was DONE. Am done.

Someone my husband works with said that four years is the perfect distance. That happens to be the same spacing between my husband and his sister, who have a slightly-closer-but-not-by-much relationship than I do with my brother. I don’t particularly want to ask their mother what the plusses and minuses of that spacing are(, considering her opinion is that we are HARMING Carla by not giving her a sibling; if that is your opinion as well, I kindly ask that you refrain from sharing it here). I would guess that many of the same reasons as the five-year spacing apply.

In any event, the four-year-spacing ship has sailed for us.

A woman from my long-defunct book club had three boys, one right after another. I’m sure they weren’t exactly a year apart, but it seemed that way. And she swore by that method: you get the baby stage over with all at once. It’s not super while you’re in it, but then it’s OVER. The same goes for all the rest of life’s experiences, I suppose. And all your kids are close-knit, or at least have a good chance of it.

Most of my friends are in the eighteen-months-apart to three-years-apart club. Again, for me, all that’s left of that particular ship is a tired crest of wake finally breaking against the shore.

I think, for my particular personality, and my own brand of I Am Not Cut Out to Be a Mother at All, Let Alone to Two Children, a bigger space would be better. This may be obvious, considering that I have a nearly-four-year-old and am just now getting around to moving the dial from 95% sure we are done to 93% sure. But the idea of breathing space between the stages seems attractive. (Ignoring, of course, that all kids are in stages all the time, so there would really be NO breathing room.) It’s really too bad I didn’t start much younger; an eighteen-year-old and a newborn has its appeal.

See? I must have some sort of Only In Florida parasite munching away at the reasoning centers of my brain.

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Sometimes I think one of my love languages is Buying Gifts. That’s probably not the right term but I don’t feel like walking down the hall to get the book and read it. Also, I think “love language” refers to how you prefer to be treated, not how you treat others – and I don’t particularly like receiving gifts, so maybe love language is not the right term at all.

Let’s start over:

I LIKE TO BUY GIFTS FOR PEOPLE.

However, I also possess a distinctly challenging personality trait that makes it difficult to actually BUY GIFTS FOR PEOPLE. What I’m saying is that I have severe gift-giving anxiety (undiagnosed). So what happens is I get all excited about buying someone a present… and then I get all weird and hand-wringy about it.

Here’s my normal thought process:

1. This is the perfect occasion to buy a gift for Person In My Life!

2a. Yay! I have a great idea for what to get PIML, too!

2b. Crud. I have NO IDEA what to buy.

3a. Is it too expensive? Maybe I shouldn’t get it.

3b. Nothing seems right. Maybe I shouldn’t get anything.

4. No! Don’t be like that! Allow yourself to give in to your positive intention!

5a. You’re totally right! The gift is in my shopping cart!

5b. You’re totally right! Spend way too much time finding the perfect gift and then finally adding it to my shopping cart!

6. Wait a second. What if PIML doesn’t like the gift?

7. What if PIML feels uncomfortable that I got a gift at all? Maybe it’s for a weird occasion or the PIML doesn’t think we’re that close or the gift itself is weird?

8. What if PIML thinks the gift is too expensive?

9. What if PIML thinks the gift is too cheap?

10. What if PIML feels beholden to me after receiving a gift? Or now feels obligated to buy ME a gift?

11. What if this changes my relationship with PIML?

12. Okay, there’s no real need to buy the gift right this second. Just take a step back and think about it.

13. ** time passes **

14. Crap. Now it is way too late to send a gift.

I would like to say, in a non-blaming way, that my husband plays a role in this process as well. He is usually of the opinion, “You don’t NEED to get a gift for that person!” Which is true! Always! No one needs a gift! But then I start doubting whether I should get a gift for that person, if it’s weird or overstepping or whatever (see Steps 6-11) above. When the gift is from both of us, that also adds a wrinkle to the gift-giving process, because then I feel like I should consult with my husband about what the gift should be, how much it should cost, etc. And that takes time, and some back and forth, and so Step 13 stretches out and out and out until we crash right into Step 14.

As long as I’m confessing things, I might as well let you know that sometimes I actually DO purchase the gift. And THEN I go through Steps 6-11. And the gift just sits there, forever and ever. The same can be said for cards. I buy them, then never send them. WHYYYYYYY.

This is a trait that I really dislike about myself. It is a variation on one of my other Most Reviled Personal Traits, which is procrastination. It has prevented me, in the past, from sending wedding gifts and baby gifts and sympathy cards that I really SHOULD HAVE. Missed opportunities that probably made a negative impression on or caused hurt feelings for the would-be recipient. Which causes me anxiety as well, plus embarrassment and guilt. I have dabbled with the idea of being A Person Who Doesn’t Send Gifts, which is a fine, perfectly reasonable person to be. But that hasn’t really STUCK.

So! Brisk clap! I am trying to combat my gift-giving anxiety. And this summer, I have had some success, I think!

  • Wedding gift for my cousin and her new wife
  • High school graduation present for my cousin
  • College graduation present for my other cousin
  • Birthday present for my daughter’s best friend
Birthday gift 1

I think it was this one. May have been something similar but not exact, though. (image from amazon.com)

  • Birthday present for another of my daughter’s friends
Birthday gift 2

Again, I can’t remember if it was exactly this one or not. (image from amazon.com)

  • Cute his and hers barware for a friend’s engagement
Engagement Gift

I do wish they were the same size/type of glass because it kind of seems like it’s insinuating that the woman should drink LESS than the man, although I admit I don’t know whether they hold the same amount of liquid that’s what it SEEMS to be saying, judgmental much glasses? but WHATEVER. They were cute. My friend and her fiancé drink beer. The end. (image from katespade.com)

  • Baby present plus older brother present for a friend’s new baby girl

(clothing image from nordstrom.com; book and Melissa & Doug puzzle set images from amazon.com)

  • Baby present plus older sister present for another friend’s new baby boy

FOX IN SUNGLASSES SWEATER. (clothing images from nordstrom.com; book and princess castle tent images from amazon.com)

  • Interesting bookmark for a friend
Bookmark

The one I got is NOT this one, but very similar. (image from mitercraft.com)

  • Housewarming gift for a friend
Housewarming Gift

Not exactly this, but CANDLES from WickHabit. (image from etsy.com)

  • Thank-you gifts for my daughter’s daycare teachers (cute personalized tumbler plus a $5 Starbucks gift card)
Teacher Gift

These are from the LuckyLilyDesigns Etsy shop and they EXACTLY as cute in person. I love them. (image from etsy.com)

  • And I am planning to (once I talk to my husband about it and help him move beyond his [possible] [likely] inclination to NOT do it) get cookies or chocolates or doughnuts or something for the entire daycare staff on my daughter’s last day, but I haven’t gotten beyond the Step 2b fretting-about-the-gift-possibilities stage on that yet.

So. I think I am making some progress, considering that I am TERRIBLE AT GIVING GIFTS.

Oh, yes. Looking specifically at the teacher thank-yous and the baby gifts up there, I realize ANOTHER aspect of my gift-giving issues: Sometimes, I start to go overboard. I get Christmas Stocking Syndrome, and start panicking about “what if it’s not enough?” and “maybe I should just throw this last little thing in here” and “oh look at this cute little extra that would be so fun!” That is how the Starbucks gift cards got added to the teacher presents (what if they hate the tumblers? what if this is a case of “you should have just given a gift card”?) and how the little board books got added to the baby presents (oh but they are under $6! And this is Carla’s FAVORITE story when she was a baby!). (And also how I added a bottle of nail polish and a tub of EOS lip balm – which is the same duo I got from a dear friend after I had Carla – to my Amazon order so I could add a little mother-self-care giftlet to each baby gift.) Giving in to Christmas Stocking Syndrome feels good at the time, but then afterward makes me worry – yet again – that I’ve been too flamboyant or overly aggressive with my gifting.

But! I am going to ignore my CSS Panic about the baby and teacher gifts and MOVE FORWARD!

In the interest of full disclosure, the engagement gift, baby gifts, and bookmark have all been purchased but not actually wrapped or sent to the recipients yet. The housewarming gift (which will be candles, from Wick Habit) has not yet been purchased. And two of the three teacher gifts are wrapped but won’t be handed out until my daughter’s last day at daycare.

PHEW. Now that I see that list, I feel both happy and relieved and also a little bit ACK! because that is a lot of money. BUT. I think each of those gifts was appropriate and I don’t think any of them was too expensive if taken singularly. And anyway, one should not think too much of TOTAL COST lest it dampen the generous impulse!

I am going to go wrap the engagement gift and then put the bookmark in the mail RIGHT NOW!

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It is Saturday and I am sitting on the couch with my daughter. We are watching Frozen, after watching many hours of nauseating Nick Jr. shows on demand.

For dinner, she has eaten a bowl of broccoli with cheese, while a plate of chicken dinosaurs and Dr. Praeger’s dinosaur-shaped yam patties languish untouched on her plate; I have eaten a bowl of edamame and three Yam Dinosaurs.

Last night’s clean dishes are still in the dishwasher; today’s lunch and breakfast dishes remain unscrubbed in the sink. My child is not wearing pants.

We did manage to go to swimming lessons this morning, so one of us got some exercise.

We also accomplished a two-hour nap: good for her, and, on a reducing-the-sleep-debt level, for me as well (although naps always make me feel a) wasteful and b) headachy.).

I feel quite guilty at wasting a beautiful, sunny Saturday inside in front of the idiot box. Especially because my poor husband is on call and has been at the hospital for going on 14 hours already. Saving lives and improving people’s quality of life and such. While I can’t even screw up the energy to go for a walk around the block.

Whatevs.

We are in the midst of A Poor Sleep Phase of life, which is not fun. It’s never fun, FYI. Carla is having a very hard time getting to sleep at night. We’ve tried cry it out. We’ve tried moving the bedtime UP and moving it BACK. We’ve tried allowing her to play in her room. We’ve tried sleeping with her. It’s all resulted in roughly the same thing, which is that she falls asleep by 10:15 or so each night. On average. Which means that on the best nights it’s about nine and on the worst nights it’s about 11:30.

We also briefly tried eliminating her nap, in hopes that her sleep needs would increase at night, but that tactic had its own issues: 1.) We can only truly eliminate it on the weekends; her daycare won’t/can’t. So the inconsistency was getting inconsistent results. 2.) I complained about the sleep issue to her pediatrician, and when I told him what we were trying to correct it, looked at me with mild alarm and said, “If she’s still napping, DON’T cut the nap.”

Here is where I feel compelled to go into Great Detail about all the other methods we’ve tried. But I’m too tired and you probably don’t care. Whatever. Sleep issues are a dime a dozen, and what works or doesn’t work for one person may or may not work for another person. This IS a phase that will end EVENTUALLY. It will likely be replaced, at some point, by something worse.

My mother-in-law said cheeringly today that she once read sleep issues of this sort can indicate high intelligence in a child. That sounds right up there with “morning sickness is often an indication of a healthy pregnancy” and “a steep drop in the stock market is a good opportunity to expand your portfolio” and “rain on your wedding day means good luck for your marriage.” They may be true or they may be gentle padding for a rough time, but they don’t make enduring the present unpleasantness less pleasant.

I was comforted for a while that Carla’s current issue has only been affecting the BEGINNING of sleep. Once she falls asleep, she sleeps straight through until seven the next morning. But then – after falling asleep at 11:00 last night – she woke up at about 2:30, bright and ready to play, and didn’t fall back to sleep until 4:17. Ask my eye bags and hamper of half-folded laundry how I know the exact duration of her wakefulness. This reminds me that a few weeks? months? ago, Carla was waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 many mornings and falling back to sleep around six.

And that reminder reminds me that one of the things that’s making this CURRENT issue difficult is that I keep wailing, “But Carla used to be SUCH a Good Sleeper!”

But I don’t know if that’s really TRUE. There was a long period of time where she REFUSED to go to sleep without nursing. And then, when she gave up nursing, she would only go to sleep after a bottle. I seem to recall that the time after she turned two – when we cut her off the bottle cold turkey – was particularly rough in terms of Getting to Sleep. Then, in the past six or eight months, there was a time when she would only fall asleep in OUR bed. And there was another stretch when she woke up in the middle of the night and would only go back to sleep in our bed (which means that she is the only one of the three of us who sleeps; she’s a wiggler and a kicker). If you look at all of those examples – blurry and seen through droopy, half-awake eyes and a fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain – it seems like she’s been in a Poor Sleep Phase more often than not.

Probably it is most accurate to say that there have been Intermittent Periods of Good Sleep. Lasting a few blissful weeks or months. But long enough to give us all a taste of what that feels like. So when the next Poor Sleep phase pops up, it seems especially harsh and hard to deal with.

My mother pointed out that we all know going in that sleep is not something parents have in abundance. The way she said it made it seem matter of fact and also like it would be true for the ENTIRETY of the parent/child relationship. And I’m too tired today to recognize whether what I feel about that concept is resignation or horror.

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We have been having Some Issues with drop off recently, where Carla gets very upset as I try to leave. It breaks my heart and sets the day off on a horrible You Monster, Why Do You Put Your Kid in Daycare start, so we have been testing some strategies to see if we can nip this in the bud.

Today was Day 2 of Strategy: Lovey, wherein Carla brings a small stuffed animal to school that she can hug when she misses me. Day 1 went very well, so I have high hopes.

This morning, one of Carla’s classmates was ALSO having a rough morning. She was crying already when I entered the classroom, and as I was trying to put things in Carla’s cubby (extra shoes, lunchbox, water bottle) while simultaneously saying soothing and cheerful things to Carla, the little girl came up to me, wailing, and held her arms out for a hug.

I mean, who am I to deny a child a hug? I really, really hope that’s not out of bounds. But I think if my daughter was having a rough time and just needed a hug, I would be grateful to another mom for giving her that comfort.

Poor kiddo – a hug did not cut it. And of course, here’s Carla, saying, “That’s MY mommy.” I tried to say calmly to her, “Your friend is having a rough moment, and it’s okay for her to give me a hug” while hugging this poor child. The little girl is now trying to climb on me, she wants to be picked up, but I don’t want to cross any weird parental boundaries, and also Carla is climbing on my other side, so I say gently, “Sweetie, I can’t pick you up, I’m sorry you’re having a rough day, it’s going to be okay.”

This is totally my response to Sad Feelings, by the way, because it is the way I want to be treated when I’m sad. I soothe, I acknowledge, I offer calm reassurances. But I am not good at distracting a child from her feelings. I mean, I have LEARNED how to do that, with Carla. But it didn’t even occur to me in this situation.

Of course, my own anxiety is ramping up at the same time. I’m just trying to get Carla situated so I can leave without her dissolving into tears. Now, in the calm and quiet of my house, I feel like I should have just sat down on the floor, talked with the little girl – at the very least, asked her or Carla what her name was! – and overall been more patient with the situation. Instead, I got more and more frantic, trying to peel the crying child off of me so I can hug my daughter, who is beginning to look more and more upset.

That’s when another mom swooped in. “This isn’t your child?” she asked, and I shook my head. And she took the little girl’s hand (the child was STILL wailing, tears and snot sloshing down her face – this is my NIGHTMARE, that when I leave, Carla cries and cries and cries, rather than stopping as soon as I’m out of sight.) and said brightly, “Have you washed your hands yet? Let’s go do that and then we’ll play with your friends!”

Oh how I want to be that mom. Not only is she a fantastic dresser (today she had on this long floral dress that was breezy and summery and elegant all at once) and not only does she have a super cool haircut, but she was kind and confident and knew exactly what to do.

I barely feel confident with MY OWN child. Let’s be honest: most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, and even when my stabs in the dark seem to work, I feel like I’m about to tumble over the edge into incompetence at any moment. And when it comes to someone else’s child? Absolutely no idea.

Babies. I can handle babies. Let me hold your baby, feed her, change her diaper. I am good at that. Big kids? Not so much.

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Is there anything more delightful than a toddler? Carla is learning new things seemingly by the minute and I feel like I can see her brain develop and her skill set grow EVERY DAY. She is becoming more and more HERSELF, a sweet, spunky, independent, imaginative little girl and it is so fun to witness.

In the morning, just to give you a tiny slice of our day: She helps me get her pancakes, and she sets the timer on the microwave (what, I’m not making her pancakes from scratch or anything). She puts her dishes by the sink so I can rinse them, then puts them away in the dishwasher. She can count how many raspberries I put in a Tupperware for her lunch. She can use the potty by herself (well, when SHE feels like it) and can dress herself completely. She knows how to brush her teeth and wash her face and comb her hair. She likes to “call” her daddy on the “phone” in the mornings, to ask him where her barrettes are or to let him know mommy broke the diaper pail AGAIN and he needs to fix it. She can open the freezer and pull out an ice pack for her lunch box. She loves to jump on my bed, singing Five Little Monkeys at the top of her lungs (but god help anyone who tries to start with five and work down to one – oh NO, you start with ONE little monkey or face her wrath). She can procure the dust buster from the laundry room, turn it on, and vacuum up the (inevitable) crumbs on the floor. And then she can put it back! And turn off the light in the laundry room! She can go upstairs to get things. She can put her clothes in the laundry bin. She brings me my shoes. She can put on her own coat. She can open the door by herself (yikes) and walk down into the garage (by herself) and climb up into the car (with a little help). She sings almost constantly, and asks questions about everything – at every noise, “what was that sound mommy?” and “was that a garbage truck mommy?” and “is the squirrel getting a nut mommy?” and “is that a pumpkin mommy?” – and is unbelievably delightful.

But man do mornings make me want to burrow under the covers for EVER AND EVER.

We are NEVER on time. There is NO listening. There is a LOT of running away. All of these delightful skills she has? She does them on her agenda and only then. Should I ask her to do something, it is met with either defiant NOs or cheerful obstinacy or just plain disobedience. Should I lose my patience and try to pick her up, there is much kicking and wailing and – my favorite (NO) – the Boneless Maneuver, wherein she goes completely limp and is impossible to hold.

I wake up at six every morning. I wake Carla up at 6:45 on the dot. We have the same routine every single day. And yet some days we are out the door at 7:45 (ideal) and other (MOST) days we are out the door at 8:15.

By the time I drop her off at school and climb back into my car to head to work, I am frazzled and exhausted and out of patience. (Apparently my patience reserves are very shallow.)

I feel like I have tried everything: Steely calm in the face of anything. Constant narration of what we are doing and what we are about to do and how we are going to do it. Easy breezy casual “whatever you want to do, sweetheart.” Doing everything for her. Letting her do everything herself. Setting aside special cuddle time where we read a book or two before we jump into the morning routine. Bribery. Threats. Yelling (not my preferred mode of operations). Occasionally something will work – like the “if I get to the count of three and you aren’t brushing your teeth, I will do it for you” method that’s having limited success these days – but its efficacy is always short-lived.

And putting on a pair of shoes and a coat continues to take eight billion years.

This is a phase, right? This is a phase. It’s got to be a phase. Tell me it’s just a phase.

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Just a few years ago, I didn’t want kids at all. At ALL. Ever.

Now, I find myself in the very strange position of contemplating a SECOND kid, to add to the one kid I have already. (This is, of course, to say I COULD have another baby, which I know is not a given.)

Internet, I think about it all the time. At least once a day. My thought process often runs along this path:

  1. Oh, Carla, you are so fun and wonderful!
  2. But you’re getting so BIG.
  3. Man, I miss Baby Carla.
  4. She was so cute and snuggly.
  5. Remember how she used to [adorable thing she no longer does]?
  6. Wouldn’t it be fun to have another baby?
  7. But it wouldn’t be CARLA.
  8. It would be a stranger.
  9. And what if Stranger Baby doesn’t turn out to be as fun and wonderful as Carla is?
  10. Remember, Carla was a super easy baby.
  11. And don’t forget how much you hated breastfeeding.
  12. And don’t forget how nice it is to SLEEP.
  13. And don’t forget that Husband will have a Real Job for second baby, so you would be doing the whole New Baby stage yourself.
  14. And what if you can’t pay attention to Carla as much as you want to?
  15. What if she and her sibling don’t get along – ever?
  16. Some siblings just don’t like each other.
  17. What if having Second Baby means you can’t afford [thing we planned on doing with/for Carla]?
  18. And remember how exhausted you are with just the one.
  19. It would be WORSE with two.
  20. That’s simple math.
  21. What if you don’t LIKE Second Baby?
  22. What if Second Baby means you would have less attention for Carla?
  23. What if you are just reacting to hormones, and you will ALWAYS feel this way?
  24. You can’t have a new baby every time you get a hankering for chubby baby thighs and a milk-drunk smile.
  25. You just CAN’T.
  26. You don’t really want a new baby, anyway.
  27. You want a second Carla.
  28. And that will never happen.
  29. But what if Second Baby was JUST as wonderful?
  30. But why take the risk?

No matter how often my thoughts turn to having another baby, they always seem to work themselves around to Not. (Disclaimer: I don’t promise that this will always be true.)

When I wanted a baby, I wanted one. Immediately. There were fears and worries and doubts, sure. But (at least in my memory of that time) I knew that we were going to at least try to have a baby and I was ready to face those worries and fears and doubts head-on.

This doesn’t feel like that.

I have heard others compare the desire for another child to feeling like their families weren’t complete. I don’t feel incomplete. I feel happy and settled.

But my thoughts keep turning to theoretical Second Baby. And turning away. And turning back. And turning and turning and turning.

Is that a sign that I really DO want one? How am I supposed to KNOW?

Listen, I know that if you are Pro Multiple Babies, you will easily be able to refute every one of my objections. And that you could easily offer up a thousand reasons to Just Do It. I don’t want that. I can do that myself, I promise.

Also: I fret and agonize over all the so-called, supposed “issues” of having/being an only child, too. So I am not looking for thoughts on THAT – either for or against.

What I AM looking for… or what I would be curious about is this:

How did YOU know that you were ready for a Second Baby?

Some people just KNOW that they want kids. I was always envious of those people, because I was NOT one of them. And it seemed like knowing that you were meant to be a parent just made things easier. Maybe that’s a matter of perception, but from my vantage point – of going from No Babies Ever to Must Have Baby Now – it seemed like those in the “always knew I wanted a baby” camp were much better off.

So I want to know whether it was the same for you. Did you always know you wanted multiple kids? Did you always think, “Okay, I’ll go for three”?

Or maybe you went the Starter Baby route. And when you found out how awesome that was, you decided to go for another.

Or, how did YOU know that you were done?

Maybe you always thought “I will have a HUGE family” and then you had one/two/seven and you felt like that was it.

Listen, I realize there are sad, upsetting answers to these questions. And I suppose I want to hear those too, because I want to hear what you have to say, if you are willing to share it.

But I think if I got to CHOOSE, mostly I am interested in either the philosophical answers (“we had three and we felt complete”) or the social answers (“I grew up in a big family, so I always knew I’d have a big family”) or the biological (this is not the right word) answers (“I had the one and my biological clock STOPPED.”).

 

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