Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Awww, isn't he sweet?

Yesterday, I told Peyton it was time for quiet time upstairs. He didn't seem to have processed what I said, since he didn't mention quiet time, or head upstairs, but instead walked up to me and said "My turn hold the baby?"
I thought that was so stinking sweet. He wants to hold the baby? I'm melting!
So I went to get him situated and hand her off when I had an epiphany and added,
"But, you know, as soon as you hold the baby for a minute, you have to go up for quiet time still."
Peyton yelled,  "Nooo! I want to sit on da couch! I need to play! I need to go potty! I need some food!..."
He was still yelling out various excuses when I carried him up the stairs for quiet time.
Guess he wasn't going for brotherly love after all.
Presley should feel so used.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Buffet-style parenting

It seems to me that today, everyone wants to define your parenting style in a few quick words and stick you in a box. Are you an attachment parent?  A tiger mother? An anti-vaxxer? A helicopter parent? Homeschooler? Home birther? (I don't think birther is actually a word unless it's referring to people who are still trying to turn back time to 2008 and change the election, but I needed an -er word.) There's probably more, but my newborn eats every two hours and my brain is sludge, I call this period of life acute Mommy brain. Sidenote: there's nothing cute about it.
Of course, people who adhere to any of these ideals with total unquestioning devotion tend to be, in my humble opinion, more than a little scary. They are actually similar in many ways to cult followers, regardless of whether they worship at the altar of extended breast feeding (hello, lactivists, please don't storm my blog!) or the cry-it-out method. Thankfully, I've also discovered that these glassy-eyed cult followers are either largely imaginary, or remarkably few in number everywhere except the internet. Pretty much every parent I know is trying their best with every decision they make, but instead of adhering religiously to any subgroups' standard, they're plucking a little from column A, a little from column B, and a touch out of basket C. Of course, there's so many parenting decisions, eventually you get to jar 3423ZZ, but that's another blog post.
As I am a practitioner of this particular "method" and the term "seat of my pants parent" makes me sound like I don't care about the outcome, I have dubbed myself a "buffet-style parent." This combines my love of eating with my love for my children and family. If I could throw in a reference to sleeping, this term would encompass pretty much my whole heart.
Buffet-style is a simple philosophy. All your options are before you...take what you like, leave the rest for other people. Try new stuff. If you don't like it, go back and try another option. It's all good, but that doesn't mean it's all good for you in particular. It's okay, have three desserts. Okay, so maybe that last thing only applies to me at real buffets as well as parenting, but the beauty of the system is it's customizable, so that works.
Nursing, saving money on formula and boosting immunity? Sure, load up my plate! Then I'll go back in the line a few months later and realize giving the occasional bottle means I can sleep more than two hours at a time and dad can take a turn. Wait, I'll take a little of that too please! Co-sleeping is like a seafood dish to me, lots of people love it, I am not one of them, I'll skip that station. And of course, there's the healthy dose of vegetables no one really likes but you eat them to be healthy, or at least feel better about what else is on your plate. These can be represented with actual vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
If the game changes, you can change with it. When I was in the hospital, my mother in law said the kids were obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants. She said (correctly) that I had said earlier that my kids weren't allowed to watch Spongebob (because studies show its not good for preschoolers), and asked when that changed. I said "Oh, about 36 weeks into this pregnancy." Soon, when I have my feet under me again, Spongebob will go back to the depths of the sea until either my kids are old enough to be in his target demographic, or something else renders me completely incapable of parenting without a crutch. But it's all good. A month or two of Spongebob hasn't destroyed their developing brains. A few months of gummi prenatal vitamins instead of the iron-laden puke-inducing prenatals during pregnancy won't land my kid in my basement until age 40. In short, the only hard core philosophy I prescribe to with day-to-day duties is that flexibility is the key to a happy and healthy life. I'm gung ho about flexibility, considering I used to be the least flexible person on planet earth.
In many ways, I'm still inflexible, and that doesn't just refer to my performance in a yoga class (I'm just kidding, I would never attempt to take yoga in front of other people). I still have a rigid personality and I have very clear ideas of right and wrong. But I've learned that if I'm going to be intense and hard core in some ways, the only way to survive is not to sweat the small stuff. I want my children to grow up to be good people, good citizens, and kind. Whether I manage to raise them to these ideals or not makes the early years of pooping in cloth or disposables kinda pale in comparison.
And, despite what the parenting "dogmas" preach, most of the day to day decisions are small stuff. Its the character building, the loving, and learning we do with and for our children that actually matters. So let's focus on that, and leave all the other stuff on the buffet line, for each individual parent to taste or ignore at will.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perspective, A Beautiful Thing

It's been almost a couple of weeks since Baby Presley arrived! Yea!
We are now adjusting to life with three children, as well as the whole recovery process, and a newborn on our turf, but after that pregnancy put me through the ringer, I'm very happy to report that I feel great! Also, after already having a bit of wariness towards them, I have decided for sure that people who declare they "LOOOVE being pregnant" are now filed away in the recesses of my brain right next to those people who tell you that high school is "the best years of your life." In other words, I'll be polite to them, but deep down figure they have a mental defect or are compulsive liars and therefore shouldn't be trusted. There is a huge amount of deep-seated discomfort there. The beauty of kids and pregnancy however, is that unlike high school where you (oh so thankfully) have only one shot to live it (Zac Efron movies excepted), with pregnancy and newborns, you can have multiple shots at it and multiple experiences. That's how I came to realize not all people who love the newborn stage are crack smoking lunatics...I had Peyton and realized that babies can be very different from each other. Not all of them spend their first months trying to beat their parents into submission through extended sleep deprivation. Anyway, it's nice to get some perspective on the whole thing and understand that some people do have easy or enjoyable experiences, but not everyone gets that.  Perspective and empathy, beautiful things...of course, I hope people who love to brag about how much they love pregnancy get slapped with a whole crap-ton of empathy the next time around, but that's not very beautiful of me, and I'm working on it.
So far at least, Presley is much more like her brother as a newborn (ie: she sleeps, and only cries if she actually needs something), and not at all like her big sister (who we love dearly despite her insistence that sleeping while being held and only in 45 minute intervals was starting life on the right foot). I am very much enjoying having an easier experience (especially now that my health problems have largely cleared up now that I'm not pregnant), but after going through what I went through with Sam, I am up to my eyeballs in empathy for my brother and his wife, who also got a non-sleeper. Maybe it's a first-born thing?

If there is anything I could rank as the best thing about having a third baby, and a good-sleeping baby at that, it's the perspective I've gained over the past two children, and the knowledge of how fast and fleeting these times are. While we are busier than ever, I find myself living in the moment and just enjoying the cuddles, the kisses, and yes, even the middle of the night feedings, more. I'm enjoying feeling confident in my decisions, not panicking about every new study that comes my way, and the peace I feel that everything will be okay that only comes from having been around the block before (even though I know new things will always come along). Also, there's a bittersweet feeling that comes from the knowledge that I may not be experiencing this again, that makes it all the more precious. I don't know what the future looks like for us, but I do know, I won't be putting myself at risk of leaving three kids behind if the issues I had in Presley's pregnancy would return in another. Maybe things will change with that with treatments and medicines, maybe they won't, but approaching Presley's babyhood as the last one I'll experience has certainly made it more valuable to me. I worked so hard to get her here safely, I feel very honored to be able to cuddle her now.

Today, I'm so thankful for the perspective I've gained because it has expanded my emotions in such a life-changing way. I wouldn't get getting the fullness of experience I am having now, if I hadn't earned it along the way. So, while I would never say I "looooved being pregnant" I will say, I appreciate the lessons it taught me to have gone through three very different experiences, even if some of them were less than ideal.