Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teeth Bite

For first-time moms, there’s a lot of pressure to do everything everyone says you should do. You shouldn’t spoil your baby; you should give your baby whatever he needs—it’s impossible to spoil a baby. You should take the pacifier away early so that your baby doesn’t become too dependent on it; you should let the baby have the pacifier as long as he wants—he’s teething after all. You shouldn’t co-sleep with your baby; you should keep your baby as close to you as possible—nothing wrong with sharing a bed. You should keep a consistent bed time for your baby; you should make the baby adjust to your schedule, even if that means keeping him out late on the weekends. The world is full of parenting experts and according to at least someone out there, I am ruining my child by my parenting choices. But isn’t it also possible that my child, to some degree, will do whatever the heck he wants regardless of my choices? Aren’t there some other variables involved besides just my parenting choices? To the people who say, “You need to get your baby on a schedule,” I continue to wonder, “Do their children have no teeth?”

It seems every time I think Finny is on a “schedule,” he reminds me that he is determined to challenge the status quo. Don’t get complacent, Mom, bicuspids are on the way!

Finny just spent four lovely days at Cape VanHimbergen in Louisville where, relieved from his normal, everyday stress, he was able to sleep from 8-7:30 every night and take two good, solid two-hour naps everyday. Now that he’s back to the daily grind of life at home, it seems he is stressed to be back at work and can’t seem to relax. Suddenly, he struggles to go to bed at night, is waking up at 4 a.m., and refuses to take a nap longer than forty-five minutes, which is just long enough for me to pour myself a hot cup of coffee and make a list of what I’m going to get done during his nap—I have yet to drink a "hot" cup of coffee this week or get anything done during his so-called “nap.”

“Maybe he’s adjusting to being back at home.”

“Maybe it’s because you have hardwood floors; he hears everything.”

“Maybe it’s his teeth.”

I’m going with the teeth; they sabotage all attempts at scheduling and all attempts at sleep and productivity. Poor guy. Poor me. Yesterday, I had had about all I could take when he was up wailing after a twenty-minute morning nap, during which time I successfully took the garbage to the garage. When I brought him downstairs, I sat on the couch and cried, which Finny found hilarious. Every time I let out an exasperated sob, he thought I was laughing and would crack up, which then of course, made me crack up and then sob some more and then crack up some more.

Then, I called my parents. Finny needs me. I need them. They allowed me to get some housework done and gather my sanity again and Finny got the undivided attention of his grandparents.

This morning brings a new day and as I write this, Finny has been napping for close to two hours. Alleluia, back on schedule.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Have We Met Before?

“Who are you and what makes you think you’re so special?” Finny seemed to say with his blank face as we pounced on him after our four-day trip to Denver. David and I had been standing on the curb beside our luggage bouncing up and down, never before feeling even more excited to return from a trip than to leave on one, when David’s mom pulled up with Finny in the back seat. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a ten-month-old in terms of memory and recognition after four days away; it was both comforting and terrible to realize that he would be just fine without us.

The whole time we were away everything went very smoothly. From the daily updates I received from Grandma and the seventy-seven pictures taken by Grandpa for a photo-documentary of the weekend, it seems that Finny had a blast and hardly missed us. This was wonderful news and certainly allowed me to relax and enjoy our weekend away. But it does make me a little sad that he still isn’t quite old enough to understand just how much I do for him. Certainly if he was, he would be jumping out of his car seat with smiles and screams of “Mommy, Mommy, I missed you so much!” Right?

Of course I do recall my own mom saying, “Do I have to do everything around here?” a few times growing up, so not sure when the appreciation sets in. I guess it was around 29 for me, a few days after I had Finny. This is the real reason parents want their children to grow up and have children of their own: grandchildren are adorable, but really they want their kids to finally understand just how much they’ve sacrificed for them.

Once I teased him a little in the backseat of the car, I could tell he was thinking, “Oh you’re that hilarious Mommy I have! The one with all the jokes and faces! Gosh, where have you been?” At least that’s what I thought until his grandpa got home from work, the other one with all the jokes and faces. Then I just became the lady who one day will be on him to clean up his room, whispering under my breath, “I guess I do have to do everything around here.”

The truth is though, it doesn’t matter if he missed me or not. I missed him like I’ve never missed anything in my life and that fills me up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leaving and Letting Go

I awoke at 5:30 a.m. this morning filled with dread. It occurred to me that at the end of this week, I will be leaving Finny to go across the country for four days, and suddenly I was seven years old again.

Just as I called my mom from my first sleepover at Tracy Reese's house saying, "Can you please come pick me up? I want to come home," this time I felt like rolling over, tapping David on the shoulder, and saying, "I'm not going and you can't make me."

It's such a blessing to be able to stay home and raise Finny full time, but it's times like these that I realize there is a downside to all the delicious Finny and Mommy time: the two of us don't know how to be apart.

In the early months our co-dependency was more physical. He needed nourishment and I needed somewhere to pour the milk. But now, it's more emotional, more mental for both of us. I've noticed that now, at ten months old, he's started to have preferences. He prefers Sandra Boynton books over Eric Carle books, he prefers macaroni and cheese over watermelon, and he prefers his Born Free sippie cups over Avent. He also prefers me over anyone else. David says I'm overestimating myself, but he reaches for me to hold him when he's upset, he crawls to find me in the kitchen if he can't see me, and he stares at me across the room if someone else is holding him. I can't help but think we've got something special here.

I do realize that he is still just ten months old and he's pretty adaptable and doesn't have the largest memory, so it's quite possible that I'll leave and when I come back, he'll stare me down and say, "I vaguely remember meeting you. Can you tell me your name again? Mommy? Oh yes, Mommy! We spent some time together back on Thursday. Yes, yes, the womb, all that. It's coming back to me now."

So perhaps the real issue is not how terribly he'll miss me. He will, after all, be showered with kisses and snuggles and attention from his adoring grandparents, who are bound to have a catalogue of pictures accounting for every bite, outfit and smile when we return. The real issue here is me. How do I get through four days without him?

I've been looking forward to this trip all summer to see one of my best friends get married, but also just to get away with David and have a break from "work." But now, I'm wondering how I'll make it. By the third day, David might start to wonder too as I start to tickle his toes, steal his nose, and spoonfeed him dinner.

Even though I am the one who carries Finny around from place to place, I can't help but wonder if I'll be the one calling Finny from Denver asking, "Can you please come pick me up? I want to come home."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pride Comes Before the Fall

On Wednesday, Finny learned a new trick and my house suddenly became a cracked head waiting to happen. Up until this point, Finny has been as mobile as an inchworm. His stomach dragging across the floor has significantly slowed him down in his explorations of the first floor, so I can usually carry the trash to the garage or make a run to the bathroom knowing he won't make it very far while I'm gone. But this week, we saw the beginnings of a standing, walking, falling Finny, and all of a sudden, we live in a house full of corners.

It seems I am always in the kitchen when Finny gets bold. I was in the kitchen when he rolled over the first time, in the kitchen when he pulled himself onto the lower shelf of our TV stand, and this week I was in the kitchen when I looked over and my worm was standing, adoring himself in the glass of the fireplace door. Both of us freaked out as the two of us tend to do when he does something new and I went running into the family room exclaiming, "Do it again!" Tuesday, my lightswitch trick amazed him. Wednesday, his fireplace trick amazed me. I put him down on all fours in front of the fireplace and watched as he approached the fireplace again. I have never seen such excitement on his face as I did at this moment. He gets excited about Cheerios, his cup of milk, and his lift-the-flap books, but this excitement was new. It was the excitement that comes with pride.

I watched as he put one hand up on the lip of the quartz fireplace and gradually scooted himself up on his knees. He hung out there for a second as he tried to ponder his next move. Although I don't remember the first time I stood on my own, this scene was so familiar as so often David and I find ourselves in the same position hanging out on the rock wall, trying to guess where our next sturdy handhold will be. Finny figured, as he so often does, that his best bet would be to use his mouth, so I watched as he gripped the edge of the fireplace step with his mouth and used that for balance as he swung his other hand up. The whole time he kept looking at me, mouth-gaping, smiling, laughing--"Mom, do you see this? Can you believe I'm this awesome?"

Once he had two hands and two knees, he was able to push up to standing and man, was it the greatest. Until I realized how much it would suck if he lost his balance. As I glanced around the room, it was suddenly flashing red with hard and sharp things everywhere and I realized I would have some room doctoring to do.

The next day as David and I watched him do it again, David commented, "He's taking too many risks now." But these are risks we want him to take, aren't they? And if he didn't take these risks, he would never experience the pride that comes with growing, learning, achieving.

But pride comes before the fall.

So right now, I will try to make his landings as soft as possible to avoid a conked head or a cracked skull, but I also recognize that I will not always be able to protect him from the fall, and I need to deal with this anxiety. Because taking risks will teach him pride, but falling will teach him caution and humility and he needs these to grow as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The lightswitch is a hilarious invention

There is nothing more delicious than hearing Finny giggle uncontrollably. It's like chocolate cake. Yesterday I spent five minutes of my day flicking the hallway light switch on and off for pure entertainment. He laughed his head off in pure amazement and it was contagious. Something that I take for granted everyday suddenly became amazing to me when I saw the look of pure, jaw-dropping delight on his little face that seemed to be saying, "How does it do that? That's awesome! Do it again. Again. Do it again!"

After the lightswitch episode, I carried him down the hall clip-clopping my flip-flops like a horse and he could hardly contain himself. I think he may have peed his pants it was that funny.

At the end of the day I was left thinking, "God, I'm hilarious."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mommies aren't always playful

Sometimes I am sick to death of my own living room and I question my mothering skills. I still struggle, as a stay-at-home mom, with my lack of productivity on a daily basis. I always have an endless list of things to get done and by the end of they day it seems I'm lucky if I've emptied both racks of the dishwasher. You'd think I'd have learned by now, ten months into this new career, to not make such long to-do lists, to take a deep breath and realize that my primary responsibility is to care for my child, not to scrub the baseboards, pull weeds and wipe down the refrigerator. Sometimes I am able to take note of this and experience a sort of zen-like peace that allows me to understand that "they grow up so fast" so "enjoy every moment" but I am also still frequently experiencing days when I am craving time to start and complete tasks, time to feel productive rather than playful.

And why aren't I more playful? Yesterday, when Finny woke up after only forty-five minutes of afternoon napping and it was raining again, I found myself restless. Two hours until dinner--what was I supposed to do with him until then? So I plopped him on that all too familiar living room rug and surrounded him with the same old toys and watched him throw his plastic balls around and suck on his plastic donut rings and admire the air vent once again. Once in a while he would find himself stuck under the coffee table again and I would have to fish him out so that he did not get a concussion from the head banging. But beyond that I sat on the couch, folding laundry and watching Design Star the whole time plagued with guilt. Should I be doing something developmentally stimulating with him right now, I questioned. Should we be working on his multiplication tables, playing catch, peekaboo, doing a paint-by-number? Am I letting his brain rot while I guiltily enjoy my DVRed show?

The truth is though I can only take peekaboo in small doses and I've read all those books in the book box too many times. Sometimes Mommy needs to watch her show and baby needs to learn not to crawl under the coffee table. So he did not learn 8x6=48 yesterday, but he did learn that mommies aren't always playful (especially when babies get up early from naps) and so he is learning to play by himself and that's valuable too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A visit to St. Joe, Michigan

Yesterday, we got back from our long weekend trip to St. Joseph, MI to visit T.J. and it became pretty clear why T.J. is anxious to get the heck out of there! It's a quaint, little town and the lake is pretty, but it's pretty easy to do all there is to do in St. Joe in about an hour and a half. And if it's raining, well, you drink. T.J. took us to some nice restaurants and we did get a couple hours on the beach, but beyond that you start to feel a little antsy. Of course, I always seem to find myself getting antsy on vacation whether it be St. Joe, MI, Costa Rica, or the Outerbanks, after a couple of days I just start to feel like vacation is just one, big, giant meal and I'm looking for ways to be active and productive. I think I may be better suited for vacations that involve hiking or volunteer work. It's strange how I seek out relaxation and end up looking for work to do.

We also realized pretty quickly that ten-month-olds and vacation don't exactly go together. We stayed at a Courtyard Marriott in Benton Harbor, MI and felt slightly disgusted and kind of yicky the whole time we were there. We immediately removed that mysterious bedspread that we've been trained to believe holds the bubonic plague and clamydia deep within its fibers, and then we looked hesitantly at the carpet and realized that Finny would be spending some time there on the dark blue carpet, the dark blue carpet which may also hold the H1N1 virus, gonorrhea and other microscopic yuckies deep within its fibers. I took a deep breath, put him down and let him have at it, praying that he not end up with tiny sores.

Realizing quickly that the hotel room was cramped and not the ideal place to hang out with baby, we headed into town to go to the beach. As luck would have it, Finny napped nicely in his stroller for about an hour and a half while David and I read quietly on our beach towels under overcast skies. It was actually quite lovely to be on the somewhat chilly, cloudy beach under our little umbrella. When Finny did wake up we looked hesitantly at the sand and realized once again that we were a little stuck with our ten-month-old who wants to move but can't walk. Severe weather forced us indoors anyway, where David and I continued our game of pass the baby.

It was nice seeing T.J., nice seeing the lake and nice to get away for a bit, but it is also nice to be home to my carpet, my bedspread, my high chair and my things that are relatively clean, clean enough for Finny to put his mouth on at least without saying a quick Hail Mary to ward off the tiny sores.