Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parenting Again: The Experts

Whereas I'm quick to analyze the background and possible agenda of theological or historical writers, I was slower to bring this same critical analysis to the family section of the bookstore. I used to believe that having a childrearing book to your name or a medical degree in childhood illness made you an expert in parenting.

I badgered my pediatrician for advice on feeding and sleeping, despite the fact that the typical training for a pediatrician includes about 2 hours on breastfeeding and who-knows-what on sleep. I devoured every book from Ferber to Sears, with confusion and conflict at their differences.

These days, there's no one I'd rather see when my child has a fever than Dr. Medical Degree. But I'd no more ask my pediactrician for parenting advice than my OB for sex therapy.

Ironically, my new mantra for parenting did happen to come from our first pediatrician. It irritated me to no end at the time, because I wanted him to give me step-by-step instructions that would guarantee I was doing the right thing for my child. But now I get it. He said, looking at my husband and me with our son on the exam table, "You've just got to find what works for the three of you, and do it."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Parenting Again: To Carry a Baby

I gave birth to a toddler. At three months old, he outgrew the infant bucket. Grocery shopping with a baby who couldn't sit up in a cart but whose car seat was no longer portable was a challenge, to say the least.

Then there was our other dilemma: Peter wanted to be held 85% of the time. All day long I got to choose between sitting around with a baby in my arms or listening to him cry while I got things done. Oh, I had a pouch. I even had a front pack carrier. But Peter didn't fit in the pouch, and the front pack strained every muscle in my neck. Such is life with a twenty-two pound four-month-old.

When Peter was five months, someone introduced me to the ring sling. This made running errands easier, but one of my arms always felt a little restricted. Absolute freedom came when Peter was 10 months old and I learned how to carry him on my back in a mei tai. Oh, the bliss! (And here, by the way, is a shameless plug for Magic City Slingers.)

My hope for this next baby is that I might be able to put him or her on a blanket without hearing ear-piercing shrieks. Seriously, I dream of a blanket baby. Yet, even if I should be so blessed, I'm well-aware of the logistical challenges I'll be spared with my new knowledge of quality baby carriers (as in, the kind that don't hurt after twenty minutes). I'll be able to

  • Chase Peter on the playground with my infant snug to my chest-- and eventually on my back.
  • Push Peter in the sportscar shopping cart at Publix while wearing the baby.
  • Avoid the expense of a two-seat stroller since, again, I can wear the baby while pushing Peter.
  • When Peter is at Mother's Day Out, visit all the boutiques and antique stores I want while leaving the cumbersome stroller at home.

And, if I do happen to give birth to Peter Part Deux:

  • I can get things done and have a baby contently held.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Ultimate Fantasy

Don't we all fantasize about returning to our toddler/child bodies and re-living that time with the knowledge we now have? For a long time, I pictured myself amazing everyone with my brilliance. Now I think I'd hide my cards, lest I get thrown into gifted programs and find myself in college at age 6. But it would still be neat to go through preschool again with a new appreciation.

That's the beauty of having a second child. I get to re-live my experience of parenting with the knowledge I have from parenting the first time around.

Of course, the whammy is that every baby is different. What worked beautifully (and what failed miserably) with Peter might be another story with another being. Yet there are some principles that, assuming I have a singleton birth and a healthy baby, can be standard for me. So I'm going to share them through this next week or so...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What will become of the Suburbs?

My husband can't stop talking about the oil crisis. He's like an Old Testament prophet on crack.

What's shocking about gas prices isn't that they are so high. It's that they aren't higher. Simple economics:

Diminishing supply + increasing demand = $4 a gallon. $5 a gallon. $6 a gallon...

You could blame Americans and their SUVs-- which will soon be a thing of the past-- but with the demand for oil in China rising at an exponential rate, we'll soon be taking a much smaller piece of the pie. It's doesn't matter who is (or isn't) in the White House. It doesn't matter whether or not the Saudis open the floodgates. What matters is that if oil production continues at the same rate as it is right now, oil will be gone by my child's 48th birthday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Choosing a School for Your Child

I had three all-important questions for the director of the first Mother's Day Out program that I got on the phone:

1) Where are you located?
2) Do you have any openings for the summer?
3) Will you send me a registration form?

Perhaps I should have booked a tour first. You know, to look less desperate.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Back to the Kitchen

Neither of my parents cared to have kids underfoot in the kitchen, so I was in college before I learned how to boil water. And then I learned that you can't boil water in a glass bowl.

After graduate school, when I suddenly had time on my hands, I decided I'd learn how to cook for real. This coincided with the purchase of my condo-- with a kitchen the size of my parents' bar. No, my parents are not fabulously wealthy. It's just that my kitchen is that small. My new hobby faded. These days, cooking is on par with cleaning that bathroom.

I'm just now making the connection that kitchen size might have played a role in my abhorrence of food preparation. In my new house, the counter space on the island is equal to the counter space in my entire condo. This means I have counter space leftover for things like a food processor and cutting boards and a crock pot and mixing bowls. There's even a place to put these things when I am not using them. Best of all, there's a pantry large enough that I won't have to pile staples on top of each other.

Room to move, room to cook, room to store... I may be more Betty Crocker than I think.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts on Supernanny

Do I seem a little hard on her? I'm actually a fan. Oh, I have a few beefs with her here and there (i.e., I don't think a child in the parents' bed is necessarily a problem), but she's good at what she does. Before I had Peter, I used to marvel at her wisdom... and the idiocy of the parents, who seemed to lack any common sense.

I still marvel at her wisdom, but I'm more overcome with compassion for the parents. My heart breaks to see their struggles, because this parenting business is hard. It's one thing for an outsider to come along and whip your kids into shape (Peter is much more charming and compliant with sitters than with me), especially when that's your only job. I call that parenting in a vacuum, which I was quite good at as a babysitter.

It's another thing, though, to parent in the day-after-day-after-day reality of spouses who work long hours, pregnancy hormones, and demands on your time and attention that go beyond your child's needs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tantrums from the Crypt

Last night Peter had an hour-long, ear-splitting tantrum that ended when he went to bed. I proudly kept my cool.

When another one began tonight, I broke every rule. I yelled. I cried. I showed him that he had gotten to me. And before he could get out of control (I was already out of control myself), I gave in to my terrorist's demands. It was like a scene from Supernanny.

In fifteen months of tantrums, until tonight, never once had I caved. It's a parenting sin I place somewhere between giving your toddler beer and letting him operate heavy machinery.

Feeling like a failure? Yeah. Wondering how I'm ever going to raise this child to be a loving and productive citizen? Yeah.

But I'll tell you one thing: if Supernanny walked into my house, I'd come at her with sperm and a turkey baster as see how she does after two years with a child of her own.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Potty Foul

I'm not eager to lose the convenience of diapers, but if I could get my child bowel trained, that would be the best of all worlds. Since he's been poo'ing at the same time every day for the past... oh, I don't know, six months... and since he tells me when he's about to do it, I figured-- what the heck, I'm going to stick him on the toilet today.

So I pulled out the toilet seat cover I bought when Peter was 2 months old, put him on it, and read books to him for 20 minutes. While he played with himself.

And I used to wonder why boys are later potty training.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Home is Where the Car Is

Another weekend in our new town, and we've had our ups and downs.

Downs: 1) The swing set next door is for grandchildren. 2) The tricycle belongs to a 4-year-old girl with big brothers. 3) When we took Peter in the backyard to play for the first time, he cried at the fence like a caged wild animal, pointing over the fence screaming "Out! Out!"

Ups: 1) Neighbors continue to drop by introducing themselves, and they already know all about us from... I guess the other neighbors. It's a sign to me that these folks in the cul de sac really are friends. 2) One husband and wife just showed up and cut our yard. It was like a mormon commercial. 3) There is a 13-year-old girl across the street. I repeat: there is a 13-year-old girl across the street. And, yes, she babysits.

So I asked Peter if he likes his Decatur home, and he said,

"Peter like 'Burningham' home."

"Oh?" I said. "You don't like Decatur home?"

He said, "Burningham home have cars."

Well, I guess that'll be an easy fix.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Home on the Range

Once upon a time, shopping for a house meant finding the most space I could afford with the most charming exterior possible in a generally safe area of town. It was simple, really. And I would no sooner have looked at a rancher than I would have a mini-van.

Well, times have changed. How did we turn down larger houses with charming exteriors in safe areas of town in order to buy... a rancher?

1) We restricted our search to a 5-minute radius of Tom's work. With young children at home, every second in the commute is felt. By me, anyway.

2) We didn't want obstacles in getting to know our neighbors. So we nixed anything with a privacy fence-- or anything next to houses with privacy fences.

3) We wanted to be near families with young children. Were there tricycles across the street? Swing sets?

4) We wanted a house that made life with babies just a little bit easier. Stairs were a turn-off, as were master bedrooms located in a separate part of the house.

So it is that when we saw a one-story house in a cul-de-sac filled with toys, with a waist-high fence in the backyard, all the bedrooms compactly in the back, and a very happening playground 50 yards away, we knew it was The One. The house to take us through the toddlerdom of our current and future children. That's a good six years or so.

But when you throw in the elementary school 200 yards from our backyard, well... I think we may be ranching it for even longer.

At least we have hardwood floors. Some principles never change.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Simple Pleasures

It's the stuff two-year-old fantasies are made of.

We were standing outside our new house (no, we haven't moved in, but we visited it for the first time this weekend) meeting our new neighbors. Suddenly, music. Peter looked around. Where was it coming from? Ooh, a truck! Wow, a truck that plays music! And it's coming our way! And, and... it's not just coming our way, it's stopping right in front of us. A man sticks his head out of the truck and gives us ice cream. Could it be true?

So it was that the three of us walked over our threshold together for the first time, sitting on the kitchen floor to eat our treats. Peter laughed maniacally between every bite of his ice cream sandwich. What a Norman Rockwell introduction to life in a house.