Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Am I a Bad Mom if I... around for half an hour with BabyGirl in the carseat, waiting for her to fall asleep so I don't have to get her down for a nap by actually discussing the issue with her? Because, negotiating with a 2-year old? Not happening. Even when she says, adorably, that she's "leepy" and I reply, "feeling sleepy, sweetie?" her answer is always, No. Ok, then, maybe not a bad mom, just a bad citizen of the world, wasting all that gas. Sorry. Hey, at least I dropped off the drycleaning.

How about this: if I let her have a lunch of pretzels, oranges and milk? Spread out over two hours? Shouldn't there be a vegie in there somewhere? Or meat? Ok, how about if the only meat that she's eaten in the last, oh, fortnight or so, has been either bologna or meatloaf? And maybe a bite of chicken that she spat out? Does broccoli count if she used it as a means of conveying ranch dressing into her mouth?

Am I a bad mom of I let her drink the barbecue sauce at Coopers? At least it's a vinegar-based sauce, not the sweet ketchupy stuff. God, she really loved that stuff.

Am I a bad mom if I take her to the organic farm stand and don't go introduce myself to all the other moms socializing over by the chicken coop? In my defense, it was a pretty morning, nice and cool, so I decided instead to sit with her in my lap and drink coffee and watch the chickens waddle about and cackle at each other. (Insert joke here about the same behavior in the moms, haw haw haw.) Sue me, I'm an introvert.

Am I a bad mom because I don't hold a grudge against the dog who nipped my daughter?

Am I a bad mom because I don't brush or comb my daugher's hair when it's too sticky to work with without making her cry? And I never use those adorable little clippies to keep her hair out of her eyes? My only real standards for child grooming are that she gets bathed every few days, I wash her hands after a messy potty break and I hand her a kleenex when her nose is crusty. Oh, and we attempt tooth-brushing nightly, with varying success. Much more than that is a battle.

Am I a bad mom because the only stuff she owns with her name on it is the stuff she takes to school and I wrote her name on it at the direction of her teachers? Most of the other kids have professionally personalized lunch sacks, tote bags and backpacks. I was going to use brown paper bags when I realized that I had to keep her bologna cold.

Am I a bad mom because I let my daughter drink milk from a bottle? Not at night to go to sleep, which is terrible for the teeth, but during the day.

Am I a bad mom because I laughed and laughed when she dumped out the bottle of bubble liquid on daddy's head? Hey, he put her up on his shoulders without noticing that she had it in her hand. But still, I'm not sure if she learned the lesson that We Don't Dump Stuff On Daddy's head.

Eh. Whatever. I'm sure there's worse moms out there. At least the child's happy, right?

Friday, April 21, 2006

More Rants

Ah, a few moments of free time to vent some of the built-up tension...

1. FUCK YOU, shitty drivers of Austin. Three women have been hit while riding their bicycles and two of them were KILLED. All three drivers drove away. One of them was two doors away from our house and my neighbor called to say that the passenger in the car hopped out and ran away through our yards. WHAT THE FUCK!!? What miserable excuse for a human being doesn't stop when they've done something like that?

Oh, and a fourth woman was killed on her motorcycle. Another hit-and-run.

2. CRAM IT, trail-blockers on the Town Lake Trail. You know who you are: the city-employed idiot who decided to block off huge sections of the trail for repairs (instead of doing the repairs as soon as needed, but noooo, plus who decided to decide to leave all the fucking poison ivy?) AND the idiots with strollers who walk in clumps. Ditto, joggers.

Yeah, I know, cardio-vascular health, getting the baby weight off, blah blah blah, but people, walk in single file (or two abreast) when the trail narrows. It's a hike AND BIKE trail. I'm a careful rider and I ring my bell whenever I get near anyone else on the trail--and I've had to come skidding to a halt damn near every time I've been on the trail. What about those guys, the idiots on trail bikes with messenger bags, racing around the trail as fast as they can? They don't use bells, believe me. There's gonna be a huge pile-up and the kid in the stroller, who doesn't deserve it, is going to get hurt.

Also, I'm annoyed that I was getting all cranky and righteous and saw a hand-written sign thanking strangers for help after the writer was hurt on the trail. Ok, fine, I'm grateful to not have a head wound or to need stitches, whatever. But I rely on irritation to keep my heart rate in the target zone.

3. And, what was I thinking when I agreed to participate in the Danskin Triathalon (even if it is as a team member, biking division)? It's not a huge ride, 12 miles, but right now I'm scared to ride on the streets and am all bent out of shape about the state of the trails. Rrrr... Cram it, self. At least I wasn't so nuts as to think I could all three legs--running? Swimming? And biking? All at once? Give me a few years first, just for the swimming lessons.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Judgment Days

Back in the day, when I actually worked in the business world, women had a terrible time fitting in at the workplace--if you're too quiet, you're wimpy (bad); too forward and you're aggressive (worse). Come to think of it, it was a lot like high school, where you were either a frigid bitch (who didn't have sex with her boyfriend) or a whore (who did have sex with her boyfriend) or a complete loser (no boyfriend).

Everyone judged women so harshly that it always seemed to me that treading the path of social acceptance meant that you walked along the ridgetop of a mountain, placing your feet with extraordinary care and one wrong step sent you plummeting to your death on the pointy rocks below. Eventually I figured out that nobody ever died (at least, not as the immediate cause) of social condemnation, though I also had to accept that it can make your life a lot harder. One strategy is to cultivate the air of the Outsider, all "Hey, I don't understand your fascinating and mysterious ways, you guys, so bear with me while I figure out why it's Bad Form to select the first bathroom stall in the row in the office restroom, ok? Guys? Ok, I see the eyerolling, what does that mean? Guys?"

Ok, then, fastforward: Now I'm a Mom. Holy shit.

Because, if I thought the judgments were harsh before, I was totally mistaken because now? It's about the Good of the Child. And everything I do is wrong, at least from one perspective or another. If I do things to Take Care of Myself, I'm selfish; if I don't, I'm getting burned out and will place the child at risk when I fall asleep at the wheel (or whatever). If I discipline, I'm scarring her for life and if I don't, I'm raising a brat. And so on.

It doesn't help that a lot of this judgment is coming from the inside of my own head (though, obviously, not all of it). I've found that I can't read parenting books right before bedtime because I have terrible dreams of Failed Motherhood.

The best piece of advice I ever got (re. discipline, though it applies elsewhere, too) was to be firm, but kind. Which is terribly vague, of course, but I've had people in my life who embodied that combination of virtues and I'm hoping to remember that and emulate them. A positive example is the best learning tool, I think.

It was brought home to me when I was driving across town (on this unseasonably hot and fretful day)and Dada was in the carseat, tired and hot after a morning at Mother's Day Out. She alternately cuddled her stuffed monkey happily and, moments later, cried about her owie from school (a tiny scrape, but in the middle of her back where she couldn't see or touch it) and from general fatigue. Back and forth between happy playing with the monkey and weeping fretfully.

And I was struck all over again, but with special poignancy, just how hard it is to be two years old. Even a smart, tough, willful girl like mine just finds it all too much sometimes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Zen Parenting

Every now and then I think about the Zen Parent: Buddha taught that serenity comes from renouncing desire, so the Zen Parent approaches the job with no expectations, just the willingness to experience everything that comes with calm acceptance.

Yeah, right.

Here's a story about the closest I ever got to Zen Parenting: I was at the bank drive-up window and BabyGirl was in her carseat playing with some stickers. I her a noise and look back to see her, mouth open, eyes watering and looking panicky. So I lean back, reach into her mouth and pull out a sticker that was (possibly) blocking her airway.

The weird part of this story is what was going on in my head: part of my brain started shouting, SHE'S CHOKING!! CHOKING!! But it was as if some automatic emergency doors closed and, while I could hear that inner voice, it was muffled while I calmly pulled out the obstruction, made sure she was ok, and completed my transaction at the bank. No freaking out, no panic.

And here's the kicker: I hope with all my heart that those emergency doors work next time. That was NOT a Zen Parent acting, that was me doing what parents always do, taking care of the child. How can anyone have a child and not have desires? Not just that the child is happy and healthy, but that maybe this time the thunder won't scare her* or that the horrible noise I just heard wasn't her head hitting the pavement. And I want to be able to handle emergencies without scaring the child or, worse, losing my shit completely.

What do I call a Zen Parent? Daddy, that's what.

And make no mistake: my husband, BabyGirl's own daddy, is not one of those Daddys who just seem to float, disengaged, through their children's lives. (Or even check out altogether and go start another family someplace else, sending the occasional late child support check.) I've watched them in action and I marvel at it, but not in a good way. I've also seen Husband's adrenaline reaction when BabyGirl runs toward the street, that is NOT Zen. He would take a bullet, gladly, for that child and so would I. (As a matter of fact, I know that my mother would take a bullet for me, too, even at this late date.)

And because our girl is adopted, there's no fucking Evolutionary Biology explanation here, all protecting-my-genes selfishness, nothing about how it's the hormones from pregnancy-birth-lactation that is supposed to be the source of the drive to keep this child safe and happy. No, indeed: it's love.

If Zen Parenting means I have to love this child any less, than I'll pass. If I can manage to not freak out at every little thing, I'll be doing great, but I just don't understand how anyone can be a parent and renounce desire.

*For the record, that was just a hypothetical; BabyGirl loves thunder. During a huge storm she kept asking for more thunder, really, "Daddy, more thunder please!"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And another thing

Know what I hate? I hate hearing, oh, you just can't let it bother you. Because if a two-year-old is trying to bother you, they'll find a way. Maybe my SweetBabyGirl is just more creative than most (well, of course she is, but anyway, we'll acknowledge for the purpose of this discussion that other people's kids might also be clever in their own way) but, seriously, the child makes a study of what bugs me and is always seeking new opportunities.

This morning at breakfast she grabbed something and I was all, go ahead, enjoy it and I saw her register surprise, just a little. So now I know: when she's searching for a way to annoy me her upper teeth show just a little bit over her bottom lip. Interesting to know, if not particularly useful.

They don't tell you that toddlers are like flowing water or the wind in the Texas Panhandle: constantly moving, seeking cracks, finding a way into or around any obstacle. Their goal: asserting their separate personhood in this world over and over again, one handful of dogfood or one crayoned wall at a time.

If a toddler really wants to bug you, she will succeed, eventually. Telling parents not to let it bother them is a waste of time. Better to tell them to try for perspective, to at least remember that some of this stuff (like, say, the dogfood thing--see previous post) will make for hilariously embarssing stories to tell the kid's friends later.

Trying to control one's own emotions is a difficult business, especially when it feels like the stakes are so high ie. one's job as a parent. It's more reasonable to try to manage the simpler things, like getting enough rest, not taking on too much in a day, ease up on the multi-tasking. It's easier to have a sense of perspective and a positive attitude when one isn't exhausted or endlessly frustrated.

And, in the effort to actually take my own advice, I'm taking the weekend off.

Oppositional behavior

Has every mother of a daughter had this thought? It goes like this: Will this girl ever stop defying me in every possible way or will our relationship be forevermore nothing but an endless power struggle until the day I die? I posed this question to a friend with a grown daughter and she laughed and laughed, then said, well, no. Maybe, ok, sort of.

Because the oppositional behvior is getting to me. "Don't eat the dogfood, sweetie" followed by GLOMPH, then welling tears and the discovery that dogfood is really really nasty tasting. If that happened once, ok, fine, learning experience, but it happens every day or two, anytime I feed the dogs with the child around. And when I tried saying, fine, eat the dogfood, it's nutritionally balanced at least, she crammed her mouth full with the stuff and had to spit it out. And, let me tell you, that was disgusting. Also, we ate a meal in which she sat on my lap and proceeded to spit out big chewed-up mouthfuls of food on us both. Chewed up food: it's what I'm wearing.

And the food thing is just the beginning: getting dressed, going potty, getting in the car, getting out of the car, any of these things gets a flat refusal about 75% of the time. I unloaded groceries today with a toddler sitting in the car adamantly refusing to get out. It was actually kind of handy but it's also maddening that every task I used to do routinely with the child is now just so much more difficult. My mom has a gift for jollying her along in these situations but when I try it I get a rapid switch from cheerful noncompliance to adamant, crabby refusal. "Tickle me when I won't take the pull-up off my head and put it on my tushie?!! I think NOT."

Did I mention that she's generally perfectly cute and happy during all this defiance? Weeping refusal or angry refusal I think I'd understand (though ask me again later and we'll see what I say if it's become reality--it's probably harder than it looks). But either smiling, giggling refusal or frowning, cranky refusal is her method (so far) and it's maddening to cope with.

Which is why she does it.

The only time she actually cries in these situations is if I physically force her to comply and that just feels terribly wrong to me.

The result is that I hardly get anything done these days, which is ok, but still, yeesh!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sooo tired...

I used to be exhausted after a move. Packing up all that stuff, deciding what to toss and what to pack, all of that was just exhausting. But doing that with a two-year-old? Even worse.

Add to that: we moved into our beautiful new house and we didn't have full power. The builder had hooked us with a temporary connection that didn't carry enough power to run, say, the dishwasher or the washing machine, and there was no gas connection. We went around and around with the builder and the city until we got a proper connection: but it took TEN DAYS. Yes, we lived in a house without hot water or major appliances for TEN DAYS. We showered at the Y. We bathed the child at a friend's house. Dirty laundry piled up in giant middens. There was a cold snap, complete with a freeze warning, and we had NO HEAT. Good news: the house is incredibly energy-efficient and it didn't get that cold. Bad news: nobody seemed to see any urgency whatsoever in bringing proper climate control to the home of a small child.

And for two days of this, the husband was away at a conference that had been scheduled months in advance. Thank God my mom came to stay with us, because shared hardship is much easier to laugh about. And Mom is absolutely magic with the babygirl.

Oh, and my father-in-law arrived in town for the last few days of incomplete power. He's a much more high maintenance houseguest, but he had fun playing with his granddaughter. And we had a wonderful barbecue less than 24 hours after the power hookup. Because we? Are crazy.

And now it's Tuesday and I've made a dent in the laundry midden and I'm so tired I can't think. The child has yanked my chain in every possible way, all day long.

Hold me.