Thursday, September 28, 2006

Big Deal or No Big Deal

One of the trickier things about parenting is figuring out whether something is a big deal or not, to wit, will the child and/or I be in therapy over this situation in the future? Or not?

An example: I was kind of stunned to see our child described in the Difficult Child sidebar in the What To Expect With Your Toddler book. Yes, it's true: I'm the mother of an Unscheduled Child. She doesn't sleep at the same time every day, doesn't wake up at the same time, ditto re. eating and peeing/pooping. And it's no big deal. Because I've realized that routine is really for the parents' benefit--it gives the day some structure and provide its own argument for doing what Mom and Dad say, the (usually) unspoken, but-we've-always-done-it-this-way justification that has surprising power. The only timing issue I'm a hardass regarding is bedtime: bedtime is at 8-ish (so, not so much a hardass as, um, semi-consistent) and we only suspend bedtime for very rare circumstances, like out-of-town guests and the occasional party. And we've never let her just fall asleep wherever and carried her up to bed, because that would drive me nuts--I really require some child-free quiet evening time before I can sleep. And yet I know parents whose kids just pretty much go to bed when they're tired. Not me: our Little Miss Unscheduled has chattered away to herself for more than an hour before she goes to sleep and I'm cool with that.

Then there's the Sorta Big Deal: as I blogged previously, my girl and I saw our dog kill one of our chickens. As in, I was grabbing at the dog's collar as she finished off the poor bird with my daughter on my hip. Babygirl and I finally talked about it the other day and it was like this:

BG: Lucy got the brown chicken.
POM: Yeah, she did.
BG: It funny?
POM: You mean, was it funny?
BG: [nods]
POM: It was more scary. I was scared.
BG: Was I scared?
POM: Yeah I think you were. Lucy was just being a dog but it was scary.
BG: Ok. [pause] Higher, Mommy! More!

See, we talk like guys: rather than discussing it over General Foods International Coffee and milk (me and her, respectively), like women might, we talked it over while she was on the swing and I was pushing her. Like guys: talking about our feelings in passing while we're doing something else. Which is fine with me. Guys get accused of being all emotionally constipated (and, frankly, they sure can be) but at least they don't analyze everything to death over the coffeecups. Plus, I don't much like those froo-froo coffee drinks.

I'm thinking the whole incident with the chicken might be retired to No Big Deal, but I'll wait a while first. I'm thinking we're going to try again with another batch of chicks and we'll see how that goes.

Oh, and an unrelated topic that I can't resist bragging about: after endless weeks of listening to tedious kidfolk music in the car, my girl has found a new group: Gnarls Barkley. My Babygirl rocks! Whooo!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Indecision, Part II, the End of Same

In other words, I seem to be over the indecision problem that was bugging me when I started this blog. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I got over it.

And by "it," I mean worrying about not knowing what the hell I'm doing.

It seems so obvious now. There I was, fretting about the fact that I didn't have a clue most of the time about how to approach any given situation and the solution was there all along: I just needed to embrace my inner Clueless Mom and let go of the need to feel decisive.

I've realized that the vast majority of parenting books are just, quite frankly, full of shit. The most egregious fault is the tendency make claims for solutions that Work Every Time. Ha! I've learned the hard way that any solution that works once will probably not work a second time.

Don't ask me why, maybe it's just that my kid is a fast learner. An example: BabyGirl couldn't get to sleep one night and didn't want to me to leave so, after we sang songs for awhile, I taught her to sing Bingle Bingle Little Star. Worked like a charm: she sang to herself for awhile (as I listened, smiling maternally, to the baby monitor in the next room) and then fell peacefully asleep. Has that nifty little technique ever worked again? Hell, no. We've had trouble getting her to sleep lately and when I try to teach her a song, she's all, I don't wanna learn a song, I want YOU to sing to me, Mommy.

Last night, I tried everything: letting her cry--and she cried and screamed until I thought she'd vomit. I sang. I mirrored what she was saying (per the Happiest Toddler On The Block book), murmuring No, you don't wanna go to sleep, you wanna stay awake, etc., which only seemed to get her hopes up that I'd let her stay up all night drinking coffee, eating chhocolate and watching cartoons, then brought on more unhappiness when I said no. I tried talking to her quietly, in a droning voice, about my dad and trains until I thought I'd bore her to sleep. No dice. Finally, I just wearily lay down next to her and she was asleep in a few minutes. When I got in my own bed, Hubby said, well, you seem to have a technique that works there and I had to scoff: technique? I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

I think I'm just going to have to ride out this latest growth spurt and at least try to get the kiddo to eat decently and get some exercise. She's generally a good sleeper, and it rarely takes more than an hour to go from the Time For Toothbrushing and Vitamins announcement to soft toddler snores, so I count myself lucky. (Well, sort of--I try to, but after months of her going to sleep like an angel a parent can get spoiled.) And the new Fall TV programs pile up in the TiFaux because we're too tired to watch them. C'est la vie de maman.

But when the book says, let her cry it out once or twice and it'll never happen again? Bullshit. Or if it says, mirroring your child's words will help them calm down? Again, bullshit: not every time. (And I've also discovered that if I use the simple language from the book ("No! You don't wanna! No fun!") my kid gets irritated; instead, I have to use adultspeak ("Yes, honey, I know you've been on your best behavior and now you're tired, but let's just go in here for a minute and sit down where it's cool." Seriously, that's pretty much the exact words I've used and it works. Usually. Sometimes. Go figure.)

I could re-name the blog Reconciled To Being An Idiot Mom, but that doesn't really capture the lesson I've learned here. It's more like, Not Believing The Advice Books Anymore Mom, which actually seems to be summarized nicely in Pissed-Off Mom, so I think I'll stick with the original blog name. Yay!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lark's Tongues

Some kind of strangeness is going on in the culture. First of all, I see this:

The baby in the stroller on the left? Appears to be wearing a toupee. Sorry about the picture quality, but I was working fast with a cameraphone. (Also, note that my adorable child has her arm shoved in a cup of water--her raisins were too dry, it seems.)

And then, over at Mr. Nice Guy's blog, he has a link to this:

Toupees. For infants.

You know, a friend and I were going to start a website called Lark's Tongues where we would chronicle the decline of our culture into the sort of decadence that led to the fall of the Roman empire (Lark's Tongues being the insanely decadent dish enjoyed by the Roman elites while the poor starved between government-provided bread-and-circus treats). Assuming we ever find some spare time (ha! with three kids between us) we should get that site up and running, because there is clearly no shortage of material to work with.

Also, I just want to point out that this post is my first to actually include an image. Yay! Go, me! Who knows, maybe I'll get links working, too.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Lousy Week

I hate this time of year. I always hated Back To School time, because it meant that I'd squandered another summer that I'd intended to spend in productive pursuits or at least having fun. Since I've never actually lived someplace where the summer wasn't either deadly dull (that is, in Amarillo, Texas, my home town) or miserably hot (North Carolina, Austin, Texas) the odds were against me. Yet I still find myself spotting catalog copy for a cute sweater that mentions Cool Summer Evenings and going all wistful.

Back To School also sucks because I always found the first week of school unsettling and disappointing (again, with the unmet expectations), plus my birthday always fell on the first week of school so nobody had time to make any sort of a fuss--on my 13th birthday, my whole family forgot until about mid-afternoon after I brought it up.

Heat and crushed optimism--these are the things I associate with late summer.

This year was better in some ways: my birthday was fun, especially with a 2-year-old celebrating with me. She felt like it was her birthday, too, and enjoyed blowing out a candle on her cupcake several times. The heat broke, finally, and we had some coolish weather in time for Labor Day weekend, which also was fun (in places). We had a halfway-impromptu BBQ that was all about MEAT, including guinea hens (tastes sorta like chicken), two kinds of venison, and two kinds of sausage. Went to a fun pool party on Monday.

But then there's the bad part: three of our chickens were killed in three days, two by some kind of daylight attacker (feral cats, maybe, or some other varmit who was especially hungry thanks to the drought) and the third by our own dog. In front of me. With my daughter on my hip.

I keep seeing it, vividly, in my memory and in dreams every night: the dog with the chicken's neck in her jaws, the poor hen's legs flailing uselessly, blood on feathers, BabyGirl clinging to me, the dog lunging even as I grip her collar and drag her back, me shouting for help and getting no reply, the last few spasms of the dying bird, my husband's rage at the dog, on and on. The guilt and shame at not having taken care of our birds, who we raised from week-old chicks.

I have no idea who it's affected BabyGirl, except that she asked about the two black chickens (whose deaths she didn't witness) and we told her that there was an accident and they were gone. She hasn't asked about the brown chickens, though we told her that Dusty, the survivor, is at our friend Joanna's house and is being taken good care of. Either she didn't understand what was happening or (and this seems more likely) she understood that the chicken was dead but didn't put it all together--she's treating the dog exactly the same as before. I haven't decided to sit down (with a 2-year-old?) to discuss what happened because I've been to upset and would just ensure that she understood exactly how awful the whole thing was. So far (aside from reassuring her at the time that she and I were ok) I've just answered her questions honestly.

On top of all that, Hubby and I had the sort of ugly fight where I ended up wondering if he has any respect for me at all. I think we've worked it out, but I'm still feeling hurt and sad about the whole thing.

But there's hope: school's back in session, the weather is cooler, we've actually had some rain (not enough to break the drought but enough to help) and we're building a safer chicken coop.