Wednesday, September 3, 2014

03.9.2014 - Same Same...but different

When you have a baby, there are three general things you get "told" when you interact with others:
-Who they look like
-How much hair they have
-What they seem to want (because you didn't actually know)

I find this amusing simply because how has it not occurred to anyone that you, the primary caregiver would know these things, considering you spend every waking (and unconscious) second with this child? Does the amount of hair they have actually have an impact on their future 401k? Were you entirely unaware of them being tired, hungry or just thrilled to have their toes in their mouth?

I'm not mentioning this because I'm particularly pissy at anyone or anything. It just makes me laugh, s'all. I never know if it's just like talking about the weather, or if people genuinely think I need to hash out these pressing concerns. Either way, what never seems to come up, and is a totally huge recent revelation on my part, is the fact that I just didn't give credit to my second child being nothing like my first.

It's not as stupid as it sounds. I'm realising, or at least feeling, that the reason we have more than one child is because we worked out the first one. No joke. Desires towards big families aside, I think it's safe to generalise that most people, once they've had a kid tend to want a sibling for them. I honestly believe you only consider that notion once you've got the first one "working" - eating, sleeping, teething, crawling, etc. Once they are in verb form, you begin to understand that you might be physically and emotionally capable of doing this all over again with another creature that you can love just as much. That in itself is enormous. And wonderful. And misleading.

You embark on the journey again. You start trying, see how long that lasts, and you get to wave around another pee-covered stick in elation. And then all the pregnancy stuff kicks in so much quicker than last time. Your body already knows what to do, plus you notice less because you're running after a maniacal toddler (that's not knocking my son - that's just calling a spade a spade.) And then, with decidedly less pomp and circumstance and definitively more cartoons and soggy cheerios, a new, beautiful soul comes into the world, and you are so much more confident, so much calmer, so definitely in for the shock of your life. Because this new little person is their own, and no matter how much you think you know what to expect, you just don't.

Now, perhaps my experience is unique because it was a girl this time, because she was born at a different time of year, or because we moved countries and I wasn't as "strict" with routine considering the circumstances. Maybe. But I was convinced that #2 would certainly be a piece of cake because I had #1 in full working order by the time he was four months old - sleeping through the night, eating like an olympic champion, crapping on a schedule I could set my watch to. No worries. Thing is though, my daughter is not my son, nor should I ever have "expected" her to be anything like him. They aren't twins; they're siblings. And even if they had shared the womb at the same time, they would still be two different people, fully deserving of respect, attention and appreciation in their own right, in their own way.

It has, unfortunately, taken me this long to sit down and acknowledge that fully, and realising that whatever parenting failures I have been feeling throughout her infancy aren't necessarily failures but in fact just her rules for how she wants to be treated. I owe it to her to sit up and listen, and I need to give myself a little more credit for simply being human. As well, what I see this time around is completely different than the first time. There are plenty of things that she does better than her older brother, both when he was her age and even now (like, being quiet. Or eating broccoli. Or not stepping on my broken toe) so its incumbent upon me to notice that, to not compare but rather respect and celebrate both of my kids as the individuals they are.

It's a tricky job, this parenting gig, and its nuances are far more complex than her having my nose or the way he walks exactly his father.  Once we begin to respect those differences and those things we don't know, rather than harp on the similarities and what we think we do, I feel like we begin to give everyone the fair chance they deserve.

Friday, August 22, 2014

22.8.14 - Grounded....and grateful

Oh dear. To say its been a while would be an understatement. Here's a few reasons I suppose why I got distracted:

I changed jobs
I travelled overseas
I fell pregnant
I had said baby (and she's just super)
We moved overseas
My son virtually toilet trained himself
I broke my toe yesterday

That's a pretty comprehensive roundup, no? You're welcome.

I often use this time, morning nap time, to run around the house doing things, or to run around some other place doing things (while she naps in the stroller) and after my smooth move yesterday, its become clear to me that perhaps I could benefit from taking a moment to slow down and collect my thoughts. To be honest, I've been meaning to get back into blogging for a while, what with so many different, hilarious adventures under my belt to share and inspiration from one of my best friends, Elana Goldberg, sharing her parenting observations in a manner much more eloquent than mine. But now that I'm hobbling around like a right idiot, I couldn't think of a better way to make myself sit still. At least for a few minutes until I realise I absolutely have to do something on the other side of the room lest I melt into a puddle of frustration.

It was at about this, the eight month mark with my son, that I began blogging. Perhaps it was because my husband was overseas so I had no one to share that night's observation with (showering with my glasses still on), or because it was only at about this point in the game did I remember I could form a sentence in print. Either way, I'm grateful for it.  Taking a moment to reflect is actually hard work. It's not built into our crazy busy lives these days, nor does it offer us the month-long vacation we are actually in desperate need of. Still, the past ten minutes of sitting here thinking of what to write has given me some much needed catharsis that I suppose I didn't even know I needed until I did it.

See, this isn't the first time I've broken my toe. It's the third. And when I stopped to think about it, every time I've done this its been simply because I was too busy doing something else to notice the large mass in front of me that was going to separate my littlest piggy from it's non-roast-beef-eating predecessor. The first time was in a pool when I was fifteen, too busy horsing around to notice I was closer to the shallow end. The second time was late one night at home, my head buried in a work document to notice the fairly large, solid coffee table in front of me. And yesterday's genius moment was between me being in a rush to get the washing on the line while listening to a lecture before I start teaching in a few weeks, after having put the baby down after lunch and not yet having put away the highchair, which I now know is solid enough to make a bone crack when you go barreling into it at top speed. Each time I've done this, its because I've been too engrossed in something else - whether it be my social life, my work life or home life. I didn't see what was in front of me. And we all know how that cautionary tale ends.

With a broken toe, obviously.

So as I sit here, my toe taped and throbbing and my pride aching from the genuine stupidity of how this happened, I'm rather grateful for the chance to stop, reflect  and share the things that have been right in front of me, to put into writing the sea of observations, thoughts, hilarity and eventual clarity I've been swimming in.

Can't wait to catch you up.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

13.1.13 - Because this is Israel

It's been a while. I know. But then, nothing really happened for me to need to process it in writing, so I suppose that's a good sign.

Cue dramatic music.

I happen to have a soft spot for The Golden Girls, in particular, Sofia, so in her wise words, picture it: Tel Aviv, 2013. An ideal Saturday. Breakfast with friends and their kids who we hadn't seen in an age; followed by a fun family lunch with the cousins, to be topped off by coming home to catch up with other friends whom we hadn't seen in way too long, expecting their own little one in a few short months. You have friends over, you offer them refreshments. So out came the biscuits and tea and coffee. And then it happened.

My 18 month old pulled a cup of scalding hot tea off the table, spilling it all over his body.

Within half a second I darted over, undressing him to see exactly where he was hurt. Luckily, it missed his face, (although a few spots hit his chin) and some dripped on his neck and chest, but the major burn was on his left bicep. As I watched his skin peel, I had him halfway out the front door, shouting instructions at my husband to grab a jacket and get in the car. Our friends, angels that they are, drove us straight to the local children's hospital, Dana, where he was seen immediately, given pain relief, examined by a plastic surgeon, wound dressed and release form signed within an hour.  We were home by bedtime.

So, first things first, I am eternally grateful to our friends who simply didn't blink; they stayed by our side throughout the entire ordeal and both contacted me today to see how my brave boy was doing (which is excellent by the way, but I'll get to that later.) I am also extremely impressed, but on second thought not that surprised by, the efficiency of the children's hospital. You know why?
Because this is Israel.

In all the hubbub of running between children's emergency and the plastic surgeon, my son's coat got left behind in the waiting room. I called the hospital later that evening to see if anyone had seen it and could put it aside, feeling trivial and rather materialistic for asking an emergency nurse to waste her time doing so, especially on the heels of a nurses' strike in this country. The nurses response? "Of course we'll look for it - your son needs his coat!"

I hopped on my bike later that evening and went down to the hospital to search for it. When I arrived at plastics, a family who had seen us come and go was still in the waiting room. I hadn't really noticed them but they remembered me and asked how my baby boy was doing. I told them fine, but we had forgotten his jacket. Three of them at once shouted, "We know! We were saving it for you in case you came back! But a doctor just came and took it away!" A young girl from the family, perhaps all of seven, led me through the double doors (she knew the code to get through!) and said, "I hope you find the coat. And I hope your son feels better. Poor thing. He's really cute." As she turned on her heels and sped away, a nurse, whom I had no recollection of, shoved the jacket in my face and said, "Here's his jacket. How is he feeling? Poor little guy. Hope he recovers speedily." And then he went back to sorting paddle pop sticks and gauze.

This is Israel.

Another friend of mine who had a baby recently had noticed a slight "deviation" if you will between the generosity of friends from abroad and friends here in Tel Aviv. She asked if I had had the same experience, to which I replied, "Totally. Look - its impossible to get a tradesman here to do good work or use decent materials, or to get a government worker to work a second past closing time, but when it comes to the children, only the best." She smiled and agreed. It's true; most buildings in Tel Aviv are made out of sticky tape and chewing gum and God forbid you arrive a minute past two at the tax office to file a form, but if there's a baby involved, everything is different. Pharmacists let you cut stupidly long lines; everyone moves aside on the bus to help you get the pusher through and they insist you take their seat; the checkout chick at the supermarket who hasn't smiled since the release of Thriller grins at your little menace pulling apart her chewing gum display, "because he's happy, let him be."

When it comes to the children, we all religiously follow the unwritten law that says they should have it better than we did. You give them everything you have because they deserve the best. When you can't do that, or worse, they feel pain or suffering and there's very little you can do about it, you begin to get an insight into why people in this country are so intense and crazy and wonderful, all in the same moment.

Becoming a parent, I knew there would sleepless nights, stretch marks, mess and stains and all sorts of noise. All of that I was prepared for. But this, the soul crushing guilt, this is the stuff Jewish stereotypes are made of and for bloody good reason. It's simply awful. My husband and I played "it was my fault because..." for about 20 minutes after we climbed into bed last night, realizing we had to stop ourselves before one of us just jumped out the window in shame. My husband stayed home with him today to help him recuperate and to, you know, spoil the living crap out of him, which I am only sorry I wasn't there to do myself. They played all morning in pyjamas, watched cartoons, ate cookies, played in the park, went a bought a new bimba (tricycle) and had chocolate milk too. Everyone was smiles and cuddles and laughter until bath time. Until the awful red spots and open wound came back into full view. Carefully bathing, not splashing in bubbles like we usually do, having to gently place a clean, medicated bandage on a wriggly 18 month old who believes running around the house naked is an olympic sport he's training for, was awful. It looked awful. I felt awful.

My son's biggest concern was that we hadn't chosen a book and sung his favorite bedtime song yet. That, to him, was awful.

The doctor said that there won't be any permanent scarring, thank God, and it should all heal in matter of days. Well, my son will.  My husband and I, well, that's a different story altogether.
Because this is, and we are, Israel.

Monday, July 30, 2012

30.7.12 - How's my driving?

As I was navigating my way home the other day with my son's typically huge stroller (and my son, of course) I couldn't help but giggle at a bumper sticker I saw on an awfully parked car saying "How's my driving?" with a number underneath to call. This struck me as particularly funny for a number of reasons:

1. Israeli drivers are generally terrible. AS IF you want other people to comment, more than they are going to anyway.
2. The park was just outrageously bad, so much so I had to get off the pavement and walk on the street because I couldn't get the stroller through. My driving teacher in Australia, who happened to be Israeli, always taught me, as did my dad, that more people will judge your driving on the way that you park and it's just awful driver's etiquette to park badly. Apart from the invitation to judge, I thought about my ISRAELI driving teacher saying that and the whole thing just seemed hilarious.
3. My driving of the stroller seemed pretty awful in direct relation to this ridiculous park. I hoped no one was watching.

But even more than all of this, it made me think, what if there was a bumper sticker that said, "How's my parenting?" with a number to call afterwards. Touche. I wonder how many parents would get reported. I wonder how many tickets I'd have.

With the summer onslaught of guests, all of whom have been outrageously excited to see my son, I have wondered about who may be judging my driving. His personality is really beginning to shine through, and surprise to no one, he's a cheeky little rascal. He's very giggly and smiley but he's also starting to throw temper tantrums, and he's smacking. I have realized he's not actually doing it out of frustration, though that's certainly a part of it - he's doing it for reaction, simply to see what happens and also to connect with things, as is his curious habit at the moment. Okies. So in typical new parent response, we're doing all the textbook things - saying "no" firmly, asking him what he would like rather than what he wants (although "want" certainly slips out often enough) talking and walking him through the issue. That's fine. This morning though, when he reached for an electrical cord, my husband simply smacked his hand and said "no". Something I've thought about doing but refrained from many times because I've read too many scholarly articles that suggest such behavior only reinforces aggression.

But he stopped. He didn't reach for it again. 

My mother has a habit of telling the same story over and over again and there's one she tells often about my aunt not disciplining my cousin, her first child, at a meal when he was throwing food off his highchair. After my aunt's several gentle overtones, my mother, already onto her third child, eventually smacked his hand and said "no" and he stopped. Mind you this was back in the '80s, so who knows between all the shoulder pads and diet drinks what was really going on. Still, it's tried, true and tested and my cousin no longer throws food on the floor (he's 29 years old). 

So what do I do? My husband was right and the articles are right and I feel like I'm not alright. I've not yet ascertained, however, what it is that's bothering me. Is it that I don't want to discipline my child in a certain way, or that I'm afraid of being judged by others? Is my fear related to reinforcing bad behavior, or that my perfect child isn't perfect, or that others will think I'm a bad parent? What is it?

Back down memory lane. My late grandmother, who was a sassy lady to say the least, actually complimented my parenting when we were in the States a few months ago. I mention this because I'm not sure she ever did the same to my mother. She said to me, as she saw me feeding my son fruit and yogurt instead of the cookie she longed to give him, "you know what you're doing. Look how nicely he sits and eats. I won't say anything." For my grandmother, this was a big deal because she had negative running commentary on everything. I'm talking about a fear of judgement and here I was getting a compliment from the matriarch of my family who rarely had compliments for anyone. That's huge, and perhaps more meaningful than I'll ever truly understand. My son, her first great grandchild and "goldene yingele" was turning out ok thanks to me. It's weird; when he's great, I attribute it to him; when he's not, I attribute it to me. So whose judgement am I really afraid of the most?

Perhaps if I stop judging and worrying about who is judging me, this kid might have a solid chance. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

9.7.12 - Mistakes help you grow...poorer

So my little munchkin is well and truly a year old, meaning no longer a "baby" but according to updates, a toddler. I can now dispel a couple of myths I stupidly subscribed to way back when I was the mother of a "baby":

- Never leave your baby to cry. The world isn't actually ending if they cry for longer than a second, even though it sounds like it.
- Babies love everything warm. In a hot weather country, this is just a cruel old wives tale. They like it normal, like everyone else.
- Gently pat your child's back to burp them. Patting doesn't do anything. Rubbing the left side of their back does. The prior motion was guess work and I assume, frustration relief for the parent, like when you knock the TV to get a better picture.
- Rocking your baby to sleep will get them addicted to the motion. Clearly this will lead them into a life of drugs, misery and not law school.
- Pacifiers make your child's teeth come in crooked. Their teeth are predetermined, pacifier or not. Baby boxing, now that's gonna make 'em crooked. 
- Wait a number of months before introducing allergenic foods like kiwi or peanuts. If they have the allergy they have it, whether they try the food now or later. Israeli kids rarely have peanut allergies because they are weaned onto Bamba the second they can chew.
- Crying It Out isn't bad for them. This one is true. However, it's bloody horrible for you. 
- "Extra stretchy sides to prevent leakage" - need I explain this one?

And many, many more. Now that my son is officially a toddler, I feel I've learned a lot, things to avoid/do better next time, things to watch out for. But in truth, I still have a child that requires 100% of my attention at any given moment so really, I'm not quite off the baby hook yet, and I'm still making loads of mistakes.

My most recent one, which I'm yet to entirely determine the severity of, was buying him a first birthday present. This was a poor (literally) move on our part for several reasons. The first one is a) as if he would even know; b) he got so many other presents that we've hidden half of them to be doled out throughout the year and c) he could care less about anything else except the box and other ridiculous items like our empty coffee cups. The last one is the one that gets me the most. His father and I realized after his birthday party and unwrapping all of his gifts that we in fact hadn't gotten on the train. One might argue well hey, we do stuff every day but we chose that. And we never buy him anything, other than food, diapers and the occasional dose of medication. We've been lucky enough to be showered with gifts and hand-me-downs from literally every corner of the planet, necessitating very little additional expenditure on our part. Score, right? Wrong. Our ethnic guilt set in and off we went to buy him what we thought he needed (and wanted) most - a walker. 

My son was born with a mild condition in his neck called torticollis, a shortening of the muscles on one side that came as a result of him being lodged in my pelvis for too long during labor. It took monthly physiotherapy for the first year to correct it, a process he has now "graduated" from. He's looking very fine and asymmetrical now, thanks for asking. During the therapy, I would often get lots of "extra" tips from our talented physio, such as knowing to wait a month after he starts walking to put him in shoes, as well as the fact that all kids eventually start walking with the help of gadgets or not. Still, on our last visit he really enjoyed playing with the walker in her office, so I mentioned that to my husband and the decision was made: we were getting him one. A nice one, not too flashy or complicated, something cute and simple and we even found one that converts into a little scooter for him too. First and second birthdays taken care of in one go! Efficient parenting ho!

Except that he doesn't like it. 

I should have known better, dammit. He's received a few gifts from overseas, including a mega-fun box of goodies from his great aunt in Melbourne, all of which he likes, but not nearly as much as the box they came in. So much so that the box is now an integral part of his play area, and its where he has learned to put away his myriad of other toys, many of which I think need to be packed up and put away for good. I was so, so particular at the beginning about only ever having a few toys out, not overstimulating him, not spoiling him. Well, to hell with that. Between birthday presents, generous gifts from family and friends who say, "but I saw it and he just HAD to have it" and our most recent pointless gesture, this kid can barely crawl around the living room without a bombardment of color and plastic and horrible, horrible toy music that makes my skin crawl and disturbs my dreams. I didn't mean for this to happen. I really didn't. But it does, and I'm pretty sure it happens to everyone, even though we all start out insisting that our child will only play with educational, wooden toys, will only eat organic foods and will never watch television; rather, they will read books and listen to classical music and will beat out all the other babies in the daycare SAT.

Pfft. Ha. Sure. Call me later and tell me how that goes.

In short: Just when you think you have your head around this game, you really don't. You've just passed level one, s'all.