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. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

28.6.12 - My pig in a blanket

Hello, summer, you firey bastard. How are you? Last time we met I was pregnant and gave birth, so I had been hot everywhere before you arrived and spent the majority of your last visit in air conditioned rooms with a tiny human attached to me. Now, you sneaky asshole, now you're here to make my life a misery with my almost-walking one year old. I have a curious little boy who wants to explore everything outdoors and you are making that incredibly tough, and my forehead very shiny, while it happens. You turd. 

I'm an American/Australian/Israeli. I was born in the States, grew up in Oz and moved to Tel Aviv four years ago. I know hot weather. I actually love hot weather and much prefer it over the cold. But I have never really understood the limitations of hot weather until now. In most of the western world, where winter reigns supreme, summer is the magical time you can actually spend outdoors with your kids. But here, in the Middle East, you duck and run for shelter and air conditioning like fire is falling from the sky, which it literally feels like it is sometimes. That, coupled with my Australian respect towards "Slip Slop Slap" (Slip on a T-Shirt, Slop on some sunscreen and Slap on hat) and the general antipathy I see towards that ethos here makes summer much more of a dangerous minefield than ever before. Plus, air con is exactly that - conditioned, and not fresh, air. You don't want your kid breathing in unnaturally cold air all the time, but you don't want them sweating themselves towards dehydration either. 

I'm at a slight impasse. Especially at night. 

I've been a big fan of swaddles and sleeping bags thus far as a mum. They do wonders to help calm my son, who is an amazing sleeper but is clearly all over the shop during the night. He's never in the same position I put him down in even moments later, which I believe is a trait he got from his father, whose ability to sleep on bizarre angles that inch me off the bed ever so slightly with so much less blanket than I began with, is legendary. As such, even though he's in a very light sleeping bag and super light pyjamas, I leave the air con on in his room for an hour when he goes down and leave a ceiling fan on overnight to circulate the cool air. 

Since the heatwave has officially begun (its going to be 35 degrees Celsius for next...forever) he's been waking up at 5am hot and sweaty, needing a drink of water and the air con back on. Once it's on he goes back down till around 7.30am. On the whole, this isn't actually so bad - it's almost like a breastfeed wake up with even less effort so I can quite easily go back to get a little more sleep. But its still a wake up. I was so sure I just perfected this whole sleeping-through-the-night game down to a graceful art, beyond teething and solids and daycare ailments and the new-found ability to suck on his own toes. I was grandmaster mummy; now I'm just another hot and bothered shmuck with a hot potato of a child. 

On the one hand, I could just lose the sleeping bag - but he likely won't soothe himself back to sleep as easily. Or I could just leave the air con at a higher temperature - I invite YOU to pay my electricity bill. Plus, I really don't like the idea. I see him going from being a pig in a blanket to a sandy-haired, wide-eyed popsicle overnight. Or I could just keep doing what I'm doing, because in truth it isn't that bad, especially considering there was a point in the not-so-distant past where I was up every four hours with him anyway.  In the beginning, the heat was actually useful - newborns like it warm and there was plenty of that going around. But my little champ now has a fairly normal internal thermometer and as such, needs my adult finger to push that damn button. I've almost got the water issue sorted - if he stands up in the crib he can reach the corner of his change table and often grabs whatever is teetering there on the side (nappy cream, baby powder, the crown jewels) for funsies. I could just leave his water bottle there for the taking. But then he'll start drinking lying down which can lead to ear infections and him soaking the bed with his water bottle, necessitating a sheet change every other day and before I know it, my perfect world will have been decimated into a smoldering heap. So I won't. But damned if the thought hasn't crossed my mind. I am able to to have air con come on at a given interval over night for a selected period of time, but that only takes care of the graveyard shift. 

Damn you technology. Why won't you ever develop for my continuing benefit and lifestyle needs?!

So here it is. I'm back up at 5am again, if only for a few minutes. I'll eat this one, because it's really not so bad. Stay tuned for my next summer rant, which is sure to be entitled "The enduring agony of my child's first sunburn, and other stories." Until then, have a healthy, safe and wonderful summer, all you northern hemisphere folk. For those of you below the equator back home, I'll have some winter gripes ready around November...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

20.6.12 - The eye of the beholder

When your child is born, you can't take your eyes off them, literally. First of all, you can't believe there's another human being on Earth that fell out of you, so that takes some time to sink in. Secondly, they are entirely helpless. They can't do a single thing for themselves, quite unlike any other born creature in the animal kingdom. You are all they've got, so you had better keep your eyes peeled (if you can keep them open, that is.)

Then they start gaining tricks, like rolling over, grabbing things, a bit of babbling, sitting up, crawling; the list goes on. You realize that you can actually turn your head for the slightest second, but you rarely do because, well, they're still pretty incapable and quite a danger to themselves (and the cat.) My hero of a child's latest craze is climbing. He climbs the couch, the stairs, his father - you name it and he's all over it. He's started pulling himself up to stand and desperately wants to start walking but isn't quite there yet. It's a really amazing developmental stage I think, mostly because you begin to understand one of your most basic functions and how much incredible learning a child does in their first year of life. We just celebrated junior's first birthday last week and many people at his party were so excited to tell me how close he is to walking. 

Leaps and bounds. Unbelievable.

Part of this exciting development has meant mum and dad need to do more baby-proofing. He can reach the good stuff now and that's a worry. So every day sees me rearranging parts of the house to remove threats and to maintain the integrity of my spice rack, which he's infatuated with. As well, even though we live on the ground floor, every day involves a climb up the stairs of our apartment building for good measure and, I suppose, sport. He absolutely loves it. When we are over at his cousin's place, a house filled with many stairs, I rarely have a chance to sit and talk with the family because either I or my husband or both of us are after him, constantly asking each other, "are you watching him? Watch him!"

Our conversation may have changed over the past year, yes.

It make me realize that we are constantly afraid, but he certainly isn't. To the contrary, he's inspired and a little excited by the possible danger. To make the point concrete, I turned my head for a second this morning as he was climbing the couch and he slipped and went head first into the base, giving himself a stunning purple bruise on his forehead. I ran to calm him, to check he wasn't bleeding, to ice the bruise (which seemed to bother him more than the bruise itself) and after a few minutes he was right back at it, while I was having a small panic attack about being accused of child abuse. I even thought about keeping him home with me for the day because of how it looked, and of the possibility he might not be able to add and subtract in the future. He grinned at me with his six teeth and bounced up and down, excited to be scaling the sofa once more like the explorer he is. 

Brilliant or brain damaged?

What we fear for our kids, they embrace. Concerns about pain and possible injury is totally our neuroses as parents. They actually don't know what it is. Fear in this case is totally in the eye of the beholder (us) and I want to teach him to fear nothing, to try everything at least once and it seems like I'm succeeding, at the cost of my own nerves. It's easy to forget that kids hurt themselves ALL THE TIME, because God forbid there should be the slightest tarnish on your golden trophy. Of course, you don't want your child to get hurt, period, but I have to remember the lesson here is that he'll now realize not to go head first into things, lest he bumps his little keppie (head in Yiddish) and that even though it looks bad, its exactly how he will learn. Of course, there's the guilt that I didn't catch him in time (and I have caught him many, many times) but I suppose that teaches me that he needs and deserves all of my attention; whatever it is I think I need to do is not nearly as important as ensuring he doesn't brain himself.

After so many years of being defined as "easily distracted," I'm so glad you're here, my little monkey, to help me focus on what's really important.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12.6.12 - The numbers game

I've never been great with numbers. It's a fact that many people can attest to. But, I am ok with logic.  I can work out how something is supposed to happen, but I usually get the numbers wrong, for whatever reason. It's just a part of my brain that doesn't entirely work, or work the way I need it to.  As a parent, this antipathy towards numbers is not helpful. In fact, it can be quite a burden. For example, here are some of the basic stats you need to keep in your brain the second you become a mum at any given moment:

My child was born at xx time on xx date at xx kg/lb (yes, we do the conversion for our American relatives). My child currently wears size xx. In approximately xx weeks/months, I need to make sure he has clothes that will fit him, as he will soon be size xx. My child drinks xx mls/oz of milk and is on an xx hour schedule. My child is in the xx percentile for height and weight. My child goes through xx diapers a day. My child is xx weeks/months old. 

And that's just to begin with. 

I'm writing this on the eve of my son's first birthday, which is a concept I have been struggling to get my head around for a while now.  A year is a measurement I have become unfamiliar with. It's too big. When your little bundle of joy arrives, the measurements are all pretty small - NB, 000, 60ml, 7lb, 2 weeks, whatever. Suddenly, without you knowing, you're counting in months. And then, out of the blue, a year has gone by and you need to account for that AND make xx number of party gift bags.  

I need a calculator. 

My hectic year aside, everyone's first year as a parent is chaotic, no matter what the circumstances, because, well, you've never had an alien in your home before who shits in their pants three to four times a day, sleeps erratically but hopefully for two hours out of every four, startles themselves awake several times overnight and literally sucks the life out of you multiple times a day. A negative description perhaps, but I've never been one to mince words. For the first three months, at least, you can barely remember your own name but all of the above numbers are at the forefront of your mind every minute of every day. Why? Because they have to be, and your day and night revolve around them, as do all of your conversations with other new parents, with whom the numbers game becomes a competition, although usually friendly and sympathetic. You feel like your head is going to explode from all of it (and the lack of sleep, and the mind numbing drone of crying as you wait for them to do one tiny bubble of a burp) but these numbers rule you all the same. And even if you told yourself a million times that you'll just go with the flow, and you won't be governed by charts and facts and figures, you'll just "see what's right for your baby" well, ok. I did too. And I've lost count of how long ago I gave up on that. It's ok - I get ya. I really, really do.

What I have learned, happily, is that it gets easier over time, and even a mathematical dyslexic like me can play the game reasonably well. Now, off the top of my head, I can tell you that my son weighs ten kilos, wears size 0-1 (in Aussie sizes) and size 4 diapers, has six teeth, drinks about 120 mls of formula before bed, knows four words (sort of) and sleeps 12 hours a night, 11 if the cat crying at the door wakes him up. He has ten aunties and uncles, nine different bath toys, eight favorite foods, seven first cousins, six friends at daycare, five different footballs, four spoons, three bibs, two cats and one gorgeous smile. 

Heh. Maybe I'm not so bad with numbers after all. 
Happy birthday baby boy. Thank you for being my number one.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

7.6.12 - It's a matter of taste

For years, the directive with homemade baby food was to keep it simple - no spices, salt, really exotic foods, either. There's a myriad of articles available for anyone looking which subscribe to several different schools of thought on the issue. I initially, on the advice of nurses, kept to the KISS method but my perspective has now radically changed, highly geared towards taste and lots of it, simply because the logic works: why would anyone eat something that doesn't taste good?

Like many mums out there, I enjoy the "hot lunch" service provided by my son's daycare (as opposed to having to send food with him) and as such, I just have to accept that whatever they are giving him, he eats. But lately I'm not so sure. Usually I get reports about him being the biggest eater in the group, but for the past few days they've told me his appetite has waned (= they're also telling me he must be sick again. It's become an ignorable norm.) Here's the thing though; he eats just fine at home, with the gargantuan appetite they've always raved about. 

Food for thought.

A few days ago, after another report of poor-ish eating, I decided to give him dinner a tad earlier than usual assuming he must be hungry. Actually, I was sure he was hungry, because he wolfed down a cracker with lightning speed and looked around for more, devastated when he didn't find it. My husband went to warm up some plain sausages for him and also took out the tuna and veggie patties I had made for our dinner. They were packed with dill and parsley and a noticeable hint of pepper. I started nibbling on one, cold, and my son reached out for it so I thought I'd give him a taste, what's the harm? Harm indeed. He DEVOURED four of them. And this is a kid who likes to rub his food in his hair for good measure before it goes in his mouth. He'd never eaten so cleanly in his life. Light bulb moment: junior has a palate I've not been giving enough attention to, and is justifiably pissed as a result. 

Makes sense. Issue solved! Kinda. 

My son likes taste. Good for him! I'm really happy to encourage this and to stop making him "separate" food because he clearly just wants good food with lots of flavor, like mummy and daddy eat. How then exactly do I break this to my daycare provider without hurting her feelings? She's obviously making food for all of the kids, which I presume is "bland" because that is what most kids prefer, and she's not running a bloody restaurant. So I'm a little stuck, because if I send food along it says a) he doesn't like, and perhaps I don't trust, her cooking and b) I have more time on my hands than one would think considering I'm working full time. Nope. Sending food with him isn't a solution. Besides, I pay for this service; I pay a lot for it, so I should enjoy it. But he's not eating well at lunch. Crap. 

What to do?

Without a doubt, being a parent presents you with challenges you never knew were there, insights you never knew you could have and dilemmas which force you to weigh up facts in a way you never did before. Right now, I'm going to ride this wave and see where it goes. I'm not going to send him to daycare with a packed lunch. I will continue to develop his palate at home and teach him how to appreciate food, in all forms, spiced, flavored, plain or otherwise. This episode has reminded me once again, like kashrut, vegetarianism and several other food choices I make, to stop and appreciate the bounty presented to me and to be thankful for it. There will always be things we like and don't like and we learn to deal with them all, in our own time and way. It's simply a matter of taste.

Monday, May 28, 2012

28.5.12 - Powerful, tiny fists

It's been a while since I have posted and with good reason - lots of stuff has been going on. Most prominently, my grandmother just passed away.  I, my son and my husband just spent her final few weeks with her in the US so that she could take the time to delight in her great grandchild, and of course to say goodbye. It was hard; it was beautiful; it was a life changing experience.

As a mum, sadly, I've been somewhat "surrounded" by death; my father passed unexpectedly when I was five months pregnant. My son bears his Hebrew name as a middle name and a variation of my late mother-in-law's name as his first name. That's an interesting choice to make as a parent in the modern age, when fewer people necessarily believe in the custom of naming after a parent, citing the overwhelming pain of the loss to be too much to bear in relation to their child. I understand that, and though my husband and I discussed that briefly, the choice and decision for us was clear, and not for a second do I regret it. Further to that, he has cousins from both my and my husband’s siblings who also bear similar names, which I believe is a wonderful tribute to two people who would have absolutely relished in the joy of their grandchildren. Ostensibly, the naming process helps us, those who knew them, remember; but it also passes on history, keeps it alive and real and the chapter of their lives still open for writing. 

I mention all of this because I've been pretty mixed up, as you might imagine, and I worry about dealing with my pain as a parent and how it affects my child. When you lose someone you loved, there are the well known five stages of grief: sadness, anger, bargaining, denial and acceptance. That might not be the right order but no one generally experiences them in any true order so I doubt it matters here. For me, perhaps because of the external stresses surrounding the situation, such as international travel, anger is the issue I worry about the most, because I am a believer in the fact that my child mirrors my behaviors and "vibes" if you will, so I certainly do not want to pass this on to him.

But perhaps there's more to the story.

While we were overseas just now, my son developed in leaps and bounds. He's starting to pull himself up, is incredibly verbal and gave up the breast for good, choosing food and lots of it. He is, on seventeen different levels, my lifesaver and greatest source of amusement. That aside, he also started expressing rage, which is perfectly normal for a kid his age. He’s experiencing drastic change in behaviors and abilities right now. The frustration of when he's "not quite there yet" in regard to, for example, standing up, or gripping his sippy cup properly can be justifiably rage-provoking. His way of expressing it is by holding up his little hands in two tiny fists and shaking them vigorously, whilst yelling, babbling and oftentimes, giggling. I mention that to point out he's not just a rage machine - he kind of likes it and knows it'll get a rise out of us. All the while though, I wonder if this reaction is coming from me, if I am unconsciously encouraging it, or even doing the same without realizing it. I can’t be entirely sure since he also vents his frustration in several other ways, including doing the same thing over and over again until he gets it, or just climbing into my lap for a cuddle when he's too spent. 

Fast track toward behavioral problems?

He's been back at daycare for a week and has earned the name, "Habalaganist" - directly translated as chaos maker, but troublemaker for the rest of us. He's the youngest one there and makes the most trouble, they keep telling me, but it’s charming. I watched the other day as I arrived for pick up the nature of it; he went up to a kid triple his size that was drinking a bottle and slapped it out of his hand, just for a laugh. And laugh he did. I had to stop myself from laughing and told him no, which he also laughed at. Am I encouraging this, somehow? I would love to slap something to get my frustrations out, but I don’t because no one would find it as cute, and may well report me. Am I surreptitiously passing on anger vibes? And if so, is that bad? I know we want our children to only experience comfort and happiness and joy but hey, in their world being a little wet is equivalent to the house being on fire so maybe it’s important he understands anger, and important to help him, and myself, through it. Because this certainly won’t be the last time he experiences it, so why not start the life lesson early?

Why? Because he’s eleven months old. Get a grip.

I’m not sure I’ve got any great moral platitude or amusing realization to pass on here. What I do understand, however, is that every action causes a reaction (yes, physics is seeping its way into my blog post. The world is upside down, to be sure) and we can only control our own subsequent reactions. That’s it. We can deny and bargain and be angry and sad, but in the end, we must accept who and what we are and how we choose, with our human free will, to conduct ourselves. I will do better for myself because I love my son, and if I’m not getting along, then neither will he. I have to affix my oxygen mask first before helping others. After that, I'll check out where my nearest exit is.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

29.3.12 - And that's snot all...

Once you have a baby, everything in your life becomes a little bit more moist. There's no other way to describe it. And I'm not being vulgar here; this doesn't pertain to the usual culprits found down in diaper land. That's a given. I'm talking about the bits of food, dribble, residue from wipes and the biggest offender of all, whatever is leaking like a broken tap from your child's nose. 

It's a fact of parenthood. Deal with it. 

We happen to be a very snotty family, no pun intended. Both my husband and I suffer terribly from sinusitis in the winter and it's looking like junior might be struggling with the same issue. But I can't be sure, because kids are leaking wells of snot, whether they have a family history of it or otherwise. It's just what being a kid is all about. I used to work with kids and most of them were really good about having their noses wiped because the stickiness was annoying them. My son the champion equates having the snot wiped from his nose to the world's greatest form of torture. It seems to be just about the worst punishment we could inflict on him, other than taking away whatever bath toy he was infatuated with. For the life of me, I can't understand why. He's seemingly quite bothered by the snot - he struggles to breathe easily and feed properly because of it, but he also gets terribly insulted when we try to relieve him of the mucous-y monster that plagues him. Go figure. 

The other problem with snot, apart from the obvious grossness, is that it makes people think your child is constantly sick, when in fact he's just a child. We all have lots of snot - it's the body's natural defense system. We as adults just know how to dispose of it properly. Kids don't. It's just there, and it doesn't bother them nearly as much as it bothers us. At a recent outing, a childless friend kept pointing out my son's drainpipe of a nose and kept suggesting he was unwell. Several times. To the point of ridiculousness. I politely said, "Ah it's just a bit of snot. He's playing and eating and interacting happily. He's fine, not to worry." What I really wanted to say was, "Mind your GD business! It's so bloody easy to comment when you play with the kid for five minutes and hand him back to me because he dripped something on your 250 Shekel sweater! Shut the hell up and stop telling me what my kid is or isn't!"

But I didn't. And neither did you, even though you wanted to. Because, you'd be awkward later.  

The other problem that arises with snot is that my daycare providers are constantly convinced that he's unwell and keep calling my husband and I at work to come and collect our perfectly happy, healthy child. I do hope they realize that we are going to lose the jobs that pay their salary if they keep this up. WIPE HIS FRIGGIN' NOSE! It's not that hard. It is, in fact, part of the package I assume we're paying megabucks for, above and beyond the hot lunch and cozy environment. I'll pack a thousand extra wipes if it means they'll use them and not call me every time baby boy snorts. 

But que sera. This is the world we live in. We fear germs and illness the way our ancestors feared the plague because we think they'll be the end of us. It's time to toughen up, folks. Our kids need to get sick to get better, and we need to correctly identify what's "sick" and what's just a bit gross. Kids are kids, and kids are messy. The answer? We simply need to keep wiping his nose. Whenever you think it's done, you have to keep in mind that that's snot all, folks....

Monday, March 19, 2012

18.3.12 - Bite me

My son is a glorious eater. He likes pretty much anything you feed him and demands more, RIGHT NOW! Now, I know for a fact this is a blessing; many parents struggle with kids who are fussy or poor eaters, and I have luckily been spared that. However, baby boy is currently getting three top teeth, has a blocked nose, started biting me and has gone, sporadically, on a "breastfeeding strike." His first ever favorite food, breastmilk, is being rejected. 

So mummy feels like she's been dumped. Because it's all about me, of course.

After a quick read of ten or so articles (I'm trying to cut back) I realize persistence is key, although I have crumbled a few times and given him a bottle (he has two bottles of formula a day at daycare, but I still breastfeed morning, evening and all weekend). In whatever case, I realize I need to be strong and just keep offering him the boob, no matter how rejected I feel when he thinks everything else in existence is more interesting.  It just strikes me though how emotionally invested I am in him rejecting the breast.

I should just be happy that he eats so much and so well, and keep in mind he was exclusively breastfed for the first six months, as recommended by most doctors and interwebs, who guide most of my parenting. Still, I can't help taking it personally. Of all of the "selfish mum" things I thought I might do (overdress him because I'm cold, not let him do something because I don't think its fun, etc) this was never one of them. Yet it's the proverbial cartoon "dagger, dagger in my heart" when he turns away from my proffered boob. His father is well confused.

For those who have had the privilege of breastfeeding, I needn't go into the many reasons why it rocks; it's the best you can give them, it's special bonding time, it's quick, easy, cheap and helps to protect them against the array of vicious infections out there just waiting to piss you off.  Above and beyond all this, in the most self serving way, it's what I can give him that no daddy or daycare provider can. It's what makes me mummy, with a halo above my head and glowing white light and awesome entry music. My skewed version of reality aside, it just made me special. Yes, I carried him for ten months (that's not a typo, he was late) and yes, I will of course always be mummy but this was my "thing." I don't want to lose my thing! It's mine! No, actually, its ours. And that's when the realization sets in.

My baby boy is growing up. 

I left the nest pretty early - I moved out of home at 19, although after several older siblings before me, I don't think it was as dramatic a shock as it could have been for my parents. Plus, I was rarely home to begin with so for the first few months out of home they probably thought I was still on summer camp. With that in mind, how surprised can I be that my child is "moving on" so early? It's in his blood. That said, his father only moved out when we moved in together and might still be living at home if I hadn't been in the picture so I could be wrong. Note: I'm saying all of this with full recognition that it's a breastfeeding strike, not a complete cessation or weaning, and I really should calm the hell down. But I've been struck with an overwhelming sense of loss over this tiny rejection and need to come to grips with the fact that it's going to be the first of many. 

The honeymoon is over, and I need to start to understand that parenting is the world's trickiest game and most rewarding challenge. My privilege was bringing my son into the world; I owe it to him to let him experience the world as he chooses, while providing the best environment and launching pad possible. That means me not getting my way a lot and him understanding I love him no matter what happens. Which is tough, but exactly what I want for him. In that case, I'll lick my wounds privately and probably indulge them in that second beer I've been waiting so long to have. In short, rather than mourn my loss, instead I think I'll celebrate his ongoing independent gains. Cheers!

Ed note - Since writing this post, the boy has returned to the boob with gusto. I  really annoy myself sometimes...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

7.3.12 – Threats, real and perceived

It’s hard to hide from what’s going on in the news at the moment, but if you try really hard…well, you still can't. As has happened for the last few years, the Iranian nuclear threat has heightened, again, just in time for us Jews to draw parallels to the festival of Purim, when we celebrate our survival out of the hands of near annihilation from a Persian ruler who wished to wipe us off the face of the planet. Note: I love Jewish history because it repeats itself and is easily lent to topical blog posts.

Like many Anglo Israelis, I hold dual citizenship, as do my husband and son, which often starts discussions about “where to go if…” and then we don’t say the rest of the sentence, because it’s too horrible. I’m not 100% sure if it's horrible because of the sheer terror inspired by the thought of a nuclear attack, or even mentioning that and our children in the same breath, or even, pardon my idealism, the thought of skipping out on the Zionist dream. Whatever it is, we don’t say it. Like we don’t say Amalek, a rumored cousin of Haman, who is likely the however-many-times-removed great uncle of the presently ruling Iranian ass-clown who talks about our destruction over his morning hummus.

Jewish history aside, I also think about all the other mini and maxi threats that face me as a mum every day, like colds, allergies, SIDS, or possibly falling pregnant again in the next two minutes because my husband is shooting me a suggestive smile. Hell, I crumbled pretty easily in the delivery room when I, like many strong, beautiful, appropriately dilated women, perceived the threat that I was “ABOUT TO DIE GET ME THE DAMN EPIDURAL NOW.” With that in mind, what’s to say I wont be on the next flight out of here when, God forbid, a siren tolls?

The answer, I suppose, is simply being prepared for any scenario, which both parenthood and living in Israel force you into, whether you were like that before or not. You do your research and weigh up the options and make your next move from there. For example, when I was about seven months pregnant, I went on a hospital tour with the good folk from Pregnant in the City, an organization that holds English-speaking informational events and seminars, amongst other things, for expectant mothers in Tel Aviv. It was great; we saw the delivery rooms, the wards, what staff would be involved, we even checked out the baby hotel. All of this useful and powerful information notwithstanding, when it happens, you just go with it and do whatever you need to do to get through it, no matter what level of preparedness you have. Like the way I still check on my son umpteen times a night after he’s gone to sleep to see if he’s breathing; I know he’s fine but still, what if? What if his snotty nose is actually pneumonia? What if that tiny bump on his head is a tumor? What if I just calmed the hell down for moment. What if?

Then I stop and realize that every move I make is a weighted decision, and with each decision comes consequences, both good and bad. So yes, I do worry about Israel’s fragile existence and existential threats. But I also worry about him not wearing 100% cotton pants on his sensitive skin. I worry about the zealous nature of those in government; but I also worry about the upbringing I would give him if he weren’t one of the many ridiculously cute children in costume on the streets of Tel Aviv this morning. I worry. It’s my right as a Jew, as a mother, as a concerned citizen who is also an online news junkie. And that worry keeps me on my toes, keeps me sharp, helps me put my family’s needs at the forefront of everything I do. Which, as often happens by the end of a blog post, I realize is ok and afforded to me, no matter how annoying it might seem at the time. Above and beyond it all, the nation of Israel lives. Have a great holiday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

15.2.12 - The stinky fruit carbon tax

I had to bring my son home from daycare and leave work early yesterday because he had a bout of conjunctivitis, a big no-no in daycare centers. On a good day, a daycare center, no matter how clean it is, can be considered a petri dish of harmless but annoying minor ailments. It’s winter here at the moment (read: breeding ground for bacteria) so the likelihood of him catching something is slightly higher than usual.

So today I am working from home. Normally, that would mean missing meetings and “catching up” but with today’s technology, my boss could be in Tanzania and it wouldn’t make a difference – I tuned into two meetings via Skype and have enjoyed a regular series of emails back andforth that I would have with him and other colleagues if I was sitting mere feet away.

So that’s good, right? I can do it all!

My friends have long chided me about my inflated sense of ego when it comes to “doing it all” because I always seem to forget that something, no matter how minor it is, will slip through the cracks in my attempt to be superwoman. Working from home, all of my “jobs” are in play; one as an editor, another as Queen of Domesticity (read: wife) and most importantly, engaged parent. This morning, I was pretty sure I had all my bases covered. The baby went down for a morning snooze; the washing was on, I was answering emails and was about to tune into a meeting and I had even put pears on the stove to cook so baby boy could have some stewed fruit in the afternoon. Brilliant!

Or so I thought. I suddenly noticed that the sweet smell of stewed fruit had turned unpleasant. Was that damn gardener from next door smoking near the kitchen window again? No. I had just left the pears on too high a heat and they had burned into the pot. I watched helplessly as smoke generously filled my kitchen and wafted through my house.

As a new parent who reads way too many internet articles, I internally freaked. Shit! My house was filling with deadly carbon fumes that will surely cause my child to have emphysema and a third nipple! What to do? Common sense prevailed and I opened up every window I could to air out the house and cooled down the offensive cookware before quickly nipping outside to throw it in the garbage. But what now? How will I get all the smoke out of the house? Is it creeping into his bedroom where he’s sleeping soundly? What have I done? Will I be arrested for bad parenting/crappy cooking? So on and so forth. The inside of my head is really a hot, stinking mess sometimes.

Shortly after disposing of the toxic pot, my son woke up and my boss called on Skype to start the next meeting. The meeting lasted about 25 minutes, in which time he needed to be breastfed, changed, dressed and have some solid food as well. I happily achieved all of this and scribbled out notes out in my fuzzy shorthand while my boss was firing off directions in Hebrew.

Superpowers slowly returning. Hysteria subsiding. My child will survive another day of my parenting. Multitasking ho!

To be sure of anything, I am a woman. The rest is commentary.