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.