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.