Category Archives: education

Through the Eyes of a Toddler

I’ve heard the old cliche, “Kids say the darndest things,” about a million times in my life. And the voice in my head has always responded with, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, so what.” Kids don’t have political, social, moral filters; I get it. They will totally embarrass you at the most inopportune time by blurting out just the wrong thing. But as a trip to the grocery store taught me the other day, the “darndest thing” more often is some surprising shift in perspective that makes a parent stop and rethink for just a second the way s/he views the world.

So my first “darndest thing” moment happened in the grocery store. I was cruising the veggie aisles, looking for some good grilling eats, when I saw some very fresh, local corn. As I started shucking–I love that grocery stores have finally figured out that people want to see what they are buying and put trash cans next to fresh corn so people can remove the husks before they get home–I gave a cob to the crumb cruncher. I took my time explaining that this was maïs and it was yummy, so we were going to take off the husks so we could grill it and then eat it.

He watched me remove the husk off the first corn cob. As I ripped into the second, he looked at me, pointed, and said:

“Banana.”

My first reaction was to correct him. I got about two seconds into explaining once again that I was holding corn not a banana and then I just stopped. I started chuckling to myself. Duh, I must be an idiot to not recognize the similarities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • They are long and skinny
  • They are eaten with hands
  • They have an inedible skin that must be peeled back
  • They are found at the grocery store
  • They are sweet and tasty
  • They can be made into bread
  • They give the dog the poops

And that is how a toddler’s brain works. It’s the darndest thing, isn’t it?

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Filed under daily life, education, language, toddlers

Why Time Is Never on a Mom’s Side

I saw this newspaper clipping on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday, and I couldn’t resist the urge to write about it. (Read the article and you’ll understand.)

But in case the print is too small, I’m going to summarize: Basically someone without kids writes in to an advice columnist asking why her stay-at-home mommy friends never have time to gab anymore. She asked:

“What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home for nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done.”

I bet more than a few stay-at-home mommies want to deck this chick after reading that. The columnist’s response was classic. I personally loved the part where she talked about how moms not only do all the errands-type stuff single people do, but do it all while carrying a kid and the requisite accoutrement to ward of every mishap from a blowout to a meltdown. But her conclusion was a kicker:

“[Having kids] is also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn’t judge you, complain about you or marvel how much more productively she uses her time.”

I agree that perhaps this advice-seeker needed to be put in her place mommy-style.  But if I honestly think back to my single days, I probably wondered something similar. However, I wouldn’t have dared openly ask the question. Even I knew a comment of that sort would warrant a mommy-slap that would make any head spin.

I can definitely identify with the columnist’s first explanation of why moms never have enough time to do much more than just cover off on the basics–everything takes three times longer with kids. How true. Most of the time, as a mom, yes, you are trying to accomplish many of the same simple tasks that baby-free folks can handle during their lunch hours or on their ways home from work. But those tasks are so much harder when you’re lugging baby and gear.

Going to the post office, for example, totally stresses me out. So does going to get clothes altered. These are regular errands, but with a baby, they are not simple in-and-out stops. They are major outings that require moms to bring all manner of food, clothing, and shelter for baby, not to mention entertainment. That’s a lot of work for a book of stamps or a pair of pants.

But it was the columnist’s second answer to the advice-seeker’s question that was an a-ha! moment for me. While there is the whole question of logistics when going about daily life with baby in tow, there is this whole other major undertaking going on, one that’s so big picture, it’s often overlooked. It’s the fact that, as moms, while we’re trying to make sure the mortgage is paid, the fridge is stocked, and the animals are fed (along with the gazillion other things that make our lives liveable), we’re also trying to raise good, caring, productive people for society.

That’s the biggest challenge in the world. And I know that I definitely forget that as I’m melting down because I can’t find my keys, the baby’s crying, the dog won’t get in his crate, and I know that we’re going to be at least a half hour late to wherever I was supposed to be at that moment. I focus so much on the feeding, bathing, diapering, and entertaining of baby that I admit I often forget that I’m also teaching him how to be the person he eventually will be. (Just writing that makes me get a little misty.)

When I think about how big of a task that is on top of handling the myriad of minutia that fall under the category of life maintenance, no wonder moms have no time to spend a half hour gabbing with a friend about things like office gossip, new crushes, and fad diets. (Thank god for texting.) That half hour is critical brain rebooting time. (And by rebooting, yes, I really mean showering.)

But all this to say that I’m really glad this advice-seeker asked such a seemingly stupid question about what moms do all day. The answer was a nice reminder of not only all the little jobs I do, from walking the dog to getting the oil changed in the car, but also of my most important job–to raise a healthy, happy, curious, creative, and kind little boy. When I think about that I guess I can live with the fact that I didn’t cross everything off my to-do list today.

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Filed under babies, daily life, education, family, infants, moms, parenting, stay-at-home moms, working mom

To Be Or Not To Be a Godparent

Lord knows that I’m not a model Catholic. I rarely make 10am mass on Sunday even thought it’s the only one out of seven held every Sunday that’s in English. (My Spanish, Vietnamese, and Haitian aren’t what I would call current.) I can’t tell you (sadly) the last time I was at confession, which is of course one of the reasons I don’t go to confession. And I seem to always forget about even the biggest of church holidays. (Ash Wednesday was when?) But for my inability to be totally committed or consistent, getting baby baptized was a must.

The Unofficial Baptism

The way my  husband and I look at it, baby actually had two baptisms. One was held on a Saturday in the presence of… well, actually nobody but my husband and me. It was simple, sweet, and a little southern in that it was nothing more than a first dunk in the mighty St. Lawrence River off my parents’ dock. It’s the fastest way to get christened as a River Rat.

The Real Deal Baptism

The second baptism was more traditional, although I imagine that certain parts of the Catholic Church would be less than impressed with our ceremony. There was a priest, but other than that it in no way resembled any other christening I’d been to. There was no church; the scene was my parent’s house with the River as the backdrop. The guest list had only marginally more people than at baby’s first, unofficial baptism. Parents, siblings, and godparents.

Choosing baby’s godparents was an interesting exercise. My husband and I decided that we would each pick one godparent. Neither one of us could veto the other’s choice, and the only other caveat was that whoever we picked couldn’t be family.

That might sound a little strange. But here’s how we thought about it: Family automatically plays a big role in a baby’s life–good, bad, or indifferent. A baby’s godparents are an opportunity to invite someone outside the clan to help raise baby. And when I say raise, I don’t mean as a go-to babysitter.

Godparents are people who can uniquely enrich baby’s life. They are removed from the family headaches, drama, and other nonsense, so they can model different–and sometimes better–behavior. Not only that, but chances are they have discrete talents, perspectives, and priorities than baby’s parents and family. And in our minds, that’s a good thing. More exposure to diversity of thought and action equals a more well-rounded person. At least in theory.

Fortunately we are blessed with many close friends who would make spectacular godparents. So, we started considering another factor–geography. There’s no doubt that godparents are more influential when they can actually see the baby from time to time. Being military, there are few guarantees that D.C. will be our last stop. But there’s one place, we always–and will always–go back to: the River. We’ve got the most family concentrated in the area and the River itself is tangled up in our whole relationship. So, we needed to find baby godparents who, if all else failed, would be close(ish) to the River so we could all see each other.

And so long story short, baby has a wonderful set of godparents (to include their respective spouses who are just as amazing as they are) who more than fit the bill.

But the whole exercise really made me realize how lucky we are to have such a fantastic circle of friends, all of whom would–and will–have amazing things to add to baby’s life. The whole decision process left me wanting to have a whole slew of kids so they could each experience the richness of all of our closest friends. How many ways can I count my blessings?

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Filed under babies, education, family, infants, moms, newborns, religion

Baby Daddy Drama

Over the past week I’ve found myself watching a lot of crap TV. I guess that’s what happens when you combine a new mommy with hungry baby and cable television. You see all sorts of stuff at all hours of the day, from documentaries on Benjamin Franklin to reality series like Basketball Wives.

I’ve been particularly obsessed with this show on Vh1 called Dad Camp. The premise of the show is that six soon-to-be baby daddies (and their pregnant teen partners) go through an intense parenting course to learn to become respectable fathers. As part of the coursework, they not only get graded on how well they complete child care exercises (installing a car seat or comforting a crying baby, for example) but they also have to go through therapy with their baby mommas (and sometimes baby mommas’ mommas).

Part of the entertainment of the show is that these dads-to-be are complete disasters. Immature, irresponsible, angry, clueless, and most often jobless, it’s surprising that any of these miscreants would even show up to a show like this, where they are expected to submit to a behavioral overhaul. Point in case is the guy who calls his girlfriend that she’s a “stage five clinger” (bad). Or the guy who makes out with another girl the first night the couple is at Dad Camp (worse).

But for all the daddy drama on the show, the whole idea of dad camp is completely intriguing to me.

For as excited as my husband was about the idea of us having a crumb cruncher to call our own, there were times in my pregnancy where I had to wonder if my husband had any idea of what bringing up baby actually meant.

Part of the disconnect I trace to my husband’s personality. He’s a natural-born extrovert with a sharp wit, a combination that often makes it seem like he doesn’t take much seriously. The other part is that he has been wrapped up in some intense training for the past 14 months, which has kept him a little out of the loop in terms of the day-to-day stuff at home. And then there’s the fact that he’s an only child, so he hasn’t gotten much , if any, practice with babies. (Not that I really know what the hell I’m doing either.)

So, thinking that we (but really more him) needed a crash course in all things babies (I was the one reading the baby books, after all), I signed us up for the birthing class taught by Juliana Parker of Birth-n-Babies. Then on second thought, I also signed us up for her breastfeeding class.

But for as much as we felt like we got our money’s worth out of the classes, I still felt like sometimes he didn’t “get” it. He was definitely excited, but it was like he had no concrete idea of what life was going to be like when our wee one arrived. And it was freaking me out.

Here’s an example: We were invited to a wedding in Hawaii in December. My husband really wanted to go (so did I), especially since I’d never been there. Plus, we had airline vouchers that we could use to book the flight, which was a bonus. But I was stressing over what to do with the baby. We couldn’t drop him off with the grandparents, so what to do? Do we try to upgrade our seats to business class and keep the baby on our lap? Or do I just book a third seat in coach for the bambino?

These are the things that stress mommies like me out, but dad had nothing to say other than to roll his eyes when I told him how expensive flights to Hawaii were (it is Hawaii, after all, it wasn’t going to be cheap). And then he made the fatal mistake of saying, “Does the baby really need his own seat?” (The flight from D.C. to Honolulu is how long?) I won’t share with you my reaction to that.

There were a few other moments like that in the later part of my pregnancy where it was clear that he had no idea how life was going to change. And if I had known about a sleep-away daddy camp, I would’ve had him on the first bus.

Unsure if what I was seeing in my husband was an anomaly or not, I’ve asked a few friends if their husbands were similarly as infuriatingly clueless the first baby around. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that it’s totally a guy thing.

I talked to a therapist friend of mine about this phenomenon. Her professional take on it was that while mommies-to-be and newbie mommies are so acutely aware of baby–baby is top of mind 24/7–for many newbie daddies, it continues to sort of be “all about them” for awhile even as mommies are doing the hard work of carrying the next generation. And when it’s not, they can sort of act out. They get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, pouty, and sulky about all the things that they suddenly can’t do (or, alternatively, all the things that they now have to do that they don’t want to do) now that baby is in full focus.

So, I asked my therapist friend how long this sort of alternate reality lasts. When do the daddy instincts kick in in full, putting them on the same page as mommies?

Month four. That was her professional opinion as to when men, in general, really start to bond with baby and grow fully into the daddy role. Why month four? She says it’s because by month four baby has started to really respond and interact. Baby smiles, giggles, recognizes the ‘rents, etc.–and dads really connect with that. Those outward expressions serve almost as mini validations of their role and importance in the life of the wee one.

Her theory makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish, as mommies, we didn’t have to wait so long sometimes. And even though I realize that this is part of a natural progression, I still wish there was a baby boot camp that normal first-time dads could go off to for some pre-baby training. I’m talking not only car seat installation and crib construction, but diapering, burping, swaddling, and round-the-clock feedings. If nothing more, it would hopefully give newbie dads a little perspective on everything moms have been stressing about for months while hardly any of it has been more than a fleeting thought in dads’ minds.

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Filed under birthing, daddy care, daily life, education, mommy care, nesting, newbie parents, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, Uncategorized