Everything I know about parenting I learned from the Internet

I have approached the daunting task of parenting and raising a human being from infant to adulthood without somehow irrevocably damaging their physical, emotional, or psycho-social development like I approach everything in my life, which is to say, with a lot of research and reading and crowd-sourcing of opinions and experiences. 

I have been meaning to write a big post on all of it, but instead I will be lazy and compile it into a bullet-point list. 

BEHOLD, the various things that I found interesting/have kept me sane/I find useful:

  • Your baby is not manipulating you when he cries to be picked up. Researchers have determined that infants have an innate physiological calming response to being picked up – it lowers heart rates and physically soothes them – it’s not a choice or a preference, it’s a physical fact. Babies cry to be picked up because it calms them down, they aren’t sneaky little demons who cry just for the pleasure of seeing you do their bidding. Trust. 
  • Parenting: You’re doing it wrong.  At least that’s what I learned reading this amazing book, How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: and other adventures in parenting around the world (from Argentine to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood. Seriously, this book was fantastic because it taught me that there is no universal standard of what makes a “good” parent. Argentinian kids go to bed at 10pm, some Italian parents think we are cruel to make our children sleep in seperate beds or even separate rooms, in Mongolia it’s common to breastfeed until children are seven or eight and breastmilk is seen as somewhat of a delicacy.

    Whatever you are doing – extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, free range kids, disposable diapers, baby led weaning whatever, there is probably a culture that has done this since day one, and also one that thinks you are cruel and unusual for doing so. You can’t win! But you also always win! Because there is no “right” and “wrong”!  DO YOU FEEL THAT? IT’S THE YOKE OF JUDGEMENT BEING LIFTED FROM YOUR WEARY SHOULDERS!

    This book really helped me when I was struggling with whether or not I was crazy for nursing Olive to sleep, and not letting her cry by herself in her crib. 

  • Get yourself some mom friends.  Whether they’re in an online birth club (usually organized around babies all born in the same month), an organized get together of other moms in your town through a local health unit, or even just a smattering of similarly sleep-deprived ladies you see blearily sipping coffee at the park. GET YOURSELF SOME MOM FRIENDS. Otherwise your views on parenting and babies will be severely distorted by all of the “experts”…you know, the books that say your baby should be doing x by now, or the tv shows that say you should be doing y…by talking to other moms you gain some much needed perspective.

    You will notice that little Kaden is still waking up every hour, and Marissa’s mom feeds her food from a jar and it’s not even organic (GASP!), and The Steve showed up in pajamas because his mom just couldn’t be bothered to wrestle him into an outfit with five different parts today (” A onesie, pants, socks, jacket AND hat? Eff that!” she said with devil-may-care abandon)

    Other moms, who are right there in the trenches with you, are absolutely invaluable. They won’t judge you for anything, and will confess, in a voice half-scared, half-jubilant, “I broke down and had two glasses of wine last night and then she slept for eight hours straight…is that bad? Or genius?”

  • You don’t stop being a parent at night. I have been repeating this to myself lately because Olive’s sleep has kind of gone for shit. Sleep training is tempting (I mean seriously, how awesome would it be to just be able to put her in a crib and walk away, and have her fall asleep?!), but I just feel deep in my bones that it’s not okay to let a baby cry by herself. For any length of time. I know this is a personal choice, but I really think we have gone off the rails as a society with this one.

    I don’t think she would understand why, I do think it causes damage, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone into her room in response to her cries only to find that she has a huge burp, or her leg is caught in the crib, or she’s soaking wet. Babies need their mamas (or Papas. Whatever.)  

    Olive has gone through these periods of crappy sleep before and it usually reflects a growth spurt, or mastering new skills, or a shift in shedule, and she gets over it on her own and in the meantime, as she wakes up for the umpteenth time between 4-8am I remind myself that I don’t stop being a parent at night. 

    I wouldn’t let her cry alone during the day, I would go to her and pick her up and comfort her, why wouldn’t I do that at night, too?

  • People are lying liars. No one can remember the first six months of their kids lives accurately. It’s only been a few months and already that period is a thick fog for me. It goes by so quickly, and changes so fast that I often think I remember something, only to go back and find that wasn’t the case at all, or it only happened once, or I was dreaming it. Don’t trust anyone’s recollections, or “When so-and-so was two months he was…” BLAH. 
    No one remembers. It’s a guess, at best, so take everything mom’s say about the first six months with a large grain of salt. (And maybe a few glasses of wine?)

  • Early potty training is not as crazy as it sounds. I am surprised at how well it is going, and how easy it is. Since Olive started rolling over back to front we have moved her changing pad to storage with the rest of her baby stuff, and do most of our diaper changes in the bathroom where her potty is. 

    She gets changed when she wakes up and before she goes to sleep (for both naps and bedtime) and we put her on the potty at the same time. She always goes first thing in the morning, and usually a few times throughout the day, too. In the beginning it felt like it was accidental – we would sit there until something happened – but lately she goes as soon as she sits there, which makes me think she is starting to get it. We also haven’t changed a poopy diaper in weeks, which is hella-awesome. 

    We have this potty, and it’s super comfortable for her and basically everything is A+.

  • If you are planning on cloth diapering, do so from day 1. Many parents plan to start with disposables, then go to cloth when they have the hang of the whole trying-to-keep-baby-alive thing. I think this dooms people to fail, for several reasons, the most important being that if you never regularly use disposables, you won’t know what you’re missing.

    I am a huge fan of cloth diapers and we use them 100% of the time when we are at home, but we have also used disposables when we visit places with no laundry facilities. Having used both, I can’t deny that cloth diapering is more work- you MUST do laundry at least every second day, plus you need to change baby more (no weird moisture absorbing gel)- and there can be a steep learning curve (choosing diapers, assembling them, figuring out how to wash and store and strip them).  If you are used to disposables, this will all seem overwhelming and you’ll probably go back to disposables. BUT, if you have always used cloth, all of this will just be the norm and the times when you do use disposables will just seem like a nice little break.

    Plus figuring them out and getting used to everything will be way easier if done in the newborn days, which seems counterintuitive until you realize that in those first few weeks you’ll probably be inundated with helpers in the form of moms and aunties and friends. Use them, people. USE THEM.

  • This diaper bag is awesome. It’s probably only worth about half of what you pay, and the wet bag and change pad are a joke, but I love the look of it, and it once seemed gigantic but I often find it stuffed to the brim with diapers and blankets and toys and a change of clothing…it’s surprising how much of it I fill. I have gotten approximately ninety-seven compliments on it, and the little clutch it comes with has been awesome because I don’t have to lug around my purse PLUS a diaper bag. Thank you to my siblings and siblings-in-law for gifting me with this. I never would have bought it for myself but I absolutely adore it.
  • The Ergo. THE ERGO. Adam and I agree that this was the best baby purchase we ever made (we searched high and low before buying it for $70 secondhand). I loved having Olive close to us and we used it exclusively for her first six months. We have a stroller now, but I still find myself reaching for the ergo, it’s convenient, comfortable and easier in many situations than maneuvering a stroller all over the place. 
  • Just when you think you’ve figured them out, they change. This is the truest thing ever said in the history of ever. I literally wrote a post last week being all “OMG Olive finally has a schedule I didn’t do anything she made it herself but it’s been consistent for a few weeks now my days are predictable I can plan my life everything is perfect!”. I ran out of time to finish writing it, saved it in my drafts and guess what? It is STILL THERE because I kid you not, THAT NIGHT Olive changed everything up.

    Guys, it’s like she knew.

  •  This motherhood thing is the shit. Every cliche is true, every song is right- guys, sometimes I watch her sleep and cry a little.

    Her smile is the best thing in the world, I could listen to her laugh for days. My whole world revolves around whether or not she is warm enough. I am a mom, guys. I AM A MOM. 

    And it’s unequivocally the best. thing. ever. 
     

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“Oh, hey there, Olive! Are you ready to- Woah! Wow. oh wow.

Whatcha…whatcha doin? Looks like you’re, um, oh god, oh god what is this? What’s happening? Adam? ADAM LOOK! HELP! Sweet god how did you…what… Olive Grace you sit down this instant!”

This has been a dramatic reenactment of what might have happened if we didn’t preemptively lower her crib after seeing her try to pull herself up on coffee tables, bathtubs etc. She did not stand up on her own. But I’m sure thats just around the corner. Do you know what comes next? HIGH SCHOOL.

Out of complete curiousity – since Olive will be turning one in the (slightly) near future, are you planning on trying for The Steve soon? (I think that was adams name choice correct?!) xx

Maybe. 

According to doctors, I have to have babies at least 24 months apart in order for me to try for a normal (i.e. not c-section) birth. So that would mean that the soonest we could conceive is when Olive is 15 months old ( January, 2014). 

In all honesty, I love the idea of having children close in age (all of my siblings are spaced roughly 2 years apart) but it will depend on what our life looks like at that point.

Fingers crossed for The Steve!

Hello

I keep talking about the summer as though we are still in February.

“We’re going to try and make it to Ontario in the summer” I say, hopefully.

“Adam wants to make a trip out to Alberta in the summer” I say, happily.

“In the summer we’re going to…”

“when it’s summer we can…”

“Summer…”

“Summer…”

IT’s JUNE IN TWO DAYS. OR THREE. OR SOMETHING. WHATEVER. SOON! It’s June SOON! And June means summer.

SUMMER IS IN TWO (THREE?) DAYS!

What does this mean? Several things.

a) Adam and I need to sit down and figure out how we are going to manage three trips this summer/fall. One to introduce Olive to my granddaddy (he of Olive You ) and the rest of my Ontario relatives; one to a friend’s wedding in Edmonton shortly after Olive’s first birthday (NSJkfjhdsjbfjdnjdsknk!), and another to Mexico when my best friend gets married in mid-November.

This is a lot of travelling. This is especially a lot of travelling for two people who currently have zero income coming in and hey! We’re just going to blow our down payment on airfare, mmmkay?

So yes. A sit-down, counting our pennies, budgeting etc. meeting needs to be had. Or I could just win the lottery? Except I keep forgetting to buy tickets? But I have like, numbers and everything? Maybe someone could just gift me with millions? Like…now?

b) Olive is turning one soon. I know you might think I am early on this one, but I assure you, I AM NOT. She turns eight months in a few days. eight months is only four months away from 12 months, and I almost passed grade 12 math so I know that 12-8= WAY TOO SOON. She turns one way too soon.

I refuse. I protest. I am on strike from babies getting older and standing up on their own tiny elephant legs in their cribs, forcing us to lower their  mattresses and mygodjuststop. Stop.

Olive turning one means several things. i) I need to start planning her first birthday party because, I mean, this is THE birthday party. All other parties will mean nothing after this, the FIRST birthday. Also I will let her have cake, which will be her first taste of refined sugar and my god if she is anything like me she will go batshit insane for sugar. It’s going to be fabulous/horrifying.

and ii) I need to think about/ panic about/ cry about going back to work. I might need to do this a little sooner than four months, actually. It’s looking like it might be easier for me to find work here than for Adam, so we’ve been talking about me going back to work and Adam staying home with Olive, which, I mean the feminist in me is extremely happy about that. Gender equality and whatnot. But the mom in me, the woman who loves her daughter and can’t spend three seconds with her without burying my face into her neck and snuffling her warm smell, that part of me dies a little every time I think about it.

I can not imagine being away from her for eight hours a day, every day. It makes my heart hurt, and how incredibly ironic that we moved here to be closer to family, but I will be further apart from her than I ever anticipated.

c) We have been cooking things. And making things. Things without dairy, or soy, or sugar, or gluten. Adam’s sister has decided to try this eating style to see if it has any positive impacts on her family’s health, and in in the interests of solidarity, and because I love me a good old fashioned crazy-restrictive hippie food cleanse, we have jumped aboard.

Whenever I do shit like this part of me thinks “Madeleine, you are ridiculous and you are complicating food to the point that it’s not even enjoyable any more.” and another, more smug part of me thinks “Chapeau, Madeleine. You are eliminating all of the non-food crap from your diet and eating fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like nature intended.” and then the two parts glare at each other and eventually end up wrestling, one trying to shove cheese from a jar into the other’s mouth as she tries to fend her off by beating her about the head with a stalk of kale.

We (yes, we. ADAM TOO. Seriously I have no idea how this happened HE HAS GIVEN UP BEER! [replacing it with what seems suspiciously like equivalent quantities of gin, but nevermind]), we are trying it for three months. At the end of these three months if we have not become superhuman health machines, mass quantities of goat cheese are headed down my gullet.

Happy Thursday!

Lucky

Scene: This morning. Olive is babbling away in her crib, I am brushing my teeth when Adam comes into the bathroom to stand behind me
Me: Hey
Adam: (admiring himself in the mirror)
Me: …
Adam: (making strange faces, flexing, examining his teeth)
Me: (no longer brushing teeth, just watching him, with baffled amusement)
Adam: (burps)
Me: (fixing him with what he affectionately [?] calls The Face) “Gross.”
Adam: (meeting my eyes in the mirror) “You married this and now you’re stuck with it. Forever.” (Leaves room)