December 30, 2009

A Sign of Things To Come?

DSC02021F inally, I’m back. Finally, for me… you may have wished I was still away. However, I digress. ChristmasKwanzaaNukah is over, we got through the hailstorm of gift opening and lights and dazzle and stomach flu and now seem to be back in some semblance of normal. Life is going at 100 kms an hour and I barely remember the last few hours, much less a week ago.

Version 1.0 got totally spoiled. I mean, like rotten. She had so many presents this year that she actually asked to stop opening them. She was weary by the time we were done. “Come on, honey, just one more present…” “Noooooooo!”. In hindsight, we should have split them up over a few days, but I admit to being a bit more excited than her at the prospect of her being spoiled.

One person that was *not* spoiled… Version 2.0. In fact, we completely forgot about him/her. Not one gift, no stocking, no honourable mention in Christmas cookie decorating even. Fair enough, the little tyke isn’t going to remember yuletide in utero, nor will it care whether or not it was acknowledged with a small token of a hopeful future under the tree. But, for me, it’s a stark realisation of how different things will be the second time.

When I was pregnant (very) with Version 1.0, Christmas time was only weeks from her emergence, and she was the first child for us, the first niece or nephew for my sister, the first cousin for her kids, etc. A representative fraction of gifts were for her, and we talked about her non-stop (in non-gender-specific terms).

This time, I barely remembered being pregnant. How could I, while contending with stomach flu blowouts (both ends), baking gifts, wrapping presents, shopping, not drinking (grumble), preparing savoury feasts and generally entertaining Version 1.0?

All. very. lame. excuses. But, are they? Is all the hype with our first just because we have nothing else to be distracted by? Everyone smiles knowingly and says “Yup. That’s how it goes. The poor second child never gets the attention of the first.”

I was a second child. I do not ever recall feeling inadequately attended to (except when it suited my melodramatic fancy to insist I was terribly hard done by in order to get something I wanted). I hope to never have Version 2.0 feeling inadequately loved, but here’s the thing... I don’t think we could ever keep the pace with the attention we have lavished on Version 1.0. We just cannot. It will be impossible. There will never be as many photos, as much documentation, as many considerations. We’d have to basically quit the rest of our lives and spend every waking second compensating.

I’m already feeling guilty. Poor bugger. But he/she will never know the difference, right? Provided that we are fair and equal in our attention once he/she arrives? That’s what counts, right? Not the number of presents under the tree, absence of baby showers, plethora of hand-me-downs…

Right? Do I need to start searching for a therapist now?

December 20, 2009

Ringing In The Festive Season (or, Our House is Full of Sugar, Presents and Christmas Movies 24/7)

gingerbread This year, Christmas is a bit different. Since Version 1.0 can understand what’s happening a bit better, and seems to be fully aware of all the little traditions that are developing, we have found ourselves getting a bit more into the holiday season a bit earlier (which means Hubby is mildly less Grinch-like and drinks more). Our tree went up the first weekend of December, and all our presents were bought and wrapped and under the tree over a week ago. Version 1.0’s been marvelling at the spectacles of lights and decorations, merriment and laughter that envelopes every store we visit, and drips from her Christmas books that she reads every night.

We have so far managed to avoid Christmas music for the most part, but we allowed the Christmas movies to come out after December 1st. We didn’t bank on her being so enthralled with them and now The Polar Express is on at least three times a day, and it is peppered with viewings of other holiday favourites such as Rudolph, Frosty and The “Ginch”. Yes, she asks for it by name. The Ginch.

The other holiday pleasure that seems to have swept through our house has been a sharp increase in the presence of holiday treats… sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. Version 1.0 demanded her first hot chocolate thanks to The Polar Express. We’ve received gifts of baking, have made gifts of baking, and today decorated a rather lopsided gingerbread house. (Here’s the hilarious irony: I felt so guilty about exposing my kid to so much sugar, I bought sugar-free candies to decorate with…. but couldn’t find the sugar-free icing sugar for the icing). As could be predicted, she ate handfuls of candies (not kidding, she actually spit out ten jelly beans at one point when she realised her mouth was too full) and licked most of the icing off the tray. She placed a few marshmallows (also, not sugar-free) and plunked down a few gumdrops for the most part, it was straight from the dish to her mouth.

With all this indulgence – sugar everywhere, presents galore and non-stop Christmas theatre – I’m frightened that we’re going to have a New Year crash when we all of a sudden we go back to normal and everything is exceedingly boring again. I suppose it’s helpful that her birthday is early February, so we can wean her off the spoiled child high. However, I suspect it’s going to be a long January.

Any advice on how to bring my kid down from the month of heaven? How do I distract her from the chaos that surrounds her while we take down the tree and put The Ginch away for another year (Hubby often wonders why that keeps happening to him)?

December 15, 2009

Getting By With A Little Help From My <virtual> Friends

helpisontheway Today I am following a topic shared by a community of mommy bloggers – and a few others who felt compelled to weigh in, for better or for worse.

The back story is that a mommy blogger out there in the world (and I don’t need to perpetuate the drama by including her details) lost her toddler son yesterday when he fell in the swimming pool. Within an hour or two she had tweeted her situation and begged for prayers while he was in emergency care. The situation’s end result was that he didn’t make it, a circumstance too sickly tragic for me to even imagine, and one that would probably put me in a tailspin where I was barely conscious of what I did next. But I can’t even pretend to imagine what I would do. To suggest otherwise would be not only disrespectful but foolish.

Here’s the rub. While 99.999% of her followers were full of support and prayers, whatever they could do to give her strength, there was a contingent who chastised her for letting her child die, for putting him in harm’s way and even questioned her motives, suggesting she was staging the whole incident to collect donations from strangers. A good portion of this last group suggested that noone, NOONE who was facing a dying child would have the wherewithall to post a tweet about it, and nor should they if they were any bit a caring individual who loved her children.

While the bleeding heart in me wants to collectively punch those last bit in their virtual faces for criticizing a person in her situation, regardless of how they feel about her processes, I do have to admit I wondered when she thought about tweeting. And that is only when I think logistically about it – I would be a friggin mess. I make no judgment of her for having posted, I just go through the scenario in my head and can’t rationalise when I would have done it. But she asked for prayers from her community of friends and family online, many of whom I am sure she never met, and I can attest to the fact that strong friendship can be developed with someone you have never met in “real life” and I don’t distinguish between the validity of that type of closeness vs. one formed with people in the flesh. If you are one who believes that prayer can help, it wouldn’t surprise me that you would reach out to as many friends, close or otherwise, that you could to strengthen your chances of some effects. I personally don’t believe in prayer, and therefore may have less inclination to seek my community for immediate help in a time of trauma.

The ensuing debate over whether or not her actions were appropriate is an interesting one. My personal thoughts on the matter are that it’s noone’s place to judge whether someone reacted appropriately or not to any given situation, because this judgement can only come from a place of personal bias that has developed from diverse experiences. However, the more interesting discussion (in my mind) is less about this woman in particular and more about how social communities have matured and developed to a point where they are “real” sources of friendship, support and dialogue, where someone sending their heartfelt love and support virtually can be as encouraging as a hug from another right next to you. Maybe a year ago, looking to a virtual community in times of tragedy would be considered voyeuristic, or inappropriate, or somehow self-indulgent.

I have often wondered what I would do in a time of severe trauma, where would I look for help? My answer: my close friends and family nearby, and my social community online. For information, for guidance, for experience, for perspective. Undoubtedly you can find someone else who has experienced what you had, who has gotten through it and survived, who has wisdom, advice or some helpful words. When I was first pregnant and miscarried (hardly a comparable trauma, but still…), I found incredible perspective after I read other stories (hundreds of them) online from women who were looking for support, offering support, wondering if they were alone in their feelings. I realised how common it was, how others had dealt with it, how others had picked up and had success with future pregnancies, etc. I read stats and probabilities, medical facts and personal stories. It all helped. I connected with other women and just let it all out. That helped tremendously. It would take me forever to piece together a community like that in the people I know in real life. I would never find that kind of relevance and support without a focused group online.

I know of a number of women who have endured personal tragedy far, far greater than my own (I am humbled) and have all used their social communities online to support themselves through the healing process, and who even turned to that community during the incident as it occurred. Is that wrong? Why? Does it show disrespect, or any less depth of feeling for the outcomes? Does it help with the grieving process, or deem it tarnished in some way?

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this subject. As a practitioner of collaborative technologies and social media in some respect, this emergence of very human qualities in a traditionally un-human medium is infinitely interesting. I look for informed and varied perspectives to help me grow mine.

December 14, 2009

Twinkle Toes

toes Reason #837 why I belong in the Bad Moms Club: Last night I painted my toddler’s toenails. I’ve never been one to want to adorn my child with our adulthood indulgences, whether or not we can justify them, and have no intention of piercing her ears or perming her hair.

However. What I do have a need for is some sanity and peace in my life, which is not often begotten through ignoring  my child’s demands for something she really, really really wants.

Version 1.0 has always been somewhat fixated on my painted toes. She calls them “Mommy’s pretty toes” and it’s gosh darned cute. She’s never wanted them for herself, but always commented on mine. She did decide after I cut her nails once that now she had “pretty toes”. Yesterday, however, she decided her baby doll wanted pretty toes. So, we painted Dolly’s toes. Looks very odd on a newborn, but whatevs, right?

After a few hours of obsessing on this, Version 1.0 decided she wanted “pretty toes”. I called her bluff, knowing she would shrink at the sight of the paintbrush, and she did. But then the insisting went on, and on, and on, and on for nearly two hours until I was going to pin her down and do it for her if she didn’t agree, just so I didn’t have to hear it again. Well this time she really did want it and stuck her foot out to receive my artistic esthetics. The end result – coral painted mini toes that have her absolutely over the moon.

I’ll admit it looks more than a little weird, and far too Toddlers and Tiaras (sick!) for me, but it makes her dance a little dance of excitement and pride, so I can overlook the shame I feel in giving in to this. And it’s not like it can’t come off, right? Someone please help me feel less trailer park about doing this to my 2-year-old. It was a funny little indulgence, right?

When I start buying her sparkly crowns and spray tan packages, please intervene.

December 7, 2009

What’s In That Bottle?

Disclaimer: we’re talking about boobies and the things they do. If that makes you squeamish, stop reading here.

jhan338l First off, let me say that I *heart* the Bad Moms Club, and I *heart* its founder, and her other blog. She’s very clever, witty and I love her perspective, and read every one of her posts. Recently, there was a post about breastfeeding, and more specifically about an opinion piece in the Huffington Post reviewing bad toys, and specifically a dolly that allowed children to breastfeed (which, for the record, I thought was fine, if not a little strange to look at… certainly less horrific than Baby Pole Dance).

The author makes a valid point about societal perceptions of breastfeeding but includes a few statements about the evils of the formula companies. But, ohhhh, I gotta weigh in on this one. The whole breastfeeding debate makes me squeamish, simply because it's so polarized. If you'd asked me about it before I had a child, I would have steadfastly stood on the side of breastfeeding and sworn up and down that no woman should ever have to use formula, and that it's a cop out. And then I had a baby. And then I had problems breastfeeding. And then the only thing that kept my baby healthy was formula, after countless weeks and months of crying and stressing and herbs and drugs and breastfeeding training and consultation, and finally having to let it go.

Was this my choice? No. Was it my preference? No. Do I now understand just how hard and trying and stressful it can be to feel eternally guilty that I couldn’t do what nature intended, and had to resort to the much hated and villainised formula companies for help? You betcha. However, anyone who has not gone through this hell does not get how crappy us moms feel when the world out there who breastfed with no issues (or has never had a child!) gets on soapboxes and makes us feel like bad moms because we couldn’t do what our babies needed, no matter how hard we tried. I’ve made peace with it now, and my child is healthy and thriving, but it doesn’t hurt any less to be marginalized by what we have been perceived to have decided (or, even worse, have been brainwashed into doing).

I get it, breastfeeding is best and I would encourage any new mom to try hard to get it right. I will try again with my next child, and pray I don’t have to go through the anxiety I did the first time. I know more now and can try something more creative if it doesn’t totally work out, which I could never have known the first time when everyone was so religious about one method or the other. But please realize that there may be more to a woman walking around with a bottle and formula than her giving in to the formula marketing, or just being too lazy or vain to want to breastfeed.

So, back to Her Bad Mother’s point, get your heads out of your collective backsides if you think it’s gross or offensive to breastfeed in public. There is rarely a time I’ve seen a woman letting it all hang out with abandon. For the most part, women are discreet rather than exhibitionist. The more we cringe at the idea of public breastfeeding, the more we make it hard for those women who are a bit shy about the whole thing.

Just be careful to never judge a woman who feeds her child a bottle full of formula. It may not have been her choice, and even if it was, so be it. Whether you believe formula is bad or good, it is nutrition, and has fed multiple hundreds of thousands of millions of children with no noticeable detriments to their health. Some of us haven’t had the luxury of being able to worry about the politics of the situation, we needed our babies to be fed and stop losing weight.

Quite frankly, given my memories of the first few months of newborn life, I guess I should be happy I never resorted to whiskey in that bottle instead.

Addendum: After re-reading this post, I realise it may appear that I am rebutting Her Bad Mother’s piece, which I am not. In actuality, a couple of her comments simply sparked memories of another debate, which I know we both understand well. I am supporting her assertion that society is still scared to embrace breastfeeding. The rant about formula is driven solely from my own experience and is not related to anything she said in her post.

December 4, 2009

The First Noel


This will be Version 1.0’s first Christmas. Well, the first one that she will remember and the first where she will kind of get what’s going on. I bought her a bunch of books and movies about Christmas so she can become brainwashed familiar with all the icons and imagery, stories and traditions that accompany our happiest time of the year.

So far, she has embraced it all willingly and has become quite proficient at naming all the associated niceties, such as reindeer and Christmas trees, snowmen and stockings, and Santa. Oh yes, Santa.

I am not entirely sure what Santa represents to her yet, other than possibly a man in a funny “cupping” (costume, a word left over from Halloween). She watches Dora and Boots opening presents after Santa visits, and reads stories of him making red underwear with his elves. Oh, actually, that’s the story from Daddy’s book.. uh, I think her Santa makes trains.

Regardless, she’s seen him and points him out gleefully in the store and in her books and on TV and when the neighbourhood drunk is stumbling home in the wee hours.

However, yesterday my parents came to visit and brought her a little Santa decoration with a sack, thinking she would like to put things in it (like Daddy) and carry him around. Well, for some reason, she is absolutely petrified of him. She doesn’t exactly cry when she sees him, but she gives him this very sharp sidelong glance and will heed him a wide berth in order to not get within range of whatever evil charms he seems to be emitting to her.

I tried to get her to touch him, and even hijacked some of her toys and ‘baby oranges’ (mandarins) and put them in his sack to see what she would do. Apparently, after much consideration, she’s willing to sacrifice the toys rather than touch Santa.

What ever is it that puts the fear of all things holy in her mind when she looks at Santa, I don’t understand. She’s not a winge-y kid and usually is quick to pick up anything, but I am reminded every now and then that those neuro-receptors (my own word, just call me ‘Doctor’) are still young and may be misfiring on some of the basics, like Santa being a stuffed, inanimate object (with particularly beady eyes).


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