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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Patience and Boxing

“Keep it up and I’ll box your ears.”

I can’t remember a time when my mom actually followed through on this threat, yet I can almost feel the thwack, the blood rushing to my head as the air pressure inside my ears increases ten fold, the involuntary shudder and urge to punch back that comes with it.  Gahhhh!

Aside from perhaps stepping on a plug, there are very few other things that can simultaneously deliver such a combination of pain and humiliation.  So yeah, the memory of the feeling is as clear as day despite no recollection of ever actually having my ears boxed.

That is until recently.

When my daughter started doing it.

Holy lord, it’s infuriating. Perhaps it was passed down somehow, along with eye color and being able to raise one eyebrow. I’ve certainly never even thought of using it as a threat much less acting on it. Yet, this little menace, when things aren’t going quite the way she wants, will square her shoulders, look me in the eye, cock back both arms and let fly, wacking both my ears.  Quite often my glasses end up wonky, adding yet more insult to injury. After the impact, I stand there as calmly as possible, sometimes shaking my head, sometimes counting to ten, sometimes shouting that she needs to cut it out, asking why on earth she thought that was the right thing to do. (Yes, I hate it and always feel immediately guilty when that happens but somedays….oh somedays….)

I know, I know. It’s a phase. Not every kid goes through it, but most have some sort of behaviour that we have to tolerate while trying to teach them that hitting, pinching, biting, etc. are wrong.  This has not made it any easier. Okay, admittedly there is a bit of difference in knowing this is part of her development as a person and not that, despite my best efforts, she’s turned into some sort of demon child.  While I wrack my brain, trying to think of ways to quell her frustration, explain situations, give her alternatives, she seems remarkably calm about the whole thing. So far she seems relatively unphased by my explanations that  “hand are not for hitting” and the jury is still out whether time outs are even sinking in as a consequence for her actions yet.  My only consolation is that she seems to somewhat grasp that hitting is wrong and reserves it for me and, on rare occasions, her Dad.  Supposedly this is some show of trust but sometimes I swear I see a glint in her eye and think she’s taking advantage of an easy target, paying me back for not cuddling her enough as a newborn. 

Seriously though, I’ll take this over her terrorizing other children or her key workers at nursery.  So far so good.

So let’s say, by some magic of patience and perseverance, I find a way to teach her right from wrong. How long do I have before I can tell her to put her toys away without getting wacked up the side of my head?  How long until my little girl stops throwing her food across the room to signal the end of dinner DESPITE being able to say all done for several months now?  I’ve actually stopped believing most of the theories but some books and friends have been just helpful enough that I continue to hold out hope for the best. 

Every day is a struggle but someone always has a prediction I cling to.

        When she was born they told me six weeks, then it’s okay.
        Then it was “it’s more like 8 weeks”
        Then 12.
        Then 6 months.  “Oh, they are just lovely at 6 months,” I heard.
       “Wait till they’re walking”
       “Wait till they’re talking”
        Now it’s “you think this is bad, wait till she’s 2.”
       “No way, that’s nothing. Three is way worse than two.”

I saw a tweet where someone had said once you make it through three, four is a dream.  This is what I’m holding on to.  Four years old.  That’s just around the corner. 

Until then, I think I might have to start wearing a helmet.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

This Working Mom's Guilt

Yesterday, after spending a little too long on everyone’s favourite social network followed by watching the news, I had an attack of mom guilt of monstrous proportions.  

How could I have possibly taken my baby from her protective little home when she was so young and thrust her in such an environment as a public nursery?!?!   

I went to bed feeling like a bad bad mom.


There was a time, long long ago, when kids weren’t even on the radar (in fact I was certain I wouldn’t have any), when my career was my life.  I worked long hours, leaving my desk just in time to catch the last train home.  What little free time I had was often spent at lectures, filling in paperwork, studying for additional exams, and adding to my portfolio, all in the quest of success. 

As is often the case, my priorities changed and work became part of what I did but was no longer the only way to define me.  Despite those changes and as sad as I am to say it, I still do equate my self worth with my success in the working world.  This combined with a bit of number crunching meant that when we decided to start a family, I knew I would return to work. 

That said, when the time came to put little miss into nursery, I wasn’t ready.  I had just begun to come out of the numbness of postnatal depression and was desperate to get in some much needed bonding with my daughter, worried she’d connect with her key worker before she did with me.  This was made even harder by the fact that, because of the recent and all too familiar economic downturn, I had no job to return to.  I used the nursery time to job hunt but it did not lesson my guilt.  It was a bit easier once I had a job to go to but it still felt like I was abandoning her and completely failing in my primary duty as a mother.

My daughter, on the other hand, thrived from day one. Sure, she has brought home her share of fevers and stomach bugs, but she’s a real trooper when it comes to being sick, taking even that in her stride.  She often comes home covered in paint or shimmering with glitter, sometimes in her spare change of clothes, the ones she went in sopping wet from water or some other sort of messy play.  She’s made friends and has learned so many skills we could only hope to expose her to if she wasn’t in that environment. She has a learning journal that is bursting with info already.  I’ve watched my baby become a little girl and I know a lot of that is down to that place she goes to a few times a week.

Still, there are days when she clings to one of us at drop off or refuses to hug me good bye that my heart breaks and I wonder if perhaps I should find a way to be home with her.  There are other days when I feel under-appreciated at work and struggle to justify the valuable time I’m missing with my daughter for what is essentially a shadow of what I used to do.  These days are tough and leave me guilt ridden but most of the time the bouncy giggly child that I meet at pick-up reminds that she’s doing just fine.

This week we increased her days at nursery. She didn’t want to go yesterday and it seemed as the world was telling me I’d made a wrong choice.  I wondered where I’d gone wrong, how I could fix it, how much had I scarred her already.  Thankfully that feeling didn’t last.  In today’s light, I remember that we explored various options and we know this place is a good fit, for her and for us.


This morning Little Miss couldn’t get into nursery and begin playing fast enough. Even with our new schedule, she still gets one whole day with Daddy and one whole day with me.  That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. 

***PS. On the subject of Good Mom/Bad Mom, did you see this on Postpartum Progress last week? 

I've read it everytime I've had a week moment.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tossing my Security Blanket

A few weeks ago, I packed a small carry-on for the three of us and we went on a short, unplanned trip to visit relatives. Since then, life has been a whirlwind of emotions, busy schedules, big changes, usual life stresses, and a few ‘not so usual’ stresses thrown in there too.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, my husband and I have just stepped around that carry-on, leaving it where it had dropped the day we got home. It didn’t get fully unpacked until last night. Other than cluttering up a relatively compact living space, it was relatively inconsequential. 

There is, however, one very significant item that stayed unused in that bag.

The baby monitor.

Otherwise known as my security blanket.

 When I brought my baby home I was sure she was going to die if I didn’t stay up all night watching her breathe.  I was thankful for her little floppy windpipe, rattling with each little breath.  It saved me from having to lean over her in the middle of the night to make sure she was okay.

When she was napping, I carried the monitor from room to room, petrified I might miss her crying and leave her on her own for a moment too long. I learned what the flicker of the monitor lights meant so if I had to, I could judge between idle chat and a cry of distress without hearing the slightest peep. I spent every waking moment watching her and connecting each movement, each reaction, with the sounds she made.  By the time she began to spend nights in her own room, I knew every normal shuffle and shift. I didn’t need to get up and check on her unless a new sound came out of the speaker.

So as a small part of her independence began, she had no idea that I never slept soundly, afraid I might miss something if I drifted off too deeply. The monitor was permanently turned up to eleven so I wouldn’t miss a sound.  It took me over a year before I could confidently take a shower as she napped without having to periodically open the shower door to watch the monitor’s lights flicker.

My little lady was over a year old when I somehow managed to drop my security blanket the monitor into the glass of water on my bedside table.  It was just the perfect dimensions – small enough to fit in but large enough so wrapping my fingers around it was nearly impossible. It bobbed up and down as I desperately tried to fish it out.  When I finally did rescue it, it wouldn’t turn on. I took it as a sign that perhaps I should let go and realize she’d be fine in another room without something amplifying and broadcasting her every sound to me.  I didn’t sleep at all that night, laying there and listening for a muffled cry that I might miss or a cough that hadn’t been detected.  I tried the monitor again the following night and it worked so on it went.

My daughter was almost 18 months when we travelled to Canada. I felt pathetic for having to ask if I could borrow one.  It seemed even more ridiculous that I might get an adapter and add yet another thing to our stuffed luggage just to quell this ongoing irrational anxiety. I was fed up with feeling like a slave to this stupid little speaker anyway.  My daughter is strong, has a set of lungs on her, and knows how to call for us from another room. I managed the week without it and vowed to unplug the monitor when we returned home.

I couldn’t do it.

 The thought of it made me physically sick.  Pathetic as I knew it was, I continued to turn the monitor on when she wasn’t in the room with me. (Yes, sometimes even when she was playing in her room on her own)

When I come up against any of my triggers (homesickness, money worries, and grief are my big three), more often than not it manifests itself as anxiety. This translates into a horrendous sense of foreboding and a feeling of almost certainty that tremendous harm or even death is lurking just around the corner for my little girl.  My desire to keep her in my clutches at all times contradicts my biggest desire of keeping her confident and independent so I do everything in my power to remind myself that it’s the depression talking and she will be okay.  

Sometimes the ppd demons win. When they do, I give my daughter extra cuddles, which she usually tries to squirm away from to get back to playing. That’s okay with me. It’s kind of the way I want it. 

I’ve had a tough few weeks and anxiety has reared its ugly head on more than one occasion.

In the midst of it all, the monitor stayed packed away, I’ve managed to sleep at night....and I’ve been there each and every time my little girl has cried out for me as well.

It’s all about the baby steps, and frankly this is practically a leap in my book.

Good night my baby.  I’ll hear you if you need me.