Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Mother Load

Oh lord, I am weary.

I want to do my best in this post to articulate the struggles I am having with motherhood at the moment. Not with LB. Though LB has made me a mother, so obviously my in-the-moment overwhelmedness with motherhood is directly related to our relationship as it is becoming increasingly the norm that our mild-mannered daily tangos seem to be more often turning into tangles. She is getting older and is more and more determined to show me that she is her own person who knows best. Who knows what she wants to do. What she should do. And she doesn't want to be told what to do. Ever.

I have a friend here who has a theory that if you only have one child, you only have a yellow belt in parenting. The more kids you have, the more belt levels you move up because every child--with their own unique personalities--brings a new level of parenting experience you can add to your repertoire. I think she's very right about this.

I have a lot of friends here who only have one, and when I talk to them about what I'm going through with LB they can't seem to fathom that these issues are 'real' because they didn't experience them with their kids at her age.

"She's just little. She can't be that determined yet."

"Tantrums don't start that young."

"Little kids don't like exploring on their own. They like to be with their parents."

None of these are true of LB.

She is little. She is very determined. A friend was over on Sunday, and the only thing LB wanted to do was bang the keys on my computer. My computer was turned on for work, and it's a pain-in-the-ass to close all my programs, shut if off, turn it back on, reopen my programs, so I had it in sleep mode for the two hours I was off. Putting it away was not an option for me, and she had to respect that.

Tricks don't work on LB. She will not be distracted with another toy, she will not divert her attention to a book, or playing with you, or chasing you, or being chased, or anything.

She wants what she wants what she wants.

Period.

My friend, who has a little one who is very easy to distract, tried to see if she could flex her parenting muscle with her powers of distraction and was confident she'd succeeded. Great. I am open to learning. We all went down to LB's room to admire Dan's feat of Brio train track engineering, complete with block structures, and as we looked at it we didn't notice LB sneak out. At this point it had been 1.5 hours she'd been trying to bang on that computer. I noticed she wasn't there and told my friend, "I bet you a $100 I know where she is."

"Surely not. She wouldn't be on there. She can't be that determined."

Guess where she was?

Dogged persistence is going to be her greatest strength, I just need to teach her how to harness it, and I don't know how to do this. I am at a loss.

Yesterday was a truly awful day, complete with the most epic tantrum she's every thrown, and every single calming trick I know wouldn't work. I stepped out of her room to count to ten and collect myself, and she threw-up. To say I felt like the shittiest mom ever would be an understatement. If only I'd diffused the situation earlier. If only I'd noticed the signs. If only, if only, if only.

The blame game, it goes on and on and on.

I am going to be very, very clear here: LB is strong willed. She is not developmentally frustrated. She is not on any spectrum other than, "Parents, I will do what I want. Period." Our girl has an amazing strength of will that I don't know how to work through with her. She is not a hitter, she does not shove, she does not bite. She honestly gets along fairly well with most kids her age. When she doesn't want them near her, she will scream at them. Fair enough, it's the only way she knows how to communicate 'back-off', though we're working on 'nay' being used in those situations.

Her strength of will comes down to being absolutely against whatever instructions her dad or I give her. She wants to show us she can do it. I allow her to do this within the safe confines of certain situations. Others are non-negotiable and that's where we tangle. It's my job to give her the tools to work through her frustration, but I have no idea what tools to give her.

There were other situations that arose yesterday (all on less sleep than I've had since she was a week old) and I found myself getting short-tempered. Yelling. Mirroring her frustration.

It's very rarely I read any form of parenting literature, and it's not because I think I know best. It's because I don't want my natural instincts for my child to be secondary to anything I read that might contradict what I know is best for my child. However, last night I logged onto a blog written by a child-psychologist, whose advice I respect within certain situations. But there wasn't any solace there, last night. She wrote that children who explore with disregard to their parents' location, who won't listen, or who are reluctant to follow their parents' instructions, are not emotionally attached to their parents.

Cue the crying.

I felt. like. shit.

LB doesn't feel attached to me, is what she was saying. So I found myself tossing and turning last night, feeling like I don't know what I'm doing and that I'm failing. I got up and wrote in my journal for her. Honest in the bad-day we'd had, and honest in writing out the verbal apology I'd given her earlier. "I'm sorry that I lost my temper with you today. We were both grumpy and we weren't our best selves. We will do better tomorrow. I love you so much, tiny Sparrow. You're my girl."

And as I wrote to her, I found clarity and belief in my own self. Of course she is attached to me. I am her mom. I am the one she runs to when she is hurt. She runs up to give me kisses, just because. She rests her head on my shoulder when we read stories. I have her heart, and she has mine. And we have bad days.

And she is her own person, and she wants us to respect that. And I do, but I am her mom and her safety and her growth are my job. We will tango again, but right now we are working through the tangle.

And that's okay.

That's life. That's parenthood.

But yes, it's hard.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Generation Whoa

Last night Dan and I were chilling out and listening to some music after LB went to bed. We were listening to, what Dan proudly refers to, as Dan's Mix I. The man takes his mixed compilations very seriously, and each is a perfectly blended mix of tunes designed to invoke a mood and attitude. I was even regaled with the story of how he used to make mixed tapes: it was a multi-day process that involved exact planning and timing so that each sixty minute side of the tape was seamless; there were appropriate delays between songs, and no song was ever left unfinished at the end of Side A or Side B.

My only reaction to this was, "Oh my lord, YOU ARE SO SWISS."

My mix tapes were messy affairs, usually taken right from the radio (commercials included) and there was always one song sacrificed at the end of Side A or Side B.

So we were chilling, letting the soft wave of nostalgia sweep over us as Dan's Mix I took us right back to the 90's and our high school years. There was a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers on there, and we couldn't believe that this band used to be considered hard core. I mean damn, their music is downright peaceful and MUSICAL compared to all this new-age digitally remastered mumbo-jumbo. Now someone get me my cane so I can bang the Pandora station and decry all this garbage the youngin's are listening to these days.

"I can't believe these guys were considered out there," Dan said shaking his head.

"I know. They were the hard core druggie band of my youth; the bad influence. My god, their behaviour is like a gangly puppy compared to most artists these days."

"I bet when LB's a teen it's going to be commonplace for singers to just be shagging on stage and touching other people's nether regions."

And then I died from laughter.

SHAGGING.

NETHER REGIONS.

I didn't know that every day instead of going to work Dan secretly hopped a flight and hung out in the UK, absorbing their posh lingo and just waiting for the day when he got to use 'shagging' and 'nether regions' in a conversation.

But anyhow, back to his point.

It's a curve for sure. Remember when Christina Aguilera's 'Dirty' video caused mass outrage? Her leather chaps that revealed a lot of--to borrow a word from Dan's new lingo--her bottom, while she danced sexily in a boxing ring with other women. Then she switched into some sort of sexy-school-lady-garage-girl-outfit. My god. I saw that video a while ago, and I thought, "Hmm, she's pretty covered up. What was the big deal?" I mean Internet, she was practicing motorcycle safety: she was wearing a jacket and helmet after all. She wasn't totally throwing the impressionable youth under the wheels of the morality bus. Perhaps the most offensive thing about that video, upon recent viewing, is her bleached blond hair being striped with black streaks. Ugh. Talk about a dated hairstyle. Oh, and her chin and nose piercing. Those studs were hideous.

Where does this curve lead us for LB's teen years? Will singers just abandon any pretense for clothing and start naked and then it will be risky as years go on, and they slowly become more covered up? They're all going to be sexual animals corrupting our youth! This leaves me with no other choice than to introduce her to the smooth crooning tunes of Elvis.

Everyone knows he didn't cause any parental angst.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Just Put Us On The Cover Of Parenting Weekly

LB is in a very stubborn 'NO' phase. Or rather a very stubborn "Net" or "NAY", followed by violent head shaking, phase. I don't know where she picked up "Net" (pronounced like the Russian word for 'no'); maybe we watched too much Olympic television?

The other night Dan and I were growing weary of our questions being met with NAY, so we decided to turn it into a game for us.

A drinking game.

Yeah...

We were having spicy tacos for dinner (LB's were not spicy, obviously) so of course whenever Mexican's on the menu a cold beer is mandatory to wash it down with. Upon being asked if she wanted her milk (NAY) Dan took a sip of beer, and his eyes lit up with an idea.

"Every time she says no, we have to take a drink."

Then I cackled with delight. "Yes! Let's do it!"

"[LB], do you want some ice cream?"

"NAY."

Drink.

"Hey [LB], do you want a puppy?"

"NAAAYYYY."

Drink.

"Do you want some new books?"

[Insert side-to-side head shaking]

Drink.

"Do you want to mommy and daddy to leave you alone?"

"NAY."

Drink.

Oh toddlers. You have to do what you have to do to find the humour, you know? Incidentally we only each drank a bottle of beer.

In other words, it only took about six questions before we switched to water.

I was super hydrated that night.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Quarantine

Right now Bern seems like it's the epicentre of illness. I keep checking over my shoulder to see if Doctors Without Borders, or the WHO, or UN troops are going to storm the city in hazmat suits armed with ghostbuster packs full of liquid hand sanitiser, spraying into the ground any civilian who gets in their way.

Especially the children.

I mean good grief, children are the grossest. Drinking bathwater? Check. Trying to drink puddle water? Check. Licking the elevator buttons? Check. Licking the bus window? Check. All of this unsavoury behaviour means one thing: they are making us ill! Children are the real bacteria of the world! They aren't even invisible or anything! I can see with my own two eyes the giant germs walking around! Hell, we're even growing one in our home; feeding it, cuddling it, loving it, reading it stories, encouraging it to grow. Good lord! It's madness!

It all started a month ago when I was going about my merry day when I felt suddenly and awfully nauseous. I booked it home, and in less than an hour I went from being grand to feeling like my skin was the ickiest and everything that touched it needed to die. Couldn't I just levitate, naked, in mid-air? WHY NOT? OH WHY????

Then I got the cold sweats, had to call Dan, and put Skype on so my parents to could chat to LB while I slowly decomposed on the couch waiting for Dan to come home with chicken broth.

That night, Dan got it too.

We worshipped at the porcelain throne while or baby looked at us in confusion and wondered who these two shivering, sweaty, gross people were, and where were her parents? She wanted a snack, goddammit! And none of this bullshit prepacked stuff! Something homemade! Serves me right for trying to be a wholesome hippie.

We recovered, planned a date night, and came home to discover that our baby girl had been throwing up all night but Dan's kind aunt figured we needed the night off before our weekend got sucked up by a feverish baby. I spent the next four days trying to get my girl to drink water, eat some crackers, while cleaning up puddles of puke and...other stuff.

She recovered, I planned playdates, then I got that damn stomach flu AGAIN. 

Where's the justice?

We've been cooped up for days, so today we're venturing out, and I'll do my part for putting an end to this flu madness by making sure LB doesn't lick the hand rail in the bus...that much.