Sunday, September 30, 2012

a lil issue

I hate "lil."  I abhor "lil." 

How is it that educated, smart, perfectly literate adults in our society mockerize (note the irony) normalcy.  How in the ever-so-wonderful world did "little" become "lil" without even the benefit of an apostrophe to connote a shortened word?  HOW??

Saying anything with "lil" just sounds...foolish.  Absurd.  "We-dic-we-us" even.  (What can you say: three-year olds have some fun pronunciations sometimes.) 

And so help me, I will never, to the ever ever degree, put either of my children in any piece of clothing with "lil" on it.  "Mommy's lil cupcake" will just have to go in the donate pile.  "Daddy's lil princess" makes me gag.

Let's discuss gender issues for a moment.  Allow me to take a grand step up on my soapbox. 

When babies are born, they have no innate sense of gender, nor can they yet differentiate between genders.  They have preferences, sure, that help define their personalities.  But boys are not hardwired to only respond to masculine things; neither are girls naturally drawn to feminine things.  Gender is largely a societal construct whereupon we assign boys and girls certain colors and activities, with very little that is "gender neutral."  For whatever reason, pink emasculates boys and certain shades of blue (this is where it gets even more nutty because it's not true for all shades) in certain situations are deemed only for boys.  About 60-70 years ago, there was a definite shift in society's view of gender largely due to a popular magazine that began to delineate blue as a boy's color and pink as a girls.  Prior to that, pink was actually associated with boys and red with girls (I'm throwing this out there without fact checking, but I'm 90% sure that these are the correct color associations). 

And now, girls are far, far, too often (of course, this part is totally my opinion and fortunately one that is shared by my spouse) taught to be princess-y.  Female babies have absolutely no natural proclivity to be "drama queens" or "princesses."  Sure, females often have certain personality traits that tend be more emotional than males, and society has decided that these are the drama/princess traits.  The same goes for boys and how they handle emotion.  Yet society has so much to do with this; much of what babies learn about themselves and much of how babies learn to deal with emotions is learned.  I'm not a believer that it's all or nothing, it's not either all nature nor all nurture.  But babies are gendered by us as soon as they're born--put them in a pink hat or blue hat; give them a baby doll or a toy truck; and put sassy slogans on their clothing to show the world that she is "my lil princess" or "my lil man." 

Prior to Abby's birth, we seriously discussed how we would address certain gender issues such as these: how would we expose our daughter to gender choices?  We adamantly draw the line at teaching our daughters to be princess-y.  Our daughters have trucks and cars, balls and a train set to play with along with baby dolls and a kitchen set.  We've also, believe it or not, never bought them anything that has to do with princesses.  And (maybe this is even more of a shocker), Abby has never seen a Disney movie...not even one!  And it's not because we're anti-Disney.  It's more like we're anti-"lil."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out of the fog of insanity comes...a glimmer

Having to be the disciplinarian really, really bites sometimes.  Often.  Usually. 

I'm going to throw this one out there right away: we're not spankers.  We have talked about it and consciously made the decision to not spank our children.  Personally, I think that it would be really difficult to maintain control in an emotionally charged, heated moment to deliver a spanking in such a way that it wasn't taking frustrations out on the child or venting some anger.  And, equally importantly, we believe that spanking delivers a message to a child that I can hit but you cannot, which is confusing to a non-logical mind. 

I'll also admit that I was spanked when I was little, and I don't ever remember feeling resentment for being spanked.  And before we had children, we talked about it, and I was actually leaning towards being a spanker because of the old "Well, it worked when I was a kid..." routine. 

But I've changed my mind unequivocally.  I also keep coming back around to a piece of advice that I read in Parents magazine by another mom who was writing about struggling with the whole discipline issue.  (What parent doesn't??)  In the heat of the moment, it has served me well to think "What is she, a three-year old?!?" in the same vein as one might indignantly and rhetorically demand "What, are you blind?!?"  The answer is...yes.  She is a three-year old.  And when I remind myself of this fact, it always serves to put the issue in perspective. 

Perspective is essential.  My child goes through spurts of engaging, sweet loveability followed by spurts of provoking, infuriating frustratability.  And I hate being in the "Stop doing that...leave that alone...quit it! know that you're not allowed to..." mode.  There are those days where that's all I seem to say.  (If you happen to be reading this and don't currently have children but think that you might want to have a child some day...take note.  Seriously.  Take note.)

But, oh, how a child can push all of the right buttons.  IF ONLY a toddler had the ability to reason, how differently our conversations would go.  Instead of screaming/yelling/wailing for about 45 minutes solid when she was supposed to be resting because HEAVEN FORBID she didn't have every little thing in her room with her and I wasn't about to go searching the nooks and crannies for where she stashes or forgets things, we could have avoided an entire melt-down.  Truly, we could have!  I'm trying, really really trying, to find contentment in these moments, to enjoy the pure joy of childhood while it lasts.  And to that, I cannot do it on my own. 

We are working to embrace the idea that we cannot succeed at disciplining without God's help.  In our household, discipline often entails prayers for patience and calm, both silent and with the banshee, along with the ubiquitous apology and hug.  We utilize cool down time and go-to-a-place-where-you-can-become-happy-again.  We offer choices: you can do this job willingly with a positive attitude or you can do it screaming and we will all be miserable.  We try to impress our disappointment and not just our anger. 

And most of the time it seems as if nothing we say or do matters.  Most of the time!!  But then a breakthrough moment, sometimes just a passing flicker, happens, and I catch myself realizing that, whoa, she's getting it maybe, maybe, just a little.   

How is discipline not the epitome of insanity--doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  In fact, it is. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

I adore children's books...muchly!

Now that I'm a pseudo-stay at home mommy, for a couple of more months, I find myself taking the sprouts to the library.  About 2.5 times a week on average.  A lot.  I'm trying to take advantage as much as possible of warm weather and we get out of the house every day to do something or go somewhere.  This often means a nice long trip to the library.  Fortunately, we have 2 branches to choose from, and they're quite different from each other, so it's like 2 distinct adventures.  (Just the 3 of us going anywhere is most definitely an adventure.)  I'm all over going to the library a lot for obvious reasons.  What a great place it is: books! puzzles! fun computer games! movies! the excitement never ends!!

Both branches have pretty sweet children's collections.  Now that Abby is more self-sufficient and able to play with some puzzles or the computer by herself, I can wander through the racks seemingly at leisure and revel in the fabulous book selections.  I love children's books!  Inevitably, I have to stop myself thinking "Okay, one more...wait, I want this one, too...this has got to be the last one!"  We probably have close to 20 books checked out at a time on any given day.  Sure, they're for Abby (and now Audrey!), but really, they're for my amusement as well.  Abby likes to help choose them sometimes, but more often than not, I get full reign over the selections.  And oh, what fun it is!  The subtle humor, the slick pictures, the stories with a twist--I love them all! 

Have you thought about the social dynamics of the way that animals are inevitably portrayed?  Think about how wolves are portrayed, for example; there is a fine line between presenting these as scary and too scary.  There's all kinds of stereotypes that books teach, which is something that this momma thinks about, and sometimes tries to downplay, when she's choosing books to read. 

How much do I adore children's books?  Muchly!!  When I use words-according-to-Cox to describe something, you know it's made an impression.

And just for the record, here are some of our favorites:
Abby--Curious George (Mommy & Daddy try to temper how many of these we check out, trying to limit the onslaught to no more than 4 at a time), Berenstein Bears, Clifford, Arthur, Ella the Elephant, Big Chickens, and pretty much anything having to do with Halloween.

Mommy--the pigeon books, rhyming books with a jazzy rhythm (how else do I categorize these?) like Blueberry Mouse and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, animal books, and books teaching peace and environmental consciousness.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

my comfort level has changed

Bearing and caring for a child will change a person.  Obviously.  For example, pre-first born, I remember feeling

1.  dread at having to change diapers and
2.  a severe aversion to puke.


1.  changing diapers is absolutely NO BIG DEAL to the point that we use cloth diapers and I load them into the washing machine with my bare hands often, but not always, and
2.  puke is still disgusting (but my definite fear and concern for my child trumps my disgust).

But my favorite as of late is feeding my child in public.  And I'm going to throw this out there and PROUDLY declare that I breastfed Abby and am currently breastfeeding Audrey.  With Abby, it was usually easy enough to avoid having to be out in public during any feeding time, but now we're more often on a toddler's schedule than a newborn's (they're fantastically resilient beings as long as there is some semblance of a schedule), which inevitably means that I'm feeding my youngest little soul quite often, according to my standards, in public.  FACT: it is Indiana state law that you are allowed to breastfeed anywhere in public that you are legally allowed to be.  I keep reminding myself of this as I find myself in awkward or random places. 

I still don't enjoy it but have rather resigned myself to the obviousness of what I'm doing.  I'm still that much of a prude as to not be able to just blatantly do it anywhere.  But then again, after reading through the list of places that I have already in only 12 weeks breastfed Audrey in public, you might think that I'm lying in the previous sentence.  Apparently, I will do it anywhere.  But I'm not thrilled about it!!  (To clarify--the "it," which is overtly ambiguous refers to breastfeeding in public not  breastfeeding in general, which I greatly enjoy at home, in my recliner, without people nearby.)

This post has been several weeks in the making (it's hard to find some alone time with the laptop in order to type up new posts; it actually takes some concerted scheduling), but it's okay because I just have more to add since I originally thought about it.

My current list of PLACES THAT I HAVE BREASTFED MY CURRENT INFANT IN PUBLIC, as much as I can remember at least.

1.  my favorite and the inspiration for this list: the gas station at Meijer (at the pump), while the husband was getting gas and then taking eldest daughter to get a snack...multi-tasking
2.  the Indiana State Fair (twice), but at the lactation station, which disturbingly to me was nothing more than a see-through (i.e. "ventilated") tent right on a main drag with scads of people walking by and looking in...this discomfort was alleviated partially by the cushy digs inside the tent complete with rocking chairs, a changing pad, and cold water for the moms
3.  a random gas station parking lot in Hartford City (not at the gas pump)
4.  on a park bench at Foster Park in Kokomo, IN beside an outdoor concert shell where a handful of big burly guys were unloading sound equipment for a concert coming up
5.  at the Mom's Meeting that I go to every week...this one actually isn't weird because it's all mom with children 1 year or younger and lots of women are also breastfeeding while there and many don't cover up
6.  at my friend's house during a play date for our older children, but again, not really weird because she has a newborn as well and reciprocated the task
7.  at my parents' house where my oldest opened the door with my dad right behind her
8.  in the nursery at our church with the chair facing the windows which are right beside the main door--I've discovered that no one looks in these windows whereas everyone looks in the windows to the door of the nursery
9.  in the lounge at the church where Abby is attending pre-school (which isn't my church)
10.  in an air-conditioned RV at my husband's aunt's house during a family reunion...this was actually pretty sweet and private digs!
11.  in the parking lot of the rest station between highway 26 and the exit for Muncie on interstate 69, facing the interstate

In case you were wondering, my favorite weird place that I breastfed Abby in public was the dressing room at Kohl's.  But every time I drive by the Chocolate Moose in Farmland (a couple of times a year), I think about feeding Abby parked along the side of the road while the others were eating dinner inside.  And when we drive by the rest station heading north on 69 between Gas City and Ft. Wayne (every time I go to my parents'), I always think about the time that I fed Abby when she was a baby, and for some reason we were driving our 2-door Accord.  That's a tight fit.