brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We were at the playground the other day and one of the kids there… well. He’s a bit of a dick. He’s 7 or so and enough of a bully that the other kids have completely turned on him. It came to a fever pitch a few weeks ago when every single kid on the playground (maybe 10?) cornered him, chanting a name-rhyming-taunt. His behavior hasn’t improved since then, and has included stealing Niko’s shoes, shoving him down, and slapping him on the back of the head in passing. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that 1) his mom doesn’t do ANYTHING about his behavior other than mild “now now, CHILD’S NAME, that’s not how we act” (when, uh, obviously it is?) and 2) Niko gets along with that kid’s younger sister and likes playing with her.

So anyway, most recent playground outing, those two kids were there with one of their babysitters (and their babysitters are much more hands on and disciplinarian than either of their parents) and Older Kid was being a real terror including chasing people around and kicking them. Like, kicking them in the chest/arms, aiming for their heads. Babysitter pulls him aside and starts trying to reason with him. “You shouldn’t kick and hit your friends!” “Oh, it’s ok, he’s not my friend.” “So you were just… you were just attacking him? Child’s Name, that is NOT right.”

It was at this point that Niko butted in, all concerned.

“You know, Child’s Name, if you weren’t so HORRIBLE all the time, maybe everybody wouldn’t HATE YOU.”

While true, that’s not really an appropriate thing to say, you know?

Later on, that child tried to join in an impromptu soccer game. The other kids ignored him entirely as he chased them around, tried to hog the ball, and bragged about how long he’d been playing soccer on a team (again, he’s S E V E N, it’s not like he can possibly have been playing THAT LONG), eventually breaking down in tears when everybody managed to keep the ball from him. Every single kid in the group was one he’d physically harmed that day, as best as I can tell with no provocation whatever.

It’s kind of hard to watch. It’s like watching someone repeatedly bashing their head against a brick wall trying to get through the wall when there’s a door right there. Unlocked. Not even fully closed. Just push it open. I don’t know why he acts the way he does… is he acting out? Terrible at reading social cues? Ignorant? A massive entitled jerk? He’s in a Gifted school, so at the very least he… uh. Takes standardized tests well. I just don’t get it. And it’s hard to watch my kid deal with that, with him, with this out of nowhere aggressive and hurtful behavior. He wants to teach that kid how to be friendly and have friends and get along with everyone and I don’t think there’s any seven year old on earth eager to take social lessons from a five year old who insists his REAL name is Raptor because he has TOE CLAWS and IS A RAPTOR, DUH.

WELL THANK GOD I HAVE ALL THE PARENTING ANSWERS AND MY CHILD IS PERFECT, AT LEAST.

In other news, we’re finally repainting Niko’s room over the holiday weekend. We have all the paint and supplies, including spackle. We’d been putting this off because we want to gut his room, upgrade the wiring, and install soundproof insulation and possibly refinish his floor but… if we wait until we have the money and time to do ALL THAT it will never get done. So we’re going to screw the wall back to the stud where it’s pulling away (yaaaay hundred old buildings wooooooo), spackle everything up, and slap some paint on. It’ll look a lot nicer when it’s done.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Jason Good has a blog post about reasons his 3 year old is flipping out, and it’s pretty funny. It digs right into just how irrational little kids are, how confusing and overwhelming the world can be for them and how confusing and overwhelming they can be for their parents/caregivers. I like his blog. He’s obviously an involved and loving parent who knows his kids well and is able to put a humorous yet understanding spin on daily life. So when I first saw links to a tumblr about why a kid is crying I assumed it was a link to his site. It wasn’t. Instead, it’s a collection of photos of a crying 2 or 3 year old with a caption as to why he’s crying. The kid cries a lot, apparently. And the kid’s parent takes time to photograph the kid while crying and note down why he’s crying (milk’s in the wrong color cup, a piece of cheese is the wrong shape, etc). There’s a lot of people who think it’s really funny.

I don’t.

It’s really, really hard being a kid– especially a young kid. A really little kid flips out when his cheese is the wrong shape or her milk’s in the wrong cup because 1) that means it’s just plain WRONG and/or 2) that’s one thing in a huge world they have control over and now they’ve lost that control. Good’s blog post feels empathic. It reads as a guy who understands that it’s hard to be a little kid, and that it can be frustrating to be the parent of a little kid, but if you step back you can see the humor in the situation. The tumblr feels… I don’t know. My mind lights on words like “cruel” and “predatory” but I don’t think that’s quite it. Friends of mine suggest it’s something that was designed to go viral and sure enough, the creator and his family were on TV concerning it. But what’s the difference between Good’s blog post and the tumblr?

I think the biggest thing is that Good put in effort after the fact to list reasons his kid was flipping out and the sheer number, and ridiculousness of them, builds and is funny. And a lot of stuff he talks about were things he was doing with his kid, interacting with his kid. The tumblr is quick snapshots of a kid that already looks stressed out accompanied by one-sentence descriptions. It feels like the tumblr author prioritizes taking a photo of his kid in crises to helping his kid in crises solve the problem. Good talks about his kid, the tumblr author complains about his kid.

And, you know, sometimes parents and caregivers need to vent. Kids can be frustrating, challenging, hard work. And when parents and caregivers complain they’re frequently abused for doing so, especially if they’re women. (In fact, one friend of mine asked if the tumblr would be as popular if it were a mom writing it; dads get way more leeway to be less than saints. I think it’d fly as long as she was white, affluent, and joked about how much wine she drinks. Several “mommybloggers” fitting that description landed book deals based on their HILARZ discussions of alcoholic parenting, then checked into rehab. That really wouldn’t have worked for them if they weren’t a certain type.) So I’m all for finding and creating safe spaces to vent, to unload, to ask for help. But that really doesn’t feel like it’s what’s happening.

In my experience, which is fairly limited to my own relatively laid back 4 year old and some babysitting (age ranges from 1 1/2-7 years old) most freak outs can be nipped in the bud by remembering HALT. Is the kid Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? If your kid (or adult) starts getting on edge and acting brittle, look at the circumstances. When did they last eat? Do they need to calm down and sleep? Do they need attention? Are they angry/frustrated and need to express that and then calm down before proceeding? For really little kids, also check to see if they need to use the bathroom or are generally over whelmed. Being mindful of your kid’s needs can go a long way toward creating a smoother life for everyone involved. This isn’t some magic bullet that will solve all your problems, obviously.

It’s also important to remember that little kids don’t have adult brains. If they ask for a piece of cheese and you give them the “wrong” shape of cheese? That is not what they asked for. Until they make certain synaptic connections, they cannot translate that. It’s not possible. Their brains are growing, and they aren’t just increasing in size they’re increasing connections and the ability to make deductions. They have very little control over their lives, so cling to what they CAN control: what color cup they use, what shirt they wear. They are just learning new skills and get frustrated easily because what they WANT to do is so much harder than it should be because they are still learning how to do it. When little kids flip out, it’s because they can’t cope with the world at the moment. Part of maturing is learning to cope with it, even when frustrating… and part of parenting is teaching kids how to cope with a frustrating world.

Or you could take photos of your sobbing child and post it to tumblr, I guess.

Edited to add:
I was talking about this with a couple other people and more than one person compared it (negatively) to The Honest Toddler. Good and THT both discuss parenting and specific child-centered situations, and tend to poke fun at adults, parents, and specific styles of parenting (generally affluent, privileged parenting) while the tumblr pokes fun at a kid… a kid who’s defenseless at the moment. Instead of holding the powerful up to scrutiny, it holds the defenseless up. It’s a bit exploitative. And it bothers me that there’s just this constant string of negative photos of a little kid having problems.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s full name is Nikola, and this is for a number of reasons. It’s a straight up traditional name in Nesko’s culture, it’s a family name, their Slava is St Nikolaus, and of course there’s Nikola Tesla. It’s also apparently A REALLY FUCKING COMMON NAME and when we go to, say, Nesko’s cousin’s Slava and their friends and cousins are there, there’s always other kids named Nikola/Niko. I haven’t encountered any called Nikatz or Nano, both of which are nicknames we use more frequently, though. but I’m sure we will. So I’ve started expecting Nikolas/Nikos at family gatherings, but I’m still surprised when I encounter a Nikola/Niko in the wild.

We ran into one at Wagner Farm last weekend.

Let me back up.

Historic Wagner Farm is a little slice of history in Glenview, IL. Nesko’s bosses are Rotary Club members, and for the past 3 years they’ve had fund raisers at Wagner Farm that includes a hayride, ice cream, and this year face painting. This is the third year we’ve gone, and it’s a lot of fun. Niko enjoys running around, he likes watching the cows and horses and talking about their poop, he likes looking for the barn cats, and he thinks the chickens are super cute and he wants to take them home. And of course he likes eating the ice cream. Who doesn’t? (me, I don’t. ooooh, lactose intolerance. i want to love you again, ice cream, I do. you’re just… not worth it.) There’s a building with bathrooms and a gift shop and some edutainment museum-ish displays and the ice cream parlor. One of the interactive displays is supposed to be about chicken eggs and collecting and sorting them and candling them, but every time we’ve been it’s just a frenzy of kids grabbing eggs and dumping them down the chute and grabbing more eggs and EGGS EGGS EGGS OH GOD THERE’S EGGS AND BASKETS AAHHHHHHHHHH BEST THING EVERRRRRRRRRR! While Niko was taking part in the eggs and basket frenzy, I heard another woman reminding Niko to play nice and share and not grab. Basically, I’d open my mouth to remind Niko to not be a dick, and then this other woman would say exactly what I was going to say! DUN DUN DUNNNNNN! As it turns out, she has a 3 year old named Nikola also.

I guess it’s just a popular name.

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Horror Show

Monday, 18 June 2012 10:15
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Someone I know is 1) pregnant and 2) young looking, so the cavalcade of advice has begun with complete strangers assuming she’s a first time mom In For It. Young people need extra advice, right? ALL THE ADVICE. And also, because her particular adventure involves pregnancy, ALL THE HORROR STORIES. See, there’s this thing. When you take up rock climbing, people don’t regale you with stories of climbers who’ve had to chew off their own limbs to escape being trapped. When you take up running and are about to do your first 5K, people don’t normally regale you with stories about Hitting The Wall and how they turned into fountains of diarrhea and vomit during THEIR first 5K. When you get your first car, people don’t casually mention every single flaming 50 car pile up in the history of ever. But when you’re pregnant, everyone comes out of the woodwork to tell you all about how they were in labor for a month straight and their episiotomy when from their bully buttons to the small of their backs and how their uteruses fell out and now they have to cram it back up with a pessary every time they sneeze. So what’s up with that?

I think it’s a few things.

First, I think it’s that women rarely get to share their stories and have them appreciated. Although women are stereotypically considered more talkative than men, better at communicating and using words, their words are still given little value. Especially when what they are talking about is considered in the female sphere, like getting pregnant and giving birth. Ew, vaginas! How gross! Don’t talk about that ever again!! Right? Even among bloggers, female-identified people who blog about parenting are called ‘mommy bloggers’ while male-identified people who blog about parenting are called not ‘daddy bloggers’ but ‘dad bloggers’ or ‘parenting bloggers.” Mom. Mommy. It’s the little dings like that which really enforce whose words are given credence, given weight. So people who have been pregnant are eager to share their pregnancy stories with other people who are pregnant because here! Someone who will listen! Someone who will APPRECIATE a good vomit rocketing out of the bedpan onto the wall story!

Second, I think it’s also a way of saying “you’ll be ok.” As in, “I was in labor for forty-seven million hours and my uterus shattered into a hundred pieces and I lost ALL OF MY BLOOD and my legs fell off and I survived this and you will too. I shit myself in front of everyone, but I’m still here and so is my kid. YOU WILL BE OK.” It’s a way of saying that child birth, frankly, sucks. Pregnancy sucks. But most people survive it. It can be awful! But also survivable! And at the end you have a kid. And other people who’ve been pregnant know a lot of what you’ve gone through and are going through and will go through and you aren’t alone.

Third, of course, is that people are awful and just like talking about Shit That’s Happened To Them. Because PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

So if/when you have people lining up to tell you about how TRAUMATIC and TERRIBLE their birth experience was (or how they couldn’t stop puking while pregnant and lost 30 pounds and had to have several IVs to prevent death or whatever) don’t take it personally. They’re bringing a lot of their own baggage to the table. And you? You’ll do fine and will rack up your own stories to torment other people with. Or keep to yourself, depending on how you play.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

What is playground etiquette for making new parent friends that you meet at the playground or other public places?

I am a bit, how you say, “incredibly socially awkward and highly anxious in new situations” and go into public places assuming that other people will think I am a fool and hate me forever because I have something stuck between my teeth and I say nonsensical things and probably have food spattered on me or something. HAH FUN TIMES! THANKS, BRAIN! yet I blog, putting myself out in public, and I’ve enjoyed every retail job I’ve had because I enjoy the disposable human interaction of retail work.  Go figure.

I took Niko to the park the other day, and there was a woman with a FANTASTIC brown corduroy jacket and two adorable kids. I mention her jacket because she, like me, is Very Fat and so in theory I could also wear a brown corduroy jacket. We seemed to have similar taste within the stringent bounds of what clothing is available to fat women. And her boy was maybe a year older than Niko and very gregarious. (her other child was about a year younger, I think, and wow is there a vaster difference between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 than there is between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 or 4) He and Niko played together a bit, in between Niko running laps around the playground while roaring (he had juuuuuuuust a bit of pent up energy to get rid of), and he tried to play tag with Niko. He touched him gently and said “Tag! You’re it!” and then they ran off together. Niko has no idea what tag is, but he enjoyed the running and he climbed on things… at one point Older Child climbed on something that was not play structure and Niko gazed up at him admiringly and Older Child said “Here! Take my hand!” and my heart burst into ONE MILLION TINY ADORING PIECES BECAUSE OH GOD HOW CUTE WAS THAT. So cute it forced me to use ALL CAPS.

Anyway, I would have loved to try being friends with that other stylish lady and have our kids get together, but how does one broach that topic of conversation without sounding like an immense loser who has no friends? I should note that if someone approached ME with the question I wouldn’t assume they were immense losers with  no friends but hello! Crazybrain activity going on!

I’ve thought about making cards that have my name, Niko’s name, and my email address on them that I can hand out to people as like calling cards or something. Would that be over the top? Or would it seem “Type A” somehow? I am actually very lazy, indolent even, in my personal life so I don’t want to give an impression of a bustling, over-involved nature. Would it be weird? Should I put my blog address on there, or would it scare people away?

I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE ADULTHOOD APPARENTLY.

But it was nice talking with another adult about our kids and how they are weirdly obsessed with rocks, sticks, and trains; it was nice that Niko was interacting with another child instead of just adults.

I imagine things will be different when he’s in pre-K next year, and it will feel more natural and logical to introduce myself to a bunch of strangers to be parent friends with. We’ve talked about enrolling Niko in some kind of toddler class, but we can’t afford any of them so that’s out. Most of the stay at home parenting groups are not in my area and would be difficult or impossible to get to as I don’t drive… and some of them charge fees, too, which is like… whaaaaaat? I just want to sit in someone’s living room while our kids wreck things together, you know?

I should start grabbing free museum passes from our library branch and taking Niko more places before the snow falls and locks us inside for 4 or more months, I guess.

How do you meet new parent friends/how did you meet the parent friends you have? Are calling cards weird? Does anyone know any nerdy parents of toddlers in northern Chicago I can glom on to? How do you feel if parents try to “pick you up” in public places? HIT ME UP WITH ADVICE PEOPLE, I AM IN NEED.

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Questions

Monday, 24 October 2011 15:47
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko has a bedding set with a licensed character set, Thomas And Friends. They were part of the “please please please sleep in your own bed FOR THE LOVE OF GOD stop kicking me all night” incentive when we got his twin bed set up in his room. And he’d refer to it as his “new bed” and his “little bed” and talk excitedly about his “Thomas sheets” but until recently he showed no interest in SLEEPING in that bed. He’d sit on it, he’d play in it, he’d drag the comforter off and roll around on the floor in it, but sleeping? Not so much.

Well, that has all changed (knock on wood)! Which means nobody kicks me all night, or pulls my hair, or scrapes their toenails all over my stomach/thighs while trying to warm their feet under my body. It also means I now have two beds to make every day.

When I make his bed, I put the top sheet on the bed upside down, then the comforter. Then I turn both back, so that the front side of the sheet, the “right” side of the sheet, is facing out. I do this when I make our bed, too. Years ago, when I was a little kid, a babysitter did that and I liked it and have been doing it ever since. But the other day I remembered more about the circumstances surrounding that little lesson, in a very visceral way.

Said babysitter lived down the street from us, and my mom paid her to babysit me and my brothers. She had two kids of her own, both younger than us. Even though she was getting paid to watch (and feed) us, she expected me to do housework for her, including dishes and picking up after her kids and making beds. When she provided us with food we didn’t like, she would literally shove food into our mouths, pinch our noses shut, and hold our jaws closed while we chewed and swallowed. She wouldn’t let go until we did so, which meant we couldn’t BREATHE until we did so. Which might just explain some of my issues with food, IDK. She was a screamer, and a slapper.

She took me to task for making the beds “wrong” once, and when I asked WHY she put the flat sheets on upside down she dressed me down for my stupidity in not knowing the “right” way to make a bed. Our sheets at home were cheap solid colored cotton, there was no right or wrong face to them unless you scrutinized the hem or something. Her sheets, even the plain ones, were far more upscale, with fancy hemming and binding. She came from money, you see, and married a poor dude out of love (he worked construction, he wasn’t what most people would consider poor; her wealthy parents gave her shit for marrying “beneath” her and both talked down to her all the time but also gave her gifts of money and jewelry), so there was a definite element of class to her dressing-down of me. But the biggest thing, and this was actually a theme amongst adults in positions of caregiving and teaching in my life, is that she went out of her way to make me feel stupid and wrong for asking a question.

I quickly learned not to ask questions because if I did, I would be shamed and ridiculed in public for not KNOWING. Don’t know where my seat is? Or the bathroom? Or how to do a math problem the class learned the year before, when I was in a different school? Don’t know the words to a song everyone else learned when I was absent? Don’t know someone’s name, or title, or how to get someplace? Don’t know what a food is called? Try to pick it up from context, and fake it, because otherwise? Someone will call. you. out. in the most mortifying way possible and that person? Will be an authority figure setting the tone for everyone else, every peer, in their interactions with you.

My childhood was incredibly stressful (and FUCKED UP), in so many different ways.

I so don’t want that for Niko. He asks questions and I try to answer them as fully as possible. He isn’t in the chain-of-whys phase, but he is interested in his world and what he sees and hears and experiences. And we ask HIM questions as well (do cows eat grass? do chickens? do cats? do goats?) and talk about the answers. I want him to be comfortable questioning his world, his adults, his peers, his assumptions. I know too many people who had that beaten out of them early.

 

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I was going to do 5 parenting blogs that I read regularly, but as I was combing through my fairly large list I felt bad about stopping at just 5. So here’s 10 for you, which is twice the work I was originally going to do, but I love you, so enjoy. This… is how I cater parties I throw, too. It’s why my fridge is full of leftovers. Why just make a cake when I can also make cupcakes (in a different flavor), and a pie, and some apples with caramel dip, oh and I haven’t made brownies in a while! What I’m saying is, I like to feed people both food and weblinks. So enjoy.

  • Bebehblog is a supercute blog crammed full of parenting stuff, adorable toddler/baby antics (oh crap! she has two babies! SHE IS OUTNUMBERED), craft stuff, recipes, and joyful celebrations of veggies and how awesome they taste. She is a superstar who, unlike SOME PEOPLE (coughmecough) updates really regularly and consistently and has a general high level of quality.
  • Blue Milk is blogging from Australia, someplace I’d LOVE to return to someday. She’s a feminist parent of two who talks about not being married to her partner, child raising, feminist issues, social justice stuff, and Australian politics. Not in that order. In addition to sharp, incisive writing she also posts photos of going to the beach when it’s cold as fuck and winter where I’m at, so that’s a nice break in the day and a reminder that the sun will eventually return.
  • BabyBabyLemon is pretty much always entertaining. A bonus puller-inner for me is the fact that her kid is about the same age as my kid. Also, they live someplace warm so I get total envy in the winter and then get smug in the summer when it’s not as hot here as it is there (except for this summer which sucked several kinds of ass, what the hell Chicago). She posts a lot and somehow manages to make them all quality. HOW DO THESE PEOPLE DO IT. I have no idea.
  • Tiffany Ard is an artist who is married to an artist (silversmith) who is homeschooling two of the most awesome kids on the planet. Also: they have a dog. She’s smart and funny and super creative and I want to sit in on the classes she teaches. She and her husband sell a lot of prints and posters suitable for both kids AND adults if you are kind of nerdy and like science.
  • Love That Max is primarily about celebrating Max, who has cerebral palsy and likes spaghetti and car washes and the color purple, but also is about celebrating his sister Sabrina and about navigating the world of having a kid with special needs… AND about navigating the world of having a kid WITHOUT special needs. This is one of those blogs that is virtually always thought provoking and often helpful, and has really great writing. Check it out!
  • Mutant Supermodel is a single parent raising 3 kids while working a full time job and crocheting and promoting community among single moms online and wow, the list just doesn’t stop, does it? Check out her long, insightful posts about parenting, singleparenting, finance, and crafting. And other things.
  • Swistle gave me the most genius idea ever, involving birthday parties and how to limit them. She’s actually full of a lot of ideas, especially about baby names.
  • Tin Roof, Rusted is a blog by another Chicagoan, which alone should be enough to recommend it. One of the saddest points in my life was when I realized Leah lived like a handful of blocks from me… and was moving north. BOO. Well. She probably would have found me boring or outre or something anyway. Maybe it’s just as well. I can confine my social ineptness to the internet and she’ll never see that sometimes I wear pants with giant holes in the backpockets like it ain’t no thing. Except now I’ve mentioned it and she reads my blog so she knows. Let me dig this hole a little bit deeper. Anyway, she has a gorgeous toddler and an adorable infant and she works full time, which most parent bloggers I read don’t. So where does she find time to blog also? I have no idea, but possibly gnomes are involved somehow. She’s also very crafty and clever and funny and OH GOD WHY DID YOU MOVE WE COULD HAVE BEEN BFFS FOREVER. (probably a lie) (oh god how desperate am I)
  • Uppercase Woman is possibly the most popular blog I’m mentioning here, and also is like weirdly super hated on the internet a lot, which is super weird. SUPER. WEIRD. Like, I can kind of see backlash against Dooce because she makes more money than god, and against the Pioneer Woman because she was an affluent woman who married Wealth and paid a bunch of people to get her bloggery off the ground and her recipes are kind of mediocre and her photos suck but hey! But Cecily? She’s just a woman with opinions, who used to be a drug addict… oh. I see. She’s not perfect. Well! She’s an entertaining and thought provoking writer and I often disagree very much with what she says… but I also agree with other stuff she says. You might like her! Give her a try! She has a cute kid.
  • When The Flames Go Up is a parenting blog written by two people who used to be married and then got divorced and now are co-parenting as divorced people. Does that sound potentially awkward to you? It sure does to me! It’s really interesting to see how two people who had a fairly rancorous divorce are handling co-parenting their kids in the most healthy way they can. Moxie and Laid Off Dad are both really fantastic writers who care a lot about their kids, and are living proof that you don’t have to put your kids into the middle of arguments with your ex.

What parenting blogs do YOU read? Drop me some links! If you WRITE a parenting blog, comment and let me know where you are so I can read you.

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Frances!

Thursday, 18 August 2011 11:15
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Like a lot of parents, we are trying to inflict our own positive child hood experiences on Niko. Which means, in Nesko’s case, Niko’s learning Communist-era Football (soccer, to those of us in the USA) fight songs, and Yugoslavian pop songs from the 70s, and eating spaghettios. And in my case, that means mostly wooden trains and a million weird kids’ books and lots of making up goofy songs. (We also dress him in nerdy clothing a lot. Because he can’t stop us. HAH! this shirt offers +5 to nakedness! He has +10 charisma! He is a level 3 human! ZIIIING)

Niko is really into Russel Hoban’s “Frances” books, some of which were illustrated by Lillian Hoban (they were married, they got divorced, they kept working together; the first book was illustrated by Garth Williams). We have “Bedtime for Frances” (aka GO TO BED NOW FRANCES), “Bread and Jam for Frances” (aka NYOM NYOM FRANCES) and “A Baby Sister For Frances” (aka FRANCES HAS A BABY!). How much does he enjoy these books? So much that sometimes he asks for them instead of Thomas And Friends stories. How much does he enjoy these books? So much that sometimes in his sleep he murmurs about wanting A Red Car Toy (Lightning McQueen from “Cars”), and sometimes he murmurs something about Frances.

The books are pretty dated in some ways. In “Bedtime,” Father Badger (who is the disciplinarian) threatens to spank Frances if she doesn’t go to sleep; there’s a pretty clear division of labor among the genders. And they’re dated in good ways as well. Frances catches snakes in a pillow case and does tomboy-ish things and has a male best friend (who often wears purple checked pants), two things that aren’t seen quite as often among girls in kids’ books today (at least the ones I’ve seen, anyway). They are clever, sweet stories, very solid, and sprinkled throughout with little songs just begging to be sung.

If you grew up reading them, take another look at them. If you’re looking for something for your kid, check them out. There’s I-Can-Read versions that are edited to be simpler, but the original texts have a richness the edited ones lack.

What are some of your favorite childhood books? What are you re-sharing with your kids? I’d love to know.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We went to a spring-y party some friends of ours hosted over the weekend, which included a fish release in a pond/canned goods party, brunch, and egg dying. And lots of babies/toddlers. We left before the egg dying because we live about an hour away from them and had to get up very early to make it to the fish release and the egg dying kicked off riiiiiight around nap time. So we scooted on out of there. It was fun, but there was one issue.

One parent brought her two kids, one of whom was getting over a cold and was mobile and putting EVERYTHING into her mouth and sucking/chewing on it (which is, you know, developmentally appropriate) including Niko’s toys. And her infant child sat in a seat and hacked and gagged and snotted and coughed wetly, spreading germs into the air.

Dude. If your kids are sick, please fucking keep them home.

Niko’s been out of sorts and hair-trigger tantrum-y the past few days, and yesterday and today he’s had this croupy phlegmy cough (which involves coughing so hard he can’t breathe, making a face, chewing, and swallowing whatever he just horked up. AWESOME.). He isn’t running a fever (yet) but he seems on the cusp of illness.

And last time he had a lung-involved cold? He stayed sick for a really long time. Because he has asthma. Because this shit settles in his lungs.

So, thanks parent who decided bringing your actively sick kids to a social function was a good idea. Now my kid’s getting sick, and he’s going to be gasping and wheezing for weeks, miserable and unable to breathe.

Shit.

On the other hand, Niko had a blast dumping a bucket of minnows into a pond, played on a brand new playground, played with a bunch of kids at the playground, ran around a jogging trail, ate a bunch of really fresh fruit, and played with a bunch of little kids and practiced sharing toys. He totally didn’t mind that someone else was slobbering all over his beloved Thomas And Friends water squirty tub toy trains, although he got a little possessive over a pink princess ride-on toy. Because, you know. Car. Vroom.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Amy “Amalah” Corbett Storch isn’t quite the household name that Heather “Dooce” Armstrong is, nor is she able to light her gold plated cigars with thousand dollar bills like Ms Armstrong does (every parent blogger’s dream, right?). But she’s been blogging a really dang long time, and is all over the place not just on her personal blog but also on Mamapop, The Advice Smack Down, Zero to Forty, and Moxiebird. This person has something to say, and she says it well, with humor and style and empathy.

Amalah has dealt with disordered eating, depression and anxiety (kind of ongoing, actually), infertility, the birth of a kid who as it turns out is non-neuro-typical, the birth of a second kid, and currently a third pregnancy. Three kids! How do people do that? I’ve been reading her blog since just before she had her oldest (brought in, like a lot of people, by The Company Cookbook) and her blog is one of the ones I skip ahead to on my reading list.

Amalah is very helpful if you are dealing with a stressful parenting issue, especially if you’re trying to sort out the situation surrounding a child with special needs– getting tested and diagnosed, dealing with insurance companies, getting an IEP and acceptable care, that sort of thing. Her stories of her difficulty getting her kid what he needs are shocking. Amy and her husband are college educated, she communicates for a living, they are white and relatively affluent (to the point where they could drop tens of thousands of dollars unexpectedly on tuition for him), and their kid still isn’t always getting the help and intervention he needs. What do parents without their resources do? It’s awful, an awful situation and should be a wake up call to politicians who keep slashing funding for kids (and adults) with special needs. That digression aside, Amy is also helpful with non-special needs issues. Like, what if your baby won’t stop crying and you’re about to lose it?

I had serious anger issues when I was younger, like, unmitigated rage issues. Dangerous times. And that lingered, and left me worried about being able to care for a kid. Then, long before I was a parent or even pregnant, Amy wrote about a time when she came very close to losing it when her infant wouldn’t stop crying and she was at the end of her rope and tired and worn out physically and emotionally and afraid she was going to pick up her baby and shake him and just… you know. She was about to go there, that place parents live in dread of going.

She put her kid in the crib, closed the door, walked away, and called her husband.

Granted, she HAD someone to call, a situation not all parents are in. But she wrote with such honesty about such a raw and painful experience, such a dark time, and I read that and thought “Oh yeah, it’s possible to almost go there and still handle yourself and come through on the other side.” And when I did get pregnant, I remembered that, and it’s helped. It was very close to life changing for me, the recognition that other people sometimes lose it; this terrible honesty helped me feel less alone as a person and it feels like I have a bit of armor now as a parent. Kids aren’t easy. They’ll push you to the end of your limits sometimes. But it’s possible to survive that.

Amalah’s been through some tough shit (as most… all?… parents have), and she’s come through, and her kids are awesome. You can taste the pain in her writing sometimes, but you can also taste the joy. And I love that about her, her writing. It’s fantastic. Even when there’s darkness, there’s still, ultimately, hope.

Suzanne left a brief comment on twitter the other day about how the parenting blogosphere isn’t always as supportive as the crafting internetazone is, which I could totally see, for a number of reasons. In the interest of Being The Change I Want To See, I thought I’d dedicate this week to pointing people toward other parenting blogs and resources, and encouraging people to comment and form a greater sense of community. Consider this week a chance to recommend parenting bloggers and sites you find helpful, and an excuse to come out of lurkdom and leave comments (which are like the life blood of bloggers) at sites you don’t normally comment on, or don’t comment OFTEN on. If you do write up a recommendation of another blog or site, hop on over here and leave a link to your blog’s entry down below.

Let’s spread the LOVE people! We’re all in this TOGETHER.



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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

“Some things you do for money, and some you do for love, love, love.”

(If we’re gonna be friends, you really have to listen to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. You don’t have to OMG LOVE THEM TRU LUV 4EVA!!!! but seriously, listen. Tallahassee and The Sunset Tree are my two favorite albums.)

About two years ago– maybe sliiiiiiiightly longer? maybe not?– an e-Friend of mine said “hey, this smart, funny friend of mine has a smart, funny blog about how she’s having a baby. You like smart, funny people and things, check it out.” And that smart, funny friend was Suzanne of Bebehblog. Two babies later (on her end, not mine), I’m glad I started reading her. She’s fun, funny, insightful, creative, and often thought provoking. And she has cute kids. And an awesome house. And the best dog ever. Thanks, MKP. ONE MILLION HEARTS FOR YOU.

Some of the things I like about Suzanne are her clear, humorous writing style; her photos; her regular schedule (seriously, she’s one of the blogs I check regularly. Got a full google reader feed? Skip to bebehblog); and her honesty. Life with kids is hard. It’s frustrating. It’s really rewarding sometimes, but other times? How many goldfish crackers can one kid grind into the carpet? Suzanne doesn’t paint an overly rosy view of being a stay at home parent, but she also doesn’t veer into LOL WORST PARENT EVER LOL WHERES MAH BOOZE GOSH KIDS ARE AWFUL kind of tacky blogging. It’s very human, it’s very relate-able, and it’s really helpful to see another stay at home parent struggle with the same boring crap and not letting it ultimately get her down. Suzanne feels like she could live down the street from me, and she wouldn’t be totally judge-y that I answer the door for our playdate wearing yoga pants with playdough in my hair and a cubic foot of megablocks scattered over the bathroom floor. Just a little judge-y. And then we’d eat some pie together while our kids threw cars at the wall and it’d be ok and we’d have some laughs. And then she’d bust out the perfect hair accessory that made my life perfect and everything would be ok.

Is that last bit a little weird? Sorry.

Anyway, Suzanne totally rocks, and if you aren’t already you should read her blog. She inspired me to start a cooking blog (something I’ve been talking about doing for literally years now), and to take parenting blogging a little more seriously. And to give headbands another chance. Is there nothing she can’t do? Open your heart to her and have her heal your life, too. Ok. That’s really weird. Sorry. I probably shouldn’t have eaten quite as many snickers peanut butter fun bars as I did. But for reals, check her out.

Suzanne left a brief comment on twitter the other day about how the parenting blogosphere isn’t always as supportive as the crafting internetazone is, which I could totally see, for a number of reasons. In the interest of Being The Change I Want To See, I thought I’d dedicate this week to pointing people toward other parenting blogs and resources, and encouraging people to comment and form a greater sense of community. Consider this week a chance to recommend parenting bloggers and sites you find helpful, and an excuse to come out of lurkdom and leave comments (which are like the life blood of bloggers) at sites you don’t normally comment on, or don’t comment OFTEN on. If you do write up a recommendation of another blog or site, hop on over here and leave a link to your blog’s entry down below.

Let’s spread the LOVE people! We’re all in this TOGETHER.




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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

My friend El dropped by the other day, which as always allowed me to dither about learning to knit (actual concern: that it will cause too much pain to my hands which have arthritis and carpal tunnel. Will this happen instantly, crippling me permanently the first time I pick up a knitting needle? PROBABLY NOT. So what’s preventing me from learning, other than my complete ability to follow a pattern, map, or instructions? Fear, I guess.) and then he taught me how to walk like a lady, a skill which I have never learned. I walk mostly like a dude and while I can maneuver in heels, I certainly don’t slink about like, say, Marilyn Monroe or Fran Drescher. He is a man of many and diverse talents.

He also has a daughter a few weeks older than Niko who isn’t as verbal as N is.

OBVIOUSLY this means I win ALL the parenting points forever. Where is my trophy? SURE she can sign more, SURE she can undress/dress herself, SURE she knows when she needs to potty and is probably just like two steps away from potty training, SURE she cleans up the living room by herself. WHATEVER. I win. Totally.

That’s how it works, right? It’s a competition, right?

In less ridiculous news, Niko added “cheese,” both word and sign, to his repertoire. I need to stop putting cheese on his plate at mealtimes and just wait for him to request it, because it seems to be something he only wants when he requests it, in the evening, after dinner, while I’m tidying up. Perhaps I should offer him some cognac as well. Some after dinner mints. I don’t even know.

Nesko removed the chairs from the sunroom entryway because he claimed he’d taught Niko not to touch the tree. Immediately after saying that he had to remind Niko that no, the Christmas balls are not toys. Later that day I investigated a quiet rustle and found that Niko had managed to strip garland off the tree without disturbing the ornaments. I put the chairs back. It looks less than classy, but at least the tree is safe from further predation.

We’re going berry picking at the first possible opportunity.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I did not breast feed my child.

I was actually shocked by this, because a few years ago I miscarried at the beginning of the second trimester. While still pregnant, my boobs got huge and heavy and after I miscarried I had a lot of milk. Lots of it. Tons. It was kind of a hassle because, you know, I didn’t have a baby and I had all this milk oozing and streaming and sometimes squirting out in arcs across the room. So when I had a pregnancy that had a successful outcome (living baby) I assumed that I’d be able to breastfeed despite the fact that my boobs didn’t really get any bigger or fuller, I never felt any milk coming in/engorgement, etc.

I never actually produced much in the way of milk or colostrum. Niko would latch on, suck a bit, then become OMGENRAAAAAAAAGED. I’d pump, and after half an hour to an hour of pumping both breasts I’d have less than 2 ounces.

I have PCOS, an endocrine disorder which can prevent a woman from getting pregnant, prevent a woman from sustaining a pregnancy (and yes, I’ve had a bunch of miscarriages, most of them very very early), and also prevent a woman from breast feeding. (It does a bunch of other stuff too– a BUNCH– but I’m talking about tits here, so I’m running with that)

My body did not produce milk. I suppose it’s possible that if I bought and consumed special teas and cookies and supplements that can boost milk production I might have increased production… but frankly, I don’t have the money for that. Breast feeding was not something I was in a position to do. Hopefully if I have another child things will go differently, I’m not discounting ever being able to breast feed. But it’s something that didn’t work for me, and was frustrating, and made me feel broken at times, like my body was defective. AND LET ME TELL YOU INTERNETS OTHER BREAST FEEDING PARENTS ARE QUICK TO JUMP ON THE SHAME TRAIN.

It doesn’t help that most of the female parents online, on forums and writing blogs, tend toward all-consuming attachment parenting which OF COURSE involves breastfeeding, possibly extended breastfeeding. And baby wearing. And organic food. And hand made wooden toys. And magical sparkle dust. And essentially assumes that the parent is a stay at home parent with a pretty big expendable income and an extensive support network of family and friends. Which, again, not so much in my case. That doesn’t make these parents bad people, but they tend to have Opinions about How Things Should Be, and be really judgmental about other parents (usually moms) who don’t do things according to writ.

I don’t think ANYBODY is arguing that human breast milk is NOT ideal for human babies. However, there are a lot of reasons for a parent to not breastfeed a child. I’m going to outline some of them here for you. Note that a lot of them are kind of rude and invasive to ask about.

      The parent has an illness that can be transmitted through breast milk
      The parent is taking medication that can be transmitted through breast milk
      The parent does not have milk ducts
      The parent has damaged milk ducts
      The parent is an adoptive parent who has not been pregnant and cannot produce breast milk
      The parent is male/lacks breasts
      The parent has a physical condition preventing or limiting production of breast milk
      The parent has a history of physical/sexual abuse and breast feeding is triggering/stressful
      The parent is in a work situation that does not provide time/space/facilities for pumping breast milk
      The parent is in a work situation that provides time/space/facilities for pumping breast milk, but cannot afford to purchase or rent a pump
      The parent does not have a cultural/social tradition of breast feeding
      The parent does not have education/support with regards to breast feeding
      The parent cannot afford milk bank milk
      The parent cannot afford a wet nurse/does not know anyone who can cross nurse/wet nurse

It’s hard enough parenting without other parents turning on you for the choices you make in trying to keep your kid fed and alive. A lot of the “lactivism” I see online is really stomach churning; finger pointing at terrible moms who use ~gasp~ a bottle while patting themselves on the back for the sole achievement of having a functioning biologically female body. This is especially, and terribly, true right now during the recent Similac recall. You know what’s utterly hilarious? Shaming and guilt tripping women trying to keep their kids alive! It’s a totally fun game! Let’s all play. Or not.

Breast feeding is often accompanied by comparisons to racism.

Here are some ways breast feeding is not like racism:

      Nobody will chase you down and hang you from a tree until dead for breast feeding/having been breast fed
      Nobody will vandalize your home/car for breast feeding/having been breast fed
      Nobody will refuse to sell you a house because you breast feed your child/were breast fed as a child
      Nobody will refuse to seat you in a restaurant because they heard you breast fed your child/were breast fed as a child
      Nobody will force you to give up your seat on public transit to allow a non breast feeding parent/breast fed child/person to sit
      People who breast feed/were breast fed as children aren’t targeted by the police and ticketed/arrested in greater numbers than non breast feeding/breast fed people

Most of the actual lactivism actions I’ve seen recommended are also incredibly passive. Writing letters about negative portrayals of breast feeding/positive portrayals of formula feeding, for instance, really doesn’t help women who work 9 hour factory shifts with no chance or facilities to pump, you know? Going to a nurse-in in the middle of the day because you don’t have “a real job” (note the scare quotes) does absolutely nothing to help women who are forced by monetary concerns to go back to work mere days after their babies are born, and never have a chance to establish a nursing relationship. Nursing in public as a visible breast feeding parent is cool and all, but doesn’t do much to assist women who generally are low-income and not White in connecting with lactation consultants or breast pumps, both of which are expensive. Boycotting Nestle (except for Butterfinger bars man they are just so good, you know?) doesn’t help parents who are physically unable to breast feed and are unable to afford banked breast milk.

In other words, there’s a lot of self-congratulatory talk about Sticking It To The Man and how EEEEEEVIL formula companies are (Yeah, ok, they are evil but so are most big corporations) and very little actual helping of other moms. You successfully nursed for three years? That’s awesome that you were able to make that choice and stick with it, but a lot of parents don’t have the option of making that choice and stating that you are a better parent for being able to lactate (or being in the position to chose to lactate) is a slap in the face to parents who don’t have that choice, that option.

Modern Feminism was built on the backs of Women of Color (and poor/low class White women) who did a lot of the heavy lifting (child care, home care, elder care, etc all for very low wages and no job security) that enabled affluent White women to lobby for social justice for other affluent White women while leaving non-affluent non-White women behind. Lactivism and Attachment Parenting are more of the same. I really wish more people who called themselves lactivists did actual work for other parents, lobbying for more rights for parents like guaranteed access to breaks and facilities to pump; paid maternity/paternity leave; funding especially for low income neighborhoods for lactation consultants and inexpensive breast pump rentals. There’s some really great, influential lactivists out there who ARE working in this direction. But most of them? (or at least a lot of smug vocal ones) View having productive tits as an excuse to slag off on other parents and declare themselves winners of the Parenting Olympics.

I did not breast feed my child.

I did feed him the best I could, and continue to do so. I love him, nurture him, and care for him. And that is what really matters.

And I really wish that other parents would respect that, respect my body, and respect me… and respect all other parents in a similar situation.

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