Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bookends....

I have been a self-proclaimed bookworm for as long as I can remember.  Many of my favorite childhood memories involve books--one in particular reminds me of how I'm feeling right now.

My family and I were traveling to Madison, WI to visit my aunt's family.  Among my usual arsenal of travel entertainment was an assortment of books.  For some reason, I vividly remember that I was reading three books.  The first, a "Babysitter's Club" book, was an easy light read (for an elementary student--I liken it to my current "chic lit" books), the second, "Mandy and the Secret Tunnel" was a rivoting mystery that hooked me on the entire series, and the third was another novel by Ann M. Martin. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the book but I thought it was awesome.  I have no idea what the book was even about (although I know it was sad and made me cry), and that I could NOT put it down.  All I wanted to do was read that dang book and when we arrived at Trisha & Denny's house, nothing changed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

Ah religion.  That is a word I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.  I specifically remember asking my mom about God, what He looked like, who He was, etc. when I was a child.  I'm certain most children raised in religious families ask similar questions, but I wonder if they questioned the answers as much as I did--even at a young age.

Growing up in a Catholic (?) family (my mom & her family were, my dad wasn't), we went to mass regularly and then were involved in the religious ed classes during the week.  I never enjoyed going-- I didn't mind seeing all the other kids but even then I had a hard time with the "lessons".  In high school, I attended the CCD classes and even was part of the leadership group.  Still, I hated going (except for the social part and the free pizza of course) and had more and more questions about God, Jesus, religion, etc.  My questions were never answered, and I always felt a sense of annoyance from those to whom I was asking.

I remember my first communion, & the pretty dress I wore (I LOVED it!) but i also remember my first confession that went along with it.  I specifically remember thinking it was so strange that I could go tell Fr. McClintok that I was sometimes mean to my little sister and said bad words and then God would forgive me if I said 10 Hail Mary's and 5 Our Fathers.  Still I wonder where the lesson is in that?  My first "stand" against religion was when I was a junior in high school and refused to be confirmed into a church that I didn't agree with.  Looking back, I realize that I it probably hurt my parents and especially my grandparents, but I am so glad that I never took the plunge just "for show". 

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Note on Good Parenting

So after my last entry (about one minute ago), I felt the need to highlight a particularly good parent.  What makes this person a good parent?  Here are a few things that comes to mind:

*  Immediately asks about their child/ is concerned about his day
*  Thinks about his child's future--socially, academically, culturally
*  Strives to provide well for the family
*  Sets a good example of a positive, contributing member of society
*  Handles disagreements well--not physically or argumentatively
*  Takes an active roll in all parts of parenting (morning, middle of the night, bedtime, supper, bathtime, book time, game time, play time, stroller time, cuddle time, etc. etc.)
*  Sets clear expectations of appropriate behaviors
*  Models good social skills
*  Is not judgemental toward others, nor close-minded about diversity
*  Is 100% comfortable with showing the world that family is first.  Above everything

And, here is where I can brag about being married to the above parent. 


A Note on Bad Parenting

There are many things that I love about my job.  This blog, however, is not going to highlight them.  Rather, it is going to serve as a cathartic release of....annoyance.  The subject: bad parenting. 

Because of the highly confidential nature of my job, I can't reveal any specifics here and must rely on some vague generalities.  Overall, I deal with parents on a regular basis.  I am often reminded of how crucial the role of "parent" is and yet, how casually some treat it. 

In the elementary world, we are surrounded by a..... surreal reality.  What I mean is this: in the real world, it's not a huge, life changing deal if someone forgets your birthday.  However, in the elementary world, if you mother forgets to bring treats for your birthday, it is devastating.  In the real world, if one of our loved ones tells us we're crazy, we are irritated and go on with our day.  However, in the elementary world, if your parent announces to your friends that you've got problems, that is also devastating.  My point is that, I have realized that it really doesn't matter what is "real" and what is not "real".  Because in my line of work, whatever a child is feeling is "real" to them.  That is their reality. 

So when parents party on weeknights, don't come home for supper, yell to express themselves, turn on the tv and turn off their children, don't bother to launder the clothes, neglect to purchase eye glasses, avoid teacher meetings, buy "toys" and gadgets but not books and instruments, (the list really goes on and on)... it's no big surprise that their offspring do the same kinds of things.  And it is also no surprise that their children feel like they are not a priority.

To me, the saddest part is that all these children (who now might be in elementary or middle school) started out as innocent, eager learners, with wide eyes and big smiles.  They all were babies--amazed by words and actions.  They all were toddlers, amazed by objects and independence.  They all were like Charlie!  But how many of these "at risk" kids had three overflowing bookshelves like Charlie? How many of these kids live in a clean house? (Not big, just clean) How many of these kids had clean clothes and sheets every night? And here, the list goes on and on too. 

I am not (and never would be!) claiming to be a perfect parent. However, I do think that I am constantly thinking about how my actions will affect Charlie.  How will our lifestyle help/hurt him? What can we do to teach him x-y-z? What can I accomplish during his nap so that I can take advantage of interacting with him during his waking hours? This does not seem like rocket science to me--yet it seems to be something that more and more of our school children have never known.  And yet we wonder why kids are not learning in school--why aren't teachers 'producing' higher achievers (don't worry Republican friends, I'm not going to get political here)....might it be because teachers are turning into the only consistent, highly reliable, accountable, caring and nurturing adult in their lives?  Quite frankly, yes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

i like eggs....but think i have plenty on my face

Before Charlie was born, I was an expert parent.  I was a keen observer to many parents and their families and I KNEW what I would and wouldn't do.  I had an acute sense of the best thing for all children and knew how easily I would implement certain things in our family.  Because of this, I made a list.  The list included several things I would(n't) do once I had children.  After 13 months, I am reviewing some of the items on that list.

The List (abridged version):

1.  I will breastfeed for one year at minimum and never more than 18 months.
2.  I will continue to keep my relationship with Mason strong. We'll do this by monthly or twice monthly date nights.  (We will be fine with getting a babysitter--what's the big deal?)
3.  Baby will NEVER sleep in our bed.  Ever.
4.  I will not be a dog person that stops loving her dog.  Not possible.
5.  I will continue to take time for myself--doing hobbies like reading, knitting, running, etc.

The Reality:
1.  Breastfeeding was difficult.  It did not seem "natural", it did not seem "easy".   It was time-consuming, awkward, painful, and hard.  My mother (and her amnesia about life with a baby) insisted that it was never any of those things for her but 99% of my friends had similar experiences.  (I'll trust my friends on this one--they haven't had 30 years to forget the ugly)  After about 6 weeks, things did improve and I truly came to enjoy nursing.  It seemed convenient and like a bonding experience but I always felt very tied down.  I always had to be the one to feed Charlie and I despised pumping.  When I returned to work and Charlie began sleeping through the night, my supply decreased and nursing became a struggle.  I once judged mothers who formula fed their babies--afterall, how hard could it be to nurse?  But as my milk went away, Charlie and I both became frustrated.  When we finally switched to formula, things were so much better.  I didn't dread feeding him, we were both content and happy, and it was still a comforting and bonding experience.  Just because he wasn't nursing didn't mean he wasn't getting any benefits from me.

2.  Ha!  We are set to have a babysitter this coming Saturday.  This will be the first person (besides my parents) to ever put Charlie to bed.  Enough said.

3.  Charlie's crib was not used for the first four months of his life--although he did nap occasionally in there.  It seemed so huge and far away from us so he slept in the bassinet of the pack & play in our room for that time.  Eventually, he was growing big for that and I knew I didn't want him to be used to sleeping "with us".  We transitioned to his crib and haven't looked back.  I really do hope this if we have a #2, we will use the crib from the start.

4.  It's totally possible.  Our dog is the most lovable furry friend one could wish for, but I'm afraid she was out rolling in something gross when they were handing out the brains.  She's very tolerant of Charlie and doesn't do anything bad really, she just drives me nuts.  And honestly, most of my friends' dogs drive me nuts now too.  I especially have a hard time with the barking kind (love how cute our neighborhood Beagle and Shitzu are but man, do they ever shut up!?!).

5.  I should have put this next to the date night one.  Again, a year later, I'm hoping to actually do this!  It is time that Charlie fit into our lives instead of the other way around, right?  We'll see about that.....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Lies Beneath

Last weekend, we Iowans were given a gift from Mother Nature--- a gorgeous 75 degree day, bright and sunny, with none of the dreaded midwest wind gusts that come with spring.  Although I love all the seasons (really, I do enjoy winter--I just think it overstays it's welcome) I have to admit that spring has become my favorite.

A year ago, I watched Spring come and go from my living room window.  Sure, Charlie and I ventured out to attend Breast Feeding Support group, run the occasional errand at Dollar General, and go for a daily walk, but I didn't really get to FEEL spring.  I never had a chance to clear away the spring debris, so I watched my flowers poke up from the ground, bloom in the spring, become ridden with weeds in the summer, and wilt in the fall--all surrounded by massive mess.  But this year, things are going to be different!

On Saturday I spent some time outdoors in our front yard.  I raked, and pulled, and clipped my way through the debris that covered our flower beds.

Below: Before... 
                                                    
And After!!
 And the front yard Before:





And After!



As I saw glimpses of a fresh start, I began to compare gardening to my parenting journey.  Last summer, like my flowers, Mason & I were bright and colorful on the outside, but if you looked closer, you would notice that we had debris around our roots. In many ways, we had 'bloomed' but were surrounded by the weeds of anxiety, confusion, sleep deprivation, frustration, and helplessness.  Now, a year later, we are still rooted in our lives, but our outlook is so much clearer, brighter, and happier.  Not speaking for Mason, I have a better idea of what it takes to get through a day with a baby, how important it is to let things go, and what activities do and don't work well within our family.  Like my flower garden, I'm hoping that the summer of 2011 is a year of clearing out the old "stuff", blooming, and shining through.  I know it will take continued attention and maintenance, but there's nothing better than seeing a beautiful garden-- or a happy and thriving family.