When I had my first child I did everything I could to be there for my baby. If he so much as hiccuped in the middle of the night I would wake from a dead sleep and rush to his side. Like all first children, he got used to that. In fact he’s still used to that. If he wakes up in the middle of the night now, I still rush out of bed to make sure he’s okay.
Enter The New Baby
We tried to prepare our little guy for the new addition to our family. We told him a baby was growing in mommy’s tummy. We put the new baby’s stuff out so that he could get used to the idea. We really thought that he was ready. He would kiss my tummy and we would talk to the new baby through my belly button.
The first time that our little guy met his new sibling a look of horror crossed his face. He started to cry, repeating, “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” He felt so betrayed he wouldn’t even give me a hug that first night. I was relieved and overjoyed that our second child arrived safely in the world, but felt so guilty that my first was having such a hard time.
Go down the swaddle aisle at any baby store, and there are countless styles and patterns to choose from—enough for stores to justify dedicating a whole aisle to swaddles. You never know what your baby will tolerate before they are born, and some kids love certain swaddles and totally hate others. After trying nearly everything on the market between my two kids, I came to the conclusion that the good ol’ fashioned simple square-piece-of-fabric swaddle is the most versatile and easiest to care for. Learning to swaddle the old fashioned way can be a bit tricky at first, especially when you are sleep deprived at 3am, but with a little practice you will be a swaddling pro in no time.
This swaddle is so big I couldn’t get it in the whole camera frame without becoming Spider-Woman and sticking myself to the ceiling. Just trust me that it’s diamond-shaped.
Recently, I flew across the country with two kids for the first time. My husband was with me, but our kids are three and one and often after 8 hours with them I feel a bit insane—and that’s when I have an entire city at my disposal in which to drag them around. Spending several consecutive hours smushed between them, trapped in a narrow metal tube with 150 other people sounded like a very special punishment for all the stupid things I’ve ever done in my entire life.
I was so freaked out about the entire trip that a couple of weeks before I sat down and wrote an item-by-item list of things to pack for every person in our family. It was color coded by person and which piece of luggage each item would be packed in and everything, and if you knew how incredibly unorganized I usually am (once I lost the baby monitor and eventually found it in the refrigerator, because DUH, where else would it have been?), you’d appreciate how much I was stressing out to the point where I’d do something like that. Then I hit up the dollar section of Target and threw whatever looked semi-interesting into my cart. Usually I like quality toys, often wood, and carefully budget for them, and don’t (often) bribe my kids with junk food, but this time I strapped them into the front of the cart and shoved Icees into their hands to distract them from seeing the sheer amount of crap I was tossing in the basket. I am sure every other parent in the store was glaring judgmental daggers at me.
How is it that when you travel, you always feel like you’re bringing way too much and not enough at the same time?
Mommy’s are more than givers of biological life. We giver care to our little ones as well. We care about them without end and give them everything we have. It’s a small wonder then that we have the ability to raise the spirits of our children.
During Hard Times
I have read hundreds of stories that praise mothers that stand between their children and hard times. It doesn’t matter if it is an unhappy divorce or tight purse strings. Mothers everywhere will take the hardship on themselves. They eat less, live on less, and spend long nights finding ways to help their children feel as little impact as possible from their new circumstances.
The worst feelings come from relationship disappointments. Your toddler’s friend may not have been nice this past play date. A sibling may have been impatient. It could even be the sadness of realizing that they need to share their parents with a new baby.
Doing these things without the moral support of mommy could be even worse. Life is rarely fair when it comes to the ending of a friendship or family growth pains. Mommy’s hugs can reaffirm feelings of comfort and security.
“Come in,” said my neighbor, flashing me a shy smile as she held open the door with some hesitation. Her 9 month old and my then-2 year old and 6 month old were having a playdate. “And, um, I’m so sorry about the mess.”
I looked around as we entered. The floors were swept clean. Her kitchen counter sparkled. A small box of toys sat in the very corner of the room, behind a couch. All the toys were actually in the box. The 9 month old sat in a jumpy seat and looked up at me as she gnawed on a stuffed bunny. She grinned and the bunny fell onto the crumb-less carpet, followed by a trail of drool. My neighbor was in front of her daughter in a flash, wiping the drool up and tossing the bunny back into the toy box. “I didn’t really have time to clean up much this morning,” she apologized again as my two year old ran straight to the toybox, dumping everything out, and my 6 month old promptly spat up onto the floor.
“Play-based learning.” Also known as, “OMG, I was only in the bathroom for TWO MINUTES, where did that paint even come from?!”
Last week, I visited another neighbor, who has a 4 year old and a 20 month old. “Come in,” she said, opening the door, “and, um, I’m so sorry about the mess. We were doing our once-a-month cooking last night and didn’t get a chance to clean everything up and then the kids—well, anyway, you know.”
I am a believer in teaching our children about technology in the home. With the many ways that technology can be used (for good and ill) we don’t just want to leave that type of education to a public school system. My children still get plenty of time playing with blocks, going outside, and reading. They also get plenty of time playing with mommy’s mobile device and watching their favorite shows on Netflix.
I had an impression that something was wrong when my little one only wanted to use the potty if he could play his learning apps while there. I rationalized that I needed to encourage him to use the potty and they were learning apps anyway. I would let him watch his favorite PBS show during breakfast when he woke up at 6 am, then 5 am. I even handed over my mobile device when I was at bank appointments and in doctor’s offices.
5 am started turning into 4:30 in the morning and would be followed with meltdowns when he didn’t get television time because it was way too early. He would refuse to use the potty and squat down on the bathroom floor in protest without my mobile device. The last straw was when we were in church and he had a meltdown because he wanted to play with his learning apps and I wouldn’t let him.
I’m a good mom. I’m a good wife. I try to keep a clean house and even (gasp) decorate. There are a few perfect settings that just don’t fit into my world right now. I’m okay not winning awards in these categories this year.
Best Potty In Show Award
We all know that one woman who has a guest bathroom that looks like a work of art. She has a full set of towels draped gracefully over the towel rack, a basket full of tiny soaps sculpted like sea shells and rolled up wash cloths. If that wasn’t enough she also has reading material on the off chance you get bored looking at the art work on the bathroom wall.
I have a travel size body wash for hand soap, a couple of paper free toilet paper rolls that change places on the floor and, when we are very lucky, a towel hung up to dry our hands so our children won’t wipe their hands on their pajamas. We do have some art on the wall, if you count the crayon mural our two year old was inspired to create for us. Throw potty training into the mix and I definitely won’t be beating this woman.
Secret Backyard Garden Award
You step into this woman’s backyard and around the pool it looks like a little tropical oasis. Or you find an English rose garden fit for a miniature castle. There are little walk ways and stepping stones. There are even beautiful little benches to sit on and enjoy the garden.
Congratulations! You’re pregnant! As you may have heard, birth is a miracle. You are bringing a new life into the world and that is reason for celebration. People will tell you that you are glowing from great hormones and happiness. Some will even say it’s the light of heaven shining through you. There are a few things that they will leave out.
You Will Be Tired All The Time
You will wake up in the morning feeling like you have had a wonderful night’s sleep. You will go to the bathroom, which will take all the energy out of you, and crawl back to bed. You won’t know what happened. You will want to sleep all the time.
The mommy worry starts long before you hold that sweet child in your arms. You will worry about too much movement on the baby’s part as well as not enough movement. You will worry that you ate something wrong accidentally. You will worry the vibrations from a movie theater’s sound system has caused harm to your baby. There isn’t anything you won’t worry about until you hear that heart beat again. After that you have about six hours before the worry starts again.
My mom feels that I stress out too much about child safety. After all she didn’t do or did do a number of things that are considered dangerous now. Nothing happened to me. Why am I stressing out over issues that haven’t been issues until recently.
You Turned Out Fine
Yes, I did turn out fine and I know that was because of mom’s care. I know I drank out of the water hose and lived. I am aware that I slept just fine on my stomach. She put cereal in my formula bottle. She gave me a numbing gel when I was teething. She even put me facing forward in my car seat. It wasn’t a big deal then.
It is now. Studies and statistics have come out telling us how to better care for our children. It’s not that she was a horrible parent. I’m not trying to make her feel silly or guilty. It’s just that now we have more information on keeping our infants safe.
They Change That Information Often
It’s true. A few years back babies were supposed to sleep on there tummies to keep them from choking on spit up. Now they are supposed to sleep on their backs so the don’t obstruct their breathing should they cuddle with the mattress. The fabric rail guards were to keep children from getting caught in the slats of the crib. Now we have a new crib format and have done away with the crib bumpers.
It may even change again by the time I have grandchildren. I most likely will be wondering what my daughter is doing strapping her infant into the safety ejection pod built into the car in case of accident. Right now, however, these are the current safety guidelines and I intend to adhere to them until they change.
When my child started talking I expected long philosophical conversations about the color red and flushing the toilet. What I hadn’t expected was to have a mirror held up to my own personal verbal habits. While I’m not a swearer and I am careful not to use derogatory name and titles I found I had a few other verbal habits to work on.
I Apologize Too Often
I knew I said the word “sorry” often, but I had no idea how often until my child started saying it for fun. He apologizes for closing doors, his blocks falling over, and when he decided he didn’t want to use the restroom. He apologizes because he isn’t going to eat his dinner. He apologized once because I had discovered I had gained a few pounds on the scale. Now I am working on not over apologizing. I thought I was being polite, but now I realize it’s not my fault it’s raining, and I don’t need to say sorry for that.
I’m Obsessed With Safety
I am told to be careful by my two year old every time we come to the stairs. I am told if something might be too hot or too cold. I know he has gotten this from me. I don’t want him to be afraid of adventure and healthy risks, but I don’t want him to get hurt. Ever! I fluctuate back and forth between keeping him safe and letting him explore life a little. I don’t think that will ever change.
Love Is The First Response
The other day I dropped and broke a glass and my little guy told me it was okay and hugged my leg. I then had to delicately fight him off as he tried to help me clean up. I realized that he got this from me as well. He helps me because I am an example by helping him. Each time I respond with care (though, unfortunately it’s not every time) he is being taught this is the way we react when things go wrong. I know I will never be a perfect mom, but I feel like I’m not doing terrible.
What have you learned from your little mimic?