Mother at Sixteen

IMG_1170

Sitting with the slight, sixteen-year-old girl on tattered bamboo mats in her family’s modest home, we compared our babies: their age and weight, their entrance into the world, how well they sleep at night, yes we’re both breastfeeding, how easy and hard they are to take care of, how much support there is, how your worldview changes from carefree to constant worry.

We are at a similar stage in life and had a lot to share.

And yet I was struck by the difference. Her baby slept in a bamboo crib on a dirt floor with only shade and a breeze to protect them against the tropical heat; mine shares our king-sized bed in our fully air-conditioned house. Hers will find a place in the same Thai educational system she went through herself; mine has access to Gymboree and Montessori classes and will learn from a mother who completed a PhD from an American research university. I’m turning 35 next month. She is a mother at 16. We are almost 20 years apart and I have almost 20 years’ worth more of education and life experience, maturity and stability. At 16, she still has all her struggles in front of her. I know who I am, what I want, and what I’m capable of. She has yet to discover who she will be.

I approached my time with her trying to answer the question: why did she make these choices? She had to have known the risk she was taking with unprotected sex. What was her underlying motivation? She said no one ever taught her about protection (I remember her deciding not to stay for the sex health workshop I taught). She talked about the desire to experience new things—a typical teenager response. But I suspected the roots are deeper than that; that it may have even something to do with deeper psychological and emotional needs regarding her bond with her own mother, even if she doesn’t consciously read it that way yet. From what I know of her background, I suspected she never got enough consistent display of love from her own mother, and made these choices out of feelings of neglect, subconsciously trying to find a way to stay close to home rather than to leave.

But do I have the right to judge her choices? I may be disappointed. I may want to continue to present her with the chance to turn things around because her story (and now her child’s story) has still only just begun. I may want to learn from her example to see how we can prevent others from going the same way. I can expect her to take responsibility for her choices and urge her to continue to make better ones. I do not absolve her of that because it is true that others in same—or worse—circumstances make different choices. But I cannot be judgmental about it. I had parents who never gave me cause to doubt their love and commitment. With an absentee father and a mother who is a former prostitute now mostly gone away at work, she has no experience of a strong nuclear family and has no idea what that would look like. I came from a life of opportunity; she came from a life of poverty and risk. For me, being a mother at sixteen would have represented catastrophic failure and disappointment. For her, young, single motherhood is the norm. From two different worlds, we both forged two very different paths.

Perhaps the question of why isn’t really the root of the matter. Maybe the question we must grapple with honestly is: how much of our life is a forgone conclusion? How much can we change by choice?

Island Escape: Koh Chang

* I tried to post this last week, but the internet here is beyond slow and I couldn’t upload any of the pictures. I had to find a bar to get the pictures to upload–which I suppose isn’t such a travesty! (wink, wink)

It’s that time of year again: when the mountains of Chiang Mai can no longer be seen, when everyone starts coughing and the eyes start burning, and when we are finally motivated to get out of town. It’s smoky season. The local farmers start burning the brush because it helps cultivate the soil for mushrooms to pop up that they can then go collect and sell. It’s an important part of their yearly income, but it means bad health for everyone in the region.

Because we now have a baby’s health to consider, when the air starts getting bad, we make the effort to get out of town and go somewhere safer. This is our second year that we’ve taken the opportunity to get down to the islands.

IMG_0656

It’s funny that it takes the prospect of sore lungs to get us to head down south. Every year we wonder why we don’t do this sooner.

IMG_0676

In the meantime, if you need us, we’ll be busy being beach bums!

IMG_0667

The internet is kind of crap down here, so if you want to follow along, join me on Instagram!

IMG_0678



Suddenly Mom

_1080072

When I make a connection with an individual student at SOLD and know we have a shared hobby or that I can expose them to more wide and varied experiences related to their interests, I like to try to invite them to spend a weekend with us in Chiang Mai, where I can encourage their passion and give them a glimpse into the wider world out there. There is one such boy I’ve known since he was about 13, who has always had the biggest heart, loves to eat and loves to make people laugh, but who has also had a very hard family life. He seemed to be falling by the way side over the past year, so I extended an invite to him to come visit us for a weekend and we would go do fun things together.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Then I got an email on Wednesday night, followed by a phone call Thursday morning saying that yes, he wants to come, he’ll be here on Friday, and by the way, his family says I can keep him; they don’t want him to come back.

I literally started crying for him when I got off the phone. Of course he could come stay with us – but for how long? I wondered. My mama heart wanted to wrap him up and take him in immediately, but my brain that has seen the trials and burdens placed on at-risk kids knew this was no simple question. To really help him, we have to be all in. Otherwise, we’re just another source of instability and confusion in his life. Was I about to adopt a (now) 16-year-old boy with attachment issues, a smoking habit, and spotty school attendance record on little more than a days’ notice? Who also was raised in a different culture and speaks a different language? It was unlikely it would come to something so permanent, but I had to be prepared for the possibility that there would be at least an extended stay.

There were ups and downs, and there came a point at which, after taking him grocery shopping to make sure we had on hand whatever snacks, drinks, and breakfast items he preferred, and he immediately went upstairs and closed himself in his room while I boosted Cy on my hip and put the groceries away, where I really, really felt like a mom. More than anything I’ve ever encountered before, having a toddler on my hip and a moody teenager upstairs while I sorted groceries, made me suddenly feel like I have definitely become a capital M Mom.

There was a lot of uncertainty over the weekend, but mostly I just wanted to give him a respite from whatever was happening at home. At the end of the weekend, he decided to go back home with an invitation to return if he ever chooses to. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but I told him I thought he was brave for even coming to us in the first place. It’s a huge step to try to make a change in your life, when you have no idea where you’re headed or what the future will bring. He retreated from it in the end, but he did try.

Momma Chat: Just a Little Rosy

photo-5Things got a little crazy last week. I was laying in bed with Cy when I noticed he seemed to be running a fever. I texted Toby about it and he responded with something like, “He always sleeps hot.” But I was quite sure it was a fever. It happened to be just a couple of hours after I had started a course of meds for myself that weren’t really supposed to be taken while breastfeeding but my doctor had recommended because I’m allergic to penicillin. I was worried that Cy might be allergic to this new medicine, and Google told me I should get Cy to the doctor at signs of fever. So the next day we went to see his pediatrician, who wasn’t available until the afternoon, and I stopped taking my meds in the meantime just in case. The doctor said it was not the meds, but it might be dengue.

– Let me just interject here because this is the part where my stomach bottoms out and my face turns white because dengue is known as “break bone fever” because it makes you feel like your bones are breaking. And it can be comparatively mild in children, but if you get it again later, any subsequent infections can lead to a hemorrhagic fever. It’s passed by mosquitos. There are lots and lots of mosquitos in Thailand. –

The doctor gave us meds to treat the fever and said it was a little too early to tell. Come back in two days and we’ll test for dengue.

Those were among the more anxiety-ridden two days I have experienced in recent memory. Was it dengue? Was it wrong and still related to something I was doing (my meds, which I had resumed taking)? And what would I do if it were dengue? (Moving to another country had indeed crossed my mind.) Cy needs to run outside and play, live his life in fresh air. How can I protect Cy from every mosquito to cross his path?

We went back to do blood tests. We had to swaddle the poor boy and he watched and cried–not thrashing, or angry-complaining…just totally submitting himself to this new torture–as they inserted the needle, drew blood, switched it out for an IV, and then bandaged it on. The whole thing probably took 5 minutes, but all I could do was sit there and talk to him, stroke his hair, and wish to God there was any other way. I hate needles. I once,as a full adult in college, had a nurse give me a Daffy Duck bandaid after getting blood drawn because I hate needles so much. I hate them even more when they’re any where near my boy.

After two hours of waiting, the results for dengue came back negative. Talk about relief! But we still didn’t know what the problem was. The doctor still insisted it wasn’t my meds, and predicted we would soon see a rash.

The rash came, and thus we learned it was roseola. A common childhood disease, relatively mild, and the rash only lasted a couple of days and then it was all done.

photo-4And I still called pest control to come rid our yard of mosquitos. Because dengue.

All in all, it was probably a relatively minor episode and it’s just my mama-bear brain that blew fears out of proportion, but part of what made this experience so hard was feeling so trapped. I have already been feeling tired and run-down, and a little homesick (mostly just because I’m tired of it being so hot here all the time and tired of worrying about mosquitos when Cy wants to play outside all the time). I wanted to move home. I wanted to go back to Santa Barbara where the weather is always perfect, there’s tons of fabulous play groups Cy could join, there’s mountains he could roam, and gorgeous parks and beaches to explore.

I told Toby that if we lived in Santa Barbara, I’d take Cy to the beach all the time.

“No you wouldn’t,” he said. “You’d be at work and Cy would be in daycare and we’d spend the weekends scrambling around trying to get stuff done.”

He’s right. In Thailand, we can afford for me to take a career hiatus and focus on raising Cy with both of us at home. In the U.S., I would have to work. And while I’m battling heat and mosquitos, I can also get fantastic healthcare for Cy at $15 a visit (without insurance), have a maid come once a week, and be there for all the important and unimportant things in Cy’s life. I feel trapped. And it’s easy to view a different situation with rose-colored glasses, but the truth is, there’s lots of ways to feel trapped.

photo-8And I realize now too, that while I love being able to be home for Cy, it’s a challenge because I’ve never been a routine kind of person and children live in routine. I’ve never lived in any place longer than 4 years since I was 13 (And we’re bumping up on the 4-year mark now–we HAD said we’d come for a year, maybe two, and then we’d see. Well we’re still here.) Except for when I worked at a magazine publishing company, I’d never lived the same daily routine longer than a 10-week quarter since I graduated high school. I live by whims and caprice. I’m disciplined about getting stuff done, but on my own clock, not the one ticking on the wall.

So. This is my opportunity to grow. To realize this about myself and see how I can approach it mindfully. I can’t escape the trappings of this life, but I take advantage of its advantages and I think maybe a change of scenery will help. So we’re going to Bangkok for a week. There will be a big aquarium, and parks, a children’s playground, good food, shopping, and maybe even a boat ride or two on the Chao Praya.

Who can complain? Not I, said the spider to the fly.

Thing I Love About Cy: He loves tipping himself over backwards. When he’s on the bed, or on grass, he’ll slowly lean back with this look of great anticipation on his face, until gravity wins and he falls over and giggles like a fiend.

Little by Little



More Beautiful

newborn

More Beautiful

There’s a scar, an itchy little gray line from where he came
Flab, a touch of saggy loose flesh that won’t shrink
Hair loss
Tired eyes
And breasts that have fallen from grace.

And still I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

When little fingers intertwine in my hair
and examine the contours of my lips, I feel beautiful.

When I hold him close and hum

When I slow dance him down to sleep

When we snuggle to read a story

When he smiles at the sight of my face
I am the star that kisses the crescent moon at dusk
The sparkle of evening sun on the rim of a glass.

When his head nestles against my chest and I kiss the top of his hair,
I’m the cover of Vogue, the Leibovitz, the image on the gallery wall.

When he crawls in my lap
to blow raspberries on my breast
and tries to eat my nose

I am more beautiful than I have ever been.

Beautiful is measured not in body shape or fashionable jewels
but in glittering moments
Gauged not by what looks back at me from the mirror,
but in the totality of who I am because of him.

I carry myself like the world is mine
Because I am his.

It doesn’t matter what I look like
I feel the most beautiful I’ve ever been.

I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

I am more beautiful than I have ever been
because I became his mother.

samui

I wrote this piece several months ago for a project between several collaborators that was supposed to come together in time for Mother’s Day. I haven’t heard anything since, so I think that project probably died on the vine, so I decided to go ahead and post this anyway.

Momma Chat: On Traveling With a Baby

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIn the span of one month, we have been on nine flights with Cy, if you’re counting layovers at least–and when you’re traveling with a 9-month old baby, you’re definitely counting layovers. That’s nine times we had to get him through take-off, keep him quiet and entertained while other passengers ate, watched movies, read, and slept around us, and then get through landing, security, transfers, and baggage claim. Seven of those nine flights went really well. One was kind of touch-and-go. One involved nearly 5 hours of crying. We got the gamut of reactions from fellow passengers: glares for daring to bring a child aboard, looks of sympathy or hatred when he was crying, and compliments for what a well-behaved child we had. There’s no anonymity when you’re traveling with a baby. Even the flights that go well are stressful because you’re hyper aware of how quickly it can descend into mayhem.

Cy did amazingly well with adjusting to cabin pressure. Truthfully, the only times he gave us trouble was when he was really tired and couldn’t go to sleep (The one really bad flight happened to be his third flight in the same day…can ya’ really blame a fellow for that? I don’t.)

Still, the hardest part of traveling with an infant wasn’t the flying. It was the adjustment period after. Jet lag affected Cy for at least a week after each haul across time zones, and just as soon as he got adjusted it seemed, we would whisk him away again, from Thailand to California, from California to South Carolina, and back. Each time, his little body clock would take forever to adjust, which meant many nights we were up with him until 3, 4, or even 5 a.m. because he’d be wide awake. As exhausted as we were from the travel, regardless of our own needs, our priority was to help him through it.

All the newness was bewildering to him too. We live a quiet life at home. In the States, suddenly there were so many more people! And noises! And laughter, and attention, and sweets everyone wanted to feed him. He was curious and interested and fascinated by it all, but he was also uncertain and nervous, which made him clingy. For much of the time, he held onto me for dear life, refusing to be held by anyone else, playing for only short spurts before he’d need me to pick him up and carry him around. Let me remind you: this boy weighs 20 pounds. I deserve an award or at least a lot of chocolate for all that heavy lifting.

We learned a lot of tricks for traveling with Cy. For instance, book an aisle and middle seat on one of the sides of the plane rather than taking up the offer for the bassinet. We never used the bassinet, and the flight attendants were all too eager to offer the person sharing the row with us a different seat whenever possible so we often ended up with an extra seat for free. Bringing a pillow for added comfort is key. And plenty of food: cereal, puffed rice, baby food pouches, water bottles…all became key distractors. And major points for baby wearing. The Ergo saved us in the airports (no heavy strollers to lug around), and it saved us many a night when Cy couldn’t sleep and could only be calmed by going on a walk. There were a lot of midnight walks through the neighborhood.

It might sound crazy, but for all that hardship, the trip was totally worth it. Of course, it was worth it for us to see our friends and family again, and for them to get a chance to meet Cy. But I think, more than that, traveling for babies is valuable for the same reasons traveling as adults is worthwhile. Being in a new environment teaches so many things, including about yourself–and in this case, it taught me a lot about Cy too.

Cy blossomed in that month. Aside from discovering the awesomeness of Cheerios and fresh berries, he learned so much about being around other people. Normally, he’s home with just me and Toby and our dog Dot. Visitors come once in a while, for an hour or two. He sees his grandparents about twice a week (but they had been gone for the two months prior), and the rest of the people he meets are just random strangers who say hi for a few minutes and then are never seen again. In the U.S., he was surrounded all day by cousins, aunts, and uncles, friends, and his grandmom, and he soaked it up. He watched the interactions with avid curiosity, and you could see the little wheels whirring away in his head as he tried to make sense of it all, watching others play and talk together. As long as I remained close, a safe harbor for him to venture from, he was delighted to play with the various kids, adults, and dogs in his midst.

It was this way that I learned he just doesn’t like to be held by people he doesn’t really know, but otherwise he really is quite social. As long as people don’t insist on pushing themselves on him, he’ll happily play with them. It was so good and so healthy for him to have so many other people around, of so many different ages. I’m sure if we were there for longer, he would have only opened up more.

As hard as travel is, you learn to cope too, and you get stronger as a parent. It’s the middle of the night, you’re exhausted, and your child is keeping up the whole house (and possibly the neighborhood). You proclaim loudly that you cannot and will not carry your child all damn night. And then you do anyway. You learn your limits. And then you learn how to push past them because you don’t have any other choice. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Either that, or you find yourself doing things like feeding your child a spoonful of cheesecake at 9 in the morning so you can have 5 blessed minutes to drink your coffee so you can survive the day. (That may or may not have actually happened.)

It’s hard, but like most of the best challenges in life, rewarding in ways you never anticipated.

That said, I’m in no hurry to get on a plane again.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He has started making funny faces, scrunching up his face and, when he’s really excited (like at bath time), squawking. Did you know there’s actually a term for baby pterodactyls? They’re called flaplings. Cy, bless him, is a flapling.

Kids, Tech & Gadgetry

_1060698It might be a bit early to start thinking about our house rules regarding technology for Cy, seeing as how the fancy gadget that’s really blowing his hair back right now is Dot’s clicker—a little plastic button that pushes onto a piece of aluminum and makes a popping sound. He likes to pop it with his gums. On the other hand, maybe it’s never too early, as technology already infuses his life: he sees his parents on their iPhones probably more than he should, kindles are on the family bed, Dad is at work on his iMac most of the day, we Skype with family half the world away, and we have a couple of “emergency” go-to video/flashy things to play for him when we really need to calm him down and nothing else is working (like, say, on a flight). There’s no divorcing technology from his life unless we turn into Luddites ourselves, but as it’s our connection to loved ones and it’s how Toby makes a living and supports the family, the gadgetry is here to stay.

What got me thinking more about this topic was reading this post by Sarah, from Memories on Clover Lane. She’s been in the trenches for twenty years, and I respect her views. She’s probably a bit stricter about technology than I am—I don’t view technology as inherently good or evil; it is we who must be mindful about our use of it—but I do plan to be stricter about Cy’s use of technology than I think might be necessary, at least to start with, because it is always easier to give than to take away.

Toby and I began talking about what goals we’d like to have regarding technology, figuring that’s the best starting point to guide what rules we make. Here’s some of what we came up with:

First, we want Cy to be able to use technology with ease, to be familiar with it, and to be able to navigate his way around the web, software, and devices so he can pursue any interest he might have. Because it is going to be a part of his life (and certainly a part of whatever job he might have), he needs to know how to manipulate it. Cutting it out of his life for fear of the pitfalls, I think, just becomes a wasted opportunity to provide him with proper guidance. Kids today appear to be “digital natives”, but my experience in teaching (from disadvantaged kids in Thailand, to university undergrads in America) tells me that they are in sore need of guidance. For example, they know how to punch in words for a Google search, but they are lost when it comes to keyword search logic, evaluating source credibility and legitimacy, and finding what they’re looking for efficiently. In today’s world, I think what you know is becoming less important than knowing how to find it out. So we want to encourage his use of technology, as well as guide him in how to use it effectively and appropriately.

However, our second goal for Cy is that we want him to be able to exist without technology. We want him to be able to put it aside and enjoy other pursuits where he can be out in nature, play a real musical instrument, or make something with his bare hands. We want him to experience boredom and how it can become the mother of creativity. We want him to be able to just BE, without constant input. We want him to be able to focus without technological distractions. And we don’t want him to hole up in his room, not interacting with his own family, or choosing to socialize with friends digitally instead of in the “real world.”

Here’s some rules I’m toying around with:

–I like the idea of restricting use of gadgetry to communal areas (like a family office, or the living room, for example).

–I also like the idea of keeping ownership communal until certain ages. I haven’t worked this all out yet, and I’m sure the popular gadgetry will have changed by the time this is relevant, but, hypothetically speaking…

–I’ll probably let him have his own kindle once he gets into reading chapter books because we travel a lot and I’m not interested in schlepping a huge library everywhere we go. On the scale of Potential Disaster, I think kindles are probably on the low end.

–The smart phone stays communal maybe until he can drive. I know the current trend is to give them phones quite young, maybe even around the time they’re 10. I just can’t for the life of me come up with a reason he would need his OWN phone that young. A family phone that he can use for whatever apps he might want should cover it until he makes it to high school at least.

–And the computer or laptop stays community property until we give him one as a graduation gift from high school so he has one to use in college).

–I also like the idea of limits being purpose driven. Instead of setting arbitrary time limits on how long he can use the computer, for example, it seems to make sense to set it around the purpose for which it is being used. Once the purpose is met, it’s good to go take a break and do something else.

But it’s not just about setting limits. It’s up to us to create opportunities for better alternatives. A big part of why kids are so “addicted” to their phones today is because they don’t have the same opportunities to be social, exist in public spaces, and explore the world freely with age mates that they once did. (Danah Boyd documents this well in her book, It’s Complicatedwhich is a really great read on teen social media use AND she provides the PDF available for free to download on her website.) So if we want him to “get offline,” we need to allow him time and space to have unstructured interactions with his friends, where he can unwind and play without adults watching his every move, so that he doesn’t have to turn to social media as his only outlet for being social.

That’s something that I think is much easier to accomplish here in Thailand, or in Europe, where there is easy public transportation and teens are welcome in public space, than it is in suburban America, where you need to drive to get anywhere and teens are viewed with suspicion by many. I remember as a teenager in suburban California, I would come straight home after school and spend hours on the phone with my friends because I couldn’t drive to go hang out with them in person, and there wasn’t really any place for us to go even if we could get there. I didn’t want to be on the phone; it was just my only option. I certainly would have done my homework more efficiently if it meant I could have had some time to unwind with my friends too.

And my third goal for Cy is to make him aware of how his actions online affect himself and others. This gets into a sticky issue about kids and privacy. Toby probably guards privacy more fiercely than I do. I believe Cy’s privacy is important, but that I reserve the right to revoke it if I feel Cy is going off track. I feel conflicted about what my responsibility as a parent is—to what extent is it my responsibility to oversee or monitor what he does and how he feels if it could lead to harm to himself or someone else? I want to say that it’s our job to just provide the foundation of good values and moral behavior, but I feel it’s also my job to protect him where I can. Would I second guess myself if something awful happened that I could have stopped? To what extent would his mistakes be mine too?

Boyd’s book offers an important perspective though: that kids need privacy, without the freedom to make their own choices and mistakes, they will be hampered in their moral development and growth as independent human beings. Moreover, they crave privacy, and the more you crowd them, the more they will turn to secretive measures to achieve it. If you don’t extend your children trust, you will undermine the relationship you seek to build with them.

American culture is particularly risk-averse, and as an American, I battle this within myself too. I know from my own experience, how important it is to take risks, how freeing it is and how much growth it engenders. But it’s one thing to know one should let go, and another to face the prospect of risk and danger with one’s child. I think that will be one of the biggest challenges for me as a mother: forever navigating the balance between guiding and letting go.

_1060690

How do you see your role as a parent? How do you approach technology with children?

Also: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all my fellow American and Canadian mamas!

Thing I Love About Cy Today: When he’s happy about something, he flaps his arms and grins really wide.

P.S. Sorry this is such a long post! It’s just something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past week. (And trust me, it could have been soooo much longer!) Also, I’m going to try to participate in Little Things Thursday as regularly as I can, so it’s likely that I’ll shift my Momma Chats over to Tuesdays, starting next week. Thanks for stopping by and hanging out here in this space with me!

Momma Chat: On Smoke and Skeeters

_1060118

Unlike in the West, Thailand only has three seasons a year: cold (Nov-Feb), hot (March-June), and rainy (July-October. We’re about to enter my least favorite season: hot season. The heat is so strong you actually have to wear long sleeves to protect your skin because if you pull up to a long red light on a motorbike around midday, you will actually feel your skin begin to fry. Under a light jacket, it’ll be stuffy and hot, but you won’t burn. Or get skin cancer. Probably.

I actually don’t mind the heat too much myself–until the boy came along. I was a furnace when I was pregnant, and now I constantly worry about him being too hot, even though I do have A/C in the house. He still sweats, regardless.

But the other reason I grimace and groan this time of year is, in the north of Thailand, where we live, this is when the farmers start burning the forests and fields to prepare for the next year’s crops and to fertilize the soil for a kind of mushroom they harvest that brings them money they need to live on. What it means for the rest of us, though, is horrifically smoky skies and lungs full of yummy carcinogens. The Thai government has an aggressive campaign of billboards telling farmers to stop the burning because “it makes the world hot.” Those ads are really effective. (Not.)

The burning has started, but it’s not so bad just yet, so we’re taking the opportunity to introduce Cy to the outdoors as much as possible. It gets us out of the house for some fresh(ish) air and exercise, and gives us new things to show him.

Like the lake reservoir, where you can sit in huts and have a leisurely lunch.

_1060131

{SIGH} Those red dots on his face aren’t the measles. They’re mosquito bites from the night of mosquito hell when Dot kicked open the screen door (instead of using her doggie door which Toby painstakingly made for her so we don’t have to open the door for her ever 3.5 seconds) and let in a hoard of mosquitos. We tried to kill them all, but there were still a few sneaky bastards. Mosquitos can all rot in hell.

We took him to our neighborhood pool for the first time. He was hesitant at first, clinging to me and whining when his feet touched the cool water, but before he realized it, he was chest deep in the pool and splashing around like a fiend. (A really, really cute fiend.) He gets this really serious look on his face when he’s splashing. Like it’s critical business beating that water into submission.

Trying on daddy's hat

Trying on daddy’s hat before our foray out to the lake

I’m going to miss being able to take him out for strolls and play time in the water because, up until now, those were my foolproof tactics for dealing with him when he’s being fussy. And my, has he been fussy lately.

He has recently discovered object permanence: that things remain, even when you can’t see them. This means he screams like a banshee if you take away the napkin he grabbed so he doesn’t eat it, and that he still remembers that potato chip he wanted to eat because he saw you eating it, even when you hide it away because, well, he doesn’t have teeth. Pretty much, he wants to eat anything he shouldn’t.

(Especially plastic bags. Boy seems to have a plastic deficiency he’s trying to alleviate.)

_1060106

And when he’s not grumpy about all that, he wants to stand up. All day long. Even when his little legs are too tired to stand anymore. If you make him sit, he cries. If you help him up to stand, he cries. Cue frustration. (His and ours.)

So I need all the tools I can get to distract him and bring back the smiles.

Basically, it’s a roller coaster right now: full of giggles and cuteness when he’s in a good mood, wailing when he’s not. It’s a fun and interesting time because so much more of his personality is showing through, and his curiosity about life is great to see, but it does make for some long days as you try to schlep him from one activity to the next to prevent the fussy.

_1060103

But, oh, the cute!! (Am I allowed to say that about my own child, or is that gauche?)

But I know this phase will pass quickly, just like all the others. I already can’t quite remember what the first month was like. Sometimes, I look at him sprawled out asleep in bed and think I see a toddler there, and I wonder when that happened. I never saw how he got so big, and I thought I was looking this whole time.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: When I stick out my tongue, he tries to grab it, but I suck it back in with a quick “slurp!” He giggles every time.

Momma Chat: On the Space Between

_1060087

I watch him playing quietly in his crib, tap-tapping at the stars on his glow turtle. He doesn’t seem to notice the bars between us. But I do.

He’s been napping in his crib now so that I can use that time to get more things done. But I watch him sleeping there, and I want to pull him out to cuddle.

On the second night of sleeping without his swaddle, he slept like a baby: he kicked me in the uterus all night long, until I could escape in the morning for an hour of sleep while his dad played with him before work. Being a mama is sometimes like being on touch overload; it’s a relief to not be touched for a solid 5 minutes.

And yet, I missed his little hands when I woke.

_1060094

From the early days on, people ask: “Is he sleeping in his crib yet?” Or, if you’re baby wearing, “Can’t you put him down?” and “Won’t he go in the stroller?” I use his readiness, rather than age, as a guideline to determine when to facilitate his independence. I do that partly for him and his sense of security, and partly for me and my need to soak up every day I have with him, knowing I only get just this one chance.

Just one chance to enjoy this day with him.

There will be many more years where he is too curious about the world to hug mama.
And more years when he is too cool to hug mama.
Then years when he is too far away to hug mama.

But maybe if I hug him up good now…maybe someday after I let him go, he’ll think to come back for another hug every now and then…

…because I’ll have held him until he was the one to pull away.

_1060082It’s a work in progress, learning to trust nature, when so much in our culture tells us “follow these 7 steps and train your baby!” like if you just press a cookie cutter to the dough, you’ll get a perfect cookie every single time. Like kids don’t have agency all their own. (Like that even works in baking. Cookies have agency too, dagnabbit.) I want to trust nature. Theoretically, I believe in it. But I’m scared of making the wrong decisions and finding out too late.

I shouldn’t be.

He sits all by himself now, and still loves to stand and to dance. Then, suddenly, after months of me agonizing to myself about whether he would learn, without any prompting, he’s started to enjoy rolling. He goes from back to front and front to back, like it’s no big thing. If I were to do this over again, I wouldn’t force tummy time on him like all the articles said to do. Before, he hated being on his tummy and he would often puke. Now, he rarely spits up…I should have listened to him, rather than the experts. I suspect it’s more comfortable now on his tummy because his stomach and esophageal muscles are stronger, so he doesn’t throw up. After a while, I did stop forcing tummy time on him and we built up his muscles doing “airplane” and carrying him in the sling, which really helped his neck muscles. He never complained at any of that. When he could sit unassisted, I stopped pushing him altogether, and just followed his cues. He did the rest all on his own.

And suddenly he’s ready to learn to sleep without the swaddle. I fretted for ages about how to wean him, but he showed me on his own, with no challenging weaning period. I still use it here and there when I feel it’ll help him sleep better (like during naps when outside noises might startle him awake), but if I wear him down to sleep in the Ergo, then slowly sneak us into bed, he can sleep the rest of the night unswaddled. No 12-step plan. Just following baby. And Nature. She’s smart, that lady.

Now, I just can’t wait until he turns six months old so I can start feeding him solids. I sneak him tiny dots of juice from my papaya salad lunch, a little squeeze of lime, or a smidgen of pad thai sauce just to see how he reacts. Not even enough for him to swallow, just the tiniest amount to explore the taste. Maybe not the prescribed way to introduce solids, but it’s whetting his appetite for real food. He watches us drink coffee in the morning and tries to grab the cup. We thought we’d discourage it by giving him a tiny dab of the bitter coffee to taste. He contemplated it for half a second and then lunged for the cup. Apparently a coffee fan, just like his mom and dad. I’m betting he’ll be a coffee snob by the age of six.

_1060075

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He’s a little bit afraid of the dark. When we drive home from some place at night, and we go through a dark patch, he holds my hand a little tighter.

Related Posts with Thumbnails