Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's a fact: Moms are just better than Dads

There are times, as a MOM, when my head threatens to explode. I imagine great forces of steam and flames, emanating from my ears, will burn away all that remains of the aftermath.

It may not be pretty but at least it's efficient.

Now my experience may differ, but DADS, I've noticed, don't seem to have the same theatrical prowess. They are missing that certain je ne sais quoi ...

Case in point: As I'm trying to find my keys, recall the 15 things I will be forgetting (two of which I will return for; the remainder to haunt me all day) and pack up the car without neglecting to secure Ittybit into the carseat, all I want to do is give her the bag of M & Ms she’s been howling for these past 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, he tells her he's taking her to the car, and all crying and shenanigans stop. She wraps her arms around his neck and all is well with the world again.
Given all this suffering, all this juggling and tri-part negotiations, I'm at a loss. With hardly a word, my husband — THE DAD — has been getting the lion’s share of our little moppet’s attentions lately.

It used to be that if he could keep her from hanging from my left leg as I dragged my now numb, useless appendage from room to room, I was happy. I didn't care if he was teaching her to play with matches so long as I could fold clothes and get a shower.
But it turns out his trick is much more conservative.

I swear it's as if I'm living in a reproduction of the Regan Whitehouse.

When she tells him she doesn't want to take a bath, he tells her it’s not an option.
When she tells him she doesn't want to go to bed, he tells her she can go to bed with or without reading four books.

I must admit, he gets results. While he's guiding her through the process of put her own shoes on, I'm tripping over the dogs and chasing her around the house trying to wrestle her to the ground and keep her feet still long enough to wiggle them into boots with silly faces staring back at me.

"But oh how smoothly things run when you are away," I think to myself, willing there to be a mute button for the morning mayhem; willing Kraft dinner to be placed on the government's list of best foods for a well-rounded nutrition; and dreaming that one day the surgeon general will come out and say kids who are bribed with candy are six times more likely to win the Nobel Prize in mathematics.

I mean, how do you think I get her into the car most mornings? The intrinsic happiness that comes from knowing her mother is pleased with her behavior? The realization that SHE is the child and I am the adult, and what the adult says goes?

Oh ye, silly believer of fairy tale endings.

I get her into the car with chocolate. Copious amounts of chocolate.

Oh sure we may get the same results, he and I. We both wind up with a clean child, who's well rested and strapped into the car ready to begin her day. But it's the attitude I dislike.

I hate the smugness: So what if HE can manage to get her hair washed and combed and into her pajamas before the Late, Late, Late Show ever starts? So what if he MAKES her put her shoes and socks on by herself on the mornings HE dresses her? At least when I help her dress her shoes are ON the correct feet, I grumble to myself.

Seriously, how many kids go to their college lecture halls wearing their pajamas inside out or slippers on the wrong feet because they didn't learn to dress themselves when they were tots?

Never mind, don't answer that.

Oh ... the hypocrisy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

To sleep, perchance, this century

This third year (starting from say August on) has been a struggle. Food she used to eat without complaint sits untouched on her plate, her arms crossed tighter than even her lips are clenched. Baths, never an easy proposition, have become sideshows of trickery and deception, yet none too entertaining. But it is the sleep issue that may put us over the edge.

Since the new bed took up residence in our master bedroom, the idea of sleeping with us, starfish-style -- all spread out from the center -- has taken up residence in Ittybit’s head.

It all starts out good. We begin the bedtime routine: calming down, brushing of teeth, reading of books. Snuggled into her own bed, we give in to the extra story and the calls for water and lights dimmed only so low.

But the needs are endless. First its water, then juice then milk. She didn't really WANT any of these prohibited bedtime beverages; she wasn't hungry, she wasn't thirsty, she was merely stalling.
Eventually our routine got to be worthy of three rings:

PJs = check
Teeth brushed = check
Stories = read three, check
Lights dimmed = check
Monsters sprayed = check
One more story = check
I have to go to the potty = check
Music turned on = check
It's too dark = lights adjusted, check
I want a snack = goldfish procured, check
I want water = check
It's too cold = check
Now it's too hot = check
The monsters came back = spray again
I have to pee again = another trip to the potty, check
I need the hot water bottle ...


“O.K., mommy,” she agrees, sheepishly.


... Goodnight.

Truly, anyone with the least amount of time on the planet Earth can tell you what's happening here. It doesn't take Dr. Spock to figure it out.
She's testing us and we are failing.

In addition to this extended play of the bedtime routine, every night at midnight or so the monsters wake her up and send her into our room.

The seduction of sleep without the added cold shock of the hallway's hardwood floors makes letting her into bed an irresistible proposition. We tried it. At first she even fell right to sleep. But then, increasingly, she'd become restless. She'd poke and prod and play games.

No matter how cute it seems, no one wants to talk about the dietary needs of the Abominable Snowman at 4 in the morning, let alone having their eyelids raised manually by a restless preschooler.

The last straw was when she woke us four times one night, deciding to go back to her own bed twice.

"That's it! I need sleep. She's just playing now and it has to stop," I stammered as if my husband hadn't already reached this conclusion six weeks ago.

The next day we enacted operation LET’S NOT MAKE A DEAL.

Bath time at 7 (and she gets her hair washed when it needs to be) NO DEALS.

Bedtime starts at 8:30, she must brush her teeth, use the potty and change into pajamas. We read three to four books; she can have water and a hot water bottle and her music but she can not leave her room. NO DEALS.

As expected, the change was met with tears and tantrums.

By the time she fell asleep at 9:30 I was dreading the midnight call, which came early at 11:30 p.m.

I walked her back to bed but she had no intention of staying there, she claimed, with the monsters and dog effluvium.

The old me would have said 'who could blame her' but the new me said, "I'm sorry but that's the way it is, sugar plum. We all have to stay in our own rooms and sleep."
No sooner had I walked away than I could hear her little pajamaed feet following me, screaming as if I'd torn out her toenails.

I brought her back into her room and shut the door, holding it closed. She threw her little self against it and screamed. I imagine, had she been a little bit older, every second word out of her mouth would have been an obscenity. Eventually she calmed down and the bargaining commenced. She wanted the door open.

It seemed time for a new deal. The door would stay open as long as she stayed in her room.

We both went back to bed.

But all was not quiet in the western wing of the house.

She rolled her toys across the floor, tore her clothes from their place in the dresser and began yelling at the top of her lungs: YOU ARE MAKING ME VERY NERVOUS!!!!
When the ride-on-horse came rolling to our door I got up and investigated the damage.
It was less than I thought, but still impressive.

I put her back to bed, kissed her head and said: "That's enough for tonight. We'll talk about this tomorrow."

And with that, the sleep of exhaustion visited us.

It's been three days now and not one incident.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and sleeping with one eye open.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Proof positive

"So. ... When are you going to make a brother for that little Ittybit of yours?"

That indelicate question is broached more times that you might imagine.

The day we left the hospital with her, still bleary-eyed and shell-shocked, our attending nurse HUGGED me and said: "We'll see you again, I know it."

No. No way. No how. Not me, you won't. I am NOT doing this again. Are you crazy?

I had just spent 24 hours in the most excruciating pain EVER only to have an emergency cesarean section anyway and severe reactions to pain medication. Then three more days in the hospital trying to recover; mostly blind from swollen corneas and one pound heavier than I'd been the entire pregnancy, thanks to a 24-hour saline drip.

Who on Earth would do this again? No thanks. Not me.

A year passed and still the questions came almost daily.

"So, you gonna have another one?"

We had pat answers.

"N. O. We got it right the first time, why tempt fate?"

But of course, the real reasons not to have more are endless: money, space, money, the special-ness of being an only child and of course, money.

Yet, as I believe it is biologically encoded in our genes, Ittybit's slow turning from a baby to a toddler made me rethink the decision. Each outfit she outgrew became a decision I didn't want to make. Should I save this (for what)? Or should I donate it to Goodwill?

Money and the rest of it, especially the part about being an only child, didn't seem important anymore.

In fact the more I thought about her facing a future without a sibling 'round about her age made me regret having waited.

And as luck would have it -- nothing. Fifteen months of nothing. Fifteen months of peeing on $5 bills (the cost of home pregnancy tests) and nothing.

All of a sudden, the questions returned. Even the guy who tries to figure out what part of my car is responsible for the clangy-clang sound that haunts me as I drive was wondering when we'd be making the grandparents grandparents all over again.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to tug out my hair and say: "Never you mind. It will probably never happen, and I'll have to be OK with that.' Every time friends would tell me of their happy news, I'd be happy, too, on the outside. But only a little happy on the inside where my thoughts were swirling over the possible end of my own childbearing days.

I wasn't prepared for this. Everyone told me it might take a while, but with Ittybit it was almost instantaneous. When the doctors reaffirmed the potential for delay I scoffed. 'Yeah, I know. It may take a while.' I didn't expect a year to go by without positive results.

I gave up.

When it was time to take down Ittybit’s crib and replace it with a "big-girl" bed, I decided that we'd sell it at a yard sale to the first couple who took a second look. A young couple took it away in a tiny hatchback car for $10.

Ten dollars: The same amount I paid for a pack of home pregnancy tests one month later.

Wouldn’t you know it ... the result was positive.

And for the first time in a long while, I've never been more positive of anything in my life. It feels pretty good.

When we told Ittybit she was going to be a big sister, though, I could see the look of concern knot across her face.

My thoughts immediately went to guilt. Would she feel replaced? Would she be jealous?

I should have known she'd be a little more pragmatic.

"We need a new crib."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sometimes I just wish you could tell everyone to shove a sock in it

Our babysitter informed me recently that she was taking the binky away from Ittybit during naps.

It was just a fact. There were no do you want me tos ... or what do you thinks, just that her own binky-addicted daughter was also three when she pulled the plug, and when the screaming frenzy began it made her wish she'd never introduced the thing to begin with.

She’s apparently been waiting for me to tell her the time had come to return the offending device to the "binky fairy" or the "binky mommy," or to whatever corner of hell pacifiers originally hail. She's just been waiting for a "partner."
In other words: I've yet again dropped the ball.

My mother-in-law has been asking for more than a year (on and off, and sweetly) whether this was the year the binky was going to be sent to "Santa."

Remember me folks? The one who walks the path of least resistance? The one who looks around at her office mates and decides not to worry about such things? After all, no one here in cubicle land is sucking away on a binky.

But it's true: She doesn't need it anymore. She doesn't have it in the car. She doesn't take it to school. She doesn't even keep it in her mouth the whole night through.

To everyone's surprise, mine especially, the babysitter reported success. Ittybit showed only brief resistance to the news her beloved "oro (that’s Ittybit for orange) binks" had returned to its mommy. She slept with her tiny lamb pressed against her cheek for the requisite two hours.

And then it was suggested that it was now time for the binky to leave our house, too. (The message was delivered it what I refer to as the "Now-I'm-Not-Telling-You-What-To-Do' speech, which we all know means But-You'd-Be-Foolish-Not-To-Adopt-My-Way-Of-Thinking.) So I decided I'd try it.
That night at bedtime I dropped the bomb. I told her it was time to send the binky back home. Her special binky was needed elsewhere, perhaps on a special assignment, now that she was a big girl.

Instantly, there were tears and sobs of desperation.

"But I'm NOT a big girl, mommy. I'm still a little girl," she wailed.
"Well I think you are a big girl, but how about if we hang on to 'purple binks' until after Santa comes? Then he can take it home."

She agreed, but I'm sure it was the kind of hollow agreement that means she's appeasing the one who can be manipulated. She's biding her time, hoping I'll forget the whole mission.

Really, though, I don't know how to react. I don't know how to feel.
A part of me is angry. Part of me is feeling guilty about being a wimp. But a part of me is tired, too.

I am not a stay-at-home mom. I am reliant on a whole host of other people to help me get from morning to night, and yet my husband and I are ultimately the ones who are raising our daughter.

When I reach down into the core of my beliefs, I always come up with the same thing: I don't think a pacifier is the worst thing in the world for a child, and I don't particularly mind if it helps her get to sleep.

I am reminded about my husband’s need for "white noise," and how I've had to adapt my own sleep habits to compensate for the whirring of the small army of humidifiers and fans that he needs to get some shut-eye.

We all need something right?

I had a sinking feeling that maybe I should have asked Santa to bring me earplugs this year.

Yet the strangest thing happened. Christmas Eve, the last night with the binky came and went, and early in the morning I tiptoed into her room and snatched the pacifier from her parted lips.

When she awoke an hour later she didn't even miss it. That night she cried for a while, but she quickly went to sleep without the plastic plug. Perhaps she was just plumb tuckered from playing with all the loot Santa brought her.

In the week since Christmas, she's alluded to "wanting something in her mouth"” when she's all snuggled in bed, but there are no tears when I tell her it's gone.

Then I got to thinking: maybe I was the one who really needed that binky all along.