Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Taking It Personally

You know that saying, if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy? In my case, if my kid ain't happy, Momma ain't happy either.

There are some days when my daughter is just plain crabby. I'm talking about those days when she bucks like a wild mustang in her highchair, refuses to lie down so I can change her diaper, and will not use of any her words but no.

Perhaps my "crabby" is another person's "normal 19-month-old behavior." Of course we would all like our little ones to be child actor-adorable at all times, but sometimes I fear I am too sensitve and self-absorbed to be a mother of a toddler, because they are going to act up, push limits and get frustrated at what they can't yet do, right? The thing is, it's not so much the actual handling of the behavior (although that's no fun), it's the sinking feeling that the way she acts somehow reflects my parenting skills. She can have a meltdown, and be fine 5 minutes later, but for hours afterward this thought will niggle through my brain: if I were doing a better job, she would be perfectly behaved Gerber Baby.

Recently we took Muffin in for a well-baby check-up. I didn't get my lovely pediatrician, but her evil twin. This doctor is so judgmental, stern and unrealistic that I almost can't believe my regular pediatrician has a practice with her. At my first meeting with her, back when Muffin was just two weeks old, she told me that no one except for her parents and grandparents should hold her -- this after I'd let at least a dozen friends and family members do exactly that. And um, I'd also taken her to a bar. An open-air, non-smoking bar, in the middle of the afternoon! Pretty much like a coffee shop except for the booze! I promise! And it's not like I let her do any Jager shots.

On this visit, the bad doctor offered up more tough love shots to the heart. First, she told us that letting Muffin use a pacifier (which we generally restrict to nighttime) is "denying her a crucial developmental phase of learning to self-soothe." She also said it was holding back her speech, which -- how much talking can she be doing in her sleep? Plus, Muffin says airplane and bowl and out and shoes and yogurt and tons of other words. I think she's doing fine in that area. She also chided us for taking Muffin out to eat, as we do maybe once a week, always in child-friendly restaurants, where we bring a heaping diaper bag full of books and toys to entertain her. She said sitting in a high chair for an hour, well, that's an awful lot to expect from a toddler. When I brought up confusion about how to discipline Muffin as this age where she can understand what I am saying even as she can't always listen to it, the doctor made it sound like it was easy-peasy, and told me that she had exceptionally well-behaved kids who never even needed a time out. Hey, weren't we talking about Muffin?

She asked what Muffin ate, and I emphasized the beans and the berries and the brocolli and the milk. The Canuck casually mentioned that sometimes she eats cookies and I shot him the stare of death, because that was clearly the wrong answer and didn't she have enough proof that we are delinquent parents? I didn't dare ask any of my other questions -- as if I could even remember them as I broke a sweat and wondered if I was somehow holding Muffin the wrong way.

Now, it's not so much what she said, it's how she said it. We've been struggling over when and if to de-binky. We go back and forth over what kind of social situations are appropriate. And what with all our travel to see family, I do wonder if we push her too much. These are all things I'm obsessing about already, thank you; I don't need any help in that area. It's hard enough to hear from moms who never let their kids watch TV, make three homemade organic meals a day, and seem have bottomless vats of patience. But to have a doctor imply that I am holding my kid back, that I'm too hard on her...well, she's supposed to be the expert. Muffin got a flu shot, but I think I left the office in more pain than she was.

I need to change practices. My mommy ego is just too fragile for this kind of brusque bedside manner. So you put away your whip, doc; I don't need your abuse -- and besides, I've already got one I keep handy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lame and Lamer

You know what makes you feel like a huge jerk – not to mention old and decrepit? Throwing out your back the morning after your husband runs a marathon. Because you cannot move, he has to limp around the apartment, changing the baby’s diapers, helping you put on your pants and fetching the hot water bottle, when really it was the plan for you to wait on him.

Then yesterday, with my back back to its regular whiny-but-not-screaming-in-agony disposition, another incident: in my pre-contacts morning haze, I sliced off the tip of my finger opening a new razor. It will not stop bleeding, even hours later. Ever tried to keep your hand elevated with a squirming baby on your hip? Because I only have Barbie band-aids on hand, Muffin is endlessly fascinated with trying to pull off the gauzy, bandaged pink lollipop on my finger.

How is that being a parent, the most important job in the world, doesn't have sick days?

Monday, November 06, 2006

I Married a Marathoner

Bear with me; I do have a point.

When I was pregnant, the Canuck graciously took over all recycling duties in our household. This is a particularly odious job, which involves hauling all recycleables down to the smelly basement trash room, sorting the paper, plastic and glass, breaking down boxes, and tying up all the paper, per our persnickety co-op rules. After I had Muffin, I just kind of continued to coast on that job. If it came up, I'd point out that I birth the babies, so he does the recycling. And believe me, he was sooo getting the better end of that deal.

One thing you may not realize is that having a baby is the ultimate trump card. Really, what can top labor? What's scrubbing a toilet next to contractions that hurt so much you have to focus on not dying to get through them? He was never going to be able to top that physical feat, and I knew I was going to have a get-out-of-jail-free card in my back pocket for as long as we both shall live.

Or at least that's what I thought. See, yesterday, the Canuck finished his second marathon. Since his first, in 2001, he has worked the marathon into conversation at every opportunity; he even -- I kid you not -- got it into our wedding vows. To overcome his Canadian modesty to toot his own horn...well, it just goes to show you how hard it was to finish and how proud he is of himself. Since his first marathon, he's been saying, "I run marathons - that's what I do." And now that he's finished #2, that is technically as well as figuratively true. He must be doubly pleased with himself.

I cannot imagine how he finished. I can live through labor, but I don't think I could make it through 26.2 excruciating miles of running. Even Lance Armstrong was whining about how it was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The most painful day of my life produced our child, but what does a marathon yield for us as a couple? Well, while the Canuck can say he runs marathons, I can say I married a marathoner, and how many people are lucky enough to get that kind of athleticism in the gene pool?

You got me, babe. One marathon was impressive, but two? You've upped the ante, and my only hope of gaining the upper hand again is to bear kid #2.

So now I just have one question for you, Marathon Man.

Should I get the paper or the plastic?

To see more photos from the NYC marathon, click here. (And thanks to John for taking these photos!)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Anatomy of a Snapshot

Last Halloween, Muffin dressed as a peapod, and we took her into the park to get some snaps. She was just sitting up on her own then, but still wasn’t rock solid with it. In fact, she face-planted into the grass several times, so we took periodic breaks for soothing.

Because it was a warm day, we took off her costume and then headed to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, where they were having a Halloween festival. There, we captured this shot. It remains, to date, one of my favorite photos of her.

Her eyes, which I think she gets from her father, remind me of the pristine Bora Bora lagoon the Canuck and I swam in during our honeymoon. It was so effortless to get her to smile then, and so easy to take her photo because this was before she knew there was such a thing as running away. I love her pre-crawling baby pudge; I had recently stopped breast-feeding, and if you’d seen my boobs, you’d know why she’s such a chunk here.

Fast forward a year, which seems far more than that, given how much Muffin’s changed. I bought her lamb costume to Woodstock , bound and determined to get a good shot of her in it. Although she loves the outfit, and wanted to try it on as soon as my mother-in-law finished sewing it, she has a crusade against things on her head. I fear a long winter of earaches and bad hair, as whatever you put on her head – hat, pigtails, barrettes – she views as a personal challenge. I needed her to keep the lamb hat on. Without it, she looked like the Stay-Puft Marshmellow man.

In the end, we got the money shot. But these photos more accurately represent the experience of capturing it.

To get a smile for our favorite shot, the Canuck and I pretended to sneeze over and over. Muffin seems to revel in others’ nasal misfortune, hence, the big open-mouthed grin. I plan to obtain a sinus infection in order to get the perfect Christmas card shot, if that's what it takes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boo (Hoo hoo)

Although I’m not a fan of cheesy clothing that commemorates it, I am a softie for First Christmases and First Halloweens and First Arbor Days. So it was not Muffin’s first Halloween. But it was only her second, and I thought it should be special and memory-making. It wasn’t.

Sally called me at the end of the work day to tell me that Muffin had not had a nap that day. She’d tried to get her down several times, and Muffin just couldn’t settle herself. She has never, ever gone an entire day without a nap. In fact, sometimes she still naps twice a day. Also – remember daylight savings? Muffin does not seem to know we’ve fallen back. This was all very, very bad.

When I got home, she was in a pleasant enough mood, so I thought we might coast through on a second wind. Then we tried to put on her costume, which, until this point, she had ooohhed and aahhhed and actually, bahhhed over too. She ran away until finally we cornered her in the bedroom and wrestled her into the costume as she squirmed and squealed. I somehow strapped her into the stroller, plopped on my cartoonishly large witch hat, gave the Canuck a dirty look for not wearing the Mohawk wig I’d gotten him, and tried to remember that Halloween was supposed to be fun.

We met some friends from the building to join the parade that takes place every year in my neighborhood. Their girls sat happily on their dads’ shoulders. Ours whined to get out of the stroller and then booked away from us at a fast clip as soon as we set her free. We tried her on the Canuck’s shoulders. She wouldn’t hold on. We tried her in the stroller again, and she flailed around angrily. We tried letting her walk, but she refused to hold either of our hands, and this was no place for her to roam free. In frustration, she pulled off her lamb hat, threw herself in the middle of the street, and sobbed. Four blocks into the parade, we were done.

On the walk home, I heard someone remark, “What a cute bunny rabbit!” as Muffin screamed and screamed.