Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Have you met my daughter "Keyser Söze"?

I feel the expression “terrible two” wasn’t a fair warning to what Mike and I were up against with our daughter. I never imagined I could ever feel so helpless, angry, and defeated all at once. What’s worse is that I’ve heard it just gets harder and the “trying threes” (or whatever the horribly misleading name is for that age category) are even more brutal. Don't get me wrong, most times, Isla is lovely. The problem is, quite simply, we just weren't prepared for how quickly and easily she can transform from lovely to evil genius, and then back to lovely. It's truly amazing. 

 For those who haven't watched 'The Usual Suspects' (a great movie from the 90's), the title of this entry won't make any sense. Since I'm not a fan of spoilers, I'll just go ahead and encourage you to watch it. For those who have seen it - yes, Isla is a much cuter, sweeter, and not at all evil "Keyser Söze".

While Isla was screaming bloody murder in the park the other day because she was TERRIFIED to go in the swing she just got out of, a kind mother said that her daughter went through a similar phase. This was a tremendous relief to me as Isla clung to my dress, pulling it down with her death-grip just enough to expose my less than flattering, enormous, nude-coloured nursing bra (It was laundry day, and also all of my bras are scary now).

How on earth could she possibly be this scared of something she was literally just enjoying? Seriously, I needed to know. My brand new mom-friend assured me that her daughter was the same, and had very similar public meltdowns disconcerting enough to seek medical attention for. Apparently when her little girl was Isla’s age (nearing three), she decided the bathtub was petrifying and wouldn’t go in for months.  Again I was relieved because Isla has been showering since Christmas due to her fear of bathtubs, shadows, and worst of all: shadows in bathtubs. Bless this Mom and her ability to instantly make me feel better. She went on to explain that after speaking with her physician, she and her husband were informed that this is especially common with children who are highly intelligent because they tend to over-think things. Well then, it was decided. After hearing that very philosophy weeks earlier from a close friend; this mom confirmed that these wild, unexplained tantrums are simply due to the fact that my daughter is a genius (cue smug expression).

So the next day when Isla decided that she was absolutely beside herself with terror over getting dressed; instead of biting my lip in frustration (the way I keep from launching her out the window), I coddled her. After all, I thought, the poor little genius is just over-thinking the hole in which she’s to put her head.  Sometimes putting a shirt on can feel a bit suffocating; she’s probably just going to require a bit of time and patience with this one, I thought to myself.

This went on for a few days and, while it was getting to be a little much, Mike and I continued to be patient and sympathize with the issues obviously out of her control. “Poor little monkey” we thought. “Hopefully she outgrows this soon” we would say to console each other through our frustration. That is until our good friend “Auntie Cat” came over. Isla’s known her for a very long time, so she tends to not get away with as much. She pulled the same routine she’s been getting attention for over the last few days and, while explaining to Cat that “she’s just terrified of getting dressed”, Isla began to act up slightly worse. This resulted in time out, and a few empty threats of staying home which ultimately just ended up slowing us down and changing our destination to something local (that’s what I get for thinking I could have a nice afternoon walking around IKEA while Isla played in their “daycare”).

Anyway, Auntie Cat stepped up to the plate and, while Mike and I were distracted in the kitchen, attempted to get Isla dressed. Wouldn’t you know; her shirt went on like nothing. No screaming; no tears; no terror. Really? Really??? After all of that she was FAKING it? Amazingly these 'freak-outs' had all been for attention. My hat goes off to her because, evidently, she is quite the little actress. Here we are thinking that we’re this united front, impenetrable to the powers of manipulation, and she’s actually been running the show the whole time. *Sigh*
So a little lesson to my friends with toddlers; apparently they’ve got us figured out. We all knew they were smart, but this is just ridiculous. It seems, much like how a celebrity views publicity, that any attention, good or bad, is still attention. I suppose Isla's officially entered her "it's all about ME" phase. I'm not really sure what to do about it because, up until this point, I thought I was doing everything right (or at least not 'wrong').

I guess all I can do is hope that it doesn't last much longer, and that I have the patience to keep my towel-screaming to a minimum (effective coping mechanism). Oh, and also that the slack-jawed bystanders, who apparently enjoy staring at my family during one of Isla's public meltdowns, actually turn back around and focus on whatever it is they were doing. Gah!

One thing that will always make me feel worse during what I will gently refer to as a "power struggle" is feeling like everyone's watching. Dear society: please stop doing this! We're already having a hard enough time dealing with the situation at hand; the last thing us poor parents need is to feel like we're being judged. I tend to think that the ignorant people forming an audience are childless because no parent, aside from the A-hole variety, would ever make another feel worse during a time like that. If you're going to do anything, a sympathetic "you're not alone" smile will suffice. Or, even better, you can go fetch me a glass of wine, disguised by a take-out coffee cup (in case it's the afternoon); your treat.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

"Promise you'll tell me if my baby is ugly"

I had a funny conversation the other day with a friend who is planning to start having children in the near future. She shared with me a topic of concern that I’m sure many people can relate to, but tend to not talk about. She was worried that she might give birth to an ugly baby. Obviously getting this off her chest warranted the next question, which I’m certain has been asked by many soon to be mothers in the company of their most trusted friends: “You’ll tell me if my baby is ugly, right?”

While every parent holds the health of their unborn baby paramount to everything else; until they see that sweet little face for the first time, many are worried that maybe they will give birth to a mutant. Does that make them a bad person? Of course not. Vain? Not at all. I think, having worried about the same silly thing when pregnant with both of my children, that you just want them to be “normal”- for their sake.  Remembering how awful and mean kids can be (especially if you were the victim of bullying at some point in your life), can make one overly anxious about whether or not their children will experience the same angst. I think parents just want to protect their kids from anything which might hurt them, so worrying about their physical appearance before actually meeting them all comes down to the hope that they won’t stand out for the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately kids tend not to discriminate when choosing who to ridicule. If in someone's opinion they're too pretty, too tall, too short, too smart, too energetic, too anything; they may, at some point, be a casualty of playground bullying. All you can hope for as your children go off to school each day is that the teachers are paying attention and taking action. Also that you’ll have the self-control to side with your better judgement and not punch an eight year old in the face if they've made your perfect little son or daughter cry; as that might land you in jail. I suppose threatening them, unfortunately, may have the same ramifications. It's doubtful that the police, as well as the parents of that little jerk, will be in agreement with your rationale for telling a child that you will "find them" if they continue harrassing your son or daugther. That was only partially a joke.

Just while we’re on this subject, if your child is a bully (and this is something all parents should be on the lookout for), it’s up to you to do something about it. It might come down to involving a third party who is qualified to address their inner psyche; but either way, if you’re not taking the steps to correct it, you are most definitely part of the problem.

Also, in my experience, it seems the characteristics of a bully don't fade with time. I can think of a few adults who still act like that mean little brat on the playground.

So if your child is a bully and you don’t intervene by teaching them how to properly conduct themselves, it might result in a problem that follows them into adulthood, and will likely affect everything from their relationships to their career. Sorry to be so direct, but bullying is a bit of a sore-spot for me (you guessed it; I was picked on quite a bit throughout the years). I digress.

Back to the topic of ugly babies and what an oxymoron that notion is. I can’t help but wonder if there is such a thing. Of course I’ve seen my share of questionably cute babies which yes, I’m ashamed to say have generated a private little snicker here and there– but that doesn’t make them ugly. 

So, regarding the question asked by ‘best friends’ everywhere about whether or not you will be honest and tell them “yes your baby is ugly” – for me, the answer will always be “no; he/she is perfect”.

Usually this question is followed up by the half-joking declaration that they will already know if their baby is ugly so, consequently, they’ll know if I’m lying. I used to think the same thing and, hence the worry, was certain that I would be able to recognize whether or not my qualms of giving birth to an unsightly creature had come true. Having had two children, I can tell you this concept is nothing but a load of Bulls**t! I fell so unbelievably in love with my babies the second they entered the world that even if they were born with antlers and a snout, I would ever so proudly share their perfect little faces with the world. Not only that, I would secretly feel bad for everyone who didn’t have children as beautiful as my own.

 It’s the way we’re programmed; hence the expression “a face only a mother could love”. We are incapable of recognizing a flaw within our own babies because, to us, they truly are perfect. That’s why whenever that friend, with the furrowed brow and concerned tone makes me swear that I will tell them if they happen to give birth to an “ugly baby”, I tell them they are ridiculous and recite the essence of this blog entry. It’s just not possible and, despite the fact that you think you’ll “just know”, trust me; you won’t.

Maybe worrying about this ludicrous topic it’s a way to defer anxiety from something as important as their health because, deep down, I think that’s what can be consuming. To joke lightly about the physical appearance of what will certainly be the most beautiful person you have ever seen, keeps you from spending too much time worrying about something serious. I can appreciate that because, on top of hormones, the last thing you need is to be brought down by the fear and apprehension of a real issue.

So with all of that said; no, I will not tell you if you have an ugly baby. I will agree with you that they are gorgeous, and will vote for them in the “world’s cutest baby contest” because, along side with my kids, they are right up there with the world’s cutest babies. If you’re pregnant, or hope to soon be pregnant, please don’t worry about what your baby will look like. I promise that you couldn’t, even in your wildest dreams, imagine anything so incredibly perfect.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Fancy a nap, A-hole?

Babies are so funny. Their limited ability to communicate has parents everywhere utilizing desperate measures to give them whatever it is they’re in need of. Since it doesn’t take long to get to know your baby; a routine is quickly put into place. Sam, like clockwork, announces his imminent need for a mid-morning nap every day at 11:00 sharp. I’m still in awe at what an easy baby he is and am so thankful to have such predictable children. As long as I’m in anticipation of their not-so surprising mood-swings, and take appropriate action; we’re in good shape. Most days.

This morning I was quickly yanked from my daydream, as I attempted to make a banana bread, to the sound of Sam demanding his first nap of the day. The only other time he cries is when he’s hungry; it’s a little bit too easy if you ask me. I can’t help but fear a sudden transformation because, after all, they say a good baby will be horrible toddler (and vice versa). Oh, you’ve never heard that? That tidbit was shared with me dozens of times during Isla’s difficult stage. Interesting how something that was once so reassuring has suddenly become a source of anxiety. I try not to think about ridiculous things like that; although if “they” said it – it must be based on something (this sarcastic reference will make a lot more sense if you read my last entry).

Anyway, back to Sam and how funny it is that he needs a nap after being awake for only two hours. This abrupt change in disposition got me thinking: maybe some adults are stuck in this phase of development. And by adults, I actually mean A-holes. Yes, that’s right, I’m suggesting that maybe A-holes aren’t actually A-holes. Maybe they just need a mid-morning nap.

Mike and I joked about this concept after I secured Sam in his swing (the only way he’ll sleep during the day). We wondered what the ratio of A-holes were in Spain, where they have Siesta. Sadly when one googles Spanish A-holes + ratio, one might not get exactly what they're looking for (ha!).

That aside, it amazes me how similar we adults are to babies. In spite of Mike’s preference to not be mentioned in my blog; I have to tell you it’s like Jeckyl and Hide when he’s hungry. Just the same; if I’m tired, you could say that I morph into quite the A-hole myself.

What should we take from this? By acknowledging that the fundamentals of our personality are evident in babies, maybe we could intercept a change in mood before it happens. Go to bed early, eat every two hours, and include more fibre in your diet. If we catered to our own needs in a similar fashion to that of a baby, I think overall we’d be a happier and healthier society. Or, at the very least, there would be a few less A-holes running around.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

"they" are idiots.

Mike and I were talking about the day we will finally be rid of diapers. Of course that means we will have to potty-train Sam, who currently is only five months old. For obvious reasons I’m dreading that time in our lives. Mike on the other hand, informed me that they say training a boy is much easier than a girl, so we shouldn’t encounter too many issues with our son.

This started an interesting discussion because, based on what I’ve heard, I have always thought the opposite. Obviously girls are easier; it’s boys who will give you trouble. Why you ask? I have absolutely no idea! Why would Mike have assumed one thing, and me the complete opposite?

This got me thinking: who is this “they” everyone casually refers to and what the hell are these “known facts” based on? What do “they" know and, really, who cares what they think? I picture it to be one person, at some point in time, perhaps agreeing with another – and now suddenly whatever they decided on has somehow become a standard. Passed on from generation to generation; inherited like an old family recipe. Either that or one person said it, nine agreed, and now not only is it constantly repeated, but now somehow bears truth.

I then started thinking of all the things “they” say – things that society has just accepted as facts. Like, for instance, “they” say that a good baby will usually result in a bad toddler, and vice-versa. I can’t tell you the number of times that line was delivered to me by a sympathetic voice while my infant daughter had a full on tantrum in public. This almost always happened while surrounded by other mothers who, incidentally, had perfectly calm and collected babies. I would joke that it’s the universe providing balance; the louder Isla screamed, the more peaceful her infant playmates would become. So I suppose if these mothers were right, basically Isla’s temperament would improve with age, and these sweet little angel-babies would transform into monsters. It had to be true – I can’t imagine “they” would lie about something so important.

So, back to my original question: who are “they” and where did they get their facts? If I had to venture a guess, I might assume that these subjective snippets are nothing but old wives tales, based entirely on one’s opinion. For instance, I think baby-talk is stupid. If we’re going to teach our kids how to speak, how about we teach them the right way? That would save a lot of time and confusion later on when they discover that a cookie isn’t a “num-num” (or whatever the case may be). 

 If I can convince one other friend to join me in this ideology, and two other friends perpetuate this as fact (and so on); I think I could possibly become this “they” everyone refers to. Next thing you know, mothers everywhere will be reciting to their mommy-groups that “they” say baby-talk is redundant and confusing to children.

Now here’s an idea: maybe, just maybe, “they” don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Maybe it’s all crap. Maybe every child is different and instead of trying to conform to a social norm(that we aren’t even sure is an actual ‘norm’), we should just let our kids be. Screw ‘them’.

Guaranteed that whatever the topic; there’s little research supporting it. Generally speaking, we tend to not ask questions when it comes to things “they” say. Instead we either take comfort or become anxious, depending on how it affects our current situation. Sam is a good baby; does that mean he’s going to be an awful toddler? Should I worry? Probably not – but I can’t remember what “they” say about worrying.