Something has clicked with my kid. I can’t quite say “sit down and eat your broccoli,” but I can say, “if you want more avocado, sit down.” It works as long as I have something tasty. This is huge.

She’s learning. A few more weeks into our super-cool new bedtime deal and she knows the routine. Clearly this was always the goal, but to see her crawl for the bathtub or get pumped about brushing her six beautiful teeth thrills me. This I can work with.

She has stopped eating her books and has started to look at them. I can ask her to pick one out. She has favorites.

One favorite is Baby talk. It’s just babies doing things she knows: Where are baby’s toes? So big! All gone… A loves to look at those babies. Her eyes light up, as if thinking, I can do that! She laughs and laughs.

She plays along with Paul and Judy in Pat the bunny. This book is so archaic, and the friend who gifted it so cool, that I thought it was supposed to be ironic. Nope. Baby A can pat the bunny, smell the flowers, and feel daddy’s scratchy face.

At the end of story time when I sing to her, she snuggles in close and calm to enjoy the last soft minutes with mama. Tonight bedtime was tears-free. It’s weird, I’m starting to relate to her.

Love, mom

Sleep: good baby, bad baby, ugly baby

Good baby. Last week we had a successful sleep boot camp at our house. Objective: baby will learn to lie down and go to sleep on her own for naps and at bedtime. This after the past three months where she refused to sleep unless I laid next to her. I know.

We want our kids to eat vegetables. But we also just want them to eat.

I couldn’t subscribe to Cry It Out (CIO) sleep training methods, in part because I like her instinct to cry if something is wrong – it’s how she communicates danger to me. But mostly because it breaks daddy’s heart to hear her cry, and if I prevent him from “rescuing” her from the crib he slings such gems as, “you’re torturing her!” and “you’re killing her joy!” It’s as if my inner parenting gremlin has been made manifest in my spouse, only he is a shade darker.

So Avery cried very little around bedtime in her first year, and I went to bed at 6:30 pm most of the winter.

Then spring showed up, and no se puede no more, sir-e bob, thank you very much.

My idea: transfer A’s object permanence issue, aka where’s mama!?, to an innocent: meet Chloë.

So, Chloë became part of our family. She came to the table for eggs at breakfast, took rides in the stroller, got & gave lots of kisses, and was always available at bedtime. Because if Chloë is there, you don’t need mama. Right?

I also did a lot of crazy shhhh shhhh shhhushing as A went to sleep, progressively working my way out of view behind the side of the crib. Then, over a matter of days, I worked to crawl out of the room until I was shushing from behind the door. I know.

The good news is, it worked. Baby A started going down like butter on toast. We had at least several tears-free bedtimes, and I read at least several pages in my book in those precious sleeping-child minutes. But then this week happened.

Bad baby. Baby A is acting like she has no recollection of those happy times. For three days she has stood in the crib crying during nap time. I come in to lay her back down and find she has thrown Chloë out of the crib. Again with my shushing, this time without the lamb, and I work my way out the door. Again she’s screaming, so again I go in and find her standing up. This time she’s taken her pants off and thrown them overboard as well.

Ok, got the memo: When A’s pants come off, she is opting out.

I think we are making The Great Transition to one nap daily. Or its a sleep regression. Or teething. This brings me to ugly baby.

Ugly baby. Yesterday, having no idea when to nap my kid, I tried the nap prep (diaper change, milk, book) about every 40 minutes. Yes, her pants came off a few times. Around 11am she slept for an hour, so we did that again today and I offered a second nap at 3, which she opted out of. Fine; except that she was grumpy-tired from noon until an early bedtime at 6pm. Sigh.

As I write this, with my thumbs, it is 7 pm and I’m back in the bed, tethered to my young, with one of her precious arms wrapped around my neck, proving yet again that I’m only able to solve for my cub’s needs in time for them to change. Her other arm, is wrapped around a fluffy little stuffed lamb.


Every mother needs a wife

Today baby A and I finished our taxes and it felt monumental.

“It’s like having a literal squirrel in the office,” I told my husband. “You can ignore her for a few minutes and get the next step done, but all the while she’s destroying the house. When you catch her she tries to claw your face off.

“But is it fun?” he asks.

“It’s fun when she’s strapped down in the stroller and I get to drink coffee,” I say.

The rest of the day is a weird strategic game where I must compromise one element of sanity in attempt to gain another. Want to wash a sink full of dishes? Looks like the cub gets to cover the floor with canning rings. It’s like Axis and Allies around here.

Yes, that is my vest she’s wearing.

Note the clean dishes drying in the background.

Note the clean dishes drying in the background.

I try to figure out the objective of A’s squirrel games. Step 1. Wave novel object around in the air. Step 2. Drop on floor. Repeat. I don’t get it. She must get it from her dad.

This is A’s dad as an infant in a squirrel suit. Coincidence? I think not.

I’ll take a moment now and recognize all the great dads who parent. Props. Kids need to grow up around good men as well as good women, even as much as they need food and shoes and soccer camp. This post is for you too, although my love is twisted around gender specific pronouns and personal experience.

Child-raising is a job that someone’s got to do. Even as I wish babies could spend their first few years as plants, needing only water and sunlight, or as fancy sunglasses that you just can’t lose or break. Instead they need peas and polenta, which they will throw on the floor. You still have to feed them by the way; you can’t be like, “But I made you polenta.”

I could outsource this job if I wanted, but I won’t. I value child-raising, and this may be the only chance I get to do it. Also, we all know that being a working mom means I would be doing both jobs. I’m afraid of who I would become if I went to a paying job in the daytime and cared for the squirrel at night. I can’t imagine it.

My friend S is a working mom who gives solid gold advise. When she was pregnant she figured all the child raising would be shared with her husband, 50/50. They work jobs on opposite schedules and trade off work as primary caregiver. “But then I realized,” she said, “I’m the mother. If they’re sick in the night or have a bad dream, it’s me they want. It doesn’t matter if I’m the one going to work in the morning. Parenting will never be 50/50.”

Which brings me to the point: Every mother needs a wife. My friend E has a baby the same age as mine. She and her wife became parents with donated sperm and incredible perseverance. She carried the baby, nursed him, and works the paying job; I am amazed by all she does.

E and I were both recently at a meeting. Baby A was with me, as per usual, and her boy was home with his other mom. E ran the meeting and took minutes on a laptop, which she later sent around in a helpful and professional manner.

Meanwhile, baby A squirreled around in my lap a little, nursed in the carrier, and then fell asleep on my back. After the meeting I received the emailed notes along with recognition of how my friend does it all: She has a wife.

I know another woman with a unique set up: She is a single mom who lives with her brother, his wife, and their children. The other two adults go to paying jobs everyday, and she takes care of the kids. “I don’t know how anyone does it,” she told me recently, “with just one woman in the family.”

Which brings me to the question: If you are out there doing it all, going to work then making meatloaf and taking names…

Where can I get woman like you?

I have this (mobile) baby

I’ve had this baby for nine months. Generally it’s been dreamy; we think she’s great. But until now I mostly did what I wanted to do. The secret of being a stay-at-home, I’ve been known to say, is that you get to do whatever you want as long as you bring the cub. All of that changed around the New Year when she went mobile.

Suddenly (a slow, diaper-changing, banana-eating, dog-climbing kind of suddenly) I have to redefine my self-worth by something other than productivity.  All day I’m flooded with ideas: Become a great cook! Cultivate the most productive garden EVER! Write a book or two! Prepare some singer-songwriter sets! Sleep-train the baby!  My mind makes wild, ambitious leaps like it always did. But time moves differently with a baby in the house, and none of these projects are at all realistic.

The truth is, I wasn’t some uber-productive success story before I had A either. I’ve been writing for years now, but all of those words are still tucked safely away on my computer. It’s not that I’m afraid of putting myself out there (says my inner excuse maker), I’m just not done yet. I used to at least work (a lot) on my impossible goals, but lately my ego has started to freak out.

My actual accomplishments this morning include that I have washed at least several dishes, ate eggs, fed A, made and drank (yeah!) a cup of decaf, and continued to unpack the duffles from last week’s trip (day 3 of this project). All this while A pushed the furniture around the house. But I also started this blog, which I’ve been meaning to do for a decade.

Right now, in order to finish this post, I’m allowing A to tear all of my books off of the shelf again, and I’ll intervene only to keep her from eating my favorite ones (not Barry Lopez! not David Sedaris! Here, have a DVD!). This is not the only place where my theoretical parenting deviates wildly from my actual parenting (i.e. sleep).

My only explanation for my unprecedented burst of exposition, is that while before I thought about starting an online presence, maybe even wanted to, it wasn’t until today that I needed to. Because today, amidst the squirrel games, the need to dump my brain took precedence over the safety of privately and endlessly preparing my thoughts. For better or worse, allowing my words out into the world is one small but important goal that I can actually get somewhere on right now – even though nap time never lasts as long as I wish it did.

My kid needs love and care, but so much more. I want to be the first of many to teach her that effort makes a difference. I want her to grow up knowing that each of us has the power to make our community more whole and beautiful through conversations that matter, and that what we do is not half as important as who we are. I can’t raise her to be more than I am.

This essay will post at the end of the week, whatever state it is in. I no longer have time, or the necessary brain power (mom brain, it’s real), to agonize much over the details. I have just enough time to say what I have to say and move on. I still imagine that I will come back and agonize over every word, but I probably wont.

That’s all for now; she’s awake.