Today, Aria insisted I put on socks before she would go potty.
Do you think she just makes sure to find ample opportunities to let me know who’s in charge?
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. It comes from everywhere. Inside. Your memories, dreams, baggage. Articles. Stories. What you see with other parents and kids. What others say to you.
Generally, I’ve tried to roll as a parent with instinct. I have not read a lot of parenting guidance. But sometimes all the other pressures drive me to research something or tweak things. Or at least to just stress about what my instincts are telling me.
Aria loves to be close to me. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve judged myself for this. I did, after all, nurse her in bed from 3 months to 9 months. I didn’t wean her until 18 months. 80% of the time I pick her up and hold her when she asks me to. I never really weaned — I traded nursing her to sleep with holding her hand to sleep. Plus, I’m a working mom and I’m not there for a huge chunk of the weekday.
Plus, something I’d like to think I’ve done right is help Aria be pretty detached from things. My friend Jennie suggested before Aria was born that I never buy something she asks for at the store. I let her hold it play with things, then I always make her give them back to the cashier. She does this without even a minor fuss. This plays out in all sorts of settings, stores and not. The only downside is she just won’t get attached to any toy or blanket or anything. I’m even trying to model teddy bear cuddling! To no avail. I’m her comfort toy for now.
I’d been trying to fix this, mostly by making tweaks to the nighttime routine and feeling guilt at various daytime clingy activities. I also did some productive things like getting her to sit in her own chair for meals and forcing more non-being-carried periods.
Then about a week ago something clicked and I just relaxed (A true mental shift + I also did a few things to better manage my Addison’s condition with DH being deployed for a few weeks).
I love holding my daughter as much as she likes being held. I love laughing and being silly as we’re looking at each other as she’s in my arms. I love morning cuddles. It’s tender when she touches my face in wonder and comfort that I’m there.
I have to remember I was the same way at her age. I spilled hot gravy on myself at 18 months. As I got treated for the terrible burns, they said the only thing I needed to be calm was to be in mom’s arms.
My brother found my mom’s journal recently. There was a small little quote that really touched my heart. It was something like, “Jessica is so cuddly. And I love it!”
Moral of the story.
Yeah. I get lots of cuddles. It’s awesome. Be jealous!
And she’s finally sleeping better 😉
T’was Thursday morning, when all through the school
The parents were coming, paper bags full of food;
The rosters were planned and the bus leaders called,
Hoping no child got lost nor a whole bus ride stalled.
The kiddos and chaperones loaded up in their seats,
Shocked there were no seat belts to pin down small feets;
Laughing and joking ’bout how we’re all kinda coddlers.
When up at the front there arose a deep rumbling,
Making our unbelted toddlers all go a tumbling!
When up in the front there burst off-key squeaking,
“The wheels on the bus,” our toddlers were singing!
Until at the end our wee ones grew restless and scattered;
One to Ms. Terry, and one toward the door;
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a glorious zoo, with lions, tigers, and bears!
With our three little buses, and our eager we ones,
Could they line us up and hold us back from the fun?
And they whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Aria, now! Owen, now! Quillian and Emma,
“On! Marissa, on! Olivia, on! Parents and Helpers;
“To the front of the zoo! See as much as you like,
Just be back by 12:30 with you and your tikes!”
With brown bags full of snacks for a walk through the zoo:
And then after ten feet my girl’s arms went up.
Aria hates walking… “Mommy mommy! Up, up, up!”
We battled and challenged each other’s strong wills,
As the rest of the group wandered away down the hills.
So me and my girl just made our own way;
Made it down eventually and caught up with the fray.
We saw penguins, pelicans, and pink flamingos,
Plus sociable monkeys so close we counted their toes!
I showed her giraffes and thought she’d have fun,
Though soon as she saw them she shrugged an “All done!”
When with tweezers she cleaned up a monkey’s read end.
Needed to get back for naps lest we face toddler wrath.
So back to the bus, I made Aria go,
We took turns each ten yards, twenn tantrums she’d throw.
But finally an older girl Clara reached down her hand,
And Aria walked admiringly, following her every demand.
We loaded up and rode back, getting one piece of advice:
“Drop them off at their cots–one quick kiss and ‘Night Night!'”
We’re in a bad place with sleep. We dropped the crib wall, Aria started sprouting two year molars, new emotional connections formed, and we even suffered a few nosebleeds from chronic nose…you know.
First she wanted even closer contact before falling asleep. She wanted to lie on daddy’s stomach or hold my head like a teddy bear.
Then she’d have intense meltdown with each attempt at leaving the room. She started anticipating with terror our exodus and would take even longer and react even more extremely.
We tried just closing her in her room.
She beat the handle cover with such ferocity it split in two.
She carried to two pieces put to the hall and offered them up to me as a warning.
We had to put a baby gate mid hall as another line of defense.
We’d get through it. We would. We’d get her to sleep. An hour or longer it might take.
Then it would happen all over again. At 2am.
I gave up.
DH gave up.
On separate nights.
We brought her to bed.
And made the problem worse.
Temper tantrums started flaring day and middle of the night.
One night she woke up screaming, blood streaming down her face. It was everywhere. And she was terrified.
It took hours to calm her down. She wouldn’t even sleep in our bed. We had to go downstairs, wiping her nose every few minutes.
At least now we can easily quell the gold digging. Just mention nose bleed and she stops right away.
But that’s the easy challenge. Getting her back to sleeping through the night on her own? Feels like Mount Everest.
I’m attempting the slow extraction / acclimation method. I don’t know the name for it. I don’t know if it will work. It makes me tired thinking of all the steps.
The challenge with culture resets is you’re tired when they start. It’s because you’re tired that you finally relent and decide a change must happen.
I started last week beside her bed, but no handholding (I miss it, I admit. It was my favorite part of the day after I finished weaning Aria. Call this a second weaning for both of us. The draw to be near each other never went away.)
Then three nights ago I sat so my feet touch her bed, then moved in the same night across the room.
These tactics worked for initial sleep, but within two or three hours she was begging to sleep with me and DH again.
So Aria’s asleep. She’s over there. She was not thrilled with us on opposite sides of her bedroom. I’ve had to move her back four times now since 8pm. It’s almost 3am.
I went downstairs at one point without waiting for her to be fully asleep. She broke out of her room and melted into an extreme panic attack behind the gate in the hallway.
I feel like such a crutch.
But she’s over there and I’m over here at least. Even though I’d much, much rather be cuddled together in my bed. She needs to learn how to manage alone when I’m around. It feeds into everything beyond the night.
Tomorrow, I’ll station myself at the door instead of 3 feet away.
Then in the hall.
Then in my own room.
I don’t know if it will work.
And I’m kinda tired.
I don’t know if it’s the right way or the best way or the fastest way. But with no wall on the crib I’m just not sure what else to do. How to teach her to be okay by herself. How to truly wean.
Like I said. We’re in a bad place with sleep. We had a beautiful year of her sleeping through the night in her own room.
Then she turned two…
Duh dun duuuuuh!
Come on Mom! Can’t you see it? Look! Seriously. I’m pointing right at it. Yes, right through the glass window of the car. Come on, come on! Look!
“You want to get closer,” Mom says. She’s grinning. Has she been keeping this a secret?!? Did she know about this?
So much pink!
Mom pulls me out and bounces with me in her arms.
Closer and closer! Now I’m smiling. Oh my gosh! Whoa!
I’m kinda overwhelmed. Really. I don’t even know what to think.
It’s beautiful. Whatever it is.
“Aria, it’s spring! Do you like the flowers?”
Duh. I love them.
She reaches up and grabs the tree so I can touch.
Okay, well I guess that’s it. Cool.
“All done Mom.”
Yeah. It was awesome. Dinner?
Daddy pointed out he got no sympathy at work when he said he had to leave early for his daughter’s graduation.
“She’s two, right?”
But let’s be honest.
Toddler graduations are officially a milllllllion times more awesome than real graduations.
See for yourself…
Aria also took a rather lax approach to the refreshments at the graduation reception. Totally went at the whole fruit tray with a fork.
I gave Aria a marker and paper to color in the car on the way home. Not what I was expecting to see when I pulled her out!
Maybe she just wanted to assure me she hadn’t grown up too much.
When I handed her the book, I expected a blind attack of red and blue across the elegant outfits of Anna and Elsa.
I got her the Frozen coloring book because it had markers she could open. Literally the only reason. She recognizes the characters from a short her cousin got her, but that’s just a bonus.
I start coloring. Ignoring Aria’s mindless attacks on the ladies of “The Snow Queen” lore, I dutifully shade in Olaf’s snowball body. I use a dark blue to shade in his eyes.
“Eyes!” Aria says.
Aria had gouged (or delicately colored in–see it as you will) Anna’s eyes and then Elsa’s. As you might expect, they bleed blue.
Such a big leap forward.
Then she kept going. Page after page. Coloring in eyes and circles.
Another awesome miracle of Aria growing up!
Then, just as I’m finishing this, she’s painting a blank sheet. Covering it in purple.
She’s reaches into her paper, grabs something, and takes a bite.
And then chowing down on her own creation.
A Gape big blob!!
This is where parenting provides unexpected surprises. Like, who ever expected to log their first ever inside joke with the little peanut from their womb? Not me! That’s for sure.
So we’re playing with clay. Aria’s a bit intimidated by the blank palet as it were. She just stares at it like a pet bird at a new toy in its cage.
“Why don’t you make a baby?” I suggest. Easy, right?
Looks at clay.
Looks at mom.
Where to start?
“How about I help?”
“Here, I’ll make a head.”
I hand her the pieces one by one. She forms a sort of cross between a zombie and a Picasso.
She shows her creation to dad with pride…
Then tears it up before he can snap a picture.
This time I ask her to tell me the parts I need to make. She decides to show and tell.
“One,” she says in her long baby drawl.
“But how many arms do you have I ask?”
“Ooone…”Pats arm. “Two!” Pats other arm.
“So you need two arms!”
“Yeah!!” she exclaims.
We finish another creature from the early 20th century abyss, head plopped mid-way on the body, arms wrapped around a mash of eyes and a mouth on the cheek.
Then we get to the third.
A building mass of facial extremities.
“No body!” she exclaims.
“Are you sure?”
“No body!” She insists.
Daddy comes back. In his casual way, asks, “What’s goin’ on?”
“No body!” she exclaims.
I start to giggle.
“No body!” I affirm.
“Nobody!!” Daddy agrees.
We’re all laughing now.
“Nobody! Nobody!”Aria chants with glee.
I capture a video of another round. Mae watch the video and Aria explodes with giggles. “Nobody! Nobody!”
Twenty minutes later Aria won’t let me put her down for bed. She just wanted to stay in my arms. She’s still smiling, like she’d just had the best evening ever.
I move to the rocking chair, holding her like an infant, rocking her to sleep like we haven’t done for seven or eight months.
“Nobody!” she whispers and giggles.
Then slowly drifts to sleep.
I was washing dishes and Aria wanted me to come with her as she gave her dolls a stroller ride. I off-handedly asked if she’d fed them dinner yet. She looked quite concerned and immediately got to work.
She washes her plastic food in the sink and gets a stool to get atop her little kitchen to grab some plastic plates.
Then she carries a plate of food and a baby to the dinning table. First she pushes the plate onto the table and then the baby right next to it.
She returns to her kitchen to get a second plate and another baby.
There you go babies! Got you some good food to eat!
I’m already stunned and think she’s done, when she goes to get a third plate.
She sets it on the table then comes back to push her final baby in her stroller to the table.
I didn’t forget you baby. You just had to wait your turn!
She adjusts the babies until everything looks good.
Then she looks over everything.
Dang! She realizes. I missed something!
She goes back to make another plate of food.
Babies can’t eat alone, of course!
She heads to the table to join her little family with her own plate of food.
I’m about to snap another picture, imagining this remarkable, picturesque scene.
A soothing British voice cuts across the room.
“Warning! The alarm may sound. The alarm is loud!”
Aria drops her plate of chicken, steak, and ice cream.
She cries out for me, stumbling about, her eyes wide with terror.
“MOMMY!” she wails.
I leap up to the ceiling to silence the alarm. DH’s steak sizzles in the background. Wafts of garlicky smoke float up all around me.
I pick Aria up and she winds around me arms and legs like a baby chimpanzee.
Urgent and full of emotion, Aria points fervently at the stairs.
I rush up. She’s probably right. We should get away from the smoke.
She points frantically toward the master bedroom.
“How about we go to your room and read books?” I suggest.
She practically drags me into my bedroom.
She insistently points to the bed.
I sit down.
Impossibly, she winds even tighter around me.
And then she just breathes. Her heart races like it did when she was a little cashew in my womb.
In and out and in and out.
I wonder if she is asleep after a while, but for thirty minutes she clings and stares at nothing. I stroke her hair and whisper soothing promises in her ear.
“You’ll always be safe with me, little one.”
“I’m here. It’s okay.”
“I love you.”
Slowly. Slowly. Her heart begins to calm.
Her breathing lengthens.
“Do you want to lie in the bed?”
She nods and we lay out together. She shifts around for a while.
“Do you want me to turn out the lights?”
Firm nod. Lights out. Snuggle close.
Every minute or so, she reaches out to touch my face, just to be sure I’m still there. My heart melts.
I’m so lucky. I get to protect and comfort this special little girl. My girl. My daughter. I hug her close. She pulls me closer.
Another half hour passes. Maybe longer. Finally she journeys into a deep and peaceful sleep.
And that’s how Aria survived her first real brush with fear.
Something is really clicking for Aria about colors. It’s interesting of how months of games grouping colors are now translating into real-world decision making.
Yesterday I convinced her to wear a pink hoodie because it was cold and, selling point to her, it had pockets. I usually have to sell some feature of an article of clothing if I want help instead of screaming and combat while dressing her. I am becoming quite the clothing diplomat!
After we got the hoodie on, Aria looked down at it thoughtfully. She then matched back to the drawer, examined the contents for a moment, then pulled out a pink fleece.
She grabbed a clump of her hoodie and pushed it up to the fleece in her other hand.
“Pink,” she pointed out.
She looked up at me expectantly.
“Do you want to wear that too?” I asked after a pause.
Big head nod.
On an aside, she then insisted we go outside to the playground, which she’d been hinting at all morning. We did and I was a half hour later to work than usual. But I was the happiest I’ve been in weeks all day at work.
It matters when you start the day out right.
So we’ve been playing this game for months. I’ll roll the die and she might pick it up and match a colored fruit to one of the sides. Then who knows what’ll happen to the fruit! No respect for rules at all. Game rules are my bible. Clearly she’s switched at birth. That would also explain the blonde…
Then today, with no promoting, she picks up the die, shakes it wildly until it tumbles out of her little palm and onto the laminate flooring. She retrieves the six sided die, says the cooor on the top and brings it back, then matches it to a fruit. When I instruct her to put it in the basket, she eagerly complies.
Then she gets back to making up her own rules and starts dealing out the orchard cards like we were playing blackjack or something. Kind of like that.
I just don’t know how it happens like this. Is it will or understanding? When did it click to roll that die. We haven’t even played the game for a week!
I’m baffled. It’s official. Toddlers are so cool!!
I would call this a real milestone. And one that’s going to give me an amused headache, if that’s possible.
Every day for the past week, it’s gotten progressively harder to select a spoon for Aria.
It’s especially difficult because she still insists on two spoons. So we’re going through this until we get the “right” combo.
But, I was starting to see a pattern. Duh dun duuuuh!
Today confirmed my suspicions. Aria likes girl colors!
And she hurls the blue and yellow spoons into the drawer.
I look at where she’s pointing. There is a purple spoon in the drying rack.
A. She knows the color purple by name. Which I was pretty sure she did.
B. She went looking for the color she wanted. Totally new. Mind blown.
C. She wanted a particular color. She has real preferences. Preferences she just verbalized.
Totally blog worthy.
Here is what listening to music with Aria was like.
Aria points to the TV, which means Music Mommy!!
We sit together on the couch and Aria waits expectantly as I pull up Pandora.
Three seconds. Maybe. Not exaggerating.
“New song?” I ask.
Big head nod.
I change stations, since that’s the only way to change the song.
Disney radio? 2 seconds.
“No, no Mommy!”
Pop fitness? 3 seconds.
Nope. It’s not her ears. Got those checked and she’s fine 😉
“All done??” I ask in exasperation.
And this is how it’s been for months. Almost a year. Really. Can’t get through ten seconds of a song without the decider-in-chief asking for us to change the song.
It was a mystery.
A great, great mystery.
And then daddy had an epiphany.
He skimmed the stations. There had to be something.
“How about Children’s Dance Radio?”
Three seconds. Aria starts clapping.
She dances back and forth.
We get through the whole song.
One after the other after the other.
Laughing, clapping, dancing.
Gesturing and doing what the song would say to do.
Wiggle, shake, touch your head.
I think she just wanted to understand the words. She likes the simpler, playful beats and music.
So weird! No taste at all! 😉
Just a moment ago, Aria lined up a bunch of Jenga blocks. She paused and looked back at her creation and was like:
“Oh yeah. Look at that! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” (In a mix of words and gestures 😉
There was just so much intentionality to it – a new and blossoming sense of the order of things and then an ability to mimic that order. DH frowned: “That’s kinda creepy.” A possessed gremlin is clearly in our midst!
Well, may this be the first step towards reducing the mess : helpfulness ratio!
Cheers to that!
From 16 to about 50 years old, my mom loved being involved in politics. It was her pride and identity – serving causes she believed in.
Part 1 – Memories of my Mother
I remember her telling the story of being sixteen in Ohio and going to one party headquarters. They smiled patronizingly and told her how cute it was she wanted to get involved. Then she went to the other party and one of the main guys enthusiastically welcomed her to the work, telling her how great it was when young people get involved. She became a lifelong democrat after that.
Her other favorite story was of moving to Utah. She was in a car full of women from church. They asked her what she did for a hobby and she said politics, but was sad to say she was giving it up because there were no democrats in Utah. All the women started laughing. Before my mom could feel embarrassed, the driver asked Mom if she recognized her. Mom didn’t, of course, and she introduced herself as the wife of a democratic congressman of Utah.
Mom collected political buttons as she worked the political scene in Utah, managing campaigns and serving causes.
Eventually, some thirty years later, politics, another’s cruel ambition, and her own health soured it all. She was still reeling from the ousting as a simple admin assistant at a county democratic committee office when she died eight years later at 58.
Part 2 – My political awakening
I’ve never had much interest in getting involved and being political. I was registered independent for a decade until my state removed that as an option and I realized being left unaffiliated would exclude my from the primaries.
But even then, voting was the extent of my politics. Beyond that I was just as happy to serve in education, ensuring the disenfranchised would have the sword of learning to fight for their rights, a good career, and their own happiness. From government teacher, to principal data consultant, to program director I’ve gone. A decade in and I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of realizing my dreams for the experiences I want for the young people of the city where I serve.
Then this last year happened and it seemed like everything decent in the world had been thrown out the window. At the same time I’ve been learning on the ground about the extensive needs of those in poverty, I’ve been watching those services vilified and the black people of the cities dehumanized.
Add that to a renewed normalizing of the objectification of the female sex and the demonizing of truth and the press that protects it. I forget the challenges women still face because I’m in a field where woman are unrestricted in ourgreatness. This last year reminded me of how it was being one of two ladies among eighty computer scientists in classes at college.
The environmentalist and innovator in me is also reawakened. I’ve watched a cabinet get packed with fossil fuels and financiers, pillars to the golden oligarchs of the 20th century. Backwards industries. The antichrists of innovation.
Part 3 – Marching for better
So for the first time in my life, I stood up on Saturday and marched. I wanted to be a part of the crashing wave, rising up to break the tide taking us in every wrong direction.
I told DH I want the March on Washington to be my first step in a direction, not just standing up to stretch, then sitting back down again.
Awesomely then today I was at a baby shower, still thinking how I could get involved, and I met the VP of an activist committee in a neighboring county where I hope to move my family in a few years. She gave me her card and told me to get involved.
I will. Maybe someday down the line I’ll even run for office.
For Aria, for my students, for my country, for the future. I think I need to do more. We all do.
Lest I look down one day and find empty the social toolbox I rely on to turn things around for my students.
Lest I look over one day and see my daughter belittled out of a career and position of influence of her choosing.
Lest I look up one day and see my beautiful world crumbling.
We all can march together for a better world.
Every major disruption to the routine requires one. There’s never a mile marker you get to and perfect order is achieved. There is a rhythm to life and when it gets off beat, you have to drum your hands a bit until the music starts to flow again.
It took three days after our trip to Cali to reset Aria’s sleep.
It’s taking three days to reset her after she came down with a fever three days ago.
This is one of the painful resets. Two hours in to the middle of the night meltdown. Ten minute intervals because I am weak tonight and can’t resist the draw to go to her.
Yesterday, after dad and I both took turns wrestling and playing with her for an hour, I fell asleep beside her, holding her hand.
Tonight there can be no compromise. She is well and she needs the rest that a reset will afford her. It is the only way to give her full night rests every night.
Round one, an assuring pat on the shoulders as she screams like a banshee.
Round two, I pick her up and rock her as she thrashes like a drowning cat. I acknowledge she wants to eat or go downstairs or get a drink or do anything that involves being held and away from her crib. Her screams never stop. I leave.
Round three, I pick her up and wrap her in a blanket. Finally her screeches turn to gasps and quiet tears. I lie her down. I hold her hand. She weeps, but is calm. I exit. Screams and moans follow me.
Round four, I slip in and hold her hand. She reaches out and strokes my face, litte gasps and sobs escaping her worn lungs as she clutches for me. I hold on for a minute or two. Her breathing steadies, her body relaxes. I leave. Wails errupt.
Round five. I hold her hand for a short minute. I let go, but assure her I am still there. I feel impatient for her to overcome this and hate myself for my weakness in my fatigue and with my own sore throat. It’s been an hour and a half. I leave. She laments my exit, but her tears are tired.
I know I can’t go back in at this point, so I retreat to my blog to escape the ticking of the clock.
Three quarters in from the post, she sleeps.
Did I succeed? Tomorrow will tell.
Reveling in the stillness.
Still yearning to hold her.
Addisons makes me feel like there is a growing weight on my body. Each year further from the boundless, untamed passion and energy of my youth. Tired without being weary. Too often cloudy. Unable to push into the depth of night rather than make the hard choices about what ideas and causes to chase down. But yet happy, having shaved down many elements of my life and work to the richest activities. If I could just forsake the anxiety of what I cannot do or care about, I would be happy and at peace.