Archive for ‘parenting’

November 11, 2017

Romanticizing the morning commute

by Decemberbaby

We’re living at my parents’ house this year, while our house undergoes extensive (and expensive – I always wonder how often those two get misheard as each other) renovations. Yes, after so much deliberation we’re finally gutting our little bungalow, adding a second storey and an attic, and completely rearranging the main floor and basement. It’s exciting and I want to tell you all about it, but not today.

Anyhow, as I was saying, we’re living at my parents’ house this year. Normally we’d drive to school – at 8 km, the distance is too great to be able to bike there. Living with my parents, though, puts us a mere 2 km from school – and so we bike as often as we can.

If you’re one of my two loyal readers, you know how I feel about biking. Imagine how exciting it is that three of my children can finally ride their own bikes. I have to say, the bike commute is something I’m really going to miss when we move back to our own house.

Despite their initial complaints (“I’m tired!” “This is hard!” “It’s too far!”), the children can now do the 2 km ride with no complaints and without stopping… on a good day. On a bad day, the ride is 25 minutes of whining, stopping, crying, kicking, screaming, complaining… On our most recent (frustrating) ride to school, Mr. December looked at me and said, “Remember this when we’re back in our own house and can’t bike anymore. Don’t romanticize this biking to school thing. This is terrible!”

I actually don’t mind that the ride is sometimes more an exercise in frustration than just exercise. One of our parenting goals is to help our children develop some serious grit. As often as I can, I like to tell them, “It’s okay that it’s hard. You can do hard things!” I like to remind them, as they pedal right up the incline at the end of our street, that they used to have to get off their bikes and walk up that “hill.” I’m hoping that this contributes to a growth mindset, where the kids see that with repeated practice the morning ride becomes easier, and more good than bad.

But every day, easy or hard, good or bad, we start the day with physical activity, fresh air, and a tour of the neighbourhood where we greet the same faces day after day. It’s awesome even when it’s not, if you know what I mean.

And I have to say, it makes my heart feel very full every time I see this:IMG_3062

Or this:

IMG_2997

And yes, those photos were actually taken en route to school. Aren’t we lucky to have such a picturesque route? I’m going to miss this – and I’m not romanticizing!

 

 

Advertisements
February 2, 2017

Night owl seeks 6 a.m.

by Decemberbaby

I thought this day would never come.

Oh sure, I’ve aspired to be a morning person my whole life. The early morning is so peaceful and calm, not to mention the beautiful sunrises. But I’ve never managed to keep it up. A week here, a couple of days there, and the exhaustion would hit me hard enough that I gave it up.

Until now.

The only difference that I can see is my mindset. Waking up later is not an option anymore; the same way that 8:00 used to be my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise the kids would be late to school, 6:00 is now my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise I’m just not as nice a parent or as effective a person as I’d like to be.

So how did I do it?

Mostly once I made up my mind that I have to wake up before everyone else I was able to force myself to follow through. But a few tricks have helped me:

My alarm doesn’t yell at me or blare music. Instead, I hear the sound of chirping birds, soft at first, then getting louder. It’s like slowly waking up in the woods – I can lie there and laze for a few minutes, but it’s hard to resist getting up. (Note: this doesn’t work for everybody. My mum tried it and said she woke up in a good mood for the first week, and then she started waking up thinking, “Shut up, birds!”)

I never thought my penchant for reading fanfic on my phone would help me become a morning person, but here we are. I usually read for about 20 minutes before I even get out of bed. I find that the light from the screen wakes up my brain. A few articles or some chapters of a story, and I’m awake enough to get up without hurting myself.

I get dressed right away. I arrange all my morning clothes – including socks and underwear – one one hanger that hangs on the door handle of my wardrobe. I can (and usually do) get dressed in the dark. It’s quick – no decisions, no searching for the perfect socks – and once I’m dressed I can’t get back into bed.

When I leave the bedroom, I close all the doors to the bedroom hallway and then turn on every light in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It helps me pretend that it’s not still nighttime.

And then… then my time is my own for at least half an hour. I blog. I stretch. Sometimes I clear my desk and pay and file the bills. Some mornings I start a pot of oatmeal on the stove. I get important things out of the way before my day really begins.

(Hot tip: If you have to call a customer service line of some kind, do it around 7 a.m. Nobody else is calling at that hour and you’ll spend exactly zero minutes on hold. It’s magical.)

Is all this worth it? You could ask my kids, who’d probably tell you that now I wake them up with a song and a snuggle instead of by shouting, “Get UP! We have to GO!”; you could ask our violin teacher, who would tell you that the kids’ progress has accelerated since we started practicing daily before school (after school practice was a fight); Or you could ask me.

I like myself better when I wake up early. By 9:00 a.m. I’ve already accomplished something beyond getting the kids to school. I’m so much more productive when nobody else is awake that my morning half-hour of work can easily cover an hour or more of daytime effort.

And that’s a really good thing, because holy cow, am I exhausted. I’m going to need a nap.

 

Are you an early riser? An aspiring one? An unapologetic night owl? Share your tips, if you’ve got any, in the comments below. If mine stop working I’m going to need more in my arsenal.

September 18, 2014

Evenings chez nous

by Decemberbaby

I was all poised to write something profound, but my brain is in “irritated” mode and I just can’t be thoughtful. So instead, a glimpse into my life at dinnertime and beyond:

6:15 – everybody sits down at the dinner table

6:16 – somebody comments that they need a spoon for their peas. I get up and get them a spoon.

6:17 – I start a nice conversation with Mr. December about his day.

6:18 – somebody spills an entire jug of water. I jump up and get the kid a towel so they can clean up the spill.

6:19 – I have to remind said child that the spill isn’t cleaned up until there’s absolutely no more water on the table, floor, or chairs.

6:20 – “Yes, the floor under your sister’s chair counts.”

6:22 – everyone is eating nicely together…

6:28 – … until they’re not. The spoons are not drumsticks and the table is not a drum.

6:30 – the children claim to be done and run away from the table. I get up, hunt them down, and bring them back to the table. In this house, you’re not done dinner until you’ve taken your plate to the kitchen sink – and I’ll return you to your seat at the table as many times as necessary until you actually show me that you’re done.

6:35 – I sit down at the now-empty table and eat the rest of my meal. If I’m lucky, the children are playing with Mr. December. If not, they’re whining while he gets ready to leave for a volunteer meeting.

6:40 – I finish eating and ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:42 – I ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:47 – I remind the children that if they waste all their time goofing off, they won’t get any reading time. I disappear into the kitchen to clean up from dinner.

7:00 – “Are you guys wearing pajamas?” No, of course not. In fact, they’re not human anymore. Staring at me from inside a cardboard box are a lion, a cheetah, and a bunny. Not one of them has brushed their teeth.

7:10 – “Eema, will you read us a book?” Three expectant, smiling faces peer over the back of the couch. A small hand proffers a paperback copy of Flat Stanley.

7:11 – They emerge from behind the couch. The costumes have been discarded. I suppose this is progress, although “naked” is not a synonym for “pajama-clad.”

7:14 – “Put on pajamas, or NO READING TIME.”

7:15 – They would, but they have to poop. All three of them. At the same time.

7:30 – I am finally done wiping bums. I send the children to put on their pajamas.

7:35 – Three children emerge in underwear, assuring me that this is all they want to wear to bed. We settle on the couch and read four chapters of Flat Stanley.

7:50 – They want more chapters. I know the feeling, but no.

8:00 – Everyone is tucked into bed.

8:05 – Everyone is back out of bed, either to pee or to drink, or possibly to drink and then pee (or maybe the other way around.)

8:08 – N asks me to tuck him in. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready, Eema. I just have to get my guys organized.”

8:11 – Sartre was wrong; hell isn’t other people. Hell is being forbidden to move from your child’s side while he arranges and re-arranges his stuffed animals according to size, genus, species, softness, and (I suspect) astrological sign.

8:15 – I finally tuck in the boy, followed by the girls. A gentle kiss followed by, “if anybody gets out of their bed for a non-emergency, there will be CONSEQUENCES. Do you understand? Good. I love you!”

8:18 – I can hear them talking, which I guess isn’t that bad.

8:21 – I hear them arguing, which is pretty normal, if not ideal.

8:34 – I hear crying. I evaluate it for pitch, intensity, and duration, and decide that it’s not serious. I ignore it.

8:43 – “Eema, my lemur is wet.” Whatever, kid. Just go to sleep.

8:45 – It hits me that if a lemur is wet, who knows what else has been drenched?

8:46 – There is a puddle on the floor of the bedroom with a water cup lying on its side nearby. No sleuthing required – I throw a towel at the floor and bark, “mop it up.”

8:47 – “Eema, I got hurt.”

8:48 – I lose it. “I don’t care. You wouldn’t get hurt if you’d all just stay in your OWN beds and go to SLEEP.”

8:50 – They’re talking again. And arguing… something about a lemur.

8:52 – I give up on thinking of a profound topic for this week’s blog post. Seriously, this post writes itself!

8:59 – I hear crying. Again. The three-year-old emerges, clutching her stuffed lemur and whining, “I need you.”

9:00 – The boy comes to the living room with an alphabet puzzle and says, “Eema, can you tell me what all these letters are?”

9:01 – “NO!”

9:02 – “Eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!”

9:03 – “But eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!

9:04 – “Eema?” “GO. TO. SLEEP.”

9:05 – Maybe I should just lead by example. I’ll hit “publish” on this blog post and then go to sleep.

9:06 – …right after I finish the next chapter in my book. And get a drink. And go pee…

https://i2.wp.com/thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mG-TqMEh3zwRkhV8Wg-mmNA.jpg

This post has been brought to you by three plush lemurs, and by the letters N and O.

September 10, 2014

Getting hurt.

by Decemberbaby

We were at the park. K climbed onto a trampoline-like apparatus and started jumping. Immediately, two children (aged 4 and 5, perhaps,) began whining: “No! Stop jumping! You’re not supposed to jump on this thing!”

(Here I must interrupt myself to point out that I don’t usually get involved at all in playground disagreements, but their objections were so absurd that I just couldn’t help myself.)

“Why not?” I asked them. “Looks to me like this thing was made for jumping.”

The five-year-old boy set me straight: “But it’s Dangerous!”

I looked around. The ground was paved with rubber. The apparatus itself seemed to be made of rubber and very sturdy ropes that were close enough together that no child could possibly fall off. Where the ropes intersected, the joint was encased in a rubber ball. Dangerous? I couldn’t see how.

Fortunately, the five-year old decided to enlighten me further by saying, “Last time someone jumped on this, I fell down!

No scars, no bruise, no “I fell down and broke something.” No. He fell down, an act by which he proved that the apparatus was unsafe.

Readers, you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t just outright laugh in this child’s face. I certainly wanted to at first, until I realized that this child was being allowed to grow up with a ridiculous level of fear.

****

K has been learning to ride a two-wheeled bike (no training wheels) for the last few weeks. She could have made faster progress, I felt, had she not been so scared of falling and getting hurt. I was patient, though. I bit my tongue and sat on my hands. “See, Eema,” K told me, “this way I can make sure I don’t fall down and get hurt!”

Sure, kid. But you’re also making sure you don’t get to feel the wind in your face.

****

In my 34 years of life, I’ve been hurt many, many times. I’ve also been sick, both acutely and chronically. And every time, I have recovered.

Why does this matter? Because lately I’ve noticed a train of thought in my own mind that goes something like this: “What’s the worst that can happen? I get hurt? It’ll hurt like hell, but only for little while, and then I’ll be okay. That’s not so bad.” It seems that having experienced injuries and the healing process has given me a degree of courage, or maybe just a better perspective on risk. On balance, I’d say my past injuries were valuable and ultimately empowering experiences.

That’s why it makes me sad to see children who are convinced that getting hurt is the worst possible thing in the world, and that injuries only result from unsafe activities (should I tell the story about the ceiling that fell down on Mr. December’s bed? He wasn’t in it at the time, thank God.) I’m saddened to think of all the fun these children will miss out on, not to mention the sense of accomplishment they would get from doing something difficult and possibly risky. Most of all, I’m saddened to think that it didn’t have to be this way.

We are currently raising children in a culture and a time where any level of danger is unacceptable; where not obsessively baby-proofing your home is seen as foolhardy; where sitting on a park bench and watching as your child attempts a tricky climb, falls, cries, and tries again is tantamount to neglect. We are inundated with “what-ifs”: what if your child is biking to the park alone and falls and gets cut and bleeds and cries? What if he slips on one of the steps and slides right down to the bottom of the basement stairs? What if the baby bangs his head on the corner of the coffee table and gets a bruise?

Well, what if those things happened?

Look, I get that there’s always a freak occurrence that nobody could predict (so why do we try so hard to predict it?) and that we just want our children to be safe. But is that really what we want for our children? Have we been so inundated with the slogan “Safety First!” that we’ve forgotten there are things more important than safety? If “safety first” was really true, nobody would use power tools, or play professional sports, or get into a car and drive somewhere. There is a level at which enjoyment and convenience can, and should, gently nudge safety aside just a little.

The truth is that our children are safer than probably any children at any time or place in human history. Vaccines, trained birth attendants (whether doctors or midwives,) car seats, and the general decline in violent crime have made infant and child mortality so rare that our culture has to think of new dangers to fear, much like how our immune systems supposedly attack allergens because they face no “real” threat from diseases that used to fell healthy people. Bad things just don’t happen to children anymore. If they do, it’s someone’s fault. Someone wasn’t safe enough, wasn’t vigilant enough, wasn’t a good enough caregiver. Someone must be blamed. There is, in effect, no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to children.

But back to my “what if?” question: What if a child bikes alone to the park, falls down and bleeds, and cries? Well, the child won’t cry forever. A passer-by, or another child, or a parent at the park, will offer assistance. More likely, the child will stop crying, get back on the bike (or walk beside it,) and either continue to the park or go home for a band-aid. What if your child slips or trips and falls down the stairs? Well, many of us have done that and lived to tell the tale. So will your child. What if the baby bangs her head on the corner of the coffee table? As I’ve said since I refused to childproof the house for K, “she’ll get hurt, she’ll cry, and she’ll learn not to play near the coffee table.” And in all three circumstances, the child will learn that getting hurt was not the end of the world.

There’s an odd juxtaposition in our culture. On one hand we celebrate the risk-takers, the visionaries, the pioneers. On the other hand, we do our best to scare parents and children away from developing those traits. Do we want risk-takers, or not? Do we want creative thinkers, or not? Do we want our children to grow up, or not? Ah, there’s the question, that last one.

Let’s let our children get hurt. Let’s encourage them to do difficult, challenging, scary things. Let’s give them a gift: the knowledge that an injury or a setback is temporary, and that human beings – ourselves and our children included – have an amazing capacity to heal, recover, and grow. Maybe then the children won’t be scared to get on an ultra-safe trampoline and just enjoy jumping.

In the meantime, wimpy kids, get off the trampoline. It’s for jumping, and my kid wants to jump. And she will.

September 7, 2013

Gratitude, not Attitude.

by Decemberbaby

Those of you keeping track might remember that K is now five and a half years old. She’s got a wonderful neshama (soul) – she can be mature, thoughtful, gentle, and kind. She also feels things deeply. When she’s happy, you can feel the joy she radiates. When she’s angry… well, do you remember the old nursery rhyme? The one that goes:

There was a little girlwith a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
she was very, very good;
and when she was bad,
she was horrid.

It’s like that. I imagine that, were she an optimist by nature, this wouldn’t be as big an issue as it’s become. The fact is, however, that K can be a real complainypants.

I’ve tried to instil in her the Jewish principle of hakarat hatov – recognizing the good – in an attempt to minimize the number of complaints I hear. If you passed us a few months ago at the local shul, it would have sounded like this:

K: No fair! I only got one candy and those kids got three!
Me: Let’s try that again. Isn’t it wonderful that we get to go to a shul where there are grownups who give out candy to the kids just because they want to?
K: But they got more than me!
Me: But look! You got candy! And it’s purple – that’s your favourite! And it’s so yummy!

… and so on.

I’ve made this a priority with K right now. I know that what we do becomes who we are, and I don’t want her to go through life complaining about every minor injustice. Gratitude leads to happiness, and all that. What I really want to do is make gratitude and hakarat hatov habitual for her. I can’t change her personality, but I can help her change her default behaviour (can’t I?).

So a couple of weeks ago I went to Dollarama and brought home this:

journal

It’s a fuzzy journal. You know, for all the things that give her a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s her hakarat hatov book, and we write in it every night. K chooses one good thing about the day, that she’s thankful for, and we also write down one Mitzvah or Chesed (kindness) she did during the day.

So far it’s slow and painful going. Every night I ask what she’s grateful for that day, and every night she says, “I don’t know… I don’t remember!” I list all of her activities that day and she still doesn’t know, or she’ll say, “Yeah, that one.” as if she’s too lazy to repeat the words I’ve just said. I insist that she says the words herself (“I’m thankful for the tooth fairy.”) As for naming a mitzvah she’s done that day, right now I’m telling her what I noticed. Maybe in future she’ll identify those for herself. Right now I’d settle for her telling me – the first time I ask – what she was most thankful for.

I hope that gratitude is like a muscle, and that K’s will grow stronger with this exercise. For the time being I’m grateful for the opportunity to help her build character.

March 1, 2013

Le plus ca change…

by Decemberbaby

Yes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m on antibiotics. Again. For mastitis. Again.

I think I might also have a sinus infection, which would explain the feeling of *holycrappleasestopinflatingthatballooninmyheaditsabouttoburst!!!!!* I get every time I sit up. The doctor assured me that the Keflex I’m now taking for the mastitis should knock out any sinus infection as well.

In the meantime, I’m learning a few things:

1. I’m only fat because food tastes good. No, seriously. Right now I can’t smell anything at all, which means I can’t taste anything. And absent taste, food has no particular purpose, so why eat unless I’m feeling hungry? And is that why people gain weight when they stop smoking? Because suddenly they can actually taste their food?

2. I’m a very lucky woman to have so many friends and family to call on in times of need. I’d like to send a shout-out to L, who picked N up from school at lunchtime and drove him to my parents’ house; to M, who fed N lunch and got him settled for a nap; to my in-laws, whose devotion to our children is such that they didn’t even flinch when asked to pick up K from school and N from my parents’ house and then come here and babysit all three kids for 4 hours; and, of course, to Mr. December, who kept me supplied with hot packs and tea and blankets all through the feverish shivering hours of the evening and night.

3. Antibiotics are magical. I can imagine only too well what a week or more of this suffering would be like without them. A couple of hundred years ago a fever like this would have had my husband and children fearing my demise. Now it just means yet another visit to the doctor and a heart-to-heart conversation with my pharmacist. What a time to be alive.

4. We (as in Mr. December and I) need to teach the children to knock. Moreover, I think we need to repeat our lesson on what constitutes an emergency worth waking a sleeping parent (Hint: if there’s no fire and not more than a litre of blood, it’s not an emergency. Either fix it yourself or WAIT.)

5. We have finally established circumstances under which the phrases, “I want you to look at my breast” and “can you please massage the underside of my breast for me?” can in no way be construed as a come-on.

6. Shit happens. We all know that. But it only happens on the floor when mommy is very sick and just the act of bending over to wipe said floor makes her howl in pain. Well played, universe. Well played.

I’ll see you all when my sinuses clear.

February 19, 2013

Stoic

by Decemberbaby

Apparently I’m stoic.

We went to the doctor today for R’s well-baby checkup. Incidentally, she’s still able to fit into her infant (bucket) carseat at 9.5 kilos and 80 centimetres. Anyhow, so the doctor is examining her, and I hear,

“Oh! Oh my!”

Apparently R has a raging ear infection. We had absolutely no idea. Her behaviour has been normal, she’s been eating like a horse, and the only clue that anything is different is that she napped for 2 hours yesterday instead of her usual 45 minutes. Nevertheless, the eardrum is red and bulging and really gross looking.

“Looks like she inherited her mummy’s stoicism!” The doctor opined.

“Stoicism?” I said, “Whatever do you mean?”

“Open your mouth.” She ordered. Then she looked at my throat, pointed out that I’m incubating a couple of nice white patches on my right tonsil, and prescribed antibiotics for my strep throat. I had strep throat… who knew?

Sure, I haven’t been feeling fabulous, and yeah, I almost fainted yesterday evening, but I just assumed I was tired from too many late nights. Okay, I also had a stabbing pain in my throat. But only in one spot, and only when I yawned.

I guess you could call me stoic. I prefer “blissfully unaware” and “willing to soldier on.” Stay-at-home-moms don’t get sick days, after all. I often find myself thinking, “Okay, I’m good to collapse and fall asleep after I’ve put away the leftovers and helped K pack her lunch. Ooh, dizzy. I’d better just slide my butt down to the floor now…”

Having said that, I just realized that K’s lunch is packed and the leftovers have been put away. Methinks it’s time for bed. Also antibiotics. Good night.

March 28, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Countdown to Passover edition

by Decemberbaby

First of all, a shout-out to Elizabeth for subtly pushing me to do WIP Wednesday this week. Click on her name, because she’s joining WIP Wednesday! Go give her some bloggy love.

As for me, I’ve done nothing related to the following projects:

  • Photo books
  • Library doors
  • Kids’ table
  • Spring planting

Yup, nada. I’ve been spending my time dealing with K, who’s had a high fever for the last five days (doctor couldn’t fit us in today: we’re going in at 9 tomorrow,) a very clingy N, and a clingy, demanding R. Also, Passover is coming and that means some major planning and cleaning. Here’s the rundown:

In Progress: Using up the pantry

As of mid-morning a week Friday, We can’t have anychametz (leaven) in our home. There is a practice wherein we can box up all the leaven, put it away somewhere, and sell the box to a non-Jew for the week of Passover, but that always seemed disingenuous to me. So this year I’ve been planning since Purim, cobbling together weird meals from what’s in the pantry, and basically trying to use up everything that isn’t kosher for passover.

To that end, I’ve been baking (bad for the diet) and cooking a lot more desserts than usual. Last week I attempted baguettes – major fail. This week I’m trying to get rid of rice, so we’re eating rice porridge for breakfast, fried rice for dinner, and rice pudding for dessert. I still have half a canister of rice. Any suggestions?

In progress: Passover cleaning

For the record, I have a love-hate relationship with Passover cleaning. The hate is easy to understand, I’m sure. The love… well, I do feel that without Passover cleaning I might never throw out old spices or clean the cupboard where the garbage cans live (it gets grody in there.) And it feels really good to open the fridge and see no crumbs, no drips, and no forgotten leftovers.

The fridge is currently the only place where I’ve made progress: I emptied it, washed the entire inside including the shelves, and lined the shelves with plastic wrap. Then I put all of the edible stuff back in. This way I can just take out any remainingchametz, remove the plastic wrap, and – voila! – my fridge is kosher for passover.

This week I have a major list to get through: Clean the freezer, oven, and microwave; wash down all cabinet doors; clean out all cabinets; clean under/behind fridge and stove; vacuum the couch (including under the cushions and in the cracks; wash slipcovers; hunt for discarded and forgotten cheerios, pizza crusts, and half-eaten cookies (a definite hazard in my house); wash the garbage containers and the cupboard in which they live; empty the pantry, donating any non-kosher for passover food to the food bank, and throwing out the open stuff; tape off the cabinets with the year-round dishes, empty the drawers, and bring up all the passover dishes and utensils from the basement. Oh, and I have to sand the butcher block and oil it.

Gosh, I’m tired just typing that. This year I’ll be keeping the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in mind: “Dust is not chametz, and children are not the Passover offering.” I’m determined not to sacrifice my children on the altar of Passover cleaning perfection.

In Progress: Weight Watchin’

I’m down two more pounds this week, bringing the total to 18. Every week I say “that’s just noise because I’m wearing lighter clothes/I peed and breastfed right before weighing in/my major chocolate binge hasn’t had time to turn into fat yet.” It would seem, however, that the downward trend continues – so how much of it is really noise?

This week my goal is to get at least 15 minutes of vigorous exercise each day, on top of the usual cleaning/baby bouncing/running after kids.

In Progress: baby quilt

I’m attending a baby shower this weekend, and I’m making them a quilt. All the fabric is cut – I just have to sew it all together, quilt it and bind it. I’ve set aside a block of time tomorrow.

… looks like that’s it. Don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s WIPs… and hey is anybody else out there trying to achieve something this week?

March 15, 2012

Just Sweet and Jewy?

by Decemberbaby

First my infertility cred goes down the toilet, and now this… I’ve come to the realization that I’m just not that crunchy. Either that, or I’m somehow hanging out with a very crunchy crowd.

Yes, I’m a fan of cloth diapering, and I have a compost pile in the back. I grow my own vegetables and I replace car trips with bike trips. I feed my kids “real food” (by my standards, that means “not chicken nuggets and no handi-snacks.”) And yet I’m just not crunchy enough, and I’m finally self-aware enough to understand why that bothers me.

The catalyst for all this crunchiness-related navelgazing was, oddly enough, our synagogue. We have a food committee that recently created our new food policy: that food served at synagogue should be (whenever possible) organic, local, sustainable, and healthy. Anyhow, this has drastically changed the food that gets served at our shul’s kiddush luncheon. In my opinion the food is delicious, but kid-friendly it’s not.

So I mentioned this to someone on the committee. I suggested that maybe the caterer could just make a pot of Wacky Mac (the kosher equivalent of Kraft Dinner) for the little kids. She responded flatly that it would never happen and I said, “but it’s what little kids like to eat!” It is, right? Wrong.

And here enters my defensiveness. The response that there are “lots” of children who love tofu, quinoa, and raw bok choy instantly raised my hackles. She said, “lots of kids like this kind of food,” but I heard, “lots of kids, with parents better than you, like this kind of food.”

I feel like I’m hearing that kind of thing a lot these days. “Good parents don’t let their kids drink juice [ever?]”. “Good parents don’t feed their kids white flour and refined sugar.” Really? Since when are juice and cookies the dietary equivalent of rat poison?

(In order to spare myself the inevitable lectures, yes, I understand what sugar does to insulin levels and the pancreas. And yes, I understand that whole grains are much better than refined. And yes, I know that juice, cookies, and white flour are by no means essential to human survival.)

It’s interesting to me that the comments at which I take umbrage are directly relevant to my kids. The ones about foods we don’t eat either pass me by, or I really agree with them… like not serving tuna fish because of overfishing and the entrapment of other animals. Or serving fewer eggs because eggs from truly free-range chickens are more expensive than our shul can afford. I’m fine with those. But today there was an article in our shul e-mail about why refined grains are bad and we’ll only see whole grain products at kiddush, and my first thought was, “why is it the shul’s business to police what we should or shouldn’t be putting in our bodies?”

See? I get defensive. Also a bit belligerent. I mean, I personally think that if there’s ever a time to eat sweets and rare treats like juice, it’s Shabbat. If other parents don’t want to let their kids drink juice, then don’t give them the juice. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the drink table. Just learn to say no. Parent your child!

(see? the judgment goes both ways.)

I’d like to posit that this overemphasis on feeding kids only the purest food is, for many, a parenting issue, not a health issue. Parenting is tough. Really, really, really tough. You can do your best to teach your kids values and appropriate behaviour, and they still might not demonstrate those when they grow up. But we can absolutely, completely control what we feed our children and their resulting physical health says, “see? these parents did a Good Job!”

Parents, listen up. You ARE doing a Good Job. Whether you feed your kids organic quinoa or flourescent cheese-flavoured rat poison macaroni, you’re feeding your kids. (Look, if you’re starving your kids, you’re not doing a good job. Just so you know.) They’re growing. You’re teaching them some values. You’re raising them to function in your society. You’re Good Parents. Most parents are.

I’m trying, really trying, to remember that this is my baggage, not everyone else’s. I’m trying to remember not to roll my eyes when another parent crows about not serving juice at a birthday party and how none of the kids asked for it (do you remember childhood? Most birthday parties I attended offered pop (soda for you Americans) as a once-in-a-while treat!) I’m trying, but I don’t always succeed. And sometimes I’m not sure I want to.

Because honestly, does the whole “no juice, no sugar, no refined grains” thing seem a bit… preachy… to you? As if we can’t trust parents to provide certain treats in moderation?

Please comment. I want to know what you think.

February 14, 2012

Love

by Decemberbaby

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this post in its entirety before I realized that today is Valentine’s Day. Mr. December and I don’t do V-day, and this post wasn’t intended in any way to be thematically appropriate.

So we’re sick again. Our new nanny was supposed to start yesterday, but it felt wrong to not disclose the fact that we’re the plague house right now, and she decided to wait until we’re well. Mr. December and I both feel awful, but we’re taking turns tending to the kids.

Right. So we’re sick, and it’s dinnertime. Mr. D comes staggering out of the bedroom and before I can ask, he picks up a very fussy R and changes her diaper. I call the kids for dinner and Mr. D dishes up the pasta and sauce so that I can clean up quickly before R needs to nurse again. From the kitchen I can hear him at the table, instructing K on the finer points of applying parmesan to her pasta without applying pasta to the parmesan. R cries and I go to her while Mr. December helps with hand-washing and tooth brushing. Earlier he scored brownie points by calling a nanny temp agency and requesting someone for tomorrow so that the house can get clean and the kids can be looked after and I can rest.

In the middle of it all, with two kids sitting in cardboard boxes and one whining for the breast, I look at Mr. December. His hair is tousled (and not in a sexy way – it’s just messy.) He’s got two days’ worth of stubble. He’s wearing his bathrobe. His eyes are rimmed with red and underscored by dark circles. He looks like death warmed over.

And it suddenly hits me – I love this man. I love him so, so much. It’s not the wild crush of our youth (although sometimes I still catch a whiff of that) and it’s not the romantic feeling of being so cherished or of a deep-down soul connection. It’s steadier than those. It’s the love of “we’re in this together.” This day, this moment, feels just dreadful. The house is a mess, the kids are a mess, we’re a mess, and we’re just muddling through – but there’s nobody in the world with whom I’d rather muddle through.

Sometimes I wonder about other people’s criteria in choosing a partner for life. I may well be wrong, but I feel like popular culture puts an emphasis on romantic love – being swept off your feet by someone – and sexual attraction. It would be a shame if people bought into that ideal, because it’s just not sustainable 24/7. No matter how attracted and wildly in love you are, one morning you’ll wake up to a partner with morning breath who forgot to put the garbage out, and you won’t be feeling the love in that moment.

So what is sustainable? Common goals. Friendship. The ability to work together and deal honestly with one another.

I’ll admit that I fell wildly, madly in love with Mr. December. But in the seven long years between that moment and our wedding, we had a lot of serious conversations about our goals: kids (how many? stay-at-home mom or daycare? how will we educate them?), religion (how kosher will our home be? how will be celebrate shabbat? what kind of synagogue are we looking for?), finances (joint accounts or separate? how will decisions be made on spending? investments?), and even the little things (how often would we each see our own friends? do Saturdays need to always be date nights?) We discussed our future life so thoroughly that the rabbi who married us really had nothing to say during our pre-wedding counseling sessions. And believe me, if we hadn’t been able to come to satisfactory answers for all of those issues, we wouldn’t have moved forward.

If it sounds unromantic, that’s probably because it is. It’s a bit like Tevye and Golda inFiddler on the Roof:

For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is?

Or, in more modern-day parlance:

Yup, there's nobody with whom I'd rather face a zombie apocalypse than Mr. December. That's love.

But in my opinion, nothing beats looking over at my husband – elbow deep in diapers and snotty kleenex – and feeling that surge of appreciation and togetherness and unity of purpose… in other words, love.