The Best Advice I’ve Been Given
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given about parenting came from our first pediatrician, whom I loved. I’ve blogged several times over the years about what an awesome doctor this woman was, but perhaps the thing that I loved most about her was when I went to see her when Bean was about two or three months old. He was crying. Like, every day. It was like a clock. Every day from 4:00 until 6:00pm, that dude wailed, whined, and whinnied. He was miserable. “Something’s wrong,” I told my pediatrician. “This can’t be normal.”
Thankfully, she didn’t shoo me away or tell me I was being silly. She did a complete little physical on Bean (even though she’d just seen him for vaccinations not a week earlier). She looked him over from head to toe, asked me about his eating habits, asked me about his bowel movements, asked me about everything she could think of. Ant there was nothing. Nothing that got her attention or seemed like it was a problem.
Finally, she looked at me with a sympathetic smile and said very kindly, “You know, Momma, sometimes babies just cry.” This was not what I had intended to hear. It wasn’t what I was prepared for. I was prepared to solve any problem my baby confronted. Gas? I had leg exercises. Rash? I had ointment. Cold? I had a humidifier. Running nose? I had tissues. Whatever it was, I was prepared. Or I was ready to become prepared. If there was a problem, I would have the solution. BECAUSE I WAS THE MOTHER, DARN IT! But a baby who cries for no reason? I didn’t have an answer for that.
There was no solution because there didn’t appear to be a problem. I sat in the tiny doctors office for a second, dumbfounded. “But, what do you DO if there’s no reason they are crying? I’ll do ANYTHING!” “Well,” she said. “You hold them and rock them. Or you swaddle them and let them swing. Or you walk with them outside. Or you walk with them inside. Or you take them for a ride in the car. Or you sit on the front porch and drink lemonade. Basically, you do whatever you can to make them happy, and when that doesn’t work, you just sit with them while they are unhappy.”
Huh. Well, that’s something that hadn’t occurred to me. “Sometimes, part of parenting is just being there when they are upset. You may not be able to fix the problem, but you can go through it with them. And that starts at infancy,” she said.
Only now that I have survived two newborns, two babies, two toddlers, and one preschooler do I really understand how wise that pediatrician was. She was absolutely right. As parents, we want to solve the problem. But sometimes there isn’t a problem we can solve. It’s just something we have to go through WITH our children.
As newborns, that might be colic (like with Gracie, which I thought was going to kill me, not to mention her…). With toddlers that might be a temper tantrum. With preschoolers that might be learning to take turns or to share. With school-aged kids that might be feeling left out. And on up the line. I imagine the role of sitting with my child as they go through something will never stop. I know it certainly never did for my dad and it still hasn’t with my mom.
Yes, sometimes babies cry. They cry at home, at bedtime, in public, in restaurants, in groceries stores, in libraries, in church… pretty much everywhere you go. Babies cry. And when we can solve their problem and make it all better, we feel like SuperMomma. But when there is no problem to solve and we have to sit there rocking them while they wail, we usually feel like failures. But let me tell you a secret. The success is that you were there with them, not that you fixed the problem. Being there is the objective – at the very beginning and throughout their lives.
So don’t fret when your wee one has a meltdown for no apparent reason and you don’t feel like you have the tools to do anything about it. Do what you can, and then just be there with them. As my pediatrician said, that’s really the best parenting there is.
On Sunday I turned 30. I don’t feel old, but I do feel older. 30 is just such a big number. I have been really excited about turning 30, though. Chris and I did everything in our lives so early that it kind of feels like my age is catching up to where we are. In any case, I’m ready to enjoy my 30′s. And I started enjoying it this weekend.
I had a great weekend! On Saturday, I took the kids up to my mom’s house to put up her Christmas tree. I was a little worried about how hard that was going to be without my dad. My parent’s house at Christmastime is magical. Truly. There’s just no other word for that. There is a huge tree filled with meaningful ornaments dating all the way back to when my parents first married, and even some beyond that from my mom’s childhood. There are clothespin reindeer Ginny and I made as little Girl Scouts, and tons of photo ornaments from various years of our lives. “Our entire lives are in this tree,” my mom said as we hung each ornament one-by-one on Saturday. And she was right. You can mark our family’s journey on that tree, and that makes it really special.
I worried that without my dad, the magic would be gone. And it was a little hard at some points. Seeing some ornaments that brought back vivid memories of family trips or milestones was at times like a fist in the stomach.
But, you know, those moments were few. What we did even more was laugh while retelling family stories. The biggest laugh we had was about this ridiculously tacky Christmas tree topper that my dad rigged up last year with a coat hanger. I almost wet my pants listening to my mom talk about it, and I happened to get it on video, too!
That’s what moms are good for, I guess. Making life more fun than it probably should be. At least, that’s what my mom does for me.
Saturday night, we headed back to my house in Orlando, picked up Chris, and went to the Gaylord Palms Hotel to see their Christmas ICE! I hadn’t heard of this exhibit before, but it was awesome! It was an entire building of ice sculptures from the movie Madagascar Christmas. It was awesome!
But it was FREEZING! They have to keep the building at 9 degrees to keep the ice from melting. Because it’s so cold, they give you these enormous one-size-fits-all parkas. Thank goodness they had them, though, because I didn’t take the warning on the website seriously and just showed up with jackets for my kids. No gloves, hats, scarves – nothing. And here we were walking around in 9 degree temperatures for half an hour! The parkas really kept us warm. And they looked super cute on the kids!
We had such a great time with my mom and the kids. They had a little Christmas village and store for us to shop around in after we came out of the ice exhibit, so we played and had a lot of fun!
We came home and had birthday cake for me. It is super fun now that the kids are old enough to actually sing “Happy Birthday.” They are so proud of themselves when they finish! And then they want to open your presents. We’re still working on the whole birthday concept…
Later that night, around 10:00, Chris was installing my new dishwasher (happy birthday to me!). While he was underneath the dishwasher connecting the wiring, he got a small electric shock. It startled him and he instinctively yanked his hands out from under the dishwasher. When he did that, he caught the top of his right hand on metal braces under the washer and basically ripped the top of his hand off, no lie. It was pretty awful. I heard him cry out once and then he yelled out to me instantly, “Kate, we’ve got to go to the hospital.”
Now, I can count on one hand the number of times Chris has voluntarily gone to the doctor for ANYTHING, and I’ve NEVER seen him go to the ER. But he knew as soon as it happened that this was pretty bad. Luckily, lacerations will get you in to see a doctor SUPER quickly in the emergency room, so we didn’t have to wait long. When we got back and the doctor examined his hand, it was pretty good news. Somehow, Chris had managed to escape without one vein being punctured or any tendons being cut. If you had seen his hand, you would know what a miracle that was because it was an enormous cut. He ended up getting 20 stitches in his right hand. It was kind of an exciting way to end the night!
All in all, my birthday was non-stop fun (well, minus the ER visit…). I had a big, happy full weekend. Tomorrow I’ll share about our trip to Epcot on my actual birthday. It was just icing on the birthday cake!
I’m not going to lie. One of the hardest parts of being a parent are Saturday mornings. My little elves don’t know Mondays from Saturdays, so 6:30 comes early no matter what day of the week it is. Lately though, we’ve found a nice solution. Chris hooked Bean’s lamp up to a flip switch so that he can turn it on for himself when he gets up. He normally wakes up at 6:30, turns his light on, goes potty, and then heads back to his room to play. He is a good child. A good, good child.
Gracie gets up at 7:00 on the dot, fake crying in her crib. You can tell she’s fake crying because she will stop every minute or so to listen for someone coming to get her, and then she busts out laughing when you pop into her room. It’s pretty funny.
Chris and I have worked out the perfect Saturday morning routine. When Gracie gets up, I go get her, change her, and then deposit her in Bean’s room. The two of them entertain themselves for a long time these days. We put the baby gate up on the stairs, and the kids run around upstairs playing while Chris and I lay there, pretending like we’re getting to sleep in. The kids pop in to see us about every 10 minutes, and we keep our ears and one eye open for, you know, knives and things. But for the most part, it’s pretty relaxing and a nice change from the weekday grind.
This past weekend, Chris and I were laying in bed, listening to the kids playing out in the hallway. I heard the bathroom door open, which is never a good sign, but I decided to ignore it because I was 85% sure I’d put the bleach away. And it was Saturday. Then, very loudly and clearly, we hear Bean say, “Okay, Gracie, do you need to go pee pee or poopy?”
Chris kicked me. “Get up!” he groaned.
So, I kicked him back. “You get up!”
But we both continued to lay there.
Then we hear Bean again. “You have to go poopy?”
Now, I kicked Chris. “Go get them!” I giggled.
“No! It’s your turn!”
But we still continued to lay there. I mean, it was SATURDAY.
Finally, we heard Bean say, “Okay, Gracie, sit right here on the potty…”
“I’M UP!” Chris and I shouted together, throwing back the covers and racing down the hallway, shouting, “NO! NO, GRACIE! NO!”
Ahhh… Saturdays. They aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still kind of fun!
So, Chris and I have been fighting for two days. But we only just ACTUALLY spoke about it tonight. And by spoke, I mean he said he was mad, I got mad for him being mad, we slammed some doors, then went to Bean’s Christmas concert at school, smiled with the other parents like everything was fine, came home and put the kids to bed together, and then sat on opposite ends of the couch pouting until bedtime.
All very mature, highly functioning stuff.
I have two versions of the fight to tell you. First is the version that I want to tell. The second is the real version.
Chris got mad at me because I went out to dinner with a girlfriend last night and left him at home with the kids, EVEN THOUGH I didn’t leave the house until they were fed, bathed, and in bed. Then, instead of talking to me about the fact that he was mad, he just pouted. I had to ask him 10 times over two days if he was mad at me for something before he finally told me.
I went out to dinner with a girlfriend and stayed out until 10:30 shopping, even though I had a lot of schoolwork and some other important things to take care of. Then I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and woke up the entire house and demanded they all get dressed and ready to go early so that I could finish all the crap that I didn’t finish the night before because I was out shopping. Finally, when I got home and asked Chris one more time what was wrong, he said, “I think you were just being a little irresponsible last night.”
Cue the door slamming, not speaking, awkward Christmas concert, couch sitting.
In retrospect, a few things went wrong. First, I was irresponsible. And I paid for that when I woke up at 5:30 this morning panicked about the 5,000 things I had to do that day that I wasn’t ready for. Secondly, Chris should have spoken up about what was bothering him.
About half an hour ago, Chris brought me a bowl of popcorn. Food exchange is our international symbol for, “Truce. Let’s not fight anymore.” And I accepted it and ate it with my feet in his lap while we watched TV. Which is our international symbol for, “Deal.”
Marriage is a funny thing, isn’t it? It simultaneously makes you a better person by keeping you in line when you need a gentle reminder, and it makes you slam doors and pout and eat “let’s not fight anymore” ice cream. So strange…