Earn it, Dads

One recent night, my son, almost 3 ½,  rejected me.  It’s happened a few times before, but that night was the end of a hard day; I was just feeling fragile and it stung.  He was upset in his bed, I went up to hug him, and he said “No. Daddy.”

Hand in hand with the hurt, I was also thrilled for my husband.  He deserves that honor and had to wait to earn it.  It was me who was pregnant, went through labor and birth, breastfed and became a full-time caregiver while my spouse did none of those things.  His bond with J has been more gradual, but boy has it become sweet!

Amidst all the hoopla and bullcrap over the provocative Time Magazine cover, I think many people missed a short opinion piece tucked in with their “Attachment Parenting coverage” called The Detached Dads Manifesto.  It was a weird column that immediately chaffed me and felt forced- an essay in need of a red pen.  But the author must have done something right because this line has been sitting with me since I read it:  “There is one valuable role for the father when it comes to attachment parenting: he can argue against the whole thing.”

Wth? Is that not the most screwed up thing? What kind of partner would do that?

When I am not working my tail off as a mother, I work my tail off as community builder and supporter of mothers and children.  For three years now when I could have stayed in my yoga pants and tended to the needs of my own gang, I have chosen to walk the walk.  C’mon in, Brethren (Sistren?), my door is open. It feels like a calling to share the AP love, encourage, empathize, plan events, make sure new Moms know where LLL meets, hug the hormonal/unshowered/ sleep-deprived and beautiful women who show up on my doorstep. Maybe my cheerleading helps them stand up to pushy in-laws or bosses or Pediatricians, reminds them of their rights, and normalizes their instincts.

Do you know the lament I hear most? “My husband is giving me a hard time”.

Ugh, that is so infuriating! In most cases this child was planned and wanted-  some couples I know even struggled with infertility. Then the miracle happens and the movie montage cues up-nine months of dreaming, painting the nursery, thinking of names, talking to your belly, taking photos of the changing profile, feeling kicks, childbirth classes, registering, and passing the baby care books back and forth on the couch.

Then you get home from the hospital and realize all that fun hasn’t prepared you at all.

Which is why that essay sucked. Nervous couples need no extra prompting to argue.  Trust me.  And first time moms don’t need to have their instincts challenged (more), especially by their best friend.

Dr. Sears gives Dads the 411 here.  But in brief, Partners, please just support your wives- tell them how wonderful you think breastfeeding is, especially when Mom is struggling.  Embrace safe cosleeping.  And for goodness sake– learn how to rock a sling, wrap or carrier, which will benefit 3 people at once: Baby and Dad bond, Mom gets a touch break.  And for added bonuses, Dad gets to feel like a champ for putting Babe to sleep, AND Dad gets to feel like a stud because guys wearing babies are way hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey.

Rebecca’s spouse has a good sense of humor, most of the time.  He is attached to their sons.

The Tale of Mrs. No

On Sunday, Mothers Day, I did something awesome- I walked down the street to the supermarket all alone.  Just me and my reusable shopping bag in the sunshine to pick up 1 single item.  Heavenly.

I normally shop pushing a double stroller or pulling a wagon, and I load the food on top of and under the boys and then squeeze into the only checkout line that fits us. Freebie post partum weight loss tip– 2 kids + double stroller + heavy groceries like a watermelon and a gallon of milk = great workout.
Some days it’s fun; some days Jack runs his kid-sized shopping cart into my ankles.

Next to the registers there are rows of DVDs at kid eye level; brightly colored boxes with Diego and Thomas on them.  Well played, A&P.

Mrs. No is behind me in line and has 2 enormous potted flowers in her hands.  In my imagination, the poor lady is probably steamed already because it’s 2pm on Mothers Day and her spouse was like “oh, btw can you get a present for my Mom, too?” Her shopping companion is 3 feet tall and clutching a Diego video.  “Mom?” he asks with a grin shaking it from side to side.  “No.”  Then for the next 3 minutes, with no further peep out of the boy, the woman says No about 20 times with escalating intensity and no eye contact.
She could have said a million things that may have affirmed their relationship AND got him to put the DVD back.  What a missed opportunity.

That’s the whole story.  I was finished paying so I left.  I can only assume that they checked out with 2 orchids and 0 Diego videos.

I live happily in a bubble of like minded families, so I don’t hear 20 “Nos,” ever. Maybe it’s common? When I was a newbie, seasoned Mamas from LLL and an online parenting group shared stories of Gentle Discipline.  I was so psyched and surprised that you could parent without spending your days saying No.  I devoured the excellent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen long before Jack’s first words.

Nos have their place and trust me, there are limits galore in this house.   But I‘ve always liked Martha Sears’s idea of saving “No” for special situations–a toddler hand approaching a hot stove, for example– so that it is both rare and taken seriously. I love the challenge of finding alternatives to “No” that are respectful and/or silly.  Sometimes in the instance of a child wanting something that they’re not going to get, a simple “yeah that stinks” can go a long way.

Next time “No” is on the tip of your tongue, consider this: Can you think of any instance in your life where hearing “No” doesn’t totally suck?  Pitching an idea at work? Inviting a friend out for drinks? Making a pass at your husband? We know as grown ups that the thoughtful thing to do is let people down easy, soften the blow.  Children deserve that, too.

Rebecca is Mom to 2 butt-kicking,  limit-testing little boys.  She only likes hearing “No” when the question is “Does this nursing tank make me look fat?”

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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Empty Nester

What do you think of when you hear Empty Nest?  For me I think of middle-aged couples converting the last kid’s room into a hobby room (and maybe having a resurgence of friskiness in celebration of their new aloneness?).

A few nights ago, with everyone else asleep, I found myself clicking around a custom bunk bed website.  Oh man they were awesome. I would have loved any of them as a kid- twins over queens, fulls over fulls, L-shaped, low ones with trundles, and loft beds over hideouts.

There’s really nothing weird about me fantasizing about furniture when I should be zonked. My husband and I bought our first home last April and my inner home decorating junkie has been jonesing to make this place shine.   But since we moved here with a 2-year-old and a 6-week-old, eh, the decopage headboards and any other overly ambitious DIY projects have had to wait.

Anyway, as I was imagining how I would arrange the coolness from this site in our home, I was struck by what that signified.  That some day soon I’ll be facing an Empty Nest of my own — no more children in my bedroom.  Wow.  Even writing that just now stirred up all sorts of fluttery stomach stuff.

Call it whatever you like–family bed, cosleeping, sleep sharing; for me this has been my favorite and simplest of the famous Baby Bs.  I definitely never planned it; we had a gorgeous nursery right across the hall like most expectant couples.  But from bassinet to twin and several funny iterations in between (I’ve heard this lovingly called “musical beds”) , this scenario has worked for our family, and I will mourn it when it ends.

I’m going to enjoy it for now.  My 14-month-old giggles in his sleep sometimes. I need to file that away for later. Some nights, when he is restless, he will throw an arm out, and when that fat fist makes contact with me I feel his whole body relax and his breathing slow.  My 3-year-old talks about his working Dad all day, and I know that having his bed pushed up beside  Dad at night reconnects them.  These days, and nights, are short.

Our relationships will evolve and change again and again.  Soon I will honor their nighttime needs in a different way by creating a new nest, a bedroom for them to share.  Perhaps I’ll let them choose some novelty sheets with Buzz Lightyear on them that do not in any way fit into my fantasy design aesthetic, and I’ll smile anyway.

Rebecca is a wife and mother living in a town brimming with to-die-for antiques and home decor… which she admires from the sidewalk while she wheels her enormous double stroller past. 

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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Birds of my Feather

I’m a theatre nerd.  I sing show tunes, the harmonies too. I do a passable Merman (woot! Astoria shout out!). I have a rather insane Playbill collection that my husband may have threatened to toss during one of our moves.  I read Michael Riedel, and I used to read Frank Rich before he jumped the shark. Sometimes when I have trouble falling asleep I write scripts or cast shows in my head.  Put me in a room with folks who wear these traits like badges of honor and I am happy.  There is a sense of belonging that comes with shared passion and I’m confident in my nerdiness.

Why do you suppose we feel weird acknowledging the same about parenting?  Of course you can laugh and chat with any Mom at the playground, because there are elements of child rearing that are just universal. But one of the best things I’ve done in my parenting life is admit that I want to keep company with others who have arrived at the same conclusions I have.  I’ve taken the sometimes hard but always joyful steps to build community and “find my birds”.

So nowadays I’m also an AP nerd.  I quote Aldort.  I believe strongly in sleep sharing.  I make my own kefir.  I know what SSC stands for and wear my youngest around town in his Ergo.  (Psst, I still covet fancy strollers like some girls covet Birkin bags)
I NEED others like me. They feed me and normalize me and teach me cool things like how to get rid of pink eye (squirt squirt).

Although practices like babywearing and cosleeping and exclusive breastfeeding are less “counter cultural“ in 2012 then they were when my parents trail-blazed in the 70s and 80s, it still can be a lonely road if you don’t have your birds.

Have you ever had to pleasure to overhear two Moms discover that they are both cloth diapering? It’s happened in my living room a few times and it’s like a party!  “OMG, really? Hooray”  Next thing you know it’s the new bumgenius patterns and their favorite balms and how they can’t wait for summer because a cute AIO is practically an outfit and let’s trade emails.  Best pals being made right there.

So c’mon. YOU know your instincts are right.  You just need to find others who know your instincts are right too.  They are out there- some in plain sight but more are hiding.  Attend LLL.  Join API.  Read the message boards on mothering.com.  Feel normal and empowered.  Take a deep breath and just walk up to the new Mom at the park who is fussing with one of those boob covers and say “Hey, how about you throw that thing away and be my bird”.

Rebecca lives 12 miles west of Broadway and secretly dislikes most Sondheim.  She is always on the lookout for nursing Moms at playgrounds.

Mrs. Romney: A SAHM with 5. That’s 3 more than me!

Get off her back.  She’s rich.  Lucky her.  I’d hire major household help too.  But from all I’ve read, no nannies.  And Lord knows she could have had 2-3 for each child.  So why does this silly overblown insult have anything to do with motherhood? Motherhood is raising your children and she raised 5.

There is a whole spectrum of what SAHMs do in their “spare” time. If you could forgo the rest and focus on your children, why wouldn’t you?

I’m not less a mother on a day the cleaning lady mops the kitchen floor.  Are you more a mother if you pound clothes against a rock and my husbands shirts go to the dry cleaner? What if you plant and tend and pickle and can and stock a root cellar and I’m lucky if I pick up a store made rotisserie chicken for dinner? You would be cooler than me, yes. But these things have to do with being a home maker, or whatever term is hip now, not just mothering children.

FIVE BOYS.  Phew.  It’s hard for me at this stage to imagine the many years she must have spent breastfeeding or preparing bottles and rocking and bouncing and sleeplessness and loving ’til it hurts and diapers and potty training and colds, flu, stomach bugs, sibling spats and bike riding and homework and tests and classroom bullies and birthday parties and teaching teaching teaching how to crawl and walk and coo and talk and reason, show kindness, share, forgive.

Doing NOTHING besides raising 5 boys is still raising 5 human beings and red or blue that should not be discounted.