Friday, February 25, 2011

Love Letter to my Childless Friends Who are yearning for Children

This is a love letter to all my childless friends who are yearning desperately for children. I love you and I understand this yearning. And while you wait for the day when your children arrive (if they arrive), here something to ponder:

Having children can be the most wonderful, heart-opening experience (at least it has been for me), and it can also be the most difficult, hair-raising, hair-yanking-out, going-bald challenges you will ever face.

Before I became a mother, I had often heard it said that, Your life will never be the same and Your life will never be your own anymore. When I heard those things, I thought, No problem, I can handle that.

But there are days were I couldn't and where I didn't, because I had no concept of what I was getting myself into.

It was the deep, dark secret that no one told you about before you crossed over to the other side; after it was too late to turn back.

§ I had no idea how exhausted I would be.

§ I had no idea that teething could be so painful...for me.

§ I had no idea the worry I would feel when our child got sick,
especially with a "new" sort of illness that we had no experience with.

§ I had no idea how much my buttons would and could get pushed and how crazy it would make me.

§ I had no idea that I would get hit, bitten, spit on, scratched, and kicked so much, by this little person I love so much.

§ I had no idea that -- even though I swore high and low that I wouldn't -- I would spank our child (though that really didn't help matters).

§ I had no idea how much I would scream.

§ I had no idea how angry I would get.

§ I had no idea what a lunatic I could become.

§ I had no idea how much I would beat myself up for all the ways I thought I messed up as a mother and for all the ways I thought I could do better.

§ I had no idea that a child could make such a scene in public.

§ I had no idea how much pressure people would put on me to spank our kid, when he acted up in public (at least in France).

§ I had no idea how much others would meddle in my parenting style, increasing the pressure and the self-doubt.

§ I had no idea that I would feel like I was the only mother who didn't have a grip on her child.
(Not true. Other mothers lose their minds just as much as I do).

§ I had no idea how stressful it could be to feed your child, when suddenly all the foods he loved, he now refuses.

§ I had no idea how difficult it could be when your child is sick and refuses even the sugary homeopathic granules that dissolve under the tongue.

§ I had no idea how difficult it could be to get your child to put on his pajama bottoms, or his sweater, or his shoes, or his socks, or his gloves, or his bonnet, or his hat, or his shirt, or a clean shirt, for that matter. Or to brush his teeth, or to use the toilet before going to sleep. Or to get in his car seat.

§ I had no idea how difficult it would be to have a normal conversation on the phone.

§ I had no idea how much work it would be to get the things done that I wanted to get done.

§ I had no idea how much mess could be made, and how much cleaning I would be doing for this mess that I didn't create.

§I had no idea how little I knew about child-rearing and how much trouble it would cause me.

§ I had no idea that a vacation with a child is not a vacation.

And on and on.

I am not complaining. I am just saying it as it is for me, and for many mothers I see around me.

I love our son more than I ever imagined I could love him. I am growing as a human being in ways that I never thought I could or would. (Yogi Bhajan says there are two ways to reach enlightenment, one is to get up early in the morning and do yoga, and the other is, to become a mother.) I am gaining more and better tools that help me stay more centered. And yet, there are days were we -- son and mother --have those meltdowns that seem insurmountable.

And so, while you wait for the day that you yourself become a mother, ENJOY your time. Enjoy each precious moment you have to lounge and linger in any way that you choose. Enjoy your quiet time. Enjoy the freedom you have. Enjoy this very moment for exactly how it is.

I do. It's just different.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Break those Rules

I grew up with a lot of rules. They were so seamlessly put into place, that I didn't even notice that they were there. I lived by them and only rarely ventured outside of their perimeters. And this tendency lives in me right into adulthood.

I've had an inkling of the way I operate for a while, but it is only now, that I have a four-year-old, that I truly realize how hampered so many of my actions are as an adult, because of all those rules that were placed on me when I was a little girl.

Because so much of my life has been ruled by fear, insecurity and limitations, I try to give our son as much freedom to discover and create as is possible, safe and reasonable.

I try to stifle the gasps when he dumps 20 hazelnuts in his grape juice (knowing full well that he will eat only a few of them and that the rest will be wasted) and try to remind myself that he is learning about mass, weight and flotation.

I gaze in awe when he stuffs a heap of raisins into a tea infuser shaped like a little house.

I marvel when he takes his marbles and lets them roll down the spiral road of his parking structure, all over the floor.

I succeed often at giving him the space to discover.

And then there are days where those rules from the past just clash with the way I would like to parent our child. Today, was one of those days.

When I saw the Little Man bustling intently over to the shelves in the kitchen, I wondered what project he had come up with for himself. He reached out for the aluminum foil and my first thought was, aha, it's road-building time.

This was followed by a slew of self-dialogue along the lines of:

If he puts the foil on the floor, it will get dirty and then I can't reuse it.
Yes, but, he's already used this roll before, see how it's all crinkled.
Well, maybe I should tell him to put it on the rug, instead of on the tile floor.
Like the rug is cleaner than the tile?
Well, that's true.

And so after some more back and forth, all in the span of a few seconds, the two voices came to the same conclusion.

Give him the freedom to experiment. It's just one (recyclable) roll of aluminum foil.

I looked at my husband, sensing that he was going to say something about putting the aluminum foil back on the shelf, and gently shook my head.

He understood and instead of making him put it back on the shelf, he joined our son in building a fancy aluminum foil road that ran across the rug and then up over a chair, creating a ramp that was then used for much joyful play, which involved rolling cars down it, and later the rim of a cake pan.

Who knew cake pans could roll so beautifully!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Broccoli à la Little Man

Just last week, I made an unforgivable faux pas. As I prepared dinner, our four-year-old son asked me to cut off the bottom of a raw broccoli so he could prop it up on the table and pretend it was a tree. He played with it for a while and then walked away to play with something else in the living room. Thinking he was finished with it, I did what came naturally, that is, I chopped it up and threw it in the steamer.

The minute I threw it all in the steamer, the Little Man came back to the kitchen table and asked me where his tree was. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him I had cut it up.

He let out the most pitiful "NOoooo!" and walked away utterly crushed.

Thankfully, he ate the broccoli once it was ready, but I vowed that the next time I would do it differently.

So come yesterday evening, I was once again preparing broccoli. And once again, the Little Man played "tree" with it. This time he even disappeared for a moment, only to return a moment later with a small Lego figure of a little man. He put it under the tree, and after a while he put it on top of the tree. And when he was done playing, he looked at me sternly, "Mom, don't cut it up!"

And this time I was ready.

"Do you want me to try cooking it whole this time, Honey?"

His eyes grew big in wonder at the possibility.

Why not? Who says that we have to chop up the broccoli and cook it in the same way we've always done. Who says that we have to eat it in the same way we've always eaten it?

I had no idea if it would be cooked enough, or if it would fall apart when we took it out of the steamer, but wonder of all wonders, not only did it stay in tact, but it also stood up like a tree. Albeit a cooked tree, but a tree nevertheless.

And the Little Man leaned over and bit right into it while it stood up in its full, glorious, cooked broccoliness.