Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Delivered the Baby; You Deliver the Bauble

A recent article in The New York Times (reprinted in my local newspaper) presented the concept of a “push present,” as in, “Honey, I just pushed out this big ole baby, so it’s time for you to deliver a giant diamond for my finger.” A BabyCenter survey found that 55 percent of pregnant mothers were pushing for a “baby bauble.” I knew a woman like this. She spent a lot of her pregnancy wondering how her husband was going to reward her for her months of pain and suffering.

While I’m all for being the recipient of appreciation, and I don’t deny that pregnancy is no picnic in the park, I can’t help but be a little nauseated by this concept, certainly equivalent to the morning sickness I felt for three months during each of my pregnancies. Yes, women do get the tough end of the bargain when it comes to creating a child. I know what I’m talking about as my stretch marks and droopy boobs are definitely more noticeable than my husband’s. I endured hours of contractions and the greatest pain of my life to bring our babies into the world. So, sure, at times I was tempted to shout “Not fair!” to my husband (as if he had control over the situation).

But, on the other hand, he never got to feel the fluttering of human life inside him, the pride of being able to grow a baby from a little egg, and the attention that only pregnant mothers-to-be receive. He missed out on the morning sickness and swollen ankles, but he also lost out on the joyous wonders of being pregnant. Call me weird, but I’ve always loved being knocked up!

The way I see it, maybe I should give my husband a gift for helping me to be a mother and experience pregnancy. But, hey, I did give him a gift—our twins—so I consider us even. However, if ever he did get the urge to get me a reward for the sacrifices I made, he can forget about the new ring. A cleaning service or household chef would suit me much better!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

When the Oldest Child Grows Up

This is a big year for my oldest son, Dylan . . . and me. He turned 18 about six weeks ago, he’ll be graduating from high school in less than 4 months, and he’ll be starting college in the fall. In fact, he just got accepted at his first-choice university. We’re thrilled! But I can’t decide how thrilled I am about him growing up. It’s exciting, and yet scary.

All of a sudden, I’m starting to wonder if I’ve prepared him well enough for the “real world.” I always thought I had plenty of time. Now, all of a sudden, time is running out. Should I have taught him more about earning and managing money, about taking care of a household, about car repairs? Most definitely, yes, to all three! On the other hand, would he have listened? Probably not. I guess there are a lot of things that he’ll just have to learn on his own, just as I did. I don’t remember my parents teaching me how to do the grocery shopping, pay the bills, get stains out of the laundry, or fix the car. I just learned as I went along. Sure, I made plenty of mistakes, but the lessons probably sank in better than if I’d heard them in the form of a lecture from my parents. So, maybe, I haven’t done such a lousy job with my son as I had feared. If I survived the launch into adulthood, I’m sure he will, too!

Like me, he is an “oldest child.” Oldest children have the disadvantage of being the product of their parents’ on-the-job training. I’m sure my parents made a lot of mistakes with me, and had it a little bit easier with my sister because they’d learned a great deal from how they handled things in my life. And, I suspect, the same will be true for me and my kids. Hopefully, my younger children will have the benefit of the wisdom I gained in raising their oldest brother. I’m probably a little more relaxed with my younger kids, and hopefully it will be the same when it’s their turn to turn 18 and head off to college.

So, thank you, Dylan, for being my experimental child . . . for allowing me to make mistakes so I could be a better parent! Hopefully, I didn’t mess you up too badly. From what I’ve seen so far, you’ve turned out to be an amazing guy!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Preschoolers and Separation Anxiety

My four-year-old twins have a mega-case of separation anxiety, especially Austen. Experts say it’s quite common among preschoolers, but it doesn’t make it any easier to endure! Austen used to march into preschool without any problems, but suddenly he’s started crying and running to the back of our van to “hide” when we get there. I have to peel him out of the car and put him in the teacher’s arms. I know that he settles down after awhile and does fine in school, but I still get a feeling of dread in my stomach when it’s time to drop him off.

I signed Austen and Caleb up for a preschoolers’ exercise class recently. Even though I stayed throughout the class, they still were difficult. Caleb jumped in and started participating, but at the end of the class when the teachers were trying to teach the children how to do sit-ups, he suddenly refused to do so. Austen wouldn’t join the other kids the entire time except for a brief period when they engaged in free play and he ran around the gym. But as soon as the teachers gathered them back together to change activities, he was back with me at the bleachers.

This has been frustrating for me because I don’t remember my older boys going through such extreme cases of separation anxiety. I assumed that my younger sons would be the same, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case! I’ve been reading up on tips for how to make drop-off time a little easier. Here’s what the experts say to do:

  • Do let your child know you are leaving (don’t sneak out), but make it short and sweet. Don’t linger if he starts to cry and cling to you.
  • Allow your preschooler to bring something with him that brings him comfort, such as a favorite stuffed animal or family photo.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by telling him what to expect while you’re gone and when you’ll return. They won’t understand if you say, “I’ll be back at 2:00,” so say something like, “Mommy will be here after snack time.”
  • Keep your own anxiety to a minimum. Even if your heart is breaking, don’t let your child see you upset. He’ll just have another reason to cry, too! Know that your preschooler will most likely settle down a few minutes after you leave.
  • Work with the teacher to establish a routine and coping skills. Perhaps the teacher needs to give your child a little extra attention when he comes in or allow him a little time to himself.

Cathryn Tobin, M.D., author of The Parent’s Problem Solver, says, “Separation anxiety means that a strong and loving bond exists between you and your child.” I take comfort in knowing that my boys love to be in my company. And, as I’ve learned with my older boys, I’m sure that my twins will soon be dashing out the door with nary a glance in my direction!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sleep Deprived Forever

I always thought that by the time my twins reached age 4 I’d be getting endless hours of sleep at night, but as most parents find, the sleep issues don’t go away with our children’s infancy. Austen’s been making a habit of waking me around 4 AM. My husband sometimes heads in his room, but Austen wants no one but me. It’s nice to be wanted, but not at 4 in the morning.

“There are spiders in my room,” he says.

“No, Austen, you just had a bad dream,” I say.

“Look at the wall!” he wails.

I drag out a flashlight and search all over the walls and his sheets. Needless to say, no spiders.

“You’ve got to get back to sleep,” I say. “Everyone’s tired and grumpy and needs their rest. Think about something fun, and you’ll have good dreams.”

I head back to my bed and am just nodding off again when the door opens.

“There are still spiders in my room,” he says.

I’ve always been a stickler for not letting the kids sleep with us because I’ve seen what a habit this becomes for other parents who are still trying to kick their children out of their bed well into grade school. This time, however, I’m too tired to fight and I give in.

“Okay, get in the bed,” I say. “Just go to sleep!” Yeah, right.

He starts patting down the sheets.

“What are you doing?” I hiss. My husband yells, too.

“Spiders!” says Austen. Ugh!

I carry him out to the rocking chair in his room and spend the next half-hour rocking him back to sleep. Thank God he was in the bottom bunk that night so I could put him back in bed. Not surprisingly, it was a struggle to heave myself out of my own bed the next morning. Will I ever bound out of bed feeling fully rested? Not until the kids leave for college, I fear.

According to Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, in her book Sleep Deprived No More, “being sleep deprived can affect every aspect of your life. Studies have shown that it affects your mood, your performance, your parenting ability, your health, and your satisfaction with your relationship.” I think I’ve just discovered the cause of every problem in my life!

At least now I can tell my husband there’s hope for us. “Hang in there, honey,” I’ll say. “Only fourteen more years until I’m in a better mood!”

P.S. The picture above is of Austen sleeping blissfully . . . in MY bed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Entertainment Queen

Well, all four of my boys are finally back to school after the winter holidays. My preschool twins are thrilled; my high-schoolers are definitely not. They have one week left of class and then a week of final exams. The twins, on the other hand, have lots of fun to look forward to! In fact, I’m certain they have more fun at preschool than they have with me! After spending two and a half weeks as the Entertainment Queen for my kids, I have a newfound admiration for preschool teachers. I suppose it’s a little easier for them as they have a set schedule to follow (and a paycheck as a reward), but at home it’s always a challenge to think of ways to entertain the kids without exhausting the parents! As soon as they bounded out of bed each morning, my four-year-olds would be asking, “Can we go to the park today?” “Will you take us to the pet store?” and “What can we do today?” Not surprisingly, they weren’t too excited when the answer would be: “I thought we’d do several loads of laundry today, figure out what to cook for dinner, and make the beds. Oh, and Mommy has a big editing project to work on.” So, most days were a struggle to balance my usual ho-hum agenda with amusing the boys.

I have to admit, though, that the time off was good for me, too. We went to the zoo one day, and had a wonderful time! The boys are at an age where they ask a million questions, so they were actually interested to hear why the flamingos are pink and the kangaroos have a pouch. It was a great day of leisure and learning for all of us, and I’m so glad they coaxed me out of the house for a day of exploration! We also spent more time at the park, did every puzzle they own at least 50 times (they can already do 100-piece puzzles!), fought over whose turn it was in Kerplunk, and learned how to grow tomato plants in the hot Florida sun. (I give my husband credit for that last project. I have a “purple thumb.”)

So, now that I realize the benefits of life at a child’s pace, I’m actually looking forward to spring break. I know my kids are learning a lot and having a great time at preschool, but perhaps the Entertainment Queen can get back on her throne during the next holiday break to come up with some great activities for all of us to enjoy. The laundry and beds can wait. The editing projects can be postponed. And Mommy and Twins can enjoy some adventures together!