Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Make Babies the Old-Fashioned Way...

We spurn them. Good old John Houseman. I loved that guy - had a philosophy professor in college who was a dead ringer for him. He would ramble poetically about one theory or another, have us all eating out of his hands, hanging on every word, agreeing with every thought, then would invariably end his lectures by saying (a la Houseman), "You may all think this theory is absolutely correct (unanimous nods), but in fact you will soon see that it is (pause) totally wrooong."

For months now I've wanted to start a second blog called, to which I'm absolutely certain I'd be submitting to more often than this one. On a daily basis she reveals new phobias or cautions me with catastrophic, worst-case scenarios in response to completely innocuous situations. If she catches me giving Amari - god forbid - a piece of paper to crumple up, she might say, "You should really be careful about paper cuts," then add, "there are lots of arteries near the hands," and conclude with, "she could get infected and die." Thank you, Dr. Becker.

Tonight, however, it was not her irrational fear of the world that pissed us off, but rather the unsolicited parenting advice that she felt compelled to walk all the way over to our house and yell at Carrie. I came home to similar sides of the story which can be summed up as follows: Carrie was stressed, Amari was tired, and Carol was frustrated. The details are irrelevant, but the skinny is that Carrie changed her mind about asking her mom to watch Amari because Amari was being very needy and clingy. Carol got upset that Carrie was responding to Amari's tears and changing the plan and felt so strongly about it that she came over to our house a few minutes later to give Carrie a piece of her mind.

Carol proceeded to tell Carrie that we are spoiling Amari, that Amari is manipulating us, and that we need to just let her cry sometimes or else we're going to end up with a little brat...probably some etcetera and some "you listen to me" and some "I've lived a lot longer than you" and some "blah, blah, blah." When I spoke with Carol later I was very diplomatic. I said, "Carol, if you I weren't completely confident in the job I'm doing, I might take what you said personally. Do I have blind spots as a dad? I'm sure I do, but I don't think you're describing one of them. I do let Amari cry, but I also let her know that when she's done she can come talk to me or if she wants to cry and be held I'm happy to do that, too."

I went on to explain the transition Amari is going through - that gap between understanding everything but not yet having all the words at her fingertips. It takes time, patience, and in my opinion, love. I don't really care if I spoil Amari by picking her up, holding her, giving her attention, and letting her know that she's safe. What else do kids really need? Discipline, guidance, boundaries - for sure - but all of those things will come more easily when a child feels safe and loved.

Manipulating us? Please. Amari is as much a behaviorist as I am. She knows that she gets a response when she whines or cries. Until the recent development of her language it was her go to move, so she still reverts to it in a pinch. Our responsibility as parents becomes encouraging her to elicit the same response (our attention to her needs) through different means such as talking, being patient, asking, helping, etc. I know I sound like some kind of robot, but I'm not. I'm just saying that although Carol thinks Carrie and I are haphazardly responding to Amari's every whim, there is a lot of consciousness in what we're doing and how we're doing it.

Are we immune to mistakes? Hell no. Are we perfect parents? Not even close. Do we know for certain the impact our actions will have on Amari's development? Of course not. But we are raising Amari with a philosophy that makes sense to us, that we believe in, and that we hope will help Amari develop healthy, secure relationships with us and the other important people in her life.

As always, more will be revealed. In the meantime, Carol, please take your unsolicited parenting advice back to your place, and the next time your dogs are whimpering, whining, or barking for no apparent reason, I encourage you to ignore their evil and manipulative ways, and just let them cry it out.

Manipulative Little B-Word

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Amari's Favorite Foods

Time is passing in a hurry. Carrie's fall break has come and gone, Thanksgiving is less than a month away, and between then and now Amari will be two years old. This birthday feels monumental - I'm sure they all will - and I've already begun feeling the alchemy of sadness/excitement of moving forward into the next stage of our lives. In lieu of anything that resembles consistency with my writing, I am going to countdown to Amari's second birthday with Top Ten lists to remind me of things that may soon no longer be...

Amari has been a good eater her so far. She tries new things and surprises us by enjoying things like Wasabi Seaweed. Although she initially made faces at it and tried to wipe her tongue clean, after a few moments she said, "More. More," ate some and said, "Tickles."

Honestly, to anyone still reading, this is really just for me. Feel free to read on, but I can't promise you'll find much interesting. I've realized recently that part of the reason I take so many pictures and videos is because I want to have cues that will help me remember things, have stories to pass along to Amari when she's older and hopefully curious.

In this spirit, I present this list of the top ten foods (in some particular order) Amari  has most enjoyed in her first two years of eating.

1. Cottage cheese - this was an early favorite and has held its number one ranking almost as long as Tiger Woods held his.
2. Miso Soup - salty, noodley, what's not to like?
3. Ribs - go figure.
4. Rice (and beans)
5. Popsicles
6. M & M's
7. Waffles
8. Pasta - not just mac 'n cheese, but almost any pasta
9. Strawberries - blackberries and blueberries, too, but not raspberries at all
10. Coffee - I know, not a food, but she really loves the stuff

It's crazy how much she loves coffee. And yes, I do monitor her intake, but if I didn't she might live on that and cottage cheese. On time, when I was driving Carrie to work about six months ago, we passed Starbucks and Amari said, "Mmmm. This one," and pointed at the building. Also, when she was just learning to talk, she would point at the Starbuck's logo and say, "Mama," to which I'd say, "I wish. We'd be loaded."

One last item that should also be on that list is apples - a late addition that made the cut recently when our trees began bearing fruit and Amari and I created a daily ritual of sitting on the porch enjoying their harvest.


Hunter and Amari keep the doctor away

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zen and the Art of Napping

Thanks to a gentle nudge from a friend and fellow parent who likes to vicariously feel like an attentive and loving father by reading my blog, I am returning from my hiatus as a - and I quote - total f-ing slacker.

It's not that I don't want to write, that I've run out of things to say, that there aren't at least a half a dozen moments every day I wish I could lasso up with words and remember forever. It's finding the time. And not just any time - I do have some time - but rather those rare moments when I'm not either knee deep in parenting, housekeeping, working, or stealing a few precious minutes for myself. Lately, the latter have come fewer and farther between.

I don't know if Amari is beginning the process of - god forbid - phasing out the nap, but recently her sleep patterns have been a bit erratic. Some days the nap is non-existent, others mandate a car-induced coma with a silent prayer that CC's dogs have gone to heaven as I try to quietly transfer her into the house and onto the couch. Even then, the naps have been light and my workouts have been cut short by the cries that come through the baby monitor. On the afternoons when I concede completely to the universe, I rush into the living room, pick Amari up, and place her gently on my chest where she'll often sleep even longer than I would have imagined in the first place.

On one such occasion, I was so exhausted I drifted off to sleep for almost an hour. Upon awakening, eyes still have closed, I recalled a vague image of those early weeks, lying on the same couch with a much smaller, much lighter, and to be honest much less interesting model of the same daughter. Oh sure, I loved and adored her then, absolutely and completely, more deeply than I'd ever felt in my life, but now I know I was only scratching the surface. I also remembered thinking that a co-sleeper shaped like the belly of a middle-aged man would be my first of many million dollar parenting ideas.

The interesting thing was, although I could remember a semblance of something similar and familiar to that moment, I couldn't remember anything else. "What the hell did I used to write about?" I thought. "What the hell did Amari and I used to do all day? How did I pass eight to ten hours a day when she couldn't crawl, walk, or talk? What did we do this morning?" It was some sort of parenting fugue state, and although it disturbed me at first, when I looked down at Amari - completely still and peaceful - it made perfect sense. "There is nothing more important," I thought, "not in the past nor in the future, as this moment right now.

"And, oh yeah," I added, "She used to nap a lot more."

To be continued...