Speaking of modeling behavior…

I generally keep a hairband around my wrist at all times, so that I can, at any moment –when I’m about to eat a meal, for instance, or when I realize I’m having a Phyllis Diller hair day – put my hair back into a ponytail.

Lily, being the observant toddler that she is, noticed this habit of mine long ago, and this is the result.

“Bad girl” addendum

In my last post on discipline, I mentioned the importance, and difficulty, of following through on what you say. But on Monday, a situation arose that demonstrated that this truth applies beyond matters of punishment.

As usual, Monday was a difficult transition-back-to-the-week morning, and I couldn’t get Lily going, dressed, and out the door to save my life. So when I FINALLY was on my way to her daycare, with her riding on my shoulders, I was loathe to turn around and re-trace two blocks back to the house when she said, “My baby!” – referring to her baby doll, of course. Her much abused/loved, dingy baby doll.

Never mind that there’s a basket full of these same dolls at daycare. She wanted hers, and she began to cry and pull her body back toward our house. I tried to tell her I’d bring it to her when I came to pick her up, but the crying grew worse. So I told her I would drop her off and then go get it and bring it to her.

Did I really intend to do this? I vacillated as we made our way through the daycare’s entryway doors. I told myself that she’d probably forget all about it – toddlers are hardly known for their long-term focus – once she arrived in her room and saw the other kids and toys. And it’s not like she’d perish without it. I was going to be getting to work late as it was, given the challenges of the morning.

So, when I finally extricated myself, logic was telling me to let it go. But then I thought, “If I expect her to take me at my word in discipline situations, shouldn’t I also train her to take me at my word more generally?”

Yes, obviously. So although it was a pain, after running around the house and rushing to get myself ready for work, I delivered Lily’s baby – so to speak – to daycare.

And I’ll tell you this: when I came through the door of her classroom, Lily’s face lit up, she got this big smile on her face, and she said, “My baby!” as excited and happy as could be. She ran toward me, grabbed the doll, and gave me a huge hug. Her day, in that instant, got worlds better.

Now, on most days, parenting answers aren’t so simple. But sometimes, as I try to remind myself, they’re as basic as this: keep your word, as often as it’s reasonable to do so.

To quote Fiona Apple, “I’ve been a bad, bad girl”

This past weekend, Lily, who had been walking around the house with her baby doll in her arms, suddenly moved toward the green plastic chair we use for “time outs” and sat the doll on it, holding its arms firmly as she counted out the baby’s period of punishment. (Admittedly, after reaching 10, the numerical mishmash that came out of her mouth may well have been Avagadro’s Number or pi, but you get the idea.)

So … that’s a weird, highly unnerving thing to watch. This “modeling behavior” thing is taking some time to get used to.

Particularly in regard to discipline, which, as I knew it would be, has proven challenging for me. For one thing, I’ve grown quite comfortable over the years in my cushy role as good cop; Joe is far more likely to be tenacious in any given situation, and he won’t back down from a confrontation (whereas I will silently sprint away to the nearest rabbit hole), if that’s what the situation calls for. And this natural dichotomy makes us a formidable team. In most circumstances (dealing with rental truck companies, airlines, etc.), the threat of Joe’s self-assured, righteous demands for personal justice, paired with my quiet resignation and politeness, get us what we need/want, if not, at the very least, compensation of some sort.

But all that kind of goes out the window in parenting – or it should. Not surprisingly, it’s hard to shake the old, familiar roles. I’m always tempted to go easy on Lily, let her off the hook, scoop her back up in my arms to stop her from crying; but I’m slowly learning not to do this, and I’m taking some really good cues from Joe, who, as a former camp counselor, has much more experience with disciplining kids than I do. Continue reading

An open letter to newly expectant friends

I just learned, this past weekend, that two good friends of ours are expecting a child in December. (Out of respect for their privacy, I will call them Sid and Nancy.)

Because this was a decision that they considered carefully over many years, as Joe and I did, and because Nancy hadn’t ever been one of those women with a lifelong, burning desire for children (as had been true for me, too), I thought I’d offer my own take on what may lie ahead for them.

Dear Sid and Nancy:

First, congratulations again! I know you’re in shock, and that this all seems abstract to you. I, too, had just barely arrived, after years of deliberation, at the point of being ready to “try” when BOOM!! It happened immediately. I had been kind of hoping for some time for “trying” to sink in, but happening fast is better than the alternative, of course; so look at it this way: you have several months to get used to the idea.

But the whole “feeling abstract” thing won’t go away until the baby actually arrives. Despite hearing the heartbeat, feeling occasional kicking, getting huge, etc., the whole thing seems too bizarre to be real.

And during and after the pregnancy, please beware of the baby industrial complex. There are a LOT of people out there dying to convince you that you need this class, this toy, this blanket, this music CD, etc. in order to have a thriving child and be a good parent, and it’s all-too-easy to get sucked into the consumption vortex. 95 percent of that stuff, of course, is unnecessary garbage. As much as you can, keep it simple. All your child really needs, at least initially, is both of you.

Which brings me to my next point: on the very hardest days of new babydom, end it by telling yourself: the baby’s is fed, clean, sheltered, and safe. Those are the minimum requirements, and if you’ve fufilled those items, the rest doesn’t matter – even if you found yourself screaming like a banshee at said newborn. Continue reading

The hugging gyno and other curveballs

After moving five years ago, I was due for an annual exam, and I decided to try and find a gynecologist close to my new home. (I know what you’re thinking: geography shouldn’t be the primary determining factor when choosing a physician. But it seemed to make sense at the time.)

Though I would have preferred a female doctor, the closest one that was listed by my insurance carrier, who was also taking new patients (red flag?), was an older man. OK. It wasn’t that big of a deal. So I went – and it was like a blind date gone horribly, terribly wrong.

Why? Nothing was all that strange initially. He seemed a little too paternal while asking me questions, and seemed annoyingly critical of my choice to wait a few more years before seriously considering the “having children” question, but that by itself didn’t throw me.

No, what ultimately did him in was when, after the exam, he said, “I like to give my patients a hug at the end of an appointment, as long you’re comfortable with that.”

Shocked, and not wanting to seem cold or rude, I reflexively held my arms out for this doctor’s bizarre, cursory embrace. Honestly, I didn’t, and don’t, think he was a dirty old man who got off on hugging women. I really do believe that he thought that this would foster an ease between patients and himself.

But that didn’t make the moment any less weird and uncomfortable. I couldn’t help thinking, “You were just elbow-deep up in my business. I need you to have some professional distance, sir, or this whole house of cards comes tumbling down.”

So I knew I wouldn’t be back, despite spending a good deal of time filling out paperwork. Alas, my first appointment with the hugging gyno was inevitably destined to be my last.

Why am I telling this story? Well, for one thing, it’s funny. But for another thing, it demonstrates how often things just come out of nowhere and throw us for a loop.

This has been all the more true since I became a parent. A couple of weeks, ago, for instance, we had a truly wonderful, fun weekend with Lily. She was a doll both days – playful, affectionate, talkative, active – as is summed up nicely by this short video I shot of her then. (By the way, she’s sporting camo shorts over the pink, orange and purple striped pants, but you can’t see them because of the electric pink and green tutu she pulled over the ensemble. I love when she chooses her own outfit.)

See? She was a happy little bug all weekend. So imagine our surprise when, an hour after we put her down to sleep on Sunday evening, we heard her whimpering over the monitor. I went up and saw her sitting up in her crib, shaking. “Do you want a bink?” I asked, reaching out to touch her and feeling that she was wet.

Wet? Why would she be wet? Holy cow. She’d gotten sick. Continue reading