Sweet, comic valentine (for infants!)

After spending about 90 minutes of my precious and rare free time this evening tearing “Toy Story” and Disney Princess valentines apart; and doing the same with accompanying sheets of stamp-size stickers; and inserting the stickers – with surgeon-like precision – into tiny, diagonal tabs on the valentines; and folding the valentines in half; and affixing a heart-shaped sticker to keep them closed; and signing Lily or Neve’s name onto each one, I finally wondered, “What the hell am I doing?”

The answer, of course, is that for some inexplicable reason, I’m choosing to participate in the weird, self-perpetuating, down-the-rabbit-hole annual holiday ritual of parents – OK, fine, mothers – who have little ones in daycare, and thus have kids that are “instructed” in the ways of Valentine’s Day before they can even crawl. (I’ll add here that I love the kids’ daycare center, and my guess is that these rituals were likely, ironically, parent-driven originally more than driven by those who work at the center. I’ll also submit that I should, in the future, by kids’ valentines that require less assembly.)

Consequently, tomorrow, during a preschool Valentine’s Day party, Lily will randomly distribute 55 impersonal, unaddressed, grocery-store-bought valentines to kids who will probably look at them briefly, if at all, before they end up in the trash or recycling (all that painstaking sticker insertion for naught!); and Neve – presumably with the help of her caregivers, since the extent of her powers just now max out at “drooling like a waterfall” and “sitting up unassisted” – will give out 16 of the same cards to her cooing comrades in the same daycare center’s baby room.

So much effort – for what, exactly?

I was all uber-rational about such things when Lily was a 9 month old in the baby room. Yes, I got the pre-emptive Valentine’s letter that stated how many kids were in each class, and how we shouldn’t send candy or treats, but I ignored it – as I assumed the other “baby room” parents would – and brought a big fat bowl of nothing on Valentine’s Day.

Now cut to me picking Lily up later that day and finding a brown paper bag full of little valentines, signed with the name of her classmates (these babies had astonishing penmanship, I might add). After we arrived home, I stared at Lily’s pile of valentines with a mixture of bafflement, guilt, amusement, gratitude, and anger. For there was something undeniably sweet about this adults’ game of pretend – this puppet show of affection and good will that we parents played out through our infant children. Continue reading

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Discipline: When “the small stuff” has enormous consequences

While picking up around the house a few days ago, I finally grabbed at a ripped-off piece of pink Pull-up that was on the living room floor – the detritus of a recent battle with Lily.

On this particular occasion, Lily had a poop-filled Pull-up on, yet she was ardently resisting being changed. (She’s pretty much got the whole peeing-in-the-toilet thing down, but for some reason, we’re really, really struggling to get the #2 piece of the puzzle in place.) We tried to reason with her, but in the end, she fought and kicked while Joe forcibly changed her; and as soon as she was back on the floor, she yanked at the Pull-up, trying to take it off while insisting that she wanted her poopy diaper back on, and, in a rage, tried to hit one of us – I don’t even remember who. (Again, all sense goes out the window when kids get worked up. I mean, really. What’s the appeal of putting a poop-filled diaper back ON, exactly?)

Joe swept her up and took her up to her room, which is where Lily’s “time outs” occur. The screaming escalated; Joe removed an item from her room each time Lily opened her door to try to leave (a new and effective method coined by Joe); and eventually, she yelled and cried herself out and became calm, if a bit whiny, once more, and apologized. (Though, maddeningly, at this stage, we always ask her, “Do you know what you’re sorry for?” and inevitably, she’ll be struck dumb or say, quite earnestly, “No.” Her rages and tantrums take her so far away from their point of origin that she completely forgets what they’re even about.)

A similar huge-tantrum scenario played out a few nights ago, when Lily, after requesting something specific for dinner, complained and whined about not wanting to eat it the minute we sat down to eat (that time, I took her up to her room); and last night, yet another battle over a seemingly microscopic matter resulted in Lily screaming in her room.

Oof. Continue reading

Because who can resist the chance to wear those super-stylish maternity clothes one more time?

This is a Google Images baby, not our baby. Duh. I mean, it doesn’t even look like us!

Yes, for those who have read the blog for a while now, we are, indeed, closing our eyes and jumping – which is to say, in the face of all that could go wrong, and after somehow surviving Lily’s babyhood and slowly re-claiming some of the little pleasures we’d had to temporarily give up, we’re starting from ground zero again. The second (and definitely last) Grekin-McKee is currently scheduled for an early July arrival.

This was not an easy decision for us, obviously. Nurturing a baby is hard enough, but add onto that constant responsibility the need to engage with and love the child you already have, who will inevitably be a little heartbroken initially, and you’ve got a recipe for emotional and physical exhaustion.

So why are we doing this? (No, it’s not because it’d make for better blog material.) As with all tough choices, there’s no one answer that wholly satisfies. Both Joe and I felt that having a sibling, on a basic level, provides you with a person who bears witness to your life from its beginnings and shares (and thus understands) your history; as well as someone who might share the burdens, emotional and otherwise, that arise as parents age or grow ill and die.

Admittedly, that’s a bit bleak. So on the lighter end of things, I’d note that the other thing that finally tipped the scales for me was thinking, whenever Lily raced across a room to hug the stuffing out of me, how amazing it is to be loved so completely by a little person. “Who wouldn’t want to be loved like this even more?” I thought. “And how can I resist the chance to love another child in the same way?”

Cheesy and overly romanticized, I know, but it’s nonetheless true. The answer to “Why would I do this all again?” was ultimately: to feel and receive more ridiculously all-consuming love. Continue reading

Standing on the outer banks of the Mommy sisterhood

I was working remotely from a Panera near my home on a recent Friday morning when I experienced what is now a semi-regular occurrence.

Near my table, there was a gathering of about eight 30- and 40-something women, sipping hot drinks and chatting about the start of school, their kids’ fashion choices and recent adventures, home repair issues, etc.

In this moment, I felt both an intense desire to walk up, introduce myself, and gently weave my way into this warm, cozy community of mothers; and a profound sense of relief that I was not a part of this gathering, for fear that I’d inevitably obsess over my own approach to motherhood while listening to others’ accounts.

I’ve been afflicted with this push-pull duality since Lily arrived in our lives, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. When I read an acquaintance’s book about her first months as a mother – Vicki Glembocki‘s funny, fabulous, brutally honest memoir, “The Second Nine Months” – I was struck by a detail she included about practically mowing down other new or soon-to-be mothers who were out and about in public places, so anxious was she to find “mommy friends.” But I had done the opposite, nearly sprinting from a place when I saw a line-up of strollers. Continue reading

See that light at the end of the tunnel? Let’s consider turning around and heading back into the dark…

Generally, over the past two years, parenting Lily has gradually become more fun and more manageable. Yes, there are still bad, bang-your-head-against-a-wall times occasionally; but she’s more self-sufficient than ever, sometimes amusing herself with sidewalk chalk, her kitchen set, or something completely random like a broom, thus leaving me and Joe with tiny stretches of time to take a breather and steal a glance at a newspaper or magazine.

Which is nothing short of bliss. I’ve missed these small pleasures desperately and have been anxious to have them back – if nothing else, so I can go back to being conversant in something other than the ways in which giving a moose a muffin is probably a bad idea.

But in addition to these tantalizing stolen moments of freedom, we usually all sleep through our nights peacefully. Plus, taking Lily to the zoo or the park these days is a joy, and we now have a routine that works pretty well, despite the fact that our schedules are often packed. Joe and I trade off time to exercise; we get a babysitter for an occasional night out; and Joe takes over Lily-duties on the evenings when I have to work, while I cover for him when there’s an evening event he’d like to, or has to, attend.

So a kind of equilibrium has been established within our cozy little family, and the promise of greater liberties for both Joe and me shines like a beacon. Why on earth would we do something to disrupt this delicate balance and have another child?

A good question – one I’ve neurotically obsessed over, and wrestled with, for months now, and yet I’m no closer to an answer than when I started. Continue reading