Vacation, all I ever wanted…

In late August, after a summer spent looking (jealously, longingly) at other people’s glamorous vacation photos on Facebook, the Grekin-McKee family finally got to venture up north for our own annual vacation, up at Camp Michigania, near Pestoskey. (Yes, Joe and I had to take an entire day off of work while the kids were in daycare to prepare and pack – good Lord, does packing for a trip with young kids take forever – but we finally got on the road the following morning.)

For those unfamiliar, Michigania is a family camp (affiliated with the University of Michigan Alumni Association) that’s set up to provide fun, scheduled activities (or, in the case of babies and toddlers, cheerful supervision) for kids a few hours each day, thereby giving the parents a chance to do things they don’t often get to do. Like sleep.

This was our third year at Michigania, and in most ways, it was the best so far. We’d gone the first available week, in mid-June, in the past two years, when the weather was a bit rainy and chilly. This year, we grabbed at one of the last remaining available spots during the camp’s last week of operation, at the end of August. And other than a little rain on the afternoon of first full day, we had gorgeous weather throughout.

Things from the start were promising, since we were blissfully vomit-free (poor Lily had gotten carsick near the end of the trip each of the previous two years). Admittedly, I was watching her like a hawk – at one point, when she covered her mouth with her hand, I insisted we pull over, get her out of the car, and walk her around a bit – but we did it. Lily even said, when we got out of the car to check in, “I didn’t have any throw ups, Mommy! Just burps.” Indeed. Continue reading

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Mommy’s got something to prove – to whom?

When Lily was a newborn, one of the only things that consistently soothed her was being toted around in a sling – so we walked around town with our “baby in a bag” quite a bit.

On one occasion, a neighbor, after peeking inside the sling to see our then-sleeping new addition, admonished me and Joe to “cherish this time,” because we’d never get it back, and it would all go so fast.

We nodded gravely, but Joe and I exchanged subtle glances that conveyed that we were both mentally circling a pointed finger aside our heads in a “cuckoo” gesture. Was this guy meshugge? Having your sleep constantly and randomly interrupted; being screamed at for long stretches, and feeling absolutely helpless to soothe your child; being shat and spit up upon regularly; and not being able to eat a meal together in peace (let alone eat a meal, or take a shower, when flying solo with the baby) – this was the apex of parenthood? Seriously?

Joe and I shook our heads while walking back to our house, agreeing that, from what we could tell so far, the baby phase was something to be endured rather than “cherished.”

Now, of course, our family lineup has changed, and we have a boundary-pushing 3 year old as well as a newborn in the house. And this long-past, casual conversation with a neighbor has come to have far more resonance for me.

This is partly due, surely, to the fact that Neve is a low-key, sleepy, easily comforted baby, and I’ve enjoyed the baby phase much more the second time around (when the anxiety is generally lower, anyway). But I think the primary reason I’m recalling this exchange lately is because I’m realizing that handling a newborn, despite its challenges, is relatively simple when compared to the self-doubt/guilt/misery spiral involved in disciplining your average, volatile 3 year old, who’s prone to operatic, irrational tirades. Continue reading

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