Monday, July 26, 2010

Ode to a Crappy Day

What a weird day.

This is one of those days where I want to say it was awful, but I kind of...can't. Because when you compare it to lesser days in lesser phases in my life, or (God forbid) to the days of people with real problems, it was actually a glorious day.

I guess we'll just say that today did not go as planned.

A few months ago, when I was still in school and hating life, I distinctly remember leaving the house once or twice a week and leaving Charlotte with Chris, so that I could go write. Usually, that meant blogging, so I updated this site much more frequently. I really enjoyed my time by myself, slurping my iced coffee, pecking away at my keyboard, and coming home feeling accomplished. I also found that I liked what I wrote better when I did it this way, as opposed to trying to bang out a blog post after a day of toddler-wrangling, when said toddler was finally in bed for the night.

For whatever reason, during the last few months, my laptop and I have not hit the coffee shop scene quite as often as I'd like (or, ever). So, today, due to the slow-down plan, I had no prior engagements, and Chris was ready and willing to take care of Charlotte so I could go out. I was so excited!

Those plans were completely derailed by a certain 16-month-old, who by the end of the day, was being referred to as "The Beast."

It isn't her fault, really. She hasn't been feeling well. Originally we thought a cold, but now we think The Worst Case of Teething Ever, complete with a runny nose and runny poop. She hasn't been sleeping well. In fact, I went to check the fan in her room a few minutes after I had nursed her back to sleep in the middle of the night(Yes, I'm supposed to be weaning. Don't ask.) and she was sitting up in her crib. Just sitting there. In the dark. Being creepy. As soon as she saw me, she was all like "Hi!", along with some baby babbling, and I knew it was going to be a rough morning.

The plan was that after she went down for a nap, Chris would also nap (he had gotten up with her this morning. Another reason, I can't technically *complain*), and I would leave. Well, she never napped. Chris ALWAYS puts her down for naps because he's freakishly good at it and so I don't end up nursing her, and he tried repeatedly throughout the day. She screamed and screamed. In desperation, I offered to nurse her. She declined.

Because of the sleep-deprivation and generally not feeling well, Charlotte was also a huge pain in the ass today. Throwing tantrums because she wanted to put her shoes on herself, but couldn't. Tantrums because I tried to help her put on her shoes (BECAUSE SHE ASKED ME TO!) Tantrums because I blinked or moved or breathed in a way that was obviously offensive to her.

I couldn't leave Chris in the trenches like this for the comforts of a Starbucks with its glorious iced coffee, plentiful wall outlets, and crumbly pastries. Oh, how I wanted to...but, no. That would have been wrong.

So, I stayed, and we toughed it out together. Riding through the storm and enjoying the calms of laughing and book reading, while always anticipating the next torrent of screaming, jerking backwards, and some hitting. Okay, I think I've taken this storm metaphor far enough.

I'm really not complaining, though it may seem like it. Not that I don't have a right to complain. I don't like the idea that because we are more fortunate than others may be, we aren't allowed to bitch and moan once in a while. But, I do believe in keeping things in perspective.

I'm sitting here in my apartment, which I love. So, even though it's trashed right now, I'm happy to be here. There are books and shoes and sand and food crumbs and toys all over the place. The kitchen is a mess, but it's because I was able to cook three nutritious meals for my family, both because my husband is able to provide for us and because he is home during the day to help me with Charlotte so I can cook while they play with the cups and plates on the counter.

I have blankets and pillows all over the floor because Charlotte and I watched some weird Swedish penguin show on T.V. while we rested, and I got to hear her little chuckle every time he did something funny. I feel guilty about the screen time, but tomorrow is a new day.

I didn't get to escape to write, but she's finally asleep, and I'm able to get it done now (though, she did already wake once since I put her to bed). The day didn't go the way I thought it would, and it was frustrating at times, but I won't call it a bad day.

Now, if Charlotte wakes up again, I might have to amend that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Slowing Down

You might be wondering what is going on with me weaning Charlotte.

No? You have better things to think about than the status of my lactating breasts?

Well, indulge me then, will you?

Basically the weaning is...just...not.

Here's the thing. I am a very social being, and I spend a lot of time meeting friends for coffee, inviting them over for dinner, and initiating trips to the park with our kids. Lately we've been staying busy even in the evenings, possibly because of the extended daylight hours, I don't really know. In any case, this busy schedule of mine, combined with Charlotte's staunch refusal of her formerly early bedtime, has resulted in many a night of skipping her bedtime routine and just nursing her to sleep when she's too tired to fight it.

Obviously she needs stability and predictability, she needs to feel secure if weaning is going to be successful. I keep saying, "Next week won't be so busy. We'll start then." And before Sunday, my week has been booked to capacity, and I find myself in the same situation.

This is adversely affecting more than just weaning. I think dragging Charlotte all over town is putting a strain on our relationship. She's tired, doesn't know what's coming next, and I'm getting annoyed with her for not handling it all perfectly, for getting upset and wanting to be held in lieu of sitting in a shopping cart.

It's also making it difficult to stick to my goal of feeding her mostly organic, non-processed foods. When we're out all the time, and I'm in a jam, need to feed her before we get home, my options are limited.

And then there's my writing. I remarked to Chris today that I left school to write, and I actually did more of it while I was attending classes. I've always been more productive when my life was busy, so this isn't surprising, but it is problematic.

I love my friends. I love coffee dates and play dates and girl talk. I love seeing my friends and family, the people who adore my kid, get to spend time with her. I won't give all that up.

But. BUT.

I also need to not be selfish. Today we were meant to go visit some friends at the beach. I was excited for it, but when Charlotte spend most of the night waking up in discomfort from a stuffy, runny nose, I knew she needed to rest. So, we spent the day at home. I didn't leave the house until 5, and that was just a quick trip to Target. Truth be told, I was restless. I was disappointed to not be at the beach.

But, Charlotte needed that, and she needs more of it. Of course I will still see my friends, but I need to get my kid back on a routine. I need to get myself on a writing routine. I need a little more order in this house.

So, I know this wasn't particularly interesting, but I'm putting it out there so as to maybe keep myself accountable. I will be writing more. I might even go back to school. I will slow down for the sake of my daughter and my relationship with her, as well as her health. Hey, maybe I'll even find some time to exercise.


So we can continue to be buddies...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Selfish, With Just a Hint of Neurotic

A couple days ago, Charlotte and I had plans with our friends about an hour before Charlotte's usual nap time. Even though her naps are becoming less and less predictable, I knew I was possibly pushing my luck. Well, that morning Charlotte decided for no good reason to wake up two hours earlier than usual. I tried all morning to get her down for a nap because she was tired as hell, but to no avail. As it got closer and closer to the time we should have been walking out the door, I came to terms with the fact that I would be cancelling. But when she was still awake and fighting me at the hour in question, I said "Screw it. We're going."

I decided that this instance says a lot about the kind of parent I am. Responsible, but maybe also a little selfish. I mean, if she had fallen asleep at any point during the morning, I would have cancelled. No question about it. She needs her sleep, and I wouldn't have woken or up or even tried to keep her up if she wanted to sleep. BUT. If that fool is going to flat out refuse to sleep, I'll be damned if I cancel my plans for the unlikely event that she naps for me.

I know, I know. She's just a baby! She doesn't know what she's doing. I can't reason with her. I'm a mean mom.

Well, yeah. I guess I am a little.

Maybe it's just because toddlerhood is proving to be so frustrating, maybe I'm inherently selfish, maybe I'm normal...I don't know. All I know is that I will almost always put the needs of Charlotte before my own, but sometimes I just, don't, and I don't always have a good reason.

If I were going to try to justify this (though, I won't) I would argue that I'm just so tired and overwhelmed by the day to day tasks of raising a very precocious toddler. But, really, who isn't tired and overwhelmed? And, there are millions of people out there who will see my one high-maintenance kid and raise me two or five kids, or a special-needs kid, or health problems, or single parenthood, or any number of things, really. Comparatively speaking, my life is cake. And, I'm talking good cake. From a bakery. With buttercream frosting. Not, like, garbage cake from the grocery store.

Still, having a fifteen-month-old who will hear me tell her as I'm washing mud off her face, out of her mouth, and off her hand that, "We don't eat mud. No. That's yucky. Don't eat it", look at me, smile, and stick her OTHER mud-covered hand in her mouth, can take a toll.

You guys, she's so mean to me!

Between the sleep issues, the boundary testing, the "MINE" phenomenon, and the (as yet non-existant) weaning, I'm pretty damn tired.

But, as it turns out, in addition to being a mean nap-depriving mom (She started it, though. Just sayin'), I am also the kind of mom that has a really hard time leaving her kid for any length of time. I guess I'm sort of a control freak, and I am a huge worrier. Not a good combination if you ever want to get out of the house without a toddler saying "Drive drive?" as you approach the car. Then, "Drive DRIVE????" when it looks like you won't be putting her in the driver's seat to play with the steering wheel. And, finally, "DRIVE *sob* DRIIIIVE!!!" as you strap her into the car seat.

But, get away I must, at least occasionally. For my sanity, my friendships, and my freaking marriage. So, I force myself and always have a good time. Like Saturday, when I went to Lilith Fair with my friend and a few people. In case you're wondering, no, they aren't still having that. They're having it again after a ten year hiatus. I didn't know or care too much about most of the acts, but somewhere in my fevered brain that was freaking out about leaving the baby for an entire day, planning organic meals to leave for her dad and outfits to pack for when he took her to his mom's, I knew I needed to be without her for a little while.

And, as usual, I had a great time, met some new people, learned some stuff, and drank some really overpriced beer. Well, okay, so the last part doesn't *always* happen.

The point of this diatribe is that I've been putting some thought into what kind of parent I am and what kind of parent I want to be. I think none of us really fit into a neat category. We all take a little from one philosophy, a little from another, ignoring doubts and sometimes even our better judgment. So, now I ask you:

What kind of parent are you? Or, perhaps even more interesting, what kind of parent do/did you want to become?

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Desperate Plea

This has been a long week. Charlotte has picked up some new words, and while this is something I usually applaud, I could do without her latest renditions of "No, no, no!" and "Mine!". Granted, the latter I don't think she quite grasps yet. I think it's just mimicry at this point. It's funny because I was just talking to my friend and told her I was glad Charlotte didn't say "mine" yet, and the NEXT DAY. Boom.

She's been challenging, to say the least. She will not sit in her high chair. I cannot physically get her into it without another person. So, I have given up and let her eat at her toddler table, which usually results in me chasing her around with a spoonful of rice or a plate of tofu. I never thought I would let my kid do that. I have always been such a stickler for orderly mealtimes. But, it's one of the battles I've given up, and at least she's eating.

She refuses to sit in her stroller and grocery carts. She wants to be held or walk around. Since it's not always feasible to let her roam, I am breaking my back carrying her all over town. I wish I had been able to afford that Ergo my friend was selling.

But here's my big problem, and the reason I'm writing even though I don't have the time or energy to be entertaining or creative in any way:

I need to wean Charlotte. And for the record, I'm not doing it because I think it's wrong to nurse past this point. I'm not falling victim to any societal pressures or family pressures or anything like that. I just don't think it's so horrible of me to want to sleep through the night without getting up once or twice to nurse. It's been over fifteen months. I'd like to not have to worry about whether I've had too much coffee or wine. I'd like to not have this weird pain pop up once in a while in my left breast when I nurse.

I'm just so tired. And, I feel like Charlotte and I bond more when we're rolling around on the floor, hugging, kissing, and tickling. I have had extreme highs and lows when it comes to my feelings about nursing, but generally, it's never been something I'm particularly attached to. I am mostly still doing it because it's (usually) a surefire way to get her to go to sleep.

The problem is the guilt. I don't know how to do it without feeling really horrible, because despite a few instances where it seemed she was losing interest, Charlotte still wants and expects to be nursed before a nap or bedtime and especially when she wakes in the middle of the night.

We've let her cry before, and it used to work fine. She'd fuss, settle, and go to sleep. Now, though, she screams and screams, and works herself into a frenzy. So, that's not an option anymore. Maybe I'm just weak-willed, but I can't let her scream like that. It's not like it used to be. Now it's...urgent, and I can't do it.

So, what do I do? She only wants to nurse for sleep-inducing comfort, never during active play or while we're out. She takes a pacifier, but isn't satisfied by it when she wants to nurse.

Am I totally screwed? I need some advice! Theoretical, based on experience, a guess...I don't care. Just help me. Please.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Dating Scene

So, I've been getting to know our new area the last couple weeks, and I have to say that I'm totally loving it. I love that most places are a five minutes' drive from the apartment, I love that we are surrounded by pretty hillsides, I love that we have a pool in our complex, and I love that I actually have counter space in the kitchen (I used to have to put the coffee pot away in order to open the cabinets).

Despite the fact that I can hear my neighbors' air conditioner turning on, and that they sound like elephants running up and down their stairs, and their damn kids always leave their bikes in my way. Despite the fact that not only does it sound like the train is headed directly into our apartment, but we can also FEEL the walls move when it goes by. Despite the fact that I don't have a kitchen table because our old one was too big for this place, and we can't afford a new one.

Despite all those things, I am thrilled with our new place. And one of the things I really love is that there is a nice park just a few blocks away. It was there, a few days ago, that I made a discovery.

I am not the first person to make this analogy, and I certainly won't be the last, but, it's something I didn't really understand until I experienced it firsthand.

The playground is to moms, what a bar is to singles. Meeting moms at the park, trying to find playmates for your kids, while hopefully also making the acquaintance of a mom with whom spending time doesn't make you want to blow your brains's hard. It's confusing, full of mixed signals and subtext, it's everything I imagine dating to be. I guess I had this coming after having married the man I fell in love with at 16, effectively escaping the dating scene.

This particular park is very much your stereotypical watering hole for stay at home moms, pulling up in their SUVs, extracting Starbucks cups from the drink holders, and chatting with one another while their kids run around the playground. Everyone seems happily partnered off or is part of a group celebrating a kid's birthday. I feel like the new kid in school showing up with only Charlotte and no tanned and designer-sunglassed counterpart with which to gossip.

Then I meet Shelly. She and I bump into one another in one of the little nooks under the playground equipment as we are both chasing after our toddlers. She has a two-year-old and a fourteen-month-old. Our kids are too little for most of the equipment, and they are certainly too young for us to supervise from a remote bench, like most of the other mothers, so we swap stories sitting on the ground pulling wood chips from the babies' mouths and preventing wayward climbing and sippy cup swapping.

At some point during the conversation I realize that, as always, I am talking too much. I'm a nervous talker, and I usually err in not only talking for too long, but also revealing too much. Sometimes it's not until I've revealed my entire life story or delved into my latest existential crisis, that I realize how obnoxious I've been.

Shelly either doesn't mind or is nice enough to pretend that she doesn't, but the self doubt is creeping in. I try to do some damage control, and she asks me if I have a hard time finding playmates for Charlotte. Then she tells me that SHE does and that most of the kids at this playground are too big for her kids. It's nice that Charlotte and her daughter are the same age. She tells me she comes here every day. When we say goodbye, she says she hopes we run into each other again.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not, like, desperately searching for new friends. I have friends, great ones. But, I figure having someone to hang out with at the park AND little buddies for Charlotte is a good combination.

So, today I go back to the park, hoping to see them there. They aren't there.

And, in the hour or so that we were there, I kept scanning the parking lot, thinking maybe I would see them arrive. I felt like I was sitting on a bar stool, looking over my shoulder at the entrance for the guy who said he's here "every night" and hopes he'll run into me. Did I just fall for a line?

Charlotte and I had fun on our own. We read books in the little nook under the playground, ran in the grass, and went down the slide together. We don't need anyone!

But, that didn't stop Charlotte from being a little dismayed when she smiled and said "Hi" to a mom and her boys, only to be ignored. Nor did it stop me from being kind of uncomfortable when that same mom's son kept insisting she do all the things I was doing with Charlotte. This woman wasn't friendly with me to begin with, but things were getting downright hostile when I went down the slide with Charlotte, and he said "Mommy, come down the slide with me!", or when he asked her to crouch in the little annex I was in with Charlotte, or when I gave C an apple, and then he asked her for one. Yeah, she seemed pretty damn annoyed. Mostly because she did not, apparently, want to do any of those things. nor did she happen to have an apple on her at that moment.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll have better luck next time we go back. Or maybe I'll just take out a personal ad:

Looking for mom friend with small toddler to sit in the dirt with me at the park. Must not roll eyes at me when I show up with homemade iced coffee because I can't afford Starbucks. Must not freak out when my kid takes a cracker out of her own mouth and places it into your child's mouth.

That'll totally work, right?