Category Archives: Mama Musings

Talking about tots, teens, the terrific and the terrible

Uphill Battle

But the view at the top… worth the whole struggle.

The Volcano in my Heart

Okay, now I fully acknowledge that the story I’m about to relate to you is flagrantly insignificant in relation to events that occur around the world on a daily basis.

But part of the reason I’m sharing it is because I feel like these sorts of momentary, insignificant episodes, to which I too often respond badly, are contaminating my life with negativity. I want to let go of the anger in my heart, and not let it erupt in such awful ways, but then things like this happen, and before I know it I’m far too enthusiastically expressing my disapproval.

Remember how completely awesome (and around my childhood home, fairly rare) those cardboard tubes are that hold the wrapping paper? Well, yesterday my husband produced two of them by wrapping up birthday presents for our oldest. These tubes were smaller in diameter than usual and extra thick, rendering them quite sturdy. As a child I would have incorporated them into my play for at least a week, then hoarded it in my closet for years, occasionally pulling them out to use in some new and creative way (I was an only child until I was 13. Which helps explain why all of the sibling conflict I see between my children on a daily basis makes absolutely no sense to me.)

Our youngest, age 2 -1/2, asked me if she could have them.  I said yes. She played with them for about 15 to 20 minutes, even taking them outside, using them like ski poles, looking through them, tapping things, etc. Having a grand time.

At one point after she’d come inside and was still blissfully engaged in tubular play, our 5 year old son comes in. He asks her if he can have one. She, adoring him like a loyal subject does its king, immediately obliged. He proceeded to bash it into walls, chairs, the floor, and within 30 seconds it had broken in half. He abandoned it and asked her for the other one. Without hesitating she handed it over. He begins to bash the second one.

Enter a crazy, psychotic, raving lunatic, AKA their mother. Shrieking like a demon fresh from the underworld, I grab the still intact tube from him and howl about how he had just ruined everything for her.

Later, as I pondered it, of course he’s 5. It’s his personality to destroy everything in sight (PLEASE don’t tell me “He’s a boy” because there are boys who don’t destroy everything and girls who do. So just please don’t even go there. I won’t be able to hear anything else you say if you do because I’ll just figure you’re a genderist who assumes every single thing depends on genitals.)

But at the time, I was reacting to the horror of what I was seeing, the wanton wastefulness! The gratuitous injustice! The unthinkable evil of taking advantage of a person littler than you who worships the ground you walk on!

Absurd, I know. In the grand scheme of waste, injustice and evil, this wouldn’t even be let in the door. The Judge of all Horror would laugh and tell this incident to run along and play.

And why couldn’t I have just walked up calmly and said, “Dude, really? Give her back that one so she can keep playing. You got your share and now it’s destroyed,” or something similarly chill and wise.

If I could just stay up on the mountain in my mind’s eye, where everything appears to fit into the context of reality, and nothing is blown up bigger than it really is… Can a person live like that? And would it help, or would it just generate new problems?

Because I know that leaving my perspective down in the trenches of nitty gritty daily detail, where the bullets fly past my ears and the muddy bloody walls appear to be closing in, turns me into a very angry, overwhelmed individual that I don’t want to be. Down there, I feel like my only recourse is to explode out of the trench, gun blazing. That’s no way to live, and no way to parent.

Family Pictures

After our latest family photo saga (the whole process seems to take an ungodly amount of time and effort), I looked at this photo and thought:

That’s a helluva lotta work, right there!

Not my most generous thought ever, but for some reason the whole weight of the last 20 years descended upon me at once, and I felt proud and grateful but also overwhelmed at the hugeness of the task I’ve lived (and I’m sure the years ahead loomed large in there somewhere as well.)

Do you ever stand back and just say, Wow!?

 

Paying for Childcare

This article at Kindred Community raises a question I’ve wanted to know the answer to since forever (emphasis mine):

Our society needs to recognise the far-reaching developmental importance of breastfeeding and close, responsive mother-infant relationships in the early years, along with the close involvement of fathers, and aim to create social settings that facilitate and support them. If we are going to pay for quality infant care, why not support mothers to do it? Infancy cannot be re-run later.

Why would the government be willing to pay strangers to watch a baby but not the mother? It has always struck me as a punishment for poor people who dared to reproduce when they “couldn’t afford it.”

The underlying attitude of the family-values-right-wing policy makers has always sounded to me like: “Stupid poor people, having offspring in accordance with their animal urges. They’re just lazy and trying to get out of work! We’ll show them. You get a couple weeks off and that’s it! Back to the factory! Pop out another one and see what happens!”

I’ve always been violently disturbed by the fact that we in our supposedly civilized society allow conditions under which people “cannot afford” children. I believe that children are the only true wealth, insurance policy and retirement plan.

I’m not saying people should have to have children. I believe it should be entirely optional. If a person would rather completely dedicate themselves to a career, hoard money, invest in an IRA account, buy property and make investments, that’s one way to shore up resources for the future.

But when you’re old and you slip on one of your wads of cash and fall and break your hip in the middle of your castle, who’s going to come wipe your wrinkly butt and spoonfeed your shriveled mouth? Oh right, you’re going to hire a stranger to do that. That’s much more pleasant that having someone you love, who actually cares about you, treating you tenderly.

Or NOT.

And shouldn’t a baby have the same courtesy, of having the person they love and need more than anyone else in the world be the person who wipes their cheruby bum and nurses them lovingly at the breast?

But if you can’t afford such an idyllic life, then forget it. Park the kid at the licensed facility and punch that time card, or you’ll be under a bridge faster than you can say, “Subsidized childcare.”

 

A Trip to the Dentist

So Gwen (almost 3) got some happy juice to help her cooperate with the dentist while he filled a couple of cavities. She was loopy as all get out and didn’t squirm or make a peep.

When we got home she couldn’t even walk and was laughing at everything. I’ve never seen a small child wasted before, but I admit I was a little jealous that it was only 9:30 in the a.m. and she was already feeling so good, and I hadn’t even had a chance to have my second cup of coffee.

And the worst part? It’s some kind of memory eraser so if the dental work ends up being traumatic, they will never remember. So all her loop-de-loo fun with me and Rose (her 19 year old sister) this morning was wiped clean.

Good times.

A Child’s Disappointment

I say child, but she’ll be 20 years old in a couple of months.

After waiting FORVER to find out if she got into the nursing program, she got a notice saying that she is on the alternate list.

At my age, with my level of experience, that isn’t bad news. It isn’t the good news she wanted, but I don’t think she realizes how often people drop out, leave town, take a job, get married, or whatever other life-changing event comes along and poof! you’re in.

I don’t want to get her hopes up again too much by saying all of that. I understand that she feels crushed, and she just wanted to know what the hell is going on in her life. That would be pretty comforting, and I can see having the school say, “Maybe…” again is not at all encouraging. Waiting some more is not at all fun or helpful.

But they didn’t say no, so that’s not completely terrible.

It’s hard to watch her go through all this. I want life for my children to be a satisfying challenge with a happy ending. I know we all learn from heartbreak, disappointment, that when one door closes another one opens, etc. etc.

But this is my baby we’re talking about!

*Sigh*

Trusting Connection

Have there been times of wordless understanding between you and your child? I think it happens for a lot of us pretty naturally when they are pre-verbal, but once they learn to talk, the emphasis becomes on the parent explaining everything and the child responding in a way that shows they have listened and will comply.

There is a great blog post called walking with at hakea- reflections on living and working with kids that deals with this idea of connection through silent presence.

With wisdom and insight, she recounts an interesting story of an American family visiting an African village and their young son making a huge mistake.

Instead of anger, punishment or lecturing, the chief handled it by taking the boy for a walk.

The family asked the chief if that’s how he sorts out problems in the village, and he replied that he takes people for a walk in the desert, saying something like “we go out and come back”.

Definitely a thought-provoking read.

Do we make enough wordless contact with our children?

Do we trust our connection with them enough to simply be there with them while they process feelings or events internally, without us interrupting?

Is there a point where we have “explained” enough, and we allow the world to speak for itself to the child?

What power does our simple, silent presence have? A hand-holding, a hug, a smile, a connection of gazes?

Can you recall a time that you and your child, or you and your parent, experienced a wordless understanding develop between you, where a difficult situation was transformed simply by the other’s silent presence?

Can’t Let it Go…

I woke up to find the same story of the breastfeeding mother being harassed, this time in another local po-dunk paper. Here’s part of it:

Allison Stanard never intended for a dinner out to turn into a battle over the right to breast-feed in public.

The Hickory woman met a friend at a Lincolnton restaurant last weekend. Both of the women had their three children with them. Stanard’s youngest just 5 weeks old.

Stanard and her girlfriend were regular customers of Mooosse’s Pizza, a restaurant that opened more than two years ago and recently relocated to a larger location alongside North Generals Boulevard.

The women and their children were sitting in the restaurant when Stanard’s baby got fussy. Stanard began breast-feeding her infant as she’s done with her other children in the past.

According to Mooosse’s general manager Larry Turner, that didn’t sit well with other customers in the restaurant.

People at three tables complained, which prompted Turner to go over and speak to Stanard, he said.

According to Stanard, customers at other tables had children who were gawking at the sight of an exposed breast.

“If she was the only table in the dining room, I wouldn’t have said a word,” he said. “I didn’t get mad about it. I just said, ‘Ma’am, I need you to cover up.’”

But Stanard said the incident wasn’t so cut and dry.

She said that Turner rudely asked her to cover up or go to the bathroom to breast-feed — both requests that infringe on her rights.

“A woman may breast-feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast-feeding,” the North Carolina general statute states.

When Stanard and her friend pulled the statute up on a smart phone and attempted to show it to Turner, she said the restaurant manager was uninterested.

Turner said Stanard and her friend were the ones who raised their voices and made a scene.

Stanard said Turner raised his voice first and made a bad situation worse.

“Everyone started staring at us at that point,” she said. “I was just kind of like in shock.”

The women quickly paid their bill and left the restaurant, vowing never to return.

Apparently what it comes down to is, if a customer feels uncomfortable, it’s okay to violate the law to make them comfortable. So, if the customer is a flaming racist, you can ask a black person to leave? How far can you take this? How much of an ignoramus are you allowed to be?
I love how the Mama is accused of raising her voice and making a scene. I think punching the manager in the face would be getting a little carried away, but I think foot stomping, hollering, arm waving, and maybe a couple of times pulling one’s shirt to one’s chin to show him what flashing ACTUALLY looks like, because he obviously hasn’t seen it before, all that would be appropriate. And she did none of that. So I think she showed remarkable, heroic restraint.
Yet another thing she should be applauded for.
Here’s the link, if you wanna read the whole thing: Breast-feeding mom riles restaurant manager
Like the headline?
It makes me sick.
How about “Restaurant manager sets public health back 100 years.”
Because that’s what you do when you “protect” children from seeing breastfeeding.
Idiot.
Plus what he did violated her rights. Broke the law. How about “Restaurant manager flagrantly breaks law, humiliates mother feeding her infant.”
And if one more person uses the word “discreet” I swear I’m going to lose it completely.

Pseudonyms for the young’uns

There seem to be two types of blogger parents on the internet: those who use pseudonyms for their kids, and those who don’t.

I think the only problem I have with the pseudonymers is that they inspire me to thoughtful reflections such as: Oh crap, are my kids in mortal danger because I’ve used their first names on the internet???!!!

Hope no one learns my secret identity!

Hope no one learns my secret identity!

My father is really big on privacy. This adds to my general paranoia. “Never tell anybody anything ever about anything! Less than that, if possible!” is the philosophy he raised me on. And this is BEFORE widespread use of the internet. This is just your average run of the mill caveman safety protocol, as far as he’s concerned. “What’s my name? None of your g.d. freakin’ business, you weirdo pervert! Jerk! Get away from me!”

And then I go ahead and say things like, “And Hank, age 4, dug a tunnel across our property line to bury and detonate secret fire crackers.” Or whatever crazy thing he’s done lately.  “Gwen, age 2, has stolen the neighbor’s gnome and has repainted its nose a flaming purple after removing its ears.”

I hear sirens at this very moment.

No one will ever recognize me in these shades!

No one will ever recognize me in these shades!

And the pseudonyms that bloggers use are always so painfully cutely adorable. “Munchkin scrumpkin jolly baby squid” or some such. Good lord, I already came up with names for these people, do I have to do it again?

Do these pseudonymers think that DSS or CPS, or whatever acronym the Child Police are using these days, has access to their blog? Because if this is true, I guess I’m genuinely screwed.

“Olivia, age 9, lined up Daddy’s beer cans on the fence so she and her friends could bet pennies on who could knock down the most by throwing empty shotgun shells at them.”

Why is the phone ringing?

Olivia is reduced to wearing a disguise to protect what's left of her privacy...

And if the kids hate that I’ve been talking about them and revealing their secret superhero identity, they can always change their names.

Like I did. Like my husband did.

Like my oldest did.

Names are a dime a dozen. My little petunia fluffy bunny nut.

The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.

(Oh, crap, I forgot to change the names, didn’t I? “Go see who’s at the door, uber-cutey-love!”)

"Who's that trip-trappin' over my bridge?" Garth in battle helmet guards the family estate

Children Need to See Breastfeeding

Recently there was an incident at a local restaurant wherein a nursing Mama was asked to cover up.

I happen to know that the owner believes in his heart that nursing, and the possible view of flesh that accompanies it, is inappropriate in a “family” restaurant where “10 year old boys” might catch a glimpse of something. The owner genuinely feels like he is protecting his patrons, who in turn feel like they are protecting their innocent children from indecency.

Tiny problem.

CHILDREN NEED TO SEE BREASTFEEDING.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.

No wait, I did.

C’MON!

Ten year old boys and every other age of boy NEEDS to see a baby suckling on a nipple until it becomes BORING. I guarantee you if my 15 year old son was in the room with a nursing mother, he probably wouldn’t even notice it. Just like if someone were eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich he wouldn’t really care. Or if someone were BREATHING it wouldn’t much draw his attention.

A big part of it would probably be that breastfeeding reminds him of his mother, and his mother’s boring friends, and his aunt, and all those other tedious not-sexy females (no offense to my friends or sister, but I’m sure you understand what I mean!)

It’s a baby eating. Seriously, the most boring, tedious thing in the world. (Well, okay, when you’re the one feeding the baby, it’s pretty magical and fantastic sometimes, but usually even for the Mama, it’s pretty run of the mill.)

And girls need to see it. They need to see that it’s no big deal, that it’s everywhere, that choosing to breastfeed does not mean fighting with blankets to cover the baby’s head or fighting with restaurant owners (to cover THEIR heads.) They need to see that they would be fully welcomed, supported, even IGNORED by doing what is natural, commonplace, no big deal.

And PUL-EEEEZE don’t start with the “pooping is natural but you don’t want people doing it in the middle of a restaurant.” There is NOTHING  smelly, disgusting, repulsive, horrible, gross, or otherwise distasteful about breastfeeding.

If you think there is, you have serious mental issues. I’m not kidding. If it gets you so worked up you can’t enjoy your dinner, then you need to deprogram yourself from the cultural cow  manure you’ve been taught and haven’t had enough sense to cure yourself of yet.

News flash: that’s what grown ups do. We take all the erroneous, unhelpful garbage we were taught and we learn a better way to think and live.

If you were raised by racist parents, didn’t you have enough decency to try to overcome those absurd prejudices? If you were shown by your father that it’s okay to beat one’s spouse, did you not have enough humanity to re-educate yourself about how to treat others? If you were told that boobies are for men’s pleasure alone, and that breastfeeding is a yucky private thing that no non-slut would ever do in public, don’t you have enough intelligence to detach that asinine idea from its death grip on your psyche and kick it to the curb where it belongs?

Just try. I believe in you.

Or at the very least, keep your stupid prejudices to yourself and try to act cool while your children witness something that will change the world for the better: the shift from feeding babies pretend food to feeding them liquid gold.

Trust me. You WANT your grandkids to be breastfed, even if you don’t know it yet. Even if the thought of it makes you feel all wiggly inside.

That’s where society is headed — for all the psychological, social, environmental, nutritional reasons that point to breastfeeding as The Way to nurture a baby (and toddler!), we are moving toward the day when a mother nursing in public is normal.  To make this happen, the next generation has to SEE breastfeeding, literally and figuratively, as NORMAL.

When you work to hide it, to shelter the kids, you don’t even understand the damage you do.

So quit it.