Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random Advice

This post isn't about the random advice I've received (though of course I've received lots) but rather the advice that pops into my head. Rather than accost complete strangers in person, I thought I should just blog it out.

1. Let others fall in love with your kid.
If you let other people hold your baby, there's a good chance that some of the baby-holders will fall in love with your kid a little bit, and this is such a good thing. A person who is enchanted with your kid is more likely to be charmed than annoyed when your kid gets noisy. You might even get spontaneous babysitting offers, who knows. One of the funny things I've learned is that if you ask someone "do you want to hold the baby?", a lot of times the reaction is "I thought you'd never ask!" And then, while someone else is holding your baby, you find yourself going "aw, I miss him." Even if you just spent the past 12 hours thinking "I wish I could just hand this baby to someone else for three minutes."

2. Cultivate friendships with other parents, even/especially those at a different stage of parenting than your current stage.
When I was in the hardest stages of baby boot camp, I often wanted a parent friend who was going through the exact things that I was. My pre-existing parent friends have kids who are at different ages. While it can be unsettling to find yourself feeling jealous of another baby's head control or the intelligible speech of a growing toddler, knowing babies and kids of different ages can help you get a sense of what's coming next and this can help you think ahead a bit. And in the case of kids that are a few years older than your baby--these kids might entertain your child, or read to him or her, or just share funny observations of your baby. It rocks.

3. Beware of dark colors on car seats, swings, soft carriers, and nursing clothes.
I wear a lot of black and was quite attracted to black fabric on the various baby accessories. While choosing these accessories, it didn't really occur to me that they would not look quite as stylish with dried spit up stains on them. Nobody really brought this to my attention ahead of time, so let this be a warning.

4. If you're going to use a Boppy for nursing, be sure to have a Boppy cover that you actually like.
You probably need (at least) two Boppy covers, but your Boppy will end up in lots of photos and you will spend a lot of the time that you are nursing looking at the Boppy. It's a little hard to explain how much little things like an attractive Boppy cover can matter to you.

5. Know that some of the handiest baby products have the stupidest names.
See #4 above, about the Boppy. The other main nursing support pillow, the Brest friend, has a name that is at least as stupid-sounding as Boppy. And yet, many people find these products indispensable. (But realize this: every list you see of "must-have baby items" has at least one thing that you probably don't really need. Unfortunately, you won't really know which item this is until you meet your kid and experiment with his or her likes and dislikes.)

6. Don't give up on things too easily.
This goes for baby products as well as bigger things. Your child might be indifferent to the baby swing one day (leaving you to wonder "why did everyone tell me this was an essential item?") and then be totally into it a week or two later. Emmett hated tummy time the first 100 or so times we tried it, but after trying some different strategies it started going better. Be patient, but also be willing to try things out in different ways. You can't really force a kid to get into something that he or she is not ready for--this isn't how child development works.

7.Throw the book across the room if you need to.
I've read (or at least looked at) quite a few books on pregnancy and parenting this year, and I have to say that the tone of these books matters a lot in terms of whether you'll get much out of reading them. I eventually realized that I should audition books via library sign out before buying them just in case I found myself more annoyed than informed. (Side note: everywhere I've been that sells used pregnancy/parenting books has multiple copies of the What to Expect books. My theory is people got really fed up with the author's attitudes towards weight gain.) I do really think that consulting the literature is a good thing, but there's nothing quite like knocking yourself out trying to do what's best for your child and then having some book make it sound as though the big and little problems are all your fault. Go ahead and throw the book across the room and seek alternate sources if you still need info.

I'd dress the boy in purple today if I could

Today is apparently the day that people are dressing in purple in memory of several recent suicides by gay teens and tweens who'd been harassed by peers. I've got some purple on and would have had the boy wear purple today if purple clothing for boys of his age actually existed. He does have purple socks on, and the hippos on his shirt kind of look purple. It's the thought that counts, right?

During maternity leave, I have not been very good about following the news. (The upside is that I'm apparently missing WUNC's latest fund drive...sorry, NPR, but your fund drives last way too long.) There have only been two news stories that have really gotten my attention: the rescue of the Chilean miners (trapped for most of Emmett's fourth trimester) and these suicides.

Friends keep posting videos from the It Gets Better project, where prominent public figures and others try to give teens who face harassment the message that things will get better. It's a touching and important message. I've watched a lot of these videos while nursing Emmett, and I can't help thinking about some of my hopes for the future.

I wrote a more rambling version of the following a few days ago:

Emmett, I would love it if you could grow up in a world where there's no bullying of any sort and where there's true acceptance of things like homosexuality. I think that there's something warped about us humans that means that teasing will always exist. I hope that you are someone who can develop a thick skin about everyday teasing if needed; I hope that if you ever engage in anything other than mild teasing, you have the strength of character to feel bad about it, and/or to make amends if someone is hurt by it.

More importantly, I hope that we have sort of a "bridge over troubled water" type of relationship throughout your life. I hope to be one of the people you really can turn to if you're ever having dark thoughts or need support or a sounding board. I hope that you'll have many great people in your life besides me that you can turn to when your emotional needs are strong.

Most of all, I hope that you can be yourself and be comfortable with and confident in who you are. Sometimes it takes courage to be yourself, and people definitely try out different identities along the way. Whatever sort of personal style or preferences you choose or end up with, I hope that you are a person who approaches life and interpersonal relationships with compassion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hello motherhood, goodbye hobbies?

Once upon a time, I had these things called hobbies and interests...and then I had a baby.

Actually, it's not really fair to blame the baby on the demise of some of my hobbies. Before he came along, my job made it such that "photocopying things" was my main hobby. I started doing bento as a hobby a while ago and people would tend to react to it with "how do you have time to do that?" I realize that most people don't think they have the time to spend an additional 5 to 40 minutes making their food look more cute, but under normal lifestyle circumstances (i.e., not nursing an infant), I think that many people could manage some time for some hobbies if they really wanted to. To sort of try to prove this, back in 2009 I set a goal that I would draw every day, and I did it--even when I was traveling, or working a 13-hour day.

As it turns out, some of my hobbies are flourishing during these early months of Emmett's life. Now that I can stay awake for more than 20 minutes, I find that nursing is a good chance to engage in my hobby of reading chick lit as a way to amuse myself. And I can amuse Emmett with some of my other hobbies (singing badly, playing mandolin, drawing).

However, the bento hobby has been pretty neglected. I tend to do all things involving food in a rushed, half-assed sort of way lately. About half of my diet is foods in bar form or other things that can easily be eaten quickly with one hand. When I attempt a bento (and I usually only do them for the dog at this point), I often get only partway done before Emmett starts the "you're neglecting me severly"cry. The only cure for this cry is a 12-hour nursing session, and suddenly you find that there isn't time to add extra detail to that Day of the Dead Dog Skull Quesadilla bento you started. Maybe one day when he has a bit more ability to amuse himself, I'll be able to do the kind of detailed work that exists in my imagination.