I'm passionate about philosophy, but after having my girls I'm even more passionate about Mommy Matters

Monday, July 29, 2013

Baby Wearing

     I didn't know that I would become so excited about baby wearing, or even advocate for it at all. Starting out I simply wanted an easy carrier and a way to avoid always using a stroller or car seat when taking Squeaker out. It began as a simple curiosity, but here I am writing a long post about how much I love it. 
     Baby wearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling or in another form of carrier. My story of baby wearing starts with facebook news feed, where I saw a friend asking about carriers (which one she should use, what other people found useful, etc.). At this point I was still pregnant and starting to put together my baby shower registry, so I followed the line of comments with some interest and started to do some research as well. The verdict of most comments came out to be the Moby wrap carrier. I registered for one, but thought little of it later and ended up not getting it for my baby shower. I wasn't too heartbroken and figured I could get one later if I decided I wanted it. 
     After Squeaker was born (within the first week, after seeing her pediatrician for the first time) I went to the store with my mom to pick up some baby and breast feeding essentials that I hadn't thought were essentials before, plus some things the pediatrician recommended for me (nipple shields, lanolin, Aveeno baby wash and lotion, more burp cloths, etc.). While we were there I saw the Moby wraps and suddenly realized all of the things I could do if I was wearing my baby, such as simply having my arms free while she slept because at this point she would hardly sleep at all unless I was holding her. I could read, do dishes, the laundry, go on walks, the list grew rapidly in my mind and I decided that I needed one. They aren't supper cheap, my mother generously bought me the one I picked out for $47.99 (which was the cheapest version without special colors or prints), but I honestly think it was a worth while investment and would have bought one even if my mom hadn't offered to get it for me. Thank you mom! 
     All of the things I listed before did become more practical while using the Moby and when Squeaker was going through that difficult phase of always wanting to be held this wrap was ideal. She felt warm, with some skin to skin contact, and swaddled, which meant that she slept well in it (falling asleep within minutes of putting her in it and walking or bouncing her) and as long as I secured her head, and made sure she didn't have her face squished against me, I could do pretty much anything I wanted while wearing her. I used it a lot for going on walks, especially when it was cold and I was trying to take off the baby weight anyway. The fabric is stretchy, but not too stretchy, and very easy to wash. My husband has used it several times and feels comfortable using it as well. The Moby comes with a detailed how-to instruction booklet that provides pictures and step-by-step descriptions of different ways to wrap it. It also explains how to put the baby in it and take the baby out of it. I found it fairly simple and only had to try it once or twice in order to find the ideal way of doing it for us. I think that a homemade wrap could work well too if you have the time, energy, and a sewing machine available, but I haven't seen a homemade one that was as durable (so far) or as easy to use. I guess it just depends upon your preference and craftiness. I like to think that someday I will be better at sewing and making things at home, but for now I am a consumer.
     The reason I am blogging about this now is because I used my Moby wrap to take Squeaker to the zoo last week and found a new appreciation for it. At first I was nervous about using it because the weather was so warm, I thought the extra body heat would make life miserable for both of us. However, I took Squeaker to the zoo with some family back in May as well, which lead to me regretting taking my stroller and car seat because it always seemed to be in the way. Plus, when I actually wanted to show Squeaker something I had to take her out of the stroller anyway and then carry her while pushing the stroller. Since this time she was almost twice as old and not going to sleep as much, plus she could participate even more by looking at the animals, I decided that avoiding the use of a stroller would be for the best. So, I took water and stayed hydrated, I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible and had Squeaker wear a little sun hat. I also got her out of the wrap for awhile to be held by the other people I went with and prevent getting too sweaty. I as able to take her out and put her back into the wrap with little difficulty. The experience was actually a very good one and I am grateful that I was able to carry her around while she was awake and when she took a short snooze, while still being able to use my arms. It is  A LOT easier to carry a baby around in a carrier than trying to hold them in your arms the whole time, which end up getting tired after about 5 minutes. I also found it a lot less precarious wearing her instead of taking in all of the unnecessary/bulky equipment.
     For those future parents, or parents of small children, who are wondering about baby wearing, stop wondering and just try it! It is a wonderful experience to be so close to your little one and I have found it to be useable in all weather now. I'm glad that I don't have to carry Squeaker around for a long period of time without one. I can see myself using it until she is ready to walk the whole park on her own, but we'll see how it goes (especially when we have more than one kid). 

Possible helpful/interesting links about baby wearing:

First baby wearing experience! Squeaker was less than a week old.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tubby Time!

Rubber Ducky

Rubber Ducky, you're the one, 
You make bath time lots of fun, 
Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fond of you!

Rubber Ducky, joy of joys, 
When I squeeze you, you make noise! 
Rubber Ducky, you're my very best friend, it's true!

Every day when I 
Make my way to the tubby 
I find a little fella who's 
Cute and yellow and chubby 

Rubber Ducky, you're so fine 
And I'm lucky that you're mine 
Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fond of you.

Every day when I 
Make my way to the tubby 
I find a little fella who's 
Cute and yellow and chubby 

Rubber Ducky, you're so fine 
And I'm lucky that you're mine 
Rubber ducky, I'd like a whole pond of -
Rubber ducky I'm awfully fond of you! 

     I loved this song when I was a kid! (I still do) I also loved bath time and water in general. (I still do) I spent a lot of time sitting in the tub playing and making up stories. (I still do... when no one else is around) 
     So far it seems that Squeaker likes bath time just as much as I always did growing up. I was not with her during her first bath, but Husband was and it doesn't look like she enjoyed it at all. 





     I personally think it was because I wasn't there and they were doing it wrong. She doesn't react this way when I give her baths. Either that or she was traumatized enough by the day's events already and really really didn't want to go through this so soon after enjoying life inside of her own personal jaccuzi. 
     Squeaker's baths are like this now (they don't accurately depict how big of a spazz she is):

     I usually giver her baths twice a week because of our hard water, it dries out her skin pretty bad and she isn't really dirty anyway. I wish I could give them to her more often and probably will in the future, just making me use more lotion on her everyday, because they relax her and she likes them so much. She sleeps better after having a good warm bath, which makes me think that it will become part of our bedtime routine later on. 
     I was a little nervous bathing her for the first time at home (in her bathtub, not a sponge bath). She was so slippery and still couldn't control her own head obviously, so it was kind of scary. I would definitely recommend that new mothers do not bathe their little one alone at least the first time, especially because you might forget something and you can't leave the baby alone to go get it. 
     Did your kids always love bath time? Where did you bathe them? My mom gave me baths in the sink for a long time, pretty much until I could sit in the bath tub on my own for awhile without her worrying about me. I give Squeaker baths in her own little pink plastic tub, but she is getting so big I don't know how long it will last. I started out using a little hammock-type thing that came inside of the plastic tub, it restricted where Squeaker could go and made bathing her easier while she was so small, but she outgrew that after only a couple of months.   
     I have these items handy when I bathe her: Aveeno baby shampoo/body wash (Squeaker's pediatrician recommended it instead of other brands because it doesn't have extra scents or fillers that will dry out the skin or irritate it, I use Aveeno lotion after her baths for the same reason), two wash cloths (one of them goes on my hand like a puppet and has a duck face on it, Squeaker goes crazy over it and loves to suck on it while I bathe her), a towel, and a couple of bath toys. Squeaker splashes a lot, so I wear something I don't care about getting drenched in the process. 
     In general her baths are not difficult, but sometimes she is way too crazy and excited, leading me to simply doing my best while she squirms around. I use this time to try soaking her feet and hands, making sure I get between every finger and toe because she always manages to have something there. 
     I've noticed that bathing is a big question for a lot of new parents and there is quite a bit of information about it online. My advice: don't stress, it's not rocket science it's a bath. Not much can go wrong with you right there guiding your baby and however you do it is right. You're the parent and you decide what is best for your baby, always.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Day in the Life

     Squeaker and I understand each other a lot better these days than we did a couple of months ago. I guess I might just understand her better, by this I mean that in general I have figured out a loose schedule that leads to the most success on any given day. I have also become more comfortable in my career as her mother, now that I have discovered some things the hard way and learned. Some things come down to simple instincts as well, and learning what Squeaker is trying to say by the different sounds she makes. I am so happy that she has gotten past the stage of crying for no reason, at least it seemed like no reason to me. She has evened out and is a pretty chill baby overall now. 
     We still follow a flexible version of the Baby Wise method, meaning that we have a schedule where Squeaker eats, then stays awake for around two hours, then takes a nap (or is grumpy & refuses to take a nap) and eats again after that. This process is repeated through 5-6 feedings a day and usually she can go around three or four hours between feedings now, as well as only waking up once a night around 4am to be fed. There have been about five miracle nights as well now where Squeaker eats around 9:30-10pm and doesn't wake up again to be fed until 6-6:30am. I can't wait until this becomes her norm! However, this also means that she has started to narrow down nap times. She usually has one good nap a day now, good meaning longer than an hour, and then about two short (20-40 minute) naps. I still don't really use the "cry it our" method, but sometimes when I can tell that Squeaker is just really tired and is not happy when I'm holding her either, then I will giver her around 10 minutes in her crib alone before going and trying again. Most of the time she gets herself to sleep when these situations occur. I just can't leave her in there alone for very long when she is using her urgent "I really don't want to be alone right now and want mommy" cry.
     Cloth diapering is also going very well and I do not regret making the switch after these three months of using them. I still love bumGenius and recommend them to anyone who is considering cloth diapers. I also think that using cloth wipes was the best way to go, since I'm already doing the laundry and the ingredients I use for the wipe solution aren't expensive (I already had all of them to begin with and I don't use a lot of them, it's mostly water). I know we have saved a lot of money by switching to cloth and using disposable wipes more sparingly. I estimate our savings has added up to $177 over the last three months (assuming we bought all of the disposable products and didn't have help from other family members or sources to get them). That estimation was based on prices found at Costco (size 2 diapers), where we would have bought them in bulk and assuming that we changed Squeaker's diaper an average of 6 times a day (which we usually do more often). I also did not count the fact that we do use more water and power to wash the diapers, but I think that number will be negligible in the long run after using cloth diapers for years and comparing that expense to the amount we save by not buying disposables. A sweet friend who cloth diapered her children was generous enough to give us her diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet, now that Squeaker is starting to eat some solid food & getting thicker poop, so we won't have to buy one. It works really well and my friend only warned that when kids get bigger they like to play with it and spray each other. I'm kind of hoping it doesn't come to that and am considering not letting our kids watch me clean the diapers, so maybe they won't notice the sprayer and use it. Either way, it's just water though, right? ha
     Speaking of solid food, since the post I wrote awhile back concerning this topic I started letting Squeaker taste different foods here and there (mashed up avocado, banana, etc.). She really seemed to like it and I have started to give her either single grained cereal (rice or oatmeal) mixed with breast milk or some fruit/vegetable baby food after feeding her breast milk. She makes really funny faces, especially if it is a new food she hasn't tasted before, but she is really good at opening her mouth and leaning towards the spoon too. The amount of solid she eats is usually pretty small right now, maybe a tablespoon altogether in a day and I only giver her some once or twice a day. Squeaker seems to like the oatmeal single grain cereal the most, which I am happy with because then she gets fiber as well and I don't have to worry about constipation. She also loves all kinds of fruit so far (banana, mango, apple, pear, avocado). I will sometimes add the rice cereal to a littl bit vegetable purée, mixing it up and getting her used to the different tastes.
     Squeaker LOVES to talk, the only things she says that actually sound like words are: nine (or nein if she is speaking German), mama, and dada. Sometimes when we try to get her to say something, like mama or dada, she will look at our mouths and whisper it. I love it when she does that. She likes to sing/scream too and that is fun, except when we are in the middle of church and everyone else is being quiet. She seems to enjoy doing this at the store too, I think it's really funny when random people turn to look at us because Squeaker is screaming like she's being set on fire (while she has a big smile on her face of course).
     We still give Squeaker her pacifier, I'm not sure when we will take it away from her. She has gotten to the point where she can put it back into her mouth if she wants to and I like that she isn't sucking on her hands, but I also don't really want her to get so attached that it's difficult to take it away from her. I would like her to be able to self sooth without it if possible. I've read that around six months is when a baby's sucking reflex plateaus and after that it is a good time to consider taking the pacifier away if you want to early. I guess I just hope to  avoid situations like my one year old becoming inconsolable when I can't find her binky and then have to drive to the store with her freaking out until I buy her new one. I know she is going to throw fits, but I don't think that the binky should have that kind of power. 
     During play time Squeaker is all over the place now, rolling across the room before I even know what she's doing. She is trying to crawl, or at least what appears to be some sort of crawling motion, lately. She lifts her head up and straitens her arms when she's on her tummy, she has started to sleep on her side and tummy more than her back too. It's fun, but also scary seeing her become more independent everyday. I was a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for almost four years before getting pregnant with Squeaker and I took care of a lot of elderly or disabled people while they tried to maintain independence, or sometimes simply accept their inevitable death and be happy with the life they had. It has been so amazing watching Squeaker get better, stronger, and learn everyday as I take care of her instead. Both occupations are so rewarding, but being a mother is by far preferable in my opinion. 
     Well, that's pretty much us now. A lot of trial and error, but we have a nice flow usually. I have to just tell myself that as soon as I think Squeaker is on a schedule or routine of some kind, she is going to change. Then I don't get as agitated when she does decide to fight nap time, or wake up at two in the morning when I know she can make it until at least four. The truth is, with Squeaker there are only guidelines because she likes to change and surprise me. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kinds of Love

     I know that this is a seemingly exhausted topic, but lately I have been pondering the different kinds of love there are amongst people. The love one feels for one's children, one's partner, one's friends, etc. Which kinds of love burn deeper than others and why? Are these kinds of love even meant to be compared or prioritized?  
     There are some books I've been reading that have formed the catalyst for this topic in my mind, namely: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. These novels deal with different kinds of love between people and the way they change relationships within their stories. Two of them have to do with the love a parent has for their children and also the love they have for their partner, other family members, etc. I have begun to learn from these books that the love one has for one's friends often is just as strong as the love of family members (or even stronger), depending upon the situation, but the love one has for one's partner/lover in life is much stronger. However, the strongest and deepest love of all is the love one has for one's children. Indeed, within these novels the love of children must trump over everything because when it doesn't the parent's life is not as blessed, not has happy, as the lives of those who do value their children above all others.
     However, I find that in life the balancing of such love yields the most happiness instead of focusing on one above all of the others. Our children's welfare and their happiness is of course our soul responsibility, but I also wonder if sometimes parents put their children before each other too often. A parent's role, after all, is to help his/her children to become independent and move on to find more happiness of their own. So, what are parents to do when their children find this happiness else ware and they are left alone once again? It seems to me that the love one has for each other, as parents, must be carefully fostered as well because in the end your partner in life is exactly that: a partner through out life.
     It is often that I hear or read something to the effect of, "my children are my life, my everything". I wonder, are there times when parents put their children before each other when it should be the other way around?
     Before children come into the picture that same quote could be attributed to a person when asked about their lover, but the story of love does not end with the uniting of two people. It continues through the monotony of each day, through raising children and being broke, through moving and changing paths, and so much more.
     I love Squeaker more than I ever thought imaginable, I have changed my life and plans to better raise her in order to help her have the most happiness. I am willing to do more than I ever thought possible for her, but there are times when I know I must also think of my husband's happiness and do what I can for him as well, or even instead.
     One of the books I mentioned has a disturbing scene wherein a character is willing to end his/her own life because he/she wants a child so badly and life, it seems, cannot or should not go on with just this character and the character's spouse. I felt so terrible for this character, knowing that there are people in the world right now who feel similarly. However, I find it even more heart breaking that there are characters and people who want so badly to have a child (or who do have a child), they are willing to put the child's well being before their own and the well being of the other parent too. I hope all people who want to have children are able to have them, but even if they aren't is it something worth killing themselves over? Especially when this would surely cause the psychological breakdown of the spouse as well and prevent them from having happiness too. It is so sad to me that certain kinds of love seem to be prioritized in such a damaging way. 
     I hope that no one has to choose between their lover/partner and their child/children. Some people might have to and all I can say is that it depends upon the situation as to what I would choose. If Husband really needed me and I know that Squeaker would be happily taken care of, then I would probably choose him. However, if Squeaker really needed me and would not be happily taken care of, especially if I knew Husband would be OK without me, then I would choose her. I don't think there is a clear cut answer when it comes to love.
     Love is not simple, it is chaotic and scary, but it can also bring calm and peace. I think that even though the word 'love' is thrown around very easily in our world today and at times does not seem strong enough of a word to convey how we feel, it is the word we have to work with. More than anything else love is a feeling, one that does vary upon the relationship, but I don't believe that it has to dwindle with time or become a fickle thing. I also know that love is something that must be felt in order to find happiness and worth in life, it must be said and it must be heard. Love cannot be forced.
     Do you agree that love is more of a balance than a prioritization or do you think there is a kind of love that is just stronger than any other?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Much Affection is Too Much Among Family Members?


     Showing affection among family members is different in every family, some families are huggers, some are more about high fives or hand shakes, some never really touch each other, but mine is a kissing family. Is it just me or is this weird? I never really thought of it as unusual until I started to get to know my husband's family better (his family is a hugging family, they don't mind showing affection but too much amongst adults is kind of odd). I'm not really sure why it bothers me now, but it kind of does. I guess I've just grown out of it or something, I don't know why no one else in my family has though. Usually in my posts I avoid personal stories and dialogue, mostly because I don't want to write about people and make them uncomfortable, but today I am making an exception. 
     Last night:
     My mom and step dad are in town, staying in our extra bedroom. When everyone started to decide to go to bed we said our good nights to each other. 
     My mom came up to me and said, "Good night" then leaned in to where I was sitting on the sofa, intending to kiss me on the lips. I realized immediately that I didn't really want to and it became an awkward half lip peck. I felt bad, but how do you tell someone, "I don't really feel like kissing you on the lips anymore, I've grown out of it"? 
     I turned to Husband after my mom went to bed and said, "I didn't want to kiss my mom then, it was kind of weird. I don't know why I've changed my mind and decided that I don't want to anymore, but I have." Husband just kind of laughs and continues with what he is doing. My mom doesn't try to kiss him on the lips or else he might be more worried about solving this issue too. 
     This morning:
     Mom: "You didn't want to kiss me last night did you? Was it because of what I had on my face?" (she had some mask stuff on, but it wasn't really the issue)
     Me: "Uh...kind of...no... sorry...." (super awkward and caught off guard)
     Mom: "I didn't think you did and I felt bad for a little while, but then I realized it was probably because of my face and decided to ask."
     Me: "It wasn't really your face... I haven't really been feeling like kissing other adults on the lips lately... Except for [Husband]." (as though it's a phase I'm going through, maybe this will make her feel less hurt about it?)
     Mom: "Why not? Our whole family does..."
     Me: "It's kind of weird, don't you think?" (half interrupting out of feeling bad and not wanting to feel worse, but then immediately deciding I shouldn't have called it "weird")
     Mom: "No. It's how we show our love for each other. Grandma (her mom) does too, I kiss Travis (her brother) too."   
     Me: "I know, but I feel weird about it now." (I say this half mummbled as I try to quickly walk away to avoid further discussion)
     The issue sort of ended there and we haven't brought it up again. My step dad tried to kiss me on the lips as they left for the day's activities but I avoided it completely by hugging him and letting him kiss my cheek instead, he didn't seem hurt or weird about it.
     I first realized that my thoughts on this subject were straying from the thread my family thinks as normal when my friends asked us if we kiss Squeeker on the lips. Or maybe they noticed we did and asked about it, I don't remember for sure. This was a couple of weeks back and I said that we do kiss her, "Is that weird?". I don't really care what other people think, but I realized after they brought it up that I thought it was weird for adults to do it and my family does it all of the time. For the last couple of years sometimes I just feel like avoiding kissing family members on the lips, thinking it is just odd. Our friends said that they wouldn't with their kids, but it's mostly because neither of their families did that with them. My husband said that his family do kiss kids, but by a certain age they stopped and only give kisses on the cheek or hug each other. That seemed to be more natural for me and a better answer because I do kiss Squeeker on the lips now, almost instinctively, but more often I like kissing her on the cheek or head anyway.
     I'm 23 years old and feel weird about kissing my mom.I kind of can't believe this is an issue, it's actually really funny when I stop and think about it.
     Is this something worth becoming an issue? Maybe I should just kiss her anyway to make her happy and drop it. I know there are other cultures wherein adults who are just friends of practically strangers kiss each other on the mouth, maybe I'm buying into some weird American stereotype? I really think that adults kissing, especially of the opposite gender is off-putting though. 
     Update - this afternoon:
     We had a late lunch together at Red Robin's. I can't remember the entirety of the conversation but here is one of my favorite parts.
     Mom: "Kissing is just how we show that we love each other."
     Me: "I still love you mom, we can hug and kiss on the cheek."
     Mom: "I feel like you're breaking up with me."
     Husband: "That's why we're in a public place, it all makes sense!" (funny babe, but not really helping)
     Basically the whole thing turned into a much bigger deal than I wanted it to. I regret bringing it up at all. Note to all those with extra loving moms: just take the love in whatever form, it's not worth the fight. That old saying is true: if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

     How do your families show each other affection? How much is too much? 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Art of Growing Up

      'Growing up is hard'. Obviously this is a cliché and an understatement, but I hadn't ever really appreciated how hard growing up can be until this past weekend. It is one thing to experience growing up yourself, but it is a whole new thing to watch someone else doing it. Not only am I watching Squeaker go through the discovery of life, sometimes the hard way, I have also been spending time with other young family members over the holiday weekend. 
     Squeaker is curious about everything and strives to use her newly developed skills as much as possible. She has started to grab for things she shouldn't grab, sometimes ones she immediately regrets and ones I immediately regret. Like the food I'm eating while I hold her, the jewelry people around her are wearing, people's teeth, and her own face with her sharp little finger nails (which I constantly try to cut & file, but they always manage to be a nuisance anyway). She also rolls off of her blanket or play mat that is on the floor, trying to reach things beyond her grasp. She is experimenting endlessly with the possibilities around her. This learning process is difficult, especially if I am not constantly being observant and helping her through it so that she doesn't inadvertently hurt herself. Discovery is hard, the discovery of new experiences, the world around you, or even your own desires coming into fruition. I am excited to watch Squeaker experience all of this as she grows, but I am also anxious about the discoveries yet to come.
     I'm very close to my husband's family and enjoy spending time with them, every year we get together for a 4th of July celebration. Some family members live far away and come just for the occasion of this celebration. I don't get to spend very much time with young adults on a regular basis, but the past couple of days I have spent a lot of time with some of these young cousins who live far away. I feel as though my eyes have been somewhat opened to the woes of adolescence, perhaps woes I have simply chosen to forget from my own past. 
     Trying to discover one's place and standing in the world, relative to the people around you (who constantly judge or respect you) is a process that lasts a life time. However, it doesn't seem to make an impact on one's life until the tween and teen years  of life, before then children don't seem to care as much about how they are perceived or where they stand with those around them. Suddenly there is 'peer-pressure', strangers and friends offering you drugs, alcohol, new experiences and a scope of life beyond the one your parents have set up or prepared you for. 
     Talking to tweens and teens caused me to be a little shaken as I realized these things. I don't think they even know how delicate the time of life they are experiencing is. Just like not all people are the same, not all tweens and teens are the same, but here are a few things I think are true of most adolescents at this age. They refuse extra help for the most part because they want to be completely independent and respected as adults, but they aren't adults (which is frustrating for everyone involved). However, they also want you to do anything 'too boring' or 'too hard' for them because they just don't want to be bothered with it (which is why they aren't adults yet). They care more about what their friends think and do than what their family is thinking and doing. I also think that for some reason tweens and teens believe that a lot of what is going on in their lives is just happening to them, like they don't have a choice. It is also frustrating for me to see that the world we live in advocates for 'discovering yourself', as if we all have a hidden self we have to find somehow. I actually believe that we all have the ability to choose who we want to be and strive for that, it is a process of 'becoming who you want to be'. I think that this misunderstood concept leads many people into troubling decisions, like experimenting with drugs and other things they should avoid. Reading the book The Catcher in the Rye when I was a teen myself also has lead me to many of these conclusions. This is such a sensitive time in each individual's life, and so hard already, why make it even worse by doing stupid things? Well, those stupid things seem fun and helpful in the moment, until the next morning or the next year you look back at your life only to realize that you're wasting it on these stupid things. 
     It is good to know that some people just don't have to learn the hard way and give into immediate gratification, having fun just for the sake of fun, etc. My husband is one of these amazing people, he never let go of his morals and even during the most challenging times of his life he was striving to become a better person. Other people, myself included, have to learn through trial and error. I won't go into the various details of what I did and where I went while I was learning from the world. I will say that I did party and sometimes not safely, but in the long run I decided for myself that I was happier without those influences in my life. I didn't have any serious sexual indiscretions, I didn't get arrested or wake up in a strange place after passing out, but I definitely tested my limits. I'm glad that I did learn and found joy in life, I found my place in the world, even though I had to find it the hard way.
     These cousins are starting to find that they are being pushed this way and that by the world as well. It's sad because I understand that all they really want to do is find happiness and peace in a crazy world where sadness and war prevail. I hope they don't have to learn the hard way and figure things out the way I did, making the mistakes I made. I hope that Squeaker doesn't have to either and I can raise her in such a way that she is confident in herself. That she will be content enough with who she wants to be and where she is going that she doesn't have to experiment with the limits I did. However, I also want her to know that I will always be there to love her, even if she does end up doing the same exact things I did and will warn her not to do. I would much rather that she has a comfortable relationship with me, knowing that I am willing to pick her up at 2am when she is drunk and needs a ride home, than be too scared to call me (afraid of what I'll do to her) and get into the car of a drunk friend instead. I know I have a while before such things would even be an issue to consider, but I want to be prepared. I want Squeaker to know that I expect her to be the best person she can be and also that I want to help her become that person in any way I can as she walks the difficult path of growing up. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lying to Children

     Husband and I have conversations sometimes concerning possible lies, fibs, altered truths, or myths we might be telling our children as they grow. These might include lying about the existence of the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, etc. Others may have to do with more difficult topics that are beyond a child's understanding, such as sex and what other words they hear on T.V. actually mean. This could include simply making some things more black and white than they actually are, such as saying that tattoos, smoking, drinking alcohol, swearing etc. are just plain bad. I wonder though, honestly, where the line is and when it is "OK" to lie to our kids and when they would be better off just knowing the truth from an early age. 

     To an innocent child, all the world is painted black and white, it is good vs. evil, good guys vs. bad guys, and there is not very much room for anything gray. As we grow we come to understand little by little how the world actually is and suddenly we look around as an adult to find that most things are gray, with very little in existence that is actually defined as simply black or white. Even things we might see as black at first, such as lying, can actually be white (thus a "white" lie). Obviously this in and of itself is a difficult concept to understand even for adults because many adults tell lies they think are white, or they convince themselves that they are white, but in fact they are black lies, or at the very least much closer to gray than they are willing to admit. Some adults still see the world as black and white, which is why there are people, fictional and non-fictional, like Javert in Les Misérables. These characters are not willing to budge in order to see another person's point of view or simply admit that there is a time and a place for things like white lies. Other people are on the opposite extreme and are willing to let all of the rules go, inducing chaos and anarchy because if everything in the world is gray then why should we even try to regulate or categorize? 

     So where is the happy medium and how do we teach our children to seek it out instead of either extremes? Maybe when lying we should try to get as close to the truth as possible, but on a level better for children to manage. Then the transition from this level to the next adult level of truth will not be such a big step. For instance, if a five year old asks, "What is sex?" or "Where do babies come from?" We aren't going to give them the entire truth because that would just be too graphic and hard for a child to comprehend. I mean, who honestly wants to imagine their parents making them in the literal and most truthful way even as an adult? It's gross and weird. However, that doesn't mean we have to necessarily give them the kind of lie that is all fluff and too childish that it can't develop into the truth someday, such as explaining that they were simply dropped on the door step. This also leads to a separation of child and parent that shouldn't be there, I think kids should still understand that their parents helped to create them, he/she wasn't just a surprise some bird brought one day. 

     This is a hard task though, still trying to figure out what is appropriate and what isn't, how much of the truth should be told at what age. It is just easier for children to lump things into two different categories, black or white. However, maybe this is why when we are adults it is hard to accept and comprehend variation. We always want to categorize things, label them, because that is the most comfortable way of dealing with the unknown. Gray is still lumped into a category of gray. If something is variable, we ask ourselves what it is closest to and call it that. The saying "It looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck" comes to mind here. What if it looks like a duck but doesn't walk like a duck, is it still a duck? Yes, it is just a deformed or odd duck. Just because a human can't walk or can't reproduce or something like that, doesn't mean he/she isn't a human. It does mean that they have some added label or are deformed though, not a completely "normal" human. I'm not sure this is the best way to look at the world at all. Maybe it starts with parents introducing variation at an early age in order to tone down this incessant need to categorize and label everything. Maybe some lies are good and some lies are bad, maybe pink is not just a girl color, maybe playing with soldiers and monsters is not just a boy's game, maybe people who have tattoos or drink alcohol or smoke or who swear are still good people and it is more than these things that define them. Maybe. Is this concept too abstract for children to understand or care about? That is also a possibility, but maybe we are simply underestimating them and aren't willing to take the risk to raise our children differently than the norm. 

     I'm not sure I want to lie to my children, but I know I will in the end because Santa Clause is fun and makes Christmas magical for kids. I don't want them to think that all strangers should be given a chance when they are alone or something either. However, I also want my kids to appreciate variation and know that when a human is in a wheelchair or is a lot shorter than most people, they are not defective or in need of extra labels to explain them. I want my kids to know that it is OK for boys to paint their fingernails and like pink. I want them to know that the world is a diverse place, which is scary and amazing at the same time. Santa Clause is magical, but his magic comes from children and the fantasies they make up about him. So I guess in the end it depends on the child and the parent. I find it OK to lie to kids when it is truly in their best interest or they want to make believe for awhile, but it isn't OK to patronize them and divide the world into black and white for them. It also isn't OK to make the child think that gray is all that exists, which means there are not boundaries at all.

     I grew up having a father who smoked, drank alcohol, had tattoos, piercings, and swore, but I still knew he was a good man. I loved him no matter what and I remember some kids, and even more often adults, hurting my feelings by insinuating or flat out telling me that people who did those things were bad. I know these parents had good intentions and wanted to help their kids make the right decisions, but at what cost? My mom also taught me about sex at a fairly early age, I was around seven, and she did it in a way that was completely truthful, but not graphic or hard for me to come to grips with as a young child. This made me less scared of sex and the unknown as I grew up, it didn't make me more promiscuous or otherwise "damage" me somehow by learning it too young. I also knew what a lot of adult words truly meant, swear words and otherwise, this didn't make me think it was OK for me to use them all of the time. If anything the knowledge of these things at an early age gave the concepts less power over me. I was able to concern myself with other things without the fear of some unknown adult construct that awaited me when I went through puberty. I grew up knowing that some things weren't good for me to participate in and turned out fine even though I also learned the abstract concept of the gray area in the world. 

     The world isn't a simple place and shouldn't be completely simplified or fluffed over for kids. I think kids can handle it. The real question is, can the parents?

The pool was closed, so we improvised...