Friday, June 28, 2013

Is He Walking Yet?

Baby is 6 months old. When the hell did that happen?!? More importantly, how do I make it stop?

People are often anxious to ask and/or hear about a baby's development. When your baby is topping off the growth and development charts people seem even more enthusiastic. Baby just turned 6 months old, but he looks much older. I often get the question "is he walking yet?".  Usually I simply answer with "no, he's 6 months old" however often times this just leads to a scaled back inquiry of his developmental milestones. Is he crawling yet? What kinds of foods is he eating? Does he have teeth? The list is endless.

The older Baby gets, the more pressure I feel to answer the questions 'correctly'. What does that even mean? IDK. Anyway, now that he's 6 months old, I don't want to answer wrong and leave someone thinking 'oh that baby is kinda slow in developing'. So I try to make the answer sound as developmental milestone-y as possible. "No, he's not crawling yet, but he really moves quick on his belly'. Or 'he has been eating some foods at dinner time, but not really any meals or anything'.

Today, or maybe yesterday I'm not really sure when because time seems kind of blurry lately, I realized that in my haste and eagerness to give the 'right' answer I am wishing away some of my favorite moments.

When someone asks "What kind of foods is he eating?" I am eager to tell them we've tried this or that so that they will know he is eating solid food. But at the same time I'm emphasizing the carrot stick he chewed on, I'm not relishing that he hasn't really shown any desire to wean. I don't want him to wean. I enjoy breastfeeding, and often I wish we could go back to the drowsy lazy nursing of his first months. So why do I wish it away by talking up the food he isn't really eating.

When someone asks "Is he crawling yet?" I talk about all the ways he is almost crawling. He gets up on all fours. He army crawls on his belly. He can roll all around the room. He is only days away from getting the hang of it...But really, what's the rush? Won't he have his whole life to be on the move? Do I really need to push him into this go-go-go world? He's just a baby, and he has already traded in sitting on my lap and snuggling close for looking out the window or reaching for anything he thinks he can get his hands on.

I'm not sure what it is about that desire to meet the implied standards of family, friends, or complete strangers. I'm not sure why someone can say "Is he walking yet?" but what I hear is "He should be walking". But as of today I'm going to recognize the pattern, and I'm going to do my best to put an end to the cycle. Baby isn't in a competition with anyone. Not with my friend's baby, not with the Gerber baby, not with the average baby on the pediatrician's growth chart. His development need only be as fast as it is. And given my emotional state lately I'd say his rate is plenty fast enough for the both of us. I'm not quite ready for him to be crawling. I don't want him to start eating more food and nursing less. So I'm going to give my best effort to stop wishing the time away.

Is he walking yet? No. And I hope he will give me just a little more time before he starts.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'll Be Your Warrior of Care

"I'll be your keeper for life as your guardian. 
I'll be your warrior of care. Your first warden.
I'll be your angel on call. I'll be on demand. 
The greatest honor of all as your guardian."
-Alanis Morissette "Guardian"

I believe the one thing every parent has in common is the duty to protect their child. I know everyone would say that they would die for their child, or do anything to protect them from physical harm. And, to that point there is clear evidence for support. As parents, and particularly as mothers, we spend countless dollars on car seats and baby gates, and endless nights worrying about bumped heads and little coughs.

But what about protection from less obvious risks? What about protection from words.

We all know the age-old rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". While I appreciate the sentiment I must say I completely disagree. I think words are much more hurtful. Plus, when was the last time some kid in a high school used a rock to bully a child? Or when was the last time a stranger in Wal-Mart lashed out about your parenting with a stick? No, words are the real danger.

It breaks my heart to hear the moms I know relay the things others have said about their children. And sometimes it breaks my heart to hear what parents say about their own child. Recently a mom was wondering about the appropriate response to a stranger who said "Your child is destined to be a terrible child because she has red hair". She did not respond to the person immediately, but rather was asking for advice later. Why didn't she respond at that moment??

Nothing I have ever experienced (including high school) is as taxing on my self-confidence as being a mother. Forget the fact that my body image has been completely destroyed. I spend half of my day wondering if I am making the right decisions for my son. And those are just the times I'm second guessing myself. Throw on top of that all of the negativity and outright contradiction to my choices that I face from family and friends. Everything I do seems under the microscope. And I have been working hard lately to find a way to parent as I deem right for my family, without pushing my parenting decisions on others. I do try very hard at times to remain silent. At times, silence is the kindest and most appropriate response.

I cannot say the same for direct comments about Baby.

When he was a newborn, my brother in-law referred to my son as 'demon spawn'. I know he was joking, but I do not take the matter lightly. A negative word is a curse, and I will not allow someone to curse my son. Ever. I IMMEDIATELY told him never to say it again, and not to speak about my son 'like that'. I was not rude. I did not belabor the issue. I was short, and firm. I am his mother and his gate-keeper, and made it known that I will not tolerate it.

I know that I am standing in a small crowd (if not alone) because I will openly defend my child. Some parents may be upset by a comment, but stand silent. Some might even brush it off as a joke. And I think most would agree that a 7 day old baby will not remember it, nor know what was meant by it. But if I had not checked the behavior at 1 week old, I believe my BIL would have continued 'joking' in that manner forever. And I am sure at some point my son will start to remember.

I know rhetorical questions are generally not productive, but I have to ask some anyway. What is it about us as people/parents/women that we don't feel comfortable defending our children? Why do we allow others to be so blatantly rude while we are busy minding our manners at the expense of our children? And what on earth makes us think that silence is the best option?!?

In my friend's circumstance I know that her daughter is having a difficult time through her toddler years. And my friend and her husband are doing all they can to stay the course of parenting that they believe is right for their daughter. Whatever those decisions may be, and however they may manifest in a place like Wal-Mart, strangers do not have the right to pass judgement. And certainly my friend need not feel guilty that she has a typical toddler. In her case, she held her tongue for the sake of manners (I imagine she'd have had a hard time saying something nice to that woman). But what about her daughter? Is a 2 year-old old enough to remember someone calling her a terror? Is she old enough to understand what it means? And most importantly, is she old enough to know that when someone said something negative about her her mother just stood by in silence? Will she be forever changed, even slightly, by thinking her mother will not always defend her?

I believe more and more that as parents we have a responsibility to our children. A responsibility to demonstrate that we are for them. We may disagree with their actions, or be disappointed in their choices, but our love is unconditional, and regardless of how we parent, we MUST demonstrate that we will tirelessly defend them. The word defend: to drive danger or attack away from; to maintain or support in the face of argument or hostile criticism; to take action against attack or challenge. It's a brilliant word. It is also a verb. To defend is to take action, not to stand silently by and be angry about later.

We as parents have a duty to protect our children. Let us put aside our fears of being rude and let us be defensive. Not defensive of our choices or our own actions but of our children. Let our children grow up knowing they are safe because we stand guard for them always. Let us be courageous and diligent, even if that means setting aside our own frustrations to remind the woman at Wal-Mart that she has forgotten her manners.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Some Honest Advice

Boo and I have been together a little over 5 years, and as with any relationship we have certainly had our ups and downs. Over the course of the past month I've heard several of my friends talking their way through their own rough relationship spots. It's refreshing in a way, to find out that other couples have rough days, but it is also very hard to see friends struggling in their dating relationship or marriage.

As I was sharing some of my own experiences with a close friend I realized that I am extremely blessed to have someone to give me honest advice even when it is hard. And I'm blessed that God is faithful to change me if I am willing to be changed. Without those two things I don't think I could be happily married.

I can't make anyone else want to be changed. But I can share the advice that has helped me so much in my marriage, and I can say for certain that if you ask God to change your heart He will be faithful to do it.

The path to this knowledge has been long and winding. And I know that these are not all of the answers. This can be taken for advice in your own situation, but really this is a reminder to myself; an entry in a journal to be read and reread when I forget what I've already learned.

It Takes Two to Tango. Have you ever seen a tango where one partner was dragging the other around the floor? No. The effort comes from both partners. But I know that's not how most people look at their own situation. It is easy in a marriage (and I would categorize any serious relationship thus) to expect 'the other person' to do all of the work. Easy for a woman to think "He needs to be a better husband" or "He doesn't put my needs first". Easy for a man to think "She needs to be a better wife" or "She never considers what I want". But if we can be so brave as to look at our own behavior we could make sure that we are doing our part first. Before I look to what Boo is lacking, I must first look at myself and ask if I am doing my part. Are there things I can change about myself to make the situation better? I've found that if I can ask and answer those questions honestly, that there is plenty for me to do on my own end. And, focusing on correcting my own shortcomings tends to take my focus off of Boo. :)

Compromise is not a four-letter word. We often, as people, think if we are forced to compromise we are forced to lose out on something. Especially in America, we view compromise as defeat. To be faced with a compromise is a challenge. What we need to do is change our perception of the outcome. To reach a compromise is not defeat. To reach a compromise is to rise up and accept the challenge, and to conquer our own selfishness. Learning to compromise is learning to sacrifice for the better. You don't lose in a compromise. You lose if you demand to have things your own way.

You married who you married. On the day you said "I do" you said it (presumably) to an adult. Not to a child who still had growing up to do. Not to someone who still needs parenting, or who hasn't quite discovered the person they want to be. If you said those words thinking "I'll love you when you change all the things I don't love about you" you're going to be sorely disappointed. There is no requirement for change after a wedding. As a matter of fact, I think men and women alike treat the wedding as the end-all, and everything after that is just downhill. A wedding is just the beginning. And while a marriage takes work and compromise from both partners, the only person you have the power to change is yourself. Stop waiting or expecting your partner to change. You married who you married. If you want things to be different, change yourself.

Have a change of heart. You can't change yourself. You can alter your behavior and you can make new habits, but if your heart doesn't change your efforts will not endure. The good news is, God can change your heart. If you desire to work at making your marriage great, and you are willing to learn how to compromise and you want to be satisfied with the person you married ASK GOD TO CHANGE YOUR HEART. He will give you unconditional love in abundance; for yourself and for your spouse. If you will be humble God will be faithful.

These points above apply to anyone, in any relationship, not just marriage. But this last point is for the women.

Remember 1 Peter 3. "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that , if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." As a woman, and as a wife, if you will do as Peter says here your own husband will be won over by your behavior. If you're dissatisfied with how your husband acts or treats you, look to God to make you the wife of 1 Peter 3. Ask God to use the way you love your husband as an example to him of how he may love you. And then see if a change in your own behavior doesn't have a remarkable effect.