Dressing Him Funny

This week, I had a crunchy parenting failure and a crunchy parenting triumph; I’m hoping they more than cancel each other out, but I suppose it’s too soon to say. First, I broke down and bought a (gently used) exersaucer; Joey wants nothing more in the world, these days, than to be bounced and bounced and bounced and held standing and then bounced, and at some point my poor arms and his dad’s are just plumb tuckered out. I plan to hide it when we have company. For now, though, he seems to love rocking out in the thing while I sit in a chair beside him and work, or stand in view and do dishes, or what have you.

And, uh, we’ve started doing cloth diapers.

I am (perhaps obviously) NOT hardcore—we’re still using disposable wipes, we’ll still put him into a disposable diaper at night—we’re basically doing cloth part time. But if I give them their cold soak myself before giving them a hot wash in the machine, it’s not as expensive as it might be, and I’m really glad to be (mostly) making the switch. Funny thing is, I’m the only one who’s surprised that I’ve decided to switch over; when I told the Mister, he rolled his eyes and said “Well, it’s not like I didn’t see this one coming.” When I found myself protesting that I’m not that crunchy because “he has some plastic toys!”—well, I’m not sure there’s any digging yourself out at that point. Next step: cloth wipes.

There’s an argument I watch play out on the internet every so often:

Adoptive parents: We are only human; we get divorces, we decide that our family is complete with one child, we move, we change our plans. Parenting is different in practice than in theory.

Birth parents: We placed our children on the understanding that they would have better lives than we could ever give them, so you had damned well better do whatever you can to give them the perfect childhood.

And both sides make pretty good sense to me. In our own situation, we talked three years ago (!) about Ruth and Nora’s plans: Ruth would stay at home, they would cosleep and baby wear, and Ruth was planning to breastfeed. That’s not quite how things turned out; Cricket spent a lot of time in his stroller, slept alone in his crib, drank formula only (and only from a bottle), and started daycare before he was two. At the same time, it was clear that his moms were making what they thought were the best choices for him—they just ended up changing their plans as they experienced parenthood and Cricket, just like every other parent does. Then Joey was born, and they sent us a baby gift of parenting books (which are . . . somewhere . . . and unread), and now they’re sort of in the position that Mr. Book and I have been for two and a half years. We’ve already had to make some of the same sorts of changes—I wanted to do homemade baby food, but Joey hated it, so we went with a mix of organic commercial stuff and little bits of real food right from the start; I never thought I would end up cloth diapering (it seemed like such a nightmare); we’re starting to put him down to sleep by himself and join him later at night, which makes me feel incredibly guilty but has meant more sleep for all three of us—but we’re making different specific changes, and I wonder what it’s like for Ruth and Nora to watch and judge us. Because of course they’ll judge our parenting; I think that happens from both sides in most adoptions, and in good adoptions, it’s tempered with compassion, understanding, and love.

Grandkids

First off, I would very much like to thank blog reader Molly for the adorable and large-ish baby clothes; it turns out that overalls for toddlers are jaw-droppingly adorable. I also blew my monthly allowance on a toddler t-shirt with a pterosaur on it, which is basically an unrelated fact, but it did arrive on the same day. (I’m thinking teeny cowboy boots for next month—my husband is interested in pooling our allowances and getting a board game.)

My mother has apparently been pressuring my awesome sister Kate to have a baby. Kate is married, but she’s also 23, and she and her husband prefer to wait a few years—seems reasonable to me, the 27-year-old pregnant one, but our mother was pregnant with me (her first at)—oh, shoot, math time—wow, 23. Of course, my mother had four children and would have been delighted to have more, so she was on a slightly different trajectory than her three daughters are. As stupid as this is, when Kate first told me, my feelings were hurt for a minute: Why does our mom want Kate to bear grandkids yet find herself unable to give a crap about my little bird? Then, of course, I more reasonably snapped into feeling bad for Kate. Kate has responded I think very sensibly—by getting a puppy.

Baby Love

I like babies, and I love little kids. They thing is, I’ve spent most of my life assuming that everybody else likes them more than me: that I—by comparison—don’t like babies etc. Too, I grew up being matter-of-fact around babies; I was helping with babies as soon as I could safely hold them, taking care of my siblings and volunteering in the church nursery while I was still in elementary school. I thought that helplessness around babies was something that only existed in screwball comedies.

When I was in California for my sister’s wedding, my mom gave me an unsolicited parenthood pep talk. (At the time, I’m pretty sure that she thought I was secretly pregnant, but I believe she’s over it now.) She told me that she’s never liked babies or little kids—which makes me wonder why she had four and wanted more, but that’s neither here nor there. She said that I should hurry up and become a mom because I’ll enjoy it in a way that she never did. She was talking, I think, about the fact that I would be happy to fingerpaint or build pillow forts or help a toddler help me make pie. I’m tolerant of untidiness—probably a bit too much so, but we’re none of us perfect—and I’m not frantic about routine. (These are all qualities that my mother does not share.) Lord knows when I’ll be an honest-to-God, for-real mother (I have hopes to be pregnant by Christmas, but we’ll see), but I feel a deep and quiet happiness when I think about it.

I worry about jinxing myself here. I also already worry about being a terrible mother, about having sobbing meltdowns because futurekid won’t stop screaming. But it’s true that there are things I don’t worry about. When I was a teenager, I worried that I’d be abusive if I became a parent—I was abused, albeit not grotesquely, and my incomplete understanding of how these things play out led me to assume that I’d kid my unlikely theoretical future kids. After a great deal of therapy and a little introspection, I realized that I’ve always turned those feelings inward, and while self-flagellation is less than ideal, it certainly makes me a safer caretaker than my mother was. I worry about not being able to figure out what a baby needs or wants—I mean, I can certainly run down a list of obvious picks like milk or a diaper change or, I don’t know, I’m already out of ideas. Maybe this theoretical kid is bored? Or gassy? I am getting anxious just writing this. I don’t want to break the baby. But I imagine I’ll keep telling myself what I kept telling myself about childbirth the last time around: stupider and less worthwhile women have made it through this just fine, so I’m going to make it too.