H Words

I think that Joey has started to look more like his brother. My genes have clearly lost out on just about every front, which I find myself not minding—both boys have bigger eyes, like mine, and Cricket especially makes the same expressions I do (according to Ruth, and from what I’ve seen)—but they’re both within spitting distance of that tall fellow I like so much. I thought that Joey looked more like me, but then I saw a whole mess of baby pictures of my husband, and there were some in which he could easily have passed for his younger son. I may end up the odd woman out in a family of tall, charming blond fellows. There are worse fates.

Speaking of which, Joey has started expressing his anger by slapping me in the face. It’s a strange thing—one issue we are perpetually working on together is helping him to use words to express what he wants or is feeling. So he will scrabble at the foot of our bed and then scream with rage: I say, “You seem frustrated! Is there a word you can use to tell me what you want?” and he will say “Helb! (help)” “Oh, you want help up?” and I help him up. He has a lot of words, but he’s easily frustrated, and when he is frustrated, they go right out the window. (By contrast, if he’s feeling cheerful, he will run to the edge of the bed and say “Helb! Up!”) My brother has always had this same incredibly short fuse—easily frustrated and unable to tolerate frustration—so it’s important, I think, that we try to help Joey learn to manage it. I’m still figuring how. Right now, that mostly means time-in for persistently dangerous bad behavior (throwing blocks at people’s heads, that sort of thing): I hold him and talk to him and for a little while he fights to get loose and go back to whatever he was doing; after a minute, he relaxes and generally seems to enjoy being held; and after a couple of minutes, he’s free to do as he likes (he usually stays in my lap awhile). When he hits me, I first hold his hands, give a serious “No, we do not hit” sort of talk—and when he hits me again, which he invariably does, I tell him that he can’t sit with me if he’s going to hurt me, and I set him on the floor—at which point he starts screaming as though he’s the one who’s just been slapped. It is not a perfect system, for sure.

It might not sound like it yet, but I am overall really enjoying the toddlerness of this boy; he’s getting smarter by the day, and there’s scarcely a trace of baby left in him. We got a toddler leash because he wants to run into traffic and not to hold our hands—now he likes to wrap it around himself at home, and we’ve started calling it his fancy. “Oh, Snerks, you look so fancy!” He will let you know when he needs his diaper changed, usually (“Helb! Poop!”), and he’s more and more interested in soccerish games with us in the yard. His fine motor is pretty lousy, unfortunately (one area where my genes totally dominate! I was in special P.E.), and he gets frustrated trying to work at improving it, but there’s time yet. His physical enthusiasm combines with that “fine” motor to keep me on my toes preventing him breaking his neck, but we’re doing pretty well so far, and a pool fence is coming soon (not that he is ever, EVER alone outside). One of Joey’s favorite words is hug, and he will frequently demand one—“Ugga!”—this is one of my favorite new things. It actually came out of that same pool as the paragraph above, trying to help him deal with frustration; he was finding a toy very annoying, and when he would sit next to it and scream, I would say, “Sweetie, if you want, you can come here for a hug—maybe you’ll feel better.” After a dozen or so times, he started spontaneously coming over for a hug when he was getting mad, and the word has really caught on.

Insufficient

My milk is drying up.

 

I knew this was a possibility, now that I’m four months pregnant, but it’s still discouraging. Kellymom suggests that I won’t dry up completely, and for now Joey seems willing to persist—he is in fact doing a lot of kneading and headbutting, trying to get every drop of milk when he nurses. He’s trying to nurse constantly; I am not willing to nurse much more than once every two hours, because WOW the pain, so we’re having some tantrums. I’ve started to flinch when he reaches toward me, because he keeps hitting me in the face. When that happens, I hold his hand and explain that it’s not okay, and if he persists I will put him down . . . and he will scream. Occasionally he’ll give up on hitting and start headbutting my nose. It’s not ideal.

 

That sounds a bit grim, but we’re really doing pretty well. There are good times every day, and I’m drinking more water and eating oatmeal, which has helped a little with the supply—but I’m also giving clear milk sometimes, so it’s really the pregnancy causing the change, and there’s nothing I can do about that. Dry nursing is painful, but beyond that, it is eerily like that feeling you get when you root around in your belly button too long: you get a clear signal from your body to knock it off. The pregnancy is leaving me awfully tired; it turns out that parenting while pregnant is much less restful than just being pregnant and sleeping fifteen hours a day, so I haven’t really gotten a second-trimester energy bump. Bummer. It’s definitely led to my blogging less, since I’m just tired all the time. In the meantime, Joey is moving steadily toward toddlerhood, breaking things and shrieking in protest when we clean up after him.

 

I think it’s going to be a great Christmas. I’ll post again this weekend, and for sure I want to share some pictures of my adorable tyrant.

Never Violence

I got sucked into an intense parenting conversation with my mother. She has talked occasionally about a colleague’s sister’s teenage son (perfectly clear, right? ;)), and about how his mother is going to send him to last-chance wilderness boot camp in a few weeks because he is mouthy and stays out all night. The mother and father of this kid have apparently been very strict his whole life, and now he curses at them, tells them he hates them, and won’t obey his curfew. I totally misread her point the first time she told me this: she was saying, How horrible for his parents. I was hearing: How horrible that his parents are doing this. I’ve read and heard accounts of people sending their kids to these programs and thought, Well, it’s hard to imagine what else they could do—but for a mouthy kid? A mouthy teenager? Of course we neither of us know the whole story, but based on our different understandings, we misunderstood one another.

For my mother, this means that I am judging her parenting. She didn’t send any of us away, but has told me many times that she considered sending me to military school because I was so depressed, and I have said that I’m glad that she didn’t, and I would have seen it as proof that she didn’t love me. I know as an adult that it wouldn’t have been that, of course, but as a teenager? I would have been certain, and heartbroken. It seems like a relevant fact that she never did sent me away, but she has apparently been needing to talk this out/set me straight, so while Mr. Book and Joey played with a cardboard tube (adorable), we talked about this without her persuading me to her point of view. She started to explain to me that parenting isn’t always simple, and sometimes you have to do hard things and be mean in order to help your kids, and I was saying that yes, I know that it is complicated, but I still value coming to these decisions from a place that prioritizes a warm and close relationship with my kids over their GPAs, and she felt as though I didn’t understand, and finally Mr. Book jumped in.

My mother was explaining that you want your kids to be successful, and you can’t stand to watch their actions close doors for them—I suggested that there will be doors open to them that you can’t possibly imagine, and while you can support your kids to succeed you can’t make them, and maybe their ideas of success aren’t the same as yours—and she was getting really exasperated. Mr. Book had been listening quietly, mostly focused on Joey, and he all of a sudden looked up at my mom and said, “We have different values than you do. We first off want our kids to be good people; we secondly want them to be happy; and everything else is a pretty distant third. We don’t prioritize success in the same way that you do, or think about it the same way.” My mom asked how you can make your kids be happy; he said that you can’t, you can’t make anyone be happy—but you can help. The conversation ended then.

I’m writing about the conversation because I’m still worrying it, chewing away at it and trying to figure out what happened. My mother has regrets, and that is what it is—I don’t hold my childhood against her, and I don’t bring it up with her. I know that we’re nowhere near the hardest parts of parenting yet, and am in that frustrating position of saying that while I know that I can’t know what it will be like, I think and I believe and I anticipate these various things. My mother kept asking me what I would do in this woman-I-don’t-know’s position, and I kept saying that I would really have to find myself in that position and figure it out—but I might see if he wanted to stay with relatives for awhile, I might let him drop out and look for work, I might ask him what he wanted and where he was going. Who can say? My mother worries that our decision not to hit our kids is a sign of some fatal parental weakness, and that we will be taken advantage of by horrible children; again, I suppose it’s too soon to rule that out for sure, but we don’t let Joey crawl around the floor in restaurants or make other peoples’ lives a burden to them. We have limits for him, but we don’t hit him when he crosses them—we just pick him up, explain, and redirect him. And my mother watches us, and worries.

Sugar Beet

I’m still here. I’ve been somewhat hesitant to post about Joey just so that there’s some kind of big, impressive birthday post to write—but that post will probably be all pictures and sniffling from me, so let me tell you what he’s like these days.

He can stand on his own, but won’t do it on purpose—and when he realizes that he is standing unsupported, immediately sits down or grabs something to hang on to. He is not interested in walking by himself, but at the same time, he keeps coming up against the limits of what cruising can do for him and getting frustrated. He climbs down and up—down more easily than up—boldly, and his favorite maneuver is to climb down the side of the futon and then get stuck in the magazine rack.

I had assumed that there would be one discreet first word that I’d be able to point to, but instead wordish things have grown into words, and now he regularly uses appropriately rather a number of words: up, down, all done (“ah dun”), mama, daddy, granddad (“dadad”), night-night (nigh-nigh), moon, that (“dat”), and no. He’ll also echo things that we say: yesterday he and the Mister were going back and forth with “Hot stuff!” “Ho’ ‘tuff!” He also chatters in the right sort of cadence for English, and has started incorporating the words he knows into the toddlerese: apparently wondering where his granddad was, he asked me “Ha ba dun dun dun aya Dadad?” Ready for a nap, he berated me with “Abba bara ah ba ba ara nigh-nigh!” Clearly, he thinks that he is talking. And he’s not far wrong, anymore.

I’m still enjoying him—so much, right off the charts. He’s eating more and more human food; we feed him every two hours or so while he’s awake, and he is more and more eating a good portion of food at those times. He always wants whatever we’re eating, even when he doesn’t like it. I was eating a bagel with raw tomato and onion on top of it the other day, and Joey demanded a bite, spat it out, poked and glared at it, and then demanded another bite.

He’s still so sweet-natured that I can’t imagine what I did to deserve him. Oh, sure, he gets cranky when he’s tired and throws tantrums when I won’t walk him around and around and around, but he also gives kisses and smiles at everyone and loves to wave and clap and see us respond. Joey also likes to listen to music and dance or to play the piano and sing. He loves to go outside, and to go for walks; we’re lucky to be in such a mild climate, I guess. He started to say moon on evening walks, reaching up as far as he could and signing <want> <want> <want>.

Joey’s godmother and an uncle are coming into town in time for his birthday, and we’re going to have a little party. We got our birthday present for him when he was born, since I am weird about this sort of thing—recently I was given a gift card and bought his birthday present for next year. Of course, after that I’ll have to wait and see what he wants! But for now, I think we can make pretty good guesses as to the things he would like: this year, a ride-on fire engine toy (next year, a play kitchen). Okay, both Christmases are both mostly in my closet as well. I think this is a result of placing Cricket, and of telling myself that I obviously couldn’t keep him because I didn’t have baby stuff; I now badly want to have whatever baby/toddler stuff a little Snerkleberry might like to have. I know that good parenting isn’t about stuff, and I’ve certainly seen my son ignore toys in favor of Tupperware containers and empty boxes, but I can’t quite shake this desire to be materially prepared. But I’m working on it.

Old Duffer

Thanks so much for the congratulations, everyone—I am greatly honored and touched. And expressing that in a stilted fashion, I guess.

Well, I started offering Joey solid food sometimes when he’d try to nurse—and now he’s eating tons and full of beans, so I feel pretty good about that decision. He’s also high-fiving and clapping like a champ, and saying “ah duh” when he’s all done more than half of the time when it would be appropriate. On the other hand, he’s teething something fierce again; I thought that four teeth were plenty, but I guess he’s got plans of his own. Twice yesterday, Joey tried to nurse, pulled away screaming and jammed his hand into his mouth, and then repeated that process until I got the poor child some Tylenol. He’s also waking up at night (3 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 a.m. on Wednesday, 11:30 p.m.  . . . and 3 a.m. . . . on Thursday), which is awful, but he’s got so much brain and mouth stuff going on that I suppose it’s no wonder. He’s nowhere near walking, I think—he’ll cruise, but it seems to scare him a bit—but I’m certainly in no hurry to have to chase after him.

I’ve decided that (if, God willing, this pregnancy gives me a healthy child—if I ever forget to write that, please never doubt that I’m thinking the if) this baby will be a boy. You see, during each of my three pregnancies, I consulted an online Chinese gender prediction chart: it told me that Cricket that would be a girl; it confirmed that Joey would be a girl; and now I am assured that this little possum is a girl. I mean, the thing is practically infallible. If he’s a boy, he’ll be named after an animal in real life, so I’ll have to be extra clever with a blog moniker. Well, there’s time for that yet.

—And now I’m distracted by trying to imagine what anyone reading would guess after that. Husky Dale Book? Ursa Tremulo Book?

Mr. Book thinks that I should tell you that “hair is in the air.” We cut Joey’s hair, and then I cut all of my hair off, more or less, something I’ve been telling people I’d do when I got pregnant again since I was pregnant with Joey. I put up a blurry shot of my hair on Facebook and Ruth was the first one to “Like” it, leaving me paranoid about whether I ever mentioned that “when I get pregnant again” thing to her. I also posted a picture of Joey in which I commented on how shaggy he’d gotten, and on the fact that we pulled out the clippers after the snapshot was taken—minutes (it turns out) after Nora posted a picture of her long-haired boy. So: hair is in the air.

Up the Duff

For a few days now, my gums have been bleeding when I brush my teeth. I told Mr. Book that I thought I had scurvy. That’s something I’ve experienced before—er, bleeding gums, not scurvy—but only under a particular set of circumstances, so I considered the way I’ve been feeling overall and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough: I am pregnant!

I’m surprised, but pleased; I will worry intensely about miscarriage for awhile, but if all goes well, we will have a baby in May or June. As with my last pregnancy, while we’re not telling the world at large (my parents, the Mister’s mom, and Kate), I will want to talk about a miscarriage here if it happens, so I might as well blurt the good news out at six weeks(ish. This is just my best guess). Honestly, I’m not so much excited yet as boggled; yes, I know where babies come from, but I was genuinely surprised to see the second line on that test. Heck, I have kept it around and keep pulling it out to look at: yup, still pregnant. I don’t know why I was so surprised—bleeding gums, nausea, tender nipples, fatigue—I decided that I had scurvy and mono, which while an unconventional choice, doesn’t really seem like the most obvious answer.

Mr. Book says that if this one turns out as great as Joey, we have to have another.

I feel a little weird about my fertility. I think this is an artifact of birthmotherhood. For one thing, my internet world is filled with really amazing ladies who had to put a lot more time and money into family building than Jenny Fecundity over here. And for another thing, of course, I am a birthparent because of that fertility. There’s some cultural problem bound up with that in my head: that my fertility is the slutty kind, and that the kind you have to work at is not. Certainly having kids eighteen months apart adds volume to that self-critical voice—even though that’s what I wanted, thinking that kids close together will mean staying in baby mode and then moving out rather than having to switch back and forth, choosing a really rough year and hoping for sibling closeness. Of course, that voice is not only in my head: When I told my mother that we’re expecting, she immediately asked about our future contraception plans (condoms and then a vasectomy, for the curious). My mother has made it clear in past conversations that she’s ready and eager for another grandchild—but her first response was not that.

At any rate, despite the weirdness of my brain and self-image, this is good news. I’m drinking tons of water and touching my stomach and smiling.

Baby Jail

Joey rolled out of bed (while napping on his own) twice in a week: time to move to the crib, clearly, especially when you add the fact that Mr. Book is ready to be done with cosleeping. The Mister spends a couple nights per week on the futon now, trying to escape the kicking baby. And he does kick—I have tiny bruises scattered across my body, including a now-faded perfect set of toe prints on my thigh. So, okay, it makes some sense to have him start sleeping on his own.

Or maybe not.

After two nights, I gave up and made some changes in our bedroom setup that that make it less likely that Joey will roll out of bed—and safer if he does. Those two nights were brutal; if we checked on him frequently, if we gave him more time on his own, if he had a nightlight or no light, Joey screamed and screamed. Finally, when I went to check on him and found him crying so hard that he was shaking, I pulled him out of the crib and started moving furniture in our bedroom. “You’re acting crazy!” said Mr. Book. “I am having a hormonal problem,” I replied—or agreed, maybe. Joey was a little extra on edge for the next twelve hours or so, screaming immediately when he woke instead of rooting or chatting as he normally would, but he has now settled back into normal sleeping habits. Mr. Book says that we can move him in November; I give him worried, mutinous looks. He points out that we both slept in cribs; I point out that neither of us had happy childhoods. He suggests that this is not a result of sleeping alone; I agree, but say that we’re hardly arguments in favor, either.

We’re not fighting, but we don’t agree. I am happy to have a slightly lousy night’s sleep if it means waking up with a cheerful, well-rested baby; Mr. Book is more focused on the fact that sleeping without the baby is much more comfortable, and that thousands of babies sleep well in cribs. I remember how, when he was a newborn, he didn’t start sleeping well until he slept in the bed with us. I am sure that he isn’t ready. But how can we tell? Before Joey was born, Mr. Book had voted that we cosleep for six months, and I proposed eighteen months—the sixth month is behind us now. We’ll have the conversation again in November, I guess.