Cherish the Moment

I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook on my phone with one hand and holding Poppy to my breast with the other arm. She ate and growled simultaneously, as she tends to do first thing in the morning. There was dried spit-up on my neck, chest, and pillow. I hadn't had a chance to do laundry the day before so I was wearing a nursing bra that smelled of sweat and cheese. Hot weather, or her current developmental stage, or the alignment of the planets had caused Poppy to cluster feed off and on all night. The longest stretch of sleep I'd managed was just shy of two hours. My nerves were raw from lack of sleep and too much touch.

And then a meme caught my eye. You know the one. The generic cute baby and frilly font ordering the reader to pay attention and cherish every moment (actually, this particular one told me to "relish the charms of the present," which, really? Really. Barf.).

Last night I half-sprinted the length of a baseball diamond, pushing Poppy in the stroller over roots, through sand and grass, and then pulled a muscle holding the heavy, metal door open with my back while I wrestled the stroller over the stoop and into the dirty, public park bathroom. I coached Grady through a particularly difficult poop while sweating in the sweltering, malodorous stall, and then wiped his bum while swatting flies and screeching "don't touch the floor! Don't touch anything! Hold onto your ankles!" at top volume.

There were no charms to relish. I did not cherish every moment.

Why do we do this? Why do we place such high expectations on parents (this situation isn't unique to mothers, though I do think we bear the brunt of this particular scenario)? Admitting that this season of life is challenging, not loving every moment with my five-week-old and my almost-five-year-old, not relishing the charms of the present, doesn't mean I love my kids any less or I'm not endlessly grateful I get to be their mom. I know it's okay to grit my teeth and just get through one more two-hour bedtime routine, one more poop doula session, one more load of laundry laden with spit-up. But I feel like an ingrate whenever I'm told I should be cherishing my blessings. It kicks off a spiral of "do I love my kids enough? Am I loving them right? Do they feel loved and secure?" Which sounds ridiculous, I know. A stupid internet meme should not make me question my abilities as a parent or as a person. But guess what? Hormones? Make me ridiculous sometimes. And I'm guessing they make someone you love ridiculous sometimes too. So instead of telling parents to cherish every moment, why not ask them if the good times are outweighing the bad times? Ask them how you can make life easier. Ask what you can do, specifically, to help them enjoy this difficult / beautiful / demanding / ecstatic /seemingly unending / too short period of their life. And then do it.  

Mother's Day

I've seen a lot of talk about Mother's Day floating around my social networks this week and it's piqued my interest. First things first: let's acknowledge there's no right or wrong way to celebrate Mother's Day. Whether you fall under the "take the kids away, this is MY DAY" or the "Family! Time! Forever!" category, you'll find no judgment here. You do you, love bug. Also? I realize that Mother's Day is actually really fucking difficult for a lot of people, for various reasons, and I don't mean to diminish anyone's struggles by talking about what is really a pretty fluffy aspect of the day. I'm just stuck in waiting-for-labour limbo and there's not been a lot of sleep lately so my brain is too tired for real thinking.

Right! So. Obviously everyone has their own preferences for how they spend Mother's Day. And it's somewhat complicated by circumstances (you may want to spend Mother's Day with your own mother but she lives on the other side of the country so it's not possible) and relationships (maybe you don't have the best relationship with your mother or mother-in-law but you want to honour their relationship with your kids) or family situation (maybe you are a single parent and you either have or don't have your kids with you that day), etc. And this doesn't even touch on people who want to spend the day a certain way but can't because their mother is gone or because they've struggled to become a mother. Mother's Day is complicated is what I'm saying (which is why we should all maybe work on being a little more gentle with each other instead of playing into the whole "Mommy Wars" side of things. You guys, I watched a video that was all "Dear Husband: this is what I really want for Mother's Day" and what she wanted was to be left the eff alone. Which is fine [please see above - you do you]. But then another mom left a comment along the lines of "well that's fine for you but I actually love my kids so I want to spend Mother's Day with them." Gross.).

Anyway. That was just a really longwinded way of saying: How are you planning to spend Mother's Day? Do you make compromises? Do you spend it with family? Or alone? How would you spend the day if it was 100% up to you?

We're keeping things pretty low key. I told Shawn I don't want to do anything except go for coffee at my favourite coffee shop with him and Grady. Later in the day we'll meet up with Shawn's brother and Mom and do dinner. I'll see my Mom next week, I think, because she was exposed to a stomach virus yesterday and I'm being a crazy person until I'm comfortable a sufficient incubation period has passed with no symptoms.

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To Bed

Back in January, Shawn and I decided that it was time to enforce the no-toddlers-in-mom-and-dad's-bed rule. And then the shitstorm of awfulness happened and enforcing any rules beyond "no playing with knives" and "no electronics in the bath" was too difficult and ate up too much energy.

We moved Grady's mattress to the floor beside our bed and he slept there every night and crawled into our bed every morning. It was an improvement over fighting a sleeping ninja toddler all night but it wasn't a perfect solution. 

Grady has a few stuffies (Ryder from Paw Patrol, Olaf from Frozen, and a baby doll) so Shawn and I had the brilliant idea that we would buy them the IKEA doll bed for Grady's birthday. He'd see how his loveys slept in a big boy bed and he would want to sleep in a big boy bed. We felt very smug. We were going to outsmart the Tiny Dictator. Our parenting prowess is unmatched. 

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Yes, that is a sleeping child and his doll bed in my bed. The Tiny Dictator has outsmarted us once again. 

Sleep. Or Lack Thereof.

Grady was the brand of baby that did not sleep unless he was being held. For ten or so miserable days after he was born, Shawn and I strictly enforced the "no baby in bed" rule and put him in his bassinet beside our bed to sleep. And by "sleep" I mean "doze in 12-minute increments before realizing he was no longer on a human and fully woke up to voice his displeasure.")  I vividly remember the first time I lay Grady on our bed beside me, in a late afternoon sunbeam, desperate for some sleep. We slept soundly for two straight hours and I woke up convinced the baby was dead because he hadn't yelled at me in the longest stretch since being born. 

I went back to work when Grady was six months old. By that time we had given up on the bassinet completely and were co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is taboo, I know, but we made sure to do it safely and it worked for us. It helped keep my breastmilk supply up as I was gone for such long stretches during the day; Grady would breastfeed more during the night to make up for it. I didn't have to get up and go to him during his nightly wakeups; he was right beside me and I was able to get more sleep than I would have been able to otherwise. 

And then I got sick. It was a tough time physically, obviously, but also emotionally. Grady was too young to remember me should anything go wrong during my surgeries. I was an anxious, emotional mess. Having Grady in our bed was comforting and convenient. My sleep was maximized and I felt like I was doing something for Grady, like he could soak up all my mama-ness through osmosis or something, just in case I didn't make it through surgery. (Fun fact: I was 100% sure I'd be fine after my first surgery and 100% sure I'd be dead after my second. It is really difficult to talk about and I'm still getting intermittent counselling for it but it is what it is and it's definitely shaped how I parented Grady during that time.)

I'm not trying to say that the way we've done it is the right way or the wrong way. Sleep is a very personal issue and it's also fluid - what works for you this month may be completely wrong for you next month. I once shared something parenting-related on Facebook and inadvertently portrayed it as something I believed was right for every parent and every baby instead of how I intended, which was that it accurately described what was right for my family and my baby at that time in our lives. A misunderstanding and a discussion followed and I hurt some feelings. It is never my intention to judge anyone's parenting decision so please know that I am not saying co-sleeping is the be-all and end-all of quality nighttime parenting. It's just something that worked for us and our circumstances at the time. (And clearly it isn't the be-all and end-all because now we're stuck "sleep-training" an opinionated toddler.)

Which brings us to last night. For some time now, Shawn and I have been gently encouraging Grady to sleep in his own bed. We set up his room with Avengers bedding and a motorcycle nightlight and lots of comfort items that he loves. Grady was having none of it. We have a king-sized bed but months of fighting rogue toddler limbs have pushed us over the edge. Last night we decided that enough was enough. Grady was sleeping in his own room. We talked about it all evening and Grady agreed it was a good idea. We all did the bedtime routine together. We read books. We sang songs. We negotiated with an angry 3-year old until he finally fell asleep at 10pm.  

He stayed asleep until 11:45. I went into his room and gave him a cuddle until he fell back asleep. I crept back to bed for another blissful 30 minutes of sleep before Grady woke up and realized I'd escaped. So I took my pillow and a blanket and I slept on the floor beside Grady's bed until 4:30.  

My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning and when I rolled over to shut it off I saw Grady curled up on the floor beside my side of the bed. He woke up at some point between 4:30 and 6:30, realized I was gone, came to find me, but didn't want to break the "mommy and daddy's bed is mommy and daddy's bed" rule. Heart = broken.  

I tucked him into bed beside Shawn and he was still fast asleep when we left for work. I know that consistency is key and we have to enforce the bedtime boundaries again tonight, but I'm dreading it.  

Parenting is so hard, you guys.