Raising Wildling

Parenting Wildling is, as anyone who has read more than one post on this blog can guess, very difficult. She is a high needs highly sensitive yet utterly brilliant individual, with a stubborn argumentative streak. On good days (or really, good moments, we don’t have full days) we are overjoyed and impressed with our amazing child. On the not-so-good moments and days and weeks, we are overwhelmed.

We put so much of our effort into her, because we want to do this right. We want our brilliant amazing daughter to grow into a brilliant amazing adult. And I think I know what will happen if we screw this up. I think I have met her potential future.

Anyone who has ever looked at Wildling can tell I made zero genetic contribution to her. If I hadn’t known (and had photographic proof) that she came out of my body, I may have assumed she was some female clone of Will that was somehow lab-produced and dropped into our lives. So it is no surprise that some (most) of her personality traits were handed down from that side of the family as well.

Will’s father has a younger sister named Mona. Based on every story I have ever heard about Mona as a child, I think she had a temperament identical to Wildling. Mona was headstrong. Mona made startlingly witty observations about the world around her, even as a toddler. Mona refused to sleep as a baby. Mona threw massive tantrums. Mona could scream for hours. Mona talked early and could argue semantics when most children her age could barely form sentences. Mona was sensitive to everything Wildling is sensitive to.

And where is Mona now? Where is this woman who came from a child with so much fragility and brilliant potential? She’s a dysfunctional alcoholic that does nothing but chain-smoke. She has made nothing out of her life. Nothing. I look at her and I see Wildling’s future if we screw up. I feel that burden weighing me down. Will and I have an opportunity to set the course for Wildling, to guide her into a healthy and productive life.

Raymond (Will’s dad) was over for Thanksgiving, and at some point the talk turned to spanking kids. Will and I do not spank our children. Studies have shown that it is an ineffective method of discipline (full disclosure: I spanked Wildling twice, both times because she bit two-month old Mellow hard enough to leave long term bruises. It did not work, and I did not like doing it. Making her bite soap did work. But that’s a story for another time). I never wanted to be a spanking parent, and neither did Will. Raymond didn’t agree with our parenting choices and told us that with Mona, spanking was the only thing that worked. Except, not actually spanking. Hitting. Hitting was the only thing that worked.

“Mother learned really quickly that when Mona was having a fit, you couldn’t calm her down. You had to beat her first, because that was the only way to make her calm down and listen to you.”

“Mona would never back down from an argument, even if she knew she was wrong. The only way to win an argument with her was to hit her. You just had to pop her a good one first, and then she’d stop arguing.”

There were other comments as well, other quotes that I’m not including here that all came down to the same thing: the only way to control Mona was through physical violence. This is why I am not surprised that she grew up to be a dysfunctional alcoholic, nor that her first marriage was to someone who beat her as well.

I know I can do better than that for my child. I know that with patience and understanding and a great deal of tolerance for screaming, Will and I can do better than his grandmother. If we work hard, Will and I can guide and shape Wildling’s future and give her the happy and healthy life she deserves.

Thanksgivings I have known

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love it because there are no obligations other than coming together with family and friends to feast on fantastic food (#alliteration). There are no gifts to exchange, no obligatory activities, just eating and drinking and socializing.

When I was a kid, I didn’t care so much. Thanksgiving was a day we were all cooped up in the house, my three brothers were probably fighting over something, there was a football game (which I hate) on the tv, and we’d basically spend the day complaining while my mom cooked. Then we’d fight over how terribly mashed the potatoes were (because Ricky and Jack took turns mashing them, so it was very important to point out every lump), mock Danny for claiming to be allergic to turkey (actually, one year he ended up in the ER, so maybe he was), and basically make my parents regret having four children.

One year I was hospitalized with pneumonia for a week, and that happened to include Thanksgiving. I ate a surprisingly good turkey meal with my mom at the hospital while my dad and brothers had cheese sandwiches at home (mom told him he had to get the turkey in the oven early, clearly he did not listen).

I didn’t start enjoying Thanksgiving until I was out of college and no longer obligated to go to my parents house (it helped that I had moved a thousand miles away). My first Thanksgiving away from home was awesome – some friends and I had our turkey dinner on Wednesday, and then the following day took a road trip to spend the weekend in Vegas, where we ate ourselves sick at various buffets and wandered around the strip. No gambling though – as poor penny-pinching grad students we couldn’t afford to just throw our money away.

The next few years I participated in the ‘Orphans Dinner,’ where those of us (mostly grad students) who didn’t have anywhere else to go came together for an awesome potluck. I even hosted it twice. One year we pit roasted a turkey in my backyard. Another year my roommate and I volunteered to host because we wanted the leftovers. We bought the biggest turkey in the store, and were absolutely shocked when all twenty-eight pounds of it were completely devoured. There was barely even a skeleton left.

When Will and I moved a thousand miles away (and still a thousand miles from my parents – this is a really big country), we had much smaller Thanksgivings. One year, when it was just us, we went to Whole Foods and bought a bunch of fancy cheeses and just sat in front of a roaring fire eating cheese and crackers, and drinking wine. I feel a little nostalgic thinking of that.

Since we moved back here, we’ve always hosted Will’s parents and grandmother, and sometimes some friends as well. It’s become a relaxing day at home, good food, plenty of wine, and someone else to hold the baby.

Since Wildling was a baby, I’ve been looking forward to her being able to help in the kitchen. Today she helped me make pomegranate candies using pomegranates from our tree, and chocolate mousse (while she repeated can I lick the spoon now? are you done with it yet? now can I have it? ad nauseam). I don’t know what kind of traditions we’re going to create, or what kind of memories she’ll have, but I hope she grows to love cooking together. I’ve told her before that when we cook healthy delicious food for people, that’s a way of showing them we love them. I hope she understands that, and I hope she sees the love that goes into preparing a Thanksgiving feast for our family.

Quiz: Are you Wildling?

Are you Wildling? Take this quiz and find out.

1) Your mother is taking you and your little sister Mellow out to the car.  She puts your sister down in the carport, approximately 40 feet from the quiet, dead end street. You immediately:

a) Do nothing.  Mellow is obviously safe.
b) Scream hysterically that “She’s going to run into the street!”
c) Grab Mellow by the neck and knock her to the ground even though she isn’t actually running toward the street nor is she making any indication that she may do so in the future.
d) Both B and C

2) It is lunch time at school.  Your lunch contains all of your favorite foods. You:

a) Eat it all, because it is seriously all of your favorite foods
b) Touch nothing in your lunch and complain later that it ‘just doesn’t taste good.’

3) You love your sister, so you hug her very tightly.  She starts screaming and struggling to get away.  Your mother tells you to let her go.  You:

a) Let her go.  After all, you always listen to your mother.
b) Let her go AND apologize for making her cry.
c) Don’t let her go until you’ve been told fifteen times, because fifteen is some magical number and you can’t possibly obey any commands issued fewer times than that.

4) You get out of the bath and immediately feel cold. To warm up you:

a) Dry off with a towel
b) Put on your nice warm bathrobe that your mother special ordered so you’d have something with your name on it
c) Run screaming out of the bathroom because you just noticed your bathrobe has a tag saying it is size 3T, and since you are 4, you can’t possibly wear it.

5) It is time to get ready for bed.  You put on your pajama pants but cannot find the matching shirt.  Your papa (foolishly) suggests you wear a different shirt.  You must:

a) Put on a different shirt
b) Change into entirely different pajamas
c) Scream hysterically for ten minutes and then put on different pajamas

6) It is nighttime.  You are in bed, wearing pajamas.  You get cold. You immediately:

a) Get under the covers
b) Crawl into bed with your parents
c) Take your pants off and put the lower half of your body into a pillowcase and fall asleep with the pillow on your legs.

7) You have a bad dream and wake up thinking that there might be monsters in the room. It is 2:00am. Your best course of action is to:

a) Realize there are no monsters and go back to sleep.
b) Cry a little bit, but allow your exhausted parents to comfort you and go back to sleep.
c) Scream hysterically for twenty minutes but refuse to tell anyone why you are suddenly screaming.
d) C, AND make sure to wake your sister up as well because she needs to be alerted to the possible threat of monsters.

8) Your family wants to go for a walk. You insist that you want to walk/run/fly. You are told there is no stroller for you. You assure everyone that you don’t needs a stroller. How long can you actually walk?

a) Almost to the end of the street
b) Until the halfway point of your walk
c) Until you realize your sister is riding in a stroller, and decide that it is inherently unfair
d) All of the above occur simultaneously

9) You are four years old. This means you can brush your teeth:

a) Anytime you want.
b) Every morning and every evening
c) Only if you are in a good mood. Otherwise your teeth must be brushed to your specifications by someone else.

10) True or False: It is possible to drink milk without a straw.

Answers:
1) D; 2) B; 3) C; 4) C; 5) C; 6) C; 7) D; 8) D; 9) C; 10) False

If you answered every question correctly, then you must be Wildling (or a similar four-year-old). Also, if you are, why are you up reading this? GET BACK IN BED!

Dear Mellow, RE: Breastfeeding

Dear Mellow,

I love you, but we have some issues we need to resolve.  Specifically, I’d like to address breastfeeding.  I don’t mind breastfeeding you. Really, I don’t.  But we do have some things we should discuss.

For example, there should be no reciprocity in breastfeeding.  Just because part of my body is in your mouth doesn’t mean that part of your body needs to be in my mouth.  I know you disagree, and that’s why you keep trying to shove your fingers in my mouth, but really, it’s not necessary.  You don’t owe me anything.  We are not trading.

Also, while we’re on that subject, I do have a dentist, and when I go to his office his hygienist cleans my teeth – with tools. Yes, that’s right, there are tools that are specifically designed to remove tarter.  Now, I know you think you’re being generous and helpful, but there is no need for you to scrape my teeth when you shove your fingers in my mouth.  Your fingernails are just not as good as the tools at the dentist’s office.  And anyway, I prefer to have my teeth cleaned by a professional while NOT nursing anyone.

And yes, Mellow, I have lost weight.  It’s the combination of breastfeeding, healthy eating, and chasing you and your sister around all the time.  I noticed you’ve been keeping track of my weight loss, or at least that’s what I assume.  That is what you’re doing (while nursing) when you grab the skin on my sides and knead it between your fingers, right?  Monitoring my weight? I can’t think of any reason to pull skin off my ribcage and pinch it other than measuring subcutaneous fat.  Are you keeping track somewhere? Because that’s actually kind of rude.

Also, my sweetheart, I know you’re agile.  I know you can climb anything and you have decent balance for a fourteen month old.  You don’t have to prove it by doing yoga while nursing.  Yes, I am impressed that you are already an expert at the downward dog pose.  Maybe you can show me sometime when your mouth isn’t on my boob?  Maybe you can do it without using my breast for support?  Same with your other yoga poses.  It’s great that you can stand on my leg with one foot in the air and kind of twist your body around, but maybe save that for after you’re done nursing.

When you were a tiny baby, breastfeeding was so calming and sweet.  You’d look up at me with those sleepy eyes and latch on with that tiny (and toothless!) mouth, and then you’d drift off into a milk-drunk state of bliss while snuggled in my arms.  I remember those days.  I know those days are over, and I don’t want them back. I’d just kind of like to put an end to the full on Toddler Yoga Combat Nursing.  Maybe tone it down a little, and maybe keep your hands (and sharp little fingernails) to yourself.

Thank you for your consideration.

Love,

Mama

Invasion of the Crickets

We’ve had a bit of a cricket problem lately.  I don’t know how they keep getting in our house.  Will says he’s not surprised, that there are holes everywhere.  He makes it sound like we’re living in a tarpaper shack.  There are not holes everywhere.  The only cricket access points I can see are the actual doors, and you’d think we’d notice a horde of squeaky insects trying to sneak in.

Crickets fall under our ‘kill them on sight’ policy, as do silverfish, mosquitoes, and ants.  Roaches used to, but we only ever had one of those, and the resultant epic Will vs Roach battle nearly destroyed our living room, shattered my favorite drinking glass and left water everywhere (but somehow didn’t wake up the sleeping baby). Yes, Will nearly lost that battle.  If he had, I suppose we would have had to sign the deed of our house over to the roach and move into an actual drafty shack like the one Will seems to think we live in.

Our kids react very differently when they see a cricket in the house.

Mellow: Oh, look, something moving.  I’m going to squat down and look at it closer.  Hello, Mr. Cricket.  I can chirp too.  It’s cute, listen.  Chirp chirp chirp.  Ok, I’m going to just look at you now.  And I’m done.  Off to find some crayons to eat. Bye, Mr. Cricket.

Wildling: OH MY GOD THERE IS A CRICKET IN THE HOUSE! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE! AHHHHHHHHHHH! MAMA! HELP!!!!!!!!!!!! SCREAMING IS NOT SCARING IT AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM OUT OF IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fortunately for all of us, we are all in the habit of leaving shoes everywhere, so there is always something nearby we can use to heroically smash the cricket and save Wildling.

Progression of Illness

Here’s how illness works in my household;

1. Wildling gets sick.

2. Mellow gets sick.  Both kids are sick at the same time.

3.  Will gets sick, Mellow gets better.

4. Wildling gets better (but keeps coughing for weeks).

5. Will gets better (but still complains a lot and maintains a cough for a few more weeks).

6. I get sick.

Here’s the problem with that: When everyone else is sick, I take care of them.  When everyone else is better, Will goes to work and I’m stuck with one or two healthy kids (depending if it is one of Wildling’s school days), and all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep (alone!) and maybe feel sorry for myself and watch trashy movies.  And I can’t do that while taking care of healthy active children.

We’re on Step 2 right now.  I anticipate Will being struck down tomorrow afternoon at the latest. I’m already drinking lots of warm vitamin-C based beverages and hoping for the best.  The only consolation I have is that my immune system (which I passed on to Mellow but not Wildling) is strong, and a cold that wipes Will out for a week will be defeated in a couple of days by my white blood cells.