Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tale of the twisted ankle (or how all hell broke loose)

So, for reasons unbeknown to even me, I've been putting off blogging lately (although you just know I'm going to ponder the whys and wherefores right here, right now, don't you?).  Ah, well, I could say it's down to spraining my ankle and having to play the invalid at my parents' place for two weeks.  I could say it's down to moving house right before Christmas.  Or to Christmas itself, and to feeling unjolly.  I could put it down to virtually anything else that life with a capital L has thrown my way lately.  But I'd be lying.  Because when I really want to write -- or really, really want to do anything -- I always find a way.  I guess I'm annoyingly headstrong and impulsive that way.  Mr Green nods affirmatively.  But really, it most likely boils down to this:  on the days when I enjoy LGO's antics, I'm too busy nuzzling up to his soft baby loveliness, or just nuzzling up to the idea of motherhood in general. And conversely (of course you just knew there would be a conversely, didn't you?), on the days that are most 'grining', I wind up face to face with the laptop-cum-therapist.  Loathe as I am to use this space as a free-range b*tch session, I do sense a pattern emerging, and I don't like it one bit.

But now that I'm here, now that I'm conscious of it, I'll see what I can do.  Readers of this blog have previously told me that what they most appreciate, other than the exquisite writing (ha!), is that the blog pokes fun at the most trying aspects of birthing and raising a child in this day and age.  It's not easy.  What is, you say?  Ironically, writers I also admire tend to do this -- i.e. smile through kicked-in teeth.  It's a huge compliment to me to know that I'm succeeding, against all odds, to elicit some laughter through what has often been a very black (with occasionally pink lining) cloud of a year for me.  I don't know that the experience is as hard for other mothers.  It would be vain and foolish to think it's remotely easier for others.  I know the socio-economic gods are shining down on me as we speak, so I won't mock them to assert such a thing.  But I just wonder why, the minute my cup is half empty, do I not remember how good and how quenching the first half tasted. 

Case in point.  Mr Green and I gallavanted into the mountains for several blissful nights in late November, not having a care in the world. Not having to think about anything or anyone but each other.  No time constraints.  No holds barred.  It truly was blissful, and for that I'm grateful.  But it seems an eternity ago.  Sand through the hourglass and all that.

Fast-forward a few weeks later.  The sprained ankle was silly and a drag, and I'm too embarrassed to go into the whys and wherefores here.  Suffice to say, I swallowed what's left of my puny little pride and stayed with my parents till I could comfortably hobble around again.  Needless to say it was a sobering reminder of just how dependent your dependant is on you when they cannot yet walk.  A sobering reminder, too, of just how easily a fit young (ok on both counts: moderately fit and even more moderately young) adult can become a dependent dependant all over again, in the twist of an ankle. 

Then we moved into a house of our own, the second big move for the Greens in under a year.  The move went like clockwork, tick, tock, but that did little to diminish the stress of it all.  Stress that LGO surely must have ingested in some shape or other.  The strangeness of the new place disrupted his routine in a major way, as we suspected it would.  He woke an average of half a dozen times a night during the first week.  It brought back those early awful months before he managed to sleep through.  Understanding his need for security, I rocked him for ages and did everything the books tell you not to in normal conditions.  I let him use me to fall asleep.  Now that we're more or less settled, he has been more or less happy.  And he has made a couple developmental leaps recently that we're inordinately proud of.  First off, he has learned to give kisses -- hilarious, open-mouthed kisses -- on command.  Reserved not just to mommy and daddy but to family and favourite teddies.  Not total strangers.  That wouldn't be so good.  Seconds:  another little one of my 'tests' involving animal recognition.  LGO has a wooden puzzle with jungle animals on it.  When I empty the puzzle and scatter the pieces on the floor, then request either the 'elephant' or the 'crocodile' or the 'giraffe', you guessed it, my little wonder supplies the right wooden piece with no more than vocal prompting.  I'm sure whether this feat is impressive for his age, but nonetheless, the pickings are slim when at nearly 15 months old, he isn't talking or walking.  And his mother, dumb moo, isn't beyond caring and comparing.

But for all his wonderment, of course there are some off days, today being one of them.  I know I should chalk it up to an off day.  We all have them.  True, but his tend to rub off into mine.  How, how, how you ask does such a little man exert such a big ass influence over my moods?  Last time I checked I was a grown up, for Peter's sake.  Why then can't I remain chipper and upbeat in the face of the Griner??  Why must I crumble, recoiling, hardening into granite, instead of softening into the malleable, motherly thing that he craves?  I want to be loving and patient, and all the things you associate with blessed motherhood.  But the grining...  Oh, the grining, it gets me every time.  It is sustained and unlike any other sound I've heard from another infant...  The incomparable way it drags its talons down the back of my skull.  When the Griner does his thing, I just want to retreat as far away as possible, and the feelings I have at such times are far from loving.  Then, in direct response, guilt bubbles to the surface.  How can my only child ever, even for a moment, be anything other than loveable to me?  Does that mean my love for him is conditional?  Does that mean I am evil to the core?  These questions plague me to the point of insanity sometimes.  Because I know how I would answer them.  I want to do what's right by him.  I want not to care or worry about what he is or isn't doing.  About the fact that he is lagging behind developmentally.  I want my love to be such that nothing else matters. Not even his behaviour when it galls me, when it grates against my skull.  I want to hate the sin, not the sinner.  And the grining is trivial; it's only the beginning of possible sins, I know it is.  And while we're at it, here's another question for you:  How unconditionally should you love your child?  Or two:  Can you still love him when he does unspeakable things?  I love Little Green One, but I admit openly and honestly, I sometimes find it hard to like him very much.  In spite of myself, I compare him to others and sometimes he comes up short.  I feel so guilty I could puke.  There, now you know why I didn't want to blog.  Sometimes words are too ugly to be turned into a punchline.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sex -- there, that got your attention

Ok, so serves me right for tooting the proverbial horn with the last post. Let that be yet another moral lesson to you, my LGO: Smugness never pays! After my intrepid explorer performed the magical feat of five solo steps last week, and no doubt saw just how excited this made mommy and daddy, he decided he didn't really feel like doing it anymore. In fact, whenever we try to 'practice stand' with him now, he often makes his legs go limp under him. Ah, careful what you wish for? Here my long-suffering back was hoping that a walking toddler would mean less lifting therefore less strain on the back. That a walking and soon-running toddler would mean a slimmer toddler therefore less strain on said back. Alas, my little heavyweight seems to be getting heavier still, despite the roughened crawler's knees and the advent of homo milk -- or gay milk as Mr Green likes to call it, if you'll indulge for a moment his childish brand of humour.

To boot, we have as of late seen the return of the blasted Grine, so whether it's more molars cutting or the frustration of not having the words to express himself (I've been working on specificity, i.e. 'up', 'more', and so on, with little result) is up for debate. But the grining really does get me down. I know it's a phase and like all phases, will inherently pass. And of course I love my little rascal, grining and all, but let's face it, toddlerdom has a bad rep for a reason. I will no doubt get through it only to, with my purple heart tacked to my breast, brag along with the scores of veteran parents out there. And you, lucky, lucky you, will get to suffer all the while through my stories of petty hardships and equally petty victories. After that, you'll deserve a medal of your own.

So all things considered, it's high time Mr Green and I got away for some you-and-me-without-the-baby time. Yes, that monumental first parting from our beloved grining son is scheduled for this weekend to commemorate ten years of (mostly) wedded bliss. So it's not a week in Aruba -- see, even good old St Nick's pinching nickels this year -- but three nights in a five-star hotel in picturesque Quebecois mountain country is nothing to grine about, either. We're not saying just where in Quebecois mountain country lest LGO tries to track us down... Suffice to say, we are ready. We are trying hard not to show so much teeth when we smile. Lest we look like Matt Damon. But we are sooo ready for this.

Did I mention the hot tub yet? Did I mention the sleeping in till at least five past seven in the morning and the eating our meals WHENEVER WE DAMN WELL PLEASE, and for that matter getting the Barry White On or having a nap WHENEVER WE DAMN WELL PLEASE? See, now you're smiling now, too. It's contagious, isn't it? Sure, we'll wonder how our baby is doing as we linger over crème brulee or a nice Irish coffee by the fireplace, over breakfast the next morning, and again throughout the three-course lunch that we have time to taste. We might even feel a tad guilty for deserting him with Nanny and Grampy with no concept whatsoever that we will return at all. We will no doubt pine to hear his squeals of delight at bath time and to see his chipmunk-at-the-height-of-autumn cheeks. At some point, being without him may feel physically painful, and we will make far too many 'just checking in' phone calls to my parents, who will chuckle to themselves right after we hang up.

Being away from Little Green One will be hard. But somehow we'll come through it. And when we come back, after four long days of sun and fresh mountain air, I feel sure we'll be better parents for being away. For remembering what it once was like when we were just two.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

These booties are made for walking

Well, well, well. Talk about tortoise and the hare... On the cusp of LGO's birthday (13 months tomorrow), he up and takes five steps solo with no prior warning at all. This from the guy who only started crawling less than a month ago, and prior to that was the baby equivalent of a couch potato. I'll be darned. So he's a late crawler and early-ish walker. Serves me right for being concerned all those weeks when he sat there, like a little turnip, on his mat. I should have known that he was plotting and waiting for just the right moment to dazzle mommy senseless.

No camera to hand to record the big event since we were at Gymboree at the time, and I kid you not, the contempt of the other moms sitting in the circle with their own little turnips was palpable. I wasn't smug; at least I don't think I came off that way. How could I be? I reminded one mom that there was a world of difference between a 9- and 13-month old and I should know. Not sure if she believed me (a few short months ago I wouldn't have believed me) or felt any less contemptuous. But at least I tried. And let's just say -- since I can afford to be a little smug here, in the safe confines of my own blog -- that it felt damn good to wear the other penny loafer for once. To be the mom of that incredibly busy babe, even if the others were weeks if not months his junior.

We pretend all this stuff doesn't matter, of course, we pretend that there is no competitive edge at sing-alongs, that we're all just proud as peas no matter what our Jimmy and Janey do or don't do by a certain age. But oh, let me burst that precious bubble right now. The edge is there alright. Just look at how some of these babies are dressed. I have never in my life worn such coordinated and fetching ensembles (I couldn't even afford the labels). This is a serious game, especially these days where it's career mom vs career mom. They're a fierce bunch, fresh from the boardroom to the playground and bloodthirsty beneath the Stepford veneer. I'm praying Little Green One grows up as klutzy as his madre, and plain sucks at hockey -- not to mention soccer, baseball, basketball, and... Otherwise I'm in for it. I'd be run down by a Land Rover long before the Zamboni came out in between periods. Here's hoping Little Green stays oxen-big and clinging to that 90th percentile throughout puberty so he can protect his little mother when the going gets ugly. He may not have to worry about bullies, but I will.

Not much else to report. We move house for the third time in under a year and as I stuff boxes, I'm worrying (me, worry?!) about how our lad will adapt to the new place. Previously he was so young that I knew, even though it was strange to consider, that he would have zilch recollection of his life in England. And that the transatlantic move and all the ensuing craziness would be all but obliterated from his long-term memory. I truly wish it was for me. But this time around he's showing signs of the dreaded separation anxiety and I wonder whether another uprooting will be more noticeable for him this time around. Obviously he will be surrounded by familiar 'things', albeit he still hasn't taken to a certain toy for comfort. And mommy and daddy will be on hand, as will nanny and grampy, to make the transition as smooth as possible. But I'm sure my own stress will leave a stench like that Coty perfume I bathed in when I was twelve.

At least Mr Green and I are determined -- I mean, the mortgage lenders are determined --that this will be the last stop for quite a while. If I have my way, at least until LGO finishes elementary school. Maybe even high school, whereupon we can kick him out and nab a fancy condo (just kidding, errr....). In the meantime, happy days, right? In the meantime, looks like I have yet more adapting to do. This time as a poor housewife in a rich(er) neighbourhood. Does that mean I can't shop at Walmart and Value Village anymore? Maybe it is a good time to practice looking smug after all, especially when I am the only one who knows how much I didn't pay for that 'new' sweater.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To H1 or to N1, that is the question

My head is spinning, my entire body aching. Is this what it is to be the mother of a baby on the cusp of toddlerdom? (And just for the record, when exactly does that pivotal shift occur: 12 months? 18 months? 24 months? when you stop quantifying your infant in terms of months?) Exhaustion of a different kind, but exhaustion no less, has plagued the new mom -- ie. moi -- these past couple weeks. No longer content to sit in a quiet lump and play, Little Green One seeks me out constantly and then uses me as a human trellis. Or worse, a human bread stick. I know his gums are hurting, but hey, those existing teeth are little exacto knives and I figure someone's got to tell him so, right? The difficulty is imparting the meaning of 'no' to someone who has as much sense right now as the collective housemates of Big Brother (UK and US editions). It is a double-edged sword, if you'll forgive the pun, in that while I am eager to see him moving, his very movement feels like three rounds with Tyson, but a Tyson who fights dirty. Who fights like... a girl. Pinching. Stomping. Hair pulling. Biting. Don't believe me? I have the bruises and occasionally, the teethmarks, to prove it. Again, there is no maliciousness, no 'I hate you mommy' to accompany the gestures that are more about discovery than aggression. Although aggression by any other name is still aggression, and takes its toll.

This afternoon, in my ongoing, utterly futile attempts to socialize my only child, we invited another boy not much younger than Little Green for a play date at our house. Murphy's Law. Sod's Law. Who ever made the law please explain me this: why when it counts, when there is a lot going on and you're counting on a given day to run smoothly, does your undersized one declare Armageddon? There were fangs on show alright. Oh yeah, there was carnage. He was indifferent to the boy, who seemed overjoyed exploring the new turf. There was no biting, at least, but Little Green made sure the neighbours at the house five doors' down knew of his discontent. He howled so that I could no longer hear my own heart being pummelled inside my chest. I tried to stay calm, I tried to talk over him. I tried to act like a grown up with a toddler. But I might as well have been that referee holding a dinky whistle in between Tyson and his latest victim. Just two hours in, my guests had promptly packed up and shouted their excuses, and the house was suddenly pin-drop quiet. My Tyson triumphant. Does he genuinely despise other babies, I wondered. Doubtful, since he doesn't take enough notice to actively despise them. Is this a symptom of his increasing clinginess to mommy? As in: if I can't have her undivided attention for a tenth of a second, then no one will... God help me.

Little wonder then, while every good parent out there has been obsessing over the H1N1 flu vaccination (to get or not to get, that is THE question), I have been too distracted to weigh in on the debate. I have been too exhausted to read the fine print, the pickets, the pros and condiments. My Tyson seems more robust than most full-grown men. But I know enough to recognize the fallacy in this kind of thinking. If anything should happen to him, I would die. Not physically, of course. I would carry on living, but I would be a cut-out version of my former self. I would be a non-living thing. The wilted lettuce at the bottom of the crisper. No amount of years or shopping sprees and 6-star stays in Dubai would help me recover. And yet why am I not buying into the mass mommy hysteria about the 'flu pandemic. People are dying, indiscriminately it seems. Under 5s are particularly vulnerable. I worry that I have not been worrying enough. That I have continued, against all odds, to take my baby-cum-toddler to the grocery store, to the library, to the park. He has touched various things then chewed on his fingers. I have touched various things then chewed on my fingers. Old habits die hard. My nails are down to the quick and in the middle of the night, half asleep, I fiddle with them. I nibble on them, panicking. Filthy habit. You should know better, and yet... What else can I do if I can't bite my nails, now that smoking nicotine, and pretty much anything else, is off the cards? What halfway respectable bad habit is left for a thirty-something mother of one? The gym? Gasp. Maybe while he's at it, Little Green's pediatrician could inject a seasonal pick-me-up for the moms while they are waiting in line for the H1N1 vaccine. I would so be there.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Little Green One turns one!

So, it came and went. Little Green One's biggest milestone to date --with the exception of being born, that goes without saying. Since he was struck down by a nasty hacking cough during the latter part of the week, we contemplated cancelling the whole weekend affair. After a few sleepless days and nights (for both of us), I wasn't sure he would manage the five-hour drive to my parents' place and even if he did, what sort of gremlin he would be when the company arrived. To his credit, he slept well in the car and even more to his credit, he cranked on the charm when it counted and the spotlight shone down. His father's son, for sure. Charming, almost unrecognizably so, our little changeling smiled and cruised his way along the couch, flirting shamelessly with family and friends. When the cake came, he reached out, grabbed a fistful of icing and sugary gloop, and stuffed the hole in his face. His father's son, indeed.

Twelve months has been a turning point. His gift to us on his birthday: he crawled. I had finally given up hope that he would ever deign to do what most babies his age had already been doing for four months. And yet, what better incentive than to covet --and subsequently wrench-- your own toy from another baby's tiny hands. Nothing like a bit of selfish ambition to get things rolling at your party.

In the post-festivity week, Little Green has been unstoppable. Not exactly a cyclone, like some tots I know. But he has certainly graduated to toddler almost overnight. He hates to sleep and insists on using his crib as a bouncy castle; he regards most suppers I serve with the contempt usually reserved for airline fare. Yay for toddlers... At least the word NO hasn't yet made it into his lexicon, but I know it's coming. He is cruising the coffee table like nobody's business --often with one hand if you don't mind (his father's son)-- and scaling the walls like Spidey minus the spindly web. The crawling continues but still at a plod and only really for things that truly warrant the effort: like Mr Green's 50-odd-inch home cinema. And his disposition. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I know a dingo didn't eat my baby, but it is as if someone swapped the 'griner' in the night for a happy chappie who has started to clap his hands, laugh spontaneously, and bounce on his wobbly feet for no apparent reason. Not quite his father's son...

My theory is that for a while now his size has restricted and frustrated his physical prowess. In short, his body couldn't carry out his brain's commands. Furthermore, because he couldn't get around as much as he would have liked, he continually had problems releasing wind, which led to painful cramping --the black colic that never really truly subsided. Now he can slither and writhe and sidestep and lunge, LG toots like no tomorrow, all the while looking pretty thrilled with himself. As if there was any doubt by now --his father's son.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Only (but not lonely)

With Little Green's first anniversary coming up next week, I thought I would touch upon the mania that is THE FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY. Mania is no exaggeration. Where there are entire websites devoted to cake decorating -- from superheroes to teddy bears to the cartoon sensation of the moment -- there should also be sites devoted to post-birthday counselling for the moms who labour over said iced masterpieces.

Of course the occasionally ultra sensible Mr Green doesn't get this phenomenon. 'What's the point,' he says, 'the kid isn't even going to remember any of it?' True enough, but there will be photos, there will be full-length feature films, there will be documentary evidence of that first magical occasion. And if it isn't quite magical enough... Well, therein the problem lies. Much of the birthday party craze is down to other mothers, to other, preceding parties. A keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sickness that starts way too early in the mite's life. Birthday parties dominate the social scene for both the child and the parent, who must dutifully drive and chaperone the festivities at any given house on nearly every given weekend. And then there's the present to buy. I hear that once kids are in school, the phenomenon turns pandemic. After all, it's rude not to invite the WHOLE class, least anyone be 'left out', right? And while it is great to receive 20-something gifts at your own child's party, reciprocation is very much expected. That's 20-something parties to survive, 20-something gifts to search out and buy at a Walmart near you, 20-something gifts to wrap with a pretty bow. I'm not one for maths, but in this case the numbers are loud and clear.

Today's Parent recently reported that the cost of putting on a party for your child can run anywhere from CD$50-$500, with the average being $20 per tiny head. Our Little Green's party, though it falls (cover your ears, Pipsqueak) in the 'el cheapo' bracket, will be a weekend-long affair, with cake and Little Green Family on Saturday, followed by pizza, toys, and my own top-secret cake concoction, attended by all manner of Little Green Friends on Sunday. There will be loot bags and decorations to think of. In addition to making 'practice' cakes (trust me, a common occurrence since the gateaux in question are worthy of Ms M Stewart herself), I have been slaving away at a birthday banner, too.

Needless to say, the time and money involved are a shameful reflection of the age we live in. We all want the best for our little princes and princesses, no question. But it seems to me that in this quest to give them the very best of the best --and in an (un)conscious attempt to compensate for what our own childhoods may have lacked-- we have taken the birthday party to new, utterly senseless levels. Anyone about to quibble the point needs only watch that show documenting Sweet Sixteen parties in the U.S..

For my part, I am already feeling the heat of the social crunch, and my almost toddler hasn't even reached school age yet. Most week days are filled with his extra-curricular activities: from swimming lessons, to music classes, and now storytime. Already I worry about his sociability. As Little Green is an only child (and foreseeably staying that way), I understandably want to do my utmost to mitigate against The Only Child Syndrome otherwise known as loneliness and spoiled-ness. Being an only child myself, I know all too well that a lack of siblings can often foster a greater closeness to your parents, as well as a heightened imagination (cue: imaginary playmates) and creativity. But on the flipside, I have also known the loneliness, acutely and intimately at times. Teachers were quick to pin the 'shy' label on me growing up and as a result I often struggled to make friends. However, the few friendships I have developed over the years are of the close and long-term variety, friendships which I wouldn't trade for the world. Wouldn't even trade, all this time and hindsight later, for a sibling.

With any luck, Little Green will cultivate the same kinds of friendships, even if it means several years of birthday mania for his parents.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mom, what are you DOING trying to fart on my tummy?

So Little Green celebrates his one-year anniversary in a couple of weeks. Incredible. As for me, this past year has been akin to a dog's; I've aged seven. But sadly, unlike a vintage red, it's done me no favours. Why is it that when men sprout a few greys (and I don't mean from their noses) and get a few lines chiseled around the eyes, they look distinguished -- they look like Daniel Craig, they look like Clive Owen -- while we women just look like the witch in Snow White? As if Mother Nature or the Almighty or Whatever wasn't cruel enough by making us carry and bear children -- at least most of us stop in single figures these days. Small mercies.

As for Little Green, well, it's baby steps and not even. I'd been consoling myself to some extent in thinking that at least if his physical prowess lagged behind (how many almost toddlers do you know who still aren't crawling, aren't even really attempting by their first birthday?), his mental agility must be Samurai sharp by now from all the books. As a little experiment to self this morning, I tested this theory by holding up two balls from one of his toys. One red, one yellow. 'Where is the red ball?' I asked. Would you believe my little boy astutely, and without a moment's hesitation, chose the red. Oh, the pride! Oh, the glorious, glorious pride! I repeated the exercise a moment later, just to be sure. Not only did he seem indifferent this time around, you got it: he chose red again... when I asked for yellow. So long ink blots and scholarships! Hello, would you like fries with that?

Isn't it ridiculous that I get so hung up on his development (or lack thereof) at his tender, overly ripe age? I know it is, but I can't help myself. The whole blowing raspberries thing is his dad's domain, and I always feel embarrassed trying to pull it off. Even Little Green looks embarrassed. Like, 'Mom, what are you doing trying to fart on my tummy?' So it's up to me to be the worrier, the organizer, the educator, and later, the tyrant. Of course, I would much rather be the funny, F-U-N parent but I already know how this will play out -- pardon the pun -- down the line. When I am destined to become Nazi Mom. It's not a pretty picture, but there are already days when I struggle just to keep it together.

I mean, how do you entertain an almost toddler with an attention span even shorter than your own? Sure we have the odd scheduled activity (if I hear The Itsty Bitsy Spider one more time, I swear there will be blood...) but my son isn't a cuddler, much to my dismay. (Hell, his 'attachment' toy these days is none other than a plastic palm tree. I know. I keep thinking back to that damn Rhesus monkey from first year Psych. My child would rather cuddle up to a plastic tree/wire monkey than me, yowsa.) And weighing in at 28lbs in the left corner of the crib... he is too much 'baby' for me to rough and tumble even if this did come naturally to me. Deep breaths. Stop caring quite so much. Little Green won't turn out to be Hannibal Lecter OR Doogie Howser, MD. He'll simply grow up to be himself, a perfectly average man. No wonder I'm worried.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Black colic and beyond...

As Little Green approached the eleven-month mark, I broke down and got a book from the library all about the fussy baby. It's the first time I am openly admitting that after all this time my mini man is what the book diplomatically refers to as a 'high maintenance' or 'high needs' baby. (By no means to be confused with 'special needs'... Parents of special needs children are nothing short of saints in my humble books.)

In all likelihood I will always feel guilty about the months of colic and the suffering he has endured for the first eight or so months of his life. Just as I will always be secretly (or not so secretly anymore) niggled by the possibility that I could have done more something to help him, i.e. switched his formula to some funny soya-based one. I will wonder whether this cruel start may have marked him to be the baby he is today, a baby who is markedly more intense than other babies, and markedly less inclined to play or sit happily for even the briefest periods. Oversensitive, easily overstimulated... I will wonder whether there is still something wrong that countless doctors have overlooked, unable to quite admit that all these traits form his temperament. The book stresses the positive, which of course is why I need to read it. To focus on being the most responsive parent I can be since he cannot yet communicate his needs in any other way, and since I cannot change the fact that he is demanding. To focus on accepting his fussy nature as it currently presents itself, rather than trying to change him or hope that his behaviour 'improves' with age (highly unlikely on the cusp of toddlerdom). Sometimes, the book claims, the exasperating traits of so-called high needs babies turn out to be desirable teen/adult traits -- e.g. empathetic, sensitive, and caring. Hm. Of course none of this psychobabble stems from scientific basis, and perhaps the whole theory about the fussy baby serves merely to help me cope with the here and now. But so be it. Anything a parent can do to ease the burden of a challenging baby is time and energy well spent. Hear, hear!

People have often remarked on how serious Little Green is for a baby, as though all these thoughts were going on behind the scenes. I hope his intensity is not a mask for continued discomfort. And I must accept that this is who he is, his personality already shaped to a shocking degree, and already -- I hasten to add -- shockingly aligned with my own dark intensity. (Perhaps this fact, ultimately, is what shocks and disappoints me so? It was certainly one of my biggest and most tangible fears about giving birth to a person who mirror imaged the highlights, and lowlights, of my own personality. How you pray, as a parent, that the bad will always gloss over your unblemished child. I was more than willing to concede that he resemble his father in all aspects, rather than risk him being subjected to my own goblins. But alas, I am responsible for half of his genetic makeup so this was bound to be wishful thinking on my part.)

And so it goes. Each day I wake not knowing what mood my baby will be in, and how I will bear the hours with him if it turns out to be A Bad Day. To strangers I will find excuses -- teething, wind, tiredness -- for my son's distinctive sound that is one part whine, one part grunt: a sound I have almost lovingly dubbed a 'grine'. I catch his smiles, when they come, and smile till my own jaw hurts. And such times, when the sound of his inimitable laughter resounds through the house, my heart swells in my chest like that Grinch character, and feels like it might burst from love and from gratitude. Reminded, as if I should for an instant risk forgetting, how the pain as much as the love of life, can hurt.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What a 9 month old does for kicks

So what does a nine and a bit month old do for kicks, you ask? Well, this one spends a lot of time discovering buttons on clothes and on toys, and is fascinated by wheels of any kind (he always upends a toy with wheels and uses his hands to spin the wheels round) which leads me to wonder whether I have a budding engineer on my hands. Fortunately, Little Green is also proving to be a consummate book lover like his mother. Every fortnight or so, I visit the library and check out a fresh stack of board books so he -- and I -- won't get too... bored. I have always been a library supporter, not to mention have you seen the price of books lately? He has definite favourites (luckily we tend to share the same taste). It started with The Gingerbread Man when he was only four months old. Mummy memorized it after the first hundred readings (sharp mummy!) and ultimately would recount it after returning the book after the nth renewal. Then there was Mr Brown Can Moo, Can you? by this guy you might have heard of named Dr Seuss. Now it's Silly Sally walking backwards upside down, but really the list goes on and on. He loves books not only for their playful language and visual phantasmagoria, but for their tactile satisfaction. He sometimes will help flip the page. But more often than not he happily turns a book over and over in his hands, thinking god only knows...

Otherwise, a typical week for us looks something like this: a trip to a baby gym and another trip to a music class. Both of these classes are part of franchises and as a result, the plugging for other 'products' is almost constant. I guess the ethos is that it's never too early to bring out the consumer in you! The baby class industry is a huge, insanely lucrative market. After all, you've got mothers with time on their hands starting to feel like Jack Nicholson in that big lonely hotel in The Shining. I go because there are many unstuctured hours in a day. Having a class to go to once or twice a week breaks up all those hours and tends to shape the day. I admit it, the classes are probably less about the little Green one and more about me, safeguarding my sanity so that I don't crack out a lipstick and start painting 'redrum' all over the walls. (You may laugh but I've come close a few times.) And I'm fairly sure it's the case with other mums too. I kid myself that he loves music (he does); I convince myself that the socializing is good for him (no doubt on some level it is). But in truth most of the time he spends the classes looking around or playing with the little rug he happens to be sitting on while I battle, sometimes futilely, to engage him in what's going on.

Maybe years from now I'll look back on this time and laugh, mirthlessly of course, at how seriously I took it all when I should have been relaxing on all fours without a care in the world. But raising a child is serious business. Play is hard work. After all, I just read that something like 80% of a child's intellectual potential is already realized in the first 12 months. And I think a further 10% by the time they are five years old. Explains an awful lot in my case. There are genetic limitations, obviously. But the scary fact remains that whether he turns out to be Borat or Einstein is largely under my control. Yowsa. Never mind Silly Sally. Think it's high time I dusted off my Complete Works of William Shakespeare and got down to business...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Even as a newborn, he came at me like a piranha

When I reread my last entry, I realized that in all the trifle I'd left out most of the meat (that is, assuming you like yours laced with meat -- don't ask). I touched on teething but forgot to mention that Little Green to date has his front four teeth -- two up, two down -- with an epic crevasse in between the front two (allegedly predestines him to be either a great singer or whistler). And a few more bugling, whitish spots on either side suggest other teeth are not far from cracking the surface. Apparently I should be 'cleaning' these teeth, but I'm not even going there yet. I have been too busy stressing as to what constitutes 'finger foods' -- nachos, popcorn, hot dogs... I could go on, but this litany of baseball foods is making me hungry. There seems to be little concrete advice or consensus on what to feed a baby once he starts weaning. There is even less guidance about the timings of meals and the ratio of bottles, and so on. Why is that? I guess the only idea behind the finger foods is to hone baby's fine motor skills. (Imagine, then, my pride when our little pride wheedled a microscopic piece of cheddar between his pointer and thumb and actually manoeuvred it into his mouth!)

In fact, I use the term 'little' almost ironically here. Our Little Green currently weighs in at 26lbs and is nearly 3ft tall. Yeah, it's almost freakish for his age and rarely does a day go by when a passerby refrains from passing comment. Just yesterday -- and not for the first time, I might add --a construction worker walking past couldn't resist a bit of, 'Weyhey, mymy he sure is a BIG boy.' What a bruiser/sumo/michelin/you name it we've heard it... Sometimes even the three-letter word that dares not speak its name. It used to bother me, all this name calling, because as we all know all too well, it's not just sticks and stones that hurt. But in the past few months my skin has toughened to rawhide when the subject of my baby son's size comes to fore, as it inevitably does, from every teller, cashier, construction worker and random walker/shopper. On occasion I even manage to joke with friends that I never stood a chance at nursing him; I don't have the 'equipment', and even as a newborn he came at me like a piranha.

Too much information, perhaps. But isn't it refreshing? In this age of overload and junkie confessionals, how odd that so many aspects of birth and motherhood are still shrouded in a little black box. Just yesterday a friend expressed abject horror when I explained how post-labour menses can last up to six weeks and how mere Always doesn't always cut it. After a baby comes out, you need breeze blocks to catch the flow. She had NO IDEA. Her ignorance came as no surprise because up until my third trimester, I too had NO IDEA. So among other things, for me this blog is not only about rant but hopefully also about illumination. If just one sad soul out there reads this white screen and learns a trifle more about the kamikaze that is parenthood and as a result is a trifle (sorry, couldn't resist) better prepared for it than I was, then hallelujah, praise be all the gods in heaven.


So Mr Green Jr has recently celebrated his nine-month anniversary. Holy crapolie. Soon, he will be a year old and then he'll be blowing out his 16 candles. It really is whirlwind stuff. The most recent development being the advancement of his 'babble'. Dada is the word of the day. No, I hasten to add, our little one is no avant-guard art aficionado. And no, as much as Mr Green Sr would like to believe, it is not short for 'daddy'; it is simply the easiest syllable combination for babies to utter (otherwise it would be one heck of a coincidence that most start there, no?). The first time he exchanged in a true babblelogue was during supper, and I tell you it was as though he was discoursing in the Oval Office. He had the 'and you listen here' expression fixed on his face as he sat up in his high chair putting the world, and mommy and daddy, to rights. Hilarious.

Since then it has been more ups and downs than the chair lifts at Whistler. On, off teething woes balanced with happy clappy bouncy bouncy. Seriously, I'm starting to feel dizzy from the bipolarity of every day. It still blows my mind how close I can feel to him one minute, like I might be given to chomping on his delectable little fatty rolls of flesh, then completely drained and wanting at the sound of his whaaaawhaaaawhaaa the next. He is delectable, though, and I guess to some less intense effect, this is how one relates to all family members. It might just be personal preference but a little middle ground would go down a treat once in a while. He's sleeping now. A record for the day: 2 hours this morning and another hour this afternoon and counting. In addition to the teeth knifing through his gums, could it also be growing pains, I wonder? I am so used to my own near-constant fatigue that I tend to forget that the natural thing to do when one is up against physical discomfort is to rest the body until it passes.

In the meantime, I keep reiterating: patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue... A virtue I must quickly acquire. In the meantime, I cross my fingers and wait for the next bout of babble to strike.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Oooooh, ahhhhh

LGO will soon be eight months old. Shocking, isn't it? Well, it is a shock to me at least. The time has both flown and, at times, dragged. It feels, if not exactly an eternity, that we have known this little man our entire lives. All the cliches, about not knowing what it is to be a mother until you are one, unfortunately ring true. I love him fiercely, but at times I am less enamoured by how unrecognizable my life is with him in it. Sometimes it would be nice to have leisure time, time for the brain to idle just a bit instead of revving through the gears. Time enough for boredom to set in... and sleep to nourish. Ah!

Still, every week is marked by some amazing progress in his development. Funny how every minute milestone becomes a mammoth event in a parent's eyes: the famous firsts. How he can sit now without toppling over. How his two bottom teeth sparkle when he smiles up at you. How he giggles over some silly expression you've just pulled, and how you willingly make a fool of yourself over and over again so he'll keep smiling. And you're convinced all the while that that little smile is the most beautiful smile you've ever seen... The wonders are seriously manifold, and true to form, words seldom do them justice. His quirks are as remarkable to me as they are mundane to others. The way he rubs his bare feet together as if to generate sparks. How he delights in nibbling his toes and thus despises having socks on. How he has discovered how to squeal, and click his tongue. You memorize every last detail about him the way you do when you first fall in love. A baby has the power to infatuate. Deep down, I think I never really believed this, even though I hoped it to be so.

Enraptured, you notice all his little quirks, and the same spell is cast over you as if fairy dust were blown into your eyes. He is yours; he is divine and beautiful. The smell of his soft, pure skin intoxicates you, just as with a new lover. And through the hectic routine and the cumulative early morning exhaustion that at once distances you, he has somehow drawn you and your partner closer together. Between you, you feel an almost godly power, for together you have created this little prince, who is a wonder and a thrill to you both. You are in love again, and even though it is with a third party this new love unites you in a way you never thought possible. That is the magic of children. There is an addictive element to it, a magnetic pull that I now understand, though the element of hardship remains very fresh, very real in my mind. And despite everything, I scarcely believe I have the mental or physical wherewithal to do it all over again.

For us, Little Green is it. He is precious, and he is enough.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Little Green and Dick the Parrot

Was the last post date really 9 November? I can believe it, and yet I can't. Time has flown by at times, and virtually stopped at others... As I type this, Little Green is sat in a bouncy chair getting better acquainted with his new best friend: a colourful, as-yet-nameless parrot. Only now, three months in, can I truly see what all the fuss is about. All the tears and fears (no, not the band). All this stepping out in front of a bus business... Kids. Flesh and blood. Offspring. I really would give my left arm, and my right for that matter, for this little creature. I would give my spleen and my liver, too. I would become nothing more than a torso, for him. It's incredible when you think about it. Best not to dwell there, then. Just watching him stare in amazement at his parrot fills me with an unspeakable delight. Tears well, honestly. I'm not shitting.

That first smile, the first giggle, and every single one thereafter make the labour and ensuing colic almost bearable, almost forgettable. Okay, well, not quite. But I can see how, after months pass and the infatuation with your progeny grows in time with their little limbs and their teeny intellects, you may be mad enough to do it all over again. Nature's sly that way. We still will happily start and stop with LG. (Figure it's better to pour all of your love and resources into one human being than shatter and divide and kill yourself over two or three... The sibling argument is just that. An argument. You never hear the expression 'sibling love' or sibling affection' for a reason. Many sibs I know hate each other with a passion or are, worse, estranged. Case dismissed.)

God, he's just LOVING that parrot! Sorry, where was I? Three months is truly a revelation. Knock knock. There is a mini person in there. At last. And that little person is finally sleeping a 7-8-hour stretch of a night. That little person still cries at times but only at times, with real tears, for real reasons, or reasons that can almost be fathomed. Now the only obstacle in parenthood is other people. Well-meaning interfering people, who undermine you at every turn because surely that baby can't be warm enough, fed enough, loved enough. One of my own blood relatives -- who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this blog -- actually suggested we give Little Green up for adoption if we couldn't look after him properly. At the time Mr Green and I were contemplating where we should spend our 10-year anniversary, which falls shortly after LG's first birthday, assuming he would stay with grandparents for a week or a long weekend. Hurry, contact social services... I'm not quite sure what the etiquette is for dealing with well-intentioned, poorly delivered 'advice', or indeed, those who deliver it, but I am more than open to advice on this front.

Only other struggle is vis-a-vis reclaiming a sense of self, which no doubt will come -- it will come, won't it? -- at some point as Little G gets older. I love being a mother, am coming to love it more than I thought I might (even though, admittedly, the singsong mummy is a shoe that fits like a stiletto). And yet, I don't want to be slave to it either. I don't want it to be the sum of all I am. Not a shadow of a doubt that the most radical transformation in becoming a mother is this sudden loss of identity, which is not so much removed but lobotomised. How do you get it back? Do you ever? I know that an integral part of being a mother, no matter what age your child is, is being taken for granted. Is bending over backwards, being compromised, repeatedly, in the name of love. Women have done it for centuries, and will continue to do so for centuries more. And while I feel proud to have joined this selfless tribe, I fear I still have a long way to go to qualify in their ranks. To become selfless enough.