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    Saturday
    Mar262011

    attachment

    I'm big into labels. It's not the most popular position to hold, but I've found that labels often make things easier for everyone, and I like them adhered to. Strictly. If you call yourself a vegetarian and I see you eating fish, you better believe I'll be outing you as the pescetarian that you are. When I became a parent, when I was groping around like I'd misplaced my glasses with a confusing newborn and all these instincts I thought were wrong and weird, finding a concept like attachment parenting was a veritable life preserver tossed at me from the banks of experience. A label. Finally. Something I could research. Identify with. Cling to. But, I've been a part of enough "causes" to know a zealot when I see one, when I start to become one. And? It's not pretty. Zealots are a thin veneer of annoying, self-righteous jerkiness, hiding an insecure and defensive recent convert. I've unabashedly started many, many sentences with, "Dr. Sears says..." and finished them with what I honestly believe to be sound advice; just because my own mother/sister/friend didn't say it doesn't make it invalid or preachy. But where's the line? And have I crossed it? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?

    Recently, I've started feeling somewhat alienated by the "natural parenting" community, which is populated by a ton of totally nice, well meaning people... and a bunch of argumentative zealots to whom "go with your gut" is a personal slogan. My mothering instinct is intact, but so is my brain, and when you argue that your child was "completely different" after their MMR, blaming it for autism diagnosed by your chiropractor, the debate ends. Because you're talking nonsense. When you refuse antibiotics after your kid's sixth ear infection in as many months, after garlic oil and breastmilk have failed (and failed and failed and failed), you're not being "natural," you're being silly. When I cut my child's food into smaller pieces, I'm not stifling his natural instincts, I'm trying to keep him from gagging himself which, I realize, will not kill him. But, do you want to gag your way through every meal because it's what all the popular blogs are encouraging? 

    Never before has having a philosophy been so exhausting. Keeping up with what's en vogue -- natural rubber pacifiers? Check! Wait, no artificial nipples? Okay! Books are cool, right? Hang on, is that a picture of a baby in a crib? RED ALERT RED ALERT NOT AP -- is a part-time job I just don't have the energy for. Or, frankly, the devotion to. Suddenly, it all just seems so... inane. The fervor smacks of having nothing else to do, nothing else to think about. I'm no great mind, but I'd rather take an hour to listen to Fresh Air than comment on Facebook about what a demonic bastard that Ferber is. 

    George eating Trader Joe's brand cheese puffs out of a plastic snack cup.

    I'm not recusing myself entirely; the NP/AP community still has a lot to offer and I still have a lot to learn. For once in my life, however, I'm giving up the title. I'm no longer a strict adherent. I'm the pescetarian of the parenting set, and that's totally okay by me. 

     

    Wednesday
    Mar232011

    so excited, so unslept

    Dear George,

    Someday, you will be sixteen. You'll fall in desperate, soul-crushing love and feel profoundly misunderstood and you'll live and die by some songs whose lyrics will later make you cringe. I will have long since been embarrassing you. You'll get drunk for the first time and deliberate over where your covert makeout sessions should be. You'll learn to drive -- and love driving away from me, no matter how good I am at this mothering shit. But oh my god, kid, is it going to be awesome. Nothing else feels like that age, so immersed in your ownness. Self-conscious but invincible. The world will be your oyster. 

    And, too, someday (should this all go according to plan), you will be thirty. You'll be driving around with your baby in the backseat, asleep, and one of those cringe-worthy songs will come on. But instead of skipping it, letting it lie in your past with regrettable outfits and boys, you'll turn it up louder and sing along. 

    Love,

    mama

     

    Sunday
    Mar202011

    radio silence

    This is how we've been feeling.

    Snoozy. Quiet. Stay-in-beddy. Spring keeps peeking out from behind the gloom to say hello, but doesn't stick around long enough for us to get our shoes on. To be fair, we take our time choosing which shoes to wear. 

    Someday soon, we'll make it to storytime. We'll go to that toddler dance class. We'll get dressed before noon. But this tail end of a wishy-washy Winter has been for staying in. For learning to walk. For baking bread and listening to the kitchen radio play hits from the 30s and 40s. 

    Thursday
    Mar102011

    strong feet and a pioneer's heart

    Right before George was born, I began checking his horoscope, under the assumption that he would be a Sagittarius. Which he is (gasp-choke; Universe, what did I ever do to you?). You'll undoubtedly think I'm an idiot to say so, but the idea of having a carefree, tactless, optimistic and adventure-loving little Sagittarius filled me with apprehension. I don't follow astrology like it's gospel (neither do I follow gospel like it's gospel), but I am superstitious and believe me when I say there aren't italics slanty enough to emphasize how superstitious I am. 

    While George did sort of bound out of the womb, he wasn't wearing tevas and asking to join the PeaceCorps, so my astrological anxiety was alleviated fairly quickly. That was, however, helped along by one horoscope in particular that I've saved:

    "You taste delicious 

    Animals understand you 

    Your importance is unusual 

    The funny faces you make are interesting to look at 

    You fight for power in all the right ways 

    Ecstatic gratitude is pouring out of you 

    I see the best in you, your divine attitude 

    You have strong feet and a pioneer's heart 

    No one can overflow as well as you can 

    You are famous with God 

    You are famous with me 

    You are famous with the snakes and birds and roses and pines and ocean and earth and sky 

    A lost tribe salutes you from the other side of the veil 

    You remind me of a star"

    Not a horoscope like you're used to? Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology is pretty awesome. Periodically, I've come back to this list, re-read it to see what resonates with me, jibes with George's changing personality. Different lines, of course, have been startlingly accurate -- nobody can prepare you for the hilarity of your newborn's expressions -- but the one that I first loved best has become my projected personal slogan for him: You have strong feet and a pioneer's heart. I hope he keeps those traits forever.

     

    Tuesday
    Mar082011

    step away from the amazon list

    Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

    ***

    When you're pregnant, especially when you're pregnant with your first child, you're the world's most vulnerable consumer. You're a target for retailers, purveyors of all things teensy, pink and blue (and green -- with frogs -- if you're the sort of spoilsport who chooses to deny your baby shower attendees the personal fulfillment that comes with knowing whether to buy the onesie that reads Daddy's Little #1 All-Star Football Champion or the onesie with puffed sleeves and a glittery ADORABLE! applique). You have nearly ten months to daydream about the person you'll be meeting, and you want to make them happy. You want to make them so deliriously happy that you, poor daydreamy pregnant lady, will take "advice" from a website that suggests things you might like to purchase, you know, out of the goodness of its heart. Because Amazon.com? It just wants to help.

     

    7 month pregnant, summertime me

    Preparing for a first baby is kind of like getting ready to welcome an exchange student: you can run all over town looking for Vegemite, hang up Australian flags and learn the most current slang, but odds are the kid will just want to take a nap and hang out with some nice people. I'm the first to admit that I fell prey to the buy-this-now mentality of preparing for parenthood. I wanted my bases covered, and who was I to argue with Pregnancy magazine, or that person's "must have" list, or the people I knew who already had kids? If someone had told me that all my kid really needed was an attentive, loving, present parent, a place to sleep and some diapers, I'd have been skeptical but grateful. Well, if I had it to do over again, here's what I wouldn't buy, and what I would.

    I Would NOT Buy:

    1. A bumbo. There's a reason babies that age can't sit up. Give it... like, a week and a half, oh wait? He's sitting up. Now he's walking. Just let the kid roll around for awhile and be developmentally appropriate!

    2. A bouncer. George hated it. He was not impressed by the "mid-century modern styling" or iPod dock. I wanted to hold my baby, and he wanted to be held. Nature's bounciest bouncer is a walking mama whose milk's just come in. I don't come with an iPod dock, but my rendition of A Bushel and a Peck is not too shabby.

    3. An infant car seat. We didn't -- just went straight for the convertible -- and never wished we had one of what we lovingly call "the buckets." When we went to a restaurant, we held George so he could be a part of the action and nurse if he wanted, while we ate. At the store, he was strapped to mama or papa. No flat head, no giant contraptions to accommodate in small eateries. 

    4. Any baby food making supplies. I got a food mill and special baby-stomach-portion-sized silicone freezer trays that were glorified ice cube trays at four times the price of the ones meant for water. You know what works for mushing up food? Forks. Your fingers. Popping something on the stove to steam or in the microwave to soften doesn't take long, and if my kid is freaking out, Ican'twait hungry, I should've been paying better attention to his cues. 

    5. Toys. You'll get hand-me-downs and gifts, and unless something really speaks to you like George's Waldorf teether doll (hates it) did to me, you don't need to buy it. If you know any older babies, see what they gravitate toward. See if yours takes an interest in anything, and if you can find something similar at a consignment or second hand shop.

    6. Brand new parenting books. With the exception of the Sears' Baby Book, I don't need to own any of the books I've bought. Borrow from the library, or, if you're a bibliophile like I am, check thrift store shelves for deals. 

    7. A separate sleep space (crib, hammock, pack & play). It saves money, and it's nice to sleep with your family. It also makes breastfeeding easier, and the store will still be there if, after the baby's born, he turns out to be one of those have-to-sleep-alone types. 

    8. Shoes. Why did I buy shoes? They were just so cute. Those tiny Adidas still call to me. They call, "we cost $30 and never fit your kid!" 

    9. "Normal" clothes. If I think about my ideal wardrobe, it would consist of things with elastic waist bands, made of the softest knit imaginable. Socks that don't leave marks on my calves. Shirts that don't bunch up at my armpits or pull across my back. Nothing that gives me a muffintop. Nothing uncomfortable, ever. Then, still, people would somehow always think I looked completely precious. Babies have that last bit covered, so don't try to stuff their little bellies into jeans no matter how cute they are or what a great clearance sale Gap is having. 

    10. Fancy cloth diapers. Don't get me wrong, here: I LOVE cloth diapers. Constantly buying things for someone to crap into would be unbearable for me. But, I bought a giant stash of Bumgenius at $16something a pop only to discover after a few months of use that -- for US -- they leak, don't fit that well and get stinky no matter how diligently I strip them or painstakingly I make my own detergent. The prefolds and consignment shop covers, however, that total around $4 per set are reliable workhorses.

    gratuitous newborn cuteness

    Now, onto the positive. DO Buy:

    1. An Ergo. Baby wearing saved my relationship with my son. He wanted to be in my arms at all times, and I was a frustrated, tired mama who could get nothing done between hourly, 30-45 minute-long feedings. George learned to sleep in the Ergo and it was like having a new lease on life. 

    2. A king sized bed. We didn't originally intend to co-sleep, but clingy daytime George didn't turn independent once the clock struck nine PM. We tried to make our double bed work until tax season made a new mattress a possibility. Every night when we all snuggle into bed, it still feels like a luxury.

    3. Our highchair. It's small enough to fit in our little kitchen, is all wood and inoffensive. It was also $60 (take that, Stokke). It converts into a little chair and table, and I love to imagine toddler George sitting there, helping himself. 

    4. Cloth diapers. Just not the fancy ones.

    5. A sling for papa. One he will actually wear. Nathan was able to bond with George by wearing him, and it's still their special, sure-fire nap time spot. 

    6. Dr. Sears' Baby Book. Even though some of my friends were attached parents, I felt awash in unsolicited, unhelpful advice when my baby was pegged as "needy," "fussy" or "high-maintenance." When I found Dr. Sears, and read that it was OKAY to sleep with my baby, GOOD to feed him when he seemed hungry rather than on a schedule, HEALTHY to keep him close by wearing him, it felt nothing short of revolutionary. Dr. and Martha Sears have solved so many of my "problems" just by encouraging me to follow my instincts to provide loving care to my child. 

    7. An iPod or Kindle or something to entertain you. Gazing at your beautiful newborn is great for awhile, but when you're nursing for eight hours a day, you need something to do so you're not frustrated, trying to hurry him up. 

    8. Good quality toiletries: body wash/shampoo, diaper cream and massage oil. Don't skimp on the products that go on your naked baby. 

    9. A few pretty, functional mobiles. I made ours, and the black, white and gray one that hung over George's changing table for the first few months was the first thing he smiled at.

    10. Nice nursing bras that fit you. Get fitted by a professional at Nordstrom or a local lingerie shop (NOT Victoria's Secret). Don't underestimate the difference this can make in your day to day. 

    magical Ergo

    We made a lot of mistakes and continue to buy things we don't need, but I hope these top and bottom ten lists help someone avoid the "Amazon recommends" trap that is so easy to trip right into when your eyes are starry and nine months seems forever away. 

    ***

    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: