Friday, September 30, 2011

Pregnant on Meds

My second pregnancy was traumatic enough for my OB to ask me at my 6-week postpartum check-up, "So, what are we going to do to make sure you never get pregnant again?"  I wasn't in the least bit offended, I understood perfectly. 

I wrote this essay about pregnancy and depression for Babble.  Check it out here: Pregnant on Meds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Other People's Children

Imagine that you are having a quick lunch at a local eatery before picking up your children from preschool.  The emerging toddler at the neighboring table is practicing his high pitched screams.  His mom looks up with a smile and a shrug as if to say- isn't he cute?

Well, no, not really.

Next, imagine that you are at the park sitting in the sand with your children.  Some child you've never seen before saddles up to you and wants to demonstrate her amazing jumping abilities.  At first you smile politely and give an obligatory compliment, hoping she'll either leave or start playing with your children, but she stays... next to you... and keeps talking.  You look around sheepishly for a parent/caregiver and when you spot one that seems to know the child, she gives you a grateful thank-you nod and now you are stuck with three children commanding your attention for the next thirty minutes. 
Photo courtesy of Karin Asencio.
It's not that I don't like children.  I love children, especially children that I know.  However, since I have birthed my own screeching babes, other people's children have become far less cute.  I'm not talking about the children of my friends', I am actually quite fond of these kids.  Yet, the strange toddler running in circles on the sidewalk no longer makes me smile.  (Is it bad that I sometimes want to trip them?)

Maybe my problem does not lie in the child, but the parent that thinks everyone else is delighted to hear her little monkey babble and watch him crawl on the dirty cafe floor.   Yesterday, while trying to get a quick salad and work on an article, I was interrupted by a mother of a toddler while eating a nice child-free salad.  She was talking to her 18-month old in a loud, sing-songy voice.  "No, no Colby, we don't throw grapes.  You like that bread, huh?  It's good.  Do you want to sing?  Ok.  The itsy bitsy spider...  I said no, no.  Let's not throw forks!" And on, and on she went.  At this moment, I slightly hated her (probably because I was using the exact same voice two years ago).

None of these scenarios depict a child misbehaving.  Those kids, the ones in the midst of a sadistic tantrum or refusing to share her sand toys, do not phase me in the least.  I get them.  This is fine, normal, and expected.  Best of all, during these times, no parent is looking at me to provide admiration to the offending offspring.  In these situations the mothers are usually embarrassed and doing their best to calm the demonic child or pretend that they are with someone else.

I also don't believe in disciplining other people's children.  In most circumstances there is little I could say or do that would have any impact on the child's behavior.  Most likely I will just piss off the parent.  In addition, I probably do not know enough about the situation to properly intervene.  Maybe the child has Asperger's?  Maybe she is going through a difficult transition at home and is acting out in other settings?  I really try not to judge, especially the difficult behavior.  And, God only knows, that my children have provided their fair share of inappropriate public behavior.

So parents, let's just all agree on one thing; yes, of course our children are adorable, special, talented, gifted, and oh so brilliant.   However, this is mostly in the eyes of their own parents.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sleeping with the Enemy

Last weekend my husband and I embarked upon our first camping trip with our little ones.  I may be using the term "camping" loosely as we were sleeping in a cabin, on beds with plastic mattresses, all food was served in a mess hall, and there was a pool on location. But for us, we were roughing it.  As parents of a toddler and a preschooler, the roughest part was sleeping together in a small, one-room cabin.

Our usual travel routine is to put Maisy to bed in a secure, dark space as far away from our bed as possible.  We always bring the pak-n-play, even when the hotel provides cribs, since it fits much better inside the small hotel room closets.   We also tote along an extra bag filled with Maisy's favorite blankets and her five best stuffies (in a desperate attempt of getting a peaceful night's sleep).  Sometimes it works, sometimes we wake up at 5:30.

Since our cabin was a 12 foot by 18 foot rectangular box, with no closets or secluded areas, Maisy's pak-n-play was placed next to the double bed Ted and I were sharing.  To complicate matters, Maisy was sick with a slight fever and sore throat.  Needless to say, by 11 o'clock on the first night, Maisy had abandoned her crib and was sleeping fitfully next to me.  Any attempts to transfer her back to the pak-n-play were met with loud and unyielding refusals.

At midnight, after repeatedly removing Maisy's limbs from my face, I kicked Ted out of the bed and sent him to sleep on the empty bed of the bunk beds.  Finally, without the heat of being sandwiched between two humans with propensities to cuddle, and without two people breathing heavily on my face, I was able to fall asleep.  That night Maisy woke every hour to remind us all that her throat still hurt.

The next night we didn't bother to attempt putting Maisy to bed in her crib.  Ted was again allocated to the bottom bunk, Elana to the top, and Maisy slept with me (read: on me).  This is how the night went:

10:30- "Owie!  Owie!  It hurts!"  Maisy points sharply at her throat.  After refusing any form of pain medication (I've brought grape, bubblegum, and orange flavored Tylenol and Motrin in both liquid and melt-away form), Maisy agrees to go back to sleep.

12:00- "Pick me up."  I gently rub her back.

12:30- "(Whine).... Sing me a song."  Softly, and hazily, I sing You are my Sunshine.

2:00- "Take my socks off!"  I take her socks off.  "No, put them back on!"  I put them back on.  "Wahhhhh!  My socks are squishy!"  Maisy then falls back asleep in mid-scream.

3:30- "I want to wake up!  It's wake-up time!!!"  Surprisingly, Maisy is easily convinced that it is not actually time to get up.

4:45- "Mommyyyyyyyyy!!!  Wake-up!!!!"  After soothing her for 15 minutes, she drifts back to sleep.

5:30- "Wahhh! Owie! Wake-up time!  Pick me up!" At this point I start bribing her and promise her a new stuffed animal is she goes back to sleep.  After a bit of cajoling, she relents.

6:30- Maisy wakes up the entire cabin, and quite possibly the neighbors. Not only does she need us to all be awake, we must also be holding her while standing.  At this early hour I question my decision to have children.

Dr. Sears touts that there are proven, scientific benefits of co-sleeping.  But after these two restless nights, I vow to never again let that little terror anywhere near my pillow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Only Child Syndrome- Fact or Fiction?

Photo courtesy of Amanda Dixon Leung.
I had always intended to have two, if not three, children.   The thought of raising a self-centered, overly indulged, only child repulsed me.  I wanted siblings, ones who played together and formed tactical alliances against the parents.  And, that is just what my husband and I accomplished.

However, it seems that I may have prematurely judged the only-child. 

For centuries only children have been perceived as weird, lonely, unhappy, and as a "disease in itself" (according to researcher and leading child expert of his day, G. Stanley Hall).  Research he conducted in the late 19th century asserted that only children were "peculiar", more unruly, and less teachable than children from large families.  He found these children to be odd and in danger of being permanent outcasts. 

This stereotype has held fast through the decades, with few people actually questioning it's validity.  Even so, with the economy depressed, couples are not only delaying childbirth and investing in birth control, but deciding to stay after one.  Whether these couples want the freedom to travel, the possibility of exploring career options, or not to be financially strained, they are adopting China's "one couple, one child" mantra. 

Many of my friends fall into this category, and even though they are steadfast in their decision, guilt always finds a way of making itself heard.  Are they setting their child up for failure?  Will she be lonely?  Will he have social difficulties?  Will she be selfish and spoiled?  Luckily, the answer is probably not.

In the 1980's, Toni Falbo, an educational psychology professor at the University of Texas (also an only child and mother of one) analyzed hundreds of studies and deduced that ''only children scored significantly better than other groups in achievement motivation and personal adjustment.'' She found no evidence, in any published report, that only children are "lonely, selfish, and maladjusted."

In the past three decades, numerous other studies have found that only children have more extensive vocabularies, more years of schooling, higher income potential, and slightly higher IQs than their counterparts with siblings.  This is presumably because these children do not have to share the limited resources of the parents.  In addition, only children do not have the social problems we presume that they will exhibit.  They have as many friends as other children, a normal level of self-esteem, and may even be better sharers, firmly believing that their time will come.   

The fact that these children have unlimited access to their parents allows these children to have a leg up on their peers, both emotionally and monetarily.  With more time and money to spend on just one child, parents also tend to be less stressed, more satisfied personally, and happier as a couple.  In fact the addition of each subsequent child has proven to make families less and less content.

So, why even bother birthing two?  With the infant death rate declining, and the demise of the family farm, the need for large families has fallen.  (I don't know about your family, but my two girls rarely help with the hoeing, plowing, and wood cutting.)  The reason most parents give for doubling down, is to provide a sibling to their first, but after reading the research findings, this seems to be futile, since the addition of another child provides little benefits to the family.  

For me, after my first, I wasn't ready to be done with babies, and wanted that second time around.  I've never regretted adding Maisy into our mix, but when our family gets together with single child families, I certainly understand the case for the distribution of limited resources.  Yet, then again, no sound is quite as sweet as hearing Maisy tell Elana, "I love you, sista," right before she sits on her face.

For those that want to read more, check out Time Magazine's The Only Child- Debunking the Myths.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Driven to Distraction- Toddler Style

This frightening scene took place yesterday in my car, on the way home from getting the kids' haircut.  The girls were admiring their rewards from the toy vending machines Kidz Cutz employs to lure kids and parents into their establishment. 

Elana- "Maisy, can I see that (cheap, plastic, worthless piece of) princess (junk)?"
Maisy- "No, it's mine."

Elana- "Please, I'll let you see the (hideously dazzling) princess sticker I got."

Maisy- "No."

Elana- "Then, can I just see the piece of paper it came with (so that I can admire all the other princess garbage that they offer)?"

Maisy- "No you can't, Elana!"

Elana- "Maisy, I hate you!"

Maisy- "No, you love me!"

Elana, knowing that she would get in trouble for hitting Maisy, decides to take off Maisy's left shoe that is encroaching on her space and throw it in the front passenger seat.

Maisy- "Wahhhhhhhh!!!  Elana took off my shoe!  Elana took off my shoe!  Put it back on me!"

Elana smiles, her mission accomplished.

Maisy- "I need my shoe!  Elana took it!"  (Insert extremely loud shrieking.)

Elana- "it's just a shoe, Maisy!"

Maisy- "Elana is looking at me!  Stop looking at me!  Don't look at me!  NOOOOO!"

Me, finally breaking my silence- "Girls, stop fighting.  Mommy is driving, and on the 101 and I can't get your shoe right now.  Maisy, you will have to wait.  Elana, leave your sister alone."

Maisy- "Why? Why?  Why? WHYYYYY?"

At this point Elana quietly smacks Maisy on the leg and touches her hair.

Maisy- "Elana HIT ME!!!!!  WAHHHHHH!"  Her stubby legs are now kicking the back of my seat. 

As my blood boiled and my face turned red I felt the sudden urge to slam on the brakes and instill a real sense of fear into the little terrors in the back seat.  However, I was on the freeway, with no shoulder room, and cars were passing me at 70 miles per hour.  I took one deep breath, let out a fierce "STOP" and made the critical decision to spend the rest of the drive ignoring any noise that originated from carseats. By the time I pulled into the garage, a year and a half had been shaved off my life.

It is no cliche to say that driving with children can be hazardous to your health.  In Britain, children have been voted the #1 distraction in cars, surpassing cell phone use and navigation guides.  According to the Daily Mail, the government study found that "95% of parents admitted a baby or child having a tantrum took their attention off the road and 8% of parents said they had caused an accident because their child had been crying."

A recent State Farm Insurance study actually contended that children were safer with the grandparents behind the wheel, than their own parents.  This may be due to numerous factors including-  today's grandparents are younger than they used to be, and that grandparents are more nervous, and so more cautious, when carting the precious cargo.  I believe the main reason to be that children behave their absolute worst in front of the parents, where they know the love is unconditional and permanent. 

In 2009 a lawyer from leading Manhattan law firm was arrested for kicking her 10 and 12-year old daughters out of the car after a fearsome battle between the sisters.  This did not happen in the shady streets of the Meat Packing District, but in a fashionable part of Scarsdale.  When the police were contacted by a good Samaritan that discovered the younger daughter, the mother was arrested and held overnight.  Personally, I think that the all-night separation from her bickering daughters may have been just what any mother would need.  This woman may have made the choice between booting her children from the car, or driving into the nearest telephone pole.  Sanity comes in many forms. 

Its not only that the small confines of the car create perfect breeding grounds for fighting children to torture their parents, but a moving vehicle provides plenty of opportunities for other types of misbehavior.  A quick poll of my mommy friends found that their toddlers have:
  • thrown food, balloons, streamers, jewelry, socks, and shoes out the window.
  • unbuckled their brother's carseat in a fit of rage.
  • requested (read demanded) the same song by Raffi (or Madonna) fifty times in a row.  
  • peed in the carseat, then become uncontrollably upset that they had to sit on the wet fabric.
  • throw up, spewed, vomited, heaved, and puked over every square inch of the backseat upholstery.
  • screamed so loudly and persistently that the mother's foot unintentionally stomped on the gas, resulting in expensive speeding tickets and online comedy traffic court.
According to, these are the do's and don't of driving with children.

Prepare in advance all snacks/drinks/backseat activities and have them readily accessible for the children.
Pick up dropped items.  Adopt the “you drop it, you lose it” attitude.
Pull over when things get out of control.
Mediate fights between the children while driving.
Stay focused.
Use your cell phone in your purse- the kids are enough distraction for one driver.

The most important thing to remember, is that while you are behind the wheel you are the driver, not the referee.  Good luck, we all need it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

If Three is the New Five...

… then raising my two darling daughters is the equivalent to 3 kids in the 1950's.  Perfect, we are just like the Drapers! 
Is this what three would look like?
In the past few months several of my friends have found themselves knocked up with number three.  In turn, each of then inevitably questions the timing of my next byproduct.  In no uncertain terms I politely, yet firmly, explain that my uterus is closed for business.  

Many say that parenthood gets easier with each additional child.  I can slightly see how this is true.  The director of the preschool we send our daughters to is an Orthodox Jew and has seven children, only two more and she will have her own baseball team.  Maybe it is the religious quality of the family's life that makes it look so doable and enjoyable, but when her last son was born, she was back teaching within two weeks.  And, it's true, the older children were helping with the younger ones.  

Even though I am resolute very in my decision not to experience the “joys of pregnancy” again, each time I hear about a pregnant friend, or hold a newborn baby, part of me longs for just one more infant to call my own.    

Cons of having a third child
Pros of trying for the tripod

Maisy is just reaching the age where traveling with her isn't a life-shortening catastrophe.  

Babies smell nice, are soft, and don’t talk back.

I'm not sure that I have more attention/love to give.

Deep down I know that I would love the third as much as my other munchkins. 
Studies have shown that the happiness levels of both the mother and the couple decline with each additional child.  

If two of the children are fighting/crying/whining, there is still one good kid

It doesn’t seem sensible to let the children outnumber the adults.

More siblings = more playmates?
I would need a bigger car.
I've had my eye on the new Highlander Hybrid.

A third would make Maisy a middle child.  Numerous psychologists have found that the “middle child syndrome” is no myth.  These children often feel ignored, left out, and resentful of the family dynamics (think of Jan Brady).

Maisy would be able to be an older sister, a role she often plays with her dolls.
I like when my body belongs to myself.

I’m desperately searching for a positive spin here, but I just hate being pregnant.
A couple of weeks ago I had a cold that seemed abnormal in length and for the summer season.  Being anxiety prone, I began to worry that a few of my husband's sperm may have passed my protective barriers.  After a few days of worry, I decided to just, you know for fun, take a pregnancy test.  When two perfectly readable blue lines appeared on the stick, I began hyperventilating.  "Ted!!!" I screamed,  "What did you do to me?"

Ted hurried into the bathroom panicked. "What?"

Accusingly, and with shaking hands, I handed him the stick.

At first his face fell, confusion filled his eyes.  Then he just smiled and said "You bought the cheap test.  A positive test shows a plus sign."

And at once life was once again good.

The lessons I learned from this wasted panic attack?

  1. When a test is really important, always read the directions!  
  2. Time to purchase a chastity belt.

Coming this week- the only child syndrome- fact or fiction?