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Friday, January 29, 2010

Allowing toddlers into the electronic age

Screw the iPad. Apple needs to come out with an iToddler.

I've been wishing that there was a specific gadget just for babies/toddlers for awhile now, but lately I'd say it's become closer to a necessity than just part of my wish list. 

Annika loves to play with my iPod touch. I finally downloaded a toddler teaser specifically for her since I finally realized that hiding it from her was not a permanent solution.

I don't really mind if she plays with it, but I am paranoid that she's going to delete my apps. It's not unfounded paranoia. She already did once. Luckily it was a free one and I just re-downloaded it. (To be honest, almost all of my apps are free. Yes, I'm cheap.) I'm also worried that if I let her play with it unsupervised it will end up in the toilet or a pool of water on the floor or just lost.

I just wish that someone would come up with a (waterproof) gadget made specifically for toddlers, that has a lock on the power button (she likes to press the button and then she gets irritated that her game stops) and lots of (free) apps that teach skills like colors, shapes, numbers and ABCs.

For the first several months of Annika's life I debated between trying to give her only simple toys that would mentally challenge her and letting her have a toy-free-for-all. There are lots of opinions these days that kids are too tuned in. I have plenty of acquaintances with the mindset that children should only play with wooden toys that don't make noises and force them to do things the old-fashioned way. I'm all for those kind of toys, but let's face it folks, it isn't 1810. It's 2010 and we have electronics. We use them, why shouldn't our children use them? Unless you're Amish, I say give up the quaint notion that children don't need any electronic stimulation.

My opinion on this doesn't come without some baggage. I'll admit it. 

I grew up with parents who thought it was best to shelter their children from the outside world. We lived on a ranch in west Texas. We had a garden and raised angora goats. We lived without a television for several years. Even when we did have TV, we were majorly restricted. We were only allowed to turn it on if we asked and my mother was forever coming in and just turning it off arbitrarily and telling us that it was trash that was rotting our brains.

You know what this kind of attitude did to me? You guessed it. I am a major TV-aholic. I love TV. I crave it. I forgo blogging, reading, exercise and other forms of relaxation in order to get my shows in.

So yeah. You're probably thinking that since I love TV so much I might as well marry it and just get it over with. Oh no. First of all, this is a civilized country. It's not like we're Sweden or something. And secondly, I'd rather carry on my clandestine relationship with TV. It's way more fun and I don't want to have to introduce it to all my friends or change my last name. It's much easier to just roll out of bed in the morning and tiptoe silently out the door and then avoid its calls all day while I do other things.

Oh wait, what was I talking about?

Yeah. So, you're probably thinking that I'm just rationalizing Annika's use of electronics because I like them so much. But that's not it. I've given this a lot of thought. And I've watched her use them. I let her watch TV. I let her use electronics. She doesn't freak out and start convulsing. She doesn't turn into a zombie. She enjoys it. And she doesn't just stare at it mindlessly like my mother always told me I would if I was allowed to watch it without restriction.  

With my recent research on unfooding and unschooling and just generally unlimiting life in general I've realized that what makes people gorge and overdo things is restriction, not allowance.

I don't buy into the notion the video games make kids violent and music makes people suicidal. I think that anger makes people violent and denying joy in life makes people suicidal.

I think that people need to stop being scared of TV and electronic games and all the other whatnots in the world that make noises.

So Apple, if you're listening, let's get busy and come out with that Itoddlerpadwhatchamacallit before Annika grows up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Night weaning... again

I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning today:

Ugh. It is 5:18 a.m. Annika has just fallen back to sleep after awaking at 3:30.

Our successful night weaning was not just derailed, but has become a major pileup with what seems like a lot of fatalities by a damn cold.

After night weaning last month, Annika was still waking up a lot of nights, but nodding right back off with a drink of water and some cuddles.

Some nights she didn't wake at all.

Then, bam! A friggin' cold ruined it all for me.

I wasn't going to deny her request for nursing on nights when she didn't feel good. So, I let her nurse. It was particularly important on the night when she went to bed with a fever.

Tonight I let her nurse when she woke up at 1:30. But dammit, when she woke up again at 3:30. I was firm.

It was a complete repeat of the first night of night weaning a month ago.

Blood curdling screams turned into requests for "food" and "poop" (a diaper change).

Yogurt and cantaloupe were turned down and requests for (watching) Elmo and Ernie were denied in between shuddering breaths.

After about an hour, she finally settled down while I hummed and distracted her with a game of Freecell on my iPod touch.

As she drifted off, she murmured, "yogurt, campote (cantaloupe), meat."

Damn, the poor kid is just hungry. Come to think of it, so am I.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm tired of nursing

I know it's so very very un-pc and un-AP of me to say this. But I'm tired of breastfeeding my 20-month-old daughter.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to wean. I have no intention of making her stop something she's not ready to stop. I'm the adult here and she's a little child who doesn't even know yet that eventually she will stop suckling at my breast for sustenance and comfort.

Annika has been a comfort nurser since day one. It was the easiest way to get her to sleep. She still naps at my breast as much as she can.

But recently I've been getting this inner gnawing feeling that I really don't want to nurse. I will even go as far as to say I dread it sometimes.

I've started telling her no sometimes. I try to distract when I can, but sometimes I have to simply say, "No, we just got done nursing. We're going to xyz now."

She's started asking me to "turn," instead of saying "nuse" all the time. She learned that would get me to turn over when we were night nursing (which by the way, has regressed, but I'll write about that later).

So, she'll say, "Mama, turn, nuse, turn, nuse," when she's standing next to me, or unzipping my jacket. Yeah, she's starting undressing me without even asking. She's becoming more and more like her father every day.

What? Was that inappropriate?

Whatever. I'm the human chew toy over here, being strapped down daily by a 25 pound kid with legs almost as long as mine.

So yeah, not very AP of me. I know. But I love my daughter, I don't want to traumatize her, so I'll see this nursing relationship through. I am having a hard time believing that I will cry when it's over. But see me in six months to a year and I'll probably be bawling like a baby.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Changing myself to get my toddler to eat

This morning as Annika devoured her cold cereal I thought about how a few weeks ago she would have just dumped it on her tray, or even worse, the floor.

But this morning she ate it. All of it. I sat and watched her as I slowly ate my own cereal. She peeled her orange (btw, she is 20 months, yeah, she peeled a friggin' orange!) and ate a couple of slices. She drank her water.

For those of you who don't have children, or have children, but they are not picky eaters, you may be wondering just why the hell I am writing a post about eating cereal and an orange.

But for those of you who are moms of toddlers and/or have kids who are/were picky eaters, you KNOW what I am talking about! Can I get a what what, wave your hands around in the air like you just don't care! Woo hoo!

So, yeah, Annika has been eating pretty decent amounts of food over the past few weeks. (Can you hear me knocking on wood and tossing some salt over my shoulder while wishing on a star?)

So what have I done differently?

Well, it could be a simple coincidence, but the longer I am a mom and the longer I write about mommying, I realize that coincidences aren't as common as I used to think they were.

So, (big, deep breath here), what's changed? Usually what's changed is me. Not her.

I slowed down. I sat with her and we laughed and talked. I ate my food slowly and let her see it going into my mouth. I decided to stop pushing her to eat so much. And she started eating.

Let me back up for a minute so you can get the full picture.

When we first started feeding Annika regular food she was about four months old. We fed her little bits of banana here and there for a couple of months, maybe some avocado. I tried making homemade apple sauce, but she didn't like it.

Then six months hit and we upped the food intake. She seemed to love it even though she often got more of it on herself than in her mouth. We had fun at the table. We'd laugh and sing songs. She'd eat. We still nursed just as often as she wanted.

I don't remember when the finickiness started, but I'm thinking it was sometime around a year old, which was in May.

I didn't worry too much about it because she was still nursing solid meal amounts and I wasn't planning on night weaning so she was getting nutrients around the clock.

Sometime in the fall I started getting pretty tired of the avid nursling that was getting bigger and bigger and yet, she was eating less and less. I was feeling angry and resentful of sitting still so much to nurse her throughout the day. We got so little done. She refused to eat. Food ended up on the floor more and more, which offended my sense of frugality. I was tired of cleaning it up. This whole eating mess was making me more and more irritable.

Even though my theory on food is that kids should be given lots of choices and not limited or controlled with food, I found myself giving her ultimatums that made my brain cringe. When she refused her dinner and asked to nurse I would tell her that she could nurse, but only after she ate her food. I hated doing it. But on the other hand, I wasn't feeding with love OR respect, so dang it, something needed to change. At least half of our nursing sessions I found myself staring off in to space or staring at the clock. Inside, I was rushing her even if I thought I wasn't showing it on the outside.

So what made me sit up and take notice?

The really obvious mimicking has begun. I know that she's been copying me from the beginning of her life. But lately I've noticed how much she copies me. Like how she rubs moisturizer on her lips when I am doing it or rubs her body while I am putting on lotion, or nurses her babies or puts a bag over her shoulder, slings her baby on her hip and tells me bye bye as she heads toward the door.

She's learning from me every second.

I noticed that I've been rushing her when we eat because that's what I do.

We are often in a hurry in the morning when we are getting ready to leave for errands or playgroups or whatever, so I found myself giving her a bowl of cereal and fruit and then hopping in the shower instead of sitting down with her. I'd come back to find the cereal on the floor and the fruit abandoned in favor of crayons or my cell phone.

So I decided to change it up. Now, I sit with her while we eat. I slowly place my food in my mouth when she is watching me. I eat what she eats mostly. I have slowed down.

Or maybe it's because of a growth spurt. What the hell do I know?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Setting the stage for gentle separation

This morning as Annika left with Toyin I was struck by how gently and lovingly we've managed to pull off our split.

Toyin showed up around 9 a.m. Annika was running around half naked. I had been hoping she'd use the potty. I was still cooking breakfast. As he came in she instructed him to take his coat off, which he did. We ate breakfast. Afterward I asked her to brush her teeth and I combed her hair while Toyin held her. Then I got her clothes out, I put on her pants and shirt, and finished the job with sweater, jacket, hat, shoes and socks.

About 45 minutes after he arrived they were walking out the door with her Elmo backpack filled with her animals and holding her baby doll.

There was no crying. There was animosity between Toyin and myself. There was no "hurry up, your father is coming to get you." There was no set time for him to pick her up or get her out the door. There was none of the scene that I always imagine it is between parents who split up. It was more like how I imagine a father would be leaving with his kid just to hang out for a day without mom.

As they left I was reminded of my (apparently unfounded) fears and worries that splitting up would somehow make this more like a jagged edge in Annika's life rather than just letting it simply unfold.

When I was pregnant Toyin brought up custody and visitation rights. Something in me snapped when he started talking about that stuff. I didn't want to go there. I wanted to be able to just talk things out with him. I never wanted a judge or a court to decide for us when Annika would be where. I didn't want her holidays to be pre-determined for years.

So we started off her life unsure about the future. Of course, nothing is ever for sure, but that first year, we were in such uncharted territory, sometimes it could be downright scary. I often wondered if I had made the right decision, living with Toyin and asking for his financial support.

Sometimes I wonder how things would have been different.

I think Toyin and Annika would not be as close if we had gone the typical route. I also don't think Annika and I would be as close. I would have been more stressed and I also would have been working. Toyin may or may not have stayed here or even moved to Texas if we had gone the typical route.

So, I guess, we made the right decision. It feels to good to know that for once I got something right. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sleep, finally

Annika finally slept all the way through the night last night. Night weaning is a success!

Getting to this point was not easy for us. I spent the better part of her first year trying to figure out how to "get" her to sleep. I never had any intentions of sleep training, but I kept hoping that if all the stars were aligned and all our ducks stayed in a row, she would sleep better.

I finally realized that it was a matter of maturity (Her's, not mine, I'm still pretty immature.)

I wasn't ever planning on night weaning. I hoped that she would just eventually start sleeping in longer and longer chunks and that would smooth the way toward her sleeping through the night.

I've heard stories of children who do this. I'm sure she would have... eventually. But I have also heard stories of children who are still night nursing at 3. I had a feeling Annika would be one of those children, if I didn't do something about it.

In order to figure out what I needed to do about our sleep struggles I turned to my trusty reporter skills and started asking questions. 

Over the past several months, I've asked every mom I know about their nursing and sleeping habits. I've found plenty of similarities but it is true that babies' sleep tendencies vary pretty widely. 

I've heard ragingly successful stories of babies who sleep through the night before six months or before a year. I don't believe people who say it "just happened." That could just be the cynic in me, but I really don't believe it.

I've also heard horror stories of trying to night wean a child who has the capability of full sentence structure and logic.

After reading as much as I could online about attached parents who co-sleep and night nurse and talking to as many moms as I could get my hands on, I came to the conclusion that some time around the age of 18 months would be a good time to night wean and if I didn't do it then, I could settle myself in for another year and a half of being woken up at night.

In case you're new to my blog, I don't handle night waking well and I am so surprised I lasted this long.

I am embarrassed to say that in a deliriously sleep deprived and pissed off state of mind I tried (unsuccessfully) to night wean around 8 months. What a disaster! She cried. I cried. It only lasted a couple of nights and I gave up, realizing that neither we were not ready for it.

After that I slowly accepted that my life was never going to be the same. I gave up on the idea that I was going to be able to get up and putter around for a few hours after Annika went to bed and then sleep through the night. That just wasn't my life anymore, at least not for a while.

So I waited. I commiserated with other moms. I thought about night weaning. I debated. I decided not to do it. I really wanted to wait it out and let Annika guide herself toward her own natural sleep rhythm.

Then I thought about it some more.

And I thought about it. 

The truth is, I'll admit it. I'm weak. I'm tired.

Plus, I need to prepare her for spending the night away from me. It won't be long before she'll be spending some nights with Toyin and I'd like for that to go as smoothly as possible. It will be easier on both of them if she can just go to sleep and stay asleep. And I'll sleep better knowing that she won't wake up looking for me in the middle of the night.

So I bit the bullet and over the week of Christmas I began what I thought would be a torturous process.

Once again, I was wrong. Happily, surprisingly, it was easy. The first night was the worst. She cried off and on for about an hour when she awoke and I reminded her that we were not going to nurse at night any more. One night she asked for food and I gave her some yogurt. Then over the course of the last few weeks she's still woken up, but gone back to sleep pretty easily with hugs and drinks of water on most nights.

And now, she's sleeping like a baby. Finally.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolutions, a year of good intentions

I'm going to be lame and write a New Year's post talking about my resolutions.

I'm a big believer in New Year's resolutions if for no other reason than it is a good reminder of all the things that I didn't do last year and that even though the scenery might have changed really the only thing that's changed about me is that I'm older.

For the past six years I've been resolving to practice French, the language I took in college and did rather well at. My plan was that if I practiced it slowly for years then one day when I became rich I could go to France and really soak in the culture instead of seeing it with tourist's eyes.

But I haven't done it. Matter of fact, anything I've learned has probably turned to mush and now I'll simply have to start over.

But that aside, in the past year and a half I've learned the importance of taking baby steps and this year I'm cheating and my resolutions are going to consist of things that I've already started.

I'm almost 40 (something I'm still coming to terms with) and I've realized that my life would have turned out dramatically different and many choices I made could have been made better if I had simply listened to that voice in the back of my head.

Some people call it intuition, some people call it instinct, some people might say it is simply common sense.

Whatever that voice is, I'm starting to listen to it. And I think it's working even though sometimes it is scary as hell.

Another thing is that I've recently realized that I'm a very anxious person. I've always had major anxiety about just about everything. Some people might say I'm strong because I've simply plowed through and done things anyway. My therapist said was I was repressed and impulsive.

Whatever the label, I'm starting to realize that it's not healthy to worry so much.

A few months ago I came to a realization that that other voice in my head was telling me to see things half empty. I'm not going to get into it here, because I have another post brewing in my head which I will post in the next day or two, but I have changed what that voice tells me. I've squashed that negative voice in my head. Well, squashed is an exaggeration. I haven't squashed it completely, because sometimes that voice has given me some good common sense advice that I've ignored. But there's one thing that voice has been telling me that has been steering me wrong. So I've changed what the voice tells me.

I better move on and stop talking about the voices in my head before someone decides to take me to the crazy house.

The last two things have to with health and cleanliness.

I've always considered myself a pretty healthy eater. Well, healthier than many, not as healthy as some. This year I've decided to add to my diet. I've resolved to attempt to get in the recommended daily servings (7-9) of fruits and vegetables.

And lastly, because it's one thing about my house that always bugs me, I've resolved to always make sure the hair around my sink is always cleaned up.

Happy New Year's everyone! 2010 is going to be a good one.