Monday, May 23, 2011

Dealing With Advice

The instant you announce your pregnancy you will be inundated with advice, most of it unsolicited.  I am guilty, I've done it myself, hell I'm doing it here.  Do yourself a favor - ignore ALL OF IT.  You will drive yourself absolutely insane giving any of that jabber a moment's thought.

It's okay to seek out advice, but even then, take it all with a grain of salt.  Pick and choose what you want out of the information and leave the rest behind - including what you read here.  It is simply impossible to process all of the data being thrown at you and to follow all of those different directions.  Much of what is offered doesn't even begin to apply to your situation or your personality or your belief system.

I remember being stunned by the amount of advice that flew in during my first pregnancy.  Something clicked in me and I almost got angry when people started in on their opinions and stories about pregnancy, delivery and infant care.  Once I released myself from following all of that different advice I suddenly felt lighter.  I would nod and thank people for their input and then plunder forward with a path agreed upon between me, my husband, and my medical team.

Worse yet, the same volume flooded in with my second and third pregnancies.  REALLY?  I think I've got it down now, you can move on.

Please give us a break - we can't help it.  We remember being lost, first-time parents.  It's hard and we made so many mistakes.  We are trying to help you and save you even a little bit of pain.  Ultimately, however, those mistakes are what made us good parents.  When you learned to ride a bicycle you had to wobble and fall, sometimes a lot, before you got a good handle on keeping your balance.  All of the verbal advice in the world cannot make you a good bicyclist - you have to figure it out on your own.

But advice does exist and it's here for your taking.  It's easiest to take it by bits and pieces - focus on your current situation and the next stage of development barreling down on you.  Find one or two sources you feel comfortable with and possibly a friend or family member you trust.  Rely on their information, but even they won't be perfect.  Follow what in your heart feels right. 

OH!  And you!  Even as an inexperienced first-timer you have a pretty strong base of experiences.  Once the mechanics of baby care are established - how to diaper and mix a bottle, you really can do this on your own without anyone else's input. 

Trust yourself.  You're going to be awesome at this.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Second Child

A friend is expecting her second child.  She asked me recently how to prepare her three year old daughter for the new arrival.

First, talking about a coming baby before you start showing is just too abstract for young children.  A growing belly is something they can touch and can relate with.  Allow them to talk to the belly and read stories or whatever they come up with for interaction.

Prepare yourself for questions, but make sure you listen to the question.  Yes, the sex question is coming, but usually they are not asking about the mechanics of getting the baby in there.  Sometimes something so simple as "mommy and daddy love each other very much" or "daddy gave mommy a seed" is sufficient although those open the door to some interesting interpretations.  I recall a story I read several years ago - the child asked his father about where he came from so the dad went into the big sex talk and discussion about anatomy.  The child took it all in and after dad was finished with his dissertation, the kid asked, "but what hospital did I come from?"

When the baby arrives encourage, but don't force, interaction.  I have two younger brothers.  When the first was born I was allowed to lead a parade of neighborhood friends into the room for show and tell.  My mom talks about how I was a mini mother to him, fetching bottles and diapers and involving myself in his care.  To this day I have a very maternal attitude toward him.

My second brother was very medically fragile.  Tweedle Dee an I were hands off.  No breathing on the baby, no poking sticks or toys into his playpen, and don't you dare pick him up.  Eh, how BORING!  We scampered off into the yard to throw rocks at each other leaving Tweedle Dum stranded in his crib with his scary machines and over-protective mother.  We were never allowed to bond.  The boys grew up with a strange rivalry, beating the everloving shit out of each other.  I grew up and moved away.  It's only as adults that I have any form of relationship with my youngest brother but honestly we don't have much to say to each other.  It's a shame because he's a great person with a funny personality and of course I'm fabulous, but we have never bonded as siblings.

When my older son was born there wasn't a chance of keeping my daughter out of the action.  She gleefully fetched diapers and reported on the baby's needs.  Eight years later when my younger son was born, he too was a medically fragile baby but nothing as severe as my brother.  Amanda and Keith were allowed into the NICU to see the baby and when he came home they got to hold him and help care for him.  All three of them have wonderful relationships and I am convinced it is based on allowing them to bond at the very beginning.

As the children get older it's important to allow them to have their relationship however they define it.  The more you meddle and interfere the less they'll bond properly.  Let them duke it out.  Now I'm not saying you should allow a bloodbath, I mean after all it took too much work to get their grumpy asses into this world you sure don't appreciate anyone taking one of them out.  So yes, stop fights when they escalate, but definitely let siblings squabble the little stuff through.  It's important.  Trust me.

I remember long evenings lasting into the wee hours of the morning sitting on my step-sister's bed.  I had snuck into her room after lights out and we talked about everything and solved all of the worlds problems.  We talked and talked and talked.  We certainly had a few fights along the way, but we formed our own unique sisterhood completely outside the bounds of our parents reach.

Not so long ago I discovered when Keith was little he would crawl into Amanda's bed on stormy nights.  AWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!  This happened under my roof when I was at home.  How did I not know?  I also found out they talk about ME.  How dare them!  Actually, YAY!  My kids have their own relationship and don't need me to play intermediary - as well it should be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parenting Plan

Do you have a parenting plan?

Most people really haven't put much thought into their parenting style and face each challenge as it comes - you know, how we live our lives?  How can anyone have a plan when life is crammed with so many different variables?  But here is the secret successful people would share with you - they DO have a plan, surprises are all met with the same game plan.  Successful parents do the same thing - they have a plan.

A parenting plan involves a statement of your parenting style - do you see yourself as strict, easy going, focused on formal education, wanting to give a broad base of experiences?  There is no correct answer to this question, it will be as individual and the people involved.  It has to do with you and your partner's personalities and personal experiences.  It will be based on reflections of your parents, both good and bad.  It will involve your views of politics, religion and society at large.

The second part of this equation is to describe what that parenting style looks like.  If you see yourself as "strict" what would that involve?  Does that mean rigid rules enforced with corporal punishment or does it mean you're going to have curfews for your teenagers? (uh, yeah, let's look forward to consider what our lives will be like with teenagers underfoot)  Some people think any rules at all is "strict" others think rules with wiggle room is "easy going".  So say it, define it. 

Some people can't define something so vague as a style or theory.  Instead, pluck out parenting situations you know people struggle through (catching stuff from TV is a decent source) and describe how you would handle it - either the same or differently.

People fail to discuss these matters with their partners and most never do so BEFORE the babies arrive.  If you're expecting your first baby, NOW is the time.  If you have no plan set for your parenting future, at least say out loud how you see your own parenting style.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time To Start Up Again

I'm glad I didn't delete this blog as I have a new purpose for it!  I'm going to be a grandma!!!!!  Keith and his fiancee are expecting my first grandbaby in August.  I guess it's their first child, but since this is all about me it's my first grandbaby.  HOW EXCITING!

When they told me at Thanksgiving, I surprised myself by bursting into happy tears.  This did not surprise my daughter, she totally predicted my reaction.  I'm not so sure I like someone being able to predict my moves!

This is a new role for me even before the baby has arrived and I'm trying to keep from being an overbearing bitch while expressing my joy and concern equally.  This is not for wimps!  In the meantime a coworker is pregnant and complaining about her meddling mother-in-law.  These are tough relationships as we walk those fine lines between not enough involvement and too much.

A blog, THIS blog, would be a great place for me to work out those difficulties as I learn the tightrope of grandmother and mother-in-law.  It's also a place for me to rattle out all of that parenting advice I'm just bursting to share with my son.

I doubt I will post everyday, but I will try to do something at least once a week.