Thursday, 20 June 2013

Four Things I Would Do Differently If I Had Another Baby

At this point, the concept of having another baby is pretty much unfathomable to me, so I'm passing on these ideas in the hope that someone else will benefit from them.

1. I wouldn't obsess over breastfeeding. This is a tricky one for me. In a previous post, Why I'm Still Nursing, I described my struggles with trying to get my firstborn to nurse, even though nobody was happy about it. With my second, I swore I wouldn't get hung up on breastfeeding...then proceeded to do just that when she arrived. Fortunately, it worked out—but if it hadn't, it would have been a huge blow to my self-confidence. Even though she was exclusively breastfed, I worried constantly that she wasn't getting enough or that I wasn't "doing it right." 

I realize now that all of that guilt and anxiety was self-imposed. With another baby, I would really try to be relaxed about feedings. If nursing worked out, great! If not, pass the formula! And even if it did, I would probably do some bottle feeding to cut down on the exhaustion that comes with being the only food source. That was a rude awakening (literally) for me the second time around.

2. I would sleep when the baby sleeps. For real. I did a better job of this with my second baby—we took lots of lovely naps together. But for those of us who are A-type personalities, it's difficult to let go of the idea that when the baby is sleeping, we need to be doing something. I should clean up the kitchen! Check my email! Do my banking! During those early sleep-deprived months, I should have just slept when the baby slept. All of the time.

3. I would be less afraid of making changes. One of my shortcomings as a parent is that when something works, I don't want to mess with it. For example: with my second, I kept her swaddled for sleep well past the point when it was useful, simply because she was a good sleeper and I was afraid to ruin it. But when I eventually bit the bullet and unswaddled her, it was no big deal. In fact, I secretly suspect she was thinking, Finally! Thank god she's letting me out of that straitjacket! Other mothers I've talked to say the same thing: they get themselves all worked up about a change in habits or routine, but ultimately, it's harder for them than for their babies. Babies are adaptable; mommies are less so.

4. I would be more confident in my mothering abilities—and I'd cut myself some slack. Here's the thing about parenting: there's no manual, no training. You can talk to people and watch videos and read books, but the truth is, nothing can prepare you for what it's going to be like. You're learning on the job, continually making decisions that directly affect the health and well-being of your child. The weight of that responsibility can seem scary...but I've come to realize that few decisions are irrevocable. Don't want to nurse in the middle of the night? Give the kid a bottle! Got your toddler into a bedtime routine that's not working for you? Change it! Aside from the obvious (e.g., don't let your toddler play with electrical sockets), most of those decisions won't matter long-term, anyway. Besides, I remember my mom telling me that she had Poison Control on speed-dial when I was a toddler—and she was a wonderful mother. So how can I possibly expect that I'll do everything perfectly?

That last one is important, because I'm still learning every day. Sometimes I'll get it right; sometimes, I'll wish I'd done something different. 

But when it comes to my beautiful, smart, amazing children, I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Why Do I Yell?

It's not something I'm proud of, but I don't seem to have the right amount of patience to deal with a three-year-old and an eleven-month-old. I can push down my frustration at the continual stream of "No"s and "I don't want to"s and "I don't like that"s from my three-year-old for only so long and then, that's it...

I yell.

It's usually something along the lines of, "Don't you DARE throw another fit!" or "That's enough!" or "Stop it right now!" Nothing truly awful and no threats that I won't follow through on, but still, I yell.

And then I feel bad about it.

Because I love her.
Because she's three, and testing limits is something that a three-year-old is supposed to do.
Because I'm basically doing the very thing that I'm frustrated with her for doing.
Because often, it's not the issue itself that makes me snap; it's the accumulated complaining and negotiating that wears me down. 
Because I still remember being yelled at by my parents and how it made me feel.
Because I want to be the zen parent who remains calm in any situation...but I'm not.
Because I'm afraid that one day, I'll look back on these years and think, "She's all grown-up now, and I didn't truly appreciate what a lovely little girl she was then."

And she is lovely. She's lovely when she's singing made-up songs in the backseat of the car and when she's making her baby sister smile. She's lovely when she listens so intently as I read her stories and when she dances in the middle of the department store. She's lovely when she tells me every detail of what happened at daycare that day and when she gets really excited about a trip to our favourite frozen yogurt place or a kid's ride at the mall. She's lovely when she weaves such imaginative stories when she plays and when she clowns around to make me laugh, laughing right along with me.

But when she's obstinate and argumentative and screaming and crying, she's not so lovely.

So I yell.

I just hope that when she remembers her childhood, she won't focus on the times when I yelled. I hope she'll think about the times we played together and sang songs together and read stories together, and all of the fun things we did together. That's what I want to think about, too.

Because I'm tired of yelling.