Moxie Manifesto (May 2007 edition)

Reading Kted’s comment on the toddler angst postmade me realize that I’ve never really posted anywhere my basic
philosophy. (My friend Scott gave me the idea of putting up my philosophy on my blog. I’m just calling it a manifesto because of the alliteration.) Those of you who read my very first post ever, or who are
regular readers, have a good idea of where I’m coming from and why I
write this blog. But for those of you who are newer or just ended up
here from a Google search, I thought I’d lay it out for you.

(And, hey, this is a work in progress. Do you guys have any idea how much I learn from you? There’s no way I’d be able to write this without all of you commenting and keeping me honest and on track. And giving the correct answer when I’m not coming anywhere near it.)

  • You know your own child best. When there’s a decision to be made about anything, you need to think about what you know about your own child, and do what’s going to be better for him or her.
  • Don’t worry about what the "experts" say. A lot of what they write
    is based solely on their own experience, anyway. Are they there with
    you and your child at 3 am? No. So who cares what they tell you you
    "should" do?
  • There are some thing parents do that really screw up their kids.
    But those things don’t have a whole lot to do with the sequence in
    which your baby eats, sleeps, and plays, or when s/he gets off the
    bottle/breast/pacifier/thumb, or how old the baby is when it sleeps in
    a bed in a room alone, or when they’re potty-trained. Yeah, those
    things affect your day-to-day life right now. But in the longterm,
    they’re not something you’ll remember or that your child will remember.
    So do what makes it easier and more loving for everyone in your house
    right now, and what gets everyone the most sleep.
  • If anyone tells you there’s something you have to do one
    way or your kid will be screwed up, run fast the other way. If you like
    reading books, read a bunch of them; something you read might help you
    out. But be really wary of anyone telling you what you’re doing is
    absolutely wrong, or who prescribes some way of life that just doesn’t
    seem to make sense for the way your child and family are. (I really
    really can’t stand the people who tell you you have to do it their way or your kids will be ruined! forever! *cough*EzzoSearsHoggWeissbluth*cough* If you read them, take them with a grain of salt.)
  • No one gets to tell you what to do unless they’re also willing to take a shift at 3 am.
  • Everyone has problems with their kids. Most people don’t talk
    about them, because they’re afraid of admitting weakness. If you’re
    having a problem, chances are a bunch of other people are, too. And it
    doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the choice you made, because
    people who make different choices just have different problems. It’s
    all a trade-off.
  • If you can control the situation, then you won’t have to worry so much about controlling your child. If you can avoid having to control your child, it’ll be easier for you to teach your child to make good choices instead of having a constant battle of wills.
  • When you’re having a problem, realize that you’re doing the best
    you can at the time. Don’t blame yourself, and try to step back and
    look at the problem from a systems point of view. What’s the real
    issue, and how can you solve that issue, even if it doesn’t look like
    you thought it would look? If it fixes the problem, it’s working.
  • How your child sleeps doesn’t say anything about you as a parent or a person.
  • If you can just wait long enough, the problem will probably go away as a function of time. If you can’t wait, then change something.
  • I think you’re doing a great job. Your child is lucky to have you as a parent.
 
Everyone has a philosophy, whether you’ve verbalized it or not. Want to share yours?

Q&A: thumb-sucking

Marta writes:

"I have an almost four y-o that sucks her thumb when she wants to fall asleep. She’s never wanted the dummy and from day one has been a thumb-sucker. It’s not something that worries me a lot at the moment, since there isn’t any dental problem (as said by the paed) and she only does it at night or when very distressed. But I’d like to know how can I get her to abandon this behaviour in the long run. Most children are weaned from dummies by age three, but it’s way more difficult with thumbs ! Related or not, I was thumb-sucking until 10 yo !"

Ah, Marta and her daughter are my people! You guys know I sucked my thumb to fall asleep until I was 11, so I’m absolutely not in the "they must be off the thumb/pacifier/lovey by age X" camp.

My mom’s theory (and I think my mom was amzingly empathic, especially when we were little little) was that if our needs were being met for comfort and love and snuggling, and we still wanted comfort objects, then it was just some developmental thing and we’d grow out of it when we were ready. So she defended me when my grandparents came up with all sorts of cockamamie ideas to get me to stop sucking my thumb (painting bitter stuff on it, trying to traumatize me by giving me scary mental achors connected to thumb-sucking, etc.) and figured I’d grow out of it.

I think Marta’s daughter will grow out of it, too, when she’s ready. It seems like it’s an effective way to self-soothe, and I worry that if she’s forced to stop she’ll either be emotionally at loose ends or will need to develop something else to self-soothe. If Marta really wants her daughter to stop, probably the best way to do it that won’t be really traumatic would be to figure out what else her daughter could do to self-soothe (holding a soft lovey, touching her own hair, etc.) and getting her to focus on that instead.

I doubt her daughter will do it in public when she goes to school and realizes the other kids don’t do it. (I hear a lot of stories about kids who quit cold-turkey when they started school, except for a little bit at  night by themselves.)

So my advice is basically not to worry about it and let her find her own way with it. Once she doesn’t need to self-soothe anymore she’ll give it up.

Laura needs some post-toddler love

Laura writes:

"I’ve
been reading (and posting) about surviving the toddler twos and threes. I’m
in the middle of what feels like hell now, and would love to hear stories about
when it ends. Does something miraculous happen at 4? Do toddlers suddenly learn
a skill that improves life for everyone for a little while? Is 4 really that much
better?

I
heard plenty of, “Momma go away!” yesterday. It was a bittersweet
Mother’s Day! I could use some encouragement."

Oh, poor Laura. I wasn’t able to pay much attention to when the shift happens, because I had a newborn when my older son was going through the transition from 3 to 4 years old. I was just trying to keep my head above water dealing with two at a time. But I do know that my 5-year-old is amazingly easier to deal with now than he was when he was 3. Frankly, he’s a delight. And I think msot 5-year-olds are a ton of fun.

Is there anyone out there who has a theory about when, exactly, it gets better (and "when the kid goes off to college" doesn’t really count)?

Limits

Starting month 2 of my job, and starting a new babysitter today.

No time to elaborate now, but what would push you to fire a babysitter? Tonight I’ll write what made me do it.

UPDATE: I’m back. This is why we fired the first babysitter:

1. She was late to pick up my 5-year-old from preschool 5 times. Twice it was 10 minutes late, twice 20(!) minutes late, and one time she was 40 minutes late. That last time, the teachers had to leave, so my son went to the playground with his friend (thank goodness for his friend’s mother), and when the babysitter finally showed up (after telling me on the phone she was just a minute away when I got the call 20 minutes after school was let out) 40 minutes late, she didn’t even acknowledge the other mother. (Today I found out that she yelled at my son’s teacher for having told us she was showing up late!)

2. She accidentally started a small fire in the toaster over (which could happen to anyone), and then threw water on it to put it out. Isn’t it general knowledge that throwing water on an electrical fire is bad bad bad?

3. When asked why my younger son’s diaper was so soggy at the end of the day she said, "Oh, I thought you only changed it when he pooped."

(At this point you’re wondering where we found her. She came highly recommended by our old part-time babysitter, who we loved. It was really disappointing.)

Also, she showed up late every morning and made me late for work.

A note about our childcare situation: We only needed a few months’ coverage, until the boys will be home with their dad all summer. So I was willing to put up with a little more than I would have if we’d needed someone long-term. Our new sitter seems to be great, but she knows we only need her for a few more weeks. If anyone in NYC wants someone energetic and just lovely and competent starting mid-June, I’ve got your woman.

The effect of unintentional words

APPARENTLY COMMENTS ARE STILL SCREWED UP. Are any other Typepad users having this problem, or is it just me?

(Please read the post below this one, too!)

Several of the commenters from Wednesday
thought that Sarika was using the word "naughty" either as a joke or
because English is not her native language. If she was using the word
naughty not knowing fully what it means, then I apologize for using her
question to make my point about not ascribing negative motives to your
child. (Although I don’t apologize for making the point in general,
because this is one of the things that causes the most damage to the
parent-child relationship IMO.)

But let me ask you this, and see what you think: Does it matter what
your motives are if you say something negative about a child?

I’d argue that it doesn’t matter, because the child still hears
those words and internalizes them. The point of being mindful of not
saying negative things about your child isn’t to make you feel like a
bad parent for saying them. The point is to make you aware that you do
it so you can stop saying them, because whether or not you intend them
seriously, the child still hears them.

FWIW, I also think parents should monitor what they say about themselves
when they’re around their children. Even joking about "Oh, stupid Mommy
forgot her car keys" is harmful to your child. You are your child’s
whole world, and if you’re stupid, then your child has nothing to trust
to be powerful and keep them safe.

What do you guys think? Am I overthinking this? Or is this something we should all be trying to work on?

Sponsor Love

Look how many ads I have! It’s all helping to pay the babysitter, so please click through, look around, and support the sponsor sites.

RediscoverMothersDay.org
is a charity site raising money for The Ploughshares Fund, an
organization that "pools contributions from individuals, families and
foundations and directs those funds to initiatives aimed at preventing
the spread and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and
other weapons of war, and preventing conflicts that could lead to the
use of weapons of mass destruction." Awesome, and I’d never heard of them before. Does your mom want another blouse
or bouquet? No. What she wants is for you to donate some money in her
name at RediscoverMothersDay.org
(which is matching gifts dollar for dollar to the Ploughshares Fund),
some nice fair-trade chocolate, and to go see the movie Waitress with
you.

BabyDagny.com is having a huge sale through this weekend in honor of Mothers’ Day. (Mother’s Day?) Up to 80% off tons of baby clothes and accessories, including the famous "no photography" T, the Elvis romper, and a bunch of other hilarious and useful items.

The Budget Rent A Car Up Your Budget summer contest is running again this year. (This one fried my brain last summer.) It’s an online scavenger hunt, in which they post clues about locations in the US, and you have to calculate the route down to the mile. Cash prizes for winners every week (sometimes as much as US$10K). Maddening for people like me, but lucrative for people who have the research skills and are quick on the email.

The movie Waitress stars Felicity Russell as a small-town waitress stuck in a bad marriage who bakes pies as her only outlet. Her bad husband is the hot Jeremy Sisto, and the new man in town is the even hotter Nathan Fillion. Pie, relationship angst, hot men–I’m there. Take your mother this weekend.

This is cool: You can go to the American Greetings Faces of Moms website and make a photo tribute to your mom (or MIL or sister or best friend or any other mom you know and love). You can send it to her, and other people can look through the tributes. I just spent 5 minutes looking at all the love, and am now wiping away some tears.

Top 5 Ways To Get Your Baby To Fall Asleep

This is a special post written for proBlogger’s Top 5 Group Writing Project.(Sssh. What they don’t know is that you’re all going to give your
serious or joking tips, too, so it’ll end up being way more than 5.)

Top 5 Ways To Get Your Baby to Fall Asleep

1. Fill your baby’s stomach. Nurse or bottle-feed your baby
to sleep. It’s what babies are hard-wired to do, after all. All this
"your baby has to play after eating" stuff was written by someone with
way too much time on their hands, and no non-sleeping baby to deal
with.

2. Rock your baby to sleep. Or stick them in the carseat or
stroller and go for a ride. Try the swing, or a sling, or the bouncy
seat. Or that trick of putting the baby in a carseat on top of the
running clothes dryer. Motion often works to soothe a baby to sleep, so
it’s definitely worth a try. If it doesn’t work, at least now your
clothes are dry.

3. Try what you think won’t work. If your baby isn’t
responding to feeding or rocking, they might be the kind of kid who
releases tension by crying a little. See what happens if you walk out
of the room for 5 minutes. If your baby cries harder and louder, you’ve
got a child who gains tension by crying, and you should go comfort the
child to sleep (and don’t try the walking out of the room trick again
if you value your sanity). If your baby starts to calm down or the
crying decreases in intensity (or your baby is asleep!), your baby
might need to cry a little to tap off the tension of the day and relax
enough to sleep. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

4. Outsource it. Your mother-in-law knows how to get your
baby to sleep, and isn’t afraid to tell you. Why not take her up on her
unsolicited advice and give her a turn getting the baby to sleep? You
can go out and get Jello shots an ice cream cone while she struggles with your howler monkey. Whether she gets the baby to sleep or not, you win either way.

5. By Any Means Necessary. If your baby gets sleep, then you
get sleep, so do what you have to do. If everyone has to sleep in the
same bed, do it. If the baby has to sleep alone down a long hallway,
fine. If you all have to sleep together in the bathtub on a sheepskin
in hemp pajamas, more power to you. In a tent, on the couch, with the
Food Network on in the background, with the baby’s head smushed under
your chin (forgot about that, didn’t you?), in a recliner, with a
pacifier, hanging on to the dog’s tail, whatever. If it works, it’s
fair game. And all that crap about "forming bad habits" really is just
crap. Baby’s sleep changes so often anyway that if it works now it
won’t work in three months, and you can "fix" it then anyway.

Anyone else want to play?

Q&A: baby too distracted to eat

Sarika writes:

"My 5.5 month old baby boy is very naughty.
It is very difficult to bottle feed him when he is awaken.

He started playing with bottle or me or the
things nearby.So, most of the time we offer feed to him when he is in sleep.

Even he takes very less quantity of formula
hardly 2-2.5 ounce in the interwal of 3to4 hours.

I am a working lady and always worried about
his diet.

Recently, I have heard that it is not good
to feed baby in sleep. Please suggest.

His weight is 6 k.g. Otherwise he is active
and normal. We haven’t started solids yet."

Oh, no! Your baby is NOT naughty. No baby that young is bad or naughty or doing
anything wrong at all. He’s just doing what he’s supposed to be doing
developmentally at that age. Yes, it’s a huge pain for you, but there’s
nothing wrong with him.

This is actually really, really common, and I’m betting everyone’s
reading this and thinking about how frustrating that stage was. You
finally feel like you’re getting the hang of the eating thing, and
suddenly the baby just won’t do it because the world is just too!
exciting! It can make you feel enraged with frustration and scared that you’re doing something very wrong that’s making him not eat like he was.

The solution is, of course, to try to stuff enough food into him in a
dark room with no stimulation, or at night. Yes, this is extra trouble
for you. Yes, you’re going to lose a little sleep. But the good news is
that in a few months it’ll flip back around and your baby will be
eating during the day again. There are no adults who are so distracted
by the world that they don’t eat during daylight, so your son will get
there, too. The tough task is to maintain your sanity until he stops
his nocturnal feasting.

As long as he’s not sick (mood is fine, is engaged with you, normal
diapers), he won’t let himself dehydrate or starve. The only bad thing
about feeding at night is that it makes you tired, but it’s fine for
him.

Please, I beg of you (and this is everyone, not just Sarika), don’t
start ascribing negative characteristics to your baby. Your baby is
only doing what he needs to to get his needs met. Right now his need
for stimulation is greater than his need for food. That shifts all the
time. But if you start to think of your child as "naughty" or "a
troublemaker," you’re going to turn him into one. All he wants is to be
loved and cared for. Your only job is to be steady and consistent and
loving, and realize that sometimes babies do things that annoy us (or
make us think we’re going to lose it completely) but it’s not a big
plot to get us. It’s just their normal process of development. You and
your baby are partners together in helping him grow up healthy and
trusting and bonded.