Cautionary tale about meds and breastfeeding

Two notes:

1) Tonight I'm putting up a review of the new Peek device for mobile email, and will be running a contest to get two free Peeks. Post your entires from tonight until Sunday night to win.

2) We're on for the Cincinnati meetup on Monday at 11:30-noonish at the Coffee Emporium at 110 East Central Parkway, on the fist floor of the old Emery Theater Building. I'll be there at 11:30, and if past meetups are any predictor, we'll be there until 1:30 or 2. It's kid-friendly, so come alone or with your miniature sidekick.

Now, on to a really serious email from reader Erica about a pretty horrific reaction her son had to something that we assume is safe while breastfeeding. My purpose in putting this up is to encourage all of us to trust our instincts and keep pushing. More thoughts after her story:

"At my 8 week postpartum checkup, my midwife asked me how I was doing. Itold her that I was still bummed out that things weren't going the way
I had planned (I had spent nine months planning an all natural home
birth and ended up with a c-section due to malpositioning. On top of
that, the first few days were hell because my son had a sensitivity to
tomato sauce and well, my husband lives off of Italian food, so you can
imagine how much tomato sauce we were consuming on an average week. My
husband had also just been given a bunch of overtime and was working
about 60 hours a week, give or take a few. I was dealing with an
overactive letdown, I was in horrible pain from the csection, and
things were just overall pretty crappy). I also told her that I was
feeling pretty overwhelmed and exhausted. She prescribed me zoloft,
telling me that it would make me feel tons better. She also told me
that it would be safe for me to take while nursing my son.

Over the next 5 1/2 months, things began to get worse with Ryan. He
developed a tremor in his hand… it was like a mini seizure, but it
was just his left hand. They ran two EEGs, both came back negative. His
sleeping habits went through the floor… We actually took him to the
emergency room once when he was 14 weeks old because he had been awake
for almost 30 hours. My husband and I were both not only exhausted but
pretty freaked out. He'd start to fall asleep while nursing, but as
soon as his eyes would shut all the way, he'd pop back up like a
jack-in-the-box. He had this insane amount of energy. He wasn't really
crying or anything, at least not inconsolably, but he was cranky and
fussy and most obviously tired. The ER pediatrician merely told me that
he'd sleep when he was tired, though we tried to explain to them that
he WAS tired…. that something was wrong. But they were much more
interested in laughing at us for bringing in a kid because he wasn't
sleeping than trying to figure out WHY he wasn't sleeping.

Well, at 4 1/2 months old, he learned how to roll over. Within 3
days, he was on his hands and knees. Somewhere around a week after that
he was crawling. Full-out belly-off-the-ground cross-lateral crawling.
Within days after he figured that one out, he was pulling himself up.
We thought it was awesome at first… kind of a "Woah! Our kid is super
advanced, we should be proud!" sort of feeling, but after a few days we
were beginning to realize just how robotic he was becoming. Not to
mention how horribly it screwed up his sleep even more than what it
already was.

This is what would happen… we would lay him on his back (for
anything… diaper change, getting dressed, it didn't matter what it
was for) and immediately he was on his belly, up on all fours
and either a: crawling across the room or b: pulling himself up on
whatever was handy. I'm talking within seconds. There was no thought to
it. Robotic truly is the only word that I can come up with to describe
it. It was like he was a wind-up-toy instead of a 5 month old baby boy.

I would nurse him to sleep (which I've done since the beginning, no
big deal) and as soon as he'd hit the crib, it was the same thing…
Flip, up on all fours, pull up on the crib rail and start screaming. If
I'd try nursing him back down again, he'd just decide to do acrobatics
in my lap… rolling over, climbing all over me, etc. Once we would finally
get him to sleep, he'd wake up after an hour and a half or so screaming
bloody murder… no fussing first, no grunting, just a full-out scream.
Then we would start all over again. And again. And again.

We ended up taking him to the ER again at about 6 months because he
started doing the screaming thing even during the day. He'd go through
these episodes where he would just scream for 30 – 45 minutes at a
time. And then he'd be fine, like nothing ever happened. He had a cat
scan and another EEG. Still negative. But I KNEW there was something
wrong with my baby.

It finally got to the point where even our old faithful, the car
ride, wouldn't help him fall to sleep. He would just scream the entire
time. He spent another 26 hours awake, no naps or anything, and I
called my mom and asked her if we could "move in" for a couple of weeks
because with my husband working the hours he works, I just couldn't
deal with this on my own. I thought I was going nuts.

After two days of being at my moms and us painstakingly letting him
cry himself to sleep while he was in our arms, my mom asked me about
the zoloft. I reiterated the saftey of it that my midwife and Ryan's
pediatrician had assured me of, but she told me that I should look it
up anyway. So I did. I didn't really find any other experiences like
mine, but I did find out that the big "study" they did on zoloft and
breastfed infants only consisted of 30 babies… and "most" of the
babies didn't show side effects. It didn't say what happened to the
minority, nor did it say any percentages. At least not on the site that
I found. I told my mom about it and we decided that since I was staying
with her, I didn't have to worry about killing my husband, I'd try
coming off it to see what would happen.

Within 24 hours, Ryan was a completely new baby. He was playing by
himself with his toys. Actually SITTING and playing instead of being
wound up and all over the room. Within a week he was sleeping a full 5
– 6 hours at a time and taking full 2 hour naps. By the time I went
back home almost 2 weeks later, I could actually take him out of his
carseat while he was asleep and get him in the house and down in his
crib without waking him up… and he'd actually finish his nap. The
tremor has gone away. The screaming has stopped. I am almost positive
that he was having nightmares because seriously, it had gotten to the
point that it was almost as if he was afraid to go to sleep, which is why he'd just scream and scream and scream when he knew that we were trying to get him to.

Of course, then I ended up with an ear infection and I was
prescribed prednisone to help the inflamation, which again the doctor
ASSURED me would be safe — and after the first day of dosage, we were
back at square one. Needless to say, I decided to let the ear infection
ride itself out and quit taking the meds.

I'm not sure if Ryan is just super sensitive to medication or what,
but I have found one other mom online who is having the same problem
with her son and she is breastfeeding while on prozac.

I am a
hardcore lactivist, and am even taking the steps needed to become a
lactation consultant, but I truly believe that with these medications
— if anything like this is going on with breastfed babies, the moms
need to either consider switching to formula or finding out if there is
any sort of alternative therapy for their ailments. I don't want people
who truly have PPD to stop taking their antidepressants, but I think
that in some cases (like mine) taking the zoloft was causing me to need
the zoloft… I don't think I ever really had PPD, I was just
overwhelmed and disappointed because things were so screwed up in the
beginning — add that to the normal crash of hormones and you're left
with a sobbing, crying mess of a girl.

Anyway, I'm just trying to get my story out there in case someone
else is going through what I've been going through. We're still
strugging after coming off of the prednisone but I have faith that all
will be well soon. It really upsets me that the doctors and the FDA
don't consider stuff like this and that they'll just prescribe anything
to anyone, breastfeeding or not. They're so super careful about
pregnancies, but they don't seem to think twice about nursing. I guess
the biggest thing is just because it's "safe" doesn't mean there won't
be side effects. I suppose all the medicines out there are "safe" for
us to take as adults, but they still might cause all kinds of crazy
issues…. even for us. It's no wonder that they can cause the same
problems in our babies.

Thanks a ton, Moxie. I just hope that if anyone sees this, they'll
know that they aren't alone. That medicines DO cause side effects in
our little ones, no matter what the docs say. It then just becomes an
issue of if it's something that a mom can afford to quit taking or not."

OK, my first thought upon reading this was "NOT ONE of these medical professionals thought to examine what erica was ingesting that could be in her milk???" I mean, I think most of us who've nursed have thought about quitting dairy, onions, chocolate, citrus, and any number of food substances if our kids were acting fussy, so the idea that no one thought to question a chemical makes me frankly stunned. And angry that they basically huung Erica and her son and family out to dry for so long.

Also, it makes me really angry that Erica's provider's reaction to her emotional distress was not to help Erica with the source of that distress (her legitimate feelings of disappointment, which all goes back to my idea of a Good Birth from the tips for preventing PPD series, and physical pain, and not enough support at home) but to hand her medication. If you went to the doctor with a mystery physical pain, you'd hope the doctor would try to find and alleviate the source of that pain, instead of just prescribing pain meds to cover it. Her doctor should have tried to help her come up with steps to take to alleviate her problems instead of just covering them.

I feel like she got crushed by the system from a lot of different angles. And I wonder how we can help prevent this from happening to ourselves and our sisters. Thoughts?

Q&A: help for couple with illness and new baby

Hedra writes:

"I have some friends facing a particularly challenging time. The husband (whom I've known since forever) was just diagnosed with cancer. His wife is almost seven months pregnant with their first child. He'll probably be coming out of initial treatment around a week before the due date, and will not be in good form for helping either physically or emotionally. It is likely that he won't be able to attend his daughter's birth in person.
That's wrenching enough (we're already working on who will be there to support for the birth), but the daily realities are likely to be the big drain – just getting through each day (starting now), handling life, feeding everyone (he may need special effort there), keeping the space lovingly, caring for the pets, and integrating this into the picture of
what life will be like – it's a huge physical and emotional hit for both of them, as I'm sure you can imagine.

My first action will be to set up an online group with a calendar so people can schedule support activities (and our friends can mark their needs) in one place. Beyond that, I feel a need to throw the net wide to gather ideas for support, kindnesses, ways for people near or far to help out (especially if there is ongoing immune suppression keeping people
restricted from visits), anything I might forget that new parents under stressed conditions might need, anything that a caregiver might need, things for people undergoing chemo/radiation might need, resources to look for that I've never had to call on, etc.

So, here I am, asking for your brains (and kindness, and creativity) on this, and the brains (and kindness, and creativity – not to mention relevant experience) of the collective readership – what have you got for help ideas? Ways to structure the help? Good books for either dad or mom under these conditions? Sites to reference? Anything, anything, anything.

They're good people, and there are a lot of people who love them. We want to create as tight a net as we can weave."

Oh, what a complicated situation. And I really don't think I have many answers that you haven't thought of. They're going to need all the usual new-baby stuff–meals, help with laundry, emotional support, breaks so the parents can get naps, lactation support if she's nursing,  etc. But their needs are going to be multiplied by more than two because of the cancer treatment.

Have any readers gone through either dealing with a newborn and a serious illness in one of the parents, or cancer treatment? I'm sure you all have ideas that I just don't have any experience with. Please help hedra and her friends.

Q&A: Downsized!

Erin writes:

"So, I've been downsized.  Through some sloppiness on my supervisor'spart, I had several weeks notice, so the actual summons to his office
today did not come as a shock.  And his mistake gave me some time to
discuss this with my spouse, investigate the job market in my field
(dreadful), and figure out how to file for unemployment benefits. 
Financially things are not a total disaster, although disasterous
territory will eventually be reached.  And emotionally I (currently)
feel all right about this–a reorganization in August made my former
workplace an unpleasant place to work.  But, since I was 15 I have
always had a job, I identify strongly as my profession (I have a Ph.D.
in a specialized discipline and have been successful in a tough field,
up to now) and suspect there will be emotional repercussions, even if I
feel quite sanguine right now. 

My primary concern right now
is my overnight and involuntary transformation from WOH to SAH for my
two year old daughter.  I feel like I don't even know what I don't
know.  How do people structure their days with a two year old?  How do
they get adult companionship that is not child-centered?  How do they
keep child and self from going batshit in the winter?  My husband and I
agreed that it is important to keep our daughter at her daycare
part-time, for continuity and to give me some uninterrupted time to
devote to my job search, work on professional development, etc., but I
don't even have an inkling of what works well for part-time
arrangements (one day a week?  two days?  Every morning but not
afternoons?  Of course, different patterns work for different people,
but I don't even know how to think strategically about this).  Or the
hell with continuity and I squeeze job search stuff into her
(disappearing) naptime and let her experience a full-time mama for the
first time?  Is there any need to explain to a two year old that Mama's
not going to her office anymore?  If so, how?  And how do SAHparents
divide chores with the WOHparent? 

Although I firmly believe that out of crisis comes opportunity, I feel very at sea…"

Oooh, lots of questions. And this is one of those series of questions with no right or wrong answer, so I'm hoping everyone who reads this will chime in with what works/worked for you, and *why* it works for you, in hopes that sharing the process will help Erin.

In my experience, a two-year-old's day is organized around 1) the nap, 2) meals, 3) any activities (classes, playgroups, errands, etc.). The vast majority of 2-year-olds still need to be taking a nap every day, even though some of them will go through nap strikes or time changes (needing the nap to be earlier or later), so her naptime shouldn't be actually disappearing, unless you mean she used to nap for three hours and it's gone down to two. (Of course there are exceptions, including my older child, who gave up naps completely at 2 1/2. But I don't wish that on any of you.)

Meals are meals, although you may be experiencing any number of annoying 2-year-old mealtime behaviors, from refusing to eat anything (or refusing to eat anything that isn't purple or star-shaped or whatever other control plan your kid's come up with) to taking forever to eat to any number of other things that make you crazy. Being home with a 2-year-old can be a delicate balance between making sure the kid is offered enough healthy food to avoid crankiness and malnutrition and maintaining your own sanity in the face of impossible food demands. In short: Just because you're home more, you don't have to be a hero. And if your child will eat more than 3 different foods you're coming out ahead.

The whole classes/errands/playgroups thing really speaks to your question "How do
they get adult companionship that is not child-centered?" And the answer is, you don't, at least during the day. Think about it–if you were child-free (either all the time or for some chunk of the day) would *you* want to hang out with someone else and her 2-year-old? Probably not. Which means that all the adult contact you have during the day (except incidental contact in stores) is going to be with other parents or caregivers with kids in tow. If you want to have meetings or lunch or coffee with people without kids, you'll need to get a babysitter or wait until the evening when your partner can be with your daughter.

The good news is that moms and dads and caregivers are cool people (most of us). So while you're mediating negotiations over toys at a playgroup or hanging out at creative movement class, you can get into some interesting discussions (once you get past the potty-training small talk). Yesterday I spent some time with some preschool parents and a babysitter, and we covered kindergarten admissions, Brazilian bikini waxes (pro, con, where to get the best one), A-Rod, Michael Phelps, the stimulus package, one woman's upcoming move to Pensacola (if there are any Moxites in the Pensacola area, could you email me to help give advice?), and NYC real estate in light of current economic conditions. Not rocket science, but more varied than what we used to talk about in my office, without a doubt.

Basically, I think that in order to be home with a kid, whether full-time or part-time, you need to acknowledge that it's important work that takes a certain mindset and skillset. And that you can develop both, but it's not the same as being in a office. In some ways it's more intesting, because you end up interacting with people from a wider variety of careers and backgrounds than you do in an office (where else but preschool would I have met a fashion model, an industrial process engineer, a public health outreach worker, and a high-end shoe designer?). But it can also be deadly boring in a way that still requires focus. Don't let that prevent you from experiencing it fully for as long as you do it–there is no magic secret about SAH that makes it consistently fulfilling, just as WOH isn't constantly value-laden.

As for how you want to work your part-time daycare, think about how you work best. Do you get more done in shorter bursts? Or do you need to have the whole day to really settle in and get things done?

Someone who has a real partnership should speak about dividing chores, and someone who went from WOH to SAH can help with the emotional stuff (I've only gone from SAH to WOH to freelance, and it's a very different emotional path, I'm imagining).

Enjoy this time for however long it lasts, and take it for what it is. You can do it.

How did it go for you? What do you all suggest?

Q&A: pillow talk

I finally got antibiotics today! Extra-special thanks to the Nurse Practitioner at my doctors' office who actually listened to my symptoms and story and took me seriously, and wrote out the next four steps we'll try if the antibiotics don't knock out this cough that's been exhausting me and keeping me awake for six weeks now. Maye now I can stay awake long enough to actually get some posts up before 10 am…

Molly writes:

"When do kids start using pillows? My super-tall, 2.5-year-old daughteris now in a toddler bed and she looks funny to me without a pillow,
though she's sleeping well and seems comfortable. When do people start
using pillows? Are there special kid pillows available? Pillows pillows
pillows."

In my apartment, kids started using pillows when they asked for them, I think. My oldest one started wanting a pillow right around 2 1/2, and his younger brother had one before then because he saw everyone else with a pillow. I don't have super-soft pillows, and both of my kids were strong and had no problems dealing with blankets at that age.

I don't remember it as being a big deal, but wouldn't have offered up pillows if they hadn't been interested at the time.

Are there any chiropractors out there who could talk about when or if there's a need to use a pillow at a certain age, if ever? And for everyone else, when did your kids start using pillows? Was the transition an issue?

Q&A: 18-month-old vomiting every night before bed

Jess writes:

"I am really at my wit's end with this one.  My 18 month-old has neverbeen a good sleeper.  For the most part, he has been going to sleep by
himself at night (for the last 3 or 4 months anyway) with about 10
minutes of crying.  Sometimes longer, and if he's escalating and I
don't feel like listening to him cry for an hour I'll have to go into
his room and fall asleep with him on the mattress we have for that
purpose.

Anyway, for the last week, I will go through our normal bedtime routine
where, by the time I am singing him a song, he is drowsy and maybe
dozing but not in a deep sleep, but when I put him in his crib, instead
of just crying he will scream.  And it will go on for about 10 minutes
at which point he'll vomit.  Then we change his bedding, his pajamas,
brush his teeth again, and I will sing him another song.  The second
time around he'll go to sleep with barely 5 minutes of fussing.

At first I thought he either had a stomach ache, or we were feeding him
too soon before going to bed (he usually has dinner between 5:30 and 6,
and goes to bed anywhere between 7 and 8.  Sometimes he gets a small
snack right before bed).  But last night I tried to be preemptive –
after he had cried for 5 minutes, I went in, picked him up, and let him
cuddle.  He calmed down until I made to put him back in his crib, then
he cried, stuck his finger in his mouth (it didn't look that far to me,
but I suppose he could have triggered his gag reflex) and then a couple
of seconds later vomited all over me.

Is he doing this on purpose?  What do I do?"

Whoa. Sometimes I think I've heard almost everything, and then I get a question like this one.

If you'll remember back to the idea about tension increasers and tension releasers, the idea is that some kids gain tension by crying, so crying makes them get more wound up and unhappy. (These are the kids that need to be rocked or nursed or soothed to sleep.) You know you have one if leaving your kid to cry for even 20 seconds results in even more crying and having to work even longer to get your child to calm down. (My first son was the classic tension increaser. He sleeps just fine now.)

Tension releasers/decreasers, on the other hand, seem to need to cry to be able to fall asleep. It's as if they're creating a kind of white noise by crying that helps them shut down for the night. You know you have one if rocking or soothing to sleep seems to make them more upset and wound up, and if you leave them to cry for a few minutes and they start to wind down, and then drop off. (My second son was a classic tension releaser. He sleeps just fine now, too.)

But, here's the kicker: Kids can flex back and forth between the way they respond to crying during different stages and phases. (And I've had comments from readers that they have kids who are one way for nighttime and another way for naps!)

So it sounds to me like Jess' son is in a stage of being a tension releaser at night. (Are *any* of us shocked that he's switching sleep patterns right at 18 months?) He's creating the white noise he needs to shut down by crying.

All well and good. Except.

What's with the puking?? Is there some kind of release that he gets from the vomiting? Is it somehow resetting his system?

What payoff is he getting from the throwing up? It canNOT be comfortable to puke on yourself, and then have to get cleaned up. And there are easier ways to get more attention than making yourself throw up.

I'm baffled. Has anyone dealt with this? Anyone with experience with bulemia that can tell us if there's an endorphin rush accompanying vomiting? 'Cause it's just not making sense to me as a straight play for attention.

(I do, however, think that it's likely to go away on its own as part of the 18-month-sleep regression, so I don't think there are going to be long-term worries. It's just the right now that's INSANE.)

Staying well in a world full of sickness

We do this topic every winter (here in the northern hemisphere), so here's the round for February 2009. I've had a cold since the beginning of January, and my younger son has been trying to fight one off, too, but both of us were felled last night and today by snot, coughing, and overwhelming tiredness. And it seems like everyone else we know is either sick, getting better from being sick, or feeling like they're coming down with something.

So let's share strategies for trying to boost our immune systems so we can stay healthy. Here are the things I try to do (although I'm particularly bad with the first two):

1. Get enough sleep. Within your particular situation, maximizing the sleep you get will help you stay well. For those of us without night-waking babies and toddlers, that means (gasp!) turning off the TV/Facebook/Wii/massively engrossing knitting project/whatever.

2. Drink a lot of water. Your cells need it to function, and it helps to flush all the bad stuff out of your body. Just because the heat isn't telling you to drink more doesn't mean your body doesn't need it.

3. Eat fruits and vegetables. Try for 5-6 servings a day.

4. Take your vitamins. I'm partial to Emergen-C because you drink it so it hits your system quickly. I just chugged my first Emergen-C immune defense a few minutes ago (it's got added zinc), so if it miraculously cures me over night I'll let you know. The guy at the UPS store just now swears by Airborne (which isn't actually a vitamin, but an herbal formula). Your regular vitamins are going to help you out, too (although check the labels of your kids' vitamins to make sure they're not mostly HFCS).

5. Cut out the sugar. I know, there's practically nothing more soothing on a February night than sitting down with a bowl of ice cream while watching Hollywood Week, but sugar depresses your immune system. I am painfull aware that it's not the same thing at all, but I've mostly convinced myself that a big mug of red zinger tea is a treat in the evening. (OK, not really. But I'm trying.)

Now that I've written those all out, I realize I need to do a massively better job with going to bed at a decent hour and drinking water. And that maybe I could use another couple of servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Where could you improve? Is there some miracle immune booster I don't know about? (Does rooibos tea do anything for the immune system? I know you South Africans drink it by the gallon, practically. Does it help you not get sick?)

Q&A: The witching hour

Luis writes:

"we have a 5 week old baby and he's mostly fine except every night he just freaks out and cries for an hour at 7 pm. one of us has to walk him around the apartment to get him to calm down. wtf??? is this normal?? what are we doing wrong??"

You're not doing anything wrong! In fact, it sounds like you're great parents, because you've figured out your kid's pattern. The first step to fixing a problem is identifying it.

The problem or good part of this situation, depending on how you see it, is that many (I might even go so far as to say a majority) of babies have some kind of regular freak-out in the evening for a few weeks or months. So there is no real fix here except waiting it out.

I've heard it called "the witching hour" in a lot of places, because it just comes with no real reason. You're feeding the child the same food all day, so there's no digestive reason 7 pm should be worse than any other time. At that age they're pretty much still sleeping in short bursts around the clock, so it shouldn't be any particular kind of tiredness.

It seems to be worse from 6-8 weeks, and then fade out until it disappears sometime around 14 weeks. (Your mileage may vary. If you have a kid who kept crying for a really long time, or if you have a kid who had/has actual colic, don't hate me for saying this. You got dealt a crappy hand.) Then, of course, it reappears as soon as you have children of your own and just want to get far, far away during the dinner-bath-bedtime gauntlet every day*.

Many people think the 6-8 weeks thing is because there's a particular spurt of digestive development around that age. A friend of mine is a post-partum doula, and she says every client she has goes through some kind of feeding or digestive thing around 6 weeks, so she just thinks it's universal, and something to be managed, not worried about.

Basically, though, if you can get your baby to calm down, whether by walking your baby around the apartment, using a swing, driving your baby around in a car, turning on a hardryer, wearing the baby in a front carrier and bouncing slowly and deeply around for an hour (my calves looked awesome!), things are OK. Not fun (nooooo, not fun) but OK. This, too, will pass. And you'll be able to tell the story of whatever ridiculous thing you had to do for a few weeks to get your kid to stop wigging out as a newborn.

A note about crying, though: Some kids just need to cry. For whatever reason, they're feeling anger or frustration or some other emotion that makes them want to cry. That's OK. But it's so much nicer to be held while you cry, especially if you're used to being snuggled inside another human being recently. So definitely hold your baby during the fussy times, but don't feel hopeless or bad if your baby keeps crying. Holding your baby teaches them that everything's OK, even when they're feeling crappy enough to need to keep crying.

Does anyone remember this? I've already shared that I had to bounce around for hours wearing my first son (who by 5 weeks was 11 pounds) in a front carrier. How did you survive this phase?

* You guys know I have a seemingly infinite number of Million Dollar Ideas, including such favorites as the Monkey Assistant Training Ranch and Preschooler Boarding School. I have another one, which is that you all elect me Benevolent Dictator (of, I guess, the world), and I institute a policy of Universal Babysitters from 6-9 am and 6-9 pm every day. Think about it: If someone else could get your kids up, dressed, fed, and ready for the day, and then get them fed, undressed, and in bed for the night, the rest of the day would be a relative piece of cake.

Cincinnati/Kentucky/Dayton people

I'm bumping the discussion back up. I think we agreed on noon, right? And it seemed like a couple people wanted downtown, but others thought that would be a pain?

I'll have a car, and will be coming from the north side, and have no familiarity with the city.

Maybe we should figure out who thinks they're in for sure, and how many kids we'll have with us, and if you have any preference for location. That should help us figure out where to meet.

I'm in, with no kids, and no preference.

Q&A: MIL Question–Do I have the right to be miffed?

MommyEm writes:

"I am currently miffed at my mother-in-law and need to know if it isjustified or my just being overly-sensitive (which is possible).  My
daughter turned two in January and my MIL gave her a professionally
framed collage of three pictures.  The pictures were a baby picture of
my daughter (in the center), a baby picture of my husband (to the left)
and a baby picture of my MIL (on the right).  I was dumbstruck when I
opened it.  There wasn't a picture of me, and I hadn't been asked to
provide one.  She said that she did it because she was struck by how
similar all the babies looked.  Personally, I felt left out, and
wondered if she thought she had given birth to my daughter while I was
out getting a coffee.  To be fair to my MIL, I will give you my
feelings about her, which color most of my reactions to her antics.  I
have always felt a little uncertain about what my MIL feels toward me.
 I find her to be a generous bully – someone who gives a lot, but
expects the world to conform to her wishes. If you don't conform or do
what she thinks is right you are wrong and an idiot. She is also highly
religious, but not very nice in the things she says about people in
private.  It's a very confusing set of personality traits – a person
who will help you out every time, but you wonder if she only tolerates
you because you fill a purpose (such as bearing her grandchild).  So,
do I have the right to be miffed?"

First of all, I want to say that there are plenty of people who have fabulous relationships with their in-laws. They're just not writing to me to ask for my advice about in-law relationships.

When I read the first part of this email, I thought, "No, nothing to be miffed about." Maybe because the whole "generational resemblance" (whether physically or personality or talent-wise) thing is big in my family, and in my ex-husband's family, too. So it seems like a completely normal thing to me to do the Three Generations thing, whether in photos or storytelling or nicknaming, etc.

But then I read the rest of the email, and it started to come together a little more for me. Suddenly it made sense that maybe the photos weren't just about the photos, or about how much ME's daughter looks like her dad and grandma.

We have no way of knowing what the MIL's intention was. (She may not even be completely aware of it herself.) She might have had the purest of intentions with the photos, but her past behavior has caused mistrust in MommyEm, and that's important. And if she did have slightly ulterior motives in giving the photos, then she's certainly made her point.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if MommyEm has the right to be miffed, because she *is* miffed. And feelings aren't right or wrong, blah blah blah. But, what should MommyEm do about it? I say there's nothing she can do or say about the photos that will make the situation better, and almost anything she could say will make the situation worse.

Add to that the fact that MommyEm's daughter *will* figure out exactly who her parents and grandparents are. And sooner than the adults think. So MommyEm doesn't need to worry that her daughter will be confused or taken in by her grandmother's less-than-linear actions.

So. Yeah. MommyEm has a right to be miffed. And she is miffed. But she needs to just let this incident go. (With the assurance that there will certainly be more miff-making incidents to come. 😉 Do a little yoga breathing, hug her daughter, and know that she's the mom, and her daughter knows that. And then file this away to know what *not* to do when she's someone's MIL in 30 years.

Who's got tales to tell?

Q&A: son calls Dad Tim

More about names (and a softball for Super Bowl Sunday). Emily writes:

"My 5 year old son calls his dad Tim and Tim really doesn't like it,wants to be called "Dad."  Son is given lots of playful reminders, lots
of regular reminders and it is not out of defiance, just habit but it
is proving so hard to break and Tim is getting to the upset point."

It never surprises me how seriously we humans take our names and what people call us. So it kind of does surprise me that I don't get three of this question a week, since I think many many kids go through phases of calling a parent (or both) by a given name instead of an honorific. My mom still remembers when I did, and both of my kids have (although at younger ages than 5).

I would approach this the same way I approach whining. (I'm guessing this is pretty much the same way *everyone* approaches whining, not just me.) Don't understand what the kid says in the whiny voice, or when addressing Dad as Tim. "I don't understand who you're talking to. Did you mean Dad?" And just ignore a request or sentence addressed to Tim.

If the child gets no results from saying Tim, he'll start saying Dad soon. But you have to be consistent about it, and just matter-of-fact. it is hard for 5-year-olds to break habits sometimes, since they've got so much going on, but he'll figure it out when he gets a response right away if he says Dad, and not if he says Tim.

Did anyone else go through this with a kid this age? How long did it take to get your child to use the correct name?