Q&A: car seats in hot weather

People in NYC and Long Island–you can still win tickets to the Thomas Live shows, courtesy of PBS Sprout. Just scroll down and leave a memory in the comments of the posts from yesterday. I'll close them this evening and post the winners tonight.

Heather writes:

"Any suggestions {or perhaps your community will have them} for aconvertible car seat for a VERY sweaty baby who is about to have his
first Georgia summer? I love our infant system seat but even in the
winter he'd come out of it sweat soaked. I need ideas if anybody has
got them."

I am out of the car seat loop personally (my younger is in the same convertible I've had for years, and my older is in a belt-positioning booster), but this almost seems like more of a car seat *cover* issue than a car seat issue.

Most of the car seat covers seem to be made of that plush polyester that is supposed to feel nice, but really doesn't breathe. So maybe the question should be whether people know of a car seat that comes with a cover made of natural fibers, or if there's a natural fiber cover you can buy to fit car seats.

I know there are plenty of you out there in hot climates who must have some best practices for car seats in hot weather to share with Heather and the rest of the readers. Suggestions?

Contest: Free tickets to Thomas Live in NYC April 17

(Q&A below, so scroll down.)

The awesome people at PBS Sprout are offering a 4-pack of tickets to see the Thomas Live show at the Beacon Theater in NYC on April 17! To enter, post a memorable moment with your kid(s) in the comments section, and make sure you put your real email address in the "Email" box (you can hide it so only I can see it by putting "www.fake.com" in the "URL" field) so I can contact you if you win. I'll do a random (or as close to random as I can manage with my almost-4-year-old helping) drawing on Tuesday and post the winner Tuesday night.

(Long Island people, scroll down for the show in Uniondale.)

Contest: Free tickets to Thomas Live in Uniondale June 20

(Q&A below, so scroll down.)

The awesome people at PBS Sproutare offering a 4-pack of tickets to see the Thomas Live show in Uniondale on June 20! To enter, post a memorable moment
with your kid(s) in the comments section, and make sure you put your
real email address in the "Email" box (you can hide it so only I can
see it by putting "www.fake.com" in the "URL" field) so I can contact
you if you win. I'll do a random (or as close to random as I can manage
with my almost-4-year-old helping) drawing on Tuesday and post the
winner Tuesday night.

(NYC people, scroll up for the show on April 17.)

Q&A: another one of those tangled-up multi-kid sleep cluster@#$%s

You guys are awesome! Thanks for your support in the Ask Moxie Pledge Drive. If you want to donate and haven't yet, just click on the big yellow "Donate" button to the left.

Alison writes, with the subject line "Can't Sell 'Em":

Well, probablysomewhere I could sell at least one of them but I think the grandparents would
prefer if I held on to both of them. I have a daughter 21 months and a son 3
months and I think I am about to lose my mind.  Lord… who thought this
was a good idea?  I could list about 17 questions about how to keep either
one of them alive, but I'll stick to a practical appeal for
strategy.

We live in a 2
bedroom house.  Son sleeps in a bassinette in our room until my husband
comes to bed at which time said bassinette is dragged into the hallway.  I
go out and nurse in the living room as needed, while Sweet T sleeps away in her
own room, in her own crib.  However, soon Nate is going to be too big for
the bassinette. He can graduate into the Family Bassinette (source of many a
hilarious in-law tale) or, presumably, into Sweet T's crib.  I have no idea
how to do this.  Do I move T into her own bed first? Do everyone at once?
What about Nate waking T up when he wakes to nurse once they're finally sharing
a room? I usually hear him before he gets to a full-blown wail, living in fear
as I do that Sweet T will wake up, especially on nights when Daddy is at
work. Oh my. I get all in knots just thinking about it… They're going to
have to share a room, probably sooner rather than later.  Normally my
one-day-to-be-copywrited catchall "it's only a problem if you hate the solution
more" or its sister "it's either a good time or a good story" would get me
through this but I have no solution to even hate and God knows I have enough
stories to tell as it is (The One Where Talia Doesn't Want to Leave the
Aquarium; The One When Talia "Shares" the Chopsticks with Nate's Eyes"). 
Any previous learning to share a room experiences would be GREATLY appreciated,
especially with this particular age spread. "

So here is my advice: Call the grandparents and get them to come to your house for a week. Go on kayak.com and book flights for you and your husband to somewhere else for said week. When you come back, the grandparents will have worked their 1970s magic on your kids and they'll both be sleeping through the night in their own cribs.

No? Yeah, the '00s kind of suck for parenting, don't they?

I have no experience with this particular age spread, so I'm going to have to ask the readers for specifics about kids 18 months apart (I think I would have just melted into a puddle of tears and inadequacy if faced with that spread). But I have to say that I think that some of this is borrowed fear, and that if you can try to work yourself around into a (perhaps completely fake) position of just Taking It As It Comes, you might be able to weather the transition better.

A little strategy: There sees to be a window right around 5.5-6 months or so in which babies are sometimes much more malleable about sleeping, and this might be the best time to move him (if you can wait that long–he might be a baby Hercules and grow out of the bassinet way before that). Plenty of parents find that what they think is going to be a grueling switch ends up to be a couple of nights of discombobulation but nothing more at that age. So don't tie yourself in knots about it, when it could go perfectly easily.

Also, your daughter may or may not even wake up when her brother wakes up to nurse. Since you get there really soon (and probably have some of that mom sixth sense thing going on that wakes you up right when he wakes up), she may not even notice it. Or she may wake up and then go back to sleep again right away.

I, personally, would not move everyone all at once, as that leaves way too many variables, and if it all goes to crap in the first few nights you won't have any idea which things to back off of and which ones to continue on with. If there isn't a pressing reason to move your daughter out of her crib, then I wouldn't do it (unless shes one of those kids who's trying to get out on her own because she's insulted by the crib, in which case she might sleep better in a Big Girl bed). Is there an option of borrowing another crib so they can each be in their own cribs until your daughter's really ready to switch?

Once you've decided when you're going to do this, and who's going to be sleeping in which bed, I'd pick a day that your husband will be home and able to do some night parenting for a couple of nights in a row. Then just switch your son into his new bed in the kids' room and see what happens. Keep the rest of the routine as similar as you can to what you've been doing, and give it three nights to settle.

Readers, has anyone faced two kids with similar spacing? How did you get them sleeping in the same room without waking each other? Do you think we could get together some kind of Service Corps of Retired Parents to come get our kids to sleep for us?

Q&A: addicted to the internet

It's that time of year again–Ask Moxie Pledge Drive. If you think what you read here is worth the cost of a parenting book or a few lattes or a pair of sandals, please consider giving through the "Donate" button just to the left. Thanks! And read on for a truly sucky problem.

"Jane" writes:

"I think I'm addicted to the internet.  That's my problem, in a nutshell.

I'vealways kind of gone overboard with the internet.  When I worked outside
the home, I would get my work done quickly every day (my employers
always thought well of me and promoted me) but it was like…my
motivation was really just a desire to get the darn work out of the way
so that I could hang out online.  Read and write blogs and email, visit
social networking sites, etc.

Now that I stay
at home with my 2 year old son, I find that things aren't much
different.  I pretty much strive to spend as much of my day in front of
the computer, doing stuff on the internet, as possible.  I log in as
soon as I get up in the morning and often stay up far too late in order
to maximize my internet time, even if it means being sleep-deprived.
 This is starting to worry me, because being a good mom feels *so
important,* but I'm approaching it by just going through the motions,
you know?  I am an adequate mom, sure – I feed my child, get him
dressed, take him to playgroups, change his diaper, tend to his
immediate needs.  Nobody worries that my son is neglected or anything.
 And my son is very well-attached, we actually have a really close
relationship, so apparently I've done something right.  

But,
I don't really play with my child at all.  Every now and then I'll get
on the floor with some blocks or some Play-Doh, but I'll be bored after
about 20 seconds.  The sad truth is, I kind of hate doing that kid
stuff.  I love it when he plays independently, so that I can plonk my
butt down in front of the computer again.

Like
a lot of moms, part of this is exacerbated by my lack of social life.
 I am slowly building a network of local mommy friends (I just moved
here in September), but all my oldest and dearest friends live far
away, and we only "meet" online.  And I spend a lot of time on various
parenting websites connecting with moms there, too, many of whom I feel
more free to be "myself" around than my local mommy friends.  Part of
this is exacerbated by the weather – when it is warm, I do take my son
to the park where the internet is not a option, but it's not warm
today.  Part of this is exacerbated by our living situation, too –
we're apartment-dwellers and everyone else in this complex seems to be
childless 23 year olds, so it's not like I have a neighbor with a
toddler to socialize with just over the back fence, you know?

All
those excuses aside, though, in reality it seems that I simply don't
like doing the nitty-gritty of SAHM work (interacting with my child,
 playing with my child).  It was easier when he was an infant and I
could nurse him while reading a book, you know?  But thinking back to
how it was hardly any better in the workplace, maybe this is just a ME
thing rather than a SAHM thing?  Maybe I'm just too excited about the
internet?  And I just don't know how to fix it.  Every now and then I
try to limit my internet time (just when he's napping!  just one hour!)
but it never lasts.  I even bought an egg timer, but the timer broke
and I quickly convinced myself that was a sign I should go online as
often as I want.  Besides, when I do make myself get off the internet
I'm so bored so quickly that I end up tossing the child in the car and
just driving around, sometimes for hours, because even aimless driving
feels like more fun than playing toddler games.

Meanwhile,
my son has a pretty severe speech delay.  I can't help blaming myself a
little bit.  If I was the kind of mom who did crafts or sang songs or
made alphabet charts or *taught* my son anything at all, maybe he would
know more words.  Maybe if I didn't waste so much time in front of the
computer, he would know more words.  So every now and then I say, "I'm
going to do better, I'm going to teach my child!"  Only to find my
willpower totally crumbles.  Then I see so many of my mommy friends
casually and cheerfully *doing* stuff with their kids all the time, and
I feel so inadequate.  Sometimes I think my son needs to be in daycare
just to get some darn stimulation.  But I'm pregnant with #2, so going
back to work is not really an option right now.

I guess I figured I'd write to you, because if I was going to find any other moms who have been there, it would be here…"

Oh, Jane. I'm so sorry.

It sounds to me like there are two things going on, one worse than the other. Let's start with the big kahuna: internet addiction. You obviously have a history of being addicted to the internet, and it sounds like you've figured out that you really can't control it anymore. (Your story of convincing yourself that the timer breaking was a sign would be funny if it wasn't so out-of-control.)

Some people would make this about the internet. The internet's so evil
and compelling, blah blah blah. But this isn't about the specific
properties of the internet–it's about addiction. This is the same as
if you were watching endless episodes of "Law & Order" all day, or
playing poker online, or eating sugar constantly, or smoking pot all the
time. It's about the way you're trying to find something to connect
with because you're not able to connect with your real life, and the way you're trying to make yourself feel satisfied and normal and OK, but it's only with this one activity that you feel good.

Addiction is sometimes a form of self-medication. I wonder if you have a mood disorder or something else that you're using the internet to medicate against. The affect of your email, and the way you describe the rest of your world–parenting, friendships, etc.–sounds so flat and you sound so disengaged from it, that it makes me think of the times I've been in depression. I wonder if you've got mild depression, anxiety, or some other mood disorder that you're treating the feelings of by going for the internet rush. (Skipping sleep to be on the internet is another big sign to me that you're treating something else going on in your brain.)

If you've got something going on with your brain chemistry, then you're not going to be able to go cold turkey off the internet, or even back off very successfully. You need to treat the cause of your addiction so you can get a foothold in stopping it. (Note: I'm suggesting the following plan because Jane's addiction is ruining her quality of life, but isn't physically dangerous for her to continue for a couple of weeks while she works on it from the other end. If she was addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or anything else that was physically dangerous I would NOT advocate trying to stabilize her brain chemistry before she started weaning off the addictive object.)

I want you to do a couple of things, and then report back in to us in two weeks:

1) Tell someone in your real life that you're addicted to the internet and are going to need emotional support to get off the addiction. Yeah, this conversation could be tough, depending on who your choices are of people to tell. But, look, you told me. And you're telling all the readers. And you're not lying to yourself. If there's no one in your real life that you can trust with this or who will take you seriously, then just skip to step 2 and come back and look at it again in two weeks.

2) Support your brain nutritionally. Every day you should take all three of the following supplements:
* 2,000-3,000 mg of fish oil or flax seed oil (as oil or capsules),
* two droppers full of B-complex vitamins (you can get sublingual drops from any drugstore or big box store) spread out at different times of day,
* magnesium, either by itself or as a combo calcium-magnesium supplement about 20 minutes before you go to bed.

3) Go outside first thing every morning with your son, and walk around briskly for 20 minutes. If it's raining, dance or do something else that will raise your pulse rate for 20 minutes. Do this in the morning to set your internal clock and to get some sunshine into you (if there is sunshine where you live).

4) Make an appointment and go see your doctor, and tell her/him that you're not taking joy in normal daily activities. Mention that you're upping your nutritional supplementation and exercise, but ask about screening for depression, anxiety, ADD, and other mood disorders, as well as a thyroid level check.

5) Realistically look at your diet and find any culprits that may be making your brain chemistry cycle worse. There's a reason people who go to AA meetings get addicted to the coffee and pastries at the meetings–it all hits the brain in the same place and soothes the same burn. But, ultimately, the caffeine and sugar can get you into a cycle of needing even more of those things and of your addictive substance (the internet, in your case). I'm not saying stop right now, but I am saying take a look and see if you're making your addiction worse by feeding it carbs and caffeine. (Obviously, if you're using alcohol and/or drugs that's making it way worse, too, but I think it's easier to be in denial about sugar and caffeine.) If you need to stop using carbs or caffeine you can do that when you're a little more stable.

I am betting that if you can do these things you'll start to restore your brain chemistry a little. Two weeks of supplements and sunshine and exercise could give you a little toehold, and getting checked out by your doctor could yield some other interesting information to help you move away from your dependence on the internet. Once you've got a little breathing room, it's time to address the second factor at play: the boredom of being a SAHM to a toddler.

Being a SAH parent to a toddler can be brutally boring. Toddlers are delightful and sweet, but their games and interests are repetitive (understatement). If you're the kind of person who is into this stage you can deal with it, but there are tons of us who just are not down-on-the-floor, building-towers-with-blocks-all-day kinds of parents. There's nothing wrong with that.

So please, if you're thinking "I don't like to play with my 2-year-old all the time," that doesn't mean you're unusual in any way. In past generations NO ONE WAS EXPECTED TO BE STIMULATING THEIR CHILDREN ALL THE TIME. Sorry to shout, but let's be real here: Expectations have changed, and they're not always realistic. One adult alone in a house or apartment with a small child all day is ridiculous enough without the added expectation that we be specifically teaching our kids stuff all the time. The whole flash card culture seems designed to make parents feel guilty and kids feel pressured, and doesn't seem to be resulting in more productive, connected, interesting people than we had back when it was enough just to be present with your children when they needed you and to interact with them throughout the day.

I could rant about this all day, but I'm going to bring it back to apply directly to Jane's problem of internet addiction: It's hard to kick an addiction to something when the alternative is something you don't find compelling. If there's no real payoff (in satisfaction or endorphins) to the official activity, then you'll rush through it to be able to get to your addiction.

That worked when you were rushing through your work at your job to get to the internet. But now, taking care of your child, it seems like you're misunderstanding the basic requirements and therefore missing the mark.

Let me explain: You've got the physical tasks down, and are able to rush through them to get to the internet. And you're doing an awesome job beating yourself up for not doing flash cards and getting down on the floor to play with toys or "teaching" your son to talk. But those aren't the central tasks of parenting. The central task of parenting is being there for your child. And by checking out by being either on the internet or wishing you were on the internet, you're not fulfilling that requirement very well.

The penalty for not fulfilling the requirement isn't that your son has speech delays, or that he's going to be behind, or even that you two don't have a bond. It's that you know that you're not the parent you can be. And that you're basically checking out of your son's life. This is about you, and who you could be, and what this addiction is robbing you of. It's robbing you of being present. It's robbing you of making connections with other SAH parents so you have support and camaraderie for the journey. It's robbing you of discovering who you are, and figuring out what your parenting strengths are if you don't like to play on the floor.

We do what we have to do. There are mothers who work three jobs to keep their kids in a safe living space and clothes and food, and they miss out on a lot of their children's childhoods. But they're doing what they have to do, and they're there to the maximum that they can be for their kids. Living with an addiction that separates you from your child, and you from yourself, is not something you have to do. You took the f
irst step by emailing me. Take the next few steps by telling someone else, supporting your brain chemistry, and talking to your doctor. You deserve better and you can have better.

Readers, I'm looking for support for Jane. Tales of getting healthy? Figuring out what you're good at if  you're not a playing kind of parent? How to find friends to pass the day with? Healing from a mood disorder so you can interface with the world again?

Q&A: brushing a toddler’s teeth

Susan writes:

"Can we please talk about brushing teeth?  My son is 16 months old andbrushing his teeth is a major struggle.  Or, rather, if we were to
actually properly brush his teeth it would be a major struggle.  He has
7 teeth and has not yet been to a dentist.

We didn't actually start trying to brush until he was 12 months
(somehow we just didn't realize we were supposed to be doing this), and
he was and is very, very resistant to letting us put the toothbrush in
his mouth and actually get a good brush of the gums and teeth.  He is
the sort that really doesn't like much manhandling or manipulation —
he will scream and cry and writhe while we cut his fingernails as well.

In any event, we have not wanted to push the toothbrushing and pin him
down to do it.  I'm not even sure, technically, how we would accomplish
this.  I figured this would not only be really unpleasant, but might
create such bad lasting associations with toothbrushing that he would
always hate it.  So we've just tried to get him interested in the
toothbrush and the whole process by doing it all together as a family
while he's in the bathtub, showing him how Mom and Dad do it, and so
forth.  Now he's actually really, really interested in the toothbrush
and the toothpaste (we have the nonflouride kind that's safe for kids),
and insists on using every toothbrush in the house during his bath.
 But I can't actually say that he's "brushing" his teeth.  He is
sucking and chewing on the toothbrush.  If, while he has the brush in
his mouth, I try to grab the handle and actually move it in a brushing
motion over his teeth, he cries and clamps his mouth shut and turns his
head away.

But I'm really worried that we're neglecting him by not forcing him to
let us really, actually brush his teeth and gums.  But then I don't
know if pinning a kid down and forcing it on him is right, either.

So I wonder if our current method is sufficient for a kid with 7 teeth,
or if we should really force the brushing, or if we can wait until he's
older with more teeth and more communication skills, etc."

I am always in favor of doing the thing that traumatizes everyone the least. Unless there's no other option, it's better to choose the method that leaves everyone the most personal dignity. This is not a do-or-die situation, just one you need to keep improving.

So I'd continue to work on getting him to open up for you to brush his teeth, but not worry too much that it's not happening this exact week. We are supposed to still be brushing our kids' teeth for them until they're at least age 5 (and I think some adults I know still actually need help brushing their teeth), so you can't just give up the fight by letting him do it himself. But you can keep being gentle about it and making it a game.

I've known several people who got their kids to brush the parent's teeth, and then the parent would brush the kid's teeth. That way it turns into a funny game in which everyone lets someone else brush their teeth, so it's a game and not an invasion of his personal space. Once your son's older you can start getting the fun character electric toothbrushes, or the ones that play a song for the length of time you're supposed to keep brushing. If you can keep it fun it'll click in eventually.

I'd also make sure you've got toothpaste with xylitol (unless you or your child has fructose absorption issues that hedra talks about here), which is a sugar from birch trees that is really, really, REALLY good at killing the bacteria that cause tooth decay. If you are still nursing, you should start using products with xylitol (gum, toothpaste, etc.) yourself, as there's evidence that a nursing mother's use of xylitol helps protect her child's teeth for years, even after she's stopped nursing the child. I know some of the Tom's of Maine kids' toothpaste gels have xylitol, as do the Natural Dentist kids' toothpastes.

Or you could just temporarily give up on the toothbrush and wipe his teeth with the xylitol Spiffies tooth wipes that work for babies and toddlers who don't want a brush in their mouths. They have a very gentle natural grapey flavor that kids don't seem to mind at all. In another few months he might be ready for another try with letting you brush his teeth.

Lastly, make an appointment with a pediatric dentist. Ask other parents for recommendations (parents who have older children will definitely have them), and you'll be able to find a good pediatric dentist who won't freak your son out and who will be able to tell you how he's doing toothwise in general. It'll probably make you feel better about your progress.

Readers, how old were your kids when you started actually being able to brush their teeth? When you took them to the dentist for the first time?

Q&A: 19-month-old with tantrums

Ann writes:

"My son, who is now 19 months, has entered the wonderful world of temper tantrums. We've figured out that a tantrum is morelikely when a meal is later than normal, so we're handling that. I've
seen Harvey Karp's "Happiest Toddler on the Block" video, and I was
trying that technique (basically, speak for your toddler, matching
his/her level of emotional intensity: "You're frustrated! You don't
want to whatever, you want to keep playing!" etc.). But here's my
problem: frequently, I don't know why he's having a tantrum. I have no
clue what set him off, so I can't "speak for him." Also, when I have
known what he was upset about and then used the technique, he gets
*madder* — I think he thinks I'm yelling *at* him.

So, for now,
it seems that Karp's method isn't working for us (I'm guessing it works
better on older toddlers). Any advice on ending tantrums?"

Ah, ending tantrums. If only. While thinking about this question, I realized that I'd texted a mini-tantrum to my mother earlier in the day. So I'm 100% positive that there's no way to end tantrums completely, at least until your child is older than 36. (Although the tantrums are probably far less annoying when they happen by electronic communication than by screaming in your ears. So there's that to look forward to.)

I could give my opinion, but I kind of don't have one because I got my butt kicked by both of my kids in that stage. It's just really tough, and it falls into a huge gap in the literature. You can't really just redirect like you do with babies, but they're still too young for the Dr. Karp caveman method (decent summary here). I've got plenty for dealing with older kids, some of which is similar to Dr. Karp's stuff, but really nothing for this age.

Fortunately, however, we all have Sharon Silver. You may remember that I love her because she's got actual techniques for dealing with the toddler and preschool age, the notorious discipline gap age. (I also love that she hangs out here and kind of provides a little beacon of hope that we'll survive the tsunami years of parenting.) So I asked her to write something for Ann, and her answer kind of surprised me and made me wish I'd known about her and her website (www.proactiveparenting.net) back when my were that age.

Sharon answers:

"These days I see a lot of websites calling any kind of tantrum
“a battle of wills”. A tantrum can definitely be perceived that way, but let me
share a slightly different take on tantrums. A 19-month-old tantrum is very different
than an older child’s tantrum. A 19-month-old tantrum is based in emotional overwhelm
and frustration. An older child’s tantrum is based in getting what they want.
An older child’s tantrum may cause them to get emotional and frustrated but it
begins with I want what I want.

Let me share how a tantrum begins so you can give yourself
a break and maybe make a shift in parental thinking. A 19-month-old is just now
beginning to see himself as separate from you and that idea can be overwhelming
at times. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how a 19-month-old finds himself
in a tantrum.

He sees a toy he wants across the room, he heads in the
direction of the toy and out of the corner of his eye he sees mom walk out of
the room. He becomes confused and panicky, should I go for the toy or follow
mom? He doesn’t know *how* to decide which direction he should go. He isn’t
verbal enough to express his confusion; he wants mom and the toy. He’s
overwhelmed with the choice and gets even more scared. Now he feels wet stuff (tears)
leaking from his eyes, hears his heart beating loudly and has no clue what that
sound is, so he collapses into a total meltdown. He has no idea how he got this
upset and becomes more upset because he’s so upset. He’s caught in an emotional
circle and has no idea how to get out.

Some children get angry with a parent and kick and scratch
but most just fall into an emotional puddle and cry as if begging for help.

If you follow Dr. Karp's suggestions at this point and
begin repeating his reaction back at him, I can see how frustrated that would make
him. He probably feels as if no one who has a clue is helping him get out of
the situation. I would be mad too!

At this point some parents yell at a child to “stop it
now” but they can’t. They have no idea how they got in this mess and even less
of an idea how to stop it now, so the tantrum continues.

This does not seem like a battle of wills to me. This
seems like a true cry for help and I believe it should be treated as such. You
need to be his soft place to land, you need to be empathetic and use calming
sounds with few words. Do some humming as you hold and rock him, if he’ll let
you. If not, just stay close. This allows him to latch on to the sound of your
voice and relax a bit.

This will pass as he becomes more verbal. You’ll
instinctively know when the tantrums begin leaning more toward an older child’s
tantrum. He will become more aggressive and it will be more about I want what I
want versus I’m so frustrated and scared that I can’t contain myself anymore.

Yes, tantrums can easily occur when a child is hungry,
sounds like you figured that part out. I just wrote an article on tantrums and food;
here’s what I suggested.

Parents of young children can create a container in the
refrigerator that’s always filled with ready-to-go healthy foods, things like
lunch meat, veggies and dip, fruit, yogurt, leftovers etc, since toddlers have
no ability to wait. I also suggest you use the food from the container to feed a
child this young the bulk of his meal before the family, just like you did when
he was a baby. This allows you to have dinner at your regular time, creating
less rushing for you and less tantrums for him. I know eating as a family is
very important, but it’s not the eating of the food that’s so important, it’s
the time spent together. Since your child has been partially fed from their
special container, which kept the tantrum at bay, now invite him to finish dinner
with the family or have him join you for desert. This way you get to have a
calmer family meal with less tantruming.

No parent can truly know what a preverbal child is thinking or feeling. I hope this helps you give yourself a break."

Hooray for giving ourselves a break! Thanks, Sharon. Ann, I hope this helps with your little guy.

Q&A: What to feed a 1-year-old?

Bree writes:

"I’m wondering – what exactly does one feed a one-year old? (food, right?). My baby is 11 months old right now and she’s pretty much off of purees and feeds herself small chunk foods (avocado, rice, tofu, banana, canned fruit/vegetable chunks, beans). She gets some breastmilk and some formula (she goes through a 32oz. can of powdered formula a week). I think she’s actually eating less than when she was getting jarred food, but she doesn’t put up with jarred food much anymore but I don’t think it’s a big deal because she tops off with formula.  Anyway, I’d like to work on switching her from formula to milk (either cow or goat – I haven’t decided yet), but it seems that formula is a very different kind of nutrition than regular milk. (also – in regards to weaning off a bottle – I don’t think it would be hard, she likes her born free sippy cups – but is there any real reason to do so?). So – should she be off of formula? Can she be off of formula (it is expensive!)? Should we do anything to replace the nutritional benefits of formula?

Oh and she’s a pretty little kid in general – regularly hits the bottom 5% of the growth chart for weight – but does grow consistently."

To start off, it doesn't matter if she's in the bottom 5%, as long as she grows consistently. Speaking as the mother of a child who was always in the top 5%, someone's got to be on either end for the concept of "average" to work. If a kid stops growing, that can indicate a problem, but as long as a kid follows the curve, it doesn't matter where the curve is on the chart.

And I think you're dead on with your instinct that there's no real reason to wean off the bottle at a year. If you accept the idea that a child can nurse past one year (and I'm guessing you do), then why shouldn't a kid be able to use a bottle past a year? The whole point, as I see it, is to start getting a kid to be able to drink out of a cup right around that time. But that doesn't mean you have to take the bottle away. Instead, just introduce a cup with water to get the kid started on the long road to Drinking Like An Adult.

(Speaking of which, you know there's no medical reason for sippy cups? I eschewed them, because drinking from a sippy is not a lifelong skill, so I thought it was a waste of a learning curve. I went with a straw cup instead, as drinking from a straw is something my kids will do later in life. You could also go with a sport-top cup, as most adult occasionally drink out of sport-tops, too. If you like the sippy cup, though, carry on with it. Everyone's got the baby equipment they feel most comfortable with.)

I'm going to suggest that you read the Ellen Satyr book that everyone loves: Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense. She's got a great philosophy about feeding, and the book contains tons of historical and nutritional information about how babies have been and are fed, and what they really need when.

The other strength of the book is that it encourages you to follow your instincts, and that's what I'm going to tell you to do, too. If you feel like changing over to milk from formula at a year is not adequate, then don't. Plenty of people still give some formula past a year, or transition their children by cutting the formula progressively with milk over the course of a few weeks or months. Nothing bad is going to happen if you stick with formula, and if you're worried that she's not going to get enough nutrition from the foods she's eating, then do what feels right to you.

But also know that many parents are convinced that their kids are hardly eating anything, and yet still they grow and thrive. As long as you are putting nutritious foods in front of her, she'll eat what she needs (barring any metabolic or other feeding disorders, of course). And most of the kids in the US, at least, these days are drinking milk (instead of formula or breastmilk) after a year. So it's fine to have her off formula if she's OK with it and you're OK with it.

What did you guys do about getting off formula or breastmilk, and when did you do it? How did it go? Is there anything you'd change about the process you went through?

Q&A: twins hitting the 13-month regression

I'm in Florida and may not have internet access this week, so I won't get any super-pressing emails.

And now as a counterbalance to Friday's "parenthood is wonderful" post, a different question. Josy writes:

"I am writing to you b/c i seriously feel at my wits end. Maybe you have some insight or your readers that eventuallythis will change!

My twin baby girls (13 months old) are going through an insane clingy stage (I hope!) and I am about to put them in their cribs and go out for ice cream.

Not
really, obviously, but I just want to leave b/c the alternative is me
sobbing/banging my head against a wall/ as well as being the ultimate
stressed out mom. oh, yeah and I have 2 more kids.

Its been a
really hard year; my son is turning 6 this week, my daughter is 2.5 and
was only 15 months old when the babies were born….So the last 3 years
have just been non- stop pregnancy, nursing, having babies up to my
forehead.. I'm ready for things to change and just get a tad easier now
that the babies reached a year but no, the last 2 weeks have been
cranked everything up to a more unbearable level.

The girls
had a stomach bug, throwing up, the whole bit, and sleep was off. Now
the sickness gone  but I can't walk across the room without them both
falling over screaming their heads off. They crawl after me wailing,
and even if I simply stop at the sink to wash a couple dishes or help
my toddler, they just wail until I pick them up. Up until the last few
days I have been wearing one in an ergo and carrying the other, but
like I said, I've hit the bottom. I DON"T WANT TO! I don't want to
carry them everywhere, I don't want to pick them up every time they
scream but what can I do!? At crazy times (like when I'm washing poop
out of the toddler's potty or making lunch for my other kids) I've
stuck them in their cribs so that at least they were in the other room
and I could actually make lunch. Of course, they just scream til I get
them out- there's never a moment of settling down and playing with toys
or anything like that (even when they aren't in cribs- they want to be
sitting on me).

They
are the pickiest eaters I've ever experienced and are still nursing, so
my hunch is that they are cranky b/c they're hungry but don't eat enough
solids and just wait to nurse to fill up. Meanwhile they just cry until
I give in and nurse (which I have been trying to cut back to just 4-5
times a day!) and then they are happy, if only briefly. I've been
trying to offer milk in a sippy cup but they hardly ever try it, and
often spit it out immediately. I don't want to start giving them
bottles at this point.

Am
I doomed- is this just their personalities? Did I do wrong by just
carrying them around for a year? My other kids were not like this. Is
it a twin thing? Are they just starving for individual attention that
they will rarely ever get? I would love some other thoughts or just a
huge fast-forward button so I can see how we are all doing in 2 years,
please!"

Before I start: Holy shit, woman. Twins with a 15-month-old and a 5-year-old?? You are Wonder Woman.

Now: You did nothing wrong. Nothing, nothing, nothing. This is all normal, because your twins are at the 13-month developmental leap. It has nothing to do with their being twins, or anything you did. It's normal, and it's just a sucky stage that they'll come out of. (You can read all about the developmental leaps that cause cranky phases and sleep regressions through the first year+ in The Wonder Weeks.)

All kids are different, and some hit different leaps and regressions with different intensity. It sounds like your older two children are just not as intense in general, but also didn't have such a tough time at 13 months. Which is, you know, good, except that you didn't realize that it's awfully common for babies to just flip out right after they turn a year. And you got it with twice the intensity because you had two kids going through it at the same time.

It sounds to me like you've been responding to them as they needed you to. They needed more holding, so you gave it to them. But that didn't cause this. They're not letting you cut down on the nursing exactly because they're in this clingy phase, which is also why they're not letting you out of their sight, either, without wigging out. It would be horrific enough without all the other needs you've got rattling around in your house at the same time.

The Rolling Stones wrote a little song about this stage, and you can hear it here. (Hint–it's not about going out for ice cream.)

Anyway, this is not going to last forever. In fact, I'd predict it won't last another month.

In the meantime, I think you need a break. A major, major break. If I had unlimited funds, I'd send you away for a week alone to a spa in Sedona. I think a more practical solution, though, would be to see if you could get a mother's helper (the human kind, not the pill kind) from one of the middle school or high school kids in the neighborhood who wanted to make a few extra bucks by coming every couple days and entertaining your kids while you took a bath or something by yourself.

Because you need time to think, and not be dealing with everyone else's needs all day long. It's just not humane for one adult human to be trapped as sole caretaker for children all day long. And four kids, two of whom are going through a major cranky phase, are enough to drive you around the bend.

Oh–two other things: 1) It's possible that they won't ever drink cows' milk. If they don't, it's not a huge deal. Just feed them calcium-rich foods and let them drink water. My infamous brother (the one who Never Took a Bottle Ever) also never drank cows' milk ever, and he's a college graduate who loves his career and is about to marry a wonderful woman, and he has all his teeth and strong bones and can out-think me with little effort. 2) Figure out whether it's worse for you to hear them cry, or to pick them up every time, and then do the thing that's not worse. It won't hurt them at this point to be unhappy for 10 minutes while you're doing something else or just taking a few minutes alone. But if the crying stresses you out more than the picking up does, then pick them up.

Empathy for Josy? Tales of the 13-month developmental leap and how it made you want to leap? If you had the choice between taking drugs yourself or drugging your children, which would be most useful to you during a developmental leap/sleep regression? (You know I'm joking. Mostly.) Am I the only one who's had a complete moment of "Oh, NOW I get why all the women in older generations say their kids were so perfect–they've blocked all of it out because it was so demoralizing!"?

And Happy Monday, everyone. 😉

Q&A: having a baby worries

LB writes:

"I'm a pre-mommy who needs some advice from wise already-mommies! Myhusband and I are gearing up to start trying for a baby next month. We
have discussed this for *years*. I think I'm ready, but I am still
having a LOT of baby anxiety. I'm worried about if I can manage the
pregnancy/birth well, how I can possibly work full time with an hour
commute one way while breastfeeding, about being a bad mother, and
about all the awful things I might do to screw up a child. Then there
are all the selfish worries, like will I have to give up my identity
and life, can my husband and I maintain a good relationship, what is
this going to do to my body, am I going to have to give up caring about
my career, can I still keep my hobbies, will my husband and I have to
be broke forever, etc. Eep.

Still, my heart keeps returning to the idea that I DO want a family and
feel somewhat ready. I was talking to a friend of mine (a mother) about
all this, and she said if I was having these fears I obviously wasn't
ready to have a baby. She said she knew being a mom was right for her
and didn't look back. And then my sister-in-law has had a really easy
time with her 5 month old, and keeps saying that things are going so
smoothly because she was so prepared. (Of course, she's also working
part time, has a husband who can work from home often, and has work/daycare 5 minutes from home when she does work.)

Now, my smart, aware side (the side of me that reads your blog!) knows
these are probably exceptions to the rules, but the pre-mommy doubt is
creeping in. I guess I just need to know how other people felt before
having their babies or what advice they might give, because right now
I'm feeling like a lonely, messed up, selfish loser who never deserves
to be a mom. :("

You know, if only people who "deserved" to be parents became parents, then the human race would have died off a long time ago. I'm happy for your friends that they both were super-sure they were ready, but, honestly, I think they're the exception. I also think that the mom of the 5-month-old might be telling a different story when the 9-month sleep regression hits…

You know, the more I think about this, the more I think your friends are giving you bad information. There is a ton of stuff that comes up in parenting that you have NO CONTROL over, so to imply that people who are "prepared" (and what does that mean, anyway?) are going to have an easier time with parenting is magical thinking. You can read every book, take every class, buy every product available, and be super-positive that motherhood is going to be the apex of self-actualization, and your kid might come out colicky or with reflux or with delays or trouble latching or high-intensity or any other thing that makes parenting super-challenging.

Honestly, it makes me a little angry that someone thinks everything's
going so well for her because of something she did! That basically
means that she thinks that people who have problems with their babies
are having problems because they haven't done things the right way. That's insulting, misogynistic, and ridiculous.

And this idea that not being positive you want to be a mom means you won't be a good one is just plain wrong. I can still remember staring at that stick with the two lines and thinking, "What the hell have I done???" And, you know what? I'm a really good mother. And for the most part, I've enjoyed parenting immensely. The stretch marks, notsomuch, but the personal growth has been outstanding. Plus, I have these two awesome people in my life that make everything so much richer. There are an awful lot of us out there who were scared but are overjoyed to have our kids in our lives.

I think there are very, very few people who felt absolutely ready to have a baby. Or maybe they felt ready until they were actually pregnant, or maybe they were completely ready for a baby but having a toddler terrified them. But the secret to parenting is that you just show up. Every morning you get out of bed and do whatever needs to be done. And you don't actually have to like it or be particularly good at it–you just do it.

It's really not this binary thing: Ready/not ready. Worthy/not worthy. Good mother/bad mother. Prepared/unprepared. You are a work in progress. Parenting is wonderful and horrible and makes you stretch and beats you down. Your body grows another person! But then you don't sleep for 14 months straight. And that person smiles at you! And then poops all over your favorite shirt. And you know you're forming this amazing bond! But you feel like you're never really concentrating on your kid *or* your job anymore.

I think the trick is to stay in touch with whatever feelings you're having, and don't feel guilty about them. NO ONE likes being a parent all the time. (Of course now that I've typed that, someone's going to comment that she loves every second of it, even the time her kid puked into her mouth or wiped buttery fingers on her power suit as she was walking out the door to litigate an important case.) And knowing that and being OK with that, and with yourself, is what makes it all possible.

So don't worry about being absolutely sure. And don't worry about whether you're supposed to want a child or not. If you're feeling misgivings, think about them, and talk about them (although not with those two friends!). Maybe you'll start trying to get pregnant, and you'll make it through like the rest of us do, fears and apprehensions and all. Or maybe you'll feel like the idea of parenthood stresses you out too much and you're going to table the idea of kids for another 6 months or year or two. Or maybe you'll decide not to have kids at all, and that will be OK.

Oh, and the answer to your questions: Yes, an hour long commute each way is going to kill you. No, you won't feel like yourself for awhile. Yes, your marriage will probably survive but you'll need to be conscious about being kind to each other. Your hobbies will go on indefinite hiatus but you won't care. You will absolutely and completely mourn your old body, so show it off now while you still can. And you will screw up your kid in an infinite number of ways, but probably not any that are irreparable. Your life will get more confusing, harder, and way richer than it is now. Some minutes you'll regret it, but most weeks you won't. It will change your life.

Readers? Did anyone out there get pregnant accidentally and end up being a better parent than you thought you'd be? Or even get pregnant on purpose but then get completely !@#$%^ing terrified during the pregnancy and still end up being a good-to-great parent? Or did you think you'd be good at one aspect of parenting but end up being good at something completely different? Or think you'd love it but instead you're just hanging in there until your kid is older and more of a conversationalist?

Oh, and while you're at it, how did your life change in ways you predicted, and in ways you didn't?