Q&A: losing your former in-laws

Anonymous, who is a mother of two little kids and is thiiiiiis close to being completely legally divorced, writes:

"Is it strange that I really am mourning the loss of my relationship with
my Inlaws more than I am mourning the loss of any happy relationship
with my soon to be ex-spouse?"

I say no. Not at all strange.

For a lot of us who are divorced or in the process of divorce or splitting up or realizing we can't go on, there's a moment when you realize your (ex-)spouse was never really, truly, a friend to you. As much as you told yourself s/he was at the time, or wanted it to be so, you can often look back and realize the other person was at worst cruel or at best disengaged in a way a real friend wouldn't have been. But it's hard to see that when you're in it. There's a constant tug-of-war between what you want to be, and what your spouse wants to be, and it often gets really blurred and the fa├žade and the reality intrude on each other.

But in-laws seem to be more obviously either friend or foe. Either they are truly supportive and want you to be part of the family, or they make it obvious that you don't measure up. If they've been actively hostile, losing them in a divorce can relieve a lot of stress. But if you luck into the supportive kind, it can be like losing your own family if you lose them when you split up.

I wish that former in-laws could all realize that they still need to have a relationship with the parents of their grandchildren. No matter what those parents have done or what they perceive those parents to have done (barring abusive or illegal things), they still have a connection to each other. It's better for children to have their parents and grandparents communicating and being as kind to each other as possible.

But you can't force other people to do the right thing. You can only behave yourself in a way that invites openness and care. And if your former in-laws are determined not to continue a caring relationship with you, then you need to circle your own emotional wagons and do what you need to to heal yourself while still allowing your children to enjoy their grandparents.

Any thoughts? Has anyone else felt this way about losing former in-laws? How did you make it through?

Daylight Savings Time check-in

So. How did the switch to Daylight Savings time go for you? Please put your observational data, including anything you did to ease the transition and whether it worked or not, in the comments. Don't forget to put your child's age, and anything else relevant (normal bedtimes and waking times, how many times your kid normally wakes up, etc.)

My data:

8-year-old: Did not want to go to sleep at the normal bedtime for 4-5 days. Woke up an hour later than usual for the first 2 days. No other symptoms. (Bedtime at 8:30, wakes on his own any time between 6:30 and 7, no night wakings.)

Almost-5-year-old: Did not want to go to sleep at the normal bedtime for 7-8 days. Woke upan hour later than usual for the first 4 days. No other symptoms.
(Bedtime at 8:30, wakes on his own around 7. No night wakings.)

37-year-old: Could not fall asleep before 1 for the first 4-5 days. Could not, for the life of me, wake up when my alarm went off at 6:15 for the first week, and still struggling with it, although I can fall asleep at night now. 

Please participate so we can see if particular ages are more susceptible to the spring change vs. the fall change. Thank you!

Watery eyes

Now with update!

Seasonal allergies. I forget I have them. In fact, I only realized that's what they were when I was mentally describing myself to myself this morning as "It feels like I'm swimming around in a vat of jello." And I remembered that that's what it felt like last year. Funny how storytelling is my main sensory mode.

Anyway, last year I tried Claritin, and the other one (Zyrtec?), and neither gave me enough relief for the side effects they caused. Since this is a 6-week problem for me, it doesn't seem to be worth going through getting allergy shots.

Then I thought about the children, and all the little kids who go through this every year, and who can't be medicated to the teeth, either. (Hey, did you know the number 1 symptom of environmental allergies in little kids is dark circles under the eyes?)

So, what do you have for me and all of us on natural treatments for seasonal allergies, that will work for adults and children? I'm going to try the Zicam nose gel stuff first, and will let you know how it goes. But what else has worked? It seems to me that acupuncture should work on this, but has anyone tried it? Vitamin supplements? Eating local honey helps a little, but not enough for me. Self-hypnosis? Any kind of wacky leaves or berries I can ingest orally or or use as a poultice?

Update: Based on advice from the comments, I'm not going to try the nose gel. Instead, I'm mainlining Vitamin C in the form of EmergenC powder (raspberry flavor, to be specific). I'm going to try for 3,000 mgs a day for this next week.

Baby growth spurts

Last week I got to hold a 6-week-old baby. Baby S is alert and sweetand communicative and snuggly. And hungry. I walked into Baby S's
parents' apartment and said "Hi" and his mom said "He's been
clusterfeeding all day" in that tone of voice second-time mothers use.
I got there around 6:30 pm, and he'd been nursing for five hours, more
or less straight, and he nursed for most of the three hours I was

I know we're not supposed to overpraise kids, but Baby S is *really
good* at having a growth spurt. (His mom is good at riding it out, too.)

Here are the growth spurt basics:

* They happen at around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months.
* They happen in breastfed and bottlefed babies.
* You will recognize a growth spurt because the baby will eat more for
anywhere from a few hours one day to all day for 3 or 4 days in a row.
And it could be anything from eating a little bit more, to an all-out
nursing almost constantly for hours at a time like Baby S (and both of
my kids) did.
* Some babies hit all growth spurts hard. Some babies don't seem to hit
growth spurts with any particular vigor. Some babies hit one or two of
the growth spurts harder than the others. It's all normal.
* For breastfed babies, the point is to bring your milk supply up. So if
you're nursing for hours and you feel tapped out, your baby may still
keep nursing anyway. Then in a day or two you'll be making way more
milk, which your baby will be more efficient at drinking (because of
the growth part of the growth spurt) so feedings probably won't take
any longer and might stretch out a lot.
* Lots of babies will sleep longer stretches after they come out of a
growth spurt. (But not all, so don't hate me if yours doesn't.)
* If you're bottlefeeding, the growth spurt is your cue that your baby is
going to start taking more formula at a feeding. But, as with breastfed
babies, the feedings might stretch out a little once the spurt is over.
* If you think of it, take a picture of your baby as soon as you figure
out it's a growth spurt. Then take another picture the next day. My
kids grew visibly over the course of a day during their 6-week growth
spurts. Hilarious.
* You're doing a good job. The growth spurts can make you feel out of
control and inadequate, but they're normal and you're doing all the
right things. Have a glass of water and some chocolate.

Anecdotes about growth spurts? One of my worst parenting moments was in
day 1 of my older son's 3-week growth spurt, which happened when he was
17 days old. I'd nurse him, and he'd finish, and then start crying
again like he was hungry, but I knew he couldn't be because I'd just
nursed him. My mom had gone home the day before, and I had no one to
troubleshoot with, and I'd checked everything and he just kept crying,
and finally I screamed at him, "Why am I not good enough for you??" I
can't remember ever feeling worse about being a mother, not even when
the same child ate a piece of cat poop out of the litter box, drank
from a puddle of rainwater at the playground, or licked the floor of
the subway car during a tantrum.

Fortunately, I emailed my friend Lynne, mom of three, who said, "Oh,
it's just the three-week-growth spurt" and explained it all. So let me
just put some key search phrases in here for desperate parents on the
internet: baby won't stop eating baby won't stop nursing baby won't
stop crying baby won't stop breastfeeding baby wants more milk baby
wants more formula three week 3 week 6 week six week I am a shitty
mother please help.

Now you tell your growth spurt story, please.

Not being the child anymore

This is the very first year that the switch to Daylight Savings Time has been harder on me personally than it was on my kids. It made me feel kind of old, and like the baton was being passed, somehow.

I'm wondering if you all can help me with something. I couldn't answer the question for today that I was trying to work on, and realized it was because I've been thinking about this, so I just decided to ask for help.

I'm going to my hometown this weekend to help my grandmother move from the house she raised my dad in to an assisted living facility*.

I'm wondering if we're all (me, my grandmother, my parents, my uncle, my brother) just exceptionally well-adjusted about it? Or did we do our processing and grieving about it when it was my great-great-aunt doing this 10 years ago? Or are we in denial? Or is it just going to hit us hard later?

What's the process I should be expecting?

Is it possible that we'll feel sad, but mostly just relieved that she's going to be in a safer place?

I think I'm worried that we're somehow all "being strong" for each other, and it's all going to hit the fan in a big splattery mess.

Has anyone been through this? How did it go for you?

* For those of you not familiar with the name, "assisted living" in the US means a small apartment/flat inside a main building, so elderly people don't have to maintain the grounds of a house, and have more safety because they enter from a central hall, but can still usually cook for themselves in a small galley kitchen. There are also group activities–card clubs, excursions for shopping an trips, etc.–they can take part in or not. It sounds an awful lot like living in a dormitory during university, and I'd totally sign up for one right now if not for the kids. But I digress.

Q&A: nap refusal

Anonymous writes:

"So my 3-year-old daughter has been not wanting to nap for the last couple of months, but
usually we make her at least lie down and 50 percent of the time she'll
fall asleep anyway. She does need the nap, because she is an absolute
bear by 4 pm if she doesn't nap. But now it's even worse because the
past week or two she isn't napping AT ALL, plus we can't seem to get
her to sleep before 8 pm, plus she's been waking up at 6:30 or 7
instead of her usual 8 am. And I've seen a bunch of FB status updates from
people with kids around the same age suddenly not wanting to nap
either. I know a lot of those kids are probably just dropping their
nap, but do you suppose there's a seasonal aspect to all these kids
suddenly not wanting to sleep at once?"

Back when I was taking Driver's Ed classes in high school, one of the many cautionary films we had to watch was called "The Final Factor." The theme of the movie was that you could deal with one distraction (like listening to the radio), or maybe two distractions (listening to the radio PLUS talking to your friend in the passenger seat), or maybe even three distractions (listening to the radio plus talking to your friend in the passenger seat PLUS rain), but there would be that one final factor that would push you over the edge into a Horrible Accident (in the movie, an animal ran across the road in front of the car, which then crashed into a tree).

I think this phase of nap refusal is yet another situation to which the Final Factor paradigm applies. Many kids this age are flirting with giving up a nap or switching the time of a nap. If everything else continues as it is they might keep going. If something changes radically, they might give it up, or start needing it more intensely. (It seems like kids who are flirting with giving up the nap right when they start preschool or another way of spending time during the daytime often dig back into the naps, although maybe at a different time of day.)

So there's that factor, that this tends to be a dodgy time for napping anyway. But let's add in the weather change, with cold then warm then the Snowtorious B.I.G. then warm then "snow hurricanes" then warm enough for open-toes shoes and iced coffee (holla) and probably cold again tomorrow. That's disturbing. I know lots of adults who have been having sleep problems, so it's got to be worse for kids.

Another factor is probably the light. Not only is is lighter both earlier and later than it was a month ago, but the quality of the light is different all day long. I can remember going to visit relatives in central Norway the summer I was 5, and just how weird and disorienting it was all day long because the light was so different from what I was used to in the US, and how much trouble I had sleeping.

Any given kid might be able to nap through one, or two, or even three of these factors. But….What will be…The Final Factor?

And now we're going into the time change this weekend. What's going to happen? Your guess is as good as mine. But I'm wondering if we can gather some data points. So can you please pay attention, over the next week, to what happens to your kid's daytime and nighttime sleep? And then next week I'll put up a post asking you to list what happened? It would be awesome if we could do this in an organized way for 3 years+ of time changes, and then look at the data points and see if there are patterns.

What say you now, before we observe the weekend change?


The US Consumer Products Safety Commission is getting ready to issue a warning about the safety or lack thereof of sling-style baby carriers.

Saying that all slings are dangerous because some certain brands have failed is like saying all cars are deathtraps because certain Toyota models have failed.

I was getting ready to write an entire post about doing research and learning how to use slings correctly for maximum safety, but then frequent commenter Kate wrote one that was better than what I was going to say anyway. Please go read it, if you're at all interested in the sling issue, or in the dynamics of corporations vs. small businesses.

Q&A: bathtime down the drain

Anonymous asked what was up with her 2-year-old suddenly screaming bloody murder in the tub and not wanting to take a bath. And how to deal with it, since no baths for the next 6 months don't seem to be an option.

Yeah, this sucks, but lots and lots of kids do it. It seems like some of it is that they're starting to figure out that they're separate from you and from their surroundings. An extreme form of that is the fear of being sucked down the drain like the water is.

Plus, they're drama queens. Being 2 is all about establishing boundaries definitely. Very definitely. Anything they can control (like, say, food) they will. Vociferously and loudly.

Layer onto that personality. If you have a kid who escalates easily (lots of kids who release tension by crying tend to escalate quickly in daily life), then they're going to get more worked up about everything, including figuring out that they might follow the water down the drain, or that not wanting to take a bath will get a reaction out of their parents.

Since it's complicated and depends on your kid's particular makeup, there's no one guaranteed solution to this problem, except for waiting it out. But while you're waiting it out, your kid still has to take a bath. Here are some things you can try, though, and see if any of them help:

1. Cut down frequency. People tend to overbathe their kids anyway, because it's usually part of a bedtime routine. But if there's too much screaming it's not an effective part of a wind-down routine any more anyway, so consider going down to a bath every 2-3 days just to reduce the number of times you have to deal with it.

2. Push through. Confession: I'm not that patient. So I just powered through it, and forced my kids to take the shortest bath we could manage that hit most of the dirty spots. I think sometimes it lasted 2 minutes or less, but relative cleanliness was achieved. Note: This is probably the plan most likely to get you, the bather, wet.

3. Reason with the child. Hahahahahaha. That was pretty much a joke, unless your child is seriously advanced for a 2-year-old.

4. Distract the child in the tub. Use whatever it takes–bath toys, a story, music, dancing, getting in with the child, etc. If you can keep your kid focused on something else, you might be able to get the bath done with a minimum of upset for anyone.

5. Empathize/defuse. If the resistance is about control and not actual fear, if you can empathize so much with the child that there's no more payoff or fun in resisting, then you might be able to defuse the emotion and short-circuit the screaming. I hear.

6. Pass it off to someone else to deal with. If you have a partner, perhaps you could trick ask them to take over baths for awhile.

That's what I can think of, but I know there are more ways to deal with it. What did you do? Did it work?


Those of us who have parented toddlers and preschoolers are familiar with the concept from the Ames & Ilg books of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Basically, Ames & Ilg observed that kids tend to cycle in 6-month waves between equilibrium–which they describe as fluency of motion, consistency of mood, ability to learn easily and acquire new skills rapidly–and disequilibrium–which they describe as awkwardness of motion and stuttering in speech and skill acquisition.

Learning that concept explained a whole lot to me about my first child, and has helped me as my second child cycles through. But I'm beginning to think it applies to adults, too. Or at least me.

I feel like I'm in a stage of disequilibrium right now. I'm forgetful* and receptively but not expressively empathic and awkward (bruises all over my legs, sprained foot/ankle, crunched shoulders/neck from sleeping strangely) and just kind of needy and cranky.

And it hit me that maybe that's why I'm feeling so much tension between my younger son and me right now–we're both in periods of disequilibrium. So I don't have the grace and sure footing right now to just let his rawness be his and not take it onto myself.

I know, and you know, and we've all known forever, that when you don't have enough resources (sleep, mostly, but also support and love) you aren't able to parent your kids as well as you'd like. But I think this is more than this. It's not about scarcity of resources for me–it's just that I'm clumsy right now. And my little one is clumsy, too. And we're bumping into each other, and leaving scrapes and bruises.

Thoughts? Do you think you still go through the equilibrium/disequilibrium cycle? If so, how does it affect your parenting?

* I had a whole post about how the cleaners came last Saturday and how terrified of that I was. Which you'll get later this week. But then yesterday while dropping my older one at school I realized that my younger one didn't have school and *I'd completely forgotten* and I ended up bringing him to work with me. Yeesh.