Q&YourA: Turning a Breech baby?

Erin writes:

"Any tips to get a breech baby to turn? Less than 13 days till delivery. :("

Her chiropractor's done the Webster technique twice in the last week and the baby hasn't turned.

So what do you have for Erin? Obviously a c-section isn't the worst thing in the world, but if there's a way to turn the baby and avoid a painful external version, she might as well try it.

Q&A: Potty training almost 3-year-old girl

S writes:

"My daughter who is abt 2 months shy  of  being 3 yrs was able to indicate that she wanted to poop when she was 1.5 yrs old. I didnt push  it then to train her to pee as well. We started potty traing when she was 2.5 yrs old . She started  showing some positive results i.e there would be accidents  but sometimes she would say she wanted to pee. Suddenly she had accidents all day and  wouldnt tell as well.

It could be my fault when I did get a bit angry when she was peaking at her accident rate. Now she is 2 months shy of 3 and she is still not trained. These days she doesnt even tell when she wets her pants.

However she never poops in pants, always does it in potty. Im really confused if I should go back to diapers or should I continue training.

From a confused , guilty feeling MOM"

You know how potty training in the 1940s seemed to be about making the kids feel guilty? I think potty training in the 2000s and 2010s is about making the parents feel guilty.

Seriously. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. At least in the '40s they knew they were supposed to start at a year, and if the kid wasn't trained before the age of 2 it meant Something Was Wrong With The Child. Clear (if damaging) target. Now there's conflicting advice everywhere: wait until after 2, wait until after 3, do elimination communication, use cloth diapers, use disposible diapers, use pull-ups, don't use any diapers, use rewards, never bribe, boys should stand up, boys should sit down, girls are easier, boys are easier, it's all genetic, train daytime and nighttime together, train daytime before 3 but wait to train at night until after 5.

Holy crap. (Ahem.) How does anyone potty train a kid ever with all the conflicting advice? (And I say that as someone with no dog in the hunt whatsoever, because remember that my kids each potty trained themselves, pretty much.)

A few months ago, one of my friends, whose daughter had dug in her heels and refused to poop on the potty, told me that she felt like a failure because as a SAHM it was Her Job to potty-train her kid, and since she hadn't done it it meant that she failed. When she said that it felt like she grabbed my heart and squeezed it and crushed it. I mean, one thing, one tiny, blip-on-the-radar-of-parenting thing, and she'd decided that meant she'd failed. Despite the fact that her daughter is brilliant and funny and connected and polite and curious and makes friends easily.

Those of you who have for-pay jobs with performance metrics are probably thinking this is as unreasonable as I do. If I hadn't finished a project with a client because the client didn't want to work with me or wasn't ready for some reason, I'd formulate a plan to try to get it done the next quarter, but I wouldn't let that one project make me think I was failing at my job (assuming everything else was still working). And my boss wouldn't evaluate me solely on one project that wasn't even pegged to a specific time schedule, either.

So please, please, please don't take potty training as a reflection on yourself. Especially if you have the kind of kid who won't learn from you specifically. It doesn't mean they don't love you and that you're not the most important person in their life. It just means you should let someone else work on potty training with them, and when the time comes you should let someone else teach them to drive.

What the heck does any of this have to do with poor S and her daughter? Three things:

1) Stop feeling guilty, S. Maybe someday you'll do something to your daughter that you actually should feel guilty about, like showing a baby picture of her to her prom date, or picking her up at school wearing an ugly shirt. Loving her enough to try a bunch of different things to potty train her is a good thing, not something you should feel guilt for.

2) From anecdotal evidence of the kids I've known, not being potty-trained completely by the age of 3 (and she's not even 3 yet!) is pretty normal. There's plenty of time.

3) How to decide whether to keep going or stop? I think that if you're writing me an email, it means it's stressing you out. So you might want to just take a break for a week, and catch your breath, and then go back to it.

(Now, how did it make you feel to read #3? Did you feel relieved? Then take a break. Or did reading the suggestion to take a break make you feel defeated? If so, keep going and don't take a break. You know she'll get it eventually, whether you take a break or not. There is no Right Answer, just the answer that doesn't break you.)

Who was traumatized by potty training? Conversely, who has largely forgotten potty training?

Book Review: “Nature Study For The Whole Family” by Laurel M. Dodge

Nature Study For The Whole Family by Laurel M. Dodge is not normally a book I would ever pick up. I grew up thinking of myself as a person who isn't all that interested in nature, so I'd never have thought to find a book about teaching my kids about nature. But I agreed to review it because my friend (who I like very much) is married to the author, so I figured it would be at least well-written (because of the way his mind works and because of the way he talks about his wife). So I started reading.

And was impressed, and perplexed, and impressed some more. I had to slow down, because this isn't a normal how-to manual written for parents. This is a chronicle of love and loyalty and patience. Laurel (who I've still never met, but really want to now) loves nature–from the beautiful flowers and trees to the creepy wiggly bugs–with an instinctual love. Her parents facilitated that love and supported her as she followed it in school (she has a Master's in Environmental Studies). So she has an unending urge to go toward nature, to be still and walk up to it, to photograph it and sketch it and look at it from all sides. To pay careful attention to life cycles and the seasons and what happens when, with animals, with plants, with insects, with frogs. What I would swat away, she creeps up to and sketches, and shows her children what makes the wings or carapace special.

This book is a love letter to nature, but it's also a love letter to her children, who she's sharing her experience of nature with, and it's a love letter to the reader–ordinary parents like her, who love something and want to share it with their children. Her love is nature, and she knows so much about it and how to start studying it. But as I read I couldn't help but think that her process is a lot like the process I used to let my older son find books, and like I imagine people who love other things (art, music, baseball) used to start their children off with a process of deep knowing.

Her writing is absolutely lovely. It's slightly formal and old-fashioned, and she uses all the accurate words to describe plants and animals, so you may find yourself looking up words as you read, as I did. It's part description, part memoir. Her "how-to"s are more like case studies that you draw your own conclusions from, which makes it even more thoughtful and respectful of the reader. She shares stories of successes and missteps in nature study with her own children (takeaway: little kids don't always care about what you think they should care about), and with other children she's taught as a naturalist. By the end of it you feel you know Laurel, and would let her lure you out to the edge of the pond with her to collect frog eggs, but that you'd also allow her to come into your messy house just to talk about life and parenting and what really matters to you.

Laurel's full-color sketches and photos are scattered throughout the book. I now know what a Blue Vervain looks like, and a Polyphemus Moth. She talks about keeping a record of species you've seen, and how that can be useful for children, as well as how to use field guides with children.

The best thing: I never felt bad about not being a Nature Person. She draws a strong case for becoming interested in nature *as you find it where you live* and entering nature study at a level that's comfortable for you. For me, that means that when I pick up my kids from their dad's and walk home, instead of walking on the sidewalk we'll take the "shortcut" (actually a longcut) through the park and look at the plants along the path. It'll take 5 or 10 more minutes, but that's what Laurel is showing us–that love begins in 5 or 10 minutes of just letting things happen.

Maybe there's something you love,that you thought was too big or complicated to share with your own kids. Or maybe you see your kids getting into something you don't understand, and you'd like to encourage them. Or maybe you miss stopping and looking at nature, and you want to make sure your children have the same memories of lightning bugs on a summer night that you do. I'd recommend, for all of us, reading Laurel's delightful, quiet, thoughtful book.

And now I'm going to go buy some sketch pads and colored pencils for my kids for when we walk home from their dad's.

Q&A: Guilt

C writes:

"Is it normal to be 7 months into this parenting thing and feel like you've already failed spectacularly?

Milestones: My daughter is hitting them…I think. At 7 months she still doesn't roll over on a regular basis. I've seen her do it both ways but most of the time she seems content to just be where she is. Same for attempting to crawl. She doesn't really want to. She sits up like a champ though so I don't know if I should be worried. I know I should bring it up with her pediatrician, but I'm afraid to.

Sleep: Is awful. Has been since she was 4 months old. I can't get her to do more than 3 hours in her crib before she appoints herself Queen of the Bed for the rest of the night. I feel like it's my fault because I brought her to bed with me early on and let her nurse back to sleep. It was the easiest thing at the time and now it's the ONLY thing that works. I don't have a partner here at night to pass her off to…so the task of breaking her "habits" feels daunting.

Play: I'm staying at home with her for now, but by mid afternoon I've gone through everything there is to do at least once. I feel guilty when I put her in her jumperoo or on the floor to play by herself and when I'm not constantly talking to her. I know that these are unrealistic expectations to have of myself but I'm having trouble finding the right balance. It doesn't help that I suffer tremendous anxiety about leaving the house. I feel like I'm robbing her of a lot by being cooped up inside with her. We go on the occasional playdate and out to do errands but it's just not enough.

I guess that's my question. Am I ever going to feel like I'm doing ENOUGH? Is this relentless guilt and wishing I was better just part of the new mom thing or is it a forever thing? Is there ever a point where you think "Hey, I'm doing an ok job after all" and if so, how do you get there?"

Ouch. That makes my heart hurt.

C, you are doing a good job. You are an excellent mother.

All this stuff you're worried about is stuff you've picked up somewhere that you should be doing, but none of it matters. None. If she's happy and meets your eyes and responds to you, then the milestones will work themselves out. (Plus, I don't think she's actually late at all. It sounds like personality, not lack of skills. She's the girl who's going to sit back and watch her friends do stupid things and be the photographer.) Also, 3 hours in a row at 7 months does NOT constitute Bad Sleep (although it is bad sleep), and who cares if she's in your bed? She's only 7 months old. And let me repeat this again: There is no need to play with a baby. As long as you're responsive when she makes a play for your attention and you talk to her enough (which doesn't mean constantly), anything else is gravy.

As to the question about whether or not it goes away, well, I don't know. I feel like there's always something to feel guilty about if you let yourself. I also feel like sometimes feeling guilt is a way of compensating for feeling like we're not doing enough. As if immersing ourselves in guilt makes up for the stuff we think we should be doing. Which is twisted and ultimately super-destructive to ourselves.

I am going to ask you to do three things:

1. Make sure that every day you are taking either fish oil or flax seed oil capsules 1,000-2,000 mg, a B-complex supplement (you can buy the orange-flavored drops at any drug store or big box store), and magnesium. (The magnesium is a little tricky because it doesn't absorb all that well orally, so either buy some as oil from Joan at www.health-and-wisdom.com and then rub it on your feet–tops and bottoms–every night before you go to bed, or find chelated magnesium tablets. The magnesium is important because lack of it causes anxiety and insomnia, and lots of us get low on it because of pregnancy.)

2. Find people and places that are in touch with the reality that you're doing a great job. Whether they're online, or (better yet) in person, there are tons of people out there who know that having an infant is a hard, unrewarding job that mostly involves showing up every day. Surround yourself with those people, and stop reading books or website that make you think you're supposed to be stimulating your baby's mind constantly or that you have ANY control over how she sleeps or develops physical milestones.

3. Ask yourself what kind of mother you really want to be. Be extremely honest with yourself. Think about what your priorities are. Consider making a parenting Mission Statement about what you want for your daughter when she grows up that you can influence. Then, if it's not directly contributing to who you want to be and who you want your daughter to be, stop caring about it.

Who's got something to say to C? Helpful contributions might include: Data points on hitting milestones like crawling and rolling over, stories of kids who could do everything but didn't want to, the guilt you felt/feel, how to find supportive friends, whether you remember how long your baby was in your bed or not, and anything in the general "It Gets Better" genre. Thank you!

Love and allergies

Tonight, 9 pm Eastern–last night of the three-part Life Keys series with Sharon Silver and me. Tonight we're talking about Love. One of us is more positive about love than the other is! It's probably not hard to guess which of us is which. So call in (sign-up info here if you're just jumping in now) and listen to my sniffly voice.

On that note, I thought it was allergies, then I thought it was a sinus infection, but now I think maybe it's allergies. At any rate, it's kicking my butt. Plus I have more on my plate than I usually do. And I read an unusually thoughtful book and am having a hard time formulating a review for it. In the meatime, how do those of you with allergies function enough to get your kids up and where they're supposed to be in the morning? It feels like slogging through oatmeal every morning.

Childcare for kids in school when school’s not in session

For those of you with school-age kids (so they're not in daycare anymore), what do you do with your kids when school's out for the summer in terms of childcare?

In NYC, most people put their kids in some kind of daycamp, which can range from affordable to crazy expensive, depending on the camp, neighborhood, etc. Camps start filling up in March or April for school to be out in mid-June (private schools) or late June (public schools).

What's the situation where you live? Is it affordable? How easy is it to sign up?