Q&A: Mom’s hand is the human lovey

And now back to an old-fashioned sleep question. This one is a classic. Priyanka writes:

"I am a mother of a 10.5 months old girl. She is a good baby and doesn't
trouble me much. She's been STTN [Ed. note: sleeping through the night] in her crib since she was 2 months old
and I have never faced much sleep deprivation. I had to do mild CIO when
she was around 4 months old to transition her naps from swing to crib
and to teach her to sleep by herself mostly for naps. Her naps and night
sleep has been going perfectly well until I had to take this vacation.
She knew how to put herself back to sleep if she woke up in the middle
of the night.

When she was around 7.5 months old I went to
India to spend sometime with my parents. Over there I had to make her
sleep on bed. So I had to stay with her in the bed until she is asleep
(both for naps and at night) so that she doesn't fall. She would sleep
fine and sleep through the night but she got in a habit of holding/
caressing/ pinching my hand while she tried to put herself to sleep. I
was unaware of the fact that it's becoming a habit because of which I am
suffering after coming back.

I was in India for about 2.5 months. After coming back, here she sleeps
in her crib but she is obsessed about my hand. Initially I gave her my
hand and she would fall asleep within seconds. But when she wakes up in
the middle of the night she needs my hand again. She now wakes up
multiple times in the night and after a while she just ends up in our
bed because I am tired of putting her to sleep by giving her my hand.

I tried to do CIO but it's just not working this time. Even after a
month she just wants my hand or my husband's. I tried giving her stuffed
toys, blanket, etc. but she just takes it and throws it out of the
crib. Whenever I leave her to cry she just keeps standing in the crib
holding the rail and keeps on crying without sitting down even for a
second. So now I am abandoning the idea of CIO. But I do not have any
more ideas. Do you? Any thoughts, suggestions, advice? Please help.

Gah! I think this happens to a lot of people, with a parent's hand, or mole (I hear a lot of mole stories). Remember the one we had a few years ago with the mom's hair?

In an ideal world you could fill a surgical glove with dishwashing soap so it felt like a hand, and leave that in her crib. But I think that would get messy in real life, plus she probably wouldn't be fooled.

My first suggestion, and I know I say this every single time, but it's surprising how much it seems to help, is to talk to her during daytime hours about what should be happening at night. If you tell her and help her rehearse the plan in her head then she'll have a better idea of what to do in the nighttime. I know she can't talk yet, but almost-1-year-olds have a ton of receptive language. If you keep telling her that when she wakes up she can go back to sleep by lying down and closing her eyes, etc. then she will be better able to actually do that in the middle of the night.

My second suggestion is to understand that this period (from the 9-month sleep regression through the 13-month sleep regression) can be one whole long period of crappy sleep and general disease and willfullness for some kids. The absolute nadir of my parenting experience was when my older one was 10-11 months. I just felt like I couldn't do anything right, and he was sleeping like crap, and I couldn't understand how I was getting it so wrong when I'd been doing it for almost a year at that point! He and his sleep and rhythm and everything just seemed really opaque at that point, almost like I was starting over with a different kid and nothing I'd done before was working.

And then it just seemed to kind of slowly click back into place over the course of a few weeks. I've heard this from many people, that some children seem to just go through a few months of chaos right around this age. It's extremely frustrating. And makes you feel like you're out of ideas. But just knowing that this is something that happens with some kids can help, I think, because you know it's not just you, and you can try to ride the wave a bit and not be so concerned that you're not steering at the moment.

And now I'm out of suggestions, because my other suggestion would have been to try to substitute in some other lovey for your hand. But you've done that, and it just makes her angry. (Good news: She knows quality and won't accept cheap imitations. Good life skill.) So I'm going to see if the readers have anything. And otherwise I'll hope that talking to her about it will help her calm down and get herself back to sleep when she wakes up. And that the next few weeks go by quickly until she ages out of this chaos and back into sleeping again.

Readers? Did anyone successfully wean their kids off a human lovey without trauma to anyone involved? Tell us what you did.

More on Free but not cheap

[It's been eleven years. Every year I think I won't feel the grief and sadness, and every year I do. Ambulances still startle me, bagpipes still make me weep. I am so thankful for the beautiful new tower in the gaping hole, and still so sad for everyone and everything we lost.]

Wow, what an amazing response to my "Free but not cheap" piece on the relationship vs. the jobs! Thank you so much for your kind, sweet, moving comments, on this site and everywhere else. Here are two more big insights I had in the process of talking about the piece:

1. In the comments, epeepunk (who is a father, and married to longtime frequent commenter hedra) said:

been trying to figure out why the recent discussions about motherhood
and having it all were bugging me. One was the omission of the concept
that dads could fill any of the roles that are traditionally mom's. But
the other was that it seems that women (in broad general terms) develop
the relationship through the jobs. And there is resentment at dads who
are developing the relationship without doing the 'work'.

And this is another reason (I do have them listed out) that I love
hedra. Because we've always been very clear about how we're sharing the
*jobs*. And that leaves us free to develop the relationships on our
terms and in our ways."

YES. "It seems that women (in broad general terms) develop
the relationship through the jobs. And there is resentment at dads who
are developing the relationship without doing the 'work'." YES. I never begrudged my kids' dad his relationship with the kids, even though I was doing the vast majority of the jobs involved with them, except when I resented him for it. Which I did, a lot. And a lot of that was because I didn't like doing those jobs, and envied that he got to have all of the relationship and nowhere near as many of the jobs I had.

We resolved that problem by getting a divorce (I'm not really joking–I don't think there was any way to resolve that or most of our other problems and still stay together, given the fact that our relationship was largely a facade) and that equalized the jobs more (50/50 custody) and also completely separated the relationships.(And our kids got older. See #2 below.)

I can't recommend divorce for everyone. I can recommend epeepunk and hedra's very explicit decisionmaking and delineating jobs. I can recommend any deliberate and conscious method of making everyone happy with their own jobs ratio.

2. When you have very little (toddler and under) children, sometimes the only tangible evidence of the relationship can be the job. Think about back before your child started smiling: There was no positive feedback whatsoever for any of the jobs you were doing. The only way you knew you were someone's mother was because of the jobs. And even after the smiling starts, there's still not a lot of relationship there that you can actually touch. Think about the number of times you thought things like "He only loves me for my milk" or you made special food for your 20-month-old and when your kid rejected it you felt personallly hurt, like it was *you* your kid was rejecting.

I think that is the number two reason (number one being sleep deprivation and other stress) that women with little little kids are so much more adamant and defensive but simultaneously confused and unhappy about what jobs they spend their days doing. If you're doing all the kid jobs, it's easy to feel like that's evidence that you have a great relationship. But IT IS HARD, so you have to tell yourself there's some big payoff that women who go do other jobs during the day don't have. And women who go do non-kid jobs during the day can worry that that means they don't/won't have the relationships with their children that the women who do kid jobs all day do. So they have to come up with some way of consoling themselves about that. And it all gets defensive and posturing and angry and the next thing you know we're all on the cover of Time magazine.

It's a big cluster. And that makes the jobs seem even more high stakes. Who can win, ever?

Parents of older kids (6 or 7 and up, I'd say) can see much more clearly that the jobs are only sometimes connected to the relationship, depending on the relationship and the jobs. Who cares who does the laundry or supervises homework or packs lunch? (If you have older kids, can you think of a job that you feel is important for you to do because it has some relationship resonance with you, but that your kids may or may not care about because for them it's just a job? For me it's making birthday cakes. I would feel like I was letting my kids down by not making them the cake they wanted, but my kids don't care who made the cake.)

Have you ever seen people interviewed and they say something like, "My mom worked four jobs to support us but I always knew I was the most important thing to her"? Kids get it. But they can't always verbalize every aspect of it while it's happening, so we end up with a lot of feeling like we should be doing something we're not doing, and there's a lot of job misallotment and misallocation.

I'd argue that that's life. And that if we're focused on the relationship we have a lot of space and time and conversation to get it right. Any one job isn't going to make or break things. Any thousand jobs isn't going to make or break things by the time your kid is an adult.


Second round of thinking about this: What's hitting you about your relationship with your own parents? Your relationship with your own kids? Your relationship with jobs?


And again, sadly

I hate this post. I hate that I wrote it last year, and two years before that. We just passed the one-year mark of my friend's husband's suicide, a few weeks after the anniversary of my other friend's sister's suicide. Almost three years since Ray went.

And then two more, just in the last few weeks. Friends of friends.

Is it something about this time of year? One of my friends said it was the change of seasons and change of light that is tough on people. There might be some truth to that. I was going through a low period myself, of feeling on unstable footing here near the always-slippery edge, and this light hasn't been helping. Too beautiful during the day, and then too dark too early.

And it's the end of the summer, too. Too much fun for other people, too many days not making progress, not getting what we want. It is so easy to forget what you have accomplished, or to relegate it to, "Oh, that." It is so difficult to face what you know you could do, if you could only do it well and not screw it up. Too much to gear up for now that Labor Day Weekend is over. Who has the courage to face all that? Tasks. Expectations. Potential.

But, and here is the but inside the why, today feels like shit and tomorrow may feel like shit and even next month may feel like shit, but if you leave then nothing ever doesn't feel like shit again.

There is one thing–one thing–that you can look forward to. Even if that one thing is months and achy, burned-out months from now. Think about that thing. Tell us in the comments what that thing is, so you can come back and see what you wrote and know it's still there.



Still, always for Ray. And for Jess and for Maryanne. Who else is it for?

Free but not cheap

Jessica Valenti just wrote a new book called Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness, and wrote a piece for Babble summarizing her main argument in the book, which is that we keep saying "Motherhood is the most important job in the world," but at the same time we undervalue it enormously. She buries what I think is the most important point in the last paragraph of the Babble piece, which is that motherhood isn't a job, it's a relationship.

If we think it's a job, then nothing makes sense about it. How is it possible that it's so important but also so undervalued? How is it possible to be a good mother if you're with your kids 24/7 but also be a good mother if you leave them to go work for a good part of the day? How can we take such satisfaction from being with our kids but be so bored by all the stuff we have to do for our kids?

But motherhood makes sense when you realize that it's a relationship. Loving and nurturing your child is the relationship you have with your child. That's why when you have a bad day as an adult, you still want your mom (if you have a good relationship with your mom) even though she isn't making your meals, changing your clothes for you, driving you to work, or doing any of the stuff moms of kids do.

All the stuff that has to be done for kids, though, those things are jobs. Changing diapers, researching carseats, driving to soccer practice, washing clothes, catching vomit with your hand, putting to bed, filling out forms, searching out a replacement wubbie on the internet,  making lunches, making dinner, making breakfast, making snacks. Many of those tasks are not that brain-intensive, and are not valued highly, across all societies. That's why a) motherhood sucks so much, b) it's devalued so much, and c) wealthy women have always outsourced as many of those tasks as they could, until recently, so they got the relationship but not the jobs.

What we were talking about last week in the discussion of how motherhood changes who we are, and what Randi Buckley helps women figure out in her Maybe Baby program, is this: Do you want the relationship enough to suffer through the jobs?

And that's not a small question. The jobs almost break some of us. The jobs almost break almost all of us with kids under 3. And how you come through the jobs as your children age and the jobs change is not guaranteed, and it's different for everyone.

Some people like, or don't mind, the jobs of raising children. Some people really do not like them at all. We shouldn't be judging women for wanting to stay at home to do the jobs of raising children if they want to. Nor should we be judging women for wanting to do another job while someone else does the jobs associated with her children. That would be like judging someone who is a dentist because she's not a fashion designer and vice versa.

But we do need to make sure that the jobs associated with raising children are valued, financially and socially. We need protections for SAH parents. Protections and better wages for paid caregivers. And respect for everyone who does the jobs of raising children. It's not the hardest thing I've ever done, but doing the jobs of raising children (I was a stay-at-home mom for 5 years) was the most intense sustained thing I have ever done. It makes me exhausted and sad just thinking about some of those periods of unending work, and I hear the exhaustion and overwork from you–especially those of you with little kids–and the suck of the intensity.

But the relationship… That's why old ladies come up to us when we're half dead with a 6-week-old strapped to our lopsided leaky chests as we're waddling into the drugstore at 7 am to buy more diapers and say, "Enjoy this time!" They don't remember the jobs. They don't know it, but what they really mean is "Enjoy this person, this relationship that you're starting and that's only going to get better but also more complicated, and this love that will make you hurt and make you vibrate with the rest of the universe. Your boobs will stop leaking and diapers are only for a short time and you will survive, but this relationship is your chance to be better than just yourself."

That's what those old ladies mean. And why they can't stop themselves from saying things to stressed-out strangers. Seeing us with teeny babies and a new relationship makes them think of their own children, their own relationships. And they want that same thing for us.

So. The jobs, well, they never end, so you get a million chances to screw up or to dominate. And if you have the chance to do the jobs you want to do, whether they're kid-raising jobs or some other jobs, you should do them. Don't feel guilty about making the best choice for you. But at the same time, we all have to fight like hell so that we can all have the choice to do the jobs that we want to do and are best suited for. Because if we're doing things that make us feel useful and fulfilled, the relationship becomes free and unburdened. The intensity without the grind. And we–and our children–deserve that.

Placenta previa

Kelly writes:

"I just found out that my 28 year old cousin has placenta previa. She is
about 5 months along, and she has a 2.5 year old. I was wondering if you
could ask the community if anyone has experienced this, what happened
to them, and any advice they may have? She's very concerned (not only
because of the medical risks) but also about the possible bed rest
requirement. Her husband works 60-70 hour weeks, they don't have much in
the way of friends/family in the immediate vicinity of where they live,
AND she has a 2.5 year old who has a lot of energy and some health
problems. OY. Any help/advice/commiseration for her would be greatly

I have no experience with placenta previa but know some of our readers do, and I'm hoping a bunch of people jump in to talk about how they dealt with it and how it all turned out.

I also have no experience with bedrest, but know tons and tons of readers do, and know they'll give advice.

I do have experience with not having help and being isolated, and it sucks. I'm hoping that they can build a support network they can count on. Is she part of any mothers' groups? Do they go to a church or temple?Do they hang out at any playgrounds regularly?

Even if she doesn't have to go on bedrest and the delivery is easy she'll still need friends to help her through having a toddler and a baby. It's tough work, especially since her husband works long hours. Can they afford any paid help to give her a break?

Readers, what have you got for Kelly's cousin? And how can Kelly help them?

Q&A: When you hate your friend’s child

Eileen writes:

"How do you handle it when you INTENSELY dislike the child of a close
friend? The person I'm referring to has three children, and two of them
are delightful. The third is a whining, oversensitive, horrid little
tantrum-throwing brat of a child who is so awful I…I mean, the person
I'm talking about…can't even stand to see a photo of him. It's
seriously affecting our ability to do things together as families (all
the rest of the family members get along great.)"

[EDITED: The conversation in the comments and another conversation I've had about this made it obvious to me that I should have framed the
poster's question more with what I knew about the situation. The
question is asking what to do when it is clear that the way your friend
interacts with her child is reinforcing bad behavior and that the friend
is not even trying to enforce boundaries or standards with that child.
It's NOT saying that the friend doesn't have a perfectly-behaved child,
or that the parents are trying but there are challenges. Also, a
separate but related question is why the parents have different
behavioral standards for one sibling and not the others, so they enforce
boundaries with two of their children but reward bad behavior in the
other. It's NOT about giving each kid what they need based on
temperament and other issues, but about letting one kid be mean to
others while the others are expected to interact nicely, etc.]

Writing this post has been like pulling teeth. And I finally figured out that I was struggling so much with it because it's hard to admit that some kids are just brats. And they're brats because we trained them to act poorly. But wow, who wants to talk about that? So this post isn't flowing the way some of them do. Grind through reading it like I ground through writing it:

Children are just people on the way to being adults. Plenty of adults are jerks we don't want to be around, and all of those people start somewhere. But it's hard to watch kids–who start out with no bad habits–growing up as people we really can't stand to be around.

It's especially hard when one of our friends is the parent of the poorly-behaved child.

Let's be clear that we're not talking about kids who are still learning social skills and who have a mismatch, or kids who are really little and are still learning. We're talking about kids who act like jerks, with adults and other kids, and display behaviors that are a direct result of how they're parented.

I wonder how many of us have this problem and are afraid to admit it, or to say anything about it to anyone else. I know that there's one child of one of my friends that I would not miss if I didn't have to see him or her again, and it bothers me, because I don't know what to do about it, or if I should or could do anything about it.

How do you say to a friend, "You know, if you give her ice cream every time she whines she's going to keep whining."? You can't, really. Or, "We can't have you over because your child alienates everyone and you never set limits."

I wonder how people can be good teaching parents–who really communicate functional behavior patterns–to some of their kids, while letting another kid get away with bad behavior. Or even promoting and fostering that behavior by the ways they act and react to that child.

And here's the sad secret wondering: Is my friend really the person I thought they were if they're raising a jerk?

I don't know. It makes me feel small. (And it makes me wonder if anyone's thinking the same thing about me and my kids…)

I wish I knew of a way to fix it. The only way to deal, I think, is to keep doing what you do anyway: Reinforce appropriate standards of behavior to you and your family. Protect your own children. Use natural consequences, both happy and unhappy. Be an example for your friend.

Does anyone have this same problem? What do you do about it?


Book Help: The 4-Month Sleep Regression

What do you want to say about the 4-month sleep regression, or the way 4-month-olds sleep, or are, or anything about being the parent of a 4-month-old?

Think nighttime AND naps. (Or "naps," I guess.)

The audience is you, back when you had a 4-month-old, at 3 am, wondering what was going on and how you could make things get better. What would you have wanted to know or to hear back then?

If you comment on this post you're giving me permission to use your comment in the book. Be sure to add how you want to be listed in the book, like "Magda, MI" or "Moxie, AskMoxie.org" or "M.P., USA" or "Magda Pecseny, Ann Arbor, MI" (only with your name/handle isntead of mine, obviously).

Ice cream for breakfast (and a recipe for sorbet)

Ice cream 2Happy Labor Day! Happy Labour Day!

Since today is the last day of summer (school starts tomorrow here) I took the kids for ice cream for breakfast* with Jen and her girls and Jen's sister and her boys**. 

Some of you are cringing, and some of you are thinking you're going to do that next year.

I've been thinking about the kinds of food rules we make for ourselves, our kids, and our households. What do you eat? What do you not let yourself eat? Are those things the same things your kids eat? Do they eat things you don't, and vice versa?

I've realized that I'm way more disordered with myself than I am with my kids. I tend toward almost all whole foods, but then have big spurts of eating just way too much processed crap. I tend to be more moderate and measured with what my kids eat, with no big deviations. They eat more processed stuff on a day-to-day basis than I do (bread and crackers, mostly), but they also don't seem to go on wild splurges like I do. (Bear in mind that I'm only feeding them 3-4 days a week and then they're at their dad's, so it's easier to be more nutritious consistently when I'm only doing half a week. By the time it becomes a grind I'm done for a few days.)

What are your food rules?


While you're thinking about them, I'll leave you with a recipe I made up a few years ago:

Piña Colada Sorbet

You'll need an ice cream maker, or else you can do that trick of pouring it into a baking pan, freezing until slushy, then stirring up to whip some air into it. But it works better with an ice cream machine. If you want to get a head start on the chilling, stick the cans of pineapple and coconut milk in the refrigerator until you're ready to stir it all together.

1 can crushed pineapple

1 can coconut milk (NOT coconut creme like Coco Lopez unless you like things teeth-achingly sweet)

1 cup whole milk or half and half (or your choice of non-dairy milk, but use the full fat kind. Cow's milk/h&h will give a smoother sorbet. Another cup of coconut milk would be good. Rice milk would probably make ice crystals.)

a slosh of vanilla extract

pinch salt


flaked coconut, optional (You could toast it if you really wanted to be fancy.)

dark rum, optional


Put the pineapple, coconut milk, other milk, vanilla extract, and salt in a blender and blend until the pineapple isn't chunky anymore. (If you like chunky pineapple, stir it all together by hand.) Add the sugar–start with 1/4 cup, then taste. When it's as sweet as you want it, add another tablespoon, because things taste less sweet when frozen.

Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours or more. Stir in the coconut flakes if you're using them, then turn in your ice cream maker. If you're adding rum, wait until the ice cream is almost completely turned before you add it–if you add alcohol too soon the sorbet won't freeze. Scrape out of the ice cream maker into a freezer-proof container and freeze to harden, then enjoy.

Recipe (c) Magda Pecsenye


* I have a summer habit of ice cream for an actual meal, and wrote about ice cream for dinner a few months ago. But I haven't taken the kids for ice cream for breakfast until now.

** At one point all six kids were sitting outside eating their ice cream
and the three of us were inside, and people kept walking by looking at
them as if the kids had come to the ice cream store all by themselves with no adults present.

Things that can interfere with your sleep as a parent

In the last week, two of my friends who were struggling with a spouse/ex-spouse with addiction issues who is threatening to them and their children have discovered that the best place to start getting help in setting boundaries to keep their kids safe is by calling a crisis hotline. The hotline worker will be able to refer you to all kinds of resources to help you set boundaries and navigate things legally and emotionally and logicistically. I thought I'd pass this discovery on.

Here's the number for the US abuse crisis hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233)

Canada: 1-800-363-9010

UK: 0808 2000 247

Australia: 1800 737 732

And here's a list of "Am I Being Abused?" from thehotline.org:

Does your partner:

  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions,
you may be in an abusive relationship.

For support and more information please call the National Domestic
Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or at TTY 1-800-787-3224.


You deserve better.


(If you're on a safe computer, click through to the entire site at thehotline.org. If your computer isn't safe, read everything here, and then click through to some random parenting articles like "How much sleep is the bare minimum you need to function?" and "Nutritious lunches for school" instead of to the hotline. That's also why the title of this post is misleading, in case it would be dangerous for you to be reading a post about this topic. Be safe.)

Domestic abuse partner abuse abusive scared hurts children threatens me threatens son daughter help custody visitation addict addiction junkie violent violence alcoholic husband wife ex girlfriend boyfriend