Community FYI

Just wanted to let you know that our beloved commenter hedra's sister died suddenly and unexpectedly a few days ago. Hedra and husband and kids are hurting. I thought you'd want to know. I'll tell her I posted this so if you leave any comments here she'll see them when she comes up for air.

Discussion: Waiting to Unfold by Rachel Barenblat

Welcome to the Summer Readalong 2013! Our May book is Waiting to Unfold by Rachel Barenblat. Rachel is a rabbi and a blogger at Velveteen Rabbi. She is an infertility survivor and a mother.

I haven't been in a discussion about poetry since 10th grade, so forgive me if I'm missing some key poetry discussion features!

Waiting to Unfold consists of two cycles. One cycle is poems written during her pregnancy, and the second is poems written during her son's first year.

I chose this book because I loved how intimate and raw her poems are. I feel like Rachel is able to capture the very specific and make it universal. She's a poet, and I'm not, but this stanza from the poem "Introduction (Three)" in the first cycle was so deep and true for me:

Asked to introduce myself
in seven words
I come up with
"growing a new poem
line by line."

The idea of the dailyness, the building, the creating something beautiful of being pregnant made me remember being pregnant with a fondness I know I didn't allow myself to feel while I was in it.

She makes the intimate epic, and the epic intimate. I started crying again reading these lines from "Night Feeding" in the second cycle:

as a hind longs for water
my soul longs for sleep

but I pace the round carpet
until I can crawl into bed

praying that I get a whole hour
before you summon me with your cries

which call in equal measure
my milk and my tears

Her use of the scriptural language connects us as mothers with the Divine, with nature, with all animals, and with all other mothers at the same time. It makes us both little and big, everything and nothing as we do what we have to do to nourish our young even when we think it's breaking us. How many of us have cried through feedings? I wonder if anyone hasn't.

The second cycle brings us through Rachel's fight with post-partum depression and her recovery, along with weaning and her coming to terms with infertility and how dislocating pregnancy was for her after that infertility.

I feel like this is the book I would give to someone who said to me, "No, TRY to tell me what motherhood is like," because even though Rachel has had some experiences not all of us have had, the way she captures the emotion of those experiences is the translation of what it's like in that first year of being someone new that you didn't know you would be.

Questions for discussion:

 1. Did the poems in Waiting to Unfold make you think differently about your own experiences, or did they feel like a window into someone else's world?

2.Were there any of the poems in the second cycle that seemed to be the direct inspiration for the title Waiting to Unfold?

3. Were you at all struck by the poem "Grandparents' House"? What emotions did it make you feel, if any?

Anything else you'd like to say about the book as a whole or individual poems?

 

Next book: Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet. Discussion post goes up June 26.

Q&A: Older child consumed with fighting with younger child

Angie writes:

"My 10 and 8 year old girls keep having the same argument. The 10 year
old believes with her whole heart that the 8 year old should do
everything she says. The 8 year old goes out of her way to defy the 10
year old. It often comes to blows, and it's driving me nuts. The 10
year old's behavior is bordering on bullying: threats, blackmail, etc.
and the fights often end with aggression on her part. Please help
before they spend their entire summer grounded to their rooms."

I asked why the older daughter thought her younger sister should do what she said, and that that false belief was the source of the trouble. Angie replied:

"Because she's older and bigger. Logic, which usually works on her, does
not seem to get through to her. She is very competitive but more than
anything can not stand to lose to her little sister. And that seems to
have translated to: little sister not listening equals losing. She has
anxiety which has flared severely this spring and I am actually seeing
some OCD behavior now too. I think this is wrapped up in all of that,
that if her little sister "wins" it makes her feel anxious, like shes
not good enough. (We have a counseling appt scheduled.).

I'm reaching out for advice because when tempers flare I think I'm
making things worse. I just can't seem to find the right tactic."

I'm not sure there is a right tactic here, because the situation isn't based on a clear path of logic.

Your older daughter is feeling tons of emotions AND behaving based on a something that isn't true for your family. (In some systems a younger sibling would have to obey an older sibling, but that isn't the case in most cultures here in the US, and is antithetical to the way most of us raise our children.) Since she isn't processing that her belief is not correct for the situation, you can't really approach this in a way that uses logic.

My first priority would be to protect your younger daughter from her sister's aggressive behavior. While she may be exacerbating it, it certainly isn't her fault that her sister is having this problem, and she shouldn't be forced to violate your family system and her place in it just to avoid aggression against her. So she needs to be protected from the aggression.

The second priority I'm basing on the fact that you have a counseling appointment, so I'm assuming someone who knows way more than I do about why your daughter is having this problem and what you can do about it will deal with that. (I know NOTHING about why this is happening or what you can do to fix it, and couldn't give any recommendations even if I did.) The second priority is to protect your older daughter from her own aggression. Whatever you can do to calm her down you should do. You clearly can't talk her out of her belief that her sister should do what she wants her to, so trying to reason with her isn't going to calm her down. Music, a massage, Rescue Remedy, a warm glass of milk, crawling across the living room floor a few times (because of the arm and leg coordination that happens in crawling that can help clear your head). Whatever will separate her from the aggression and get her some relief.

I'm really hoping the counselor can shed some light on why she's holding onto and preoccupied with this belief right now, and can help you help her to get free of it.

Has anyone been through something like this? Was there anything you did that helped or didn't help? Any ideas what's causing it to happen?

To the kid who thinks they’ve done something really really bad

Not too many kids read this website–most of you are past experiencing what we talk about personally and not yet onto what we're talking about navigating with our own kids. But maybe you ended up here by searching "mom will kill me" or "dad hates me" or "parents won't forgive me for this" or "i did something really bad" or "no way to get out of this."

Here's what I want to say to you: This is going to get better, no matter what you did.

I'm a mom. I have two kids. Boys. They do stuff that I don't like sometimes. I always like them. I always love them. There is nothing they could do that would make me not love them.

Your parents love you. You might have done something that's going to make them really mad at you. Or, even worse, really disappointed in you. They might punish you. But they love you. And they're going to help you fix whatever it is that you did. So stay here, even if it's scary and you can't see how it will possibly work out. Your parents will help you.

What if I'm wrong, because I don't know YOUR parents? What if your parents don't know how to love you, or how to give you the benefit of the doubt? What if your parents hurt you?

I am so sorry. You deserve to be loved. And taken care of. And not hurt. And someone out there will love you like your parents should, even if you haven't met that person yet. But there is someone that will help you. So don't kill yourself.

Please.

This morning, a friend of mine posted a letter from his brother and sister-in-law, whose 14-year-old son killed himself. Here's part of the letter they wrote to their son's friends:

"This
message is now for all of you. If you want to honor our son, then promise
to NEVER think there is a problem that can not be fixed. Everything can
be worked out someway…everything. Never solve anything on your own. We
just found out that our son panicked thinking he had made a terrible
choice over a common teen pressure. His life ended for NO reason. There
is nothing that he could have done that would have made us no longer
love him or help him. He just made an irrational decision. All he had to
do is come hug us and tell us he had a problem. We could have worked
through anything. Please know that that you to can work through
anything. Just talk to your family, friends, teachers, or preachers.
Most of all, look out for each other. Do not pressure each other for
things you are not ready for. If you are truly a friend, then want the
best for each other. It is time to honor our son's life by how you move
forward in your own life. May our sweet baby rest in peace. We love him
more than mere words could ever convey. Our life will never be the same."

No matter what you've done, it is going to get better. Just tell someone. Your parents love you and want to hug you and work through it. If you really can't tell your parents, talk to one of your friend's parents. (You know you have that friend whose mom tries to hug him in public? Or whose dad keeps trying to ask him how his day was? Go to them.) If there's no parent you can talk to, talk to a teacher.

Just please, please don't kill yourself. It won't solve your problem. The only way to solve your problem is to tell someone about it. Please stay.

 

Breadcrumbs: parents hate me, parents wont forgive me, parents angry at me, mom hates me, mom wont forgive me, mom angry at me, did something bad, in trouble, in massive trouble, dad hates me, dad wont forgive me, dad angry at me, failed class, teen drinking, teen sex, teen drugs, teen accident, i did something so bad my parents will never forgive me

How do we work? Data points from all over, please

It's been a few years since we did a post like this, so it seems like it's time for a new one.

What I want to get at, through your data points, is why we make the choices we make about work and careers. There's a popular misconception that women are stepping off the career track because they either don't have the fighting spirit (solved by leaning in), or because men are taking 24 cents out of our purses every night while we're asleep and we're too tired to stop them, or because women who work are radical militant hostile feminists and women who stay at home are new-wave feminists who only wear Converse and have tattoos of quotes from Catcher in the Rye on their necks and make their own almond milk.

In short, I think almost everything in the popular media about women/mothers working is full of crap and reduces us all. I'd like us to talk about what it's really like. Are we actually stepping off the career track? How many of our decisions are limited and how many are choice?

Please comment, whatever your work situation is and wherever you live. (Yes, being out of the paid work force is a "work situation.") Your data point helps us all.

Things that are germane to this discussion:

  • how many kids you have and how old they are
  • how old you are
  • where you live
  • how much childcare you need
  • how childcare works where you live (nannies, childcare centers, home-based childcare, etc.)
  • does it "make sense" for you to work in your chosen profession where you live and with the childcare you'd need?
  • whether you have a partner or not and what the partner's work situation is and how it intersects
  • if your child has another parent that isn't your partner, and how that intersects with finances and work and care
  • your education level, whether that limits you in your earning power, whether you are dealing with paying off loans for your education
  • "The Economy" (I put that in quotes because by now it sounds like saying "The Bogeyman")
  • how you feel about your work situation right now
  • how you feel about what you anticipate you'll be doing in five years (taking into account changing childcare needs)
  • anything else you feel is relevant to the conversation (only person of your ethnicity at your job, only woman on your street who works/stays home, first person in your family to earn a degree and how that pressure affects you, credit rating tanked by a divorce, just got a promotion, etc.)

Share as much or as little of that as you want. If you'd like to share your business without actually sharing your business with the whole internet, comment anonymously or under a pseudonym by putting www.fake.com in the box that asks for a URL.

Mothers Day Vent Here Safely

Today can be painful, annoying, hurtful, resentment-inducing, or just plain disappointing. Put it all here safely. You know the deal: No Misery Poker. Everyone's pain is valid. If you have any extra to spare, support someone else.

Comment anonymously by putting in a fake name and then a fake URL such as www.fake.com.

A hug to everyone.

Not feeling Mothers Day

If you're really into Mothers Day (Mother's Day? Mothers' Day?) you can skip this post.

I'm not a fan, personally, as I feel the public celebration causes a lot of pain for those who aren't mothers, who've lost children, who have strained relationships with children, who've lost their own mothers, or don't have good relationships with their mothers.

And I think it's yet another opportunity for the media and corporattions to patronize us by assuming we all want the same thing and that we're happy being objectified. (No, my name is not "Mom" unless you happen to be my sons.)

But here's an angle I hadn't considered. Monica writes:

"With mother's day approaching, I'm getting that uneasy feeling that
usually comes with the winter holidays.

Every mom I meet just LOVES
being a mom.  I hate to say it, but not so much here.  I love love love
my baby, but 11 months in and I'm still having a hard time adjusting to
being a parent. Though I adore my daughter, I'm finding myself missing
my child free days hard.  Prior to baby, I worked for myself from home,
and I thought I'd easily be able to continue this as a parent.  Enter
colicy baby with a major case of sleeplessness and separation anxiety, a
husband who works 60+ hours a week, and a lot of housework.  I won't go
too much into the details because I'm not necessarily looking for
advice on my specific situation (I think I need to do some major
contemplating on that), but I'm hoping you or other moms can commiserate
on not really loving motherhood.  Feeling a ton of mom guilt for even
writing that sentence."

Monica cannot be the only one. Comparing MD to the winter holidays makes complete sense, in that there are so many expectations set up around this day, and if you don't feel like you fit into the perfect picture, it's easy to feel like there's something wrong with you.

There is nothing wrong with you.

So, so many of us loved our babies but didn't like being mothers of babies. (Or sub in "toddler" or "preschooler" or "teen.") There is nothing wrong with you if you don't like a certain stage, or if you love it. There's nothing wrong with you if you fantasize about having your old life back sometimes. There is nothing wrong with you if you don't want to go to brunch, or recieve a heart-shaped pendant necklace or a plaster handprint. Don't hate the player–there's plenty enough to hate about the game.

You are the perfect mother for your child. Your child, who will go into a new stage that you will like better, and eventually will turn into an adult that you'll be happy to know. And who will think you're the best.

 

Should you sleep train your 4-month old?

I get (and I know you get) all kinds of questions about sleep training 4-month olds. "My mother-in-law/pediatrician/dog/dentist's accountant says I should sleep train my 4-month old!"

And it makes sense that people ask that question, because things have been getting progressively better on the sleep front and then it gets bad again at four months. So we think there's a problem and that we can fix it by doing something about it. Indeed, we feel that it's our job to fix it by doing something about it.

No, you should not sleep train your 4-month old.

And here's why: The reason babies go through the 4-month sleep regression or stop sleeping at 4 months or start waking up to cry or just can't fall asleep or whatever is happening with them is that they're going through a normal developmental phase. That phase makes it difficult for them to sleep stretches of more than a few hours. I liken it to the inability you have to sleep when your mind is really working on something (good or bad) so you keep waking up to think about it.

It has been researched and studied, and my two favorite resources are Bed Timing by Isabel Granic and Marc D. Lewis, and The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij.

Which means two things:

1. While the night waking may be a problem for YOU, it's actually normal and part of normal growth and development for your baby. Therefore, an issue to be managed in a whole-family sense, not a problem the needs to be solved. You still need sleep, so think about ways to get it even if your baby isn't sleeping through.

2. This is the worst possible time to sleep train because your baby's body is wired not to be sleep trained right now. So you will end up trying and trying and feeling like a loser and wondering what's wrong with you and/or your baby, when it's just bad timing. You are a smart, competent person.

So, yes, you CAN sleep train at 4 months. There's all kinds of stuff that you CAN do. But just because you can doesn't mean you should.

If you wait 2-4 weeks you baby will be through the developmental spurt and will be back to sleeping. If you feel like you want to sleep train at that point, 5-6 months is a far far better time to do it than four months is, because you have a fighting chance of success. And we all want success.

I know there are pediatricians who tell people to sleep train at four months, but remember that most pediatricians don't have any special training in infant sleep. And if they went to medical school before the research on four months came out, they may not know it. So if you're getting pressure from a pediatrician to sleep train at four months, ask them what they think about the research of Granic, Lewis, van de Rijt, and Plooij, and have a conversation. If they can present some compelling evidence for sleep training right then, ok (and please let me know).

As always, if someone offers you advice you don't need (including me), just smile and nod and say, "Thank you for the suggestion!" and then go home and do whatever you want to anyway. You're the best parent for your child.

Data points from kids with divorced parents

I've gotten a number of questions recently about divorce and custody and how it affects kids and how to do it better. And while I think my own kids are happy with our situation right now and feel good about the way their dad and I work together to try to create the best two households possible for the kids, I can't really know.

There is so much reporting on the effects of divorce on kids that is bad, and doesn't separate out things having to do with the actual divorce from socioeconomic or other factors, that I think it's a huge mistake to read mass-market reporting on research studies and think we're getting a clear picture, let alone a prognosis for our own kids.

So instead of looking at trends and trying to parse out what studies did or didn't look at and control for, I'd like to hear from all of you whose parents split up.

How old were you when your parents split? Did you have siblings and how old were they during the split?

What was good and what was bad about it?

How could your parents have made things better for you?

At the time did you wish your parents were still together? Now, in hindsight, do you wish your parents had stayed together?

What would you tell a friend who was divorced or getting divorced about making it better for their kids?

Anything else you'd like to say about it.

Thank you!