8 Ways to Ensure Your Kid’s Teacher Doesn’t Hate You

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A new school year is upon us as you’ve no doubt noticed by the swarms of back-to-school pictures assaulting your newsfeed. That’s not to judge – I totally did it, too. But once those creative chalkboard signs get erased and kids begin “forgetting” homework assignments, the real work begins. And, when it does, their teachers will quickly take notice of those parents. You know exactly who I’m talking about. And if you unexpectedly gulped at that sentence and felt a bit flush, chances are—it’s you.

As someone who has stood at the front of a classroom and been at the mercy of other people’s children before, I’m telling you, teachers are my people. These days, the only instructing I may be doing is (unsuccessfully) teaching my toddler not eat his own boogers but I still feel for them. I still identify as one. And because they are, generally, way too nice to say this to your face, I’ll go ahead and do it for them: the kids may drive us crazy from time to time but it’s the parents that drive us to drink. So if you want to make it through the school year without anyone secretly creating a voodoo doll with your name on it, you would do well to commit the following to memory:

1.) Manage expectations

We cannot create your child into the kind of model student you are hoping to brag to your friends about simply of our own volition. Results require patience, hard work, and dedication–characteristics most kids (and adults) have yet to master. We’re flattered you think we have super powers but, no, we did not receive our degree at Hogwarts and your “C” student will not morph into Valedictorian overnight.

2.) Drop the excuses

She was late. She didn’t study. She forgot her homework. Honestly, barring some genuinely catastrophic event, we’re not really interested in hearing the backstory. Your kid needs to learn that actions (or lack thereof) have consequences. Coming in to plead on your child’s behalf is, frankly, embarrassing. But congratulations on shielding her feelings. I’m sure you’ll love her living in your basement for the next 30 years.

3.) Stop micromanaging

If what I’m about to say hurts your feelings, you are definitely part of the problem: your kid should not be your hobby.

Look, taking an active role in your child’s education is both admirable and necessary. Please try to stay updated on assignments and your kid’s general performance. Please do not hover over him with the irrational fear that a single false step will erase the entirely fabricated future you have dutifully planned out on his behalf. Sorry to burst your bubble but Harvard doesn’t even know he exists yet. Yes, academics are important but so is independence. At some point, he will probably turn something in late or fail to achieve a perfect test score. But you know what? He will still wake up the next morning and life will go on. Now, please, get on with your own life and let your kid figure out how to manage his responsibilities while you keep a watchful distance.

**Bonus points to the parent who attempts to micromanage us, as well. You will have successfully added yourself to the official shit list and there’s no turning back because that sucker is written in pen.

4.) Don’t bark orders

I’m sorry, do I work for you? I mean, yeah, I get that I’m paid with your tax dollars but I mean, directly, are you in my chain of command? Oh, ok then. Start bossing us around and we will immediately begin gathering straw for the voodoo doll (you didn’t think I was kidding about that, did you?).

This is pretty simple, guys. Just be nice. Do not demand that we call you on our lunch break (joke’s on you – it doesn’t exist) or tell us to have two weeks worth of assignments ready by the end of the day. In fact, do not tell us to do anything at all. Our work schedules are extremely regimented – as in we have to plan our bathroom breaks around 3 minute passing periods – and beyond full. We often work well into the night, family and other responsibilities be damned; so we will work your request into our schedule whenever we can. But, please, do us the courtesy of treating us like the adults that we are or else we will (discreetly) flip two large middle fingers toward your annoying emails.

5.) Don’t be a bully

Bullies are insecure, inarticulate, little jerks who derive self-worth from demeaning others. And we know all too well that the proverbial school yard has extended deep into the adult world. While this takes place in many forms, it has become increasingly popular on social media because, obviously, the world is waiting with baited breath to hear how awful your child’s teacher is for (insert inane, baseless drivel here).

The thing is, it often makes its way back to us and then we have to pretend we don’t want to paper cut you to death at our next conference. Don’t to it, ok? It’s just bad form.

6.) Don’t expect extras

Oh, you’re hoping I’ll write you a weekly update every Friday just for kicks? No thanks. Teaching is like doing sprints back and forth all day long. You’re exhausted, out of breath, and feel like your feet are going to fall off. There is no time for anything but survival. So when you make a “tiny request” that eats up more than 15 seconds of my time, consider whether or not you want to risk waking the beast. Because by the time that last bell rings, she’s hangry and haggard. Probably not worth it.

7.) We aren’t the enemy

It can be difficult to find out that your child isn’t always the perfect angel you thought you raised. But, as teachers, we don’t expect perfection; we expect growth. Even the sweetest, most hard-working, polite kiddo will eventually make a mistake that requires some minor punishment. Do not jump down our throats when this happens. Do not assume we singled your kid out or made a mistake. And definitely do not go over our heads and insist on meeting with the principal before speaking with us. Respect our authority and your example will speak volumes to your child.

8.) Send coffee, wine, help…

Ok, yes, we would not-so-secretly love all of these things but, really, all we want is your respect and appreciation. We work hard for your little minis in the hopes that they will turn into decent adults who we can be proud of. All we ask is that you don’t ruin all that hard work by providing them with a piss poor example.

Cheers to a new year, folks! You can do this. We have faith in you… and a voodoo doll with your name on it, just in case.

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**
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Insane Advice You Get When You Have A Fussy Baby

Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows people are more than happy to dole out unsolicited parenting advice, however unwanted, with the carefree whim of a drunk sorority sister. Your grandmother’s funeral, airplane mid-nosedive, running a marathon – all fair game to them! It can be annoying and relentless, for sure, but becomes downright rage inducing when you are the parent of a fussy baby.

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“Please continue running for your life. Just know that your baby will never learn to self soothe if you keep picking him up when he cries.”

Strangers gawk and clutch their pearls at the way you have learned to tune out the incessant screeching wails. Family members tsk-tsk when you seem less than thrilled to be living with a champion sleep evader. Everyone offers their advice. Everyone seems to think they know your baby better than you. And everyone is always one thoughtless comment away from a clean sucker punch – or a blatant eye roll… probably the eye roll… parents of fussy babies have no extra strength for strenuous physical activity.

If, like me, you’ve traveled this less-than-enticing road, you’ve probably heard at least some of the following:

“Put him down”

Well, hot damn! Why didn’t I think of that? Guess I should’ve read a few more baby books, amiright? Except no, this advice offers nothing other than a not so subtle critique of your parenting. Never mind the fact that if you let your baby scream like a banshee in front of the very people who offer this advice, you would then be accused of lazy parenting. It’s a no win situation.

My son was a velcro baby, quite literally attached to me 24/7. If I attempted to set him in a swing or a bouncer, he would scream until the the moment I picked him up. And fussy babies are dragons. They breathe fire. There’s no soft whining. I’m talking full on blood-curdling screams. When you have to listen to that every second you are cooking dinner, getting dressed, or even daring to pee, you are liable to go crazy. There’s a reason this is used as an actual torture device!

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Actual picture of my son at 6 months

What people with “normal” babies tend to overlook is that we don’t have the luxury of choosing a parenting philosophy. It chooses us and we adapt to it. If that looks like attachment parenting then so be it. We do what we must to survive. If that means doing everything one handed for an entire year, then we learn to love our one giant bicep.

These babies are just hardwired to crave physical contact with their primary caregiver. And I’m not sure why we think that’s such a bad thing. I’m not one to coddle my children but I’m also not going to ignore their needs. Fussy babies are really amazing, if super obnoxious, communicators. And boy, was my son adamant about his needs! If ignoring that somehow qualifies me for parent of the year, I’m not sure I want to participate. I’ll go ahead and pick up my screaming child whenever I damn well please, thank you.

“Let him cry it out”

This is similar to the “put him down” comments in that it assumes you are causing the behavior and that you must teach that good-for-nothing spawn of yours to follow the rules of the roost! “Come on, baby! You’re almost two weeks old. It’s time to get with the program!”

Now I am not besmirching the Cry It Out Method as a whole. I totally understand it works for some kids. And if both mama and baby can handle it, I say give it a go! But what these people are totally ignorant of is the fact that fussy dragons don’t give a shit about your expectations and, more importantly, are mind-numbingly relentless. To give you an idea, when we tried a modified Cry It Out with my daughter (where we reassured her at intervals without actually removing her from the crib), she went full force for two hours before finally resorting to banging her head against the wall. And, folks, she was our easy baby…

There is a special tenacity to these fussy babies that will surely pay dividends someday; but in the moment, it’s totally exhausting. And the thing is, we very quickly recognize this personality trait in them. It’s impossible to miss. So when people insist that Cry It Out will work for our little ones, it eventually becomes insulting. Please stop pretending you know my child better than I do. And please stop assuming his fussiness is a learned behavior for which I alone am responsible. You have zero idea what you are talking about.

“Calm down”

1.) Eff you. 2.) Get out of my face.

Ok, now that I’ve got that off my chest… The idea here is that baby recognizes when you are stressed and responds to said stress with even more fussiness. And, to be fair, it’s totally legit. If your baby is extremely sensitive, as many fussy ones are, it’s definitely possible that your agitation is conveyed to him. And while I concede that this line is usually well intentioned, it’s still difficult to hear in the midst of baby hell. The situation already has you feeling crazy and helpless so having a loved one reiterate that you are part of the problem can feel incredibly painful.

Try this instead: “Here, I brought you a giant bottle of wine. Now go relax while I take the baby for a walk.”

I guarantee mama’s heart rate will slow to a pace she hasn’t experienced in months and she will be better prepared for the inevitable onslaught of fussiness when it comes. But telling her to calm down? That will accomplish the exact opposite of its intent.

“Stick to a schedule”

Anyone who insists this is the cure for your ails is surely the parent of a unicorn baby. They live in a world of rainbows and cupcakes and fail to recognize that the term “fussy”, by it’s very definition, means your baby is disagreeable and not likely to submit to your plans. I can guarantee that mama has tried this, repeatedly, with little to no success. These kiddos don’t care that you’ve read Baby Wise cover to cover. They’ve probably ripped out half the pages and tried eating them instead of recognizing that they were supposed to be sleeping fifteen minutes ago. But they refused to eat when Baby Wise said they should and now you’re down one useless book and wasted a nap.

Look, it’s totally fine to mention this once. It’s not that the suggestion itself is rude. But people have a tendency to assume all babies respond to this and, when yours doesn’t, continue mentioning it with the insinuation that you are either too dumb or too stubborn to give it a genuine shot. Don’t be that person.

Eliminate Caffeine

If you are a breastfeeding mother of a fussy baby, someone, somewhere, has surely recommended you stop drinking caffeine. Maybe it was your pediatrician. But what the hell does she know?! Ok, her advice is probably worth considering but… PLEASE GOD DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS!!

When you can’t remember the last time you slept long enough to dream, sometimes a cup of coffee is the only thing strong enough to make you feel human again. The thought of forgoing it entirely is almost as scary as the thought of getting pregnant again. For real.

Obviously, we love our screaming little bundles just as much as you love your peacefully sleeping ones. We would do anything for them, including giving up the only good thing left in our lives. I’m only slightly kidding. Besides, if giving up caffeine would actually end the horror, we would drop it like the bad habit it is without a second thought. The truth is, we have already given it an honest shot. We know whether or not our kid responded well to the change so give us the benefit of the doubt here. If you see us walking around with a giant carmel macchiato with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, assume it’s the rare treat that it probably is and lay off the guilt trip. You should know better by now than to upset a mombie.

If all this sounds overly sensitive, I’m right there with you. It totally is. And I recognize that, insane as this advice might be, it’s almost always well intentioned. But what you need to know is that parents of fussy babies are incredibly vulnerable. They feel like their parenting is exposed for the world and the uninvited suggestions often feel like criticism. Next time a friend confides that her baby isn’t quite the cooing angel she imagined, resist the urge to bombard her with your advice. Make it a point to lift her up, to keep her positive, and to let her know she’s a great mom. Because she is. She really is.

 

  • C

 

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

Essentials For Flying With Baby

I was 18 when I got my first passport and international stamp. I wouldn’t get my next stamp for another 6 years. My daughter on the other hand, had her passport picture taken when she was less than a week old. Imagine two people shaking a tambourine in her face to try and keep her eyes open long enough for the picture. Girl was not havin’ it.

We currently live overseas in Japan, and now at the ripe old age of 7 months, Baby Girl has been on 3 trips, 1 to Singapore, and 2 back to the States, and a grand total of 14 different planes. She was 2 months, 3 months, and 7 months for each trip.

Our trips always include multiple car rides, a cab, a bus, multiple planes, lots of waiting around time, and no fewer than 20-30 hours from Destination A to Destination B. Once upon a time before I had a baby, I always brought a full carry-on. Now, for the life of me I can’t tell you what I ever had in it. Hubs puts my noise canceling headphones (if you travel a lot, buy these. Trust me, you won’t regret it) in his bag but other than that, my carry on is now her needed items.

Our goal is to still travel light while making sure all her needs are met and our sanity is still intact by the end. So, from a bit of experience, many that made me feel like the worst mom on the planet, here are the things I’ll now never start the journey without:

1) Extra clothes for baby 

An obvious must. But when I say extra, I mean extras for your extras. I found this especially necessary at the 2 and 3-month age. She was still having big, unpredictable blowouts at this point and there could be multiples in a day. I didn’t feel the extra extras were as necessary on her 7-month-old trip; just extra clothes did the trick.

2) Extra clothes for you 

Seriously, don’t skip this. We get so caught up in getting the babies things ready we forget what may be crucial for us. Last I checked the duty free wasn’t selling t-shirts. So unless you want to smell like puke for 8 hours straight, throw it in.

3) Diapers/Wipes 

Duh. We plan for one diaper every 2 hours. Better to have too many than not enough. Wipes, always go for the soft packs. They take up way less space than a bulky plastic container.

4) Scented Plastic Bags 

For when the inevitable poopocalypse happens. Sure you’ll wash the clothes out, but that stink lingers. I’m not a fan of smelling poop or throwing away clothes so these bags are the perfect answer.

5) Food   

I was breastfeeding for my daughter’s first two trips making this a breeze. Just pop the girls out and my girl was happy. A good tip is to feed your baby while the plane takes off and is landing, it should hopefully help baby’s ears.

Breastfeeding lasted about 4 months for us, so she was on formula for our more recent trip and it is much trickier and requires much more planning. Like I mentioned, our overseas trips are typically anywhere from 20-30 hours from one destination to the next so that’s a lot of food to plan for. Our baby eats every 3-4 hours during the day and no longer wakes up to eat at night, so that’s what we planned for, plus one or two extra servings just in case. You know your kiddo best, so plan out those servings.

The biggest kicker though is knowing where you are going to be getting your warm water from for the formula. We were not prepared and ended up with a screaming baby until we got to the airport and asked a restaurant for warm water. We have since smartened up and now have a thermos already filled with warm water we bring with us. Most airports are good with it when you let them know it’s for the baby. (On the actual airplane, the flight attendants can provide the warm water.) On this last trip we also threw in a couple baby foods (so also a wipe down bib and spoon). Of course, don’t forget the bottles or sippys!

5) Changing Pad 

I’m no germophobe, and we are in full support of our girl one day putting some dirt in her mouth and building up that immunity! But I’ve been in a lot of airports, and those changing stations almost never seem to be nice and clean and most are actually pretty hard. So for the sake of your little one’s health and comfort this is a must have.

6) Carrier 

Confession: I never thought I’d be a baby wearer and there was no way in hell I was going to spend the $100+ for one. BUUUUT my co-worker ended up giving me her old one and if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t hesitate to dish out the cash. I’m not saying it’ll work this way for everyone’s kiddo but putting my baby girl in it would almost instantly put her to sleep. I also loved being able to have both my hands available, which is super important and necessary to me when traveling.

7) Stroller  

But not your big bulky one, an easy cheap umbrella stroller does the trick. In Japan they make you check your stroller when you check the rest of your bags, there is no gate check for it. Japan is amazing though, and provides a stroller for you while you’re in the airport. I have since learned that not all U.S. airports have strollers for you (probably since you’re allowed to gate check them).

For short airline trips your stroller may not be as necessary if your kiddo is happy in a carrier. For longer trips though, you’re inevitably waiting around at some point. Imagine trying to eat while wearing your babe and then picking crumbs out of her hair. Yup, that was me, and since I’m not a monkey I don’t think I’ll be winning any mother of year awards for that one.

8) Blanket 

Overseas trips means we are at some point traveling over our nighttime. We request the bulkhead seats so she can have a bassinet that the airline provides. On the airlines we’ve been on so far, the baby is good to go in the bassinet if they’re 10 kilos (22 lbs.) or under. Since you’re trying to get baby to sleep in a place that’s foreign, bringing their favorite blanket can help to provide that comfort and familiarity of home.

9) Toys 

Not at all necessary at the 3 month mark but a lifesaver at the 7 month mark. We brought two small toys that she loves but can also easily be shoved into the bag and not take up much space. Bottom line, they helped keep her entertained and happy. Tip: Don’t bring anything too noisy or that can make noise on its own!

10) Burp Cloth 

‘Cause she’s a baby, and babies spit up. Pretty straight forward, huh? When I’m wearing her in the carrier I put a burp cloth on my chest too. Helps save my clothes and hers.

11) Your Patience and Sense of Humor 

No matter how much planning you do, there’s likely to be some unpredicted moments. I would always feel so bad and start to stress if my babe was crying on the plane until someone gave me the best advice; “you’re never going to see those people again”. Babies cry, it’s what they do, because that’s how they communicate their needs and emotions. It’s unrealistic to expect your little one to never shed a tear during the adventure, so do your best to roll with the punches and laugh off the puke that just went all over the both of you right as you’re boarding.

If you encounter the person who rolls their eyes and mumbles constantly under their breath because there’s a baby on their plane ride, screw ‘em. You will never see that person again. Your energy needs to be directed toward caring for your kiddo, not worrying about a grown adult’s desires. In all honesty though, we’ve only had this encounter once on all of our plane rides. By and large, people have been kind, understanding, and even helpful.

Does traveling with a baby require more planning and energy? Absolutely. Is the idea maybe even a bit daunting? Sure. To us though, the idea of not continuing to travel, to see family and friends, and explore new places seems more daunting. Admittedly, our experience thus far has been with a non-mobile little one. But, we have some trips planned for later this year when she should definitely be walking; and I can’t wait to update you with the new lessons we learn from our inevitable parenting failures.

• K

The Best Piece of Baby Wisdom I was Never Given

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Before I became a mom, I was offered all kinds of baby advice. Some of it I found helpful, other things not so much. I felt comfortable picking and choosing between the gems and the rocks because I was fairly confident in my ability to parent well. I mean, people do this everyday, right?

 After I became a mom, I was offered even more baby advice. And, again, I was happy to use what was applicable and throw out what didn’t appeal to me. This process worked just fine with my first child and I vividly remember wondering why people made parenting through babyhood so complicated. To me, it all seemed very natural. I simply followed my intuition and, before I knew it, a sweet and spirited little toddler emerged before my very eyes.  So, naturally, I planned to follow the same process when my son was born.

And then he turned my world upside down.

He was colicky. He wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat. He screamed every second his skin was not touching mine. He was sick constantly. He was miserable. I was miserable. And suddenly, that intuition I had been so proud of disappeared overnight.

I flailed alone, trying to just get through each day. I questioned every single decision I made and wondered why I was such a terrible parent this time around. I remember wondering if I just couldn’t cope with having two children. And I even asked my husband if he thought I was suffering from postpartum depression. There had to be a reason why I could not make him happy. And I was convinced that it was my fault.

I simultaneously craved advice from anyone who would offer it on the off chance that they had the magic cure, while also shuddering in fear at the potential judgement being passed. When you get to that point of desperation, you have already tried every trick in the book. So in my grumpy, anxiety-ridden state, I was also frustrated when none of the advice I was given offered any real hope.

I felt ashamed and embarrassed when people I loved would make simple suggestions that insinuated his “bad” behaviors had been “allowed” to flourish. And in fairness to them, they were confused too. For the most part, such comments came from people with average kids who followed the baby book “rules”. They never had to question the axiom of putting a baby to sleep drowsy but awake. They never struggled to get their kid to shut out external stimuli enough to even allow sleep to come. It was never a question that their baby would eat exactly when and how much he was supposed to eat. So a baby like mine was… well, a mystery.

That is, until I came to a very simple realization: He is his own, unique, self. 

Simple enough, right? But the implications were profound and immediately provided a sense of comfort I had been lacking for an entire year.

I should have seen it all along. From the moment my first child was born, I was amazed at how much personality she had. It’s remarkable, really, how little it has deviated from my initial impressions. Even little propensities, like her distaste for sleeping under blankets, have been evident from very early on. Watching her grow put a new spin on the nature vs. nurture debate for me and I began to recognize that while genes influence a large percentage of one’s personality, nurturing those traits in a positive manner ultimately forms the final makeup of a person.

So why couldn’t that apply to my son, as well? I’m convinced that it does and that it explains a lot of our early struggles. Undoubtedly, there were some medical issues that complicated things but, for the most part, I was simply trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I was searching for answers in places that didn’t take his needs or personality into account. In my attempt to make my baby “normal”, I was actively ignoring the personality traits that would make it impossible to follow conventional baby wisdom. And in doing so, I prolonged the suffering for us both.

No one would argue the fact that no two adults are the same, so why do we continue pushing the narrative that all babies fit into the confined “rules” we have set forth as a society? Some people are reserved. Some are outgoing. Some are night owls, while others prefer to rise with the sun. It would be ridiculous to expect us all to operate by the same guiding principles, yet this is the expectation we have for our children. Why is that?

It still boggles my mind how simple, yet elusive, this idea seems to be. In all the overwhelming pieces of advice thrown at me by family, friends, and doctors, I was never once told that he simply might not be wired to sit quietly by himself, to sleep with regularity, to digest new foods easily. And it certainly wasn’t proposed that I follow his lead to figure out what would work best for the both of us.

In this age of smart phones and Google, when we have the answers to everything at our fingertips, we have come to expect that all our problems are black and white. We rarely take the time to consider nuance and outliers to the point that we neglect to examine them entirely. Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that we don’t actually have all the answers and that our babies are worth listening to. It’s humbling to realize that an infant can communicate better than you can listen.

At the end of the day, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know one thing: I know my son is exactly the person he was born to be. He is an independent, strong-willed, intense little boy. And I find great beauty in that. Someday, he may be be a CEO, a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, or a diplomat. Whatever he does, he will make his presence known, just as he has done from the very beginning. Hopefully, he just does it with less screaming.

So if you are a struggling Mama, like me, know this: You have done nothing wrong. When all else fails, put down the baby books, tune out Grandma’s endless stream of advice, and remember that your intuition is still in there somewhere. Listen to it. And listen to your baby. He is his own little person that was never meant to conform to conventional wisdom. Your struggles won’t disappear overnight. There may not be any easy answers. You may still come out of that first year feeling traumatized and broken. But at least you know you will be able to pick up the pieces and recognize your beautiful baby for exactly who he is, not for who anyone else says he should be.

 

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

Mom Conversations I Don’t Know How to Have

I love mom talk. Parenthood can be so overwhelming that I truly love being able to confide in and commiserate with a fellow mama. Usually, these conversations develop seamlessly. And why wouldn’t they? With so many shared experiences, it’s only natural. Every once in a while though, a topic pops up that makes me want to roll my eyes so hard my own mother would call me and tell me to knock it off. I swear, I’m a nice person at heart so it can be a struggle to hide it because I really don’t want to make you uncomfortable. But, if you want the truth, here’s what I’m really thinking:

1.) First Steps

Disclaimer: I will almost always take your assertion that your kid started walking at 8 months old with a grain of salt. You’re lucky if it doesn’t earn an outright eye roll. Does it happen? Obviously.  But what does that even mean?

Look, I know there are some kids that magically wake up one day and decide they are going to take their first steps, literally, into toddlerhood. My daughter was one. She was 13 months old and just ran out of the church following her baptism. Had she suddenly been blessed with the gift of mobility or did the overwhelming scent of incense force those little legs into overdrive? I guess we’ll never know.

My son, however, moved in incremental steps – almost painfully slow. He was cruising furniture for a good 4 months before taking controlled steps on his own. And that’s the thing. When is it considered actually walking? My take: don’t jump the gun.

Milestones, especially ones as major as walking, are a process. They take time. If your kid took a step toward a distracting toy once at 7 months, it’s probably safe to say he wasn’t actually walking. But the bigger point is, why is this even a conversation? Unless your kid is walking “late” and you want some reassurance, what’s the point of bragging about the fact that he was walking a few weeks before someone else’s? What do you want from me?? “Congrats! He’s obviously destined to be an Olympian!” (….cue aforementioned eye roll)

2.) First Words

I know it’s super exciting when your babbling baby finally utters something intelligible. “Oh my goodness!” you think, “He’s still so young! I wonder when Einstein started talking. He must be a genius!” Spoiler: Einstein didn’t talk until he was four and your kid probably didn’t say anything.

As babies acquire language, they babble and experiment with sounds and syllables all the time. You wouldn’t be riding the crazy train if it seemed as if he was saying “mama” without connecting it to the fact that you are, in fact, his mother.

I’m not trying to be a party pooper but resist the urge to spread confetti from the rafters the very first time something comes out of your baby’s mouth that could potentially be found in the dictionary. It takes some time and lots of repetition before it’s clear your kid is speaking with intent.

I understand the thrill of seeing what was once a drooling, blubbering blob turn into a sentient little person. And I will never put a damper on that joy in front of you. I promise. Just… you know… remember that your baby’s first words are in no way a reflection of you or indicative of his future Ivy League prospects. Kick back with a glass of wine and maybe reconsider before blasting all over Facebook that your 4 month old said, “potato.” Don’t hate me but… I don’t believe you.

3.) Percentile Charts

Ok, I admit it. Once upon a time, I would give myself a little pat on the back when my daughter would leave a well-baby appointment scoring high on the height and weight charts. Coming from short stock, it was always surprising and maybe fluffed my ego a bit. Seeing your baby grow is such a miracle and you really should be proud of yourself for taking such good care of your bambino. BUT those conversations, unless discussed with family and close friends, are largely unproductive.

Like I said, I, too, once swelled with pride when I could announce my kid was 85% for height and weight – or whatever it was. It was like the CDC was awarding me a silent medal for all the hard mommy work I was doing. It felt awesome. These days? If you offer up that information un-prodded, I will probably smile and nod politely while mentally shooting daggers through my eyes.  I can’t help it. It’s totally reflexive at this point.

You see, my second kiddo has never gotten along well with those charts. Despite working a million times harder to keep him fed and healthy than I ever did with my first, he has always struggled to maintain or add weight. When your baby is labeled as “Failure to Thrive” it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut for a lot of reasons, but in no small part because those charts really do seem like a parental report card. And I failed. Repeatedly. Miserably. In fact, I’m still failing… or maybe in “D” range now.

So if you are a stranger who uses me to feed your own sense of self worth in this way, there probably won’t be any playdates in the near future.

4.) Sleeping through the Night

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What kind of sorcery is this?!

I don’t understand this conversation. It boggles my mind that people have concrete answers for this. I don’t know if they’re all lying or if my kids just hate me but, in my world, there is no such thing as sleeping through the night.

Kid #1: Slept through the night starting at 6 weeks but stopped abruptly at 6 months. The next 6 months were an endless cycle of teeth, milestones, and occasional colds that left me tired and grumpy. And she’s been cyclical ever since. She might sleep well for a long period of time and then suddenly wake up every night for weeks. And don’t even get me started on the night terrors. She’s 4 and it’s still an ongoing process.

Kid #2: Sleep ninja extraordinaire. He evaded sleep with masterful skill forever. I swear to God, this child woke up every hour (if I was lucky) for the first 9 months of his life. Naps were an impossible dream. I hallucinated. He laughed at me. Well, maybe. Not sure if that was a hallucination, too. At around 18 months he finally started sleeping through the night with some consistency. And by that I mean he wakes up at night probably 3-4 times a week. 50% is consistent, right? RIGHT?!

I promise, as your friend, I will resist my urge to laugh in your face when you tell me that your kid has slept through the night reliably since birth…. if you bring me a venti white hot mocha and tell me I’m pretty first.

5.) Parenting Style

This topic always weirds me out. Why would you ask me what my parenting style is? My brain.does not.compute. I mean, logically, I understand what you are saying… there are all kinds of parenting philosophies and some of us may naturally fall into one category more than another but I seriously don’t understand the need to put a label on it. If I had to? Perhaps, “Um… I don’t know. Raising a Genuinely Kind Person Using My Own Common Sense.” That probably needs to be whittled down but you get the idea.

Raising kids is important work and I don’t blame you for taking it so seriously but it’s an art form, not a science project. If you try to have this conversation with me, I’m liable to shift uncomfortably and awkwardly redirect the topic. It’s like you’re actively making a judgment about my potential value as a friend and it instantly creeps me out. I don’t need to be recruited into a particular philosophy to be confident in my parenting, but thanks.

I’m not saying I won’t have these conversations with you. I’m just saying my brain starts malfunctioning and I may develop a twitch in one eye. It’s like the normal rules of social engagement fall away and I’m a full grown feral child. I just don’t know how to discuss this stuff. It might be painfully obvious that your commentary bothers me, even if I wish it wasn’t. I always try to be polite but some people make it so damn difficult. It’s possible that’s just years of sleep deprivation and unwashed hair talking though. I’ll let you know if I ever get to consistently sleep through the night again.

 

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

 

Photo Credit

What Made Me Okay With My Stretchmarks

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I’ve read the stories about moms who feel beautiful and even sexy while pregnant, during birth, and shortly thereafter. My hats off to them, but I definitely did not feel that way. Strong, brave, even impressed with myself would be the list I’d use, but beautiful was not on it. Even after my stomach returned to near it’s pre-pregnancy shape there was one piece stopping me from getting back my pre-pregnancy body… damn stretch marks.

I’m not going to lie, I thought maybe I would be the exception and not get stretch marks at all. My sisters have each gone through two pregnancies without getting them; I worked out through my whole pregnancy, and managed to eat decent. I shoulda been good, right? Nope, wrong. I could clearly see where they showed up underneath my bellybutton in my last few weeks of pregnancy but was still optimistic they’d go away right after I gave birth. Clearly I was delusional. Why would I have even thought that?

Like everyone else, I see the inspirational quotes about stretch marks being our battle wounds, our tiger stripes, a physical representation of our hard fought journey. I get those, and I get how those sentiments make women proud of their stretch marks. For me though, they fell flat. Those quotes didn’t make me view my stretch marks as beauty marks. They didn’t help me feel any better about their permanent placement on my body. I wanted them gone. But then something else did. I honestly can’t remember where I saw it, no doubt somewhere on social media, but it changed my perspective forever …

“For every woman who hates her stretch marks, is another one wishing she had them”

That was it, that was all I needed to be proud of and okay with my new body. It was like flipping a light switch for me. I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion and it was all put into perspective for me. I felt selfish that I was stressing over something that held no real weight. At that moment my heart ached for all the women struggling to get pregnant, unable to get pregnant, or the woman who wanted a child years ago but her life path hasn’t gone that way. My heart continues to ache for them.

Having stretch marks creates no pain or suffering in my life. But the pain of wanting a child and not having one, it makes me tear up thinking about it and I’ve never even experienced it, that’s a pain I can’t comprehend bearing.

I’m a believer in allowing people to come to peace with things in their life in their own way and time. For me, coming to peace with my stretch marks was realizing that there are women all over the world who would trade in their unscarred bodies to hold their own child without a second thought. But if you’re looking in the mirror and struggling to be okay with your new body and feel beautiful, my advice is this: go pick up your baby, cuddle your beautiful little one, and remember all that beauty had to come from somewhere, it came from you.

• K