Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Doctor is In

Claire and I have been enjoying our developmental movement class. Each week, my daughter enjoys hanging out with other babies while listening to the ukulele. I like that Claire is the star of the class on her tummy – thus indulging a baser impulse in me to live through my child for the first time.

This weekly delight was sullied a bit, though, when the group leader asked why we’d all taken his class. Most of the moms talked about spending more time on tummies or rolling over. I launched into my background as a special education teacher. How I’ve seen everything from reading disorders to writing difficulties go hand in hand with delays in gross motor skills. I said I was taking the class because I wanted to make sure that I was supporting Claire’s development in this area.

The other moms were interested in what I had to say. Not Dr. Movement. Perhaps my answer was too intense for him or I took up too much time. Perhaps I stepped on his toes a bit. He started by letting me know that delays in gross motor skills don’t necessarily translate into academic struggles. Then he warned me that my deficit model philosophy as a special educator could cause me to look for problems in my daughter instead of celebrating her strengths.

His lecture rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t like to be lectured. I don’t like to be lectured in front of people. I don’t like to pay someone to lecture me. And, most importantly, he couldn’t have been more off base. I think Claire is just perfect, thank you very much. I am not worried about a deficit in her. I am certain the problem lies within me. Wait, so there’s the skewed philosophy…children are born perfect and their parents mess them up. I will be no different as a parent.

This belief of mine was surely born of the therapist-ridden culture of NYC. Everyone I know is either messed up by their parents, thrives in spite of them or has had years on the couch to get back to status quo. Unbeknownst to him, Dr. Movement helped me realized that I had been either resigning myself to this fate for Claire or working myself into a frenzy trying to fight it. Well, that seemed a humorless perspective to me, and I started thinking it was precisely this vibe that made Dr. Movement give me a good talking to.

In the end, I am thankful to him. My perspective is a problem, just not the one he thought. Claire deserves a mom who feels confident in her ability to parent her. She needs a mom who can just let her be. So, as she works on her mini-pushups in class, I’m going to work on an attitude adjustment.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Weekend brunches with strangers are rife with idle chitchat and searches for commonality. So I wasn’t surprised when a father at a get-together recently asked me if my baby sleeps through the night. This question is the infant equivalent to “what do you do?” It’s too early to compete about who walked or talked first, so sleep is the barometer of parental success. No one agrees about what constitutes “sleeping through the night”, though. So when I say, “she sleeps five hours or so”, I feel pretty good about my answer. Evidently this number was not good enough, because the man launches into advice about upping it.

The story goes that he and his wife slowly reduced the amount of milk they fed their sons at night. Then they substituted water to trick tiny, little bellies into feeling full. And finally… Nighttime feedings eliminated altogether! “Oh really”, I manage to say noncommittally. What I’m really thinking is that this story reminds me of the frog slowly boiled in water that has insidiously risen in temperature. With the conversation ended to his satisfaction, the man walks away with a plate of prosciutto and melon. I turn to George and say, “Well that sounds like a teenage eating disorder in the making”, as I stab a hunk of smoked salmon onto my plate.

I hadn’t thought about this encounter, until everything went to pieces. The Demas family has been going through what’s called “The Four Month Sleep Regression”. When Claire woke up at 12:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30AM to eat and was up for good at 6:30AM, this man’s advice started sounding seductive. Coincidentally, a friend of mine had just sent a link to a website proffering help for sleep deprived families. When I go to click on it, there it is in all its glory -- a two-part series on eliminating nighttime feedings. So, huh, here I thought this guy was a kook. Come to find out that this theory has professional support. I read on and stumble upon words to horrify a desperate mother looking for answers: “If you don’t address nighttime wakings, your child may have SLEEP ISSUES FOREVER” (“ever, ever, ever” reverberates in my head). I perk up and start taking this idea more seriously. But as I read on, I’m looking for some science to back up this dire warning. That cannot be found. So I google “eliminating nighttime feeding” and find kellymom.com. Kelly’s mom flat out says don’t believe the hype. Scare tactics are usually designed to sell product of some kind or another, and the product in this case is sleep advice that is more appropriate for sleep-deprived parents than babies burning the midnight oil. In essence, parents are the ones with deep pockets; babies have no pockets at all.

I think she’s right. It’s easy to be swayed by slick websites and offers of professional help when you are near insanity, with a child glued to your boob and have come close to dissolving your marriage in the middle of the night on several occasions. You are willing to consider depriving your child of food. And the business of baby sleep is counting on this fact. Kelly’s mom didn’t have a solution to offer, but she provided evidenced-based information that explained the developmental reasons for this grueling sleep schedule. I still felt insane with a child glued to my boob, but I breathed a sigh of relief that our new not so normal nighttime routine was normal. (My marriage never really was in jeopardy, in case you were worried.)

But I’m no perfect parent, so who am I to judge this parenting technique? I must admit, though, that I wish eliminating feedings would go the way of leeches and thalidomide. So if you’re a parent reading this post and have successfully undertaken eliminating feedings or are consider doing so, I do apologize. Quite possibly, you are judgmental of me for not finding an answer to my baby’s sleep “problem”. Quite possibly, you will have the last laugh. If I write a post a few years down the road about my child’s continued sleep issues, please feel free to comment, “I told you so”.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Adventures in Retail

“Well, that was just great!” George says with a spring in his step. He’s not talking about mind-blowing sex or dinner at a five-star restaurant. The bags he’s carrying are not filled with loot from the Apple store or Bergdorf’s. What he then describes as “like a trip to Europe” is a Demas family outing to the grocery store.

We stroll the aisles of D’Agastino’s like grand avenues. We compare the fat and sugar content of novelty ice cream bars, while Claire enjoys the repeating patterns of tubs and boxes. If we are feeling racy, we venture into the chocolate aisle or buy bubble gum. There’s never a serious purchase. We save the more industrious trips for Trader Joe’s.

If you’re thinking, “wow, they don’t get out much”, it’s not entirely true. We take Claire all kinds of places. Unlike the grocery store, though, these trips require an action plan of varying complexity. A simple trip to the park means packing and lugging the diaper bag, loading her into the car, finding parking. Then there are the intangibles. What if hunger strikes in the middle of a traffic jam? Will the clouds let loose while we roam the ramble in Central Park? What if she starts screaming in the middle of the Cloisters with no quick getaway? How do we handle an explosive poop on the duvet cover of a prestigious Broadway producer? (Yes, that happened.) Then the rare trip without Claire requires pumping and babysitter coordination. Plus, I just miss her when we’re out. I miss things she does too, like her very first laugh. I’ll never get that back.

So now it may seem I’m complaining about a complicated yet boring life. Actually, I’m in George’s camp. I couldn’t dream of a better time with my two favorite people. Well, one thing would make it better -- D’Agastino’s with my two favorite people on a full night’s sleep.
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