And so the toddler years begin

I’ve been thinking about learning how to brew some sort of booze at home. Not because I think it would be fun. Honestly, I have some negative images of people who enjoy home brewing alcohol, based on some questionable characters in my past life.

But, really, I’m thinking about doing it because I have a feeling I’m going to need a large glass of something alcoholic at the end of each day for the next few (16 or 17?) years and I want to make sure it’s always available, even if it isn’t fully fermented.

It’s been one of those days.

Annika purposely dumped her lunch on the ground at the park; soaked through her shorts, threw toys all over the house, over and over again throughout the day; refused to eat her dinner unless she was holding the dish or standing up; dumped food on the floor, purposely and accidentally; stood in the bathtub screaming, tried to climb out before I had washed her, dumped water on the floor; and then ran around like a wild woman tossing books on the floor and alternately crying and laughing until I took her to bed an hour earlier than she usually goes to bed.

And today wasn’t even what I would classify as a bad day.

We had fun at library story time this morning. She actually slept long enough this morning so that I could have a luxurious shower and make my coffee before she woke up.

She was adorable and charming. She said, “I luff you,” for the first time. Granted, she was just repeating what I said to her, but still, she said it as we stood over the stove making soap.

I was actually able to make the soap, start a scoby, chat with a friend on the phone and make homemade french fries that are sitting cold and barely touched in the refrigerator because she suddenly decided that she preferred peas over french fries.

By 7 p.m. I was exhausted. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my mom used to say, “You have to go to bed because I’M tired.”

I always thought it was unfair, especially when she said it and didn’t actually go to bed, but sat up reading or knitting, doing things that looked like work to me and I couldn’t understand why she needed me to be in bed for her to do them. (Yes, I used to sneak out of bed and sit in the darkened hallway, checking to make sure that it really was necessary for me to be in bed.)

So yeah. The toddler years have begun in full force.

I have a feeling I’m going to really regret complaining about feeling forced to take naps with her.

My parental screw up period is over

On Sunday morning as Annika and I rolled out of bed, I went in to the living room, put on a video and said to her, “Mommy is going to lie back down for a few minutes. Okay?” I swear I never do that, but I was really tired on Sunday. Honest. I really don’t.

As I flopped back into my bed she ran in and was like, “No Mommy. Gep up.”

As I lay there looking at her demanding my attention, something occurred to me. She might actually remember this. Oh shit. I better gep up.

Up until recently I have been operating under the assumption that I am still in my grace period for parental fuck ups because, well, she ain’t gonna remember, so if I do something wrong I can still plead the fifth during her therapy sessions after her first traumatic relationship where her therapist starts pointing out the parallels between our relationship and why she lets men treat her like shit.

I’m really looking forward to that.

But yeah. She really remembers things now and I have no idea when her first long-term memory might kick in.

My first memory is one of me wearing my Cookie Monster pajamas and chasing after my brother to bring him his lunch at the bus stop. My mom says that I wore those jammies when I was about 2. She was surprised that I remembered them.

So, really, do I want Annika’s first memory to be of me telling her to go watch TV while I sleep? I can see it now. She’s going to be blogging about her childhood and I will be all like, “I swear to all the gods in all the universes, I only did that ONCE!”

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that language and memory go hand in hand. And if that is accurate, then I suppose she really might remember a lot of what’s happening right now. She’s really speaking in full sentences now, even though a lot of them are not distinguishable to most people.

So I guess my grace period is up. I wonder if that means I’m eligible for health insurance now.

Being single-ish means more than the fact that I’m not getting laid

Being a co-parent instead of the traditional single mom and dad with established visitation means that in some ways, you have to function like a marriage.

Since Toyin and I decided to go the co-parenting route, this means three things. One, I often refer to myself as single-ish when I’m talking to other parents because I don’t like the stereotypical image of saying I’m a single mom. Two, I have to consult Toyin on things like when to take Annika to the doctor and how often she brushes her teeth. And three, I still don’t have time to date. The latter has more to do with the fact that I’m still breastfeeding and co-sleeping and I have other things to do when I am without Annika, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make an effort to blame Toyin for it.

Anyhoo, last week Annika was sick and when she gets sick, the dys in our dysfunction flares up and man, does it itch like crazy!

We tend to disagree on how to treat illness. I tend to take the more laid back attitude of, “Well, we’ll see if the rash goes away on its own. If it starts dripping puss, then we can try rubbing some raw garlic on it and if that doesn’t work I’ll take her to the doctor.”

Toyin on the other hand, well, I’ll just put it this way. I’ve taken her to the doctor twice for one cold because he was determined that she was going to die if we didn’t inject her with something that ended in dryl or drine and had lots of ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

So, yeah. Last week she was sick. She wasn’t dripping puss or running a fever, but she was highly uncomfortable.

What was wrong with her is irrelevant, and I’m going to be vague about it because I think this particular problem crosses the line into her privacy and what could potentially embarrass her.

But I thought I had it under control and instead of asking Toyin for advice, I gave him a list of items I needed from the store and assumed he would show up with them.

Instead of getting all of the items on my list, he got two out of the seven items and then some stuff that was actually counterproductive (in my opinion).

I was all, “WTF Dude! Are you fucking kidding me? Don’t you have a cell phone? Check in next time.”

And he was all, “I don’t need to check in with you. I have a mind and I can think for myself. Quit being a beotch!”

Okay, okay, he didn’t actually use the B word, but I could see it hovering in his mind. When you get to a certain age, you can almost feel the B word and the C word inside the head of a man. They don’t actually have to say it. They just think it and all your lady parts stand at attention ready to retaliate.

Then over the weekend Toyin and I got into a discussion about education, as in, what Annika’s education will look like as she is growing up.

Once again, I got all huffy with him and I ended our discussion with, “I can’t talk about this right now.”

Oh christ. Did those words just come out of my mouth? I am for sure turning into my mother. I just hope I don’t forget how to check my voicemail and start doing crossword puzzles.

Since I learned that I was pregnant, I formed a pact with myself that I would not impose the exact same negativity on my child that my parents did with me and my siblings.

My parents fought insanely my entire childhood. Even when they weren’t having major blowouts, the bickering was constant.

That was something I never considered as a possible problem. Toyin and I weren’t getting married. Sure, we argued sometimes but except for the time when we were an actual couple, the fights were rare. For the most part, we got along.

Then we moved in together and spent the first 18 months as parents under one roof.

Yeah.

I’d say that 80 percent of the time, it was at least, okay. There were some blowouts. It got nasty a few times. I chalked it up to normalcy. I mean, even loving couples argue. Passion often inspires heated moments between anyone and even though Toyin and I aren’t passionate about each other anymore, we’re still passionate and very, very opinionated people.

But after last week I realized something, our lives will be entwined for a long time. (I know, you’re going, really Martha, you JUST realized this?) Somehow I thought that once we moved into separate homes things would change and I would get to start making all the decisions without consulting him. Ever. Okay, no I didn’t really think that, but somehow I thought it would get easier. And it has, mostly. We are definitely getting along better again. But even though we aren’t married, our lives function that way on some level. We will always have to make decisions for Annika as parents. And boy howdy, the big ones haven’t even started yet.

So far, we’ve done alright. Our biggest decisions have usually started with me going, “I want to try some kooky new age crazy hippie thing.” Then he looks at me like I’ve lost my damn mind. Then I explain and explain and eventually wear him down.

Just kidding. Okay, not really. But most of the time we make rational decisions based on what’s best for Annika. And I think we’ll do just fine. I’m just looking for a way to do it with less “discussing.” And by discussing I mean arguing and bickering.

So, how do people do it? How do you make decisions without arguing? I am not a big fan of compromise, especially on big decisions. I mean, that just seems like you have to take to really fine ideas and then water one or both of them down so that nobody is happy.

If one person wins all the time, the other person is never happy. And really, in situations like this, nobody really wins because family members shouldn’t have to compromise themselves to make the other person happy. It’s probably one of the main reasons people get surprised with divorce papers. One person was happy and the other person was silently stewing.

So, that’s the end. Normally I would try to think of something funny to sign off with but Toyin is due back with Annika. So, go rub some garlic on it and we’ll see if it stops itching.

Helping her get her way

It’s a common parenting adage to say things like, “You have to teach them that they can’t always have their way.”

I say poo poo on this idea. I prefer to teach my daughter that she can get her way. Instead of being the bad guy and making up arbitrary lessons to knock her down, I’d like to help her learn when it is appropriate to insist on her own way, and when it is appropriate to step aside, or share, or let someone else have a turn.

I like this idea because I think in the long run, while it may not always make for a well-behaved child, it will make for a more empathic person who knows how to stand up for herself. And that’s my goal, to raise a happy, functioning adult, not to have a kid who knows how to mind her P’s and Q’s, although, that would certainly be a nice bonus.

Yesterday I was stuck on the couch watching a video on an endless loop for about an hour and a half because Annika was exhausted and she fell asleep while nursing, catching me unawares, because she’d already had a nap.

It was late afternoon and she kept asking to nurse. I nursed her in bed for a while, but she seemed bored. So we got up. I thought her stomach was hurting her and I had her lie down on the couch and I covered her up with a blanket, which she seemed to like. But after a couple of rounds of this, she asked me to nurse again.

At first I said, “Oh no, we’re done nursing for now. Would you like some water?”

“No!” she emphatically stated.

“Nuse!”

“No, you can have some water or some food. Do you want some yogurt?” I offered.

“Nuse! Nuse!” she cried. Her body stiffened up and she started to cry.

I reached out for her to hug her. She turned away.

I watched her for a minute.

All the different parenting voices shouted at me.

“You have to stand firm. When tell a child no, you have to mean it. Be consistent.”

“But she really seems to need to nurse.”

I gave in and nursed her. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, giving in. Letting her “have her way,” whatever that means. I don’t understand why parents think that if you let a kid win an argument or give in to a demand that is somehow bad parenting. Personally, I think that’s a good way to teach a kid that they will never get what they want.

I was so glad I did give in yesterday, because she was on the verge of a major tummy ache, one that lasted all day today. We spent the whole day on the couch, sleeping and nursing. She barely ate. But she nursed a ton. She was having terrible pains throughout the day. When one would come on, I’d rush to her side, or hold her tight if I was already there. And by the end of the day, she started yelling for me, “Mommy!” And reach out to me. She didn’t need me to be there. But she wanted me to be next to her.

I like that. I like helping my daughter. I like seeing the proof that she knows she can count on me.

And yes. I like helping her “get her way.” I hope she always gets what she wants in life.

I learned the hard way that night weaning does not ensure sleeping through the night

I’ve given up on night weaning.

This may come as a shock to any of you who have been following my night nursing travails. From what I’ve written I’m sure that it seems as if night weaning was a relative success and we were now sleeping through the night.

This was true on some level, but I’ve come to realize that many children simply do not sleep through the night for the first few years of life, no matter WHAT the parents do. My daughter is one of those children.

We had gotten to a point where she stopped crying and asking to nurse. This happened in a relatively short time. I thought that was all it would take. All it should take. Every mom I talked to told me that their kids started sleeping through the night once they night weaned. And if they woke up, they went back to sleep easily with cuddles and/or a drink of water.

Apparently I was talking to all the wrong moms. Or, maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear.

But I’m here to tell you, if you think that night weaning solves all your sleep woes, it ain’t so.

Say it isn’t so!

Let me say it again.

Some of us simply have to accept the hard truth that it takes longer for our wee ones to sleep through the night without any major intervention from us.

A brief synopsis of our night weaning:

In December I broke down and decided to night wean. It went well. The first night was pretty bad. The second night wasn’t quite as bad. And the third night she slept for most of the night. This continued, with brief night wakings for about a week until Annika got a cold.

Then she awoke begging to nurse and because of her dry mouth and stuffy nose, along with a spotty fever, I didn’t have the heart to tell her no when she asked to nurse in the middle of the night.

We continued night nursing until some time in February when I decided that the worst of sick season was over so we needed to get back on track.

This time didn’t go so well.

I don’t remember how long it took, but it was several weeks of off and on crying and asking to nurse.

Then she stopped asking to nurse. But in March I realized after a few weeks of continuous waking that Annika was not going to just magically sleep through the night.

She’d wake up and then lie there, tossing and turning and whispering, “nuse,” for about an hour. Then eventually drift off.

But I stayed awake.

I realized that if I wasn’t getting any better sleep, there was really no reason to force her to lie there for an hour trying to fall back asleep when I could just nurse her and she’d fall right back to sleep.

The good part in all of this is: A couple of weeks ago is when I started night nursing again. Since then her language has had what I consider to be a second explosion.

The first one happened around 16 months when she started saying her words really clearly.

Now, at 23 months she’s saying tons of phrases. She was saying random phrases before, but these new phrases are in the proper context.

She tells me, in reference to an object, to “Set it down, Mommy.” “Call Daddy.” “Go for a walk.”

She’s also started screaming “Stop!” when I comb her hair.

So, yeah. Night weaning has not solved my sleep problems. Annika clearly needs nursing to help her as she struggles through her developmental phases. Maybe she’s needs it more than other kids. That’s okay with me. I like knowing that she leans on me. I hope that she always does. I want her to know that I’ll always be there for her.

And the cool thing is, I am learning how to deal. These first two years of being a parent have made me tougher than I ever imagined I could be or ever would be.

I thought I had done a lot of hard things in my life. I got married and moved across the world to another country.

I got divorced.

I lived in Detroit. Alone. For several years.

I’ve done numerous other things here that were hard and scary that I’m not going to mention.

But let me tell you, none of that stuff has anything on being a parent. It’s toughest, scariest, rockiest road I’ve ever traveled. And night nursing was just the beginning.

Dropping in to my life through yoga

I want my life to feel like ashtanga yoga.

About a month ago, I started a yoga class at my friend, Rhonda’s, new studio. I went to a couple of classes and then life got in the way, illness, lateness, and our trip to Michigan, so I missed class for a few weeks.

At Yoga Sunya, they teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga, which is characterized by focusing on a dynamic connecting postures. The movement between each posture is just as important as the posture itself.

I went to class on Saturday. I have done some stretching here and there in the past month since my last class, but I haven’t done a full hour’s worth or even more than a few minutes of yoga at home. But about halfway through the class, my body took over. It was easy. I just did the same thing over and over again. And soon it was easy. It felt good.

I don’t mean that it felt good physically, even though, it did feel good physically.

More importantly, it felt good mentally.

At one point, it didn’t feel good physically. Briefly I thought I might pass out because I was underneath the heat vent and I got my first glimpse into what menopause might feel like.

So I moved away from the vent. I continued on. And it was easy. It felt good. I liked it and I want to do it more and more. Instead of stopping, which, part of me wanted to do, after my short stint with fake raging hormones, I continued. And it was easy.

After class I sat down with Steven, Rhonda’s husband, and my instructor. We chatted for about an hour because I’m writing a freelance article about their new studio.

He shared how he learned about yoga. He gave me a brief yoga history lesson. And he talked about how his practice affects his life.

When he started doing yoga, he thought it was just another form of exercise. Something to help keep him in shape. After some time, his understanding of yoga morphed. He began to see the connection between his daily practice and his mental state.

After only a few classes, I have begun to see the connection. And now, I’m looking forward to continuing on with it so I can see more long term effects.

The first few classes I took with Steven, I grunted and stretched. He adjusted almost every pose I did. I tried really hard to pay attention to my breath. Inhale, stretch. Exhale, stretch. Oh, crap, I inhaled before I was done with the exhale pose. “Hurry, hurry,” my mind said. “Catch up.”

I started out like that during this class. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. Somehow, my body took over.

I didn’t have any great realization. The only thing I did differently this time was tell myself not to worry.

I told myself to stop thinking that everyone else in the class was noticing how bad I was at this. I chose to tell myself, “It is okay if you aren’t as fast or as smooth as the other students. Nobody is judging you. Nobody else cares if you stop or if you do a wrong move.” I paid attention to my breath. I did the moves. I stopped over thinking every little thing. I got behind a couple of times and instead of skipping the in-between movement, I just followed my breath. Instead of staying behind, I caught up. Pretty soon I was feeling stronger and more powerful than I had only a few minutes before. I was flowing.

During our interview, I told Steven how my body just took over during class.

When I told Steven this, he smiled and said, “You dropped in.”

I didn’t ask him to explain because I thought I knew what he meant. Maybe he meant something else, but I interpreted it to mean that I let go of what I was thinking.

I let my body drop into the flow of the movement. I stopped trying to control my body with my mind.

I want my life to look like that.

Whenever I attempt something new, I know what I want to do. But I find myself constantly worrying that it’s not good enough. Or somebody will tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Or that I can’t do it. Or that I won’t be fast enough. I won’t be good enough.

But the truth is, I’m the only one telling myself that stuff.

Well, no, that’s not true. I didn’t completely make it up. My parents told me that stuff during my childhood. I was expected to get A’s in school because “You’re smart.” If had questions, I was told, “Don’t be stupid.” I wasn’t given choices. I was limited on food and television. I wasn’t allowed certain activities because of religious beliefs. I was forced to go to church, which gave me a neurotic fear and unhealthy obsession with my afterlife.

I didn’t like sports so I always got picked last because I wasn’t fast enough, even though in eighth grade I almost beat the fastest girl in track during a fun run. I would have at least tied with her, but when we rounded a corner, out of sight from the teachers, she pushed me off the road. I was slowed down just enough so that she beat me, but I hauled ass right behind her even so. Bitch.

There have been many moments in my life where I had small realizations that I was fast enough and smart enough. But I always talked myself out of that awareness. I told myself it was a fluke. Somebody else wasn’t feeling good. I caught a break.

I’m not going to do that to myself anymore.

After my class and interview with Steven, I decided to start doing what came naturally. I decided to listen to what I want. Not because I’m feeling particularly selfish, but because it will help me practice doing what I want in life.

I went to lunch at Mr. Natural, a local vegetarian restaurant. I’m not a vegetarian, but I have been craving vegetarian food lately. I ate there with a friend last week and the entire week afterward I kept thinking about the milanesa patties with green chile sauce, nopalitos, gorditas and their freshly made corn tortillas. So I went and ate there. I didn’t think to myself how I really shouldn’t be eating out, or tell myself that I needed to get home and do some work.

When I got home, what I really wanted to do was watch a TV show and drink a beer. So I did. While I was sitting there, I noticed that what I really wanted to do was organize a space in my living room that has been badly out of whack since I moved in. It’s been four months.

It is finally clean. The clutter is gone.

Over the past several months I’ve been working on organizing my thoughts toward what I want and what I want my life to look like. I’ve been telling myself that if I just work toward those goals, they will come.

I do believe that is true, but what I’ve realized that may not work for me because my mind is constantly fighting with me about what I should do.

I am constantly trying to remind myself what I need to do.

But this doesn’t work for me because then my needs and my wants start to conflict and I do whatever I need to do in order to avoid the conflict.

Now, though, what I need to do is to stop. Listen to my breath. Watch my inner thoughts and let them flit away. Let the actions arise effortlessly.

I want my life to look like yoga. That is what I want.

Spring: a time for renewing my nursing vows

I think people should make resolutions not once a year, but for every season.

I’ve always been a big believer in resolutions, even though I don’t always stick to them, they are good reminders of things that I want. And in the end, if I want it badly enough and resolve it often enough, I usually do it. Eventually. Most of the time. Sometimes. Okay, maybe not ever. But sometimes, I do. Really.

To that end, my spring resolution is a renewal of my original intent to continue nursing Annika until she is ready to wean on her own. I’m even contemplating going back to night nursing since night weaning hasn’t been the cure-all for my sleep ailments that I thought it would.

About a month ago, I began contemplating weaning.

I was sick of the constant clutching at my clothes and rolling around in my arms to position herself at my breast when I was holding her. I was frustrated because Annika would turn up her nose at food, but then two seconds later request to nurse.

So I decided to turn to my trusty mothering books for some answers.

I’ve been reading, How Weaning Happens, and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. These books have helped me to realize that most of what I’ve been feeling is completely normal. Feeling frustrated because she prefers to nurse instead of eat regular food. Worrying that she’s not getting enough nutrition. Annoyed because every time we are about to go somewhere she wants to stop and nurse. More annoyed because she wants to nurse before she gets strapped into the car seat after a trip somewhere, even when I tell her we can nurse as soon as we get home. Frustrated because nursing has become physically irritating.

But in reading these books, I have realized that some of my frustration is possibly some of the cause of additional nursing. I had wondered if that might be the case. Nursing to Annika represents not just nutrition, but closeness to me. It is a big part of her support system. Suckling helps her ease her stress during heavy developmental periods. When I tell her no, or blow her off with distractions, it represents rejection to her, thereby adding to her stress.

It’s not like I didn’t already know that stuff. I did. But it was hard to see it through my gritted teeth and clenched hands during the nursing sessions that were little more than light sucking most of the time. I’d look down at her and say, “You’re not even really nursing!” I began to wonder just what it was exactly that she was getting out of it.

It made it even harder to be at playgroups with other kids her age and their moms saying, “Oh yeah, we’ve completely weaned. It didn’t seem to bother little so-and-so in the slightest.” Or, “Oh, yeah, she sleeps through the night, no problem.”

It seemed to me like most of the other moms I knew in real life didn’t have the same issues surrounding nursing that I did.

I felt alone in my struggle and questioning myself about how much she really needed to nurse and was I just creating bad habits.

But these books, and additionally some online friends have rallied around me in support, telling me I’m not the only one. She will eventually grow out of it. And yes, she really does need it. Even though all the stupid parenting experts say she doesn’t.

Where did my little girl go?

For the longest time, I thought Annika would be a baby forever.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. I knew that logically. But there was something in my brain that couldn’t let go of the image of us as mother and baby forever. The idea that she would grow up seemed so far off in my mind that I just concentrated on her as a baby and read books on babies and thought baby thoughts.

Then over the past couple of months, I realized with a horror that she is almost 2!

Two freakin’ years old! Where did these past two years go? It seemed like only a few months ago I was still pregnant and then giving birth, cuddling my sweet, soft, newborn.

It’s a little early for this post, I realize, since her birthday is not for another month and a half (May 10 if you want to send gifts, LOL). But for some reason, this seemed like the appropriate time to write about it. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized that my memory is never going to be the same again and since I’m thinking about it, I should do it now. There is something about becoming older and having failing body parts that makes you start to really live in the moment. 🙂

But anyway, Annika has been developing rapidly as of late.

She has start saying, “Cool,” and “Cause,” as pat responses. She tries to work remotes and she actually succeeds more often than I expect.

She has recently started to bargain with me, which trips me out.

She has gotten picky about what she wears and when she likes her outfit, she pulls at her shirt and says, “Annika cute.”

She knows all her colors. She can count to 10 and is beginning to recognize most of the numbers in random spots. She likes to sing the alphabet, although she can still only get up to ABCD, then H, by herself. She also knows XYZ.

She has favorite foods already. She loves cashews and cantaloupe and chocolate. She refuses to eat vegetables even though during her first year she gobbled them down voraciously much to our (and everyone we told) surprise. She requests pizza occasionally.

She’s such a, a, a, dare I say it? A KID! Oh my god. And it just happened overnight.