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.


“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.

Just like the birds and the bees, parents should talk about race

Annika has been learning her colors for some time now. She learned brown and orange pretty well several months ago For a while she confused all her colors, but in the past few weeks she’s really gotten the hang of it. Since she understands now that she knows her colors, she’s been excitedly pointing out the colors of things without being prodded.

A mama friend of mine, who is also a fellow Bi-racial mom, told me that her daughter started being curious about her skin color around the age of 2. So ever since Annika’s new proficiency with colors and labeling them I’ve been waiting with mild and somewhat increasing interest in when she notices our skin color is different.

A couple of weeks ago we were sitting in the living room with our dog, Baltar, and she looked at him and said to me, “Baltar brown.”

This was new, pointing out his color instead of the color of something inanimate. I wondered if she was going to notice her own skin color, and then mine. I still don’t know what exactly I will say to her about our differences. I think at first I will be matter-of-fact about it and then as she ages and the appropriate times present themselves I will delve deeper into it.

Then she looked down at herself and said, “Annika pink.”

She was wearing a pink shirt.

Then she pointed at me and said, “Mommy red.”

Yep, I was wearing a red shirt.

I wasn’t disappointed though. She’s a little young to talk to about skin color yet.

But that episode and a Facebook exchange with another mom about brown-skinned dolls led to a reminder of a couple of articles I read last year that I loved and I wanted to share. Even if you don’t have children, these articles are good reminders that we, as a society, are still not completely comfortable with the topic of race. But it’s good to talk about it, as you will read.

The first article is an excerpt from the book Nurtureshock. The article talks about how children are inherently racist. Not that they hate all people of different color, but they naturally select people who are like their parents, gravitate to them, and unless they are told differently, they believe that people similar to them are the best.

Studies performed at University of Texas, in Austin, showed that White parents didn’t want to talk to their children about race. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to approach it. These parents want their children to be colorblind. Their intentions are admirable. But silence on the topic was found to give the children the opposite idea. The researchers found that these kids, who could clearly see the differences, took it to mean that their parents didn’t like Black people, or they thought it was a taboo topic.

The next article is about a Black family who adopted a White little girl and the racist attitudes they encountered, especially the father when he was alone with his daughter.

Hair products aren’t black and white

After skin color, the other most obvious difference between the races is typically hair texture.

When I was pregnant I wondered about fixing Annika’s hair.

How would I comb it? Would it be easy? Would I mess it up? When do I start using product? Do I really need to use product?

Last week we visited Toyin’s family in Michigan. One of the mornings that we stayed at his parents’ house, I got in the shower with my toiletries from home and realized that my crappy little plastic travel shampoo bottle had cracked and most of the shampoo had leaked out.

I was reminded of why I had actually brought my own shampoo. Even though I had not given it much thought, I had this idea that I wouldn’t be able to use the shampoo at Toyin’s parents’ house. Toyin rarely uses shampoo on his own hair, so it’s never been something we have discussed. Plus, well, he’s a guy. I have never really talked about hair products with any of the men in my life.

So when I got into their shower, and realized I might have to use some of his mom’s shampoo, I examined it and realized that there was nothing much different about it than my own shampoo other than it was for curly hair and I don’t have curly hair.

I felt like an ass. This whole hair product myth in my head was just another one of those stupid stereotypes or just flat out pieces of misinformation.

I mean, it has never occurred to me to buy different shampoo for Annika than for myself. Conditioner, maybe, but not shampoo. And the conditioner would only be different because she has thick, curly hair, unlike my flat, limp hair. So why would hair products for Toyin’s family be any different than Annika’s?

After my shower I got myself dressed and I began cleaning Annika up the for the day. I haven’t bought any hair products for her yet, although I’ve been meaning to, so I decided to look at Toyin’s mom’s stuff and see if she had anything I could use on Annika.

I tried this stuff called Luster. It worked great. I barely even needed to comb her hair because it smoothed it out so much.

Then, in order to cultivate myself a little further into the world of African American hair products, I decided to see how it would react to my hair.

I dabbed a tiny bit on my palm and smoothed it on the tip of some of my strands. I was like, “Wow, this stuff is great!”

It didn’t take much, but it smoothed out my frizzies ever so slightly and made my hair feel silkier than usual.

The next day I tried his mom’s shampoo, Creme of Nature detangling shampoo. I really liked it. It was a bit creamier and a little heavier than what I typically use, but my hair was less frizzy than usual too. I’m planning on buying some and I will likely use it on myself as well as Annika.

Deep in my roots I am a bit more of a hillbilly than many White folks, so maybe I’m in the minority, but I grew up thinking that (big deep breath here, please don’t think I’m an idiot) Black people’s hair was greasier than White hair.

I have no idea where that idea came from. I’m not even sure I remember ever hearing it from anyone. Maybe it was because it was the 70s and the Jheri curl was a popular hair-do, which to me, always looked wet.

What I’ve learned from various Black friends over the years is that Black hair is typically drier than White hair. Heavier conditioners and less washing is a must for Black folks, also the reason many Black women wear braids a lot of the time or use hair weave to keep their natural hair from breaking.

I’ve learned a lot about the differences between the races in my adult life, and now that I have a child, I’m starting to see the similarities.

Success, a Bi-racial baby doll… sort of

We’re in Michigan this week visiting Toyin’s family, and I knew being in southeast Michigan, which surrounds Detroit, I would likely have a much better chance of finding a brown baby doll. I was right.

Of all places, my friend Tareeshia and I, found a whole shelf filled with Black babies at Big Lots.

When we got home we realized that the baby dolls were actually Spanish dolls, but I don’t care. I’m just happy to have another baby doll closer to Annika’s skin color.

Kwintshle kwintshle Little Star, I’m finally as important as my car

Annika mixes up her Ks and Ts. When she asks for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, she says, “Kwintshle, Mama, Kwintshle.” When she gets tickled, she laughs and says, “kittle.” This has nothing to do with health care reform and the bill finally passing, as this post does, it’s just fucking cute.

When I awoke this morning to read that the health care bill finally passed yesterday, I shed a few tears of joy and relief.

I’ve been without health insurance since Annika was 6 months old. I left my job to care for her at home in the first year of her life and with that decision came a decision to lose health insurance for myself. I was lucky enough to have an employer who would cover me for the first six months after she was born. They were not required to do so, but they did anyway because it’s a small company and they felt like it was a good decision for the company and their employees leaving on maternity leave.

My biggest fear with losing health insurance was not for my current health, but for some big unknown in the future. What if I get cancer and my then insurance drops me because it might be a pre-existing condition?

Now that we have health care reform in this country I am overjoyed at the prospect that I will soon (someday?) be able to pay a bill once a month that will allow me to be covered in the event of a catastrophic occurrence in my life, much the same as if I were to have a car wreck and my car is covered.

I’ve always thought that insurance was one of those necessary evils. I mean, it’s silly to pay into a system that you will never get anything out of unless something bad happens to you, right? In theory and with cars and homes, yes, it is sort of silly, however in such a large society, I suppose it’s necessary. The truth is, big companies have more clout than the average American and the reason cars and houses are required by law to be covered is because banks don’t want to take the fall for accidents. Human beings on the other hand, can just go piss off.

The odds that my body will fail at some point in my life are greater than my car getting into a deadly wreck before I trade it in for a new one.

My expectations of a great change with this health care bill are not great. It will be months, if not years (more likely) before people like me will be able to expect any great change in their lives. I might even (hopefully will) have some coverage through a job or another network by then.

But it’s nice to know that our lawmakers finally acknowledge that people are just as important as cars and houses. Finally.