Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom

There is this set of bloggers using a series of themes, kind of getting to know each other and blogging on the same topics week to week. They use #wholemama on twitter, and I've been following along and meaning to get more involved with it, but just haven't found the time. Which I suppose is kind of the definition of parenting - I'd like to, but when?

In any case, last week's blog theme was on being empowered or kind of your mommy superpower. I wrote kind of a treacly blog post that I didn't even like and shoved aside. It's not that it's dishonest - it's not. It's not even that bad, but it talked a lot about the newborn days and my memory of those days is one of incredibly strong, hyperbolic feelings, a kind of weird fierce pre-civilization protectiveness that is hard to write about, tough to define without falling back on cliches. It's rough and it's saccharine and I think I can do better. So I've got it saved and there it will stay until I want to look at it again.

But, when She Who Shall Now Be Known as Teethy McFussybritches woke us up at 1:30 and then again at 3 this morning because Teeth #6 and #7 are not easy teeth, I thought of that theme, all sarcasm and bleary-eyed desperation. Jason took the first crying time, and the second I got up with her. While I settled in with my fussing, distressed 10-month-old wiggling like a 22-pound goldfish and gnawing on literally anything that came within two feet of her, I thought of that theme. Forty-five minutes later, when she finally, finally fell back asleep, I thought of that theme.

I also wondered how it is that the more tired I am, the more my brain and body slow to a crawl, but as Teethy McFussybritches gets more and more exhausted she ramps her energy up like they've invented Infant Cocaine and it's 1983.

At 4:30, when I was still awake and had to concede it was time to make some coffee and start my day, I thought of that theme. I also thought a lot of varied and colorful swear words.

In my sappy post, I wrote that our superpower as parents is that we are always there to protect our children, even at the cost of our own health if need be. This morning, I thought that while it's a hyperbolic thing to say, it is pretty true. The real superpower of parenting is that you keep. getting. back. up. when they need you, even when it means you can't think or do math or put words together or suddenly forget how to spell "equivalent".

At 6:30, we woke up our peacefully sleeping daughter, who seemed for all the world as though she had dreamt the night away with nary a peep (unless, of course, you were the one holding her while she tried to throw herself backwards away from her own teeth in the middle of the night - or the one whose fingers she chomped down on as hard as she could to comfort herself when you made the terrible mistake of checking to see which teeth it was that had popped through). At 7, Jason left to take Teethy to daycare and to go to work, and I settled down with my laptop to start in on my own workday.

Asleep around 11 and up at 1:30 and then again at 3 am for the day? Ten years ago that would have been rough, and ten years ago I would routinely skip hours of sleep just because I was eighteen and there was nobody to tell me to turn my light off and go to bed any longer.

As a parent, you just... keep going.

That's our superpower.

Our brains, in many cases, are taking some of the worst beatings of their lives thanks to sleep deprivation and stress. I have put a mug full of hot coffee in the fridge for three hours before remembering I'd brewed any. I packed baby food instead of lunch for myself one day. I've worn two different shoes, a shirt on backwards, driven to work without remembering a single second of the drive.

Granted, she's not bad now - she mostly sleeps through the night, except for when she's sick or we have fresh teeth making their appearance. There are still nights like last night, when my eyes were so heavy I think I was in her room and holding her before I managed to pry them open, finding my way down the hall entirely by memory, feeling like I was dreaming even this.


I got up.

So... that's the parenting superpower, if you think about it.

We may wobble down the hall, but somehow we stay up until they're in our arms.

Like Weebles.

Parenting is like Weebles.

You can see why I get paid to write.

I'm clearly a genius.

(If you don't know what Weebles were because you're too young, don't tell me. I'll suddenly have gray hair and need bifocals if anyone reminds me how long it's been since they were popular.)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In Brief

This is the face of a child who thoroughly believes she is helping me pack for our trip to Illinois.

She isn't.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Start 'Em Young

I'm a nail biter. Or... at least I used to be.

I suppose it's more accurate to say that I'm a head-scratcher. I scratch my head as a nervous habit. I grew up biting my nails. In what I feel was probably a bid to somehow encourage me to stop (the first of many, until she just gave up and started sighing heavily and accepting my neuroses as set in horrible twitchy stone), my mother bought me that clear nail-polish-for-kids that just peels off so you don't have to use harsh chemicals on it.

Eventually she had to take it away from me because I would just paint my nails, let them dry, peel off the polish, and repeat the process.

It's most likely part of having an anxiety disorder. I'm a worrier, and part of that is that I worry at myself. I bite my nails or tear up the skin around my nails or scratch my head or twist hair around my finger and if you take all those habits away from me somehow I will figure out something new.

It's only within the last few years I've been able to (mostly) stop my nail biting. Even then, I start it right back up when I'm stressed, stuck in traffic, or when one of my nails tears and I'm not anywhere near clippers. I count how many fingernails I actually have at least once a week, proud if I have 8 or 9.

When I (mostly) stopped biting my nails, I started scratching at my head without realizing it, in the same situations or when I'm reading a book. It's such an ingrained habit that I can't stop. Except that I mostly did stop scratching at my head about a year ago... and immediately began biting my nails again

Basically, I have to pick a nervous habit and declare it the lesser of fifteen thousand evils and go about my day, because if I really tried to stop all my nervous habits I'd A. have to lock myself in a room for a year by myself with no distractions and B. still wouldn't succeed.

Oh, there was one time I stopped biting my nails and scratching my head.

I started picking paper apart into little shreds compulsively instead.

I am a magical creature, and frankly I'm just trying to be happy that I don't flip light switches a specific number of times yet. Although I have been known to check to make sure I turned the oven off like four times.

In my defense, though, that's because I occasionally do actually forget to turn the oven off when the cornbread is done and I won't remember until Jason and I have just settled down to eat dinner.

Wait. I got off track here.

Over the course of June, Audra has gone through her first serious round of ear infections. She had them in both ears, and they didn't respond to the first kind of antibiotics. We ended up having her on SOME form of antibiotics for over three weeks altogether, which I don't like; Jason and I are not fans of antibiotics, as their overuse has made antibiotic-resistant bacteria much stronger and more common. That said, if the doctor tells me she needs a medicine, she's getting a medicine.

Plus, she wouldn't top scratching and pulling at her ears, and that worried me too.

I mentioned to the doctor today that despite her ear infections being taken care of, she's still pulling at her ears regularly, although it seems like she does it more often when she's tired and trying to stay awake.

"Oh, that's probably not anything to worry about," Audra's physician cheerfully informed me. "She's probably just picked it up as a nervous habit. I'm sure it'll go away on its own."

I looked down at my 29-year-old fingernails - 9 perfectly normal and one bit down nearly to the quick.

Well, I thought, I'm never buying her that peel-off nail polish...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

For the Love of a Good Toothbrush

Audra fell in love with her toothbrush. This seems like a good thing, on the surface.

She happily accepts it and its "safe to swallow" toothpaste before bed (which is good, because I don't even know how one would teach a baby to spit something out on purpose and not just when you're out in public and really need her to actually contain food within her mouth for five seconds). It has an Elmo on it, came with the toothpaste, and was on sale at Publix. This was not a fancy toothbrush. We're not as diligent as we probably should be about brushing her wee little teeth, but I normally make a good faith effort to clean all five of them (which are, thankfully, all at the front of her mouth right now) and call it a night.

We've run into a problem, though.

She really is in love with the toothbrush.

Once she has ahold of it - and she will grab it, it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' - that's it for the toothbrush. I just frantically try to get her teeth clean in the fifteen seconds or less I have before she figures out how to get her Hercules-grip on it and steadily pulls it out of my grasp. Then she rubs it all over her own gums quite cheerfully, so I figure, hey, it's probably helping clean her teeth a little that way.

She chomps down and chews on it. She sits there smiling around her toothbrush at me, cooing happily.

This is all well and good for a few minutes, but eventually that child has to go to bed and while I'm all about breaking the "no stuffed animals or blankets in bed EVER EVER EVER or you are a BAD MOMMY" rule that the internet has proclaimed the Gospel As Told by Random Doctors on Parents.com, I'm... not so much about "hard plastic things she can actually choke on".

So when it's going on bedtime and we need her to be calm and chill in the very dim light and drink her last bit of formula before bed for the night, we try to take the toothbrush away.

That's when the rage begins.

You've never seen a baby so devastated by the heartlessness of the world.

She'll start with the "eeeeehhhhhhh" whine that she learned God-knows-where (okay, it was me, she almost certainly learned it from me), ramp up into short, staccato'd "EH EH EH EH EH" and then finally wind it on up into the full on whine-shriek that is the calling card of all toddlers everywhere. She doesn't even toddle yet! Sometimes she goes for the full make-Mommy-feel-like-mud treatment, which involves her yowling "NUH NUH NUH MA MA MA" until I want to sink into the floor or buy her a pony with a solid gold saddle.

I want to tell her that there will be many toothbrushes in her life, and she will not love them like this one, but she can rest assured that her toothbrush will always be there for her.

I cannot tell her this. She understands like nine words altogether, and complexities of toothbrush relationships cannot be explained using the words "hello", "goodbye", "yay!", "no", and "doggy". She continues to yell. She is heartbroken

The love of her life is gone and Mommy (or Daddy) is the villain who stole it from her.

Then I hand her the empty plastic cup I just drank water out of and she chomps down on the edge of it, starting chewing, and forgets that the toothbrush ever existed.

She's happy... until I have to take the cup away.