Tag Archives: motherhood

This is motherhood

IMG_5781*phone rings*

“Hey Mummy, I’m in the grey truck with Daddy. Have you made my Valentines cards?”

“Yes sweetie, Mummy made cards for your friends. They are at home. I made pretty bags and put a candy bar in each”.

“Oh Mummy! Thank you so much! I am so excited”.

And suddenly, there it was. It was all so worth it: the time spent hand making those little bags, the paper cuts and the missed sleep. The excitement and gratitude catching in my three year old’s voice… It was worth it.

This is motherhood.

*****************************************

IMG_5911That is totally what I was going to write immediately after that ‘phone call at 5 pm.

At 6 pm, it was a different story. I came home stressed because there were more Valentine’s bags to make, since the class has – unbeknownst to me – increased in size recently. We came home, dinner needed tending, Caroline needed feeding, the bags needed finishing, and in the middle of all this Sam comes up to me and says “Can you go and find my Thomas pictures, please?”, since his Dad is curled up on the sofa feeling ‘cold’.

“Yes,” I snapped. “Because heaven forbid I do only THREE things at once for this family” I muttered as I stomped angrily upstairs leaving a bewildered three year old behind.

Let’s be honest, this too is motherhood. This is the second part after the Babble / Scary Mommy sickly ending that no one really writes about. Just keeping it real here.

This is motherhood.

****************************************

IMG_5998Now it is 9 pm. Caroline is fed and sleeping, the dinner was served, Wes put Sam to bed over an hour ago freeing me up to wash my hair, the Valentines bags are in the car, and I am drinking wine. Life is calm.

This too is motherhood.

 

 

 

Advertisements

An Open Letter to my Pediatrician pt 1

A letter to my pediatrician after his explosive diagnosis:

Part 1: Setting the scene

Dear Dr “I”;

Edit: If this tl;dr then know this: Doctor’s surgeries are shitty places to get a decent assessment of a child.

Earlier this week, my son and I came for his 24 month check-up. You might have remembered us from previous visits, because we have always come as a 3-some: myself, my son and my husband. You have commented that it is “nice that Dad comes” – assuming, I guess, that he is the main bread winner. Actually, he is a Stay-At-Home Dad and I am a Work-out-of-Home Mum and this is technically his “job”. He arrives early, having packed a diaper bag full of those things needed to manage a 2 year old out the house with minimal disruption to people around him, and bouncing a toddler who has been well-dressed to my specifications. I am the one who arrives just in the nick of time, dashing into the surgery in a flurry, leaving a trail of apologies in my wake while I fend off emails on my cell ‘phone. I am also usually shedding small toys from my handbag that I packed this morning because I want it to look like I am deeply involved in my son and fear everyone’s judgement not only as a working Mum, but one who frequently works 6 days a week and in the evenings. I guess you don’t usually see all this because, actually, I have never known you to be on time.

However, this week our only child-safe vehicle was kaput and with a toddler in Houston that is a problem. So my husband offered to go and replace it, while I took Sam to his check-up. This time *I* was the one who arrived early, looking calm, dressed not in a forbidding suit but casual Mom-dress that I actually selected to look a bit fashionable, but also a bit cosy. How I would like to look if I was a Lady who lunches. Successful, but approachable. In tow, I had my son looking smart in a new outfit. I had carefully packed a ‘Thomas Train’ wheelie suitcase full of educational but engaging, wooden (not plastic!) toys. I selected those that would keep my son entertained, but also show off his intelligence, such as his ability to label every letter, tell you it’s sound, and give you something that starts with that letter. ‘A? Ah-ah-ah-ah… Apple!’.

So this (predictably) happened about 10 minutes before we arrived at the office

So this (predictably) happened about 10 minutes before we arrived at the office

Despite all this careful preparation, the visit did not get off to the greatest of starts because it was slap bang in the middle of nap time. Yes, I scheduled it for then, but there seems to be a microcosmically small window of time when we can get a morning appointment with you. I am still not even sure if it is possible. Call 2 months before the appointment due date? Too early – call back later. Call 6 weeks before? “TOO EARLY” says the irritated receptionist. Call 5 weeks ahead? The same receptionist gasps “Oh its so late! Why didn’t you call earlier? I guess we can squeeze you in in the afternoon”. I have never successfully figured this system out, so I just bring my son at times inconvenient to us, and especially to him.

12 month odl picture of Sam in the Texas Children's Pediatrics witing room.

12 month old picture of Sam in the Texas Children’s Pediatrics witing room.

You were running late (surprise!), so I wrangled my active, grumpy toddler around the waiting room which does have toys and fish and books and other children, so it’s generally not too bad. He saw a little girl, probably about 4-5 months of age. “Baby!” he yelled delightedly, and ran offer to offer her some of his cheese. Embarrassed (but secretly a little proud too) I apologized to the baby’s mum. She laughed and didn’t mind. It was going OK. I can do this. I can handle the Mum stuff. I can not only handle it, but handle it well.

The nurse came out – “Dr I is running late, we’ll take his blood first”. Take his blood? No one told me this. But, OK, whatever, I do whatever medical professionals recommend, so we sat in the lab waiting room and I filled in forms while my son spilled his milk on the floor and stomped in it saying “Splash!” and my carefully cultivated exterior began to unravel a little. This year’s form asked tonnes of questions – 4 pages of them. ‘Does your child point when s/he needs something’. Yes. ‘Does your child smile back at you?’. All the time. ‘Does your child bring you things to show you. Not for help, just to share?’. Ummm… not sure. I don’t see him in the day much… He brings me presents… this morning at the park he brought me an ants nest [I chided myself for throwing it down in disgust] but no… never just to show me, only to give to me. Circle ‘no’.

An ants nest gift. I would have preferred a flower.

An ants’ nest gift. I would have preferred a flower.

‘When there is an unfamiliar sound or person in the room, does your child look to you?”. I can’t really remember an unfamiliar thing happening… I can recall when strangers come over for a visit and my son (who is somewhat shy) gets uncomfortable he runs over to me, and asks to be picked up or holds my leg. I think. It doesn’t happen often. I search the recesses of my mind and curse myself for not being able to recall such a situation. OK, no, I guess he doesn’t ‘look to me’, rather he runs over to me. OK, I’ll circle ‘no’.

Of course, this is a truncated version of what it is like for me to fill in this damn questionnaire, because I am filling this in while watching an over-tired toddler careen around the room. So my thoughts actually go something more like

“When there is an unfamiliar – Yes you can have some cheese – sound or – Please stop giving the baby cheese – person in the – No you can’t have a cookie – room, – Please stop yelling – does your –Sam! Stop yelling, you can’t have a cookie, but you can have a banana – child look to you?”. I can’t really – No banana? How about milk? – remember – Here is your milk – an – Oh no, the milk is spilled, shall we clean it up?– unfamiliar thing – Very good!! Put the paper in the trash please – happening… – No! The trash! Don’t give it to that little boy! – I – No! Stop making him eat it! Oh God, some mother is going to be hella pissed at me now – can recall – Shoot, where did I put *my* bag? Where is my wallet? – when –There it is! But wait, where is my… Sam! Put all your letter cards back” – strangers come ‘Oh God, where is Sam?!? I’ve lost my child. Oh, he’s counting the fish. Very good. Yes, there are three fish – over” and well… you get the picture. These are my thoughts as I search the depths of my mind for memories of obscure situations and try to quell the growing tide of Mummy guilt that I don’t know my child as well as I should, haven’t been observant, have missed these key times in his life… all the while trying to fill this damn questionnaire in. I wish my husband were here, we’d tag team it – one would fill in the questionnaire, double checking with the other, and the other would amuse Sam with increasingly silly games. We’re a good team. We’re not bad solo, but it is somewhat uncharted territory. But I pride myself for being honest in this questionnaire. Wary of Mums who think their child can do no wrong, I err on the side of caution.

Oh how he loves his letters. Also: why did I bring letters to play with which have many (well... 26) parts to get scattered around the waiting room.

Oh how he loves his letters. Also: why did I bring letters to play with which have many (well… 26) parts to get scattered around the waiting room.

My “successful but approachable” exterior was becoming slightly more disheveled.

Ahhh.. we’re being called for the blood draw. “Sam, shall we go see the nurse?”

Sam: “Nope”.

*Curses myself for making it a question”. “Well we are going anyway”.

Sam toddles in, and is strapped in a chair on my lap. He doesn’t want to be strapped in a chair. He wails. The nurse pricks his finger and he is a little annoyed, but hellaciously pissed when she keeps squeezing blood drops out. Repeatedly. Despite him repeatedly saying ‘No, no, no!”. This is not helping his mood. When the blood taking is done, I walk off with my over tired, angry toddler and find ‘Room E’. Looking at the letters distracts Sam from his anger – he dutifully called out each letter on each door and when he sees ‘E’ says ‘Yaaaaay!”. Wait, what? He has to go *in* Room E? But he wanted to continue telling Mummy what all the letters were. He loves letters! He hates sitting in small bare rooms! Oh man, is he angry.

This sums up Sam's thoughts at having his blood drawn.

This sums up Sam’s thoughts at having his blood drawn.

But, he’s pretty reasonable, for being one of the the irascible, irrational, unpredictable things known as a toddler. Distracting him with his toys works somewhat. Then I find a book – a new book! A book from the doctor he hasn’t seen. Sam sits down and gets busy “reading” the book – turning the pages and pointing out everything that he can. The nurse comes in. Sam doesn’t look up – it’s a new book!! “Sam, can I measure your head?”

With nary a pause he says:”Nope”.

She looks unsure. I don’t know if I should intervene? I decide not to – I am not the medical professional here after all. She continues:

“Sam, I am measuring my head – look! Can I measure yours?”

Without really looking up: “Nope.”

The nurse looks like no 2-year old has ever refused the amazingly wonderful treat that is having your head measured. I am decidedly unsurprised by this response, but she seems unsure again. “Sam, would you like to touch the tape measure?” I try to help: “Sam – would you like to look at the tape measure? It has numbers on!”

Sam is smiling. There is a train in the book! Sam’s favorite thing! He glances askance at the strip of thin paper, makes a quick decision and turns back to the train. “Nope”.

The kid seriously likes trains

The kid seriously likes trains

The nurse starts to get desperate. “Maybe I can measure Mummy’s head!”. I decide I have had enough of this charade. While I appreciate her efforts not to touch a child without their permission and her efforts to engage Sam – and I really do – this is becoming a farce. “You’re just going to have to do it anyway”. “Really?”. “Yes! Just do it! He’ll be fine”. The nurse measures Sam’s head… he doesn’t mind, until it obstructs his reading “No, no, no!”.

I’m not complaining about these activities, I’m just setting the scene for your entrance. I am just letting you see a glimpse into how we arrived at the point we saw you.

Nearly 38 inches! He;s going to be a tall one.

Nearly 38 inches! He;s going to be a tall one.

The nurse, Sam and I go out the room to weigh Sam. He’s cool with standing on the scales and looking at the numbers. Just under 30lbs. Perfect. He doesn’t want to go back in the room – the letters! He wants to tell me about the letters on the doors outside the room. Amazingly, he is actually pretty good about going in the room, with a minimal but short wail. Me, nervous of medical professionals, unsure how to interact with them, is starting to get more flustered. I’m getting hot. I regret straightening my hair and wearing it down, and wish I had just pulled it up. When it is height time, I haik Sam up onto the bed, he’s pretty tolerant of this – he fusses when it takes too long. I apologize, but these are things toddlers do, right? They are starting to know their mind, and starting to want to control their world. It’s part of the territory, right? No toddler wants to lie on a bed when there are toys and books around. That’s why I like people with / who have had / who work with toddlers. You know the deal, and I know my toddler has not yet hit the ‘terrible 1s / 2s / 3s / whatevers’ so I think he looks pretty good. 37.5″ tall. Not bad. Growing well.

The nurse runs through the checklist: “Is your kid walking?” Yes. “Is he eating a variety of foods?” Yes. “Is he regularly eating fruits and vegetables?” Yes. “Does he have at least 50 words?”. I pause…. I am no good at guessing numbers of things or distances (like… I am often crazily off). It’s hard to think on the spot of 50 words that Sam’s knows. While also managing my cranky toddler who wants to be outside. “Yes,  think so”. “Is he sleeping?”. “Ha! No! He was! He has decided he doesn’t want to go to bed this week!”. You are big on sleep and sleep training, and I suspect you are going to go to town on this. We’ll have the familiar jokes that I am a ‘softie’ (actually, more often than not it is my husband who ducks out of your strict commands – please quit with the gender stereotyping). You’ll tell me that ‘we need to put the kid’s needs above our comfort’ and I’ll pretend to be meek about it, and we’ll make a plan. I know how these things go.

Not an accurate representation of bed time currently. Hashtag: toddlers.

Not an accurate representation of bed time currently. Hashtag: toddlers.

The nurse asks me if I have anything to ask the doctor. I hate this. I always feel I have to ask something so that I appear engaged and interested, but as a developmental psychologist who grew up at a busy child minders, who has nannied, volunteered with kids and taught early years education, I generally don’t have any questions. But dutifully, like preparing for a job interview, I have thought of one “Do you have one of those informational leaflets that you print out on potty training? Like we have had ‘how to feed your child’, ‘how to interact with child’ ” and so on? Do you have one for potty training?”. Actually, I don’t need one. I know how to potty train. But I want to give it to my husband who is not moving on this important issue. “You’re STILL doing that?” she asks, incredulous. I am confused. Do I need to remind her my son is only 24 months? Like, this is not a big deal yet? I becoming more flustered and stressed. “You have to ask the doctor”. She says. OK. I am now resigned to another lecture from you. But we’ll work it out. You’ve been a good guy so far. A good pediatrician. We’ve recommended you. Our friends have followed our recommendation. Now I feel guilty about this, but – more on that later,

And she leaves. We wait for you. I sniff – ugh, dirty diaper. I take Sam to change him, and we bump into you going through Sam’s questionnaire. You love kids. You clearly really love kids. You always greet Sam with an excited “Hey Sam – how are you doing?”. You don’t today. You look wary. You look hesitant. “Hi Sam” you quietly and go back to your papers. I worry about your last patient – I hope that you didn’t have to give some bad news to a family. I change Sam’s diaper. Surprise! He doesn’t want to go back in the small room. He does. But he’s pretty grumpy about it.

We play some games together and wait. I am disheveled, and feeling crappy from the nurse. All doctors make me nervous and I am anxious about seeing you. Sam is at the tired toddler stage where at any moment he could throw a fit. He’s doing well, but he is cranky, tired, and really wanting to be at the nurses station where he saw a large jar of lollipops. We’re managing, we’re doing OK but it is not an ideal situation.

Then you come in…. We will discuss how *that* went in part 2.

Thinking about a social media break

I am a big fan of Facebook. Recently I was challenged to write 3 things I was grateful for, for 7 days. On day 4 I wrote that I was grateful for Facebook as it helped me keep in touch with so many friends near and far. It helps distant family feel close to Sam, and it helps me reconnect with friends when I see them as if we had never been apart. I am not ignorant to the fact that several amazing presents have come my way on the back of Facebook comments.

So, while I do miss actual snail mail, with the tendency to include photos and cool things (and I love my friend Frances’ idea to reinstate the writing of actual proper letter, [and she even goes so far as to get them in the mail]) I am aware of all the benefits of social media. That being said, I am also aware of a growing downside to social media for me. It’s not the classic ‘comparing my outtakes to every else’s highlights real’ (which I managed to work through and overcome that a while ago) but more, the time sink. I have realized that given 20 or so minutes to myself  (which actually is all I seem to find to myself of late) I will choose to zone out in Facebook, even if it several times a day. I wonder if I could be doing something more productive during that time – relaxing, and a hobby, but more productive? Sewing, blogging, baking, walking all jump to mind. Anything other than scrolling through my newsfeed. I have lamented the neglected state of this blog and have missed writing it, but wondered when I would find the time – then I realized all together I probably spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, or facebook-originated click bait.

When I started to think about taking a break, I realized a second down side of social media to me – it’s kind of an information overload for me. I am a member of enough groups and media websites and that I get offered about 200 articles a day on Science, parenting, politics etc; but the thing is: most of them are terribly written. Even ifl Science has been winding me up with the inability to write accurately about a very simple Scientific concept: heritability. If ifl Science describes an 80% heritability as “80% of cases are due to genes” when actually it means that 80% of the population under study’s liability is due to genes, and thus potentially no single case could entirely due to genes, let alone 80% of cases…. I digress, if I can stop smile errors in areas of Science I know, what else is it describing inaccurately to me? Would I not be better off reading articles on PubMed? Along the same lines, do I need to read endless anti-vax articles which make me depressed or enraged depending on the time of day and amount of coffee I have had? Or more stupid, uniformed and inaccurate  comments from The Food Babe? Even more damaging for me: do I need to read parenting articles from pseudo scientists that make me defensive and insecure about a process I am actually entirely comfortable and and at ease with?

When I had a friend who left Facebook because she got depressed about other people’s lives looking so much ‘better’ than hers, I understood, but took the view that I don’t use social media in that way. I don’t use it to compare my life. I used it sensibly. But now, 2 hours + day of mindless scrolling later I wonder if I actually do? It is a great way to stay in touch with people, but perhaps I should confine it to that?

I have two stores that stick in my mind… One is of a friend who describes her birth as “my water broke at night… I went into hospital… after a couple of hours I found I didn’t have to wait for an epidural! I got mine immediately… slept through the night… woke up… waited for my OB and had a baby”. The other is of a friend who casually mentioned she was grateful for doing sleep training with their 8 week old. These stories interested me because both of these decisions: epidural and sleep training I arrived at after WEEKS of agonizing and hundreds of internet articles telling me that both would ruin my child and indicated that I was somehow less of a devoted parent. My two friends had reached these two decisions easily, and seemed oblivious to “the great debates” surrounding them. Ultimately they made the same decisions as me, but without the heartache. And ultimately, if they had made those decisions or the opposite, I am pretty sure they, their children and their families would have been just grand. It occurred to me that both these friends barely use facebook. They post the odd update, stay in touch… but are not the (dare I say) addict I am.

It really got me thinking that perhaps I needed to step away not just from the information overload, but from the uniformed information overload.

I am resolved not to break from Facebook, but to limit my time with it. Maybe a morning scroll in bed, a quick look in my lunch break. Maybe I don’t even need to be on every day?  I have toyed with taking a clean break for a while, but I would feel bad that my family would not see so many of Sam’s pictures. I am hoping that a break will still help stop me sharing everything via Facebook and gets me back to writing a few more blog posts . I am also hoping my stress from silly click bait is reduced.

What about you? Do you find social media positive or negative? Do you think it hold you back and uses up too much of your time, or have you got it where you like it?

A conversation over a glass of wine

Former hobby

Former hobby

The other day I was chatting to my husband about something that I had something to sell on Craigslist. He said “Ooooh, you should get a good few dollars to sink into a hobby with THAT”.

I grinned. Then I paused and said “I don’t have any hobbies anymore….”.

“Seriously Wes, you have a little bit of time in the day, and your evenings. I get up, have breakfast and go to work. I come home, cook dinner (which it is my choice to do), eat with the family, and then because I have missed Sam all day, I insist on doing the bath-play-bottle-bed routine. Sam goes down at 8, I clear up and it is 8.20. I am too tired to think about a hobby, plus, it is time I want to spend with you! On the weekends, I like to take Sam on a playdate Saturday mornings, and Sunday mornings are church… on both days, I get home at 1, always have some work / chores, and then by 5 it is time to be thinking about dinner again. I don’t have any hobbies! I barely maintain the aquarium that I have, and there is nowhere to go hiking or biking in Houston. I can’t make the gym and get back to lifting and if I bake there is no one to eat it because I don’t go out anymore!”.

424720_10151268450875392_1466468847_n

Another pause.

“In those few hours that I do have, I like to do Sam’s scrapbook, and his baby book, but I don’t really need much for that”.

Wes looked at me and said “Well… you really wanted a baby. I guess your hobby is your baby”.

580321_10202275636549436_213178592_n

New hobby

I guess so.

It is not quite accurate – I do have a hobby of voluntary work: volunteering weekly at MD Anderson, sponsoring a child ton whom I write to regularly, and helping with the church childcare once a month. And I chose to cook the evening meal because I enjoy cooking and like to do that. But I used to do so much: video games, reading, hiking, a tonne of sports, travel… I feel like the old Lekki is gone.

My sponsored child

My sponsored child

It is not a bad thing, but it is certainly a ‘I-am-glad-that-I-really-lived [and I think I really lived]-before-kids’ thing, and it is a ‘this-is-the-life-I-wanted-and-I-love-it thing’. But it was a bit of a revelation and a bit of shock, and perhaps not something I had appreciated when I chose the ‘I want an involving, demanding, uncertain career – a vocation – and a family’ .

I don’t think it will change, and I don’t think I want it to change. In fact, I made the decision I would try not to fit my kids around my life, but to drastically change my life to them. But, it is still a shock to realize, and I am just learning to appreciate the new normal.

Anyone else feel this?

I came across this cartoon today which sums it up.