About Amy

This blog is about my wife's and my experiences making a baby and then raising the child. I'm a PhD candidate trying to balance dissertation work, parenting, marriage, and home-maker endeavours. I also dabble in urban homesteading, and sometimes share stories about my chickens and gardens. I'll candidly share my successes and failures in this balancing act.

Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue

I read this book for last month’s parenting book club. It’s a parenting guide for the gender-typical parent of gender-typical kids, who want to learn to be aware of, and to minimize, the impact of limiting stereotypes on their sons and daughters. Stereotypes that are limiting include boys being unemotional or un-nurturing, and girls being bad at math (among MANY others). My wife and is somewhat gender-atypical (i.e., she doesn’t adhere to many feminine-stereotypes), so a lot of the warnings in this book around boxing girls into a female-stereotype box weren’t issues for us – our kid gets lots of stereotype-myth-busting experiences in our family. However, the book is also just so chock full of information that even we got some useful stuff from it, and I enjoyed reading it.

Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes
*I’m an amazon affiliate, so if you click to purchase this book I get a small commission.

In a nutshell, this book is about parenting with an awareness of gender stereotypes. The title suggests that it’s about raising kids without gender stereotypes, but the author acknowledges that this scenario isn’t often practical (this is why I say it’s a book for gender-typical parents and children, for whom breaking gender norms is optional). Using a lot of statistics, the author gives you some really solid, well defended, reasons why yours kids are better off without being forced into a set of gender expectations. You won’t feel judged for letting your daughter wear pink or for enrolling your son in sports over music, but you will be reminded (or enlightened) of the very reasonable reasons for also enrolling your daughter in sports and letting your son have a doll.

The statistics are presented in an easy to comprehend way, but there’s also an entire chapter for the more technically inclined reader which describes effect sizes and experimental method. This chapter allows readers with and without a background in research and statistics to understand why the research can be trusted over the myths and misconceptions.

One criticism I have for the book is that the author uses the term gender where sex would be more appropriate. Gender is a social construct that develops as children gain a sense of identity, but Brown refers to gender as something you know about your newborn. I think this label was just used to assuage the masses – many people seem more comfortable using the term gender, rather than sex, for their little ones. There also isn’t much discussion about gender non-conforming or non-binary kids, but these kids do get an honourary mention in several chapters.

I’ll leave you with one big take-home message that I personally got from reading this book. As a society and as parents, we place too much importance on gender as a category. Kids (and adults) are already aware that males and females are different from one another, and there’s no need to highlight that as parents. Although I’m extremely conscious of gender stereotypes and of problems with dividing people into us-vs-them groups, the book reminded me that I point out my daughter’s gender on a regular basis when I say things like “you’re such a strong girl!” Yeah, I’m saying something feminist, challenging gender stereotypes that girls aren’t strong, but I’m highlighting her gender. Since reading, I’ve been calling her a kid rather than a girl. She will know her gender without me repeating it to her in every other address. When I read her books that include pictures of children, I’ve also stopped describing them as girls or boys, and instead say, “see the kid there playing with the ball?” It’s perhaps a subtle gesture, but by removing some of the importance on sex differences, we can open doors to our children to create, or at least see, a world less focused on the differences between men and women. We’ll make the world a better place by raising young people who interact like one group rather than divide themselves into unnecessary categories that compete and clash and foster such evils as toxic masculinity and violence toward women and non-binary folks.


The parent preference

Bedtimes are pretty lovely now when it’s my night to put Avery to bed. She’s agreeable, and she loves to flop on her bed and read the agreed-upon number of books together, and then cuddle in close to fall asleep. I listen to her singing songs quietly to herself, and I get lots of kisses and hugs.

But when my wife puts her to bed, it’s still cause for an emotional breakdown. My wife does bedtime for 2 nights on, 2 nights off. We take turns, and keep that pattern consistent. But on the nights my wife is on, Avery screams and cries that she doesn’t want her Mo – she wants to sleep with mommy. She won’t let her Mo hold her books and instead piles them up at her bedroom door saying they’re for mommy. She pleads with her Mo that mommy is right on the other side of the door (“mommy right there!”) and that she wants mommy instead. Eventually, after about 10 minutes of crying and pleading, she gives in and lets her Mo read her books and then cuddles up with her to fall asleep. But if she so much as hears a floorboard creak outside her door, she gets upset again, asking for mommy. I take off as soon as I’ve said goodnight and get as far away from her room as possible because I hate hearing her cry for me when I can’t go to her.

It’s so hard on my wife. I don’t know what to do to change the situation, if there’s even anything we can do. I hope she comes around to her Mo soon.

On a related note, she still asks for milk at every bedtime, even though we weaned almost 2 months ago. She asks, and then remembers, “milk all gone.” She then settles for her water, but will “forget” and ask again a couple of times during each bedtime. It’s wild how hard-wired nursing was in her brain, and how hard it was for her to give it up.

Whatever happened with our nap training? (Success!)

I realized today that I forgot to update on our nap training process after day 1. Just 3 days later, we had a nap-trained toddler. All the process involved was consistency and sticking to my guns and not giving in for anything.

On day 2, she cried at the door of her bedroom for 10 minutes and then willingly came to bed where I read her one book. She fell asleep within another 10 minutes.

On day 3 she started out agreeable. Without tears, she laid down with me and tried to get comfy. I read her a book. She wanted another one, but I’ve set a one-book limit for nap times (consistency and sticking to your guns!). She tried singing to herself instead. Eventually she got frustrated at the fact that she hadn’t fallen asleep yet. She started to get irate. She got up and ran to her door, crying. I dragged her back to her bed and she tantrumed. She fell asleep on her floor as she was slithering out of bed, trying to escape. There she stayed.

Day 4 was my birthday, and nap time was her birthday gift to me. She came to bed with me, whimpered to herself momentarily, but then laid down and fell asleep while I recited the alphabet at her request (her version of counting sheep, I guess…). She was asleep – and I was back downstairs drinking birthday wine – within 15 minutes.

On day 5 she agreeably came to bed, flipped and flopped around for 10 minutes and sang every song she could think of, and then before I knew it she was snoring.

Every day since then has been equally successful.

This short and sweet success story comes from a kid who only ever nursed to sleep, or fell asleep in a moving stroller or car. She was impossible to transfer, so falling asleep in the car meant keeping her in the car, and falling asleep nursing meant keeping her on the boob! Impractical. After weaning, we went through a rough patch for a couple of weeks where trying to get her to nap in bed without nursing resulted in two hour tantrums and NO SLEEP. I resorted to driving her around, but she then started a power struggle with me and wouldn’t get in the stroller or car when she knew it was naptime. I needed to put my foot down, lay down the law, and get us into a lasting routine.

She did try a few tricky tactics to get out of nap time while we developed our new routine. If she asks for tv, toys, or even more books, I’m firm in my “no.” But she then tried telling me she’s hungry, which tugs at my heart strings because obviously you don’t want to send your child to sleep hungry. But she naps right after lunch, so I just have to remind myself that she just had a big meal and she’s just trying to trick me. The other request that got me this week was when she started pulling down her pants and asking to go to the potty. We’ve just had our first couple of successes with the potty and I didn’t want to confuse her by saying “no potty, go in your diaper instead,” but luckily I was able to think fast and instruct her that she can use her diaper when she’s sleeping, either at nap time or through the night. She’s trying to outsmart me already…

I miss breastfeeding

When I look at my tired old breasts now I see vestiges of what they once were – what they could be. Light and empty, they hang there useless against my chest. I miss breastfeeding. When I see both new babies and older toddlers at their parent’s breast for nourishment and comfort, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach. My almost-2-year-old still asks for milk at bedtime every now and then, even though It’s been over a month since we weaned. She asks with a sadness in her voice, because she knows I have no milk left to give. Instead, I let her rest her hand on my chest and I listen as her mouth starts making that nursing sound into the darkness. She would still derive so much comfort and connection from breastfeeding.

There have been very few moments since weaning that have made me feel thankful for being done with breastfeeding. Ocassionally I’m happy to have a bedtime to myself, but mostly I just miss laying with her anyway, and my poor wife still struggles with being our daughter’s second choice. I listen through the monitor as she drifts off to sleep next to my wife, muttering “mommy on other side the door? Mommy missing?”

I thought I’d be thankful for the freedom of having my body back, but all that freedom afforded me was the ability to have more than one drink before bedtime, and it turns out that two drinks makes me feel rather nauseous now. I’d much rather be able to feed and comfort my child with my body than to have my body all to myself for the purpose of having more booze.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post – I’m just writing down my feelings. I don’t regret weaning, per say, but I do now question my motives for weaning when we did. From the moment breastfeeding started to become second nature to us, I assumed we’d continue on until she weaned herself. I assumed that would be well after the age of 2. But I wanted to help my wife feel like less of a “second” parent. We felt that ending the breastfeeding relationship that bonded us together so powerfully would create more of a level playing field between parents. But the truth is, I’m still in the role of primary caregiver. I spend way more time with our daughter, and that makes me more in-tune with her needs, and that makes me the natural first choice to come to when she needs something.

I also question myself now for being motivated by social pressure. I felt it as soon as she turned one. People were often surprised to hear that our daughter still nursed to sleep (or nursed to sleep at all, since that’s frowned upon by more conservative, by-the-book parents). When I expressed some mixed feelings about weaning, a family member told me that she was too old for that anyway. I heard a lot of comments about independence, and how breastfeeding a toddler was effectively keeping her dependent on me, like I just couldn’t let my baby go even though she wasn’t a baby anymore.

I know there’s no turning back, and I’m ok with that. I’ll always let her rest her hand on me, where she once got all of her nourishment, comfort, and that rush of love hormones. I’ll always smile when I hear that tongue clicking noise in the night, as her muscle memory lives on. And when she looks at my chest now with love in her expression and asks to plant a kiss on a part of me that was always there for her, my heart will always melt into a puddle on the floor. Despite society’s perverse warning that breastfeeding toddlers and older children will leave them with inappropriate memories of nursing at their mother’s breast, I know that my daughter has happy memories of our breastfeeding relationship, and I hope she’ll always feel that special, nourishing, connection to me.

My niece was born! So many thoughts on gender…

My sister-in-law wanted to be surprised by the sex of both of her kids. This morning (a day after my birthday!), she gave birth to a baby girl. She is a gem. Avery and I will probably meet her on Sunday, but my wife is heading to the hospital now. She was born in a flash, as second babies sometimes are.

My sister-in-law and her husband were both really hoping for a girl. I had hoped Avery would be a girl, too, but I had some mixed feelings over having a gender preference, given my understanding of the made-up and sometimes harmful construct that is gender. And now that our new family member is a niece and not a nephew, I find myself worrying about the gender glove she’s going to be expected to perfectly fit. I certainly worry about our nephew’s socialization into toxic masculinity (the world is so hard on men, despite their overall privilege over women).

The gender of this baby has been at the crux of many decisions leading up to her birth. Often it’s around clothing – too bad they can’t reuse any of the baby clothes they already have 🙄 (rolling my eyes at society). The kids have also been already deemed appropriate playmates or not based on the then-unknown gender of the new baby. A boy would have the same interests, would play with the same toys, and would be able to physically match his older brother in boisterous play. A girl would need more of her mother’s companionship when playing, would be of less interest to her brother, would need all new toys, and although this wasn’t discussed, I’m pretty sure she’ll be sheltered from any boisterous play.

These maybe aren’t things that will cause my new niece to have any less of a great life. She may fit that gender stereotype like a glove and be perfectly content in the roles given to her. But she might not. I guess the consolation is that she has two gay aunts with a huge range of stereotypically masculine and feminine traits and interests, and a cousin raised to outsmart gender stereotypes, whom she can turn to if she needs a break from the binary.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to have a new baby in the family, regardless of their gender. It’s just hard to be immersed in the world of gender stereotype research in academia, and watch kids being raised in a world so oppressive around gender.

Nap training a toddler

Avery hasn’t napped anywhere but in the car or in the stroller since we weaned. She has given us a few tantrums when we’ve tried. One of them even lasted for 2 hours before I gave up on nap time for that day. But she has been starting to refuse to get into the stroller when she knows it’s to nap, and I can’t keep burning gas for a 2 hour nap. So, nap training had to happen.

Day 1.

It was a bit unplanned. I realized the stroller was in the back of my wife’s car, at work with her. I explained to Avery on the drive home from her half-day daycare that we were going to have a nap in her bed today, because it was time for her to learn to fall asleep in a bed at naptime. I told her we could read a book and then we’d lay down together on her bed.

She started crying immediately – still on the drive home. “No bed!!! Mommy drive car!! Tv!! Paw patrol!! No bed!” She was begging for any alternative.

I dragged her, kicking and screaming, into the house and up to her room. I dimmed the lights.

For the next hour and a half, she had a violent tantrum. I had to hold the door closed (from the inside – I stayed with her). I asked if she wanted me to leave, in case my presence was making it worse, but she said “mommy stay!”. She screamed like a demon. I tried to strike a balance in my voice between calm/loving and stern/confident. I kept my words short and infrequent to allow her to get her rage out. When I spoke, I repeated,

“I love you, and you need to sleep.”

“We’re staying here for nap time. You can cry on the floor, or you can come and cuddle with me and go to sleep.”

“Come to bed now.”

She didn’t calm down and take a breath. Like, at all. I eventually had to start physically removing her from her door handle and putting her in bed. Every other second. When I would say “I love you” she started to scream “I love you” back, and I began to worry that I was somehow emotionally abusing her – making her think she needed to say I love you to get away from my grasp. I had to physically block her from leaving her bed. Her eyes were rolling back in her head. I could just see white through her exhausted squint. She had bags under her eyes. She was hoarse, losing her voice. She could barely stand up when she would escape the bed – she’d stumble and fall and hit her head on the floor. She was so exhausted.

We were both soaked in sweat. Her hair was plastered to her forehead.

I knew I couldn’t lose resolve, or this would all be for nothing. She wouldn’t understand why I was being so authoritative if I suddenly gave up and let her leave her room and not nap. It was hard.

But then she went limp. She just couldn’t fight any more. She whimpered, through closed eyes, “read book?” I grabbed her favourite alphabet bedtime book from beside the bed and started reading it very quietly and softly. Her eyes remained closed. Once I heard the snores, I put down the book and breathed. It worked.

Now to do it all over again tomorrow.

First night away

It’s been a month shy of 2 years, and I’m finally taking a night away from my baby. I’m visiting a friend 3 hours from home, and my wife took Avery to the cottage 2 hours in the other direction, so we’re 5 hours away from each other right now. I definitely miss her, and I’m wearing her little costume jewelry bracelet that she put on me before I left because it makes me feel closer to her, but I haven’t cried and I’m really excited to sleep tonight. I’m going to sleep all night long, and hopefully not wake up till 9am.

And that concludes my super short post, because seriously, I’m now going to sleep for a long, long time.