Ready for a newborn again

I was going into this baby #2 thing a little reluctantly. I still felt overwhelmed by my first year and a half as a mother and couldn’t imagine doing it all over again. I was totally content with my one, perfect child. But my wife wanted another baby, and I wanted to give that to her. I knew I would love another baby and wouldn’t regret it, but I also knew it would be HARD.

But then I weaned my toddler from breastfeeding and suddenly I find myself CRAVING a baby again. It’s amazing what hormone changes can do to your mindset.

We’re still pretty distant from starting the process. My wife is going to give me the signal when she’s ready for an IVF consultation. We have talked about which clinic to use, but haven’t chosen one yet. When we do finally get that consultation appointment, we would move ahead with the process (because IVF is government funded in Ontario (so thankful), there’s a wait list and we’d want to get on that list pronto). However, there’s also a chance the the consultation will scare my wife off of reciprocal IVF altogether, in which case we’d wait a while and do things the way we did to make Avery – at home. It’s still all very much up in the air as to when we start and what method we’ll use. We haven’t even spoken to our donor about it.

I can feel myself getting antcy now. It all feels so familiar…

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Avery doesn’t have a dad

We love our day-care provider. And when we interviewed her we asked how she would handle it if other kids asked about Avery having two moms, and she gave a satisfactory answer. But today, when she was talking about how tall Avery is, she blurted out, “how tall is her dad?”

I was surprised because I haven’t heard anyone use that language around us in a long time. We tried to clarify our preferred language (“donor”) to everyone in our lives before Avery was even born.

Our daycare provider quickly changed her wording and said, “I mean, her donor.” All was fine. But it wasn’t fine, because her 6 year old daughter overheard and then said “I didn’t know Avery had a dad…”. Their whole family has met both my wife and I. They all know Avery has two moms. It’s no wonder she was confused.

Unfortunately, I’m not happy with how our provider handled the situation. She told her daughter, “yes, but it’s complicated,” and kind of brushed it off like it was going to be too much of a hassle to explain it.

I’m not going to tell a parent how or when to explain how babies are made, but I feel like she could have made more of an effort. I don’t want Avery to be witness to that kind of conversation (although I’m not naive enough to think I can shelter her from it forever). How would it make Avery feel to hear for the first time that she has a “dad” and that “it’s complicated”? I mean, that’s how she did hear it for the first time. I’m only assuming she isn’t quite old enough to grasp the nuances of what was said in front of her.

How and when can my wife and I start talking to her about her donor, about the fact that some people will assume she has a dad, and about how some people will get uncomfortable with discussing it and freeze up, or worse – say something hurtful?

Currently we try to read her books that have different family structures (dads are not excluded from our repertoire, although they play a smaller role than families that resemble ours in Avery’s library). We also have Cory Silverburg’s book, What Makes a Baby, which is an awesome book about sperm, eggs, and uteruses that is completely non-graphic, non-gross, and kid-friendly by anyone’s standards.

I’m totally open to tips and ideas, here. It’s something I thought we were prepared for, but now that it’s happening and Avery’s listening I’m feeling significantly underprepared. I also need to grow a backbone, because the thought of bringing this up with our provider at a later date is making me nauseous.

Adventures in Toddler Discipline: Setting Boundaries

Avery has started standing and jumping on the furniture as a way of testing boundaries. We have told her that she needs to sit or lay down when she’s on the couch or the chairs, because she could fall and get hurt from standing and jumping. She wants to see just how far we’ll go to enforce this rule, and she needs to test us every single day in case we’ve changed the rule from the day before.

Avery: stands on couch

Me: please sit on your bum when you’re on the couch.

Avery: smirks, stays standing.

Me: Can you sit down on your own, or do you need me to help you get off the couch?

Avery: still smirking, starts stomping her feet.

Me: You’re showing me that you need help to get down. Lifts her onto the floor.

Avery: kicking and crying. Runs to the next piece of furniture, climbs up, and stands on it.

Me: Sit or I’ll help you down.

Avery: stomps and cries.

Me: lifts her down.

Avery: runs to the next chair, stands on it.

Me: lifts her down.

Avery: screams.

Me: pulls hair out in frustration.

Finally out of furniture to climb on, she gives up and runs off to play with something more appropriate. It is unclear who won.

If you’re interested in how we devise our game plan for dealing with boundary testing behaviour like this, I highly recommend two books: The Soul of Discipline and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.

I recommend both of these books, but No Bad Kids is a quicker read with very easy to follow ideas for actually responding to your kid’s behaviour in real time. The Soul of Discipline gets more into theory of misbehaviour and discipline.

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame

The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance- From Toddlers to Teens

Full disclosure: These are affiliate links, but I have not yet been accepted into Amazon’s Affiliate Program. I need to drive 3 sales in order for my blog to be considered for this program. If you’re interested in either of these books, purchasing through the links provided here will help me to qualify for the affiliate program. Belonging to the Amazon Affiliate Program will allow me to earn a very small commission from Amazon sales made through the affiliate links I provide on my blog.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 16

Today I’m going to talk about teaching consent to a toddler. A toddler who isn’t even 18 months old yet. How the hell are we supposed to do this?

I was always concerned about people forcing hugs and kisses on our baby. I wanted her to learn consent so she could trust her feelings and know when she didn’t want to be touched, and feel confident saying no to physical affection from anyone, even trusted family members. To our surprise, that has been the easy part. Our family and friends have been pretty good about following our lead in asking if they can hold, hug or kiss her. Our problem is that we need to teach Avery to get consent before giving physical affection.

She’s such a huggy, kissy, loving baby. She always has a big, run-at-us-full-tilt, hug for us, and an abundance of lovely kisses on the lips with the best “mwaaa” sound effects. We love it. But somehow we need her to understand that not everyone does.

Her best friend at daycare is petite, and although the two of them are the same age exactly, Avery is twice the size. Avery LOVES her friend. Unfortunately, our daycare provider has reported back to us on a couple of ocassions that Avery’s forceful kisses and hugs aren’t always wanted by her friend, and sometimes Avery’s bear hugs knock them both over and her friend ends up crying.

So what do we say or do to teach Avery to dial back the overt affection and wait for cues of consent to proceed? A young child of her age hasn’t yet developed empathy as we know it, and can’t articulate how someone else might feel when receiving unwanted physical affection. All she knows is simple instruction, like “no.” But we don’t want to just say “no touching,” as it feels too general and isn’t the message we want to send.

What we’ve come up with is to use a one-word instruction that has worked really well to teach her how to approach the cats: “Gentle.” When we instruct her to be gentle, she slows down her approach and seems to become more watchful for signs that she can approach. We’ve asked our daycare provider to use this word when she starts laying on the unwanted affection with her friend, and if that doesn’t work, to simply say “Please don’t touch her right now.”

Our approach is to give simple instructions that are easy to understand and follow. But this doesn’t really tap into what consent is, or why someone may not want her wonderful, loving hugs and kisses. But I think maybe she’s just too young for that level of context.

What are your thoughts on this parenting conundrum?

30 Days of Blogging, Day 8

The word of the day is Patience. 

As we inch closer to the ripe old age of 2, the “terrible two’s” start earning their name-sake. For about a month or two, Avery has been having regular tantrums. They happen over silly things like not being able to get the puzzle piece in the puzzle on the first try or get her sock off in the car, but also over legitimate emotions like learning to accept the realities of “no”, and as per my last post, sometimes the tantrums are caused by separation anxiety. My strong-willed little 16 month old will sometimes have up to a dozen tantrums in a day. 

Luckily they’re usually short, lasting just long enough to get a few tears down her cheeks, get her face good and blood-shot, and do some minor damage to my hearing. Yesterday she tantrumed for 45-minutes – just an ear piercing angry scream, stomping through the house. I don’t even remember what it was about. Probably that I wouldn’t hold her while I was making dinner. 

Dealing with a tantrum-throwing child requires So. Much. Patience. The trick is to not give them any kind of big reaction, which means remain calm and let them get it all out while somehow simultaneously teaching them that yelling and hitting isn’t how we communicate our needs. I sometimes offer her a big hug while she screams, but that more often than not gets me punched in the face. 

I try to see these tantrums as a good thing – she feels comfortable letting her true emotions out, she is developing her emotional regulation skills (early stages, obviously…), and she is finding her power and voice to fight for what she wants. 

I appreciate the developmental milestone that is having tantrums, but it’s still a less than enjoyable part of parenthood. Patience is the word of the day for more than just the patience it requires to parent through tantrums. I want to be patient with all of the hard parts of parenthood and let myself slow down to appreciate the good parts. I find myself wishing away toddlerhood for a future time when she can be reasoned with, when she sleeps through the night, when I get to hear, in her own words, her own voice, about all the complex thoughts going on in her head… But toddlerhood is also an amazing time and I don’t want to take it for granted. I don’t really want my little girl to grow up. I need patience to appreciate the now. 

30 Days of Blogging, Day 5

I’m 99% sure that our recent sleep issues are due to the 18 month sleep regression. I know Avery’s only 16 (and a half) months, but she’s exhibiting all the signs. Her language is on the cusp of exploding, she’s got separation anxiety, and she just seems to be maturing into her terrible two’s right before our eyes  😛. 

As for the language boom, she says dozens of half words, like ca(t), mou(se), be(d) and ba(th). She’s also starting to sound out head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose (and elbow, belly button, and hair), while pointing to all of them (on herself, on us, on the cats, on dolls…). She has blurted out a few full words without the pressure of being put on the spot and questioned (like toys, elbow, and water). She does sound effects for dogs, cows, trucks, and squirrels (squeak!).  She has even tried to make the elephant noise.

All that learning has to be hard work on the brain, and it’s bound to leave her mind buzzing at night.

I’ll leave you with a random picture of her pulling my socks off today. She HATES wearing socks, and has recently started hating it when other people wear socks, too. 

Weekend Update in Pictures and Words

My weekend was extended into Monday because I had the stomach flu and my wife had to stay home to look after Avery while I laid in bed all day. So today is my back to reality day. Today is my Monday. 

On Friday when my wife got home from work we put up our new family sized tent in the backyard to check it out before we go camping on the 24th. Avery had a lot of fun. 

 That’s going to be the summary of every day this weekend – Avery had fun. It really doesn’t take much to make this baby happy these days. Of course, it also doesn’t take much to set her off into a whiney fit… She has a lot of emotions. 

On Saturday we went to a friend’s house an hour and a half away and Avery slept blissfully in the car both ways. What a change from her newborn days… She actually LIKES the car now. At our friend’s house Avery played in her first bouncy castle and at her first water table. She also loves playing with (or watching) other kids, and when our friend’s 2 year old kept beckoning for Avery to “come play!” my heart melted a bit and I longed for a second baby. 

Saturday night Avery was really fussy, and seemed really gassy. She was flinching and jerking like she was having jabbing pains, barfed a couple of times, and even while bed sharing all night with me she would wake crying and would whimper in her sleep. I thought it was because I had eaten a lot of dairy at our friend’s house (not an uncommon reaction to dairy), but in hindsight she may have had the stomach bug first… 

On Sunday it was HOT. 31°C (87°F), which is something we’re not used to here after a cold, dreary spring. I ran to the store first thing in the morning and bought Avery a cheap little kid pool, and although we spent most of the day indoors, we braved the heat for an afternoon splash. She LOVED it. Avery had a lot of fun. 

We’ve also been pretty lenient with Avery’s exploring, trying not to helicopter while still making sure she’s safe. We locked a couple of the kitchen cabinets, but we left some unlocked so she can play with pots and pans and measuring cups. Avery had a lot of fun. She’s naked because it was just so hot… 

Also on Sunday my wife built the entire outdoor run for the chicken coop. All that’s left before the big reveal is to add the steel roof to the run and to paint the trim. 

Sunday night I was awake all night with stomach cramps and vomiting. Avery was in bed with us because I couldn’t be getting up with her all night in that state, and she stays asleep all night in our bed. At least we had that working for us. 

By morning I had stopped barfing, but I still had stomach cramps and I was super weak and exhausted. My wife stayed home from work and looked after Avery. It went great as long as I wasn’t in the room with them… Avery did not like that I was laying huddled under a blanket ignoring her. I think she was worried when her Mo would pull her off of me because I couldn’t handle the climbing on my stomach. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t have her mommy. 

But today I feel pretty much completely better, and Avery is much happier being able to climb all over me again. 

Honestly though… I liked the break. Even though I felt like shit, I relished being able to lay in bed and not worry about Avery. And now I’m happier and refreshed going into the rest of the week. 

Have a great week, everyone!