Parenthood: March 2009 Archives

For keeps

My roses for Liam's birthday

Eight years ago this month I went through a lot, well, you read it, to bring a certain someone into this world. Chris gives me flowers on their birthdays. My favorite color of flower: pale, almost white-pink, with a gradient of rosiness towards the middle.
My roses for Liam's birthday

They're the prettiest when they bloom.

How we deal with bullies

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It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who want to affix negativity to a certain parenting approach simply because it's an approach that they would not choose for themselves.

My latest episode for Momversation (with Giyen and Alice) is up and in it we discuss how we help our children deal with bullies. This sounds incredibly braggy, but because I think good traits should be commended, I'm just going to write it: my children - Liam especially - have cooler heads than most adults. Liam regularly demonstrates a compassion and respect for others that floors me. I'd like to chalk it up to my, ahem, simply awesome parenting, but I think a lot of it is just his genetic makeup. That being said, I related a story in the Momversation episode about how he stuck up for a little girl with whom she was playing when a boy began to first tease, then physically bully her.

Liam is like me in that I have zero tolerance for poor behavior. I believe that cruel people thrive on the apathy of others. My son saw what was happening with this girl, his friend, and because he is taught that a) you never hit or manhandle women and b) you stick up for your friends when they need you, he politely asked the kid to stop repeatedly (diplomacy!); when the boy wouldn't and grew more aggressive, Liam knocked him down.

And I was proud. And I do not feel bad for feeling proud that my son demonstrated chivalry in a world where we're taught that chivalry is bad, to cover your head, take it, and hope that whomever is picking on you doesn't break one of your bones.

After a rash of fights in my school the principal sent home a letter to all parents instructing their children to cower in the floor and cover the backs of their necks with their hands if a bully tried to fight them. My mother read that and strung a few profanities together before telling me that I had her permission to not like like a pansy in the floor, to defend myself.

"In fact," she said, blowing cigarette smoke out of her mouth, "you BETTER defend yourself."

I raise my children to believe that their bodies are their temple, so if you respect the gift of that body why would you not defend it?

Some of the commenters at Momversation were appalled that I would be proud of how Liam handled the situation with the bully he encountered. I hear these arguments all the time; people try to bring up my faith and quote "turn the other cheek" while glossing over the story of Jesus flipping over the money changer's tables in the temple and shouting that they were a "den of thieves." (Also ignoring Matthew 10:34.)

It saddens me that we live in an era where the root of bullyism is not criticized but a parent telling their child to not be a victim when and if diplomacy fails is somehow.  I'm sorry, but that's seriously messed up.

How did this get to be the fault of the victim? We see this played out over and over again in society: in rape cases, etc. How dare the victim.

I've been bullied before and I'm telling you right now, those precious authorities that the kids are supposed to report to - like some nanny state? Completely ineffective. Making a child dependent upon officials who, statistically do not solve the problem, is a further blow the that child's self-esteem. It also makes kids dependent upon this nanny state of authorities instead of relying on his or her own ingenuity and diplomatic capabilities.

We're not teaching our children to be self-sufficient by removing from them the power to stand up for themselves and handle their own situations.

I refuse to buy into that. I also refuse to fail my child by not teaching them the difference between fear and an actual threat; or how to diffuse situations with words and that getting physical is the last resort. But sometimes people may want to hit you and no amount of sweet-talk will stop that and as of such, I am teaching my children when to recognize that situation and how to react accordingly.

You know how you stop bullies? By standing up to them. By refusing to allow them to victimize you. If you can simply ignore them and your inattention does the trick, fabulous; but more often than not, such an action doesn't stop bullying behavior. Bullying is caused by an epic parenting fail and it is perpetuated by a failure to stop it in its tracks.

You are free to agree or disagree; but I've made my choice and my children won't be victims.

Playing God

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I was reading Jonniker's birth story (she just had a baby and this photo made me cry instantaneously) and then she started talking epidurals and I began thinking about the boys' deliveries.

I did not want an epidural with Liam because I thought I was a super hardcore street chick and I could power through the pain. Just - no. OMG. I think at one point during a contraction I gripped Chris's hand so tight his bones bent like reeds and I growled through my teeth "I THINK THIS BABY HATES ME." I was in labor for 13 hours, thirteen long hours, and Liam decided midway through labor that he just up and didn't want to come out. Then they put me on pitocin which is Latin for "will blow your lady business off." Chris wisely stopped saying things like "breathe through the pain" because all I wanted to do was punch the pain in the face. As the contractions tore me apart several floating heads revolved around each other in my mind, faces of my grandmother, the old lady at church, and other women who told me I was CRAZY to attempt a birth sans drugs.

And then there was the episiotomy which is also Latin and means CUT, PAIN, BLEED, OMG, SCREAM. I screamed so loud and at such a weird frequency that when you watch the birth video? Which we've only done once? My scream SHAKES THE PICTURE. Not like someone with an unsteady hand would shake it - it oscillated. I was that woman. I felt badly about it, until I realized that not everyone has the same pain and perhaps I could handle another woman's pain whereas she might not be able to manage mine.

I really tried to be cool about the whole pain thing in front of the hospital staff, I really did, I tried my best, but at some point it felt like I was splitting apart like a wishbone and I just could not deal with it. Because of this my labor slowed and Liam was stressed and he accidentally swallowed some meconium. They had to pump his itty bitty belly to get it out before he cried and while they did that Chris watched in horror, his face completely drained of color, as the hospital staff worked to stop my bleeding and stitch me up. I yelled at him to GO, stand by our baby, as I had ceased to care what happened to my body at that point. (They had trouble stopping my bleeding and I lost a lot of blood, commotion, drama, blah, blah, I was too involved in staring at Liam to care.) He screamed until they put him in my arms and then we both were silenced for we were home. 

Afterwards, as I sat on my little hemhorrids pillow and proclaimed Tucks to be the best invention ever, I vowed to never go au naturale again. It works for some. Not for me.

I had an epidural with Ewan as soon as I possibly could and it was the most awesome thing ever in the history of the world. Prior to that, though, the L&D nurse with hands the size of Texas was charged with checking my dilation progress and I felt like a Thanksgiving turkey. I SLEPT through my contractions. Literally. They rolled my hoss figure over and I held Chris's hand and he played with my hair as I slept.
They say that babies get still before delivery but not Ewan. He squirmed and fought all the way out. As they paused delivery to suck out his nose he opened his eyes and glared at the hospital staff. He was the crabbiest baby ever, albeit precious and lovable. He didn't cry, he just yelled.


They'd weigh him, he'd yell. They'd swaddle him, he'd yell. He yelled at them when they tried to put his little hat on; he yelled at them again when they bathed him, again when they put his hospital bracelet on; finally they put him in my arms and he stared at me and then raised his eyebrows. I laughed, he yelled at me, and then we went to sleep.

I felt like Gumby trying to shake off that epidural and Nurse Texas literally had to prop me up on the loo and it didn't help that I laughed hysterically the entire time. Sure there was pain after the epidural wore off, but I felt better both physically and emotionally. I had actually enjoyed my labor. I didn't try to power through it just to get the pain over with; I actually felt that the absence of pain helped my sense of awareness. I was able to relax between pushes and focus on my baby being born and not the hellfire that was my Unspeakable Region.

I actually looked forward to labor. I once wrote that I disliked being pregnant, at which certain women felt the need to get snippy. What they didn't know was how hard pregnancy was on me, the severe dehydration because I was deathly - as in nearly bedridden - ill nearly the entire duration of my first pregnancy and for the first trimester of the second. The weight loss because I couldn't keep anything down, the severe dark circles under my eyes, my anemia; it was NOT a walk in the park and at times I was so sick I wanted to die. We actually considered not having subsequent children because of it. I did look forward to labor because I knew that in a few hours' time there would be another person on Earth by my doing. It's the closest you get to playing God.

I haven't completely ruled out going through it for a third time.
I woke up and saw Liam's face, inches from mine, staring at me so as to wake me.

"MOM," he stage-whispered. "EWAN is DOWNSTAIRS sneaking food."

I threw my arm over my head towards the nightstand for my watch. Four-thirty in the morning.


I was too tired to remember how I made it downstairs but I woke up when I saw two little fat, pink feet sticking out from the kitchen hallway down which the pantry is located. There amongst the crumbs sat Ewan, his hair sticking every which way, a box of graham crackers in his lap and a cracker in his mouth.

"What?" he asked.

"You tell me." I replied.

He began furiously shoving crackers back in the box like YOU DID NOT SEE THIS, DID NOT SEE THIS, placed the box on the bottom shelf in the pantry, and then walked over to take my hand.

"Good morning, mama," he cooed. He is a major butkisser when he gets into trouble because clearly he thinks that buttering up his authority figures is the way to shirk consequence. Well kid, THAT WORKS in America.

I would brush this off as him just being hungry early, but it goes beyond that. This happens repeatedly. He's hidden food all over the house. It's like living with a three-foot tall cockroach that talks. I've found half-eaten Valentine's candy hidden among the washcloths in their bathroom that he was "saving," chocolate chip granola bars in the sides of his racecar bed; he tries to sneak food in front of us constantly except that he SUCKS at sneaking and HELLO, I can HEAR THE WRAPPER.

I attribute this recent, roach-esque behavior to his picky eating and fondness for sweets. Unlike his brother, Ewan is a picky eater who shrieks at the sight of any green thing on his plate. As I refuse to fix numerous entrees during mealtimes, we have a simple rule in our house: you eat what's served. The end. If you do not eat a particular meal then you are "stuck" on that meal, meaning I will save it, reheat it, and reserve it to whomever did not eat it until it goes bad or is eaten, whichever comes first. It's taken three tries of this method with Ewan but he's learning. Last week he ate the same hamburger for dinner, breakfast, and lunch but by gawd he ate it.

I've cut out all his afternoon snacks and if he does get hungry before a meal I'll offer him what he calls "salad," carrots, cucumbers, celery and peanut butter, apples, or grapes. He only licks the peanut butter off the celery or fruit and he tries to suck the guts out of the grape and leave the skin on the plate. But he's making progress.

Because of this, I've hidden the eight boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints I ordered (for the kids! Not AT ALL because I am a hog) and refrain from demonstrating bad eating habits which is so hard for me to do because I am seriously a four-year-old in an adult's body: I hate eating corn unless it's on the cob, I have to disguise my greens with butter and choke them down, I dry-heave when faced with a beet; thankfully I love cucumbers and tomatoes. Otherwise, I have the palate of a preschooler. Chris makes fun of me constantly; I do bask in the joy that I am too big for people to make me eat everything on my plate.

Except for the being a parent/setting a good example thing. Ewan and I are learning together.

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Dana asks: "Thanksgiving Traditions: Yours or Your Mother's?"