Consolation-Prize Parent

Since Henry was born I have been a favorite parent. I don’t say this to be egocentric. But it makes sense. He and I bonded during our maternity leave, for a while he depended on only me for food. Though Adam and I shared parenting responsibilities he definitely had a preference… his Mama.

And so for the first two years this conversation was a fairly common one:

Where is Mama?SAM_3325
At work.
I WANT MY MAMA!
Sorry buddy, she is working right now.
[insert angry crying and mumbles…]
Where is Mama?
At work.

On and on it would go.

He would request me for our nighttime reading ritual. Then he would wave good-bye to Dada if Mama was the evening book reader. Or he’d cry and cling to me if it was Dada’s turn.

He would throw a fit when I couldn’t hold him because I had to make dinner, or pack up the car, or get the laundry. His face lit up when I would enter the room. Though having someone that dependent on you can be a bit much at times, I thrived on it. I love having a little fan, I love having someone who thinks I am quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread (even if he didn’t have teeth to chew it with at the time.)

But in the last two weeks the tables have turned and drastically I might add. Now it’s all about Dada.

SAM_3332Where is Dada?At work.
I WANT MY DADA!!!
[insert angry cries and mumbles…]
Where is Dada?
At work…

That is definitely not awesome. Because on and on it goes.

I am not chop liver, Henry still loves me very much. I am not being ignored, he still loves to hang out with me and is still happy to see me…but our mini man has a clear and present preference, he wants his Dada and he loves him very much.

I am glad that Henry has such an awesome dad. I am thrilled that Adam takes such good care of our little guy. He plays games, does great with story time, uses funny voices to help Henry do what he should versus what he wants, the awesomeness list is long. I couldn’t be happier.

We both know that Henry will continue to grow and develop. He will continue to amaze us and he will continue to conquer milestones as he grows into a big kid. Which means his preferences for his “favorites,” whether one of us, a favorite book, food, a toy, a piece of clothing may continue to change. A fact of life.

In the meantime it will still take some time to get used to being the runner-up or the consolation-prize parent.

How bad was your morning? Oh comically bad.

If my life was a scripted sitcom it would not have had as much situational comedy as my real-life morning. So let us begin…

6:30 a.m. My alarm went off. (Adam had come home about 45 minutes earlier having worked an overnight shift.)
6:50 a.m. I realize I am still in bed and that apparently my blink took 20 minutes. Undocumented minutes when I should have been getting ready.
6:51 a.m. I remember that I am taking Henry to daycare (add another 15-20 minutes of clothing struggles and car seat maneuvers.)
6:55 a.m. – 7:10 a.m. After gathering my clothing so I can dress with proper lighting and less disturbance to Adam I go into the bathroom. I turn on the shower, grab my toothbrush, root around in my make up drawer.

7:11 a.m. Walk back over to the shower.
7:11:30 a.m. Realize I am stepping into quickly accumulating water… about 1/2 inch, that has now taken over my bathroom. Well a third of it. It’s now pooling around my toilet back behind where the most questionable dust bunnies normally live. (ewwwww.)
7:11:31 – 7:15 a.m. Panic because I cannot seem to process where the water is pouring out of.
7:15 a.m. Notice it’s the shower, the shower head is pointed at a gap in the curtain and tiled wall. Water has been shooting through here for the last few minutes. Engulfing 1/3 of my bathroom in water.
7:15 – 7:30 a.m. Sopping up misc. water with my nice towels, our dryer is not working properly so we have a backlog of laundry including our second-rate cleaning towels.

7:30 a.m. Fire alarm beeps once.
7:32 a.m. Fire alarm begins to ring. But only downstairs (we have them wired so all four should be going off now.)
7:33 a.m. Hear Adam stumbling half asleep down the stairs. I follow.
7:34 a.m. We learn that there is water dripping THROUGH our fire alarm, through the ceiling, right beneath our bathroom.
7:35 a.m. Watch Adam fetch the step ladder from the basement. Watch him come back without step ladder (if it’s at your house, please return it to us.) He teeters on a dining room chair instead. He dismantles the fire alarm.
7:36 a.m. – 7:38 a.m. Apologize profusely for causing a disturbance and ripping him out of his sleep.

7:38 a.m. Henry is still sleeping. Return to bathroom and start getting ready for work. Pack up car, go get Henry.

8:15 a.m. Get Henry, who is in a great mood and slept through a fire alarm.
8:21 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Chase Henry around the house who is screaming, “I am not going to school today. Mama doesn’t work today, Dada doesn’t work today. We stay home. I build a fort.”
8:32 a.m. Shove Henry into his coat while he eats a squeezie.
8:37 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. Successful drop off. (Once he is pried from my leg.)

8:50 a.m. Roll into work 20 minutes late. Realize my media rep is early for our 9:00 a.m. Skip breakfast. Engage in a two-hour meeting (we scheduled for one hour.)

The redeeming part of this morning? He brought me Starbucks.

The End.

Parenting a Two-Year-Old Has its Ups and Downs

The last week at the Ramseyer roost has been a challenging one. While parenting our son is generally fun and engaging the past week I think all parties involved would wish to wipe away clean.

Most likely things stemmed from the mini man being sick on and off for the past two weeks, which resulted in us allowing for more treats (TV programs), a looser schedule (nap times all over the board) and feeding him whatever his appetite would condone (gingerbread cookies are a “bread” product since they have “bread” in the name.)

Now that he has bounced back, we need to bring things back to center and continue navigating the uncharted moods of a two-year-old little boy.

So that’s when he introduced the 1.5-hour tantrum. Much like a snow squall it can come out of nowhere and hit the recipient without any warning. It might be triggered by:

  • kisses from the dog
  • forcing him to take his coat and mittens off at home since he is now a sweating to death
  • making him put on his coat and hat before we leave in a blizzard
  • wrong cup color for his milk
  • cutting him off after 2 cups at any mealtime
  • daring to set him down for a nap without the correct stories being read
  • not letting him pick out a shirt to wear
  • letting him pick out a shirt to wear
  • forcing him into his socks
  • removing his socks
  • looking at him
  • not looking at him
  • the list doesn’t end…

Any one of these things can create a disturbance some lasting a mere set of minutes while others setting him up for a disastrous  tantrum. For those of you who aren’t familiar with one, the dictionary definition states, “( often plural ) a childish fit of rage; outburst of bad temper.”

At their worst, a tantrum can feel like being forced to negotiate with a short-statured, by-polar dictator. You must follow his rules and you must follow his moods, but neither has any rhyme or reason.  So what do you do? At our weakest we can let it get to us. It hits me hardest when he refuses to eat anything, or we can get annoyed enough to need to leave the room. That’s when he wins. The key isn’t making him lose, it’s finding a way around the problem to happier grounds.

Each child is precious and each child is different. Yes, we know.

For example Henry is much like his Mama (no not because of tantrums, I was apparently a perfect child.) He doesn’t like too much of a routine and being cooped up in the winter. I don’t like it either, but for many parents having a routine saves their ability to parent. For us it makes things fall apart. We noticed that said tantrums became longer, more frequent and louder after we’ve been home for too many days/nights in a row.

To remedy this problem I chose to battle Mother Nature and her weather spectacular in our tiny CIVIC and drive to the grocery store with Henry. Yep, our BIG adventure at the grocery store. Armed with snacks, two cups of milk (which he drank on the way there,) to “triangle cheeses“, fishy crackers, fig bars and squeezies. People commented how nicely he was behaved and how cute he was. Meanwhile he kept feeding the entire time we were there, I kept the conversation to light topics (no need to discuss politics and religion) and there were lots of colorful packages and signage to distract him when he would get bored.

Now cue the one things that started to unravel an otherwise perfect night… SANDY the horse.

Sandy is a mechanical horse at Meijer that all children love. For a penny your child can enjoy riding the horse for about 30 seconds. Half the time she isn’t working so you have to explain that there is a sign and the sign means she won’t work, or you have to try prying your child off of Sandy so that someone else can have a turn.

Last night, Henry didn’t want anything to do with Sandy. Until we got to the car. Cue the first mini tantrum. So what do you do in a small space? You distract with whatever you have, apparently he found the car dealerships interesting so we talked about the cars he saw. Success.

Once we got in he was upset that he couldn’t finish his snacks (it was beyond bedtime now.) what worked? nothing until I asked if a toothbrush is used to scrub ones toes – though it took 10 minutes through silly conversation he finally climbed into my lap, grabbed the toothbrush to show me how it worked. Success.

More mini disturbances followed that evening, but each was navigated carefully with distraction. (At some point I saw Happy Birthday to every single person in our family.) Success.

The final disturbance of the night has to do with being put to bed. Up until recently he loved to snuggle down in his bed with a big comforter, now he kicks and screams as if he is on a bed of hot coals. There is no remedy for this. I lay him down, he jumps up and down and screams. He is pissed. I cannot fix this. I kiss his head and try to not get my teeth knocked out, I tell him I love him, I tell him it’s bedtime and I walk out. The screaming generally stops after 10 minutes. Otherwise we check in on him again. It’s not magical and it’s not perfect but each day we work on it and hope this phase will pass.

Then we’ll get to enjoy some new milestones and new challenges along the way.

 

Bats, Birds & Baby Boys – Mother Nature’s Cruel Comedy

Last night was not a typical night. Oh no, yet it was also not a completely unique one.

Allow me to preface this with the fact that back in July 2010 we came home from a lovely evening out to learn that a bat had snuck into our home through the attic door (old houses come with fun features like this.) It took the better part of the late evening for Adam to get the creature out, in the meantime our puppy Maya had escaped through the front door into the road and Stella the cat was weighing her options of escaping through our second-story bedroom window. Fast forward this to 3.5 years later and now cue our evening.

I came home with Henry around 6pm and ran upstairs to change before kitchen duty began. As I finished changing I realized that two hangers across the room were moving, funny I didn’t recall bumping into those. I definitely heard the flapping that came next. I ran out of the room and left the light on while I shut the door. “Oh God, another bat.” I did the light switch flicker test and nothing seemed amiss.

Dinner went on without a hitch, but while the mini man and I played in the living room I could swear I heard noises upstairs. Determined to verify that it was a “something” versus me just being crazy, I opened the door with caution, picked up a discarded pillowcase from our hamper, balled it up and threw it right at the rolling closet where Adam’s clothes hang. From behind a pant leg, a brown winged creature came out and flew right for the door, where my head was.

“BLARGHEAIGHWERIGHER!”

“Mama are you okay?”

“Yes Henry, Mamma was just spooked. I think we have a bat in the bedroom.”

Henry then went on to chant “bat in the bedroom.” which seems like an entirely appropriate thing to do. Meanwhile, I called Adam to let him know that once he got home from working late, he would extract the hideous creature. He protested that he too didn’t like bats, I reminded him that he’s a guy and that’s why he gets the honors. (I don’t mind getting all gender specific when it helps me get out of something horrible like bat removal.)

1558579_10152254808903949_1763792947_nI plugged the space underneath our door with a rolled up towel, while I listened to the winged menace hitting my mirror, hitting our rolling closet rack and chirping. Stella, our useless cat, finally came out of the guest room to paw at the towel. “Useless beast, why didn’t you hunt it down. And why are you hunting the towel now?!”

From 8pm – 10:30pm I tried to put Henry down while waiting for my bat extractor. He refused to sleep. Laying him in bed was like laying him across hot coals. Each time starting over the process. Poor kid had a random day of croup this week and is now harboring a nasty cold he keeps sneezing into our faces. Then thanking us when we “bless” him. At least he is polite in his germ spreading.

Let’s jump to 9:45pm, Adam is home, he is now armed with a ski mask, a sweat shirt, a trash can, a window screen and an empty roll of wrapping paper. He’s going in.

Two minutes later he comes out to report that the bat is really a bird that somehow traveled into our attic under our attic door and has now made the rolling closet its home.

Through a combination of smoke and mirrors. Okay through a combo of mirrors Adam tried to navigate the poor creature into the night sky through our open bedroom window. Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 12.41.10 PMOne mirror guided it to the window meanwhile my decorative Indonesian one was wedged in the open window frame to help guide it out. I image this worked like when they are marshaling aircraft.

Eventually he experienced success. And since he is on the super spouse track this week he volunteered to take on a sleepless Henry and try to get him off to bed. Second bout of success, had the boy asleep by 10:45pm.

But Mother Nature is rarely done with us… cue 3am and Henry’s screaming. Stuffed up, refusing to listen to the cause and effect of, “more crying = more snot which = a more stuffed-up nose. Since I need to work late tonight he took on the night shift and proceededCharlie and lola to hang out with the mini man for 3 solid hours.

Henry work up this morning chipper, having explained that he watched all of Charlie and Lola and a Daniel Tiger on Dada’s phone. Then I noticed he had different jammie pants on, and realized that there was a dinner-plate-sized stain on our couch.

 

The ying and yang of parenting.

Life isn’t perfect and neither is parenting. A revered co-worker of mine once said, “You and Cookie (Adam) have a good thing going on.” And you know what, he was completely and absolutely right. Where one of us runs short the other gracefully picks up. This cannot be more apparent than this morning.

Cue the scene!

6:43 – [insert nasty croupy cough coming from Henry’s room.] Yes since my last post we had a baby and now he is 2 years old, cut me some slack I’ve been busy. Okay back to the croupy cough…

6:44 – My first reaction, panic. Not because Henry is coughing and wheezing, oh no. My first thought is, “dear Lord, this is Quarterlies week.” A week at work where my team works late and proofs and doesn’t see family hardly at all. And here my one and only mini man is sick.

6:45 – 8:00 – Adam to the rescue!

Where I fell flat of my face and panicked, to the point that I didn’t know what to do, should I go to H’s room, start getting ready, fret some more (I am really good at fretting), Adam gracefully steps in and takes control of the situation.

This is what a super parent/ spouse does, he or she takes a bad situation and makes the lesser parent (that day) function again.

In this case he took Henry outside so the mini man could start to breathe properly and calm his cough. He called into work so he could tend our little patient today. He reminded me that I still had to go to work and function, encouraged me, if need be, to work late so I didn’t let anyone down at work. He called daycare to let them know that our awesome kid would not be coming in, set up an appointment with the doctor’s office, cleared off the car so I could get to work on time, transferred parking cards, and brewed coffee for me for the ride in.

End scene.

What did I do? I fretted while getting ready and balanced that against a heavy layer of guilt. That is what I contributed. That and a profuse series of thank yous that I kept uttering like a bumbling idiot who only knows two words.

Since this post, Adam shared a video of Henry bouncing around on the couch. Full of energy, allowing BOTH of us to feel like chumps, the temporarily lesser parent and the hero.

Long live the gentle balance of parenting!