December 17, 2008
Sometimes I’m not sure what we did before Marie started going to daycare. We had her at home last Friday, as well as this Monday and Tuesday, and it seriously almost killed us. She had a stomach thing – nothing really bad, but still the kind of thing where you keep your kid at home lest you be to blame for 10 other toddlers getting a virus. Plus, she’s been incredibly cranky recently. When we picked her up from daycare last Thursday, the caretakers said she’d been crying on and off all day, falling apart at the slightest provocation. We first blamed her tummy bug, but now that she’s healthy and her mood hasn’t really improved, it seems clear that her cranky-pants attitude has a lot to do with a huuuuuuuge developmental leap: she’s talking.
By her first birthday, Marie could pretty much say 3 words: Mama, Papa and Oko. Then, nothing really happened. She began using those words with more purpose, but no new words came. Then, about two weeks ago, “Schlüssel” and “bear” were added to the mix. “Bear” seemed pretty logical: she adores teddy bears. Other stuffed animals are clearly inferior. But “Schlüssel?” It means “key,” and really isn’t the easiest word to pronounce. But Marie also loves keys, holding them, carrying them, giving them to you at the right moment so you can unlock something, wearing a lanyard keychain around her neck. So I guess it’s not strange that it’s one of her first words. Still, “key” is a helluva lot easier to pronounce than its German counterpart!
And since the middle of last week, she’s suddenly started talking like a parrot, saying all sorts of words we say, and clearly, knowing exactly what they mean: “ball,” “peepee,” “Ampel” (means traffic light), “Cheerios” (although her version sounds more like “cheechee”), “Marie” (sounds like “Mamie”), “shoes,” “chair,” “open,” “tea,” “eye,” “ear” and probably a number of others that are eluding me at the moment. She’s having a veritable language explosion, and it seems to be consuming her so completely that she has no energy or patience left for anything else. She’s been having a zillion temper tantrums a day, wants to nurse nonstop through the night and has refused to take naps. The last one is probably the one that has tortured us the most. When Marie is home all day, we thrive on the fact that she sleeps for 1-2 hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes we nap with her. Other times, it’s just good to have an hour or two of quiet. But when she won’t nap or will only nap in the stroller, as was the case the past two days, we do not have even a tiny little break. And since she really neeeeds that nap, we trudge out through the gray cold so she can snooze. And forget about getting any work done. I wasn’t able to translate at all or work on my thesis or attend my research colloquium. Toffi had to work a little, and he did almost all of it at night. So by the end of the day, when she’s finally in bed, it’s all we can do to eat dinner and fall into bed ourselves. But of course, with her all-night nursing, going to bed hasn’t brought much relief for me.
Anyway, this morning, we took Marie to the doctor to make sure she’s healthy again, then off to daycare. She had a little separation anxiety when I left her there, but overall, she seemed so happy to be there. “Hooray!” her face seemed to say, “now I can play with other kids and grownups who aren’t sleep-deprived zombies like you losers!” Toffi and I walked back home, unlocked the apartment door, and Toffi summed it up when he said, “ah, the silence. The promise of what we can do now: sleep, shower, eat breakfast without our coffee getting cold. The possibilities are endless. The quiet. The peacefulness.”
September 2, 2008
They say the love a mother feels for her child(ren) is uniquely powerful, and I can only confirm that it is so. My love for Marie is like no other love I have felt. It is primal and intense, as well as tender and gentle. It was hard at first to leave Marie at daycare. I barely slept the night before her first day, even though I knew I wouldn’t be leaving her there alone until the 3rd or 4th day. It has definitely been a challenge to let go. But now that Marie spends 5 hours there each weekday, willingly takes naps with the other tots and barely flinches when I say goodbye in the mornings, I have to admit something:
I absolutely love shopping with neither Marie nor the dog in tow.
Granted, I can’t turn off the instinctive reaction I have whenever I hear a baby cry – I am constantly on alert – but there is something glorious about being in the grocery store ALONE. A child cries, but it is NOT MINE. A dog barks, but it is NOT MINE. It is not my child who is in distress; it is not my dog who is getting into trouble. That? Why, that is the sound of freedom, my friend.
July 19, 2008
April 26, 2008
I was recently talking to a mom-friend of mine about the danger of criticizing other parents when you’ve only seen a snapshot of their child(ren) and parenting. For example, when you see a 4-year-old with a pacifier, your gut reaction might be something like, “Jeez, what’s wrong with his parents? Are they just too lazy to respond to his needs so they stick a binky in him? Don’t they care about his dental health?” At least that’s what my reaction would be. But it wouldn’t be fair because I know nothing about this boy or his parents, and I have no way of judging whether or not he needs a pacifier. Those parents might have some very good reason for letting him have one.
But you have to draw the line somewhere.
Toffi and I were taking a walk in the park with Marie and Oko today. The weather was beautiful, and we were enjoying it so much that we probably stayed out longer than we should have. Marie was tired, probably hungry, but not anywhere close to accepting the fact that she should perhaps take a nap. But for the time being, it wasn’t critical. We were still hopeful that she would fall asleep if we pushed the stroller over enough cobblestones. Just as I dared to hope that she really was about to drift off, I noticed a little girl who had fallen off her bike and was crying miserably for her mother. She couldn’t have been older than 4. I looked around for the mother, but didn’t see anyone who seemed to “belong” to her. I expected to find one of two things: either a mom running over to rescue her little girl, or one standing a few feet off trying to act calm to thwart a tantrum and/or total despair on the part of the girl. I saw neither. All I saw was a woman in a red jacket who was looking at the girl with an expression of mild interest. More of a curious onlooker than a mother, really.
I was just about to go over to the girl myself when a woman with a bike approached her and knelt down beside her. “Ah, that’s her mom,” I thought. But somehow the interaction didn’t look like a mother-daughter one. And the girl was pointing at the woman with the red jacket. Could that person really be her mom? Could a mom really do that? Stand 50 feet away and watch her daughter sob and cry out for “Mama” and then watch a complete stranger help the girl up? I didn’t have time to think about it too much, though, because Marie was becoming very unhappy about our attempt to get her to sleep, and her fussing was quickly escalating to full-on crying. Toffi and I helped her sit up in the stroller so she could more easily look around, and this seemed to placate her for the time being. I looked back at the girl-bike scene to see what had happened. It was now clear that the woman in the red jacket was, indeed, the mother, and she still had that nonchalant look on her face. The other woman had helped the girl over to her mom. The girl didn’t look badly hurt, but she was still crying. Not a tantrumy cry, but a genuinely distraught one. I was livid.
But our situation with Marie was quickly spiraling out of control. She was positively screaming at this point, and we were beginning to realize that the cobblestones wouldn’t do their magic this time. She was too tired, maybe too hungry, and probably just too overstimulated from having been outside for several hours. We gave up just as she was about to start hyperventilating (less than 5 minutes after the initial crying began), and I held her close for about 15 minutes while she calmed down. Then, instead of getting something to eat, we headed straight home, and I carried her most of the way. I wasn’t happy about the abrupt change of plan, but I also knew that trying to get Marie to go along with our plans would have been an exercise in futility.
Now I know that what I saw at the park was only a snapshot of this girl’s life and her mother’s parenting. And I’m not trying to compare my parenting to this mom’s parenting. But this wasn’t a 4-year-old with a pacifier; this was a 4-year-old who was scared, alone and crying for her mom, and her mom stood far away from her and just flat-out ignored her child. And so I am comparing our reaction to Marie’s distress to this mother’s reaction to her daughter’s distress – just these two snapshots. I’m inclined to think that if this mother had been in our situation, she would have stuck to her plan and let her daughter suffer through it. I can’t get over the totally serene look on her face as she watched her daughter’s agony. And seeing this has made me determined to never be that woman. As a mother, I have made mistakes and will certainly make more in the future, but I hope that I will never so dramatically neglect Marie’s needs. She deserves more, and so does the girl who fell off her bike.
I will now get back down off my soapbox and share this:
Last night, I went out (at night) for the FIRST TIME since Marie was born. It was Naf and Marek’s birthday party, and so I went to a bar and drank two whole beers! Granted, I was home before midnight and cuddled up with Marie shortly thereafter. But holy crap, did it ever feel like freedom. I hadn’t really missed going out to bars, but last night was just plain fun.