Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cry it Again

Emmalee and I have had our fair share of sleep troubles.  She started out as an excellent sleeper, but at about six months that changed pretty drastically.  I somehow managed to emerge victoriously from that long, sleep-deprived period by attempting to have Emma “cry it out” just before she turned nine months.  It was not a decision I made lightly, and I was not in any way happy to listen to my baby scream.  But it ended up being a good decision, because Emma began to sleep through the night again almost immediately. 
After six weeks or so of this method, Emma was still sobbing for about twenty minutes every night.  I gave in and began to rock her to sleep again.  This led to a brief period of some night waking on some nights, but she has been sleeping soundly for about 11 ½ hours a night for some time now.  As I chronicled in a previous blog, Victory is Mine, I’ve been feeling pretty happy about the outcome of our sleep battle.
Lately, though, it has begun to weigh on me that I am still rocking Emma to sleep each night.  I know that at some point she needs to learn to fall asleep on her own in addition to sleeping through the night.  I wouldn’t be overly concerned about it except that rocking her to sleep is getting harder.  It seems like it is taking longer and longer before I can lay her down without her waking up and crying.  Some nights it takes 45 minutes to an hour and I end up just making her cry until she falls asleep anyway.  The inconsistency of this is unfair to her though, and I’ve been getting frustrated.  Sunday night I reached my breaking point and after rocking her for 45 minutes I made the decision to give cry it out another go. 
The first night was harder than I remembered it being.  Maybe because Emma is older now and has had more time to perfect her temper tantrums, but oh, did she ever protest.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard such angry wailing.  It literally gave me chills to listen to.  How I stood my ground I will never know.  That night she cried for about 30 minutes, with me going in every ten minutes to lay her back down and shush her a bit (not that this had any effect whatsoever).  The second night she cried for 16 minutes, and she wasn’t nearly as intense about it.  This made me optimistic that maybe this time she would get the message and accept the situation quicker.  I should have known better.
Last night Emmalee cried for 50 minutes.  I continued to go in every ten minutes, even though this practice is probably more for me than for her.  I don’t want her to feel abandoned.  But truthfully, I don’t think she does.  I believe wholeheartedly that Emma is a content and happy child who feels safe and loved.  I don’t think she is crying because she is scared or feels neglected.  I think she cries because she is angry that I am not doing what she wants me to do.  But it is still heartbreaking to listen to her, especially considering I have to sit and listen to her all alone.  I spend a lot of time standing at the end of the hallway with my forehead pressed against the wall, silently pleading with her to just go to sleep already.  Last night was extremely hard for me and I went to bed feeling thoroughly depressed about the whole situation.
Tonight was night four of our second cry it out attempt, and thankfully it was a little better.  Emma only cried continuously for six minutes, and then it was on and off crying for about six more before she was finally quiet.  So 12 minutes total, which is quite a bit better than 50.  Perhaps the most stubborn child ever is getting the message after all.  Or, quite possibly, it was just a fluke because she went to bed a little later than usual and was so tired that she had less fight in her. 
I don’t know if cry it out is the right thing to do, I really don’t.  But I don’t know what else to do.  I can’t rock her to sleep forever.  Sure, there are “gentler” methods out there, and yes, I have read about them.  I just don’t think they would work for Emmalee.  I hate listening to her cry.  It is stressful for both of us.  I can only hope that we will gain something positive from the experience.  Tonight was only night four, and I am not so na├»ve as to think that it is all downhill from here.  After all, this is Emmalee we are talking about.  I wanted her, and she seems to want to make sure I get all that I can out of the experience.  I love that child so much it is ridiculous, and all I really want is to be a good mom to her and to do right by her.  But, sometimes, knowing what is right is a lot harder than it sounds. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Am I doing this right?

As I watched Emmalee eating fast food chicken nuggets for the second evening in a row, I couldn’t help but have one of those “am I doing this right?” moments in parenting.  Of course I know that there are healthier things she could be eating than chicken nuggets, particularly the fried fast food variety.  But when I got home from work today I had to get her ready and then run to Sam’s Club to pick up my contacts and Wal-Mart to buy a few essentials that I forgot to pick up the last time I was there.  Wal-Mart just so happens to be located right next to a very convenient Chick-fil-A, whose chickeny goodness sounded pretty fast and easy at 6:15 pm.  I scarfed my food down on the drive home so that I’d be free to set Emma up in her high chair and then unload the car and put the groceries away while she munched.  It was a busy evening.  At least I put some peas and carrots (microwaved, from a can) on her tray.  Not that she ate them. 
I am allowing Emma to learn some pretty terrible eating habits.  Though she loves fruit, she is not a fan of vegetables.  She loves anything fried and buttery, and she would happily graze on snacks like Puffs and Cheerios all day long.  She is pretty much following right in my gastronomic footsteps, except I substitute the Puffs and Cheerios for chips and chocolate.  Should I really expect anything different?
To be fair, it’s not like she eats fast food three times a day, or even everyday for that matter.  And she does eat some healthier things, like peanut butter and applesauce sandwiches, fruit cups, and mixed grain Gerber cereal mixed with a stage two Gerber fruit (her daily breakfast).  But I’m pretty sure that everything she consumes is processed, preserved, or artificial in some way.  Her veggies come from cans.  Her fruit comes from a disposable cup with a peel-back lid.  And a large chunk of her daily caloric intake is of the Teddy Graham and Goldfish variety.  She also drinks juice, which I thought was a good thing until a recent Babycenter.com thread informed me that it’s full of sugar and evil, right up there with milk apparently.  At least I water it down.  And who am I to worry about sugar when I share my ice cream with her? 
The reason that Emma and I both eat this way is that I do not cook.  I feel lost in the kitchen, and the idea of having to prepare a meal each evening makes me feel like taking a nap, especially when considering trying to cook with a whiny, hungry toddler attached to my legs.  Are there really people out there who do that?  Babycenter.com’s message boards would have you believe that they not only exist, but that they prepare these meals using all natural, unprocessed organic ingredients.  At the risk of sounding cynical, what do these people do all day that they have the time for that crap?  If you are someone who falls into this category, hats off to you.  Seriously.  I admire you’re dedication.  But I don’t feel like cooking.  And I don’t feel like reading labels.  And I don’t feel like changing my own eating habits.  So I guess Emma is doomed to a childhood of cereal, sandwiches and dinners that can either be prepared in ten minutes or less or that can be served through a window.  Somehow I doubt she’ll complain.  And anyway, we can probably get a home cooked meal out of Grammy once in a while.  Isn’t that what grandmothers are for?
I discuss this topic flippantly, but the fact that I’m blogging about it betrays the reality of the situation which is that I have guilt.  I want to be a good mom and I want Emma to be a healthy child.  I know that serving grilled cheese or chicken nuggets most nights, and allowing Emma to munch on Cheerios to keep her quiet when we’re shopping, is taking the easy way out.  I also know that if I whine about being busy or tired or having to do it all on my own I am just making excuses.  But since I’m not all that willing to make changes, my guilt must not be too bad.  I guess I feel like if I’ve eaten this way for as long as I can remember and I’m all right, then Emma will probably be fine too.  Maybe I can try to be extra awesome in some other area of parenting to make up for my lack of awesomeness at mealtimes?  Maybe I think about these things too much.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sippy Cup Standoff

Though I do not prefer it, I can certainly admit if I’ve been wrong.  Ideally, I avoid being wrong in the first place.  But I’m not perfect.  So this blog is to admit that, when it comes to parenting Emmalee, I am doing it wrong.  Perhaps I’m not doing it all wrong.  Something, though, just isn’t working the way it should.  Something is not clicking.  I am running into obstacles that I don’t know how to overcome.  Maybe I should explain.
Yesterday Emmalee officially became 13 months old.  This caused me to panic in a way that Emmalee’s 12 month milestone didn’t quite affect me.  At her last well check up, I was informed by the doctor that Emma should be done with bottles and on whole milk by fifteen months.  But that was three full months away.  I still had plenty of time to deal with my obstinate child.  Yesterday, though, marked the passage of an entire month.  It hit me hard because it seems as though the month has passed without me really noticing it at all.  Didn’t we just have Emma’s party?  Where did the time go?
And now I have only two months to come up with some sort of plan and implement it.  My first goal: to get Emma to hold her own bottle.  My second goal: to get Emma to drink from a sippy cup.  And my third, least important, goal: to get Emma to drink whole milk.  These might not sound like complicated projects.  For me, though, they feel like epic battles that I must win.  I am in a war, the enemy being my darling child.  I must conquer her, for both our sakes; I must figure out a way to be the victor in “The Sippy Cup Standoff.”
I just don’t know how to begin.  I am not a war strategist.  I am not even a very experienced mom.  For all my bravado and confident talk, I honestly don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  To others, it might not sound like such a big deal.  If you want her to hold her own bottle, just stop holding it for her, you might be thinking.  But you are not the one who would then have to face her anger, her tears, her uncomprehending disappointment as she stares up at me with her heartbroken, hazel eyes, choking on her food because her own mother won’t help her to get a drink.  How could I be so cruel? 
I know I am being dramatic.  Maybe I’m in denial about where Emma gets that from.  I am unsure why it is that I am able to make Emmalee “cry it out” alone in her crib at night but all attempts at tough love fly out the window once dawn breaks.  Maybe it is because in the night I don’t have to face her.  I can stay on the other side of the wall, pretending that I’m sure about what I’m doing, without having to see the anguish in her eyes.  But during the day, with my inadequacies lit brightly by the sun, I just don’t have the heart to make Emma suffer.  I baby her and coddle her in ways I never would have imagined myself being capable of prior to her existence.  I think it is safe to say that I am in serious trouble.
With my deadline looming just over the horizon, my anxiety over the issue is skyrocketing.  I just can’t slink back into the pediatrician’s office in June and have to face Emma’s doctor with news of my utter failure at being a mother.  Even Babycenter.com doesn’t seem to have the answer on this one.  I have read their article.  I have tried the Do’s and avoided the Don’ts, but with no luck.  All I seem to have is more questions.  Is it important to first make Emma hold her own bottle?  Maybe I should just remove all the bottles, stick a sippy cup in front of her and insist that she make both changes at once?  But what if the suddenness of that approach traumatizes her?  What if she gets dehydrated?  What if I cause her to develop issues with food?  With trust?  With control?  What if I damage her somehow for the rest of her life because of making the wrong decision now?  There is entirely too much pressure in parenting. 
Maybe the answer is just to relax.  Maybe I’m making it too big of a deal.  I kind of have the feeling that, if given enough time, I will emerge victoriously from this standoff.  After all, I doubt she’ll want to pack a bottle in her lunch box on the first day of school.  But it is hard to ignore both the doctor’s advice and the looks I get from people out in public.  It would be nice if other people would just mind their own business and keep their hostile judgments off their faces… but then, to be fair, it probably does look like I’m holding up a bottle for a two year old since Emma is such a big girl.  And how much time am I willing to give her?  What if she is two and still won’t budge on the issue?  I just don’t see myself being able to relax anytime soon.
So the standoff continues.  I will report back when there is more to share.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wrestling an Alligator

Changing a baby’s diaper probably doesn’t sound like a very complicated process.  Remove, wipe, replace.  Done.  But anyone who has spent some time around a baby knows that while this is true at times, it certainly isn’t always the case.  Changing a baby’s diaper can be messy, complicated work.
First of all, there are blowouts.  Or as my favorite uncle likes to call them, “craptaculars.”  If MTV really wants to help prevent teen pregnancy, this is what should be featured on episodes of 16 and Pregnant.  I’m referring to the occasions when your tiny, adorable, precious little newborn somehow manages to expel her body weight in runny excrement.  The diaper just isn’t enough and the contents seem to explode, somehow managing to find their way all the way up your baby’s back into her hair and out the front so that they are smeared all over her still healing belly button.  Your baby is most likely to do this when you have her placed in something difficult to clean, like a bouncer or swing.  You will look at your crap-covered child with a sense of bewilderment and will be at a loss as to where to even begin remedying the situation.  When you get her to the changing table and open her diaper she will almost certainly decide that this is the perfect moment to urinate, further complicating the situation.  At this point you may as well accept defeat and head for the bath.  Luckily this type of diaper becomes less frequent over time.
But then new problems arise.  Lately changing Emmalee’s diaper leaves me feeling like I’m wrestling with an angry alligator.  We had to give up using the changing table long ago, and now I mostly change Emma’s diaper on a blanket on the playroom floor.  As soon as I start to lay her down she arches her back and yells in protest.  Once she is on the floor she immediately tries to flip over and crawl away.  If I’m quick enough to stop her she cries angrily.  I’m then forced to try to restrain her and hold up her legs with one arm while wiping with the other.  If I can manage to get her clean without getting anything on myself, her clothes or the floor I consider it a win and release her.  She then takes off bare-bottomed, making it across the room in record time.  I give her a couple of minutes before we begin round two, which involves me catching her and engaging in another episode of restraining her while she kicks and flails and cries, hopefully also managing to get a diaper secured to her bottom.  It is a process that leaves me feeling quite exhausted.  And helpless.  Why is it that my one year old gets to dictate how changing times will be conducted?
Believe me, I have tried distracting her.  For awhile this was effective, but now it seems almost as if Emmalee has turned getting her diaper changed into a game.  Even though she gets mad and often ends up crying, she giggles gleefully when she is finally able to crawl away.  And I probably don’t help the situation by laughing myself, but to watch her half naked little body speeding across the room on all fours is a pretty hilarious sight.  I guess it all comes back to discipline, or the complete lack thereof.  But I still don’t feel sure about how to handle that with her.  The more serious and stern my voice, the more she laughs and ignores me, or so it seems.  And I don’t want to yell and scare her.  So for now I suppose we’ll continue with this ridiculous charade, until either Emma grows bored or I grow a backbone.  Add this to my laundry list of things that I need to correct with that child.  Somehow I feel like this is going to be an uphill journey.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Break

Being a teacher, like any job I’m sure, has its ups and downs.  One of the ups is the ridiculously awesome schedule.  I mean, come on, 196 work days a year?  Not a bad gig.  Especially if you’re like me and go to great lengths to not have to take any work home to do on the other 169 days.  Anyway, today was the first day back to work from the glorious vacation known as Spring Break and I thought I’d take a moment to reminisce about the fabulous week I had.
First of all, let me say that I love my little tastes of being a stay at home mom.  I kind of feel like I have the best of both worlds.  I get lots of time off to spend with Emma, but I also get the break and release of having a career.  Most of the time I do enjoy my job, and I can admit that spending every waking moment with a one year old can get a little tedious.  The breaks I have from work though are just enough to make the time I spend with her precious and exciting, and I find myself longing for those moments once school is back in session. 
I like spending time at home, but I am not really a stay at home type of person.  After a full day of being in the house, I am desperately trying to come up with some reason to leave.  Luckily I am easily entertained though, and a trip to Target is enough to refresh me.  Emma and I visited Target exactly three times during my week off, not to mention the mall, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Babies R Us once each.  I still love shopping, but it has admittedly become much more difficult now that Emmalee wants to “walk” wherever we go (see Walk Already!).  She seems to be entering a phase were shopping is mostly a boring chore that interferes with her playtime, which is unfortunate for my personal aura, but very fortunate for my bank account since perusing with a kicking, squirming, whining toddler in my arms just doesn’t have the same allure (though apparently that didn’t slow me down this week!). 
Emmalee and I managed to get out of the house a couple of times during our break that didn’t involve shopping, once to go to Sea World and another time to visit Typhoon Lagoon.  This was our third trip to Sea World, but because we usually only go for a few hours at a time we are still making all kinds of new discoveries.  This time Emmalee was most enamored by the underwater dolphin viewing area.  She was able to stand with her hands pressed right up to the glass, giggling with glee each time a dolphin swam by.  She also had the opportunity to meet Elmo, who I didn’t even realize lived at Sea World!  Though Emma does not watch Sesame Street, she does have a couple of Elmo bath books and the mirror I use in the car to be able to see her since she is still rear-facing is adorned by the lovable red creature.  To my delight, Emma wasn’t scared in the slightest and though she didn’t exactly smile, she waved and seemed to be truly intrigued by the Elmo encounter.  Which is fine.  I’ll take intrigued over screaming in terror any day.  We can work our way up to smiles and hugs when meeting large, costumed individuals.  It was a pleasant day with the exception of Emma’s lunchtime meltdown where she threw an epic fit in her stroller and I, awesome mom that I am, didn’t have her strapped in so she almost fell out of it.  In front of a whole line full of people in a crowded restaurant.  At least I didn’t see the looks of horror and disapproval as I was too embarrassed to make any attempt at eye contact.  At that moment I sure felt like an inadequate teenager, so at least the judgmental thoughts that I’m sure were racing through everyone’s minds weren’t completely inaccurate. 
We also visited Typhoon Lagoon, a Disney water park, for the first time and Emma and I were both pleasantly surprised by what we discovered.  First of all, we got to meet Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch.  While I enjoyed this more than Emma, since she has no clue who he is, she still studied him and seemed amused when he started playing peek-a-boo.  Typhoon Lagoon has a decidedly beach like atmosphere, with white sand, a sloping pool, palm trees, and tropical flowers to give the overall feel of being in a somewhat crowded tropical oasis.  Emma had never even been swimming prior to this trip, but she loved the sand and laughed with delight when we waded out into the water.  She was still mostly preoccupied with picking up flower petals and leaves, but at least she enjoyed herself.  She was also incredibly pleased by the lazy river where she sat in a float and watched the world pass by.  She was not a fan of the cold jets of water that fell on us here and there, but after a few moments of irrational, as if we’d been doused with acid screaming she calmed down.  We only stayed a few hours, partly because I was worried that a meltdown was on the horizon and partly because I am super paranoid about Emma getting sunburned (as temperamental as she is, I don’t even want to think about how she’d handle that level of discomfort).  I wasn’t sure if a water park would have much to entertain a one year old, but I’ve found that it really does.  Which is good since I bought an annual pass so that we’d have someplace to frequent over the summer.
And that pretty much wraps up the week, other than doing a bit of laundry and some half-hearted attempts at spring cleaning.  It was a fun week, but it passed way too quickly, a teaser for the real prize that lies ahead: Summer Break!  Eight weeks of uninterrupted bliss.  41 more school days and counting…