Category Archives: Personal Missteps

Ode to Nature, or “Crumbs”

27. Don’t neglect a bunch of crumbs in the seat of the stroller. Especially when the stroller is unoccupied and you’re out of doors, say at a park or aquarium or—anywhere outside, really. I did this. I neglected the crumbs Eloise left behind after devouring her carrot muffin. Actually, I wasn’t even aware of them, as they were under her bum for most of the strolling; but regardless, I did fail to check the seat when I released her for some much-anticipated toddling. Toddle, toddle . . . “Can my little girl who is half your size please play with this apparatus? No? Okay. Thanks for considering, you heathen.” Toddle, toddle . . . TIMBER! Toddle . . . [Eloise points to her stroller.] “You want to get back in the stroller?! Wow! You never willingly ask to re-enter the stroller!” [After much annoying cute talk, I actually glanced in the direction she was pointing, where I saw two pigeons hanging out in the stroller seat, reaping the rewards of Eloise’s novice eating skills. My eyes darted to another mom across the way. I made a frown face, and so did she.] “There were crumbs in the seat, I think,” I muttered, before she returned a look that very clearly said, “You aren’t too bright, are you?”

We went home about 1.5 minutes later (the time required to baby-wipe down the seat to rid it of pigeon cooties). Not too many pigeons here, thank goodness.

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Shrugs, Not Hugs?

25. Not realizing that toddlers who hug are taboo. Eloise isn’t too keen on adults who aren’t in her immediate familial circle, but she’s pretty friendly with other kids, albeit in a sort of, Oh—I see you have an arm, too. May I stroke it? kind of way. This happens at the local park, typically, as she doesn’t get much kid interaction otherwise, apart from the kids next door who are used to her tender ways.

It was only about a month ago, just after she turned one, that I noticed she was actually becoming interested in interacting with other children. But at the park we frequent (somewhat sporadically, actually), there tends to be a lot of tykes twice her age who have already gone through this curiosity stage that involves going up to a child she’s never seen before and either trying to hold his/her hand in the same way she grabs her elder sisters’ hands, or immediately moving in for a hug. Of course, these older kids react as though Eloise is alien. I suppose it would be worse if they reacted as if she were a terrifying clown and ran at light speed in the other direction; but actually, it feels equally disheartening as a mother to watch their little expressions say, “What the hay is wrong with you, baby? Hasn’t anyone taught you about personal space yet? My parent(s) taught me about my personal bubble.”

That’s what I’m supposed to be teaching Eloise, apparently—about her personal space bubble that might burst if someone encroaches upon it. (It seems like I should get her used to the sad fact about one’s bubble being burst, no?) I know this little gem because I looked it up on the big, scary Web after our last park visit, during which she hugged a couple children—more her own age that time—but without abandon nonetheless. I apologized to the first mother for Eloise trying to hug her little boy, who wasn’t so into the idea. That’s when the mother sweetly explained how she has been discussing “personal space issues” with her children for long time now. Oh. The other mother, whose daughter is very close in age to Eloise, didn’t seem to mind as much. She even agreed with me when I cooed over their mutual embrace and said that the world would be better if there were more hugging going on. But when the cuddle exceeded the appropriate length, the mother said, “Oooh, that’s a long hug,” and that’s when I knew I needed to do some research into what parents are thinking about baby PDAs these days.

Guess what? Well, you probably already know—but no one’s into hugging! Even among the 15-month-old set, it isn’t cute; it’s cause for alarm. If you let your kids hug freely, says the Mommaratti, they will hug any old stranger, pedophiles, pit bulls—maybe even terrorists! But really, there’s a widespread concern about it that I was completely unaware of. And before you think I’m just completely out of it or don’t get it, no, I’m not totally comfortable that Eloise is fearless when it comes to embracing children she doesn’t know. It’s sort of embarrassing, and I don’t particularly want her to touch germy kids we’ve never met. But did I think it was a Problem I needed to quickly nip in the bud? Not so much. However, after reading bulletin boards on which daycare providers confessed their annoyance with kissy, huggy toddlers, I came to realize that we are not a lovey dovey society. We don’t, as adults, kiss each other on both cheeks in this country. Perhaps Eloise fancies herself a bit European.

I even discussed this with my neighbor, whose advice with regard to kids I totally respect, and she relayed a story about how her daughter had to endure the love of “a hugger” in preschool. Poor Eloise. If I don’t do something about it, she’ll be called The Hugger at the park, and the kids will keep their distance from her, and the parents will whisper into their kids’ ears that the kids shouldn’t play with her. “We don’t like to have our bubbles burst, do we?” they’ll say. This sort of thing used to be reserved for kids who picked their noses in front of everyone and threatened to fling boogers about. (I knew that kid in elementary school, by the way.)

Does anyone have thoughts on this? I refuse to make up a story about bubbles and keeping our bubbles in tact and all that jazz. C’mon, I know kids enjoy a good analogy, but a nice, “Let’s wait until we know someone better” accompanied by a gentle nudge away should do the trick, I think. And perhaps I should scale back our pre-bedtime hug fests, during which I have Eloise hug every last toy before she departs for slumber.

Jiminy Cricket, I’m all for keeping our kids safe, and for teaching them to respect other human beings’ personal space, but I worry that in doing that, we’re teaching them to be suspicious of everyone, including kindhearted toddlers who are the only people who actually have sincere, innocent emotions. Europe, maybe.

Topic Not Appropriate for Reading Over Breakfast

24. Not waiting it (and by “it,” I mean it) out. This morning, it went like this: I, quite literally, wrestled Eloise to take care of the top of the morning diaper change. What a waste of energy and said child’s lung capacity, as the diaper was barely wet from the 3am change. Still, due diligence and all that.

Not even ten minutes later, as I’m unloading at least five plates and bowls that contain our respective breakfasts*, I smell the smell, and ask the rather unladylike mommy question, “Do you have poop in your diaper?” Yes, she did; so wrestle once again we did; and on through another big box of diapers we go.

It made me think of working as a cashier in a retail setting, and how customers always managed to surprise me with, “I have twenty-seven cents!” a half a second after I processed the transaction. If you have any shred of a brain when it comes to numbers, an extra quarter and some wouldn’t phase you when counting back change; but I happen to only have a sliver of a brain when it comes to basic math in harried settings. Naturally, sweat beads and indecipherable Post-it scribbling ensued.

Anyway, my point is that I should know by now that it’s almost always better to wait it out in these types of situations. I’m not being paranoid. Everyone is testing me—I just know it. And everyone knows you shouldn’t rush through a test.

* I certainly try to be a minimalist, but I’m just not there yet.

UPDATE, TEN MINUTES LATER: She did it AGAIN!

Babies on Ice

23. Believing that non-skid pajama feet are truly non-skid. Most aren’t, I’ve found. Actually, most aren’t Eloise has found—as she’s skated across the hardwood floor at worryingly high speeds more times than I can count since she’s started walking. (Yes, she started walking during the MIM hiatus! Much joy: lots of stumbling and near-emergency moments, but hey—the little Boo-Boo Bunny things get a lot of play now.)

Have you ever skimmed your digits across the feet of most mass-market footed pajamas (Gerber and Carter’s, I’m talking to you)? They’re not rubbery; they feel like some sort of cheap (obviously), surprisingly very slippery plastic. Just because you have your iconic logo embossed all over the feet of your footed jammies, babywear makers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re non-skid. The embossed surface does have to prevent falls, slips . . . an impromptu baby ice skating session in the living room.

It reminds me of this planner I saw at Target once. Its ad copy touted that the product had “handy pockets” simply because its slip cover happened to create a gap between the actual book and the cover. I may have been more impressed were the copy to have read: “Eco-friendly Organic Pocketry.” Anyway, Gerber, Carter’s, and the like, let’s invest a cent more per item and make it right, what don’t ya?

On a similar note, non-skid socks are far, far more reliable—except when your child always manages to turn the non-skid bits to the top of her foot. The trick is to put the non-skid socks over the foot pajamas. Then you’ve corrected the manufacturers’ collective oversight and you’ve duped your kid by making it virtually impossible to twist her little foot covers around all that bulk.

I’ve never felt so resourceful! That said, if you and a hundred of your mom-friends are already doing this, I prefer not to hear about it.

On Crying: An Embarrassingly Emotional New Mother’s Tears Dissected—or at the Very Least, Explored

22.  Crying a river. Constantly. I don’t recall crying a drop during my pregnancy—except for when I realized I was being laid off just on the horizon of my fifth month. That was boohooing the obvious, though. A certain little episode during which the rubber band holding the top of my jeans open to a manageable point dislodged and traveled the length of four cubicles at the aforementioned job, where I was a rookie, no less, didn’t even generate a droplet. But once Eloise made her way from the womb into the universe formerly known as my life, the tears flowed like Boone’s Farm® Strawberry Hill on a high school junior’s Friday night.

Breastfeeding, or breastbeating, as I called it in the early days, caused many an overdramatic incident. Couldn’t do it during our hospital stay to save my life, in spite of calling upon at least five different nurses to properly insert my left and right one into the wee bearn’s pie hole. I’m already prone to a rather ego-deflating affliction that causes me to well up when discussing anything slightly emotional; so when I had to admit to Nurse Unthrilled to Hear from Me Again that I had to send Eloise to the nursery because I hadn’t slept in thirty-some hours and could neither feed or soothe the baby properly, I did so half choking on the frog in my throat. Who knew frogs could be so riddled with guilt and disappointment.

Nurse Unthrilled wasn’t the last at that establishment to deal with my dramatics. Eloise suffered mild jaundice upon discharge from the hospital; but because I wasn’t able to put out (for Eloise, not my poor husband), her bilirubin levels escalated, landing her back in the nursery a few days later. As the standard coming-home-with-baby story tends to pan out, no sleep was had by anyone in our house in the preceding days. So when Nurse Funny, but Sarcastic Enough to Make Me Uneasy asked whether I would be coming by the hospital every three hours throughout the night to nurse Eloise, I was horrified. You’re right—to tears! Not only was I painfully aware that we still sucked* as a breastfeeding duo, I knew that I was much, much too tired to endure such an evening. Although my heart crumbled into little bits admitting to myself that Eloise was better off getting a night full of supplements (did I mention that she was losing weight by the day?), I knew it was the right decision. Actually, I didn’t know, just like I don’t feel like I ever truly know the right thing to do where the baby is concerned—but I felt as though it couldn’t hurt.

After a rather life-altering—at least for that day—night of rest, my husband and I went to fetch our Eloise, who had magically (in an artificial formula kind of way) gained weight overnight. The question “Would you like to nurse her?” caused much dread, but I bucked up and gave it go. After only fifteen minutes of fumbling while sitting beside another breastfeeding mother the nurses dubbed SuperMom for her superb skills, Eloise latched on and nibbled for about five whole minutes. Although my tears remained safely in their ducts while we were in the nursery, my bleary peepers went all glassy again just because one of the nurses wished me well and urged me to get some rest. All my wounded soul heard was, “It unfortunate that you’re such a spazz. We’re really concerned about your ability to parent, so please get a hold of yourself before we report you.”

In what seemed like some sort of horrid test of my ability to remain composed, Eloise had to visit the pediatrician about once a week to weigh in and have her color assessed. The first couple times, her weight continued to drop by a couple ounces, which prompted her doctor’s order to once again supplement with formula after breastfeeding. I hadn’t become a La Leche League-er or anything, so I didn’t protest and strictly adhered to the rules. Confident that Eloise had gained weight, I strolled into her next appointment with a big smile. When I learned that she had lost another two ounces (the nurse even tried two scales for me), I broke down first in front of a third-year pediatrics student and then our pediatrician, who was called in when it was obvious the perplexed student hadn’t yet read the chapter on dealing with burnt out and broken new mothers. Thankfully, our go-to pediatrician (there are four from which to choose at any given time), is a very laid-back, “Just go have a big chocolate shake” kind of guy. Somehow, being told that ingesting ice cream would help the milk come in and make my breastfeeding problems go away quelled the blubbering right quick.

There have been hundreds of incidents since these examples transpired. I sob when Eloise cries with particular gusto. I sometimes cry when I feel completely wiped out at the end of the day and am not rescued immediately when my husband arrives. I bellyache over my inability to finish a book. Don’t even get me started on the state of the house. It’s okay, I think. I mean, it would be more conducive to just about everything and everyone to be more solid, but who’s really hurt by a few tears here and there?

If you’re familiar at all with the world of cry-it-out (CIO—acronyms—lord!—another new mom thing I can’t wrap my head around), you’re probably familiar with tension releasers and tension increasers. I’m not sure which way crying serves me. I’m pretty sure I’m always tense these days, though.

*Bad pun realized after the fact.

Being Prepared for Stomach-turning Situations

21.  Not being mentally prepared for stomach-turning situations. As I mentioned last time, flu ravaged our house early in the season. Actually, no—the stomach “flu” isn’t actually the flu, I read, but rather some gastrointestinal virus that makes a mess of pretty much everything. In this instance, hardcore symptoms lasted about 36 hours per individual, the first being me, and the second poor little Eloise. I suppose where I went wrong was skimming through the parts in baby books that discussed what to do in the event of an illness. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Eloise was immune to illness, but I figured that it would be easy enough to sort out when she did finally succumb to the world of germs. And I guess I presumed her first illness would involve sniffles or some coughing—not projectile vomiting over my shoulder about twelve times in the space between breakfast and her afternoon nap.

I don’t know that I would’ve been any less startled had I read up on infants and stomach viruses, but I may have felt a little less desperate as I waited for the pediatric nurse to return my call. (She was supposed to get back within an hour, and don’t think I wasn’t back on the horn when her call was two minutes overdue.) Also, unless you frequent a pediatric unit with five patients, it’s likely you’ll get the quickie treatment that I received: “Yeah, you’ll need to do this for five minutes, and then after three minutes . . . and then you might want to . . .” WHAT? “Please repeat, for I think I have vomit in my ear canal.” Those nurses field such calls so frequently in one day, one can understand their hurry; but perhaps they forget new motherhood and how it feels as though every little decision you make just might harm your child for all eternity. My kid has struggled with sleep for much of her baby life, and all of a sudden she decided to sack out, without her little sleep bag, on the living room floor. I thought she was done for.

So, this is why I suggest reading the chapters on stomach bugs and, now that we’re amid ever-mutating flu strain season, the flu chapter as well.* Although I had instruction from the nurse and help from other mother friends, I don’t think I followed every step exactly; however, somewhere deep down my mothering instincts kicked in (perhaps for the first time ever), and we made it out of the illness unscathed. Not my clothes, though. I went through four shirts before I opted to throw a bath towel over my shoulder. And that wasn’t even my idea; it was my husband’s.

*Make sure you have your Pedialyte on hand, too. No one wants to risk vomit in the car. Ew.

Illin’

20.  Getting sick. Getting sick and taking care of a crazy kid? Being sick and then taking care of a loopy sick kid? Still not feeling up to par, taking care of a mending, but rather irritated kid, and trying not to feel slighted by the universe when your husband becomes sick? The answer is yes, all of these things suck. Get a shot, or whatever will remedy all sickness. It’s horrible.