Thursday, May 24, 2012

Parenting lesson no. 1: You can only make one change at a time

I don't profess to be an expert on anything (though I do have strong opinions. Opinions are fun, because you don't have to prove anything).

It has always been my way to express doubt about my abilities and knowledge. This may be a character flaw, but whatever. I'd almost always rather double-check the facts than definitively state something for the record (the other day I told someone that Dave Grohl wasn't playing drums on Nirvana's album "Nevermind." I remembered it wrong: Chad Channing and Dale Crover shared drum duties on the first Nirvana album, "Bleach," but that's totally Dave on "Nevermind," aside from a few cymbal crashes. My bad. However, it is my opinion that Dale Crover kicks Dave Grohl's ass). I also realize that other people almost always figure shit out before I do. Still, if life is a learning process (is it?), just like everyone else, I will grow at my own pace, and if I keep an open mind, I will reach the level of enlightenment or whatever you call it that's right for me. Something like that.

What do I know, it sounds good.

Anyway, so I am approaching parenting in this same, "I don't know what I'm doing but this seems to be working for now" style. And reading lots of books and online stuff and consulting with my friends. Really, parenting a 15 month old is pretty easy. He doesn't have any discipline problems, he's clearly going to be a musical genius, and he's lately been trying to put his socks on by himself  - both on his own feet, and mine. Come on. What's cuter than a little tiny boy trying to put his miniature socks on his mommy's big old foot? That has to be a sign of something awesome, right? Maybe he'll be a doctor! A podiatrist! Maybe he'll sell shoes! Maybe he'll design shoes!

So let me get to the point of this post, which is, I have figured out that you can only make one change at a time. You're saying "duh." I see you, I can hear you saying "duh." Fine. You're smarter than me, which we knew already.

Actually, it took me about a week to realize that I was even trying to make too many changes at once, which, you know, self-awareness is a good thing but not necessarily a strong point (fine: you should know that I also suck at math. And geography. Look, playing the flute is pretty much the only thing I'm really good at, let's just get that out there, and even then, when I don't practice I also suck at that. And lately, practicing the flute hasn't exactly been a priority). This is an incredibly sloppy sentence and/or paragraph but I'm not going to fix it. I'm just saying that I didn't even realize that I was trying to do too many changes at one time!

Three weeks ago I stopped pumping at work. Or maybe it was two weeks ago; I'm also not good at dates. Freeing up all that break time has been awesome - I've been walking a lot, and I really enjoy that (add to the list: I'm not a fast walker so I have to go with someone who is, or else my walks are incredibly leisurely). So: there has been practically no more milk during the day for the little guy. He adjusted to that pretty well, surprisingly.

Then, we started trying to get him to sleep in his crib again. He'd been doing it for a few hours for awhile but in February, he'd started having trouble with it, so we started taking him to our bed when he woke up around 2:30 a.m. I would nurse him back to sleep, and in our bed he would stay.

Then, I started trying to curb the night nursing. It was just getting to be too much for me. I am not one of those mommies who can sleep while their baby nurses. How do they do that? So, he would wake up, and I would wake Patrick up to take over, and try to go back to sleep. Patrick sleeps OK with JP on his chest but lately JP hasn't been comfortable there, either. Instead of being an easy way to soothe him back to sleep, he would stay up, apparently wide-eyed. Patrick would bring him back to me, and he would fall back asleep nursing.

The night nursing has been kicking my butt. I haven't been sleeping very well. Not sleeping very well makes me crazy - I get all emotional, grumpy, irrational. Not sleeping well for like 15 months in a row amplifies all of that. It's bad, man. My decision making skills have suffered. My personal interactions with people have suffered. I'm all my usual doubt and insecurities, times 10. Maybe times a hundred: you tell me. I think this post is an excellent illustration. Or I would be up and happy, and then down and slightly insane. Mood swings are no fun for anybody.

And then I even started wondering if all I knew how to do as a parent was breastfeed. Crying baby? Feed him. Sleepy baby? Feed him. Cranky baby? Feed him. I saw Patrick picking up the slack and (it felt like) being a better parent, and that made me... sad. I know that I can do (and I do do!) more than that, but on Tuesday night, I kind of lost it. I felt like my role as a mother is changing, and I'm not as prepared for it, for any of this, as I thought I was. And I'm so much older than a lot of my friends were when they had to do all this for the first time. Now there they are, with their 7 year olds, their 13 year olds, and they know everything. And I'm still figuring out the toddler stuff! Or, I should say, not figuring it out. I felt really lame.

I felt like the nursing stuff, which may or may not be coming to an end, which has defined my life for all this time, that connection, that job that I had to do whether I felt like it or not, was a bigger deal, emotionally, to me than I thought. I thought I was ready to chuck it, to say to my sweet little boy, "Okay, buddy, it's cow's milk for you! You can handle it!" But I'm not ready. I mean, on the one hand, I really want to be done with it. But what does that say about me? On the other hand... it's what we do! It's our little thing. What will replace it? I have to figure that out. And all of this, all of that, felt very overwhelming to me on Tuesday night.

Anyway, we will figure it out. I mean, he won't be a baby/toddler forever. And eventually I will figure it out. Hopefully before he starts wanting the keys to the car.

Cymbal, meet hanger.
Hanger, it was nice knowing you.

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