Baby-proofing consultant for hire

Expert baby-proofing consultant for hire. Will work for bananas and yams. There is a slight catch: he’s 11 months old. Unconventional? Maybe so. But hear me out, because he’s brilliant.

Monkey is guaranteed to expose all the potential hazards in even the safest home. Unprotected electrical sockets? He’ll find them. Cords and wires accessible? He’ll go for them. Tippy lamp that you thought was tucked away safely in the corner? Watch out, because it’s coming down. Did you open the dishwasher door for just a second? He’s gonna try to climb in it. Ditto for the fridge. And he can detect an open oven door from the next room – he’s that good.

Did you happen to leave your coffee cup unattended for a split second? Is there any chance that the baby gate at the top of the stairs isn’t latched properly? Are you wondering how long it takes an average-speed crawler to climb up the stairs when your back is turned? Set Monkey loose, and you’ll learn all this, plus more.

If there are breakables in a lower cupboard, he’ll find them. If there are drawers that can be pulled and tiny fingers squished, he’ll do it. If you’re wondering whether the piano bench is low enough to cause baby head injuries, you’ll soon find out. (It is.)

I’ll bet you thought you cleaned up all remnants of the spill from last night’s dinner, right? Wrong. There’s a suspect-looking crumb in the corner, and Monkey has eaten it. I’ll bet you thought the pens were all safely out of reach, right? Wrong. Monkey’s found a Sharpie; thankfully he doesn’t have the dexterity to open the cap. Yet. Hey, is that the cheese grater? Monkey got it out of the cupboard while your back was turned.

Don’t wait – hire Monkey as your baby-proofing consultant today. You won’t regret it.

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Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Are you happy now? How do you know?

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Happiness is what we all want. A happy family, a happy home, happy children. A happy life.

I’ve struggled with happiness this year. I’ve searched for it. I’ve found it where I least expected it, and lost it where I was sure it would be safe. I’ve misunderstood it. And I’ve learned about what happiness means, at least for me.

Right now, in my life, I am happy. And here is what I know: happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s not an overall glow that brings smiles to my lips and infuses my life with light, just because. Happiness doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice. It’s waiting in the everyday moments for me to grasp it and hold on. And so I’m doing that, or trying to. I’m choosing to notice and celebrate the good and beautiful that occurs in the midst of the ordinary, and I am happy.

Here is where I’ve found happiness today:

The way Bean wrapped his lanky arms and legs so tightly around me this morning, so that as I carried him downstairs for breakfast he seemed weightless in my arms.

Listening to D and Monkey in a dad-baby conversation, imitating each other’s sounds and laughing.

Pushing my body through a hard workout and feeling sweaty, drained, and satisfied at the end.

Finally booking a long-overdue date with D.

Wearing my favourite scarf, for the gazillionth day in a row, because who cares if I wear the same thing every day? It’s my favourite.

What makes you happy?

Sleep. Wonderful sleep. (And a Friday flashback to the sleepless nights.)

I’m saying it. Do I dare? I probably shouldn’t. But I will anyway:

Monkey’s sleeping through the night.

Aside from a few teething-related middle of the night wake-ups, he’s been sleeping through the night for a couple of weeks now. (Of course, now that I’ve proclaimed it here, it is probably jinxed and we will never sleep again, because that is the way the world and babies work.)

In honour of all the parents still in the trenches of the exhausted, delirious, stumbling crib-to-bed-and-back-again routine, here is a flashback to the days when sleep did not come so easily. Take heart, friends.

Monkey missed the memo (originally posted October 6, 2014)


MEMORANDUM

ATTN: Babies

RE: Sleep

It is come to our attention that some of you may be mistaken about sleep. Specifically, how much of it you are supposed to do, and when. Please be advised: babies are to sleep more as they get older, not less.

Thank you.


When Monkey was around three months old, he slept through the night for ten glorious nights in a row. I was refreshed. I was happy. I was that mum, the one who showers and blow-dries her hair and has endless patience and makes homemade salad dressing. “How’s Monkey sleeping?” other mums would ask, and I would say “Oh, actually pretty well now, thank you,” never daring to mention that “pretty well” was code for 8-10 hours straight(!!!) for fear that a) the other mums would hate me and b) the universe would punish me.

And then it ended.

Despite my efforts to appease the cruel universe and keep my good fortune under wraps, Monkey started waking up at night again. He has his ups and downs, usually waking to nurse twice per night. But recently it’s been out of control.

Last night, he woke up approximately 18 times. I say approximate, because by 4:00 a.m. I was delirious. He nursed, he cried, I rocked him, I cried, he nursed, he rolled in his crib like a fish out of water, bumping his head on the rails and crying even harder. Rinse and repeat. I think I fell out of the rocking chair.

So now what? One of the toughest things about motherhood, for me at least, is that I never really know why anything is happening. Babies are a multiple choice test with no answer key:

Why won’t Monkey sleep?
a) he’s teething
b) he’s caught his brother’s cold
c) the seam of his sleeper is making him itchy
d) his room is too cold
e) his blankets are too warm
f) he’s growing and he needs to eat
g) he’s become accustomed to nursing in the night and waking is a bad habit
h) his mother did something awful in a past life and is being punished
i) all of the above
j) some unknown combination of some of the above
k) because babies be babies

To comfort myself, I summon all of the truisms and age-old advice my sleep-deprived brain can remember: This too shall pass. Babyhood is such a short time in the grand scheme of things. I’ll miss the midnight cuddles when they’re gone. He won’t be waking up in the night when he’s 20 (though this won’t be my problem anyway).

And so continues my long-standing and deeply gratifying love affair with coffee.

Tiny sleepers

My best friend is expecting her first baby, a boy, next month. I spent this evening sorting through the mountain of clothes that Monkey has outgrown, pulling out the unstained and less worn items to offer for the new baby.

It got sentimental.

I found the sleeper that both Bean and Monkey came home from the hospital in. How is it possible that they were ever so tiny? How is it possible that they are no longer so tiny?

To aid in my lonely late-night journey down memory lane, I crept into my boys’ rooms as they slept to dig out sleepers that fit them now. From the left, we have the newborn sleeper, then Monkey’s at nine months, then Bean’s at almost three.

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So much change in three short years, and in nine short months.

My Monkey

Monkey

There is something sweet and slightly painful about the babyhood of my second child. Maybe it’s that my memory of my first baby is slightly foggy and coloured by my knowledge of him as a toddler; maybe it’s that Monkey will likely be our last baby. I don’t remember the same sense of mine with Bean as I have with Monkey. Maybe it’s that I’ve learned to savour it, because as he grows he will not be just mine anymore. Maybe it’s that I’m beginning to know firsthand what all the elderly ladies who stop me in the grocery store say – it goes by so fast.

Monkey’s smiles are still mostly for me. He looks into my eyes and his face lights up. I imitate his sounds and he chuckles. I enter the room and he looks for me. I sit down on the floor and he crawls over to me. At 8 months old, he is still mine. And I am selfish. I don’t want to share him, yet.

His older brother is a part of the world. He has friends. He smiles and laughs and talks to other people. Bean is his own little person, and it is wonderful and beautiful to see him developing relationships and friendships and opinions and independence. But Monkey is still mine. I am his world. He is my baby. He fits on my hip; he belongs under my chin. His little body was so recently a part of mine, and our bond is still physical.

What is it that changes this bond? It loosens and stretches without us being conscious of it, exactly. As our babies grow up and grow in independence, they grow away from us, bit by bit. Bean still needs me, and will always need me in some way, I hope. We will always be bonded, but nothing is the same as the elemental, physical bond of a mother and baby.

As I gaze into my Monkey’s sweet, smiling face and open, trusting eyes, I am struck by the gift that babyhood is. I am privileged to hold and nurture and protect a life that is pure and innocent. There is nothing dishonest in a baby – his smiles mean happiness, and his cries mean sadness, discomfort, or need. There is no guile, only instinct. And this baby stage is so fleeting.

So I will hold onto my Monkey for as long as I can. One day I will have to share him, I know. As his small world expands day by day, I will explore it with him. Gradually my tight hold will loosen, and one day I will let him go. But not just yet. For now, he is still mine.

Confessions, again

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It feels good to get things off your chest, doesn’t it? Well, my online friends, it’s time for me to unburden my parenting shame onto you. To follow up on my last confessions post, here’s another collection of my bad parenting moments and habits. Enjoy!

1. At a solemn Remembrance Day ceremony with my boys, my mother, and my brother’s family, I was standing next to my three year-old niece. She sweetly put her hand in mine. I looked around, realizing that it would be easy for strangers to assume that she was my child, and that wild, loud Bean was my brother’s. I discreetly edged myself and my niece away from my brother and Bean and muttered “some people’s kids” while looking disapprovingly at them.

2. My kid eats frozen peas. Frozen. And I think he swallows them whole.

3. I’m starting to look forward to going back to work in March, because it’s easier than being a full-time mum at home.

4. I can’t remember what Bean’s first word was.

5. I sort of wish I didn’t have to get Monkey any Christmas presents. We don’t need any more toys. He has all the clothes he needs. He wouldn’t know the difference. But Bean would.

6. If you looked in my Google search history (please don’t), you would see the phrase “boarding school for toddlers.”

7. When D is home, I sometimes pretend I can’t hear Monkey crying, or Bean calling, because if he hears them first, he has to go deal with them. I call this game “good parent chicken.”

8. I really, really love it when kids who are usually well behaved are bad.

9. I swept dirt under the rug. Literally. My in-laws were coming over and instead of bothering with the dustpan I lifted up a corner of the entrance mat and swept all the debris under it. And it’s still there.

Your turn! What’s your confession?

Letting it go, together

spoonMonkey enthusiastically bashes a plastic sippy cup against the high chair tray, again and again, until it slips out of his grip and flies through the air, narrowly missing the serving dish on the table. A toddler fork clatters onto the floor, collateral damage in Bean’s tirade against pasta that is the wrong shape.

As long as I continue to shovel food into his mouth, Monkey shouts with excitement. Once the bowl is empty, he shouts in frustration until I’ve mashed up some more of the food off of my own plate and can resume shoveling it into his mouth. Bean complains and refuses to eat. The pasta is the wrong shape. It is too hot, and then it is too cold. The peppers are orange, and he would prefer red. He isn’t hungry. He wants to play.

As the noise level escalates, so does my irritation. Both boys are shouting now. My shoulders tense and my breathing becomes shallow. I catch D’s eye across the dinner table and see my irritation mirrored there. At that moment, Monkey yanks his spoon out of my hand and it drops to the floor, splattering tomato sauce onto my feet. I look up at D again, our eyes meeting. And we laugh. We laugh until I am breathless and D is wiping a tear from his eyes, and Bean is demanding to know what’s funny and Monkey is bemused. And then we laugh some more.

Once upon a time, in our pre-kids life, dinner time was peaceful. It was a chance to unwind and reconnect after a busy day apart. We could talk, or we could be silent. We could enjoy a complicated meal or a simple sandwich. We could relax.

Now, dinner time is non-stop motion. One of us is always up. There are bowls to refill, spills to mop up, forks to retrieve. Something is always missing from the table. Bean wants the construction placemat, not the alphabet one. Monkey’s dropped his cup. Bean has to go to the potty. Monkey needs more food. We are telling stories, asking questions, reminding about manners, persuading a stubborn toddler to eat his food, convincing him to remain at the table just a little longer. By the time I take my first bite of food, it is often cold.

The connection that used to be part of the evening meal can be hard to find, night after night in the chaotic dinner time grind. But in these sudden moments of synchronicity, when we catch each other’s eye and surrender to the mayhem, I feel more connected to my husband than in any memory from our pre-kid, peaceful life. Because this is the life we’ve created, the family we’ve built, together. Yes, life with small ones can be maddening, and we don’t have to enjoy every moment. But we can make the choice to let go of our expectations, to give in and hang on for the ride together.

I’ve heard it said that the season of small kids is one of the toughest for a marriage. I believe it. I feel it. And I look across the dinner table at my husband, and I’m grateful to have him as my partner.