Sunday, May 3, 2015

I'm worried

Growing up one of the most fun, yet simultaneously annoying things, about any event was getting your picture taken. This simple routine ensured that you'd have evidence that the event happened. You existed. And, for a brief moment, looked as you did. Sometimes I love to get my picture taken. Other times I hate it. Either way, being able to look through my photo album and reminisce about memories, people, and a specific time in my life is something I really enjoy. But I'm really worried. Now that we have phones and everything is stored on our computers, what if something happens to those files and my kids do not get to witness their childhood from a distance? As I watch Little Guy grow so rapidly, this fear becomes more and more poignant. The same thing can be said for video. My younger brother routinely has weekend home video marathons. He starts with the earliest tape from before I was born and watches through to the most recent one. He loves to see us a toddlers and laugh at the dumb things we said and did as kids. Now all of life is condensed into 30 second clips for Facebook as seen through a sepia filter. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to get curious, be able to pick up a photo album, flip through it, and watch their history progress. I loved nothing more than seeing picture after picture of my parents as children. "I make the same face as Daddy!" "Wow, I really look a lot like Mommy does there." Hard copies of pictures give all generations something so important. Hubby and I plan to routinely go through our computers and print things out for our kids. I just hope that drug stores keep allowing us to do that... Every time I see your face It reminds me of the places we used to go But all I've got is a photograph And I realize you're not coming back anymore Photograph - Ringo Starr

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Good touch vs. bad touch

I think 90% of the people who know me view me as an extrovert. I am friendly, personable, talkative, and wear my heart on my sleeve. But people who truly know me and understand me also know that I am secretly an introvert and can only be extroverted when I've had a chance to retreat into myself to take time to rest and replentish the energy it takes for me to go out amongst the people.

Because of that need for personal time I also often need personal space. My body will close up into a ball, almost as it was hibernating or entering into a cocoon, and I am filled with the desire to be quiet mentally and physically. In college this got me the reputation of "not being that into hugs" as one of my suitemates put it. Even though she got it wrong (I LOVE hugs---good bear hugs are the best), something inside of her sensed that, at times, I did not want to be approached in this way and she respected my need for space and thus the silent personal boundary I set up.

As a child (3 or 4 years old) I remember several times when this need was not respected and the frustration I felt because of it. One time in specific I was with several female family members and when approached for a hug I was very adamant that "no, I do not want a hug right now." I was told that I was being rude/mean and that I should accept the hug or risk hurting my family member's feelings because "she just wants to show you she loves you." After much arguing and a near hissy fit on my part I was forced to give in, reluctantly accepted the hug. Afterwards I felt frustrated and hurt that my need to not be touched was not respected. I wanted to cry, but after the earlier lecture I received I kept the feelings hidden and was silent the rest of the afternoon. No one noticed and the rest of the world kept turning.

I bring this up now because recently I have seen another blog post being circulated around Facebook about the importance of not keeping secrets in families and how this relates to sexual abuse. This kind of touch is universally accepted as being bad and so is any other kind of unwanted sexual touch (i.e. even towards adults). We, especially women, are taught from a very early age that if anyone touches you "down there" that it is not ok and you are allowed to say no. Yet somewhere it is often lost that there are other kinds of touch that are also unwanted, but because of manners and social niceties you are not allowed to reject them. The sloppy kiss from your hairy, lipstick stained great aunt. The pinch of your cheeks from your grandmother. The hug from your younger cousin. This list is exhaustive, but no matter your age, even if you do not want to, someone stands over you and says "do it, don't be fresh." Even though this is another form of unwanted touch, your personal boundaries and desires are not respected. People have a hard time recognizing that negative experiences are in the form of the person receiving the touch, comments, etc. and not the person dishing them out. I think this lends to itself to a very confusing message that children receive and given the fact that most sexual abuse occurs at the hand of someone the abusee knows, it is no surprise that it can be so easy to manipulate the victim into keeping silent and feeling confused and ashamed (I think it is also the reason why people have a hard time recognizing and stopping verbal abuse---but that is a different post).

Now don't get me wrong, I do not by any means want to equate not wanting to get a hug from a well meaning relative to sexual abuse. I am just trying to draw a parallel between all kinds of unwanted touch and the need to teach our children it is ok to have boundaries, demand respect for them, and that as adults we should not have a problem with a child saying no to us for this reason. Allowing our children to say no will not turn them into spoiled brats (good parenting ensures this). What it will do is show them that they are respected both inside and out.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Friends, I do not want to talk about my baby with you...that much

Recently I had a conversation with Hubby that, in summary, was that it's important for me to not be one of those moms that becomes obsessed with their children to the point of ruining friendships with non-parent friends. We are at that age where "everyone" is getting married and/or having kids. Everyone except half of our friends who are not married and/or not planning on having kids for awhile. It seems that the stereotype of the new mom is to discuss everything in the most minutia of detail about their child to anyone who will listen. I had a friend a few years back that said to me when I adopted Puppy, "I hate people who get a new dog or have a baby and cannot talk about anything other than them, right down to the number and consistency of every poopy diaper that they take."

Right now. Once and for all. Unless Little Guy shits gold or a toy action figure, you will not hear about what his poops look like. And if he does, it will be delivered in a witty package topped off with a sarcastic bow.

But the truth is that I do actually want to talk about him with my friends once in awhile. Unlike what I said in an earlier entry about every random person asking me about new motherhood, I do want to talk to my friends about that. Mainly because they are my friends and we have talked about everything else in life up to this point. Why is it ok to talk about break-ups, new relationships, stresses at work and with family, and the joys of other life milestones. But having a kid and talking about that is boring and annoying? And why is this something that only women need to watch out for? No one warns men about this (regardless of how much or how little they choose to talk about fatherhood).

Just like any other aspect of my life, sometimes I need to be giddy or vent about something for a portion of our hangout. Then I'll be ready to move on to the next thing. And it is important for me to move on to the next thing. I spend 23-24 hours a day with this kid (aside from when I get my breaks thanks to Hubby). As much as he is the main event of my life right now, he is not the only event, and sometimes it is nice to talk about other things. Just recognize that if I'm willing to listen to you tell me the same revolving story about the 324th guy you've dated, or how your mom did the same shitty thing to you for the 972nd time, this needs to be ok too.

So when did it become a huge pain to deal with newly minted moms? I know that there are those moms that surrender their identity to their children, but not every mom is like that. Some moms struggle with inner guilt as well as unacceptable pressure from those around them to be like that. That pressure starts early too. Even before we announce our pregnancy, the message that society sends us, that we are merely hosts for a new life to come into this world, starts the moment we become pregnant.

When I was looking for maternity clothes I was incredibly angry at the lack of actual fashion that exists in the world for pregnant women. Most stores with maternity lines do not reflect the fabrics, colors, and prints that are available in "regular" clothing. (I put regular in quotes because otherwise it implies that pregnancy is not a normal stage of a woman's life.) And the clothes that do exist are usually not carried in stores, only online. Jersey knit basics were all I could get unless I wanted to spend a lot, or obsessively checked the 2-3 affordable (when not marked up purely for putting the word maternity in the description) websites with offerings that found.

Then when we tell the word about the new life growing inside us, it gets worse. When talking to my mom about her experiences as a first time preggo and mommy she said that for a period of time she begrudgingly lost her identity as anything other than "Lulu's mom." I understood that more than I care to admit. All I heard was "how's pregnancy? how's the baby?" I had many things going on in my life during my pregnancy that did not revolve around the baby and few people cared enough to ask about any of it. I also often heard comments about what I ate, how my body looked, and my birthing choices as if I became a factory process to be scrutinized. No one commented about my decision to love and eat cheese puffs until I became pregnant, dealt with morning sickness where sometimes a cheesy chippy snack was the only thing I could tolerate without making me sick. These comments and lack of care about the rest of my life only made me think, that despite the fact that it is 2015, society still considers a woman's only job to make and care for babies.

Yes, I did grow a baby (but I didn't make him, that takes 2 people).
Yes, I do take care of him (but so does my husband and a whole host of other people).
Yes, I am on a kind of maternity leave (but I do have a career that's extremely important to me and I actively work on it every day because I LOVE it, not because I am afraid to fall behind).
Yes, my body did change (but whose doesn't? and it is pretty much back to normal).
Yes, I made lifestyle choices (but I am ok with them and you should be too).
Yes, I am a mommy (but I'm also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, clinician, soccer player, foodie, wino, audiophile, and most importantly, human being).
Yes. I shouldn't have to add "but" to every single one of these sentences to justify my experiences.

So, friends, if I want to talk about my kid a lot, a little, or not at all, you need to let me do that. I may be a mommy, but I'm a human being too. Deal with it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Hardest thing about Being a New Parent

Even though I love my son and getting to be his mommy (saying "my son" and hearing "mommy" are still cheap thrills to me), it's not all giggles and nap time. There is some stress. But for me, I've realized the stress comes from caring too much.

I may come from a family of stressed out anal retentive control freaks (and I know there are plenty of people who will say that when descriving me), but I have always lived my life with the motto "work hard, rest hard." I am the person who must get everything done and out of the way as soon as possible so I can take the rest of the day to be as lazy and chill as possible. Typical weekend (when I can swing it) wake up at 7am to clean, put PJs back on by 10am to be on the couch to nap while watching TV until dinner time, drink wine, and go back to bed by 10pm.

I have spent the vast majority of my adult life in school getting advanced degrees to become a clinical psychologist. Therefore, when awake, I have spent the vast majority of the last 12 years being stressed out about something. I have learned to relish in the relaxed atmosphere I've created for myself in both my professional and personal life. And despite, what my mother may think, I am generally known as the laid back one in the clinics I have worked in. Angry or suicidal patients do not freak me out. I know how to handle myself in a crisis, and my ability to overcome them without batting an eyelash is something that my husband has said he loves about me.

But since having Little Guy that relaxed attitude has been a rare thing in these parts. I have had to pull out every therapy trick I have learned the last 5 years and use them on myself to get over the anxiety I have felt every time I look at him. "What if he stops breathing? Why does he sound like that? Does he have allergies? Is he too tiny? He's having a seizure! I can see his vein pulsing in his head. Why hasn't he pooped yet today? Is he breathing? What's that thing on his toe? HOLY SHIT HE JUST PUKED OUT OF HIS NOSE!" Every one of these sentences has had to be combated with a logical thought. Reciting statistics about SIDS. Babies have small nasal passageways. No. No. No he's not; he sleeps with his eyes partially open like you do. That's normal. That's normal. Yes. It's lint. That's normal; just clean it up.

The first week we came home I was worried I might have developed post-partum depression with a presentation that looked like anxiety. Then I realized, I'm a new mom, and I'm still trying to figure out what it's like to be a parent to a newborn. Even though I'm the oldest in my family and only have one cousin out of 7 who is older than me, I have no memory of what it is like to be around a newborn and thus everything is a new experience for me (well, except how to change a diaper and avoid being peed on, that's pretty universal). And thus, every new action gets an anxiety filled reaction out of me. But I can't really help it. I mean, I carried this little human being that my husband and I made with care and love inside of of a protective bubble for 9 months. The moment he was born our relationship became personified in the cutest littlest thing I've ever seen. How could I not love and want to protect the most precious thing I've ever held?

My husband jokes that he married his mother or that I need a wine & Xanax cocktail. I think I just need to figure out how to get that relaxed attitude back in this new context. Considering I've already reached the "just rinse it off" stage of pacifier cleaning and have been yelled at for trying to not wash Little Guy's laundry before letting him wear it, I think I'm starting to figure it out a little bit...until the next time something new happens, which I expect should happen in 3...2...1...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Real Music for Babies

Within the first two weeks of Little Guy's life my dad says to me, "so what music are you playing for this guy to educate him?" I think, 'Dad, he's less than a month old. I'm not sure he cares as long as it's not scary sounding.' But my dad is a musician with little cognitive flexibility (despite this he is still a killer drummer able to think on his feet and improvise---why can he not do this about how to do laundry and vacuum?!) so the idea of not having music around a child is inconceivable.
The truth is, though, he did a pretty good job with my brother and I. We are both major music nerds in our own right. I can still remember the first rock and roll songs on the first mixed tape he made me (I was three), the first Beatles song I loved, the home-made recording "studio" I made out of Fisher Price tape decks, singing Michael Jackson as my show and tell at school, among a host of other music-themed memories---including a lack of child-specific music. These are all things I want for my son.

My issue, though, is that he sleeps constantly. So I needed to pick out music to play that would not cause nightmares (because he would sleep through it; he would just body jerk at every loud moment) and that I could tolerate hearing over and over and over again (I'm not ready to listen to insert pop art here sings nursery rhymes and lullabyes). Thus, like any good music nerd and former college radio DJ would, I made a mix. Granted my mix is about 8 hours long, but here is a small smattering for those of you who are interested in giving your brain/ear buds a break while soothing and educating your child:
1. Le Tombeau De Couperin - 1. Prélude  - Ravel 
2. Concerto In D Minor For Oboe. Strings I. Andante e spiccato - Alessandro Marcello
3. Jade Visions (Take 2) - Bill Evans Trio
4. Gloria's Step [Take 2] - Bill Evans Trio
5. Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
6. Mother And Child Reunion - Paul Simon 
7. Wheels - Jamie Cullum
8. Mind Blindness - Dirty On Purpose
9. Eleanor Put Your Boots On - Franz Ferdinand
10. The Next Time Around - Little Joy
11. I'll Follow the Sun - The Beatles
12. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
13. I Still Care For You - Ray LaMontagne
14. Everything Has Changed - Taylor Swift & Ed Sheeran
15. Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
16. Pink Moon - Nick Drake
17. Those to Come - Shins
18. Aqueous Transmission - Incubus
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