Posts tagged ‘parenting’

The veteran parenting art of trickery

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I knew about parenting before I actually was a parent.  It would appear that what I thought about parenting was in no way what parenting actually was.  I feel like my naive introduction into parenting can only be blamed on one group of people, other parents.  You know what I am talking about.  Those people who are already parents and are encouraging you to be a parent by telling you…well, by telling you lies.  So, in the interest of full disclosure to you non-parent-but want-to-be-parents parents, I am dispelling this veteran parent trickery.

Here are the top lies I heard:

1. Pregnancy is amazing. So this sounds like a positive statement when it is spoken. And indeed, yes, your body making another tiny mini-body is truly something.  But after that tiny person has been laying on your sciatic nerve and you are in Target just wondering how you will ever reach the other end of the store, it really doesn’t feel like that kind of positive amazing.  It feels more like the “it’s amazing I don’t just lie on this floor” kind of amazing.

2. Babyproof everything.  I feel like for liability purposes I must state that baby proofing is a great idea.  And it sounds like very solid, veteran parenting advice. But this cuts both ways.  You will either find yourself locked out of the scissor drawer at some extremely pressing moment when you really need scissors (this feels panicky, I promise) or, as in my case, you will have a child who defies all baby proofing.  So regardless of best intentions, your two year old will create a climbing apparatus out of the oven or somehow end up with a hammer. I guarantee it.

3. Your dog will love your children as much as they love you.  Dogs are amazing, loving creatures.  But my dog was an only child for a few years prior to children.  No one can tell me that she doesn’t long for the days of lounging, terror-fear, being the center of my attention as opposed to now where someone under 3 feet tall seems to continually be chasing her with salad tongs. And no, I have no idea what is going to happen with the salad tongs because I would never do that to my poor dog who, wisely, may be planning the demise of my children.

4.  Introduce your children to a variety of foods when they are little so they will not be picky eaters.  Again, this sounds logical. Right? Before the age of two my kids ate tofu, all kinds of seafood, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, radishes, lima beans (yep, I know).  But at three years of age something happened. My eldest got opinions. Do we make her eat a variety of food still? Yes. But in truth, I owe a solid apology to the parents I used to judge for saying their kids only eat hot dogs.  Because if my daughter had her choice she would live on saltines and crusty bread (which sounds more elegant than the mess it makes).

5. Two kids is no more work than having one kid. You are already doing everything for one kid, what is the difference? Let me be clear. I love both of my kids. But let me be even more clear, it is twice the work.  I so wanted to believe this one – however, in retrospect it defies logic.  It is like some crazy, new brain washing where someone said “you see 1+1= 1, because you already had one.” See that makes no sense.  In truth, you go from one person needing something most of the time, to two small people needing something most of the time – that becomes ALL of the time.  Your sitting days are over, except for that sweet time of the day from 9:30 p.m…nope someone needs water…so from 9:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. where you can relax. Unless you fall asleep.

I am only six years into this parenting adventure so I only have a list of 5 lies so far. But I remember all of the things that my veteran parenting friends have said about the teenage years (something about them being their best friend and having fun at concerts together) that makes me wonder how long this list will get.

And for those of you looking at the parenting world from the other side, you should come on over but I am not going to lie, it is a tough, dirty, grimy world. But it is worth it.  I have to go find someone’s blankie.

 

May 13, 2015 at 10:16 pm 2 comments

Hitting the mediocre with commitment – “Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman

“Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman, Published in 2003 

Let me start by saying early into this book I realized that Ayelet Waldman is married to writer Michael Chabon, who really has quite a lot of love for himself and is likely too cool for all of us readers.   Setting that aside, or at least trying to, Waldman’s novel was okay.  Her writing has promise, the story was interesting and the characters were fairly developed. But it fell a bit flat.

Olivia is the daughter of a single middle class mother, Elaine, who was raised with as much affection and care as Elaine could muster.  And though she grew up in Berkley, California with all daughters-keeper-180her needs met, Olivia has always needed more.  She is ardent and passionate about life. In her early twenties, she travels to Mexico and meets the charming Jorge. They have what she considers a short affair and she returns to California and her life.  Much to Olivia’s surprise, Jorge appears on her doorstep.   He has illegally entered the country to be with her.  Of course the love story is not the thing that movies (or books) are made of, and quickly Jorge realizes that he cannot find a job with his illegal status.  Short of cash and desperate to feel some self-worth, he decides to engage in a drug deal. Olivia finds herself in a car waiting for Jorge while he runs into a house in a bad neighborhood with a box of something.

Two days later, Olivia is awakened in the middle of the night, in her apartment, when the police smash open the door and arrest her. Olivia spends a short stint in prison while she waits for her mother to post bond.  Once Olivia is released to Elaine’s custody, she discovers she is pregnant.  So while preparing for trial – she has been charged with co-conspiracy to deal drugs – Olivia must also determine what will happen to her unborn child.   Meanwhile, Elaine must decide how to be a mother to Olivia, even if her life has become something unrecognizable to her.

I feel like this description is clinical but that is because in part I felt like the book was like that.  I am not sure if this is the novel itself or just for some reason my reaction to it. Either way, Waldman tries to talk about motherhood and the complexity it creates and allows in our lives, but it felt contrived.  Waldman is an attorney and I will say I have noticed that when attorneys become authors sometimes there is an emotional disconnect in their writing.  Notably, Waldman does get good reviews for her novels so I am also willing to chalk this up to a rocky beginning to our relationship. Meaning this reader and writer will likely get back together in the future and we will see what happens.   But the suspense of our future really wouldn’t weigh heavy on my mind I assure you.

 

 

December 7, 2014 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

A year at home with Lyla – Me vs. NF1

In March of 2013, we received the news that our daughter, Lyla, who has NF1 had a tumor along her optic nerve in her brain. And so we learned that NF1 likes to keep life full of surprises. At the time of this news I had Lyla, who was 4, and my son, Henry, who was 7 months old. I was working full-time as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society.  I was burnt out at my job, it was gritty and hard and sad. But it was also rewarding and, I still think, important. Like a lot of parents, I already felt overwhelmed, but with Lyla’s diagnosis I felt completely lost and I am not sure that the word “overwhelmed” does that lost feeling justice.

Veteran parents will say over and over you have no control when it comes to your kids, you just do the best you can. While that is in part true, parents with kids who have significant health issues know better than anyone what lack of control feels like.  It is scary and it is what keeps you up at night trying to learn everything you can – what to feed your child, what sleep patterns are needed, what specialists you must get your beautiful daughter in to see to stop this thing from taking over.  You obsess and research and try to feel like you can control at least a small piece. Because with that control, comes hope and hope, well, that is something we desperately need.

I started therapy fairly soon after the news, I just had so many fears that I couldn’t talk about with family. And I worried about how to mother my child who now had this life changing diagnosis. What do I tell her? How do I keep her life normal and happy? How do I not cry everyday? In my second therapy session I talked about my lack of control, my type A personality need for control and how all of this made my world seem so impossible. And the therapist asked me one simple, straight-forward question  “What does control look like to you in this situation?” And I answered within a split second “Staying home with her.”  Truth is an amazing thing. It can sometimes be so simple that it is stunning.

In October of 2013, exactly a year ago, I quit my job and became a stay at home mom.  This transition has been funny for me as a person, it certainly would surprise my younger self. I have gone from negotiating with opposing counsels in court to negotiating with a two year old and I really can’t say who is the tougher opponent.  I have gone from meetings about legal strategy to conversations about what would happen to our bodies without bones and why Woody lives at Disney World and the possible ways we could catch fish in our land locked town to feed cats we meet in the neighborhood.  I have gone from being someone I thought was important to being someone who truly is important to the two most important people in my life. That value shift is profound.

I write this because there are a lot of parents out there right now getting that initial NF1 diagnosis or finding out about that new NF complication.  There are a lot of parents out there right now sitting and planning and researching and trying to find that control, trying to find what will make this livable.  And so as my wise therapist asked “What does control look like to you in this situation?”

Your answer is not necessarily my answer, and financially not everyone can make the choices I have.  Your answer needs to fit you and your family.  It is an important answer because like it or not NF1 is hard.  It is excruciatingly powerful.  So you have to be ready, ready for the best and, yes, the worst.  Maybe control for you is making your child eat berries everyday for breakfast (they allegedly stop tumor growth). Maybe control is running a marathon for NF awareness. Maybe it is staring at your child for a few minutes each day just to see that they are doing okay.  Whatever it is you need to feel that small amount of control, do it.  It matters. It matters because honestly you matter.

Best wishes to all my fellow NF families and my fellow control freaks. And, as always, end NF.

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*For more on NF1 please visit the Children’s Tumor Foundation 

October 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm 10 comments

My favorite reading time

I have two children, Lyla (five years old) and Henry (two years old).  At this time in my life, I have the magical and amazing opportunity to spend each evening snuggled with my bathed and pajamaed kids – and we read.  We read a lot. So, I find myself at the library checking out 25 children’s books at a time so we aren’t stuck with the same books over and over – though Henry right now needs his daily fix of “What am I? A tractor” which I can recite by heart.

Out of the huge pile of books Lyla (and Henry) and I have found the ones that we like best.  And for other parents I thought maybe a list on my blog would be helpful.  Please know I am not an educator and I do not always look at reading as a tool for learning, sometimes it is just fun.  This list is just what we like in our house. It is not guaranteed to make your child brilliant but of course I am sure your child already is. I am also leaving out the obvious ones (we all love Madeline and the Frances books).The_Fantastic_Flying_Books_of_Mr._Morris_Lessmore_poster

01. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce: This book is beautiful and makes me tear up every time we read it.  Book and their stories have a life of their own and our lives are stories that are worth being told.

2. Mama Loves by Rebecca Dotlich: This book is extremely sentimental for me. I have been reading it to Lyla since she was one.  It is simply a list of all the things that Mama loves in life and what she loves to do with her children.  It includes loving poppies, baking, pumpkins, sweaters, gingerbread.  The list just makes me happy.

3. The Bear Books by Karma Wilson: These are fun books. Bear and his friends (Hare, Wren, Mouse, Raven and Mole) snore on, feel scared, or make a new friend. Each book has a nice cadence and beautiful illustrations by Jane Chapman.

4. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood: The narrator kindly helps the little mouse come up with a way to avoid the mouse’s strawberry from being eaten by the hungry bear.

5. Wild Boars Cook by Meg Rosoff: Lyla wanted me to include this book. It makes her laugh every time and of course it makes me laugh as well.

6. The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel: I read these as a kid and it makes me so happy that Lyla loves them. Every story is really fun to read.

7. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead: The zoo animals take care of Amos who always takes such good care of them.  Another one with really adorable illustrations and a great message about how to care for others.

8. Pete the Cat books by James Dean: They are just groovy and incorporate songs which is fun.

9. Will Hillenbrand books: I love all of his books and illustrations.

10. Tell Me Something Happy Before I go to Sleep by Joyce Dunbar: Willa’s older brother helps her fall asleep by telling her happy things, mainly that the morning is sad because it is waiting for her to wake up to it.  This book has a lovely warmth to it and is part of a nighttime story collection we have that was a very thoughtful gift from a friend.

Books I don’t like but my kids love (it is only fair to add them):

  • Fancy Nancy books – good for vocabulary, I just find her obnoxious.
  • Little Blue Truck books – I loved this books until Henry made me read them 10 times a day. Still worth owning, I just wish the author would add some new ones.
  • Eloise books – I just don’t like her and I don’t like how silly and long the books always seem but Lyla loves her antics.
  • Curious George Books – Lyla loves these.  I find the original book racist but understand it was a different time. I find the new ones boring and yet, we have read them all.

I am sure my fellow readers have a lot of other wonderful suggestions so if you have some to add please do.   As we head into autumn Lyla, Henry and I will be snuggling in more and more with our pile of books.  And that makes me smile.

 

 

 

 

September 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm 1 comment

What the spots tell us – A parent’s story of Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)

I am writing this because when we first received Lyla’s NF1 diagnosis we were, smartly, told by doctors that we should not read blogs about kids with NF1.  Those blogs, we were told, are written by parents who have children in the worst case scenario.  I wanted to make sure for the parents who just received this diagnosis that there was something else out there when you google parents and NF1.

I have a beautiful daughter, Lyla. She turned five in December. She is in love with Toy Story, she throws fits, she tells knock-knock jokes that make no sense. She negotiates and barters for what she wants. She loves to IMG_0142read, tell stories and in her best moments she shares with her little brother.  When she curls up next to me my heart melts.

Lyla was born with cafe au lait spots – to the untrained first time mother they look like birthmarks. When Lyla was 18 months her pediatrician became concerned because Lyla had more cafe au lait spots then she was born with.  And we faced our first introduction to the medical term “neurofibromatosis.”  We met with a geneticist and we assured her that Lyla could not have it because this was a genetic disorder and no one in our family had it.  The geneticist looked at us, shrugged and said, in her stoic German accent, “disorders have to start somewhere, right?” – meaning “good genes mean nothing to neurofibromatosis.”  And so as the story goes, the DNA test results returned and Lyla, my perfect, beautiful little girl, was diagnosed with NF1.

NF1 is a tumor disorder. Lyla’s body will tell her nerves to make tumors throughout her life. Where there are nerves there can be tumors. Its potential is limitless. Even if the tumors are surgically removable there is a likelihood they will grow back. NF1 does not rest there – it has numerous other symptoms. Lots of children with NF1 get migraines, they have a 50% chance of having learning disorders, they have a higher occurence of bone disfiguration, they go through puberty early or late, and the list goes on. It is a super disorder with scary potential.

Lyla started having migraines and we found out a year ago that Lyla has tumor on her optic nerve (a brain tumor) and swelling in the middle of her brain.  And so we are now on the track of NF1 where we watch her, get MRIs, and hope, hope, hope that she will remain stable – that we can avoid chemotherapy, that she will be as normal as possible.  No one knows how this ends.

If you are a parent with a child with NF1 you are in a lonely, unique place. People will not understand, nor should they.  You will get mad when parents of other kids are overly concerned about allergies or ear infections. You will long for that type of simple. You will be told by doctors with poor bedside manner to change your expectations for your child’s life. You will be told horrific stories by random people about other illnesses or disorders in some weird attempt to connect with you.  This will be outrageous and ridiculous and you will smile and nod – because what else can you do? You will remember the time before the diagnosis fondly and laugh at what you worried about then (when will she walk, how can I make him use a sippy cup, is this a dairy allergy).  You will watch your child differently and at times your heart will be heavy.  This is your normal, your new normal. No it is not what you wanted or hoped for.  You are now a part of the “I never thought this could happen to me” group – and what a terrible membership.

But you can do this and I know you can because you have to. You will get up everyday and sing silly songs, paint pictures, watch “Toy Story,” snuggle, and  do all the beautiful things that make you a good parent.  Your child will excel because they are loved. Your child will be magic and strong and amazing because that is what special children do.  And no matter how hard it is or how lost you feel now I promise you that some days will be better, not all, but some.   It is okay to be scared for your child. It is okay to be mad. It is okay to want to yell at people who say things like “you seem to be handling it well” because what is your alternative really – you have to do well for your child.

But please know you are not the only one. And I promise I know you never asked for or wanted any of this – and it is unfair. But I also promise that at your weakest you are stronger than you know because this isn’t about you, it is about your child. And let’s keep hoping that there is a cure, better treatment and better understanding of NF soon. Until then, all of my best wishes for your child’s health and happiness.

End NF.

For more information on NF please visit The Children’s Tumor Foundation. 

For more on Lyla and NF1.

February 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm 65 comments


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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