Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I understand that some mothers have actual humans with whom to compare experiences and off of whom to bounce ideas about parenting. This sounds rustic and earthy and not entirely unlike the sort of I-can-smell-you companionability of our ape cousins as they pick nits off one another's backs in the forest primeval.

No, I have real-life mom friends, and I'd absolutely like more of them, and almost none of them resemble chimpanzees. But the fact is that I have few close friends, of whom very few have kids, and the other mothers I meet in the course of mommish activities don't tend to share many of my experiences or values -- about parenting or the wider world. Combine these sad truths with the fact that we moved from Philadelphia to upstate NY while I was pregnant, and the outcome is pretty lonely.

Or would be, if it weren't for the Interwebs. I could bore you now with a brief history of my participation in online fora from the days when salon dot com was the URL of a hair place, but I won't. Suffice to say, I am a member of two active online communities, and my participation therein, pleasurable and meaningful before I was a parent, has become a kind of lifeline and protective shell surrounding my sanity since.

There are a lot of fora (or forums) out there. Many magazines have some kind of online discussion community, and there are boards for just about every hobby and interest and profession and location, and most of them, if they are active enough, become a place where their participants talk to each other not just about whatever the nominal focus is, but about their lives and other interests. I'm describing this network of networks as if you've never heard of them, and I realize just now that of course most of you are rolling your eyes, and maybe the only one saying "Oh, really?" is my mom.

Anyway. My point is, these communities of people with whom you share interests and values are infuckingvaluable when it comes to hashing out the nitty-gritty of parenting. And if they're not -- if your online communities are not providing you with this kind of rock-solid sounding board -- then you need to find some better communities stat, because they're out there, and life without them is way, way, way harder than it needs to be.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Night Weaning Status Report

I should have mentioned in my last post that it wasn't just sleep training we were about to attempt; it was also night weaning. Sleep deprivation makes you forget stuff.

So. As his "normal" night nursing schedule was somewhere along the lines of every three to six hours, we'd take the outside of that range and make him go six hours between feeds, or once a night, with the intention of pushing that one feed later each night until it was eliminated.

First night, Thursday. Down at 6:45, slept straight through his usual wake-up-and-nurse between 9:30 and 11:00 and woke at 12:30 (close enough to the six-hour cut-off), diaper change and nursed down, slept until 4:00, woke and fussed and grumbled (with a check-and-snuggle) for half an hour or so, slept until 6:30. Excellent.

Second night, Friday. Down at 6:45. Up at 10:30, resisted all attempts to check and soothe, cried and yelled for an hour and a half, reducing me to a sobbing mess of jangled nerves. I checked on him three times, the last time with a diaper change (all that standing and yelling produced) and a long cuddle in the rocking chair which calmed us both down somewhat, and then we both slept. Until around 3:00, nursed down. Up again around 4:30 and another round of yelling on and off until around 5:30, when he fell asleep again until 8:00. Not what I'd call a good night.

Third night, Saturday. Down at 6:45. Sporadic grumbling cries followed by silence. Up at 5:30, diaper change and nursed down. Up at 6:30, check, back asleep until 7:30. Beyond excellent.

I might get over this sore throat (which Andy now has, too) after all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


We had a good run of sleep there, what-was-it, last week? The week before? Anyway, there was even a night, the first-ever, in which he slept through from 10:00 until 6:00. That was glorious, un-heard-of, epic.

But now we're back to hell of every-two-hours wake-ups, which isn't quite in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, I don't think, but at nine months is quite unacceptable. I have the lingering threads of a cold, too, which I've been unable to beat wholly for nearly two weeks. Now it's a sore throat which I hope isn't strep. I'm convinced I'd beat it if I could just get some decent sleep. And even when it was fairly good -- not sleeping through good, but maybe two wake-ups per night good -- it still wasn't really all that great, frankly.

So it's back* to sleep training, heaven help us, which probably won't be so bad as I think, but won't be fun, either. This kid is fully capable of yelling on and off for an hour or more, and I know there are folks who think we must be cruel monsters to subject him (or ourselves) to that, but I can only assume that these folks have not gone without longer-than-two-hour stretches of sleep for weeks on end, or without eight full unbroken hours' sleep in almost ten months.

Walk a mile in my shoes, bitches. Or maybe you have, and you're just functionally insane, and think that this state of affairs is simply one of the challenges of parenthood. Which it isn't. Everybody needs to sleep. The crying and yelling sucks, and I wish it didn't have to happen, but the sad fact is that the only way out is through.

*I say "back" because we sleep-trained Ben around four months, wildly successfully: he went from being totally unable to put himself to sleep, having to be nursed and then nursed again when putting him down jostled him just slightly so that he woke up again, and then again, and then again, unable to nap except at the breast; to being able to be put down wide awake and fall asleep on his own pretty much every single time for naps and bedtime. And it happened in less than a week. God bless Dr. Ferber.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I think it's fair to say that everybody is freaked out about autism. Diagnoses are way up, and no one knows why (beyond that we're getting a lot better at diagnosing), and though the spectrum is wide and includes a great many highly functional people, and though early diagnosis and therefore early intervention is likely to produce significant improvement in most cases, it's a hell of a scary thing to face.

Nobody has a real diagnosis, but it's my opinion that Andy and a few of his relatives show some distinctly Aspie traits, and since I think autism spectrum disorders are probably genetic (at least, predisposition to them is), I'm more vigilant than I would otherwise be about ASD signs in Ben. So I brought it up when I had him at the pediatrician for his nine-month check-up this week.

The pediatrician said the things to look for (because the absence of them could be a warning sign) are babbling (check), maintaining eye contact (check), playing peek-a-boo (check), and clapping -- at which point, he snapped to attention and started clapping and grinning at her. It's not the clapping itself, apparently, but the interactive, social-feedback-y nature of how we encourage clapping that's relevant to ASD detection.

So the kid's in the clear for now, which is a relief, except that I know that autism can show up late and present as regression in kids who until that point showed no signs. Comforting, right? I do try not to worry about it, which isn't that hard, because I'm not really the worrying kind. And I know that we're intelligent, loving, capable people who'll do our best for him, and our best will be pretty damned good. But it's out there, hovering, like the polio of this generation, and I can't help sometimes shivering in its shadow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dada, duh.

His first consonant was M: "Um," he'd say, "um." I convinced myself it was when he was asking to nurse, and I'm probably not far off, except that he's more or less always asking to nurse, in that he's never been presented with a boob he didn't immediately avail himself of.

Then it was B: "Bob Bob Bob Bob," he'd say, smashing peas, "Bob." Andy has an uncle Bob, but Ben has never met him.

Then D: "Da-da-da-da!" he exclaims, having followed the ball and captured it, "Da!" But his vowel sounds are expanding now, too, and so sometimes we also get an emphatic "Duh!" And there are times I swear he says "Doi" in exactly the tone a teenager might, to express weary frustration with her interlocutor's ignorance.

No one in grocery stores or waiting rooms had anything to say about Bob, but boy do I hear about Da. "They always say Dada first," the crones insist on telling me, in tones of deepest sympathy, "but Mama will come."

"It's not a word," I say, because I'm pigheaded enough to argue the point rather than just nod and smile. "He's just making the sound."

He says it with relish and delight when encountering the dogs ("Da!"), with engaged curiosity when encountering new objects ("Da?"). He greets most people with it, which means that maybe a third of the men we encounter get awkward and sheepish and stammer something about not being his dad. (Doi, dude.) "Don't worry," I say, "He says 'da-da' to bananas and his feet, too."

It was a thoroughly goofy artistic movement, Dada, the sort of thing everybody should think was fabulous in high school and then immediately get over. It doesn't get an "-ism", either (no matter what Wikipedia says), so you can cut that right out (Alex Trebek, I'm looking at you). I haven't thought about Man Ray so often since high school.

"LHOOQ," I tell Ben in lousy French, "It's a pun."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gentle Touches

It seems like a big mistake to me to get into a contest of wills with a nine-month-old, so whenever he's doing something I'd really rather he not do, my solution is the redirect. "Hey, look at this thing!" is a remarkably effective answer to pulling books off the lower shelves or grabbing the washcloth that baffles the pee fountain during a diaper change or lunging at a sleeping dog who outweighs him by thirty pounds.

But he's started doing something which I feel merits a "No" with some (eventual) expectation of understanding and self-control. Possibly this is wildly unrealistic.

He grabs the glasses off my face, or smacks me in the face, or grabs my lower lip. He's strong now, and I actually fear for the integrity of the glasses, not to mention my features. It's like he's just discovered there's a face there, despite my being in his tiny grill pretty much 24/7, and he's as excited about grabbing for it as he is about grabbing for, well, pretty much every other thing.

So far, my response has been ... Ok, mostly my response has been "Ow! Dammit!" but I recognize this is unlikely to be effective, especially as he finds it highly entertaining. So I've been saying "No glasses," or "No grabbing faces" in a stern voice and holding on to his little hands, which drives him absolutely bonkers. Then I say "Gentle touches," and guide his hand to do just that. So far, no success whatsoever, but I wasn't really expecting any. Sooner or later the light will dawn, I'm sure, but until then I think it's mostly a strategy about venting my irritation in a potentially constructive direction.

Anyway, I'm hoping it's a phase, like the occasional shrieking, that comes and goes rather than continuing until I've won the contest of wills, which: oy vey.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woollen Mittens

Some of Ben's favorite toys are not toys. I'm not surprised by that, as toys for babies are largely total failures. Do toy manufacturers never put babies in a room with a box of objects and just watch which ones fascinate?

Some of the objects which have obtained resident status in toy boxes because of sustained interest:

The ex-mobile cards (from the Manhattan Baby Infant Stim-Mobile). I guess you could argue that these were intended as a toy -- sort of. But they're certainly not being used as intended. We cut the little pokey bits off and smoothed the rough edges so they're more or less just round, rigid plastic cards with colorful images on them. He loves to turn them over and over in his hands, gum them, fish them out of boxes. They may be his longest-running consistent favorite.

The remote control. We took the batteries out of the remote from a long-expired dvd player (luckily, Andy is an electronics packrat, so the remote from a dvd player we haven't had for two years was in the bag of remotes, of course). It's smaller than the universal remote he's perpetually lunging for, and no one uses it but him (which I'd have thought would reduce its interest significantly, but doesn't seem to), but oh man, does he love the buttons. It also gets turned over and over and gummed.

Similarly, the old cordless phone, also with its battery removed. Toy phones are a staple of childhood, but kids today have a crummy crop of them, in my opinion. Most people use only cell phones, and have you seen toy cell phones? So lame. We're among those who still have a land line and use a cordless, but I don't think I've ever seen a toy cordless phone. But we did have an old cordless handset lying around (see above re packrat), which has been in Ben's toy box since before he could really even hold it properly. Buttons. Kid loves buttons. I should add that Andy's mom gave him a toy ye-olde phone -- the Fisher Price "chatter" phone we all remember from our childhoods (which is no doubt why they still make them), which Ben also loves. But it bears as little resemblance to the phones he sees us using as one of the cats or a glass of milk, so I don't see it having a lot of imaginative-play value. When he gets around to that, which of course isn't yet.

An empty tea tin. Go figure. It's red and metallic. It's of a slightly awkward size which tends to slip from his fingers and there for need to be chased. I've been thinking of putting a coin inside to make it a rattle, but I'm not 100% confident he can't get the lid off.

Kitchen gadgets, especially large bowls, small pans, measuring spoons, and a mesh strainer. We haven't baby-proofed the kitchen yet, but when we do, I intend to give him access to at least one cabinet which I will stock with as many baby-safe kitchen implements as I can conveniently donate to the cause. I've started looking at the gadget aisles in kitchen stores with new eyes, too, and I recommend them to parents of inquisitive crawlers as a source of relatively inexpensive toys which not only may have more lasting interest than some musical horror, but which may actually have a life after baby as useful household objects.