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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

August 2011

Month Two

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This month, you

Unlearned how to sleep
Which meant we learnt the true meaning of Arsenic Hour
A misnomer really, because it’s more like Arsenic Half a Day
Record to date: 4:00pm to 1:00am. Practically non-stop.
Your lungs. They work.

Learned how to smile
And even how to laugh
Which made every gruelling moment shinier
Each giggle a punctuation that made sense of the loooong crying sentence

Grew out of 0000 clothes
And started wearing 000 clothes
And became Mommy’s clothes horse
Because man, clothes are CUTE when they’re tiny.
(And because 0000 clothes are mostly boring onesies.)

Spent more time on your tummy
Although you still hate it
And haven’t learnt yet how to interact with toys
Mostly because you just face-plant

Cemented yourself as part of this family
Just a little bit more. xx

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You can’t make friends with salad

There’s a verse that goes something like this, “…then we will no longer be like infants, tossed by every wind of doctrine.” And while the context of that verse is all to do with what happens once one reaches maturity in Christ, I’d like to say that the imagery is a vivid one and I’d like to steal it for what I’m about to say.

Except, I’d like to replace the word “infants” with “n00b parents”. And I’d like the promise that every n00b parent will no longer be tossed like a greasy Greek salad, each new leaf of information sending us into more turmoil than ever before.

I am in completely new territory. Usually, I can get thrown into something big and new, and I’d try and wing it. New job. New industry. New country. New church. New network. New man. Marriage. Hit me, and I’ll find a way to survive and get prayerfully comfortable with my choices. Small (by Chinese standards), rustic wedding. Three-bedroom starter townhouse in suburbia. Settling down with a foreigner in a foreign land. Changing churches. Leaving and cleaving. Many, many others may have tut-tutted at these choices but for the most part, I’ve shrugged and breezily gone on with my life.

It’s not so easy with this parenthood shindig.

I’ve been thinking (oooohhhh!), and there’s a couple of reasons I’ve temporarily lost my mojo, and ability to think for myself and pee into the wind.

  1. The stakes are so much higher because it now involves someone completely helpless and important. Not just someone important.
  2. The consequences of not following parenting doctrine is usually couched in terms of the rebel being completely selfish and the effects, rather dire. (“You are teaching your child that you do not love her and that she cannot trust you.”  “Your child may develop life-threatening allergies and will swallow a legume one day and die a terrible death.” “You will spoil your child rotten and she will become one of THOSE children. Your friends and church will shake their heads in shame.” “Child services should really be bashing down your door and escorting you off the premises now, you selfish buffoon.”)
  3. The advice is always, always personal.

The third point is the hardest to wade through, and calls upon good growing of thick skin and fantastic discernment. I was reading a parenting forum that was discussing the use of a certain parenting method. A few parents had started complaining about the method’s limitations, when a mother stepped in and basically said that the methodology in question was fantastic and the reason everyone was wrong and sucked was because they “didn’t try hard enough”. And even though that comment wasn’t directed at me, I was itching to jump on the forum and tell that woman to bite me. Because if there’s one thing we don’t need in this tremendously challenging terrain, is one woman oppressing and rubbishing another’s efforts.

Parenting is ALWAYS personal and emotional. It is not like any job I’ve ever had, because it isn’t one. It’s not even a career. For the most part, corporate life sets professionalism up to be the antithesis of emotionalism. But I can tell you right now that parenting cuts right to the emotional core because it partly answers the question of Who You Are.

And the advice out there. The literature. It’s riddled with labels to help us along.

Are you an Attachment Parent? You are either very flexible and attentive to your child’s needs, or you are incapable of saying no to your child and will bring up a spoilt brat who has no understanding of routine and rules.

Are you a Hyper-Scheduler? Then you’re either a very organised person, or that’s pig latin for anal-retentive control freak who treats her child like a robot.

I suspect some opinions are put forward so stridently because the adviser, rather than the advised, stands to be the main beneficiary. If you need to feel confident, perhaps the first place to start is by sounding very confident. The truth is, all of us have the answer – which is that none of us knows best. But all of us have been blessed with a sense of good-enough, and the rest… the rest is providence, baby.

Last week, I started putting away books that advocated any parenting methodology over another. I just didn’t want to be picketed at anymore, and I needed my mojo back. Those books may work for others, but I could feel my confidence getting leeched every time I did something – like pick Arddun up after she’d been crying an ocean – only to feel guilt on both ends of the spectrum. Enough. Maybe I am building a rod for my own back because I did the whole “controlled crying” thing wrong. Maybe she will be a head case twenty years down the track because I didn’t pick her up fast enough and she cried two minutes too long.

Whatever. I’m here now. I’m her mommy. And like my little girl, I am peeing into the wind.

Flying solo *flap flap*

And thus endeth the first week of going it alone with Arddun.

We’d been easing into each other’s company for a while now – I’ve been very, very fortunate to have first my mother over for a month, and then Tony for another two weeks. So really, I’ve nothing to complain about as far as time needed for learning the ropes is concerned. I eased into the whole solo Motherhood thing pretty gradually – the occasional outing with Arddun here and there, graveyard shifts alone etc.

But by week 6, I was actually looking forward to the solo flight – as if having the house to myself and Arddun during the day marked the actual start to True Motherhood and my old/new job as full-time housewife.

Also, a few things were starting to become apparent:

  • our little princess, now used to prams and outings and noise and retail therapy, was starting to find a stationary cot in a quiet suburban house rather inconducive for nap time
  • we’ve discovered how to yell louder by taking deeper breaths and supporting with the diaphragm
  • and oh by the way, we love feeling weightless. Could you please spend all day pirouetting around the house violently like a loon, so I can fall asleep in the baby carrier? kthxbai.

For weeks, I’ve been vacillating between scheduling Arddun and going with her flow. Which became a moot point during week 6 going on 7, as Arddun decided that she’d forgotten how to fall asleep unassisted. Which meant one feed bled into the next, fastened loosely together by interminable crying, ending finally some time before midnight and resulting in two rounds of Unearthly Hour feeds by yours truly.

So this week, we started Sleep Boot Camp. No going out. No falling asleep by rocking movement induced by pram, car or mommy-carried pouch. The art of self-comforting and self-settling… the art of SLEEP is my gift to her this week. There is a sign outside my door about sleep camp. Let’s hope postmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses can read.

Nappy-changing lullaby

Hush-a-bye Arddun
On the tabletop
Mummy is wiping your
Dirty bot-bot
When Mummy’s finished
Arddun will smile
And that will make nappy-changing
Worthwhile

Hush-a-bye Arddun
Crying so hard
Aren’t you so glad that
It’s not a leotard?
Give me two minutes
Maybe two more
And Mummy will have you
Clean like before

Hush-a-bye Arddun
Sounding so sad
When you scream thus, you make
Mummy feel bad
When Mummy’s anxious
She’s quite a klutz
Which makes nappy changing
Really a putz

Hush-a-bye Arddun
You Drama Queen
Screaming Blue Murder and
Making a scene
Thankfully for you
You’re kinda cute
Now shush while I button
Your baby suit

(And would you believe that singing this actually works sometimes? Desperate times, etc etc)

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How’s motherhood: the response

It’s funny how small talk can sometimes demand the most profound answers. We get together and, in the most casual of circumstances like a BBQ, drop huge Meaning-Of-Life type questions like,

“How you doin’?”

“How’s Married Life?”

And in the last 6 weeks,

“How are you finding motherhood?”

Well, here’s my answer.

My life is now broken into three-hour installments, and my world has expanded and contracted at the same time. This Mommydom is a black hole. I am sucked in and free-falling, alternately bewildered and blissed out, and all the rules I once held against fellow human beings no longer seem to apply – at least for now.

All the adages about motherhood go off like light bulbs every day, and yet the words – poor imitations, crude descriptors – pale in comparison to the living, breathing reality that I am holding a babe in my arms, she is mine, and I am hers. My world has officially been rocked.

All at once, my ambitions have hit rock bottom and shot to the moon. I hear myself fervently wishing things like If-you-could-just-stay-in-the-bouncy-net-without-going-off-your-nut,I-would-be-so-happy. My goal for the week would be to get this brand new person to learn what night and day means for sleep time. While my ambition would be teach her the meaning of kindness and goodness, even though I haven’t come close to mastering the same.

Such lofty sights. Such intangible dreams. The stuff of project management nightmares.

We are smitten. This pooing, spewing, gurgling, sighing, yawning, stretching, heartbreaking product of our love has consumed our day and night. I get it now. I can see how a child can glue and rend apart marriages with her arrival and her leaving. It is so easy to get distracted by the New Kid on the Block, so easy to build your day around feeding her, soothing her, clothing her, loving her. It is too easy to push aside the marriage, until it is subsumed and buried in Gymboree classes and softball practice and singing lessons and playdates.

And I have changed. Or perhaps there’s a part of me that never got to see daylight until now. Who knows. But I can no longer watch or read anything about babies starving to death, or being abused by the hands they love and trust most. And my usual cocksure self is riddled with insecurity and doubt every day – a mild side effect of stupendously strong feelings of love and protectiveness. Also, who knew I’d have such a high threshold of the icky – bad smells, loud diapers, projectile milk fountains… God only knows.

Meanwhile,

My house has a smattering of Baby everywhere. My wardrobe has transformed into a collection of nursing uniforms. My eyebags are permanent. My fringe is perpetually pinned up so it won’t get in the way of gazing into her tiny face and laughing.

Oh, but you only needed the short version? Very well. How’s motherhood? Terrific and terrifying, thanks for asking.

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