Six weeks later

Wednesday will mark six weeks since Baby Owen was born, six weeks since I became a mother of two, and six weeks since I wrote a proper blog entry. I remember after 3-year-old Eve was born still feeling like I’d been run over by a truck at this point. I was still tired, sore and overwhelmed. Thankfully, my recovery has been a lot quicker this time. While I had planned to take a full 12 weeks of maternity leave, I quickly found myself ready to get back to work part-time, to figure out what daily life will be like for our family going forward.

It’s hard to pinpoint why things are so much better this time around. Was it the shorter labor and delivery? A calmer, easier-going baby? Or just the fact I’d been through it once before? Regardless, three days after giving birth to Owen, I was in my kitchen baking a banana cake from scratch, something I would have never fathomed. But hey, the bananas were ripe. I had to do something with them …

When I think back on the columns I wrote after Eve was born, I remember they contained a lot of complaining. And crying (some her, mostly me). That was my reality, and I think the reality for a lot of new moms. I remember being miffed at people who would say “Oh, you can’t complain about that” when I would share details of Eve’s sleep schedule, nursing habits or general demeanor. I’d always think, “Yes, I can complain. This is so hard!”  Now I’m the one saying, “I can’t complain.” Because really, I don’t have anything to complain about, even though I’m typing this while bouncing a fussy, inconsolable newborn on my lap.

It’s a matter of experience, and perspective I suppose. Suddenly the name of The Forum’s weekly column “Parenting Perspectives” takes on a whole new meaning. Every parent has a different take on this journey of parenthood, depending where they are along it. I just never imagined how different my perspective would be six weeks after my second child’s birth. I look forward to sharing this newfound viewpoint with you as my journey continues.

When big sister wants to be the big momma

Eve is very excited about the impending arrival of her little brother. Well, she’s excited about the arrival of a baby.  She’s still under the impression most days that 1) the baby WILL be a girl, because she’s wants it to be, and 2) that the baby is hers.

On Friday, as she hugged her friends at daycare goodbye, she said something along the lines of the hugs “squishing the baby in my tummy.” She also talked about the baby in her tummy this morning as we got dressed. I’ve taken to simply ignoring these comments instead of correcting her. But I do wonder how this all will go once the baby is here (and, is a boy).

Eve, 3, has always been a mother hen to her baby dolls, carrying them around, feeding them, burping them and putting them down for naps. I think she thinks she’ll be able to do that with the real baby, too. I haven’t tried to explain that she can’t feed the baby as I plan to breastfeed again (Eve’s interest in my body parts is a topic for another day, if at all …)

But then later this morning, as we walked along the sidewalk, she explained to me that I will be the baby’s mommy and her mommy, and that Craig will be her and the baby’s daddy. And that our family will have a baby boy and a baby girl (meaning her). I praised her for this correct assessment.

I’m hopeful some gentle reminders and boundary setting, as well as encouraging her to help when appropriate, will clear up any confusion once baby is here … as well as a wardrobe of blue onesies.

Moms mull punishment principles

My Dec. 7 Parenting Perspectives column …

My mom thinks I’m a bad mom. OK, that’s an unfair exaggeration. But it is how I felt after she told me I’m too permissive with my 2-year-old.

Let me explain. We spent two nights at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Eve had plenty of “moments,” especially when the expanded family was there. She tore apart the sea of advertising inserts, tried to smack my face when I took them from her and shrieked at the dinner table because her gravy was too hot.

Each time Eve had a tantrum or misbehaved, my sister-in-law, who has a teenage son and a 20-something son, commented how she would give Eve a swat on the butt. As we were preparing to leave and Eve refused to put on her socks, sis-in-law started clapping her hands loudly, to simulate a hard spanking.

My mom, on the other hand, stayed mum. I’ve appreciated the way she keeps opinions to herself but wondered if she agreed. I called her on Black Friday and asked if she thought we let Eve get away with too much.

“Yeah, I do,” she said.

I’d hoped she’d say no. That she’d understand that Eve’s routine had been broken, her nose was stuffy, and she had to vie for attention with her baby cousin. That Thanksgiving Eve wasn’t Everyday Eve.

“You need to add some teeth to your discipline,” Mom told me. To stop a tantrum, she’d turn a kid over her knee.

I don’t spank Eve, partly because of how I was raised. The way we parent as a society also changed. Time-outs and counting tactics now fill our parenting toolboxes. Parenting experts tell us that diverting the child’s attention or allowing the child to regroup in a time-out chair are more effective as discipline.

Mom believes the spankings she gave her four kids were needed. She used them judiciously, and they brought results, she said.

“I realize things are different now,” Mom said later. When you’ve lived as long as she has, you see trends, she said. “At some point, I think it will swing around.”

She’s sure she did the right thing raising her kids because she’s proud of each of us, she said. A screaming Eve, upset because I wouldn’t let her touch the blender, put an ironic end to the call.

After we hung up, I was determined to be a disciplining mom with a well-behaved child. I got her to play quietly with blocks by herself. A few minutes later, I told her it was time to go potty.

“No,” she told me.

I’ll spare you a description of the next 15 minutes. Let’s just say my husband returned from Black Friday shopping to find a sobbing mess of a wife on the bathroom floor and a pantsless daughter who had yet to go potty. I told him we were raising a terror.

After a couple days, I’d regained my parental confidence. I saw my daughter for what she is: 2 years old. I tolerate tantrums more than the mothers who came before me, but I don’t give in to the crying fits.

“It’s your kid,” Mom told me. “Everybody has to do what they feel is right.”

While we may disagree about spanking, we agree on that point.


Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com.

When good news is bittersweet

Today, I got the OK to shelve Eve’s glasses.

She’s been wearing eyeglasses for almost exactly one year.  In that time we’ve gone through four frames and three pairs of lenses … I think. It was hard to keep track of all the bends, breaks and scratches after a while.

Eve was still 1 year old when she was prescribed the specs six weeks after surgery to correct her crossed eyes. They, along with a plastic film adhered to one lens, would help fine-tune the alignment of her eyes.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed her right eye veer outward while wearing the glasses, usually when she looked up. I wondered if they were doing more harm than good. I emailed my concerns and photos to our ophthalmologist, who practices in Minneapolis. She wrote back and said to leave the glasses off until our next appointment, in December.

I should be thrilled. No more sticky lenses to clean! No more trips to the optical shop to straighten bent bows! No more frames on her pretty face! Just chocolate brown eyes and long, dark lashes.

But she doesn’t look like herself without the wire-rimmed frames that have donned her face for about a third of her life. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to them, even if it took a lot of parental finagling to get her to wear them consistently.

There’s another reason this is a bit bittersweet, too: For the last year, Eve has sort of served as a walking public service announcement. Because when we’re in public, other kids will often comment, loudly, “Look at that baby! She’s wearing glasses!” I’ve always smiled and taken the opportunity to explain that sometimes even little kids need glasses to help them see better. I think I’ll miss those interactions, that opportunity to normalize glasses — differences — for kids.

We’ll see what the doctor says in December. Maybe we’ll need to bring those glasses out again — sticky lenses and all. But hopefully we’ll hear her eyes are focused straight ahead, ready for the future.

A little off the top …

Sherri circa 1983

I was a bald child. Only the faintest wisps of white-blond hair graced my head until I was about 3. Women used to ask my mom why she cut a little girl’s hair so short. She hadn’t, she’d tell them. I just didn’t grow any. It took years before she was able to finally gather enough for skimpy little pigtails, much less cut a lock for my baby book. I imagine it was kind of disappointing, considering I was her youngest and only girl.

So when Eve was born with dark brown hair covering most of her head, I was thrilled. I told people she had “soooo much hair.” Really it was probably less than average. It just seemed like a lot, considering my follicle-challenged infancy.

Eve never lost that hair, like some babies, but what was there didn’t grow very fast. There wasn’t much more in her first birthday photo than in her six and nine month shots. After she started befriending pony-tailed girls her age and younger, she would beg me to put her hair in a ponytail, too. But I really couldn’t. Nor could I snip a lock of hair for her baby book.

But in the last few months her hair has gone through a bit of a growth spurt. She finally had enough for a small pony on top, and the front started to grow long enough that she’d push it out of her face. I eagerly decided, at 2 1/2, it was time for Eve’s first haircut.

I was so excited to reach this milestone, to finally have that first lock of baby hair, I didn’t even think through the potential consequences. That the scissors could permanently trim away her sweet curls. That it’d be traumatic for her, or me. Thankfully those scenarios didn’t come to light.  She enjoyed sitting in the barber chair and watching “Finding Nemo” on the TV. She still talks about how the stylist sprayed her head “and made it rain in there.” And I finally have that little lock of hair, tied with a purple bow.

Trimming Eve's bangs

It will be awhile before her next haircut. There wasn’t very much to cut off in the first place. But a little off the top meant a lot to this mom.

Tot’s Choice: Neither

My Parenting Perspectives column for Oct. 12 …

The day I started offering my daughter choices was the day I thought I’d mastered this parenting thing.  

Eve wasn’t quite 2. She was very fond of the word “no.” Daily routines had turned into daily struggles.  As a journalist, I’d learned long ago to not ask “yes” or “no” questions. I started applying this concept to my parenting, with either/or options. Instead of battling her to put on the outfit I’d picked out for the day, I’d give Eve two wardrobe alternatives. I’d ask if she wanted waffles or oatmeal for breakfast. “Which shoe do you want to put on first, the left or right?” I’d inquire in the entryway.

It worked like a charm. We didn’t battle anymore. Eve got to express her independence and make decisions. I got her dressed, fed and out the door in the morning without a temper tantrum. As long as I was equally OK with either option I presented, it was a win-win prospect. Even in non-negotiable situations, I found a way to give her a choice. As I buckled Eve in the car seat, she could choose which shoulder strap went on first. 

I sagely offered this advice to other new moms. After all, I was a pro now. I had choices in my parenting toolbox. 

But after a few months, Eve discovered a third option.

Neither. It’s just as bad as “no.” 

Now that she’s a very independent 2½-year-old who has to “do it myself,” Eve silently ignores options A and B and creates option C, to remain naked, unfed and shoeless. 

I ask if she wants to wear jeans or sweatpants; she picks a summery dress inappropriate for the weather. Waffles or oatmeal? “Ice cream and cookies,” she tells me. Because I don’t cave into unreasonable option C, we’re back to the daily struggles.

It feels like somebody swiped the Leatherman Super Tool 300 out of my parental toolbox and left me with just a plastic bendy straw. I still offer Eve choices. She just chooses when to abide by the options. Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into motherhood.

Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at moms.inforum.com.

Baby Love

Today, I interviewed a family whose little girl is just a bit older than my Eve. We became fast friends during the half-hour I talked to her parents and photographed them playing. She brought me a book and a plastic baby doll and showed me her yellow school bus. She gave me a high-five and a fist bump (toooo cute) and before I left she gave me a hug. Even her baby sister, five months old, threw me – a complete stranger – some big smiles.

My heart absolutely swells at baby and toddler affection, and how freely its given. I remember the big, open-mouthed baby “kisses” Eve would give when she was about 9 months old.  I blogged before about the first time she said “I love you.” And yesterday, completely unprompted, Eve said to my husband, “You’re my best daddy.”  His heart melted. He said if she were a teenager, he probably would have turned over the car keys and $20 on the spot.

But the absolutely most wonderful thing about these expressions of love is that they are completely pure. They are given without expecting anything in return.

I know they will stop, when society or her friends or some internal cue will make her too shy or stubborn or jaded for those public displays. Already, she can be reticent to give kisses at times (puckered-up kisses now that she’s 2).

Until then, I’ll relish in each enthusiastic hug, kiss … and fist bump.

To spell or not to spell

My Sept. 7 Parenting Perspectives column …

On a recent family bike ride, I called over to my husband as the trail neared a neighborhood park.

“Should we stop at the P-L-A-Y-G-R-O-U-N-D,” I said, using the spelling tactic to float the idea without getting our 2-year-old daughter, Eve, too excited about the prospect.

“What?” Craig called back to me.

Thinking he didn’t hear all the letters, I shortened the loaded word.

“Should we stop at the S-L-I-D-E-S?”

Again, he responded with, “What?”

I’m now yelling. “Should we stop at the S-W-I-N-G-S?”

“What?” he said, smirking.

He had drawn a line – and flipped over my bowl of alphabet soup in the process.

Craig won’t spell out words in front of Eve, nor will he acknowledge my spelled words.

In fact, he goes out of his way to say whatever I just spelled. Words like “snack,” “juice box” and “pool.” And does this ever I-R-K me.

Because as soon as he says it, Eve wants it. And then I have to say N-O.

His side: Eve should learn she can’t have everything she wants when she wants it. We shouldn’t need to tiptoe around her.

“I think we should be able to speak freely,” he told me. “Just because we say something, that doesn’t mean she can have it right at that moment.”

I counter that spelling is a universal parenting technique to avoid an unnecessary temper tantrum.

I remembered an early 1990s McDonald’s commercial, now immortalized on YouTube. Young parents at a shopping mall with their two children spell out several words in their conversation: “toy store,” “birthday,” “present,” “lunch” and then “W-H-E-R-E.”

Their little girl says, and then spells, “McDonald’s,” having followed every word.

Maybe my husband has a point here. Eve will eventually learn to spell. She can already spell her name and a few other three-lettered words.

Craig asked if we’re supposed to pass each other notes or learn a foreign language when her spelling skills advance.

I’d hope that by the time she can spell, she won’t be a toddler thrown into a tizzy at just the thought of a fruit snack.

Until then, he can deal with the next T-A-N-T-R-U-M.


 Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com.

Movie’s mom confessions hit home

My Parenting Perspectives column from June 29 …

It’s a good thing movie theaters are dark, because I’m not sure the trio of single girls next to me would have understood the tears flowing down my face while watching “Sex and the City 2.”

An afternoon movie with the girls is an odd treat for me, the mother of a toddler, and I hadn’t expected such a swell of emotion during the mediocre escapist flick.

It wasn’t some sappy scene between Carrie and Big that got me crying, either, but an honest conversation between the movie’s two mothers.

Gulping cosmopolitans to get up their courage, Charlotte and Miranda admit to each other those things that all of us mothers think but don’t dare say: That for some women, being a mom isn’t enough; you need a career, too. That no matter how much you love your kids, motherhood is exhausting and frustrating and endlessly guiltproducing.

That sometimes, your kids drive you crazy.

The conversation was so real and refreshing that I was able to quiet the cynic who doubts Charlotte – a stay-at-home mom with a full-time nanny – has it so rough she locks herself in the pantry for tearful reprieves.

The two New Yorkers even toast the women who parent without live-in paid help. It’s a tribute that could be seen as snobbish and condescending, considering it describes all the moms I know. But I choose to look at it as an acknowledgement of every mother’s reality, and perhaps a license for us to admit our own truths.

We all have those thoughts. They don’t mean we don’t love our children with every ounce of our being. They reflect the fact that we’re human, taking on a duty that requires the patience and fortitude of a saint.

Alone in my car the other day, for just a second, I forgot that I was a mother. Then I saw the stash of diapers in my oversized purse.

My breath caught as I wondered, a bit bewildered: How did I get here? How is it that I am someone’s guardian and protector? What happened to the girl I used to be – the one who could go to movies and drink cosmos whenever she wanted?

Apparently, she became the kind of mother who cries into her popcorn during a fictional round of mommy confessions.

And that’s my motherly secret, admitted without a single sip from a martini glass.

Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com.

Cocky mother humbled by 2-year-old’s behavior

My Parenting Perspectives column from April 20:

Compared with some other 2-year-olds, my daughter tends to be pretty well-behaved.

Eve sits in my lap during circle time, even as other children wander around. We usually make it through half a church service before she gets really antsy. While in the grocery cart seat, she keeps her hands mostly to herself.

Good behavior for a toddler is quite relative. And when Eve is the one setting the curve by sitting still or being quiet, I tend to get a little cocky.

Like when a particular boy starts acting up at story time. Or a mom in the diaper aisle of Target can’t get her toddler to stay in the red shopping cart. I sympathize with the parent dealing with the outburst, but inside I sometimes get this smug sense, like, “Ha, ha, my kid wouldn’t do that.”

And. Then. She. Does.

As Eve and I left her day care the other afternoon, I saw her little friend’s dad trying to persuade his son out of a pint-sized race car in the front yard.

Eve had put on her shoes and her coat without incident, and I expected a drama-free stroll to my car.

Cue smugness.

Then Eve ran over to another riding toy in the yard. Like the boy, she wouldn’t get out.

I asked her to get out. I told her to get out. I tried luring her with promises of graham crackers and milk.

A slow-speed chase ensued around the yard as she pedaled away from me, shouting, “No! I drive!” I was utterly flustered, my parenting toolbox emptied.

The day care dad smiled at me knowingly as he finished buckling his son into their full-size car in the driveway.

“It’s so great that we’re all in this together,” he said, noting how similar the kids’ expressions and antics were. No smugness. No sense of parental superiority. Only empathy and understanding.

I hauled Eve to my car, having finally wrenched her away from the plastic steering wheel. She was kicking and screaming. I was regretting my flash of arrogance. Cocky mom had been taken down a couple notches.

We are all in this together. We can acknowledge and cheer our children’s good conduct. But another 2-year-old’s temper tantrum doesn’t make me the better mother.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com/.