Friday Five: It’s not your fault if your kid is a butthead.

We have not had an easy week. Those teeth are still coming and sleep is scarce. It makes me tense in a way that drives Quinn up the wall. You try maintaining a cheery attitude when you’ve been awake with a pissed off toddler since 4:30, you haven’t slept, and they won’t stop whining because they’re exhausted but refuse to sleep. Leaving him to cry himself back to sleep doesn’t work. He will go on for hours; I spend so much time worrying that I’m causing him permanent damage by letting him cry for so long that it causes me to lose sleep. But not to worry: today’s round up is all about the weird ways parental efforts are overestimated and how we should all really just relax about the whole effing our kids up thing. You’re (probably) fine.

Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness

Fathers are rarely, if ever, spoken about in the same way that mothers are. It’s culturally acceptable for men to have children and professional identities without having to choose between the two. These unspoken biases run deep.

It reminds me of a friend whose husband complained about having to “babysit” the children while she went to dinner with friends. Has a woman ever “babysat” her own children? Things are changing, but the insidious inferences persist.

Karen Rinaldi’s main point is that motherhood is still often referred to as a woman’s job — language she argues does women and mothers a disservice. Rinaldi suggests re-framing job instead as privilege but never goes into what makes  her version of motherhood selfish. The suggestion that motherhood is without sacrifice comes from a position of significant, well, privilege.

Why it’s good to have a strong-willed child, and why you should let up on them

They are more impervious to peer pressure and go after what they want with more gusto. They want to “learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others say, so they test the limits over and over,” and this relates to relationships as well. Such discernment involves not only when they cut their hair, eat vegetables, or choose to wear a coat, but also in whom they decide to trust and in whom they choose to follow or who they allow themselves to be influenced by.

The sentiment here mirrors something I repeat to myself often, just about every time I’m ready to pull my hair out because Ben is being a butthead: “Right now it frigging sucks, but the traits that drive us crazy right now are going to benefit him when he gets older if we encourage him correctly.” Mutual trust, it seems, is key to finding the sweet spot between allowing a stubborn child to flourish and maintaining safe boundaries.

What Millennials Say About Their Parents During Therapy

“We went from a parent-focused society to a child-focused society, and this generation are the products of this flux in our parenting focus… As a result, I hear consistent complaints that their parents are micromanaging their lives to the point of it being suffocating and overbearing.”

I’m a big proponent talking through personal and interpersonal issues, and this is something I think about often. What will Ben think of me when he’s older? Will he see us — or our progressive-for-the-times beliefs — as outdated products of a bygone generation? Will he even like mom, the person when he’s 30? The content here isn’t groundbreaking, but offers an interesting perspective on the shift from 1950s seen-not-heard parenting to the current climate where kids are often at the center of everything.

Most parenting advice is worthless. So here’s some parenting advice.

Like any parent, I would love to believe that my awesome kids are a result of my awesome parenting. Sadly, expert opinion indicates it ain’t so. Genes have an enormous influence. Peers and culture have an enormous influence. But parenting styles inside the home, apart from extreme cases like abuse or neglect, have very little long-term influence on a person’s personality or success in life, at least that social scientists have been able to detect.

File under This Week in My Kid Will Definitely Turn Out To Be A Serial Killer. As if the bottomless well anxiety-inducing nonsense weren’t enough to keep my doctor in business, now there’s this revelation to worry about. The days are long, but the years are short.

A new study says it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your kids

It turns out that the most reliable parenting strategy is simply to be rich. Beyond that, it’s not clear that what parents do — at least among the range of things that more or less normal people do — is actually all that significant. Some people find that conclusion bleak and nihilistic. Hence the somewhat spurious framing around quality time.

Surprise! Your socioeconomic status has more to do with how your kid’s life turns out than how much time you spend with them. Until they’re a teenager, at least. Maybe now I’ll stop feeling guilty for taking a 20 minute nap between work and daycare pick up once a month.

The sleep thing, part 1: bedtime

[Note: I still think sleep regressions are largely bull dookie, but for those of you curious how I tackled Ben’s recent refusal to sleep, here’s a quick update to this recent post.]

Here’s the thing about sleep.

There’s no universal standard for sleep requirements. Science says, generally, that 8 hours (give or take, of course) is what you should shoot for. Science also says that we should sleep in split shifts, like our ancestors may or may not have. Science also also says that sleep is a construct and we’re all of us always asleep because we’re actually all plugged into simulations, kind of like in The Matrix.

Well.

Anecdotally, my father sleeps less than five hours a night. I am a split (read: terrible) sleeper, usually awake for an hour or more in the middle of the night. Quinn sleeps as many hours as his schedule will allow, but has trouble falling asleep when he first goes to bed. It seems perfectly logical to me that our kid would have this same struggle.

What I have tried:

  • Cry it out
  • Pat and settle
  • Ferber method
  • Gerber method
  • Method acting
  • Graduated extinction
  • Matriculated extinction
  • Whatever, none of it works

What I haven’t tried:

  • Rum, per my mother-in-law’s insistence “That’s what we always did!”

Ben will scream for HOURS if left alone. Going in to check on him just pisses him off even more. It never occurred to me that some kids have to be taught how to go to sleep. As a concept, I will tell you I am seriously struggling with that. Who needs to be taught how to sleep? Human children, apparently.

What’s working for now:

  • A solid bedtime routine
  • Melatonin at bedtime, per pediatrician’s instructions
  • Cutting out tv time before bed

But the bedtime battles. Those are, for now, almost entirely under control. A solid bedtime routine and melatonin supplements, per Ben’s pediatrician. Gummies that taste like blackberries that he is very into, and liquid for nights he’s being a butt about it. A bedtime routine isn’t something that I had given much thought to, because bedtime was always the easy part — until a couple of months ago. At that point we decided to just… let him stay up. His mood wasn’t affected by late bedtimes, so we didn’t see the harm in it.

Except to, you know, our sex life and general non-parenting hours in the evening.

Anyway, bedtime is simple: TV off at 7:15. Melatonin. Bath. Jammies. Snack. Play or read. Cuddle. Bed. By night five, he was falling asleep mid-story. I plan on weaning him off the melatonin gradually starting in the next week or two, as the idea of long-term use if not strictly necessary makes me uneasy. So bedtime is a breeze now, but he’s waking up in the middle of the night again. Mornings are groggy, angry messes. Daycare drop off is one big meltdown.

I feel like I’m running hurdles but the hurdles are too closely together. When I’ve just barely cleared the first one, my feet are already bumping up against the second. The first hurdle gets knocked over when I attempt to clear the second hurdle too quickly. This is an uneven metaphor, but it’s close. I can only overcome one hurdle successfully at a time. This is a pain in the ass for me; I like to get everything done all at once, or I’m afraid it will never get done.

Ben’s bedtime was the first hurdle. Mornings are next, then daycare drop offs. The biggest hurdle, night wakings, is the final hurdle — for now. Wish me luck. Send coffee.

 

Hey, Stop Being An A-hole

Hi Baby,

I love you. I love you so much I can’t handle it.

(Imagine I am reading this to you in that exaggerated voice that you think is so funny.)

I love the way you giggle when the dogs walk into the room. I love the way you start flailing when you see daddy walk in the door. I love the special smile you reserve just for your inner circle. You make people feel special when you smile at them. I love you so much it aches almost much as it feels lovely to know that loving somebody can make you feel so lovey.

And it’s because I love you so much that I’m writing this letter. Also because you wouldn’t understand any of this no matter how I communicated it to you so there’s also that. You are only eight months old.

In eight months’ time, you’ve gone from scrunched-faced cone head to chubby, big bootied baby. Every major development you’ve made has been on your own time. It’s been the most thrilling experience of our lives to watch you grow and learn and become more and more of a person every day.

These words are hard to say out loud. I need to tell you this:

You’re being kind of an a-hole lately.

You are. And it’s cool: you’re a baby. It happens. You will be able to use the “I’m a kid” excuse many, many times over the next several years.

Enjoy it. There is so, so much I am willing to let slide because you’re a kid.

Like, I still expect you to be polite and kind and compassionate. But “He’s a kid, kids are messy” is pretty reasonable to me and I don’t really care how sloppy you get when you’re playing outside as long as you clean up when you get inside.

You know what I do care about though?

The blood-drawing on my boobs thing you’ve got going on lately. I know teeth are exciting. I KNOW. They are very cool and can do so many things. Steamed carrots! Sweet potatoes fries! But biting boobs is not good manners. Please never bite another person unless you are afraid for your personal safety or they have asked you to bite them.

And hey, about the fake out scream at bedtime — what’s the deal with that? You fall asleep within 60 seconds of being kissed goodnight. I know you would rather be held while you sleep. I get it. I would also like somebody to hold me while I sleep, existing solely for my own personal comfort, ignoring their own bodily needs. But (most) grownups don’t wear diapers and don’t have that luxury.

Also, you’re crawling now! That is so exciting for us to watch. Could you please stop only crawling when there are electrical cords in sight, though? That is a kind of anxiety I never knew I was capable of feeling. I now live in constant fear of a television falling on your head. I thought about asking your dad how he felt about just getting rid of the TVs, but then I remembered Twin Peaks just started.

Please take this criticism as constructive, Bubbers. I just want you to be the best, happiest, most well-adjusted baby ever.

No pressure.

I’m going to go call Grandma and apologize for all the times I was probably a jerk as a baby now.

Love you, baby.

Mama

Life Lesson For My Son, From Comic Books

Hey, bub.

I’m sorry we don’t have a more original nickname for you yet than bub. We’re working on it. Aunt Allyson suggested I write some life advice for you, using panels from Thor as a guide. I haven’t read much Thor but I have read a fair amount of other things.

I hope you find value in the advice I’ve curated here for you. The books these panels come from are sitting on the bookcase in the living room, waiting for you when you’re old enough.


Clint Barton/Hawkeye

You are the culmination of the people you choose to spend your time with.

Clint shows us how much can be accomplished through effort and force of will. When he’s not working with the Avengers, he’s no longer Hawkeye — he’s Hawkguy. He’s Clint.

Clint is as much of a hero as Hawkeye. He’s the kind of guy that takes in stray dogs and buys his apartment building from the gangsters that own it. He’s not magical, he doesn’t heal, but he does what he can because he feels compelled to help in whatever way he’s able.

Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)

You are under no obligation to be the person you were yesterday.

Black Widow (Volume 1), Marvel

Life is an unending cycle of birth, growth, and death. Environmental factors, social factors, economic factors — with change comes growth. You will change. You will change many times over your life.

This does not mean you should change swiftly and easily, though, when it comes to your personal convictions. Your beliefs will change and change again as they become increasingly more informed by your experiences and studies.

That means you’re willing to entertain new perspectives and adapt as necessary. And Bub, that’s great.

Sophie & Lying Cat (Saga)

You are not defined by things that happen to you.

The story behind this panel is an intensely emotional and difficult one. This is a story you won’t be ready for until you are much older, but the message is clear and important: you are not what happens to you.

You are not ever what happens to you, and the people that love you will always be there to remind you.

John Constantine (Hellblazer)

Effort counts.

You will be flawed. You will have quirks, like yelling for attention in the middle of the important part of a TV show. That’s okay. I talk too much during shows sometimes too.

What’s important is that you try to not talk while people are watching TV.

You’ll slip up once in a while. You’ll be distracted or excited and forget in your excitement that your excitement may be problematic for the people around you.

That’s okay. What’s important is that you try. Always be trying.