The beach is her happy place.
We just arrived home from a week of “vacation.”* We took an airplane to get where we were going. Luckily, it was only an hour-long flight.
I’m in awe of parents who take babies and very young children on cross-Atlantic flights. Those moms and dads must know some secret I was never told. Or maybe the whole family drugs up on Gravol.
This trip was a huge treat because my husband came with us. I had back-up for a full seven days. I wasn’t outnumbered for a whole week!
Murphy’s Law seems to kick in whenever I take my children anywhere. Apparently going on an airplane is no exception. Here are some of the highlights:
- I purposely booked our Westjet flight for midday so we wouldn’t need to rush to get to the airport on time. My five-year-old son was up at 4:30 a.m. anyways, ready to leave. We ended up rushing around at the last-minute too.
- I gave the kiddies a treat in the airport (popcorn from Starbucks) to keep them from begging for the (super cool, very exciting!) airplane snack the minute we boarded the plane. My 23-month-old daughter spilled the bag of popcorn all over the airport floor and then started eating it. My son asked for the airplane snack the minute his seatbelt was buckled up.
- In a lovely moment of sibling harmony, my son grasped his sister’s hand as we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, she tripped and nose-dived through the door. We entered the plane with a howling toddler, making every other passenger so very excited to welcome us on board.
- I set my son up with headphones and the in-flight TV as soon as possible. The minute he put the headphones on he started yelling at me (without realizing it) because the previous passenger had turned the volume up to max.
- My daughter travelled on my lap. She flies free until she turns two. She is very tall for her age. As soon as we sat down the guy in front of us reclined his seat as far back as humanly possible. We got the last laugh when my daughter started kicking and pushing on his seat later in the flight.
- Both our departing and return flights were in the middle of nap time. Naturally, my daughter waited to fall asleep until the plane landed, giving her a ten minute nap; thus insuring no real nap that day.
- After giving her plenty of run-around time at home and in the airport, my daughter had not had a dirty diaper all day. Of course the lovely incident happened after the plane had taken off and right when the flight attendants pushed the drink carts into the aisle. Any mother who has travelled knows that the “change table” in an airplane is the size of a cutting board and only works for babies who are a month or two old. My husband and I made the very poor decision to “just wait until we land” to change our daughter. Lucky for us, there was another baby across the aisle. The dirty looks we got about the nasty smell emanating from our row? We just shrugged our shoulders, glanced pointedly at the other baby and rolled our eyes.
*Vacation is in quotation marks because anyone who has travelled with small children (and without grandparents) knows it is anything but.
My baby girl is approaching two. Her favourite stuffie is her “Dollo.” Dollo was a baby gift from a dear family friend. My daughter attached to Dollo quickly.
On Facebook the other day a friend of mine was lamenting the fact that her three-year-old son was still very attached to a special blanket. She was pleased that her son could sleep in his own bed and use the potty. I think she saw the removal of the blanket as the next box that needed checking off in her son’s life.
I slept with my special blanket until I was sixteen. I still know exactly where it is: in a bag, in a box in my parents’ basement. I can still smell it and feel its worn softness against my cheek. It was my constant companion and comforter against scary monsters and sleepless dark nights.
The fact that my daughter has her own special stuffie doesn’t surprise me. If you look closely at the right side of the picture you can see Dollo’s tag sticking out. My daughter strokes that tag over and over as she falls asleep. As I rock her I can tell she is nearing sleep when her tiny fingers slow, pause then finally stop, in their daily ritual.
A Facebook friend of mine just announced the joyous news of her first pregnancy. Soon afterwards she asked for advice on which prenatal class to sign up for. That got me thinking…about 95% of what I learned in prenatal class was useless. Motherhood has a wild initiation period and no class fully prepares you for the upheaval your first child brings.
Here is a list of what you really need to know before bringing home baby:
- How to change a diaper on a wiggling, squirmy puppy. If you can do this, you may be able to change a one-year old. Yes, the freaky-eyed, fake babies the nurses bring are good practice for changing a newborn. However, if your baby is like both of mine were, at around 9 months she will realize that it’s really not fun to have her legs in the air and someone swiping at her private parts.
- How to function on 3 hours of sleep per night. Prenatal classes should be held over a long weekend with no breaks for sleep. This might give new parents a tiny idea of how they will feel while caring for a new baby. Sleep deprivation is real and it sucks. Even if you get the very rare, almost-mythical “good-sleeper” off the bat, that is no guarantee that your baby will not turn into a non-sleeper at 3 months or 6 months.
- Never brag about your good sleeper on Facebook. That guarantees you a non-sleeper the next night.
- How to cope during the first few weeks with your baby. Our instructor could have covered the basics of pregnancy and labour in an hour and sent us home to watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actual discussion of the huge psychological changes involved in becoming a parent would be far more helpful.
- Even if drugs are not in your plan, when the time comes, you will want them. Read up on them. The same goes for c-sections. Better to be prepared. My children are five and almost two. I had an epidural and morphine with one and practically no meds with the other. Now that the kids are older, no one asks me about it and nobody cares. You won’t get a badge of honour or special trophy for going drug-free or avoiding a c-section. Do what you need to do to remain somewhat calm and deliver a healthy baby.
- Breastfeeding is wonderful and natural and angels sing when some mothers do it. It also sucks sometimes, especially in the beginning. The nurse teaching our prenatal class actually said out loud to us “Don’t keep bottles or formula in your house. You may be tempted to use them.” We diligently followed her advice…until it was day 5 and my milk hadn’t come in and my son was screaming and starving. We ignored her advice and supplemented the poor child. He survived and he is perfect.
- If you want your baby to sleep in your room, put him there. If you can’t sleep with your baby in your room, put him in his own room if it’s nearby. It is your house, your baby and you need to do what helps everyone in the house get as much sleep as possible. I followed the “rules for creating an independent sleeper” with my son. He slept in his own room until his sister came along when he was three. Everything changed then and no book or sleep expert in the world could compete with a screaming newborn on the other side of the bedroom wall. Now my son is five and he crawls into the big bed every night.*
- Never talk about your maternity leave as your “year off.” It is your “year on.” You’ll see.
*I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What do you wish someone would have told you before you had your first child?
There is a mountain behind our house. My children aren’t quite big enough to climb it with us, but in the afternoon the gate opens up so cars can drive almost to the top. Once we park, there are two different trails that head straight up; one to a cement look-out point, the other to some high rocks. A few weeks ago my son and I headed out on a mommy-son day and I took him up the mountain for the first time. Once at the top, he came alive, yelling “This is fantastic! This is amazing!” as we looked way down at the awesome panorama of mountain, ocean, forest and green…always green.
It was a warm, rainy day. The children were restless in the house. They’d played with toys, watched a show on TV, played with Playdoh and eaten countless snacks. They started chasing each other around and around the circle on our main floor and I knew it was time to get outside. After little A’s nap we bundled up in heavy-duty rain coats and headed out.
My daughter loves worms, and calls them “nerms,” which is adorable. When she finds one, she picks it up in her bare hands, runs to me, holds it up and proudly announces “Nerm! Mommy! Nerm!”
Her big brother had the idea to put them in the back of a plastic truck, and a new game was born. Soon, they each had a truck and were racing around our cul-de-sac seeing who could find the biggest worm, the smallest worm, the wiggliest worm, and on and on.
I love giving children the space and time to come up with their own games. It’s tempting to sign them up for more classes to fill our (sometimes long and arduous) days but moments like this make me grateful that I am at home with them for these very short years.
I’m not giving anything up by staying home. I’m gaining so, so much.
My poor, poor daughter gets so many pitying looks from first-time mommas.
The way I parent her is a million times different from the way I parented my son when he was her age.
I haul her around in a hand-me-down, slightly stained blue umbrella stroller. Her brother glided around in a deluxe designer stroller. I, like many first-time moms, gave in and bought the fancy-schmancy ride for my son. Yes, it’s great, but nope, it’s not so great while also managing a preschooler who never stops moving. With two kids in the family, it is rare to have one free hand, let alone two. I need a stroller I can pick up with my pinkie and throw in the trunk, completely assembled.
I had my daughter in the fancy stroller the other day (while scrounging for cheap toys and funky sweaters at Value Village) and a young mom sidled up to me and asked casually, “So, how do you like the Peg?” It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about the stroller. I guess my children are getting older because I no longer recognize new-mommy-stroller-lingo.
My daughter is often completely neglected at the park. A few months ago I took the kiddies to the playground near our house. As we pulled up, I let them loose from the constraints of stroller (my daughter) and bike helmet (my son). I always feel like yelling, “Release the hounds!” as they run wildly to whatever catches their fancy at our new child-proof neighbourhood park.
Anyways, on this particular afternoon there was only one other child there, a little boy close in age to my daughter (about 18 months at the time). He was accompanied by both of his parents and was obviously their first and only child. The little guy couldn’t take a step without some sort of comment of encouragement from both parents. At every trip or stumble they both jumped to attention. It was sort of cute, for the first few minutes.*
I was busy helping my son strap into a safety swing for 5-10 year olds (?) way across the park and had half an eye on my daughter. I saw her move towards a ladder that led to a medium-sized slide. The look on the other parents’ faces as my daughter climbed up and went down that slide alone was total shock.** She survived. Now, a few months older, she proudly announces, “I did it!” when she lands at the bottom without falling.
My daughter is continually harassed by her five-year-old brother. The other day it was raining and he was bored. I gave him an old diaper box to do something with. He made a “toddler trap,” complete with bait (a soother and a cookie) and chased his poor sister around, trying to drop it on her head.
Interestingly enough, I’m noticing many, many benefits to her being (slightly) neglected. My daughter is fiercely independent. She can say “no!” in a loud, confident voice over and over; a trait that I hope will come in handy when she is a teenager.
She can entertain herself for ages “reading” stacks and stacks of books and magazines.
She finds and gets what she needs by hauling around a kitchen chair or old plastic stool.
But most important of all, she has a built-in hero, confidant and ally in her older brother. A bit of “neglect,” a lot of independence and a best buddy for life.
*I was totally this mom when I only had one child.
**Just so you know I’m not a total slacker…I was running at warp-speed-that-feels-like-slow-motion and got there just as she landed on the soft mulch on the ground. By the way, why on earth do they use mulch at children’s parks? It’s like inviting children to play in a lumberyard and then being surprised when they get slivers.
What is different about the way you parent your second (or third or fourth) child?