Friday, July 29, 2016

Damn You Size 2T!

I'm never prepared for the tightness in my chest and the welling up of tears right behind my eyeballs. It always catches me off guard.

How can putting away my kids' too-small-for-them clothes hurt so bad?


I'm just sorting through cheap cotton clothes for crying out loud! *sniffle sniffle*

And yet with each little t-shirt and pajama set I put into the donation pile, my heart sinks lower and lower.

This is good-bye. This is the end. This is where I have to acknowledge that every item represents a real, irretrievable, incontrovertible loss.

Of what, exactly, I'm not sure.

All I know is that it hurts like hell.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Momiversity: Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating

So I picked up this book because I was sick and tired of Judah's picky eating.

Ever since Judah was a 15 months old he would eat only a few "safe" foods. It was exhausting always preparing separate meals for the kid and the adults and never being able to eat in a restaurant or at a friend's home without always packing Judah's "safe" foods.

I always thought Judah would just "grow out of it". I mean, toddlers grow out of all kinds of stuff, right? You know that old saying - if you don't like how your toddler behaves, just wait awhile and it will change!

But when Judah was four, I realized, this is not really getting better. I was still hopeful that he would eventually turn into a "normal" adult on his own, but then I met this young man who told me he literally only ate a couple "safe" foods his entire life until he was POST-COLLEGE because he was an extreme picky eater.

Then the panic set in.

And the book reading commenced.

I chose this book because it was highly recommended on Amazon and it follows the basic tenets of Ellyn Satter, the Godmother of child feeding issues.

So here are my thoughts and summaries in no particular order:
--This book helped me realized I should be grateful cuz there are a LOT of kids out there who are wayyyyyyyyyyyyy pickier than Judah.

--This book spends 80% of its pages talking about what NOT to do (which is everything that I've been doing!)

--You should NOT make dessert conditional on eating a good meal first. You should let the kid have his dessert first if he wants. I'm sure this advice is totally supported by professionals everywhere, but honestly, I'm prob gonna ignore this advice cuz it's just not how our culture eats. It's just...too weird.

--You should never pressure your kids, either by making negative comments (shaming, disappointment, threats of punishment) OR by making positive comments (praising 'good eating'). I dunno, what's wrong with a little positive pressure? Isn't that called "encouragement"?

--You are in charge of WHAT is offered and WHEN it is offered. The kid is in charge of HOW MUCH he eats. Basically the age old adage - you can lead a toddler to broccoli, but you can't make him eat it.

--You should make mealtimes as pleasant as possible. Make it a time for family bonding. Eat at the table without distractions (electronic devices, toys, tv, etc.). Make it pleasant and free of pressure and anxiety.

--Always give them a "safe" food so there's always something on the table they can eat.

--You should always have a "spit out" napkin next to them at meal times so they can spit out whatever food they don't like on it discreetly and without it being a big deal. It's a safety blanket for them!

In a nutshell, this book was about trying to reduce anxiety and pressure surrounding meals as much as possible. The bottom line is pressure of any kind only BACKFIRES and makes your kid a worse eater in the end because of all the negativity surrounding the activity.

I think that's probably true for kids who are EXTREME extreme picky eaters. But I think Judah actually benefits from mild pressure...very, very mild.

One friend suggested I make a chart of foods Judah can try and each time he tries it, mark it off the chart. And keep doing it until Judah has tried it about 15 times since that's the average amount of time it takes for one's palate to accept a new taste.

I've tried that a few times, and I have to say, that bit of advice was more helpful than all 213 pages I've read of this book. Because of Judah's "I tried it chart" he now eats spaghetti WITH SAUCE and pizza WITH SAUCE and cheese quesadillas.

Which just goes to show, as with any parenting advice/book, you gotta know whether or not it applies to your child. I thought this book was going to give me lots of great advice like that, but it wasn't addressing my, apparently "run of the mill" picky kid. It was talking about the way extreme outliers, of which Judah is thankfully not one.

But the book did help me realize that I have to put in a LOT more thoughtfulness and planning into my meals than I currently do. I've been slacking.

I should be proactively trying to introduce new foods into Judah's diet instead of relying on the old standbys. I should be creatively thinking of how to "bridge" the old foods and the new foods by adding sauce here or a new ingredient there.

Instead, I've been just throwing something together at 6:05 pm when everyone's super cranky and hungry because dinner should have already happened at 6:00 pm.

Ugh. As someone who has never enjoyed cooking and domesticity, this is a huge challenge for me. But whatcha gonna do? Kid's gotta eat.

Yet another way in which motherhood is pushing me to do things I wouldn't otherwise do...sigh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Momiversity: A Mother's Reckoning

This week my kids are enrolled in a Summer camp program for 2.5 hours each morning. Hallelujah!

It's not actually enough time for me to drive home so I decided to just camp out at a nearby Starbucks and catch up on all the parenting books I never had time to read.

My classroom for this week.

And then I thought, I should blog about what I read cuz that greatly enhances my comprehension. And so I bring you this new series of blog entries: MOMIVERSITY

Today's book review is actually not one of typical parenting advice books - it's a memoir by arguably one of the most "failingest" moms in history (no, not me, surprise!) - Sue Klebold.

Remember the Columbine shootings? Sue's son, Dylan, was one of the two shooters. Sixteen years later she revisits every detail and reveals private moments and diary entries from her and Dylan's journals, trying to put the pieces together and answer the question - HOW?

How could I not have known what my son was planning?
Indeed, how could I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, not even a tiny hint?

And how could I resist such a juicy read? Part anti-parenting manual, part mystery novel, part horror show. Total catnip to me. And I devoured it. All 280 pages of it.

And in the end, after all that sturm und drang, I really can't say I came away with anything conclusive. Any real answers.

Sue talks about her deep guilt and regret. Her genuine befuddlement and lack of foreknowledge. Her happy home life. Her total lack of any kind of concern over Dylan whatsoever because he was her "sunshine boy," her easy child that never caused her any worries at all.

Even just 3 days before the shooting, Dylan went to his senior prom and had a really happy, jovial time just being a regular teen.

Is Sue just blinded by her need for self-justification or genuinely so obtuse and unaware that she lacks the psychological capacity to see the problems surrounding Dylan's upbringing?

I don't think so. It doesn't appear that Sue is any more obtuse or oblivious than the average, reasonably loving and attentive mom. In fact she seems more loving and attentive than average and in all respects, their home life was as good as anyone can hope to provide for their kids - good suburb, happy marriage, good friends from childhood through adolescence, etc.

So then how? How did this happen?

Sue's catchall answer is not that helpful - brain illness.

Brain illness is her adopted terminology for what the rest of the world still calls "mental illness." But because there is a stigma attached to "mental illness" she prefers to use the term "brain illness."

Dylan was suffering from suicidal thoughts as early as 2 years before his eventual death, as evidenced in his journals, which Sue read posthumously. He was deeply and madly in love with a girl at school that "didn't know he existed." He felt worthless and hopeless. An "unsalvagable" and summed his life up in these words "the most miserable existence in the history of the world."

But on top of his suicidal desires, was a psychopathic friend, Eric Harris, who tried to interest at least 2 other of his friends in a mass shooting at his school. No one took the bait, except Dylan.

Layered on top of this was a culture of extreme bullying at the high school. And Eric and Dylan being frequent targets of such bullying.

And there are all the pieces: suicidal intentions + psychopath best friend + steady diet of shame and humiliation + brain illness = mass murder / suicide.

Okay, fine, but how could she NOT have even a whiff of that? How could she have no inkling what was going on with her son?

This is the question that haunts me.

My parents had no idea how I thought or felt, but I always chalked that up to the fact that they weren't interested in my inner life. As long as I brought home good grades, that was all that mattered. But Sue Klebold was not an Asian immigrant parent - she cared deeply about her sons inner life, she was an artist herself and wanted nothing more than for her son to feel cared for and loved.

She talked to Dylan about all things, big and small. She asked how he felt about them. She did everything she could to nurture his inner life.

And yet she knew nothing.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Sue received many letters and a good proportion of them were from people who said essentially:

We don't blame you. My parents didn't know what I was going through as a teen. That I was raped / bullied / suicidal / etc. No one knew. I kept it a secret for years, decades.

And then I realized the chilling fact of the matter: there is a point when we as parents will no longer know what our kids don't want us to know about them. And that point probably comes sooner than we'd ever imagine.

One of Sue's journal entries was written in response to her reading about Dylan's suicidal thoughts for the first time: Dylan was so loved. But he did not feel loved...

Ultimately the question of "how" is still largely unanswered in my mind, but with the little light that has been shed, I am groping toward my own understanding of how to parent...and I'm realizing that parental love is not enough. Children need more from us than just love.

There is also the matter of Truth.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Art of the Deal: Kindergartener Edition

Yesterday we were at the discount bookstore and I had just checked out and put my wallet away when Judah spotted something he desperately wanted - a set of 4 button pins with Justice League symbols on them.

I gave him "the look" that I hoped would shut him down immediately, but he would not be dissuaded. And to be fair, he did have $2 of his own that he was free to spend on whatever he wanted. So he begged me - please Mommy, can you just tell me how much this is?

I asked the lady at the checkout counter to scan it and she told us it was $5. Sorry Judah, Way over your budget. Denied.

But he would not be dissuaded.

The guy actually asked if he could borrow money from me, like I'm some kind of revolving line of credit. Uh, no. Not until you have some kind of employment history, buster.

And then he got really creative.

How about I just give you $2 for two of them and you keep the other two?
Uh, no.
How about I give you $2 for two of them and Noah gets the other two?
Uh, no.
Wait, Noah, Noah, don't you want to buy these buttons with me?

Noah took one look at the buttons and immediately lusted after them. He loves all things Superman so he was in. He also had $2 to spend so between the two of them, they had almost enough to buy the buttons. I felt generous so I told them I would chip in the extra $1 if they pooled their money together.

Judah felt elated, except for one small problem.

They could not decide who would get which buttons.

They BOTH wanted the Batman/Superman hybrid button. And understandably, no one wanted the Wonder Woman symbol.

I was adamant, I was not going to buy the buttons if it was going to cause them to argue indefinitely.

Judah whispered and cajoled Noah until they both agreed - no more fighting over the button.

So who's going to get the Batman/Superman button? I asked.

No one, said Judah, we'll figure it out later.

Yeah, said Noah, we'll share it!

I knew that's just a recipe for a future headache, but they seemed so proud of figuring out a temporary working solution, I just didn't have the heart to press the matter.

I bought the buttons and for the rest of the day, the two brothers were happy as jaybirds.

Judah kept holding and swinging Noah's hand singing - We made a deal! We made a deal!

Images of my previous corporate law life flashed before me and I appreciated anew the art of the deal. If only every party felt the way Noah and Judah did after settling a tough agreement.

Of course, later in the day Noah became annoyed again that he wasn't getting the Batman/Superman button outright, but somehow Judah, with his snake oil salesman voodoo, whispered sweet nothings into Noah's ear and got him to agree to give up his coveted pin.

Noah settled for Superman and Wonder Woman.

And now I'm just a little bit afraid of Judah's powers over me and his brother.

The next day Judah told me he was in possession of all FOUR of the pins now. Apparently he had wheedled and dealed Noah into trading them all away...for much more inferior things.

That ol' son of a gun. I think I could actually learn a thing or two from him.