Ends and Beginnings

Out of nowhere, the three year old has abruptly started losing interest in nursing. I knew this would happen eventually – and he is right on track  – but he’s been so committed to it for so long that it was easy to forget that it would actually happen.

We night-weaned back in June. I went away for a few days, and when I came back, we decided that the night time nursing was done. It wasn’t hard. We were all ready. We get better sleep. It’s the best. Should we have done it earlier? Probably, but there were always excuses. I can’t regret what felt like a good choice, even if it wasn’t the best choice.

I’ve talked to lots of friends as their kids weaned. They talked about losing interest, getting distracted, nursing for short periods of time – or of just being done one day, with no warning. I knew materially what to expect, but I didn’t know what it would feel like, not really.

Three years and one month is a very long time. I feel extremely fortunate. So many friends have had a hard time of it, needed to stop before they wanted to, struggled with the realization that it just wasn’t going to work. It hasn’t always been easy, but compared to many, it has been effortless.

There have been windows of time when I felt like I was ready to be done, where the physical contact was just too much, where my nipples hurt, where I was just over being pawed at all the time. But there have never been windows of time when it felt like he was ready to be done – not until now, when there are as many nights that he doesn’t want milk as there are nights when he does, when I’ll ask and he’ll say “no, stories!” and snuggle up with his papa, leaving me to sit on the couch sort of blankly staring at my phone instead of holding my kid close.

He’s three. I knew this was coming. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a little wrecked by it.

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L at Three

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  1. I have to stop referring to him as “the toddler” since he clearly isn’t a toddler anymore. “The preschooler” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, especially since he’s not going to preschool. “The three year old” may just have to do.
  2. He loves dragons. And dinosaurs. And looking for Komodo dragons (“Komo drai”) in the forest. (Note that any arrangement of two or more trees constitutes a forest.) And peeking into holes in trees to look for a baby dragon’s nest. And reading books about dragons. And seeing dinosaurs and dragons at the zoo. And correcting us about dinosaur names. (There are soooooo many dinosaurs.)
  3. He is crazy good at jigsaw puzzles. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given his laser focus on his pattern blocks earlier in the year – he would literally spend the entire day precisely placing the blocks on the patterns or making patterns of his own – but at 3, he is doing puzzles that are supposed to be for kids aged 6+.
  4. He can consistently identify upper case letters and most lower case letters, though he gets turned around by the lowercase magnets for b/d, u/n, d/a, and h/n, all of which are pretty understandable. He likes to sing a version of the ABC song. He can also count to ten, thanks to a lot of practice with a homemade acorn game.
  5. He is absolutely spoiled with educational riches in our neighborhood and our city. They go to storytime at the Museum of Science and Industry (“robot museum”) and at the wonderful 57th Street Books (“bookstore”) every week. The staff at the Oriental Institute know him by name (and he knows about pharaohs, ankhs, and the lamassu). They regularly go to the Field (“dinosaur museum”) and the Shedd, and we like to make a weekend afternoon of a visit to the Nature Museum and North Pond, especially on Cold Blooded Weekends, when he can hold snakes and dragons on his lap thanks to the Chicago Herpetological Society.
  6. Our long national nightmare of broken sleep seems to finally have resolved itself, in part thanks to night weaning back in June. Naps remain a moving target – sometimes he naps, and sometimes he doesn’t, and sometimes that’s fine, and sometimes it’s terrible.
  7. His language and conversation skills have absolutely exploded. It’s wonderful and funny and also exhausting because now that he can actually communicate well, he never stops talking. When he notices us laughing at something he’s said, he will repeat it again (and again, and again) for even more laughs. He was absolutely delighted by us singing Happy Birthday to him, and has been singing it to himself at random moments for the last week.
  8. He has started to test boundaries and assert his will. Sometimes it’s funny:
    – I asked if he wanted to nurse before bed. He said “LISTEN! Numbers first.”
    – I was seasoning my food with soy sauce. He asked for “more sauce?” I pretended to season his food. He said “No! Lid off!” Busted!
    But a lot of times it isn’t:
    – He wants his independence while walking, but doesn’t always listen when approaching crosswalks. Or he will want to hold hands, but then go absolutely limp, making us stop multiple times in a block.
    – We took a little vacation for his birthday. He screamed and kicked in the car for an hour straight. We had multiple sidewalk conversations about how he needed to be quiet (or at least not screaming) and listen (because we were in a strange place) and not hurt people (no kicking, no hitting, no jerking on arms). And then he would do it all again, and then I would stop and talk to him again. “Do you remember what we talked about?” “Quiet, listen.” “What else?” “Don’t hurt Papa.” “OK, can we try again?” Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat until everyone is exhausted and in need of a pintje.
  9. He loves tofu and overnight oats and raisins and fruit and bread and tiny amounts of decaf coffee in a demitasse cup. He loves helping in the kitchen, and I’m learning to slow down and delegate tasks that are safe for small hands. We’ve done a little baking together recently – plum cake when plums appeared in our $1 bag from Open Produce, a banana cake for his birthday, topped with vegan dark chocolate ganache and rainbow sprinkles.
  10. He thrives in nature. He loves playgrounds, but he especially loves just playing outdoors – whether it’s walking his little wooden dog or collecting acorns for chipmunks (“make a little burrow” or foraging at the Garden of the Phoenix (“Japanese garden”, “See the waterfall?”). A summer full of outdoor play has made him healthy, adventurous, and strong.

So that’s three, or parts of it: delightful and exhausting, frustrating and hilarious. We’re constantly grateful and humbled by the work of parenting and the great gift of this little weirdo.

This Week’s Reads (March 3, 2017)

This Mom Got Real About The Struggles Of Modern Motherhood – Refinery29
I read this on a morning when we were up at 5:07am with a massive diaper leak that required 6am laundry, which required planting the toddler in front of Lost and Found for ten minutes so that I could also clean up the kitchen enough to make desperately needed coffee as soon as it was reasonable to run the coffee grinder. I hate, hate, hate planting him in front of the TV, even highly vetted super sweet content, because I have this expectation that I should be able to manage him and all of the other balls that are up in the air. This article was a gentle reminder that it isn’t actually necessary to do all of those things simultaneously all the time – but sometimes it IS necessary, and ten minutes of TV isn’t the end of the world it means that IN ten minutes, I’m able to be more sane and present with my child.

#68 Vampire Rules – Reply All
Reply All is a podcast about the internet, and things related to the internet, and things only tangentially related to the internet. I started listening a couple of weeks ago and am currently working my way backward through the archive. This episode had me laughing on my commute, and then laughing at previous laughs, and then laughing some more. In it, the hosts try to figure out the backstory behind a creepy photo discovered on Tinder, which leads to a conversation about what’s acceptable in other people’s spaces, which leads to yes/yes/no, a feature in which the hosts challenge each others’ understanding of internet culture.

If you want to dip your toe into this podcast, may I also recommend #79 Boy in the Photo, which features the most amazing trolling that isn’t even remotely hateful, unlike most of the other trolling these days.

“We cannot find the bill”: inside the frantic hunt for the GOP Obamacare replacement – Vox
In case you needed another reminder that the leadership of our country is 100% cuckoo bananas.

“Many Fathers Exhaled in Relief”

Dads, Who Are Parents, Do Not Deserve Praise for Parenting While Moms Marched – Slate

Shame on The New York Times for their “coverage” of the difficulties faced by men whose partners participated in the Marches last weekend.

I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have a stay-at-home partner who takes care of our child while I go to work (which, of course, makes it possible for him to be home). I am grateful that his willingness (and inclination) to stay home also makes it possible for me to do things like train for a marathon, travel for my own professional development, and participate in our democracy by attending events like Saturday’s March in Atlanta.

As much as I’ve always wanted children, once I had the opportunity to really have a career – not just a job- I knew that my one-time dream of staying at home didn’t align with my new reality, and not just for financial reasons. Being a stay-at-home parent, particularly of a demanding toddler, is a hard job, and it is not a job that I’m cut out for – another reason that I’m grateful, because my partner’s inclination to stay home meant that starting a family was possible for us.

Families like ours are becoming more common, but they’re still not the norm – as this article from the NYT demonstrates. I want my partner to be praised for his parenting, not because he is a man “stepping up” to take care of his child. I want my partner to be recognized for the hard, dirty work of childcare because it is hard and dirty, not because he dealt with the occasional nasty tantrum or diaper in public.  I want my partner to be respected for the things he uniquely contributes to our child’s life, not because he contributes.

I want this not just because I am grateful for my partner and the arrangements that make our family and our lives work – I want this because we are raising a son who may be a father some day, and who needs to understand that parity in the home goes hand-and-glove with equality in the workplace and in the world.

I want to talk about this first.

I ran my first marathon yesterday. And I want to tell you about it, but I want to talk about this first.

I took this photo because I liked my pre-race layers – the Divvy shirt was going to be tossed before the race started – but when I looked at the photo on my phone, I wasn’t happy with it because I didn’t like how my belly looked.

Let that sink in for a minute. I was an hour away from the start of my first marathon, an accomplishment preceded by months of training and hundreds of miles logged on calloused feet and strong legs, all of which was done while working full time and with a toddler who still nurses nearly as much as he did at 9 months. And in that moment, I was upset at the shape of my belly.

I don’t remember when I first internalized that I was bigger, or that my weight was something I needed to be concerned about. Certainly by the time I was 12-13, I believed it to be true. I don’t know when I started understanding that my body had value, or that the value of my body to some might exceed the value of the heart and mind that it contained. But there were certainly long years where that felt true, and unlearning that truth was costly.

Whenever I run a race and see little girls watching and cheering, I think about how important it is for girls in particular to see women of all shapes and sizes doing hard and amazing things that aren’t limited to the traditional confines of gender. Every time I accept a high five from a little girl on the course, I hope that it’s a meaningful moment for her, that my imperfect body will be added to the many many messages she’ll receive about who and what she can be, that she’ll understand that she doesn’t have to have a perfect body to be amazing.

On Being

Come on, baby. Please turn. 15/#100daystobaby

I found this photo from the late days of my pregnancy this afternoon while looking for something else entirely. I was so big, and so tired, and so ready to be done being pregnant, and so scared about what would happen if all of the ridiculous things we were trying didn’t result in the baby turning around. They didn’t work, and he didn’t turn, and I had a surgery that I didn’t want, but everyone was just fine in the end.

On my way to the gym the other day, I passed a young girl with a huge dangly front tooth, and then I realized that my little son would one day lose his front teeth, and that realization made me want to cry because growing those teeth has been so agonizing – so much pain that he doesn’t understand, so many long feverish nights of tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable because bones are poking their way through his tender new gums. And for what? So that he can lose them all and start over?

And then yesterday, I was in the car in the early morning and so caught the beginning of a rebroadcast interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, where he said:

I could not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I could not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And the kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and compassion, and, therefore, suffering should exist.

And it made me realize, again and again, that these are the pieces of our lives that make us human: the fear of the unknown that turns out to be not so scary, the inexplicable pain (physical and otherwise) that comes from growing, the extraordinary experience of releasing your heart outside your body that helps you understand how to love the world.