Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Little Helper

Whether it’s your first or your fourth, the addition of a new baby can be tough on everyone in your family. After my first child, I was more than a little overwhelmed. But I eventually became adept at balancing time for showers, workouts and even the occasional glass of wine with caring for my little girl.

However, no sooner than I’d let out my first post partum exhale, we learned that number two was on the way. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a complete basket case when I saw that positive pregnancy test. I’d just gotten back to a somewhat normal sleeping schedule and a comfortable body weight. There was no way I wanted to go back to waking for late-night feedings again.

I knew my husband and I would have to make some adjustments, but I was even more worried about how my now almost two-year-old daughter would handle assuming the role of big sister. Everything I’d read said that many kids have a difficult time adjusting to sharing mom and dad with a new baby. I could potentially have to endure some serious back sliding – everything from terrible temper tantrums to a desire to nurse again. So I put off potty training, moving to a toddler bed and anything else I thought might make her think the new baby was somehow taking her place. Believe it or not, I even tried to rush my labor along to make sure baby brother was born before 7:00 am so we didn’t have to miss our regular breakfast together.

But to my surprise, my little girl has been an incredibly good sport about the whole thing. My daughter is incredibly protective of her little brother. She dotes on him constantly, never missing an opportunity to rub his head or give him a tender kiss on the cheek. When he cries, she is the first to let me know that “Baby crying,” and urges me to spring into Mommy action as quickly as possible. She watches attentively at the pediatrician’s office to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. And she’ll tell anyone who will listen that Aiden is “her baby.”

Somehow, she even manages to find a way to be there for me. She sees that the added responsibility of a newborn has taken its toll on me these past two months. She knows that sleep deprivation sometimes causes me to be less than my usual perky self, and does her best to cheer me up with a silly dance or a funny expression. And when I dropped the Eggplant Parmesan that took me over an hour to make while rocking the baby with one foot, she stroked my hair while I balled uncontrollably on the kitchen floor. I had no idea that my two-year-old would be more ready for a new baby than me. But it definitely makes her occasional meltdowns easier to deal with knowing that I’ll need her to be there for me when her brother poos on my favorite dress.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Did I Create A Monster - Literally?

This week, I left my local library feeling frustrated and embarrassed after my daughter had yet another public meltdown. For my part, I did everything right – from scheduling our trip after a 90-minute nap, to leaving her little brother at home for a rare mommy-daughter only outing. But when she discovered the line of toddlers waiting to play her favorite Elmo game on the library’s computers, she erupted into a full-blown fit of rage that would have made Teresa Guidice blush. She left me with no choice but to drag her home kicking and screaming. Somehow, she’d already forgotten the talk we’d had the day before about how acting out in public would guarantee her a one-way ticket to her bedroom. Something happened to my daughter around her second birthday. No longer was she my sweet, loveable travel companion who would go anywhere with me as long as I had plenty of juice and snacks. She’d somehow transformed into a miniature monster capable of mass destruction. From combing her hair to getting in the stroller, leaving the house is a battle of wills. And once we’re outside, I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best. Before I became a mom, I was hypersensitive to other little maniacs. I noticed them everywhere – on planes, in restaurants and at the grocery store. I rolled my eyes at the parents who seemed to be completely lax in their jobs as disciplinarians. How in the world could these people allow their children to act that way in public? Now that the tables have turned, I have the answer to my own question. I’m certain that my daughter goes out of her way to embarrass me at the worst possible times, and sometimes all I can do is sit back and watch. I grew up with the fear that a severe spanking was imminent if I disobeyed my parents. All I had to do was look at my younger brothers who were rubbing their sore bottoms with regret to know that the threat was real. I did my best to avoid my daddy’s wrath. But today it seems that spanking is no longer an acceptable form of punishment. The experts encourage us to talk things out and use techniques like time out instead. I’d rather not have to beat my kids into submission, but as a black girl from the South Side of Chicago, the concept of time out is completely foreign. When my two-year-old is in the middle of a crazy screaming fit, it can be very difficult to keep a cool head. And as hard as I try to talk things out, sometimes I think a quick swat on the butt seems a whole lot easier than trying to explain why jumping on the bed is dangerous for the ninety-ninth time. So do I continue to let her laugh defiantly when I put her in the corner for drawing on the sofa? Or do I smack her hand and hope it stings enough to stop her from wanting to do it again? I never imagined discipline would be this hard, but I’m sure we’ll be spending the next 18 years trying to figure it all out!