Everything We Do Is Wrong

Everything We Do Is Wrong Blog Post W Sitting Picture

W-Sitting

My four year old, Dylan, was quietly playing with some toys on the floor and I relished a few peaceful moments before the baby was due to wake… until I realised from what I was reading on my phone that Dylan was sitting wrong. Yes – you read it correctly. Sitting wrong.

Courtesy of my social media feed I had fallen into an alarming article and discovered that you can actually SIT WRONG. So my four year old is safe, happy and quiet, but now I feel like I have to interrupt him to coach him to sit correctly.

Dylan was sitting with his bottom between his legs with his knees and feet on the floor with the feet pointing outward – what I have learnt now is called ‘W-Sitting’. Apparently ‘W-Sitting’ impacts on development of the pelvis or knee joints or whether my child will become president of the world or something. So now I need to WORRY about it.

 

Right to Wrong

Not only are there are things I discover out of the blue that are wrong, but even things I think are right are can be considered wrong.

I happily washed my baby’s hair most nights…until I read that it is not good to do it every night and I should restrict it to once a week at the most. Their tiny scalps are very sensitive and too much chemicals and rubbing can damage them or something like that. Gah.

I still do make the bed every morning but now I know that millions of tiny dust mites are thriving in the dark recesses of my tidily made bed and are feeding off my dead skin cells and sweat and potentially contributing to asthma and allergy problems. Although I have discovered in the past few months that an unmade bed exposes the mites to light and will help to kill them, I still cannot leave the covers down each day. I have instead learnt to feel bad about making the bed each day – something I used to feel good about.

I even discovered watching a TED talk that using a car seat for my little one could make little difference in the event of a serious accident. So something that I think I am doing completely right – and still believe is mandatory at all times – can still be considered ‘wrong’ by someone somewhere.

 

Wrong to Right

To counter all this, I have discovered a few things that I used to feel bad about can be considered acceptable. For example, I read that crying is can be considered to be good for babies as it helps their lungs develop. I am of course not advocating leaving your baby to cry for hours, but if you are in the middle of some ablutions and cannot attend to your darling for a few minutes, now you can think – ‘At least his lungs are forming better’. Good for you.

And I found out from my dental hygienist that it is perfectly okay for my baby or toddler to chew on their toothbrush and not look like they are in any way making a sophisticated attempt to brush their teeth. Apparently chewing on their toothbrush massages the teeth and gums plus it gets the child used to the feel of the toothbrush and into the habit of brushing their teeth which is really the important focus at a very young age.

Pick Your Wrong

Of course, one way to fix this is to never read anything on parenting ever again. The information age obviously has a lot to answer for. But I like reading and will continue with it regardless. So what are the alternatives?

Maybe all we need to do is realise that, as parents, we will be told we are wrong no matter what we do. So we need to pick what we care about and what we don’t. Pick your wrong. I for one will put up my hand to admit that I have never, ever flossed my kids’ teeth. After all, if we did everything we were supposed to do as a parent we would never leave the house.

Also know that if we worry about this stuff all we are doing is stressing ourselves out which is not good for anyone concerned. We feel guilty which is the most useless of all emotions. Guilty for what – caring too much?

 

The Flip Side

If we are getting down to this type of trivial stuff, these minutiae of parenting, then we really must be doing all the important stuff RIGHT. Let us not worry about W-sitting, making beds or chewing on toothbrushes.

Our kids have food in their tummies, a roof over their heads and they know they are loved – unheard of luxuries for far too many children in the world.

You read this stuff because you want to parent in the best way possible. You feel bad sometimes because you care. And you constantly want to do right because you love your child so much it is ridiculous.

And all that love and kindness simply cannot be wrong.

 

References

W-Sitting – http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/6827294/If-you-see-your-child-sitting-like-this-this-is-why-you-should-stop-them.html

 

Washing baby hair – http://www.motherforlife.com/baby/0-12-months/baby-care/bath/7836-should-our-kids-take-a-bath-every-day.thtml

 

Making bed – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/make-your-bed-dust-mites_us_5601809ce4b08820d91a3e8f

 

Car seats – https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_levitt_on_child_carseats?language=en

 

Crying – http://www.thehealthsite.com/pregnancy/5-reasons-why-crying-is-actually-good-for-your-baby-d114/

 

Child teeth – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/dentalhealth/Pages/Careofkidsteeth.aspx

Everything We Do Is Wrong - Dylan in Bath Photo

 

All I Want For Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Blog Post - Eloise and Santa

Santa’s Lap

We took our seven-month-old baby daughter, Eloise, to visit Santa the other day. Santa, astutely, summed up the situation as a photo opportunity and so didn’t bother with the pleasantries of asking the baby what she wanted for Christmas.

After we left Santa’s air-conditioned grotto, I realised I lost my opportunity to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. If he wasn’t going to ask the baby, then to get our full money’s worth during the Santa visit experience, someone should be asked. There is probably some health and safety regulation that restricts grown-ups from actually sitting on Santa’s lap, but just thinking about it made me wonder what do I want for Christmas?

I guess at the time all I wanted was a lovely photo of Eloise and Santa that I could plaster all over social media and get ‘oh cute’ comments back. But now I have had my Facebook dopamine fix I wish I had thrown caution to the wind and clambered onto Santa’s lap. Instead, I have done the next best thing and prepared a list. I have had it on good authority that Santa occasionally reads my blog (if only to get tips on keeping the elves in order).

 

Say YES to LESS

Children are easily able to launch into a myriad of materialistic wants and desires. A bike, no TWO bikes in red AND blue, a trampoline, enough Lego to build a bridge to the moon. Us grown-ups are far more humble in our requests.

I know I do not need more stuff. I have plenty of everything. I have said it before but I am beyond blessed with my first world existence. What started as a humble notion of wanting less, not more, has become even more appealing as I realise how far-reaching the idea can be.

I want less mental stress, less notifications, less news drivel. I would very much like less Kardashian. I am not advocating exterminating the family, but a day or two off from their constant penetration into my cultural awareness would be nice.

 

The Intangibles

Saying YES to LESS is quite easy, and to be frank, a bit of a cop out, I mean everyone wants less Kardashian don’t they? I now realise I was focusing on the ‘less’ because what I really want for Christmas is nebulous and hard to explain.

What I would like is a chance to simply finish something. I want to feel like I have accomplished something from beginning to end, without interruption. This can include all sorts of things such as the TED talk I am currently trying to watch, the hot cup of strawberry and rhubarb tea that I have put down somewhere, or this blog post. If you are reading this, I succeeded in completing at least one out of these three things.

I would love to spend more quality time with my children, with my husband and by myself. I don’t know how to reconcile these ambitious wishes AND still have time in the day to brush my teeth.

I want to feel, even fleetingly, some Christmas magic. You know the feeling – that one we all strive for at this time of year. I lost it for a long time after four consecutive years working behind the perfume counter at a major department store during the festive season. Over the past few years it has found its way back, albeit in an ephemeral fashion. Sometimes it arrives in look of an exquisitely wrapped gift or in the smile on Dylan’s face when he spots festive lights. Luckily, there is one guaranteed way of attaining it and that, of course is with the mandatory annual viewing of ‘Love Actually’.

 

Topsy-Turvy

But if I have to narrow it down to one thing, what I would like more than anything else is to know how to explain this topsy-turvy world to my children.

How can a 15 second video of rat transporting a slice of pizza down some stairs get over 8.5 million views and be the most sort after Halloween costume of 2015, yet human slavery be a bigger problem than it was 150 years ago?

How can it be possible to order a burger via emoji but there not be safe, clean drinking water available for everyone?

What sort of world do we live in where news coverage centres on 20-year-old Kendall Jenner celebrating 40 million Instagram followers by exposing her nipple instead of the largest diaspora of Middle Eastern and African people since ancient time?

Phew.

Poor Santa.

 

Baby Wishes

No wonder Santa doesn’t ask grown-ups like me what we want. He would be stuck with a long queue of grisling children and a leg that has gone to sleep by the time I am finished talking about ‘pizza rat’ and the refugee crisis.

Perhaps he should have asked Eloise what she would like for Christmas after all. Maybe if we all think about what a baby would like things again become simple and clear-cut. I am pretty sure Eloise would be more than content with lots of hugs, kisses and laughter, plus a warm home, something nom-nom to eat, and of course, plenty of wrapping paper to rip and loll around on.

Mmmm, sounds perfect. In fact, that is all I want for Christmas after all. Well that and to watch ‘Love Actually’.

Festive greetings to you all. Love Julie, Andrew, Dylan and Eloise.

 

References

Pizza Rat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPXUG8q4jKU

 

Burgers by emoji: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-08/27/burger-burger-london

 

Kendall Jenner on Instagram: http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/kendall-jenner-exposes-nipple-raunchy-6771235

 

Human slavery: http://www.alternet.org/story/142171/there_are_more_slaves_today_than_at_any_time_in_human_history

 

Clean drinking water: http://internationalreportingproject.org/stories/view/is-it-possible-to-access-clean-water-using-your-cell-phone

 

Refugee crisis: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-middle-east-diaspora-descends-on-europe-1440975497

 

All I Want for Christmas - Xmas Unicorn

When Are You Having Your Second?

When Are You Having Your Second? - Funny Cartoon

and A

Now Dylan is over a year old I get asked questions like “when are you having your second?”, or “have you thought about a little brother or sister for Dylan?” or “ when is number two coming along?” This means essentially people are asking about my sex life, something I would keep private, thank you very much.

I sometimes even get told “you are not getting any younger, better get on with it if you want more children”. I guess they are referring to my biological clock ticking rather than the fact that I am decrepit old hag, but hearing words to that affect does not make me feel like a sexy woman in the mood for baby-making.

What I usually say back is something brief like, “Dylan is only one, plenty of time yet” or “I’ve just started back at work, I am not thinking about it right now” or even more flippant “I quite enjoy wine and sushi and don’t want to give either up at the present time”. But what I really want to say is quite different.

Why Have Children?
I guess I have brought this on myself. I have always said I would have kids. Plural. I even bought a pram that converted to two sitting areas. Not many people go around saying they are planning one child. You always say children. But why have we all thought this?

Is it an evolutionary need to procreate? Or are you just expected by society to get married and have children? I could spend the rest of my time reviewing the nature versus nurture debate on where the desire for children comes from, but my point is, do not for a minute be fooled into thinking that our collective desire for children has come from some rational and independent mode of thinking.

The Many ‘Reasons’ to Have a Second Child
Now when I look at it logically, every single reason to convince me to have a second child is, quite frankly, bollocks. Is this really the best you can come up with to persuade me to bring a child into this world, to nurture a human being for the rest of my life? Here are some reasons and my responses to them:

Reason Response
An only child is selfish/ weird/ insert negative adjective here This is an untrue and harmful stereotype
Having two children means they can amuse each other Well not in the first few months and then when they are older how long will it be before they start to fight over a toy or game and you have to intercede? See below.
Siblings have a special bond and it is not good to deny Dylan of that I am not sure about others, but most of my childhood I remember my sister and I pinching each other, pulling hair, biting and hitting whenever our parents weren’t looking. We loved each other and also wanted to fight all the time.   I think having a sibling teaches you humility and how to defend yourself more than anything else.

Two Darn Good Reasons Not To
The reasons not to have another child seem a lot more compelling to me right now.

Firstly, I have one happy, healthy, amazing little boy. He makes me laugh every day. I have a cosy little home, a devoted husband and a relatively balanced routine around work and family. I have it ALL. I am extremely grateful to even be in the position I am in and to even (hopefully) have the choice of a second child. I have a number of friends dealing with fertility issues who may be unable to even have one. Heck, there are entire societies in the world that are restricted with this type of choice. I already have more abundance than most people could hope for in a lifetime, so why spoil it?

The second reason is almost the flip side of the coin to the first. Really, when it comes down to it I am not sure if I can go through it all again. I had a pretty good pregnancy, but I am still not sure if I am ready for feeling nauseous, the overwhelming fatigue, ridiculously painful calf-muscle cramps that rip you out of your sleep at night, and ankles so swollen that towards the end of my pregnancy I could only wear slippers. Although my labour was considered relatively straightforward, it was not exactly the most pleasant few hours of my life. And then those newborn days – the lack of sleep, crying and constant hunger (and that was just me).

How do I face it all over again, and this time with a loud active little boy? What if my pregnancy is worse? How do I run after a toddler at 8 months pregnant? When will I be able to nap? How do I get a newborn to sleep with a toddler yelling? Everyone says having two is exponentially harder than one, so how will I cope?

What I Really Want to Say
Think about what you are really saying when you are asking me whether I have thought about having a second child. What you are asking me is this: have I thought about possibly the biggest decision of my life so far? Have I thought about changing my body, changing my family dynamic, changing my career prospects, possibly moving house, going through labour again and how two children will impact on my finances from now until I die?

What I want to say to you is this – I think about having another child every single day. And thinking does not help in the slightest.

So please STOP for a minute. Giving me ‘good’ reasons or putting pressure on me to have another slice of cake will probably work, but we are talking about choosing to have another child here.

I have been on the biggest rollercoaster of my life over the past year and I am not sure I want to get on the ride again, at least not right now. I need some space, I need to breathe. I don’t need to think, I need to feel. I need to feel hungry for this next slice of cake. I need to find the desire to bring another human into this world.

I have been assured that this feeling will magically strike, probably in the near future, so right now I am going to have a glass of wine, relax and read a book. And in the meantime, go on, ask me when I am having my second child – I dare you.

When are You Having Your Second? - White Wine Picture

 

Don’t Diss The Daddy

Don't Diss the Daddy Blog Post - Dylan and Daddy 2013-1

The Two Stereotypes

Primarily, there seems to be two portrayals of Kiwi Dads in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. The first type is related to the atrocious news stories of family violence and child abuse. It is often a male known to the child that has some involvement in the abuse. I guess the coverage creates drivers for change, hopefully for the better. What I don’t like is that this image of the violent father/ step-father/ partner is the one that dominates the media.

The alternative to this image is the condescending representation of Dads as bumbling but loveable idiots. There is a subtle but underlying current of disrespect to Dads. The jokes about how Mum know every single tiny thing about their child down to their favourite food, colour and cartoon character and Dad is vaguely aware of some little thing roaming around the house. The tales about leaving the baby with the Dad only to find they have propped them next to them on the couch while they watch the game. Yes I know it is nowhere near as bad as the violent and abusive image, but it is still insulting, even hurtful.

 

All the World’s a Stage

So we have a sort of Shakespearian view of Dads as either the villain or the fool. The vast majority of Dads I know do not fall into either of these two categories. Shakespeare had another main character type – the hero. In this context, the hero is fairly dull and ordinary, but you have to admit that Dads do deserve a bit more credit than they are currently getting.

My husband is one the millions of men out there who just get on with the business of being a husband, of being a Daddy. He cooks, cleans, sorts the rubbish, mows the lawn, bathes the child most nights, changes nappies and works full-time. I am especially appreciative that he has taken on the role of chief nail technician for our baby. Most of the time he does these things without prompting and in a reasonable manner. Yes I can still get annoyed that dinner is stir-fry again or it is at 9pm again, or that he put the baby clothes away in the wrong drawers. But overall, he does a brilliant job.

 

Trains of Thought

Right now you are in in two trains of thought. You are either thinking, well where is my thanks? Where is the gratitude for everything I do? And I completely agree that Mummies need appreciation too. It is just that I think overall we get a fair and reasonable portrayal in a social setting. We are known to be responsible and caring for the most part. This is not true for Dads right now. Anyway, I don’t know about you but even if every single person on this planet came up to me and thanked me for pushing that baby out of me I am not sure it would be enough!

Or you are thinking, but my husband/ partner/ baby-daddy doesn’t do half what you say your husband does. I think the stereotype of the useless Dad is actually spot-on in my household. Well here is the hard truth that you may not want to hear: YOU are part of the problem.

 

Asking is not Nagging

I have a very simple solution to the Mummies that fall into this camp – just ASK. Yes that is all there is to it. If your partner comes home late, ask him to be on time the next day. If he gets home at the end of a long day at work and turns on the TV and that bothers you then ask him to turn it off and bathe the child or start cooking dinner. If you are breastfeeding and want him to bring you a glass of water or give you a little massage, just ask.

There are a few things to take note of. Firstly, ask in a straightforward way. Say ‘Would you empty the dishwasher (now) please?’. Do not say ‘The dishes are piling up and the kitchen is a mess’. This is a statement, not a request.

You have to be prepared to accept any response you get from your partner.   He may say ‘OK’ (awesome!). He may say ‘No’. Well you did your bit and asked and even if he says no 19 out of 20 times, which of course is unlikely, at least you get a 5% improvement (well it is better than zero). He may do the ‘man grumbles’ and not give a definite response but in my experience this usually means he will do it, just maybe in his own time. Do not say anything more; just trust that it will be done. A friend of mine asks her husband once and then writes the bigger around-the-house jobs down on a whiteboard in the kitchen.

Also, if he does the job you asked him to do but not how you would do it then you have to decide whether you really want to go down the track of showing him the ‘right’ way. But pick your battles as this may lead to you doing the job yourself in the future. Maybe using sensitive washing powder is really important but putting baby clothes away in the wrong drawers is not as critical. I have found you can usually tell people what to do OR how to do it but not both.

After all you didn’t fall in love with your man and decide to have a child with him because they were exactly like you. That would be boring (and a little creepy). Embrace your differences. As I learnt on Contiki when faced with 16 countries in 29 days – it is not wrong, it is just different.

 

Martyr Mothers

So now you are thinking, why should I have to ask? He should just know how much energy and time it takes to run a household with a baby. My life has changed drastically, his should as well. We are both adults here, can’t he think about picking up a dishcloth himself? Well, one response to that is something I read that said that if the mum is at home and the Dad goes to work full-time that on average a woman spends 16 hours a day with the baby and the man spends less than one. If the tables were turned would you know what needs to be done and the best way to do it? Probably not.

And my other answer to that is just don’t ask that question. Just accept that asking for help is better than not asking. Do you really want to be a ‘martyr-mother’? Trying to out do each other at coffee group with tales of the minimal sleep and the loads and loads of washing you have helps no one. Think of it as good practice for when kids are older and you want their help with chores. Do you still want to do the entire household’s cleaning and washing when they are teenagers?

And guess what is the best thing? Men actually like doing stuff for you.

 

Thank You

I often get asked how I have time to write a blog and I would like to think it is my sensational time management. But about 95% of the reason rests firmly with my amazing husband. So thank you Andrew for being there for me, for being an incredible Daddy to our son Dylan and for being you, man grumbles and all. You are my unsung hero.

Don't Diss the Daddy Blog Post - PawsUpforDad