Archive for the ‘Alden’ Category

Deciding to Have a Second Baby

I wanted to be a mother because I felt like a child would make me the best possible version of myself.

The decision to have a second seemed much more academic, and we couldn’t get off the fence for a long time. Then, as often is true, emotional events swept all logic off the table. I found myself facing down a devastating family event without the support of a sibling. Damon was an absolute hero, but he could only walk up to the periphery. He couldn’t be fully in it with me. It wasn’t his family.

We couldn’t tolerate the thought of Alden in that position, and so the decision was made.

When Alden was an only child everything about our relationship felt unique, special, amazing. It wasn’t being close to A baby, it was being close to THIS baby. I knew how fast he breathed, how much he blinked. I could count the flecks of yellow in his iris. I didn’t want anyone to come between us.

I don’t know what I’m missing, but I do know what I got. Everything that is writ large about motherhood for me is the same with both boys; but the intricate, tiny details are specific to each kid. I can have eloquent, silent conversations with each of them, and that shows me that exquisite connection can be had with more than one child.

I now see that having a brother can help the boys be the best possible versions of themselves, too. I will never know who I would be as a sister, but they at least have the opportunity to be awesome brothers.

Which is not to say they always take advantage of that opportunity. We just returned from a vacation that left me wondering if anyone would notice two more children added to It’s a Small World. Which brings me to the part of having two that I did not adequately anticipate. Having two is so much harder than having one. It’s going from having one small, charming sidekick to having fifteen rabid monkeys living in your house. Or so it often feels. The competition. The fighting. Think two little kids can’t find a difference between two identical Bone Shaker monster truck toys? Think again. “He’s got it” is enough of a reason to prefer the other one.

I would guess that a one-child household has a lot less headbutting.

Still. When I ask Alden whether he wants Elliot in his preschool class he always insists that his brother stay with him. “He’s my friend.” They may slap fight until I want to go into the Witness Protection Program, but heaven help the person who threatens Elli in front of Alden, and that goes for the nurse who is trying to get a vaccine into Elliot’s fat thigh. Bet she didn’t see that waist-level attack coming. Any time Elliot gets loved on, his first questions is “Alden’s turn?” and he never had two mini marshmallows he wasn’t willing to split.

Goodbye to the Baby

Pre-Alden, when I just could not get pregnant, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of motherhood. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I would work hard to do it well. I believed that, overall, it would be worth it to me. I wanted a baby. I couldn’t get pregnant. We tried to adopt. That failed. I went back to trying to get pregnant. It hurt, but I don’t think it’s the rosy mists of time causing me to minimize that when I say that I don’t think I suffered as badly as some women do. For me (for me!) adoption was a fine solution and so, some day, some way, I could be a mother.

I had a clear-eyed view that not all mother/child bonds erupt with ferocious love the minute the baby makes the scene. I said we’d just see how it goes. I asked Damon to be mindful for signs of post-partum depression. I was eager, but not ecstatic.

Then John Alden arrived and I was every cliche of maternal joy. I would stare at him, fascinated, not counting the time. I laid in the hospital bed with him that first night, and I could feel the world turning. Struggling to describe it, I could only say that he rearranged my atoms and made me into something new.

I flipping love having a baby. I love having one around. I love actually, physically having one. (I got off so, so easy — very talented pelvis.) I would walk barefoot over glass to experience those first 30 seconds of my babies’ arrival into the world — over and over.

Fortune smiled and we had Elliot. The peerless, beautiful experience I had with Alden… totally matched. He came into the world serenely, joyfully and I was so happy that I might have collapsed on myself like a star burning out.

I am so fortunate.

I could, theoretically, have another baby. I’m 40, though. Still so sad from losing my father (and my stepdad before him), I am acutely sensitive to protecting the time my children have to be mothered. Also, if I can be mundane for a minute: I don’t like being pregnant, I don’t think my body would recover very well, the demands may tip me beyond the ability to do my job (which pays our mortgage) well, I have been nursing now for more than four years and am not eager to sign up for a multi-year extention, I like having at least a tiny bit of money, I don’t want to buy a minivan, what if I don’t have a girl, what if I have a girl?

So. I think I am finished.

I never saw it coming that grieving this would be so much harder for me than facing the idea of never having a baby in the first place.

Get It?

Lemon’s account of her kids’ jokes made me wonder if I could teach one to Alden.

Jillian: Hey Alden, why did the lion spit out the clown?
Alden: I don’t know.
Jillian: Ask my why.
Alden: Why?
Jillian: Because he tasted funny!

Then I told him to tell it back to me.

Alden: Mommy, why did the lion spit out the monkey?
Jillian: Why?
Alden: Because he was hurting the monkey [sad face]

Alden, monkey fan

Required Reading for a 3-Year-Old

I need some new books for Alden.

He’s never been a big fan of reading, much preferring his cars, swords, and “punch whacking” to anything stationary. Before I had him I’d have told you that would break my heart. Now, though, I enjoy his go-go energy and I get a lot of joy from whatever it is that pleases him. Although I really could do with less punch whacking.

I now know I can enjoy my little ruffian with no sense of loss for the nerdy reader. So maybe we’re demonstrating that if you “just relax” you’ll get what you want (Holla fellow infertiles!). Whatever it is, things have shifted lately. In addition to our nightly bedtime-stalling books Alden has started, occasionally, pulling out his little library at other times. You better believe I’ll let that spaghetti overcook if he wants another round of Goodnight Gorilla. So maybe I still care a little bit.

Since this is new to us I don’t have a great sense of what kid lit gems are out there.

His favorites right now are the aforementioned Goodnight Gorilla, When a Monster Is Born, Courderoy, Thomas and the Something Something Mine, Monster Night at Grandma’s House, and 101 Dalmations. For the Thomas book I skip as much as he’ll let me get away with, because it is B-O-R-I-N-G. For the last two I make up the story and we just look at the pictures.

Which leads me to an important point: Nothing scary. Alden got the real 101 Dalmations once and was HORRIFIED at Cruella’s puppy coat scheme. He does not like anything that threatens or even implies real harm. Not even to bad guys. I am happy to protect his tender version of reality for as long as he prefers it that way. Heck, I prefer it that way.

Fake harm, though, is our sweet spot. Slapstick. Characters falling into swimming pools, bushes, mud puddles or any other mischief are fantastic. Clifford broke the barn? Awesome! In general, animals (and monsters) are more interesting than people. Isn’t that the truth?

Winnie the Pooh is a no-brainer, and he’s already in my Amazon cart. So is Where the Wild Things Are. The Disney oeuvre in general is too scary. Alden is, after all, still asking “Why that mommy would put her baby in a tree?” after they learned some simple songs one day in preschool.

What else? What are the best books for a 3-year-old?

Parenting Tip: Lies and Trickery

Alden is recovering from bronchitis. Night after night he was coughing himself awake. He coughed until he barfed on the floor at Shoney’s. That situation cannot stand.

Alden won’t eat food. So medicine… unlikely. But I really needed him to take it. I heard myself say, “Alden if you don’t take this medicine I’m going to have to hold you down and force you.”

I think that when you’re threatening to pin your child down and choke the medicine into him, it might be a good time to reevaluate the plan.

I looked right into this innocent little face.

And I lied. I told him the medicine is full of ferocious little guys who are going to run through his body chasing down cough germs and spank their butts. (He’s awfully interested in butt spanking for a kid whose own tuchus is pristine.) I held up the bottle and pretended I could see them. Then he could see them too. He sucked down the syrup and we talked about how many butts were getting spanked RIGHT THAT MINUTE.

Lesson learned: The more ridiculous the lie, the more likely my three-year-old will believe it.

Bonus lesson: Extend that precious precious toddler nap by waiting until he falls asleep and then filling his bed with a million Hot Wheels. He’ll forget to bug you for at least 15 minutes after he wakes up.

Parenting Tip: Sing the Standards

I do not claim to provide real, functional parenting tips. But I do notice a few handy things along the way, and I’m happy to share.

Example: How I got my 3-year-old son to drink milk.
I put it in his coffee. Really.
Now, his coffee is 90% milk and 10% coffee. And that comes in a very tiny cup. (Defensive much?) But he goes to preschool with coffee breath. Because I am tired.

I don’t have an opinion on whether you should red shirt your kid or if you’re over-concerned about “Stranger Danger.” I do, however, know that if you have an under-five you need to put some effort into teaching him (or her) a few old-fashioned standard songs.

Every morning Alden and I drive along singing School Days.

Please imagine this kid:

Little Crooner

crooning “You were my queen in calico. I was your bashful barefoot beau. You wrote on my slate [high and soft]’I loooooove you so.’ When we were a couple of kids.”

You will die a thousand times. In a good way. I promise.


Like the Weather

I’ve been meaning to write about the delightful stage of three years old. I’ve composed the post in my mind a few times, just never near a keyboard. I want to remember this lovely, tractible boy who is still baby enough to be all innocence and light.

I was thumbing through Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy by Ames and Ilg. I first heard of this series of books from AskMoxie. Even though they are seventies-riffic (All mommies are at home. All daddies are the authority figures.), I’ve yet to read anything else that gives me as clear a window into what my kids are going through developmentally. I particularly appreciate that there aren’t varied and complicated recommendations. Often all I need to know is “why.” I definitely don’t need to feel like I’m doing it wrong. I kind of love that the thrust of the 3-year-old book seems to be that: Three is awesome. Three-and-a-half is kind of terrible. Definitely get a babysitter as much as possible for three-and-a-half. Have you tried preschool? Just get that kid out of your hair.

So maybe two weeks ago I was reading aloud to Damon the part where it says that it doesn’t even have much to say about the first half of three, as those kids are generally so agreeable and fun. We marveled. We appreciated that was the case, and we talked about what a pleasure our little Alden is.

I know you saw this coming. Boom! Before I could write about three, we hit the developmental phase of 3.5. I can only assume that’s what happened. Or Alden has just plain lost his mind. The “Don’t look at me!”s are flying. Even the slappy hands are flying occassionally, and we haven’t seen those in months. He likes to wake me up at 5am to be mad at me. Oh my god he is trying my patience. Face washing is an affront. Serving him dinner is an attack. You get the picture.

I remind myself of the wise advice I read somewhere or other, that children need your compassion the most when they seem to deserve it the least. Likely true of adults as well, but they’re on their own.