Thursday, April 14, 2011

So, I've Learned Six Things

Now that Snood has officially hit the 2.5 mark, I feel qualified to pass along this comprehensive list of all the parenting wisdom I have amassed in my 30-odd (and I do mean ODD) months in the field. As the kids like to say, YMMV.

RULE #1:  Relax, Being Tired is Fixable

Before I ever had kids, the thing I dreaded most about motherhood was the sleeplessness.

And, wow, that was really smart because being unspeakably tired is absolutely one of the most craptastic parts about having a baby.

For the first year or so of Snoodie's existence I obsessed over the lack of sleep. I would lie in bed during each feeding mentally calculating the exact amount of sleep I was losing. Some nights, when my combined hours of sleep would dip below five, I would begin to panic to the point that I wouldn't be able to fall back to sleep between feedings at all.

The result was that I spent way too much of Snoodie's first year in a state of anxious zombietude that really wasn't all that fun.

When Crinks came along, I realized it was time to stop worrying and learn to love the bed. I endeavored to embrace the simple reality that tiredness is not, in fact, fatal. Instead, it is an entirely curable condition.  I became a napper, I worked with David on a schedule of morning lie-ins, and I calmed the heck down.

I slept more and worried less and you know what? It was significantly better. I highly recommend it.

RULE #2:  Never address behavior that has been going on for less than a week.

Before adopting this rule, life at our house went something like this:

A frantic ME paces the bedroom as HUSBAND looks on, concerned.
SNOODIE (O.S.) *crying*
ME:  Oh my God! Why is he crying? Snoodie is supposed to be sleeping through the night! He's been sleeping through the night for TWO MONTHS!!  Why would he stop NOW???
HUSBAND: (wearily) I don't really know...
ME: He did this the other night too!  Remember?
HUSBAND: Yes. You did a lot of yelling then too, if I recall.
ME: He's freaking me out!
HUSBAND: Oh, listen. He stopped crying.
From the nursery, silence.
ME:  Thank God!
Husband, believing the issue to be resolved, attempts to return to sleep.
HUSBAND: (mumbling) Oh, *expletive deleted*...
ME: Do you think something's bothering him?
HUSBAND: (eying wife pointedly) I know something's bothering me....
Wife rushes to shelf to retrieve this well-worn copy of 'Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child'.
ME: I'm just going to peruse this for a while, occasionally shouting out new theories about Snood's sleep issues as they occur to me.
HUSBAND: (burying head under pillow) I regret ever being born...

The next several days would involve frantic adjustments to the Snood's daily schedule in hope of addressing "the problem". The constant adjustments would have absolutely no impact but then, three or four days later the "sleep problem" would just disappear as suddenly as it had begun.

The pattern repeated when Snoodie:
  • Refused to sleep in the Big Boy Bed,
  • Stopped eating breakfast,
  • Stopped eating any meal that was not breakfast,
  • Developed a hatred of the bathtub, and
  • Began shrieking "AIIIIIIII!" at ear-piercing volume at random intervals.
I responded to each of these developments using my standard methodology: frantic and haphazard web-based research coupled with needless yelling.  

Sensing a disturbing pattern, my husband sat me down one night and made me promise that I would not obsess over any new troublesome behavior of Snood's until it had been happening for a full seven days. And at our house - peace returned.

RULE #3: The Marriage Part is Still a Big Deal

For the first several months after Crinks was born, David and I said little to each other that was not some variation of "Here, you take this one, I'll take the other one. No, not that one! The other one."

At some point, David and I were forced to confront the fact that we were infrequently relating to each other as husband and wife, and were instead interacting almost exclusively as disgruntled co-workers laboring together daily under the momentary whims of the MEANEST. BOSSES. EVER.

So, we've been working on that. 

Marriage is now and ever shall be a work in progress, but through careful use of date nights, overnight getaways, and strictly enforced policies limiting discussion of poop consistency, we're making it work.

So far, so good.

RULE #4: Don't Say No Unless You're Willing to Get Off the Couch

Do I need to explain this rule? Not really. I've come to accept that when I try to discipline one of my children while my backside is in contact with couch cushions it's probably not gonna work. I gotta get up and make the trip over in order to see results.

This rule stinks, but it is still true.

RULE #5: Be Prepared, then Pick Your Battles

So this is how it used to be when I took the kids to the grocery store:

"Snoodie, don't pull that display over. OK, we'll just move an aisle over. Let's hurry. Crink, here are your snacks. NO! Don't throw them at that lady! Sit still. Snoodie, stop eating that off the floor. Snoodie, here's a book. No, that older gentleman does not want to see your book. Please stop shoving it towards his face. He's trying to shop. Have some juice. You don't want it?  Stop yelling, "JUICE!" I have your juice right here! (addressing disgruntled shoppers around us) I'm terribly sorry. I think we'll just go. I'll just leave my cart right here...."

Just as I began to fear our family was destined to starve to death for want of a local grocery store that would permit us entry, my mother came through with the following advice:

"You are fighting too many battles. Make sure you have lots of stuff to occupy the kids while you shop, then pick the outside behavior you are willing to tolerate and don't correct anything else."

The results were amazing. The next time we headed to the store I armed myself with toys, snacks, and sippy cups. I decided that as long as the kids didn't leave the vicinity or actively annoy our fellow shoppers, then it was anything goes.  

Instead of fighting my way through the aisles, I allowed the boys to explore everything I had brought with me and had almost no interaction with either of them. Twice I had to ask Snoodie to lower his voice and once I had to subvert an escape attempt through the produce section. But otherwise the outing was a total success.

Which brings us to our last rule.  It's a bonus rule, really. A rule that I long for Snoodie and Crinks to take to heart one of these days. And the rule is this:

RULE #6:  Always Listen to Your Mother.