Language skills have absolutely erupted here over the past week or two. I’ve been waiting for this so it’s nice to see it happen. The little guy will now mimic anything when prompted (something he hadn’t been doing before) and the words he can say are even clearer.
The other day he figured out how to nod “yes” – which is hilarious. He does such an exaggerated nod, bending waaay back, then flinging his head all the way forward. My husband called it “a Japanese bow on steroids”. Yes, my husbands has no idea how to be politically correct.
I’m also really impressed with how easily he can follow instructions now (the little guy that is – not my husband). Sometimes I’ll ask him to do something complicated – either with multiple steps or in words that I’m not certain he will yet understand – and he’ll just run off and do it. Meanwhile I’m sitting there completely flabbergasted, having expected to have to explain further or coach him through the steps.
Letting us know what he wants has become much clearer as well. He’ll use words, multiple signs, pointing and occasionally some bodily tugging or pushing to get his message across. He’s learned the sign for “tired” and has been using that when he wants to go to bed, which is just so sweet. And he absolutely shocked me the other day when he actually asked me to change his diaper, as he’s never shown any notice of having a dirty diaper before. He’s asked a couple times since then – maybe this is a sign that we can start considering potty learning? I’m a total newb, I admit it, I have no idea how to go about doing that.
He also understands the idea of “first we have to do this…then we can go do that.” Not that he’s always happy about it, but he understands it and accepts it.
And books! He’s long been a huge fan of books, but things had started to peter off a bit in that regard. There has been a definite resurgence lately, though, leaving us with tall stacks of books in all his favourite reading spots.
He’s recently started on a dinosaur kick, which surprised me for some reason. Now he points them out everywhere, has added “dinosaur” to the list of words he can say, and his most requested book is a dinosaur alphabet book. Some of those dinosaur names…quite the mouthful. Ah well, first I had to learn how to tell the difference between a backhoe and a bulldozer and a loader and all the rest, now I suppose it’s time to get my “mother to a little boy” education in dinosaurs.
Ah, but with all these great leaps in communication lately, we had one dismal failure the other day. The little guy was standing beside the toilet with me, watching as I scraped out his diaper. When I was done I nodded to him to go ahead and flush the toilet, which he likes to do when I’m finished with the diaper. Well, he interpreted my “flush the toilet” nod as a “go ahead and drop that sock you’re holding into the toilet” nod. Doh. I let out an exclamation and he looked up at me with a “oh…that wasn’t was I was supposed to do?” look, followed by an “am I in trouble?” look, so I sighed and closed my mouth and fished the floating sock out of the toilet and tossed it in the diaper pail. Lesson learned – use words, not nods.
Last week I hit my first major parenting challenge.
It snowed. Which meant I had to buy my toddler boots.
Gasps of horror, I know!
First I had to figure out what size his feet were. I’ve been careful about what shoes he wears. We started off with Robeez, which were great. When he wore a hole through those and needed something tougher for outdoors, we switched to Robeez Tredz – also great. Unfortunately, they’re all sized by months, so I hadn’t the foggiest idea what his shoe size was.
I picked up a boot that looked about the same size as his shoe. I went to slip it onto his foot…and that was about as far as I got. I pushed, I jammed, I rammed, I pushed some more – that boot was not going on his foot. Fine. I tried a bigger size. More pushing, more ramming – five minutes later I was sweating, he was giving me this weird look, and I was ready to call off the boot hunt and just carry him around all winter with several layers of socks on.
So we tried a different store. I found a boot that had a liner – surely that would make it easier somehow.
I’m pretty sure I had people laughing at me as I tried to jam this stupid boot onto his foot. He thought it was pretty hilarious, anyway.
At this point I started getting a little irrational. As in the “why would anyone let me raise a kid when I don’t even know how to buy him boots!!” sort of irrational.
Yes. It was boots that first made me feel like a failure at this whole parenting thing.
Not sleep issues. Not food issues. Not discipline issues.
And so it went, boot after boot, size after size, style after style. Most boots felt like trying to ram an oversized couch around a corner in a skinny hallway, only his foot was the oversized couch and the boot was the woefully small and unyielding hallway. Some boots managed to fit on his foot, but then he couldn’t walk in them, they were so tall and stiff (although I must confess it was a bit amusing to watch him try). Some boots weren’t up to the challenge of keeping little feet warm enough during a cold Canadian winter. And some boots were just plain ugly.
Finally we managed to find two half-decent options. They fit on his feet with minimal swearing and sweating, they felt toasty warm, he could walk in them, and they were pretty cute to boot (pun fully intended – you may commence groaning now). Hubby and I agreed on one of the two pairs, me because it was the more flexible of the two, him because it just so happened to be a Toronto Maple Leafs boot (his favourite hockey team – and, by extension, the boy’s favourite until he’s old enough to start cheering for the Ottawa Senators just to make his dad mad).
Success! We bought the boots, and the little guy spent the rest of the evening gleefully stomping around the house in them.
Turns out I might be able to handle this parenting thing after all.
My baby is 18 months old today. It’s such an interesting age – some days more baby than boy, other days more boy than baby, most days a combination of both. So far I’ve said the same thing with each passing month: “This is my favourite age yet.” It just keeps getting better.
His transition from baby to boy (coupled with an influx of newborn babies in our church and amongst some friends of mine) has had me thinking about his first year and the things that really made a positive difference during that time.
The first, likely, was that I completely ignored 90% of the advice I received.
(The best advice I ever received, on the other hand, was from an old man in the elevator. He told me to “just give that child lots of love, ’cause it’s a crazy world out there.” Truer words have ne’er been spoken.)
In the spirit of being offered unsolicited advice and immediately dismissing it, here is my advice for the first year:
Baby Advice #1: Stay Calm.
Seriously. Do it. Stay calm.
Deep breath in. Now let it out.
You know how they say animals can sense fear? Well, that squalling little bundle of pink perfection in your arms can sense it too. Along with frustration, and anger, and “holy crap, I don’t know what I’m doing!” And she will respond to that.
I see it so often – she cries, you bounce, she cries harder, you bounce harder, she cries louder, you shush louder, and soon you’re both worked up in a crazy frenzy and things are going bad fast.
Stop bouncing and start swaying. Stop shushing and start cooing. Quietly. Whisper words of comfort and songs of peace. She might stop crying. She might not. But either way, your blood pressure will be lower, your breathing will be slower, you will be calmer. And nine times out of ten, she’ll respond to that more than anything else.
I’ve found this to be true right from birth, through babyhood, and into toddlerhood – and I’m guessing it’ll be true right on through the rest of the stages. When Mom’s calm, the rest of the household just seems that much calmer too.
I’ve found this to be true in all manners of situations as well. Crying newborns, frustrated babies, angry toddlers – everything goes better when Mom stays calm. Go about doing what you need to do to take care of the situation – but do it calmly.
What’s more, the things being stressed over often aren’t worth stressing over in the first place. It’s okay if your six month old isn’t eating three square meals a day. It’s okay if you have a period of sleep issues – they often resolve themselves in short order. It’s okay (and quite normal!) if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night by the time she’s a month old – or six months old, or even nine months old! It’s okay if your baby doesn’t roll over, sit, walk, or talk as early as your friend’s baby did. It’s okay, there’s no need to stress over every little bump and sneeze and waking.
It’s okay. Relax.
Just stay calm.
Baby Advice #2: Baby Your Baby.
Because, well, they’re babies. It’s what they’re made for.
Two Harvard researchers said it better than I ever could.
Baby your baby. Save independence for later. Give them the foundation they need for independence now.
Your baby will not become spoiled if you carry him often and if you respond to his cries. Those are the very things that will give him the security he needs now to become a healthy adult later.
Consider co-sleeping with your baby. Snuggle him while he nurses. Invest in a good carrier and wear your baby.
Most of all, just hold and comfort that little one – your touch and reassurance is what he needs.
Bonus Advice: Have Fun!
That’s all – just have fun. That first year will go by so fast. Enjoy your baby – which, really, is half the point of the first two pieces of advice! Stay calm, don’t stress, hold your baby, and comfort your baby – enjoy your baby.
It makes me so sad to hear women express their heavy regret over having circumcised their sons. Whether they circ’d due to misinformation, tradition, or pressure from others (family, friends, husbands or doctors), those that become fully informed after the fact and come to regret having allowed the procedure all say the same thing – “I wish I’d known then what I know now.”
My heart goes out to them.
There are so many myths out there, from physical to emotional to cultural, it’s easy for a woman to allow her son’s foreskin to be cut off without giving it a second thought. After all, it’s just what’s done.
I remember thinking that at one point. When I first brought the issue up before our son was born, I was willing to let my husband decide – I figured hey, he has a penis, he’ll know best. Thankfully, my (circ’d) husband didn’t think it was necessary to put our son through that sort of pain. Up until that point, I had thought that everyone circumcised their sons, that it was just the proper thing to do. But after my husband said he didn’t want it done on our son, I started researching the issue for myself. By the time our son was born, there was no way I would ever have him circumcised. I am so grateful that I had that information (and a husband who was inclined against the procedure anyway) and don’t have to live with that regret.
The most frequent myth I hear about circumcision is that a circ’d penis is cleaner. There is simply no truth to this at all. With an intact infant’s penis, you wash it the exact same way you would a circ’d infant’s penis – just like a finger. No retraction required. Just wash the outside. An infant’s foreskin is fused to the glans underneath, much the same way your fingernails are fused to your nail beds. At some point before puberty, the foreskin will become unfused, at which time the child will simply retract the foreskin to clean beneath during his shower, just as he would wash any other part of his body. It is no big deal.
By contrast, an infant’s circumcised penis needs daily attention during the first two weeks, to make sure the cut edges do not adhere to the raw surface of the glans. It is very common for the leftover foreskin to begin adhering to the penis, even months down the line, requiring the skin to be pulled back again. I’ve recently talked with two mothers who say their sons currently flinch whenever the mother reaches to clean the penis – both of them circumcised boys whose remaining foreskin ahered and needed to be pulled back again several months ago.
Simply put, a circ’d penis is no cleaner than an intact one, nor is it any easier to keep clean.
The Foreskin’s Purpose
I don’t think this could possibly be stressed enough – the foreskin has a purpose.
The foreskin is not an “extra”. It is an integral part of the penis, a God-given protection for the head (glans) of the penis – please don’t take that away from your son.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The glans at birth is delicate and easily irritated by urine and feces. The foreskin serves to shield the glans. With circumcision, this protection is lost; the glans and the urinary opening may become irritated or infected, causing ulcers, inflamation, and meatal stenosis (a narrowing of the urinary opening). Such problems virtually never occur in uncircumcised penises. The foreskin protects the glans throughout life.
The Circumcision of the Bible
“But God commanded circumcision in the Old Testament, so there can’t be anything wrong with it.”
If you are Jewish, then please, circumcise your son. But circumcise him in the manner done traditionally. Jewish people circumcised their sons on the eight day after birth. It has since been discovered that on the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin (a blood-clotting protein) present is elevated far above normal levels — and it is the only day in the male’s life in which this will be the case under normal conditions. If surgery is to be performed, day eight is the perfect day to do it. Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak.
Furthermore, the Jewish form of circumcision removed only a tiny piece of the tip of the foreskin, not the amputation of the entire foreskin that is done today.
Jewish law requires circumcision, being a blood covenant, to be performed using a razor-sharp surgical knife, making the tiny cut instant and nearly painless. Hospitals, on the other hand, use clamps which completely crush and sever the skin, the nerve endings and the blood vessels in a lengthy procedure causing extreme pain and trauma to the child. This may even cause the child to withdraw into a state of neurological shock in response to the sudden and massive pain. In the year 2000, the FDA issued a warning about circumcision clamps, which it said can cause laceration, hemorrhage, penile amputation, and urethral damage.
Jewish circumcision is also different because the child is not strapped to a board, but held on a pillow by a loved one. He is given a wine soaked rag (and Tylenol and/or EMLA cream in many cases) and prayed over during the ceremony.
So please, if you are Jewish, perform the ritual circumcision on your sons as commanded by God, and perform it in the traditional manner. If you are Christian, then do not circumcise your sons, for as it says in God’s Word:
“Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” 1 Corinthians 7: 18-19
To me, this is the single strangest argument for circumcising a child: “But his father is circumcised!”
I just don’t get this one. I have a brother and he and my dad certainly never compared their penises. When would this issue ever come up? One would hope that a father, rather than wanting his son’s penis to look the same as his, would instead want what is best for his son.
The “locker room” argument is equally invalid, as the circ/uncirc rate in North America now is nearing 50/50. In 2006, 56.1% of newborn boys were circumcised in the USA.
No Reason to Circumcise…
Not one single medical organization recommends circumcision, but instead strongly recommend against circumcision. Many people will be hard-pressed to even find a doctor who will perform circumcision without giving you a very hard time about it, as it is so very unnecessary.
Paul M. Fleiss, MD, wrote an incredible article on the case against circumcision. It covers the issue clearly and thoroughly.
…But Every Reason Not To
The risks of circumcision are many, all for a purely cosmetic surgery that is recommended against by all major medical organizations. Circumcision can interfere with the success of breastfeeding. It affects an infant’s behaviour, shattering their trust and leading to withdrawal and damaging the mother/infant bonding. It can have a multitude of complications, both physical and psychological. It is not worth it.
Please, make a fully informed choice. Don’t circumcise your son based on a myth or pressure from others. One of your duties as a mother is to protect your son, so please don’t expose him to the risks and trauma of newborn surgery and life without a protective foreskin. It’s there for a reason.
There are more resources than I could ever hope to list over at Mothering.com. The National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers and The Circumcision Information and Resource Pages are both excellent resources as well.
Months ago, I submitted my volunteer application to Canadian Mothercraft’s Birth and Parent Companion Program – more specifically, to the Birth Companion portion of the program. It was everything I was passionate about – encouraging natural childbirth, supporting breastfeeding, protecting early bonding and attachment between mother and baby, informing women of their options so they could make the best fully-informed decisions, being there for a woman during her pregnancy, labour and delivery. Could there be a more ideal volunteer opportunity out there for me?
Unfortunately a portion of the training was taking place during the weeks that my husband and I spent visiting my in-laws this spring. I was told that I would have to wait until the next training session in the fall. Disappointing, but okay, I would wait.
I was thrilled to receive a call from them last month asking me to come in for an interview in preparation for the fall training. I had the interview – best interview ever, getting to talk about all things pregnancy and birth related! – and waited to hear back.
I heard back.
They wanted me to consider being a Parent Companion instead.
I had glanced at that portion of the program. Had even planned to volunteer for it – some day. Some day when I had, you know, things like experience.
I’m so not qualified for this!
But she seemed to disagree. She thought it was great that I wanted to involve my son in this, she was thrilled that I still breastfed him, and she was certain that I was quite qualified to be a positive parenting role model to someone who had never had that in their life.
They had too many birth companions and not enough parent companions and they felt I was a good candidate to switch, at least for the time being, and perhaps become a Birth Companion at a later time. I agreed to do it.
I’m going to be a Parent Companion.
From the position description:
A Parent Companion is a mature adult with experience in parenting/child care who has the time and desire to help a young/single parent. Our volunteers provide support to the parent, and act as a friend and confidant for the young parent as she/he adjusts and develops positive parenting and family management skills. The work of a Parent Companion is needs responsive, varying with the need of each individual family. The volunteers are sensitive, compassionate, flexible, dependable and non-judgmental. There are times during the experience of serving as a Parent Companion when great patience and understanding are required.
I admit it – I’m nervous. I only have one child, and he’s only 18 months old. People don’t tend to give you much credit when you’re in that position. If they don’t agree with your opinions, they write you off as idealistic and unexperienced. You’ll change your mind when he’s older…You’ll regret doing that…He’ll never obey if you don’t spank him…You just got lucky with your kid, that’s all…He must be an easy one… And so on and so forth. If he’s good, it’s luck. If he’s bad, it’s because you don’t spank him. These comments can be so discouraging and stinging, but I find peace in knowing that I am raising my son in a godly, biblical way, and I know that one day the sort of man he becomes will speak for itself. In the meantime, I so enjoy seeing the fruit of our efforts in numerous little ways each day. Our son is a delight to raise.
Fortunately, part of the intent of the program is to teach parents how to discipline their children without hitting them and without screaming at them. For most of these mothers, that’s all they grew up with and all they know. We’re asked to come along side them and be models of positive parenting – consistent boundaries, age-appropriate expectations, and healthy discipline.
We also attend parenting courses, workshops, events and activities with the parent. We act as an advocate for the parent when appropriate. We provide nutritional guidance for infants, children, and parents. We initiate assessment with the parent of useful support agencies and resources in the community, such as drop-in programs, toy lending libraries, parent support groups, academic upgrading, clothing, shelter, food banks, subsidized child care, etc. We help the parent determine goals for the family and discuss how to take the first steps towards those goals, explore options to help the parent learn how to cope with stress in day to day life, and encourage the young parent to learn from each unique situation. We watch for signs of abuse in the parent and child, and we encourage the parent to start a peer support system.
I can do that. I want to do that. As passionate as I am about the pregnancy and birth aspect, I’m equally passionate about the years of parenting that follow delivery. It is such an incredible responsibility, this being a mother, and women need to be just as fully informed and supported in this area too.
But I’m still nervous.