Why I don’t read parenting books

We just got back from a quick trip to Idaho and Yellowstone, where we visited friends who are some of the best parents I know. Not only do they love their kids, they like them too. I know! Isn’t it enough that we love our kids: instinctively, irrationally, unconditionally? Must we also LIKE them, in all their booger-eating, sticky-fingered sklonklishness?

(Not that my friends’ kids eat boogers.)

I used to jog with my friend when we lived in Cairo, so I wasn’t too excited about her seeing me in my post-moving fat slump and with my busy/poor/lazy gray hair. In a toss up between losing 20 pounds and getting a better haircut than the one Dick gave me a few months ago, getting a cut and highlights was the much easier fix.

(Hey, I can hope that if I have striking hair, no one will even notice my fat jeans.)

As my nice (young) stylist worked, I caught up on my trashy magazine reading, though unfortunately they didn’t have any really juicy ones like People or UsWeekly.

Instead I looked through some parenting magazines, and picked up a bunch of expert advice that I’ll be working into my daily routine.

One tip was so potentially life-changing that I thought I’d pass it on to you. It’s from Parents magazine:

If your morning routine is crazy, and the kids are having a meltdown just as you are rushing to get to your own early meeting, gather your kids into a circle and beat on your chests, yelling like Tarzan, for thirty seconds. Everyone will start laughing, and then they’ll magically find the lost tennis shoe and the hidden homework. (I may have made up that last bit, but they definitely talked about everyone laughing off the days’ stresses).

I don’t know about your kids, but when mine are out-of-control, the last thing they want to do is humor Mom in a little team-building role play.

No, if you really want to have a better morning routine, I’m afraid the answer is much less exciting:

1. Go to bed earlier (kids too).

2. Get up earlier (kids too).

3. Plan clothes/lunches/backpacks/outerwear/homework the day before.

4. Eat a good breakfast (kids too). No straight-sugar cereal.

But wait! I have an even more unsexy suggestion: If your morning routine is crazy, and if you really want to fix it:

5. Take a look at your priorities and schedule, and plan things so that you have an hour (or even a half hour) in which to concentrate on your kids in the morning without interruption.

Let me just say that I know these five things work, because I have way too much experience with the staying up late, the waking up late, the scrambling for clean underwear, and the blog posts that need finishing. It’s shocking (SHOCKING!) how much smoother things go in the morning if I’m not trying to talk on the phone to Tara or finish a post or pay a bill that was due last week.

The sad, hard truth is that parenting takes quantity time as well as quality. I can’t blame Parents for wishing that a 30-second screamfest would solve all our problems, though. Wouldn’t that be loverly?

Jane

That’s the Unsexy Morning Routine that works-for-me. Check out Rocks In My Dryer for more tips!

Comment of the day (and why I love Memarie Lane so much):

My midwife always has a stack of free Mothering magazines. The last one had an article about “gentle discipline.” This mom was playing ball with her two little boys and they kept getting upset and fighting. So she had them sit down and told them that the ball is a “talking stick” (why not a talking ball?) And whoever had the talking stick could talk while everyone else had to listen. And then each boy got his turn with the “stick” to talk about how he felt about his brother and the ball and the incident that had occurred. And then there were rebuttals and such, and then they sang a song and hugged.

I prefer my spanking stick.

WFMW: One last question about sex

notorious, cary grant, ingrid bergmanFurther proof that it is preferable to give than to receive, at least when it comes to advice: My ‘greatest hits’ WFMW post so far was my ‘backwards’ edition of Am I the Only One?.

I asked if I were the only one to experience greater desire for sex than my husband and expressed frustration with (esp. Christian) marriage advice that assumes a man’s desire is always much greater, and bases whole marital strategies on this assumption.

Besides asking for help, the topic helped my post’s popularity. As one lurker commented, “I guess all it takes is the mention of sex for me to make a record of my cyber-presence on your blog.” Your response was overwhelming in understanding and good, concrete advice as to what I could do to reduce my frustration (both mental and physical, eh).

An interesting issue that has arisen from the continued comments is sex after pregnancy and childbirth. About how the maternal body reacts to pregnancy, labor and delivery, in feeling, perhaps, more vulnerable emotionally or physically, and also in experiencing pain again. I remember after my first daughter’s birth I was shocked by how much sex hurt (not as bad as our wedding night, though, when I feared we would have to get an annulment).

One commenter said that she was experiencing much reduced interest in sex post-baby, and that “with all of the lactation hormones . . . [I’m] feeling very protective of my own body, something I never experienced until after I had a baby.” I know another woman who experienced phantom pain and lingering fear, almost, of sex after childbirth.

Maybe this is just Nature’s way of spacing out our babies?

I’m curious as to how giving birth has affected you. Beyond the obvious sleep-deprivation and time-consuming care-of-a-new-infant issues that logistically limit opportunities/desire for sex, did you find yourself feeling more vulnerable or more protective? And has your experience varied after a first, second, third, etc, birth?

And one final, final question: What’s the best thing your husband’s ever done to make you feel desirable? Loved? Eager for intimacy? (I’m looking for hints to give Dick).

Thanks again for your willingness to share your ideas and advice on this topic!

As long as you don’t do crack when you’re pregnant

Last night I was instant messaging Tara, whom I had not seen in eight months three days. When you’re IM’ing, you get a tiny adrenaline rush whenever you see the orange flashing thingie at the bottom of your screen indicating you’ve got a new message. (Dick says that’s the minimized window on the tool bar, but I think “orange flashing thingie” is much more descriptive.)

Even better is when you happen to be looking at the IM window maximized (see, I can do the computer lingo), and you see at the bottom that “Tara is typing a message.” Sometimes I see that message when I am typing myself, and then I hurry, hurry to get my message done first because I need the attention RIGHT NOW.

Last night we were both typing at the same time, and when the text appeared, hers was this long thing about being the worst mom, and mine was this long thing about being the worst mom ever. Twinner worst moms! Though I did manage to stake out a little more territory with that ever.

Then on the phone this morning another friend was telling me that she liked my post about complete strangers giving infant-feeding advice, because she gets annoying stuff like that from her mother-in-law complete strangers too.

That friend’s sister (who doesn’t even share the helpful mother-in-law), says that as long as you don’t do drugs, you are a good mother. But it was more specific that that, even. Apparently, as long as you don’t do crack when you’re pregnant, you are a good mother. Doing crack after they’re born is fine. Doing crack while you’re breastfeeding would probably be a gray area. (And here I had worried about the caffeine in one or, uh, four, Mountain Dews).

Also, we decided that we may not be perfect moms (even though we don’t really do crack, and would never, ever condone anyone ever doing crack, ever), but we are definitely FABULOUS moms, and that is way better.

This fabulous mom forgot to take the video camera to Sally and Susan’s Dance Class Performance tonight. I did drag their father there, which should count for something. Except, Dick really didn’t require dragging. He’s like the dad in those McDonalds’ commercials that ran in the early 80s — You deserve a break today . . . at McDonalds.

I left the videocam at home because I expected Sally to do fine and Susan to stand there like a post, as she did in every class the past three months. Not much scope for the imagination there. But Susan did the funniest dance which bore almost no relation to what everyone else on stage was doing.

I laughed so hard I snorted multiple times — usually after the first time I am self-conscious enough to cover my mouth or plug my nose, but tonight I couldn’t help it.

The man in front of me turned and asked, “Is yours the one off to the side?” I said, Yep, and he said, smiling, “She’s got some moves!”

I have to say that I don’t care if my kids are the smartest or the fastest or the best, as long as someone periodically turns to me and says, “Is yours the one off to the side?”

Yes. Thank you for noticing.

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Well-meaning strangers

A funny thing happened on the way out of an Arizona Costco last week. The cashier (who was maybe early 20s) looked from my 2% milk to 18-month-old Spot on my hip and asked, Are you buying this for your daughter? When I said, Why yes, he persisted: You asked the doctor and he said it’s okay?

Huh? (So many things wrong with that question; not least of which is assuming that my kids’ pediatrician is male.)

Actually, no, I didn’t ask the doctor. I decided on my own that it was okay.

He looked pretty disapproving but rang me up anyway. I wondered if he would feel better knowing that I still breastfeed Spot 2-3 times a day. But then he might feel worse if he saw Spot drinking out of my 55-cent Coke fountain drink. Or really worse if he knew what I was contemplating two short days later, in a crappy hotel just far enough from the Grand Canyon to be cheap. Where we had two queen beds for the five of us.

Dick got kick-you-in-the-head Susan. I got teeth-grinding, nose-picking, knee-you-in-the-face Sally, and Spot, who, when she wasn’t sitting on my head screeching, was doing her best to gnaw my nipple off. Remind me again why you like to co-sleep? And nurse until your kids are seventeen?

As I lay there I wished for a fifth of whiskey which I would have fed to Spot from a chipped, dirty jelly jar if only I knew how to procure whiskey and knew why anyone would only want a fifth of it. Wouldn’t a whole whiskey be a better value?

I think we can only be grateful to that cashier’s mother for breastfeeding him (which I assume because I too like to make snap infant-feeding-method judgments about complete strangers, though I usually try to be slightly more discreet) as he is obviously making good use of every bit of those two extra IQ points. Similar to how Dick likes to tell me just think how smart you’d be if you didn’t have Downs Syndrome.

Here’s a picture of poor, underfed, neglected Spot.

spot

And here’s another one where you can see how that missing 2% of milkfat has led to a serious dearth in cute creases on her neck and arm. That is one starving child!

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And the Grand Canyon? Merely a footnote to a great trip Tara has documented so well here and here. You can even read about what great guests we are. Do you want us to come stay with you too? We’d be happy to grace your guest bedroom. Anything to avoid more cheap hotels.

I thought we’d hit the nadir with that awful hostel in London during Spring Break 2000, but even strangers having sex in a single bed across the room (while we, the cheap marrieds, kept to our lonely berths) wasn’t as bad as sleeping in unfamiliar environs with three children.

Sally said she was sick of looking at the Grand Canyon after ten minutes. Susan liked it a lot too, as you can tell from her rapt expression here.

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I guess I should be glad that Costco cashier didn’t see all the DVDs and fruit snacks we took on the trip. Our kids will be lucky to have any brain cells left after multiple viewings of Blue’s Clues Shape Searchers. But then maybe he would be glad to know we coached our kids well before the Easter egg hunt. Don’t let the boys take all the eggs. If they’re there first, fine, but If you’re reaching for it, you get it.

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Or maybe he thinks Easter egg hunts are pagan and inappropriate. Aaack. What to do? Maybe I’ll have to go back to get his advice.

I submitted this to Tickle-Me Tuesday, because it actually was Tuesday when I wrote this, despite my computer’s intransigence, and also, it really tickled me.