10 Little Monkeys, Mainstream Style

This little gem popped up on my Facebook newsfeed from Huffington Post Good News.

It is definitely hilarious.  I was part of two attachment parenting groups, and… well… let’s just say that the satire was well deserved.

I have discovered, however, that the most pot shots taken (both humorous and decidedly not) are against the alternative sect of parenting.  It’s time mainstream parenting gets a little poke.

So, I present to you, Jennifer’s version of ‘5 Little Monkeys’ Every Mom Will Relate To:

Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

Give that kid a smack.  I WAS SPANKED AND I TURNED OUT OK.

***

Nine little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

I read the results of a preliminary scientific study in the Huffington Post that was dumbed down for me, and it said that lack of sleep leads to all sorts of behavioral issues.  Have you tried sleep training?  My precious poppet was sleep trained at 6 months, and she sleeps peacefully in her crib for 12 hours straight.

***

Eight little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

You should enroll your child in toddler gym, karate, art enrichment courses, and the kindergarten preparation classes taught by Kaplan.  That will keep him busy, and it’s never to early to prepare for Harvard!

***

Seven little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

You think this is bad?  Wait until he’s a threenager.

***

Six little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

Create a reward chart, so every time he doesn’t jump on the bed, he gets a sticker.  Then he can use the sticker to “buy” treats from you!  Behaviorism is AWESOME!

***

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

That child needs structure and a strict routine.  I saw on Nanny 911 (or maybe it was on It’s Me or the Dog?) that a consistent routine turns children into little cherubs who never jump on beds, or argue with their parents, or express dangerous forms of creativity that will prevent them from getting into Harvard.

***

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

You should really get him on Ritalin.  My toddler started exhibiting signs of ADHD that young, too, and we were prescribe it by his pediatrician who has no training in psychiatric medicine.  It’s life changing!  (This recommendation is brought to you by the fine folks at Novartis. Create zombies.  Live well.)

***

Three little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

You know you’re not supposed to leave your precious poppet alone for even 30 seconds!  What if he got kidnapped by a band of roving psychopaths who break into houses and steal children.  I saw it on Fox News Boston, so it must be true!

***

Two little monkeys jumping on the bed,

One fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

He’s just looking for attention.  It’s best not to give it to him, even if he’s bleeding.  He’s got to learn to take care of himself at some point!  You don’t want him coming to you asking for stuff when he’s 4 or 20 (gasp!)

***

One little monkey jumping on the bed,

He fell off and bumped his head.

Momma asked the Mom group and the Mom group said:

Get off the damn computer and stop listening to all this bullshit.

 

If you do not like what I have to say, the following responses are inappropriate:  death threats, name calling, insulting my son or any member of my family, or anything else that you would not say to my face.  It is a sorry state of affairs that we live in a world where this disclaimer is even necessary.

The real reasons parents are so miserable.

I made the mistake of reading the first couple of pages of an article saying why parents hate parenting.  I was filled with all the usual bullshit, backed up by bullshit studies (don’t get me started on social science studies and the endless, inherent problems with them.)

Here are the real reasons why parenting is so miserable in the United States:

1. Everyone thinks it’s their right to tell you what to do: other parents, non-parents, teachers, health professionals, parenting message boards on Facebook, that random guy at Target… Everyone has an opinion. EVERYONE.  If you hang in specific circles, not only do they want to tell you what do to, they want to show you “studies” to prove that they are right. (And the media does not know how to appropriately represent studies, and most of the public doesn’t know how to read or determine whether or not the studies are crap.)  Doctors (and other health professionals) try to force the party line on you without even asking your goals, your philosophy, or even what they’re selling is a problem for which you need a solution.  And these are a group of people who need to look into studies to see if any support their “advice.”  In some cases, they need to brush up on their developmental psychology and Hippocratic Oath.

2. Culturally, most of the population feels that all children, regardless of age, are manipulative, nasty little beasts that need to be taught (often harshly and often from day 1) exactly how to behave, how to think, and how to be. They must be taught never to have bad days and never to have inconvenient needs. I never realized how much our culture hates children until I had my own. Worst yet is the lip service paid to taking care of babies. People say out of one mouth “you can’t spoil babies” while out of the other mouth saying that “the baby is crying for no reason and has to learn not to be picked up, feed on demand, or comforted at night.”

3. Every parenting expert and health professional is out to make your life difficult. You must put your babies on a rigid schedule. You must control your toddler’s every move. You must obsess about every morsel of food that goes into your preschoolers mouth. You must force your school-aged child to do every single bit of his homework… Few of them have taken the time to understand developmentally appropriate behaviors (and many grade schools care very little for the developmental appropriateness of their practices.) You must ignore your child’s personality and force a one-size-fits-all solution to everything or your child will grow up to be spoiled. (This is everyone’s worst fear… spoiled children. Spoiled children are going to ruin the world. No one ever talks about spoiled adults. After a certain age, people go from being spoiled and entitled, to having the “right” to do whatever they want to get whatever they want… no matter what the cost. This age is usually about 30.)

4. Most parents don’t know what is developmentally appropriate, and are subject to endless amounts of conflicting information (see above.) There are no support networks, no way to find parents of like mind. You’re in this alone.

5. Speaking of which… there are no financial safety nets for parents. NONE. Sure, your job is protected for 12 whole, generous weeks, but of course you don’t need your salary during that time or anything. Want to breastfeed? Well, too bad. Breast is best but even your doctor will give you advice so bad it will dry up your milk in a day. Insurance is supposed to pay for lactation support, but most mothers have to fight for this. Daycare is breaking the bank? Oh, well, high interest credit cards will cover you until you get to underfunded public schools. Work two jobs and can’t put food on the table? Well, you can have food stamps, after you grovel and admit that you’re lazy and shouldn’t have kids.

I’m tired of reading these articles. Children are not the problem. Society is the problem. Parents are not allowed to enjoy their children because they must be constantly vigilant about every move and they are expected to do it all without any support.

It’s easy to blame parents and children for their strife. When am I going to see articles that tell the real truth?  Parents are miserable because our culture sucks.

If you do not like what I have to say, the following responses are inappropriate:  death threats, name calling, insulting my son or any member of my family, or anything else that you would not say to my face.  It is a sorry state of affairs that we live in a world where this disclaimer is even necessary.

That thing about breastfeeding…

Ok, so a longitudinal study about the benefits of breastfeeding were disseminated and it nearly broke the internet.  Some pro-breastfeeders used (and probably will continue to use) it as a Nelson-style “HA! HA!”  It also brought out to super offended and defensive formula feeders.

I could go on and on about the reasons why American moms are weaning completely or supplementing before their babes turn 1 year old.  I could also go on and on about how our entire culture claims ownership of a woman’s body when, quite frankly, it’s none of our business how each individual woman decides to handle her own sexuality, reproduction, and the like.

The truth is that our culture has always been obsessed with perfection, but that obsession has officially filtered down to parenting.

Our culture wants to see parents do everything they can to grow the perfect child.  From eating only kale while pregnant to prep classes for preschool, we’ve lost our fucking way.  And do you know who the biggest losers are?  Our kids.

There are a full 18 years before a child starts voting.  12-14 of those years include formal schooling (unless you decide to opt your kids out.)  Adulthood carries on for another 60 or so years.

So answer me this… why:

  • do we expect women to obsess over every little thing that passes her lips during the entirety of her pregnancy?
  • do we expect women to exclusively breastfeed for any length of time?
  • do we expect families to enforce “no screen time before 2” in households where getting dinner on the table in the evening is an insurmountable challenge?
  • do we expect children to do academic work in kindergarten?
  • do we expect children to be proficient in reading by the end of the first grade?
  • do we expect our teenagers to overschedule themselves to the point of illness to “get into a good college?”
  • do we expect our 18 year olds, or anyone, to even go to college?

Before you answer, bear in mind:

Women in food insecure areas still manage to give birth to healthy babies.  Our grandmothers gave birth to healthy babies during the overprocessed “Wonder Bread” fifties and sixties.

We have several generations of mostly formula fed babies, and yet people still managed to graduate from Ivy League schools.

There is a at least one, and almost two generations where living room couches surround TVs.  Even though we didn’t have Netflix in the 80’s, our parents had no problem sitting us in front of Saturday morning cartoons.

Kids didn’t regularly start attending kindergarten until the 70’s, and then it was all playing.  In fact, there are many states where kindergarten isn’t even compulsory.  (The starting age of compulsory education in Massachusetts is 6 years old.)

To start the first grade in the 70’s and 80’s, children needed to know their address and phone number and be able to be away from their parents during the school day.

There are some trades that bring in good money that don’t require a college education (like car repair and HVAC.)  The more college is pushed, the less valuable degrees become.  We now have a whole generation saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for what is the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Let’s give our kids a break.  Let them grow on their own time table, have their own dreams, and live their own lives.  Most importantly:  let’s stop obsessing over every single little thing we do.

If you do not like what I have to say, the following responses are inappropriate:  death threats, name calling, insulting my son or any member of my family, or anything else that you would not say to my face.  It is a sorry state of affairs that we live in a world where this disclaimer is even necessary.

Seriously, stop asking me how my son sleeps.

I wrote this in March, when my son was seven months old.  He’s now almost 1 year old.  I find it curiously odd that people have not asked me how he sleeps in a while.

My son sleeps in 2-hour increments at night, and does not nap much during the day.  I consider myself eternally fortunate when I get a 3-hour stretch, and I do all I can to maintain my patience on the up-every-45-minutes nights.

Overall, I am ok with this.  I didn’t get into the business of motherhood expecting restful 8-hour nights of sleep and endless amounts of me-time.  I like my life how it is, and I don’t stress out over the sleep I’m “supposed to” be getting.

What pisses me off to no end is when people ask me how he’s sleeping.

Every person who asks my son’s age usually follows with “how’s he sleeping?”  Every.  Fucking.  Person.

I’m touchy about sleep training.  I literally cannot have a balanced conversation about it because my feelings are too intense.  I recognize this.  I don’t impose my own beliefs or emotions on others because of it.

Because I’m touchy about sleep training, it follows that I don’t like to get involved in discussions about sleep.  My son does not sleep in a crib, he sleeps with me.  I do not put my son down when he’s “sleepy but not asleep” so he will learn to “fall asleep on his own.”  We go to bed together and he nurses to sleep.  I take care of him no matter how much he wakes in the night and don’t expect him to work things out on his own.  I am delighted by this very culturally unpopular arrangment.  I also don’t like to advertise it because it is my business, and I’m not interested in hearing any unsolicited advice about it.

So it follows that being asked how my son sleeps is a hot button.

My usual answer is:  “I have no complaints.”

This works… sometimes.  With people who don’t have children, and only about 0.05% of the ones who do.  The other 99.95% of parents who do have children are never happy with that answer.

“How many hours does he sleep at night?  Is he sleeping through the night?”

And then they proceed to tell me what torture it was for them to have their precious sleep broken by an inconvenient infant.  HOW DARE those little bastards be developmentally unable to take care of themselves when their parents so desperately need their 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep or they will suffer from anxiety attacks over the fact that they are not getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I had the worst encounter ever with my dental hygenist.  I claim partial responsibilty by not saying my usual “I have no complaints.”  I was tired and she was scraping my teeth with that painfully sharp object.  So she asked how he slept and I kind of shrugged because you can’t say much when someone is scraping your teeth.  Then… “Is he sleeping through the night?”  I told her no, but thought I saved myself with a “but it doesn’t bother me.”

So then… ugh… she told me about how great here three kids slept.  Except for her youngest, who slept great until she was 12 months old.  So, apparently, she “read all the baby books.”  I jump in and mention something about a growth spurt at 12 months.  She concurrs but then goes on…

“So we took the ‘tough love’ route.  We ferberized.”  And then she went into exact detail about how she sleep trained her daughter.  How she let her cry, went in after a few minutes, didn’t pick her up or talk to her but just put her back down and patted her back, then left again.  And it took three nights for her daughter to realize her needs were not important that she could go to sleep on her own.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?  WHAT THE FUCK WAS I SUPPOSED TO SAY?

I kept quiet and seethed.  I stopped engaging.  What can you say to someone who is wielding sharp objects?

I come to find out later in the conversation I couldn’t escape that her youngest daughter was adopted from China when she was 10 months old.  So basically, she slept great those first two months she was with her new family, and then, as she was still building trust, her adoptive parents decided that their sleep was much more important than continuing to build trust with their new little daughter.

So you see why I avoid these conversations?

And why I can’t seem to find a way to avoid them?

Gratitude

Part of what I want to bring to my own blogging is gratitude for all of the blessings in my life.  Every day, I want to reflect on the amazing people, experiences, and things which enrich my life.

Below are the things that I am grateful for every single day.

my son, who inspires me to strive to be more understanding and compassionate

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my supportive husband, who I too often take for granted

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my son’s daycare, which is even better than I could have ever hoped or imagined

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the multitude of things that enhance the quality of life:  enough food, a nice apartment in a safe neighborhood, quality health care, kind and supportive friends and family, and Dunkin Donuts iced coffee

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Four Months!

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The boy is four months old!  I’m amazed by the leaps and bounds he’s made in the past month alone.

He’s smiling whenever anyone talks to him.  He’s laughing fully belly laughs.  He’s rolling from back to belly and belly to back (only when he’s in the mood.)  He moves around by pulling his legs to his chest and throwing them over to the side.  He can hold his head very high during tummy time.  He can sit for a moment or two, unassisted.  The time he can sit unassisted is already lengthening.

He continues to “talk” to us.  He’s figured out how to make high-pitched squeals.  It’s becoming easier to comfort him (although much less easy to get him to sleep!)  The other night, he watched me and listened while I read Winnie the Pooh to him.  He sat between my legs while we looked at Goodnight Moon and Time for Bed.

We had our first parent-teacher conference for his daycare, and we were delighted to hear that he’s very social.  He’s been able to bond with all of his teachers.  He is apparently right on track with his cognitive development.

We are really blessed to have such a healthy, happy baby!

Misunderstanding the Definition of “Me Time”

The Irishman was kind enough to let me take the time between putting the boy to bed and midnight all for myself.

I know it’s silly, but I spent the first hour picking up both the kitchen and living room.  The living room had been driving me crazy for days, especially since I had to tackle the project of purging all of the boy’s three month clothes and short-sleeved onesies and replace them with six and nine month clothes.  We are fortunate enough to have an overabundance of pants, but we’re short on long sleeve onesies and lightweight pajamas.  During the purge-and-replace, I’ve been putting name labels on all of his clothes.  Fingers crossed that they are as waterproof as they claim to be!

I’m finally sitting down now to… I’m not sure.  I’ve grown accustomed to being on call, but I’m not even on call for feeding.  I’ve prepped a bottle for the boy if he wakes up to eat before midnight.

I’ve already heard him cry a few times, and it’s hard not to go in and check on him and the Irishman.  He’s going through a rough time right now:  growth spurt, cognitive leaps associated with new skills (rolling over, sitting up, and much more babbling,) cradle cap (which has begun to bother him,) a persistent cough and unending congestion.  In spite of all of this, he remains in good spirits.  He’s giving us full belly laughs!

I’ll probably spend a portion of “me time” choosing one of the 16 pictures I took for our four month update on Facebook.  I could argue that this is a good use of the time, considering that lengthy (non-work) computer time is in short supply.

I’ve discovered that I don’t need a lot of “me time.”  While there are times I crave a good, uninterrupted How I Met Your Mother or Supernatural marathon, for the most part, I’m happy with the rhythm of my life.  I’m content with the “me time” I get on my morning commute to work and my middle-of-the-night pumping sessions.  It’s been surprisingly easy to enjoy each stage of the boy’s life, although there are things from earlier stages that I miss and things in future stages to which I look forward.

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Three Months of Awesome

My little miracle arrived on July 25, 2014.

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August 25, 2014:  Our first month was a little crazy as the boy was figuring out life outside the womb and I was trying to figure out life post pregnant life.  I think he was homesick.  I certainly missed being pregnant.

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September 25, 2014:  Weighing in at 12 lbs, 13 oz and measuring 24.5 inches, he was my little bruiser.  He was just starting to smile.  I was starting to feel more confident, especially since I was finally able to make our living space more comfortable.  We were still getting to know each other, so it was still a bit bumpy.

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October 25, 2014:  This was a big month!  He is smiling all the time now.  He’s grasping and batting at toys.  His newborn startle reflex is basically gone.  He’s experimenting with all kinds of sounds, and he’ll even have a “conversation” with us!  I even know how to get him to laugh.  I feel as if he’s finally recognizing me as his mama, and not just as another random person.  He now will calm down when I pick him up.  It’s such an amazing feeling!

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I’m so lucky to have such an awesome little boy!  I love being a mom!

Starbucks, Three Ways

Iced Grande Non-Fat Chai Latte

I did it!  I ran every day for one week.  I finally met my five-mile goal.

I momentarily feel nostalgic for my whole-milk days, and I’m tempted to throw caution to the wind.

No, the 60 extra calories defeat the purpose of getting up at 6 am to run to five miles.  No need to sabotage my accomplishment.

I look around, serenely, still high from the run.  The line is long, but I’m grateful to catch my breath.  Damp spandex clings to my thighs.  I run my fingers through my sweaty hair and casually check to see if my deodorant has withstood the strain.

Maybe I’ll finally have the courage to ask him…

Unlikely.

I’ve been sculpting and shaping and agonizing over self-denial just to impress him by becoming aesthetically pleasing.

Although she told me he found me attractive when…

There’s a difference between fantasy and reality.  She only wanted to get a chubby girl’s self-esteem up.

The line is shorter now, so I feel less guilty chatting up my buddy who spent several months in the peace corps.  We’ve broken the barrier between customer and barista.  I get the genuine smiles.  The genuine chitchat.

“Iced Grande Non-Fat Chai,” I say, emphasizing the “non-fat” with some pride.  He writes my name on the cup, and we exchange pleasant goodbyes.

I’m ready for the next big step.

I practiced for the interview for the past two weeks.  I know all about the school and the program.  I’ve rehearsed answers to the questions I imagine the dean will ask.

They call my name, and I head out the door, slowly sipping my chai latte.

I imagine how much more appealing I’ll be with a “Dr.” before my name.

*****

Venti Red-Eye

The line winds around the tables.  I impatiently check my email.

Why do I stand in this long line day after day?

I don’t know why I thought marriage was a good idea for an already rocky relationship.

Is the person at the front of the line ordering for an army?!

I want the condo in the old, drafty house.  She’s done with the oil heat, the unmanageable dust bunnies, and the way the house swayed in strong winds.

She gets the stupid yippy dog.  I’m happy to see the little bastard go.  I’m done with the shredded shoes, the puddles in corners, and the incessant barking.

Recharging the card now?!  Really?!

I need us to come to a settlement.  I need this limbo to end.

Enough with the chitchat already!  Order your coffee and go!

“Venti red-eye with the bold pick of the day,” I bark when I finally reach the head of the line.

“We’re almost done brewing a fresh batch,” the manager tells me.  “Do you mind waiting a few minutes?”

Fuck yes I mind!

I give him a tense smile and nod.

I used to say please and thank you.  When did I become this?  How did I become this?

I ventured into the world previously monopolized by breeders, and this is how I got burned.

I tap my feet and fidget impatiently as I watch the long line of hot and cold cups on the counter.  The line has shorted exponentially since I stood in it.

I sigh and run my hands through my short, dark hair.

I check my phone again.

“I’m sorry it’s gone this far,” the surprising email reads.  “I want to try again.”

I hit “delete” just as they call my name.

*****

Tall Decaf Iced Coffee

I run my hand over my belly, which is just beginning to show.  I can’t stand the smell of coffee anymore, but I need that connection to normalcy.

I watch the table where I left my black and white composition notebook.

Everyone wonders why I’m tackling something this big alone.

I grew up here.  I wrote my way through two office jobs and four relationships.  I wrote myself through the decision to forge ahead without a partner.

I imagine continuing to grow here.  I imagine what it will feel like to put a decaf coffee in the cup holder of a stroller.  To clutch a red-eye in one hand while holding a squirming toddler on my hip.  To relax over a latte and share a cookie with my preschooler.  To enjoy my mocha while my school-aged child enjoys her hot chocolate as we read our own chapter books.  To share a decaf coffee with my young teen who is determined to claim her independence.  To hesitantly enjoy a caffeinated coffee with my senior in high school as she prepares for her first college interview.  To share a non-fat chai latte on the morning of my young adult’s wedding.  To share a cup of decaf coffee as she sits across from me, her belly round with a new member of the next generation.

“Tall Decaf Iced Coffee,” I say, taking a deep breath to fight the nausea.

No, I’m not alone.  I won’t be alone for a very long time.

(written 10/14/2013)

National Novel Writing Month

I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo again.  I won in 2011 and 2012.  I didn’t make it in 2013 because I was hit with massive mental fatigue in my first trimester.

I finally have my stamina back, and the boring art of pumping will give me at least an extra 20-40 minutes per day (morning and night.)  The old man has promised me writing time over the weekends as well.

All I need to do is avoid writing about the misadventures of a new mom and her animosity toward her breast pump.

Perhaps I’ll avoid parenthood all together:

  • a young woman in her first year of college
  • a young man in his first year of college
  • a college graduate making his or her way in the world
  • the dissolution of a marriage due to infidelity… committed by the wife
  • empty nesters who have just dropped their youngest off at college
  • maybe a combo of the freshman and empty nesters
  • revisionist history of my life (too scary to comprehend)
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