My Way

 

Fight for your opinions, but do not believe that they contain the whole truth, or the only truth.” Charles A. Dana

*****

Right, I’m back on the blog and the thing that’s been stuck on my mind for a few days now is opinions. We all have them; we all like to share them. There’s a term I came across today called ‘theory of mind. It basically means the awareness that other people have points of view different from our own. Developmentally, we’re supposed to catch on to that concept around the age of 4. I guess that makes all of us toddlers again at some point or another.

A lot of times I find myself benefitting from other people’s thoughts and experiences. Whether I’m wearing my mummy or my knitting hat, or my writing pearls for that matter, I like talking to other people. Listen to what they’re doing, what’s good and what’s challenging. Compare notes. Expand my horizon. Decide what I may or may not want to try for myself.

Quite naturally, our opinions change as our life changes. We may get older, and hopefully wiser. Or more experienced, at the very least. We may go from single to married (or vice versa). From couples to parents. Move to a new job, or a new country. Move out of a job or back home (to where we grew up, not back in with Mum & Dad! Although on occasion, we may do that too.) 

As a parent, I tend to come across opinions all over the place. Being a new mum seems to be a minefield of choices, and therefore opinions. Breast or bottle feed? Cry-it-out or Attachment Parenting? Purées or baby-led weaning? Stay at home or return to work? The list goes on…

I guess the challenge comes in when we become very attached to our own viewpoint. It seems to me that when we get rather hooked on our opinions, it’s often as a way of defending our own choices, and ultimately ourselves. Validating our decisions and ways of looking at the world. Sometimes we may get so worked up that we forget that maybe our opinion wasn’t even asked for. And where exactly is that fine line when our opinion stops being helpful and starts being hurtful?

I don’t necessarily have the answer for that. But I imagine by the time people get all emotional defending their viewpoint, some line or other is being crossed in a not good way. And when everyone gets emotional, it’s easy to forget that some opinions may come with good intentions, at least initially… before things got all heated.

Now of course I am prone to getting passionate and kinda hardheaded about stuff myself. Mostly I like to think I have benign intentions in sharing my thoughts. But I’ve been known to overstep my boundaries. After all, I’m only human.

And I can’t wait for the day when someone points out that between different posts, I have ended up contradicting myself. In which case I’ll claim that I have moved on. Become wiser and more experienced. Or just suffered yet another episode of baby brain.

Or I might just resort to quoting Oscar Wilde saying “In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.

Which coincidentally is a great way of suffering from baby brain whilst appearing intellectual.

 


Sleeping Beauty

 

I watched Lilly sleep this morning.

Possibly as a New Year’s resolution, she developed this habit of falling asleep on me while feeding. Especially in the morning, after her breakfast. Before my shower.

Now I take all the sleep I can get from the short one. But I got a short attention span. So whilst Lilly has her snooze, I try to do what I can being quietly confined to one spot. A lot of times, checking my emails and having a cruise on Facebook are sad but safe options. Doesn’t require a lot movement, doesn’t make a lot of noise. Can be done with either hand. Sometimes I read other people’s blogs, or peruse an online magazine. Mostly I have thoughts on what I might want to write about, or any other ‘stuff’ currently on my mind. Some days, I manage a cat nap of my own whilst sitting up and holding her.

And ever so often (probably not often enough), I look up from whatever I’m doing and watch her sleep. Notice how peaceful she looks. How soft her skin is. Feel her warm little body all nestled up against mine. All those lovely mummy things that you think are so boring and trivial…. until it’s your own child that you’re watching. I also get to wonder whether the white stuff in her nostrils is snot or dried up porridge, but I resist the urge to investigate. Getting poked up your nose is not conducive to infant sleep. Just throwing that one in, in case you’re tempted to get all mushy.

I also love watching her wake up and go from the deepest yawns and sleepy stretches to a happy giggle in about 20 seconds. I get to stop and appreciate how short and precious this time really is. Pretty soon, cuddles and sleeping on mummy will be uncool and uninteresting. Surpassed by playing and skipping about. So I enjoy it while I can. 

Eventually, Madame wakes up and I get to contemplate getting myself dressed. Cleaning up after breakfast. Pondering the things that kinda need to get done. There’s plenty of time for that during the rest of the day. Except when there isn’t, but that’s another story.

And whatever I may or may not be doing, there are of course plenty of times during the day when I am distracted. When my attention isn’t fully on Lilly. And that’s ok. I can’t be focused on her all the time. Imagine the pressure of being on mummy CCTV 24 hours a day…

But I love honouring these special moments. Something to cherish and remember. More memorable than a clean kitchen table or getting out of your bathrobe.

And trust me, getting dressed before lunchtime is really overrated anyway. You gotta give the postman something to talk about.

On The Road Again

 

I’ve got cabin fever. Had it for quite a while. I am itching to travel.

I got to thinking on New Year’s Eve that I actually hadn’t used my passport once in all of 2011. Not one tiny stinking time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t go anywhere for twelve months but it does mean that I never left this island.

Just as a frame of reference, I used to use my passport once or twice a week. Granted that was a high-paying, high-flying corporate job but still… to go another year without international travel just won’t do.

So I’ve been plotting my moves and I will be LON-BRU-NYC in February and March. With Lilly. She’s had a passport since she’s been eight weeks old and it’s high time she gets to use it.

Now generally in life I am quite laid-back and last-minute about most things. Advance planning is not my thing. So it is with great amazement that I am actually observing myself thinking about said travel plans an entire month ahead of time. Writing to friends with questions like

  • Which floor is the flat on where we will be staying, and is there an elevator?
  • Do I need a child seat in a taxi, or are there local exemptions?
  • What are the logistics of a pushchair on public transport?

And behind the scenes at home, I am making lists of all the things I need to either sort out (like Lilly’s US visa waiver application) or remember to take with me (like Lilly, and her passport). I am thinking travel high chairs and packing logistics.

Except for when I’m not thinking (aka baby brain). A friend today suggested taking a backpack for luggage in order to avoid the potentially stressful child-buggy-suitcase scenario. I dismissed the idea, having visualized a day hiking pack that might at best get me through 24 hours with the short one.

It only occurred to me later that she might have had something larger in mind. I am now researching gap-year-sized backpacks. For a long weekend. And this from the woman who used to travel for an entire week with hand luggage. And pack somewhere between the evening before and the morning of departure.

Oh, how the mighty (smart, minimalist, last-minute packers) have fallen… hard.

Kaplonk. Thump.

 

Ouch.

Sweet Dreams

 

I’ve been thinking about sleep. Wishful thinking, that is. I haven’t had much of it lately. And then I thought about all the tricks we pull out of our parenting hat in order to get some shut-eye from our offspring.

Like lullabies. Lovely soothing songs designed to send our little ones off to the land of nod. With nighttime imagery like the moon and the stars. Sheep are also popular. At least in the German versions.

I guess lullabies are a bit like bribery. As in “Look, I’ll sing you a little soothing song and you’ll fall asleep. Deal?” Little do you know that you have to enter into serious negotiations before this deal is closed. Like singing the lullaby again. And again. And again. Apparently at a later stage, infant negotiation skills evolve to include asking for a drink of water or wanting to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, we are not there yet.

The notion of bribery is particularly obvious in the English lullaby Hush, Little Baby offering all sorts of rewards for entering into peaceful slumber. Heck, I’d fall asleep for the promise of a diamond ring! I just hope for Rob’s sake Lilly never calls in hers. Or the dog named Rover. She’ll have to do with the dog named Jack.

Speaking of animals, I am wondering how the mothers of the animal kingdom deal with the matter of sleep. Do animals have an inbuilt instinct to rest? And if so, when in human evolution did that get genetically weeded out? I’m sure the average lion or tiger mummy doesn’t have to whip out the songbook to get her offspring to snooze. I’ve never sung a lullaby to Jack.

Maybe I’m not speaking for every parent here. I know a few babes who just drift off peacefully without a lot of song and dance. But judging by the fact that there’s a book entitled Go the Fuck to Sleep, I think most of us are affected at some time or another. Oh, and with lines like the following

The cats nestle close to their kittens now
The lambs have laid down with the sheep
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the fuck to sleep
 

I might mention that this book is aimed at the frustrated adult and not meant to be read to the child. Just in case you’re desperate for them to get the message.

Of course impatience and desperation, directly related to one’s own level of tiredness, are entirely unfavourable to achieving bedtime slumber. Basically, the more irritated you are, the less likely your little one will close his or her eyes. It’s a vicious circle.

So what is it with this resistance to sleep? When does sleep go from something that is to be resisted to something that is desirable? And please nobody say the teenage years because those seem to be awfully far away.

On that note, I’m off to the couch.

 

Sweet Dreamzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……….!

 

Quality Problems II

 

So after yesterday’s realization that I’m really quite lucky, I was feeling inspired and refreshed. Foolishly optimistic. I decided to cook the hard-working hubby his favourite dinner. Clean my dragons’ den of a living room. None of this was on my ‘get to do’ list but I hallucinated myself into thinking that I could manage to squeeze it into the wee hours between Lilly’s afternoon nap and bedtime.

Yeah, right. Who was I kidding? There’s only so much you can do with a six month old in tow, especially towards the end of the day when they get a bit fractious.

And really, I’m hardly a domestic goddess to start with. I’m ok with the fact that the laundry only gets put away when there’s new laundry to be hung up. That the aftermath of the papaya explosion that was Lilly’s breakfast is still in the sink to be cleaned up at 4pm. Things like that.

Nevertheless, I charged into the kitchen. Foraged through cupboard and freezer. Super-charged my slow cooker and cleaned up the papaya pandemonium. Yet despite my best efforts of continuously singing the same bits of the same Dolly Parton song that normally keeps Lilly appeased, I way overstepped the limits of her patience. In the end, I did manage to make dinner but only just. A tantrum was very narrowly avoided. Some might say a minor tantrum was had but I prefer not to go there.

And rather than being greeted by a delightful dinner upon returning home, the hard-working hubby was greeted by Hell’s Kitchen. There might have been dinner bubbling away somewhere, but he could be forgiven for not noticing in amidst the dishes and the remnants of the potato and pumpkin fest that was Lilly’s dinner. Wife absent settling babe to sleep. Unintended hint to empty dishwasher so ‘new’ dirty dishes could actually be put in it.

Oh, and the dragons’ den of a living room? Yep, still there. Never even started tackling that one.  

But I will. One day. That’s a quality problem too.

Quality Problems I

 

This morning I made a list of things I want to get on with. I read somewhere that you should frame tasks up as things that you ‘get’ to do rather than things that you ‘have’ to do. I like that. Makes it less daunting. More like a privilege, less like a drag. And many of the things that I get to do are actually pretty exciting. Like looking for an agent and fine tuning upcoming travel plans. Fundraising and getting my blog snazzed up.

It also got me thinking how lucky I am to get to do the things I do every day. I have an amazing daughter that I get to spend time with. I am under no pressure to return to a conventional job and be separate from her. I get to write and go for walks with Jack. I get to hang out in cafés with other mummies. On top of that, I still get to nag Rob about emptying the dishwasher and I get to petition him for a few pockets of Lilly-free time every week.

So really, I’m a lucky girl.   

That’s not to say that I don’t feel tired or overwhelmed or exhausted at times. It can kinda zap your energy to be present with a babe pretty much most of the time. Anticipating all of her needs; keeping her changed, fed and entertained. Making sure she gets naps. Tucking her up at night. I’m not complaining but being with a small person all day (and part of the night) would even wear the Duracell bunny out eventually.

So I’m a lucky girl with quality problems. That doesn’t mean that they don’t feel real at the time. It just means that really I have it very good… and so do most of us. Most of the time. We just need reminding ever so often.

Little Things

 

Friday evening. Time to curl up on the couch. Spend some quality time with hubby. A good reason to keep things short… well, even shorter than usual. And a perfect time for taking a moment to appreciate the little things.

Such as that it’s Friday evening and I have a couch and a hubby (well, he’s hardly little but you get the point). I have a sleeping babe, and I’ve just indulged in a candlelit bath. Been wanting to do that for days. Just kept deciding that other stuff was more important. Like writing, feeding myself… the basic things, really.

I got out of the bath to find my laptop atop a cozy blanket, waiting for me to get all comfy. Alongside a knitting magazine. I am getting takeaway dinner.

And I got a card from my lovely little one, who apparently acquired advanced communication skills (and a scribe) when I wasn’t looking.

Aaaaah, feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Thoroughly spoiled. All loved up.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

 

Time Out

 

My fabulous self is grounded today. Bad ankle. Not sure how and why. GP (read: doctor) doesn’t know either. But as long as I can put at least 10% of my body weight on it, it’s apparently nothing to worry about. Just take painkillers.

This is bad news for my peripatetic self. I like to be mobile. Out and about. I guess the universe is telling me to take a break.

Which leads me to something I was pondering last week. I was feeling a bit off as I found myself on the losing end of nap negotiations with Lilly. Rob came to the rescue with some slick sling action, leaving me faced with the choice of either taking time out or doing some ‘stuff’.

The whole thing got me thinking about how we can use both action and inaction to either move forward or stay stuck. You can take a rest to recharge, or to just plain hide your face under the cover. You can take action to move forward to what you are here for on this planet; or you can do inconsequential things that distract you from the task at hand. So both action and inaction can be a way of either progressing or procrastinating.

In the end, I did a quick meditation and some journaling (recharging with purpose), followed by some ‘stuff’ around the house to clear space for writing and ‘me’ time that evening. And felt better for it all than simply having surrendered to the sofa, tempting as that option may have sounded. It all reminded me of the saying that ‘imperfect action is better than perfect inaction’, a comment which appropriately enough was also posted on my blog last night.

Today I won the naptime battle. I had to concede to cuddling up on the couch. But while the girl is snoozing, I get to type out a blog post on my phone. You gotta love technology!

As for the rest of the day, I won’t be moving far beyond the four corners of the play mat. Just like Lilly. Maybe my universe decided to shrink down to the size of hers to get us to spend some quality home time today. And as always, it’s all good.

 

PS: And before anyone asks, no – this is not a hooker heel related injury!

Heart Spaces

 

My little girl is 6 months old today!

It’s been an interesting journey into motherhood. One of the things everyone was telling me before Lilly was born is that you can’t really prepare yourself for being a mum. That you cannot possibly imagine what it’s like to have a small person to look after pretty much 24/7, certainly in the beginning.

And before you have a child, you have the luxury of revelling in the illusion that you will be different. That all the things other parents tell you will happen won’t happen to you. Enjoy that to the fullest. I did. You never get it back.

Sometimes I feel like I should be all grown up and responsible now but I don’t really feel all that different. Yes, I have to take Lilly’s needs into account in just about everything I do. No, I no longer can

  • go out at a moment’s notice or pop out for an evening out without some kind of advance notice and planning
  • fill my daytime hours with lots of me time
  • sleep whenever, and how long, I may want to
  • … and a host of other things I may have largely taken for granted before Lilly came along.

Not for now, anyway. So it sounds like there’s a whole lotta giving and not a lot of getting. Or that’s what it always sounded like to me when I listened to other mums before becoming one myself. And it’s kinda true. But that’s not the whole story.

Because what you do get in abundance is unadulterated love. The love that you feel and give to your child and the love you get back in return. The utter delight of having your baby smile at you and put his or her arms around your neck. The closeness when they snuggle in tight. Or fall asleep in your arms. The joy of watching them discover new things for the first time, when they feel ever so pleased with themselves and the world. And the simple fun of just being with this little person who has become such a big part of your life.

Everyone told me how much space a child takes up. In your house, in your relationship, in your life. I think people should talk more about the space a child takes up in your heart. And noone can prepare you for that either.

Food Fight

 

Food is going airborne in our house. Yep, you guessed it… the process of weaning has begun.

Baby-led weaning, that is. A lovely concept that sells itself as being baby-friendly whilst saving time and effort for the parent. No fussy purées to prepare. No baby rice that I am reliable told can double up as emergency polyfilla. Instead just arm your small one with a variety of steamed veg sticks and let them get on with it (under your watchful eye, of course).  No airplane noises required.

Sounds good, huh?

It is. As long as you don’t mind a full outfit change after each meal because the ‘perfect’ and highly recommended full-body bibs ordered before Christmas have gone AWOL in the Royal Mail system. What did turn up at least is a splash mat to protect the floor underneath the dining table. So far the missile range of flying finger food hasn’t exceeded the area covered by said splash mat. Result.

If ever it did, I have a funny feeling Jack would be at the ready to catch any errand morsels in mid-air. He’s all for the concept. Baby-led weaning is giving the dog diet variety whilst making Lilly a devoted four-legged friend. Note: Everyone subscribing to this way of weaning should invest in a canine vacuum cleaner. It keeps the splash mat clean, and your sanity intact.

Lilly’s all for the idea too. I mean, when else in life will it ever again be entirely acceptable to cover yourself and your surroundings in food? To make your avocado double up as a deep-conditioning hair treatment? Or to let anything you don’t quite fancy casually drop by the wayside?

I saw a friend of mine spoon-feeding her child sweet potato and parsnip purée in public the other day. It looked entirely civilized… for both of them. All I can say for me is this: carrots and cashmere don’t mix. So don’t get caught in the firing line.