Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What kind of parent do I want to be?

A long reflection at the 6 months point... :) I can't imagine that anyone cares enough to read all this, but I've been wanting to get my thoughts on "paper" about this, so it's time. (I just posted a baby update below also.)

This is a question that I have thought about a lot. I think about, "what kind of parent am I?" and "what kind of parent do I want to be?" Once I answer those questions, I can look at the gap between the answers and know what I need to do do change.

It's always easier, I think, to answer the question of the ideal first - what kind of parent I WANT to be. Here is my manifesto, in no particular order.

1. I want to be a proactive parent. It seems to me that too many people just have kids in their house without thinking about how to actually raise them. They just sort of "wing it" and deal with things as they come along. It takes a lot more effort to be a proactive parent - someone who parents with an already thought about philosophy, who educates themselves about what their kids need at each step before they get there, who is basically always 5 steps ahead. I can't stand the saying "all kids need is love". That is a nice sounding platitude, but at the end of the day, I believe it is my job as a parent to give them much more. Of course they need love! But I don't believe you can boil down everything they need to that. If we want to talk about "all they need", I could say all they need is food and water. Of course there are basic needs, and fortunately most families meet those for their children. But there is so much more we can give our kids if we are really proactive. As one small example, I want to raise Nathan and Kenna to be bilingual in French (I'm half French). I just finished reading an awesome book called "The Bilingual Edge" about how/when to introduce another language. The book is very specific about how to do it based on research. I've got a whole spreadsheet laid out with the times dedicated to interacting with them in French and what activities we will do, etc. Basically, they will be at a 40% French/60% English split during the week. If I weren't being proactive, I would just plan to send them to French lessons later in their childhood. But, I wanted to know how to BEST do this, and learned from the book how important it is to start now, that videos are a waste of time, that you have to do at least 20% in the other language to make a difference, what kids of books to read them, etc...all kinds of things I would not have just guessed. On this factor of how I want to be, I'm going to give myself an A so far...if there is anything in life I'm good at, it's being proactive. I'm super motivated and read, read, read to make sure I'm doing what I feel are all the best things at every stage.

2. I want to be a parent who models the way I would like my kids to be as adults. It's one thing to tell your kids to be a certain way, another thing to have them see you do it. I'm constantly mindful of this now and I recognize there are certain weaknesses I have that I don't want to model for my kids. Most top of mind for me is my temper/impatience. It's always been a struggle for me. If something makes me mad, I go from 0 to 100 in a seconds. It was so hard for me when I struggled with the solids because I was becoming so frustrated and mad visibly and I had to realize that I don't want to exhibit that in front of them. OF COURSE I am not a perfect person and there will be times I get mad in front of them. I don't have unrealistic expectations. But, my kids motivate me to be a better person so that they can be better people for having been raised with a better model. I work on it every day. On this one, I'm going to give myself a C+ right now. I think I started at an F when they were really little because I was SO frustrated all the time. But I'm improving. :)

3. I want to be a parent who models a good marriage. It's unfortunate that so many people of my generation were raised in troubled families. I've seen how it's impacted my friends' lives - several of whom even refuse to marry because they don't believe it can work. B and I were both SOOOOO fortunate to have been raised in happy, loving homes. I want so much for Nathan and Kenna to grow up to see what a loving, happy, God-centered marriage looks like. B and I have a great relationship and I never want having kids to somehow make that relationship less important. It does our kids no favors to focus only on them and not on each other as spouses. We agree that we will always take time to go on "dates", we will always eat dinner together as a family, we will not argue in front of our kids (of course I'm sure that will happen sometimes, but we are mindful of it), and we will continue to do the things we love even if it doesn't always include the kids. As an example, thanks to B's parents having the kids for the weekend, we will be setting out on a backpacking trip in August! So far, I'm gonna give us an A on this one. We have been going out on weekends thanks to B's parents babysitting, we've done two family trips and are going on another next week, and we've been spending a great amount of time together!

4. I want to be a parent who raises kids to love God. We are Christians and I want to raise my kids in a Christian home. That said, this is a tough one for me. Both of us grew up going to church but neither of us grew up in homes where faith was a matter of active discussion/practice. For example, my mom would read HER Bible every night, but she never engaged me in reading it or discussing it, or discussing faith at all...yet she is an incredibly strong Christian woman herself. Now, I guarantee what she would say is that I would never have been interested. True, as a teenager. But I wasn't RAISED that way and by the teen years it is too late. I don't believe in leaving faith to be something that you only learn about in church. I also don't believe in mixing faith and academics (I would not send my kids to a Christian school). I remember one time I came home from church camp after a week. I was probably 12 or so. For a whole week I was immersed in thinking about God, talking about God, praying, etc. By the time I got home I was talking to my mom about God like that's what we always did. Soon after I realized how strange that was...because we weren't like that normally. But after getting used to it at camp, it was comfortable. I liken that to how I want to raise Nathan and Kenna. I want faith to be part of their lives from the beginning so it is always comfortably a part of our home lives. I will share with them the Bible, pray with them, explain to them why faith matters in life. B and I recently started praying before meals together. We don't normally do that but we want to get used to it so we can do it with Nathan and Kenna when they are a bit older. Since they are too young at this point, I can't grade myself yet on this one.

5. I want to be a parent who is present in mind, not just in body. With all this proactivity, reading, thinking, planning, etc. going on, it is easy to spend more time on those things than enjoying the moment and being mentally present with your kids. For a while, I was so into our routine that I was a little robotic moving the kids around their "stations" - bouncer, mat, swing, jumper, etc. - without thinking much about it. About a month ago though I started to really focus on making myself present, realizing how important that is and that I wasn't doing a good job of it. Of course I need to get chores done and I don't think it's healthy to play with your kids constantly (they need to learn independence)...but I now spend much more time just sitting with them, talking to them about what they are playing with (of course in French 40% of the time! lol), holding and kissing them, etc. I'm really making sure that I'm not letting it all pass me by. I'm REALLY aware that these are probably the only kids we will ever have. I would give myself a D on this one in the past but lately I would give myself a solid B. Still working on it, and I know this is very, very important.

6. I want to be a parent who pushes their kids to be their best. It's so not cool these days to say you want to "push" your kids. It brings to mind images of hard core parents who are shuffling kids to and from activities without time to breathe, who live by the mantra that only first place matters, and who enroll their baby daughters in pageants by age 1. This is not what I mean. Notice that I said "pushes their kids to be THEIR best"...not to be something they aren't. I'm always surprised at how many people bristle at the idea of pushing their kids, that they just want them to be themselves and make their own decisions. I don't believe that kids are old enough to make many decisions on what is best for them, so it is up to the parents to use good judgment in this area. Just like I have the weaknesses I described, my kids will have weaknesses. I am certain that Nathan will have a temper and Kenna will be overly fearful (one of my own weaknesses), for example. But I don't want to just accept that that's how they are and we're done. If Kenna is fearful of something, I will work with her to overcome that and be conscious of her tendency toward fear so that I don't encourage it. I saw my friend K's son fall from a playground ladder once and I screamed while he was in the air. She hardly flinched, and neither did her son because he is used to her not making a big deal of things (it wasn't a huge fall). It sounds funny, but I was inspired by that - kids really respond to how you respond, so I will be cogniscent of Kenna's fears in order to not overreact to things which would then encourage her fear further. Another example of "pushing" would be requiring them to finish things they start (unless there is a good reason to drop out). I doubt any kid is happy about piano lessons all the time. But, if our kids take piano lessons (B plays piano so this is likely), they will be required to take them for a given amount of time. After that, we can talk about things. But there is NO WAY I would let them take like 4 lessons, tell me they hate it, and quit. I don't know how many I would make them take, but I would decide with B up front, agree with the kids on it so they know what to expect, and go from there. It pushes them beyond what they would do naturally and teaches them about tenacity, patience, and the rewards of hard work. Hard to grade myself on this one yet, but I will say that I'm already working on Nathan's temper/impatience...I have been making him wait in the high chair for a while after eating and he no longer screams to get down. :)

7. I want to be a parent who fosters character building. I really believe this is another thing you have to actively work at as a parent. I want to instill in them values of being humble, kind, gracious, self-giving, thankful and loving. I have been thinking, for example, about how cool it would be for them to give something to a child in need each year on their own birthday. I want to take them to volunteer for others when they are old enough. It would be a lot easier to not actively think about what experiences would foster character building, but I want to be a parent who seeks out these experiences to make the most impact on their development.

8. I want to be a parent whose kids know that they are loved at all times. OK, so I said that "all kids need is love" is too trite, but it certainly is something they need lots and lots of! As I have "gotten to know" my little ones over the last few months, I have fallen so deeply in love with them that it scares me sometimes. I sometimes feel like I shouldn't love them so much because if something happens to one of them I would die. In a weird way, I think that fear is exacerbated because I know we probably can't have any more kids. It's not that I could ever replace one of them, but sometimes it feels like they are EXTRA precious because of our unique situation. B and I for the last few weeks have been sneaking into the nursery at night before our own bedtime for a "baby check"...it has nothing to do with the babies needing to be checked and everthing to do with us needing to look at our sleeping cherubs. We go in, whisper about how precious they are that night (every night), put a hand on their backs just to be closer to them, and kiss them gently to not wake them up. We love them sooooo much and I always want them to know that. They are the most amazing little people. No matter how tired I am in the morning, when I walk into the nursery and see their smiling faces, all I can do is smile, feel my heart melt and be oh so grateful that I have the opportunity to sweep them into my arms for one more day. I can only hope that I can live up to the expectations I have for myself in this post in order to give them the best lives possible.

6.5 Months!

Somehow we flew right by the 6 month post - I guess it was all that frustration over solids. ;)

Actually, not a ton has changed except 4 major things:

1. We started solids.
2. Kenna has two teeth as of last week!
3. Nathan is probably seconds away from crawling.
4. A trip to the emergency room for Nathan.


We are doing MUCH better with solids now. We started rice cereal about a week and a half before they turned 6 months because I could tell that they were ready - well, that Nathan was ready. He was always hungry after emptying his bottles and never seemed satisfied, even with more milk. The cereal wasn't a big hit, they both spit it out. They still aren't big fans of it, but when I mix something in it goes better. We have since tried bananas, applesauce, carrots, pears, peas, green beans, squash and oatmeal. The only one they outright try to reject is peas. But I keep giving it to them because I want to give them the chance to like everything. It's getting better and they do pretty much eat them now. Victory! I definitely don't want picky eaters. Kenna LOVES applesauce. Nathan reacts pretty much the same to everything. I'd say Kenna has more of an affinity for her veggies than Nathan but he still eats them fine so I'm happy.

So, the recipe for our success after the frustrations of my last post was as follows:

1) Give them 3/4 of their bottles before solids. This was about 70% of the success. I had tried 1/2 of a bottle before and it wasn't enough to make them stop crying because they were still really hungry. I had tried the whole bottle but that was too much and they no longer cared about the solids. Well, Nathan would still have cared but I always try to find something that works for BOTH of them if possible because I like to keep it simple! So, giving them 3/4 worked well because it was right in the middle. If they aren't screaming, I'm not frustrated. So that was huge.

2) I made them pay attention to what we are doing and open their mouths before I would give them anything. Before when they were crying so much I was just trying to shovel it in fast so they wouldn't cry. But I realized they didn't know what was going on and I don't think they realized it was even food, so they were crying for their bottles. Now I make sure they are looking at the spoon, move slowly toward their mouths and wait for them to open. They have learned quickly since then. Nathan is a total pro already. He basically sits with his mouth open the whole time. Kenna is still a bit difficult sometimes - it's off and on with her. Sometimes she tries to play by blowing raspberries with the food rather than swallowing. I stopped laughing at it and she has done it much less. I now shake my head and say, "No, we don't play with our food." We've had a couple of choking incidents with her and I realized that she wasn't swallowing everything sometimes, just building it up in her throat and opening again. Now I wait a lot longer between bites for her and it hasn't happened again. It was super scary though!

3) They have a serving of solids with breakfast (7:30), lunch (10:30) and dinner (5:30). They have bottles at 2:30 without solids. I really felt that they would learn more quickly by praciticing more frequently so I kept at it with 3 meals per day and that's worked out. I also make sure to feed them bottles AND solids in their high chairs so they know it's feeding time. The only time I don't is the 2:30 bottle-only feed. I do that on the boppies. I figured out that they weren't crying BECAUSE of the high chairs, but because they were hungry by the time I put them in. Now they sit in the high chairs for a bit before we eat and a bit after. I make them wait for me to clean their faces, clean their bibs and their trays before they get down. I explain to them each time that we must do each of these things before they get down (and wait for one another). They intently watch what I do. It's really cute. :) They have become really patient! I'm so happy to see how they have changed that way. I don't give them toys or anything while they eat or wait because I want them to focus on mealtime, and then get used to waiting patiently. I'm amazed, to be honest, that it's working with them being so young. They used to scream to get down right after but now they understand that doesn't work and wait nicely. I am a proud mommy!

Kenna has two teeth...

Kenna beat Nathan to something...she has two teeth that broke through last week! A couple of months ago I could have sworn she was teething but nothing happened. I didn't notice any teething symptoms lately and then all of a sudden there they were! There was a little blood spot on the gum one morning and the tooth broke through the next day. By Wednesday last week, the other one popped through too, literally a day or two apart! It's so cute! They are far enough out that you notice when she laughs and smiles and it's adorable - she seems like a big girl now! I'll post pictures in my next post. No sign yet of Nathan's teeth, just a bumpy gum.

Nathan is probably seconds away from crawling...

For the last month I would have sworn Nathan was like a day or two away from crawling. He is SO strong. He has done every position possible without actually crawling. I thought for sure around his six month birthday he was really close. He pushes up on his arms really high, scrunches his knees under him, then buries his head in the floor to push forward. He also has been doing something I call the backwards crab. He lies on his back, arches it way up with his head arched behind him (so his neck is sticking up) and scooches backward. He rolls all over the room. Basically, he can get wherever he wants with some combination of these things but hasn't actually crawled. If he has been days or hours from crawling earlier in the month, he must be seconds away the last couple of days. He has his stomach off the ground now and is in a perfect crawling position - up on arms and knees. This morning he managed to bring both knees up at the same time and moved forward. I thought for sure this was going to be it but not quite. :) It will be very, very soon. Kenna, ever since she learned to roll over both ways that week of my last post, has become so much stronger. It was like an overnight transition. She now pushes way off the ground just like Nathan. But she hasn't bunched her knees up yet so I think crawling is a while off for her.

A trip to the emergency room for Nathan...

This was much less eventful than it sounds. Nathan is fine. I will spare you the boring details, but basically he started "panting" heavily off and on at 5 pm last Thursday. It got more and more frequent and the Dr's office was closed so we took him to the emergency room. I didn't know what was going on; he had never done it before and I didn't want to just put him to bed panting. What if he couldn't breathe during the night? I took a video of it to show the doctor since I knew with my luck he wouldn't do it when we got there. Sure enough, he was sleeping and wasn't doing it. I showed them the video and they were totally amused I had taken a video. The triage guy said in 16 years no one had taken a video to show him. I couldn't believe it. It seemed totally obvious to me. The doctors checked him out and said he was fine. They saw the video and concluded he must have just "learned" something new.

What hasn't happened...

No sitting! I seriously think Nathan may walk before he sits. He is completely solid on his feet. In fact, this morning I was holding his hands and he started lifting one foot at a time to walk toward me! I was amazed. I have tried that before with him and he didn't want to lift his feet. He can sit with his hands between his legs for a few seconds but always wants to "get down" to roll/pseudo crawl instead. Kenna actually does better trying to sit. She can do it for a few seconds and has a better "posture". I think they are both strong enough now, they just haven't seen a reason to want to learn it. :)

I will post new pictures in a bit!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Taking a deep breath. :)

OK, sorry about the random dramatic post last night. lol I was SO frustrated and I just had to get it out. I appreciate the comments and suggestions. It's a new day and I have renewed energy so we'll try something different today. Pledge for today:

1) I will not become frustrated when the babies don't want the solids. I understand they can sense this and it helps nothing.

2) I will keep reminding myself that though they seem like little kids now compared to being newborns, they are still just little babies who have a lot to learn in the world. This is a very different experience for them. I think sometimes I see them as big kids now.

3) I will keep the bigger picture perspective that they don't have to have learned to eat full meals 3 times per day by tomorrow and we need to learn a little at a time. They have not failed and I have not failed if they don't get it immediately.

I will let you know how that goes. Thanks again for the suggestions and comments. I will change some things up today. :)

Friday, June 12, 2009


I am interrupting the regularly scheduled positive blog experience to vent to the world about my frustrations with solids. I don't know why, I just have to put this out there. (I will post a 6 month old update soon, I promise!)

So we started solids a couple of weeks ago. It is NOT GOING WELL!! Honestly, by the time night comes I am so frustrated I want to throw rocks through our windows. Like right now. Here's the problem. They pretty much cry the ENTIRE time I am feeding them the solids. In fact, they cry the second I put them in the high chairs for the most part. They don't like sitting up to eat and they don't like eating anything but their bottles. I know it's not the food because they outright rejected peas, so now I know what that is like (spitting out all the food and refusing to swallow). All other foods we have tried - rice cereal, pears, carrots, applesauce, and bananas - they have accepted (i.e., not spit out for the most part; yes I am waiting 3 days between starting each new one). But the whole time we are sitting there they are crying in between bites. I've gotten to the point I'm so frustrated that I wait until they scream - mouth open - and stick the food in. Yeah, I know, really helping the situation by giving them a negative association with the experience.

I'm sort of mad at our pediatrician for telling us we had to wait until they were 6 months old. I'm convinced that this is too long to wait and that at this point they are so used to their bottles they don't want anything else. It's been TWO WEEKS of the same thing and they aren't getting any happier with it. I've increased the frequency so we now do a serving of solids at breakfast, lunch and dinner, just like the end goal. They get their bottle after they finish the serving. Then there is one feeding at 2:30 of just their bottles. They are doing fine swallowing it so I'm not going by the whole "give them 1 or 2 spoons to start per day". They know how to do it, they just don't WANT to, so I see no reason for just having them take 1 or 2 spoons. They'll never learn that way. And Nathan has no problem eating a whole serving in a sitting. He likes the food, but he is still crying.

I think the reason Nathan cries is that he is totally hungry by the time of the feed and he can't control the speed of solids. Yes, I've tried 1) giving him half the bottle first so he's not ravenous and 2) giving him the whole bottle first and then the solids. If I give him half the bottle he still cries because he wants the rest. If I give him the whole bottle he doesn't want the solids. Kenna I think cries just because she doesn't want to accept anything new period.

At this point, I'm not willing to stop for a few days, cut back to 1 or 2 teaspoons per day, etc. I don't see the point. They just have to learn and practice makes perfect. And I may go insane in the meantime. I mean, really, really insane.

Did anyone else have a really frustrating experience starting solids?