When I was a kid, it used to be some sort of braggable accomplishment to be able to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time.
I'll admit I still feel a little bit like I'm somehow a better person because I have always been able to do this :)
I have decided that this is a useful parenting skill. Really. As a parent, you may someday be required to pat the back of one child while rubbing the back of another.
One child is an infant who occasionally requires someone to swaddle them, hold them at exactly a 12 degree angle while patting their back at 96 beats per minute while standing on one foot and bouncing around in a circle in order to fall asleep or even stop crying. Ok, the last two are slight exaggerations...
The other child is a toddler who has always had 'poop issues', and now requires a parent to cuddle them while they are pooping and to have their back rubbed repeatedly in a downward motion. Also, the toddler is potty trained, so keep in mind this takes place with the toddler on her floor potty while the parent is squatting next to it.
Now, imagine that one parent has to fulfill both of these roles. That was me the other day, and I couldn't help but be grateful for the ability to rub my belly and pat my head at the same time.
The Toddle Along Tuesday topic this week is 'Birth Order' - initially, this got me thinking about my own 'order' of birth, the siblings I had and wished I had, and what I had 'planned' for my children in that regard. When I looked at the details of the topic, however, it was asking about the idea that birth order affects a child's personality and whether or not I (the writer) agreed with this idea.
So, I'm going to talk about both...
My 'birth order' is a bit complicated... I was my biological mother's third child (she had a son and daughter) and my Dad's first. Because my mother left when I was a baby, and kept my older siblings with her, they didn't really play a part in my childhood except that I always 'wished' they were around. I didn't necessarily miss 'them' specifically, because I hardly knew them, but I did miss the idea of having older siblings - a big sister to learn about 'girly' things from, and an older brother to pick on me. Yes, I really did want to be picked on...
So effectively, for seven years of my life, I was an only child. Do I think that 'spoiled' me? Absolutely :) Although my 'spoiling' may have had more to do with the fact that I was a little bit pitied for not having a mother, so my family was probably more lenient than they should have been because of that. I also had my Dad's younger siblings as almost-siblings (but WAY older) who spoiled me a bit also. I just got used to being everyone's 'little princess'.
Then, my Dad got married to my Mom who had a 4-year-old son (my brother). Growing up, I don't think I would have said I liked having a little brother, and I always wanted a little sister, but looking back (I love that this topic forced me to do this) I have to say that little brothers are fun - and fun-ny! I think some of my greatest memories from childhood are actually 'great' because of my little brother. I don't remember doing 'crazy' things as a child alone, but I did 'crazy' things with other kids - especially my brother.
I didn't have a lot of siblings, but I really do think that as a kid, more really is 'merrier' in a lot of ways. If I thought it was practical for my family, I would probably choose to have more kids for this reason. Personally, and as a parent, I think (at this point) that I'm probably done with 2...
So, moving on...
Do I think birth order affects a child's personality? Simply put - yes.
This is sort of a 'nature vs. nurture' question, and I think reality is somewhere in the middle of those two - I think everyone is born with a personality that is all their own, and everything about their lives and surroundings - including how they are parented, and their siblings - 'tweaks' their personalities, adding to their uniqueness.
I'm already seeing a difference in our own daughters, how the amount of time I have for Audrey is different and the way I parent her is different because of Clara, so Audrey will come to see and expect different things from me than Clara did. Audrey's personality already seems a bit more easy-going, especially when it comes to chaos and noise, because she's been surrounded by it more than Clara was.
Growing up, I remember taking note of certain characteristics I saw in the families around me. It seemed to me, that the second child in the family was often a bit more outgoing than the first. The first child was often more reserved and responsible, and the second more likely to take risks. I think it's reasonable to assume that often the oldest child is given more responsibility sooner (probably right around when their younger sibling is born), and is possibly expected to engage in more independent play while their parents are taking care of the demands of an infant. The younger sibling, also, is born into a family with siblings and is less likely to be comfortable 'alone', because they haven't been alone like their oldest sibling has. Parents are often (in my experience) a bit more cautious with their first child, which might then make the child more cautious than their siblings as well.
This is a speculation and a stereotype, and I certainly don't think this is any sort of rule that all families follow - it is simply an example (that I have seen) of how children might be affected by birth order.
I remember years ago when I was babysitting for a family of three - the oldest two were girls who were close in age, and their younger brother was a few years younger than they were. We were playing a game, and the boy began to get irritable because he was starting to lose. His older sisters started casually 'handing him points' in order to let him win. I'm not a fan of this - I think people need to learn to lose gracefully - so I asked the girls why they were doing this. They informed me that it was just easier if they let him win, because then he would be happy.
This was the first time I realized that the 'youngest child syndrome' (the view that the youngest child in a family is often more 'spoiled' than older siblings) could possibly be caused by older siblings (not parents) giving the youngest what they want. I found this interesting, because I realized at this moment that a person's siblings play as much of a role in shaping who they are as their parents do.
I find this subject fascinating, and could probably spend years studying it if someone would pay me to do so :)
How many siblings are in your family, and where do you fall? Has it affected your personality? Have your children's personalities been affected by their siblings?
Typically I try to avoid being too negative on my blog - because really, who wants to read that? I also try to avoid feeling too sorry for myself - there are always worse things, there are always people in worse - MUCH worse - situations that I am in, or find myself in.
But I'm almost 37 weeks pregnant, and for the next few minutes, I'm going to allow myself to wallow in a little bit of self pity - if that annoys you, stop reading!
My pregnancies have been pretty easy, and I hardly find myself sick at all. What I do feel, is TIRED. Sometimes so much it's debilitating. And I almost wish I actually was vomiting constantly, because then maybe the people around me would not think 'Oh, she's just lazy tired!' I feel lazy. When I am sitting on my butt and watching my daughter play, or asking her to watch a movie with me because it's less energy than actually DOING something, or putting her down for a nap when it's maybe not strictly necessary quite yet - just so I can lie down too, I feel like the worst mother ever. I feel like it's absolutely ridiculous that I can't seem to get off my butt and clean the kitchen - because really, it's not that hard, is it?
I teach piano at home, which comes with a number of complications when it comes to having a baby. It means that I can't take a significant amount of 'leave', because then I don't get paid, and if I took too much time off I would be risking my students finding another teacher and not returning. So, this year I'm hoping I will be able to manage on no more than 2 weeks. Teaching piano at home also means that there are certain 'house' tasks that I can't ignore. At the beginning of each week, the upstairs floor MUST be vacuumed and cleared, the bathroom MUST be cleaned, and the kitchen MUST NOT smell like we left last weeks casserole sitting out... again...
It also means that by about 4pm each day that I teach (which is 3 days a week), the Living Room floor must be freshly tidied and swept.
I am not a Domestic Goddess. I was never expected to help clean the house as a child - so I would like to lay the blame for my lack of house-keeping skills on my parents. I can do that, right? :) Anyway, I struggle with house cleaning, but had really started to 'master' it after a year of being at home with Clara.
And then I got pregnant. At first it seemed like a dream pregnancy - having a toddler around distracted me, and the time flew by. My pregnancy never got 'difficult', but when I started getting tired, my SAHM skills started diminishing. One thing about household tasks that is kind of unlike any other job I've ever had is the fact that if I skip a day, I now have two days worth of work to do... no one else is picking up the slack. If I spend a week just trying to keep up with my toddler and not really managing to get ANYTHING done - I suddenly am a week behind, and almost all of that stuff still needs to be done. I find this mentally exhausting.
I know this isn't an issue for everyone - and maybe it's just me. I have an aunt who is a housecleaning miracle - she currently has 4 teenaged boys, and at no point during their lives was their house anything other than spotless (by my standards). I also hate asking her for help or advice, because she really doesn't understand why this is difficult for me. I get a funny look and a 'What's the big deal? Just clean your house!'. I suppose it would be like me trying to teach someone how to make Kraft Dinner... 'What's your struggle? Just read the directions!'... but I digress.
I recall when Clara was born having family members offer to come 'watch the baby' so that I could clean the house, or cook or something. I wanted to feel grateful, and understanding about the fact that they wanted to hang out with the baby and also wanted to be (at least a little bit) helpful, but I found these offers annoying. 'Watching the baby' was for the most part easy work - and most of it could be done from a sitting position, unlike housework or cooking.
Again, I wanted to feel grateful, but I also wanted to yell 'If you really want to be helpful - CLEAN MY HOUSE!!!'
At most, I have just 5 more weeks of pregnancy, and then hopefully things will get better. I'd love to ask for a gift certificate for a house cleaner for Christmas, but by then I hope to not need it anymore...
Ok, that's it. It's time to stop feeling sorry for myself - get off my butt and get something done. And... Go!
I remember years ago when my Aunt said she thought a 'tear-away' jar should exist for things like peanut butter and mayonaise. It would have a lid, but would also have layers to it that you could peel away to make the jar shorter as it got emptier. Because seriously, how annoying is it to get mayo all over your hand when you're trying to reach into the bottom of the jar???
I don't think such a thing exists yet :)
Today I was looking over a catalogue of day-planner books. I am so unorganized, I will write down upcoming events, etc. in one of about 8 different places and then of course forget to see that particular note until long after the event has occurred. It's helpful that my husband is pretty good at remembering things like that...
Anyway, I just got a new phone which includes a calendar that syncs to my online calendar, which syncs to my husband's calendar and blah, blah, blah. Basically, it's super-handy and has all sorts of bells and whistles which no paper book day-planner includes.
But it's NOT paper. I don't get to pick up a pen and write in my happy little scrawl that I have a lunch date next week, or a birthday party on Saturday, or that I need to buy 6 piano books for 5 students before next week Tuesday. And I love doing that! And I love leafing through the pages to see my schedule and notes... it's a comfort thing.
What I need, is a day planner that syncs to my PHONE! Haha. Right. Maybe it's not so far fetched, maybe it will happen. But right now, I'll probably continue to organize my life in the most disorganized fashion possible...
I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty good at a lot of things - or I'm stubborn enough to put in the time it takes to GET good at whatever I want. Except sports, but I don't really care about them... :)
Despite this, I can't manage to keep my house clean and organized. I can't be certain my bills will be paid on time. I can't take prenatal vitamins - or any kind of vitamins daily - I can't even brush my teeth on a daily basis (I know, it's gross). Some people will say that it takes 21 days, or a month, to make or break a habit - if you do something consistently for this amount of time, it will become habit.
I am incapable of making a 'habit', such as this.
And trust me, I've tried everything!
I am incapable of sticking to any sort of 'routine'. I can force myself to remember to do something daily for awhile, but if anything pops up that throws off my thought processes, that 'thing' will be forgotten until at least a few days later when I go - 'Oh yeah, I was going to...'. A habit, or 'routine' is never made.
This scares me as a mother, because although I'm glad that this summer it is my husband's job to drive our daughter to her babysitters, I'm terrified that if it were up to me, I would be the parent who would accidentally forget to drop her off one day and leave her in the car. Or, I would forget to take her entirely and leave her at home! Because of this particular flaw, I do have an extreme paranoia when it comes to checking and double checking anything that is semi-important.
I wish - so much - that I could do something - ANYTHING - on a consistent schedule, and stick to it.
But nope. It's just not me.
I am a Master Procrastinator!
No really, I don't mean to brag...
I teach piano at home during the year, so from that I get summers off! I love that moment at the end of May when my last recital is cleaned up, and I'm looking at the next three months on the calendar thinking I have LOADS of time to get ready for next years' curriculum.
This year was obviously a bit different than future years will be - my Dad won't die every June - but the month of June slipped away on me, with nothing sorted or planned, just a vague list of students who plan to return. Then I flipped the calendar to July thinking I still had lots of time to get everything sorted, email my students and finalize (and start, I guess) my plans.
Today I looked at the calendar and realized that it is now August.
I have until the end of this month to contact my students, finalize their schedule, make my lesson plans, arrange recital times, dates and locations, update my website and communicate all of this to students and other teachers (there are a few of us who work together and help each other out). Oh yeah - and finalize arrangements with babysitters who will be watching Clara and baby while I'm teaching.
Also, because I will be having a baby halfway through the fall term, I have to make sure all of these plans accomodate that little 'blip', as well as all of the things necessary to get ready for Baby #2.
Our daughters' room needs to be rearranged, I need to find room for and pull out all of her old baby clothes for her new baby sister, as well as find places in our house for all of the furniture that will no longer fit in their room! We have begun none of this...
This upcoming weekend is my husband's grandparent's 50th Anniversary celebration, which will eat up most of our weekend. The weekend after that is my husband's Birthday - any ideas? because I haven't planned a thing - and I would like to, at least to some degree, make it special for him. The weekend after that we are hoping to go camping with friends, and after that we're really only left with a couple weeks to get ready for fall.
Couple that with the fact that I am pregnant (exhausted), working almost-full-time until the end of August, and my husband is also working a few extra evening jobs to help pay a few extra bills that have accumulated over the summer.
I wish I'd thought ahead a little bit better...
Anyone else freaking out about the fact that summer's ALMOST OVER??? Any ideas to help me organize my life???
Summer Blog Challenge Day 56 - If I could have a Super Power, what would it be?
I just realized that I am a day behind on the summer blog challenge, but the real topic for today is something I have no thoughts on at all, so here's yesterday's and I'll just skip today's.
I haven't thought much about this recently, although I think if I had a Super Power right now, it would be to stop time - then I could get all kinds of housework done, hobbies accomplished, etc. and still be able to get enough sleep, make gourmet meals and spend time with my family! Everyone would be amazed at how much I could accomplish with seemingly zero effort! ;)
When I was a child, however, I thought about this in great detail. Have you ever heard of the Borrowers? Or the Littles? I loved these books as a kid, and I always wanted to be about 3 inches tall.
If I could fit in someone's pocket, I could hide in tiny spaces and spy on people. I could actually LIVE in my dollhouse, and the thought of creatively repurposing small household items for practical uses seemed like a ton of challenging fun. That makes me sound like a nerd...
I could ride around on my cat's back (I didn't consider the idea that my cat would probably eat me...), and if I made friends with birds (because people who are less than 5 inches tall can do that) I could even fly!
I guess that's not really a Super Power, but it was what I dreamed of as a kid. It could have been fun, anyway. :)
If YOU could have a Super Power - what would it be?
I came across an article today that discussed reasons why someone might choose to either stop after one baby, or wait after one baby for at least two years before conceiving again. The article included this quote:
" When you just have one child, you can still preserve a lot of your pre-baby lifestyle... Going out to dinner or on vacation isn't that hard." says Edward Christopherson, PhD. A Psychologist and and professor of pediatrics in Kansas City.
My response to this was utter and complete terror.
"What??? It isn't hard..??? Who does this guy think he is????"
And then it hit me - what if he's right? What if one child is a piece of cake, and I'm just a big whiny baby and having two at a time - especially when the oldest is less than two years older - will be terror?
I'm admittedly afraid.
And here are my main reasons why:
Chaos. I get flustered easily. I can't remember where I put my keys - ever. I still haven't found my camera (see post from last week). I find that the simple task of getting ready to go to work in the morning (just myself, never mind a baby) requires me to repeatedly go over my mental checklist. I'm probably the biggest flake imaginable, and I'm going to be responsible for TWO other people??
Sleep. I like sleeping. My Dad would get up with the sun (or without it, because in winter here the sun is lazy and doesn't show itself until 9am) at 5am. He was a morning person. I would have loved to inherit this particular trait - but I didn't. I can sleep in with the best of them - when the best of them were 13 years old. I haven't grown out of my ability to sleep until 2pm when left to my own devices (which granted, now only happens when I'm at home sick), and as I near 30, I sort of wonder if I will ever grow out of this. When we had Clara, everyone recommended I 'sleep when the baby sleeps'. When the realization hit me that with a toddler running around, I will no longer be able to do this - I pretty much panicked...
What if this baby is the same as Clara was? Going along with that last point about sleeping - Clara was 'colicky' for the first six weeks of her life. She started crying at about 7pm every evening and didn't stop until about 4am. It was awful. Everyone we asked for advice hadn't experienced anything quite so extreme, so no one could really offer any advice or consolation. It was hell.
What if this baby is nothing like Clara? Although Clara's first 6 weeks were hell, she quickly began sleeping straight through the night - up to 10 hours at a time - almost immediately after the 'colick' ended. Despite the insanity of those first six weeks, at least we were then able to finally rest! What if this baby doesn't sleep through the night - like, ever!?!? It crossed my mind sometimes that I was way to selfish a person to be a mom, because some days, when Clara started crying in the night, I tried for a long time to pretend I didn't hear her... Can I do that all over again - especially if this one is worse?
Pictures. This may not seem like a really big deal, but it kind of stresses me out. What if I don't take enough pictures? I find myself not taking enough pictures now (even when I know where my camera is) - what if I'm being driven crazy by two little ones and it just doesn't cross my mind to pull out a camera? This poor little girl will grow up with no baby pictures of herself! Taking pictures is just another thing on my 'to do' list. Another thing I have to remind myself to do. And that list of things seems endless and difficult some days...
I'm sure if I gave myself a week to think about this, I could come up with at least a dozen more reasons why baby #2 is kind of freaking me out... but I can't be alone in this. I ran across a blog post last month that was basically expressing the same fear - so I know I'm not the only one.
What were/are your fears going into the next baby? Were you right, or had you totally overreacted? (Please say there's nothing to be afraid of!!!)
Last Monday, on my day off with Clara, I made homemade finger paints and on we set up outside to paint! I took some pictures of the whole process, and somewhere between then and this last weekend, I lost the camera.
This isn't the first time.
I don't think I can blame this on being pregnant since I am routinely losing everything - my phone, my keys, my purse... really, anything that is smaller than me - and this has been going on since long before I was pregnant. It drives Brian crazy, because he usually knows where my stuff is better than I do and gets a little bit tired of helping me look for everything.
Luckily for us, my daughter seems to have not inherited this particular bit of flightiness - yet, anyway. The other day we were getting ready to leave the house and we told Clara to find her shoes. They were on her change-table, don't ask me why... and although she couldn't see the top of the table, she went directly there and reached up to grab her shoes. She must have seen one of us put them down there and remembered. I was so impressed.
So anyway, for the near future, I can't post with pictures :( At least not recent ones.
I've been trying to read more news articles - particularly on children and parenting recently, and there's a significant trend in reporting on the concept of 'helicopter parenting', and it's quite a controversial topic.
This article on the Today Moms website, talks about crawling helmets being made for babies - not for riding on a bicycle or anything like that - but for everyday crawling around the house. To protect them from normal baby bumps and bruises.
I doubt that a helmet on a baby at 8 months will significantly affect how this child behaves when he is older, but the pattern indicated by the parents who require this at this age might just indicate a level of paranoia that will probably significantly affect that poor child when they are old enough to realize just how abnormal their parents are. By putting a helmet on a crawling baby, you might decrease his risk of a serious head injury, but you are also likely increasing his risk of a serious psychological imbalance. I have seen children who are 'babied' to a small degree, and they become adults who are not really confident in being adults. They have been told that they need help and protection from everything, so they go along with that, and never branch out on their own or do anything productive for themselves. They become unproductive and unsatisfied people.
I have a 16 month old daughter, and not a week goes by when I don't panic about some terrifying possibility or another. My daughter could get hurt someday - but honestly, there are no lengths I could go to that would protect her from everything. There is ALWAYS - no matter what I do - the chance out there that she could get hurt, or even killed. My daughter is mortal - someday she will die - and I pray that it is not for at least another 80 years, but no one has that guarantee.
So, with every choice I make with her, I have to think about the immediate consequences as well as the long-term ones. Ultimately, what will this choice do for my daughter, and what is the likelyhood of each possible consequence?
If I allow her to go to the park unsupervised, is the 0.0002% risk that she could be kidnapped enough to outweigh the 48% risk of her having less confidence as an individual if I keep her home, and never allow her in public without an adult closely present?
Will she be required to wear a helmet while riding a bike? Absolutely. Will I demand she wear a seatbelt in the car? Of course. Will I teach her how to protect herself and be wary of strangers? Yes.
But there will come a day when she will the leave the house and I won't see what she does. She might be 13 and riding a bike with her friends helmet-free, or 17 and getting into a vehicle and choosing not to wear a seatbelt. Someday, she may choose to trust someone who shouldn't be trusted and allow herself to be taken advantage of. And I will have to pray and trust that I have taught her well, and that she will choose by herself - with no one watching her - to be as safe as she can be.
As her mother - from the moment she came into being, I began the process of letting go. The process of realizing that she is not part of me, but an entirely separate being, and is learning how to be 'herself' more and more each day.
Yes, I want her to be safe, but I want so much more for her to be HER. Even if that means taking a few bumps and bruises along the way. I have to accept the fact that anything could happen, and that is part of life, but I will make every effort to make sure that she is free to be herself.
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