Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A great day

As Julie said earlier tonight, today was one of those days you want to remember when on other days things are not going nearly so well. It was actually one of those days that makes me want to hope, against all reason, that the terrible twos are over - hell, that our jobs as parents are over. "Oh look Julie, that wasn't so bad, was it. It was tough at first, but we've managed to raise a beautiful, smart, well mannered little girl. The education system will take it from here, right? By the way, what kind of wine would go well with dinner tonight?".

O.k., it will be a little while before I can live that little Bourgeois fantasy, but Chloe was a dream today. From the moment she got up until she went to bed (with a few small exceptions), she was polite, sweet, considerate, and understanding. I don't get it. Just when you think your little monster will never be socialized, you get a taste of what it might be like to relate to her in the future, and the taste was golden. I got to spend a whole day with my daughter when she was feeling good, when she had it together. It's not easy being two, and she's often overwhelmed, overstimulated or overtired, and sometimes all at the same time. When she's having a great day, I get to see her at her best - when she's observant, curious, empathetic, and enthusiastic about life.

When Chloe's doing well, we do stuff together, as a team. Whether it's braving a flu vaccine (this afternoon), going pretend grocery shopping (every day, and yes, it's painful at 7 in the morning), or sharing a croissant at the bakery, when she's having a great day, I get invited into her world, to share in her pleasure. And I'm incredibly grateful.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's cool having a big sister

Suddenly Emily's very engaged with her sister. Who'd have thought? She's only three months old! But now every time she hears Chloe speak, she turns her head to try to see her. And when she does find her, she lights up in a big smile. Tonight Chloe was giving Emily some stickers, and with each one Emily would smile, giggle and coo. It was something else, especially since I have to work pretty hard to get a giggle out of Emily.

The way she looks at Chloe is completely different from how she looks at Julie and me. Julie described it best by saying that her look is one of complete amazement and envy. Chloe apparently has a wow factor that Mom and Dad definitely don't. It's as if she knows that Chloe will be the one teaching her the ropes and getting her into all sorts of mischief. I can't wait, really! If I have to put one more stuffed animal to bed for Chloe or change Elmo's diaper again, I think I'll pull my hair out.

A warning about 3D Christmas Movies

We took Chloe to see Santa vs. Snowman, a 3D IMAX Christmas movie, at the Museum of Civilization. She was scared to death and we had to take her out of the theatre. Who would have thought that it would be a cartoon movie about arctic warfare. Santa and his elves were shooting up a bunch of snowmen with lasers, cannons and bombs for the right to operate the toy distribution system. Someone should have warned us (i.e., the high-paid government employee selling the tickets). Chloe did look cute in the 3D glasses though!

Yes, Chloe is eating her popcorn out of a (clean) diaper. Hey, you work with what you've got.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Girl Bed

So Chloe had her big girl bed delivered last night. We've had her pumped about it for days now, and when it finally arrived, she couldn't even finish her dinner she was so excited. We were both excited too, and Julie couldn't wait to be able to cuddle up beside her and read stories in the new bed.

Unfortunately, Chloe was having none of that. She was a big girl now. She told Julie that she didn't want stories or songs or the little stuffed animal she usually takes to bed with her. "I just want my bed mommy. You go now. I go to sleep."

And that was that - no more need for stories, for songs, for good night kisses. Chloe was a big girl now, and didn't need us anymore... or so she thought. All seemed to be going well until about an hour later we heard a crash and scream. Julie walked into the room to see no one on the floor or the bed, just Chloe's hands clutching at the inside edge of the bed, beside the wall. Her head then slowly came up, screaming in terror. She looked like a hiker who'd slipped off the edge of a cliff.

It seems that Chloe had snuggled up against the wall, much as she used to do with the side of her crib, and that the bed had pushed right out from it. Chloe went crashing down in between.  She was shaken, but there was no other damage, thank heavens. We'd put Chloe's crib mattress down beside the bed in  case she fell off, but we hadn't thought of her falling between the bed and the wall! I immediately got some wheel locks from under our bed and put them on Chloe's bed. Chloe was scared but way too proud not to go back to sleep in her big bed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

They make you want to be a better man

Yes, I stole that title from a cheesy line in a movie. But it's true, and I think it might be a nearly universal feeling among fathers. Mothers, at least the ones I know, seem to be caught up with wanting to be the best mothers they can be right now for their children. They are focused on the decisions they make in child rearing. And while men are also concerned about being good fathers in the here and now, our real hang up is about image.

We want to be perfect in our children's eyes - the funniest, the strongest, the smartest, the coolest, the most successful. In short, we want to be superheroes to our children. Why? Well, first of all, it's hard to convince adults that we're superheroes, but with kids we can pull it off. But mostly it's because we feel that we teach by example. By being strong ourselves, by striving for what we want, we teach our children to be and do the same.

Of course, many women also model many of these traits, especially when it comes to teaching their daughters to be strong and independent. But at the risk of going out on a limb, I would venture to say that, until relatively recently, its men who have been the most concerned about the image and character they reflect back to their children (albeit boys) - how they deal with others in the outside world, their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures. A man's worth, after all, has always been measured in the public sphere.

So I shouldn't be surprised to find that since having children, considerations such as where I am in life, what I've achieved, who I am as a person, my character, have all weighed heavily on my mind. When I bring these concerns up to Julie, she gives me a very puzzled look. "But you're a wonderful father," she says, "That's what matters." Maybe, but it's not good enough, even if it should be. I have to achieve something. I have to be able to look at myself in a mirror and say, I contributed something worthwhile to this world I live in, that I'm doing what I want to be doing, not just what pays the bills. Otherwise, how do I look my children in the eyes and tell them to strive to do what they love to do, to be who they are, to take all necessary risks, to compromise nothing when it comes to their potential.

I've compromised a lot - taken the easy path. We all do, and I'm not beating myself up about it. But still, how do I ask from my children what I haven't been willing to do myself? I'm not particularly fond of my job, but I do it anyway. I love reading, writing, thinking, but don't find much time for these passions. I used to love the piano, but haven't played one in years. And the callouses on the tips of my fingers from playing guitar, they're gone.

None of this should come as a surprise. As John Lennon said, "life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." But kids can help to refocus you. They can make you a better man. I have this blog, and through it I've taken the initiative to actually do something I've always wanted to do - write. I've also started querying magazines for article ideas I have. It may all come to very little, but I'm giving it a try, putting myself out there, at least a little.

And for mothers out there everywhere, when a father spends too much time at the office, or seems obsessed with relaunching his career or taking up an old hobby, do gently remind him that his family comes first. But also keep in mind that family just might be the driving force behind his seemingly foolish choices. Unless he's quite the exception to the rule, he needs to feel valued and successful out there to be a superhero at home.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Drink from a Glass When You Can Have Crystal?

Emily has always been an avid breastfeeder. When she was first pushed out, I pulled her up onto Julie's chest and she went immediately to the breast and latched on. She fed for two hours straight! The midwives had never seen anything like it. So needless to say, and unlike with Chloe, we really haven't had to work very hard on the breastfeeding thing with Emily. She likes breasts. She's into authenticity.

The problem is, she likes breastfeeding so much that she absolutely refuses to take pumped milk in a bottle. We tried about a month ago. Julie was out, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to get her used to the bottle. So when she woke up crying and hungry, I offered her some nice warm milk in a bottle. She took the nipple happily at first, and felt it between her gums (I guess she figured Dad could have breasts too - why not?). Then suddenly her demeanor changed. She looked at me as I'm sure Caesar looked at Brutus - stunned, betrayed, angry, scared, and then spat the nipple back at me. I knew what was coming next - the calm before the storm. She took a Poseidon sized breath while shaking her head in tyrannical anger and let loose with a torrent of screaming. I tried a few more times to put the bottle back in, but to no avail. She wasn't taking to any fake nipple  Fortunately Julie came in the door soon after and was able to feed her. No, bottle feeding is not for Emily, and as a result, the Breastaurant is open 24/7.

For quite a long time, this didn't pose much of a problem. Emily sleeps relatively well at night, and she was portable. She'd sleep almost anywhere, especially in a carrier. Unfortunately, she's not so portable anymore. For the last couple of weeks she's needed to take her naps at home, in her crib. And since her naps are only 45 minutes in length right now, followed by an hour of wake time, Julie doesn't have much time to get out either with or without Emily. Today, I went shopping with Julie so that she could run into stores while I kept driving with Emily to keep her sleeping. It worked pretty well, but Emily's environmental footprint will get pretty big if we keep that up.

It's been a bit frustrating, and I feel terrible because there's little I can do. Julie has a work event to go to next Friday, and she'll only be able to stop in for cocktails. I wish I could find a way to let her enjoy the whole evening.  But all we can do is tell ourselves that this won't last long. She'll soon be taking longer naps and won't need to feed as often. And before we know it, she'll be able to drink her milk from a sippy cup. Until then, I suppose we should feel lucky to have such problems.