Friday, August 04, 2006

Motherly Advice

My wife has a friend we'll call Kay (not her real name).
Kay had her child three weeks just before we had the Poozer.
Unfortunately, she's clinically insane.
Ok, ok, that's an exaggeration.
Kay is a girl who grew up in a family even more intellectual than mine. Every single member of the family is a doctor. Not an M.D., mind you, but a PhD. Every single one, including her. That's a bunch of smart people. However, with great intelligence comes great problems. Kay's family cannot talk about anything. Case in point.
My wife and I were invited to Kay's wedding out in New Hampshire.
It was gorgeous, I admit. Made me even think about moving out there, but that's off topic.
When Kay was in college, she went a little...wild. Got tattoos, piercings, etc. One of her friends decided that as a gift, he would tape the rehearsal dinner/party, the wedding, and the reception. At the party, I dealt with engineers galore (this is a friend of my wife after all, not me. Most of my friends, sadly, are either actors, techies, or teachers...and I don't have many friends.) telling me about how my job is not necessary anymore...blah,blah,blah. Well, Kay decided to come and talk to me, and the subject eventually became about being open with friends and family (it was at this point that I was dealing with how to talk to some friends of mine about their life and overt religious issues (a story for another time).
Kay made a comment about how I was a wimp for not telling my friends outright about how I feel, which was her right, I admit, but her approach and procedure were out of place.
Well, when the videographer came around, I made a short speech about how Kay's hubby-to-be needed to watch out for the pierced nipples she has because they can cut if not dealt with properly as well as discussing the wild nature of those with hardware on their breasts.
Within minutes, I was confronted by Kay.
"Why did you say that?"
"I thought it was funny." I responded.
This led to me learning that her parents were totally unaware of what she had done in college. She wore make-up over her tattoos so they wouldn't see them, and she never told them about the piercings.
I felt she was being a hypocrite, but my wife begged me to behave, so I did.
The wedding was nice, but so over the top I was annoyed.
Kay's parents and siblings all made speeches where they even dropped in references to how smart they are. For example, her dad mentioned the books he wrote, her brother noted the math theory or law he helped make, and so on. (Whereas at my wedding, my family just ducked and covered until they could get out.)
So why am I bringing this up? Because Kay is applying these issues to her child. My wife and Kay talk all the time now about children, and my wife is violating rule number one when it comes to children: You NEVER compare to someone else. EVER!
Kay's son is named James (his real name). I feel sorry for James in alot of ways. Let me tell you some of the things Kay is doing with her child.
1. She has figured out a way that she can powerwalk and breastfeed her child at the same time. I'm not kidding. It started out with just regular walking, then it became power walking. She's working toward running. Again, not kidding.
2. She got a c-section (my wife gave birth naturally). Because of this, Kay was able to bounce back a little faster.
3. Kay refused to cancel her attendance at a conference in Germany, so she packed up her kid and flew there a week ago.
Now, let's cover the problems.
1. My wife is having problems with the breastfeeding. Mostly because of plugged ducts and such, yet she reads Kay's emails and feels bad because it's not going for her like it is for Kay. Beyond that, my wife can't walk and feed. Partially because she's a Midwesterner and partially because she's worried it might hurt the kid. Plus, Poozer doesn't latch like James (we got a picture. No I'm not posting it).
2. Because my wife gave birth naturally, there was tearing and other issues. Kay had a simple c-section and left. Within days of birth, she was training for a marathon. My wife could barely move without help. This isn't about how in shape you are, it's more that the different ways lead to different outcomes. Yet my wife believes that something is wrong with her, because Kay was up and about so fast.
3. Mrs. Leab will be returning to work soon and will have to travel. In two weeks we (together) are heading to Kansas City to see her parents and family. We will be driving because it's much, MUCH cheaper. Yet my wife is so jealous because Kay is in Germany with a nine-week old, who apparently already sleeps through the night and has no problems eating. Oh, and Kay's husband knows his place. So my wife sees her six-week old son having issues taking the bottle (he's not a fan yet), not sleeping through the whole night (he still has to eat in the middle of the night for a little longer), and sees she won't be jetting off to Europe.
I can't really help her, but I'm just so damn annoyed, because she compares herself to Kay everyday. She gets an email or a phonecall and then tells me what is happening with James. If it doesn't happen with Poozer, then she gets upset. She questions HER mothering techniques.
I just stand by and get angry. Another reason Kay drives me nuts is because she BAWLED when she gained ten pounds during her pregnancy. Ten pounds! It's recommended that you at least gain twenty. She cried about it. Why? Because ten was TOO MUCH! Sigh.
As I write this my wife and son are asleep. He'll sleep until about four and then need to eat (I'll sleep when I'm dead). I tell my wife everyday that she's a great mother, but all she thinks about is what her friend tells her.
"Oh, James was able to hold himself up today...and at only seven weeks!"
"He's a champ. Eats at midnight, and then doesn't need anything else until six."
On and on it goes.
Thus I get to the point of this writing: Motherly advice. This is advice to all mothers new or to be from a father in the know.
1. Do not compare yourself to others. It's great to talk to someone about their experiences, but everyone's is different. My mother dealt with three extremely different kids (I had to go to the hospital, my sister called a cab to get rid of my other sister, my other sister was kicked out one night, etc). Her sister (my aunt) had two boys totally unlike me. My mother never compared how she raised me to how her sister raised my cousins. Why? Because she would have gone nuts. The second things don't go the way they went for someone else, you'll start questioning how good of a parent you are. Do not compare how you do to how others did or are doing. As long as the kid wasn't thrown down steps, or killed, you're doing fine.
2. Do not read the books. Oh my God, the books contradict each other and make you feel horrible. One book my wife received talked about how, "Dad should be in on the breast feeding experience everytime." Huh? I'm supposed to, what, not clean the house or help my wife with all her other stuff so I can clean my wife's boob after she feeds? That's insane.
Much like comparing to others, reading the books will have you questioning your parenting skills to a point where your kid will get hiccups, and you'll believe you're to blame (here's a hint: It's natural...not unlike spitting up). If you need a book, buy a Spock. Something simple.
3. Find your way. Parenting is a practice. It's not perfect, and it's in no way textbook. You have to find your way in it. For me, it's like teaching. I do not teach like any of my colleagues. Ask the students, I do things very differently, but the students learn. Same thing with parenting. We all do things differently. Somehow I don't think the DeRusha's are raising Seth the way I am raising Poozer. It's just how it is. We all do different things. The key is to find comfort for you AND your child. There is no perfect way. Remember that.
4. One mistake is not the end (in most cases). Now if you leave the kid on top of the car and take off fast...that might be it for him or her. However, if you accidentally wake your child up early and he or she is crying, that doesn't mean you suck. It just means you made a mistake. Own up to it, understand it, and then correct it for the next time.
5. Advice from Leab. This is the only advice I will give...other than the stuff above. If your child is crying and you are feeling overly frustrated, even moving toward anger, put the child down. Lay your son or daughter down in the crib or in a safe place and move away to calm down. Babies sense frustration. I don't know how, but they know. Recently I was alone with my son, and trying to feed him. It was really not going well, and I was getting angry. He knew it. He FELT it, but he couldn't stop crying. I felt that frustration shooting through my spine, so I put him on the playmat and walked into the other room. There I counted to ten to calm down. Once calm, I went back and we tried again. This time we were more successful.
That's that only life-tested advice I can give.
As for my wife, I don't know what I'll do. Kay is a good friend, and my wife trusts her. I've told her repeatedly not to compare, and she says she understands, but I know my wife. She still does it.
As for your dads out there: Love your wives and love your children. They need us. They do.


Anonymous said...

All (well, maybe not all) new mothers fall into this trap. Mrs. Leab will eventually overcome this, please be patient with her. Just continue to reassure her, like I know you will, and reinforce that she is doing the best possible for her precious baby. (and she is breastfeeding, WTG MOM..Big accomplishment in itself!) No other people have to live your lives, so they don't get to set the rules or standards. Keep your head up, parenting is a continuous learning experience! Believe it or not, it can even be fun. Lots of love to the babe.

Jason said...

This is such great advice Leab. I've had to put Seth down and walk away myself. It's not fun. He didn't sleep through the night... and breastfeeding was easy-- then hard.

My wife read all the books... and the contradiction actually seemed to calm her. The lack of a unifying answer/theory made it easier to forge our own way.

And can I share a secret here? Two weeks ago Seth fell down our stairs. I was putting together a toy he got as a gift... and heard the sound of a baby stumbling down 7 steps. That day I installed the gate. He was fine. I'm still a little shaken. I never told my wife. She didn't need that information.

My only advice is to not take credit if your kid is great, because then you have to take the blame if your kid turns out to be a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

One hopes that the following thought may cross your wife's mind:
People who are sufficiently competitive to blow their own horns in speeches at a wedding are inclined to LIE about what their childred do. They're setting themselves up to WIN even though their friends don't even know that there's a contest. Your son is obviously thriving. And that's because the two of you are doing a great job -- except for the worrying part.