March 3, 2017

A few weeks ago we took Amelia to her third or fourth hockey game.

Her first was when she was around 3 or 4 months old. We were brand-new parents and assumed if we brought her to new places and exposed her to lots of weird new experiences it would make it easier for her to adapt.

That was our first mistake–turns out the kid came out just not trusting people until she gets to know them. Nothing we did was likely to change that.

This hockey game was pretty low-key since it’s actually the minor minor league. Many of the seats were empty so we decided to take her to the first row so she could run around and watch the hockey game eye-to-eye (or eye-to-forehead since she’s still a bit small for the boards).

As we were watching we saw two mascots–a terrifying-looking Viking and a dog with a tuft of red hair. Because anticipating and predicting disaster is our main parenting strategy, we fretted over whether we should move Amelia away or fend them off. As luck would have it a few minutes later, before we even realized what was happening, the dog mascot sat down next to Rob and put his arm around him. I braced for the inevitable explosion, one hundred percent convinced that my kid would be horrified.

I turned to look at her. She was lit up like a god-damn Christmas tree.

I seriously don’t think I’ve ever seen her so enchanted, particularly by something that other children can find scary.

As they walked away she was quiet for a moment, and then said, “need to hug dog.”

“Need to hug dog. Need to hug dog. Need to hug dog.” Over and over and over again. Not a hint of toddler urgency or imminent tantrum, just a simple statement. “Need to hug dog.”

I caught the dog just before he headed into the locker room to put his skates on. I sort of sputtered out something about how sorry I was to bother him but oh my god my kid can be really shy with people but just loves you and needs to hug you right now. He (she?) patted my arm, kneeled down and gave my daughter the biggest hug.

No joke, it’s been several weeks and she’s still talking about it. She’s even talking about the terrifying Viking, named Gunnar, saying constantly, “Gunnar hit the drum! It was really loud!”

I wonder how many times it happens as a parent that your kid rewrites the script you didn’t know you were writing for them.

February 22, 2017

I had two small but significant gym-related victories this week.

  1. There’s a guy who’s always there when I am (he’s at the gym for like 2 hours at a time so this isn’t that shocking). I think he considers the gym his “social” time which WHY IS THIS A THING? Once he actually approached me while I was working out in the back room and kept up a conversation with me for literally a full half hour. I was afraid of being impolite so I humored him. I finally decided, fuck that, I’m here to work out, and now I smile and say “good morning” and keep walking. The other day he followed me into the back room to talk and after a polite greeting I just kept working out and paid no attention to him. He stood around awkwardly and then left. I think he finally got the point because he hasn’t tried it again.
  2. I was doing bench presses which I’ve avoided because the bench and bar are in the middle of the freeweights area and usually meatheads* make me feel awkward and insecure (for the record, this is all my fault, not theirs). This beefy guy walked into the area to see if the bench was free. He wasn’t rude or impatient or anything, he was just checking. My first thought was “I should stop using this, he obviously needs it more than I do,” but then I told myself NO. You have every right to take up space just as he does. Finished my set and then walked away and felt pretty good about it.

*My husband and I use this term for any built guy who goes to the gym a lot and lifts heavy weights. I think he actually qualifies as one.

January 20, 2017

I didn’t pay a second of attention to the news today. Or Twitter. Or politically-minded Facebook friends.

Instead I worried about screen time. I painstakingly built a criss cross crash. I watched my daughter marvel at fast toy cars crashing into one another. I had a few drinks earlier than I would’ve on other days. I took my kid in the woods. I looked up beginner sewing projects on pinterest. I learned that pillbugs aren’t bugs, but actually crustaceans.

In other words, I holed up inside my house in the middle of the woods and enjoyed my family. Which honestly was far better than anything else going on outside of us.

January 19, 2017

I’m not creative. I am not good at being girly. I don’t know math. I’m not athletic.

These are all things I have said about myself. Many times.

A few years ago I was in Hawaii visiting my friend Jessica and her lovely family. We’d met through blogging and it was my first time meeting her in person (I saw her again a few years later and my husband got food poisoning and threw up on her couch…another story, another time). We were talking about make up and how I rarely wear it, and I made some comment about how I just don’t care and am fine with how I look without it.

She asked if maybe “intentionally” not wearing makeup and avoiding fashion was a way for me to hide my insecurity about it.

There are a few things people have said to me that stick in my memory, like the girl in high school who told me I have straight-across eyebrows, which is true and which I think about every time I pluck them. And as soon as Jessica said that to me I knew it’d stay with me.

But it’s not just makeup and fashion that it’s true for.

I’ve never called myself “creative” or “athletic” because in my head I either was those things or I wasn’t. There was no way to cultivate either characteristic. If I didn’t feel comfortable working out I never would, and I’d certainly never be good at it. If I didn’t know how to sew or draw or write immediately after trying, I’d never learn how and it was best to just leave it to people who were more gifted than I was.

But then I turned 30. My metabolism slowed down and I realized how goddamn stupid it was to write off whole skills without even trying them.

So I’m learning to sew. And I made an elephant that sucks. But I also made a few cloth letters and a drawstring bag and a pillow that only suck a little bit.

I started going to the gym and for once in my life I actually don’t hate it. I’m following this plan and just focusing on what I do instead of what other people might think. There’s a guy there who I think is hitting on me.

I’m realizing that life’s too short for a fixed mindset, and as a mom, I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that she has a set list of talents that will never change and that she should never push or challenge or grow beyond.

Learning things is hard. For me, sucking at them for a long time is even harder. But I gotta say, finally getting good at something I’ve worked my ass off to learn is light years more satisfying than the things I was good at right away.

January 16, 2017

Recently a relative texted me and asked for new photos of Amelia. Without really thinking about it, I sent a really sweet photo from the night before – it was of her and Rob snuggling on the couch playing a game together on her iPad.

The relative’s response was, “she sure does love that tablet.”

They didn’t mean anything negative by it, but my insecurity flared up nonetheless. This issue tends to bring out a fair amount of insecurity in me, because truth is a lot of my pictures of Amelia are of her using the iPad or watching TV.

I go back and forth on this; on one hand, I know that fear of new technology is as old as humanity itself. I know that technology is one of the main things that helped Amelia break her anxiety about ice skating and that she’s learned a lot from watching tinny, repetitive music videos.

There’s another part of me, though, that sees her on her iPad and am struck with the apocalyptic images of a kid who can barely hold a pencil or form words or talk to anyone. The internet does plenty to support this fear but lots of moms I know in person do too.

We have an extremely lax approach to the iPad and TV that so far works for us. Rob and I are people who “wind down” using electronics.  While we are more mindful of how often we use technology now that we have a kid, we don’t limit ourselves to 2 hours and spend the rest of the time doing crafts. It seems unfair to impose that on Amelia while we mindlessly peruse Facebook in quiet moments.

Essentially Amelia has free access to the iPad and TV when we are inside and it isn’t bedtime. Aside from trips, the iPad doesn’t come with us to restaurants or events–this is mostly because I want her to learn patience and the art of just waiting for stuff (I’ve actually stopped bringing out my phone in waiting rooms even if she isn’t with me because I feel like I need to be able to model this stuff). We took this approach because we thought that by taking away the “reward” aspect of tech time we would take the excitement out of it and make it just another toy she has access to, and so far, it makes sense for us.

So she might use the iPad for 20-30 minutes at a time, toss it on the couch and run to one of her other favorite toys around the house. Other times, especially after days spent at daycare interacting with people, she’ll use it for longer. If we are around new people or if someone new comes to the house, she’ll probably be on it for most of the time because she’s anxious and forcing her to interact just doesn’t help the situation (this is something we plan on working on as she gets older). The TV is pretty much always on at our house, though she rarely sits and watches for longer than a few minutes at a time.

All that said, we also spend time outside at every opportunity. Whether it’s 95 degrees or 0, if she wants to be outside, we all go outside. Generally speaking we are outside as long as she’ll tolerate even if it means we are bored and freezing or hot for an hour or more. She began ice skating this year and would rather be on the ice than just about anywhere else. She points out birds and clouds and the sun and airplanes. She jumps off rocks and snow piles, and when she falls we yell “hey good fall!” to help encourage her to keep moving. When she’s inside and not interested in the iPad, she will paint pictures or play with puzzles or read books or climb the stairs over and over.

So when she’s been using her iPad for a bit and I’m convinced I can see her brain leak out her ears I try to focus on the word “balance,” and I try to remember that with several important exceptions, there are few individual approaches in childhood that will either make or break a person’s future. It’s easy to get wrapped up in things like this and assume that either your child will use the iPad a lot OR get into Harvard and not live in your basement one day, but I genuinely believe that children are far more nuanced creatures than we often give them credit for.

And really, they’ll all have something to tell their therapist one day, right?

November 14, 2016

“Make a new blog and then ignore it for two months” seems to be just about par for the course lately.

Truth be told there are a lot of things I thought of writing about, but I either didn’t want to or couldn’t sit down and write and the whole thing just sort of collapsed from there.

Life is good right now I think. I started taking beta blockers for a tremor in my hands and jaw, and though they don’t do much for the tremor, they have completely changed my life in terms of anxiety. My PCP showed me my heart rate measurements for the last few visits, and it was something like 86-88-85. At this last visit, after a few days on beta blockers, it was a far-more-normal 66. The anxious thoughts aren’t gone by any stretch, but because the “fight or flight” response is blocked, I don’t feel myself spiraling out of control wondering what’s going to go wrong. It makes me a bit sleepy and apparently I talk in my sleep a lot more, but otherwise it’s proven to be a really significant and positive change in my daily life.

Amelia is doing well, growing and changing constantly. We still struggle with her stranger anxiety, which has always been there but seems to get worse as she gets older. It’s hard for her grandparents that when they see her for a few days she never manages to warm up to them. We’ve spoken to her pediatrician, Early Intervention and a developmental pediatrician, and they all pretty much say the same thing: this is her temperament. It’s difficult to explain that to others when she doesn’t act like other kids, but we’re trying our best to challenge her and push her boundaries while still honoring who she is and making her feel validated and secure. Parenting, it’s never boring.

In terms of Vermont adventures, we took Amelia into the wilds of Forest Service land to pick apples. I’m talking like, struggling through tall grass and sticks. Amelia had a blast. She loves climbing around in the woods at our house so it didn’t surprise me that she took to it so easily.

It’s interesting to me how parents visualize what constitutes “the perfect childhood” for their kids. Having grown up in the woods myself, it’s very important to me that she is comfortable outside and enjoys exploring on her own.  At the same time, we enjoy our TV and iPad wind-down time, so she gets some of that too. I am constantly worried that I’m not balancing it well enough.

In a nutshell that’s life over here right now.

Blogging

I’ve been blogging on and off for about ten years now. I’ve noticed a pretty big difference between when I started, to when personal blogging was in its heyday, to now when most people are microblogging.

With those changes though I’ve also noticed a change in why I personally want to blog. I’ve avoided writing for awhile now but the pangs are getting stronger and I’m excited to start again in a new space.

I don’t really know where I want to go with this new blog but I’m happy to be writing again.