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Motherhood, Olive

Nineteen Months

Nineteen Months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

I used to write monthly updates about Olive and I stopped after a year, I think because I wasn’t doing the monthly photos anymore so I lost that prompt. But in the last few weeks I’ve just been thinking how much I thoroughly enjoy this age, and I wanted to immortalize it forever on The Internets. BEHOLD! A nineteen-month update!

Olive’s age right now is truly one of my favourites, ever.

She is nineteen months old (which in the immensely more straightforward language of normal people translates to a year and a half) and an absolute delight to be around.

[Tangent: I know! I’m sorry! One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a comment about parents continuing to state their child’s age in months after a year, and I totally get it. BUT! There is a reason. And that reason is that there is a HUGE difference between “one-and-a-half” meaning fourteen months, and “one-and-a-half” meaning nineteen months but they both round to a year and a half old. How are you supposed to figure out whether your child is extremely gifted, or start nervously googling things at 3AM if you don’t know who on the playground to compare her to? Exactly. These inane “seventy-three month” delineations serve a purpose. For neurotic parents everywhere. Let us have it. (I’ll stop at 24 months old) (I mean two. Dammit.) END TANGENT]

The tantrums have subsided (barring the typical hungry/tired/teething/possessed-by-demon scenarios), and she is talking up a storm and even putting two and three words together to make magnificent sentences to the caliber of “‘Banana mummy, please” (which of course actually sounds like ” ‘nana ….mummy…..pease” but I will spare you the phonetic representations of her speech, for which you can thank me with large quantities of chocolate and maybe the perfect pair of ankle boots, too.)

Adam and I think she is the smartest kid ever. We discuss it often in a completely obnoxious way and I would rather someone read my google search history to a room full of stranger than eavesdrop on one of these “She’s so smart…[insert banal anecdote here]”

Okay okay I’ll share one! If you insist.

Every Sunday I go to hot yoga, because contorting myself into pretzels with sixty other people in a room so hot that my shins sweat is my idea of a good evening. I don’t recall ever specifically explaining the concept of hot yoga to her, but last week she was looking for me and Adam told her I went to yoga. THEN, this genius child of mine, who is basically Einstein in a toddler-skin suit signed, and said, “Hot”.

HOT! Genius, right?

I digress.

She is doing all of these incredible toddler things that make toddlers not only bearable but infinitely adorable. She has developed clear ideas about what she does and does not like to wear and she enjoys creating her own outfits which often feature Adam’s shoes and hats.

Nineteen months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

(Not Adam’s hat)

She feeds herself and is utterly besotted with food. This surprises me a little, because I am somewhat of a picky eater (Although I confess that I really detest that label. Isn’t a lady allowed to have many very specific likes and dislikes – most of which happen to relate food’s texture and/or origin?I have a discerning palate, so shoot me. Truthfully, I suspect I am a supertaster. Go ahead and tell me beets don’t taste like dirt, TELL ME TO MY FACE.)

Anyway, because I don’t often find myself eagerly digging into bowls of Brussels sprouts or eating whole bananas I sort of imagined Olive doing much the same. Developing likes and dislikes, you know, like a normal person.

No. She eats anything, anytime, anywhere.

She literally would not go to sleep last night because she wanted to keep eating. The way that I knew this is that she was standing bolt upright in her crib bellowing “EAT! EAT! EEEAAAATTT!” at the top of her lungs and enunciating each syllable as though the only conceivable reason why I wasn’t bringing her food was that I didn’t understand what she was asking for.

So. 9PM found her sitting beside me in bed, eating half a chicken breast and scrambled eggs leftover from breakfast. Adam walked in on this strange scene and was all “Wtf?” and I was all “Don’t disturb her or make eye contact- she’s eating!”

Then he asked, “So, is this how it’s going to be, Olive? You’re going to eat a second dinner every night before bed?” and she, my genius nineteen-and-a-half-month old daughter looked at him from her position reclined on one elbow and, in between bites of chicken, said clear as a bell: “Yup.”

Like I said, fabulous.

The nitty-gritty for the interested parents out there who want to get a head start on either anxious googling or feeling smug in comparison : Bedtimes have become sort of hit and miss since we stopped nursing to sleep. Sometimes she goes down with a few books and a snuggle, sometimes it gets drawn out longer (with the chicken, and such.) She naps for an hour a day and usually sleeps 11-12 hours a night depending on if I have to get her up in the morning or not.

She’s very much a mama’s girl these days, although it’s way better than when we first moved. Today she fell while running on the sidewalk and came away with a skinned knee and a bloody lip – which made her already plooshy lips swell to Angelina-esque proportions.

I don’t want to raise her to be afraid (something I’ve written about before here) so I am trying really hard to stop myself from shouting “Careful! Careful” when she runs now. She was up and running again ten minutes after falling, while I replayed it over and over wishing I’d been able to prevent it, with blood and tears still staining my shoulder.

It’s really hard to step back.

I believe in skinned knees, I believe in busted lips. I believe in bare feet and kids running so fast that sometimes their legs can’t keep up. They need that. I believe in all of that but when you see your girl with a lip swollen like Texas with tears in her eyes and a bloody mouth (real blood! Blood that I made!) it’s challenging to not insist that she always hold my hand. It’s tough to resist letting her run only on grass. It’s near-impossible to stop pointing out the dangers all around her, “Watch out for the curb! Look out for the rock! Slow down! Olive, slow down!” 

I am trying. I’m trying to not worry for her, so she learns to worry for herself.

So, so easier said than done.

*****

At nineteen months Olive fell asleep on my chest as I read “The Crown On Your Head”, which I now have memorized. Before I transferred her to her crib I just lay there feeling the weight of her. My daughter.

She is just so solidly there.

She used to be a theoretical, a someday. Then she was a decision made, then a line on a stick, then – incredibly-a black and white blur on a screen.

Nineteen months and eleven days ago she became a real live citizen of this world and I laid there tonight thinking how utterly strange it all is. All of that progress in all of those months.

She is there and I am here, and every day she pulls apart a little further even as she clings closer. She won’t hold my hand but can’t go to sleep without me. She runs away from me so fast that she falls, but still cries if I leave without remembering to say goodbye.

I know how it must feel to crave the closeness and the independence, too. I find myself playing this strange game of push and pull but from the other side. I want her to stay like this forever, and I want to watch her grow up. I want desperately to keep her from injuries big and small, hurts to the head and the heart, just as much as I want her to feel pain and learn from it, heal and grow through it.

I want her to become the fully developed person I have already begun to see glimpses of, but oh my god when did she get so big? When did she stop being a baby? When did she start running and having conversations and inching closer and closer to 2?

I know posts from parents often take this tone – I’ve never felt so high but also so low! I’m so exhausted but so happy! My life is mind-numbingly boring but it’s the best and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! – and although it feels cliché and I recognize it as such, to be honest, it’s really hard to avoid.

Parenthood is the most contradictory experience I have ever embarked upon. I have never felt such a broad spectrum of emotions in the span of a single day – or a single hour. Joy, boredom, envy, fascination, heartbreak, frustration, amazement, selfishness, selflessness.  I think that this as much as anything accounts for the fatigue you feel as a parent, as a mother. The simple act of bouncing around between emotional highs and lows is completely draining.

(But oh, I do I need to complete the sentence that is now a mandatory addendum to all complaining-mother sentences? Say it with me now: but it’s so worth it.)

*****

In conclusion, nineteen months is my absolute favourite – even with eye teeth coming in, and weaning halfway, and nine PM chicken battles. This girl is just simply legit.

Happy year-and-a-half-and-a-month, Olive Grace. We are so proud of you, skinned knees and all.

Nineteen months, by SweetMadeleine.ca

 

Motherhood, Olive

Why New Parents Are So Obsessed With Sleep

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Never talk to a new parent, for we are an obnoxious sort of people, full of anxiety and milestones and percentiles and pediatrician’s advice.

But if for some reason you are unable to avoid it, if you have a new parent for a friend or relative or co-worker,, you may have noticed that it takes approximately 2.85 minutes for the conversation to veer around to how their baby is sleeping.

If they are sleeping, when they are sleeping, where they are sleeping, how they are sleeping, and the all-time favorite, WHY WON’T THEY SLEEP?

There are many reasons for this obsession, and I think this is one of those things I never really understood (not in the truest, nitty grittiest of ways that you can really understand something, anyway) until I found myself here, on the other side.

So here is a list, which is meant to function both as an explanation and an apology to anyone who has had a longer-than-two-minutes conversation with me anytime in the last eight and three-quarter months.

Why New Parents Are So Obsessed With Sleep

  1. Because, in the beginning, it’s all babies do. Beyond discussing their physical appearance (cute!) and their poops (horrifying!) babies don’t offer up much in the way of conversation topics other than sleep. So for the first few weeks or months, literally 90% of your day is spent breastfeeding or putting your baby to sleep. (The other 10% is divvied up as follows: 9% spent talking about breastfeeding or putting your baby to sleep, and the remaining 1% on personal care, cooking, dishes, laundry, and pretending to be a real life human being. Obviously.)

  2. Because you asked. You in the grocery store line up. And you, co-worker who I have done no more than nod to whenever I passed you in the hallway for the past three years. And you, anxious-eyed old friend trying to evaluate just how hellish this experience really is, anyways. You asked. So we answered. And then we somehow forgot to shut up about it for the next four years. Sorry.

  3. Because WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU BABY AREN’T YOU TIRED FROM THE SCREAMING AND THE POOPING AND ALL OF THE BEING SO EDIBLY CUTE? SLEEEEEEEP DAMMIT.

  4. Because it affects every single aspect of a new parents life and that is not exaggerating even one tiny bit. If baby isn’t sleeping, ain’t nobody sleeping. And if you’re not sleeping, you are crazy. There’s just no way around it. Being woken up every two hours (or four hours or any increment of hours less than eight jesus christ) is just unsustainable in the worst, bleary-eyed, sharp-tongued, mountains of coffee and takeout pizza way. You are tired, and worse than that, your BABY is tired. Yes, him. THE ONE THAT WON’T SLEEP. Which brings me to point 5:

  5. Because it doesn’t make any sense! The baby is exhausted. Clearly, objectively, exhausted. This is a FACT. Rubbing their eyes, yawning, getting cranky, all of those clear-cut 100% positive, 0% chance of error, indications that baby is t-i-r-e-d. But they won’t sleep. They don’t want to be rocked or held or walked or swung or nursed or put down (oh god, definitely not put down) but what they don’t want most of all is to sleep. Because they are insane. And talking about this insanity with other human people is incredibly reassuring.

  6. Because you might have the answer. Every time a new parent tells someone about their sleep habits, (Ja-ahydein wakes up at 7 and then naps at 9 but only sleeps 20 minutes before he starts crying and if I get to him quick enough I can rock him and he’ll nap a little longer but if I don’t he’s up and grumpy and then naps again at 11 and we miss our baby zumba class!), they are hoping you have the answer.What answer? We have no idea. Some magik or witchcraft or top-secret method, or maybe you had a child JUST LIKE Ja-ahydein and you somehow stumbled across the cure for short naps and night-wakings and you have been standing there just WAITING for us to ask, so you could share your wisdom! This is the most hoped for outcome, I think.

    Next time a new parent talks about their baby’s sleep, look deep into their eyes and you will see it. That longing, that questioning stare asking, Do you have the solution? TELL MEEEEEEE.

  7. Because they don’t want to let their baby cry it out. In the past I have written about how I am not a fan of crying it out, and I realized after the fact that I may have offended some parents who were using that method, so this is an important one for me to write. Because here’s the thing: no one wants to do CIO.

    No one wakes up one day and thinks, “Hey! Look at this adorable chubby baby for whom I longed and dreamt and spent nine months waiting on the edge of my seat. Look at this child who gives me big gummy smiles and drooly open-mouthed kisses and thinks that I am the centre of the universe. Look at this perfect little being. I think that today I will let him cry alone in his crib for ten or twenty minutes- maybe even an hour! You know, just for fun.”

    No matter how against CIO you are (and I am against it in the “It doesn’t work for us, but if it works for you then rock on, mama” way), I think we can agree that no one wants to do it.CIO is the last resort of the sleep deprived parent. The parent that can’t physically drink any more coffee than she already is. The parent that cries at the drop of a hat because she’s emotionally exhausted and falls asleep standing up and has leg-hair longer than her husband. The parent that has tried everything else, I swear, everything! and just. needs. some. sleep.

    This parent doesn’t need articles or studies or mommybloggers shaming them, they need sleep. On this issue, like all other parenting issues that quickly devolve into the so-called “Mommy Wars”, we have to trust that they know what they are doing. We have to trust that other parents are just like us, because other parents ARE us, and we are them and they have tried anything and everything else, and have decided that this is the best thing for their babies and for themselves.

    So sometimes when a new parent talks about sleep, they just want to be told that they are doing their best. Even if their best ends up being something you don’t agree with. Because they might not agree with it either, but it’s the only thing that’s working.

  8. Because they want, nay NEED to fix it. Because of the tiredness, you see. And the crazy. Oh, so much crazy. Do you know what I did a few weeks ago? I constructed an elaborate excel spreadsheet to track Olive’s sleep schedule. As I may have mentioned, her former sleeping-for-ten-hours-straight schtick is long gone, and we suspect that it may have been a ruse, a trick, a trap to make us love her. And dammit it worked and now here we are, stuck with a no-sleeping baby like a couple of CHUMPS.

    Well played, Olive, well played.

    Anyway, this spreadsheet had spaces for when she woke up in the morning and when she went down for her naps, when she woke up from her naps and when she went to sleep at night. And then, in a column the most scribbled and messy and chaotic of all (being as it was often filled in with a broken eyeliner pencil at 3 a.m.) a space to write down if (HA!) and when she woke up during the night.

    Do you know what I called this endeavor? CRAZY. And do you know what all of that qualitative data would have looked like after I analyzed it? This:

    Ok so the first day she woke at 10 then slept at noon and again at four with bedtime at 10 for total of 14 sleep hours but then on the 7th she slept a total of 16 hours because she had a third nap but look on the 15th she ALSO had a third nap what were the phases of the moon during those days and did I look at coffee on the first day let’s correlate the two statistically significant events with the lunar tides and Gus’ bowel movements oh my god…oh my god I’ve got it! The answer to everything! No wait. Forgot to carry the one. Shit.

    There was no rhyme or reason to it. Two days could look exactly the same and one night she’d sleep through the night and the next she would wake six times. Days where naps were the same time and durations had bedtimes that varied +/- three hours. It was chaos. But I spent an embarrassingly long time studying that spreadsheet because it was all I had. And I was going to figure it out if it killed me!

    (I did not figure it out. She is clearly an aberration. A statistical anomaly. A one-in-a-million sometimes-shitty-sleeping-but-always-wonderful, beautiful little outlier. Also known as a normal baby. Because babies do not sleep. Because they are insane.)

  9. Because it makes them feel like failures. Every book touting an easy-peasy solution to baby sleep, every friend who can pop their child into their crib where they fall asleep on their own and sleep for twelve straight hours, and every person offering helpful solutions that worked like magic but they have tried, I swear they have tried! makes a new parent feel like a failure.The thought process goes something like this:

    If I was a good mom she would sleep better. If I stopped nursing to sleep she would sleep better. If I breastfed she would sleep better. If I stopped co-sleeping she would sleep better. If I started co-sleeping she would sleep better. If I played with her more during the day she would sleep better. If she was less over-stimulated she would sleep better. If I stopped drinking coffee or started taking more iron or swaddled her or rocked her or stopped rocking her or let her cry it out, she would sleep better.

    Everyone else’s baby sleeps better. I’m doing it wrong. I’m a bad mom.

    I am doing it wrong.

So I know that all the talk about sleep can seem ridiculous and boring and like, seriously! the kid will sleep when she sleeps! get over it! (<—actual thing I have thought to myself when discussing this topic BC [before child]) it is important.

It is important because it affects how a parent functions, and how a baby functions, and how happy and sane they both are during their waking hours. It is important because sometimes as a new parent you feel like your whole life is spent putting the baby to sleep or waiting for the baby to wake up and it can be frustrating.

And it is important because although we know babies don’t sleep – I mean, we all know that right? Babies are notorious for not sleeping! – it is different when you are in it. And when you are in it, this sleep-deprived state of stained clothing and nothing but two hour stretches as far as the eye can see, you just want to be out of it but the only way out is time because eventually everyone sleeps.

And in the meantime, we talk.

Thank you, world, for listening.