parenting is better than yoga

A little downward dog courtesy of Etta and Claire.

A little downward dog courtesy of Etta and Claire.

Mother’s Day’s approach has me thinking a lot about motherhood, both as an abstract concept to be celebrated and as this thing I do all day every day. And now that I’m out of the exhausted haze of infancy and not quite into any toddler terribleness (so far, two is great!), I’m starting to realize that the daily self-discipline of parenting has been better spiritual training for me than any yoga class I’ve ever been to. I like yoga a lot, did it for a long time, and still try to do it in my home when I can, but what I liked best about it was the way it made me feel whole– mind and body unified, deeply in touch with myself and my place in my body and the world, happy to be alive, neither selfish or selfless, but balanced. One of the biggest aspects of it for me was mindfulness, just being present in a moment while at the same time knowing that moment will pass.

It turns out motherhood is also excellent mindfulness training. Continue reading

never say never to say this

photo-4I feel like every day a new post like this pops up in one of my social media feeds. Today it was “9 Things Never to Say to the Parents of a Newborn.” I’ve seen others about things not to say to pregnant women, or twin parents, or even parents of kids with disabilities. And even though I have even shared a post of things you actually CAN say to parents of kids with disabilities (because hey, that one was actually helpful), I think my list of things you should never say is rapidly boiling down to only one bullet point:

 

  1. Never say a list of things people should never say.

 

My rules for relationships are all summed up in one very wise quote from the movie Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure: “Be most excellent to one another, and party on, dudes.” The gist is: be kind to others and yourself. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Know that generally, things said by people who care about you do come from a place of caring. If they ask how your wife who just had a baby is doing, why not assume they are sincerely asking? Instead of writing a blog post about what a moron someone is for asking you to let them know how they can help out with your new baby, why not say “hey, actually, could you come rock and snuggle the baby while we shower and nap?” People LOVE to rock and snuggle babies, and lord knows every new parent needs a shower and a nap.

Being Most Excellent also means assuming that the people you care about and talk with are doing the best they can with what they know, and will generally ask for advice if they need it. Being Most Excellent means that if you can’t make that basic assumption, that someone is doing the best they can to make the right choices for themselves and their kids, maybe what you need is to not be friends with them, rather than attempt to shame them either outright or via passive aggressive article posting about baby sleep/baby feeding/car seats. Being Most Excellent means thinking for just a second before you speak, which would save you from something dumb like asking if boy/girl twins are identical, or offering some unsolicited advice to a mother of a child with a disability.

And Being Most Excellent means that sometimes, you might have to talk with someone about how they said that thing they just said and how it made you feel. I know I sometimes need to give myself a talk about using ableist language like using “lame” as a pejorative, for example.

Rather than publish a list of Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Child with Spina Bifida, I’d rather offer an open invitation to people who know me or read my words: if you have a question, even if you’re worried about how I might take it, please feel free to ask. If you’re coming from a place of Being Most Excellent, I promise to do my best to Be Most Excellent right back. I think if people felt more free to talk and ask about hard things in life, we might spend less time tiptoeing around each other and more time really connecting. I remember being sincerely asked how I was doing when the girls were newborns and breaking down sobbing in the arms of some friends, because it was exhausting and hard and I needed a break. And you know what? Just connecting, and literally crying on someone’s shoulder, and getting a hug and some encouragement? It was way more valuable than some weird polite attempt from someone who’s read too many “never say” lists and become afraid to ask how someone’s doing.

Note: this Be Most Excellent thing pretty much only applies to people you have an actual, established relationship with. A friend asking me about, say, Claire’s leg braces would be quite a different thing than a stranger in a store, where the asking serves to point out her difference and put her on the spot in a way that I don’t want her to be when she’s just going about her day to day life. But if you’re close enough to come over with food or rock my newborn, I promise you are close enough to ask me about just about anything, and I promise not to jump down your throat. I can’t promise not to tell you if the language you use is problematic or hurtful, but I do promise not to be a jerk about it. Let’s all try to Be Most Excellent. Party on, dudes.

cinderetta

“Just ask Cinderella; the right pair of shoes can change your life!”

I once gave my fashionista sister a card that said that, but I think my Etta baby would agree. Girl is shoe OBSESSED.

While many parents battle toddlers to get shoes on and kept on, mine is constantly bringing me shoes, holding up her tiny foot, and demanding I put it on. Sometimes her shoes, sometimes mine. Today, she took the silver patent leather Birkenstocks right off my feet. And she’s not too concerned with matching shoes, either– one shoe, two different shoes, these are valid options.

I’m not kidding about the tiny feet, either. She’s 17 months old, and she wears size 2 shoes, or a 6-12 month size. We’ve hung out with other kids her age, and their feet are no joke, twice the size of hers. This means occasionally, shoes fall right off her feet. Just the other day, I had to go back out to some steps, where little Cinderetta had lost a silver slipper.

Wearing one red sparkle shoe, wielding a toothbrush, fleeing a very giggly speed-crawling Claire. Just a typical afternoon in the Bufflo home.

Wearing one red sparkle shoe, wielding a toothbrush, fleeing a very giggly speed-crawling Claire. Just a typical afternoon in the Bufflo home.

testing our patience

If you asked pretty much anyone who knows me, they will confirm that I am generally not a patient person. I always thought that it was a good thing that I married Jon, because he brought a calm, steady patience to the table, mediating my fly-off-the-handle tendencies to balance me out a bit. While pregnant, I was sure our children would like him better, because he’d be the endlessly patient one, and I’d be the frustrated, snippy one. It’s also a fact that I generally fall apart and begin to freak the eff out when sleep deprived, with deprivation meaning anything less than 8 consecutive, unbroken hours of sleep, possibly less than 10. (Seriously, ask Jon sometime about that incident where I *sobbed* on a red eye flight.)

But, as Jon noted during an epic Etta screamfest yesterday: maybe it’s maternal instinct or something, but somehow I’m the one with more patience with the babies. Now, I am generally opposed to making biological generalizations about things like “maternal instinct” and other forms of gender essentialism, so I have another explanation, one I offered to him: it’s just that, if I freaked out over all of this, I would literally be freaking out every day for the rest of my life. Being patient is just a self-preservation technique for living with two tiny humans who occasionally like to SCREAM THEIR EVERLOVING FACES OFF FOR SEEMINGLY NO REASON.With whom I am often left all alone.

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes *feel* like freaking the freak out. This newfound patience is not without limits. Heck, there was even that one afternoon where I handed screaming Etta to Jon and literally flopped on the floor toddler-tantrum style, in a silent flail that expressed all the frustration and exhaustion I felt. There have been evenings where I swear, if I have to do one more baby-related thing, I will just lose my shiz, so I have to sit and drink wine and read fashion blogs for 30 minutes while he handles the babies, no, do not even ask me to draw up a syringe full of one of their myriad medicines. I have a feeling these moments will keep occurring.

In the meantime, it’s been a strange world to be the patient one. I basically don’t even know how to deal with Jon being frustrated and impatient, because it’s such a complete role-reversal. Not that he (or anyone else in a similar situation) isn’t totally justified in his frustration, but he’s usually the rock and I’m usually the tornado, and we whirlwinds don’t much know what to do when our rocks go flying around. Not that he’s really flying off the handle. My husband is so naturally even-keeled that his impatience and frustration looks like anyone else’s level-headedness, but still, I find myself getting frustrated with his frustration, as if I’m saying in my head, “BUT YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO FREAK OUT! YOU HAVE TO BE THE CALM ONE, ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY!” Which is, of course irrational. He gets to feel his feelings, just like I do.

All of this is to say, this whole parenting thing is a strange new world. I was afraid of the ways it would change us, but it’s changing us anyway, like it or not.

In closing, here’s a triptych of Etta demonstrating how we freak the freak out around here:

 

 

babies=pandas

I have had an epiphany. Panda bears are like babies. Babies are like pandas. Bear with me. (ha)

The other day I tweeted this picture and had the following exchange with my friend Kyran:

And that’s when I realized: BABIES ARE LIKE PANDAS.

See, I’ve long been convinced that cuteness is pretty much the only thing keeping pandas alive at this point. I once visited a panda exhibit at the Memphis Zoo and learned that pandas, biologically, should be omnivores. They have the teeth and the digestive system necessary to digest both plants and meat, like every other bear. But pandas, they are not so into the meat eating. In fact, they are like the hipster vegans of the animal world. They’re like, listening to Morrisey and munching on roughage instead of hunting some prey, and as a result, they have to literally eat bamboo all day long, just to get enough calories to stay alive. This means that all they do is eat and sleep, because they basically don’t have the energy to do anything else. I mean, do pandas even mate in the wild anymore? I’ve read about zoos basically having to use panda pornography to try and convince their pandas to get it on. And would we even be going to all this trouble to save pandas (who clearly don’t WANT to be saved), if pandas weren’t one of the cutest things in the world? Nope. Cute: it’s keeping pandas alive.

Same thing happens with babies. Nature gives them giant heads and googly eyes and thigh rolls so that we will want to keep them alive, because Lord knows they can’t do it themselves. Claire, for example, seems determined to kill herself with her favorite thing in the world: food. At least once during a feed, she will either try to breathe milk– perhaps she loves it so much, breathing it seems to be the next best thing to eating it–or will suck the nipple so far down her throat that she gags herself. Meanwhile Etta, like many babies, seems determined to fling her giant head around and hurl her body out of our arms on a regular basis. And so we spend all our time trying to keep these very cute and possibly suicidal tiny beings alive. Because they’re adorable.

Babies are the pandas of the human world. Pandas are the babies of the animal kingdom. Cuteness is the only thing ensuring the continued survival of both.

two months

We’ve now officially been at this parenting thing for 2 months, and I’m again thinking that time has flown. Days have certainly flown by without posting around here, sorry about that! The truth is, my days are pretty dull and repetitive. Change, feed, sleep x’s two, repeat, repeat, repeat. The work is not particularly hard, but it’s pretty all-consuming, and there’s just not that much to say about it. Right now, my girls are just now starting to smile and hold their heads up on occasion, which doesn’t make for much blog fodder.

But oh, the smiling!

One of Jon’s pediatric colleagues tells new parents they just have to make it to 2 months, when social smiling starts up, and then it’s all worth it. And it’s true– a little baby-smiling goes a long way. Etta in particular has taken to the smiling this week, and is particularly happy in the mornings. The memory of our morning smiley girl either holds us over or makes us extra frustrated during our evenings with her, with a multi-hour witching hour in which she basically hates life until she finally falls asleep. It’s amazing how just getting a few smiles out of a kid will make me happy to deal with all the other stuff.

Claire, meanwhile, has marked another milestone– she is getting more consistent with her ability to get her fist into her mouth. This may seem like a silly milestone to you, but that’s just because you’ve probably not popped a pacifier back into the same mouth 15 times in the last 10 minutes. The ability to suck on a fist and thus self-soothe is priceless! Overall, I’d say we’re doing quite well. Jon has started back to work, and the girls and I are surviving at home on our own, even when he works a 24 hour shift. I’ve even made a successful shopping trip with both girls in tow! The thing other folks seem most interested in is our sleep, and the girls are still giving us 3-4 hour stretches for the most part. One night recently, Claire slept a whopping 6 hours in a row, but that has yet to be repeated, and Etta still woke up in the middle of that. Still, perhaps because I so adequately prepared myself for the worst, I have been pleasantly surprised that this whole twin parenting gig is not as bad as I imagined, possibly because it couldn’t have ever been that bad. We’ll see how I do when Jon is gone for several days in a row this month, off to Chicago for a work conference!