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Coping Strategies - Elizabeth Unexplained
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greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
Coping Strategies
A couple of weeks ago Warren and I were talking about parenting and such and he made a comment to the effect that readers of my blog may think that I found parenting all bliss and joy, with the fact that there is some work involved mentioned as a brief footnote. If this is your impression, I think I should perhaps correct it and mention that behind the scenes there is a whole lot of coping going on.

Babies are a lot of work. If you are surprised by this notion you have not been reading very many mommy blogs. Also, babies can’t talk very well, so communication is limited and it makes it hard to fathom what they want, even if it’s something simple. Babies are unaware of certain conventions that the rest of us take for granted, further muddying the waters. The combination can be exceedingly frustrating for both the baby and the parent. For example, I would be willing to read Goodnight Moon to Margaret a dozen times in a row. She loves the book, and she especially loves the books protagonist, the red balloon. (If you think the protagonist is the little bunny saying goodnight you are suffering from a delusion.) The problem is, after the first reading or two she clearly wants me to continue reading, but not at all in anything resembling the order the author has written the book in, and my psychic powers fail me and it can be deeply frustrating if I am low on food and/or sleep. She wants me to read to her, and I want to do it, but she is not letting me read more than a word or two at a time and not in an order that makes any sense to my poor, befuddled adult brain, and she becomes upset because I am not doing what she wants me to do, much as I’d like to.

Then there is the while night time issue. Margaret still does not sleep through the night. It has been getting better in a gradual, non-linear sort of way, and in general I am OK with that, especially since most nights when she gets up at 4am she promptly sucks down six ounces of milk and goes back to sleep. One of my personal parenting philosophies is that you feed the baby when she’s hungry, and if she’s hungry enough for what passes for a full meal for her at 4am so be it. On the other hand, the nights when something else is bugging her and she’s constantly up (usually waking me just as I was managing to drift off), are much more frustrating. Generally I find them frustrating when there is nothing obviously wrong and she doesn’t seem to be sick. There have been times (generally around 5am) when I have been on the verge or losing my cool (or just over that verge) and Warren has had to take the baby. Thankfully those times have been less frequent now that she is older, but humans clearly pair-bond to raise their young because otherwise the young might not survive those occasional really bad nights.

Even the good days can be long and draining. Recently, mjperson commented that I never wave back when I am out and about with Margaret. I told him I never saw him. He theorized that my hat was the issue, but I think a large part of it is that I go for walks when I can no longer cope with being in the house. Our house just isn’t the sort of place you can let a baby roam free in while you do other stuff, so watching the baby can be pretty intense and boring at the same time. I leave the house for a walk when I can no longer stand being cooped up in the house with the baby and the thousand things she must not touch and the furniture that she really ought not to climb on and leap off of. This generally translates to twice a day on the weekends, and by the time I get out I am well and truly fried. I am usually also hungry as it is difficult to eat around her and nigh impossible to fix myself anything around her. So, I go for walks, long walks. If I didn’t need to return to the house to pee and feed the baby it would be tempting to spend all the daylight hours of the weekend out walking or at the playground. So if you see me out walking and I utterly fail to notice you, please do not take it personally, it’s just that my brain is that the point where it barely functions.

I tend to blog about the good stuff because it’s the stuff I want to remember. Also, as individual incidents the bad stuff doesn’t make terribly interesting stories. I certainly don’t want to complain about all the work. I knew it would be terribly hard work going in, and still I pursued parenthood more aggressively than most people have to. It is worth it. It is also very tiring, and if you had the false impression that I was some sort of super-woman-parenting-goddess this will hopefully set you straight. I am the woman who takes her baby on two hour walks because it’s the only way I’ve found to keep her quiet for any length of time without losing my marbles.
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Comments
enugent From: enugent Date: July 8th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you have a Pack and Play? I know that she won't like it, especially introducing it now, but it really honestly won't hurt her to be enclosed in a safe space for a little while during the day, at least long enough for you to fix something to eat.
enugent From: enugent Date: July 10th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
By the way, when Margaret becomes older, it will become clear to you that the protagonist is not the balloon but the mouse, who must be located on every (color) page before you can continue.

Perhaps what she wants at that point is just to flip pages herself, and she doesn't care about hearing words any more? Have you tried just letting her flip, or flipping through rapidly yourself? Howard went through a period where he was demanding that we read to him all the time, and whacking us with books and generally complaining because we didn't do it right. He is just now starting to settle out of it - he still vigorously demands to be read to, but he is also sometimes willing to sit and turn the pages of a board book by himself. I think the difference is that he has developed the necessary dexterity to turn the pages one by one (or at least only a couple at at time).
enugent From: enugent Date: July 10th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry for totally spamming your comment thread, but I keep thinking of one more thing. If Margaret loves the balloon so, you should get a copy of Goodnight Gorilla (if you don't already have it). The balloon is on every page, although sometimes you have to hunt a bit (once it's just a bit of the string), and the story is quite charming.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: July 11th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
It's really nice when they become old enough that you can be confident that it will take more than 120 seconds out of your sight to kill themselves.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 22nd, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I find it helpful to know not every mama out there is having an easy time of it. Most of the mommy sorta blogs that I read do focus on the positive - but sometimes this just gets me feeling as if I'm abnormal being frustrated with my kid.

I'm here from Ravelry, btw. And congrats on number 2!
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