Parenting Pauses September 2003
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Parenting Pauses

Here are the entries for my Parenting Pauses from September, 2003.

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September 27, 2003 -- Being the "party pooper"
 
I hate discipline. It's that rebel in me, lashing out at everything orthodox and orderly.  I'm even a part of an online group called, "The Nonconformist."  But it seems that, being a parent, I have no choice but to exercise (gasp!) and even enforce (shudder!) discipline. One tape I watched about this had a guy on there stating that "your children expect you to discipline them" and that "it isn't terrible to discipline your children."
 
Oh, but it can be terrible for me. It can also be heart-rendering, watching her cry or get disappointed every time I step in to ruin her fun.
 
I have always fantasized about Jennifer joining me as we rebel against conformist society, breaking all the rules and never doing what we are told. But the truth is, I would be a bad parent if I let her grow up this way. This isn't the '60's, after all. I have to raise her with manners, respect and, yes, even discipline. That dreaded "D" word. (I'm going to need some serious therapy after I finish writing this!)
 
It has fallen upon my shoulders to be the "party pooper," the adult who is "boring" and "no fun." I am the person who must stop all the game-playing, TV-watching, exploring and excavating because it is "time for bed" or something is a definite "no-no." It's up to me to instill in Jennifer an awareness that there are just things she's not allowed to do, rules she must follow and mannerisms that are expected of her (although I swear I never taught her to say "thank you" when she was given something -- she learned that on her own!).
 
I suppose when she is older we can be "partners in crime" and break all the rules society expects of us as women, wives and civilized citizens in general. For now I am left to live a sort of "double life" being the disciplined adult to my child and "nonconformist rebel" in my writing.
 
 
 
September 21, 2003 -- These are the days.
 
In my very first nonfiction book (which I am struggling to get typed up!), I advise readers that there are things in life that are actually more important than writing. One of these things is family, and spending time with our family. As a writing parent, I have discovered just how difficult it can be to juggle parenthood with writing. Yet the ultimate lesson I have learned is to never put writing before the needs of my family. This is what I talk about, and since writing parents get distracted from writing more times than they care to admit, I also write about how to put these distractions to good use.
 
Yet it seems that lately, I haven't really been following this advice (I know, I'm a hypocrite!). It seems that getting that article turned in, that book typed and that chapter written are more important than seeing what Jennifer is trying to show me or taking a few minutes to "be" with her when she climbs up onto my lap. And I have only myself to blame when I turn away from the computer to see Jennifer standing there, holding up a hand covered with ink.
 
I have to remind myself that being distracted from work is all a part of being a writing parent. I can't get mad at Jennifer when she climbs onto my lap and blocks the keyboard or when I have to stop writing in order to stop her every time she tries to climb one of the bookcases. These episodes are simply my cross to bear as a writing parent. I simply must remind myself that nothing gets done in one sitting, period. I won't be able to type an article without distraction, interview someone over the phone without distraction or work on a chapter without distraction. My child will always be there to want to spend time with me or require supervision.
 
I firmly believe that we all go through stages in our lives. And, right now, I am going through the stage of being not just a first-time parent, but also a writing one. I've read so many other stories of writing parents juggling their careers with their roles of a mother or father, and these stories are simply testaments to this episode in our lives that we go through.
 
The next time I'm tempted to tell Jennifer "no, honey, Mommy is working" the next time she climbs onto my lap, I simply have to swallow the frustration, give her a hug and let her pretend she is cooking something with her bowls or read her a story. Because it's all a part of my being a writing parent and I might as well accept this, rather than face each episode with frustration or anger. Besides, I can always finish typing that article when she's asleep. 
 
 
 
September 20, 2003 -- Nixing the baby talk.
 
Before I begin this entry, I'd like to encourage EVERY WRITING PARENT OUT THERE to start a parenting journal! I have been spending the past week racking my brain for article ideas for the Parenting section of SIGNews Newspaper, a newspaper on all things ASL (American Sign Language) for a deaf/HOH audience, which I recently got the go-ahead to write for. In addition to working my you-know-what off on writing an article for the Education section, which I only had five days to turn in (argh!!), I had to come up with ideas for articles on parenting that would fit with the paper. I was put on the spot to pitch a handful of ideas to the editor when she e-mailed me last weekend, but I wanted something a little more different and, well, not exactly "old news." While I was reading old entries here, I suddenly realized a GREAT (!!) topic that I could write about. I wanted to jump up and scream, "Eureka!" (And, no, I'm not telling you my idea. At least, not until the article gets published!) So to every writing parent reading this: Consider keeping a journal and periodically reread it for ideas.
 
On to the entry!
 
There have been many times I have rolled my eyes after reading about parents talking to their toddlers and saying something like, "Want a bah-bah for nappy?" Before I became a parent, I swore up and down that I would NEVER talk to my young children that way. After all, I've read many reports of how the baby talk can actually hurt a child's understanding of the English language. (Really!) Now, I'm not a liguist, but I thought the whole idea of calling a "bottle" a "bah-bah" or a "blanket" a "blankie" was just the wrong way to teach children what things are called. Still, there have been times that Jennifer didn't recognize a "rabbit" from a "bunny" or a "cat" from a "kitty." And she has even called her bottle a "bah-bah" (much to my chagrin!).
 
When she was an infant, I tried many times using the proper names of things in place of using baby talk. But it seemed to me she understood "blankie" better than "blanket" and "bah-bah" instead of "bottle."  Yet as she gets closer to turning two, it seems she is starting to accept the proper names for things. She knows what a "bottle" is and what a "nap" is. She recognizes her swing as a "swingy," but I try to keep all the baby names for things to a minimum. I've even allowed the use of replacement names over correct ones. For example, she calls a book a "story."
 
I really don't think this will hurt her grasp of the English language. All I am trying to do is get the baby talk out of the picture. After all, if she seems to understand and obey the command "put it on the table," then I truly believe it won't hurt her to use normal words and names over the "babyish" alternative. Of course a dog is still going to be a "doggie" and a meal is still going to be called "yummy," and I really don't see any harm in this. After all, she's usually keen on growing out of her habits when she's good and ready. 
 
 
 
September 17, 2003 -- The role of a teacher.
 
Parents are a child's first teacher. They learn manners, morals, speaking styles and acceptable behaviour from their parents. But parents can add to this role of being a child's first teacher by giving them a headstart on learning. They can teach children letters, numbers, colors and how to write their name. I read of one parent who taught her son how to write his name when he was just a year old.
 
This is one aspect of parenting that I love to revel in. I guess I have always wanted to be a teacher, despite my decision not to actually be one (too many bad memories of kids in school keep me from wanting to be in one again). Despite my mother's insistence that I should be a teacher, I have decided not to be one, primarily because of my being deaf. Just as I had to give up my desire to be a newspaper reporter because of my deafness (a very hard decision to make!!), I have likewise nixed my desire to be a teacher. Yes, I know I can teach deaf children, but since I am unable to use sign language effectively (because of my physical disability), this is not possible for me. I have thought about having an interpreter instead of me signing everything, but once again those memories of being bullied by kids at school because of my appearance are too strong to dismiss.
 
Yet, here I am: In the role of a teacher for my own child. It's up to me to introduce Jennifer to learning all about colors, shapes, letters, what things are called and recognizing the spelling of her name. (I wonder: We call her "Jen" for short, so should I get her to recognize the shortened version of her name, too?) Of course, there is no room for the "bully memories" here. Yet my deafness is a factor: How can i understand if she is recognizing objects I point to and name if I can't hear her say them? This is one of the reasons why I have started to once again teach her sign language. While I point to a chair and say "chair," I can also show her the sign for chair. I've only managed to get her to sign one word so far ("baby"), so this will take time.
 
I also wonder if I'm going about this "teaching" the right way. When I was taking tae kwon do classes, I was frustrated that the instructor expected me, a beginner, to do all of the advanced moves that everybody else was able to do. I wonder if the pace I am going with Jennifer will make her feel the same frustration. Of course I'm not expecting her to learn everything overnight, but I keep wondering if the pace I am going at is age-appropriate. I try to keep everything as simple as possible -- focusing on basic words and the primary colors -- but as I spell out words like "box" or explain to her that spiders can bite, I wonder if she is actually comprehending what I am saying. I guess all I can do is keep at it until she shows me that she understands what I am doing.
 
When I was a teenager, I would often play "school" with my youngest sister, Millie, before she entered kindergarten. Now I am playing school with my own daughter, once again being a teacher, although it is something I'll probably never be. But I guess that as a parent, this is a role we will all have, for the rest of our lives.
 
 
 
September 16, 2003 -- My second shadow.
 
I have been sick for nearly two weeks and Jennifer has started to imitate me sneezing into a handful of tissue. One good thing about being sick is that it's not such a big deal if the house doesn't get cleaned like it's supposed to, and I'm able to cuddle up with Jennifer as she watches Maisy or Blue's Clues on TV (a very rare moment for me to rest!). But the bad thing is that I might get her sick. Despite a couple of sneezes and my constantly checking her temperature, though, she doesn't seem to be sick. Not yet, anyway. Inevitably, she could catch my cold, just as she did last September.
 
But besides imitating me sneezing into tissue, she has begun to imitate other things as well. She has started to "change the diaper" of her dolls and care for them as I do for her: feed them, push them in a stroller and rock them to sleep. While it's cute for me to watch her do these things, I wonder how she would take to other activities that are considered for "boys." I plan to get her a toddler-friendly basketball hoop and ball for her birthday and I'm wondering if she'll really take to playing with it.The domestic activities she copies from me (among them, housecleaning) also get me worried about the stereotyped "gender roles" that kids fall into at a young age. I once wanted to write an article about how the gender-specific toys we buy for young children influence their future roles in society (and that they may even cause girls to start families sooner than expected because they feel this is the role they must play), and only now do I have living proof on whether that idea was a viable one. I certainly don't buy only dolls and toy vacuum cleaners for Jennifer; I buy her toy cars and, yes, even a toy gun for her, too. I made a promise to myself not to label a toy as either for "boys only" or girls, but now I'm beginning to question this wisdom.
 
It also makes me think about what kind of role model I am being for her. If she's copying my daily activities now, then what does this say about the image of motherhood I am showing to her? Or the image of women in general? I am of the firm opinion that moms who work will raise children that work, but when does one end and the other begin? I do not work outside of the home and I chose not to do so until Jennifer was in school. I wanted to be there for her. We are able to afford this, anyway. But how is my being a stay-at-home mom influencing her future? I can't help but think that maybe I'm sending some kind of message that women belong at home. I certainly don't think women do, but maybe this is what she's getting from me in some way.
 
Fortunately, domestic activities are not the only thing Jennifer has been imitating. She sees me writing all of the time and of course she'll do some "writing" of her own, too. She'll also pick up a book to "read" whenever she sees me reading and she has typed on my TDD or tried to "work" on the computer. Still, I wonder about how all of this imitating will pay off in the end. I have just begun to once again try to teach her sign language and I'm hoping that all of the imitating she does will play a part in her learning how to sign. 
 
 
 
September 11, 2003 -- Cherish your children.
 
Two years ago today, our country was attacked by zealous terrorists who steered commercial aircraft into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A third aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania. A total of more than 5,000 American men, women and children died that day. Firefighters, policemen, and rescue workers and dogs were added to this list. They were all casualties of a war they didn't want to be a part of, let alone, for some, know about.
 
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 happened less than a month of Jennifer's birth. Eight months pregnant, I was horrified at what I was watching on TV, with my large belly reminding me that I was bringing an innocent life into a world teeming with such danger and evil. Of course I became frightened for my future child, and of course I was questioning the wisdom of actually adding yet another life to this world filled with chaos, hatred and death. But I eventually concluded that, yes, I was doing the right thing in bringing new life into such a world. A new life means new hope. As an online friend of mine said, "She may just be the person to fix what's wrong with this world." Every child born is a new chance for hope and peace. They are our dreams that someday, all the terrible things that haunt us now won't haunt us anymore.
 
The attacks on September 11, 2001 was a wake up call to America on how precious life is. My own experiences in life have instilled in me the value of never taking anything for granted. Every breath that we breathe is a gift and everybody we have in our lives is a gift to be cherished. Our loved ones are the ones who matter the most. Cherish your loved ones and never, ever let a day go by without you hugging them or being there for them.
 
I tell Jennifer "I love you" every day. I hope parents everywhere will take the time to do the same with their own children. Tell them you love them and always be there when they need you. Our children are more important than the Internet, TV shows and video games. They are precious and the time we have with them is fragile. Don't wait until the last minute to spend time with your children, because that last minute may be your very last.  
 
 
 
September 6, 2003 -- Reading the "baby" way.
 
As a rule, I always stop whatever I'm doing -- writing, checking e-mail, cooking or cleaning -- should Jennifer ever want me to read her a story. She'll usually run to her bookcase, grab a book then run up to me, waiting for me to put her on my lap and start reading to her. More than once she'll grab more books than she can carry and we'll sit together, going through each one.
 
I'm very happy with the fact that she loves to have her stories read to her. She's even picked up a large book kept on the coffee table or a magazine and "read" its pages. I can only hope this is the beginning of a lifelong love of reading.
 
Yet the one thing I'm not quite used to just yet is reading to her the "baby" way. By this, I have to forget everything I read in parenting magazines about reading to your children: how we are supposed to say each word a syllable at a time, point at the words we are reading and give the child a chance to say words, too. As the "baby" way of reading goes, words are not as important to the books as the pictures are. Babies love the pictures in storybooks and Jennifer is more prone to cry out "Dawn! Dawn! Dawn!" and point at a picture than she is to pay attention to the words beneath them. (And, yes, she is still calling me by my name.) If I say a word she is not familiar with, such as "king" or "ostrich," she'll confusedly stare at the picture then turn the page.
 
Aside from pointing out pictures of interest, Jennifer also likes to go through a single book several times. There was one occasion, in particular, I had to read  Maisy Drives the Bus to her seven times. (This is her favorite book, by the way.)  I have also heard that toddlers like to use the pictures to develop their own stories, but I'm not sure if Jennifer is doing this just yet.
 
As a book lover, it pains me that I cannot share such beatifully worded stories with her right now. Stories such as Stuart Little, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy and Charlotte's Web all must be saved for later, when she's older and more interested in what the words inside of a book are saying. Of course I delighted in reading her these stories while she was in the womb and also during her infancy, yet for now, they will be replaced with books showcasing colorful pictures and drawings of a large white rat.
 
Reading books the "baby" way has no place for works showcasing great literature, only ones that showcase great art. And until Jennifer starts taking an interest in reading words, these are the types of books we will explore during her storytime.
 
 
 
September 5, 2003 -- Beyond the crib.
 
 
I've never participated in co-sleeping with my baby. It's not that I never wanted to enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping; I've just never felt secure about it. Horror stories of mothers rolling onto their babies had me too creeped out to try it. Of course there were times Jennifer would fall asleep in between me and Jason just before we went to bed at night, or there were times she'd slept between us as an infant for a short while during the times she'd wake up at odd hours of the night. Yet she was always returned to her crib, where she was safe and free to move around.
 
Now, however, with her second birthday less than a month away, it seems that I may have to start getting used to having an extra body in my bed. Jennifer is now climbing out of her crib, which means it's time for her to have a toddler bed. Yet even as we are adjusting to this change, she has often crawled out of her bed to crawl into mine. Just yesterday I was awakened by her climbing into bed next to me.
 
Having her in her crib was my window to get some housework done, take a shower or get in some writing time. While she peacefully napped in her crib or had a bottle, I could relax knowing she was safely in her crib while I did something I couldn't normally do with her running about.
 
This relaxation is now a comfort I must do without. We must now leave the bedroom door opened, not closed, in the mornings so she can easily come out of the room on her own and we must have it closed at night so that she won't go wandering throughout the house or try to clean my toilet. I must now take baths with her unless Jason is home to watch her so I can shower and I must also come up with ways to get her to drink her morning bottle so that she gets that nutritious start she needs for the day. And, finally, I cannot leave her alone in the room during her naptime or bedtime; she won't remain in her bed and fall asleep unless I'm there.
 
Despite these changes, though, my main concern is her climbing out of her bed at night and going about whatever she may without making enough noise to set off the monitor. She doesn't make any noise when she climbs out of bed -- this I know because it was her who woke me up yesterday morning after she'd climbed out, not the BabyCryer. Neither I nor Jason would be available to watch her should she decide to "play" with something not suitable for babies to play with, such as glass ornaments I keep in a box under my bed. Of course the answer to this would be to keep any dangerous objects out of her reach and to block all areas where there are things plugged in. Yet it still makes me nervous having her wander around without me knowing if she might get hurt or worse.
 
Perhaps the time has now come for me to consider getting a hearing dog. I never got one before because, well, we did okay with our own devices. But now that I have a child who would be wandering around the house at night without any supervision, perhaps it is now time to seriously consider it.
 
It's either that or keep the bedroom doors closed. But can a room really be made safe enough for a curious, climbing toddler? I really don't think so.  

Check out the August, 2003 entries:
 
 

Parenting Pauses August 2003

To see the current Parenting Pauses, go here:

Parenting Pauses