Parenting Pauses December 2003
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Parenting Pauses

Here are my entries from December, 2003.

December 3, 2003 -- Still dealing with a night owl.


The following is from an e-mail I sent to a fellow writing parent who I correspond with:


"Yes, it is very hard to do any writing at night when you have kids who are night owls. I want to scream at every writing parent who says, "Write when the kids are asleep." What if they don't go to sleep until 1 o'clock in the morning??? I'm not exactly at my creative best in the mornings, either, but if it's time to work, I'll take it! :) I can't help but wonder how this will affect my parenting of her, though. I mean, I know children need to have a bedtime. But how in the world can I set one up?? I have tried everything. Really. She doesn't necessarily react accordingly if I change her schedule, either. For example, yesterday she went without her usual nap. And she didn't go to bed until 12:30 a.m.!!!! ARGH!!!"


A little note on that: Not only did she stay awake from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., but she spent the day running around, climbing and playing. It was an active day for her and an even active night, with more running, climbing and playing.


Jennifer is still, unfortunately, quite the night owl. It has really gotten to be a bad thing for me. Apparently, Jason's complaint of how it was 11 p.m. and it's not normal to have a 2-year-old running around the house at 11 p.m. has seeped into me, because last night I said to Jennifer, "Jennifer, it is MIDNIGHT! Babies aren't suppposed to be awake at midnight; they are supposed to be SLEEPING!!"


I really don't know if her being a night owl is a genetic trait. I have never been a good sleeper, although lately I have been more tired than normal. But that's only because I AM OLD. I used to joke that I could run a marathon and STILL not be tired! I can still recall the many nights I have lied awake in my bed as a child, staring at the ceiling and wondering just where the heck that small speck of light was coming from. Of course this may have contributed to nurturing my imagination, but, really, kids do need their sleep. And I know that, genetics or not, Jennifer needs her sleep, too. I mean, she's just a baby!


One of these days, she's going to resent having a curfew. But I can't help but wonder if I'll ever manage to get one set up.



December 10, 2003 -- Children are our precious gift.


A recent death of a close relative has left me and my family in shock and sadness. It has been very hard on me and I am allowing myself to go through the grieving process over the loss of my cousin, Mark Carver. He was my age (29) and his death at such a young age made this sudden loss even more difficult for us to cope with.  He will be sorely missed by us all.


As I attended Mark's funeral, I could not get over how hard it must be for my aunt and uncle to cope with this tragedy. I am aware that they are not the first parents who must bury their child. Still, I wish this wasn't something that a parent might face. Everyone I know agrees that we are supposed to have our children bury us, not the other way around. And when the time comes for us to say a permanent goodbye to our child, we can't help but feel that we are saying goodbye to a part of ourselves, as well.


A parent losing their child faces an overwhelming sense of grief. I know that my own grief is nothing compared to what my aunt and uncle are going through. Now especially with Christmas coming up.... they will have one less stocking on their mantel. And this will only make their loss much harder.


I am grateful that I have not faced the terrible experience of losing my child. I pray to God I never have to. I don't know what I would do if I ever did lose Jennifer. I know that, without a doubt, a part of me would die with her. I really don't know if I would be able to go on. I don't think I would be able to. That there would be a need for some counseling and family support to get through such a loss.


Losing a child is a terrible thing. You don't need to be a parent to know this or even go through this experience to know this. Though going through it yourself would make it different, because then you experience it on a much more personal level. But a parent who loses their child is facing one of the most hardest and difficult struggles in this lifetime.


I cherish my daughter. I know I've already said before that we need to take time to cherish our children every day. But it's worth repeating here. Cherish your children. Love them. Spend time with them. Give of yourself to them with every ounce of yourself because life is so precious and so...fleeting. It can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Gone without any warning. And when that life is gone, at least you will be able to look back and be grateful that at least you were there for them when they needed you. At least you had the chance, at every chance, to hug them, laugh with them and tell them that you love them. And hug them again.


It's worth taking the time to be there for your children. Because one day, they might no longer be there for you.



12-15-03 -- The ten days of Christmas.


Christmas is in ten days.....




No, I am not screaming because I don't yet have all of Jennifer and Jason's Christmas gifts. Nor is it because I have yet to finish my Christmas shopping for everybody else. (Yikes!)


It's because we don't have our Christmas tree yet!!!


I'll admit, part of this is because we have not been able to get our Christmas stuff out of the garage. But another part is that while we've been spending all this time worrying about gifts, we didn't even think about getting a tree! I was planning to wait until today to get one but now it looks like it'll be a bigger problem having waited because of limited time. I now take back the chuckle I made after seeing my mother-in-law's Christmas tree all up and decorated on Thanksgiving. I wish I could give her a huge pat on the back and say, "Smart move!"


Ten days before Christmas is not a good time to be putting up your Christmas tree. There's too much chaos in getting ready for the big day. What's funny is that even though we don't have our tree yet, Jason points to where we plan to put it whenever he is referring to our as-yet-unbought tree. Maybe he can already see it in his mind?


Jennifer is not yet familiar with the typical icons of Christmas: The Christmas tree, Santa Claus, gingerbread men, snowmen, reindeer and mistletoe. She just thinks they look pretty, strange or unusual. If I say "Santa," she has no idea who I'm talking about. Nor does she get that familiar excitement and anticipation of what is yet to come. Perhaps I should be grateful for this; I feel guilty as it is trying to get her to believe in Santa Claus. She'll probably end up hating me one day when I tell her the truth! So maybe it's not such a big deal that she doesn't know (or care) who Santa is. True, she is only two. Maybe it will be different next year.


One thing I do want her to get excited about, though, is the Christmas tree. I mean, we only get to have a Christmas tree once a year! And we have this opportunity to decorate the heck out of it and make it a beautiful thing to behold. I want her to be able to enjoy having a Christmas tree and understand what it symbolizes. Maybe after we get one set up, she'll take to it. She'll figure out that it's a symbol of Christmas and not just a "pretty tree" sitting by the window.


At least she enjoys looking at the Christmas tree I have on this page. :-)



12-20-03 -- Do you hear what I don't hear?


One thing I have always enjoyed about the Christmas season: Singing Christmas carols. I love to sing, period. Even though i got kicked out of a Christmas performance in middle school....and have been told I'm not much of a crooner (although a professional, famous singer is in the family! Go figure!), I sing, anyway. I have always sung, since childhood. And even though I lost my hearing at age 13, I continued to sing. Even though I can no longer hear my voice...


But one reason I still sing is for Jennifer. I have sung to her since birth -- even before she was born. I sang to her while she was in the womb and as I held her in my hospital room. And I have sung to her every Christmas, rocking her to sleep to "Silent Night" or getting into a clapping spree as I belted out, "JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAAAY!!!!" She loves music (of course!) so she's been having fun dancing along to music and even trying to sing along with me (thus why I have had to start singing a little slower every time I sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" when I give her a bath).


And because Christmas just would not be complete without Christmas carols, I have recently left the "Sounds of the Season" music channel on for most of the day. She loves to dance to tunes like "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."


I know it's odd for someone who is deaf to love music so much. I am so very grateful that I was not born deaf or anything, because I had the blessing of knowing music before I could no longer hear it. Everyone in my family loves music and we even love to play music by that famous cousin of ours (even though she is no longer with us). I don't think I'll ever stop loving music. It is very powerful and good for the soul. So is singing it. I want music to be a part of Jennifer's life so that she can enjoy it just as I once had. This is one of the reasons I wish another hearing person lived with us, so that someone else could help nurture the joy of music in her life in a way that I cannot. Still, all I can do is continue to sing to her (I wonder if she thinks I sound terrible, too??) and continue to play the music channels for her every day. I try to give her a variety of music to hear every day, playing country music one day then good ol' rock 'n' roll the next.


One thing's for sure: I'm very relieved they have a music channel for Christmas music I can play for her every day. It's a nice change from me blaring, "OH, CHRISTMAS TREE, OH, CHRISTMAS TREE!!! BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!!"



12-22-03 -- Woe, Christmas tree. Woe, Christmas tree.


Jennifer and I decorated our tree together today. I know what you're thinking: "Awww." But between me yelling "no, Jennifer, leave it there!" and "Jennifer, watch out!" I started to ponder the wisdom of decorating the Christmas tree with your child. (Hint: It's no day in the park!!)


Last year, we didn't have a real Christmas tree. What we did have couldn't even pass for a real one, anyway, because it was one of those miniature tabletop trees. (I don't know what I was thinking! I even topped it off with an angel made out of popsicle sticks!) So I vowed that this year, we would have a REAL Christmas tree, complete with all the trimmings.


Well, we managed to finally get a real Christmas tree. And some trimmings. But not only is our tree more like a "teenager" than an "adult" (we'll have an adult tree next year for sure!) but the decorating ritual was a bit haphazard at best. We decorated it but only now, in the darkness, can I see that we missed a giant chunk of one side of it with the Christmas lights. Add to this the many "attacks" Jennifer has staged against this poor tree, batting at the ornaments and trying to rearrange the lights. I'm beginning to wonder if having a real tree this year was the smart thing to do. Still, Jennifer probably would've attacked it all the same even if it was a fake one.


I have made all of this fuss over getting her a "Christmasy" Christmas tree set up for her third Christmas. Now with the torture the poor tree has to put up at the hands of a two-year-old, I'm ready to dig that tabletop tree out of the garage for next year.



12-24-03 -- Toys to the world.


I just realized that there is NO Christmas carol about getting presents on Christmas. I know, I know; it's the season for giving. But, STILL! Presents are a part of Christmas just as eggs are a part of Easter. I mean, the giving of gifts is supposed to represent the very same gesture the Three Wise Men made when Baby Jesus was born. Right?? So... CHRISTMAS PRESENTS! WHOO-HOO!


However, trying to get Jennifer excited about getting Christmas presents hasn't exactly been going very well. She's only excited about it being Christmas and all the pretty things it brings to the home. And just because she is an only child doesn't mean I give her a deluge of gifts on her birthday and Christmas. I have a system: Some clothes, especially SOCKS, a few toys, a doll and one MAJOR toy (you know, one of those things that cost a crapload of money). Jason may not be happy that Jennifer doesn't have a ton of gifts under the tree but that's the way I want it. I don't want her to be spoiled and so that's why I have the system in place. Anything else she wants, she can scream her head off for while she points at the TV.


But this is one of the things I can't shake off, that she doesn't get a ton of toys every Christmas. Of course she's got enough toys to provide to every child in some third world country (HINT! HINT!!) and I always buy her at least one new toy once a month. But even as I don't want to spoil her, I still feel guilty that we don't lavish her with toys. I mean, is it so bad that she doesn't have every single toy under the sun? I have always been haunted by something I read in a magazine once, how J.K. Rowling was struggling through hard times as a single parent and her daughter had enough toys to fit inside of a shoebox (and how she cried over that). I don't want to struggle through hard times with Jennifer! I may not be a single parent but the cost of living these days always has me keeping a close eye on how much of my money is spent where. And even as I tell myself that Jennifer has more toys than she could fit into a shoebox, I still feel guilty when she has to do with less than what other kids get. I bet there is some other only child out there getting exactly 37 gifts for Christmas this year, while Jennifer will only be getting 6 or 7. (Which is more than what I usually got!)


Part of this guilt stems from my own childhood Christmases. In a family of 7 children, where we often raided Goodwill for "new" clothes and relied on the church to get food from, I was lucky to even get one Christmas gift. And there was always ONE CHRISTMAS GIFT I NEVER GOT!!!!! ... even though I asked for it every year. EVERY YEAR!! AND NEVER GOT IT!!! (OK, memory repression time...) But Christmas was hard for us and there were even times our family had to be "adopted" by some company kind enough to get all of us gifts. (I even got a bike!! WHOO-HOO!!) So I'm thinking that maybe, even as I don't want to spoil Jennifer with a truckload of toys every Christmas, part of me feels guilty that I don't because of my own childhood Christmas experiences.


I know that Jennifer is not spoiled, though. Not yet, anyway. I know this because last night she caught me wrapping a toy I'm giving to my nephew, Noah. She tried to pull it away to play with it and I said, "No, Jennifer. We have to give this to your cousin. It will make him very happy." She seemed satisfied and happily pointed at the toy's picture, the baby playing with it and then generally admiring the toy. She didn't cry for it or demand it. Somehow, she seemed to understand that it was not for her.


Yet it seems that no matter how many toys Jennifer seems to have, she'd always rather be doing something else besides playing with them. Like climbing all over her mommy. Hm, I wonder if I could get her a jungle gym set somewhere....



12-26-03 -- The day after.


Well, Christmas 2003 came and went. The day, like the year, seemed to fly right by, although I was half-awake for most of the day. Which kind of slowed it down a bit. But after all the presents were torn open and Jennifer decided on which toys to play with (surprisingly forgoing any of the boxes they came in!), the ornaments were boxed up, the tree chucked out the door and a sense of "normalcy" returned to the house.


Although with a little more toys crowding up the living room.


Jennifer usually settles on one toy to play with on Christmas. This year, it was two: a giant baby doll I bought for her and a giant orange ball that Jason got for her. Although she had fun playing with her bowling game and tending to the other numerous baby dolls she received, these were the two toys that she chose as her favorites.


Today saw me quietly sneaking away the toys she received that were not appropriate for a baby: The ball on a string, beads and numerous small parts that came with certain toys. We also had to put up the markers and colored pencils because the markers were not washable and she might stab herself with a pencil (or poke herself in the eye). As much as she loves to create art, she's also fond of drawing murals on my walls and I just have to ensure that the tools she does create art with are safe for a 2-year-old to handle. At least nobody bought her any paint!


While I am glad for the gifts she receives from family and relatives, it always happens that she gets something inappropriate for her age. She still puts things into her mouth (like marbles!!) and she can be careless with how she handles certain things (like pencils). I am not saying that the people who get her such things should not have done so, only that they need to bear in mind that this is a toddler they are shopping for and not some 10-year-old kid. I guess those parenting magazines should keep at the task of running articles on the dangers of toddlers playing with toys that are not right for their age. But so should all of those other consumer magazines and newspapers; I guess it's a message that needs to be splattered everywhere and on a continual basis.


One day, she'll be able to play with that ball-on-a-string and colored pencils. They'll be waiting for her, in a box I keep up in the closet. For now, her toys are not on strings and her art tools are the kind you can easily wash off of the walls.     

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