Parenting Pauses August 2003
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Parenting Pauses

These are entries from August, 2003. To return to current entries, go here: 

Parenting Pauses

August 27, 2003 -- Volume control
Although I may be deaf and my husband may be deaf, our daughter, who loves to watch "Blue's Clues" and clap her hands or dance to music, is able to hear just fine. Keeping this in mind, I have to constantly remind myself that the volume on the TV or radio must be up in order for her to enjoy her shows or listen to music.
Unfortunately, this can be a problem. Sound is very hard to measure when all you can do is put your hand on the speakers to feel the vibrations, and there isn't exactly anyone capable of telling me if the volume is too low or too high. We rarely get any visitors to our home -- weeks can go by without any company -- so I have pretty much had to rely on feeling vibrations either on the speaker or from feeling the entertainment center (which shakes from loud noise!) to see if the TV is too loud or too low.
I have absolutely no problem with the fact that Jennifer can hear just fine -- there's no jealousy or anything like that. I am very happy with the fact that she can hear, that she can enjoy the singing of birds and the sounds of raindrops on the windowsill. Of course I'm tempted to filter exactly what she is able to hear (I get so queasy when she hears a gun being fired on TV or somebody screaming in horror), but doing this might give her some kind of subconscious message that there are some things not meant for her ears. (Well, perhaps there are, but that's a subject to be explored in a later post.)
The problem, though, is that I might actually be damaging her fragile hearing as a result of the TV or radio being turned too loud. I want her to hear everything everybody else does, but how in the world can I, a deaf person with no hearing aid, be sure that the sounds she is hearing are at a comfortable level? All I can do is put my hand on the speakers but even this isn't foolproof. The rule of thumb is that it's too loud if you can feel the vibrations too strongly yet how can I know if it's too low for her to hear? This has happened before, where I was able to feel the sounds from the speakers but it was actually too low for a sister visiting me to hear.
Then again, how can I be sure something other people can hear is okay for the fragile hearing of a baby? The higher the volume is of sounds we are exposed to throughout our lives, the stronger our immunity to high volume will be in time. The comfort level of sound for a baby, for example, can be something that is too low to hear for an adult who has listened to loud music their entire lives.
I only wish there was something I could do to make sure the volume of the TV or radio isn't too loud or too low. Something besides putting my hand over the speakers. I'm beginning to wonder if there is some kind of device that can be used to judge the comfort level of sound on devices such as TV's or radios, something that would say "this is okay for a baby's hearing" and "this is okay for normal adult hearing." There are, after all, devices available to the deaf and hard-of-hearing that alerts them to knocks on the door or baby cries in a bedroom.
If there isn't something like this for the deaf, there should be. 
August 23, 2003 -- Techie babies!
I have been posting on the Absolute Write message board frequently and I recently asked other writing parents how they managed to get writing done at the computer while they have a toddler on their lap, ready to attack the keys. I shared with them my own experiences of trying to write queries, communicate with editors/publishers, hunt down markets and type work while Jennifer will occasionally hit the Page Down key or the space bar. (And the Page Down key happens to be her favorite! Ugh!) One woman empathized with my situation, telling me how her 2-year-old loves to hit the "help" key on her laptop and manage to open 30 different windows in the blink of an eye. (Yikes!)
All of this makes me curious about the new generation of children. They are, indeed, the "Millennium Children." (Hey! That's a great title!) Already acquainted with technology we are just getting used to. It's amazing what babies manage to do at computers. One may observe, however, that all they are doing is hitting random keys, without understanding what they are doing or the result of their actions. But it's definitely an idea worth exploring! What if there is something indeed deeper in the little brains of babies that makes them feel a kinship with technology? Now some may think it might have something to do with what we did while pregnant with these babies or what we were exposed to during our pregnancies. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was feverishly working at (mostly) Jason's computer during my pregnancy, but because of certain articles in magazines covering the exposure to invisible rays babies are susceptible to from machines while in utero, I kept my "computer time" to no more than 20 hours a week. (And, yes, I did keep count.) But now I wonder if it really mattered at all. Are babies really susceptible to harmful computer rays while in the womb? Does it really matter if we use them or not while we are pregnant? And, the big question: Does the very act of working with computers during pregnancy somehow influence a baby's familiarity with them after birth?
It's something to really think about!
As for Jennifer, she has her own toy computer. Still, she prefers her father's, probably because the screen does more than show the alphabet or numbers. Hers does not have a mouse either, and as she'll fiddle with it while on my lap as I work, I can't help but wonder if this is because of an influence, too.
August 21, 2003 -- Rainy day blues
Yesterday it rained. This change in weather was a surprising welcome from the hot and humid weather we've been having, but we didn't expect to get thunder and lightning, too. What a show!
Unfortunately, the weather meant that Jennifer could not go outside to play. She likes to play on the swings, push around her baby doll in the doll stroller and point out any birds that fly by. The rainy weather permitted none of this and I had quite a hard time explaining to Jennifer that we could not go outside because it was raining. I don't know if she understood the "why" but I'm pretty sure she understood the "what."
I now see the wisdom behind all of those "fun things kids can do on a rainy day" articles in parenting magazines. Before I became a mother, I used to think, "So what if it rains? Go outside and play anyway!" Now, as a mom, I think about a 103-degree fever, chills, sniffles and coughing before I suggest to my child to go out and play in the rain. (Yes, it can be fun to play in the rain, but getting sick is not.) I even started to try and remember any tips from those articles subconsciously stored.
Fortunately, Jennifer is not yet at the point where she'll wander around the house whining, "There's NOTHING to do!" (Despite her gazillion toys. . .) She was more than happy to watch her "Blue's Clues" tape instead, and, even though I was busy with writing, I took breaks to play with her, playing "tag" (where I was eternally "it"), drawing pictures with her and playing with her on her toy computer. (I wonder: Exactly how loud does it recite the alphabet??) We even read stories together, enjoyed the rain show out our window and, when I got busy with writing, she'd play with her blocks and toy xylophone.
Rainy days don't have to mean boring days for kids. Just because they can't play outside, they can do other things: crafts, games and even read a book. I worry about what it wil be like later on, if Jennifer would rather play inside with computer games, Nintendo and listening to music. I'd much rather her be outdoors as much as possible, despite the heat typical of living out here. But life is too short to miss out on all the beauty of the world out there and in nature. For rainy days, though, I have no choice but to keep her indoors, and for such occasions, I hope to be better prepared with optional indoor activities she can enjoy. 
Now if only I can remember where I put that parenting magazine . . .  
August 18, 2003 -- A lion by any other name
I have a subscription to the ZooBooks magazines for Jennifer. She may be too young to read yet, but when each issue arrives, we'll sit together on the couch and talk about each page. We'll point out the pictures, I'll make animal sounds (if I know what sound to make!) and sometimes I'll ask her questions like "what is the animal doing?" or "can you say tiger?" I usually just let her talk on and on in her answers. She may not understand all of the questions, but I think it's important to ask them, anyway.
Well, there was this one issue she received recently called "Cats." The cats featured were actually lions and tigers. (And bears, oh, my! Just kidding.) I guess it was the title of the magazine that made me point at a picture of a *huge* lion and say, "Kitty!" I know that lions and tigers can look similar to domesticated cats, but there's a big difference in them, namely that one of them is a wild man-eater! It suddenly occured to me, as I sat there with Jennifer, that I was implanting the wrong idea of exactly what type of animal lions were to be reckoned with. I could just picture it now: Jennifer at the zoo, running towards the lion's den with arms excitedy outstretched, crying out, "Kitty!" So of course I quickly started calling the feline creatures for what they were. I told her, "Look, Jennifer, this is a lion, not a kitty." She'd confusedly look up at me as I quickly turned pages, pointing, "Lion, not kitty. Lion, not kitty. Tiger, not kitty."
I don't know if she got it. I don't know if she was even able to say "lion" herself. But with each picture of a lion I saw and the ones I do see later on, I'll be calling them what they are: "Lions."
Maybe I'm being paranoid. Maybe she'll figure out on her own later on that the "kitty" in her magazine is different from the "kitty" at one of her grandparents' house. But at least I won't be having nightmares of her running towards any lions crying out, "Kitty!"   
August 17, 2003 -- Mommy's little helper
I have often heard/read several mothers' horror stories of how lazy their children are. And while any sane parent wouldn't possibly expect a 2-year-old to help out around the house or not, this seems to be the case with Jennifer. Being a stay-at-home mom, it's my job to keep the house neat and tidy. (My husband happens to be a neat freak, yet seems to accept that whenever I get too involved in my writing, the dishes will pile up and the floors will get dirty.) And since children tend to imitate their parents' actions, Jennifer has taken to imitating my daily cleaning duties.
Whenever she sees me with the broom, she'll hurriedly remove the rug from the entryway because she knows it needs to be swept. And even after I'll sweep it, she'll grab the broom and give the floor that extra touch. Anytime crumbs appear on the table, she'll grab a rag (even if the "rag" happens to be her father's T-shirt!) and wipe them off onto the floor. Then she'll hurry away to hide, expecting the vacuum cleaner to start up to clean that mess up. (Even though I vacuumed while I was pregnant with her and during her infancy, she's terrified of the vacuum cleaner now. She can't even be in the same room with it without pointing at it and crying out with fear.)
While I'm more than happy to let her help with housework -- because I want to encourage her to have good cleaning habits -- it can be a problem sometimes. She'll fold up the sheet on my bed before I have a chance to put the pillows there, she'll get toilet water all over the bathroom floor thanks the brush she vigorously "cleans" the toilet with and she'll throw her clothes into the washing machine when I've already got her father's work clothes in there.
Still, I can't complain. I only hope that these habits will continue into her childhood and, hopefully, her teenaged years. I certainly don't want to be one of those mothers writing to a parenting advice column with a letter reading something like, "Why won't my 5-year-old pick up her toys?"  One day all of this "helping" Jennifer is doing may end up being only a distant memory. For now, toilet water may continue to land on the bathroom floor and her white T-shirt may get caught up in a load of brown pants. 
August 16, 2003 -- The identity crisis
Every mother loves to hear their child call them, "Mama." Or "mom" or "mommy." This is our affirmation that we are this little angel's mommy: protector, caregiver, cheerleader, and teacher. With my being deaf, I have to rely on lip-reading to understand what Jennifer says, at least until she understands how to sign "mom." (Which is actually easy to sign: Spread the fingers out on your hand and put the thumb up to your chin. For "father," the thumb goes to the forehead.)
But the thing of the matter is, Jennifer hardly calls me "mama." Or even "mom," "mommy" or "moms." Any time she wants to get my attention, she will eagerly pat my leg, crying out, "Dawn! Dawn! Dawn!" This will happen regardless of how fast I give her my attention; she will always call my name out three times. (She was born on a third day. Hmm, the wheels are turning... ) Of course, I have laughed myself silly over these moments. She acts with such urgency whether she wants to show me that she has found a clue in one of her Blue's Clues books or that there is a bird up in the sky.
While I find it amusing, I wonder why she calls me by my name. My husband hardly says my name around her and my parents no longer live by us, meaning she doesn't hear them referring to me by name every day. I just wonder why she calls me "mama" anytime she wants to get out of her crib (complete with arms outstretched) and "Dawn" all the other times. Is there something in a child's brain that switches over for each emotion?
I know that two of my sisters went through the same thing: Their children called them by their names. My older sister even had her son refer to her by a shortened version of her name. I guess it's just something all babies go through.
Jennifer knows I'm her mommy. It would be nice if she called me "mama" more often but it'll probably be signed to me before it gets said on a regular basis.  Perhaps one of these days, the time will come for her to hurriedly pat my leg crying "Mom! Mom! Mom!" the next time she sees a bird flying overhead.     
August 15, 2003 -- My Cosmo girl
During the course of rewriting one of my novels, I learned that my major protagonist reads the magazine Cosmopolitan. So, naturally, I wanted to check Cosmo out, as I want to experience everything my character experiences (well, almost everything. I'm not single like she is!) So I picked up an issue of Cosmo to check it out. (I've only read one other issue in my whole life!) And, of course, Jennifer got her hands on this. She didn't tear it up, thankfully, though there was one picture she decided really didn't belong and tore it out. (Is this a hint of her future career??)
But the thing is, she refuses to part with the magazine now. She even fell asleep last night clutching it to her chest!
I am in the process of potty training Jennifer and my biggest challenge was getting her to sit on her potty chair for longer than three seconds. Now all I have to do is hand her the magazine and she'll contentedly sit there, exploring its' pages for several minutes.
I'm thinking that she'd likely have the same reaction if the magazine was Glamour, Good Housekeeping or Family Circle. I'm thinking of trying different magazines to see how she takes to them.
For now, though, she's a Cosmo girl (Cosmopolitan actually has an alternative magazine called CosmoGIRL! Maybe I should get a subscription??) Oh, well. As long as it keeps her on the potty chair, I'm a happy camper.  
August 14, 2003 -- Just saying "no"
My first entry! Yay! I have actually thought of starting this for some time, but no idea just where yet.
Today I am learning the fine art of just saying "no" each time Jennifer gets into something she shouldn't. For example, her current fixation is with the printer. And while I am prone to leaping into hysterics over the littlest of things, being reminded of the fragile emotions all small children have forces me to get a better grip on my patience. I just have to take a big deep breath and say "no" the next time she tries to take the printer apart. (She's got her father's interest in technology, that's for sure!) The rule for this is that "no" is all I get to say. Nothing that would confuse her such as "you can't take the printer apart because we need to use it" or "printers aren't for babies to play with." This keeps me from the temptation of actually saying something I might regret, such as "bad baby" (she wouldn't realize what she was doing that was bad). Without a doubt, being a parent is a lesson in controlling our patience and how we respond to crises. By telling her "no," I am telling her with a word she understands that what she is doing is not allowed.

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