Sunday, December 16, 2012

Moms Lie

Mom Said...

Moms Lie. At the very least, they embellish the truth.  If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t do either, you’re lying!  For whatever reason, as moms, we believe our children’s development, most of which we have no control over, is a complete reflection of our performance as a parent.  More than that, moms judge other moms harshly.  If you’re saying you don’t, you’re lying again.  As a result, we moms tend to tell a listening ear what we think will be received as stellar parenting advice about our child’s development, eating and sleeping habits, academics, etc.  This starts the vicious cycle of moms lying because at the end of the day, moms are also competitive. 

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times I would come home to my husband with regard to our first born and say to him “so-and-so’s mom just told me he/she can do (insert whatever crazy notion you want in here) and our daughter is nowhere near doing that!”  I’d be on the verge of hysterics because my child might potentially be underdeveloped.  (Now, before I go any further, I do want all moms out there with children that face mental/physical challenges to know I don’t mean to make a mockery of these challenges and do truly appreciate all of the hard work and effort that goes into caring for your child on a daily basis.  But as a first-time mom, I just didn’t know what to expect of my child.) 

During every episode of hysterics, my husband would say, “I don’t care what those other kids are doing, as long as our child is happy and healthy, then all is good!”  He would then proceed to tell me, “Moms lie.”  I, of course, did not believe him.  In fact I would become infuriated with him, in part because he wasn’t even remotely concerned about our child’s development (as he shouldn’t have been, she was developing just fine.) In other part because I was so jealous that he could keep his cool and never let what other children were and were not doing even remotely enter into his purview of our child’s development (yes, we are Claire and Phil from that episode of Modern Family when Claire is so agitated that Phil remains so calm when Haley got arrested!).  I have come to the conclusion that the reason my husband can stay singularly focused on our child is because dads don’t lie.  Dads quite frankly don’t get involved in the competitive nonsense, and really just are out to have a good time with their child.  That is the beginning and end of it. 

If you are fortunate to live in a city like me that has a dense population of these competitive moms, you’ll find you need to check yourself more often than not.  New York City breeds a special kind of uber-competitive mom that has truly made me question every blessed thing I have done as a parent at one time or another.  They come in various types, some of which include:

 (1) The Hippy - the crunchy mom who literally competes with you on how long she breast-fed her child and the fact that she brushes her child’s teeth with organic toothpaste.

 (2) The Suit Mom – the mom who works in some high position and makes ridiculous amounts of money, and therefore judges you on the type of clothes your child wears, the activities your child is involved in (activities in NYC are absurdly expensive), and how many languages they are learning (at the age of 1); and

(3) The Stay-at-Home-Mom – the mom who just appears to have it all together and really makes you feel like you are a crazed lunatic at all times and you are doing your child a disservice by actually working. 

While I realize that moms in other areas of the world are not as crazy as the NYC mom (acknowledging my EMBELLISHED characterization of them), versions of these moms are everywhere. 

My husband has been privy to the world of competitive, crazy moms as a result of being an extremely active dad and spending a fair amount of time with moms.  He, therefore, has validated my perception of these moms.  He has said to me on more than one occasion, “I don’t know how you do it.  Moms are just crazy. They are so competitive with one another that they just lie.”  

For some reason, hearing “I don’t know how you do it” made me feel like I didn’t have to compete anymore.  This started the trend of trying not to pay attention to what other moms say about their children (ok, I am human, I do my best not to compare), and telling the truth about my child - maybe to a fault. (I definitely went through a period when I claimed my child was a horrible eater. It’s not true. She is actually a good eater and will try everything).  I can honestly say it feels good!  I have come to the realization that children have enough stress in their lives they don’t need to live up to these embellished ideas of themselves.  Regardless, kids have a tendency to tell the truth just when you don’t want them to, and will sell out on your exaggerations.  I have also made the decision to surround myself around moms that appear to limit their amount of embellishments (look, we all do it to a degree) and to “call BS” on moms that do (at least in me head). 

So my advice to all moms:

(1) Learn a little something from your husband and stay singularly focused on your children;
(2) Take everything another mom says about their child with a grain of salt, we have an uncanny ability to sometimes make our children and parenting skills appear better than they are; and
(3) Try not to exaggerate, it is insanely freeing and actually makes another mom feel like she is in good company.

Dad Said...

Me:  “My daughter?  Oh.  She starting walking around 10 months or so I think.”

Raven’s Mother: “ Oh really?  My little Raven was walking at 8 months.  By 10 months she was potty trained”. *insert gratuitous look of pity*

There is a phenomenon that happens on playgrounds, PTO Meetings, soccer fields and the like.  These places are breeding grounds for Competitive Moms.  Competitive Moms are a virus that seemingly normal women contract upon the birth of their first child. 

Whether it’s an issue of insecurity, peer pressure or something else is a separate issue.  The fact of the matter is that, in my experience, Moms have a unique competitive streak when it comes to the development of their children.  Different from the Dads that are competitive on a little league field, these competitive Moms focus on boasting and touting their child’s developmental superiority. 

It’s fairly common and actually pretty natural.  Dealing with your child’s mother when she comes home in complete hysterics because little Mindy is speaking a little more clearly than your daughter at 18 months old?  Now that’s where the fun begins. 

I have a tremendous amount of respect for patient pediatricians that also act as counselors and the guideline police of “acceptable development”.   There can be an obsessive element involved with whether it’s OK if your child still has a pacifier at 2 years.  Or 3 years. 

I found myself constantly reminding my wife that there is no greater equalizer of child development than time.  Folks, your kids will not go to college with a pacifier in their mouth.  I promise you.  It is so easy to get sucked into the worry and concern over minor developmental milestones that it can make you crazy.  Moms don’t have the market corned on this either. 

Living in a city like NYC is like living in an exaggerated Petri dish of over-zealous parenting.  I am sure everyone experiences these things and it really is important to benchmark your child’s development with himself.  I don’t mean to dismiss true developmental issues that children face.  We certainly are not talking about those here.  I am really lucky to have found a group here in the city that is a truly supportive, knowledgeable and accessible called the NYC Dad’s Group.  To the extent that Moms and Dads alike out there can find a group (this one is a Meetup Group that is in all 5 NYC boroughs, Hoboken and Jersey City), I highly recommend it.  

Fundamentally, we all have different children with different needs and are all just trying to figure out what’s best for them.  Contrary to what you might hear at Gymboree, it’s not a contest.  We all win. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

When to Make Your Child "Cry it Out"

This post represents our first foray into blogging.  We are parents of two young girls and have found that many of our children's milestones can be the source of anxiety, stress and more often than not, a lot of humor. Our perspectives as Mom and Dad are often at odds and make for interesting fodder, once the fight dies down.  This blog represents our experiences for better or worse. If you find them useful, funny or even mildly amusing we are thrilled.  Thanks for reading and enjoy! 

Mom Says...

One of the first difficult decisions faced by parents is – WHEN TO CRY IT OUT…if at all.  In speaking with most of my friends and family, it is more often than not the dad dragging his feet on this.  It’s as if dad’s become instantaneously soft when then become a dad, which is not a bad thing, but sometimes we have to be tough as parents.  We have had the great misfortune of having to sleep train not only one, but two babies (and I am fully convinced that if we had a third, we would have to sleep train that baby too).  It was definitely easier convincing my husband the second time around, but he still really dug his heels in and had our second daughter to the doctor’s office easily 4-5 times before he finally agreed (ok, I am exaggerating…it was 3 times). 

For us, our first was about 9 months old when we made the decision.  Yes, 9 MONTHS in spite of the fact that our doctor insisted we do it at around 5-6 months.  Our doctor would squeeze our daughter’s thigh chub and name them “midnight feeding and 3 AM feeding. She is not hungry”.  My husband, with all of his medical training (he’s in ad sales), insisted she was hungry and he couldn’t bare to let her starve in the middle of the night.  Finally, at 9 months, I had a meltdown.  I hadn’t slept in so long.  I am not one of those people who can fall right back to sleep. It takes 2 hours to get back to sleep for me (I am convinced my mom didn’t sleep train me!).  He finally caved after he saw the major rush of tears flowing down my cheeks.  One bad night of crying and one night of barely crying, and she slept through the night.  My husband told me if he knew it would be that easy, he would have done it sooner.  Not true (as proven by his resistance to sleep train our second child)!

With our second, we agreed we would sleep train sooner rather than later because we understood sleep training much better. While painful for us, we knew our child was more than fine and learning an important life skill…SLEEP!  At 3 months, our previously wonderful sleeper decided sleep was just not important any longer.  Not only did she decide to wake up every hour on the hour, she refused a bottle and would only nurse.  For the next 6 weeks, my life was HELL!  I would sleep in 45 minute increments, and still have to be awake the following day to care for our 3 year old.  I kept telling my husband she has to cry, he insisted something was wrong with her.  He was right, in part, she did have a very low grade fever.  After the fever passed, she kept on crying and waking.  I insisted she needed to cry it out.  So back to the doctor we went.  And yes, the doctor insisted she cry it out.  My husband proceeded to challenge the doctor, and was pretty pissed when we left the office. “He wouldn’t even listen to us, he wouldn’t even let me speak, there is something wrong with her”…and so we didn’t cry it out.  At this point, I looked like a wild woman from nature and couldn’t speak in complete sentences (picture the female version of Tarzan).  There is nothing worse than a complete lack of sleep.  So I insisted she cry again.  And yes, my husband felt our daughter had a fever AGAIN and took her back to the doctor (I did not go this time).  The doctor requested we put the thermometer away and let her cry.  We finally came to an agreement and cried it out. 

We now have two sleeping children, and balance is restored in our home!  At the end of the day, my advice to parents with non-sleeping children, you need to do what is best for you. It is a very personal decision.  And both you and your partner must be in agreement (that doesn’t mean you won’t need to nudge your partner into agreeing to sleep train). It is an extremely difficult thing to go through and you need to support one another during the times of wailing.  That said, a happy house is a well rested house, so with just a few horrible nights (and yes, I won’t lie, they are horrible) you are free to be a sleeping, functional family.  

Dad Says...

There are a wide variety of things that can be pretty divisive between parents in the early days of having an infant.  Breastfeeding or formula, bassinet or co-sleep, swaddle or not swaddle, etc.  You will figure all of those out, and in contrast, will be dwarfed by the decisions that need to be made for children that do not sleep well.

If you are one of those families that have infants that sleep, know this, we hate you.  Yes, we hate you with the passion of a million hot daggers stabbing you in the temple.  For those of you that have children that are not the best of sleepers and inevitably will need to be “taught” to sleep, you have a very uncomfortable decision ahead of you.  Should you make your child cry (i.e. Ferber, Crying it out, etc.) or wait it out until the child is older?  Not an easy decision.

Not to jump ahead to the end, but Dads, you will know when it’s time to let your child cry.  It will become abundantly clear on some random Tuesday night at 3:12 am after about 2-3 weeks of extremely sporadic sleep, when your wife looks at you with those bloodshot eyes filled with venom and the patch of hair that she had been pulling on sticking straight up, and informs you ever-so-politely that it is time to sleep train your child. 

As you lay back down (eventually), still reeling from the sheer terror from nearly being eviscerated for getting 2.5 hours of sleep that night, all of your concerns and fears with regard to making your child cry it out will quietly fall away into the dark void of the night that had been created. 

Prior to that night, you will want to try every gimmick, remedy, and old-wives-tale imaginable.  Your wife will read every book out there.  Know this.  While the books are helpful, the rest of it simply does not work.  You’ll still want to try it all in an effort to prolong the inevitable, but remember you heard it here first.  If you are like me, however, you will need to get there on your own.  There are various types of sleeping devices (at a verity of angles and whatnot), things that are meant to mimic the womb, sound machines, grip water, Simethicone, soothing washes.  The list is endless.  It’s quite the business.  We have a graveyard stock full of these items. 

If you do decide to go the route of sleep training, whether Ferber or some version of that, know that the crying doesn’t last long, a few nights, and really it’s just the first night that is bad.  Remember it’s just crying.  It won’t hurt.  At the end of the day, a well-rested, happy mother makes for a well-rested happy baby and in turn a well-rested happy you. 

My wife swears (and still does) by Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.  In all honesty it has been a helpful guide of what to expect and when with regard to getting your child to sleep well.