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    Entries in babies (17)


    dental touches

    Dear Zelda,

    Tonight while nursing you, before you signaled that you were ready to sleep by unlatching and looking for Papa (who slings you to dreamland as he does the dishes), I was finger-combing your hair. It's getting longer. Long enough to "do." This makes me very happy. Anyway, I was finger-combing your hair while you nursed, and when I stopped, and rested my hand on your little belly, you reached down. You grabbed my hand and brought it back to your head, making me pet you with your fat fingers tight around mine, puppeteering. Looking at me, satisfied, you stopped nursing to say, with a sleepy smile, "den-tal." Gentle. Yes.



    hangin' tough: a papa's adventures in babywearing

    In honor of International Babywearing Week, the following is a guest post by my partner, Nathan: babywearer extraordinaire.

    I come from a line of Oklahomans whose techniques for baby containing consisted primarily of high chairs for eating, large extended families for passing and holding, and loads of hip-hanging for everything else.  Up to age 18, I'd never even SEEN anyone (not on some school filmstrip of distant lands) wearing their child.  

    When we found out that George was busy growing in the womb, we began the age-old ritual of stockpiling all things baby and parent.  During our childbirth class, we began discussing the kinds of carriers Stefanie would use.  At first, I never assumed that this conversation included me.  Since I had so little prior knowledge of slings and baby wearing, my brain passed right over into support mode.  Quickly, I realized that I could wear the baby, too.  Still, it seemed out of my comfort zone.

    Once George was born, things started to change.  I saw Stef wearing our tiny grumpy baby in the Ergo, taking him everywhere, feeding him, talking to him, comforting him.  I started wearing George around the house.  In no time, even though my college-self tugged at my discomfort with something so "not me," whatever that meant, I immediately felt the benefit of having George so close.  As a newborn he was tough to get to sleep, but in the sling with me, he found a spot to rest easy and did so often.  In those days, I was in the thick of my student teaching internship and spent a lot of time at school, working.  In my hours at home, I had George in the sling.  I could cook with him in there, looking up at me.  I would sing to him and often talk him through everything that I was doing.  At "bedtime," I found a stand-up desk in his changing table and I would work at my laptop as he (and just as importantly, Mama) got some rest.  

    Even though our in-house George-toting was going gangbusters, I was still sheepish to wear George out; it still felt strange.  I don't really remember when I stopped feeling that it wasn't weird to have my baby on me, but, it did.  Yes, even in the extremely liberal town where we lived, I still got some glaring looks or giggles, but I would just kiss George's head and talk to him and feel great that my baby and I were out and about.  That's one of the best things about baby wearing: the freedom it gives families, regardless of their size.  Sadly, so often our culture portrays parents as put-upon martyrs for their children.  Instead, when I have had either of my children in a sling, I feel like we are free.  We are able to go almost anywhere and do almost anything and we can do it together.  My kids have run errands to the post office and learned how everything works.  They've shopped for groceries with me.  I see all of these interactions as learning opportunities and feel like they've better equipped my children to see themselves as active participants in their world. Additionally, being in a traditional relationship, I was happy to introduce George to parenting and gender roles that might not necessarily mesh with culture at large.  I relished the opportunity to share in the role as nurturer.  

    Eventually, I upgraded from a pre-packaged satchel-looking (ed: pocket) sling to a more traditional ring sling. George napped and travelled in it until he practically burst it at the seams.  I remember his transition out of the sling and how, while my back was thanking me for the break, I missed having my little one next to me, sharing life so closely.  Without question, having bonded this way with George helped (and continues to help) us be close, even when eventually I was working 50-60 hours a week.  Understandably, I bet some folks reading this would ask, "If your baby is asleep so much of the time, do you really think you're bonding that much?"  I would argue 100% yes.  I can imagine few more powerful little moments than when a waking baby looks up to see her parent, feeling safe. I see that look on a regular basis and feel incredibly fortunate to have that opportunity that so few dads and non-nursing partners have.


    Scary photobooth papa

    By the time Zelda was born, slinging babies was old hat.  Today, I estimate that I have Zelda in the sling for about 20-25 hours a week. I keep a pretty regular work week schedule, but when I'm home, she naps and hangs out with me in Stef's Maya Wrap ring sling (really the best sling ever).  Just as with George, in the evenings Zelda sleeps in the sling with me while I work and Stef has some freedom after a day parenting two kids.  All of the same benefits of slinging George are again present, but added to this are some new benefits.  While slinging George, I showed him that I also acted as a nurturer and now that I so regularly wear Zelda, he sees it second-hand (Luckily, we are surrounded by some great dads, which helps reinforce men as gentle caregivers!).  As a family, we are also better able to parent both kids.  If we go out, we as parents can focus more intimately on both kids.   

    Baby wearing has allowed me to a more engaged member of the family. Working at times three jobs outside of the house, I've struggled over the years to make my time with my family as meaningful as possible.  Having my children in a sling lets us be more active as a family unit.  With Zelda in the sling, we can all go outside and play a game of George's choosing and we are ALL actively engaged. Zelda is part of the action and enjoying the movement, sights and sounds.  And George can have both parents playing with him at once.  I can cook dinner with Zelda in the sling while Stef and George read a book or play a game.

    These days, baby wearing lets me more easily take both kids out, but rather than the looks I got as a new dad with a baby in a sling, I now get plenty of coos and smiles (gee, I wonder if perception has anything to do with this).   I relish the days when I wear my ratty jeans and flannel shirt and the world gets to see my big frame, looking scruffy and a little rough with two adorable kids that I'm playing with and talking to. 

    Simply put: baby wearing has made our family life better.  I can't imagine doing this parenting thing any other way.  Whether it’s the messages sent to my kids about papas as nurturers or the freedom it gives me, allowing me to live life in tandem with my children, having my little ones in a sling makes me happy.  It's helped me feel like a better parent, even in hard times, and has without question helped my children develop into people who aren't simply passengers (though they are literally) in my life, but participants in OUR life together.




    our journey to dreamland


    That kid right there, he started out as a 12 hour a night sleeper. Does he sleep through the night? people would ask me. Yes! I could say, without lying. Well, without telling untruths, that is, because I was definitely lying. Next to him. All night. And all morning. Because that kid, right there, he slept from midnight until noon as long as he had a bosom for a pillow. Well-meaning folks suggested that I try waiting until he was deeply asleep, then rolling away from him to go about my day. As though I hadn't tried that. Have you ever forcibly waited until noon to get out of bed? If you had, you'd know that the urge to pee strikes around 9:30 and that scenario probably doesn't need further explanation. 

    He woke up if I even thought too hard about scootching over, and it went double for naps. The penalty for my ambition was always the same: an underslept baby with one target for his displeasure. Me. so, I got a Kindle and went with it. I was so well-read back then, you guys. 

    He slept in the sling, with his papa, too. That was nice. On weekends, I got a break from lying down with him (Let us pause for a moment, parents of more than one, to laugh and laugh. 



    Hoo boy! Yeah. Okay. Anyway.) and that continued until he was well over a year old. At fifteen months or so, he nightweaned and moved into a crib, a change prompted by his obvious need for more personal space at night. His kicking and flailing were keeping everyone, himself included, awake, and the crib gave him boundaries he seemed to enjoy, coupled with room to move and make sheet angels. But getting him to sleep at night was HARD. I'd nurse him and hand him over to Nathan, who put in one to two hours per night sitting next to the crib, singing and humming, shooshing and patting. And naptime? I, pregnant and afflicted with a bad case of the breastfeeding heebie jeebies, was unable to nap-nurse like we'd always done. So Nathan dashed home on his lunch break and made a nap happen, then drove back to work, rarely having eaten.

    George was elated to receive a hand-me-down toddler bed, but fell out of it a few times, so we reverted to the crib. It started feeling a little desperate, like this particular toddler was going to need this papa-led patting and shooshing routine well into grade school. Nathan and I had no evening time to ourselves, the lunchtime dash was kind of ridiculous, and, more than once, we both wondered aloud if this level of attention was counterproductive. We knew families who "Ferberized" their kids, and if Facebook and casual conversation were to be believed, their evenings were full of primetime television shows and cocktails. In short, they seemed to be having a lot more fun than we were. But, we persisted, because being unresponsive to our son's expressed needs felt like the wrong thing to do. 

    The funny thing about raising kids is that things gradually get better and sometimes you don't notice. I couldn't tell you the date of George's last dirty diaper (because that would be pathetic, a little), and I don't know exactly when he stopped throwing all of his food on the floor. Similarly, the sleep routine got shorter and shorter until we decided to try something new. 

    For the past month, I've been putting George to bed. We do "stories and nummas" -- books and a nurse -- and then he lies down. I turn off the light and we talk about his day. I sing Moon River and Take Me Out To The Ballgame, really slow, as per his request. And then, I leave. I leave him there, blinking at me in the hallway light, saying no, I love YOU! And I shut the door. And he goes to sleep. 

    I never thought we'd get here. Or, rather, I knew we would, but it seemed a far-off fantasy like I'd imagine when he was a baby. The patter of jammy feet on wood floors, the eating of grilled cheese and soup on blustery days: these feel like distant, hazy idyls to the mother of a six month old. What I'm most proud of, besides his accomplishments as an independent sleeper, is that we got here by honoring his needs, his wishes. We kept him feeling safe, and in that feeling of safety, he grew into what we hoped he would, what we needed. I sometimes miss the feeling of lying there next to his baby body, devouring a novel while he snored, looking down to see his eyelids flutter open that gummy good morning smile. But another funny thing about raising kids is that there's always a next thing, another thing to love. And that retort? No, I love YOU, mama. God, is it good. 


    three months

    Three months passes quickly these days. This year. Suddenly I have a six month old I set down on the rug in the living room, only to see her little face peek into the dining room while I help her brother with play doh. Her brother, who asks me to help him build a Curiosity space ship to blast off from the swirly turquoise and green ball he's rolled into planet Earth. There are many planets in our solar system, he tells me. That's true.

    And the other one, the one who's scooting her chubby buns around a full 2 months earlier than George even considered trying? She's one of those babies who gives babies a good name. Who gives expectant parents hope. Who sends fear straight to the heart of new boyfriends whose dates coo at her gummy, grinning face and exclaim Oh, I love babies! Sorry, dudes.

    We moved, we've been entertaining (and entertained), and posts about those things may be coming up in addition to some real talk about potty learning and having two kids. But right now, we're enjoying the fleeting nice weather. I hope these three months have treated you well. 


    summer babe

    We're here. This is happening. Berry picking, baseball playing, family in our spare room kinda summer.