My New Year’s Resolutions: 6 weeks in…

At the end of December, I wrote a few parenting resolutions for 2018. Since we’re six weeks into the year, I thought it would be a good time to check in with myself about them.

Resolution 1: Get off my phone! 

Current grade: C+/B-

I’m doing…not great with this one. My resolution was to put my phone on the other side of the room during playtime. When it’s just me and A, I’m pretty good with it. What really gets me though is if someone else is home. If my husband or in-laws are playing with A, I notice that I’ll just sit on my phone in front of them, even though I could be more engaged in a group play. But I also don’t want to be too hard on myself: If I’ve been alone with A all day, then my husband comes home and wants to play with A, sometimes I just want the mental break that only a good scroll through Instagram can provide….

 

Resolution 2: Talk to my husband about my blog posts.

Current grade: F

I think I talked to him about it twice maybe. Mostly because of his schedule, honestly. But the point of this resolution was to encourage conversations between us about parenting. We have had recent in-depth discussions (to put it politely…) about screen time and overbuying of toys (see my still-relevant thoughts on that here). So, I am failing at this resolution *technically,* but I’m not mad at myself.

 

Resolution 3: Don’t criticize my husband’s parenting. 

Current grade: B+?

I think I’m doing well? I don’t notice myself doing it as much anymore, but I don’t know if that’s because I do it less or because I do it more unconsciously. I’ll try to pay particular attention to that over the next few days.

 

Resolution 4: Encourage A to clean up after himself.

Current grade: A-

We don’t do it *every* night, but 4 out of every five nights, we have him help clean up all of his toys in the living room. Doing well with this one!

Bonus Resolution: Read more books about parenting and social justice

A few weeks after I wrote out my New Year’s resolutions, I also made a commitment to read at least two books about parenting for social justice by March. So, I’ve edited that goal a bit. Instead of books, I’m reading a magazine! I found a new, online magazine called ‘Hold the Line’ that I’ve subscribed to. I’m a few articles into the first one, and I’m really enjoying it! Highly recommend it.

Happy wiping! –Olivia

Joy, pt. 2: The story of A and his neigh

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“Neigh! Neiiiighhhh!”, A cried, pointing repeated to his crib.

“What do you say?”

“Peeeezzzz.”

“Alright, here you go,” I say, reaching into his crib and pulling out his stuffed horse.

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A slides down my body as we walk into the house. I’m carrying my work bag, A’s daycare bag, and A’s coat, so his dismount from my hip was more of a slide then a gentle put-down. A immediately runs to the TV remote, holds it out to me, and says “Neigh? Neigh?”

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“Should we race?”

A smiles and nods his head once. He gets down on his knees, holding Moon, his white plastic horse, on the ground. Then he grins at me.

I smile back and line up Spirit, his brown plastic horse. “Ready, set, go!”

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A is currently obsessed with “neighs.” This has nothing to do with parenting for social justice (I don’t think—maybe there’s something here about horses being stereotypically associated with young girls? Haven’t thought it through.). I just want to write it down to celebrate the joy in parenting’s mundane moments! It all started a few months ago, when we found a Netflix show called “Spirit: Riding Free.” It’s definitely a show I would’ve loved as a kid. His obsession started growing when we found a stuffed horse at Ikea (that he sleeps with every night). It got even worse when he got *5* different stuffed or plastic horses for Christmas.

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A’s favorite show ever, ever ever of his entire 18 month life. 

But I can feel the beginning of the end for A’s era of neighs. Don’t get me wrong—he still sleeps with his Ikea neigh every day and plays with his plastic horses daily. But he didn’t ask to watch his Netflix show once last weekend. Since, at the height of his obsession he was asking for “neigh” show hourly, this has gotta mean something. He did ask for “aslan” (lion in Turkish). So, we watched Lion King for the first time this weekend. Neighs will always be his first love, but we may be at the dawn of the age of aslan.

I’ll report back in a few months, and let you know!

P.S. See my first post of joy in parenting’s small moments here.

Birthing a human, pt. 3: Learning to love

Around 7:00am on July 29th, 2016, the nurses started setting up my room for delivery. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the rush of emotion when they told me it was time. When I had gone to sleep around 1:30am, I was 2-3 centimeters dilated after being in the hospital for almost twelve hours. I didn’t expect the nurse to tell me I was fully dilated and ready to go. I remember lying on my left side (my epidural only worked on my right side, so the nurse was having me lie on my left to let gravity help), holding my husband’s hand. I started to tear up just because of the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The most fundamental shift in anyone’s life—the moment you become a parent—was about to happen.

My OB was in to check on me around the time the nurses started getting the room ready for delivery. Sometimes pushing can take hours for first time moms, but for some reason, she decided to wait to see how pushing went for me. I think I start pushing around 7:15am, but honestly my memory of the timeline is a bit blurry. I have very vivid memories of a few select moments though. My OB asking if I wanted a mirror. What I saw in the mirror. My OB asking for soap (was it soap? I think so…) when A started crowning (apparently, they wash the baby’s head a bit. Not sure if it’s to make them smell nice or lubricant, lol). My OB strettchinnggg me. The sensation that my urethra was about to explode as he came out. Yelling “FUCK” when I thought my urethra was ripping (btw, I’m assuming that’s the ‘ring of fire’ people talk about). My OB saying “7:33am”.

When my OB placed him on my chest, I started crying right away. But honestly—and this is the main point I want to make today—not because I felt that wave of love that everyone talks about. I don’t even know why I started crying, probably just an overwhelming combination of hormones, relief, and excitement. In so many movies or from older women, you hear about this rush of intense love you get the first time you hold your baby. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt,” they say. In that moment, though, sure I loved A, but just because I knew I was now responsible for him. If you asked me later that day if I loved A or our dogs more, I probably would have said I love them about the same.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok that I didn’t have the “right” emotions at the time. It’s ok that the intense, maternal love that makes you want to scream, punch anyone who would hurt him, dance, laugh, and cry all in one moment took a while to develop. There is no “right” way to bond with your newborn. If you feel that rush of scream-sobbing love as soon as your baby is placed on your chest, that’s awesome. If it takes you a few hours, days, or weeks, that’s awesome, too. It will come though! And, man, it is the best.

 

P.S. In previous posts (here and here), I’ve touched on how I cultivate a positive outlook on childbirth and how race & class privilege have shaped that positive outlook.

2018 Women’s March

We went to the anniversary Women’s March in St. Louis last Saturday!

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Now, if I’m being honest, we weren’t sure we were going to go. It wasn’t something that we planned our day around. But when we realized everyone was awake and in a good mood (and actually needed an outing to stay sane that day), we decided to stop by the Women’s March in St. Louis. We missed the actually marching (my favorite part from 2017! The energy and enthusiasm was such a salve after the sadness of the inauguration day before). But we arrived for some of the speakers and heard some passionate, badass people talk about badass things.

Last year, A was small enough that he just sat in his carrier and looked around. This year, A is wiggly and energetic enough that we let him get out and walk around. There were no questions of safety for A, which some parents may worry about when deciding to attend a big event like this. At one point, we were close to a very loud speaker and  concerned about hurting his ears, but we just moved away and that was that. It’s my mentality that the child’s immediate physical needs come before the rally/protest (which is a privileged perspective but one I hold): when A needed to wiggle or eat, that’s what we prioritized. Last year, when he needed to nap and wasn’t falling asleep in the carrier, I left the rally so that he could nap. I think that mentality—of prioritizing your kid’s physical needs—can make events seem less intimidating to parents who are hesitant to go.

It was a great experience for A overall. He clapped when others clapped. Watched dogs and looked at colorful signs. Will he remember that he went to the 2018 Women’s March? No. Did he understand any of the political messages? No. But being at an event like that normalizes activism and protest from an early age. Honestly, the introvert in me never really wants to rallies, but, as a parent, I want A to know that rallies and protests are a healthy, essential part of democracy.

Happy wiping!

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Storytime and White Feminism: Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz

Last summer, I bought A the book, Feminist Baby, from my local book store. Apart from its obvious appeal (feminism, lol), it is a cute and funny book that A has grown to love. He calls it the ‘baby’ book: he holds it out and says ‘baby! baby! baby!’ insistently when he wants to read it. He particularly loves the page when the baby protagonist refuses to wear pants, because he gets to say ‘popo’ (‘butt’ in Turkish), which always makes us giggle. The baby protagonist does playful feminist things like picking out her own clothes and being a rock star. It’s cute.

During the 758th reading of the book (*approximately, I can’t be sure), I realized something though. Feminist Baby really is the epitome of White feminism. Just as an FYI, white feminism is NOT something we want. It is representative of a feminist ‘center’ that excludes women of color and gender-queer or gender non-conforming folks. The opposite of White feminist is an intersectional feminist, which is what we are always striving to be. I KNOW I’ve failed in many ways to be intersectional in my feminism (for example, it taking 758 readings of this book to understand it…), but it’s something I work on and will continue to work on.

BACK TO THE BOOK: The baby protagonist either plays with dolls or cars, either likes pink or blue. These juxtapositions of stereotypically feminine or masculine things are…fine, I guess. Obviously, I want A to know that anyone can be interested in any type of toy. But it reinforces the binary thinking about gender (i.e., that gender is either boy OR girl). In reality, gender can be somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the spectrum. This boy/girl juxtaposition is just a little basic, IMO. Plus, the illustrations feature a White girl baby (the author makes it clear with the ‘she’ pronouns that the baby is a girl). People other than white women can be feminists, too! I would love to see follow up books to this (also called ‘Feminist Baby’) showing all of the shapes, genders, colors, and sizes of feminist babies.

Oh, and she always wears a bow! That’s a pet peeve of mine. If you want to make the protagonist a cisgender girl, that’s totally cool…but a girl isn’t defined by whether or not she’s wearing a bow in her hair. It normalizes and centralizes masculinity—like people assume a completely naked baby (sans bow) is a boy.

All of this commentary aside, I don’t think the book is a complete dud, but it needs to be used a jumping board into these topics. It can’t stand on its own without age-appropriate complications.

I should’ve known when I saw the publisher was Disney. This is Disney-approved, capitalist feminism—not the radical, intersectional feminism that should be and must be the future [and therefore inherent in how we approach child-rearing].

Sick days and privilege

Being sick is a privilege. Obviously, it suuckkkkssss, but it’s also a privilege. Being able to say—‘My baby needs to stay home today. He’s not feeling well, so I guess I need to take a day off of work’—or to say—‘I just really need a day at home to get 100% better’—is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have. This week, A didn’t go to school on Monday or Tuesday because of a fever. My husband’s parents took care of him most of the time. We are privileged that they have jobs that are flexible—that taking a day off isn’t catastrophic to their monthly budgets. This is one of the first times that I haven’t been the one to stay home with A when he was sick.

I also have a job that, when necessary, I can take a day off without penalty. Since starting medical residency, my husband has never stayed home with A because he was sick–but he also has never taken a sick day himself. If you aren’t a parent yet, I’m sure you are thinking ‘my partner and I would never do that! We’ll split it fifty-fifty.’ I was one of those parents-to-be once. The way our careers and jobs look right now, though, I do 75% of the childcare and 100% of the staying-home-with-sick-kids (well, except this week when I called in grandparent reinforcements). This is a gender dynamic that I wish A didn’t witness on a daily basis, but it’s the reality. My husband is as engaged as possible in childcare during the hours that he is at home, which is what is important.

I’m not sure this is a helpful exercise for anyone, but I caught what A has so my mind is a bit foggy, to say the least. It’s definitely not particularly revelatory. But it makes all of those unconscious thoughts (the ones that you kinda know but have never really thought about explicitly) conscious. That’s an important exercise when thinking about privilege. I’m not sure what my call to action is for this blog post. But being a parent with privilege, I need to engage in regular reflections about mundane-ass shit like sick days and how my privilege shapes my capacity to parent.

Parenting book round-up

Happy new year to all! I’ve been keeping up with my parenting resolutions for 2018 (#3 seems to be the trickiest, #4 the most exhausting—trying to get a toddler to clean up at the end of a long day is hardddd).

My second resolution—talking to my husband about my blog posts in an effort to be reflective as a parenting team—has gone great (since I’m one post into the year, I’m at a 100% completion for this resolution, lolz). Intimately tied to it, though, is the importance overall of treating parenting as something that is learned. Too often, we thinking of parenting as something that just happens naturally. We should all just KNOW how to parent well, right?

Obviously (at least I hope obviously), this isn’t the perspective I take. Parenting is a journey and an education in and of itself. It can be done unconsciously but, in my opinion, is improved exponentially when we take moments to reflect and learn and grow as parents. Books are a great way to do that, so I wanted to take stock of what parenting books I have read and how that might be shaping my approach to parenting. In doing so, my goal is to identify gaps in my book list and make a goal to fill them. So, without further ado, all of the books that I’ve ever read about parenting (that I can remember…):

  1. Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: Does this count as a parenting book? I’m including it in part because without it my list would be embarrassingly short.
  2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (by Gaskin): Revered in hippie mom circles. Some of it was a little too much for me, but overall I loved the approach to childbirth. (She’s since said some controversial things about race…)
  3. Unbuttoned: Women open up about the pleasures, pains, and politics of breastfeeding (by Connolly & Sullivan): This is a collection of short essays and personal account of women’s experiences breastfeeding. It was less of a how-to guide and more of a poetic exploration of breastfeeding.
  4. Mayo Clinic’s Guide to your baby’s first year: See number 1—does this really count? Regardless, it was an empirical understanding to child development from birth to 12 months that I referred to constantly. A way to ease my anxious mind that what A was doing was totally normal.
  5. The Happiest Baby on the Block (by Karp): Canonical and it works.
  6. The Whole-Brain Child (by Seigel & Bryson): I’m re-reading this right now and have realized that a lot of my approaches to temper tantrums stem from it.

Considering this is a blog about social justice, holistically defined, it is glaringly obvious to me that none of my parenting reading has been about parenting and racial justice, gender normativity, or any other social justice-related theme. My approach in this blog (and in life) is to admit that I most certainly DO NOT have all of the right answers when it comes to parenting for social justice. I have mostly used my gut, other bloggers, and conversations with my husband to inform how I parent for social justice. I want to draw on another resource that I have: books.

After doing some research, my goal is to read at least two books in the next 3 months about parenting and social justice. After some googling, I’m struggling to find something that really speaks to me but I think I will start with:

  1. Everyday acts against Racism (by Reddy)
  2. The First R  (by van Ausdale & Feagin)

Other recommendations are absolutely welcome. See you at the library!

Happy wiping,

Olivia

My Parenting Resolutions for 2018

‘Tis the season for making new year’s resolutions. And since parenting is a practice that requires self-reflection and self-improvement, I thought I would outline some goals for how I want to parent in 2018:

Resolution 1: Get off my phone!
I’m on my phone too much when I’m playing with A. I want to be present and joyful during the hours of the day I get with him, but that compulsion to pick up my phone is so strong sometimes! I’ve noticed that I’ll just scroll through instagram while I’m playing with him. Don’t get me wrong–I think sometimes we all need a little mental break (and it’s good for A to learn to play by himself). But I don’t want that to be a daily habit. My resolution is to put my phone on the other side of the room during playtime. Simple.

Resolution 2: Talk to my husband about my blog posts.
In the first month or two of this blog, I would have in-depth conversations with my husband about that week’s post. Not only did it improve the quality of the post, but it also improved our co-parenting. We are a team and taking some time to chat explicitly about our parenting philosophies and practices is really helpful. My resolution is to talk to him every Wednesday about what I’m posting that week.

Resolution 3: Don’t criticize my husband’s parenting. 
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not PARTICULARLY critical of how my husband interacts with A. But I’ve noticed that I correct my husband’s parenting sometimes. For example, if my husband and A are roughhousing (which A LOVES), I will tell my husband to be careful or to stop. Or if my husband is doing bath time or bedtime, I tell him exactly how I do it and expect him to follow that model. But there’s not ONE right way to do bath time and bedtime. My husband has his own rhythm as a parent, and that’s ok. When I feel myself having an urge to correct my husband, I’ll talk a deep breath and walk away.

Resolution 4: Encourage A to clean up after himself.
Now, this one is actually something I think we do quite well. He has been really interested in cleaning up his dishes after dinner. He will help clean up his toys when we ask him to. But I want to make that a daily habit. Currently, we ask him to help clean up his toys no more than once or twice a week. My resolution is to have him clean up before bedtime every day.

I’m taking next week off, so I’ll see you in 2018!

Happy New Year,
Olivia

Storytime & Poop: Everyone poops by Taro Gomi

New favorite book alert! New favorite book alert! A has a new favorite book, and I’m loving it, too. I’ve done a mini-series on this blog called ‘Storytime & …”: Storytime & avoiding colorblindness, Storytime & decentralizing manhood, and Storytime & naming Whiteness. Well, today, we’re talking about Storytime & Poop.

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My husband went to a library book sale (the kind when all of the old books are 25 cents), and came back with Taro Gomi’s Everyone Poops. It’s literally a book about pooping, complete with illustrations of turds hanging out of people’s butts. And animals’ butts. To be fair, I think that’s part of the reason A likes it: there are lots of animals. There are one-hump camels pooping; two-hump camels pooping; gorillas, pigs, pelicans, and bugs pooping. As the book says, “all living things eat, so everyone poops.”

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On Thursday morning, as I was reading the book to him (trying to calm him down because he woke up in a FOUL mood), we got to a page when it talked about how “different animals make different kinds of poop. Different shapes, different colors, and even different smells.” At that last part, he wrinkled up his nose and pretended to sniff the book, then he turned and grinned at me. This is one of the things that makes this book great: it teaches A about his body. About how he uses his nose to smells things. About how pooping is natural part of being a human. And ultimately, about how he is a biological creature that has autonomy over his own body. I’m not sure if this is a chicken-egg scenario, but since his obsession with this book started, he’s even started telling us when he’s trying to poop or just pooped. That might just be a coincidence, but it also might not be (every parent thinks their kid is a prodigy, right?? Maybe mine’s a pooping prodigy!).

The author is Japanese and draws characters that are Japanese. I haven’t been explicit about talking about race in this book with A. That’s something I can add into our conversations in the future.

The one social observation I have made to A about this book regards gender (and it’s my only critique of the book). All of the humans in the book are male. They have male genitalia and/or have clear cultural symbols that represent manhood. None of the animals are gendered, but given what we know about the centralizing of manhood, many readers may refer to the animals as male (though maybe that’s not true in Japanese culture). Since we are reading it from an American perspective, though, I want to be very explicit with A: GIRLS POOP, TOO! Here’s an example of something I have said to him while reading this book:

That little boy is pooping. All the people in this book are boys actually. But girls poop, too! Mommy poops sometimes.

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Happy wiping (and pooping?),

Olivia

TERRIFYING TOWER OF TOYS

I hate clutter. It honestly is one of the biggest triggers of stress in my life (apart from the whole writing-a-dissertation thing). I get rid of my clothes so much and so often that I sometimes regret it—I am TOO overeager when it comes to throwing things out. This morning, I thought, ‘man, I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of all but two of my earrings.’ Sometimes, you just want to wear a nice gold hoop, ya know? But, apart from those fleeting moments of regret (which really are fleeting—I’m sure I won’t think about gold hoop earrings again for a year), I’m really happy that I’m not a packrat.

What does hating clutter have to do with parenting for social justice though? TOYS and consumerism. They creep in, and YOU CANNOT STOP IT. If you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks, its because I’m drowning in a terrifying tower of toys. My husband loves buying A toys, so it seems like every week, a new Amazon package shows up at our door, adding to the pile of toys in the corner of our family room (not to mention the section of the basement of toys he’s already grown out of). You know that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when they are in the vault in Gringotts, trying to get one of the horcruxes (Helga Hufflepuff’s cup I think?), but the other objects are magicked so that they multiply every time they are touched, which means that Harry, Ron and Hermione almost drown/get crushed to death by shit?? That’s me, just with toys. Every time I turn around, it’s like they multiply.  (was that Harry Potter reference lost on everyone but me? Lol)

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Look at poor Ron and Hermione, about to get crushed by the ever expanding pile of toys gold.

NOW, if you’ve ever given A a toy or present, THANK YOU. I am not complaining! (though it sounds like I am, doesn’t it? Need to work on the tone of this post…) And if A were old enough to understand, he would say “ANK U’ in the nasal-y way that he says ‘thank you’ right now (its adorable, btw). I am not ungrateful for your gifts or ignorant that my privilege has brought us to this moment. Drowning in a toys is related to our family’s class privilege: we have the means (and our friends and family have the means) to buy presents for A when they want to. Obviously, I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for the enrichment and entertainment the toys provide. I am grateful for the love for A that these gifts represent.

But at the same time, toys are inherently linked to capitalism and consumerism: I don’t want A to think he needs THINGS to be happy and to have fun. Ever since I got pregnant, I have been brainwashed into thinking I need all of these THINGS in order to have a safe pregnancy/be a good mother. The purchasing of things does not define the quality of a childhood. Even apart from toys’ consumerist essence, I think a decluttered space leads to (1) a more appreciative attitude towards what we DO have and (2) a calmer and more mindful outlook. Gratitude and mindfulness are two of the most important mental strategies I want A to cultivate.

For now, though, I’m too tired at the end of the day to deal with all of the awesome, fun, and colorful toys we’ve amassed. Consumerism in a capitalist society is nearly impossible to avoid, so I’ve learned to live with some clutter in my life. I will write in the future on my experiments in cultivating A’s gratitude and mindfulness despite (because of?) consumerism.

Happy wiping (and hopefully decluttering),

Olivia