Monday, October 24, 2011


This time the carnival theme is Secrets.  Participation this time around means sharing deep, dark parenting secrets. 

It seems that most of my deep, dark sharing on this blog has been in the personal quirks department.  You know that I am weak in my resistance to horrifying reality television and that I am a terrible hypochondriac.  I've (briefly) shared my reservations about the fact of my college girlfriend's gender transition and the surreal fact that I learned of it via Face Book (what a brave new world indeed).  In fact, you even know that I've had the very same (somewhat elaborate) thing for breakfast for the last 9 months.  I mention these things to make it clear that the fact that I am an anxious, frequently compulsive bundle of fun is hardly a secret.  The ways in which that manifests in my life as a parent may however be less clear.  Thanks to the Love Makes a Family Blog Carnival, I can clear all that right up.  ;)

So.  Where to begin?

First there was my consuming preoccupation with Yogi's schedule as a newborn.  Those days were filled with lots of "What am I doing here?  The baby doesn't need ME for anything" angst and so I fell back into my safety zone.  Order.  After reading The Baby Whisperer (which I am confident is not the manifest Universal Truth that I thought it was at the time) I was armed with the categories of Eat, Sleep and Activity and I crutched around on that knowledge until I could stand up on my own.  Which took awhile.  A few weeks ago I found the notebook that I used to record all of it and I could feel the desperation in the pages.  I scribbled to-the-minute records of when Yogi did everything that he did.  I even recorded the details of breastfeeding sessions (time on each side, use of nipple shield, and frustration level for both of them - my perception of course).  I was aware of the fact that in times of stress and crisis I tend to get hyper detail-oriented, but I had NEVER seen it like this.  That little notebook was what I could DO and damnit I was going to do it.  Looking back I am so grateful that my wife never questioned this practice.  I think in her shoes I might have been tempted to ask what exactly she was going to use that information for, but she never did and that was a blessing.

Then there was my out-of-nowhere "flick on the light switch" decision that Yogi must ONLY nap IN.THE.CRIB.  One day I was happy to share a snooze on the couch or watch him nod off in the bouncy seat while I folded clothes and one day all of that became not.OK.  Just like that.  Oh the black-and-whiteness of it all.  Again I was blessed with a (mostly) accommodating Yogi and a supportive wife.  The boy took a little convincing, but after the initial boot camp period (yes, I did think of it this way and I'm pretty sure I even talked about it in those words) he was convinced.  I believe that took a little more than a week.  I was pretty hardcore about it (surprise, surprise) and those days were devoted entirely to the "Nap in the Crib" goal.  All other priorities followed along behind.  Maybe we got to the grocery, maybe we had frozen pizza.  Again.  But, when Yogi gave Nap-ready cues (thank you Baby Whisperer), the crib was waiting.  The good news is that these days Yogi is an eager napper (likely due to his own nature and having little to do with me, but it's nice to think otherwise) and we all survived Boot Camp with limited scarring. 

Around that time I also started a meditation practice in earnest.  Meditation is something that I have flirted with for the last 10 years or so, but only since becoming a parent has it emerged as an essential part of my daily routine.  I like to think of it as a tool I use to help me be calm when I'm actually anything but.  One thing I knew for sure before I ever became a parent was that I wanted to do whatever I could do NOT to model anxiety for my child.  The only way that would be possible would be for me to actually BE less anxious, which if you have read this far you can see would be a challenge.  So....I spent much of my 20's trying all sorts of things from Bikram Yoga and aromatherapy to massage and morning journaling.  I took Paxil and made sure there was time each day for a good, brisk walk or a jog.  Each of these strategies had something significant to offer, but none of them have come close to what I have gotten from 10 minutes (twice a day when I can swing it) of seated meditation.  Although I've read all sorts of books on the topic, what works for me is nothing fancy in the way of approach.  I just put Yogi down for nap, walk to my bedroom, set the stopwatch app on my phone for 10 minutes, settle in a cross-legged position on the floor and stare at the tree outside my window.  If Yogi starts to fuss and I get agitated about that I just remind myself that fussing for 10 minutes or less never killed anybody and get back to the business of no-mind.  I would love to spend more than ten minutes, but that's what I've got for now and mostly it's enough.  So, although it's not the first thing I mention when asked how I've transitioned as a new parent, meditation has been one of my best (and most secret) weapons.  And yes, I do get the irony of referring to meditation as a weapon.  ;)

A few final silly secrets that are worth mentioning include:

I sing so loudly in the car when I think Yogi is going to fall asleep and interfere with nap time that it borders on harassment.

I hand Yogi a jar of sprinkles (the colorful kind in the baking aisle) each time we go to the grocery store so that he can shake, shake, shake instead of pulling things off the shelves.  And no, we never buy them.
I occasionally listen to audio books while the two of us are playing together.  I felt zero guilt about this when he was an infant, but now I know that it would be much better if I were wholly focused. However, it is the case that total attention to activities like stacking blocks and zooming taxis around the room for hours on end will rot your brain. 

I often break eye contact with people when they start talking about how beautiful Yogi's eyes are because I know they are looking to find out that my eyes are the same and when they find my brown eyes they almost ALWAYS have the same response.  It gets tiring to say again that "No Daddy's eyes aren't blue, but my wife's are."

There are a surprising number of days each week in which Yogi eats banana at every meal.


That sprinkle thing is an amazing idea! And as for eyes, both my "parents" have brown eyes, I have blue and I'm not adopted! Recessive genes, folks!

Love that meditation has been such a useful "weapon"! I never feel like I have the patience for it, but perhaps I should give it another shot.

Having issues with my comment posting! Hope this doesn't double-triple post here. I am just jaw-dropped laughing about the sprinkles because I do the SAME thing, but with peppercorns, only now he's a big thrower so it's not as effective. And I'm super inspired by your meditation. What a great tool, and only 10 minutes - perfect. I'm thinking I could pull of something similar with writing...

Love this post! My partner is just like you and obsessively tracked our son's every move in the early days. She nearly drove me over the edge with this crackpot device called the "itzbeen" timer. He's nearly 2, she's now a SAHM, and she's switched her obsession to compliance with the nap schedule. Sounds like you guys would get along great!

Sprinkles at the grocery store = genius! We typically grab a balloon (try to get one that is partially deflated and won't be purchased anyway) and attach it to the cart. It works, but the day it doesn't, I'm going straight for the cake aisle! :)

Wow. The way you talk openly about your anxieties here means so much to me. I'm so glad you've found some relief, and I appreciate your words more than I can say.

My biggest fear (other than something happening to take me away from Rabbit) is that I'll pass my anxieties on to him. I've done so much work on this too, but I've honestly never tried meditation. Because of this post, though, and because my anxieties have been higher this week than they have since we lost E, I'm going to start tomorrow. If there are any particular techniques or books you recommend, I welcome them. But regardless: thank you for your openness here, and for the push towards something that I really believe might help. R.

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