Monday, 26 December 2011

We're all going on a Summer holiday

We are heading off up the Coast for a little Summer break and I'm nervous.

This is not the first time we have been away with BabyB-B.  When she was just five months old we did three weddings, over three consecutive weekends, in three States.  Those were short breaks and, save for one, we were in our own accommodation and left to our own devices.  This time we will be sharing accommodation at each stop.  This is why I'm nervous.

First stop:  Mum's house.  I'm least worried about this stop.  We spent a weekend there when BabyB-B was just eight weeks old.  Mum had lovingly set up a sleeping space for her granddaughter in my old bedroom.  However, I had other ideas.  BabyB-B would be sharing my sister's old room with us.  Mum was none too pleased about the idea, but went along with us.  Last week Mum called me to ask whether BabyB-B would be sharing a room with us again and offered us her larger bedroom for this purpose.  I'm not exactly sure how the sleeping arrangements will work out while we are there.  It will either be BabyB-B in the room with us, or me and BabyB-B in my old bed.  No matter how it goes I'm confident that Mum will go along with what we decide to do.

My Mum has constantly surprised me on my parenting journey thus far.  While I was pregnant with BabyB-B she constantly referred to the "good little routine" my sister had her son on from about four weeks of age.  This played no small part in forming my thoughts that this was what you were meant to do with babies.  If you've read this blog you will know that this is not really how I've chosen to go with BabyB-B.  Instead, we follow her rhythm.

I've discussed many of my parenting ideas with Mum.  She knows how I feel about controlled crying/crying it out and she said it wasn't for her either, she's on board with baby led weaning and is definitely from the breast is best school of thought.  I now believe that her references to my nephew's good little routine was said in support of my sister's choices.  She frequently tells me that whatever we are doing she can tell we are doing the right thing by how happy and relaxed BabyB-B is.  Following our discussions I know that she supports me in the parenting choices we have made with BabyB-B even if she doesn't necessarily agree with all of them.  

Next stop:  holiday house with friends.  Four couples, two children, one house.  My anxiety level raises slightly when thinking about this stop.  Don't get me wrong, I cannot wait to spend a few days with some of our best friends.  I'm just a bit nervous about the reception our parenting style will receive.

One of the couples coming along has a toddler.  They are far more experienced than we are at this whole parenting caper.  They've been doing it for a while longer than us and they have given us much well meaning advice.  This is why I'm worried - I have chosen to follow not much of it.  I am expecting a big fat "I told you so" when BabyB-B is rocked and fed to sleep at night.  I was cautioned not to fall in to this trap when she was only a couple of weeks old.  I am cautious as to how this soothing to sleep method, my sensitivities to her crying, her sensitivities to napping and our BLW will be received.  At the end of the day these people are our friends and I know that any advice is given with the best of intentions.  I just have to remember to have the confidence to stand up for our decisions.

Last stop:  serviced apartments with the in-laws.  Two apartments, three children, seven adults.  My anxiety level skyrockets at the thought of this one.  My track record on family holidays with the in-laws is not great.  DaddyB-B is the youngest of three boys.  The eldest brother is based in LA, is single and has come home to visit. The middle brother is based here, is married with a five year old daughter and a two and half year old son.  My parents-in-law thought it would be lovely to have a family holiday while their eldest son is in town.  There are a lot of personalities to fit in to two small apartments.  (Not least of all my own, which seems to have become stronger since the arrival of BabyB-B -picture mama bear and cub!)

My brother-in-law and his wife parent quite differently to DaddyB-B and I.  They also permit quite a different level of grandparent involvement when it comes to the children.  This makes me quite nervous as DaddyB-B and I are not content to let his parents just take over.  We are happy for them to enjoy their granddaughter.  That is what grandparents should do.  However, we prefer to remain in control (well as in control as you can be with an almost eight month old).  Cue personality clashes!

DaddyB-B and I have had many discussions about the differing parenting styles between us and his brother and sister-in-law.  I suspect we will probably dance our way around many of the issues.  I am yet to think of an appropriate response when faced with the "when you have two" type argument.

Recent events have made it clear that DaddyB-B's parents aren't quite as across our parenting style as we thought.  For instance, my mother- in-law is not at all comfortable with BLW and my father-in-law still likes to park BabyB-B in front of the television (my strong no TV for under twos stance is not shared by the rest of the family).  There also seems to be a minor obsession with how often BabyB-B wakes throughout the night.

In all honesty I probably sparked the obsession after recounting to my mother-in-law a discussion I had with a nurse when I was feeling particularly exhausted.  BabyB-B had been waking more frequently than usual and I was told that she was at an age where she could probably be resettled without the breast.  The nurse was at pains to emphasise that she wasn't suggesting CC or CIO be used.  Rather, she was suggesting DaddyB-B give her a bit of a cuddle to see if that would work (it doesn't).  Anyway, there is now an intense interest in the frequency of BabyB-B's night wakings.  DaddyB-B and I now deflect questioning on this subject.  However, this will be difficult to do when we are all under the same roof!

I truly hope that none of the scenes I am playing in my mind play out during the course of our Summer holiday.  I hope I am worrying about nothing.  There's just this sneaking feeling that I am not.  Watch this space!

No matter what comes to pass, I am determined that DaddyB-B, BabyB-B and I will enjoy our first family Summer holiday.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Carols or Candles?

Dressed up to go to shul on Rosh Hashanah
We are a blended family.  DaddyB-B is Jewish.  I was raised nominally Anglican.  I decided to convert to Judaism and BabyB-B will be raised Jewish.  I have no problem with this; it was, after all, my idea.  During Pesach I happily give up chametz (leavened foods), I wish others shana tova over Rosh Hashanah, I fast on Yom Kippur and I truly love the Shabbat services at our synagogue.  On a daily basis I try to adopt Jewish practices and ideals.

Then we get to Christmas time.  Christmas time is one of my fondest childhood memories and I just cannot give it up.  Growing up I hated my birthday, the story of Easter troubled me greatly and father's day was fraught what with my totally absent father.  However, my memories of Christmas are happy:  making steamed pudding with my Grandma; watching Carols By Candlelight on Christmas Eve, my Mum setting up a trampoline in the vacant lot next door; Santa leaving bicycles under the tree; opening presents with my cousins; feasting on Turkey with all of the trimmings, ham and pork with crackling (the now forbidden traif), followed by our homemade pudding and a particularly sherry soaked trifle; my Bestefar's mischievous laugh when one of the adults fell foul to his Norwegian Akevitt.  Christmas when I was growing up was not about the events that took place in a manger in Bethlehem; it was about family, being together and having fun (with a tree and Santa thrown in for good measure!).

As much as I fully adopt Judaism, I can't help but feel that to give up Christmas would be to turn my back on my happy memories and the one major tradition in my family.  At Christmas time, since my relationship with DaddyB-B commenced, I have endured Santa being labeled "disgusting" (and not in the sitting children on the lap of a strange old man sense) and the insistence that "the 'C' word" (no, not the four letter one, "Christmas") not be uttered in front of certain people.  It seems that for some Christmas brings out a distinct lack of tolerance and understanding.  So at this time of year things get a bit, well, interesting to say the least.  There always seems to be a level of simmering tension in the air while the big, fat, tinsel covered elephant in the room is ignored.  This was easy enough to deal with before the arrival of BabyB-B.

In her "haute couture" Chanukah dress
This year we enter uncharted territory.  For the first time my family-in-law has had to deal with one of the children celebrating a holiday that is non-existent to the others.  The answer to this was to celebrate, for the first time, Chanukah.  In years gone by DaddyB-B and I have marked the eight nights of Chanukah by lighting our chanukiah.  Aside from the lighting of candles in our home nothing was done to mark Chanukah.  There were no latkes, no dreidels and no jam donuts (I was always a bit disappointed by this - particularly last year as one of my biggest pregnancy cravings was jam donuts!).  Until this year.  Last night our usual fortnightly Shabbat meal with DaddyB-B's family was also the beginning of a new family tradition.  We gathered together and ate latkes, gambled for chocolate gelt by spinning dreidels, ate far too many jam donuts and the children happily tore open various exciting Chanukah gifts.  It's a tradition I'm happy to embrace, but it will not replace Christmas on our calendar.

All dressed up for her first Christmas party
at the Royal Hospital for Women
It has been put to me many times that by celebrating Christmas we will be confusing BabyB-B.  How can she be Jewish but still celebrate Christmas?  She's not going to know whether she is Arthur or Martha.  The presence of a tree in our home, the taking of photos with Santa and the family feast on Christmas day are going to put her in to a state of flux! I have thought a great deal about this issue.  How will we reconcile Christmas appearing on the calendar to our Jewish daughter?

In my mind the easiest and most logical way to explain it to her is also the most honest way. When BabyB-B is old enough to understand she will be told that Mummy was not born Jewish and that she grew up celebrating Christmas with a tree, Santa, presents and, most importantly, a festive meal (minus the traif) with family and friends.  And even though Mummy is now Jewish, her family is not and they still celebrate Christmas.

So BabyB-B, we will celebrate the holidays our way, in the hope that you will grow up understanding and having compassion towards the different cultures and traditions that exist side by side in the country of ours.  You will get candles and carols.  

Saturday, 17 December 2011

When People Know Better

I'm a first time mum.  I have my "L" plates on.  I've never done this before, but I'm trying to do my best.  I don't take any of the parenting decisions that DaddyB-B and I have made lightly.  In fact, I've usually spent many hours labouring over most of them.  I don't expect everybody to agree with the decisions we have made, but I do expect people to respect them.  Even the mummy who knows better.

I thought most people were aware of the parenting style we have adopted.  In particular I thought our views on controlled crying/crying it out were pretty clear.  I've lost count of the number of times over the last seven months I have said that we do not leave BabyB-B to cry.  Recent events suggest to me that we have not been clear enough on this issue.

A couple of weeks ago DaddyB-B and I had a party to go to.  The invitation stipulated that babysitters were a must.  The thought of going out without BabyB-B filled me with some (ok, a lot of) anxiety.  It just was not sitting well with me.  However, DaddyB-B is keen for me to get used to the idea of leaving her in short bursts before I have to return to paid work next year.  So we enlisted a babysitter we know loves and cares for BabyB-B to sit with her while we were out.

I fed BabyB-B to sleep before we left for the party and settled her in to her cot.  I came out in to the lounge room and explained to the babysitter that there was a bottle of expressed milk on the counter that could be given to BabyB-B in her sippy cup should she wake while we were out.  DaddyB-B told me he had already explained everything so I didn't go in to anything further other than to say there was no need to heat the milk as room temperature was fine.  And so we left for the party.

It got to 10pm and I started to get quite antsy.  Although we had left milk for BabyB-B I much preferred to be home for her feed.  She doesn't take a bottle and we hadn't tried the sippy cup with milk before.  We'd had a great time hanging out with our friends in full Star Wars regalia (did I mention there was a theme?), but it was getting late!  We said our "goodbyes" and made our way home.

While DaddyB-B was parking the car in the garage I made my way to the front door of our building.  I could hear crying and knew immediately it was BabyB-B.  I impatiently told DaddyB-B to hurry up.  We came inside and I looked down the corridor.  The lights were out and I thought, "Ok, they've got her in the lounge room.  It's not the end of the world."  Then I looked to my right and saw the babysitter standing outside BabyB-B's bedroom door.  She gave me a look that said to me, "She's a fighter, but I'll get her to sleep."  It dawned on me that BabyB-B was in there, alone, crying.  I was stunned.  Even now I can see myself racing past her and in to the room, reaching in to the cot and cradling a sobbing BabyB-B in my arms.  I'm not sure who was more upset, me or my baby.

I immediately sat down and fed BabyB-B.  Her sobbing turned to whimpering and I sat quietly listening to the conversation taking place in the lounge room.  The babysitter explained to DaddyB-B that BabyB-B woke up, she let her cry for 10 minutes, went in and "shushed" her, let her cry for five minutes, gave her a bit of a pat, then left her again.  That is when we came home.  She commented that BabyB-B "really fights it, she waves her arms and legs around like she really wants to get out."  She started apologising to DaddyB-B who told her it was ok.  I slowly filled with white hot rage.

After I settled BabyB-B back to bed and the babysitter had left I went in to the kitchen to discover the full bottle of milk sitting next to an empty sippy cup.  DaddyB-B and I then debriefed.  He said that he didn't think he made it clear enough that we don't leave BabyB-B to cry.  I told him be that as it may, we had made it clear enough that if she woke to try to give her some milk.  It was late and we went to bed.  I didn't get much sleep that night.  I played our homecoming over and over and over in my mind.  I cannot explain how upset I was (and still am) by what we came home to.  I was at a complete and utter loss as to why the babysitter had decided controlled crying was more appropriate than some milk and a cuddle.

It finally dawned on me that the babysitter had taken the approach she had because she thought she knew better.  After all, she has raised three children "and there's nothing wrong with them".  How do you deal with the mother who knows better?

Although well meaning, a lot of the time the mother who knows better feels the need to impart her "wisdom" with a healthy dose of smugness.  There's the friend who told me when BabyB-B was only a couple of weeks old that by letting her sleep in my arms I was spoiling her.  Her own child was never allowed to sleep in her arms so I'm unsure what made her an authority on the issue.  Then there is the mother of two children.  She tells me that it's all very well and good to do what I'm doing with one baby, but when I have another I won't be bothered.  Or the mother of older children who cautions me to "just wait until BabyB-B can speak back".

Until now I have sat back and let these comments wash over me.  I nod while taking the opportunity to work on my enigmatic smile.  I spent my days before child advocating what was best for my client often against lawyers with far more experience than I had.  I wasn't afraid to speak up.  Why should this be any different?  I have now learnt the hard way that these moments are when I should be advocating for my parenting style and what I know to be best for my child and my family lest there be any misunderstanding that I know best.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

When Parenting Styles Collide

A couple of years ago we had lots of friends getting married.  It was that time of our lives.  Now we've got lots of friends who have had (or are having) babies.  Call it natural progression.  Some of these people have been our friends for years.  Others we've met more recently.  We've shared many memorable and great times with these people.  We have our common interests and our differences.  This is what makes our friendships so rich.  So what happens when you mix friendship and parenting styles?

I am by nature driven by a thirst for knowledge and learning.  I want to know the how and the why so I'm interested in reading differing views and I'm open to having my position challenged.  These are all commendable traits in a lawyer, but, it seems, not so commendable in a mummy and a friend.  I frequently share articles that I find interesting, thought provoking and challenging via social networking.  A couple of weeks ago I shared an article that I stumbled across on Evolutionary Parenting.  This got me in to a bit of trouble with some friends. What was an interesting and thought provoking article for me was a slap in the face to them.  I did not intend to hurt, upset or insult my friends by posting it, but that is what happens when parenting styles collide.  It left me thinking, "Where to from here?"

Differing parenting styles and decisions need not spell the end of a friendship.  As DaddyB-B frequently says, "Everybody will raise their children differently".  It is how we address, accept and learn from these differences that is important.  Just because people do things differently does not mean they are doing it wrong.  After all, the concept of "wrong" is largely subjective.  What is wrong to me may be perfectly acceptable and logical to others.  Likewise, what I deem to be perfectly natural and sensible may feel completely wrong to them.  We can all learn something from each others differences.

When parenting styles collide it becomes a balancing act between respect for others and their decisions and the desire to share and discuss information.  Friendships can be preserved when differences are approached with sensitivity and tact.  This does not mean complete self-censorship, it means consider how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot and it was your parenting decisions being questioned.  Sometimes saying nothing and just going about your business is more powerful than any than any article you could share or conversation you could have.   

The balancing act reminds me of a question posed by Sausage Mama on the SMATS Facebook page a couple of months ago.  The question (and I am paraphrasing with great liberty here) was whether you prefer people to nod and smile at your parenting style, even if they do not agree with it, or to argue with you in relation to it?  My response was that I would prefer people did not nod and smile and did not argue.  Rather, I would prefer that people freely discuss with me my parenting style but ultimately accept that my parenting decisions are decisions DaddyB-B and I have made after careful consideration of the information available to us, the circumstances of our family and, above all, what we believe is best for BabyB-B.  I am open to discussion but I expect our decisions to be treated with respect.  If this is what I expect it is only fair that this is what I am willing to give.

Having said all of this, I am not sure that I could treat with respect something that I found completely repugnant.  Fortunately I have not found myself in a position where my friends' parenting styles differ so greatly from mine as to enter such territory.  While I feel passionately about breastfeeding and BLW, I respect that some of my friends have chosen formula over breast and "traditional" weaning over BLW.  Frankly, it is really none of my business how others choose to feed their babies (although I would have something to say if they were shoving McDonald's down their children's throats!).  It's hardly repugnant.

Coming back to the incident of the article, my friend and I worked it out.  We had a long chat, spilled some tears, agreed to disagree and our friendship is intact and as strong as ever.  I also removed the article from my personal Facebook page.  I didn't remove it as an admission of wrongdoing.  I removed it as a sign of respect for my friend because at the end of the day some things are more important than the sharing of information.
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