30 October 2015

thoughts on parenting styles

Today I find myself thinking about my parenting style. I am tending a 7-month-old baby in addition to my kids. This baby normally goes to day care while her parents work outside the home, but her mom needed a back-up today.

It's interesting to think about the difference in experience and environment for different children. Does it really matter that much? After 3.5 years into this parenting game, I find myself on the rather extreme end of the attachment spectrum. It was a little bit on accident that I got here. I would have said when Shep was a baby that I didn't feel like I had a choice. His temperament seemed to demand constant, exhausting attention in mostly one form: nursing. I avoided going in the car and leaving the house by myself with him because he screamed in his car seat every time, unless I was in the back seat with him, playing with him, leaning over his seat to nurse, etc. When I tried sleep training, it seemed to backfire. After a few days of trying to do cry it out, he started screaming bloody murder every time we even walked into the room that his crib was in. So I abandoned that attempt, despite being desperately sleep deprived. (I might have been doing sleep training wrong. It definitely didn't feel intuitive, so I adopted a method that seemed effective for others and probably didn't even follow the program correctly.)

Maya is a bit more adaptable. I think she would sleep by herself and sleep through the night if I taught her to. She would probably also be a bit more independent if I didn't hold and carry her all the time.

Being a parent always changes your lifestyle, but my life revolves around my kids in obvious ways. I don't do this because I have passionately strong beliefs that this is the right way to parent, and I don't pity every child who doesn't get the same parenting. I respect many parents who make different choices. I nurse my kids and I'm glad that there is some evidence out there that this is a good choice because it feels like a validating balm on my self-doubt, but at the same time, is the difference between formula and breastmilk enough to support the controversy that surrounds the issue? There are healthy, thriving children who develop into mature, responsible adults upon an infant diet of formula. Go figure. We humans are kind of resilient and adaptable, I guess.

So why do I parent the way I do? Am I just making things harder than they need to be? Am I exhausting and wearing myself more than necessary and thereby compromising my ability to contribute in more meaningful and impactful ways? I worry that I'm missing something, but I do this intuitively. It feels comfortable and natural. I do admit that it's a sacrifice. And maybe the sacrifices I make at times are not to the benefit of my family, even though I hope they are. It's a lot more work in certain ways and it comes at the cost of some things that might be good for both my children, my husband, and me. I'm sure some nights we really wish we didn't share the same bed and that everybody slept through the night because some degree of sleep deprivation seems to be a constant around here. I actually worry sometimes that I'm doing my kids a disservice. Maybe they would benefit from learning some independence skills. It might be a good thing overall if they could do some self-soothing, fall asleep without nursing, and spend time with someone other than me without their world falling apart. And while I'm fairly good at holding and nursing, I'm not very good at other things like making sure they get dressed or have stimulating activities that are engaging and developmentally appropriate. I see gaping holes in my disciplinary methods and find it difficult to enforce behavior standards with my toddler. I think it probably says something about me, not Maya, that I've never left her with anyone else besides Tim and even then, only for a few hours in the 10 months she's been alive. I like feeling needed and important, and my parenting style is a bit self-serving because it makes me feel good to be needed. I value being self-sacrificing in order to make a "contribution," so it behooves me personally to at least pretend that's what I'm doing. I don't really prioritize time to enjoy life and have fun, and I think that comes at a certain cost?

I don't know if I am doing this right, but I do know this: there is no one single right way. There are multiple ways to get this right, and every parent makes mistakes. I just hope that I can learn from mine and not cause my kids more issues to work through as a byproduct of being raised by me. Life brings enough problems on its own.

26 October 2015

Last week, we went to a warehouse for schoolteachers in the county to get school supplies. Shep had to go pee, but I couldn't see a potty anywhere. I took him outside (every time I do this, he's encouraged to pee outside rather than in a toilet, so I like to find the potty if there's one nearby), and we walked around to the other side of the building. I found a place on a wall that I thought he wouldn't be seen. Afterward, he was playing around outside and a woman approached me. "Do you need help with anything?" she asked. I said, "Oh, no, we're just playing a little bit."

"We saw your son going potty," she began a bit reluctantly. Then she proceeded to explain that her organization had employees, including their president, in a conference room in full view of my toddler, and that they serve lower-income individuals and ex-prisoners, some of whom are sex offenders. She said she wanted to ensure that they weren't violating their terms of behavior, or something like that.

That conversation both baffled and mortified me. I feel like a lot of my interactions with strangers out here kind of has this baffling tone. I sometimes feel embarrassed that I'm out and about at all with two young children. I feel very self-conscious, partially just because I feel uncomfortable in general, and partially because I get a sense we are violating social codes that I'm unaware of. We get a lot of positive attention, too--mostly from benevolent old people who love babies--but sometimes I feel like being a mom of young kids is like running a traveling circus. Maybe I should start charging people to see our freak show.

15 October 2015

breaking up with Utah

I've been thinking about my relationship with Utah in terms of a romantic relationship over the last month or so.

During the summer especially, our relationship status would have been "it's complicated" on Facebook. The relationship was long-term: Tim and I lived in Salt Lake for 5 years, I lived in Provo for 4 years before that, and then I lived in Layton for 8 years before that. The only time I left was for 6 months when I was in Russia, which doesn't even seem like it counts.

And then we broke up.

When I first got out here, I was feeling a little angry and betrayed by Utah. Now I've gotten over that and there are definitely things I miss about it.

It's a little hard for me to pinpoint exactly what was dissatisfying to me about my experience in Salt Lake, but I think it is connected to this idea of community and feeling like it was a struggle to be a part of a community that had any consistency. I am not sure why this is. Maybe it's less to do with the place itself and more to do with me, so it's dumb to look for things to blame Utah for.

I did always feel a little silly about my desire to experience living somewhere else for a little while. There are a lot of people who live in Utah whom I love and who love Utah and have no desire to leave, so why did I? And I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe we'll move back later, but right now I look forward to the prospect of getting to know a new place. I haven't found my place here yet. I mostly feel lost and confused right now.

I do miss shopping at NPS where you could find slightly questionable grocery merchandise at a discount, and I miss shopping at thrift stores where you could add to your book collection for a dollar here and there and buy your children's wardrobe, also a dollar at a time. Apparently I really like at least feeling like I'm saving money. I'm not sure where the weird discount outlets are around here, but I hope there are some. I almost asked someone at a regular grocery store what they do with their less-desirable produce: "I will buy brown bananas for half price!"

12 October 2015


Two weeks ago tomorrow, my brother rolled in with a big ol' 16-foot Penske truck and car trailer, upon which sat our minivan.

We had planned to get a small trailer and use the van to haul our stuff, but after a lot of worry, stress, and naysaying. we decided to find another way to transport our belongings.

We narrowed it down to a pod through U-Pack or a Penske truck, and ended up going with Penske and towing our other car (which grand totaled around $1700 if you're interested in that kind of thing), partially because we wanted to ensure we'd have a car Tim could drive to work. (Unfortunately we took the car into a mechanic shortly after we got it and found out about another costly repair because of a leak in the rack and pinion.) And we didn't even drive it here! Oh, cars.

There was a lot of room in the moving truck left over. I had already gotten rid of several items that I now wish we had. But I'm glad now I was unsuccessful getting rid of some other things, such as our couch. Now we have somewhere to sit besides on the mattress on the floor or the kitchen table. Getting everything loaded up from the storage unit and the things from my parents' house was a huge stressor. It wasn't ideal at all the way it worked out (e.g. Tim's mom unloaded the storage unit practically by herself and our attempts to find help for her were ill-fated), but it got done and now we have our stuff. If we could do it all over again, I think we would have had Tim fly back and take care of it rather than waiting to do it during the weekend of my brother's open house, which was when my brother offered to drive the truck out. Or maybe we would've hired somebody to do it? There was too much stuff going on that weekend for my brother to handle it, and it turns out mobilizing other resources when you're across the country is nigh unto impossible. I guess regrets are inevitable when you're moving across the country without a lot of notice, though. We do appreciate the help we got, and now we're settling in slowly but surely. 

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