Month: February 2016

Whether to give birth. Where to give birth. How to give birth. When to cut the umbilical cord. When to bathe. Whether to adopt. Whether to surrogate. How to feed. Where to feed. What, if anything, to use to catch their poop and pee. How to treat teething pain. When to seek medical advice. What kind of medical advice to seek. Where to sleep. How to carry. When to start school. Whether to ever start school. The importance to place on family togetherness at dinnertime. How much media exposure. At what age. When to talk about sex. How to talk about sex. What to feed. Where to feed. When to start extracurriculars. What extracurriculars. To allow quitting or not. How to handle language. Whether to give an allowance. How much. What is required in return for an allowance. Whether to offer wine at dinner. At what age. How to talk about legal drug use. How to talk about illegal drug use. Early or late or no curfew. How much to track internet use. When to give a cell phone. And on and on ad infinitum. There are so many decisions involved in parenting, some of which we have the honor and privilege of making, some of which are made for us through circumstances beyond our control. By the end of a childhood, each family will have made a kaleidoscope of decisions, and no two will make the same pattern or design. Focusing exclusively on those kaleidoscopes though, as beautiful as they each may be, could lead us to miss the forest for the trees. The beautiful kaleidoscopes are not the bigger picture.

“Does he have milk?” H asks from the backseat.

We are parked in front of a friend’s house, and I have just taken the key out of the ignition. H is in his car seat, swinging his legs and looking thoughtfully out the window.

“What kind of milk are you thinking about?” I ask.

“Mama milk.”

“Well, he used to, when he was little little, but not any more.”

“Why?”

“Well, sometimes some mamas can’t make as much milk as their babies need. They work really hard at it, but it doesn’t end up working out. I think that’s what happened with our friend.”

We sit in silence for a moment.

“I’m glad it worked out for us,” I tell him.

“Why?”

“Well, I like giving you milk. And I think you like having milk.”

“Yeah,” he nods.

“It’s nice to have it be part of our relationship.”

“Yeah,” he says, still swinging his legs, still contemplative. I wonder what he is watching so intently out the window. Maybe gazing off into the distance is a way of gazing inward.

I get out of the car and walk around to get him out. We go inside to meet our friends.

As we are playing, I notice how my friend and her child interact with each other. There is no shortage of love between them. They are playful, they are kind to each other, they are connected. They negotiate boundaries and other relational things. The child pushes, the mother gives some and pulls some. Some things about their journey have been different from mine and H’s, like the amount of time they breastfed, but other things have been similar, like the priority we each place on being outdoors. In the end though, it’s not even the similarities in some of our choices that so powerfully connects us as parents. It’s the unconditional love we both have for our children, love from which springs a deep commitment to parenting respectfully and honoring that our children are whole, complete people and have been since birth. We’ve each made different choices, some consciously and some narrowed down through circumstance, but they all spring from this place of unconditional love. That’s the bigger picture behind the beautiful kaleidoscopes we each have a hand in making with our children. Unconditional love. It is so deeply connecting. Me to him, me to her through her unconditional love for her son, me to you and you and you through the unconditional love you each have for those in your lives. That’s the forest, and it’s beautiful, too.

“H, do you think you’ll be nursing when you go to college?” My tone is playful and light.

The college thing gets thrown around in jest in some of my parenting support groups sometimes. To allay fears that early bed sharing will become a forever sleeping arrangement: “Oh, don’t worry, he won’t be driving home every night to sleep in your bed after he’s gone off to college.” In riposte to judgment-tinged questions about just how long a mother is planning on breastfeeding her baby: “Oh, probably until she goes to college.” Or in self-mocking half jest about how long one plans to keep a child rear facing in a car seat: “AT LEAST until he goes to college!” And so on.

H unlatches to ask, “Where is college?”

This is a direction I hadn’t envisioned the conversation taking, but of course it’s going there. College is a concept that he’s not yet encountered at age 3.5.

“It’s a place you can go to learn things if you want to.”

He considers this for a moment.

“I want to go there sometime with you,” he says, then re-latches without ceremony.

“Okay. We can do that,” I say. “I would love to do that sometime with you.”

And so my question remains unanswered, at least by him, but it’s not a question that I needed him to answer anyway. I am not certain about how long he will continue to breastfeed, but I am certain that he will be done long before he goes to college. If you ask me though and I sense an agenda, I just might suggest it. I will say it playfully, as a way of keeping things light. I will smile, you might smile, and H will go on to breastfeed for as long as it works for both of us. And someday long after that, he might go away to college.

H popped up, zero to sixty upon waking, and asked, “What are we doing this morning?”

“We’re going to feed the fish,” I told him.

“NO!” he shouted. “I am in no mood for it!”

Later, on our way home from feeding the fish, an outing he went on quite willingly, he told me it was a beautiful day to get some fresh air. And that he had a great time.

This is age three.

“I do not want to rest!”

“Okay. You don’t have to. We’ll just have milk.”

We crawled in to bed, and it took him less than five minutes of milk to fall asleep for what turned out to be a two and a half hour nap.

“Winthrop* asked what I was doing,” he said upon waking up, then without pausing, “Find Grandma!”

“How was your nap?” Grandma asked.

“I did not have a nap! Just milk!”

Sleep resistance turned sleep denial.

*H’s stuffed zebra.