11.26.2009

Confessions of an Accidental Attachment Parent

‘I’ll breastfeed, but only until I go back to work.’

‘This baby will have her own bed, in her own room.’

‘Of course I’ll leave the baby with other people.’

‘I’m having a midwife, but I'm giving birth in the hospital.’

‘I’m fine with my baby taking a bottle or a soother.’

‘Babies cry. It’s not going to stress me out too much.’

‘My life and my relationship with my husband will always come first.’

‘I’m not going to be one of those mothers.’

It’s true – I said all of those things. Some of them I said while I was pregnant with my first, and some I said long before pregnancy was a hope or dream for Chris and me. And at the time, flush with the bravado of the child-free and sleep-fat, I actually believed those things.

I would state these things with surety, with conviction and with judgment. Of course, I was not (yet) judging myself, but those other mothers; my sister and her friends – and some of my own friends – who spent an hour putting their kids to sleep while I waited for their return downstairs, bored and irritated; who wore their babies like barnacles and never. ever. left them at home; who were always and forever whipping out their boobs for kids who seemed already old enough to undo their mother’s goddam bra themselves.

I didn’t get it.

And for every piece of ‘knowledge’ I offered others about my own impending role as a mother, I was handed some back - for every, ‘I am not sharing my bed with my kid.’ There was a, ‘Never say never.’ handed back.

For every, ‘I am not giving up my life just because I have a baby.’ Lobbed into the air, there was a, ‘Wait until you experience sleep deprivation.’ Sent back.

For every, ‘That will never be me,’ there was a, ‘You’ll see.’

As my belly got bigger, my resolve that I knew everything there was to know about being a parent became shaky. My stubbornness sprang a slow leak, but as it deflated, my courage, my confidence and my excitement grew. I began to think that maybe both the parent and the child would be happier if I tried to stop thinking in terms of I won't, and replaced it with, I can.

And then my sister gave me a copy of Spiritual Midwifery, and I thought, I can do this.

And then Chris and I attended an info night on home births, and I thought I can do this.

And then I was in labour, and I thought, I can do this.

And then my baby was born, and I looked at her, and I said, I can do this.

There was no more thought of organization and compartmentalization and we-wills and we- won’ts. There was no more talk of plans. In fact, I wanted it quiet. I wanted it silent so I could listen to my tiny new baby as she told me everything I needed to know about being her mother.

She slept with us, her first night in our world, and every night after that for almost three years. She drank from my breast for more than two years. I was with her constantly, not leaving her in the care of anyone besides her father until she was over six months old. The first time I ever heard her cry for more than a spec of a moment was at the doctor's at two months old, and I cried with her. I made her baby food from scratch, and got upset when I couldn’t find organic sweet potatoes. Everything made sense.

And when I had my second daughter, the joy of her arrival compounded by the loss of my father mere weeks before, I never even thought twice about having two babies in my bed; I simply moved over to make room. I now had two barnacles.

My need for my children is often as great as their need for me.

I had to give up many things when I became a mother, most significantly, control, followed soon after by guilt, selfishness and a flat stomach. Some days it is easier to accept the (at least temporary) loss of these things than others. But in giving up each of these things, I seem to have made room for something that has served me much better as a parent:

Trust.

Quite by accident, I learned to trust myself, my children, their needs, my desires.

Quite by accident, and with gratitude, I have become one of those mothers.


***

11.25.2009

Dove Turns Two!






Dove turned two on Sunday, and I have lots to say about it. But, as I am still nursing a 15-toddler hangover, I'll let the pictures do the talking for today. Happy birthday, my sweet. You are loved more than you will ever realize.




Last year...



This year...




Loving the cookie decoration station


Snowman cake by kgirl


The after-party



Can't stop the rock




***

11.03.2009

Model Behaviour

‘You should take her to an agency.’

‘Does she model?’

‘She really should do commercials, because whatever it is she’s selling, I’d buy it.’

Since I have had children, the kindness of strangers and their swiftness to remark on the beauty of my babies has been steady. It’s nice to hear, and obviously I think they are quite correct in their assessment of my children’s loveliness – there’s nothing modest in my estimation of my children’s beauty; it has been obvious – no, visceral – to my eyes and my heart since the day each of them was born.

Certainly I do not need, nor do I try to extract complements from people, though I am, like most parents, guilty of displaying my pride in my children. I play up their cuteness in pigtails and adorable clothes and sometimes I put it on overload and dress them alike. It’s my right and my pleasure as a mother. At least until they tell me to cut it out.

But I never did heed the well-intentioned lip-service of stroller-gawkers and actually put either of my children into the hands of a casting agency. I’ve never taken them to audition, model or be cast for any commercial purposes.

Until this morning.

At my art director’s request, I brought Dove into my office (a record company) to cast for the cover of a new album we are doing for a major retail licensor. (We do an entire line of music for this particular company.) Of course, mine was not the only child coming in. Dove would be casting alongside three other coworkers’ two year olds. There was no pressure, no expectation, and the choice would ultimately be up to our retail partner, so no real competition among the kids and moms.

Except that there totally was.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Well, that’s not true; I know what I was expecting, I was just completely wrong. I knew the casting would be at the office, in our cafeteria, and I guess the familiar territory put me at so much ease that the way I pictured the whole thing was ridiculously off-the-mark. I pictured my (blonde) child and my friend’s (redhead) child playing together on the set in such a natural way that the perfect picture would be snapped without even trying. I pictured the other parents shrugging in a playful, accepting way, understanding that these girls were clearly ideal for the project, so no hard feelings.

What I didn’t picture was the individual ‘screen tests.’ Or the little boys that clearly were meant to make up 50% of the composition. Or the other kids, sent from the agency. Or their moms.

Make no mistake: while we did this on a lark because it was easy and Chris was working from home that day, this was clearly a full-time gig for some of those other parents.

I have never seen such perfectly coordinated outfits. Or such perfectly behaved hair. Or such precocious children, smiling such precocious smiles. Or such low-cut tops – on the moms, that is.
Of course, not all the moms were wearing low-cut tops, but man! They were curt and brisk and humourless and stood behind the photographer, snapping and clapping and coaxing as if their children were puppies being taught how to sit up and beg. Thankfully, nobody threw biscuits at the clueless, truly adorable toddlers, who just wanted to undress the teddy bear they had been handed as a prop.

It felt icky. It felt contrived. It felt like we were pitting these babies – each just as beautiful as the last – against each other, and I felt my face flush hotly as Dove – who moments earlier was dancing and flirting and making new friends – refused to take the direction of the photographer, crossing her arms and pouting when handed the coveted bear. I felt like I had to apologize on behalf of my toddler for simply acting like a toddler. I felt like smug eyes were cast our way, as though the sympathetic tilt of the head on the other moms was just their way of saying, ‘Ok, only 8 other kids we have to smoke now, and that one over there has a lazy eye.’

Me and Chris laughed it off, my art director laughed, and we all had apple juice. And I felt like I had totally just exploited my child, though she knew nothing of the intended outcome, or even why she was there at all. I felt gross.

I felt like this was no place I wanted my child to be, and I felt like JonBenet Ramsey’s parents deserved to go to jail whether or not they had killed their kid, because they sure as hell had been her pimps.

Dove stopped pouting as soon as she got some apple juice; indeed, she went back to being the charming, adorable child that I, and so many people recognized her to be. Just not the people that might put my child’s face on the cover of a CD. And I am totally fine with that, the residue of last night’s cute and cozy daydream having been sliced to shreds by the reality of ‘show business.’

Ultimately, I’m glad that we had the experience, because I now know what I was missing by not ever bringing my children to an agency or modeling them professionally –

Nothing.


***