Family Pressure

As the baby explosion on my Facebook feed reaches epidemic proportions, I can’t help but wonder what was going on nine months ago. Then I remember the unexpected January/February snowstorms we had and, like a teenage boy, I have to snicker to myself a little. 
But all these newborn pictures make me a little reminicent, they make me sniffle a little at how big my own babies are getting. 
Then I think about those first few months, and I smile to myself because this summer my baby stopped wearing diapers. We also took our first vacation without baby gates, pack ‘n plays, sippy cups, or enough baby wipes to pave I-5. Hubby was so amazed at how “empty” the truck was, he thought I had forgotten something. 
Some days I wonder if the kids are to the point where it would be easier to have another baby. I think they lull me into complacency to make the ambush all that more memorable. Maybe they’ve been taking pointers from Honest Toddler, because yesterday they definitely did all they could to prevent ISD: Infant Sibling Disease. In fact, instead of considering a new baby, now I’m considering finding a new grocery store. Maybe in a different town. 
I guess I carry a little bit of guilt because, having four siblings myself and being surrounded by large families all my life, I feel like maybe I copped out a little bit by only having two kids. Like maybe I took the easier, “fewer blessings” route. I know multiple people who have “Duggar-esque” experiences and viewpoints, and maybe I feel a little bit inadequate and, dare I say, shallow for only having two kids to pick up from Sunday School, only two carseats, only two booster seats at the table. In short, I think I feel like I cheated by stopping at as many kids as I have arms, or even by stopping before my OB told me I had to. And I have to wonder how many others from large families and/or conservative backgrounds carry that kind of guilt? Or maybe it’s just me. But I think that there is a lot of societal pressure to have a certain type of family, and the pressure to have a large family can be as overwhelming as the pressure to have a small one. 
Perhaps the lesson here is just to feel comfortable in my own skin, or family, because there’s always going to be someone with different ideas and their opinions can’t dictate how I view my kids, family, marriage, or decisions. Whether I’m actually being judged or not is unimportant, because no one is responsible for my kids or marriage except me (and Hubby, of course, but hopefully those decisions are made jointly). 
Guilt is a powerful motivator, but self-confidence is better. So if you’re feeling pressure to have more kids (or kids, period) use my three-step plan for instant family satisfaction:  

Step 1: Recognize my misplaced guilt
Step 2: Let go of the expectations I feel others put on me (founded or unfounded)
Step 3: Enjoy my family exactly the way it is, embarrassing grocery store incidents not-withstanding

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For the Dogs

I’ve never been a dog person. I’ve had cats since I was big enough to ask for one, and ever since I was bitten by a dog as a child, I’ve just not wanted much to do with them. So when my son turned three and started asking for a dog, I groaned inwardly. Then we had a very scary incident where Hubby was gone for the week and some crazy tweaker came to our house in the dead of night, screaming that someone had been shot and banging on the door and trying to get in. Now, mind you, we live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by Christmas tree farms and grass seed fields. Our neighbors never heard a thing, even once the police showed up with sirens blazing. So we decided we needed a guard dog, like, yesterday.

When I saw an ad on craigslist for a “Purebred Boxer Puppy”, I was thrilled. Hubby wanted a doberman, and I just wasn’t sold on the idea. I showed him image after image on google, finally convincing him that boxers are just as intimidating as dobies, and arranged to meet the pup. What I saw was a half-starved, boxer-shaped bundle of bones and wagging tail, and there was no other option than to bring him home with us. It didn’t even occur to me to question his lineage. We named him Kuma (Japanese for Bear) in anticipation of his hulking size and protective demeanor. 

Then he got wider, but not taller. 

On his first trip to the vet, the doc took one look at him and asked, 

“What kind of a dog is that?”

Lovely. 

After some discussion and inspection, she announced that he may have some boxer in him, but if he did, the other half was probably daschound. 

Seriously?

So, despite his questionable heritage (hey, we’re a mixed-race family, who are we to judge?) and jokes about his parentage (he’s typically referred to as a “boxund” or “Boxer-weenie”) Kuma settled in as a permanent, if not particularly useful, member of the family. 

Until last night.

Last night around 11 he was pacing up and down the hallway like mad, whining, and driving me nuts, and he kept opening the door to the kids’ room. I was about to kick him outside. Then, as I was laying in bed, trying to ignore him, it hit me that I had forgotten to check Big Brother’s blood sugar before I went to bed. 

“Oh well, I guess maybe the dog is good for something.” I grumbled as I stumbled through the darkened house.

My son’s blood sugar was so low that if I had just fallen asleep and left him til morning, we most likely would have had to take him to the ER. 

I’m telling you, THE DOG KNEW! As soon as I got some food in Big Brother and his blood sugar started to go back up, Kuma settled down and went to sleep… right outside the bedroom door. 

The Curse of Beautiful Children

I have adorable children. 

Sorry, it’s just the truth. They are Pretty. Darn. Cute.

This is a blessing and a curse, because everybody’s first reaction when they see a beautiful baby is to touch it. I was actually guilty of this myself this past weekend at my sister’s wedding, I met my dear cousin’s baby son for the first time, and his fiancee as well, incidentally, and my first reaction was to pet the baby’s soft arms and kiss his little forehead. Bless her heart, the mother seemed to realize this was a family thing and didn’t seem a bit offended, even though this person her fiance had just introduced to her was basically spreading germs on her baby. In my defense, he is a beautiful baby. But because of this marginally acceptable faux pas, I’m forced to look a little more forgivingly on people who walk up and pet or pat my children.
(She later took me up on an offer to hold him while she danced with her fiance, so I guess she forgave me, too.)

At a farmer’s market my mom and I took the kids to, I was reminded how little I appreciate people touching my children. The lady at the soap booth kissed my daughter’s hand, the guy at the windmill table pulled half-dollars out of both kids’ ears and gave them to them, and the lady at the flower booth watched my daughter dance to the street musician’s music and gave her a flower.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the quickest way to ingratiate yourself with me is to be kind to my children. And I smiled and thanked each person for the kindness, but inside I was cringing and snapping, “I don’t know where your hands have been, keep them off my kids!”
I know in some cultures it’s rude or bad luck to admire a child and not touch them, and I get that. I also understand how hard it can be to keep yourself from touching an adorable baby. But let me ask, would you come up and touch a full-grown person that you found beautiful? Ummm, no. You would not. Because that would be creepy. And possibly get charges filed against you. So let’s afford little people the same courtesy we afford big people, and keep our hands to ourselves. That’s what we teach them, isn’t it? 

To Know or Not To Know

Today we have our 2nd Trimester ultrasound, and the opportunity to find out our baby’s gender. Up until about a week ago I’ve been staunchly against spoiling the surprise, but I’ve recently started to cave. What if it’s a girl and I don’t have anything pink and frilly for her to wear home from the hospital??

I have one grandmother that’s firmly in each camp, one says God made babies’ rear ends come out last because He wanted to save the surprise for the very end, and the other says you can’t plan and buy gifts if you don’t find out early.

My mom says it’s up to me, and she won’t complain either way.

My sisters say I have no choice, they want to know now.

My dear sweet husband says that I have to decide by the time we get to the clinic, in 3 hours.

My son says, “There’s something going on and I know it, so I’m not going to nap and I’m going to eat everything in sight and cling to Mommy’s legs as she walks through the house.

My baby says “Mom, there’s just not enough room in here.”

I suppose in the big scheme of things 6 months either way won’t make a big difference.

I suppose Santa Claus could be real.

Directions: Shake rattle, and Roll

Dear Mom,

You know that old Elvis song, “Shake, Rattle and Roll”? Now that Jude is 3 months old, that’s our theme song! All it needs is a verse about drool, and it’s the story of our life.

My sweet son has recently discovered that he has opposable thumbs, and is getting quite adept at holding onto things we put in his hands. He loves his blue and yellow phone-shaped rattle. The only problem is, we don’t have any fabric rattles for him, they’re all hard plastic. That means that until his muscle control improves, we get a lot of indignant stares when he shakes it and hits himself in the face, especially when he can’t figure out how to stop. But I’m sure he’ll figure it out soon. We all know how smart he is!

In fact, knowing my baby for the super-genius he is, (who else’s baby was socially smiling at 1 month?) I assumed he would be rolling at 2 months, since my doctor told me that’s the earliest I could expect him to do so. Well, here we are at 3 months and my darling can roll exactly 90 degrees: from his back to his side. It seems like he either loses interest at that point, or maybe it’s just too much work. Whichever, he always just rolls back onto his back. Tummy time is a nightmare, the only thing that gets us beyond the 30 second mark is propping him up on the Boppy so he can see.

I’ve heard that some babies skip steps in mobility altogether. Maybe he’ll skip rolling and go straight to creeping! Of course, that would require tummy time.

On a more encouraging note, my friend’s baby Lyla is 11 days younger than Jude, and he outweighs her by 2 pounds! At least we know he’s not lacking in the growth department. I find a new dimple almost every day. It’s amazing that someone so roly-poly doesn’t just roll away!

Love,

Alissa

Baby Blurbs

Dear Mom,

WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?

You made being a wife and mother look so easy, I always thought it would be a breeze! Mom, you’ve lived with Dad for the last 25 years (Congrats, by the way, how was the trip to Spain?) and I’ve never once heard you raise your voice in anger. Not even at that “I’m-so-dumb-I-eat-rocks-and-get-stuck-in-trees” Labrador. You home-schooled FIVE KIDS, and I never once saw you lose your cool. I could probably count on one hand the number of times each year that we had boxed or processed food for dinner. Everything was home-made and delicious.

Why didn’t you tell me that it takes hours to prepare and present a good home-made meal? Why didn’t you tell me that living with a man with a strong personality requires all the patience and virtue of a saint? Why didn’t you tell me that keeping a house clean is a full-time job? And WHY didn’t you tell me that no matter how many times you wash them, dishes always get dirty again, and no matter how many loads you do, the laundry is always back on the floor by bedtime?

You had five kids! I admire you, I think you’re a wonderful mother, but FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE! Every time I turn around my darling little bundle of joy has pooped or puked on something else. And we won’t even talk about the actual having the baby part. Five times, Mom? Really? It’s enough to make me question your sanity.

At least I have such a fantastic role model. I’ll never get there, but you will always give me something to aspire to. Anyway, love to all. The baby is doing great, he is cooing and blowing spit bubbles constantly. I know it’s just a matter of time before he’s rolling over. I’ll send pictures soon.

Love,

Your Daughter

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