Parenting H

Month: August, 2013

H is crawling around on the merry go round. He usually sits on my lap as I slowly push us around with my feet, but today he strains away from me and crawls toward the center when I put him down. He crawls around looking for stray wood chips, and I walk, pushing slowly, guarding the edge. I sweep off wood chips before H can get to them, but I am not fast enough. He finds a wood chip and crawls back to the center. He sits and holds it in his hand, examining it, shaking it up and down. Shaky, shaky, shaky, shake, I sing, as his hand bobs up and down. Not for eating, I say. H smiles delightedly at me and puts the wood chip in his mouth. I panic. He is going to get a splinter in his mouth. He will choke, I worry. I have to get it out. I take a deep breath and decide that this is not an emergency situation. I push the merry go round some more and wait for H to crawl close to the edge. Finally he does, and I scoop him up. I will offer him milk, I think, and he will spit the wood chip out.

We walk to a shady spot under a tree. Would you like some milk? I ask, and H dive bombs my chest. Good, I think. I unlatch my nursing bra and wait. H smiles at me. I attempt to insert my finger in his mouth. H purses his lips, his smile small and tight. I try again. Still no. I say ah with my mouth wide open hoping he will mimic me. Nothing works. He will not give up the wood chip.

I put him in Baby K’tan. We walk home, H riding on my hip, his head nestled under my arm. He smiles his small, tight lipped smile, and I can see him moving the wood chip around in his mouth. And then his smile loosens. I sweep his mouth with my finger and the wood chip comes out, smooth, no danger of splinters. H is unperturbed. He looks up at me serenely and lifts up a tiny, loose fist to place another wood chip in his mouth.

I burst out laughing, and then so does H. We walk home, me with a smile, H with a wood chip in his mouth.

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It only takes a split second.

H is crawling around and pushing twigs through the holes on the platform of the play structure. I am standing right next to him.

Look, Michael, says a nearby father to his son. There’s Daniel. Run and say hello.

Michael looks. I look. Daniel is approaching the playground, holding his father’s hand, grinning. Daniel waves at Michael.

I look back at H. He is tipping backwards off the play structure, falling, looking up at me. The bounce as he lands on his back on a bed of wood chips is tiny but perceptible.

It was maybe 2 feet, but it was 2 feet too far.

It only takes a split second.

I am upstairs in the bedroom with H. I am changing the sheets in between racing him to the foot of the stairs, where we practice going up and down. Spin around and feet first, I tell H. He looks at me and smiles with delight. I help him down one step, then two. He uses the stairs to pull up to his feet, testing his balance. He hoists one knee up to the next step and pauses for a split second before the other knee follows. Up the next step, wobbling between knees, he is on the landing now. He looks back at me and laughs before he crawls confidently away, back to the bedroom.

I hear T downstairs. He is speaking to himself in German, swearing. I pick up that he has knocked over the glass of water I left on the living room floor. I can feel the anger in his voice, and my stomach tightens. I cannot hold space for his reaction right now. It is almost 4pm, and H has napped for maybe 20 minutes all day. I am tired and frustrated. I go to the bedroom and close the door. I close my eyes and pause for one breath, then two. I finish changing the sheets.

H is showing hunger cues. We get in bed together to nurse. Maybe he will nap now, I think, but his body does not slow down. He is twisting away from me, kicking his leg out, scratching my chest. He unlatches and rolls away. I pull him back for the second side. He nurses and pinches and scratches at me. There is no sign of sleep.

I feel slightly crazy. There is tension in my body. My insides are bouncing around like they want to get out. I feel trapped. We will go to the park, I decide. H loves the bucket swing. I will treat myself to a vegan chocolate chip cookie. I put H in Babyhawk. I can barely tell T that we are leaving.

He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time, I remind myself about H. Yes. That helps. I wonder if I can apply the same to T. He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time. Yes. That helps at least a little. How about me? I’m having a hard time. I’m giving myself a hard time. I give myself a hard time when I’m having a hard time. Why? I do not know.

We are at the park. H is excited about the people on the tennis courts. He is excited about the people riding bikes, the buses, and a dog that walks by. I struggle to stay with myself. I will call my sister, I think. I can hardly see the screen of my phone in the glare of the sun. I think I found her number. I press call, but the phone does not ring. I try again. Still there is no ringing. Emergency calls only, I manage to see on the screen. This feels like an emergency, I think, but there is nothing to be done. 911 cannot help me with my insides bouncing around.

I push H on the swing. He points at the bikers, at the abandoned water bottle on the grass, at the trees, at I don’t know what. Maybe the sky? I sing the ABC song to him, first the Dr. Seuss ABCs, then with just letters. There is nothing to do but breathe. I relax my shoulders. I pull the bucket swing back, one, two, three times and let go. H kicks his legs. I push him higher and run behind him. H loves this. He looks behind himself as he swings back and laughs. He kicks his legs more vigorously. He laughs and laughs, and finally, I cannot help it. I laugh, too.

H asks to come out of the swing. He is showing tired cues. I put him in Babyhawk, and we walk up the hill.

We are home. It is bedtime. I put his nighttime diaper on, and we get into bed together to nurse. I hold him in cradle to nurse from the first side. This is the only time we nurse in this position anymore. I hold him just as I held him as a newborn. His eyelids are heavy. His eyes flutter closed, and his breathing slows. He is nearly asleep. I put him down, and we nurse from the second side. He is asleep within minutes, mercifully, after the long day.

We all had a hard time today, me, H, and T, and now it is good night. Tomorrow we will all have another opportunity to practice holding ourselves and each other gently. Thank goodness for new days.

Sometime during hour one of bedtime, H crawled into his crib, sat down, swung his left arm vigorously back and forth, and laughed hysterically. I do not know what was so funny, but I laughed, too. It was adorable.

H is so small and the world is so big. What a gift that he has chosen me to be his anchor, if only for the time being.

Waiting It Out

Nighttime diapering. Nursing for an hour, interspersed with rolling, crawling, and pulling up. Breathing deeply. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Running through my mantras. Singing Stewball, Simple Gifts, My Favorite Things, and Taps. Singing them again. Deciding to get up and play it out. Reading Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type and Horns to Toes and In Between, three times each. Walking in Babyhawk, during which H uses gentle hands petting a neighborhood cat. Breathing. Murmuring. Singing. Changing his diaper. Nursing again. A peacefully sleeping baby.

Some Things I Want to Remember About the Toddler* I Have Right Now

The way he hooks his left arm around my right when I hold him. That he gets excited about the bucket swing at the park, opening and closing any kind of door, and the morning light cast on the walls through windows and blinds. The way he navigates while in my arms by shifting his weight and pointing his tiny index finger this way and that. His laughter. The not so subtle way he pulls at my shirt to let me know that he would like some milk right now thank you very much. The grand jetes he does while nursing side lying. The way his arms thrust from his body and his legs scissor in and out in full body expression of his excitement. The seriousness with which he studies his board books. The way he flips onto his belly and races with laughter to the foot of the bed to practice pulling up, over and over, at bedtime. His open mouthed kisses. The warmth of his head against my cheek as we settle together in bed. That he is, even though a toddler, still my baby.

*H is a toddler. A toddler!