Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah, about those mittens, funny thing ... he figured out how to take them off. So now it's 1. pull off mittens, 2. rip off eyepatch, 3. crumple eyepatch, 4. smear big grin across face on account of outwitting silly Mommy and Daddy. Repeat five times daily.

So, searching for a Plan C.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Still patched

The kiddo went back to the eye doctor, who saw some signs of improvement, meaning we won't be going under the knife just yet. Hooray. Now we have to keep patching him for three more months. Sigh.

After three months of patch/rip patch/rip until we've gone through five or six a day -- and he's only supposed to wear them for two hours! -- I was not especially looking forward to another three months of it. And then the doctor suggested something so simple, yet effective, that I'm smacking my forehead for not thinking of it first.



So every morning I patch him up, feed him breakfast and stick his mittens on. They're Velcroed shut, so he can't get them off, and with them on he can't pull the patch off either. Sure, he looks like a climate-confused pirate -- am I outside or inside? -- but so far we've only been using one patch a day so who cares. We'll see how this goes.

In the meantime, as though I needed any more reasons to be neurotic, a Mayo Clinic study recently found that kids with exotropia, eyes that point outward, have a noticeably increased risk of mental illness in early adulthood. Esotropia, eyes that point inward, not so much. Guess which one my kid is. They say it might be a genetic link, and don't recommend doing anything about it except being aware of the situation. So I guess if he becomes bipolar in college, we can say, "Oh right! His eyes! So that's why!" Which will undoubtedly be a huge help, because hindsight, after all, is 20/20.

Actually after three months of (more or less) wearing the patches, his eye, when it does turn at all, turns inward. I wonder if that breaks the curse.

To poke a few holes, because that's what I do, it is possible that one thing has nothing to do with the other. It's also possible that treatment of strabismus and ambylopia has changed from when the now-adults profiled in the study were kids. And since I apparently can't see the whole study without subscribing to Pediatrics magazine, I don't know at what age these kids were diagnosed with strabismus, how many of them had surgery or what exact kinds of mental illness we're talking about here. Ah, nuance.

I think for now I'll just file this information away in the back of my head, in the big cardboard box titled "Things to worry about later maybe." Right there with how we're paying for his college education and how I should react when I meet his first girlfriend. For now I'll stick to worrying about which new toys are on the "recalled on account of being fatal" list. You know. The usual.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fighting the urge

At what point do you step in?

The First Cardinal Unbreakable Rule of Parenting Forever and Ever is "Do not judge other parents." Not on their disciplining methods, not on their vaccine theories, not on the way they dress their kids, nothing. Because we're all under a yachtload of pressure and stress here, trying to do right by our families in an age where you can't even trust the baby bottles, and it would be unkind and hypocritical to critique other parents, since no one is perfect and etc. And of course everyone breaks this law with impunity: they're too permissive, they're giving their kids mumps, they're dressing their kids like hobos, what's wrong with them? I would never do that to my kids. And etc.

But snarking on people behind their back (heh) is one thing; taking direct, public action is something else. I was waiting on line at Trader Joe's when I noticed a little girl sitting in the cart one register line over. And by sitting I mean squirming all over the place. Up, down, over, back, legs up there, legs down here. She looked about the age of my kid, which means she wasn't old enough to understand that cracking her skull on the floor would be a bad thing. I looked for a seat belt and realized the cart didn't have one; the two frayed ends of it hung off the back of the basket.

The parents were both at the other end of the register, dealing with the groceries. Neither one was watching. I kept an eye on her with increasing distress as she contorted ever further outward: Should I say something? Tell her to sit down? Run over to catch her if she falls?

Then her daddy finally clued in and walked up to scoop her out of the cart. Which was good, because I was leaning toward option C, and I don't think I would've been quick enough to catch her. Picked last in gym class and all that.

In retrospect, what were the parents thinking, letting the kid sit in a cart with no belt? We were out at dinner last night and received yet another Highchair of Death, in that it also had no belt. I made the waitress get another chair. Just because these places won't shell out the money to replace shoddy equipment doesn't mean I have to put up with it. But not only did these parents put up with it, they then left their kid effectively unsupervised, because bad accidents only happen to other people's kids, I guess.

Still I'm relieved I said nothing and nothing happened. Because by the time that girl's dad trotted over, he'd clearly figured out there was a problem. Anything I said would've just embarrassed him. And, possibly, me.

But he did see me watching, I'm fairly sure. That may have been what prompted him to move. Which means that whether I meant to or not, I was being ... judgmental. And there you have it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Look with your eyes ...

Not your hands. I seem to remember that when I was a kid. Be careful. Don't touch. You might break it. It isn't yours. Respect other people's things. 

So why is it that the senior citizens who would've said those things to me then, have no problem getting all grabby-hands with my kid now? 

Is their eyesight that bad? Are they reading his face like Braille when they tweak his cheek or touch his nose?

Listen, I appreciate that they think my kid is cute. I think my kid is cute too. I think he's the most adorable child on the planet forever and ever. But he's a lot less cute if he's sick from the germs of some total stranger who felt compelled to feel him up at the grocery store and may or may not have washed their hands first. Geez, at least ask before you touch. Then I'd have the time to say "I'd rather you didn't, but thanks for asking." Instead they go "Aww, how cute!" and dive in before I can react, then walk away, leaving me quietly seething.

I guess this is karmic payback for avoiding the grabby-hands when I was pregnant. I didn't really show until wintertime, and the belly was more or less hidden under sweaters and bulky coats. Also, I've been told I'm intimidating-looking. (How shocking, you say.)

My kid, on the other hand, is a great beaming ray of sunshine who thinks the entire world is his friend. This clearly is pollen for buzzing grandparent-ish types. 

Of course, the most recent time this happened, kiddo had the sniffles. Kvetching about the touchy-feely on the way home, DH noted that if they picked up kiddo's germs as a result, it was their loss. 

"No, it's their gain," I said. "They gained a cold."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kiddie camo

So these eye patches the little pirate is wearing -- and I use the term "wearing" mockingly -- come in boy patterns and girl patterns. Among the boy patterns are little soccer balls, little rocketships -- and camouflage. For the junior Army pirate.

I'm starting to feel conflicted about this camo thing. It's everywhere. So far the kid's received camo shoes, camo overalls, camo sweatshirts and a sing-along DVD of "Apocalypse Now." (I kid.) Not to sound like a latte-drinking arugula-eating tree-hugging pinko commie liberal freak of nature and I'll keep going till I run out of obnoxious adjectives, but if we're at war, is it really the most appropriate thing to dress kids for playtime in what is, essentially, war wear? Give the kids a few years and they can wear it for real.

Not to mention the implication that boy=camo. Really? The only way boys can be boyish is by fighting things? (Ferdinand the Bull just died a little inside.) Women join the military too, you know -- if I open up a package of the girl patterns, will I find some pink camo eye patches? Or is it all teddy bears and flowers and smiley-faced kittens?

This is of course all irrelevant because no matter what's on the patch, it's getting ripped off my kid's face 15 seconds after I put it on so he can crumple it up and run giggling around the living room and under the dining room table while I chase after him instead of finishing my breakfast like a normal person.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can he see clearly now?

Good question. Kiddo has strabismus, meaning one of his eyes doesn't quite focus properly and has a tendency to wander off in a different direction from the other. Left unchecked, strabismus can result in ambylopia: vision loss. Yeek.

This was, naturally, one of those things I didn't know was common in our families until we started telling people our kid had it -- "Oh, I had that when I was a child, we did vision therapy and I was fine" or "Well, so-and-so had that too, how about that?" My sister, in fact, *still* has it but was just diagnosed; now she knows why she was getting headaches and had trouble reading all these years. Moral of the story: If large numbers of people in your family are four-eyes, get your kid to an eye doctor right now right away move it. 

Fortunately kiddo has the intermittent kind, meaning it only happens occasionally, when he's tired or trying to focus on things far away. Opthalmologist seems to think surgery is inevitable; some of the reading I've done indicates that should be a last resort, as it doesn't always work. 

At the moment we're patching the good eye, trying to build up strength in the weaker eye. That's been a learning process. First we learned that latex eye patches can cause an allergic reaction. (Coverlet brand, in this case.) Then we learned that there is a whole cottage industry devoted to making patches -- some for adults, but mainly for kids -- that are latex-free and come complete with cute/goofy/trendy patterns so the kids don't feel stupid wearing them. Some attach directly to the skin with adhesive or a strap; others attach to the child's glasses frame. This site offers a good rundown of companies. What's fascinating is how many people got into the biz by making patches for their own children, got compliments and decided to sell them to others. Can't decide if that speaks more to the triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit, or to the gaping void of options open to parents of afflicted kids before these entrepreneurs came along.

At the moment we're using these patches. And by "using," I mean going through three to five of them a day since kiddo has figured out how to rip them off. He only has to wear them two hours a day, but you try explaining that to a 17-month-old. 

"Now honey, you have to leave that on for another hour and a half --"


"Now sweetie, you need to leave the patch on this time --"


"Kid, do that again and the teddy bear gets it."

So not too sure what to do next. I could get one of those reusable fabric patches with a strap, but it takes him all of five seconds to remove his sunglasses -- which have a similar strap -- so I don't think it would make a difference. One blogger I found recommended these arm immobilizers, which should keep the child from bending the elbows enough to reach the patch. Of course I imagine that would also prevent kiddo from feeding himself, which would cause all sorts of calamity and angst in the mornings, when I normally patch him. (Could switch to evenings, but same problem with dinner.) His eye does appear to be doing less wandering about, so maybe this is working anyway.

I mean, I knew he'd have eye problems. I just figured he'd be out of diapers first.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Or I could just give him a stick to play with …

Another day, another toy of ours on a recall list. First up: a rattle from Habermaass that is A. wooden and B. made in Germany, so apparently geographically profiling your toys doesn’t work either. Second: a rattle from Manhattan Toy that was made in China, so, uh, maybe it does. Ironically the problem is the same in both – parts can break off, causing a choking hazard.

This comes after the recall on the lead-encased bib we brought back to the store and the recall on the Bumbo chair, because some kids discovered a chair without a safety belt is not incredibly difficult to wriggle out of. (To be fair, you're not supposed to use the chair on a raised surface. But the packaging used to be less than clear on that fact.)

So I’m supposed to, what, obsessively scan recall lists and burn my eyes out poring over every single parenting magazine on the market to make sure my kid’s toys won’t kill him? Because this information doesn’t get regular widespread exposure unless there were deaths involved. Frankly I’d rather find out about a potentially fatal object before it becomes fatal, not after.

Tempting to blame the media but I don’t think that’s the full story here. I think these recalls are considered more or less routine. Rattle is a choking hazard, stroller might collapse on you, teddy bear has a ticking bomb inside, oopsie! Call the company for a refund. Because when you discover you’ve been sold a shoddy product, don’t you want to ask the maker of that product for a different product? I’m sure there’s no way it will also be shoddy!

I think people have come to expect this sort of thing. For the life of me I can’t understand why. These aren’t display items. They aren’t collectibles. They aren’t sitting in a curio cabinet somewhere. We’re taking them out of the package and giving them to our kids. Under the apparently mistaken impression that someone, somewhere, did something resembling quality control before dropping the things on store shelves. Recalls happening at all is obnoxious; that they happen all the time is disgraceful.

My kid, of course, is fond of both of those rattles. Fortunately he hasn’t noticed their mysterious disappearance.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This crib'll kill you

Not even remotely being flip. I don't understand how companies can willingly, openly sell products that have caused a child's death. Corporate greed, apathy, blah blah blah, come up with your own lame excuse. There is no excuse. A sleeping child should not be at risk of dying because, oh, they moved the wrong way. That is so appalling on so many levels that there almost aren't words for it.

I speak, of course, of those Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has tried -- and failed -- to get recalled after a six-month-old girl in Kansas was strangled in one last week. According to the Associated Press, a four-month-old girl in Missouri also died in one last September. The commission can't get them recalled because SFCA Inc., which took over Simplicity in April after a previous recall of 1 million cribs (and other babies dying) put it out of business, refuses to go along with this recall. See, they didn't make and sell the product, so they can't be held responsible for it, even though they're clearly happy to profit from it by leaving it on the shelves. The Washington Post explains that since SFCA only bought Simplicity's assets, not the full company, it avoids that company's liabilities. Which, I guess, is a perfectly legal way to be a weasel. (Read the Post article here.)

So what's happening is, the commission told six major retailers -- that would be Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kmart, Big Lots, Target and J.C. Penney -- to pull the cribs from their shelves. And if you buy it somewhere else? Then what?

Above you can see the commission's lovely demonstration of how a child could die in these things. I flat out don't understand 1. why anyone would think this sort of design would be safe, and 2. why companies wouldn't try harder to keep this sort of danger off the shelves in the first place. Why oh why is any old crap acceptable to market to parents? Are children really considered this disposable in this society? "Ah well, what's one or two kids"? 

Do SFCA employees use these cribs for their own kids? Or do they know better?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sound of silence

The toy I was most afraid of was a drum set.

Because who wouldn't be? Bang bang bang. Boom boom boom. It's music, the giver of the drum would say, and I would smile and cover my ears.

But no, the little one already has his very own drum and it's pretty mellow. It's a pseudo-colonial all-wooden drum and drumstick, probably wants a fife and a flag to go with it. Offers a nice little boom boom boom. I encourage the little one to play it. Sometimes I bang on it to see if he'll dance.

The toys I don't like to listen to are every single electronic toy he owns. Like the magical counting toolbench that sings. "La la la, I am a toolbench, ABCs and 123s are fun, I am going to sing this over and over because your kid keeps pulling the lever, la la la." Or the big NASCAR steering wheel that turns to the sound of electric guitars and a child's voice going "vroom, vroom." Not to mention the months spent listening to all the toys that played tinny, kiddie versions of classical pieces. There is no way something that annoying is making him smarter. "It's music time!" some of the toys proclaim, as though the fact that there was music playing was not some sort of a clue. 

And why is every song a toy plays clearly something in the public domain, and therefore free? Like the infinite variations on "Bingo." Or "I've Been Working on the Railroad." "Turkey in the Straw"? C'mon, you're making the toys out of cheapie plastic, you can't afford to hire someone to write some fresh music?

Because clearly you spent money on voice talent. The people singing these songs (well, not so much the kid going "vroom, vroom") sound pretty good. Unnaturally cheery, but good. I wonder if a gig like this is a step up, career-wise, or down? "Well, I didn't make 'Idol,' but I'm providing the voice for this toy phone with little pictures of farm animals on it. The kid can call the farm animals on the phone ... hey, where are you going?"

There is an upside, of course. Batteries do run out. Maybe the little one won't notice if we don't replace them. Like in that toolbench, for example.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who smokes in their bathing suit, anyway?

We brought the little one to his very first beach last week. He of course loved it. At first he thought the beach was for eating, then seemed a little dubious about having sand poured on his legs. Then he figured out the beach was for crawling on. And off he went. Which is when I noticed the 12-pack's worth of cigarette butts jammed into the sand all around us. Also the empty soda bottles. And otherwise unidentifiable bits of plastic. And the little one noticed all of that too! What a smart kid. I resorted to chasing down the garbage before he could get to it, then throwing it further away from him. Then he'd crawl right toward it and I'd have to do it all over again. I'm just going to hope that the germs on all that crap were baked out by the sun.

Why not just throw it all out, you ask? Fair question. We were all the way down the beach, near the water, and it would have been tough to maneuver. Also, the real reason: I hate throwing out other people's trash. Hate it. Never do it. I don't want to be that guy: the one self-righteous enough to tsk-tskingly clean up after other people's messes. (The same person who cleans out the office microwave or dumps out the old coffee grinds after everyone else conveniently forgets to do it.) Who expects thanks for it, or at least respect, but never gets it because no one likes being reminded of their moral inferiority. And touching trash is icky.

I have a really, really hard time believing the town (Point Pleasant, if you're wondering) doesn't have sanitation people go through in the morning to neaten up the sand a little. Though granted that wouldn't do much if people are continuously using the sand as their own personal ashtray throughout the day. Which brings me to my real point ...

Stupid bennies. I say this as a former South Jerseyan. People come in from out of town, and I don't know, I guess they figure it's just Jersey anyway and already trashed (I make no excuses for the Turnpike, but take an exit once in a while and see what the rest of the state looks like, bub), so they can make idiots of themselves and leave their crap everywhere and clog up the roads on their merry way out of town. Really, you need to tell people not to stub out their cancer sticks in the sand where kids are playing? This needs to be specifically spelled out in writing somewhere? ("Dear bennies, remember not to poison the kids. Thank you.")

It's almost enough to make me nostalgic for the beach in winter -- when there's nobody else on it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Highchair of Deathwatch, redux

Yet another diner, yet another chair with a completely busted latch on the belt. We resorted to pushing the kid right up against the table to keep him from leaping out. This time I asked (nicely) why all of their highchairs were broken, and the maitre d' (or whatever a maitre d' is called at a diner) explained that people break them all the time by yanking the two pieces of the latch apart to get their kid out. So there you have it: Mystery solved. It's not that the restaurants don't care about the safety of your kid. It's that other parents don't care about the safety of your kid!

Which begs the question: Can't someone design chairs with latches that are less prone to breakage?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Highchair of Deathwatch, #2

Seen at a local diner: nifty little chairs that attach directly to the booth's table, saving us from plopping the kid directly in the line of foot traffic. Or it would, if the latch weren't missing two pieces. Same with the replacement chair the waitress brought over, right down to the exact same missing pieces. You'd think the chairs were specifically designed to be defective. So little one ended up in the aisle after all, in the regular-type wooden highchair, but no one knocked him over with a deluxe cheeseburger platter so I guess it worked out.

Seen at a Moe's: And I hate to trash Moe's as I like their food, it seeming less gunky-greasy than at other fastish-food eateries. But seriously, the highchair's latch was completely busted. Had I a spouse handy, I would've sent him to grab a replacement; since it was me and kid and a friend and her kid, plus several trays' worth of food already, I improvised and tied the two ends of the belt around kid's waist. This worked until the end of the meal, when little one got restless and twisty and the belt of course came right undone. But at that point I just shrugged and hauled him out.

Am becoming increasingly convinced that "made for children" is a polite way of saying "made out of cheap and possibly toxic crap."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No class for you!

All I wanted was a Mommy and Me yoga class. Would've been fun. Get toned, meditate, bond with the baby, everybody's happy.  

The studio I go to even had such a class. At least until I got pregnant, and it disappeared. Typically perfect timing. But hey, I thought, plenty of gyms in the area, somewhere in this county is a class for baby and me. And there are, in fact, plenty such classes in the county. Just that they're all at 3 p.m. on a Thursday. Or 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. Kiddie classes keep banker's hours. Unfortunately, so do I.

Hey, I don't begrudge the SAHMs a chance to have some fun with their kids (or let their kids blow off steam while they relax, either way). If I were a SAHM I'd be looking for every excuse not to be AH, just for the sake of some sort of human contact. I just don't understand why these classes (and kiddie gym sessions, and storytime, etc.) can't once in a while be on a weekend. You know, so the working moms can also do fun bondy things with their kids, instead of feeling like even the local Y disapproves of their working.

What especially puzzles me is that I live in a New York commuter-heavy area, also home to some major pharmaceutical (and other) companies as well as some massively high taxes. All of which suggests there have to be plenty of other working parents out there, who would maybe like to take their kid to storytime on a Saturday or a Sunday. An underserved market, no?

If I'd kept working nights, of course, this wouldn't be an issue. But then I wouldn't be home to put the kid to bed. The tradeoffs.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Fork off!

So the kid was ready for his very own toddler-type utensils. How did we know? He kept grabbing the fork and/or spoon out of our hands and attempting to use it. Very insistent, this kid. 

And so I embarked on a search for Utensils That Were Not Made in China or Otherwise Covered in Lead-Encased Toxic Goo.

Hey, guess how well I did? Everything is made in China. I want a little baby-size fork that wasn't made in China, I should cook up some steel and make one myself.

Know what I love? Feeling like Bad Mommy because I might be allowing some sort of evil tainted death-causing plastic to come within two miles of my precious child, while also feeling entirely exasperated at the fact that these plastics are unavoidable. It's a lose-lose, with guilt. 

So finally I find a little cutlery set that promises to be phlatate-free, and hooray. I'm still not entirely clear on what phlatates are, but whatever it is, we're not having any. I get a You're Not Poisoning Your Child gold star.

Little one, of course, couldn't care less either way. He likes the fork, though. It makes smooshing the food all over his tray so much easier.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The difference between baby crying and toddler crying:

Baby crying is insistent and constant, and the sound of it upsets you. But it's not loud. You only think it's loud.

Toddler crying is EEEEEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. And repeat. It is piercingly, nerve-shatteringly loud. And it can strike at any moment.

I get why parents will buy any toy, any candy, any enticing anything for their child just to make them please stop screaming. I hope not to ever do it. But I get it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What would Stacy and Clinton do?

So we're bringing the kid to a wedding soonish. Yes, he was invited. No, we're not insane. Apart from the inevitable babbling during the ceremony -- with any luck, he'll throw in a few raspberries while he's at it -- and the likelihood that he'll snarf entirely too much of my filet, it should be fine. The hard part, apparently, is getting him wedding gear. 
Because toddler-boy dress-up clothing either doesn't exist, or is, I assume, some sort of special-order craziness on the level of christeningwear. (Which would be great if I wanted him to look like Tom Hanks in "Big.") Store after store after store, and nothing but little T-shirts, little polo shirts, little cargo pants and little jeans. I'm not hunting down a tiny tux with vest and cummerbund here, just a nice button-down shirt and some non-jeans pants. Which don't exist, except when they have big cartoon logos all over them.
Meanwhile, over in the girls' aisle, there are rows and stacks of adorable little ruffly dresses, pretty in pink with sparkles. Any one of these dresses would be fine for a wedding or a fancy-dress party or, I don't know, playing princess?
I used to wonder why girls were always so much quicker to dress up than boys; why you'll see a couple out for dinner and she's got a dress on, full makeup and teetering in heels, and he's slouching along in yes, a polo shirt, and very likely cargo pants. Clearly this little dichotomy is beaten into our heads from birth. 
The same, incidentally, extends to shoes. For every fifteen cute little pairs of mary janes I found, there were two pairs of sneakers and one sad-looking pair of pseudo-oxfords (in the wrong size). And that was in the stores that actually carried age-appropriate shoes. Instead of, say, a shoe store, where I had the following exchange:
"Hi, do you have toddler shoes?"
"Is that a brand?"
"No, toddler size shoes." (Blank look.) "Like for a 1-year-old?"
"Oh. What size would that be?"
"Like a 4 or a 5?"
(Wandering helplessly through the racks for a minute.) "No."
So I hope no one minds if the kid wears his red Crocs with the only non-jeans, non-cargo pants I was able to find after seven stores' worth of looking.
Man. I'm not even sweating my own outfit this much.    

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Step right up ...

And see the Amazing Hoover Child! He eats, he gobbles, he snarfs it all! Just try waving a morsel in front of his li'l face and see how quickly it disappears! Truly an amazing sight! Come one, come all -- he's always hungry!
Or maybe that's just what it *seems* like, watching people shove food at my kid.
Granted, he eats. Pretty well in fact. I get that this instant ease with solids is maybe a little unusual. Not to mention many of those foods are veggies. But still, I'm beginning to get the vibe that people see his eating as some sort of parlour trick. And that they're giving him food -- occasionally behind my back -- because it's fun, not because he actually needs to eat.
For that matter, why the instant obsession with dumping junk food down his throat? "Can he have cookies? Cake? Juice? Fig Newtons? Whipped cream? Ice cream? Juice? Weird little plastic-looking fruit gel things?" (Okay, I have no idea what those things are really called. But apparently they come with kids meals.) Why, is there some sort of hurry? Do they think he'll be deprived of childhood forever if he doesn't experience his first sundae before he can walk?
I swear I am not a killjoy. I like junk food as much as the next human. I have some fond childhood memories involving it -- trick-or-treating (always hoping for the peanut butter cups), birthday cake, Hanukkah gelt. Sinfully forbidden bits of Easter candy. Cupcakes. We had ice cream the night we got engaged and an ice cream cake at the wedding. Sweet tooth? Oh yeah.
But that's just it -- teeth. As in, my kid's only got six of them. Shouldn't we wait a little longer before letting him rot them out?
For that matter, shouldn't we sit back and enjoy him eating his spinach while we still can, before he discovers French fries?
Of course food is never just about food. There are always underlying emotions and issues. The loved ones looking to stuff his face are trying to show their love, and I appreciate that. But that's what I'm trying to do, too -- by always keeping in mind his family heritage of diabetes and weight trouble. And yet I feel like I'm the one who looks bad here. 
Well, at least no one's tried to slip him a beer yet.
That I know of.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

No, it's fine. No really, it's fine. Stop asking or else.

So we're out garage saling, because it's a fine way to spend a sunny afternoon, and I'm waiting for The Other Half to finish looking at baseball cards so we can move on -- standing in the slightly shady driveway, jouncing the little one on one hip. The seller's mother, a sweet-seeming older lady, spied us (kid alert! kid alert!) and came over to chat. Which was fine. 
"Can he walk yet?" Well, no. (And I always feel like I'm supposed to apologize for it, or feel bad for it, like he's already behind and he'll never get into Ivy League now.) "Do you want to put him down so he can crawl in the grass?" No, I say, he'd probably try to eat the grass. Because that's what toddlers do. But she can't let it go.
"Are you sure you don't want to put him down? Do you live in a condo? Oh. That explains it. Because he probably hasn't seen grass too much. Maybe he's a little afraid of it." Then TOH walks over and she asks him all over again, as though the entire conversation with me didn't matter, or maybe I'd change my mind if my big tough husband made me.
What I wanted to say, but didn't in case TOH actually wanted to buy baseball cards from this lady's son, was, "We're not afraid of grass. There's plenty of grass where we live. I don't want him eating the grass because I have no idea what kind of pesticide fertilizer crap your son has dumped all over his lawn." Which strikes me as at least semi-reasonable.
Not a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Just further exemplifies, to me, how older-generation moms have no way of relating to younger moms other than trying to tell them what to do. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008


There's a small box sitting on the landing of the staircase, waiting for me to do something with it. Which I would, if I could figure out where in hell to bring it. On the box is this ominous message: "The fact is: Many toddlers aren't getting adequate nutrition."
The fact is, many adults aren't either, but hey, I digress. The box with the scary slogan is yet another freebie in the mail from a formula company, packed with little glasslike bottles full of, I'm going to assume, the most nutritional substance known to man, without which my kid is going to shrivel up and blow away like a tumbleweed. Since the only things I feed him are fresh fruits and veggies, oatmeal, cheese, eggs, pasta ... yep, no way he'll survive on all that.
Like new parents aren't stressed enough about what to feed their kids -- they need their mail to tell them they're still screwing up?
OK, fine, I'm biased to begin with -- I breastfed. If you need to use formula, I respect that; it's foodstuff, not poison. My ire is for the omnipresent formula companies. Ads all over the magazines. The index card they handed me at the OB-GYN's office, offering a free diaper bag, no obligation, that would obviously come full of formula samples. I refused to fill it out, which was a good thing since they gave me one at the hospital anyway. 
Now that was all aggravating enough. I in no way find it appropriate for a doctor's office or a hospital to be effectively endorsing formula, not when the official medical consensus is that breastfeeding is better. That's kind of like a cardiologist sending you to a steakhouse for lunch, isn't it?  
But mailing these boxes of formula to my home, well after we're home from the hospital, that's beyond obnoxious because I never once bought this stuff. So why keep sending it? Why was I even on their list if I never filled out that card? Shouldn't they be mailing free formula to people who actually want it?
The last few batches I had of it sitting around, I checked the expiration date to make sure it was still good, then brought it all in to a food drive. (Along with the diaper bag.) This time, there isn't one going on, so I'll have to find somewhere else to bring the box. 
I'd pitch it, but I can't stand the idea of wasting food. Which just figures.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dinner and a crash

We've been taking the kid to all kinds of restaurants. We've eaten in white-tablecloth establishments with suited-up waiters and "family-style" joints with Formica-ish booths and a 3,000-decibel noise level. And all these places offered crappy, crappy highchairs. 
Same style in all, of course -- minimalist wood structure, no padding, basic seatbelt, separate strap between the legs. That's OK. But the frayed belts, busted latches and rickety, swaying structure are not OK. What are they, kidding? Is the staff secretly placing bets on which highchair will disintegrate first, with an over-under on how long it'll take the kids to stop screaming after they hit the floor?
Last time we got a chair that appeared to think it was in the middle of a windstorm, I asked for another one. The waiter brought one, which was nice, but it only swayed slightly less, which was not. 
Over the weekend, we got one with a cracked latch. I thought, well, maybe it'll be fine, settled the kid in place and picked up the menu. It was fine, in that the latch didn't break open till we got the check. Granted, he didn't go anywhere -- just slid down in his seat until the middle strap stopped him. But if he'd been reaching for something at the time, or been off balance in any way, that could've been a bad scene.
And yes, the adults at the table should be watching him, you're absolutely right. But the whole point of these chairs, allegedly, is to keep the child secure so you can enjoy your food without worrying that the child will take a header onto the hardwood.
I've thought about why restaurants would spend tons of money on the food and the presentation and the ambience and then let their highchairs deteriorate into torture devices. And the only conclusion I can arrive at is that, like Lewis Black's candy corn, all the restaurant-approved highchairs ever made were made in 1911. And the restaurateurs, who for some reason always seem surprised when you walk in with a child and ask for a highchair -- you mean the child won't be standing in a corner while you eat? -- remember, then, that oh yes! They do have highchairs. And they send someone down to the cobweb-covered corner where the highchairs are kept, next to the yellowing newspaper clippings about the Teapot Dome Scandal, and that person hauls a chair out into the light, where it promptly disintegrates. 
Maybe next time we get a bum chair, I'll invite the maitre d' to our house for dinner, hack two legs off one of our chairs and have him sit in that.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So someone explain to me how fear-based parenting became the norm. 
Use the wrong crib and your kid will die. Use the wrong carseat and your kid will die. (Install it yourself, without getting it checked over by a cop, and your kid will die.) Use fewer than 15 monitors, with sound, video and I don't know, infrared, and guess what. 
Parenting classes and magazines seem to cover the gamut from "how your baby can drown in half an inch of water" to "how your baby can spontaneously combust if you stick a teddy bear in the crib."
(On that: If we're not supposed to put toys, bumpers, blankets, pillows, etc. in an infant's crib, why then does every single store selling cribs display them chock full of darling blankie sets, matching bumpers and plush menageries? A little consistency, it's all I ask.)
Now hey, I'm not suggesting these precautions are all bad. I'm certainly not suggesting throwing caution to the wind and letting the baby drive the car, say, or giving the kid shrimp in peanut sauce for the first solid feeding. But there's a difference between keeping parents informed, and beating them over the head with worst-case scenarios until they're afraid to make a decision without calling the pediatrician at midnight or haunting their parenting boards of choice until some other poster gives them an answer.
Which even still would be acceptable if it didn't seem like a relatively recent trend. Allow me to sum up every single derisive older parent at once: "I guzzled martinis and smoked cigars throughout every single pregnancy. We put all of you to sleep on your stomachs. We fed all of you formula. We didn't have these fancy car seats or play yards or sleep sacks. And you all turned out fine."
First of all, boomers and Greatest Generationers: At least our husbands change diapers. Second, I may disagree with those practices (as much as I miss martinis) but I like the attitude. We shouldn't have to stress this so much. Just keeping your kid clothed and fed -- even despite his nifty new trick of sticking his fingers in his mouth to make himself puke -- as well as keeping yourself clothed and fed, is enough stress. We don't need to add to that by giving in to the paranoia. C'mon, if we're spending this much time freaking out about whether we're doing everything wrong, we're probably doing something right. Right?