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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Special Song

Sometimes parenting is a by-the-seat-of-your-pants deal.  Okay, it is oftentimes this way.  When my daughter was transitioning away from bottles, I found myself at a loss as to how to put her to bed.  It had been our ritual that I rock her, while giving her a bottle.  She wouldn't always fall asleep, but it was her cue that it was that time.  I'd place her in her crib and she would talk herself to sleep.  So when we decided it was time for her to move beyond the bottle, I didn't know how to give her those sleepy-time cues.

The very first night, I walked into her room with her, shut out the light, and sat down in her rocking chair with her.  Out of nowhere, I started singing her a song.  I'm sure it's a mixture of songs I heard as a child, or when I was a nanny, but it wasn't one I'd consciously thought of before that night.  I began singing the "goodnight song" as it has now become known.  I worked my way through our family, singing good night to each of them, ending with a good night to her.  Anyone who's heard me sing before knows I belong nowhere near a recording studio or Broadway, but she didn't seem to mind.  After the song, I kissed her and told her I love her, and placed her in her crib.  It worked.  She talked herself to sleep that night as she had so many others, and didn't even notice the missing bottle.

There came a time when she no longer wanted to cuddle before bed.  As she got older, our nighttime routine shifted to stories, shows and sippy cups full of water next to her.  So I was surprised a few weeks ago when she asked me to rock her and sing her "special song".  I had no idea she even remembered it.  I happily pulled her into my lap, rocked her back and forth and sang to her as I used to when she was littler.  She snuggled in close to me, closed her eyes and relaxed.  She's asked me several times since; it's kind of becoming our thing.

She and I have a running joke.  She climbs into my lap while we are playing and I tell her that I am going to keep her there forever.  She smiles up at me and says, "you're just kidding, right Mama?"  I tell her that I wish I could keep her there forever, but I know I have to let her go some day.  It'll be slightly easier to do, knowing she has things like these tucked in her memory.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cleft Team

Last Tuesday my husband and I took our son to All Children's for a round of appointments with various specialists.  This process is called a "Cleft Team".  We began the day with a hearing screening, then moved to a different building, where we sat in a room and the specialists rotated through to see us.

The state of Florida formed the team concept originally for all kids born with a cleft, because it is a lot to keep up with, and it's difficult to know when they need to see which doctor or specialist.  We will meet with this team every 6 months to a year throughout his childhood, to make sure we are doing what we can to best support him.  Shortly before our son was born, the state (in all its infinite wisdom) decided to limit the team to people on Medicaid, and those of us with insurance had to fend for ourselves....but that's a topic for another day.

All Children's Hospital recognized that people with insurance may need help in keeping all of it straight too, and formed a team for the privately insured.

We saw a Pediatrician, Pediatric Dentist, Speech and Language Pathologist, Social Worker, Audiologist, our Surgeon and his Nurse.  Phew!  By the middle of it all he was exhausted and fell asleep on my shoulder.  For the most part, however, he was a trooper!

The good news is that we won't have any therapies for the next 6 months to a year.  The not-so-good-news is that he still has a slight hole in his palate.  That makes it more challenging for him to eat table food, as it gets pushed up into the hole and out his nose, which makes him pretty irritable. In addition, it might be prohibiting him from forming "B" and "P" sounds, as he can't get a proper seal in his mouth, which is necessary for those sounds.

We were given some good suggestions for feeding, and things to work on to support him in the language portion, and we'll get there.  We already had his next surgery scheduled in June, to reshape his nose.  They'll close the hole then.  There's a slight possibility that it will mean we'll have to stay overnight, instead of outpatient, but we will deal with what comes!

Over-all, I think we both felt better about his progress walking out of those meetings.  It's difficult at times to know if you're doing the right thing when your child has something special about him...though an argument could be made that it's true even when your child is "normal".

I wish I could go back to the day I learned of his imperfection and tell myself it would be okay.  I wish I could tell myself that it would be because of that imperfection - not despite it - that he would be the most beautiful creature I would ever meet.  There will be tough days ahead, but I have no doubt that my little man will come out the other side stronger and better because of it; and I  know he'll teach me a thing or two about living a graceful life along the way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

10 Things YOU Can Do to Be the Perfect Parent

I read an article today, providing 10 tips for raising children.  While I agreed with most of the article, I found my mind wandering to the hundreds, if not thousands of published articles available online, detailing how to raise perfect, healthy, happy, successful, social children.  Most contain SOME good information.  It is important to remember, however, that the internet is a huge place, where anyone with an opinion is allowed to tout themselves as expert.

I met with our pediatrician for my son's one-year well child exam.  We covered several things, most of which I had already heard with my daughter, but some was new.  The world of pediatric recommendations is ever changing, and part of the reason I like our doctor so much is because he acknowledges this.  I boldly told him that, while the recommendations are great, I feel Mother's intuition and a bit of common sense goes a long way.  He agreed.

I think we, as mothers, are trained to second-guess ourselves, lay guilt upon ourselves, and believe we are not measuring up to the other mothers we know or encounter on our parenting journey.  We need to be a little kinder.  We need to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent (or child).  We also need to realize that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

In my household, I try to remember to stay positive as much as possible.  It's very easy to wrap up in the negatives of the world, and the difficulties of raising a family while working full time.  I try to give myself a break and focus on the things that are important, which sometimes means my house isn't spotless, but my children's laughter during our shared experiences more than makes up for it!  I try to model healthy habits, including a healthy relationship with my husband, in hope that my kids grow up to learn to take care of themselves and their relationships too.  I TRY to do these things, and I don't always succeed.  We have our good and bad days, but we have a lot of love and laughter in our home.

So - in my NON-expert opinion, find what works for your family and do the best you can to make it happen each day.  Be kind to yourself, your partner, and your children.  Make love the priority (tough love included!)  Have FUN with your children, and do not expect perfection under any circumstances....the good stuff resides in the imperfect!

Our perfectly imperfect attempt at a Christmas family picture.

There is no magic method.  If there were, a whole lot of internet "experts" would be out of a job!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mothers and Daughters

I was standing in line this afternoon, behind three people: an elderly woman, her daughter, and the daughter's husband.  The woman must have become disoriented because she turned to me and told me I could go ahead of her, because she'd lost her daughter.  The daughter exasperatedly exclaimed, "MOM!"  She then looked to her husband and rolled her eyes.  I'm certain there is more to the story than what I witnessed, but the exchange made me sad.

I am certain I rolled my eyes at my mother on more than one occasion, and that a majority of those eye-rolls occurred somewhere between my fourteenth and eighteenth year of life.  I know that I was harder on her than anyone else.  As I've grown older, and especially after I became a mother myself, I have realized I was probably that way with her because I knew she'd love me no matter what.

So it made me sad that this grown woman was treating her mother that way.  If her mother was anything like mine, she sacrificed sleep and sanity to provide her daughter with everything she needed - emotionally and physically.  If her mother was anything like mine, she wishes for nothing more than for her children to be healthy and happy, and would give up her own health and happiness to fulfill that wish.  If her mother was anything like mine, she cherishes hugs and loving gestures from her family - much more than material possessions.

The exchange I witnessed made me consider how my daughter will one day treat me.  It made me worry that she'll look at me with exasperation if one day I become disoriented or ask her a question one too many times.

As I stood there, with all this running through my head, worrying about how my daughter will treat me one day, I realized I can do nothing about that now.  All I can do is cherish and love my mother, the way she has done for me all my life - the way she deserves to be treated.  If that provides a positive example for my daughter and strengthens our relationship now and in years to come, it's icing on the cake!

Thanks Mom.  I love you!