Monthly Archives: August 2013

Children: little animals

Standard

As Thing 2 gets older and we attribute more humanity to her actions I wonder how much we really do anthropomorphize babies. Of course it’s not strictly anthropomorphism since she is human (her nickname these days is beast. She’s prone to roaring, growling and roughness), but attributing rational emotions, thoughts and feelings to a distinctly irrational creature. I find myself saying things like, she likes this, she wants that, she means this, when in reality I do not know any such thing to be the case. Certainly she has animalistic urges, she is hungry, tired, curious, happy, and she is at the age where she has learned some good mimicry of gestures and even sounds, but she is still very undeveloped as a human and I wonder what the technical difference between her psyche and that of an intelligent animal is at this point. When people assert wishes and traits to pets they are deemed to be anthropomorphising them. I certainly am guilty of this myself. When we rehomed our dogs I attributed analogues of human feelings to them when they really had their own alien animal inclinations. I wonder if the same is true of babies? While babies are tiny people in training, they are not at all rational and much closer to animals than a rational person. Of course babies grow into slightly more rational little people and eventually into adults, whereas animals do not.

So is it accurate to attribute rational human emotions to babies or even children? I don’t think it is, but within reason. Since we are (hopefully) raising children to be functional adults, teaching them our mores and morals, we come to expect them to behave in certain ways. Of course I think (as someone who does not get out much and admittedly lives in a bubble of intelligent educated person privilege), that adults can, and often do, lack higher rational capacity as well. People act without considered thought, often on impulse and urges.

Of course it’s natural to want to frame things in terms and feelings we can understand. Bring people in from otherness and align them with our internal monologue. Give meaning to their actions. I would do this because of that, thus they are like me. I understand and empathize. All that is why we attribute more complex thought and rationalization to immature instinct and impulse driven small people. There’s no harm in assigning them desires and feelings, though there is harm in assuming they can make rational connections and understand our actions.  Which is why punishment is pointless before a certain age.

It’s so natural that Thing 1 does it in relation to Thing 2. We often hear her saying “Her wants this (we are stuck on proper nouns of late)”, “Her says this!”  So Thing 1 is either doing a very good job mimicking us (not unreasonable, though I find Thing 1 attributing thoughts and feelings to Thing 2 much more frequently than we do), or is expressing a more rational expressive empathy with her little sister.  Meanwhile Thing 2 is still a small sociopath…

Travel

Standard

So I decided that I would indeed go see my family one more time. This means I am going to make a 24 hour international journey with an 11 month old. Alone. I am not looking forward to it.

I more or less know what to do having taken Thing 1 on a similar journey when she was a little younger than Thing 2 is now. Though I wasn’t alone that time…

My quick list of tips is:

Baby carrier- have one for airport transit. Easy completely off and on is essential for US travel. I like it better for maneuvering than a stroller and it ties into #2:

Pack light. One suitcase, because you will also probably be lugging a car seat, a baby bag and your own carry on. On the topic of car seats, if you don’t have an easily packable one (We have a Cosco Scenera-lightweight and easy to use), or are going to a country with funny car seat laws- buy one. It is cheaper than renting in many cases.  We bought one last time, so are bringing one this time.

Toys. I put all the baby toys on a long necklace. This meant that baby could be worn (in a line for instance), and pick and choose various toys and, this is important, not throw them away. Also handy for on the plane. Loop the necklace over your head or through your shirt and baby has anchored toys that are not easy to lose on the airplane.

Snacks. I pack some, but this time I am going through an additional country where I will have to dispose of my food items, so I’m not packing too much. Keep them all in one place for easy throwing out at the disposal bins before you get to customs.

Your baby bag should also contain at least one change of clothing, nappies, wipes and a water cup or bottle.  And trash bags. Even old plastic shopping bags. Just in case you get some nasty clothing, have to change a nappy away from trash, etc. I like hand sanitizer too.

Things I’m experimenting with this time, I’m bringing a second baby carrier to basically tie my lap child on to me while she sleeps so that I can sleep too. I have some ring sling rings so am bringing a baby blanket and a gauze woven wrap that I can turn into a ring sling in a pinch. Gauze wrap can also be used for snot, drool and vomit if necessary.

Apparently lap children can get baby meals (jarred mush) or child meals as well. My travel agent arranged it this time, last time I had no idea. But if you are doing a DIY trip call the airline to ask maybe.

Travel insurance. Get it.

I anticipate my total carrying load to be, my purse, baby bag, one suitcase, one car seat, and a baby.

Younger babies are easier because they mainly just sleep. When we took Thing 1 she cuddled, she slept and was pretty amiable. I am worried about Thing 2 being slightly older. Our flight timing is not great either, we start early morning instead of later night so I expect a lot of awake baby. Good thing most international flights have free movies.

The bizarre snobbery of attachment parenting

Standard

There’s a big attachment parenting umbrella that covers all manner of things that are not really attachment parenting at all. Perhaps the moniker of crunchy parenting is a better fit.

Attachment parenting is fairly rooted in science, but a lot of the things that get lumped in under that term are not.  Some things I do, many I do not.

Baby wearing, co-sleeping, feeding on demand (no matter your feeding method)- all attachment parenting and with scientifically rooted benefits.

Cloth nappies(diapers), homeopathic products, natural remedies, rear facing car seats,  and alternative medicine- not attachment parenting. Some may have scientifically rooted benefits but they are not the hallmarks of attachment parenting. They seem to just be along for the ride.

I read this a while ago and it really covers a lot of my feelings on the subject of attachment parents. I like to do some of the things that fall under the attachment parenting umbrella and I am unable to do others and I think that others are …bad. So I don’t make friends easily because I don’t buy the whole package. Because I don’t do the whole package I don’t get classed in groups of other mums as an attachment parent. Which is….I’m not sure. It’s hard enough to feel kinship with people, at least with some kind of a label you expect that people might have similar interests. Perhaps it’s a label I should be happy to be dodging.

What do I do? I babywear, I cloth nappy, I co-sleep, I feed on demand (and baby led wean for solids because giving kids food while I eat mine is really lazy led weaning. Hey-o), I extended rear face with carseats, and I use a bit of natural remedies (though I try to be picky and scientifically conscientious and mainly apply them to myself anyhow).

But there is some freaky snobbery over many of these things. I will use baby wearing and cloth nappies as my main examples. I have a fair few baby carriers. One is a ‘popular’ (amongst babywearers) big brand, one I made, another few are semi- ‘off’ brands. I am fairly happy with my carriers. If I could justify it I might buy one more. Maybe two. I don’t get involved with other baby wearing enthusiasts because there is a pervasive snobbery favouring a type of carrier (linen wrap) and various brands thereof. I’m happy for you that you have a collection of expensive rectangular woven fabrics. Really I am. Some of them are very pretty and soft. But I do not like linen wraps as much as I like buckles. This does not make me less of a mother or a worse attachment parent. Ok? Ok.

The same thing happens with cloth nappies/diapers. There are brands to have, but there is also a slight snobbery from the people who use prefolds or wool covers. Just a bit of superiority that I don’t really get. Ok, I have some cheapo plain ones that have saved me a lot of money over Thing 1 and Thing 2’s nappy wearing time. They work, the elastic has needed a bit of repair in recent time, but it’s cool, I can sew. They are pockets, they are basic and boring and they work for me. Prefolds are ok (and I used them on Thing 2 until the pockets fit), but I have enough problems with my very easy pockets and daycare. I don’t look down on people who use other types (I admit I think the people who get caught up in the collecting of pretties are odd, but whatever), so I have never understood the…attitude. I have gotten attitude from people who use the more expensive name brands, and the people who use prefolds (which are the cheapest you can go really). One one end maybe it’s a brand snobbery, and the other it’s the knowledge that they are doing things hardmode….? So yeah. I don’t get it.

For me attachment parenting means I don’t fight with my baby for being a baby. I don’t try to make a baby conform to my adult schedule. Baby wants fed? Feed it. Baby wants held? Hold it. Understand that little people have undeveloped minds, but are still little people? Gotcha.

That’s pretty much it.

How the US medical system has ruined me.

Standard

…or maybe it was just growing up poor in the US. Regardless. I have an ingrained reluctance to visit the doctor. It seems crazy to me logically, because for my kids it’s free and it’s not that expensive for me either. I think another thing that plays into it is that I’ve had a lot of problems in the past getting assistance with various medical issues. When I run into dismissal from medical personnel I tend to shut down and stop asking them altogether.

When I was younger we were poor. I didn’t go to the doctor much. I was depressed I think as a child (frequent moving, no friends because of moving, emotional eating, parents divorce etc), but it manifested as a general malaise. I don’t remember going to doctors much (or really ever), but I do remember being taken to a slew of alternative practitioners. Acupuncture, muscle testing, aura viewing and so on were all used to diagnose and treat my malaise. I was diagnosed as allergic to a slew of common things which further isolated me. It’s unfortunate that my mother resorted to this as I think some of the recommendations were harmful physically and medically in the long term for me.

Because of my own medical issues I developed the philosophy that if I couldn’t physically point to what was wrong there was no point in going to the doctor. In my early 20’s I had gone to the doctor for something undefined. I gained around 50 pounds in about 6 months and was alarmed about it. After being dismissed and sent to various specialists, including a gastroenterologist, I had gotten a maybe-yes maybe-no diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome that did not fit the ‘right’ criteria.  I had one medical team ham handedly working on it. They were earnest, but it was over a decade ago (ok, more like 15 years ago) and they were rigid in their diagnosing criteria, which I was not meeting. Then I moved and the new doctor (after a six month wait mind you), insulted me and dismissed me, so that was the end of getting any help for that. I carried on only going to the doctor with issues I could point at and pretty much knew I could get treatment for. Because of the US medical system all this was expensive and led nowhere.

When I was a bit older I took another run at it. Told by a doctor to lose some weight I asked how I could go about doing that. Said doctor was baffled and had no recommendations. I’m sure his thought was ‘durr, eat less?’, but I had emphasized I exercised regularly and watched my intake. I was sent to a nutritionist and she found nothing wrong with my diet. So that went nowhere.  Also the nutritionist trip was very expensive because my medical insurance did not cover it.

After the birth of Thing 1 I went to my doctor four separate times asking for help, only to be turned away with a shrug. I asked for help some other places as well and didn’t get much. I guess I managed so well by myself that ‘keep doing what you are doing’ was the best response anyone could give. it didn’t address the actual medical issue at all, but it allowed us to manage. It was not ideal.

This problem with my attitude came to a head about a year ago when my older child ended up in the hospital. She had had a cold and a cough for a while. It was coming and going, but the cough was ever present. I had taken her to a (different) doctor for her tendency to have a lingering cough previously and been dismissed as ‘slightly wacko first time parent’. As is sometimes the case. So we just let her get worse and worse thinking that a doctor was unlikely to do much of anything. When we took her in that day she had been awake coughing pretty much all night and the day before. We were hoping for some kid okayed cough syrup or something. Instead we were sent to the hospital. Where she was in for two days. On oxygen. So yeah, we felt like scum.

When thing 2 was born I had the same issue as I had with Thing 1, and as a last ditch swapped doctors, who (mainly because I armed myself with information and a request for a specific medication) began treating me for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Woo. So, there is that. It didn’t help the issue I went in for (milk supply), but it is helping another one I had given up on (weight loss).

I’m not sure if it’s just my bad attitude or some kind of institutional bias I have encountered from being female, poor, overweight or having a chronic condition. I feel like if I don’t know what the problem is likely to be then the doctor is a waste of my time, and depending on where you are, money. It doesn’t strike me as that is how is should be. I feel like it’s wrong that I need to either drop hints or flat out ask for specific treatment. Even now that it’s essentially free for my kids to go to the doctor, I balk at taking them. I think I’ll be dismissed or criticized. I put off going for myself as well because I don’t feel like it will do anything. It’s really no wonder that it’s a common thing to wait until a medical problem requires emergency work to get treatment. it’s because people are sensitive to being dismissed. If we gather the muster to seek help we do want to be taken seriously, not shrugged at.

How I fell out of love with my dogs

Standard

Before we had kids we had dogs. We got our first dog when we had been together two or three years in 2002 I think. She was our apartment dog. My husband wanted the specific breed (miniature Dachshund), so we found a breeder and got one. We drove three hours to get her. She was pampered and well cared for.

When we bought a house we got another dog in 2004. Dog number one was a few years old at this point. We looked into fosters and rescues but found the volunteers for the ones we looked at flakey. We ended up getting a puppy from a no-kill shelter. We redesigned our yard to accommodate the dogs. He ended up a lot bigger of a dog than we planned on. We did training and obedience classes.

Then we got serious about moving overseas. Of course we were taking the dogs. My husband suggested leaving them, one with his grandparents, ship the other one to his mother. I was determined to keep the dogs with us. I anthropomorphized them to the point that I thought they would be sad if they were not together, sad if they were not with us. So we did the year of expensive veterinary tests, paid for the pet shippers and the month of quarantine and brought them with us in 2008. That was about $7000.

Once we moved we had to live in some substandard places because of the dogs. Finding a rental with dogs is hard. Dog food was really expensive when we first arrived so we looked into making our own. The dogs came to prefer the raw bones, meat and potatoes we made for them.

Then we had a baby in 2010. The dogs had an ok yard, we had a tiny place, and we all got on. We moved to a larger house with a larger yard for the dogs. We kept on making their food. The baby loved watching the dogs, but we kept them separate. The small dog was untrustworthy and the larger dog was boisterous.

Then we had another baby in 2012. The dogs were secondary to everything else we were doing. They got fed but otherwise we paid them very little attention. We were so busy with kids and life. Really, we did not love the dogs like we used to any more. We didn’t emotionally need them. I guess that means we got the dogs for the wrong reasons, but can you know you will fall out of love with a pet as your life changes? They became more of a hassle. Children grow and change, but dogs do not. We no longer had time for making their food, for taking them for walks, or even for regular playing. We could manage one out of those three any given week. Food was the usual choice. The dogs were just a chore.

So we made the decision to look for new homes for them. I felt terrible about it at the time, but I think it ended up being a really good decision. The older smaller dog went to live with a retired lady. The bigger dog went to live with a single guy. We vetted the people before giving the dogs away and still get updates occasionally.  They did not mind at all being split up and by all accounts are very happy in their new homes.

We moved again after giving the dogs away and moved to a no pet house. When we buy a house my husband says maybe we should get a puppy, but I am against the idea. Even though I know the dogs are happy I feel like we failed as dog owners. We didn’t give them forever homes. We fell out of love with them but stayed responsible. I guess at least we didn’t abandon them or even drop them at a shelter. I’ll never wrap my head around that. I mean we did still want the best for them, we just realized that was no longer us. It would have been an act of selfishness to keep them.

Maybe someday we can get an older dog. Or a cat. Or a fish.