Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raising Children by Anna Quindlen

A friend forwarded this email to me today and I enjoyed it too much not to share. It came at just the right time, too---this has been a tough week with Emma Claire's 2-year molars breaking through (can we say lots of whining, screaming, crying, and not sleeping??) and Grayson just being a general pain in my rear (all those people who warned me that the Terrible 3's are worse than the Terrible 2's were right!)....

Yesterday we walked into the house after I picked them up from school and they both started screaming at me about peanut butter and jelly/applesauce/bananas/pick me up/she took my cup/I want more milk/that's MINE/etc, and as I was scrambling around to get them what they needed yet at the same time trying to teach them that screaming at Mommy isn't acceptable, I began to worry about how we're going to manage with a third child added to this chaos. Ben happened to call shortly after everybody was fed and settled (a.k.a. quiet) and I gave him a recap on what my last hour had been like. A few hours later he called to say hi and tell me that he'd been thinking about what I'd said, and he couldn't help but feel so happy and blessed to have such an amazing family. It might be crazy and chaotic at times, but in reality we are truly blessed to have two (almost three) healthy, beautiful, happy children. He's absolutely right, and I think that Anna Quindlen's article is a must-read for anybody with children. These days when they're young and so needy are going to fly by, and one day I know I'll look back and miss them. :) Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

Raising Children
by Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.

I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast.Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon, and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages, dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, and finally what the women on the playground, and the well-meaning relations -- well what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything.

One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.

To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago pouring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made.They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did " Hall of Fame.The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs.The times the baby fell off the bed.The times I arrived late for preschool pickup.The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp.The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1.

And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top.

And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me awhile to figure out who the experts were.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009


My sister-in-law Anna (my brother's wife) is pregnant and scheduled for a c-section next week, so we had to get some belly pictures of us before her belly is gone. These were taken this morning--me at 29 weeks and Anna at 36 weeks. Whitt can't wait to grow up so close in age to his cousin, Taylor! :) 

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Monday, April 20, 2009

First ponytail!

Another milestone for Miss Priss! I just wish she'd leave it in!! :)

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28 weeks!

This pregnancy is flying by at lightning speed! I can hardly believe that I'm already 28 weeks along and this little boy will be here in less than three months. I'm doing really well--I get weekly progesterone injections (not fun!!) that have so far been successful at preventing the preterm labor issues I had in my other pregnancies. I've never been this far along and not been on full bed rest, so I'm really enjoying living a normal life while expecting. I'm having some difficulty gaining weight (still below my pre-pregnancy weight), but I eat like a pig and the growth ultrasounds have shown that the baby is growing nicely and measures exactly as he should, so I'm confident that he'll be healthy no matter how much I end up gaining. 

We are going to name him Charles Whitt and call him Whitt---Charles is after a good family friend who passed away two years ago at the very young age of 22, and Whitt is Ben's great-grandmother's maiden name. Grayson talks about "Baby Whitt" constantly, and loves to give my belly kisses and hugs. Emma Claire really doesn't get what's going on, but she does like to lift up my shirt and say "Whitt". :) 

It's funny how different things are with the third baby. With Grayson, we had the nursery set up by my fourth or fifth month, and by this point in my pregnancy all of his clothes were washed and put away, and everything was just waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting!) for his arrival. With Emma Claire, the nursery was pretty much complete by a few weeks before her due date, although it wasn't nearly as cute as Grayson's nursery had been. This time, we have NOTHING ready and have no idea when we'll have time to do it all. We are planning on moving Emma Claire's crib and changing table/dresser down to the guest room and moving everything from the guest room up to the bonus room, but so far none of that has been done. I've been gathering baby stuff from around the house and tossing it into a pile in the guest room, so we have a good bit of the stuff he'll need in one place, but I highly doubt the nursery will be complete by July---and the thing is, neither Ben nor I are worried about it. We know that all he really needs are some clean clothes, a bassinet, and some diapers---all of which he'll have by the time he gets here. :)

We are all anticipating meeting little Whitt in a few weeks and know that he will be the perfect addition to our family! 

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EdVenture trip

Emma Claire, Gee Gee, and Grayson
shopping in The Little Pig
sweet buddy :)

I love this!!! 

Grumpy Grayson didn't want to leave this room...this is his "grumpy face" that always makes us laugh :)

My mother-in-law and I took Grayson and Emma Claire to EdVenture, the children's museum in Columbia last week---what a fun day! I think Nancy and I enjoyed it just as much as the children did. Thank you so much for taking the day off from work and spending it with us, Gee Gee!! 

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Easter morning

Emma Claire spent most of the night before Easter screaming, crying, and just not sleeping (two days later I took her to the doctor and found out that she had a double ear infection...oops!), so she was not in any mood to check out what the Easter Bunny had brought her. Grayson, on the other hand, was thrilled to wake up to a basket full of jellybeans and books. The Easter Bunny also brought him the coolest truck that he can take apart with a little automatic drill---a definite recommendation to anybody out there with a 3 year old boy! Happy Easter!

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Dying Easter the buff!

Anybody who knows me well knows that if my children do anything messy (coloring, playdough, eating anything with red sauce, standing still in the middle of the room...just kidding!), their clothes have to be off. I am terrible at can't stand treating stains, so I'd rather just have them down to their diaper/underwear and prevent the stains in the first place. On a side note, Grayson was way past his first birthday before I'd feed him with clothes friend Christie always said that he was going to grow up thinking you had to take your clothes off before you could eat. :)

Anyway, all of those words just to explain why my children dyed Easter eggs outside with no clothes on! We had fun, the eggs turned out pretty darn cute, and our fingers were green for days. :)

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Tutu attire

Emma Claire was invited to her friend Grace's birthday party a couple of weeks ago, and the invitation said "tutu attire". Oh my goodness, this was the CUTEST little party with all of the one and two-year olds dressed in their tutus. They ended the party by going down the road to a new dance studio for a dance lesson---so precious!! Unfortunately, my good camera's battery died right after I took this picture and the rest of the pictures are on my little camera, and if anybody knows where I put the cord for that camera, please let me know! :) I'll add more pictures to this post when I find the cord, but for now you can see this one lone picture of my sweetie pie in her tutu! 

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009