Friday, June 21, 2013

My Parenting Fails

Yesterday, my 8-month-old bit me. This is the toothmark:

He looked up at me with his toothy smile, proud as punch - "I have teeth! Just in case you hadn't noticed!" I shrieked in surprise, then turned him away from me so I could laugh into my sleeve. Just another example of what a bad parent I am: I'm sure there's some Theory out there that would enlighten me as to how I could use this as a Teaching Moment. The friend who was with me at the time reappeared from behind the door where she'd hidden herself to laugh and said: "Bite him back!"
The next time I will.

See, I feel a little remiss about my son's non-appearance on this blog, because everyone else who blogs with children spends a lot more time talking about them than I do. They frequently share their birth stories and outline the various Theories they ascribe to. So I think it's time for me to do the same.

My birth story
"Do you have a birth plan?" asked the midwife.
"Yes," I said. " 'Get him out!'"
"Okay," she said.
Eighteen hours later, I got him out. It was a bit weird: more people saw my nethers in that one day than had in my entire life hithertofore. The pain was unpleasant but it was finite, so I dealt with it.
That was it, really. No biggie, thank goodness. Hope the next one - if there's ever a next one - will be as straightforward.

My Parenting Skillz

So we took the baby home and put him in the nursing bed. The first night he mewled in the darkness and waved his little fists about and he looked so lost that I pulled him into bed with us. I figured that people had been doing it for millenia, so it couldn't be too bad. I made him his own space, with his own little blanket, and he slept there till he was happy to sleep in his cot by himself, five months later.

Having been given a bombastic set of chesticles, I decided to make them pay their way. I breastfed the baby whenever he felt hungry because I thought the poor little bugger was too young to fake hunger. At five months, he started grabbing our food and regularly enjoyed a stolen croissant for breakfast, so we gave him some solids. Which he pegged into himself at lightning speed. One day, at six months, he unlatched himself from my bosom, fake-gagged, and refused to ever breastfeed again. I closed the doors of the dairy, happily consigned my ugly maternity bras to the back of the closet and returned to underwear that held all my bits in place.

From the beginning onwards, he wanted to be in the middle of everything, and this desire was somewhat handicapped by my not having more than two hands. So I bought an excellent baby carrier from a German company called Storchenwiege and plopped him in there. I could go around doing stuff and he could be on board interfering in the stuff I was doing.

All good so far, right? Not a single parenting book or forum did I read. I just did what had to be done when it had to be done and if it didn't work, we tried something else. However, I've been reliably informed that I wasn't just being sensible or pragmatic, I was actually practising Co-Sleeping, Breastfeeding On Demand, Baby-Led Weaning, Baby Carrying and maybe even Attachment Parenting! Yay, me!

 And, even more exciting: were I looking for confirmation about the above, reams of paper have been sacrificed in the writing of tomes on each of them. Entire forums (fora?) are dedicated to mothers talking to each other about all the Capitalised Things they are doing to benefit their offspring. From remarks made by other mothers on the subject of the above, I am led to believe that you are entitled to be a little bit smug about how well you are parenting if there's an academic paper online somewhere to back up your decisions.
Who needs expensive toys when you can sit your child
in a laundry basket in front of the washing machine?
Best of all, one should read it and quote it to other mothers ("You stopped breastfeeding when the baby was six months old? Umm, well, I breastfed till Ivor was nearly 25 months. After all, the World Health Organisation's paper on breastfeeding recommends you do it till the baby is at least two. Would you like me to send you the link to the paper?")

But here's the thing, readers - and brace yourselves for some salty language:
I am frikken knackered.
Like, exhausted.
I have very little time for myself and the time I do have, I don't want to spend it online with a bunch of wimmin going on about how well they're parenting their children, when they probably actually should be offline doing it in real life instead. I don't have time to read books about how to develop my child's creative urges or how women in Borneo have been carrying their babies in shawls for 60,000 years and no Bornean child ends up in teenage therapy. I'm happy if some of the food that enters his facial airspace actually goes into his mouth. I'm ecstatic about a poop. As long as he's laughing, and I'm laughing, and we both get a few hours' sleep every night - well, I'm delighted.

My Parenting Goal is to raise a decent human being. And not mess him up too much. And still be talking to him when he's 30. That's about it. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to achieve that yet - or, if indeed, I will at all - but I hope I can manage it with a bit of common sense and good humour. If I ever have free time in the next eighteen years - which looks unlikely - I'll borrow a few books or go online and be informed about what I'm doing wrong.

In the meantime, I'll muddle on. And if the little stinker bites me again, so help me, I'll bite him back.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

This Is Not Funny

I'm writing this in a puddle of perspiration. My elbows are sticking to my tablecloth, making a nasty sucking noisy when I lift them up. Two weeks ago, I was wearing my winter coat; Germany was under floods of water - we had the wettest May on record. Now we have this: 37°C (99°F) at 5 p.m.

No, no, no. Gingerbread Ladies are not made for this kind of weather.

Proof: I kid you not!

Faced with being hot and sticky at home or hot and sticky in the park, the Gingerbread Cookie and I chose the park. I even kicked off my well-worn Birkenstocks (how German I have become!) and exposed my troll-feet to the elements. My son turned his face away to hide his horror:

The yellow building in the background - in case you don't have one at home - is an Orangerie. This is where one puts one's citrus trees during the winter season, dears. The prince that built the park had this built because, well, God forbid you would not have your freshly-pressed orange juice for breakfast. (Nowadays it's used by the university's music department and for formal functions.)

We are awaiting - not so much eagerly as with some trepidation - a huge thunderstorm this evening. I hope it cools a little because I have some crocheting I want to finish and share with you all. Sticky fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Dirty Floor and the Creative Urge

Up till yesterday morning, my kitchen floor was filthy. Really, really dirty. When my sister and her family left, they also left behind a floor that suffered for a week beneath ten pairs of mucky feet, fresh in the door from rainy playgrounds and damp sandboxes. And I meant to clean it, honest I did. It's just so ... tiresome. I hate housework, I really do. The advent of mobile devices has assuaged my hatred somewhat, as I now can watch documentaries about the Vikings on my iPad while scrubbing the bathtub, but given the choice, I'd rather not scrub anything, ever.

While here, Emily and I talked about her now-hibernating project to co-write (with other people, not me) about being a creative mother (or maybe that should be: Creative Mother). We came to the conclusion that it's very hard to teach someone how to be creative - and probably the last thing you ought to write a book about. If you're creative, you spend every single spare minute doing things and making things and thinking about ways to do and make things. You don't need to make the conscious decision to do this, you do it because not doing it is like not scratching an itch, not removing an eyelash from your eyeball or a stone from your shoe. You do it because you have to. If you're like me, your Amazon shopping basket is possibly full of soap-making supplies, your living room is full of bags of yarn, you have pens and notebooks stashed everywhere and a crochet hook in your nightstand. You also have a dirty kitchen floor, an over-flowing hamper of unwashed laundry (and, on that subject, you probably can't remember where you put your iron, it's been so long since you used it.) You occasionally shovel a spoon of apple purée in your infant son's ear, because you're daydreaming about your next project and don't notice him bend down to fetch a fallen toy.

See? Not the kind of thing you write about, not something whose virtues you extol in connection with mothering, as much of my creative urge results in neglected household duties and an apple-eared child.

But what's creativity anyway? One of my friends is adamantly uncreative in the traditional sense. She can't draw for toffee, she says. She mangled a scarf in knitting class forty years ago and has not picked up a needle since. But she's tidy, oh my goodness, she's tidy. She cleans and tidies for fun. Her house is beautiful, her cupboards are a joy. She puts things in order - by shape, size, colour, age. She expresses herself through order and organisation and I am every bit as much in awe and envy of her skills as she is of mine. I could no sooner teach her to be spontaneously creative than she could teach me to spontaneously clean. While my kitchen floor would make her itch, I can blithely ignore it till I have done more important (to me) things, like sew together a stack of motifs, testing my latest pattern:

When the last treads were woven in, photos taken and uploaded, then I got out the mop and did the kitchen floor. I now have a clean kitchen and a new blanket - happiness all round!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tea, Cake and Rain

Never apologise!
That's the advice given on one of those "How to blog" blogs. But I feel I should apologise. My blogposts have been irregular, to say the least, this year. That being said, I'd just like to thank anyone who takes the time to comment, I really appreciate and enjoy reading them. One of the things I love to do in my (now rare and precious) free time is to look at your blogs, going back through your posts and photos - it really is a treat.

In any case, what have we been up to over here? Well, my sister, her husband and their five - count them: five - children came to visit. When they left Ireland, the weather was miserable there and wonderful here; as soon as they arrived here, their meteorological fortunes were reversed. Germany saw the wettest May on record, while the sun split the heavens in Ireland. Over here, in Bavaria, dams burst and rivers flooded:

So we had no choice but to hunker down and get cosy.
 We did daily trips to the playground, where we I mean, the children built sandcastles and ate ice-cream. Often in the rain - but we're Irish, so most things we do outdoors are in the rain anyway. We are fearless! (Or foolhardy - take your pick.)

My sister Emily and I went shopping, finding a shop that we both put on our "Things to Buy When We Win The Lottery" list - no, not a cup or two or twenty. The ENTIRE shop. All of it.

Inspired by these visions of fine dining and (more to the point) commissioned by a local yarn shop ("Y'know those donuts you made? Can you make some more?") I started making crocheted baked goods. And just in case you feel like a virtual snack, here's the pattern for the cupcakes and here's the pattern for the donuts!

This is my Fancy China. It normally resides in a cupboard, while I use bucket-like mugs from the
99c shop, which sadly don't photograph quite as well. While here, Emily and I discussed our nefarious Blogging Lies,
wherein we take nice photos that belie the fact that we are both extraordinarily untidy people,
coming to the conclusion that no one wants to see the mountain of clutter that constitutes
our real lives. Instead, we will show you our pretty porcelain and relatively uncluttered
work surfaces and we shall all pretend that this is our general reality, as opposed to our
(Op)Posed Reality. Please play along.