Category: Life With Toddler

Separation Anxiety Sucks

Okay. I am tired and frustrated, so I hope this isn’t too much venting. I just need a place for it. I’m struggling with Baby J’s anxiety about being apart from Uno. There are times when I feel rejected and then, worst of all, I feel mad at him. Yes, mature, I know. Sigh. It’s often when he’s tired or teething or who knows – say he wakes up early from his nap in a grumpy-as-hell mood. I go up, try and soothe him with all my calm-mama mojo. No way. He screams until he gets what he wants, which is a nice cuddle from Uno and a nurse. Or it’s more subtle, as in: I come into the room, he’s basically indifferent, Uno comes into the room, his face lights up with utter joy. She hands him to me, he fights and fusses. Caveat: he IS often happy to see me, especially when he’s hoping for a tickle. He does seek me out for comfort and attention when it’s just the two of us out in the world (at the park, at the grocery store). I take him for walks, I take care of him, I know he and Uno need me. But…

There IS a difference in how he responds to us. And sometimes, it hurts my feelings. And then, I don’t respond with kindness or patience to my family. And then, I feel guilty.

Tonight, we came home late from a big family dinner; baby J was overtired. We did our usual – I went to give him his bath, put him in pj’s, and read to him; Uno got ready for bed and for a long nursing session. However, he threw a huge screaming fit about the bath. He was doing the silent cry. Heaving sobs. Purple face. The silent cry! Good god. My blood pressure was rising. I gave him a speed bath and carted him upstairs still screaming. Tried to soothe him to no avail. Books? Forget about it. (Oddly, when he gets like this, as he has when we’ve tried night weaning, he does get furious if I put him down. So he wants me to hold him. But he screams and screams). Then she came in, he reached for her, stopped crying (whew, like magic), and started nursing like he was a dying man in the desert. I was super rattled. And I said something jerky when she asked me to give him a goodnight kiss.

It’s not his fault, not her fault – is it my fault? It’s no one’s fault. I don’t know. I DO know this laundry list: it’s developmental, it’s especially affected by her being the primary caregiver, it’s related to their strong nursing bond. I know that it helps when I spend focused, intentional time with him, particularly one-on-one. And, yes, I’m aware that my reaction affects him – i.e. my frustration about his response escalates the problem.

Uno and I have talked a lot about this and it’s hard on her, because she wants, of course, for me to feel confident in my parenting. Confident and equal, not competitive, not anxious. She also can’t change the biological facts, and she enjoys their nursing relationship, and it might very well be her last/only time to do it. Indeed, she works hard at it, and it’s not easy. I really want to support her. I have, I do. But in some sense – I’m just gonna admit it – I’m jealous. I feel helpless, unable to soothe him. I’m tired of him nursing at night. I hate being snappy and mean when I feel rejected by him. I want to keep my mouth shut instead of saying negative things to him or Uno.

It’s been harder since I started my second teaching job and am distracted and dealing with more work. I’m the first to acknowledge that. I need to work on how I handle stress: I have been, will continue to – I’m an anxious brain; it’s my cross to bear. Also, Uno’s mom is staying with us until she gets her own place set up (she’s moved here, another story), and the sharing of our space isn’t always easy. They’re home with baby J all day, so when I come back I feel even more disconnected. Finally, we’re all sleep deprived.

Well, there you have it. I’ve held back writing about this because I feel defensive. I don’t want to admit this is a problem. As I’ve said, it’s not a problem all the time; baby J and I do have an amazing, intense bond. Irrational as it may be, it feels like admitting that our baby prefers Uno negates that. I’ve also held back writing about this because it frankly feels so CLICHE. As in, I read about parenting dynamics in queer families. I’ve worked on my own fears. Analyzed them. Written about them. Shouldn’t I know how to deal with them?

Oh, sigh. I’ll probably password-protect this later. Thanks so much for listening.

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He’s The Cutest Even Though He Doesn’t Sleep

Sleep through the night? What’s that, guys? Been harder since I’ve been back teaching. Eyes heavy as I type this. But isn’t he cute? He’s got four teeth now (finally). I call him snaggletooth. He loves playing with his food, he gurgles and babbles and shrieks and giggles, and he’d rather be outside than almost anything. I miss him when I’m away, but I enjoy being away, too. (Not grading papers, though – not so much that). He’s also walking with aplomb.

Back To Reality

On Monday, I return to work for the first time in … oh, over seven months. I know! I’ve been so, so, so lucky. We took a family sabbatical and while it stretched on longer than we intended, and meant sacrificing personal space and finances, I’d absolutely do it again. (Okay, maybe not the whole live-with-my-mother thing, and maybe not the whole no-leads-on-any-employment thing, but I’d be willing to make significant sacrifices to get the family time off). It’s taught me to slow down, for one thing, to learn baby J’s pace, to be more patient. It’s also given us lots of time to navigate our parenting together, to find our rhythms and deal with our differences (to sleep train, or not to sleep train?).

There have been hard spots: stress over money, stress over jobs, feeling restrained in our living space, less couple time, less me time for both of us. But there has been much joy and relaxation: long rainy walks, baby beach bliss, lattes and laziness, laughing at baby J’s antics, both of usĀ  present for all his milestones. We’ve managed to develop a very natural give-and-take with our parenting. Not that the sabbatical was the only way to achieve it, of course, but I am grateful for the space it’s given us. We were lucky enough to have this natural pause in our lives and we jumped on it, eyes closed, fingers crossed, and I admire that impulse now.

So, into the breach. I’m teaching part time at one place and part time at another, and between that and Uno’s continued unemployment benefits (those have really floated us), we’re getting by. This is obviously not a forever situation, but it’s a good place to start. It takes the pressure off Uno and gives her the ability to look for best-case scenario jobs instead of just, well, anything she can get. I’m finding that I’m happy to go back to teaching, that I’ve missed students, missed the zingy energy it gives me, missed the formality it lends my schedule. I’m figuring out how to juggle the workload now that we have a toddler, which is tough. Tough in that I was a binge-and-purge kind of instructor, before: plunge into it after too much procrastinating, lose sleep, forgo food, rely on caffeine, white-knuckle it driving to campus so that I can makecopiesbeforeclass. Then, you know, crash. Not so great for family life, as it turns out, not least because I am a snappy stress-ball too much of the time. So, as I return to it, I vow to parcel out the work. To take a breath. To plan ahead more thoroughly. I want to be able to enjoy my snuggly kiddo and his graham cracker face (the boy subsists on graham crackers and raisins) before I leave in the morning. Gulp. It’s a big transition for all of us.

Speaking of which, someone has to FINISH her syllabi and go to bed STAT.

About Time

Oh, bloggy blog blog. How I have missed you! I went through a funk that involved not getting a job, wondering why my life is the way it is – you know, all of it. The funk persisted. I didn’t know what to write about that wasn’t depressing. Then, bam, I got hired. It’s half-time, teaching at a community college, but I do get benefits after two quarters and there is always the chance a full-time position will open up. That led to us deciding to rent a house in the same town as the college, which is not my dream town, but we’ve adjusted. Actually, Uno had adjusted all along, because she’s very wonderful, but I was clinging to said funk. “But, but, it’s not hip. There are no BOOKSTORES I like. There are no RESTAURANTS I like.” Etcetera. To which she would respond: “Who has time for cafes?”

Right. Gotcha. One year-old in the house.

Then she would add: “We can listen to NPR and read the New Yorker over coffee there, too.”

And I would laugh, because really, am I so predictable? (And again: one year-old in the house. Who’s reading the New Yorker?)

At any rate, we’re settling in, after much insanity, discussion, moving logistics, number crunching, and struggling to change baby J’s routines. And guess what? I am over myself. This place is FAN.TAS.TIC. I mean, our house: it’s got three bedrooms! A basement! I can has office. I can has storage. Baby J. can cruise all over creation with his multiple giant plastic wheeled toys. We have plants in the windowsill. We’re in heaven. I’ve discovered we can walk to: a beautiful waterfront park, a coffeeshop, a Filipino restaurant, a marina, my workplace, and the ferry to Seattle. Well, I knew about the last two, but it’s just now dawning on me. We can WALK!

So, that’s the chaos of the last couple of months in a nutshell. Our darling blue-eyed squealer turned one in the meantime, and he’s on the go, go, go. A bit of walking, lots of cruising the furniture and speed-crawling. I love the little person he’s becoming. More soon…