“All Done Bobo”: Everything is a Phase

20130501-144513.jpg

phase:
1. A distinct period or stage in a process of change or forming part of development

 

 

When I first became a Mom, the best piece of advice I read was, “Everything is a phase. The good, the bad, everything.” I have no idea if this wise sage was a Babycenter message board or a fellow teacher from school but I do know this: that piece of advice is the single piece of advice I treasure more than anything as a parent.

Especially when I turn that advice on myself.

There are some days when I can’t think of anything but snuggling with them on the couch. Some days when I would rather lock myself in the bedroom with a good book. Some days when they are always clean and well dressed and well fed and some days when they are, well, just dressed. There are days when I hang on their every word and days that I am much too distracted to hear their little observations of life. There are days when we sing all the way to school and days when I turn the radio up to drown out whining. There are days when I am the beautiful-put together and oh so fun super Mom from Suburbia. And some days I am Parker’s Mom, the one who always forgets his Sharing Day. There are some days when I yell. And there are some days when I am so calm I shock even myself. (What I am saying here is so much better stated in this article posted yesterday).

Last night I sat on the couch and told Parker about his phase of saying, “All done Bobo” when he was done eating. He loves to hear about it and we love to tell it. It’s become our little story about our little boy and his saying. Our little slice of memory. Our phase. One of many of our favorite phases so far.

Celia’s in an accessory phase. Wears multiple hats, headbands, necklaces and shoes. Gets mad when you take them off. Insists on putting them on herself.

Parker is currently in a rhyming phase. He’s found some interesting words that rhyme with pit, puck and witch.

But like everything in parenthood–it’s all just a matter of time before this phase is over and another one begins. With every transition comes a phase. And with every new phase we both celebrate and mourn the passing of the last one.

These phases, they are short spans of time that make up something bigger. They are the pigments in the painting of yourself as a mother. You make your own brushstrokes, your kids make the rest. These little phases of life become a history. A highlight reel of the trials and tribulations of your family. They are the pieces that make you, the pieces that break you, the pieces that help super glue you back together. Without the phases—good, bad, all of it— we have no real record of it all happening— so quickly and so wonderfully.

So this month, I navgiate the latest biting phase, the whining phase, the baby talk phase and the not eating phase. I must remind myself that I am also navigating the sleep through the night phase, the put your shoes on yourself phase, the drink from a big boy cup phase and the say please and thank you phase.

Without phases, we don’t have those kernels of memories that teach us again and again who our little people are developing into. Without phases, it’s very hard to see the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. Without phases, we don’t have the stories that make up a childhood. And without phases, we don’t have the renewed sense of love and appreciation for the little people we have made.

So, cheers to the phase you are in now, may it last just long enough.

 

 

Parenting in the Age of Social Media: It’s Not the 80’s Anymore

Parenthoodintheageofsocialmedia.jpg

One of my favorite photos, thanks to Instagram

 

Parenting has plenty changed in 33 years. Parenting in the age of social media is two things. Undoubtedly easier and ever-so-more complicated. One of my favorite things to do is ask my Mom questions about what she did for safety, information, advice, etc. when she was a new Mom. The answer is usually: nothing. All she had was what was in her own Mommy arsenal. She was bereft of Dr. Spock, What to Expect or Happiest Baby on the Block. And we survived. Well, I did paint my eyes shut with clear nail polish. But in the end, I survived.

My Mom was not a helicopter parent or an uninvolved parent, she was right on the line between, “I trust you” and “If you do that again, I’ll kick your ass.” I doubt she ever consulted one magazine, one Dear Abby column, one self help book to help her with parenting. (Well, she did see a counselor at one point as I referenced in this post, but that was for something else entirely).

Helicopter-ing has its roots in the information we have been able to gather as parents. And, unfortunately, more information is not always better. In many cases, it can mean more opportunities for feeling like you’re falling short. But, I’ll get to that later.

First, just for fun, let’s just run down a few of my favorite things about parenting in the early 80’s.

  • Formula was said to be best. My Mom still breastfed. She was bad ass even then.
  • She used cloth diapers. Okay, so I might have secretly hated my Mom if I knew her in 1980. She was so au naturel.
  • There was no baby gate because she just kept me in the high chair, playpen, walker or crib. That’s where babies hung out.
  • She held me on her lap on the way home from the hospital.
  • She slept me on my belly right away.
  • Jane Fonda didn’t do aerobics with a stroller. It was just her and a leotard. And some weights. And feathered bangs.
  • My Mom didn’t have a monitor, she just heard me. Did she sleep through me crying? Maybe.
  • There was no hand sanitizer. We used soap. The bar kind. Liquid soap was only found in school bathrooms.
  • There was no Internet. (Gasp!)
  • There were no sophisticated sippy cups that kids lugged everywhere. Kids just drank out of cups. Glasses, actually with Tom and Jerry on them that were old jelly jars.
  • My Mom never “wore” me in a sling or a Bjorn– nor did she worry about a high-powered super-stroller– she just carried me.
  • Information about parenting was just a few articles in Good Housekeeping or First magazine— not the whole magazine.
  • There weren’t safety locks on things like the cupboards, doors, toilet bowl lids or even windows. BUT we did have an awesome label on my bedroom in the case of a fire to tell the firemen where I was sleeping. Weird.
  • The extent of shopping for “baby goods” was buying a crib, a carriage, some bottles, silver spoons and a layette. There was no way to warm your wipes (were there even wipes?) and no way to swing me unless you wound up the swing.

My sister had her first child in 1994— it was then that my Mom got a good taste of contemporary Momming–car seats, Baby Einstein, music class, organic food and fabric, “play dates” and all that good stuff. By 2009, when I had Parker, Mom information (Mom-formation?) was a full-fledged industry- Mommy blogs, email alerts on month by month growth, Facebook groups, La Leche League, Mom groups, Boppys, Bumbos, Pee pee tee pees and an Exersaucer in a pear tree.

She watched in awe as I would “show off” my Momming strategies in front of her. And listen intently as I quote, “Well, they say…” thinking that I am wise in the new ways of parenthood and navigating Mommy information. And, I am. Sort of.

Times they are a changin’. According to this article, blogs and social media are having a profound impact on our family lives. Is that a good impact or bad impact? Wonders the girl writing a blog that frequently has pieces on parenting. I mean, I have said to myself that I just think it’s good that we are talking about it. It means that we are giving more thought and time to our parenting than our parents ever did.

But, three years plus into this parenthood (four years if you account for the assault of information you read through when you get pregnant), I am thinking my Mom had it pretty good. I mean, don’t they say ignorance is bliss?

Between Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, BabyCenter and the many blogs there are to read out there, there’s a plethora of information available on How to Raise Your Kids Right. While I know that overall the information probably just makes me a more informed and possibly less freakish Mom– I also can see how some Moms might feel— well, like underachievers.

If you’re not pinning cute crafts, snapping adorable photos or Thinking About Their Future (choosing a preschool), then you have surely missed the Mommy information train to Super Parent-ville.

Like I said in my post about Facebook, parenting in the Age of Social Media should not be a contest. Sometimes it might feel that way because of the cute crafternoon someone had (yes, I know, the word makes me vomit too) or the ahh-mazing Disney vacation  album you just spent 15 minutes viewing online.

You see, it’s not just that we have more choices of what to buy for our kids and do for our kids, it’s that we are receiving more messages than ever of how to parent. And, quite possibly, the helicopter parent herself was born from this information overload. Plagued with the notion that You Can Never Do Enough: Even if You Try.

But, if that’s what we take away from the social media barrage of parenting information, then we have missed the point. The information is available to us because somewhere along the way, information became parenting commerce. The more you have, the better you will become. But, I only need to spend about 45 minutes with my two stir crazy toddlers to realize that it’s kids who teach parents, not parents who teach parents. There are no true secrets. There’s trial and error, good luck and lots of love. That’s really all we can work with. Maybe reading a blog about the terrible two’s can help you to survive them, but you will never read something that makes you a better Mom. You can try all the S’s from Happiest Baby on the Block but we all know, the baby decides when he sleeps, you don’t.

Parenting in the age of social media might seem easier. All the tools we need are right there– searchable, in black and white on our computer screens. But what is harder is that with all those expectations, all those Facebook statuses, all those blog posts, all those Pinterest pinboards, we have started to look at parenting as more of a science and less of an art. An art that we have all been capable of ever since we made the decision to become parents (or nature decided for us ;).

So, as artists, I challenge you to navigate this well of information with aplomb. You are not a parent who makes decisions based on what some Baby Center message board tells you. You are a real, live, breathing, parent. Your medium is not Pinterest or Babble or Motherlode. Your canvas is in your 18 month old’s repetition of “Hi Baybee, hi baybee,” as you take a road trip. Your paintbrush is in the exclamation from your toddler, “I did it all by myself!” It’s in the hushed words you exchange about how to handle the latest tantrums with your husband. It’s in the private look you share when one of them says something particularly adorable and baby-genius like. It’s in the parenting part of parenting. That’s the art.

And, I’m sorry, no books, or blogs or pinboards or will tell you that.