Four

My first-born son, my baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby, is four years old today!

Littleman has grown and matured so much this year.  He became a big brother and has rocked that role, right from the start.  His baby brother worships him and I love to see their relationship developing.

Everyday I am amazed at all the things Littleman can do on his own.  He is so independent these days.  He can reach the light switches, go to the bathroom on his own, wash his hands, get dressed.  He can talk on the phone to his grandparents, ask politely for what he wants, help set the table.  He’s learning to ski and skate and swim.  He’s no longer as shy as he used to be and it blows my mind when he goes off for his lessons with barely a wave in our direction.

Three was an interesting age. I found it harder to parent a three-year-old than a two-year-old. Littleman’s patience was in short supply and he struggled with listening. I would get frustrated with him, which never helped. Things seem to be getting better as he continues to mature. There are still some meltdowns and whiny moments at home, but my boy is very polite and well-behaved outside our home.  People often compliment us, which, I must admit, feels good.  I have to remind myself of those compliments when I’m in the middle of battle with him at home.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been a mom for four years.  In some ways it feels like he’s always been here, but sometimes I don’t know where this big kid came from!

I was looking back at what I wrote on his birthday last year.  At that time, I was dealing with a lot of guilt about being distracted by other things that were going on and not being fully focused on Littleman.  This year, it’s a different kind of guilt.  I’ve spent much of this year focusing on the baby, while Littleman has waited (usually very patiently) for his turn getting the attention.  I hope, in the coming year, I can find a way to split my time and attention more evenly so that Littleman and I can get some good mommy and son time together.

Happy Birthday, Littleman!  I am so proud of the incredible boy you are becoming.

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Last day

Today is the last day that Bo and I will spend at home together before he starts daycare. On Monday, we will begin a slow transition to daycare in advance of my return to work in March.

I have been lucky enough to have a whole year of maternity leave. At the end of each of my pregnancies, I remember thinking “a year. A whole year!” But then life happens and a year is gone in the blink of an eye.

I’m not ready. I’m not ready to leave this sweet, smiling boy. I’m not ready to see the inevitable tears as I leave him when he’s not expecting it. I’m not ready for daycare-itis, the never ending colds that he’s sure to pick up during his first year.

I know this is all just another part of growing up, of becoming a big kid. Before I know it, he’ll be waving goodbye and running off to play with his buddies. But I’m not ready yet.

Today we’ll spend the day getting ready for his big brother’s fourth birthday. We will nurse and cuddle and enjoy our day at home. On Monday, we will figure out our new normal. Til then…

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The things they know

When we spend weekends at the farm with my parents, often they’ll take Littleman to church with them on Sunday mornings.  I grew up in a Catholic household, attending Catholic school and going to church every Sunday with my parents.  As an adult, I no longer practice any religion, however we did have our children baptised and Littleman enjoys going to mass with his grandparents.

On this particular Sunday, my mom and Littleman attended the children’s portion of the service, which includes a story and short lesson.  The teacher was asking the children what they could do to be more like Jesus (or something along those lines).  Apparently kids were giving ideas like praying or being nice to their siblings.  The teacher talked about how important it is to be kind to your brothers and sisters.  Makes sense, right?

This, though, is when my mom got confused.  Littleman turned to her and said, “I had a sister, but she died.”  What?  My mom was genuinely confused.  She told him, no he didn’t.  So he clarifies.  “Yes, she was in mommy’s tummy before Bo, but she died.”

Understandably, my mom doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my miscarriage that happened almost two years ago so it wouldn’t have been the first thing she thought of.  She came home from mass and told me about the conversation.  It blew my mind.  First of all, Littleman was only two years old when I had the miscarriage.  He knew about the pregnancy, but since I was only 14 weeks along, we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl.  He always called it his sister, but we certainly hadn’t told him that.  Also, we definitely never told him that he had a sister who died.  Yes, he knew that the baby was gone, but he was very young and we didn’t think he understood very much about what was happening.  Only a few months later, I was pregnant with Bo and, now, he’s had a brother for almost a full year.  What would make him remember that?

I remember now the strange moment a few days before I learned of the miscarriage.  I was putting Littleman to bed when he looked up towards the ceiling and muttered some gibberish.  Then he said “Puppet gone.” (Puppet was our nickname for the baby we lost).  At the time, I assumed this was just toddler nonsense, but later would learn that he was absolutely right.

All this has made me realize that there is a whole lot that goes on in his little mind.  It also made me realize that things that happen when our kids are very young can still have quite an impact on them – much more than we would expect.  Yes, that time in our lives was very hard and I was struggling a lot, but I had no idea that Littleman was aware of what was going on to this extent.

I wonder what sparked him to remember that loss and whether it’s something he’ll forget about with time.  I, of course, still think about it a lot and talk about it with those who I know care to hear it.  But it isn’t something we talk about with our young kids right now.  He didn’t mention it again after they got home from church and I never brought it up with him.  I guess I should think about how to explain it to him if he brings it up again.  Any suggestions for talking about miscarriage with a preschooler?

Bodily frustrations

I find women’s bodies to be both fascinating and infuriating.

On one hand, it’s pretty amazing what our bodies are (sometimes) capable of doing.  Pregnancy, as frustrating and challenging as it can be, totally blows my mind.  I somehow managed to grow two humans.  Then, if that wasn’t enough, my body allowed me to feed these tiny humans.  Crazy!

On the other hand, though, is the uncertainty that comes along with having this miraculous body.

I got an IUD inserted two weeks ago at 10 months postpartum.  I am still breastfeeding and, until that moment, I had not had any bleeding or even any menstrual symptoms since before getting pregnant.  I had a bit of spotting for two days after the IUD was put in, which I’m told is normal.  Then it stopped.  Five days later it started again, but this time I had the familiar cramping that always comes along with my periods.  WTF?  Can it really be back?  Nonononononoooooo!  It’s now a week later and I’m still bleeding.  Argh!

I had an ultrasound a couple of days ago to confirm that the IUD is in the correct position.  It is.  Everything is normal.  So, it appears that my period has miraculously returned.  What irks me is that one of the selling features of this IUD is that periods can be lighter than normal or disappear altogether.  That sounded pretty great to me but apparently I’m the exception to that rule.  So far, mine is twice as long as normal!

I hope this is just a fluke or my body is just sorting itself out after all that time being pregnant and nursing.  Because what the hell’s the point of having this stupid IUD if I’m feeling too gross to have sex?  I know some people don’t mind getting down to business while having their period but I’m not one of those people.

Parenting guilt trip

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a cold. I felt crappy but had to get up with the kids, nonetheless.

I nursed Bo while D got breakfast for Littleman. Then I plopped Bo on the floor to play while I sat on the couch with my coffee. I flipped on the TV and put on our morning show to catch the news while Littleman ate his bowl of cereal in front of his iPad.

All of a sudden, I noticed Bo engrossed with the TV. And what was on the screen? A commercial lecturing me about kids and screen time.

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Oops. We try not to let the boys watch too much TV, but sometimes we just need it. What I don’t need, though, is the TV making me feel guilty about it!

My son’s first birthday party

I’m in the midst of planning Littleman’s first birthday party.  No, you didn’t misread that.  I’m not talking about Baby Bo’s first birthday party (although he is the child who will be turning one soon!)  In two weeks, Littleman will turn four but we are throwing him an actual birthday party for the first time.

I know that sounds crazy in the age of Pinterest and play gyms.  But really, I just couldn’t wrap my head around spending hundreds of dollars on parties for a kid who was too young to know the difference.  Sure, we could have had parties at our house to save money, but our tiny little semi-detached house can’t hold many people and a backyard party in January is out of the question.

I’m not a total party pooper.  I just figured there were other ways to celebrate our kid’s birthday until he was old enough to actually enjoy having a party.

His first two birthdays were very low-key.  We had separate family gatherings with each side of the family, so he still got to have cake and open some gifts.  Last year, for his third birthday, we took the day off so the three of us could spend the day together (before Bo was born).  We rode the subway (woohoo!), went to the aquarium and went out for lunch.  We gave him a couple of presents.  It was special and fun.

During this past year, though, he finally started to really understand the concept of “the birthday party.”  We’ve always attended them, but more recently, he starting asking when his birthday was.  So I knew the time had come to party on.

So what are we planning?  Well, I found a relatively inexpensive indoor play gym to rent.  There’s a big playroom where the kids do some activities (and climb on stuff) while supervised by the staff.  Then, the kids sit down and eat dinner and cake (which I have to provide).  There’s plenty of room for all the parents and the younger siblings, which was important to me because almost all of Littleman’s buddies have baby brothers or sisters now.  And, of course, the kids are still too young to come to a party without their parents.

I am not totally immune to the draw of Pinterest and have found cute ideas for a construction-themed party.  I’m not going to focus on decorations because we don’t get access to the venue in advance of the party.  Instead, I’m focusing on the cake and party favours.  Keeping it simple is important to me because I hate when Littleman comes home from a party with a loot bag full of crap.  Dinner will be pizza (plain cheese for the kids and a couple other options for the parents).  I will make a big rectangle slab cake and decorate it to look like a construction site.  (Think dirt, piles of rocks, bulldozers, etc.)  I found some awesome little Caterpillar construction vehicles for a good price, so I bought a bunch.  I’ll use some to decorate the cake and rest will be wrapped up for party favours.

Beyond that, I need to bring drinks, cutlery, plates and napkins.  I hope I can keep it pretty simple because I know all Littleman cares about is having fun with his buddies (and eating cake.  The kid really, really likes cake!)   I don’t want to stress too much about having the most unique decorations or the fanciest cake or the snazziest venue (the last party place we went to actually had a zipline!) because, let’s face it, the kid is four.  We will have many more birthday parties to plan in the future and I don’t want to get caught feeling like each year needs to top the last.

So there we go.  That is how we’re planning to celebrate my four-year-old’s first birthday party!

Two more weeks

I’m entering my final two weeks of having Bo at home with me full-time.  I don’t return to work until March, but we start paying for daycare on February 2, so we will likely start transitioning Bo right away.

I know I am ridiculously lucky to have had a whole year at home with each of my babies.  I know there are lots of moms who had to go back to work much, much sooner.  But even though I know these things, it still feels much too soon to leave my boy.

I’m trying my best not to think about it too much because I don’t want to spend these final precious days feeling stressed and sad.  However, I have to think about it a bit because I need to start getting Bo ready to be away from me for longer stretches (ok, for any stretches!) of time.

The biggest issue, of course, is eating.  This kid is a boob man.  He still nurses like a champ and knows how to ask for it.  He has this cough/pant/laugh sort of sound he makes while grabbing at me, making it perfectly clear that he wants the breast.  He still won’t really take a bottle (we try every once in a while but it seems wasteful and pointless since he barely swallows anything).  We’ve started trying a variety of different sippy cups, in hopes of finding one that he’ll drink from successfully.  We’ve given up on offering any formula because he shows zero interest in it and we’d have to supply it if we wanted him drinking it at daycare.  So, now we’re on to homogenized milk.  I think he drank a bit today, but mainly he just chews on the sippy cup spout and then maybe swallows a bit of the milk that dribbles out.

We continue to offer a variety of foods, but the only thing he consistently swallows are purees.  (Go figure.  His older brother flat-out refused the stuff).  He eats baby greek yogurt like it’s his job.  Other than that, he’ll munch on foods and then spit them out.  Apple pieces turn into a pile of little apple chips.  He expertly places Cheerios into his mouth and gums them until they become soft and mushy before spitting them back out.  He used to love cheese, but now, just like pretty much everything else, he spits it back out.

The other thing I worry about is sleeping.  This baby loves his naps.  Just yesterday (during his morning nap), I googled “when to drop the morning nap”, thinking that it will be hard to drop him off at daycare right when he’s ready to be sleeping again.  Of course, then he promptly slept for 2.5 hours.  I guess he was telling me he’s not ready!

So, ya.  All that is swirling through my head.

I know I should try not to worry so much.  In all likelihood, the transition to daycare will go just fine.  There will be some hard moments, but I’m sure he’ll settle in okay.  Most kids do.  But, we had a bad experience with the first daycare that Littleman attended when he was Bo’s age (will share that story another day) so I know that there are instances where a child never actually does “settle in.”

OK, enough of the “poor me” stuff.  I am going to take a few deep breaths and then get the sippy cup ready for after nap so we can practice some milk-drinking.  And then I’ll let him eat puree for dinner because I’m a sucker that way!