Tag Archive | Parent

Formula: Sometimes, Medically Necessary

When?

Well, once upon a time, the gene for not being able to produce breastmilk was pretty rare.  If a woman couldn’t produce enough milk, she needed a wet nurse.  Wet nurses were expensive, though.  So if she didn’t have the money, and didn’t have the milk – well, let’s just say the gene wasn’t passed on to the next generation.  Survival of the fittest, did we say?  Perhaps of the richest, who often used a wet nurse even when it wasn’t necessary, to spare Mom the “burden” of breastfeeding.

Over the centuries, many tried and failed to find a substitute for human milk.  The formula we have today is the grandchild of the earliest experiments at alternative feeding; usually these alternative methods resulted in infant mortality within the first year; some from the food itself and some from bad hygiene.  In other words, it is the grandchild of the first non-toxic formula.  Obviously, back then, no one gave formula unless the baby didn’t have a mother, or the mother had not a drop of milk and no one to nurse her baby.

Since the age of barely non-toxic formulas, we’ve come a long way.  We’ve come so far, in fact, that unless you know a person’s medical history, it’s hard to guess which kids were formula fed and which were breastfed.

In other words, formula does a pretty good job of enabling these babies to grow, develop normally, and have a great chance at a good life.

That doesn’t mean, though, that formula is for everybody.  Formula isn’t human milk, and because of that, it wasn’t made for human babies.  However terrific a job it does at compensating for the lack of breastmilk, it still isn’t the ideal baby food.  Formula is like medicine.  In many ways, it IS medicine.  It was made for certain situations, and in those situations, it literally saves thousands, if not millions, of lives.  But just like you don’t give your child penicillin if he doesn’t have an infection, you shouldn’t give your child formula if he doesn’t absolutely need it.  Giving either of them too frequently, and without just cause, can have unwanted results. But, that’s not the topic of this post.

With the advent of good infant formula, a lot of babies survive who wouldn’t have had a chance previously.  With the advent of successful fertility treatments, and good prenatal monitoring, a lot of babies are born who wouldn’t have had a chance to be otherwise.  Combine these factors together, including the fact that if a couple’s infertility is female-factor, the same hormones that made pregnancy difficult may make lactation impossible – and there you have it, growing numbers of mothers and babies who are simply unable to breastfeed.

And – that’s fine.  In fact, it’s great.  It is absolutely terrific that these mothers are able to have babies, and that these babies are able to survive.  It’s a modern-day miracle, and one that we all have to be thankful for.

Again, the problem isn’t formula.  The problem is the abuse of formula. Let’s take a look at some possible contraindications to breastfeeding:

– As usual, mother has no milk.  By no milk I mean that she tried supplements, she tried dietary adjustments, she went to lactation consultants, she nursed and pumped around the clock to raise supply – and no luck.  Nothing doing.  The mother who suffers from this often feels inferior, because she feels betrayed by her body and unable to give her baby its most basic necessity – food.

– The baby who cannot form a vacuum.  This is usually fixable by some surgical procedure (yes, even clipping a tongue is technically a surgical procedure, even more so fixing a cleft palate), and until then, the mother has to stick it out by pumping and/or nursing.  Many mothers, too many, give up prematurely.  (There, but for my research, go I.)

– The mother who is taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding, and there is no breastfeeding-compatible medicine available for her.

– The baby who is lactose intolerant, including lactose from human milk.  Sometimes this is fixable by a change in the mother’s diet.  Sometimes, no matter what the mother eats or doesn’t eat, the baby reacts.

– The baby whose mother got pregnant only a few months postpartum.  While this doesn’t mean that you have to stop nursing, if the baby is less than nine months old, chances are high that supplements will be needed.  Sometimes, the baby will start eating more solids.  Sometimes, if the baby isn’t old enough for solids or refuses, formula will be necessary.  Here I want to add that for the first two or three months of pregnancy, the milk stays suitable for the older baby.  Around week 16-20, it begins to turn into colostrum, and possible supply will decrease.  Again, any breastfeeding is better than none, and even if supplements are necessary for a few months, when the baby is born, the mother can dump the supplements in the trash and nurse tandem.

– The baby whose mother chose a method of birth control that is incompatible with breastfeeding.

– The mother who is hospitalized without being given an opportunity to pump.

– The mother who was given bad advice by medical or lactation “professionals”.

– The baby who has no mother.

There are probably more, but these are the main, basic, categories that come to mind right now.

Let me ask a question: Why aren’t there more banks for human milk?  At the moment, at least in Israel, there is a government-supervised bank, but the milk goes mostly to preemies, gastro-intestinally compromised babies, or babies without a mother.  Why can’t a “normal” baby get donor milk?

Some of you will say that it’s gross.  Well, I have news: Birth is gross.  Changing diapers is gross.  For goodness’ sake, any bodily fluid is gross.  Well, except breastmilk, in my mind; it tastes okay and it’s good for you (I tried a drop of my milk so that I’d know the difference between good milk and sour milk).  What grosses most people out, I think, is the idea of sharing the breastmilk.  But think of it this way: When you need a blood transfusion, do you say, “Ewww, gross, that blood was in someone else’s body?”  Of course not.  So, why is it gross to use donor milk?  As long as the donor is healthy – and if she is willing to feed the milk to her own kid, I think that she can pretty much be trusted – there’s no reason why not.  The only difference between donor milk and the wet nurses of old is that donor milk can be fed to the baby by its parents, while a wet nurse took all the responsibility on herself.

So, now there are Facebook groups and community milk banks.  But they aren’t widely enough spread, they don’t have enough donors, and not enough recipients are aware of them, or willing to use them.  But if formula, in the mind of someone who tried to breastfeed and couldn’t, is a sign of failure, why is donor milk worse?  It’s better – no, you couldn’t breastfeed yourself, but you still made sure that your child got breastmilk.

I think society needs a change of mindset.

Formula is a legitimate choice for those mothers who cannot breastfeed, or whose babies are unable to breastfeed.  Formula is a very, very, good thing, as long as it is not abused.  Those mothers who use it without medical necessity ruin how society views formula for those who have a legitimate need to use it.

Those who need formula should not have to pay the inflated price formula companies ask.  It is not fair, it is not just, to force someone who has no other option to pay an outrageous fee, for that many containers a year.  Formula that is medically necessary should be hugely subsidized.  Formula that is not medically necessary should be off the shelves.

Breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, is better than formula.  Feeding someone else’s breastmilk to your baby is not a sign of failure but a sign of courage and dedication.

Breastfed babies are the norm, not the exception.  Breastfeeding needs to be accepted and encouraged, not something shameful and disgusting.  I am not for a woman exposing her entire front and side on a park bench.  I am for women being able to sit and nurse, modestly and decently (I don’t use a blanket, but between the blouse and the t-shirt underneath, no one sees anything), in public places.  Without worrying if they will be yelled at, without feeling that the whole world is staring at them, without worrying about a smoker coming to sit down next to them (and then they are either stuck second-hand smoking for half an hour, or they have to get up and move in the middle), and without having to walk ten minutes, with a screaming, hungry, baby, to find a place to nurse.

Pumping should be legitimate and supported, especially for working mothers.  It should not be easier for a mother to switch to formula when she goes back to work, especially since, in the long run, it costs us all money.

Society needs a change.  But it won’t happen if we play Ostrich.

 

 

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Why Do Mothers Choose to Formula-Feed?

During my maternity leave, I went back to an old hobby of mine – reading about baby feeding, health, and development.  Probably, all of you know on which side of the breastfeeding – formula feeding divide I very firmly stand.  That said, it irks me a lot when people say, “The most important thing is a happy mother; if breastfeeding is too hard for you, it’s better to just give your baby formula and quit nursing, as long as you’re not stressed out.”  Which, by the way, is bunk.  Then there are those who say that mothers who choose, from the outset, to add formula, care just as much about their babies, and do not do it for convenience but for the baby’s sake.

I’ll let Alpha Parent say it; here’s a quote from her post comparing past and present in baby feeding:

Self-interest is still quoted as the prime reason for not breastfeeding. From the UK Department of Health Infant Feeding survey (which involves around 8000 mothers and is done every 5 years): “The most common reason for choosing to breastfeed was that breastfeeding was best for the baby’s health, followed by convenience. The most common reason for choosing to bottle-feed was that it allowed others to feed the baby, followed by a dislike of the “idea” of breastfeeding.”

And here’s some more, for those who claim that breastfeeding doesn’t allow you to sleep at night:

Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep and their sleep is of higher quality. A breastfed baby can eat as soon as he is hungry. If co sleeping, that means before the baby even starts to cry. A formula-fed baby has to wait for formula to be prepared and warmed, in the meantime getting more and more distressed and agitated as well as waking others in the household. When breastfeeding, even the mother does not need to wake up fully to nurse her baby. Furthermore, the hormones produced during nursing have a relaxing effect, and the mother is likely to sleep even better when she nurses her baby. Studies have shown that parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept an average of 40-45 minutes more than parents of infants given formula (Doan et al). Parents of infants given formula at night had more sleep disturbance than parents of infants who were exclusively breast-fed at night.

And for those who think that Dad can feed the baby at night if you formula feed:

I’m sorry to burst SMA’s bubble but as Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 2009) has pointed out, “The reality is that few fathers actually do take the whole responsibility of infant care and most artificial feeding is still done by mothers”. Pauline Lim, author of the very useful book Teach Yourself Successful Breastfeeding, concurs that:

“In reality few partners actually share the night feeds, so don’t be tempted to stop breastfeeding for this reason. There might be an odd occasion when this happens but the novelty wears off very quickly, leaving you firmly back in charge of the night-feed. This is particularly true when your partner has to get up for work.”

Remember when we were dealing with tongue-tie?  I pumped and went to sleep, and Yitzchak fed her the pumped milk.  Or, sometimes, I just pumped while he fed Tova the previously pumped bottle.  However, this was for a very limited time, until Tova finally learned how to nurse while lying beside me in bed, and Yitzchak did it not because he ideologically believed it was better for him to share the nighttime burden (because there is no question that nursing is better than getting a bottle of pumped milk, no matter how fresh), but because I was so weak, out of it, and barely functioning that he basically had no choice.  It wasn’t easy for Yitzchak and I don’t think we would have been able to keep it up long-term.  Especially since I would wake up when Tova cried and then have to fall back asleep. During those early weeks, however, it was a lifesaver (and you know something is wrong when it’s easier to pump than it is to nurse).

Here’s a study that compares the health of formula fed, or mixed formula and breastmilk fed, babies with those exclusively breastfed for the first six months.  Obviously, any breastfeeding is better than none, but that does not mean that supplementing a breastfed baby with formula does not have any undesirable side effects.  Another thing that should be mentioned is that breastfed babies are not healthier than formula fed babies; rather, formula fed babies are sicker than breastfed babies.

Don’t worry, give me a few days and we will get back to the elections.  We are still waiting on the final 1% of votes to come in, and until they do, nothing is official and the only thing we can do is speculate.

 

Geography Lessons

When Shlomo was a baby we would use a bulb to suck gunk out of his nose.  He hated it, of course.  We would also pick his nose; he hated that, too.

Since pulling snot out of a nose is also called ‘digging for gold’, we started saying that we have to pull gold out of his nose.  Then it became pulling gold out of his nose because we needed to donate it.  To whom would we donate it?  To the hungry children in Africa, so that they could buy food.

When he cried, we would say, “The hungry children in Africa need your donation.”

Then, a few months ago, Shlomo’s car (a Cozy Coupe) broke a rule (or perhaps Shlomo broke a rule while/by using the car), and Yitzchak took the car to China.  A few days later, I asked Shlomo if he wanted car to go back in China, or if he was going to listen.

Yitzchak got mad, “Don’t say things you can’t do.”

I said, “You did the same thing a few days ago.  It’s going to go to the same China you put it into.”

Yesterday, car needed to go to China.  But as Yitzchak pointed out, China is now filled with poopy clothes (one item is a pair of Shlomo’s poopy underwear; the rest is the baby’s (I’ll find her a name to use on the blog soon)).  So, car went in China Room, and is now blocking the door and access to the washer.

China, which was originally on top of our washing machine (we have a front loader, like most Israelis), has now expanded to include the tops of the fridge and bookshelves.

A toy that breaks the rules goes to China.  Shlomo, therefore, does not want things to go to China.  People, however, cannot go to China.  I guess it’s just too expensive a plane ticket . . .

Extremism Sometimes Pays Off

Yes, it does.  Because if you’re extreme about something, you usually know enough to argue your case when necessary.  And you usually are loath enough to agree to any alternative, that you stick to your decision and persevere.

[Sometimes it’s not a good thing to be an extremist.   But sometimes it is.]

Here’s a case in which Yitzchak and I were – are – both extremely glad that I am as extremist as I am.  (And my apologies for not posting for an entire month.  For most of the month, I was slightly out of it.)

I was in the hospital, trying to sleep, with a baby who wouldn’t stop crying every time she was put on her back.  From the leg movements, the reason was quite obvious: gas.  But what can you do when the only place to put the baby is a bassinet, you have no gas medicine, everything is closed, and even if it wasn’t you aren’t allowed to leave the ward?  Answer: Nothing.  You’re stuck holding the baby.

I was so exhausted (and this was nearly entirely the hospital’s fault) that I felt like I was about to drop her.  I’m not a person who cries easily, but I was crying then.  I just needed another pair of hands, and Yitzchak’s (even if he had been allowed to stay overnight, which he wasn’t, strange as it may be) weren’t available; he had to be close to home to pick Shlomo up from the neighbor’s in the morning.  And more than that, he needed to rest, because he had slept even less than me and had to take Shlomo to gan in the morning.

I refrained from calling Yitzchak, even though he had told me to call if I needed support, and just sent text after text, knowing that he would see them only in the morning.  One of the sentences I kept saying over and over [to myself, and to Yitzchak, before he went to sleep,] was, “Dang it/sheesh, I just need another pair of hands that I can trust won’t give her formula.  And I don’t know that I can trust the nurses.”

At about 3am, a nurse came in and we had the following conversation:

Nurse: Hi, is everything okay?

Me: Everything’s okay. (Except that she’s crying and I don’t know what to do, I can’t hold her for fear of dropping her or falling asleep over her; I need to sleep and there’s no one to hold her, and every time I put her down, she cries because she’s gassy.)

Nurse: She’s been crying a lot tonight.

Me: Yeah, she’s gassy. (Wow, thanks for stating the obvious.  Are you offering to hold her so that I can sleep?  Can I even trust you?)

Nurse: Maybe she’s hungry?

Me: No, she just ate.

Nurse: But she’s only nursing.

Me: Yes, but she’s not hungry, she just ate.

Nurse: She’s nursing, so she’s hungry.  Maybe you should give her a supplement?

Me: No, she’s not hungry.  (I knew I couldn’t trust you!  Thanks for telling me that I made the right choice in choosing not to ask for help.*)

Nurse: You sure you don’t want to give her a supplement?

Me: Yes, I’m sure.  She’s gassy, she’s not hungry. (And formula isn’t a solution to anything; it’s just bad.  Plus, she only needs 5cc at the moment, and she got it.)

The nurse left.  And I cried and texted Yitzchak, who, when he read the text at 5:30 in the morning, was furious at the nurse.

Yitzchak took Shlomo to gan, and then came with the carseat and a pair of hands to relieve me.  He was going to bring gas medicine (Simicol) but after speaking with Mom decided not to (because it isn’t really for babies under a week old.)

But seriously, if I wasn’t so dead-set that formula is a medicine to be used only when medically necessary (baby doesn’t have a mother, baby is lactose intolerant, mother doesn’t have milk or for some reason her milk is contaminated), and is permanently damaging in every other case, then I probably would have given in.

And then there was the nurse that told me that babies don’t get gassy before the fourth day – to which the response was a prompt [huge] burp.

Well-meaning, yes.  But definitely not that helpful.

And if I didn’t know better, I KNOW that I would have given in.  I know, because the only thing holding me back was the knowledge of the potential dangers that even a single bottle of formula can pose.

Extreme?  Maybe.

But it worked.

And continued working despite the issues that cropped up afterwards.

Because ignorance is not always bliss, and sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you, or your kid.

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*I believe, as I always have, that rooming-in is the best option, and I still believe it.  I also think – or rather, know – that if the delivery room staff, and protocols, had been different, I would not have been nearly so exhausted.  In other words, despite the difficulty presented here, I do not believe that it is good for the baby to be in a nursery, separated from its mother, just after being born; in fact, I believe the exact opposite.

Potty-Training Attempt #3 – No Turning Back

This post was begun on January 30, 2014.

Success!  Well, sort of.

What happened was this:

Shlomo turned three in March.  Traditionally, when a boy turns three, you cut his hair for the first time (a ceremony called “upsherin/upshernish” by American Jews and called a “chalakah” by Israelis), and give him a kipa (religious head covering) and tzitzit. About a month before his birthday, his ganenet announced that there was NO WAY that he would have his chalakah in a diaper.  How can you put tzitzit on a kid with a poopy diaper?  I agreed with her, and said that I’m all for it, but as we both know, it’s not fully up to us.

She insisted that we go for it and try again.  It just had to work.  She’s been a ganenet for twenty years and never has a kid worn kipa and tzitzit with a diaper.  I agreed, not fully believing that it would work – after all, this is time three, right?  And the first two ended in failure because Shlomo was just too stubborn, and at the end of the day, no one can make you pee or poop in the toilet if you don’t want to.

So we went for it.  Diaper off in the morning, on only at bedtime.  Poop belongs in the potty.  And for some reason, which Yitzchak and I believe to be a desire to get us to leave him alone, it worked.  Sort of.  He held in his pee – usually.  Stayed dry, and peed in the toilet, just enough to satisfy us and get himself nominally out of diapers (which is what led to the title of this post – Shlomo was nominally trained, and therefore there was no turning back).  We think that he just figured that if he didn’t give in, we’d keep trying every so often until he did, so he might as well just give up, or at least pretend to.

After a while it became more frequent, with less accidents.  But still, poops were saved for the bedtime diaper.  We would put him in pajamas and a diaper, get ready to read him a book, and he would poop.  We were just happy that he wasn’t holding it in; a lot of kids do, and the ganenet, when she saw that he wasn’t pooping in gan, asked if he was pooping at home, because she was worried.

At some point, I’m not sure how, we got him to poop on the toilet.  Yitzchak says that it was the tablet that he received as a gift for his birthday, from Bubby (Yitzchak’s mother).  We also bribed him with cookies and make a big fuss over it.  After a while, when he was more comfortable pooping on the potty, we stopped making such a big deal of it, and on condition that one of us sit with him (usually Yitzchak because my nose is more sensitive than his) he agreed to poop prize-free.  When we started seeing him backslide, we at first returned the treats and then realized that he was abusing the privilege: He would put a small poop in the toilet, get the treat, and then make a big poop in diaper.  Haha, you silly parents.  You fell for it, again.  And again.  So we took away all treats until he made a successful poop in the potty with no poops in his underwear.  And that’s been our policy since.

We STILL backslide sometimes.  I’m not quite sure why.  This morning I was feeding him and something started to stink.  I couldn’t figure out what it was, until it hit me and I asked Yitzchak to check his diaper (Shlomo was still in pajamas).  Yep, poopy in the diaper.  But as mad as we were, we were also relieved – Shlomo hadn’t pooped in four days (and prior to that, had made a week’s worth of poops in his underwear).  This evening, Yitzchak brought the tablet, sat with him, and Shlomo pooped in the potty.  We praised him.  And he got his treats back.  Boy, was he proud of himself.  I just wish I knew how to keep the poop in the potty – and what motivates him to decide to go on potty-strike.

Yes, Yitzchak STILL sits with him.  Poops are in a potty.  Pees are standing up, peeing into the big toilet, like any guy on the street.  I think the poops go in the potty for three reasons: 1. He’s scared of sitting on the big toilet. 2. The toilet seat we have isn’t comfortable.  3. It’s easier to poop with your feet on the floor.  Plus, you get the lid of the real toilet as a table to drive cars on.

Shlomo is not potty trained at night yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to be.  He stays dry when he naps during the day, even during long 4-5 hour naps (which we allow only when we are going to be up late and we need the quiet to prepare for a holiday).  But my siblings didn’t stay dry till age five or six, and even then, I remember walking them to the toilet in the middle of the night.  If I remember correctly, twice – once about an hour after they went to sleep, and once around ten or eleven at night.

And after talking to Yitzchak’s mother, I found that she had had a similar experience with her kids.  So with a combination of genes like that, and the knowledge the a lot of night training is physiological and not necessarily within the child’s control – we still buy diapers for the nighttime.  One Shabbat, we had forgotten.  Since we had been planning to experiment anyways, we let him sleep in underwear.  Suffice it to say, experiment failed.  When we see that the diaper is dry several mornings in a row, we will try again.

And with this, dear readers, I [hopefully] end our saga of potty training until next time – which will hopefully be only with the next kid.

Things I Don’t Understand

There are things that I never understood, still don’t understand, and perhaps never will understand.

For instance –

Why is it okay for Obama (insert name of current U.S. president) to drop bombs on Iran, Syria, and whoever else he wants – and are not even distant neighbors – but it’s not okay for us to bomb Gaza?

Why is the world silent about all the inhumane things happening in Syria, but an attempt at humane fighting in Gaza – in self-defense, so that we can have some security and live normally – causes an uproar?

Why is it okay for our civilians to be bombed, but not okay for us to bomb a terrorist organization that uses its own civilians as human shields?

Why does the world expect us to make peace with people who don’t respect or value life, even that of their own people?

Why is it not obvious that security breaches would not occur if countries would use racial profiling?  Why is it taboo to say that a Middle-eastern, young, unmarried, Arabic-speaking man is more of a security risk than a 76 year old Jewish grandmother traveling with two grandkids?

Why does it seem like Kuala Lumpur keeps coming up in connection with terrorism?

Why can’t Israel stand up for itself, ever?

Why are children born to people who don’t know how to take care of them and don’t care to take care of them, while I know really good, responsible people who waited five years or more for their first child?

Why do adoption agencies make so much money off both sides of the equation?  Why not just have an agency that takes unwanted, neglected, or abused kids and places them with people who want kids?  (Israel, by the way, works that way: You pay a 2000 shekel fee for psychological testing to make sure you’re going to be a decent parent, 400 shekel for the court fee, and the rest is free.)

Why do people get married thinking that they can change the other person?

Why do people have kids just to leave them in daycare from the age of three months?  And why is it forbidden to ask that question?

Why is the mother’s happiness more important than the baby’s health?  Why is it not obvious to everyone that rooming in and nursing until the baby is at least a year are desirable choices, and being separated from the baby and formula feeding are extremely undesirable choices that can negatively influence the baby’s health later on?

Why is it okay to feed your child liquid plastic in public but not okay to nurse in public?

Why does it matter if you’re not obligated to use a carseat in a taxi?  Does it change the safety problem?  Are taxis inherently safer than private cars?

Why does it matter if you’re allowed to leave a six year old at home in charge of a two year old?  Does it mean that it’s safe to do so?

Why can’t people use logic?

Why are people so influenced by peer pressure?  Who cares what other people do?

Why is it so important to have a degree?  It doesn’t even promise you a good job anymore.

Why is it taboo to write that homosexual men have a much higher rate of colon cancer (and other things) than anyone else?

Why is it taboo to write that intelligence is on the X chromosome?  Why is it not obvious?

Why is it taboo to say what you think?  Why does everyone look at me odd for doing what I believe in?

What’s wrong with saying that not everyone can sit and learn Talmud, or become a rabbi?

What’s wrong with saying that some kids will never finish college?

What’s wrong with saying that not every kid has the capacity to become a doctor, lawyer, or millionaire?

Why do people put so much time, energy, and money into making sure they look nice?

Who says looking nice means being skinny, wearing designer clothes, and painting your face with makeup?

Why does perfume always stink to high heaven?

Who wants to buy clothes or furniture that will go out of style in five years?

Who invented fashion and what’s the point of it?

Why do people consider fashion to be important?

Why bother buying expensive brands of clothing for kids, who will just stain them?

Why drive kids nuts over stains on their clothing?

Why does everyone have so much STUFF?

Why do people fall for ‘this toy makes kids smarter’ nonsense? 

Why does everyone’s kid have to be the smartest, most advanced, in their class?

Why do people buy expensive birthday presents and waste so much time and energy on fancy parties?

Why do people waste so much time and energy on ANY party?

Why does it seem like everything turns into a status issue?

Why don’t parents talk to each other instead of getting a divorce?

Why is it so hard for people to admit that they made a mistake, say sorry, and try to correct it?  We’re only human, after all.

Why does it seem like so many divorcees blame the other and make their kids’ lives miserable?

Why do so many divorcees make the same mistakes the second time around?

Why do people ask obvious questions after the answer was written in an obvious place and explained three times?

Why is it so important to have a large circle of acquaintances?

What’s this thing called ‘entertaining’ and why do people do it?

What’s wrong with a kid having one close friend and not wanting to play with anyone else?  What’s wrong with being shy, or an introvert?

Why do people get married?

What IS marriage, anyways? [Answer: A social institution designed to protect the wife from being left without an income and with a bunch of kids; and designed to protect the kids by committing both parents to their welfare.  Therefore, gay marriage is pretty pointless, because kids don’t come naturally, nor will one be left without an income because they are busy taking care of the house, since both partners are of the same gender.]

Why do people want kids?

Why do people have kids without marrying or intending to marry?

What logic is there in making the word ‘spouse’ taboo and using the word ‘partner’ instead?  Gimme a break.

Why do people divorce only to get back together, or get back in bed together (sorry little sister Shira, just pretend you didn’t read that), even if they’re not back together?  Why not just work on the relationship, or give it up?

Why do teachers not like the questions that I ask?  Why do they think it’s off topic? 

Why do I seem to intimidate people who are supposedly in a superior position to me?  Rabbis, teachers, potential or real bosses; I even scared my first date (by saying I was learning something that I was told not to mention, but what was I supposed to say?).  And – surprise surprise – Yitzchak does the same thing.  But it’s different because he’s a guy.  Guys are allowed to know a lot; girls aren’t.  And while I’m extremely grateful that Yitzchak has it better than me – why is it not okay for girls to know anything?

Why is it that people comment on what a cute little boy I have until he pulls out his doll, and then people start to say what a cute little girl he is?  Does a man become a woman because he’s holding a baby?

Are we really a liberal-minded society?  [Answer: No.  We just pretend that we are and make outcasts of anyone who dares to question if the emperor is really naked.  And he is.]

Why does no one know how to answer my questions?

Why is it forbidden to ask why?

 

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Yitzchak and I used to play the “Why Game”.  He would say something benign such as, “Can you clear the table?” or “Maybe you should work on your assignments,” and I would ask why.  He would give the reason, “Because it’s dirty,” or, “Because you want your degree,” and I would ask why.  And it would go on and on for half an hour, maybe more, until we were both racking our brains, me to come up with a question and him to come up with an answer.  Sometimes his answers got really complicated and scientific; usually when that happened I would sit through two or three answers and then just get tired.

It’s a fun game.  He’s the only one who ever had, or has, patience for my questions.

But we don’t play that game so often anymore, probably because we’re more tired and have less time, energy, and patience for such things.  We should, though.

Planning Around the Sirens

I wrote this post while sitting in the library on July 20.

Last Friday (July 12) Yitzchak went to the store.  We kept Shlomo home just in case there was a siren, because his gan doesn’t have a shelter.  But, what to do? As I said previously, I can’t carry him down.  So Shlomo and I played outside during the heatwave, for an hour and a half, so that we would be withing Shlomo’s running distance of the shelter.

*We canceled a meeting in a neighboring city on July 10, because of the possibility of a siren while on the road, and not wanting to leave Shlomo in gan while both of us went to the meeting.  It’s not that we never have this concern about both of us being out of the city while Shlomo is in gan, but this time was a tad different, if you get what I mean.  So we canceled.

*Before we leave the house, we go through the route in our heads, to make sure that there will always be a shelter within a few seconds from us, no matter where we are on the route.

*Before Yitzchak goes to the store in the evening, we think twice.  What if there’s a siren while he’s gone?

*Yitzchak measured the amount of time it takes him to bound up the stairs.  If he’s at the bottom and runs to the top to get Shlomo, will we still have time before our minute is up?

*Yesterday (Shabbat, July 19) after the siren, our neighbors wondered whether they should walk their dog or if there would be another siren.  I errantly said that we usually had a few hours in between sirens, so it should be fine.  They left, and about ten minutes later I felt stupid for giving them bad advice.

*I’m sitting in the library (July 20), waiting for a long time to receive my 2-step verification code from Gmail.  I have a project to finish.  Behind me, the librarians are setting up an area for some kind of slideshow or video.  They debate whether to move the tables in the back of the room to somewhere else, just in case everyone has to run out of the room.

The irony of planning life around whether or not there will be a siren.  We don’t change everything, because we can’t change everything, because you can’t just stop life in the middle.  But it’s the little changes in thinking, planning, and how we do things that are the most poignant examples of what it’s like to live under threat of rockets.

Anybody who would like to help families closer to Gaza – those who have between fifteen seconds and a minute, and suffer rocket attacks several times a day, can take a look at Janglo‘s list of things to do to help.  There are also options for helping soldiers and helping the families of the reservists who were called up.

 

Rules in Our House

rule sheets, what you can do, what you can't do, rules, regulations

1) No playing with matches or touching them, unless you found it and are giving it immediately to an adult.

2) No playing with plugs, or sockets.

3) You may not go outside without permission.  (The flip side is, ‘You must lock the sliding thing at the top of the door every time someone goes out or in.’)

4) No banging your chair back so that it tilts on a diagonal.  (This used to be annoying and damaging to the chair.  Now it is also dangerous.)

5) No hitting or biting, either yourself or anyone else.

6) The parent who put you in time out is the parent who ends the time out.

7) Do not throw anything that is not soft.  (Ducks, pillows, and scarves are allowed to be thrown, and are often thrown as part of a game.  Balls are not included, either.)

8) If you throw your food or dump your bowl, you are officially done.

9) If you choose not to eat supper, you get nothing except water until 6:00am.  (This sounds awful, but it’s really not.  He either chooses to eat, or chooses to sleep.  This became a rule because he wanted to play instead of eating supper a few times, which lead to sleepless nights.  After two or three nights in a row, I understood that it was a game and a habit – that gained him more playtime, and attention in the middle of the night.  So, we made the rule.  It only had to be tested once, and now he makes his choice and accepts the consequences.  Yeah, it was awful.  Yeah, it was mean.  But oh, man, was it necessary.  And better now, when he can’t get out of bed, than later, when he’ll be able to.)

10) Only Mommy milk is instant.  Everything else takes at least a few minutes to prepare.  Since you chose not to drink Mommy milk anymore, you no longer have instant food.  And not always, at every second, can we give you attention.  The moment we can, we will.

11) Writing is only on paper.  Not on laundry baskets, floors, walls, or buckets.

12) You can take a big-person book off the shelf to read it.  You may not take it off the shelf to step on it or otherwise harm it.  Books that get torn will get you put in time-out (only since he started ripping books to see how we were going to react; before that, we took the book away and told him that we don’t rip books).

13) After you make a mess, you have to help clean up.  After you help clean up, you get lots of praise.

14) When someone is talking to you, listen.  (This is a rule for the parents, too.)

15) If you hurt someone, you have to apologize, give a hug, and do “gentle”.  Hitting in order to get attention, gets you none.  If you want something, ask nicely.

Rules for the parents:

a) Do not make a rule that you cannot or will not uphold.  It lowers your status considerably.  (I learned this from my own parents, the hard way.)

b) Choose your battles.  If it’s not dangerous, and he’ll grow out of the stage, let it be.  For instance, if he wants to wear a belt with an outfit that doesn’t need it, or if he wants to mismatch his clothes, let it be.  No kid does this after they’ve grown up.  Or, if he wants to take all his clothes out of his drawers, let it be.  It takes about ten minutes to put them away neatly, and five seconds to dump them in.  No kid does this when they grow up – unless they’re looking for something.  So, let it be.  Ditto for your clothes.  But not for Dad’s pants that must be folded a certain way; those you have to teach the kid not to touch.

c) Stick with your rules, and give appropriate punishments.  For instance, banging the furniture next to your playpen at 2:00am cannot be punished with time-out, because both parent and child need to go to sleep and are overtired.  So, the punishment is psychological:  Tell the kid that he had a choice of where to sleep, but now, since he made a bad choice, Mommy is going to decide where he sleeps.  Then put him back in the playpen (note: playpen has been out of use for months now), which was what you were going to do anyways.  Note that this is not really a punishment, but it sounds like one to the child, who doesn’t know whether or not you were going to let him decide.  Also note that the option of pushing punishment off until morning is kind of stupid when the child is less than two years old.

d) Don’t do something that you’ll regret later.  For instance, don’t go out when it’s almost naptime.  If you do decide to risk it, be prepared for either a very late nap and a later bedtime, or for a very cranky toddler.  Either way, you have only yourself to blame.

e) Anything that you do not want to see played with, needs to go high up.  Otherwise, you have only yourself to blame.

f) Items on the counter must be at least two inches from the edge.

g) Act mad, don’t be mad.  And even if it’s so funny that you can’t be mad, you’d better play the part, or the kid will never learn.

h) Save the real anger and yelling for the big stuff – like running into the street.  Ditto for slaps.

i) Something you don’t like – time-out.  Something moderately dangerous (picking up the cord to the fan or a box of matches) – gets a gentle slap on each hand and time out.  Something extremely dangerous (trying to plug the cord in, opening the box of matches, running into the street) gets a not-so-gentle slap on each hand, three slaps on the bottom that wear the parent out and barely hurt the kid – there’s a diaper, remember – and time out.

j) Messing around with documents like birth certificates, passports, and the like is categorized as “moderately dangerous”, earning a gentle slap on each hand and time-out.

l) When the child is playing or reading nicely, or helping out, give lots of specific praise.  (“Wow, you really listened quickly; I didn’t even finish the sentence!” or “This is going so fast.  There’s no way I’d be able to clean everything up this fast without your help.”  or “You knew just what I needed!  I didn’t even have to look for my shoes!”)

m) Admit when you are wrong, and apologize for it.

n) Kids are smart; treat them as such.  Teach them what they can touch and what they cannot.  Teach them to take responsibility for, and to accept the consequences, of their actions.

o) Take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences of them.  Yeah, many adults have issues with this.  That’s a big problem, but it’s not one of mine, not one of Yitzchak’s, and won’t be a problem for any of our kids, G-d willing.

(This one is from November 2012.  See what happens when I go through five pages of drafts?)

Fights or Abuse?

Nobody agrees on everything all the time.  Nobody goes through life without some screaming or arguments.  And if a parent says, “I can’t believe you did this!  How stupid can you be?” to their child, it’s not automatically abuse.  Neither is spanking a child.  On the other hand, if a mother slaps her twenty-year-old daughter, then maybe that is abuse.  And although taking your mother to court is not something to do immediately or without weighing the consequences, if the slap is not an isolated incident (and let’s face it, slapping a twenty-year-old rarely is), then maybe the daughter should think about it.  Because that slap is either harassment or abuse.

So where do we draw the line?

Let’s leave the question of corporal punishment aside.  Instead, let’s focus on verbal and emotional abuse.

abuse, cycle of abuse, violence, relationships, abuser, victim

I think one of the easiest ways to tell if something is abuse is to talk to the family.  There are a few classic characteristics to abuse:

– The victim is always wrong; the abuser is always right.

– If the victim were to have behaved differently, the abuser would not have responded in such a fashion.

– The victim is afraid of the abuser.

– The abuser doesn’t see anything wrong with his or her actions; to the contrary, they are always justified.

– The abuser may feel that the victim ‘made him/her’ act in a certain way.  “You made me hit you.”

– The victim will often take responsibility for the abuser’s behavior: “If I were better, s/he wouldn’t have hit me.”

– The abuser is under so much pressure that the victim should have known better

– The abuser’s behaviors are often inconsistent and may change dramatically in a short span of time.

And there are many more.verbal abuse, verbal child abuse, child abuse, abusers, victims, relationships

What’s important to remember is that abuse is a pattern, not an isolated incident.  If you get frustrated one day and slap your kid on the hand, as long as it is only once a year or once every six months, you’re not abusive.  But if it becomes a habit, or happens once in a while after you’ve been yelling at your kid for half an hour straight, every single day – then maybe you are.

Okay, that probably wasn’t a good example.  But point made.

If that is abuse, then what is a fight?

A fight happens when two people of equal power disagree.  Abuse happens when one person wields more power than the other.  It may be husband and wife, with either one being abusive.  A friend may be abusive, or a coworker.  Usually, though, a child can’t abuse a parent – simply because they are not in charge.  They cannot throw the parent out.  They cannot hit the parent without getting seriously injured.  They cannot refuse to feed the parent.  They might bite the parent, or hit the parent.  But do you think that will go unnoticed?  Probably not.  Unless the biter or hitter is a toddler or preschooler who is just learning (and sometimes even then) the parent will usually strike back.  Children cannot abuse their parents until the roles switch and the parents become dependent on the children.

There is a fight, where we are both equal.  And then there is abuse, where one person wields their power in an unhealthy way over another person.  And if the less powerful person asks for help from family or close friends, they can usually expect to be told that the abuser is right, and they should apologize.

Because that’s the way life works.  No one wants to get on the wrong side of the more powerful person – especially when that person has a temper and a tendency to be abusive . . . even if the person in question doesn’t realize that it’s abuse.

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*This post was inspired by my sister, who told me to write about [burning] bridges, and the importance of building bridges in our lives.  Since I don’t like to think that I burn bridges just for fun, I started thinking of what I could write instead . . .

Is Quality Time Enough?

playtime, quality time, parents and children, parents play with their children, parents playing with their children, quality time, quantity time, quality vs quantity time, parenting, playing with your child, playing with your children, time with your child, play with your child, build a relationship with your child

from askamum

As most of you know, I work from home, on the computer.  To be specific, I make workbooks.  It is kind of boring, day in, day out, working with the same material.  And I am not the kind of person who easily makes their own schedule.  However, thank G-d, I manage (or try to).

Today Shlomo played very nicely all morning.  I was mostly just doing housework, because I expected him to want me to play with him.  Nope.  He was playing right up until I decided that it was getting late, and he needed his nap.  So, we cleaned up together.  He took a nap.  And then I started working.

After his nap, I gave Shlomo lunch, and he went back off to play.  Obviously, I went back to work.  And then he wanted my attention.  I tried working and playing with him, and it didn’t work.  He wanted my full attention, and nothing else.  Well, what could I do?  I certainly wasn’t working effectively.  And besides, isn’t this why I chose to work from home?  I saved my work and played with him.  We had great fun.  (Or rather, he had great fun, and I tried my best to do the same.)

He kept going off to play by himself, though I wasn’t allowed to go back to working; I had to watch, be available, and comment on what he was doing.  I started thinking:  This is quality time, right?  How much quality time do kids really need?  How many parents are able – or willing – to give it?

I remember reading in a college textbook (actually, maybe it was a research article) that children have given up on time with their parentsThe time is too short, too sparse, and only leaves them wanting more.  So they take what they can get, and try to find replacements for the rest.  In other words, they give up on having their parents available to them.  We’re not talking about service here.  We’re talking about being available to have a relationship with your child.

Many children have given up on this?  How sad.  Isn’t it?  Playing with your child when they are two turns into helping them sort out friendship problems when they are ten.  And that, in turn, becomes communication with teenagers, and helping them, both as teenagers and adults, to survive, emotionally whole, in this world: helping them with jobs, deal with rejections, find a spouse, and deal with everything else that life throws at people.

It’s true that some parents are more comfortable with certain ages.  My grandmother, for instance, has a hard time interacting with children from about age four until adulthood.  She tries, but it’s hard.  Yitzchak loves little kids, to the point where I am jealous of how much fun he has playing with Shlomo.  I, personally, like the independent-little-person stage best.  Helpful, communicative, opinionated, has mastered the basics of self-care, but still a child.  I also like teenagers, for some reason.  And I like babies, because they’re cute and cuddly. (At least, I like all babies whose parents I know, and some babies who are strangers.)

But pretend play, and pushing cars around?  Not my idea of fun.  I do it, and I try to enjoy it, but really?  Enough is enough.  How many times can I pretend to make this plane fly before I get annoyed?  Do I really have to look happy when I do it?  And the answer is yes, I do.  Because he wants needs me to play with him, and he wants needs attention.  He wants needs to feel that I do not begrudge him this attention.  And because I chose to have this child, he deserves to get the attention he needs.  I don’t spoil him, or at least, I don’t think I do.  But attention is not spoiling.  It’s saying that you care.  And at the same time, because you care, you can say “no” when it is necessary.

I think the key word here is: trying.  Trying, because it’s important to the other person – in this case, your child.  Trying, because putting in effort is part of every relationship, and every parent wants a good relationship with their child, for years to come.