Fun Dad (#264)

I was primary caregiver to our son. This meant that I was also primary disciplinarian, Sayer of “No,” Destroyer of Fun.

It’s no picnic parenting a headstrong, contrary child. Ideally a parent can redirect a toddler to a non-destructive activity. But sometimes, you just gotta say no. Then you have to back it up with consequences. Otherwise, you’re raising a privileged monster who flouts the rule of law and does whatever the hell he wants. (You know, your basic born affluent white man.)

Take pets. Baby D loved our cats. He only learned to crawl in order to chase them. He had to be taught to pet them instead of sit on them. Then he had to be taught to pet them in the direction of their fur. Once he learned that, he had to be taught not to pull their tails at the end of petting. “Make a hole with your fingers and thumb, when you reach the tail,” I’d instruct Baby D. “Then let the tail slide through your fist until it’s free! Ta-da!”

I spent every day training Baby D to not pull on dogs, other children, plants, or electrical cords.

If I wasn’t telling him not to pull those things, I was telling him not to bite those things.

Hit those things.

Throw those things.

There were timeouts and tantrums.

All that fun began about 5 AM. Naps? One. Length? Half-hour.

There were many, many days, when we waited on the front steps for reinforcements Daddy to come home.

Baby D’s face lit up the second he saw Daddy. Here was the fun person! The person who pretended to be a bucket truck and lifted him in the air! Or rolled on the floor as a steamroller!

“Dada” was Baby D’s first word, of course.

And once Dada was home, Mama held no more interest for Baby D.

Mama was okay with that. Mostly. Baby D and I had our own games. But they never seemed to have the same level of physicality that made Baby D shriek with delighted laughter. “More! Dada, more!”

Dada was also responsible for bath time, which involved more laughter and infinite tsunamis over the tub edge.

There were times when Mama seemed to get all the mopping and Dada got all the fun.

Until Dada took Baby D to Hawaii. Without Mama.

Those of you without kids are all, “Wait. A Hawaiian vacation? That seems like MORE fun!”

Those of you with kids are like, “Quelle horror! A vacation with a toddler is not a vacation!”

Andy had five days as the primary caregiver (his parents were no help at all). He  lasted five hours before calling me and ranting about “my” obstinate child.

He called every day, in fact, to vent his frustrations.

But it wasn’t all bad. Baby D and Andy did have some fun times at the beach.

Andy was very proud of these storytelling photos.

I got a little more sleep than usual, despite sick pets and worrying over whether the boys would survive each other.

But we were all relieved on the day Andy and Baby D came home. I waited impatiently at the airport, waving like a lunatic as Baby D’s stroller appeared.

I’d been hoping that Baby D would be at least as excited to see Mommy as he was when Daddy came home from work.  Instead, he just stared as I  pulled him into my arms.

I covered him with kisses and said, “Hi, Baby! Mommy missed you so much!”

Baby D said nothing for several seconds while I cuddled him in the corner of baggage claim.

Then a fat little hand reached up and caressed my face. “Mommy,” Baby D said, almost as if in awe. “Mommy.”

For five minutes, in a small corner of LAX, my little boy touched my face and wonderingly whispered, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” As if I were a miracle.

A Fun Dad is a great thing for a child. But you know what?

I’ll take Miracle Mommy.

Autumn on the Edge (#262)

Nursing moms never sleep in. Not on holidays, and not on weekends. Even if you could sleep through a crying baby, you probably can’t sleep through aching, leaking boobs. So up you get at 4:30 AM, changing the baby, feeding the baby, and then maybe entertaining the baby if baby is suddenly wide awake.

After all, your poor partner works hard all week, providing for you and the child. There’s probably a stressful project at work, or maybe he had to travel. And since you’re already up, you take a last, wistful look at your comfy bed before closing the door and letting your husband sleep in.

You don’t know it, but you’ve taken the first step to divorce.

Or murder. Continue reading Autumn on the Edge (#262)

When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

We had two three-year-old rescue dogs and two old rescue cats when Baby D was born. Even though the dogs were well-trained (mostly), you never know how your pets are going to react to babies.

Well, in one case we knew. Beowoof (Woofie for short) loved everyone and everything. Especially kids and puppies. The greatest day of Woofie’s life was the day he escaped and went to Science class at the local middle school.  Half the kids were on their desks, shrieking, but, as usual, Woofie was convinced everyone loved him.

Woofie had been waiting for his own boy forever. He was gonna be thrilled…as soon as the kid was big enough to play.

I expected Bat Cat and Commando Cat to be utterly indifferent until Baby D was old enough to terrorize them.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

My biggest worry was Fey. Continue reading When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

The Good Dad (#255)

When Andy and I were skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.

The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.

Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help. Continue reading The Good Dad (#255)

17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#253)

Around here, we do things The Hard Way.

  1. Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
  2. Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”

Continue reading 17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#253)

Lows & Highs (#252)

Some creatures are suited to lying in bed all day. I am not one of them.

We Ashboughs have two dominant traits. 

The first is impatience. We’re high-functioning, super efficient people and we expect the same of everyone else (who isn’t a guest in our home). If we think someone’s moving slowly—or stupidly—we are either loudly critical or chewing our tongues bloody. We’re excellent employees and potentially nightmarish employers. If you’re foolish enough to road trip with us, make sure we drive.

Continue reading Lows & Highs (#252)

Heels (#251)

I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet. 

I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.  

More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits. Continue reading Heels (#251)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Snapped (#241)

My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes. 

We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure. 

And so common.

Continue reading Snapped (#241)