Monday, February 27, 2012

Fair and Balanced... Parenting.

Even Steven. When you have more than one kid, this automatically becomes something you start thinking about -- a lot. Last fall a book came out that has needled me ever since. I admit, I haven't read it, but this quote by the author has stuck with me, "I like to say that 99 percent of all parents do have a favorite child and the other one percent are lying through their teeth."

After reading that I began looking at my kids, asking myself, "Are you really my favorite child and I just didn't know it until now?" Did I have a favorite but didn't know it? Oh, you just peed on my floor, maybe your sister's my favorite. Oh, you're pitching a fit for no apparent reason, maybe your brother's my favorite... After a rather unhealthy amount of reflection, I can honestly say I don't have a favorite child. But, what if my kids think otherwise?

I try to keep things fair between them. I try to play with them both in equal amounts, and as a result, sometimes I feel like I have a tally chart in my head. 30 minutes reading books to child #2, while child #1 played on her own. 1 hour taking child #1 to a preschool field trip while child #2 suffered it out at drop-off daycare... I often worry that I'm being unfair to one of them or that one of them will grow up thinking I favored their sibling.

My daughter started preschool this fall and the transition was easy on her but very tough on my son, who at two, felt left behind. To make it up to him, I signed him up for Mommy & Me classes at the Little Gym. He adores it and it's a wonderful time just the two of us. But, I know that my daughter sometimes feels left out and wishes she got to go, too. My daughter takes ballet classes at our local, community center. While she's there, I take my little guy downstairs to toddler time. She gets the fun class, but he gets me... My daughter's preschool is doing an outing to see a play in a couple of weeks. It falls right during naptime, so even though it's something I could take little guy to, I'm leaving him at home with my husband, while my daughter and I are ladies who enjoy the arts (in a school auditorium where the artists are elementary school kids, but, hey).

For a while this Fall, when my son was having a hard time feeling left out, I flat out refused to do outings with just one kid. Aside from school, we were a family package. Where one went, we all went. Now that he's handling things better, I'm relaxing that policy a bit, but I still prefer an all-or-nothing approach whenever possible. If we're all together, no one's left out. Next fall, I'll be the mother of two preschoolers and that will become a bit more difficult. But, maybe it'll be easier to fairly divvy up the one-on-one time with each of them.

I guess, I can just hope that by merely being aware of this possible phenomenon, I'll be doing my best to mitigate it and hopefully each of them will grow up and say their mom didn't have a favorite. Or, at the worst, they'll both grow up believing they were my favorite...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Etiquette of Allergies

On Tuesday, I hosted a Valentine's Day party for my daughter's preschool class (a house full of three and four-year olds, my how the romantic holidays change once you have kids...). As I set out the bowl of Valentine's Day Chex Mix that I'd found on Pinterest, it dawned on me that it contained peanut butter. Crap! There would undoubtedly be at least one kid there with a peanut allergy. While I'd been busy congratulating myself on serving a gluten-free snack, I'd totally spaced on the fact that it had peanuts in it. I grabbed a heart-shaped doily and scratched out a note to set in front of the dish, declaring it to be gluten-free, but laden with peanuts. (Here's a picture of my epi-pen-inducing spread)

Growing up, I don't remember anybody having food allergies. Our moms had it so easy. Ants on a log? No problem. Pizza for the class? Sure. Now, you can't swing a Tickle Me Elmo doll without hitting a lactose intolerant, nut allergic toddler. I feel extremely fortunate that neither of my kids has food allergies and I sympathize with the moms whose kids do. It must be a constant source of stress, worrying about what they could be served or handed at any gathering.

I'm fairly new to this game of hosting kids I don't know that well at my house. Prior birthday parties and events had always included my friends' kids. I already knew any allergies and sensitivities they might have had and knew their moms well enough to discuss it with them ahead of time. When you don't know the kids or their parents as well, it's harder to know how to handle it.

For this party, I was all excited to use the new Cake Pop pan I'd gotten for Christmas. Once I snipped the nips off those bad boys, they'd be a really cute toddler treat. However, after making about five dozen of them, I remembered that one of the girls in the class had a gluten sensitivity. I felt terrible, she wouldn't be able to eat them and I hate making kids feel left out. But, I was in it too deep to turn back (although I probably should have stopped then, as I have two dozen cake pops left over from the party). So, I added Pirate's Booty and the before-mentioned Chex Mix to the menu, to ensure she had some things she could eat.

If you're hosting a gathering, you want all of the kids to feel welcome and at ease, but sometimes it's hard to predict what might be a problem. Also, depending on the severity of the allergy, even your best efforts might be in vain -- that granola bar might not have peanuts, but maybe it was made in a factory that processes peanuts. I've also learned that not all gluten-free foods are the same. So, you might try and get something that will accommodate everyone, but maybe it's not as good as you thought it was.

So, here's my question -- What is the etiquette involved when serving meals (or party snacks) to kids? This is an etiquette question that is unique and new to our generation. Have we decided the right way to handle it yet? Generally, I'd avoid anything containing peanuts (except when I forget...). But, what about the other allergies and sensitivities? Do parents of allergic kids expect to pack a separate snack? I have one friend who will often call ahead and find out what they're serving so she can bring alternate food for her daughter. Should a party host just label anything that's likely to cause a problem? Should she send out an email to the group ahead of time, informing people what's on the menu? Should she ask in the invite if anyone has any allergies? How does everyone else handle this?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's Time We Showed the Epidural a Little Love

Last week when I read about the woman from Iowa who gave birth vaginally, without drugs, to a 13 lb baby! I just wanted to stick an ice pack between my legs. Then, I just wanted to ask her why. I get the whole "natural" birth movement -- kinda. But deep down, I don't find anything at all natural about all of that pain -- not when there are anesthesiologists in this world.

When I had my daughter, the nurse told me I wasn't dilated enough yet and that I should take a walk around the hospital. I wanted to tell her to take a hike. I don't care that I was only 3 cm, I was in ridiculous amounts of pain. We're talking throwing up, can't even talk, kind of pain (and, from a kid whose nickname was chatterbox, it's saying a lot if I can't talk). Then, I got my epidural...

People love to be down on the epidural, saying it's "not natural." Well, I'll tell you what's not natural -- enduring massive amounts of pain when good drugs are available and covered by insurance. I'm not afraid to say it (well, just a little afraid). I loved me my epidurals.

After that epidural kicked in, I went from agony to bliss. Somewhere down the hall, another mom made a different decision. We could hear her screaming and the nurses got worried that, as a first-time mom, I'd be terrified by what I was hearing and offered to shut some more doors to block out the noise. No bother I told them, I'm feeling quite smug about my choice to go for the drugs right about now. Those drugs took the pain away and allowed me to be present and to relax and enjoy the process of giving birth. I shudder to think what that experience would have been like without it.

That was my first baby. When I showed up at the hospital, I had a bag packed with about 20 pairs of socks, enough snacks to feed us for a week, a colorful pillowcase on my pillow (so it won't get confused with the hospital's pillows -- as if...), and a well-thought out birth plan.

When I went into the hospital with baby number two, I had a much-lighter bag and a much simpler birth plan. In red, bold, 72-point font, it read, "EPIDURAL." That was the sole extent of my birth plan. I knew from experience that was all I'd need for a happy, pain-free delivery. After the nurse remarked on the size of my son's head (hello 97th percentile!!), I felt extremely grateful that I'd made the decision I had. For me, I'm glad I was able to welcome my babies into this world with a smile on my face, rather than a grimace of pain.

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