On Parenting and Villages

Today in Sunday School the little one was fussing a little, realizing she’d have to sit through yet another not-fun hour of church. I whispered to her that she was going to be okay, but she disagreed, as babies sometimes do.

Before she got too loud, a woman sitting behind me reached her arms out to Zinger and whispered, “Do you want to come to me?” I handed the baby to the woman, a new face with fun curly hair, big buttons on her collar, and a cool jangly bracelet. She’s been in the ward a long time and definitely one of the sisters I admire. I haven’t spoken to her very much in the past few years, but I’m glad she offered to hold the baby.

The woman played patty cake and chatted with Zinger while I got stuff ready for changing a diaper. I also took advantage of my free lap and a few quiet moments to actually pay attention to the Sunday School lesson. After a few minutes, I turned around and waited for Zinger to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she was ready, then I took her out to change her diaper.

Then Zinger and I roamed the halls for a while. Lately when she sees vast spaces to cross and long corridors to hike, she gets excited. When about 10 minutes were left in Sunday School, we returned to the classroom. I set her down on the floor with a toy and a book, but she wanted to keep walking. She headed toward another sister sitting two seats away. This woman picked her up and smiled and cooed at and nuzzled her. During the closing prayer, she made the baby laugh.

What a cool ward I live in.

A few months ago I read this blog post about assessing a situation and intervening when children are left unattended. The writer makes a good point about not judging the parents because we don’t always know everyone’s story, but if children are endangering themselves, then no one should watch and wait for them to get hurt.

I’m always worried about my child. My first attempt at parenthood is riddled with anxiety about being too cautious and not being helicoptery enough. Zinger began walking before she turned nine months old. In the past three weeks she’s progressed in her balance and speed. Part of that is not because I haven’t let her fall. Falling is a huge part of learning, but I or her father has been there when it happens. Falling is why she’s so strong. When she does fall, I talk to her about it. Sometimes she needs help standing up again, but more often than not, she can get up all by herself. I talk to her about that, too.

I try to talk to Zinger about many things. A lot of it is fun stuff, but some of it is serious, too. Kids are smart; kids are perceptive. I cannot assume that my child cannot pick up on what’s going on in the world around her. If there’s an opportunity to teach her about what she observes, I will take it. I will help her develop emotional intelligence. If anything, that will prepare me to discuss important lessons when she gets older. I have never imagined myself in a spontaneous, magical teaching moment like on cheesy family sitcoms. When Zinger asks me big questions, I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with her.

She’s my first child. I’m surprised my blood pressure isn’t a lot higher with the anxiety I have. It’s hard for me not to imagine the worst-case scenario for every situation. After watching this video, someone asked if the bookshelves are secure:

I know the person meant well, but the question implies that we haven’t thought about the shelves. It implies that I haven’t imagined an earthquake and the shelves tipping, or the shelves even tipping by themselves. It implies that we leave the baby alone with the books. It implies that we don’t keep the bedroom door closed so that she doesn’t wander in and pull a pile of books on top of her.

It implies that we are negligent parents. I felt judged, and that really hurts my feelings.

I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m grateful for the village that has come together — inside and outside family — for Zinger’s sake. I just wonder what more I have to do be respected as a parent.

Last week I didn’t attend a funeral.

The bishop announced it the Sunday before. I wept.

A baby girl was born. Received a name.

The baby had a condition called Potter Syndrome. She had no kidneys while she developed in her mother’s womb. She could not produce amniotic fluid.

But she was born. And she spent 90 precious minutes with her family.

Her parents and older brother and sister held her. Talked to her. Smiled, took pictures.

The bishop said the family felt incredibly blessed to spend that much time with their baby girl.

After an hour and a half, her frail little body stopped working, and she returned home. To a sibling who also came home, but only 40 minutes after being born.

They’re home. Where they no longer have Potter Syndrome. Where they will have kidneys.

Where they wait to see the rest of their family again.

Nine Months

01

Dear Zinger,

It’s a pretty chilly morning, and I’m thinking about how you’ve been in the world for as long as I carried you in my tummy.

That totally blows my mind.

05

06

Christmas was especially generous to you. Both sets of grandparents and Santa showered you with gifts and love and attention. You got to travel to Florida and you behaved so well on the plane there and back. (Sleeping and peekaboo were your preferred activities.) You met a few of my friends and met your Uncle Frank for the first time. He adores you, and now that he’s held you and played with you he misses you so much more.

[Click here to see more Christmas photos.]

Look how smiley you are!

You have begun walking. And it’s not like we’ve pushed you. This mode of mobility has always interested you, even in your wee months as a baby. You’d always straighten your legs, seeming to prefer standing to sitting. You’ve been patient, waiting until you were strong enough to balance yourself and try your first steps. What a champ. You’re still a bit wobbly, so for now crawling is still faster for you. But I can tell how much you like the view from two and a half feet up.

On Tuesday you had your nine-month checkup. You’re a healthy 19 pounds. And you measured 29 inches long, which is in the 93rd percentile of girls your age. Did you know that I am 58 inches tall? That makes you exactly half my height, which is impossible.

You need to slow down.

04

07

08

I really enjoy being your mother, spending time with you, watching you grow and learn and discover the world around you. Traditionally moms are the nurturers in the family, while dads are the providers. And Dadda works hard to give us everything we need. He’s also torturing himself with grad school so that he can be a better provider. He only has thesis hours left and at least 100 pages to write. We will all cheer when he’s done!

But there are lots of families where both parents work, or where the dad stays home, or where there’s only one parent who doesn’t have a choice but to be both nurturer and provider. Many of these parents struggle with these roles; some don’t.

I do.

10

For the past six months I have been working two days a week so that I could spend the rest of the week with you. It seemed a good enough compromise. And in the past month, I’ve been planning to take education and career to the next level. I’m in my last year of grad school and have scheduled time to volunteer at a hospital library and do a practicum at a university health sciences library this semester. Instead of adding to the days I’ve been working, I replaced them with volunteering and the practicum, so that I still get to spend five full days with you.

This doesn’t mean a lot to you right now, I know.

But those mornings when I say goodbye, it breaks my heart. I go through the day and focus on work and even enjoy what I do. And then during the commute home, I have nothing but squealy anticipation to see you. I open the door and see your face, and you smile and reach for me. I pick you up and give you a big hug while you give me a big slobbery kiss. Hands down, that is the best part of my day.

You do the same thing for Dadda when he comes home. His eyes light up and you give him your biggest smile, and my heart melts into a myocardial puddle.

What I am trying to say is that within six months to a year (maybe 15 months), I hope to have a full-time job so that I can contribute to providing for our family. That means that I’ll be away from you for at least eight hours a day, five days a week.¬†I wonder what other nurturers do when they also become providers. How do they deal with the anxiety? What kinds of compromises do they make? In what ways do they make the most of their time at home? Some different perspectives might be helpful.

With your growing so fast because you’re a baby, and babies grow so fast, when I do go back to work, I have fears of missing milestones. I fear that being gone for so long you will forget who I am, that you won’t love me anymore, or as much. I fear that our little family won’t be as close or that I will miss opportunities to teach you important things. It’s not that I worry that you won’t be well taken care of, because that was never a concern. You’ll always have family and friends who feed you and adore you and play with you and keep you safe. It’s more selfish for me: I’ll miss you growing up. I blink, and you’re walking. I spend eight hours, or 40 hours away, and you’re ready for college. But you still can’t date until you’re 27. Hopefully you’ll be sleeping through the night by then. You’re almost there now.

03

02

Yet, I don’t dare underestimate you, little one. You have this innate sense of who your parents are, and you know things about your family without our telling you, but I’m going to say this one thing anyway, because I want you to know that I know it, too.

I will always come home to you.

My tummy misses you, but these past nine months have brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined. Keep blowing our minds, baby girl.

09

Love, Mom