Fuckup Nights for Parents

Fuckup Nights for Parents

There’s this global movement in the business world called Fuckup Nights that I think is brilliant. It’s a simple concept; a series of events where people get up and tell their stories of failure. Like TED, but with a twist. Businesses that crashed and burned. Deals gone wrong. Product recalls. That sort of thing.

Along with being generally hilarious, the stories tend to be quite inspiring. Largely because the people who have the humility to be able to get up in front of a crowd of people and say, “yep, I fucked up,” those people are the good ones. It shows real strength of character. These are professionals who are able to look failure in the face, move on, and ultimately to learn from it.

So, I’m thinking, we need Fuckup Nights for Parents. A time to get together and share the times we totally screwed it up. To support each other through it, and to bring failure out into the open. To take the shame out – because we all fuck up, sometime or another. It’s just a matter of how we frame it.

Of course, getting out of the house, on time, without the kids is probably easier said than done for parents of young kids, so I guess a virtual Fuckup Nights will have to suffice for now. Here’s one of my tales of failure to get the ball rolling:

It was about 7 months ago. Little A was a few weeks old, and GG was in the thick of coming to terms with the new addition to our family. About to turn 3 and just having a really hard time of it. He was acting out left and right, but usually the trigger was when he needed me and I was busy with the baby – generally nursing or holding her when he wanted to be held.

His kindergarten threw a holiday party one afternoon, and for some reason I thought nothing of turning up by myself with Little A in tow. She was fussy so I just brought her in my arms, no carrier, no stroller. I’m cringing now just thinking about it.

The party was a low-key affair, just a few little songs and dances and then food, but somehow for us it turned into a borderline catastrophe. GG wanted me to dance with him and Little A was screaming. I had nowhere to put her down even if I wanted to. He wanted me to pick him up and had a total meltdown. The baby needed to eat. I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask for help – or I hadn’t learned yet that sometimes the only way to survive with more than one kid is to get help.

Before long the poor little guy was a total mess. Screaming for me to pick him up, surrounded by kids who had all of their parents attention, and there I was, baby in my arms, failing him. I hadn’t even thought about it, about how much GG would need my attention in there. I’m so embarrassed to say that but it’s the truth.

I could have asked someone to come with me just to hold her, I could have thought to bring the stroller in, I could have asked for help. Now that I’m writing this, I could have even run outside right then to get the stroller from the car! But I didn’t. I was so busy fucking up that I couldn’t think straight.

Eventually we made it out. I let GG eat some gross unhealthy food because I felt so guilty and inadequate, and somehow I got both of them and an armload of bags and jackets into the car.

And that’s it, that’s my fuckup story. Sounds insignificant I guess, and maybe it was, but to me it was huge. Because I realized it, plain and simple. Failure.

So, why am I thinking about this right now?

Because yesterday I had my chance for a corrective experience – the end of year kindergarten party. And this time I got it. I understood what was expected of me, prepared accordingly and we all had a great time.

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I don’t have a photo of that day, but this was around then, and it seems symbolic. The two of them and me, all on top of each other, trying to work out what fits where. 

Accepting my own imperfections is a real challenge for me. My therapist is always reminding me that the aim is not perfection – but rather acceptance. Sometimes I feel like, umm hello, what am I paying you for if we’re not working on making me perfect here? But of course, she’s right. And I think owning our failures can help us move towards acceptance. Not to try to get to a point where we don’t fuck up – coz that’s not gonna happen – but rather to except that we’ll make mistakes, and to learn to see failure, nod and carry on.

So, who’s up next?

Aside

Getting to Know You

A few weeks ago a dear friend asked me, “So, what’s she like?”

I loved the question. I loved that she wasn’t asking me what the nights were like, with all the loaded expectation that the question brings, or if she likes her bath, or what the weird rash on her face was from. I love that she was asking about my new daughter as a person.

But I didn’t know how to answer.

Or rather, I didn’t like my answer.

She seemed exactly like GG. She looked like him, sounded like him and moved like him. The way she stretched as she woke and squished her lips together after a feed brought back strong memories of the last time round. She was transfixed by anything with stripes, just like he used to be. She wore his clothes, and she felt like him in my arms.

I felt like such a phony.

I’m constantly ranting about how all babies are individuals, how they are whole people from birth, and yet I couldn’t even tell the difference between my own two babies. I’m embarrassed to say I even had a hard time remembering that she was a girl from time to time, and I constantly called her the wrong name.

And by comparison, GG with all his rambunctious toddler energy, babbling away in two languages, running and jumping and joking and yelling, he felt like so much more of a whole person to me. The little one felt like just an outline, whereas GG is full, vibrant color.

Things are shifting now, but slowly.

A few weeks on and it’s clear, this is a different child. This one likes to sleep, swaddled up and cozy in her bed. She knows exactly what she wants, and as long as she gets it she’s content and predictable. She loves to nurse but only when she wants to – there’s no shoving a boob in her mouth when it might be convenient for me. She picks the pace. She’s calm and clear, as articulate as a newborn can be. And she’s beautiful, naturally.

But still, I can’t believe how hard it is to write this without making a comparison to GG. To write a preliminary sketch of my little girl’s emerging character without referencing her brother. Even though they’re so different and I’m supposedly so observant and perceptive. As bad as I feel saying it, he’s my only benchmark.

She’s almost two months old now, and we’ve got the basics down pat – eating, sleeping, and diapering. Apart from that, all I really know is that when she smiles at me I melt, and when we gaze into each other’s eyes it feels like I’ve known her forever. I guess it’s just a matter of time, as she reveals more of herself to me, and we build a relationship that’s ours and ours alone.

For now, though we’re still physically linked as a little ecosystem, as individuals – as mother and daughter – we’re still getting to know each other.

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Sweet moments with the little one
Finding the Zen in Toddler Turmoil

Finding the Zen in Toddler Turmoil

Our 2-year-old has been having a tough week. He’s happy one minute and irritable the next. Picky with food. Super opinionated about everything. And of course his sleep is suffering too – which in our house translates to extreme bedtime resistance and hours of screaming between the highly questionable hours of midnight and 4am.

Lots of fun for the parents.

Luckily, both of us are certified google doctors so we’ve gone through everything. Could he have an ear infection? Or worms? Maybe he’s teething again? But apart from disturbed sleep, none of the symptoms fit.

Yesterday during an intense medical research session (read: Google search) I found a couple of articles on the “2 year sleep regression.” These made more sense: basically new separation anxiety, nighttime fears and lengthened wake-times all join together to screw up toddlers’ sleep for a little while. Satisfied with my diagnosis, I sent the links over to my husband.

“So?” he asked later, ever the Mr. Fix-it, “How do we fix it? What do we do?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “We just keep doing what we’ve always done, we stay consistent, and it’ll pass.”

All of this frantic searching for something wrong, something to fix, something to do had made me miss the point. With the exception of when there’s something really wrong – in which case we usually know right away – our job is to show our kids that everything’s okay. That even if they’re having a hard time, acting out, testing boundaries – we’re still here. We’ve got it. They can lose their shit and throw everything on the floor we’ll still be grounded, calm and in charge. We’ll know what to do.

With this renewed strength I had a chat with GG before bedtime. Summarized the tough week we’ve had. Explained the routine anew. Prepared him for every step. And what do you know – bedtime was a breeze and he slept for 11 hours straight.

So much of this game is about how we handle it – rather than the details. When we stop letting the little things ruffle us, the big things are so much easier.

Mindfulness and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Mindfulness and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Our 18-month old has finally got the message that the boob restaurant is closed overnight (yay!), but now he has a new demand – “BOOK”! Yep, he wakes up at midnight, 2am, 4am, whatever and calls out “BOOOOOK” (along with “mum,” “dad,” and “water,” just to mix it up). And of course, he’ll scream bloody murder if his demands are not met. So fine, if he needs to hear a story to fall back to sleep, it’s not the worst thing in the world. And I’ve read all of his books enough times to know them off by heart so no need to turn on the light…. or have I? To my surprise, I recently found out that I don’t know his books off by heart. What’s going on?

I decided the issue needed some mindful exploration. So the next time we were reading, I brought my full attention to the activity. And what do you know – for the first few words, I was there, fully, reading with him… and then I was off. My eyes and my mouth kept reading but my mind? Outta there.

And so my reading meditation was born. Now, whenever I read to him, I pay keen attention to the moment when my mind starts to wander, and I bring it right back to the task at hand. To that sweet, fleeting moment when he’s snuggled up in my lap, totally absorbed in the story – even if it’s the seventh time he’s heard it today. To his anticipation of each word, his exploration of the pictures, his delight at repeating a new phrase. I take care to really read each word, with my eyes and my mind, to speak those rhyming verses with my entire being. To anchor myself to the present, just me, the book, and my little guru.

Last night, just when I thought he was asleep, he sat bolt upright and yelled “BOOK!” And what do you know – I can now recite “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” from start to finish, without blinking an eye. Or touching the book.

The Opposite of Mindfulness

The Opposite of Mindfulness

Readers of this blog will have enjoyed (or rolled their eyes at) my recent rants about mindfulness – about the value of bringing your full attention into the present moment, nursing and meditating etc. And I really do believe it’s a transformational practice – both in it’s seated form and as an exercise of consciousness throughout our everyday lives.

The thing is – I haven’t slept that much since having a baby almost a year ago. And sometimes mindfulness is just too much for my poor, exhausted brain. There are moments that I’m so damn sleep deprived that I’m decidedly unmindful – or should it be mindless? Two examples from the past week:

Unmindful Episode #1: I took the car to work last week, as it was raining and I was picking up Gadi from daycare. I left the office, got into the elevator, pressed the button for the parking lot downstairs, and played with my phone while waiting for the lift to descend to the car park. It didn’t. Instead, the lights went off, and I was left alone in a pitch black metal box. I started to panic. My heart rate rose, I started to think about how long I might be stuck there, who I should call, whether I had cell phone reception. I reached my hand out in the dark towards the buttons, and suddenly the lights came back on. And it was then that I realized. I had pushed 1, the level of my office, rather than -1, the parking. Duh. What actually happened: I stood in a stationary lift so long the lights turned off.

Unmindful Episode #2: While the baby and the husband napped this afternoon, I made two batches of Anzac buscuits. Super pleased with myself, I decided to have a coffee and sample the goods. I got a mug, put a pod in the machine, pressed the button, and heard the coffee start to pour as I put a couple of cookies on a little plate, all the while commending myself for being so brilliantly domestic. I took my mug and my cookies to the couch… only to find the mug completely empty. Where was my coffee? Steaming away in the drip tray of the coffee machine, of course. I forgot to put the mug under the spout.

Guess I should have taken a nap with the boys, huh?

Which brings us to my point –  I am not getting enough sleep. Over six months ago I wrote a smug post about how Gadi started sleeping through the night – a rookie mistake. He hasn’t slept more than five hours straight since. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet either, who knows, but now we’re ready for a change. I can’t just sit around waiting for the next elevator terror or empty coffee mug shock. Tonight we’re starting with Dr. Jay Gordon’s super gentle night weaning plan. I told Gadi all about it before he went to sleep tonight, and I’m convinced it’s the right time. The plan is for Gadi to be getting (at least) 7 hours straight sleep – and a more mindful mama – in time for his first birthday next week.

Wish us luck!

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Okay, I Have to Brag – Look What I Made!

As if the amount of baby photos I post on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp groups wasn’t enough, today I’d like to share the new toy I built for our 11-month-old over the weekend.

Behold: Gadi’s utility board! Gadi's utility board

Inspired by a Facebook post in a RIE parenting group, I decided to make a board with all of the things that Gadi likes to fiddle with but either can’t reach or gets told “no” because of safety/cleanliness. With few exceptions, he seems to get more pleasure from playing with household objects than toys, so I wanted to make a safe, accessible way for him to enjoy the things that interest him most. The light switch isn’t hooked up to anything, the LED lamp is battery-powered, string-operated and made of plastic, and the clip moves freely along the strap.

He’s been mildly interested in it so far, and keeps coming back to check new things out. And me? I keep thinking of all the cool things I can add to it in months and years to come (a lock and key, a dial, a door handle…). Fun for all ages.

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Next project: A helper stool, so Gadi can really get involved in the heart of our household – the kitchen. Stay tuned.