Friday, April 15, 2011


Ila stood on her own! She loves to toddle around clutching tightly to two hands or the furniture - she prefers hands as her exploration is not restricted to furnitured areas. Today, I let go of her hands for a moment - she can lean back on my legs - and she just kept standing there! No swaying, no reaching for anything. Just standing! Then, twice after this, she chose to take her hands off her balancing object - a chair and a table. She had this thrilled, sort of shocked look on her face with just a dash of fear, exciting fear, mind you. Wow! I can sort of glimpse her walking in my imagination. I know she'll walk on a purely theoretical level, but today it seemed like a real possibility!

What a day! It has been a very sweet day (among other things, Ila took a freakisly long nap). This morning she started rustling around and obviously wanted to nurse at about 6 o'clock. I got us all snuggled up and positioned...and Ila proceeded to latch on and nurse for about 20 seconds, then pulled off and put her pacifier in her mouth for about 5 seconds, then back to the breast for 20 seconds, then back to the pacifier...back and forth for about 10 minutes. She did this all in a closed-eye, semi-conscious daze, like she was getting stoned off all the snuggle-y, sucking action. I, however, was wide awake after 30 rounds of this and decided to plop her pacifier in and pull her up onto my chest. She settled into a light sleep for another half an hour, sprawled across my body. It was so absolutely lovely and blissful that I didn't even mind how much I really wanted to still be sleeping.

Later, after the standing action, I put Ila down for her second nap. Today is my brother's birthday, and I was thinking about him as she fell asleep. I have a lot of guilt about not being a kind big sister when we were growing up. Sometimes I think this has something to do with my parents; sometimes it seems like it's just about me. Specifically, I always wonder how I could have been a better sister - maybe it's something my mother did, or something my father didn't do, or something flawed about me that made me stingy and ungenerous with my brother. But, I am always looking back thinking my sibling behavior was problematic and wondering how it went wrong. I think about this because, if Ila has a sibling, I'd like the two of them to love each other without these feelings of guilt.

Well, it just occurred to me today - after three decades as a sister - that maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Maybe nobody did anything wrong, maybe I was a pretty normal big sister, but there is something in me that always wants to rake myself over the coals for past behavior and choices. It's such a revolution to think that, in fact, this isn't about who I was as a kid but about who I am today: I am someone who wants to fix things, even long ago things that were (and still are) totally out of my control, someone with a strong tendency to be a bit too critical of myself. Also, a bit of a rigid perfectionist. Now, instead of thinking about ways I can make Ila a perfect older sibling (it has now become clear that was what I was doing), I will focus on trying to help her be kind to herself. Maybe then she will be okay with who she is, what she needs, and we may just foster a love of her own little self that can overflow into kindness and compassion for any other little beings she shares a home with. There's a thought.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Infant Achievements

There is certainly a stereotype that parents, even of little grub-like infants, are immensely, and perhaps irrationally, proud of their children's accomplishments. Like the parent that is proud of their baby's poops or burps or slobbery faces. So, there is this stereotype, but are these parents real? I find that all of Ila's goofy baby behaviors are entrancing and lovely to me...but I don't feel proud exactly. I don't feel that Ila is prodigiously talented in any way at this point. I think she seems pretty normal - she hasn't really done anything early. She may even do somethings late.

I don't particularly care, but, occasionally, when I comment that she will possibly be a late walker or a late talker, some people try to put me at ease, to supposedly assuage my worries that my child will not be fine. This, naturally, irritates me. I have loathed fellow humans for little more than a stray comment to me to "calm down" when I'm detailing some neurosis or worry of mine (usually I'm doing this in an obviously comedic way). When confronted with these people, I first silently mark their names down in my mental Little Black Book of Things Never to be Forgiven, then tell myself it's just that I speak with great feeling and clarity...and some poor fools mistake that for actual hysteria. One woman who I cannot find it in my heart to like told me that I'm "too much in my head" after hearing my birth story. If I was a different person, I may have punched her. Of course I'm too much in my head! That is a private struggle for me to diffuse publicly with amusing anecdotes. I do not want any Ms. Obvious Observation's patronizing comments.

So, apparently, I have a hang up about this sort of thing. (Okay, fine, it's all part of some control issue of mine. And my dislike of these people is really about me and my insecurities, blah blah blah.) Needless to say, I don't take these unasked for assurances about Ila with anything resembling grace. But it does lead me to wonder if this whole idea that parents are so intensely invested in their infant's "accomplishments" is a bit blown out of proportion. Or maybe it's not pride, maybe we - parents - are just floored by the amazing, though ordinary, process of watching a new little being develop. It is pretty remarkable to be part of.

Still, I find - happily - that I feel all I really care about is that Ila is healthy and seems to be growing along her own little curve. I mean, I am subject to fits of guilt that I am doing something wrong, but I am not particularly invested in thinking Ila is particularly great or speedy in acquiring some new skill. In other words, I sometimes worry that I will handicap her from regular development, but I don't really think much about whether she is very advanced developmentally.

I hear a lot of discussion of children doing this or that early. People do seem to care about this. Or maybe I just focus in on it because I am surprised to discover that I don't care. Let's be honest, I am worried that I will be one of those pusher parents who needs their child to be gifted, brilliant, amazing. I hope I'm not. I've developed an allergy to these parents after being a teacher. I want to encourage, but I don't want to suffocate my child with the need to fulfill some weird expectations of mine. Or maybe I'm just sort of feeling self-congratulatory that I - thus far - don't feel that I have too much ego involvement in her "achievements." We'll see what happens when she starts school; maybe I'll become a real honor-parent menace.

Right now, I'm content just picking up on the little glimmers of Ila's personality shining through, just the ordinary miracles of having a little baby around. She is, for instance, turning into a very affectionate little girl. She has started leaning in when she wants you to kiss her on the lips and then doing some bizarre almost-smacking, open mouth sort of smooch. Very cute and a bit wet. She loves to snuggle at night, which means that she bulldozes her little body into mine. Always mine; not Kiyomi's. I'm sort of excited for the time she starts spreading that insomnia-inducing love around.

Also, she seems to be a cautious little kid. When she loses her balance while cruising around the edges of the furniture, she looks alarmed and sometimes whimpers a bit, looking back at me for reassurance. Some kids seem to be pretty indifferent to getting a bit knocked about in their pursuit of movement. She's actually getting better at falling onto her butt while tottering around the furniture, a skill that she definitely has had to work on. I am watching curiously to see if she is walking in the next month. It could happen, but who knows? And, fortunately, I am not worried either way, so please don't tell me to calm down.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I am surprised at the whole new world of guilt that being a mother opens. I expected some guilt, I guess. If she falls down or hurts herself, I expected to feel in some way responsible. Even such vague feelings of guilt seemed as worries that I will screw up my child, etc. seemed possible. But, I didn't think I would have this constant, subterranean sense that I am just not being present enough, just not being...selfless enough. Really. I feel catholic. And like I totally absorbed crazy expectations of women around parenting that are...well, crazy. These expectations are, on a conscious, rational level, highly problematic. Yet, I find myself thinking that I need to sacrifice more. I catch myself thinking that I'm just not lavishing enough attention, focus or interaction on Ila.

For instance, I feel like I should be talking to her more - in "developmentally appropriate" ways, you know, like asking lots of questions, leaving a little wait time even though there's about .01% chance she's going to answer me any time soon. I feel like I should be more actively trying to stimulate her, educate and enrich her world in ways a baby would appreciate.

I'm not sure why my mind has glommed onto talking more to Ila, but this is where some of my worry goes, especially since around now is when some babies say their first word. Ila has "ma-ma-ma-ed" quite a bit, but it generally seems not to correspond to me, the Mama in question. Other than that, she's not particularly talkative. In fact, in the last week, she's stopped even making random syllable sounds as much as she was recently. This is totally fine, says my rational mind. My bizarre guilty mama brain says, Maybe you should talk to her more; maybe she just doesn't get enough encouragement from you. The guilty mind seems to win out. Fortunately yesterday my rational brain found something to bolster its fairly weak argument. Movement! Ila is so focused on movement that she doesn't have the attention to put toward vocalizing lately.

As soon as I thought this yesterday, she also started babbling more. Or, she had been babbling the same amount, and I am just a paranoid worrier making up scenarios to create turmoil in my mind that are not based on actual, objective fact? That's fairly likely. Last night, in particular, she was mimicking sounds. We were at some friends' house - they have a little girl who is almost 2 - and we were all saying the word "eyeball." Why? Because someone said it and then the little girl repeated it. For some reason, it's pretty funny when a little kid says "eyeball," so we all were saying eyeball. Then, Ila said "ay-ba" right in time for her turn in the eyeball action. We all stopped, surprised. Our friend said, "Ah! Her first word! Eyeball. Write it down!" Hmmm. Eyeball? Really?

For me, all of this points to the necessity of not be isolated with my baby. It's too easy to get trapped in some netherworld of irrational guilt. Friends, family members, sane, non-sleep deprived folks help remind me that some of my expectations of myself are ridiculous. This is good to remember because, though Ila isn't saying words (other than eyeball, of course), she is doing all kinds of fun, new things, and it's good to not miss them because I'm focused on what I'm not doing for her. She started waving this week, for example. This baffled me because I never wave bye-bye (that is also a source of some guilty, "Ah! I should be instilling good bye-bye waving skills in my child!"). Well, I guess Kiyomi and Ila wave bye bye to the poops in the potty and Ila has branched out from "bye bye, poop" waving to "bye bye, people" waving. Pretty cool.

Other than that, she also experiments with random noises and behaviors, as babies are wont to do. These are some of the strangest and funniest parts of having a baby. Where does she get these ideas? Who knows...