Friday, March 20, 2015

Walter Explains It All

Once a week, Walter and I have breakfast together. Usually it's "Mini Wheats with Mama" (I'm trying to figure out how to sell that story to Kellogg's ... it's advertising gold, I tell you) but today we went out to McDonald's. On the way there I was impressed, as always, with Walter's use of logic.

Me: "Would you like to go to Denny's or McDonald's?"
Walter: "MCDONALD's!" (Pause) "McDonald's is very very far away."
Me: "Actually, it's very close by!"
Walter: "Actually, it's far away.  Umma and Baba live far away.  McDonald's is by Umma and Baba's house. That means, McDonald's is far away, too."
Me: "That's true! There is a McDonald's near Umma and Baba's house.  I love the way you thought about that.  But there's a McDonald's by our house, too."
Walter: (Skeptical silence.)

We turned into Crossroads Commons, across the street from our house.

Walter: "Oh! Yes, there is a McDonald's here. You will turn here and that's where it is. There are two McDonald's, one by Umma and Baba's house and one by our house!"
Me: "That's true!  And there are even more McDonald's than that, too!"
Walter: (exasperated) "WHY?"

We ordered our breakfast from a beautiful woman with grey hair named Carol. She was tickled when Walter ordered his own chocolate milk.  Walter got pancakes and sausage. I got oatmeal and plain coffee. I have another money-making idea for an app that rewards you for every just-ever-so-slightly-healthier choice you make.  Patent pending.  Walter was dismayed by my choice, and kept trying to share his pancakes with me.  "Mama: there are TWO pancakes. You can have one!" I told him he didn't have to eat it all if he didn't want it, and he said, "Oh Mama, you know I want my pancakes."  I also told him I was very happy with my oatmeal, and he thought about that for awhile. "BABIES can't have chocolate milk," he said finally. "But they CAN have oatmeal."

"That's true!" I said. "Except for very little babies, who just drink Mama milk." That lesson in parenting about not constantly correcting/contradicting my child? I am still learning that one. But mostly, Walter doesn't seem to mind. "That's true," he said, taking a thoughtful sip from his chocolate milk.

He sighed. I guessed I knew what he was thinking about.  "Isn't it amazing that Sally's not drinking Mama milk anymore? She's really getting to be a big girl." I said.  "Yeah," he sighed again, and pursed his lips.  He was deciding how to tell me how he was really feeling about that.

"Sally really likes 'other side'" he said, his gaze off to the side somewhere. "Sometimes, she cries for it." He looked up at me. "And sometimes you cry for it, too." He smiled, and giggled gently, the way I do sometimes when I say something uncomfortably true. The giggle that means "my goodness, life is something else, isn't it?"

The morning after I wrote that blog post about Sally weaning and not even asking for "other side" anymore she, of course, started asking for it again. Sally's approach to change is to embrace it wholeheartedly without question for awhile and then reject it for a bit before--slowly, this time--working her way back to acceptance.  I know this about her, but it still surprised me, and hit me pretty hard.  She cried, and when I tried to explain it to Walter that morning, I cried too.

"Do you miss drinking Mama milk and nursing?" I asked. He nodded. "I do," he said. "Maybe you'll miss it less as you get older?" He nodded again and used his straw to get every possible drop of milk, then took the straw out and brought the bottle to his mouth, tilting his head way back and tapping on the bottom of the bottle with his palm.  Then he picked up the straw and sucked the last drops out of that, then looked at me, raised his eyebrows, stuck out his tongue and indicated that he was going to lick a couple stray drops from the straw off of the table. "Ick," I said, and handed him a napkin, which he used to clean up the drops.

I'd been wanting to say something about bigger and better things, about growing up and getting to drink chocolate milk, about all the good things that come in the years after we all leave "other side" behind. But Walter and I both know that it's not as simple as that.  Something is lost.  When something is lost, it's not enough to just say, "move on, it'll get better." Life is good, but also, loss is real.  Contradicting it doesn't help.

We cleaned up the table so thoroughly that we accidentally threw out his happy meal toy.  He didn't notice, but I figured he might eventually, so I explained what happened to Carol and she said, "Let me get you another, dear.  Here, give him two." She gave me a kind smile.  People have been so, so kind to me all week.  I asked Sean if I have a sign on my forehead that says, "Weaning my toddler; feeling fragile and in need of kindness."  I went back to our table and showed Walter the cars.

"One to keep and one to share," he said.
"Who will you share it with?"
"Donna." he said, decisively.
Donna is his teacher at school; she's known him since he was 3 months old. I used to come to Room One and nurse him once a day.  Donna always laughed when he'd fall asleep in my arms, and then woke up when I tried to put him down in his crib.  "I'm so glad he does that to you, too!" she said.

He can't possibly remember any of that--the nursing, the way he hated sleeping in cribs, the way we rolled our eyes and laughed and secretly didn't mind getting to hold him for awhile while he slept.  Maybe he does miss being a baby, though. I miss those days sometimes, too.

As I buckled him into his carseat, Walter asked, "What does 'determined' mean?"  I don't think I'd used the word with him today, although I might have when I was encouraging him to persevere in putting on his own socks. "It means that you keep working on something, even if it's hard and you can't get it right away. Are you determined sometimes?" Walter: "Yes, I sure am." "You sure are. I love it that you are determined. Do you think Sally is determined?" "Yes," said Walter, resolutely. "Sally is very, very determined." "She is, indeed." We shared a knowing smile. That Sally is going to be OK, and we are, too.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weaning is not the end of the world: Part II

I was going to title this post "weaning IS the end of the world," just to be funny, but earnestness strikes again and I find I can't even joke about it, even when it's clearly a joke. I'm not really in that much of a joking mood, what with the sudden precipitous drop in oxytocin.  Research has shown that petting a dog also releases oxytocin in humans, so I've been hanging out with Hank a little more than usual (Hank: "I'm not complaining, but also, what gives?")  I also find that I enjoy spending a little quality time with my harmonica after dinner.  I'm not good enough to actually play the blues ... yet.  But I can see the instrument's appeal as a form of catharsis.

After months of wondering when and how weaning was going to happen without the motivation of being pregnant (motivation we are not even considering, even though Walter has made it clear that he needs another baby now that Sally's all grown up,) after some false starts and half-hearted attempts to cut back and Dr. L and my mom conspiring with each other to make the exact same argument for weaning (more on that, later,) after all that, it feels like we just kind of fell into the weaning thing this week.  On Wednesday, I got home late from preaching out at a country church, so Sean got Sally to bed. It went well, so we've kept going with Sean putting Sally to bed at night and me taking over with Walter. Sally and I nursed once in the morning until Saturday, when I had to get up and leave for a meeting before she woke up.  Today we jumped right into breakfast, so no nursing at all today, either. 

This is really happening.

And again, it's not the end of the world. But it hurts, and I'm sad.  Not for-a-reason-sad, really.  Just sad. *harmonica solo.*

So I went to Sally's 18 month well-child visit a couple weeks ago and Dr. L told me I had to wean her.  She was careening madly all over the exam room saying "other side," which is how she asks to nurse, and Dr. L said "When they're old enough to ask for it by name, it's time to stop."  And I was like, "When did you talk to my mom, and how much did she pay you?"

Mom has never pressured me to wean Sally at all, actually, but she has shared in the past that my ability to ask for "boppy" was a factor in her decision to wean me.  And with Sally I've rebelled against that reasoning because really, why should the ability to talk be the determining factor?  Just because she's super verbal, Sally doesn't get to nurse as long as a toddler the same age who doesn't talk? That doesn't seem right. Breastfeeding up to age two is not unusual. I produce lots of milk.  Why not keep nursing her? She likes it.  I like it. What does talking have to do with it?

Then this week Sally started busting out three, even four word sentences left and right like it was no big deal.  "Baba, where are you?" (in perfect sing-song cadence.) "Bye bye Mama." "All done, mini wheats."  "I want it." And, of course, "More other side."

I still think there's more to it than her ability to talk. But the talking is indicative of other changes, other signs that Sally really is ready to move into a different stage.  That's what my mom saw in me when she weaned me, and that's what Dr. L saw in Sally. I can see it now, better than I could before we started weaning her.  Since we weaned her, she is sleeping better and going to sleep with less help.  She is as affectionate as ever with me, but also enjoying having more time with Sean. She hasn't asked for "other side" since the last time I nursed her Friday morning (and oh, I am so glad, and so sad about that.)  She was ready.

The last time we nursed was Friday morning, up in my bed, while Walter watched Curious George.  Sally was very interested in watching the show, too, in a different way than before, and I recognized that as another sign that nursing wasn't her top priority anymore.  But she settled in to nurse very happily, and smiled when I patted her bottom as I held her.  When we were done she immediately asked for "more other side" and I said, "Silly goose, you've had both sides." She smiled and snuggled with me, happy to watch some George before getting ready for day care. She likes routine, like all of us do.  As long as her new routine includes snuggle time with Mama, she's happy.

Sally has adapted to this change with no signs of stress at all, and that helps me feel better in the midst of my more stressful adaptation.  If I'd actually planned this weaning I probably wouldn't have chosen my busiest time of year.  On the upside, if I keep to the schedule I was on with Walter, the depression should lift right in time for Easter, which seems appropriate.  In the meantime, Sean binds me up at night. I think about pumping to relieve some pressure, but usually just opt for a shower, since I worry that pumping will keep my supply going.  We had cabbage for dinner tonight so I got to wear some leaves in my bra this afternoon (don't know that it helped, but we saved some uncooked leaves just in case.)  The fact that I'm writing this indicates to me that I'm doing better than I was when we weaned Walter. That wasn't the end of the world, either, but I waited until the pain subsided and the clouds lifted, just to be sure (and because I was too incapacitated to write, really.)  The beauty of the second child is that you know, you really know, that whatever difficult stage you're going through, it's not going to last forever.

This, too, shall pass. And there is so much more sweetness, snuggling and phenomenal Sally-ness yet to come.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


We got home today from a weekend in the Dells, our first experience of the four of us coexisting in one hotel room.  We slept ... barely.  So I'm tired, but I need to document at least one moment of the sweetness of this time together.

In the new version of Peter Pan there's a fabulous new song, written to give Christopher Walken an opportunity to tap dance.  The song is called "Vengeance."  The final, big finish, culminating line sung by the pirate chorus is: "Toodaloo and so long Peter/Treasure's sweet but nothing's sweeter than vengeance!"  Walter, with great certainty, sings it this way:

"Treasure's sweet but nothing's sweeter than PANCAKES!"

We've tried to correct him but he's pretty sure that's the correct lyric.