Children -Why?

questions-1922477_960_720I hear a lot of millennials who are either married or in committed relationships questioning the need or the sense in having children. Generations past, people didn’t think about things like that: babies just happened, like a two-day snowstorm or a power outage (coincidentally, two events that often result in the conception of children).

Nowadays, the growing tendency is to overthink everything, and the decision to have children is no exception. Here are my thoughts on five common concerns I’ve heard expressed:

  • Having kids is too expensive. Well, yes it does cost a lot. But so do a lot of things that won’t outlast you, like the latest iPhone or a trip to Tahiti.
  • Pregnancy will ruin my body. I wouldn’t say “ruin” exactly; more like remodel.
  • Kids really tie you down. So does anything you own that requires payments or getting a pet  (unless it’s a rat – you can just let that sucker loose in your basement and it will take care of itself). The point is, things or even an affectionate pet won’t give you hugs and kisses, or make you a birthday card covered with so much glitter that if it catches sunlight it could blind the orbiting space station.
  • Childbirth is painful. I don’t have any snappy comeback for that one, except thank God for drugs.
  • I’ll lose my freedom. A carefree lifestyle of partying, clubbing and spur-of-the-moment vacations will most likely go by the wayside after you have kids, unless you plan on being a terrible parent. But Nature has an answer for that. The older you get, and especially after you have kids, the less energy and interest you’ll have in partying, clubbing and taking spur-of-the-moment vacations. So, problem solved.

While I’d never try to convince an unwilling person to have a child (there are sadly already far too many unwanted children) here are five reasons to make the lifelong investment of having children, if you’re mulling it over:

  • It’s a chance for a do-over. Raising kids gives you a chance to relive your own childhood, and maybe even rewrite the script. Your parents never took you camping? You can make it a point to camp with your kids. (Of course, you may find that your kids hate camping, the same way your parents did, but that’s another story.)
  • You’ll see that magic is real. Participating in the growth of a child is a truly magical experience, and I don’t use that description lightly. Even the stunts in the Harry Potter stories seem pretty tame compared to the phenomenon of watching tiny human beings, in a mere two years, transform from a state of complete helplessness into little people who can smile, laugh, walk, talk, and say no like they mean it.
  • You can be the star of a real-life drama. No two childbirth stories are alike, and you have the right to embroider yours as much as you want to after your child is born. What may be a routine hospital procedure can become an epic tale of courage and nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thriller if you tell it right. Just don’t share your highly embellished story to a young woman who hasn’t had kids yet. You may spook her, and her mother or mother-in-law won’t thank you for it.
  • You’ll get members-only benefits. Having children grants you an automatic entry to the biggest and yet most exclusive club in the world: parenthood. There’s no secret handshake, but on some level parents automatically understand each other, and what we all must go through for the sake of our children. All moms, whether they’re world leaders or housekeepers, have something in common, as do all dads who’re doing their best to raise kids in a world that often doesn’t support their efforts or affirm their sacrifices.

That’s four. Now, here’s the fifth and the best, which I’ve saved for last:

  • Grandchildren.

You won’t appreciate this reason until you’ve guided your kids through childhood and past the shoals of adolescence to the point where they’re ready to become parents themselves.

Being a grandparent allows you to experience the miracle of life all over again, without the full burden of parental responsibility. Grandchildren are a wonderful reward for all the years you spent parenting – the sleepless nights and apprehensive days, the worry and the joys that go hand-in-hand with raising a family.

Trust me on this.  And it’s worth noting that you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. That’s an absolute prerequisite.

todo-list-297195__340Many of us would reverse that order if we could – being a grandparent is way more fun than being a parent– but that’s impossible. And that’s just as well. I don’t think you can really appreciate grandchildren without having raised children first. It’s a layering of experience that can’t be duplicated or short-cut.

So here’s my admittedly unsolicited advice. If you’re considering having kids and are in a position to do so, make two lists, pro and con. Don’t be surprised if the cons outnumber the pros. Then rip up both your lists and have kids anyway. (A snowy night with no power may help things along.)

Don’t overthink it. It’s the only way you’ll get a shot at becoming a grandparent.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of having kids.

 

 

 

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Babyproofing Grandma’s house

 

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Despite the pink ribbons, we don’t know yet if  our next grandbaby is a boy or girl

 

We’ve had some wonderful news – another grandchild is on the way, due this summer. Our first and currently only grandchild, who’ll be a big sister to her new sibling, is 20 months old.

 

I have the privilege and pleasure of taking care of our active granddaughter on a regular basis. I blush to say it, but my main strategy so far to keep her safe at our house involves me following her around constantly.

Now, that won’t cut it with two grandchildren. I know that just like when I was a mom raising two rambunctious boys,  I’ll get distracted and lose track of one kid or another occasionally, which can open the door to all kinds of mischief.

So I’ve realized that it’s time to get serious about childproofing Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No grandkid of mine is going to get hurt on my watch!

To get some help in the matter (hey, it’s been a long time since I had to hide the matches from my inquisitive two-year-old son) I did a search and found some good advice at Contractor Quotes. The site has some great tips from folks who build and remodel houses on the best ways to babyproof your home. They also sent me an article I want to share with you describing how to make your home safer for children, starting in the living room.

And if you want to be really thorough, as in “there’s no way these kids can get into trouble at my house now, no matter how hard they try” check out the infographic that follows the article. It covers the house inside and out. That should take care of your little darlings, or at least slow them down!


Spend Safer Quality Time with your Baby, by Contractor Quotes

You should spend as much quality time as you can with your baby in your home, and the best place to do so is in the living room. It’s probably the biggest area in your room and should have a lot of things that can help entertain the whole family.

However, most living rooms are not safe for children. This is because they were constructed and designed with adults’ needs and preferences in mind. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you cannot spend quality time with your child there. With the right babyproofing steps, it can be a safe place for your child, allowing the whole family to spend safe and fun quality time in there.

How to Baby Proof your Living Room

Here are the steps to take to baby proof your living room.

  • Get down on all fours and look around.

This may seem weird, but it’s really necessary so you can see what your child will see. Look around at this eye level and try to see what may attract your child so you can see if they’re safe for children or not. Look around to see potential dangers so you can take care of them.

  • Keep small objects out of reach. Include the things that can be toppled over.

Children love to grab on small objects. This can be dangerous because your child can put them in his mouth or break them. If it’s small enough to fit inside the toilet paper roll insert, then it’s a potential choking hazard.

Also, keep vases, lamps, picture frames and the like out of reach.

  • Secure the TV and other appliances and furniture with furniture straps or anchor bolts.

The TV can be easily toppled over, especially the latest models that are very thin. This is why you have to secure them with straps. You should also do the same with lighter furniture. For the heavier ones, you have to use anchor bolts.

  • Check your houseplants.

Your houseplants may be safe for adults, but some of them may be unsafe for kids. This is why you have to do your research to find out if your house plants are toxic for your kids. If they are, you have to get rid of them immediately.

  • Check your fireplace.

On a cold night, families love to spend some quality time in front of the fireplace. Make sure it’s safe for your kid. Start by installing a fireplace screen. The sharp edges of the fireplace have to be secured with edge bumpers. Make sure to keep fire starters out of reach.

 

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Photo credit for stork image: janwillemsen via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Sharing is caring – dealing with in-laws over the holidays

xmasart_69I chose “sharing is caring” as a title to this post about sharing kids and grandkids at Christmas with in-laws because it’s a higher, nobler sentiment than what I’m really feeling, which is more like this paraphrase of what Charlton Heston’s character said in Planet of the Apes: “Get your filthy paws off my family, you damn dirty apes.”

Yes, it’s hard to smile and take a step back at Christmas when you have married children and grandchildren. You want to see them as much as possible, especially your adult children who’re visiting from out of town. And, naturally, their in-laws feel the same way – especially if you all live in the same area.

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The eyes say it all

I remember when our boys were little and we could enjoy all the holiday festivities together with them. With their marriages (to wonderful women, I must add) things have changed. I understand that our sons have their own families now, and need private time with them. I also get that they have to accommodate their wives’ families, and I don’t want to make things difficult for them with competing claims on their time.

But why is it that the paternal grandparents seem to do most of the compromising? Is it because of the old adage, “a son is a son till he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for all her life”?  I hope not – as a mother of boys, I’ve always found that saying to be quite demoralizing.

I was still struggling with these grim thoughts when I happened upon an old movie on Turner Classic Movies (New Morals for Old, 1932), which touched on the subject of mothers and grown sons. It didn’t help – it just encouraged me to brood even more.

The movie featured a mother (played by Laura Hope Crews) who went into a good old-fashioned decline when her son (Robert Young) left home to try to find himself as a painter in Paris. After years of absence and career disappointment, the son finally came home and rushed to his mother’s sickroom, where she was reclining, weak but still lovely, in a rocker near a lace-curtained window (which bathed her in a flattering light – she was no dummy). He promised to never leave her again. In response, she smiled sweetly and died. That showed him!

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By Christmas night our granddaughter may be feeling like this . . .

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. . . or like this.

If it wasn’t for good friends who’ve invited us over on Christmas Eve, I’d feel more bereft and probably sink further into an abyss of self-pity.

Which is stupid, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

We’re lucky. Too many grandparents don’t get to see their kids and grandkids at all over the holidays, either because of distance or estrangement. And I know when our sons were young we worked hard to establish traditions for our own little family without the pressure of big family gatherings. That didn’t create any problems in our extended family because neither set of grandparents made much of a push to see us at holiday time.

But flash forward to now, and that’s no longer the case. During the holidays our kids, and especially our granddaughter, are like rock stars on tour. Everybody wants a piece of them.

So, I’ve decided that if it’s our lot to host an end-of-day Christmas celebration, it’ll be a fun one. We’ll have Christmas crackers and games and a delicious holiday buffet. I’ll do my best to be generous and respect the needs of our in-laws and the juggling our sons and daughters-in-law have to do with their time. After all, the folks in some countries celebrate 12 whole days of Christmas. We don’t have to cram all the jollity in on Christmas Eve.

Doesn’t that sound mature? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go punch a Santa Claus.

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

 

Ouch! The baby broke grandma.

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This photograph from a 1917 National Geographic Magazine illustrates exactly how I hurt my hip.

Carrying a baby around on your hip is fine when you’re a young mother. It’s a classic maneuver, convenient and comfortable for you and the kid.

But when you’re a grandmother of a certain age, hip-hauling a baby can be hazardous.

Especially when said baby is actually a 20-pound toddler and you’re carrying her through a throng of revelers at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, where you can’t safely put her down to toddle for at least an hour, and of course you forgot the stroller.

As your hip aches the next day and for many days after you may have to face the brutal fact that you’re not as young as you think you are. As Shakira says, “Hips Don’t Lie.”

 

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Yes, there were puppies like this at the tree-lighting ceremony, providing another reason for my granddaughter to try to squirm out of my arms

When I’ve thrown my hip out yet again (mopping the floor will do it, too, which I think is an excellent reason for me to retire my mop) I rely on the aptly-named yoga pose “Happy Baby.” This has got to be the most undignified exercise ever, and that’s saying a lot when you consider how other yoga poses look.

But Happy Baby works like a charm  – not just for my hips, but for my lower back as well.

In fact, ever since I started caring for my granddaughter on a regular basis I’ve been forced to create – and stick to – a morning exercise routine. It’s a simple matter of self-defense – grandkids can be murder on your joints.

I don’t dare skip my morning stretches: I used to stretch for fun but now I stretch for survival. Daily stretches are that only way I’ve got any hope of getting back up when I go down on my haunches to play with the baby.

 

In addition to Happy Baby, every morning I try to do a modified  Sun Salutation (it looks a little like this, but I don’t do it nearly as well), a gentle back bend and my favorite stretch, Child’s Pose, which is great for my knees. For a while, I toyed with adding the FiveTibetan Rites, which are much like yoga, but I haven’t really gotten into those yet. The first rite, which I call the Spinner (you turn in a circle) makes me dizzy. I guess it’s tougher than it looks to be a whirling dervish.

What about you? I’d like to hear from other grandparents of small children about how you stay flexible. Do you have any tips for keeping in shape for your grandkids?

And now, here’s our gal Shakira with some musical inspiration to help us keep our hips and other joints moving smoothly:

 

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

 

Battling for Baby

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Everyone knows that a baby can turn the lives of its parents upside down.

But the lives of everyone related to the baby are transformed, too. Relationships between in-laws, which up to this point may have been cordial if a bit formal, can morph into a competition worthy of a prize fight, except the gloves come off when it comes to handling a new grandchild.

And it’s the maternal and paternal grandmothers who most often lock horns.

If you’re the parent, you may find yourself an unwilling referee in a contest to see who gets more baby face time.

And if you’re the grandmother, you’ll soon find out that babies reveal your true grandmother personality, for better or worse.

Are you the type to stand back and let someone else take the lead, and perhaps pout while watching the other grandmother hold the baby till her arms ache?

charlton_heston_-_1953Or do you assert yourself à la Charlton Heston and grab the baby declaring “you can have this baby when you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands”?

If you’re a new parent it’s enough to make you wish you’d had the equivalent of an elopement, having the baby privately and announcing it later. Except, unlike during those honeymoon days, when you have a baby you sincerely welcome input and suggestions from family and friends.

You can hope the grandparents will maturely assess the situation, realize everyone wants to hold the baby, and graciously take turns, bearing in mind that what new parents really need is help with laundry, shopping, and cleaning.

Yeah, right. Chances are at least one grandmother or close family relative is a baby hogger, and baby hoggers are notoriously tough to deal with.

They smile, coo at the baby and act like the other grandmother doesn’t exist, even if she’s standing nearby with her arms extended and a hopeful look on her face. Baby hoggers are shameless about taking every opportunity to scoop the baby out of someone else’s arms and hang onto it for dear life until the infant makes a big enough fuss about something that mom or dad need to intervene. Then the other grandmother gets even more ignored.

Now, there are ways to deal with this type of grandmother. The meeker grandmother can be counseled to take a cue from just about any cat and get what she wants by gently nudging the other grandmother’s shoulder till she releases the baby.

If that doesn’t work, take it up a notch, the way a cat would, and throw in a few arm bites.

If possible, enlist the baby’s help in getting grandparents to share. A well-timed spit-up or diaper blow-out does wonders in getting the other grandmother to relinquish her prize.

Some people argue that the maternal grandmother has the edge in these contests. And that may be true – after all, the mother of the baby’s mother has a special relationship with her offspring.

But that doesn’t mean the paternal grandmother must wave the white flag of surrender. She has the right to bond with her grandchild , too. And she raised a boy, meaning she’s probably one tough mother and won’t be shy about sticking up for herself.

Still, you’d think nobody would want a confrontation. You’d think grandmothers would remember their own initial experiences as new parents and cut their kids some slack by backing off.

babies-1660341_960_720But babies are a powerful drug, especially for their grandmothers. A besotted grandmother will convince herself that she’s not hogging the baby, just taking her turn. What does that other grandmother know about babies, anyway?

As the parent related to both parties, you’re caught in the middle of this tussle – and you’ll get the silent accusations or outright complaints from the empty-handed grandmother.

At times like this, it’s helpful to remember the biblical story of Solomon. When grandparents start considering splitting the baby in half (metaphorically) so both of them can get an equal share, maybe it’s time to remind them that they may not have your baby’s best interests at heart.

boy-1528150_960_720Hopefully, all this fuss and infatuation over the new baby will last longer than its infancy. Unfortunately, sometimes grandparent-ly ardor fades when the baby’s new-car allure wears off. Babies are cute; the Terrible Twos and Fractious Fours are something else.

But children need to feel special and loved all through their lives, from their first stabs at independence in toddlerhood all the way through their teen years and beyond.

In the meantime, we grandmothers need to try, at least, to be gracious about sharing our grandchild with those “other” grandparents, especially during holidays and special occasions. Parents, remind us when we go too far or get overly sensitive on this issue.

We’ve got to remember that we’re playing for the same side. And Team Baby needs all the support it can get.


Images from Pixabay & Wikimedia

 

A Smother of Grandmothers

Mary_Cassatt,_Interior_of_a_tramway_passing_a_bridge,_1891_-_Library_of_CongressOne of wonders of the English language is that there’s a specific – and usually colorful – term for multitudes that pertain to every occupation or type of creature. You’ve probably heard of a congregation of worshipers, a fleet of ships, a school of fish and a pride of lions. And if you’re a word nerd like me, you might’ve also heard the terms cowardice of curs or clouder of cats.

But what’s a good term for more than one grandmother? In a moment of idle curiosity I asked my son this question, as I was doting as usual on his baby daughter (who, I might add, is fortunate to have two very involved sets of grandparents).

“How about a smother?” my son replied without missing a beat.

A smother of grandmothers? The term is catchy, if a bit insulting. And even though it’s a new one, it just might catch on, like the term coined in 1970 by actor, producer and academic James Lipton – a slouch of models.

As the models clearly illustrate, these “multitude” terms tend to mirror characteristics of the group they describe.

Can’t you just picture a trembling of goldfinches, with their wings fluttering and hearts beating fast? And isn’t it easy to feel the joy of an exaltation of larks, or see the stately gravity of a parliament of owls?

bird-pet-peacock-animal-nature-domestic-adorable-1An ostentation of peacocks, a leap of leopards and a crash of rhinoceroses are all pretty self-explanatory. And I’m sure there’s a story behind a deceit of lapwings and an unkindness of ravens.

But a smother of grandmothers? It makes me picture kindly old ladies descending on an innocent baby, cooing and clutching the hapless child to their pillowy bosoms after wrapping the helpless infant in layers of hand-knitted and crocheted blankets.

And just how many grandmothers comprise a smother? Is two enough, or do you need a bevy of them?

I know my son thinks he’s being funny. But he’d do well to reflect on another group of birds – crows – who collect in a murder.

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I’ll bet crows assembled in perfectly charming groups at one time, till one of their chicks made one-too-many wise-cracks. Indignant cawing probably ensued, which must’ve gotten a little threatening – enough to earn the much-maligned birds the “murder of crows” tag.

Take a lesson, parents. Tick off a group of grandmothers and who knows what’ll happen.

After thinking it over, I guess I’m proud to be part of a smother. To my way of thinking, a smother of grandmothers can only mean more love for grandchildren. And unlike a nest of vipers or a swarm of insects, a smother of grandmothers is one multitude that some people may actually welcome.

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Images: Mary Cassatt’s print (interior of a tramway passing a bridge, 1891) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; peacock photo via Visual hunt; crow photo via Visualhunt.com; innocent baby laughing by D. Sharon Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons. 

Glammas

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As more boomers become grandparents many different types of grandmothers are making their presence known in our modern culture.

At one end of the spectrum are the hands-on grandmas who provide regular or even full-time care for their grandkids, like Michelle Obama’s mom, Marian Robinson. She retired early from her job to move into the White House to help care for Malia and Sasha.

Then there are the glammas. Glammas are “glamorous grandmas” and they’re giving the concept of what it means to be a grandmother a makeover.

Think Goldie Hawn, or other celebrities like Sally Field and Susan Sarandon. They may have grandchildren, but these glamorous movie stars are not likely to fit the grandmother stereotype anymore than Mick Jagger’s anybody’s idea of a grandfather/great-grandfather (and he’s now about to be a father again).

Some observers see the “glamma” phenomenon as just another way older woman are trying to deny aging, like using Botox, dying their hair purple or getting a tattoo. (Oddly enough, you don’t hear about “glampas.” Either men don’t care about being glamorous or they don’t want to get confused with the luxury camping trend known as “glamping.”)

And certainly there’s something odd and even distasteful about the notion that there may be grandmothers who equate their important role in their grandchildren’s lives with being old and thus try to duck it somehow. Let’s face it, grandparenthood isn’t inherently glamorous, anymore than parenthood is.

At their best, grandparents nurture not only their grandchildren but their grown children as well, and that’s not especially glamorous. And becoming a grandparent is a milestone that comes with a time stamp, because you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. And being a parent generally means you’ve spent decades ushering another human being into adulthood from infancy.

But let’s pause a minute to give glammas a break. For there may be another reason why today’s new grandmas are rebelling at the traditional grandmother stereotype. It may go back to how those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s were influenced by what we saw on TV during our formative years.

We saw grandmothers like Granny Moses, Jed Clampett’s mother-in-law in The Beverley Hillbillies. Granny never used her first names (Daisy May) and was made up to look about 100 years old. She wore frumpy clothes from a bygone era. The woman collected road kill to make stew. I wouldn’t be surprised if she single-handedly birthed her grandbabies, Jethro and Elly May, by herself using her back-country skills and homemade remedies.

There was Laura’s mother-in-law, Clara Petrie, on The Dick Van Dyke Show. As far as I could tell, neither she nor little Ritchie’s other grandparents interacted with the boy in any way. These seniors were formal and remote – you couldn’t see Grandma or Grandpa getting on the floor and busting out a game of Candyland. The elder Mrs. Petrie sported dull dresses and brooches, and she wore her grey hair short and lacquered. Clara was another grandmother made to look old beyond her years.

And then there was Endora on Bewitched. A glamma before there was a name for it, Endora wore beautiful flowing clothes accessorized with fabulous jewelry, her dyed hair perfectly coiffed and her makeup dramatic. She jetted to exotic locations and popped in occasionally to her daughter’s house in the suburbs to bust Darren’s er, golf balls and remind Samantha that she could have done better. We never saw her change a diaper or feed a baby. She was not a particularly welcome visitor, but she was a force to be reckoned with and impossible to ignore. I loved Samantha but was fascinated by Endora.

Given the choice of role models between Endora, Clara Petrie or Granny Moses, which one do you think would most appeal to a little girl? Endora, of course. The image of little Tabitha’s glamorous grandmother was tucked away in the back of our minds as we became teenagers, young woman and then mothers.

And now that we’re grandmothers, we’re all too aware that the world sees and treats us differently than it did when we were younger. Any older woman will tell you that we can get increasingly overlooked as we get older.

If, in addition to our age, you tag us with the grandmother label we might as well return that special cloak we got from the Harry Potter wizarding store, because we won’t need it. We’ll already be invisible as far as many people are concerned.

No wonder some of us want to project a different image of grandmotherly-ness.

So, to glamma or not to glamma? If glamma is your code for “Get that poopy diaper away from me, I’ve changed enough of those to last a lifetime!” you’ll miss out on not only the muck and mess of caring for your grandkids but also their sticky-fingered hugs and jammy kisses.

But if you’re willing to roll up your designer sleeves and get down and dirty with your grandchildren, then what’s in a name?

A grandmother can love her grandchild wearing chiffon as well as denim. What counts most is not what’s on the outside of a grandmother but what’s inside her heart.

But before you get too carried away with sitcom role models, remember that glamma or not, Endora could be a real witch.

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