Reflections on motherhood...


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The magic (and science) of kiss betters

I'd always secretly scorned parents who used the old "kiss it better?" with their screaming child.  And believe me, having worked in a children's store throughout my teenage years, I've seen my fair share of this parenting trick.

Recently, I've had outstanding success in deploying the "kiss-better" on Milkbaby.  Our conversations go something like this:

[bump, bang, stubbed toe/banged elbow/head etc]
[inconsolable screaming]
Me: "oh no, what's happened?"
Milkbaby: [more screaming]
Me: "Where does it hurt? Show me"
Milkbaby: [through vicious sobs] "on there" [pointing to hurt body part]
Me: "Want me to kiss it better?"
Milkbaby: [still sobbing] "yea"
Me: [administering a kiss] "there, all better"
Milkbaby: stops sobbing immediately, runs off to play.

It's incredible!  From screaming to silence in a 5 second interaction.

A kiss better also works better if administered
while wearing your best dress and high-heels -
though beware the surreptitious

Turns out there's actually some science behind it - it's the toddler version of the placebo effect.  One study even suggests that the placebo effect may be doubled in children.

However, like any parenting technique, google it and you'll find advice suggesting it's not such a good idea.  Apparently, one should not kiss better:

  • a snake bite
  • a jellyfish sting
  • an open wound.
You would think that in all of the cases above, you'd be better off administering first aid than a smacking great kiss.  Or even thinking about removing your child from the situation causing the jellyfish sting or the snake bite?

You may also want to refrain from administering a kiss better on a bitten tongue.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What we're reading: An Introduction to the Criminal Law

There are some books that, despite being remembered with fond glow of childhood, don't quite retain that same magic upon rereading as an adult - even when reread with an enthusiastic two-year-old.

Perhaps it's the politically correct mother in me, but when the Avocado Baby came straight home from the hospital and started eating solids, I was all "hey! what about the milk?" I'm sure Milkbaby was thinking the same.

Lately I had a similar experience after coming across The Elephant and The Bad Baby at the library.  It's about a baby who doesn't say please.  Picking up this book was strangely well-timed, as we also have someone in our household who can say any other word he cares to repeat, but he will not say please.  Even if his life depended on it, I am sure he'd just stubbornly hold his mouth shut, smiling innocently and waiting to be given whatever he's requested.

Back to my critique of The Elephant and the Bad Baby.  For a start, babies aren't bad. Just lacking in knowledge of the rules and a few social graces. And in this case, mislead by a large elephant.  And I couldn't help noticing that not only is this baby labelled "bad" from the outset, he's a flaming ginger - the only one in the book.

Quick summary - *spoiler warning* - An elephant meets a baby.  The elephant asks baby if he'd like a ride.  Baby says yes.  Elephant asks baby if he'd like an ice-cream.  Baby says yes.  Angry shopkeeper chases.  Elephant asks baby if he'd like a biscuit.  Baby says yes.  Angry shopkeeper chases.  And so it goes.  Until the elephant comes to the realisation that that baby has NEVER ONCE said please.  But in the end it doesn't really matter because the baby's mummy cooks pancakes for everyone.

After a few reads (ie, at least fifty repeats), I realised it was basically an introduction to the principles of the criminal law, though thankfully (largely due to the baby's mummy's mad cooking skills) law enforcement officers do not have to get involved.

Theft, simpliciter - As you should have gathered from the short description above, this book is a rollicking tale of shoplifting, the elephant leading the bad baby astray and stealing ice-creams, pies, biscuits and all manner of tasty treats, supposedly on the baby's behalf.


The getaway - "and the elephant and the bad baby went rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man and the pork butcher and the baker all running after".  Need I say more?

Defences to crimes - Is it entrapment? - What say the elephant is an undercover cop?  In criminal law, entrapment is conduct by a law enforcement agent inducing a person to commit an offence that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit.  However, there is no entrapment where a person is ready and willing to break the law and the government agents merely provide what appears to be a favourable opportunity for the person to commit the crime.  So, if the elephant is an undercover cop, did he induce the baby to commit a crime he wouldn't have ordinarily committed, or just provide an opportunity to commit the crime?  It's a fine line.  We know this baby's already bad, so perhaps the elephant was just the vehicle for the crime spree the baby had been planning for months.

The law of parties - It's more likely that these two are in cahootz.  The law says that if you aid, abet, incite, counsel, procure or somehow otherwise convince an elephant to go on a stealing spree (even if you do little more than ride on his back and eat the treats), you're in the gun for just as much time as the elephant.

Matters of justification or excuse - No person shall be convicted of an offence by reason of any act done or omitted by him when under the age of 10 years.  Explains why this story is delightfully consequence free: the Crimes Act doesn't apply to animals, nor to children under 10.  Even bad ones.

Alternative dispute resolution - If all else fails, invite everyone home for cups of tea and pancakes. The baby's mummy will cook.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are you "mom enough" for these weird toddler nursing positions?

I know you've all (all 6 of you, that is) been waiting for me to blog about this Time Magazine article:

Let's start by noting that this is a good example of the sensationalist schmaltz Time has been lowered to lately.  But hey, it got headlines and probably sold a few extra copies - so I guess it achieved its goal.

By all accounts (and there are many) the article is not much better.  In case you're wondering, it's about this weird thing that some strange "moms" seem to be doing called "attachment parenting".  And if you're totally green and wondering what "attachment parenting" is, it's a term invented by a man named Dr Sears for a parenting philosophy that suggests that if you are physically and emotionally available to your baby, the baby will form a secure attachment with you.  Well duh!  Except that the term has also become shorthand for more natural or alternative baby-raising-styles, including practices such as bed-sharing, baby-wearing and "extended" breast-feeding.  I hate to use the word "extended" like that - like somehow you've unnaturally managed to "extend" your breast-feeding career contract.  It's just breast-feeding, no matter how long it goes on for.

I digress.  Back to the cover photo.  My first reaction?  Huh, that's an interesting breastfeeding position.  I wonder if I have a milk crate about the right height at home?  I could cook dinner and breast-feed at the same time!

Anyone who has breastfed a milk-addicted toddler has had these thoughts.  Toddlers don't give a rats where you are or what you're doing, they just want the milk RIGHT NOW!  And if you've been clever enough to teach them a cuss-word or two, they might say RIGHT NOW GODDAMMIT!!

We've all seen these lovely diagrams with sleepy, milkdrunk newborns, nursing all quietly.

I thought I'd draw a few of my own that were more relevant to where Milkbaby is at in his "breast-feeding journey" (featuring Jamie Lynn Grumet's new one).

Toddler Nursing Positions:

Give them a go sometime.  But be careful, your toddler might get all attached to you or something.  And not just by your nipple.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Swearing: it's all about context

Everyone knows toddlers are like little parrots - they have an uncanny knack of picking out the most important or worst word in a sentence and repeating it back to you, usually more than once.  Over the last few weeks I've collected a few examples to suggest that it's not just parroting.  Because when it comes to swearing, context - and timing - is everything, right?

Milkbaby, immediately after throwing up ALL OVER his bed: "oh shit".

Milkbaby, upon the discovery by mum and dad that the car keys had been left at creche for the weekend: "fuck".

Milkbaby, after peeing all over the lounge floor: "oh gawd".

and the kicker:

Milkbaby, tonight, instead of saying goodnight to his dad and yelling down the stairs: "see ya, sucker!"

I'll worry about the odd swearword when they start to get used out of context.  Hopefully that won't happen until the teenage years.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Poops

For the last few months, we've been casually getting Milkbaby acquainted with the potty. It wasn't a conscious decision to start "potty training", if that's even what we're doing, more that Milkbaby has shown some consciousness of his bodily functions and an inclination to give it a go. We've had a few laugh-out-loud-amazing *waving arms in the air in delight* moments, and a few oh-my-god-there-appears-to-be-shit-everywhere total parenting fails.

Tune out now if you don't want to hear my Tale of Two Poops.

Poop number 1

I left Milkbaby, who had successfully done a small poop in the potty already, to go pants free for an hour or so, while I was cooking dinner. "Pah!", you're thinking, "there's her first mistake...what an amateur!". Twenty minutes into dinner prep, Milkbaby comes into the kitchen and announces triumphantly: "big poo!"

"Really?!" I exclaim with enthusiasm, all the while thinking don't panic, it's probably a false alarm.

"Where? Show me."

He takes my hand and leads me into the bathroom.

"Here it is!" he yells, pointing excitedly at the potty, which, to my great relief, contains a small poop.

"Yay! There it is!" I yell, genuinely excited and somewhat relieved. He'd gone into the bathroom, pulled out the potty from its storage place under the bathroom sink, and sat down and done his business. Awesome. This. Development. Is. Awesome.

Poop number two

A few days later, the same scenario. I let him go pants free while I'm making dinner. After a little while, he comes to me and says, proudly, "big poo!". I follow him, this time, gulp, into the hall, where he points to a small, and thankfully solid, poop on the carpet in the middle of the entranceway.

"Oh! It's not in your toilet!" I congratulate him on doing a poo and thank him for showing me where it was, and then suggest that maybe next time he could do one in his potty, which I point out.

I leave him pants off, thinking that he's probably done with ablutions for the evening. This is the point at which the more experienced among you will be yelling "NO!"

A few more minutes pass. Milkbaby comes back to me, again announcing "big poo!"

I follow him, this time into the lounge, a rising sense of dread. There, smack in the middle of the couch is a very big poo. And in the middle of the floor, another poo. And down the back of his legs, more poo. And as he runs giddily out of the lounge, more poo falls on the floor.

I won't bore you with the aftermath.

But that, my dears, brings us to the close of The Tale of Two Poops. One which went so right, and one which went so so wrong.

And the moral of the story? I'm open to suggestions on that one.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Don't worry - you know nothing

Captain Boringvoice has a habit of asking questions to which:

a) the answer is blindingly obvious if he just thought about it for a minute; or
b) there is no true answer, only pointless speculation.

Never have questions which call into category (b) above been more infuriating than when they pertain to Milkbaby or some aspect of his behaviour.  I am also averse to answering the Captain Boringvoice's philosophical questions that fall into category (b) - but usually I can wave these off with a "hmm, interesting question".

Perhaps the infuriating bit is not the question itself, but the fact that I don't know the answer.  After all, mothers are supposed to know almost everything, or at least have a skerrick of maternal intuition that would suggest an answer.  But unfortunately becoming a parent doesn't come with a manual of helpful hints (though there are shelves of them at your local bookstore).

Or even to be found on your own bookshelf!
Contains choice child-rearing advice on favourite topics
 such as sleeping, eating, and crying.  More on this later.

Here are a few of my I-don't-have-a-bloody-clue-and-don't-ask-me-again favourites:

Why's he crying?
Unsure.  [Honey, if I knew, I would have solved the problem and he'd have stopped crying by now - right??!!]

Why didn't he like the baby food?
Not sure, he just didn't like it. [Probably because it wasn't breastmilk - duh!]

Well do you think it was the taste or the texture?
Why don't you ask him? [And good luck with getting a straight answer out of an 8-month-old].

If he eats more dinner, he'll sleep better tonight, right?
I have no idea how he's going to sleep tonight. [And no, there doesn't seem to be a scientific correlation between eating and sleeping].

How long will he sleep for?
Anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours. [See? No idea.]

Will he sleep through the night?
Probably not. [Has he ever??!!  Where have you been for the last year?!]

Thankfully, these types of questions have become fewer and further between (Captain Boringvoice has been treated to a few ascerbic responses along the lines of the ones above).  I've also become less concerned about the fact that I don't know all the answers.  Here's my conclusion:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Captain Boringvoice to the rescue

In the days when there was the time and energy to read and be read to in bed, the DH used to read the occasional page or two of philosophy to me (romantic eh?).  Just whatever he was reading.  A page or two is probably hyperbole.  It only took a paragraph or two before I was off in the land of nod, snoring happily.  I always thought it was the subject matter - to me, reading philosophy is about as fun as watching paint dry.

But the other day we discovered it's not the subject matter at all - it's the DH's sonorous and extremely boring voice!

So I am re-monikering him Captain Boringvoice, or CB for short.  If Milkbaby's having trouble getting to sleep, they just settle in for some light reading, a little Nietzche or a few pages of Emily Carr's autobiography.  "I'm quite enjoying it", says CB.  A few pages is all it takes, and Milkbaby is fast asleep.

Nietzche says go the fuck to sleep.  Seriously.
Thinking the other day that perhaps it was the subject matter, I picked up the book and tried to read it - to no avail.  I put on my most boring monotone.  No luck.  CB walks in, and Milkbaby, realising the game is up, turns to me and says "bye bye", before flopping down on the bed, ready for Captain Boringvoice's melifluous tones.


That's the sound of a useful tool dropping into a moderately empty get-the-baby-to-sleep toolbox.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monstrous mastitis strikes again!

Just when I thought I could relax, on Sunday evening I felt just a suggestion of that old familiar pain, this time on the left side.  For a while I tried to pretend I was imagining it.  Then I tried to explain it away ("must have bumped it during my woman-conquers-weedwhacker gardening frenzy").  Then, as the pain grew worse, I did some bargaining with it ("just let me get a good night's sleep and I'll be fine in the morning").  Then there was a bit of self-medicating.  None of it worked.

The pain was worse in the morning.  There was an angry pink stain spreading across my breast.  Milkbaby didn't care, or notice.  He still wanted his milk.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, feeding with mastitis is ridiculously painful.  It pretty much tops my "Would You Rather?" list.  But unfortunately, it's also necessary.  But strangely (and luckily), this time these were my only symptoms.  No fever, chills, vomiting, nausea and general crappiness that accompanied my last two battles with mastitis.

The DH dropped me at the doctor on the way to work.  There I faced the usual barrage of questions, poking and prodding.  What stood out for me this time was the noticeable change in attitude towards breastfeeding.  While the response 7 months ago to me still breastfeeding my 1 year old was fairly harmless (along the lines of "well you've made it to a year now, when do you plan to stop?"), the response this time from both the doctor and nurse I dealt with was more like with-raised-eyebrows "you're still breastfeeding?".  "It's not like I've had a lot of choice in the matter", I grumped at the nurse.  "You'd rather not continue?" she said.  "Well, no, it's not like that, it's just...well, he's not even two yet anyway", I stammered, somewhat defensively.

And then the doctor said, "so are you just comfort feeding now?"  [Just comfort feeding?!  I'm pretty sure there's some nutritional value there - and you haven't seen how my kid eats!]

Perhaps, given my in-laws' hints and pointed questions over the Christmas holidays, I should have expected it. says, in their mini-guide to nursing a toddler, that extended nursing (that's beyond 1 year!) "is bound to raise some eyebrows".

I manage a half-assed explanation that Milkbaby is MOSTLY down to two feeds a day, whilst trying to ignore the fact that the doctor's holding my breast in a pincer-grip and feeling for an abscess.

"Hm, well the good news is that there's no abscess there.  You should book an appointment with your doctor in a day or two to get checked for an abscess."

"Uh, yeah, I know what one of those feels like." [Dude, in case you hadn't worked it out from the long story I just told you, I'm pretty much an expert now.  And if possible I'd like to avoid having my boobs poked and prodded by yet another person.]

I left with a prescription for two types of antibiotics.

I finally arrived at work.  At the other end of the reaction spectrum, my colleague, upon hearing the news that I had mastitis again said, "you're still breastfeeding??!!  You LEGEND!"

Now that's more like it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3DD: teaching anatomy to an eighteen-month-old

The DH got a very special book for Christmas.  It features pictures of topless women - in 3D!!

Just a whole book of breasts.  But it's not as lewd as it sounds.  It's the kind of fun book you have on your coffee table.

And that's exactly where it was when Milkbaby came across it.  He looked at the front cover for a few minutes, then pointed at the barely-covered breasts and said "milk".  "That's right", I said.  He then picked up the book and brought it over to where I was sitting, turned around, backed his little nappied butt up and proceeded to sit on my knee, all the while holding the book.  It was clear that we were going to read it, together.

I hesitated for a few seconds, wondering if this was some kind of parenting no-no.  After all, the book's basically just tasteful soft porn.  But there's no getting between Milkbaby and his Milk, and no point trying to distract him.

So we "read" the Milk Book.  There were no words, so all I had to do was turn the pages while he pointed and narrated.  His narration went like this:

"Milk." [pointing at breasts]
"Milk." [again]
"Puku." [pointing out a stomach]
"Milk." [back to breasts]
And the clincher: "Mummy!!" [pointing out a very beautiful woman with long dark hair].

If only, I thought.  If only.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A not-so-sleepy New Years

Well, unlike last New Year's eve (when I barely made it to midnight), this New Year's we did the unthinkable... we left Milkbaby with his doting grandparents, and drove over 3 hours across the countryside to have a few quiet beers with some friends.  His first night alone without either of us.  And for us, there was no coming back in the event of some unforeseen disaster ("he won't sleep!").

We tried to warn them: "he probably won't sleep that well".  And, well, they'd seen his atrocious eating habits over the previous week.  But the doting grandparents insisted that we should leave Milkbaby with them and take their convertible on a jaunt across the South Island.  "A second honeymoon" said Grandad.  I smiled gratefully, thinking about the potential for 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.

But that's the irony... all that potential was wasted.  We were going to be drinking, watching fireworks, socialising, and then sleeping in a tent on the front lawn, with the waves crashing on the beach 30 metres away.  So I was about as likely to get 8 squares as I was if I'd stayed with Milkbaby.  But hey, what you haven't had in 18 months you don't miss.

And Milkbaby?  He ate well and slept well (of course), and hardly noticed we were gone.
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