New moms, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll be the one to break the news: your husband is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to caring for babies. A Baby Whisperer he is not. He can’t calm the cries as quickly; his swaddling skills are sub-par; he fastens diapers as if he’s not sure what part of the body they are supposed to be protecting. But I’m here to tell you something that might sound absolutely insane to you:
Staying healthy when you have a house full of walking, talking petri dishes –– I mean kids –– is no small feat. And while I don’t recommend you put your kids in a bubble until those spring bulbs you planted spout above the thawing ground, you can do a few things to keep all those germs at bay.
To win the war of the wills with my adorable-but-stubborn 3-year-old, Charlie, I have to give him choices. “Milk or water?” when he asks for juice; “Do you want to play with your books or your blocks?” when he demands to watch more TV. This approach, however, hasn’t translated well to potty-training. “The Elmo potty or the Dora one?” just wasn’t enough to compel him to sit down long enough to get the deed done. I was worried he might be too stubborn to potty train—but then Jeanine, the mom of Charlie’s best friend, Stevie, who is probably even more stubborn than Charlie, told me she’d trained her son in less than three days using a sort of “boot camp” she cobbled together from parenting blogs and her own mommy instincts.
My husband is one of eight grandsons, with no female first cousins. After my first son was born, I got lots of knowing smiles from those familiar with his male-dominated family tree and comments like, “Aren’t boys great? It will be so cute one day when he has a baby brother to play with.” Sure, boys are great. But I hoped to have a daughter, too.
“Have children,” they said. “It will be fulfilling,” they said.
And so you did.
It was nothing at all like the books said. So much harder than your mom made it out to be. And way more amazing than anything you had ever done before.
One evening at dinner, when my children were particularly whiny and ungrateful, as children have a tendency to do sometimes, I decided to have everyone in the family say what was their favorite part of the day. We went around the table, and if anyone slipped into a complaint or a comparison instead of putting forth a positive thought, they had to start over. And the favorite part of the day cannot involve something that could hurt another’s feelings, such as, “My favorite part of the day was when Sarah left,” because siblings are prone to this type of thing.
In an ideal world, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would be a warm, festive experience, where everyone remains sober, no one brings up old family feuds, and children sit with their napkins in their laps and chew with their mouths closed. I wish this kind of Normal Rockwell holiday upon everyone and everyone I know…but I am betting that if you’re like most of us, Aunt Jane will drink too much wine, your kids will last all of 10 minutes before someone has a meltdown or breaks heirloom crystal, and your little sister will accuse you of ruining her life. (Again.)
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