The past few years, I've spent my free time reading chick lit, thrillers, coming-of-ages, parenting books, comic memoirs, and the occasional diet book about becoming a vegan (which is as far as I made it down the vegan path). Some of these books were rewarding, like Bossypants and Mathilda Savitch, but most were not. After all that time feeling let down by one book after another like a hapless, lovesick twenty-something, finding Charles Palliser's Rustication felt like being rescued. The book is a gripping historical mystery set in Victorian England. After being expelled, or "rusticated," from Cambridge and learning of his father's death, the protagonist, opium-addicted Richard, returns home to find his mother and sister deeply in debt and desperately clutching to the last vestiges of propriety and their place among the genteel. They also refuse to reveal the circumstances surrounding the patriarch's passing. Even more unsettling, the community is being terrorized by someone mutilating livestock, and Richard is determined to get to the bottom of it all.The story is told through Richard's journal, which Palliser presents as a found document. Through his journal entries, Richard's secrets, as well as those of his suspicious family members and neighbors, are slowly revealed. Each turn was unexpected, and the element of surprise, along with the gothic setting—a blustery marshland surrounding Richard's family's shadowy, dilapidated mansion—had me curled up next to my fireplace for a weekend, fully absorbed. When the ending came, Palliser left a single thread untied, a gratifying cliffhanger. I was left feeling deserted, undone in the best way by a novel that had courted me with its seductive plot and left me without warning, wanting more.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Tuesday: 3 miles (9:05 avg. pace)
Sunday: 13 miles
Favorite place to run: St. Petersburg
Favorite song: silence (see my fancy watch)
|Violet's little hands|
|the girliest version I could find|
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 7 miles
Sunday: 10 miles (9:36 avg. pace)
Favorite place to run: Crystal Beach
Favorite song: "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine
*my old IT band injury has been resurfacing, so I was grateful to get through my long run without pain. Nervous about next week's half marathon.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
My 16-month-old daughter, Harper, is all belly and has dark eyes and enviable dark, thick lashes, and my (almost) four-year-old, Violet, is a blond with golden skin, bright blue eyes, and a trim waist. Of course, they, like all siblings, and all people, are just as different on the inside. They may grow up in the same house with the same parents, but the way that they experience their childhood, adolescent, and teen years will be different, and they will obviously make different choices throughout their lives, value different things at different times, discover different things about themselves and about others. Each of my girls is unique, and in this month of gratitude, I'm going to do my best to remember that and to honor it.
During my maternity leave with Harper, I picked up Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Even though I admit that I didn't make it all the way through this dense book, I did learn that telling my girls that I love them equally can have damaging consequences. It might sound counterintuitive, but the idea is that children need to be loved uniquely and treated not fairly, but according to their need. The danger is that this false sense of equality or fairness can leave them feeling unappreciated, and therefore, less loved. Instead, taking the time with each child privately to tell her specifically how special she is will help temper any feelings of competitiveness with her sister and will give her something that she needs most of all: validation.
There were other tips that the book gave, too, for fostering a positive relationship between siblings and showing each child that you value her just as she is. For example, I learned not to compare one to other, including doing my best to not use "too" or "also" when I'm commenting on a behavior. So instead of saying, "You're cleaning up, too!" I try to make my approval or disapproval specific to the child and to what she is doing (or not doing) and just leave her sister out of the picture. "I see you are cleaning up, Violet. I appreciate your help." I also learned how limiting and stultifying it can be for a child if she is cast into a role, such as "the musician" or "the mathematician." Whether you are just projecting or are trying to motivate either the child being labeled or the one listening, I learned that resisting the urge to label will give my daughters the freedom to explore different interests and to establish their own identities.
I know that at different times I feel more connected to one child than another, and this book taught me that acknowledging any bias I feel will help me ensure that I take measures to not betray that bias, keeping the other child protected. I can also help by not insisting that my girls always get along. Instead, I need to remember to acknowledge any negative feelings one has about the other. Last, and this one has been difficult for me because I go a little crazy with babies, I have to try not to be too demonstrative with one child in front of the other. If I give each daughter the one-on-one attention she craves, I know that I'm not contributing to any feelings of jealousy or self-doubt.
The list of things that I love about my girls is long. I love how Violet giggles to herself when I allow her to do something on her own, like stir the cookie batter or clean off the table. I love how she likes to sing at the top of her lungs and how she shrugs her shoulders and jerks her legs when she dances. I love how she winds her fingers through my hair when I hold her and how she touches my cheek and says, "It's okay, Mommy," when she knows that I'm upset. I love how protective she is of Harper and how, whenever she's around other kids, she makes sure to tell them,"That's my baby sister."
I love how no matter what happens, good, bad, or otherwise, Harper always says, "Uh-oh." I love how when I ask her for a kiss, she juts out her jaw, runs over to me, and touches her chin to mine. I love that she gently pinches my upper arm when I carry her on my hip. And I love that she gives new people what we call the "stranger stare," just watching the person's every move without blinking.
I could go on and on. These are the things my girls need to know--not how much I love them both or how the pair of them make me so happy. Violet and Harper are two individual parts of my family machine, and they need to be treated with the unique care that each one deserves in order to keep things running smoothly, both day to day and for the long term. I know there's no one else in this world like my Violet or my Harper, and it's my job to make sure that they know it, too.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Saturday, November 2, 2013
I woke up this morning listening to the rain. Before I even opened my eyes, I thought about my running clothes I'd left out on my dresser; my coffee maker's on button glowing in the kitchen; the banana I'd placed on the counter; and my running shoes, left neatly by the front door. For once, I'd taken measures to be ready to leave the house by 7 a.m. so that I could be on the trail by 7:30, an attempt to reignite my motivation. Last week, I skipped my long run altogether because I didn't feel well, and this week, I skipped my last three-mile run because, even though my voice finally returned, I've still been congested. No matter what, I'd told myself last night, I was going to get an early start this morning and complete my twelve-mile run as best I could, even if I did feel drained.
Yet my warm duvet and the rain's faint crackling outside of my bedroom windows were too seductive, so I rolled over and slept until 8. When I was finally able to push myself out of bed, last night's preparation nagged at me, so I begrudgingly changed into my clothes, sucked down two cups of coffee, and grabbed my banana and bottle of water and headed out the door. I was hopeful that the rain would stop by the time I made it to Dunedin.
It didn't. I walked around for a bit outside, trying to gauge whether or not I could brave the rain and run as planned. I decided against it, choosing instead to go to Barnes and Noble for a bagel and magazine. There's nothing wrong with tomorrow, I told myself. I knew Ryan was planning on fishing and writing for most of the day, but what could I do about the rain? If I didn't go today, I could just catch up on Homeland. I could stop by Old Navy and get some loungewear. That's what I needed. The weather would be turning cold for good soon, and I needed to be comfortable in an oversized sweatshirt. Plus, I've been sick. No one can fault me for that. Maybe I could even convince Ryan to take the girls somewhere for a few hours so that I could come home and crawl back into bed.
And that's what I did, until the rain cleared at 12:30. The temperature was cool enough that running in the afternoon wouldn't be a problem, so I had to make myself do it. I drank a third cup of coffee and kissed my blankets, which just moments before had been piled on top of me, good-bye.
No one was on the trail, which made me nervous. I ran about a mile and a half alone, but when I saw a couple of other runners approaching, I was so relieved that I decided to join them. I learned that John and Caroline were married and training for the Disney marathon. They had ten miles total to cover, with four more to go before they turned around, so I knew I could stay with them for most of my run. John told me that this marathon would be his fifth, and that it was Caroline who got him into running to begin with. He said she was a runner when they met, and he only pretended to be interested in running to impress her. On their next date, she'd suggested a short run, and after a mile of struggling to keep up with her, he'd had to confess. She made him stick with it, though, and he eventually discovered that he liked it. They were headed toward downtown Clearwater. I remembered that Ryan had told me not to go too far in that direction, but I brushed the thought aside. After all, I had John and Caroline.
We went through an area with large stray dogs and boarded-up houses. Homeless people were meandering along the trail. Close to our turn-around point, there were three people huddled in a drainage ditch smoking crack. I was terrified. Who was John to protect me anyway? What could John and Caroline do if I got mugged? Plus, they were both running at a slower pace than I was, so they were far enough behind me on the trail that I might look like an easy target. I had to wait for them.
At the next stop sign, they offered me Gu Chomps energy chews, which I declined. This was no time for a snack break. They were smiling good-naturedly, and I was imagining my death. Clearly, it was time to part ways. I thanked them for allowing me to crash their couples run and took off.
Unfortunately, it was still deserted in the other direction, aside from the occasional man wearing dirty clothes and a backpack. I decided to finish my run on the Dunedin Causeway, just a short drive away. By then, the clouds parted enough that I could appreciate the pink and purple outlines drawn around them by the sun. There were plenty of runners there, along with dog-walkers and moms and dads pushing strollers. I ran my last two miles and jumped into my car, relieved, at last, to have finished.
Now, I'm back under the covers, my hair still wet from my shower, my stomach full from a meal I'm not going to admit to. Ryan's with the girls today, and I'll be with them all day tomorrow, so I might just stay in this bed until morning. I'm proud of myself for completing the run, especially considering how much I wanted to avoid it, and I'm also proud of my pace, 9:39/mile. I hope that next week's long run is not met with the same dread that this week's run was, but I won't be surprised if it is. My whole seven weeks of training have been full of highs and lows: I don't want to do the run, whether it's three miles or ten, but after unsuccessfully avoiding it, I do it, and then I am glad for it. I imagine that something is going to go wrong, like I'm going to get hit by a cyclist or happen upon an axe murderer, but then it doesn't. I wouldn't call that motivation, exactly, but if the promise of an oversized sweatshirt and a cozy bed gets me going, I guess that will have to do.
Monday, October 28, 2013
In 1984, I was an angry six-year-old with a penchant for running away. My mom, dad, brother, and I had just moved from Lake George, New York, to South Florida, and I wasn’t having any of it. Every day in the two weeks since we’d moved into our new house, I packed one of my mother’s old suitcases with my white ankle-length nightgown that my grandmother had sewn for me, two of my dolls, and a jar of peanut butter.
“I’m going back,” I’d say as I walked out the door. My parents were not frantic; they weren’t even moved to action. They just waved good-bye without so much as a glance out the window. Some days, I’d take a detour from my journey to the curb at the end of my street to climb the oak tree in my front yard; other times, I’d march straight there in an attempt to escape my fate of a life lived under the blazing Florida sun. Because I wasn’t allowed to wander, I figured that running away would involve someone coming to help me, someone who was probably magical, and, after a while, when no fairy or unicorn materialized, I’d trudge home, defeated.
At fourteen, I made it as far as Miami International Airport. My friend Emily and I had ditched our after-school drama club and walked the train tracks that ran behind the school to the closest Tri-Rail stop. There, we boarded the train, borrowing money for the fare from a man who had the misfortune of sitting next to us.
We didn’t have a plan, and we didn’t want one. We were anti-plan, anti-establishment, anti-authority, and we said as much in melodramatic letters we stuffed through the locker vents of our two closest girlfriends, Anne and Sophie. These letters, we later learned, were shared with our families, who, for the few hours we were missing, grew more enraged by the minute. An airport security guard, apparently curious as to why we were lying outside of Gate C34 listening to our Walkmans, asked Emily and I for our tickets, and when we couldn’t produce them, he made us call home.
My mom’s face was strained, her mouth narrow and tight, when she came to collect me. “I can’t believe you would do this to me,” she said.
College was four hours from home, just close enough that family visited me on occasion, but far enough away that my mom didn’t do my laundry. I was free to drink too much at frat parties, eat breakfast-dinner at 3:00 a.m. at Denny’s, and spend all afternoon shopping at Express, with no one to answer to but myself. At first, this moderate degree of independence made me giddy, but every once in a while, the familiar itch to go somewhere, anywhere, other than where I was, crept back up.
When the two roommates I lived with junior year both decided they wanted to move out—at the same time—leaving only me to pay the rent for our three-bedroom apartment, I wished I could crawl out the window. When my boyfriend of two years said, “I never cheated on you,” after I had seen him just that afternoon with his arm around another girl, I wanted to first scream, which I did, and then I wanted to speed away in my car, never to return.
Now I’m married, with two daughters, Violet, who’s three, and Harper, who’s 15 months old. My husband and I both work full time. Outside of work, he’s writing a novel and I’m training for a marathon. We make it a priority to give each other the time to pursue our interests independent of our children, but investing time in ourselves means, more often than not, that the beds aren’t being made, the pool isn’t getting vacuumed, and the armadillo living underneath our back deck and driving our dog insane isn’t being relocated.
It’s true that those things can wait, but those things can also multiply. Recently, my living room and the girls’ rooms were so covered in toys that I lost one shoe from Harper’s only good pair for an entire week. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come home and seen that I only made up one eye or discovered that I left the driver-side car door open all night long, because I’m always trying and failing to multitask, always running late, and always exhausted.
Still, we just came back from a Disney World vacation. This past summer we went to the Florida Keys for a week. I have a good-paying job, despite having degrees in education and creative writing. My husband and I are completely united in our parenting of the girls, and in all decisions, big and small, that affect our family, and we are getting better at taking time to go out as a couple.
These days, when I get an email asking if I’m available to work over the weekend or the roof starts to leak after a downpour and the tiniest urge to run begins to rise within me, I lace up my sneakers and wind through my neighborhood, ending up right back at my house. I remind myself that this life of mine is one built completely by my own design. That’s a liberating feeling, not a stifling one, and as a result, it’s no longer escape I’m after—it’s permanence.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles (9:13 avg. pace)
Saturday: skipped (sick)
Sunday: skipped (still sick)
Favorite place to run: Wall Springs
Favorite song: "A Real Hero" by College & Electric Youth
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
When I registered at Babies “R” Us during my first pregnancy, I was a little trigger-happy with the registry scanner gun. I registered for everything I thought was cute, like baby towels and baby washcloths, and everything I thought I would need, like tons of baby clothes. I had no idea what I was doing. My registry today would look a lot different if I had to do it all over again. After bringing two babies into the world and seeing them through toddlerhood, I have a much better handle on the things I used and didn’t use, and how to save space and money.
Here are my lists of must-haves and don’t-needs for baby.
1. Pack ‘n Play. Get something like the Graco Pack 'n Play with Newborn Napper Station. If you get something like this, you don’t need a bassinet in addition to a crib. You can use this Pack ‘n Play as your travel crib, your bassinet, and your play area when your baby is little. If you don’t have the money for a crib before baby comes, you still have about four months before you need one, especially if you have a girl. Chances are your baby can sleep comfortably in the Pack ‘n Play newborn area for about four months. After that, she can sleep in the bottom/main area of the Pack ‘n Play for a little longer. Also, you will likely keep baby in your room with you for the first few months because she'll wake up so frequently.
2. Baby swing. Babies love this, and both of mine slept comfortably in one throughout the day for about three to four months, if not longer. I liked the My Little Lamb Cradle 'n Swing. Keep in mind that the swing forces the baby to stay on the back of his or her head, so use it sparingly.
3. Pacifiers. Unless you’re against using pacifiers, I would get a couple of brands, both Avent and Nuk, in all different sizes, from 0-18 months. My girls each preferred a different brand. If you’re not registering, just get enough of each for the first stage, either 0-6 months or 0-3 months. If you care, Avent has the cuter designs.
4. Bottles. For both girls, I used Dr. Brown's. After trying a few different brands with my first daughter, I found that she maneuvered Dr. Brown’s more easily and that, because of its internal vent system, these bottles were easier on her tummy. I would use the plastic, not the glass, version, as the glass is heavier for the baby to hold. Also, if you’re having a girl, they come in pink. Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, I would still get a starter pack of the bottles. You may end up supplementing with formula, breastfeeding may be more difficult for you than you imagined, or you may bring breast milk along that you pumped to use when you’re out somewhere.
5. A big diaper bag. What takes up the most space in the diaper bag are the diapers. All of the little compartments that some diaper bags have are somewhat helpful, but you only need a few, not 10. The most important thing is that it has enough space for diapers; wipes (which, if you don’t take some out and put them in a separate container, come in a large pack); a blanket; a change of clothes for baby; and some pre-made, to-go formula. If you’re nursing, you also might want space for your gear, like your extra nipple pads and your nursing cover. If you have an older child, you’ll need room for a few things for him as well, like snacks, a juice box, extra clothes, and bug spray. You might consider one that has straps long enough to fit over the handles of your stroller so that you don’t have to lug it around on your shoulders all of the time.
6. Diapers and wipes. If I were having a baby shower, I would ask people to bring diapers and wipes. This is what you will spend the most money on as a parent. Even if you’re using cloth diapers, the upfront cost of all of those diapers and the items you need to clean the diapers can be expensive, so I would ask people to skip the clothes and baby books and buy you diapers and wipes, and maybe some of the other essentials I list.
7. A bottle warmer. This is something I actually never bought for either of my kids, but it definitely would’ve been helpful. I got both of them hooked on warm milk once they switched from formula to milk, so being out of the house for several hours became challenging. Milk goes bad in a short amount of time, so if I had to buy some milk from a store or a restaurant while I was out, it was obviously cold, and my girls wouldn’t drink it. If I had it to do over, I’d buy a warmer for the house and a portable one for the car.
8. Cheap, white cloth diapers. I bought packs of these from Babies “R” Us or Target, and I used them as burp cloths, diaper-changing pads, and makeshift blankets when I had forgotten to pack an actual blanket. They are washable, don’t take up much space in your bag, and are helpful to have on hand.
9. Cheap, white onesies. These are helpful at about six months of age, when your baby starts eating. Babies make a huge mess when they start eating, and their clothes are frequently stained, so if you buy the cheapest onesies you can find, you won’t mind discarding them or just putting them back on your baby, stains and all, for the next feeding. I’d wait to get these, though, so that you can get them in the right size.
10. Pajamas or onesies. Because they are comfortable and easy to access for diaper changes, and because your baby will spend the first four months sleeping so much of the time, you'll want a lot of these. Depending on the season, you’ll want more of either the onesies or the pajamas.
11. Baby leg warmers. These help protect baby’s knees when she starts crawling.
12. A good stroller (but you can use the Snap N' Go while baby is still using an infant car seat/carrier if you want to save money). If you are going to be alone with baby most of the time, a jogging stroller might be helpful. They have better tires and you can run and bring baby along. If you have lots of help, either from your husband or family, I would just skip it and go out running by yourself. That way, you can start running before baby is the requisite four months old or holding his or her head up, which is necessary if you want to use a jogging stroller. Plus, you can get a break away from the house. The most important thing is that you have a stroller with the option to recline (so baby can sleep when you’re out) and a shade (babies hate sun in their eyes and wind in their face). A Snap N’ Go is cheap, lightweight, easy to use, and the best for quick trips to the store. Your infant car seat snaps right into it. If you want a high-quality stroller that you can go hiking, walking, and jogging with, and that is easy to use, clean, and will last you until your baby is five, I recommend the Bob Revolution SE.
13. Good socks. The best that I found are the plain, white socks from Baby Gap. They have tighter (but comfortable) elastic bands that prevent the socks from slipping off the way other socks do.
14. Invest in a good infant car seat. Do some research online for the safest options available. Go to your local fire department to have it installed in your car properly (this is a free service).
15. A baby monitor. This is optional and something you only need once the baby moves into his or her own room, so it can wait if you’d rather spend the money on other things at first. Read reviews. I bought two that stopped working after a couple of uses. They didn’t have a far enough range to pick up the signal.
16. Baby bathtub. Some people go without, but I think it’s easiest to contain a soapy baby in one of these.
17. For you: If you’re planning on nursing, you’ll need nursing pads (I like the washable ones), a nursing cover, freezer storage bags for pumped milk, a good pump (the ones you can rent from the hospital do the best job and, depending on how long you end up nursing, can be the most cost-effective). If you have the space in your garage or are able to save money on other expensive baby items, invest in an extra refrigerator, even if it’s not full size. Getting to the store every time you need to with a baby can be tricky, so make your trips count and store up on extra supplies.
1. Baby food maker. When your baby starts eating food, at about six months of age, start preparing soft, easy-to-digest versions of what you are already eating (but ask your pediatrician about foods to avoid for potential allergic reactions). Make it easier on yourself, and get baby used to a lot of different flavors and textures (as opposed to everything just being a puree). Allowing the baby to manipulate his food himself and control what goes into his mouth (as opposed to you spoon-feeding him and deciding how much goes in) is a great introduction to food and eating food mindfully. Look up baby-led weaning (which does not mean weaning off of formula or breast milk, as the name suggests).
2. A lot of clothes. You need, maybe, five outfits when baby is first born, and these five outfits include what he or she comes home from the hospital in. It’s just enough for visits from family and friends and pictures. I kept my newborns at home for a long time anyway because I couldn’t risk a baby that small getting sick. When we went out, because they slept so much during the day (and not at night), I kept them in their pajamas and/or onesies. A great place for newborn outfits is your local consignment store. Newborn clothes stay perfectly intact because newborns are not eating food yet or doing anything that would stain their clothes. Also, because babies grow out of clothes so quickly, consignment stores are full of newborn gear. For baby showers, people tend to buy things for your baby that are the wrong season anyway, so baby never ends up wearing half of the items you get.
3. A mobile. This can be a safety hazard.
4. A crib bumper. This makes your crib look nice, but is also a safety hazard.
5. A diaper-changing station that comes with your diaper bag. Just use a baby blanket.
6. Shoes. Your baby can just wear socks until he or she is walking. Even when he does start walking, it's best for his development and balance that he go barefoot or, if need be, walk in flexible-soled shoes, like the kind they sell at Stride Rite.
7. Baby towels and washcloths. Just use your towels and washcloths. Baby doesn’t know the difference and doesn’t care. Do get some baby wash, though, so you have soap that won't sting baby's eyes. I like California Baby or Burt's Bees because they are gentler on baby's skin. Almost all brands come in a body wash/shampoo, so you only need one bottle.
8. Toys. Babies don’t really play with toys anyway when they’re really young. When they do start playing, they prefer things you’d rather they didn’t play with, like your TV remote or your cell phone. Instead, invest in only a handful of toys, and don’t buy anything that has too many lights or sound effects. The more the toy does, the less your baby discovers on his or her own. A lot of the time, you can give baby regular household items, like silicone coasters or stainless steel bowls, to play with. A simple toy Janet Lansbury recommends is the Green Sprouts Snack Cup. Baby can practice taking the lid off and putting it back on.
9. Diaper Genie. Just put dirty diapers in a plastic bag from the grocery store and throw them out. The Diaper Genie starts to stink after a while anyway.
10. Books. I love books, and I want my daughters to value reading, but the fact of the matter is, you only need two or three books starting out, with either fabric or cardboard pages so that baby can play with the books and put them in his or her mouth without ruining them. If space or money is tight, when your child is two and past the stage of ripping or balling up paper, start taking her to the library and allow her to discover a new book on her own (without the commitment).
11. What to Expect the First Year. Look up milestones online and find a pediatrician who will take the time to answer your questions. You need information that is specific to your baby anyway.
12. Baby playmats/gyms, jumpers, and walkers. These aren’t necessary and, in fact, can inhibit your baby’s natural development. Put a blanket on the floor and interact with the baby yourself or else sit back and observe him or her. Baby will learn to walk and crawl on her own.
13. Nursery chair/rocker. This is a luxury, not a need. You can always just nurse or bottle-feed your baby from your bed when he or she is a newborn. When baby moves to her own room, you can bring her out to the living room for feedings.
14. Shopping cart cover. You can either put the baby carrier directly into the shopping cart, or you can use a blanket to cover the shopping cart seat. If all else fails, use the antibacterial wipes provided by the grocery store.
15. High chair. I used one for both of my kids, but if you want to avoid buying one, you could invest in a lap tray table and a plastic mat to protect your floor. Get something for the floor that is large and easy to wipe clean. The baby might actually enjoy it more than a high chair because baby can keep his feet on the floor, which will make him feel more secure and less anxious, thus making eating a more pleasant experience.
Most of the items in the must-have list can be found in consignment stores. A lot of the consignment stores tend to be pretty choosy, so these items are likely in perfect condition.
Special thanks to the smart moms in my life, Kristin W., Kathryn Z., Mary Z., Hadar G., and Anna A., who all, in one way or another, contributed to this list.
If you’re an experienced mom with cost-saving and space-saving tips of your own, feel free to chime in.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 10 miles* (10:08 avg. pace, but two bridges 4X)
Saturday: cross-training (Disney walking)
Sunday: 3 miles
Favorite place to run: Dunedin Causeway
Favorite song: I enjoyed listening to Fresh Air's "Billy Crystal Finds Fun in Growing Old"
*I have yet to follow my training plan the way it is designed. I should be running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but for one reason or another, I always end up missing a day. This weekend I went out of town, so I had to squeeze in my long run before I left.
Monday, October 14, 2013
So you’re about to start potty training. Maybe your two-year-old’s teachers have said that your daughter is “showing an interest” in the potty at school and you know that, to move up to the next class, she’ll have to be potty trained. Maybe your daughter says the word “potty,” and she likes the whooshing sound the toilet makes when it is flushed. She seems to bask in the hand-clapping and stickers and your squeals of delight when she uses the toilet. What’s more, your friend, another mom, has just loaned you her copy of The Parent Trap: Potty Train Your Toddler in a Weekend, which promises that if you follow a few simple steps, your child will be potty trained and accident-free in two days. Despite your enthusiasm, however, six months have passed and your daughter still never tells you when she has to go, which results in frequent and embarrassing accidents.
Or maybe you have a group of friends whose sons and daughters, they claim, “potty trained themselves.” You expect the same ease with your own son, who is the same age as your friends’ children, so you begin bringing him into the bathroom every half hour. You throw Cheerios in the potty to turn using the bathroom into a game. You promise he can watch his favorite cartoon if he uses the bathroom the next time he has to go. When he continues to have frequent accidents and shows no interest in the bathroom, you feel frustrated and turn to the Internet for answers, where you find a lot of information about children being potty trained by a certain age, something that only serves to heighten your anxiety about potty training.
Let me help you.
After having made every mistake under the sun when it came to potty training, I finally learned my lesson. I’m not an authority, but I did turn to Janet Lansbury (again), whom I consider an actual authority. For some women, what I missed will seem painfully obvious, but for others—and I’m convinced there are others—the obvious has eluded them entirely.
- Relax. I had a lot of expectations, both about how early my daughter would be ready to start using the bathroom and how long it would take. I started potty training her at 22 months, which is pretty early for a lot of children. The single most important thing that I learned from Janet Lansbury's blog is that a child is ready to start potty training when he or she is already doing it. You can make the potty available, but the child really needs to take it from there. It’s dangerous to insist that your child gives up diapers simply because he or she is a certain age. Once I read this, I was able to let go of my expectations, release my anxiety, and try a more relaxed approach, something I hadn’t been able to do previously. Before learning this, I felt, if not thought, that any setback in potty training was a clear sign of my ineptitude.
- Don’t try to trick her. Get rid of the potty charts and stickers and toys—any gimmick you’re using to coax your child into using the potty. This kind of manipulation undercuts direct, honest communication. It also establishes a pattern of “good” versus “bad.” Your child will only get a sticker or toy when she uses the potty, so what does that mean when she has an accident, something that she may not be able to control physically or emotionally?
- Stop asking if she has to go. Between my husband and me, we were probably asking our daughter twenty or thirty times a day, when, in many cases, even once would have been too much. Some children react poorly to that kind of pressure, and the asking can feel like forcing, which, in our case, we were. We didn’t want her to have an accident on our couch or carpet. The other problem with asking too frequently is that it prevents the child from listening to her own body. What my husband and I should’ve done, and what we eventually did do, is if it had been a while since she’d last used the bathroom, we’d have her play in the kitchen, where we have hardwood, so that it’d be easier to clean up if she did have an accident. Once she went to the bathroom, she could have free rein of the house again.
- Tone it down. Being too demonstrative when she uses the bathroom the way you want her to can put undue pressure on her. Not only do we have to consider what it means for her if she can’t do it, but we also have to consider how a high level of intensity can feel like an attempt to rob her of control over her own body.
- Be careful about how you react to an accident. At one point, after a few months of feeling frustrated about how long it was taking to potty train her, my husband and I decided that if she had an accident at the playground, for example, we would leave and let her know that her behavior was unacceptable. We felt that she needed to learn that she couldn’t just have an accident and continue playing. This is my most regrettable oversight. By enforcing a punishment, we most likely caused her to feel guilt and shame over something she may not have been able to control. It may not always be possible to allow her to continue playing wherever she is when she has an accident, but now I always keep extra clothes on hand and try to just clean her up and allow her to return to the activity.
I was inconsistent in my approach. I took her accidents personally. I was disrespectful in the way that I treated her. And I created a power struggle—one that I could never win. Most of all, I was ignorant about how to handle this major milestone in a child’s early life. I hope that other well-meaning but terribly misguided parents can learn from the mistakes that I made. Some kids are immune to our harassment surrounding potty training, but others can be very sensitive, and not having a game plan that allows the child to have control can create problems that carry over even into adulthood. For more guidance, see the links below. Happy flushing!