Thursday, February 7, 2008

Separation Anxiety

Most babies will go through a phase called "Separation Anxiety" that usually begins around 6 or 7 months of age according to the parenting books. Molly has started to show signs of separation anxiety from more night waking to crying if I give her to someone else to hold, even if that person is one of her primary caregivers. Though this is a new behavior for Molly I wonder if it is really a shifting of the anxiety over separation from mother to child.

You spend nine months with this little person inside you as if you are one. You breathe, eat, and get rid of wastes for them. In an instant they become separate from you through being born. This new physical separation is anxiety provoking. Where you once took care of their needs without effort, you suddenly have to learn how to help this person eat, sleep, play, and interact with the world around them. In addition, you have to let other people hold them! When I first brought Molly home, it was painful for me to let other people hold her because I wanted to hold her (Husband excepted).

She slept in our room right next to me for two weeks so that I could put my hand on her easily from my bed. When we were ready to move her to the crib, I had anxiety about her being so far away. I worried I wouldn't hear her if she needed me. Separation Anxiety.

When she was two weeks old, I left her for the first time for an hour. I cried all the way to my meeting and called my mother every 30 minutes to check on her. Separation anxiety.

Now that she is older, I can put her to bed or leave her for the day while I am at graduate school and I am not so anxious about it. I have gotten used to the idea that she and I can be separated from one another and still be together. It has taken Molly longer to realize that we are no longer joined together. Now that she is figuring it out, the separation anxiety has shifted to her. The only difference between us in terms of this anxiety is that I always had the power to return to her whenever I needed. Because she cannot walk, talk, crawl, or drive a car, she has to trust that I will come back to her. I do think she trusts this now, but it must be hard not to be able to figure out how to get back together with the people you have being separated from.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Parental Decision-Making

One thing I have really noticed since I became a parent is how hard it is for me to make decisions about how to best respond as a parent. I am notorious in m family for being very decisive and definite in my decisions, but since I had Molly I agonize over every little decision where she is concerned. Since she is only 4.5 months old, there are not that many decisions to make beyond some very basic things. A funny example of this new family phenomenon is how my husband and I became overwhelmed by all the choices in the diaper isle at Target right before she was born. The diaper isle seemed to have endless kinds of diapers even within the same brand. How would we choose?

We left there with some diapers but had the sinking feeling that we had no idea what we were up against. Some choices were easy for us, like the decision to breastfeed and the decision not to be a co-sleeping family. It was also pretty easy for us to decide that I would not return to work and would focus on graduate school and taking care of Molly. The Cry-It-Out debate was really the first decision that seemed important in setting the tone for how we would respond to Molly's behaviors. I read as much as I could and was still completely baffled by how to make a decision to respond to night waking that was not hunger, diaper, or need-based beyond a desire to play with mom and dad at 3 a.m. In the end, I should acknowledge that my husband never really had as much struggle with the decision. He agonizes about these things considerably less than I do. My own parents finally commented that Molly would be OK, no matter what we did. I really believed this to be true, but still felt paralyzed by having to make a choice.

I think it is this consistency thing that makes it hard for me. I had always had an easy time with decisions because I knew if it didn't work, I could just make another decision to go in a different direction. With parenting, this rapid-change decision-making is not so easy as the child ages. I believe it is really important to be consistent so your child develops a clear understanding of expectations, rewards, how they will be responded to, and that their parents are in charge. If you are going to maintain this level of consistency with what behaviors you encourage or discourage you cannot just change direction with how you parent when things get hard. Your child is going to cry, throw a fit, and maybe tell you they hate you when they are 16, and that is hard. But you do not have the option of shifting to a new parenting philosophy midstream. Even if you did, the tears would still fall at some point. This is not to say that you can never adjust your parenting to meet the needs of your child as they develop, but that you need to consistently give it a chance. Just because it is hard in the process of being consistent, that doesn't mean that your approach is all wrong.

Right now we are still working on being consistent with how we put Molly down to sleep and how we will respond at night when she feels like playing. In the future, things will be harder in terms of the types of behaviors we will be challenged with. I am wondering if it is not so much exactly what supportive and responsive parenting method that you choose, but whether or not you have the strength to be consistent with it that makes the difference to the child. This point is seldom emphasized in the doomsday parenting books that advocate their method so definitively.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Consignment Sale Season

Before Molly, I had no idea what a consignment sale was. I understood the concept of a consignment store, but a friend explained that a consignment sale is a huge affair with hundreds of consignors selling equipment, clothes, toys, etc.

That's how I buy her clothes now. Lists of sales can be found here.

I bought a whole wardrobe for ages 6-12 months plus a few quality wooden toys for $100.