Tuesday 28 August 2012

75 Benefits of Free-Range Baby Poop (Highlights)

Yesterday I read this great piece on Jezebel called Babies Pooping Over Garbage Cans and Hypnotized Toddlers: A Guide to Progressive Parenting.  Which reminded me of the post I had been meaning to write about Elimination Communication (EC).  I first heard of this fun new way to make mothers feel guilty shortly after Frack was born.  And when I did I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Seriously, are you fucking kidding me with this?  

As if I didn't have enough to do!  Sure, I agonize over the impact my selfish disposable diapering ways would have on the environment but the sheer misery of the business end of keeping a baby alive with little or no sleep made me want to make my life as easy as humanly possible, thank you very much.  Also, do you realize how often a new baby goes to the bathroom?  Really, really often!  Frack was too small for the size zero diapers we bought for him so they were worse than useless.  He frequently "eliminated" right onto my lap.  I guess I wasn't responsive enough to his "cues".

But recently I found out that Mayim Bialik is the poster-girl for EC and other forms of attachment parenting.  I have been a fan of Mayim Bialik since her debut in the movie "Beaches".  I love her appearances on "The Big Bang Theory".  I am also duly impressed at her PhD in neuro-science.  It seems the woman must know what she is talking about.  So I thought maybe I should look into it.  Maybe it's not as ridiculous and unrealistic as it sounds.

The first website that came up (and wasn't Wikipedia) was Diaper Free Baby: a community dedicated to educating the public about EC while supporting each other.  They very helpfully provided a list that enumerates a whopping 75 benefits of practicing EC.  Seventy five!  Have you ever been able to come up with 75 reasons to do anything?  I don't think La Leche League has been able to dream up 75 reasons to breastfeed so this EC stuff must be totally amazing!  I'll bet it cures cancer!  Why, oh why did I scoff?  What wonderful things did I miss out on because of my narrow-minded incredulity?

Turns out that most of these benefits are a stretch, many fail to mention the obvious alternative consequences, and more than a few are repetitions.  Out of the 75 you could maybe find ten that were legit good reasons to do this.  The rest are hilarious.  Allow me to share with you some highlights:

#5  Allows baby to go diaper-free in bathing suits.  "Swim diapers" don't prevent urine from getting into the pool and are not comfortable for baby.  (Um yeah.  Ever try to put your diaper-free baby in a public pool?  Good luck with that.)

#26  Enhances creativity.  American communities are not designed for pottying babies, so EC caregivers learn to "think outside the box".   (Diapering is for the unimaginative and uncreative.  I have never in my whole diapering career had to improvise when I was stuck without a diaper or wipes.)

#28  Amazes and impresses other people.  (I mean, that's why you had kids isn't it?  To impress people with their stupid tricks.  A-ma-zing!)

#33  Reminds parents that many "facts" about child-development are culturally-entrenched and believing these facts may lead families to limit certain experiences.  (Who the hell needs "facts" anyway?  Why limit certain experiences, like being shat upon for example, with pesky "facts."  So much better to live life to the fullest without being bogged down by "information" or "evidence".)

#36  Provides "advanced notice" of upcoming developmental milestones.  Increased "misses" frequently precede developmental change.  (Cleaning shit off the floor can't be a disgusting chore!  It's the joyous heralding of a new developmental milestone!)

#48  Can help older siblings bond with baby, especially since children have an intuitive sense about a baby's elimination needs.  (Did you know your other kids have psychic poo-powers?)

#54  EC respects children.  (You hear that, you selfish child-hating diapering Moms?  EC respects children.)

#58  Conventional toilet training starts with learning to "hold it" while EC starts with learning to "let go."  This can make a big difference in a baby's perception of elimination and of life in general.  (EC is totally zen.  You EC your baby and he'll end up like the fucking Dalai Lama.  Diapered babies have a hard time learning to let shit go and are ultimately unhappy as a result.)

#64  Has been practiced for centuries around the world.  (Because everything that has been practiced for centuries is a good idea.)

#73  Reduces the likelihood of having "two in diapers" and removes the stress of having to potty train a toddler before a new baby is born.  (Increases the likelihood of having two shitting on the floor, or one shitting on the floor while the other shits in your lap.  Which is not stressful in any way.)

I get that I am glossing over some of the real benefits of EC.  I think that saving money and reducing landfill waste are both good things as well as some of the other health benefits.  However I can't help but think that if you have to try this hard to convince people of how awesome EC is then you might just be full of shit.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Mommy Rotten's School of Phone Etiquette

Not too long ago I made a shocking discovery.  Frick has no idea how to carry on a phone conversation.

I don't remember needing to be told how to talk on the phone.  I think I just learned it by listening to my mother talk on the phone and by being allowed to answer the phone so I could hear the adults calling our house and saying things like, "Hi, may I please speak to..."

And it hit me that Frick never had these opportunities.  We don't let him answer the phone because our standard practice is to let the call go to voice mail and then call whoever it is back.  This was because of the unbelievable volume of telemarketing calls we were getting.  Yes, we had call display but sometimes it would say "private caller" which could have been one of our friends or those devious telemarketers.  Up until recently the phone wasn't for Frick anyway.  But now he's at that age where kids are calling our house every day.

This was how I discovered that Frick's friend Maverick also had terrible phone etiquette.

Apparently when Maverick calls our house he uses his father's cell phone which wasn't showing up on our call display.  He would call, hang up on our voice mail, and then call right back a millisecond later, repeating this process several times before giving up completely.

At first I was pretty sure I did not want to talk to whatever asshole thinks this is acceptable behaviour, but after two weeks of it I most definitely wanted the pleasure of giving that person a piece of my mind!  Instead I found out it was just Maverick and ended up patiently explaining to him the concept of "Please leave a message and we'll call you back."

It took another two weeks for him to get the idea.  Of course this point is now moot since I put our number on the National Do Not Call list and am no longer wary of answering the phone.  Which is why I am now treated to riveting conversations with the eloquent and loquacious young Billy.

Me:  Hello?

Billy:  Hi.


Me:  Umm, hi?


Me:  Who is this?

Billy:  Uh....where's Frick?

Me:  Is that you, Billy?

Billy:  Yeah.

Me:  Okay, Billy.  Next time try saying "Hi, this is Billy.  May I please speak to Frick?"

Billy:  Oh.  Yeah.

And of course the next time he calls we do this all over again.  And while it's nice to know that my kid isn't the only one who is totally clueless about phone conversations it can get annoying.  Like, make-you-begin-to-question-your-sanity annoying.  As in my delightful exchanges with Kix.

Me:  Hello?

Kix:  Hello?

Me:  Hello?

Kix:  Hello?

Me:  Yes, hello.  You know, we can keep going like this all day.  Why don't you just tell me who you'd like to talk to?

Kix:  Oh.


Me:  Hello?

Kix:  Hello?

Me:  (Sigh).  Frick!  It's for you!

But my kid is just as bad.  So bad that I now make a point of sitting next to him while he's on the phone to give him some very necessary coaching.  Just the other day he hung up on his friend with no warning and no goodbye.  "I thought we were done," he said and shrugged his shoulders.

My guess is that all this modern technology making communication so easy and convenient might have played a role in these kids having poor social skills when using that technology.  There's just no real need to get our kids to answer the phone for us because the phone is always in our pocket and we usually know who the call is from and who the call is for and until they are around 10 or 11, it's generally not for them.

Or maybe it's just a boy thing.

Or maybe I'm just lucky.  Who knows?

Thursday 9 August 2012

Kindergarten Readiness

I hate parenting workshops.

Oh man, do I hate parenting workshops!

I try as hard as possible to avoid workshops at all costs but the evil of the workshop is that it will insidiously try to hide itself in something that looks harmless.  You go and sign up for oh, I don't know, a Kindergarten Readiness program and BAM! all of a sudden you're tossing around a ball of yarn and shouting out words like an idiot.

That's how they got me.

When the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) running the program called me up with the basic information they told me I would be dropping my child off at 9:30 and then joining them again at 11:00 for Circle Time.  This sounded great!  I'd drop him off, kill some time running errands or whatever, and then come back when they needed me.  Finally!  A program that gives me a whole hour and a half to myself!  Hallelujah!

I should have known better.

As I dropped Frack off in the Kindergarten room I was directed to go into the room next door for the "parenting workshop".


I wander into the next room to see about 9 other Moms sitting uncomfortably at teeny tiny desks in teeny tiny chairs.  The ECE running this workshop, let's call her Miss Sunshine, hands me a piece of paper and tells me to write my name in large letters on it and place it so she can see it on my desk.

"Sorry, we have no name tags" she says apologetically.

She starts the workshop with an "ice breaker".

Every session we are presented with an ice breaker, and every time I have to resist the urge to repeatedly bang my head against my teeny tiny desk.  Each ice breaker is more excruciating than the one that came before it.  The first was designed to help us get to know each other (because fully grown adults are known for being awkward and having no social skills).  But once we got the introductions out of the way, each new ice breaker had to have some educational purpose, typically to demonstrate how children get frustrated.

Because that is apparently the only way for them to make the point that kids get frustrated.  Without the ice breaker exercise the idea of frustration could only be an abstract concept.  Because parents somehow made it to adulthood without ever having experienced frustration or knowing that our school aged children get frustrated.

It's like they're saying, "Hey, we could have saved everyone a lot of time and just told you what our point was but we had so little faith in your intelligence that we had to make you feel stupid on purpose or else you wouldn't get it.  Aren't we smart?"

Slightly less irritating was Miss Sunshine herself.

Look, I know I'm a bitch, especially in the morning.  I tried to like Miss Sunshine, I really did.  She was so nice and she was trying so hard to do a good job BUT....

....everything she said sounded like she was addressing a room of four year olds.  It was almost as if this woman had spent so much of her career working with and talking to small children she had lost the trick of carrying on adult conversation.

She used her big happy voice and spoke slowly using hand gestures.  She made simple statements and then followed up the statements by asking us questions where it's obvious that the answer is the thing she just stated.  If we tried to give any answer that deviated from what she just said it was "wrong" and then she would patiently repeat her original statement.  Shoot me now.

And then there was the disappearing "r".

Specifically with the word "library".  The first time I heard it was when she uttered this little gem:

"Reading and going to the liberry are good ways to strengthen the bondage you have with your child."

WTF?  Did I just hear that?

I look around the room and none of the other Moms seemed to have noticed.  

Maybe I just imagined the "liberry" part.  I know for damn sure that she said "bondage" which is hilarious, but maybe that was just an unfortunate slip.  Maybe I just need more coffee.

Is this something I should even care about?  Am I just being a language snob?  A grammar nazi?  But she's an educator for chrissake!  She had to go to college for this!  No, no better to just ignore it.  

To be honest, the "bondage" slip was the closest I came to genuinely liking this woman.  But that "r" in "library" kept coming and going like Kevin Costner's English accent in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

At the end of each workshop we have a group discussion where we are obliged to share how we are teaching our kids literacy skills at home.

"I make fingerpaints out of pudding and get him to paint the alphabet in it.  He can write his whole name!"

"I let her pick out her own books and then she reads them to me, in two languages!"

"I give him cardboard and crayons and he makes his own books with pictures and words!"

The worst part of this is that the Moms honestly don't seem to be bragging.  They are all acting like this is normal, mundane four year old stuff.

When it was my turn everyone looked at me expectantly.  Frack barely speaks one language and my attempts to teach him the alphabet have not made much progress because he's obsessed with the letter "H".  Any time he is required to write he only writes "H" even to sign his name.  He makes the biggest possible "H" he can and he is very proud of his "H" drawing abilities.  Hell, I'm proud of his "H" drawing abilities.

But compared to these Moms Frack's accomplishments, and therefore my parenting, are somewhat less than stellar.  I've never liked the idea of regimenting every minute of every day with some education oriented activity in mind.  What he loves more than anything is lots of physical activity so I mostly just let him run around playing and doing his own thing.  I read to him at bedtime and we do speech therapy but these things suddenly don't feel good enough.  I start racking my brain for some other literacy related activity he likes to do.

"Uh, well, Frack likes using the dry erase markers on the white board at home so we let him doodle on that while I'm teaching his brother."

I could hear their collective gasp.  They were all staring at me, faces frozen in shock.

What?  What did I do wrong?

"Okaaaaaay," says Miss Sunshine.  "But of course you have to be very careful when using dry erase markers around small children."

And the other Moms are clucking and shaking their heads about the chemicals in the cleaner and markers themselves.

Listen bitches, lighten up!  You didn't even ask me if I was using non-toxic Crayola markers (which I am) and last time I checked they are called "dry-erase" because you can erase them without the cleaner.  Obviously I don't let my four year old handle cleaning chemicals.  Also, it's not like he's not being supervised.  Because you know what dry erase markers do not dry erase from?  My walls and my couch.  You're acting like I let him sit in the corner huffing solvents.

Nevermind.  Nevermind.  You are doing this for Frack.  Remember that.

And it was great for Frack.  He's almost a totally new kid.  He didn't want to go to school and now he does.  He's much more outgoing with kids his own age and is learning how to make friends.  He's more interested in books and he is exploring other letters of the alphabet instead of just "H".  I wholeheartedly support the Kindergarten Readiness program even though I hated every last minute of it.

And now that it is mercifully over I intend to celebrate our graduation with cupcakes and a pitcher of sangria.  Because there's nothing quite like being an adult in Kindergarten to make you want to hit the bottle.