A couple posts back, Maike commented: “On the topic of toys (kind of!), I would be interested in a blog post on your views of swords and guns. From your manuscript, I assume you will have a different take then most people around me.”
Yeah, probably. The Bay Area consensus comes down pretty hard on the side of forbidding make-believe games that involve weaponry (but especially toy guns). The truth is, though, I don’t have a problem with it. I’m only waiting until Robin and Davy are big enough before I buy them these:
Aren’t they adorable? And if I’m willing to condone pretend swordplay, I can’t see a logical basis for forbidding pretend gunplay: the violence quotient is the same, and kids are a lot more likely to have access to real knives than they are to have access to real guns. Anyway, I don’t think that pretending to be pirates or G.I. Joe is going to turn a normal, healthy child into a violent rampaging killer or anything. I tend more to sympathize with the researchers who believe that there’s more likely to be something harmful about denying boys—because, let’s be honest, we’re mostly talking about little boys here—access to this kind of aggressive play. As far as I can tell, barring those tragic cases where a child mistakes a real gun for a toy, there’s no convincing research linking gun play to real-life violence: the “expert consensus” seems closer to that described here:
In a culture already filled with violent video games, TV programs and images of a real war, it can be unnerving to see an innocent child pretending to kill someone. Yet no study has yet linked pretend gunplay to future violent behavior, and most child experts agree that by forbidding gunplay entirely, parents give it far more power and will probably drive it underground.
I have no doubt you can find research to support either side, and certainly I don’t think that those kids whose moms don’t allow toy guns in the house (because again, we’re also mostly talking about the moms: it’s pretty rare to find a dad leading the charge against Cops and Robbers) are destined to have a crisis of masculinity when they grow up or anything like that. I will say, though—and this is a tangential but related issue—that I think often mothers who try to raise their children with “no gender roles” are biased by the fact that they are themselves women, and so their idea of a gender-neutral environment is actually a very feminine one. I don’t want to impose a gender role on my boys either, but neither do I want to get in the way of their own explorations and constructions of what being a man will mean for them. Sometimes that means playing war: exploring the idea of having and wielding strength, of being a protector of family and community.
This is all entirely theoretical in our household, as so far Robin is interested in trains and penguins rather than swords or guns—and Davy is mostly interested in boobies, and that only for the most practical of reasons. If one of them asked for a toy gun as a birthday present I’d try to find one that looked cool, but not so realistic that he could get into trouble with it. I might try and steer him towards science-fiction style lasers, because you can get some excellent Star Trek and Star Wars replica toys, and then if his friends had disapproving moms I could teach him to say that “It’s set on stun.”
Just a quick post as I know the grandparents get antsy when I don’t update for a while. It’s been a busy six weeks for us since Davy arrived—we had Robin’s birthday, and visits from all the grandparents (unfortunately I was not organized enough to take pictures, for which I am now kicking myself). Robin has been thrilled with the extra attention from his grandparents, and has honestly shown no resentment about sharing his parents with a new little brother. He is demonstrative and sweet with the baby, and eager to play with him—he tries to initiate games of peek-a-boo and Tickle Your Toes, even though Davy’s still too young to do much in response. He’s smiling a lot though, big toothless gummy grins that reduce his parents to cooing nincompoops.
I and both the boys have had check-ins with our respective doctors, and we all came away with clean bills of health. Davy is over ten pounds now, while Robin weighs thirty (and stands just over three feet tall). Robin’s still a little behind the curve on his speech development, but the doctor said he was “pleasantly surprised with the language I’m hearing today,” and told us he’d do fine in preschool. Still waiting to hear if we can get him into the one we want…
My big issue these days is exhaustion. Robin goes to bed late and Davy gets up early—and of course there’s the midnight feeding—and they never seem to nap at the same time, or if they do it’s directly after I’ve had my fourth cup of coffee for the day—so getting enough sleep is a real and ongoing challenge. I’m still struggling to get Robin the activity and exercise he needs because I’m so tired all the time. We really need to get our back yard fenced so that I can just turf him outside, and bring a book or something while I sit on the back steps with Davy. But I haven’t had any really bad days since the one I posted about. I think that Fisher-Price swing has saved my life: it’s really great for soothing Davy when he’s fussy and just needs to nap. So I’m at least getting through the days without any major stress or storm: just a perpetual haze of exhaustion and overcaffination. I’m seriously pretty sure that at this point I could sleep for 24 hours straight.
I’m afraid you can’t see all the articulation on the cakes in this photo, but rest assured that Robin fully accepted it as a choo-choo. He helped me decorate for a little bit, before deciding that he’d rather help as a taste-tester and quality engineer.
He’s had a great day. I’ve been doling out the presents over the course of the day, so that he gets to appreciate each one. Many of them were books—and even better, they were train books—so we had a good time reading those together. He also got several hours of Thomas and Pingu. And all of the grandparents called, so he got to talk to all of his favorite people: though by the end of the day he was a little overloaded with phone time, so I’m afraid those who called later may have gotten short shrift.
Right now he’s at the park with his father while the noodle casserole bakes, and after dinner we’ll light the candles on the cake and investigate the remaining presents. But we won’t sing, because Robin still hates that!
Plus: bonus baby picture!
Davy is a month old now (and growing cuter by the day), and Robin will be three on Thursday! We have some new Thomas toys squirreled away as presents for him, and I’m planning to bake a train cake that night, but our real celebration will be a picnic at Tilden Park over the weekend. We’re hoping that Robin’s Pappy and Nonna will be able to join us!
Our veggie box on Saturday brought us cherry tomatoes, two pints of strawberries, two little boxes of raspberries, four odd tart fruits that might be pluots, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kale, basil, and four zucchinis. We had pesto on Sunday and a roast chicken with sauteed zucchini last night. Tonight Sam is going to be eating at the Splunk conference, so I figured Robin and I would just have hummus and pita bread for dinner. I meant to make some tabouleh too, but I don’t have any bulgur, so I’ll have to do that as a lunch instead later in the week. Also, as long as they keep sending me kale I’m going to keep putting it into bulgur salad.
Wednesday night I’m making stuffed peppers, along with a salad to use the carrots and broccoli. Thursday Robin gets a birthday dinner of “noodles,” his favorite—he likes all kinds of noodles, but specifically I’m making baked whole wheat penne with cheese, cauliflower and ham (this recipe with cauliflower instead of peas). Then Friday will be for leftovers. And I’ll trust the fruit to take care of itself.
So, I’ve been trying to establish something of a schedule to organize our weekdays around. It can’t be very strict, of course, because Davy needs what he needs when he needs it, but I think Robin and I would both benefit from having a clear and predictable order to our days: and really it should be something other than All Pingu All the Time. (Pingu is an adorable little show that my friend Wendy introduced me to: I put it on a few weeks ago in order to get a break from Thomas, and Robin immediately became obsessed.) He’s been watching really a lot of television for the past couple months, while I was struggling to deal with the last stage of pregnancy and then the new baby, and now I want to set better limits on that.
Here’s what the schedule looks like right now, leaving out “nursing the baby,” “changing the baby,” and “walking around bouncing the baby,” all of which happen of course at frequent intervals.
7:30: Robin wakes up. He climbs into bed next to me (if I’m not already up with the baby, and if he didn’t move into our bed in the middle of the night). We cuddle for a bit, until he gets too rambunctious and/or Davy gets fussy. Then we get up for real.
After Robin gets out of bed I sit him on the potty; we read a couple of books together in the bathroom, during which time Robin will do absolutely nothing related to the function of the room. Oh well. I want to at least keep him used to the idea of sitting on the potty frequently.
Then I get him and myself dressed and I fix breakfast for us both. After breakfast it’s “free play” time for Robin (I make sure his train layouts are in working order) while I pick up around the house and check my e-mail.
At about 10 o’clock I load the baby into the sling and we all head to the park. If I time it right we can catch the nursery school kids there; otherwise, there’s usually another child or two there for Robin to interact with. The walk to the park is just as interesting to him anyway. He points out all the landmarks on the way: the friendly cat, the barking dog, the house with a big “S” in front…
We get home around noon, and I make lunch. After lunch we do another round of “potty time.”
And then, ideally, it would be naptime. Unfortunately, Robin really doesn’t nap on cue: the best I’ve been able to do is get him to lie in his bed for fifteen minutes. I consider this a good-faith effort; if he’s not asleep at the end of fifteen minutes, I let him go on his way, no matter how much he’s yawning and rubbing his eyes. Sometimes he crashes out later and sometimes he doesn’t.
naptime quiet time, it’s arts-and-crafts time. Today I cooked up some playdough:
Recipe for playdough:
Put a cup of water in a pot and add enough food coloring to get the color you want. Turn the heat up medium-high and stir in a cup of flour, half a cup of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and a tablespoon of cream of tartar. Stir constantly as the mixture thickens: this will be kind of a trip as the texture changes drastically in a short period of time. I imagine older kids would get a real kick out of stirring it up. Anyway, when it’s formed a stiff ball, turn it out and let it cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, knead it a bit and Bob’s your uncle.
When Robin gets bored of the day’s art project he can wander off and look at his books or play with his other toys—it’s “free play” again until about 4 o’clock, which is when I finally give in to the insistent cries of “Pingu! Pingu! Pingu!” Actually I try and put him on the ClickStart first, because at least that’s interactive. But the electronics will keep him happily occupied until Sam gets home, and it gives me a chance to prep dinner (and blog!)
So, that’s the schedule: it sounds pretty good the way I’ve written it out, although I assure you that no day so far has gone exactly according to plan. And probably none ever will.
I want to thank everyone who left such nice comments on my last post. The Internet has been an amazing help to me as I learn my way as a parent—just to be able to express the frustration is helpful, and then to get supportive, friendly voices answering back can make a huge difference.
I feel much better this morning, of course. I don’t think I fully realized the sleep deficit I was running. Yesterday I went to bed as soon as Sam got home (around 6) and I stayed there, getting up only to nurse and to help put Robin to bed, until Davy woke up this morning around 5:30. The sad thing is that I’m pretty sure I could sleep for another six hours—but at least I’m not miserably tired like I was yesterday. And the weekend is coming! And Davy SMILED at me this morning, so that makes everything amazing and great.
Okay, today has been horrible. I don’t know how much sleep I got last night but it wasn’t much, and then Robin exhausted my reserves early by whining and whining and whining and then for a change SCREAMING and SCREAMING and SCREAMING. Eventually he wore himself down too and fell into a nap, at which point I thought to myself, Oh thank God, I’ll get to sleep for a bit.
That was exactly the point that Davy woke up. Okay, I thought, I’ll nurse him and put him back down and we’ll all sleep for a bit.
I nursed him. I put him back down. He cried. I nursed him again on the other side and put him back down. He woke up and cried. I burped him and cuddled him. He squirmed and fussed. I was so tired I started to fall asleep in the thirty-second intervals between his cries. I had little thirty-second dreams. They always ended with waking up to a fussy baby.
An hour and a half later, Robin woke up and I had a bit of a meltdown that ended with me scaring Sam badly enough over the phone that he offered to come home right away. I didn’t take him up on it; instead I am pouring out my woes to the Internet while Robin crawls around under my chair whining “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” and Davy lies on the bed still fussing.
Right now I think the fact that I haven’t slapped duct tape over both their mouths and thrown them in the closet makes me the World’s Best Mom, but there’s still hours left in the day, so nobody should go out and buy me the mug just yet.
This morning for breakfast we had granola, yogurt, and blackberries from our back yard: doesn’t it look pretty?
I’m proud of how well I’m holding things together now that Sam is back at work. For the past couple days I’ve managed to do potty/story time with Robin; basic housekeeping tasks (laundry, dishes, making the beds, picking things up off the floor); and trips to the park, in and around soothing a restless baby who never wants to be set down ever ever ever. The Ergo baby sling has been my friend and boon companion, but I’ve also gratefully accepted Pops and Mo’s offer to buy us an electronic swing, so that I don’t always have to be trying to do things with a baby strapped in front of me.
I’m also excited because yesterday I got my first request for a “full” from an agent, meaning that he’s read the opening chapters of my novel and now wants to see the rest. I think this is a really good sign that the edits I made to the first chapters are working.
Glurggh… Sam goes back to work tomorrow, and as if sensing an upcoming change to his all-cuddles-all-the-time routine, Davy has gotten harder to calm at night. I’m operating on not much sleep, and I’m frankly kind of terrified of being home alone with both the kids, so this week’s meal plan may prove to be a web of lies—it’s enitrely possible that Sam is coming home each night to find me rocking in a corner, and a pizza delivery menu on the counter.
Nonetheless, our veggie box last week held kale, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, five plums, two different kinds of cucumbers (the “normal” kind and the pale round kind), carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, two big yellow onions, and five yellow potatoes—so it would be good if we managed to eat some of that. We’ve already put a good dent in the strawberries, and I’m planning to use the plums tonight in the crisp that I didn’t make last week. Also tonight I’m making a salad to accompany some grilled lamb chops.
I think the kale is destined for yet another batch of bulgur salad (it makes a good lunch for me and Robin). I’ll get a chicken to roast tomorrow with the potatoes, and then Tuesday I’ll make soup from the leftovers (using some carrots, onion, and celery too).
On Wednesday maybe Sam can grill some sausages, and the zucchini can go into a pot of calabacitas (I’ll probably use fresh corn). Thursday we’ll have some kind of pasta dish with broccoli, and Friday, leftovers.