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Dog

As the kids and I walked along a path in the woods this morning, we passed quite a large dog being walked by quite a large man. I try to keep my kids from touching strange dogs they encounter in the woods (which, now that I think about, never actually works), but the thrill of seeing this giant animal overwhelmed the two-year-old (as it always does), and he raced toward it. “Say hello, but we won’t touch him, Chris…” I say, only to be drowned out by the dog-walker: “No, no, he’s really friendly. He won’t hurt him; he’s great with little kids,” and more insistently as I hold Chris’s hand, “Seriously, he’s really friendly!” Which begs the question: How I do I really know you are friendly, let alone your dog, Mr. Stranger in the Woods?

While I was nearly 100% certain that none of us were going to attack each other, and the man and his dog certainly seemed as nice as they could be, I don’t tend to hand over decisions about the safety of my kids to nice guys in the woods. And, to be fair, while he could also be reasonably sure that we would attack neither him nor his dog, he shouldn’t necessarily trust that I could keep my toddler from grabbing his dog’s tail or poking him in the eye–even if he’s never done it before . . . and even if it were meant with love. It’s a toddler’s nature–like a dog’s–to be somewhat unpredictable.

So, I propose this: Next time, let’s all just say hello, and maybe trade some inane, friendly comments about the weather and how the rain finally stopped and how beautiful the dog is and how cute the kids are, and then, without any of us touching each other, licking each other, grabbing anyone’s fur, or slurping on anybody’s face, just move on by with a friendly wave.

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And the grasshoppers can breathe a sigh of relief.  A very excitable nature explorer has learned to corral his enthusiasm for little critters into an oh-so-gentle touch.  This happy development saves his older brother a great deal of anguish, and delivers his parents from off-the-cuff lies . . . Oh, that cricket must have been just too tired to stay awake another moment.  Let’s let it sleep. (You know, those little white lies to save little children from a broken heart for an accidentally murdered cricket…)

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Baby Boy


Boy. Boy #3, otherwise known as Baby X. I think I already knew it was a boy–I kept envisioning three little tiny boys in red print bathing suits running around on a beach, and I’m pretty sure they were all my kids. I wish I knew all their names, though, that would help, as I’m at a loss for what to call Baby X. I would love suggestions. Oh, and he’ll need a super-secret blog name as well, I guess.

(Martin is really J., by the way, and Chris is actually J. Martin and Chris are their blog names, mostly because of the thrill “Martin” gets from knowing that I’m calling them after his favorite creature-adventurers: the incomparable Martin and Chris Kratt. Also because I felt a little unsure of a preschooler’s legal expectation of privacy, particularly when it’s a given that at some point, his mother will be telling stories to the universe about some sort of toilet-related behavior. I also hedged at the last minute at posting the ultrasound picture that showed, in shockingly explicit detail, precisely why this baby was defined as a “boy.” I felt a little guilty at possibly humiliating him like that.)

(Oh, and I will save for another time the slightly panicked feelings that I’m having–too early–about how I’m going to do this. Have a third (third??!! Oh, crap!!!) baby, that is. That doesn’t seem like a welcoming caption under a baby’s first appearance–as a recognizable human being, at least–to the world.)

(And, also, I will save for later how likely it is that someone will eventually get a smack in line at the coffee shop for making a not-cute-even-though-they-think-it-is remark about having a third boy and how it’s too bad it’s not a girl…. Time enough for that unpleasantness.)

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So, you know when you’re pregnant, and you decide to try to cut out doing so much of what you really aren’t required to do until you stop getting sick quite so much to see if that helps?

But then you meet this very impressive woman–a friend of a friend–and during the course of a night’s conversation with a group of, actually all quite inspiring women who happen to all be mothers of broods of tiny children, you learn that this particular woman, an ob-gyn, while literally in labor with her own child, performed a major surgery, which happened to be on an HIV-positive patient (apparently her partners at the time would not have taken kindly to her leaving the patient for them to take care of, so she felt like she had to do it before going off to have her baby,  but that’s another story)…and you think, well, then…

So the next day, you paint your kitchen, take your children to 37 places that they have been wanting to go, write four (pretty bad, yet finished) writing assignments, and post on your neglected blog, all of which could wait, and none of which was  major surgery, but still.

And, sure, maybe you throw up a little more, and eat a little less, but, somehow, feel a little more industrious and a bit more balanced and more like yourself…or is that guilt?

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When children are sick, and changes are afoot, and midnight and 3pm seem about the same, and other things besides blogs need to be written, the only things I can come up with seem to be Twitters.

Twitter: Yet another technological thingamajig that I had a good laugh at my husband for suggesting to me–I believe my exact words were something like….”Ha, ha, you’re a narcissistic stalker!” He showed me his account–his colleagues use it at work for telling each other…well, I didn’t really read it, read it because it was too boring, but they use it to give updates to each other. Why I would profess to assume that anyone would want daily, hourly, minute-by-minute updates on my life was beyond me, and I certainly don’t need to get quite so involved in other people’s business.

But….then my sister moved far, far away, and I did want to know what she was doing all day as she acclimated to a new place, and assumed she wanted to know just what book I was reading to my children and what we had for lunch. And then I thought I recalled seeing this strange Twitter thing on a blog or two that I love, looked around, and there it was. If it’s good enough for Christine, it’s good enough for me.

And the true glory of it–I now know that a friend on the West Coast was making homemade desserts with her girlfriend to prepare for Thanksgiving, and know that today, a friend on the East Coast is getting out early from her job due to snow. These are friends that I have known since elementary school, and I used to know those daily details, but now I don’t. I always want to plan an hour of uninterrupted time to talk on the phone with them, or write a four page email, and really, it’s hard to do that often for all of us. But these little twitters–you can’t go beyond 140 characters no matter how much you want to–give me all those details that might not make it into a phone conversation or an email, and keep up that closeness we had when we were playing softball together or sitting in science class discussing our true 9th grade loves.

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I was at a friend’s house, sitting around the kitchen with maybe eight adults while a few babies and toddlers roamed around us. A friend-of-a-friend, a father of four, was letting us know his views on breastfeeding: it’s totally gross to breastfeed after about six months, and beyond disturbing to nurse a walker or a talker: “You shouldn’t nurse someone who walks up to you and asks.” He gave the whole body shudder at imagining a little person toddling up to his or her mother to nurse. Over his right shoulder, I saw my nearly-two-year-old headed my way. ‘Uh, oh,’ I thought, ‘this man is about to get a live demonstration.’ To my slight disappointment, my little boy did not run up and stick his head under my shirt. That would have been kind of fun. Instead, several of my friends, who are, of course, aware that #1 nursed until 18 months and #2 shows no signs of slowing down at 22 months, looked at me and grinned. I raised my hand and said, “I still nurse.” The anti-nurser said, “Wait–who do you nurse?” I really wanted to tell him it was my three year old, but I guess there’s only so much he could take. Plus it would have been a lie. I told him the truth, that I still nurse the little guy. The man turned three shades of pink and began to stammer a little. Awww, poor guy–he’s actually a pretty nice person. I didn’t really want to see him suffer. “Hey, no problem,” I said, “I totally get that lots of people think lots of different things when it comes to this, and I’m fine with that.”

To some breastfeeders out there, I let that guy off too easy. But here’s my dirty little secret: I actually do get where he’s coming from. To be very honest, I was a tad grossed out myself, even while pregnant, to imagine breastfeeding a baby. I didn’t get how it would work and how it would not be uncomfortable and how it would not be just plain weird. I remember my mom nursing my sister, and I certainly have always been a vehement supporter of the right to nurse in public with no exceptions, so it didn’t weird me out for other people to do it. But to think of doing it myself (perhaps because of a certain friend’s story–something about the breast pump expelling pink milk from her bloody nipples) did not particularly appeal to me. I decided not to decide until I tried. I didn’t want to set myself up for a disappointment if it was horrible.

And, really, there’s not much of a story once the baby was born. I had outstanding lactation people helping me in the hospital, and calling constantly, even a year later, to check on us and gently support us. I just didn’t have any real problems with it, and happened to like it.

But that’s me–I wonder if this man’s attitude might have affected his wife’s choice to breastfeed or not, or when to stop. I’m guessing she didn’t get a whole lot of support from him if it turned out to be something she wanted to do. On the flip side, the boundary between support and pressure can be tough to call. A friend of mine felt very put upon by the lactation consultants after her baby’s birth. She did not want to breastfeed. So she left the hospital not just exhausted and in pain, but with a huge helping of guilt. A month later, she admitted to me that she thought of throwing her infant against the wall when she was up with her in the middle of the night. I’m not blaming the breastfeeding pressure, but this new mother didn’t need the extra stress, and none do. Another friend really did want to breastfeed, but it just wasn’t working, and was making her miserable, but she felt so much pressure to keep trying. She called me when the lactation person told her to try to get support from a breastfeeding friend. Maybe I was supposed to give her some magic trick to get it working or to talk her out of quitting, but I told her to give herself the choice to stop if she wanted to. I can’t help feeling that heaping unhappiness and stress on a new mother doesn’t qualify as breastfeeding support.

So, yeah, the breastfeeding-a-toddler-is-gross guy got off easy–I could have started a great argument, or at least a lively discussion. But, hey, if he doesn’t like to see that, that’s fine with me. But next time he hangs out with me, he just might.

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