No Two Ways About It, That’s Strange. (Part 2)

I think I’m pretty special. Because everywhere I go, I see amazing things that provide great ammunition for entertaining stories and snippets.

Today is no different. Just as I couldnt understand the fashion proclivities of this poor family, I would like to today share with you all the following photo, and ask the question, “Why?”

Now I’m not up on all the latest baby-grooming trends, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this is not ok parenting behaviour.

For those of you who like some structure to your amusement, I give you some points to ponder:

  • The mother’s hair is fashionably styled and groomed neatly.
  • It has been about 100 degrees outside this week. The poor child.
  • Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say her hair is like Monica from Friends in ‘The One in Barbados’… Know your child and carry a couple of hair-ties with you for the unexpected event of humidity!
  • And most shocking of all.. What if she thinks it looks good…?

Thoughts, by all means.

Yizkor Etiquette (FYI)

There is a prayer in the Jewish holiday services, to honour the memory of people who are no longer with us. The widespread custom is that it is not said by people who still have both of their parents living. In many communities, those people do not even stay in the synagogue while the prayer is being said.

If I’m honest, I don’t really understand why that latter custom begun in the first place. When prayers are said by other parts of the community that I am not included in, (Men, Kohanim, those in mourning etc) I find it pretty self explanatory just to stand quietly and wait. After all, there is plenty of the prayer which is relevant to everyone, including a prayer for our soldiers and one for the victims of the Holocaust, something we all could benefit from being a part of. Surely it is an odd action in itself to get up and leave the building, basically abandoning everyone with the misfortune of having lost a parent or both.

Superstitious or not, I can however appreciate the reasoning behind it. And if your parents would rather you left the synagogue for those five minutes, or you yourself feel uncomfortable being there, then leave by all means.

But I do have a couple of small requests.

Given that we were standing having a perfectly normal interaction or sometimes even conversation 2 minutes previously, please don’t suddenly act like I have the plague. Yes, you’re being given a reminder that I once lost someone dear to me. I can understand your twinge of awkwardness. But not looking me in the eye? Stumbling over your words? Feeling the need to look apologetic as you leave the room? Bizarre. I do this four times a year, and sometimes it’s harder than other times, but I am in the same mood I was 4 seconds ago, I don’t suddenly need special treatment.

Which brings me to my second issue. The mad scramble for the door. This is different at different places, but in every congregation, there are the people who start gathering their bits and pieces together a good ten minutes before the guy shouts ‘Yizkor.’ They are standing by the door as soon as the Haftorah has finished, and they are pushing past everyone in their way to make it to the coridoor before heaven forbid, someone starts reading from their memorial booklet with them in the vicinity. What are you afraid of? That you might catch my dead parent virus? If its your custom to leave, then leave. In a normal manner. Exactly how you would regularly walk out a door, in a line, at a normal speed. Even if you disagree with me that it’s rude to leave in the first place, it’s certainly not polite to canter out the door virtually shouting silently that we shouldn’t confuse you with one of us.

I’m probably coming across kind of bitter, and it really isn’t that at all. And it certainly isn’t the fault of the people who leave. The custom should never have begun, because it feels to me almost anti what we stand for. Surely the very best part of Judiasm is that we are all accountable and responsible for one another, we share in each others joy and pain and we certainly don’t leave one of our own when we are in need. So where did this custom start, that we should segregate ourselves, even for twenty minutes a year into orphaned and not orphaned? Speaking for myself, and I only say one small portion of the service, it is a very lonely feeling to watch everyone hotfoot it out of the room at arguably one of my most vulnerable times. How must it be for the older members of the community who have so many dearly departed to remember and miss?

I don’t know where it started, and I hope that those who don’t mind either way, would start to make a point by staying in and standing quietly with their prayer books firmly closed. But even if you can’t, or simply don’t want to, I hope you’ll think twice before you push me out the way in your eagerness to leave.

Pacifying thoughts

The topic of dummies, or pacifiers, is a strangely heated one among parents. I recently had a conversation with a friend who claims to be from an ‘anti-dummy family.’ After thinking about this concept for a while, I have to say, I’m a little bit stumped.

I think most people agree that after a certain age, dummies are detrimental to a child. Teeth, speech and the normal development of a babies mouth, all need the ability to move freely without the hindrance of what past the age of a year basically becomes a plastic stopper. I see so many parents misusing this object, using it to effectively keep their kids quiet when they are too busy to give full attention, or avoid working out what is actually bothering the child.

It might come as a surprise therefore, that despite that strong view, I am a huge fan of pacifiers. And I don’t really understand why in young children anyone isn’t. In all baby books that I’ve read (which is a few- 9 months of pregnancy is a long time folks) they talk about the babies innate sucking reflex which we are all born with. For some babies, it isn’t very strong, and is fulfilled by nursing or drinking bottles. For others, they quickly find their thumbs or hands, or a favoured toy, and the need is satisfied with those. Some babies however, have such a strong instinct to suck, and gain comfort through sucking, that they want something all day long.

My son was born with a mighty sucking reflex, and after 4 weeks of being a human dummy, I had had enough. Society had made me into one of I’m sure many “anti-dummy people” who actually don’t know much about it at all. I had heard that it would interfere with feeding, (not that it was going so brilliantly anyway) and that it damaged teeth and speech and made your baby feel unwanted. I knew with the certainty often felt by people who actually dont know anything, that if I gave him a pacifier, I would spend months and possibly years bribing him away from it, and teaching him to sleep again. So whatever current hell I was in, what was the point?

But at 6 weeks, when I realised that our baby was spending 20 hours of the day either feeding from me or with one of his parents pinky fingers on the roof of his mouth, I took a trip to the local supermarket and faced down the literally ridiculous choice of baby soothers available. (By the way, if everyone is so anti-dummy… who is buying all these?)

And then, I got educated. After reading what the ‘experts’ had to say about the pros and cons of using a soother, I gave R a dummy during the day, and tried my best not to let him use it to help him fall asleep (although I did give it to help him resettle in the night). I offered it when I wanted to stretch out the gap between bottles, but never before checking that any other reason for his crying wasn’t satisfied. Lastly, at about 5 and a half months, after 2 nights in a row where he needed it to fall asleep, I Took It Away. At six months, he remembered for a few days, and then forgot that it ever existed.

And here is what really confuses me. I hear so many parents saying that they either cant give a dummy or cant lose a dummy because they “cant take it away” from their child. But it’s a baby! You’re the parent! All they know is what you do. If you are really doing it for your kids best interest, surely you can choose a time and stick to it. Yes, we had a hard couple of days while he adjusted to not having it, and learned new ways of setting himself, but by six months, a baby no longer has a sucking reflex. So they might love it, want it, cry without it, but they simply dont need it.

A child of two or three is a whole different ball game. Not only is it by now doing more damage to your toddler than the good it was doing to your newborn, but it must be near on impossible to take away. Toddlers, unlike babies, have opinions and great memories, and I would imagine can drive you mad for weeks or months demanding you return what is rightfully theirs.

My point I suppose, is that once your feeding is established after a month, and before your kid is old enough to get stubborn between 9m to a year, surely a pacifier is simply just whats on the tin; something to help comfort and calm your baby if they need it. While I used to be firmly swayed by their bad rep, I’m now happily in the “where’s the harm?” camp.

These are all only my thoughts, and what worked for us, so please don’t take anything personally as I know I’ve chosen a controversial topic. As a mother who started off ‘anti-dummy’ I just thought I might provide a happy compromise for those parents who are currently walking around the house rocking a baby with their pinkies indisposed.

Holiday Musings

Hello from our holidays.

We are in sunny Israel, (although it rained today-very pleasant actually) and are enjoying several blog posts worth of home truths about traveling with babies. All I have to say is there should be a new word for it, because it isnt called a holiday if you’re doing exactly what you do at home on a non-work day, just in another location. Because while it’s lovely having a day or two off work, it is not the same as a holiday.

Holidays (at least in my lucky experience) entail long lie-ins, late romantic dinners, spontaneous trips to exotic locations, exploring new areas and little if any responsibilities.

Someone should teach my son a little holiday spirit.

Lets tick them off one by one.

Lie in’s
We had a plan folks. London time. If he was two hours ahead of us for the whole trip, then he would always sleep in until 9, (laughable that this has become a lie in, but we were happy to accept it.) and he wouldnt get grouchy when he had to stay up later for family engagements. Well, he is thoroughly enjoying staying up until ten or eleven at night….and yet has been waking on the dot of 7 each morning! Blackout the room? Tried it. Our son has stolen someone’s early riser genetic make-up. Feel free to claim if you’re missing it.

Late romantic dinners.
Sigh. I even accept that he has to join us for the meals. But why does he just stuff the food into his face so quickly that we haven’t even touched our main course? And romantic? Sure, if having a plate of mac and cheese thrown on your new sandals is romantic.

Spontaneity
There’s only so spontaneous you can be with an 18month olds copious luggage in tow. The most spur of the moment we get is “Oooh, in three hours after his nap and his snack, lets hope he is in a good enough mood to let us drive to a pre decided baby friendly spot for a half hour excursion until he gets bored”

Exploring new places
Babies dont like new places. At least mine doesnt. So while it is lovely to spot the differences between the soft plays and baby gyms on this side of the world and the ones back home, it is hardly a massive change of scene.

Responsibilities
Babies are for keeps, not just for at home folks. They come with you everywhere! They still need getting up and changing and feeding and cuddling and looking after, and they will still get the chicken pox and ruin your plans of fun days out and carefree sunny activities. If anything, they are more confused and tired and out of sorts than ever, so the responsibility part of parenting kind of triples when not at home.

So it’s not that were not having a great time, because we really are. And if you other parents imagine a week of just Sundays you’ll know what I mean. I just think we should appeal to the Oxford English Dictionary for a new word for parents. Because ‘holiday’ seems to be checked in at the entrance to the delivery room.

Social Networking, Face to Face.

Some people thrive in social situations. These people look forward to events where they will see both their nearest and dearest and also meet new faces, potential friends and contacts of all kinds. They enjoy getting dressed up, making small talk, mingling and shmoozing with all kinds of people, finding out about others as well as opening up about themselves.

A lot of people say that they dont enjoy social affairs. Oh-I’m no good at small talk they will sigh, or I never know where to put myself at these things. This type, despite their protestations, normally find the people they already know and stick by them, or choose a wing man for the duration of the engagement to keep them company on the daunting task of meeting new people. Truthfully, they are fine, even while they do not shine at first impressions or superficial chatter, they go home perhaps glad that the evening is over, but no worse off for having attended.

There are those out there however, who have a real phobia of not just crowded events and new people, but even socialising with current friends and family. Just being taken out of their comfort zone, out of their own homes can be a serious mental and physical ordeal. Watching someone with a disorder like this is an eye opener into both psychology and sociology. They may stand frozen to the spot, not knowing who to talk to or where to go. They will perhaps look moody, or act rudely, not speaking to the host or hostess, not answering direct questions, not engaging in conversation, eating hardly anything or in an anti social manner. In contrast, they might be overly interfering and pushy, make a scene, burst into tears, or fall into a noticable sulk. They may even walk out.

The drama begins far earlier than the time listed on the invite, with anxiety starting perhaps months beforehand, and debriefing and rehashing continuing for the same amount of time afterwards. A 2 hour cocktail party can become a 6 month ordeal.

This kind of issue is all the harder to understand because simply talking to another person, especially someone we know already, is something we all do on a daily basis, without even thinking about it. It is so second nature to us all, that it seems almost laughable that just being in a room with more than 3 or 4 others can cause such a strong and negative reaction.

But it happens. I see it. I’m sorry for it. I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry for the host, and I’m sorry for the people who are just trying to make you feel more comfortable. And if I’m honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Unfortunately being sorry for us all doesnt make it go away, or make it much easier to deal with.