featured post: “the ballad of clingy smalls” by girl’s gone child

It only takes a single glance at just the right moment, but when it happens it’s startling, and the phrase flashes through your brain– “My baby isn’t a baby anymore, is she?” This is my reality right now, with toddlers who are rounding the corner of two years old in just a few months.

Many people allude to toddlers being like tiny teenagers, and it’s true for reasons beyond their propensity for moodiness and tantrums. Toddlers exist in a state of in-between-ness, straddling babyhood and childhood with their awkward baby-mullets, their desperate desire to do something themselves when they still really can’t do it at all, and the occasional, unexpectedly precocious expressions that sometimes cross their faces. Toddlers are contradictions who speed forwards through some parts of babyhood while clinging fast to others. This is why it catches me by surprise– sitting with one of my little girls at bedtime with her sleepy eyes half-open as she’s draped over my shoulder, pacifier firmly in place (we’re going to get rid of those so soon, I keep promising) and then I realize that their legs are so long now, they’re so heavy, their hair fits perfectly into ponytails, and are these pajamas getting small already, didn’t I just buy them? And by the way, how is it she knew to pull the chair out from the table earlier and then climb onto it to reach, and spill, my iced coffee?

In those moments, I realize that I think of them as babies all day and I call them babies, but the evidence is slowly accumulating that at twenty months old, they aren’t really “babies” anymore. Some days, I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Rebecca of Girl’s Gone Child wrote a beautifully poignant piece about this phenomenon, balancing nostalgia with a measured practicality about the role of accepting fluidity and change as necessary considerations for parenting:

I almost didn’t write this post because last week, like magic, Revi let go. Maybe it was a change of scenery or maybe it was just a change but suddenly she didn’t want to cling to me anymore.

So I put her down and she went running through the yard and didn’t cry when she realized I was on the other side of the patio, walking away. But before last week, and for the past couple of months, it was a very different story.

…it helped me realize that everything is kind of preposterous. How temporary all of it is. How we’re all trying to find answers and clubs and groups to help us figure out how to define everything but we’re really just trying to define a moment. Because you can’t “babywear” a ten year old, you know? You can’t breastfeed a teenager. You can’t call yourself a Freerange Grandparent. We’re all just working through the moments. Doing what’s best for our kids. Revi wants to be held all the time. Meanwhile, I let Bo go running down the beach with her siblings. Freerange attachment parent class of 2013, that’s me.

A friend of mine with three boys ages nine and up recently remarked upon how long it’s been since she measured her own mothering successes and failures in terms of breastfeeding, sleep training, or pacifier use. And it’s true– in the beginning, when we’re trying to define ourselves as parents (sometimes as the parents of newborns and young infants; sometimes as the adoptive parents of older children), we patch labels and philosophies onto ourselves like bumper stickers on a funky old car. The question “what kind of mother am I?” is often answered, in our own minds, with a list of the sort of things we do to or with our children. You can test this theory in nearly any alternative parenting forum online that contains signatures in users’ postings: “I’m a co-sleeping, extended-breastfeeding, cloth diapering mama of 3!” There’s nothing at all wrong with this, mind you; it’s part of how I define my parenting style when asked. When your children are still very little the reality of parenting them is in the nuances of stamina and baby-care style, not in negotiating friendship crises and the frustration of academic struggles. But Rebecca, like my friend with the three boys, has older children and has been in the parenting game a bit longer than I have, and so her perspective on her identity as a mother is different from mine.

That isn’t all of it, though. This post is a two-parter for me in a big way because of what she says next:

Most of the time we’re taking this parenting thing way too seriously. Myself included. I mean, sure, we need to be awesome. But putting labels on philosophies and styles and children who are a little clingier than normal, feeling guilty for things we have no control over, is just….well….kind of a waste of energy.
And I realized that instead of trying to “get to the bottom of why she is the way she is”… instead of trying to understand the psychology of a twenty-month old via google and babycenter… instead of trying to “fix” or “change” her, to rush her out of her phase/issue/problem, I needed to chill out and give her what she so desperately needed. To be held.

I needed to hear that. Because my girls are late talkers and one has sensory issues we’re just starting to figure out, and I am an intermediate-level Googler and professional worrier. My early childhood degree is of no help in this arena, I promise you– parental paranoia trumps any and all useful knowledge of toddler development that I have ever learned. While the words above won’t negate our need to continue engaging Early Intervention services and potentially some outside occupational therapy, it really meant something for me to read those two short paragraphs above.

This is a phase, right? Because some day my girls will be talking loudly and incessantly and I’ll have a terrible headache and I’ll wonder if the noise will ever stop, and maybe it won’t even occur to me in that moment that once upon a time I was googling every known developmental disorder and pouring over the “could your child have this?” checklists. It’s true, because these days when my little Chicken clings to my hand and grabs desperately at my skirt, I sometimes forget that just a year ago she was the “more daring” baby who seemed to have no fear at all. It’s easy to label them once and forget that they will constantly change, and we’ll have to keep up.

It just so happens that at the moment Revi doesn’t need me to hold her every second on my lap. But last week she did and next week maybe she will again and this is the dance we do as parents of complicated human beings with complicated human being minds.

Rebecca’s entire entry is a gem. I strongly recommend reading her post, The Ballad of Clingy Smalls (and other songs), and thinking about the role labels and parenting play in your daily experience and identity as a parent. How do you define yourself and your style? What are your parenting priorities, and where were you at during other phases of your parenting experience?

As always, commenting will be closed here to encourage commenting directly on Rebecca’s blog. Thank you!

Rebecca, in her own words: Rebecca is a writer and mom of four living in Los Angeles. She blogs at girlsgonechild.net.

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monthly theme, June 2013: “looking back” post listing

The PAIL Monthly Theme listing is up!

Thank you all for your submissions! Below are the posts for the June 2013 Monthly Theme topic, “Looking Back.” We asked you to take a look where you were this time last year, two years ago, or more. What has changed in your life? How have you changed as a person? Read on and see what these PAIL Bloggers had to say!

Contributing Bloggers:

  1. Kalyn @ The Kasun Family, “Looking Back“– A quick look back on the past 5 Junes and how much has changed!
  2. Delenn @ Slaying, Blogging, Whatever…, “Looking Back“– Going back through posts before, during and after my infertility. About life in general and specific.
  3. Amanda @ My Life in a Nutshell, “Looking Back“– June is a month of reflection– looking back at what IF and loss has stolen and the perspective it has given me.
  4. Emma @ Emma in Mommyland, “Looking Back“– A look back at June 2010 – June 2013.
  5. Jess @ It’s Just a Box of Rain, “How Has Life Changed?“– So much has changed the past few Junes, from doubt and pain to hope and mommy hood… but there are still a few curves ahead and I find myself wondering what future Junes have in store.
  6. J o s e y @ My Cheap Version of Therapy, “Looking Back“– No wonder the ALI journey is hard to understand from the outside. Looking back over a quick snapshot of my journey the past four years, it seems so “easy”– but I know it was anything but when we were in the middle of it!
  7. Slese1014 @ Mommyhood After Fertility Frustration, “Looking Back…“– A trip down memory lane from engagement to pregnancy number 2 filled with ups and downs and all arounds…
  8. Esperanza @ Stumbling Gracefully, “Looking Back“– A look back at the mountains and valleys that have marked the landscape of our family-building experience.
  9. Cablearms, “Landslide“– An excerpt: “… There comes a point in one’s life when everything seems to fit… to fall into place. Around this time last year, life seemed to be filled with confusion, instability and haze. This year, I feel more alive than I’ve ever been, more loved than I’ve ever felt, more needed than I could ever be, and more present in my life. I am here in the now– happy, healthy, whole.”
  10. Megan @ My New Journey with Being a Mom After Infertility and Battling My Weight, “Another Spin Around the Sun“– The next step in our journey, becoming parents after IF, dealing with PCOS and my continuous battle with my weight.”
  11. Amanda @ Reading Each Page, “What a Difference a Year Makes“– My journey toward a baby had just begun in June 2011, it was at the height of difficulty in June of 2012, and in June of 2013. From hopeful to depressed to unbelievably lucky, all in the course of 3 Junes. What a difference a year makes.
  12. UncommonNonsense1, “Looking Back“– A look at four Junes, and how much my life has changed.
  13. Kacey @ Recipe for a Baby, “Looking back…“– From marriage to completing our family– the last six years.
  14. Sharon @ Conception Misconceptions, “PAIL Monthly Theme Post“– A reflection on what I was doing around this time the past six years.

If you are still writing your post, or these posts inspire you, link up in the comments. Additional posts will be added through the end of the week, so check back in to see if any new posts pop up, and feel free to leave some general comments on the topic below.

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monthly theme, June 2013 – “looking back”

While it may be a bit of a delicate term for what so many of us have been through, our experiences through infertility, adoption and loss are often referred to as a “journey.” Journeys can travel winding roads with surprise pit stops, departures from the chosen path, or maybe hard straight lines that barrel on stubbornly towards a clear goal.

Where has your journey brought you? Where have you been?

This June marks the one-year anniversary of PAIL. As a website, we remember what we were doing a year ago, but what about all of us as its individual readers?

I know where I was a year ago. I had two six-month-olds and was preoccupied with moving them from our bed to their cribs, starting solid foods, and preparing to live with my parents for most of the summer while my husband studied for the bar (yikes!). This June, we’re trying to KEEP one of our rambunctious toddlers in her crib at night, she’s starting to reject foods that she loved last year, and my husband is concurrently job-hunting and taking on his own clients in the meantime. TWO years ago, though… that was a trip. I was a few months pregnant and simultaneously thrilled and freaking out. And the year before that I was losing hope that it would ever happen.

A lot can change in just a few years, can’t it?

This month’s monthly theme topic is “Looking Back.” What were you doing last June, or two, three, four or more Junes ago? How about when you started your blog? We’ve all been on our own individual journeys all along, but journeys look different when you measure where you are now against specific points in your past.

So jump in and share with us: how has your life changed?

Fill in the form below to submit a post from your blog and share your experiences with us! Posts are due by next Thursday, June 27th at midnight and the listing will be posted on Friday, June 28th.

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weekly summary, vol. 51

PAIL Special Announcements/Reminders:

  • PAIL just celebrated its first anniversary! A lot of work goes into making this website run, and we’d love to build upon it with some more input from YOU! Find out more about how to be a guest blogger for PAIL (one post or many) and join the team!
  • On our blogroll? Help your readers find us! Post the PAIL icon! If you need help figuring out how to post the button, click here for details. If you are having issues, you can always contact us and we will do our best to put on our tech support hats and solve the problem for you. :)

PAIL Posts This Week:

PAIL Featured Post:

  • SRB shared with us a very emotional post in which Brittany of Boho Transplant experienced some negativity from “IF & loss” friends when announcing her second pregnancy. Brittany explored the complicated world of support and give & take, both online and off, and her vulnerability in sharing this news.

Stay Connected:

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weekly summary, vol. 50

PAIL Special Announcements/Reminders:

  • On our blogroll? Help your readers find us! Post the PAIL icon! If you need help figuring out how to post the button, click here for details. If you are having issues, you can always contact us and we will do our best to put on our tech support hats and solve the problem for you. :)

PAIL Posts This Week:

PAIL Featured Post:

Stay Connected:

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