All I want for Valentine’s Day is my two front teeth…

…Well, not mine. Little guy is in misery. 

The poor baby can’t sleep and just kind of whimpers all day when he is not chewing on absolutely everything he can get his little grip on. I know this teething affliction can’t be avoided, so I have spent some considerable time searching for ways to alleviate the discomfort without resorting to medicine. I’ve come up with a few things that work best for us. These tips are not new, I just wanted to offer a summary of the advice I’ve gotten and what has worked best.

Ice in the pacifier. I read this tip online somewhere when I was pregnant and thought it was kind of odd. But desperation can make a lot of crazy things sane, so I gave it a try. Once little guy was cleared by the pediatrician to drink a little water, I decided to try this trick. Compress the bulb of a pacifier and submerge it in a glass of water to fill the bulb part-way with water, then throw it in the freezer. He absolutely loved this. It was like the teething ring, but he didn’t need to hold it and test his luck with his sometimes shaky hand-eye coordination.

Sophie the Giraffe. When I got pregnant, mom friends couldn’t stop buzzing about this little rubber toy. My aunt was kind enough to give it to us as a shower gift.  I have to say, when I opened it I was unimpressed. It just looks like a cute little animal toy that squeaks so my dogs also find it irresistible (which is a bit of an issue!) However, this little toy seems to be the only thing that comforts little guy sometimes. I think it must be just the right texture and size for his little hands. I do well to never leave it at home!

My fingers.  I was hesitant about trying this one (um, ouch!), but my neighbor recommended it as the one thing that really helped her boys when they were teething. So I wash my hands really well and just sort of gently rub his gums and let him chew. It’s mesmerizing. And it seems to let him know I know what is hurting and I’m trying to help. That last part may be totally in my head, but it makes me feel better.

Distraction. Little guy is at an awesome age where movement really fascinates him. He loves to to try to anticipate my moves when I tickle him, or to fly like and airplane, or drop like an elevator when I do squats. It is one heck of a workout “flying” him all around the house and squatting with him (did I mention he’s 21 lbs at 6 months?!) Plus, he is just starting the belly laugh, and that is worth anything I can do to hear that adorable giggle.

Cuddles. I’m sleep deprived, so the constant neediness that accompanies teething can definitely be trying on my nerves and patience. But I am not the one going through the teething, and I know this won’t last forever. The best remedy I’ve found so far is lots of cuddle time and compassion. So for two nights in a row, I waited patiently while he fell asleep in my arms on the couch, since he seems too fidgety and uncomfortable to fall asleep like he normally does. One day I will be sad he doesn’t want to fly around like an airplane or fall asleep on my chest. 

It’s another phase that won’t last forever, but I sure do hope little guy feels better soon.

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Great Balancing Act

“So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

and remember that Life’s

a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.

And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

-Dr. Seuss. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I love reading this book to my son. I received it as a high school graduation present, and to be honest, I don’t think I read a word of it until one night searching through our bookshelf for something new to read to little guy. The book itself is beautifully written, and when I reached the page with this passage, I got goose bumps. It is a stirringly simple observation about life, and has become somewhat of a mantra me.

Balance in life means something different than I thought it would. I thought balance would mean keeping as many balls in the air as effortlessly as possible. Making it all work–home, family, community, career, health–without feeling the stress of near-certain failure, or the strain of never-ending commitments.

I am beginning to understand that balance may mean something entirely different. I am learning that balance means making choices and living with the consequences. I may want to do and be many things to many people, but balance can’t be achieved with all those things on my scale. They don’t fit. In order to find balance, I have to choose what is most important to keep in the equation.

Choices are tough because when something wins, something else loses out. But then again, that’s the point. I can’t do everything and do anything well. I have to make choices. I have to accept that there are consequences to those choices. There is simply no way to make all the choices at the same time. If this is such a simple concept, why do so many women like me struggle with the guilt in their choices?

My desires for how my life would unfold would be forever changed by the new outlook that was born right alongside my first child. Priorities changed for me, and I never saw it coming. Instead of doing everything as I used to, I would have to make some choices about where I would focus my energies, or else spend a good bit of my life fighting a losing battle to balance more than what fits on my scale.

Then came the guilt.

If I continue working, between the commute and my 9 hours, plus weekend events, I would barely see little guy. I’ll miss so much. Guilt.

If I quit, I will no longer contribute to my family financially. I will push us off the edge of “comfortable” and into the realm of “cutting it kind of close” every month. Guilt.

If I work, I won’t give it 100% because I’ll be thinking about what I’m not doing at home. Guilt, once again.

If I quit, am I derailing my career as I know it? Am I giving up on my potential as an independent and driven individual contributor? Oh, make it stop.

I am still trying to come to terms with my decision to stay home with my son. I am not torn as much because it feels right for me at this point in my life.

That’s the great thing about balance. The choices, though they guide the direction of my life, don’t need to forever define it. When my condition or needs change, I can re-calibrate as necessary. And I think with experience I will learn to fit more on to my scale.

I have also discovered that balance is an intensely personal in definition. What constitute balance for one person is torture for the next. I’ve had several people comment on my decision, saying things like “you’re staying at home? trust me, you’ll be b-o-r-e-d,” or “As much as I love my kid(s), I could never stay home. I need my time away to stay sane.” These are valid points for these women. And there is nothing saying I won’t change my tune at some point and find that being at home actually starts to disrupt my ever-changing definition of balance.

I have to highlight that because in addition to guilt, many women (especially moms) I know endure another stressful and persistent state: the feeling of being judged.

I don’t judge what other moms do–honest. I know the mental and emotional gymnastics that can take place for moms to make the right decisions for their families. I also know many women are not afforded the choice I have–circumstances dictate what they must do for work, and my guilt-ridden tug-of-war must seem somewhat trivial to them. This is not a judgment on what I think is the best decision, just the best for my family at this particular junction in our lives. I commend women who successfully balance more than I do, and hope to learn from them.

I haven’t mastered the balancing act yet. But I know I’m on the way to understanding a lot more about my priorities and how to make the right things fit into my life.

I have not abandoned my ambition and pursuit of my own career, simply made the choice to change course for a while and focus on raising my son and growing our family. That’s a choice I’ve made, complete with consequences. My goal now is to see where it leads me and try to let go of the guilt. After all, I have places to go.

“…you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!”

-Dr. Seuss. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

–Side note, I’d like to thank Leoarna, whose post “Career Mum or Career Woman? Let’s just let each other get on!” inspired this post. I’m not quite sure of the proper blogging protocol for such a shout-out, but I wanted to make sure it was noted!

Mourning the loss of childhood innocence

I woke up this morning to the sight of my little boy sleeping peacefully. The terrible events that unfolded last Friday gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for his safety, but also the recognition that I will never be able to protect him from all the bad in life. Terrible, unspeakable things happen on rough city streets and in sleepy, picturesque towns. And there is nothing I can do to guard him from experiencing bad things in life. One day, he will face the troubling realization that life is full of uncertainty, unfairness, and loss.

For the most part, our society recognizes childhood innocence as something sacred—something to be protected lest it be disturbed too soon. We understand that childhood innocence is fleeting and the rest of life exposes us to a host of sad, scary, serious things.

Although I can’t wait to share the amazing and beautiful parts of the world with my son as he grows, I am sad that the good things of life must go hand-in-hand with the hard parts: fear, disappointment, temptation, evil. I know my job as a mom is not to shield him from these things, but to prepare him to face the tough stuff when the time comes. And somehow I already know that it will be more difficult for me to witness his pain than it is for me to experience it myself. Such is the condition of parenthood, I’m learning.

Being a parent has allowed me to experience the deepest and most profound love I could ever imagine. But it has also made me more vulnerable than I have ever been before. Truly, my own heart now exists outside of my body.

It is through this new lens of parenthood that I viewed the recent tragedy, and why it is even more earth-shattering for me to think about. I can’t imagine the kind of pain those families and that community is grappling with. My thoughts and prayers, however insignificant they may be, are sent the way of all those suffering from this trauma.

My hope is that our children whose innocence has been shattered by this and other awful events in life will also be fortunate enough to perceive the good that coexists with the bad. That they will remember the fear and the loss, but also the courage of those they loved, the strength of their community, and the sense of commonality that tragedy brings out among us.