When I was growing up, it seemed like my Mom never said yes. Everything you'd ask her to buy or ask if you could do, the answer was "No." She told me that my first word was "No" and I figured it was from hearing her say it so much. I always thought of my Mom as very negative. I wanted to be a positive Mom, to come from a place of "Yes." These days, as the Mom of a curious, wobbling, grabbing 8 month old baby, however I'm realizing that sometimes you have to just say "No." Several hundred times a day! Michelle is CONSTANTLY grabbing everything in sight. My glasses (which she's broken so I'm going to try switching back to contacts), my hair, my face, my clothes, the phone, remote controls, nightlights, books, the mail. Anything in her path. I try to keep dangerous things out of her path. Some things I let her away with. "Oh look she's chewing on a DVD. Oh well." If it isn't going to hurt her or break anything, I figure there's no harm in letting her explore. She wanted to help me sort my mail. I let her crumple and tear up junk mail but I drew the line at ripping my insurance papers. I've put outlet covers on all the plugs which is good because she is fascinated by everything on the wall. Even the switch plate where a central vac would go. I don't know why she reaches for it. It isn't even remotely interesting. It's just a plain white rectangular plate with nothing on it. But it's at her eye level and she stops at it every time we take our walk (with me helping her) down the hallway.
It's a good thing I didn't cut all the tags off of her toys because 9 times out of 10, the tag is her favourite part. It can be a stuffed toy with multiple colours and items on it to play with -- rings and beads and bells and whistles -- but she'll turn it over and play with the plain white tag. She has a little baby laptop computer with all sorts of buttons that make different sounds and lights. Her favourite thing to do is to turn it over and look at the bottom, which is plain and has nothing on it aside from the battery compartment which (thankfully) is screwed shut. I try not to argue with her or discourage her when she's not playing with a toy "properly." I figure whatever makes her happy. I do try to show her though what other things it can do when you don't have it upside down.
One day I had my Mom watch her while I went to an appointment. I figured I am going to have to leave her eventually so I better get used to it in small doses at least. It's also helpful to me to be able to get things done once in a blue moon without carting her around. I was nervous about it. Even though my Mom has raised 4 kids I still worry. When I got home I kissed and kissed Michelle as though we'd been apart for a year. Meanwhile, Michelle had been having a lovely time with Grandma and Grandpa. My Mom said that Michelle even stood ON HER OWN! Not even holding onto anything. Great. So I'm there 24-7 and I leave for an hour and Michelle has a milestone with Grandma?! That's not fair! I don't want to miss anything. Also upsetting was the fact that Michelle kissed Grandma several times (she doesn't really get the puckering action but she leans in and puts her mouth on my Mom's cheek which is very cute but made me jealous.) I'm her Mom. I do everything for her, devote my life to her 100%. Where's MY kiss? She did end up giving me a kiss too but I was still hurt that she made such a fuss of my Mom. She also didn't dig her nails into my Mom, or pull off her glasses, or give her a hard time while she was being changed. "She was good as gold," my Mom bragged, "a little angel." Now of course logically I understand. Michelle doesn't see my Mom as often so she would make more of a fuss of her. She takes me for granted because I'm always there. As far as acting up is concerned, my Mom said it's common for kids to give their parents the most grief and to behave better for others because they know they can get away with things with Mom but they're not so sure with someone else. Well it doesn't seem fair to me. Part of it is also the time of day. Michelle can be an angel for me too in the early afternoon but then during her cranky time (usually early evening) it's another story. If my Mom was looking after her all day I'm sure she'd see a wide range of behaviour, from Jekyll to Hyde, as I see on a daily basis.
For a while there Michelle was sleeping really well -- going to bed at a decent hour and staying asleep except to nurse and then going right back to sleep. Then all of a sudden, she was back to her old tricks -- either staying up late or falling asleep early but then waking up in the middle of the night and not settling down. One night she was asleep by 8 PM and I thought, "This is great!" I got the dishes and laundry done, had a shower, checked my emails etc. When I went to bed at 11 PM however, she woke up 5 minutes later and wouldn't go back to sleep. She sat up as though it was morning and the day was starting. I tried explaining to her that it wasn't morning, that it was night and that Mama was exhausted and was just about to go to sleep. She wasn't getting it.
Sleep deprivation, someone once told me, has been used as an instrument of torture. Sometimes it does feel like Michelle is deliberately trying to torture me. Of course I know that she's a baby and she doesn't know any better. She can't help it if she wakes up, right? But there are times that I know she's tired -- she's rubbing her eyes and everything -- and she still doesn't sleep. Then other days you get lucky and she sleeps like an angel. It's inexplicable. You just never know how it might go. You hope for the best. I usually nap with her when she has her morning nap but when I have to go somewhere or do something I don't always get to do that. On no sleep, I find that I am much more stressed, much more fragile. I could cry at the drop of a hat and everything just seems worse.
My Mom always said that once a baby starts solid food, they sleep better through the night. It was true overall, at least for a while. I think now that Michelle is learning to stand and wanting to explore so much that her mind is more active so maybe it's harder to settle down and to stay asleep. I am grateful for the nights that she sleeps well so that I'm able to get things done and catch some sleep myself. I just have to muddle through the nights where she doesn't sleep and try not to let it get to me. Some days when I find myself feeling really down or anxious I remind myself how exhaustion can affect me. I just don't function as well on no sleep.
I have to realize that Michelle is going through a lot --learning so much in so short a time. A few months ago she learned to sit on her own and now it's like she's been doing it forever. Standing and walking will become second nature too but while she's still learning and wobbly and falling, it's a tough process for her to go through and takes a lot of her physical and mental energy. Each day now it seems she figures something else out. Before she used to just knock the stacking rings over and chew on them. Now she actually tries (and sometimes succeeds though it may just be a fluke) to put them back on. She used to just look at the pictures when I read to her but now she seems to look curiously at the words so I started pointing to each word as I read it and she seemed fascinated. She's learning to stand, wanting to walk, trying to communicate. She's on the verge of so many things. I know myself that when there's a lot on my mind I have a hard time sleeping, so why should she be different?
There was a moment where Michelle pulled herself up on the ottoman and then let go for a moment and stood. I was sitting right there, ready to grab her if she started to wobble but I let her be. She waved her hands in excitement, realizing that she was standing on her own, not holding anything. My heart was in my throat. "Yes!" I said encouragingly, "Clever girl! You're standing!" She looked quite proud of herself. I know that my heart will be in my throat for months. Afraid she's going to fall, ready to catch her. I suppose in a way, that feeling will remain for the rest of her life. My Mom says she still worries about me -- in my 40s but still her little girl and now with a little girl of my own. As we go through life there are many moments when we are uncertain, venturing into the unknown, moments where we may fall and get hurt. We can't let that stop us. We have to say "Yes" to life, even when it's scary. I don't want Michelle to ever get hurt but at the same time I have to make sure I'm not too overprotective. I have to give her room to grow and explore. I have to encourage her, to let go a little and let her take those wobbly steps on her own, even if she falls.