The high cost of grandparenting

“Do you have a baby in there?” asked the older woman at the grocery store. Yes, indeed, I did have Mary in my sling and showed her off to the woman’s oohs and aahs.

“I have fifteen great-grandchildren,” she stated.

“That’s great,” I enthused.

“No, it’s not,” she said.

Uuh…”Do you wish you had more?”

“No! I have to buy all those presents,” she lamented.

This is so sad. Her great-grandchildren are just drains on her pocketbook. I sincerely hope that my own children are more a source of joy for their extended family than a financial burden. I’d rather my kids get nothing ever from a grandparent, aunt or uncle than that they be viewed this way. My grandparents couldn’t afford to give gifts to all their grandchildren. I was thrilled when Grandma pulled me aside and snuck a quarter in my hand. One year, we all got McDonald’s gift certificates for Christmas – that was the only year I remember getting anything. But I don’t think I loved Grandma any less than I would have had she showered me with expensive gifts.


I was pulled over for speeding late this morning on the way home from piano lessons. Why doesn’t the baby cry you want her to?

Actually, the very nice police officer didn’t play any games. He told me right away why he pulled me over, briefly chastised me for speeding with kids in the car (because 48 mph on a very wide, very straight, four lane road with a ridiculous 35 mph limit is dangerous, I guess), checked to see if my registration and insurance were up to date, asked if all the kids were mine, and then took my license back to his car to make sure I wasn’t wanted for felonies in ten states.

I was pretty sure I’d only get a warning, since he didn’t take the car info. My kids were very excited at the whole spectacle, and I think were a tad disappointed that nothing more dramatic then a cursory order to “Slow down” occurred.

As we pulled away, I asked who was going to tattle on me to their father. The response was a chorus of gleeful “Me!”

“Does he really need to know about this?” I asked.

“Yes!” Again, a happy, unanimous response.

So much for not biting the hand that feeds you.

For the record, I don’t keep secrets from my husband, and he wouldn’t be (wasn’t) particularly upset by this anyway.

Poor Jenny

Jenny: Mommy, can I hold Mary?

Me: I’m sorry, honey, she’s crying. I need to nurse her.


Jenny: Mommy, can I hold Mary?

Me: I’m sorry, honey, I’m still nursing her.


Jenny: Mommy, can I hold Mary?

Me: I’m sorry, honey, she’s really happy here on my lap.

At that point I realized that the answer was just simply NO. And perhaps it shouldn’t be. Even if those brief moments of contentment are cut short by the unpleasantness of being held by a Not The Momma.

Amateur photography

I’m turning on comment moderation until the spammers get tired of me deleting them and find someone else to annoy.

My 3 year old neighbor “borrowed” his mother’s camera and got this shot of Katie. Pretty good, I think. Of course, he has an advantage in perspective, being only 3 1/2 feet tall.

Not The Momma

“She is the lightest sleeper we’ve ever had,” said Bill after I relocated a seemingly comatose baby from my bed to the bassinet wistfully thinking I could stretch out without regard for a tiny life form next to me. Within seconds she started kicking, and then her eyes opened.

She’s not our lightest sleeper. She’s just like all the others.

We have video footage of infant Fritz fast asleep in his father’s arms. Bill raised his little arm high, and then let it drop like a dead weight. This kid was out cold. And yet, as soon as he touched the crib, he would wake up. We tried everything: placing him on a warmed blanket, hovering over him for back-breaking minutes, using background noises to distract him from the transition. Eventually he outgrew it and would sleep through fireworks, but, oh, those early months were exhausting.

And they’re mainly exhausting for me. Sure, Bill makes sure he gets in that video or the photos to prove that he does in fact physically care for our children. Cleverly, though, he has relegating the creation of family archives to me; therefore, he plays the role of sensitive, caring father in a disproportionate number of snapshots. I can’t very well take a picture of myself.

But honestly there’s not much he can do anyway. He’ll be the first to tell you that all our kids seem to divide the people of the world into two categories: The Momma and Not The Momma. They have a decided preference for The Momma, and he is most definitely Not The Momma.

When Fritz was about 6 weeks old, my parents came into town for his baptism and met him for the first time. My mom, naturally, really wanted to hold her new grandbaby. But she was Not The Momma. Every time I handed him over, he would wail. Finally, he fell asleep, and she was able to indulge in that sweet foretaste of heaven.

I truly love holding babies. I wouldn’t mind doing it all day, really. But somebody has to do the laundry, and somebody has to cook dinner, and toddlers (and older kids) need lap time too. As much as I love holding babies, I think I hate the idea of my house falling apart more, and I really, really like to take a shower a few times a week at least. So, I try to pawn my little baby off on others, even if it’s for ten or fifteen minutes.

But if Bill is Not The Momma, brothers and sisters who jiggle a little too roughly are even more so Not The Momma.

The bassinet is definitely Not The Momma.

The swing and the car seat are Not The Momma.

The bed is Not The Momma, but sometimes, if all the planets are in the proper alignment and The Momma is right there next to her, the baby might be content. But if The Momma ever so gently, and slowly, and quietly leaves the bed to go take a shower, the bed instantly reverts to full Not The Momma status and sleep for baby and anybody within the house is rendered impossible.

I marvel at babies who happily go into the arms of any friendly person. That’s completely foreign to my own experience.

I’m trying hard to cherish these fleeting days of exaltation. Being The Momma is as close to being a goddess as I suppose I’ll ever get. In a few weeks, my little one will accept the warm arms of a loving substitute – at least while she’s sleeping. Then, week by week, she’ll be a bit more content to swing or to let an older sibling entertain her. And even though all my kids still seem to fight over me and want to sit as close to me as is physically possible, there are times for them when The Momma is definitely not their favorite person and they are convinced that other relatives would make better (more sympathetic) caretakers.

So, I’ll accept my demi-deity role, knowing that with such glory comes much work, and as the work load wanes, so, too, will the glory.

More on Mary

On Friday, the pediatrician told me that she was looking for one ounce per day of weight gain in the baby. Between her appointments on Wednesday, Thursday and that afternoon, she had far surpassed this expectation. So we put off another weight check until Wednesday – yesterday.

Yesterday, she had gained another 5 ounces in 5 days. Checking at home with the midwife’s scale, I was not surprised at her weigh-in, but I did hope that she would gain faster. Fortunately for my sanity, the doctor reminded me that this is a decent weight gain. Otherwise, I was running the risk of going off the deep end with supplementing. Right now, she gets about 6 ounces of formula a day spread out in two or three feedings. She has a ways to go to regain her birth weight, and until she does so, I won’t reduce that amount. The danger of giving her more is that she would nurse less, and that would be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of no supplementation.

Fortunately, she’s latching on well and she is mostly over the confusion between me and the bottle. Also, fortunately, I was finally able to view the videos at this site by Dr. Jack Newman on breast compression. This technique helps the weak nurser get more breast milk. I wish I had known about this years ago. I think even with my stronger nursers it might have helped them get more food in their tummy faster, and possibly given me a bit of a break in those early, arm-wearied weeks of a newborn’s life. Many thanks to Deborah, who sent me to this site (where the files are easier to read) and which linked to the site with the video.

Continued prayers for her weight gain are appreciated. Those offered up so far have been truly felt. My husband will attest that I’m not nearly as frustrated or weepy. Although I will say that weighing the baby at the end of the day when I am most tired is not good. I’ve resolved to weigh her no later than 4 pm, lest a minuscule increase in her weight combined with typical new baby exhaustion create an unpleasant flood of tears.

Chores and whines

I have five morning chores and five afternoon chores that I rotate monthly between my five older children. Some are easy, like taking out the recycling, and some are harder, like loading the dishwasher. Now, my two year old can manage putting the clean dish towels from the laundry pile in the dish towel basket under the sink without any assistance, but I hardly expect him to set the dinner table without help.

The point in these chores isn’t so much absolving me from household responsibility (not yet anyway). I’ve tried to pick ten tasks that need to be done on a daily basis. I want my kids to see what it takes to efficiently run the house (no, clean laundry doesn’t just magically appear in your dresser); I want to instill in them a sense of team unity in running that house; I want them to master certain tasks to the best of their ability; and I want them to practice obedience. Often this last goal is the primary point.

The chore that gets the most complaints is emptying the dishwasher in the morning. The other four morning chores are things that can slide, and I did that intentionally. Some mornings are too crazy, and the added stress of crucial jobs being undone would be too much. If the dining room rug doesn’t get vacuumed every day, it’ll be unsightly, but we can live with it. But if the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied, the dirty dishes begin to pile high in the sink…and on the counters…and eventually, even making dinner, let alone eating it, is difficult.

I have one child who, in recent months, has acquired an unpleasant knee-jerk reaction to any request for assistance. A reasonable and predictable request at 3 pm for everyone to pick up the debris-strewn house so they can go out and play with the neighborhood kids who will be home soon from school is met with crossed arms and a shrill whine: “But nobody else is cleaning!” Ask her to do something extra, like help her little brother get some juice, and you’d think we treated her like Cinderella. But even things clearly her responsibility, like removing her personal belongings from the main living areas, seem quite beneath her dignity.

This month, this child has had the dreaded task of putting away the clean dishes. Every morning, my reminder to do this job has been greeted with the most unpleasant, high pitched noises expressing, as best as I can tell, her extreme displeasure at being assigned such an oppressive chore. She is young enough that I would gladly have helped her with the items that went in the upper cabinets, but my own knee-jerk reaction to her tirades has been a flat-out refusal to give any assistance.

She would cry and whine, and I would tell her if she had asked nicely, I would have helped her. She would instantly calm herself and ask nicely for help, and I would tell her no, she needed to ask nicely without first crying about it and without being reminded about proper behavior. And then I would walk away so as to not witness her gymnastics in getting glassware and stoneware away, lest my fear of dishes breaking would soften me.

We repeated this scene for nineteen days. I despaired that she would ever learn her lesson and wondered if some genetic deficiency prevented her from being capable of poised and pleasant behavior. But finally, on the 20th day, when I asked her to empty the dishwasher, I watched her take a deep breath, compose herself, and say, “Mommy, would you please help me?” Amazing.

And so it has been. I’m glad that I didn’t shorten the chore rotation period to two weeks as I considered. As yet, this good behavior has not extended into other times during the day where she is asked to pitch in, but there is hope for her. Slowly, slowly we mold decent human beings.