New Mama Musings

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Good Jobbing of Henry

My husband and I have been trying to avoid saying "Good job!" to Henry, because, as Alfie Kohn contends in his essay Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!":

What kids...need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. "Good job!" is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for...doing things that please us.

It's a tough habit to break, but we've been working on it. However, getting others on board isn't as easy. Getting my stepdaughter -- who has Down syndrome -- on board is near impossible.

Maddy adores her little brother (and he loves her, too). She naturally wants to praise him for every little thing -- drinking, eating, standing. A definite Kohn no-no.

We've tried to explain to her that we're not saying "Good job!" to Henry. This is how it's been going:

A few weeks ago Henry was in his high chair, drinking out of a straw, when I overheard Maddy tell him, "Good job!" I gently reminded her about our "rule."

Two minutes later Henry took another sip and Maddy said, "Good job, buddy!"

"Maddy, we're not saying 'good job' to Henry, remember?" I said.

She gave me an exasperated look and declared, "I say, 'Good job, buddy.'"

Then last week Henry, who is just nanoseconds away from walking, was doing some unassisted standing. Maddy saw him and did the whole "Good job!" thing, so I gave her a very gentle reminder.

She asked me what she should say instead, and thinking that giving her something to say would be more effective than telling her not to say anything, I responded, "Well, you can just say what he's doing, like, 'Henry, you're standing up!'"

A few minutes later Henry was at it again and I heard:

"Henry, you're standing up!" Pause. "Good job!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


What does this look like to you?

I thought the identity of this washcloth puppet was obvious, but yesterday as Henry was taking a bath my husband made it moo.

Our son is going to be so confused.

Monday, May 29, 2006


The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Roald Dahl

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Nine-month Check-up

Henry just had his nine-month check-up yesterday, so I thought now would be a good time to do an update.

First, the stats. He's 30.5 inches tall and 22 pounds -- about 95th percentile for height and 75th for weight. (His head, however, is at about the 50th percentile.)

He's been cutting teeth lately and now has six -- three on the top and three on the bottom. And grinding them together is such fun!

He still isn't really eating solids. We offer them to him every other day or so, and he isn't crazy about the idea. But hey, he can drink water through a straw!

He looks through books and gets frustrated if he can't turn the pages. When I come over and read to him he gets really happy and studies the pages carefully.

(Note that in the second photo the book is upside down.)

What's interesting (well, to me anyway) is that for all the stuff he puts in his mouth and chews on, he never chews on his books.

His babbling now has inflection. His pitch rises and falls just like he's really talking...which of course he is. If only we understood him!

He gives kisses...big, open-mouth, sloppy, wet kisses. (Note to Henry, and all babies: It's just not cool to french your mom.)

When I attempt to put a basket of his clean diapers together, he loves to "help" by pulling them out and spilling them on the floor.

He has discovered -- and enjoys shredding -- toilet paper.

(Another note to Henry and all babies: It is also not cool to eat toilet paper.)

He has this habit of biting my clothing -- he'll expose his teeth, grab on to some cloth with them, and pull. Sometimes he accidentally gets my skin, so I've been trying to use my best Stern Mommy voice to tell him "NO BITING."

He head-bangs to Raffi. Seriously. And the other day he was playing with his toy piano, sitting in front of it, leaning forward to tap it with his fingers, then rocking back and nodding his head, then leaning forward again. He looked just like Chris Martin from Coldplay. I was so proud.

He uses his index finger to turn pages in his board books and nudge tiny pieces of anything he finds on the floor. He also sometimes puts the same finger up in the air and chuckles when I touch my index finger to his and say, "Boop!" Hey, anything for a laugh.

He gets into absolutely everything

and my oldest stepson has dubbed him P.O.D., or Path of Destruction.

When he finds something small he shouldn't have, he holds it tightly in his hot little hand. When I see his closed fist I get suspicious.

He's been standing unassisted for a few seconds, and I'm sure his first steps will happen soon.

Sleeping is not the greatest.

Isn't that right, Henry?

But mostly he's a happy, curious, silly, smart and sweet little boy. We got lucky.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Attachment Parenting Isn't

Lately Henry has become quite physical -- biting our clothing, whacking us in the face, grabbing our noses. I told my husband, facetiously, that since Henry doesn't understand that he's hurting us, we should just let him do it.

My husband got a stricken look on his face and asked, "Are you being serious?"

I told him of course not, and he said, "Good, because I thought maybe this was part of attachment parenting, and I wasn't going to be on board with that."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mama's Always on Stage

My husband recently quoted this Arrested Development song title to me, acknowledging the fact that being The World's Most Important Human to Henry means that I'm pretty much "on" all the time.

It's exhausting and sometimes a little claustrophobic being "Mama" constantly. It means the person I was pre-Henry isn't front and center any longer. I don't go see bands anymore. I don't spend hours reading books. I don't hang out in coffee shops and read the paper. I don't spend time with my husband watching movies.

What I do instead is pee with a little one clinging to my leg. I sleep with him pressing closer and closer to me until I'm on one edge of a queen-sized bed. I eat with him balanced on one knee, trying to grab my plate. I shop with him on my hip in the Hotsling. I read the newspaper with him thinking it's a fun game to pull it out of my hands and strew it all over the floor. I wait to shower until my husband is around.

But the thing about attachment parenting is that while sometimes I miss my old life, I love being Henry's mama even more.

I recently read a quote by Kim Pekin, president of Natural Family Boutique, that sums it up nicely: "I think that love of parenting is one of the biggest benefits of attachment parenting....[while] 'detachment' style parenting makes parenting into a job, another thing on your list of things to do."

I've told my husband that occasionally I wish I could put Henry on "pause" for a few hours or a day. It would be nice to go out and get a massage, take a long nap by myself, read away the afternoon, go see a band at night -- but I don't want to be away from Henry, worrying that he's sad or confused or just plain doing stuff without me.

So I'll continue to be front and center in my role as Mama, partly because Henry needs me, partly because I know this time is temporary, but mostly because, demanding as it is, I want to.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Swing, baby, swing!

We took another walk today, this time up to the park, and Henry rode in the swings for the first time. We had to stuff my husband's sweatshirt in the front so he wouldn't flop around, but it didn't seem to impede his enjoyment of the experience:

It's going to be a fun summer.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Love and Money

Henry, my husband and I just returned from our first walk using our new jogging stroller. My husband found a twenty dollar bill in the street and I took this photo:

All in all it was a good outing.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Death Cab for Cutie for My Cutie Patootie

Usually when I try to get Henry down for a nap I put him in the mei tai, sway back and forth, and hope to outlast his fussing until he falls asleep. This week, inspired by my husband who often plays music on the computer for Henry while holding him on his lap, I added Death Cab for Cutie's Plans to the routine.

As soon as Henry heard the music, he fell silent, and a few minutes later he was fast asleep. This has worked for every nap so far this week.

If you aren't familiar with this album I highly recommend it, and not just because it puts my baby to sleep without any crying. I think I need to add a few more CD's to the rotation, though, because I really like Death Cab and I don't want to get sick of them. I'm thinking maybe some Sarah Harmer or Clem Snide would fit the bill nicely.

What do you think?