On my post with the pro-breastfeeding video, Zoe commented that she’d “never seen anyone turn a hair” at the sight of a breastfeeding woman in the city of Norwich where she lives. (Or the city closest to where she lives? Where do you live, Zoe?)
I was struck by that, because you know that? I haven’t, either. Well, not when I was nursing my own children. This is even more striking, perhaps, when you understand that my eldest is 28. She was breastfed till she was over a year old. In all that time, as a stay-at-home mother, I took her wherever I went and nursed her when she needed. Restaurants, libraries, bus stops, church (and no, I didn’t necessarily go down to the nursery, which was often too full of distractions and noise), coffee shops, malls… Everywhere. I never once took her to a public toilet to nurse, either. Ick. My two younger children are almost-25 and 20. They, too, were nursed till they were a little over a year old. They, too, went everywhere with me, feeding as required.
And in all that time, I never had one negative remark. I did have a few positive ones.
– From a very elderly woman in the church I was attending at the time, when I slipped into a pew at the back of the sanctuary to nurse, a lovely frail lady who tottered back to keep me company. “It’s so nice to see young mothers feeding their own babies again! I always thought it was such a shame when those ridiculous doctors convinced all those poor women that those concoctions in bottles were better than what God had given us to feed our babies.” If she was 80-something then, and had fed her babies when she was in her twenties, she was talking about the 1920′s. History, right there in the pew beside me!
– From the woman in the seat beside me on a trans-Atlantic flight. My eldest was 9 months old, and I was nursing her during the ascent to assist with the popping of her teeny eardrums. “Oh, such a smart idea. She’ll be so much happier.” (Turns out she was a pediatric nurse at Sick Kids in Toronto, and her lovely husband an Anglican priest.)
For the most part, people ignored me when I fed my babies. Granted, that could have been the averted eyes of the squeamish … but I never got that impression. For the most part, I assumed people were just respecting my privacy.
Oh, wait! I’m wrong. I did have one negative response. When my son, Adam, my middle child, was five days old, we were visited in our home by good friends. When Adam cried, I made ready to nurse him. The husband of the couple made an exclamation of dismay. “You’re not going to do that here?!?”, he wailed.
I raised one eyebrow (I can do that) and nailed him with a steely glare. My tone was measured, but ironclad stern. “Byron. This is my home, and my baby is hungry. Yes, I’m going to ‘do that’ here. If you don’t like it, you can go out in the kitchen.”
Meantime, his wife, appalled, rolled her eyes at me as she smacked him in the arm. “BY-ron!!!” He glanced at my then-husband for male support, and found none. He was a great guy, Byron, and knew when to admit defeat. He grinned, heaved a giant mock-sigh. “Oh, all right. I guess I’m outnumbered.”
I fed my baby. Byron did not run cowering to the kitchen, and discovered being in the room with a breastfeeding baby wasn’t as horrific as he’d feared. (Three or so years later, when Byron’s first child was born, he was the strongest supporter of breastfeeding his wife could have asked for. I take some credit in turning that around.)
Now, recall that all this was far closer to 30 years ago than 20. Three decades ago, pretty much, I nursed children in several cities in Ontario, with no backlash, no resistance, no negative comments whatsoever. Thirty years ago! Why, I wondered, this sudden flurry of defiantly pro-breastfeeding articles I’m seeing? As if women expect, as if they’ve actually been receiving, flack, push-back, disgust? I’m baffled.
The Canadian in me wants to suggests that it’s because breastfeeding is only just now being truly popularized in the (prudish) US, and so all these articles, posters, tweets and comments reflect American battles, battles largely won in Canada two and three decades ago. It could be that. Except that the video I posted was from Australia, of course. Hm. Is Australia equally prudish? I wouldn’t have thought so, but who knows?
Or was it that my experience wasn’t representative? I lived in urban Canada, in Ontario. Would I have experienced more revulsion had I been in rural Ontario? (Though that sweet little old pro-breastfeeding church lady? She was in Buffalo, New York, where I was living when my eldest was born.)
Or is it that there are pockets of prudery here and there, that people in those pockets post something on the internet, and the rest of us all read/watch what they’ve posted and come to believe it’s a bigger problem than it is? Because that happens. We know it does.
So, wanting to get to the bottom of it, I have a couple of questions. The first is for you currently (or recently) breastfeeding women.
1. How do most people respond to you? Positively? Negatively? Neutrally? (Not the outliers, now. The majority. I don’t want to hear about that one stinker every so often, and make him/her sound like they’re the norm. I’m interested in your everyday experience.) Though I admit I’m curious to know how frequently you encounter those stinkers, if you do.
2. How do you, breastfeeding or not, account for the sudden upsurge in defiant women demanding their right to … do something I thought was a non-issue 28 years ago?
I’m baffled. And curious.
This has been a terrible year for enrollment and space-filling. Just terrible. I will tell you the Tale of Mary’s Rotten Year some other time, but for the purposes of this post, it’s enough that you know that I was pleased to have only one and a half spaces yet to fill for September. (Yes, September. In this area, spots fill that far in advance.)
My enrollment for the fall is: Rosie (who’ll be 3); Gwynn (who’ll be two); Poppy’s little sister (a year); and new baby girl (also a year, signed the contract six weeks ago). Three full-times and a part-time. Now, I would prefer five fill-time children, but I can get by on three and a half. And I have lots of time to find another to start in the summer.
And then, on Friday, at pickup, Rosie’s mom comes through the door with a bottle of wine.
No, that didn’t raise any suspicions. No need to cue the sinister music. Rosie’s parents bring me bottles of wine with delightful frequency, for one thing or another. This time, it was because Rosie had taken a tumble a day or two earlier, resulting in a bruise on her forehead.
Well, no. I didn’t get a bottle of wine because I let their child suffer an injury. I got the bottle of wine for what followed. Apparently, mummy asked daughter, “And when you fell, did Mary give you a hug?” To which Rosie answered, accurately, “Yes! And a kiss!”
The bottle of wine, mum explained, was for the love and care I give the children, for the warm and safe environment I create here.
Oh, that’s so lovely. Thank you!
And that’s why they’re moving her to preschool in September.
Okay, so she didn’t put it quite like that. But that’s what it amounts to.
They’re putting her in preschool this fall to “get her ready” for school the following year. Because my home is such a safe, protected, nourishing environment, you see, and they think she should be exposed to something a little bigger, a little more like the school that will follow the year after.
(Huh. Call me cynical if you will, but I’m thinking the bottle of wine is not strictly about the kiss-and-hug.)
My environment is warm and loving. Safe, secure. And that’s exactly why their little girl needs to leave it! Because goodness knows a two-year-old can’t be doing with all that love and security! The girl needs to be toughened up! By September she will be a newly-minted three-year-old. Time for some Hard Knocks, kid.
Am I feeling a tad bitter? Yes, I am. Not just because my projected income is taking another (yet another) hit — though I can’t pretend that doesn’t factor in — but because this is just … silly.
Let’s back it up a bit, shall we? There was a time when children started school in first grade, when they were about six. That’s why it’s called, you will note, “first” grade. Then we invented kindergarten, designed to get them ready (socially mostly, though for some kids the academic aspect was significant as well) for grade one. Then we invented junior kindergarten, to get them ready for the rigors of playdough and circle time.
And now we’re sending them to preschool, to ready them for JK, to ready them for SK, to ready them for Grade One? Does this not seem a tad overwrought? Just how demanding do we imagine this transition to be? Just how frail do we think our children are? And what’s next? Are we somehow going to get right there into the womb to prepare them for the challenges of outside living?
Oh, well. I’m exasperated, not panicked. I think they’re over-reacting, but they’ve always been a little anxious, and it’s an anxiety driven by emotion, not careful thought, so this is not out of character. Though they’re very nice people — really nice! warm, kind, friendly, appreciative — their anxiety has made them a little troublesome as clients. So I won’t be sorry to see them go. I will be sorry to see Rosie go. She’s quirky, funny, smart, and all-round adorable. She’s also a follower and an echo-er. She doesn’t originate much. She doesn’t think of things to do, she just follows. I was very curious to see how she’d evolve when, in September, Daniel and Poppy head off to Junior Kindergarten, and she emerged as The Big Girl. I was curious. More, I was looking forward to it. I thought it would be good for her, encourage the development of a more active part of her character.
Guess I won’t be seeing that after all … sigh…
I would have told them this, had I realized they were considering this course of action. Had I been consulted. Which I wasn’t. Now, I may still try to make these points, but I fear that they will fall on deaf ears, or, at any rate, ears already convinced of the rightness of their chosen course of action, and unlikely to be dissuaded.
I’m not even sure I want to dissuade them. As I say, they’ve been a mite troublesome as clients. And Rosie won’t be injured by their decision. She’ll just — maybe — develop a little differently, not get to develop/explore a potential strength. Maybe.
Preschool to ‘get her ready’ for Junior — JUNIOR! — Kindergarten?
“Ma-ry! I peed on the floo-or!” Poppy’s voice carols down from the bathroom upstairs. Words to warm a caregiver’s heart.
Poppy sits on the toilet, her feet dangling above a sizeable puddle. She has indeed peed on the floor. Some on the seat, too, I see. This is the second time in as many days this has happened. Dry panties and tights, puddle on floor. The first time, Poppy was assured it was okay, these things happen, and we chatted companionably as I mopped the floor.
I considered the notion that it could be a bladder infection. Little kids with bladder infections often end up peeing a nano-second from the toilet. Peeing all over the house, in fact. So a previously reliable child who suddenly starts having accidents could be the innocent victim of some nuisance bacteria. I considered the possibility, and discarded it.
No, this is nothing medical. This is the natural result of an almost-four-year-old who gets immersed in her activities and doesn’t notice the cry of the bladder until seconds before lift-off. Even more critically, this is a four-year-old has just been allowed to pour herself her OWN cups of water from the Brita. When you are almost four, such things are very important. And fun!
And so she has been having approximately 40 tiny cups of water an hour. Forty tiny cups of water go pouring in, and then she ignores her innards until the last possible second.
Well, the one-after-the-last possible second, really.
So this time, she gets a small scold.
“Poppy. You have been drinking lots of water today. It’s good to drink lots of water, but it makes you need to pee more. You have to pay attention.”
“Yeah. I waited too long.” She’s a lovely girl, Poppy. Smart and, for the most part, non-contrary.
“I thought so. You waited too long and then you ended up peeing on the floor. I do not want to clean up any more pee, Poppy. Make sure you go as soon as you notice you need to pee, okay?”
I lift her down past the wet area, and set her on the floor.
“We need a sign,” she declares.
“A sign? Because the floor is wet?”
“No, a sign to say ‘No Peeing On The Floor’.”
Ah, four-year-olds and their Rules. They love to know what they are. They love to see that they’re complied with… particularly by other people. A nice, big sign will do the trick well, in Poppy’s world.
I laugh. “Poppy, you know not to pee on the floor! Do you really need a sign to tell you not to do that?”
She considers. “No, I know that already.” She’s a little disappointed, however. She liked the idea of a Sign with The Rule written on it. She is almost four, after all. Then her face brightens. “It’s okay to not have a sign, Mary! You know why??”
“No, lovie. Why’s that?”
“Because I can’t read, anyway!” She laughs gleefully, delighted with her insight.
I love this kid.
You’ve probably already seen this, but I thought I’d share. I was a little uncertain for the first minute or so, then the point became clear. Hang in there!
(Thanks to my daughter-in-law for the link!)
A meme from Hannah, via Nicole, because I genuinely want to get back into blogging, but seem to have zero energy for it.
If Jane had 3 apples and John had 78 nails, how many layers of clothing are you wearing (how is the weather in your neck of the woods?)
I am wearing three layers on top (not counting the bra): tank top, long-sleeved tee, sweater. Two pairs of socks on my feet. Weather: Brilliantly sunny, but cold. (-17C, w/c -23) What with all the sun, if there were no wind, it would be lovely. But there is wind. So, outside is beautiful to look at, but not a place to linger in. (But yes, we’ve been outside.)
What is keeping you sane during these long winter months?
My holiday. Dreaming of it, planning it, and going. I was here last week.
I will get through the rest of the winter remembering it. The white sand, the turquoise water, palms trees, kayaking, snorkelling, swimming, sailing, the reef… Aaaaah. The rum punch. (Possibly more than was good for me.) I stayed with a friend who lives there. (LIVES! there.)
If you were on a boat with a box of chocolates and your mother-in-law, who would you throw overboard?
Oh, dear. My mother-in-law is a very sweet woman who has had a couple of near misses with the grim reaper this past year. She’s very frail, and her days are numbered, so what she has are to be treasured. I’m sure the fish will enjoy the chocolates.
What’s in your underwear drawer besides underwear?
My underwear drawer is a basket that really doesn’t have much room for anything but underwear. There may, however, be a wee Lelo in there…
Do you trust yourself with sharp objects near your face? (As in, do you pluck your own eyebrows? Do you have any eyebrow horror stories?)
I do pluck my eyebrows, and no, no horror stories. My two daughters have the delicate skin and much get their brows done at least 24 hours before any event for the redness to fade. Me, I’m fine after about 20 minutes. Obviously, those delicate genes did not come from me!
I am terrified of dead bodies, spiders, and the dentist. What are you scared of?
Caves. (I’m mildly claustrophobic, and all small spaces make me uneasy, but caves, no matter how large, terrify me.) Driving a two-lane highway in winter with a snowplow approaching in the other lane. Both those things will make my heart pound so loud I can hear it in my ears, and cause me to break out into a cold sweat.
Are you wearing nail polish? And if so, what colour?
I love nail polish and wear it most days. It is a true test of my common sense to walk by a display without buying another bottle, which I could not possibly finish before it goes ooky, given how many bottles I already own. But I loves the stuff!
Currently, I am wearing Essie’s ‘For the Twill of It‘ on my fingers, and have an ambitious dark blue-turquoise-white confection on my toes intended to look like tropical surf. And you know? It sorta does!
“I want to be in the MIDDLE!!!” Rosie’s shout is indignant.
It’s also pointless.
Three children, Daniel, Poppy and Rosie, are running in circles through my home. Living room, dining room, front hall, living room, dining room … Over and over and over again. It’s been -25C to -30C (-13 to -22F) for a week now, you see. Very cold and windy, which pulls the temperature down a further ten (Celcius) degrees. We’ve barely been outside, for the better part of a week. I have pulled out all my indoor rowdy games, and when I want a cup of tea, I let them run. Run and run.
Today, it’s a mere -15C (5F), and we could be out in that glorious sun and those Christmas-card heaps of fresh, puffy snow. We could, except that Poppy’s baby sister (6 months old) is with us. Baby Sister is sleeping. And Baby Sister? She does not take her napping lightly. Two hours, three hours, are standard. (The dear, sweet, wonderful child.)
But that Olympic-calibre napping does mean we’re stuck inside for the duration. So I let them run. And run and run and run. Around and around.
“I want to be in the MIDDLE!!!” Rosie works on the assumption that if she was ignored the first time, it was merely a matter of volume.
“Rosie, my love?” She pauses and looks up at me. “Rosie, you are in the middle. Look: Daniel is ahead of you, and Poppy is behind you. You are in the middle of Daniel and Poppy.”
“Rosie is not in the middle!” Daniel is clear. “I am in the middle!!” Daniel didn’t care one whit about “in the middle” before. Daniel is much more an “I’m first” kind of guy. But if being in the middle is important, if someone else really wants to be there, well then, middle is better. And he’d better be it!!
“Well, my love, guess what? YOU are in the middle, too! Look! Poppy is ahead of you, and Rosie is behind you. YOU are in the middle of Rosie and Poppy!”
(Because, hello, you’re running in circles. Everyone is in the middle. And at the front. And behind. Because, CIRCLES.)
“NO! I am in the middle!!” Rosie is indignant.
“Yes, you are. And Daniel is in the middle, too.”
Poppy chimes in, delighted. “And I’m in the middle, too! I’m in the middle of you and Daniel!!” The penny has dropped for one of them, at any rate. And she’s happy about it.
Rosie is less impressed.
“NO! I am in the middle!!!”
“Yes, you are. You are in the middle.”
“Not Daniel and Poppy in the middle.”
“Sorry, schnookums. They’re in the middle, too. And that’s okay! They’re in the middle, and You are, too! EVERYONE is in the middle of some other people! EVERYONE’S a winner, kiddo!! Isn’t that good?”
“No. I am in the middle.”
Everyone’s a winner? Pfft. Toddlers are not down with that egalitarian shit.
I have long said that there are marked similarities between toddlers and dogs.
(And thus is it terribly ironic that the woman who can take 5 toddlers pretty much anywhere with no fear of public embarrassment can’t get her damned dog to stop trolling the kitchen counters. I know who to blame for the poor behaviour, of course. And it’s not the dog. On the upside, her recall in the dog park is about 95%!!)
But this? This! Replace “puppy” with “toddler”. Same thing. Exactly. You know it is!
(Thank you, Carol, for the link!)
That title? Is a happy sigh. Not, of course, that I’m on holiday any more. I’ve been back for a couple of weeks.
The reason for that happy sigh is not my current state of employment, but my current state of mind. I am ready to go back to work! Not just ready, enthused. It’s a good feeling.
There’s an ebb and flow to these things:
1. I have some time off. Needs to be at least a week. By the end of that time, I’m recharged and ready for the tots. We are going to have FUN! We are going to LEARN LOTS!! We are going to be KIND and PATIENT and CONSIDERATE! (All of us. Including me!)
2. I work for a while. Weeks go by. The enthusiasm gradually fades as the fatigue steadily rises. I am no longer up to BLOCK CAPITALS OF ENTHUSIASM!!! We are going to … get through our days. We are going to … not squabble or be contentious. We are going to … keep ourselves occupied. We are going to … keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I go from aiming for the positives to simply attempting to avoid the negatives. It’s a short and slippery slope from that state of mind to being overwhelmed by the negatives, battling the irritability, annoyed by this or that behaviour’s intractability. To, if I’m to be completely honest here, to being annoyed by that particular child. Their good points fade behind the glare of their prickly bits.
(Yes, it’s true. A daycare provider can find your child annoying. We don’t tell you the parent that, not if we’re kind, and we do our damndest not to show it to the child, not if we’re professionals, but we feel it! It’s generally a passing thing, as the child passes through a particularly obnoxious phase.)
But! Just about the time I hit that phase — “Oh, my GOD, you’re annoying!!!” — another holiday comes round. I get a break to refresh, to renew.
Thank goodness. For all of us.
Sometimes it’s just a long weekend, which tops up the energy and enthusiasm tanks for a month or so. And sometimes it’s a whole, luscious, lovely week off, as I just had, and then I’m good to go for … well, I’m not quite sure. Two months? Three? Before the slide starts?
Right now, I am filled with enthusiasm. Happy to be back. Fully of ideas, creativity, strategies, hope, willingness, and energy. Wheeee!
Moral of this story: I need a week off every quarter. No, really? Ten days.