Before I had a child I was the world's most accomplished parent. In my head. But when Nicknack arrived I quickly discovered what an amateur I was. So many of my pre-baby ideas (based on months of pregnancy spent with my nose in books) just didn't seem to fit, apply to, or work on my little darling. I soon adopted two babyrearing mottoes: a) Muddle through (Thanks, mother!) and b) Whatever works! Both of these philosophies have served me well and I shall continue to practice them as I move through the toddler years and beyond.
But for the past couple of months (since Nicknack turned one), it appears that the time has come for a little more structure and deliberate parenting. Rhyme and reason. Our little baby isn't a little baby anymore. We are no longer in survival mode.
So we've been working on a few areas where what once worked well isn't working anymore.
1. Nicknack's Diet. He's not a good eater. He hardly gained any weight between his nine month and one year check ups, while he went from 25% to 75% in height. Both Penn and I would like to see him with a little more meat on his bones. We've been desperate enough to feed him a few things that I never imagined would take up space in my cupboard. Because, well, he likes it and actually eats it. Swallows it and everything! But I know a nutritious diet is important. It takes a little more effort to actually cook something semi-nutritious and it requires a lot of cajoling and distraction to get him to consume such things. We're adopting the old 80/20 rule so 20% of the time we will be filling him up with crackers if we have to, to make up for all the healthy meals he picks at.
2. The Bottles. Until very recently, Nicknack hadn't mastered the sippy cup. And he refused to drink real/cow's milk. We've taken my mother's suggestion and mixed it with a little vanilla milk, which we will gradually reduce until he's drinking his milk straight up. And we found some great soft-spout sippy cups (Nuby brand) that he's actually figured out how to "work." So at 14 months he is finally consuming the recommended daily quantity of milk - and in sippy cups to boot. Yay!
3. Table manners. Nicknack hasn't learned that he has to TIP up the sippy cup to make milk come out of the spout. Or tip up the bottle. All this time I've either held it for him (gee, do you think that could be the problem?) or put him on the floor, on his back, so that gravity does the work for him. Nice, right? Also, he doesn't use a spoon. At all. Probably because I've rarely given him one. The other day Penn brought him some cheerios in a little snack cup and I thought, "How cute. A cup. He's just going to fling/dump the cheerios all over the floor." Which he did. Which is why I take his snacks and just put them in a little pile on floor, on a book or something. Or keep them in my hand and dole them out. I feel like a petting zoo warden. And I have all but given up preventing him from making huge messes. One day Penn came home and wondered why I was scrubbing a trail of jello out of the living room and dining room carpet. I guess if he was giving Nicknack cherry jello he would restrain him in his highchair? He's so practical.
I'm starting to realize that just because Nicknack acts like a little animal doesn't mean I'm supposed to treat him like one. There must be some way to begin the process of civilizing him. So far, I've just left him to his own devices. I guess I've been waiting until he's old enough to comprehend rational explanation.
"Nicknack, this is a bowl. We put our snacks in it and take out bites, one by one. Which we don't spit out on the floor at some later time."
"This is a spoon, here is how it works. Let's NOT rub the spoonful of food in our hair and eyes."
"This is a sippy cup. Tip up the bottom end and you'll find the milk comes out, like magic!!"
"Although I can see why it could be delightful, I would prefer that you not attempt gymnastic feats while holding some banana OR walk around flinging cheese."
Until he is capable of such detailed instruction I guess I intend to do everything for him or just let him do whatever he does? Hmm. Probably not a good plan. I have no idea how to remedy this problem, but I'd better get a handle on it quickly (or hire a full-time housekeeper) as it's getting out of hand around here.
We do have a few questionable habits that I think we'll hang on to for a while.
1. The Gigi (pacifier). We've started restricting its use to naptime, bedtime, and occasional car rides. And I always carry one in case we are out-and-about and all heck breaks loose. But we aren't going to wean him off it yet, per his Pediatrician. Plus, you don't know the lengths we've gone to to identify and procure our particular discontinued brand/style of gigi. Which is the only pacifier that will do. Here is a photo of the recent shipment that caused us to do the happy dance. We had been limping along on just four pacifiers for nine months. We usually knew the location of one or maybe two at any given time. Almost every single evening you'd find either of us trying to locate one under the crib. We still have to search every so often but we now find five or six under there! Woo hoo! Did I mention that before I became a mom I didn't think babies should be given pacifiers?
The gigi bounty:
2. The Pajamas. Nicknack wears his PJs until after his first nap, usually until about 1pm. If we aren't leaving the house or playing outside, I often just leave him in them until bedtime and put on a fresh pair. It's kind of embarassing to look through his photos and realize he's wearing pajamas in the vast majority of them. But really, he has very few social obligations or callers. They are comfy, cozy, and cute. And flame retardant. And he has the rest of his life to wear jeans.
Pajamas as swimwear:
3. Last, but not least... The Hair. We still haven't cut it. Is shaggy? YES! Is it unmanageable? Without a doubt. Does it transform into some seriously laughable bed head? Definitely. But I'm not ready. I'm holding out for 18 months and in the meantime I'll trim his bangs. If I absolutely must.
His hair is especially disheveled because these photos were taken post-afternoon nap. So this is TWO nap hair, people! To get the full effect you really have to click on and enlarge the photos:
I think this photo best sums up our parenting style/philosophy:
Nicknack and his DatDat. Out of doors. In a pajama top - no bottoms, even. Hair couldn't be messier. But they're both having quite the time. And so was I, behind the camera. In fact I'm having quite the time, in general. I like being Nicknack's Mama even more than I thought I would back when I had it all figured out. Now that I think about it, life in a petting zoo is pretty great.
PS: I blurred out some of the crumbs on the floor in that last photo. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I must tell you they were there. But the floor was just a little too crumby to post on the world wide web, as it was.