As a rule follower, I shouldn’t be surprised by now when other people don’t play by the rules.
Especially in this case. Gifts for kids are fraught!
The daycare Christmas party had Santa handing out presents to every child, with each parent responsible for buying a gift for $10 or less for their own offspring.
I personally didn’t expect whatever I chose for Spud to even make it back home from daycare – even more reason, in my mind, to keep it simple.
But as it turns out, we had a massive outage at work that morning, and so with nothing to do … I nipped up the road to daycare to attend the Santa visit and witness the gift exchange.
As some kids unwrapped big, cool trucks and whatnot, others (including Spud) quickly got Christmas gift envy. Longing stares and subtle drifts towards the coveted toys started to converge from all directions. Spud even threw his tiny toy on the floor and declared that he didn’t want it.
This was a major trigger for me. We didn’t do presents in my household growing up (Not a money thing.) I still have issues around lack, scarcity, comparison and envy of other people’s stuff.
My first instinct? SCREW IT! NEXT YEAR WE’RE GOING BIG! Forget the budget limit, clearly others totally ignored it!
But I eventually came to see the real lesson here. A life lesson for my kid.
Some people will have more than you. Some people will have less.
It would be silly and futile to bend over backwards to spare him disappointment. That’s not how life works.
I acknowledged that he wanted those other trucks. That maybe the others would share and they could all play together – but ultimately, that would be up to them.
It was a lesson for me, too. To let him feel and express those feelings. To be his teacher and to steer him through the ups and downs of being human. If one thing is for sure, it’s that there will be countless more to come.
Have you ever had to deal with Christmas gift envy?
What baby formula should I buy for my infant? It’s a question that probably only keeps getting harder to answer. There’s a huge spectrum of formulas out there – and I’ve spent quite a bit of money trialling different ones.
If your kid is doing fine on a basic supermarket formula, you’re good to go!
If you’re struggling with reflux, eczema, colic, etc – then you might be wondering what to try next.
There are dedicated Reflux formulas or Colic + Constipation formulas on the shelves. Honestly, I haven’t tried these and don’t know anyone who has, though we definitely struggled with all those symptoms. But having narrowed down the cause of Spud’s stomach and skin reactions, we have been through the gamut of practically all other formula types. Turns out we were dealing with a pretty common problem…
I knew nothing about this beforehand, but oh how much I’ve learned since. How dairy lingers in your system for weeks. How most babies are reacting to the proteins in milk, not the sugars (ie, it’s not the lactose that’s the problem). How freaking common of an issue this is. And how dairy is in SO MANY THINGS. Even foods you might not expect.
I quickly got up to speed with acronyms like CMPI (cow’s milk protein intolerance) and CMPA (cow’s milk protein allergy). Allergy = probably pretty self explanatory.
Intolerances don’t show up on allergy tests and can sometimes just result in digestive and temperament symptoms. (And that’s if you can convince a doctor to test your baby, as many are reluctant to, and tests aren’t always reliable at a young age.) The only way to figure out if you’re dealing with CMPI is a food diary and elimination diet.
The formula options
When it comes to babies who don’t tolerate cow’s milk formula, the options look something like:
Soy formula (if over 6 months old)
Goat’s milk formula (very similar to cow’s milk in terms of the proteins, and not recommended for that reason BUT Spud was okay on goat’s, and I’ve heard of lots of other babies doing all right on it as well)
Aptamil Allerpro formula (hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)
Aptamil Pepti Junior (lactose-free and extensively hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)
Neocate (elemental formula based on amino acids, i.e free of cow’s milk proteins)
We mix fed from the beginning. I spent 5 days in hospital where Spud was EBF. When we came home, he started on the odd bottle of goat’s. I was annoyed that T had bought the most expensive type (goat’s milk formula is NOT cheap), but in the end, I was glad for it.
Because Spud did NOT take well to normal cow based formulas. He was already a spitty baby, but once we switched off goat’s (I was trying to save money, as it was literally twice the price of some of the regular cow’s milk formulas) his reflux hit the next level.
Over the coming months we experimented with different cow’s milk formulas, then worked our way through the alternatives: Allerpro, Pepti Junior, and eventually Neocate. Allerpro and Pepti Junior did nothing for us; goat’s was still better. Doctors said to avoid goat’s, as per the conventional wisdom – but I had to trust my own eyes and instincts, because the evidence in front of me said otherwise. So we stuck with it, until I was able to nab some Neocate to try.
And as soon as we were able to get a prescription for Neocate around 7-8 months, I weaned him. Between Spud growing his first (ridiculously sharp) teeth and the ever-growing list of foods I could not consume, it was time.
Neocate was the game changer. The reflux stopped. The eczema improved. Spud slept through the night every night, no longer waking with tummy pains.
We recently finished our last tin of Neocate. It was a little bittersweet; the end of an era. T always complained about it. And I can’t argue with him – but, ultimately, who cares how nasty it was, if it was the one formula that actually worked?
The stuff is gross. It smells foul. It tastes nothing like milk. Lots of kids don’t take to it because of the flavour. But Spud didn’t take much coaxing. He was always a champion feeder. And I like to think that he knew, somehow. That this was the magic formula. The stuff that wouldn’t upset his gut. The stuff that would finally bring him – and me – peace.
Think you’re emotionally healthy and mature? Odds are, parenting will make you rethink that.
Parenting is, some days, like one consistent trigger. The constant flashbacks that This Is Us hits you over the head with used to bug me, until I realised how reflective of reality this truly was if I just stopped to consider it.
I had a good chat to a group of fellow parents recently, and we all agreed that our gentle/empathetic approach is going well for us and that our generation is raising the next in a new way. We aren’t going to be get it right every time. Nobody is perfect. But if we can get it right more often than not, and try to avoid the mistakes of our parents, that’s a step in the right direction.
Even seemingly throwaway words and actions have a lifelong impact, especially on a sensitive child. And I want to do all I can to avoid doing the same to Spud.
I do my best to validate/praise, and not be dismissive of him. To let him feel his emotions, no matter how uncomfortable that is for me. To encourage him and let him be himself.
As he gets older, I hope to be able to maintain a realistic view of who is he. To let him be his full, true self. My dad had overblown views of my talents; my mum probably quite the opposite. No wonder I’ve struggled to calibrate my own self image and establish my own identity.
I hope to maintain healthy boundaries. To not put him in the middle, and never to use him to share my adult problems.
In hindsight, moving countries was hard for me. I was a sensitive kid. Never bullied, but little comments from classmates here and there, and visibly being different, made me feel extremely self-conscious and insecure in ways I never really interrogated; ways that I’m waking up to now and working to heal and integrate. It must also have been incredibly hard for my parents, and I think it was the turning point for a lot of things going wrong there.
At least they modelled some good financial habits for me, and that is something I hope to pass on. Spud has already gleaned that you need money to go to the shops and buy things … and I tell him that I work to earn money that pays for our house, clothes, food, toys etc. I’m almost looking forward to when he’s old enough for an allowance and to start to manage some of his own money 🙂
When I get overwhelmed by rage and frustration and grief all over again, I’ve learned to turn it into words. If you’ve run out of people to talk to about it, the good news is that writing is even more powerful. I journal out the anger as part of releasing it. And I forgive others, as I forgive myself, for doing what we could and what we knew at the time. Forgiveness journaling has been a sanity saver these past few months.
Let me guess. Everything you’ve heard or read about getting through this goddamn pandemic involves practicing GRATITUDE.
Gratitude is great
Yes, there’s a lot to be said about taking the time to consciously feel grateful and appreciate what you have. Especially in these COVID times.
Even when it feels like it’s setting the bar pretty damn low to be grateful for fresh air and sunshine.
Sure, I have been taking time to appreciate the small things…
Sunny days, spring blossoms, being able to hold a conversation with Spud (game changer!) and see horses every day if I want. The pony club is a 5-minute walk away and it’s always a thrill to see the horses calmly grazing … or occasionally, out on the cycleway or on the road! The perks of living close to the countryside!
To find the silver linings…
Resources are being slashed, but I still have work, that I can do remotely, with the best team ever.
I’m under an immense amount of pressure, but I am a warrior.
These are all helpful actions to ground me and keep me from completely losing the plot.
AND I am striving for more at the same time
I have so much and I’m very grateful for it. And I also want more. I know that I deserve more.
I won’t get into details here, but there’s a huge area marked NEEDS IMPROVEMENT in my life. I get to set standards and I do not have to be satisfied with crumbs. I’m working to change that.
Gratitude alone won’t sustain us. You don’t have to be content with what you have now. You can still be grateful, and be working towards something better.
It doesn’t mean that you have to settle. You don’t have to live with this forever. The status quo does not have to suffice if it is actually not enough.
You can still strive for more. You get to make that call.
Gratitude and striving for more are not incompatible.
I’m often bemused at what people expect from technology.
Nothing works perfectly 100% of the time. Yes, I work in digital. No, I don’t know why that email isn’t rendering for this one individual, or why this YouTube view count is stuck right now.
Why does Word crash sometimes? Why does Excel freeze? These things just happen, and there’s not always a tidy explanation.
And tools can only do so much and take you so far.
I think T had some unrealistic expectations about exactly what accounting software could do for him. It’s a programme/platform, not your personal CFO/accountant/banker/debt collector/analyst/money minion! And definitely around the effort involved in setting things up to begin with, in terms of configuring settings for business finances and all that jazz.
There was a period of time at a previous job where I found myself having to constantly explain to people that [insert tech here] is not their silver bullet. Sure, there’s that lovely long list of dazzling features and benefits that promise to solve all your problems. But how well that can actually be applied to your circumstances and requirements is a different thing altogether.
Sometimes it’s a manual process, to varying degrees. Sometimes there’s nothing else but to get hands-on and stuck in. Some things you’ve just gotta do things the good old fashioned way.
We set up the larger of our spare rooms on Airbnb at the start of 2017. Got our first guest, and then, boom – a friend of T’s needed a place to live because his flat was breaking up. So he moved in with us … just overlapping with our guest by a night.
It was a truly ridiculous shuffle, moving him first into our small spare room and then over into the bigger spare room the day after.
In terms of room size, location, general house amenities etc … our place doesn’t have a lot to offer so it was about branding on affordability and coziness rather than anything else. And combined with this mate’s financial situation, this was definitely more about helping out a friend than a money maker.
Over the year and a half he lived with us (up until shortly before Spud’s birth) I would say we’d be lucky to have broken even with the extra bills and stuff given how much money we actually received. Again – preserving the relationship more than anything.
On the plus side, which I frequently had to remind myself of!
He was home a fair bit, which was good for the dogs. He was great with them and had always been their favourite visitor. Having him around was really helpful especially over winter when they started clashing more and were a bit of a handful sometimes. (Not to mention the time the fibre installation guy didn’t close the gate properly and the dogs got out early the next morning … after T and I left for work…)
And he did help out from time to time in other ways around the house, doing a few handy things, helping with lawn mowing, providing tools, jumpstarting the car … He doesn’t cook so kitchen clashes were not an issue, and typically went to the laundromat to use the dryer there.
Sans the money thing, it was fairly ideal.
It’s hard to imagine what things might have been like in an alternate world. Would he still be our flatmate, if Spud hadn’t come along? Would he have quarantined here, part of our bubble?
Have you ever had a flatmate more for the intangible benefits than the money?
Well, my first (short lived) counsellor last year definitely didn’t seem to rate being financially independent of your parents, even though this is key to my personal definition.
But becoming a parent has totally shaken my perceptions of independence. It’s forced me to lean on others for some things, as Spud relies on me for everything.
As my other counsellor (one I found personally, not through my EAP programme) pointed out, it truly does take a village to raise a child.
I had no idea.
Spud arrived early and we were SO unprepared. My mum announced that she would come around on her day off to bring food and watch the baby so that I could rest.
And from them she unfailingly turned up every Wednesday, as well as every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Sometimes I would sleep; more often I’d get chores done, in an attempt to keep the house in a vaguely liveable state.
That’s how it went. She would help clean, work on my garden, do laundry, buy groceries, even determine that we needed things like new curtains and bring some over. Play with Spud, try to teach him the alphabet, sing to him, hold him for naps.
I don’t know how I would have coped without her support.
I couldn’t have done it alone.
I’m not great at talking about my problems, and that’s led to some serious stress and isolation. I think part of it is not wanting to burden others, a bit of pride, and internalising that typical advice of not hanging your dirty laundry out to dry.
But I’ve learned I need to lean on my friends, to vent, and to gain perspective. When you’ve grown up with subtle dysfunction, it’s difficult to tell what is normal, what is okay, what is excusable. And to find groups where others are going through the same experience. It is so validating.
I couldn’t have done it alone.
The more I learn about business (I’ve been busy editing a string of ebooks for various coaches lately, and soaking up details from people I know IRL who run their own thing) the more I realise how crucial mentors and coaches are to success. People rarely, if ever, get to the top alone.
And now, life in lockdown. We may be physically living in our little bubbles, but more than ever, being connected to others is vital.
Here in NZ we’ve spent a month in lockdown, which feels like so much longer. Things will gradually ease in the coming weeks, but it’s clear it will be a very long time before life returns to anything resembling normal.
I’m fortunate to have a fantastic employer and team – couldn’t have asked for better people to work through a pandemic with. If not for that, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with a toddler at home, and everything else on top of that.
I don’t mean for this to be the whatever the opposite of a humble brag is. I’m not here to revel in my terribleness.
But I’m just not in a place to prioritise some things at this stage in my life – so here are my confessions.
I basically don’t use cloth nappies anymore
Life’s too busy now I’m working full-time. I hate to think how many disposable nappies we go through in a week – daycare changes him every 2 hours. Obviously we don’t see the full impact of that in our rubbish at home, so it’s partially a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Or cloth wipes
Ditto the above.
We’re bringing so much stuff into our lives that often winds up in landfill
We buy secondhand, accept hand-me-downs and make do without wherever possible. But some things you just gotta buy new. Like a bottle brush – and the amount of packaging around that was insane.
We go through a lot of gas drops as Spud has a sensitive/immature gut and ongoing digestive issues. Bottle, after bottle, after bottle, although at least those are recyclable. Ditto his formula cans. Neocate comes in tiny little 900g tins so we go through them fast.
And my bugbear – paper towels. I never use them; T uses them constantly. It’s just not a fight worth having. At least they’re compostable.
One cool thing about my workplace is there’s a soft plastics recycling bin. That said … I’ve often gotten lazy and take the easy way out of dumping wrappers in the normal bin that’s right by my desk. I should absolutely make more of an effort.
There’s a special horror that comes with the territory of the violation of your personal spaces. If you’ve been burgled before, you know exactly what I mean. That crawly feeling; the knowledge that someone’s been inside your living room, kitchen, bedroom … looked around, touched your stuff, helped themselves to things.
It’s kind of like that when you learn that someone’s gained access to your online banking. It makes you realise how fragile the building blocks that enable your daily life are. Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale, when women were suddenly cut off from their bank accounts and could no longer access their own money.
As a sleep deprived parent, I barely registered the strange alert that a new device had signed into my internet banking. That notification came at a really odd time in the wee hours – but mornings are chaos at home, and this was over the New Year break, so honestly, the whole day was chaos.
When I realised what had happened and saw the missing money, I obviously freaked out.
My online banking got hacked.
Initially, the person on the other end of the phone at the bank sounded sceptical. Despite me explaining that yes, I used a unique password and no, it wasn’t written down anywhere or saved in any browsers; no, I hadn’t clicked on any links in emails and always type in the URL manually – it took quite a while for her to take me seriously. Frustrating.
Fast forward a few days, and things got straightened out eventually. My cards and accounts were locked down and my online banking had a freeze put on it while I took my laptop to an IT dude for a checkup. My bank couldn’t recover the money from the receiving bank (presumably it was immediately transferred elsewhere), but I was refunded the lost amount.
Does this make me super paranoid now? Ummm, yeah. Funnily enough, last year I interviewed for a job in the cybersecurity space. At the time, I talked about how it was a growing field that would be exciting to be part of, yadda yadda. (Here are some pretty terrifying stats on cybercrime – the FBI gets 900 complaints a day, and cybercrime costs the world economy nearly $3 million per minute. The mind boggles.) It didn’t really mean much to me personally, though.
But an incident like this makes it real and brings it home. This stuff matters.
Change ALL THE PASSWORDS
For obvious reasons.
Turn on two-factor authentication
I didn’t actually realise my bank now has 2FA enabled for desktop banking.
Keep some money accessible at another bank
Luckily I already had this in place, though I’m resisting the kneejerk urge to spread my (limited) money around even more.
AKA: When to ignore traditional parenting advice and go against the grain.
I’ve learned to take any advice about how to parent my baby with a grain of salt. My child is a happy kid, but he’s not exactly been an ‘easy’ kid until recently.
It’ll all get better once he’s on solids (NOPE)
People say solids help with sleep, because they stay fuller. Not in our case.
Spud has always had a super sensitive stomach, and the more we ramped up solids the more haywire his sleep got. Solids meant more gas, more trouble pooping (getting backed up), and poops at random times (like the middle of the night).
People say solids help with reflux. Nah.
His reflux disappeared once we got on Neocate. That prescription formula changed our lives. He immediately started sleeping through consistently, his gastro problems stopped being an issue, and his temperament improved.
But since starting solids, I think it may have resurfaced a little (certain coughs and grimaces suggest to me that there’s some nasty regurgitation bothering him) when foods irritate his system. If so, it’s mild, and nothing compared to his ongoing eczema issues – which are definitely linked to his diet.
Feed them right before bed (NOPE)
As mentioned above, his reflux made this a big fat LIE. We needed to ensure a fair chunk of time before that last feed and going to sleep. It was okay when he was brand new and tiny. But as he got a bit older, feeding him too late meant he’d just wake up shortly after falling asleep needing to spit up or burp. It wasn’t hunger disrupting his sleep; it was digestive problems.
“I don’t need as much sleep; I’ll do the night wakings” (NOPE)
Theory: Husband who needs less sleep will handle more night wake-ups
Reality: Yeah, nah. It started off okay, but went downhill.
Spud’s gut troubles (which were always at their worst in the wee hours) meant a lot of tough wake-ups at 2/3/4am. There would be no consoling him, really, during those hours.
T had little patience or sympathy. He really only started taking the food intolerances seriously once Spud’s eczema got really bad (as in covering most of his back, among other body parts). His experience growing up with younger siblings/nieces meant he was convinced he knew all about baby sleep and that it was just Spud fighting sleep for the sake of it.
I knew in my heart that Spud was in discomfort. It was in the way he arched and thrashed stiffly, cried shrilly while still half asleep sometimes, would calm after taking his gas drops or emitting a burp or fart, the bubbly sounds that sometimes came from his tummy. And therefore I would not leave him to cry it out generally (except on desperate occasions when I just couldn’t stay up with him anymore and would cry myself to sleep in the next room). This led to a lot of arguing at ridiculous times when nobody should be awake, let alone fighting with their partner. Frankly, it was fucking miserable.
Everything is a phase – they’re always changing
Babies are designed to keep us guessing. Just as I think we’ve settled into a routine, something changes, particularly around evening routines. It’s so hard to get the balance right.
They say you can’t overfeed a baby, but I am certain he was overdoing it between solids and milk at dinner in the early days. When given finger food, he stuffs everything he can at once into his mouth and practically chokes himself trying to eat it all right then. He goes SO overboard. (There are also a few times, way back pre-solids, where I am convinced we overfed him and it led to absolutely miserable nights.)
So he was definitely overeating for awhile; this kid is a champ eater and I wasn’t great at reading cues initially, I don’t think. Once I stopped giving him an evening bottle, that helped and he had much more settled nights.
Then he went through a growth spurt and that topup bottle before bed became a necessity again.
Now, he takes forever to drink that last bottle, rolls around and plays with it, and usually doesn’t finish it … so it might be time to phase it out again. Maybe this time for good – though I wouldn’t bet on it.
I don’t want to jinx it, but things on the food front have been good lately, and aside from recent teething, so have the nights. But who knows – it could all change tomorrow…