Friday, July 2, 2010

Why Having a Kid Makes You Want to be a Better Person

We were out to dinner last night, and I had one of those not-so-good moments that turned into a oh-so-good moment. Such is the whirlwind of new parenthood.
The not-so-good moment was this: I had gotten home from work and started feeding Claire. I am still breastfeeding, so this is exclusively my job, 100%. (AKA, Nick gets a free pass on this duty - making sure she is fed.) She was being a Fussy Hussy while eating, which I partly attribute to the fact that I had a normal-people bra on as opposed to a nursing mom bra (which btw is way sexier than a normal-people bra. did you hear that today is opposite day?) and partially attribute to the stuffy and hot house. Since she didn't have easy-access, and was hot, and was bothered (hehe), she didn't get a full feeding. I stood up to compose myself, pawned Claire off on Nick, and, well, promptly forgot that she didn't get a full feeding. WHOOPSIE.
An hour or so later, after an impromptu "screw-dinner-let's-go-out" decision, when we were already at the pub for dinner when she started fussing, I remembered that she hadn't properly eaten, and of course I didn't have anything for back-up. That was my "shitty mom" moment. No diaper bag, no toys, no back-up bottle, nothing. Naturally, she was hungry and started crying. We are trying really hard not to be "those people" who let their baby cry in a restaurant. (Full disclosure: we have definitely let her cry in restaurants previously. In fact, last night was the first time that we consciously said "oh, let's pick her up, she's crying" because people - it's not that parents are doing it to be jerks - it's just that we let them cry at home and forget that we're out in public when the baby is crying during dinner (parenthetical inside parenthetical: I'm talking 'fussy cry', not 'the-world-is-ending cry' or 'I-just-got-a-shot cry')).
So she's fussing, Nick says to me, "You only fed her partially right? You gotta go feed her!" and I really didn't have a choice. Once the child starts fussing because she's hungry, the child does not stop fussing until she is no longer hungry. Simple math, people. Conundrum. We had walked to the pub, so no car to zip off to. I don't whip it out in public, so no at-the-table feeding as an option. (Plus, regular bra. Other Moms reading this will SURELY UNDERSTAND.)
So what did I do?
Yes, you guessed it. The Bathroom.
Yes, I know this is horrifically gross. Yes, I do realize that I WOULD NOT EVER EAT MY DINNER IN THE BATHROOM, why should I make my daughter?
And the biggest dilemma of all? Pants on, or pants off? Well, actually, after writing it down on this here blog, I see that the answer was clear (Pants On - duh) but the idea of sitting on a toilet seat with my pants on seemed really weird at the time. In hindsight, sitting on a toilet, pants off, while nursing my baby is even weirder. Not any toilet, a restaurant toilet. Holy shit, I feel like a shit mom even remembering the incident, not even a day later.
Anyway - quick feeding sesh and she was a happy baby.
I came back to the table and Nick happily took her on his lap while I caught up on my meal. They were directly across from me, and she was so cute with her hands on the table, looking right at me. I started telling Nick a really funny story that had both of us cracking up. It was one of those nights where we're in our own little world and the little random stories that make us both laugh really hard (funny to no one else) make me SO HAPPY. But the thing that happened next made me even more happy.
Claire was watching me howl with laughter - I was almost crying, it was so funny - and she started laughing too.  Her first ever laugh.  OMG. I know it's so boring to hear about parents talk about their kids, so I am thinking that other parents are probably the only ones who are able to read this without barfing, but to hear your first-born have her first laugh?  Best moment in my life, I swear. I've told the story to two people at work, emailed it as well, and now writing a blog about it, and I'm still beaming. We just got the first giggle about a week or two ago, and she's only done it a handful of times.  A giggle is cute, but only lasts like half a second.  This was a good 3-4 second laugh.  Best thing ever.
So that's how our dinner went from "oops, not the best parent" to "OMG I love this", and also shed some light as to why people always say they want to be better people because of their kids. Claire laughed because I was laughing. She was looking right at me when she did it, and it was a direct response to my guffaw-guffaws. Kids are such sponges, and they absorb up their surroundings and do what they see. That age-old cliche "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" comes to mind, and is so true. Granted, that saying is typically used as a blanket statement, but it was true in that simple, solitary moment as well.
But in all honesty, here's the thing. And this is just an example. I can be negative about my body, let's say. Put on a shirt, and bemoan that it makes me look prego. (See: this morning.) My daughter was right there, laying on the bed with my husband, and he said "Honey, you have to stop saying bad things about yourself. It happens everytime you put something on." And he was so right. With all of that complaining about my looks and being self-conscious, especially verbally (not just inside my own head), I am putting that out there for my spongy daughter to absorb. And obviously, I don't want her to grow up with those thoughts of her own.
It reminds me of a (Nick, don't cringe) Oprah show that I watched while on maternity leave. I think it was called "Why I Will Never Diet Again" and this one woman in the audience basically said (through tears, obvs.): "My daughter is only 7 and she complains to me that her thighs are so fat and that she feels so ugly, and it hurts me so because I know exactly how she feels because MY thighs are so fat and I feel so ugly and I don't want her to feel that way." So the author (whose book they were discussing) asked this woman if she ever complained out loud or talked about her thighs, etc. and the woman answered "yes" and it was like DUH. Apple, meet tree. The branches were very, very low.
I know that isn't rocket science, but I had a newborn baby in my arms, a perfect soul in every way possible. She had no preconceived notions about what society "expects" out of her, what beautiful is, what ugly is (and I'm not even talking in a physical way only).  And now that she is slowly associating us - her parents and the people she is familiar with - with things like happiness (the laugh! the giggles!) I can only hope that anything/everything she gets from me is the best that I can give her.
No - not every day will be a day of laughing, I am 100% a realist. There will be days she is a brat, days I am a brat, days the dog is a brat. But in general, overall, I have to be a better person so that SHE can be the best person possible. Essentially, I want to be a grand oak tree, so she can be a bountiful, juicy apple.
And oh, how I do love apples.


Amber said...

I have fed Piper in a bathroom, porta potty, and many, many cars. (Pants on, always) Regular bra? So brave! I haven't worn a regular bra since November 23rd. Well, I tried one on last night to see if I still fit in my late-preggo bras. Well, no. Well, that's not true. I did, with quadra boob.

YAY for Claire laughing!! It's so huge, isn't it? Piper's first real laugh was when she kicked the dog. I felt bad for cheering her on, but it wasn't a TRUE kick, it was more of a "look, my foot hit your face" thing.

Meg said...

I don't know anything about being a momma, but I do know a thing or two about being too hard on yourself and YOU my dear qualify... you're definitely not the first mom in the world who got distracted mid-feeding or had to feed a baby in less than perfect conditions or what have you... let the "bad momma" moments go (especially when they aren't that bad and focus, like you did, on the awesome moments like her laugh. So cute!

PS, I swear half my coaching clients talk about "not wanting to pass this on to my daughter" as their major incentive for working on their body image/self worth issue. Too true that being a parent makes you want to step it up in the better person category.

K, longest comment ever. I'll shut up now!

Meg said...

Oh, crap... I forgot to close my parenthesis. I hate that!

Alysia said...

I have, out of necessity, nursed my babies in bathrooms SO MANY times. I have never done the whip it out at the dinner table thing either, so what can you do. I probably nursed in just about every bathroom at Disney and Sea World, not to mention malls, restaurants, etc. As long as I remember not to wear a dress, I'm good :-)