Saturday, July 18, 2015

Adventures in Parenting (Dreaded Weaning & Ritualized Snacking)

Martigan is a person now.  I mean, no, okay, let me disclaim here. Martigan, of course, has always been a person.  In fact, I'm just woo woo enough to believe he was a person even before he traveled through my body and made his debut into this bright, cold, loud world.  I believe he was a person before the moment he was conceived.  I believe his little soul, his personhood, has been traveling this Universe for eons, just waiting for me (my soul) and his dad (M. Jared Vaughn's soul) to get down to [unprotected] business and pull him into this side of existence. But, since entering Toddlerhood, he's begun asserting his personhood in a new, obvious way, which makes my job with him a little different.  In fact, I now more than ever refer to my relationship with him as a job (though it's much more than that, too).  We're not like the Madonna & Child paintings and frescos that hang in the art museums of the world; now, we're Mama & Madmartigan.  He doesn't live his life connected to my body, as an extension of me, like a limb that cries and poops.  He runs, he climbs, he demands, he tells. I am not just mothering him, I am parenting him.  He's crossed the threshold into Toddlerhood, and I into Parenthood.


Lesson #3102: Mads and I have been taking our sweet time with weaning--so sweet that up until this week, Mads was not even aware that's what we were doing.  Over a month ago, I cut out daytime for-no-reason nursing sessions, though he still frequently petitions me for boob throughout the day.  He says, simply, "boob" (bewb) while reaching a hand down my shirt or, more often, "wanna nurse" (wannur). To answer these requests, I've started giving him snacks--lots. Though, like his father, or perhaps because he's still been nursing before naptime, bedtime, and frequently during the night, he's just not that into the whole food thing.  If given a choice between a snack and my boob, he will always take my boob. I introduced him to food at exactly six months--mashed up avocado with a little breast milk and a powdered probiotic mixed in.  He hated it.  He continued to hate everything I gave him, for weeks.  I put so much effort into the selecting and making of his rejected meals--buying the best fruits and veggies, steaming them, mashing them first by hand, then in my food processor, then by hand again. I sat down each night after putting the baby down, in the comfy arm chair with a book and a big cup of red tea, making the best of pumping milk, which I always found uncomfortable. My reward was the stock pile of plastic baggies of my milk in my freezer, frozen to bricks and oddly bluish, a sight I found incredibly satisfying; I could start making breast milk lotions and soaps if I wanted; I could take an unexpected holiday from baby and know he wouldn't starve. Nestled next to those breast milk bricks in the freezer were little cups, labeled and dated, of all the varieties of mashed foods I'd made Mads. I got very wrapped up in this whole process and lost sight of the truth that met me each night as Mads spit out and flat-out refused the mushed carrots and bananas on his rubber-tipped baby spoon: food before one is just for fun, and neither of us were having much fun at all. 
A year-and-a-half has passed since his first meal of avocado, and he still doesn't much care for it.  And, you know, I'm okay with that.  Mads has always been a terrific nurser.  The moment I offered my breast to him in the Birth Center, he latched on expertly, and not once has he ever refused. (No jokes about my son being a "boob man" necessary.) He gets nourishment and comfort from my breasts, and that is as it should be. I'd happily go on nursing him for another year, but I can't.  The ticking clock of our time bonding this way is winding down.
After much discussion, Wolfman and I have decided to switch places.  Namely, I will start working full-time, and Wolfman will cut his hours down to very part-time and become Martigan's primary caregiver. Before Mads was even conceived, in those dreamy, hopeful talks Wolfman and I would have about our future and children, we always knew we wanted to be home with our kids as much as possible.  We were already poor, and neither of us were truly, deeply satisfied with our work, so it was not much of a sacrifice for us to say one or the other would stay home to raise our child or children. Plus, it didn't make sense to us to work in order to pay somebody else to care for our progeny. Our plan had even been so precise as to include the switching of places every few years--I'd stay home during infancy, and as our babe turned into a child, Wolfman would take a turn at home.  Not only are we getting to the place in Martigan's development where he might benefit from his father's specific parenting skill set over mine, but Wolfman is feeling a little burnt-out with his work and is eager to focus on other things--his writing, his leather-crafting, his various creative pursuits, all of which can be done at home.  I, on the other hand, am experiencing job satisfaction for the first time in my life (more on this later). But, there is something I can offer Mads which Wolfman can't, no matter how many times Mads points to Wolfman's shirtless chest and inquires otherwise: bewb.
In order to make this transition of rotating parents comfortable for us all, Mads has to be weaned from naptime and bedtime nursing.  And it's not going to be easy.
Much advice on weaning begins with finding a replacement for breast milk. Mads doesn't care for almond milk or coconut milk, much to my chagrin. He's okay with kefir but it has to be sweetened with something, and he only drinks it 50% of the time. He likes the juice I mix for him (majew) (tart cherry juice, plain yogurt or whole milk, and a little honey) but even then if he asks to nurse and I respond, "how about some juice?" I'm answered with immediate upset.  "It's not the same thing, mom," his tears and shrieks and thrashing seem to say. But you know what he does like? Applesauce.  Ap-ple is a fine replacement.  Ap-ple-straw-ba (Ella's Kitchen's applesauce and strawberry pouch) is even better.  
To expedite the weaning and switch his alliance from breast to snacks, I created the Special Magic Snack Basket Cornucopia (I don't have a real name for it yet). How do I solidify habits in my own life and make things more magical? I ritualize everything.  I gathered together all Martigan's snack foods in one place and arranged them so everything is visible to him. Rather than reaching in and pulling something out for him automatically, or asking him "do you want ___?, do you want ____?, how about ____?", I do this: I take the entire basket out of the cabinet, hold it close to my body because it is something precious, lean down to his level, and I present it to him. "What do you want, baby?" I ask. His eyes widen, he approaches the basket almost vibrating with excitement, he examines the contents within, and... he plucks out a pouch of applesauce.
It's not a perfect plan, obviously, just ask his diapers last week. I'm learning I have to rotate certain snacks out behind the scenes (though, if he is presented with the basket and doesn't see any applesauce pouches, he will ask, "Where ap-ple?" with his hands thrown up and a shake of his head). I'm constantly googling and pinteresting ideas for new snacks.  I worry that he's becoming too reliant on snacks and even less interested than before in actual meals (ahem, like his father, a grown ass man, supposedly). And, I'm thinking of jazzing up the basket with ribbons or something. But. If he's demanding to nurse, throwing a fit, and I say, "Hey, I have something special for you. Come into the kitchen, let me show you," it always distracts him and at least piques his interest.  We're getting somewhere.
"There's no great time to be a parent.  You just are one." - Gilmore Girls

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