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Archive for September, 2005

Livening up the blog

Even though it’s only been a little over a week, I feel like I haven’t been blogging as much as I “should.” Part of it is trying to keep the boy busy. Another part is feeling as if I have nothing new, and therefore interesting, to contribute. There’s only so much you can take about trying to work around a busy (and sleepless) toddler, right?

So, I’m going to try to shake things up a bit. Along with continuing to blog on my own life, I’ll be soliciting interviews with writing parents both published and not, and with children anywhere between ages 0-18, about how they keep the fire stoked. So far, I have interviews scheduled with Melanie Lynne Hauser and Andi Buchanan. Both are on virtual book tours: Melanie for her debut release, Confessions of a Super Mom, and Andi for her upcoming anthology, It’s a Boy (to which Melanie contributed, incidentally). Their blogs are also well worth checking out.

Suggestions and references are welcome! Comments are open to both Blogger and non-Blogger members.

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It seems to me that one of the biggest questions on most work-at-home moms’ minds is 1) whether to let our children watch TV. And 2) if yes, how much to let them watch. I think these questions are even more profound to those of us who write for a living. After all, if your child is watching TV, he’s not reading. Are we risking our own livelihoods here?

When I was pregnant, I was firmly resolved that my son would watch no more than one hour of educational TV per day, that I would watch with him, and that I would much rather let him see me read than watch. That more or less worked out for his first year. I did watch TV sometimes when nursing, but we don’t get cable, and the only things available were children’s programming (why subject yourself when you don’t yet have to?), talk shows, and soap operas. Quickly finding that melodrama and molasses-slow story arcs were bad for writing, I did let him see me reading while I nursed him. Sometimes even writing, when my right hand was free.

These days, though, he’s a lot more active than he was then. I’ve found myself turning to TV as a way to get a break, if not to get some work done. Watching with him? Rarely. I worry that part of the problem is my lack of ability to figure out fun activities from day to day, as well as the sheer amount of energy he has (the kid will not sit still unless it’s in front of the TV, or being read to – but the point is for me to get a break, too).

Is it bad? I can’t tell. He can sit still for 3-5 stories per night, which often include two readings of The Polar Express, so I can’t see that the attention span is suffering. We stick to educational programming and Disney cartoons (Bambi is the current favorite; we fast-forward past the scary parts). No anime and nothing we personally can’t stand (includes Lazytown, Boohbah, Teletubbies, and Barney). Only for 2-3 hours per day, alternated with some kind of physical activity. 2-3 hours is the amount of time he used to nap. So although I feel marginally guilty about not being a more entertaining mother, I can’t help relishing the work time.

That’s why I’m trying not to think about the long term. The fact is, he sees both of us reading, writing, and watching TV; I think it’s as important for him to see me working as it is for me to play with and read to him. Later on will come school and extracurricular activities and friends, all with their own issues. What we as parents need to remember is that science and statistics can’t possibly account for all the variables in a child’s life; “studies show” is about averages, not individuals.

No, TV shouldn’t be a crutch or an excuse for us play-impaired parents not to try to entertain our kids. But it can be a valuable tool. Our job is to give it the right balance – just like we do with every other tool in our lives. It’s as much about instilling good habits in ourselves as it is about instilling them in our kids.

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Found it

The late nights are working well. I have to do a little better at fighting the TV demon, but I finished a scene last night and am looking forward to completing the chapter over the next day or two. At this rate, I might be able to stay on top of my goal of finishing the novel this year. Maybe even this fall.

Next challenge: balance novel with paying work. Because, you see, the boy has decided he no longer needs an afternoon nap. Not counting late nights I’m down to what? two hours a day work time?

And we say we want another child…

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Miles runs the baby down

The boy and I are still having trouble coming to grips with his sleep issues. Something is causing him anxiety to the point where he won’t go to sleep without both of us there and he won’t stay asleep without at least one of us beside him. Meaning: taking until 9pm many nights to go to sleep, and waking at 6am if we’re both up. And today, fighting his nap.

I was particularly beside myself today. When I woke up, he was sound asleep. I thought the tide had finally turned and I could get back to working in the early mornings. Within minutes of booting up the computer I heard the thud-thud-thud of his little feet (pitter patter? HA!) and I knew I was in for it. I was so frustrated. I’m behind on a number of projects.

It didn’t get easier all morning. He’d rub his eyes, not know what he wanted, decide on something only to change his mind and want something else. I knew it was because of the early-morning wakeup call. Yet no matter when I put him down to sleep, he cried and screamed, and because I don’t believe in the cry-it-out method, I went to get him.

By noon we’d both had enough. I put him in his room and, instead of closing the door, gated it so he wouldn’t feel so cut off. He still screamed. I had no tricks left in my bag, so I turned to the one thing I knew would calm me down: Miles Davis’ acclaimed 1959 album, Kind of Blue. I could only hope it would do the same for the boy.

It did. He stopped screaming right away. Within a few minutes I heard him making song-like noises. A few minutes after that he went silent. I went to check on him; I could hear him loudly sucking his thumb. I plan on writing a psalm of thanksgiving to Miles, Patron Saint of Sleeping Toddlers. Kind of Blue will remain firmly lodged in the #1 spot on my list of Favorite Albums of All Time.

As I write this, it’s been about an hour. I’ve had the space and time I needed to make my decision about schedule changes: it has to be late nights, or nothing. This 6am stuff is too much for the kid, and that’s too much for me.

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I honestly haven’t been able to think of a thing to say. That’s why.

I’ve been posting comments to my favorite Internet community and to Ronn’s blog, as well as in private emails and discussions with my husband. There are some really dreadful things happening here in America, as bad as and worse than we could imagine anywhere else in the world, and we can’t do much to stop it other than pray and hope we never have to go through watching our babies die in our arms for lack of water.

It doesn’t matter if you have someplace to lay blame or you’re pissed off at God or you’re just trying to block it out because thinking about it is too much to bear. Do what you can. If it’s only prayers, let it be prayers. If it’s blood or money or clothes or stuffed animals, send those too. You know where to find the links.

Blessings to all of us who have healthy kids and intact homes and families and places to go. And blessings to those who don’t.

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It’s the comments that are the same.

Recently a family member expressed the opinion that leaving my son in his room for up to 1/2 hour while I take a phone call or two is neglectful. Never mind that I explain to him where I’m going and what I’m doing and that I’ll come back and do something fun with him. Never mind that I follow through on that promise. Or, on the other end, that my son seems perfectly content to look at books and play with trucks alone upstairs. I know what he’d be doing if he didn’t want to be up there: he’d be yelling and screaming. That, I would not abide. But it’s not good enough.

Said family member also believes daycare is abusive, so although leaving him in his room is neglectful and bad for his socialization, apparently his being around other kids wouldn’t be good for him either.

If you currently work out of the home and you think working at home would solve all your problems with nosy family and friends, think again. It solves some. It may solve all, if your loved ones are especially supportive. But it’s hard not to come across just one who thinks she can do it better than you. And it definitely comes with a host of different problems.

Although I can’t see myself ever going back to work except in a real emergency, I still say: it’s not for everyone. Be careful what you wish for, and be prepared. Even when it’s the right job, sometimes it still feels like you can’t get anything right.

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