One Overly Analytical Mother's Obsessive Musings about Raising Small Children

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is There a Boss Baby in Your Life?

                      Some babies are just easy. They sleep and eat well. They're content to just be there. Some mothers say that these easy babies "fly under the radar" or fit "seamlessly" into the already existing routines of the family. They go with the flow, and parents, if you have a baby like this, you better appreciate what you've got because you could have a Boss Baby.

Is there a Boss Baby in your life? You know the type: they're demanding; they don't sleep well--if at all. They're picky eaters (and yes, they can even be picky nursers who force mom to avoid whole categories of foods like dairy). They're gassy, colicky, and plain old fussy. These babies change the whole dynamics of family life and parents bend over backwards to accommodate them, get them to nap, be content, or eat. Attachment parenting books euphemistically calls these kids "high need." Marla Frazee calls it for what it is in her new book, The Boss Baby. In this picture book for ages 3-8, Frazee tells the story of a boss baby who arrives one day to his employees' (parents') house in a black sleeper with footies, white collar shirt and tie, and toting a big briefcase full of an accordion-like trail of papers.

The first line will immediately catch your attention and invoke your parental sympathy: "From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss." He proceeds to set up his office in the middle of the living room (in a baby walker) and conducts lots and lots of meetings with mom and dad, such as get me outta my crib NOW, you fool; spoon-and-food-throwing highchair hysterics; changing table conniptions; and the good old just-won't-stop-crying-jag). Mom and Dad may be suffering from sleep deprivation but make no mistake about it, the Boss Baby's got the good life. Like other tycoons, he's got mad perks: a lounge, spa (baby bath); executive gym, 24/7 room service, and a private jet (his jumper).

Frazee is a two-timed Caldecott Honor medalist (A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and All the World, a collaboration with author Liz Garton Scanlon) and this book is probably destined to be a third. The illustrations are rendered in her usual style--pencil and gouache--with a beautiful 1950s-inspired theme. The retro colors, dress, and decor make the pictures unique and fun to look at. The facial expressions and renderings of various baby antics will make you and your children laugh out loud.

So if there's a Boss Baby in your life, hang in there, and keep this book handy for when you need to see the humor in your little creature's frustrating antics. They're bossy, they've got you wrapped around their tiny little fingers, but make no mistake about it: they're little people who are going places.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is This Normal?

The other night, my husband and I were watching a little TV in the evening, after putting the kids to bed. Well, as I cannot just sit there (sound familiar, multi-tasking mommies?), I was folding three loads of laundry, thanks to my three year-old who is still getting the hang of not peeing in diapers.

Anyway, a commercial came on for a movie that would be coming out soon in the theaters. My husband turns to me and says, "I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie in a movie theater! It must be at least three years! Is that normal? Are we letting our kids totally take over our lives?"

I stifled my urge to correct him--that every year I take the kids to my mother's and I know for a fact that in those times when he is not on parent duty, he has been known to take in a film or two with his buddies. The pitiful voice within me wanted to say: "It is I who have not seen a movie in almost four years!" I wanted to up the ante, to play the I'm-more-deprived-than-you game, but I didn't.

Instead, I thought of his question: Is it normal that we really haven't gone out alone at night since the birth of our first child? Is it normal that on the few occasions that we've gotten nighttime childcare, we've been too tired to actually leave the house and do something? Or that, if we did drag our tired selves to the theater, we'd probably fall asleep as soon as the lights went down?

My answer was, well, diplomatic. Let's take the situation in a larger context, I argued.When you raise your young children by the principles of attachment parenting, as we've invariably found ourselves doing, then leaving them alone at night becomes rather tricky. My fifteen month old still nurses and wakes up--sometimes quite frequently--during the night expecting to nurse. There's just no way that you can hand over a child like that to a babysitter. Show me the people who have babysitters and have "date night" each Saturday night. Are their kids this young? Then again, I am too jaded to expand my "circle of trust" outside of the bounds of family and a select group of close friends, which is rather limiting as those people are extremely busy.

Or is my husband right--are we totally--gasp--not normal? Are the mothers and fathers of pre-school children still having "date night" every Saturday? And if so, how? Are they keeping up to date on the movies in the theaters? We can't even keep up with what's out on DVD, let alone the theaters. I hate it whenever I'm with a group of people and the conversation turns towards TV shows and films they all watch because I have no clue what they're talking about.

My husband, ever the wise one, sighed and said, "we might as well admit it--they are our life now. They run the show, and will for a long time to come." Strange as it may sound, that admission somehow that made me feel better. It was as if he was saying: I know this is tough, but it will get better. We're together in this crazy journey of parenting, even if our way of doing it--our state of being normal--might not be for everyone.