The “no!” stage of toddlerhood

I’m reading Hold on to your kids: why parents matter by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté for this month’s parenting book club. I came across this excerpt that I thought was too meaningful and lovely to keep to myself. Hopefully this can bring some sense of peace and understanding to other parents going through a stage of constant resistance (or “counterwill”) with their kids.

Counterwill first appears in the toddler to help in that task of individuation. In essence, the child erects a wall of “no”s. Behind this wall, the child can gradually learn her likes and dislikes, aversions and preferences, without being overwhelmed by the far more powerful will of the parent. Counterwill may be likened to the small fence one places around a newly planted lawn to protect it from being stepped on. Because of the tenderness and tentativeness of the new emergent growth, a protective barrier has to be in place until such a time as the child’s own ideas, preferences, wants, meanings, initiatives, independence, perspectives are rooted enough and strong enough to take being trampled on without being destroyed.

Next time Avery is fighting me on which boots to wear to daycare, I’m going to try to conjure up this metaphor to bring me patience and understanding. To help me understand why it is such a big freaking deal for her to want the totally weather-inappropriate shoes instead of her warm boots. I’m not saying I’m going to let her wear flip-flops in winter, but maybe I’ll be able to calmly compromise instead of losing my patience.

Here’s another excerpt that has played out in our lives almost exactly. Avery knows her colours – like, with 100% accuracy, even the difference between aqua and turquoise. At bedtime, one of her favourite books is a book about rainbows. She would recite it word for word. And then, one day, she started pointing at the red page and saying it was pink. And at the blue page and saying it was yellow. We would get into light-hearted arguments of “no it’s red,” “no it’s pink,” “no it’s red,” “no it’s pink…”. It was strange. The book has this to say about my experience:

A five year old quite secure in the attachment with his parents might react to a “sky is blue” kind of statement by retorting adamantly that it is not. It may seem to the parent that the child is blatantly contrary, oppositional, defiant or trying to be difficult. In reality, the child’s brain is simply blocking out any ideas or thoughts that have not originated with him. Anything that is alien to him is resisted in order to make room for him to come up with his own ideas. The final content will most likely be the same – the sky is blue – but when it comes to being one’s own person, originality is what counts.

Interesting stuff!

I ordered weed online

So marijuana is legal in Canada now. Unfortunately it’s only available via an online store in Ontario, currently, because the liquor control board is incredibly possessive over the market of illicit goods and hasn’t come to an agreement with the Province yet in order to either sell pot through their gov’t stores, or to allow it to be sold in other stores.

So we ordered online.

We haven’t smoked since LONG before becoming parents, and to be honest, I don’t really like it. We bought it in part because it used to help my wife’s anxiety, and in part just because we could!

It gets delivered via Canada Post – our regular mail delivery service. The mail carriers are told to ID everyone at the door, but in my experience, he winked and said, “you’re 19.” Then said “I have to ask for a signature,” like he didn’t feel it was a necessary precaution.

We have a nondescript, locking box to keep it in, which is way more protection than we have for our booze… I think it will take a long time for the stigma around weed to become more in line with the stigma around alcohol (which is, to many people, nil). As for my perspective, I’m fine with drinking alcohol around my child, but I don’t feel comfortable being intoxicated (or even buzzed) around her. I don’t feel comfortable ingesting Marijuana around my child – mainly, I don’t want to smoke anything around her, but I also wouldn’t yet feel comfortable consuming it with a vaporizer if I had one. I’m still hung up on the stigma when it comes to pot and parenting. Without a kid in tow, though, I’d feel fine smoking it while walking down the street, which we can do, now, in Canada!

5 little updates to make up for 5 missing #blogtober posts

Oh boy am I ever behind on my #blogtober daily blog challenge. Maybe I’ll try again in December.

Here’s what we’ve been up to.

  • We went to the pumpkin patch with our donor’s family. The kids all played together and the adults had a great time catching up. We still feel so lucky at how our relationship with our donor turned out.
  • We carved pumpkins and Avery was so into it. She loves crafty things, and helped us design and draw the pumpkin faces, she washed and dried the pumpkins with care, and just sat quietly watching while we did the cutting.
  • We had our first overnight away from Avery. We got a hotel at a resort near my mom’s farm and my mom took care of Avery while my wife and I got away for our 10 year dating anniversary.
  • My wife is away on her first business trip since Avery was born. It’s just two days and she put her foot down and demanded to be home for Halloween. Family first. She was so sad to be leaving us for just two days. Avery cried when she realized her Mo wasn’t here this morning (she left at 4am to catch her flight).
  • I finished Avery’s Halloween costume. She requested to dress up as a cat. We are raising a tiny cat person. I’m proud.

Violated

My car was broken into on the weekend. To be fair to the criminal, it was unlocked. I grew up in a rural setting where we never locked our doors, and it has taken me some time to adjust and remember to always lock the house. I remember to lock the car 90% of the time. This weekend it sat unlocked, parked on the street in front of our house, in our quiet residential neighbourhood that is full of young families, and someone entered it and rifled through the glove box and left it in more of a mess than it was already in.

Nothing was stolen (there was nothing of value in it…), but I still feel violated.

Municipal elections in my province are happening today. I was on the fence as to who to vote for – the passionate young woman candidate who’s platform is based on environmental sustainability and strengthening relationships between gov’t, organizations, and people; or the white dude who acts like a bit of a Bro but vows to be tough on crime. (In the Bro mayor’s defense, he works really hard to learn about all cultures and subcultures, attends ALL cultural events, and always financially supports our city’s Pride and other LGBT programs.)

After my car was entered without consent, I’m joining the ranks of suburban parents who has been complaining to the city about rising petty crime rates. My vote is going to the white Bro mayor. Can’t believe it.

Some sciencey dissertation talk – I’m feeling good about this!

I had a nerve wracking, gut wrenching morning yesterday as I pored over dissertation data that was messed up – it just didn’t make sense. Some scales were beautifully normally distributed but completely unreliable, others were showing me a mirror image, backwards effect from what past literature told me to expect. Something was WRONG. I contacted the techy guy I have running my survey program for me in New York (I’m a Canadian collecting American data), and asked him to send me the absolute raw data – no fancy scripts used in the export file, not even changed from the raw labels (e.g., “strongly agree” before it gets changed to a computable value of “5”). He got me the file by 7pm, but I was putting Avery to bed and wasn’t out of her room until 9 (poor little bug has been taking a long time to fall asleep lately, writhing around itching her eczema flare up). I worked on that file until after midnight, and started up again as soon as I’d dropped Avery off at daycare this morning. By 10am, I had solved the mystery through careful detective work and meticulously doing by hand all coding and reverse scoring. The data was fine! The messed up appearance was caused by an error made by my techy survey software guy when he wrote script to code and reverse score before exporting to me.

That felt good.

What felt even better? The data was better than fine. It was AMAZING. I’m collecting my data in batches so I can ensure it’s all going to plan before spending ALL THE MONEY on the full sample; in the mere 79 person sample I have right now, I was actually getting significant effects on two of my hypotheses. For anyone who knows stats, you know how AWESOME this is. Not to mention the validation I feel in the face of two of my committee members who approved my proposal despite admitting their utter skepticism that I’d find any effects. So now I’m in full-steam-ahead recruiting mode for batch two, and if everything still looks good when I look at that, I’ll be able to finish data collection in 6 weeks. I mean, my original goal was to start collecting in September and get it all in 2 weeks, but we all hit bumps in the road when dissertating. It ALWAYS takes longer than we expect.

But I least my hypotheses are being supported. Go me!

On being an inspiring family

We received a thank-you card from a couple who’s wedding we attended this summer. They’re a gorgeous-inside-and-out same-sex couple, and we were so excited to be witness to their wedding vows. They were our first same-sex wedding experience besides our own. We were also so thankful to have Avery with us, witnessing two women, both in stunning white dresses, exchanging marriage vows. It probably won’t be a memory that lasts for her, but it’s a view of the world we want her to have from a young age.

Anyway, in the thank-you card, they wrote that they have looked up to our family. That surprised me. I’ve always felt like I’m just trying to live my normal life. In fact, I’ve felt extra typical and normative since settling down and starting a family. Getting married was easy for us – the laws permitted it, our social network supported it, and it felt like we were just doing what was expected of us. Having a baby was the same. We found an incredibly easy route to having a baby. We had no insurmountable or overly significant roadblocks. Conception for us was free. Again, it felt like we were just doing what society expected of a couple who had just gotten married.

The fact that I feel this way is a testament to the pioneering Queer people who fought for these rights in a time when marriage and conceiving children was not expected of them. So I feel like a bit of a fraud being someone’s inspiration for marrying their same sex partner and planning to have a child together. But at the same time, I feel excited by the fact that we are fulfilling and carrying on the legacy that our Queer foremothers and forefathers created for us. I feel so normal doing something once considered so extreme.

10 Favourite Fall Recipes

I LOVE Fall cooking. I find summer cooking is a lot more expensive as a meat eater – even though we grow a lot of our own vegetables – because we grill a lot of meats. We’re big on BBQ season. But in the Fall, the meats we eat switch to whole roast chickens and ducks, or slowly roasted beef. We also eat a lot more vegetarian meals in the fall, simply because warm curries, hashes, or soups don’t really need meat to be delicious. We’re also fans of Moroccan flavours in my family, so when Butternut Squash and sweet potatoes and other sweet and savoury produce is in season, we go nuts with it. Here are 10 of my current favourite fall recipes – all have been tested (and cooked multiple times) by me.

 

 

 

 

Fried Rice

Fried Rice
By Gimme Some Oven

 

Shepherds-Pie-2

Shepherd’s Pie
By Girl Gone Gourmet

 

piri piri

Piri Piri Chicken (with roasted potatoes and rocket/green salad)
By Jamie Oliver

 

 

Pomegranate-pulled-pork_smoky-cheddar-waffles

Savoury Cheddar Waffles with Pomegranate Pulled Pork
By Chatelaine
(I use the Joy of Cooking waffle recipe and toss in cheddar, but pork recipe also links to a waffle recipe)

 

korma

Chicken Korma
By Savory & Sweet Food

 

 

“Your startup disk is almost full”

I don’t really know computers that well. I rely on my computer for all of my PhD work, and it stresses me out that I don’t know how to keep my computer running well in times of need. For a long time now, my mac has been giving me a pop-up warning that says, “your startup disk is almost full.” Recently, it has been crashing. I’ve had to get in the habit of saving my large data files every couple of minutes because excel and SPSS (my stats software) are crashing. Microsoft word is crashing. This is terrifying for someone who’s life’s work is wrapped up in these three programs. I back-up to dropbox, but I’m still terrified.

And today I am so frustrated that I cried. I finally got round one of my dissertation data, and I need to clean it and analyze it before collecting the next round of data. My programs won’t stay open long enough to work on analysis. I googled how to clean my startup disk, and it seems that no matter what I delete, no space opens up. My storage is taken up by a category called, “other”. I have no idea what’s taking up my entire hard drive, and I don’t know how to get rid of it. I feel helpless. I am eating chocolate and pouting and hoping that it will miraculously cure itself.

Any help will be gladly accepted.

The Co-Working Parent Childcare Cooperative

Today Avery and I checked out the open house for a brand new childcare option that is starting up literally just down the street from my house. It’s a very cool, community-minded business started by a mom & dad duo who are utilizing the first floor of their home as a blend of rented office space and on-site childcare.

The first thing I noticed as we pulled up in our stroller was the rainbow (inclusive to diverse families) sticker and the “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” sticker in the window. Off to a good start.

The front room of the house is a beautiful, 100 year old living room turned office space. There are three small desks and a large boardroom table. The back room is the play area, where a certified early childhood educator watches the kids. These two areas are separated by a kitchen where the coffee and tea are free and flowing, and snacks can be stored and prepared. The kids are kept out of their working parents’ hair by two baby gates.

Since Avery’s daycare provider only offers Monday – Thursday care, I haven’t been able to work on Fridays (and Avery gets bored at home with me all day on Fridays). This new co-working parent cooperative is totally flexible to one day per week schedules, and actually functions in 3-hour timeslots. Avery and I are going to do a trial day next week, and if it works for us, we might start doing a regular Friday morning timeslot. When she no longer needs an afternoon nap, we could easily do two 3-hour timeslots, walking the 2 minutes home over lunch while they’re closed from 12-1.

I’m hopeful that this arrangement works for us, because I’ve loved co-working arrangements in the past. It helps me to feel motivated when I’m paying to get work done somewhere; I like having a reason to get dressed for a work day instead of lounging in sweats all day; and the company of other parents makes me feel less alone as someone who is balancing work and parenting.

I love my neighbourhood. First a coffee shop/brewery opens up a block and a half away in my little residential neighborhood, and now this, a block and a half in the other direction. We’re never moving.

Canadian Thanksgiving and other random updates

I’m not exactly keeping up with the daily posts for #blogtober, so far… But it’s because we’ve been away for the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend and bouncing from one family gathering to the next. At my in-laws, Avery got to spend quality time with her two cousins. One is just 5 months older than her, and the other is 2 months old. She gives her baby cousin gentle kisses on the head, and she strokes her little arms and legs and touches her fingers and toes. She’ll just sit next to her and watch her with a look of wonder and tenderness in her eye. So that makes us definitely want to give her a sibling.

When we leave family get togethers, we almost always rant for half an hour in the car as we drive away, or one of us will be crying from something a family member said or did. Family. It’s complicated.

In other news, I’m anxiously awaiting my PhD data… Data I have collected so far has not looked as expected, which is not good. It’s taking longer than I expected to collect, too. Right now we’re (loosely) planning to have baby #2 after I’ve worked for the minimum of 600 hours required to collect employment insurance. To work, I need to first get a job. To get a job, I need to first defend my dissertation. To defend, I need to write it. To write it, I need data. Data that works out for my hypotheses. So there’s a lot of pressure on getting that data collected and getting it to work out for me.

And that’s pretty much all that life involves right now – family stuff and school pressure. Thankfully, we have an amazing kid to help us find joy in the everyday moments.