My top tip for national breastfeeding week

medium_303404356 This year’s breastfeeding week runs from 1-7 October nationwide with a bunch of events taking place around the country.  The HSE have a calendar here if you’d like to check it out. Continue reading My top tip for national breastfeeding week

New shoes take two, a mother/daughter spat and success!

“I have yet to meet someone who told me what a lovely, calm experience they had buying their child’s first pair of shoes”. So spake Pip’s incredibly wise GP after I regaled her with our recent misadventures in shoe shopping. It’s so true though, isn’t it? You never think of these things until they happened to you. Why did I harbour romantic notions about shoeing the feet of a barefoot pixie? In fairness, he didn’t pick it up off the ground. Both his mama and dada spend most of their time padding around the house on their toes.

New shoes take two and a mother daughter spat www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
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photo credit: light2shine via photopin cc

We had our first “incident” a few months ago when a frightened teenager wearing a t-shirt claiming that she  was an expert fitter got a kick in the face from a very distressed little boy who thought that wearing shoes was the equivalent of being murdered. After some serious blood-curdling screaming, some face scratching and one sympathetic parental look too many, I grabbed the shoes and hightailed it out of there to begin Project Shoe Wearing in the privacy of our own home – but not before the expert fitter thrust a sorrowful photo of Pip in his first shoes into my hands as a “keepsake”.

Several weeks and many failed attempts later, the shoes went unworn and unloved.  In the child’s defence, he was trying to psychologically prepare himself because he would carry them around like a piece of lego or sit on the ground and slip his feet into his dada’s size 10s, to try them out like.

But the drop in temperature and the big move up to the Tweenies in creche brought the shoe issue to a head because his footsies were getting cold AND the Tweenies run around outside twice a day – even when it’s wet, which Pip especially loves – but there was no running for little boys with no shoes on rainy days so New Shoes Take Two was required.

After some good advice from the mammies at work, I set my sights on these babies:

New shoes take two and a mother daughter spat www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby
Crocs boots

My reasoning was threefold. The neck of the boot folds down like a sock so I only have to slip his foot in and then you peel it right back up again. They’re lined with a sweatshirt material so hopefully it would feel like he was popping his foot into a sock – and he does love his socks. Finally, he can splash in all the puddles he wants in these bad boys. If he wears them that is…

So off I toddled last weekend to get him fitted again and to procure what I had completely built up as the holy grail of shoe acceptance. My mother decided she wanted to tag along to get in some quality Pip time. Fine by me, says I. (Feel free to buy them for him too, I thought. But she didn’t 🙂 Bad! Bad, daughter!)

The place was JAMMERS! All around me were other families clasping their paper number waiting to be called. Interestingly enough, it was mostly both parents representin’. Is shoe buying a family decision I wonder? We all listened in on the interactions of whatever customer was currently being served and nodded politely when the children paraded around in their new shoes.

Number 51, we were up! Fair play to the savvy woman who served us. As I was explaining our ongoing difficulties with the shoe situation she initially suggested laces rather than velcro as an option because Pip couldn’t get those off but obviously my face told a thousand tales about my parenting style and she quickly moved on to expertly distracting and measuring at the same time.

It was at this moment that my mother decided it was time to tell the whole shop at the top of her voice “I think he’s just gotten used to crying every time he sees the shoes you know?”, leaning into the saleswoman like she was a feckin consultant diagnosing a rare condition or something.

For the love of baby Jay, I lost my tiny mind.

“Excuse me!” I retorted. “You are not in my house every day.  You do NOT know what goes on”.

Oh, I’d say the watching parents all loved this.

“Hmphh” was the response from the know-all in the corner.

WHY mammies, WHY? WHY do you feel you have to stick your oar in at the most inopportune times? I was LIVID!

This obviously wasn’t the first time clever saleslady has been drawn in on a family spat and she quickly circled the wagons around her customer (that’s me) and ignored granny.  She thought my boots idea was brilliant! While she was off looking for the right size, a waiting parent tapped me on the shoulder and had a little pep talk with me about Pip hating shoes.  Her five year old is the same she said, the shoes come straight off him when he gets in from school.  He’s always been that way, she said, hates the sensation on his feet. IT WILL ALL BE OKAY, she said. I thought that was lovely.  Thanks helpful lady in the shoe shop.

The crocs came out. They went on the child – for seconds – to make sure they fitted and then off we went.

We had minor success at home the next day where the boots stayed on if he sat on Dada’s knee playing but definitely NO walking, no sir.  But the real breakthrough came at creche during the week because when offered the option of the cosy boots and splashing in puddles outside versus staying in his socks and watching everyone else run around, splashing won out in the end.  There was a little resistance on the first day but on the second day he was flying!  The creche even told my husband “Daddy, there will be no issue with the shoes anymore”. Now there’s confidence for you.

Phew.

A sad post about hard lives and lost innocence

Cristian Fernandez is a thirteen year old boy from Florida who is currently awaiting trial for the murder of his two year old half-brother and the sexual abuse of his five year old half-brother. He is being tried as an adult. If he is convicted of the murder charge, he is facing a life sentence in prison. His crimes are appalling, to some unspeakable. He stole the life of a tiny baby boy and destroyed the innocence of another, leaving him a lifetime to cope with living after sexual abuse.

A sad post about hard lives and innocence lost www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog Cristian Fernandez
Photo courtesy of The Journal

This was the first time I heard about Cristian. I haven’t been able to get him out of my head since.  All I can picture is a naked, dirty two year old boy walking the streets alone at 4am in the morning while his grandmother was getting off her face in a nearby hotel and his fourteen year old mother was nowhere to be found. It actually hurts my heart to think about it. He should have been tucked up in bed, warm and safe with a full belly and a contented look on his face.

He was born to a twelve year old mother and a 25 year old father who “sexually assaulted” her. (I’m putting “sexually assaulted” her in inverted commas here because I’m a little confused by the terminology. Maybe the law in the States is different but here in Ireland if someone forces another person to engage in non-consensual sex against their will, it’s rape not sexual assault.)

Cristian’s thirteen years have been full of neglect, violence, sexual abuse and extreme poverty. He didn’t stand a chance. His brothers didn’t stand a chance. His mother didn’t stand a chance.

My thoughts also turn to the twelve year old son of Declan O’Reilly, who watched his father being shot at least three times when they were out walking on a busy city road one evening last week. O’Reilly lived a life that brought him to that fate, that moment in time, but his son is an innocent child. How does he get over that – every young boy’s worst nightmare? As he gets older, how does he manage learning about the life his father lived versus how he died? What way will his life go? I hope he has strong, loving people surrounding him and protecting him right now.

The eleven year old girl and her three year old half brother who watched gangland criminal Gerard Eglinton shot to death are also scarred for life. They didn’t deserve that. My heart breaks for them, for all of them.

Can we blame someone? Who do we look to to protect these innocent children?

Their parents? But what were their own lives and circumstances like?

The Government? But where does the intervention start and how far does it go?

Really, I just want to scoop them all up in my arms and tell them it’s going to be okay. I would be lying and they’re unlikely to believe me but what else can you say? Sorry life has been so terribly cruel to you. Sorry that you were born into this life and your world has fought against you getting the life, love, health, safety and education that you deserve. Sorry I can’t wave my magic wand and fix it for you.

It is a random lottery of biology that decides what kind of life our babies are born in to. I’d like to say that it’s our parents that are responsible for keeping us safe and guiding us through life until we can fend for ourselves but it’s not a simple as that.

If only it were. It’s just so profoundly sad.

Saying yes to no girls allowed

saying yes to no girls allowed www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blogWhen I was a fiery young woman (circa 1995-2004) I used to get quite exercised about the inequality of “men only” institutions. I made a stand at work once whereby I refused to attend an event in Portmarnock Golf Club because they don’t allow women to become full members. I also made some full-hearted and some half-hearted attempts at college to organise “women only” endeavours in response to activities “the men” were engaged in, as if by making this statement the men would suddenly take note of my point, acknowledge the inequality of it all and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Of course they usually mocked myself and my sisters in solidarity for behaving exactly as they expected.

Now that I’m a mellowed 33, I feel sorry for the pathetic efforts of gender biased organisations to exclude women purely for the sake of excluding women, (who wants to join those misogynists anyway?) but I now very much see the merit in single gender pursuits. Men and women interact and live beautifully together – as they should – but men also get great value from spending time in each others’ exclusive company. As do women. The genders talk about things, express themselves in a certain way and learn things from their brethren and sistren* that they never would if the opposite sex were present. My own life is enriched by a regular dose of “women only” congregations that give me great feminine power and energy but I certainly don’t engage in them to the exclusion of positive male relationships and a good healthy injection of mixed gender socialisation. If any of the elements of this gender separation/fusion were missing from my life, I’d be all the sorrier and poorer for it.

The jaws of a few of my male colleagues dropped at lunch today when I declared myself all for single gender clubs. One even called me “controversial” but there’s terrible logic in it, really. How would the spirit of the Dublin women’s mini marathon – the biggest all women’s event of its kind in the world – be crushed, for example, if they were forced to also allow men to legitimately enter? Although it would be terribly PC, it would take from the essence of an event that annually empowers women who wouldn’t ordinarily exercise regularly to train for and take part in a significant fundraising event. A double whammy for the ladies. I think there’s a strong argument for encouraging some element of single gender socialisation so that boys and girls, men and women, can get to know themselves through learning from each other and exploring what it is to be “male” or “female”.

Of course I frame this in the context of both genders having equal access to the same rights. If there’s a women’s mini marathon and men would like a men’s mini marathon? Go. for. it.

Ditto the opposite of course. Even in my softer touch days, I refuse to support preferential treatment for men to the disadvantage of women in any walk of life.

I will be – and this is really the essence of my point – encouraging my son to take part in some “boys own” activities. I think it will be important for developing and understanding his sense of self to spend time beating his chest and running naked in the woods, or whatever, with other males. In the same vein, it’s important for me that he grows up to respect and understand women and it’s my job to expose him to this too.  If I had a girl, I’d be doing exactly the same thing to make sure that she had “woman time” as well as learning to build positive relationships with men.

So in my book “no girls allowed” is allowed. In the right context, with the right balance, in a holistic way. And sometimes, for the sake of grounding and re-engaging with my woman’s heart and spirit, for me “no boys allowed” is an absolute must.

*believe it or not, that’s a real word! I just looked it up – Oxford says so. Fits perfectly here doesn’t it?