Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tough Parenting

I don't want to sound whiney because I know I've had it waaaaaay easier than many. many parents, but so far this year I have faced what I'd consider tough parenting moments. And it's only my first year! I mean first there was the moment when they told me my newborn baby had been taken to the NICU; then there was the moment when I tried to watch them put an IV in her head; then there was the moment she banged her head on the sofa console thingie; then there was the moment we thought she might have leukemia; and so on, and so on.

Last night was one of the toughest parenting moments for me yet. And she wasn't in any danger, and she wasn't in any pain, and in fact, there was absolutely nothing wrong at all.

Let me begin at the beginning.

Our general routine has become like this: During the weekdays, Kipp tends to give Kiki her last bottle before she goes to bed. This gives them time to play and bond with one another. It's a very, very rare night this doesn't happen. And on the weekends, he does just about every feeding except the morning feeding.

Except for the last two weeks, Kipp has been working overtime, and he's missed a lot of the weeknight feedings. Then on Friday, he got a haircut and shaved his goatee.

Now Kiki loved that goatee. She loved to snuggle with her daddy and stroke his goatee, and she loved it when he tickled her cheek with it.

Kiki hasn't been big on strangers for some time now, since she's started teething or thereabouts. She's more patient with women than with men, but even then she'll only take so much before she's done.

And suddenly, Daddy became a stranger. When he tried to give her bottle last Friday, she rebelled. We laughed it off a little then, calling her a mommy's girl, lalala, and didn't think much of it. Then on Saturday, I had to run an errand, and while I was gone, it came time for her lunch, and Daddy stepped up, as he always does on the weekends, and...

When I came home, her bottle was untouched, and while she was no longer crying, she had the hiccup-breaths that come with prolonged and strenuous crying. Kipp looked exhausted. She had been screaming the whole time I was gone.

From then on, it's been the same thing. If she's with me, she's all smiles and laughs and giggles, and she'll take her bottle or solid food no problem. If it's Daddy, she'll scream herself into a fit.

On some level I suppose it should be flattering that I'm the center of her world and all, but I don't think it's at all healthy. I mean sure she's only 7 months old, it's just a stage, whatever, but it's troubling, very troubling, to me. It just can't be good for either of us that she's so suddenly and so completely dependent on only me.

So last night, we decided to take the bull by the horns. Daddy and baby, feeding time.

It was horrible. She actually, swear to God, screamed herself blue. It took everything I had not to swoop her up and comfort her, but she wasn't being tortured, she wasn't being ignored, she wasn't hurting, she was just throwing a tantrum. Kipp kept holding her, patiently talking softly to her, bouncing her a little bit, trying to get her to take her bottle. It went on for hours and hours or at least 20 minutes before we decided it was late, she needed to eat, calm down, sleep.

So he put her down in her playpen where she settled down IMMEDIATELY. We left her to herself for about 15 minutes, then I got her and fed her. With me, again, she was like a totally different baby: cheerful, playful, happy, engaging. When I put her to bed, she rolled over and immediately went to sleep.

We're hoping it's just the goatee. It's growing back, and for the first time since I've known Kipp, I'm actually cursing the fact that he's such a slow grower of facial hair. I'm not entirely fond of facial hair in general; mind you, I think it looks great on some men, but certainly not all men, and I prefer my husband clean-shaven.

But the baby has spoken, and the baby rules the roost. The facial hair must return.

While I know this ordeal has been bad for Kipp (if the roles were reversed? I wouldn't even be getting out of bed. Rejected by my own child? I can't imagine anything worse!), I think there's some part of him that is relishing this little bit about his facial hair now becoming a mainstay.

After all, he'll say in a few weeks when I start grousing about it, it's for the baby.


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