Pick One

My teacher explained to us that when we are trying to make a decision between two choices, we must realize that there is always another option.  It’s taken me thirty-one years to realize something so simple and when he put it into words it hit me:  I am teaching my three-year-old son that he usually only has two choices.  “Do you want to shut the TV off or do you want me to do it?”  And that’s how I usually get him to shut the TV off, for example.  He wants to do it and he does it with the threat that I would be the one to “press the button,” but I know he didn’t want the fun to end.  He must decide between one of the choices that I give him, and if he picks a third choice I didn’t offer which doesn’t accomplish my goal, I was taught that this is the moment where I am supposed to get frustrated.

I am passing onto him an understanding of limited choices, choices that originate from authority figures.  This is a technique to get little ones to comply, as in the TV example.  It works often and I have used it in desperate measures, like getting him to stop throwing a tantrum that he doesn’t want to hold my hand while we’re crossing the street, and not so desperate ones, like deterring Spiderman cartoons meant for 7-year-olds.  This is also a sales technique as my teacher pointed out, one that I’m sure I’ve used.  His example:  “Would you like to meet at 1 p.m. tomorrow or 5:30 this evening?”  Only two choices – pick one.  And when it happens, ring the bell, we just made a sale!

I didn’t come from a free-spirited home where we were encouraged to be wildly imaginative.  We learned, like most people, rules.  When we abided by the rules we got positive reinforcement.  That’s why I washed the dishes and pushed a massive vacuum twice the size of me at four-years-old.  Not because I wanted to clean.  It was the reward after cleaning; the pat on the back, the “thank you” for helping, the labeling of me as a “helper” and the “clean one” in the family.  After recently reading “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, I felt this enormous sense of confusion:  How am I going to raise a human being to not follow these rigid rules, or accept the “agreements” that I’ve followed all these years?  How am I going to teach him that he doesn’t need anyone’s acceptance but his own and there are always creative solutions to problems,  when here I am relying on giving limited choices and leaning on positive reinforcement to get the behavior want as a mother.  How selfish of me to feel the need to control his behavior to my liking so I can accomplish daily chores and get some “me time” in during his nap.  But then again, how else will I teach him to eat healthy or socialize him to go to school if I weren’t controlling his behavior?   It’s a dilemma I haven’t solved.  But next on my reading list is the topic of mindful parenting.  I’m sure to find answers there.

Life Lesson #8:  If there is a world of choices, there are other alternatives to raising an obedient and rigid child.  When my son takes choice number three that I didn’t offer to begin with, I should celebrate his creative problem solving (I think) and realize he’s giving me the opportunity to rethink the limitations I place on myself and those around me.

Life Lesson #9:  One Choice, Two Choices, Three Choiceseses.  If I choose to see my child as my teacher, possibilities become infinite.

Doctors can be admirable people, but they can be the dog we kick too.  When my 9 day old son died this September, I learned that nurses and doctors might be able to do some good, but when they do not listen, when they ignore signs that they are given, their humanness shows.  They believe they know everything.  They have confidence in the answers to your questions, even though you doubt them.  Still, you want to believe they know the answers.  And because we are taught that nurses and doctors DO know everything, as they themselves believe, we don’t kick and scream.  We don’t tell them we think they are wrong.  We don’t say they need to think harder and do their research.

Recently my almost 3-year-old son had a visit to the doctor for a check-up.  Two days later the doctor called me to inform me that he is anemic.  She stated he must have iron supplements.  I had to stop her when she was ready to hang up so I could ask questions, for example, about how anemic he was.  “Kids his age should be at 11, he’s at 10.6,” she says.  Wow, and I was ready to freak out?  That put things into perspective.  But because he used to throw up after I’d give him liquid iron supplements and vitamins when he was a baby, I was hesitant to try it and instead tried to cut down his dairy intake and up his iron through food.  When I finally decided to give it to him, he reacted in a similar way, throwing up and then running a fever through the night.  I called the Doctor the next day and left a message.  We played phone tag.  She and the nurse left me messages that he needs to take his iron supplement and this was just a coincidence.  That’s what she said when he was a baby.

It got to the point where I told the secretary what I thought.  Along the lines of:  Nobody in your office is listening to me.  I KNOW this was not a coincidence.  This is what they told me when he was a baby and I had to learn for myself it wasn’t coincidence.  If your doctors don’t take me seriously I will be looking for another office.  Someone there needs to research this if they don’t already know about iron supplements making some people sick.  The Doctor thinks her knowledge from 20 years ago is always the answer?  No!  If no one is going to look into this, I don’t want to take my son there!   And when she asked which doctor I wanted to speak to, I said, WHICHEVER ONE WILL LISTEN TO ME AND TAKE ME SERIOUSLY.   And when I got the call back from a different doctor moments later, she agreed that YES, some people have stomach issues with iron supplements.  Change his diet.  Then she tested me to see if he was still on the bottle or the sippy cup!  What?  Then, have him lower his dairy.  Have him eat things like spinach.  Interesting, I thought, since I read that spinach like dairy inhibits iron intake, which I confirmed with my brother who is studying to be a dietician.  What about red meat, I asked?  “Oh, red meat and children are like enemies,” she replied, “They don’t like red meat.”  “Well, my son loves it,” I said, thinking this doctor really thinks she knows it all.  I tested her about iron, and she gave surface answers.

Maybe I have anger towards doctors that think they know everything, but I think I’m also breaking out of the blind faith in doctors that society has engrained in us.  Neither doctors, nor nurses, nor surgeons, nor any medical professional is all-knowing in their specialized field and especially not in other fields.  Doctors should not talk about nutrition if they don’t know that spinach does not supply iron.  They should refer us to a dietician.   And while I admire the dedication that one must have to their profession in the medical field, with the grueling schooling and the long days of work, I admire that they are no better than I am.  And so, I, like anyone else, should have trust in my own intuition, my thoughts, my feelings.  I should be able to question a doctor.  If they do not listen, I will kick and scream until they realize that there are answers to questions that they just don’t have.  Refer or please, please, do your research.

Oxford

Paranoia is setting in as the weather chills, the heat cranks, and germs have parties for the holidays.  With closed doors and sealed homes we are waiting with fingers crossed and hopes for a not so unhealthy winter.  When did this germophobia make its way into my life?  When my son was born two years ago, that’s when!  As a parent, it’s not the compassion that you give to your child in need that’s difficult, when you smell like vomit after the volcano erupts.  The tough part is watching your child, who has no idea what’s going, suffer.  The second toughest part is knowing that the virus is BOUND to circulate in the house and bring the rest of us down. 
 
A stomach virus has circulated our house, but something amazing has come to my attention.  My husband went down first, locked away in the bedroom for 48 hours.  We took every precaution.  He had a sanitizing wipe in his hand each time he charged the bathroom.  I sanitized and re-sanitized, I washed my hands constantly, CONSTANTLY.  We wouldn’t let my son see his father unless he was 10 feet away!  This took a lot of energy.
 
But then, nothing happened.  Until 2 days later, when as my son and I were stirring our brownie mix, he stopped chugging his water and BLLLAAAHHHHH, he threw up all over himself, me, the kitchen floor, and yes, the brownie mix.  There were a couple more episodes, but I’ll tell only of one so those of you who don’t have children think I’m crazy.  He just chugged a cup of water and started heading to the family room when BLLLLLAAAHHHH all over the floor and he kept walking as if nothing happened!  I thought if he caught this stomach flu he would be just sick to his stomach, but aside from the short eruptions, he carried on all day like nothing was wrong! 
 
And magically, I only feel queasy, probably more from hunger pain since I’m being conservative on the food JUST IN CASE.  But, I’m okay, I’m fine!  Why?  Why?  I’m going to hand it to my chiropractic care and to my revived love for yoga.  I’ve also been taking my vitamins daily.  I think my nervous system is doing alright and so my immune system is kicking butt.  I feel like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable where he finds out he’s this superhero who never gets sick or injured from totally fatal episodes.
 
For the remainder of this season, I’ll be meditating on my healthy state, my healthy state, my healthy state and I dare any germ to cross my path.  (Just kidding germs).  I am unbreakable.

THE EPISODE:  My 2-year-old son and I were getting ready to leave my Mother’s house for the day.  I hurriedly packed the car with the heaps of things and bags we usually travel with.  FINALLY everything was packed in.  I ran back into the house to get the most valuable package.  Amado, my son, came down the porch steps with his chocolate milk in hand.  It was a chilly day but calm and I was ready to go, hoping not to drive in the dark.  “Let’s GO, Amado!”  I said like a loving but impatient mother.

“No, Mama.  Sit,” he said calmly.  I stood still.  Sit?  Trusting him felt right at that moment.

Amado sat on the porch steps and watched the sky while he sipped his chocolate milk.  He insisted I sit next to him.  He started pointing things out: The colors in the sky.   The sun was setting.  The moon was up high shining in the daylight.  There was a hang glider right above us.  A cloudless sky, you could see the jet streams to the left and to the right.  The helicoptor humming.  Birds flew overhead.  We sat and watched.

Swishing Chocolate Milk, Watching the Sky

I wanted to know more about how Amado saw the world at that moment, so I asked if he’d like to take a picture.  How could he resist?  I grabbed the camera from the car, deleted photos to make room, and he started clicking away.  He caught the sunset, the moon, the hang glider.  Daylight was gone and Amado continued to take photos of bushes, flowers, and as he approached it, the rusty carriage of the car and the muffler.  He clicked away until there was again no more space on the camera.

Sunset Moon by Amado

THE LESSON:  A toddler reminded me to “stop and smell the roses”.  One of my joys in this world is watching the sun set and my beautiful boy had to revive this memory for me.  But it isn’t about ME anymore, is it?  Now, as a parent, sunset gazing is not only MY joy, but a growing joy for my son.  I am lucky enough to have seen MANY amazing sunsets in my life, but HE is JUST BEGINNING to appreciate the world’s beauty.  As our childrens’ guide, we as parents are here to enrich their lives and to sit with them through those moments where nothing seems to be happening but a beautiful scene. 

As I watched the colors fade and the darkness envelop the man gliding in the sky, I watched my son quietly observe the vastness of the world and the moon’s impression taking over the night.  Sunsets are only bound to get better and better even though they are just the same.

I have finally discovered how to get a two-year-old to “say ‘cheese!'”  The TYPICAL routine involves me realizing that RIGHT NOW is the perfect opportunity for a great picture.  RUUUUNNNN!   GET THE CAMERA!  Got it.  Run back to the scene.  What?  It’s over!  He’s done?  He’s taken the hat off?  He stopped dancing?  He ate the watercolor paint?  Noooooo!!!  Now he’s trying to take the camera!  “Meeee, cheee” he screams.  And if a picture IS taken, it’s of the aftermath, and HE is usually taking it.

The highest pitch you can go!

Lens Shattering!

Like every discovery, mine was purely accidental.  As usual, I saw the perfect picture happening while he was sitting on his indoor bulldozer.  He was wearing my favorite brown and blue striped shirt.  This is it!  Get the camera!  I wasn’t surprised that he was up by the time I returned.  So I begged and pleaded with him to “Please get back on the bulldozer and say cheese for mommy!”  Did he yield?  No!  He RAN!  “Say cheese!  Say cheese!”  We ran from family room to dining room, dining room to kitchen, camerawoman after subject.  It was like working for Animal Planet with a digital camera in a cage with a monkey.  By the third picture I realized I was onto something!  Animal Planet would be giving me a raise!  The subject was looking straight into the camera lens.  Click – Click -Click. 

The cage…

 

More like Beep – Beep – Beep.  Picture after picture it was only getting better, I just had to learn how to aim and run at the same time, cutting sharp corners and making the subject feel like the chase was still on.  By now, I’ve decided I don’t need to go to the gym today, I am working out with a monkey in my own home.  Tired.  Can’t click anymore!  But I must keep running or monkey boy will attack!  No time to review camera shots for Animal Planet.  I might not submit the pictures in time for the deadline.  I’ll probably get fired.  But that’s okay… I’m in it for my own satisfaction.

Is he saying cheese?

And that’s how I discovered that two-year-olds who don’t stay still for long, such as the current subject, naturally do well running, and I might as well run with it!