One of each
My cousin's sister-in-law had a BBQ and although we knew none of them, we were invited. After a few glasses of wine and numerous pickled mushrooms, I was trying to get Will to sleep. I sat in the back bedroom in an old rocker and nursed him, looking down the long hallway through the door that was open just a crack. I felt very peaceful and then I saw a flurry of activity. I focused my eyes and it was Charlie ducking into his new little girlfriend's bedroom to play. It struck me that not too long ago, he was the one I was nursing, and I could barely imagine him walking, talking, or playing with a girlfriend so independently. And in spite of my recent maternal urges for one more baby, I suddenly felt complete. These are my two boys and that is enough – I can't imagine it any other way.

When you are pregnant again, people assume that you want the unborn child to be the opposite gender from your first. When I was pregnant with Will, I felt guilty admitting that I wanted a girl, but it was true.

Which brings me to ask myself why it is that I think I want or need one of each. I think about things my mom and I did together, and discussions that we had, and I realize my version of parenting Will and Charlie will be different. But is this a bad thing, or is it just different? Will the boys really want me to take them shopping for their prom attire? I don't know, maybe. Will I talk to them about sex and what I believe is right and wrong? Yes, but should it really be any different than what I would say to a girl? Will they give me all the juicy details of their first kiss like I did with my mom? Probably not, but do I really need to know? Will they want to spend Christmases with us when they are married, or will they join their wives' families, like so many men that I know do? (I don't have the answer; that is still an actual concern in my mind). And the most shallow yet thought-about question of all: will they go shopping with me?

No, probably not. But do I really care anymore? Was it really healthy that my mom lived through me in this way anyway? Maybe in ten years I should be shopping with my girlfriends.

My self-questioning began a couple months ago when I had the following discussion with a daycare girl:

Me: Say, Melanie, I like your headband.

Melanie: Thank you. It is pink. My mom bought it for me because I have a pink skirt which also has white stripes in it, and I almost got the one with the little black stripes to match my other skirt, but then I realized I have a hair ribbon that actually matches better, and my mom got me some black shoes to go with those – you know, the ones with those velcro on them that I wore last week? But anyway, when we were shopping we found a sweater that was just like my friend Lucy's, so she got me one to match hers, but Lucy doesn't have the same headband as me so I told her mom I think she should get her one.

Except it took like five minutes to get all the details out. There was some stuttering and long pauses involved. And I felt compelled to sit and listen, which meant all the other things I needed to get done were just waiting in time for me to get there. It was a real clarifying moment.

This is not to say that if I were to ever become pregnant with a girl, I would be filled with dread at the horribly boring and drawn-out stories about hair ribbons. I would love a girl as much as I do my boys. But I don't feel I need one to fill any needs anymore.

Except for the Christmas thing.


At what age does male obsession with boobies begin? My guess is three years. I am a breastfeeding mom who runs a home daycare. For the most part, the two- and three-year olds I watch pay no attention to the baby attached to me the few times a day he needs to eat. But there is a new kid who notices every time. Today when I was done feeding Will, new boy said, "I think the baby wants to eat again." The other day he said, "I can't wait until I'm a baby again so I can eat more baby milk." Hmmm. It's weird when they are young enough to have these needs, but old enough to express them so eloquently.


Toddlers and Teenagers

I was still recovering from shock after my husband told me he owns exactly two pairs of work pants when I decided what we would be doing with our Saturday. If I had been in such a pant predicament, I would have remedied the problem months ago. Off to the mall we would go.

Because husband was demolishing our bathroom (a blog for another day), I alone packed Charlie and Will into the car and headed to the outlet mall. Charlie was told that if he behaved himself, he would get to ride the mechanical cars that take quarters. Now, although Charlie has moments of toddler naughtiness, I often think about how he really is a good kid. Let's look at a typical example of Charlie behavior.

Charlie and I: shopping at Safeway, Charlie starts to run away.
Me: Charlie! Stop right there!
Charlie slows to a slo-mo run, but is moving away from me nonetheless.
Me: One.... two....
Charlie stops running and freezes in place.
Me: Now come back and stand here.
With a sly smile, he turns around and returns to me, taking my hand.

Aw. I mean, I am disappointed that he thinks to be naughty in the first place, but he listens so well. Sometimes he even follows up with, "Sorry mommy."

So today I was really in for a shock. I brought our double stroller with us, with Will lying in his seat clutching his velvet hippo and Charlie strapped into the seat closest to me, facing me. We are at the second row of pants, and the 20 year-old lad who works there is helping me find husband's size. I look down, and find Charlie has squirted apple juice all over the floor and stroller, humming happily.

Now. The wonderful discipline book I just read is all about teaching kids personal responsibility through consequences (rather than discipline because that causes kids to feel resentment toward their authority figure, rather than helping them think about what they have done and learning from it), so when the clerk offered to mop up the mess, I said No. I instead asked him to give Charlie some paper towels. Two minutes later, Charlie is done cleaning up his mess... only problem is, he seemed to have enjoyed his consequence. The Book doesn't say what to do about that.

You can see where this story is going. Instead of me taking a paragraph to explain each indescretion, how about I devote one sentence for each. Here are the things I said to him over the next 20 minutes:
"Stop dragging that new shirt on the ground."
"Don't bang those hangers together."
"Did you hear me?"
"If you run away from me again, a crazy man is going to kidnap you. Stay with me."
"Stop licking the mirror."
"Stop pulling Will's stroller."
"I said stop pulling the stroller."
"Don't pull the stroller."
"If you pull the stroller again, you will get a car time-out."
"I need you to stop screaming in the store."
"This behavior is not acceptable."

And, finally:
"We are not going to ride the cars today."

And, except for the multiple warnings given, I did what the book told me to do: I packed the kids in the car, the mechanical cars not enjoyed by us, and headed home. Sadly, Charlie had no tears. In fact, he didn't seem to care at all.

I might have broken some of the rules in the book. With his first infraction, I was supposed to say something like, "How sad. Looks like a little car time." With the second infraction, I should have said, "How sad. Guess it is time to go home." Repeating threats over and over is a strict no-no.

Which brings me to my inner debate on the topic of discipline. I don't like to follow strict guidelines, let alone impose them. Ask any of my former employers how I seem to feel about guidelines. I am a hard worker, don't get me wrong. I am creative, I have good ideas, I play well with others. But I also sometimes take extended lunch breaks, arrive late to work, leave early if it seems the right thing to do, and sometimes my work is inconsistent from one day to the next, depending on my mood.

But when it comes to discipline, in theory, I believe the rules need to be consistent, regardless of parental mood or desires.

I remind myself of this: The Book says to think about how current consequences will make kids into nice, respectful teenagers. And that is something that I really, really want.



My husband is under the impression that we are done having kids. Our three year-old only sleeps through the night half the time, and our infant is awake for at least seven hours a day. Plus, kids are expensive. Which is not to say that we can't pay our bills, but I can't afford weekly pedicures, either. We need our time alone, need some couple time, need the house to sometimes be quiet, need to have a sense of sanity and control. Two kids will sometimes allow for some of those things. Three kids tip the scale.

I feel just as passionately about these things as he does. But I also love the way my baby son's lower lip curles over his very shapely chin, and the way he breathes all satisfied when he nurses, and his looks of total adoration... I can hardly stand the thought of those things evolving into mature smiles and grunts (darling as they will be) in just a few months, with the newborn stuff gone forever.

Of course, I could use that same argument for having ten children. But that's not what I'm getting at.

I'm just not done yet.

Now, I'm not going to flush my birth control pills down the toilet anytime soon. This is a joint decision, and the rational side of me agrees with him completely.

Sometimes I feel like two is the perfect number. Our boys love each other. Charlie is crazy affectionate with Will, always aiming to please, and despite his intense attachment to me, he never shows jealousy toward his baby brother. Will is easily amused with the slightest snort, sneeze, or fart that his brother produces. Why mess with something perfect?

I'm brainwashing myself into believing this is all that's important.

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