Friday, October 26, 2007

Child Rearin' in a Vacuum

Sometimes it feels like R and I are raising Sam in a vacuum.

With R's mom far away and my mom even farther, we have a real shortage of parental advice. In many ways, this is a good thing. I see many of my friends who have overly-involved parents get frustrated with their advice, especially when many have not raised a baby in the past 35+ years. But there are also times this is a bad thing--like when I want reassurance that my baby--at nine months--can handle some food that is not pureed. Or when I want some advice on milk production and how to keep it up.

R and I often joke that we are our own island. My family lives in Boston (during the weekdays), but truth be told, we rarely see them. They love the baby and like to spend time with her, but they are very busy with their own lives. We have friends, but since we were the first of our close friends to have kids, few that can really give us a lot of specific pieces of advice, wisdom and help.

My feeling about these facts often swing wildly between extremes. Sometimes I am very happy to not have to deal with all the drama and crap involved when others have the right to comment on my life. R and I call all of the shots and since I have lived 99.9% of my life this way, I can't imagine it another way. I have never responded well to limits or to judgements. Growing up, I pretty much did exactly what I wanted when I wanted, so limits and I are not well acquainted and most of the time, I think I can handle everything better if I just do it myself. Asking for help--and receiving it--is really, really hard for me.

Before we had Sam, I often heard the phrase, "it takes a village" and laughed to myself. We have a "village" of two. Most of the time I feel like we are very intelligent, well read and inquisitve enough to ask questions when we need answers. We are (mostly) competent. But then there are times--like this week with Cheerios--where I feel like an idiot and I really miss my mother and all the advice and help she might have given.

Sometimes I just want some reassurance, a little "no your baby is not going to choke to death if you do not puree every speck of food they eat until they are 30" goes a long way. Yes, people have said that to me. But it would be more reassuring coming from the woman who raised me and someone who I know would be equally devastated if my kid choked to death on a Cheerio.

This is not a post designed to elicit sympathy. Most of the time I don't talk about these things because it is a bit like wishing everyday that my eyes were blue--a futile exercise. R and I do the best we can with the knowledge we have. We have tried to build as much of a community as we can, but I think some of the longing I feel when I visit Los Angeles or OH, places where we have so many close friends and family members with kids, is longing for a "village," a community of people who offer help without being asked and act unselfishly just because they love you.

I know that people raise children in foreign countries far from all of their family. I know we do not have it as bad as many. But, of the people I know who have kids, it sometimes feels like we have the least support. There is no babysitting on weekend unless we pay for it. No advice on breastfeeding or words of wisdom about choking. No one to help us baby proof. We are doing it on our own.

Yes, wishing for it to be different is futile. But I can make it better for people in similar circumstances. I may not be able to change things for myself, but I can certainly offer my help to others. No, we are not moving to LA right away and will probably not move back to OH ever, but I am starting to build a community right here and now.

When I see moms in similar situations (far from family and somewhat isolated), I will offer my assistance. And since asking for help is hard, I will not be taking no for an answer. I will bake, cook, swaddle and advise as much as I can without being overbearing, because no parents should be forced to stay on an island after they have a child. The village is much cooler than it seems on first glance. There is Wifi, starbucks, good TV and many, many doting grandmothers.


g&c boyarko family said...

It is definitely difficult to raise children with your own parents living far away...we can appreciate your predicament as we are in a similar one. And while there is never a replacement for having parents close-by, we have leaned heavily on our friends who do live here in ABQ as well as advice from family (and friends) offered via phone, email, and etc. It sounds like you do have a long term plan to get closer to family, which I am sure will be great!

Kristi said...

Be careful what you wish for. I have relatives offering unsolicited advise about raising Isabella pretty much 24/7. They are over my house a lot for visits, and are always telling me something I am doing wrong, pointing out areas I need to babyproof, or telling me that when I take her to playgroup, I am exposing her to a DEATHLY "superbug" that is sweeping the nation.

But I can understand your wanting a little more help and involvement. I bitch about their overboard maternal tendencies, but the fact is, they would lay down their lives for Isabella in a heartbeat, and they do so much for me and for her.

And even though I'm not close by, and certainly not an expert in any sense of the word, please feel free to ask me about anything. Sam and Isabella are close in age, and maybe she just finished going through something that Sam's doing now. I will give you the best assvice you could ever hope for. ;)