Archive for October, 2012

Stress Test

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

I had to fill out a questionnaire about my health for work.  Do I smoke?  Do I exercise?  Do I get regular check-ups?  That sort of thing.  These types of questions usually leave me feeling a smidge proud because my truthful answers are almost always the “right” ones.  When it comes to matters of health, I play it pretty much by the book.

The end of the survey threw me for a loop, though.  It asked you to indicate within what timeframe (one month, three months, etc.) you intend to make a change in various aspects of your life.  The lifestyle issues in question were to quit smoking, exercise more, eat better, get more sleep, and handle stress better.  For the first four I was able to happily mark the “I already do this” box.  But for stress… I did a double take.  I don’t remember which box I ended up checking, but in my heart of hearts I know I have some work to do there.

Lots of fellow bloggers have written lately about Gretchen Rubin’s new book “Happier at Home.”  I’m also in the middle of it, and have found myself doing some good but hard thinking in response.  Rubin’s aim with this most recent happiness project was to make her home into a place that fosters her happiness.  This effort speaks to me because it is my home that I find to be my biggest source of stress.

It is not my home itself that causes me stress.  Yes, it is an old house with a handful of ongoing maintenance to-dos, but nothing too significant (last spring’s pipe replacement nightmare notwithstanding).  Rather, it is the rotation of weekly chores and obligations that wear on me the most.  For the past two consecutive weekends I have literally sat down to relax only for as long as it takes me to eat a meal.  By Sunday evening I’ve found myself satisfied with my level of industry, but utterly and completely spent.  And while I crave a hyper-productive weekend every now and then, the prospect of gearing up for one every single week leaves me cold.  I’m not sure how to get the equation of my weekend back into balance, though.  The tactical elements of it are not interesting enough to discuss here – I’ll get it figured out – but the existential elements are.

Why is the impact of these stressors at home so much greater than stressors in other areas of my life?  When my job leaves me feeling unraveled I don’t take it to heart nearly as much.  When I get stuck in traffic I don’t assume that it’s a personal failing.  Yet when I feel stressed out at home the stress itself is compounded by the belief that I’m to blame for it.  It’s not a happy feeling.

In a recent post over at Motherese Kristen cited a NYT blog article about how American’s pursuit of happiness has left us statistically more anxiety-riddled than any other nation.  The piece was interesting from a cultural point of view, written by a recent British transplant who noted that Brits find discussion of happiness to be a bit crude and desperate.  The numbers about our rates of anxiety are compelling, and I understand how idealism about happiness can leave us comparatively disappointed, but somehow I still find myself opposed to the implicit premise that this means we should stop seeking it.

I know what I want.  I want each weekend to be filled with a balance of productivity and pleasure.  When Sunday evening rolls around I want to feel that I have been fortified by two days off and am ready to face the week.  Knowing what I want – and acknowledging it – is the only way to make any sort of progress toward it.  Keeping myself blissfully unaware of my desires may prevent disappointment, but it is also a sure path to continued frustration and stress.

Reading “Happier at Home” has been a wake up call, of sorts.  I want to be happier at home.  Specifically, I want to be happier on weekends.  Unlike getting stuck in traffic or being handed a monster project at work, this one is completely within my control.  That makes it both worse (because only I am to blame for any unhappiness I feel) and better (because in the long run I believe in my ability to change things).  I will not hold up some fictitious ideal and compare myself to it until I have no choice but sheer misery.  But neither will I avoid the topic altogether just to keep myself out of the emotional muck.

I will take it one task at a time until I’ve shuffled the deck of my life at home into a configuration that is better suited to support my happiness.  My first task?  Keeping it all in perspective.  This will work itself out in time.  Stressing over stress is not the first step in any happiness solution.

In Defense of the Rut

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning: whole wheat toast, yogurt, fruit, and hot chocolate.  This is partly because it is healthy, partly because I like it, and partly because eating the same breakfast every day makes morning logistics much smoother.  I’d been thinking that maybe I need to mix things up a bit, that I was stuck in a rut that I ought to climb out of.  But a few things I’ve read recently have me second guessing that idea.

First I read Big Little Wolf’s post about the thousands of decisions we make in a day.  She starts out with a rundown of the decisions she makes in the first five minutes of her day, and it exhausted me just reading it.  I hadn’t thought about the sheer number of decisions we make, as so many of them are made in a split second, and have few lasting consequences.  Shower first or breakfast first?  Neither one is going to make or break the day.  But as BLW’s post continues she discusses the virtues of routine, of making a decision once, and implementing it over and over so that each time we take the action the thought behind it is minimal.  (Another example, I decided once which was the best route to work.  I don’t decide every single morning how I want to get there.)

Then, in Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “Happier at Home” she mentions the issue of willpower.   For her a component of increasing her happiness is to abstain from things she will later regret – Christmas candy being the indulgence in question on page 120.  Alongside her discussion of her own desires to curb holiday candy munching she writes,

Researcher Roy Baumeister has shown that we start each day with a limited amount of self-control, and as we use it – when we resist saying something inappropriate, wrench our thoughts away from a topic, … or make tough decisions – we gradually deplete it.  As our self-control gets used up, we find it harder to resist new temptations.  If I use self-control to respond nicely to a nasty e-mail, it’s harder to me to refrain from speaking sharply to my daughters.  If I resist eating from the restaurant’s bread basket, I may end up eating half of [my husband's] dessert.

In reflecting on this passage, and juxtaposing it with BLW’s post, I’ve come to a convenient conclusion: When it comes to healthy habits, ruts – or less pejoratively, routines – are a wonderful thing.  They free us from the drain of tiny decisions and they prevent us from depleting our cache of self-control too quickly.

Having routines can facilitate all sorts of good behavior.  Not eating bacon for breakfast every morning takes no self-control because it offers no temptation since it isn’t part of my routine.  I don’t have to decide to floss at bedtime each night, I just do it as part of my routine.  I don’t have to haul myself out the door to walk the dogs each morning because it’s just part of my day.  Not surprisingly, areas of my life that are less routinized are more subject to decisions I may regret.  I’m only sort-of diligent about packing my lunch each day.  My stomach starts growling at 11:15 almost every day, which means that by the time noon rolls around I’m much more likely to give in to a buffalo chicken wrap and fries in the company cafeteria.  Also, despite my best intentions my observation of a bedtime is weak, which means that when a ballgame is tied or a blog post isn’t yet written (ahem…) I end up getting to bed much later than I’d like.

I’m not here to say that our lives should be completely programmed.  Diversion from such routines is, I think, what brings surprise and delight into our lives.  The inability to stray from our routines ends up making us slaves to them, which is no way to improve any aspect of your life.  But most of us live our day-to-day lives in a lather, rinse, repeat mode – at least to some extent.  This means that whatever decisions become routinized may be small within the confines of each specific day, but are magnified significantly when extrapolated out over weeks or months or years.  So if I make a good decision once, and then implement it every day I get the benefit of that good decision without the stress of making it over and over and charging against my “bank” of self-control.

All of a sudden my toast and yogurt aren’t looking so bad.  Now if I could just get past the fries.

They Deserved Better

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

It wasn’t in any way shocking yesterday when I read that International Cycling Union (UCI) was stripping Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.  We all saw it coming.  The storm had been brewing for weeks, if not months or years.  So when I learned that he’d been banned from cycling altogether via UCI President’s Pat McQuaid’s statement that, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” it was just about what I expected.

‘Twas not always thus, though, was it?  In retrospect it all feels a bit foolish, I think.  Our unflagging support.  Our unquestioning allegiance.    

The unlikelihood of a reign like his was what made it so great.  That he beat the odds, at life and at sport, made him the hero that we all wanted to believe in.  Unfortunately, things that seem too good to be true often are.  Now, of course, we know that this was the case with Lance Armstrong.  Having been exposed for participating in the, “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen,” his fall from grace has been swift and comprehensive.

As for the pedestal of shame on which he sits today, he earned it, but my heart goes out to his kids.  His older son is about 13 and his older daughters are about 11.  They are old enough to remember helping him accept his final trophy in 2005.  And they are certainly old enough to have believed that their dad was the hero and champion we all thought he was.

I love my dad immensely.  And he was absolutely the hero of my own childhood.  But I have to imagine that spending your childhood looking up to a father who was not only your hero, but a hero to an entire sport, and (on certain days of certain summers) to an entire nation, is an altogether different experience.  What pride they must have felt and how tall they must have stood knowing that their dad was Lance Armstrong, conquerer of cancer and winner of more Tour de France titles than anyone in history.

I started thinking about his older kids yesterday.  Eleven and 13.  You’d be hard pressed to pick a more difficult time of life – a time more plagued with insecurity and more infected with adolescent meanness.  The middle school years are brutal enough on their own.  What fresh hell must they be for these kids now, having to walk into school with the knowledge that it was all a lie, that their dad cheated, and everyone knows it.

Perhaps I’m overblowing it.  Perhaps Armstrong’s kids are being left alone throughout this mess.  Perhaps my concerns are for naught.  But even amidst the most gracious of pre-teens his children won’t emerge from this unscathed.  I feel betrayed by Armstrong and I’m not even a cyclist or a follower of the sport.  The disillusionment they must be feeling far exceeds anything I’ve ever experienced.

I’m sure a lot of people are feeling let down by Lance Armstrong.  But there are five in total, and three in particular, who will feel this sting longer and stronger than any of the rest of us.  They deserved better than this.

Closing the Gap

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Ice cream trucks, bikes, Slip ‘n Slides.  Swimming pools, snack bars, and Girl Scout camps.  Backyard explorations and family vacations.  As a kid, my summers were filled with all the things that many Americans wax nostalgic about when we talk about being out of school for three months each year.  But all of a sudden I may find myself a proponent of banishing the tradition of summer vacation.

It all started here, with Dylan Matthews’ post on Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog about French President François Hollande’s proposal to eliminate homework.  Matthews measures out the value of instructional time versus homework and the conclusions are not that compelling.  However, in the final paragraphs of the post Matthews asserts that for real improvement in academic performance we should eliminate summer vacation.  And from there my curiosity was piqued.

I posted a question to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers (@Gale_TDT):

“What if school became a year-round affair?”

The responses were quick to roll in and quite varied in opinion.

Interestingly, the two teachers who weighed in were against it.  One made the argument that under a calendar with smaller breaks peppered throughout the year teachers would constantly be in ramp-up mode, and unable to maintain traction on content and curriculum with students they don’t see every school day.  Others who spoke out against abolishing summer vacation did so for personal reasons – fond memories of their own childhood summers, or extra time for their kids to participate in other educational formats, such as art and music camps, traditional summer sleep-away camps, or merely for more time with a stay-at-home parent.

Most of the parents (working parents in particular) were all for it.  And I can see their point.  From a purely logistical perspective having kids home full time for 12 weeks places incredible childcare demands on two-working-parent families.  One working mom also made the point that much of the summer is so hot that kids end up having to spend most of the afternoon inside anyway, and that vacation days in the spring and fall would be more enjoyable.

As each respondant explained his or her position I was surprised at how substantiable most of their opinions were.  Each person had a reason, and usually a fair one, for their vote for or against year-round school.  However, the one thing that all the answers had in common was that they were very local, even micro, in their perspective.  Each person responded with a thumbs up or down based on how year-round school would affect them personally.  I think, though, that if we’re going to answer this question in any compelling way, we have to look at a broader range of stakeholders.

Let’s talk for a minute about the achievement gap.  If you’ve watched “The Race to Nowhere” or any of the other recent documentaries on the state of our public education system then you’re well aware that some schools produce kids who are equipped to perform well on standardized tests and thereby improve quality of their future educational and professional opportunities.  Others do not.  Not surprisingly kids who find themselves at the top of the achievement gap typically hail from well-funded suburban school districts and have parents who are heavily involved in homework, science projects, and the like.  Those at the other end of the gap live in under-funded districts and have parents who are not involved in their academic lives.  Also not surprisingly, the boundaries of this gap fall clearly along socio-economic and racial lines.

The obvious answer here is, “Well, close the gap.”  But the trouble is much bigger than the gap, as this piece from National Affairs points out.  Amidst other poignant observations made in the article, author Frederick Hess notes that,

The truth is that achievement-gap mania has led to education policy that has shortchanged many children. It has narrowed the scope of schooling. It has hollowed out public support for school reform. It has stifled educational innovation. It has distorted the way we approach educational choice, accountability, and reform.

When we factor No Child Left Behind into the equation, the narrowing and hollowing only continue, as Hess explains:

Because of the way “achievement gaps” are measured — using scores on standardized reading and math tests — any effort to “close the achievement gap” must necessarily focus on instruction in reading and math. Hence many schools, particularly those at risk of getting failing grades under NCLB, have fixated on reading and math exclusively; other subjects — art and music, foreign language, history, even science — have been set aside to make more time and resources available for remedial instruction. … All of this has eroded traditional notions of what constitutes a complete education.”

The reason I bring this up is that educators across the board note that the education gap is the greatest at the beginning of the school year, when privileged kids have lost little academic ground due to various camps and weekly outings to the library, etc., and when underprivileged kids have been left to their own devices, watching television, and fending for themselves.  As one of my pro-summer vacation Facebook responders commented,

I think kids need a change of scenery, and some time to refresh. Also, camps can be really good learning experiences too. They can allow lids to develop specialized passions, whether it be going away to a music camp, sports camp or traditional camp. These are opportunities that just aren’t afforded to kids while they are in school. I think the real issue is, how do we provide enrichment opportunities that all can afford so there is no excuse for kids sitting idle over the summer?

I think she has a point, but I also think there’s a better way.  Why is it too much to ask that our educational system afford those kinds of opportunities?  Why is it too much to ask that kids be allowed – nay, encouraged! – to find their passions within the confines of a curriculum?  Why can’t we broaden that curriculum to help students find and foster those passions?  What kind of educational system evaluates only two subjects?  What kind of educational system isn’t creative enough to measure performance in a more meaningful way?

I think that year-round school could provide a big leg up to underprivileged kids, without depriving more advantaged kids of the enrichment opportunities they’ve come to love about summer.  If we do it right manyof those experiences could be worked into school, and would then be more universally available to all kids.  I’m not saying this will be easy.  I’m not saying it won’t be expensive.  But I am saying that the people being most significantly shortchanged by the current system are the kids.  We’ve created the wrong incentives.  And in a generation or two we’re all going to pay the price.

Where Would You Go?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

It started as it always does, with some permutation of the question, “What if we moved to New York?”  It happens every time we are there.  Without fail.

GAP and I spent the weekend in Manhattan.  He had business there on Sunday and Monday, so I tagged along and we made a weekend of it.  This being our fourth or fifth trip to the city together, we’d covered most of the “must see” tourist destinations, and were able to spend a decent chunk of time wandering the streets of Manhattan aimlessly.

This kind of aimless wandering is one of our favorite ways to experience almost any vacation spot.  Not only does it grant us the opportunity to get familiar with the character of a place, it provides the opportunity for us to exhaust all sorts of topics of conversation that get sidelined in a home life that is filled (happily) with our careers and children.

So as we wandered up Second Avenue on Saturday afternoon I think I asked him, “If we were to move here tomorrow – with the kids – which part of the city would you want to live in?”  This gave way to the clarification “Are we moving there just for a year to have the experience, or are we moving permanently?”  The answer, of course, changes in each context.  (One year?  The Village.  Permanently?  Upper East Side.)  The introduction of finite timing then led to the next version.  “If you were going to pick any city in the world to live in for one year, which would you pick?  What about three years?  What about five?”  There were more complicated and contingent versions of the question that followed these.

The answers to these questions* matter less than the exercise of asking them, I think.  It’s the conversation that comes from asking the “what if” questions that makes them interesting, and gives us insight into both ourselves and into the people talking with us.  We might surprise ourselves, as I did with my one-year answer.  We are forced to think about the calculus that factors into such decisions.  We come face to face with the very nature of our character and values:  Do we favor adventure or predictability?  Do we crave a challenge or something more relaxing?  What would we find exciting or stifling or alienating or fun?  How do our answers to these questions change when we consider making such jumps with our kids in tow versus without?

In some way the answers to these questions serve as proxies for greater statements about us.  The choices we make in our external lives are often quite crystalline reflections of what we believe and value internally.  Asking someone, “What do you value most in your life?” is bound to produce broad (and likely uninteresting) answers.  But more specific questions that might be the manifestation of those values can be much more telling.

For two working parents with two young children finding the time to get lost in conversation is sometimes hard to do.  But in my experience walking aimlessly through a city is almost always the right backdrop for just that.

*One year = Shanghai.  Three years = London (although Barcelona was a strong contender).  Five years = New York.

I Want To Climb My Way Up To Middle Management

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Do you remember the first commercial?  It shows a series of children telling the camera in a defeatist, dead-pan tone what they want to be when they grow up.  They say things like “When I grow up I want to file all day long,” and “I want to climb my way up to middle management.”  For a job-posting website it was pretty brilliant because coming out of the mouths of babes we adults were harshly confronted with what a lack of aspiration looks like.  No one tells their fifth grade teacher they want to climb their way up to middle management, and yet that is what so many of us end up doing.

This commercial came to mind the other day as I read this article from The Daily Beast about how women should stop trying to be perfect.  In it the author, Debora Spar – a 20-year professor at Harvard and now the president of Barnard – laments that today’s women were essentially snookered by feminist liberation movement of the 1960′s; what was to have been a breaking of chains has since become a shackle.   She comments:

Indeed, rather than leaping with glee at the liberation that has befallen women since the 1960s, we are laboring instead under a double whammy of impossible expectations—the old-fashioned ones (to be good mothers and wives, impeccable housekeepers and blushing brides) and those wrought more recently (to be athletic, strong, sexually versatile, and wholly independent). The result? We have become a generation desperate to be perfect wives, mothers, and professionals—Tiger Moms who prepare organic quinoa each evening after waltzing home from the IPO in our Manolo Blahnik heels.

I’m with her, to a point.

Reading the above passage and much of the rest of Spar’s article I felt ambivalent.  On the one hand, Yes!  Amen!  We’ve saddled ourselves with unrealistic expectations.  Let’s acknowledge that so we can properly deal with it.  On the other hand, Wait a minute!  Who ever said I wanted to be all of these things, much less at once?  That, for me, is the rub.

Spar holds up in her article Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Marissa Mayer as examples of women who’ve tried to “have it all” and failed.  Condi fails in the romance department.  Hilary fails in the style department.  And Marissa fails in the work-life balance department.    Yes, these women are easy examples because they are highly visible, public figures, whereas housewives in suburban Cleveland live much more anonymous lives.  (No, Bravo!, that was not a suggestion…)  Nevertheless, by holding these women up as the example of “having it all” they (whether intentionally or not) become the yardstick by which the rest of us are judged.

As I scrolled through the comments left in response to Spar’s article one in particular struck me.  The commenter calls out the same organic quinoa/Manolo Blahnik passage that I quoted above and responds with the following points.

  • While these women’s struggles are valid, they are the elite of the elite and do not represent the common struggle of the contemporary woman. I’m sorry, but the average woman trying to have it all and striving for perfection cannot afford Manolo Blahnik heels…
  • [Spar] seems to lose sight of (or at least not fully define) what “having it all” means. In my life, having it all does not mean- high powered job, fancy clothes, clean house, happy husband, kids in private school, head of the PTA or all the other socio elite examples given.
  • There are all kinds of women, mothers, and wives out there and there is room for all kinds of lifestyles. A woman could easily feel she “has it all” when she makes $30,000/yr as an art teacher, has a hard working a loving husband who is a construction worker, and two children in public school and after school programs.

And most importantly:

  • According to this article though, we are lead to buy into the idea that this woman still doesn’t have it all- because she doesn’t make much money, and doesn’t own her home, and doesn’t have a huge fund for her kids future Harvard education.

That is where I think Spar does all women a huge disservice.  Only if we’ve achieved the success that she dreamed of in her life have we achieved success at all.

So what about that commercial?  What about working your way up to middle management and stopping?  What if you don’t gun for the VP slot that opened up because you know it will take a toll on your family life?  What if your kids are happy enough sharing a bedroom because the less demanding, lower-paying job also means you can be home to read them stories at bedtime each night?  What if you’re happy in clothes from Kohl’s instead of Kors?  What if you’ve achieved health and happiness and balance without all the pomp and circumstance of a high-powered career?  At least in that light middle management doesn’t look so bad.*

Near the end of her article Spar notes that,

Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. It was supposed to make us free; to give women the power to shape their fortunes and work for a more just world. Today, women have choices that their grandmothers could not have imagined. The challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.

I think what she’s missing is that many women have already made that choice quite wisely.  Many of us don’t feel pressured into the definition of perfection that she describes.  But somehow I walk away from her article not feeling that I’ve accomplished something if I’ve found happiness without her brand of perfection.  Rather, I feel that I’ve settled for something with which she herself (the article kicks off with her own impressive professional pedigree) never would have been satisfied.  In the same breath that she tells us all not to give in to the myth of perfection she somehow manages to perpetuate it.

We need this national conversation.  But we need it to be honest.  It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose to talk out of both sides of our mouths.  To be fair, Spar makes many excellent points in her piece.  But the one she drives home the most – both implicitly and explicitly – is that perfection has a single definition.  And that is the point I find most damaging.


*There are tradeoffs, naturally.  If your middle management job makes you want to put your head through a wall then that’s a different story.  But just because a job is mid-level doesn’t necessarily predicate from also being interesting and engaging.

Sooooo….. How’ve You Been?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Last weekend my dad went to what must have been (if my math is right) his 45th high school reunion.  He is all about both catching up with old friends and reminiscing about old times.  Rarely does he miss a reunion.

My 15th reunion would have been last year, but none of us was really on the ball enough to plan anything.  We tisk-tisked ourselves over it and sort of collectively vowed to get ahead of the curve for our 20th in now-four years.  I went to my tenth, and have since intermittently wondered whether or not I will go to my 20th.  I had an okay time at the reunion six years ago, but it wasn’t an experience that had me aching for more of high school.  (Who really aches for more of high school anyway?)  This question of “to go or not to go” had been put to bed for some time (“Don’t go” was the answer), but lately I’m beginning to reconsider.

The reason this question has become interesting to me again?  Social media.  Specifically, Facebook.  I’ve been wondering: does keeping up with old friends in the online world make us more or less likely to go to some effort to see them in person?  Are we less likely to go because we already know what people are up to and how they’ve changed?  Or are we more likely to go because we’re more engaged with them?

I have a remarkably different view of my former classmates now than I did in 2006.  At my tenth reunion I saw my peers as I did on the day we graduated.  The cool kids were the cool kids.  The awkward kids were the awkward kids.   When you haven’t seen someone in ten years, you have almost no choice but to pick up where you left off.  And one weekend doesn’t really provide the opportunity for meaningful updates of any kind.  Everyone fell immediately back into their old roles and their old cliques, which was only marginally enjoyable.  So why might the next reunion be any different from the last?  Since then I’ve joined Facebook.

You might argue that Facebook doesn’t really provide the time or space for meaningful updates either.  But it does provide the opportunity for regular updates, and I would argue (despite the prevalence of highly curated content – we only show what we want people to see) that via frequency and recency Facebook gives us the opportunity to see our former classmates as they are today – on vacation with their kids, complaining of delayed flights, marveling at a delicious meal, or lamenting an exceptionally poor job of presidential debate moderation.  And I have found that were I to meet my high school classmates for the first time today, my impressions of many of them would be vastly different from the perspective I had in high school.

Getting to know these people all over again through status updates and profile pics has helped me see them with fresh eyes.  People with whom I once had nothing in common, or who intimidated the bejeezus out of me are now just people; people who might share my interests in cooking, or my left-leaning politics, or my passion for travel, or our roles as parents.  Now that I can see these people as people, rather than adolescent archetypes, I think I could enjoy them so much more.  And since I don’t have to waste time asking them what they’re up to – I know who’s been elected to the city council, who’s traveling the world, who’s landed a few national commercials, and who’s started her own business – I can skip over the logistical catch-up and have more interesting and meaningful conversations.

Call me crazy, but I’m kind of looking forward to 2016.

Eleven Months

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

SSP turned eleven months old last week.  And he’s dangerously close to becoming a toddler.

Watching him transition out of babyhood is harder this time around because I know we will never have another baby.  All of these wonderful things that babies do at this age are passing through our lives for the last time.  The quintessential baby crawls.  The grasping for Cheerios and missing.  The coos and the babbling.  The frenetic flailing of arms when he gets excited.  The “boops” to noses and cheeks.  The curling up on a Boppy pillow to nurse before bedtime.  We will never be here again.

Lately I find myself taken aback almost daily.  SSP is shedding his infancy faster than I like to admit.  He’s starting to take steps while holding onto our fingers.  He stands for seconds at a time before he realizes he’s not holding on to anything.  He can follow simple instructions like “wave” or “put your feet down” or “don’t touch that.”  And I can tell that his little baby babbles are in their final throes, on the cusp of turning into actual words.

When IEP turned eleven months old I was mostly sad at the premise of weaning him.  But this time it is so much bigger.  I feel like I’m weaning myself now, saying goodbye to this phase of my children’s lives for the last time.  Of course I know that there are wonderful things on the horizon: first words and hugs and kisses; silly games in the bathtub and countless bedtime stories; funny observations and increased amazement at the world around him.

And I can’t wait for all of those things.  But they won’t stop me from missing the days when I walked into a room and SSP would crawl all the way across it in five seconds, perch on his knees at my feet, and stretch his arms up to me until I bent over to scoop him into mine.  Because right now there are few things I love as much.