Tuesday, December 7, 2010

An interesting family dynamic

Our oldest, C, was just over a year old when I got pregnant with M. I immediately began to worry about how C would react. He was still a baby and needed almost constant attention. How would he handle a mother distracted by a squeaky, scrawny newborn?

M's birth didn't do much to relax the situation. Born nearly two months early, M had to stay at the hospital in the NICU for a few weeks. Due to the fact that I had a C-section, I wasn't able to drive. Those weeks, coupled with the fact that I had not been able to pick him up for a month already, made C very upset with me. While I shuttled back and forth to the hospital, C was shuttled back and forth between our house and my parents' house. On one occasion, I returned from the hospital and went to give C a hug and kiss both of which he refused and he wanted nothing to do with me. Throw in the ridiculous tsunami that is postpartum  hormones and I became a wreck. One baby in the hospital and one baby that hated me.

I really needn't have worried. Once we brought M home, C couldn't keep his hands off. He wanted to feed him. He wanted to hold him. He wanted to kiss him. They have been close every step of the way (except when they both want the same toy, but that is for another post).

Flash forward another year. I got pregnant again. This time, there would be even less of an age difference. M was only about ten months old and I had already been warned that another premature birth was in my future. The worrying started again, but I was hopeful that M would like his new brother and everything would be sunshine and daisies. What I didn't take into account is that M is very, very different from C. To expect that same reaction was just wishful thinking.

We were ready for an early arrival this time, so I was able to explain to the kids what would happen, although at such a young age I doubt they grasped the concept. This time, we had planned for my mother-in-law to stay with us, which at least meant that the kids could be at home and not so displaced.

F arrived early. Few weeks in the NICU (déjà vu anyone?). We brought F home. C was delighted. M wanted nothing to do with that little bundle. He didn't get mad or even particularly jealous, but he didn't take note of him either. It was, and I am not exaggerating in the slightest, almost three months later before M acknowledged F's existence.

I wouldn't have been surprised by jealousy or aggression, but completely ignoring that F was in the house was not something I had considered. So now F is just over ten months old and M still doesn't like him most of the time. When he has decided to acknowledge him, he usually calls him "it." The rest of the time, M goes out of his way to avoid F. This is getting more difficult now that F is crawling. I have, on more than one occasion, found M perched on the stairs where F cannot get him. M cries when F pursues him.

The best part of this relationship? F loves M more than anyone else. He thinks that M is hysterical and it is a game that they are playing. My husband and I usually just sit back and enjoy the show. We particularly enjoy it when F pins M in a corner. F happy to play with his beloved older brother and M screeching to "get it off!!!!"

Nick and I often speculate when this phase will pass and M will accept F as a part of the family and not an invader. While I do find it entertaining, I do hope it is soon. The thought of F chasing M around the house when they are teenagers frightens me. I mean, I know that the teen years will be interesting, but I would hope that M no longer fears contact with F. They should have other, more ridiculous things to fight over by then.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When in doubt, just cut off all your hair

I have never been one of those women who is afraid to experiment with their hair. I have worn my hair long, short, brown, red and yes, even blonde. My hair has always been something that I accessorized with, taking an "it will always grow back if I hate it" mentality.

During my pregnancy with F, my hair grew at lightening speed. It was crazy. Even my obstetrician - a guy - often commented on how long my hair was getting. The quick pace of growth didn't seem to slow after I had F either.

It had been a long time since I had worn my hair long and I began to remember the perks of lengthy tresses. When I didn't have time to shower, I could sweep it all back into a ponytail. It got long enough to create elaborate styles when I had the time and a large messy bun when I didn't. I was really enjoying the long hair. It made me feel more feminine in a house packed to the gills with testosterone.

Then it started to fall out. A lot. One morning in the shower, I pulled out a handful of my hair. It was shocking. It was really gross. It was going to clog my drains. This continued for a few weeks and the stress of losing my hair created more stress, thus inciting a vicious cycle of stress and hair loss. Tumbleweeds of hair danced down my hallways and it looked like we had adopted a long-haired molting animal of some kind.

I finally lost my cool. Since I had worn my hair short before, I knew that chopping it all off would be no big deal. But my previous short hairstyles had all been high maintenance and I do not have time for blow drying and styling and all that other crap. No. This time, I needed to go shorter. Super short. Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby short.

I'll admit it. I was scared. I have a few renegade cowlicks in my hair. What if they rebelled and I looked like Alfafa or Dennis the Menace? What if I just looked like a guy? What would I do without the safety net of a ponytail? Then again, what if my children started coughing up hair balls? How much would it cost me to have every drain in my house snaked by a plumber to evacuate the hair blockage created by my fleeting mane? I went online. I found a picture of a haircut that I liked. I went to see my hairstylist, Roland. I gave him the picture.

I told Roland my problem and what I was thinking about doing. Roland has been cutting my hair for five years, so he has a pretty good understanding of my impulsive hair tendencies. But this time, I made it clear that I only wanted him to do it if he thought I could pull it off. He thought I could and I gave him the green light to start cutting.

As long clumps of hair fell victim to the scissors, I began to feel lighter. Sure, my hair would still fall out because that is one of the things that can happen when you have a baby. But at least it wouldn't be quite so shocking. A handful of short hair isn't as jarring as a handful of long hair. When he finished, I was very happy with the cut and glad I made the decision to go short.

When I walked in the front door, C ran up to me, looked at me quizzically and asked, "Mummy, are you you?"

"Yes, I am me. I just had my hair cut." He seemed to accept that as a plausible reason for my new look.

It has taken a some time to adjust to seeing my reflection. After two months of short hair, I am just now expecting to see short hair in the middle. I also got back about twenty minutes of my life a day because washing this close crop takes no time and I don't have to dry or even brush it.

I am sure that I will grow it out again at some point in my life, but I am enjoying my new 'do and the hair-free floors and drains that come along with it.

Mamas, do you have any good child-inducing haircut stories? I want to hear them!