Forget the must-have bag, ditch the little black dress, if you really want to be fashionable, wear a baby. No one will notice your clothes, just the little cherub attached to you. Babywearing has gotten me through many days with a clingy child or a nursing constantly child. It has allowed James to nurse and sleep through church services and caucuses. What is babywearing? Exactly what you would guess: carrying your baby around in a sling or otherwise attached to you.

Baby in Ring SlingThere are so many benefits to babywearing, it’s hard to know where to start! Babywearing lets you keep baby close, while keeping your hands free and your arms from getting tired. Carried around this way, baby gets to see lots of things that he wouldn’t while sitting still in an infant seat. It’s wonderful stimulation for that little brain. Having your baby close also helps build the bond with your child. You become quicker to pick up on baby’s cues. Baby’s needs get met sooner, so baby cries less. One study found that carrying an infant 3 hours a day reduced crying by 43%! In many baby carriers, you can breastfeed in public, and no one has any idea what is going on.

Other than the necessities of clothes and diapers, I think a good baby carrier is most important thing new parents can have. No other thing can do so much to ease the early days of parenthood. Babywearing is not just for little babies, though. My son is 14 months now, and big for his age. I don’t plan to stop carrying him any time soon. The mei tai (a type of carrier) is the only way I can get him to nurse and nap on the go these days.

The absolute best thing about babywearing is the sweetness of having a tiny little person completely happy being snuggled up to mom or dad, radiating the soft perfume of warm baby.

I’ll post more later on the different types of carriers and how to make your own so you don’t have to sell a kidney to afford a carrier.


Eschewing Baby Einstein

I feel that parenting is like wandering around in a maze without a map. There are so many things to keep in balance: giving your child enough attention, but teaching them to spend time on their own too; buying the things your child needs, without overindulging wants; setting limits, but not expecting more than they are developmentally capable of; and many more. I chose the name “Charting the Labyrinth” for this blog because I hope that by sharing my experiences and discoveries I might save someone else from the same doubts or at least let them realize that they are not alone with those feelings.

Today’s quandry is: how many toys should a child have? I try to live simply and consume intentionally. The fewer things we have in our house, the less time we spend cleaning and caring for them, the more space we have, and the less money we spend. Plus, less energy is wasted on manufacturing things we don’t need. When I buy something, I try to remember to ask myself: Is this something I actually need? Would it really make me happier? Where am I going to keep this? Do I already have something I could use instead? When it comes to toys, I don’t know the answer to the first question. What is the optimal number and type of toys for a child to have? I don’t want to deprive James. I want him to have enough toys to keep him entertained and ensure good brain stimulation. But I don’t want to spend more money than necessary, and I don’t want to bring clutter into our house for no reason.

I avoid trendy toys such as most Baby Einstein products. So many of them have only one use without much room for creativity. I prefer more classic toys that allow a child to experiment, invent new uses, and pretend. Usually James is pretty happy. He will cheerfully play by himself, crawling under chairs, “reading” books, driving his trucks around the living room. It doesn’t seem like he is missing anything. Then we go to ECFE or some else’s house. There is a parking garage with a ramp for cars or a little train that he can ride on or push in front of him. He loves it. I think to myself, I should really get that for James. He is missing out because he doesn’t have a toy like that.

How have other parents dealt with this? How do you figure out if it is a honest recognition of what is best for your child that is speaking these things in your mind, or if it is just the consumerism of our culture talking? Am I simply too submerged in the “judge our worth by what we buy” mentality? How can I even start answering these questions? I don’t have the option to step outside of all cultural influences and analyze my feelings with logic alone. I don’t know of any scientific studies that have looked at this. I guess I just keep doing what I’m doing: Talking with my mom friends and muddling through.

Does anyone out there in blog-land have any suggestions?

This Morning’s Dilemma

James finished his breakfast quickly this morning, so I cleaned him up, he crawled off to play, and I sat down to finish my breakfast. A minute later, he crawled back dragging a book and wanting me to read it to him. This sweet little boy just wanted his mommy to read to him. Could there be a better desire for a 14-month old to have? I love, and want to encourage, his interest in books, but I wanted to finish my breakfast too. He needs to learn that he doesn’t always get what he wants, and sometimes he needs to wait, so I opted for telling him that I would read the book after I finished eating. He kept trying to shove the book at me and started crying. I felt awful denying him, especially since I wasn’t sure if he understood that he would get his book read in just a minute, but I stuck to my decision. It seems that parenting means a lot of having your heart pulled in different directions. We did sit and read for quite a while after breakfast.

Unreal Reality

I was listening to the radio this morning while going about my chores and heard a rebroadcast of an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift. Basically he is concerned about the rising number of unmotivated and underachieving boys. I know this is something that we have been hearing for a few years now, our boys are in trouble, but what really got to me was a comment about success in video games being more important to these boys than success in real life. This scares me.

It really irks me when someone says “sigh” instead of actually sighing or says “LOL” instead of actually laughing. The emoticon vocabulary is a poor approximation of the depth and nuance that make human interactions so special. Leave the emoticons online! Similarly, World of Warcraft should be a fun diversion, not an obsession that becomes a substitute for real life achievement. If you see the moon outside and comment with surprise that it looks a lot like the moon in WoW, you need to spend more time away from the computer.

I know these games can be great fun. Before James’ birth, my husband, my sister, my sister’s husband, and I had our own guild in WoW. I miss being able to play with them, but I’m not willing to pay for a subscription that I don’t have time to use much any more. Real life and spending time with my wonderful son take precedence over an enjoyable but ultimately meaningless experience.

There are so many areas where a drive to succeed is needed, why waste it on the virtual world? I know that in real life it takes a lot longer to make a difference, and there there are fewer accolades for those who do make a difference, but the potential reward is so much greater. Reducing poverty, slowing climate change, dealing with peak oil, resolving your-favorite-international-conflict: all of these require involvement not apathy. It is easier to be cool online, but a friendship with someone who knows and cares about the true you is much more satisfying. I believe the popularity of Brad Paisley’s song “Online” is proof that he hit a nerve for quite a few people.

I plan on reading Dr. Sax’s book, and I am sure I will have more to say when I do. For now, let’s just be careful that our virtual fun is not at the cost of things that truly matter.

Just Two Too Much

As a parent, you sometimes have sudden insights, not always the most profound, but insights nonetheless. Today, mine was a bit on the “eww” side. I realized why number two is called number two.

When changing a diaper of a too squirmy child, unless you have two people there to do the change, there are two hands and two feet too many to keep out of the way. What a mess!