In Pursuit of Good Behavior: Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church

I am about to do something stupid.

I’m about to hit “publish” on a blog post on how to get children to behave well in church, mere hours before taking my own children to Mass. They’re going to be terrible – I just know it.

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church - 1

Anyway!

Generally speaking (and I cringe to say this – see above), my children are pretty well behaved at church. We – cringe – even receive compliments on their behavior. (Of course, these might better reflect our fellow parishioners’ expectations upon seeing three small boys and a baby ushered into a pew, but I’ll take them.)

Since it seems to be a perennial question on social media (and because I’m a glutton for punishment), I thought I’d share our strategy for getting our children to refrain from causing a ruckus during Mass. But I’m not going to lie to you – it is not made up of quick fixes. There is no magic bullet – at all, for anything – when it comes to children. There’s a lot of hard work, a few clever ideas, and a decent measure of luck.

In this post, I’m going to first offer you the two “hard work” elements of our strategy and then the six that might fall into the “clever ideas” category. The luck is up to you.

1. We have an expectation that our children will obey us.

Our kids operate under the assumption that when Mommy or Daddy say to do x,y,z, it is to be done. They certainly don’t obey us all the time, but we have reasonable confidence that when we give them a direction, they’ll follow it.

To some, this will seem so obvious as to not be worth mentioning. To others, it will seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea. Either way, unless you’ve been blessed with a child who is naturally mild-mannered (not us!) and pleasing to the general public, it’s the most basic of foundations for functioning well outside the home. (And inside the home too, I’d wager.) We have to trust that when we tell our child to stop and we raise an eyebrow and give him that look, he’ll stop.

How do we do this? How have we gotten to the point where we can reasonably expect our children to obey us, at least in public? Lots of hard work. Lots of consistency, follow-through, consequences… and some yelling. I’ll admit it.

2. Our children are able to sit for the duration of a meal.

I figure that if our children are unable to sit for any length of time in our home, they’ll be unable to do so anywhere else either. Partly for that reason, but mostly because I just think that meals should be eaten at tables, we insist that our children stay seated for the duration of every meal. This is not always easy. It is not uncommon for our meals to be punctuated with, “Sit on your bottom. Sit on your bottom. Sit on your bottom. I said, sit on your bottom.”

In our home, you stay strapped in a booster until you can demonstrate that you’re able to stay seated without it. We’re currently in the transition stage with our two-year-old. If the mood is right, we’ll let him sit there unstrapped, but once he starts trying to get up (and ignores our calls for him to sit back down), we strap him in. He’s learning.

At any rate, I really think the meal thing helps. Our boys are used to sitting in one place three times a day, for between 20 and 60 minutes a pop. So while sitting in church can be a challenge, it’s not a shock to the system.

3. We have age-appropriate expectations for how our children should behave in Mass.

First of all, let’s just make an exception for the 12-24 month range, shall we? My husband and I have found, with each of our children, that little babies in church are no big deal. Bigger babies may need some creative hushing when they become vocal, but they’re still not that difficult. But then you bang up against mobility. From the time our children can crawl through the time (somewhere around the age of two) we can begin to reason with them, there’s just really not much to be done. We can try all the strategies above and below, but it’s always going to be a crapshoot.

In that age range, we keep them in Mass as long as possible, but if they become disruptive, we take them to the back of the church. I prefer to stand in the vestibule with the child, letting him walk around but not run, hushing him when necessary, and demonstrating to him that I’m still paying attention to the Mass. My husband sometimes prefers to take the child downstairs or outside.

Beyond that age, we start with two simple requirements: Our child is to be quiet (not silent!) and he is to stay in the pew. He may whisper, he may move around, he may climb up onto the seat, off the seat, onto the seat, off the seat – he just has to stay in the pew.

Once our child has mastered those two expectations, we add more. He has to stop climbing… he has to stop talking… he has to sit. Ultimately, he’ll have to sit still. (Our oldest is five; we’re not to that last one yet.) We add requirements as our boys are able to handle them and we try to keep them as simple as possible.

4. We talk with our children beforehand about our expectations.

The first Mass behavior expectations we ever voiced to our oldest son were “Remember that you have to be quiet, you have to stay with Mommy and Daddy, and you should set a good example for your brother.” His brother was a baby – he was not yet paying attention to anyone’s example. But the idea that he was the big kid, that he had a big-kid responsibility – it stuck with our oldest. So we still use it.

On our way to Mass, or as we walk from the car into the church, we say something like, “Remember, you’ll be in church. We are not here to play; we are here to pray and to think about Jesus and to thank God for all the good things in our lives. You need to be quiet and you need to set a good example for your brothers.”

We also have particular instructions for those who need them. One of our sons has a tendency to end up sprawled across the pew, his head on our laps. So he is told to sit up straight. Talkers who think they are whisperers get told not to talk at all.

5. We model good Mass behavior. (In other words, we mostly ignore the kids.)

The last part of that line might get me in trouble. To be clear, I don’t mean that we actually ignore our children. I just mean that we utilize those eyes we have in the backs of our heads to monitor them and we reserve the ones in the fronts of our heads for the altar.

I try to keep track of what my boys are doing without making eye contact with them. That may sound cold, but I’m just trying to discourage my chatty guys from starting a conversation. Or from doing something silly to make me laugh. So I sit or stand or kneel (as the case may be), my body and mind oriented as much as possible toward the Mass, and I encourage my children to do the same.

6. We snuggle our children.

While I try not to engage directly with our children during Mass, I do try to take advantage of those quiet, holy moments to be lovingly, physically present to them. I sit with my arms around my boys, I stroke their backs, I give them a pat. When it’s time to sing, I open the hymnal with them, singing in their ears and tracing my finger across the notes on the page. I hope that our one hour in Mass every week begins to take hold in their little minds as a time for tenderness and love.

7. We explain things at appropriate moments. (And sometimes the most appropriate moment is after Mass.)

I want my kids to understand as much as possible about the Mass, and anyway I want to get/keep their interest, so when the time seems right, I’ll lean over and whisper a “Did you hear what Father said there?” or “Can you see what he’s doing?” I offer a quick explanation and then go back to my ignoring/snuggling strategy.

If my boys ask a genuine question that can be easily and simply answered, I go for it. But only if the timing seems appropriate and I don’t think we’ll be disruptive to our fellow parishioners. If they’re asking a question that requires a more complicated response, we tell them we’ll answer it when Mass is over.

8. We bring small distractions (just small ones) to church with us.

We are a thirsty family, never traveling anywhere without a beverage (and my boys are all pretty much addicted to milk), so I’m sure to always stow their sippy cups/bottle in my purse. They make for a great distraction when the first wave of wiggles hits. But beyond that, we keep it very spare. We never bring snacks, because crumbs and wrapper noises and my thing about thinking tables are important. Sometimes I will bring a couple of quiet toys for a baby, but mostly I keep it to one or two books per child. Just religious ones. The images contained in them not only help to keep the boys occupied, but provide a jumping-off point for their questions and imaginations. And I think that’s important.

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church - 2

So that’s how we do it. I’ve probably seen dozens of strategies in my people-observing and blog-reading days, but this is the one that works for us. I offer it here for the curious or the desperate or the only vaguely annoyed. Good luck!

(And wish me luck too – we’re off to Mass shortly.)

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church

Spring and Baby Toes Are Good For the Soul: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 40)

—1—

All I can think about these days is blogging. Every time my mind wanders, that’s where it goes. Ideas, phrases, revisions, revisits… I feel like a dieting person who can’t stop thinking about steak. I can’t tell whether this is a nudge to find some solution to my current logistical hurdles (i.e. all the little children, all the time), or an unhealthy obsession. It’s probably the latter.

—2—

Speaking of unhealthy obsessions, I had such an election-day hangover on Wednesday. Whoo-wee, was I in a funk. Mostly because of Trump’s growing number of delegates and Rubio’s exit from the race, but also because too few people viewed my post and told me how right I was.

I just can’t describe how much this Donald Trump thing is bothering me. I honestly think his election, should it come to pass (please Lord, no) would be second only to September 11th in the ranking of Worst Things I’ve Ever Lived Through. Every time I think about it my blood pressure skyrockets.

—3—

So it is a DARNED GOOD THING that spring is beginning to make itself obvious. We’ve had such nice weather lately and I’ve been trying to overcome my homebody tendencies to take advantage of it.

These Walls - 7QT40 - 1

These Walls - 7QT40 - 2

These Walls - 7QT40 - 3

These Walls - 7QT40 - 4

I’m getting really eager for summer.

—4—

Another good thing? This girl. My, how I love her.

 

With each of my other babies, I experienced periods of resentment during the newborn period. (Can I say that?) No, beloved boys who might one day read this – the resentment had nothing to do with you. I’m totally chalking it up to hormones, to those lovely baby blues. But this time I haven’t experienced them at all. (I have felt right on the edge of them, if that makes any sense, but I haven’t actually crossed over.) And it has been so, so nice to be able to look at my baby in full confidence that I’ll just feel love, not a mixed-up combination of love, dread, love, sadness, love, guilt, and love. (Did I mention love enough times there, boys? Because the love was always there too, right alongside the dread.)

—5—

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I made shepherd’s pie and Irish soda bread for dinner last night. I was proud of myself.

These Walls - 7QT40 - 5

Oh – and green cookies, which didn’t come out of the oven until 8:30 pm, so I was all, “Hurry, hurry boys! Eat those cookies quickly so we can brush your teeth!”

These Walls - 7QT40 - 6

(See, I’m such a bad blogger I didn’t even bother to make that picture all pretty-like. Nope, just a quick snap of yesterday’s cookies in a plastic storage bowl.) I got the recipe (to which I added lots of green food coloring) from an infinitely better blogger.

—5.5—

Oh, hey, I made a couple of flower arrangements recently for my mom and grandmom’s birthdays. I’m proud of myself for them too. Totally worth staying up until 2am.

These Walls - 7QT40 - 7

—6—

On a more serious note, those of you who have been reading for some time (or who are friends or family) might know that my mother-in-law has been living with us for a couple of years.

Well, almost exactly two years after she moved in, Hilde is getting ready to leave. It just wasn’t working. I would appreciate any prayers you could offer over the next couple of weeks that the transition goes smoothly for all involved. Vielen Dank.

—7—

Baby toes. Aren’t baby toes a great cure for what ails you?

These Walls - 7QT40 - 8

Well, I’m off to my favorite two hours of the week: Diane Rehm’s Friday News Round-Up. Let’s hope I can keep my blood pressure down.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. Be sure to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the other Quick Takes!

These Walls - Spring and Baby Toes Are Good For the Soul (7QT40)

Putting Out Fires

I’d forgotten what it was like to live like this — running nonstop, spending my entire day putting out fires.

Inching out from under the sleeping baby to nominally prepare myself for the day. Making the Kindergartener’s lunch. Preparing bottles for two, sippy cups for two. Waking and dressing three (except one never needs to be woken — he’s always squawking in his crib before I’m ready to get him). Feeding everyone. Cleaning up each in turn. Dealing with the inevitable spit-up and leaky diapers as they (sometimes literally) come at me. Brushing teeth and hair. Hugging and kissing my loves as they walk out the door.

Washing dishes, changing diapers, breaking up fights, nursing the baby, making bottles, preparing meals, wiping counters, attempting laundry, emptying the trash, stealing the spilled-over recycling back from the toddler. Over and over again.

Anticipating a break because everyone has finally been fed and the littlest ones are finally napping, only to have them both wake up on you. Rejoicing at getting all three boys to bed, only to have the baby wail for hours. Soaking in the quiet after everyone else in the house has fallen asleep, only to find it impossible to keep my eyes open.

The Kindergartener keeps asking to do his math games on my computer, but I’ve hardly turned it on in weeks, let alone taken the time to figure out the login his teacher sent home from school.

I’m not sure I’m feeding or bathing or holding the baby enough. This morning I left her in spit-up-soaked clothing for hours because she fell asleep before I had time to change her.

One child has been manufacturing drama to get my attention, another has been going overboard in telling me how much he loves me. The third just wants to be held. (Also, he’s about to turn two and expertly playing the part already.)

I’m edgy — worn thin and anxious about how little capacity I’ve had to tap out my thoughts (presidential campaign! drama at my alma mater! life with a new baby!) on the keyboard. Hence this quick attempt at a blog post via smartphone.

I’m tired, but the wired sort of tired where you hardly sit down for fear you won’t be able to get back up again. Brennan is more tired than I am — migraine tired, asleep-on-your-feet tired.

Yet it is good, living like this.

I’d forgotten how delightfully smushy a newborn feels in your arms. I’d forgotten how they smile in their sleep and splay their hands out in front of them. I’d forgotten how a baby’s big siblings will fall over each other to be close to her.

image

I’d forgotten how much easier, despite all the work and all the rushing, it is to acclimate to having a new baby in your home when you’ve done it a few times already.

I’d forgotten how nice it is to hand off your baby to a room full of eager family members and then how much sweeter it is to get her back from them when the party’s over.

I’d forgotten how generous people can be.

I’d forgotten about all the looks of love and longing you see aimed in your direction when you carry a new baby around with you.

Yes. It is good, living like this.

(Even when you need to remind yourself of the fact as you run from one fire to the next.)

It is good.

image

FLOP {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 19)

{pretty,happy,funny,real}

{pretty}

I thought it would be nice to do {phfr} this week, so I reviewed my phone’s photos (no idea where my regular camera is at the moment) to see what I could come up with. And I found, like, three shots that the average person would consider {pretty}. Which are pretty much duplicates of each other:

These Walls - PHFR19 - 1

These Walls - PHFR19 - 2

These Walls - PHFR19 - 3

See?

Otherwise, all I have to show you are scenes that are “boy” pretty, if you will. You know, like pirates and scaffolding and a jungle’s worth of animals gathered around a single model tree.

These Walls - PHFR19 - 4

These Walls - PHFR19 - 5

These Walls - PHFR19 - 6

Such is my life these days: a slice of regular pretty frosted with a thick layer of the boy variety.

{happy}

Those boys are so sweet, though. They make me so {happy}. This weekend they earned their own money for the first time. Their cousin had lost a small toy she’d brought with her to my parents’ house, so my oldest son asked his grandma:

“Can I do some work so you can give me some money, so I can give it to Caroline, so she can give it to her mommy to buy a new Mikey?”

My preggo heart was full to bursting – my boy (sniff, sniff) wants to earn money so he can (sniff, sniff) buy his cousin a replacement for the toy she lost? (Sob!)

Both boys did a little cleaning around the house (just toys – not much of a feat) and when they’d finished, my mom paid them each SIX quarters. Man, oh man – were they proud of themselves!

These Walls - PHFR19 - 7

No, they’re not begging for food — they’re showing off their hard-earned quarters.

And all’s well that ends well: My niece found her toy, so the boys get to keep their earnings. Now to decide what to do with them!

{funny}

Though my morning sickness is tapering off a bit, it still won’t let go entirely. Which is mostly annoying, but once in a while makes for some {funny} when it has the effect of keeping me on the sofa. Because sometimes when I sit on the sofa, my boys decide to do my hair. With tools.

These Walls - PHFR19 - 8

These Walls - PHFR19 - 9

These Walls - PHFR19 - 10

These Walls - PHFR19 - 11

These Walls - PHFR19 - 12

These Walls - PHFR19 - 13

{real}

I’m kind of cheating here – I grabbed this pic out of my files from a couple of years ago and doctored it up to fit the following {real} thing around here this week:

FLOP

These Walls - PHFR19 - 14

Yep, my “7 Posts in 7 Days” was a flop. Sigh. Why do I do these things to myself? There was no way I was up to publishing a post every day this week. No way, no how.

Morning sickness is still hanging on. Baby hasn’t been sleeping well. We’ve had commitments. Brennan’s been completely occupied with the roof. Boys have been bickering. I keep walking into the kitchen to find the baby on the table. Then I turn around to find him back up there.

These Walls - PHFR19 - 15

But I’m going to take Heather’s advice and try to KEEP GOING. I’ve blogged more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I have another post partially-drafted on paper and more in the beginning stages in my head. I have some wind behind my sails. So forget the 7 in 7, right? I’m going to KEEP GOING.

These Walls - PHFR19 - 16

Thanks for joining me, all! Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 34): He’s Not Afraid to Climb the Roof, But I’m Afraid to Ride a Bike

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Wait, what did I say about posting every day this week? Because yesterday came and went, and as far as I know, I didn’t post a thing. (Shhh…)

For those of you visiting from 7QT, here are links to Monday’s (late) 7QT post, Tuesday’s post on a man who saved 669 children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII, and Wednesday’s post on my 12-week sono and thoughts about mothering all boys.

There’s more to come – I promise.

—2—

If there’s one subject that I’ll spend hours writing on and still not get it right enough to publish, it’s racism. That was my problem yesterday, and it’s been my problem many times before. Can’t… quite… get… up… the… nerve!

—3—

After a kind of foggy/dreamy Wednesday because I was living inside my head, trying (to no avail) to get that racism post right, I took a break yesterday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Brennan had taken off work to tackle a project (see below), so we all spent more time outside than usual. I made a stab at weeding the jungle behind our house, the baby sat in his stroller (poor guy – I don’t trust him to roam free), the boys busied themselves with sidewalk chalk and sand, and Brennan went about his work…

—4—

… which kind of terrifies me.

These Walls - 7QT34 - 1

Do you see the chimney at the top of that photo? Well, there are some pieces of (wooden) siding just next to it that are rotting because there used to be a leak in the roof. We had the roof replaced a couple of years ago (THAT was a PROJECT), so the leak is no longer an issue, but the rotted siding still needs to be replaced. (Or at least that’s how I understand the situation.)

Anyway, Brennan is a worker-bee kind of a guy who would rather do just about any home-repair job himself rather than pay someone else to do it. So here we are. He bought scaffolding (which he plans to use in the future to paint the entire exterior of the house), a harness and other safety equipment (thank goodness), and replacement siding, etc.

Now he’s off to the races. Yesterday he erected the scaffolding and secured it to the house. I believe today he’ll be building some sort of a platform to reach the roof. Then, hopefully, he’ll be able to complete the actual siding work.

Please pray that he does it all safely!

—5—

As I said above, we all – including both boys – spent more time outside yesterday than usual. For one child, “more than usual” ended up being a couple of hours, maybe. For the other – my lover of the great outdoors, his Daddy’s helper and shadow – “more” meant all day. It was so sweet to see: He followed Brennan back and forth between the house and the garage, he helped me weed the garden, he drew “storms” all over the brick patio, he played in the grass next to the scaffolding while Brennan worked to build it, and he even ate his lunch on a picnic blanket with a perfect view of the thing.

I love that child.

These Walls - 7QT34 - 2

These Walls - 7QT34 - 3

These Walls - 7QT34 - 4

—6—

Since I’ve got a whole “link to an article and write some commentary on it” thing going this week, I thought I ought to include at least one such piece in this 7QT. A light one, with a little personal story rather than commentary. So here’s a Wall Street Journal article on adults who never learned how to ride a bike.

Alas, I fit into this category.

In my case it wasn’t the whole “kids don’t spend much time outside anymore because of cable and videogames” thing – I spent plenty of time outside. It’s just that my outdoors time was mostly spent loading my favorite possessions into a little red wagon, trekking through the neighbor’s yard as if across the prairies, and then building forts behind his forsythia bush.

For me, it was that we lived on a pretty busy rural road, so we didn’t have a ready-made place to practice. And I needed ready-made, because I was a huge wimp about it. My brother grew up in the same house and on the same road I did, obviously, but once our dad had taught him the basics in the back yard, he took off with it. Soon enough, Eric was riding through the yards and the little streets behind our house. Later, he got into triathlons and long-distance cycling.

(Yes, he and I are very different.) When our dad taught me the basics of bicycle riding in the backyard, that’s where I stayed. To this day, I can make a bike go, but I can’t safely make it turn or stop. If I’m lucky, I’ll do a continuous loop of big, wide circles in the grass.

But really, I can only think of one time in my life when my inability to ride a bike was anything near problematic. And that would be on the campus of Stanford University in the fall of 2000. My senior year of college, I was dating a guy who had just started a master’s program at Stanford. I flew out to visit him a couple of times (which felt like a BIG DEAL) and found, to my dismay, that riding bikes around campus was the thing. My boyfriend had borrowed a bike for me to use, and he clearly intended for us to spend much of the weekend seeing the sights on two wheels.

“But I don’t know how to ride a bike.”

“What do you mean, you ‘don’t know how to ride a bike?’”

“I mean, I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never really learned. I can make one go, but that’s it – I don’t know how to control it.”

He was flummoxed and incredulous and determined that we were going to ride bikes anyway. (Clue #47 that he was not the right guy for me.) So I got on that bike and white-knuckled it across campus. I honestly don’t know how I made it. I know I was terrified, especially whenever we were near roads. I also know I was shaky and wobbly and just about at the end of my rope. On the return from our lunch (or whatever kind of outing it was), my luck ran out: I first ran into a (parked) car, throwing the bike out of the way to avoid damaging the vehicle. A few minutes later, I ran full-on into a bush. At that point, I snapped.

I do not know how to ride a bike. I will not do something I am uncomfortable with.” (Death stare in his direction. Clue #48.)

Fun fact: Just before I was due to fly out to Stanford the second time, the boyfriend dumped me. As I had already purchased the ticket (and had very little money at the time), I informed him that I would still be coming. One night I prepared he and his roommates a delicious home-made dinner that caused the roommates to gush that I was a princess and that the (ex)boyfriend should marry me at once. 😉 The other night, I made him take me out to an expensive dinner. It was overlooking the Pacific and incredibly elegant and I ordered whatever. I. wanted.

—7—

Back to my life in the here and now. (And can I just tell you, when I think back on that boyfriend, how very, very grateful I am to have ended up with Brennan?)

I forgot to include sono pictures in Wednesday’s post! So here’s our little cutie #4:

These Walls - 7QT34 - 5

These Walls - 7QT34 - 6

Have a very happy weekend, everyone! Don’t forget to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the rest of the Quick Takes!

These Walls - 7QT34 - 7

 

7 Quick Takes… Monday? (Vol. 33) – A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox

Yes, I realize that 7 Quick Takes are supposed to be a Friday thing. And that it’s been months and months since I’ve linked up to 7QT (Hi Kelly! It’s my first time linking up with you!) But hey, my morning sickness is beginning to fade so I am blogging. That’s good enough for me.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Other than the sobbing child who attempted to chase us down the driveway as we pulled out (stab me in the heart, why don’t you?), last last weekend’s wedding/anniversary festivities went really well.

On Saturday we jumped from (1) a formal wedding at a gorgeous gothic-style downtown church to (2) a more casual outdoor wedding at a country club just outside the city, then (3) back downtown for a waterfront reception on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Whew!

Both weddings were lovely, both brides beautiful, both families happy. We were able to visit with both sides of my family, we enjoyed a delicious meal, great views, and even a special dance for our anniversary. I call that a win!

These Walls - 7QT33: A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox - 1

On Sunday we celebrated my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with almost every member of my mom’s side of the family. With relatives having flown in from San Diego, St. Louis, and Chicago, I believe we hit over 60 people, missing only my Uncle’s family in Maine.

As one of my aunts put it, “So glad to be sharing the 60th celebration with these two in the same way we grew up – a casual picnic, surrounded by kids & adults alike running around catching frogs & lightning bugs, playing games, singing & dancing. Always someone passing a baby or toddler to another to enjoy, & simply catching up with the everyday events as the generations grow!”

She’s right – the anniversary party was very ‘us’ – a potluck meal, lots of talking and laughing, lawn games, group pictures, kids running around in packs, even random wildlife. Granddad kept saying that we shouldn’t have made such a fuss, but I think we made just the right kind of fuss.

These Walls - 7QT33: A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox - 2

—2—

I’m enjoying reading the recap posts from those who attended this year’s Edel Gathering. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I very much regret that I wasn’t able to hear Rachel Balducci’s talk, watch Jen Fulwiler record her radio show, witness Rachael Escandon’s craaaazy shoes, visit the beautiful city of Charleston, and hang out with so very, very many wonderful women. But I don’t at all regret missing out on the extreme humidity or (worse yet) the hotel’s plumbing problems. Not. at. all.

—3—

Here’s something I never thought I’d be glad to hear: “Jude spit on me!”

My poor little three-year-old was suffering a stomach bug last week. The other morning, once he finally seemed settled and the baby had gone down for his nap, I grabbed a quick shower. I’d given firm instructions to my oldest to run to get me if the baby started screaming or the three-year-old needed my help. So imagine the panic that set in when I heard a shriek shortly after I’d gotten out of the shower: “Mommy!… mumble, mumble… MOMMY!… indiscernible shouting (during which I imagined vomit sprayed over half my family room)… Mommy!… Jude spit on me!”

Aaah…. What a relief! I’ll take a brotherly spat over vomit clean-up any day.

—4—

And here’s something I never thought I’d have to say: “If you see a fox, I want you to run as fast as you can back to the house!”

My mother-in-law returned from her hair appointment the other day to tell us that her hairdresser had recently had a terrifying experience right in front of our house. The woman was walking up the street when she saw a skinny, mangy-looking fox run out of the woods. And it chased her! She started running, but it kept chasing her, and she was seriously frightened for her safety until some Jeep pulled up and placed itself between her and the fox. The fox attacked the Jeep’s tires and the woman ran to safety.

So that’s just great, isn’t it?

(And what a quick-thinking, amazingly helpful person that Jeep’s driver was!)

It looks like we have a very sick, possibly rabid fox in our neighborhood. I didn’t let the boys go outside to play (well, the one wasn’t feeling up to it anyway) for a few days, but I finally let them out with that warning. I can’t keep them indoors forever, can I?

—5—

We’re officially in the phase where I walk into the kitchen to find the baby standing on the table. I hate this phase.

These Walls - 7QT33: A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox - 3

—6—

When it comes to caring for small children, workloads are a funny thing, aren’t they?

In some ways it doesn’t take that much more effort to care for three than it does for one – you’re already cooking the meals and doing the laundry and running the errands, so what’s a bit more? At any rate, my first child was much harder to work around than my three now are together. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He wanted me to be engaged with him during each of his waking moments. They have each other to play with, so they come to me for mommy things: comfort, nourishment, arbitration. They go to their brothers for entertainment.

But on the other hand, caring for three sometimes seems exponentially harder than caring for one. For instance, in the last two weeks, my two older boys attended swim lessons together while the baby and I participated in a little Mommy and Me swim class. (It seemed like the best way to keep him from screaming for the duration of the boys’ lessons.) It was great: the boys loved their lessons, I could watch their progress from the other side of the pool, and the baby was sometimes kinda sorta happy to be in the water. But it was so exhausting.

Getting everybody up and fed and dressed and out of the house each morning… keeping up with the pool bag and the towels and swimsuits… crouching on the pool deck to pull off boys’ shoes and shirts and hand them their “gobbles” (definitely my favorite preschool mispronunciation)… then rushing over to the other side of the pool to pull off my own cover-up and wrestle the baby into his swim diaper and suit… wrangling everybody into a changing room afterward… managing four rounds of showers and drying off and dressing…

Exhausting!

The last two days of lessons, the three-year-old was in the middle of his stomach bug, so my husband went into work late so our oldest could still finish his lessons. The baby was left home too, for convenience’ sake. And it was so much easier! Taking one child to swim lessons is about 100 times easier than taking three and being in one of the classes yourself. I seriously felt like waving my (empty!) arms around to demonstrate just how freeeee I felt.

Next year’s kindergarten/preschool combo? I’m coming for you!

These Walls - 7QT33: A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox - 4

—7—

As I mentioned above, my morning sickness seems to be fading away. Thank the Lord! I still have it for much of the day, but the intensity is decreasing and I’m actually starting to have some short windows in which I don’t feel sick at all. And I have some energy – what an amazing feeling!

So I think the time is right for a little jump-start to my blogging efforts. Partly inspired by the 7 drawings in 7 days Heather is just finishing up (they’re great! check them out!), I thought I’d commit to 7 posts in 7 days.

But, needing to not get too ahead of myself, these posts are going to be pretty simple. Every day I run across news articles or blog posts or radio segments that make me want to answer them aloud with my own take on the situation. So that’s what I’m going to do. For each of the next seven days, I’ll take a recent item (by someone much more original than myself) and I’ll comment on it. That’s it, but that’s something!

I hope to ‘see’ you back here this week for my itty bitty baby steps back to regular blogging. And I hope you’ll go check out the other Quick Takes over at Kelly’s. (For those of my readers who don’t regularly follow Quick Takes, 7QT used to be hosted by Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary, but now it’s hosted by Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum.) Have a great week!

7QT33

Another to Love

On Saturday I wished a happy Independence Day to my friends and family and the blog’s Facebook page with the following photo, captioned:

Happy Fourth of July from me and my FOUR!

These Walls - Another to Love - 1

Yes! We’re expecting our fourth baby! This newest little guy/gal (who are we kidding – it’s probably a guy) is due to arrive around January 31st, 2016. I’m currently about ten weeks along.

In the interest of openness / I can’t seem to get anything else posted these days anyway, I thought I’d pre-emptively answer a few of your questions. (Assuming your questions are anything like the others I’ve received lately.)

1) How are you feeling?

Awful. Thanks for asking.

I’m not actually throwing up, so I know I shouldn’t be complaining (especially because I have a couple of relatives who had that truly awful hyperemesis gravidarum – IV’s and hospitalizations and all), but being nauseous all day, every day really sucks.

(Can I say here how appreciative I am of my ability to get pregnant and how much I love and empathize for my friends who are unable to? And that I realize I’ve been given a tremendous gift in this child? But… that… um… I still don’t like feeling so sick all the time?)

My afternoons have been especially bad, leaving me lying on the sofa trying to keep it together while my boys use me as a prop in their doctor/hairdresser/wild animal play.

These Walls - Another to Love - 2

2) Are you hoping for a girl this time?

Yes. Absolutely. You will not catch me denying it.

Were we trying for a girl? Nope – but do I relish the idea of pretty little dresses and dolls and pink finally making their way into this overly-boyish home? YES.

Not that I think our chances are all that great. Last week I found out that my two girlfriends who had their firsts the same year I did and are now expecting their fourths have each stuck with their own streaks: one is expecting her fourth girl and the other is expecting her fourth boy. So even though I greet 3 boy/1 girl families with “You give me hope!” I can’t help but think our own family is in this all-boy thing for the long haul.

Not that I’d mind having another boy! My boys are three of the best things to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not for girls, not for the world. Should Little One #4 prove to be another boy, I’m sure I’ll feel the same about him.

Indeed, I think my husband would be very happy to welcome another boy. When I announced my pregnancy to him, this big grin spread across his face and he said, long and slow, “Four boys!”

3) What do your boys think about welcoming another baby into the family?

They’re thrilled! They want to know how big the baby’s getting and what she looks like, when they can feel her move in my belly and when she’ll come out. (I say “she” and “her” because they’ve decided they’d like a “sister baby” this time, so of course the baby has got to be a girl. I keep reminding them that they might be getting another brother.)

The five-year-old told me (very seriously) that he knows how much work babies are, so he’ll be sure to help us take care of this new one.

The three-year-old keeps telling people, “My Mommy’s going to have two babies!” To which I quickly follow up: “He means our current baby and the new one. We keep trying to tell him that his little brother will no longer be a baby by the time this new one is born!”

The fifteen-month-old is clueless. It’s probably better that way.

4) Are you sure you’re only ten weeks along? And that you’re not having twins? Because I see that picture of you up there and you definitely look more pregnant than you should.

(Note: This one really should be addressed to nice old ladies at church and kind but nosy grocery clerks.)

Yes, I’m sure about the date and I’m sure I’m not having twins. Yes, I concede that I look more pregnant than I should. Welcome to my world. Some women are shaped like apples, some like pears – I’m shaped like pregnancy.

I don’t really look all that different now than I did before I became pregnant, it’s just that now that I feel so gross, I figure I may as well wear comfy maternity clothes.

That said, I’ve actually lost a few pounds so far from not eating much, yet my non-maternity clothes are fitting a little more snugly around the waist. So I guess my body is already changing shape? I suppose that’s what you get when you’re pregnant for the fourth time in six years!

5) So are we ever going to see you around these parts again? Why haven’t you been blogging lately?

Sadly, I have to point you back to #1. I was so excited at the beginning of the summer to really dig into some good writing, but for the past month I’ve just been feeling so sick. Not only do I feel nauseous and woozy, but I swear my brain has been affected. I have been writing, but I’m having such a hard time putting my ideas together and tying up loose ends that I haven’t been able to finish anything.

Remember that mother’s helper I have coming once a week to watch my boys so I can get in some writing? Well, since the morning sickness kicked in, I’ve spent a couple of those mornings wrestling with words and ideas that just won’t fit into place. And during the other, I took a nap.

I’ve probably got another three to four weeks of feeling sick. I’m really looking forward to August. Though I expect to start feeling better just in time for my mother’s helper to head off to college. (Gah!)

I’m not giving up entirely – I’m going to keep plugging away, keep trying to finish my thoughts – I just can’t make any promises that I’ll succeed.

Until then – whenever “then” may be – I hope you’re well and that you’re enjoying a fun, relaxing summer. I’ll be right here, probably lying on the sofa, surrounded by my hooligans – and waiting on another to love.

These Walls - Another to Love - 3

14 From ‘14

Merry Christmas to you! And a happy New Year too!

As we wrap up 2014, I thought I’d do a little recap o’ the blog to highlight some of my favorite posts from the year. (I’ll admit – it was pretty fun to scroll through them all.) And since I want to do you the favor of making it obvious as to why I chose these particular posts, I thought I’d include each in its own category. So… without further ado (since there’s plenty of it below)… here are 14 From ’14:

1. The most viewed post (and the closest to “viral” that I’ve ever gotten):

When Breast Isn’t Best

Wow. I knew this post in opposition (so to say) to Breastfeeding Awareness Week might attract a bit more attention than usual, but it went and blew “a bit more” out of the water. In the post’s first day, I received nearly ten times as many views as I usually do on post-publishing days and I more than doubled my best day ever. All told, the post has gotten more than a dozen times the views of my average post.

So let’s see… what element of the mommy wars should I tackle next?

(No, no – I’m kidding. Stoking fires just for the fun of it isn’t my thing – there are plenty of others you can go to for that.)

Doubly selfish: using formula and counting on the four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

Doubly selfish: using formula and counting on the four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

2. The post that was hardest to write:

It Is The Same Evil

This thing was a bear to get through. (ISIS? Evil? Hmm… I wonder why?) I worked on it for weeks – weeks in which I felt like I was trudging through mud every time I sat down at the computer. It definitely felt like there was some Resistance at play. When I finished writing the post, I could barely look at the thing, I was so unhappy with it. But with a little more distance, I’ve come to think I did a decent job of it.

3. The post with the best discussion in the combox:

Yes, I Worry About Religious Freedom

This post makes me so happy. Not because I think the piece itself was any work of art, but because it generated such a great discussion in the comments section. This (despite all my mommy ramblings about exhaustion and vomit) is why I started the blog – to encourage discourse on touchy, divisive, important matters of politics and society. Polite discourse, open-minded discourse, respectful discourse. I know this one little post was just the tiniest of drops in the bucket, but it’s my drop and I’m glad to have let it fall.

4. The post with the strangest subject matter:

The Best Possible Mugging

I had a mugging story. I had to tell it!

Yet another incongruous photo. It's not even Washington, it's Germany. But it was taken around the same time as the events in this post.

Yet another incongruous photo. It’s not even Washington, it’s Germany. But it was taken around the same time as the events in this post.

5. The post that would make the best sitcom episode:

Epilogue (Please) To The Day Of The Snake And The Water

Snake slithering out of a basket of my sons’ toys? Jumping toilets? Brown water shooting out of a toilet’s tank and at my face? It’s my own brand of slapstick!

1277346_10152472105437438_3904545056764739344_o

6. The post that most pulls on my heartstrings:

Single Lady Gets A Family

During my single twenties, I began to think I might never have a family of my own. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that I was wrong.

2603_55796858780_404863_n

7. The funniest (in a desperate sort of way) post:

Think Of Your Closets

“If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer young people at this very moment, it would be: Don’t be a pack-rat. And if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to be a pack-rat, make sure to be an organized one.”

P1180186

8. The bossiest post:

Why You Should Vote – Even When It Feels Like It Doesn’t Make A Difference

In which I use guilt and just a little bit of elections expertise to strong-arm you into becoming a regular voter.

IMAG0186

 

9. The post with the most (and maybe the best?) pictures:

Taking A Weekend For Us

Brennan and I went away for a weekend before the baby was born – without our boys. It was heavenly. I took lots of pictures.

wpid-20140201_112656_9.jpg

10. The post that best showcases my boys’ narcoleptic tendencies:

Greetings From The Land Of Nod… Nod… Nodding Off

New here? My boys fall asleep all. the. time. At the table, in the car, on the sofa, in the highchair, on the floor, in the shopping cart… And when I’m pregnant, I’m almost as bad as they are.

20141008_130114

11. The post that seems most pertinent to the events of this week:

Courtney’s Love

Courtney Lenaburg, the beloved daughter of Mary from Passionate Perseverance, passed away this past Saturday morning. Courtney’s wake will be held tonight and her funeral tomorrow. Please keep the entire Lenaburg family in prayer during this very difficult time.

12: The post written with most love for my oldest:

What Matters To Him

10175008_10203163661146406_8897300690616481433_n

13: The post written with most love for my middle:

This Child

10363511_10203163653986227_3939648298577452194_n

14: The most consequential post:

Announcing…

I had a baby this year! Few things are of greater consequence than that!

P1180477

 

I’m linking this up with Dwija’s 12 Photos in 2012 link-up at House Unseen, Life Unscripted. (12? 14? Photos? Posts? Close enough, right?) Be sure to stop there for more 2014 recaps — and much more beautifully-shot photos than my own.

I hope 2014 was kind to you. The year brought me some great challenges, but even greater blessings. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Honesty From A Fed-Up Mommy {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 15)

Welcome to another installment of “My kids are driving me crazy, so let’s focus on the {pretty, happy, funny} and – okay fine – {real} of my little ol’ life this week.”

pretty happy funny real[1]

{pretty}

wpid-20141021_111248.jpg

wpid-20141021_103126.jpg

Baby pictures, but of course. Because he’s undeniably, unequivocally beautiful. But also because he’s too little to be too annoying just yet.

Sure, a cold has transformed the poor child into a fussy, needy, restless little thing with a spigot for a nose, but… those cheeks. Those fat little hands. Those blue (if red-brimmed) eyes. He’s so {pretty}. And so sweet (for now). We’re so, so lucky to have him.

{happy}

wpid-20141016_215611.jpg

Three words: Gin And Tonic

Wait! Two more: Sleeping Children

wpid-20141022_152627.jpg

wpid-20141019_161846.jpg

wpid-20141019_161855.jpg

I know – I’m a horrible mother to be classifying pictures of hard liquor and sleeping children (the two are completely, totally unrelated to each other – promise) as my {happy}. But I’m all about honesty, and those pics? At this moment, they’re honestly what my happy looks like.

It’s just been one of those days. Besides the baby being sick and the weather being miserable, this has been The Day Of Meltdowns. My middle son completely lost it this morning when he woke (very late) to find that his brother had already left for school. He’d wanted to say goodbye. Sweet, hm? (Hint: It would’ve been sweet if the meltdown hadn’t lasted nearly an HOUR!) Then when we picked up big brother from school, BOTH boys lost it over an umbrella – a stupid, yellow, bumblebee umbrella. We ended up walking through the rain in a huddle, me holding the umbrella aloft, them screaming and jumping and grasping and (I think) hitting.

Meltdowns continued in the car and at home, over the above and over who-knows-how-many other things. Just before dinner, I actually illustrated to the boys just how fed up I was by holding a glass under the tap and letting it fill to the brim, then spill over before their eyes: “See this, boys? This glass is like Mommy. At the beginning of the day, Mommy’s got plenty of space. But then lots and lots of noise fills Mommy up through the day and when she gets to the end of it, she doesn’t have any space left, so all the noise spills over and Mommy loses it.” (So please let’s just have a quiet dinner!)

{funny}

If all that’s not {funny} enough for you, how about a bandit/cowboy? Gosh, he’s cute, isn’t he?

wpid-20141017_155802.jpg

And then there’s the game “cowboys having a big cowboy fight.” Apparently it involves ropes (that’s what that toy measuring tape is supposed to be) and swords (sticks, of course).

wpid-20141021_164842.jpg

{real}

We came unprepared (but of course) to the scarecrow-building activity at my son’s school last weekend, so this is as far as we got: scarecrow legs and torso. Nothing to connect them, no head save a precariously (and temporarily) perched pumpkin.

wpid-20141017_164503.jpg

Thus it sits on our porch. It’s cheerful enough, if rather too {real} to be really well done: The thing is headless, propped up next to the two little pumpkins my boys decorated that scarecrow-building evening. It sits below the tacky, cheapy Wal-mart scarecrow I only purchased because my son tore off one of its legs. We are talented seasonal decorators, we are!

 

There! There’s some cheer for your Thursday! Even if it’s only the kind that comes at someone else’s expense. Ah, well… stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to locate some nicer, kinder cheer – the kind that comes from lovely people reflecting on the {pretty, happy, funny, real} contentment in their own (probably less grumpy) lives. Enjoy!

When Breast Isn’t Best

Tuesday morning I sat nursing my four-month-old son, scrolling through my Facebook feed on my phone when I saw it: Breastfeeding Awareness Week. My heart fell.

For a nursing mother, I have, perhaps, an unexpectedly low tolerance for the pro-breastfeeding social media blitz that is Breastfeeding Awareness Week. It seems to me a bludgeon, brought down on formula-feeding mothers again and again and again.

Because I’m one of those too: a formula-feeding mother.

When my oldest son was born four years ago, I intended to exclusively breastfeed. I tried to exclusively breastfeed. But my boy was very big and very hungry and my milk didn’t come in soon enough, so my poor baby spent most of his first few days screaming his head off. And losing weight. By the time we brought him to the pediatrician for his three-day appointment, he had lost almost 15 percent of his birth weight.

My milk still hadn’t come in. (It wouldn’t until day five.) And the baby seemed so pathetic and miserable and hungry and 15 percent was too much anyway, so with a very serious look on his face, our pediatrician handed us a bottle of pre-made formula and said that the baby needed to have it right away, right there in the office.

I have never seen anything that broke my heart more than the relief on that poor, hungry baby’s face when he took his first sips of formula. I felt awful. Awful that I couldn’t provide him with what he needed, awful that I might never be able to, awful that he had suffered because I had been unwilling to let go of my pride and just give him a bottle, already.

The anguish continued for months. I still couldn’t satisfy my boy’s hunger once my milk came in, he still wasn’t gaining back his birth weight on the small amounts of formula we were providing him at first, and he still wasn’t gaining weight when (at two months) I stopped feeding him formula altogether because I thought I’d finally built up my milk supply enough to satisfy him.

All the while, I was driving myself insane with the anguish and the guilt and the work of it all. I would nurse for an hour (sometimes two), then I’d make a bottle, feed a bottle, clean the bottles, pump, clean the pumping equipment, and start all over again. I’d sit in the rocker nursing until my tailbone could no longer take it. I’d go for appointments with a lactation consultant. I’d bring in my baby for weight check after weight check. I’d cry and then cry some more. I’d argue with my husband, sometimes blaming him because my own sense of inadequacy made me eager to shift the blame to someone, anyone else.

I was miserable.

IMG_3057

Four years later, I’m still capable of feeling that misery as if it were fresh. A few weeks ago I looked through my son’s newborn pictures to grab a few for a blog post and I was surprised at how hard it was to see them. It was hard for me to look at photos of my own baby. Each seemed its own little trauma; I knew the pain and the sense of failure hidden in each and every one.

When my second child was born, we had a similar experience, only this time the baby didn’t lose as much weight because we started to feed him formula once we recognized those anguished, can’t-be-satisfied-by-mommy cries. Again, my milk didn’t come in until day 5 and again, it was never, ever enough for my boy. At least with him, however, I was able to nurse (probably more for his comfort than nutrition) for 12 months. My first son had rejected nursing after only five. (Do you know how hard it is for me to refrain from typing “rejected me”?)

Then we had a similar situation with my third son. Before he was born I was just sure nursing would work this time. I will never make that mistake again. Because when it didn’t work, oh how very bitter the disappointment tasted. My milk came in at day 3 and it didn’t matter. He was too hungry to latch on. I was right there before him with milk to provide and all he could do was scream. The child had no idea that such things as formula and bottles existed, but when they were presented to him, he accepted them eagerly, a far cry from the frustrated reluctance with which he nursed.

All of this would have been hard enough. All of this pain and work and rejection would have been hard enough for a new mother to handle, but then salt was repeatedly poured in my wounds by “Breast is best” memes and “Every woman can nurse her baby” internet chatter. And worse, by “well-meaning” women insisting on giving me breastfeeding advice.

(I hope you’ll forgive the quotation marks around “well-meaning.” Some women, I’m sure, are genuinely well-meaning when they give you breastfeeding advice. They love you and they sympathize with what you’re going through and they want to help you. Other women, however, seem so attached to the idea of breastfeeding that they give advice out of loyalty to it, not out of love for you.)

“Nurse every hour!” they would say, when I was still nursing at that hour mark. “Pump between feedings!” they would say, when I had virtually no time between feedings as it was. “Drink plenty of water!” they would say, when I’m pretty much already a fish. “Breastfeeding babies just don’t gain weight as quickly as formula-fed babies!” they would say, when they weren’t the one holding the baby screaming from hunger.

But the worst thing a woman ever said to me when I was crawling through the trenches, struggling to do the best for my baby in those first few weeks of his life, was “Breastfeeding is a very unselfish thing to do.” Yes, a fellow mother told me that. She implied that it was selfish of me to supplement with formula. When I was barely hanging on. According to her – and to too many other women, I’m afraid – I revealed my selfishness the moment I first let that scoop of formula drop into a bottle of water.

Doubly selfish: using formula and counting on the four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

Doubly selfish: Not only do I use formula, but I count on my four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

A couple of months ago, once I got through my initial surprise and pain at yet again not being able to exclusively breastfeed, I thought I was done with my sensitivity on the subject. After three babies, I had finally come to accept that nursing and supplementing with formula is what works for us. It’s what our babies need to be well-nourished, it’s what I need to keep myself sane, and it’s what allows us to be a happy, functioning family.

I have three strapping, healthy boys, after all. For all the “breast is best” talk, my boys are thriving. They’re solid and tall, they have no allergies or asthma, they’ve never had an illness more serious than a simple virus, and they’re cuddly and well-attached. They didn’t need my breastmilk. They just needed to be fed.

With my body’s naturally measly level of milk production, I don’t think I’d ever be capable of exclusive nursing without a major, strenuous, time-consuming effort. And I’m simply not up for that. I need my sanity and the other members of my family need me too much for me to ever go through that. So should we ever be blessed with another baby, I am resolved to welcome that child with a bottle of formula sitting at my elbow. If, after a couple of days, my baby seems to need it, I will provide it with no hesitation, and hopefully, no guilt.

IMAG0960

Helping bottle-feed since before he was two years old.

That’s where I was a couple of months ago: being practical, moving forward, determined to not let those mean ol’ lactivists (I jest – kind of) get to me anymore. But then those newborn pictures sucker-punched me. And soon after, I found myself in a ballroom at The Edel Gathering, twisting open a bottle of pre-made formula while other mothers nursed their babies a few feet away and still more sat on the floor pumping milk for their babies back home.

But I, I had to suffer the indignity of pulling a bottle out of my bag, handing my baby to the kind lady behind me, and pouring that fake milk from one plastic vessel to another. “I just nursed up in our hotel room!” I wanted to shout to the room at large. “I only supplement with formula!” “I can’t produce enough milk!” I felt so ashamed and left out and alone and I realized I’m not over this.

How awful that I should think it undignified to feed my baby.

No one says to a woman struggling with infertility, “Every woman can conceive a child.” Yet we hear again and again, “Every woman can nurse her baby.”

This week, I’m not the only one who is feeling the pain and the unwarranted shame of not being able to nurse, or to nurse exclusively. Amy wrote a terrific post on the subject on Monday. The Washington Post ran a beautiful piece on it yesterday. I know I’m far from alone, and I know that I’m blessed to have been able to nurse my babies at all.

It’s just that I wish enthusiastic breastfeeding supporters would cool down a bit. I’m pretty much never a fan of “awareness weeks” to begin with. I think they’re a little silly and I don’t know what they actually achieve. I think they’re too often excuses for niche interest groups to become their own biggest cheerleaders. But all that aside, the breastfeeding debate has become something that hurts mothers. It hurts mothers who are already suffering exhaustion and physical pain and the emotional turmoil of not being able to satisfy their hungry babies.

So the terms of the discussion need to change. Breastfeeding can be a beautiful thing; it is right and good to tout its benefits, to encourage mothers to attempt it, and to provide support to those who are willing and able to commit themselves to it. But breastfeeding can also be horrible. It should never be advertised as the only good way to feed a baby and it should never be advanced by shaming women.

Let’s remember that this issue is not, at its heart, about breasts or breastmilk. It’s about mothers and babies. Not mothers and babies in the abstract, mind you, but individual mothers and babies who have real needs and unique challenges. Let’s make sure that we speak and act out of a loving commitment to them, not to an idea.