Does this sad loner finally have friends?

It used to be that I could go several days without talking to a single person other than my husband. I was even a full-time university student at the time. Lest you think that I did nothing but wallow in friendless self-pity, I assure you that I tried various tactics. I joined the glee club. That was an awful dreary experience (and nothing like the much-loved show). The rest of the glee club members, all a decade younger than this “non-traditional” student, mostly ignored me. The tipping point just before I quit came when a new girl joined the club. She strolled in on her first day, exuding cuteness with her blond perky ponytail, carrying a pizza box. “Hey Everybody! I was just walking past a frat house and these frat guys were outside on the porch, and they said they had too much pizza and gave me one! So who wants pizza?” Glee members swarmed around her. I was neither cute nor perky. Frat boys would never offer me anything other than a seat on the bus if perhaps I was looking especially old and haggard. In a few moments this girl had everyone talking to her. Nobody ever informed me of the Bring Pizza To Class Rule in order to make friends. And can you tell me, who ever heard of frat boys claiming to have Too Much Pizza? Glee club and various other tactics notwithstanding, I was still able to go through whole days without so much as a “Hey! How ya doin?”

I wished I had some friends. They didn’t have to be soul mates. After all, I had Jack, and I had my sister. What I missed was having someone to catch a movie with or share a laugh fueled by delicious dinner and wine or even just to walk to class together. I really miss having a shopping buddy who is as happy to spend an afternoon at the mall as I am. Shopping is fun when there are two of you laughing at clothing and arguing over styles. And the dismal failures in the dressing rooms aren’t depressing when there’s a friend to make light of them. A friend and I, both well past our prom prime, tried on a pile of awful poofy prom dresses, just for a lark. But I digress because she was a close best friend and confidant. I’d be happy now with just someone to gab with over coffee.

But, see, I did have friends once. I have photos of tulle prom dresses to prove it! What happened? People move far away. People marry or grow insular in the first years of romantic relationships. People grow apart. People lose touch, and in drifting away the bonds of friendship are loosed until all that is left is a cheery Christmas card exchanging photos of your families. Some friends are meant to reside permanently in your life, while others are meant to enrich your life for a short time and then to exist mostly in your memories. Then there are those friends who you silently wish would drift away, but remain ever annoyingly present through the relationship equivalent of a pacemaker. Of course I’m referring to Facebook. And now I’ve grown gloomy in the company of the ghost of friendships past.

But wasn’t there optimism and a hint of happiness in this post title? Yes, there was! And I can thank Sam for that for tonight I went out to dinner with several fellow mamas from his playgroup. We left the toddlers home with the menfolk so that we could indulge in a rare (rare for me!) mothers’ night out. I had a sweet pink martini with a silly name like Razzmatazz Tartlettini, the pan-seared duck breast with raspberry demi-glaze, and a glass of wine, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The food was delish, but that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was that we did NOT spend the entire night talking about our babies! Woohoo for conversation not centered on milestones and poo!

Amazingly, a group of women with nothing more in common at the start besides the birthdates of our babies and yet we all enjoy each other’s company. We get together in parks or meet in our homes for the babies -now toddlers- to play. It’s been wonderful to have a group of women to connect with who were going through the same stages as we were. It’s been great that Sam has had friends to play with. It literally kept me sane during those early months when all I did was rock and nurse; but once a week I could leave the house to go rock and nurse with other exhausted nursing women. Once in a blue moon, we even leave the toddlers at home and go out for drinks and adult conversation. Did we talk some about the kids? Of course. Did we talk about subjects indirectly related to the kids? Yup, like what kind of money markets, 529s, savings accounts we’ve got set up for them. But we also talked about non-kid related subjects! You have to understand, I was so worried that the whole conversation would be around the usual topics, and at times I really crave discussion that is not about toddlers, even my own (gasp!).

But here’s where I start to doubt. Are these women my friends? Or is this just a temporary alliance? Once our tots grow up and begin to expand their horizons, will we still want to spend time together? Or will I have lost another circle of potential friends? How well do I even know these women? How closely can you know someone when 90% of conversation is about your kids? Certainly you can tell by now that I’m lousy at making new friends. So I’d rather not lose these budding friendships. I already sense that some of the women are forming closer bonds. My guess is that maybe they’ve gotten together one-on-one outside of the group play dates to hang out. Maybe I should try and set something up. It might be a little too soon though to try on poofy prom dresses together.

Or am I just deluding myself? Once a playgroup has served its function, do the relationships fade away?

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Waiting to Hear “Mama”

Red lights when you’re running late. Picking the slow check-out lane at the grocery store. Insomnia. Seeing red splatters decorate the wall after the spaghetti sauce somehow flies out of your grasp. Dealing with in-laws that are staying for three weeks. Listening to the new upstairs neighbors stomp back and forth across your ceiling.

As frustrating as those events may be, none of them reach the level of frustration involved with trying to understand a pre-verbal toddler.

Sam’s wailing cry is implausibly both guttural and piercing. It means that he is unhappy or uncomfortable. Or he is hungry or thirsty. Or he wants to play. OK, I admit I really have no idea what it means. Oh wait, I do have some idea; it means that my head is going to start hurting. Not that that helps.

Sam is 16 months old, and doesn’t say one recognizable word. If only I knew what his little crying heart desired, I would most gladly offer it to him, silver platter and all. Our saving grace is that Sam is overall a very content little boy. But when he lets loose with a demanding howl I wish so much that he could tell me what he wanted. As frustrating as this is for me, I can only imagine it is even more so for my Sam.

It’s not as simple as teaching Sam a few signs. See, not only does Sam not speak yet, but he also shows no (or very little) sign of comprehending anything I say. Some kids are late talkers, and that’s usually A-OK, because you can see that they understand everything that is said to them. Babies begin to build their receptive language vocabulary first. After developing their receptive language comprehension, they’ll eventually start speaking. My son, however, never responded to simple directions such as “Give me the ball.” And he wouldn’t turn towards me or Jack when we would ask “Where’s Mommy?” or “Where’s Daddy?” Sam seems to have gotten stuck somewhere on the path to language comprehension.

It has been, at times, so frustrating to decipher his grunts and yells and to feel that sense of emptiness where there should be comprehension. But even worse is the creeping fear that something is wrong.

So I’ve grown more and more anxious about his lack of language. I almost never mention it to anyone. I spoke about it to my sister once. She quickly replied with assurances that Sam was fine, all kids are different, Sam is so smart, don’t worry. I’ve always found that uninformed knee-jerk assurances are utterly useless and insulting to my intelligence. Worse, it’s like a quick dismissal of my feelings and concerns. I haven’t spoken to her about it since. I was anxious and worried, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

My husband believed, or wanted to believe, that Sam was understanding everything we were saying. I knew better. Jack argued that Sam would respond with happiness when my husband would propose their various fun activities, like running or swimming. I pointed out that Sam always responded with happiness whenever Jack would speak with a happy tone. That wasn’t clear evidence of comprehension.

Then we had Sam’s 15-month check-up with his pediatrician. He agreed that it sounded like Sam may have a language delay. And no, I didn’t really want to be right, but finally, I felt like my concerns were acknowledged and validated. Our next step is to set up an appointment to have a speech evaluation done.

The creeping fear didn’t have a concrete shape, but the scary A-word was almost certainly driving it. Autism is a huge terrifying monster for most new parents. It definitely was weighing on my mind as I waited to hear “Mama.” I don’t pretend to know a lot about autism. I know that language problems are one aspect, so understandably this was a root source of my anxiety. But as our pediatrician explained to us, social problems are far more indicative of autism than are language delays. My sweet Sam, I am happy to tell you, has great social skills.

Sam is my Snuggle Monster. He is very affectionate with both me and Jack. He makes eye contact and smiles and laughs easily when we’re being silly. He plays peekaboo. He also has his own version of peekaboo that he made up. While in his highchair, he covers his eyes with his hands. I say “Where’s Sammy?” until he peeks out from behind his tiny fingers with a twinkle in his eye. Of course I call out “There’s Sammy!” and he giggles and hides behind his hands again. It’s adorable.

While we were sitting in the doctor’s room, the pediatrician observed Sam giving Jack hugs and kisses, unprompted by us. A good sign, he said. Also, Sam carefully watched the doctor throughout the appointment, which the doctor said was very much expected behavior for his age. He said that an autistic child would more likely be gazing towards the corners and not paying attention to the stranger in the room. That half hour with the pediatrician did a lot to allay my fears.

In the past two weeks since then, I’ve had the joy of seeing some progress. It would look insignificant to the casual observer, but it feels momentous to me. Being careful not to look in the direction of the ball, I said to Sam “Get the BALL! Can you get the BALL? Where’s the BALL? Get the BALL Sam!” Where’s the B-B-B-ALL?” Four out of six times, Sam has turned, crawled straight to the ball, and grabbed it and looked at me with a big smile! You know I was whooping and clapping with joy! Such a seemingly little gesture, but I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief. I call that clear evidence that Sam understood exactly what I said! In the past, when I have asked him to get the ball, he would sit and give me a blank expression. He wouldn’t even glance in the direction of the ball. Now 4 out of 6 times, he made a beeline for his ball. And as for the two times in which he did not move towards the ball… well, he’s one. One-year-olds don’t always listen. They get distracted by other toys. That’s what I’m telling myself.

I still need to call to set up the speech evaluation. Hopefully we can get some advice on how to help Sam build his language skills. Until then, I’m still waiting to hear my sweet boy call me “Mama.” I can’t wait!


What is a Part-time Mother?

I don’t know what a part-time mother is, but I know I’m not it.  A part-time mother is not awake for well over an hour at 4 A.M. climbing out of bed every five minutes to restart the dulcet notes of a magical glowing sea horse.  A part-time mother does not tediously cook and prepare nutritious and delectable delights for her toddler, only to have the tasty morsels flung to the floor.  A part-time mother does not use her last amount of energy for the day in gently rocking her teething toddler to sleep.  A part-time mother does not do all of the above with love and patience.

 

For the first year of Sam’s life, I easily fell under the category of full-time mother. “Full-time mother” is the moniker given to the woman who often works, without that rewarding deposit in the bank account, to care for her children and home from morning’s light to well past sunset.  The use of the employment lingo “full-time” lends deserved weight and respect to the hard work of mothering and home-making.

 

I was happily a full-time mother until this past spring when a job opportunity came my way.  The job is a cozy fit for me in many ways.  True, the first several months were difficult due to a steep learning curve.  But now I feel I can settle into a comfortable groove of steadily doing my job with an Absolute Commitment to Excellence, otherwise known in the company jargon as “ACE.”  I love earning a paycheck again, the scheduling flexibility and part-time hours suit me perfectly, and I genuinely enjoy the work.  The feel-good bonus is that I may actually be helping people.  But there is one thing that niggles at me from time to time.

 

Why do I need to give up the “full-time mother” label?  Have I somehow been demoted to a part-time mother?  How would you even define a part-time mother?  I can’t help but feel slighted by the parenting community, if such a thing exists, by this perceived demotion.  I don’t feel compelled to defend my working outside the home; that’s not what this is about.  It’s the right choice for our family, and that’s that.  I guess I’m just thinking about labels, how they can change perceptions in society, how they can influence the images we have of ourselves and others, and how they can invite scorn or respect.

 

I still consider myself very much a full-time mother to Sam, part-time employment notwithstanding.   When acquaintances, during the inevitable small talk that I as an introvert have always dreaded, ask what I do, I always start by proudly saying that during the day I am home with my son.  I describe my evening job second.  I am firstly Me in all my flawed and brilliant glory.  But when it comes to my roles and relationships, I hope that as Sam grows older I will continue to always feel my role as his mother before being an employee.  I can’t imagine it any other way: life as a full-time mother for perhaps the next twenty years.  That is the ride I happily signed on for!

 

On a side note—I haven’t posted on this blog in several months.  The job training was time consuming.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had blog post ideas swirling around in my crowded brain jostling up against tidbits and fragments like the forgotten location of Sam’s Mets pajamas and the date of this year’s charity auction and I really must make that dentist appointment.  Some ideas to write about include the love of step-parents, my hatred of Rosemond, and sex after having children (does such a thing exist?)  So be on the lookout for more posts from this Crunchy Munchy (full-time!) Mama!


A perfect day for a not-so-perfect mom. (Happy Mother’s Day to me)

Tomorrow will be my first Mother’s Day from the mom end of the day.  As a new mom I’m wondering what is Mother’s Day for exactly?    I’m getting conflicted messages.  Is it a day to spend cherishing some quality time with your kids?  Or am I justified in kicking my family out of the house, taking a leisurely and uninterrupted shower (nearly unheard of these days!),  getting myself a drink and putting my feet up with a good book?  If I negotiate for some peaceful and quiet Me time, will I feel guilty?

At times I find myself feeling guilty, sometimes for mediocrity when I know Sam deserves the best, sometimes for bigger failures like yelling in frustration during one especially sleep-deprived night.  I’m aware of the myth of the “perfect mother” and the guilt that can result from never measuring up to the mythic ideal. Nevertheless, there can be so many small instances that trigger pings of guilt.  But I try to banish mother’s guilt whenever I feel it creeping alongside me.  And I try to remember not to sacrifice so much that I’m no longer allowing myself to have a life outside of being Sam’s mother or taking care of myself.  The myth of the perfect mother reminds me of the Angel in the House.  Virginia Woolf wrote about killing the Angel in the House in order to make room for personal growth in creativity and writing.  The Angel in the House refers to the perfect family woman who is endlessly selfless and sacrificing herself.  “She sacrificed herself daily.  If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it—in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others.” (from Professions for Women, 1931).  Trying to live up to the ideal of the Angel in the House can be not only guilt-inducing, but stifling in terms of personal growth and leading a full satisfying life.

So what about my Mother’s Day wishes?  Shall I be vocal and forthright about my desires for the day?  Why, yes, I think I will.  Sam is eleven months old.  He’s mastered the art of throwing blocks.  Playing peekaboo is his specialty.  Peeing on me during diaper changes?  Yeah, he’s got that down, too.  (Just check out the photo and try to imagine that I was once voted best dressed in my college dorm).  But, I’m betting that he can’t whip up a special yummy Mother’s Day breakfast.  Does that mean that my husband is obligated to cook my blueberry pancakes and bacon?  What do you think?

I’ve also asked for some improvements to the back patio.  I figured that I was more likely to see results if I made it a Mother’s Day gift wish. I’m not sure that Sam will be able to handle planting the hydrangea and irises I chose, although he is getting quite adept at sneakily moving several feet from where I placed him when my eyes are averted.  He can’t crawl yet so I don’t know how he manages this maneuver.  Come to think of it though, playing in dirt might be right up his alley.  Still, landscaping may be beyond his toddler capabilities just now.  What do you think?  Should Jack get roped into this Mother’s Day wish as well?

I’m curious about how other mothers are spending their special day.  For me, I think I’ll attempt the perfect day for a not-so-perfect mom.  Me time + some playing with Sam + Jack smoothing the way = Every day should be so perfect.


Monster tornado kills kids in the county next to ours

A little over a week ago, a monster tornado ravaged nearby counties.  Nearly every day this past week I’ve been crying as I read in the paper daily reports of the death and destruction left behind.  My sorrow has been for one family in particular.  Four children (two sets of brothers who were cousins) huddled in a closet when the tornado came to their home.  A tree fell right where they hid for safety.  Three of the boys were killed.  The fourth one was a six-month-old baby.  He died later at the hospital.

The tornado came within 35 miles of me and my family, but I didn’t even know about it until after it was over.  I was in a live webcam training session for work, and my husband, who was in the nursery with Sam, had decided not to interrupt me unless reports changed to list our county in danger.  I suppose I’m glad I wasn’t aware of it because tornadoes terrify me.

Last month Japan was slammed with an earthquake and tsunami.  I watched in terrible awe videos of the awfulness of the tsunami wave swallowing the land, engulfing all with a deathly velocity.  I watched in horror the vehicles clearly seen speeding along gray strips of pavement, hoping to reach safety.  The annoyances of my day faded away as I was filled with gratitude for the simple blessings of health and safety.  That feeling stayed with me for days.  I was also filled with sorrow, not only for the many lives lost, but for those devastated souls who must keep living in a new ruined landscape with the fear of radiation.  My heart felt heavy as the number of dead climbed higher.   But I didn’t cry.

Is it that it was so far away?  Is it that the chaos and destruction is so enormous that it is difficult to comprehend?  Is it that I haven’t yet heard any personal stories from the survivors sharing their tragedy in their own voices?  Is it a self-preservation technique for our psyches—sort of only allowing ourselves to feel so much pain?  In other words, not taking on the crushing mutilating weight of all the world’s pain?  I know that it is not that I am uncompassionate towards the suffering of others.  I know that it is not that I value less the lives of Japanese people in some horrible racist twistedness.  Why is it then that I did not cry last month, yet all this past week I’ve been crying over the deaths of four little boys?

Would I have been so affected a year or two ago, before I had my own little boy?  I wonder.  I keep envisioning myself in the scenario if a tornado comes.  I’m on my knees in the bathtub, crouching and curled over.  I have Sam in my arms underneath me.  I am holding him tightly, trying to shield him.  I’m trying to soothe him also, but my tension and tears and primal fear and the cold hardness of the tub thwart my efforts to calm him.  I can hear the wind roaring in my head and all around me.  I’m shaking with terror that seeps in to my core. There are two stories and an attic above us; does that provide an obstacle between us and the falling trees or does it add to the weight that may crash upon us?  I don’t know. That is, if the tornado only throws trees and debris at me, and does not rip my home up wholly from the ground. Sam shrieks in distress; I hold him tightly in my arms underneath me.  I would gladly take a tree across my back before I let it crush my baby, but I worry.  I strongly suspect my small back is not enough to stop a falling tree in a tornado.

Like I said, tornadoes strike me with terror.  We were spared this time, but my heart breaks for the family who lost all four of their little boys, even the tiny baby.


If Only I Could Donate My Fat

The scale read 16 lbs 12oz, which was a weight gain for Sam of one pound and three ounces!  Woohoo for Sam!  We were happy to see that he gained weight, and the doctor was very pleased with it also.  Sam also measured a quarter inch growth in height.  I’m not too sure about that though.  I think that such a small difference could easily be caused by squirminess as the nurse was measuring.  (You can check out the last post Small Boys in a World that loves Tall Men to get our perspective on height, growth, and why we’re so happy to see our son Sam gain over a pound during the last six weeks.)

Dwelling on weight gain and scales, I can’t help but think about the plentiful bounty of extra pounds that I’d be more than happy to donate to Sam.  Or to some other child.  Or really to anyone.  Anyone at all.  Please, take my fat.

I was a skinny 105 lbs until about 23 years old.  I put on a few pounds and gained some lovely curves.  Those lovely curves turned into extra flab with a few more pounds.  I dropped some when I was 26.  That was the year Jack and I got married; I was a beautiful and curvy 123 lb bride.  I didn’t mean to let myself go after the wedding day.  Truthfully, I really hate that phrase.  But during our first year of marriage I put on another 12 lbs.  Then, due to a cross-country move, I fell into some depression brought on by missing my home and my husband (who had to stay behind for awhile).  The needle on the scale plunged back down to 125.  I can’t eat when I’m depressed.  Frankly I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and depressed, but oh how I wish I could get to a state of happy and pleasantly curvy. 

Unfortunately I really started gaining rapidly once hubby and I were settled in our new home and I was happier and more content than I’d been in a long time.  My highest weight was 168, I think.  Remember, I’m only 5’3” so that is quite heavy.  The summer of ’09 I spent staying at my in-laws’ house back home.  They were gracious enough to let me stay while I helped care for my grandmother during her last weeks.  I started dropping weight again, this time was due not only to my grief but because I was walking everyday around their hilly neighborhood.  Now that I think about it though, I know I was walking partly to relieve some of the care-taking stress and sorrow, so I guess that was indirectly related to depression also.  Whatever the mix of reasons, I dropped twenty pounds that summer and was feeling a lot better about my body.  Two months later I got pregnant.  The nausea was so intense that I lost a few more pounds, and I looked great.  By “great” I mean skinny and sickly and exhausted and green with nausea.  But skinny!  Of course I went right back up to 168 with Sam squirming and kicking around inside me.  Now I’m at 148 lbs.  Like I said, fitting into a pair of sexy jeans would be a heck of a lot easier if I could donate my fat, and I’m perfectly willing to do so.  I’m not stingy and selfish about it.  I’d generously give of myself.

 I’m hoping Sam won’t need any of my donated fat.  Like I said, I was so happy to hear the nurse say “16 lbs, 12ozs.”  That was a few days ago though.  Now I’m worried about this new development.  Sam has always had a bottle right before going to bed.  In the past couple days, he’s outright refused it.  Not even a sip.  I don’t know if this is a problem or not.  I don’t want to have to breastfeed every night; I won’t be able to leave the house, go to work, or get my much-deserved nightly break.  I’ll have to see if he still sleeps through the night without waking for a midnight feeding.  I’ve heard that teething might be the cause.  He does have a fifth tooth poking through.  I’ve also heard that it’s a common phase to refuse the bottle.  And some of my friends had mentioned that their babies let them know when they had outgrown the need for a feeding immediately before bedtime.  I guess I’ll wait and see.

 Oh, and feel free to contact me to arrange for your delivery of donated fat.


Small Boys in a World that loves Tall Men

When the generalization becomes an expectation, there lives a stereotype.
Men are generally taller than women. There’s the generalization.
Men are tall or at least the real men are supposed to be tall. And there’s your stereotype.

Sam is a little guy. Even for a toddler, he’s small. Sure, he could go through a growth spurt at 14, sprouting gangly limbs and lurching around awkwardly, and end up a 6 foot tall giant. I don’t think it’s likely though. Did you pick up on the fact that I think 6 feet tall is a giant? That just might hint to you at how tall, or to change the perspective – how short, I am. I’m 5’3”. Jack is 5’5”. It seems likely then that our son Sam will follow the family trend.
When Jack was 18 months old he stopped growing for a while. For six months his growth had completely ceased, and then it began again, perhaps more slowly than normal. He was poked and pricked and tested for the next several years while he fell to the bottom of the growth chart. By fifth grade his buddies, the bullies, and the rest of his classmates towered over him by several inches or much more.

From x-rays of his hand and wrist, Jack was diagnosed with constitutional growth delay. It’s a condition whereby one’s physical age is younger than one’s chronological age. What? Yeah, I don’t really grasp a medical understanding of it either. But I do understand that it causes the kid to be behind his peers, growth-wise. Interestingly though, it does not cause any physical health problems; the individual should eventually reach full height and maturity albeit much later than everyone else.
In Jack’s case, six months of no growth was combined with short family genes and a case of ordinary late bloomerism. (The family trait of late bloomerism was evident in his brothers, too, who were also the shortest kids in their grades until their growth spurts naturally kicked in during junior high. However, while there’s no doubt that the brothers were short kids, the gap between Jack and his classmates was greater. As adults his brothers are 5’9” and 5’10”; there are a few tallish genes floating around the family tree. I think shortness reigns though. Jack, at his adult height of 5’5”, is still taller than both of his parents.)
You can imagine that, for many, the years of adolescence is rife with insecurity and general misery as a kid navigates the sometimes hellish social ecosystem that is middle school and high school. (It could be unpleasant for us nerdy types anyway.) In a population that, like most of society, values height, physical strength, and athleticism in males, how much more difficult do you think adolescence might be for a small boy? The problem with constitutional growth delay then isn’t one of poor physical health; it is a social problem. Additionally, constitutional growth delay does not only affect height; puberty is also delayed. It’s hard enough to ask a girl for a date. It must be even harder when you have the body of a younger boy.
Jack’s parents made the decision to start Jack on doses of testosterone by sixth grade. He’s glad they did. It gave his growth a much-needed jumpstart. Specifically, he was able to enter the not-so-magically-wonderful world of puberty. He gained all those delightful additions of hair in funny places and other awkward changes, and his voice transformed into the voice I know and love. He was still short but started making greater progress towards reaching his full mature height.

Fast forward thirty odd years, and here we have our sweet Sam.

Having gained a mere 4 oz since his six month check-up, at Sam’s nine month appointment he weighed 15 lbs and 9 oz. And he grew one inch. Our wonderful pediatrician Dr. Morton noted that although Sam was at the bottom of the growth chart, he looked healthy and happy. And he does; Sam has good muscle tone, healthy color, not scrawny looking at all. He looks like a completely healthy baby, but a bit miniature sized. Dr. Morton at this point is more concerned about Sam not gaining any weight than about his length. He said it was time to work another meal into Sam’s diet. Jack and I followed his advice, and it’s been three meals a day now. Lately Sam has been my little piggy; by which I happily mean that he has had a healthy appetite. At first we were only giving Sam about a ¼ cup of food for a meal, and he seemed satisfied with that (not even finishing that all the time.) But in addition to increasing the frequency of meals we’ve also increased the amount. Sometimes it’s ⅓ cup, ½ cup or even more depending on his appetite and mood. We make our own baby food: a mix of fruits, veggies, yogurt, chicken, and some cheese. I’m no farmer; when I say “make” I mean that I buy fresh organic produce and dairy and cook/mash/puree it. I still breastfeed Sam five or six times a day. Jack gives him an 8oz bottle of formula at bedtime—a remnant from the very early days when we had to supplement my breast milk. Now it gives me a much-needed, much-appreciated break in the evenings!

Tomorrow we go back to the pediatrician to check on Sam’s growth. It’s been six weeks. With all this yummy and nutritious food in his diet, I’m hopeful that we’ll see some significant weight gain. In fact I’d be very surprised if we don’t because, as Jack joyfully pointed out to me last week, Sam’s thighs have put on some extra chubbiness. When he’s being changed, Sam lies on the changing table and points his feet straight up in the air. Now I grab his legs and jiggle his thighs and gleefully sing “Chuuubbyyy thiiiighs!!!” and he laughs and laughs and laughs.

I can see the chubby thighs, but I don’t see any evidence that he’s grown in length at all, but who knows? Chubby thighs certainly indicate a positive weight gain, but there may still be some trials ahead. What would we do if Sam had constitutional growth delay? Would we give him testosterone? Some parents in that situation might even opt for the more extreme growth hormone treatment. Thank God that Jack’s parents didn’t do that. The children who took the newly available growth hormone in the 1970s didn’t fare so well as they got older. I don’t know about growth hormone for Sam. That feels extreme, and definitely doesn’t seem very crunchymunchy to me. Lastly, I get to what I see as the crux of the situation. Sam’s emotional well-being.

How do Jack and I teach Sam that height doesn’t matter nearly as much as society may lead you to think it does? How do we instill confidence in Sam, or help and support him in having confidence in himself? Jack had a friend in high school who was also shorter than most of the guys. Ted, however, was brimming with confidence, and nobody messed with him. What was Ted’s secret? And how do we raise Sam to not feel as though his height is a plague upon him? Jack believes that all children have a moment where they realize that they are different from other children in an undesirable way. For Jack, it was his height. The undesirability of the trait may be all in the child’s own head (for example maybe it’s glasses or red hair that marks them as different) but that doesn’t make the feelings and self-consciousness any less real. If height proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to Sam surviving the teenage and college years happily and perhaps an obstacle to romance as well, but there was some way we could improve the situation, wouldn’t we want to do it? If we decided to use testosterone treatment to advance growth, how would we do that while simultaneously preaching that Sam was perfect and beautiful exactly the way that he was? Perhaps most importantly, how do we raise Sam to be able to love himself and be comfortable in his own skin? And how do we do that in a world that loves tall men, and where short men are often the butt of a joke?