When Do We Visit a Doctor?

Do you rush off to the pediatrician every time your kid has a sniffle? Do you look at blood pouring out of your child and conclude “Eh, he’ll be fine, here’s a Bandaid?” There’s a huge range of parental discretion, and as long as you’re not committing medical neglect like these parents or these parents your child will probably be okay.

Before going further, I would like to note that I am NOT a healthcare professional or researcher, and this post merely describes my own decision-making process. If you are not sure whether to seek help or not, call your pediatrician’s office or (if relevant) Poison Control; no good doctor or nurse will ever berate you for checking out something that turns out to be a ridiculous question, and they’d all rather be “bothered” over something unnecessary than miss something life-threatening.

Now my mother-in-law tended to bring her kids to the office if they showed any symptoms of illness whatsoever. I prefer not to, because an office full of sick kids is a great way to pick up new bugs (although my pediatricians are pretty good at containing germs), and because most of the time a kid will probably get better on his own. There are several situations where I think it’s advisable always to take the kid in:

  1. The child is a newborn or baby under 3 months of age. Babies this small can get very sick very quickly, and sometimes the signs of serious illness are very subtle–such as grunting or cooing, the tiniest elevation of temperature, or even a slight drop in temperature. It’s hard because “normal” newborn behavior is kind of weird anyway–I was convinced my week-old daughter had a cold when it was just normal sniffles caused by the doctors clearing meconium out of her when she was born–but with a newborn or very young baby, do not mess around. Get medical help, ESPECIALLY if the child isn’t taking in proper amounts of milk or formula.
  2. There’s a drastic change in behavior. Is your normally active kid lying around looking like she’s been drugged? If she has a fever and you give her an antipyretic and a cool bath, is she still unable to play or eat or drink normally? Time to get her seen.
  3. There have been multiple vomiting and diarrhea episodes, and the kid hasn’t been able to keep Pedialyte or watered Gatorade down. Dehydration is not good for your child, and there may be something serious going on.
  4. Black or tarry stool (note: This doesn’t include a newborn’s meconium, which looks like it came out of Satan’s backside but is normal); coffee-ground vomit; bloody urine; something else that doesn’t Look Right. (A colorful poop is probably not a problem, since it’s quite likely to be the result of your child’s gastronomic adventures with crayons, but anything you can’t identify is worth a call.)
  5. Persistent genital itchiness, burning sensation while peeing, or persistent ear pain. UTIs, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and ear infections generally require antibiotics. Actually, any problems with the genitals or ears should probably be looked into.
  6. The child has swallowed something sharp or corrosive. Pretty self-explanatory.
  7. The child’s gotten into broken glass, and I can’t be completely positive that there’s no glass left in the wound.
  8. The child’s fallen from a decent height and hit his head, or hit his head against something sharp or hard. Children have big, soft heads, and it’s important to guard against concussions or other possible brain damage.
  9. The child’s hurt her abdomen, and persists in complaining about it or holding it or wincing or moaning. Don’t mess with internal organs.
  10. The child is showing signs of a stroke or seizure. Fever-related seizures are probably nothing to worry about, but you still need to get your child checked out to rule out any serious underlying problem, and kids absolutely can get strokes.
  11. The child appears to be choking or having trouble breathing. CALL 911.
  12. The child has an underlying health condition. But then, if your kid has hemophilia or asthma or cancer or another serious condition, you probably aren’t reading this list.
  13. Something just seems “off,” especially if the child is too young to give me useful information. Your intuition may or may not be accurate, but if you’re worried, it’s just better to see the doctor.

Times that I “wait and see” for a kid include the following:

  1. The kid (not newborn) has fallen and smacked his head, but not from a great height or on anything too hard. How long does he cry? How does he act afterward? It’s time to go in if there is ANY change in behavior, eating or sleeping, or if the child complains of pain later or holds his head or even has a stomachache or other symptoms.
  2. The kid has smacked her nose on something. This may seem an oddly specific problem, but I am thinking of when my daughter fell off a chair and hit her nose on some hard plastic. Her nose swelled up quite a bit, so I called the pediatrician’s office, but she stopped swelling and didn’t show any other symptoms so I ended up not taking her in. Aside from looking like a child abuse victim for about a week, she was fine. However, as mentioned above, there are many important squishy things inside a child’s head, so if you have any unease or the child appears to be worsening, go in.
  3. The child has a fever. This page has a good discussion of when to visit a doctor for fever, but the Reader’s Digest version is that if the child isn’t very young, isn’t showing other worrisome signs, and hasn’t had the fever more than 3 days, it’s probably okay to care for him at home.
  4. The child has a runny nose, cough, sneezes, and maybe even a fever, but isn’t lethargic or complaining of body aches. It’s probably a cold. If the kid doesn’t get better within 7–10 days, or gets better and then appears to relapse, it’s time to go in.
  5. The child hurts an extremity or limb. Now, this may be a very short period of waiting and seeing; if a child has difficulty walking on an injured foot, or winces or cries when you touch the part that hurts, you may be off to the doctor. If you see massive swelling, get thee to a professional. But if your kid falls down, complains about his foot, and is merrily running off to play a few minutes later, he’s probably okay; ditto if he slams his hand in a door and doesn’t show any signs of pain or swelling after you’ve put a cold pack on for a few minutes. Kids will make an unholy fuss over nothing at all and react in an understated way to serious injuries, so their first reaction is usually not as good an indicator of the seriousness of the issue as their responses after a little waiting.
  6. There’s blood, but not too much, and you don’t suspect that anything’s left in the wound.
  7. Diarrhea or vomiting. I’ve listed exceptions above, but at some point you will be bleaching sheets and cleaning up copious bodily fluids at 2:00 AM. Most of the time, the child will be fine if you keep him hydrated and wait out the nastiness.
  8. The kid has a non-itchy rash after getting sick and then recovering. Quarantine the child for a few days; if the rash gets worse or the child starts getting sick again, make an appointment.
  9. Your child comes down with the same symptoms as other people who’ve been around him recently, and a doctor’s weighed in on the others’ problem. My church is the proverbial petri dish of illnesses from approximately September 1 through May 30, but most of them don’t need medical intervention. “Oh, my kid’s probably going to come down with hand, foot, and mouth disease? Great. Thanks for letting me know.” Sigh.

A few final thoughts: It sucks when your child is sick or injured. You feel so helpless, especially when the kid is too young for you to explain to her why she’s feeling crappy. Hang in there. Children’s bodies are generally really good at healing themselves, and you’ll get through it. Humidifiers, chicken soup, juice, rest, and snuggles will take care of a lot. Lastly, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t refer to yourself as a “Warrior Mama” when you successfully nurse your children through a problem. (I do not know of a male equivalent to this vile phrase.) Take care of your kids, take care of yourself, and call the doctor if you’re worried.

Appendix: Good Resources for Health Questions

Medline Plus is the National Institute of Health’s patient resource site. It can be a little difficult to navigate around the site, but there’s lots of reliable information.

The Mayo Clinic tends a bit toward woo, but they have a huge set of patient-directed pages that are very informative and better-sourced than WebMD. Their symptom-checker is just as lousy, however.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks influenza and other disease activity. This can be helpful during flu season.

Poison Control. If your kid has ingested or come into contact with doubtful substances, this is the resource of choice.

Drugs.com is great for checking out medications.



A Miscarriage

My husband and I were expecting. Now we are not; the baby failed to develop after a few weeks’ growth, and I miscarried at 10 weeks of gestation.

We’d worried about this pregnancy. I’d had less morning sickness than with my other pregnancies, and I wasn’t developing the headaches and photosensitivity that I usually get in the later first trimester. On Labor Day (yeah, very funny), I started bleeding; the day after, I began cramping, and by the time I saw the doctor it was merely a confirmation of what we already knew.

I did most of my crying before the doctor’s visit. It was a relief to know that my body wasn’t evicting a still-living fetus, but an embryo that, by the looks of it, never had the potential to grow into a newborn. I didn’t have to undergo the trauma of passing a tiny-but-recognizable baby. The cramping and heavy bleeding were relatively brief, and the situation is altogether the best it could be when the word “miscarriage” is involved.

It also helps that we have three lovely children. I can’t sit around and cry when the 1-year-old needs to be changed, the 3-year-old wants me to read him a book, and the 5-year-old is telling me about her day at school. I don’t have to wonder if we’ll ever be able to produce a living child.

We chose to tell our kids about the pregnancy and the miscarriage. They’ve taken it in stride. I think that was the right decision for us, though I know others might have acted differently.

The baby has a memorial of sorts: In one of the cement piles anchoring our swingset, we wrote our children’s initials and “BB4.” I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet you, BB4; but as long as you existed you were wanted and loved.


PSA: Poison Control Is Awesome

The fact that I know the number for Poison Control (800-222-1222) is just one reason that I’ll never win Mother of the Year. But if you’re a parent in the United States, I highly recommend using this resource, which is free. The national web site for the American Association of Poison Control Centers is https://aapcc.org/.

The first time I called was when my daughter was about a year old, and I gave her some iced mint tea with honey (which she loved). It belatedly occurred to me that I didn’t really know if mint was safe for babies, so I Googled “mint tea” and “babies” and “toddlers.” Many links were to forums or to sites of unknown or dubious authority. The “recommendations” were all over the place, from “mint tea is fine” to “This might make your child sick.” And then there was the story in which two children died from mint tea that turned out to be made from pennyroyal, which has high hepatoxicity (i.e. it screws up your liver).

Oh dear.

At this point, I saw the Poison Control magnet on the refrigerator that my pediatrician had given us. Would I have to navigate a frustrating phone system before speaking to someone? Would they be annoyed at my taking up their time with something so trivial? Or would they chew me out for feeding my kid mint tea?

Nope. When you call someone at Poison Control, a trained nurse or other healthcare professional answers the phone. They do not dismiss your fears. They do not berate you for being so stupid as to allow your child to get into X substance. Instead, they calmly ask for the child’s age and weight and a description of the substance, tell you what they expect to occur, and describe what to look for that would necessitate a visit to the doctor or ER. A few hours later, they call back for an update.

In this age of easy access to all the information in the world, a poison control center may seem unnecessary. However, the staff members have what even expert Googlers lack: The correct contextual knowledge to be able to assess and deal with a threat. Searching endless pages related to mint and toddlers gave me nothing more than a gnawing sense of anxiety; the nurse I spoke to was able to determine that a) I hadn’t given my daughter pennyroyal, and b) if she suffered any adverse effects they’d be likely limited to some vomiting or diarrhea. She suggested I give my daughter some milk and watch her, and in fact my daughter suffered no harm.

The last time I called Poison Control was yesterday–for myself. I’d gotten a bit of Raid in my eye taking care of some wasps, and after I’d flushed my eye out I wasn’t sure if I should seek medical care. (The label on the back of the can is kind of scary to read.) A very nice nurse named Nancy told me what to look for that would make a trip to the doctor advisable, but also told me that Raid wasn’t a particularly caustic substance and she didn’t expect any problems to occur.

So if you or a loved one have ingested or come into contact with any doubtful substances, give the good folks at Poison Control a call. They’ll help you out any time, day or night, and they won’t embarrass you. I’m very grateful they’re available.



To Belong

I’ve been reading adoption stories lately. My husband and I have no plans to adopt, but several friends and family members have either done so or are planning to do so. Many stories are told by adoptive and foster parents, and they’re full of challenges, rewards, setbacks–chronicles of love and pain. Adoptee stories tend to be either the canned anecdotes appearing on adoption web sites that are meant to encourage would-be adoptive parents into taking the plunge, or stories about reunions with birth parents. Some are mainly positive about adoption. Some are mainly negative, and their authors think adoption should be strictly curtailed. Some adoptions turn out great, some terrible, others (most?) in between.

I’ve been reading adoption stories lately because I want to know what it’s like for an adopted child to belong. The adoptive parents I know are generally not naive idealists who assume that everything after the papers are signed = happy ever after, but they adopt because they hope for the best, and because they have faith enough to take on a child, and because they want to share love with their children. You know, the same reasons that parents have biological children. These parents certainly want their children to belong to them.

But children who are adopted do not belong only to them. Somewhere in the world, they are quite likely to have the same eyes, same posture, same trick of wrinkling their nose as a stranger does who is related to them by blood. This cannot be ignored, but the question of how much to keep a child in connection with her genetic forebears is not an easy one to answer. Indeed, there seems to be not one answer, not among adopted children or their parents.

This is a thorny question especially in transcultural adoptions or adoptions from foster care. In either case, how much support are the biological relatives given? When does the need for children to receive consistent, permanent, adequate care outweigh the benefits of trying to keep the children with their first parents? There just isn’t a straightforward algorithm that can predict “the best interests of the child,” so judges, caseworkers, agencies, and would-be parents must simply do the best they can.

I am reminded of the ambiguities of the word “belong” as I write this post. Our children do not belong to us in the way that inanimate objects or even pets belong to us; they are ours to take care of for a time, and then they grow up and leave us (eventually) and start families of their own. They are, as I have stated before, people in their own right and not a means to our ends. So even we who are raising “merely” biological children, whose family history is known because it is ours; even we, who need not explain any complexities of our children’s coming to be ours must recognize the limits of what it means for a child to “belong” to us.

The end of a child’s story is not known beforehand. This is good, for how else could we live? In my stories about adoption, I did not find much reassurance that the adoptions I know would turn out “all right” for either parent or child. But the families that are made by adoption are real families, and whether or not they must struggle with questions of identity these children belong to their families.


When “Just Read to Them” Isn’t Enough

“Anyone can learn to read,” says my mom, recalling how relatively easy it was to teach us four kids to read; we all entered school having at least some ability to do so, thanks to Dick and Jane and being read to every night. There are many cases of children teaching themselves to read, and plenty of expert assurance that children will learn to read when they are ready. This article features a woman who trains teachers, and who recounts her experiences learning to read, as well as her fear that we are pushing reading too hard for four-year-olds.

I heartily approve of taking a more relaxed, organic approach to literacy. Get children hooked on books, and eventually they will want to read them by themselves. Pushing phonics flashcards on children before they’re ready for the mechanics of reading sounds like a bad idea, and I know of no one who states that children are disadvantaged in school if they don’t know how to read by the end of kindergarten. My 5-year-old knows a few words, can write her name, and can sound simple words out; my 3-year-old isn’t showing the same interest in letters, but occasionally asks me about them. It’s all good. Developmentally, he’s much better off running around playing cars, splashing in puddles, and drawing worms and balloons than preparing to write his first novel.

However, I am deeply troubled by this post from Kate Tiete, “Modern Alternative Mama,” “How Unschoolers Learn to Read.” Now, I profoundly disagree with Ms. Tietje on nearly every subject upon which she writes, so I certainly admit to a priori prejudice against her positions. I was interested in her post, though, because I support homeschooling, and even unschooling (for a given kind of parent and a given kind of child–I do not think I could put in the necessary effort to provide a good unschooling experience).

Most of it confirms what I stated in my first paragraph–her kids got books, learned to pick things out a bit at a time, and then began reading. It is possible that a lack of formal phonics instruction may handicap their spelling abilities, but given the fact that English is the bastard of many languages and uses pronunciation “rules” less regular than kept campaign promises, I find myself unable to work up any great indignation for their lack of systematic instruction–with one important exception.

We tried all the “usual” things with our oldest…sight words, daily reading practice, writing skills when she was 6.  It didn’t work, because she wasn’t ready.  In fact, it frustrated us and her, and after we took a break, she basically forgot it all.  (We haven’t talked about this publicly, but we are pretty sure she is dyslexic, which is why it took so long for her.  We have done assessments both online and with our local assessor about this and have chosen things to help her when needed.)”

“My daughter, because of dyslexia, did spend the most time in some phases and seemed to have more small phases than the boys did.  But that is not uncommon — we have several friends with dyslexia (adults and kids) and they do the same things.

“By the way, being patient with her and allowing her to move at her own pace has been key.  Pushing her doesn’t work — and frustrates us both.  She still doesn’t read for pleasure.  But she enjoys reading to cook, or reading text messages, or to learn various things.  She primarily sticks to non-fiction.  Although we did discover these new Disney princess novels, and she does read those from time to time.  Respecting her preferences and understanding that it doesn’t matter WHAT she reads has been very helpful as well.”

Hmm. I would prefer that she forcefed her daughter a little classic literature, but let that pass.

The child learned to read when she was nine, which puts her at somewhat of a disadvantage but isn’t, in itself, too terrible. Let that pass, too. Since she is homeschooled, she won’t be left behind by a system that ceases to place emphasis on learning to read at about fourth grade.

Dyslexia, however, does not simply disappear when a child learns to read; it will probably require accommodations throughout this child’s life, particularly if she goes to college or works in an office. Indeed, even if she follows her mother’s footsteps as a homemaker, natural products entrepreneur, and blogger, she will need to be properly equipped to deal with dyslexia, and Ms. Tietje’s informal approach does not seem adequate. What is a “regional assessor”? Was her daughter ever seen by a reading expert? What “things” are they using to help her?

And why, in the name of all that is good, was Ms. Tietje surprised when she took her daughter to the library at 9 years of age and was surprised to see that her daughter could read? Why wasn’t she paying closer attention to her daughter’s progress? This to me is the most shocking part of the whole post. I don’t say that she should have been giving her kid quizzes every Friday, but formally or informally she should know at any given time how her kids are doing in important areas of their schoolwork.

This is the other half of parents’ teaching responsibility, and it exists whether parents send their children to school or teach them themselves. We must know when our children are encountering obstacles to learning, and we must be committed to overcoming those obstacles. Almost all children learn to read, one way or another, but not to identify and help overcome learning disabilities is neglectful. Almost all children can acquire basic educational skills by themselves, and a few talented autodidacts can educate themselves to great levels of expertise. Parents, however, must be alert to the possibility that their children are experiencing some problem that requires intervention–and must respond accordingly.

Even Cuter Than Cats (Really)

When I was a teenager, babies grossed me out. They drool! Their noses leak! Their faces are covered in food! And ugh, the poop, the spitup, the vomit…nasty. I considered cats to be much cuter–they’re furry, and they wash themselves constantly.

I grew older and less sensitive to the bodily emissions of small humans, and came to see them as being very cute, maybe just as cute as cats, even.

Then I had a baby, and became besotted with her. And another, and another. The feel of them, the smell of them, even those excretions that used to distress me so became part of an all-encompassing love that embraced my mind and senses both. By extension, I became much more appreciative of other babies’ charms.

Were I to go back to my younger self, I’d say: You don’t yet viscerally love babies, okay. But they’re far more wonderful than cats. A cat is a cute, sweet, innocent, fluffy kitten, and then it’s a cat. Its personality develops so far, and no further. A baby, however, is always changing from one degree of cuteness to another–from a floppy doll with a blank stare to a bobbly-headed, curious creature with squishy thighs, to an active, excited, happy little human exploring its environment. Sooner than you think, the baby’s gone, and you’ve got a little kid running around.

Babies are beautiful like the dawn–they’re little for such a short time, and then as dawn gives way to full day so babyhood gives way to childhood. It’s not something I’d say to a new mother who’s been tipped topsy-turvy and thrown into the sea of new motherhood, but it’s something she’ll probably think herself, watching a little wistfully as her once baby careens around the house chattering cheerily and chasing after butterflies.

Lessons I’m Trying to Learn in Adulthood, and Trying to Teach My Kids in Childhood

My parents taught me many important things–about showing affection, preparing tasty food, being kind to others (especially those who are vulnerable), being curious about the world, and reading lots of books.

I learned other things through my family’s negative examples. I saw my mother eaten up in bitterness and despair, and realized how important it is not to let my happiness depend upon the misery of another, or to dwell upon what might have been. “If only x…” is a very natural thing to think or feel, but you must move past it. “Here is what is. How to go forward now?” I learned that apologizing first is a good thing; and I learned that you need to be consistent when meting out discipline. I learned that you don’t expose your minor child to your adult child’s violence, substance abuse, and theft.

But there are lessons that I did not learn as a child or teenager, and that now I am trying to learn as an adult. I hope that my kids will learn them early, and not have the struggles that I do with these concepts:

  1. Model what you’re trying to teach. If you think a quality is highly desirable in your children, increase it within yourself. They’re watching, and they’ll figure out what’s important to you and what isn’t when they’re quite small.
  2. Don’t procrastinate. Or, at least, don’t procrastinate too much.
  3. Cleaning is something that should be done every day, in little portions, along with occasional deep-cleans. It is worth it to spend lots of effort sweeping up, even if you know the floor will get dirty again immediately.
  4. Do not accept your own weaknesses in ability and character flaws as immutable. Work on your shortcomings. Do not characterize yourself as someone “disorganized,” “bad at math,” or “fearful.” Take steps to organize yourself; work on understanding math; face your fears.
  5. You don’t become more self-controlled by losing your temper; practice self-control like you’d practice anything else, and you’ll get better at it over time. Ditto with patience.
  6. It’s hard to be patient, kind, and diligent when you’re sick, tired, sad, or in pain, but you need to try. When you say something nasty, “I’m sorry; I was feeling bad” is not an adequate apology, unless you try to do better in the future. Think about what hurt you may have caused, and try to repair it.
  7. Corollary: Sometimes a job needs to get done. Suck it up; put your big girl panties on. Sorry you don’t feel like it.
  8. When giving gifts, try to please the recipient before yourself. Don’t get annoyed if they aren’t absolutely thrilled about the fabulous feast you spent hours making because they don’t happen to like the ingredients, or would really have preferred that you fed them spaghetti and had time to play with them.
  9. Don’t be too easily pleased when evaluating your work. Think how you can make it better.
  10. Don’t stop 4/5 of the way through something and declare it finished.
  11. Words are important, but so are actions. Words without actions are debased currency.
  12. Your children are not your best friends or your therapists. They do not exist to make you feel better. You need not hide all difficulties or painful feelings from them, but do not look to them for a solution.
  13. There’s a difference between helping and enabling. Do not enable bad or destructive behavior.

I’m sure there are items I’ve forgotten. I’m working on these traits, and I hope I’ll be able to teach my kids to do better. But ah, well, I’m sure I’ll mess up plenty, and so will they. May our love for each other cover our failings.


It’s Nice to be the Parent

I remember snuggling on my mother’s lap and thinking how sad it is that she can’t do the same. I then reflected that I, too, would grow up and not get to snuggle on laps anymore; a melancholy thought. I remember being taken to the park, pushed on the swing, served dinner, and going to the fair and thinking that grownups couldn’t possibly have much fun. And working all day! Yech! Going to school for a few hours (we had half-day kindergarten then) was hard enough, and we got to play there.

I remembered this while snuggling my sons on my lap and thinking how wonderful it felt. It isn’t quite the same feeling as being cuddled as a child–when you know that everything is just safe and right–but it is just as wonderful, the tenderness you feel and the security radiating from the small creature clinging to you.

Parental experiences can be full of frustration and drudgery. But what I would say to my childhood self–and what I say to my daughter, who occasionally worries about growing up and never having fun again–is that being a grownup has its good points. You get to choose your life, within certain constraints, you don’t have as many periods of crushing boredom, it’s easier to give voice, and you have perspective to buffer you against hurts and injustices. But above all, taking care of children, and watching them experience something for the first time or revel in happiness and love, is a special joy. It’s worth growing too large to fit on your mother’s lap.

Removing Angst

I always wince inwardly just a little when I tell a new acquaintance I’m a stay-at-home mother, that I don’t send my kids to preschool, that I breastfeed my 18-month-old, that I allow frequent desserts, etc.

Not because I think they’ll make disparaging comments–they never do.

Not because I think they might be thinking something disparaging–everyone is entitled to think what they want, and getting worked up about what others might be thinking but aren’t saying is silly.

No, what I worry about is that in expressing a decision we’ve made, I am automatically forcing them to justify their own, different decisions, which can tank the conversation. Mothers who work outside the home generally tell me that I’ve got the hardest job, that I’m doing something amazing and worthwhile, and other affirmations; occasionally one will tell me that she just couldn’t do it. We then exchange compliments and supportive comments. It’s rather stilted and artificial, though, because we’re afraid of coming across as judgmental to the other person.

This is probably more of a female problem than a male problem. I doubt very much that my husband worries about these things when chatting with other men. It represents progress, too; open Mommy wars are not fashionable, which is surely a good thing. What I have described, however, is still a set of constraints imposed by our inability to distinguish “something that is beneficial” with “something that should be normative.” When I say, “I love having time to take walks with my children,” there is a whiff of “I am giving my children a benefit that you, Working Mother, cannot.” When a working mother says, “I’m glad I can help provide for my children,” there’s a hint of “And you are not providing for your children.” For this reason, we usually do not say these things to each other.

Most of us recognize in other contexts that there is a substantial difference between “This is good” and “This is good in a way that nothing else can be.” We also recognize that most decisions are made on the basis of many factors, and that one answer is not right for everyone. We are, moreover, not usually so emotionally invested in choices that aren’t related to parenthood. “I used to live there, but the traffic was too bad for me,” we say breezily to someone who’s moved to our old town because of the great amenities available. We have different values and priorities, as well as different ways of living out our values and priorities, and we don’t really think it’s a slap in the face to make known these differences.

At some point, perhaps, a couple of parents watching their kids on the playground will need to feed their babies. One starts breastfeeding the baby; the other pulls out a formula bottle and says, “Ah, I didn’t want to be the kid’s only source of nutrition; it really helps that my husband can do some of the nighttime feedings.”

“Yeah, it is annoying getting up a few times a night,” agrees the breastfeeding mother. “But I like being able to feed the kid wherever, whenever, without worrying about what sorts of supplies I brought, or cleaning up bottles.” And they go on with their conversation, happy to share what works for them.



Reblogged: ‘How to you know you’ve found “the one”‘

Interesting discussion of how you know a prospective spouse is “the one.” It comes from a Christian perspective, which I share. I would note:

1) A relationship characterized by liking, respect, and trust is a good one; a relationship characterized by fear, resentment, and contempt is not. Note that I did not say “love” because people in bad relationships use that word all the time to mean various things that are incompatible with a good relationship, and ultimately a good marriage.

2) I’m not sure I agree that location of meeting has much to do with the quality of a relationship, but I do agree that you want to see your intended in situations that are NOT the idealized date setups. It’s pretty easy to get along when you’re eating out or hiking. How are you going to deal with exhaustion, poverty, sickness, or other stressful situations? Wedding planning can actually be helpful, here, as it tends to show how people deal with big projects. I know my own wedding planning brought out some of my weaknesses, and also showed my then-fiance’s organization, diligence, and calmness.

3) Family can suck, be awesome, or (most probably) offer good and bad things to the couple and the relationship. It is quite true that one’s family of origin has an enormous effect on a person, but what is key is seeing how they deal with it and with their family. Do they treat their family with respect, but set boundaries where appropriate? Are they able to recognize dysfunctional ways of communicating and work toward developing healthier habits?

3) I don’t think that people who are not great communicators are thereby shut off from marriage. But two people in a relationship need to figure out how to communicate with each other in a way that satisfies each other. Does your prospective spouse need to cool off for some hours after getting mad before addressing a situation? Then be prepared not to jump all over him or her when you would like nothing better than to talk and talk and talk the matter over. Are you too sensitive, perceiving slight where none was intended? How can you adjust your radar?

Finally, I note that, just as there are many ways of being healthy or unhealthy, there are also many different kinds of good and bad relationships. It is always good to look at happily married couples and see what they’re doing right, but ultimately you’ve got to make and remake your relationship with your significant other.

a meek & quiet spirit

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[photo by Ashley Crutcher Photography]

It was a sticky day in July. Campers would be arriving in just a few short hours and there was a lot to do before then. As we sat at brunch, I could tell he was nervous. “What’s wrong?” I asked after we prayed over our rice bowls. “I don’t know if he actually told me ‘yes’ straight up,” he said. Luckily he confirmed the answer at some point, because as we were in the throes of gearing up for another week of camp, he excitedly looked at me and asked: “Will you be my girlfriend?” Of course I said yes. We had been talking seriously for weeks. We had very similar goals, interests, and sense of humor. This was just the next sensible step on our journey to become one.

I love reminiscing and talking about the beginning of my relationship with my…

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