Category Archives: dreams

Nightmares

by Stacey

Last night I had one of those horrible mother dreams where my child is in peril and there’s nothing I can do to save him. Whenever I have this kind of dream, it haunts me for the rest of the day. I keep seeing the images and recalling the feelings and it makes me think about what life would be like if I did lose one of my children.

So as I sipped my morning coffee, I was drawn to read this article in Newsweek about how parents cope after losing a child. Every year, about 25,000 kids under age 10 die, most from congenital anomalies, unintentional injury (mainly car accidents), premature birth and cancer, the article says. The issue the article looks at, is the decision parents face over whether or not to have another child.

The loss of a child can put tremendous stress on even the best marriages and the closest families. “Losing a kid makes you lose faith in life,” says child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld. “To reclaim that faith in living, that it’s worth doing this again, is an act of enormous courage.”

Anecdotally, many experts say parents seem to do better when they try again, the article says. “The most profound attachment in human life is mother and child,” says John Golenski, executive director of the George Mark Children’s House, a residential facility in San Leandro, Calif., for kids with terminal illnesses and their families. “The best adaptation to [the loss of a child] is another attachment.”

But understandably, some fear the pain of loss again. And others who do have another child sometimes feel guilty. “What I do hear a lot is the feeling of, ‘Am I betraying my child who died?’ ” says Barbara Sourkes, director of the pediatric palliative-care program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. ” ‘How can I throw myself wholeheartedly into a new child and leave the child who died behind?’ ”

As I write this post I keep thinking, why am I upsetting all of my dear readers with this topic? And the answer is, I don’t really know. This evening my husband and I are meeting with an estate lawyer to begin writing our will and establish custody for our children if we were to die unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago I dreamed that I had left my older son Sage alone at home while I went on a driving trip. My husband was away too and suddenly I realized that Sage was far too young to be in the house all by himself. I began to panic because I was so far away. When I woke up, I realized that dream was about my husband and I dying and leaving our children to fend for themselves in the world.

I didn’t know that when I had kids life would suddenly seem so fragile and precious. It’s not a feeling I walk around with everyday, thank god. But for today, I really don’t care if Sage decides not to listen to me or if Sascha cries every time I leave the room. They’re alive and safe with me. That’s all I care about. Tomorrow is another story.

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Filed under dreams, family, fears, kids, life, parenting, safety

Closet Co-Sleepers

by Stacey

Nearly 13 percent of parents in the U.S. practiced co-sleeping with their children in 2000 up from 5.5. percent in 1993, according to a series of studies on co-sleeping published in the August issue of the journal Infant and Child Development. And according to this article in the NY Times, the current number may actually be much higher.

Ask parents if they sleep with their kids, and most will say no. But there is evidence that the prevalence of bed sharing is far greater than reported. Many parents are “closet co-sleepers,” fearful of disapproval if anyone finds out, notes James J. McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame.

“They’re tired of being censured or criticized,” Dr. McKenna said. “It’s not just that their babies are being judged negatively for not being a good baby compared to the baby who sleeps by himself, but they’re being judged badly for having these babies and being needy.”

Pediatricians generally frown on co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said babies should sleep close to their parents but not in the same bed, the article says. The concern is that a sleeping parent could trap a baby in bed covers or in the space between the bed and the wall.

Although some studies suggest bed sharing puts children at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, the data are not conclusive. And some researchers say the risk is higher only if parents smoke, drink too much alcohol and fail to take proper precautions to make sure the bed is safe.

Others raise concerns that children will not develop healthy sleep habits or that marriages will suffer if children sleep between parents. In one study, for example, 139 parents were asked about the sleep habits of their young children. Parents who slept with their children reported a much higher frequency of nighttime wakings than parents who did not. But experts say that kids who sleep solo may have night wakings, it’s just that parents don’t know about it. The crux is whether the co-sleeping parents consider night wakings a problem.

As for the toll it takes on marriages, co-sleeping causes trouble if the couple is not in agreement about the arrangement, the article says. Otherwise, couples report equal levels of happiness in their relationship as couples who do not co-sleep.

There are intentional co-sleepers — those who sleep with their children because they want to breast-feed for a long stretch and believe bed sharing is good for a child’s well-being and emotional development. Another group is reactive co-sleepers, those parents who don’t really want to sleep with their kids, but do so because they can’t get their children to sleep any other way or because financial hardship requires them to share a room with a child.

And then there is a third group that she tentatively calls circumstantial co-sleepers — parents who sleep with their children occasionally because of circumstances like sharing a bed on a family vacation, during a thunderstorm or because the child is sick.

Problems occur most often among reactive co-sleepers, the article says, because the situation feels coerced.

My family falls into that third group, the circumstantial co-sleepers. For the most part I like sleeping with my kids. It’s cozy and sweet. But I think if we did it all the time, we’d need to get a bigger bed. The writer of the article says sleeping with kids is like sleeping inside a washing machine and she has a point. All that twisting and kicking. Oy.

By the way, I’m all for people coming out of the closet. If anyone wants to do so here on Fussbucket, feel free.

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Filed under breastfeeding, child development, children's health, dreams, exhaustion, family, family life, kids, life, marriage, mental health, mother love, parenting, psychology, relationships, sex, sleep, sleep deprivation, toddler

College Before and After

by Stacey

Last Sunday the NY Times Magazine ran a series of articles about college. Getting in, paying for it, advice from the recently graduated, that kind of thing. I know I’ve ranted about this before, but why is this whole getting into college thing so freaking insane? Whenever I read about it, I want to hide under the bed with a blanket over my head.

In one article, called Tense Times at Bronxville High, a student named Win (actually his name is Winthrop Pearce Rutherford, which is explained by what I’m about to say) spent his life trying to get into Princeton University. His grandfather, his father, all of his uncles and great-uncles on his dad’s side all went to Princeton and all he wanted to do was to follow in their footsteps.

Clearly the dude had legacy. But he also had a perfect grade point average, was co-editor of the school newspaper, had SAT scores totaling 2,200 out of 2,400, was co-captain of the cross-country team and was a strong-enough German student that he regularly traveled to Hunter College in New York City to take a high-level class, the article says.

Cut to the chase: he didn’t get in. Huh? What more could they want? Oh, but wait! Win had a skeleton in his closet. Before attending Bronxville High, he was a student at St. Paul’s School, a fancy boarding school in New Hampshire. The article says he left the school because of a drinking incident.

Who knows if that was the reason he wasn’t accepted to Princeton. And no one really needs to cry for Win. He ended up getting accepted at the University of Virginia and from the sound of it, he will have the family funds to enjoy his college years free from financial worries.

But this story gives me the creeps. The thought that teenagers have to be these over-achieving, over-scheduled, perfect people is downright frightening. One misstep and your chances are ruined? Come on! That’s cruel.

After shuddering my way through that article, I turned to another one called Don’t Worry Be Students. The article describes a NY Times poll of a few thousand recent college graduates. The message from the post-college world is, it doesn’t matter so much where you go to school, because “college is great” and high school kids should really “chill out.”

Those surveyed said that the criteria they used to select schools ended up not being important to them once they got on campus.

The young alums acknowledge, in a variety of their responses, that the qualities they or their parents thought were crucial in choosing a college were not necessarily the things that mattered most once they got there. Magazine rankings and a school’s reputation — both extremely important in the minds of many applicants — are often of far less significance to graduates as they reflect on what made their college years worthwhile.

Instead, experiences with friends or extracurricular activities were the memories that stood out in their minds. Most said that the education they received was directly related to the work they found after graduation.

So why all this insanity? It seems fear driven, but I can’t put my finger on what exactly people are so afraid of. Any thoughts?

It also strikes me as kind of tragic. If Win with his perfect GPA, extracurriculars up the wazoo, and a legacy that beats G.W.’s can’t get into Princeton, that says to me that lots of other kids are going to be sorely disappointed in the spring. Is it worth it?

Pressed several months after his rejection to explain what was riding on his application to Princeton, Win himself couldn’t really put his finger on it. “I don’t even know what I wanted,” he says. “It was almost like this intangible thing. Getting into a good college — it’s like it was like some sort of a reward for lifetime service.” He struggles and starts again. “It was this built-up desire — part of it was for my family, but that was only part of it.” It didn’t have to be Princeton, he’d come to realize. Princeton just happened to be the school that became the fetish object. “That’s what you’re working so hard for — so you rationalize it.” If you’re working that hard for something your entire 18-year-old life, it can’t just be a good school — it has to be something bigger than that. “It’s like getting into college becomes the F. Scott Fitzgerald green light at the end of the dock, the unreachable future you’re striving for.”

Win grins, as usual, acknowledging the rarefied world he’s a part of, while simultaneously making fun of himself for it. Part of the anticlimax, he said, was the absence he suddenly felt of some other pressing goal (presumably what he’d have four years at U. Va. to figure out). “I’d worked it over so much in my brain,” Win says. “Now what?”

How ’bout just hanging out with your friends and being a kid for a little longer? You only get one chance at that and then lots of years to work and strive and stress out.

What do you all think? Can we start the backlash now so when my kids reach this stage (in fifteen years) all this craziness will be a thing of the past?

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Filed under depression, discipline, dreams, education, exhaustion, family, family life, fears, friends, kids, life, mental health, parenting, psychology, sports, teenager

dreaming about the stars

by kristin

my husband and i recently went on a date to see sunshine, a fascinating sci-fi flick about a small team of scientists charged with reignighting the sun fifty years from now. the movie inspired an interesting conversation with my husband about science vs. religion and some crazy dreams that night starring the film’s hero, cillian murphy.

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cillian and i had an epic adventure fighting space crimes and jetting around the solar system all night, so i was kind of exhausted when i woke up. exhausted, yet reminded of the last time (more recently than i’d like to admit) another foxy celebrity leapt into my dreams . . .

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Filed under celebrity, cillain murphy, dirty dancing, dreams, movie, patrick swayze, science fiction, scientists, sun, sunshine

Sports-crazed

by Stacey

Ambitious young athletes are increasingly turning to sports psychologists for help with fears, phobias, and just plain negative thinking according to this NY Times article. This follows a trend in which kids are specializing in one sport with the hopes of winning college scholarships or the chance to play with premier travel clubs. In support of this effort, “the families of young athletes routinely pay for personal strength coaches, conditioning coaches, specialized skill coaches like pitching or hitting instructors, nutritionists and recruiting consultants,” the article says. “Now, the personal sports psychologist has joined the entourage.”

Entourage? Jeez.

According to the article, parents who believe their child might just have what it takes are taking their cue from stories like that of Tiger Woods, whose dad had him out hitting golf balls as a small child. So they start them young and take it seriously. “Parents tell me that they’ve put so much money into their child’s athletic development that they’re not going to leave any stone unturned if it might help them achieve,” said Marty Ewing, a former president of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. But the article says, many sports psychologists, including those who see young athletes, say they wonder if the treatment is not overkill in a youth sports landscape bursting with excess.

“On the one hand, it’s foolish not to teach kids mental skills they may need,” said Daniel Gould, a sports psychologist who is also the director of Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. “On the flip side, is it just contributing to the professionalism of childhood? Because these kids aren’t playing for the New York Yankees. And worse, I worry that some parents are doing it just because their neighbor did it for his kid.”

Young athletes sometimes struggle with the same issues that adult athletes face, problems like pre-game jitters or post-game frustrations that impede performance. One nine-year old girl in the article who excelled at gymnastics suddenly developed a fear of jumping from one bar to the other in the uneven bars event. She consulted with a sports psychologist, at a cost of $225 per hour for twelve sessions over the course of five months. “It made such a difference,” she told the Times. The girl performed well at the recent national and Junior Olympic competitions. “It was a phobia,” said her mother. “A mental block that hindered her ability to compete.”

But there are concerns that the demands of such high-level performance are too much. “If an 11-year-old is told that focusing on one sport is all that matters, it obviously puts a lot of pressure on every outcome in that sport,” Dr. Ewing said. “We are asking that 11-year-old to play a game at a level that is disproportionate to his or her cognitive development. That’s development you can’t rush, but people try.”

This is the part that makes me squeamish. When I was a kid I didn’t have the discipline or focus to develop professional-level skills at anything. Well, maybe at talking on the phone, but no one was interested in watching me compete at that. Too bad, I could have been a contender.

It makes me feel kind of bad for these kids who are striving so hard. Knowing that your parents are shelling out such serious dough for you to be able to compete on that level, it’s a lot of pressure for a kid. But then again, maybe it feels great to have your parents believe in you that much and your ability to succeed. I just don’t know. What do you all think? Have any of you been on either side of this issue, either as a child athlete or as a parent?

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Filed under child athletics, child development, children's health, discipline, dreams, family life, kids, parenting, psychology, sports, young athletes

Mom Shop

by Stacey

It wasn’t until I went to college that I made my first real best friend. The kind that sticks, for life. She was in art school and I was in journalism school. We met and almost instantly fell in love. We spent all of our time together, thought everyone else sucked in comparison to the other, and shared dreams of a grand future.

Part of the tenor of that time was our intense desire to make our lives meaningful. To us, this meant our work – my writing and her painting. (She’s a film editor now.) I’m sure we were absolutely insufferable to be around, but the memories are dear to both of us. The other day we were talking on the phone and I reminded her of something I read during that time that struck me. It was advice to young artists and writers, something along the lines of, unless you would die without this kind of work, don’t bother. At the time, I thought, “Hmm, I’m not sure I would die without it. Maybe I’m a wanna-be.”

Life carried me along. I left journalism school for a liberal arts education and then found my way into journalism anyway. I had a great time working at a news magazine in Washington, DC for a few years. Then I had a baby and moved to Seattle where I quickly figured out there was almost no media, certainly nothing like DC where reporters are as common as hikers in Seattle. Suddenly I found myself without my work. And I felt like I was going to die.

For three years there was part of me that withered without words and ideas buzzing around in my head. I knew it wouldn’t have been enough for me to write without readers. The point is to communicate. Fussbucket has proven to be the perfect solution to this problem. I love this blog. And if I had become a parent ten years ago, I wouldn’t have it. That’s a scary thought.

This got me thinking about other mothers out there who also need their work to maintain their sanity. Mothers who want to their stuff to be seen and appreciated, who need that connection with the larger world. And then I got an idea.

Fussbucket will now be hosting Mom Shop. Here you will find links to sites run by women who are parents, but they are also artists, jewelers, photographers, and more. For starters it will work like a Blogroll on the side of the home page. Scroll down and you will find our first three links: WooWoo Bags, made by my good friend Hilary in DC, Lemon Tree Jewelry started by my neighbor Sara who just had baby Jasper a few months ago, and Janet Klinger Photography, a Seattle-based business with a studio up the street from my house. All moms doing their thing.

Join me in supporting these businesses and others like them. These days it’s cool to buy handmade crafts, see this NY Times article on that topic. And it’s even cooler to let those creative mamas out there know we’re digging what they’re doing.

I’ll be on the hunt for more businesses to add to Mom Shop. You can send me links at: FussbucketNW@yahoo.com.

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Filed under art, D.I.Y., depression, dreams, friends, life, media, psychology, work

nightmare

by kristin

last night, i had a terrible dream. lily died. the circumstances were fuzzy and accidental, no one was at fault. but the thing that woke me at 4 in the morning, gasping for breath, was the grief. it came in tidal waves of the deepest sorrow; disorienting, overwhelming and endless. the world was missing my lily. we would never see her grow and become the girl and woman she was meant to be. it was apocalyptic. i was completely destroyed.

and then i woke up.

i am trashed today, hungover from facing my deepest fear. it’s usually lurking around the edges of my consciousness, suppressed and soothed by daily routines. i work hard to keep it that way. i can go for days without remembering how vulnerable we really are, how much these kids mean to me, how deeply i love them. but today, it’s right on the surface. i drink in the woolly smell of sadie’s unwashed hair and watch lily strut around the house in her diaper, belly leading the way. i am brutally alive today, noticing and loving every little thing about my girls.

so maybe that’s the gift of this terrible dream, and the gift of allowing myself to sit with the possibility that i could lose them. i am paying attention today. i have them here with me now and that is enough.

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Filed under dreams, fears, love