Stop Parenting Alone (seriously, you don’t have to)

So it’s no secret that Santiago and I live at my parents. We moved in when I was barely pregnant with Joaquin so basically, Santi has no memory of living anywhere but with my parents.

MEL and JAL, as we so lovingly call them, are the best (90% of the time). They spoil our kids with kisses and hugs, invite them to their room (or outings) so we can get a moments peace and there is always food in the house. Win, win win, right? WRONG. Remember, there needs to be 100% and the missing 10% is the problem. Not with them, the problem is with us. We know that our kids are being raised by two moms and two dads and we also know that there are lot and lots of changes coming to their lives. So the question was, what the hell do we do now?

S: I think we’re screwed until we move.

A: That can’t be right.

S: You’re right. We’re going to be screwed for a while because Rosita is going back to Nicaragua two weeks after the baby is born, we’re about to move, you’re about to have a new baby and Santi doesn’t respect me.

A: Oh yeah. That makes more sense. We’re screwed.

It’s not a surprise to anyone that I’m extremely anxious and really anything puts me over the edge, so after a day and a half of having a stomach ache, I did the most logical thing that occurred to me. I made an appointment with Parenting Expert Lina Acosta from Stop Parenting Alone.

One of the biggest benefits to having Santi attend KLA Schools of Brickell is that Lina comes once a month for Parent Talks. It’s not just beneficial because I can attend and learn a wealth of knowledge from an expert, but it’s beneficial because Santiago doesn’t attend and then I seem like the parenting expert and he’s like the child. I almost always know what I’m talking about (because I’m repeating verbatim what she said) and he’s always really impressed. And for those of you judging me, it’s called survival people, look it up.

I’ve been to talks about Managing Challenging Behaviors, Transitions, etc.. You name it, I’ve been there. So, when I realized that Santiago and I were in fact screwed, I made an appointment. Now, when you call you have three options. You can meet with a regular therapist there for a certain amount, with a “senior” therapist for another amount, or with Lina, the big cahoona, for another amount. Much to Santiago’s shagrin, I booked an appointment with Lina. Hey, if I’m going to get an expert’s advice, I want it from the horses mouth, right?

What were our concerns?

A: How will my children react to a new baby? How are so many transitions going to affect Joaquin (new sibling, new house, new nanny, school starts in August)? Should I move before or after baby is born (if my house is even ready)? Does Joaquin actually hate me?

S: What do I do if Santi doesn’t eat? What do I do if Joaquin doesn’t sleep? When the hell can I move out of my inlaws house? (Please say now).

What did she think?

I’ll tell you what–it is sooooooooooooo refreshing to hear someone else’s perspective. I mean, I hear my mom and dads every second of every day because they’re always around, but I mean someone impartial. Someone who doesn’t care what side “wins” and who is actually thinking of the child. Parents assume they’re thinking of the child, but really, our actions typically benefit us.

How will the kids react to a new sibling?

Joaquin won’t notice until the baby is mobile (hooray!! but also what???), Santi will be more affected. 

This was a big surprise because we were not concerned about Santi at all and only worried about Joaquin. Santi has already gained a sibling, learned to live with a new human being and share his parents. Joaquin was born into chaos and has had so many changes in his life, but he was getting really big ones all in the time span of 4 months. That’s a lot. Santi’s at the age where no matter what I explain to him he can’t really grasp the change that’s coming and anticipate how it’s going to affect him, so no matter how much I talk to him about it, it’s going to “hit” when I’m home and he has 1/3rd of my attention. Joaquin won’t care until the baby is in his way, so she gave us the holy grail as to what to do. Feel, Touch, Speak. 

Wear one baby so they feel you (in this case the smallest one), while I’m touching the one closest to me. This reassures them that I’m here for them. The last child, the one farthest from me will be the one I’m talking to. Everyone gets a piece of the pie and I’m not sitting with 3 kids on top of me.

What do we do if Santi doesn’t eat?

Absolutely nothing.

This was a big one for Santiago. If Santi doesn’t eat, his entire day is ruined. It’s been the cause of countless arguments and a major stress in our parenting relationship. I know (from the talks I attend with Lina, but also from common sense) that Santi isn’t going to die of hunger. Regardless, its a major stress for Santiago. Case in point: we went mattress shopping in Casper a few weeks ago. If you go into the store, the beds are set up in different “bedrooms” and in each of those bedrooms, there is a basket of chocolate. Santi ate them all. Santiago was livid and I left in tears (from laughing too hard). One hour later, Santiago was fuming because Santi wasn’t hungry for lunch. The rest of the day was spent arguing about my lack of consideration and hatred of healthy eating habits. To say it was my least favorite Saturday is an understatement.

Lina reminded Santi that his stomach is the size of his fist and we are to offer food every 2.5-3 hours. The holy grail for this conundrum? Parents decide what children eat, where they eat it and when they eat it. Children decide if they eat and how much. Period. My job is to offer Santi food that I want him to eat (with at least one option I know he’ll like), where they’re going to eat it (aka the kitchen and not in front of the TV) and when they eat (aka, breakfast time and dinner time are non-negotiable). Santi and Joaquin get to decide if they’re going to eat and how much of the meal. That’s pretty fair right? If they eat, I can offer food in 3 hours, and if they don’t, I offer it a bit sooner. Moral of the story, they won’t die from hunger. She also helped put things in perspective. Is it the healthiest choice for Santi to have chocolate at 11:30 AM? No. But the chocolate he ate has fat and protein so there’s the silver lining.

When can we move out of MEL and JAL’s place?

Immediately.

I was (and still am honestly) a little hesitant. It’s an inconvenience for me to move before the baby and/or right after. I feel like I need a month or so to slowly make the change because yes, we’ll both me parents to three children, but only I will have given birth (and we all know how fun the Cuarentena is). Transitions are always going to be a part of their life. Me moving is inevitable. As long as they have their bedroom and kitchen set up, they’re good to go. Living in a house with a missing dining table or floor length lamp won’t ruin their life. I don’t want to move into a house with an unfinished driveway or pool because it gives me anxiety, but at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for my children. The holy grail here is children need consistency. My children have lots of consistency with us. We are strict about bedtime routines, meal times, etc… What’s not a constant in their lives? Punishment and reward. My parents have mentioned approximately 1 billion times since we’ve moved in that they already raised their kids and their job is to spoil their grandkids. So if that means never saying no, offering lollipops to stop tantrums (at any time of day a-la Rose) or de-authorizing Santiago or myself to “help” their grandchild survive whatever abuse they’re accusing us of, they take a front row seat. Do they mean well? Yes. Does it drive us insane? Double yes.

A few other takeaways:

  • Santi is going to have tantrums over the smallest possible things because even though it’s called the terrible two’s, it’s really the terrible three’s. He’s learning what his emotions are and how to deal with them and our job as parents is to pacify without rewarding and without getting down to their level. If I set a boundary (Santi, you cannot watch TV right now) and he throws himself on the floor, I cannot put the TV on so he shuts up, start crying and screaming hysterically too (because children feed off of our emotions) or give him a reward for doing what I say. If I give him a reward for doing what I’m expecting of him, I’m teaching him that a negative emotion can be fixed with something that makes him happy (rather than dealing with feeling like he’s mad). Now at his age that distraction can be chocolate, but later in life his “happy” thing can be worse like alcohol or drugs 🙂
  • Sleep is the last thing we should be worrying about. It’s absolutely normal for children to wake up multiple times a night and in the grand scheme of things, one day they just won’t. Yes it’s annoying and exhausting but one day, Santi or Joaquin won’t need me at 4:00 AM and instead of lying awake because their knee is in my back, I’ll be laying awake wondering what they’re dreaming about and what I did to deserve abandonment.
  • Learn when to tap out. Sometimes Santiago and I get so involved in whatever is happening with our children that we loose sight of reality. Sunday was a great day. I picked the clothes out for my kids and was then assured by Santiago that I should go and get dressed in peace because “he’s got this.” Five minutes later Santi is crying hysterically and Santiago is yelling at him to put a shirt on. It wasn’t the one I picked out, it was a different shirt. Made of gold and costs $500? Nope. Regular cotton shirt from Jcrew. Long story short, we don’t have a code word to tap each other out so we just got into it in front of the kids (which is a big no-no) and Santi didn’t wear the shirt his dad wanted (or the one he wanted–we compromised on the one I wanted) and Santiago spent breakfast in silence. From now on, when one of us is completely loosing it, we have a code and we have to trust that we are tapping each other out because they can see we’ve lost it.

All in all, I think it’s the best $300 we’ve ever spent.

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