Thursday, August 30, 2012

Taping the banana

One of the things I thought I would be good at when becoming a parent was to be firm. I believe in limitless love of your children but I also think they need a bit of structure and that sometimes they just need to do what you tell them because you tell them. I am willing to ask what they want but they need to take what they get. Very common thinking for future parents to-be. Especially parents who think that family life is idyllic with two parents present. Great thinking in a situation were a child does not have to experience moving home five times in one year or has to witness hostility between her parents on a weekly basis. But things don't always turn out that way and all things considered I think Zoe is doing amazingly. She cries for me when I am not there sometimes (Mark says) and yesterday she answered very clearly to my simple question of if she wanted to bring anything over to daddy (a book, her doll or something): "yes: Mommy!" And who can blame her. She does love when she has both of us, like most 2 year olds. But occasionally she is a mess. These are the times where she has a fit over having to walk home (because Mark forgot to bring the stroller to daycare, he lives much closer than I do) or where she simply can't express her feelings and desires and break down because I can't understand what she says. And these are the times where I patiently tape up the banana which I cut in half for her, only to realize that she certainly didn't want a half, but a whole banana that she can peel herself and eat from the top. I realize that sometimes life just needs a bit of taping up and all the firmness and structure cannot make up for the fact that her life has been cut in half and she needs extra love and attention. So I think I'll have to keep taping bananas for quite a while longer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Zoe started her new daycare yesterday. It is a private daycare where I had to charm my way in but it is 5 minutes away from where I live (and where Zoe's dad lives) which will turn our previous hellish commutes into a leisurely stroll. The concept of the daycare is that it is trilingual, English, Swedish and French. Zoe is in the English group of small children under two and a half which makes her one of the oldest. Her obsession with babies (any little person that is younger than her or uses a pacifier) makes this a good situation right now. The daycare's strategy is that each teacher uses one language with the children so even though the common activities are in English, there are teachers who speaks in Swedish and French with the children during more individual activities. More structured language practicing takes place once or twice per week where the children have specific activities in Swedish and French. So now Zoe is being introduced to a fourth language. Why not?

Here in Sweden so-called "in-schooling" can take up to two weeks where the parents spend the first two days with the child in the daycare and the child is picked up early all the way until the last day. I have no idea how working parents do this here, perhaps they have family around who can help, but I was not thinking this was a good idea for Zoe. She is already familiar with the idea of daycare, she likes it, and would be confused if I stayed there with her for long hours. After talking to the head teacher I was then allowed to do a speedy in-schooling. This was the right choice. Zoe impressed the teachers and even me the first day by being completely comfortable there, eating a good lunch, using the potty and playing calmly with all the new toys. When I came to pick her up yesterday after lunch, just before her midday nap she lay down on a mattress: "No mummy, Zoe sleep here! No sleep klapvogn [stroller]". I promised that she could nap back at home in my bed and she reluctantly followed me. This morning she went directly to the table with the play-dough and after a brief chat to her teacher (a really sweet woman who teaches english and art) I told her I was leaving and she kissed me goodbye. I am so proud of her and think she will be just fine with a fourth language. Oh and the new daycare.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This past week has been sort of an involuntary staycation for Zoe and I. As I have mentioned before, I have moved to a separate apartment and Mark and I are not living together at the moment. This also means that we are not having any holiday together but instead have done separate things, with and without Zoe. I have therefore been on my own with Zoe in Stockholm for most of this week without daycare since Zoe's is not starting her new place before Monday. Mark is traveling with some friends. It has been a lot of fun but also stressful. Stressful because I have a lot of work in terms of papers that are due very soon, both accepted, semi-accepted and brand new papers, but with an energized toddler, work is out of the question; when she finally sleeps at night, I'm so exhausted that I can barely clean the kitchen. But also stressful because when Mark out-of-town, I am very alone here in Stockholm where I have barely made casual friends yet. I admit that much of this is my own fault, I try to socialize but honestly, my Swedish is not fit for girlfriend talk and the English speaking people I have met so far have mainly been stay-at-home wives who have followed their (sometimes Swedish) husband here and I don't feel I have a lot in common with them. I do have a few Swedish colleagues that I speak English with and whom I would consider friends. But they are on holiday this week. So Zoe and I developed a routine for doing toddler-focused activities morning and afternoon, and for me to have coffee and relax during her mid-day nap so I didn't go mad from spending 24/7 with my lovely but quite demanding daughter.

Zoe stamping my ticket at the tram museum
Wednesday for example we went to the Tram Museum where they have a little train the kids (with adults) can ride and I knew she loved it, so I showed up early enough to get early tickets (half an hour into opening hours the next available train times are usually 3 hours in the future. Good luck entertaining kids for that long in a museum). And today we went to the Postal Museum that had a special kids-section open in where she could paint her own postcard, send it off to grandmother (they actually gave us stamps!) and play in a special kids sized postal car. She was a darling all day despite having slept two hours less than normal, perhaps because I spoiled her with two ice creams and a lollypop.

But today was the last day. Tomorrow her dad is back and will take her in the afternoon where I hopefully will be able to finish one of my papers. And then vacation is over.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What goes around comes around

It is amazing the material stuff that a parent accumulates of completely necessary baby stuff. I view myself as belonging to the category of 'minimalist moms' (although some people do it way better than I) and I have only ever had two pram/strollers (=baby vehicles), two carriers (one which I still use), two car seats (one for the nanny, one for us) and Zoe still has very few toys since we live small and she has plenty opportunity to play with other toys in daycare and playgroups I take her to. Yet, for some reason all these things are used, then discarded because a baby grows into a toddler and suddenly the legs are too long for the stroller and the head sticks out the top of the infant car seat (yep, I tried to squeeze her in when she was still under the weight limit but too tall, since she is "tall and skinny" on the charts). And in other cases we moved and shipped 90% of Zoe's toys not realizing that she would like things to play with during the 6 months while we waited for it. So we bought double (remember the cup-holder problem?).

So for the longest time I had wanted to sell or pass on many old things that are just taking up storage space, things that another baby, somewhere, could have great use of. Today was the day. I meticulously wrote well-phrased ads for Blocket, Sweden's version of craigslist, checked the Swedish again and again on google translate and paid the fees. I woke up to several emails with interested people and managed to get all four people to show up this afternoon. I was not only proud of my own accomplishment in terms of communication and coordination, I was also amazed of how easy it was and how many people were interested in my 2 year old no-name pram that Zoe had for her first 4 months. I guess I listed it too cheap. The other things also sold easily, I think because they were brand name items.

One of the things Sweden is amazing about is second hand stuff, particularly high quality items. Nothing is cheap here, you can find more affordable things but a real stroller is still 700$ and up and if you want to be hip with the hipster moms on Södermalm, you need a Bugaboo or an Emmaljunga pram with your color matching child dressed in Molo or Marimekko. I was fairly brand name savvy before I became a mom and I still am a firm believer in quality which comes with particular brands so Zoe is often found in Petit Bateau, Noa Noa, Polarn & Pyret (lovely Swedish kids clothes) and of course Molo. But as I looked at her today I also became proud of my ability to budget: her Molo t-shirt was bought from the UK mail-order on sale together with the Petit Bateau undershirt; her Wheat pants were hand-me-downs from my girlfriend whose daughter is 7 years older than Zoe. Finally, her Molo rain boots (that she wears every single day, rain or sunshine) were a present from my mom since her old ones had so many holes in them that... well let me just say the normal functionality of rain boots was non-existent. The high quality of clothes here, both in terms of material and design, as well as durability, gives me a sense of responsibility to also pass things on and I have so far managed to sell 15+ items on Tradera, Sweden's eBay (see my current ads).

So today was big cleaning out day. What I had not predicted was Zoe's still very present attachment to all the things. She spent 45 minutes playing in, around, and under her old pram, crawling into it and putting her doll into it. I explained that a nice little baby (named Jessica), who did not have a pram of her own, needed it and that we were passing it on to her, but Zoe still cried her eyes out when they rolled it away. The infant carseat went a bit more easily although the mom hadn't brought the baby, but perhaps Zoe had realized at this point that she really didn't fit in there anymore after eagerly attempting and falling out a couple of times. At one point between the Brio trolley and her pram I broke down and promised that we buy her a doll pram. As a minimalist mom, we don't have one at home despite Zoe loving them when at a playgroup or visiting others kids who do. I regretted immediately because I knew it was a "bad mommy moment" and hope she doesn't remember tomorrow. At least she finally stopped crying and we went over to buy a footstool (second hand) for her so she doesn't have to climb up on the bathroom bin to reach the sink. I might be minimalist but this is one item I should have bought long time ago, before she broke the lid off the waste bin.