7 Quick Takes - On Giving Kids the Space to Grow Up and Make Choices

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

It's been a while since I did a 7 quick takes post. But I've had several interesting things I've been reading, probably all linked to by friends on facebook, up on my laptop for a week or two now and it seemed time to just share them all at once and close those tabs. Many of these are variations on a theme.

1. Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids Basically, this article talks about the problems inherent in not allowing children to take any risks, and rescuing them too soon from the consequences of their actions, their own mistakes, and work they find challenging.

2. A Nation of Wimps From Psychology Today, exploring why overprotective parenting is causing kids to be weaker, not stronger. (I told you there was a theme to my reading. ;)

3. Safety Second, (Or Maybe Even Third) I loved how they address the issue of physical safety in this article. I have lost count of the number of times a fellow parent tells me they are amazed at how well my kids can navigate playground equipment without getting hurt, and how physically confident they are, only to, in the next breath, yell at their kids to "Come down from there. It's too dangerous. You can't do that."

Kids become safer as they gain experience using their bodies. Say yes to tree climbing, wall walking and stick playing.  Show kids how to fall properly (rolling) and avoid real dangers (cliffs; busy streets).
4. The Neuro Science of Calming a Baby A brief little article explaining from a scientific perspective how normal it is for a crying baby to want to be picked up, how all mammals are soothed by being picked up and carried my their mothers, and why this works. Encouragement for every mama who just doesn't want to pick up the crying baby again, already, why won't they just sleep?

5. India may have created an inexpensive, about $1, rotavirus vaccine. Since rotavirus kills an estimated 450, 000 children every year, this is spectacular. India's Deadly Diarrhea Problem

6. And this one, which is likely to be controversial. Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed I was fortunate growing up to be given real and good information on how my body worked, and good and real reasons why I should respect and take care of it, and guard my sexuality. So this article just makes sense to me. My mind is boggled that there are people who really think it's better to keep their kids ignorant as to how their bodies work, and just tell them not to do anything with them. And that's not to mention the message that if you do make any mistakes your value as a person is somehow diminished because of it.

7. Because some of you will ask... What should we teach our kids about sex? My kids already pretty much know the basics of anatomy and reproduction, in an age appropriate way. It's a conversation that we have had, and will continue to have over and over as they get older. We present it as something amazing that our bodies are able to do. Just like hearts, and eyes, and our nervous system, and immune system, etc. All amazingly designed and miraculous.

When we talk to them about having sex, and where and when and with who that happens, we will tell them the truth. We will tell them that this amazing miraculous thing is precious, that it goes deep inside them, and what they choose to do with it will affect their lives. It can be amazing and wonderful and life giving. We will also tell them that just like we don't want them to put their lips in a meat grinder, because it's harmful and disfiguring, we don't want them to experience the heartbreak of being intimate with people who won't treasure them, commit to them, or be there for them when they need it. We've seen first hand, over and over again, how much pain this causes people and families, and often children conceived in these situations. We want them to live free of that. Just like we want them to drive sober and not go into a crazy amount of debt in college. We definitely won't tell them that no one will ever want them again if things don't go as we hope they will. Because that's just plain useless. Fear isn't a very good motivator when it comes to making good choices, not to mention the damage it causes on the way.


What it's like to be pregnant in Thailand

So you want to know what it's like to be pregnant in Thailand.

Where do I begin?

Let's start with wanting to buy a cotton nightshirt to sleep in. They have cotton night shirts. Just none made to go over pregnant bellies. I could buy 3 of the teeny tiny things they do sell and sew them all together to fit over me. That was one option I considered. But since I have to sew, I just went and bought fabric and hopefully in a few days I will just make the thing and be able to wear it while breastfeeding a baby also. An enterprising business person could probably make a bundle if they had maternity clothes tailored and sold here in a boutique. Women here just make do with what they can find.

Today I realized that not one of the many babies in the hospital waiting room was strapped into a car seat, or stroller, or any other sort of carrying device. They were all held. You know how in the US they won't even let you carry a baby around in the hospital in case you drop it, and they won't let you leave with your baby unless it's in a car seat? Yeah, that doesn't happen here. They carry babies, and they are so sweet with them.

Obstetric Practices

Just put yourself about 30 years ago in terms of common obstetrical practice in the US and you have Thailand. They put your feet in stirrups when it's time to push the baby out, many hospitals don't let your husband go in the room with you, and they believe VBACS are the most risky thing you can possibly attempt. Even if you've already had 3 of them.

Today I tried to keep a straight face while a young Thai doctor s earnestly informed me that my chances of uterine rupture are so much higher now, 11 years after my original C-section, than they were the first 3 times I had a VBAC because my uterus is old and stretched thin and just a very high risk. She then reassured me that C-sections and natural births in Thailand cost almost the same. She understands that you would want a VBAC in the US to keep the cost down, but here, where it is the same, why take the risk? She also told me that it doesn't hurt that much after the first day or two and that they will give me a lot of morphine. I kept a straight face through this piece of bullshit also.

(I had a C-section once. I know how long it takes to heal and feel normal after. Don't tell me I'll feel fine in a couple of days and that it won't be hard to take care of my other 4 children or not be able to lift my toddler when he's sad or even do the regular wrestling that is the bedtime routine with the little squirmer.)

There is one doctor in Chiang Mai who will perform VBACs, at a private hospital. They only allow her to because she has seniority. Only she leaves the country on Wednesday and doesn't return until after my due date. When I asked her what I could do she told me I needed to go to Bangkok. I wouldn't find any doctors here in town who would let me just labor and deliver. (I have no idea how she expects me to get there. I'm too pregnant to fly and it's a 12 hour trip by bus that would likely send me into labor on the way.)

So I tried another hospital, and an OB that my friend Cindy really liked for her 2 births. He was kind, and funny, a tiny old man who took my entire birth history in stride. At the end of the appointment he informed me that he is 64 and no longer actually attends births because he can't be up all night any more, so he would write me a letter to refer me to another doctor at another hospital where I could try for a "natural birth".

Except I had already seen that doctor, and she's leaving the country for 3 weeks.

So today I scheduled myself for a C-section, with the doctor who earnestly believes my old tired uterus is about to explode into a bloody pulp at the very first contraction. I got her to agree not to schedule it before my due date, which is fine because I've never gone all the way to my due date, (famous last words), and also didn't disagree with her too much when she told me that the placenta would dry up and shrivel and stop feeding my baby very soon afterward if I didn't do it then. I lied through my teeth when I promised to call her immediately if I started labor before then.

And then I paid almost $400US for them to advance order me some Rogham. In the US it's usually around $100. But RH negative blood types are rare in Asia, and it's harder to get here. (Plus, at about $15US for a Dr. appointment, they aren't making much money on patient care. Apparently most hospitals over charge for, and over prescribe, drugs because they get a cut from the sales and make some money that way.) I sat for an hour while they called hospital after hospital to locate some. This of course is why I'm pretending to schedule a C-section. I need to be registered at a hospital in order for them to advance order that Rogham in case the baby is born with an RH positive blood type.

(The good news about my blood type is that I'm a universal donor. I can give anyone blood. But it's kind of a pain in the butt when it comes to managing it during pregnancy.)

I also need to have a doctor on record who can vouch for the fact that I was actually pregnant, and did actually recently give birth to the child I will be bringing into the hospital with me after it's born. I need this in order to get paperwork from that doctor to take to the community head in order to get another paper to take to the embassy in order to get my kid an American birth abroad certificate so they can leave the country some day. Got that?

Of course, anyone who has been reading here for a while knows that I have no intention of going anywhere near a hospital until after I've already delivered this baby. They just can't know that. It has to look like an accident for the sake of paperwork.

I have found a lovely midwife here, ex-pat, who delivered her own twins at home, and will fly up from Bangkok when I call her to attend my labor.

Since I usually have some advance notice, this should work out just fine. It's only an hour flight.

Since it turns out that I'm going to be essentially lying through my teeth anyway, to not get my baby cut out of me when I'm perfectly capable of pushing it out myself, something I started out trying not to do, I realize I should have just lied through my teeth to begin with and completely omitted the bit about having a C-section. It's not like their record keeping is all that thorough to begin with.

Now I have to figure out when I'm going to call the doctor and tell her I'm having contractions. I think after the baby is born, followed by another call half an hour later telling her I'm not going anywhere I'm already pushing. I'll meet her at the hospital with the baby.

Now we can just settle in and wait for this baby to be born. Oh, and I have to figure out some names.


A Word on Asian Bathrooms

I have concluded that either, Thais are immune to foot fungus of any kind, or they just consider it something normal to live with. This is the only possible explanation for the eternally wet state of their bathroom floors.

You see, you don't wear shoes in a Thai house. But the bathrooms are one big room with a drain somewhere in the floor, and there might be a shower attachment on the wall, and maybe a sink, or toilet, but essentially, it's all one big wet floor with a drain. This may seem awesome, because to clean it all you have to do is hose everything down and it all just goes down the drain. It's simple, no one has to plan these bathrooms with any forethought, other than, "Is there a drain and a way to spray water? Awesome, we have a bathroom." But in practical reality it is significantly less awesome than it sounds.

First there is the pesky bit of trickery that is figuring out where to put your towel, and clothing so they remain dry while you are spraying yourself off in a curtainless shower. Not to mention trying to keep the toilet paper roll from getting soaked in the process. An adult could manage this, but factor in 4 children giving themselves showers and what you end up with is a soggy roll of toilet paper, sopping wet towels, and water in the medicine cabinet. If you are fortunate enough to have a medicine cabinet that is.

Then there is the part where the floor is always wet. Imagine an eager 2 year old running to go potty and encountering this wet floor. I have seen, and failed to catch, Bam Bam's feet slip straight out from under him as he lands on the back of his head on the hard tile floor at least 4 times in the past month.

Imagine a pregnant woman going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, where, in spite of her many strategically placed mats, some late night showerer has once again made the floor soaking wet and she barely keeps herself from going down in the dark.

Then there's the foot fungus. If you have ever had athletes foot to any degree or another you know that all it takes is a bit of water between the toes and the itching and burning and every thing get going full force almost immediately. Now imagine getting water between the toes every time you need to pee because you are always barefoot. Just for fun, imagine you have to pee as often as a women who is more than 8 months pregnant and has a baby head sitting pretty darn low.

Imagine how hard it is to reach down and treat said toes repeatedly all day long with a belly in the way.

And these are just the bathrooms in houses. At a rest stop on the way to Pai I watched little old lady clean the bathroom stalls by running the little tap that is in each stall for flushing and washing into the bucket filled with soap until it overflowed and the stall was at least half a foot deep with water. Then she pushed a mop around in the soapy water, thoroughly dousing the squat potties with the suds and then the sides and floors before turning the water off and letting it just drain. Squat potties are hard enough when you're not used to them, without the added complications of a soaking wet floor to slip on while you're doing it, oh, and an 8 month pregnant belly to balance at the same time. I've seen very few roadside restrooms that weren't dripping wet.  Some smelled clean, some not so much.

I realize I'm a totally displaced westerner, with my own preconceived cultural ideas and all, but that western invention of a shower curtain, and a drain that contains the water behind said shower curtain, instead of it running all over the floor, that's a cultural innovation I applaud wholeheartedly.

I am for dry bathroom floors, however they are achieved.

Wish me luck house hunting.

(The bathrooms at Sean and Prang's house are actually not that bad. They have the shower in a separate little room from the toilet, and the sink in the main bathroom, and there is a wall between the shower side of the room and the rest of the room in the bathroom I use, but the floor still manages to be wet all the time anyway.)

***** UPDATED**********

So I have been informed that there are bathroom flip flops, which I assume are just regular old flip flops of some sort, and that Thai people keep them outside their bathroom door in their houses and wear them into the bathroom, and then take them off again when they leave the bathroom. This is useful information. Not quite as ideal as dry floors might be, but at least some level of protection from the wetness. I shall have to find some for myself.


On Weathering Storms

The lights flicker for a second while I'm in the shower, and I quickly duck my head under the water again in case they go out completely. Our water comes from a well here, and is pumped into the house. No electricity = no pump = no water. It's almost an instinct, now that the power flickers threateningly several times an evening, and sometimes during the day.

The fans come to a standstill, and suddenly the frogs and crickets and cicadas and birds and all the other night time critters sound like a gigantic chorus swelling outside the window.

The wind starts blowing in the late afternoon, sometimes the evening, and the clouds roll in and the lightening flashes across the darkening sky. The kids count the seconds until they hear the thunder roll. Things not tied down in the neighborhood start to crash and fall.

I love it.

I love the wild wind whipping at the curtains, the echo of the thunder, and the way everything outside starts crashing around. I especially love the rain, how it comes in and soaks everything down and the air cools, and it smells fresh and clean and the trees let out these amazing aromas.

I grew up in storm country, a small town in a wide, wide prairie and we could watch the clouds build for miles. I walked home under a darkening green sky, wind tugging at my clothes and hair, knowing a tornado was just around the corner.

My brother and I used to chase lightening storms on our bikes, searching for the best place to see it all, as close as we could get. And when the rain came, and the sultry heat dissipated in the huge drops battering the ground all around us we would run out in our clothes, reveling in it.

I feel alive again when the rains come, exhilarated.

Little thinks it all pretty scary, so we have science lessons at bedtime where I remind her that it's just hot air crashing into cold air, and electricity finding it's way back to the earth.

I love it when it's still raining in the morning, still nice and cool, and that sound, and that grey overhead, makes me feel cozy, and at home, and ready for a cup of tea, and a good book or project to sit down to.

A few days ago I had a moment, a stark moment, where I realized that, while there were many interesting, strange, bothersome, and beautiful things I could comment on about being here in Thailand, I had found nothing to love yet. This really felt like a horrible and depressing realization that made me feel like I was doomed to always find it difficult here.

I emailed my lovely wise friend Rae, who knows a thing or two about transplanting your whole family to a completely foreign country, while pregnant. She reminded me that loving a place comes with familiarity and memories that we attach to things, and familiarity comes with time. I haven't been here long enough to find anything familiar, but she assured me it would come.

Then the storms came, and the stories I told the kids about my childhood chasing them, so they wouldn't be afraid. And I realized that here was something familiar. This feels like home to me.

It was so unexpected, to find something so quickly that I just love, but here it was. I'm not a fan of the power going out, but even that, it happened all the time when I was little. We had oil lanterns in the dining room that we actually used often when the storms blew the power out. Now I go to the kitchen and fill a big pot full of water when the lights start to flicker, just to have some on hand if needed when the pump stops working. Maybe I should find a lantern too.

Of all things here, I didn't expect the weather to be something I'm thankful for. But here I am, grateful for small mercies, and big storms, and the rainy season is only beginning.


Making Home

It's sinking in now, that this is home. Aaron is here at last, and now we go about having this baby and making a home here, along with all the work we need to be doing.

It's not really home yet though. Not like you might imagine. It's a house shared with another large family and their often stopping in extended family as well. It's a very big comfortable house, with lots of room, so it's not as crowded as that sounds. It is kind of chaotic though at times.

They are so gracious, and kind and welcoming. They have made space for us in their space, and allowed for us to be bumping up against their routines and we are so blessed to have this time to find our way through this strange country, and this strange time in such a welcoming and safe place. There are children everywhere and my kids think it's awesome to have so many playmates so near at hand.

I have been alone with my kids in our little house for 2 years. The presence of other people presses against me. Almost like a physical sensation. I even felt it when Aaron would come home from the road, his presence like a slight pressure at the back of my neck.

The people who come and go, they press at my back, like a weight I am bearing up somehow. It makes no sense probably, except to introverts.

There were so many people here, for so long, that when briefly everyone left for a week or so I felt like my shoulders just dropped themselves down several inches, and I took a deep breath and looked around at just us, just my family together, and realized, "This is going to be so easy once we're on our own again."

It was so quiet.

This house is so big I have to yell all the time to keep my kids corralled. There are so many places they can wander to, usually before they have finished school or chores of course, and I am constantly calling them back. That may be one reason it was such a relief to have just us here. They had fewer reasons or distractions to run off to. And they could hear me more easily when I called.

We went to visit Pai the other day, where we think we are going to choose to live for the next few years here. Rachel and her kids greeted us with open arms, after the 3 hour curvy ride that took us there. Rae and I have lived together before. She's one of those people I lived so closely with that for a long time I felt incomplete without her around. So it was different there, even with 9 children bumping around each other the whole time. It was lovely to be with her, and lovely to watch our kids learn how to be friends with each other. The nights are considerably cooler also, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rae gave me the most comfortable sleep I have had since getting to Thailand.
The boys hanging out in the kitchen.


My shoulders dropped right down again to where they belong. I'm excited to find a house and to finally move into our own space again, even though the kids will probably find it a mournful event as they say goodbye to so many new friends, and their cousins.

We got home 2 nights before Aaron's arrival. Which we were very excited for, and the kids made plans for celebrating his birthday as soon as he got off the plane, since he was flying on his birthday. He made it through the whole day, the party, the swimming pool, the walk back from the cake shop. And then he slept like a dead man, for a very long time.

In the 4 days since we got back, one child here, Aaron's nephew, fell out of bed and had to be rushed to the hospital for 9 stitches. One of the trucks broke down. The power has gone out 3 times. Bam Bam decided to try and follow some of the other kids on a walk and got almost to the main gate to this neighborhood before he was found, while I was out getting groceries. Little tried to carry a giant wok full of steaming hot curry to the table all by herself, dropped it halfway there, and burned her foot. We continue to battle with the staph infection that BamBam got from a bug bite and is all over his neck, and face, and bottom. Plus it's a pretty full house.

I leave it to you to guess the state of my shoulders today.
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