Tuesday, October 25, 2011

3 AM...welcome to the "dark side"

Almost every night lately, I wake up around 3 AM with leg and/or hip pain keeping me from going back to sleep. Ah, the joys of pregnancy...

I've been playing way too much Mahjong as a result... ;) I'm going to takea break from that, though, for some random pregnancy rambles.

Now we know we're having another baby boy(!) I think G was rather disappointed, as before he kept talking about his "baby sister." He handled the news quite maturely, though. I hope my boys have a lot of good times growing up together. I hope I survive lol

This time around, I am looking forward to trying a waterbirth-- yay!

Baby's movements are becoming stronger every day; Nick's even felt him kick a few times. I haven't invited the boys to feel it yet, as I'm afraid they'd be too disappointed if they didn't manage to feel anything right then; so I'm waiting until it will be easier for them to feel-- and see-- the movement.

I'm trying to sing a lot more during this pregnancy. With my first, I was in the community choir throughout most of my pregnancy, so G got to hear me sing a lot in the womb; but most of Z's later gestation was during the "summer break," so he didn't get to hear me sing as much. I don't know if this is the reason, but Z has always been less appreciative of my singing than G has. I used to sing G to sleep all the time, it was soothing to him; but the opposite seems to occur with Z, as it just distracts him and he asks me to stop. With this pregnancy, I am not in the community choir at all; one more good reason for starting my song blog (onethousandonesongs.blogspot.com) to help keep me singing.

I have to use a yoga ball now whenever I sit at the computer-- it's the only comfortable way to accommodate my growing belly. This wouldn't be a problem, except during the day my boys keep trying to toss it around and perform "tricks" on it (which they learned from our 7-yo neighbor next door).

That's enough ramblings for now...look for more "dark side" ramblings coming soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


For my birthday last January, I got a gift certificate for a 3-month membership to a local gym about three blocks from home. Since Z was still very young and very clingy at the time, I postponed starting the membership. Then, it was summer and I had plenty of opportunities to go for walks and get exercise outdoors, so I didn't use it then, either. Now it's Fall, and my second trimester of pregnancy-- the perfect time to use my membership!

Many benefits have been discovered for women-- and their babies-- who exercise regularly during pregnancy, including easier labor, and babies who are born leaner (more muscle, less fat) and score better overall on apgar tests.

Of course, each woman is an individual case, and exercise in some instances can be contraindicated for health reasons. For me, fortunately, that is not a problem (at least not so far). Of course I am taking it easy, keeping it low impact.

I started a spinning class last night. The instructor appeared to be in his 50s and kind of nervous about having a pregnant woman in his class. I assured him-- not in so many words-- that I would be fine, that I had a good idea what I was doing, that I was not new to exercising, that in short I was capable of taking care of myself and not overdoing it.

Anyway, I did take it easy-- relatively, but I also had come to work, and I did. I broke out a good sweat, and practiced some deep breathing and stretched as I spun. I also got kind of saddle sore; the bike seats are not very comfortable, and I found myself envying the other bikers whenever they spun standing up, which I couldn't really do comfortably. I went for a half-hour-- could have done more, but didn't push it. I felt great and look forward to the next class :)

Monday, October 3, 2011


Life is a Game.

It's Just a Game.

Win it or Lose it.

The only Opponent that matters is Yourself.

In it to Win it.

We've all heard all the above statements, or similar ones, at some point in our lives. There are a lot of differing opinions out there on competition-- Is it good? Is it bad? I don't have the definitive answer.

I do know one thing, though, if my own children are any representation of the general population: and that is, that children seem born ready to compete. A child as young as 18 months-- perhaps younger-- is already capable of joining in sibling rivalry. A baby can join you in a tug-of-war, and giggle when you finally let him win. Let's face it-- winning feels good; losing feels bad. It's a natural response.

"Experts" try to tell parents and caregivers that competition in children is bad, that it's psychologically damaging to children to let them compete in sports, in school, and so on. So is born the "non-competitive sports league," where "everyone's a winner." Or the alternative school that seeks to praise each child for whatever effort he or she exerts, and never criticize or push a child to "try a little harder next time."

Surely, children should not be pushed into competing beyond their own natural desire or capability, to be made to believe that he must win at whatever cost. Nor is it good for a child to be constantly made to feel inferior just because he did not do as well as so-on-so on whatever task. There is a delicate balance in these matters, to be sure.

But is it wise to suppress a naturally-competitive spirit? To never offer praise at a job well done? To never encourage a child to put forth his best effort? Because that's what might happen if we never allow competition.

Sure, we all hope that our children will work hard in school because it's good for them, because the intrinsic reward of learning and growing up to be a knowledgeable, capable adult should be motivation enough. But the truth is, children rarely have that kind of foresight. They need a more immediate motivation, and "competition" in the form of grades and other recognition still seems to me to be the best solution.

It's not fail-proof, of course. And how does the child feel who constantly brings home a "bad" report card despite giving his very best effort? Like I said before-- winning feels good, and losing feels bad. The "experts" do have it right, in a way. Competition can be psychologically damaging for this child. But is it really the competition that is the culprit? Or is it the losing? And how the child is taught to deal with losing?

Think about it. What are some common responses we give our kids when they lose a game?

"Oh, you lost this time. But that's okay, maybe you'll win next time." What if they don't win "next time"?

 "Not everyone can be a winner every time." Small children just don't get this one. They're egotistical by nature, remember. I've tried to tell my own 4-yo this one a few times, and he always comes back with something like, "But I want to win!" Or "It's not fair!" Or simply "Waaaaahhhhh!" In other words, the world ends every time he loses; that's just the way it is, no matter what I say or don't say.

 "It wasn't your fault; you'll have better luck next time." This is a dangerous one, because if said too often, it can convince a child to believe that he has no control over whether he wins or loses, or that he bears little to no reponsibility for how he fares in life.

"It's just a game." No. It's not "just a game." Not to a child. It was an opportunity-- an opportunity to show off his skill, to impress his peers and/or his "superiors" (that would be adults). When he loses a game, he not only loses the game, but also the opportunity to have his talent noticed, to be seen as someone who is "above the rest," if only for a brief moment, to shine in front of his peers, to be recognized by his superiors for his effort.

So oftentimes, we may find ourselves swinging the other way, trying to ensure that our child never has to feel the sting of losing. I've fallen into the trap myself at times: I'll reshuffle the cards when my son's not looking to ensure that he gets to the Candy Castle before I do; I'll purposefully run slower so he gets to the corner first. I can't help it, it seems, though I know it's probably not the best thing.

Here's something to ponder: why do we play "games"? I'm not talking about games like make-believe, or "ring around the rosie," which obviously are not designed to be competitive. I'm talking about games like "red-light-green-light," or "capture the flag"-- games with a clear winner at the end. Why were these games invented? They were invented to teach certain skills, to improve a child's physical prowess or strategical thinking. The competitive nature of these games, I suppose, arose naturally as children playing them realized (and continue to realize) that some of them were better at playing certain games than others were, that they could either win or not win (aka "lose"), and that-- hey! Winning felt good! Losing felt bad.

Let's take a critical look at non-sompetitive sports for a moment. On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Get a group of children together, teach them the basics of the game, and let them loose to have fun. So far, so good. But then little Junior points out that "those kids over there [in the competitive group] are getting trophies. I want a trophy!" What Junior doesn't realize, and may not even care to acknowledge even if it's pointed out to him, is that not all of "those kids" are getting trophies, and that the ones who do are working very hard to earn them. Unlike our Junior, whom we've chosen to put in a non-competitive sport because we just want him to "have fun," not work hard to compete and become a better player, or to-- gasp!-- be exposed to the psychologically damaging effect of losing when he doesn't do as well as his peers.

But, a meeting of parents and coaches is held, and it is decided that our children still deserve some recognition for "having fun." So trophies are ordered and given out at the next game, and Junior is happy. But, if every child gets a trophy every time, no matter how well he does, what's the point in trying to win? What's the point in even trying at all?

And who are we kidding anyway? Because eventually, at some point when Junior grows up a bit more, he's going to realize what's going on. Maybe he really was a good, hard-working player and deserved the trophies he got; but then, how's he going to feel about Buddy over here who got the exact same recognition as Junior, for simply sitting in the outfield and picking dandelions? Or maybe Junior was the one who goofed off during the game, paying more attention to picking on little Jane and pulling her pigtails; while Jane is the one who worked hard to learn the skills and brought in the most home runs for her team, but was denied the extra praise and recognition that she deserved as the team's "Most Valuable Player"?

But, to be fair, let's look at the other side. What are the possible bad consequences of competition-- particularly, too much competition? Because I do believe there is such a thing.

What about the attitude that I hinted at at the very start of this article? "Life is a Game."

While I do believe that some competition in life is good and natural, it can be taken too far. A child who is allowed-- or encouraged-- to compete in every aspect of his life, is likely to grow up believing that he must always "win" in everything. He must get the highest grade. He must be the fastest runner. He must be the funniest kid in the class. He must have the biggest slice of pizza. He must fly the highest kite. The list goes on. Where does it end? Every task, then, becomes a "game" in this child's mind. His whole life becomes one big game. And as he grows up, the stakes get higher: He must make the most money. He must have the biggest house. He must have the prettiest wife. He must he must he must. And what happens if one day he loses? Well, losing feels bad, remember?

The "experts" have it right, in a way. But we're not going to help our children in the long run by doing away with competition altogether. Rather, we should be focusing our efforts on teaching our children when it is appropriate to compete, and when it is not. We can focus our efforts on helping our children to learn how to be graceful winners, and confident losers. When our child loses at something, we can help him accept the defeat, and then help him find ways to become better, or else encourage him to try out other skills that he might excell at.

And, ultimately, our goal should be to teach them that the greatest achievement in life is simply to be the best people they can be, to realize and to accept their own strengths and their own weaknesses, and that they don't have to "win" at everything in order to be good and valuable human beings.

A little friendly competition in the form of "games" is the first step.