Where We Spend Our MOney

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Go on social media any given day, and you’ll find no shortage of posts reminding you there are certain businesses you shouldn’t give your money or support to, either because of their problematic labor practices or financial ties, both of which often have deep-seated issues of oppression and bigotry.

It’s banal to point out there’s no such thing as being an entirely ethical consumer in a capitalist society – buying anything mass-produced and marketed most assuredly means you’re contributing to someone’s harm somewhere in the world – but it is worth it to try as best you can. It’s important to call out businesses that are especially harmful and abusive, but at the same time, allowing yourself to constantly get upset over where others spend their time and money is a set up for misery. It’s a reactive, unpowerful response. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more proactive in trying to be an ethical consumer.  By that I mean, thinking more about where I want to spend to money, not just where I shouldn’t spend my money. What does that look like?

It may look something like this:

  • Seeking out small and local businesses that support their surrounding community; businesses that provide good services at a reasonable price, and are also welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
  • Being mindful that no matter how great a small business is, it often doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide some services as cheap or as quickly as big corporations, but still making an effort to give them my business anyway, and being patient when things don’t go as smoothly as it might with a company that has, say, a slick website with a one-click buying option and same-day delivery.
  • Being respectful of the fact that more and more services are being driven to the gig economy, which inevitably means there’s always someone willing to work for less. Being an ethical consumer means not taking advantage of that and trying to get as much as I can out of a freelancer for as little as possible, because I know I can.

Much of this is easier in theory than in practice. The world is going a 1000 miles per hour, and so much is expected of us every single day. We not only want, but often need, our purchase options to be quick and seamless as possible. 

But again, I think it’s worth trying. And I’d rather give more thought about where I want to spend my money than allowing myself to get upset over where other spend theirs. 

But what would a witch with french fries taste like?

Some nights, stories before bedtime is a bit of a shit show. Harrison always wants to be read to, but he doesn’t always necessarily want to pay attention, instead bouncing around, often crawling all over Mommy.

But tonight, Mommy got him a new bed time book – I can’t recall the title now, but it’s about a witch and her broom, and a cast of small creatures she befriends and takes on the broom with her, who eventually end up saving her from a dragon who wants to have his favorite “witch with french fries” – and as I read it to him, he leaned into me, his attention was rapt, and he repeated some phrases quietly to himself.

A small, unremarkable moment in life and parenting, but my heart swelled, and I feel luckier everyday to have this kid in my life.

A New Sleeping Routine

Harrison is over two-and-a-half years old now. He’s well past the risk for SIDS, or other such risks. Yet, at least once a night, I anxiously check him on the monitors – one, the very basic one we got when he was first born and he slept in a crib in the corner of our bedroom; the other, a better model with an accompanying app on our phones. If he hasn’t moved since the last time I checked, I get nervous. If he’s in an odd sleeping position, I get nervous. At least one night every couple of weeks, I find myself going into his room to check on him even though I rationally know it’s unnecessary.

They say choosing to become a parent is choosing to wear your heart on the last side of your body. It’s true.

Meanwhile, Harrison has had difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, and falling back asleep in the middle of the night, without one of us in the room with him. We’ve been making it work, Betsy and I. We’ve had a pretty good routine going. I typically lie next to his bed until he falls asleep at bedtime, on his older, smaller mattress, next to his full-size bed we got for him when we moved into our new place in August. When he wakes in the middle of the night, we trade off, but normally, I fall back asleep with him most nights, some nights, spending just as much time lying next to his bed as in my own.

It’s a pain sometimes – literally, in one hip or the other. But given my nighttime anxiety, lying next to him gives me incredible peace of mind. But recently, Betsy and I decided we need to get him sleeping on his own throughout the night. We hired a sleep consultant to help us get on track.

His new sleep routine will mean us silently walking him back into his room and closing the door every time he walks out, both at bedtime, and in the middle of the night. (His daycare does this same thing with him at nap time, and it works well.) So no more lying next to his bed with him.

Last night was the last one with our old routine. In the middle of the night, I checked the monitor, and he was sleeping in such a way, I decided to go check on him …yes, irrational, I know. He was fine, of course, and while he stirred awake a bit, I probably could have snuck back out and gone back to my own bed.

But it was the last night before his new routine. Watching him sleep, I felt profoundly sad at this, and so I curled up next to him.

***

This morning, we had a “family meeting” before I went to work. We told him about the new routine, and how it would help him sleep better, and be better rested, and Mommy and Daddy would be better rested too, and we would all have a lot more energy, and more excitement to do more fun things.

He was on board, and even repeated some sentences back to us. Betsy and he made a poster board with the new bedtime “rules” this afternoon, and he got really into it.

And he was into it at bedtime – until that is, it was time to say goodnight and leave him in his room.

It was rough, but we expected that. But in the first few minutes, he kept coming out and calling for me as Betsy kept walking him back into his room. When Betsy and I switched, and I started walking him back to his room, he first thought I was finally coming to bed with him like normal.

He was finally down in an hour.

It’s for the best, I know, but a part of me is a little heartbroken tonight.

A Few promises

Dear Son,

As I lied next to you tonight as you drifted off to sleep, and I found myself holding your hand as we were side by side, I had some thoughts.

I promise to never to tell you to “man up” (or something of the like) when you’re feeling weak.

I promise to try to never invalidate your feelings when you’re scared or upset.

I promise to never make you feel like you’re too old to lean on me or hold my hand when you need.

I promise to always try to make you feel as safe as I can.

I love you,

Dad

Saying Goodbye to the Ardmore

Our little family said goodbye to its first home this week – the first home, at least, with the little guy and our pup, Jessica Jones. A tiny condo on Ardmore Avenue in Chicago, in the Arcadia Terrace neighborhood. We’ll miss the neighborhood dearly. We’ll always have fond memories of our first home together, but we are so happy to be moving on.

In truth, Betsy and I didn’t buy smart. The place was too small from the beginning. We would have soon outgrown it even if it was just us. Add a growing baby to the mix, and it was never a good fit: No formal dining room, a small living room, and two small bedrooms. Our son’s room didn’t even have a formal closet, just an IKEA wardrobe.

We were taken by the eagerness to buy, and the updated finishes, especially in the kitchen. We had come from an apartment in a two-flat that desperately needed updating. Our sense of what was important and what we needed was a bit off.

Betsy was at the condo tonight putting on some finishing cleaning touches before closing tomorrow. She cried a little cry when she left.

I was there the other day moving some stuff out, and when I left, I barely looked back. I’m sure it will hit me soon enough, but it just hasn’t quite yet. But that tiny condo is where we brought our puppy and baby home to. It’s where we sat devastated the night we were supposed to bring Jessica home from the animal shelter, only to learn she had been taken to the vet for overnight observation because she had eaten something, and may need surgery. (She eventually passed the object without surgery, a small metal spring.) It’s where we watched the Cubs win the World Series. It’s where we sat in shock and watched the news as Trump was elected. It was where Betsy’s water broke, and we watched The Crown for a few hours while waiting to go to the hospital to deliver our child. It’s where he had so many of his firsts – his first rolling over, his first steps, his first poop on the potty.

It will eventually hit me. It just hasn’t yet.

For now, I’m sitting in our new home, a rental a couple of neighborhoods southwest, with literally twice as much square footage as the old place. We’re still buried in boxes and surrounded by Home Depot logos everywhere, but this place, with our furniture and things, and new (well, new to us) dining room table, and our son’s toys already strewn about – this place feels like home.

We live on Monticello Avenue now. We’ve already dubbed this place The Monty.

We’re ready for the next adventure, whatever life may bring at The Monty.

BedTimes

We moved our son to his first “big boy” bed a few months ago. It was a challenge, no doubt.

The first couple of weeks was him constantly climbing out of it the moment we left the room during his bedtime. Some nights, we put him back to bed repeatedly for close to an hour or more.

Those days are past, but he still frequently needs company as he falls asleep, and also if we he wakes up in the middle of the night. From the get-go, we knew we needed to have a semi-comfortable way of sleeping with him in the room. We have a small mattress set up, from his old crib, padded with a fur blanket, and a couple of pillows. Many nights, his mom or me might spend anywhere from two to four hours lying on the floor next to him instead of his bed.

I don’t mind. The set up is actually fairly comfortable, and there’s a lot to be said for the bonding time it allows us. I’m especially appreciative since my work schedule often has me away on the weekends, and many of his bedtimes.

Some nights, we have to sleep in the chair next to his bed for a bit. I’ve gotten some good snoozing in sitting in that chair.

Some shots from the monitor from last night, trying to get him down at bedtime. For whatever reason, he was particularly wired last night:

He’s swinging around his big, plush shark “Do Do”, because all sharks he sees are named “Do Do”. Yes, because of the song.
Finally, he pointed to the chair, said “Chair”, and that was our cue to move there so he could wind down. That’s me getting a solid 20 minute nap in as he finally dozed off.

And then in the middle of the night, I spent a couple of hours with him, both of us lying on the mattress next to his bed.

These are the moments that make parenting worth it.