Mikey and I are allergic to entitlement. And we’re not saying this from a holier-than-thou perspective, but a very real, we-were-those-kids one. As much as we’re trying to make sure that Max grows up to be a kind and respectful young man, we’re also not blind to the fact that Max is at risk for an entitlement complex.
Max is an only child, and if everything goes according to plan, he’ll be an only child for the rest of his life. So, he doesn’t really have to share his parents with anyone else. Max is also the only grandchild on my side of the family and he’s the first grandchild in over a decade on Mikey’s side of the family. So, in many contexts, he’s the only little person around.
While I am grateful for all the love that my son is showered with, I’m also painfully aware of how it’s a breeding ground for self-centeredness and entitlement.
I’ve been there. I was the only girl in a family of boys and my father doted on me. I got everything that I wanted, and I thought I was better than most people. It took me years and years to unlearn horrible, entitled behavior. To this day, I still struggle with it.
There’s an 18-year gap between Mikey and his next older brother. Mikey’s mom would proudly tell us that she spoiled Mikey silly and that he had a new toy every single day. Even as an adult, there were many things Mikey had to learn the hard way because of his privilege.
So, please believe us when we say that we’re not trying to show that we’re better than anyone else. And we’re not trying to be wokeeither. We’re desperately trying to make sure that Max doesn’t make the same mistakes we’ve made.
But how do you battle entitlement? How can we make sure that Max doesn’t grow up thinking that he deserves all the privilege he’s been blessed with?
Max is two years old and, developmentally speaking, he’s a pretty normal toddler. I’m fully aware that ego-centrism is a cognitive feature of this stage. He sees the world through his own eyes and it’s hard for him to understand things from anyone else’s perspective. Right now, he’s the center of his universe and everyone else is just orbiting around him. That’s fine for now, but we’re constantly trying to change this perspective.
For now, we’ve learned that Max can actually act on his empathy. We just need to help him out a little. If we take the time to relate a situation to something that he’s experienced, then he’s more willing to adjust his behavior. He knows what it’s like to feel sad or hurt. He knows what it feels like when somebody grabs his toy. If we remind him of that, he’s more willing to apologize or even avoid certain behaviors.
That’s a more responsive strategy that we employ when he misbehaves or displays entitled behavior. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how we can proactively veer away from that horrible, cancerous attitude. And then it hit me—GRATITUDE.
Max needs to grow up in a home that’s overflowingly grateful. Grateful for all the things that we have, all the opportunities we were given, and for each other. We don’t deserve any of it, therefore, we’re grateful. We’re trying to be more mindful of this as we move forward, but so far, here’s what we’ve been doing it (some of it unintentional):
Providing Max with literary examples of gratitude.One of Max’s favorite books right now is called Bear Says Thank You. It’s a simple story about a bear showing his Mama some gratitude. He also loves How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food. In this book, the dinosaur says “please” and “thank you”. He actually learned how to say please and thank you by copying us when we read this book out loud.
Modeling gratitude. We try our best to deliberately express gratitude to one another. And now that we have some help at home, we make sure that we always say thank you to our household help. We also make sure that Max says thank you whenever he’s assisted in any way.
Evening prayers. One of our nightly routines is saying a quick prayer once the lights are turned off. Before I start introducing the asking part in the prayer, I wanted Max to get used to the gratitude part. So every night, each of us shares three things we’re grateful for and we say “amen!” together.
So far, we’ve seen it have an effect on Max. He says thank you spontaneously and without prompting. Although, there are still instances when we have to remind him. Other times, he’ll say thank you for things that we don’t even expect him to.
One time, he got hurt and I put some ointment and a band aid on his wound. He looked at me, gave me a hug, and said: “fenk you, Mama.” It was the sweetest thing and I was so proud of him. And honestly, right now, I’m OK with Max learning how to say his pleases and thank yous over his ABCs.
Mikey wrote about what it’s like to father our little tornado toddler. Read all about it over here!
I’d like to share my favorite excerpt:
He’s right: he is, in fact, a big boy. He’s bigger than many his age, and he’s strong, and he’s forceful. And he’s a boy in the most stereotypically predictable ways—he’s rambunctious, he’s feisty, and he’s a little bit naughty.
But he’s also very wrong, because he is absolutely still a baby. He’s gentle, and sweet, and cries when gets a boo-boo.
Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with him being all of those things at the same time.
Same. It seems like such a strange balance that we have to strike these days.
It worries me sometimes because Mikey can and loves to roughhouse with Max. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t enjoy it. Not anymore. Not since his playful hits started resulting in very real bruises and, at times, blood.
I definitely don’t want Max thinking that men are stronger than women. But I guess we’re going to have to expand his definition of strength at some point.
Maybe, some day soon, we’ll be able to impart that a hug is just as strong (if not stronger) than a Mjolnir smash.
Max ignores me and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Max looks at me with a serious, almost angry, face and says, “Maxie big boy, not baby. Maxie Dash.”
Mikey and I were stunned in that did-that-just-happen kind of way (this happens a lot now BTW). We were silent for a while and then we started laughing in disbelief. Did our two year old really just say he was a big boy?
Yes, he did. And he’s been saying that a lot. Max is starting to develop his self-concept. Mostly, I’ve observed that he’s been able to articulate his categorical self. He can tell us what he thinks he is or isn’t. It’s so fascinating.
Here are some phrases he has said relating to his categorical self:
Maxie not baby, Maxie big boy
Maxie not scared, Maxie brave
Maxie so funny
Aside from this, he’s also getting better at recognizing others’ emotions. Whenever he does something to upset me, he’ll say, “Mama no sad. Mama happy please.” And he’ll literally try to turn my frown upside down with his tiny (usually sticky) fingers.
Or, when Mikey was upset because the internet went bonkers during WrestleMania, Max went up to him and said, “Papa, no more sad! Papa smile! Papa happy!” And he ran back to me and reported, “Mama, Papa smile! Hooray!”
Beneath his tornado tendencies, Squish is really such a sweet boy. ❤
After Max started self-identifying as a big boy, we noticed that it got easier to get him to do certain things.
For example, it’s no longer a struggle to get him to sit in his car seat. We explained that all big boys (like Papa and Mama) have to wear their seatbelt in the car. After we said that, he quietly accepted his fate for the rest of the car ride. The first time though, he asked me to sit next to him and hug him while he was strapped in. But the next time, I got to sit in front with Mikey. That was a huge breakthrough for us!
We also use the “big boy” argument to get him to walk or sit in his stroller. We told him that since he’s a big boy, he’s getting too heavy to carry. So he has the option to either walk or sit in his stroller. He usually sticks with whatever he chooses and it means a lot less drama for us.
I’m 90% amused and loving this phase, and about 10% (maybe 15…or 20) sad and nostalgic. I can’t believe how this little human is unfolding before our eyes.
When I was pregnant with Max, I was so sure that I wanted to breastfeed. I tried to prepare by attending classes, reading articles, and watching videos. Looking back, I wish they gave us a more balanced perspective on breastfeeding.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there was a lot of fear-mongering on both sides (breastfeeding advocates and formula companies). Each time they would make an argument for their cause, there was always this subtext: do it our way or you’re a bad mother.
Now that I can say that I’ve successfully breastfed my child (honestly, it didn’t feel like a success until we weaned), I would definitely recommend it to any expectant mom who is open to giving it a shot. I didn’t love every moment of breastfeeding, but, for us, the magical moments and health benefits outweigh the challenges.
So, if you’re a momma who is interested in breastfeeding her baby or if you’re in the midst of it and in dire need of support (even from a total stranger), hit me up!
I think it’s equally important for me to say that I would never try to change someone’s mind if they choose not to breastfeed their baby. Breastfeeding can be freakin’ hard and moms should exercise their agency and free will if they decide to commit to it.
It’s been about two weeks since we accidentally weaned Max. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it’s been life-changing. I felt the difference the first night he fell asleep without breastfeeding. Just like that, life was different.
I have to admit that weaning has been a source of stress since Max turned 2 years old. I initially wanted to wean Max when he turned one. I wanted him to transition to formula, but he didn’t want to. He would throw the bottle across the room whenever I offered him some. I rationalized that many organizations recommend breastfeeding “up to two years.” So our new cut-off date was 2 years old.
It got harder and easier as he grew older. Easier because I could talk to him and distract him. It became harder when he was about 1 ½ and I wasn’t so sure of my milk supply anymore. When I would check by hand-expressing, I would still squirt milk out, but my boobs didn’t fill up like they used to. I stopped all breastfeeding supplements when Max turned 1 because I was eager to wean.
This wasn’t really an issue during day time. At that point, Max only breastfed to sleep and during long car rides. It was become really difficult at night because Max started this new habit of latching on all night long. I would barely sleep at night even if Max could find his way to my boob and latch himself. All the movement would keep me up. It got so bad that I would sometimes look forward to a cold or allergies because it meant that I could take medication that would make me drowsy enough to sleep through it.
Things got even more complicated when I started working. I get a lot of things done when Max and Mikey are asleep. But there were nights when Max would wake up several times and we would need to breastfeed so that he would go back to sleep. There were a couple of weeks when I would sleep at around 4 AM just so I could finish an article. Once or twice, Mikey would get up for work and I would still be on my computer. It was crazy land. It felt like I was taking care of a newborn again.
But as soon as we weaned Max, all of that came to an abrupt end. It was kind of jarring at first. The first few nights, I kept anxiously waking up to check on Max and I would find him sound asleep next to me. It was like my body didn’t know how to sleep anymore. But overall, it’s been pretty amazing, and here’s why:
Sleep, Sleep, and More Sleep
895 days of not getting a full night’s rest can begin to take it’s toll. And at some point you get used to it and learn how to be human again. But a day or so after he weaned, I finally slept for 5 hours straight. When I woke up in the morning, I had so much energy. I was alert and happy and ready for the day. It was a great feeling to drink coffee just because I wanted to and not because I needed it.
Equal Parenting Responsibilities
I’d like to think that we were equals even before we weaned, but there were things that Mikey literally couldn’t do. So, when it was time to sleep, it was just me and Max. These days, if I really have to work, I can skip Max’s entire bedtime routine. Mikey can now bathe him, dress him, and put him to sleep all by myself. It’s pretty liberating!
Last year, my girlfriends floated the idea of a mommies only trip and even if I gamely said yes, I was always worried that I wouldn’t be able to leave Max with Mikey. Now, it’s actually possible!
One of my greatest sources of guilt is how much I’ve come to depend on screen time to get through the day. There were mornings when I’d be so sleepy that I would quickly make Max breakfast, park him in front of the TV, and try to squeeze in an extra hour of sleep. I’d also use it to help us get through meals because I was too tired to reason and run after him.
But now that I’m getting enough sleep, I wake up and I’m ready to deal with my willful toddler. I have time at night to make a quick Pinterest search for fun educational games we can play throughout the day. We even got to detox him from screen time for 3 whole days. These days, we use screen time as a reward every now and then. But we’ve limited it to either one movie or two series episodes each day. We see how different he is without the constant screen time too! (More on this in the future!) We’re very happy about this new development and we hope to be able to keep it up.
Hugs, Snuggles, Kisses, and Words of Affirmation
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from some people that only reason why Max was close to me or the only reason why Max chose me (over them) was because I could breastfeed him. Perhaps it was their way of stroking their own ego, but it made me feel like I could be easily replaced if my boobs were detachable.
What we experienced, though, was the complete opposite. Since we stopped breastfeeding, Max has been more affectionate and communicative of his need for affection. He’ll randomly hug me during the day. When he’s hurt or upset, he’ll ask for snuggles, hugs, and kisses.
We’re also showering him with affirmation just to remind him that we love him and we’re here for him. He’s been responding well to it. And I’ve enjoyed being able to hug and hold him without worrying that he’ll ask to breastfeed.
Max is still re-learning how to nap at home. It’s a little tough because there’s so much for him to do and when we ask him to lay down in bed for his nap, he’ll gesture to the window and say: “SUNNY DAY!” We’ve had a few successful naps at home, so we’re hopeful.
But it’s actually been great for us when we’re out. As long as Max is in his stroller during nap time, we just have to walk around for a little bit, and he falls asleep pretty easily. It’s wonderful because we used to have to plan around his naps, but now that he’ll nap in his stroller, we’re more flexible. If it was just me and Max going out, it used to stress me out. Nap time would mean having to go somewhere private with him, breastfeed, and carry him until he woke up (I could never put him down without waking him up while we were breastfeeding). Now I actually look forward to days out with him.
I have this renewed sense of freedom and I feel like there’s so much we can do now. This feels like an important turning point in our family and I’m excited about the possibilities.
The whole weaning process taught me to trust Max more. If I give in as soon as he cries or seems distressed, then I’m not giving him the opportunity to sort out his feelings and potentially succeed at the task at hand. If all he needs is a little time, I can totally give him that.
It also inspired me to capitalize on his language development. If I’m able to state it in terms that he understands, he’s actually more willing to listen and help out. “Help” is a beautiful word that we’ve been using lately, and it’s really empowered Max to play a more active role in our family.
None of this is to say that we’re a picture-perfect home or family. There definitely are things that we continue to struggle with when it comes to Max, but we’re so proud of Max and how he’s responded to all of these changes. Like many parents, guilt and worry come so naturally for us—which is why I gladly celebrate these little successes.
Oh my goodness! We accidentally weaned Max last week! I say accident because we didn’t prepare or plan for it, it just kind of happened one night and we followed through. Here’s a quick recap of how it happened:
It was a tough week for us. We were all getting over a bug and I had work that I wanted to get to. Max fell asleep the usual way that night—by breastfeeding until he was knocked out. As usual, I ninjaed my way out of bed so that I could keep working. On good nights, Max gives me 1.5-2 hours before he wakes up and asks to breastfeed to sleep again. But that night he kept waking up every 45 minutes. I’ll admit that I was very frustrated. I ended up finishing my work at almost 4 AM.
When I finally got back to bed, I had a total of 8 minutes before Max woke up again and started pulling at my shirt. At first, I pretended to sleep, but he got more persistent. I was so sleepy and tired that I said: “No Max. No more kikis. Momma is so tired and you’re so kulit tonight. No more na.”
(Kikis is what Max calls breastfeeding. We borrowed it from his friend Mateo, who called it milkies.)
He cried and cried. And I thought it would be a matter of time before I gave in, but after a few minutes he just fell into my arms and went back to sleep. I was so surprised! That has never happened before. He slept until about 8 AM, but because I was so sleepy from the night before, I let him latch on again when he asked for it in the morning.
We had a full day on Sunday. We had a birthday party to attend and I had some work that I wanted to finish. Mikey and I didn’t really get to talk about what happened the night before, so we stuck to our regular night time routine—Mikey gives Max a bath, I dress him up, Max plays a little, and Max breastfeeds to sleep.
When Max fell asleep, I decided that we would try to get him to put himself back to sleep again. I was riding on the confidence from the previous night’s accidental success. I had an epiphany that night: I realized that Max will be completely OK without breastfeeding. And that he is capable of getting over it—I just need to give him a chance. I let Mikey know and he seemed to be cautiously onboard with me.
The timing also made sense because it was a holiday the next day. So, I wouldn’t feel too bad about keeping Mikey up all night if Max didn’t stop crying.
To our surprise, the same thing happened. He woke up at around 1:30 AM and he asked to breastfeed. I said no and I said that I couldn’t because my kikis were wawa. He protested for a while, drank water, cuddled up, and went back to sleep! I was so amazed and these first two nights really helped build my confidence to keep powering through.
Looking back, it seems like our accidental weaning was timed perfectly. We had another packed day on Monday. We spent most of the day with our friends and their kids to celebrate my Goddaughter’s birthday. So Max was preoccupied all day long and didn’t even think about breastfeeding until late in the afternoon when they finished playing. But by this time, he was so tired that he fell asleep on his stroller.
We had dinner and dessert with our friends. I made sure that Max ate a lot that evening. I even bought him a tub of Potato Corner cheese fries after dinner. I thought that it might be easier to keep weaning him if he was full. Before we entered the car to go home that night, I needed to talk to Max. The car is one of two places that we’re allowed to breastfeed and I knew that he was expecting it after a long day.
I told Max that we couldn’t kikis because Momma’s kiki’s are still wawa. And I made sure that he agreed to not breastfeeding before entering the car. When we were in the car, Max was still expressing his desire to kikis. So I had to keep talking to him. Here’s our exchange:
Char: I’m so sorry Max. I know you want to kikis. I know that it’s hard for you. But Momma’s kikis are broken. We can’t kikis anymore.
Max started quietly tearing up and he hugged me.
Max: Broken like Ga-ma’s shoes? (A few days back, we were out with my mom and one of her shoes broke while we were walking.)
Char: Yes! Just like Gwama’s shoes. Remember she couldn’t use it anymore after it broke?
Max: Yes (and then he changed the subject).
I think this exchange made a world of difference because Max understands the word “broken”. He’s had (MANY) first hand experiences with things breaking. So he knows that, sometimes, when things break, you can’t use them anymore.
When we got home, Max went through his usual nighttime routine. Mikey gave him a bath and I dressed him for bed. When we got to the bed, I made sure to put on three layers of shirts so that he didn’t have easy access to my boobs. He picked out a bunch of books to read and we gamely complied to his requests. Usually, Max would already be latched by reading time, so it was really amazing when he just sat there and asked that I hold him while we were reading.
When it was getting late, Mikey and I warned him that it was the last book and we’d be turning off the lights soon. After we finished the last book, Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, Max snuggled up into my arms and put himself to sleep.
It was so crazy because we were really expecting Max to cry all night long. Our friends told us all about their weaning experience and all of them told us to be ready for the buckets of tears for a couple of nights. Not counting the times he passes out because he’s so tired, this was the first time he put himself to sleep. We could hear him sucking on nothing for maybe 30 or so until he finally fell into deep sleep. We were so proud of our boy! He woke up once or twice that night, but all we did was give him some water and cuddled with him. He never stayed up for too long.
I couldn’t help but tear up when Max finally went to sleep. I’ve been stressing about weaning since he turned 2 years old. I spent the last few months worrying, planning, and trying. In the past, I would cave in really quickly when he started crying. Maybe all he needed was some time. Time to be able to understand the situation and the ability to express his sadness about it.
At around 6:30, Max woke up and asked for kikis. But when I reminded him that we couldn’t anymore, he didn’t want to go back to sleep. He asked for pizza and ice cream, so I promised we’d have that for dinner. In the meantime, I made him some bread and milk and I let him watch his favorite show. I also made him his favorite homemade mac and cheese for lunch. He was very clingy and sensitive throughout the day, but he didn’t ask for kikis. I think he was just working out his feelings.
Since we were up so early he actually fell asleep while watching TV at around noon and he woke up at 4PM. I took him to our apartment’s outdoor area and we raced cars and blew bubbles. I just wanted to reassure him that I still loved him and that he could still count on me even if we stopped breastfeeding.
After a dinner made up of many helpings of mac and cheese, pizza, and ice cream, Max went to sleep without breastfeeding again.
Max woke up at a decent hour on Wednesday. He woke up at 9 AM and we were having a really pleasant day until it was time to nap. I could tell that he was already sleepy, but he really didn’t want to go to sleep. He fought it all afternoon.
At one point he said: “no sleep mama! Sunny day!” It wasn’t until he had a meltdown because I finally refused to leave the bed to join him outside that he finally let me hold him. But as soon as he got into my arms he feel asleep!
Apart from the endless books, we didn’t have too much trouble putting him to sleep later that night. I think he was closer to accepting our new routine. In fact, sometime during the day, we had a funny conversation:
Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama kikis.
Char: No, Max. Remember, Mama’s kiki’s are broken.
Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama hug.
I was so amazed. He corrected himself automatically when I reminded him of our new set-up!
To Infinity and Beyond!
Max is still learning how to fall asleep during the day time. I guess it’s easier at night when it’s dark and he can’t see anything. So, we’re still figuring out nap time over here. It’s Thursday (2:30 PM) and I’m writing this after an hour of trying to get him to sleep. (And I’m editing it at 6:30 PM when he finally fell asleep!)
So far, here’s what we found to be helpful in kickstarting the weaning process:
1. Having Activities Lined Up
My goddaughter’s birthday party was perfect timing. If we had stayed home all day that day, Max would’ve wanted to breastfeed for his nap and it would’ve been really hard to say no. I’m glad that we had activities that distracted him from wanting to breastfeed.
Everything changed when I realized that Max will be OK without breastfeeding and accepted that it’s also OK for him to cry. It gave me the courage I needed to hold my ground and it made me find other ways to soothe him.
3. Language Development and Empathy
None of this was planned but I’m so glad that I used the word broken. It’s so much easier to get your toddler to do what you want them to do if they understand the context. And, from the beginning, I should’ve made an effort to explain things in his terms instead of just saying that we’re not going to breastfeed anymore.
4. A Bedtime Routine
It helped that we already established a routine with Max. So even if we had to remove one part of it, he still has a semblance of predictability that offers him a sense of security.
I know that this is already a really long post, but I still have all sorts of feelings and thoughts that I still need to work out. It feels like a really important transition in my journey as a mom. The difference is so palpable and it’s only been a few days.
A few days ago, Mikey ran some numbers and told me that I had been breastfeeding Max for a total of 895 days (or 2 years, 5 months, and 12 days). It’s been a hell of a ride and I still can’t believe that it’s actually over.
When I decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent for the first few years of Max’s life, a few people commented “sayang”. Sayang, I suppose, because I am an able bodied adult who could have a job. And maybe because they thought that I was wasting my (relative) youth as well.
At first, a part of me felt bad. I was also afraid that when the time came for me to go back to work, I would not be able to keep up with my peers. I thought about all the conferences, seminars, and projects that I usually made up my time—these professional development opportunities that I would now miss out on, and how this inevitably meant that I would be behind.
Ultimately though, those fears weren’t enough to change my mind. I wanted to dive into motherhood and focus on that for a few years. Again, I’m very fortunate that Mikey and I found ways to make this work. And I completely understand that our set-up isn’t for everyone.
Soon enough though, it became clear to me that I had so much to learn. That the time that I’m spending at home with my child isn’t a period of stagnation. It was actually a season of unbelievable stretching.
You know how they say that a baby grows at a tremendous rate in their first year of life? I think this kind of carries over to their parents.¹
Being the primary caregiver of an infant (and now toddler), has taught me so much and I’d like to think that I’ve grown in ways that I’ve been able to avoid in my carefully curated career.
I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to pick and choose career opportunities that have kept me well within my comfort zone. But you can’t do that as a mom. Your child’s need will fling you into many unplanned uncomfortable zones and you just have to go through it because it’s not just about you anymore.
And now that I’m slowly easing my way back into the world of employment, even if it’s mostly work-from-home gigs, I can already tell how motherhood has impacted the way I work.
Most glaringly, I’m just more grateful. And it makes a world of difference. I didn’t realize how entitled I used to feel in the past. Even if I didn’t express it to others, if I felt like something was unfair at work, I would let the negative feelings fester and marinate in my heart.
Now, it’s so much easier to overlook imperfections because I’m just grateful for the opportunity to contribute to something and earn money AND take care of my kid at the same time. I found that feeling bad and ranting is a waste of energy and mind space. For as along as I can continue working, I am grateful.
I’m also more mindful of my time. Because any time I spend working is time away from my family. I force myself to focus so that I make the most out of it. I really can’t believe how much time I used to waste at work. I could’ve gotten more things done.
And soooooo, as my son unlatches and I’m finally able to get back to the work that I’m ever so grateful for, I’d like to say to this my imaginary audience:
If you choose to stay at home with your child, it is not wasted time—not for you and definitely not for your kid. And if or when you feel like it’s time for you to work again, you may need to learn new things but don’t be surprised if you find out that you’re a better version of yourself. And that’s not something that’s easily gained from a conference or week-long seminar.
1. I think this is true for all parents—regardless of their employment set-up.