Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
From packaging, contents and the potential toxins or waste production those may involve, to the manufacturers and other companies they have connections to, everything is taken into consideration to one degree or another before I make a purchase. I won’t buy a personal care product without checking its toxicity on the Cosmetics Database first, and if something is only available in a plastic clamshell, then I ask myself if I absolutely need it or can it be avoided? I was furious a few weeks back when I didn’t catch until after I opened it that the supposed homeopathic hypericum and calendula cream I purchased contained parabens. When I recently viewed a flow chart of organic food companies and the mega corporations who own them (many of which have ties to Monsanto), it left me with such a feeling of helplessness. Unless I want to take my family completely off the grid, making our own everything from clothing to soap, growing or only purchasing seasonal foods from local farms and canning what’s needed for the winter…compromises must be made. It’s a sad commentary on our society that this is an absolute as a consumer if you are trying to lead a more natural lifestyle.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I asked why, and her response, "Dora gives the baby bottles, so does Super Why."
I almost cried.
We talked about how babies drink milk from their mom's breasts, and she knows that and used to do that all the time, but she just kept going back to how the people on her shows didn't, so that must be how it's done.
I understand that breasts are seen as mostly sexual objects now, with only that function. That doesn't mean it's right or I agree with it, but I understand.
I just have a huge issue with shows made for children that show artificial feeding as the norm. In the US, yes more women use bottles and formula than breastfeed, but that doesn't make it right.
I try very hard to teach my daughter that breastfeeding is normal and natural, and love when she is able to see it since I probably won't be able to show her myself. I want her to be completely comfortable with her body and everything it does. At almost five years old, she is enthralled with things "important" people do, and that is seen as the coolest thing in the world to her.
Watching Dora (shudder) and Super Why with her and then watching them with bottles just makes me want to write nasty letters about how they are, from the very beginning of children's lives, showing that bottle feeding is the normal thing to do when one has a baby.
I am in no way saying that bottle feeding is wrong, just that by showing bottles automatically on children's shows, you are making another generation that feels breastfeeding is weird if only from the early experiences they have.
After each time she sees this, we talk about why people sometimes need to use bottles, but babies drink milk from their mother's breast. I hope this is enough, because I am being ambushed by everything around me.
How do you deal with the ads, pictures, images, and everything else children see that make bottle feeding seem superior and more normal than breastfeeding? Is there really any other way to combat this than to talk all the time about how the body works and to show women feeding their babies the natural way?
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I spent my son's whole first year in this state of letting go. I have difficulty explaining it, but everything I did, from formula feeding to using swings and jumperoos to the car seat cradle my son spent an inordinate amount of time in, served to take me further and further away from my baby.
So many times I have wondered, now as a breastfeeding, baby wearing and attached parent, how much easier my son's first year would have been for both of us had I just breastfed him, or worn him, or read his cues a little bit better. So many times nursing calmed my daughter and I remembered being in similar situations with my son, where no amount of holding or rocking or binky or anything helped him the way nursing would have. So many times I have wondered how many painful, raw diaper rashes we could have avoided with my son if only we had cloth diapered him.
Perhaps because I am feeling this loss of time, both past and present, so profoundly, I wish I could tell the newer parents, the ones that can’t wait for their kids to learn to talk, to be potty trained, to go to school—all exciting and wonderful milestones; if only they didn’t come so quickly—how fleeting these first few years are. Should I tell them that each time that one of my children acquires a skill or learns something new, as excited as I am, my heart breaks a little? Sometimes I wish that I could magically extend my arms to reach around my son and daughter forever—so that they be protected and loved in my embrace no matter where they go. I’m trying desperately to hold on to this period of time when I am still attached to them somehow.
For me, attachment is about being close to your child. It's about teaching, about guiding, and about compassion. I’ve found that attachment doesn't have to be all or nothing. Ultimately, it’s not about how long you baby wear or breastfeed or co-sleep.
I also think we have to be realistic about expectations and just how joyful attachment and parenting in general are “supposed” to be. I’ve always had the most difficulty remaining attached to my children when I feel that whatever is happening in the moment is falling short of my expectations. When I let go and relax, things turn out alright for the most part.
When the day seems never ending and my frustration has reached its peak, I’ve started to give myself a pep talk. “Hug your babies and keep them close. Time is fleeting. Savor it, cherish it. Appreciate the challenges as much as the joys. This precious time will be gone before you know it.”
Monday, March 19, 2012
Two hours after I said I hadn’t read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and that I had no interest in it, I passed by it on the shelf at the library, and suddenly I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed it. It’s one of those books, I found, that isn’t much different than a train wreck; even though I abhor authoritarian parenting, spanking, threatening and public or private shaming children, I just couldn’t help myself.
For much of it, Amy Chua is righteous, arrogant, and stubborn (and this is putting it mildly); she also makes sweeping generalizations about Western parents (as if we all parent the same way) and makes it clear that she looks down on us all. Considering she is a Yale Law Professor, I find this aspect of her book sloppy and unforgivable. It also reveals that she’s out of touch with the amount of traffic in parenting blogs, websites and books. Given how much debate occurs over all things parenting (co-sleeping vs. crib, time outs and bribes vs. absence of rewards & punishments, academic preschool vs. play rich environment, independent play vs. parent dictated play, etc.) one cannot lump all Western parents into one basket. We make ourselves dizzy with all the debate and research on all the facets of rearing children.
Much has been made of Chua’s book and her claim that her results are undeniable; her eldest daughter is a talented pianist and is now attending Harvard. Her younger daughter rebelled, but still loves the piano, is a straight A student, and plays tennis. Her daughters claim to be happy. Many critics state that many could learn a thing or two from Chua’s strict and shaming methods.
I hesitate to follow in their footsteps, however. Chua states repeatedly that Chinese parents emphasize (demand) respect to all authority figures. If a child has an argument with another parent, teacher or employer, the parent is to take the side of the authority figure. Yet, what does this teach children long term? It teaches them not to question and to not to trust that their concerns, complaints, or experience is valid. Qualities that we value such as innovation and creativity aren’t necessarily going to come out of children taught to never question or speak up to authority figures. Not to mention that never questioning or speaking up can contribute to angry rebellious or passive aggressive children (which Chua’s younger daughter demonstrates).
My other concern about Chua’s approach is it relies heavily on external rewards for its success. Once her girls get the taste for achievement, she hopes, then they will want to achieve more, essentially because it feels good and they then feel good about themselves. Receiving external accolades can certainly be fun, yet it can be hard and exhausting to sustain. And some of the most difficult and satisfying work doesn’t come with rewards, awards, medals or approval; it comes with the ability to keep working despite repeated failures and lack of results. It comes after being able to take risks – which kids raised in such high-pressured to succeed environments are less likely to take.
For me the saddest moment of the book comes when Chua is struggling with her younger daughter. When she mentions it to her older daughter, Sophia simply says, “It’s a stage. It’s awful to be thirteen – I was miserable.” Chua then admits she hadn’t known Sophia was miserable at thirteen, just like her mother hadn’t known she was miserable at thirteen. Like Chua, I too want my children to succeed and have opportunities, but more importantly, I want to feel connected to my children. I want to know when they are struggling and I certainly want them to feel safe to express their vulnerable selves in my company.
Despite all of Chua’s insistence that she is a strict Chinese mother, I don’t know that I necessarily agree with her. Her drive for her daughters to succeed in music to me indicates she is much more an American parenting institution than she realizes; she’s a stage mom.
Yet, from Chua, I realized a couple things. One is we all know we’re not supposed to judge other parents, yet we still do it – even the people who say they don’t do – simply because we’re human beings and human beings are judgmental creatures (and what would happen to the media industry without judgment?); I tend to judge parents like Chua because her methods make me uncomfortable. I keenly remember the moments of my own childhood that relied on shaming or my parents’ strict authoritarian beliefs. While my parents now admit they parented in such a way because at the time it didn’t occur to them they could do it differently and even if they had wanted to parent differently, they didn’t know how, Chua does it because she has legitimate concerns about raising children. She may be on the opposite end of the parenting spectrum from me, but I have to agree with her about there being more worthwhile things to do than watching television, that to master something requires practice, and that you can achieve what you want, but it comes from work and a belief in yourself, not genes or talent (though genes and talent help).
Other parenting books for thought and discussion:
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I grew up with the Disney Princesses. I grew up learning about fairy tales, reading books about them, wanting a happy ending so bad that that's all I planned. Meeting the perfect guy, which I did, getting married, again yes, and I always envisioned having lots of kids without issue, which hasn't happened. You'd think that would tarnish the way I view fairy tales and happy endings. I got part of mine, but the other will be forever out of my grasp.
I try very hard not to push my fears and insecurities on my daughter. I have a lot of them, most having to do with my losses and infertility, and it's hard. I'm a partial helicopter parent because I'm terrified I'm going to lose her too.
But this won't change the fact that I want my daughter (and hopefully my children) to grow up with the same beautiful view of the world that I had as a child. Things didn't turn out how I wanted, but that doesn't make the idea of a fairy tale ending any less beautiful and enchanting. In fact, I think the loss we have gone through has made me realize even more than we need these stories in our lives.
I won't hide the bad parts of life from my daughter since she's already seen more loss than most people by the time they're my age. However, I will try my hardest to instill in her the knowledge that life can be happy after bad things happen. I'm in the midst of the bad, so it's harder to see the silver lining, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.
Fairy tales for me are a way to escape the tragedies of life and look towards the future. Yes, looking deep down Belle fell in love with her kidnapper, Cinderella didn't do much to change her surroundings besides getting married, and Ariel lied to her dad and ran away. But my daughter doesn't see that. I don't see that.
To her, they're beautiful stories with happy endings. To me, they're examples of how life can turn around.
They will always be in my house, even if just to show that sometimes life really can end with a "Happily Ever After."
Monday, March 12, 2012
On Amazon alone, there are more than 80,000 books about parenting. I haven’t read all of them. I also haven’t read the much talked about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom (I admit, I heard the story about how she kept her daughter at the piano until her daughter chewed the piano keys in protest, and I got scared.) or the much talked about Raising Bebe (I read the reviews though and that seemed enough). But I have read a lot, and I read a lot that the people I respect and admire recommend. So here’s some of my all time favorite list; I’ll post another list next week of more of my current favorites ( and if you have a favorite that’s not here, put it in the Comments!)
I think everyone should read this book – it’s by far my most favorite book and Grille is my personal hero. He goes into parenting practices of the past and explains the evolution of how one generation improves upon the other, and he does so in a way that is compassionate without placing blame on previous generations for child rearing ideas that now would be considered abusive or just plain whacko. He also links shifts in parenting to shifts in philosophy and world events (ie why the Holocaust started in Germany, not France or England). It's absolutely fascinating and eye opening.
My other all time favorite book that I refer to regularly. I love it because it applies to all ages, all kids and all parents. Kohn gives us the tools to raise kids who behave, are respectful, who follow their inner values, and are intrinsically motivated. When I recommend this book, I often receive a doubtful look, as if Kohn's ideas are too good to be true, but I find he's dead on. I'd even consider it common sense; in a relationship based on rewards, it only works if kids want the rewards (or the bribes), which leaves parents constantly looking for a new trick to sway their children - and that doesn't sound fun for any one. Raising kids with love and reason, however, grants both parents and children with a relationship they can delight in.
Often parents are told that they should ignore parenting books and advice for the simple reason that they know their children, they know themselves, they know their situation and values, and they therefore have enough to go on and should just trust their instincts. While I believe this to be often true, I also know that there are times that we think we're following our instincts, and what we're actually following is our own hard wiring - which isn't necessarily a good thing for some of us. Our children do something, and we react only to realize a moment later that our reaction doesn't reflect the kind of parent we are or want to be. Aldort points out that this is true for all of us and it doesn't help to beat ourselves up over these moments, but it does make a difference to get to the root of our reaction, for the sake of our own growth and development as parents.
I read this book when my son was two, and it’s the one book I wished I had read before he was born, if only because of her insistence that you trust your instincts and your connection to your child. It’s a fantastic reminder to just relax and BE with your child – rather than rushing them off to some overpriced nonsense that advertises to increase your child’s aptitude for music, math and the arts and have them reading by the time they are done with diapers.
Not necessarily a book that needs to be read before the arrival of baby, but definitely by the time a child enters pre-school. My husband teases me how I have my instincts about things, do a bunch of research until I find the people that agree with me, and then armed with their book in hand, I feel empowered enough to talk back to the people that suggest I’m off my rocker. This is why I love Bronson and Merryman: they did all the research that I didn’t have to to know I’m making the right choices for my son (and baby to be). I have a huge pet peeve when adults accuse children, toddlers and even babies (!) of being manipulative or lying, (especially when kids are actually just asking to have their basic needs met), now I can confidently talk back and point out that they probably are – because they learned it from their parents. They also deal with why praising backfires, and why the evaluations for giftedness are actually off.
I’m not one of those moms who wants her children reading by the time they turn three or is especially focused on future academic achievement. Mostly, I want to encourage my child’s natural curiosity and creativity, and Stamm offers the tools for this while also explaining developmentally what’s happening in the baby’s world. I find the more I understand the developmental phases, the easier it is to not take some of the difficult moments personally, since I know that whatever my child is doing is exactly the appropriate thing for him to be doing.
I’ve long been a fan of Gopnik’s brother Adam and his New Yorker articles, but after this book by Alison Gopnik, I’d honestly do anything to be a guest or a fly on the wall at a Gopnik family Thanksgiving. Gopnik illustrates that babies are more conscious than we think they are, and even more conscious than adults are. They are busy little scientists and explorers, and while I was always in awe of my child, this book left me even more so – and just marveling at my son’s mind and in profound respect for his process.
Ice Pop Joy by Anni Daulter
Cookbooks or even cookbooks for feeding children don’t usually make lists of parenting reads, but Anni Daulter’s Popsicle cookbook makes the difference for me in my parenting life on an almost daily basis, given my son now eats between 1 and 4 a day. Consequently, this is the book I give as Christmas gifts and to new moms at baby showers.
In both of my pregnancies, popsicles were the mainstays of my happiness. I still get weak knees at the sight of a Trader Joe’s Key Lime Popsicle. My son shares my addiction, though my son also has a profound love of green juice (that green juice full of spinach, wheat grass, and algae. It sounds disgusting, but he loves it.) I, on a whim, one day took his beloved green juice, threw it in the blender with some pineapple and filled the Popsicle mold with it. Then, the next day when he asked for a popsicle for breakfast I felt like the best mom ever. Except for the fact that I had a rather limited repertoire.
Then I found Anni Daulter’s Ice Pop Joy. She has recipes for popsicles with yogurt, fruit, vegetables, tofu, even chocolate and all of them are kid-friendly. By kid-friendly, I mean all have some nutritional value and have enough sweetness to taste good, yet are not full of the kinds of sugar that send kids over the edge (I know many doctors say sugar intake and hyperactivity are not related. I don’t know that these doctors actually have children. If my child has 3 ounces of orange juice, he turns into a demon. He’s sugar sensitive, so we’re happy for recipes that use agave nectar or honey.) Those who have children with food sensitivities will find the recipes easy to amend (replace wheat germ with flax seeds for example).
My son loves the Breakfast Pops (Almond butter, bananas, yogurt, walnuts and wheat germ) though he will eat any of them for breakfast, even the Harvest Pops (apples, butternut squash, dried cranberries, wheat germ). Many of the recipes feature vegetables many kids won’t usually eat, spinach, zucchini, or yellow squash. Your child is sick? There are popsicles that boost her immune system and keep her hydrated. She also has tidbits of nutritional information sprinkled throughout that I refer to when I'm making things besides popsicles.
Friday, March 9, 2012
impression that things are completely back to normal, but they are not. Despite my quick recovery, I am still balancing the needs of a newborn and three older children, household duties, and paid freelance work. It can quickly become overwhelming. I have been thinking about what I need, and I decided to share it here. I do not claim to speak for every busy mom, but hopefully some of you can find commiseration here. Maybe friends, family, and partners could also learn a thing or two about the kind of support a mom needs.
your affection. The rest will come in time.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
My family has been hit with the flu. My son spiked a 102 temperature last Tuesday evening and life has not been the same since. I had no idea just how intense the flu could be (or how long it could last). Here's some of what I have learned this week.
1. Some flus make you sick for a long time and that is just normal!
Flus are different than colds in that there is usually almost no build up before you get sick. Colds come on slowly; flus hit you like a freight train. Symptoms last for a full four or five days and often include: chills, headache, muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and weakness. This can mean that you and/or your child will have a temperature over 100 for multiple days in a row (if it is over 100 for more than three days, however, with no break, it is recommended you call your doctor). After those days, a cough and weakness remain for up to two weeks afterwards. All of this is normal and does not mean anything else is wrong.
2. You are contagious for a long time.
This is where I want all moms to listen up. Unlike most colds and viruses where the common belief is that once the fever is over, you usually aren't very contagious, with flus, you are contagious until all the symptoms end. This means that you stop being contagious when you stop coughing completely. For most healthy adults this is about a week after you catch the flu. If you have a small child with the flu or if someone in your family has asthma (like I do), it means that they might have the cough longer and may be contagious up to two weeks! So, if you suspect your family had the flu, keep everyone at home or make them where masks in public for your brief forays. No one should be inflicted with the hell my family just went through!
3. Cold humidifiers are awesome.
Okay, I knew this before we caught the flu, but I loved already owning them. They do not create hot steam and so are much safer to have around small children. However, they do moisten the air and help open swollen breathing ways just as well as they hot ones do and they seem to last a lot longer than the hot air vaporizers. They are, however, a little more expensive, but I feel like the cost is totally worth it.
4. A flu can make you feel like you are going to die, but there is really nothing a doctor can do for you.
We did not go to the doctor, but I did call mine because I do have asthma and I do know that my son has the genetic possibility of having it one day. (I did not become completely symptomatic until age 14.) I nicknamed this particular flu the "Brown Plague" because it was almost as bad as the "Black Plague," but it wasn't going to kill us. However, here are a list of symptoms that mean you should take your child to the emergency room with the flu: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting
not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and cough. As my 2 1/2 year old, thirty odd pound son did not want to be put down during the entire five days, nursed (and slept) like a new born (up every two hours or so), and only vomited twice (on two very separate days for two separate reasons), I figured he was still healing healthily enough and we avoided the emergency room. This was probably a good thing as I'm not sure my husband or I were really healthy enough to be driving.
5. Elderberry May Kill the Flu
Obviously, I did not know this one at all or I would have had elderberries on hand. Apparently, it is well documented that elderberry kills flu viruses if you take it from the very beginning. This study says that people were "symptom free" after two days! I don't have personal experience, yet, but you can bet your knickers I'm going to be buying elderberry when I get back to the health food store!
6. The Flu Can Have "After" Effects
This is mostly for people with compromised immune systems or weak lungs. If you have asthma and you catch the flu, you can develop a rattle when you breathe like I have and you can develop plugged ears. These are after effects that can lead to serious complications, so you have to take care of them. The Neti Pot can help with both of those, but it is also recommended that you take something to thin the mucus. Mucinex is readily available, but there are more natural alternatives with less weird commercials. However, as a national drug chain is far closer to my house than the health food stores I can use in this area, I cannot tell you with any experience if any of those work. I just started using Mucinex tonight . . . we'll see how it goes.
7. The Flu Can Make You a Better Mom
Okay, so not every minute of the flu makes you a better mom, but I found because I knew that I was crabby already, I was able to be extra careful and not be impatient with my son. Because I wasn't feeling well, I didn't try to get a million things done and I was pretty grateful for what I did manage to do! I also had an easier time forgiving myself and letting myself turn the tide while I was sick because I knew that I was not at my best and so it was easier to forgive and move on. I tried to take snapshots of the good moments when I did get to snuggle a little closer with my usually very independent toddler, and I tried to push the bad moments into the fog of "The Brown Plague." You can survive the flu and be the mom you want to be during it; you just have to be forgiving of those moments when you were sick.
Oh, and it's okay to watch way too much tv when no one can move. Really. It is.
Thanks for reading,