Monday, October 21, 2013

one day I'll poop in private

Gwen is going through a want to be with one of us at all times phase right now. While just a few weeks ago she would happily wander throughout our downstairs, grabbing a toy from her play kitchen (in our real kitchen) before grabbing a coloring book from the living room, then flopping down on the floor in the dining room to color, now she seems to be developing some fears of being alone* and consequently wants us to go with her anytime she needs something from another room. It also means that she wants to follow us when we go to other rooms, including the bathroom.

We are pretty open in our household when it comes to nudity, and bodily functions. Gwen will take showers with me on the weekends, we change in front of each other, and we often leave the door open when we go to the bathroom. Its just not a big deal. But suddenly my normally quiet "nature calls" times, have become together times with a chatty girl standing by my knee. Its been interesting. I'm all about attachment, but this isn't exactly what I pictured.

The thing is, I don't want to force her out of the room. While I don't quite understand her newly developed fears of our safe home during the light of day, they are still very real to her, and I want to respect that. While I miss her independence, I know it will return and even more so then before. We've had some talks about how she is safe here, how Mama is always nearby and can hear if she needs help, and that she can go from room to room without us, but I know this will take time.

For now we're going day-by-day, and finding the balance of making Gwen feel secure and safe, while still enforcing some personal space during more private moments (we picked a floor tile in the bathroom a safe distance away, and she stands there!). And I know that soon enough I'll get to poop in private again.

Did any of your kids go through a scared phase? What did you find that helped?

* though thankfully not in the comfort of her own bed at night  ::knocks on wood::

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

They Might Not Listen, but They Always Hear

My eldest son is very spirited and he is challenged by having my temper coupled with a strong desire to throw things especially when he is angry. He's been like this since he was eight months old. In the over three years since then, I have probably told him not to throw hard, potentially harm causing objects at least seventy two billion times. (Because the impulse to throw is so strong for him, we do have a rule that soft objects [and we have painstakingly determined every object he owns that belongs in that category] may be thrown in the house not at people unless you ask them to "catch" first AND they say yes.)

However, at least once a week, I find myself complaining with my husband after the boys are in bed that he isn't "listening" again when I ask him not to throw.  There are other things I feel like I have to repeatedly ask him not to do and things that I ask him to do that he should probably remember on his own.  All of this is very irritating and disheartening.  There are even times when I wonder if I'm any good at this parenting thing at all. It seems like for every three good moments of gentle parenting I have, I have at least one truly awful one and no matter how many times I get down on his level, look him in the eyes, and provide a brief, age appropriate reason not to throw (or whatever), he still never seems to hear me.

Yet, I know that is not the case because recently, I had a chance to see my little boy demonstrate how much he is always listening in the sweetest way possible. I had laid my six month old on a blanket on the floor in the playroom where my eldest son was playing so I could switch laundry from the washer to the dryer (just one room over through an open floor plan). My youngest started to cry because I was out of his eyesight and my eldest (who has had thoughtful conversations with me about how he is really uncomfortable when the baby cries and how he doesn't like it) immediately jumped into action.  He sat down next to his brother and took him in his arms and started murmuring to him, "It's alright little one, your brother is here and mama will be here soon.  I love you little baby. Don't be afraid. Don't you know you're not alone? Mama and me are always here for you.  I know it's scary, but I'll take care of you. I'll stay right by you until mama comes."

These were paraphrases of the same words I have said to him and the baby any time they have started crying in the middle of the night or day and he used them and demonstrated extra tenderness by holding his brother in spite of being admittedly frustrated when he hears his baby brother cry.  He had somehow picked up empathy and kindness from my example without me even knowing I was teaching it! I teared up on the spot, stepped out of the doorway I had been peeking around, and took both boys in my arms and told them exactly how proud I am of the love and empathy they are showing one another.  

I also decided right then and there that while the little day to day lessons I keep repeating don't always seem to be sinking in, at least I'm getting some of the big stuff right. After all, the chances of him growing up and continuing to chuck random stuff at and around people is probably pretty slim, but the chance he'll need to use empathy is pretty high. 

So, take heart, mamas, even if your kids never seem to listen, they are still hearing how you interact with them and they are learning from that who you think they are and should be.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 7, 2013

parenting the child you have

When Gwen was a baby, I remember wishing that she came with some warning lights and maybe an LCD panel that told you exactly what combo of things would work today. Warning: tired baby. Use sleep sack plus fan plus white noise and hold an extra 5 minutes. Warning: just fussing in sleep. Leave her be! It was an interesting juggling act, trying to figure out what would make my girl happy.

Babies don't come with warning lights though. Nor do they have owners manuals. But you do figure it out. Eventually I realize that if I trusted my intuition and really listened to her, I could start to "read" her cries. I could tell the difference between a cry that meant she needed something, and one that was just a sleep whimper (aka. leave her alone or you'll wake her more!).

Every mother has to learn to use her intuition. We all seek advice at some point, and commiseration often. That's why blogs such as this one exist: a place for like mined Mamas to come together and share some collective knowledge, to share their experiences so that they, and other mamas, can know they not alone. I love these places for that purpose.

This is why I will always ofter advice if someone asks for it: I'm happy to tell you more then you ever wanted to know about breastfeeding, babywearing, baby lead weaning, safe bedsharing, and gentle parenting; not to mention offer copious amounts of commiseration on sleepless nights and strong-willed toddlers. But every baby is different.Which is why I completely understand if you ask for my advice, listen to my advice, digest my advice, then ultimately throw that advice right out the window!

The biggest lesson most mothers go through, no matter what parenting style you use, is learning to parent the child you have. We all form an image in our minds, pre-baby, of what kind of mother we will be. These unique little people though, they have their own ideas. What worked perfectly for others would not have worked for Gwen, and what works perfectly for Gwen would not work for others. That is okay. It says nothing about me as a person and everything about my child as an individual.

For us that looked like full-term breastfeeding and BLW, continuing to babywear, bedsharing for a few months then transferring to a crib where she stayed until 3.5. It means always trying to use our gentle words and gentle voice, giving my child lots of whys, but using time outs if needed when everything is just too much and she can't listen anymore. To others it looks VERY different. That's okay. 

Too often mothers pit themselves against one another for the "right way" to do things. Even within communities, even within the Attachment Parent community, there are debates about what makes you AP enough, who's doing it the right way. But my ultimate advice for the most AP thing you can do when parenting? Listen to your baby, listen to your heart, and not to anyone else. Parent YOUR baby.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Forget Earth and Health Conscious! I'm Lazy!

Maybe I'm a bit punchy, but I realized many of the things I do that people think are for good reasons are really because I'm lazy. Enjoy!

1. Breast feeding and natural weaning
Professed Reason:
Lazy Reason:
Breastfeeding for the first six-ten weeks is hard work and can be very difficult, but if you can keep going out of the newborn period it gets a lot easier, like way easier than bottle feeding. Sure I don't go far from my nursling when I can help it, but that just means I have no period and he's over six months old. Last time it stayed away until my eldest son was over two years old. Think about that! Two extra years without a period AFTER giving birth. Likewise, I don't have to run to the store for formula, no buying bottles, nipples, etc., and no doing extra bottle dishes!  When weaning happens on the nursling's terms there are less tears and struggle, too.

2. Co-sleeping
Professed reason: 
Lazy reason: I am too lazy to run to the nursery all the way across the house for every single infant wake up.  I tried it with my eldest and I am too tired for that crap. Besides, I get more sleep and so does the baby if we don't have to wake up fully to start nursing. Insert boob in baby mouth half asleep and we both drift off while nursing. Voila! Baby fed and mama gets as much sleep as possible. Bonus: I don't have to play the "is the baby asleep enough to be put back in the crib thing" every single wake up and I have sweet baby snuggles nightly.

3. Cloth diapers
Professed Reason:
Lazy reason: 
Since I'm avoiding the store by not running out for formula all the time, I'm certainly not going to run out for diapers! Also, I clean diapers about every other day which means I'm only doing three extra loads a week in addition to the fifteen million loads I'm already doing as a mom of a four year old and a six month old. Additionally, between not having formula cans or diapers and diaper boxes to throw away, I don't have any extra trash to take out. Good for the environment? Perhaps. One less thing I have to do all the time? Definitely. Besides, cloth diapers are really freaking cute.

4. Homemade baby food/baby led weaning
Professed reason:
Baby is fully ready for solids and baby gets best, freshest foods.
Lazy reason:
Look, I think it's clear I'm not crazy about shopping for things other than books, cloth diapers, kids clothes, good foods, and sweets that fit around my sons' dietary restrictions. I buy darn good, healthy food for my family in general and I don't like wasting more time or money buying separate food for our tiniest, less pickiest family member. So, I plan to steam vegetables to go with dinner for everyone and then purée or tiny chop them for the baby. Voila! Baby is just a tiny member of the same dinner as everyone else and I have less glass bottle recycling to do.

5. Homemade cleaners
Professed reason:
Lazy reason: 
I can buy baking soda, distilled white vinegar, borax, oxyclean free and clear, Castile soap and blue dawn in bulk and clean everything from the toilet to my baby for months. Throw in coconut oil and my shopping other than for strictly foods to eat is pretty much done, and half of these cleaning products I can also use IN DINNER if I need to!  Meanwhile, I almost never have to use my inhaler to clean the bathroom or the kitchen anymore AND I am not really worried if the children get under the bathroom sink and break into the vinegar and baking soda.

So, there you have it! I am not an earth goddess busting my butt to save Mother Earth and enslaving myself to my children, I'm really a proponent of "work smarter not harder," now if you'll excuse me I have cloth diapers to fold with my four year old while eating organic "you pick" apples and watching "Downton Abbey" while I'm wearing my baby to sleep.

Thanks for reading,