Bragging or sharing joy..?

Child 1

Child 1 (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

I once did a yoga class in the dark. My teacher used to always say, ‘yoga is not a competition, you only need to chart your progress against yourself: did you go an inch further this week than last week’?

I see parenting and our children’s progress the same way. There is no need to compare one child to another. Each is on their own unique, individual journey – one which is perfect for them. Is there a temptation even pressure to judge and compare, just to check they are doing ‘alright’? Sure… but it is so liberating in those moments in which we can totally transcend that.

A friend tells me: “my kid started walking at seven months” or “my child’s vocab has been burgeoning in the last few weeks.” Personally, I really appreciate and enjoy when people share facts like this with me about their children. They are letting me in a little to their lives and I love that. I feel like one of the family. And now, with toddlers, I often share deep belly-laughs for the antics of other cute, smart kids in our circle. I try only to measure each child’s progress (if at all) against their achievements when I had last seen them. When you view it like that, you become totally detached from the toddler-rat-race and able to rejoice in each child’s accomplishments.

In fact, in a way (as I have said before), I view them all as my children. What I mean by that is that I try and look through my mama-eyes at all kids and find the empathy, enjoyment and pride for all of them.

And I do not consider it bragging to tell me what a child has achieved… unless there is a value judgement that goes with it, some implication that therefore they are better than other children. Indeed, I think there is a fundamental difference between bragging and reporting facts. Bragging of the ‘this child is better than that one’ kind is ugly and stinks a little, too. But observing with loving interest what your child has been doing is not bragging, in my opinion. It is joy, shared. It is a fine line, I grant you. But there is a trend, nowadays, to feel you cannot talk about your child’s successes to others, lest it be seen as a kind of vanity. I guess, I am just appealing for a middle ground, balance. Yes, keep your value judgements (of good/bad, better/worse) to yourself. If you need to share them because they are burning a hole in you, keep them in the immediate family, I reckon. But do not hold back from sharing with me your factual observations of what your child has done. Do share with me, also, your feelings about this, please (sadness, joy, shame, hope, anger, pride, etc. are all, effectively, another kind of fact – emotional truth). Let’s leave it at that, though: fact and truth. Then we can all rejoice in the achievements and progress of all life’s children.

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Being honest about our journey as a parent – how one mom is bearing it all

Ewa Partum, Exercises, 1972

Image via Wikipedia

Being honest about your journey as a parent can be healing for you and inspiring for others. I just read this post about one woman’s journey to Attachment Parenting, the hard way. This is a powerful, moving and beautiful piece. It is truth.

Some may see me as the first kind of AP parent she describes, the kind that always knew AP style practices were for her (even if she didn’t know there was a name for it). I knew I wanted to breastfeed and babywear before Baby came… but I didn’t want to co-sleep and had to because that is the only way she (or any of us, in the end) could sleep.

I also think, sadly, that Eileen’s story is not unique in the sense that many AP parents I know passed through Post-Partum Depression or Post-Partum Anxiety (including me) on their journey to finding out who they are as a parent. We are a bunch of sensitive souls, the ones that in the end put bonding and relationship first. Among bloggers in particular (I’d love to gather real stats) I suspect the number of moms who had post-partum issues is stageringly high. I think many of us blog because we are driven to seek out community, because we need to talk and we need to not feel alone.

Conversely, I will also say that I have met parents who have travelled the opposite journey. They started off with a whole host of hippy/AP intentions and just couldn’t make them work in real life – either the kid’s temperament just didn’t respond to the classic Bs (bedsharing, babywearing, etc) and/or they cracked. They didn’t have the support of a village, they didn’t have information or experience and they just couldn’t do it anymore (all that co-sleeping induced night wakings and endlessly handing over your body – uh, boobs – to another being). The story can run both ways. All are true, all are real, all are equally valid and even can be ‘right’ for different families.

I am touched but also kind of invigorated by this post. I urge you to go check it out. See what reflections on your own journey it brings up. A mirror as clear and honest as this, always helps us see ourselves a little more clearly, too.

New Generation Fathers Co-Parent from the Heart – my guest post at Alternative Mama’s

I wrote an ode to the modern dad and it was posted, generously, by the ever-inspiring Alternative Mama. I was struck by how this generation of dads is so different from the one that preceded it – and this with no real role models to have shown them the way. Read the full article, here:

Guest Post: New Generation Fathers Co-Parent from the Heart | Alternative Mama.

Thanks Alternative Mama for hosting me. You rock!

What does the AP label mean? – a bloggy answer to KellyMom

Babywearing Favourites

Image by Virginia Zuluaga via Flickr

Here is a cute little article about not self-flagellating with AP rules, about following the spirit rather than the letter of Attachment Parenting ‘law’: kellymom.com :: There is No Doctrine for Attachment Parenting: Being AP is a Frame of Mind!.

I agree with Diana West from KellyMom’s sentiment but I still find myself arguing with her in my head – about tiny little details, mind you. I totally share the feeling that many moms can’t or don’t feel the pull to follow every AP practice but that does not stop them from being natural-minded moms who put their kids first and for whom the aim is to create a strong, solid base and a secure attachment with their children. We all do the best we can and none of us is perfect – I sure am not! It is the intention and the overall approach that matter in whether somebody can feel part of this movement, generally. In fact, I would go so far to say that it should be a totally self-nominating group, if you feel like an Natural mom, you probably are… but here I want to make a slight distinction. My bug is with mums who are doing none of the AP style behaviours (as described by Jean Leidloff or Dr Sears) and still want to claim to be AP, somehow. I have come across some mums like this. They will tell me they are very attached to their kids and think that means they are ‘attachment parents’.  Through my co-sleeping, breastfeeding blurry eyes I squint at them, too tired from all that baby-carrying to really argue (lol).

And yes, they may, as I think is Diana’s main point, still foster a very strong and secure attachment with their kids. We should not lose sight of this: it is this goal of achieving what psychologists call ‘secure attachment’ that unites us, really, rather than the means we chose to achieve it. So, yes, we all make the choices we make and that doesn’t make us bad parents, neither does it mean your child will not be securely attached to you (as is vital for their social and emotional wellbeing later in life)… but… but that isn’t enough to say you practice AP. Attachment Parenting as it is generally defined now does refer to the means. What we have in common, as a group, is not just that we put relationship at the center of our parenting, it is also about how we chose to foster that closeness, especially in the early days. It does refer to these crazy sacrifices some of us chose to make, these difficult, unpopular, sometimes socially marginalising parenting choices some of us make (like co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended breastfeeding, etc.) and our clamoring under the label of Attachment Parenting (as unflattering as these words may be) helps us find a safe-haven, a community of other ‘crazies and hippies’ that have made these same choices, too.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I readily accept under the Natural Parenting label any parent that makes any attempt to parent from the Heart, who practices gentle, compassionate discipline (from the original greek meaning ‘education’), who considers the environment in their choices and who often puts their kid first, honouring their needs and wants as a whole, complete little human of equal value in the family (not one who should just fit in with the parents’ schedules and dreams). Still, I wanted to add this short little caveat and perhaps reserve the AP title specifically for those who are committed to those practices (yes, even when we can’t do all of them, all of the time – agreed).

So, I agree with Diana and I want to take a second to remember that labels (as reviled and vilified as they are) serve a purpose, too, sometimes a unifying, comforting, even healing one, that makes us feel part of a family, not ‘freaks’ (as I overheard somebody calling people who breastfeed toddlers, the other day). We are not alone and while KellyMom’s Diana is right that we absolutely should not punish ourselves if we can’t tick every box on Dr Sear’s list, it is also not ideal, in my view, for the title to become so loose as to become meaningless. Not every giving, caring parent is an AP parent. If you tick none of the ‘main’ boxes, if you do not co-sleep, breastfeed on cue or babywear most of the time then you probably aren’t an AP parent… that doesn’t mean you are not a great, responsive, gentle and natural parent, it just may mean those things aren’t for you. Or, as Diana points out they may not have worked for this baby specifically.

But even as I write this I find myself faltering. I do want this label to have some meaning, for it to refer to a specific set of practices to which that some parents commit (not because they read it in a book, but because it felt right). However, I also want this label to be inclusive. I want it to describe a broad approach of being responsive to a child’s needs and feelings knowing that how we respond to these needs will vary from child to child. I want to go to gatherings of attachment parents and find a spectrum of practices represented under this banner, not a tight group of rule-based parenting zealots. I want to welcome in those who tried to breastfeed but whose kid was losing weight so they switched to formula or those who believe co-sleeping is best for newborns but found it just didn’t work with their child. I guess what I want ultimately is not an exclusive little club of APers that I can find refuge in, what I want is broad acceptance of these practices within the wider society. This stuff is normal; it is alright to make these choices… just as many other practices are great, too.

So, what is in a label? Does it matter if we include everybody who puts relationship and ‘attachment’ first or if we include, from among them, only those who specifically adopt this set of practices? Yes and no. Ultimately it doesn’t matter and we can all get along no matter what our mothering, parenting choices, surely… but a name is used to simplify communication, to help us know – in this case – what parents we have most in common with. I say keep ’em both. We have words that describe parents committed to parenting from the heart and putting the child at the center of the relationship: positive parenting, gentle parenting, natural parenting describe this kind of parenting all of us here recognise and adhere to one extent or another. And among these positive parents you will find us, the attachment parents who all share some specific ways of putting these general principles to practice. Is that not worthy of its own label?

Pic of the week: our co-sleeping nest!

This is what co-sleeping looks like in our house:

Technically, here I am sleeping on Anya’s bed… but often, by morning this is the arrangement we are in.

Seeing as yesterday I fell asleep with Anya and failed to post my would-be Wordless Wednesday, this seems an especially apt photo to post!

5 steps to losing weight the AP way

Attachment parenting II

Image by bricolage.108 via Flickr

I was a size 6 before I was pregnant. I don’t know what size I was immediately after birth, I just lived in old sweats (hah!) but when Baby was about 8 months old I celebrated getting into size 8 jeans! Now, I am a size 2. That sounds tiny to me. I am one size away from the infamous size 0. How the heck did that happen?!

This is controversial I know. There are two kinds of mamas out there, I reckon, the ones who didn’t lose the baby-weight and don’t want to talk about it and the ones who did lose all the weight and dare not talk about it. Anyway, I am going to break rank and brave the topic even though I am on the skinny-cow side. I am not crazy skinny, so don’t go getting jealous or anything like that. I am actually a flabby (non-toned) size 2 – if that isn’t too much information! And I am spotty and have a big c-scar, remember, if you need it for balance.

I have not dieted (certainly not with the intention of losing weight) and I don’t do any organised exercise… at all. So how did I do it? I credit Attachment Parenting. Here’s the rundown of what worked for me.

Weight loss the AP Way:

  1. Breastfeed at will/on cue: if your kid is anything like mine it will be a big challenge to consume as many calories as they are sucking out of us each day – and I, for one, love to eat! If I eat light for even a few days (and by light I don’t mean ‘less’ I just mean better quality/more greens, soups, salads, etc.) I find I automatically lose weight, without trying. This was especially noticeable in the first few weeks as my uterus contracted back into place, magically and seemingly overnight. And now, in the long term, I can see that breastfeeding is definitely linked to my new shape.
  2. Co-sleep: … which basically means you continue to do the above – breastfeed on cue – even through the night! Ooops, I just dropped some more calories just thinking about it, I think- and certainly without trying.
  3. Baby-wear: I have been pretty much exclusively wearing/carrying my baby since she was born. She is now 18 months old and at the 90% percentile for weight. I still carry her most places – if it is too far for her to walk or just easier to carry her. That has got to help, don’t you think?
  4. Walk: not strictly an Attachment Parenting practice but it definitely falls squarely within the Natural Parenting movement, especially if it is used as a greener alternative to driving. I love walking. For the longest time there, especially when Baby was smaller and hated to be in the car seat, I would just go for long walks – sometimes one or two hours at a time – with her in my front pack. I am not super fit, but I can walk and, again, I am sure this really helped the weight drop off.
  5. Eat Healthily: I try and eat as green, alkaline and fresh as I can… I am far from perfect, but I don’t eat wheat/gluten, dairy or meat and I limit refined sugar (the almost permanent stash of chocolate doesn’t count, right?!). The couple of times I got the flu, since Anya was born, I did nothing but eat ‘green’ for two or three days: all vegetable soups (with no carbs). I recovered quickly and I lost weight. You gotta be careful with this. You don’t want to lose too much weight when you are breastfeeding as it will affect your supply (it did mine) but eating healthily is always a good thing, to my mind.
So I lost lots of weight. Still, I want to acknowledge the role of luck in all this. This month I am this size, I hope it sticks but my love of eating has got me in trouble before, let’s hope I can keep balance, stay healthy and get way, way fitter so I can keep this trimmer figure which I am so enjoying (even now I don’t have the super-boobs, anymore).
Really this post should be about being healthy, the AP way. It is not about trying to lose weight, it is about doing what feels right for your family, going with the flow and taking care of you, too. If that so happens to bring a more optimised weight for you, hooray! I know plenty of hardcore AP mamas in all sizes and shapes. They nurse and baby-wear, eat healthy and still feel weight-challenged (and/or are happy and celebrating their womanly curves) so this is not a cure-all that works easily on everybody. But it worked for me. I guess now it is about finding what will work for you, but you can’t really go wrong with walking, breastfeeding and eating a diet with lots of fresh, green veg, can you?

Blog re-branding: Loving Earth Mama

Hi guys,

So as you know I have been thinking deeply for a while now about how or whether to continue this blog. My solution (for now at least) is to continue this blog in a slightly new way. This shift has been happening already gradually over the last few weeks. Here are some of the changes:

  • New look – I am thinking you noticed that :)
  • The blog’s name. You may have noticed  also that I changed the blog’s name from ‘The Blessing Tree’ to ‘Loving Earth Mama’. I have used the moniker ‘Loving Earth’ for many years now in different online media. I immediately thought of it when I was registering this blog, unfortunately it had already been taken as a WordPress blog name (by a cute environmental blog so I did not begrudge them)… so I had to come up with something else. But in truth I never thought ‘The Blessing Tree’ really fit this blog. Now I have bought the domain ‘Loving Earth Mama’ and really like it. I hope you like it too.
  • There are now ‘Wordless Wednesdays‘ – which capture a mothering or toddler moment in photo form. This is following a well-established mama-blogging convention which appealed to me (as an amateur photographer)…plus it is nice to have a break from ‘words’ but still share the joy for your parenting journey.  They are not always ‘great’ photos in the technical sense. Sometimes they really just are snapshots of a moment that touched my heart like this one, for example. Others worked out as both photos I like technically and which capture some toddler fun I want to remember, like this one.
  • I have been slowly moving from purely describing my experience and Anya’s milestones in a journal-type fashion toward a more reflective and broader style of writing which I hope will both represent more mother/parent’s experiences and act as a springboard for people to discuss or think about their own approach to parenting.
  • There is now a facebook page – open to all – linked to this blog which we can use as an easy, open and accessible forum to discuss any topics and issues that come up for us directly in relation to blog posts here at Loving Earth Mama or in general, out in the world. Topics related to conscious mothering, healthy childhood, gentle discipline, etc.

Topics on this blog will continue to include (among many others, no doubt):

  • Attachment Parenting
  • Baby Sign Language
  • Breastfeeding
  • Healthy Eating for Mamas, Kiddos and Whole Families
  • Mothering as Spiritual Practice

Do join me (and join in on the debates on facebook, here or in your own homes, even) as this wonderful, surprising, challenging and fun journey of motherhood continues. Thank you all. In joy,

Gauri