Understanding babies’ Buddha nature as a key to conscious parenting

Image by Jean-François Chénier via Flickr

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Babies are little Buddhas. This is my thesis, based on observing my (now two year-old) little girl and many of her friends. Let’s examine the evidence:

  1. Toddlers live in the Now. When they say they want something they mean right now, not in a bit, not tomorrow. They are talking from their feelings in the moment. Conversely, when they say they don’t want something, often (especially when it is something they otherwise love) they mean ‘not right now – ask me again in two minutes!’

  2. Kids this age are present, Here. They can, increasingly hold little conversations including about things that happened in the past and they can remember people and places that are out of sight; their sense of imagination, too, is a wonder and still, somehow they bring it all with them into the Present. They are incredibly alert to what is happening here and they are mesmerised by the unfolding of life before them: an ant on the side-walk, a cloud in the sky, a cigarette butt in a bin – it is all fascinating and so real and earthy.

  3. They are very much in the body. Though their minds are developing at a galloping pace, they are not ‘mini-adults’. The use of complex (or even simple) logic is not their prefered modus operandi for getting to know the world – even if they stand still and appear to listen and take-in a whole long lecture. Yes, they can understand a lot but learning through the body, through movement and play is what they are primed for and is still the most appropriate for this age group, in my view. Indeed, Rudolf Steiner, renowned educator, writer and philosopher, maintained that until around the age of seven, children mostly learn through imitation of the actions and rhythms they see around them. It is how they learn best and it keeps them from becoming too grown up, too intellectual and rational, too soon. Most of us want to nurture rounded individuals, people who can think, yes, but who can also imagine, feel, do… this is the age to practice and focus on creativity, imagination and play. Now is the best window of opportunity to foster great vision, creativity and even (arguably) the start of emotional and social intelligence. Yes, children are in the body and we gain a lot by remembering this and communicating with them with this in mind.

  4. Young children are in tune with their emotions and express them fully. I used to believe that enlightened people did not feel emotions. That they had somehow risen above them and lived with a permanent smile on their face, in an unbroken state of bliss. I have now had the good fortune of meeting several living enlightened masters (and even briefly living close to one) and I observe that they do, very much, have feelings. What is ‘different’ (if anything at all) is that they don’t judge their feelings or stop themselves from expressing them, they don’t get stuck in them, or act upon them, blindly, either. The feeling comes like a wave, it does its crazy-wavey thing and then it passes. The sea carries on, in deep peace, despite the waves. It does not say ‘that wave is too big, too frothy, too violent’… The Self (or deep sea) remains still, unaffected by the waves, no matter how dramatic it got on the surface. So it is with the self-realised individual (one who knows their true Self), feelings – like thoughts – arise and pass, leaving little mark on the person (like writing on water). Most are expressed in the moment, without judgement. If the feeling carries a call to action one which the Heart supports, the action is taken, without drama. The inner-guru or true Self witnesses it all, almost from afar, untouched. I am not saying young toddlers are actually ‘enlightend’ in the sense of realising the true nature of their Selves, mind you… but much of their behaviour points to a simpler, more natural way of being, much less tainted by thought, ego and judgement than most adults. Maybe we have something to learn from kids who are able to say ‘I hate you!’ in one second and come hug you shortly after, when that momentary (and very truthful) feeling has been completely expressed and released. Adults often lose touch with their feelings completely. They either repress them so deeply they forget they have any, and live a kind of cold, sterile, intellectual existence where they neither allow themselves to feel great fear or anger nor to enjoy deep happiness or love… or they act from a kind of reservoir of stored feelings almost continuously, out of compulsion, so that their feelings get the better of them and they end up doing all kinds of things they regret (where as the repressed ones probably regret more what they haven’t done). So, many of us carry around all these feelings that are either not fully expressed or not fully released (meaning that even if we expressed them – often loudly – we have still not ‘let them go’, we have not forgiven, learnt and moved on, leaving the feelings behind). It takes courage to express our feelings. It also takes great courage to forgive and move away from anger or other familiar, ‘safe’ feelings. So, in the end most of us are guided by poorly processed emotions and (unconscious) fears, resentments, guilt, etc. But kids don’t have this baggage, yet – which means we have an opportunity to help them not accumulate any!

  5. Children are love. In fact, I would argue we all are. At our root, mystics have long said (and quantum physics now confirms), we are pure energy. We are being of light and love. We may deviate. We may forget our light or have it, temporariy, obscured but we feel best, achieve the most, influence and touch the most lives when we live from our highest state, our highest place of love. Children, too, may act naughtily… but if we see into their core and remember to speak to the highest in them, they will respond (eventually).

  6. Young children live in a non-attached state, by and large. Okay, this could get confusing. I am not talking here of the child forming a ‘secure attachment’ to their primary carer(s) which psychologists like Bowlby have shown are so important for the health and mental wellbeing of all children (and later adults), of  this bond us ‘Attachment Parents’ work so hard to create and maintain with our kids. Here, I am using the term attachment in the Buddhist sense of the word. [I should share that I am not a Buddhist… but the vocab of Buddhism is very common in our society and many if not all of you will know what I mean when I use these words.] So, in this case I am saying that little children are, by and large, free from attachment to outcome. They do what they do not because they are trying to achieve something by this but because it is what they want to do, right now, it feels good to them – and then they watch and see what happens. Very Zen, actually.

  7. Toddlers see what is. This is the pinacle of many spiritual paths. The aim of most Eastern and modern New Age spiritual paths is to simply ‘see what is’ clearly, in the now, without judgement or condemnation, without hiding or fighting what is arising in our outer reality or in our inner experience. To be at peace with what is, to accept it efforlessly and to let it go when it passes; to act when the urge to act presents itself without attachment to outcome or second-guessing the deed is to flow naturally with life, open to what God gives you (to mix my religions a tad!). And I see whisps of this approach to life in toddlers. If a dog has three legs it has three legs. If we are poor and live in a slum, it is just the way things are, it does not get judged, questioned or measured against others, it just is what it is (at this age, at least).


Yes, to me the evidence is clear, toddlers are naturally more in tune with their ‘Buddha nature’ (contained in each living human being) than the rest of us are.

Now, how does this knowledge help us as parents? Let us consider each of these points again from the perspective of learning how best to respond to their needs, feelings and behaviours, as part of our investment  in learning the art of effective ‘gentle discipline’:

  1. Toddlers live in the Now: we should bare this in mind when talking to them. The example I gave above is classic, if they say they want something, like a snack, remember they mean now and (even if you cannot provide the exact one they requested) see if you can meet the underlying need (in this case, hunger) now rather than asking them to hold on until, say, you have been to the supermarket. They are not developed enough to be able to ‘delay gratification’ yet, on the one hand and, on the other hand, if they are upset they are no longer cognitively able to understand logical explanations of why they should hang on a little bit longer – when their feelings take over command of their brain they hoist out the logical brain. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce the idea of ‘waiting’ and talk to them about how much better a snack they could have at the supermarket, or whatever… I just wouldn’t expect a very high return on that, at this age. Go easy on them. Conversely, if you ask a two-year old if they want to do something and they say ‘no’… wait a few minutes (until they have finished what they were so intently focussed on) and ask again. You might find that that ‘no’ actually meant ‘not now!’ In fact, make it a practice to mentally always add the word ‘now’ on the end of each of their sentences: ‘I hate you’ (right, now); ‘I want an apple’ (right now); ‘I need a hug’ (right now)!

  2. Kids this age are present, Here: step into the moment with them. One of the best tools in your gentle/positive parenting kit is ‘play time’ and one of the most important attitudes is to think of ‘discipline’ as something that happens by prevention or, as we say, ‘through connection’. If you can keep the connection between you and your child(ren) strong, real, light and fun you will really help prevent many issues from even arising. Whenever they can feel the love (inside them) they are also more likely to want to listen and co-operate with you. In fact, that stands to reason, we are all more likely to co-operate when we feel in tune with someone (rather than when we are at loggerheads and just want to resist and drag our feet), right? Kids are no different… So, how do we create connection? There are many ways and people have literally written books about this but the first step is always to become present and see what is here, now. Slow down. We connect by seeing our children, by really getting down to their level and seeing them, engaging in affectionate eye-contact and/or just watching them and noticing what brings them joy, what is holding their attention in that moment. And then, when invited, step into their world and speak their language: play. Plus, come back into the present and synch into where we are right now, we’ll be able to meet our children in this space, giving ourselves an extra beat, an extra breath to find the peace in which a creative, joyful solution can emerge for us, if one is needed. Let this be the basis of your discipline approach: connection and play. And let the ‘corrections’ be gentle, effective, playful… and as seldom as possible while maintaining a respectful, lighthearted, connected relationship.

  3. They are very much in the body: As I mentioned, Steiner holds that children are in the realm of doing and experiencing until they reach age seven. This is very important in terms of discipline (from the Greek ‘to teach’) because it means that while kids can respond to verbal commands, they do better and are much more able to respond to suggestions that are physical in nature. What I mean by this is that they are more likely to clean up a room if they see you cleaning up and they join in – by immitation. Or, if instead of screaming from across the room to not play with a particular object, parents get up and move to the child and physically (gently and with consent or at least fair warning) remove the object from the child – rather than expecting them to understand and obey a verbal command at this age and then punishing them if they do not comply. I am not saying they can’t understand. I am just saying the way their brain is wired at this age, they do much better with being shown by example (on their own or somebody else’s body) than being told. The same goes if they are, for example, hitting other children – stop them physically from doing it (don’t just tell them it is wrong and get upset if they don’t immediately stop and listen to you – they are in the middle of doing and it takes some doing on your part to change that). Modelling also works well on another front: if you want them to be calm, emotionally still and centered, the best way to begin to bring about this change is for you to slow down, get down to their level, look into their eyes and engage with them, even as you calm and center yourself. Children are sponges absorbing the energies, moods and tensions of the environment around them, if you want a calm child make sure their environment is simple and calming in its nature (turn off the stereo or TV or put on calming music) and see if you can surround them with people who are serene – at least in that moment, in which you need to help them re- find their center.

  4. Young children are in tune with their emotions: given an opportunity they will express and discard them, right there and then, in the moment and return to balance. They are not, like many adults, ruled by suppressed emotions they don’t even realise are there or that they dare not express… most kids before the age of three are still very open and expressive of their feelings. Our job, again, is just to get out of the way of them doing what comes naturally to them and ex-pressing their feelings as and when they arise. The worse we can do as parents, in my opinion, is to start to give them the message that some feelings are better than others or that some emotions are plain wrong – like anger/raging for girls or sadness/crying for boys. Then the (life-long) work of suppression begins! We inadvertently give them these messages when we try and distract them from or stop the natural flow of emotional expression. Some parents do this very openly using shame or blame (“stop that crying”; “get over it”; “suck it up”; “control yourself”; etc). Others do it subtly, even lovingly, filled with good intentions (“oh, you are sad, here have a cracker” or “there, there, don’t cry”. I have written about this recently and I am still very much a beginner at this ’emotional freedom’ approach for kids but I got to tell you it makes sense to me. Our job is to enable our children to continue to sense, accept and release their feelings, as easily as they do now. We can give them the vocabulary to openly discuss with others what is going on; we can provide a safe environment for them to ‘feel the feelings out’ and we can continue to model and message the fact that all feelings are ‘normal’, acceptable, natural – and that we are responsible for how we act upon these feelings… but what we don’t need to do is teach them how to feel or express themselves. There may be times when we help them channel those feelings more appropriately (“show me how mad you are by hitting this drum” or “show me how you felt when your sister said that, in a drawing”) but otherwise, our job is to step out of the way and let them do what they do so well: express themselves till their heart’s content.

  5. Children are love. In some ways, this is the most important of all of these points: children are love. If you started your journey to conscious, gentle parenting with only one ‘new’ belief and this was the one, I believe you would not go far wrong. For many it is not enough to know that children are love, they want to know how to put it into practice and so positive discipline books are written which get into they ‘how to’s… but if you start only with this, in your Heart to hold always that ALL children are love; if you respect them as a whole individual, an equal (if smaller) human being, with rights; if you can see past the behaviours, the words, the feelings and needs of the little one – important as those all are – and you can see the eternal in them, you will automatically raise your own energy in remembering too, who you are. And acting from that space, you will be talking Heart to Heart, pure consciousness to pure consciousness, unfettered (for a moment at least) by the bodies and the human entanglements you may have gotten into. Let the light in you recognise and speak to the light in them.

  6. Young children live in a non-attached state. They do not always understand consequences. They are experimenting to see ‘what happens when I do this?!’ Sure kids can be filled with guile and ‘intention’ and still so much of what they do is guided by this wanting (in the Now) to experiment with what is. They throw to find out what sound a thing makes, which way it will fall, how somebody will react if they are hit, how much they can get away with… They don’t do it ‘to annoy you’, as such, the intention is not hurt and they don’t yet have the capacity for empathy or to think in the third person (knowing that person feels something different from what I do) – until at least three. Sure, you can and should talk to them about all these themes but it is not helpful to expect them to get stuff they are just not equipped to fully understand, yet. So, don’t blame them or assign negative intent if they are just experimenting with gravity, for example. Try and put yourself in their shoes and think what they are trying to learn when they do this and see if you can re-direct them to more appropriate ways of doing that – ‘you can throw this soft ball, instead’ or ‘you can bang and make all the noise you want with this spoon on this pan’ or even’ you can hit my hand as hard as you like but you may not hit my head’ – hahah. Stay loose, have fun, find alternatives but try not to judge or to take it personally. At this age (pre-three) it really isn’t.

  7. Toddlers see what is. Kids are able to approach new situations without judgement, truly open-minded because these situations are geneuinely new to them and they have not yet accumulated the load of positive and negative associations which most of us carry. In the same way that they can be awe struck by a line of ants filing past a log they can be intrigued by a pile of rubbish or a dead seagull. It is all neutral to them. Stepping away from a ‘praise culture’ allows us to not impose our value judgements on our kids. We learn to refrain from saying ‘that is a good drawing’ or ‘you look pretty, today’ and instead asking kids what they think of their drawing or of how they look. This builds self-reference and trust in their own judgements… but I don’t think it is only in praising that we are heaping our views and judgements of the world on our children. All the time whether it is the taste of spinach or the view from a helicopter we can refrain from telling our kids how they should feel about something. ‘Yummy spinach!’ will just sound hollow to them if they are thinking it stinks… and thus erode some of their trust in your over-enthusiastic descriptions of the food on their plate. Why not take a moment to find out, instead, what they actually feel about this new food? If they don’t like it, you telling them how great it is when that is clearly dissonant to their own experience will not help them like it. Sure, watch yourself, don’t project negativity about stuff either, they may become reluctant to try something daddy doesn’t like… but no need to go too far the other way and try and brain-wash them into liking it, either. It won’t work. So, here, I see our job not to teach them what to like or not like, but instead to guide them to learn to identify and express their own feelings about what they encounter in the world. We want them to be clear about their own preferences and aversions (rather than being led by others or to need others’ approval). We want to help them to enter each situation anew, afresh, much as they do now – and be able to turn inwards for their own instant, spontaneous assessment of what is and what action if any needs to be taken. They should not be (consciously or unconsciously) worried about what we or others think of them or their actions. They should also, ideally, not be encumbered by past thoughts and judgements about similar people, objects or situations. We want them, I believe, to have awareness of the judgements that come up, which they have either inherited from others or remembered from isolated incidents are are now generalising. We want them to see these and know they are not truth, they are ‘prejudice’ – and to know to look beyond these, to what is there in front of them, now.  Yes, children see what is and that is a blessing. The trick, the question is whether we can help them remain as non-judgemental as possible as they grow. If we can prevent ourselves from passing down all our judgements (not just the obvious ones like around race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc) but many of the other judgements little and small so that they can make up their own mind… Toddlers see what is, without judgement. We can learn from them.

Toddlers are not actually self-realised, I get that. It is not my observation that my little one knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that she is pure spirit (in physical form), that she is not the body, she is not the personality or the mind, she is not the feelings or the memories, not even her name or the labels others or she herself puts on her. She does not abide in the unshaken realisation of who she is. She is on the human plane on a ‘journey’ to discover who she really is, like the rest of us… but who knows if supporting kids to hold onto some of the above characteristics will help remind them of their true Buddha nature?

In practical terms, you can focus on the negatives and tell me how ‘terrible’ toddlers can be or you can slow down, tune in and find all the ways in which they are so in synch with life, feelings and the ‘here and now’ that perhaps it is us who need to learn (be ‘disciplined’?) by them.

Why having fewer toys may bring more happiness to the family

Sometimes as your little love looks up at you, it is tempting to give them whatever they want. ‘A new toy car? Sure!’ ‘A new all singing, all dancing play-kitchen? Oh, my kid would just love that.’

Hey, I love to see my child happy as much as the next mum but I have found an alternative route to this joy which involves not having all the toys. Here are my top reasons why:

  1. Not owning all the toys she loves, means my daughter gets super excited when she finds one of her fave play things at a friend’s house or a play area. The look on her face is priceless and she really enjoys the novelty of playing with a toy she doesn’t have at home. If I were to buy one of everything that is recommended for her age or all things she likes playing with, some of this joy of finding something new and exciting when you are out would be diminished, I would guess – wouldn’t you?
  2. Less toys means less clutter in my small apartment. I love the sense of calm that comes from a tidy environment. Both me and my hubby are messy by nature, so we can use every help we can get in keeping our space neat. Less toys, less toddler debris, as I call it.
  3. Buying fewer toys is good for the environment (especially cutting down on those plastic toys). Of course toy exchanges and buying second hand are good for this, too, but the first commitment of living green is to ‘reduce’ consumption and buying less toys is one step in that direction.
  4. It saves money.
  5. There is something to be said for leaving some toys at the toy store. It feels like there is something important about that moment when a child asks for something and you say ‘no’, not out of meanness or even because you are trying to ‘teach them a lesson about life’ but just because you look inside yourself and you are confident this toy is not needed. You feel strong in your decision that this is a time to walk away from this. And your kid – while they appreciate the fun they had with it in the store – say bye-bye, knowing they have enough. We have enough. Our life is abundant and complete with or without that piece of tat – just sayin’…
  6. Not having every toy means you have to fill the gaps with your own imagination. My baby is only one and a half and I already see that is true for her as it was for me, growing up. She has turned the mini-basketball hoop into a swing for her toy koala bear and she pretends her rainbow toy is a phone. If you have a dolls’ house your dollies can live in that… but if you don’t, then, well, you have to build your own doll’s house. I remember using mikado sticks to delineate rooms for my ‘barbies’ when I was a kid, books made great beds. To this day I do really well on ‘how many things could you turn this paper plate into’ type tests (at interviews and the like) so I do believe it builds a lasting creativity. Plus not having all the toys means you have EVERYTHING you need. Need a castle? you build it (not buy it); want a kitchen? make one up out of a box and use some old pans (you don’t need special multi-coloured ones ‘just for kids’). The examples are countless – you get the gist.
  7. Fewer toys translates to more time and focus on each toy. I had read this but now I have really seen it. If there is a box of toys Anya’s tendency is to pull them all out and treat it like a “take ’em out and throw ’em on the floor” game. The more toys there are in a room, the more likely that she will run between them spending little or no quality time with any of them. When things are tidy and organised and each toy is clearly showcased, she seems to be invited into its world and to want to really project a ‘life’ onto that one toy. She will spend ages with it. I achieve this partly through toy-rotation (keeping some of her toys and books, say a third, in play at each time, and the other two thirds out-of-sight and out-of-reach for a month or so till she seems to be growing bored of the current selection and then swapping them up, over night, as a surprise). But part of it comes from just keeping it simple and having a few quality toys that she really plays with, rather a mountain of neglected things.
  8. Not only does buying less encourage your child to develop their own imagination, it can also push you to find new ways to connect and be creative as a family. Not buying everything leaves a lot more empty space to fill with crafty projects that you come up with together. Sometimes you may lead the way and offer inspiration to your child for fun arts-based play ideas, other times you may be a sounding board for your kid as they think of creative ways of solving ‘problems’ they encounter in playing the games they want to play without having all the store-bought apparatuses and accessories.
So, next time you are thinking about that toy that your kid doesn’t have that they really, really like… breathe. Take a minute to feel inside of yourself and notice whether this is something that feels good to buy – really – or whether it is just a knee-jerk ‘more is better’ kind of response or, worse, a quick attempt to try and connect and make your child ‘happy’ by buying more stuff. There are other better ways to connect that involve spending time and energy (rather than just money) and there may be better ways to honour the integrity of each toy and really get the best out of it (rather than them becoming a mountain of disrespected, throw-away items). Most important of all, it might be best for your child, to help them develop a longer attention span, increased creativity and a sense of valuing and being grateful for what they do have. Less is more, when it comes to toys, I think. Have fun, have toys… and have the courage not to have all the ones you can afford (or are given). Let some go.

Song for a (fifth) child: a poem to make a mother’s heart rest

Mutter und Kinder (Mother and children)

Image via Wikipedia

Song for a Fifth Child, by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
 
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep


[Posted on The Leaky Boob's facebook page by Tasha Purington]


Gauri

Let your actions whisper to your child: ‘expect love’

Everything I do now is setting up my child’s vision of the world and how she will expect to be treated for the rest of her life. I keep thinking that. I know, there will be many other factors that will affect her affect (so to speak) and impress upon her a feeling of optimism or pessimism, self-worth or self-doubt but the roots of all that are laid down now.

With this in mind, when I touch her gently I am aware that she will grow up and expect (demand?) to be treated and touched lovingly and with respect. When I listen to her I know she will have high standards and know that people can and will be there for her, interested in seeing who she really is. As I play with her I hope this is instilling in her a love of carefree fun and laughter for its own sake that will last a lifetime.

I know she is also imbibing so much from what she sees pass between me and NinjaDad. Are we the perfect couple? Oh **** no but if watching us is forming part of her mental blueprint for how a relationship can be, then it ain’t all bad, either. But as I say, it is not only how she sees us treating each other but how we behave toward her that will influence how she goes on to treat others and what standards she will hold people up to when they interact with her.

I remember thinking about this topic when I watched an infamous episode of WifeSwap in which a spoilt brat pageant queen (allegedly) expects everybody to wait on her hand and foot. My first thought was “this girl will never find a partner that panders to her like that, she is going to have a rude awakening when she goes out into the real world”… Then I remembered that was not necessarily the case. She might just find somebody else with complementary neuroses, so to speak, perhaps a man who is looking for a trophy wife, doesn’t care if she can’t spell and hires a maid to take care of her every whim. My point is the world adapts to your expectations of it (to a point). When you think you are rubbish you attract people who will treat you like trash (or at the very least you don’t have the confidence and backbone to kick them to the curb when people like that appear in your life).

Conversely, confident, well-adjusted, centered people also know what they are looking for, they have the silence in them, the spaciousness to see through some of the masquerades and games and to step toward other authentic people. Look I don’t want to romanticise this too much. I get it, luck and other factors play a role… but so does mothering, your upbringing, the messages you receive (in word and in deed) from those around you – especially in these early formative years.

So it is that I say, be conscious of how you relate to your little one, put awareness into this task. Then again, I am sure you are loving and caring already, of course, so perhaps it is more about celebrating and being grateful for the great start you can and are giving your children just by being you and holding in you the space to make changes, to grow and step up when the opportunity presents itself, to break a chain of behaviour passed down through your family if it no longer serves you or your children. Be bold, take courage. Love yourself, love your daughter, love your son and know that that love will continue to show up for the rest of their lives.

You know you are a hippy-mama (or papa) when…

How many of these can you tick? Frankly, two or more and you are a hippy-mamma! I know, I know, you don’t think of  yourself as a hippy… the question is ‘do other people?’

For the record, I am not the hippiest hippy in the valley, I tick 14 out of 20 of those. Now, fess up and leave a message if any of these sound like you :p  Feel free to add your own on, too!

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Edit [Jan/6/2013]: Yes, I went for sillyness here rather than full acuracy. My back never ached wearing my baby – who I continued to carry in an ergo until she was past 2, for example…

How my daughter continues to blow my little mind with her little hands

Mommy’s swelling pride means the first thing I want to share with you all is Anya’s signing progress. I just find this whole ‘human learning to communicate’ journey endlessly fascinating. Anya seems to pick things up so quickly. I have to tell someone or I’ll burst! I try not to go on about it (too much) in person, in mommy groups or the like… but yeah, with you guys I let it out, to get the bragging out of my system, so to speak. Anyway, we all know all babies are amazing and to each of us our own baby is the best – of course – and to each of us it is, of course, true. Here is my truth:

At one year old (yes Anya has turned one!! – awesome) Anya now has over 50 signs. She went through another cognitive-development spurt, clearly. For a couple of weeks she was picking up signs at a rate of up to 2 a day – just fantastic to watch. She has also been building her repertoire of ‘words’ (with sounds for sleeping, pig and, the old classic: fart) so that brings her overall vocab to about 60 concepts.

Baby sign language improves our life in a myriad of small and great ways. One of my fave signs is ‘music’. When I am out with Anya in the baby-carrier she’ll sign for me to sing to her and then, when I stop, she signs for ‘more’. I love it. It is like having an audience cheer and shout encore. I also really enjoy that she calls food ‘mmm’ (not a sign, I know, but cute). There are not many people who greet my food with so much enthusiasm. Got to love that. Other favourite signs include computer, ‘there is none’/empty, tree and sleep (as in ‘dada is sleeping on the bed and snoring like a pig’ – I kid you not, she has pretty much signed that whole sentence… or at least that sentiment).

Anya also now has combinations of signs like ‘more milk’. Or she’ll combine sign and sounds by doing something like sign ‘where is’ and add the word ‘dada’. Cute and clever, no?

The other thing I think is fab about signing is the insight it gives me into the thought processes of a pre-verbal baby. For example, if we are indoors playing and Anya suddenly signs ‘bird’ it can take me a few seconds to realise she is saying she just heard a bird, outside. Who knew babies can hear and identify things out of sight, even when seemingly concentrating on an activity at hand?

So you can see, I am more and more sold on this signing thing. It is a lot of work, or at least it was to get it going in the start. It kind of has its own momentum now and is just fun, so that keeps us motivated. But I really enjoy it and I can see what a kick Anya gets from it, each time we respond appropriately to a request or communication of hers. She gets a real glint of joy and recognition in her eye. I can’t imagine not signing now and I find myself wondering how other moms communicate to their babies: how do they know what they want, what excites them, what they are thinking about? I know they make do but it seems so much more practical and rewarding to sign, now that I am into it. I’ll fully admit I do it as much for me as for Anya but she is clearly getting a lot out of it and I have read the research results: this stuff has positive impact on learning for life, not just as toddlers. I am lucky I stumbled across signing and grateful I stuck with it. Thanks California for your crazy hippy parenting ways!

Where have I been? and where to from here?

It would seem I have been taking an unexpected sabbatical from blog writing. Sorry about that. Of course loads of ideas for blog posts have been getting back-logged in my mind but things have been so busy (as I am sure they have been for many of you, too) that it has been hard to take a moment to write them down, properly. So, all being well, some of them will make it to e-paper soon, soon… then again we are travelling to Europe pretty soon, so the flow may remain a little stop-start for the next few weeks. Do come back and check-in, though. Leave messages, let me know how your child-rearing life is going and if there is anything you’d like me to address. Will be great fun to come back to it…

I should say my intention was always to chart my first year as a parent in a blog and then reassess. Anya’s first birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. So it is time to chose the best course for my blogging future. I am taking votes on that too. I mean, what kind of posts do you most enjoy reading here. Are you a friend or family member who reads my blog for Anya updates? Are you a new mother or parent who finds solace in experiences that echo your own? Do you enjoy the reflections on parenting styles? Why do you read this blog? Perhaps it is time for a slight re-invention :)


Over to you. Photo from Halloween… just to keep you guessing.