Mamatography/week 17: Taking out the trash (and other stalker-like activities)


This is my week in photos. Which is part of collecting my year in photos – yep, one photo a day for the whole of 2012!!! I am doing super at taking all the shots, so far… but I am very behind on the processing and uploading which is leaving me a little stressed :(  But trying to remember that I am doing this for me, because it is fun… and it is! And I am learning so much, as this project continues to push me to see more, see deeper, see differently…

Here is week 17

Day 116

My lovely new duds, sent over from auntie Izzy who bought them especially in India :D

The beautiful baby-E making another guest appearance:

day 117

This photo so does not do justice to this lovely mother-daughter pair of fun friends:

day 118

taking out the trash. Finally mommy lets me do some big girl chores!

day 119

practicing my kung fu moves at the dojo. She doesn’t actually do martial arts but her daddy does so any chance she can she likes to play ninja, too!

day 120

flying:

‘… and then the teddy took a rocket and flew to the moon… or was it a really big crane?’

That rare thing, a mother-daughter portrait. So rare indeed that I am totally willing to overlook the fish -I’m-in-the-middle-of-talking face I’ve got going on here. It is still cute. This was at a lovely picnic with some lovely friends :)

Day 121

Through the leaves:

Day 122

Pooped and ready for a nap.

I’ve started keeping a record of some of my fave Nica quotes to add into these photo-posts. This day she said: “I want to go to Andy Z’s house and knock on his door and say ‘surprise’ ” [Andy Z is a local children’s musician who Nica loves and has been ‘chanelling’/prettending to be for several weeks now – since she stopped being Old MacDonald. The transition was seemless]. I calmly explained that we couldn’t do that. That is called ‘stalking’.

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Are you up for a challenge? One that will take something from you every day, but give a whole lot back too? How about joining me for the photography challenge in 2012 then? A photo a day of whatever your day involved. You can jump in any time through the year!

If you’d still like to join us, you can start at any time, just sign up here and our host will email you further information.

Without further ado, here is the current list of all participants for Mamatography 2012 so far!

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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.

Breathless

English: Chrystalleni Trikomiti, a rhythmic gy...

I am desperately unfit. I am not exaggerating when I say that a few minutes of dancing around the living room with my little one and I am breathless. It is shameful, really. I used to be a rhythmic gymnast. I practiced 20 hours a week and competed at national level (albeit it in a very small nation, Portugal) for eight years. After that I stayed active, as well as teaching Rhythmic Gymnastics for a couple of years, I have done rowing, dance, kung fu, chi kung, yoga and zumba – some of it quite seriously, particularly kung fu… and now this. I can barely go up a flight of stairs without wheezing.

I eat really quite healthily and yet, what kind of role model am I being to my child? What kind of mother am I gifting to her, even, when I am so unfit?

This I share with you now, by way of a kick up my own a*se. I need to get out and do more exercise. I mean I walk quite a lot… but it is becoming less and less and has a lower impact now that I find I no longer carry Pipoca in the Ergo (as I did for her first two years of life). Something needs to change.

English: Heart diagram with labels in English....— — —

How about you – are there areas in your life you are realising you need to step up to for your own health and wellbeing as well as to become a role model to your child, so they too may be inspired to live as healthily as they can?

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PS no, that is not me in the photo!… but yes, I was once super flexible, I was fit (ish) and could jog 30 minutes or so without it being a big deal. Now my ambitions are lower but I do want to get heart-fit. Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, right? I need to start my journey. Won’t you join me and tell me about yours?

Mommy-brain or not… I still have a brain!

“So, what do you do?” She says in a break between talking about her world travels and her fulfilling job working with refugees.

“I am a full-time mom”

“Good for you. How old is your child?”

“She is nearly two years old”

“Oh. That is a long time. How important that is…” Her eyes drift as she looks for somebody else in the crowd… anybody to talk to.

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Am I alone in this? I have been noticing since I gave birth – and especially since I decided to ‘stay home’ and care for my little one myself – that it seems as if people think my IQ has dropped several dozen points, that I have now no interest in world affairs and that even if I do, what I have to say about them is of no consequence, because, you know, I am only a mom.

Arrgh. That irks me. I don’t write ‘irk’ posts very often, I don’t think, but this got to me and I felt the need to share, to vent.

I am still the same person, guys! My memory might be slightly addled by hormones and yes my first love and interest is my child, but I am still me. I still love photography, spirituality, nature, travel, world politics (with a very small ‘p’). I am still me. I’d like to think I am still as fascinating, engaging and funny as ever (the dellusion may be in thinking I was ever any of those things – lol) and that my thoughts are as as insightful, thought-provoking and challenging (in a good way) as they were a couple of years ago. But it seems some people phase out before they have a chance to find out. Even some people (uh… men) very close to me seem to talk to me slightly differently, slightly more slowly, now. It would appear, the consensus is that the onus in now on me to prove I can keep up.

Somehow, it reminds me of when I went travelling around Central America with my (then) very blond boyfriend who did not speak a word of Spanish. Invariably, people would address themselves to him. I would speak to them in near-fluent Spanish and, for example, ask for some information about some local curiosity. They would respond by looking him straight in the eye and giving him their full answer. I’d have to kind of wave at them while thinking, “Hello, over here! Can you talk to the one that can talk back and, you know, understand you?”

My breasts are tiny… but I imagine that is the issue big-breasted women face: “Hello… I am up here!”  Now it seems the distraction, that keeps people from talking to me, is not my breasts or the fact that there is a man, nearby (who must be more competent and capable than me at receiving information). Now, the distraction that makes people’s eyes wander and assume I cannot possibly contribute to this exchange is my job or lack thereof.

I know I am preaching to the converted, here. Most of my readers are women. Most of you are moms, some of you stay-at-home (and go out a lot) moms. But I just want to remind everyone that if you have a degree, a Masters or a PhD it does not expire when you give birth. If you held a powerful job in a big organisation (or a meaningful job in a non-profit or what have you), you did not lose those skills over-night by chosing to care for a child. If you were able to string conversations and interesting thoughts together, before you got pregnant, you probably still can now.

We could be having a different conversation here, about the equal value of different roles in society. We could point out that in a post-feminist world, we have CHOICE and that intelligent women can and do chose to stay home; and that the world needs all these roles to be filled – and with passion… And that, in fact, the world may even be a better place for women being able to chose to stay home and educate their children themselves, rather than leave them in the care of well meaning but over-stretched, underpaid care workers who divide their attention between your and a host of other children and whose main agenda is likely to be to minimise crying, rather than light the fire of imagination, discovery and self-‘discipline’. Some of the most interesting people out there, were not the products of mass education but were lovingly home-schooled. Here’re some CNN chose to highlight. Here are some more. And here is a big old list that includes Einstein, Mozart, Monet, Alexander Graham Bell, FDR, Washington among many others. Was the world enriched because their mothers (and sometimes fathers) guided them rather than handing over their education? Were the men and women who raised their kids at home less because they were not also working a job?

And I am not even a ‘homeschooling mom’. My child is, as I said, not even two yet! But in any case that is not my main point, here. My point is only this: don’t talk down to stay-at-home mums, you don’t know if they indulge in astrophysics as a hobby.

And, to be clear, my hat is off and tilted in the direction of working moms, too, both those who do it because they have to for economic reasons and those that ‘have to’ for themselves because it is their right place, to be back in the millieu, contributing to the world in that way. I am in favour of free choice (if only we all could have that). I am for honouring everybody who follows their passion, their dream, their Heart and knowing that we each contribute, when we are true to ourselves in this way, we do truly help to make the world a better place.

So come on, talk to me like an equal, like you used to, like I matter, like caring for a child doesn’t mean I can’t do anything with my brain in a ‘real’ job, in ‘challenging’ situations with high level decision making that affects many. Know that I (and many) chose this path because we feel it is our higher calling, not because we can’t do anything else or because it is in some way ‘easier’, softer, less… In fact, having talked to lots of working moms, I think many would agree a day at the office, as stressful as it can be, is often a blessed relief from the non-stop, draining intensity of caring for a baby. Plus, relinquishing a job and a second income often means many sacrifices for the whole family. I know that in our case, chosing to stay at home, meant downsizing, living in a flat, rather than a house, going out less, having less holidays and less ‘nice things’. But it is okay, this was our loving, happy choice. We think we are helping to change the world, one child at a time. People… society seems to think we are dropping out, being boring and have nothing of value to share.

And with this, let us for a moment celebrate our differences, the incredible gift of choice (for those of us that truly have it) and the enlightened age we live in that is able to recognise the vital role that ‘full time’ moms play – and that when we make that choice, the hospital doesn’t say “oh, you are chosing to be a stay-at-home mum, shall we excise a part of your brain then, while you are here?”

How we (playfully) put an end to nipple biting

Ouch! My daughter recently started biting me at the end of a feed. It wasn’t very aggressive, as such, it was more one of those ‘I am bored and there is no more milk and I want to get a reaction out of you’ kind of bites. She would come off the breast, bite me and then when I said ‘ow’ she would smile like it was the cutest, cleverest thing she ever did – which as you may imagine didn’t endear me to her, in that moment. I am usually very patient (it is one of my rare virtues) but this was pushing my commitment to gentle parenting.

I didn’t want to fight her on this – I knew that. I mean, sometime back, when she went through a little biting phase (which retrospectively I realised was actually due to a funky latch caused by teething) I tried a more conventional ‘no biting – we treat mama’s breasts with love, respect and gratitude’ along with taking her off the breast. She did stop, but the feeling was always more adversarial than co-operative. Surely all my new-found knowledge about parenting through connection could help me find a better, more resonant way.

So, I got to thinking about her needs. What she clearly wanted here was to engage me and get a reaction out of me. So, I started wondering how we could both get what we needed. I remembered this game from Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting

The original game is about dealing with ‘naughty’ words. It is very simple. If a kid says a potty word, for example, trying to get a reaction out of you, you simply respond by saying, in a clearly lighthearted way: “you can say ‘sh*t’ as much as you like as long as you don’t say…” and insert a funny-sounding, long word like ‘schmoopotilupo’. Invariably what happens is that they will immediately say this new, forbidden word. Then you give them a huge reaction. “Oh, no, now you are going to get it” and run after them and tickle them, for example, or maybe pile onto them in a mock wrestling move or whatever works for you. Everybody wins. They get to play with being wayward and they get the reaction, connection and attention they clearly needed at that moment. You get to have fun AND ensure your kid is keeping their language clean. It really works. Try it!

Well, I thought, since the scenario was kind of similar (the need was to get a rise out of me) I could try something similar to help with the biting. If she bit me and looked up at me with mischievous eyes, I said: “you can bite there as much as you like as long as you don’t touch my belly button”. Like clockwork she puts her finger right in my bellybutton and I give her the biggest, loudest, silliest reaction ever. I yelp and giggle, tickle her and pat her bum, all while being really noisy and over the top.

Now it is effortless, if Nica wants to engage me and get a big energetic burst of a reaction out of me, she just pushes my belly button. I call it the ‘Push Here for a Reaction’ game. And it is great, we transformed what was an angsty situation into a playful game. She still gets a rise out of me but now it is a wholly fun and positive reaction whereas before it was anger-fuelled. Plus she has a new and very easy way of signalling when she is feeling disconnected from me without having to act-up. She gets to be the initiator and can choose a positive interaction over a… less positive one. And the biting has stopped.

— — —

Have you tried similar playful ways to tackle situations you were previously being reactive to? I’d love to hear some of the playful parenting successes from your life? Or if you go away and try a version of these two games the ‘forbidden words’ or ‘push here for a reaction’, do come back and let us know how they work for you. Cheers,

Gauri

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.

Open love letter to my daughter

I was “challenged” by Mother on Mother Earth to write this post, so I thought I’d take a break from the serious business of blogging (uh?…) and do this fun, easy one instead. Here is her sweet post. I have some other posts in the pipeline but life has gotten hectic, so in the meantime…

Ten things I love about you, my baby, right now: 

  1. I admire and revel in your independence: I love it when you play on your own and talk to yourself for ages, often ‘re-living’ scenes or rehearsing words from that day.
  2. I marvel when you ‘count’: “1, 3, 5” pointing at your fingers or at the objects, each in turn. Cracks me up!
  3. I am just so impressed by how resilient you are. You seem to bounce back from most of life’s little trials (like falling off the climbing frame) so easily and get straight ‘back on that horse’. It amazes me and teaches me so much.
  4. I love how much you make me laugh. You are very serious and intense much of the time, figuring things out. You often also like to take your time getting to know new people and places, taking it all in first, but when you are in a fun, light-hearted, playful place, girl, you are hilarious – and your laughter is totally infections. And on that note…
  5. I think it is the best when we get into a ‘giggle loop’ – we just look at each other and laugh… and then keep setting each other off, for minutes at a time. We have been doing this since you were a little baby!
  6. I find your hair beautiful – it is brown but reflects auburn in the light. It is just like mine but I never appreciated it on me. On you I just think it is the most precious, wondrous stuff!
  7. I love to see your character emerge and you seem to be so fastidious and like things ‘just so’. I love how you put your shoes away when we get home (unprompted) or how you put books back on the shelf at the bookshop and library. Figuring out form-and-function definitely seems to be one of your highest joys and you appear to like to know how things work socially, too. You want to understand the ‘rules’ and then demonstrate that you totally get it, I mean, already at 18 months you love saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (and/or signing it) despite the fact that we have never pushed that, we just model it. I think you think it is ‘just what is done’ :)
  8. I am so impressed at how switched on you are and how often you continue to surprise me by how much you understand and can communicate. You language skills have been blowing me away!
  9. You have the cutest bum. I love the way you walk with a little waddle of your sweet bum-bum!
  10. I adore how imaginative you are and, for example, that you turned the basketball net into a swing for your koala. Freaking fabulous!

Now I am supposed to tag 5 mommy-bloggers to do the same (each of you is asked to list 10 things you love about your kid(s) then tag 5 mothers/bloggers to do the same). Here are my five:

I have tried to chose mammas who are comfortable with blogging about their own kids, but let me know if this ain’t for you and I’ll re-nominate :)