Monthly Archives: August 2012

Montessori Inspiration

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In pursuit of a parenting and educational direction for our girl, I’ve just started reading “The Child in the Family” by Maria Montessori. I am the most engrossed I’ve been in years by a technical non-fiction book. Her ideas feel respectful and wise. Here’s one, regarding how we tend to interpret as misbehaviour childhood actions that spring out of their love for adults:

“Yet who else weeps out of the intense desire to be with us while we eat? And how sadly we will say some day, ‘Nobody cries now to have me near him while he falls asleep. Everybody thinks of himself and falls asleep remembering what happened during the day, but nobody thinks of me.’ Only a child remembers and says every night, ‘Don’t leave me, stay with me!’ and the adult answers, ‘I can’t; I have so much to do, and anyway, what kind of nonsense is this?’ and thinks that the child must be corrected or he will make everyone a slave of his love!”
Montessori, The Child in the Family (1972 printing by Discus/Avon, p. 41)

Parental Paradigm Integration

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I’m all about the paradigms. I like to have a model, masterplan or general theory to guide pretty much anything I do. So when it comes to parenting, I’ve been both amazed at how untheoretical (i.e., random) I am in my approach, and also eager to apply something that I can believe in (i.e., attachment parenting).

Lately I’ve really been wondering if I’m an okay parent. This self-questioning has been triggered by two main things: questions about how to raise our girl with respect to religion and spirituality; and reading Bringing Up Bebe.

The religion thing I’ll have to deal with separately. The essence of the struggle is that 1) it’s a struggle in general for us to find the time to sit, talk and develop plans and approaches to parenting, among other topics, 2) I’m amazingly inconsistent in my routines post-baby and with baby, and 3) we both think the issue is very important, but have very very different ideas about how we should go about it. Fun!!!

Bringing up Bebe has been more of a slap with a wet towel wake-up call. I really did not want to read the book and expected to hate it. Why? Because the bits I’d heard about it and French parenting in general indicated that it would be an approach that ignored baby’s needs; put undue emphasis on the “independence” and materialistic needs of the mothers; and was littered with sundry annoyances, like an indulgent approach to alcohol and low levels of breastfeeding.

Fortunately, in spite of these concerns, I decided to read it. I won’t say with an open mind, because my attitude was more to learn the enemy’s arguments to refute them, but I did approach with at least curiosity. I have somewhat of a fascination with France (who doesn’t? Paris! French! Cheese! Provence and a myriad other delicious place names), and a mother expat’s writing is bound to be interesting. What I found wasn’t what I expected. The materialistic mother-centered baby-ignoring approach I’d anticipated wasn’t really there. What I’ve read so far, instead, describes respecting the independence and ability of babies & toddlers; giving them the freedom to explore, learn and mature; caring for the well-being of the rest of the family and thus teaching the child how to balance their needs with others’; and raising kids that behave well, so that parents can enjoy parenting.

Pretty much all of these struck home. I do want to respect my baby’s independence, treat her with respect, and give her the space to develop her abilities. I want her to think about others, to be well-behaved (though from a place of understanding and self-focus, rather than simple obedience), to be able to persist in difficult tasks. And I have to say, reading some descriptions of parents enjoying relaxing times with their young children – talking with friends, talking on the phone, eating, vacationing – I suddenly realized that while I love my girl and love parenting, there are a few too many unenjoyable moments. And gosh, I’m a better mom when I”m enjoying things!

A few insights I’ve pulled so far. From attachment parenting I have a really firm idea that it’s very very important to listen to and respond to kids. From the book I suddenly realized that hearing a child doesn’t mean you have to do what the child wants. I realize this is beyond basic (and no, I don’t always do what my girl wants) but I suddenly realized that I could both hear her and consider her wishes while setting the rules for what we are doing. Be flexible based on what your child tells you (she isn’t hungry; he’d rather stay home than go out; etc.) but if something needs to happen, you can empathize and explain and, well, insist. In a calm, authoritative way, because you as parent aren’t trying to win an argument with your child. You are listening, considering, showing love and respect, and also providing leadership as appropriate.

Another point that really struck me is the emphasis placed on children learning to deal with frustration, wait a bit, and play by themselves. Essentially, teaching children to be self-sufficient. I believe in this! I don’t buy into letting children cry when they’re young, but I do recognize now in a way I didn’t before that children can learn – in small, age-appropriate ways – to calm themselves and settle back into sleep. I think I could have let baby wiggle more when she stirred before rushing in. I can also see that asking a child to wait is different from ignoring his/her needs. You can ask a child to wait lovingly, face to face, hearing what they are asking and explaining that you can’t provide it at that moment. I tried this a few times today, and I have to say, today was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had with baby in a while. She played by herself; let me make lunch; and rested in bed in a half-nap while I finished eating. It was simply a matter of calmly letting her know that I couldn’t help her immediately because I was doing something else, but that I would be with her shortly. I also noticed how frequently I interrupt her, jumping into her monologue, offering food, redirecting her action. I want to stop doing that. Now.

Another element is calmly setting the limits and boundaries for your child and firmly but lovingly enforcing them. Within boundaries, they’re free to play (without your interference!). This is where my attachment principles feel conflicted. I’m not really about consistency, since I think that means you’re not being flexible. And setting boundaries feels very rule-based versus relationship- or morality-based. I’ve been able to integrate them to see that parents do need to be authority figures, and those limits can be set with discussions that help children understand why those limits are there – they’re not arbitrary.

Finally, independence. There’s a lot in the book about baking. So baby & I baked a “banana cake” today. I told her we would make a cake today and she kept saying how she and mama were making a banana cake. She helped mash the bananas and mix up the ingredients. We waited for it to bake and cool, then enjoyed some. It was totally delightful, and I can’t wait to involve her more in real work around the house. She is ready and willing.

The first, faint breath of autumn

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Leaving the house the other morning I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time: a slight coolness in the air. The very first sign of fall. Though the day warmed up to the mid-30s, the morning temperature gave away the approaching change of seasons.

I have mixed feelings about fall this year. To embrace fall fully it helps if I’ve had a full summer. This year, I haven’t. Our one away vacation was mainly rain. I’ve been to the beach a few times, but not consistently. Work has been busy. Husband’s renovation schedule has been and will be full tilt, leaving us with limited family time (I am very appreciative of his hard work. We just both are eagerly awaiting family time again!). And now we’re a couple weeks away from the start of the school year. My supervisor is in town tomorrow, and it seems all the projects from the summer and for the year are coming to a head. In sum, I haven’t felt like I’ve had summer so I don’t feel ready for fall.

On the other hand: exciting! New freshness in the air. The chance for fun “lasts” with the summer: last dip in the lake, last picnic outside, last week of shorts at work. And then there are the firsts: comforter back on the bed; sweater to work; leaves turning. And all the great nesting hibernating connecting community activities of fall. Food to harvest, houses to winterize, fall festivals to attend.

Tonight I felt a bit of that hibernating nesting energy. Baby was up at 9:15 saying she had to pee (we had been nursing/resting in bed for about 1.5 hours at that point). I was frustrated. But she was awake, so I embraced it. And it was a bit cool, so I had to get myself some socks. And it was dark and cozy, and suddenly I felt that fall feeling. We were together, mother and daughter. We were spending time bonding. We were safely inside. We could do whatever we wanted.

I’m looking forward to more moments like that as autumn encroaches. In the meantime, I’ll try and make a few more summer memories to carry me through winter.

Second Literary Reference

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Driving home tonight from a visit to my brother-in-law and kids who are camping for the weekend. A fun evening with swimming in the lake!

Baby’s happy in the back seat, talking about what we’re doing. “Go to town. In town.”

Yes, we’re going into town!

“Go to town in bed.”

That’s right! We’ll go to bed when we get home in town.

“Red … Ned … bed.”

Red, Ned, Ted, Ed in bed?

Red, Ned Ted, Ed, in bed. A’ya too!

Quoting Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss! Life inspiring her to remember a quote, and connecting her life to a quote from a book. She is a girl after my own heart.

Oh, and also? How I love to read while I eat? One of her new favourite nursing things is “Um nums read”: She latches on and I hold a book and read while she nurses. I’ve clarified that I can only do this with little books, as big ones are too hard to hold.

Blessed Weekend

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The weekend is here! The weekend is here! Oh, I could use a weekend.
Life has felt crazy lately. Husband is renovating morning and night. Baby was sick and I was sick. Packing needs to happen, though it isn’t; renovations require my input and shopping skills. And school starts up in a couple of weeks and my list of work to do is long.

So, after a full week of work with some intense meetings, I am very very ready to take a break. To have three days with my daughter (blissful!). To sleep in mornings, at least as late as she’ll let me, and take my time getting going. Maybe read a bit … go for a walk or two … and beachtime. We also have relatives here (aunt & uncle leaving tomorrow; MIL coming tomorrow too; nephew staying with us to help with renos; and his mom & sister coming on the weekend.

Is there a point to this post? Maybe just this: after a week of bedtimes between 10 and 12, baby fell asleep on the drive home before 7, and is still sleeping now. I had a shower and cleaned the kitchen, talked on the phone with a friend, and will probably curl up now and read a bit. For fun. With my clean, clean body, tea and a muffin. And go to bed early b/c I don’t have to make lunches.

I think a sleeping baby and a clean kitchen should be enough reason to celebrate, and are a good omen for a good weekend. I hope you agree.

My Baby, Yet again

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Real sentences, people!

To her cousin: “Mitchoo, come to tabuh and eat”

About her clothes: “Look new outfit A’ya!”

After pronouncing her hands “dirty” when she’s been digging into her purple crayon, and I ask her “Why are your hands dirty?” “BecauseĀ  put poopuh on hands A’ya!”

About the bees: “Bees make honey for A’ya!”

She’s also taken to a big “Heh?” when she doesn’t understand something.

I look forward to posting on other topics soon. Right now, things are busy and baby is cute, so here’s what you get.

The Heartbreaking Beauty of Babies

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The things babies say and do are so beautiful and pure that my heart cracks. Where do these lovely people come from?

Baby & I were trying to go down for a nap as she rolled around the bed and on top of me. After putting her head on my chest, I asked her if she heard my heart, and what it said. She crossed her hands over her chest and replied, “Love.”

In the same nap attempt, she started saying “Deem bout puppies.” I finally figured out she wanted to dream about puppies. “Kitties too!” she clarified. I narrated a series of dreams she could have about puppies (playing, petting, feeding, small and large puppies, etc.) and she kept asking for more.

Baby and her cousin together this weekend, constantly feeding each other. Blueberries going into the others’ mouths.

As I was feeding baby last night, I gave her a mouthful that was too hot and she spit it out. “Sorry my love!” I said. “Sorry my love!” she repeated. Melt.