Tag Archives: parenting

Mom Struggles

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Being a mother is hard. It has joy, definitely, and is the best thing in the world, and maybe that’s why it’s a never ending project. Children keep growing; needs keep changing; personal circumstances keep evolving, and with each change, the intensity continues.

I had a small mothering shift a couple of weeks ago. I don’t remember what precipitated it – some reminder of how fortunate I am, some reflection on how much better I could do, the realization that I was, in some ways, falling horribly short of my mothering expectations. I’m currently in a state of appreciation of time/nowness with my girl, and patience with process. Whereas prior to the shift I might experience sudden rage at some of my daughter’s actions (sweeping her food onto the floor; refusing to brush her teeth), now I have some perspective (she’s young, this isn’t forever, it may be developmental) and also some new approaches (clearer on boundaries and moving on from activities she’s not doing well; moving onto the next thing myself and getting her to do the necessary before she joins; not asking questions or giving options, just telling her what we’re doing). Life feels richer and more enjoyable now, and I’m grateful for that.

I think it makes a difference for her, too. Clearly, having a mother who is happier and not upset when things don’t go her way is healthy. I think there’s a security in being given more clear guidance, too, and not being left to make choices as a child. It may connect with another habit of hers I’ve noticed – for months, when I ask her questions about things she knows, she’ll say, “I don’t know,” often adding, “You tell me.” I wonder if, truly, that is what children need (don’t ask them questions! Just tell and show) and my asking her to answer questions inspires existential angst (who is this “mama” who doesn’t know this??). So I’ve started telling her more things instead of asking. I think she likes it that way.

I’m also trying to come to terms with socializing. She doesn’t get many opportunities to be with other kids. And I continue to fall short on making this happen. With work busyness, husband working lots, a messy place and not many friends with kids, I just can’t seem to make it happen more than rarely. I wonder how much of her hesitancy around strangers is innate, and how much is a lack of exposure. I worry about it and I honestly don’t know what to do since my attempts to make friends or take her places consistently just don’t pan out. I have a couple friends I visit, and that is great – it’s just not enough for her. And yet, she often doesn’t want to go anywhere.

SIGH. And alongside all my worries … she is so totally awesome. So extremely funny (talking about her new pinwheel from nana: “I thought it was pizza”). So bright (she is attentive to details in speech, often correcting me: when I ask her to pick up my toothbrush, she says, “that isn’t your toothbrush … that is a piece of your toothbrush.” In fact, it is just 1 part of my electric toothbrush). So loving. So thoughtful. So open to sharing (in some circumstances :)). So empathetic. Loves having fun, dancing, embracing new activities. Such a beautiful person! I really just want her to be happy, and think others deserve the chance to know her, too.

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Baby, what do you want now?

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Yesterday was a lesson in digging below my irritation at baby’s choices to understand what might be going on in her world. It was a chance to put aside my own need for control and be a parent who meets her child’s needs.

Yesterday, baby did not want to leave the house. At all. I had planned blueberry picking, grocery shopping, maybe gardening or packing upstairs. Nuh uh. Attempts to get ready to leave the house were met by tears, physical evasion or passive resistance: “I’m busy playing and doing stuff and I don’t hear a word you’re saying, mama!” I tried different tactics, talked, reasoned, shared the fun we would have, probably bribed, likely raised my voice, and finally, sulkily, threw my hands up (literally, I believe) and said fine. We will stay home.

Then I took a deep breath, stepped back, and got some perspective. It’s been a busy time for baby. 4 days a week at nana’s house; mom gone a bit on weekends for meetings; dad working late late late and barely seeing her (for which we are never-endingly grateful, let me add). It’s now her weekend and she wants nothing more than to stay home with her mom. Frankly, I can’t blame her. She is definitely her mother’s daughter. After too much time away, a day spent nursing, playing in the safe warm cozy contained sphere of home, cuddling in bed, with her own toys, must be essential to resetting her emotional clock.

We stayed home aaaaaaall day. We made a banana cake. Again, I had to put aside my plans (eat breakfast first???) because she needed us to make that cake right then. So she peeled and helped mash bananas, stirred the flour and oiled the pan. We did some drawing. We played with toys. We changed sheets and did laundry. She helped sweep. We read lots. We played lots in bed. She napped for 3 hours. We ate bits and pieces. It was good. And, knowing that this was something she needed and something we were going to do, I let go of my plans and found what I could do at home.

With my current reflections on parenting, I’m finding it interesting to reflect on how other parents might view this. I can absolutely see parents saying that children need to listen; that parents need to lead; that coddling results in spoiled kids; that kids need to learn to respect that adults have plans. I hear those arguments, and I do agree that there are times when kids need to do things. I just know that that style is not me. My daughter let me know as best she could what she needed emotionally. I listened. I could have forced her, which would have involved many tears and physically restraining her. I’m not into that. I don’t like what it teaches kids when we use aggression with them. This felt like a big need, not a whim. And I don’t mind if you’d choose differently.

Letting go and tuning in brings its rewards in the amazing things I see in her. Just one I must share – her new favourite song:
“A, b, c, now I know your a, b, c, next time won’t you sing with me in my arms!”

My little love :).

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.

Parenting genius

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The other day my daughter was a bit grumpy because she dropped her straw in the potty and I insisted we had to throw it out (they may be low, but I have standards).

Potty took so long that I forgot the warming peanut butter toast in the toaster oven – oops! Too hot, and too hard. Baby didn’t want to eat it.

Genius moment! I dipped the toast (dip dip?) into her left-over tea from this morning. Cooling and softening action at work, the snack was then palatable and gulped down by baby, who loves to dip-dip anything.

Also file under: eco-parent of the year award.

Baby Connect

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Wow, what an amazing baby day. Okay, I was near my edge a couple of times when she dumped out her food and it took over an hour to leave the house … but a full day of intense time with her leaves me loving her more and more, and feeling more fully in the role of mom.

We woke up and had a big pee on the potty (yay for smiling wake-ups!), played around home, then went for a long walk, library playtime (where we caught storytime and I ran into a friend – nice!), and a picnic/playtime outside.

Home with sleeping baby, I finished marking an assignment, cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. Then we played more and more, read books, went on the potty lots (aside from 2 definite misses), had a wonderful grooming session in the bathroom (washed her feet in the sink, cut her nails while she “filed” them, washed her face, brushed teeth, and finally, chapstick and cream on her lips), read and played in the bedroom, diapers on her babies, and finally sleep, with lots and lots of holding her long growing little-girl body close and stroking her hair.

I don’t appreciate enough the blessing of being a mom and having time with my amazing daughter. For today, I’m grateful.

Sweet, Heartbreaking, Infuriating, Beautiful

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My daughter is all these things, all the time.

One of her latest expressions is “no bye.” She really really doesn’t like saying by to anyone or anything. When I leave in the mornings, it is heartbreaking to hear her little voice say “No bye, mama! No bye!”

She seems allergic to sleep lately. Whatever rituals we try at bed to calm her down only seem to give her more energy. Bath? Stories? Nursing? WHEEE!!! Though I’m sure it’s a phase, and I’m committed to parenting her to sleep, I’m getting wiped out. On the other hand: babbling in a random baby language while laughing and kicking the sheets … so incredibly adorable that I kind of love it.

She continues to demand our participation in her activities (drumming, pretend-sleeping, feeding her animals, anything) with her persistent “Mama too. Dada too. A’ya too.” She also is playing more on her own, moving things back and forth, arranging things, doing all kinds of things, perfectly contentedly. Last night, when the initial sleep attempt completely failed, she took the bottles in the wash bin out and arranged and re-arranged them all over the kitchen. She also LOOOVES splashing in water – at the kitchen sink, not in the bathtub, silly! – and can entertain herself with a stream of water for a long, long time.

Baths are still joint affairs. She won’t get in unless I do.

And when she kisses us, or laughs, or uses a new word we didn’t know (eating; reading; hop; on and on the list goes!), it is so beautiful.