Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

Any of my mama friends who come across this post will probably meet it with a rolling of the eyes. I just recently hashed out this very issue over the course of several days. Following my whining, their loving comments, my venting, their loving comments, I came to a realization…my little boy is growing up.

My son is 3.25 and over the last few weeks, we have been trialing a program at the YMCA that requires I sit outside while he participates inside. While 3 seems to be the magic age for this, it’s a first for us. All of the programs that we have ever attended have been together, so I was tentative at first but was willing to give it a try if he was. On the first day he joined without much urging, but came running out half way through in tears and has done so every time until last week when he flat out refused to go. He gave it a try–a real effort in my book–and while I won’t go into the ins and outs of why I agree with him I will say that I believe it is very telling of our current growing pain.

Over the last few weeks he’s kept closer, cuddled more and slept lighter. He’s cried when I didn’t expect it and has asked for me when he previously would not have. I was growing worried, filled with concern and frustration and considering “solutions” and “fixes”. And, then it dawned on me–he was in doubt. And so was I. I was doubting his ability to determine his own readiness. I was choosing for him and pushing, gently pushing but pushing nonetheless, when he wasn’t ready.

This new world with all of its “without mom possibilities” has only just recently begun computing in his little processor. And I have noticed that our Y experience, casual conversations about possible Jr. Kindergarten (Canada’s Pre-K) enrollment this fall and my own attempts at urging autonomous play at home have triggered a pulling in rather than a moving out and away. After watching a pee-wee karate demonstration in awe this past weekend, he quickly turned to me without provocation and refused to ever take a karate class (by himself)–then it was swimming class, a yoga class and music class. He has always been eager to jump into social situations–excited to connect with playmates for engagement and group fun. But it’s now clear that the idea of all of this without mom nearby is foreign and, therefore, scary leaving him feeling unsure and insecure. My perceptions of where he should be now that he’s 3 have been clouding my observation and honoring of where he is at developmentally. As a result, I have not been unconditionally offering him what he has been needing the most as he navigates this very unsteady new territory–more, not less, of me and time.

With the addition of a little sister, more responsibilities and expectations have been tucked into his pocket. He’s asked for some but others have been hashed out by us, perhaps, too prematurely. We expect that with a certain age, readiness for moving forward and stepping ahead magically appears. But as with all things readiness, too, comes best in its own time, in its own way, and at its own pace. As such, I have decided that my best and only role in all of this is not to fix or solve anything–nothing is broken–it’s simply to be mom. Therefore, beginning tomorrow, I’ll meet his caution with patience, his fear with reassurance, his tears with empathy and glimpses of bravery with encouragement and by doing so, hopefully, foster the courage to take the next step in his own time, in his own way, and at his own pace.

Numero Dos: Sharing The Love.

As the date of our big move from the U.S. to Canada approaches and we shuffle from one generous friend’s abode to another, this pregnancy, the little growing one all snug in my tummy, often seems to take a back seat (not in the back of our Volkswagen Golf, but in the back of a very long bus)–which makes me a little sad. Aside from the slowly, and finally, dissipating constant nausea and fatigue, my little tummy buddy hasn’t gotten much air time in any sense of the word over these last 13 weeks.

I can remember the last time I shared my body. It was a little over two years ago. From the day that joyous pink line appeared across the plastic pee stick, little Noah Finn was all that I could think about despite the fact that I was working everyday. I woke up and thought pregnancy, I peed (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I taught and thought pregnancy, I ate (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I slept (very little) and dreamed pregnancy. My growing abdomen was always on my mind.

This time is definitely different. Running after a bouncing, bounding, boisterous toddler while volleying between temporary living situations has certainly captivated the time that I don’t spend eating and sleeping. The fact of the matter is that constant urges to snack and slumber aside, I often forget that I’m pregnant.

What does all of this mean? Is it normal? I am betting so. But it certainly does recall those initial pangs of subtle trepidation I first experienced when pregnancy test number two revealed yet again that solid pink line: sharing the love. How does a mama who has experienced everything about mommying–pregnancy, birth, mothering–with one child not feel guilt about sharing such sacredness with another? It feels almost like cheating on the first.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. But, these are real anxieties, that while slowly fading as the months tick away, remain present nonetheless.

So, how does a mommy share the love–that smothering, doting, gooey love that’s gushed all over the first with the second and subsequent bundles of joy? Will my little Noah feel shortchanged and left out the decision making process–after all, he had no vote here!? Will he harbor feelings of abandonment and isolation, regress and insist on learning the alphabet Z thru A?

Think I’m being melodramatic, again? Perhaps. But these are tangible fears that I sometimes think about. That is, when I remember I’m pregnant anyway.

The Conscious Parent

Positive parenting is hard. Why? Because you must be a conscious parent, always. Constantly. All day long. Every minute of every day. Even in the fuzzy gray of those groggy mornings after a night of restless co-sleeping–even when it’s late in the afternoon following a whirling day of no naps and fussy teething–and yes–even when it’s smack dab in the middle of bedtime and you are ready to go to bed much much more than the little one that you are struggling to soothe to sleep. You must be a conscious parent–a calm, gentle, thinking, and strategical parent, even then.

Positive parenting takes work, effort, time, energy, but most of all it takes brain power–lots of it–when you have it the least to give. As our 14 month-old son begins blossoming into a pre-toddler–that neitherland between infanthood and official toddlerhood at the age of two–we are beginning to consciously think about how we are going to handle the challenging behaviors that we know he is bound to exhibit. As we prepare by talking to other parents, reading books and articles, and attending parenting groups, our philosophy on how we are going to navigate through the wily world of throwing, kicking, biting, and tantrums is beginning to take shape.

Hitting, spanking, time outs, raised voices, and bribing with rewards are all routes we know that we do not wish to take. We know that these methods can result in a humiliated, embarrassed, isolated, externally rewarded, and defeated child and will not lead to the kinds of positive outcomes we are ultimately seeking–a confident, internally motivated, emotionally balanced, and secure child and teenager. And we know that it all starts now. We know that creating a child-friendly environment in our home is much healthier than constantly policing a home that has many things that cannot be touched, or that teaching empathy and giving tools to express frustration and anger early can curb a tantrum before it starts. We know that explaining to him now why he cannot do something is much more effective than overusing the scold “no”. Even at such a young age, we know that he is ready to learn from us and that anything but gentle conscious parenting during these challenging times will perhaps train, but not teach, him.

But during the long and fatigued days that are sure to be ahead, we also know that falling back on easier methods of parenting are just plain, well, easier–you don’t have to plan and think and explain. Using negative directives like “no” or “stop it” or “don’t do that” instead of explaining why or offering choices and alternatives obviously takes less effort and brain power. But at what expense? It will be hard to remember, always, that we will need to offer him the best of us so that he can fulfill his utmost potential–whatever he deems that to be. But we must.

Yes, it’s darn difficult raising a human, but, heck, whoever said it would be easy? And, we want a good human–a really good human.

Joni is an attached mom of one. She blogs over at her mommy blog, mama :: milieu, as well as, at her food website for families with hungry children, Feeding Little Foodies.

If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free.

Originally published on July 30, 2009 at m a m a :: m i l i e u.

Okay, yes those are lyrics to a 1985 Sting song, but they rang oh-so-true today when I came across a quote on my igoogle page. I have a daily literary quote rss feed on my google homepage. Yesterday, it featured a quote from American Poet, Mary Oliver, and all I could think about after reading it was “that lady must have kids.”

The quote went something like this:

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

I hate to reveal that it was only after watching “Benjamin Button” recently that I first had a paralyzing realization that I was indeed mortal. No, I didn’t think that I was a superhero or a downy white unicorn bathed in light before watching the film, I just hadn’t really given the dreary subject much thought.

It wasn’t until seeing poor ol’ Benji aging in reverse–from a wrinkled and crippled infant to a wrinkled and crippled old man–that I truly came face-to-face with the fact that I am nurturing the next generation–someone who will only be budding into puberty just as I will be waning into the second half of life. I will be grey and he will be pimply. I will be mom and he will be my rebellious teen. I will be Grandma and he will be Dad. I will be a memory and he will be Grandpa.

Your 20’s aren’t really a time when you waste much energy thinking about your inevitable and eventual end–you are just beginning what will hopefully be a long and successful life as an adult. Not even turning 30 this year changed all of that.

Having a baby did, however. Now, several times a day, I am saddened by the reality of time’s quick passing. At nights when I am rocking my sweet suckling baby as he drinks and sniffles at my breast, I already envision the time, not very far off from now, when those gentle quiet moments of pure raw love and mutual dependence will come to an end.

And my breast will eventually return to me. And from my breast, I will have to let him go. On to a sippy cup. On to a big boy cup. On to a fork and spoon.

While my eye is pressed to the camera’s viewfinder, I can feel time ticking each minute into the past and imagine my husband, myself and our son years from now watching what I am recording at that moment–laughing at our “dated” hair styles, cars, furniture, clothes–things which are for us now new and modern.

And, our home will return to us. And from our home, we will have to let him go. On to college. On to his own home. On to his own life.

There will come a time that I will have to let him go–let him flutter on without my constant guidance, nurturing, or intervention. And the time is coming sooner rather than later. The independence has already begun. I am preparing now for the”letting go”.


Joni is a first time mommy, former teacher and lover of all things writing and cooking. She enthusiastically blogs about the pleasures and perils of natural mommying and wholesome organic cooking for your little foodie over at: and

Doing The “Right” Thing Is Never Easy

Baby knows best. Really. They are perhaps not scholars just yet but they do know what they need better than any of us and well, we should listen to them . . . and if we did they would probably say . . . that doing the “right” thing is never easy.

Like when you were a kid and were forced to apologize and admit error–it was the “right” thing to do, but it was so hard to say that you were wrong. Or, choosing to skip a party in order to study instead of cheating on a final exam in high school. Studying was hard work, but it was “right,” right?

I’ve come to the conclusion, or even grand epiphany perhaps, that doing the “right” thing as a parent is also not the easier choice. I came to this conclusion after struggling once again following sleepless nights and clingy days with the attachment parenting philosophy that we have adopted as parents. The attachment parenting tenets are simple really and were so appealing to us initially because they essentially support the beliefs that we already held about parenting. To us, AP Principles  just seem like no-brainers: go to your child when he cries–he needs you, breastfeed your baby–it’s food that’s literally made for him, sleep with your child–because you are a parent at night too, use positive discipline to teach your child–negativity punishes, hold and wear your baby–it fosters bonding and security, etc.

Even rereading these as I type them, I find myself nodding in agreement–unable to imagine parenting any other way. But problems arise for this gentle parenting scenario not from any inherent flaws in a plan that seeks to parent gently and respectfully, but from other parents who have found an “easier” way. See, this kind of parenting requires a mom and dad who are fully committed to sacrificing much of their own needs for that of their baby’s. In other words, it takes dedication and patience–a lot, a lot of patience–and a great deal of self-sacrifice.

I am specifically talking about the issue of nighttime sleeping. Fewer issues get as much airtime during playdates, mommy groups, or any other gathering of moms and babies–it’s simply at the heart of every discussion. Exhausted, delirious and desperate mommies eagerly compare notes and exchange sleep tricks in search of something that will help them get more sleep. And, no matter how you try and spin it or how much you try to avoid the inevitable final conclusion, the sleep issue comes down to two dismal options: “sleep training” your baby, or not.

Sleep training methods vary greatly from one to another, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they all include some degree of crying. I have written much about my feelings as they pertain to “crying it out” and though the first was many sleepless months ago, I still do have a problem with my baby crying–yes, I’ve said it, I do not let my baby cry without intervening in an effort to alleviate the cause whatever that cause may be. Why? Because I believe that my son is communicating with us when he is crying–I do not believe that babies cry just to cry, in other words. Sometime this communication may be asking for basic needs to be met and other times it may just be a way to ask for a hug, a cuddle, or a kiss. But, you see, one does not surpass the other in importance for me. My baby’s need to be touched is just as importance as his need to be fed or changed. I will respond in either case and at any time. And that is where myself and my husband diverge from the parents who try to sell us the success of sleep training and tout the amount of sleep that it has brought them. But, at what cost, I want to ask them.

I believe family bed advocates when they claim that co-sleeping raises independent, confident and secure children–I also believe that leaving your baby to fend for them self during these times of nighttime need may produce children who are more dependent, anxious and insecure. I also know that these one or two or three years dealing with his sleeplessness as a baby is small in scale when compared to the number of years that we won’t have to. I will be old and he will no longer by my baby–I will look back on these years with a tender heart yearning for the moments when I was able to hold him in my arms to return.

I do, however, from time to time grow weak–very weak. I do whine and fuss and complain about exhaustion and the need for a moment to myself. During these times I do momentarily wonder if we should not also “train” Noah to self soothe, to sleep alone, to quiet his need for love, comfort and affection just because it is the moon, not the sun, that has risen above the horizon. Those parents are convincing and proud. They’re confident and I suppose, maybe even some look rested.

But, then I give it a second thought. I listen to my heart and am reminded of why I have chosen the more challenging path. When I grow weak and weary, I turn a listening ear to my instinct, my mama gut–and find that I know deep down in my heart that parenting this way, for me, is the “right” way to parent. And, like all things that are “right” it is most certainly the more difficult choice–it may continue to be for a while still to come. But . . . doing the “right” thing is never easy, right?

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