The Hard Heart of Parenting

My body tenses. Teeth clench. Heart hardens.

I don’t hurt him. I don’t yell. Yet, my heart hardens with frustration.

My agenda to clothe my two-year-old collides with his interest in remaining naked. He wants to play with his trucks on the bedroom floor; I have a morning adventure planned. After several attempts to wrestle him into some clothes, he runs out of the room crying “No!”

My son says “Stop!” and “No!” frequently these days. He even asserts his will while mimicking favored construction trucks.

“Beep, beep, beep!” he says. Usually he does this while putting his hands on my legs and pushing me backward.

This morning I miss his “Beep, beep, beep!” which always makes me smile. I imagine it would translate to something like: “Back up Mom. Give me some space. Who needs clothes? Can’t you see I’m really enjoying this moment of being naked? I have no interest in your morning agenda. Let’s play trucks!”

This morning, instead of construction sounds, he shouts and cries. I feel my body tense. I feel my frustration. I remember to breathe. I remember my intention to soften into empathy.

I walk into the front room where my little naked boy cries in anger. My heart’s hardness melts as soon as I kneel down to connect at eye level. His face is blotchy, his eyes red, his nose runny. He is bawling. He is angry. Yet, I stay present. I sit on the floor.

“You are mad at mommy right now. That’s OK. I love you. I’ll be here when you want a hug.”

He yells again and runs into the kitchen.

“Take a deep breath,” I tell myself as tears filled my eyes.

Grief resides in the dark waters of the hardened heart. As I make room for my sadness, a gentle space of compassion opens. This space is wide enough to include all of the feelings swirling around, and through, both of us.

I sit on the floor and patiently remain present for him. I watch strong emotions move through his two-year-old self.

Yes, he will feel angry. He will feel sad. This is part of life’s flow. How do I respond to the energy of his anger and sadness? Will I try to make him laugh and distract him? Will I respond with my own anger? Do I take it personally? Can I breathe and gently hold space for his pain?

I can choose to soften around these hard edges. I can choose to breathe in gentleness. In this choice, I feel the freedom that comes from releasing the patterns of generations.

For certainly, the hard heart is passed on, inherited. Years before I decided to become a mother, I was committed to transform the negative aspects of my childhood. It took a great deal of therapy, meditation, dance, yoga, and travel to soften the scared and angry parts of my heart. Motherhood takes this process to entirely new levels. May I be grateful for this extraordinary opportunity to put into practice all that I’ve worked hard to uncover about the truth of love.

A minute or two pass. My son comes back to me. He reaches for me. I hold him. I feel the tension within — and between — both of us release. He looks at me and I wipe tears from his face.

“Outside?” He points to the door. Can we go outside?

I smile. “Yes, we can go outside. Let’s get dressed and go for a walk.” He nods and hugs me again.

I release my morning agenda as he welcomes my help in getting dressed. I take a deep breath. A few minutes later, we walk hand in hand into the sunlight.

When Your Partner Wants You to Wean: Heart Advice for Nursing Mothers

*The terms “husband” and “partner” are used interchangeably throughout this post.

“She’s too old to nurse. You need to stop.”

“There’s no way my son is nursing when he’s three years old!”

“You are being selfish. Breastfeeding past one year is unnecessary. You only do this because it gives you pleasure.”

“I should have a say in this situation. Why do you get to decide how long he nurses?”

“What if I took her away from you and made you stop nursing?”

Perhaps you have heard these very words. Perhaps you have heard variations on the theme. If so, you understand the instinctive fear and sadness that can rise up in a breastfeeding mother’s body when a demand for premature weaning is given–especially when this comes from her husband or partner.

Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful and gentle expressions of human love on the planet. Tragically, it can become a subject of discord between you and your husband. Harsh words, demands or threats about breastfeeding can tarnish your memories of nursing. The added tension in your home is unhealthy for all members of the family.

According to the World Health Organization, La Leche League International, The American Pediatric Association and Attachment Parenting International, a breastfeeding mother should continue to nurse–once the minimum recommended length of breastfeeding is met–as long as it is “mutually desired” by herself and her child. All of these organizations acknowledge the important role a father plays in offering support to the breastfeeding mother.

Knowing that you have the backing of such institutions may be helpful. But it probably doesn’t ease the emotional anguish of feeling the pressure to wean before you and your child are ready. In fact, such official statements may be a source of frustration for your husband, who wants or demands to play a role in determining how long his child will nurse.

The questions remain: What should you do when the vital support of your partner is withdrawn? Should you wean on demand?

May the following four points embolden, strengthen and encourage you as you navigate your way to answering to these painful questions.

Learn and Share

Take the time to thoroughly research the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of nurturing a secure attachment. Perhaps, like many breastfeeding mothers, you are fully committed to child-led weaning. As one mother stated, “Only one person gets to decide when my son is ready to wean, and that is my son.”

Or perhaps, like many breastfeeding mothers, you acknowledge that a shift in the mother-child nursing dynamic can occur on either side of the equation. You may be open to a gentle approach to weaning that is mother-initiated if your feelings towards nursing change. Many thoughtful and gentle approaches to weaning described by attachment-minded leaders such as Dr. William Sears exist. By researching, you will clarify why breastfeeding is important to you and be able to articulate your vision of weaning.

Most importantly, invite your husband into this experience. While it’s important to share what you have learned through your research, it’s even more important to ask him to research the topic on his own. We all learn best when our inquiry is self-initiated. Perhaps his lack of support may simply come from ignorance. He may not know that the World Health Organization recommends that children breastfeed until they are at least two years old as a minimum standard for health. He may not understand that the health and emotional benefits of nursing continue through the toddler years. As you both do your research, you can each learn, clarify and share your insights–ideally with compassion.

Identify Underlying Issues

Can the issues fueling your partner’s demand to wean be identified? Explore the possible causes of the negativity associated with your nursing. Is your husband jealous? Is your partner feeling left out of the parenting experience? Does he have his own special “Daddy Time” to nurture important memories of fatherhood? What unconscious memories does your husband carry about his own weaning? Is your partner embarrassed by your breastfeeding? Does he want exclusive access to your body?

We live in a culture full of explicit material featuring the female body as a source of male pleasure, yet mothers who nurse in public face scorn. We live in a culture in which many of us were weaned before our natural time, perhaps due to pressure from our own fathers. We live in a culture in which only a minority of children experience the benefits of breastfeeding as nature intended. Both underlying personal issues within the relationship and underlying patterns that come from social dynamics can fuel a husband’s demand for his wife to stop nursing. See if you can identify what the core issues are. Breastfeeding can be a symbol for deeper discord that is being projected upon the mother-child relationship.

Find Support

Breastfeeding without the support of your partner is not an easy road to traverse. It’s also not easy to wish for something to change and meet resistance. I’ve spent hours in conversation with women who deeply regret giving into the pressure that led to an early weaning of their children. I’ve also spent hours in conversation with men who struggle with supporting their wives or partners in breastfeeding. They feel left out, angry and sometimes disgusted by the continued nursing relationship. Offering loving support to both individuals in this situation is vital if a healthy resolution is to unfold.

As you both seek support, consider meeting with other breastfeeding-friendly families. Let the men speak together about their fears, hopes and struggles when it comes to supporting their partners in breastfeeding. For yourself, speak candidly and openly with other nursing mothers. Join online breastfeeding support forums and reach out to trusted friends. The pressure to stop nursing before you or your child are ready can feel overwhelming. Do not keep this stress private. Have the courage to share your story with other mothers; you will find it is far more common than not.

Certainly, if your husband’s demands feel relentless or turn into threats, seek professional support. A trained marriage counselor who understands the importance of breastfeeding is invaluable here. Not only will this person offer encouragement for breastfeeding and a healthy approach to weaning, but a skilled mediator can also help your partner identify underlying issues that fuel his current demands, as well as supporting both of you in open and honest communication.

Nourish Yourself

There is a deep wisdom found in the natural dynamic between a nursing mother and child. Breastfeeding eases transitions into and out of sleep, helps calm stressed nervous systems and provides nutritive wonders that science still cannot decode. The season of breastfeeding is short-lived, even if it extends through the toddler years. Ideally, as long as both the mother and child are in harmony, the bond found in breastfeeding should be supported. Remember, you cannot turn back the clock. Once a child is weaned, the nursing stage of life for that child is over. Your pain in having this bond threatened mirrors a greater pain present in our society.

161052_1659As you navigate this difficulty, you need to nourish yourself. It’s imperative. Be sure to continue eating well and exercising. If you have a spiritual or religious practice, you may wish to dive deeply into the wisdom of silence and/or prayer. Find a source of strength that is greater than your own understanding to uplift you. Take refuge in the beauty of breastfeeding. Take refuge in the wisdom in nature. Find strength in the support of women. May these gifts nourish you at this time.

 

 

Letters, Labyrinths, and Love

This post was originally published on TheBirthingSite.com.

At 27 weeks into my pregnancy, I started my letter to him.

I didn’t yet know I was carrying a boy. My husband and I had picked out names, but we decided to wait until the birth to know the sex of our baby. So, I addressed my letter to “Dearest Baby Glenn,” and the words poured forth.

I’ve always loved to write. I love the romance between pen and paper, dreams and words. Ideas and letters mingle and merge in me. At my Mormon baptismal celebration, my beloved Aunt Kris presented me with a journal and encouraged my eight-year-old self to write. I’ve filled over fifty books since. I find writing a deeply spiritual path.

Writing to my son added a profound dimension to this practice. I try to imagine how time will bend on an unbeknownst future day when he will read my words. What will it be like for him to see into his early years and into his mother’s heart?

I’ll always remember where I was when I began writing his letter.

Before I knew I was pregnant, I had accepted a teaching job at a private, bilingual school in Bogota, Colombia. My husband and I decided to stay the course of the adventure even as our first child grew inside of me.

I remember the sunlight pouring through my floor-to-ceiling classroom windows. I gazed at the Andes Mountains. My round belly inspired me. I placed my hands on my body and imagined the growing being within. The call to begin writing to this child came from a fiercely impatient muse. My heart was expanding with a love that my mind could not fathom. I closed my work inbox, opened up a blank Word document, and I began to type, saved it using sodapdf.com and left it on my desktop.

“Dearest Baby Glenn,

Soon I will know if I should address these reflections to Maline or to Taber. However, on the most fundamental level it doesn´t matter. You matter. My love for you matters. Your development, health, strength, inner spirit, beauty, and wonder matter.

I can´t express how much I love you. You are now a permanent part of my heart. I think of you each day and night. I feel you kick and dance and move with joy. I love you, dear baby. You are my child, and I promise to always give you my best efforts and energy as I move into motherhood. … ”

I continue to add to this growing 85-page letter.

I detail milestones, magical moments, and the struggles and hopes of our little family. I share with my son, Taber, my vision for the world. I explain why we choose to spend time outside rather than in front of a television. I write about the day he drew a circle with a crayon, proudly saying, “Moon!”

Composing this letter helps me mother with a deeper sense of wonder, grace, and gratitude. Putting into words the prayers and hopes I have for this child, reminds me of what matters most in life. I want Taber to love this world and her people. I want him to grow up to be courageous, kind, and strong. Most importantly, I want him to know he is loved. Deeply. Truly. Fiercely. Freely.

 

 

In Roman mythology, Theseus volunteers to kill the evil Minotaur responsible for the deaths of many brave Athenian youth. The hero enters a dangerous labyrinth to accomplish this task. His beloved Ariadne gives him a sacred thread so he can find his way out of the confusing maze. May our words as parents be revivifying and inspiring to our children. May they carry sacred power and become like Ariadne’s thread offering guidance when our children navigate life’s challenging labyrinths.

Theseus emerges victorious. May our children do the same.

I never worked harder to stay-at-home

I wish I had known how much I would love being a mother.

How could I have anticipated the depth of this love?

My heart opens with wonder when I watch my 18-month-old son lift his arms, snap his fingers, and gently sway to music. Any music. We could be in the check out line at Walgreens and if he hears music, he lifts his arms in praise.

Oh, the world is good to him. Despite the little, blue bruise on his forehead from a sad encounter with the edge of an antique bureau, it’s a loving world overall. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a gentle and consistent source of kindness as he learns to walk, speak, and jump. May he internalize this love and bring it forth as an inner light in days to come, days when I am no longer by his side to wipe away the tears of sad encounters.

A foundation for trust is being built. I am his “secure base” and he then sets off to explore this magical world full of rocks, leaves, sunshine, and scrumptious raisins. We co-sleep. He nurses on demand. His organic rhythms are honored.

I love being a stay-at-home mom.

I didn’t anticipate this.

Because of my blindness, I scramble to make up for the financial mistakes of the past. If I only had known to save so staying-at-home would unfold with greater ease.

Today, I acknowledge choices made and make new ones. I find creative and wonderful ways of bringing in money whiles nurturing my son. And that’s including the fact that we already have sought the best iva company to repay our mortgages. We teach Mommy and Me Yoga together. We stretch, sing, dance, and play with other mamas and little ones. It’s delightful.

And when my son sleeps, I write.

I write and weave together story, philosophy, and gratitude. I knit the love I feel into the words appearing on my computer screen. I smile, marvel, and sigh as tears and syntax flow.

Being a mother awakens a fierce and gentle strength. I know I’m not alone in staying up late at night while my son sleeps to bring in extra money for the family. A “gap” exists between what my husband makes and what we “need”. It’s all about priorities. I won’t capitulate to pressure to return full time to paid work. Instead, I navigate as skillfully as possible, as fearlessly as possible, as boldly as possible, a way to give my heart , and my best, to our son.

These precious early years are priceless. They are worth more than all of the world’s gold. I’m investing in the future emotional health of this little one. I’m investing in the health of all of those who will one day cross his path.

I’ve never worked harder to stay-at-home. On good days, I smile at the irony of it.

I didn’t anticipate this and yet, I embrace it with determination and grace.

A Day To Live Again

 

Oh little boy.

If I could just pick one day in my life to live over and over again, it may well be today.

Why not? It was a perfect day with you.

We played in the ocean. You “swam” with my hands on your body offering support, guidance, and safety. You loved the waves! You tasted the salt water on your lips with wonder. The sunlight sparkled in your big, blue eyes. May you always nurture your connection to the outdoors and honor the mother ocean, a vital source of life on this earth.

When we got home, you laughed with me as you played tag around the brown arm-chair in the front room.  Deep, full, belly laughs emerged and your new teeth sparkled. You ducked behind the chair and popped out with a “Boo!” as if it was the most amazing thing in the world.  I bow in gratitude to this miracle of loving you play and find magic in the common place. That chair will never the same in my memory. A door outside of time opened up as we played. Our laughter built a bridge unifying and connecting us to all mothers and children across the generations. May you always relish the deep, life-affirming laughter found in the most simple of games.

After lunch, we went outside and you chased the cat clicking your tongue as you hear me do that when I call her. This reminds me to be ever mindful that you watch me with care. May I always speak, walk, act, and love with a gracious respect for all life.

As the sun set, we played in the back of your dad’s blue Ford pick-up truck. I drummed out a song on the steel bed. You spun around and around a few times dancing. A vast, immense sky of stars emerged above you. You are my star. My child of wonder.

Later, cuddled next to me, I surrendered to the beyond-this-world-tenderness of you snuggling into my arms and nursing to sleep.

If I could live any day in my life over again, it would certainly be a day when you breastfed. I love the holy kindness that comes from the way you suckle milk from my body. It nourishes your every cell. It’s completeness incarnate. Joy incarnate.

I just love you little one. My sweet boy. My courageous, funny, go-down-the-slide-yourself little guy. May you always know how precious you are to me. May you always trust that I’ve got your back. May you know how much your mother loves you, all the way through the marrow of her bones. Because I do.

No matter what happens in this world. No matter what happens at all. These days are holy and precious beyond money, beyond gold, beyond anything. I love offering you the best of my time and energy. I honor each stage of your early development. How blessed we are to spend these days together. It’s perfection through and through. My heart fills with gratitude to your daddy who works long hours in the week to make this possible. We want to give you the best. We choose a life of simple things on the material level and offer you the deepest grace we can muster in the realm of what matters most.

If I could live one day again in my life—this precious, fleeting mysterious, challenging, and holy life— it would be a day like today with you.

Sleep well angel.

Mom

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright