Transformed by their love

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

I am humbled by the love I see in my children’s eyes, by their desire to show me who they are again and again. “Look, Mom, look at me!” they say with their words and with their bright faces turned to catch my eyes.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have been softened by their unwavering sureness of our bond. I have learned to forgive myself so that I can be forgiving. I have learned to be patient with myself so that I can be patient with them. I have learned to value the process over the product because of them. I have learned to live in this moment right now — full of joy or tears or peals of laughter — because of them.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have worked to let go of old fears because of them. I have worked to resolve my anger because of them. I have learned to communicate my feelings because of them. I have delved into my creativity because of them. I have let myself be loved truly, deeply and without measure.

I have been transformed by their love.

A special door

Editor’s note: April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an international observance designed to reduce unnecessary Cesareans, advocate for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and help women heal from the sometimes-difficult emotions surrounding a Cesarean birth. Attachment Parenting International‘s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting advocates for parents to research their options regarding childbirth choices. While API promotes choices with the least interventions possible, Cesareans are necessary in some situations. It’s important for mothers to fully process their experience, not only for their own emotional health but also for their bond with baby, so their Cesarean birth story can be beautifully retold, again and again:

1339476_sand_heart“Tell me again, Mommy,” says my daughter. “Tell me about when I was born.”

I gather her in my arms and feel her head rest against my chest. “You were ready to run out!” I say, and she giggles as she always does. “I could feel your head right here by my heart and your feet were straight down and ready to go.”

“I wasn’t upside down like other babies,” she adds, looking into my eyes.

“No,” I reply, “you were special and so excited to come out and meet the world.”

“I was ready to run,” she repeats. “I’m a fast runner!”

“Yes, and that’s why you got to come out a special door in my tummy,” I say, putting my hand over the spot where my Cesarean scar is. My daughter puts her hand over mine and echoes, “a special door.”

“And when you were born,” I remember, “Daddy and I snuggled you and kissed you and said, ‘Welcome!'” My voice gets husky and tears spring to my eyes.

“Did you cry, Mommy?” my daughter asks.

“Yes, I did,” I reply. “A little, because I’d waited for so long to meet you, and because I was so happy to hold you in my arms.”

Loving one another in anger

LeyaniRedditiI feel a lot of love in my house.

But there are conflicts, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. I know we are on a journey together to love each other the best we can — to forgive and accept, and to challenge ourselves to feel our feelings without hurting others with our actions or words.

This is a big challenge for me, having grown up with a parental mandate to be happy. If I wasn’t happy, my parents became annoyed or angry. So strong feelings went inside.

I want my children to express their feelings — all of them — and I want us to be a family that shows respect and kindness. So how to manage the moments when the feelings come out and they are hurtful?

“You gave me a broken lollipop!” screams one child at the other. “Well, I didn’t know!” the other yells back, tears welling up in both their eyes.

What do I do as a parent who wants to validate emotions, live in an environment where strong feelings are OK and model communication that is not hurtful?

My instincts from childhood direct me to snap at my children to shut down the yelling. I feel my anger rising in response to theirs. I just want them to be happy! I feel annoyed that they are not.

I have a moment of empathy for my parents. I am chilled, knowing how easy it is to repeat the cycles we grow up with even when we did not thrive in them and do not want to repeat them.

So I stop myself from saying anything in the moment. I pause and breathe.

My children are each sniffling in the back seat, one with her hands over her face and the other staring at a book. We are in the driveway, about to drive away from the house. I turn off the engine, and we just sit for a moment.

This is my chance to change the cycle. This is my chance to do it differently. If I really believe that how I deal with conflict helps them learn to deal with conflict, then this moment is important.

I take another breath and think about myself as a kid and what I would have liked my parents to say and do when I was angry, hurt and frustrated. And the answer? Hugs, empathy, help expressing my feelings, reassurance and a gentle, strong presence that told me it’s all going to be OK.

A New Year, a time to pause and reflect

fireworks-behind-tree-1436469-mLike cooking turkey on Thanksgiving or giving flowers on Valentine’s Day, I cannot help feeling the tug at this time of year to pause and reflect.

Yes, January 1 is just the next day after December 31. But it feels like a beginning, and the part of me that loves rituals and traditions always comes forward with thoughts and questions:

  • Does the way I live reflect what I believe?
  • Do I treat my family the way I want to be treated?
  • Do I take care of myself with as much care, time and energy as I do my children?

These are life-long questions and not easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

In thinking about this New Year, I imagine my answers turning from “sometimes yes” to “mostly yes.” And what can I do to make this true?

The simple act of reflection helps — checking in with myself regularly and remembering to ask the questions. Taking a moment each day, week or month to revisit and think about the choices I’m making.

This is not an exercise in perfection, but rather the setting of an intention to live with more love, forgiveness and joy.

What are your questions?

Not always feeling happy around the holidays

LeyaniRedditiEvery year when we unpack our holiday trimmings, we find the stash of books we’ve stored next to the lights and the stockings.

We have multiple copies of The Night Before Christmas, stories of gingerbread boys, girls and men. And my favorite, Grumpy Badger’s Christmas by Paul Bright.

I love this book, because it acknowledges that not everyone is cheery during the holidays. It allows for some grumpiness, some frustration and even for the desire for peace and quiet in the middle of all the hubbub.

I know that in my family we feel these things, too.

The holidays are full of wonderful moments, high-intensity activities and often close quarters with extended family. This brings great joy but can also be stressful, frustrating and overwhelming.

Grumpy Badger expresses what we sometimes can not. When we get stuck in a parking lot full of frantic shoppers, or the wrapping paper runs out, or it just all feels like a little too much, we can say “I’m feeling like Grumpy Badger.” And that helps.

My family loves Grumpy Badger. He’s a good guy. At the end of the story, he has a big party with all of his forest friends.

Grumpy Badger loves the holidays, too. He just needs some space in the middle of it all, and so do we.

Gratitude

API-Logo-20th-themeI am grateful for many things big and small, grand and mundane. Today, it is the joyful shriek of my girls running in the twilight.

And this month especially, I have been thinking about how grateful I am for Attachment Parenting International (API).

I learned from the words of Gretchen Levy, a writer on habits and happiness, that to be happy I need to “feel right in an atmosphere of growth.”

When I am with my API friends, I just feel right. I see others nurturing their children with care and thoughtfulness. I hear conversations about the details of parenting from the perspective of deeply secure attachment and care. And I know it is a place where I grow.

LeyaniRedditiFrom the time I was a new mother feeling so strongly that my baby needed to be close to me and not knowing why…to now, when I step into a room filled with old friends and new who are all there to support the journey we are on to parent as we wish we were parented.

To parent to change the world.

To parent with intention and presence.

To heal ourselves and accept our shortcomings so that we can grow in and with our families.

The “atmosphere of growth” I feel in API keeps my mind searching for more and my heart coming back to connect with my community. I could not be the parent I am without this atmosphere and this community.

When One Parent is Away (A Lot)

Sometimes I think of our family as an airplane and my husband and I the co-pilots. We are responsible for our precious passengers, our children, and we do our best to fly over beautiful vistas, look out for bad weather and provide decent meals. We love flying our plane and help each other navigate, give each other time to rest when needed and hold hands when things get bumpy.

892546_31132073

But as life would have it, my co-pilot has a job that takes him away from our family quite often. And so I have spent many hours in the cockpit of our family plane alone. I have though a lot about what to call this time when I am parenting without my husband. I have decided to call it Solo Parenting, as in Solo Flying. I am up there in the pilot seat in charge of all the controls. My passengers are my responsibility, and I am an expert at simultaneously looking for bad weather ahead, keeping the plane steady, all while preparing some tasty meals.

But the seat next to me is empty. What helps me about this metaphor is that although I am parenting by myself while my husband is away, I always feel his place in our family. I can see the empty co-pilot seat next to me, so to speak. We miss him, and although I can run the plane alone, it is so much more fun and less tiring to do as a team.

My children have always lived in a family where their mother is ever-present and their father is not. Because they do not have both parents available every day, we have worked hard to make the rest of their lives feel consistent and reliable. Little things add up to life feeling safe and predictable: songs to brush teeth by, games for getting on shoes, routines at night for snuggles and singing. Time for play and time for rest. Rhythms of a day and a week. Pancakes every Sunday morning, homework after dinner each night.

We don’t like it when Daddy is away, but we are used to it. Sometimes we need to say how hard it is and how much we miss him, while other times saying it out loud makes it worse. My job is to give my children the opportunity, but not the requirement, to express their feelings. They come up while drawing together, making up silly songs in the car, and at bedtime when thoughts from the day are shared.

We stay in touch as much as we can with modern technology. I tell them when I am sending Daddy messages and photos. They know their co-pilots are still a team even when Daddy’s seat is empty. But I’ve noticed that my children want to hear about Daddy more than to talk to him directly. I think it is because talking to him on the phone is not close enough. They want to sit on his lap and talk. They want to be chased and snuggled. The voice on the phone is a reminder that he is far away. So we don’t insist that they talk to him on the phone. Seeing him on a screen is easier, and they like to have him show the view from his hotel room. But these are short interactions, rarely a time for long conversations.

Transitions are tricky, and we have developed some ways to smooth the hellos and goodbyes. My husband always asks for help packing, and often our children sneak little love notes in when he is not looking. As he leaves, he always gives a round of hugs and then says, “Be good!” We answer, “You too!” and that makes us laugh.

Later in the day we check the map and talk about where Daddy is headed and what route he will take to get there. We find the spot he will be and trace back and forth from us to him. We talk about holding him in our hearts. Sometimes we get out the globe and talk about whether it will be dark for him when it is light for us and vice versa. This orienting helps make his absence concrete; he is not just gone, he is some place specific in the world, and we can see it on a map.

When he gets home, there are more hugs, and then he takes out postcards from whatever city he has visited. Each child gets a postcard, and we all sit together looking at them and listening to stories about my husband’s trip. The postcards go in a big basket to be looked at again and again, and eventually many are put up on the wall. This simple routine has become very powerful for reconnecting our family. It gives us a focus at the moment when emotions are high and everyone is tired. It gives us a reason to sit together and a chance to begin to tell the stories of our time apart.

Making room for my co-pilot to join me as a co-parent after an absence takes mindfulness on my part. I get used to doing everything, and so I have to remind myself to let him step in for the little things like helping wash hands, putting on shoes, going out to get the mail and peeling an apple.

We have a lot of family hugs in the days after he returns. We try to spend a day doing nothing in particular, giving us time to rest, play and be together with no agenda or time pressure. And we go on adventures together to celebrate our togetherness. But best of all, we continue the day in and day out rhythm of our lives, co-pilots holding hands and passengers dancing in the aisles, waiting for their next in-flight meal.

How Children Succeed

I am walking through Target with my three year old and stop to brows the book section. I am a sucker for parenting books and this title really caught my eye. “How CHILDREN SUCCEED” it blared in all caps. I picked it up expecting to read about a regiment of early online chess lessons and lots of worksheets. But then I read the subtitle “Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” and I decided maybe this would be something worth reading. I must have had the good book fairy on my shoulder that day because in my quick skim I stumbled on the quote below. As I read tears welled up and I stood petting my daughter’s hair as she flipped through a Dora coloring book. This is it, the science behind our instincts to nurture, love and support our children. To find this in such a mainstream place was heartening. To read such a clear confirmation that not only do we nurture because it feels right, but because it leads to their future happiness and general success in life was so reassuring.

“But to me, the most profound discovery this new generation of neuroscientists has made is the powerful connection between infant brain chemistry and adult psychology. Lying deep beneath those noble, complex human qualities we call character, these scientists have found, is the mundane, mechanical interaction of specific chemicals in the brains and bodies of developing infants. Chemistry is not destiny, certainly. But these scientists have demonstrated that the most reliable way to produce and adult who is brave and curious and kind and prudent is to ensure that when he is an infant, his hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functions well. And how do you do that? It is not magic. First, as much as possible, you protect him from serious trauma and chronic stress; then, even more important, you provide him with a secure, nurturing relationship with at least one parent and ideally two. That is not the whole secret of success, but it is a big, big part of it.”

From How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

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