Being present for another

dandelionEditor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 26, 2008, and it continues to inspire parents to give presence to their children.

I find the whole concept of “being present” for another person so relevant to our world. How many of us have not really been given sufficient presence by our parents while we were growing up or even by other influential adults that helped to shape our lives?

There really is so much to be said for looking another person in the eye and just listening to what they are saying no matter what their age.I hear you,” “I hold this safe space for you,” and “You matter” are the subliminal messages of this action, and it feeds a person’s soul on a deep level.

When we do this with our children, we are teaching them that they are important and deserve to be heard. They then can learn from a very early age that the most important people in their life — their parents, who hold so much power in influencing their self esteem — really do care about how they feel about things and what they have to say. We just have to hold the space for them to do that.

Since my son is a preschooler, this skill is becoming ever increasingly more valuable to our family. He wants to talk to us more often now about many different thoughts he has, and both my husband and I try to always look him in the eye and either hold him or sit next to him or play toys with him while he is speaking, or if he was off in another room, making sure to enter into that same room with him.

Giving him direct attention while he is speaking about something really makes him feel so validated, and it boosts his confidence in himself. I try to recap what he has said each time to let him know that Mommy understood his thoughts and ideas. He then usually goes on into greater detail on the topic, because he knows that I listened to him and he feels so happy about it and wants to share more with me.

We have started teaching him about how when another person is talking, we all need to pay attention to that person just like we paid attention to him when he was speaking. It seems to be getting through to him as I’ve seen him give this kind of presence and respect to both of us and even to some friends lately.

To me, this is one of the most important life skills a person needs to develop to live in harmony with the world around them.  Not only do our children need to be given presence, but we all must give presence and respect to each other and be the example of this for the younger generations to emulate.

Editor’s note: Melissa formerly wrote about sustainability, green living, alternative health, nutrition, parenting and life in general at Nature


In my last post here, I wrote about my son’s extreme pickiness with many, many foods. It has been a real challenge for my husband and I over these past 4 years but I can now say that there is no greater joy than witnessing when big a payoff happens.

We had that moment last week when my Mother In-Law was visiting us for the week. We decided to do what we always do in the summer on Wednesday nights – go to the farmer’s market, have a picnic and watch a free outdoor concert.

What is my son Leif’s favorite food at the market? Fresh baked bread. We get him a whole wheat sourdough baguette every week and he happily munches on it as we buy our fruits and veggies. Since he hasn’t ever eaten a sandwich, I’ve given up on asking or making suggestions about it.

When we were done shopping, we laid out our picnic blanket, started eating all of our different items we brought with us as well as some of what we purchased there and then we see a little boy next to us with what looked like a cold grilled cheese sandwich in his hand. The boy looked to be about 18 months old and was eating his quarter of a sandwich near Leif. My husband says, “Look at that little boy eating a sandwich, wouldn’t you like to eat a sandwich, too?” Leif by then was eating his all time favorite protein food – organic, uncured turkey bologna, rolled up. To our surprise Leif said, “Sure.”

“What?!” We all looked at each other in amazement and I said, “Ok, I am going to put your turkey bologna inside this chunk of bread and showed him what I did and he took the sandwich from me with two hands and took a big bite. We three cheered and clapped and high five’d him. He was giggling over the big production we were making out of this momentous moment. My Mother In-Law even took a photo of this (which sadly I don’t have yet).

When he was done with that one little mini sandwich, he wanted another. We sat there until he was done eating a second and much bigger sandwich and then we went over to the concert where he and I danced a lot to a great band and I told him several times how proud I was of him for trying the sandwich and how happy Daddy and I were that he likes sandwiches now. So much joy we all felt that night!

I was hoping this wasn’t just a fluke so the next day I offered to make him a sandwich on the bread we had at home and he agreed to it – even with some lettuce on it (but nothing else). Wow. Eating three different items altogether – unheard of. He eats half of a whole sandwich now every day since that night. All week for camp this is what he’s wanted for lunch and eats all of it. I’m still amazed watching him eat a sandwich. I can’t wait until he says “sure” about eating a nut butter and jam sandwich or even wanting to sleep in his own room finally. Now I really know it will be coming and maybe sooner than I think.

This really proves to us that once again, our gentle, AP techniques we’ve been using really pay off well. For a child that says, “I don’t like it” for so many foods even if he’s never tasted it to all of a sudden say “sure” instead is amazing. When they are ready, they embrace it and make it their own with ease.

Written by Melissa from Nature Deva.


Originally posted on December 10th, 2007 on Nature Deva’s blog.

When we were on vacation a few months ago, I saw an article in the local paper about how genetics are to blame for picky eaters. This problem is called Neophobia and is considered a normal stage of human development. It was originally an evolutionary mechanism designed to protect children from accidentally eating dangerous things like poisonous berries or mushrooms. It kicks in around age 2 or 3 when kids are mobile and most children outgrow it by age 5 but not all of them do.

We have always had a struggle with with our son Leif’s eating. He is extremely picky and that makes what we prepare for him really limiting. Since I’ve read this article, I’ve looked back at what I can remember of myself and realized that he probably gets this awful trait from me. I also think I must of had reflux like he did because I avoided tomato products for many years as a child, it was too acidic for me and I had stomach problems from other foods, too. Needless to say, I was a big time picky pick eater and very skinny just like him.

I saw my mother-in-law on that trip and got to ask her if my husband was a picky eater as a little kid and she said no. Not even sort of, a little bit – just no. I really don’t think I had it this bad, I wonder if it gets progressively worse each generation or something.

They say it will take lots of persistence with neophobic kids and to keep offering foods to them, most people eventually come around. His preschool teacher requires him to have a “fairy bite” of any snack that she serves to the class (which is usually a cooked grain). Since he responds to his teacher differently than he does to us, we have incorporated that term at home when offering a new food and it really has made a difference in how he responds.

Being an attachment parenting family, we believe that being gentle and explaining what the food is, how yummy it tastes, asking him nicely to take one “fairy bite” and he doesn’t have to eat any more of it, is more helpful than by physically forcing him to eat something. No one, especially a child with a strong apprehension of new food likes to be forced to do anything let alone eat something they view as scary and possibly dangerous. While the gentle way may take more time and patience, we have found that it really has been paying off well for us in the long run.

My son’s problem is not most vegetables or fruits – surprisingly he likes a lot of them but only raw. His problem is mostly “combo” multi-ingredient foods like lasagna, soup, chili, or anything creamy like dip, dressing, oatmeal or nut butters, jam and even any type of sandwich. He likes mac and cheese and pizza for some reason and those are the only combo foods he will eat and we recently found out that he has a sensitivity to cow’s milk so he no longer can eat that! This really challenges me to be more creative in getting good, whole foods in him in ways he will accept.

I do give him the best, I brought my SARMS from here, they are the most absorbable, bioavailable nutritional supplements which, I find the guide on ceasarboston, to be sure to cover my bases with him everyday. This has made a huge difference in him, he became happier and started to loosing weight well just a couple of weeks after I introduced it to him at 18 mos. old. He never eats dirt or other strange things kids like to eat because his body is not craving missing nutrients anymore which he was not getting enough of from his diet. We also found out soon after starting the supplements that he was not really assimilating what he was eating very well since he had a big jump in weight loose with not much change in his limited food choices.

It’s nice to know that there is a name for why he acts this way towards food and that it’s instinctual in every human but only some exhibit the traits. We can see the fruits of our efforts paying off little by little by his willingness to sample more new foods at home and he is also making progress with eating at school. His palate is definitely geared more towards simple, whole foods which I couldn’t be happier about.

I’m glad that we follow our instincts in being gentle towards his eating sensitivity and we are patient when working with him at his own speed with such an important aspect of his life. I am very hopeful that as he gets older, he will outgrow this neophobia and will not have any eating issues because we gently worked with him with expanding his food choices.

The Transformation of a High-Needs Child

For the entire first year of my son Leif’s life, I could not go anywhere or do anything without him. He did not want to be left with anyone, not even his dad. He would cry and scream and be generally miserable for however long I was gone. We found this out for the first time when he was 4 months old and I went with some friends to see a debate put on by two of my former teachers on a topic I was very interested in. I was so happy to have some time to myself again but my son didn’t feel the same way.

My husband said he first put him in the sling which Leif protested loudly over, then tried the Baby Bjorn carrier (my son’s favorite) and went for a walk. Usually, the outdoors would calm him down right away from whatever he was distressed about but not this time. I was gone exactly 4 hours and once he saw me, he was immediately better, overjoyed even. I tried just 2 more times that year to get a break and do something on my own for about an hour and the same thing happened. I just knew in my heart that for some reason, he needed me to be there for him and it wasn’t worth putting him through distress for no reason – he wasn’t ready or able to change yet.

Once he got a bit bigger, he still always wanted to be held. I was able to switch to wearing him on my back in an Ergo baby carrier which he loved and I was able to get more things done that way. He was happy, not screaming to be picked up and could see everything I was doing. I could talk to him about whatever was going on. We both were happy and Leif got the contact that he craved so much.

Now at four years old, I can see a big shift in his personality. Recently, we went to Santa Fe, NM on vacation for a week. Usually, Leif loves to travel and wants to stay and explore with us wherever we are. On this trip, by about day four, he started saying, “I want to go home, I want to see my friends.” Then in the next sentence he’d say, “No, I want to stay in Santa Fe!” He was clearly conflicted between missing his friends and the joys of traveling but my husband and I were so happy to hear that he missed other people so much.

Nowadays, Leif is happy to leave me in the morning and excited about going to preschool. He has been going for the past year and has formed strong bonds with both his teacher and some other children. This has been monumental for me to witness. All of that babywearing, co-sleeping, attending to his needs and working with his sensitive personality has paid off in spades and he’s only four years old!

Dr. Sears writes in his recent newsletter:

Therapists whose offices are filled with former high-need children who didn’t get responsive parenting tell us that most of their energy is spent in helping these persons get close to someone. These people have difficulty getting connected. They do not have the capacity for feeling close. Not so high-need children who are the product of high-giving parents. These children thrive on interpersonal relationships. Being connected is their norm. The AP infant is more likely to become the child who forms deep friendships with peers and the adult who enjoys deep intimacy with a mate. These are deep children, capable of deep relationships.

Leif still currently wants the security of sleeping in our room at night – but he only wants to sleep in his own bed next to ours – even on vacation. He is very clear about this. When we ask him if he’d like to try sleeping in his own room now, even with one of us in there with him he says, “No, maybe when I’m five.” As we’ve done with everything else so far, we don’t force him and work with where he’s at. I don’t mind him sleeping in our room, he has his own twin bed and he sleeps peacefully all night long (which means so do we!).

These small steps he is taking everyday moving towards his independence at his own pace leaves me feeling overjoyed at seeing his progress. I really believe that our following of the attachment parenting ideals especially at the beginning of his life is behind his sense of confidence and independence and general happy-go-lucky, loving way of being. He feels safe and secure in the world and knows he is loved very much.