Moments

APM 2015 logoEditor’s note: Welcome to Attachment Parenting (AP) Month 2015! This year, we celebrate the theme: “Parental Presence: Birthing Families, Strengthening Society.” Beginning this year, APtly Said is the new home of AP Month, so check the blog each day of October for inspiration through our Daily Tips and other posts centered on the theme. Want to tell your story of how you balance(d) financial/career needs with being a new parent and providing presence in the early years? Send us your story!

Other AP Month events include the annual API Auction and Photo Event, plus an Oct. 19 API Teleseminar with Simplicity Parenting‘s John Kim Payne. Follow along as we read his book through API Reads, also housed here on APtly Said. There will also be special articles in the Parent Compass enewsletter from API’s cofounders and The Attached Family online magazine.

For this first day of AP Month, Yvette Lamb helps us remember that our challenges in providing parental presence in the early years are but moments that we will remember fondly and that help shape our child’s perception of what love is.

yvette lamb 2Children must go through almost a million phases, particularly in the early years. Sometimes I could barely get used to my baby’s latest pattern before he had moved on to a different one! Some phases — especially regarding sleep, settling, behavior or needing more attention than we are able to give — can feel never-ending at the time.

But of course they do pass, all of them.

And when we look back at testing moments — at days that seemed to stretch on forever — we mostly remember them differently: fondly, with love. They are just moments after all…moments that will pass…moments that become memories sandwiched in our hearts, reminding us how much our children have changed and grown — and how we have, too.

My son is only 2 years old, but recently I have found myself starting so many conversations with my husband with the words, “Do you remember when he used to…?” It might be about him refusing to sleep anywhere but on us or only at the breast or when rocked for at least 30 back-aching minutes, or cluster-feeding him every evening, or how he used to cut up my dinner so I could eat it with a spoon.

We told him about some of these memories this morning as he sat dawdling with his breakfast, smiling ear-to-ear at the little person he used to be but can’t remember.

“And when you were a tiny baby, you couldn’t speak. Everything was just ‘Waaahhhh’ until we rocked or fed you — sometimes all day.”

He laughed delightedly at us, “All day, all day, waaahhh!”

I do acknowledge that, back then, it didn’t always seem like much fun. I sometimes felt like I was living in a state of constant exhaustion, almost afraid of the baby I had made but didn’t understand. And yet, though I haven’t forgotten this, I know it was how early parenting had to be for me, for him. The rocking, the feeding, the tiredness, the uncertainty — it was necessary for me, and it was mere moments in the grand scheme of raising our boy.

We built foundations. We learned to adapt. And also to eat one-handed and survive on mere crumbs of sleep.

And now there are other phases, other challenges. There’s daycare and separation anxiety. There’s fussy eating and kicks at diaper changes. There’s lying down every night next to his crib, him demanding our hand be wedged uncomfortably through the bars while he unwinds from his day and eventually drifts off. Any gentle suggestion he go to sleep without us, or with us sat near but not practically inside his cot, are firmly and loudly rejected.

We are not going to leave him when he doesn’t want us to. But it can be difficult. We are always tired from our day by this point, and we want to have our dinner and unwind, not to mention finish any necessary jobs before our own bed calls. Sometimes after I’ve been on bedtime duty, I practically stagger down the stairs, disorientated from an uncomfortable 10-minute sleep on the floor or grumpy with hunger and the weight of the things I had planned, but will not get to do, for my evening. I have witnessed much of the same from my husband.

But last night I realized that my stress and concern over this current issue is completely misguided. We won’t still be doing this in 5 or 10 years. I know we won’t. Perhaps with some gentle encouragement or perhaps completely naturally, our son will learn to fall asleep without us near. Right now, though — in this moment — he needs us. He needs us until the day he doesn’t any more and all we have left is the memory of his slowing, rhythmic breathing and occasional checking of our presence through the brushing of his tiny, soft hand against ours.

Despite the practical downside, these moments are beautiful. He is our wonder, our masterpiece. He wants to be with us — just for a little longer — and really, how is that anything short of wonderful?

So although moments like these — when our children need almost more than we are able to give — can be frustrating and challenging, they are just moments. And when we tell our son about this particular phase in a few years, when his oh-so-grown-up exterior refutes our claims of him needing us, there will be no frustration attached. The desperation to get downstairs and eat dinner will have long since passed and we will be left with just the good parts: the closeness, the being there, the love.

We will remember these moments, even though he will not. But what I hope he is left with is a warm glow of being loved, of feeling love, of knowing love — for him — when he needed it.

partners logo - with WYSH

All of this…is motherhood

yvette lambBefore my son arrived, I didn’t really understand or even think about what becoming a mother would mean. I wanted to be one, but I didn’t know that once my child was here, for me there would be no separation between the person I have always been and the one I became. The line between being me and being a mother blurred almost as soon as I met him, and from there, there was no going back.

It wasn’t just about love, either. There’s this unbreakable, unshakeable bond of course. But there are worries, too, plus an achingly overwhelming desire to protect him, and a physical pain when I cannot.

And at times I have felt overwhelmed by this — who was I now? How had my priorities in life changed so hugely? What was left of me?

People are out changing the world while I’m lost in our little one, and I sometimes wondered if this was okay…if I was important enough?

Yes, it is…yes, I am.

There are many ways to define motherhood, to describe it. For me, capturing each and every grain felt important, because being a mother and loving your child can feel so extraordinary…insignificant…tiny…and huge. To me, all of this…is motherhood:

It is early rising and midnight waking. It is wiping noses and kissing bumps. It is the park in all seasons. It is water, sand and crayons. It is traveling heavy and never “nipping out.” It is laughter — so much laughter.

It is a shift in your relationship. It is rare evenings out. It is talking in yawns and gestures. It is discussing diaper rash, weaning and sippy cups — with gusto. It is toys in the living room and a prayer for more sleep. It is different than expected and more than you hoped.

It is making sacrifices. It is rushing home for bedtime. It is another trip to the doctor. It is potty training and battles with medicine. It is making mistakes, then making them again. It is guilt — so much guilt.

It is living all over. It is excitement at planes…and diggers…and dogs. It is hours in the garden. It is a tantrum at the store. It is forgetting half of what you knew. It is learning so much. It is feeling clueless. It is guess work. It is crossing your fingers.

It is milk and laundry — more, more, more. It is overwhelming, amazing, heart filling. It is nursery rhymes and counting. It is please and thank you. It is the same book again, again, again. It is the everyday. It is the mundane. It is the extraordinary.

It is cuddles in the dark and company in the bathroom. It is a smile. It is home. It is discovering strengths and recognizing weaknesses. It is persistence. It is holding your breath. It is victories. It is losses. It is holding on…and letting go.

It is changing priorities, a shift in perspective. It is odd socks, smiles and worry. It is a million photographs. It is crying and screaming. It is giggles and soft snores. It is losing you and searching again — new, old, different, the same.

It is slow walks in the sunshine and splashing in the rain. It is moments of pure happiness…the highest of highs. It is consuming…bewildering. It is making a mess. It is new friendships and resealed bonds. It is finally understanding your parents. It is marks on the walls and stains on the sofa. It is rejected dinners. It is love. It is love.

It is long days and short years. It is exhausting. It is exhilarating. It is everything.

All of this…is motherhood.

For Today, a poem for parents

yvette lambIf we are honest, it really isn’t possible to enjoy every moment of parenting.

Another bad night’s sleep, a tantrum in the park, or frantically rushing between home and work is hardly the stuff family dreams are made of. It’s perfectly natural that we don’t — and can’t — spend every moment basking in how blessed we are by our children.

I know that I am so lucky to be a parent, and my days are peppered with gratitude as I watch my son laugh, play or sleep: ordinary magic moments which make me so thankful. But of course, I can also get lost in the stuff that surrounds and is part of being a mother, and the challenges that take my time and energy and that clutter our day-to-day lives.

Family life is busy. It throws curve balls. And sometimes I can lose sight of who I am and what is most important. I get stressed. I feel tired. I become impatient. Difficulties and dramas come our way. It isn’t always easy, but it is normal.

Sometimes — even if just for today, perhaps because we’ve had a reminder to or maybe just because we know deep down we need it — we can let go of everything else and embrace the moments that matter. And if we do, we might just have a blindingly lovely day…

For Today

Today we’ll do things differently, today is just for you
I’ve stopped the world from spinning round, today’s about us two
We won’t rush to get dressed or clean the breakfast from your face
We’ll linger with your favorite toys and take things at your pace

Let us give the shops a miss today and scrap doing the chores
Let me oblige and sing that song each time you tell me more
Let me pick you up each time you pull and ask me for a cuddle
And if I don’t attempt a million things, I won’t get in a muddle

And when we wander out today, I won’t make you wear your hat
You can pause at every flower, say hello to every cat
If you want to, you can walk about, even though it takes us longer
And when you’re tired, I’ll scoop you up ‘cause your love makes me stronger

You’re a million kinds of precious, and though I shouldn’t need reminding
I sometimes have to stop and think, but thanks to you I’m finding
That our lives are full of magic in between the other stuff
And what you give is all I need, love really is enough

So let us read an extra story, let us make a bit more mess
No worries that we’re running late, no calls to make, no stress
I’m going to try and see the world just like you do each day
As an exciting big adventure and a brand-new game to play

For today, my task is not to clean or wash or tidy up
It’s to chase you ‘til you laugh out loud and beg for me to stop
It’s to play the silly games you love and take you to the park
It’s to be with you ‘til evening falls and the sky outside turns dark

Then I’ll carry you to bed tonight with a happy, tired yawn
And hold you close for twice as long, just like when you were born
And if sleep does not come easily, tonight I will not mind
The world can wait, I’ll stay with you until your dreams you find

And tomorrow might be different as that’s just the way it goes
But whatever stuff life throws at us, I hope you always know
You fill our hearts up to the brim and make the dull seem new
You grow and laugh and share and love, and teach us all this too

It’s alright that you need me

yvette lambMy child, I want to say this to you: It’s alright that you need me.

Needing is good. Needing is natural. When you cry for me, when you wrap your arms around me, when you sigh because you feel happy in my arms…you’re behaving just as you should. You are finding out where you fit in this world, discovering all there is around you and learning how to feel safe.

You are young and new and so many things at the same time: brave and unsure, loud and quiet, shy and confident, content and needy. You are all of these things, and that is alright.

I have worried before. We spend a lot of time together, which is lovely for me and, I hope, for you, too. But I sometimes have thoughts like, Will you struggle to settle without me? and Should you be more self-assured?

Then I remember, you have your whole life to be bold and independent. And what a big life you will have.

I want to reclaim need and dependence as good things. I want to remind everybody that these are qualities, not inadequacies. These natural urges ensure protection, security, safety. They are a big part of love and trust: You trust me enough to depend on me, to allow me to see your need.

It is alright to need people. It is alright to rely on them. It is alright to know that there are people in your world that will stand by you, on whom you can depend. In fact, it is more than alright — it is wonderful.

And you my little boy — in your own time — will take tentative, then hurried, steps away from me. You will let go. Then I’m quite sure I will wonder why I ever worried that you needed me so much, and I’ll miss those arms around my legs as I try to make dinner, those soft snores on my pillow that leave no room for my head, and those contented sighs as I scoop you up and make everything alright with a kiss.

I’ll miss the days when just being me, being with you, was all you needed.

It isn’t always easy to be needed, especially in the early and intense days when only I would do so much of the time. But I know also that it is a gift to hold such a big space in your heart. You trust that I will be there, that I won’t let you down, that I love you wholly — and to you, that is everything. You and I are everything, and everything is enough.

So need me, call me, demand me, exhaust me. And then smile — and I’ll be there for it all — every day.

And of course I will cheer you on, as almost each day it seems you need to do more things by yourself: take off your shoe, undo your zipper, brush your teeth. You are so proud! You need this, too, and I will never stand in your way. But for the times you need me, be it a hug between plays or holding on tight as we navigate something new, I will be here. To give you what you need, for as long
as you need it.

As your world gets bigger, I won’t be able to provide everything that you need, but for now, I can — and that makes me very privileged. So keep on keeping on, and I will, too — watching you lean, then lead, then leave.

So remember, it’s alright that you need me, and whether you know it or not, little one…I need you, too.

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