Raised With Respect

Last month, my son received an award in school.  Something I really like is that his school gives out character awards as opposed to academic awards.  The award my son received was for demonstrating respect.

Of course as his mom, I was very teary and sniffly and proud as could be during the awards assembly.   The video I took is jiggly as I wasn’t able to keep the camera still because of my general verklemptness.

As proud as I am of my son, for many many reasons, I can’t helping thinking that it’s utterly unsurprising that he received a respect award;  my son has been shown respect since the moment he was born!  Continue reading “Raised With Respect”

Stepping outside of the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

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During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. 😉

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.

Amy Gates blogs about green living, attachment parenting, activism and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

Feeleez – An Empathy Game for Children

This summer my boys (4-1/2 and 2 years old) and I had the opportunity to play with a wonderful game titled “Feeleez”, from the Natural Parenting Center. The game was so much fun and appropriate for AP families that I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you.

Anxiously we opened the small metal box, and found 25 pairs of 2×2″cards. Pairs of cards sport drawings of children, each expressing different emotions. Some emotions are very clearly conveyed and others are a bit ambiguous. The ambiguous cards allowed my children to creatively identify what they saw in each drawing. The ambiguous cards foster creative expression and leave room for my children to grow with the game as their vocabulary, intellect and emotions mature such as this online Team Murder Mystery Game for kids and teens.

It was helpful that the Natural Parenting Center does not leave their consumers without direction. They included a list of various games that can be played with just this one little box of cards. We played the “Matching Game”, and “What’s This”. To play “What’s This” we all took turns stating what we thought each person on the card was feeling and what might have made the person feel that way. It was intriguing to learn what my children felt might make someone else sad, happy, frustrated, sick etc. This opened the opportunity to ask them if they had felt those feelings and in what situations.

This created a terrific opportunity to learn more about what their emotional triggers were and what situations and events affected them in a positive, negative, ambivalent, or confusing way. We also sorted the cards into more general categories, which my youngest enjoyed the most. These were only three of the many games that the “Feeleez” insert outlined. They also suggested playing Charades, Body Sensations (where you pick one of the cards and then you all take turns describing what the feeling might feel like, where it might live in your body, what color it is, etc.), Conflict Resolution, Offering Empathy, and Mirroring.

When you purchase “Feeleez” you not only gets nine games for $20.00 but it creates an amazing opportunity to teach and learn with your child about empathy and understanding. The part I loved the most was hearing from my children why they thought some of the little people were happy, sad or frustrated etc. “Feeleez” elicited emotion in us that ranged from poignantly introspective to downright comical.

Feeleez is directly compatible with API’s Principles “Respond with Sensitivity” and “Practice Positive Discipline”. It is also highly complimentary for those who practice non-violent communication. Another appealing aspect about The Natural Parenting Center garnering my support is their socially conscious business practices. A couple of examples related to “Feeleez” is that the cards are made from recycled materials and printed with soy based ink.

I am pleased to say that I would highly recommend this game to other AP families and feel that it is a much needed tool when it comes to learning about empathy and compassion in a fun, engaging and enlightening way.

Feeleez – An Empathy Game For Children
$20.00 if you purchase from the Natural Parenting Center
Appropriate for ages 2+

Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Originally posted on May 25, 2008 on Crunchy Domestic Goddess

When I became pregnant with my son, my daughter Ava was about 20 months old and still nursing regularly. While I had friends who’s children had self-weaned when they became pregnant, I had my doubts that my “na-na”-loving kid would consider weaning for a second, even if my milk dried up.

At that age, Ava was still a comfort nurser, and still woke at night to nurse. After finding out I was pregnant I worked towards gently night weaning her by letting her know she could nurse as much as she wanted during the day, but at night the na-na had to sleep and she had to wait until the sun woke up in the morning to have mama milk.

By 22 months, miraculously (or so it felt) she was sleeping through the night. (Can you hear the angels singing? I thought I could. 😉 It was wonderful.) She was still happily in our bed, but no longer waking for na-na, and I was able to get the sleep I needed while growing a baby.

Of course, night weaning her did nothing to reduce her desire to nurse during the day, even when my milk dried up (somewhere around 16 weeks I think). However, as my pregnancy progressed, I decided that I wanted/needed to cut down on the number of nursing sessions per day for a variety of reasons. 1) My nipples were becoming increasingly tender. 2) My hormones were all kinds of crazy and the feeling of her nursing when there was no milk to be had sometimes honestly made my skin crawl. 3) I had my qualms about tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler.

The negative and skin crawling feelings were very much a surprise to me and I admit I felt guilty about it. I felt fortunate that I had a group of friends to bounce these feelings off of and was happy to learn that while all pregnant women don’t feel this way, my feelings were certainly not out of the ordinary and others had experienced similar feelings as well.

I used distraction to help reduce the number of times Ava nursed and my husband Jody helped out a lot too. We would ask Ava, “What else could we do to make you feel better instead of having na-na?” and often sang silly or happy songs together rather than nursing. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I let her nurse even though I didn’t want to, but eventually (about a month or two before Julian was born), she was down to nursing only 1 time per day – before bedtime.

Before Julian was born we talked a lot with Ava about how he would be a little baby and need a lot of mama milk to grow up big and strong like his big sister. We really wanted to get the point across that he would be nursing all the time. And we talked up how she was a big girl and got to do lots of things that Julian was too little to do. I was also sure to let her know that we’d still have our “special na-na time” every night before bed. It honestly worked pretty well.

There were a few weeks towards the end of my pregnancy that I seriously considered weaning her all together. Like I mentioned earlier, my hormones were wreaking havoc on me and nursing her, even only once per day was hard because I had some seriously strong negative feelings that were hard to control. There were a few times that I had to tell her that I was feeling frustrated and needed a break and I would have to take a minute to calm and center myself before letting her latch back on. I think keeping the lines of communication open like that and being honest with her was helpful.

Part of the reason I didn’t wean her completely then was because I felt like it’d be harder to try to do that, than it would be for me to just suck it up and muscle through the last few weeks. I know that sounds horrible, but I knew that when my milk came back in and my hormones weren’t so crazy, nursing her would not affect me so. And I was right. It got easier, much much easier once Julian was born and the milk started flowing freely again.

At the end of my pregnancy, I remember every night I would lay down for some quiet, cuddle time to nurse Ava before bed, she would hold onto baby (put her hand on my belly), and I would wonder if it would be our last night together just the two of us before her baby brother would join us.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t wean her, despite my strong feelings because I think tandem nursing has been a nice bonding experience for the two kids. On the somewhat rare occasion that Jody is traveling for work and I’ve had to get both kids to bed by myself, we’ve shared some pretty special (though definitely awkward) times together with both of them at the breast, holding hands or giggling at each other, and it’s moments like that that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 🙂

I want to add that this is my experience only. Just because it was trying at times for me, does not mean it will be for everyone. It’s impossible to know how pregnancy and breastfeeding will go for each woman until she experiences it for herself and then can decide what is best for her and her family.

Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

AP and Grandparents

We moved to another country when I was 6 months pregnant. Leaving all our extended families back home, they weren’t quite aware of our parenting choices.

We had decided to co-sleep with our daughter so we didn’t buy a crib/cot for her. During the early weeks, my mom was quite anxious that we might roll over her. As weeks passed she would ask me, again and again, when we would buy a bed for her. I explained her that we loved her being with us in the bed and they shouldn’t worry. Above the safety measures, they were also worried that she wouldn’t leave our bed once she got used to sleeping there.

We had the chance to go back home when our daughter was 4 months old. During this holiday, mom saw first-hand that co-sleeping was perfectly safe and it was lovely having your newborn beside you. It also made night time feeding easy for us.

Once our baby was 6 months old, she began to ask when we would start her offering solids. My daughter was not interested yet. But mom and grandma were very concerned. They’d ask me every time, as if I was depriving her of food. I’d tell them that, during the first year, solids are only for fun and tasting. As long as the baby is breastfeeding and gaining weight, there’s no need to worry.
During our visits to home, they had the chance to observe our child and our practices.

My mom loved wearing her first and only granddaughter and taking her on walks. We talked a lot about attachment parenting, about why we have to fulfill our little one’s needs during their childhood and how such children turn into well adjusted adults. We talked about extended breastfeeding and why we had the intention of co-sleeping until our daughter feels ready to move to her own bed. I’m very happy that she understands it all and has become very supportive.

Recently mom told me that my cousin and her wife decided to let their baby cry-it-out. Hearing this broke my heart, but after all, everyone has their own parenting choices and unfortunately there wasn’t much to do.

Last week, as I was speaking with my sister (she’s expecting her 1st baby, due in November), she told me that mom had told her to make a decision about the baby’s sleep arrangements. She added that deciding where the baby would be sleeping was very important, as any change to that affected the baby badly. I was glad to hear that she mentioned the family bed, and that she has normalised this in her head.

Now, if only she doesn’t ask me repeatedly when we would wean Defne now that she’s 18 months old!

Falling Short

By A Mama’s Blog

Last month I wrote about a sweet moment I had with Cole, when I responded to his cries, and did not allow him to cry it out. I wish I could say that was our “happily ever after,” regarding sleep with Cole, but it wasn’t.

I suspected a few hours after Cole’s birth that he might be a high needs/fussy baby. Within a few days, I knew we had our own high needs baby. One of the characteristics Cole displayed, was I could not put him down without him instantly starting to cry. This of course, carried over to sleep time as well.

For the first six or so months of Cole’s life, he literally slept ON me. I would lie down, and he would instantly fall asleep on me. Any other method I tried to get him to go to sleep resulted in intense screaming.

Needless to say, this was exhausting. I never slept that well with him on me, but at least this allowed me to doze and snooze, and was the better alternative to being up all night with a screaming baby. As Cole continued to grow, his laying on me was not working anymore. I knew it was time to come up with a different sleeping arrangement.

Having Cole sleep in the bed with us didn’t work. The moment we moved, he woke up and started crying. We were also getting midnight visits from Ryan too (who was three at the time), and he would just jump in the bed, half asleep. Obviously, this wasn’t a safe situation, because Ryan could have jumped on Cole and hurt him.

We finally decided to move Cole’s crib into our room, and place it next to our bed. At least he could still hear me breathe and would know I was near him, even though he wasn’t sleeping on me. I figured this was going to take some adjustment, but I was determined out of sheer desperation, to get Cole to sleep in his crib.

The first night, after nursing Cole, I placed him in the crib. I sat on the edge of my bed and patted his back, while I softly whispered to him. He fussed for about a minute, and then went to sleep. As I tried to leave the room, he would notice that my hand was no longer on his back, and he’d start crying. As long as I sat on the edge of the bed, haunched over the crib, with my hand on his back, he was fine and would sleep. Even after an hour, when I thought he had to be asleep, as soon as I took my hand off his back, the screaming started. After a few nights of this, Cole finally got to the point where I could get him to sleep, take my hand off his back, and leave the room.

The only thing that was predictable with Cole was he was unpredictable. Some nights he loved the crib and would fall asleep instantly, and other nights sleeping just didn’t happen – for him or for me. I would not be honest if I didn’t say that some nights I was so incredibly frustrated with Cole. I could not understand why my baby would not sleep, even though I was doing everything I could think of for him.

The nights I sat up with him in the living room at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, crying because I was beyond sleep deprived, were countless. My husband, Joe, helped out a lot too, despite having to be up every morning at 6am, so he could go to work. I honestly don’t know how he managed to only get a few hours of sleep, and then go for ten plus hours a day at work, with no naps. At least I was able to take a nap during the day.

Shortly before Cole turned one, we were having a particularly bad night. Nothing was working to get Cole to sleep, and he had been crying for hours. I was so incredibly frustrated, exhausted, and the end of my rope. I wanted to make Cole stop crying, so I could go to sleep. That exhausted and drained part of me wondered what would happen if I just gave him a shake to see if he would stop crying. Instantly, I felt like the worse mother on the earth.

Thank goodness that was just a fleeing thought that did not manifest itself, but it scared me. That night I put Cole in his crib, where he was safe, sat on the floor in the room and let him cry. I think that was the hardest night ever for me a mother, because I was totally out of options and was completely and utterly burned out.

After 30 minutes, Cole finally fell asleep. It was hard to listen to him cry, but in the state we were in, it was the only thing left to do. As I sat on the floor in his room, I thought about how close I had been to ‘losing’ it with Cole, and realized he was safe in his crib, and this is what we needed to do to get through the night.

After that night, it was still hit or miss with getting Cole to sleep, but around 18 months, it was like a switch just went off in him where he finally turned the corner. Instead of a baby who never slept, and was constantly waking up, he was sleeping, and staying asleep.

Cole just turned two, and his sleep issues are gone. I nurse him for a few minutes before bed, and then place him in the crib, still awake. He smiles at me, pulls me in for a hug, rolls over and goes to sleep on his own. It is a rare night now if he wakes up, not the rule. I never thought we would get to this point.

I thought long and hard about how to write this post, because having your baby cry-it-out, isn’t generally accepted as AP parenting. However, I wanted to be honest, and relay a true experience. I have realized for me that it is OK to admit that I am not a perfect mother, nor will I ever be. That doesn’t mean that I don’t try, but sometimes I fall short of the ideals that I want to raise my children with. When that happens, I have learned that it serves no useful purpose to beat myself up and tell myself I’m a bad mother.

Being the parent of a high needs baby tests you in ways you never dreamed of. Most of the time you pass the tests successfully. But, sometimes as any parent – high needs baby or not – can tell you, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes in the moment you do the best you can, so you can get through the day or the night. Then all you can do is continue on, learning from the experience.

If everyone practiced all the AP ideals all the time perfectly, we wouldn’t have much to write or talk about, and be able to offer support to others. “Failing” at an AP ideal, doesn’t make us “bad” or non-AP parents – it makes us human parents.

When we don’t parent quite the way we want to at times, it is disheartening, but it also is a good learning experience, and it helps us grow. These experiences help us grow into the kind of parents we want to be.

Catch me while you can.

Summer lasted forever when I was a child. School would end and the days would stretch lazily before me, full of endless possibility. I would hear my parents talk about “time flying” and how much faster it was moving than it used to. I would wonder how my summer could be so long, and theirs could be so short, without there being any difference in the actual amount of time that passed.

When my daughter was born her baby days seemed to last forever. I would think I can’t wait until she can talk, or walk, or play by herself. All of those baby stages seemed to take an eternity to get through. Now my son is over one already, and all I can think is please stay small a little longer, please.

My life has sped up so much that I could easily lose months of my kids childhood to mundane routines, responsibilities and work. This is why I am an advocate for attachment parenting. Time goes by so quickly, why lose a single second of it? I am going to seize every chance I get to hold and snuggle my baby before he gets too busy to cuddle. I am going to take every moment I can to watch fireflies with my daughter, before she gets too cool to hang with her mom. After all, these moments are what I have been working for.

I glory in being able to roll over and kiss my son’s fluffy head in the middle of the night. I can’t imagine a better to way to wake up than to feel baby hands patting my face. Co-sleeping is magical. It turns your family’s down hours into bonding time, for both parents. It provides for extra snuggling and closeness in an otherwise busy schedule.

AP principles led me to bring my daughter into the kitchen when she turned about four. I found the best way to respect her food concerns was to invite her to help prepare our meals. I love cooking with my daughter. She and I have a blast chopping veggies, cracking eggs, and mixing ingredients together. She learns how to cook healthy and tasty meals, and I get to hear about her day, her ideas, and her thoughts about the future. Best of all, she eats what we cook because she had a hand in making it.

Attachment parenting has helped me invite my children into all parts of my life. It has empowered me to slow down my routines, and include my children in my responsibilities. I am working hard to make their childhood last as long as possible. Hopefully I can stretch it out before me, filled with magic moments, instead of seeing it race past me in a blur.

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