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.

Cobathing

Bath time in our house is a social event. Since becoming the parents of a demanding toddler (armed with a growing vocabulary), my husband and I can hardly remember the days when taking a shower added up to a) showering alone, and b) getting in, washing up, and getting out.

In our childhood, my husband and I both remember bathing and showering with our siblings and mothers, probably out of convenience and because bathing together equaled more playtime (does anyone else remember playing with tub town toys?). However, once we reached a certain age, our parents designated separate bathing times for each person; co-bathing became something special that only small children could do, and bath playtime was all but lost.

Fast forward a few decades to the present. Nowadays, showering is a two-person activity and sometimes a group event. When Annabelle was a newborn and even a baby under age one, we bathed her in our tub or placed her in a toddler tub with natural bath products. This worked swimmingly so far as getting her clean was concerned; however, she howled with disapproval whenever mom or dad tried to sneak off to the tub by their lonesomes. Eventually, being the swift thinkers that her parents are, we realized that our little one might be more content if we simply invited her to bathe with us. And well, she is.

On a typical day, Annabelle likely showers twice in the morning, once with my husband and another time with me; and if it’s been a particularly messy day or we’ve been at the public swimming pool, she showers yet again. Most of the time, she sits down in the tub and plays with her toys while one of us focuses on the business of washing up. My husband tends to shower first, so he takes care of soaping Annabelle and getting her clean. By the time I make my way to the shower, Annabelle is eager to join me for a second round of tub fun (though this time I shower and simply let her play with toys, collect dripping water with a cup, and splish and splash).

Bathing together serves many purposes for our family. As most folks in the western world do, we bathe for cleanliness. But now that our toddler insists (and I’d say rightly so) on bathing with her mom and dad (and sometimes both at the same time), taking a shower or running a bath invites play, allows us to bond, and offers the opportunity to relax and heal after difficult days. Additionally, cobathing allows breastfeeding mothers, like myself, to nurture their babies, soothe engorged breasts, and to enhance milk production. A La Leche League article recommends that parents of adopted babies nurture their breastfeeding relationship by bathing together. Another La Leche League article suggests that breastfeeding mothers of newborns who have had a difficult time establishing nursing try cobathing as a natural way to soothe mom and baby, connect with each other, and relax into the breastfeeding relationship.

For our family, cobathing is more often than not, a positive way to spend time together, to play, and stay clean and healthy. To establish a safe and fun bath in your family, you may want to check out Dr. Sears’ Bathing with Baby tips. What are your thoughts about cobathing? Does your family enjoy showering together or is bath time a sacred ritual for spending some time on your own?

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