Magic Mama

My mom was magic.

She is magic.  But her dust sparkles the most in my childhood mind.  She did it all, and now that I am a mom to a toddler at the same age she was a mom to a toddler and a new born baby, it baffles my mind she even combed her hair.

But her hair was always combed.  In fact, she always looked beautiful — flaming red hair that sparkled when the sun hit it — a gregarious laugh that was never fake and always full — a smile that welcomed many a kid on our block into her arms.

My mom, the child whisperer

She was magic.  She is magic.  She is my mom.  And she taught me about being a mom.

She threw elaborate dog parties for all our dogs:  Shaggy, the Pekingese; Sam-I-Am, the runaway Irish setter;  Bear, the Collie –- the-great-big-fluffy-his-breath-stinks-so-much-drooled-so-bad-he-could-clear-a-room-when-he-farted-soft-cuddly-lovable-dog that was my mom’s favorite; and even Arthur Roo, the-curly-tight-permy-looking-poodle-that-jumped-all-over-you-if-you-just-as-much-as-looked-at-him-sideways.  He just was excitable.  That’s what my mother said.  Even jumping hyper freak dog got his own birthday party.

Then there was Penny.  Penny was a German Shepard my mom adored and who protected her from an attacker once.  Mom didn’t hesitate to get rid of Penny quicker than lightening when she started snapping and growling at us young kids.  Mom always put her needs last and us first.

She was magic.

Each dog had its own party, complete with party hats, party favors (biscuits, balls, and bones.)  What I remember the most was Mom right there in the middle of it — flaming red hair, giant open-hearted smile, and children surrounding her.  Her hands calm and her warmth radiant.  She responded with patience and humor.  She loved a party.  In fact, she wanted to own her own children’s party store, but did not pursue that because she wanted to be at home with us as much as possible.

You see, my mother could have had any job she wanted.  She was a genius by IQ and creativity and  had been an executive at the King Home in Evanston, Illinois, which was a retirement community for men as  there are many nowadays, Loomis Lakeside at Reed Landing is a full CCRC or takes new residents directly into Springfield MA nursing home care.

My mom at the King Home (Evanston, IL)

That is my foxy redheaded mom standing next to some very important people at the King Home in Evanston, Illinois.

Betty chose us.  She chose to be home.  This was her greatest work, for we were her miracles.  She had had over ten miscarriages.  We were her miracles. We were her gift; she was ours.

She was magic.

The dog parties would have all the trimmings – really, I’m totally serious.  My mom made the dog cake and let us help.  It was made of wet dog food with dry dog food to create a crust.  Party hats were given to dogs and children.  Candles were lit; birthday songs were sung.  Candles were blown out, and sometimes even the dogs barked out the candles.  Party hats were given to dogs and children.  Children were invited on invitations that read, “Sam-I-Am Turns Two.  Bring your dog.  Bring your sneakers.”

What party is complete without party games?  Betty had that all planned.   The ultimate party game was chase Sam-I-Am.  We lived close to a huge field and behind the field was a forested path where Mom often took gangs of children to pick wild berries.

With a magical tone, she’d ssshhh us all down from the towers of sugared excitement.  We’d all listen.  She was magic, after all.  She’d give the directions in clear, short sentences.  We all understood, as our eyes widened.

The point of the game was to let Sam-I-Am off his leash and catch him in the woods.  The winner would get a prize.  We were gone for hours.  On foot with our sneakers and curiosity leading the way, giggles and silly struts created a caravan, lead by Betty.  We were on an adventure.  It was magic.

She was magic.

Pow-Wow Party

That’s me at a Pow-Wow Mom had planned, complete with tribal dancing, a bonfire, a circle of sleeping bags, and Indian head dresses.  That’s Betty dazzling her magic charm, handling out drums and enthusiasm.

I remember my older sister’s Girl Scout unit went to a party at the Girl Scout Cabin around Halloween.  Mom had organized the best game ever – John Brown’s Body.  She went to the butcher to get bones and the super market to get spaghetti.  She peeled grapes for the eyes, and creatively and curiously narrated the spooky story of John Brown’s Body as we passed along intestines (cooked spaghetti), eyeballs (peeled grapes), and leg bones (beef bones from the butcher).  Every major organ was represented by something we could touch with our fingers under the blanket so our imaginations could run wild.

The story got all of us spooked out of our minds, but we were mesmerized;   It was magic.  Mom told the story, with the lights off and a flashlight choreographed just right to give it enough spook and enough game to make us giggle nervously.

She was magic.

I wet the bed that night.  I begged her to let me go upstairs with my older sister’s friends and the rest of the Girl Scout troop my mother led.  She snuggled me close and told me just what I needed to hear. “Meggie My, you are little.  You will be a Girl Scout soon enough.  Snuggle here darling.  Snuggle close.  I need someone to keep me company and I’d like it to be you.”

I soon forgot about wanting to be older, wiser, and more girly.  And Mom and I snuggled.  I was embarrassed that I wet the bed.  I woke her.  I whispered, “Mommy, I wet the bed.”  She whispered back, “We’ll take care of it.”  She was so patient.  We folded up the blue mat that lay on the wood floor of the big open first floor room in the cabin.  I followed her, tiptoeing in wet pajama bottoms and we went into the kitchen through the swinging door.  She made sure nobody would find out.

She made me an ice cream sundae after I changed.  I could hear the Girl Scouts up above giggling, telling secrets and stories, playing with their flashlights.  I got jealous I couldn’t be up in the loft with the other girls, knowing I was too little.  Knowing I was still a Brownie.

Mom and I had our own magic.  She washed me up, while singing me a song — probably one of her favorites from her childhood days of sleep-away camps and Girl Scouts.  It was probably the song she always sang us — our lovie song, which I sing to my son now.  It goes like this:

My mom with me on her lap

Who’s my Little Whose-It?

Who’s the one I love?

Who’s my little whose it?

Who’s the one I love?

The thing about that song was, after each line, I’d giggle, and jump into her arms saying, “Me.”  Then I’d shake my little feet back and dance in anticipation for the next line:

Who’s my little whose it?

Me!

Who’s the one I love?

Me!

She was magic; she still is.

Mom went with me to the local college up the street as a young teenager.   Somehow we’d just walk right into the gym and it would be empty and open.  I would take the basketball and dribble, dribble, dribble.  Then I’d practice my 3 point shot.  And I’d practice again and again.  She never got bored — that I noticed.  She had no phone to text or call anyone.  She just had me and she watched me — encouraged me.  Even after air ball after air ball.  But day after day, week after week, I started to get better.  Her great big smile would cheer me on.  She clapped, jumped, and cheered each time I made one fall through the net.  Then her magic became my own.  Ask anyone – I can seriously throw up a nothing-but-net-hear-that-electric-sound-of-the-swish-3-pointer- buzzer-beater.

Mom was The Picture Lady in elementary school.  She volunteered her time to talk to my class about art.  She’d walk into the class and that magic would light up the room.  She’d bring Picasso, Monet, Manet, Warhol, and ones we never heard of, encased is shiny glass frames she would check out from the local library.  She’d talk to us like we were brilliant, like we understood, because we did.  She’d check out a new painting each week and she’d tell the entire class about the artist and the painting.  But then she always turned it to us.  She’d ask us what we thought and like elementary children are famous for — we all chitter chattered how it made us feel, think, and see.

She was magic.

Attachment

I remember sitting in the group, hands folded on my lap. Quiet.  Questioning.   My own wheels turning in my young mind.  I loved art.  But I loved that The Picture Lady was my mom.  I watched how they reacted to her; the children danced in her presence.  She celebrated with them and ignited something that seemed to already be blazing.  That was my mom, she was magic and her flame warmed me.

We cuddled on Sundays when Dad was at work.  My sister on one side, me on the other.  She’d say, “That is why I have two arms – one for each of you.”  We’d watch Family Classics with Frasier Thomas on WGN.  And Mom always cried when it counted — when Scarlett O’Hara clutched dirt deep in her hands, and called out, “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again.”  And when Judy Garland sang out, “Clang clang clang goes the trolley, clang clang goes the band…” in Meet Me in St. Louis. Mom would sing.

She was magic.

Mom was a genius and could have had any job she wanted.  But she chose to stay home and work part-time as an accountant at the gas station close to our house.  Literally, it was just a quick run outside and through a secret tree lined passage and up into her office we’d go, in the midst of a kid squabble my father had no idea how to handle.

Mom was magic.

She’d explain it to us, Betty style – honest and direct, with her Cajun seasoning of magic.  We’d shake hands or hug and off we’d go back to playing.

My mother taught me how to play.  She taught me how to love and she taught me I have my own magic.  And that there’s plenty to share.

She celebrated life.

She celebrated me.

She celebrated my sister.

She celebrated life.

She was magic.

And she taught me everything I know about the beauty of motherhood.

She is magic.

* My mother has been battling non-cancerous brain tumors for twelve years.  She was diagnosed in 2000.  Her condition has declined slowly and gradually.  She has one brain tumor on her brain stem and one in her cerebellum.  The magic is still there.  Ask anyone.  They all know Betty; nobody forgets her.  She is magic, after all.  Here is a link to a photo I have submitted to a creative invite from the Moxie Institute on Talenthouse.com.  If selected, it will be featured in Tiffany Shlain’s documentary film called Brain Power.  The movie will be viewed by non-profits.  You can vote for the photo through your facebook or twitter account.

What I have come to accept is, no matter what happens, has happened, will happen — she will never lose that magic.

A Mother to Mother Conversation With Mayim Bialik

“…neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true.”

We know of Mayim as Blossom, the Mayim who earned a PhD in neuroscience, Mayim as Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit TV series, Big Bang Theory. She adds “author” to her impressive list of titles with her new book, Beyond the Sling, scheduled to release tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Mayim Bialik about her new book and her preferred role, Mayim the attachment mother.

First, I’d like to hear how your book came about.

I’ve been the spokesperson for Holistic Mom’s Network for a while now, and I started writing for this website called Kveller.com, and I guess sort of became this unofficial spokesperson for a style of parenting that I don’t see as particularly bizarre or strange at all. But obviously it’s really out of the norm of the way a lot of people parent. And so honestly, I was kind of just asked to write the book.

I was being interviewed by an actress named Theresa Strasser. She’s a comedian and she had just written a book about pregnancy, and she said to me, I would never want to parent the way you do and I think it sounds ridiculous in theory, but, she said, the way you talk about it makes it sound so not judgmental and it actually sounds like it makes sense even if I wouldn’t choose it. My book agent wants to talk to you. And I’m thinking, book agent? I spoke to him, and four months later we had a book proposal. Kind of an unlikely way to write a book, but I basically wrote the lifestyle that me and all my friends and everybody at Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League sort of know about but I guess once you put a celebrity name on it people will pay attention. I don’t know, I guess that’s the sad state of our culture.

It seems like it covers a lot of myth vs. fact, a lot of, the why behind outward appearances. What do you think people most misunderstand about attachment parenting?

I think people misunderstand a lot of things about the kind of children that people think you raise if you practice AP. People think that my goal, or anyone’s goal who parents this way is to raise spoiled, manipulative, whiny children who are clingy and never gain proper independence. But I think also one of the main things of the book is trying to take on is, not that you need a PhD in neuroscience to write a book about parenting or to be a parent, but that neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true. And that attachment parents don’t choose this because we’re lazy, or because we don’t know how to get our kids out of our bed, or because we don’t know how to say no to them when they keep asking to breastfeed. So I think the notion is that this is a conscious choice and parenting philosophy that is believed in. It’s not passive parenting, it’s not lazy parenting, and it’s not careless. It’s very conscious and concerted.

And there are a lot of different ways to do it! There are families with a lot of structure and discipline that also are attachment parenting families and there are families that are a lot more permissive. It’s a broad term that really describes a lot of people.

What is your biggest parenting challenge going on right now?

[Laughs] Um, how to pick? We don’t have easy kids. A lot of people think I have easy kids simply because they seem easy, but they’re high-needs kids. As anyone with a high-needs baby or child knows, it takes a lot of work to keep that going, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much more attention to give. But I’m getting clear signals that they need more attention and it’s a huge challenge and especially, my husband’s home with them when I’m working, so I’m here even less than I need to be. But there’s still so much that needs to get done. I joke with friends of mine, we say, how can they need more attention? I’m giving them all I have!

Having so much on your plate, author, blogger, neuroscientist, homeschooler,  and obviously Big Bang Theory, and with attachment parenting being the most hands-on parenting philosophy, at least the most hands-on I know of, how do you strive for balance? That’s one of the attachment parenting principles, so what do you do for Mayim?

I try and find small, not time- or money-consuming ways to kind of replenish. I think we’re in an unusual situation where I was the primary caregiver, you know, hands-on, 24/7 for years, and it’s only recently that I’m working and my husband is the one home. So I think it’s important also, for the primary caregiver which is my husband at this point to also find ways to replenish. So, I think he feels that sometimes I get to leave the house, and that’s my replenishment.

But I think that in weeks that I’m off, and all of those times that I am just me with them – I don’t do a lot of social things, I don’t go out a lot with girlfriends, I read, I study a couple times a week with a Jewish study partner, which is an intellectual exercise and also a social one. And I do small things. Like simplifying life so I can catch up on things that make me feel organized and like the house is in order. So for me, sometimes it’s relaxing to know that, like last week me and the boys, we re-did all of their little shelves where they keep their clothes. And things like that give me a sense of peace and balance because it’s one less thing that I have hanging over me.

You mentioned your husband is staying home with the kids full-time. The traditional role has the man as provider and the woman as caregiver. How does he handle that, and how does the family handle that?

It’s unusual for sure. It’s still an adjustment for him. It’s an adjustment for the whole family, but now that Fred is now out of the stage where he’s breastfeeding as much as he had been, it’s much easier. My husband has always been super supportive of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. And Fred does still nurse, but he’s not at the point where I’m pumping anymore, which I think is in some ways easier for my husband. He has more autonomy, now that he’s settling in and now that they’re both older and they can do more active field trips together and that the day is not dictated by naps, you know, for the little one.

This particular unit study is about medieval England. This unit study is called Time Capsule: Medieval England by Michelle Caskey. There are daily lessons to keep your children engaged and learning for 12 weeks (300 activities in all)! For each day you also have a variety of activity options to choose from to suit your child’s interest and needs. The unit study also includes a supplies list and suggested reading list.

In this unit study your child will experience being:

  • A Peasant in Medieval England
  • A Tradesman/Tradeswoman in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Lady-in-Waiting in Medieval England
  • A Monk/Nun in Medieval England
  • A Baron/Baroness in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Queen in Medieval England

Your child will get to create and wear peasant clothing, listen to Old English, go on a field trip to a local farm, one of my kids has dyslexia so when i try to find a place to go i make sure they have  dyslexia tutors to give to children with dyslexia where they can , learn to whittle, make a water clock, design their own castle, make a medieval battle axe, and much more.

While these activities would be fun for boys OR girls, they are especially suited to active boys. Not only will they be reading and writing, but doing lots of fun physical activities too.

I read that you’re the only parent on the cast of Big Bang Theory. What’s that like?

Many of our writers have kids, and I’ve actually done a little lactation consulting, on the side I guess, for one of our writers in particular. As it is, when you’re the only in a group of friends to be the first to have kids, it’s a little bit like being an alien species. And I think also, until you have kids, you can’t imagine how much of a part of your brain and your heart are always devoted to them, no matter what you’re doing. I can argue a lot of things about a lot of different styles of parenting, but I will say that when you choose this path, it really is a constant part of you in ways that sometimes I meet other parents who don’t feel that way. I meet a lot of people who say, I’m happy for someone else to handle them. I’m not really thinking about it, it takes a village, and I don’t want to be involved. For me, that’s not our choice. I always miss my kids in a very specific way.

What do you do when you mess up – when you’re short with your child, when you find yourself yelling and kind of losing it? What do you do to repair that relationship?

I guess I’ve been told it’s called a “mommy time out.” I need to know, literally, when to shut my mouth and walk away, meaning to stop the, you know, bad mommy behavior. And I think promptly admitting you’re wrong to your child is extremely powerful. I think I make a very very conscious effort to not make excuses when I apologize. Meaning, I don’t say, I yelled at you because, or I’m angry at you and I used harsh words because you blah blah blah. There are times to explain to a child why or how there may have been a trigger situation but when you’ve hurt a child I believe very strongly all that needs to be communicated is that your intention in life is not to hurt them, and that you feel bad and will do things to not repeat that with them.

And you cannot apologize to a child as if it’s a spouse. They’re not on the same intellectual or emotional level. That’s something I try really hard – I try to do that with adults too! To say, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, is different than, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry but, you’ve really let me down, you know?

And I think also, something I try and do is I try and, especially with our oldest son who’s six, I’m not afraid – well, I’m afraid and I’m not afraid to try and be real with him and tell him, Mama messed up. Mama doesn’t know how to be the mama of a six-year-old except through this experience and we’re trying, and I’m learning. That’s one of my favorite things I say to them. I’m learning too. And I’m not perfect.

And I’ll make a joke out of it too, I’ll say, I know you think I’m perfect because I make the best pancakes, but I’m not. So a little humor also can take the edge off, so that you can have access to them because they put up a wall when they’re hurt. It’s what people do. It’s protective.

What do you say when people negate your parenting style?

I think with my first I was very sensitive and I was defensive and I questioned a lot, and I doubted myself, but for me a big part has been to find a community of like-minded parents and that’s sort of what API and places like API are doing. Once you have that support and you can have your behavior normalized, it really can give you a lot of strength.

And now I’ve learned which battles to fight and which not to fight. And even with family members, even well-meaning friends, I’ve learned a couple key phrases, like, “it’s working for us,” or, “thanks for your thoughts,” or “I guess we all get to do it our own way,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” But I really don’t get into the complicated discussions with people, especially when I can tell that they only want you to have their opinion. Because some people want to have a healthy debate, or they’re interested in decisions and why you make them, but a lot of people really just want to be right, and I don’t always have to have that conversation.

You mentioned the organizations that support you, such as API. What individuals make up your support system? Who are your rocks?

I have a group of girlfriends, who we kind of formed a renegade mom’s group and I single them out in the book. One of them is actually my friend who took the photographs for the book. She took the cover photo and, she’s one of those people. I have one La Leche League leader and mentor in particular who I kind of go to for all things even beyond breastfeeding, and she’s sort of my attachment parenting, well, everything. That’s pretty much it. I mean, we have a small circle. I do participate in La Leche League still and Holistic Moms’ Network events and things like that, but for me to have three people, three women in my case that I know I can turn to, even if they don’t agree or do it the same, I think that’s been the most helpful.

I personally struggle with this: how do you just do your thing without making other moms feel like you’re judging what they’re doing?

I know that other people’s opinions are none of my business now. And if people have guilt, it’s not for me to either create or take away. I simply keep it within my circle of my family, and know that what’s working for us works.

I had dinner the other night next to a very prominent celebrity mom and she was there with her nanny, and her two kids and I was there alone with my two kids, and it was very friendly and very nice, but I was kind of wondering, does she look at me and think, how’s she doing it? Why am I not doing that? Why can she do it? Do I even what to do what she’s doing? And I looked at her and I was kind of wondering, wow, that would be really nice to have an extra set of hands right now!

But again, I learned early on that you never know what goes on in people’s families or what they need, or why they’re doing what they’re doing or not doing what they’re doing, so I really try to mind my own business. I mean, honestly I try to mind my own business and I also make sure to use general concepts and phrases that I do believe are true. That we all want to do the best for our kids. It may mean different things to different people, but we all want to do the best. And once you kind of level the playing field, then you can open up a conversation and then you can get away from all that stupid mommy wars stuff.

Do you remember a turning point when you decided that attachment parenting was the way you wanted to do things?

Before we had our first son, both my husband and I were both planning on research professorships. I don’t know, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding. I had a difficult, slow learning curve, as it were. And I think making the commitment to stay home for 40 days, which is something we did after both of our sons were born, I think that tuned me into a new rhythm that I decided not to fight. Because I know a lot of people fight it, and I know people who go back to work after 2 and 3 weeks, you know? But I think for me it really helped tune me into that rhythm, and help us make that decision.

Does your husband read the AP books? Does he do the research?

My husband is rarely yes dear about anything, but if he sees something for himself, that’s the proof he needs. He’s a very principled, rational, confident person, and he, honestly, he doesn’t like to read things like that. I mean, he does a tremendous amount of reading, but no, he has really become a phenomenal example of someone who is not super interested in emotional attachment or psychological development, hadn’t really given it much thought, and literally lived for himself the evolution of this beautiful, beautiful relationship that he has created with our kids and that we have in our family. Although he sees, for sure not one of the principles of attachment parenting was something he thought was totally nuts, and once he saw how it worked, totally jumped on board on his own. But he’s not the kind of person who reads up on things or says yes dear, so it’s been actually really interesting to see. It’s even worked and made sense for him.

Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?

I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?

What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.

Mayim’s new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, will be available in stores March 6th, 2012.

Photo: flickr/pennstatelive

Nighttime Parenting Isn’t Always Pretty

My first had always been a good sleeper. We co-slept through about 18 months or so, and when we moved, Little Man jumped right into his big-boy bed and that’s where he wanted to sleep.

After I had my second child, we went through a phase where Little Man would wander into my bed in the middle of the night. Which was fine for a while. Hey, if he needed some extra security or mommy time or whatever it was, I was happy to oblige. After all, he was adapting to a pretty big change.

After a few months, he would wander into the bedroom in the middle of the night, where the other 3 of us were sleeping, and start asking for trains. Or cookies. Or to go to Zia’s (his aunt’s) house. And when we would say no, a full-throttle tantrum ensued. So, the 3 of us would have to wake fully, get Little Man settled, then try to settle ourselves and the baby to sleep.

He did this every night for about a month. It had gone on long enough that we were all becoming tired, cranky zombies.

I have no problem waking with him for nightmares, for monsters in the closet, or if he’s not feeling well. But to burst in at 2:00 a.m. every night, getting everyone all fired up? It affected everyone, every day. And I didn’t want to start feeling resentful.

Okay, I was already feeling a little resentful.

At a loss, I did something about it. One night, when he came into our room, he made his usual request for something he could be sure we would shoot down. As soon he showed the first signs of tantrum, I picked him up and put him in his bed. I told him he could come back in and talk to us or sleep with us if he could do it quietly, without waking the baby.

Of course, this made him wail. When he came back in, I took him back to his bed, and repeated what I had just said. By the third time, I had almost given up. I felt like I was doing a form of cry-it-out for almost-three-year-olds. But because I was inviting him into our bed and the alternative (sleepy, crabby family) wasn’t good for anyone, I decided to stick to my guns this time.

After one more round, he started to calm down. I asked him, “can you come into the big bed quietly?”

“Yes,” he whispered.

I tucked us all in.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Get trains,” he said.

“No, it’s dark down there and we won’t be able to see them.”

“Okay.” He rolled over and went to sleep.

That was the first and last time I had to do anything like that at night. Now, when he wanders in, he sneaks in quietly and nobody knows until morning. We can all wake refreshed and happy. He has his nighttime security, we have our rest.

Still, as with every parenting move I make, I can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing.

Interview Series: Kelly Bartlett

Today I have a real treat for you: an interview with API Speaks contributing blogger Kelly Bartlett!  Kelly is the first of our bloggers who are opening up and answering questions.  I’ve been reading API Speaks for a long time now and am so excited to get to know all the contributors better.  Read on to find out more about Kelly, her journey to AP through a “high needs” baby, and more about her gorgeous family of 4.


Tell us about your family.

I grew up in Chicago and my husband, John, is from Whitefish, Montana.  We met at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and now we love living in beautiful Portland, Oregon.  I was a high school biology teacher before our 2 kids were born and I stopped working to stay home with them full-time ever since.  Our son JJ is 4 1/2 and our daughter Elia is 6, and they are complete opposites!  The phases we went through with one we didn’t go through with the other, and vice versa.  Between the two of them we are learning first-hand just how different kids can be.

Kelly and Family

With you from Illinois and your husband from Montana, how did you end up in Portland?  I hear that it is a very pro-AP city, do you find that to be true?

We moved out here several years ago for John’s job, and this city has been a great fit for us in many ways…the most recent being our parenting journey.  There are lots of AP families here, which is so nice.  Just going out in public it’s not uncommon to see several breastfeeding and baby-wearing moms & dads, so it’s easy to meet like-minded parents, even when we’re not at an API meeting!  Although I wouldn’t say the majority of Portland parents practice AP, I think it’s more common here than in other places I’ve lived.
Continue reading “Interview Series: Kelly Bartlett”

Motherhood’s Magic Mirror

It starts off simply enough. I smile, you smile. Then it gets more complicated.

My daughters had a hard time using the word “please.” I noticed this several years ago, when I was constantly correcting their demands, making them insert the word before I would honor their request. They always said, “Thank you,” just not the “p” word. I remember the moment when I discovered why this phenomenon was occurring and needless to say, it was a head-slapping revelation. I asked my child (about age 4) to do something and she looked at me while asking, “please?” She was correcting my rudeness.

So, I listened in on all my conversations that day. Do I ever use the word? I frequently use the words “thanks” and, “I’m sorry.” I say “you’re welcome” and I always say “I love you” at least twice a day per family member. Somehow I had gotten into the habit of issuing orders without the basic nicety of “please.” It didn’t matter that I was telling my children to always use this word, they were simply mirroring my own behavior. It was so basic. So many trite sayings have formed out of this one constant of human development. Monkey see, monkey do. Do as I say, not as I do. But there it was staring me in the face without me really seeing it.

There are many times in raising children when you need to stop, examine your world through your child’s eyes and ears, and really think about what they are learning from you. Are you telling them not to hit, but spanking them as a form of punishment? Do you raise your voice when angry, but reprimand your child for yelling? (This is one of my uglier problems that I’m still working on.) Do you wish they would interact more with other children, but spend all your time with them instead of making strong connections with other adults?

It’s not easy realizing that your children are so much like you, yet so different. You assume they will only pick up your strengths and excel at the areas you have mastered. In addition to picking up your bad habits, magnifying them and mirroring them back to you like a carnival fun house; children also pick up on your energy. They know when you are tense, sad, angry with your spouse or worried about life. They know instantly when you don’t like someone. Unfortunately, children assume that they are the cause of your negative emotions, not an outside influence. My oldest daughter has the eerie habit of plucking thoughts right out of my head. It happens so often now that I’ve come to accept her ability as yet another reason to focus my thoughts and energy into positive messages.

MOM DARE: Spend this week listening in on your conversations, really hearing yourself the way your child does. Are they imitating you? Can you see how one of their troublesome behaviors could be related to something you have inadvertently taught them? Are you stressed about something and your child is picking up on your anxiety? Try spending a little more time this week reassuring your children that they are doing a good job, that you love them, and that life is truly beautiful. Please.

Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 8. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. She blogs at http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com and helps new moms at www.babylovecarebook.com

When Your Parents Disagree With Your Parenting

I am sure that no matter what parenting style a person chooses, their parents or parents-in-law will disapprove.  However, it has been my experience that attachment parenting sometimes gets the least support (and sometime the most upheaval) from the grandparental units.

My grandmother was told that her milk “was just water” and that she would have to formula feed her children.  So she did, all 5 of them.  And then they grew up and had babies and formula fed them too.  Then I came along.  I produced the first great-grandchild for my grandparents and the first grandchild for my parents.  When we told everyone we were expecting there was undiluted joy.  Not that baby is here, 10 months old, and still breastfeeding that joy has been tainted.   When my husband, son, and I travel across the country to visit them I am expected to go into the other room to nurse my son (with the door shut and preferably locked).  I am expected to tell my smaller cousins that he drinks formula but they can’t help feed him because he will only drink if I hold the bottle in a quiet room.  It is assumed that I am weak-willed because the only way a 10 month old would be nursing is if I can’t “make him give it up cold turkey” (the idea that I actually enjoy nursing is totally inconceivable).  I have answered the question “Are you ever going to wean him?” so many times that now I just say “I think we might have issues when he goes to college.” I have seriously considered not going home for the holidays this year because I feel like I am defending my decision to breastfeed constantly and not enjoying my family.  (I also have to defend my decision not to feed my infant son soda and Oreos, but that’s another post.) Not to mention the last conversation with my mother ended like this:

Her: Are you still nursing my baby?

Me: If by your baby you mean my son, then yes we are still breastfeeding.

Her: Well, he’ll be a year old soon and then you’ll HAVE to stop nursing him.

Me: Why?

Her: Well, you don’t want him to grow up to be a child molester, or gay, or be in therapy for all of his adult life.

Me: Goodbye mother. <click>

It seems sort of unbelievable that people could be against breastfeeding of all things.  Doesn’t my mom want the best possible nutrition for her perfect-besides-the-crazy-parents grandson?  I can’t even get into the ridiculousness and lack of support surrounding cosleeping and being adamantly against spanking.  And all of a sudden my decision to share a beautiful and nurturing experience like breastfeeding with my son has become gossip to my family.  They are planning an ‘intervention’ if (and by that I mean when) I continue breastfeeding past his first birthday.

I have no idea how to navigate this minefield.  On one hand I want my son to be close with his extended family, but on the other hand I want to just sever contact and not deal with the drama.

I have heard and witnessed many similar situations.  Are your parents supportive of your parenting decisions? How do you deal with family who is outspokenly against attachment parenting?  What is it about attachment parenting that gets people so worked up?

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and 10 month old son, Solomon.

Attraction Rather than Promotion

There is a famous group that takes the attraction rather than promotion approach “in all its affairs.” Now don’t get me wrong I think that getting info out to the masses is very important. If people aren’t able to see it then they are not able to make the choice because they do not know what is available to them. On the other hand in this time of wonderful materials, blogging, online articles and the millions of other ways that we can use promotion to the benefit of AP and all that encompasses there is sometimes the most vital thing missing. Attraction. 2247415251_1dcff687eb

I have been known to post many things that “prove” that AP principles are correct and are better for mothers, fathers, babies, other children… etc. I have read articles and books and know about many of the things that promote good attachment in an infant and throughout a child’s life. I lived with the consequences of children not being attached. Somewhere in there I thought that I had every right to let people know and then to be disturbed when they did not make the right choice.

There is nothing wrong about being concerned about the choices others are making but there is something wrong when it starts disturbing your own peace. Why? Because your peace is the balance of a family home. And when we become full-time promoters that are constantly promoting we end up with no time to do the one thing that will actually change the hearts and lives of many. Attraction.

Who would want to be like me when I am run ragged from promoting all the benefits of breastfeeding, babywearing, healthy food, natural childbirth, spending time with your kids… and the list goes on and on. Wouldn’t they rather see it demonstrated in my life? Wouldn’t I rather see it demonstrated in my life?

I don’t know about you but I like seeing other people’s flaws and failures. Not because I want to gloat and say “see I do better than that” but because I want to come in to some sort of human contact with other parents. I want to see their flaws and errors and yet see their children flower into wonderful people because the they, we, are constantly striving for pure attachment to our children and them to us.

Attraction is an intoxicating thing. I am attracted to many things. It is what makes life so enticing. Smells, tastes, sounds and touch. Those are what drive our human bodies. And then there is something deeper. The underlying spiritual life of every human being. Something has to appeal to one or all of these things to make it attractive to someone.

Promotion can convince someone that something is right but they can just as easily be convinced that it isn’t. I knew a family when I was growing up who was constantly changing their mode of discipline and I mean constantly. Every six months it would be something different. This built confused and frustrated parents and children. Each new mode of discipline was promoted so well that the parents were convinced that this was finally the “right” way to do things.

I personally have been convinced of things through promotion. I mean look at commercials. They work! But it does not mean that they product itself will work in actuality in your or your child’s life. Why? Because promotion is all about putting something in the best light possible even when it is reading off a list of sometimes deadly side-effects. Not only that but I have a theory that many of us like to choose the promoted item because if it does not work it is not our own personal failure but the failure of the promoter to inform us fully or the item to work like we were told it would or anything to avoid personal failure.

Attraction comes with all the bumps and bruises of failure. Sometimes I try things and they just don’t work and I have to go back to the parenting drawing board. The difference is I am taking personal responsibility for the action and success, growth and failure of my parenting life. And hopefully as my life is being refined the fragrance from the constant crushing is smelled by those few and many who will smell it and it will attract them in to a fulfilling, ever-changing, attached life.

Jasmine is a co-housing, home birthing, missions minded, community living mama with a passion for fierce writing. She blogs.

Photo used from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/araswami/2247415251/

Shifting Your Paradigm (or at least your shower time)

Nothing rocks your world quite like becoming a parent. Many of us had not yet mastered the art of taking care of ourselves when we became responsible for another little being. With the coming of new responsibilities is the “going” of our old way of doing things. Some pieces of our old lives are hard to give up, despite the joy that a new baby brings.

What do you find yourself struggling to get back? I remember feeling so defeated as a first-time parent simply because I could not drag my sleep-deprived self out of bed early enough to take a shower before my baby awakened. I work at night and truly need every minute of morning sleep I can get. I finally realized that the days of greeting the world freshly showered, fashionably dressed and with a current hairstyle were temporarily on hold. I always hated showering at night, but found it was the only way to make this new life work. And, after awhile, I came to enjoy scrubbing off a days worth of baby spit-up or the various messes created by a toddler. I shifted my paradigm and it made a world of difference.

Take the MAMA DARE: This is the week to make a change in your life to incorporate at least one thing you find yourself complaining about or longing for. What is it: exercise, a date with your spouse, the mountain of laundry that children mysteriously create? Shift the pattern you’ve gotten yourself into and make the necessary change to fit in (or remove) the source of stress. Your solution does not need to be permanent, but may help you realize that adaptability will become one of your greatest strengths as a parent. As my mother always recites, “This too shall pass.” So shift your current expectations, and make this week work for you in a whole new way.

Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 7. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. Visit her at www.babylovecarebook.com.

Hiding my third day without a shower behind a hat and sunglasses. Even after the birth of baby number three, I'm still working out the kinks.
Hiding my third day without a shower behind a hat and sunglasses. Even after the birth of baby number three, I'm still working out the kinks.
Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

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