Unconditional love

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day and were able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

lisa fiertag 2My daughters are two of the most amazing teachers I have ever been around. Every day, I feel grateful to have them in my life and for the many ways they shower me with unconditional love.

My children have gifted me with the opportunity to open my heart, as I have learned that love can be felt and expressed without anything attached to it.

Before having children, I disliked change and I craved structure, schedules, and predictability. I never thought that motherhood would challenge all of these needs. Through the gift of unconditional love, I found myself willing to surrender to the present moment and to embrace change. I realized that the more I tried to control my children, the more we struggled, but when I was flexible, all the structure came down and each one of us could rest in the beauty of what we were doing.

Lisa Feiertag_Mothers DayAlong the way, I saw that there is a path that each of my daughters will take, and while I am a part of their journey, it is not mine to own nor is it static in any way, shape, or form. It is a fluid, ever-changing, and evolving road that is based on their individual needs, emotions, and wants. When I am in recognition of this, then there is a flow that allows each moment to unfold exactly as it is meant to, and I don’t have to hold the energy to make it happen, because no matter what I do it is going to happen.

I can relax. I can enjoy. I can breathe, and I can trust that what my children are experiencing is perfect and that they both know that I am available to guide, support, and witness all of it.

Both of my daughters have invited me into one of the most emotionally intimate relationships that exist between two people. What I have learned is that in order to be completely available to both of them, I have to be willing and open to look deeply inside myself — to welcome all of the good and not-so-great qualities that have made me who I am today. When I do this, then I am owning what has arisen for me on my path so that I am not projecting it onto theirs. I am examining all the hard emotions and sticky thoughts that I have held onto for one reason or another.

When I look into the eyes of my children I can see a reflection staring back at me that trusts that I will be available…that I will take care of them…that I will do the work that is needed to surrender into me, into the moment, into who they are so that I am present for each of them to blossom into the great teachers that they are and will continue to become.

Trusting that everything is happening exactly as it is going to and that I will know what to do in each moment is a lesson that I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. From the unconditional love my daughters offer me, I am at peace with who I am, and I offer this love back to both of them so that they may be held and supported in all that they do while they grow into the beautiful humans that they are.

Transformed by their love

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

I am humbled by the love I see in my children’s eyes, by their desire to show me who they are again and again. “Look, Mom, look at me!” they say with their words and with their bright faces turned to catch my eyes.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have been softened by their unwavering sureness of our bond. I have learned to forgive myself so that I can be forgiving. I have learned to be patient with myself so that I can be patient with them. I have learned to value the process over the product because of them. I have learned to live in this moment right now — full of joy or tears or peals of laughter — because of them.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have worked to let go of old fears because of them. I have worked to resolve my anger because of them. I have learned to communicate my feelings because of them. I have delved into my creativity because of them. I have let myself be loved truly, deeply and without measure.

I have been transformed by their love.

A mother’s love story

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

As this year’s Mother’s Day was approaching, I found that I was thrilled to spend time with my kids. I actively left the day free of scheduled activities so that we could be fully engaged together doing whatever came up that we enjoy. But with this excitement, there was also a touch of grief and sadness as I recognized that last year my mother passed away just a few days after Mother’s Day.

I didn’t always have the best relationship with my mother, as there were many challenges. My mother had a mental illness that kept her emotionally unavailable at times. Her symptoms often caused strain and hardships, and her ability to parent me was impacted.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was terrified as I didn’t want to parent in the same way I had experienced from my childhood. A few months after giving birth to my oldest daughter, I found my way to API. I was tremendously relieved to find an organization that offered language around what I was doing instinctively. I knew I needed to know more about each of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. I wanted to learn as much as possible, because I understood that I was stepping into unknown territory.

My parents did the best they could with the information they had at the time. My mother shared her love with me the only way she knew how and the only way her mind and body would allow her to.

Finding my way to API was a gift in that I was now given the opportunity to gather information that was not available to my parents. I could raise my children within an attached framework, while also sharing with my parents the knowledge I was absorbing. As I became more confident in my parenting skills, I was able to express to my mother the many reasons why I was doing what I was doing with my daughters. She began to understand and would often share how she wished she had this information when I was a baby.

She would comment to me on how lovely my daughters were and how they were growing up into beautiful, young ladies. She knew that I held a connection with my daughters that we did not share, and I could feel her sadness around this grief — her wishing things could have been different when she was a young mother.

lisa feiertag her motherMy mother’s death has allowed me insight into who she was as a person and why she did things the way she did. I have found that even the things I thought were unfair or done differently than I would have liked were also being held with as much love as she could offer in that moment. Her love was shown in many different ways.

As I sat with my mother in May of 2014, I asked her what she wanted her family to know after she passed. She began by telling me a brief story about each of her siblings, my father, my brothers, my sister and me, but she stopped herself before she could finish and she looked at me. She told me to forget all those stories and to forget everything she mentioned. She told me to tell everyone that the only thing that mattered was love and that, no matter what had happened in the past, she loved each and every one of us.

It was in that moment that I knew my mother loved me.

How does Attachment Parenting inspire you?

Inspired Parents cover_Page_01Parenting is inspirational.

Our children motivate us to become better role models, to move past our childhood hurts and to find new ways to nurture and guide our children.

Mothers and fathers who have discovered Attachment Parenting (AP) find that their creative geniuses come alive as they question the status quo and dare to do something different than the cultural norm — to have warm, nurturing relationships centered on compassion and respect.

A boost of creativity is channeled directly into families, as parents strive to improve their relationships with their children, their spouses and partners, even their communities.

Just allowing themselves the freedom to think outside the box is enough for many parents to open new worlds of possibilities throughout their lives, within and beyond parenting. For many parents, this boost in creative energy spills over into a desire to reach out to other families to provide support and education about Attachment Parenting.

Many parents find their outlet in writing. Our journeys into motherhood and fatherhood, personal growth and change in perspective — not to mention, any of our individual interactions with our children — combine to make for some great writing material, as parenting bloggers can attest.

In the latest issue of The Attached Family, we celebrate “Inspired Parents” with features on:

We hope that this issue of The Attached Family will inspire you to open up your potential for creative parenting problem-solving in your home. And perhaps if time and inspiration allow, you may choose share your experiences with APtly Said, API’s blog by parents for parents.

Writing not your thing?

AP parents may also find their creative outlet in becoming accredited in API Leadership and facilitating local API Support Groups. Others choose to volunteer with Attachment Parenting International (API) on national and international projects. Many become an API Member for free or donate a small amount to become involved as an AP Advocate. Like-minded professionals have the opportunity to join the API Professional Associate program. There are so many options to choose from when getting involved with API.

Loving one another in anger

LeyaniRedditiI feel a lot of love in my house.

But there are conflicts, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. I know we are on a journey together to love each other the best we can — to forgive and accept, and to challenge ourselves to feel our feelings without hurting others with our actions or words.

This is a big challenge for me, having grown up with a parental mandate to be happy. If I wasn’t happy, my parents became annoyed or angry. So strong feelings went inside.

I want my children to express their feelings — all of them — and I want us to be a family that shows respect and kindness. So how to manage the moments when the feelings come out and they are hurtful?

“You gave me a broken lollipop!” screams one child at the other. “Well, I didn’t know!” the other yells back, tears welling up in both their eyes.

What do I do as a parent who wants to validate emotions, live in an environment where strong feelings are OK and model communication that is not hurtful?

My instincts from childhood direct me to snap at my children to shut down the yelling. I feel my anger rising in response to theirs. I just want them to be happy! I feel annoyed that they are not.

I have a moment of empathy for my parents. I am chilled, knowing how easy it is to repeat the cycles we grow up with even when we did not thrive in them and do not want to repeat them.

So I stop myself from saying anything in the moment. I pause and breathe.

My children are each sniffling in the back seat, one with her hands over her face and the other staring at a book. We are in the driveway, about to drive away from the house. I turn off the engine, and we just sit for a moment.

This is my chance to change the cycle. This is my chance to do it differently. If I really believe that how I deal with conflict helps them learn to deal with conflict, then this moment is important.

I take another breath and think about myself as a kid and what I would have liked my parents to say and do when I was angry, hurt and frustrated. And the answer? Hugs, empathy, help expressing my feelings, reassurance and a gentle, strong presence that told me it’s all going to be OK.

The truth shall not only set you free…

gordonsIt will hopefully save you and make a difference for someone else.

As children, we do our best to navigate through this world with the guidance and support of our parents and/or loved ones. As parents, we give all of our love and do our best to nurture and guide our children.

It was through my reflection of the experiences I had as a child that I clearly envisioned the parent I would become upon giving birth. My natural instinct to follow Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, which I didn’t even know had names until years later, aligned with what we call Attachment Parenting today. Here is a glimpse into part of what I believe truly makes a difference each day as a parent and how so much of what we experience, from the moment we are born, becomes part of our foundation:

Fourteen days ago, I was painfully aching over the well-being of my little sister whom I love more than I can express. Fourteen days ago, she made a brave decision to save herself by asking for help. Fourteen days ago, she was given another chance to live. Fourteen days ago, I saw hope for the first time in many years.

On New Year’s Day, she unequivocally shared her reality through greetings and wishes, via Facebook…from Palm Springs rehab and it went amazing, they helped me a lot.

I couldn’t be more proud of her uninhibited proclamation or her courage. When we last saw each other, we both expressed a need to share truth in order to relate and connect with others.

Not many truly know the pain or challenges we each endure throughout our lives. We are all simply trying to find our way, and we’re fortunate if we connect with someone, anyone, who hears us or truly “gets” us.

Even then, it still may feel like we’re alone a lot of the time. We may isolate and believe that isolation is the best and only option. It isn’t.

I am so thankful my sister reached out to all of us. I am so happy to witness the outpouring of love and support she is receiving from everyone.

My sister and I grew up in the same home, yet our experiences were very different. When our parents began their lengthy, heart-rending, grievous dance toward divorce, it took many years with much instability and left my brothers, my sister and me with unanswered questions and doubts about our place in this world. The anguish and uncertainty manifested in different ways for each of us, and still does.

As I witness others, including myself, suffering from residual damage leftover from childhood, I am constantly reminded how important and necessary it is to candidly express and connect in order to be heard in some way…even if it’s only to hear our own thoughts and voices clearly.

I have always walked through my life with compassion and love in my heart. I profoundly experience what others feel as we briefly cross paths in this precious life. I am touched by your joy. I am saddened by your despair. I relate to your longing. I want you to know I hear you. I see you. I feel you. As I pass you on the street, as we make eye contact for one second in time, as we come together for reasons we may or may not understand, as we detach and reconnect…I am grateful for my existence. I am grateful for yours.

My sister and I have always shared a deep desire and need to seek out the meaning of life and our purpose here. We’ve traveled different paths along the way, and various answers have been revealed over the years. One thread that always seems to weave through it all is a common yearning for the few simple things I always speak of: To be heard, to be understood, to be loved.

As I go through each day, it becomes clearer that these needs form the basis of our relationships and all of the choices we make in our lives, and whether or not these needs get fulfilled, dictates the outcomes. We were all born with this awareness and longing, and as adults, we can powerfully shift direction for the next generations. We can be positive examples by listening with patience and by accepting and loving people for who they truly are.

We will undoubtedly have our flaws. We will most certainly make mistakes. We are still and always worthy of love.

As I often say and will continue to do so, listening is loving. If you listen without judgment, you will hear what someone so desperately wants and needs you to hear. If we were all truly heard and understood from birth, life would be a very different experience.

There are many things we may keep locked up. There are many things we may believe no one understands. There are many times we may feel alone. If we can be the person who takes the time to listen and understand another, we will make a difference in that person’s life. If you take the time to look into my eyes and hear me, you will make a difference in mine.

My wish for each of us is to believe that with love and support, anything is possible. We may have our stories, our beliefs, our fears, our truth. We may believe we have a right to our resentments, our anger, our strong-hold grip on what we cannot or will not let go of. We have a right to all of it. It is ours. What is also ours, is the choice to be love. To act with love. To open ourselves up to receiving love. To letting go. To moving forward. To living and appreciating each and every breath we take.

Another year has passed. Although I am intensely present to each moment, it still goes by too quickly. Through the challenging times, the magical moments and the many phases of change, I am thankful for the growth, a new day and the gift of being surrounded by the greatest loves of my life.

I wish you all a healthy, loving, inspiring and miraculous New Year.

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