No Quick Fix

barbara nicholsonBy Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

If there was ever a true maxim in parenting, this is one to remember: There is no such thing as a quick fix!

Now, that may sound sad or daunting to parents who want some simple tools to raise their children, but it’s important to step back and look at the big picture when we find ourselves opting for quick fixes. If our goal is to raise healthy, happy, compassionate, loving human beings who are responsible citizens of the community, this could be compared to creating a masterpiece in music, art or even some business endeavor.

Can we expect to create a musical masterpiece by ignoring our need to put hours into practicing our instrument, learning theory and listening to other virtuosos in developing our craft?

Each stage of our parenting journey has equal amounts of relief and new challenges. Just when we rejoice that our toddler is out of diapers, he decides to draw us a picture with permanent markers on the newly painted kitchen wall. Just when our teenager gets his driver’s license and we have him run a few errands, he gets in a fender bender in the parking lot of the grocery store.

The parents who look at the big picture can keep their cool: “Remember, this is a teachable moment. What can we all learn from this?” The quick fix answer would be to simply put the toddler in the corner or ground the teenager from driving, but how will that accomplish our long-term goal of a healthy, responsible human being?

Yes, it takes so much more time to get out the cleaning supplies and ask the toddler to help clean the walls, then set up an art corner in the kitchen with appropriate supplies for painting a picture. It also takes more time to give the teenager more instruction in parallel parking and possible restrictions on his driving until he’s more mature. But what incredible opportunities for connection, understanding and empathy!

Once, when my oldest son was a toddler, we had the experience I just described: He found some markers and joyfully created a beautiful mural all over the walls in the freshly painted main hallway of our house. Being a new mom, I was shocked at how strongly I reacted to this.

I was so angry, yet he was so proud and happy. Seeing my reaction, he dissolved into tears and I lacked the maturity and parenting skills to know what to do! I actually left him crying while I called a friend who had older children and whose parenting skills I admired. She wisely told me to get out the cleaning supplies and have him help me, thus beginning my journey into seeing these episodes as teachable moments.

Parents may fear that this is taking away their power, that if they don’t harshly chastise their children, they will not learn a lesson and will then repeat the behavior. But going back to the musical metaphor, what if you were spanked or yelled at every time you made a mistake playing your instrument? Who can learn anything by this kind of treatment?

However, if our instructor — or parent — can patiently demonstrate the correct way to play the song, or clean the wall, or drive the car, then the lesson is deeply understood, often not repeated, and everyone’s dignity remains intact. How can a quick fix compare to that?

Holding Space for Letdown

sand_heart“All I want for my birthday is to go away with Daddy.”

It was months before my daughter’s sixth birthday. Although she had been on many vacations, she never traveled with her dad. My happiness at his agreement to take her away shifted into heartbreak when he decided to plan a trip without her. My only solace in his decision was that his trip overlapped with a vacation I was taking her on.

“Are you kidding me?” It was days before our vacation, and I could feel my eyes burn. As it turned out, his trip would begin when we returned home — he was going to miss her birthday.

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“Am I going to see Daddy when we get home?” Our trip was coming to an end, and it seemed I couldn’t hold out any longer. I sat down to prepare for her reaction and told her the truth.

“It just doesn’t make sense!” Over the next 15 minutes, I could feel a stabbing pain in my chest as her yells slowly became quiet sobs, and she at last settled into my lap. “It just doesn’t make sense. All I wanted for my birthday was to go away with him, and he’s going away without me.” Her voice was practically a whimper.

I pushed back the tiny hairs stuck to her mucus-streaked face. “It doesn’t, my love.” I slowly circled my palm on her back, imagining the bright sun shining on us. “It doesn’t make sense.”

I wiped the tears from my eyes before she could see.

A few days after her birthday, we went for a walk in the neighborhood.

“Does my daddy only think about himself?” she asked, completely unaware of how wise she seemed.

As the pride swelled in my chest, I knew I had to stay calm. I paused, looking up at the sun, letting the warm rays wash over my face. Up until that point, I had assumed it would be years of missed birthdays before she thought his behavior could signify anything other than something fundamentally wrong with her. I felt years of concern slide off my shoulders, confident she was better armed to deal with her father than I ever was.

I considered my options. If I said “yes” I would be disparaging her father — something I was not suppose to do, something I didn’t want to do. But if I said “no,” I would belittle her discovery. I wanted to encourage her to question her father, but I also wanted to honor their relationship and my daughter’s need to navigate it for herself.

“Well,” I said. “I cannot say exactly what goes on in his mind because only he knows for sure.”

I leaned down and look her in the eyes. “But when I look at his actions and the decisions he makes, its the most logical conclusion I can think of.”

“Okay.” She smiled happily and skipped off singing, recovering from the conversation in a way only a 6 year old can.

Time passed, and she was going to her father’s house. Before leaving, she cried to me that she didn’t want to go. I wanted to encourage her to stay. I wanted to keep her from him, but I knew that it wasn’t my place. As her mother, it is not my job to keep her from her father. Its my job to give her what she needs to heal and let go. I told her I would miss her, too.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Her eyes glazed over, and she smiled with joy at their reunion. He greeted her with a loving embrace. She grabbed his hand tight, clinging to the connection she desperately wanted. I followed behind them for a moment, smiling.

Then I said goodbye and began to prepare the space within me that my daughter would need for her next letdown.

An Unexpected Evening Out with Our Son

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

barbaranicholsonYou never know when a precious family memory will start out as a seeming disaster!

Many years ago, my husband and I had been planning a special evening out with his boss. I bought a new dress and carefully arranged childcare with a trusted family friend. The plan was that I would drop off our boys ages 7, 5 and 2, and then come home for a leisurely bath, so we’d have plenty of time to get ready.

For some reason, our 5-year-old son did not want to be left that night. He worried about it all day, but I kept reassuring him that he’d have so much fun, we’d only be gone a few hours, and that Mommy and Daddy would spend some special time with him the next day.

I finally got them all in the car, but as I was pulling away from the curb, I looked back to see that he was still very distressed and begged me to let him stay home. Impulsively, he ran back into the house and I followed, asking my husband to talk to him, as I had no choice but to take the other boys to the sitter. I dreaded the scene when I returned home, thinking that they would both be upset, and my husband would be stressed about what to do. We were going to a very exclusive restaurant that did not cater to children, so I wondered if we’d have to cancel.

I will never forget the joy on my son’s face when I came back in the house. My husband had dressed him in his Sunday best suit, and they were both looking so handsome. They had talked through the problem and decided that if it was this traumatic to be left, and if he was willing to go to a grown-up event and sit quietly in the restaurant, we would let him go with us. Of course, he was an angel that night and all the guests couldn’t get over his maturity and sweetness.

I remember how it felt so right to listen to him and find a positive solution that kept all of our dignity intact. And I will always be grateful to my husband for trusting that our son’s needs came above a dinner out with the boss!

Why?

1208353_15473770“Why mama?”

Two huge brown eyes looked up at me, searching for answers. I stopped stirring and put down the spoon.

“Because it is hot, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Acceptance. There was no drama, no bargaining or rewards. Only contentment, pure and simple.

For me, “Why?” is one of the most treasured words that Little Bean utters. I adore it because it represents her questioning, perceptive nature. But more than this, it makes me stop stirring and put down the spoon. It makes me look–strike that, it makes me FALL–headfirst into those deep, pool-like eyes and truly connect in the moment. In our moment.

“Why?” is perhaps one of the most symbolic words of childhood, one of the most representative questions of innocence. What if we choose to view our child’s questioning outlook as the gift that it is? What if we accept it as an invitation to see the world through new eyes? Because, wow, what a view we get!

We get to watch as our baby, the one we cradled and dressed in tiny booties, pieces together her own picture of the world. The answers may seem obvious to us, but each “Why?” that we answer becomes another crucial piece of her puzzle. We also get to update, recreate and polish our own picture of the world. Because no matter how much I teach Little Bean, no matter how much I show her and share with her about life, she will always, without question, teach and show me more.

There are times when I am busily racing through our daily tasks or appointments and I hear a little voice asking, “Why, Mama?” Sometimes these moments stop me in my tracks. There are times when I hear an easy-yet-empty answer run through my head, yet I cannot utter the words because I realise that they are nothing more than a prettified version of, “Because I said so.”

It is in these moments that I stop, humbled by the lesson that my toddler has inadvertently just delivered to me: why not? Why not take a moment to look Little Bean in the eye and answer her question carefully and with consideration?

Why not wear a summer hat with a winter coat? Why not take four stuffed toys along for the ride? Why not sing nursery rhymes at full volume whilst walking down the street?

Because when it comes to our children, their wants, their needs and their questions, why not just put down the spoon and stop stirring?

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Choose Compassion

API-EmailProductIt’s likely, as a reader of the APtly Said blog, you’ve done it. You looked at the world, at families, at children, and said, “I choose compassion.”

In choosing compassion, you really have made so many choices. A choice to become educated about parenting and prepare to welcome your child into the world; a choice to try to respond with sensitivity to your child and others; a choice to be present with your child and nurture your child’s health and emotional well-being; and a choice to live out compassion in many other ways that are intentional and meaningful to you. You practice compassion. Now here is a chance to wear it.

Selfless apparel approached API to say they have a mission to help nonprofits, and they want to support our mission. As their charity beneficiary, we are excited to have teamed up with them to bring you the “Choose Compassion” campaign.

Beautifully designed by their talented team, a Choose Compassion shirt represents so much opportunity!

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  • Wearing your Choose Compassion shirt means you helped to financially sustain and develop parenting support networks benefiting caregivers and children.
  • It represents a chance to create awareness about Attachment Parenting every time someone compliments you, asks what it means to you, or asks where you purchased it.
  • It encourages the volunteer Leaders, staff, donors, and all those freely giving their time on behalf of others.
  • It generates a connection and supports a movement as together we take this one week to visibly Choose Compassion in unison.

Already we have reached our initial goal, and we are thrilled! We thank those who have made purchases and who’ve been so complimentary about the campaign.

But let’s do something extraordinary. Just visit the site and check out the shirts–see if you can help us push beyond to a new goal. Each shirt represents so much more than clothing each time you wear it–together we are all choosing compassion.

API-Female-Scoop-Royal-541There are two more days to purchase your shirt or purchase gifts before the campaign is over. We hope you will seize the moment and show your support. After that? Wear your shirt, continue to support the movement for compassionate parenting and raising children with healthy, secure attachment, and make a difference in your home and in the world.

Thank you for your support!

Purchased your shirt? Remember the API 2013 Annual Appeal, vital for meeting its 2014 budget, and consider your donation today.

The Gift Is You

This post was written by TheAttachedFamily.com contributor Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling, www.sunnybrookcounseling.com.

Many parents I see in my counseling office are spending thousands of dollars on a variety of technological devices for their children each year–gaming systems, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.–while the children, who are displaying maladaptive behaviors and internal turmoil, are truly missing the parents themselves. Kidnapped by technology and the busyness of life, these parents and children often do not even realize what is happening to them until an outside source brings the truth to their attention.

1092533_41672492The best gift you can give your child is yourself. Living in a split-attention society, many children have rarely experienced the full, uninterrupted attention of a parent. We are so wrapped up in culture, jobs and keeping up with the Joneses that we have forgotten that the true meaning of life is connection. What we all want and need is true connection: connection with life, nature, our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. If you want best gift shop contact to Shield Republic Co-founder.

Whether married or co-parenting, single parenting or fostering, mothers and fathers have the choice to model healthy, forgiving, mutually respectful relationships full of unconditional positive regard to enhance their family life. This creates an atmosphere where the children feel safe to receive the attention and care they need. True lasting security and positive relational skills are given parent to child, not Xbox to child.

Give your child the gifts of security and well-being that come from your time and undivided attention. Turn off the phone, television and computer. Go for a walk. Play with Play-Doh. Cook a meal. Play a round of Crazy Eights. Camp in the backyard. Have 5 minutes of special playtime where you paint fingernails, throw a football or teach a hand-clap game like “Say Say, Little Playmate.” Laugh. Play in the leaves. Smartphones can also make excellent holiday gifts, but purchasing one for someone other than yourself is more complicated than shopping for other gadgets. Unlike a tablet or a new camera, a smartphone requires a service plan to use any voice or data features — otherwise you wind up with a very expensive paperweight. In some cases, you won’t even be able to leave the store or complete your online order until you get that angle set up. And beyond just being an additional expense, that service may require a long-term commitment. There’s no reason to stress, though because there are many online mobile store here to help you.

Get in touch with the child within you. Let it be OK–because it is OK. You are connecting with the child Love placed in your care, and there is no richness greater than that. You are their leader. They are following you, watching you, learning from you. It is worth the time, the frustrations, the joys and the sorrows. Feel the fullness of your feelings and, at the end of the day, fall in your bed exhausted with a heart full of gratitude for the richness of life, as you live in the blend of the beautiful and the challenging.

Children are truly a treasure and the greatest gift you can give them is you.

Click here to read API’s white paper on giving children presence.

 

They Swam and They Swam All Over the Dam

As we finished putting dinner on the table tonight, my two-year old burst into hysterical tears. It was the kind of cry that happens when he’s injured or very scared. My best friend Jocelyn and her daughter are staying with us this week and they were in the dining room with Cavanaugh but neither of them had any idea what had happened. Jocelyn held Cavanaugh while he sobbed and when he’d finished crying, he wanted to draw. I asked if he’d hit his head or if he’d slipped trying to get up in his chair, but he only hugged me tighter. He refused to sit at the dining table with us. We brought one of his little tables and a chair into the dining room and he drew while my husband sat across from him and offered him food. Cavanaugh wouldn’t eat.

Continue reading “They Swam and They Swam All Over the Dam”

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