Our Deepest Attachments

Written by Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, the Center for Attachment Parenting in Israel, www.lifecenter.org.il

We are often not aware of our deepest attachments until they are no longer with us. But sometimes we get the chance to have a glimpse of the profound nature of our attachment to those who matter most to us, and us to them.

Recently my older sister was told by her doctor that she needed immediate open heart surgery, and arrangements were made quickly for her hospitalization. In her usual optimistic and humorous spirit, my sister put on her lipstick, and with her dimpled smile waved to the family members who accompanied her down the hospital corridor, wishing them a long, happy life, while her youngest daughter filmed her with her digital camera.

I saw this part of my sister’s hospitalization only afterwards on the camera, for I was busy getting lost trying to find my way to the hospital. I could feel my frustration growing stronger as I hopelessly circled the same traffic circle trying to find the right exit. I was living the metaphor that explains where our frustration goes once it enters our system, and I knew that mine would finally find its way out in tears. I finally pulled my car over to the side of the road so I could collect myself and have a good cry.

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Of course it wasn’t the getting lost that made me cry, but it was the trigger I needed to cry over the fear of losing my sister. She is the sister who took care of me. When I was little, she made faces with the food on my plate so I’d eat it; she gave me rides on the handlebars of her bicycle; she helped me with my homework; she taught me the answers to trivia questions, and we made tape recordings of our Q-and-A sessions together; she made up the best stories and created little dolls for me out of scraps of material to illustrate the stories. She was my shield, my protector. She kept me out of harm’s way.

Because she cared for me and gave me an open invitation to exist in her presence, I kept my tears and soft heart. My mind was flooded with the memories of our lives together, and I wanted to have her forever. The thought of anything else was too much to bear.

I sat through the surgery and prayed, and finally, seven hours later, I was told I could go to the recovery room. Her eyes were closed, and she was attached to tubes and wires, surrounded by the modern miracle of medical machinery for which perhaps for the first time I felt truly grateful. Her lipstick was still on, and I found a way to hold her hand without disturbing the equipment that was helping her body stabilize.

Thank G-d, she began to recover quickly and was out of pain. And now I have been given another gift–the hours we can spend together as she rests and recovers. But the hands on the clock relentlessly move ahead. I want to stay longer, and I have to leave.

We cling to each other with our hearts when I move to go. We are so aware of our being so deeply rooted in each other and that we 1206728_21045799can’t stop time from the inevitable futility of the physical world. We have but to cherish each day we have with each other; express our love and caring; find a way to forgive both the small annoyances and the big hurts; give our time and our hearts generously; remember what is truly important. It is then that we remain at peace with our relationships for eternity.

You Made Me a Mom

Attachment Parenting International wishes mothers everywhere a Happy Mother’s Day!

 

I was chatting with a very pregnant friend the other day. After we discussed logistics and baby boy clothes she said. “I just want my daughter to know that she is still special to me.”

My friend got tears in her eyes and I remembered so clearly feeling the same way when expecting my second child. “Tell her she made you a mom,” I said remembering a recent moment with my first born when this idea occurred to me. I’d been trying to figure out how to let her know that she and I have something special without making comparisons or diminishing my bond with her little sister.

“You made me a mom,” I said to my older daughter that evening at bedtime. She snuggled into my hug and looked at me with a quiet smile. “I was waiting for you for a long time,” I continued. “And I couldn’t wait to meet you.”

“Tell me about when I was born,” she said and I repeated the well worn story of how she was feet down head up because she wanted to run into the world. She laughed as she always does. I told her again how I could feel her head tucked up against my ribs and she placed her hand on the spot.

I sang her the lullaby I learned in the hospital and she melted.

“I’m so glad to see you, I’m so glad to hear you, I love you, I love you.” Her breathing became deep and regular and I kissed the top of her head. “Thank you,” I whispered, “for making me a mom.”

Helping Older Kids Adjust to a New Baby

My older son was 2 years and 8 months old when his little brother was born.  I’d agonized for a long time about child spacing, and was worried about how Sol (my first born) would handle the addition to the family.  We’re 3 months into being a family of 4 and I’ve learned a lot that has made the transition much smoother than I expected.  So I’d like to share a little list of things I wish I’d known before baby Ezra was born. (With some pictures of the new brothers thrown in for good measure.)  A lot of these might be obvious, but they weren’t to me, and have helped maintain peace in our house!

1. Talk about the new baby a lot before they are born!  Around the time I really started showing and going to midwife appointments more often (probably around 28 weeks) we started reading a book that lined up with what our little guy was going to experience.  We planned to deliver in the hospital and to breastfeed.  There are lots of great books out there for families planning to homebirth, too!  We also made sure to choose an age appropriate book.  We changed the name of the baby in the book to Ezra and read that thing Every. Single. Day.  We talked about family members and friends who had recently had babies, pointed out little babies in the grocery store, and watched videos online of babies cooing and nursing and sleeping.  When the day came for Ezra to be born I had labored most of the night and knew we’d be going to the hospital sometime that day.  We told Sol it was time for Ezra to be born and he got to pack his bag for his Aunt’s house.  He remembered that we were going to the hospital and that we would call him when Ezra was born.  He knew he would get to play with his cousins and eat cookies and have a sleepover.  And he knew that we’d ‘Be right back.  Sol hold baby Ezra.’

2.  Let the older sibling help with the baby.  At first I didn’t really want Sol to help hold Ezra, or help change his diaper, or help give him a bath.  I was worried he would hurt him on accident.  I also wanted him to just enjoy his brother, not do the ‘work’ part of having a baby in the house.  Then I realized that ‘helping’ with the baby was very meaningful for Sol.  It made him feel proud of himself and more connected to Ezra.  It also helped him do something WITH mommy, instead of mommy doing even more without him.  So I made it work.  It took a little extra effort and patience, but it was worth it.  I taught Sol where our cloth diaper stash is and let him bring me one every time he wanted to.  I moved from a rocking chair to the couch for nursing the baby, so that Sol could sit right there with us.  We practiced bouncing Ezra together in his bouncy seat and talked about how babies only like to be bounced gently and not too fast.  I let Sol get in the tub with me and the baby and wash him gently with a cloth.  And now he is such a great big brother.  He tells people who come up to see the new baby to ‘Only touch him gently!”  And as soon as Ezra so much as makes a fussy sounding peep Sol runs to find my nursing pillow.  I don’t require him to do anything, but his natural expression of love and interest in the new baby is to help.

3.  Put your older child higher on your ‘to do’ list.  My first thoughts when Ezra would go down for a nap went a little something like this: “Okay, I need to get the laundry switched or we are going to run out of diaper inserts in the middle of the night.  I’ve got to get online for a few minutes and pay that bill.  And then I need to make a grocery list so hubby can go to the store for me tonight.  And then I need to sit down and drink a big glass of water.  Oh! I should probably call my mom, too, she needs an update on the baby.”  Sol would have been occupying himself so beautifully and using his words all day instead of melting down and I would totally skip over him when I had a baby-free minute!  He was being so great, that it was easy to just let him keep doing his thing.  But I found that this ended in disaster for Sol in the end.  He would run out of patience, get angry at Ezra for monopolizing mom, and act out to get the attention he really needed.  So now whenever Ezra goes down for a nap  the first thing I do is something with Sol.  We sit and read some books.  We wrestle for awhile.  We get out the paint and get messy.  We make banana bread together to surprise Dad when he gets home from work.  Sometimes we just sit together on the porch and watch the cars go by.  I am never going to look back on these years with two young children and say “Man, I wish I had kept up with the laundry better.”

4.  Get out of the house!  When Ezra was born I had pretty much everything I needed.  I had kept Sol’s baby clothes and diapers, my sister in law had handed down her bassinet, etc.  So instead of buying me more baby stuff I didn’t really need, my mom bought us a big sandbox and sand toys.  She set it up when she came to visit after Ezra was born.  That thing has been such a life saver!  After Sol’s nap we go out there and he plays with his trucks and buckets in the sand and I put Ezra in the bouncy seat in the shade right by us.  Sometimes I pretend to make a sand pizza and gobble it up with Solomon, sometimes I sit quietly and guzzle an ice water, and sometimes I even (gasp!) make a phone call.  Some days we walk over to a little park by our house.  I put Ezra in the sling and let Sol go wild with the other kids.  We have a snack and look at bugs and Ezra sleeps through the whole thing.  Getting out of the house makes the day go faster, preserving my patience and sanity, and it also gets us fresh air and a little exercise.

5. Date your older kid.  Solomon and I have started doing swim lessons twice a week.  It’s just a little half-hour parent-toddler class at our local rec center, nothing expensive or intense.  Basically just play time in the pool while teaching basic swimming skills like blowing bubbles.  I leave Dad and Ezra at home, and sometimes Sol and I even grab an ice cream cone after.  I nurse Ezra right before we go and he usually sleeps for a couple hours.  So Sol and I get some giggly one-on-one time, Dad gets some much needed time alone to check football recruiting news, and Ezra doesn’t even notice.  My husband, Levi has been taking Sol out to his favorite park for an hour or two on Sunday mornings.  They dig in the sand and get nice a tuckered out for a good long nap.  Sol loves the time with just Dad and no baby.  I love the leisure of reading a book 30 minutes IN A ROW!  And everyone is much happier for it.

6. Find time for yourself.  This is linked to #5 somewhat.  You are filling up the love-cups of two little people now.  You need time to recharge.  You need time to stare at Pinterest mindlessly.  You need to meet up with a friend sans kids for a smoothie.  I was totally amazed at what a half an hour trip to the coffee shop with a good book did for my energy and outlook on life.  Even if your partner or a friend can just take the kids to play in the back yard for half an hour.  It is necessary for your sanity!

I know all you parents out there of more than one kiddo have some stellar advice and ideas, too!  Enlighten me!  How did you make the transition from 1 to 2 or from 2 to 3 easier?  How do you make time for a special one-on-one with your older kids?  Will it get easier or harder as “baby Ezra” turns into “walker Ezra” turns into “3 year old Ezra”?

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.

Maintaining Attachment Parenting As They Grow & Become Big Siblings…

My 20-month-old daughter is very easy to parent. Okay, well, that’s not entirely true. She’s aptly-nicknamed “Aurora the Destroyer” for her desire to explore and investigate, and her physical and mental abilities to not only climb to higher places, but figure out how to position things to climb to even higher places. But her needs, those are still simple. In her universe, most problems are still limited to being hungry, tired, dry, or bored, and most solutions are limited to food, a diaper or a breast.

My son Rowan, on the other hand, will be 7 in April, and he’s the one I struggle with. As a toddler, he was less physically draining but much more emotional than his sister, and that’s carried on into childhood. To compound things, he is in first grade with a less-than-emotionally respectful teacher, he’s a big brother, and I work from home as well. And of course, with age comes much more complex problems, and naturally, more complex solutions. With his emotional tendencies also comes some emotional outbursts — from him and me.

Being an Attachment Parent to babies and toddlers is very simple, and logically, you’re setting the groundwork then for childhood and adolescence, but maintaining the same relationship gets tougher and tougher. As we know, you can never be perfect at parenting — as your child always grows and changes, your parenting does as well. With a toddler, a job, and an upcoming move, I often feel like my changes as a parent, my growth alongside his has fallen behind, and we’re butting heads and struggling more with maintaining positive discipline and respect, both towards him and from him.

However, every time I start thinking, “What have I done wrong? Did I break our relationship?” I also stop and think, “What am I DOING wrong?” Then, the basics become clear again. Regardless of age, some things still stand true:

1. You have to stop and listen to their needs. The more distanced you are from them, the more complicated figuring them out will be. Also, the bigger they are, the more aware they are of whether or not you’re really listening and caring. Sometimes you’re going to need to have someone remove the little sibling from the room or wait for a nap so your child can really know all the attention is on them, and only them. But of course, as long as you follow through, nothing is wrong with letting your child know you need to wait until ___ time, and then you’ll sit down and talk.

2. You have to accept that you aren’t always going to be perfect… and neither are they. Sometimes you’re going to suck. Sometimes you will be really distracted, concentrating hard on something, and will say something in a less-than-ideal manner… and chances are, your kid will respond in kind. A very important lesson for you to learn is that there’s no erasing mistakes, but there’s learning from them. In fact, almost as important as what you do the first time is how you handle things when you’re patching them up.

3. Remember the behavior is only a symptom. Just like with infants, you still need to remember that they did whatever they did, or didn’t do, for a reason, and that’s what you need to figure out. Getting down at their level, with a sympathetic face and tone, is very important, but so is respecting when they’re not ready to talk. Nothing irritated me more as a child than trying to walk away so I could calm down and being followed, which leads me to…

4. Respect their autonomy. Allowing children to have a space that’s theirs, and letting them have it as somewhere they can request to be alone is invaluable. If you’ve been respectful and open and available with your child, they’ll start becoming independent all on their own, and with that comes the request for certain autonomy, like being able to have a space of their own that a sibling can’t destroy. If Rowan is annoyed with Aurora, he knows his room is a place he can do things without her interference.

5. Try to make as much time just for them. This one is particularly difficult in my household as childcare isn’t readily available or desirable for us, but even just playing a game with my son while she’s napping or nursing can make all the difference.

Overall, the general mantra is: Be patient, be present and be respectful. Life can really start making things difficult, but the longer you let the distance grow, the worse things will get. Taking the time, even when you feel you don’t have it, so close that gap again is so, so important.

What do you feel is most important when dealing with older children?

Numero Dos: Sharing The Love.


As the date of our big move from the U.S. to Canada approaches and we shuffle from one generous friend’s abode to another, this pregnancy, the little growing one all snug in my tummy, often seems to take a back seat (not in the back of our Volkswagen Golf, but in the back of a very long bus)–which makes me a little sad. Aside from the slowly, and finally, dissipating constant nausea and fatigue, my little tummy buddy hasn’t gotten much air time in any sense of the word over these last 13 weeks.

I can remember the last time I shared my body. It was a little over two years ago. From the day that joyous pink line appeared across the plastic pee stick, little Noah Finn was all that I could think about despite the fact that I was working everyday. I woke up and thought pregnancy, I peed (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I taught and thought pregnancy, I ate (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I slept (very little) and dreamed pregnancy. My growing abdomen was always on my mind.

This time is definitely different. Running after a bouncing, bounding, boisterous toddler while volleying between temporary living situations has certainly captivated the time that I don’t spend eating and sleeping. The fact of the matter is that constant urges to snack and slumber aside, I often forget that I’m pregnant.

What does all of this mean? Is it normal? I am betting so. But it certainly does recall those initial pangs of subtle trepidation I first experienced when pregnancy test number two revealed yet again that solid pink line: sharing the love. How does a mama who has experienced everything about mommying–pregnancy, birth, mothering–with one child not feel guilt about sharing such sacredness with another? It feels almost like cheating on the first.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. But, these are real anxieties, that while slowly fading as the months tick away, remain present nonetheless.

So, how does a mommy share the love–that smothering, doting, gooey love that’s gushed all over the first with the second and subsequent bundles of joy? Will my little Noah feel shortchanged and left out the decision making process–after all, he had no vote here!? Will he harbor feelings of abandonment and isolation, regress and insist on learning the alphabet Z thru A?

Think I’m being melodramatic, again? Perhaps. But these are tangible fears that I sometimes think about. That is, when I remember I’m pregnant anyway.

Making Unique Rules for Unique Children

I spent the last nine days worrying and praying for my 19-year-old niece who was hospitalized again for a problem stemming from her kidney disease, despite taking early precaution and being on chanca piedra stone-breaking pills. Her strength and stamina are inspiring, her tears are gut-wrenching and her journey is still an uphill climb. One realization for all of us this week is that she can never live by the same rules enjoyed by her peers. While most collegians survive on pizza and experiment with alcohol, my niece can get sick from too little sleep and too much stress. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance of keeping her body healthy. She must adhere to very different rules and regulations. Continue reading “Making Unique Rules for Unique Children”

Wearing a Toddler

My son Jacob is 22 months old. He loves to run and climb and jump and throw balls and all those things that toddlers do. He is no longer the babe in arms that he was for the first months of my life, carried from place to place by others. Today, he motors under his own steam and heads in his own direction.

I have been practicing babywearing with Jacob since he was a few days old. He is my second child – his big sister Hannah is 3 1/2 years older than he is. Babywearing was one of the tricks in my parenting toolbag that helped me meet the needs of both children. When Jacob was small he was frequently worn in a sling or mei tai as I took Hannah to the library or to the park. He came along for the ride wherever we went and I was like a walking billboard for babywearing.

Hannah trying the BecoI still wear Jacob regularly. It’s not the same as when he was little, of course. These days he’s not content to nap on my back while his big sister plays on the playground. He wants to get down and engage with the world. But when he’s having a hard time falling asleep, or when he needs to nap while I do other things, babywearing saves the day. Secure in the carrier he sleeps better than most anywhere else. And I know exactly where he is, and feel confident that he is safe and comfortable.

There are some tricks to wearing a toddler. Having a sturdy baby carrier that will safely bear your child’s weight is always important, but your options change as your child gets bigger. An exuberant toddler can really wiggle, so you have to make sure they’re secure enough that they won’t fall out when they suddenly decide to throw themselves to the left. You’re also working around a much bigger child, not a small bundle curled up in a sling – which is why I usually put Jacob on my back.

Babywearing hasn’t become uncomfortable for me as Jacob’s grown bigger. Sure, carrying 25 extra pounds around can be tiring. I feel it in my legs when I crouch down and stand back up. But with a good carrier that distributes weight well and fits me properly, I don’t find it painful. My back and shoulders don’t hurt, and I am able to wear Jacob far more easily than I could carry him in my arms.

As my daughter Hannah moved through toddlerhood, she drifted away from babywearing and returned several times. Just when I thought we were really and truly done, she’d pull out her favorite carrier and ask me to put her in it. I expect the same thing may happen with Jacob, as well. Some days he may want to walk, some days he may want to be worn, some days he won’t be able to make up his mind. But as long as he needs me and I am able I will be here, ready to wear him.

Have you worn a toddler? How did you make it work – or not? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and stories!

You can catch up with Amber’s adventures in parenting and babywearing on her blog at Strocel.com.

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