Tag Archives: Parenting Philosophy

Second guessing myself

Seconds into motherhood - I just had no idea what it all meant yet

As I expected my first child, I knew I would breastfeed exclusively, I knew I would give birth outside of a hospital, I knew I would not use TV and that my child would be clothed in cotton and playing with open ended, preferably wooden toys.

I also was pretty sure I would not fall into the ‘trap’ of letting my child control my life to the extent that my sleep would be disturbed for years, or that my breasts were on demand for years (horrors!). Or that my social life came to an end. I had an unexplored belief that children had the potential to be nasty little terrors who manipulated their parents.

It rocked my world to discover that my baby was not trying to manipulate me. He really needed me. If he was crying he was in pain, hungry or tired. He really did not have an agenda to destroy my life, even though it felt like it at times. And being told that I was too weak to resist his manipulation only p*ssed me off.

He would only sleep next to me and only fall asleep on my breast. Weeks became months, (which has almost become two years) and this has become my daily reality. I would have shuddered in pure horror if someone would have told me my almost 2 year old would still be breastfeeding and in our bed. I would have sworn to make sure it would never happen, under any circumstances. I remember listening to a friend who gave birth months before me sharing her woes of having a baby in bed and feeding on demand, and how that really upset many people in her extended family. I kinda agreed with them in my heart. Being pregnant I had to know all about it already…. (not!).

And I have learnt so much in these two years.

My baby fed on demand. He sleeps in our bed and I do my best to meet his needs, while also allowing for him to understand I have needs as he grows in his understanding of human relationships.

In many ways this seriously rocked my world. I did a dramatic about turn in my thinking. And it has unsettled me in a certain way. I feel a little less confident and certain of myself. (I also feel very satisfied as a mother parenting in tune with both my childs’ needs, and mine) I have had to reassess my beliefs and expectations on so many things through the heart of a mother. I am a little cautious when it comes to embracing anything to the extent that it closes off other options. The mind set of having it all ‘sorted’ and relying on an external authority or a philosophy for guiding my choices did not play out well for me. There is still a small part of me still wonders about me changing my philosophy on infant care so dramatically. Of course it suits me better to parent as I am parenting now. But what does it say about all the assumptions I have made in my life? How do I trust myself to know what is best?

I long for that experience of having the peace of knowing that there are no existential questions to be asked. That on a fundamental level I am at peace with myself and my choices and the questions that I pose myself are of a more practical nature and less of an existential one. I am slowing down in my use of disussion boards. I no longer feel the need to check myself and make sure that I am not missing something in how I go about making my choices in my life.

I’m getting there.

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The car seat

I was more of this

I want more of this

I have been neglecting my blog recently. For a couple of reasons – the most pressing being lack of sleep. DS is pushing through his eye teeth, we have mosquitoes (that LOVE me) and I am trying to stop drinking coffee – which for some reason leaves me restless at night.

I also have been feeling a bit down. I had a rather traumatic incident with DS – nothing dangerous – just emotionally exhausting for both of us.

All my best efforts to avoid DS crying unattended were stretched when I found myself trying to get home from my LLL meeting, and him refusing to get into his car seat. On the way there, I had had to stop to breastfeed and had been late, making me slightly annoyed. Anyway, this DS not getting into his carseat opened a huge conflict for me. On the one hand I really needed the toilet and I was also hungry and on the other hand I had a child who was refusing to be strapped into his seat, arching his back and shrieking. I felt at such a crossroads as I had thoughts of “he is not a baby any more, his needs do not trump mine every single time” and “he obviously does not want to be in the car seat now, why?” and I gave in. I did what was easiest for me, and took us both off by foot to a cafe for lunch. While I was able to go to the loo and eat a sandwich, I was not happy to have gone so out of my way to get my needs met.

What was also troubling for me, was that I was getting angry at DS for not just agreeing to be in the car seat. Angry enough to force him into the car seat with rough movements and not so gentle words.

As I was walking to the cafe, I was thinking to myself that if I would just take a deep breath, it would help me deal with the stress of having an upset child, and it would help DS, as he would not be having to deal with the extra stress of a mother getting angry. This option held the promise of an easier time of it.

Only that it did not work. I could not keep myself level headed when again DS refused to get into his car seat. His crying really upsets me and my getting angry obviusly upsets him more. To my horror, I found myself just strapping him in and ignoring his cries and driving with a shrieking child who eventually fell asleep exhausted.

I really do not want a repeat of this incident. I know that this is just the beginning of me and my DS having to negotiate different situations where there is a conflict of interest, and I want to find a way that doesn’t leave either of us too fraught or traumatised.

I feel in myself the conflict of “he needs boundaries” “he needs to know who is in charge” with “how can I ignore his crying”?  I asked for some advice on MDC, and was given some good advice and mothers shared their experiences. A piece of advice that I am conflicted about it giving sweets/food. DH has proposed this as a way to get DS to comply – but I am not sure. Firstly, we don’t feed him sugar at any other time, and I am concerned I will have a hyper child in his seat. I also do not want him eating sugar for a reason, ie his health. And, I am not sure about giving him sweets as comfort. Argh, is all I can say right now.

Yesterday I did give him a rice cake and that worked well…..

I am sure we will find a way that works for us and is line with our values.

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Whether to worry

Last night my DH’s paternal grandmother called me (she is the woman who prepares the most scrumptious Romanin dishes for Saturday family meals).It took me a while to understand just what she was worried about and why she was calling. It had something to do with food, risk, DS being outside and she is worried. It turns out she had read an article in the newspaper about a child choking on Bisli (an Israeli treat – deep fried pasta) and she was worried that I am letting DS play outside and he will put something dangerous in his mouth and choke. I tried to reassure her that I am  not worried and ended up just assuring her I would check outside to make sure there is nothing he will put in his mouth. It is too foreign a concept for this grandmother to not worry.

This was in stark contrast to a conversation I had had with my parents about me letting DS play outside and not always be in my sight. I am aware of where he is, what is in his environment and just let him get on with his thing. If he goes quiet, I check on him. But he is left pretty much free to choose what to do and how with me making sure there are no rusty nails lying around and nothing that I would be horrified at finding in his mouth. It is working for us and DS is having a ball from what I can see.

DS helping in the garden

DS helping in the garden

These two phonecalls highlighted such a difference in parenting philosophy. The first phone call (with grandma) highlites the tradition of a baby in a playpen and discouraged from exploring his/her environment with scheduled play times and pretty much a scheduled day – the child is dependant on the adult for something to happen. The second phone call highlited for me the attempt to let DS set his own pace and seek out what he needs in order to learn and make sense of his world. I have no idea if this would work for every child, as DS is a careful child and to date has not done anything that warrants me being worried for his safety. For now it is working for me to not worry about him and his safety, within reason. Our home has been remodelled to allow for his free access to whatever  he can reach and outside is his playground (other than my seedlings, which I am trying to protect).

I do not feel comfortable worrying about his safety all the time, and in a way I think it is not healthy for him to  have me constantly monitoring his every move and activity. I am comfortable with his independance and comfortable with him still needing me to breastfeed him and be with him to fall asleep. It is working for us.

My flowering sage

My flowering sage

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Morning Routine

I guess we have a routine of sorts going now. DS wakes up and looks for my breast and latches on while I try and catch a couple more winks. This continues for some time with DS moving around the bed and playing with the light switch and having a few more sips and me slowly accepting that my day is starting. It is very slow and leisurely, with DS taking his time to fill up on mamamilk and me taking my time to wake up. DH is usually still asleep – although he is enticed by babybreath and squeals of delight at the new day.

The next part invloves DS sliding down off the bed after getting over Aba (dad in Hebrew). And he makes a beeline for the floorlength mirror on our wardrobe. And chirps away patting himself and various objects he finds.

Phase 3 is climbing up the 3 steps and cooing at himself from the top of the step as he turns back and sees himself in the mirror.

Phase 2 and 3 can be repeated some number of time as DS climbs back down the steps and pats himself in the mirror.

And out we go. Mum sits down and checks out MDC to see what has happened while she was sleeping, dad feeds the pets and DS gets on with whatever is his latest craze. At the moment it is sweeping, attaching the leash to the dog and pulling things out of the kitchen drawers/cuphords. Coffee is brewed and the day has started.

I love this routine and the relaxed lazy way about it. I would not change it for the world. I love my son being able to have as much mamamilk as he needs, me having a slow start and DS having time to do the things that are important to him. It would break my heart to be rushing through the morning and not giving DS the time and space he needs to be in control of his own life and learning about himself and his world. Of course I am not complaining that traffic is but a distant memory.

This could all change. And will all change. Either through the arrival of a sibling one day (thinking next year early summer could be a good time) or maybe one day I will go back to work.

DH’s company made a 7% paycut across the board and while it is not exactly fun, we will manage. That is not the reason why I would need to go back to work. But I am reminded of just what a priviledged position I am in.

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Playing at making a phone call

DS has discovered the phone and is loving picking up and chittering away with all the intonation of a sophisticated conversation. And DH and I have been encouraging him by modeling “hallo” as we hold something to our ear.

It turned into a bit of a farce today when visiting IL’s (funky ones). 4 adults were sitting together encouraging a little boy to play with the phone, and I started  to feel a bit uncomfortable with the picture we were creating.

I confess myself somewhat smitten with the idea of a little child not being the entertainment for the adults, but rather the adults modeling behavior for the little child. This makes sense to me on many levels. Mostly, I do not want DS under some sort of pressure to perform or meet an arbitrary expectation. I am hoping to create a reality for my DS where *he* is able to define what is important. Where he is left free to explore and understand the world around him. I cannot possibly know how he is understanding what happens around him. So many things are firsts for him and I want him to make sense with the tools he has – I do not want to impose my ‘sense’ on him….

All of the above is my complicated way of saying that he is a small child and does not relate to the world in the same way that I do as an adult. He is only begining his journey into understanding the world, and if I know anything, it is that the drive to discover for yourself is very strong. It doesn’t help how much others want to help and push their experience and insight – until you have your own experience, it is pretty much meaningless.

So, next time we are visiting the IL’s, DH and I have decided we will not praise DS if he gets something ‘right’. For now he only needs to be. Any value that we put on what he does, does not necesarily reflect the true value of what DS is learning and experiencing. Us adults really do have a hard time breaking out of our linear experience of the world.

And it is magical to watch as DS does start to express himself in more easily recognisable ways – like imitating me on the phone, his face lighting up when he hears the skype ring on my computer and he knows that he will see someone (grandparents) on the screen, or his delight at building towers out of his blocks, swirling water in a bucket or pushing the cat around on a chair. This process of unfolding is truely magical to observe.

I am one in love mama.

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Being Heard

How important and essential is this experience to each and every human being. To be heard, to be understood and to be ackowledged as a worthwhile person.

Perhaps because this is missing from such large areas of my life I spend that extra time thinking about it. And how essential it is. And how the ‘not being heard/acknowedged’ is so central to conflict and suffering.

When I think of my DS and my hopes for his future, I sincerely hope that he has a foundation of being heard and acknowledged for the beautiful sides and for the uglier sides of life. I think this perhaps has some thing to do with how I am choosing to parent my family. To create a foundation of acceptance and listening.

This would fit in with Attachment Parenting philosophy – creating an intense attachment between parent and child and meeting the child’s needs as completely as is possible. I feel this was not really allowed in the way I was brought up. In the community where I was raised it was independence and creativity and idealism that were valued. Meeting a child’s emotional needs was unnecessary and got in the way of the important work of being individuals with vision… or something that was not meeting my needs.

I thought that I would bring my family up with similar values. I after all turned out pretty much OK (social anxiety and not trusting groups aside). In todays world parents are messing their kids up by not feeling like they can say ‘no’ and kids need boundaries. I thought children could only blossom with boundaries from day one. It was essential to not be manipulated by your child. (I cannot believe I actually thought like that). Of course I wanted to have organic food and use environmentally friendly cleaning products and do lots of funky stuff. But I never thought twice about the emotional reality I wanted to create for my children. Until I held my son in my arms.

From the first night where he cried and was not soothed by my lullaby as I rocked his cosleeper and only wanted my breast – I undertook a profound journey that took me very far away from what I thought I knew. It just is not like my parents thought it was – or the nurse or the doctor or the IL’s. My son was telling me he needed me and as a responsible caring adult I could not ignore that.

When my son cries, I listen. I want him to know that his cry is important. Not because I read it somewhere and not because someone told me. But because that is what feels right and for now it is working.

Being a mother has ‘forced’ me to tune into my intuition and act on what my gut is telling me – not what I am reading or hearing. Although hearing things and reading things still can freak me out – I am still new at this. I hope it will get easier.

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Honestly

I have the coolest relationship with my DH, or I think so anyway. We are still in couples therapy and while we have felt like maybe it has run its course, today was one of those sessions where you walk out beaming and in love and so sure that all will be OK…. it’s great to have sessions like that 🙂

We got into couples therapy after repeatedly banging our heads on the metaphorical wall of ‘The Family’. Essentially his family. And their problem with respecting our choices (which often boil down to my choices) and them not understanding their role. Being our Elders, I guess they felt we had to do what they think is best, which would have sent us down the road of vaccines on schedule, CIO (cry it out), paracetamol for every fever, sleep training, introducing solids as early as possible, TV for infants, diet soda…. and of course copious amount of second hand smoke. I have a step mother in law who is sick to her stomach that DS is breastfed. She is also deeply disturbed that he is as yet unvaccinated and takes every opportunity to remind us how catastrophic this decision is. I have learnt to dislike this woman and essentially tune her out unless she tries to get chocolate mousse (raw eggs, sugar and cream amongst other things) into DS’s mouth – in which case boundaries that are very clear have to be drawn.

Boundaries that DH is uncomfortable setting, well  *was* uncomfortable setting. Hence the success of our therapy process together.

What I had been wanting to write about before I got sidetracked by my issues with my IL’s (I have 2 sets), was how we were talking today about DH being more convinced by things I say that come from my emotionally honest place. When we think about going out the two of us for a romantic dinner and show, I get all stressed out thinking about DS in the care of IL’s and freeze. At least this is my experience. And I go on a tirade about how DS cannot be in second hand smoke and I don’t want him left to CIO and what if he is fed some mousse? When what I maybe really aught to be saying is: “I am not ready”. This seems so simple, and yet it is so hard for me. I immediately go to places where I feel I have to justify myself, I do not feel that it is enough that I am not ready – I have to have lots of reasons that ‘cannot be refuted’ in order to feel OK with myself…. The irony is that my emotional reality is probably the only thing that cannot be refuted. But I do not want my emotional reality to be up for discussion and inspection by anyone other than myself. I do not want there to be an opening for anyone to tell me that my reality is the ‘wrong one’. So I guard it tenaciously, and amour myself with lots of reasons (irrefutable ones if possible 😉 ). Hmmmm, perhaps this is something that requires some more thought….

So, I am not ready to leave my child with anyone other than DH. I have yet to find someone that I trust with our parenting philosophy. It’s as simple as that.

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