Friday, 24 February 2012

Keep them close and let them go: fostering healthy attachment as they grow

Welcome to the February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!

Zen toddler is potty learning right now. It’s going pretty well, occasional mishap notwithstanding (‘Mummy, I did an accident!’, announced with delighted glee).
One day, I popped to the kitchen to make toast one day. When I came back she had pulled her pants down, sat on the potty, and done a wee. I was so proud I had a tear in my eye. I was proud. And a little bit sad.  Where did my ever-so little first-born go? This is the start of the letting go. And while I am more proud of her than I could ever have imagined possible, there’s a little pang.
Zen toddler and me, we’re closely attached. In the whole of her first year, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I was away from her for more than an hour. We did (and still do) co-sleep, we did (and still do) breastfeed. We share baths, we eat all of our meals together, and, barring around 12 hours of Montessori childcare a week, we’re together all of the time (with zen baby now boosting our ranks).  But I’m beginning to wonder what happens as she gets older, becomes more independent?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to hold her back, keep her tethered with the proverbial apron strings. Every forward leap she takes leaves me awestruck. Sometimes, I can’t believe that this hilarious little person ricocheting around the house like a stung wasp is the same little bundle of red-faced potential that I pushed into the world less than three years ago. But there’s going to come an age when she can dress herself, when she sleeps in her own bed all night because snuggling in between your parents is just lame. One day, she might even self-wean (not banking on that one happening anytime soon ;-/). How do we stay closely attached when we’re not together all day long, when I’m not the major influence in her life, when she doesn’t need me to do quite so much for her anymore?      
Truthfully, I don’t have the answers. This is the first time I’ve done any of this. In this, as in so many areas, zen baby will have the advantage of not being the test-case. But this time, first-time round, I don’t know what I’m doing. So far I’ve parented entirely on instinct, but I have no instinctive inclinations for this.
So, how do you keep them close while letting them go? Share your stories, experiences, and tips, because I could really use some ideas.  

Visit Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Call for submissions: La Leche League anthology

Thanks to Dreaming Aloud for posting about this submission opportunity from Mother’s Milk Books (and apologies about the short notice ~ you’ve still got a week, though):

 Musings on Mothering - La Leche League GB anthology

Deadline: end February 2012.
Contact: Teika Bellamy

The Aims of the Project

To harness the creativity of mothers, and indeed, anyone who has been inspired by the positive effect that ‘mothering through breastfeeding’ has had on their life.

To produce a beautiful book, full of uplifting work.

To raise funds for La Leche League GB through the sale of the book.

The full submission guidelines are here.

I’m in the process of putting something together. It’s important to share real-life experiences of breastfeeding, to keep breastfeeding in the public eye, and to reinforce the normalization (rather than the demonization) of breastfeeding.

Go on, get something down. You’re the only one who can tell your story.  


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The zen of potty learning*

Opportunities to practice mindfulness arise from the most unexpected places. I didn’t expect the potty to be one of them.

We’ve had a potty knocking around the house since before zen baby was a bump, but it has mainly been used as a comfy seat for tv watching (for toddler, not me; my rear is far, far too large for that) or a handy dust-catcher.

We never made an issue of it, because child-led is my thang, although we would occasionally remember to do a rather half-hearted ‘want to use the potty? No? Ok then’ every  three or four months.

And then one day, a couple of weeks back, I asked her if she fancied sitting on it while we read a story. She did, and wee ensued. Not long after, I popped to the kitchen to make toast and by the time I came back she’d removed all lower body coverings and was perched proudly on the pot: ‘I done another wee, mummy!’

And, incredibly, since then it’s been mainly successes, with the occasional accident (apologies, lovely new carpet of our newly renovated local library).

It has been a gentle process, and an unexpectedly enjoyable one.

Enjoyable not so much because there has been so much less stress and mess than I feared, but enjoyable because being alert to zen toddler’s bladder and bowel situation at every given moment has been a very mindful process, and one that has made me more aware of her. It’s been all too easy, recently, to leave her to her own devices because I’m feeding zen baby, or sorting laundry, or scribbling some work notes, or tired and lethargic and not very engaged.

But keeping an eye out for the tell-tale body language that lets me know that there’s an elimination on the way and keeping a mental balance sheet of ‘liquids consumed + length of time since last potty sitting – volume of most recent wee = likelihood of needing to go soon’ has meant that I’m thinking about her as much of the time as possible, I’m staying close to her, and I’m putting myself in her place and being as aware of her needs as I can be (emotional needs as well as physical: I’ve been mindful not to convey any anxiety or neuroticism. We’re British, she’ll develop plenty of her own hang-ups about bodily functions and biology in due course … )

Potty learning ~ an unexpectedly zen experience.

Which aspects  of parenting have you found to be unexpectedly mindful experiences?  

 * The differentiation between ‘potty training’ and ‘potty learning’ could be dismissed as mere semantics, but the weight of a word is important to me. I haven’t ‘trained’ her to do anything (ok, I may have conditioned her to bring me my towel when I’m finished showering,  but that's totally different. Honest). The way I see it, she decided that she wanted to start using her potty, and  I’m helping her to learn how to do that. You toilet train a dog, not a child (and I'll say it again, towel-fetching doesn't count).

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Empathy and respect

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

We parents should always strive to use our words and actions to convey empathy and respect, rather than power and superiority.
(Harvey Karp, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, p. 19)

The above quote is written in the context of communication with your toddler, but it applies equally, I think, to our interactions with everyone else we come into contact with.

Respectful Interactions with other parents ~ I couldn’t wait to get started on this post. I had a thousand ideas. I’d been stung many, many times, both online and In Real Life, by comments made by others. Sometimes I’d stewed for days, months, (yes, I admit) years even, over some barbed remark I’d internalised and interpreted to mean that I was A Bad Parent (or, seemingly even worse nowadays, A Perfectly Smug, Perfectly Perfect Mother). And you know what, it wasn’t fair, because I don’t judge others or comment on their parenting choices. And anyway, my choices are all backed up by research. And instinct. They are The Right Choices.  Mother knows best, therefore that must make me the best mo …..

Oh, hang on a minute, I think I just found my angle.

Apparently 80% of drivers think that they themselves are a fantastic driver. It’s everyone else on the road who drives badly. Something doesn’t add up there. If 80% of us are self-proclaimed impeccable drivers, who are all the incompetents out there who turn without indicating because they are wilfully negligent, or who park across two parking spaces because they don’t care enough to reverse properly?

Substitute ‘parents’ for ‘drivers’ in that last paragraph, swap the driving crimes for parenting flashpoints such as breast vs bottle, routine vs baby-led, and you’ve got my point.

No one sets out to be a bad parent. But we all fear, at times, that we might be. Some days we certainly  will be less than perfect. Parenting is bloody hard work, and no one can be at the top of their game 100% of the time on a roster that includes evenings, weekends, public holidays, 3am, 4:17am, and then again at 5:40am, 5:55am, 6:09am  …. Oh sod it, I might as well just get up for the day now.

Just like the precise distance a projectile poo can erupt across a brand new rug, I had no idea about any of this before I had my babies. My ante-natal classes failed to cover the Mummy Wars, made no reference to that fact that almost every parenting choice you make can, and probably at some point will, be taken as a personal criticism by someone who made a different choice. I know this because I have myself felt judged, attacked or pitied by others with different opinions on the ideal way for a child to eat, sleep or be disciplined. And if I’ve felt defensive, you can bet others have too.

So, how can a mummy retain her zen when she feels like baring her teeth? Myself, I consider that maybe I took their comment the wrong way, or that maybe they’re lashing out because they have worries about their parenting choices or their child’s development. Maybe they only managed a few grains of scrambled sleep last night. Or maybe one hundred other reasons that I cannot begin to imagine. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

And if it turns out that they are simply a rude, overbearing, judgey-judge? Not my problem. All I can do is minimise their impact on my life and my children by not letting them carve out a space in my head and by not dwelling on their comments, or their assumed intention.  

And then I look at how happy and bright my children are and remind myself that I’m doing ok. Because that’s pretty much what parenting is ~ trying our best to not get it too wrong, with occasional flashes of sheer brilliance.         

Some links that you might like:

Well aren't you the perfect parent!!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)
  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Happy days?

Zen toddler is interspersing learning to use the potty with throwing the most stunning, earth-shaking tantrums. 

Zen baby has a delightful teething + growth spurt combo going on.

Zen mummy is so exhausted that, for most of today, my right eye stubbornly refused to fully open. 

In time, I’ll look back on these days with sepia-tinged nostalgia, right?