Babywearing FTW

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Of course in my obsession to foster attachment with Potamus (which, let’s be honest, was really in order for ME to foster attachment to HIM), I looked up all the attachment parenting tricks, and eagerly dove in to babywearing. In fact, Potamus slept on my chest or in my shirt for the first two to three weeks of his life, and from then on he was held pretty constantly, either by me, or by Boof when I wasn’t around. I don’t want to think that is the reason he’s 4 and won’t sleep without us…but, I digress.

I used the Moby at first, because when you see mainstream babywearing, the Moby and Ergo are the two go-tos. Baby Bjorn is considered sinful and a “crotch dangler,” but we inherited a hand me down version that Boof liked wearing with Potamus for awhile. But I did the Moby. I found it clunky and hard to wear. Then I used the Ergo, when he was old enough to hold up his head. It was great, except I’m only a shade too tall for it, so it didn’t quite sit on my hips right.

And then I found a sling.

It was a used sling, and it was great for hitching Potamus up on my hip for walks around the neighborhood. I used it well into his toddler years, and so with Lil G I decided to get myself a sling from the get go. I did a little online research, and went with Tula Baby ring sling, despite its price tag. And I LOVE it.

At first it felt a little stiff, but after I wore it once or twice, I was in heaven. It is so easy to wear, easier than the slightly padded hand me down I had used with Potamus. It’s super easy to put him in it, bee bop around the house or doing errands, and it has been a lifesaver with a 4 year old. I can easily strap Lil G in the sling, and play soccer with Potamus, or cook dinner, etc. While I’m not loving breastfeeding this time around, I’m loving babywearing more than ever!

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Independence Day for Mama

popsicles for Independence Day @ school

popsicles for Independence Day @ school

In the past 2.5 years, Potamus has slept through the night only a handful of times (with the caveat that he ALWAYS sleeps through the night when he’s co-sleeping in our bed, which has resulted in us just co-sleeping every night for the past I-don’t-know-how-long). It’s hard being the kind of authentic mom I want to be, making choices like co-sleeping that feel good but are also draining on me as an introvert. I want a full night’s sleep. Okay, I’d settle for not getting up 5 times a night (like I did the other night).

People around me have helpful* advice like having him cry it out over a period of 3 days (to 3 weeks!) in order to ‘break’ him of his co-sleeping habit. I cringe at the thought. While this has clearly worked for other people’s kids, and they don’t seem worse for the wear, I just don’t want to go that route. So here I am, like last year’s “I AM SO DONE WITH BREASTFEEDING!” post (where I stuck it out for another 6 months until he weaned on his own) wanting my little guy to freaking sleep on his own for more than 30 minutes-2 hours. Ya know?

So last weekend we went and spent a few nights at my parent’s house in Eastern Washington. And one of the nights he slept shittily. And the next night I woke up at 7 and puttered out of the bedroom with Potamus still snuggled in. And he slept for a good 2.5 hours more. And when he woke up I played to his current obsession with praise, and told a little white parenting lie, by exclaiming proudly:

“YOU DID IT! Buddy you slept all by yourself, I am so proud of you! You’re such a big boy!”

He had a big smile on his face, when he said “I did it!” I wish I had taken a picture of his smile paired with his little blonde bedhead. So freaking adorable.

This week, since that, has been up and down. But I am proud to say, that he has slept through the night TWICE! When he cries out for ‘mama’ in the middle of the night, I go in, and snuggle down with him until he falls back asleep. Every day he’s made it until about 6 am. And last night he slept from 8:30-6 am, and then came into our bed and slept until 8:30. He gets so excited that he “did it!” all by himself, that I’m hoping we’re on a trend toward more independence as a mom. While I cherish the snuggles, like this morning, I also loved sleeping a few hours in a row in a bed all by myself.

Happy Independence Day ya’ll! Stay safe!

How Child Led Weaning Worked for Us

This summer I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and the act of nursing was contributing to my overwhelm. I had no idea how hard the weaning process would be, and wrote about it over on Offbeat Families in an article entitled “I knew breastfeeding might be hard, but had no idea weaning was impossible.”  I knew, then, that my goal for Potamus was to be done at 2 years, but I tempered that desire with my deep philosophical heart belief that it wasn’t set in stone, because there are two people in this nursing relationship. And so I powered through some rough toddler months and then we found our groove again.

Ultimately I kept thinking about our weekend away, in December, as my end-goal. Boof and I had never been away overnight, and I figured that the slowing down of the nursing relationship might end in a gradual *poof* it’s gone and then we would come back and suddenly ‘mama snacks’ wouldn’t be available. We left on Friday the 13th, my 31st birthday, and I remember thinking ‘this is me giving me the gift of my body back. I’m not going to nurse him anymore.” And I was sad, and nostalgic.

And it didn’t happen.

When we returned from our ‘trip,’ of course he was clingy excited to see us, and desperately needed some comfort for bedtime routine. And so, banishing the voice in my  head to ‘stick to your guns! don’t let him win!,’ I “gave in,” and nursed him. And it was sweet. And tender. And everything he needed.

Four days later, on the eve of his 2nd birthday, when changing him into his jim-jams, Boof asked, “you want some mama-snacks buddy?” (our cue for nursing), and Potamus shook his head  no. He grabbed his water bottled, snuggle down with me, and sipped himself to sleep holding my hand. Just like that, he weaned himself. And the next night, when he made his sign for mama snacks, and I said, “just cuddles buddy,” he hunkered down without a peep and promptly fell asleep. There was no wailing and gnashing of teeth, just peaceful sleeping next to his mama.

A few nights have gone by, now, and he hasn’t asked for mama snacks again. He sometimes reaches down my shirt to feel meh boobies, but mostly it’s hand holding and water-sippin’ for this little man. The transition even managed to carry over to a new place, since we spent two nights on the other side of the state and he had to get used to sleeping in a new bed with me. I couldn’t be more pleased. It was hard to make it work to fit both of us, but I am so happy that he’s happy and that giving up nursing wasn’t a traumatic event for either of us. I hope that in the future, if I ever have another child. I follow my instincts again…

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (Part 2): Control, Autonomy, Respect

brushing teeth, because HE wanted to

brushing teeth, because HE wanted to

I’d like to think that I have a lot of respect for Potamus, even though he is a tiny little human. I give him a lot of space to roam and come back to me. I genuinely look at him as a very small person with needs, feelings, and wishes of his own. But, in Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, I was challenged by this notion of control, and how it might manifest in the way of cooperation. Naomi Aldort’s premise is that children need unconditional love, and because they crave it, they might give in to areas that their parent are trying to control so that they feel like they’re loved…even though she asserts that “giving up their will is the cause of most of the difficulties with children.”

So, it made me wonder…do you sometimes think:

How can I get her to do chores, be quiet, stop the tantrum, eat her food, etc., reflect a wish to control the child. IT is about ‘making’ the child do what the parent wants; the child has to give up what she wants, which is giving up on herself.

Whoa, right? Guilty as charged. Though when I read that I thought to myself, “big whoop, we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” But do you remember that feeling? When you’re doing XYZ and then you havetostoprightthisminute because someone arbitrarily (in your mind) tells you to? Or, if you had a family member who only expressed love to you when you behaved in a certain way, or got good grades, did you wonder, deep down, whether they really loved the real you? I certainly have!

I think this is the one that I’m going to have to mull over the longest. The book suggests offering chances for children, even young toddlers, to engage with, even asking for help…but with the freedom for the child to choose yes to help or no to not, just like we’d do with adults. The part of me that listens to Mother Culture says “no no no, adults are in charge, they are big and can ask for requests and to expect it to be done.” The still, quiet part of me, knows that even when I was small I had opinions and wanted to do things myself and not be asked or badgered into doing them. Or, if Boof came home, and because he is physically bigger than me, asked me to do something where I felt I would be harmed or unloved if I said no. That’s not really cooperation, that is control. If I notice that Boof is folding laundry and I want to join him, then I am freely entering into that experience. If he asks, and I say no, and it is just as loving, then I am truly free. So, why should a different set of rules apply to children?

In what ways do I try to control others, namely Potamus? When I say things like “lets go outside” and then pick him up without his choice to freely follow me, I guess, would be one way. Or putting food on his plate and expecting him to eat it (though this is something I try not to do). In fact, in a way, lately, we’ve been trying to help Potamus communicate his needs/desires about food, by picking him up and walking him around the kitchen to point to what he wants. While this won’t be something we can do forever, and I certainly am not excited about the prospect of making different meals each night or catering to my kid’s every whim. Of course, that takes it to an extreme, but I notice, the story in my head, about being controlled BY my child…and that in order to combat that I need to control HIM. Whoa, that’s a little tidbit of insight from my brain!

Thoughts on control/autonomy/respect?

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (Part 1): Validation & Word Choice

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Last week Offbeat Families recommended a book called, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power, and joy, by Naomi Aldort. I didn’t read up on Naomi or the book before ordering it on Kindle, so that I could have an open mind. I wasn’t really looking for advice, I am feeling really good about my mothering in the past few weeks, even relaxing around the edges of weaning. I actually feel that we’re closer to weaning, though I’m actually nursing more often.

At any rate, the whole premise of this book is to encourage attachment and intuitive type parenting to increase children’s belief/understanding that they are unconditionally loved and respected. Though, I will say, I am glad to report that nowhere does she say “let your kid do just whatever they want, whenever they want.” While autonomy, respect, not controlling, and unconditional love are explored, it felt right, for me, and something I’m already doing a pretty good job of, but want to explore now (and in further posts) some of the nuggets that I will be taking away with me.

First, I really resonated with the quote:

Talking about feeling sad, upset, or disappointed may or may not be grasped by a younger child. Instead, young children feel most validated when facts are acknowledged.

Whoa! Revolutionary! Whenever Potamus cries, or gets upset, I tend to “forecast” what he’s feeling. “Oh buddy, I’m sorry you’re sad,” rather than focusing on the facts “I asked you to stop playing with that toy,” or “I wanted you to go to bed, but you probably didn’t want to.” I’ve even noticed, that when I’ve just stated the facts, without TELLING him what he feels (or guessing), that he’s been a lot calmer. Revolutionary, because I thought that acknowledging what I thought he was feeling, giving voice to it, that I was helping. While I haven’t actually read any of her research, I am going to just try an experiment and give voice to the facts of why he might be upset, and see how it goes.

Like, today, instead of the usual storyline I tell Potamus in the car, “we’re going to school, and you might be sad, but mama will be back this afternoon.” While this might be true, he might get sad, am I putting on him a storyline that he should be sad when I leave? I don’t tell him that story at any other place and he adjusts really easily. So, today, I said “I am going to leave, and it might be before you want me to.” I noticed that I was more relaxed in daycare drop off, stayed with him a bit, and then he did cry…we’ll see how he does the rest of the day.

Anybody want to join me in this experiment? Validating our kids by stating facts, and not just putting our storyline onto their emotions? If you do it, lemme know the results! Any changes? Differences? Differences in YOU?

 

King Midas Syndrome

it's hard being his world

it’s hard being his world

This morning, after a particularly rough night of anxiety (Boof was gone, again, for the 3rd night in a row…5th night this week), I nestled into my bed and read Charlotte’s post  Exhaustion over on her lovely Momaste blog.

The things she said are so striking and so true. While I don’t think I’m sliding into depression, I certainly can relate to the image of spending days or weeks in bed, and then resting in the sunlight of recovery. This week when I got a massage, Courtney asked me what I wanted, and my answer? A hotel room, with big white down comfortors, by the ocean, where I can stay in bed all day listening to the ocean, and sleeping, and reading, and sleeping. Because, I, like Charlotte, and so many mamas I know, am exhausted.

In my exhaustion the anxiety has become overwhelming. After a wonderful day yesterday I found myself with a toddler who refused bedtime. At 9:30 he finally fell asleep, but not after I cried for 30 minutes and threw his lego car across the room. While I’m not actually afraid I would hurt him, or myself, the thoughts that run through my head are a level of crazy that even a non therapist would recognize as destructive.

I’ve given up the idea of weaning. We were down to two times a day and it was working out so nicely. But, with Boof gone so much, I have no other options in my arsenal. I just need five more minutes of sleep and nursing is the only way to get it. And I blame myself for being this exhausted. Like King Midas, who wished for everything he touched to turn to gold, realized the destructiveness of his wish when he turned everyone and everything into gold.  I wanted desperately to have an attached baby. In the beginning I loved that only I could soothe him this way. I loved breathing in his soft baby smell, and laying next to this angelic creature at night was beautiful.

And then, everything turned to gold. And being bodily responsible 5-6 times a day, again, is becoming an albatross around my neck. I’m feeling drowned, a choking closed throat feeling that I can’t get rid of. I’m beginning to be resentful, of Potamus, and Boof who doesn’t have to worry about this issue. I worry that maybe I made the wrong choice, that I was trying to be something I’m not, and that I will grow to resent ever becoming a mother. I worry that our talk of adding another will make me end up in the loony bin.

Mother Identity Dysmorphia

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Not too long ago I tackled the Teacher Identity question in my On Being Labelled “Nice” by my students entry. Because, frankly, I don’t think of myself as “nice,” very often. And, this question sorta popped up over the weekend when I was thinking about my style of mothering.

Now, it sorta goes back to my view of my own (adoptive) mother, who was very guided by her head, intellect and kept safe by forming strict boundaries and rules. Doing something was “because I said so,” and there was little wiggle room to negotiate out of something. Now, these aren’t bad traits to have, but I think that sometimes it’s okay to examine the entirety of a situation before you hang your hat on ‘these lima beans must be eaten or you’re going hungry.’ I’ve heard of parents making their kid go hungry if they didn’t eat the dinner they cooked, but my mom made us eat it…eventually. Don’t want it for dinner? Fine. You’ll have it for breakfast. Don’t want it for breakfast? Fine, you’ll have it for lunch. The longest I made it was to breakfast the next day (I usually caved and just ate it for dinner), but my sister once made it 24 hours before finally caving.

I think that’s a bit extreme.

So, while I don’t necessarily think that I am quite that extreme, I feel that I am somehow destined, in some small way, to be my mother. I don’t know why…maybe it’s because I long to have the mother I wanted growing up, the nuruturing BFF type relationship that certainly won’t ever happen between my (adoptive) mom and I (and certainly won’t happen between my biological mom and I, since she’s severely damaged by years of drugs/alcohol). For some reason I have internalized the “just like your mother” line, when, in reality, I’m actually not a lot like my mother at all.

Sure, as Boof says, I have this “bright and shining energy” around people I like and in situations I feel comfortable. He went as far as saying “you have a glow, it’s warm and brightens a room” (which, if you know Boof, that’s actually quite a high compliment). And he then proceeds to say, ‘and when you don’t like someone, or you feel uncomfortable, your energy is cold an reserved. While most people we encounter vary between apathetically lukewarm to warm, you are bright and warm or cold and cool.” Hmm, sounds a bit “bi-polar” in the colloquial-and-not-DSM IV-diagnosis-sense. I’m either hot or cold. So how does this relate to motherhood?

I tend to think of myself as a cold mother.

But, at nighttime, when Potamus has the choice whether to sit and snuggle in his bed with me, or bounce on the exercise ball with Boof, he dives into my neck and buries himself there, almost pleading when Boof picks him up to bounce to sleep. I am the one he goes to for comfort, and while I know that we, too, went to my mother for scrapes and boo boos as kids, we certainly didn’t do the snuggly thing…that was reserved for my (adoptive) dad, who has a much more snuggly personality.

So what, my kid likes to snuggle with me. Does that make me a ‘nice’ mom? A warm mom? A nurturing individual? I said, “well, I guess baby porcupines snuggle with mama porcupines,” which brought a laugh from Boof…but I guess that’s how I see myself…like a porcupine…prickly and standoffish, though my kid’s experience of me is clearly different. Boof responded, “um, you’ve been nursing our kid for a year and a half, you wouldn’t do that if you weren’t nurturing.” “Also, the only times I’ve seen you be cold to him is when you’re half asleep, or one time when you were awake, but it’s mostly only ever when you’re really tired.” Oh. Hmm. I guess that’s a point, though I might do it out of obligation or because I don’t want a tantrum. Regardless, it seems like my kid, the world around me, and even my very own husband seems to think I’m a nuruturing, “nice,” loving and patient mother.

So why don’t I think that?

Now don’t get me wrong, for living in this digital mommy-wars age, I actually think I’m a kickass mama…for the most part. I really enjoy my kid, we do a lot of really fun things together, and I enjoy snuggling up to him at the end of the day. So why is there this nagging not-nurturing-enough thought in my head? Am I worried that one day I’m going to just crack and bust out the cold-ass-bitchiness in relation to him? I dunno?

Do you ever feel that how you perceive yourself isn’t quite how other people perceive you to be? How do we combat that?