Mommy Mondays: Gentle Parenting

Mommy Mondays WM

I am going to link today’s post with the meme Musing Mondays by MizB at Should Be Reading. On Musing Mondays she asks several questions about books and reading. Today I will answer this question in my Mommy Mondays post:

What book did you recently buy for yourself and why you chose it

from amazon

One of the books I recently purchased is Raising Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. Keep reading for the why I did:

The words of wisdom passed along by other mothers when I was pregnant did nothing to prepare me for the way an infant, and then toddler and then preschooler would uproot me into a topsy-turvy world that in no way resembled what was once the serene landscape of my calm, orderly life.

I feel better prepared for the waves of change that my second child has started. Smug. That’s it. I am actually smug at how well I have adapted to said changes and how well I have managed a new life with baby #2.

Now that my first born is well into age 5, I feel caught in a storm of change. Again.

My son is very articulate. He reads. He adds and subtracts with ease. He does simple multiplication. He has mad soccer skills…is social and boisterous and sweet and fun and respectful and outspoken. He is everything I dreamed my five year old son would be…and everything I didn’t.

Wow. The Rage. Impatience. Frustration. The sheer force of emotion that I feel. Yes. Those are my emotions when his will is unbending, unyielding, impregnable just because he can say no and mean it. It’s impressive really. And, when I am sane again I can’t help but admire his tenacity – his strong sense of self.

Except, when I am sane again, I also can’t help but feel…like I should handle this better. How on earth can one little 5 year old with gorgeous brown eyes whom I simply adore bring me to my knees with frustration? After a few episodes of intense disagreement…every cell in my body screamed at me that my relationship with my son would suffer greatly if I kept us on this path of daily confrontation.

I needed a way to connect with him again. To remind him that I’m on his side. To remember that he is getting older and I have to adjust my parenting.

And the universe responded by bringing into my life the philosophy of gentle parenting.

Gentle parenting is not about giving in…it’s about tuning in. It’s about authentic connection with your child so he feels validated – not controlled, not belittled, not unimportant. I honestly believe that emotional health is critical to a child’s well being and education. It is my responsibility to ensure that my children are emotionally healthy – and that starts at home…with me…with their dad. As a family we can connect and do this without so much struggle.

It all sounds so lovely on paper – validate, connect, empower. And, it is. It is. It is easy during …well during the easy times.

I just hope I can remember to breathe and create the space within me to help us through the stressful, challenging times because I refuse to let the beautiful and amazing experiences I’ve had with my son turn into daily battles and power-struggles.

Will it work? I hope so. Will it solve all the challenges that parenting brings? I wish it so.

In any case, I love the idea of raising my children without the gripping frustration that they can so innocently (and not so innocently) cause. There will be hits and misses…I just hope the hits will make the misses easier to bounce back from.

I don’t believe any one book or any one strategy will solve all parenting dilemmas. I do believe that the more educated I am then the more resources and tools I will have to at least feel like I can give my children the best of myself and help them along their path. And, when all else fails…there’s always that stash of chocolate in the pantry that makes us all smile.

Have you tried any gentle parenting strategies? Any advice?

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Bookish Thursdays: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

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Summary from GoodreadsSweet and sassy or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they? In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

I read this book in the summer…the beginning of the summer.  While I have forgotten many of the details of what I read, I do recall how it made me feel.

I encountered a spectrum of emotions actually. I can’t quite decide whether my first emotion was fear of the world in which I will raise my daughter or the all-encompassing “duh?” of what seems to be common sense…you know, like I know this stuff already because I’ve lived it and continue to live it every day.

I felt disarmed because Orenstein offers so much insight into a culture that I feel will swallow my daughter and I have no defense against it. As my dear friend (whom recommended this book) wisely reminded me (I’m paraphrasing here): “It is the crux of feminist social analysis…the problems are clearly laid out…but there never seems to be a solution”.

Once I grappled with this feeling of powerlessness and got a grip on my fear and self-righteousness, I devoured the book. It is thoroughly researched and each argument for and against girly-girl culture is well presented and supported. While my tendencies are feminist and I believe in raising my daughter with an empowered voice and sense of self, I am also the first to buy her a cute pink outfit with cute bow to match…I mean she has gorgeous creamy skin and dark silky hair…how can I not?!?

And there is the dilemma. Or the irony. Or whatever you want to call it…moms of this “post-feminist” (in quotations because can we ever really be post-feminist?), post-girl-power age have a fine line to walk. We understand the importance of looking our best and the danger of succumbing to media-fueled images of female sexuality. We understand that being true to ourselves does not always look like the cookie-cutter version of femininity. But how do we pass along this knowledge to our daughters and help them navigate the incessant messages of what they’re supposed to be in favour of just being who they are?

This book will not offer any solutions. Not a one. But it does clearly explain the root of the marketing machine and the power of the bottom-line in the hopes that our decisions for our daughters will at least be informed ones. More importantly, it really sends the message that your support and guidance are vital when she is making her own choices.

This a quick read that will get you thinking. I highly recommend it.

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Bookish Thursdays: Reading With Your Child

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My son has been looking at books since he was four months old (read more about that here). My daughter is now doing the same. It is the most special time of the day to have my baby on my lap as we read the alphabet, count to ten, or flip through a cute and cuddly touch and feel board book. Or to laugh out loud at the antics of Captain Underpants as my son now proudly takes on some of the reading himself.

It is the book-lover in me and the English teacher in me that drove me to instil a love and respect for books in my son and I hope to continue that with my daughter.

There is something about reading that teaches us to slow down, to appreciate the written word and to use our imaginations in ways that modern society does not challenge us to do in our every day lives.

The importance of reading to children and babies is firmly supported by a plethora of journals, researchers, parenting websites etc etc etc.

I do not pretend to be well versed in this research – but, I do know that as a mother of two my heart is warmed by my son’s excitement when we discuss our favourite parts of a book and  my 7 month old’s little fingers grasping at her book when I say “turn the page”.

I admit that as an English teacher, I am aware of the connection between being a good reader and being able to inquire, research, deduce, create and write well. So instilling a love of books is as much about their education as it is about loving the written word. This is easy for me because I love reading. But what about those adults who don’t? If you’re at a loss for how to give your child something that you may lack, but you know is important, here are a few tips that might help:

watermarked children and books

They deprive me of sleep, push me to the borders of irrational rage, squeeze every last bit of patience out of me – but when we sit to read everything dissolves around us. My children and I willingly lose ourselves in the magic of the words and pictures.

Love for reading is a gift that will last forever. Teach it with passion. Give it with abandon. Your children will thank you.

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Mommy Mondays: Second Time Around

Mommy Mondays WM

When I became a mother for the first time it seemed like I was constantly on high alert. I was stressed about my baby boy’s sleeping (or, non-sleeping) habits. It was all organic, home made foods. I rushed to wash his hands, change his clothes or his barely used diaper whenever a hint of germs or spit up or whiff of foulness was detected. My radar was sharp. I missed nothing.

I would invariably catch the attention of a more relaxed mother, perhaps on her second or third child, who would smile (condescendingly? nope, I think remembering her own hysteria) and say “he’s your first…it’ll be so much easier with your second”. I would nod and laugh and say something short like “I bet” while groaning inwardly.

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The blissfully relaxed smiling face would say “You’ll be so much more relaxed with your next child” and I’d say “I guess so.” But what I really meant was:  ‘Really? You mean you can see my anxiety-ridden shoulders that are practically in my ears and my tight smile that is about to make my cheeks explode?”

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Mother of Year would say “You’ll worry less with your second”. No response. Just a head nod as I would think, “Mind your own f***ing business because if I decide to have a second I’m not going to let that child swim in their own shit, be covered in vomit and drag themselves all over the grocery store because I’ve learned that babies/toddlers are tougher than we think.”

Ahhhhh. Even though there’s nothing worse than someone belittling your present experience because in the future it’ll seem like a trifle, I know that they all meant well.

Well, I’ve had my second child. And, while I still strive to give my daughter the same attention and care I gave my son…it is different.

Am I more relaxed? Yes, but not in her care. I am more confident in my abilities to care for her and to read her. I don’t necessarily find her easier – it’s more that I don’t feel like a baby-idiot any more.

I accept that the intentions of those mothers who were trying to help me relax with my first baby were good. Don’t we all love to impart the lessons we’ve learned to ease the hardships or trials of others. Except it doesn’t really work that way. We learn through our own experiences. Period.

I’ve been a mother to two children for three months now.  So, how have I changed my approach to motherhood as a consequence of my experiences?

  1. I will carry and hug and kiss and cuddle my children as much as I want. They grow fast and I will never, ever have this day with them again. I want my children to look back at their childhood and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were loved.  And even if they do get a little spoiled with hugs and kisses…better that than feel less than important.
  2. When my baby cries I will pick her up. If my baby needs to fall asleep in my arms, she can.  If she wants to sleep with me, she can…because her brother did…and now he’s fine and sleeps independently…well not since his sister was born (but that’s another story)…and I doubt either of them will require to sleep with us when they’re adolescents…
  3. If I am in any way feeling irritated or less than patient, it is better to wait a few minutes before tending to my children. A deep breath, a moment to myself will help me be there for them without feeling exasperated.
  4. I can leave my baby in her play pen to simply take in her surroundings, check out her toys, get to know her hands and the sound of her own voice. I am not neglecting her because a baby does not require constant stimulation.
  5. I know that dirt won’t kill them. I get it that it is good for their bodies to be exposed to germs. I know that rolling around on grass, kneeling in soil, playing in sand, and jumping in mud puddles should be done with abandon. And, afterwards it should be thoroughly cleaned off. I cannot leave them dirty or in dirty clothes for long. Making the memory is awesome…smelling the memory, not so much.
  6. I will now approach my first born with the same confidence that I do my second born. My experiences with my son will always be a first for me…it’s not fair to him that I muddle it all up with anxiety to then breeze through life with my daughter.
  7. Babies just want to feel loved and protected. All the extra stuff that marketers wish to push down our throats … it doesn’t matter. The same goes for older kids too.
  8. Everything else can wait.
  9. My health matters. I will take care of myself because I hope to be with my children throughout their journey. As my son loves to ask me, “Mommy, how old will you be when I’m 100?”

Now that I’m doing this for a second time…I’m still on high alert but my shoulders are squared where they should be. These are a but a few ways…if you’re a first time mom and these help you out, great! If not, revel in your anxiety and worry…should you choose to do this again, the anxiety will magically disappear. However, I would never dream of telling you so.  

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Bookish Thursdays: My Son’s Life In Books

Bookish Thursdays WM

For the past 5 years my husband and I have been adamant about instilling a love for books, an appreciation for literature, a mind that thinks beyond the screen in our son. And, so, my son’s books could very well stock a day care, preschool and library. No regrets on the money spent on books or the fines on overdue books. We are left with rich memories of bedtime stories, rainy day tales and early morning reading when it was way too early to be up and about.

Age 0-2 years:

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These were some of our favourites. I exaggerate not when I say I read Good Night, Sleep Tight every night for 2 years. Every. Single. Night. We even took it on holiday. At 3 he was able to recite most of these by rote. I recited them in my sleep. By seven months he knew what “turn the page” meant and loved flipping to the next part of the story.

Age 2-3 years:

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We graduated to more sophisticated, longer reads. He loved reading about his favourite television or movie characters. The best part was giving life to the characters with different voices and intonations. Oh, and we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas well into July.

Age 4 – present:

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This phase of his reading began with Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (Read about that here). It was love at first word. He was hooked and now LOVES chapter books. We read them to him, and now that he’s learning how to read he helps with the reading too. It is incredible to see his brown eyes light up with delight, joy, laughter, curiosity, intrigue…as we read each book and listen to the plot unfold.

My son’s journey through literature has been exciting, fun and adventurous. There is nothing we love more than cuddling up to a great read. I can’t wait to see where his journey takes him next.

She’s Here!

Literally, 2 days after my last post…which has been up for three weeks…my baby girl arrived!!!  Hence, the reason I’ve virtually vanished on-line.

Labour and delivery lasted 7 hours from start to baby in my arms and she is absolutely precious.  We have all fallen in love.  Big brother is adjusting well.  Most days he is happy and just adores his sister.  There have been days of challenging behaviour – mostly due to the loss of being mommy’s sole focus.  We are moving through the ebbs and flows of a newborn as well as we can.

There is so much to write about!  I just wish I had the time…since some feedings can take up to two hours.  Or, when there is time…then I wish I had the energy because I’d rather be sleeping since my mind is in a perpetual state of haze.  Or, if I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m spending time with my four year old…or finally getting to that mountain of laundry.

I’m lucky in that I have help.  My mother has been invaluable.  In fact, I have warned her that she may very well never go home again.  And, husband has taken on extra duties as well.

I have successfully stuck to breastfeeding (which was a nightmare the first time around, read about that here).  I will write about the experience this time around soon.  I am not pumping.  I remain ambivalent at best about the pump since with my son it was basically horrid.  So, I am my daughter’s source of food.  Which means I am up for all feedings.  I am ok with that because I really wanted her and I to learn this whole breastfeeding thing together, and once we are confident in what we can do I will attempt to pump, store milk and receive help with night time feedings.

Thank you to all who have sent messages via various avenues asking about baby.  She is healthy, lovely and an absolute joy!  My family feels complete…she is a blessing.

I cannot write daily right now.  But I will try to write weekly as I do miss blogging.

I hope you are all well and enjoyed a beautiful Christmas season.  All the best in 2014 my dear readers!

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Mommy Mondays: 37 Weeks 5 Days

Mommy Mondays WM

Only during pregnancy do days matter – especially near the end.  The final countdown to the moment when you finally get to meet the little person who invaded your body and knew every one of your secrets for 40 weeks give or take a week or a day or two, must include days.

Her room is ready.  Walls have been painted a lovely lilac and her white furniture is ready.  Decals of butterflies, flowers and bees decorate her walls – lovingly placed by her parents and brother.  Her clothes, new and gently used from generous friends, are washed and neatly folded in the drawers. Receiving blankets, wash cloths, socks, mitts, caps – the whole lot awaits my infant girl.  Big brother helped to select the softest bunny in the world for his little sister and her bassinet stands gloriously next to my side of the bed.  I peak inside every morning visualizing her in it and am simultaneously overcome with memories of  how her brother once slept in there all bundled up.

Our bags are ready.  Everything is ready.  Everyone is ready to hear the news.  I am not ready.

I have a list of things to do, to complete before she arrives.  Most of it includes finishing Christmas shopping and wrapping.  There are also a few more things to settle in the new house.  Our short list of names keeps changing and I’d love just one more good night of sleep.

I feel like I am racing time each time my uterus hardens as I live through Braxton Hicks.  I stop and wonder after some period-like cramping that I haven’t felt in…well, in 37 weeks and 5 days!  I wonder if this new found energy to settle, put away, clean up, cross off one more thing from my perpetual “to-do” list means that I am in nesting mode.  I know it all means she will appear soon – but I still need a little more time.

I also know that I will miss feeling her move around inside me terribly.  She has been a most physical inhabitant.  Her brother was calm and occasionally reminded me he was there.  She has been happily bouncing around since I was 17 weeks!  I will miss feeling her and having her all to myself.

As with all things parenting related, when a baby decides to arrive has nothing to do with me or my wishes.  It is the precursor to every lesson that parenting brings, particularly how you are no longer in control of your own life.  It is all about letting go and letting life happen.

I can do that.  I can let go.  Just give me about 2 weeks and 5 days.

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Mommy Mondays: Teacher Christmas Gifts

Mommy Mondays WM

Check these Christmas Ornaments out.  I bought them at Pier 1 Imports.  I thought they were beautiful. Each comes in a lovely box (no gift wrapping!) with a little description inside of the hand painting and creative process in designing each treasure.  And, the year appears on the ornament too.  A great gift for a teacher don’t you think?

Each teacher will be receiving one from my son this year in addition to a few other important people at his school who have helped to make my life easier.  Yes, I am Christmas shopping early and with as little travel as possible. Actually, it’s my first time venturing out to Christmas shop – most of it has been accomplished from my laptop in my living room!

I thought I’d share these as sometimes we can get pretty stumped about what to buy the teacher!

Happy Shopping 🙂

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Friday Five Favourites

My Friday Five Favourite Things WM

My son was home from school today because of a pd day for his teachers.  We spent the day together, chatting, reading, we headed to the library and throughout our chats I realized that there are things that he’s going to stop saying because he’ll learn proper pronunciation and grammar.  And, I will miss each and every one.

So, today’s Friday Five Favourites are in honour of my son.  These are my favourite words/phrases/rituals that he says and that we do. When he learns the correct versions or when he no longer needs them, I will mourn and miss.

  1. Lellow for yellow.  This is one has been around for a while and I would love for it to stay forever.
  2. No I amn’t.  He has abbreviated “am not” into amn’t.  I can’t correct him.  It’s too cute and in a weird way, makes sense!
  3. Aminal for animal.  He just can’t invert that “m” and “n”.  Love it.
  4. Top. Tar. Stop. Star.  This is one is slowing being lost, but still creeps up on him and it’s awesome.
  5. The Love Bubble.  The love bubble is a ritual I started when he was 3 years old.  The love bubble is supposed to ward off all monsters and scary things at night when he goes to sleep – because mommy’s love is so strong that monsters will bounce off and he’ll be able to sleep soundly and be safe.  I still have to do the love bubble every night.  Every night.

I wish he could stay 4 forever; I’ve wished that at every age yet watching him grow up has been nothing short of amazing.

Any favourite words/phrases/rituals that are unique to your children?

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Mommy Mondays: Oh, Sleep!

Mommy Mondays WM

Ah, Sleep.  I took you for granted in my youth, in my pre-parent days.  As a teenager I didn’t know what the world was like before noon on weekends or holidays.  In my twenties once I started my teaching career, being awake at 9 am on a weekend was blasphemous!

Then I got pregnant.  I couldn’t believe the outpouring of love and happiness that everyone showed at the addition to our family.  Apart from family members, those who were most happy were already parents themselves.  It was like I was entering some sort of exclusive club that only having children permits.  We also noticed a pattern in the congratulatory comments – they all ended with a knowing smile as we would be advised to “get our sleep now”.

Yeah, sure. I would think.  We’ll be up for night time feedings and we’ll lose some sleep…boy, was I naive!

I had no idea that I would never sleep like I did when I was childless again.

I had my son.  For two weeks he slept like an angel…so much so that he barely woke to eat.  One Saturday afternoon, at two weeks old, he was awake.  He was awake all day long.  It was bizarre.  I didn’t think much of it and enjoyed seeing my cutie with his eyes open for a change.

Thus began the sleeping circus.  The child barely slept again.  The next few weeks were a struggle because he slept in short spurts – rarely did he sleep longer than 2 hours at night.  The only time he slept this well he was on his tummy.  Yup, on his tummy.  My exhaustion overpowered my fear of SIDS and I allowed him to sleep on his belly against every fear, against every piece of advice from doctors and sleep experts.  It was the only way we could get any sleep.  There were times I would just let him sleep on his tummy on my chest – it would make me feel more security and trust that he would be alright, that I could take care of him.

My husband and I would take shifts throughout the night to make sure the baby slept soundly (on his tummy) and was safe.  So, he got more sleep, but we were at our wits end with sleep deprivation.  We had help from my mother, but it was never enough sleep to take away the numbness of lack of sleep.

That’s when I was introduced to this book:

I devoured chapters 1-5 within a day.  And, I was obsessed.  This book did two things to my fragile, sleep deprived self: give me hope that I could help my son become a good sleeper and therefore, we could sleep…and, I felt so uneducated!  I spent my entire pregnancy reading about pregnancy and delivery – not once did I think to read about what to do once the baby arrived.  I felt it would come naturally.  For a woman in her early thirties who had never changed a diaper there was nothing natural about any of it.

Weissbluth’s methods are strict and at times seem cold.  Nonetheless, Weissbluth is direct, practical, does take into account the emotional toll of sleep training or lack thereof.  His book enlightened me.

Every stage of my son’s growth and development was marked with sleep issues: multiple night wakings, rising too early, the world’s shortest naps. The only thing we had down was a great bedtime routine.  He fell asleep easily enough.  Every night I left his room I prayed for a full night or half a night’s sleep.  Occasionally the prayers were answered, most nights he awoke and would not go back to sleep without me or his dad going to him.

Trust me. I read this and other books. You’re supposed to ignore. You’re supposed to not smile. You’re supposed to encourage and help the child learn to sleep by themselves.  You’re supposed to let them cry it out.  Extinguish the learned behaviour because as Weissbluth reminds his readers, lost sleep is lost sleep forever.  You can’t make up sleep and this is detrimental to children.

I was now exhausted by reading, researching, asking, trying to get this child to sleep and nap properly. I needed off the misery-go-round.  My husband hid the baby books and I didn’t ask where they were nor did I hunt for them.  I had to go with what I knew of my child.

A fog lifted.  Feelings of incompetence slowly turned into trust of … dare I say it… my instinct?

My son did not magically become a better sleeper.  We still battled at dawn for more sleep; we groaned when he awoke after 30 minutes of napping, but my son was always happy.  I finally recognized that my child cannot be defined by the stories or advice provided in a book.  I had to learn to take my cues from him.

Marc Weissbluth’s book is a good one.  It does give newbies like me a great structure and understanding of sleep in babies and children.  I did use what I learned of his advice and applied it to my family and my child – and it worked. On my terms.

I reflect on this experience because I will shortly be learning another human being’s sleep patterns and needs.  I think that’s the best advice I’d give any woman that’s expecting – unless you’ve had plenty of experience with babies and children and are supremely confident in your knowledge of them, put the pregnancy book down.  Pick up one that tells you what it’ll be like when your gorgeous little somebody is in your arms.  Yes, do it now, when you’re in your right mind, less sleepy, less (believe it or not) hormonal.  Now is a good time to soak in the information and decide what tips you’ll take, what you’ll discard, what feels right for you.  Once baby comes, it can all fly out the window, or you’ll use it – but at least you’ll know.

Note 1:  I would never tell any parent to let their baby sleep on their tummy; I don’t intend to do so with my next baby – we were just desperate for our son to sleep.

Note 2: My son is now a great sleeper.  It only took 4 years! We have a solid, early bedtime routine, he falls asleep & stays asleep on his own and (mostly) wakes at a decent hour.

What were your sleep training experiences like? Share your stories below!

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