Posts Tagged "Parenting"

To The New Parents

Posted on May 12, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 9 comments

To The New Parents

There’s something that no one will tell you. They don’t want to scare you, or be a downer, or maybe they don’t remember, really truly, what it was like. They will wait for you to bungle through it, and hopefully figure it out yourself at some point, though I think a lot of us never do. I’ve been through the new parent thing three times now and no one ever told me, that’s for sure. It’s hard. Wait a minute. Wait. That’s not the secret thing that no one will tell you. Sure, not many people honestly talk to a couple expecting their first child about how hard it is. It’s all congratulations and calling every day asking, “Any News?” Nevertheless, there are probably a few people in your life who tell you that it was hard for them, or maybe you witnessed some friends or family go through it and you were surprised and appalled by their transformation from happy and excited (even glowing) parent-to-be into weeping zombie. I’m sure you sort of expect that it isn’t going to be a cake walk. But part of you just doesn’t get how hard it can be, and part of you doesn’t even care because you’re all hopped up on the delicious anticipation that is pregnancy. Not to mention a little self-absorbed with the idea that pregnancy is really hard and you can’t wait for it to be over. I’ll tell you the secret now. The secret is that there is no solution, no fix for the hardness of new parenthood. (I’d almost go so far as to say that it is supposed to be hard, though it’s possible that wasn’t as true in the old days when we lived more communally.) After the marathon, whirlwind, ordeal, or ecstasy of birth (whatever combo of those you are blessed with), and the initial nights of parenting while you wait for your milk to come in, already exhausted from not sleeping through labour, and then not sleeping because you’re staring dewy-eyed at the new piece of your heart cradled in your arms, and the back-to-back visits from family and friends, and the meconium, and the euphoria of 9 months of waiting has finally worn off, you may find yourself staring into the eyes of a bunch of new challenges. Challenges like: poor latch, mastititis, postpartum depression, failure to thrive, GERD, mother-in-laws, sleep deprivation, growth spurts, pumping, isolation, child care, identity crisis, colic, returning to work, car rides, diaper rash, marital strife, and never having a single moment to pee or shower without bouncing the baby on the damn exercise ball. You’ll call the midwife, the lactation consultant, your mother, your BFF and the nurse hotline. You’ll ask for help, and you’ll receive it (with meals). And you’ll cry alone in your room (and no one will know to help). You’ll read books, and ask google and chat rooms. You’ll fight with your partner. You’ll beg your partner to just tell you what to do, or to stop telling you what to do, or to just take the baby for five freaking minutes even if she’s screaming. You’ll wonder why it’s so hard, and what to do to fix it. Here’s the thing. We’ll listen to you. We’ll help when we can. We’ll offer solutions from our own experience (when we can). We’ll bring you meals. We’ll tell you “Yes. It was this hard for us too.” We’ll loan you our books, and suggest calling the midwife. We’ll share websites that helped us. We’ll tell you to call any time, even though we know you probably won’t know how to ask for help when you really really need it. But we can’t fix it. For the better part of the next year (or two), it will stay hard. You will solve some problems and gain more confidence. And then there will be new challenges. New arguments with your partner. New surprises with the baby. You’ll sort those out. You’ll figure out how to eat a meal while holding a baby. You’ll get used...

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Why Are You Yelling?

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 1 comment

Why Are You Yelling?

I want to tell you a little story. I’m with my kids in their bedroom, trying to get them to tidy up and put on pjs before bed. The room is a mess and I’m already a little annoyed when I see the state of the room, but I’m ok. I assign each child a specific job and I start grabbing dirty clothes. My daughter starts picking up. My son starts playing. I ask him to stop playing and pick up. My daughter finishes what she was picking up and now I ask her to get into her pjs and go brush her teeth. She drops her dirty clothes where she is standing, pulls out five things from her pj drawer, drops them on the ground, puts on her chosen pjs and goes downstairs to brush her teeth. I call her back to put her things in her drawer. I remind my son not to play, just pick up. I ask my daughter to put her dirty clothes in the hamper. She starts screaming at her brother. I sort out the scuffle. Remind him to pick up. Remind her to take her dirty clothes. All the while, I am also tidying the room, and dealing with my toddler. I go to help my son and keep him on task.  I’m getting frustrated that he is not listening to me. My daughter has forgotten her dirty clothes. I pick them up and go to put them in the hamper. I discover that earlier in the day my daughter has stashed a bunch of toys at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper. I call her back from the bathroom where she is supposedly brushing her teeth but is in fact spraying water on the mirror with a squirt bottle. This is not that bizarre of a scene. I’m sure something similar goes on in every family. I find that this procedure goes best if I only give the kids one instruction at a time, and if I am as specific as I can be so that essentially, I’m verbally walking them through every step of the process. This way, they can’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed by the task because it’s broken down into manageable pieces. Now, imagine that one step is “Please pick up the necklace and put it on the shelf,” but you can’t remember the word necklace or the word shelf. On a daily basis, my ability to recall basic vocabulary is seriously impaired by lack of sleep. Every step of that clean up routine involves great mental effort for me to just give out basic instructions. Many of my instructions actually come out like this “please pick up the…the… the…gold thing. Yes, that, there. Put it on the…the…shelf.” Of course, it gets worse the more stressed I get. So, for instance, if I’m already a little annoyed that their room is so messy, and as the whole scene drags on, and I just want to get to the part where we are reading stories together, or where they are in bed so I can have a break, the more I begin to stumble over my words. When this is coupled with the frustration of feeling ignored (because kids don’t want to clean up, or go to bed, and because kids get distracted because they live in their imaginations) but which to me feels disrespectful, and means I have to repeat myself when I’m already struggling as it is to say simple things even once, I start to lose my temper. And eventually I find myself yelling, partly to get their attention, but mostly because I’m so frustrated that I can’t form a sentence. This is not an exaggeration. This just happened again as I was typing this. Aaron was putting away laundry that I had folded earlier today and I tried to tell him that the pillowcase, though in a pile with some towels, needed to be put somewhere else. But I was staring at the pillowcase, knowing it was a pillowcase, and yet totally unable to...

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Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

It seems to me that 90% of parenting you have to learn from experience, as you go. You can read books, have friends tell you all the dirty details, consult the experts, but until you find yourself discussing the consistency of poop at dinner with the neighbours you probably didn’t know what you were going to do, or what you’d have to do, to raise an infant to adulthood. In light of that, there are some things about parenting that I did not get as a parent of only one child. It was the experience of parenting multiple kids that taught me these little truths. **Here I must insert my disclaimer to say that I don’t mean this to be condescending to parents of a single child, whether it be by choice, by accident, or because they just haven’t had their future kids yet. I am only speaking to my experience of having learned these things through the act of parenting two or more kids. This isn’t an attack on parents of one, especially given the fact that even if parents of one never learn these things, they have other strengths and positives in their situation that I will never have the chance to experience.** Here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know when I only had Rain: It wasn’t all my parenting. It was mostly the kid. Sure, I’ve had some positive effects on my kids…but all that smugness, thinking that I’d done all these things right (or for that matter, even the guilt about the things I thought were my fault)? So much of it is just the personality of the child or the circumstances at the time. My son was toilet trained in 6 weeks. My daughter took 6 months. I don’t get points for any of it, except maybe being willing to go with the flow. Every kid has the potential to be an asshole. And an angel. Yes, even mine. And yours. You know that mama bear reaction you have when a bigger kid on the playground is being mean, aggressive, or bossy to your kid? When they throw sand in your baby’s face, or snatch a toy, or kick your sweet darling in the back because they went down the slide before your kid got off? You know that feeling when you look at the other child, thinking that he’s totally rude and aggressive, downright nasty, maybe even a brat (and you haven’t even gotten started on all the ways it’s the mother’s fault). Your kiddo seems so little still next to the other kids and you are biologically programmed to want to protect them from all harm. How about this? Your three year old is throwing a tantrum and has accidentally punched your three day old baby in the stomach. Your first reaction is to protect your baby, and you feel yourself going mama bear on your precious first born. But then you see how he’s hurting and confused and still little too. You realize that it could be your kid on the playground being mean, aggressive or bossy to someone younger and you love him anyway. You realize that all the kids out there are sometimes the rough ones, the selfish ones, the rude ones, and sometimes, the sweet ones, the funny ones, the little ones. When your kid is going through a difficult phase, you recognize it as a developmental stage or the full moon or a long day or a bad mood and worry less about what that means in the long term. You finally understand that they aren’t defined by a snapshot of their behaviour on any given day – they are all of that and more. After that, it’s a lot easier to be charitable to other people’s kids, and to your own, when they don’t play nice. A little crying isn’t the end of the world. With my firstborn, every time he cried it was earth shatteringly upsetting to me. I jumped to soothe and fix it every time. Once you have two kids that...

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Attachment Village

Posted on Mar 6, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 5 comments

Attachment Village

At the end of February I had the pleasure (and good fortune) of being able to attend a full-day lecture by Dr. Gabor Mate. You may have heard him on CBC discussing his work as a doctor in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. Or you may have read one of his books including Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers (which he co-authored with Gordon Neufeld), Scattered Minds:  A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, When the Body Says No:  The Cost of Hidden Stress, or In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. His work is incredibly fascinating and after 8 hours on a Saturday spent listening to him talk, my mind was reeling and whirring for several days as I tried to digest everything. A couple of days later, I attended a school function where a fellow parent asked me to sum up the presentation or give the “one nugget” I had taken away. I was struck totally dumb. I couldn’t even begin to succinctly summarize the broad range of ideas that had been touched on. I’m sorry to say that my response was probably not a 30 second sound bite worthy of Dr. Mate. But, 10 days later, I’m ready to give it a try. Essentially, Dr. Mate’s work deals with the mind-body connection. Babies are far more susceptible to stress in their environment than we might suppose. This includes prenatal maternal stress, but also from the circumstances of the birth itself, from separation from the mother, from the family/living environment. Dr. Mate explains that in response to stress, we may use adaptive states or protective behaviours as coping mechanisms and when these adaptive states which are meant to temporarily insulate us from the effects of the stress become long-term traits, we can see a variety of problems arise. These problems can include AD(H)D, autism, cancer, auto-immune diseases, addiction and more. The subject of Dr. Mate’s talk on this occasion was The Biology of Loss: What Happens When Attachments Are Impaired and How to Foster Resilience so he was talking specifically about working with/parenting children. He brought up the dangers of the rising cesarean section rate, and the problems of using methods like cry-it-out to get babies to sleep. He discussed what happens when children become peer-oriented rather than seeking their cues from the adults in their lives. He also explained the optimum conditions for an attachment relationship, and how and why a relationship may be negatively affected. So, what did I take away as the nugget of the day? Firstly, I was struck by the fact that we are all carrying our own issues from childhood into our adult lives, and therefore, into our parenting.  Dr. Mate says that in order to form strong attachments, babies need a non-stressed, non-depressed mother. I remember when I first read Hold On To Your Kids I was expecting to gain all this insight into my parenting, and for the first half of the book I found I was learning more about myself, about my own adolescence and early 20’s. All of this serves as further validation of my own parenting theory which is that if you want to be the best parent, you have to work on being the best person you can be, you have to understand yourself, your motivations, your own unhealthy stress responses, your own childhood traumas. The short version: You want to be a good parent? Deal with your own shit. I’m reminded here of a quote from the day which unfortunately I can not remember the source for: The greatest gift we give our children is our happiness. Secondly, I felt rather relieved of the huge burden of mother-guilt I carry with me most days. Listening to Dr. Mate speak, I was acutely aware that as far as healthy attachments go, we are doing a lot of things well. We are privileged enough to be able to make a lot of choices in our lives in our children’s best interest. They...

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Making the Switch to Natural Toys

Posted on Nov 13, 2011 in Featured, Playing | 5 comments

Making the Switch to Natural Toys

As I wrote last week, creating a natural playroom doesn’t happen overnight. Taking the longer route, while perhaps more realistic, is not without its bumps and setbacks. Here’s a little about what you can expect and some tips to help along the way: It’s no secret that kids don’t actually need a bunch of fancy toys, but unfortunately, I’ve also observed that given the choice, they just can’t resist the shiny, plastic, battery operated, noisy, walking, talking, lights-flashing ones. When you first start to introduce natural toys you may find, like I did, that they aren’t played with as much as you’d hoped. Despite observing the kids in a Waldorf Kindergarten regularly play with rocks and acorns and silks, I have a hard time imagining my kids choosing horse chestnuts and pine cones over a bucket of Lego, given the choice. And it’s not just the rocks that pose this problem. At first even the more exciting toys like the wooden castle filled with wooden horses and knights were only played with when they were brand new and often sat in the corner after that. So, you probably wonder what has worked for us? First off, don’t get discouraged. Keep buying natural toys whenever you can.  Make it a priority to invest in these types of toys even if your initial efforts aren’t the raging success you were hoping for. Pool cash gifts from family and friends to get a big item or suggest that family members go together to purchase something you’ve been dreaming of. We started getting the kids some of the bigger ticket items every time a birthday or Christmas rolled around. We started with a beautiful wooden castle and eventually got each of the kids their own Waldorf doll. Expect that as you start getting more of them, there will be a shift. Expect that it will take a while, especially if finances are a big factor. Here are some ways to cut down on the expense: Try making stuff. The woman who did up this room for her son says she got very DIY and made a lot of the toys. Some of the things that we’ve made for our kids include a wooden doll bed, some doll clothes, felt birthday crowns, a wooden sword, and a knight’s tunic. I also have a book that shows how to make simple felt animals which I intend to do with Rain. A lot of etsy vendors even sell patterns for making your own felt food and you can get cheap plain silk and dye your own play cloths. Involving your kids in the process is a good way to ensure that they will be more willing to play with the creations too. Evaluate what big items you really want to purchase and what could be skipped. Do you really need those expensive play arches (even though they are cool)? It seems to me that you could invest in a lot more TOYS to be played with rather than the fancy shelves. Could you make do with a homemade stove/sink combo that sits on a table top rather than an expensive kitchen? Save those purchases until the end when you are really sure that you want/need/can afford them. Two Good Starting Points: Felt Food – I started getting the kids one set of felt play food from etsy for every gift giving occasion. I only spent about $20 at a time, but I did this for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays and Christmas so they added up quickly. At first they didn’t get used often but as the sets have started to pile up, they now play with them quite a bit. The sets aren’t expensive when you buy them slowly over time like this, and I feel good about supporting handmade etsy products. These make playing with the Fisher Price plastic stuff more fun until we can eventually afford the time/money to either make or buy a kitchen. Dress Up – starting a dress up bin is also a good place to start. This can be done...

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