Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gentle Parenting...

...does not only reflect my beliefs about how I raise my child, and will raise my children. It reflects what I believe to be right about people and life. Gentle parenting goes beyond the sling, beyond the family bed, the extended breastfeeding, extended rear facing car seat, the cloth diapers. Beyond the "methods" I use that have garnered me a label (albeit one I am happy with). I giggle a little when I'm referred to as a hippie mom. I get a kick out of it, and I refer to myself as one, too! But past the easily identifiable, these are some of the values I try to uphold in my daily life as a mother, a friend, a wife, a relative, and as a member of society.

There is some peace that has come with leaving my 20s and having a child. The most significant weight that I have been able to relieve myself of is the need to nurture relationships that are not nurturing to me. I haven't mastered this one yet, but I realize now that the time I have is better spent loving those who love me, and connecting with those who want connection. I hope I can pass this down to my lovely daughter. I don't want her to waste too much of her time, like I did mine, on people who don't appreciate her...flaws and all.

As Charlotte gets older, the topic of discipline comes up more and more in our household. I feel incredibly fortunate for the years of teaching I have under my belt. Not that I have it all figured out, but I have an understanding of a few things that I intend to take with me as I raise my children. The first is that no two children are alike, therefore connection is key. While some kids will do something out of anger, others will do the same thing out of curiosity or mimicking. Some children will push boundaries, others are exploring their environment. Some respond to modeling, others resond to discussion and reason. My point is that understanding the place my child is coming from will inform my approach.

Discipline is about guidance, not control. Of course I would love it if my kids were "well behaved" at all times, but I would love it even more if they sought to understand the world they live in and experience it without fear. And I want them to spend their lives using their minds and creativity to enjoy life, rather than to express hurt and overcome childhood fear, humiliation, parental control, and repressed inquiry. I know that I won't be able to use every second of every day to foster these behaviors, but I can certainly try. And that is what I fully intend to do. It will be time consuming. It will try my patience. But, like building a cathedral, beautiful things take time and patience to render. Life is not simply about obedience.

And before anyone has a chance to tell me, "Just wait until your two year old is throwing a fit while you are sitting at a restaurant. Then tell me how you feel about obedience," I will say this: children need boundaries, and that might mean we leave dinner early, but it doesn't mean humiliation is in order. Kids are not "bad". And I say that with the experience of having a stapler thrown at my head, a sharp pencil aimed at my arm, and a swollen eye behind me (not from Char, of course). Trust me, a fit in a restaurant doesn't bother me in the least. There is always a reason for behavior, and I know full well that pushing mommies buttons is sometimes a reason. But children remain in a state of "me, me, me" for quite a while. Foresight isn't something that is inherent. Toddlers, especially, want what they want when they want it. And I cannot physically change the structure of their brains to NOT want it when they want it, no matter how badly I want to. Instead, I empathize. It is most certainly OK for a child to be upset or angry. These are real emotions that need validation and understanding. That doesn't mean I will give in, but I will not take away my child's right to her emotions. Then, I redirect. The storm will pass. Will I use time-outs? Probably, but I'm not sure how she will respond to them. Will I spank? No. Spanking has been proven to be a short-term solution, with no real long-term benefits, and can be detrimental to a child who just might have a sensitivity to it that could possibly damage the parent-child relationship. And I won't risk that.Will she learn consequences? Absolutely. Natural consequences. Boundaries can be set without physical harm, humiliation, and isolation. But do I have my Master Plan all drawn up yet? Nope. On to the next thing.

My mother is about as kind a woman I'll ever know. She, like everyone, has flaws, but she consistently modeled patience, kindness, empathy, and love with me and my siblings. And when I was growing up, and my first instinct was to pass judgment on other people in certain situations, she reminded me that empathy is a virtue, judgment is not. And don't pretend that you've got all the answers and have the right to judge.

Judgment should be an Olympic sport. There's some serious talent out there, and Motherhood Judgment could be its very own special category. In this category, there would be various events: Breastfeeders vs Formula Feeders, Natural Birthers vs Elective Intervention Birthers, Sleep Trainers vs Non Trainers/Cosleepers, "Traditional" Discipline vs Gentle/Positive Discipline, Strollers vs Baby Carriers, etc. And it seems that some of us have been entered into these events unwittingly, involuntarily, and by some of the people we consider friends. So, since I refuse to join in these games, my counterparts can treasure their Judgment Olympic gold medals while I focus my attention on doing my best to raise a child who does not feel the need to scoff at the choices that other people make.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Some Might Call A Victory...

...is a rather heartbraking experience for me. 

I remember the sleepless nights rocking her, nursing her, barely able to keep my eyes open, and trying to put her into her bed without waking her up (which never happened, it would take 10 tries some nights). I remember giving in to my desire to bring her to bed with me for the entire night. She would snuggle up in the crook of my arm. And there we'd be. Finally sleeping at night. Together.

She took all of her naps on me during the day. Sometimes four a day. Sometimes we napped together.

I remember the voices of my critics in the back of my head telling me she would never be able to sleep without me next to her, or fall asleep on her own, or sleep in her own bed. And I remember worrying that that would be the case.

There were times when I prayed that she would sleep on her own for even ONE nap. And now here we are. She's asleep. I'm here. She didn't need me to help her. She didn't want me to help her. My eyes welled up as I put her down for bed, giving her a million kisses. Not wanting her weight to leave my arms.

I went at her pace. Thinking this wouldn't happen for a little while longer.

She is comfortable with sleep now. Confident without me by her side every moment. But her solid, peaceful presence in my arms is replaced, tonight, with a heaviness in my heart. My baby is becoming a big girl.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Granola...er Challenge Update Part 2

Well, recycling is underway and I have (surprisingly) gotten my husband on board. You'd swear his ultimate goal in life was to destroy the planet. See what I mean when I say this new lifestyle has been an uphill battle? He's coming around, though!  Anyway, first trip to the recycling plant will be this weekend. Feelin' good :)

My third challenge for myself was to replace my cleaning supplies with natural ingredients. So far, this is what I have replaced:

   **Kitchen Cleaner (similar to Formula 409 stuff)
       -Replaced with a solution of 2 C. Water (in a spray bottle), 1/2 C Vinegar, and 1 Tsp dish soap.

   **Floor Cleaner (generally use products similar to Pine Sol)
       -Replaced with (in a bucket) hot water, 1/2 C. Baking Soda, and 1 C. Vinegar

    **Dish Soap (I use soap similar to Dawn)
       -As soon as I can get my hands on some soap flakes...
       -(will be) Replaced with 2 C Soap flakes to 1 gallon of water

 Place soap flakes and water into a pan. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until it boils and until soap dissolves. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Remove from heat and let liquid partially cool, add the essential oil and stir. Pour into a clean plastic squeeze bottle or re-used dish soap bottle

These are what I'm starting with, since I use them daily.

I explained some of my reasoning for challenging myself in this way in a previous post, but I wanted to share some other information that helped me choose to go natural with my cleaning supplies.

   *Average Americans spend nearly $2000 per year on cleaning supplies. Using natural ingredients significantly reduces that expenditure.

   *The EPA has determined that indoor pollution is 2 to 5 times more dangerous than outdoor pollution, and chemical cleaning products are mostly to blame.

   *The millions of gallons of chemicals that are dumped down our drains eventually make it into the ecosystem, and are eventually absorbed into the tissues of plants, fish, and wildlife.

My Earth Destroyer spouse is actually impressed! I mopped the floor a few days ago and some time later Char was crawling around on it. He sort of..well freaked and said, "Oh great, let her crawl around on that floor that's all covered in chemicals after you mopped." First, I told him to hold off on the aneurysm. Then I told him for the five THOUSANDTH time that I'm using vinegar, water, and baking soda. He's doing fine now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Intentional Parenting. This Isn't About Me Anymore...

When I was pregnant, I got lots of advice. And I had a plan based on some of that advice. When I had a baby, I got even more advice. And then I stopped listening, because most of it wasn't for me and was based largely on what is best for mom, not baby. Most of it was mainstream stuff. Things that everyone hears for the most part. It's just the way babies are raised, I guess. When Char had sleep troubles, someone was there to give me a sleep training method. When nursing was frustrating, someone suggested a schedule. When she had a blowout, then I got "better" diaper suggestions. I've done this, too and I hate that I have done it. I do feel quite strongly about the things I do, but every baby is different, every mother is comfortable with different things and I need to remember that.

I have been intentional about my mothering ever since I turned off my ears, listened to my instincts, and began researching. I do things very differently than many, and I take a lot of crap for it . And I have had to begin surrounding myself with people who have similar attitudes simply because I can't handle defending myself anymore, and listening to the justification of practices that I, and many researchers, consider emotionally and physically unhealthy.

***I've already posted about my love for and belief in cosleeping. And here is some information that helped guide me toward this decision. When I found this information, I couldn't NOT share my bed with my child. Not only did she and I sleep better, but she slept physiologically safer, her risk of SIDS was down, her long term emotional health would be better, and I could nurse her more easily (which helped keep my supply up). I was not encouraged to cosleep by those around me.


***I love babywearing, as is no surprise! Not only do I love it, but I am an advocate because of the benefits here as well. Worn babies cry less. I started wearing Charlotte when she was just a couple of weeks old because she would cry, cry, cry in the evenings. Boy did I get suggestions about THIS one. But not one single person suggested wearing her to solve this problem (note: I was encouraged to wear her for other reasons). And this was what did the trick. The only thing. Mommies who wear their babies are better able to read baby's cues and stay in tune with their needs. Worn babies and children forge strong bonds with their carriers, whether they are Mom or any other caregiver. Wearing your baby makes other things you do easier! Worn babies learn more. They gain comfort and build trust. And, what babies need and want most, other than milk, is human contact.


***Extended Breastfeeding is something I hadn't originally planned on. And a lot of people think it's weird. Probably because in the United States, it doesn't happen often. But the benefits here are plentiful as well. Many people are under the impression that there is not nutritional benefit beyond one year. This is not the case. In fact, milk from mothers who are nursing past one year has higher fat and energy content than that from mothers nursing for less than one year. It also provides nutrients and vitamins including protein. Here is a fact sheet : http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/ebf-benefits.html . I took particular interest in the part of this fact sheet that states, "... babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers' and teachers' ratings of social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children (Ferguson et al, 1987)." Many people think that nursing beyond infancy is socially taboo. I believe that stems from a long history in the United States of promoting child independence from a very early age, and the belief that toddlers don't "need" to nurse. Granted, it's not for everyone. But these are the reasons I will continue to nurse Charlotte.

Here is another helpful article :

***Nursing on demand came instinctually to me. I even went against my pediatrician's advice on this one (GASP!). Somehow I knew he was wrong. I just did. I nursed her whenever she wanted, whether it was for food or comfort. Both were adequate reasons for me. I felt strongly from the beginning that an eating schedule wasn't something I was ok with unless it was driven by my child. I got an earful on this topic, too. "But then she'll just want to be on your breast all day long." "She will get in the habit of snacking instead of filling her tummy." I'll address both of these. Being on my breast ALL DAY is, first and foremost, a total exaggeration. Also, if she wants the comfort, I will give it to her. Why wouldn't I? Why is there even pressure to deny an infant comfort from nursing? I believe that it's because it's inconvenient for the mother. For crying out loud, get a sling and you're both happy.

The whole "snacking" thing really got me. The US has a terrifyingly high obesity rate. And any nutritionist will tell you that if you want to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight, you should eat several small meals a day. I didn't understand why this is a habit we would try so desperately to negate from the get-go. Like I said, every baby is different. This includes their stomach size, and need for comfort. Nursing on demand will also help keep supply up, and minimize engorgement. http://www.parentingscience.com/breastfeeding-on-demand.html and http://www.kellymom.com/store/handouts/concerns/engorgement.pdf were helpful in making my decision.

***Sleep Training...oh man. Here we go. When Charlotte was only about a month old, I got some unsolicited advice about sleep training. And I considered it. Another one of those things that moms just did. And then I looked into this "method" and I was shocked and upalled. This particular method is in very large circulation and I heard about it from several other mothers. This method has been linked to dehydration and Failure to Thrive. But because of the religious context and background of its creators, many people use it and pass it on. Here's one place I got that information: http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/babywise-linked-to-babies-dehydration.html
Other methods I was advised of required some level of cry-it-out. I simply could NOT do this, particularly at the age when I was being told to use it. I've said it before, babies cry for a reason. It is uncomfortable for me to know my baby is crying for me to pick her up and I won't. What exactly is that teaching my daughter? It may teach her to self-soothe, but what is it REALLY teaching her? That she's alone when it comes to this sleep thing, that I'm not going to comfort her when she needs it, that she can't trust me 100%. She was never let to cry by herself for more than 10 seconds. Sometime's she'd cry even in my arms, but I was there. She wasn't alone.

I also believe that sleep training too young is dangerous. And here is why: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/sids/beware-sleep-trainers. Many people will say, that this particular example is an exaggeration and there is no proven cause. But my conscience won't let me risk it. Training baby to sleep too deeply for too long, too early is not psychologically or physiologically healthy.

Cry-it-out methods cause some major problems. Here are some of them:

A great deal of the information I have used is from one website. And some will disagree with his methods and that's ok by me. I have found that someone who urges me to tend to my child, respond to her needs, and provides scientific research to back up such claims has earned my trust. I distrust any "professional" who urges me to do otherwise. There is a lot of information out there that will say X method "works" or Y method works. And if "works" means it makes life easier for mom, then they do. But this isn't about me anymore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seriously, who's kid is this?

Would the person who abducted my sweet, snuggly baby please return her as soon as possible. I am not impressed with your replacement. This one suddenly has a will all her own and screamed at me all day today. No really, this isn't funny. I'm pretty sure that if she knew how to eat with a fork she'd stab me with it and I don't like it. I tried being patient with her, offering bribes, giving in, everything but she wasn't impressed. In fact, she prefers everyone else in the room today over me and it's making me sad. Don't get me wrong, she's really cute, and I understand you thought I wouldn't notice. I mean, she looks JUST like Charlotte, but I know what you're up to. I would have taken my sweet girl, too! She was smiley, and gave hugs, and her giggles would melt my heart. So I don't blame you at all, I just really want you to return her.

She changed my life the second I saw her, so I have no doubt you're having the greatest time with her. I'll give you a couple more days with her at most before I lose my mind over here. Thanks, and kiss my baby for me :)

Granola...er Challenge Update!

My venture into cloth wipes (a minor accomplishment, I know) is going well! Now that I'm doing it, it seems silly that I didn't start when I began using cloth dipes. What I like about them is that they are much softer on Charlotte's tush, and I need far fewer to get the job done. I washed the first batch by themselves and I'm so glad I did. The flannel frayed and I know that if I had washed them with diapers, the strands would have been stuck all over the velcro and it would have been a nightmare. Now I'm able to just toss them in with the diapers and we're good to go. It is a big relief to never have to worry about going to the store to buy diapers or wipes again!

My husband is still all weirded out about all this. He hasn't really picked up on the "system" I have going. Probably better that way. He tried to figure out the diaper washing system I have and ended up putting diapers that had only been through a cold rinse into the dryer and I about barfed when I opened the dryer and discovered he had "helped". He's been officially relieved of diaper washing duty (doody).

So this week's task is to start recycling. It's easy enough to put out bins to collect recyclable materials, but getting them to the recycling plant is another story. We don't have a collection service here so this one's up to me. I'm really getting sick of how many times we have to take the trash out. It makes me feel so wasteful and gross...not to mention I'm sick of taking the damned trash out. So here we go.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 134...

Day 133...

They weren't labeled as "days" but the last two posts count ;) And here's Day 133!

At the Air Show in Daddy's Helicopter