Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seeking the Sync

What do you do when you fall out of sync with your child(ren)?

I for one have noticed a definite rhythm, an ebb and flow in my relationship with my child. There are times when I feel so gosh darn connected, so in step, so perfectly in kind with my child- I understand where she's at, I feel able and willing and that I am meeting her needs the way she needs me to (and liking it!) and everything just flows. However- these times are usually followed by subsequent other times, periods of time where parts jut out and mash together and make funny noises and jam- times when I'm feeling out of whack, or she is, or we both are- when I don't know what she needs, or how to give it to her, or doing so makes me feel taken advantage of, or wiped out, or whatever. We're just not jiving.

That's kind of where we are now.

DD is in a funny place- pushing her limits, testing people's love, testing her ability to influence others, to make them feel happy, angry, sad- to make them laugh or cry or be short or cross. And it's a hard place for me, as a Mom- when I hear her call me or others "stupid" (a word she learned originally from a neighbor friend she adores), part of me wants to minimalize the effects of a word and maximize the manner the word is used- but the other part of me is going, "oh my gosh, my child's calling me/someone else stupid, she can't do that! I have to make her know that this is 'not okay'!"

It's this tug of war within myself- to accept her at all costs, and to "keep her" from becoming a self centered person unaware or unconcerned with the effect her actions have on others, and subsequently shunned by society.


Writing that down, seeing that out loud, makes that fear look pretty silly.

My daughter- my lovely, exuberant, loud, wild, passionate, gentle, rough, silly, sensitive child- is at little (true) risk of becoming a "self centered person unaware or unconcerned with the effect her actions have on others". That I know in my heart, even if in the moment the way she is behaving seems truly selfish and hurtful- and maybe even is.

Not only do I have a good heart-sense of who she is and why she's doing things (when I dare to tune into it) but I've read and heard enough to know that this is true- she is a developing small person with lots going on and there are a lot of developmentally sound reasons for this behavior.

Even if it is- inconvenient, scary, and possibly socially unacceptable.

These, I think, are the real issues. My real issues.

I am bothered by the inconvenience. It simply "looks bad" to have your child acting in this way- saying "mean" (or as my cousin says, "naughty") things- yelling- hitting- throwing sand. It begs the question- "why are her parents (her mother) allowing her to behave this way?" Our culture is not child-friendly to begin with, nevermind when a child is having a moment that is not pretty, quiet, and picture- perfect.

I am bothered by my own fears about her behavior. That it represents a bigger picture, a bigger problem, the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of a massive and capsizing illness threatening to explode from beneath her surface at any moment. A mere example of how I've failed her. That, because of my ineptness as a parent, she has become a (now here's a phrase to make all my fellow AP-ish parents recoil) "bad child". You know, the kid no one wants their kid playing with.

And probably- well, screw that, most likely- I am even more worried about this because DD is the daughter of a teenage mother- of teenage parents. She was at birth a horror story waiting to be written. Of course, there was none of that, but I feel that stereotype hot on my heels at every difficult moment- at every less-than-wonderful moment of my own- that judgement from others; "Well, how did you expect that child to turn out? Her mother had her at seventeen, for God's sake."

So much of how I see my daughter is really about ..... Me. My fear, my insecurities, my lack of courage.

- Deep breath.

Maybe in order to help my daughter be more loving, more secure, more calm and trusting in the innate rightness of her world, I need to develop myself in the same areas. Maybe I need to love myself, trust myself a bit more- and loose sight a bit of how my parenting, my child, are being perceived.

In ten, twenty, thirty years, I know I'm not going to care how the "world" rated me as a parent.

There's only one person who's judgement is going to matter.

And we all know who she is.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


For some time now, I've felt our family shift along it's fault lines as it tried to find it's right balance.

We've had a tumultous past six months, in more ways than one. We've all suffered from that unbalance. My heart aches as I think of the difficulties DD must feel, as a toddler who is trying to find her balance anyways, with less-than-stable ground to walk on.

Oh, nothing crazy, nothing awful- but not the safe solid feeling I want to provide her, and have for the majority of her life.

In the past month, I've felt balance return to our family. Or, should I say, I've felt us return to balance. And it feels so, so good.

But while I was out of balance- while I was attempting not to stumble or fall as things whirled around me- I have slipped a bit in my parenting. It takes guts for me to say this, but once I saw it, I could never again ignore my shortcomings.

The other day the little and I were yet again driving- in the car- something I've realized we've been doing far, far too much for her. Yes, we had a great destination in mind- but does the end justify the means? Does a great breakfast justify a forty minute slot of time that could be spent playing used up by frusteration, being strapped into a carseat? Given our amazing apartment- surrounded by land, playthings, a pool, animals, shade, etc- I think not.

Anyways, I was driving, and Nat was complaining and whining- and my child does nothing worth doing quietly. Frankly, she was pissed. And as I was about to tell her she "needed" to be quiet, we would be there soon, I realized what an awful kind of way to respond to her this was- so out of touch with my parenting ideals. I realized, in a flash, how far from my path I'd wandered. I realized I'd begun to see her more as a problem to be dealt with than my beloved girl showing me what her needs were and asking me in her own way to help her meet them.

It felt awful. It still does. I get a dark and sinking pit in my stomach just thinking about it.

But it's honest. And sometimes, honesty is what we need to clear our viewpoints, get real, and move on in the direction we truly, truly want to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Return to Nursing (A Toddler)

Today was nearly a perfect day.

I woke up a little groggy. Bedtime was a struggle last night- I had foolishly put the little down to nap in the evening, and as a result she didn't go to sleep until after 11pm- a record for her, I'm sure.

She woke up well-rested, but I sure wasn't. No matter- her upbeat mood and the beautiful, almost autumnal weather soon put me in a right mood! The house was in dire need of cleaning, and so we headed off to Wal-Mart for cleaning supplies. DD was amazingly patient. We hit the gym after for a short work out, and then headed home to spend the rest of the day outdoors.

My younger cousin came over and splashed in the pool while I washed the floor, and then we sat out in the sun and had a picnic lunch. After some more out-of-doors fun we headed inside to prepare the much-celebrated brownies, which have been in the pantry and much-eluded to for quite some time.

DD did an amazing job of baking the brownies pretty much herself. She saw on the box we needed two eggs, and cracked them into the bowl herself (no small feat!) She poured in the brownie mix, placed muffin cups in the tin, helped me preheat the oven, and stirred in the applesauce and walnuts.

Then we sunned out and read while we waited for them to cook.

When they'd finished, she was so, so excited. I expected her to gobble her first muffin up as soon as they'd cooled (I know I wanted to!) but she was showing unexpected restraint! When I asked her why, she said she wanted to wait for her friend, who soon appeared... we decided to share the twelve muffins amongst her four friends. It felt so good to walk with her outside, distributing them amongst all of her friends at her decree, my little girl making sure no one was missed. The sharing seemed to her just as great as chocolate brownie muffins!!

Later, as we lay in the beautiful-but-brisk-for-summer day, reading and basking, I realized she seemed a little out of sorts. When our dog ran by and clipped her accidentally, knocking her over, she burst into tears and was super frusterated.

For the first time in weeks- maybe months- I asked: "Do you want to go have some boobies?"

And, almost relieved, my almost-three year old breathed, "Yes!"

We collected our things, snuck indoors, and arranged ourselves on the bed, me with pillows propped behind me, her draped across my lap. We nursed on one side, then the other. She told me she was a baby, and motioned that she was going to bite my nipple- "Oh no," I told her, "Babies don't bite! They don't have teeth!" "Oh!" My girl said, thinking. She made sucking motions with her mouth. "Like this?" "Yes, like that."

On her second side, I fell into peace. From our bedroom I can see our kitchen window, a bit of a shrine to our life- pictures tacked up, driftwood I hand painted with a reminder, "Be Here Now." I was at home, at peace with the life we've created. I was at peace. I was so thankful to be exactly there, and looking down, my girl's eyelids had fluttered shut, and her sucking fell into that familar rythm, just as she had countless times since she was first born.

It is a timeless ritual, a comforting scenario, one I don't see dissapearing from the patchwork of our life anytime soon. One I don't want to go.

Today, I experience a return to - and a new peace with - nursing my toddler. Instead of reading a book, or having a bath, or watching an episode of something, I'm going to return to this soft timeless tool with her... I wonder if some of her out-of-touch tantrums and general frusteration will be solved by the salve that is breastfeeding.

I'll keep you posted :)