Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Nursing Support

Back with more breastfeeding support! Holistic Moms, a national organization devoted to creating a healthier, more natural, and more sustainable way to parent, responded to a recent article in the Herald Sun (Australia) which reported "that young women are reluctant to breastfeed their babies due to fear of public embarrassment." HMN appealed to all members to send in photos of themselves nursing their children in public. Of course we sent a picture.

This beautiful video is the result. To watch click here. (Dory and I are around the three and a half minute mark!)

To read more about the inspiration behind the project click here.

I'm so glad to be a member of the national and local branches of this fantastic group!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playful Parenting

I have another excellent book to add to my list of parenting reads: Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting. (Linked it in the sidebar, for more information.) I stumbled across this one at my library and thought it might have some useful suggestions for more imaginative play with Dory. And it does. But, oh baby, it is so much more than that.

Dr. Cohen digs into the emotional, mental, and psychological importance of play in a child's life. Play can open a child's self-expression, can help heal an emotional hurt, can strengthen or even create a bond between child and parent and is always needed- from birth to the teenage years (and adult years too, though Cohen points out, most adults idea of play is relaxing and being stationary, which can make it difficult for adults to engage in child's play!). Children find their power through play, they find their voice through play, they work out confusions and fears. One of my favorite examples describes a three year old girl, who's gotten a shot, comes home and now wants to play doctor. She wants to administer the "shot" and she needs an adult, preferably a parent, to administer to. Through this game, she is now in control, she now has her power back, and the one who took the power away (i.e. hello mom! hello dad!) is now looking to her. Give her her power back, Dr. Cohen says. Play with her. Be the patient! Shriek, cry, let her know it's painful! Allow her to work out what happened, what it means, and to feel her autonomy in her world again.

I've read this time so many times, but it always bears repeating: children have so many decisions made for them everyday. Most of us parents, no matter how lightly we hope to tread, still make lots of choices for our child (this shirt, this food, this time to leave, this stop to make) and that can leave a little one feeling frustrated, disempowered and marginalized, at best. Dr. Cohen explains, you can help your child regain his sense of himself through play. Let him lead. Let him guide. You follow. Get on his level and give him the reigns.

Of the many, many useful suggestions of this book (read all of it- it's worth it), this stood out with me the most. Be your child's advocate for maintaing his sense of worth, his sense of importance, his sense of relation to this world by helping him maintain his power.

Other points that stood out to me:
Girls need physical play! Boys need more cuddles! In our attempts to give our children "roots and wings," our overly stereotyped idea of the sexes leaves girls feeling rooted, but timid and fearful and boys feeling adventurous and often reckless and with no grounding. Play can build and strengthen these underdeveloped areas.

Be flexible. Your child may want to play the same game a very different way- for instance, yesterday, she wanted you to give in and let her win. Today, she wants a challenge. Follow your child's lead. Sometimes she wants to build her confidence, other days she wants to see herself tested. Let her decide.

Participate consciously. Even if you're exhausted, even if you're sore, even if you've worked all day, even if you've already spent the entire day together- be present when you play. Conscious playing fills a child's need for your attention and fills his feelings of worthiness and importance in the world. Often, once he's full, he can play on his own for even longer periods of time, especially as he gets older. And if you aren't able to do this for extended periods, set time aside everyday (even if its only ten minutes!) and play fully and actively with your child.

This is a child's world. Play is her world. This is how she learns, how she processes and understands, how she participates. Respect that. This is her way of relating. Respect that. Even if you are not in a mood to play too, respect that this is her work in the world right now.

For me, the best part of Playful Parenting is how little I really knew beforehand. The more I know, the more I thrive and enjoy parenting. Before reading this, I had some basic concepts- play is important, interaction in play is really important, find toys that allow for imagination (which typically means avoiding anything with the phrase "requires AA batteries"). I'm home with Dory everyday, we play for seventy percent of it (at least), and I hoped this book might give me some ideas on how to shake our play up. I revel in having my expectations blown away.

Playful Parenting is rich with insights into our children, how their minds work, how they communicate and what they need from us to thrive and grow. Just an exceptional read. And for the little bit of information I've posted here, I've barely brushed the surface.

It's definitely a Good Mama read.

And, there are so many more good books to go. Currently, I'm reading Naomi Aldort's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves and I can't wait to write more about it. Another amazing, amazing book. Also on the list: The Hurried Child, which was first popular when I was a wee one and is still much talked about today (that's promising), Free Range Kids and Hold Onto Your Kids. There are so many exceptional, thinking people writing about children and yet so few naptimes and late nights in which to read. I would have started years ago if I had any idea how interesting and amazing this parenting-thing would be...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not the Only One

At an AP playgroup last week, another mother surprised me with her question to the group. She wanted to know if any of us ever had "those flashes" when you see something bad happening, some absurd yet horrifying accident involving your child. The flash (a perfect description, I think) does not actually happen, but catches you off guard and leaves you working to breathe, and let it go.

Who knew I wasn't the only one?

I thought these flashes must be a consequence of my environment, my own upbringing, the way my mind works... Who knew this happens to, maybe not all, but so many mothers?

Sitting together at the bottom of the stairs, I see her toppling, head first into the hard floor below. Buckling her into her car seat, I'm seized by an image of a car slamming into the passenger door and can feel the scream in my throat. Holding her on my hip, while I scramble eggs on the stove, a scene plays through my mind where she reaches down and grabs hold of the hot pan in her small, tender fist.

All these weird, startling, heart-stopping images- they're rare but powerful. They happen in seconds, bursting through my brain like a train through a house, racing through as speedily and leaving just as much damage to my mental interior, and wrecking my heart entirely. Even writing about them, my chest tightens and I realize I'm holding my breath. I'm left with the question: do these thoughts serve me?

I watch Dory and see a natural confidence, an enthusiasm for exploration and adventure radiating from her. She's bold and brave. She loves to stand in the rocking chair, lean forward, look over the edge and then pull back, while I watch from the floor. She loves to walk down the stairs, holding an adult's hands. She loves to stroll the aisles of the grocery store, and run around the park, always glancing back to check Matt or I are there. I've realized, she's adventurous, not stupid. She doesn't want to fall out of the chair, she doesn't want to get lost at the park, she is as aware of us as we are of her, most of the time.

So I am trying to keep my mouth shut. This is not easy. I could, if I put even a little effort into it, see terrors at every corner. I could be frightened and worried constantly. I could voice my concern all the time, turning my worry into the soundtrack of our lives and making both of us tense and anxious. But watching her, I know, that isn't the path I want to guide her down. I admire her outgoing and brave soul. Bumps happen. Bruises, hurts, tears. They all happen. But "bones heal faster than timidity and fearfulness" Dr. Cohen points out in Playful Parenting and that's the mindset I want to develop.

Back to these flashes. I don't think they're here to drive me crazy. I don't think their purpose is to send me rushing to the nearest padded room with Dory tossed, fireman-style, over my shoulder, where we can wait out all the dangers. I'm choosing to see them as the question my mind poses: where are you right now? Are you present? Are you HERE?

Often yes, sometimes no. But maybe those flashes, maybe they're built into the DNA, and maybe their very existence is Nature's way of keeping us mothers aware. We are not all-knowing. We cannot be all places at once. We cannot stop every little danger. But can I be totally available, physically and mentally, when she and I are together? Can I, with effort (such effort for a million-thoughts-a-moment person like myself), be just here, just now, with her, watching, enjoying and, yes, keeping an eye out, supporting her exploration of this big, bright world around her?

Maybe I'm reaching. Maybe it's a stretch. But so far, everything I've read about Mother Nature, from wanting to breastfeed my child to her sleeping cuddled up next to me, has been true. We're made with these instincts. They might be trained or cajoled or bullied out of us over time, but I believe we are born with knowledge of how to care for our children.

And I've decided to think these flashes are part of it. I've decided to make friends with them, to remember to breathe when they happen, and to let them pass. And to ask myself, when one has seized hold of me and then bolted just as abruptly as it came- Where am I right now?

Whatever the reason, its always so reassuring to know I'm not the only one.