Saturday, April 12, 2014

Peaceful parenting

I yelled at Ben today. The usual explosion after getting fed up, after me having done all the “right” things to improve the situation. This is not a remarkable scenario; I can literally feel your parental empathy / boredom and knowing nods. What makes it noteworthy is that it’s kind of rare these days. Things between Ben and I were getting pretty fiery there for a while, me the flame, him the fuel. I 100% get that it’s hard being three, hard to share mothers/toys/life with a brother, hard to give up naps and still act civil. Maybe it was the convergence of these external factors and my own baggage stew, but for whatever reason I was hating my mothering of our eldest. I felt like a bully, a control freak and was getting a really toxic feeling after my fear-inducing vocals. I am not a passive parent. I have no intention of letting our kids live an ungrounded life without firm boundaries. But there had to be a better way. Our relationship was being eroded, my heart was being hardened and as you can imagine, that didn’t leave me oozing with love light.

So I engineered a kind of mini-revolution. It’s either a subtle shift of perspective, a commitment to action, or the single most important decision I’ve made as a parent. I feel like I have my boy back. I feel like a different version of me, even from two months ago. I took Ben’s earnest little face in my hands and told him I am committed to not yelling at him anymore, and that I hoped he would hold me to it. I credit a book called “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting” by Dr. Laura Markham. There are a lot of things to digest in that book, a lot to sift through the many layers of “what would others think”. For me, the book kicked me in the ass and said (in more gentle, eloquent words): Deal With Your Shit. Take a good look at the stink of it, at whatever crap is sticking to your boot. And then let it go, heal, move on. Whatever the cause, genes, past-life, current-life or upbringing, I brought a serious need to “control” to our family. I know I have many great mom qualities, so please don’t think this is a self-deprecation fest. But I could, and would, do better.


Long story short, the book gave me tools and ways to think about parenting that changed things pretty fast. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the more gentle and present and connected I become with this stupendous kid, the better he behaves. The more I stop to really SEE him, to consider his perspective, the more I enjoy our time together. I don’t want to rule through fear of me or of punishment. I want him to find his internal motivation to act well. I will keep feeding him connection-rich time so that he feels safe and can learn to process his intense emotions. I know I’ve been living with a seriously cool kid (kids now), but I swear Ben is even cooler than I thought. My heart is much softer and open than it was; I notice it at work too. I’m not living in as much of my own fear anymore. Seems ridiculous now, being scared of my kids, being terrified of myself. Ridiculous, but real. I will leave you now with a recent quote of Ben’s:


Me: Ben, did you lose your your big-boy voice? Where is it?

Ben: It’s in my heart.


No kidding, son, no kidding.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sick days

There is nothing like a sick baby. It’s the first time Daniel is properly, truly, miserably sick. He coughs and then dissolves into tears, his face melting from the strain and possibly pain. He won’t eat anything but nurse, and when he tries food every once in a while, he throws it back up 10 seconds later. He isn’t alone. Our home is a vortex of whirling germs, barely contained by the occasional remembering to cough into elbows. Mummy A is a mess, still, after a week. She is going back to the doctor. Ben, thankfully, is recovering, though he is clearly thrown by what is a distinct change in his safe “family normal” status. He has a flair for the dramatic, which A attributes to my influence, hmm... But he has certainly been tempestuous this week. And me? Amazingly still well, bit of a runny nose, the odd headache. It’s a miracle. I am ODing on vitamin C etc, but I think it’s just good luck. I’m on more of an existential trip, feeling the full impact of being the bio-mom again. Since Daniel’s been eating solid foods at six months, I have felt the “need” for me lessening. It was a good time to return to work. And then this… Me, the sole source of nutrients again. Not to be too graphic but his poo has reverted to infant poo consistency (those of you who have cleaned this know how many wipes it takes…). I am not actually complaining. I have simplified my life back down to the microcosmic baby to boob to bed. I am holding onto a clinging little monkey who is snuggling back. Normally he is adventuresome and too busy for that silliness. Instead there have been deeply precious moments where he has slept in the curve of my body, our breathing in synch. Despite the hard nights with both boys up, the sad snotty faces, I feel honoured to be so needed, so reduced to a lovey-dovey mush pile. Life’s challenge can also be its beauty.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Going through the motions

I need help. I thought maybe I needed a therapist, but perhaps I just need words, to think through my fingers. Sometimes I think they are smarter than I am. Maybe typing bypasses the mental filters and crap that prevents the truth from being discerned. I need help because I feel like a witness to my life, like I am on the sidelines reacting, watching, poorly parenting. Sometimes this happens when things are too overwhelming, a kind of disconnected escapism (classic). I just went back to work 3 days a week (it has been 2.5 weeks now) after an arduous holiday season of road travel. Daniel is doing remarkably well at daycare so that is such a present! But I am pumping up to three times per work day and then again at my bedtime. He is only 11 months old, and pretty scrawny compared to our Michelin Man firstborn. I feel that there is a lot of energy going outwards. I am also obsessed with sleep (duh, says the reader). I feel like it’s reasonable since we have had so many challenges with Ben’s sleep. But lots of people with kids have sleep issues and I don’t think they all think about it as much as I do. I feel like lately I am living nap to meal to bedtime, focusing on the schedule, the tasks, making everything optimal for sleep (theirs and ours) that I sometimes forget that those things are not all there is. Sometimes I have to remember to look my family members in the eyes, to stop and get down on the floor or ask about their day, to really see them. Where did I go? Where is my energy, confidence, patience? When I am on, I am really on, but mostly lately, I feel like an automaton. How is waiting for his Bug Light to come on (which has saved our early morning issues of yore) more important than taking time to snuggle with a sad little boy? Where is my heart? How do I find my way back?


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


That’s it. It’s over. Forgive the drama, it feels dramatic. No more mat leave with Daniel. I just left my ten-month-old baby in the (albeit highly capable) hands of our daycare provider. He did not react, but then, he has no idea what’s about to happen. She will put him down for a nap, the first time anyone has done so other than his parents. He will be there for hours without me. He will be over a year younger than the other 4 kids. Is Ben old enough at 3 to know he needs to watch out for his recently helmet-less, tiny little brother??? He looks so small there, so vulnerable. At his welcoming ceremony last May, there was a part where we, his parents, stripped the thorns from a rose to symbolize how we will protect him from life’s thorns until he can do so himself. There were not many on the stem, but we did it (Ben’s had a dozen or more!). What I am wondering is have we lived up to that promise? It feels like he is more neglected than Ben was, more often falling over, more often caught holding wires. I know it’s all par for the course with a second, especially a monkey mover like D.  He is going to daycare two months before Ben did. I am just writing words, words. I can’t access the wrenching hole in my midsection that threatens to take me down. I never thought I would want to stay at home with a baby, but now… I don’t know. Will I ever be ready to leave him? I doubt it. Will he feel abandoned? Does he know I love him? Does he miss me?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Parental bliss

Why do we all do it? It is for moments like these:

1. A rare moment of peace alone to type, feeling deep pride in one’s son. I am home alone with both boys for a week, and today is the first full day. They both need to nap at the same time but our big boy sometimes has trouble waiting for me to nap the small boy, rattling the door, stomping around, singing and such, so usually TV is involved. Today he wanted to “play quietly in his room”. And you know what? He did! He was sweetly playing with his wooden cars on his rug when I went in.  I dropped down beside him and scooped him up, beaming with pride and appreciation for some kisses and high fives. The best part though was his grin of pride in himself. And then, to top it off, since he is starting to drop his nap, he napped! Both are napping, simultaneously. A miracle?

2. A nocturnal cuddle. Despite all my work sleep training wee Daniel, teething is teething, a cold and a new room besides. And there is something so deeply delicious about his warm body snuggled into my lap, my body responding with its best gift of comfort, to nurse. The two of us quietly appreciating each other’s closeness, our smells, our time out of time (for historical accuracy, it was 4:15am). For that moment, we were everything to each other.

3. Two little children, bundled in brown snowsuits, the one of them in a much too puffy one-piece, enjoying a deeply satisfying snowfall. Ben noticing the individual patterns of actual snowflakes for the first time, as well as the sinful, age-old pleasure of snow on a brother’s nose. Daniel taking it all in, the whiteness, the fresh chill on the cheek, the way his mitten makes a pattern on the ground.

They are precious.