Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nothing Between Us

Dearest Daughter,

I know how you look at me. Your expectations have never been colored by movies, by books, by others talking about how parents “should be”, and attributing all sorts of motives to my actions. You look at me like a human being, like your mother, like there is nothing at all standing between you and me.

I try to look at you that way, as well. Like I never read a book, never saw a baby in a movie, never heard another parent talk about babies “manipulating” their parents with tears. Like no one has ever told me that a baby who is crying is “angry for not getting their way”, like no one has ever told me that babies are selfish.

Not only that, but I try to look deep inside my heart and my soul and all of my memories and I try to ask myself “Who told me that? Where would such a thought come from? Why would I think these terrible things about you, daughter? Why would I let others come between you and I with those ugly thoughts about what you think or feel? I won’t. I love you dearly and I want to listen to you. Just you and only you.”

This upset I sometimes feel when you cannot sleep or when you need me to hold you instead of getting things done.. It does not come from your actions, which I should understand in the context of your infancy. This upset comes from the things that people have told me about what babies are and what they should be. It comes from the cultural expectation that I must train you to be good. I reject that feeling. It is a feeling that others have given me, not the feeling that you give me, dear one.

Many people tell you many things throughout your life. They try to paint your perceptions and drive distance between you and those that you should be closest to.

One day your friends are going to tell you that your parents are unfair, that we won’t listen to you, that we just don’t want you to have any fun.

I let no one get between us now, Anne-Marie. And when you come to me as a teenager I will let no one get between us then. I will not listen to you with the thoughts that we are told we must have about teenagers. I will not put you in a box of how you are supposed to be. I will talk to you like a human being, because I will recognize that you are one. I will not put down my foot and risk stepping on you.

You showed me as a baby how life can be when I don’t let the patterns of others shape our relationship. When you struggle one day on your path to becoming an adult, I hope that we can sit together as we sit now as you are seven months old. Nothing between us but love. I hope that I can listen to you as much as I hope that you can listen to me.

<3 Mama

 

Misunderstood Need

Dear Children,

Way back when humankind first came to be, be it through creation or evolution or something not yet understood or imagined.. The world was a very different place, and our bodies were made to survive and thrive in those times.

The ways that our body regulates itself are adapted to those times that no longer are, and a life that no longer is. It is important to understand what things we truly need and what things we simply misunderstand as our bodies tell us that we need to survive and thrive in a world that has changed much more quickly than we have adapted.

A long long time ago back when food was scarce and we had to work hard to hunt, to gather, to cultivate the fields. Our bodies allowed us to eat past the capacity of our stomach, and to store the energy of feasts for the times of famine. Our bodies were drawn to brightly colored foods for the nutrients that they contained, and which our bodies needed in order to survive, thrive, and be strong and healthy.

Today food is not scarce. There is no famine but our bodies still crave the feast. We settle into routines and meal plans that are easier to stick to and harder to abandon. Our bodies store.. store.. store.. store the extras for that famine that never comes, for the energy we no longer need to hunt or gather or harvest as we drive to the store where food is plentiful, and we fill our shopping carts to the excess. Not only the produce and the meat are colorful and bright, but also the tasteless nutritionally devoid bland food that has been dyed and sugared to call out to the instincts that used to help us pick the most nutritious apple or the healthiest carrot.

We subsist on make believe food dyed in technicolor that makes healthier foods look bland and unappealing in comparison. And we gorge ourselves on it.

We misunderstand the needs of our bodies, and we feed our outdated instincts rather than giving our bodies what they need to be healthy, in amounts that are healthy, in a variety that is healthy, and we do not exert ourselves, we do not build the muscle that we need to be strong, we do not move in the ways that our joints and bones need to be healthy.

And then one day we wake up and our bodies have packed away years of energy for a famine that will never come. We have gorged to the extent of our body’s ability to gorge. And we panic because our pants don’t fit and we don’t feel attractive. So we respond by starving ourselves. By counting calories and by trying to imitate a famine that is not. We buy a gym membership and we run on treadmills and we wonder why we are not losing weight.

Just as we have misunderstood our need for food, we misunderstand our need for health.

We do not need to starve ourselves. We do not need to run on treadmills. We do not need to gorge ourselves on dyed foods. We do not need to drive places in an expensive ergonomic car with customizable lumbar support.

We need to abandon the idea that plates of food are meant to be heaping and finished. We need to abandon the idea that transportation involves machines instead of our feet hitting the ground. We need to explore the world more, eat different things more often, and avoid patterns that could never be found in nature. We need to ignore the sizes of our clothes and we need to listen to our bodies.

Am I healthy now?

Am I strong enough to do the things that I need and want to do? Can I walk? Can I run? Can I jump? Can I climb a tree? Can I climb a hill? Can I dance around happily? Can I lift my children and throw them into the air? Do I have energy? Can I sleep? Can I breathe? Can I feel my muscles move my body? Can I hike? Can I explore? Can I carry? Is my appetite drawn to healthy foods or have I filled myself up with so many lies that I do not have the appetite to eat anything but certain foods?

Try to understand what your body needs in the context of healthy things, even if your attention is drawn to all of the things that are advertised around us.

Do I really need that rainbow-colored cereal? Or is my body trying to tell me that my diet is so limited that I’m missing something that would be found in a multi-colored salad or in fruits? Is it that I’m really so hungry I need to eat two plate-fulls of food, or is it that my body is so malnourished through my repetitive meal plan that it is trying to over-compensate by eating more of everything in the hopes that the trace vitamin will build up to the levels that it needs and that it would easily get through eating a variety of healthier foods?

Try new foods. Graze. Sample things here and there even if it’s just a tiny amount. Try different types of apples, different colors of sweet peppers. Different cheeses. Different brands of yogurt. Different produce at different stores.

Take new routes when you go for walks. Look for new things.

We don’t live in the world that our genes thrived in. But we can listen to our bodies with an understanding of what things used to be, and what they are now.

I’m thin because my genes dictate it. I do not need to eat a cheeseburger. I need to be healthy. Just as someone larger might need to be healthy. And the ways that we all need to be healthy are remarkably the same. We need to feed our bodies what our bodies need, we need to use our bodies to do strong things. When we have energy and are strong, we are doing the right things. When we are sluggish and weak we are not.

As for me.. I’m trying to abandon the idea of you cleaning your plates. I’m trying to see it as awesome when you try  bite of a new food even if you don’t eat more than one bite. I’m trying to understand that sometimes you’ll eat one thing so many times in one day for so many days and then you’ll not want to eat it again for weeks at a time because you want to eat so much of a different thing.. And that maybe your body is wise. (As long as it’s a healthy thing and not a Fruit Flavored Cereal with Wax + Fruit Juice formed into Berries.) When we go to a grocery store and you ask for a new vegetable that I don’t think you’ll ever eat in a million years, I’ll buy it and I’ll let you try it even if you spit it out. I don’t need to buy four pounds of it. Just enough for you to try.

Great things happen when you listen carefully to your body and when you understand the world around you.

Be wise.

<3 Mama

Breastfeeding May Not Be the Most Important Thing

Dear Daughter,

Breastfeeding you may not be the most important thing that I can do for you as a mother. There are many other things that I will need to do as you grow up that will dwarf the amount of time that you are a baby at the breast.

Why is it that, recognizing this, I still breastfeed you? Shouldn’t understanding the simple tiny fact somehow make it easier to feed you something else sometimes? (You know, if you could.. Uh.. Eat from a bottle. Which you can’t. But let’s ignore that right now, because this was a choice made out of desire as well as apparent necessity.)

I want to do this perfectly because I CAN. It is one tiny thing that I can do to give you a good start. No, I don’t believe that breastfeeding is the most important thing in the world. It is not something that I do out of fear of percentage point risks, or because I believe that different choices would be the end of the world somehow. I do these things because I know that there are other things that I will not be able to do perfectly, other areas where I may sometimes fall short.

I breastfeed you because it is one of the many things that I can choose to do for you, for your health, for your happiness.

Life is not about only weighing risks and benefits. Life is not always convenient. Life is not about being perfect all the time in all the ways. Life is about sometimes saying “I can do this, and so I will do this, and I will do it as close to perfect as I can.”

And I can be in this one area. And I can be in some other areas. And I can try hard in other areas as well.

No one has ever told me that I have to be perfect with breastfeeding. I chose to give you this gift of my own free will and out of love. Not because your doctor told me to. Not because I saw it on a poster. Not because my mother breastfed. Not because I read a book.

No.. I breastfeed you because you were born into my arms perfect and I wanted to give you something perfect in return.

<3 Mama

Not Happy in This Moment

I am not happy in this moment. My foot aches from a broken toe, I am tired, I am touched out, I want to bury my nose in a book in a hot bath that I can just refill with more hot water every time it grows cold.

Instead I lay here nursing you because you both want to sleep and you resist it because you are excited about your gramma and grampa being back and you can hear your brothers playing in the other room.

When I become aware of how my mind is in all those other places that I want to be and all those other things that I want to do, I can feel the tension running through my body.

In those moments, rather than holding onto the wishes for the things that I want to be doing..

I look at you. I touch your perfect little ear and remember how squishy it was when you were a newborn. I run my finger over your face and feel the strong little muscles working to nurse. I breathe deep and let it out and feel my body relax against yours. I lay my head down and nuzzle your forehead and sniff the sweaty smell of your hair and kiss you.

And you stop resisting, your nursing slows and you fall asleep.

I cannot even begin to remember how many times your resistance has faded rapidly as soon as mine has.

I cannot even begin to count the times that you have simply needed for me to relax into the moment before you could.

Loving One Child More than Another

Dear Isaac,

“Do you love my brother more than me?”

This is the first time you have asked this. Until now you’ve been very very certain that I could never love anyone more than I love you. Even now you are just curious because you have become aware that parents can have favorites.

Oh sweet wonderful child. No. I don’t. I love you more because of your brother, and I love your brother more because of you, and I love your sister more because of each of you, and I love you each more because of your sister. Each of you teaches me how to love each of you more.

If your brother had never joined the family I would not love you in all of the ways that I love you now, because I would not know you in all of the ways that I know you now. And if you had never joined the family I would not love your brother or your sister as much as I love them through what you have taught me.

I don’t love each of you the way I’d love you as an only child. If you were an only child I would not know you as well. I would not see you play with your siblings. I would not see how you love and care about someone smaller and weaker than you. I would not work through the rough topics of jealousy with you. I would not learn exactly how independent and helpful you can be and want to be. Your siblings show me so much of your strengths and give me a better understanding of the things that we need to work on.

Your siblings show me exactly how much I love you for each and every single aspect of who you are as a person. Because I love them for every single aspect of who they are as a person, and each of you is so very different.

I don’t have to make more room in my heart for each new child. I don’t love you all equally. I love. All of you. Each of you. Because of you. More and more. You each teach me so much about love that it grows and it stretches and it deepens and it becomes more patient and more happy and.. Oh I wish at five I could show you what this means.

At five sometimes you don’t love me because you’re so angry that I won’t let you play video games. And I love you when you’re angry at me because I understand how deep anger can feel when you don’t have much perspective.

At five sometimes you love your gramma or your daddy or your teacher more than you love me. And I’m happy because you should have many people in your life and if you only ever loved me I’d be very sad.

At five you wonder if maybe I sometimes love someone else more than you, because sometimes you love others more than you love me. At five love is a fickle thing.

No.. Never. It doesn’t work that way when you’re thirty-two. It doesn’t work that way when you’re a parent. It doesn’t work that that way when I think of each of you and how much I love each of you.

You see. When I think about how much I love you, I think about how much I love your brother. And when I think about how much I love your brother I think about how much I love your sister and when I think about how much I love your sister or your brother I think about how much I love you.

What I feel for him and what I feel for her and what I feel for you never NEVER NEVER takes anything away. It just builds something bigger. And bigger. And bigger.

I love each of you more than I ever thought I could love anyone.

Attention and time may get divided, but love only multiplies.

<3 Mama

You’re MAKING ME SAD!

My Dearest Sweet Funny Alexander-in-the-middle*,

You’re terribly two and struggling with all the feelings that you have about the world around you. You are incredibly mellow and sweet, and you’re incredibly unmellow and unsweet.

Lately your go-to phrases are “Making me sad” and “making me angry”. You’ll walk into the room and announce “GRAMPA MAKING ME SAD!” and I’ll say “Oh Alexander, I’m sorry you’re sad. What did Grampa do that made you sad?” and you’ll tell me that he said you couldn’t have ice cream or that he wouldn’t let you play in the dog’s water bowl. And I’ll confirm that is sad indeed. And that I know you’re upset. Then you’ll tell me MOMMY MAKING ME SAD! and I’ll ask why and you’ll just say “Alexander SAD.” and I’ll offer you a hug. You’ll collapse into my arms and hug me like your life depends on it, and I’ll hug you back like I know that it does. And then “ALEXANDER FEEL BETTER”, and off you’ll toddle to play with your brother.

Or sometimes you’ll be VERY ANGRY and will come over to me and tell me “I  HIT MOMMY!” and you’ll swat me on the knee. I’ll say “Ouch! That hurt mommy. That makes me sad!” and you’ll pat me gently. Then I’ll say “Are you sad?” and you’ll say “NO I NOT SAD! I ANGRY!” and I’ll say “I can see you’re angry. What made you angry?” and you’ll tell me.

Sometimes you can talk it out. Sometimes you just need to be in a bad mood for a bit. Sometimes I’ll know something else is bothering you. I’m so very very happy that I don’t take these expressions of your emotions as “manipulation”. Yes. Sometimes you ask me to change what it is that is bothering you. Sometimes I do change it. Sometimes I can’t change it. But by respecting your feelings as feelings, you feel okay telling me what it is that you’re feeling so deeply and why.

Today everything was making you sad or angry. So I asked “Alexander, do you miss Gramma?” and you said “yes” in the saddest sweetest voice. “I know, Alexander. I miss Gramma too. I love Gramma very much too and I’m happy she’ll be back from vacation soon.”

It’s so easy to dismiss things as “terrible two’s” and to react to you as though you are simply being illogical when an easy answer can’t be found and when you don’t know what it is that’s happening inside of you or why. As your life becomes more complex and as you start school and have friendships and grow in all the different directions that a child grows in as they leave toddlerhood behind.. It will only become more difficult for me to know what it is that has you sad or angry or acting out.

You are not a bad person, Alexander. I know this now when you are two. I will hold this in my reactions to you from now through the rest of your life. When I don’t like how you’re acting I will remember that I like who you ARE, and I will understand that something is hurting you or making you sad and angry, even if I don’t know what it is and you’re not able to tell me.

When you are sick I don’t need to know the exact name of the virus that is causing the fever in order to know that you are sick. When you are sad or angry I don’t need to know the exact cause of the sad or angry to know that I can love you through it until you are ready or able to share.

I can’t promise that I will always be the epitome of patience, because sometimes things will be bothering me too. I’m human.

But I can say this: I understand. You’re human. I’m human. And we can be human together. Both the good and the less than good. And when I am not what you need in the moment, I will try to be ready with an apology so that you can learn by example that when we are not what we want to be, we can make acknowledge it, make amends and move forward together as a family.

Thank you for using your words to tell me how you feel. You have no idea what it means to me that you feel safe and comfortable with sharing those deep dark feelings with me. I remember being small and what it meant to trust someone with the difficult things that I dealt with.

I love you when you’re sad. I love you when you’re angry. I love it when you can tell me what you feel, and I love you when you can’t.

<3 Mama

(* This letter applies to each of my children and not only to Alexander. The reason it is addressed to him and not to each of you, is because the story of the day comes from him. This is true of all of my letters. The things I feel for each of you come from the things that you have taught me. Each of you teach me new things, each of you make me feel new things. And each of you receives those feelings equally. I love each of you more through what your siblings have taught me.)

Thankful

Today I am thankful for many things.

I am thankful for Isaac, the big-eyed freckle-faced sensitive soul who made me a mother and who has taught me many things about life.

I am thankful for Alexander, my blonde haired blue-with-a-splash-of-brown-eyed  boychild who is tempestuous and calm rolled into one. He has taught me that every child is deeply different in many ways and very similar in many others.

I am thankful for Anne-Marie, my chubby little baby toupee with her crazy curls and ready grin and all the little quirks that make her so very much herself even though sometimes she looks just like her brothers.

I am thankful for my partner, Alex. He is exactly what I need even though he is little of what I might have written down on paper as “The person I will someday marry”. Not “less than” what I would have written down. Not “more than” what I would have written down. Just different. He has taught me much about loving and being loved. He is accepting, encouraging, and has taught me much about what good intentions look like in someone whose mind works very differently from my own. Because I can accept that he loves me and that because I love him back, we have had many conversations that would be impossible in most friendships. I am closer to him than I have ever been to any other person. It’s not movie-perfect. Too much stuff gets cut from movies. It’s life-perfect where we each learn from things, even from the times that we misunderstand each other. And rather than building resentments from misunderstandings we build our relationship and walk away trusting each other more. He is not a checklist on paper that makes a perfect mate. He is the mate that expands the list of things that I love and that make me happy. He is not what I imagined simply because he is so different from me that I could never possibly hold him in my imagination. And I am grateful that he and I both see this as a strength.

I am thankful for Alex’s family who has become my family as well. Imperfectly-perfect, deeply loving, and each of them is someone that I can talk to. There is nothing fake about any of them. There is nothing stilted. I do not have to play the role of a part I never auditioned for.

I am thankful for my family, who is understanding about the things that I cannot control, and that try hard to work around schedules that change on a whim. “We understand” and a promise to make it work some other time when things are more calm… I love them for this and for many other things.

Today I have a broken toe. The big one in my right foot. Broken two days ago when Alexander-in-the-middle had a two-year old last-minute change of heart about where it was that he wanted to sit, and pushed the heavy wooden tray of the high chair gleefully away as I was about to snap it into place. It fell three feet and landed edge-down right on the joint of my big toe.

I could be upset that yesterday I had to travel into New York City for a meeting with a man who holds many negative feelings about me. I could be upset about the pain in my foot. I could be wallowing in all of the little things that are wrong in the world and the impossible burden of their unfixability. I could be sad for the lack of sleep (made worse by the toe), for the imperfect-everything that comes tumbling along with the realities of life.

Today is a day put aside for celebration, though. I’ll hobble around and make that turkey, play with these kids, enjoy family, eat good food, and make merry.

Life is as much what you choose to focus on, as it is what happens. For many of us have so many blessings in our lives when we dig down and see them through the pains and the hurts and the imperfect things and the things that are not what we want right now in the moment but that have unimaginable capacity to change for the better.

I will not allow today’s imperfections to cloud out today’s joys. I will not allow today to be destroyed by some worry about what the future may bring if things take one turn instead of the other.

I’ll hunker down in this cozy house that smells of turkey and bacon, of sage and garlic, of melted butter, of sweet potatoes and the cinnamon from the zucchini muffins my sons and I made last night before bed. And I’ll say this: I am thankful.

Love to all of you, and I hope that you too are finding the happiness in your lives today.

<3 Sarah

razzberries

Overcoming Fussiness in a New Eater

Dear Daughter,

Shortly after you turned six months we offered you some banana, as you were so very interested in it and you had met all of the milestones with the exception of having sprouted teeth. (You and your brothers seem to be late teethers. They got their first teeth close to a year).

You were absolutely horrified by the experience and bananas became the one thing that you no longer tried to put in your mouth.

I was given a lot of advice.

“She’ll be a picky eater” they said.

“It’s about overcoming resistance. You have to stubborn it through” they said.

“You just have to keep trying” they said.

I looked at you and what I got from looking at you was that you simply were not quite ready. So I stopped offering for a bit.

And we waited.

And then an interesting thing happened. When we would eat you would look at us and you would start chewing air. Your little jaw would work up and down and you’d chew along with us.

Out of curiosity I offered you a piece of smushed food on my finger tip. You chewed it up and swallowed it. Not a puree. Smushed food. No gagging on the clumps. You  just glomped it off my finger and chewed it up and swallowed it as though you had been eating this way all along.

Now you’re seven months old and you eat many things. Blueberries, pears, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, broccoli, carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, potato, beef, chicken, fish. Anything that is either finger-shredded or that can be chewed with your gums.

You know what you don’t like? Spoons. If I try to offer you a spoonful of pumpkin soup you gag on it immediately. Spoons apparently put the food into your mouth in a really bad place.

With your brothers when they started eating purees the food came out in their poop undigested. I was told that their systems were “just getting used to it”. They would nurse constantly like they were going through a growth spurt as their bodies could make no use of the stuff that filled up their bellies and then they’d have to catch up with milk later. It felt completely wrong, but I figured it was like walking and it needed to be taught. See the problem there? Walking doesn’t need to be taught either.

The things that we need to be taught to do are the things that are not necessary to survival. Things like reading, and saying please. We need to be taught the things NOT to do. Things like “don’t fall out of windows” and “don’t touch hot stoves”. We do not need to be taught to eat, to crawl, to walk, to sleep, to breathe. (Unless we have an issue that lies outside the norm.)

With you I now understand this: You don’t need to “get used to it”. You simply needed to be ready.

Your poop is perfect. You digest everything that you are eating. You do not nurse constantly to make up for things later. You nurse before you eat, you eat until you’re done, and your little system can digest the food and make use of it.

Eating is a natural need of humans. As with all things, waiting until you’re ready has been our “solution” to a problem that doesn’t need solving because it was never a problem to begin with. You just needed to be ready.

And ready you are. You eat your meals sitting on my hip and you eat what I eat at your pace. A finger tip of food at a time. I tried offering you a spoonful of food today without thinking. You gagged on the food and spit out, coughing and yowling your displeasure.

You’re a finger-fed baby. Or a self-fed baby. Like a little parakeet. It makes sense. Spoons are man-made food shovels. You’ve never done well with man-made things. Table manners and utensils can come later along with strawberries, honey, grapes and all those things you don’t give babies until they’re over a year or two old.

For now I’ll listen because you’re wise and you find a way to tell me when you’re ready for each new thing.

Thank you for the constant reminders that if I slow down and listen to you, you make perfect sense.

<3 Mama

 

A Strip of Fabric

Dear Children,

I have the brown and white Mei Tai that the eldest of you rode in as a baby. I have the brown stretchy gauze fabric that Alexander-in-the-middle spend his earliest months in. And I have the white stretchy thermal fabric with the black hearts and skulls that Kneeker-bee is snuggled up in now, napping and which she has nearly outgrown.

Each of these will be rolled up and placed with all the mementos that I have of your infancy and your childhood.

One day when you’re grown we’ll sit down and go through them together. A tiny newborn diaper that dwarfed you when you were new and that will barely cover your palm. The piece of plastic that clamped your cord. A whisp of your impossibly soft baby hair. The first shirt you ever wore. A hat that will fit tightly over your fist as an adult.

And a piece of cloth.

“What’s that?” I can imagine you asking. “Is that my baby blanket?”, so embedded in our culture is it to save a blanket as one of our memories.

I’ll smile. “No, that is not a blanket that I covered you with when I put you down. That is what held us near. That is the cocoon that you spent your earliest months in. The fabric that stretched around you as you grew until it could no longer hold you. Then you toddled off, and I folded up this fabric to give you to one day.”

My eyes will mist up as they mist up now as I write this. And you will think me a sentimental old fool. As well you should.

Then one day you will have children of your own and I’ll gift you a piece of simple cloth, 6 yards long with unfinished edges. And you’ll understand.

It’s a piece of fabric, this thing that holds us near. Simple woven cloth, in those early days when we do not yet know each other well. Our hearts beat together, I learn your rhythms and you learn mine. You grow and your arms pop out the top to grab at my face as I kiss you and dance around and whisper to you a thousand times a day that I love you always. Always.

Yes. It’s a piece of cloth. It is the fabric of our earliest days together. The stitches that held us close. The pattern of my earliest memories of you. And it is dear to me.

As you read this one day you will be older and there will be no fabric holding us together as there was in the early days. Instead I hope that we will be held close through the years by a fabric of a different kind. Again each of you will have a fabric of your own with its own texture and its own colors and its own memories unique between us.

I keep this cloth as a constant reminder as you grow to hold you near and close to my heart. You were not always pleasant as an infant, sometimes you shrieked in my ear as you tried to fall asleep. Not every moment that I held you was blissful, sometimes you rode along as I was exhausted, touched out, stressed out, and in pain. Not every moment of your childhood will be beautiful. Not every moment of our lives will be peaceful and content. We may not always be close and connected, and there will be many times that you will not have the time for me.

But as I held you as a baby, I will hold you any time you need me. We are held together by something permanent. We are family. And family is unconditional.

I love you fiercely. Each and every one of you.

<3 Mama

Sleep Associations and Sleep Regression

Dearest Daughter of Dastardly Sleep Deprivation (And Ultimate Cuteness),

Here we are at seven months of age and up to our ears in what is usually called “sleep regression” and which is typically attributed to a parent allowing their child to develop habits and sleep associations.

I know because a book tells me so, the internet tells me so, and many people tell me so as well.

But I know some other things, too.

I know that when you were first born I tried absolutely everything to get you to sleep. I tried all of the things that worked for your brothers, all the things that I’ve read about, and then I tried all of the variations of everything. And I found the things that helped you sleep. These things were so very different from the things that helped your brothers sleep. And they worked for a while and you slept well.

And now you  have supposedly “regressed” or “become dependent” on these things.

I see it differently.

If these things came from me, they would be convenient for me or based on my preferences. They would be the same from child to child. And I would not have had to “try all the things” to find out what worked for you. These are not associations that I have created for you. These are associations that you have created as a part of how you are learning to sleep. These are a positive thing, and they will change over time. I do not need to break these associations for you suddenly. They are all a part of what is normal for you. This is what learning looks like. It is not regression to move through different stages of development and to move from what is uncontrollable to what we have control over. It is progress. It wasn’t that you were an awesome sleeper when you were younger. It was that you simply couldn’t help but fall asleep. There was nothing that needed to be learned. It simply happened. Now you are learning. And learning does not mean instant mastery.

When you were born I would hold you up so your feet touched the ground and you would reflexively “walk”. When I would put my finger into your hand you would reflexively grab at it without any control at all. Your neck muscles were weak and you could not hold your head up well without it bobbing around. Your tongue would push things out of your mouth, you would turn towards anything that brushed your cheek and you would open your mouth wide as though you expected there to be nipples everywhere for you to latch on to. And you would sleep. Deeply.

Now you consciously try to take steps. Or you try to jump up and down. Or you simply stand there while you hold onto things and bobble around on your feet learning about balance. Now you consciously grab things that you are interested in, you pinch them, you turn them around, you pass them from hand to hand or you push them away. Your neck muscles are strong except for when you are overwhelmed with sleep and bob your head against my shoulder like you are a newborn again looking for that comfortable position. Your tongue thrust reflex is gone and now you eagerly bite down on things and chew them instead of pushing them out of your mouth. And you no longer try to latch onto anything other than what you know will have milk for you.

Your sleep, too, has changed. “Regressed” is how some people describe it, but for me that’s like saying your walking skills have regressed as you are learning to stand rather than have a reflex that moves your feet up and down and that takes you nowhere Or that your strength is regressing now that your grasping reflex is gone. Or that your understanding of nursing has regressed now that you don’t constantly root for everything.

You are learning the things that you need in order to sleep well and deeply. You are learning the things you need in order to sleep comfortably. You are learning so much that sometimes you need more help to sleep.

Right now you lay napping on the bed two feet away from me. You are napping on top of a few blankets that are rather messily arranged and that cradle your body comfortably. You are zonked out. Your brother is jumping around and dancing to some music that is playing, and the lights are on. When something startles you you open your eyes, meet my gaze, smile at my smile and you fall back to sleep with that simple reassurance.

This is how I am teaching you about sleep. At night I respond to you when you need me. I snuggle you close and nurse you on demand. I pat your back and rub your head and I whisper to you in a soft and sleepy voice. During the day I let you sleep however you are comfortable sleeping and I hover nearby while I do the things that need to be done and while I play with your brothers, and when you startle awake I  meet your eyes and smile and say “Shhh” and move over to stroke the hair from your forehead the way I do when we nurse. And you fall back to sleep knowing that you can safely sleep off those sleepies and that I am there.

I’m not teaching you bad habits. I’m teaching you that sleep is safe. When you are older and able to understand the permanent fixture that I am in your life, and when you are able to safely sleep in a comfortable way at night in whatever position your little body wants to be in.. When you are ready to leave behind that firm crib mattress that feels like a lightly padded brick.. When you can arrange your blankets and snuggle up to your pillow and whatever stuffed animal you like the best.. Then I will teach you about how lovely it is to nestle down safe in the darkness in your own warm room. And you’ll sleep just as your brothers sleep. Through the night, through the dark, until the sun rises and the house wakes up as each of us start our day.

I don’t know if I believe that “Crying it Out” is a Horrible Terrible Guaranteed to Horribly and Terribly Damage Infants for Life. I don’t know if I believe that I positively have to co-sleep with you until you run from our bed singing some sort of song about liberation and independence and excited to start college the next day.

This is simply the relationship that I choose to have with you, where I respect the pace at which you learn and I recognize all the stages you go through and all the hard work that you’re putting in to this whole “growing up” thing.

Why do I need to interrupt your learning to “train” you to do something that you’re learning all on your own as your body settles into itself?

I don’t. I won’t. I trust you enough to wait it out and let you set the pace you need.

<3 Mama