Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dear Mama Who Uses CIO (From a Mama Who Uses Wait-it-Out)

Dear Mama who Uses CIO,

I recently became aware of a thread on a forum that linked to my post about “Wait it Out” sleep training. One person stated “I hope the author’s intent was not to make parents who CIO feel shitty and it was solely to make moms who WIO feel better about doing so. ”

I’d like to make my intentions clear.

In the dark of the night when I am unable to sleep and I’m snuggled down in a rocking chair with my eyes half closed, holding a child that will not sleep… The thing that fortifies me is the positive, not the negative.

You do not cross my mind. I do not sit awake in the dark and stew with anger over the people who use CIO. I do not sit awake all smug and clever and snickering and giggling about my superiority. I sit there crowding out any frustration or sadness with happy responsive thoughts and digging deep to try to feel empathy for the child in my arms. I sit there witnessing her smallness, her rapid growth, and the too-fast but too-slow passage of time between her first breath and her now. I sit there looking for ways to blissfully surrender to the moment.

Because that is what fortifies me.

People with hard jobs look for the things that fortify them, the things that help them continue a job that they see as worth doing despite difficulties.

I know that moms who use CIO do the same thing. I have seen it on the forums. You talk about your reasons why. You talk about independence and the value of sleep and the need for a baby to have a happy mother.

Not because you are thinking about /me/ and trying to make /me/ feel shitty about my choice to WIO instead of CIO. You’re not talking about MY baby and how she will be a dependent whiny clingy child with bags under her eyes and an indulgent irresponsible mother who was so afraid of five simple minutes of crying that she sacrificed her entire family’s happiness to be a martyr. All while rocking in the dark of the night and dreaming up ways to make CIO-ers feel terrible.

I don’t think that you are taking the easy way out. I feel like I am taking the hard way out. And you don’t think that I’m taking the easy way out. You feel like you are taking the hard way out. We both feel as though we are doing what is healthy and necessary for our children.

Don’t waste a second wondering if I judge you. I’ve seen enough judgmental language on the internet to know exactly what words each of us could use in an all-out war against each other. Words that leave no doubt about what each of us thinks.

It would be a waste of time. A pointless war.

I don’t judge you. I see you as a parent who is doing the hard job of parenting, just as I am doing the hard job of parenting. And I see you as someone who will fortify their choices in whatever way you need to fortify your choices, just as I will fortify mine.

And this is a good thing. Children benefit tremendously from parents who are strong, loving and consistent in their responses.

You’re a good mom. Now get ME out of your head. Don’t worry about my judgement or the judgement of some whackadoo mama on the forums who thinks that everything should be done HER way or MY way or YOUR way. Wasting time worrying about me or her just takes away the energy that you need for doing what you feel deep in your heart is the right and healthy thing.

Just don’t be that mom who predicts dire misfortunes shall befall all of us who don’t sleep train. The predictions of dire misfortune are the reason for any “snark” in my letter about WIO. They are a reaction to false things being said about MY baby. Not about things that you know to be true about yours. My letter is shared by others who WIO for the same reason- frustration with others false predictions about their children, and a joy in their choices. Don’t predict doom for us. Our babies will sleep just fine. Two of mine already do, and the third is already starting.

<3 A Wait-It-Out Sleep Training Mama

Violence Only Punctuates Weak Words

The Boston Marathon bombings? I don’t want to know the names or see the faces of people who cower in violence. Their reasons don’t interest me. Their names don’t interest me. Their organization doesn’t interest me. They want these things to be known, and the wants of petty violent people have no place in my head.

This should be a simple criminal investigation.

We should not care about their reasons or the manifestos of cowards who turn to violence instead of words.

The only names I’m interested in are the names of those who lost loved ones, those who lost their lives, those who were injured, those who helped.

Those are the stories that should be told often and not forgotten. Not the stories of someone hoping to be a martyr with a message needing the strong punch of violence to fill in its empty angry words.

The pain and sadness are deep, but their actions are the insignificant angry tantrum of someone whose conviction cannot carry as words through the quiet of still and peaceful air. Your actions close hearts and minds against your cause where your peaceful words might have otherwise opened them.

And that is sad.

Grabbing Hands and Asking Hands- Teaching Respect or Demanding Respect

Dear Children,

I must apologize. Adults are horrid examples for you. We tell you all the time “NO GRABBING!” usually as someone is prying something out of your hands as you scream at us to stop.

Watching you interact with each other is a barometer for how you are being treated by the adults in your life and what types of behaviors you are seeing.

I can see myself in you when you grab something out of your sibling’s hand without asking. I know that when you are supposed to be getting dressed I follow you around and take away everything you pick up, and I put it back down. I see the time that I grabbed a toy away from you when you grabbed it away from your sister. I hear the words that I said that seemed so logical at the time that I said them, but which seem really really unfair when you echo them back to your little brother.

And yes, I see the ways in which you are treated by other adults in your lives, but this letter is about my relationship with you and not your relationship with them. This is my thank you, my explanation and my apology all in one.

Thank you for teaching me that the way adults try to teach children about respect is all wrong. There is this fiction that says children have to earn respect by showing respect. In reality it is the other way around. You learn respect by being shown respect. Consistently and without wavering. By the adults in your life that have presumably learned about respect themselves, and by the adults that have the understanding, patience and emotional maturity that we repeatedly insist on seeing from you. After all, we have had a lifetime to develop those things in comparison to the tiny amount of time that you have had.

I’ve always understood that the way to teach you not to hit is by not hitting. This concept applies across everything. The way I teach you not to grab is by not grabbing. The way I teach you to not yell is by not yelling. The way I teach you the right words is by always using the right words. The way I teach you respect is by respecting you unconditionally, even when you disrespect me. Respect does not mean that when you bounce off the walls and speak gibberish that I need to humor you. Humoring is not respectful. But neither is shame, yelling, frustration, or making demands.

I’ve been teaching each of you about grabbing hands and asking hands. And I’ve become aware of my own hands in the process. I’ve become aware of how I want to just take the thing away from you when you’re hitting with it. How I want to just take the thing away from you when you’ve picked it up for the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time after I’ve asked you to PLEASE put it down and leave it alone and don’t even think about everpickingitupagainbecause GIVE IT TO ME NOW AGH!

You do not know what something means unless you see it and hear it and feel it. You do not understand its value unless you are given it and allowed to hold it inside yourself as the simple way in which people treat each other.

And there’s no magic point at which I have earned the right to say “Well you don’t do this for me, I’m not going to do it for you”. Because then all you learn is that it’s okay to give up. It’s okay to be disrespectful if you feel disrespected. It’s okay to throw up your hands and declare that until the other person changes you just won’t be civil anymore.

It’s not okay. People don’t treat each other that way. People treat each other with respect. This is what respect looks like. If I expect you to copy it then you need to see it more clearly, understand it more deeply, feel it more. You don’t need to be told that until you learn how to do it then you won’t see it from us.

That’s called a temper tantrum. And I can’t very well tell you “don’t throw a tantrum” if the adults in your life consistently throw tantrums of their own.

I’m putting this down in words for you because you’re going to get a LOT of terrible advice if you ever have children. You’ll be told to hit the hitters, bite the biters, yell at the yellers, and that it’s okay to say “I’m going to ignore you if you ignore me”.

You’ll be told to be a horrible example to your children instead of a good one. You’ll be told to make their life SO unpleasant that they choose to discover good behavior in the hopes that the adults in their lives will stop pitching a fit over every little thing.

And I’m hoping that you’ll be able to remember back to your childhood and see me as being a very good example of ignoring very bad advice.

I respect you because I want to teach you to respect others, and because I believe that a good and consistent example is more powerful than a bad one.

I respect you because I know that you need to see what respect looks like, and you need to be told what respect looks like, and that you need to see it often enough to absorb it and imitate it rather than memorizing nonsense lines of some play of power that adults supposedly have over children.

I show you respect because I believe that all human beings deserve to be respected, even when they are having a hard time. And because I want to earn your true respect rather than demanding you recite lines that you have memorized.

I don’t want you to use grabbing hands. I don’t want to demand respect from you. I want you to use asking hands. And I want to earn the respect that I feel is due. I cannot demand from you that you ask from me. When I demand from you all that you learn is to demand from me.

I need to be a true example of respect in order for you to learn to give true respect.

<3 Mama

Letting Go of the Need for Progress So That Progress Can Happen

One of the things I keep hearing in the forums is that someone is struggling because their child slept well for a couple of nights and is suddenly sleeping horribly again just when they thought they might be past the worst of things.

My daughter does this. She’ll have some AWESOME nights followed by the need to nurse all night. The way I’ve come to view it is that it’s similar to a child that feels independent, runs off to explore, loses sight of mom, then freaks out and needs additional reassurance for a while. The need for additional reassurance isn’t a setback, getting that additional reassurance is what teaches the child that it IS OKAY to be independent.

So when she has a few excellent nights of sleep followed by clinginess I see it as a little bubble over her head of “I slept SO awesome last night mama. Then I woke up in a panic because I realized that we were drifting apart and now I need to cling to you and be with you all night long so that I know I still can if I need to. Please just hold me tight and love me for a few nights before you try again to put me in my own space.”

And when she nurses less for a few days and I feel like “AT LAST I GET SOME PERSONAL SPACE” I expect it to be followed by extreme nurse-athons because she’s going to suddenly realize she hasn’t nursed as much as she needs to and she needs to catch up again. It’s not a setback, it’s part of pushing towards independence.

If she comes to me with this need for additional closeness and additional nursing for reassurance and I push her away because “THIS IS A SETBACK AND I HAVE TO BREAK HER OF BAD HABITS BEFORE THEY FORM AGAIN” I’m telling her that she will NOT be able to go back to something once she lets it out of her sight for a little bit. That she has to work harder to get what the needs after she exercises independence.

So instead of pushing her to be independent after she’s made the choice to be independent I go soft and mushy and pull her closer than she needs so that she can push away HERSELF. So that she can bounce back off me and take off again.

I take the long term view of things though. Nursing for me is a two year minimum goal and I do child led weaning. Sleep for me I expect to come closer to two so the fact that my DD is now only waking 3 times a night at one year old and that she’s accepting daddy for all but one of those wakings.. Is freaking amazing for me and I expect her to revolt and keep me up every hour for a few nights soon. And I’m fine with that and will pull her closer. And her daddy knows that if she needs to nurse it’s fine for him to bring her to me and that this nighttime thing is as long and as slow as she needs.

BECAUSE we want to make progress. And because pushing for progress makes things take longer. It builds up resistance because the child constantly needs to fight to be nearer and fight to hold onto that thing that is slipping away from them.

All I need to do to understand this is think about those two awesome nights of sleep that I got and how I don’t want to let go of those awesome nights of sleep.. If I, as an adult, freak out so much when something is “slipping away”, how must a one year old child feel?

She’s my third child so it’s easier. I’m used to this. I’ve become used to not having any physical space for myself or any time for myself or getting any sleep at all ever.

With my first it was SO MUCH HARDER and I saw everything as a setback and it was painful. This time around I’m surrendering and she’s doing things much faster than I am expecting.

It’s still hard for me sometimes. I love sleep. I love personal space. I get touched out easily.

But I understand that I need to let go of the need for progress in order for progress to happen. I need to accept that need for additional reassurance after my child has done more than she was ready to do. I need to pull her close when she needs it so that she can push away easily when she is driven to do so.

And driven she is. She crawls off so quickly that I have to chase after her. She is trying out new things to try and self soothe and sometimes her efforts don’t work and she gets upset and needs that extra comfort.

She WANTS to. It’s a skill. Kids love learning new skills.
But when it doesn’t work right away sometimes she becomes frustrated and needs help to calm back down.
When she gets that comfort and calms back down she’s ready to try and learn again.

It’s not giving up on progress. It’s stepping back and letting progress happen.

And Now That You Have Two Teeth I Should Wean You… Right?

Dear Daughter,

Congratulations, your smile is now bedecked with two pearly razor-like fangs err.. teeth that are almost as sharp as they are cute. And they are so very cute as they poke up on the bottom and shine with every smile.

Now that you have two teeth I should wean you.. Right? That’s the questionable wisdom that seems to be floating around amongst mothers and fathers that talk about such things. Because teeth equals biting and biting equals pain and pain means stopping.

I suppose that because your little teeth bit me first on the shoulder while I carried you that you should now be transported only in a stroller. And that because you followed that with a nip as I hugged you, that hugging has also come to an end. And because you have bitten me a couple of times with those little teeth of yours, that breastfeeding should definitely be done with.

Yes. It does seem odd to place a sensitive body part into a mouth full of teeth that can easily chew apart a steak. But then, you started gnawing on steak a good two months before you had any teeth to call your own. I’ve seen what those little gums can do to a piece of bread, a strip of steak, a piece of chicken, or a hard uncooked carrot that you have slowly ground down through persistence. All before you had those teeth.  Had you bit then it would have caused damage as well.

As your teeth grow in they are itchy and they hurt and so you bite down on everything. You chew on your hands, you chew on toys. And sometimes without thinking you bite down on me. And it hurts. It hurts when you bite my shoulder. It hurts when you bite my arm. It hurts when you bite my finger as I try to brush your teeth. But I do not stop holding you, I do not stop hugging you, and I do not stop brushing your teeth.

Instead I try to see when it is that you bite. I watch you more closely while you nurse to see if you begin to get distracted. Close to the end of a nursing session when you begin to get distracted I pop my pinky finger into the corner of your mouth between the backs of your gums into that empty place that will be behind all of your teeth once they grow in. I lever your mouth open and pop you off. If you are still needing to nurse you will latch back on and nurse with renewed attention. If you’re all done you’ll be ready to play. I know that you cannot bite me when you’re fully latched on.

When you do bite me I quickly unlatch you and say “Ouch. No bite. That hurts mama.” And you cry sometimes because you were not done nursing. I latch you back on and your little chin wobbles as you nurse again.

I see this as the start of discipline. That magical crossing point where your wants begin to conflict with your needs. You need to be able to continue to nurse. You want to bite.

And just as your brothers learned… You will learn too.  And just as your brothers learned as babies- we don’t bite. And because you learn this now at just a year old, you won’t be the one biting your classmates in preschool. You’ll have learned now as a baby that teeth are not for biting other people.

I don’t need to wean you for this, I don’t need to stop hugging you for this, I don’t need to fear the little ways in which you can hurt me. I just need to do my job and teach you gentleness through being gentle and consistent.

So rather than fearing this change and those little white teeth, I see it as a learning experience. We can go through this together, little girl. No need to part ways over a few sharp teeth.

<3 Mama 

 

Dear Self: You Are Not Lazy

Dear Self,

You understand the work that you put in each day. You understand the days when you choose to relax and take things slow and mellow. And you understand the days when you speed around and catch up with the things that need to be done, always on your feet and with a 20lb clingy child strapped to your body or held close on your hip. You understand the days when you are too tired to do too much, and your reasons why. And you understand the days when you get so much done.

And you understand what things were like when you started, in the middle, and at the end. You understand that “what is left to do” does not always accurately show “what was done”.

I know that you have a mental image in your head of “what the house looks like clean” but looking at how things are at the end of the day, comparing it to that mental image, and using that to determine the level of work involved in the day? It doesn’t work that way.

So today when you move the moving boxes upstairs.. When you put away even more laundry and wash yet more.. When you go out into the backyard and do more yardwork.. And when you do all the kid-caring stuff across the day and spend your day in a whirlwind of happychaos.

Today.. When other people finally get home and you see the house through their eyes as they see what has not been done without any idea for what has..

Today.. Don’t absorb that.

Don’t look around through the eyes of someone who didn’t spend the day here, and don’t feel lazy when you’ve spent the entire day on the move.

Breathe.

Life is not about how others see you. It’s about how you see yourself.

YOU see what has been done across the day and you know what has been undone by the kids before it’s ever seen by anyone else. That doesn’t mean that it was never done or that the work wasn’t put in.

And self.. Aside from sitting down on the computer for an hour this morning to avoid the huge long list of things that need doing after a night of very little sleep following a night of very little sleep following a night of very little sleep following too many nights of very little sleep.. You’re gonna get a lot done. You’re going to help your teething daughter keep calm through her pain so that she can learn and play and enjoy her day. You’re going to help your two year old explore the backyard. And yes. You’ll get that mountain of laundry put away. Not because someone else will see it or because it’s a thing on the to-do list, but because it’s a part of the tending to the living things that truly matter. And if it falls off the to-do list because of the need to get out into the sunshine, that’s okay too.

Because you get a lot done every.single.day.

Laziness isn’t measured by what’s left over.

It’s measured by what’s been done. 

♥ – Self

Why My Son is Crying (Two Year Olds and Empathy)

My two year old cries for the most ridiculous reasons. Or so it might be easy to think.

He wants to climb the ladder that I told him is “dangerous” but won’t climb on the swing set instead even though there’s a slide going down the other side. You know. The swingset that cost a few grand. The swing set that is child-safe. The swing set cushioned by soft grass. The swing set that isn’t rusty and possibly dangerous like this ladder balancing in the middle of the deck as we try to fix it.

He’s not crying because of that silly thing. He’s crying because he lacks the words to tell me WHY it is important to him to climb the ladder. He can’t tell me that his imagination is so full of these vivid wordless thoughts about what it would be like, how tall it is, and how it is yellow instead of green, and how yellow makes him smile.

He’s not crying because he’s being silly. He’s crying because I’m using those intangible words again and saying “no. danger.” and he can’t figure out the words to ask me HOW is it dangerous? Couldn’t I hold his hand and keep him safe? Why am I being so STUBBORN and using those words again instead of helping him do what he wants the way I help him with other things?

He is screaming his head off because he wants to bring a dirty snow shovel inside. I just let him play with it outside for a half hour and he put it down and didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. But NOW he wants to BRING IT INSIDE? And he’s yelling at me because I said no?

He’s not crying because he’s determined to track dirt and snow inside. He’s wondering what it will sound like bumping across the tiles in the kitchen and swishing across the carpet in the library. What it will sound like sliding over the wooden floor. How it’s different from the way it sounds on the gravely driveway or the soft grass, or the crunch of the snow.

And he can’t tell us these things that he wonders because his words number far too few. He can cry with disappointment, and with sadness and upset about the fact that you cannot understand and he cannot make you understand these things he sees so vividly inside of his imagination.

Yes. Sometimes it’s cute how deeply they feel these things and it’s tempting to smile or laugh. Just like it’s tempting to smile or laugh when they put on their shoes backwards and their coat upside down. This tantrum is as much a part of “small human being” as chubby cheeks and teetering first steps.

Yes. Sometimes it feels manipulative. And being manipulated makes us feel ANGRY and FIRM. And WHY CAN’T THIS CHILD UNDERSTAND WHAT I WANT AND WHAT I FEEL?

Of course they can’t. They don’t have the years of experience and knowledge that we do. They’re babies still. How can we expect them to understand what we feel and empathize with us?

We aren’t understanding and empathizing with them. And we have fully developed adult brains capable of doing all of these things and capable of all this logic. Plus. We’ve BEEN THERE. We’ve been children. Our children have never been adults.

The only illogical thing happening here is our expectation that our child understand the incomprehensible words that we are using as an explanation for our “no”. And that we are getting angry at them or laughing at them when they get upset about what they cannot understand.

Oh buddy. I said “NO DANGEROUS! And you got SO upset because you don’t see why it’s dangerous. But.. Look! Look. See? Wobble wobble, the ladder goes side to side. Look. Alexander walks up the ladder. Step one… Wobble wobble.. Step two.. Wobble wobble. OH NO! Alexander wobbles and falls. And falls and falls BOOM! That’s like falling off the couch onto the floor but HIGHER! More ouch. More boom. Oh no. Poor Alexander. That would hurt SO MUCH! Big ouch. But.. Shh.. Alexander says “Mommy can you help me do it safe?” OF COURSE! Let’s see.. I can hold you and you can go up one step! Up two steps! Up three! And jump back down like that. Three steps can be safe if you hold my hand, okay Alexander?

This way he learns to ask “Mommy can you help me do it safe?” instead of sneaking over to do it by  himself when I’m not looking. And he learns to use those words when I say “no dangerous” instead of flipping out. That’s what his tantrum means, so those are the words that I teach him.

Sometimes the answer will be “no”. There are some things that you cannot do safe. You cannot touch boiling water. But a lot of the times when we say “no dangerous” we mean that we can’t be bothered or we just want to wall that thing off completely rather than letting them touch it for fear that they will touch it when they are alone.  

I Can Spend the Time Teaching You, Or I Can Spend the Time Making Powerless Demands

You’re having a hard time because I haven’t taught you this yet, or you haven’t had enough practice at it to remember. Or someone else taught you about it in a way that closed you down and now you have all this resistance that needs to be soothed before your ears are open to listening.

“Teaching” doesn’t mean simply reciting a rule until it’s followed. It means that the other person has internalized an understanding of the rule and that they can apply it. Otherwise we’d have a generation of mathematical geniuses that could simply recite “A squared plus B squared equals C squared”. There is a difference in repeating a rule, and understanding it to the point of being able to use it as a tool. There is a difference between reciting numbers from one to ten and counting. There is a difference between singing the alphabet and reading. And there is a difference between reciting the rules of the house verbatim, and understanding them deeply.

You are struggling with this rule because you don’t understand it as a tool. You understand it as the words that have been spoken to you. There is a difference between remembering a rule word for word because you’ve memorized the words, and remembering a rule word for word because you understand the meaning of the words and how they apply to every area of your life.

As an adult that was “bad at math” in school, I should understand this. Math was taught to me as a collection of rules that seemed arbitrary and difficult to remember. It was not taught to me as a fascinating thing that intertwined throughout my life as a basis for understanding the things that happen around me.

I understand that you are an awesome kid. You’re so smart it’s scary. You have a good heart and love to do things that make people happy. You LIKE to be good.

So why are you not being good?

I see how uncomfortable you are right now. I see the anger and resistance and sadness exploding in your little body.

I see how simple the thing is that I’m trying to teach you how to do, or the thing that I think you should already know how to do, since I’ve taught it to you a dozen times.

I’m the adult, you’re the child. You’re supposed to LISTEN! RESPECT! DO WHAT I SAID RIGHT NOW! NO ARGUMENTS! I know this because it is what I was taught as a child through the example of the adults in my life.

I remember that some things I was able to figure out, and other things I was not. I remember the times that I stopped trying because all I understood was that SOME ADULT WANTED ME TO AND WAS VERY ANGRY.. But I didn’t understand how. I didn’t understand why. And so I became immune to that anger instead of learning.

I see that you are NOT having a good time right now. You’re locked down in stubborn resistance. That is not a happy place for you to be. I see that you are upset. I see that you are not at ease. You are not taking great joy in being defiant, even if you smile a nervous smile. You try to dismiss the strong things that you feel with a roll of your eyes. This is your seeking of balance. This is not your dismissal of me.

What if.. What if I responded to the hard time that you are having, and I gave you sympathy? What if I offered to try and help you find a solution. What if I acknowledged that the mess you made must make you very sad because it’s sad when you destroy things and it comes from a sad and angry place. What if I offered to help you clean up the mess, and talked with you as you found the order in the chaos.

What if.. I responded quietly and with concern instead of loudly and angrily accusing you of DOING THIS ON PURPOSE?

Would you maybe learn that your actions are things that are a sadness to be avoided rather than the willful power of defiance? A sadness to work on, rather than an angry character defect that you should lock up inside as a part of your self definition? ”

Oh but how will you learn respect and proper behavior if I don’t stomp my feet and use a loud angry voice to demand it of you? How will you learn to respect my feelings if I don’t disregard yours and insist that you consider mine?

Perhaps by speaking gently. Perhaps by showing you that no matter how upsetting another person is being, you can keep your own calm.

I respect you because you are a human being.

I respect what you are feeling even if I don’t respect your actions.

I understand that what you are feeling right now is NOT a happy feeling for you, even if it feels happy for a moment or two. Because I know that it’s not a happy thing to hurt someone else or to be unable to listen.

I understand that I cannot teach you something with anger.

I understand that this will take time.

And I understand that the time will pass either way. I can spend it teaching you in a way that you will slowly learn. Or I can spend it demanding things from you in a way that will only shut you down.