Category Archives: Letters to the People In My Life

The Whispers of Your Heart

Dear New Mama,

I once was you. Scared and new. Looking for direction where no direction seemed to be. Everyone said different things, and the things that they said didn’t seem to match what my instincts called out for me to do. I was confused. I was worried. I was wondering if everything that seemed so right was breaking some kind of rule. Loud and boisterous voices told me “put the baby down” “it’s okay if they cry”, “get them used to the bottle now”, “you can’t hold them forever”.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and messages and comments lately, asking so many different things.

Mama. Listen to your heart. What does your heart say? What happens when you forget about all the things that you’ve read, all the things that you have been told? What happens when you push those voices to the back of your mind? When you sit in silence and in peace and hold your baby in your arms in front of you? What happens when you look into those deep blue, brown, green or gray eyes that stare right into the depths of your heart and soul?

Listen to the whisperings of your heart. The tug that you feel. That tug is what guides you. It need not be loud. It need not be forceful. It is not trying to convince you to do something that you do not feel is right.

That is why the books are loud. That is why the advice is loud. That is why people may scoff and try to make you feel odd about following your heart.

It has to be loud. Because how else will it drown out what you feel inside?

Let it wash over you. Loud like thunder, loud like crashing waves in a storm. Let it blend together into a wall of white noise.

Listen to the coos. The cries. The unspoken things that your baby’s body and face communicate to you when he roots and when he rolls and reaches. Listen to his babbles. Listen to the silence and the intensity when the two of you lock eyes.

Trust yourself. The whisperings of your heart contain much wisdom.

<3 A Mama Who Once Was New

If You Really Loved Me, Would I Feel It?

If you really loved me, would I feel it? There’s a theory of “love languages” where we give and receive love in different ways. What if you speak my love language as a second language? What is the learning curve on a second language? And then, if you’ve learned it, will you speak it with beautiful fluency during times of stress? Or will you do as all humans do, and batten down the hatches while leaving me to feel irrelevant?

The truth is.. The reason that I don’t always feel your love for me in the marrow of my bones… Is because it is a thing that you are supposed to feel, not a feeling of my own. I feel my love for you in my marrow. Most of the time. Yeah. There are some times that “I love Alex” doesn’t cross my mind. Just like there are some times that I don’t think about my breathing or the beating of my heart or how my muscles move my bone. There are times that my love for you doesn’t cross my mind because it’s faded out of that newness and euphoria and has become an automatic part of living. A thing that sometimes catches me off-guard and renders me breathless.

I need to accept that the same holds true for you. You don’t spend your days thinking about how much you love me and how to show me your love. You don’t spend your days thinking “How can I prove to Sarah that I love her today?” Just like I don’t think about how I have to show you that I love you. Dude. I wash your underwear. With all my love for laundry, if I didn’t love you I’d probably set it on fire or make you wash it yourself.

I don’t have to tell you that, though.

Because you once said that all I have to do is be here.

You love me in whatever shape I am. Whatever I give you. It is unconditional.

So what exactly is this “love language” crap? Honestly, the reasons that I need you to speak my love language have nothing to do with how you feel. They all have something to do with my own insecurities.

I wonder sometimes how much of pop culture you’ve absorbed. If you need to measure your manhood in conquests. If you’ll put your love for me on a shelf and run off with a dozen supermodels the way this culture says you should. If I’ve trapped you into this relationship with our children.

Do you ever wonder if I’ll leave you for a younger man without the softness that comes with age? No. Do you wonder if you’ve trapped me into misery with the three children that you have given me? No.

I think I’m being a bit of a sexist pig, here. I expect you to show me that you love me in a half a dozen different ways every single day that we live and breathe together, in a love language that really makes no intuitive sense to you, in times of stress where you are forgetting half of the things that make life move ahead.

Why?

Because I don’t love myself. And when love was fresh and new you were interested enough in me that I started to discover my own value through your eyes. Now that we’ve been together I don’t see the discovery anymore. I just am. On my own steam. And I’m back to that place of trying to figure out how to love myself. And if I can’t take my own love of myself for granted, how should I take your love for me for granted?

I think I need to put myself in your shoes a bit more. If you asked me “Do you love me?” I’d think you were nuts. Of course I do. And I’d probably try and list the things that I do to show you that. But what if they weren’t the right things? What if you needed love in a more flowery way and a less practical one? What if you needed more of the practical stuff and I was more flowery?

You don’t do that, though.

You say I just need to be here.

Because you love me unconditionally.

I don’t have to lose ten pounds or gain ten pounds or paint my face or wear high heels. I don’t have to be the perfect housemaker or pleasure you a set number of times per week. You’re not asking me to speak your love language when I’m stressed out and in the middle of trying to get too many things done. I’d like to think that it’s because I excel at showing you that I love you. In truth? I probably don’t.

I need to work more on loving myself. That’s the core of it. I need to love myself before I could ever trust that you could love me.

You probably love me more than I love myself. And that… right there… is suspicious stuff. Even if you spoke my “love language” every single day.. I wouldn’t hear it. Because my own insecurities are too damned loud.

I love you. (But you knew that already.) I just need to work on loving me.

For the Mama Who Says “Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Come Naturally to Me”

Dear Mama,

“Gentle parenting doesn’t come naturally to me.”

Maybe you’ve written me a letter saying this. Maybe I’ve seen it in a comment here or on Facebook. Maybe you’ve said it to me as an apology when you have sought advice. Maybe you’ve thought it as a reason why you should just give up. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s hard. It is a lot of work.

Shh.. Shush. Let me give you the words that you’re looking for. “This is a conscious choice.” Do you feel the power of those words? “I am making the conscious choice to parent gently.” You may not be a natural at it. You may not have had the role models for it. You may struggle. But you are making a conscious choice.  You are choosing the road that stretches your abilities. That is not easy or simple for you. You are making the conscious choice to parent your children gently.

You are making the conscious choice.

You are learning new ways.

You are trying to give your child the things your heart says are best.

You have put aside your fear of “failing” and you are doing something that comes hard.

Fill your toolbox up with the tools that help you along.

Don’t apologize for not being a ‘natural’.

Be proud, instead. Be proud of the conscious choice that you are making. Of the progress that you have made. Of the beauty of the feelings that you have overcome, of the hurdles you have conquered. Recognize the little seeds of gentleness that you have sown and watch them grow.

“I am making a conscious choice.” There are no words more powerful than that.

<3  Sarah

The Most Important Person in the Room (To the dad whose baby won’t let him help)

Dear Dad Whose Baby Won’t Let Him Help Out,

Yes. I understand that the baby doesn’t accept you for comfort at night. Yes. I understand that when you can’t do the things that mom is doing, it feels like you might as well go and do something else.

Technically you couldn’t ‘do anything’ when the baby was being born either. You couldn’t labor for her. You couldn’t push the baby out. You were a provider of moral support.

When you can’t help with the baby it often means that mom is under more stress than she would be otherwise, because if you could help that would take some of the stress off her shoulders.

When you decide to go watch football or play a video game..
When you decide to go out with friends..
When you just give up and go do your own thing..

You’re underestimating your importance. You’re underestimating exactly how much you are needed. Underestimating your value. Underestimating how much your strength is needed.

Maybe you can’t give mom a break by rocking the baby to sleep the way you’d like to. Maybe you feel like there’s nothing that you can do.

Remember when she was in labor and you were there for her. Remember when she had a c-section and you were there for her. You were the most important person in the room.

You still are.

In the lonely dark hours of the night, when she doubts herself.
When the baby is crying and colicky and only quiets in her arms and she’s on the fourth hour of dancing.
When the baby is going through a growth spurt and is sucking the life out of her..

Little words from you remind her that she has value and meaning.
Sitting by her side sustains her.
A gentle touch helps her relax and replenishes spent reserves.
Keeping her company shows her that you care, and makes it easier for her to ask for all those little things that she may not be able to do for herself.

The strength that we need from you is not always the strength to make things happen. Sometimes it’s the strength to share those lonely difficult times simply by being there when there’s nothing else that you can do.

Chances are pretty good that it’s the times that you feel that you can’t do anything to help .. That you’re really helping the most.

You are what keeps us afloat.

You are what keeps us anchored.

There’s no way that we could do this without you.

Applying Attachment Parenting to Discussions with Adults

Dear AP Community,

I have to admit that sometimes when I see other Attachment Parents in the forums or on Facebook, the thought that pops into my head is “You wouldn’t talk to your three year old that way, why in the WORLD are you speaking to another adult like that?”

I think that it’s time we all start asking ourselves this question.

There is a difference between speaking about how we feel studies apply to our lives and our children and how studies influence our behavior, and crying out “child abuse”.

I could say this:

“Letting your child cry it out is neglect and child abuse and has shown to be harmful.”

Or I could say this:

“Cry It Out feels too much like neglect for me and I feel that it harms my relationship with my child. When she cries she’s trying to communicate a need to me, and I’m fine with holding her if that is what she needs. I’ve used Wait It Out with my older two children very successfully and it is a gentle joyful tear-free method that speaks to my heart and that works with our instincts instead of against them.”

In one way I’m trying to use shame on another parent, and in one way I’m talking about my experiences in a non-threatening way that more accurately represents what I think and feel. “This is how I do things”. “This is what works for me”. “This is an option that exists out there that contains a lot of pleasant happy joyful feelings”. This is my example. If you find my experience compelling, I’m happy to talk about it, but there is diversity for a reason. Clearly you are not me. Clearly there is diversity in the genetic pool. Clearly your children are not my children. I am no more inside of your head than I am inside of the heads of my children. It’s ludicrous to pass judgement based on what I see.

A non AP parent is not “giving their kids a hard time”, they’re having a hard time. Attack doesn’t help them see more clearly any more than punitive parenting helps a child see more clearly.

If another parent’s heart hurts too, if another parent is struggling with the feeling that they are not parenting in a way that works, then they are looking for the things that do work and they will find meaning in your loving words. If another parent has already found their toolkit and have found peace and joy in their way of parenting.. Don’t step on their parenting any more than you would step on your child’s successes when their methods diverge from your own.

It’s hard sometimes to not use the firm statements and the judgmental words. We know the sting of these all too well as we are constantly being told that we “spoil” our children, that homeschooled kids “lack socialization”, that if we don’t use CIO our children will “never sleep” and “be miserable”. If we don’t vaccinate we’re attacked for that, if we vaccinate we’re attacked for that. If we sneeze on a Tuesday there’s someone there to tell us YOU ARE WRONG AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL SUFFER.

We, as everyone, absorb examples. But part of parenting the way we do is choosing the positive examples.

Bring a bit more of your attachment-parenting style into your conversations. Listen carefully, speak gently and with joy.

-Sarah

You Stepped on My Parenting Again

You stepped on my parenting again last night.

A quick text message sent this morning.

Ack. Sorry.

I’m not angry, you’re not angry, we’re both simply trying to become more aware of how we co-parent in this four-adult-three-kid house of mixed approaches.

I love that you are involved as a parent, as I grew up with a single parent in a two-parent house and as I started off as a single parent in a two-parent house back before we became a family.

I see your intentions when you step in, and you see mine when I do the same. But we also see that this needs to change. We need more practice co-parenting and more agreement on handling things the same way.

When I see you doing something that I have tried and that has not worked, I try to save you from failing in the same way that I have failed. When you see me dealing at the end of the day, sometimes you step in to save me.

We each take primary responsibility for our kids. We each jump up to handle situations, and come from the other room when we hear a ruckus.

This is a good thing. And this is a thing that we need to handle more gracefully.

I do not want you to butt out so that I can do things my own way, and I do not want to back off to let you do your own thing.

This is a thing for us to work on together, just as we work with our kids.

I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with us slipping up sometimes and stepping on each others toes. Our kids learn from our mistakes just as we learned from the mistakes of our own parents. They learn from the things we handle well, and from the things that we handle less gracefully. They learn that there is no absolute right or wrong most of the time and they learn about fairness and discussion and agreement and compromise.

We both have the same destination in mind and it’s okay for each of us to follow our own path as long as we make sure to not lose sight of the other parent or drag them kicking and screaming off into the undergrowth in an attempt to get them onto our own path.

We’re drawing our own map as we go, and we each have our own style. It’s okay for the map to be less than perfect.

I’ll try harder to avoid stepping on your parenting, as I know that you do try hard to avoid stepping on mine.

We’re in this together. Let’s make it draw us closer and not drive us apart.

Like Being Married to a Three Year Old

Alex,

At the end of the day, of course I’m moody and emotional and want attention and affection and to spend time with a person that speaks in full sentences.

I spend the day with small emotional human beings that cling to me and that need a million needs met. I spend the day with small humans that need to be taught how to communicate. I spend the day carrying, lifting, hugging, kissing boo-boos, giving, burning out, immersed in the fantasy world of children and craving something real.

And then there’s you. You spend the entire day with other adults, talking with other adults, working at a demanding job where you can’t just relax. So when you get home you’re burned out on the real and want to disappear into something that consumes you.

We’re in two different places.

I’m sorry that sometimes I handle the difference with the maturity of a three year old and get moody instead of speaking in full sentences. I’m tired of converting moods into words and have no words left for myself.

I’m sorry if I sometimes view your decompression as “laziness” or “not important”. I’ve been strongly conditioned by society to be at war with you over this. Men are lazy, women are bat-shit-insane and moody and require chocolates and flowers to keep them happy. And Men like “stupid” things. Like football or video games or muscle cars.

I need to remember that even though we “share a life” our lives are very different. I need to let go of the wars of others and not view your decompression as abandonment or a lack of interest. I need to not view it as “lazy” when I know how hard you work. (Even though that’s the word that you choose to apply to yourself and a word that I have never called you.)

I need to remember that I do ask you to rescue me from the kids sometimes. When you ask  me to rescue you from them it is not because you are being lazy. You are just as likely to have a Very Bad Day as I am, and you’re just as likely to need a break as I am.  I would not take it well if you were annoyed when I asked for a break. I should not be annoyed when you need one. Your being around less often doesn’t mean that you’re required to be constantly on call.

I need to remember that I’m far more likely to be thinking about the end of the day and seeing you than you are to be thinking about the same. In our home I am surrounded by reminders of you. I’m washing your clothes and folding them and putting them away and seeing your face in the faces of our children. I’m living in a memory box and you’re living in the world.

I need to work on not feeling as though your time at home somehow belongs to me and that when you want to do something else it’s “time lost”. Instead I need to realize that when you are home from work it’s time that you are not at work, it is time that belongs to you and not to me. And that when we spend time together it is out of desire and not obligation. I also need to think more of that time after the kids are in bed as my time for myself rather than being my time for “us”.

Instead of looking at you to restore me to balance, I need to find balance of my own and let you find your balance. That way when we meet in the quiet place between it’s a place of joy and not obligation or burn-out.

I understand that this will pass. The kids will grow. I’ll feel free again. We’ll each have more time. I don’t want to rob you of your independence any more than I want you to rob me of mine.

The key is to just breathe through it and keep from building resentments that keep us from enjoying each other’s company once all of that has happened.

I want to look back with you and smile and be like “Holy shit, we did that together. Wow.”

And not “I hate you because I hate you. And. Also. I hate you.” I’ve done that already, and I dislike the consequences of one person being so focused on their own wants and needs that they can’t see the good of the person that they used to love.

I won’t be that person. Except sometimes. You know. Because I miss you. And because absorbing the maturity level of small children is hard to avoid when you’re around them all day every day plus overtime and very little sleep.

Be thankful that I don’t spend my days surrounded by cats, because then I’d poop on your pillowcase instead of washing it. Moodiness is a little easier to deal with, no?

I’ll try to do better.

(And. Also. I love you. Most of the time.)

<3 Me.

If You Love Her, Shut Up.

Dear Friends and Family Members,

If you love my daughter, or if you love your daughter, or if you love any little girl.. Shut up.

Stop talking about your body as though it is ugly. Stop talking about your too-big feet, too-long toes. Stop making fun of my knobbly knees or my frizzy hair. Stop talking about needing to lose ten pounds. Stop talking about your ugly this, your gross that, your crash diet, your fat butt, your spider veins. Stop talking about your too-white skin or your too-dark skin or your too-freckled skin. Stop wishing that you were a supermodel. Stop wishing you were shorter or taller or skinnier or meatier.  Stop forwarding pictures of “OMG isn’t this person GROSS?” and stop making snarky comments about strangers on the street.

Don’t talk about yourself that way. Don’t talk about me that way. Don’t talk about anyone that way. Not in front of a little girl.

Almost every woman in this country hates the way she looks for one reason or another, or only feels beautiful at certain moments in time when everything is just right. But for most of our lives things are slightly out of place. Slightly saggier, larger, smaller, or frizzier than we would like.

Why does it matter? Why do we have to spend so much time dwelling on the things we dislike about each other? Why do we have to speak of this in front of our girls who have never even realized that they could or should dislike themselves or others? Why do we force each generation to go through this?

Don’t talk about the bags under your eyes and how you have to paint them away so that no one will know how tired you are. Talk about healthy sleep habits and dietary changes that can help with under-eye puffiness. Talk about skin health.

Don’t talk about needing to lose ten pounds. Talk about making healthier eating choices.

Don’t talk about feeling “out of shape”, talk about feeling “out of breath” or “out of energy”.

Disliking oneself and disliking others is not a legacy that we need to pass on. Let it go. It makes no one happy.

And if you speak about such things in front of my daughter and try to pass on that legacy of self-disgust and shame, don’t be surprised to find yourself contradicted.

At some point in your life someone lied to you and told you that the unimportant things are what is important. At some point in your life no one stood up for your right to feel good in your skin. At some point in your life you internalized all the negative things that you heard other people say.

If you think I’m making too big of a deal out of this.. Ask yourself this: Are you comfortable in your skin? How do you feel when someone calls you ugly or fat or says your hair is too short too long too frizzy too curly? How do you feel if someone comments negatively about your feet, your hands, your legs, your skin?

If you love her, don’t do this to her. Let her grow up loving herself the way you and I should have grown up loving ourselves. Let her grow up feeling healthy and strong.

Let her be as beautiful as she is, without planting the seeds of self doubt.

<3 Me.

You might also like:

  • Independent of Comparison:
    Daughter, I can’t build you up if I tear myself or others down. Your beauty exists independent of comparison. No more, no less. Your intelligence exists independent of comparison. No more, no less. Your abilities exist independent of comparison. You are not another person. You are yourself. And that is what you need to be.

  • When Do We Lose Our Comfort?:
    You are beautiful to me, not because of the big blue eyes and curly black hair of your infancy, not because of what shape you may take as a child, a young adult, a woman, a mother, or a grandmother if I live to see you along that far. You are beautiful to me because I love the shape of your soul and how you are growing to be exactly who you need to be.

  • The Truth About Your Body:
    Through loving you, I look at all of the women and all of their daughters and I see nothing ugly, nothing out of shape, nothing wrong. I see many beautiful strong women who are being lied to by others about the beauty that they have, just as I was.