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Archive for May, 2012

Little Man got quite interested in potty use about 6 weeks before Lady Fair was born, but as soon as she came he decided he couldn’t be bothered anymore.  That was fine, I really didn’t want to be chasing after late-noticed pees while holding a newborn.  But he stayed in this irritating in-between state where, although he wasn’t interested in the potty, he was also vehemently opposed to having his diaper changed.  So a couple of weeks ago, when the weather got warm scorchingly hot and we started playing in the water table outside, I nudged him toward diaper free daytimes.

All went great, except…

It seems that toddler bums emanate some sort of powerful magnetic field.  The force is so strong that the affected munchkin is utterly unable to keep his fingers free of it.  They seem to be perpetually glued to his bottom.  Sucked in, even.  And do you know what happens when small children stick their fingers in their butts?  They go on to stick them in their eyes and the next thing you know, you have pink eye.

But here’s the thing.  As hilariously gross as the origin of the infection is… the real fun comes from Mr. Fair’s reaction to it.  Because the truth is, pretty much all he knows about pink eye, he learned from Seth Rogen in Knocked Up.  So while I’m busy trying to keep Little Man’s hands out of both his tuckus and his face, Mr. Fair is running around the house quarantining pillows in case they got farted on…

Boys crack me up.  (Pun completely intended.)

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Since all of this hullaballoo about the TIME cover started I’ve been thinking to myself that if only we could show the whole picture of attachment parenting, people would get it.  If we could give people not just a snapshot, not just these tidbits about never putting our kids down and never sleeping by ourselves again, but a full day in the life of attachment parenting – or better yet, several days – then they’d realize we’re not totally out to lunch.

Just as I was thinking this, I happened to open my iTunes movie list and there they were: Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg – the original attachment dads. 

Huh?

3 Men and a Baby, aside from being hilarious (25 years later and that peeing on the couch scene still cracks me up) is also pretty much a how-to manual of attachment parenting.

Let’s have a look at how many of the API’s 8 principles show up in the movie:

When a baby shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, our poor accidental dads are quite beside themselves to comfort her.  They don’t know what to do.  But they keep trying until they figure out what she likes.  They never leave her alone to cry until she passes out.  And when they try to give her to the drug dealers (admittedly not the best parenting choice no matter what your style is), they send her with the instruction that “she likes to be rocked to sleep”.  They don’t care whether that’s a socially acceptable way to go to sleep.  They don’t express fear that she’ll never go to sleep without being rocked.  They just respond sensitively to her need to be comforted.

There’s no sleep training going on here

Once they finally get her to go to sleep, the attachment parenting just keeps on rolling.  You may be wondering why you don’t remember seeing a giant family bed on the floor in the movie.  Well guess what?  You don’t have to bedshare to be an attachment parent.  You just have to recognize that babies still have needs in the night and that those needs are no less valid because they occur in the night.  So when Mary wakes up, she doesn’t get Ferberized, she gets a capella.  Talk about creating a physically and emotionally safe sleep environment!

But for the record, in the movie Tom Selleck does bedshare and Ted Danson cosleeps (the baby’s bassinet is in his room, that’s cosleeping).

Clearly, there’s no breastfeeding happening in this movie as none of the 3 Men are in possession of breasts, but they still feed with love and respect.  We never see the bottle propped up, one of the dads is always holding Mary while they feed her.  In the scene where Jack (Ted Danson) is left home alone with Mary for the first time, he offers her a  bottle but when she turns her head away, he respects her fullness cue and puts the bottle down.  That’s the crux of how attachment parents feed their kids, no matter what food delivery system they use.

There are also a couple of really good examples of nurturing touch in this movie.  The dad and baby shower scene is a classic.  Bath time is a great way to bond and attachment parents know the importance of skin to skin contact, so why not get in the bath or shower together?

But of course the media portrayals of attachment parenting always focus in on one kind of nurturing touch: babywearing.  They describe it almost as a shackling, holding mom hostage by strapping a baby to her.  AP parents know that’s categorically not true.  As Ted Danson shows us, babywearing allows us to cuddle our little ones while we get on with our regular daily tasks.  Of course, most of us don’t spend our days foiling drug lords, but the point is we could thanks to babywearing!

Admittedly, our dads are a little a lot overwhelmed by the task at hand when they set out on their parenting journey.  But hey, what parent wouldn’t be?  Especially when you have about 0.001 seconds to prepare!  But they find their groove and soon manage to find balance in their personal and family life.  They each find ways to fulfill their work commitments while providing consistent and loving care for Mary: Peter gets her a pink hard hat, Michael lets her hang out on his desk (and spill his ink… ah the joys of parenting!) and Jack wears her on his back at rehearsal.  They still go out on dates.  The fact that they exploit Mary’s cuteness for the purposes of procuring those dates… well nobody’s perfect!

So if this is attachment parenting, then what’s the big deal?  That’s just it: there shouldn’t be one.  Attachment parenting is, at its core, just about reminding us that it’s OK to follow our innate instinct to respond to our babies. It’s OK to make adjustments and compromises in our life in order to include the needs of the new person in that life.  That’s it.

And what was the result of all of this here attachin’?  The result is that three party-loving, serial-dating bachelors without an iota of childcare experience become caring, competent and confident parents within a few short weeks by following their baby’s cues and finding ways to meet her needs.  Were they extreme?  Didn’t seem so.  Did they martyr themselves? Definitely not.  Did they leave some of their free-wheeling ways behind them?  Yes.  Did they seem to regret that choice?  Not even for an instant.  They are, after all, very attached dads.

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One of the lines of thinking that comes up so frequently from people who don’t understand attachment parenting is that it’s about the mother’s need to cling to the child.  That it’s about her fear of letting him go, of letting him move away from her and be independent.  That is categorically not what it’s about.  But what it is about, is knowing that it’s OK to hang on.

Mainstream western parenting philosophy is rooted in minimizing the child’s need for its parents.  Soothers, swings, schedules, bottles, cribs and sleep training were all created to reduce the amount of time a parent (usually a mother, in the early days of infancy) needs to spend tending to her child’s needs.  New parents are warned not to let their baby ‘get used to’ nursing or rocking to sleep.  They’re told not to respond to a cry too quickly or hold the baby too much for fear of ‘spoiling’ her.  And how many times have your heard that if you let your child sleep in your bed you’ll NEVER get him out?

The thing about attachment parents is that we see through that propaganda.  We understand the universal truth that everyone grows up, that it happens on its own and that it happens faster than you expect.  So yes, we hang on to our kids.  We hang onto them until their adorable little hands let go, because we know unequivocally that they will let go. 

Whether you snuggle your baby in a sling or put them in a swing, when they’re 6 or 7 they’ll still ask you to take the training wheels off their bike.

Whether you breastfeed them for 3 minutes or 3 years, either way, you’ll be the least cool person on the planet when they’re 13.

Whether you cuddle them to sleep or they cry themselves to sleep, they still won’t be asking you to come to their dorm room.

Every day your child will need you less and less, and before you know it he’ll be all grown up and won’t need you at all.  But for right now, he does need you and the point of attachment parenting is that that’s OK.  It’s OK to immerse yourself in this job while it lasts, because it will. not. last. forever.  It’s OK to hold them in your lap while they still fit, to breathe them in while they still smell so sweet and to be there while they still need you.  Because very, very soon they won’t, and that will be OK too.

No one spends their old age regretting the moments they spent cuddling their kids, but if the popularity of Harry Chapin’s song is any indication, then plenty of people do regret the moments they wasted, and attachment parents know that.

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

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“Why Attachment Parenting drives some mothers to extremes…” reads the sub-head of the much debated TIME Magazine cover.  It immediately affirms that the author is NOT an attachment parent.  If she were, she’d know the truth: that most of us do this because we’re NOT extreme.  We do this because we’re laid back and would prefer to work with our children’s needs than waste time and energy altering or denying them.  Many of us get into Attachment Parenting, not by design, but by accident, because it was the intuitive (aka easy) route.  Yes, the truth is that attachment parents are, in many ways, lazy.

It is true that, generally speaking, we do this because it fits with certain overarching values that we have.  We do it because we feel it benefits our children now and in the future.  We believe that the psychological foundation we’re creating will help to make our children into strong, empathic adults who can form healthy interpersonal relationships because their first relationship – that of parent and child – was so secure.  But let’s be honest, NO ONE actually makes all of their daily decisions about the minutiae of parenting with that sort of forethought.  Not even this notoriously overthinking mama.  If you want to know the truth about why I choose AP, not as a philosophy, but as a daily practice, have a look at this snapshot of my thought processes:

Why spend hours reading safety reviews for, and assembling a crib when you could just tuck the baby into the (appropriately prepared) bed you already own?

Why get up and trudge to another room in the middle of the night to feed a baby if you could just roll over, aim a breast in the right direction and go back to sleep?

Why spend hours plugging your ears to a baby’s scream to get her to fall asleep alone if you could just cuddle her for a few minutes and then enjoy a movie with your partner in peace and quiet?

Why wake up and listen to a monitor to check the baby is still breathing in another room if you could stay asleep feeling him breathing right next to you?

Why speed home from work to catch the last precious minutes before baby goes into his crib for a book-prescribed 12 hours if you could drive safely knowing you’ll get to snuggle him all night long?

Why blend and strain food into oblivion, and coax it into the mouth of a baby too young to do it himself, when you could wait another month or two and simply move a piece of broccoli from your plate to his?

Why spend an hour trying to airplane a bite of food into a kid’s mouth when you could just trust her instinct to stop eating now, and start again well before she starves to death?

Why stalk magazines for tips on filling the gaps in a picky toddler’s diet if the answer could be as simple as ‘nurse her’?

Why count ounces of milk and worry over growth charts if you can let baby eat as often and as much as she wants and know she’s the perfect size for her?

Why struggle to explain to a child that he can’t nurse because he’s 366 days old instead of 365 if you could just continue to enjoy the relationship, knowing that it WILL end either way and that one day you’ll look back and realize it was over in a flash?

Why try to navigate a busy mall/market/airport with a bulky plastic stroller when you can just strap the baby to you with a beautiful piece of fabric and go?

Why race home for elaborate go-to-sleep-in-a-crib routines if baby can sleep in a sling while you stay at the party a little longer?

—–

I know, I know, it’s all so EXTREME, isn’t it??

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Little Man, your second birthday is tomorrow and I can’t believe it.  Last year for your birthday I made you some promises and I think (hope at least) that so far I’ve kept them.  Since then, so many things in our life have changed.  You’ve changed.  You’re becoming your own little person, multifaceted and beautifully different from every angle.  How do I possibly sum up what you are, what you mean to me and what I hope for you in a few words?  I can’t.  So this is as close as I can get.

“May you live all the days of your life.” – Jonathan Swift

“Reach for the stars. Even if you only make it halfway, you’re still an astronaut.” – Grandpa Dave

“You may be different, but we’re all creatures.  All dinosaurs have different features.” – Mrs. Pteranodon, Dinosaur Train

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” – Anne Shirley

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

“And we’ll collect the moments one by one.  I guess that’s how the future’s done.” – Feist, Mushaboom

“The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” – T.E. Lawrence

“Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” – Margaret Walker

“Where a man feels at home, outside of where he’s born, is where he’s meant to go.” – Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa

“I’ll remember the strength that you gave me, now that I’m standing on my own.” – Madonna, I’ll remember

“I’m sorry you fell down, but I’m glad you had fun climbing up.” – Mommy
“Again.” – Little Man

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After 8 weeks of tandem nursing I still haven’t decided whether I love it or hate it.  I think that’s because the truth is I love it AND hate it.  If you printed off a transcript of my thoughts, you would find all of the following sentences within it, sometimes in the course of a single day:

“Aw, both my babies curled up in my lap, does it get any better than this?”

“If you people don’t get the f*** off of me, I’m going to scream!”

—–

“I swear if I hear ‘my some boobies’ one more time…”

“I’m sick of Lego, can’t we just have some boobies?”

—–

“So glad he’s getting boob juice again so I don’t have to worry so much about his diet.”

“Crap, now that he’s getting so much boob juice I have to limit his cheese intake.”

—–

“I wish he’d stop clamping his top teeth into me, it hurts!”

“When doesn’t use his teeth it feels really……….. gross.”

—–

“Why won’t she nurse to sleep like he did so I can lie down?”

“Why didn’t I just put her to sleep in the sling, laying here is so boring.”

—–

“Seriously, when am I going to stop getting engorged?”

“Shit, I haven’t been engorged at all today – has my milk dried up??!!”

—–

“When am I supposed to find time to pump when I’ve got 2 boobaholics?”

“F***, pumping sucks.  Why am I doing it?”

—–

“Look at the way he tickles her while they’re nursing.  What a lovely brother.”

“Stop touching her, she’s finally asleep and you’re going to wake her up!”

—–

—–

Nothing’s perfect, I guess!

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One of the consequences of my less than happy state of mind while I was pregnant is that my patience for discipline went totally out the window.  I had some of my lowest ever parenting moments: screaming profanity at my son at the top of my lungs.  A behaviour he has lately been mimicking, stomping around saying “goddammit”.  Talk about a wake-up call.

Now, my idea of gentle discipline has generally been anything less than hitting.  I haven’t, and won’t, ever hit my kids.  Assault is assault.  Assaulting a person who is already at your mercy physically, economically and socially is despicable.  But that’s another post.  Time-outs I’m not opposed to per se, so that has featured prominently in our interactions with Little Man.  But dang-it-all if they haven’t turned out to be both time-consuming and (for my kid, anyway) completely ineffective.  So it’s time for a new strategy.

I’ve always loved natural consequences.  Why waste my time chasing Little Man around to make sure he doesn’t eat dirt from the garden when I can sit on my bum and laugh at the face he makes as he decides for himself that it doesn’t have the most appealing texture after all?  But, as I’m discovering, when the natural consequence of one action is having to perform another, teaching it is not nearly that easy.

Thus it was that I spent 40 minutes today teaching Little Man and his friend that the consequence of making a mess is that you have to clean it up before you can move on to another activity.  The mess in question was spaghetti, flung all over the kitchen while I went to change Lady Fair’s bum.  Admittedly, the better approach for a 2 year old is probably to redirect/remove the spaghetti before it gets flung, but with 3 kids and one me, that’s not always possible.

Both boys vehemently refused to pick it up.  They stomped on it, brushed it away, ate it off the floor, and wove it between their toes.  When they did start to pick it up, they mostly just stuck it in their pockets.  They also protested by pulling all of the magnets off the fridge (which I later made them pick up!) and by running away.  After the 20th time that I picked them up and brought them back, they got the hint that they might as well stay put.  So why not lay down on top of the spaghetti and have a little nap, eh?

Phew.

Finally it calmed down enough to have this little chat:

LM: “I wan go plaaay.”

Me: “You’re bored aren’t you?”

LM: “Ya”

Me: “Me too, I’d much rather be playing.  Why don’t we clean this up so we can go play?”

LM: “No.”

… but he grudgingly did start to pick it up.  One measly, smushed up piece at a time.

I could have hit him and be done with it, but I didn’t.  I could have sent him to his room and cleaned it up myself, but I didn’t.  I could have threatened him with no dinner since he obviously cared so little about lunch, but I didn’t.  And not a single “Goddammit” escaped my lips.

It was hard work, but I’m proud of myself.  I know it might probably will take years, but the lazy mom in me is eagerly awaiting the day when he chooses not to make a big mess because it’s not worth the effort of cleaning it up.  Or even better – the day when he makes the mess anyway, then cleans it up on his own, because that’s the lesson I taught him today.

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