Category Archives: Parenting

Present or Absent?

Life has been so hellishly busy I’ve barely had time to do more than watch a bit of TV before I fall asleep for an hour or two and then tend to my one year old who seems to require comfort and/or nursing every two to three hours still.  Sleep is at a premium and certainly not something I get enough of, nor do I get time off, and the worst part of it all isn’t even that I haven’t gotten to much writing but rather how very alone it’s felt at times.  Everywhere I look people are chattering away on facebook with some kind of ease between them.  An ease that I rarely if ever feel and often feel excluded from despite these things involving people I know in real life.  Truth be told I hadn’t even acknowledged to myself what space I was inhabiting when a hurt that made no rational sense to me would come up.

And then I received an email from a friend of my husband’s, now a friend of mine, discussing what it was like to be a small business owner (this friend is one) and, in my case, being the wife of one.  The hours are excruciating, the pay sucks (the ultimate in ‘pay it forward’), the stress of making it work, and the recognition is varied.  Except for me.  The wife.  It’s such a unique experience in the world of public sector or corporate employees that very few seem to understand the totality of the sacrifices involved.  This very lonely and relatively unacknowledged place is where I reside and until the words “How are you holding up?” were uttered I had no idea how bereft I had been of true understanding and compassion.

It’s a simple question to be sure and for once I felt like someone gave a shit about the answer.  I almost cried over my keyboard when I read it and actually did shed tears when I responded with the awareness I had previously been missing.  So many conversations are had wherein a question is asked and the subsequent silence given while waiting for the expected answer seems to be only a pause in between times for the other person to talk.  I think it’s fair to assert that many of us have been guilty of it, but that doesn’t negate how this short changes all of us.  That genuine connection, that acknowledgment and understanding, is missing when we seek to rush through anything.  And even if time is given it simply isn’t enough.  Being present, being THERE, wanting to be there – to listen, is what matters.

And it’s so damn hard.

The world is riddled with distractions, more so now than ever, and that keeps energy and intent scattered about, flitting from one topic to another.  Space, it seems, is a vortex teeming with many thoughts and no real capability of inhabiting an emotion or thought for any substantive length of time.  It’s hard to sit and observe this and ponder if perhaps this is merely a result of my pretentiousness – that the ostracism I feel is merely a backlash for what I don’t put out, my Cassandra like presence when it comes to talking politics, or just that I fail in typical social norms of behavior.  It would be dishonest of me to play a complete victim when there are certain factors I might contribute to my own loneliness and disenfranchisement.

What I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt, however, is that there are three people in the last few weeks who asked me simply and genuinely how I’m holding up with the current stresses and energy draws of a growing business (and a rather reluctantly absent husband) with another in the works while I manage the homestead with limited energy that must be pushed to limitless and finances that are excruciatingly tight in an economy that is forever making things more expensive.  And a world that seems to think the job of a stay at home mom should be reward in it of its self.  That time away from kids and house should be unnecessary if you’re doing it right.

What this really is a failure to acknowledge the true difficulties of the situation that may be present for these individuals.  No specifics should be necessary for compassion and empathy to be summoned.  Being present doesn’t require money, it doesn’t require a genius level IQ.  It requires heart.  It requires effort.  It requires the very priceless things we have to give.  This, not love, is, in my opinion, what there’s just too little of in this world.

To those who embody this, those who ask with present and loving sincerity how someone is – I thank you, for all you are and all you do.

I guess it’s time to read “Miracle of Mindfulness”


Cross post – Book Review: Beyond the Sling

A cross post review from my other blog:  In this day and age of detachment parenting Mayim Bialik, or Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler for you Big Bang Theory fans, attempts to address the myths, the trials and tribulations, and the benefits of attachment parenting.   As an advocate for birth empowerment as well as a prosthelitizing believer in natural childbirth the words of a woman with a PhD in neuroscience held allure.  To me it was about finding someone who had done a home birth, breastfed (even did extended breastfeeding), and unschooled her children who was so credentialed the world was sure to stand up and see the validity in what so many of us non doctorate holding moms already know: learning is innate, our bodies are designed to propagate our species as well as take care of our young, and submitting to your babe’s needs does not mean you are permissive.

 

Unfortunately, when I caught a few clips of her on television while promoting this book it seems as though the world does not want/need credentials to view these things with validity, and instead seems to hold fastidiously to the notion that kids should be separate and independent of the parent almost from birth – the sex life of the parents holding higher import than bonding of each parent with their children.

This book takes on the issue of a sex life and the family bed with anecdotes and personal examples, but the most important aspects -the biology, anthropology, and psychology of infants-  are dealt with in both a blend of science and personal outtakes from her life.   Take, for example, this bit from her chapter about gentle discipline and particularly about the notion of telling a child to stop crying/discouraging them from crying:

Tears have been found to contain small amounts of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone.  Crying may serve to release tension and stress from tiny bodies, and it is normal and healthy.  Seeing crying as a natural and reasonable form of communication removes the stigma our culture associates with it.  It may not be the most effective communication tool, but it is sometimes the only one small children have in their limited arsenal.

As was typical of her work this was followed up with a bit of psychology as well as an example from her own family:

Some family and friends found it funny (or perhaps uncomfortable or unsettling?) and mocked our boys’ crying, albeit playfully.  This is, frankly, not at all helpful, and it perpetuates the idea that children shouldn’t cry when we think they shouldn’t.

This next bit I’m sharing simply because I found it beautifully stated – from the same section, but in a subsection called “Violence”:

The distinction between hitting in anger (as in “the heat of the moment”) as opposed to hitting as part of a purportedly “calm,” regimented spanking is an academic one but not a practical one; both methods involve hitting a child, thereby causing a tiny brain to release neurotransmitters and hormones to cope with pain and fear while suppressing fight/flight pathways.  The simplest reason we don’t hit is this: hitting is hitting.  It’s not love.  It’s not teaching.  It’s hitting.  You can say you are hitting with love, or that you are using hitting to teach something, but it’s still hitting.

Her sections on breastfeeding and natural childbirth are equally important, although for more information on the benefits of these practices I can not recommend Pushedor Born in the USA (I will review Dr. Marsden Wagner’s book at a later date) enough.  It is my sincerest wish that more people would read this book with an open mind.  Kids have nothing to lose by a parent reading this and taking much of its wisdom to heart and everything to gain.

Have you read it?  Have a favorite or not so favorite section?


Mom to a Celiac Kid

I feel much more comfortable in my philosophy than I do in stripping bare and talking about my son and the dietary obstacle course we seem to always be running.  It’s safer.  More distant.  And no matter how one might disagree with my philosophy it doesn’t hurt like what could be said when talking about my parenting.  Still, there’s been one thing weighing heavily on my heart if not my mind lately – and it is this:  My child got gluten and I have no idea how.  None.

I had no idea it had happened until there was a violent intestinal episode (really two) in one day merely an hour or so apart.  His gut remained bloated for a few days, his pallor came back, circles under his eyes, behavior got worse, and his pickiness about food came back.  Honestly, we weren’t even sure he HAD gluten, but everything about the past week indicates that’s exactly what it was.  AND THERE IS NO GUARANTEE WE’RE RIGHT.

My job is to take care of my kids – day in and day out – make sure they’re healthy, eating properly, getting the time and attention they need, educating them…  And my four year old somehow got gluten.

Without even getting into the long term risks of a celiac ingesting gluten I’m stuck in that one place of fear and horror of not knowing how or when he got any.  Could it have been that time I sneaked a doughnut on the way back from a solo grocery store run?  Could it have been that he didn’t wash his hands after feeding the kitties?  Maybe it was when he, in all his petulant “I’m going to mimic my baby sister” glory, decided to put his mouth over the cap of a freshly bought bottle of gluten free smoothie (a treat)…  Perhaps he hugged his homebrew store owning father after he came home from work covered in glutens before dada could get changed.  In the end it matters little.

My husband and I have spent several days revisiting the episode in our heads (mine with the graphic and gory pictures of the results) and have still not come to any answer.

I do not say the following lightly, nor caustically, but it’s floated around my mind too much to ignore: There is no epi-pen I can give my son a shot with to stop his body from destroying its self over the run in with gluten.  A safety net does not exist; the ramifications are not a one shot horror show, but a long drawn out game of Risk.  One which carries increased risks of many cancers as well as the immediate malnutritive facet.  Slow death.

There is no balm to assauge my guilt and certainly not a glass of wine big enough to have me forgetting that somewhere along the way I failed my job.  I don’t have rage for the disease, nor for the people who simply don’t get the seriousness of it and want to promote things like nut bans (okay, maybe a little for them; lack of empathy does that to me), but I have a plethora of it for myself.

And so back to the grain free (dairy free/soy free/gluten free) life we go.


The more I think I know….

On a recent rainy day I took the kids to a local children’s museum as my oldest needed to run.  And run he did.  There were all sorts of animals he could see – several varieties of snakes – as well as a big area designed to look like a small/old town complete with two stories on which to play.  He was in his glory.   To say he was excited when an employee announced a live animal demonstration with two of their snakes would be an understatement.  All I had to do was point him in the direction of the classroom and off we went; the only question he asked was where to sit.  [The google image searches on my computer have blessedly changed from ticks to snakes as a result.]

A couple of older boys, about five or six, sat next to him.  At which point that very outgoing child of mine proceeded to talk to them.  Looks were exchanged between those two boys followed by that shrug we’ve all received or made to indicate how that other person was “weird” and not someone to talk to or include.  The light and excitement dimmed on my son’s face; his exuberance muted and cut out as he got very still and quiet.  I saw it happen and then proceeded to discard it as important until it came to haunt me at about midnight – just after watching some of Downton Abbey.

Then it struck me.  He was being schooled on how society does not accept people for who they are, but rather in their ability to conform to social rules that are never said honestly and upfront.  As much as I find these “rules” to be odious and annoying they’re ones I subconsciously conform to.  And upon closer reflection I realized that lately I have been trying to get them (okay, him – ten month old is a wee young for me to even remotely project this nonsense on to) to conform to them, too.  Exuberance became embarrassing ; vocalized joy was discomfitting; funny words, phrases, anatomical statements made into jokes – horrifying.

I don’t know when it was I decided he should stop acting like a kid; when it became an embarrassment instead of something I was both proud of and exalted in.  It just sort of happened.  My criticisms started getting more frequent; just nitpicky little shit that had me whining and being a bitch all day long.  The Big Rule I had set out for myself as a parent had been forgotten amid the self justifying bad attitude of a rigid control freak: Rules must be founded upon a logical premise.  When I saw those two little you-know-whats make my kid feel like he was two inches shorter than normal the reality really hit.  I was doing nothing less to my child than those boys.

Perhaps that is slightly unfair to me, if only in the context that I’ve taught that rules have reasons for existing part pretty well up until recently and so many decrees have been greeted with a “so you think I’m going to stop running around like a crazy person when I get excited and humming really loud soundtracks for the drawings I’m making just because you said so – bwahahahahaha!”  Still, the lesson couldn’t have been clearer to me.  My son, both my children really, will go through a tough learning curve when adapting to “society”.  That these interactions and “how to be” around other people we just meet are done with cloak and dagger precision until all ritual formalities are met.  Sometimes even after then.  Our soft underbellies of personality, and with it heart, logic, opinions, are shrouded and guarded.  The vulnerability is hidden under taught shame and sometimes forceful exclusion.

How can one exist healthfully when such notions are unspoken rules?  How does one feel SAFE as they traverse through a life of landmines?

It became apparent to me, painfully so, that the best thing I could do as a parent was to go back to my original notions and thoughts.  To instill in my children that if nothing else – home is where they can safely be who they are.  The rules are spelled out and based upon logic and respect.  Behavioral requirements rest solely upon those two subsets.  And if you want to talk ad nauseum about your sea turtle shirt, or the imaginary kitties crossing in front of you in the kitchen, or sing songs with silly made up words – go right ahead.  This Attachment Parent will do her best to get past her inner curmudgeon and let the little ones be simply who they are.