31 May 2008
I'm finding it much easier to not get stressed with the little silly stuff with Jenna. It seems to be becoming more of a habit to think before I speak and use calm words to sort out a disaster. I'm sure that me being calm means I'm about to have a big crisis and lurch back to ultra-strict but for now we're pretty balanced and happy with the relaxed approach.
We've been in the garden so much, and lots of my plants are doing really well. I just needed some more compost to pot things up that were getting big and needing splitting! I ran out of the home-compasted stuff, we're now up to the point in the container where I can't use it because the sticks and larger lumps of stuff aren't broken down. At the garden centre I stomped around for ages before finding ONE measly bag of peat-free compost. It was disgusting - at least ten different types of their own brand containing peat, and some bark chippings (even flipping organic soil improver) but no peat free compost apart from small bags of branded stuff.
The only garden problem now is that the hot sun the last couple of days has frazzled some of the baby tomato plants that I was so proud of. I didn't water them one morning and by lunch time they looked dead. I hope that they will come back to life though, I was surprised how hardy they seemed last year recovering after neglect of about a week!
Today we went to Markeaton park for a walk and a play on the play areas. Jenna was being *very* trying - ie whining about being tired and lagging behind all the way to the play area. I think it was mostly that I had in my head We Are Going Here For YOU! I knew if we dawdled the baby would need to come out of the sling and would then get into trouble. So I went into nag mode for a while. When I realise I'm doing it I usually manage to stop, but by then Martin was in a mood with her too. If it had been any further to the playgrounds we'd have ended up going home in a foul mood with each other!
As it was we got right back to normal within a couple of minutes. Morgan discovered a new way to frighten people (swinging herself from the bar above the tops of the slides) and Jenna made some friends (as easily as they do at this age). They are such interesting people to watch, and not only because they're my kids and I'm obliged to find them interesting. Children are amazing!
29 May 2008
It isn't usually that people expect or want me to justify that I made a decision and this is what it is, it's that people are curious. Which is fine. But it's tiring! So I deflect it by saying that - although I've been feeling that perhaps I'm being a bit dishonest or rude, or maybe both. When Jenna answers, and more and more people ARE directly asking her (which is great, I hate being asked to answer for her when she's right there and can understand that she's being discussed!) she says that she will go to school when she's bigger maybe. She's totally parotting how I behave about the whole issue and it makes me more uncomfortable to keep, well, being untruthful about our decision.
We aren't putting her in school for at least a couple of years. We're sure about that now. We may put her in school if she really wants to go, when she's older and if I'm sure she understands what school is like and that she will be expected to be at a certain level and conform to their rules about behaviour. I reckon she'll be able to handle all that by six or seven, which is barely deferred entry, if she wants to go! This isn't to say that I think school is awful and wouldn't send her if I felt I needed her to be away from me, and I accept that homeschooling is not at all the best thing for lots of other families. Anyhow, my long explaination of the position. Over to Jenna.
Lady with dog: Are you on your way to playschool?
Jenna: No, I'm going to the Arboretum park. There's a big sand box there with a ship, but it only goes in the sand. I'm going to see my friends Emma and Chris while mummy does her work.
Lady: Oh, so you go to preschool a different day then.
Jenna: No. Well, yeah. But my school is at my house and we have lots of good toys and fun things to do if I want. And my favorite juice. And my bed is there when I'm tired.
I repeated the story back to Em when we got there and she laughed and said that it certainly sold her on the benefits of homeschool. ;) Jenna is so articulate, another reason why it's so patronising and ridiculous of me to try to deflect questions like this myself. She knows why I make decisions, at least most of the time, and she can explain very well why she disagrees with me when she does. I didn't expect a three year old to be able to explain both my point of view and how hers differs from it. Although on schooling she seems to be more on the same page as me now that she understands she can't just choose when to go and when to come back.
At befriending I spent about an hour crawling around under the shed trying to confirm the presence of kittens (alive or dead). There hasn't been sight nor sound of mewling babies, and the cat who was labouring last week has been coming out for food. I didn't know enough to be able to say whether, crazy with grief, she might not keep going under there even if the kittens *were* dead. I couldn't see anything, and my client was so anxious it seemed like it might be the cause of a relapse if we didn't find out what was going on. I didn't want to risk disturbing the cat if she was happy under there with her new babies though, and my instincts said that she was probably simply a very good mother and the babies were quiet because she was meeting their needs.
After trying in vain everything I could think of I stuck my hand under there, risking her claws, and angled a camera phone so I could see the screen. Three healthy happy babies, all moving a little and feeding happily!
The other end of the spectrum today also, our lovely huge boxer dog died this evening. He belongs to my mum and obviously lives with her, but we had him from a puppy when I was still living at home. Ten is very very old for a boxer, but it was still a bit sad. The first thing that Jenna said when I told her was that Em-dog would be so sad. She has been with him for seven years, practically her entire life. How sweet though, for my girl's first thought to be that the other dog would be lonely, rather than thiking what she personally had lost. At least we had seen him recently, and made a huge fuss of a grumpy old dog. He always used to love me visiting (in spite of child induced noise trauma) because it meant he got a groom and a massage from me. Big old softie that he was.
I trust that my children will learn and grow, and that I don't need to make them do that or hurry them in any way. I believe that the ideal from the child's point of view is non-severance, and that in time they seek independance with such single-minded determination it's impossible to make them co-sleep, breastfeed, be carried, any longer than they want. I respect my children as individuals and expect that in time as they grow they will respect me in turn. I also feel strongly that they are spiritual whole beings who can't be saved by anything I do or don't do - and that although I can keep them safe and lead by example I can't be responsible for their later choices.
I believe that the immediate goal of my parenting is to protect them from the mistakes they can't afford to make and allow them to make the mistakes they need to make - and to live alongside them, a real, everyday, wonderful, full life. In fact the *overall* goal of my parenting is that *I* should grow in maturity - developing gentleness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control - as I believe that this alone will produce adults who strive alonside me for the same.
Hmm, that's what I think MY parenting is. I'm not sure I'm answering the big questions though.
Attachment Parenting is... An attitude towards children from pre-birth onwards that says, they can be trusted to grow up. It is demonstrated and, um, lived out in a striving to listen to what children really want and balance giving everyone in the family what they need. Not all parents who feel like this carry out the same specific actions to care for their children. All families are different and although babies TEND to need the same immediate things all parents have different capacities to meet their needs and a different intuitive sense of right and wrong, partly from the pressures of society and their own upbringing.
I've come up with some arbitrary categories of AP family, to explain some of the differences in how people practice this type of parenting and how they feel about it.
The first set are the Pragmatic AP. They ask, if babies naturally behave like this, what's the best way for me to react to survive it? They are more likely to come to AP as an adaptation to a high-needs baby. The Pragmatic parent understands the need for balance and doesn't lose their own needs as easily, they tend to be very good on compromise. They may become more adversarial with older toddlers, or find themselves "going with the flow" and carrying on something they really don't like because they are focussed on getting through something rather than on building something positive with the co-operation of their child.
The next set are the Instinctive AP. They can't imagine any other way of doing things and are generally very in tune with their feelings about their children. They may be very respectful and trusting of their child and find it easier to settle to having a needy period, but can get burnt out or confused when they come to a situation where they want differently from their baby. They are possibly more at risk of becoming permissive. They can also assume that what is obvious to them is obvious to everybody.
The last set are the Moralist AP. They look for the "right" action and set high expectations for themselves to live up to. They have clear ideas about what they want to do and why, but may be hardest on themselves. They may have come to AP from either of the first two perspectives but CARRY ON because they feel morally obliged to. This may lead them to study and really care about the decisions they make, or it may lead them to become a parent who can't make a decision contrary to the AP ideals. They can also be hardest on other parents, expecting everyone to take the same care and thought about their own every decision.
My feeling is that everyone fits into all three in one way or another. Anyhow, just a diversion I suppose - into the world of trying to piece together other people's motivations. :)
What's in a name? I'm talking about the labels that I, for right or wrong, attach to my parenting.
Here's one - GENTLE discipline. OK so in my mind it's just discipline - but when other people hear the word "discipline" they tend to also hear "regimented parental control" or "punishment and tellings-off". So the gentle bit gets added, to define it in terms of what it is not. With the net result that when anyone asks me about how we discipline, as soon as I mention the word "gentle", they turn off. Gentle sounds like I'm a pushover. It sounds like there are no rules, or even to some people's ears like I am somehow a naturally sweet and gentle person with sacharine children.
What about "proactive discipline"? - nah, sounds like another way of saying I make them good and scared so they don't put a foot out of line. "Respectful discipline" - New Agey or, worse, like I ask them to collaborate in setting punishments etc. I don't LIKE defining what I do in terms of what it isn't, but I'm so often ASKED to define what I do. It's one of those things that goes along with having people listen to you, like the paranoia that other people see my kids and think that my Method has Failed to produce such whiney agressive disobedient brats. I don't think anyone thinks that, by the way, but the thought goes through my head any time a child makes a noise during a parenting class, peer counselling session, etc... I think I'll stick with Gentle for now.
As for Attachment Parenting... Again, it sounds so wishy washy and nice! It doesn't sound like a decision I made but rather one that I didn't, I dare not Detach, I dare not reclaim my freedom and my old life (hmm OK so that last bit isn't so bad I guess). It sounds, as I'm sick of hearing from all quarters, claustrophobic. But it isn't ABOUT the attachment, or at least, it isn't ALL about it. It's about seeing Myself and each Child as seperate but together, all deserving of respect and consideration. It's about struggling to put them first when they need to be put first, and compromise, and being firm about my own boundaries and rights. It's about respectful living and the ideals I hold re caring for babies and children.
A moment on the 8 ideals - the accepted definition of Attachment Parenting.
Believing in, for want of a better phrase, the 8 ideals doesn't mean that you manage to do them all - all of the time or even at all. It means that generally someone who considers themselves an AP *thinks that those things are the ideal*.
Whether or not I breastfeed, I accept that breastfeeding on demand is the biological need and anything else is a substitute that can't measure up - even if the something else was necessary and even lifesaving. (On demand, another phrase that suggests something very different to what actually happens!)
Whether or not gentle discipline works for me today and I keep my temper etc, I accept that hitting and shouting and blackmail and bribery (on whatever small scale) aren't the best things in the long term. Can you believe that not nursing to schedule is wrong and yet still be AP? I suppose it depends whether you have a baby who asks more frequently than allowed, and whether you really can't respond sooner for whatever personal reasons. Can you believe that it's right to punish and still be an AP? Well who sets out to punish only in order to make their child suffer (that *would* be un-AP)? I think it's possible to do almost anything and still have your heart in the right place.
Because it isn't about missing the mark or aiming for perfection or trying to BE something according to the rules. It's about the relationship and the balance in it. Which is why the last of the 8 ideals *is* Balance. It may override the other ideals for your family. It may dictate whether or not they even are the ideal for you (although they're still probably the ideal for your baby). I've said this before - selfish doesn't always mean wrong. It means that you have weighed things up and chosen what suits you over what suits the baby. In that case we're ALL selfish sometimes.
It is time to say, "OK I'm doing my best and I'm going to find better compromises in future, I'm trying to put someone else's needs ahead of mine a lot of the time - because children do NEED - but right now I'm choosing something for me. We'll get through it and if any harm results I'm here to do my best to make it better." Or something like that.
Why do I still call what I do AP?
It suggests that I hold similar ideals to those 8 even if I don't actually practically DO them all exactly like any other family. No label is going to cover everyone exactly no matter how good the phrase is - I align my goals and actions more closely with some parents that don't think they are AP than some that do! But mainly, other people who think similar things about parenting will be able to find me and me them. I can make friends with people with whom I can have a conversation about birth and EVEN IF we had very different births we probably have a similar attitude. I can have a conversation about my 18 month old driving me mad with nipple twiddling behaviour and talk about how to solve it WITHOUT any suggesting that I smack her when she does it and without anyone being grossed out that I still nurse her.
The other benefit of the label is like this... It isn't that labelling it gives me a sense of doing something eatra special that needs a special name so that I can feel smug. It isn't so that finding others similar to me gives me an exclusive club where we can point and laugh at people who do things differently (the AP community will usually happily answer any questions someone has about co-sleeping or, well, anything else really - even if the questionner doesn't think AP is for them). It is really rather the opposite of those things. It's a place to hide!
When I call myself AP I'm not saying, "I'm different and therefore better!" I'm actually saying something more like, "I'm not the only one who thinks like this! I'm not alone!" I know the debate still rages about whether any particular group of parents experiences lesser or greater ammounts of opposition, but the fact is that all of us at some point have felt alone in our choices. It is also fairly self-evident in my opinion that AP is the minority viewpoint (look on the shelves of ANY bookstore and count the adversarial parenting books vs the co-operative ones). I'm a wimp! I'll admit it. I find it very hard to stand alone and say that I have made a decision all on my own that has no relationship with the decisions anyone else made. Asides from being brave, it's untrue.
The decisions I make don't *rely* on what someone else thinks is right or wrong, but they do rely on the experiences and insights of others. It relies, not on what someone in a book said, but on the information I can glean from a whole community of people living out their lives and wanting the same thing I do (our children to grow into moral, confident, thoughful, healthy adults). That actually means that sometimes I go to a much wider group than just the AP community. Sometimes I want advice specific to an aspect of AP that may just cause too much debate elsewhere. Sometimes I read research, whatever I can get my hands on. At the end of the day these are MY choices, but they aren't actually made in a vacuum.
Perhaps I'm saying that I share the credit, and the blame, and that's how the world should be.
I'm not an Island.
Why does it matter whether I'm AP or not? Well I don't think the name that I call it matters one bit. Or the label that anyone else chooses to give their own life. What matters to me is where my heart is. I find that for me, to stop thinking of myself as an AP would be fairly hard because I need to be part of a community in which I'm not the odd one out. The actual heart of it though, I can't change no matter what name I call it. I do believe that the attitude is the right attitude (pragmatically, instinctively and morally).
Before I totally bore anyone still reading by now, my last point. AP does NOT raise the perfect child. There isn't a formula for that I'm afraid. It does free you and your child to enjoy your relationship and respect each other as people, but as to the actual nitty gritty day-to-day stuff, the heart is only part of the whole puzzle of growing as a parent. Nobody has all the answers - except, maybe, you yourself. At least for your own child - with the support and wisdom of other parents to help guide you.
Having written so much it really is a shame it doesn't make more coherant sense... Um, I hope it helps someone!
28 May 2008
Anyhow today was fairly calm too, we got to have another swim and spent most of the rest of the day gardening and getting drizzled on. Swimming was OK, I got a bit bored to be honest now that the children don't want to play with me. *sigh* Mum took over supervising and I did a few lengths, but didn't want to leave both of them too long as after an hour they tend to be tired and cold. Morgan remembered how to kick and did some swimming under the water, but mostly had her arm bands so that she could roam without support - she likes taking herself on the slide, and scares the lifeguards because she looks far too little to manage such things.
In the garden Jenna raked cut grass up and Morgan picked it up in handfuls and threw it in the compost. They want to help most of the time, apart from with putting toys away. I guess from their point of view having everything out means you can play with more of it at once, and tidying up is a waste of time when you'll want the same things out soon anyway - like maybe in three days time. It drives me nuts and I end up asking more times than I should do before helping them to do it and basically stopping them from doing anything else til it's less of a tip. In the garden or the kitchen they can hardly be stopped from pitching in, especially if there's digging to be done. I'm trying to gently remind Jenna which ones are weeds when it comes to pulling anything out though.
Morgan threw herself in the comfort corner for a nap while I washed up some pots from the baking (I finished off the second batch this morning as Jenna lost interest once there were enough to decorate). I've noticed recently her taking herself to the comfort corner a lot when she's disgusted with me.
If I say she can't do or have something she often gets understandably cross. She stomps and pulls her frowny face, and I try really hard not to laugh (it's cute when they're small at least) and now, rather than doing that and then coming for a hug, she throws herself face down on the pillows. It's strange to me that even though Jenna rarely uses it like that any more, Morgan knows what to do. Maybe it's just the classic dramatic throw-self-on-floor but with a sensible few steps first to ensure a soft landing....
27 May 2008
The long weekend was nice, though never long enough. Martin had two days in a row with us, which is increasingly rare now that work decided to change the way the Saturdays work and left him without enough to book off to attend my Dad's wedding. He won that one, mostly by being really stroppy and threatening to leave (nearly three quarters of the drivers have now gone over poor pay and worse hours).
He really loves the job, so even though he keeps offering to find somewhere more family friendly I don't want him to be better paid and utterly miserable! Not to mention that paternity leave is something we can't do without and if he moves and I fall pregnant it will mess everything up.
Saturday night I made a greek meze (stuffed vine leaves, fallafel, tatziki, homous, bean salads, butter beans in tomato, quorn chicken salad with grated carrot and cucumber, kofte, bulgar wheat tabule, feta, some things in jars) using up a lot of the salad from last week's vegetable box. Emma and Chris came round and we had fun watching the girls eating stuffed chillies and Morgan getting tabule in her hair.
On Monday we went swimming and Morgan demonstrated that although she hasn't forgotten to take a breath before going under she HAS forgotten how to move herself along! I spent most of the time towing her while she put her face under and blew bubbles. She was NOT going to kick to move herself. Jenna swims like a little fish, with her face submerged and her arms by her side as she kicks her feet and speeds through the water.
Some vegetables are starting to come up in the garden at last. I recognise three as courgette plants, and some are definately lettuce although I don't know which kind (I lost the neat little plan I made after putting seeds in the veggie bed). One is garlic - goodness knows what happened to the other three of them. The rest look like they might be self-seeded tomato plants from last year, being where there SHOULD be cabbages and cauliflowers, but I'm not sure until they get a bit bigger - I wonder if looking them up on the internet might help? I can't leave them all in anyway, not for long. They *smell* like tomato seedlings. That would be a more crazy thing to say if I didn't know that tomato plants smell really strongly!
Jenna was fascinated with her sunflower seedlings, which she has already noticed turn towards the light and don't like getting too dry! She found another seed in a box too, and after asking what kind of plant it would grow into shouted in delight - "So, you mean I can make another sunflower any time I like?!" Those are up to about 16 inches and have taken over in the fastest-growing-flower stakes from both the sweetpeas which stayed tiny for weeks and then shot up to halfway up the poles in a fortnight, and the nasturtiums that are suddenly bushing out and will shortly start taking over every available space.
24 May 2008
I'm enjoying all this new space that they have from me - Morgan is allowed to do far more than Jenna was, and not really because there are two of them (if anything the big sister stuff makes me watch them more closely) but she has more freedom because I know she's capable of handling it. I trust her, I trust her ability to take care of herself, and I trust that when she needs me she'll come to me and ask and it will be because she really DOES need me. That's one of the biggest reasons I laugh at the thought of gentle parenting being claustrophobic and cloying. If the centre of my parenting is believing that children are authentic human beings and deserve my trust and respect, how is that not the best kind of freedom you can have as a child?
They are free - free to be carried for as long a season as they need NOT because I want to force them to conform to my need for holding but because I am freely giving myself to them when they ask it. When they are old enough, they climb out of my arms and otherwise signal that they want to walk, and they are FREE to because their need is often more important to me than my need to walk anywhere quickly.
When they want to be cuddled close all night they are free to have that need met, because they signal it with every ounce of themselves from birth ie crying when not skin to skin. When they sleep less well like that they are free to sleep elsewhere, still having my presence when they ask for it. Here's the secret, they want to grow up! With that in mind, why can't our lives together be full of the cuddles and the spaces, the seasons of closeness and of carrying on our own lives seperately.
Attached doesn't mean superglued. We need a better definition of "Attachment Parenting" I think.
23 May 2008
Also, my befriending client's cat gave birth under her shed. I didn't get to see any of the kittens, but I did get to see her labouring. In some ways cats are just exactly like humans. She was panting and looking distant, and she growled at me in the clearest "go away and leave me alone" fashion I've ever heard from a cat (and it isn't as if they are difficult to understand on a normal day either). Wise little cat.
22 May 2008
The garden is such a safe place for them to play and I don't mind my plants getting dug up and such things. It's great to have them being so reliant on each other for fun, so I'm doing less of the planned cruise-director stuff which I don't really like. I much prefer for them to come to me and ask, "can we" rather than me going to them with something ready and asying, "now we're going to".
Today I finally got my post-partum period. Which means I was right in thinking I hadn't concieved right away after losing Lael, but means I have a date to count from. Bad for meaning I have a bigger gap than I wanted (again lol) - good for dating accurately without any scans. We're still not actually going to be trying for a baby though, we just want to let things happen. I get too hung up on the dates otherwise; I've even managed to prevent myself from starting to chart again automatically after miscarrying! In the smaller scale of real life it means getting reaquainted with the mooncup and putting up with feeling headachey.
I took the beads and beading tray into the garden for a couple of hours after finishing one book. I'm really on a roll with the making! It must be a reaction to being broke, I want to make some money fast and this is the most practical thing I can think of even though the actual money won't materialise until long after we actually need it.
20 May 2008
In the evening I got changed - though it took about twenty minutes to find any of my clothes that weren't somehow marked by craft, food, or toddler drool. And out I went to a leaving "do" for someone in the befriending organisation. I hate that kind of event. Not that I don't admire and respect (even like) the person whose leaving it was for. Like my mum (who I was with, as she's on the board of trustees for the charity I work for), I know that I am marked out as generally antisocial which is also not really it.
I just struggle with enforced mixing of the polite-smiles and politically-correct-boring-conversation kind. If I were to be totally honest in reply to some of the typical things said at such times, I would shock up upset someone. Contrary to how it seems, that ISN'T my aim in life! I settle for polite but firm saying-nothing-and-changing-the-subject behaviour. I stood in a corner mostly, and talked to my boss who wanted to know about my jewellery.
This morning we made the quick decision not to go to soft play. Morgan has had a runny nose for a couple of days, but today it was green and disgusting and she was a bit sensitive again. In my books that means she's got a cold, and even though going out would be fun (and I'm sure Morgan would be fine) I don't want to spread the germs.
Since we didn't know when Holocaust Memorial Day was this year and missed it, we decided arbitrarily to make it today. We made a little picture with sad things written on it - Jenna's contributions well beyond her years - and read some age-appropriate stories about the lives of Jewish children in those terrible times. We don't want today to be totally about grief and horror, so we're keeping it only gently thoughful (focussing mostly on all people everywhere being brothers and sisters, and how we can live like that in everyday life). We've baked Challah and will share it at tea time later with some prayers and readings I found online.
I question how much my children are shielded from, what I *should* tell them, how much detail they are ready for. Although I don't want the "real world" to overshadow the joy and vitality of their world of play, neither do I want them to be prevented from experiencing a real connection to other people who are grieving (or to lack a feeling of being able to cope when things do go wrong for us). Perhaps she would not be so thoughful, even pessimistic, if she had never seen the news or heard fairy tales in their original forms. ;) Or just maybe if she had been so protected she would never have been able to process the death of her sibling in utero.
Dark and serious thoughts for the day. Not ALL dark and serious thoughts of course. There has been dancing and smiling today, laughing and fun, Shrek on video and our usual music playing. On such normal days bad things have happened in our history. On such normal days in small ways we remember them, light a candle against the darkness, and pray that they will never happen again.
18 May 2008
It's late at night that it suddenly comes to me, hey, I probably offended someone. If I did, it wasn't intentional and I think probably came as much from my limited ability to make myself understood as from anything shocking I actually believe. Let's put it this way; some of the other Christians probably think that mutual submission and parents not being absolute ruler is horrifying and unbiblical. Everyone else is probably gasping at the idea of submission or authority in any relationship, and getting quite upset at me being so patriarchal. ;)
Maybe I'm being paranoid and nobody even read the musings - or don't care either way what I think. :) I've started rows over lesser bouts of honest confusion and thinking-out-loud! No promises not to wonder off into the realm of philosophy and faith again though.
On the whole at the moment I'm enjoying the children and dealing patiently with them. I'm still feeling unusually impatient and restless, but mostly not acting like it (which is the important thing for now). I don't think that I'm doing as well as before I was pregnant with Lael, but in the circumstances I'm glad that I'm logically and lovingly being present for these two. And not erupting often when those typical toddler disasters occur.
From the type of disaster most common in our house at the moment I think I need to watch them closer, and that should be easier now I'm getting some sleep (in that I don't want to cry at the thought of having to get up when they dash outside or into another room). I've also quashed the self-doubt about sleep-training in general. Sometimes you just gotta keep on doing what you think is right even when it's hard (and I know that in the long term they teach themselves to sleep through the night without enforced self-soothing, because I've already seen one child do it).
Hmm I know there was more important/interesting stuff to share, but I've forgotten it all. Maybe tomorrow.
16 May 2008
We are parents, and we have authority. We can either embrace it or deny but either way it's there - we have amazing influence on what (and how) our children think, and how they are shaped as adults. What we don't have is a licence to bully and a right to unquestionning obedience.
Our authority is a privilege and a responsibility, it is a description of how our role is worked out in every day communication with the children we care for. We are powerfully influential on their lives (whether we like it or even deserve it)! It is not something we wield, like a weapon, it is something we use with great care because whatever high ideas we may have of ourselves we are falliable and heaven help us if we get it badly wrong.
It isn't being in charge, in control; it isn't ruling through fear or otherwise, forcing our children to grow up and do it the way we want. It isn't a position we are in OVER our children. It doesn't tell us to think of ourselves as superior.
Authority means being the "head of the household" in a very old and out of fashion sense, not as boss but as the person who has to make the final call when dealing with the outside world. One who protects, safeguards, nurtures, and brings the rest of the family into the fullness of what they can be. This is another reason why doctrines on Submission get so badly misunderstood, that we have been taught for a long time that to be "head" of something means "emminent in importance", rather than "primarily responsible for gently tending growth". We all fight for that position sometimes, one way or another. To be "better" than someone else. It's time to give it up and lay down weapons.
The Bible makes it pretty clear that the position of authority just mentioned (ie Man as Head of Household) comes with some pretty hard sub-clauses in the contract and that in fact, he is being asked to put her needs first. So welcome to the idea of submission that not all churches teach - it's called MUTUAL submission. It doesn't mean equality, in the sense of men and women being the same and having the same roles.
It's hard to describe the difference in the roles of mother and father as it is to describe the differences between male and female - though the biology provides the most on-the-surface obvious bit. The role of mother certainly includes the aspects of pregnancy and nursing that a father isn't equiped for. That doesn't make her more important, or make her role somehow more special.
I firmly believe that children need both male and female role models and both male and female nurturing (whether by a blood relation or other responsible person). We are equal in value, but not in function (and we don't need to be in order to have a happy fulfilling marriage or be happy and fulfilled parents - no matter what the formula companies tell you)!
OK that's getting off topic a bit. But actually while I'm talking about the morality of the Bible, under Christ our children are considered our equals. Heard the term Disciple? That's what we should treat our children as - we are experienced and have knowledge and understanding they want, so they work alongside us and "learn our trade" as it were. We bring them on, support them, but we don't have the final say over their choices once they are old enough to understand the consequences of a given action.
All this leads me back to reaffirming my initial two principles of discipline. Know what really matters to you, what you need to actively protect your children from and what you need to help them to do. Live it with respect and understanding. Are there really any other hard and fast rules aside from that? Are those two rules themselves even worth stating? Surely, on an even more basic level when you look at it, both of those things could be summed up by the second most important commandment (Love your neighbour as yourself) and my children are certainly my neighbours in the most immediate way I know.
Love. Responsibility IN Love. That's what "authority" means.
PS - Yes, this post may seem a little hypocritical after a few demonstrations of rubbish parenting from me, but just because I don't always do what I know I ought to doesn't mean the ideas are wrong.
In fact, since I'll readily admit how human I am, they probably carry a tad more wieght than your Genuine Perfect Motherhood Guru (who is definately not me). I believe that it's impossible to help growing up alongside your children, and that nobody is actually done with getting maturity and wisdom and knowledge until they die. So no apologies for being on a journey, not sitting on a pedastal looking down. ;)
15 May 2008
First thing this morning we had another bad episode of Shouty Mummy. I was getting dressed when Jenna opened the stair gate and took herself and her sister downstairs. I called after them to wait for me, but obviously nobody heard (or they pretended not to have heard anyhow!) so I gathered everyone's last bits of clothing and went down after them in time to find Jenna pouring porridge oats over what looked like an exploded jar of honey. Everything was sticky, and stuck to the sticky were lots of little beige oats. In their hair, on their hands....
I was very calm to start with, and asked Jenna to please go and wait in her room so I could remove Morgan safely to the bath before washing her off. She went ahead of me and (foolishly) I again called an instruction after her even though I KNOW she needs eye contact; "Wait until I'm there, I've laid out clothes for today but you need a wash first!"
I put Morgan in the empty bath and turned around to see Jenna pulling a clean t-shirt (NOT the one I had laid out) over her sticky oaty hair. I ranted, taking the clothes from her and lifting her from the stool really roughly, slapping her leg in the process (I felt really awful about that one, I didn't even need to grab her but even though it happened in a fraction of a second I know I had meant to hit her).
Worse still, she cried, which obviously was totally understandable since she could see that not only was I very angry but I had just used force on purpose (because I was angry rather than because I actually needed to physically lift her away from something etc). That isn't actually the "worse still", my words got tangled up and I'm not sure how to gramatically correct them.
The REAL worst is that I made her look me in the eyes and told her, "Stop crying, RIGHT NOW or I will get angry with you." And she stopped dead, not another whimper, but her little terrified face still looked at me with huge teary eyes and wobbling bottom lip. Making her swallow it down like that will haunt me for a lot longer than having thrown a strop and hurt her in the first place. I hope she forgets it sooner than I will for sure.
I saw the lovely Mr Doctor again after the girls had gone to see their grandma, shockingly it's over a month now since I miscarried (how could I be 18 weeks pregnant in a alternate universe?) and he had asked me to come back for a checkup in a month. He had time to listen as I explained how I'm feeling, asking the typical depression questions and gently allowing my outpouring of grief. He thoughfully asked about our future plans, confirmed that I'm doing everything right, taking folic acid and that there is nothing else modern medecine with all its marvels can do for me. He made no comment, not even a raised eyebrow, about us already having stopped preventing.
What's more he asked if I was tired still and I said yes, though it isn't due to illness but down to Morgan night waking again. He laughed and said that it's normal for most children to have phases of waking far longer than they are "meant" to and that weaning her would be unlikely to stop her waking me if she felt she needed to! He was very positive about night-time parenting and meeting her needs, and encouraged me to keep breastfeeding her at night if she wants it and if I feel I am prepared to.
In the last week I have suddenly been kicked into gear with the jewellery making. I realised I haven't taken very much to the stall for a few months, and I have some pretty new beads, so I got going and couldn't stop! I made 13 necklaces and 8 pairs of earrings (about £130 worth of stuff if it sells, maybe more) and I spent £30 on beads a month ago, my first bead purchases for the best part of a year. I could really do with that money, so I hope most of it sells - the signs are good, in that five necklaces sold before they even got put out on the stands. I took the last few (made last night and this morning) to Anita today after befriending.
I was certainly reminded why I do the befriending work today too. My client (what a rubbish word for this kind of relationship) was telling me about her being discharged by mental health services finally after several years. She was saying that they consider her to have made an almost full recovery in the past six months and she puts that down to having someone to talk to. I feel really humbled, not proud as I think she expected me to, after all it's her work that has changed things for her far more than mine. But I know how essential it has been for her to talk things out and have a release, to be able to work things through for herself. I also know that she will still need that for some time!
It's like, when you tell someone else what is hurting you, you make it real - you put a shape to it and can deal with it differently and think of it differently. I'm sure a lot of people feel like that, that really being able to be totally honest with someone else about how you feel and what's going on in your life frees you to change it or let it go or do whatever you need to to move forwards. That's what befriending is for, to support parents to move forwards when their life has overwhelmed them and there is nobody to be honest with.
It's hard to be totally honest about this miscarriage sometimes. I think I *am* being, there are friends that I can really talk to (and I have done) but there are also a lot of people and places where I can't be honest. I have to hold back because I can't bear to hear a cold reaction as if it should be insignificant, or a hugely emotional one that I then feel I have to fix. If I couldn't talk to anyone, couldn't keep the reality of what happened to me, couldn't admit to the pain, it would fester. I can't imagine not having the other, deeper, kind of friendship - where I can cry and someone will just sit with me and hear it.
Morgan may be finally increasing her tiny vocabulary (not that I've been impatient about it, just interested in when she will want to talk to me "properly"). Today she said "baby" to a doll that Jenna tried to take off her, "bop" (meaning stop) to me when I shouted, "teddy" (obvious really), and "pop" (the noise the poppers on her nappies make)! It's hard to speculate whether she's not talking a lot because she can get her needs met very efficiently by concerted grunting and pointing, or whether I am to blame because I talk directly to her a whole lot less than I did Jenna - because we're always doing things that focus on real life and not on babies in specific.
Anyhow, please don't worry about me if I vanish for a few days again (though I know I need to come and talk to some of you soon, and stop being an absentee cl). The weather is still pulling me into the garden and there are times when sitting and thinking (or sitting and writing) make me dwell so much on what can't be, rather than what is, I just feel like running away. So I'm running away now, back to reality and children who need me and busy days and a garden that is producing lettuce, and tea to cook and cakes to bake and I will be honest again when I have the energy. ;)
14 May 2008
We cleared out some old cans of house paint from the shed and Martin threw them away. We THOUGHT that Martin threw them away... One got missed. As I discovered today at my cost. I was having another crying episode on the sofa while the girls roamed in the garden - they were laughing and playing nicely together, pushing each other on the swings and digging in the mud. I had peeked out at them about ten minutes earlier but when Martin got home we both went out to them. And found the wall and fence had been painted blue.
I cried, out of guilt and frustration and a lot of fear for their safety (what if they had eaten it??). Martin yelled, briefly, and then calmed down and started to think of solutions. He said, "Never mind, it's a bit late to tell you off now. That was NOT GOOD for touching, and we're all cross about it, but I'm sure you thought you were helping... Let's go and get cleaned." While I cried about what a bad mother I am, and how much I miss Lael, and how I can't take care of them properly when I'm missing Lael, and all that sort of thing, Martin got Jenna to scrub the fence, bathed the baby, bathed Jenna, and cleared up most of the garden. Then he came and held me and talked soothingly until I calmed down.
OK so we have a little patch of blue paint on the back wall. It was our fault, but it's in the past now and now the garden is free of other things they could get up to mischeif with. Jenna keeps saying how sorry she is. It doesn't matter to me right now whether she was being naughty or not (how can I read her mind to really know that anyway?) all that matters is that it's done our relationship is intact (and I've stopped crying - for now).
By the way, although it sounds from the diary that I'm struggling with discipline again and feeling cross all the time with the children, it doesn't feel like that at all. I'm actually feeling pretty good about being with them, and growing up and learning stuff myself, and becoming a better more resepctful parent to them. There have just been a couple of huge stressful niggles that have left me in a state - I don't want to blame the sudden influx of fresh emotion following Lael's death but it *is* mostly that. And a little bit that when (overall) things are getting better, the little things that I will laugh about another day seem huge and tragic by comparison to the happy tranquil days.
12 May 2008
The main thought in my mind is that I need sleep. But behind that I can see that she clearly has a need for comfort. If she didn't, she would be asleep, and I simply don't believe that she will come and feed when she doesn't need the comfort any more (because she has to walk along the cold corridor to find me, which is some level of motivation to stay in bed lol).
It's always a balance, is her need greater than mine? Is it time to say no, lay down my boundry, or is it better to prefer her need and keep feeding her at night? I almost decided it was time to tell her no more milkies at night, but then last night she came in and fed without waking me and when I woke up to find her in our bed I decided that shutting the doors on her was just a pointless waste of energy staking out a boundry that I'm not really commited to.
We visited the museum today as usual for a monday, and Jenna raced around explaining things to me and making me laugh. On our way through the cave mock-up with papier mache stalagtites and stalagmites, Jenna spotted the stuffed "miner" dummy that always freaked me out as a kid (seemingly stuck halfway up a pothole on one side of the cave). She asked me, with that intent expression they get, "Is he mining for pretty stones or for coal to make fire?" Where did she get a fairly comprehensive view of the purpose of mining (and coal)? How did she learn that without anyone telling her it?
I feel really stupid sometimes, still thinking that she can't learn without a teacher (ie me) when she clearly is miles ahead just from hearing adults talking and having the world open to her like a book. What could she not learn if she set her mind to it? What would she ever not want to learn when she is interested in everything? Why do I trust so little?
11 May 2008
We spent this afternoon in the garden still, trying to get back a bit of calm with the girls. Which we acheived. Honest. ;) I'm actually struggling in another way to be honest, as fast as I've gotten over being stressy with the children. I'm feeling gutted about something I saw on Saturday - I think it has just opened the flood gates about Lael and how sad I still feel.
At soft play we sat alongside a couple of new mums with their tiny little newborns. They avoided holding their babies at all for most of the time, and called them awful names. One of them turned to me and said, "I can't wait for mine to be like that and not pestering me (gesturing to Morgan playing happily) - she's on at me all the time and I can't be bothered with all that. She's such a brat." I felt like saying, "I just delivered mine stillborn. I'll take her if you don't want her!" Instead I meekly said, "They still need you when they grow up, and I miss having hours to cuddle her. She won't stand for me to hold her for hours any more."
I cried later; feeling guilty as I did so. Maybe the mums had PND. Maybe they had exceptionally difficult babies. Maybe they really don't feel like that but say it because everyone does. Maybe... Maybe it's just unfair that other people get to resent their babies and call them spoilt and horrible and whiney at three days old and six weeks respectively (I asked).
10 May 2008
Yesterday during the day I think all the children were suffering a bit from too much running around at the park, because they were all a tad whiney (Jenna was in full Stroppy Three mode at one point, and Morgan was acting very very sensitive). I found myself getting a bit stressy with them and telling them to stop it a few times, which never really seems to help. Anyhow, day beautiful, park fun, BBQ glorious, home-made beanburgers tasty but spicy! :)
Today we spent the day at soft play, with Martin too (and Kim and Jack and Jeni and Sophia and Kirsty and Olivia!)... The children are much happier really, but Morgan is still a bit sensitive. She seems to have taken affront at Jack always trying to help her do things and hold her hand and screaches if he approaches her. It's not that he's being naughty with her really, he just doesn't seem to know when he's squeezing so Morgan is taking affirmative action and whinging at the first sign of him lol.
For tea we had fajitas in the garden and lit the fire pit. Small children + fire + skewers + marshmallows. I know, it sounds mad, but it was fun (and the adults were all supervising closely). I know my girls are relatively safe around fire, although I'd never leave them unattended; they have been around candles, been allowed to touch things that are hot and shown where the hot places in the house are. They haven't been thrown in to sink or swim so to speak, but they haven't been totally wrapped in cotton wool and prevented from experiencing anything real either.
This sounds like a wierd and dangerous concept to most parents, which is why I feel I need to explain it I guess! Morgan first put her hand to a candle flame at about one year - she moved it after less than a fraction of a second and hasn't done it again. This isn't to say she actually got burnt, or that I intended or wanted her to experiment (though I suspected she would, as all children do unless they never see a flame, and trust me they then do it as teens!). I warned her, she poked it, she made a connection between the word hot and the experience.
Let me put it another way. Which is more cruel? Option one, I scream at or otherwise punish my child any time they go near something dangerous (which associates the object with bad things happening, but also associates the parent with bad things happening). Option two, I protect my children to a huge degree but never by putting actual limits on their actions, so that they grow up essentially in a baby-proofed environment without any rules. Option three, I introduce real things to their environment from the beginning of their lives and let them experience how to use them safely with an adult present, along with reminders and a gentle but firm hand if the experiement is going to cause actual harm.
Far from being either the wishy-washy option or somehow mean, gentle parenting has the most pragmatic and practical solution to the dilemma of control (ie what do we need to make children do and what do we need to actively keep them safe from). Look at the situation. Think what the consequences would be. If the consequences are too big, prevent! It takes work and thought (unlike punishing hell out of the child who gets it wrong which takes no thought, or permissive parenting which takes no work).
Morgan only got close to the fire pit a couple of times before telling me it was "ot" and then ignoring it. The only real danger is them running near it (which was up to us to prevent)!
8 May 2008
Kim and Jack arrived in the afternoon and shortly afterwards Jeni with Sophia. The number of toddlers being doubled definately made it essential to keep a close watch! They seem to be playing really nicely though, and although I can see we're going to have a busy weekend I'm enjoying it already (plus Kim is great non-child company for me, and a very witty commentator)!
One funny thing happened earlier - Paul and Maarja turned up unexpectedly (with my Dad, so they let themselves in). Apparently they were greeted in the living room by Jenna and Sophia (both totally naked) and Paul asked tentatively if "mummy is decent" as he knows if I've been feeding a lot I may be only semi-clothed. Jenna gave him a look and said, "We're all decent!"
7 May 2008
I love to see him with our children, it may sound silly to those of you without children, but it's kind of romantic. He's a wonderful Dad, and a caring gentle husband, and I'm so in love with him. Seeing him carrying Jenna, playing with them, running around in the sunshine, holding the hand of the tiny one... It's wonderful. My life is full of these huge blessings, as simple and even boring as it may sound.
There had been some sort of children's event, probably the day before, and there were posters of things to count around the place with the number on them. Martin took her on the trail himself and helped her spot the next poster coming up, so that she could run to it and tell him how many were on it. She is handling numbers up to ten confidently now, not counting the same object twice and recognising most of the numbers before she even counts. Martin hasn't seen her do this before, and his surprise seemed to delight her, even though he didn't make a big deal about it or patronise her with any "good girl" stuff lol.
Jenna detests having suncream applied, she actually shudders when I put it on her face. I find myself getting impatient until I remember how much I used to hate it myself. Sometimes they just have to do things that they hate, it's really very simple. The list isn't huge really, when it comes down to it, but sunscreen and hats in hot weather is one of those things.
I'm having less trouble with it since I explained as gently as I could that the sun is what caused grandma's poorly on her leg (skin cancer) - I also told her that if everyone took better care of the planet the sun wouldn't be so dangerous because the sky can't protect us so much any more. I'm not sure whether I was being unsceintific, or even perhaps too scientific, but she has stopped howling when I put it on her and just shudders now. I hug her and validate and feel like I'm being mean.
Morgan, on the other hand, brings me the tube and puts her little pale trusting face up to be creamed! She thinks it's a very funny game and wants it reapplied far more often than I need to do it. It certainly helps me remember to put some more on every hour or so anyhow.
2 May 2008
Not long before we sat down to eat I recorded this little conversation I had with Jenna while calling her in for tea.
Jenna: I'm painting!
Me: What with?
Jenna: Umm... nothing...
Me: With mud?
Jenna: No... Soil and water!
Today we did a bit more of the kind of spring activities I planned for yesterday before I knew they were going out. We went to the park and found some may blossom, and put fallen cherry blossoms in Jenna's hair. We chased each other around, and I put my foot into a rabbit hole and miraculously managed not to wrench it! We made a daisy chain.
We were going to spend most of the rest of the day in the garden with Jenna's friend from next door. Tamsin had some friends round so they all ran around together for a while. I had one of those when-is-she-starting-school conversations and inwardly noted the mixed reaction (expressions ranging from "poor kid" through to "brave mum" and stopping off at "won't she be socially excluded?" along the way). I will probably come back to the argument another day (yet again) that children aren't socially capable unless they are deliberately "socialised"...
Anyhow, as if to prove that we're wierdos and the children are dreadful creatures, Jenna spent the next hour or so arguing with everyone about everything, sulking, and crying for no obvious reason. I admit, I fell a little into the trap of feeling that I had something to prove and wanting my children to be perfect in order to impress upon the doubters that I am a great parent. *rolls eyes at self* I didn't really act any differently, but I guess I did act embarrased and apologetic (guaranteed to make Jenna worse in any given social situation) and we ended up coming back over here to refuel with snacks, apologies, cuddles and a video.
On a much better note, Martin and I talked about our hopes and fears re the baby situation. He has agreed (I hope not in a giving-in kind of way) that we are ready to have a baby whenever that happens and that although I really hate being pregnant it's worth it and I can cope with it (all the more since I'm feeling right with the children I have most of the time now). So although we're not planning to "try" for a baby, we are not preventing and I'm not charting and there is every chance that there will be a sixth pregnancy at some point before the summer (fingers crossed).
1 May 2008
On my way to my bus I popped into a couple of charity shops (couldn't resist looking at baby clothes for a friend) and finally into Boots to look for spa-tone water for my iron levels, and on to Soundbites to look for washing powder. Something in Boots stopped me dead a little though - a stand advertising SMA gold! OK it was an "advice stand" but how useful can the advice be if they are promoting only one brand? I was a bit horrified but didn't dare to say anything, I thought I might be rude and shout or cry or both.
There is such a lot of this borderline law breaking going on at the moment. It really makes me worry. It's not that I think women who are formula feeding (or making their minds up) are stupid, but it's really insiduous stuff that makes itself out to be medical advice. When I started breastfeeding Jenna I didn't have internet access, and I did give her formula top-ups because I did actually buy what those adverts were telling me. I thought that SMA was better than the others, and I thought that formula would give me a break, I was too trusting and I forgot (as they obviously hope people will) that what I was seeing was advertising.
It's just too easy! It's too easy to be brainwashed and not easy enough to find actual useful advice (like about how to stop the pain or how to find a comfortable sitting position or whether you can use regular bras when breastfeeding or how to make up formula following the new guidelines or how to be certain the bottles are sterile or what ingredients went into the formula or which companies own each other!!).
Anyhow in the end I was a coward and didn't say a word. I walked right into Lush and unburdened myself on my peer-supporter friend who promised that on her break she would go and check it out and remind them that putting SMA gold on any kind of promotional display was against the law!
I came home quickly after I'd found the washing powder I wanted, dying to inspect my veggie box and see what goodies I had to make myself some lunch with. In the end it turned into a big salad and some purple coleslaw (normal ingredients but with purple cabbage added too). It's lilac, and asides from being very tasty, I love the thought of it so much I keep grinning. I'm baking again until the children come home anyway, and I really ought to get on with that. :)