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    Bedtime Stories of Lightness and Darkness - Guest Post





    I have the privilege of being a guest blogger at PhdInParenting.com while Annie is away at the Blissdom Conference (thank you, Annie!). For a guest post, I wrote a story about a recent discussion my children and I had at bedtime --- and how it turned into my thinking more deeply about good & bad, light & dark, innocence & experience.


    (Image Source: Flikr  Artist: William Brawley) 

    Here's an excerpt:

    "I tell them the bad to empower them: to help them learn how to make good choices; to help them learn to help others on their paths to goodness and peacefulness and justness; to help them understand the very real possibility of righteousness and peacefulness and light in us all. These things – lightness AND darkness – are all the things that make us imperfect, and make us amazing, and make us wonder – all us humans – at what we are and what we’re doing here.  My children seem to understand it and accept it – the juxtaposition of light and dark – and so… I keep answering, even if my answers aren’t the most perfect. ...

    To read the whole post, please click over to Annie's blog (and please wander around a bit too while you're there - she's an amazing blogger).   

    Posted: Jan 29 2011, 10:06 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Breastfeeding-Friendly Children's Books





    Breastfeeding is natural, beneficial to mother and baby, and an important part of infant development. It’s a normal function of mammals (of which we humans are one), and part of the human growth process. It is important to teach our children about breastfeeding so that they grow up understanding that it is a normal, natural process, and not something of which to be ashamed or afraid. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where breastfeeding isn’t seen as important, breastfeeding mothers aren’t given adequate support to be able to nurse their babies successfully, women are required to return to work only a few short weeks after birth (often before their milk supply has regulated), breastfeeding women are discriminated against for feeding their babies, and extended or toddler nursing is looked down upon. It just isn’t that often that our children are able to see real women breastfeeding. All of these things make it difficult to convey the message to our children – the next generation of breastfeeders – that breastfeeding is normal and a-ok.
    My oldest child weaned when she was four, and she had the opportunity to see her younger brother breastfed until he was three. He, however, will not have the benefit of regular direct exposure to nursing (since we’re not having any more children, and we no longer attend La Leche League meetings). This worries me a bit as I want him to grow up with positive images of breastfeeding, just like his elder sister did. So, one of the things I’ve done to help both of my children learn about breastfeeding is to read stories with them that involve positive images and stories of nursing mothers. Here are four of our favorite breastfeeding-friendly books:
    If My Mom Were A Platypus: Animal Babies and Their Mothers
    By Dia L. Michels
    Illustrated by Andrew Barthelmes
    This 61 page book is illustrated with colorful paintings and detailed brown and white sketches. The book features 14 animals (including humans) and details their birth process, early growth and feeding, what the animals eat and do as they grow, when they leave their mothers, and other interesting facts.
    The section on humans shows baby being born in a birth center, delivered by a midwife, with dad close by. The family in the birth illustration is Caucasian, and the midwife appears to be a woman of color. The breastfeeding information mentions nursing on cue without a schedule, starting solids around six months (with breast milk as baby’s “main meal”), and that babies “lose interest” in nursing after a few years.
    It’s full of facts about many different mammals – all written in similar format; which makes it easy to compare ourselves with other animals on our planet. It’s a fabulous book. I’d recommend it from about age three up to age twelve or so (the book recommends this for ages 8 – 12. However, my daughter reads it herself at age 6 and my son enjoys it as a bedtime story at age 3.5 – though we have to pick & choose just a few animals for each story time – it’s a longish & detailed book at 61 pages + a Glossary and Index.
    Baby’s First Year
    By Debbie MacKinnon
    Photographed by Anthea Sieveking
    This 25 book is a beautiful photo documentary about “Baby Neil”. The story follows him from birth through his first birthday. The photographs are big and bright, and illustrate tenderness and love from Neil’s whole family (Mom, Dad, and two Big Sisters) as he grows. He’s shown happy and crying and doing lots of different “baby” activities. There is one photograph of Neil nursing as a newborn in bed with mom, and a series of photos of Neil being fed AND feeding himself (hooray for baby led weaning!). Later in the book, Neil is shown riding in a backpack, a car seat, and a stroller. Neil and his family are Caucasian (and appear to be from the 80s, haha). I’d recommend this book from birth and up. Due to the use of real photographs of people it can keep a baby’s attention (though baby can’t handle the book because of paper pages, my youngest loved to look at the photos as an infant, while the story kept my then two-year-old interested).
    Note: This book doesn’t appear to be in print any longer, which is a shame. We found our copy at a library book sale many years ago – it may be available used on Amazon or Ebay.
    When You Were Inside Mommy
    By Joanna Cole
    Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss
    This 28 page book is colorfully illustrated in watercolor. It details how a baby starts as an egg (the text says, “In the beginning you were just one tiny cell. Half of the cell came from your mommy, and the other half came from your daddy”, and how grows into a baby inside a mother’s womb, during pregnancy, and is born. It mentions visiting a doctor for prenatal checkups, and baby is shown being born in a hospital. There is one illustration of mother breastfeeding baby in the hospital bed with the father next to her. The family in this book appears to be Caucasian. With bright, easy-to-understand illustrations, and simple text, I’d recommend this book for ages 1 and up (though not a board book – pages will rip!).


    Note: Though the text on this page says, “You drank milk from Mommy’s breasts or from a bottle”, there are not any illustrations of baby drinking from a bottle.
    Mama’s Milk/Mama Me Alimenta
    By Michael Elsohn Ross
    Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
    This book is lovely. Each page features a gouache drawing of different mammals feeing their babies. The text is simple, rhyming, and written in two languages on each page – English and Spanish. There are several pictures of human mothers nursing their babies...
    Mom nursing in bed (Co-sleeping with Daddy):
    Mom breastfeeding in a park:
    Mom breastfeeding and dozing (I remember those days) in a chair:

    The mothers in this book all appear to be different ethnicities. In one illustration, a mother wears a baby in a ring sling (yay babywearing!) while she and her children observe a cat nursing her kittens. It’s a sweet book about the love of mammal mamas for their babies. On the last two pages are several breast milk facts, like “Mama’s milk helps to protect babies from common diseases”. This book would be best for ages 2 or 3 and up.
    Note: The illustrations, while charming, are a bit muted and subtle, so they may not hold the interest of a young toddler or baby.

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    What are your favorite breastfreeding-friendly children's books? Please share authors & titles in the comments - I'd love to add to our collection & post again with another review in the future!
    - - - - - -
    **ALL of the images on this blog post were scanned & edited by yours truly, KellyNaturally.com from my own book collection. If you'd like to use the above images on your website, to spread the word about the awesomeness of breastfeeding, I'm happy to share; but would please ask that you link back to my post. Thanks so much!**
    Posted: Jan 24 2011, 00:15 by kelly | Comments (17) RSS comment feed |
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    Parenting Through the Perfect Storm





    It’s around 4 o’clock on a rainy day. The kids are bored. You are tired. Maybe you have a work deadline, maybe you’re trying to finish a personal project, or just wanting to organize an area of the house before the clutter gets out of control. Or maybe you just want a little break from the hubbub - but there is no break for a couple more hours (and before then, you have to get dinner made, and keep two rambunctious kids happy). You set said children up on an activity, and decide to hop on your computer (or crack open your favorite novel or get started on that organizing project), for what you hope is a few minutes of “adult” time. But then, the bickering starts. This, you can ignore, until the voices get closer, and start including you: “Mom, she said THIS” and “But MOMMMMM, he took THIS”. And then, something crashes in the kitchen. “Moooooommmmmm!!!!!” You feel your blood pressure rising, and you start out calm, but as you come around the corner of the kitchen to see the bowl you’d prepared earlier in the day so dinner prep would go smoothly, smashed and broken all over the kitchen floor, and before you know it, your voice comes out just a bit louder & harsher than you wanted, and instead of helping them start the cleaning effort, you opt for the escalating loud voice and flailing arms: “What’s going ON in HERE? I just wanted to read for FIVE. MINUTES. Can’t you kids GET ALONG? YOU’RE ALWAYS FIGHTING!!!!” Which of course, isn't true, isn't helpful, and results in nothing being accomplished – other than the kids looking at you wide-eyed and warily like they’re not sure what’s going to happen next, and you feeling badly for yelling and acting like a child yourself.  The mess is still on the floor, the kids’ argument wasn’t resolved, and everyone is still in a state of highly charged emotion.

     

    Sound familiar?  I think we’ve all been at a point where we have had enough. And even though we know better, the perfect storm of events happens right under our own noses, and our self control is sucked away, leaving us with the bare bones of discipline techniques that our parents bestowed on us. 

     

    I think responses like this, when they aren’t habitual, are just visceral reactions; and often not even controllable in the moment. Maybe we’re tired or hungry or our patience has been all used up or we’re touched out. But these moments – they don’t define us; or our parenting. We feel awful about them; and I always try to remember that the feeling badly afterwards is a good emotional response. It’s a reminder to do better, try harder, and come up with tools that work more effectively, so our immediate reaction is more in line with what our planned out reaction to aggravation is like (the responses that we’re proud of and feel help us and our children learn how to deal with anger and aggravation in a positive and productive way – we’ve all had those moments too).


    (Artist: Mindaugas Danys  Source: Flickr) 

     

    So what can you do when the perfect storm hits? Well, there’s the lead-up to the storm… and there’s the aftermath. Let’s start with the aftermath:

     

    The first thing I do is apologize. But I don’t just say sorry – I try to explain to my kids why I was feeling how I was feeling, acknowledge their feelings, and I use the opportunity to model what I’d like to hear/see from them. I also use gentle touch – like a hug or a pat on the shoulder, or even just getting down on their level so we see eye to eye.

     

    I’m sorry that I yelled at you in the kitchen; I bet that was scary for you. I was feeling so aggravated at having to get up from my seat and because I was distracted by my aggrivation, I wasn’t paying attention to using my words carefully.

     

    Next thing I do is talk about how I could have changed the outcome, or what I could do, or we could do together to fix the situation.

     

    Next time, I will try to be more patient in my response.  Yelling doesn’t help the situation. What do you think I could have done to help the situation? Is there anything you could have done differently to help the people around you feel more comfortable? I know you didn’t mean to break the bowl; let’s clean it up together.

     

    I have found that children are incredibly forgiving and peace-loving. They strive for harmony and the thought of holding a grudge doesn’t come naturally. Often times I’ll start to talk about why I felt badly or acted in a way I wasn’t thrilled with and they’ve already moved on. In which case, the best thing to do is…

     

    Forgive myself.  When I realize that I may have acted in a way that’s less than ideal, but have apologized and thought about ways to do it differently next time, I also realize that the simple act of awareness is a big step towards making a change. I forgive myself the lapse of peaceful parenting prowess, realize my children have forgiven me, and I forgive myself. And then…

     

    I move on to what I can do to better handle future perfect storms. I get a game plan in place. What tools do I have and what tools do I need to obtain and develop in order to handle a kid storm in a way that is calm, and guiding, not a way that leaves me wishing I’d done things differently? My game plan is a bit like this:

     

    Firstly, and probably most importantly, I stay aware of my inner balance.  If I’m feeling out of balance – if I start to realize that the kids noise level is sounding consistently to loud to me, when I know it’s really not too loud, or if I’m finding myself annoyed by things that shouldn’t be that annoying, I take stock of what’s going on in my body and mind at the moment, and fix whatever I can fix.  If I’m hungry or thirsty, I get a snack or drink. If I’m tired, I set up a quiet activity and I lie down with them while they play and rest for a few minutes or alternatively, I choose an activity that requires some action to get my blood flowing – running up and down the stairs a few times, or doing yoga with the kids or getting outside and walking around (I know it’s hard in the winter, but there's something about fresh air and nature that rejuvinates, energizes, and balances).  If I’m overwhelmed, I either ask for help – if it’s available – or I figure out what can be cut from my current “to do’s” and I decide not to feel bad about cutting it. If it just happens that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and can’t come up with a good reason for my mood, I’ll acknowledge that – maybe I’ll mention it to my kids, “Guys, I’m in kind of a crummy mood, so let’s all try to be extra kind to each other today”, then, I’ll have a piece of chocolate, a cup of coffee, and forgive myself for not having an ideal day, and talk myself into grinning and bearing it.  Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of alone time (and “alone time” really can be your computer and a cup of coffee while your little ones play quietly at your feet – and you’re browsing through blogs or looking at magazines that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with parenting) to regain my peaceful center. 


    (Artist: Aussiegall  Source: Flickr)

    Secondly, I make sure I have a plan of action in place for what to do when my center has been lost, and I feel the storm coming on. Things like:

     

    - Realizing I don’t have to intervene in every altercation.  In fact, unless they are hurting each other, it’s best to let the kids work out small disagreements themselves.  When they realize they have the tools to resolve issues, they will do so more and more often without calling MOM!!! every time something doesn’t go exactly as planned. That’s a lot of aggravation, avoided.

     

    - Stepping away from the heat of moment instead of lunging straight for it.  Sometimes, if I know I’m feeling irritable, and not likely to have the most measured response, instead of heading for my kids’ argument, I will head for another room. I have said many a time to my children: “I’m taking a time out”. Giving myself space, a few moments to breathe and think, help me clarify the situation and come up with a more level-headed response.

     

    - Deciding to speak slowly and quietly when I feel like yelling. If I encounter the urge to yell, I use it as a signal to speak softly and choose words carefully. Or instead of saying something grumpy, saying something goofy. Realizing in the midst of a kid storm, sometimes the opposite reaction is the best – like laughing instead of arguing.

     

    - Acknowledging that I can’t fix every problem, take on every issue, or respond to every outburst. My kids’ reactions and moods belong to them, and I don’t have to respond in kind. If my children yell at me, I don’t need to yell back. If my children are being grumpy, sometime it’s okay to just let them be grumpy; it’s not my fault they are grumpy, and I don’t have to take it personally. Modeling cool and calm, owning my own feelings & letting them own theirs is always good.

     

    - Remembering that not every interaction needs to be the perfect learning and teaching moment. Sometimes the scissors just need to be taken away when they are being brandished at a sibling as a weapon; I don’t need to wait for them to be passed while explaining and talking over alternatives to the current scissor-wielding behavior.

    And sometimes the television needs to be turned on and the children sat down in front of it so that I can step away and regain my cool. I love what Annie at PhdinParenting said about the TV: “I’m not a fan of using television as a babysitter. But I am a big fan of using television to avoid mistreating my children and damaging our relationship.” (from her post Ready to Snap) What I mean is, sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in how I can best parent through a moment, and get so guilty over what message am I sending and what lesson am I teaching and why can’t I figure this out or get them to figure this out, when the children aren’t responding to my explanations and descriptions, that I end up getting more riled up than if I’d just responded quickly and done what I needed to do in that moment, and worried about fixing the message later (if even necessary).  Not every single moment of parenting needs to be educational.

     

    And finally, when all is said and done, I realize that every day I’m doing the best I can. Some days are awesome, some days are less so, but most of the time, I’m a good mom, I’m kind to my children, I apologize when I’m not, and I forgive myself and try to do better in the future – for them and for me. That’s the best anyone can do.

    Posted: Jan 17 2011, 17:46 by kelly | Comments (34) RSS comment feed |
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    Nine Parenting Truths





    In my going-on-seven years of parenting, I’ve discovered some things – seemingly universally experienced by parents – from all “sides” of the parenting spectrum: stay at home parents, working out of the home parents, homeschooling parents, attachment parents,  etc. – that no one bothered to tell me, prior to having children. Of course, when you want children, you don’t listen to anyone else anyhow because your pregnancy will be super-awesome, your birth will be a breeze, and your baby will be all sweetness and light, right? Right. So, without further ado, nine things:


    (Me... A mere ten days before my world completely changed)

    1) There is no off switch on children. Volume? Always on, and usually set to high. Movement? Always on the go unless sleeping (& oftimes not even then). Needs/requests? Always present; never ending. Certainly many needs ease a bit as children age, and all but the most urgent can usually be delayed a bit. But, especially when they're young, the urgent needs (see #2) of children really don't let up. The fact of the matter is, in spite of what you might see in pictures or hear from great-grandma’s memories, children aren’t typically quiet, they aren’t usually calm; they aren’t mini adults.  They are always on, and expect you will be as well.  The good part about this is that you learn how patient you can be. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

    2) Taking care of sick kids is really quite challenging. It pushes the limits of your empathy and innate care-taking qualities (for details, see #3). Most especially when you also are sick (& when you're not sleeping because you're up with sick kids, and being exposed to all manner of germs picked up from every possible play surface in the universe even some that you don’t consider play surfaces but your children certainly do, like grocery store aisle floors – you likely will be), and would rather be in bed, having someone care for YOU.  But, there must be a light at the end of the tunnel.  I think there are two: First, I keep in mind that through illness, children are building their immune systems one cold at a time – getting stronger and healthier. And two, I remember my childhood illnesses with an odd fondness – being home with my mom all day while being allowed to draw and watch as much television as I wanted – I don’t much recall the illness as much as the special attention.

    3) Cleaning throw up out of the car stinks. Literally. As does cleaning throw up out of the bed in the middle of the night, or off of yourself, at any time of day. There's just no good time for puking, really, but it's particularly unappealing when it isn't yours and it's on your stuff, your person, and/or you've had about 2 hours of sleep when said cleaning is required. Trying to think of an upside to this… if there is one, please feel free to chime in.

    4) Appreciation for all you do as a parent is not readily forthcoming. Whether you work another job in addition to parenting or raising your kids is your sole vocation, no one really says thank you – not specifically, anyway. And why not? Because parenting is not really considered a job, and, big sigh, its commonplace: nearly anyone can become a parent; nearly everyone is.  Thanking someone for being a parent is like thanking someone for clipping their own toenails: Great job, keep on being human, you. And children don’t know to thank you because… well, because they’re children and, you’re just doing what you’re supposed to be doing – taking care of them. Thanks, Mom, pass the granola, and can you take me to the playground, please?
    And though it’s arguably one of the most important jobs on the planet – the maintaining of new, and hopefully functional, kind, and creative humans – it’s just a particularly thankless, underappreciated job.
    Yet, there are some periodic bonuses: sweet chubby cheeked kisses, toddler snuggles, lovely drawings with MOM scrawled across the top, spousal recognitions of job well done, strangers’ comments on how "well behaved" your children are, watching your kids achieve their own independence or success – it's enough to keep going at it each day.


    (Appreciation from my 6yo - note that it says love-together-peace-life. Man, she's awesome!)


    5) Parenting can be boring. Like glassy-eyed staring at the ceiling (or the clock counting the hours ‘til bedtime) oh my goodness when will the repetition end kind of boring. Babies are incredibly adorable, and… they don’t do anything (but they sure need a lot) – thankfully they have the big eyes and chubby thighs going for them. Toddlers are sweet as pie, and… they want to read the same book. Over. And over. It’s kind of like that knock knock joke your preschooler memorized that was really funny the first time, but not so funny the eleventy-billionth time she told it.  Boredom is just part of the deal. On the upside, this has made me more creative – both in my kid-and-adult-centered-activity-planning (i.e. finding things that can be interesting to both me AND my kids) and in my clandestine escapism (i.e. learning to tweet whilst doing the dishes), AND more able to slow down & appreciate the boring... because my children's childhood goes far too quickly.

    6) Parenting makes you tired. Bone tired. To the core. No matter that your kids are sleeping through the night or not – by that time your ability to sleep normally yourself has been so altered that you can’t sleep anyhow. No matter if your kids are older – then you’re staying up to make sure they come back home safely at night. Parenting is synonymous with exhaustion. When you go to bed at night you fall into bed. It’s a tired more deep than a day’s hike with a heavy backpack or International travel. Of course, you learn to live with it, you adjust, your kids start sleeping better, you start sleeping better… but the sleep of the parent is never the same as the sleep of the non-parent. Perhaps the good from this is how amazing a morning to myself is – sleeping in while Adam makes breakfast and plays with the children – those two extra hours of sleep never felt so good.

    7) Parenting is huge. Even when you don’t want it to be; it is everything. You are in charge – whether you want to be or not and whether your children “fail” or “succeed” – you are to blame. You make the choices, you carry the burdens. You select your children’s method of birth (or sometimes it selects you, no matter how much you prepared), your children’s method of feeding, schooling, discipline, experiences, etc. etc., and however it works out – or doesn’t – falls on you. The responsibility (as unfair as it may be since we all know nurture – or is it nature? – isn’t everything in how a child turns out. ) can be overwhelming.  It can also be liberating – realizing, as much as we want our children to be a certain way – as much as we try and succeed, or fail – our children are going to be who they are; they are resilient and amazing, in spite of us.

    Of course, the unspoken rules of parenting aren’t all negatives. There are some positives that I wasn’t told, either. Like:

    8) Watching your child figure something out is awe-inspiring. Whether it be learning to speak, crawl, walk, stack blocks, multiply, write in cursive, ride a bike… Just observing your child learn, and develop skills – particularly ones that you weren’t even directly involved in teaching – is absolutely and endlessly fascinating.  
     
    9) You will feel more love than you've ever felt or ever know what to do with. If you thought you loved your spouse, or your dog, or your mother... you didn't really know how deep love could be until you held a tiny baby, drifting off to sleep, who’s clutching tight to your finger in the silence of the middle of the night in the rocking chair. The smell of your baby's head is the most delicious aroma you've ever experienced and stirs a fondness so strong and lasting and bonding… the love of a parent for a child is infinite.

    So, did I leave anything out? What’s the most amazing – or challenging – thing you’ve discovered about parenting?

    Posted: Jan 10 2011, 15:04 by kelly | Comments (13) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting

    Inception, Reality, and Parenting





    Last year, in celebration of our 9th (and 16th) anniversary, Adam and I went to see the movie Inception. We saw it, in fact, on our anniversary, in a movie theatre. We both enjoyed that movie to the extreme; and have even watched it a second time, since. We were both so affected by the content, the message, and basic the idea of the film that after the initial viewing, I remember we could hardly drive home – distracted as we were by thinking of and talking through the meaning of this movie. Processing continued the entire night: our interpretations, how we experienced it together, and… what that really means in the larger journey of life.


    (A still from Inception - checking on reality) 

    Which is what this post about, sort of. I won’t give away the movie, in case you haven’t seen it (which, if you haven’t, what are you waiting for, seriously? Go buy it, rent it, whatever – just see it), but I will say, in general, it calls into question the idea of reality – individual and shared realities. Illusions. Dreams. Thoughts that you thought were your own. That maybe weren’t.  

     

    It asks us: how do we define our reality? Is reality what we see? Or, is it what we want to see? Or maybe, what others see or want us to see? Maybe even what we’ve been told we should be seeing?

     

    I remember in a figure art class once, I had a professor who said no one’s interpretation of the figure in front of us was wrong, because we all see it differently. Every single one of us is actually. Seeing. A different. Thing.  That even if we stood in the exact same place as that person, we’d just see it differently. Because what we see around us is based on our experiences, our memories, our current state of mind.  Perhaps a figure model may appear voluptuous to an artist who comes from a family who trends towards lean and lank; while the very same model appears far too skinny to one who is familiar with a more hearty body type.  She asked us if we thought five people could agree on how to describe the color of said model’s skin.  Heck, even two people.  It couldn’t be done.  Because… how DO you describe color? Light, tone, shade --- all subjective; all individual. Yet, all of us looked at the figure, and drew her, and she was there - recognizable to us all on our myriad canvases as a human figure.  A shared experience, and yet – each representation, each manifestation was different.

     

    So I wonder sometimes about reality.  As in – what is it? Is it really just what is happening as time passes – like a video camera? Or is it more of what I’m projecting on to my surroundings and then, how I’ve remembered those projections?  Is someone above pulling the strings? Is our life a set path we’re just walking or stumbling down? Or am I creating the path as I walk it?  And, can I create the path for someone walking it with me? Or do they see a different path, even in spite of my best intentions of making that path clear and defined?

     

    It reminds me of parenting. Each of us as parents are living through raising our children sharing experiences – pregnancy, birth, feeding, diapering, sleeping (or lack thereof), and we all try to help and support one another, understand each other, and yet… even within these shared experiences, each of us choose (or perhaps were pushed) down different paths. And at the end of these paths – well, we all have a similar destination in mind: healthy, happy children.  But our interpretations of how to get there, and what the path looks and feels like, varies so widely. What is right? What is… real? And is that really the right way? Is it what our babies are experiencing – the rightness that we feel? What ARE they experiencing? How can we tell when they can’t tell us? We try to interpret their cries – but even two parents sharing very similar parenting views can interpret a baby’s needs very differently. Because there is no standardized test for the tools and measurements we’re using to help us with our interpretations: our own experiences, our own memories of childhood, perhaps our mother’s or doctor’s or friend’s experience, all of these inputs make individualized changes and alterations to our tools. But do any of these tools really help us understand or experience what it is that our children are actually experiencing through our parenting?

     

    I think of a time I’d been driving in the car with my children – them in the back, reading, singing, talking – basically blissfully unaware of my bad mood in the front (with the music on so they can’t hear me grumbling, and my sunglasses on so they can’t see me scowling).  I asked them later about our drive and they said it was fun – of course it was, Mom.  If you’d asked me, I’d have told you I had a lousy one.  But we were all in that car together, right? I did feel lousy. They did feel good. So, which reality is real?

      


    (My kids, experiencing their own realities... as I always follow behind with the camera) 

    Have you ever had an experience that has stayed with you?  Something important – say a wedding.  Or childbirth. You remember it so vividly. Details you swear are real. Yet, have you ever spoken those details to someone who was there with you, only to have them say, oh, really? I don’t remember that part at all.  Or, even worse – no, it didn’t happen like that (it didn’t? It didn’t??).

     

    It’s not really a comforting thought – these alternate realities: Shared realities. Realities altered by the way we remember them. Because if my own reality can’t be trusted, how real is it?

    But then, I think over the going on seventeen years with Adam and the last going on seven years with our children and how I’ve experienced my reality of those years. I know I remember things the way I’ve decided to remember them. And maybe that involves changing my memories with time. Or, maybe my memories reflect the way things really happened. Really, that is, at least for me. I feel warm and comforted by those memories.

    I like to believe – since we are still together and enjoying the experience of togetherness, and our children are growing and thriving, and continuing to amaze us, and expressing joy at being with us each day both in their here & now, and their memories – that Adam’s reality of our relationship and our children’s reality of our family are all similar.  Or… at least that we’re all comfortable in our shared experiences, different as they may be. There is solace in that – our journey is a good, and happy, and peaceful one. Maybe the particular details of the paths we take – all of us humans, individuals, parents – don’t matter as much as we all like to believe.

    Posted: Jan 07 2011, 08:34 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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