I bring to you today our fifth story of one mother’s journey into motherhood. I love Michele’s story, her candor, her experiences and I love her last little story about her oldest son at the end of this piece. I hope you find her words inspiring and this brings you joy. Here is her story:
My parenting, had it been what I thought it should be twenty years ago, would have me in an asylum most likely, because I grew up with the typical household that yells. My parents expected what they expected, didn’t always teach it first, and at times, not at all. They loved us, they cared for us, they just did it the way their parents did it.
After getting married, and a rather rocky start in trying to get pregnant, we finally were able to conceive. My eyes were opened when two sisters-in-law asked if I were going to breastfeed. Thank GOD! I hadn’t even thought about it. My pregnancy to that point consisted of waking up in the morning, thinking ‘something is different, something wonderful….OH YEAH! I’m pregnant! It was like Christmas morning when I was five – every morning. You see, we weren’t sure if I was going to hold the pregnancy, and indeed had no plans for what would happen if I couldn’t because adoption is so expensive, it was/is out of the question.
Well, the c-section happened, the baby arrived safely 6 days early (he was due on Labor Day), and the nursing began. OUCH! Thank goodness for lactation consultants that take pity on poor innocent Moms who want to breastfeed! I’d read it was good for the child to nurse for at least four months. We made it through the two and a half months of bad latch, and started cruising after that. Well, at least I thought we did.
Parenting at that point was “wow, take a picture, this is so cute!” or “hey this is a first, we want to get that on the calendar!” However, fast forward to a year and some months. My son looked at me and pulled his arm back and just WHALED it across my face! It HURT! A lot! I just wanted to shriek at him. He was smart, and we all knew it, and that’s where another step in my parenting changed. I didn’t give it back to him, I didn’t “time out” him. I’d read later that time out is outrageously misapplied in almost all cases, but I still didn’t think it would work at the time this incident happened. I don’t know why.
Around this time we found a Waldorf-based program, Lilac Children’s Garden, and that’s where we started learning more. I started parenting differently. I started HUNTING DOWN more information (in a panic that I was doing it wrong). And I felt I was parenting “wrong”. And I felt my husband was too. I kept telling him to do it differently, and he kept ignoring me or applying the information only once and then would go back to status quo.
Finally, one thing I did differently was that I told my husband WE have to change, we both have to change, that if we are going to change we BOTH need to attend Lilac Children’s Garden with our son. So we did. And we have been ever since. My husband is gaining some wonderful insight but is still of the opinion that little boys should obey without question and do what their parents tell them, and … and…
Well, WE are learning. Evolving? Well, at times it feels like an earthquake when I find something else I need to factor in when we respond to our child’s needs. For example,
after a whole lot of discussion, we decided to have another child. Seven months later we became pregnant! I had no way to prepare my son for who was going to arrive, just that it would be a baby. At times my son thought “girl”, but then he settled on “boy”, and a week into July last year, he even named him. And four days after his Labor Day birth, we all named him.
Cruising through all these years, older brother is three, baby is newborn. Both were nursing at that point, had even maintained nursing through pregnancy right up until the water broke. I’d learned another part of parenting through La Leche League, that in a lot of other countries nursing continues through the milk teeth, and NOT because of ‘bad water’ like the formula companies would like the average mother to believe. I think if anything, nursing made the transition for my oldest much more smooth than it could have been – although Dad mistakenly had him ‘waiting’ for the baby to finish, which created another issue. I think nursing has made him realize that he is still Mama’s little boy too – even though the baby sometimes needs to come first.
I think nursing and parenting are just different facets of the same issue: the child.The baby is needing close/comfort/food/security, the boy is needing all the same – on different levels. Not the levels I was TAUGHT, and certainly not experienced.
When my oldest was born, we collided with a friend regarding bed-sharing/co-sleeping head head –on. She had had her daughter three months before I had my oldest that “if you want your baby to trust you, pick him up when he cries.” This was reassuring in response to my Mom who told me to let him “cry it out, he’ll get used to being alone” – nine days after birth she wanted me to start him on his own!
But back to bed-sharing. After my oldest was born, my husband told me after about a week back to work (the baby was one month old) that he couldn’t keep getting up in the middle of the night. Work was more important. So that left me getting up all the time. I wasn’t healing very quickly, and picking up my son was a test of my willpower. So I finally just started leaving him in bed with me; it saved me two trips to the bassinet, and all that bending and lifting. He was outraged, and I said ‘hey, you go have a c-section, AND lift him every 1-2 hours to feed him, then diaper him, and walk him around the house. You’ll have him next to you also.’
So there we were after our first child was born, nursing past 4 months like the pediatrician recommended we start solids, co-sleeping, and learning more about Waldorf. We ‘do’ Lilac three terms a year; it is expensive but in terms of what we have gained: priceless.
So what happened when we added a second baby to the mix you might ask? We morphed a bit. We had to. One cannot shock a three- year- old into sudden “responsibility for his actions”, no matter WHAT the heck you think you can do. He could pinch, hit, bonk, collide, steamroll, I can’t say you name it because I don’t want him to read those ideas in my mind! And there are times when I think he can read those ideas! Just no sense of shame! No sense of what is right! And I am learning, that’s about right for a three year old.
Baby is the smiliest little guy after his brother – no one seems to remember the elder being so smiley, because he is NOW very serious about things. I wish he weren’t, but I can’t change that. Had I been more knowledgeable before he was born or just after, likely he would be a slightly happier guy now, but not by much. Baby is also very resilient. He gets steamrolled now and unless it really hurts or is not in the direction he wants to go (or he is tired!), he just goes with it. I’ve found him locked in older brother’s legs, and surprisingly, not being hurt, just a really odd sense of his being gentle with him – just rowdy! He wants to play! A lot to watch out for for the future!
My parenting up until now has been cringing at the thought of my parents arriving (my mother-in-law is not visiting due to age and infirmity) with all kinds of mainstream ideas, thoughts and expectations for my boys. Being firm with their expectations has been trying at times for all of us. Especially where he has hit my Dad. Or my Dad has YELLED at him for throwing sand outside the box (my son laughed – his way of saying ‘oh dear I’m worried but I really don’t know how to react!)
My parenting stance? I let my Dad ride it out – 2 years ago I’d have been all over him for yelling at him. I let my son ride it out, then talked with him later. “Grampie got upset when you threw the sand out of the box, didn’t he? Well, he got upset with Mama years ago, too, and we learned to leave it in the box.’ Didn’t make no nevermind to my son, who kept throwing it out of the box, but he understood where Grampie was coming from, at least on an almost three year old’s level.
My child won’t get in the car seat he just claimed he WANTED to get into five minutes ago, and I don’t force him in anymore. I give him a moment to collect himself, then sing to him something nonsense like to the tune of Jack and Jill: Mom and Max went up the street to see a book at the library, Mom got in and Max got in and baby came tumbling after!’ Or, the racecar driver needs his harness on to stay safe during the ride – can’t go until it’s all checked!
In all I say, in all I do,
let strength and kindness
shine right through.
This is a poster we made one day for our work during the class at our Morning Program. I have it still (my son has since decorated it indecorously with ballpoint pen. I intend to redo it and make a second copy for my husband’s locker at work.) It reminds me of my parenting journey.
Just today, my son asked me for the umptheenth time to ‘go home’. It’s a question that makes me sad, mad and unhappy all in one shot, because he is sitting IN OUR HOUSE when he asks this. We’ve talked about house and home and what they are and defining different things, but today after thinking about it probably clearly for the first time since it ever happened, I asked him to climb in my lap. Then I asked him, is this what you mean when you want to “go home?” “Mmmhmmm” he nodded. AHHHHH! Revelation is always sweeter when it winds up falling into your lap (literally!)
Michele, thank you so much for sharing your story and experience.
Many blessings to all,