The Babymoon

 

Elizabeth Foss is enjoying her first grandbaby, and I enjoyed her post regarding the days after birth here:  http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2014/05/in-praise-of-the-babymoon.html

I find it interesting if one looks on the Internet regarding “planning” a babymoon, most of the top posts have to do with planning some special time with a spouse prior to the arrival of a baby!  This is baffling to me. Most attached parents, and parents who hold childbirth and the parenting of children in the most sacred terms, do not think of babymoon as a honeymoon getaway, but as a sacred time after a baby is born when life as a family with children begin.

Having a first baby, having multiples babies, all changes things.  Nothing is or should be the same as it was, but perhaps not in the “inconvenienced” way general society assumes.   I wrote some time ago about the joy of the first forty days after birth, and encouraged readers to slow down for an extended time after birth.  Here is that original post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/17/40-days-after-birth-and-beyond/.

There are many beautiful ways to prepare for the first forty days: Continue reading

Life As A Means

 

In the tradition of  Rudolf Steiner’s  inner work according to the rhythm of each day of the week, today (Wednesday) is the day of “Right Standpoint”.  It is this idea of ordering our lives with harmony.  Put our lives in harmony with our values.  Put our lives in harmony with nature.  Put our lives in harmony, I would say, with God and the purpose God has set you here on earth for.  (As a Christian, I see definite purposes for my life as laid out in the Bible and by the Early Church fathers).    Life is one of the means, a  tool, to our own inner development as a human being.

 

If this is important for us as adults to work on, how much more important is this for our children who are still developing?  And, because our children are developing, it is up to us to help order their lives in these ways.

 

We can say no to media and screens because it is “entertainment” that is often full of sarcasm, violence, hypocrisy, and fills time instead of having our children learn to create and order their own time.

 

We can say yes to Continue reading

The Older Baby Who Can’t Be Put Down

 

I had a really sweet first time mother write in and ask me about her older baby who wants to be held all the time.  Do you all remember that stage with your very first child?  When there were no other children around?

 

Her question involved another aspect as well:  that of parenting alone for long hours on end and how to get that break when, as the parent, we are just about to lose it.  I think many of us have been there, and I wanted to provide some encouragement.  Perhaps you all have your own experiences to add in, if you can remember that far back to your first child and that sort of mobile and needy one year old stage.

 

Dear Sweet Mama,

,
I think it is really common for an infant of birth through even three year of age to want to be held frequently. In some cultures, infants don’t even touch the ground until the baby turns one year old.  In our society,  many parents use slings, particularly putting your older infant on your back, as a solution to this dilemma. I am a huge fan of slings, particularly wearing an infant or toddler on my back so I can go about my own work – which is work around my home or garden.  Some families are really lucky and have a lot of other adult family members around.  But in American society, most of us are not that lucky.  Often we are the only ones home alone with an infant for long stretches of time.

 

So, this leads to another point….

 

Attached infants can also learn to be happy and not be held 24/7,if you work in short spurts and think ahead about the environment you are setting up for this.  For an older infant or child who is used to being held a lot,  it takes time to know that this is a rhythm, a pattern and an okay place to be.   Sometimes tying it to some particular task you are doing can be successful for the little one who is truly not used to it.  So, maybe you would like to start with putting your infant down whilst you unload your dishwasher. Take the silverware out in case your older baby can pull up and get into the sharp silverware and set them down on a blanket whilst you are unloading the dishwasher.  Sing to them heartily!  Smile at them!  Think about distraction and including them whilst they are down there. Or, set them up to play with a small tray of water on a sheet or in the sink whilst you unload the dishwasher or in the sink.  You have to think of distraction,  and also be cheery and confident they can survive without being held for ten minutes so long as they are safe.

 

You can also get down and play with your child on the floor, but I think what most parents are striving for is to have their hands free for a few moments and have their baby not be wailing. 

 

As far as what to do when you are ready to lose it….We all have moments like this in parenting, especially I think with the first child.  If your infant is in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves, you can set your baby down. Your baby will cry, you may cry too, but again, if your baby is safe and you are nearby,  they are not going to die by crying. Sometimes too,  just changing the scenery by going outside together, setting your baby down in the grass, or taking a walk together, can also diffuse the moment.

 

The bigger issue is to think about prevention, and also to have that plan for what you are going to do when those inevitable moments happen.  Think about and plan within your family’s schedule what breaks you need throughout the week, make sure you are eating and sleeping well (nap when your baby naps! for the whole first year or even the whole first two years if you can get it!) think about who you can call to talk you off the ledge at that moment, keep reminding yourself what is normal for that age so you are not expecting too much, love your child, get outside, form a community, pray and develop yourself through your own inner work (religion, spirituality, whatever you call it and whatever it is to you) and enjoy your baby.  We were not meant to take care of a baby all  alone for hours on end – I don’t believe. Community is so important!

Again, make sure you have someone you can call in the moment – a friend, a family member – who could come if you called or you could at least call any day or night. And communicate with your spouse – parenting is hard work, and it is important you have at least some time to yourself each week  for a few hours, if not a period of time each day. Parenting with a partner should be just that, working to create a family culture together.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Nourishing Your Toddler

I wrote this post quite a while ago regarding the years of birth through age two and a half or so here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/10/getting-children-into-their-bodies-part-one-birth-to-age-2-and-a-half/.  I am still quite happy with this post, but I wanted to add some things here as just gentle food for thought…

Every day, do as much as you can to protect the senses of the small infant and toddler.  We are such an overstimulated society; I think the phrase “eye candy” really sums up how our culture has a visual emphasis.  We practically overdose our senses, especially our sense of sight, on things that are not true to the reality found in nature, the most beautiful and wondrous of our Creator’s work.  If we look about our homes and simplify them into simple scenes where our toddlers can participate in truly meaningful work, where there are simple open ended toys of natural materials, then we have gone a long ways toward promoting the health of our child.

Often we mistake what our small toddler needs and in place of time, space and stability we try to provide new, exciting, stimulating.  Yet, the capacities of our small toddler will flourish with a slow, rhythmic, protected introduction to life.  Develop your own peaceful soul, your own simple ways of being, and your child will be enveloped in this goodness.  Smile at your toddler, love your toddler, tell your toddler every day how strong and helpful they are, wonder and marvel at insects and the sunrise and the wind together.  Your children imitate not only your actions, but your thoughts.  Be brave, be wise, be beautiful!

And work on those lower body senses.  The sense of touch, the sense of life (how do you feel?  Can you even tell if you are not feeling well or do you just ignore that  and move on?), the sense of movement and the sense of balance.

Every day, no matter the weather, spend hours outside in the morning and the afternoon.  There should be opportunities for your toddler to stomp in puddles, in creeks, play in the mud and the sand, walk on forest trails and on the beach, and fully inhabit his home, his yard, his street.  Every day!  Outside time should be the priority for this age, along with meaningful work.

The shift in toddlerhood occurs because toddler energy needs form.  Many mothers will jot down a rhythm to each day the night before.  There must be a plan, and you must be the creator….see this for the wondrous opportunity that it is, and not a burden.  You can do this and it will be just right for you are the expert on your own family.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

This Could Be My Favorite Post

…. ( A reader alerted me on 11/7/2012 that this link didn’t work and she couldn’t find the original post.  On quick search I couldn’t either, but this post is similar: http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/08/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html   Enjoy!)

,,,,of all the things Elizabeth Foss has written.  Go and check it out!

http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2011/07/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html

 

How is that for lovely heading into the weekend?

Many blessings,
Carrie

Guest Post: Meaningful Work For Toddlers

(I asked my dear friend Liza to write this guest post because she has experience in weaving a life full of meaningful tasks that her twin toddlers do to help nurture their home.  What a wonderful experience they are having, and I thought her experience could help some of you out there who might be wondering about what kind of work toddlers could do!  Enjoy!)


Dear Friends,

I am a new mom, almost three years into parenting twins, and am humbled each day by what my children teach me.  How it is the simple things that bring them the most wonder:   the slow and steady journey of a snail’s trek across the patio, grandmother moon shining bright on a sunny day, how every flower on our morning walk is met with reverence and a deep inhale.  From them I am learning to slow down and settle into the sweetness of their early years.

I have also come to learn that time spent with my children at home is ultimately the most rewarding, for them and for me as well.  It is better than a visit to the playground, an organized class, or family adventure.   A bowl of sudsy water and a cup is like a trip to the ocean, dawdling around in our urban backyard feels like foraging through the forest and work- real work done with their hands (and mine) is deeply enriching. So we nest a lot, building and strengthening our home, caring for the objects and animals that surround us and attending to our rhythm.  Basically…doing lots of things with our hands.

When Hannah and Eli were born I joined the Christopherus Waldorf at Home Forum and there (enter angels singing and skies parting), was a group of mothers whose wisdom, humor and intelligence cradled my nascent mothering soul. Carrie was one of these inspired mothers/mentors.  I brought to this group my deepest anxieties, my ‘silliest’ questions, my fears and self doubts.  And trust me, there were a lot. But ultimately I brought to them my children to help me nurture, support and love more fully.

The sub-forum for those with children under seven was a particularly lively and active group.   We discussed everything about living with small children- from the practical aspects of coordinating nap-time, to building rhythm into our days, to finding love for your children when they do not seem so lovable. Overwhelm, burn out, and irritability came to the forum most days, right along side sibling conflict, strong emotions (formally known as tantrums), and whining.  From beneath the words of encouragement showered on each mama’s struggles you could almost hear the soothing siren song of this unspoken mantra:

slow down sweet mama,

take a deep breath,

you are doing a great job.

look gently within (take responsibility for what you might be contributing

and then forgive yourself),

connect back in with that little spirit who wants only to be loved.

And find some work to do with their hands

And so while the first four tasks are surely all parents’ karmic work (we have chosen the ultimate “path of service” it seems- the one that gives us access to expansive love…and a whole mess of other feelings), I leaned into the challenge of finding jobs for my children. And you know what?  It works.

At eighteen months we started small: stirring mama’s tea in the morning, grinding daddy’s coffee beans, making the morning eggs.  That bowl of sudsy ocean water soon had spoons and a sponge in it- a towel on the side to dry them with. The spray bottle entered our world and washing windows began- bliss was known.  Folding laundry became a game of discovery, an opportunity to run through the house delivering missing washcloths to the bathtub and napkins to the napkin drawer.

As time passed we found more work to do.  We stirred pancakes, made endless batches of muffins (and delivered them to the neighbors promptly lest they were all eaten by mama), made soup, pickles and bread.  The salad spinner is just as likely to be found on the countertop as it is the floor, the back deck…the living room.  Did you know you can spin almost anything?  We learned to pour with a pitcher, cut with a knife, peel with a peeler, use the cherry pitter, cheese grater and whisk.

We wash woolies in the bathtub, then wrap them in towels, stomp on them like grapes and hang them from a makeshift line under the kitchen island. That is a full morning’s work.  Bringing in the groceries one by one down our long apartment hallway to the kitchen still ranks high in the ‘fun things to do with daddy’ category- running fast like kitty cats with the apples, slow like turtles with the eggs.

There is a pride that emanates from a little one who has just accomplished a task they have watched you do over and over.  You can see it in their faces, their bodies and their spirit.  When they ask, “Mama, I do it!” I nudge you to let them try.  It is indeed messy, there is of course some risk, you may need to come back later and do it over.  But really, the rewards are huge.

I am still working to “de-mechanize” our day so that my daughter, whom I keep close to my side lest she finds her very capable hands pulling her brother’s hair or knocking over his carefully constructed ‘hayride’, is included in my housework.  Then my son who is only sometimes interested in working can play nearby and join in when he is inclined- apparently they have an agreement that he has claim over the salad spinner when the time comes to use it. And so it goes that sibling conflict is greatly reduced when we are busily working.  Self-esteem and positive exchange between all family members swells.

I recently bought some special wool felt to make a banner for the children’s play space- an attempt to add crafty to my day.  I put this little project in a basket in the living room so that I could attend to it when there was a free moment- idealistic I know.  When my daughter happened upon the basket of carefully folded rainbow felt she exclaimed, “my laundry!” as if it had been missing for years.

Yes, love, that is exactly what it is.

She has since added some kitchen towels, a couple of matchbox cars…a wooden chicken.  I often find her in the window folding her laundry and singing a little song. “Just a moment,” nodding over in my direction, “I am almost done folding the laundry”.

And so it is that imagination trips on the heels of imitation.

The forum ended a few months back and I missed the chance to heart-fully thank the women for all they had given me, to my children…to our family.  When Carrie asked me to write something up about work and toddlers I thought- what could I, fledgling mama, share with you?  And then I heard that siren song and I remembered the mantra, the trick that helps me shepherd two  often cranky toddlers through the day… and helps them back into their much more important work of play.  Thank you Carrie.  And thank you mamas.

Here are some ideas for including toddlers in your work…and play.  I would  sure love to hear what you are all up to!

  • Load/unload the dishwasher with supervision
  • Wash silverware ( in a little basin)
  • Learn to use a sharp knife; grating
  • Practice pouring into a glass
  • Stir, pour, play with flour/dough, etc.
  • Make coffee for daddy- press button on grinder
  • Spread butter on toast
  • Pick the leaves of kale, tear lettuce, spin in dryer
  • Shell peas
  • Scramble eggs
  • Unload groceries
  • Spray and wipe windows and bathroom walls
  • Wash tub with sponge and baking soda
  • Polish wooden toys/furniture
  • Hand me items from the laundry basket as I fold and then help carry to each room/drawer OR I have a basket ready in each room and I hand the kids an article each from the clean laundry and they deliver it to the appropriate room.
  • Sweep
  • Help take out garbage cans/bring back in
  • Get napkins and silverware for table
  • Water plants outside
  • Dig hole for new plants
  • Practice training dog with treats
  • Learning to iron
  • Polishing silver
  • Help make bed

Some additional resources have supported me:

Allison Carrol, Director

http://www.sfwaldorf.org/programs/earlychildhoodprogram.asp

And this verse by Steiner:

Into my will,

let there pour strength.

Into my feeling,

let there flow warmth.

Into my thinking,

Let there shine light.

That I might nurture this child

with enlightened purpose,

caring with heart’s love

and bringing wisdom

into all things.

With love,

Liza, mama to Hannah Simone and Elijah Moon

Thank you Liza, for sharing your experience…

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

Postpartum Depression

So many mothers  I have met have suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of at least one of their children.  Some mothers I have met have also suffered from depression during a pregnancy, which is much less talked about than postpartum depression.  This is a huge topic, and one that a blog post really can’t even do justice to, but my goal is to provide some places on the Web and links to  groups that make the support of mothers who are battling depression their main focus.

According to “Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple:  A Guide For Helping Mothers” by Nancy Mohrbacher, “More than half of new mothers have occasional bouts of crying, irritability, and fatigue sometimes referred to as “the baby blues.”  Postpartum depression refers to more consistent and severe symptoms and is also relatively common, with some estimating the incidence within the first year of new motherhood to be 12% to 25% overall and 35% or more among high-risk mothers.”

On a purely physical level, some research states the release of proinflammatory cytokines by the immune system have been found  to be a cause for postpartum depression, but there also appear to be  risk factors that can  predispose mothers toward this inflammation.  Continue reading