Category Archives: Attachment Parenting

Taking Back Their Right to Talk Back

This morning I was in a rush,  not all morning, it just sort of crept up on me and before I knew it, there was little time left in the morning.  I’d had my shower, I had to braid my daughter’s glorious head of hair, and we had to get out the door.  My mind was dwelling on other things… I was not present… I was mentally worrying my “TO DO LIST”

Exam… tax return due… groceries needing to be done… sheets on bed needing to be changed… load of washing to hang out… a few bills to pay… pay for my yoga lessons… and don’t forget Master 7′s school assembly…

I was certainly not present, too busy mired in the future to recognise the gifts of the present.

My daughter sat in front of me, we were already late.  She had selected her hair ties and I was braiding her hair.  I asked Master 7 to go and get Miss 5′s school bag, because we really needed to be motor.  He did.  He plonked it down in front of her and declared that her bag was overly heavy.

I cracked.

The morning before Miss 5 had had a major problem finding some “news” to take to school.  She wanted to take toys, toys is not really the done thing, and she and I had had to compromise over the “news” item.  I berated her because I was tired of having to come up with last minute news items five minutes before walking out the door, and this seemed to me to be a normal occurrence putting a fly in the morning ointment.  I had spoken with her about being more organised and muttered inwardly about priorities etc.  I was not being a very mindful Mummy at all.

Then yesterday… as we were leaving school, I noticed that Miss 5′s bag was inordinately heavy.  I commented on it, and she promised to empty it when we got home.

So when I saw the heavy bag plonked in front of me, I didn’t see a bag.

I didn’t see a moment of forgetfulness.

I didn’t see my beautiful daughter.

I morphed into an angry bull with a red flag waving obnoxiously in front of me, I dug in my heels, I roared and I CHARGED!!!

“If you weren’t so lazy last night then you would have emptied your bag and it wouldn’t be so heavy right now”.

Yeah, I said that.

Miss 5 promptly burst into tears.

“Mummy, we don’t say those sort of words” she sobbed.  ”Mummy, I am not lazy, that was not nice”

Master 7 stood.  He looked at me right in the eyes, and he said.
“Mummy, that was really mean what you just said”  he paused.  He looked right into me again, and then he dealt me the kicker.  ”Mummy, that does not fit with the values in our house, we don’t say things like that in this family”.

Cut. Down. To. Size.

By my SEVEN year old.

Did I get angry that he had talked back to me?  That they had BOTH talked back to me.

No.  NOT. FOR. ONE. SECOND.

I felt like laughing, I felt like cheering, I felt like I had run a marathon and I was passing the finishing line, my kids had talked BACK TO ME.  YUSSSSSSS!!!!!  Why did I feel so fantastic, why did my heart then swell with love.  Why did I then pull my daughter in and apologise to her profusely, and hug her tightly?

Because of this.

My children do not fear me.  They know what is right and what is wrong, and they have NO FEAR in telling me when I get it wrong.  They know our family values so clearly, so profoundly that they can talk back to me when I get it wrong.

In that moment, my love for them was so fierce that I could have cried, and for the rest of this day you have not been able to wipe the grin off my face.  My kids GET IT.  They get that labelling people is not ok, and they know that I love them so unconditionally that when I label them, they are not afraid to call me on it.

Let your kids talk back.  They need to know how to.  If they can’t talk back to you, then how on EARTH will they be able to talk back to the kid who is telling them to do something that they know they shouldn’t.  Let them talk back to you, let them tell you all about it, let them know you love them so much that they need not fear your response.

Happy-Hugging-Helpful-House-217x300

Warning, Earthquake, Meltdown Threatening, Tsunami Approaching

Nuclear-MeltdownThis morning was going swimmingly.  My son and I had negotiated quite carefully on the state of the playroom, it was, I have to say, a mess.  We had agreed the night before that he would do his best to tidy it after breakfast the following morning, but before school.  He had also agreed to tackle the toppling tower of books at the end of his bed.  We had jokingly re-negotiated it in the morning with him eating his breakfast at a slower pace than normal, and me commenting on whether this was because he didn’t want to today up.  He grinned, we laughed, and he finished his breakfast and went to tidy up.

My daughter however was having a grumpy morning.  She certainly fit the old saying “got out of bed on the wrong side”.  She lay on the floor after our morning hug and tried to give the cat a very (from the cat’s point of view) unwelcome hug.  I gently explained that the cat didn’t like it, but did she need another hug from me.  She did.  She melted in and told me that she had had nightmares again that night.  Oddly nightmares about falling out of a badly constructed tree house with one of her friends from school.  Odd, well, odd just because it was!  Anyway, we talked, and she went and had her breakfast.  She wanted to take the family kite to school.  I was not sure about this, and suggested a compromise, I explained I would talk to her teacher about a good day to do this, because it’s a big kite and needs adult supervision.  She was very upset about this, but we talked, and agreed that she could take a small Sylvanian Families character to school instead.

Both children then decided to strip their beds for washing day.  I was busy in the kitchen and then I heard the thud of two sets of feet pounding down the stairs and the wailing that can only come from children who are hurt, both physically and emotionally.  This was the EARTHQUAKE.   I knew that something had happened to my babies, between them, and both of them were shaken to their core, and that they were reacting.  Uh oh… impending meltdown.  I had about three seconds warning to don my radioactive protection suit and guard myself against fall out.  What I would do in the next few minutes would determine how much fall out there was going to be and whether I could throw enough cooling water on their reactors.   I had no idea what the earthquake looked like, but those feet pounding and the
crying warned me that the earthquake wasn’t the worst that could happen… a tsunami of emotion was headed my way and that I needed to surf the wave with my children or risk being swept away by it. the fallout from a combined tsunami and earthquake could be massive.

EarthquakeMy son is not easy with emotions, and he has rage issues, what’s more is he has problems expressing emotions to me.  I know deep down in my heart this is because I left him to cry it out as a baby, I did not respond to him, so at a deep level he doubts my ability to listen now.  So, I pulled him onto my lap, he was stiff, but he let me.  His body was shaking with anger and tears were pouring down his face.  The tsunami was on the horizon.

I knew I didn’t need to hold my daughter, she trusts me that much more.  I put my hand on her as she wailed and she stood next to both of us.  They both tried to tell me ALL about what had happened.  The waves were frothing now, thick and furious, the foam was spraying everywhere and I could feel the water starting to pull me under.   I needed to surface, I needed to show my babies that this wave CAN be surfed, that we don’t need to be swallowed by the wave, the fallout doesn’t need to damage us anymore than necessary.

Cultural TsunamiMy children started shouting at each other, even though I was holding them, they weren’t surfing yet, they were struggling to breathe.  I could see it in their purple faces, the tears falling down their faces, the clenched fists and the tone.  I could feel my sons body rigid and shaking, he was full of anger.  He was going to drown if I didn’t move fast.  I started stroking his back, gentle, but firm pressure.  I whispered in his ear, “I *will* listen to you, do you trust me?”  – it wasn’t enough, he was still drowning, his fingers were slipping through mine, he kept shouting.  I turned to my daughter, hand on her upper harm, looking at her, I soothed her with my eyes, she was still wailing, but not shouting.

I turned back to my son, and repeated  ”I *will* listen to you, do you trust me?” he nodded, ever so slightly in between the sobs.  I continued.  ”Let me listen to your sister first and then you can say your piece”.  She started to speak, I had her, she was surfing with me now, she was wobbly, but she had it.  But once again my son’s fingers slipped through mine and he was still gasping for air.  He started shouting over the top of her and she went into meltdown again.  Then I made one last super human effort to haul them both out of the wave.  ”Enough” I said in a firm voice.  ”I will listen to both of you, one at a time, then we can go from there”.  I had them.  They were still wobbly, but at least now we were surfing.

Between the tears, the splashes, the story came out.  Both of them, one after the other.  As each story was relayed, I repeated it back to them, word for word, and asked them if I had got that right, each time they either nodded or gently corrected me (I will post more on this technique soon).  I passed no judgements.  That’s not my job.   I had not seen what had happened, and *even* if I had, who am I to pass judgement on their emotions and feelings and the way they saw the events.  Their story was truth, for them, in that moment, even if it sounded different to their siblings, what mattered is that they were listened to.  And what mattered, was that no matter how hard it was, their sibling heard that sometimes the same event can be seen differently through different eyes.

The wave was under our feet now, we could see above it, but we were letting it guide us.  They were reacting less, their core temperature was coming down.  I had saved them from the storm.  We had learnt to surf together and we were cresting now.  So I said, can we agree on two things?  You both got hurt, and you both wanted the book?  They agreed.  Then they paused.  My son desperately wanted to change part of his story.  I let him, I listened again.  He told his story.  At the end, my daughter agreed, even though this painted her in a poor light, she agreed, he was right about a key part of the dispute.  She said she shouldn’t have done that, and she said she would do it differently if it happened again.  Wooohooo!!  Now we really were surfing!  I asked them what they thought they could do now.  My daughter said “I’m sorry”.  Then slowly, and very quietly, my son said “I’m sorry too”.

I hugged them both, together, and held them tight.  We were ok, we had learnt to surf this wave, we had survived the earthquake, settled the reacting core, and negotiated the tsunami.  It doesn’t mean we will surf every wave, it doesn’t mean that meltdowns won’t happen, but we caught this one, and we rode it.  It guided us to a place we might not have been able to come to before, and the more we learn to surf the tsunami after the earthquake, the better skilled we are when the next one threatens.

 

Lastworditis or: The Need to Be Heard

This blog post is about the need to be heard.  It’s about people who cannot walk away from an issue, who have to have the last word, and how when I really thought about this “need”  it was then that I wondered whether “Lastworditis” is really about people who are suffering from a chronic need to be HEARD.

The-Last-Word

I can deeply relate to this, because I don’t think I was very “heard” as a child.  My emotions were repressed and my needs were certainly not listened to.  I don’t mean that my parents were abusive, and I love them dearly, and I do not judge them with the knowledge of today, rather I view them through the lens of context and realize that within their time and circumstances they did not know any better.   My not being listened to manifested in an extreme need to be heard.  I’m convinced that it did.  I am sure it shaped my teenage years where I railed against my parents in a desperate attempt to be heard, to be validated to have my emotions listened to.  It got so bad that I attempted suicide.  I despaired in my hospital bed when my parents had an argument over my bed about which of them was responsible for my state.  Before then I didn’t think things could get lower, but they had, they could not stop and listen to me even when I had screamed for help, I had screamed out for a listening ear.  I remember thinking, and to be fair it was a turning point, well, there’s no point in getting them to listen to me, clearly nothing is going to work.  I had no idea what the solution was, and it didn’t stop me yearning for them to listen to me, but it did push me full throttle towards a budding political activism.

Trouble was, I had not learnt when to shut up, because I hadn’t learnt what it meant and how it felt and what it looked like when someone listened to me.  So, I pushed forward, full throttle and spent about the next fifteen years offending people and hammering my point home, hard.  I had no idea when to stop, because to be fair there are few people around who actually know how to listen and I can be like a steamroller, so it would have taken an extraordinarily patient person to listen to a raging and painful storm.

When I had my son, my desperate need to be heard, and my inability to listen totally informed my parenting.  If you look at my post here, then you will see that I had no idea how to listen to my son and I was quite keen that he heard my plans by trying to put him on schedule.  I couldn’t listen to his cries, I had never been taught how to listen, it had never been role modeled to me.  However over time, my dear wee son, my baby, gradually taught me how to listen, and then his sister joined him and both of them started to teach me how to listen and when to STOP talking and start LISTENING.  Something my grown parents were unable to teach me.

Now, I have no scientific evidence, I have no research to lean on here, but I would bet that the need to be the last one in an argument, the need to have that final word has more to do with the need to be listened to, the need for your emotions to be validated rather than the need to be right.  I’m in a big hurry to learn all about listening now, and to deeply listen and pause when my kids talk to me, or when I hear something that challenges me.  I try to remind my children about this by saying, I can see that you heard me, but I don’t think you have listened to me.  I can already see it as one of those “Mumisms” that they attribute to me.

Have I been listened to, have I been heard?  I’ll tell you what, it’s like dipping into a pure clean pool of water when someone truly listens to you, and the more I listen to other people, the more they listen to me, I get what I give, and when I started to listen to my children, rather than merely hear them, I started to realize that I didn’t have to have the last word, my listening was enough for both of us.

Does this mean that I still need to have the last word in a debate, no, do I still feel the urge, absolutely.  But, it’s getting easier and easier to resist, because I recognise that it’s more important to be listened to, and sometimes the other person also suffers from “lastworditis” it’s just they haven’t seen it yet.

So do I have a last word?  Yes, I do  – listen to your children, so they don’t have to learn the hard way.

Time to rethink family rules

Do you have rules in your family?

Do they sound a little like this?

Don’t hit

Don’t jump on the bed

Don’t do this…

Don’t do that…

In my family we’ve gone through different incarnations of family rules.  We started out with a set that looked a little like the ones above.  It was, no hurting people or animals, using polite words… there were a couple of other things, and then the last one was to have fun.  We wrote them on a list and put them on the fridge.  Even though our eldest, at that stage, was pre reading age, he knew those rules off the top of his head and was able to point to the fridge in reference of the rules.

Did those rules help family life?  Not really, not one iota.  They were just something to pull out like a stick to say, “you haven’t been following the rules”.   Are the rules effective?  Do they advise you what to do?  When we say don’t hit, don’t hurt, what do we end up thinking about, hitting and hurting obviously.  It’s like saying, don’t think about the elephant in the corner of the room.  It’s impossible to not think of it, it’s there!!
Elephant in the room

When we take something away, when we say that you “can’t” do something, we don’t put something in place to say this is what you CAN do.  Children find it far easier to accept something when we tell them what they can do, in fact adults do too.  So there’s no point in saying, you can’t hit, it leaves a vacuum.  Ok, so I can’t hit, what do I do instead?  You’ve taken away what I thought was my response to a situation, but help, what can I do instead!

This is the problem with rules.  They’re inflexible, they tell us what we can’t do, and they don’t help to create a climate of trust.  They can’t be used for all situations.  And if we have a list of rules for a toddler, pre-reading child, they are very hard for them to get to grips with.  In short, they’re a bit limiting :)

What can we do instead?

In the last two years my family has adopted something a little different.  It was inspired in part by seeing these pics come up frequently on Facebook posts:

Family Rules

Family Rules

I love both of these images.  In fact, I have the second one as a decal,  which I haven’t put up yet.  But, I noticed there were still a few problems with these.  Chiefly being that they were quite wordy and hard for little kids to remember.

So that’s when I hit on something else, something far simpler, something that would last forever, and that my kids could easily remember.

We are… the:

HAPPY

HUGGING

HELPING

HOUSE.

That was it.  Simple right.  There was not much I couldn’t fit into that.  Hitting someone, well, that’s not gentle touch (hugging) and it certainly wouldn’t help someone to be happy would it, not to mention not helping the situation.  However there were a couple of things that I had failed to add to it.  My son, being the wordsmith that he is added two more words to it.

HEARING

HEALTHY.

There.  It was perfect.  We don’t jump up and down on the bed, (most of the time) because it’s not healthy to do so (dirty feet on the covers and you run the danger of hurting yourself).  We try to really *hear* people when they speak to us.  Not just their words, but we really try to hear what they are saying too.

In fact in the two years we’ve been using these words, I haven’t come up with a situation that I can’t use them in.  Quite simply they cover everything.

And recently, that’s when it hit me.  They aren’t rules at all.  These are family values.  Values that can be as old as time.  These are the things that we VALUE in our house.  These are the things we WANT in our house.  We don’t want to harp on about the things we don’t want – that’s what rules do.  We want to celebrate the VALUES of our house.

What do you think are the values in your house?  Do you think you are celebrating them?
5 Hs Happy Hugging Helpful Hearing Healthy House

 

Dear Husband

I wrote this for my husband last year, for Father’s Day, and it remains as true today as it was then…

I never knew how much I loved your father Until I saw how much he loved you

What does being a Dad mean, in an attachment parenting way?  What can it mean on Father’s Day?  How do we begin to articulate it?  This is an attempt, a washed out attempt at a world of colour which words can but dream to paint.

To my darling husband,

It’s Father’s Day.  And what do I have to give you?  What do I have to celebrate these two lives and loves which we share?  I give you all my heart, I give you all my love, because when I look into the eyes of my children I see the house of our love, I see what it built.

Without your arms around me, without your strength to guide me, without your heart to hold me close, then I doubt that I could have quite made it these last six years.  Your patience beyond mine, your calm way when I have quite clearly gone beyond my capacity for reason, and above all your bottomless well of love for us has provided more than I ever wondered.

So what would I ask of the father of my children?  What could I have possibly asked of you to give them before I knew what you could give?

I would have asked you to be our rock.  And you are.

I would have asked for you to be our shelter.  And you are.

I would have asked for you to be my partner.  And you are.

I would have asked for you to be our playmate.  And you are.

I would have asked for you to remove quitting from your vocabulary.  And you have.

I would have asked for you to share my vision.  And you have.

I would have asked for you to be the best person that you can be and keep growing with us.  And you have.

I would have asked for you to help build a foundation, build a heart in which we can grow a family.  And you have.

I would have asked you to do all this, without asking you at all to do it.
And you have.

 

What *IS* Attachment Parenting?

I’ve seen a lot of confusion out there about what Attachment actually *is* recently. So much so that I feel that this post is in order. What do we mean when we refer to “Attachment”… what do we mean when we say “Attachment Parenting” and when we say that we are an “Attachment Parent” what are we seeking to assert, what sort of goal do we have in mind?

What is Attachment Parenting

Attachment. If you don’t know about the history of the term attachment and how it came to be specifically applied to relationships then I suggest you read up on it here. Yes, it started out as a theory, first espoused by John Bowlby, that focussed on the relationship between parent and child, note I said parent. From the link I have referenced it states that:

“Its most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.”

As Bowlby researched more and other researchers joined him from many different fields more things became apparent. It was discovered that attachment types in childhood grew up to repeat these attachment models in their adult relationships. Not just with their partners, but with their children, their colleagues, friends, almost with everyone they meet. Your attachment type will dictate how you see relationships, it’s a schema, a road map that you then use for ALL human relationships. We learn this schema when we are little, and so it IS crucially important to your child’s attachment schema that you try to develop a secure one for them. BUT your schema can get in the way of this, just as your schemas can get in the way of all of your relationships. Think of the woman who cannot leave an abusive man, think of the man who is dominated by his wife, think of all the relationships you have. They will all be informed by your attachment schema.

The wiki link goes on to say that:

“The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a “mothering” way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches. Nothing in the theory suggests that fathers are not equally likely to become principal attachment figures if they provide most of the child care and related social interaction.“

I’d like to draw your attention to the phrase “responding readily to signals and approaches.” This involves a certain respect for the child. A respect that involves thinking that the child’s signals and approaches are to be respected enough TO respond to them readily. This sort of relationship is one founded on a deep respect for needs. One that provides a pattern for future relationships. If you weren’t respected enough as a child then chances are your attachment schema was damaged, and your parenting work will bring up past hurts for you, whether you are aware of them or not.

So. Attachment is a schema formed in infancy/childhood that can form a road map to all future relationships. Attachment Parenting then must surely be a response to a child’s needs in a deeply respectful manner.

That’s it.

Attachment Parenting therefore is NOT:

• Co-sleeping/Bed sharing
• Baby Led Weaning
• Baby wearing
• Baby sign language
• Home Schooling
• Eating healthily
• Being anti medication/vaccinating
• Natural Childbirth or home birthing
• Lotus Birthing or Placenta consumption

It is not even BREASTFEEDING

I can anticipate that some of you might be shocked by this. Let me elaborate. Attachment parenting is ENHANCED by certain practices. But is not EXCLUSIVE to certain practices. It is founded on a DEEP respect for the relationship. I can have an attachment relationship with my husband, and trust me, it doesn’t involve him consuming my breast milk from my breast. Attachment relationships, including parenting are enchanted by certain techniques, practices, and behaviors. Back to the breastfeeding example. Fathers can and do form attachment relationships with their children without breastfeeding, some do so in the absence of the mother who may be deceased, but this does not mean that those children will not be parenting in an Attachment Parenting manner. Some mothers genuinely cannot breastfeed, this does not exclude them from Attachment Parenting. The only thing that truly excludes you from attachment parenting is when you fail to respond to your children’s needs in a respectful manner. In fact this would be the thing that would exclude you from ANY relationship, when you fail to take the other’s needs into consideration.

All the things I listed above, yes, they are useful, and they have come about because they serve a purpose and they enhance our attachment parenting, but we can still AP without them. The road we tread might be harder, but it does not mean that it is impossible.

Remember attachment parenting is not the latest baby carrier. It is not the latest crunchy fad, it is about the relationship. It is about attachment writ large, it is about hoping that the dyad you are building between you and your child reaches past your own childhood, past your family, past your house and into the broader community and starts to effect change, big change. It is about love. Everything else is technique.

Attachment Parenting

Stopping the Cycle of Smacking

I’m privileged to introduce you to a follow up post to a guest post from Mama O Naturale I had a few weeks ago:

Some time ago I wrote a blog entry about turning the tides. Of becoming a different parent to my own. Of stopping the cycle of physical discipline: smacking.

Hand smacking

The last 6 months have been a bumpy and unnerving journey. The last year in fact has been a tumultuous time for me.

A year ago I lost my brother suddenly in a vicious road accident, a month later I gave birth to my daughter, 5 months later I became a single mother and 6 months after that we’ve come full circle, just celebrating (if you can call it that) the one year anniversary of my brother death and we are but weeks away from my daughters first birthday. Though my intention not to smack was heartfelt and honest, I cannot say I was as successful as I might have liked to have been. The last 6 months of adjusting to life as a single mother have been difficult to say the least. There is no relief team who charge in the door at 6pm every evening to relieve you of your quarry, but instead you’re alone to deal with the witching hour and the ever increasing tension of the evening meal. There’s a toddler hanging off your leg, an infant screaming at your feet, pots boiling over, smoking frying pans and on the odd occasion, a fire in the kitchen. (Honestly, I’ve never set fire to anything I was cooking in my life. In the last 6 months I’ve had 2 oven fires and a frying pan/oil fire. Sheesh!!!) Not to mention the terrific twos of a certain little boy who has the will power of a buffalo in a stampede. There is much to contend with, and only one, often frazzled, person to deal with it all.

Needless to say, one gets tired, one’s fuse shortens and on the odd occasion one snaps. By my count, I recall 20 or so times that I have smacked in the last 6 months. I remember them all because they’re gut wrenching reminders that, in that moment in time, I failed. But, there has been progress. And in reminding myself of this, the guilt and shame dissipate.

Any blind man can see how hard it is to be a single parent, and considering all of the circumstances, I’ve done an alright job. In fact, I’ve done more than alright. I have a 2.5 year old little boy who is fun, loving and overflowing with empathy and a 1 year old little girl who seemingly has bottomless stores of patience and a sense of humour to boot. I’ll stand up now and blow my own trumpet because there really aren’t too many people out there who are going to blow it for me.

And out of the shadows, there is a glimmer of success. And as time passes that glimmer turns into a beaming light.

One month. ONE MONTH. Do you hear me?!!! I have gone one whole month without smacking. One month might not seem such a great thing to most people, but given the fact that it takes 3 weeks to form new habits, I think it’s fair to say I’m well on my way to a better life with my kids.

There was no magic recipe to concoct this success. No epiphany or turning point. It’s been months of determination. Of falling down and getting up again. Of refusing to give up and pushing on admitting my failings, and trying again.

That’s not to say I’m a perfect parent. I still yell sometimes and I’m not always as attentive as I probably should be; it’s hard to get time to myself these days and sometimes I just bury myself in Facebook for a moments peace. But I’m getting there and compared to how things were 6 months ago, I’m levels above where I was.

If you, like me, were a smacker, know that you can change. You can stop making excuses for your behaviour and defending it with immoral reasoning. It’s a head down, bum up (pun intended) task. An achievable task. I am walking proof of that.

May you create love filled memories in each and every day.

parent holding hands with child

Look before you Leap (or Misplaced Parenting Assumptions)

It was Wednesday morning, and both my children needed to be somewhere (school and Montessori) and I had things to do, so I was busy.  I went into the bathroom to get something and that’s when I saw it.  A fat bunch of my daughter’s hair on the floor in the bathroom.

I sighed internally, she has been cutting her hair.  Ok, well it’s not like I am opposed to her having short hair, she can, if that’s what she wants, but I’d rather get it done properly than a Carys special.  I mean very few people can cut their own hair properly, let alone a four and a half year old.    So, I had to talk to her about this.  I picked up the bunch of hair and walked to where both of them were playing.

“Carys, what’s this?” I asked.  She didn’t reply.  I pressed on.  “Carys, have you been cutting your hair?” She looked sheepish, but didn’t reply, so I pressed even further.  “Did you cut your hair?”.  She mumbled “No.”  All through this my tone was even, I wasn’t shouting, yelling, no raised voice, and it was a calm tone.

Now I have a thing about lying, and I thought she probably was at this point, she has lied before, but she always ends up telling the truth because we are gentle with her.  “Carys,” I asked gently, “are you lying to Mummy.”

“NO!!!” she said firmly, “I am not!”

She promptly got down from the bed where she had been sitting and marched into my bedroom with me following her.  Once there she proclaimed, “Your booby thing got caught in my hair and it pulled my hair out.”

Ok… big step backwards!!  I had made a BAD assumption about her cutting her hair.  Mental note, remember (and I know this AND forget to do it), to not make assumptions about behaviour when questioning, instead I should have asked “Carys, can you tell me about this hair, I need to understand why a bunch of your hair is on the floor”.  So, feeling a little chastened about that, I then felt a mounting sense of, oh help, a new parenting problem…

So I asked, “Do you mean Mummy’s bra?”

“Yes” she responded.  “Your blue one.”

Fabulous, so now she’s going through the dirty laundry hamper and playing dress up with my bras.  At the age of four and a half.  Wow, I had hoped to deal with this one when she was older.

“Were you trying to put it on and wear it?” I asked, asking really gently and in a very curious voice, I didn’t want her to feel that this was not ok (even though for me it probably was not ok!).

“NO!!!” she said loudly and firmly.  Now I’m bewildered.  And to boot I had forgotten the lesson I had learned with my first wrong assumption, I had once again, in the space of not even two minutes made another false assumption about behaviour by loading the question.

“Ok” I said, thoroughly confused, because what else could she be doing with my bra?  “What were you doing?”

“I was snuggling into it on the floor, because it’s Mummy’s.”

There.  Wham.  Got me.  RIGHT. IN. THE. HEART.

Person leaping off cliff into ocean

“Hi, my name is Mama O Naturale, and I am a smacker”.

Guest Post by Mama O Naturale:

“Hi, my name is Mama O Naturale, and I am a smacker”.

New Years Eve 2011, I made the decision to put a stop to this traditional form of punishment after reading the following quote:

“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
~Haim G. Ginott

The reality of what I had been doing finally settled in when I read those few words. What they say to me is this; I was excusing my aggressive, hostile, assaults on my child by labeling it as discipline.

I see now that smacking is wrong and for a while after I figured it out, I felt pretty guilty about it all too. But, I am reminded daily, that I cannot change the past, I can only work to a better future.

More than six months down the track, I have improved myself though I am unable to say I am flawless.

So why was I so keen to whop my child at the first sign of disobedience? And worse still, why was I so willing to excuse it?

Without wanting to make excuses for myself or my behaviours, I think it’s important to talk about the impact of role modeling.

On the exit road out of Post Natal Depression I enlisted the services of a local counsellor to aide me in learning new skills to manage my own behaviour and emotions. To start with she created a genogram for me so I could see quite clearly where my behaviours had come from and why.

What a child sees, hears and experiences throughout their childhood is what they grow to know and learn to be the way things should be. Developmentalists call this a “working model”. Essentially, if a child grows up in a family where smacking is the norm, then inevitably smacking will become the norm for them when they become parents. It’s a “monkey see, monkey do” scenario. Parents play a major role in how their children turn out.

Needless to say, I was smacked as a child, often. And many times for no real reason (and by real I mean an offence that might actually warrant a smack). I was raised by a father who was raised by his grandparents in post war England and by a mother who suffered from such deep and wounding depressive and anxiety driven episodes that she was more like a meek 5 year old than the grown woman and mother that she was supposed to be. The way I was raised was based off of, not a 30 year old theory like most people, but off of a 50-60 year old theory. I was raised in a home where “children should be seen and not heard”; where your parents quite openly tell you that they “don’t like you, but we’ll always love you”; a home where he who had the loudest voice ruled; a home where words seemed so insufficient that a flick of the hand across bare legs or buttocks was the only answer. Most shockingly, this was always done in anger, usually multiple times, leaving welts and bruises across my bare skin.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents dearly. They, like any other parent, did the best they could with what they had. And what they had was crap role models combined with a society that believed that any deviation from the social norm was a crime punishable by exile and isolation. Fit in or get out.

So, the vicious cycle had continued for (at the very least) a third generation. And here I found myself lashing out in anger over disobedience with a swift hand across the nearest body part of my poor, unsuspecting son.

I cringe now to think what I did. The look of sheer terror on his face as he saw me wielding myself towards him with fury plastered all over my face. I remember seeing him flinch on occasions where I simply intended to reach past him for something near him. Those moments hurt me the most and I find myself wondering how it is that I have managed to still have a child so filled with love and affection. But it is best not to think on that and instead fill my heart with love and gratitude that I now have a chance to rectify this.

The research into the physical, cognitive and emotional damage caused by smacking is wide and varied. However, it wasn’t research that initiated my decision to put a stop to this prehistoric family tradition. Instead, for me, it was the memories from my own childhood.

I remember quite vividly, the feelings and emotions that charged through me as a youngster before, during and after a smacking. As a small child, I remember the fear and confusion. As I got older I remember quite clearly the anger and hatred that I felt towards my parents for the unnecessary infliction of pain and shame they cast upon me.

What made me decide that smacking had to stop for me was knowledge that I NEVER EVER wanted my child to feel those feelings towards me. EVER! I invite any parent who thinks smacking is ok to cast their mind back to their own experiences and perhaps consider rethinking their stance. And I mean REALLY look back. Don’t overshadow or down-play your actual experiences with your “I was smacked and I turned out fine” excuses. Really think back, and you will remember the truth of it.

Aside from my own experiences and opinions, The Natural Child Project  gives 10 good reasons not to hit/smack your child here.

After 25 years of thinking things should be done a certain way, and 2 years of actually carrying out those beliefs, I have found it a challenging journey to change the tides. I have had to learn new skills in self-control and arm myself with new tools and alternatives to what I had been doing.

Resources are not scarce; they are however, in my own experience, often rather vague to say the least. I guess because most of these articles are written by fellow natural parents, there is the collective idea that we shouldn’t be telling others how to parent their child. I found many articles to be wishy washy opinions when all I want is direction. That’s right. Iwant someone to tell me how to do this because God knows I have no idea.

So, out of the many articles I have read I have found this article and this article to be the most useful.

I concede, is and shall continue to be a long and bumpy ride, but hey, parenting was never meant to be easy, right?

May you create love filled memories in each and every day.

Who is Mama O Naturale?

“Mama O Naturale” is a handle I have chosen that resounds my own beliefs about a natural, holistic and gentle way of life. I choose to stay anonymous for the sake of myself, my children and my family because I accept that much of what I want to share is not “okay” with a lot of people but I still feel it is deeply important to share.

I am mother of two and I am currently studying towards a Diploma in Human Development with a vision to move forward into working with families to raise their children using gentle methods.

I was raised in an authoritarian household and after having my first child I decided that it was not a scene I wanted to repeat for my own children. And so began the long, and often bumpy, ride towards a gentler way of life.

When my son was 8 weeks old I stumbled across a local woman who was running mother/baby classes, teaching the philosophy of the late Dr Emmi Pikler. Through this valuable asset I have been able to take the journey towards gentle parenting with close support.

I am now into my third year of following the Pikler philosophy, and I have begun to adapt it to fit my own style, mixing it with a lot more attachment style parenting. I have also been lucky enough to complete the Circle of Security parenting training.

My hope is that, in sharing my own journey with you, you will see the lack of perfection, the reality and the lessons that we can all learn from each other if we would only stop judging for long enough to really take note.

My Journey, Thus Far

Mother hugging daughter

So many AP things that I read start out by saying that they “knew” that they wouldn’t do things in a certain way, they knew that their baby would sleep with them, they knew they would breastfeed past the societal norm and they knew much much more about what they would do and what they couldn’t do. That’s one story.

Another story is that they had no idea about these things, yet when their baby was born they discovered an amazing bond with their baby, they looked deep into their babies eyes and saw the attachment parenting world writ large in that dewy look. In that moment they swiftly tossed the metaphorical (or in some cases literal, Gina Ford etc) rule book in the rubbish. These women, these parents were so overcome with the maternal bond, the love that washed over them in that instant, that AP just happened, even if they didn’t know what it was. Many write that it came naturally and it was only later, when coming upon the term AP by happenstance that they discovered that what they were doing was not only done by other parents that there is a whole movement out there and screeds of scientific literature backing up what they were doing instinctively.

Neither of those stories are mine. I have another story, and I am here today to tell you that the two first stories, whilst true for many parents are not true for all. In fact if we keep those stories as our “collective” attachment parenting truth then we risk alienating a lot of different people. A lot of people who need us, a lot of children who need us. By clinging to these stories of “instant bonds” and a maternal gut, we negate the very real experience of other parents, other women who could come to us via a very different path. We need to open the world of attachment parenting to all parents, and it is critically, vitally and I would say fundamentally important that we tell the other stories too. For it is only in telling those other stories that we start to dismantle the myth of the super woman, the super mother, that so derails some women.

So, here is my story, and this is where I will start.

I was a career woman, a fiercely proud and independent woman. One who told anyone who was prepared to listen that I would NEVER ever stay at home looking after children, that would bore me senseless and I would be climbing the walls in no time. I can still hear me saying this. I followed the love of my life to the UK and there we lived for three and a half years. I prostituted myself to a corporate retailer and just about broke my soul trying to be something and someone I was not. So, broken, and 4 and a half months pregnant, hubby and I returned home.

Home? To what? My friends were still in the UK, no-one would employ me at 4 and a half months pregnant, we didn’t have a lot of money, and I was returning to a culture that had always rejected me. You see “I don’t do sports”.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy making house, feeling terrifically lonely, and at one point cleaning the back door of our wee flat with bleach and a toothbrush. Yup, nesting hit me bad!! Dutifully I read up all the pregnancy books I could get my hands on, but nothing about parenting. I now know how common that is! Antenatal classes were great, my one night out in the week, and I could pretend I knew lots about pregnancy and childbirth because “I had read the books”. I can quite honestly say now that I knew *jack-all* then.

One could say I had a text book birth, however, my LMC GP (Lead Maternity Carer, who was a GP, General Practicioner) was not there, she was ill, I was fast, I had the Obstetrician who was on at the time, who declared that all first timers should be quick like me (I felt like a slab of meat being appraised). I ignored my gut which had told me to have a home birth, instead I had a hospital birth, which whilst “normal” was not what I had deeply needed. Everyone else around me said I was nuts, so I ignored my instinct. That experience was one of the worst in my life.

Treated like meat, and so broken, and with a child, a baby for whom I did not feel a single thing.

You have no idea how hard it is for me to write that.

I spun out of control head first into postnatal depression.

My poor son, my poor husband who worked tirelessly around the clock to provide for his new son and his broken wife who had no idea where she had “gone”. I remember him being so determined that I should not take anti-depressants and then one day he just broke down and said that he just wanted me “back,” so it was to the drugs I journeyed.

My poor son. His first year is not something I am proud of. He was sent out of our bedroom as soon as he got home from hospital because I could not stand the noise. We were so naive that we set our alarm clock to remind us about him needing to be fed four hourly. We only did that the first night, because he was very good at telling us himself when he needed to be fed. However we had been TOLD when he should be fed, so we were baffled as to why he needed feeding at other times.

I was advised by my GP that I should discontinue breastfeeding because that would make my depression easier. Good grief, that woman needs a lesson on breastfeeding and postnatal depression. Fortunately for me and my son I ignored that advice.

And so this continued. I read book after book. Yes, I am familiar with Gina Ford. I am also familiar with Baby Whisperers. You see, I’ve tried them. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on one. My poor son had reflux, he couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep. So this led me to the most awful thing that I could ever have done. At 9 months I lay weeping on the floor, devoid of sleep, devoid of sense with my son screaming for me in the next room, not sleeping. I phoned Plunketline desperate for anything, weeping down the phone and the woman at the end of the phone told me to get ‘The Sleep Book’ and follow what was written in that book.

I did.

The next night he cried for TWO HOURS before he gave up. I forget the next few nights, but I know he screamed and railed against this treatment for hours, and then every night till he was about 18 months old he would cry himself to sleep every night. Sometimes it was five minutes and sometimes it was twenty. But it was always ALONE.

And no my maternal instinct did NOT kick in. Well, it did, but the BOOK told me that that was just silly, that it would be hard, but that I should wear earplugs and try to ignore him. So I listened to the book and use earplugs.

So how did I end up here?

How did I end up in the world of AP? It started gradually, with being pregnant with my daughter and knowing that I was absolutely NOT going to hospital unless she or I were in mortal danger. So, I had a home birth and it was from then on in that things got better. I made little choices, nothing happened over night. I started to let my two beautiful children teach me about what I should know.

I started to look at them instead of the books and I found out that they knew a lot more than the books did. They knew what was in my soul, and they filled me with a love I had never known. I started to dedicate my spare time to helping other parents and inevitably I fell into AP by a slow shift. One could say I was like a frog being cooked. If someone had tried to throw me in straight away then I would have jumped out screaming “I am not a HIPPY!” However, now I’ve been boiling happily for a while now and couldn’t care less about being labelled a hippy.

Now, 6 years later, I can say I am an AP parent, just not one that you tend to read about. I didn’t bed share, I don’t now (I wish I had). I did breastfeed, but I stopped with my son at 13 months and my daughter at 20 months. I didn’t baby wear, I didn’t even know what it was, and I didn’t use cloth nappies.

BUT.

I am an AP Parent. And I got here by conscious choices, and now it defines my soul. I devote my studies to it, I teach it, I live it, I breathe it.

This was hard to write, it’s a tough story, it’s not one I am proud of, but I refuse to feel guilty about it or hide it away like some dirty little secret. This was my journey to AP. What was yours? I’d love to hear it, no matter what it is.

So, in the spirit of sharing all the unique stories, the unique journeys to attachment parenting, send me your story, I’d love to publish it on my blog, anonymously, or with your name – the choice is yours!  Just email me, eileen@livewithpurpose.co.nz and lets hear about those journeys.

Lots of Love,

E.

Popular Posts

There is no custom code to display.