Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More thoughts on Limits...

From my last post.

So I was thinking on it some more and this is some of the thing that came to mind...

I want my children to have a different childhood than I did. Growing up I felt constantly frustrated by my lack of control in my own life. Grownups told you what to think, what to say, what to do, and when to do it. And if you didn't do it all as they said, they told you that you were wrong. If you voiced frustration they shamed you. If you had an outburst or a tantrum (sometimes) they hit you.They made my voice, my desires feel bad.

Consequently I struggle with setting limits and boundaries with the people around me. I've gotten a lot more assertive over the last few years. But fresh out of high school (or even in high school for that matter)? I was a mess. People walked ALL over me, and I let them.  I felt shame for wanting to speak up and say "no"....I had been taught that saying "no" was WRONG. Even, un-Christ like.

I desperately want my children to know how to say "no". To have a good loud and healthy "NO". I want them to have choices, to feel power over their lives. I still struggle with the old tapes that say, "They can't talk to me like THAT! If I had done that as a child I would have gotten a serious spanking!"

And you know what? I don't tolerate rude or long drawn out "no's" (obviously from my older dd- who is starting to get a little sassy some times). I have her "try again" "You can say 'No', but you need to use a firm strong voice instead of a whiny one."
But my children are welcome to say no, they can protest. They can show their displeasure. They can tantrum. And some times (95% if the time) they still have to do it anyway. No matter how big their feelings on the matter, they still have to get in the bathtub and wash the sand off their body. Since we co-sleep sandy body = sandy sheets. No thank you! And there have been a few times I have had to wrestle them into their car seat, because we have to be some where (like to pick their Daddy up from work).

Some times their big feelings are because I've screwed up and haven't set them up for success.  I take it as a lesson, I need to plan better and advocate better.

But bottom line, I want my children to learn how to take "NO" in life too. Letting them always have the say, always have a choice, or setting MY needs aside for theirs ALL the time: will injure their understanding of limits. Maybe even more than mine were injured as a child. I want to raise adults who can "take no for an answer". Mature adults who cope with it in a healthy way, and move on. Because, I'm not just raising children, I'm raising future adults.

Now I don't expect them to be good at taking "No", especially as young as they are! I will be working with them on this for a very long time.  When they protest I teach them how to hear how they feel. I want them to recognize what their true feelings are so they can react appropriately. I teach this by reflecting it to them, "I know you're so ANGRY that you have to take this bath. I know you don't WANT a bath right now. It makes you really mad!!!!! We're going to do this really fast...Lets rinse off the sand so we don't shake it off in our bed. Do you want to sleep in the sand pit? You DO!? Where would you sleep, under the big rock with all the toy trucks? What if we made our bed a sand pit? Would sand feel good in our sheets? It WOULDN'T?! Would it be all scratchy? Yeah...Oh look you're CLEAN! All done!""

When they strike out in anger I teach them what they can do instead. "You're so angry because I said you couldn't play with my VERY SHARP scissors. YOU WANT THEM. But those are dangerous!  They could hurt you! Would you like your special blue scissors instead? What do you want to cut with them? Paper or foam?"""

If they are just too caught up in their tantrum I carry them to their room, let them have it out in their bed (and I stay with them or leave depending on what they seem to need). And when the tears of frustration have turned from rage to "I'm just doing this because I'm alone and I need to be talked down now" place I move in and comfort and help them move on.

Some times frustration is good. And having a safe place and a healthy outlet (knowing it's OKAY) is even better.

So in the end, in an effort to have my children have healthy boundaries for themselves, I don't want to neglect another very important part of their character, the ability to take other peoples "no".  Because that could be just as (if not more so) devastating as becoming a "door mat".

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Thoughts on Limits...

I read this blog post. And I needed to process it. I had commented and then deleted my comment because I wanted to think on it some more.

I can agree with a lot of what she says. Like this  (I feel its' all a point):

Quote: "It's based on the fact that I'm still the same person as I was as a child. I have the same feelings and thoughts now as I did then. I think kids are just like adults in terms of how they want to be treated. I think people, young and old, want to have ultimate control over their bodies and their lives. I don't think mentally healthy people want to be restrained. I could be wrong. Let me know, please."

I think the key factor she's missing here is maturity. Kids don't have it. They can't think in big pictures and grand schemes. They see, they do. While I believe children are a lot smarter and wiser and in-tune with what they need than adults are...And I completely agree with her on the fact that they deserve to treated with the up-most respect. Bottom line? They aren't little adults. They need direction. They need to learn to live with other human beings, to give and take. And some times life lessons aren't any fun. Some times they don't feel good. Some times they'll have big ugly feelings about where they find themselves. I've already talked about how important it is to set our children up for success.

Moving on, I don't "impose" limits on my children. Limits and boundaries are written into the fabric of our very existence. Gravity is an obvious boundary. You jump up, you fall down. 
A nother natural boundary, You are smaller than cars, if you run in front of one it will hurt you. If you want to insure that you don't meet up with a car, follow proper safety guidelines for crossing appropriately. Look both ways, and cross. Streets aren't for playing in, there is always risk invovled...And why take such a gamble?

Seriously, I have a radical streak in me. I'm all for free range kids. I get weird looks (and hover grandmothers at the park) talking down to me because my 21mos old has wandered off further than THEY think she should have. I can see her, I know my child. And I trust my 1) instincts and 2) assessment of the situation: there is nothing that could possibly hurt her in the situations I let her wonder off in. 

But there's being radical and trusting our children. And there's also the common sense that we are entrusted with the greatest most powerful and precious gift and responsibility, raising and protecting the children entrusted to us.

Quote: "I think children want to be informed and supported, but they want to be free to make choices. I don't think kids want to be told how many bites to eat or when they need to sleep or when they need to wear a jacket. I try not to impose my will on my children, or my perception of their limits."

 You know what? I agree with her here too. I don't force my kids to eat foods they don't want to. I can't force them to fall asleep on command. But I do work with them. I try to set up the rhythm of their lives so they succeed. So the routines of our days are laid out and structured in such a way where they can nap when they feel tired (I make sure we're home consistently at the same times). If they don't want to wear what I think (in my maturity) they should, It's a non issue- I pack what they might need later. They live in the now. I'm the parent, I need to live in the ahead (yes that's a time ;0).

QUOTE: "I don't make them choose anything. I do make choices for them, based on my knowledge of their preferences. But even then, they are almost always free to object, to veto, to make a different choice. Many times, they do go along with what I choose, because they trust me. And they know they are free to choose otherwise."

You know I agree with this too actually. And maybe I'm reading way more into what she was saying.
But the way I see it?  Some times life isn't set up in a way that they can veto. My children are always free to object, I try never to squelch their very real feelings- as long as they are shared appropriately (hitting, kicking or any physical act towards me, stomps my boundary to have my body respected). I want them to always feel safe. To know that I care about what they think.

But when you live in a family unit, some times for the sake of family harmony, a veto is out of the question. Living life where children can just veto and make a different choice just isn't practical in every situation. Some times we screw up and the situation sucks...And that's a life lesson for every one involved.  I'm all for compromise. But I'm not going to do it if it means the family unit is being drained. Some times (many times) no, just means no. They're going to run up against that 1093209384 times in their life and it's important that they learn how to take it at home, with people who love and support them no matter what.

I think the thing that bothered me about this post was that this could easily melt down into severe permissiveness. Children have to learn to say NO. It's so important. It's important that their "no" be respected. But we, as adults, also have the wisdom and maturity to know that some times "no" can't go. If my 21mos old daughter says "no" when I say it's time to change her diaper. She can protest, but it doesn't change what needs to be done. Now if she's in the middle of some thing I don't just scoop her up from what she's doing. I respectfully help her transition to getting her diaper changed so she can get back to playing (and I try not to put diaper changes right in the middle of very intense playing).  But bottom line, her diaper will be changed. No matter how she protests. Because crap on her bum = pain for her. She doesn't understand this. But as her Mommie, it's my job to protect her. To advocate for her, to help her.

I think out of wanting to respect children, we forget an important part, we ARE in charge. Yes, we give them choices, we treat them with respect, and we let them make mistakes. But We ARE the adults. It's not about imposing rules and boundaries...It's about helping children find what is appropriate, and what isn't. It's about holding boundaries that exist and helping them navigate within them successfully. Every one has boundaries.

For example, my boundaries are that my body and my being will be treated with respect. I teach this from infancy on. When a nursing does some thing that is uncomfortable to me, I gently redirect...We reposition, we try again, or we stop the nursing session if they persist. The baby didn't know or have the maturity to understand, but she HAD crossed a boundary. Am I imposing a limit on her? Should I just let her chew my nipple to smitherines for the sake of  avoiding forcing her to do some thing she doesn't want to?

Yeah, no.

I expect my children to protest, I am glad they trust me enough to do so. When I unlatch that little nursling and tell her to hold up. She may very well throw a fit about it. At least the first few times .  But then she catches on...She quickly unlatches when I say "Ouch" and relatches so I'm comfortable. We've learned to work and respect each others boundaries.

I wish I had the energy to go on.  I still have some processing to do. I just feel like the way some of that last post was worded could make you sound completely and utterly permissive and that's some thing I really rail against.

Definitely more to come. I want to talk about arbitrary limits. And I think that blogger was talking about.

Just my processing...I gotta run, I'm half asleep.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Journey Through Motherhood...Happy Mother's Day

This is my 5th year to celebrate this special day...

The first year I remember clearly, dry heaving in the church bathroom, 5 or 6 weeks pregnant. I went home early. Then a lunch at my Mom's where I sipped lemons in water trying to keep some thing down.

Me with the hubby and siblings...I'm the one with the classy seabands
Then my second mother's day... The first one with a real outside-breathing-real-as-can-be-baby
We were tired...And she was trying to catch a nap at church.

My first mother's day lunch at cracker barrel...Roo enjoyed a different kind of meal (yes back in the days when I used a cover, soon became a giant "I'm nursing look at us" white flag!)
My 3rd Mother's Day... I didn't get an actual picture on Mother's Day...But this is very close. Roo at about 15mos, and Friendly in utero.
My 4th..Last year celebrating Mother's Day in Florida with Hubby's family. This was after nap.
And this year...Who needs to sleep in? Or breakfast in bed! Friendly was up and at em around 6 a.m....I could have sent her out with hubby. But I enjoyed the snuggles. The early rising inspired the idea of coffee (and donuts) at Wegman's a favorite family treat.
They demolished their donuts!
The girls went to church with Hubby and I stayed home and went for a run/walk...Spent some time with Jesus....Did some yoga/pilates fusion work out... They came home and I napped the couch Friendly came out and found me when she woke up:
We enjoyed some after nap snuggles

I can't say what a blessing this part of Mothering has been to me...I wish all women could experience the joys that are in these moments.

Roo picked out a flower for me at church, she ran and got it for me right after her nap. 

She also drew this picture for me...It's me! I am so blessed to be called "mommie" by these sweet little joys . I still can't believe...

I'm some one's Mommie.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Well Behaved Child...PART TWO

Here is PART ONE.
I've been trying to figure out how I was going to write this...And I guess my point really comes down to this  question:

What is moral and what is cultural?
As I've gone down this path of following my instincts and my children as they cue, a few things have become apparent to me. Some times (many times) this isn't very convenient for me. And when things are really inconvenient  I try to work towards making changes...

But some times it means seasons of just plain being inconvenienced. For example my babies didn't tend sleep well on the go. If we messed with morning nap (be it by timing or location), we had a very cranky baby on our hands. So for several months of baby's first year (and with Friendly, into the second) that meant staying home and missing  play dates (or scheduling appointments for later in the day). On the other end of that bedtime was pretty inflexible. If we missed that "sleepy window" we were up for hours with an overstimulated CRANKY little person. That meant events in the evening were pretty much off the table unless it was a very special occasion (and worth the DAYS spent getting our littles out of the over-tired nasty cycle). Sunday mornings were so very much dreaded because it meant missed morning nap, and screwed up the entire day...It usually took until Wednesday to get sleep patterns straightened back out, exhausting. And frankly, during rough stages...I stayed home with baby. 

 This was some thing that surprised me. And also left me feeling a bit like a neurotic control freak about sleep times. I don't know anyone with "normal" babies who've had to be this weird about going out- at any time. People (albeit mostly people who hadn't had kids yet..or for many many years) were always a bit puzzled as to why we were so "no we can't that's BEDTIME [dun dun duuuuuuh]!!". It left us feeling very misunderstood and isolated.

I am elated to say, that at nearly 21mos Friendly is just now starting to be able to handle evening activities with out epic meltdowns and over-tired craziness after-math. It's been a long 21 months (actually about 36months as Roo was just leaving that stage when Friendly was born)! But for the sanity and health for every one involved, staying home was what was best. For that season.  Oh and how lovely to be coming out on the other side and realize, it truly was a season! WOW! We can be out until 7- 7:30 and still have relatively happy littles, whoa!!! Shock. Awe. Yipeeeee. Now mid-day nap time cannot be fudged too much...But that seems pretty normal to most people.

So my question, is the fact that my babies were inflexible and not-the greatest sleepers a moral issue? Are they inherently sinning against God because they wake often at night? Or don't nap well unless things were a certain way? Absolutely not.

Am I immoral or a bad parent because I'm in this situation? ha.

Setting my kids up for success, that's my job If it means staying home, I do. If it means strapping them into a stroller before they can taste freedom (erm, run away) I do it, even when they loudly protest. It's my job to keep my kids safe. Help them respect the boundaries that do that. And to help them be successful in any situations we find ourselves in. Letting my child run into the street, not successful at accomplishing any of those things.
Setting our kids up for success, what it looks like...

Reasonable expectations:  Oh how I've learned about this in the last 3 years! It's unreasonable to expect a baby to stop crying when they have a tummy ache. It's unreasonable to expect a 2 (or even 3, 4,5) year old to have impulse control (all the time).  If you want some thing to survive your toddler: keep it out of reach.  If you want your toddler to survive, keep them with in reach.

We started a container Garden this spring (this is related I promise!). It's been a lot of fun. The girls are very interested in anything involving dirt (or getting messy), so this has been educational for all of us. It has also involved a little creative planning and a lot of supervision on my part. We live in a sunny apartment (YAAY!). The best sun is in the morning, and the very best sun is on the floor in front of our patio doors. It's been a very very rainy spring and so on the sunny mornings I would capitalize on the sun being around and put our seedlings  (or as Friendly calls them "babies") on the floor. I was trying to get them to soak up as much sun as possible. 
I'm not tooooouching them Mommie (yet!)

I knew putting those plants on the floor could very well mean we would never eat of their fruit (to put it poetically).  I knew it would be a failure on my part if the seedlings were destroyed. It would be unreasonable to expect a 1.5 year old (or even, under certain conditions, a 3 year old) to leave them alone. But ...They were plants they needed the sun, and I accepted the fact that they could get hurt. It would suck if they did, but it wasn't a big deal to me.
What would have been unreasonable is if I were to get upset about seedlings being pulled out, or leaves being plucked off.  Little people are not adult little people. They are young, and lack the maturity to control themselves in all situations, all the time, no matter what. That is definitely a pet peeve of mine involving our Western culture. We as a culture, greatly overestimate the amount of control young children have over their bodies, decisions and emotions. And we have popular teachers (*coughsupernannycough*) giving us bad information and spreading the lie that we need to come down hard and control these little miscreants. It's not our job to control, it's our job to set them up for success.

I was NOT setting us up for success in this least not physically. But on another level I was, I had reasonable expectations. And I was willing -as much as I was able to do so- to supervise those little plants and little people when they were on the floor together. I also taught the girls about the "baby plants" and how they needed sunshine to grow. That we must never ever never hurt the babies by pulling on them. And if we needed to touch them we could do it sooooo gently. And SUCCESS! My seedlings (all but one or two but I planted more than I needed), survived all the love Friendly lavished upon them (and I'm talking, sprawled out on the floor singing Baby Mine to them and ooooh so gently stroking them- they were babies after all!) .
singing to the babies

And they are now happily out flourishing in their containers on the patio... I mean we've definitely had a few casualties... Friendly + a trowel = dead tomato plant. But hey, considering how much she loves da babies, I'm not complaining!

I want to clarify some thing about boundaries, and little people, and reasonable expectations, and setting children up for success...

Okay I want to clarify my whole post! Just because little people lack impulse control, or have a hard time keeping their emotions to an appropriate level doesn't mean we back off whenever they do some thing outside of the boundaries (they run away when we say "wait". Or totally meltdown when we say "no"). No that's when we physically show them what we need them to do. No I'm not talking hitting them! 

When we say "wait" to a young child we take their hand in ours, and stand very still to show them what we mean. And we do this until they learn what it means. Also, while they are learning we always try to keep very small ones close enough so that we can remind them if they forget. And have a back up plan (a stroller or carrier) if they are having a hard time following through.

When they melt down we run through the HALT questions to see how we can help them
  • are they hungry
  • Are they angry (feeling misunderstood)? 
  • Are they lonely (have we been too busy for them and they are just acting out to remind us they exisist)? 
  • Are they tired (have we pushed this play date to it's brink of what their energy really can hadle)? 
When we set up our kids for success we take those things into account first so we're not reacting to some thing they had no control over in the first place. In general we also strive to be proactive to ensure they are getting good food in their bodies and enough rest consistently. Because kids who feel right, act right.  
I also want to say that kids don't come out knowing what every thing means automatically and in all situations. Big wordy explanations do zip for small children. We have to make our actions (gentle and intentional guidance) speak louder than our words.

Do I always handle things this way? No. Some times my kids get too far away from me, and I get upset. A lot of times it's frustrating to balance reasonable expectations and what I wish was the reality. Some times I don't set us up for success, and ugliness ensues...It's a learning process and mistakes happen, we move along with new knowledge, more experience, and hopefully more tools.

I'll leave you with a great parenting resource: GOYB Parenting check it out, it has a lot more of what I've been trying to explain/process.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How I Love...

This post uses real names, but it's too cute to resist. We have a song hubby wrote for the girls last year...

It goes

How I love, how I love I love, How I love my _________Joy. She's so cute and so precious to me! How I love my _________ Jooooy!"

Friendly has started singing it almost constantly, she loves to sing about Roo...About "Mommmie Joy"...About "Daddy Joy". She loves to SING.

And this is the other singing one...It is incredible! For the last month she's not been napping or sleeping well, she's been extremely frustrated and cranky: BAM this past week she's started speaking 4 or 5 new words a DAY! Verbal explosion, incredible.

In this video when the timer goes off she says she's scared of the timer... A lot of what she says isn't very intelligible, but she's really trying, it's cute. Oh and when she says at the end of the one song "alligot" she's saying "that's all I got" when she's done singing. :0D