Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles Sun, 25 Jan 2015 02:22:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mothering no Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles What Should I Put In My Birth Plan? 50 Moms Share Their Advice http://www.mothering.com/articles/put-birth-plan-50-moms-share-advice/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/put-birth-plan-50-moms-share-advice/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 02:44:34 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=64537 For many mamas, a birth plan is a way to feel prepared for one of the most important events of our lives–the birth of our baby. Whether it’s your first baby or your sixth, it is always helpful to have the wisdom of other mamas to guide you. So we asked our knowledgeable Facebook community members to share the […]

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What should I put in my birth plan?

For many mamas, a birth plan is a way to feel prepared for one of the most important events of our lives–the birth of our baby. Whether it’s your first baby or your sixth, it is always helpful to have the wisdom of other mamas to guide you. So we asked our knowledgeable Facebook community members to share the most important things that they would put in a birth plan if they were preparing one now. We got some very helpful responses.

Of course, each mama, baby and birth experience is unique–so the most important thing you can do is educate yourself and trust your gut. When it comes having a baby, mama knows best!

Here’s what 50 mamas from our community think you should consider when writing a birth plan.

Lyn D. – Put baby right to breast, delay cord cutting and keep baby with you 24/7, no bathing, no vaccines, no bottles or pacifiers

Amy W. – Labor and birth in the way that feels right (upright and active), no vaginal exams except by maternal request, intermittent monitoring by Doppler, physiologic pushing (no directed/purple pushing), no episiotomy, complete quiet/dark/privacy, no strangers, delayed cord cutting, baby straight to mama’s chest, skin to skin, no separation of mama and baby, no formula or sugar water…

Lisa F. - Hire a doula and a birth photographer.

Rebecca A. -  No birth plan. Doing what feels right in the moment.

Amy A-M. - No cell phones

Marianne M. - Plan that things won’t go to plan

Shelly B. - Choose your hospital based on how they recover moms and babes after emergency c-sec. We had a home birth transfer. I wish I had preplanned to transfer to the one that recovers babies with moms. I had to be in recovery without baby for three hours (until I could move a toe) even though my hands and arms worked perfectly and my husband was able to hold baby if needed.

Denise R. – Have someone you trust do guard duty, to make sure everything possible is done the way you want. Of course you would have to make sure that person really knows what you want.

Afaf A. – I would have a more supportive group with me before, during and after the birth.

Sarah C. W. - Saw this on a birth site and it’s so perfect. “The power of a birth plan is not in the actual plan, but in becoming informed about your options. THIS is why it’s important to write your plan and go over it with your provider. You are likely to discover a lot that way.”

Laura K. C. -  If opting for unmedicated birth, specify that providers should not ask if you want an epidural. During transition especially you are apt to doubt your ability to persist leaving you vulnerable to making a decision that’s inconsistent with your wishes.

Jessica C. - Give baby to me immediately for skin to skin–don’t whisk him/her away for weighing and washing and hatting!

Christine S-F. - Hiring a doula!

Marybeth N. -  An open mind:)

Josie R. S. - Do not use clamps unless medically necessary. Ask me to push out the placenta

Heather S. B. – I would write one for both a vaginal birth and a c-section. I ended up with a scheduled c-section for medical reasons and give credit to my written plan for how well it went. I saw her before she was cleaned, got to do skin to skin in the recovery room, and breastfed within the first hour.

Amy B. M. – Remember while you have the best intentions your body and baby may have other plans. Trust that it will all be the way it was intended to be eventhough that is not how you planned. That does not diminish your experience it simply changes your desired plan. And that is OKAY.

Heather D. G. M.  - You can change nurses!

Marian F. – Do not, under any circumstances, get into that classic labor position you see in the movies. It is the absolute worst. I would never have made it through labor in that position.

Tanya H. -  I would add every single little detail I can think of and not assume “they” know.

Cat G. – If possible, and you are comfortable with it…. Giving birth in the water. That was such an amazing experience and so much better and helpful than when I didn’t.

Carrie Y. – Peace and quiet. Limit vaginal exams.

Simone R. – Make sure that your birth support person (I had an amazing doula) understands and supports your wishes in your birth plan and is comfortable with voicing and reminding others of them during your labour. In the throes of labour you may not have a strong voice and it is your body so your wishes should be heard! That being said, you do need to keep your ears open to suggestions as your labour may not progress the way you intended.

Erinn S. – No pitocin. Once they put that in you all of the other interventions will follow because you are in pain and will give in.

Tabitha D. – Hand that baby to me immediately, let the cord stop pulsing before cutting and let me keep him until I’m ready to get him get checked out and cleaned up!

Terra D. -  No breaking of my water through artificial means.

Michelle S-S. – We focused on comfort and atmosphere—-music, soft lighting, a mandala focal point, tub, yoga ball, etc. then, we let it roll and put our trust in our midwives and OB’s. fully trusted their decisions along the way.

Ola P. -  I think the birth plan was more for me – my OBGYN was informed and on it. However, the nurses at the hospital needed to know what I wanted and I needed to tell them. I needed to know by hard what I wanted and what’s really important and can’t change. And I needed to speak it cause no one has much time to read it once you’re in labor. I mean if it goes fast as in my case. But to answer your question, for me it was important to get the baby right after delivery, delay clamping, no paci, shots, no weighing, no nothing until we had our time together and the baby nursed.

Cyndi L. - Warm tub, no meds, baby right to chest/breast, delayed cord cutting, delay all treatments/bathing, no hat, baby & mom room together at all times.

Heidi I. -  I would include a wish list of priorities in case of emergency

Amanda W. - I’d refuse to give consent for pitocin after birth.
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Brittany P. B. - Don’t clamp the cord before its done beating. Very important. A third of their blood is in the placenta. They cut the cords before baby even starts breathing with their lungs. It’s rude.

Gena W. -  Make sure the hospital has the best NICU with the highest level. I ended up having to take an ambulance to a hospital that had a higher level of NICU. I had a friend who’s baby had to be airlifted to a different hospital. She had to drive an hour away (a couple days later, after recovery) to be able to see her baby.

Jennifer C. V. - Hire a doula, hire a birth photographer, and reserve the right to change out the nurse if you are not jiving with them. Never let the baby leave your side, if the baby needs to leave you for health reasons have your partner go where ever the baby goes. And remember come to the door with your plan and be ready to be flexible to meet the needs of the moment, nothing ever goes as planed.

Ashley N. – To not leave the house or let anyone in

Tasauna E. - Have a very assertive Doula. I had a birth plan, my nurse could care less. My Doula stopped several things I had no idea was happening, including stopping the doctor from cutting me. They were in a rush…. Busy night

Meredith N. – Definitely to be able to walk. I wouldn’t have made it through without serious walking.

Shawn B. – Delay cord clamping and bath! Not accept a 39 week induction due to diabetes, I’d use that last week to self induce and then consider at 40 wks!

RE E. – To not circumcise my son. That’s important to have on there if that is what you choose. The next most important thing is that I do not want any interventions. 3rd most important would be that in case of an emergency I want baby to receive my milk or donor breastmilk.

Laura S. -  Give a list to your hubby that says “kiss me. Make me laugh. Fetch me snacks and drinks. And call the family” he will be happier having his job written out.

Shok R. – Take more pictures and videos. I gave birth at 32.5 weeks. It was unexpected and VERY quick, I had no time to set the camera:(

Lara W. S. – Don’t have s plan and follow your instincts, be strong!

Amanda C. - Someone to be at the hospital all night after the birth– it was when my sister & husband went home that the nurses started harassing me to give the baby formula and to let him sleep in the nursery– neither thing I planned on, but which they kept haranguing me about at 3 and 4 and 5 (after I’d been up for a very long time giving birth!) while I was alone, until at 6 I gave in just to get some sleep.

Brooke B. – Don’t talk to me, ask me about, or even mention the word pain! Just leave me to my work!

Megan A. – As someone who had a birth plan, I’d suggest being flexible. The night I went into labor, my first, second, and third choice hospitals were full. My midwife did not work at the hospital I delivered in. And the nurses and doctors were very unfamiliar with hypnobirthing (my chosen method of labor). We went a week early – New Years Eve. No matter how much you plan, anything can happen! Be prepared to go with the flow, be gentle with yourself and others, and try to enjoy the small moments… It is life’s biggest miracle – and you get to be a part of it! (Heck! What your body will do IS a miracle!)

Jill H. F. - At the top…. “please read this birth plan.”

Megan Z. - To talk to my partner if I seem to be veering in the direction of asking for interventions. He may be stronger and more committed to what he knows I truly want, even in my moments of weakness.

Tamra C. T. – I would insist baby stay with mom 24×7

M. M. -  I would take my doula’s advice and I would make it as short and simple as possible because nurses and doctors will not take time to read a lengthy birth plan. Bullet points that list what you want and what you don’t want. That is it.

Image Credit: Danny Cain

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Experience A Child’s World Through Imitation http://www.mothering.com/articles/experience-childs-world-imitation/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/experience-childs-world-imitation/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:40:29 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=48618 So much of a child’s experience, from infancy on, is shaped by adults. That’s true even if we limit structured activities, confining seats, and unreasonable expectations. If we allow ourselves, we can get a brief glimpse of what our children experience by replicating their movements. It may be odd, but I’ve found it enlightening. This […]

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child-led choreography, parent child improv,

So much of a child’s experience, from infancy on, is shaped by adults. That’s true even if we limit structured activities, confining seats, and unreasonable expectations. If we allow ourselves, we can get a brief glimpse of what our children experience by replicating their movements. It may be odd, but I’ve found it enlightening.

This occurred to me when I was a first time mother, imitating my newborn’s movements in an experience so profound it felt like a ceremony.

I didn’t try it again until I was the mother of three. I’d dashed over to a friend’s house to drop something off. I was, for the duration of that errand, without my baby and two small children. I always rushed when I was away from my nursing baby, imagining him in some kind of distress. My friend’s children were asleep. I stood in her quiet kitchen telling her how much I wanted to sit down and chat, but couldn’t spare the time. She answered my complaint with mock outrage, “Don’t you dare relax! What were you thinking?”

I said, in my best imitation toddler voice, “WANT TO!”

She wagged her finger. “That’s enough out of you. Do what you’re told.”

It could have ended there. Instead I dropped to the floor, kicked my legs, and yelled, “You can’t maaaaaake me!”

By this time our hilarity was well out of proportion to my angry inner child improv. Shrieking with laughter, I indulged the faux tantrum for another minute or so. When I got up I felt wonderfully de-stressed and energized.

I insisted my friend give it a try. She resisted, until I sternly admonished her with the same phrases I’d heard her use on her kids (even flinging out her full name). She twirled around whining “Noooooo. No no no!” till she was out of breath, with hair in her mouth and a smile on her face.

We both agreed we felt incredible.

I don’t for a minute suggest you do this, ever, front of your children. Self-expression should never be ridiculed. But if your kids aren’t home, give it a try. What this did, for me as well as my friend, was let us fully express strong emotions through our bodies as our children do, as we used to do when we were children. We may have been well-educated, reasonably sophisticated women but the need to indulge in some primal venting hadn’t left us. A little method acting gave us both new insight into what our children experience.

After that, I looked for ways to learn from my children through imitation. We adults do this all the time when we play with our kids. We chase and let them chase us. When they pretend to be an animal or make-believe character we join in. We’re the big bad wolf blowing down a child’s fort made of cushions, we’re the sotto-voiced doll talking to another doll, we’re the caboose struggling up an imaginary hill. Play is a window into a child’s experience. It’s remarkably restorative for us as well.

But what truly let me honor my children’s world was letting them choreograph my movements. Sometimes we’d play what we called “mirror” —the old actor’s game done face to face. The child is the leader, the parent the “mirror.” The child makes gestures, facial expressions, and hand movements. The parent tries to duplicate these movements exactly. Then we switched so the child got a turn being the mirror. I usually ended up laughing first.

Sometimes we played a variant of this, making each other into emotion mirrors. One would call out a feeling like “sad” or “angry” or “sleepy” and both would try to convey this through facial expression. (This is also a great way to advance emotional intelligence.)

My favorite imitation was through dance. We’d turn on some lively music and I’d try to copy my child’s dance moves. This is much more difficult than it sounds. Or maybe it was just really hard to keep up with a child’s energy level.

My kids are past the stage where they’ll dance with me, let alone let me imitate their dance moves. But I haven’t forgotten how much letting my kids choreograph my movements taught me. And occasionally, they’ll catch my eye across a crowded room for a brief moment of mirroring. It’s funny, but it also makes me feel understood.

Don’t miss this wonderfully expressive choreography by Zaya, imitated by real dancers.

Image Credit: Nathan Bittinger’s flickr photostream CC by 2.0

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A Letter to My Friends About Why I Can’t Attend a “No Children” Event http://www.mothering.com/articles/letter-friends-cant-attend-children-event/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/letter-friends-cant-attend-children-event/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:26:03 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=64369 Dear Friend, When I received the invitation to your baby shower, your wedding, your engagement celebration, your birthday, my heart swelled with love for you. It swelled with excitement, with yearning to go. With wanting to be there for you. Then it cracked into a thousand pieces and fell to the floor when I learned […]

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party without kids

Dear Friend,

When I received the invitation to your baby shower, your wedding, your engagement celebration, your birthday, my heart swelled with love for you. It swelled with excitement, with yearning to go. With wanting to be there for you. Then it cracked into a thousand pieces and fell to the floor when I learned that my children couldn’t come.

I wanted to write you a letter to explain why. But I didn’t, because that would make your event about me and my family when it’s supposed to be about yours.

So I sent you my regrets and my love. My congratulations, and my sadness that I couldn’t be there for you the way I wanted to be. And I talked about how excited I was for you. And I truly was. I danced away from giving reasons because I didn’t want you to feel bad, but I didn’t want to give a reason that seemed foolishly small. I tried to let you know that I loved you, that I wanted to be there. But that I couldn’t.

Then I cried.

I wanted to tell you that I was so sorry. That I tried to come up with a way that it would work. That I tried to find a babysitter that I trusted near where you were so that I could duck out to nurse the child that wouldn’t take a bottle yet. That I tried to figure out if we could afford a hotel room nearby where my toddler with separation anxiety could play with dad while I celebrated with you. I wanted to tell you all these things so that you would understand that I wanted to be there. But that would make it about my plans when it was supposed to be about yours.

I wanted to be there.

I couldn’t make it work.

I wanted to tell you that I’m so sorry that I’m not able to be that kind of friend for you right now. That I’m sorry that I’m putting my children ahead of our friendship. That it’s for a short time only, just these few years. That I’m so happy for you, and that I wish that your happiness had come first before my own, so that I could have been there with you the way that I want to be.

But I bit my lip and sent you my regrets and love and hoped that you would understand the unspoken.

I’m not that kind of friend right now. I’m a different kind of friend, now. I’ll be there for you in all the ways that I can.

I’ll be there to chat at 1AM when you’re a new mama and scared. I’ll figure out how to come to see you when you’re having a hard time getting your baby to latch on, and I’ll show you everything that I know. I’ll help you move your things to boxes and load them into the van while my children run and play and my baby naps in a sling against my chest. I’ll be there for you if you and your husband are fighting. I’ll come to the ultrasound that your husband can’t make it to, and I’ll hold your hand if something’s up and you are scared. I’ll tell you that the choices you  make as a mama are excellent ones, even if they’re different from my own. I’ll come and watch your kids for you so that you can take a shower.

I’m that kind of friend now.

My love for you hasn’t changed. My life has. Just for now.

I hope you know that, and I hope you understand.

<3  – Me.

Image Credit: Moyan Brenn

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3 Guidelines for Bedtime Reading http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-guidelines-bedtime-reading/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-guidelines-bedtime-reading/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 03:50:26 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=64297 I’m here for you, Nicolle Wallace of The View, who says there aren’t any guidelines out there for choosing what to read to your baby! The gals were discussing the “hot topic” of this newly-published fun fact: Chelsea Clinton reads the news to her infant daughter every morning. There seemed to be a consensus among […]

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3 Guidelines for Bedtime Reading | Marcy Axness, PhD

I’m here for you, Nicolle Wallace of The View, who says there aren’t any guidelines out there for choosing what to read to your baby!

The gals were discussing the “hot topic” of this newly-published fun fact: Chelsea Clinton reads the news to her infant daughter every morning. There seemed to be a consensus among them that it’s appropriate to shelter the wee ones from the harsh realities of our world — and I completely agree. Whether it’s an intentional choice or not — young children’s exposure to adult news and conversation is typically inadvertent and “accidental” — the young brain & psyche simply aren’t equipped to process foreign affairs, environmental brinksmanship and other front-page fare.

With an avalanche of so-called children’s books to choose from, three simple guidelines can help parents decide which bedtime reading fare will best serve their child.

And definitely DO read to your baby, and don’t stop… well… ever! Research reveals that fewer and fewer parents share bedtime reading with their children. More than one-third of parents in one study don’t do any bedtime reading with their kids. Whether it’s due to time-crunch, life stress or (as reported by almost half the study’s parents) that their children prefer television, toys or computer games, dropping bedtime reading creates a loss with potential lifelong repercussions.

My bedtime reading guidelines simplify things to help nurture and protect your evening routine.

I’ll keep this brief, because frankly, I think one of the culprits in this erosion of bedtime reading is the sheer overload of information and choices parents are faced with. How many books, which books, how to choose, when to squeeze it in … ayyyeeeeee!!!

My 3 rules are different from the standard, same-old-same-old you can find in dizzying quantities on the internet, such as the importance of not just reading but also interacting with your child about the meaning of the story, for example. (In fact, that inspires my Guideline #3, because there is a pitfall in that recommendation!)

RulesReadingI used to call these “rules,” which comes off a bit strict. In a distinction made funny & famous in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, they’re not so much rules as guidelines — to leverage the most possible raising-a-peacemaker bang for your reading buck.

Guideline #1: Choose Beauty, Reverence & Wonder

There is a mind-numbingly massive selection of so-called children’s literature out there, and my first 2 rules will help you cut through the glut in making your choices of which books to share with your child. Even lists like “50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child” contain some titles that don’t meet my Rule #1 criteria, which is this: The book must feature beauty (as opposed to just cleverness) in the illustrations, especially in the depiction of the human form. So many children’s illustrations portray people in caricatured, exaggerated and even grotesque ways, which has a subtly discouraging effect upon a child’s psyche.

Also, the story and its illustrations should draw on wonder, imagination, and reverence for its subject. (I have written much here on the importance of wonder in the life of the young child.) Countless books that purport to be for children feature overly adult perspectives and tones, such as irony or sarcasm. (Sarcasm is poison to the soul of a young child, who cleaves to goodness, kindness and wonder.)

Remember, whatever you read together before bed are impressions your child will take into his or her sleep and dreams!

Guideline #2: Choose Books You Like

When you read to your child books that you enjoy, your little one will be nurtured by the resonance you feel with the story and illustrations. Also, through the never-to-be-underestimated power of example, if you are forcing yourself to read something that doesn’t appeal to you, you shouldn’t be surprised if not so many years from now your child is resistant to reading!

Guideline #3: Offer Conversation, Not Interrogation

This may be the trickiest on this short list. It will require that you really put some mindfulness into action while reading with your child. While research overwhelmingly demonstrates the value of reading to children, there is a slight catch:

“However, being read to does not by itself automatically lead to literacy. The real link seems to lie in the verbal interaction that occurs between adult and child during story reading (Snow 1996). Since children learn language by actively constructing meaning (Vgotsky 1962; Lindfors 1987), the seeds of literacy lie in the social construction of meaning around print, that is, the talk—“scaffolding,” explaining, clarifying—between the reader and child listener as they look at, point to, and label objects, and discuss print and its meaning.” More…

The key here is to avoid the pitfall of slipping into what I call “interrogation mode” with your child — peppering him with endless questions like a running pop quiz. I remember our R.I.E. teacher explaining that it is the child’s role to ask questions of the parent, not the other way around. But what do we parents so often do? We love to see and hear our child demonstrate her precocious brilliance, so we drill her: “Where’s George?” “What did he put on his head?” “What color is it?”

There are a couple of issues here. First of all, interrogation isn’t the most fruitful approach to interacting with your child at any time or any age, and it can have the opposite effect as you’d like over time: rather than opening up and chatting with you, he may clam up. There’s a subtle disrespect inherent in interrogation mode, and it can erode your child’s trust in you.

While I’m not a fan of the think-of-your-small-child-like-an-adult school of thought, in this case it has merit. Imagine sharing an interesting story with an adult you like and respect. Let’s say you’re reading it at the same time on a computer screen. Could you imagine quizzing them like we do our kids? And what did the senator hold up as he asked that question? Of course not! Instead, you might share an impression or insight or puzzlement you have about the story, and see what they think about it. You might engage in some open-ended dialogue about some of the meanings behind the characters’ actions or what they might have been feeling. That’s the same way we can more richly interact with our children about the books we read with them.

Another issue, though, is that bedtime reading is a time for DE-escalating stimulation, including mental stimulation. The time for engaging in lively discussion over the meaning of stories is sometime else during the day. This depends a lot on your child; some kids have no problem shifting from mental high-gear into readiness for sleep, but I think that’s unusual.

Bedtime reading (in my humble opinion) is more of a slow-paced, dreamy-time mode that serves as your child’s soft gateway to sleep. Books I used for our children’s bedtime reading often had the atmosphere and pacing of a lullaby. Goodnight Moon is of course one of the best examples of this. A lesser-known one that was one of our favorites in this style is The Midnight Farm.

I’d love to hear your thoughts — what feels right for YOU to read your baby or young child? Do you make different choices that during the day?

Images:
popofatticus | Flickr

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Doing the Best That We Can http://www.mothering.com/articles/best-can/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/best-can/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:50:57 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=64121 “We’re all always doing the best we can.” Channeling some wise Zen master from another lifetime, my husband tried to comfort me on yet another evening when I was feeling inadequate as a mother. Skeptic that I am, I wondered, “is that really true? Have I really been doing the very best that I can? […]

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“We’re all always doing the best we can.”

Channeling some wise Zen master from another lifetime, my husband tried to comfort me on yet another evening when I was feeling inadequate as a mother. Skeptic that I am, I wondered, “is that really true? Have I really been doing the very best that I can? What if I tried just a little bit harder?”

Before becoming a mother, I was, for the most part, an emotionally stable human being. And then my son was born. A torrent of emotion from my own childhood resurfaced. His needs often overwhelmed me. At times, my emotions were much more intense than the circumstances warranted. My heart would race in response to his cries, and I’d be overcome with feelings of helplessness. I knew that he was safe, but I felt anything but.

It became clear that I wasn’t just experiencing our present; I was also still experiencing my own past. The overpowering love—a love so intense that it sometimes literally hurt—cracked me wide open, and all of my past hurts poured right out.

My own childhood, though filled with love, was also characterized by instability. My need for sensitive, consistent caregiving wasn’t always fulfilled. Because of this, I worried that I would be unable to sufficiently bond with this tiny new person. I feared that I was somehow deficient, that I couldn’t give him something that I hadn’t myself received. After all, insecure attachment is often intergenerational.

I’ve spent many months since coming to terms with my own childhood, the good and the bad. Acknowledging that my emotional needs as a child weren’t always met has been painful. Children internalize unmet needs, unable to understand that they’re not at fault. When carried into adulthood, this becomes a vague, sense of inadequacy.

Though I may never know precisely why I am triggered by certain intense expressions of emotion, I’m learning to distinguish my present feelings from those of my past. As I heal from my own past, our present becomes less burdened. I can be more present when he needs me most, responding to the situation before me rather than reacting to an event from long ago.

Needless to say, the months since my son’s birth have been a time of immense personal growth. Yet I’ve often wished that I could have dealt with this before he was born. Ironically, though, it’s his very arrival that allowed me to do it. Without him, I doubt I would ever have confronted this pain, or even realized that it was there.

Still I lament that my past sometimes seeps into our present, preventing me from being the mother I want to be. But I think my husband is right—we are all always doing the best that we can, with the resources that we have in each moment. The more we learn, the more we heal ourselves, the better we can do. And the more we care for ourselves, despite the seeming impossibility of doing so while caring for a small child, the better and better our “best” becomes.

I’m doing the best that I can. And, in my better moments, I trust that it’s enough.

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Dear Mamas of Toddlers: An Honest Letter from a Mom Who’s Been There http://www.mothering.com/articles/dear-moms-toddlers-honest-letter-mom-whos/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/dear-moms-toddlers-honest-letter-mom-whos/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:21:21 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=64097 Dear Moms of Toddlers,

I see you. I see you having a hard time. I see you chasing your wild child through the grocery store, having decided in a fit of bravery to take the chance and see if the madness could be contained this time. Will it be adorable and pleasant? Or will you get kicked in the face by a flailing two-year-old because you simply can't allow them to scale the shelves in the cereal aisle?

I see you using your sweetest v

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This post was originally posted by MotherWise.

Dear Moms of Toddlers,

I see you. I see you having a hard time. I see you chasing your wild child through the grocery store, having decided in a fit of bravery to take the chance and see if the madness could be contained this time. Will it be adorable and pleasant? Or will you get kicked in the face by a flailing two-year-old because you simply can’t allow them to scale the shelves in the cereal aisle?

I see you using your sweetest voice, reminding your toddler, “Please use gentle touches,” “We can’t eat dog food,” “It’s time to go now. You are frustrated.”

I see you picking up your screaming child and carrying them out of the room, store, restaurant. I see you leaving because it’s really your only choice.

I see you at the playground, constantly on your feet, chasing your little one around, trying to stay one step ahead of this tiny human who is still a baby and suddenly in a bigger kid body.

Because that’s what toddlers are– babies in bigger kid bodies. Hence the erroneous title “Terrible Twos.”

I see you at the playground, unable to blink before your toddler picks up a handful of sand and launches it at their playmate.

I remember when it was me chasing my baby-big-kid around. I looked at other moms, sitting, socializing, drinking their coffee, checking their phones. I wondered how. How do they get to be distracted? How do they get to take a moment of rest? How is the playground a break for them?

I have good news! It will be a break for you one day, too. There will come a time when you can happily let your child play without direct supervision for an extended period. The day will come when you will be one of those moms socializing or sitting and taking a break while their child wanders off to play.

It can be exasperating sometimes. Your toddler communicates. They speak, they have preferences, they’re delightful little humans who seem like your best friend half the time.

The other half, not so much. “Why did you just have a gigantic, irrational, embarrassing meltdown when we had been having such a good time?” you might wonder when a play date or trip to the grocery store becomes much more chaotic than you had anticipated.

A toddler is much closer to a baby in terms of brain development. They don’t have much to offer yet in the departments of emotional regulation and impulse control. This is why lessons need to be repeated, this is why environments need to be toddler-proofed, this why their emotions get so huge.

Too often our society does not have room for toddlers. Too often a tantrum is seen as “bratty” behavior, rather than a totally normal, developmentally appropriate, although unfortunate phase.

Toddlers do things that, if we did those same things as adults, would have us categorized as huge jerks. Sometimes it can feel like your kid is being a jerk. But they’re not.

As the saying goes, they’re not giving you a hard time; they’re having a hard time. It’s frustrating, undoubtedly, but getting frustrated at a toddler for being unable to practice emotional regulation is the same as getting frustrated at them for being unable to learn Chinese. It’s not personal. It’s brain development.

So what can you do? Pretend to be a Sunday school teacher with the most never-ending pool of patience in all the land. Use your sweet voice and repeat, remind, and toddler-proof. Take nothing personally, and try to smile through it.

I’ve heard questions before: “My toddler won’t stop touching the dog’s water bowl! No matter how many times we tell him no, he won’t stop touching it! What can I do?!?” The answer is: move the bowl. That’s the only option. Every toddler in the world will touch the dog food bowl. They are tiny scientists who must explore everything. There is no disciplining, training, or punishing it out of them.

Soon enough, though, your toddler will be three, four, five, six. And they will outgrow it. Children get more and more independent every day, and eventually they will need very little from you. Sit with them in these moments for now; the moments will be over before you know it.

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3 Short Videos for Teaching Kids About Martin Luther King Jr. http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-short-videos-teaching-kids-martin-luther-king-jr/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-short-videos-teaching-kids-martin-luther-king-jr/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 23:06:13 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=63986 Jan 19th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which provides a wonderful opportunity to educate our children about the civil rights movement and the importance of nonviolent action in changing our society for the better. Here are three videos we came across that do a good job of making these important topics accessible to young kids. They are all […]

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Jan 19th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which provides a wonderful opportunity to educate our children about the civil rights movement and the importance of nonviolent action in changing our society for the better. Here are three videos we came across that do a good job of making these important topics accessible to young kids. They are all short, so they’ll easily fit into a busy day. Click on each image to watch the videos on YouTube.

1. BrainPop Video: We like BrainPop in general. Their educational videos are fun and interesting, even for adults, and this one is no exception.  After watching, you can visit this page for interactive activities to learn more about MLK.

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2. Picture Book: This one is a presentation of A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. Nicely read with illustrations from the book displayed as the video.

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3. 5 Minute Bio: Here is a great short video for introducing Martin Luther King Jr. to kids of any age, but the presentation will likely make it more appealing to kids over 5. It does briefly discuss his assassination by a sniper and mention his religious beliefs more than once, so you may want to screen before viewing with kids.

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Making Peace with Growing Older http://www.mothering.com/articles/making-peace-growing-older/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/making-peace-growing-older/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 20:50:11 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=63826 I have been afraid of death for as long as I can remember. I don’t know when it began: maybe it was losing both my father and grandmother at the age of three – events that shaped my life in fundamental ways. Or maybe this terror of the unknown has simply always been my shadow. […]

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Photo of Yia Alias.

Photo of Yia Alias.

I have been afraid of death for as long as I can remember.

I don’t know when it began: maybe it was losing both my father and grandmother at the age of three – events that shaped my life in fundamental ways. Or maybe this terror of the unknown has simply always been my shadow.

As I grew into adulthood this fear of death seemed to bleed into life itself, manifesting as a fear of growing old. I have always pushed thoughts about my own old-age further into the future. Recently however, as I observe signs of aging in my own mother, as my age creeps ever closer to forty, and after recently attending a funeral, the future demands to be faced.

I never saw much in our Western ‘progressive’ society to look forward to about getting old. Witnessing a loss of physical health and faculties in others has always distressed me, and nursing homes depress me: they haunt my thoughts as ‘waiting rooms’ for the inevitable. So much is made of ‘retirement’ amongst the older generations –  the supposed reward after a life of hard work. But it seems to me that ‘retirement’ is the beginning of the decline – a sudden loss of purpose that subtly slides into a loss of vitality and the beginning of the end.

As I leave the blush of youth behind, I am slowly becoming accustomed to being invisible. I watch myself, out in public. I have borne five children and it shows in my body. No longer am I  noticed or flirted with by pretty young things, never thought of as a trouble maker or as any kind of threat to public decency.

I watch elderly women out in public too. Sitting quietly, observing. Walking slowly, going about their business benignly. No one seems to be noticing them either, not even younger women as they rush about their own lives. But our lives cannot become meaningless just because we cross the threshold of a certain age. In history books, in other cultures, there are plenty of examples of elder women being revered, respected, and honored.

I did not realize I had been searching for a new vision of old age until I found it. I recently had the opportunity to attend a three day gathering devoted to study of the Goddess and how she embodies in daily life. Eighty women came together for ritual, for reflection, and for nourishment.  And oh, I found what I was looking for : women, honoring the elder women in their midst. Giving them the spotlight, listening to their stories, drinking in their wisdom.

Women, accepting of their bodies and physicality, but more focused on their work in the world.

Women who dressed up, not for male or female attention, or to be noticed, but for their own enjoyment and self expression, for celebration of themselves.

Women, children now grown, reveling in ‘their time,’ unashamedly giving to themselves and to the wider world.

Women who have let go of the stereotypical expectations of the ‘female’ sex – dressing how they choose, ignoring stupid social rules; speaking out, and speaking loud. I heard one woman say: “This is my truth. You don’t have to agree, but I have to speak it.”

Once I returned to my own life, I began to see elderly women in a new light. When I meet one, I ask questions. I listen. I acknowledge. Every woman has amazing stories to tell.

There are aspects of the Goddess in every woman, not just those that consciously seek to identify with her.

In all of three days, I was changed. I am changed. My vision for my own future has expanded exponentially, breathing new life into my existence right now. I wonder now, with joy (rather than dread): what adventures will I have in the future?

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One Lucky Granddaughter http://www.mothering.com/articles/one-lucky-granddaughter/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/one-lucky-granddaughter/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 21:05:05 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=63762 On October 15th, I lost my grandmother to cancer. The disease engulfed Dot’s body almost as quickly as she learned the diagnosis. Three days earlier, when the doctors assured she still had a few weeks, I returned home from my hospital visit, gathered my notebook, and made plans to capture my grandmother’s unusually talkative mood.

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By Jennifer Reinharz for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

On October 15th, I lost my grandmother to cancer. The disease engulfed Dot’s body almost as quickly as she learned the diagnosis.

Three days earlier, when the doctors assured she still had a few weeks, I returned home from my hospital visit, gathered my notebook, and made plans to capture my grandmother’s unusually talkative mood.

There were so many possibilities. Perhaps, as my husband’s Jewish tradition teaches, Dot could fulfill the 613th mitzvah and write a Torah, a personal 10 commandments thus sealing her life scroll; or maybe, as a member of her church’s quilting guild, she could share patch ideas for a memory quilt.

But by the time I reached my grandmother’s home hospice bedside, she was already in a final sleep. Weeks whittled to hours. Before sunrise, she was gone.

Dot’s death was beautiful; swift, pain-free, and at home surrounded by loved ones. Her last days, passing, and funeral had been a fluid waltz. Everything fell into place as if she was the choreographer.

Without her words, I had to stretch my accordion memory file for tucked away treasures. Two came to mind; Sweet 16 and Oh Definitely.

Each birthday, my grandmother would caw over her candles, “I’m sweet sixteen and never been kissed.” Sixteen was her forever age, the age at which she liked to remember herself.

Any time Dot emphatically agreed with a point, she broke her silence with a high pitched, “Oh, definitely!”

My notebook soon filled up with Dot’s Sweet 16 of Definite-lys.

Read More...

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When I Write http://www.mothering.com/articles/write-poem/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/write-poem/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 00:17:37 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=63722 I write in between blowing on hot food and gluing dried leaves to paper plates.

I write in between clipping fingernails and carefully picking up broken pieces of glass.

I write in between dropping uneaten food into the garbage and pulling tags off of unworn clothes.

I write in between filling the ice trays with a slow stream of water and wiping away coffee rings on the countertops.

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By Elizabeth Matthews for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

I write in between blowing on hot food and gluing dried leaves to paper plates.

I write in between clipping fingernails and carefully picking up broken pieces of glass.

I write in between dropping uneaten food into the garbage and pulling tags off of unworn clothes.

I write in between filling the ice trays with a slow stream of water and wiping away coffee rings on the countertops.

I write in between scraping lint off the dryer filter and walking around the Play-Doh stains on the basement carpet.

I write in between searching for bobby pins and pulling the hairs out of the drain before drawing a bath.

I write in between squeezing the right flavor of medicine into the dosing cup and trying to brush through wet, knotty hair.

I write in between building a garage out of Legos and picking eggshells out of the cookie batter.

I write in between watching reality TV and reading a lengthy essay on the gluten free food movement.

I write in between taping the handwritten card to the present and accepting a piece of cake after eating pizza at the second birthday party.

I write in between learning how to fold paper to make it fly and traversing a crowded parking lot with two small children.

I write in between pressing on the tip of the boot to see if I can feel small toes and finding the right spot to tickle to hear a giggle.

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