Parenting H

Month: February, 2014

You can’t carry him all the time. He’s getting too heavy. You’re going to have to put him down.

I was told this when H was four, maybe five months old.

He was getting heavier, yes, but carrying him was no hardship. Every day carrying a baby was a workout for the next, until one day I was working out for the next day of carrying a toddler.

Now, when I pick him up and carry him out of bed in the morning, I marvel at the rightness of fit that exists between us. We stop by the full length mirror on our way from turning off Ocean Waves, and I see a little boy, his left arm hooked around my right, his long legs dangling, his head at just the right height for me to lean into his cheek for a kiss. I see one of the many ways in which we have grown together over the past 20 months. I see a perfect fit.

I know at some point H will be too heavy for me to carry, but that day has not yet come. When it does, I will keep right on carrying him in my heart.

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Waiting It Out

Spending some time diaper free before bed. Reading Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Mommy! Mommy! Scrubbing, with his help, the spot where he peed on the floor. Shrieking joyously with him, from opposite sides of a closed closet door, as we reach underneath to touch hands. Tickling his buddha belly when he opens the door to let me out. Shrieking and laughing and playing the closed door game again and again. Squeezing the last of the ointment that combats his winter dry skin from the tube. Brushing teeth himself. Putting on his pajama tops as he stands on tip toes and stretches his arms as high over his head as he can to fish toiletries out of a bathroom drawer. Putting on nighttime diapers and pajama bottoms. Fighting little hands and tears to brush his teeth myself. Crawling into bed. Reading, at his request, Hush Little Baby until he flips the book closed and signs more. Starting over. Stopping short when he signs all done. Turning off the light. Lying down to nurse. Letting him switch back and forth himself. Murmuring, singing, and humming through our now familiar and comfortable repertoire of lullabies. Listening to him babble. Rocking him in my arms when he pops up in bed. Snuggling. Nuzzling. Giving and receiving kisses. Soaking up his sweet toddler energy. Lying back down. Nursing again. Feeling his body quiet and then a rush of grief rise up. Longing for joy and connection. Watching H, through tear struck eyes, unlatch and roll away, asleep. Listening to him breathe. Studying him, the turn of his head, his starfished limbs, the rise and fall of his chest with each breath. Realizing, like an epiphany, that the loss of one relationship in my life has momentarily blinded me to the joy I have with those that remain, including the sweet toddler sleeping next to me. Pausing to savor the relief of my gladdened heart before climbing out of bed.

The letter at storytime today was V (v) for Valentine’s Day.

We heard stories about hugs and kisses, including How Do You Hug a Porcupine by Laurie Isop.

We sang (and signed) Love Grows by Carol Johnson:
Love grows one by one, two by two
And four by four
Love grows round like a circle
And comes back knocking at your front door

The early literacy tip was about writing:
“Studies have shown that learning reading and writing go hand in hand. Whether your child is drawing hearts or writing words, putting a pencil, marker, or crayon in their hands is preparing them for writing. They are learning to express themselves on paper, as well as developing dexterity and hand strength.”

You will be told that you and H have an attachment issue. You will be told this by a mental health professional you are going to for help when you are in an already vulnerable state. Your face will betray surprise and your body will flood with shame when you hear those words. You will say that you don’t see anything wrong with a strong attachment to your child, but you will feel like the words fall flat and lifeless on the floor, ineffectual with someone you will feel is taking everything you say and turning it against you. You will be asked what, exactly, it is that you are doing to foster independence in H, but it will hit you as a challenge rather than an impartial, curious inquiry. You will be told that mother-child pairs who have intense connections cause marital problems, that if your husband is contemplating leaving you, you had better listen to what he has to say and you had better do something, anything, to save your marriage. You will be told that you are drawing too tight a circle around you and H, that you need to let outside voices in. You will be told that you need to talk to H’s pediatrician about his sleep, that the doctor is the expert and knows about these things and so you have to listen. You will say that you have talked to her and that you have opted not to follow her advice in this one area, and you will feel this only further confirms the impression of you the mental health professional seems to hold. You will be told that you are viewing the world as hostile, in an us against them kind of way, and that you are lumping the mental health professional into the them when all the mental health professional wants to do is help because she cares about you. You will be told that you are reading into things and your misunderstandings of the mental health professional’s words are projections of your own distorted thoughts and feelings. You will start to feel like it does not matter what you say and so you will start to say nothing very much at all. You will be told that you are angry, that the mental health professional can see that, that she knows when she is done, and that she is sorry she has incited your ire, but she really does care about you and only wants to help. You will start packing up your belongings to go, but you will be held a moment longer. Would you like to come back in two weeks or four? you will be asked. After you have left the mental health professional’s office, you will wish that you had said you prefer not to come back at all.

Later, you will be sitting with H on your lap, his back curved snugly into your chest and your check nuzzled into the warmth of his head and the softness of his hair. Your thoughts will return to the mental health professional, and you will feel the helplessness of being told, despite your protestations, things about yourself you know not to be true. You will wonder if this is what it felt like to be a woman in the 1800s diagnosed with hysteria simply for having a uteruses and feelings. You will sense a gathering of mothers around you, mothers told they caused their children’s autism with their cold, inadequate parenting; mothers of gay sons accused of being smothering and overbearing; single mothers blamed for the crime and poverty in their neighborhoods. You will think about how mothers can be undermined and criticized for almost anything they do, how you sometimes cannot win as a mother, you are either too distant or too involved, too strict or too permissive, too affectionate or too stern, too much of this and not enough of that. You will wonder why mothers are so often criticized and blamed when there is every reason to celebrate and lift them up. You will feel the collective pain of the mothers gathered around you, because it is your pain now, too.

You will be brought back to the present moment by H. He will insist on holding your tea mug by himself to drink cold oat straw tea, and you will wonder why everyone is harping on what you are or are not doing to foster his independence. You will see it, right there, in the way he grabs your mug and pushes your hand away when you try to help. You will wonder why the gentle, respectful, responsive parenting that feels so right to you is perceived by so many to be so bad for you, for him, for your family. You will feel utterly misunderstood and alone even as you sit with one of the most important people in your life on your lap.

And then you will get up and keep going. You will continue to follow H’s lead and to trust that he knows himself and his needs best. You will breathe deeply and reorient yourself toward your core parenting values. You will work at quieting the voices that don’t serve you while at the same time tuning in to those that do. You will remind yourself that it is worth standing up for a world filled with people who have known gentleness and respect from the time they were young and who are seen for who they are and not for who someone else wants them to be. You will feel a quiet kind of strength, the kind that comes from sitting in the fire until all that is left around you is ashes. You will feel that strength rising up within you, but you will know that you are not yet as unshakably confident in yourself and your parenting as you would like to be. And so you will close your eyes, lean back into the dark, expansive universe and its brilliant points of light, each one representing everyone who ever has or ever will exist, and you will trust that you will get there.

The letter at storytime today was F (f).

We heard stories about feelings, including Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner.

We sang The Feeling Little Spider (to the tune of The Itsy Bitsy Spider):
The happy little spider went up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
And the happy little spider went up the spout again

The sad little spider…
The angry little spider…
The scared little spider…
The excited little spider…

Each verse was sung in such a way as to convey the feeling of the spider.

The early literacy tip was about talking:
“How do you feel? Studies have shown that reading fiction boosts empathy. Stories help kids put themselves in the shoes of someone else and understand how they might be feeling. So talk about those feelings to help kids understand their own feelings as well as the feelings of others!”