Dear Mom and Dad: A Love Letter From Your Baby


Dear Mom and Dad,

We haven’t met yet, but I am the one down here hanging out in the most comfortable place around. And before I make my grand entrance I need to ask you for a few favors.

Accommodating them may mean parenting differently than you were expecting, but I promise it will be worth it.

First, I will be healthier and happier if you breastfeed me. So please nurse me, whenever and however often I want. This is how my tiny little body works. It needs to nurse a lot.

I know this will be hard for you mom, and that for the first couple of months you will wonder if you will ever have a moment to yourself.

But here I am. And this is what I need.

It will get better, I promise.

Next, please do not leave me alone. Ever.

If you try to and I cry, please pick me up. Hold me, nurse me, sing to me, rock me, cuddle me. Do whatever you have to so that I become calmer.

I breathe better when you are holding me. I am safer.

Where I Am Happiest

I do not cry to bother you, I cry because something is wrong. Horribly terribly wrong.

I know it may not seem like that is possible, when my diaper is dry and I have just nursed. But I am so little and my body is growing so quickly. And I only feel right when I am being held, or nursed.

I have been living in nirvana while I was growing in your belly and now I have to wear clothes and I get cold, or hot, or hungry, and I do not understand it. It has never happened to me before.

You will be frustrated, I know. I hear that it is really, really hard.

But, here I am. I am your baby.

Instead of spending your time trying to make me, a little tiny baby ,behave as you want me to, will you use your resources to bring in help? Family, friends, anybody who offers.

Anybody who will support you while you focus on the most important thing in the world; me.

So that you can just spend all of your time making me comfortable.

I know a lot of magazines and people and books will tell you that you will spoil me, or that you need to make time for yourself. But right now, while I am still so little, you have to take care of me. I have to be most important.

If you are able to do these things for me, we will be closer than you ever dreamed possible, and we will be able to relate. Always.

Even when I am 16.

If you wonder if this is true, please go to the source to find out. Do not talk with people who have done it differently, instead talk with those who have made these choices. Look at the science that supports it.

And try to find the science that does not.

As soon as I am born you will start making decisions about how connected we will be. You will decide how much time we will spend together and I will understand what you are telling me.

If we spend all day and all night together, I will know how much you value me.

If you hang out with me on the floor and play, I will know that you think I am fun.

If you smile at me, I will know that you are happy to be my mom.

If you always try to make me comfortable and stop my crying, I will know that you believe what I am telling you.

And that matters to me. And to the world.

And finally; always trust your instincts with me. That is why you have them.

If anybody tries to tell you that you are doing it wrong, but with every part of your being you believe that your choices are just what I need, respectfully ignore those people.

Soon we will meet. I will be confused and scared and lonely and wondering where I am. Comfort me, love me, do what your instincts tell you, and we will all be very, very happy.

Love,

Your Baby

Advertisements

Permission Granted: A Gift For New Families


When Sydney, my second was born, I stayed in my pajamas for a lot longer.

Last night I went to dinner with my Mom’s Group. We spent some of our time reminiscing about our first playgroup, and acknowledged the vast difference in who we were then, and who we are now.

We chuckled about how we all thought the other had it together and was managing just fine.

We talked about the fact that before having children we did not understand the depth that our marriage could reach. That our relationship with our spouse is so much more complex and full, now that we parent children together. As we marveled at how simple our married lives were before children, one of my girlfriends said “we were just boyfriend and girlfriend then, really”.

One of my girlfriends had just come from visiting a friend with a new baby of her own, where she offered her some insightful advice. And as she shared it with us, there was a conviction and certainty that I have never heard in her voice before. She told her struggling and brand new mom friend:

“Stay in your PJ’s all day. Order out, and do not clean your house. Stay in bed all day if you want. Just you and your baby. Nurse, and go to sleep, nurse and go to sleep. Trust me, this is what you should do.”

And isn’t she right?

But our collective Mom’s Group unanimously felt as though everyone expected us to get back to “life before baby” as soon as we were physically recovered from delivering.

Believing this made us manic as we attempted to manage it all while trying to look like we were fine.

What a gift, I thought, that my friend had given this new mom.

I thought a lot about this on my ride home. I remembered how tough my first weeks and months were as a first time mother, and how much different it would have been if I had understood that I did not have to do the things I thought I did.

That my house could be a mess, and that gym pants and flannels were expected attire during this period.

And that everyone around me thought it should be this way too.

And so I think all new mom’s should be given the very profound and wise advice shared by my girlfriend. That with as much conviction and confidence as my girlfriend had, we should tell every new mom:

“just take care of yourself and your baby. Recover, adjust and deal with the rest of it later.

If your (mom), (aunt), (friend), (neighbor), comes by and gives you a hard time about the condition of your home, ask her to clean it.

If you read in a magazine that your baby should not sleep with you but in your very core you know that you should, use the page of that magazine to make a beautiful paper snowflake.

If a book tells you to let your baby cry, but everything in you is telling you to pick her up, with your baby in your arms, ask your partner to add that book to the fire. And it will keep your new family cozy and warm.

Trust your instincts, do what feels right and know that you are doing an amazing job.”

Really, this might be the very best gift we can give to a new family.

Owen and I when he was days old. I wish I had stayed like this for three months.

A Movie By Pondering Jane: My Happy Baby


Okay, so my sister who works in film said “I would not so much call this an animated short as…” and that is where she left it.
At any rate, I had so much fun making this and hope to make a couple more. Click below to view the movie.

My Happy Baby!

Learning To Know You: A Love Letter To My Son


My Beautiful Owen

Dear Owen,

Yesterday we went swimming.You, your dad, Sydney and I. You had been asking for all of us to go for days.  You have been taking lessons and are doing so well, and you love being in the water as much as I do.

We had so much fun.  You smiled fully the entire time we were there.  We all did.

Believe it or not, this is a new thing that I am learning, that some things make you happier than others, and that there are activities that bring you lots of joy.

And whether it is swimming, or acting, or playing superheroes, your smile is always different when we are doing something that you truly love.

Just as my smile is when I am doing something that I love, and everyone else’s is too.

I know that my smile was different each time I was at a Dave Matthews show, or when I am laughing really hard with my girlfriends.

And so I should have understood that some of the ways you spend your time would bring you more joy.  And that I should be creating those opportunities reguarly.

Instead I have gotten into the habit of choosing things that I think you would like, instead of listening to what you are asking for.

And it is not to say that sometimes my suggestions are not appropriate, because certainly they are.  And I do know that part of my role as your mother is to expose you to things that you may not have thought of.

But you had to ask me to sign you up for swimming lessons for two weeks before I heard you.  And I should have listened the first time you asked.

Now I understand how to pay more attention.

But this is my first time being a mom, and you are my first child.

And while I feel fortunate that immediately upon becoming a mother I knew the things that I would not do, learning how to make the best choices to ensure you become who you are meant to be, instead of  who I think you should be will be a long process.

This is a tough thing for me as a parent;  standing back and observing who you are instead of inundating you with the possibilities.

I am glad that this knowledge has been brought to my attention while you are so young, because unquestionably I was headed toward forming you into who I thought you would like to be.

And now, with this new understanding,  I get to know you.

I get to learn about what really makes you happy and what holds your interest.  I get to see first hand how your beautiful and curious mind processes information and what intrigues you.

As I sit quietly, I watch how you play.  I notice how you move action figures, and that you get really frustrated when Sydney does not understand how hard you worked on a block structure.

This shows me how invested you were in your project.  It also shows me how patient and forgiving you are.

And I am having so much fun getting to know you. You continue to teach me new things and inspire me to be better at being patient and intentional and at listening.

Mostly though, I always want to be better at being your mom.

We are finding our way, Owen. And though we are hitting some challenges, we are getting better.

I am getting better.

And that is never something I will stop working on.

I love you Owen.

Love,

Mommy

The Motherhood Groove


I was blindsided by motherhood. I had no idea how much it would change my life.

Before my oldest child was born, I was committed to keeping my life as it was whether children were a part of it or not. I held fast to my commitment to read, work, keep up with the house, maintain my relationships with friends, and my husband.

Then Owen was born. And I was not prepared.

For the connection I would feel for him, the way that life was only right when he was peaceful and touching me, the fact that with the birth of my first child, my eyes would be replaced with new ones.

Every desire that I had before children became distant in my mind, seldom receiving any consideration.  All that mattered to me was that Owen was comfortable and content.

I am not embarrassed by this. I do not feel ashamed that my priority suddenly became my children. I feel grateful. Now.

But for the first months, and years, I tried to maintain it all. I tried to work, and stay connected with my “self” (the definition of which was my pre-child self) and not let life change.

Of course, life had already changed and I was just pretending.

Twenty six months later my daughter was born, and as she began needing attention I became a maniac. I tried desperately to meet the needs of both of my children all of the time.

I was constantly stressed. Even if both kids were sleeping, I was beating myself up over the way I had handled a situation, or I was prepping the house for when they woke up.

I was either making lunch, putting away toys, or planning an activity. Anything to free up my energy and time so that it could all be devoted to them when they woke.

Somewhere during this time I stopped working. Entirely. I tried to take my children on outings planned around nap times and snacks, and enroll them in music class.

My inability to accept that life had changed created both an inner struggle and tension between my children and I.  My life had no rhythm, and though I tried, I could not find a groove.

Then, without planning or realizing it,  Sydney’s napping became more predictable and Owen spent more time playing on his own. The house began to stay organized more easily as Owen began to consistently pick up after himself, and Sydney.  I became calmer. And several months ago, I realized that things were getting easier.

Owen and Sydney started playing together- frequently and for close to an hour at times. I often just sat and watched them. Amazed.  Mornings could be spent reading books, watching a movie or doing laundry.

Owen and Sydney joined in to help me prepare lunch.

As blocks were turned into structures, I sat on the couch in front of my children.  I read my book, or caught up with friends on Facebook. Music played quietly in the background.

Instead of cries of frustration and prayers of desperation, giggles and conversation became regular. Suddenly, it seemed that not only did I love my children, but that I loved Motherhood.

As I reflect now on life since Owen was born, I realize that there was nothing magical about this transformation. I gave up lots of preconceived notions about how things “should be”, and started doing what felt right to me, and made my children happy.  Expectations were altered or eliminated all together.  This removed unnecessary resistance and chaos from our lives and changed our dynamic.

We were no longer trying to force an outcome, we were going with what was in front of us.

This is not who I am at my core.  Or, not who I was.  I am learning.

Every day is not perfect and neither am I.  I cop to my weaknesses and shortcomings regularly.

But mostly now, I enjoy almost every moment of the day. Grateful for this amazing life. For spending most of my moments with my children. By choice.

And when Sydney turned two just a few weeks ago, instead of being filled with a feeling of bittersweet that she was getting older, I was filled only with joy, that my baby is so happy.

Because now I know that I am not fighting motherhood, that I am comfortable, gratefully sinking into it. That I appreciate nearly every moment and am giving my children the best part of myself.

The regret that I so frequently felt when Owen was two is now replaced with confidence. An assurance that comes from knowing that every day my children are calmly loved and appreciated.

Instead of ending each day thinking of how I will do better tomorrow, I end it smiling with the knowledge that I have finally found my Motherhood Groove.

Enjoying time with my children. Daily. Photo by Owen.

Overparenting. Is It Real?


20111219-084716.jpg

Sure, it's a challenge, but Sydney can handle it. If she couldn't have though, I would have helped her right away.

Reference has been made to “The Age of Overparenting” and admittedly I am not sure what practices this is referring to.

The term itself does concern me. In an age where activities, school and media disconnect us from our instincts and children, I fear that we will be further confused by thinking that we “coddle” our children too much-that we over love them.

Maybe even, that we are “spoiling” them.

But really, how can we “overparent” our children? We can overschedule their activities, overfeed them, and overlook them, but “overparent” them?  It does not seem possible to me.

Maybe this term means that we are overly involved in their lives. That though, would be nosy, not overparenting.

Perhaps it suggests that we are providing too much physical affection. But, that is impossible.

I guess the term could mean that too often we are caught starry-eyed gazing, basking in the love that we feel for this beautiful and wonderful being. Busted while thanking God that He thought us worthy enough to raise this, our beautiful child.

No, I do not believe that it is possible to “overparent” your children. To listen to them too much, laugh with them too often or over-encourage them when they need it.

Because it seems like parenting your children means that you know when they need encouragement, and when too much encouragement would simply be inflating an artificial ego.

And we certainly cannot make our children feel better more often than they need it.

It seems to me that really parenting your child means keeping them safe. Not keeping them in a protective sheath or bubble. And knowing your child well enough to know which you are doing.

That a parented child feels genuine love and respect from their parents, and that they can trust their mom and dad to teach them appropriate boundaries. And is there a way to “over”do this?

It seems to me that when we spend enough time with our children to know them well, there is very little risk of “overparenting” them. We will know that ballet is just too much for them, and that really, they do hate piano lessons.

When we have allowed ourself to be completely open to falling head over heels in love with our children, we want to remove unnecessary negativity, because we know that enough tough stuff comes from other places.

And that appropriately assisting them with challenges will strengthen them and make them intuitively compassionate, not cause them to lack fortitude and coping mechanisms.

If we permit ourselves to invest fully in our child, we trust ourselves, and we do not have to wonder if we should have made them honor their commitment to stay at a sleepover even though they were scared.

Overparenting is not something that I am worried about because I do not believe it exists. All of the other stuff we will struggle with, and will try to find the right balance for our family.

But too much love is not corny, it is just not possible.

Have I missed something? Do you think it is possible to overparent? Is the term confusing?