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

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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

My Motherhood Is.


This is also my motherhood.

My motherhood is a constant contradiction of wanting to be with my children so much that I do not want to leave them to work, and being so bored from playing cars that I desperately want to be in an office full of adults.

My motherhood is the moment of seeing my children after hours or days of not being present. Of letting our moments together pass unnoticed, as I went through the motions of meeting only their most basic needs.

My motherhood is bloodshot eyes from a night without sleep, and still needing to ensure the health and safety of two people incapable of doing so themselves.

It is the loss of patience credited to too many hours spent with only my whining, demanding children.

It is an endorphin rush from an unexpected gesture of affection from one of my beautiful babies.

It is pure wonderment as I climb into bed because I have nothing tangible to represent another day completed.

It is mental longing to be doing something other than spending time with people under the age of five, and a physical pull that keeps me in the same space with my children.

It is a flash of regret after reaching frustrations point of no return.

It is the feeling of pure joy and child like giddiness that comes from watching my two children laugh together and enjoy each other.

My motherhood is a morning spent giving my two young children baths, mindlessly. And enviously thinking of those accomplishing tangible goals at the very same moment, like providing a report to their boss, or the sale of a newly designed cake.

It is understanding that this is my choice, and that I continue to choose this daily.

It is comprehending that not too long from now, I likely will affectionately and longingly recall these days, when my primary focus was caring for, teaching and shaping my children.

My motherhood is desperately trying to remember this while I wipe another snotty nose.

It is an overwhelming contradiction of dejection and joy, with no resources readily available to make sense of or combat it. And knowing that even if I could find tools to help me navigate motherhood, I would have no time to utilize them.

My motherhood is, by design, two tiny people who are the priority in my life.  And the acceptance that really, I believe this is for better not worse.

And so is this.

What is your motherhood?

Peace, Joy and No Resolutions.


With the marking of each new year, I am always tempted to make a list of resolutions.  Things that I promise myself I will do, or change, or eliminate, or add.  All in the coming year.

And then, not make them happen.

And the lack of completing these things will prove that I am incapable of following through on anything. Which really, I already knew.

So this year, I have decided to cut myself a break.

Instead of committing to unrealistic goals, for the next twelve months I will simply keep a few things in mind.  Some small efforts that I think will make life more peaceful and happier for me and my family.  None of these things will have quantifiable results.  This is intentional.

For example, I am not going to commit to going to the gym 5 times each week and losing 30 pounds by January 9th.  Instead, I will focus on allowing myself to feel better.  By making choices like nourishing my body with food that will make me feel good, and providing it with regular movement to keep the blood and oxygen flowing to the places it needs to be.

This will make me happier and calmer (and yes, hopefully thinner!).  A mom who feels good must be better for her family.

Instead of promising that I will never lose my patience with my kids again, I am going to ease up on my expectations of them, myself and our time together.  I am going to feel more comfortable canceling plans and missing activities if it means eliminating the chaos that is created by trying to get to said plans.

Rather than saying that 2012 will be the first year in human history that a wife has not been mad at her husband, I will work toward clearer and more positive communication. I will find and use resources for this purpose, so that our arguments decrease both in frequency and intensity.

And instead of repeatedly reminding myself that I am best at making mistakes, I will remind myself that I always make choices that I believe are best for my children and my family.

My children are at the beginning of their time here on Earth.  I want to make their journey as joyous as possible.  And if I do not make joy and happiness an intentional priority now, our years together will pass with me hoping that we will happen upon these things as a family, instead of doing my part to create them.

I suspect that in order to experience real and consistent joy, peace must be present, and that regular attention must be paid to choosing it.

So in addition to making myself feel better this year, I will make seemingly small choices that will allow my family to relax.

I will focus on remembering to choose peace and calm whenever possible.  And I will regularly question if the thing I am trying to force is worth giving that up for.

My hope is that these small efforts will yield a greater result:  more joy.  For me, my family and all those who come in contact with us.

                                                                    Not only in 2012, but all the New Years to come.

Here is wishing you and yours a Happy New Year, filled with Peace and Joy!

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.

Slowing Down The Crazy


Baby Owen had no idea how much he would "experience" in his first six months!

I am developing a new appreciation for calm and quiet.  I see how it benefits my children and family, and I relish it.

About six months ago, I began to take notice of how many “plans” I was committing the kids and I to on a daily basis.  Whether it was an invitation to a play date, an organized class, or time with extended family, I tried to become realistic about how much we could do before any of us became overwhelmed or stressed.

This is a vast change from Owen’s first six months of life.  Before Owen had lived through two seasons, he had completed music class, play group, swim lessons, movement class and group exercise classes with his mom.  And oh yeah, I was working part time, and bringing him with me.

It was nuts.

We progressed this way for quite some time.  I wanted to afford Owen every possible opportunity.  Not because I am competitive, but because Owen is my baby. I want to provide him any resources that I can in order for him to find his passion.

We maintained a frenzied pace right through my second pregnancy.

But when Sydney was born, a bit of calm seemed to be delivered with her.  She and I came home on Thanksgiving Day.  The family focus of that specific day combined with the winter months gave me a different appreciation for being at home with my family.

We started to slow down.

I noticed the effect this conscious effort had on all of us.  We were calmer.  The house was quieter. It was different, and maybe this new atmosphere could have felt a little strange at first.  But, it was…nice.

Really, really nice.

The more I began to read and research, the more I realized how wrong my initial understandings were.  My beliefs that Owen needed to be exposed to everything in order to grow, and that staying home with just me would not allow him to socialize, were unfounded.

The more I become comfortable with me being enough for my children -a new concept for me, the calmer our lives are becoming.  It feels like an improvement.

I am not suggesting that my house is a land of tranquility.  A frenzied pace is very much a part of me, and it often tries to surface.  Now though, it is easier to keep “the crazy” at bay. Because now I know that choices that make life too busy do not necessarily provide my children with opportunities.

But they certainly create an environment of chaos and confusion.

So I continue to work toward increasing the calm.  I evaluate each activity choice and think about how it will impact our mood and dynamic for the day.  Though Peace does not reign yet, we are slowing down the crazy.

And it feels really good.

Now, mornings are spent relaxed and interacting.

Removing The Artificial Lid


A Happy Guy

A new friend recently introduced my husband Kris and I to Sandra Dodd, someone I consider to be the ultimate advocate for children and families.  Sandra has encouraged us to know our children more deeply.  She is teaching us how to open ourselves up to seeing who our children are,  instead of trying to make them into who we want them to be.

Sandra Dodd’s writing brought to Kris and my attention that it was he and I who were deciding how our children should spend their time.  Without realizing it, we were molding them into who we thought they should be, instead of watching them develop into who they are.  We were putting limits on self discovery and joy.

For example, Owen has a new found love of superheroes.  Something introduced him to them, and there was no turning back.  He wants to read about, talk about and role play superheroes all of the time.  Each family member is a character (including Sydney, our two year old), and we play the part.  A LOT.  He loves everything about the worlds and is having lots of fun.

Though we have gotten pretty tired of playing, Kris and I have made an important observation from playing Super Heroes so very, very often.  Owen’s smile has grown immeasurably .

And while part of me is sad to write this, there have been times that his smile is so huge, I do not even recognize it.  And it is amazing.

Though we have been trying our best, for Owen’s four years of life we have unintentionally prohibited him from fully expressing himself.  We thought superheroes were too violent, and that books are the ultimate tool to ensure a successful child.

Without realizing it, we have been trying to contain the imagination of a spectacular little boy.  A profound imagination that should be celebrated.

These limits were always in his best interest, or so we thought.  We did not want him to be exposed to things that might be unpleasant, or turn him into a thief or sociopath.  We wanted him to experience things that were bright and educational and formed positive connections.  These are appropriate and honorable goals for parents, surely.

However, in the process we were sending him the message that his dad and I know what he enjoys better than he does.  That the stuff he was interested in was not really all that interesting, and that he should rely on others to choose how his time is spent.  We were conditioning him not to trust his own judgement.  We were capping and containing who Owen is.

But not anymore.

We have taken the lid off, and are letting him go.  We are allowing Owen to explore who he is.  We are encouraging him to try the thing he is curious about.  We are learning to be interested with him. To find new ways of playing superheroes when we are bored with the old ones.

I am grateful to Sandra Dodd for allowing us to learn this now, before our children are older and have learned from us that there are limitations on how much joy they can feel- that feeling that happy needs to be questioned.  I thank her for enlightening us before our children understood that a cap should be placed on their creativity and explorative nature.

Owen is learning a lot from Superheroes.  We are having interesting discussions about ethics and values and are having fun finding new ways to make all sorts of costumes and props.

Mostly though, Owen is learning that his mom and dad think he is one cool dude.  And that the stuff he is interested in is cool too.  It is becoming more evident to Owen that he is important to Kris and I, and can trust us to encourage him to explore what he is curious about.

So really, I do not think the superheroes have anything to do with the size of Owen’s smile.  I think it comes from an artificial lid finally being removed.  From knowing that his mom and dad love everything about him, and want to get to know who he is.

That huge expression of joy is a result of him sinking into the knowledge that he can trust himself to explore what he wants, knowing that Kris and I are here to help in whatever way we can.  And that we are excited to explore this really neat new world with him.

And that it makes him really, really happy.

d

An Amazing Smile.

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s Musing.  Pondering Jane’s home is in transition.  Please find more musings, activities and tips at http://www.ponderingjane.com, or subscribe down there on the right.

Changing The Rules


This is how Kris travels to get his six pack now.

About a year ago I posted about House Rule #1, which basically stated that any minute my husband was not working, he must have  a child with him.  Whether he had to run to the store, had just walked through the door, or needed to take a shower, one of our children was required to be with him.

Our children were younger then.  We were with them around the clock.  Sydney was a baby, and still needed attention most of the time and it still took a good deal of time to get them to sleep whether for a nap or bedtime.  I was overwhelmed, it’s true, but also it was important to me that we define our family parameters early on.  That two parents were equally responsible for knowing our children.

My husband Kris was totally on board.  He needed some reminding once in a while that he was doing something childless, but he is a quick learner.

Our children are older now, and I am calmer.  Whole hours can go by where the children are playing independently. Bedtime is easier and requires less.  Owen is mostly self sufficient and our time together now is spent enjoying each other rather than meeting basic needs.

Even when Kris has been traveling, I am no longer burned out upon his return.  I am not craving ten minutes to take a shower by myself or desperately seeking Facebook connections.  Things have gotten easier.

Logically, I knew that this would have to happen, but in the early days of learning how to parent two children it seemed unlikely.

So we are shelving House Rule #1.  Technically.  But it has created the long lasting result of Kris consistently checking in to make sure things are all right at home before he ventures out sans children.  Even if it is just for a run or to pick up a six pack.

I know this seems unnecessary to a lot of people.  But each time he checks in it reminds me that we are in this together and that he understands that some days at home with the children are difficult.  More importantly it acknowledges how important it is that I am doing well.  That my role is important.

Feeling supported goes a long way.

Should we have another baby, House Rule #1 will go back into effect as soon as “morning” sickness strikes.  This time though, we would understand how very temporary it is, and realize in how many other ways this rule benefits our family.

But for now, most often when Kris asks if it is convenient for him to run out for a while without the kids, I say “sure” and sometimes even “take your time”.

More often though, Kris does not even ask.  He loves having one of the kids with him.  It is getting easier for him too.

Though I would like to claim that it was my wisdom and forward thinking that created this outcome,  when I instated House Rule #1 it was out of desperation.  There was no thought of how it might impact our family long term.

Either way, it does not matter.  We have made it through and are headed into the next phase of parenthood.  We know a little bit more about who we are as parents and know our children well.  I am grateful that we no longer need House Rule #1.

I’ve never been much for rules anyway.  (See next weeks entry House Rule #2).