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Monday, 13 October 2014 00:45

The Hard Heart of Parenting

 My body tenses. Teeth clench. Heart hardens. 

 I don’t hurt him. I don’t yell. Yet, my heart hardens with frustration. 

 My agenda to clothe my two-year-old collides with his interest in remaining naked. He wants to play with his trucks on the bedroom floor; I have a morning adventure planned. After several attempts to wrestle him into some clothes, he runs out of the room crying “No!” 

 My son says “Stop!” and “No!” frequently these days. He even asserts his will while mimicking favored construction trucks. 

 “Beep, beep, beep!” he says. Usually he does this while putting his hands on my legs and pushing me backward. 

 This morning I miss his “Beep, beep, beep!” which always makes me smile. I imagine it would translate to something like: “Back up Mom. Give me some space. Who needs clothes? Can’t you see I’m really enjoying this moment of being naked? I have no interest in your morning agenda. Let’s play trucks!” 

 This morning, instead of construction sounds, he shouts and cries. I feel my body tense. I feel my frustration. I remember to breathe. I remember my intention to soften into empathy. 

 I walk into the front room where my little naked boy cries in anger. My heart’s hardness melts as soon as I kneel down to connect at eye level. His face is blotchy, his eyes red, his nose runny. He is bawling. He is angry. Yet, I stay present. I sit on the floor. 

 “You are mad at mommy right now. That’s OK. I love you. I’ll be here when you want a hug.” 

 He yells again and runs into the kitchen. 

 “Take a deep breath,” I tell myself as tears filled my eyes. 

 Grief resides in the dark waters of the hardened heart. As I make room for my sadness, a gentle space of compassion opens. This space is wide enough to include all of the feelings swirling around, and through, both of us. 

 I sit on the floor and patiently remain present for him. I watch strong emotions move through his two-year-old self. 

 Yes, he will feel angry. He will feel sad. This is part of life’s flow. How do I respond to the energy of his anger and sadness? Will I try to make him laugh and distract him? Will I respond with my own anger? Do I take it personally? Can I breathe and gently hold space for his pain?

 I can choose to soften around these hard edges. I can choose to breathe in gentleness. In this choice, I feel the freedom that comes from releasing the patterns of generations. 

For certainly, the hard heart is passed on, inherited. Years before I decided to become a mother, I was committed to transform the negative aspects of my childhood. It took a great deal of therapy, meditation, dance, yoga, and travel to soften the scared and angry parts of my heart. Motherhood takes this process to entirely new levels. May I be grateful for this extraordinary opportunity to put into practice all that I’ve worked hard to uncover about the truth of love. 

 A minute or two pass. My son comes back to me. He reaches for me. I hold him. I feel the tension within -- and between -- both of us release. He looks at me and I wipe tears from his face. 

 “Outside?” He points to the door. Can we go outside? 

 I smile. “Yes, we can go outside. Let’s get dressed and go for a walk.” He nods and hugs me again.


 I release my morning agenda as he welcomes my help in getting dressed. I take a deep breath. A few minutes later, we walk hand in hand into the sunlight. 

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:40

Mommy Wars

I recently got kicked out of a local Facebook group for complaining that vaccination debates were getting out of hand and generating harsh judgment and that I was judging others for judging others. Yeah, I know. Silly, stupid, especially the end part. The group was intended for motherly support, but was a breeding ground for differences in opinion and parenting styles - it was an ugly place.

Seriously though, can we stop this? We have ventured into a world of "my way is the only way and you're a bad parent.". 

I don't care if you vaccinate or not. I don't care if you cloth diaper. I don't care if you use a stroller. I don't care if you use formula. I don't care if you homeschool. I don't care if you skipped rice cereal.

What I do care about is that you have all the information and make a decision that is best for you and your family. I don't want you to take the easy way out.

I have been a parent for seven months. I parent like I invented parenthood, like my daughter is the first human to ever experience the first year of life. A tooth is peaking throuh her gums and she invented having teeth. No baby has ever teethed before. I am celebrating every moment. I encourage you to do the same: it's magical. When making a decision for my baby I investigate every angle and find out which is the best, I aim high and see where I land. Someone called me "crunchy" once, but I hate that label. I love Kraft Dinner. My gut flora sucks. But I wear my baby and exclusively breastfed her for six months. She still sleeps in our bed, we cloth diaper. Does that make me better or worse than a mother who eats whole organic foods but has to formula feed her child who refuses to sleep anywhere but its car seat bucket? Or the woman who adopted her baby and did everything right to be able to lactate but pierced her son's ears when they circumcised him?

Stop. Keeping. Score. 

The only reason you should be looking over your neighbour's fence is to make sure they have enough, to make sure they are well - however they define that. Be a resource for all mothers, not a source of anguish. We should base our relationships on love and support, not on judgment and criticism.

You love your child, you try to do the very best, you have good days and bad days and some days you take short cuts but at the end of the day, no matter how different we are, you're a good mom!

Published in Baby's First Year
Sunday, 30 March 2014 09:25

Tomorrow You Turn Two

Tomorrow you turn two.

You are my little one, my constant companion, my sweet guy. Soon you will have journeyed twice around our glorious sun.

Today, I watch you move, jump, and dance. We practice singing “Happy Birthday” in the mirror. I make up words and blow on your belly. Delight fills my soul as you laugh.

Two years ago at this very time, my labor was picking up. I moaned with each contraction. I swayed and cried. I did my best. You were on your way. Was it really two years ago? I would do it all again for you in a heartbeat. I would do it all again and more.

After much ambivalence, I chose to enter motherhood in my late 30’s. Once I found out I was pregnant, I never looked back with doubt or regret. I couldn’t. A profound peace washed through my body upon discovering the news. This peace remains with me as I type these words now.

I know the joy of having a successful career, traveling the world, and meeting extraordinary individuals. Yet, nothing compares to loving you. Your light pierced through any lingering darkness in my soul. I was reborn as I gave birth to you.

Any moment now you will awaken from your nap and call for me. “Mama! Book. Nummies!” you’ll say.

Then, you’ll nurse as I read to you. It’s a gentle way to transition from nap to play. I love breastfeeding. A most tender sweetness fills us both.  As a newborn, you slept on my chest and relied on my care for everything. Now, you can open the refrigerator door on your own. I marvel at your growing body. Yes, you love apples, crackers, raisins, and yogurt. Yet, you still love your “nummies.”

I breathe in deeply. Tomorrow, we reach a milestone. I just turned forty but it is your second birthday moves my soul to reverie.

Your birthday reminds me that these days are precious, irreplaceable, and short-lived. You may carry only a few conscious memories of our time together thus far. Yet, all of these days are etched into my heart. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be your mother. It is an honor beyond measure to nurture your unique and beautiful expression in this world.

Time does her dance. It’s relentless, gorgeous, and difficult to keep up. How to be present through so much change? How to fully take in the miracle unfolding around me as I watch you grow?

The truth is that I’ll miss these days of infancy and toddlerdom. One day, I’ll have free time to once again lose myself in projects for hours and hours. Yet, I’ll miss these days where I put aside my own agenda and focus on building block towers or playing trucks with you. I’ll miss our baths together and our joyful bike rides through the park where you point out the colors you see with such exuberance. “Green!” you joyfully shout. Perhaps an expansive field of grass is one of the earth’s great wonders. I’ll miss you running to me shouting, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” every time you find something really cool to share. It may be a worm on the sidewalk or a lizard crawling up the tree, but you run to share it with me. That won’t always happen.

You are finding your way to independence. I cheer you on as you practice saying, “Good-bye Mama!” Then you shut the door to the bedroom. You pop out again and laugh. We make up games to ease the separation, for both of us.

We celebrate you tomorrow. We celebrate that you turn two with joy. We celebrate your incredible light in our lives. We celebrate your health and happiness. I bow in gratitude for the pure wonder of living even one day with you my son.

Happy-soon-to-be Birthday Little One.

I thank you for your light.

Originally posted in Empowered Woman Magazine.

Despite research that claims a recent improvement, childhood obesity remains a prominent problem which has not declined in the last decade. Unfortunately, many parents unknowingly fuel their child’s unhealthy habits.

Children who are heavy prove more likely to develop serious health risks like high blood pressure, diabetes, and an early death sentence. Even if children are able to lose the weight, personalized health care plan doctors have found that they are often more susceptible to these health risks later on in life.

These five tips will help to fight against childhood obesity, giving them a long healthy life.

1. TV Time

Television has taken over the world with its entertaining escape from reality. However, too much TV can have a powerful impact on children’s obesity.

In a study of obese children, 90 percent had been exposed to television as a brand new baby, while 50 percent were active participants, placed in front of television by their parents. As children grow older, if they are used to spending hours in front of a television, they will lose interest in other activities that could help them to become active and healthy.

2. Role Model

Children learn from example. If they see Mom and Dad vegging out in front of the TV, eating poorly, or ignoring their health, they will most likely follow this set pattern. Kids love to be just like their parents, and with parents setting an influential example of health, kids are likely to adopt this model. Habits that begin when children are young are likely to persist as they age. Depending on the habit, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

3. Nutrition

No matter how busy life gets, the importance of eating a well balanced diet can never be reiterated enough. Even though a drive-thru meal might be more convenient, it can have serious consequences on a child’s body.

Good nutrition starts with the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Children need breakfast—and a nutritious one at that—to perform well in school. Whether it is a whole grain cereal, which has been linked to lowering BMI, toast, eggs, etc., breakfast should be high in protein and low in sugar. It will keep children alert throughout the school morning while adding nutrients to their growing bodies.

4. Get Outside

Too often children are allowed to spend more time inside playing with electronics than outside exercising. While occupying a child with a video game or tablet sometimes seems like the easiest thing to do, it might be hurting the child’s overall health.

Children need to spend time outside playing, using their imagination, socializing with neighborhood kids, and being active. Activity not only helps to prevent obesity; it also stimulates creativity and cognitive function.

5. Be Honest

While kids should certainly not be obsessing over their weight, they should recognize and understand the importance of health. Along with showing them what to do, talk openly and often about making good food choices and setting an exercise routine. Educate yourselves together by researching good health habits and setting family goals.  

Children need a health precedent set for them, and the best people to advise them are definitely their own parents.

Published in Child Health
Sunday, 17 November 2013 04:53

Elimination Communication

For decades there has been an on-going debate among parents about "diapering" babies. Some try to be environmentally friendly by using cloth diapers while others enjoy the ease and convenience of using disposables. There is also a third segment that keep their babies clean and dry without using diapers at all; these parents tune in to their babies' elimination signals and hold their infants over a receptacle where their babies deposit their waste. The idea of infants using toilets may seem unusual to many people, but this practice is not new and is fairly common in Asia, Africa and some parts of South America.
Similar to the way parents know when their babies are hungry, sleepy, gassy, or scared parents can learn when their babies are signalling their need to eliminate. Infants will often pause while nursing, squirm, or become fussy for no apparent reason to signal their need to relieve themselves. When the baby signals, the parent holds the baby over the toilet, sink, or potty and cues the baby to eliminate. It is not unusual for a baby to be labelled colicky when he is actually being persistent about his desire to avoid soiling himself.
Parents can also use common timing patterns. For example, babies often eliminate upon waking from a nap, shortly after nursing, and when their diapers are removed. If a parent doesn't notice her baby making any obvious signals to eliminate, she may begin by holding her baby over the sink or toilet during these common times that most babies need to go. With practice, parents develop an intuition or a feeling that their babies need to eliminate. Sometimes parents even sense a "phantom pee" moments before the baby actually urinates. A parent may feel a sudden warmth, as if the baby has urinated on her arm or lap right before it actually occurs. Parents can learn to hold their infants over a toilet in time to make the catch.
Elimination Communication (EC) can be initiated any time from birth up to 18 months. It requires patience, commitment, and effort just like many other attachment parenting styles. EC is a parenting choice that strengthens the bond between parent and child, promoting a deeper connection between parents and their babies through enhanced communication. 
For more information and support visit Diaper Free Baby.
Published in Child Health
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 05:15

‘It’s twins!’: A Father’s Perspective

Any man is delighted to hear that he is about to become a father. I think it’s also safe to say that every man is equally terrified at the prospect!

Now imagine my reaction in the doctor’s office when I learned that I had double the work on my hands. The news that my wife and I were expecting twins delighted us more than you can imagine, but it also petrified me to think that in a few short months I would be responsible for not one, but two tiny human beings. 

All pregnancies are miraculous, but there’s something particularly amazing about the idea of two babies developing inside my wife's belly. While we are making sure my wife receives the best prenatal care, it concerns me that carrying twins can pose more risks for her and the babies than a single child pregnancy might. 

I did my own research to stop myself from worrying excessively, watching videos about parents and their experience managing twins. The British-based National Health Service website had very useful and reassuring information on multiple birth pregnancies page. I discovered that while the risks are can be greater, preparing for a multiple birth pregnancy isn’t that much different from a single birth. Eating healthily and getting plenty of rest are the best recommendations for any pregnant woman – especially when she is doing the work for 3 people!

Whether a woman is expecting one, two or three babies, diet is crucially important. To help my wife out as much as I can, I will be taking care of the cooking. Expectant mothers of twins are at greater risk of developing anaemia, so we’re paying particular attention to iron-rich recipes like thyme-buttered cabbage. I’m sure that will go down as a treat when the cravings kick in!  

The thought of teaching my children to ride bikes and swim fills me with happy anticipation, and I’ve already been looking at things like sleeping bags and outdoor clothing in preparation for the fantastic camping trips I’ll be taking the twins on!  It hasn't been easy to stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong, but I am trying to focus on getting excited for being a father of two energetic children.

I’ve learned to stop treating my wife as if she’s made of glass. There are risks and complications with every pregnancy, and expecting twins doesn't make her more fragile. I’m focusing on taking one day at a time, doing my absolute best to make sure my wife is calm and doesn’t want for anything, and eagerly awaiting the day I get to meet my babies!


Published in Just For Dad
Sunday, 30 December 2012 13:15

Out of the mouths of babes...

I never learned to appreciate the delicacies of language until I became a mom.  I knew from my education and experience that kids are like sponges; they soak up everything.  Though of course, unlike sponges, you can’t remove what has been soaked up no matter how hard you try.  My oldest son turned 3 this summer and as his vocabulary and cognitive abilities continue to grow at an exponential rate, I am frequently amused by what comes out of his mouth.  Here his top ten (so far) little gems.

10.  “I’m okay!”

The boys were being wild after their bath one night, playing with my husband and bouncing on the bed.  All of a sudden my son goes flying off the bed in an ungraceful mess of arms and legs on to the pillows below and promptly bounces up with a smile on his face and yells this.  I immediately started laughing picturing a scene from movie of a college frat party with a drunken person flopping over and trying to cover up for the faux-pas. 

9. “Mommy, I have a problem.”

As I’m making dinner, I hear this from the living room in a very matter-of-fact tone.  Absent any screaming or crying, I was both curious and terrified to reply (my first thought was something involving poop as I am sure is the thought of most mothers)  My knee jerk response was “so what’s your problem?”  It was the tone of my response that topped the entire conversation off because my response came out in a way that to any reasonable adult would have sounded quite snotty.  I was struck by a mix of amusement and feeling bad about how I replied to him. Luckily he was simply out of juice.

8. “Piggy says ‘arf arf’”

The first time I heard this, I knew we’d have a problem when he goes to school.  You see, I work with a dog rescue and one of our beloved pups’ nicknames is “Piggy” due to his frequent rooting for food and ability to impersonate a garbage disposal by consuming nearly anything remotely edible without chewing.  We were reading a book about farm animals and when we got to page about the pig and what sound does a pig make, he pointed to the fat pink animal and said “That’s not a piggy, but Piggy says arf arf.”

7.  “Poppy’s name is “Hey Babe.”

Yes, my son thought my husband’s actual name was “Hey Babe.”  We discovered this last spring when I told my son to tell Poppy that it was dinner time.  He promptly walked to the door, opened it up and yelled outside as loud as he can, “Hey Babe, time to eat!”  Of course not only was it amusing to discover that he actually thought this was my husband’s name, but hearing this little 3 year old boy yell “Hey Babe” to his father was priceless.  Luckily we’ve been able to explain to him that much as I call him by his nickname “Bear,” I call Poppy by a nickname as well, (though for a period of time if you asked him “what’s Poppy’s name” he would reply with this.

6. “Where is Grammy’s new Tom-Tom?”

No this statement isn’t innately funny.  What’s funny about this is that he said it in front of Grammy on Christmas morning as we were getting the presents from Santa out from under the tree and passing them to the appropriate recipient.  I guess I should have explained that whole “wrapping so it’s a surprise” thing to him while we were wrapping.

5.  “You’re going to get such a chicken!”

Unfortunately, this didn’t mean that I was getting live chickens or prepared meat.  This was his attempt at parroting a quote from “Phineas and Ferb”, albeit slightly incorrectly.  The statement was supposed to be “You’re going to get such a chickening,” (as said by Dr. Doofenschmirtz to Perry the Platypus while describing how his Chickeninator will turn anything it hits into chickens, since chickens are inherently funny.)  Needless to say, the silly look and giggling that came from him before, during, and after the statement was the icing on the cake.

4. “Brother FARTED! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

I never understood why farts were funny…until I had boys.  My husband’s family is full of gas, and the men have no shame when it comes to letting it go, at least in the confines of home.  The first time my son heard and acknowledged a fart, he broke out in hysterical laughter and asked what that noise was.  After a brief explanation he demanded to hear it again, and pointed and laughed.  Take this as fair warning; anyone who breaks wind within earshot of him will be swiftly identified…loudly…with ensuing laughter from both he and his little brother (who laughs at anything his older brother laughs at.)

3. “Don’t forget my baby nuts!”

This priceless statement was unleashed on my mother when she had him at the park one day last spring.  She realized he had pooped as she was getting him out of the car.  She decided to lay him down in the back of the SUV so she could change him.  Much to her shock and dismay, he announces this at the top of his lungs as she is wiping him up.  I’m not sure what was more hilarious, the fact that he said this, or the fact that he said it to my mother….in public.  (As a side note, we do use the proper terms for body parts, though my husband has occasionally used the term nuts when referring to his testicles after having them accidentally squashed or smashed by the kids…and it would be somewhat insensitive of me to correct his language in the midst of the excruciating pain.  Obviously the amusement of the word and the situation has stuck in my son’s head more than the word “testicles” and for what it’s worth, at 3, that’s a pretty difficult word to pronounce.)

2. “Poppy, you are dickless!”

Again, this is one of those “is it context or the statement that’s more amusing?”  It’s a tossup in my book.  My husband was being silly while playing with the kids and had used the word “ridiculous.”  Little did we know that it would be repeated as “dickless” by a 3 year old.

1. Using the “F-Word” correctly, complete with appropriate context and tone.

I’ll be honest, both my husband and I have mouths like sailors and initially, it was quite challenging to modify our language appropriately. We both work with the public and are often confined to being polite for the sake of “customer service” so home was a sort of sanctuary from the censorship that work required.  Unfortunately, we were a little late on this and one day my son was mystified by some intricate toy that he couldn’t get to work properly and exclaimed “what the f***?!” The kicker was, it wasn’t in a mad tone, it was in an “I’m baffled” tone, so when we initially heard it, my husband and I looked at one another to see if we actually heard what we thought we heard.  As he has gotten older we are better with our language, and have explained to him that sometimes adults say words that aren’t appropriate to say.  Of course this lesson has gone to the extreme (as does nearly everything with a toddler) and anytime we slip up, he immediately scolds us. 

What kinds of things have your kids said that made you laugh, cry, or wish you had a hole to hide in?

Published in Jess Gifford's Blog

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