Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big Feelings

Every few months Gus has a week or so where he is out of sorts and easily upset.  He has multiple emotion storms (common parent-given label: temper tantrums) a day and it's exhausting for him and for me.  Each time we cycle through this he's a little older and a little more verbal.  This time around he's been able to tell me as he's crying his heart out "Mooooooommmmmy!  I'm having biiiiiiiiig feeeeeellllllings!"

There is a moment during each storm that I can clearly see; the moment between just experiencing those big feelings and feeling afraid of them.  His eyes get bigger and he looks around wildly while taking big gulping breaths.  He can feel his control slipping, knows he can't stop the crying by himself, and he frantically searches for me.  

That is my moment of truth.  Do I get angry and tell him to stop crying over nothing, or put him in time-out so he can calm himself down? 


I sit down close to him, with open arms in case he needs to fall into them (he often does, but not always).  I look him in the eyes.  I stay calm and quiet and resist the very strong urge to soothe him by saying "It's ok, baby. It's ok."  Clearly it's not ok, and telling him so would invalidate those big feelings he's having.  I've tried out a few different things to say, blindly feeling my way towards what felt right.  "You are having big feelings.  I see your tears.  Are those happy tears or sad tears?" or "I'm right here with you."  

I didn't know how to tell him what I was feeling.  I want him to know that I am his safe harbor during these emotion storms, but he's too young to grasp metaphors.  Then I read this post by Leslie Freeman at Real Child Development.  And this paragraph jumped out at me:

“Even when you’re angry, and you call me stupid, it doesn't change the way I feel about you. I love you no matter what – not for what you do but for who you are. My love doesn’t change and I will stay close to you. I am a safe place for you. Your anger is not too strong for me. We can get through it to the other side and feel better together.”

We haven't hit the anger-at-mom phase yet, so I modified this to fit our needs.  When Gus is in the midst of an emotion storm I do all the things above, and I tell him "I am here with you.  You are having big feelings, but they are not too big for me.  I am not scared, I am not angry, I am not sad.  I will help you.  I love you."

These words have worked amazingly well.  Gus responds to them.  He hears me, and knows that he's in a space that is safe enough for him to have those big feelings, with his Mama who is strong enough to be with him while he dispels them.  

It's been a really powerful week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Two little sponge-parrots

Oh, my.  You know how babies see their mamas as an extension of themselves?  Apparently I had been thinking of my boys as little extensions of me.  And I've been finding out the hard way that they are intensely intelligent toddlers who are playing with the power of language.

I don't have to just watch my own mouth; I have to watch theirs now, too.

At bath time a few nights ago, Gus suddenly shouted "Dammit!" while giggling wildly.  Moviedad and I looked at each other in mild alarm.  Who taught him that?  Then Jack joined in and it was a dammitfest.  We were trying not to giggle, because that would only encourage them.  But it was really funny...  I was also thinking hard about where they got that word.  It must have been me, right?  I mean, who else do they spend all day every day with?  But I was pretty sure I didn't say that... I try not to use objectionable words in front of the boys.

For that night, I simply gave them another word to use, one that they thought was just as funny.  "Oh, did you just say 'darn it'?  What a funny thing to say, 'darn it'!"  Then Moviedad and I laughed and made a big show of snapping our fingers and making faces while saying "darn it".  That successfully turned the dammitfest into a darnitfest.

Then yesterday I heard Gus say "Dammit, Barney!"

And it was at that moment I realized I can no longer watch How I Your Mother on the r.oku while they're playing in the room.

Because my boys aren't extensions of me.  They are two little sponge-parrots who soak up everything around them and repeat it back.


Monday, June 4, 2012

When My Children Say "No" to Me

When my two year old twin boys say no to me, two things happen.

They don't get punished.  They do get practice.

You see, I want my children to say "NO" to me.  Why?  Because the way I see it, there are two vital things being learned and practiced.

First, they are learning the fine art of negotiating.

"Gus, will you come here please?"
"I need to change your diaper."
"No, I playing."
"Ok, you can play while I count to five and then you can come here."
"10, mama!"
"Sure, I will count to ten before your diaper change."

Of course, it's not always this easy.  And often I have to rephrase an accidental question into a statement.  Really, if I don't want an answer I shouldn't ask a question!  So "Do you want to eat dinner?" has to become "It's time to eat dinner."

Second, when my boys tell me "NO" they are practicing standing up to an authority figure.  I do not want blindly compliant children.  I want them to be able to refuse an older child or an adult who is asking them to do something that is inappropriate or makes them uncomfortable.  If they learn at age two that they are allowed and encouraged to say no, then it is my fervent hope that they will have the strength of conviction to say no when they are out in the wider world.

To be clear, I do not allow my boys to walk all over me, or to rule the roost.  There are boundaries and limits that are in place for the benefit of everyone in our household.  But if someone in our family disagrees with something, it will be heard and discussed.

Saying "No" is powerful.  Being able to say "No" without fear of punishment is empowering.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why do I cosleep?

Why do I cosleep?

So I can keep sleeping when you need to nurse.

So I can smell the sweet milky breaths you breathe all night long.

So I can stare at your moonlight-bright cheeks and marvel at  your perfection.

So I can help you connect with Daddy after a day of being separated.

So I can monitor your fever throughout the fitful, restless night.

So I can hear you choking and coughing, then catch the vomit in my hand (!!) before it gets all over you.

So I can feel the perfect fit of you snuggled up against my side.

So I can wake up to you patting my cheek and singing to me.

So we can snuggle our way to wakefulness each day.

So we can laugh and wrestle and connect on lazy Saturday mornings.

So I can enjoy you fully before you are too grown up to need to be in my bed anymore.

Because you are my child.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Using Wish Fulfillment with Toddlers

Awhile back I came across an article from API Speaks.  It's called Lying: The Developmental Truth, and it outlined how one mama dealt with her four-year-old's tendency to lie.  Lying is a developmental stage, one that can be expected from most neuro-typical kids.  This mama found that some of her child's lying had to do with wish fulfillment: the boy wanted something to be true, so he said that it was regardless of what mom could clearly see.

Interesting stuff.  It really caught my attention, and I percolated the idea for a while.

Gus and Jack aren't at the developmental stage where lying comes into play yet, but I've started using the concept of wish fulfillment to help them cope with disappointment.  Toddlers experience a lot of disappointment in their lives; they can't always make their bodies do what they want, and they can't always find the words to express what they want.

As they get bigger, kids' needs and wants diverge.  When my boys were infants what they wanted was the same as what they needed: food, warmth, love, connection.  Now that they're two, that piece of candy that they want is a far cry from what they actually need.  

So when one of them is crying because I won't give him any more crackers before dinner, our conversation goes something like this:

"Sorry, kiddo.  Dinner is almost ready, and we'll be eating soon."
"Hmmm... I bet you wish you could have more crackers, huh?"
"Yes.  More crackers, mama!"
"Do you wish you could eat all the crackers in the package?"
"Do you wish you could eat all the crackers in the whole world?"
"No, mama!  Only more crackers."
"It sounds like you're really hungry.  Let's go eat dinner now."
"Come with you, mama?"
"Yes, baby, you can come with me.  Let's go."

As silly as I get with the wish fulfillment aspect of this, though, what really makes it work is the connection.  These types of conversations aren't had from across the room, or while I'm doing something else.  I get down on the floor, and we talk.  I acknowledge my son's emotions, and we connect.  I'm letting him know I hear him, and I appreciate what he's saying.  But sometimes you've gotta stop eating crackers so you can have dinner.

I also use the same strategy for other things, like putting on shoes, or changing from pjs into clothes, or after's World is over.  I don't know why it works, I just know that-- for now at least-- it does.

And I'm really grateful to have this gentle tool in my parenting toolbox.

More butterflies, mama?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Here they are!

Jack's new glasses.  He's been wearing them for longer periods of time each day.  And often he'll ask for them.  I think they really make a difference.  Plus, he's so stinkin' cute.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Breaking News! Woman Breastfeeds 2 Year Old Twins!

I seriously feel like I needed some kind of banner or something today.  I had to run two errands directly relating to my breasts and breastfeeding today.  And both people I interacted with made incorrect assumptions about me and my children.

First, I've developed thrush again.  I recognized the symptoms and was lucky enough to get a refill on my prescription for nipple ointment.  So I went to the compounding pharmacy where it's made, both boys in tow.  I would normally try to do this errand without them, but today wasn't a normal day and I needed the ointment before the long weekend.

Jack was clinging to me like a little monkey, whiny and sad.  Gus was walking around the waiting room, touching everything.  He wasn't bothering anything, nor destroying it.  Just touching things.  The woman behind the counter exited my good graces when she told him to not touch the business cards.  The ones set up in fun little mortar-and-pestal holders on the coffee table.  Irresistibly interesting and fun.  I would have stopped him if he'd been throwing them around or something, but he was just sliding his fingers over them.  As I was attempting to pay for my prescription Gus decided to go exploring.  I was signing the receipt, chasing after Gus, holding Jack, and trying to answer the woman's questions.

"Are they twins?"  Yes.
"Are they fraternal?" Yes.
"How old are they?" Two.
"You must have your hands full!"  Yes.
"And with another little one at home?  My goodness."  Um... what?

By the time I fully comprehended this last question, we were thankfully on our way out the door.  The woman behind the counter  assumed I had thrush and needed the nipple ointment because I was nursing an infant.

Nope.  I nurse my two year old twins.  And I happen to get thrush every now and again.  I seriously debated going back to tell her this, but realized how silly that would be.  I had told the boys we were heading to the park, and going anywhere BUT the park would have been crazy at that point.

My second errand today was buying new nursing bras.  I buy relatively cheap ones at J C Pen.ney so they wear out quickly but are easily replaceable.  They were out of my size, so I ordered some to be shipped to the store.  I was sans children, but tired from the day and not really wanting to chat with the woman behind the counter.

"When is the baby due?"  Oh, they're already here.
"They?  Twins?  Boy and girl?  Identical or fraternal?"  Yes.  Yes.  Two boys.  Fraternal.
"How old are they?"  Two.
"Oh, how precious!  I remember those days!  Two months is such a precious time."  Um... what?

I said two, not two months.  Sigh.  I took the easy way out, didn't correct her, and went upstairs to see if there were any good kids' clearance items.  Size 24 months, of course.

I started to feel bad about not educating those two older women about the normalcy of natural duration nursing.  But then I realized I was doing pretty well by setting an example for other mothers I know, and my family.  Until I get that banner made, it will have to do.

Breaking News!  Woman Nurses Twin Toddlers!