Tag Archives: parenting

A Suburban Night

I’m up and it’s dark

And right outside

A streetlamp shines

And the Night confides

Tales of rest

Of dreams and wonder

Of snores and pillows

But me, I ponder

 

My sweet child

Awake in the dark

What’s upset you?

A dream, a whisper,

A lark?

 

Are you hungry?

Or are you sad?

Or did you ‘waken

Feeling bad?

 

I am here,

You’re in my arms

You call me to you

Not without charms;

 

You find my breast

My warm embrace.

The streetlamp shines

Off your lovely face.

 

At peace once more

For the comfort you seek

Is right here now

Right next to your cheek.

 

I’ll always be here

To give that to you

Always and again

‘slong as you need to.

 

You’ll want for naught

Surrounded with love

I am here for you

My small Little Dove.

Written at approximately 10 weeks old, just past midnight, in our old home in suburban Melbourne.

Nahmaste.

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Are Babies Manipulators?

A few months ago I found myself in the throes of conversation with an ex-colleague around baby sleep. This is usually a topic I like to skirt around the edges of in certain circles due to its potential to be such a  highly charged, emotive and divisive topics of parenting. Nonetheless we were somehow there. As I’m not great at lying in the face of a direct question I found myself talking about how, at that time, Little Star was waking very frequently during the night and that I usually comfort and nurse her back to sleep. “Oh no!” exclaimed my ex colleague, as many others may have done, “can’t you see, that’s what she WANTS”.

This comment is laden with assumptions, notwithstanding that I must be a naive parent – not knowing any “better” and slave to my natural instincts as a caregiver. Another, that it is somehow wrong to give a baby what they want.

Built within the much favoured conventional wisdom of child rearing is the idea that babies behave in a way that is intended to manipulate their caregivers. This idea seems to underpin much of the logic around why babies and young children ought to be left to cry – insofar as to not “reward” their crying with that which they are seeking – parental and caregiver contact.

There is accumulating evidence that responding to, holding, nursing / feeding, and otherwise comforting a crying baby actually leads to less crying, not more crying or a “clingy” child as we are ingrained culturally to believe.

It is as though we’re so concerned with a child’s physical development that we forget their emotional needs and their psychological needs from a developmental perspective – if they’re not hungry, thirsty, have a dirty nappy etc. then they should be happy, right?. What perplexes me, however, is that even if we put aside the science around the importance of responsive and empathic parenting, the idea that a baby is trying to manipulate an adult just seems illogical.

Let us say a baby is crying. That is a fact. It is clear and observable to those around the child. We can hear the cries, see the tears, see their face screwed up etc. It seems very rational to conclude that the child is upset, that they need something, particularly as crying is their primary tool to communicate this need.  Viewing this crying as an act of manipulation, to “trick” the caregiver into providing contact and interaction is a huge, seemingly irrational leap.

Some may argue that the fact the baby appears consoled and happy when picked up, spoken to or embraced is proof the child is not crying for a legitimate reason. What if, however the child genuinely needs play, your love, your wisdom, connection with you, and thus once they have it there is no need to be upset. How would you know the difference?

If I, as an adult, were to ask my partner, a friend, a parent, a sister or anyone else I hold close for some company, some companionship or some time to spend together I doubt this expressed need would be simply ignored. That is simply not within the scope of a healthy relationship.

So what logical argument makes it okay to treat babies and young children this way? Worryingly the only construct which makes it logical is the idea that children are socially inferior to adults. That their needs are less important and may only be met when it is convenient for the caregiver.

Whilst this idea may be convenient as we go along in our busy lives it hardly feels right.

A sense of objectification rather than empathic understanding lies within the idea that babies are inherently manipulative, that they “wrap you around their little finger”, when we don’t take their needs seriously. It is a disassociation, a learned perception of a child as a thing rather than a feeling, dependent person.

Mothers, fathers, caregivers: follow your instinct. Hold your baby. They do, genuinely need you.

This post is not intended to demonise any parent or method of parenting, only to question the logic around popular assumptions and approaches towards children. I acknowledge most parents hold only the deepest love and best wishes for their babies in their hearts.

Nahmaste.

Elusive Perfection

A peacefulness has befallen my frazzled soul as I sit down to write this. The calmness is refreshing, healing, rejuvenating. I can feel myself relax and come to accept the morning that has gone and the day that is to come.

I had one of those mornings. You know the type – the ones that are hard to explain why they’re hard, that perhaps only another parent would really get. Those mornings when everything goes haywire and all possibility of an organised, constructive day dissolves into nothingness, like a fraying safety rope one can’t quite grasp or a ray of sunlight on a cold day that doesn’t quite warm the heart.

My morning started with yoga. It went well. So far so good. Then shower and breakfast. Little Star is starting to make her independence known. She wants out of the high chair where she throws her fruit on the floor (does it bounce?) and onto my lap where she throws her fruit on the floor. She grabs my spoon, the rockmelon I’m eating, my coffee and spreads yoghurt everywhere. I let go of the flash of impatience which threatens. Not to worry, I’ll just wipe it up when we’re finished eating.

But Little Star is finished now. She needs her milkies. Her face and hands are quickly wiped and she’s lulled into a drowsy contentedness on the couch, in my arms, safe, warm and satiated. She’ll nod off soon. It’s a little earlier than expected but so be it. We walk tenderly to the bedroom, she rouses slightly and I continue feeding her as she drifts safely into slumber. A long process but I cannot bear to wake her.

I begin placing her in her cot and our peace is destroyed by Leczy walking in, making a racket, wanting to be close to her mum.

For me, today, it is just outside my tolerance levels. Little Star is awake and she won’t be resettled. I get angry. I’m so angry. I’ve had enough. I yell at the dog as she looks at me with those big eyes, her ears pulled back, her tail moving back and forth and her head low. It’s already 10 am, there’s fruit and yoghurt over the kitchen floor, the chickens have not yet been fed, the fire has gone out as I cannot nurture it and breastfeed a baby at the same time, it’s cold, there are seedlings about to die as I cannot seem to just get them in the ground, there’s a load of wet washing sitting in the machine I haven’t been able to hang out for two days, there are toys all over the floor, Little Star needs a bath and there’s a meal that still needs to be cooked.

It was supposed to all be done by now so I could get on with my day, so I could connect with my daughter, so that I could do something productive, something more than just maintaining a house. Who can find fulfillment in perpetually tidying? Where nothing is ever finished? Where life just circles and circles and circles around the elusive idea of a completed task?

This morning hasn’t been perfect – later as I clean the kitchen and cook the meal I wanted to with my daughter strapped to my back I realised I’d forgotten to feed Leczy.

Enter guilt stage left.

Little Star is sleeping peacefully now. We’re getting warmer as I’ve finally gotten some wet wood to burn, the chickens are fed, the eggs collected, the kitchen is clean (enough), dinner is cooked, Leczy is fed (I’ve apologised to the doggie with cuddles and scratches around the ears), Little Star is bathed and the wet washing is heaped in a laundry basket – one step closer to being hung to dry. The seedlings are still in punnets stretching for sunlight, and there are still toys all over the floor.

I am learning to be okay with that. It’s not perfect, though often times I find the need to revel in the imperfection of daily living. Relinquishing to the chaotic crazy playfulness that parenthood brings.

So, my fellow mums and dads how do you do it? How do you take it all on and keep your spirit? I’d love your comments.

Nahmaste.