On Raising a Gentle Dreamer

Two of the things I believe strongly in are that no two children are alike, and that a great amount of who we are is born within. Nurture certainly plays a tremendous part, but I do believe we must adjust our nurture according to each child’s nature. While certain things are the same, I parent my twins differently according to how they each process. Despite being born two minutes apart from the same womb they are as different as night and day. When my daughter was a newborn, I used to joke that she would be the daring one climbing all over the playground and bossing her brother around. Harry was gentle, she was as fiery as the red fuzz on her head. The red fuzz remained, (and is slowly becoming actual red hair), but when the colic disappeared so did the fiery temper.


Don’t get me wrong, she is still as opinionated as ever and wants to “do it self”, but as time passes and her little personality continues to grow, I see more and more a gentle little dreamer who could easily disappear into her own imagination if I don’t watch out. She starts every day singing to her little play frogs and will spend hours playing with them and her Veggietales characters in the little pink castle we got her. She hops them in and out, lays them down in the beds, and feeds them her own food. (Yes, Froggy does tend to eat more than Arabella…but I digress).



She will place them on the window sill facing outside so they can see and will patiently turn them back around when her brother messes with them and faces them the wrong way. She will sit and quietly ‘read’ to herself for long periods of time. She will brush her brothers hair and try to dress him. She can be sneaky too when trying to get away with something, she currently loves trying to eat rocks and dirt and will nonchalantly mosey across the yard swinging her arms back and forth with a side eye on mom and the second I’m not looking try to pop a rock in her mouth.


She loves animals passionately, she lights up like a Christmas tree when her “tawts” (cats) walk into the room and always has gentle pets and songs for them. She’s a social butterfly with adults, and will dance around and smile effervescently as long as they notice, she loves to be silly and make everyone laugh. Unlike her brother, though, she doesn’t absorb everyone’s energy like a sponge, instead she tends to close up and keep it inside. While I never need to worry what is on Harry’s mind, (I have an entire post about my sweet sensitive and emotional little boy, click here to read it if you haven’t yet) Arabella can require some attention and patience to see what she’s thinking. As my mom says, Arabella marches to her own drummer. And if you choose to join her, great, but she won’t ask twice.


She sings to herself nearly the entire day, gentle little humming and sometimes a bird screech or two. Right now, I always know if she needs something, but I am aware of her tendency to close off and thus I make an effort to continue connecting. At this time in her life, she connects easily when I reach out to her, she giggles like nothing I’ve ever heard and loves to snuggle and play, but I could see that becoming an issue one day if I don’t continue my efforts. She is a child that if left to it, would watch her Veggietales and entertain herself alone for hours.


But I don’t want that. I love her beautiful imagination, her tender care of her playthings (my dad melted the other day as he watched her sing and rock her puppy), I just want to make sure she continues to invite me into this beautiful world in her head, that she feels safe to expose her little dreamer soul, to share her sparkles and songs.

 

 


I want her to know her dreams matter, I don’t ever want her to feel silly or embarrassed to share what’s in her head. Just as I want my son to know he is perfect and enough, I want her to know the same. To never feel pressured to change or feel that it is easier to slip away and hide. I want her to feel strong and confident, and never afraid to open up her heart, and when she is hurt to reach out and not hide away.

 

 


What parenting challenges have you discovered as your little ones personality progresses? How do you approach it?

I Gave Birth to a Cling-on?! Or, The Fourth Trimester

img_1332Being a new mom is exhausting. (To put it mildly…!) Crying babies are stressful, and as I explained to my loving patient husband after multiple times of yelling at him for no reason as my babies cried, us women literally have a physiological reaction to our babies wails. Our milk lets down, we sweat, heart rates elevate and our natural biological response is to respond to our babies. Thus, when our baby is crying and we cannot figure out why, it is obscenely stressful. We are programmed to answer our offsprings needs, and when they are young they have one way of communicating their needs, and that is crying. You can safely assume that if your baby is crying, they have a legitimate need. They’re hungry, scared, cold, perhaps something hurts (colic anyone?) but they will not cry to manipulate or because they are selfish. A baby cannot be selfish or manipulative, they simply do not have that extensive of an understanding of the world.

When I brought my twins home, I did not plan at first on co-sleeping (read more on that in a previous post, click here). That decision changed the second night of their being earthside, and it is without fail one of the best parenting choices I have made to date. As I said in that earlier post, the minute I would set my babies down they would scream as if they were on fire. Now, I understand why. Thankfully I had my own parents loving example to follow in attachment parenting and thus when things ‘weren’t working’ with my wee ones I was confident to change them. fullsizerenderLet me elaborate. Have you heard of the fourth trimester? I hadn’t. The fourth trimester is the months that follow a baby’s birth. No one, not my nurses, not my midwife, not the pediatrician for darn sure, NO ONE mentioned to me anything about this fourth trimester business. Let me try to explain this succinctly. Up until birth, your baby had zero unmet needs. They weren’t hungry, they weren’t cold, they weren’t afraid, absolutely nothing required them to communicate their needs. Suddenly, that all changed. In a split second they went from a warm dark place where they were quite literally connected to you, to a bright, cold, foreign space where not only are they no longer attached to you, but they get hungry, they get uncomfortable, and you know what, THEY DONT UNDERSTAND. They have no way of grasping what has happened. Suddenly things hurt, they’re alone, and it’s terrifying. So they do the only thing they know how, they CRY.

fullsizerender-3And our culture expects this scared little human to be ok sleeping alone in a crib/cot/bassinet and new mamas are left questioning what on earth they’re doing wrong because their new little charge won’t sleep or stop crying! Mamas, you are doing NOTHING wrong! Your baby is crying because it wants YOU. They want to feel safe, fed, and CONNECTED. Your uterus was a lot more welcoming than the softest blanket on earth could ever be. There is nothing wrong with your baby because it looks to you for protection and nourishment 24/7. And the nicest, warmest, softest cot can not replace your beating heart and the smell of your skin, no matter if it sways, vibrates, sings or flies. You are truly the only thing your baby knows. That baby does not need to learn independence right now, independence is born out of confidence and confidence is born out of knowing their needs will be met. And they learn that their needs will be met when you answer their cries. No, you won’t be able to prevent their crying altogether. And some times you may have to put your baby in a safe place so you can pee, or cry yourself for a moment. Babies want to be touching you constantly, and yes it’s exhausting! And sometimes you just need to take a second and BREATHE. And they may cry. But setting them down briefly, that is different, that is an exception! That is not training them that their needs are insignificant.

img_0633In addition to cosleeping, I started wearing my babies. And things became infinitely easier. They slept on me while I made dinner, or did grocery shopping. And no, they didn’t stop crying altogether. They didn’t magically fall asleep every time. But because I was holding them, at least I knew that I was trying to answer their pleas for help. I wasn’t ignoring their cries, even if I couldn’t always prevent them. I wasn’t teaching them that their needs didn’t matter. When a baby cries and is ignored, they learn they don’t matter. They learn their needs will not be met. I fail to understand how that is a recipe for raising a confident human being.img_0634

It is infinitely frustrating to me that this concept of teaching our babies to function without mama is portrayed as necessary to being a ‘good’ parent. Human babies are born more dependent and helpless than any other species, and yet we are the only species that tries to force them to be ok without their mamas so early. And in doing so, many mamas are left feeling that they are failing, or that something is wrong with their baby because they won’t succumb to this cultural expectation. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone tell me, ‘eventually you have to let them cry’, or ‘you’re spoiling them, they won’t ever sleep alone’, or my favorite as someone told my husband, ‘stop babying them’. Stop babying them?! They’re BABIES for the love of all that’s holy! I hate the blame game that is played, somehow in our culture it becomes the mothers responsibility to teach their child that they don’t need them. Yes, you read that correctly. Mothers are expected to teach their babies that babies don’t need their mothers. And no, it makes zero sense.

fullsizerender-2It wont last forever. One day your tiny little cling-on won’t want to be attached 24/7, you will pee in peace, and they will sleep in their own beds. And they will do so when they are ready, and armed with the confidence that they are safe. As painful as it may be to consider the fact that one day my babies won’t need me as they do anymore, I want my children to grow up to be confident people who know who they are and go into the world empowered, people who can make a change in their world because their own is a solid one and they are strong in knowing who they are. And I personally believe that teaching them that who they are matters, that it is ok for their needs to be met, is crucial to them developing into confident, kind, empathetic strong human beings. It is hard to see another persons needs as important if you never believed your own needs to be important.

So mamas, hang in there and hold those babies close, don’t feel like a failure because they won’t sleep without you, or because they cry when you go out of sight. Be confident and know that although it’s hard (especially some days!) you are teaching your baby that they matter, that they are important, and that will never be something you regret.img_1333