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August 15, 2011 / MrsH

the nature of trauma

Since I participated in a therapeutic group for parents of children with difficult beginnings this spring, I’ve been learning more and more about trauma and its possible effects on kids.  This means that I’m seeing more and more of the effects on my two sweet ones.  It can be devastating to see an issue, that we dealt with last year, cycling back and making a new appearance.  It can be heartbreaking to see how hard my kids are working to heal, and how some days the progress seems so minimal (other days it’s huge!).

The past few weeks I’ve felt completely overwhelmed.  Buddy has been throwing tantrums like I’ve never seen before.  When he’s not having a fit he’s seeking control by being contrary in every way, and finding every button to push.  In some ways I’m able to understand his needs better, but as he’s making some huge linguistic leaps, he’s struggling more and more in other areas.

Missy has been sulky, whiny, and needing all attention to be focused on her all the time.  At dinner, each person shares something about their day.  If she isn’t asked to share first, she’s likely to walk away and pout, whimpering on the couch, regressing until she’s more like a 3 year old than the 9 she really is.

Some moments I find myself overflowing with empathy, patient and steady, loving, and using every therapeutic parenting skill I have.  Other moments… well, other moments aren’t like that.  I’m realizing that their big feelings, and their grief, are hugely triggering to me.  So we’re all working hard around here.  Working hard to heal from past hurts, to trust each other, to love each other.  Our current daily life is not what I had in mind when we were first trying to become parents.  Trauma, and its long-lasting effects, had never crossed my mind when Missy and Buddy first joined our family.  But here we are, God has given us a life, and we are trying to walk the path, leaning on Him daily, hourly, sometimes every minute just to make it through.  In the meantime, I try to note all the progress, all the beauty, and all the joy that are embedded in the midst of all the pain, rage, and grief that sometimes seem to reign.  And I hang on, knowing that soon (in a week? a month?  a year?) they”ll go through a long or brief period of relative calm again.  Until then, I’m hanging on to any threads I can find.

July 19, 2011 / MrsH

Making Progress

I’ve been quiet on here for a few months now.  I needed to let the dust settle a little bit on our recently finalized adoptions.  I needed space and time to name my losses, and to work through some of the stages of grief.  We’ve been doing lots of emotional work around here which is hard.  Really hard.  We’re still in the midst of it, but today I felt very encouraged.

Missy had therapy today, after a few weeks of both not having therapy and having been very busy with camp (I’m talking sleep-away people!  She handled herself beautifully, though I took myself by surprise and cried when she kicked me of the cabin at drop-off).  In her session we usually start with a quick check-in with both me and her.  She sat snuggled up with me the whole time, but in a physically more respectful way than she has in the past.  I then was relegated to the waiting room, as usual.  A few minutes went by, and I was asked to come into the room again.  Missy was struggling with some really big feelings that she felt unsure about sharing with her therapist.  She asked if she could talk them through with me, first.  I felt so honored and touched.  Seeing the emotion in her face and body, I felt grateful that she trusted me enough to help her hold these feelings.  And I was tremendously proud when she ended up opening up with her therapist as well, sharing her concern and working through it.

This was wonderful progress in terms of connecting with me, and in terms of taking a huge risk and sharing something with her therapist that made her feel scared to death to say.  Way to go, Missy!

May 2, 2011 / MrsH

Finalization of Older Child Adoption

W’e’re officially parents to Missy and Buddy now, and have been for just over a week.  The logistics of the name-change are honestly a little overwhelming, but overall, it’s feeling good.  The actual finalization was fairly anti-climactic, but our careful planning of the day really did help.

Finalizing our adoption of Missy and Buddy was an anti-climactic event.  After waiting for the judge for 90 minutes, we were finally admitted to her chambers.  She was kind, even while we were all a bit uptight and awkward.  The kids immediately sat down in two large leather chairs, leaving me and MrH to sit off to the side.  After chatting with the kids for a few minutes, she signed Missy’s papers.  I had to do a double-take to realize she’d already done it!  Buddy’s were much the same, though I did actually notice her signing that one.  A quick family photo with the judge, during which the kids each got to hold a gavel, and off we went.  I’d kind of been hoping for a tad more ceremony.  Perhaps a “you are now a family forever” or asking MrH and me some questions about how we’ll forever love the children and keep them safe or something.  We were in there for less than 10 minutes.

The rest of our day did work out well, for the most part.  Going out to brunch afterward was great.  We all loved the food and the kids enjoyed getting presents.  It stretched out a bit and really felt like a treat, a special family occasion.  By the time we got home, around noon, everyone was exhausted.  The kids asked to watch tv instead of their normal rest hour and we let them, while Sweetpea napped.  MrH and I really needed the downtime too, as it had already been an intense and emotional day, starting with Buddy’s declaration before ever getting out of bed: “I don’t want to be adopted!”  He didn’t get up until the last minute, and we’re still not sure if he really meant he didn’t want to be adopted, or if perhaps he meant “I don’t want to go through this thing you call being adopted, going to a judge, etc.”  Thankfully getting to wear his new shirt and shoes helped motivate him enough to get through it!

We spent the afternoon at a nearby nature area where we took a hike.  It’s a lovely place with a pond, rocky trails, and large boulders that create “caves” which are safe to enter.  We had some more meltdowns from Buddy, who was not able to navigate the transitions at all, but as soon as we were on the trail he went back to being regulated again, thankfully!  At the top of one of the hills we climbed, we stopped for some fruit from the arrangement my parents had sent.  It was a nice way to remember that they were excited for our family as well, and to know we were in their thoughts and hearts.

My favorite part of the day, and the part that seemed to resonate the most with the kids, was an impromptu decision to have ice-cream cake for dessert.  MrH came up with it while he ran out to get hot dog buns, and I’m so glad he did.  We stuck candles in the cake, and sang “happy family day to us!”  The kids enthusiastically joined in and it felt so good to all be excited together.  Everyone was exhausted by the time bedtime rolled around.  Thankfully they did all go to sleep!

April 21, 2011 / MrsH

Tomorrow We Finalize

Since we are adopting older children, the preparations for the finalization have felt a little tricky.  The kids have been having lots of feelings, resulting in a sort of pushing away followed by a pulling close.  Clinging tightly to me one moment, then saying or doing something hurtful the next.  At the same time, I’m having my own feelings about it all.  Kind of like before you get married: it’s not that you expect it to all be different, but in a sense, it all is different following the ceremony.

It feels really important to us to mark this day as special, and we do intend to mark it annually, though who knows what curveballs life might bring.  On the one hand, we want to let Missy and Buddy know that we are thrilled (or ecstatic, to use the word from our therapists’ feelings chart!) about their adoption, that they’ll be a part of our family forever. On the other hand, they are both in their own ways grieving loss and we want to hold that with them and create a space where that is ok.  I couldn’t find too many resources for ways to mark the finalization with an older child adoption, so I hope that in writing about it maybe someone might find it helpful.

For the day itself, we opted to keep it low-key.  We will meet our attorney and my in-laws (one set of grandparents, the other set will continue to be biological grandparents, since this is a kinship adoption) at the courthouse bright and early.  The kids know what they’re wearing and we have role-played a little bit with them (helpful article here).   Following the actual finalization we’ll get something to eat at a breakfast/lunch place that we just love.  It’s very kid-friendly, and breakfast is always a big hit with our kids.  We figured this way it doesn’t matter what time of morning/afternoon we get out!  We’ll head home and have a little rest hour, like we do every day, and then just the five of us will head out for a hike.  MrH found this great book and we might try to incorporate a brief ceremony into our hike.  It just arrived today though!  We’ve rehearsed the plans for the day endlessly with the kids, but they still notice a lot of the unknowns about it all and are a little nervous.

We got them each a little gift, too.  At first I wanted to get jewelry for Missy, but we couldn’t think of anything similar to give to Buddy.  Instead we settled on a set of dogtags that has their new full names inscribed as well as the date, and then one with a little message from us.  My guess is they might just keep it in a special spot, or attach it to the inside of a backpack or something.  We also got them each an adoption-themed book (Adoption is for Always and We Belong Together).  We’ve been checking books out from the library for months and some seemed worth owning.  We’ll add an inscription and hope they help them process this major step.  My sister (their birthmom) won’t be there for the finalization, but has been working on photobooks for each of them.  She’ll visit on Easter, a nice concrete way of saying “I’ll continue to be in your life.”

I’m so grateful to the network of friends and family who have and continue to support us throughout this process.  Creating their permanency plan has been such a long road and it’s hard to believe how far we have all come.  I’m so thankful to officially be able to call Missy “daughter,” and Buddy “son,” to put those words out there, rather than just in my heart.  I feel a little apprehensive about the general mood of the day tomorrow, but will rest peacefully tonight knowing that we did what we could to meet all of our needs.  My prayer over tomorrow would be that it’s a day where they can both feel their grief, and feel the love that’s being poured out over them.

April 19, 2011 / MrsH

The “Technique” Worked!

So we were getting ready to head out the door, not a strong point in our day.  Even when it’s something like going tot he playground, Buddy really struggles.  Today I think we were going to do errands, major struggles in the forecast.  He’d just had snack, a slice of cold pizza.  His sisters had both napped and first declined snacks, but then started asking for them in the midst of the shoe-putting-on extravaganza.  “Sure, how about some pizza?”  Uh-oh.

“But… moommmmyyyyyy, I want pizza too!”  “Buddy, you’re whining.  Please try again.”  “Mommy?  I want pizza too, please, pleeeeaaaase?????”  “Buddy, you already had your share, would you like a banana or an apple?” We were squared off, ready for combat.  I remembered about how I don’t want to go there, about how I can’t get engaged in these battles, and suddenly it hit me.  This technique that’s mentioned in I either Playful Parenting (brilliant book) or How to Talk… (also fantastic): I could try it, this was the perfect moment for this strategy!

I took a deep breath, looked at Buddy, and said: “boy, I sure wish we had more pizza.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were our own pizza shop and could eat it all day long?!”

Dead Silence.  Until…

“And our whole house would be full of pizza!”  “Yes!  We could eat it all day long!”  “For breakfast?”  “Yes, and snacks too.”  “Haha, that would be silly.  Our friends couldn’t even get in the door, they would have to eat all the pizza and then they could come inside.”  “What would they play with?”  “PIZZA!”  We continued for a while, all battle forgotten, side-stepped.  It worked!

About a half hour after we’d successfully navigated the transition into the car, Buddy dreamily said “Mommy?  What if the pizza went all outside, all over the street?  We couldn’t even go anywhere…!”

April 18, 2011 / MrsH

If you can’t say something nice…

… then don’t say anything at all.”  I’m trying to teach Missy about this concept.  I used to hate it, seeing it as yet another way to make women and girls just shut up and lose our voices.  But, well, there’s a point there.  These incidents all happened in the same 24 hour period:

  • I’d tried a new-ish recipe for breakfast: baked cinnamon oatmeal with berries.  Seriously good, and good for you.  Except not to Missy, apparently.  She volunteered: “this is… OK.  Not really so good, but it’s not too bad, so… OK.”  Thanks kid.
  • The cover of my datebook is falling apart, and after much internal anguish, I decided to cover the whole thing with duct tape and have an ugly datebook, rather than spend money and buy a new one.  Less than a second after I’d started, Missy started looking on.  “What are you doing?  Why are you using that? [note the disgusted look on her face].  Why are you covering up all the pretty stuff?  This isn’t coming out very well, mommy.”  “Sweetheart, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.”  “Oh, well… hm… I don’t… I mean, uhm.  Good job mommy, but that piece is a little crooked”  I couldn’t stand the critique, so left.
  • “Mommy, I thought you were going to wear something pretty?”  “What?”  “Well, I thought you’d wear something… nice today.  Not that.”

I’m not sure where she got this critical voice, I think it’s fairly new, and I pray I’m not the one she’s emulating here.

April 17, 2011 / MrsH

Whining… whining…

How do you stop whining in an 8 year old?  No, this isn’t one of those posts where I pose a question and then proceed to answer it, I wish!  Instead this is one of those to give you a peek and remind you that you’re not alone.  We literally walk in our front door and the whining starts.  I try hard to be cheerful and transition the kids into something fun: “hey guys, once we get inside let’s get our snack out!”  Except then we walk in the door and shoes get kicked off, coats dropped.  “Buddy, where do your shoes go?  Missy, your coat.”  “NO!” and “ugh… moommmmmyyyy… this is the worst day ever now!  Why do you always tell me what to do? You never let me do what I want to do!”

Seriously.  It’s crept in and what to do about it now?

Then there’s the daily whining about wanting a playdate.  I’m so torn about this.  Missy gets along with people really well.  She seems like the kind of kid who’d make friends easily.  But it often doesn’t really get past the superficial stages, so for the past few years I’ve worked to support her as she’s forged friendships.  She’s finally in a place where she’s found a few friends with whom she can just hang out, nice kids, kids whose company I can also enjoy, kids who are a good influence on her (have I blogged about the time the 8 year old lied to me? Bold-faced lying!  I think I have not, but it happened).  One thing we try to do is to have her get together with those girls.  But, well, we also like having her at home, when she’s not whining, that is.  She’s a fun kid, I enjoy her company and her view of the world, and her siblings miss her when she’s not around.  But she seems to want nothing to do with us, oh except for when it’s 8pm and she’s supposed to be in bed, then she suddenly wants to talk my ears off.  We try to make sure she’s got a couple of playdates a week, but I also try to have her be at home for significant stretches of time.  Those times would be more fun if she didn’t spend them screaming at me and whining though!

I’m not sure whether this is normal tween behavior, or related her trauma history, or to the ongoing adoption stuff.  I also don’t know how to deal with it very well, other than to just hold fast onto my intuition of when it’s time for her to spend time at home, and when it’s fine to go off with friends.  The words “this conversation is now over” crossed my lips more than once today.  My therapist suggested “alright, I’m done playing make-a-deal now, let’s do something else” as a more playful alternative.  I’m not sure that it’s direct enough for Missy, but will try it out tomorrow, provided I remember!

April 13, 2011 / MrsH

Too Much Too Soon – pushing our kids

“He’ll have to sleep alone eventually.”  “She won’t be able to breastfeed forever!”  “Might as well start learning to read now, after all, kindergarten is only 6 months away.”  “She’ll need to shower without help when she’s at camp…”  “You can’t nurse her when you’re out of town, better reduce her reliance on it.”  Parent talk is full of comments such as these, comments that imply that because one day our children will need to master certain skills, we might as well start pushing them towards those skills right now.

I was thinking about this in light of a two-night trip I have scheduled at the end of this month.  At first I planned to bring Sweetpea with me so she could nurse to her heart’s content, but then I started second-guessing myself.  I’ll be visiting a friend with a newborn, bringing Sweetpea will make me a lot less helpful.  Sweetpea has been incredibly attached to daddy lately, she’d miss him terribly and likely wake up the whole house when he’s not available on our trip.  Many days she nurses only once or twice; when she’s with daddy she doesn’t even ask to.  I’m close to having decided that I’m leaving her home with daddy and the bigger kids.

Yesterday Sweetpea asked me to nurse in the middle of the morning, a time she hasn’t asked to nurse in a long time.  My first thought was “we can’t, because if you’re used to a mid-morning nursing again, how will you manage when I’m away?!”  But you know, I’m not away.  I’m here.  Daddy’s at work and I’m here.  My toddler wants to nurse.  A “no” in that moment would accomplish nothing.  In fact, I think that the opposite is true: the more I can meet her desire for nursing and closeness right now, before I leave, the stronger she’ll be once I’m gone for 3 days.  So of course I said “yes” and she nursed for about a second before she said “bye nursie” and went off to play.  I believe she’ll be just fine while I’m gone.  She already knows how to get comfort and snuggles other ways, especially when she’s with her daddy.

I work hard to meet our kids’ needs now, in this moment.  My hope is that as we meet their needs (and help them find ways to fulfill their desires appropriately), they will feel empowered and safe enough to work towards greater independence on their own.   So far, it seems to be working: Buddy has started zipping his own coat even though he still has 5 months before starting kindergarten.  Missy has shown us she can function without sucking her thumb (though generally still likes to do that).  Sweetpea has learned to sleep in her own bed without nighttime nursing.  They’ll continue to gain greater independence and learn more skills.  I’ll expose them to ways to master these skills and provide them with resources and alternatives, but will not push it down their throats.  They’re wired to learn, and I marvel every time I see them in action.

April 12, 2011 / MrsH

Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Due to trouble (on my end!) with the links, this is a re-post with a different web-link.

I can’t say that I’m a huge advocate for Natural Parenting. I would kind of love to be, but am so limited because I still feel utterly overwhelmed in my parenting role. I also don’t believe I have all the answers, if I did I wouldn’t spend so much time yelling at my kids. We find nuggets of success within a large amount of drama. Those nuggets are golden and certainly worth sharing, but I can’t yet shout them from the rooftops: there are too few. So I look for the little ways in which I can both support parents on their natural parenting journeys, or for ways to model and discuss the things we do with anyone who asks. I tend to avoid the “this is my philosophy” approach, and instead listen to moms and their struggles, asking questions, clarifying. A friend of mine, a mom I only knew for a year but really respected, told me once that she does not give advice unless she’s asked. That seems like a good rule of thumb for me as well.

Sweetpea has a friend, K., whose moms often express concern about his behavior. When he was around 18 months, he went through a toy-snatching and throwing phase. They dubbed his new nickname “Trouble” and acted exasperated whenever that behavior occurred. One day in particular, his mom exclaimed “we even give him time-outs, but it doesn’t change anything! What else can we try?!” I felt so bad. We talked about how normal this behavior is for his age, we talked about gently redirecting, and when she asked me why I don’t use time-outs with Sweetpea I told her that I don’t think they seem to work very well, especially at this age. Several weeks later, K had virtually stopped snatching and throwing. His mom said she and her partner stopped scolding him for it and instead kept finding new things for him to engage in. She had begun to notice that other kids his age did similar things, and that the parents of first children were distraught by it, whereas when it was the 2nd or 3rd, she noticed the parent usually acted with more empathy and calm. “Trouble” was dropped and now he’s referred to as “K” again. I haven’t seen him in time-out since our conversation 5 months ago.

Another way I love influencing other parents is by lending them books. The easiest is when someone asks for general recommendations or when someone notices a book on our shelf. It’s trickier when a fellow parent is having an issue that I think could be greatly aided by reading a particular book. That happened this fall. E had been telling me all about her sons’ picky eating habits. I’d been dying to recommend Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility to her, but was never asked. One day a group of us were talking and the topic of kids wanting toys with their happy meals came up. The next day, a post popped up at Family Feeding Dynamics about that exact topic , written by a Dr. Katja Rowell, a family doctor and childhood feeding specialist, who blogs about her experiences with Ellyn Satter’s work. Bingo! I mailed the link to the group as a quick “follow-up to our conversation.” A week later, E had gotten Ms. Satter’s book from the library, read it, and began implementing changes already. She felt hopeful for the first time in years. Her boys will now (very occasionally) try new foods, and she is no longer embarrassed when they all eat out in public. She told me the power struggles are gone and she fully believes that they will learn to enjoy food as they get older.

These are just two examples of many, where I waited, itching to give advice, to tell them about all the ways in which we following Natural Parenting principles. For me, the wait is worth it. A few things I do to try to create more of these moments are:

  • meeting parents wherever they’re at, however far removed that may be from how MrH and I approach our parenting
  • really listening to others, providing empathy no matter what their approach
  • regularly following up on topics that seemed stressful to the other parent
  • staying humble and asking others about what they have found that works

By doing these things we create openings where I can advocate for Natural Parenting and be heard. That’s the golden moment, and I seize it.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don’t share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don’t parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That’s The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she’s learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the “good news” of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people’s children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter’s senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the “great divide” through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R’s of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how “The Three R’s” can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she’s been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she’s doing — and it’s a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on “holistic” — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We’re great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by “just doing her thing,” she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don’t tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.

 

April 12, 2011 / MrsH

Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I can’t say that I’m a huge advocate for Natural Parenting.  I would kind of love to be, but am so limited because I still feel utterly overwhelmed in my parenting role.  I also don’t believe I have all the answers, if I did I wouldn’t spend so much time yelling at my kids.  We find nuggets of success within a large amount of drama.  Those nuggets are golden and certainly worth sharing, but I can’t yet shout them from the rooftops: there are too few.  So I look for the little ways in which I can both support parents on their natural parenting journeys, or for ways to model and discuss the things we do with anyone who asks.   I tend to avoid the “this is my philosophy” approach, and instead listen to moms and their struggles, asking questions, clarifying.  A friend of mine, a mom I only knew for a year but really respected, told me once that she does not give advice unless she’s asked.  That seems like a good rule of thumb for me as well.

Sweetpea has a friend, K., whose moms often express concern about his behavior.  When he was around 18 months, he went through a toy-snatching and throwing phase.  They dubbed his new nickname “Trouble” and acted exasperated whenever that behavior occurred.  One day in particular, his mom exclaimed “we even give him time-outs, but it doesn’t change anything!  What else can we try?!”  I felt so bad.  We talked about how normal this behavior is for his age, we talked about gently redirecting, and when she asked me why I don’t use time-outs with Sweetpea I told her that I don’t think they seem to work very well, especially at this age.  Several weeks later, K had virtually stopped snatching and throwing.  His mom said she and her partner stopped scolding him for it and instead kept finding new things for him to engage in.  She had begun to notice that other kids his age did similar things, and that the parents of first children were distraught by it, whereas when it was the 2nd or 3rd, she noticed the parent usually acted with more empathy and calm.  “Trouble” was dropped and now he’s referred to as “K” again.  I haven’t seen him in time-out since our conversation 5 months ago.

Another way I love influencing other parents is by lending them books.  The easiest is when someone asks for general recommendations or when someone notices a book on our shelf.  It’s trickier when a fellow parent is having an issue that I think could be greatly aided by reading a particular book.  That happened this fall.  E had been telling me all about her sons’ picky eating habits.  I’d been dying to recommend Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility to her, but was never asked.  One day a group of us were talking and the topic of kids wanting toys with their happy meals came up.  The next day, a post popped up at Family Feeding Dynamics about that exact topic , written by a Dr. Katja Rowell, a family doctor and childhood feeding specialist, who blogs about her experiences with Ellyn Satter’s work.  Bingo!  I mailed the link to the group as a quick “follow-up to our conversation.”  A week later, E had gotten Ms. Satter’s book from the library, read it, and began implementing changes already.  She felt hopeful for the first time in years.  Her boys will now (very occasionally) try new foods, and she is no longer embarrassed when they all eat out in public.  She told me the power struggles are gone and she fully believes that they will learn to enjoy food as they get older.

These are just two examples of many, where I waited, itching to give advice, to tell them about all the ways in which we following Natural Parenting principles.  For me, the wait is worth it.  A few things I do to try to create more of these moments are:

  • meeting parents wherever they’re at, however far removed that may be from how MrH and I approach our parenting
  • really listening to others, providing empathy no matter what their approach
  • regularly following up on topics that seemed stressful to the other parent
  • staying humble and asking others about what they have found that works

By doing these things we create openings where I can advocate for Natural Parenting and be heard.  That’s the golden moment, and I seize it.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don’t share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don’t parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That’s The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she’s learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the “good news” of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people’s children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter’s senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the “great divide” through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R’s of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how “The Three R’s” can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she’s been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she’s doing — and it’s a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on “holistic” — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We’re great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by “just doing her thing,” she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don’t tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.