Your child is not the enemy

Lately I very much wonder about this tendency many parents have to think of their child(ren) as, pretty much, the enemy. Things that act out to spite us, that try to manipulate to get their own little way.

Last week my brother called me via Facetime. (You have to love iPads and iPhones!) It was my birthday and my brother, his girlfriend, 6 year old (step)daughter Y. and 20 month old daughter E. wanted to wish me a happy birthday from Belgium.

As we were chatting away, bedtime rolled around for the girls. At one point my brother took his iPad upstairs to show me the girls getting ready for bed. As he looks at his 6 year old, she asks if he will read her a bedtime story. My brother tells her no in a rather sarcastic and belittling manner. (Something like “No, why on earth would I?”) I watch how Y. manages to keep a smile on her face and then produces a ‘playful pout’. But I also see how inwardly she feels hurt and rejected. My brother then sighs and tells her he will be there shortly.

When Y. is gone, I tell my brother I thought he was rather harsh and even mean. His reply? “Oh, I don’t fall for that little ploy anymore.” I just shook my head and told him we would agree to disagree.

My brother and I have completely different parenting styles. We both know it. And we give eachother the freedom to parent as we like.

I just wonder why he thought Y. was manipulating him. Did he not see the genuine hurt in her eyes? Does he not remember his own childhood? How getting attention and love from your parents was not about manipulation, but a genuine need?

I had to think of this as I put my own 29 month old son in his bed last night. This is kind of our routine these days. We brush his teeth, give daddy a goodnight kiss and then nurse. As J. says; “First the right one, then the left one.” Sometimes he still drifts off nursing. But usually these days he will stop nursing, cuddle and then ask for his water bottle. I’ll put it on his night stand, give him a kiss, leave the room and he falls asleep. Eventually.

Two nights ago we did the same thing. But instead of happily playing with his stuffed animals, he started crying. At that point I could have reasoned like my brother, and so many other parents, that J. is able to fall asleep on his own and that he was trying to manipulate me into coming to him. I however heard that he really needed me, and even though I’d rather have sat on the couch and watched tv, I layed back down in bed with him. He hugged me tight and fell asleep.

Of course, some would think, J. would have tried the same last night, right? He got away with it once, surely he would expect it again. Guess again. He fell asleep quietly after getting his water bottle.

Your child is not the enemy. Your child is not a master manipulator. Children do not want to get on their parents’ nerves. They do not want their mother or father mad at them. They want to feel loved and accepted. Just think of how you, a parent now yourself, feel towards your parents. Or how you felt as a kid.

I’m sure I am not the only one out there who can clearly remember just wanting to feel loved. Never did I think of manipulating my parents. OK, maybe I did sometimes wonder how I would get them to buy me a new toy. But I was definitely not subtle about it. A lot of pouting and sulking was involved.

But when I couldn’t sleep, I cried because I couldn’t sleep and needed help. Not because I wanted to annoy my parents by making them spend time with me.

This is what I know and use when dealing with my son. He does not want me to be mad at him. He does not want to get yelled at. So he is not behaving in this way in order for one of these things to happen. And when you really, truly, deeply know this, you are ready to stay objective and calm.

When J. starts acting out, I know there are 3 possible reasons. He’s tired, hungry or needs my full attention. Or all of the above. Easy fixes. This morning J. started fighting getting dressed. So I simply asked him if something was wrong. If he needed something. I repeated this until he calmed down and payed attention to me. He gave me no answer. At which point I told him I loved him and asked if he needed a hug. He did. And we got past the bad moment in a peaceful, fully-connected manner.

So yes, my son was acting out and I hugged him for it. (We also ate some kiwi after, because my growing boy is always hungry. That’s two out of three of my checklist.) I really don’t see how yelling ever works. Let alone spanking. The one time I totally lost my temper and yelled and spoke angry words and sent J. to his room, I found him quietly sobbing in his pillow, shaking from head to toe. The only thing I had accomplished, was making a two year old feel scared and confused. Nothing was learned. Nothing was gained.

The difference is night and day when you take the time to connect. Before you get to the point where you lose it. Remember your child is a whole person who deserves to be treated with respect. He is not the enemy. You can get through his or her childhood together.

Posted in Positive parenting, RIE, temper tantrum, Toddler | Leave a comment

Night-weaning Part 5

It’s been a little over a week now. And we had our first decent night! Jason slept from 7pm to 5am. He had pooped, which might have been what woke him up. At least that’s what I hope. Five in the morning is simply not an appropriate time to wake up for the day, is it?

The night before this one my lovely husband co-slept with Jason all night. My sweet little bear did not get to see mama or the boobs once. I don’t know if that helped. Or if maybe this delightful night was a natural consequence of sticking to the night-weaning. I do however (obviously) hope we will get more of these now.

One thing I am feeling apprehensive about, is Jason’s behavior during the day. He still wants to nurse non-stop. He will whine relentlessly until he gets his milk. Or whatever he wants at that time. And he is seriously testing our boundaries. If only I knew the night-weaning was the cause. It might be that. Or teething. His stuffy nose which might leave him feeling run-down. A wonder week? Or quite simply the start of toddler puberty, as we call it in Belgium. (I hate the pejorative term “terrible twos”.)

All I know is that my gentle parenting is very much being tested these days. I cannot count the amount of times I have had to apologize about yelling and losing my temper. Because of this I have decided to not let him nurse endlessly anymore during the day. It’s causing some resentment that I want to avoid. Thanks to my friend Susan, who is weaning her 21 month old alltogether, I am learning to be very clear about when exactly he will get his milk. Just saying “later” seems too vague and thus upsetting. After breakfast. Or when dad gets home. That Jason can deal with… A bit better.

I’m telling you, kids should indeed come with a manual. “This too shall pass” is my mantra these days. And “stay calm”, “figure out his needs and treat them as valuable”. It’s been a tough week!

Posted in 21 month old, Boys, Breastfeeding, Extended breastfeeding, Montessori floor bed, Night-weaning, Positive parenting, RIE, Sleep, Toddler, two year molars | Leave a comment

Night-weaning Part 4

Doesn’t it always happen this way? Five days into night-weaning and Jason starts cutting his two year molars. Teething has never bothered him that much. But dang those molars!

All day long he runs up to me saying his teeth hurt, putting his finger in his mouth right where the molars are cutting. And, of course, he is nursing non-stop. Non-stop.

I understand it soothes the pain. I don’t mind too much. But when I have to listen to yet another meltdown, because he cannot nurse right that minute, I might meltdown myself.

The last two nights have been pretty awful too. Jason is back to waking up 2+ times per night. And without milk, it takes a while to get him back down. Last night, I went to him at 10:40pm. I don’t remember too much. At 1:30am he starts crying again. Last I knew he was snuggled up against my back. But the crying sounded so far off. After being utterly confused for a minute in my half-asleep, sleep-deprived state I finally realized he had climbed into the arm chair and was sleeping there. I have no idea why.

Maybe he would be happier in a toddler (smaller) bed? Maybe he was annoyed with having his milk so close, but not being allowed to drink it? Who knows. I just went and got his dad and slept in my own bed. But the hubby didn’t end up sleeping a lot. He said Jason kept whining and fussing all night. And then he was up for the day at 5:45…

As you can tell, I am feeling frustrated. There is the guilt of denying my child milk at night, when I know he really needs it now. But otherwise I would feel bad confusing him about whether or not he can nurse at night. I want to stick to my guns. And I want to help my sweet bear with his discomfort. Being a mama, it’s just never easy.

Posted in 21 month old, Boys, Breastfeeding, Child-rearing, Extended breastfeeding, Montessori floor bed, Night-weaning, Positive parenting, RIE, Toddler, two year molars | Leave a comment

Night-weaning Part 3

Not a great night last night. The good news is that Jason didn’t wake-up until 3am and he cried only for a very short while. The bad news is that it took him about 2 hours to go back down.

I’m not sure why he had such a hard time falling asleep. Maybe he needed me to snuggle him again like last night. But I was so tired, I kept falling asleep. Until he prodded me, or called for mama, or pulled my hair.

After about an hour of that special kind of torture, I had to get out. I was about to lose my temper. I went back to my own bed. Jason whined on and off for a little bit. Sometimes he seemed to have fallen asleep. But then he would start up again. My husband then got up and snuggled with him. Which meant Jason slept wonderfully. And he didn’t sleep at all.

Jason did sleep until 7am this morning. I truly wonder what the next night will look like. If he continues to wake up an hour later every night, we will eventually end up with a child that finally sleeps through the night again. But I doubt it will be that straightforward. At least for now we are down to one wake-up a night. If only it would not last two hours!

Posted in 21 month old, Boys, Breastfeeding, Extended breastfeeding, Montessori floor bed, Night-weaning, Positive parenting, RIE, Sleep | Leave a comment

Night-weaning Part 2

Second night of night-weaning. I expected it to be worse than the first one. I think I read or heard somewhere that when parents decide to let their children cry it out, the second night is always the worst.

But that is cry-it-out. Not what we are doing. I again gently reminded Jason several times during the day that he doesn’t get to drink mama milk at night anymore. And I allowed him to nurse as often as he wanted during the day. Which was definitely more than 3-4 times total. But not that much more.

He went down around 8pm again. After nursing and then latching off. We went to bed at 10pm, our usual time too. In the past, Jason would wake around 10pm for milk. Then 12 and several times after. Last night he only started fussing once! At 2pm he started half-crying, babbling something with “mama” and “daddy” in it.

I went to his room. He was in the middle of his bed, saying “mama, kaka”. I turned on his light to check his diaper. Which of course was poop-free. It just got Jason upset. He started signing and saying “sleep, sleep” frantically.

So I dragged our little bear to the top of the bed, which is when he decided to break my heart. Jason started rooting for the breast like a tiny newborn. All I could do was block the access with my arms and repeat that he would not get anymore milk at night.

This started off another bout of tears and him asking for milk. But it was blissfully short. After which he actually did snuggle up to me, gently stroking my hair and face, while I softly stroked his back with my thumb. All in all the whole thing took about 30 minutes again.

The little man did decide to wake for the day at 5:45am. A little early for my taste. So my husband went to him. And guess what? Jason was content eating a bagel and drinking water until it was time to wake me up.

I told my husband this morning that I could not believe how well and easy this night-weaning was going. He replied that I now jinxed it. We’ll see.

To be continued…

Posted in 21 month old, Boys, Breastfeeding, Child-rearing, Extended breastfeeding, Montessori floor bed, Night-weaning, Positive parenting, RIE, Sleep, Toddler | 4 Comments

Night-weaning Part 1

I finally decided to night-wean Jason. He is now 21 months. The last, oooh, 6 months or so my brain has been jumping at the bit to night-wean. But my heart wasn’t into it. So I knew that I would not have the determination to stick with it when the going got (inevitably) tough. That would not have been fair on anyone.

But two nights ago something changed. Even my heart was done with the night-wakings. Jason had woken up twice. Once after 3 hours of sleep. Then after a 2 hour interval. Finally he started fussing after only 1.5 hours. I sent my husband in. And I heard Jason cry for milk … For a minute. After which he settled down and slept until 7am. Yes, it was time.

Another factor that helped make up my mind was that Jason seems not to miss his mama-milk when I am not home. The last three weekends my husband has had to stay home with him, while I was gone for the afternoon, or one day even the whole day. Jason did not care. He would not even look up when I came back home. Nursing seems to have lost quite a lot of emotional importance for my sweet bear. I guess I am the one holding on to the closeness and sweetness of the experience.

To top it off, yesterday evening I got into my first car accident ever. Don’t worry, as far as car accidents, it doesn’t get “better” than this. It was 6pm, a time by which my brain becomes very tired and slow, due to this on-going sleep deprivation. I was backing out of a parking spot by Chipotle. I remember looking thru the rear window and then slowly backing out, while making sure I wouldn’t hit the car parked next to me. Apparently the black car behind me was backing up too. I never saw it. They even honked, which I did not hear. (And the radio was only playing softly.) My husband yelled “Stop! Stop!”, but my brain was sooooo slow to respond, that I banged them ever so softly.

We exchanged the necessary paperwork and obviously everybody was fine, after such a gentle collision. But I was still very much shaken. And yet still half asleep. (Now I can only hope this doesn’t turn out to be a crazy person who claims she got whiplash or something from our car kiss.)

So I decided to definitely stick to the plan of starting the night-weaning process that night. Even though Jason had thrown up his entire quesadilla at Chipotle. (Which had also added to my addled car crash causing brain.) All day long I had reminded him that from now on, he would not get milk anymore at night. He was allowed to nurse as often as he wished during the day. But at night I would not let him nurse. If he would want, we could cuddle. But no more milk.

This last week Jason had been falling asleep off the boob. He would nurse, nurse, nurse for up to an hour. But then he would latch off and doze off. After about 15 minutes of kicking me, rubbing my hair and talking to himself. Just to say that I was quite confident that he actually would be ble to go back to sleep without nursing.

So yesterday evening he went down at 8pm. I had yet again reminded him about our new arrangement. He woke up for the first time at 12pm. Yes, a 4 hour stretch! I walked into his room and lied next to him. (Remember, he sleeps on a queen-sized mattress on the floor.) “Nog melk”, he said, like always. (This means ‘more milk’ in Dutch.) I repeated what I had been telling him all day. He got upset. Which I expected. As Janet Lansbury so skillfully explains in her blogs, with any change there will be a feeling of loss and a grieving process.

He cried for a little while, repeating “Nog melk, nog melk” over en over. He got a little bit hoarse. I gave him some water and ¬†kept saying he wouldn’t get milk at night anymore. I cuddled and kissed him. And let him cry and express his feelings without shushing him or telling him he was OK.

After a bit of that I just left him to it. I quietly lied next to him and stopped repeating myself. I was just present for my little man’s big feelings. And he settled down. Then started up again. But more quietly and with less intensity. Eventually he quieted down all the way and fell asleep. I gave him a soft kiss on the noggin’ and crept back to my room. I was back in my bed after less than 30 minutes! It seemed so much longer when he was crying.

Around 4am he woke again. I offered Jason water, but this time he refused it. He seemed a little bit more upset. Now he would say “Nee, melk?” (No, milk) over and over in his pitiful hoarse little crying voice. I think I responded too often, because it took him a lot longer to settle back down. But eventually he did. After about one hour fifteen minutes I was back in my own bed. And Jason then slept until 6:40am. Which is a pretty normal wake-up time for him.

My husband went and got him. He tried to interest him in a bagel or an apple. But my sweet child kept crying for milk. And since it was day by then, he got his wish. He nom nommed several times that morning. Even though he was down to nursing 3-4 times a day. But I will take the trade-off.

We’ll see what this night holds in store for us. I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Boys, Child-rearing, Extended breastfeeding, Montessori floor bed, Night-weaning, Positive parenting, RIE, Sleep | Leave a comment

No TV while eating, please!

The other day I realized something about myself again that will very much influence how I raise Jason. Growing up, when my parents were still alive (they died when I was 13 & 14), we used to have dinner at 7pm. Right when the evening news started. In Belgium back then, and even still now, the news is still taken very seriously. About 45 minutes of news at 7pm. Midday-news at 1pm. And late evening news re-runs. That’s it. No two hour news programming with almost nothing but fluff pieces like here.

So my father, mother, brother and I would sit down at the table, eat and watch the news. No talking allowed. That doesn’t sound bad, does it? We were watching something informative. Think again. Besides me not being able to psychologically cope with these sometimes frightening news items, this simple sitting down for dinner with the tv on, programmed me. Up until today, I cannot watch tv without eating. I kid you not. I definitely try. But without fault my mind starts wandering. “What’s in the fridge? What do I feel like? Hmm, chocolate? Ice cream?” And then I get hungry. Resistance seems to be futile. It’s quite ridiculous.

Luckily I am blessed with a great metabolism that can handle an unhealthy snack every evening without adding on pounds. But how much better would it not be to not have the Pavlov-response of tv = food. Some of my friends say their kids won’t eat without watching tv (or a show on their laptops). I understand. Like parent I do get anxious about my child eating enough. But realizing what watching tv, whilst eating will eventually lead to, I am happy that I never started the habit with Jason. Since he does not watch tv at all.

Just typing this out has made me hungry. What’s in the fridge?

Posted in Eating, Obesity, TV | Leave a comment