Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Monday, 28 March 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Balance

Welcome to our seventh installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Balance! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own information and experiences!


What is it?

Balance in attachment parenting refers to balance in the parent’s relationship with the child, with their spouse, and within their own personal life. A lack of balance in any of these three areas can breed resentment and burnout.

How can we encourage it?

Attachment parenting, at its most basic, encourages parents to know their child and respond appropriately to their child’s needs. It is not a set list of rules and requirements, but a fluid, family-specific approach to meeting those needs in a sensitive and positive way.

There is a danger that the enthusiastic attachment parent will swing too far away from a parent- or schedule-centered approach and into a child-centered approach instead. Neither extreme is healthy, however. An imbalance in any area – with the child, with the spouse, or within the parent’s own personal life – will quickly lead to resentment and burnout, leaving the parent without the physical and emotional resources necessary in attachment parenting.

Although the child’s needs must be a priority, balance demands that everyone’s needs be recognized, validated, and met as far as possible. It is important that the family seeks this balance for the sake of both the family unit and the individuals within it.

Balance with the child

In their eagerness to give the child everything he needs, the parent may also begin to give the child everything he wants. When responding appropriately to the child’s needs, however, it is important that an emphasis be placed on appropriately. This requires knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

Attachment parenting is not permissive, indulgent, or martyr parenting. The parent is not expected to give the child everything he wants, do everything for him, or sacrifice themselves in an unhealthy manner. That sort of parenting creates a false dependency on the parent, preventing the child from developing in a healthy and age-appropriate manner.

Balance with the child will require attentiveness without indulgence, facilitating the child’s journey towards a healthy, age-appropriate independence. This balance will shift as the child grows, as the needs of a newborn, an older baby, a toddler, a preschooler, a growing child, and a teenager are all very different. In this sense balance is fluid, ever-changing along with the needs of the child. Learning to read and appropriately respond to the child’s cues will lead to the understanding necessary to make this balance possible.

Balance with the spouse

As they focus their energy on meeting the needs of the child, the parent may begin to neglect the needs of their spouse.* Conversely, others may find themselves unwilling to acknowledge the new dynamic a child brings to the marriage, putting that existing relationship above the new parent/child relationship. Too much focus on either relationship will be to the detriment of the other.

Children must have their needs met, but the needs of the marriage must also be valued and met as far as possible. The practicalities of this will vary along with the shifting family dynamics. Some seasons of childhood require a more immediate and time-intensive response, while other seasons leave more room for a renewed focus on the marriage relationship. The mature parent will recognize and accept these varying seasons and work to maintain the marriage relationship within their accompanying restraints. This requires dedication, openness, and creativity.

When both parents are working together towards the common goal of fostering an attached relationship with their child, they will naturally be drawn together in the process. It will be easier for the couple to find a healthy balance between fostering these parent/child relationships and maintaining the existing marriage relationship. When the parents have different goals, however, with one parent seeking an attached parent/child relationship while the other takes a more hands-off approach, this balance is more difficult to develop and maintain.

*For simplicity’s sake, I refer to the “spouse” and the “marriage”. Please expand this to fit any form of long-term partnership that involves parenting a child. The unique needs of attachment parenting as a single parent require their own focus, one which I am not qualified to provide.

Balance with self

Finally, as they focus on meeting the needs of the child, it is easy for the parent to neglect their own needs. The emotional and physical demands of attachment parenting necessitate balance; without it, exhaustion and burnout will quickly follow. When a parent has nothing left to give and yet the child still needs so much, it becomes prime breeding ground for resentment, anger, bitterness, depression, and defeat.

Balance with yourself requires valuing yourself and your needs, meeting those needs as far as possible. Again, different stages of childhood have different demands, and the parent must work to meet their own needs within these varying limits. Acknowledge that having a child requires a change in lifestyle, and then work to creatively meet your needs within this new and ever-changing season.

Before balance can be achieved, the parent’s basic needs must be met. Diet, sleep, and fresh air will allow the parent to function at their best. The parent must continue to take care of themselves in order to meet the long-term demands of caring for a child.

After meeting these basic needs, a key step in finding balance is evaluating your expectations. Are you trying to live up to an idealistic but impractical image? Are your goals realistic? Are you struggling with the weight of perfectionism? In getting to know our children and learning how to read and respond to their cues, we must be realistic and practical in the demands we place on ourselves. This requires that we maintain our ability to say no in order to avoid over-burdening ourselves.

With realistic expectations in place, the attachment parent must have the wisdom to recognize when they need help and to make that need known. Ordinarily, this help will come from the spouse; however, parents can also look to extended family, mother’s helpers, and the local community for additional help and support, both emotionally and practically.

Speaking specifically to mothers, there is sometimes a tendency to hover when the father is caring for the child. Doing so prevents the father from developing the confidence he needs to learn how to bond with, soothe, and care for the child in his own unique way. Instead, take advantage of these opportunities to recharge: sleep, read, go for a walk, work on a project, or meet a friend for coffee.

Finding balance takes time and involves much trial and error. Trust your instincts and listen to your baby as you work towards achieving a balance that validates and seeks to meet the needs of each member of the family.

What if it doesn't happen?

A parent will often find an imbalance in one or more areas. This imbalance may occur due to an over-focus on one area to the detriment of others, a lack of support, or a natural change in circumstances that necessitates finding a new balance. Attachment parenting under an imbalance is not sustainable in the long-term; steps must be taken to regain a healthy equilibrium.

If something isn’t working, change it

If it isn’t working, change it. Sometimes attachment parents get so caught up in ideals that attachment parenting itself becomes a list of rigid extremes that no longer match the child's needs. They begin to parent to meet other's expectations instead of following their instincts. If something isn’t working, change it.

Ignore negative advice

When that change is needed, there will be a line of baby trainers and parenting experts ready to tell you how to parent your baby. Much of this advice disrupts the parent’s instincts and trust in their baby’s cues. This advice can quickly undermine the parent’s self-confidence and cause them to question their commitment to attachment parenting.

Remember that you are the expert on your child. Change what needs to be changed, but do so in a way that continues to meet their needs. Ignore negative advice that pushes you to abandon attachment parenting altogether.

Get help

From your spouse, your extended family, your friends, and your local groups, get help. Find a community of support and use it. Be specific in letting people know what you need and how they can help you.

Fill their cup

It sound counterintuitive, but sometimes parents find themselves trapped in a cycle of being overwhelmed, pulling away from their child, and having their child becoming even more clingy and demanding as a result. The parent pulls away further and the child pushes harder. Break the cycle by spending time focused solely on the child, meeting their need for your attention, after which they will be more inclined to allow you time for yourself.

Reevaluate and prioritize

Rather than trying to do everything more efficiently, reevaluate and let go of unnecessary demands on your time and energy. Prioritize and simplify.

In more demanding seasons, remember that each stage is temporary – this too shall pass. Take a deep breath and continue to meet the needs of your child as you work towards regaining and maintaining balance with your child, your spouse, and yourself.

Our experiences

As a mother of one, I rarely felt the need for time to myself. Even as an introvert, I found I had enough downtime during each day to rest and recharge. I rarely went out by myself, and on the rare occasion when I did, I didn’t enjoy the separation from my child. I enjoyed spending time with my child and resented the constant suggestions that I needed to take time away from him for my own sake.

When our second child arrived, I soon began to feel a growing desire for “me time”. I had less time to recharge and what felt like an exponential increase in the demands placed on me. When I started to care for another baby part-time, the demands (and subsequent need for time to recharge) increased that much more.

As the weeks passed and I allowed my life to become more and more unbalanced, I grew increasingly angry and resentful. I was short-tempered, exhausted, and becoming detached from my children as I struggled to hold on to the last of my own internal resources. There was balance in the way I responded to my child’s needs and balance in the way I met the needs of my husband, but there was a distinct lack of balance with myself and my own needs.

Finally accepting that I needed a break, I left the boys with their dad while I went out for coffee by myself. The short hour that I was gone made a surprising difference in my ability to respond to my children and meet their needs. It was enough to make the need for balance in my life very clear.

Since then, the changing needs of our family have meant a regular cycle of balance and imbalance. When things are balanced, the atmosphere is one of patience, kindness, and understanding. When needs change and we enter a period of disequilibrium, resentment and frustration begin to surface. Recognizing this allows us to quickly take steps to regain balance in our lives.

Summary

In order for attachment parenting to be sustainable in the long-term, there must be balance. This balance must be present with the child (attentiveness without indulgence), with the spouse (meeting the needs of the marriage without neglecting the needs of the child), and within the parent (meeting the needs of the individual). Failing to validate and meet, as far as possible, the needs of all members of the family will quickly lead to resentment, exhaustion, and burnout.

Imbalances may occur due to an over-focus on one area to the detriment of others, a lack of support, or a natural change in circumstances that necessitates finding a new balance. This new balance can be achieved by changing what needs to be changed in a way that continues to meet the child's needs, asking for help from others, breaking unhealthy cycles by meeting the child's needs first, and reevaluating and prioritizing.

The varying stages of childhood and the ever-shifting nature of family dynamics will create a regular cycle of balance and imbalance. It is important that a period of imbalance be quickly recognized and resolved in order to regain equilibrium. The parent's instincts and the child's needs should never be sacrificed in the name of forced attachment parenting ideals or expectations.


Recommended Reading:

What Attachment Parenting is Not and Avoiding Mommy Burnout by Dr. Sears
Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life at Attachment Parenting International
On Labels and Limits: Why I no longer call myself an “attachment parent” by Megan Francis
The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to reclaim, rejuvenate and re-balance your life by RenĂ©e Trudeau


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to balance in attachment parenting. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our Attachment Parenting Series summary!


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Beware of baby trainers

Welcome to our sixth installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Beware of baby trainers! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own information and experiences!


What is it?

The phrase "beware of baby trainers" warns the parent to be cautious of advice that recommends a rigid schedule-based style of parenting, typically at the expense of trusting the parent's instincts and the baby's cues.

How can we encourage it?

At the core of attachment parenting is a parent/child connection based on mutual trust. This trust is developed as the parent reads and responds to the child's cues, leading to effective communication and deeper connection between the two.

As this mutual trust and connection grows, the parent/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The parent trusts the child's cues as well as their own ability to meet the child's needs. The parent becomes the expert on their own individual child.

What the advice of baby trainers does, however, is undermine that cue-response cycle, thereby disrupting the mutual trust and connection between parent and child. It discourages the parent from trusting both their instincts and their child's cues, placing the baby trainer as the expert in place of the parent. It promises highly desirable results if the parent "trains" the baby by following a rigid, often harsh, schedule-based style of parenting.

What baby trainers offer is a one-size-fits-all approach to changing a baby’s behaviour, whether in regards to feeding, sleeping, or interacting with the parents. These strict rules, however, fail to take into account the baby’s feelings and individual needs. Unfortunately, the results of baby training typically bring short-term gain coupled with long-term loss. While the short-term results may be convenient, the damage to the child and to the parent/child relationship may be long-lasting and irreparable.

One of the big baby-training dangers is its threat to breastfeeding. Babies fed on a schedule rather than on cue are at risk of slow weight gain, early weaning, dehydration, and failure to thrive. Because the mother’s milk supply adjusts based on demand, the mother who feeds on a schedule is at risk of low milk supply due to her body’s inability to take into account her baby’s growth spurts, metabolism, or changing nutritional needs. Breastfeeding provides more than nutrition, however; schedule-based feeding prevents the pair from nursing for emotional comfort.

When the parent is watching the clock instead of child, important cues are overlooked. Crying is a late sign of hunger, and yet the scheduled baby is often pacified because it’s not “feeding time” yet.

Despite the dangers of excessive crying, baby trainers typically advocate some form of leaving a child to cry in order to establish a new sleep schedule. Parents are often warned not to allow the “bad habit” of co-sleeping. This early push for a child to sleep alone and all night brings with it many dangers, including an increased risk of SIDS, and further fails to meet the child’s emotional needs.

Baby trainers will often protest that their sleep schedules are not intended for younger babies (while others unabashedly promote a “from birth” plan to have the new baby sleeping through the night early on). The parent, however, lacking trust in the baby’s cues and in their own parenting expertise and intuition, is in danger of applying the advice to the extreme.

Many baby trainers also advocate pushing early autonomy through the use of “playpen time”, in which the child is expected to entertain themselves for a predetermined amount of time. Parents are discouraged from holding their baby “too much” for fear of producing a clingy, spoiled child, ignoring all evidence that says otherwise. Babies thrive on touch, and this hands-off style of parenting affects both the child and the parent/child bond.

Contrary to the advice of baby trainers, attachment parenting encourages the parent to discover their own individualized style of parenting within the attachment-promoting boundaries of AP. These boundaries, at their most basic, encourage the parent to know their child and respond to their child’s cues, trusting those cues and the parent’s own instincts above those who claim to know better than you do what’s best for your family. A high-touch, attachment-based approach to parenting builds confident parents and emotionally-secure children, allowing the children to achieve healthy independence at the appropriate developmental stage.

What if it doesn't happen?

Too many parents fall prey to these baby trainers at the expense of trusting their own instincts. With the abundance of parenting books available, it can be difficult for parents to know what to believe or which books to avoid. The temptation to follow the advice of a baby trainer becomes particularly tempting when the parent finds themself desperate for change in the midst of a challenging situation, most often related to sleep. When reading or listening to baby-training advice, the parent should proceed with caution in order to maintain their parenting instincts and keep the attachment relationship intact.

Watch for red flags

There are a few common threads that run through popular baby-training advice. These red flags warn the parent that the advice can have harmful and long-lasting consequences to either the baby's health or the parent/child relationship. Some of these red flags include advice that:
  • contradicts AAP breastfeeding recommendations, including parent-directed or schedule-based feeding
  • presents an adversarial "us versus them" view of children, including the idea that babies cry to manipulate rather than communicate
  • promotes a rigid "one size fits all" schedule
  • discounts the baby’s feelings and individual needs
  • discourages parents from responding to the baby's cries
  • encourages parents to leave a baby to play alone for long stretches of time
  • warns against holding the baby “too much”
  • recommends physical chastisement for babies
  • denies the parent’s intuition or expertise in regards to their baby

Watch your baby

When accepting the advice of baby trainers, it becomes even more important to carefully watch the baby. Continue to read and respond to the baby’s cues, putting their individual needs above the training advice. Watch closely for signs of slow weight gain, dehydration, lethargy, developmental regression, detachment, and failure to thrive.

Trust your instincts

If it feels wrong, it probably is. Mothers are biologically designed to respond to their baby’s cries. When left alone, parents will instinctively comfort a crying baby, feed a hungry baby, and keep their baby close to them. Be wary of any advice that recommends doing otherwise.

Seek gentler alternatives

While the temptation to accept even harsh baby training advice is understandable in the sleep-deprived parent, explore gentle alternatives first. For instance, many of the popular sleep-trainers, including Ezzo (Babywise), Ferber (Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems), and Hogg (The Baby Whisperer), recommend training methods that require leaving the baby to cry, ranging from some form of controlled crying to the extreme cry-it-out method. Gentle alternatives include Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Dr. William Sears’ Sleep Problems Information or Nighttime Parenting book, and Dr. Jay Gordon’s Night Weaning Method. The same principle applies to other forms of baby training.

Repair and reconnect

For parents who have followed the advice of baby trainers at the expense of their instincts, expertise, and trust in their baby’s cues, it is important that the parent/child pair reestablish connection going forward. At the basis of this connection will be healthy communication, mutual trust, an awareness of the child’s unique needs, and a sensitive response to those needs. Parents can use play to connect with their child and help them work through their feelings. A straightforward discussion and apology can be immensely healing for both the parent and child.

Our experiences

Having an understanding of attachment parenting before my child was born gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and my child's cues. I was naturally wary of any suggestion that I watch the clock rather than my baby. I recognized the red flags in advice that pushed a "hands-off" approach to parenting - put the baby down rather than hold him "too much", nurse when it's "time" rather than when the baby is hungry, ignore his cries lest I be "manipulated".

Rather than the chaos I was warned of, I discovered that my babies soon fell into a natural cycle. As I watched, a predictable pattern emerged in their eating, sleeping, and wakeful periods, and yet lacking the stress and worry of having to ensure they ate and slept at a specific time. Rather than being a burden, attachment parenting allowed us calm and peaceful interactions as I learned to read their cues and meet their individual and ever-changing needs.

Summary

Attachment parenting warns parents to be wary of advice that recommends adopting a rigid schedule-based style of parenting or changing a baby's behaviour for convenience purposes. This advise undermines the parent's own expertise in regards to their child, discouraging the parent from trusting their instincts or their baby's cues.

These one-size-fits-all rules fail to take into account the baby's feelings and individual needs. They are a threat to breastfeeding, leading to failure to thrive when taken to the extreme. The parent learns to watch the clock, missing opportunities to learn and respond to their baby's cues. Parents are often encouraged to leave their children to cry in order to establish the desired sleep patterns, despite the dangers associated with excessive crying. A hands-off style of parenting is often encouraged to the detriment of the child and the parent/child bond. Because the parent loses the ability to trust their intuition and the baby's cues, they become susceptible to taking the advice to a dangerous extreme.

When listening to or reading baby-training advice, the discerning parent will watch for red flags, such as advice that discourages them from comforting a crying baby, feeding a hungry baby, or keeping their baby close. When implementing a baby-training method, it becomes even more important to watch the baby closely both for cues that indicate an individual need as well as signs of physical danger such as slow weight gain or dehydration. Whatever the advice, the parent should always trust their instincts. When change is needed, gentler alternatives should be explored before harsh baby-training methods. For parents who have followed the advice of baby trainers at the expense of their instincts, expertise, and trust in their child's cues, it is important that the parent/child pair reestablish connection going forward.

Babyhood lasts only a short time, but the ramifications of this stage last a lifetime. Long-term health and attachment should not be exchanged for short-term convenience. Rather than undermining the parent's expertise and intuition, attachment parenting encourages the parent to know their individual child and respond to their child's cues, leading to confident parents and emotionally-secure children.


Recommended Reading:

Ezzo Info
Getting wise to "Babywise" by Katie Granju
The Baby Book and The Attachment Parenting Book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to baby training. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our seventh installment - Balance!


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The making of a bad guy

"Mommy, I think Luke is going to grow up to be a bad guy."

Here we go again. The oh-so-familiar bad guy/good guy conversation, a daily part of life around here lately.

"Oh? Why do you think that?"

"Because I...because he falls a lot...and because sometimes I push him and throw blocks at him."

My breath catches, stomach twists. Oh child...no. I have lived my life that way, me always the one responsible for everyone else's feelings, people-pleaser, giving in to spare others' unhappiness. And here I preach it - don't makes your child responsible for the feelings or actions of others; own your own feelings - and have I already failed so miserably with my own son?

"Honey, when Luke grows up he will have to choose for himself what sort of person he will be. You won't make him into a bad guy."

"But sometimes I push him, and that teaches him bad things, and then he'll grow up to be a bad guy."

My own words, served back to me with a side of heavy guilt. "We must treat Luke with kindness. When we treat him kindly, he learns to be kind. If we are mean to him, he learns to be mean."

"You do sometimes push him, don't you? But you know what? I see you doing very kind things for him as well."

"What kind things do you see me do?"

"Well, just tonight you wiped Luke's eyes and gave him a hug when he was crying. That was very kind. And I often see you give him a toy or share a treat with him. Today you played with him in your bedroom for a long time, and I heard you being very nice to him the whole time. You help me take very good care of him."

"And I patted his back tonight when he was going to sleep."

"Yes you did. That was very thoughtful of you. And you know what else? When you do knock Luke over, you always stop and tell him you're sorry, and then you try to make him feel better. That teaches him kindness too."

"So if I didn't say sorry to Luke, then he would grow up to be a bad guy?"

How do I ever explain this? How do I balance being kind with personal responsibility? empathy and compassion with not being responsible for others' feelings? How? I'm floundering here.

"Even if you didn't say sorry, Luke would still have choose for himself whether he was going to be a good guy or a bad guy. You can't make Luke be a bad guy. Luke has to decide himself."

Good guy, bad guy. Such simplistic terms. How can they ever convey the whole range of human experience - the brokenness, sin, choices, emotions, perspectives, hope? But these are the terms he has adopted, and it is in these terms that we explore the ideas of choice, repentance, redemption, grace, and, most of all, love.

"No, if I didn't say sorry, then he would learn mean things."

"You have taught him many kind things already. But even if you didn't, Luke still has to decide for himself whether he wants to be mean or be kind. We all do. Mommy and Daddy had to choose, even when people were mean to us. And you will have to choose too. Even if people are mean to you, you can still choose to be kind."

"No, if you didn't say sorry to me, then I would grow up to be a bad guy."

"Sweetheart, even then you could still choose to be a good guy. It might be hard but you could still choose to be kind."

"No, I wouldn't if you didn't say sorry."

"I'm glad I do say sorry then. God wants me to treat you so kindly, always, and I am very sorry when I am unkind to you. I love you very much. I think that you will grow up to be a very kind man who makes good choices, and I think Luke will too. Now let's pray and get into bed, okay?"

"Okay."

But is it? Is it okay? I don't know what I'm doing here. How do I teach compassion without co-dependency, balance sacrifice with self-care, encourage thinking of others while maintaining boundaries and an understanding of personal responsibility?

Like I said...I'm floundering here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Monday, 14 March 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Belief in the language value of your baby's cry

Welcome to our fifth installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Belief in the language value of your baby's cry! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own information and experiences!


What is it?

Belief in the language value of your baby's cry reflects an awareness that babies cry in order to communicate. It rejects the belief that babies cry to manipulate their parents.

How can we encourage it?

A baby cries in order to make known a need. The cry is reflexive; the baby's very survival depends on it. As the parent promptly and calmly responds to these cries, the baby learns to trust that his needs will be met while the parent learns to trust in their ability to meet those needs. By viewing the baby’s cry not as a habit to be broken but as a means of communication, the parent is able to become an expert in reading the baby’s cues. The more sensitive a parent becomes to the baby's cues, the better the baby becomes at giving those cues. This is the beginning and very core of parent/child communication.

This sensitive response and effective communication allows the child to develop a secure attachment to the parent. As connection grows, the parent/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The resulting mutual trust and sensitivity is the basis of the parent/child relationship and the foundation upon which future discipline will rely. The better the parent knows the child and the more the child trusts his or her parent, the easier discipline will be as the child grows.

A mother is biologically designed to respond to her baby's cry. Upon hearing her baby’s cry, the blood flow to the mother’s breasts increases. The hormone oxytocin is released, causing the mother’s milk to let down. The hormone prolactin is released, creating an urge to pick up and nurse her baby. Further oxytocin and prolactin are released during breastfeeding, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and facilitating bonding between the mother and her baby. It upsets a mother to ignore her baby’s cry because it is supposed to upset her and spur her into action.

You cannot spoil a baby by responding to his cries. Babies are “spoiled” by being ignored. It is important that a parent understands the implications of failing to sensitively respond to their baby's cries. A baby does not have the cognitive ability to understand why his caregiver is not responding to his cries, nor does he have any concept of time or object permanence. This makes it highly distressing for him to be left to cry alone.

When his cry is ignored, the baby has two options: stop signaling or escalate the signal. Some babies will give up and become withdrawn, a short-term payoff for the parents who may find that their child discovers no reason to begin communicating with them at a later, more turbulent, point in life. Others will cry louder and more urgently, becoming whiny, clingy, demanding and manipulative as they grow. In either scenario, parent/child communication is inhibited. The baby loses trust in his cues and the parent loses another opportunity to learn to read those cues. The baby cannot develop effective communication skills or healthy methods of expressing emotions. Although parents are frequently advised to leave their babies to cry in order to develop independence, babies are simply not capable of such. True maturity and healthy independence requires a strong foundation of emotional security that can only come about from the love and support of his caregivers during his earliest years.

In addition to the psychological distress he experiences when his cries are ignored, the baby must endure significant physiological distress as well. Babies left to cry experience elevated heart rates, lowered oxygen levels in their blood, and elevated levels of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time increases the individual’s susceptibility to illness and a variety of stress disorders, and can also lead to separation anxiety, panic attacks, and addictions. Physical changes to the brain occur from the excessive cortisol stimulation. Changes to the nervous system can cause the individual to become overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress can lead to an over-active adrenaline system, resulting in increased aggression and impulsiveness. Children who experienced persistent episodes of prolonged crying as babies have higher rates of ADHD, lower IQ, and poor fine motor skills.

Babies whose cries are frequently ignored will have a difficult time developing healthy intellectual and social skills. They will often become insecure individuals, characterized by anxious, avoidant, and/or ambivalent interactions. Promptly and sensitively responding to a child’s distress, on the other hand, will make them more secure, compassionate, and better able to form healthy relationships as adults.

On a very fundamental level, failing to respond sensitively to a baby’s cries demonstrates a subconscious belief that babies are “less than”. When an adult we care about – a spouse, friend, family member, or even acquaintance – is upset, few of us would choose to ignore them rather than respond to their distress, nor would we want those closest to us to ignore our own cries. If we would not treat each other that way, we must ask ourselves why it would be acceptable to do so to our own babies.

A baby’s wants are his needs. However, as a child grows, he will develop more and more wants that must be refused. Responding to a child’s cries does not mean giving him everything he wants. That would be an unhealthy form of parenting. However, even here the child's cries should not be ignored. Parenting requires that we sensitively respond to our child's cries, whether to comfort him, acknowledge his feelings, teach him appropriate ways to express his emotions, or meet a need (hunger, discomfort, pain, and so on).

What if it doesn't happen?

Unlike the other AP tools we have discussed thus far, I am going to suggest that this isn't an option in attachment parenting - or in any parenting. Understanding the language value of your baby's cry is absolutely imperative.

However, that is not to say that parents who have fallen victim to the belief that babies cry to manipulate rather than communicate, and have reflected that belief in the way they parented their baby, should feel burdened with guilt over their previous choices. Some look back and regret the way they responded to their baby's cries; others look at their child and say that he seems just fine. In either case, it is more important to go forward with a sensitive response to the child's needs rather than either wallow in guilt or react with offense for how they chose to raise their baby.

The importance of an apology should never be underestimated. Parents are not and will never be perfect. We will make mistakes. We will have moments where we allow the frustrations of our current situation to overwhelm and get the better of us. We will accept faulty advice, become misled by those who claim to be parenting “experts”, parent under flawed philosophies, and develop our own unique blind spots and weaknesses. Immense healing can occur when we acknowledge our wrongs, apologize, and seek our child’s forgiveness.

Despite our best intentions, we may not always be able to respond promptly to our baby’s needs. Sometimes a baby will cry in protest to something that is necessary. However, even when we cannot immediately alleviate the cause of his distress, we can verbally acknowledge his feelings in an attempt to comfort and reassure him.

Sometimes, for their own mental health and for the safety of their baby, a parent may need to place the baby in a safe place and take a quiet break alone. This is always preferable to reaching the point of being so overwhelmed that the parent causes physical harm to the child. A strong support system is invaluable in these early years (and beyond) in order to provide the parents with encouragement and practical help.

Our experiences

I was fortunate to have discovered Attachment Parenting while pregnant with my first child. It afforded me the confidence and encouragement I needed to respond to my child’s cries in a society that was continually telling me I would spoil my baby if I did so. It was this tenet of AP in particular – the belief in the language value of my baby’s cry – that underscored all the rest of them. Because of this belief, I felt it was important to establish bonding immediately after birth. Because of this belief, I felt comfortable breastfeeding on cue. Because of this belief, I found it both desirable and practical to carry them throughout the day. Because of this belief, I kept them close to me at night.

Sometimes my babies would have to cry, either because I could not tend to them immediately or because the cause of their distress was non-negotiable (such as a car seat). In those moments, I would verbally acknowledge their feelings in an attempt to comfort and reassure them, talking and singing until such time as I could remove the source of their protest.

There were moments, however, when I would feel frustrated or overwhelmed. At those times, a few minutes alone in the bathroom – a chance to empty my bladder, brush my hair, splash some cool water on my face, and drink a glass of water – made all the difference in my ability to go back out and resume parenting with patience and kindness.

Summary

Belief in the language value of your baby's cry reflects an awareness that babies cry to communicate, not manipulate. As the parent promptly and calmly responds to the baby's cries, the baby learns to trust that his needs will be met while the parent learns to trust in their ability to meet those needs. This is the beginning of parent/child communication.

A mother is biologically designed to respond to her baby's cries. When a parent fails to sensitively respond to those cries, parent/child communication is inhibited. The baby experiences significant psychological and physiological distress, which can have lasting implications on the child's life. When the parent responds to the baby's cries without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of his needs, yet showing no undue concern or anxiety, the child is able to grow into a secure and compassionate adult capable of forming healthy relationships.

While the parent cannot always stop the baby from crying, they can acknowledge the baby's cries and attempt to sooth, distract, or direct the expression of those emotions. If the parent is feeling overwhelmed by the baby's cries, leaving the baby to cry alone for a few minutes while the parent regroups is always preferable to staying and reaching the point of causing harm to the baby. A strong support system is invaluable in providing both encouragement and practical help.

You can spoil a child by giving him everything he wants, and you can spoil a child by ignoring him, but you cannot spoil a child by responding to his cries. Understanding the language value of a baby's cry is imperative in developing healthy parent/child communication and a strong, lasting attachment.


Recommended Reading:

Crying Information by Dr. Sears
Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us by PhD in Parenting
The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff
Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to belief in the language value of your baby's cry. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our sixth installment - Beware of baby trainers!


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Mail time!

What an exciting mail week we had!


First to arrive was our beautiful Way of Light wreath to mark the passage of time through Advent, Lent, and on to Ascension.


I knew it would be beautiful, but to finally order it, receive it, open up its carefully-packaged wrappings, and hold it in my hands, I actually choked up a bit. It is beautifully carved, beautifully finished, and just such a perfect tangible way of walking with Christ through the days of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season.

We began last night, lighting the first candle to mark the beginning of Lent. Tonight we lit the second.


Next to arrive was a (very) late Christmas present for the boys. They had been given some Christmas money and we had something in mind for them to use it on, but it took me a while to find a place in Canada that sold it. I finally found the exact one I wanted at Ape2Zebra.ca.

I highly recommend this website. Everything from their selection to their customer service was excellent. Not a single complaint.


We purchased the Deluxe Road System from Plan Toys. I was a bit nervous after reading some reviews about the pieces being hard to fit together and having plastic connecting bits that broke off, but as you can see, the pieces are made entirely from wood and fit together with no trouble at all. Maybe they've updated the connector style since those reviews, but regardless I was very happy with the product - and, of course, the boys were over the moon.


The road system came with one rail piece to connect it to a railroad set. It fit seamlessly with our Ikea train track (which does, incidentally, have plastic connectors, none of which have broken off in the past year or more of heavy use).


This has got a lot of play so far. Add our old Fisher Price Main Street and you've got a whole town! Add some animals and it's a zoo, too! We'll add various Plan City pieces to it over the years, but there's certainly enough as it is to have excellent play value.


Finally, a backordered book from Amazon arrived this week. I'd placed the order more than a month ago and the rest had already arrived, we were just waiting on this last one for Jacob. The arrived portion had included an Asimov book for my husband, a long-desired set of books for me (Francine River's Mark of the Lion series, which I've read through so many times that I figured it warranted an actual purchase), and a board book for the baby (I Love You, Stinky Face, which I had been annoyed with the first time I saw the title, but fell in love with when I actually read the book - it's so sweet and has quickly become a favourite with both boys). Thank you, Swagbucks!! I've been saving Amazon gift cards for a while to make this order. They add up surprisingly quickly. I'm definitely kicking myself for rolling my eyes every time someone mentioned Swagbucks - I should have signed up long ago.

Anyway, Jacob's book that (finally!) arrived was an Usborne book (way cheaper on Amazon than through our local rep - sorry Kirstie!!), See Inside Your Body.


I first saw this book when we went to a Body Worlds exhibit at Science World a few months ago. Again, much cheaper off Amazon! I love the explanations, illustrations, and flaps. The book is very well done and is a great introduction to the body for the preschool/kindergarten age.


Well! That was our exciting mail week (plus, you know, bills and junk mail). What's arrived in your mailbox lately?

(All of these are my own unsolicited reviews.  I just really liked these products and businesses!)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Heather who was selected via Random.org as the winner of our giveaway! Heather blogs at Adventures in Green Living and Parenting. She had this to share with us as a gift of thanks:
I am thankful for the small victories each day...they make it all worth it!

Heather has won a copy of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Heather, you can email me at thehippiehousewife [at] gmail [dot] com with your contact information and I'll get that sent out to you right away.

Thank you to everyone who participated! I loved reading the things you were each grateful for. It was wonderfully heartwarming.

Congratulations again to our winner and I look forward to doing this again soon!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Bedding close to baby

Welcome to our fourth installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Bedding close to baby! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own co-sleeping information and experiences!


What is it?

Bedding close to baby, more commonly known as "co-sleeping", involves the parent and child sleeping within close proximity to each other. Ideally, this will mean the parent and child are sleeping in the same bed; however, many of the same benefits can be achieved with the baby sleeping in a co-sleeper next to the bed or a crib in the same room.

How can we encourage it?

Co-sleeping allows the parent to respond to the baby's nighttime needs promptly and with minimal disruption to sleep. It is the normative practice of most parents worldwide and throughout history, designed for the safety and security of babies. Only within the past 200 years has the idea of leaving infants to sleep on their own in a separate room become popular practice in our society, and we have yet to fully understand the physiological and psychological consequences of this transition away from normal biological sleep habits.

There tend to be two primary objections to co-sleeping: First, that solitary sleep will encourage independence and autonomy in the child, and second, that co-sleeping is unsafe due to the risk of suffocation. The validity of both these assumptions will be examined below. Recognizing the benefits of co-sleeping and knowing how to co-sleep safely may help to encourage the acceptance of this practice in our own society.

Benefits

Not only is co-sleeping safe when done following common-sense guidelines, but it also brings with it many physiological and psychological benefits.

Co-sleeping encourages breastfeeding. Physical proximity means that the baby will nurse more frequently, thereby receiving greater immunological and caloric benefits, sustaining the mother's milk supply, and assisting in the suppression of the mother's ovulation. Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding easier for mothers as well, allowing them to breastfeed the baby with minimal sleep disruption. Breastfed babies will feed more often than formula-fed babies because of the composition of breastmilk (low in fat and protein compared to other mammals, providing fewer calories per feeding), making co-sleeping a particularly desirable arrangement for both mother and baby.

Co-sleeping, and bed-sharing in particular, regulates breathing, heart rate, and body temperature through skin contact and sleep interactions between parent and child. Babies who bed-share have higher oxygen levels and fewer episodes of sleep apnea. Co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS due to both physical proximity and the regulation of sleep patterns when bed-sharing. Solitary sleep encourages long stretches of deep sleep before the infant is physiologically ready for this. Because our society pushes babies to sleep through the night from very early ages, co-sleeping often requires a shift in mindset. Rather than viewing nightwaking as a problem, we must recognize it as a healthy and normal biological reality due to the composition of breastmilk and the danger of deep sleep in younger babies.

Co-sleeping increases the ability of the parent to respond if the child needs help. Whether medical- or trauma-related, co-sleeping gives parents the best opportunity to hear and intervene if their child is in distress. Bed-sharing in particular makes the parent keenly aware of the baby’s current state.

Co-sleeping decreases sleep disruptions in both parent and child. Because the mother is able to respond to her baby’s stirrings before they become cries, the baby will frequently breastfeed during the night without fully waking up. The comforting presence of the parent may allow the baby to pass through stages of light sleep without waking or to resettle himself if he does wake up. The mother, too, is able to remain partially asleep while tending to the child. Neither parent must rouse themselves fully to tend to the cries of a baby in another room.

Co-sleeping meets the child's emotional needs, providing them with the normal, safe environment that they are designed to expect. Separation anxiety and nighttime fears are reduced and replaced with the comforting and reassuring presence of a parent, allowing the baby to develop positive sleep associations. When co-sleeping, the child does not have to cry to rouse the parent. Because of the extra cortisol released during crying, research indicates that babies who sleep alone are more susceptible to stress disorders. Rather than becoming clingy, the child whose nighttime needs are met develops the trust and emotional security needed to grow into a confident independence. Parents may worry that if they allow their baby into their bed, the child will never want to leave; however, all children will eventually want their own space as they begin to individuate from their parents.

Co-sleeping promotes attachment by allowing the parent to become more finely aware of and responsive to her baby’s cues. It allows reconnection for the working parent. Co-sleeping is one more way to encourage connection between parent and child, making it easier to parent in a more natural and instinctive manner.

Safety

There is a definite fallacy in the assumption that when a baby dies in a crib, it is due to SIDS, but when a baby dies in an adult bed, it is due to asphyxiation. However inappropriate this misconstruction may be, it leads to an important distinction: Rather than questioning whether it is safe to sleep with a baby, parents should become educated on how to sleep with their baby safely.

Co-sleeping came under fire in 1999 when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a warning against co-sleeping based on an eight-year study it had done on unintentional suffocation and strangulation in children under the age of two. The following media frenzy reported that 515 children had died in an adult bed over a period of 17 years. In a major conflict of interest, the subsequent campaign against co-sleeping was a joint effort between the CPSC and the Juvenile Product Manufactures Association (JPMA), an association of crib manufacturers.

Neither the media nor the CPSC/JPMA, however, reported the 2,700 infants who had died of SIDS (formerly known as “cot death”) in the final year of the study, nor the 34,000 total cases of SIDS that occurred during the time period covered by the study. Similarly misleading, no distinction was made between safe and unsafe co-sleeping practices in the children who had died in an adult bed (further external study, for instance, showed that 79 of those 515 deaths occurred on waterbeds, an unsafe sleeping surface for babies).

Just as they would when choosing a crib, parents must observe safety guidelines if they plan to co-sleep with their baby. A comprehensive list of these guidelines can be found here.

Transitions

More than just a decision about where your baby sleeps, co-sleeping requires a recognition of your family’s nighttime needs throughout the changing years. Different stages of the child’s development may call for different arrangements. The emphasis should be on being available to your child to meet his needs, just as you would during the day, rather than on adopting any one particular sleeping arrangement.

When a transition is needed, it should be done gently and with an understanding response to the child’s feelings. A familiar pre-bedtime routine may help to ease the transition. Young children are often comforted by the presence of a parent as they fall asleep in their own bed, growing out of this need when they are developmentally ready.

Parents may find that gradual steps are met with less resistance than moving a previously-co-sleeping child into his own room. If a bed-sharing arrangement is no longer working, a crib or toddler bed in the parents’ room or a mattress on the floor will move the child out of the main bed while providing the child with the continued reassuring presence of his parents. Alternatively, a child may begin the night in his own room with the understanding that he is welcome into the parents’ bed if he wakes up during the night.

What if it doesn't happen?

Parents may be unable or unwilling to co-sleep with their children. There are many alternatives to co-sleeping that will allow the parents to respond to their child’s nighttime needs and to be available to them during the night as they are during the day.

Try an alternative form of co-sleeping

If parents find that bed-sharing is an undesirable arrangement, there are other forms of co-sleeping that may be considered. A sidecar arrangement is one option, with a crib, bassinet, playpen or co-sleeper placed directly adjacent to the bed. This has many of the benefits of physical proximity while still providing the baby with his own surface to sleep on. A crib (or bassinet, playpen, etc) elsewhere in the room is also considered a form of co-sleeping, allowing the parents to respond more quickly and easily to the child’s nighttime needs. While the AAP does not endorse bed-sharing, they do recommend room-sharing for the first year of the child’s life.

Respond with sensitivity to nighttime needs

If it is decided that the baby will be sleeping in a separate room, parents must still be aware of the importance of being available to meet their child’s needs throughout the night. This may be more disruptive to the parent when the child is in a separate room, but accepting and respecting a baby’s needs remains an integral part of attachment parenting. (More next week on belief in the language value of your baby's cries.)

Increase touch during the day

Babies thrive on touch. Because solitary sleep reduces the amount of touch a baby receives, the parent who is unable or unwilling to co-sleep can make up for some of this lost touch during the day. Babywearing is one high-touch method of meeting this need while allowing the parent to go about their daily routine.

Our experiences

With our first child, our journey into co-sleeping (particularly bed-sharing) was an unexpected one. Although he slept with me during our two-night stay in the hospital, we placed him in a bassinet sidecarred to our bed when we brought him home. This allowed me easy access to him during the night while encouraging him to sleep in his own space. We had a crib set up in the next room and intended to move him there when he outgrew the bassinet.

This was fine for the first three months. He was sleeping throughout the night by the time he was a month old, waking up nearly frantic with hunger. Looking back, I recognize that bed-sharing would have encouraged him to nurse more often during the night, but at the time I was content to leave a sleeping child be so long as he was growing fine (and he was).

But at three months, as those babies who sleep through the night early are prone to do, he began to wake up during the night – at first just once or twice, but then more and more until at one point he was waking up every single hour all night long. I was exhausted, but each time he needed to be fed I would wake up, turn on the lamp, sit up, feed him, lay him back down in the bassinet, turn off the light, and go back to sleep.

One night, however, I woke up in a panic because I didn’t remember laying the baby back down after I had last fed him. Convinced I had dropped him on the floor, I searched the area until finally noticing him sound asleep in his bassinet. I was both relieved that he was safe and terrified that my exhaustion was going to cause me to fall asleep and drop him during a feeding.

From that night on, he slept in our bed. When he woke up to eat, I was able to latch him on and fall back asleep. Although his sleeping didn’t improve again until he was a year old, bed-sharing meant that I was able to get far more sleep than I had been getting previously. I also discovered that having him next to me felt far more natural and right than when he had been sleeping on a separate surface.

When I was pregnant with our second child, I began to transition him into his own bed. I would nurse him as usual, then sit next to his bed until he fell asleep. When he woke during the night, he was welcome to join us in our bed. Eventually we transitioned away from that as well, providing him with a pallet and blanket on the floor for when he came into our room in the middle of the night. Now three years old, he puts himself to sleep at bedtime and continues to make use of the pallet most nights, an arrangement we are all happy with.

When our second child was born, I had the bassinet beside the bed, ready and waiting. I reluctantly placed him in there that first night. Five minutes later, I pulled him back out and tucked him against me, and we both peacefully fell asleep.

Although he didn’t sleep through the night as early as his brother did, he was a far better sleeper in the long run. We continued to put him to sleep in our bed for the next fourteen months, only recently moving him in with his older brother. Like his brother, he joins us in our room when he wakes up during the night.

We are happy with our co-sleeping arrangements and intend to continue this pattern of bed-sharing from birth, transitioning to starting the night in their own bed when they are ready, and moving them to a pallet on the floor when necessary. The pallet will remain available to them for as long as it is needed.

Summary

Sleeping with your baby during the night and carrying him throughout the day is the most natural way to meets the baby's physiological and psychological needs. It allows the parent to respond quickly to the baby's cues with minimal disruption to sleep.

Co-sleeping encourages frequent breastfeeding. It has numerous physiological benefits, including the regulation of infant breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and sleep patterns and a reduced risk of SIDS. It increases the ability of the parent to hear and intervene if the child is in distress. Both parent and child experience fewer sleep disruptions when co-sleeping. Co-sleeping has psychological benefits as well, allowing the parent to better meet the child's emotional and nighttime needs, resulting in the trust and security a child needs to grow into a confident independence. It promotes attachment between parent and child and allow reconnection for the working parent.

Despite warnings against placing a baby in an adult bed, statistics reveal that when common-sense safety guidelines are followed, co-sleeping is safer than placing a child to sleep in a crib in a separate room.

Nighttime sleep arrangements should remain flexible in order to meet the changing needs of both parent and child. Necessary transitions should be undertaken in a gentle and responsive manner. A gradual approach is often a good first step when moving a child out of the adult bed.

If parents are unable or unwilling to bed-share, they may wish to consider other forms of co-sleeping such as side-carring or room-sharing. If they do choose a solitary sleep arrangement for their baby, it remains important that they be available to meet the nighttime needs of their baby. Parents can emphasize a high-touch relationship with their baby during the day in order to make up for the decreased amount of touch a baby receives when sleeping alone.

Parents should be assured that choosing to welcome your baby into your bed is not spoiling him or allowing him to manipulate you. Rather, co-sleeping is the normative practice worldwide and throughout history, biologically intended for the baby's safety and security. Regardless of the chosen sleep arrangements, being aware of and responsive to the child's nighttime needs will help to promote connection and attachment between parent and child.


Recommended Reading:

Co-sleeping Information by Dr. Sears
Articles on Co-sleeping at The Natural Child Project
Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping by James McKenna, Ph.D.
Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night's Sleep) by Jay Gordon, M.D.


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to bedding close to baby. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our fifth installment - Belief in the language value of your baby's cry!


Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Saturday Evening Blog Post


It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

From February, I've chosen Seeds of Discontent. This entry was a reminder to myself to stop living with one foot in "if only" and instead live fully in the present - content with where I am, grateful for all that I have, seeking beauty in all things, finding joy today.

If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link. It looks like there's quite a few other interesting posts to check out, too.

Don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts"! Comments close Monday at 11:59pm PST.

I'll see you on Monday for the fourth installment of our Attachment Parenting Series - Bedding close to baby!

Weekend Reading


Don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts"! Comments close Monday at 11:59pm PST.

I'll see you on Monday for the fourth installment of our Attachment Parenting Series - Bedding close to baby!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Nighttime transitions

After fourteen months of asking, the boy has finally gotten his wish:


He gets to sleep with his "baby bruzzer".

I've put the baby to sleep in our bed since the night he was born. But last week, after the boy asked for the four hundredth time if his little brother could ("pleeeeease") sleep in his bed with him, I decided it was as good a time as any to try.

The transition went far more smoothly than I expected. I kept our bedtime routine the same; only the location changed. After he had nursed for a while, I laid him down beside his (very excited) brother, patted his back a few times, and sat beside the bed with my laptop. A few minutes later, they were asleep.

They've yet to both make it a full night there, but that's fine with me. I'm enjoying the extra space as I fall asleep at night, and I'm happy to have him back snuggling with me when he wakes up later on. The boy has his usual spot on the floor in our room, pallet and blanket ready and waiting - not that it stops him from occasionally slipping quietly into our bed instead!

I sure love these snuggly boys of mine, and I am so glad they have each other to grow up with.


(Don't forget to enter the giveaway!)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Wordless Wednesday: What's this white stuff??





(Don't forget to enter the giveaway!)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

This moment (and a giveaway!)

Last night, boys in bed, I sat down with some yarn, browsed patterns, looking for just the right combination. Picked up needles, prepared to cast on - and then the baby cried. Sighing, I went to soothe him, sitting quietly beside the bed as his eyes slowly closed and he fell back asleep.

By the time I returned to the couch, I'd changed my mind. That wool with that pattern wasn't quite right. Maybe this one...no.

So indecisive, always.

I gave up and sat back to wind a hank of yarn instead.

My local yarn shop could take care of it in one quick minute, but it was wonderfully soothing to do it by hand instead, to fully enter into the quiet moment. No rushing, no planning, no productivity - just the comforting rhythm and peaceful quiet. I went to bed calm and centered.

When morning came, I finally took pen to paper and started my long-intended list of thanksgiving. My written gratitude has been sporadic these past few years, the habit of daily writing it down lost in the whirlwind of marriage and children.

In the spirit of enjoying and rejoicing, I have begun again, content with where I am, grateful for all that I have, seeking beauty in all things, and finding joy today.

1. Flannel, soft and warm, covering boys in mama-made pants and blankets.

2. Baby boy nestling against his daddy's chest.

3. Hand winding yarn into a ball.

4. ...

In gratitude to all of you - for reading my rambling thoughts, for sharing your own, for the feedback and community you provide - I have one copy of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts to give away. This book is amazing. The writing is pure poetry and the message is life-altering. Such a dare, to live fully where you are, to be fully present in the moment, to find joy in the midst of daily life and pain. The writing it down inspires the hunt and it is the hunt that brings joy.

To enter, leave a comment on this post sharing one thing you are grateful for today - one glimpse of beauty, one moment of joy, one gift of thanks, anything.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment for each of the following:
  1. "Like" The Hippie Housewife on our brand new Facebook page!
  2. Follow The Hippie Housewife via Google Friend Connect below (comment if you already do!).
  3. Subscribe to The Hippie Housewife via a feed reader (comment if you already have!).
  4. Tweet, post, or blog about this giveaway (one entry per link).

Comments will close on Monday, March 7, at 11:59pm PST, with the winner announced the following day.

Good luck!


Contest closed! Congratulations, Heather!