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Radical Parenting

March 4, 2010 7 comments

Tonight I took some time to watch a special on Discovery Health called “Radical Parenting”.  I found out about the special through my Twitter feed because someone I follow, FeministBreeder, was featured on the show.  I have followed her blog for a while and was excited to see what she would have to share.  The special was interesting and I was glad to see many of the parenting styles that we have chosen being highlighted and shown to the world.  And I chuckled to think that any of the items were really considered “Radical”.  I learned some things from the show too.  The main styles of parenting that were highlighted were “unschooling”, attachment parenting, full-term breastfeeding, elimination communication, and gender neutral parenting.  Personally, Aaron and I have experience with attachment parenting including co-sleeping and baby wearing, full-term breastfeeding, and gender neutral parenting somewhat.

The first segment on unschooling followed a family with two children who do not attend any form of school.  Their learning is solely based on life experience.  Personally, what I found to be the most radical part of this family’s approach would be their non-discipline cooperative style of living.  They go far beyond not sending their kids to school to allowing their children to make almost all of their own choices (when to go to bed, when and what to eat, what to learn and how, etc).  They have a household with no rules or discipline.  There are safety guidelines, but that is about it.  I have to say, their kids seemed well adjusted, well behaved, and very bright, but this would never work for me or our son.  I think that some kids can thrive in this environment, but that some need boundaries and structure.  I agree with respecting the needs and voice of the child.  I agree with working with, instead of against, them.  I agree with avoiding power struggles.  The thing for me is that this seems like it is a major swing in the opposite direction of the “helicopter parent” and both seem to have some pitfalls because they are both an extreme.  What it really boils down to is the need to parent the child you have.  Each one is different and has different needs.

The second family was focused on attachment parenting.  I was so pleased to see them discuss full term breastfeeding and its importance and relevance.  I also loved to hear her talk about not using commercial baby food.  I was so disappointed in the “expert” who tried to say that her experience shows that children that nursed for years and years felt different from their peers.  Every ounce of evidence I have seen has supported completely opposite findings.  I have to say that this female expert definitely seemed to be the most biased against the various “radical” styles of parenting.  She made a statement about attachment parenting being “demanding on the parent”.  This really didn’t sit well with me.  So should we instead demand things of our children that are not developmentally natural?  I think that is a very bad way of looking at it.  Yes, we do have to be aware of our own needs and limits, but to use that as an excuse to not be an attached parent is a cop-out to me.  I love when the father said this: “They’re telling us when they are done being breastfed, done being carried, ready to move in their own bed.”  That really is what sums up attachment parenting to me.  It is about having that dialogue and raising your children in an environment where they know you are there to be the one to meet their needs while they have them.  So many parents spend their kid’s childhood battling with them to get them to move on to new things and new stages before they are ready.

Finally, Gina’s segment was on gender neutral parenting.  I honestly hadn’t heard this term much prior to this show.  Little did I know that this is something that we already kind of do.  A and I have agreed early on that we should not impose things on M.  We should support his interests no matter what.  Now, yes A will joke about not letting him have dolls or other “girly” things, but the reality is that he is pretty supportive.  He does have a comfort zone, but does recognize the importance of not making M feel negative about any of his interests.  M has walked around in my heels for as long as he could walk.  He loves ponies and to cook in his kitchen and ours.  He also loves to use tools and play football.  He sees both mommy and daddy use tools around the house, do the dishes, and cook.  We recognize that he will be a better partner and father if he is comfortable in many roles and comfortable in his own skin.

Overall the show was pretty good.  I was disappointed with the one “expert” and her consistent negativity and ‘Debbie downer’ role.  And of course I was annoyed with the formula commercials aired during the show.  But any time these parenting styles are shown and talked about the parents on these paths gain validation and a greater chance of support.  The reality is that none of these parents were really radical.  They all looked pretty normal.  And the real triumph… it was great to see so many happy, healthy, and well adjusted kids and families on TV for once!!!

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Baby smothered on airplane

December 2, 2009 1 comment

Yesterday, one of my feeds brought to my attention the November 25th incident of a mother falling asleep on a plane and waking to find her baby had smothered. At first I didn’t know if it was true, but quickly realized it was as Twitter and the AP started posting various articles about it. It is so heartbreaking! PhDinParenting did a great post today about the incident and shared many of the comments and points I had intended to share. Please take a look at her post.

When I saw this yesterday, my first comment on twitter was:
@cindyambrose I saw ths earlier & hadn't had time 2 verify so I dnt post it. How horrifying!! ive 2 wonder if it was blankets arnd the baby

I was thinking exactly what Annie from PhDinParenting stated in her post. It is a disgrace what these airlines (malls, stores, businesses in general, ladies walking by, etc) are asking women to do.

Breastfeeding is the most natural progression after giving birth! How many more babies have to die (from formula, blankets, or anything else) before we open up our eyes and accept that women are made to nourish and protect their children themselves!

We don’t need to cover that up!

This article just makes me so sick and so sad!  And I felt just the same about how the article was worded. It felt like another example of media twisting a situation for shock at the cost of another human being’s feelings and emotional state.  This article did a somewhat better job (but is still placing blame on the mother, as if she did it on purpose.  Better would be something to the affect that it is a tragic accident.)

And, once again, breastfeeding does not smother babies! Correct positioning ensures that babies noses are not touching the breast. No mother (whether bottle feeding or nursing) should fall asleep in a chair or couch due to the risk of the child falling from the chair, into a crack, or otherwise entangling in blankets. This has NOTHING to do with the act of breastfeeding!  And this isn’t about co-sleeping either.  Even the most avid co-sleep activists will tell you that there is a safe way to do it and then there are ways that are not safe.

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Bringing back diapers

November 22, 2009 19 comments

I wish I didn’t have to write this.  I am so upset and disappointed in myself.  If you read my last post you already know the back story to our toilet learning process with M.  It has been very frustrating because we have gotten mixed signals.  He will work with his preschool teacher on sitting on the potty, but not us.  He likes wearing big boy underwear, but won’t potty in the potty or anything else, including diapers at school.  And finally, he ended up hitting a wall on Friday.  It was like the holding it in thing at school was just physical training for the main event.

On Friday, as I mentioned in the last post, he had an accident at school at about 9am and then didn’t go the rest of the day even though he had a diaper on.  Well, here is the kicker… he went to bed that night without going potty, woke up dry, and was dry the whole next day.  Friday night he woke up at 1:30am wiggling and whining.  I tried to tell him to just go in his diapers, let it out.  I tried rubbing his tummy, etc.  He fell back to sleep, but did the same thing at 2:45am, 4:30am, and 6:00am.  Between him and A’s snoring, I only managed 4 hours of sleep.  I had to be up for a work retreat that morning so I headed out.  I was stunned when I got a call from A asking if I had changed M’s diaper before I left because it was still dry.  We agreed to have A talk to M and tell him that we are not going to work on the potty stuff for a while and that it is totally fine for him to use his diaper.

My mom picked him up later and brought him to Brown County where I was so they could spend the day and then stay the night at the hotel with me.  I kept calling to see if he would finally let loose.  By 4 pm he still hadn’t and I was freaked out.  He was still begging to change his diaper even if he was dry and would sometimes do the pee pee dance.  At this point I asked A to call our doctor and see what we should do.  His text back made my heart sink!

“Not good baby.  We need to take him to the ER.  He said it is unheard of that a 3year old could hold it for close to 24 hours.  It doesn’t happen.  If he hasn’t had a wet diaper then something else is up. It’s not a UTI either.  He said, with a UTI he would automatically have spasms and it would be coming out even if it hurt when it did.  He said we need to get him to the ER to have an ultrasound done.”

Now, please keep in mind that by this point it had actually been 33 hours since he had peed!  And a full 2 days since a bowel movement.  I read this in my retreat and was instantly in tears.  Being me, I had been talking to everyone about him so they all knew what was going on when they saw my face and heard me say ER.  I remember hearing one person say “Hold it together Crystal cause it won’t do him any good”.  I gathered my composure, grabbed my mom and M and we set out for the ER in Bloomington.

I was very thankful that it was a slow night there.  We got right in and they started gathering information.  They took us to a room and brought in a special bladder ultrasound to measure the amount of urine in his bladder.  We had to restrain him for this because he wouldn’t lay still.  I felt so horrible just because I knew he was scared.  At least I knew they weren’t hurting him.  After it was done, which was very quick, I picked him up.  Suddenly I felt warmth radiating from his diaper and I shouted “He’s peeing he’s peeing!!!”  Sure enough, he let totally loose as we all (even the Nurse Practitioner) did the pee pee dance.  I think it was a mixture of the relief of not being restrained and the slight vibration of the ultrasound tool that did it.  I was so relieved.  It was a miracle.  They basically laughed and said he should be fine.  The doctor that came to see us just before we left said that there is always one that will prove you wrong (about the other doc saying he couldn’t be holding it) and that that was some determination (you’re telling me!!).  He also mentioned that his own grandson is 4 and just became daytime potty trained.  I got what he was saying… don’t worry about backing off, it will happen.

When we got back to the hotel he began insisting that I change his diaper even though it was dry.  After 3 hours of this, (at 1am!) I decided to make the 2 hour drive home, just to change the scene if nothing else.  I am glad I followed my gut.  About 30 minutes into the trip he peed and pooped.  He then slept the rest of the night.  He did the same thing in the morning, but each time the insisting was for shorter amounts of time before he produced something.  So, I feel we are on the right track now.

Can you believe this?  A 3.5 year old so persistent and stubborn that he would withhold urinating for 34 hours!?!?!?!  I told you he is MORE!  During all of this I was a mess of guilt and frustration.  I was crying to my mother that I felt so bad but was doing all I could do.  There are just no books for a kid like him.  The only books that talk about strong-willed kids talk about discipline or just living with them and understanding them.  No one talks about the other things, like the weaning off things, toilet learning, sleeping alone, etc.  There are no guides for parents like me.  I looked at her and said “They don’t make a book for him!”.  She looked at me and said “Maybe you are supposed to write it”.  Wow… what an amazing and scary thought.  So, maybe I will one day.  Until then, I will share these experiences as openly and honestly as I can here.

We have decided to remove the underwear (unless he requests them) and just stick with diapers, forget the potty, and just let him be.  We told him that he can tell us if he ever wants to try, and after a few weeks will begin the discussion again.  But for now, we are taking a total break.  There is nothing like the ER for a wake up call.  It doesn’t matter when he does it, just that he does it in a way that builds him up as a person.  It has to be on his schedule and his pace.  No one else matters.  And until he is done, when people ask us if he is potty trained, I will be confident in saying that a trip to the ER puts it all in perspective so no, not just yet.

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EDIT: This post has been featured by Annie from PhDinParenting and Jennifer from Blogging ’bout Boys
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A whole new weaning… Diapers be gone!

November 21, 2009 12 comments

Oh where do I begin?  I just posted this to my twitter: “i have no idea what I am doing with this potty learning with my STUBBORN 3.5 boy. this is such a battle and I don’t want it to be.”  “NOTHING is working!!! He is so ready, but it is a power struggle. I am just done! My gentle parenting side isn’t finding anything works”  “Even “No Cry Potty Solution” says “sometimes you just have do it” just like when he used to fight teeth brushing and I had to hold him down”  “I hate hate hate that I can’t be the mommy I want to be!!!”  Can you sense my desperation??  Within moments I had 17 responses (can I tell you how much I LOVE my tweeps!? A shout out to them at the end…)

In order to really understand and offer advice, I need to give you the whole story since every kid is different.  So, get ready to know M better than you ever thought you would.

M is amazing!  I am about to talk about a lot of things that might seem negative and that is hard for a mommy to do, so I want to say that first.  I love and adore him and I am constantly amazed by him.  (here it is…) Buuuuttttttt, there are many parts of his personality that make him VERY difficult to parent.  Everything with him is an extreme.  M is just MORE.  He is MORE persistent, MORE stubborn, MORE independent, MORE active, MORE whiny, MORE clingy, MORE needy.  He is the poster child for “strong willed”.  I LOVE Dr. Sears, but I have a hard time when he talks about working with your child’s natural desire to please, because that part seems to be missing with M.  He is fairly defiant.  If you want him to do something, he is VERY likely to do the opposite even if he KNOWS he will receive a negative reaction.  Discipline with him has been just as difficult as potty learning because of these traits.  He seems to LOVE negative attention!  You can’t bribe him usually, everything just has to be on his terms.  He is also a perfectionist!  He wouldn’t let anyone but me, (not even A) see him on his new tricycle when he was 2.5 until he knew he had it down pat.

I learned VERY early that, because of these traits, potty learning would need to be handled carefully.  We did everything we could to make this an easy experience for him.  We have talked about what our bodies do, what our pee and poop are, how bathrooms work, etc.  We have allowed him in the room while we go, read many books, we have potty seats and a chair that he picked out.  We have sticker boards in each bathroom.  We have gently offered to take him to the bathroom and made it very non-pressure.  This has all been over the last year and a half.

He knows what he is supposed to do completely, so his issue isn’t preparedness with that. We have also had his friend from next door potty in front of him and encourage him (she is 6 months older).  He does say he is scared of the potty.  I don’t know why or where it came from.  He has never been afraid of the flush (still isn’t).  He told me one time about alligators in it.  So A got a book M has that shows how things work (love Usborne books!) and showed him how it worked.  We even took off the back of the toilet and showed him and we showed him how no alligator would fit in there.  He hasn’t said any more about that but still says he is scared.  I think he uses that sometimes as a resistance.

There have been a few short spurts (the most recent back in July) when he showed interest.  We would embrace it and encourage him gently.   In July, he would sit on the potty while I read book after book.  He never made any “deposits” and after a few days lost interest.  We took it as a sign he wasn’t ready and backed off to avoid any power struggle.

He started going to a daycare/preschool 2 days a week in Oct.  He is with 7 kids (ages 3-5) and is the only one not totally potty-trained.  I thought this would offer great encouragement.  He does sit on the potty there, several times a day.  He doesn’t like it but he does and counts to 30 with the teacher.  He even takes off his own pants and everything!!!!  But, never gets anything deposited.

2 weeks ago his teacher asked us to bring underwear for him.  He had an accident the first day and cried, but was proud of himself for being in big boy underwear (he even told me “I have accident just like my potty book!”).  At this point he would be diapers with underwear over them at home and during naps at school and then just underwear the rest of the day at school.  The next day he just didn’t pee all day!  They went ahead and left him in his underwear and when we got home and he was playing he had an accident and cried.

After that he started holding it for a LONG time… even WITH his diaper on.  At home we were still doing a diaper with underwear over it since he wouldn’t sit on the potty.  Well he would constantly be asking us to change him.  We think he would feel the need to pee and then hold  it and ask us to change him.  We tried to help him identify this as the feeling that means he needs to sit on the potty but he won’t do it at home!

Then this week came along.  He is only peeing 2 times per day!!  He is just holding it for a long time diaper or no diaper, until he can’t anymore.  He even went 3 days without a poop!!  So, we feel like we need to really get moving on this at home because it scares us.  He doesn’t want to go in his pants or diaper, so we HAVE to get him started on the potty!!!  His teacher felt that Weds. might have been too much pressure (when he finally did put a few drops in) so today she went to underwear with a diaper OVER them.  She said he was a so much better and was all involved with the day.  He even went to the bathroom himself, but still no deposits.  If he is so willing there, then why not at home or grandma’s?

So, how do you get a VERY stubborn 3.5 yo boy on a potty he will run from?  Hell if I know!  I had a total break down tonight and held him there.  It was awful. I am not proud of it and hated myself for it, but I am so freaked that he won’t potty!  (He only went once today at about 9am!!!!! And he didn’t poop all day.)  Of course it didn’t end well.  After I gave myself a time out I talked to him and this is what I told him… “When you were little you didn’t want to brush your teeth, but you had to or they would hurt.  So when you wouldn’t do it, mommy had to hold you down and do it anyways.  I didn’t like to do that, but I had to until you learned that you needed to do it.  This is the same thing.  You don’t want to use the potty, but you have to or your tummy will hurt.  So, until you decide you are going to do it yourself, I will have to take you to the potty and keep you there.  I will stay with you and snuggle you, but we are doing it no matter what, even if you cry.  So, I am going to count to three and then take you in there, sit you down and count to thirty.”  Then I slowly counted to three and carried him into the bathroom. He fought at first, but then it went well and we snuggled while I counted.  Nothing happened, but at this point I just need him to get used to the potty first, right?  Once he is getting used to it, he will be more relaxed and then try letting things out.  right?  After that, we let him pick a sticker and put it up.  He seemed a lot better, but I still feel lost.

So, please, ANY advice?!  We have done all we can.  Am I doing the right thing now??  Here is a list of all the things I can think of that we have tried:

  1. The big Lego when he made his first deposit, no matter how small
  2. Putting his diaper over his underwear (he just shuts down if you take diaper totally away for a few days it seems)
  3. Being consistent with what is happening at school
  4. let him pick his potty seats
  5. I even promised an iTouch when he stays daytime dry for a week (cheaper than diapers!!!!)
  6. sticker board for any attempt
  7. lots of praise for any try
  8. cheerios in the bowl
  9. pick out his own big boy undies
  10. books and conversations that he leads
  11. Been very positive about any accidents, etc
  12. tonight I assured him that being a big boy that uses the potty doesn’t mean he can’t snuggle or sit on our laps or be carried
  13. Made a big deal out of any attempt
  14. I even called my family doctor who I trust tremendously. I spoke to his nurses and they said to take the diapers away.

So, please, if you have a VERY VERY strong-willed child, I need any advice you have about ANYTHING!  But, seriously, please help me.  I have struggled as his mother since day one because his needs do not fit well with my personality.  I don’t get to be the mommy I always thought I would be because he needs something totally different.  It is hard and there are so many times when I feel completely unprepared and unqualified.  I wouldn’t trade him for the world.  I just need to keep learning how to be his best mommy.  So, please help me with that!!!

Thanks everyone!  And a special thanks to @jet_set @butterflysnbees @StayAtHomeMaven @Crunchynurse @LLeighMartin @Momalom @arlenetorres for your support and thoughts on Twitter!  If you are not following these folks, you should be!!

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A mother’s ability to heal

August 21, 2009 4 comments

 

I read this article today. http://babywhys.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/mothers-last-skin-to-skin-… I encourage, beg, plead, demand that you read it too.

This article moved me more than anything I have read in a long time. I was so choked up I could barely speak. This article speaks so deeply to what I am most passionate about. It is a wonderful story of a mother’s love and fear. More importantly, it is a powerful tale of a woman mothering instinctively. The miracles of modern medicine have done so much to prolong life, increase quality of life, and save people from illness and death. However, it has also stripped women of the confidence and knowledge they need to trust themselves and their bodies. It has turned the most primal and natural processes into medical procedures. It has encouraged women to turn to doctors instead of themselves or their own mothers and friends when they have questions. And so much of what they are being told is wrong and driven by the financial interests of doctors and other industries making money off them.

That is why this story is so refreshing. Here, a woman, facing the most tragic moment of her life, when the doctors have stepped back and are not discouraging her, follows the instincts from within, and ends up saving her baby’s life. No grand interventions saved her. The cure was simple, mother. It is terrifying to think, what if? What if you don’t do what the doctors say and something goes wrong? I haven’t been able to totally cancel out this fear, even in myself. But I do try to continuously encourage mothers to listen to their instincts. If someone is telling you to do something other than what your instincts tell you, listen to yourself. You have a connection to your baby, physical for a very long time, and then, I think, through emotions and energy for the rest of your life. You know far more than you give yourself credit for.

The other part of this story that moves me so much is that it is solid proof of the two things. 1) The power of touch to babies, 2) the absolute NEED for babies to have touch. Studies have proven this, but we (in the US especially) are so concerned with spoiling our children that we put them at arm’s length, or further. This mother’s touch healed her child, brought her back from the brink of death. That is powerful, more so than any modern medicine. If touch can be this good for a sick baby, why wouldn’t it be just as good for a healthy baby? Why wouldn’t it be just as good for a 6 month old? This is why breastfeeding is so important, why attachment parenting is so powerful. Babies need to touch, to be touched, to be held. Our bodies were designed to meet their needs even outside the womb. We provide their nourishment, can keep them warm, can regulate their breathing and heart rate. Just because they are born to the world, doesn’t mean that they are any less dependent on their mother to love, provide, and care for them at every moment and for every single need.

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To Facebook with Love

May 6, 2009 5 comments

My recent postings on Facebook about breastfeeding have stirred up some interesting conversations. I have been compelled to share some thoughts, but far too much for a comment on there. So here it goes.

First, I will say that I am unapologetically pro-breastfeeding. I think breastmilk is a superior infant food. However, I want to be clear that this does not mean that I judge others for choosing formula. Some of my favorite women in the world have used or will use formula. I was personally very close to not being able to breastfeed myself. It was through the grace of God and a very strong will that I ended up being able to breastfeed exclusively.

Actually, I think formula is important. There are some (very few, but some) that cannot physically breastfeed. They need to have the best possible alternative. I think that the formula companies should constantly seek to catch up to breastfeeding, although it is unlikely they ever will since it is a changing and living thing. But the children that do need formula and those whose parents choose formula, deserve to have the safest and healthiest food that can be created.

I truly do think that judgment is not the right way to reach women about breastfeeding. A new mother does not need heavy handed pressure at a time when she is so vulnerable and scared. I think that by being supportive, informative, and gentle, more women would be open to trying to breastfeed. This is why I do what I do in my online communities. I am a firm believer that many women choose to formula feed simply from lack of information about breastfeeding. Formula is what they know and they haven’t given breastfeeding a single thought. It’s these women that I hope might stumble on my stories and find a piece of information that peaks their interest. I also post my research because there are SO many misconceptions out there about breastfeeding. The more accurate information I post the more chance I have to educate someone. It truly breaks my heart to hear a woman who formula fed talk about it in a regretful or apologetic way. Sometimes they wanted to breastfeed, but felt they weren’t able to. If only they had the proper support and information, they would not have that regret. So maybe by reading an article or two, a woman can avoid that feeling in the future. I post my research to share with my fellow breastfeeding mommies because, like every mom out there, we need rejuvinated too! And reading about all the amazing things related to breastfeeding helps do that. I post my research so my friends and family can understand more about me and the lifestyle I have chosen. They can get to know me a bit better by seeing my passion for this topic.

I do feel that breastmilk is superior to formula. I don’t know any other product in the world that has to say that it is inferior in its commercials. We are lucky to live in a country where the risks associated with formula are minimized, but there are many places in the world where formula and the mentality against breastfeeding is deadly! There are countries where women are pressured to use formula but they are too poor to buy it and end up diluting it and babies die. Or the babies die from dirty water mixed with their formula. And yes, we could have a serious issue in this country if we had a contamination issue like China had. And yes, that means our babies would die. I don’t take that issue lightly.

When we choose to use formula we are at the mercy of those corporations. We have to rely solely on them to ensure the safety and health of our very young children. I am just not willing to put that amount of trust into a corporation. I posted a quote recently about formula being the worlds longest lasting uncontrolled experiment in medicine. This is so true. Formula is just that… a FORMULA… it is a man-made, man-researched, and man-flawed concoction. It has changed GREATLY over the many years it has been available. It seems to be constantly improving, which is great, but I do not want my child to be the test subject for the latest design.

I WILL NOT judge a mother for her choice to use formula. Every family has to find what works best for them. But I also will not apologize for my ardent support of breastfeeding, my passion for the science relating to it, or my desire to educate anyone willing to listen and seek information.