Gentle Miss (Part 1) (In which I am honest about screwing up)

Gentle parenting is a skill I’m still learning. A mentality I’m still growing into. I used to equate “discipline” with spanking, along with other kinds of punishment and rewards. I also used to be a lot angrier of a parent. I’ve been on a gentle journey for almost a year.

I missed an opportunity the other day. An opportunity for kindness and empathy. Brielle and Aviana were going to ride their bikes. Brielle suddenly realizes the chain has come off her bike. She screams at me to fix it. I immediately feel defensive, as if she is accusing me of breaking it or something. I calmly tell her she should try to fix it herself. She screams back at me, with all the anger and power her small seven year old self can muster. It is quite fierce (and I’m not be facetious). I start to get up telling her we can work on it together, when she rushes off, saying “Never mind, I can ride Aviana’s old bike” even though it’s too big fors  her.

Not long after, she comes walking the bike up the lane, accusing me of making her fall and hurt her knee because she tried to turn around on too big of a bike and fell and skinned her knee. This is clearly all my fault. (sarcasm)

She really feels like it is my fault and wants me to apologize and fix her knee. I’m feeling angry and hurt that is being so harsh to me. She has a very accusatory, awful tone. I tell her I don’t feel much like fixing up her knee when she has been so mean to me plus I am trying to round up the boys for Saturday night baths.

She doesn’t want to wait for me to take some deep breaths so fixes up her knee herself.

As I’m giving the boys baths and trying to prevent bathroom flooding, Aviana hands me this note:

Dear Mama, I think you are being unreasonable. Dr. Sears says you have to empathize. Put yourself in Brielle’s place. This is what she probably thought: OK you get your bike, the chain’s off. Mama make no attempt to help you. So you ride a bike that’s too big. You decide you don’t want to go. You turn around and hit a bump. Your sandals are all tangled in the bracks. Your knee is bleeding. Your hands are scratched. When your hurt, your often mad. You blame people. You blame Mama. No one thinks like you but you. Mama may be mad because you blame her but your bleeding! Mama won’t even let you wash your cut. Then she makes you do laundry. The End. .

Think about it. When your hurt, you want empathy. Unconditional Parenting says to love Unconditionaly.
                                              Love, Aviana

Brielle and I made up, of course. Hugs and love all around. The End.

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Parenting 101

You probably know I have five children. Five adorable, rambunctious, full of life, spirited children. My children overflow with exuberance and willfulness.

You probably also know that in the past year we have completely revamped our parenting stratagem. Gone from corporal authoritarian parenting to gentle unconditional parenting. I’ve posted a little about that here and here.

You likely do not know I grew up in a home, while filled with love, that was also filled with anger, pain, rage, yelling, shame, and abuse. My parents and I have a wonderful, growing relationship now. They did the best they could based on their own upbringings and the tools they had at the time.

This combination has left me ill prepared for the kind of parent I want to be. The kind of mother I feel God is calling me to be. The kind of peaceful home we desire. It  is so hard to change the very way I think, the way I react, to what I know to know to be true, but is not at all natural to me.

Enter Parent Coaching. I was searching the internet one night looking for some gentle parenting ideas to help me with one of my children in particular. I have found the more I read to reinforce my beliefs, the better I do and the more it becomes part of my core.

I had not even heard the term parent coaching before and I was intrigued. I perused Kassandra’s site for a while reading her blog and getting some idea of who she was and if her philosophies aligned with mine. When I was satisfied they did, I filled out the form on her site. She emailed me the next day and we set up a time to talk on the phone when Kevin and I both would be available.

After talking with her for a while, getting to know one another and what my expectations and hopes would be, we decided to move forward and agreed to six sessions. That was in late October, and I am still meeting with her via Skype, weekly.

This work has been life changing for me personally and the landscape of my family. Kassandra introduced me to the world of inner empathy. At first, it felt a little awkward and weird–listening to myself essentially have conversations with parts of myself. I would normally identify those parts as emotions, feelings or physical sensations but for the purposes of this inner empathy work, we call them parts. When you listen to and hold the parts of yourself in your own compassion, without trying to change or fix them, miraculous things happen.

This work has been SO life changing for me that I went through a training Kassandra held to become a parent coach myself. This work has been so life changing, I can’t help but want to offer it to the rest of the world!

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Babywearing on local TV

I am so blessed to have a like minded group of friends. One of my friends is part of our local Birth Coalition, and we’re having a birth conference this weekend. She asked me to be part of her talk on baby wearing.

One of the things I want to emphasize about baby wearing is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure , there are companies who have jumped on the bandwagon as baby wearing grows in popularity and their carriers are upwards of a hundred dollars. People who brag about their “wrap stash” and spend more on a wrap than I do on a year’s wardrobe are elitist in my humble, blunt opinion. 
My main go-to wrap is 9 years old. It is a 10 foot piece of 100% cotton I bought for $1/yard when Aviana was baby. It was the first time we had used my vintage auction score of a sewing machine. Kevin helped me hem it. Kevin! He had sewed in 7th grade home-ec. I think that was the first time I’d ever sewed.
A three and half dollar wrap. Seriously. Baby wearing is NOT complicated. Not expensive. It’s common throughout the developing world. You do NOT have to spend a lot of money to benefit your baby in SO many ways by wearing him or her. It’s great for you too!
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A Lost Art

If you can get hold of this book, I highly recommend it. My copy is published in 1972, but it seems like it’s much older.  It’s sweetly written and endearingly illustrated. I do like everything I’ve read by this author.
A succinct summary: Pelle wants a new suit, so he shears his lamb. He trades chores with various people until he gets all he needs to have his suit made. Then he works for the tailor who makes him his new suit. .
The jobs Pelle does and the jobs he asks others do are all but lost arts; carding wool, spinning, weaving cloth, even making a suit! We have lost something in our drive-through, cheaply-made, satisfied-with-good-enough culture. 
How do we get it back? Do you feel that a modicum of self reliance is important? We’ve lost the sense of independence that even a young boy can feel capable, can know that he has what it takes to get the job done.
A lot of people are upset these days, in light of the government’s current antics. No one is taking care of them. Babies are going hungry. People aren’t working. People aren’t getting paid. 
l wonder if Pelle and his family would ever have expected their government to take care of them.  
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A No Yelling Pledge

You may remember that I’m revamping my parenting around here. We stopped using physical discipline in our repertoire this spring. I’m also working on no yelling. This is SO HARD. I want to blame my upbringing, the only modeling I had, my naturally loud voice, the general chaos around me, the fallacy some kids just need yelled at because they tune everything else out, anything I could blame for my yelling.

But really, the fault behind my yelling problem lies with me.

Last month I felt embarrassed by the (albeit definitely not acceptable) actions of one of my children in a public setting and I berated that child all. the. way. home. from. town. It was terrible. I would tell myself to shut up and I would, and then I would start spewing verbal bile right out again. That day I promised that I would never do that again. I set small goals for myself.

Just get through the day. Just get through another day. I read encouraging blogs. (The Orange Rhino and Dulce de Leche are two of them). I prayed. I journaled. I explored my childhood hurts more. I had a plan. I was accountable to people. Suddenly it was a week, and I hadn’t yelled. I may have talked sharply. I may have raised my voice a bit. I may have gotten frustrated and irritated and lots of other “ateds” but I didn’t yell. I am giving myself grace. A lot of grace. This is a new skill. My family is detoxing from the authoritarian parenting we’ve been doing for 9 year.

Then another week. I was feeling like this was actually possible–raising children without yelling. Truly being a gentle parent. Soon it was three weeks. Could I make it a whole month?

And then there was today. I woke up emotionally drained from a spectacularly rough day yesterday, as well as physically tired because I couldn’t sleep and watched trashy tv until 2 a.m. I was handling life fairly well until Aviana broke a dish that shattered into a billion minute shards all over the peninsula and both sides of the kitchen. Of course everyone was barefoot. I shooed everyone out to the living room. I shooed Denton out of the kitchen five times. Then I looked up from picking up pieces of glass to see him kneeling in broken glass and I ROARED at my sweet almost three year old “GET. OUT. OF. THE. KITCHEN!!

I should have taken him to Kevin and made sure he was going to stay there, peacefully, calmly. All I could think about was getting the glass picked up first, and then I was afraid he would get glass stuck in his knees and legs and I couldn’t think of anything to do. I just reacted.

I thought maybe I can excuse that slip up under the heading “dire circumstances”, and still count this as a no yelling day. But then, (much later, after several small people yelled at me, tantrums, dinner, crying small fry, losing parts of our brand.new.game., arguing with me and each other, bicker, bicker, boss, boss, bicker) Cadrian kept getting out of bed, acting like he’d never been put there to begin with. I was cool.

I sent him back to bed. Several times. I was chill.

He commenced a fit. A yelling. Screaming. LOUD. Fit. I was done.

 I went in to talk to him, and discovered he had gotten out a dozen wooden puzzles, when we had just cleaned up his room, and knocked down the shelf which had more puzzles on it, in the process.

“Cadrian!” (in my Orc voice) “When we put you to bed, we expect you to stay in bed! BE QUIET! (now in my MEAN Orc voice) “You are NOT to get out toys! You are NOT to make messes! You are NOT  to throw fits! YOU STAY IN BED! NOW YOU BE QUIET!!”

And just like that, I blew my record. I went back to count and ironically, today would have been 31 days of no (real) yelling.

So we begin again tomorrow. As always, His mercies are new every morning. He has grace for me. I have grace for my children. We can do this. I can be a peaceful parent. I can completely retrain my brain. I can change the modeling I give my children. I will have self control. I can overcome my upbringing. I have a new heart within me.

They are precious gifts. They deserve to be brought up with peace filled gentleness.
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World Breastfeeding Week

Several years ago when I first started nursing babies, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as World Breastfeeding Week, or The Great Latch On.  I didn’t know there was an International Breastfeeding Symbol (pictured in the photo below).

 I knew a few other people who nursed, on a schedule, pumping while they were at work, stopping at exactly six months. I watched my sister struggle tiredly to get her very sleepy 4 pound preemie to nurse. When I was pregnant, I asked her if I could see what it looked like when the baby latched on. My mom had nursed the three of us. This was about the extent of my knowledge.

I wasn’t prepared for breastfeeding. I wasn’t prepared to have to pump every two hours to get my milk to come in after a traumatic emergency Cesarean. I wasn’t prepared to nurse a 5 pound preemie, in the NICU, standing my ground on the “no formula” rule I held against well meaning doctors and nurses. I wasn’t prepared to be crying in the middle of the night because she needed to nurse again, and it HURT. I wasn’t prepared to battle five months of thrush. I wasn’t prepared to have her need me so desperately.  I wasn’t prepared to be my baby’s everything, her favorite thing, her only thing.

I wasn’t prepared for her to drink her fill of the most perfect liquid in the world, formulated precisely for her growing body, and fall asleep contentedly at the breast. I wasn’t prepared for the ‘baby  milk drunk’ as she would pass out, unlatch and milk would dribble out of her mouth as she would sigh happily. I wasn’t prepared for her to gaze up at me as she suckled, silently thanking me for the comfort, for the sustenance only I could provide. I wasn’t prepared for us to fall asleep together, her nestled safely in my side, smelling all those yummy-to-only-babies-armpit-pheromones. I wasn’t prepared for the depth and breadth of our breastfeeding relationship, the bonding it provided, the strength it gave to both of us.

As she grew older, I wasn’t prepared for the simplicity of it. How easy it was. How wonderful. 
I’ve since nursed four more babes, the latest one about to celebrate her first year of life. Each child has definitely presented challenges nursing, especially in the beginning, but every time it has been so very worth it. 

This is one of my favorite breastfeeding photos. Cadrian is a few months old in this picture and I’m wearing my “I make milk, What’s your superpower?” tee shirt.

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A hard post to write

I have been absent for quite a while. This may have been the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog 7 years ago.

God has been leading me in new directions, to new challenges. I have been putting off sharing because I’m not “there”. Not good enough at it. Not completely ready to be that real. That raw.

There are a lot of layers to this journey, but the main crux is that God has asked me to change my entire way of thinking about this parenting thing and the relationships I’m building with my babies.

More than anything, I want to lead my children like Jesus. I want to point them to Him in all we do. I fail miserably more often than not-it seems-but I try. Too, I research my parenting decisions to the point of annoyance: cloth v disposables, home v school, home v hospital, repeat Cesarean v VBAC, unprocessed foods v Standard American Diet, et cetera ad nauseam.

For many years, up until a few months ago, this meant disciplining according to the “Biblical” methods of punishment, including spanking and swatting. And, because of my upbringing and spirited nature, yelling.  Most of the time, the swats were ‘by the book’, not angry, not out of control, doing my best to dole out “Biblical discipline”, and show God to my children.

Now I’m changing all that.

I took a second and third (and many many more) look at what the Bible really says. I prayed a lot. I googled a lot. I turned to commentaries and back to the Bible.

Until now, I had a very, without realizing it, adversarial style of parenting; an us v. them attitude. I thought you had to ‘win at all costs’, you had to make them ‘submit. I honestly thought this was right. I thought this was Godly.  I believed in this. I trusted men and women of the faith who are after our children’s hearts for the Lord, who I believe are well meaning but very wrong.

Until now, I thought “gentle parenting” was UNparenting. I thought taking punitive measures to force obedience was the right thing to do. I thought I could ‘break a child’s will without breaking their spirit’. I thought this was best for them, for our family.

It is hard to admit when you are wrong.

I was wrong.

I am learning new tools. I am learning new ways in which to interact with our beautiful gifts from above. I am failing. A lot. I am thankful His mercies are new every morning. I am thankful for this new challenge.

Now I know better and I’ll do better. These precious gifts are too valuable not to.

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Our take on Santa

We tell our children that Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition. We tell them people like to pretend he’s magical and that he’s a fun game people play. Just like candy canes and holly, Christmas carols and Christmas cookies, Santa Claus to us, is just another symbol of Christmas. We do not think it’s a good idea to try to get them to “believe”. 

We feel that would be lying to our children. Calling Santa to tell him your child’s being naughty? That seems like lying and kind of mean manipulation. Just discipline your child for disobeying and move on. The “Elf on the Shelf” seems like more of the same–lying to your babies.

We want our children to trust us, to believe us in all things and getting them to think a make-believe person is real would drastically deter from that end.

And of course, we want our chiddlers to remember that Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the Christ child. Even though it was originally a Pagan holiday, even though Jesus wasn’t really born in December, we now use this day to honor His coming. The light of God in human form. An undertaking, a promise, a gift I’ll never really be able to comprehend. A grace I don’t deserve. A forgiveness I could never be grateful enough for.

To honor God sending His Son to sacrifice for our sin? So I could be face to face with the Perfect Holy One who is our Heavenly Father? I don’t know why He allowed us to be worthy, but am so thankful He did. That’s what we celebrate.

 But celebrate Santa? Not so much.
We think it’s cute, but as a main part of Christmas,
we feel like this. 

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Gratefulness 13

I am grateful for child training.

Laundry at my house–I start it usually with a four or two year old helper. Depending on what’s in the load, I hang up the things that can’t or don’t go in the dryer. In the summer, we hang everything on the clothesline, but in the winter I use hangers and a couple of big drying racks. I dry all the little stuff that annoys me to hang or that we don’t have room to hang. One of the girls hangs diapers and what not that goes on the drying rack they can reach. One of the girls switches the laundry. One of the girls pulls out the clothes from the dryer. They fold and put away all the children clothing. It’s easy peasy pie with the family closet system.

I am so thankful because now laundry is not the overwhelming chore it used to be, nor is it all on me.

Meals at our house–I have a kid of the day helper–Five weekdays and five kiddlets. I couldn’t have planned it better. We ‘cast lots’ (eeny-meeny-miney-moe) to help with big desserts like the gingerbread pumpkin trifle Brielle is making or extra meals. It pays off in spades to let a two year old help you in the kitchen because then by the time they are six, they can make your and Dada’s panini all by themselves when you get accosted by a ravenous infant.

What? Doesn’t everyone make pizza without pants?

Chores at our house–generally speaking, the chiddlers are just expected to do whatever is asked of them with a joyful heart. Aviana is responsible for care of our rabbit and feeding the barn cats in the morning. Brielle is in charge in the evening. Cadrian and Brielle are responsible for emptying the dishwasher. Aviana, the clean dishes off the counter and loading it. My policy is don’t ask an older child to do a job that a younger child is capable of doing. 
Of course, you have to teach it to them and show them carefully, and it may be faster to do it yourself initially, but I’m telling you, it is worth it! I am so thankful for child training.
***This post is dedicated to Barbara Curtis. She is the one who emphasized to me the importance of child training. She has been a mentor to me ever since I first became a mom. . She died at the end of October due to a sudden and massive stroke. (Now would be a good time to make sure you are right with God because you never know when the ailments and accidents of our fallen world would come to you. Please know that God loves you beyond all measure and wants you to put yourself under His authority–it’s all His anyway but He gave us free will to choose Him. Feel free to email me if you would like to know more.) She left behind a husband, 12 children, four of whom have Down’s syndrome, children-in-law and grandchildren. She also left behind a wealth of knowledge, information, help, advice and truth in her books and blog. She will be sorely missed.***
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Gratefulness 6

I am thankful for Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly, and the Freedom of Petition.

I am thankful for the Right to Bear Arms, the No-Quartering Right, the Right to not be searched without cause, the Right to Equal Justice and the Right to own Private Property.

Even though I feel many of our rights and freedoms are being chisled away by a government with longer and longer arms, I am thankful to be born into a country who affords its citizens these rights and freedoms.

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