Tuesday, September 27, 2011

conscious parenting

I think a lot of parenting is all about flying by the seat of your pants, learning as you go, and doing the best you can with what comes your way at the moment. For me, especially now that Audrey is also here, it's a huge lesson in letting go of control and expectations. We are still very much in the "survival mode" stage of having 2 babies under 2 years.

But, on the flip side, I am also trying to be a conscious parent- meaning that I don't just want the day to go by and realize that I've only fed my daughter PopTarts or something and not try to actively shape the experience for our family in a way that I am proud of. My goal is to gently guide my daughters into healthy, kind, curious, and intelligent human beings. So, occasionally I am planning to write a little bit here about my parenting journey with my goal of "conscious parenting"in the midst of newborn and toddler chaos.

Toddler-- Juliet is 16 months now and is definitely a toddler now. It is so much fun. She is so active and curious about the world. She watches everything we do with such intent focus, and loves to mimic. She wants to put her tiny little feet into my shoes (and gary's sneakers), she is obsessed with wearing necklaces and carrying purses, sitting on the big chairs, and is done with the baby food- she will only use a fork and a spoon to eat off the big plates. She loves to take things apart and put them together again, figuring out how clasps and lids and hinges all work. Blocks, Tupperware, doors, dog collars- everything is a new toy to discover. It's so fun to watch her grow.

With all this adorableness, though, comes the other side of being a toddler. The tantrums and the whining. All a normal and healthy part of her development, but such a parenting challenge!

A normal scene goes like this:
"Juliet, do you want this?"
[shakes head No! cry! whine!]
"ok. do you want that?"
[shakes head No! cry! whine! throw entire body onto floor! kick arms and legs in air! whine some more!]

Gary and I have really had to work on our parenting strategy to figure out how to best nurture her through this stage. It is easiest to just say, "Fine, you can sit there until you're done whining" and walk away from her. But that's not the mom I want to be. I have decided to continue following the "Attachment Parenting" model.

It's easy to be an AP mama to a newborn: it means wearing baby in a sling or wrap, cosleeping, breastfeeding on demand, meeting baby's needs instead of letting them cry. It's harder to follow through with AP for a toddler. But it is really making a difference in how our day goes. For me, this stage is all about empathy. When she whines now, I try to sit on the floor eye-to-eye with her and really empathize with her-- to try and give her the words that she isn't able to communicate yet. For instance,

"Juliet, you look very frustrated. It must make you sad that mommy doesn't want you to eat the dog food. I get frustrated and sad too sometimes. Can I give you a hug?" and then redirect her to another task.

Instead of telling her "No!" and letting her sit on the floor and cry, I empathize with her and give her the words to go with her feelings as well as loads of physical affection and interesting distractions. It's a lot of work to do this countless times per day, but it's really making me grow into a better and more compassionate mother.

On that note, I end for now. Audrey was up all night and I didn't get more than a 45 minute stretch of sleep without needing to rock her. I think her tummy was upset. Anyway, time for us all to rest while we can!

(posted originally on 9.22.11)

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