Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

So things have been quiet round here for a while.  By “round here”, I mean on the blog, as they have been less so in real life.  Various things have been getting in the way of writing, but hopefully I might see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Christmas holidays flew past, bearing tidings of great vomit and flu (yay), and Alt.D2 has learned to walk.  None of us is safe now, take to the hills!

The whole “learning to walk” adventure has been accompanied by a crazy anti-bedtime thing that has been testing, to say the least.  Oh my word, I wish she was still a thumb sucker!  There is lots of anecdotal evidence on the web, to which I am now certainly able to add my share, pointing to sleep regression.  Babies learning to do stuff find it so exciting/confusing that they literally can’t sleep.  More to the point, they can’t allow their parents to do anything other than devote their entire evening, every evening for two months, to getting them off to sleep.  If there was a sideways looking frowny face icon, I would be using it here.  WHY, kiddo, just why? <breaks down and sobs>

I fear the effect this is having on my sanity!  If my mother or mother-in-law are reading this, I think I should put a disclaimer on the bad language that is about to follow…  Those who have seen Adam Mansbach’s book, creatively titled “Go the F***k to Sleep”, should know that it is all true.  Every word of it is true.  It doesn’t matter how in tune you are with your baby, or how well bonded you are, or how many different communication skills you have with them, there are some nights/weeks/months that you just want to yell the title of that book from the rooftops!  Here’s Samuel L Jackson’s brilliant reading of the whole story:

You can feel his pain, can’t you?

The thing about children seems to be that if we can understand why something is happening, as the adult in the situation, it makes things easier.  I decided I needed to do a bit of research on sleep regression, what it means, how we can cope with it in the AltHouse and when we might come out the other end (because seriously, this is starting to get old now!).

So three things seem to have happened here:

1.  Suddenly, AltD2 takes about 3 hours each evening to get to sleep.
2.  Suddenly, she will not allow AltFather to put her to bed.
3.  Suddenly, she has undergone some massive developmental leaps.  She can walk (and run now, truth be told – especially if I need to catch her!).  She also has a few words, and a huge amount of emerging vocabulary, which she understands totally and expects me to be able to translate.

She’s now 17 months old, and turning into a toddler, rather than a baby (she will always be my baby girl, though, even when she’s 40). Her brain is making massive leaps and bounds every day.  Today, I noticed she can nod and shake her head “yes” and “no”.  When did she learn that?  How did she learn that?  AltD1 and I had a good giggle this afternoon testing out whether she was doing it on purpose or by fluke:
Me: Would you like to go outside? Nod
Me: Would you like to put the toy away now? Shakes head
AltD1:  (Much more practical) Do you want to eat this? (offers cracker) Nod
AltD1: Do you want to go to bed? SHAKES HEAD.  FROWNS. 
AltD2: NO SISTER!

On purpose, I’d say.  ;)

I mentioned to a member of staff at our local baby clinic the problems that we were having at bedtime.  Her advice (she was a Community Nursery Nurse, rather than a Health Visitor) was that I should go out every night for a week and leave AltFather to do the bedtime routine.  “She has to learn.” she said.
Apparently, AltD2 is willful, and if we let her get her way by “giving in” on this one, she will push everyone around.  Presumably for the rest of her life?!

I have to say, that I did the old “nod and smile and walk away” trick, although I felt judged, and more than a little sad that many parents would take this advice as read, without looking into it any further.  There was no suggestion of how this might all affect AltD1, who would have to put herself to sleep while listening to her sister screaming as if she were being tortured.  There was no discussion of developmental leaps and brain connections being made.  There was no mention of separation anxiety, or the further damage that could be caused by me “abandoning” AltD2 at bedtime, for a week, leaving her to conclude that there was no point in crying because Mummy was truly gone and not coming back.  That is the antithesis to our parenting style, and I wasn’t prepared to go down that route.  That rod I am making for my own back is getting more and more elaborate by the day.  One day I shall be able to use it to beat away the people who give me advice I don’t want.  ;)

I know I am frustrated, as is AltFather.  I know that he is feeling rejected by his baby, who previously loved to snuggle to sleep on Daddy’s chest.  I know that I am feeling stifled and unsupported – not intentionally so, but still.  However, I suppose I also know that this too shall pass…  E v e n t u a l l y…

A friend gave me a little plaque when AltD2 was born, which reads:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep”.

I’m trying to take this rough patch with the smooth, and hopefully we will all come out the other side well rested with new skills.

Memory Lane

There’s a meme going around the web at the moment which reads

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.”

I don’t usually take much notice of those little e-card pictures and funny footnotes posted on Facebook, and apart from a quick giggle they are usually quickly forgotten.  But for some reason, that one has stuck with me.  It’s definitely something I worry about (as if I need any more to worry about!), as a small part of that bigger whole “am I doing an ok job as a Mum?” question.

My just-4 year old can use a computer scarily proficiently, and is great at getting her own drinks and setting up her own toys.  My little one year old is developing her independence every day, and while I think it’s vital that they learn to be self-sufficient, I do find myself wondering if I should be actively making memories for them?

I’m not talking about the big things, the family holidays and big days out.  It’s more about the little things.  When I think of my own childhood memories, they are of hanging out in my dad’s workshop, gluing stuff to other stuff. Memories of craft projects with my mum, and the smell of the vegetable garden, or being chased with the hosepipe on a hot summer day.  I really don’t want my own children to just have memories of the back of mum’s laptop screen.  I fear they will remember “shouty mummy” (more about her another day!) more clearly than loving, funny mummy.

My own earliest memory is of standing on a train platform in London, with my mum carrying my brother in a sling, while something else (maybe shopping?) was in the pushchair and I was on foot.  The pushchair had wide blue and white stripes, and it was dark.  It all ties together to being the winter of 1981, although we’d moved away from London by then, so maybe I am making it up… memories are funny things.

In fact, I’m not sure you can actually contrive to make memories, because the oddest things will stick in a child’s mind, and sometimes be more important to them than you could ever imagine at the time.  My brother and I were recently talking to a family friend we used to visit when we were children.  I remember her house by the sea, and the summerhouse in the garden where we used to play.  My brother remembers the train, and I have no recollection of that at all.  We’re both right, of course, and both of those things were there, but somehow we must have been living different summers at the same time.  Our memories are not the same at all.  Like I said – funny things.

Image

There’s me: the tiny one! With my cousins, summer 1981

Looking through old photos, I see a little girl, the spitting image of my daughters, getting up to all sorts with her brother and sister and cousins.  I don’t remember being her, but my mother can recall the very days the pictures were taken.  So the memories we think we’re making for our children could be for us instead.

I’ve seen “bucket lists” on websites like Pinterest.com, of things to do with kids, and the National Trust in the UK has put together a list of things to do before you are 11 and three-quarters.

I thought I would make my own list.  It’s from my own childhood, and I guess not all of it would be achievable today, but hey ho, the impossible is what dreams (and memories) are made of:

1: Carnivals

Where I’m from, Carnival season is like nowhere else on Earth.  I mean it – it has to be seen to be believed.  AltD1 properly saw her first in October this year.  And she still doesn’t believe it.

2. Steam Rallies.

My dad’s an engineer.  This year, Alt D1 got her own overalls and learned how to break coal…

3. The Cattle Market at Sturminster Newton

Having lasted 725 years, this was closed in 1997.  A sheep once jumped over me there.  True story.

4. Camping Out

Speaks for itself really.  Tents in the garden, later on the Common.  Can I roll river swimming and canoeing into this one?

5. Car boot sales, scrapyards and farm sales.

Chilly early mornings, treasure hunting with my dad.  He taught me to haggle at 10: “What’s the best price you can do?”  Skills for life, I’d say!

6.  Girl Guides and Scouts

Being part of these organisations from the age of 7 gave me so many opportunities.  The Alt girls are already on the waiting lists for our local Rainbows.  I won’t tell them about the Venture Scouts and the cider though – they can learn that for themselves!

7. Grandparents

I still have 3.  I am blessed.

8.  Open house

The saying goes “were you born in a barn?”  Well, I was.  The door at my parent’s barn conversion home is never closed.  Even when it is, friends are always welcome.  We loved visitors, whether they just popped in for a piece of mum’s legendary fruit cake, maybe to get my dad to fix something, or overnight stays with bike rides and extra kids to play with.  All back to ours?  Same still goes at the AltHouse!

9. Saturday morning breakfasts, sausages and bacon from the village, eggs from the back garden.

Mum’s a good cook.  That’s all.

10. Love

We must have argued and fought, but wherever and whatever, my memories are filled with hugs and laughing and belonging.  I know that I’m lucky, and I hope the AltDaughters can feel the same one day.

The Mounting Mountain

Yesterday a friend came in the afternoon with her two children, who are the same ages as AltD1 and AltD2.  Call it a playdate if you like.  AltD1 recounted the day’s events to her dad in the evening and explained that we had all had a friend round to play – one each!  :)

Anyway, my friend and I (let’s call her Jean, that’s not her name, though) were talking about various stuff, and I mentioned that I had made a Christmas Cake on Monday.  More about that another time, but Jean surprised me by saying

“Oh don’t, you’ll make me feel inadequate – I’ve been feeling like that a lot, lately”.

This is a lady who seems so together all the time, and so on top of everything in the midst of chaos.

Now the way I see it is like this:

(Not my diagram, I pinched it from a facebook link, and I’ve no idea where it originated)

So Jean was saying she feels like everyone else’s houses are always tidy and hers isn’t… um… that’s how I feel , too… and I’m guessing so does pretty much every other parent on the planet, right?  So I took Jean and BabyJean and AltD2 while BiggerBabyJean and Alt D1 were ransacking the toybox, and I showed them the Pile of Shame.

I don’t show it to other people, and I usually keep it behind closed doors whenever visitors are in the house.  It isn’t mentioned in public, and although AltFather would prefer it wasn’t there, he doesn’t put pressure on to get rid of it.  Ladies and gents of the internet yes, I am a Laundry Slattern.

There, it’s out there.  Now you all know.

Washing it isn’t a problem.  After all, the invention of the washing machine changed our lives forever and kick started the liberation of women everywhere, right?  I’ve got one of those.  Even the drying isn’t too bad – we’ve got a washing line in the garden and for days like these we also have (whisper it softly) a tumble drier!  No, the Pile of Shame is the current mounting mountain of clean, dry laundry on our spare bed.  I think there’s still a bed under there, it’s getting hard to tell.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fold and put away 500 loads of laundry! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating that, but it does feel like it.  Sometimes I wish my family would stop wearing clothes!  AltD1 is becoming an expert at diving into the Pile of Shame and emerging triumphant, clutching exactly the article of clothing she went in there for.  AltFather has a bash at the Pile every so often, and so do I, but next day there it is, back again to haunt me and make me feel inadequate.

And that’s the problem really.

As human beings we are constantly comparing ourselves to others.  But as soon as we become parents, the comparison game enters a whole other league.  In fact it enters a whole new International League, because now not only do we compare ourselves, we have to fight to stop ourselves comparing our children.

Little Johnny is smiling, rolling, sitting, standing, walking, talking… whatever it is, maybe mine isn’t quite.  But she might be doing calculus in her head, or declining Latin verbs… how do I know?!  My baby is the cutest, funniest, cleverest (is that even a word?) baby I know.  And that is because she is mine.  And your baby is probably the cutest, funniest and most clever baby you know.  Because he is yours.  But oh, it is so hard not to compare them.

With AltD1, lots of my friends had babies 3 months older than she was.  That’s just how things turned out, and those were the people I met at the time.  That took a load off my mind – I couldn’t compare AltD1 because being so much younger, of course she wasn’t doing the same things.  For AltD2, well she hasn’t got any friends (poor kid – also, NOT true!) so I can’t compare her, either!  ;)

BabyJean and AltD2 were chatting to each other yesterday, passing bricks across, and playing nearby without poking each others’ eyes out.  That’s good enough for me!  Their older siblings were doing crazy stuff with a tent and a boat made out of a cardboard box and half the wooden spoons from my kitchen; that’s also good enough for me.  They weren’t comparing themselves, and we weren’t either.

Jean’s eyes lit up when she saw the Pile of Shame.  I might have just shown her the Holy Grail or the gates to Atlantis.

“I’m so glad it’s not just me!”  she grinned.

So, here is my challenge:

  • To clear the Pile of Shame by the end of this weekend, and to keep it clear between now and Christmas.
  • I solemnly pledge that I will empty the laundry basket every day, wash, dry, fold and put it all away.  AltFather can pair his own socks though.

Wish me luck!

Schoolbags and Gladrags

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

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Thisis the first time I’ve taken part in the Carnival of Natural Parenting.  I thought it might be a good prompt for a post, and to get me started in my new WordPress home!  This  month’s theme for the Carnival of Natural Parenting is “Service Projects – How do you encourage compassion in your children?”

I think AltD1 is pretty compassionate for an almost-4-year-old. She’s sensitive towards others, and she seems to have a growing awareness of how people might feel. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her moments, of course. Apparently small children can’t really develop empathy until they start to understand that not everyone thinks exactly the same as they do, and that not everyone knows exactly what everyone else is thinking of all the time! Pretty tricky concept to grasp, I would imagine. But reading a bit around the subject, it’s clear that we need to model empathy and compassion to our children so that they can grow into kind, considerate adults. The kind of adults we’d all like to be ourselves, right?

The carnival theme calls for a “service project” and while the AltFamily are supporters of various charities and causes, and both AltFather and I have carried out voluntary work in many capacities over the years (in fact I seem to suffer from “Volunteeritis” also known as “Can’t say “NO” Syndrome”) we don’t actually do much volunteering as a family. And maybe it is time that AltD1 got to have a go at making someone else’s life a little better.

The year AltD1 was born (in the November) we sent our Christmas cards out on 29th December. AltFather shook his sleep deprived head as he dropped the pile of envelopes into the post box and suggested that maybe we really should find a better way to spend £50 at Christmas time. As the cost of postage has risen so much since then, it would likely be double that by now. Instead of cards, we decided to do something for someone else instead. Nobody seems to have noticed the lack of a card from the AltHouse, and the environment will probably thank us too. We still send cards to our elderly relatives and friends with photos and news of the children, but we are able to spend more time on the half dozen that we do send. Then we get to choose a charity or a cause, and help them out a bit, too.

In response to the challenge of this blog carnival, something AltD1 is able to physically see and help with would be a good idea, I reckoned. My first thought was the Christmas Shoebox appeals which are prevelant at this time of year. Sadly, I have heard too many bad things about the organisation that runs the most popular of these schemes, and we won’t be participating in Operation Christmas Child, either as a family or through school when and if the time comes. To summarise briefly, we are not prepared to involve ourselves with a fundamentalist arrangement that promotes intolerance, including religious, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic intolerance… you can google it for more, or read this article (among others).

I digress… what I wanted to find was something similar to OCC but without a toxic agenda, that my daughter would enjoy being involved in, and could learn something from. So we are making up a backpack for Mary’s Meals Backpack Project. Mary’s Meals provides basic school equipment and hot meals for children, where they might not otherwise be able to afford an education. Here is a short video about the scheme:

And here AltD1 having fun putting it all together:

We watched the Youtube video and talked a little about how some people have lots of lovely things and other people have hardly anything at all. AltD1 decided she’d like to do something to help them… so far, so good.

While we shopped for the bag and its contents, she explained to the shop assistants that these things were not for her:

“They are for another little girl in another country so she can go to school.”
She’s pleased with herself and her school bag project.

She sometimes gets attached to things [“Noooo Mummy don’t throw away that cardboard box/ piece of paper / random bit of tat or rubbish, I looooooove it sooooo much and I need it!” dammit she’s inheriting my hoarder tendencies already! ;)] so I wondered how she would react to packing up the parcel and sending it off. Not too badly, as it happens. (Phew!). She was happy taking it to the Post Office, and delighted to pass it through the hatch. We really enjoyed the challenge of a family service project, and we’ll definitely be doing something similar again. Thanks for the inspiration!

Teaching our children to be compassionate goes a lot further than Christmas projects, though. Asking ourselves “What kind of human do I want to be?” [thanks to today’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show Pause for Thought slot for that one!]. I know how I would like to answer that question, and it goes deeper than “a bit less untidy and more well organised” Which seems to be my current goal in life. Ah, I will have to get back to you on that one and let you know how it’s going!
I hope I can pass on to my girls the basis of something which will help them to grow into good people. As parents, that’s all we can ever hope for, isn’t it? We have to do our best for our children, to show them how to be, kind, compassionate, loving, caring, and all that goes along with being a responsible human being. Thinking of others is the first step. Modifying our behaviour to ensure others do not suffer as a consequence of the things we do and the decisions we make is a step beyond.

AltFather came home from town with AltD1 last weekend, where there has recently opened a new store that offers its customers credit on a weekly basis at astonishingly high punshing rates of interest. They were giving out balloons, and of course AltD1 loves balloons and wanted to go and get one. AltFather said no, and there followed a discussion on ethical business practice. He wasn’t sure how much she actually got (“balloons, though, Daddy!”).

But that evening as I tucked her into bed, she told me all about the new shop,
“Which Daddy says isn’t very good because it takes all of people’s money and then they don’t have any and that’s not very nice is it because then they can’t buy other things they need like food…” so maybe she did understand just a little bit.

Will she share our ethics as she grows up?
Or will she make different choices?
Only time will tell, but hopefully we will be able to teach her that concern for the wellbeing of others is really, really important, and helps us to be the humans we want to be.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

Hello world!

Welcome to the all new Ctrl.Alt.Parent blog.

I’ve moved the platform to WordPress.com because I know some of you have had problems leaving comments, and it’s nice for me to hear what you think… otherwise i’s kind of like I’m talking to myself… “Hellooooooooo out there?  Anyone listening?!”

Let me know what you think.

I’ve still got plenty to say (ha ha!) so here’s where I’ll be saying it.

Sign up for RSS / updates, and hope to hear from you soon.

Chat chat chat

A little while ago, my friend Margaret (remember her from the Blessingway?) and I were in a big store in the Big City, looking for some fabric to make a window blind.  Margaret’s baby was in his pram, keeping quiet, Alt.D2 was sitting in my shopping trolley, amusing herself with something probably entirely inappropriate, and Alt.D1 was talking.  She was talking the hind leg off a donkey.  No, more than that, off the donkey, down the hill, round the corner and back again!  My head was buzzing, I couldn’t make a decision, I just needed two seconds of QUIET!
I turned to Alt.D1 and asked her:
“Are you on fire?”
Silence.  Puzzled look.
“No, Mummy.”
“Then it can wait just one second, can’t it?”
Margaret creased up with laughter, Alt.D1 was a bit confused (and therefore quiet for about 30 seconds), and the decision on the fabric was made.
The day before, we had been doing our grocery shop, and I had forgotten my list.  Trying to recall what we needed, I explained to Alt.D1 that I needed a tiny little bit of quiet inside my head to think about the shopping, but all I could hear was her chattering, going in my ears and filling my head… could she please stop talking for a moment so I could work out if we did, in fact, need soap or cheese?!
 
Of course, I think she is lovely, she really is, and the incessant crying of her early months gave way pretty quickly to real words and coherent conversation.  At 10 months old, she was pointing at a friend’s dog calling “dog dog dog dog dog doggggeeeee” and pushing her breakfast over the edge of her highchair to the waiting jaws of her new best friend and biggest fan.  From then on, the words just came tumbling out of her mouth.  Now, at rising four years old, she will say to me “Mummy, we’ve had this conversation before” (the implication being that she knows how it ends and she doesn’t like it!) and I swear if she could, she would raise one eyebrow as she says it. 
I have always talked to both Alt.D1 and Alt.D2 as if they could understand what I’m saying, even from day 1.  Eventually (like now) they can understand, and they can talk back.  I really believe that Alt.D1′s (comparatively) early verbal skills saved us from the worst of the terrible twos.  “Use words, please!” I would ask when the bottom lip started to tremble and the foot started to stamp. 
Now she is big enough to verbalise most things, and smart enough to figure out how to get us to understand when there are gaps in her vocabulary.  Last week we went to the local Wetlands Centre, where we are members, for Alt.D2′s birthday.  We had a great time, and I said we could come back again another day, because we’ve got a special ticket that lets us in whenever we want.  Walking back to the car park, the conversation went along these lines:
Alt.D1 “You are a loud person, so you can come whenever you want”
Me “I’m not that loud!  I was quiet looking at the baby moorhens!” (We all were – they were very cute)
Alt.D1 “No, you are a loud person!”
Me “Am I?  I was trying to be quiet.”
Her (getting a bit frustrated with me) “No, Mummy, I mean you are a welcome person, you are allowed to come back whenever you like, because of the special ticket!)
Me (feeling a bit stupid for not understanding in the first place) “Oh. Yeah. I am.  You’re right.”
 
Sadly though, the “Use words” trick doesn’t always work now.  She uses the words, we still don’t comply with the request, and the tantrum is thrown.  Sometimes it’s thrown with a fair amount of force, too.  Even with the big words that little girl has, sometimes they are not enough to express the injustice of “No, sorry, you can’t have a third chocolate biscuit just before tea time.”  
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
 
Sometimes my own communication skills could do with a bit of work, and sometimes I am not quick enough off the mark when it comes to saying the right thing to diffuse the situation.  I have just re-read the first chapter of the really excellent book “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  I read the first chapter about 8 months ago, when Alt.D2 was still quite little.  I haven’t managed to get back to it until now, and this time I am going to commit to it a bit more.
 
The book was recommended to me by my health visitor when she came to visit me at home one day.  She’s one of a rare breed of health visitors.  She is non judgmental, and actually very nice. She suggested that if I could develop the way I communicated with Alt.D1, I might be able to catch the difficult situations before they took hold.  She realised that I was busy with the new baby, and that Alt.D2 was (naturally) playing up due to the fact that I only had one pair of hands.  She was bored by the baby and wanted my attention.
It was a bit like a light being switched on, and at the same time a reminder that as parents, we have a responsibility to put ourselves in our children’s shoes from time to time.  We, with the benefit of years of life experience, have the ability to imagine what they might be thinking.  They have not yet developed empathy, and they sometimes don’t even understand their own emotions, let alone the effect they are having on ours
So in truth it is actyally helpful that Alt.D1 is such a talker, however tired my ears might be.  Considering we just got home from an eight hour round trip to North Wales in a small car with a big chatterbox, they are pretty tired right now.  She can (and does) articulate her feelings, which helps me to help her.
She says funny and lovely things, and I hope she never changes.
But it is so nice and quiet round here when she’s asleep!












Edit:  I’ve just re-read this post and it sounds like “My child is so clever…”  It really wasn’t meant like that, honest!   :)
 
Ok, so I thought it was about time for a book review…  Everyone seems to be reading them, and far be it from me to pass judgment without having direct experience, so I borrowed the trilogy that they are all talking about, and in between trying to get AltD2 down for her naps, I spent some quality time with Mr Christian Grey.
 
I was shocked, I tellya!  But not particularly by the sex, the whips and chains, not even by the repetetive language or confusing use of British English in Seattle.  
 
As I read on, I became increasingly frustrated by the protaganist Ana.   She was supposedly an intelligent girl, but she repeatedly demontrated a complete lack of realisation to what the heck was going on.  The plot, for those who have managed to be safely under a rock for the last six months, involves a naive university graduate who falls for a troubled millionaire with a penchent for elaborate gadgets in the bedroom and a natty taste in interior design (flogging bench, anyone?).  Can she soften his heart?  Can she “save him” from himself?… can she change her abuser?  Because ultimately that’s what he is.  Maybe Ana should have checked out “the Couple Connection” before she got in too deep.
 
I found myself almost shouting at the character when, on honeymoon in London, and left alone for an afternoon while her husband attends a business meeting, the most interesting thing she can think of to do is stay in the hotel room and shave her pubic hair off.  So much for “I’ve always wanted to visit London!”.  Bristish Museum, British Library, maybe the V&A, but no, instead she reaches for the bic disposable.  I think the term is #facepalm !
The sex scenes are repetetive and I found myself skipping past them towards the end.  In fairness, without them the books would be a far quicker read! 
The hope of course is that EL James’ readers are sensible enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality.  If not, and certainly there will be some who are not, then some of the scenes, including one where Christian asks Ana to resist him, give a frighteningly damaging message to impressionable readers.  This is, as described by Clare Phillipson, director of women’s refuge “Wearside Women In Need”, an abusive relationship portrayed as a love story.
 
But at the end of the trilogy the author has written an epilogue. Reading that part was when I got really angry.  
Two years down the line, Ana and the millionaire are married with a child, and have one on the way (I’m fairly confident I’m not giving too much away here, after all, it’s pretty much the plot of Twilight).  The following passage is reproduced here without permission and solely for the purpose of this critique:
 
“What is it?”  Christian tilts my chin back.
“I was just remembering Ted’s birth” [first child]
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
“I am not going through that again.  Elective caesarian this time.” [NB this is CHRISTIAN SPEAKING, not Ana]
“Christian, I -” 
“No, Ana.  You fucking nearly died last time. No”
“I did not nearly die.”
“No.”  He’s emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften.  “I like the name Phoebe,” he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
“Phoebe Grey?  Phoebe… Yes.  I like that, too.”  I grin up at him.
So by way of a bit of background, “Ted’s birth” involved a caesarian after 15 hours of labour.  The mother has been resisting a c-section, the doctors are not impressed, and when she finally agrees, there is much eye rolling all round.  “About time.”  says Christian Grey.  
I was interested and surprised when I did a little bit of research into the author of “50 Shades”, E L James.  She is English, and has two children.  The reason I was surprised is that having had two children, she is more than likely to have come across women who have undergone an emergency caesarian with their first baby.  For many women, there are health concerns that require subsequent childen to be born also by caesarian section.  However, for most of the women I have met where their first baby was a C-section, their hope for subsequent births is that they might be a vaginal delivery.
 
I was lucky in that both of my children were born by (fairly uneventful) normal vaginal deliveries.  I think Ana, in the passage above, would agree with many mothers who say that to have a VBAC [Vaginal Birth after Caesarian] is something they would really like to be able to do.  She’s trying to argue with her husband for a VBAC and he is an inconsiderate, controlling idiot, in denying his wife the opportunity to bring their child into the world in a way where she has control of the situation.  She denies that she almost died – she has no medical reason for a C-section to deliver her second baby.
 
50 Shades has been criticised all over the media for many things, but as far as I can see, nobody has mentioned the way Christian’s control over Ana extends to the delivery of their children.  I thought she was supposed to be intelligent, I thought the premise of her character was that she refused to be his submissive… apparently not, after all.
For information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, including how to spot a controlling, abusive partner, see www.hiddenhurt.co.uk and www.refuge.org.uk
If you would like information about VBAC, here are some links that might be of interest:
Quickfacts (US site)
 
And if you’d like to read the 50 Shades Trilogy, and make your own mind up about Ana and Christian, there are plenty going on ebay!
I would love to hear your comments.

 

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