Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘communication’

Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

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OK TV

After a brief hiatus, Alt.Mother returns, topically enough, with a blog post on technology…

I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going!  She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!

We’ve been TV free in the Alt.House for about a year and a half now, and we love it.  There weren’t really any ethical reasons behind it, it was just practical.  We came home from a trip away during which the analogue television signal had been switched off in our area.  A couple of weeks later we turned on the TV and it didn’t work… we’d totally missed the switchover, and to coin a phrase, we thought “meh” to TV anyway.  So we gave it away and I cancelled the TV licence.  The people who came to pick it up via Freegle were delighted [recycling, see!], as were we – wow, loads of free time in the evenings instead of watching TV.  

Some people thought we were bonkers:  “What will you do?” they said. Others were concerned about our interior design scheme: “What will you point the furniture at?”

They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other.  Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner.  Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the palace house.

Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish.  When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Oh no.  The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”.  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely sure?  Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure!  I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?

For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence.  Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television.  I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!).  Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.

Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!

The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free.  The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package.  As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?”  The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!

Anyway, so we got rid of the TV.  No biggie.  Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)

Source: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2010/10/06/slugs-snails-and-puppy-dog-tales-telly-addicts/
Source:  ParentDish.co.uk

But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all.  In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age.  The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development.  It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home.  I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity?  On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy.  While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa.  It does make me a bit sad.

And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by.  A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was.  We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear.  Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to.  I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now!  (Fingermouse, anyone?).  It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children. 

We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House.  I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook.  My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time.  Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?

I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event.  It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing.  Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”.  Strangely, I just felt relieved.  I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.

Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama.  I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages.  We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us.  And maybe that should be by talking to them!

It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter.  Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent


Contented Little Whatnot…

I think I should probably open this week’s post with a disclaimer.  I have not read Gina Ford’s new book, nor do I intend to do so.  As a brand-new first-time mother, I did read the first couple of chapters of the other book, and very quickly realised it was not for me.  Alt.Father was lent a copy by a workmate on his return from paternity leave.  He gave it back, nodding and smiling as he did so.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Despite the bizarre love affair that the Daily Mail seems to have with Gina Ford, it does not seem to have escaped the notice of the general public that “Britain’s No 1 Parenting Author” is not a parent.  Now she is also apparently a relationship guru despite also being divorced.  I have learned that reading the Daily Fail, I mean, Daily Mail does nothing but make me angry and ranty.  It certainly does not make me contented!

Also, let me be perfectly honest, I may have harboured one or two judgmental thoughts about those who adhere to Ms Ford’s advice.  It’s none of my business how they choose to raise their babies, I only need to worry about my own babies.  For that, I am sorry.

I am not sorry though, that Alt.Father and I chose pretty much the polar opposite of the regimented routine based parenting style advocated in those books.  Somehow, both of our daughters seem to be perfectly contented little people.  And there in a nutshell is my point.  Babies are people, not pets.  Instead of training them, we need to train ourselves as parents, to respond to their needs.  That is the way we can truly be content.

When I hear my child crying, I am far from content. I am edgy, nervous, unsettled, until I know that she is unharmed and soothed.  If I want to teach her that there is no need to cry, I will do so by teaching her that I will respond to her needs.  “Use words” I find myself saying to Alt.D1 when she is frustrated.  She takes a deep breath and usually manages to express what’s wrong in coherent language.  At 3, she can do so.  At 6 months, Alt.D2 is less able to communicate.  Or is she?  I often hear that babies cry “because it is the only way they know how to communicate”.

Actually, I would disagree.  Alt.D2 astonished me in the first few weeks with the way she hardly ever cried to be fed.   As she is my second baby, she has very much had to go with the flow in the house, being dragged along here and there with her sister.  Yet somehow from even the earliest days, she and I had a communication going which let me know when she was hungry.  Then I would feed her.  I certainly didn’t add to my own agitation as well as hers by making her wait until a pre-determined time slot for her feed!  This has since developed and I know her cues for tiredness, boredom, comfort, and countless others.  We just co-exist, we just are.

Relying on your instincts could be considered a brave choice, whether for better or for worse.  It’s certainly something advocated by the author Jean Liedloff in her book The Continuum Concept.   This kind of instinctive parenting has been lost to most of the Western world as we’ve become increasingly keen to fit our babies and children into our busy, structured lives, somehow forgetting that perhaps nature intended us to listen to what our babies are trying to tell us.  “Happy Baby, Happy Mummy” is all well and good, but if that “happiness” is achieved by conforming to a recipe, how much guilt and discontent must be underlying? 

So Gina Ford now seeks to remind us that our relationship with our partner is going to change when we have children.  She encourages us to start leaving the baby with others soon after birth, to take time together as a couple, before resentment starts to set in… well thanks, Ms Ford, for the vote of confidence!  For the suggestion I might have forgotten about the person I have chosen to build my life with, to have children with, and to grow old with.  Contentment in this relationship might have less to do with being able to leave the children with a babysitter, [not conducive to breastfeeding, anyway!] and more to do with the fact that caring about and caring for each other when you have young children is enough.  It’s just enough to think to say “I love you” and “thank you” every day to your partner, and to know that he will be there and she will be there when these babies have grown and flown the nest.

If I am going to be content (and I am, thanks!), I really don’t think that heaping on the guilt is the way to go about achieving that goal.

Rant over, Alt.Mother resolving not to follow links to the Daily Mail website this week, in order to return to positive stories of alternative parenting next Friday!  

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