Saturday, March 27, 2010

Such is the life of an introverted mama.

I've mentioned before that I'm introverted, though to meet me you might not suspect it. I enjoy people, especially my favorite people, immensely. If any of my friends should wonder whether you're one of those people I enjoy, rest assured that it's much too exhausting for me to be friends with those whom the friendly juju does not flow. If we talk, even if we're too busy to do it often, it's because I like you quite a bit (not that it really matters, but just for this blog's sake I thought I'd clarify.)

What does drain me quite a bit is pointless, repetitive conversion, such as one you might have in the car with a bored, outgoing 5yo and basically any upset 3yo. These draining occasions happen during times when I'm already feeling my patience waning. A wail starts softly and crescendos from the back seat into a tea kettle shriek of unintelligible words strung together like a thousand screaming hamsters on a clothesline, and is punctuated by the repetitive cadence of another persistently questioning voice that doesn't bother waiting around for an answer before firing off another round of inquiries.

This causes brain overload. Too much to process, too little time to retreat and think it over, to much unreasonable feedback= completely shredded nerves. Toss in a baby's cries hitting the primal "RESPOND!!" button built into all mothers, and you have an introverts' nightmare. The next cashier or pushy random grandmother type to attempt small talk is met with a crazy eyed glare that would rival anything Jack Nicholson ever dredged up.

These are the days when life simply gets ahead of my mind and spirits' ability to process things, and I just can't seem to stay on top of all the minutia that composes the day of a mom. Living in the concrete world has always been a tad tricky for me (an intuitive type), and it's sometimes especially difficult with lack of adults to process with, or room to unwind myself. These are the days when I simply put myself on autopilot and fake it until I can get myself back on track.

I'm sure there are other introverted parents who can relate.

[/narcissistic, self disclosing ramble]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CPSC's statement on Baby Wearing: Brains, anyone?

Due to three tragedies resultant from improper use of the Infantino Sling Rider baby slings (which, with all due respect to Infantino, hardly qualifies as a sling at all), the CPSC has issued an official statement not only about the recalled slings, but slinging babies in general (see link below).

(Link to offical recall statement)

Here's a quote:

n March 12, 2010, CPSC issued a warning about sling carriers for babies. Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

CPSC has determined that a mandatory standard is needed for infant sling carriers. While a mandatory standard is being developed, CPSC staff is working with ASTM International and concerned companies such as Infantino to quickly develop an effective voluntary standard for slings. There currently are no safety standards for infant sling carriers.

I appreciate this synopsis of the situation.

I feel this is a good example of a giant culture FAIL. People see a good idea, think it's neat, fail to properly engage brain and common sense precautions, commercialize something that should be carefully passed on through in-person instruction, and then condemn the whole of a very beneficial practice because people fail to engage their ability to think critically for themselves (ie, if Angelina does it and it comes in a box, it's safe automatically ).

(Don't get me started on how large companies like to jump on anything that they think might turn a profit, churn out crappy products, and then end up harming both mama and baby. This is why I support grassroots products and the cottage industry-these thoughtful mamas and papas take pride in their products and make it with the best interest of the infant in mind!)

(See how Eve's chin is tucked below? She needs adjustment!)

My sadness comes mostly from the knowledge and experience that baby wearing can be a beautifully bonding experience between mother and child, and can also serve to promote the baby's health and well-being, and one that has stood the test of time and many cultures. I'm also frustrated that now, instead of quizzical looks and the occasional ignorant inquiry, I'm more likely to be bombarded with non-information per this decree from the powers that be (whose job it isn't to make sure people are employing their brains when babywearing).

We all know that groups of humans tend to be rather sheep-like in their tenancy to both dumbly follow a practice without self-education and common sense (the assumption being that, because lots of others are doing it, it must be safe), and to run away from something in terror just because someone else is freaking out without critically examining the situation. Add in our cultures crass consumerism and love of horking down pop culture without thought to what they're swallowing, and you have the above mess. An age-old, beautiful practice gets dragged through the mud, because of the ridiculous assumption that, if it's in WalMart or Target, it's automatically safe regardless of how we use it.

The same concept can be applied to french fries, soda, electric sockets, blinds cords, fuzzy baby blankets, dogs, television, formula, kiddie pools, very small toys, and anything else that can enrich our lives when used thoughtfully, and turn deadly when we abuse it and don't engage our God-given intellect.

I'd love to encourage my fellow Sheeple to engage our collective minds. Instead of joining the craze thoughtlessly, and the next day running about like Chicken Little armed for a witch hunt, why not pause and inform yourself? Life is much, much more peaceful and drama free this way. Examine the construction of the carrier, read and watch numerous videos about safe babywearing, follow your instinct, don't stop being attentive just because your child is in-sling, and ask an experienced wearer to check your position. If you suspect your baby's breathing is compromised, or if they even look tab uncomfortable, shift them!

Here are some helpful links on safe baby wearing, different (age appropriate) positions for carrying, and time tested carriers. Even as a nearly six-year baby wearer, I find it useful to brush up from time to time.

Excellent, informative blog post I found simply through Googling.

Positions for wraps, and videos instructions for age-appropriate "carrys":

If you're a facebook nut, these are good constant reminders:

Monday, March 15, 2010

A year ago tonight...

One year ago this evening, WonderSpouse and I were getting all giddy, heating the rice packs and buckling down for hard labor, after a trip to Five Guys and a call to Debi the super midwife. :O) (There's nothing quite as exciting and magical as a birth space with candles lit, bed made, birth kit all laid out, with the smell of rice socks in the air and a baby on the way out. There's such a gorgeous energy about it, knowing something breathtaking is about to take place, and so many hearts being focused on a welcome at once)

I'd spent a better part of the afternoon with my preggo arse in the air in hopes of dislodging my asynclitic baby's pumpkin head and getting her in a better position on my cervix (per suggestion of my amazing friend Allison, whom, if she's reading this, should know once again that she was my angel that day), and then walking around a walking trail with my family. There were robins out that day, and the cherry and pear trees were blooming.

We had no clue if Eva was a boy or girl, no idea what she'd be like, no idea how her birth would go, and no inkling what we'd name her. She was a big, beautiful question mark in our hearts, and we were waiting with bated breath for her first puckered-faced cry to bring our hearts the answer.

After a few seemingly short hours, a good deal of hot water in a birth pool, some growling and a few F-bombs, there she was, just round cheeked and beautiful and staring at me. She was, and is, an amazing-hearted little girl. Strongwilled and laid-back, independent and a snuggle monster, strong and tender, trusting and sincere...she's my precious little third woman child. I thank God every day for her safe passage and health on that day, and never take it for granted. Her mommy would very much like to convince her to live with me forever. She's my pickle sandwich, and I'm so very proud of her!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The problem with Cheerfully Punitive Parenting

I'm of the opinion that manufactured cheerfulness, in parenting and all other relationships, is worth exactly an ounce of manure. Perhaps a little less, depending on the kind of manure and how much nitrogen my flowers need. ;O)

I've heard it stated repeatedly that a person can treat someone with disrespect and lack of due empathy while appearing loving and cheerful to attain the right balance of "tough love". This assumption has it's foundation poured deeply into the idea that we can disconnect our actions and our attitude and thereby foster any amount of health in another individual.

One of the current main proponents of such cheerfulness, Micheal Pearl (if you chose to look him up, I strongly suggest reading his charismatic material with's nicely wrapped in relational phrases, but it's actual content is quite toxic), suggest discipline such as this:

If you think it is appropriate and you spank him make sure that it is not a token spanking. Light, swatting spankings, done in anger without courtroom dignity will make children mad because they sense that they have been bullied by an antagonists. A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again. If he is still mad.... He desperately needs an unswayable authority, a cold rock of justice.

Tough love certainly has it's place in the repertoire of relational tools, but the degree of how loving our toughness can be is tightly lashed to our understanding of the effectiveness of human retribution and revenge. Gentleness cannot be modeled by a gently smiling person wielding a paddle. Kindness is not modeled by "training" that fails to acknowledge the sacredness of another's heart and body. Humility can not be personified by someone delving out pain like an angry god whose fragile sense of righteousness has been violated. As cathartic or fulfilling punishment may feel in the moment for the punisher, the sense of relief it seems to give to punished (from what I've experienced and observed) is taught rather than natural. In fact, it often deepens the wound that sparked the infraction in the first place.

If you drown puppies while crying in remorse, the puppies still, in fact, die. The damage is not less to the victim, especially a victim who lacks the capacity for abstract thought.

Truthfully, one could imagine that it's easier for a child (or an adult, for that matter) to understand and forgive someone who harms them out of obvious passion or frustration and admits later with a humble heart that it was human error while asking forgiveness. This child learns something about being a human as a collective: we are all prone to weakness, and can learn from our mistakes. Love and relationship can be restored, and I want to make myself trustworthy. In contrast, a child that is punished with a confident, "loving", unrepentant face and manner learns something about himself: "It's fine for me to hurt you, because I am older than you. In fact, God wants me to hurt you, because it's the only way your evil nature and stupid heart can learn. You deserve to be hurt, and it's for your own good. You may not hit, but I may, because I'm older and bigger. This is normal."

Not only does the latter damage the child's sense of worth (not to mention breaking down the boundaries in the soul that prevent violence), it also the potential to teach a damaging emotional disconnect that can be carried throughout life. I've met more than one child who happily tauted the benefits of spanking while under parental pressure to disconnect from emotional pain, only to realize as an adult the massive damage that lay beneath the purposefully veneered surface.

The act of punishment isn't the only place the doctrine of cheer surfaces, unfortunately. Pollyanna pervades much of the way a "cheerful" person responds to life in general. (Please understand that I'm not hating on people who are prone to laid back or effervescent dispositions, I'm talking about intentional forced smiling and stuffing of any negative emotion). The "cheerful" person puts forth a display of fabricated happiness that belies painful life situations that are easily observed by others. Not only is this just plain creepy, is often undercuts the compassion and honesty that they might otherwise give others or receive for themselves. Rather than the intended shining beacon of cheer, it becomes a painful clog in the person's emotional plumbing that deprives the individual emotional health and community, and frankly looks weird and confusing to others who desire to enjoy relationship with a real person.

Emotions spring from our hearts, rather than our hearts springing from our emotions. The assumption that pretended emotions can be the cause of goodness is erroneous. We can't force things to happen with plastic emotion or words, simply because we will it to be so. It's a rather ass backwards way of approaching life in general, as emotions tend to inform us of inner and outer problems that warrant our attention. If we limit our information ("happy is the only acceptable emotion, cheerfulness the only acceptable attitude"), then we limit understanding of our problems, and ultimately restrict our solutions to merely pretending our problems don't exist.

A representative quote from the school of thought that views behavior born of need as a sin that needs to be absolved or "cleansed" by the parent is this by author Gary Ezzo:

"A child knows when he has broken the rules, and his guilt continually reminds him of his violation. Guilt is the reminder of sin. Chastisement (spanking) is the price paid to remove the guilt thus [sic] free the child from his burden. If the parents do not remove the guilt, the child lives under the weight of sin. When an offense calls for chastisement, parents should chastise. If they substitute a lesser punishment, the guilt remains, and the child will suppress it. That, in turn, leads to more antisocial behavior."

Rather addressing with compassion why a child feels jealous/angry/demanding and therefore the underlying need, we send information out that the child is defective or sinful for possessing a negative feeling, and write out an RX for simply acting better! One can only imagine that this does very little to equip the individual with the skills needed to cope with their own personal struggles and blind spots, and teaches instead the skill of wallpapering over pain and stress and insecurity. That it's delivered with an attitude of cheery authority must be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing to the recipient.

I'd assert that not a single fruit of the Spirit can be actually developed without knowing the full extent of emotional safety, compassion and love. "Sin" is never overcome by punishment or fear, especially when it's viewed as a tangible contaminant, rather than the result of a real unmet need inside the individual. Starving a plant and blaming "Death" as a mysterious entity isn't so much effective for a flourishing garden. Starving a person's heart and blaming sin is just as ridiculous. We'd be much better off viewing sin as deficit, or a problem that warrants a compassionate (and sometimes very slow) solution. In our family relationships, we're hardly afforded the luxury of our loved ones only having problems that are solved simply and quickly, and sometimes, the only thing we can easily contribute is the willingness to wait until healing is accomplished. (My good friend likes to call this the "Tincture of Time", and I rather like that phrase.)

I personally am making it my goal to not only express my real feelings early and often to my children, but also to make our home that's a safe place for them to feel the full range of emotions that they're able to feel. Anger as the solution to a problem is damaging, but anger expressed appropriately and freely spurs us to action and informs our solution. Sadness as a solution is damaging, but grieving a loss or disappointment is a process in emotional health, and therefore very acceptable. If I'm feeling sad or discontent, which is more useful? Cheerfulness as a rule (with a storm beneath the surface), or allowing my children to observe me processing discontent to a real, viable solution? Which is more useful long-term: dictating instant compliance and happiness, or empowering children to be an integral part of finding their own way to out of a struggle? One teaches life long conformity through fear of authority, the other teaches actual autonomy and value.

Death to plastic smiles and artificial absolution. Long live organic, messy process. :o)