The transition to mothering two was, to me, harder than the transition to motherhood. Not because of the juggling, but because it was not until my sweet baby number two came along that my patience with my first born was tested. I had all the patience in the world with my boy. Being gentle and calm was pretty easy. I would always squat down to eye level whenever he talked to me and I could count the number of times on my hand I huffed or put him down for a moment when he was crying. After my daughter was born, my son was wonderful and I am so proud of him, but we did have a journey for the next 12 months I'd say. I am grateful I went through this process. I can now fully understand the self development required when having triggers, when having patience and calmness tested, when dealing with guilt and learning to forgive oneself when one has not been the perfectly gentle mummy. So here I write tips for two. Somethings to expect when expecting number two and what I found important on my gentle journey. I hope it helps some gentle mothers out there with the transition to two.
Here they are:
- I would recommend not planning how you are going to manage things with two. I like the "wing it" option because you just dont know what baby or toddler is going to like. Trust a perfect creative solution will come for your family when you are in the moment.
I worked gently to get my boy to sleep in his own bed through the night. It was not easy and two weeks before the birth his sleep went out the window. Waking hourly again. I feel he could sense a big change was coming. I decided I just needed to rest by now so he slept with me all night again. When baby came she was very gurgly (due to a very quick birth) which disturbed my son. On the first night home when he was quite upset I asked him if he wanted to go sleep with daddy and he said yes. In hindsight he would have got used to it in a few nights as he did in our day naps.
- Don't be surprised if your baby is completely different to your first in all ways. I find this is more often the case be it whether they like baby wearing or the stroller, water baby or not, daring and fearless or cautious and careful, easy going or very sensitive.... So things that worked for your first quite possibly won't for number two. Be open, flexible and intuitive to their likes.
My first baby would fall asleep within 30 seconds of breast feeding. It was quite challenging to get a good feed into him. My second baby would have a long feed and be completely full yet completely awake. It was quite strange!
- Be creative and flexible in ways you get your little baby to nap. My daughter would fall asleep with walking. That was what did it. Not rocking side to side, not a rocking chair, not feeding, it had to be walking. So morning walks down the road with toddler on a balance bike were our thing.
- Be creative and open to ways for toddler to play independently while you are putting baby down for a nap. Story cds, music, salt doh, a special basket of toys that comes out at baby nap time ... ideas will come. Or just baby wear. Things will work for some weeks or months, then you need to get creative again.
- Have a plan A and plan B. It calms you. "I ll try to get her down but if that doesn't work we ll go for our walk" was mine.
- If your older one is still napping, have a nap all together in the afternoon. I read this somewhere a mother saying it was a very special time. So I did it. And now I can say .... it was a very special time. Mummy gets a rest. Everyone gets a rest, connecting. Beautiful.
My boy got used to me having to feed the baby and him falling asleep with me gently tickling his feet very quickly. About 6 month later he didn't want to come into the bedroom with us so I would set him up with a bed on the couch and his "magic bottle" of glitter and water. It would mesmerise him and he would be asleep in 5 min well before baby.
- If you are still feeding toddler it can be quite normal to have aversion. However this doesn't mean you have to wean them, but you can gently set boundaries of how much they feed. I read a great article on this. So I would say when my son wanted some milk too, "at nap time or bed time" and he was ok with that. Or I would say "ok till I count to 20". This was a phase I had to manage and later I really enjoyed and cherished feeding him again as I knew it was nearing an end.
- Understand your toddler is processing the change inwardly even if not showing signs outwardly. It is quite likely jealous feelings will come out in some way which may be physical. It is so very understandable for them to feel jealous and they simply don't have the neural networks to control his feeling impulses. Punishing them will only add to their hurt jealous feelings. They need love when there has been an issue too. Understand this is a phase you have to help them through and model gentleness and kindness and respectful communication.
- Be like a broken record with your calm statement and boundary
- Be aware that a lioness can come out in you when your baby is hurt and it is very challenging to keep that lioness calm. Have your strategies to stay calm and respectful to your toddler rather than a yell. They are very much trying to process it all.
- Physical intervention and repetition is needed. Janet Lansbury described how they still cannot process a verbal instruction in a short amount of time. They are impulsive and still don't have the neural connections to control emotions that a brewing and bubbling over in that minute. And that is ok.
For 6 months I was happy to repeatedly say "we don't push people" and steer him away as I held his hands. After he turned 3 I got frustrated. He is 3, he should be able to understand what I am saying. It was when I read an article by Janet Lansbury I had patience for the rest of the time I needed. You do need to jump up off the couch and guide them however many times a day rather than saying an instruction "don't push your sister" and expect them to follow.
- Similarly when baby is older and they are learning to play together keep modelling kind respectful communication. Repeatitively. They learn by imitation up to the age of 7. What you do and how you say something is more important than what you say. They will copy your communication when they play with each other!
- Spend time reflecting and understanding your toddler rather then resorting to the quick scold or punish.
My son would let's say "nudge" my baby. It was a gentle push just big enough to push her over. The sound of her head hitting the tiled floor will forever make me cringe. He did it out of jealousy, he did it to get my attention if I was out of the room for a minute, he sometimes did it out of exuberance in play or all of the above at once. He did it sometimes to protect her from something which in the moment I didn't see. On the rare occasion when he verbalised explaining himself he sometimes described how he was trying to stop her doing something or breaking a toy etc. My heart melted at those times as I felt guilty I had scolded him for a second and I realised he had his reasons more often than not, he just couldn't verbalise them.
- Hormones at certain times of the month + tiredness + not having your needs met = decreased patience. Simple. Now I recognise my monthly cycle and think "ok I have to dig deep and just get through the next few days" and at these times try to have some days with extra rest built in for me.
- Give a moment for the creative solution to come. If baby is crying for one reason and toddler crying for another just pause for a moment and breathe. I swear a creative solution comes.
- Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
When both my children woke at the end time, baby wanting a feed and my son being grumpy and out of sorts as he was at nap waking I would give him a cracker. He loved crackers and this just kept the peace for everyone. Early on if both were distressed crying at the same time I would sit on the bed and feed both of them. It calmed everyone down straight away easily. That was my go to and makes me smile looking back.
- Learn to Laugh. Know your toddler will wake your baby. And your baby will wake your toddler. If it doesn't happen, that's a bonus. Go celebrate! Imagine taking 40 min to get your tired baby to sleep then your toddler waking them 5 min later. Yup. Hence learn to laugh! Take a breath. Let it go. It's a beautiful first world problem to have. Laugh and say "it's one of those days".
I remember doing this and my toddler laughed and said it too as we troddled off into the other room where my baby had woken. This was unusual for him, as normally he would be so upset I had to leave.
- Have one on one time with toddler. I used to plan special time while baby was asleep. Either a picnic, puppet show, glueing and pasteing, just train and car play together. We also had our ritual of feeding the horses together at 5.30 when daddy came home and sitting watching the sunset. Or sometimes sitting on the step watching the stars before his bedtime.
- Don't rent a house that comes with three honking geese walking around the house all day and the pen next to the bedroom window.
- Have a daily and weekly rhythm. This gets more and more important and more and more easier as you get into preschool years. It calms them. And calms you. Your day flows peacefully.
- Have a weekly housework rhythm. Laundry day, kitchen day, floors day, bathroom day, bedroom change linen day. This calmed me immensely rather than chasing my tail here and there and being overwhelmed.
- Learn the art of holding the space for them (to play in). I will write a blog on this.
- Have a list of 14 easy dinners. Shopping list repeats.
Most of all, slow down and enjoy. It is the most beautiful time and goes all so quick. For me, watching my two children play in the sand pit together is pure bliss. That has been our daily ritual for a few years now and I will cherish it forever.
I don't believe in tantrums, or witching hour or terrible twos. I never used those words or have them in my home. Perhaps that is why I feel like I never experienced them with my two children.
I actually really don't like the word. If I read a blog that uses the word tantrums or even behaviour I tend to loose interest in it. Interesting come to think of it, my close mum friends don't use this word either. I feel it implies there is no reason for why a child is unsettled or upset other then just wanting to be upset or just being two, or three or whatever age they are, and it stops the person from delving deeper to understand, empathise, connect and truly help the child. "They are just having a tantrum". "Ah this is the terrible twos". These words and phrases are so common it's like its ok to not explore reflect and consider things further. Send them to their room even so you don't have to deal with it. And that's ok because it is ... a tantrum.
What is it really?
I have always seen crying and upset as ......crying and upset. A littleone learning that they are a seperate entity from their mother (which happens when your energetic fields seperate around age 3), learning their independence and to cope with the feelings of emotions. Emotions are a wave of overwhelm for a little toddler and preschooler. Goodness knows we have difficulty controlling them and working through them sometimes. I have always just seen it as a time they are really really upset and need reassurance and comfort and understanding. That is what I would want if I were feeling emotional. I saw it is a time to guide this little being. If ever my husband used the word I would respond, "actually he is feeling completely overwhelmed with ...." or "I think he is really struggling with ....".
I was also aware that it could be a release of underlying stress. Stress of exploding independence, feeling frustrated with having to do what we want all the time, not being in control of much really and, here's the big ones, changes in sleeping, toilet "training", stress that comes with the change of a new baby. I believe this change affects our littleones hugely even if they seem to be coping well on the outside. It is still a huge change.
Janet Lansbury - Elevating Childcare explains and teaches understanding so well. She was my go to for help. Some key words from her which really helped were that a child's "bad behaviour" is their way of saying "I'm not coping". Because they don't have the maturity to understand what's going on inwardly and to come to you and express it. (Once again most adults don't have this awareness and maturity either). They are really telling you though "I'm not coping". Simple really.
Another article I read from Janet Lansbury was pivitol to expanded my understanding. It was on keeping boundaries and how the upset is "not about the cracker" (or whatever it is they are asking for). She explained how the child feels a build up of emotions within and needs to release them. So they will ask for something they know they can't have and actually they want you to keep your boundary do they can have a good cry and release it. I had always noticed how joyful and happy my son was after her had had a melt down. While I would sit with him through it I would think, he ll be really happy this afternoon. So this made sense to me. Amazingly in the next day of reading this article I noticed my son asking for something ridiculous. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was, but it was so obvious the answer was "no you can't have that right now". I realised he wanted to have a cry. I then began to see these times coming. The "issues" didn't really matter anymore. I was able to get ready for them, even head them off a bit and get in for the cuddle early. Even now at 6 if he has had a huge play with lots of children, I can see he is just emotionally drained and sometimes needs to have a cry and cuddle. He will get very upset over the littlest thing. Though now he knows to put himself in bed or under the blanket on the couch, his quiet comfort places, and ask for a cuddle. I wholeheartedly recommend following Janet Lansbury on Facebook and using the search engine on her website with key words to find articles on something you need help with. I have not read her book "No bad kids" as it was published as I was coming out of toddler and preschool years but I'm sure if you were only to have a few books on your parenting book shelf, this one would be a worthwhile. Ultimately it comes down to if you believe if children inherently good or bad. I remember vividly crying in my bedroom utterly utterly heart broken after I had been sent to my room, saying the words out loud as I sobbed "but I'm not bad".
While I'm at it, I dont believe in naughty either and don't like that word. Cheeky maybe but not naughty. If a child is defiant there is a reason, a disconnection. And I don't believe in crocodile tears either. If someone says it (and my husband has) I say "really? Can you make tears come out if your eyes and roll down your cheeks when you want to.". I'd sure like to sometimes. Like when you have missed your flight and don't want to pay for another one or when Mr Policeman pulls you over. But alas I can't. I do believe that as a child gets older there is a time, say 3-5 ish, where there is less emotion in the crying. Less distress. I feel this is a good thing. They are still upset, but not so overwhelmed with their emotions. It's more disappointment. They are learning to handle their emotions and disappointments. How good! But they are still a bit upset. So I give them a bit of empathy and and a bit of comfort.
So how do we support
Once my son was quite upset in our Steiner play group. My son felt his emotions very strongly and did not let go of them very easily. (My daughter on the other hand would be upset for 30 seconds, sigh and say "ok mummy" and go find something else to play with). I took him outside as he was disrupting the room quite a bit. I sat outside with him. And sat .... and sat .... and sat. There wasn't much consoling. Mothers would pop there head outside to let me know that my baby daughter was just fine. The teacher came out and gave a glass of water and a wet face cloth for him. Another mum came outside and told me how amazing I was and how much patience I had. It was so great to be in a place where I was totally supported by everyone with my parenting style and my son was fully accepted and cared for. I will never forget that. We did this a few times that Term. It often happened to be a time when a Grade 12 boy would sit in the courtyard opposite and play his guitar. That was beautiful and soothing for both of us.
Another time I took my mum to a good shoe store in the city we were living near. When we found a park, some reason my mum was in a big rush to get out of the car, telling me to hurry up and feed the metre. He had a huge meltdown as we crossed the road to the shops which was rather unusual as he normally liked outings. I think he picked up on my mothers stress and energy. Wanting to get my mum to the shop, I held his hand as I carried my baby and he cried walking down the street and spoke reassuring to him. My mum walking on the other side of him looked across at me with a huge glare. It took me by surprise. "What?" I asked. "Aren't you going to tell him to be quiet?" She said in a very disgusted voice. "Well no. He's sad". We got to the shop and I sat him on my lap and gave him a big cuddle. The shop owner was understanding. My mum said she didn't want to shop and went back to the car to go home. I sat on a bench on the street and held and cuddled my son and let him cry. I could not establish a reason for his crying, I just knew he needed a cry. A woman walked past and smiled at me. He soon calmed down. Isn't it nice when the world can be comfortable and understanding and supportive of a child's emotions. I think half the "problem" is us not feeling comfortable with emotions. We were taught early not to be and not to have them. Maybe if we were able to feel and release our emotions better, we would be more comfortable with a child's.
Here are some things I did to help at these times:
One key phrase that I read in our toddler years was to "Stay Listening". I love this term. This became my mantra. Now I know this can take all our might.. Staying listening at 3am when I had a baby girl in the next room or even on the same mattress was not easy. A couple of times I lost my patience and I was not proud of that at all, a couple of times I pulled it off and the rewards were great. He seemed very connected and grateful the next day. Sitting in the bedroom at the 40 min mark is another time it takes great strength. I would go through a roller coaster of comforting, getting frustrated (this would always amp things up) then concentrating on my breathing and trying to feel the love again, where he would always then calm down and touch me in some way, coming in for the cuddle. Then there'd be his deep sigh as he lay on me which I loved. As he got older I'd say "wow. That was a big wave of emotions wasn't it". Sometimes he would say "the motions came. I think they have gone now".
Sit in the bedroom with them. "Time in". They need you in their overwhelm. They need your calm in their storm. They need you calm face and safe place.
Make their comfort place. We made a place to go to at times when he was overwhelmed. It was the couch with our special soft weighted blanky (the blanket I had in my early 30 s for my anxiety attacks) or his bed and a glass of water. As he got older a simple glass of water would always calm him down. As he got older he would take himself to these places.
Reflect and know your triggers. I had an exercise book with columns. What happened, from his point of few, what I could do better next time and would put some quick strategies and mantras on the fridge.
Hold on to the belief that your child is lovely and sweet. A photo of a sweet toddler picture in a prominent place. You will find that is what they grow up to be.
Appreciate the good qualities of these traits. Passion, persistence, determination are actually great qualities for an adult. I will always remember the play group teacher who knew I was going through a hard phase and she walked me to my car one day. She said "He is very sensitive, which will be lovely when he is a young man, but hard now". I had to ask what she meant. She said he will be very sensitive and caring to others emotions when he is older. I thought of a friend who told me once her 18 yo son who, when they are out at a function together, can always tell when she is feeling a bit uncomfortable and he comes over to her and puts his hand on her shoulder. The play group teachers words put things in a good perspective.
What do you get?
You may have to spend half an hour sitting in the bedroom with your child, or 10 min at the shops holding them. Yes, this takes longer time than a stern word or putting them in the car or sending them to their room.
You won't get a child who represses their feelings, toughens and closes their heart and behaves good out of fear, resignation or submission. It comes out in their communication and self confidence with other adults.
You most likely get , a child that implicitly trusts you and listens to you, respects you, an adolescent who comes to you with their problems. You get a child who is comfortable with themselves. Who can confidently and happily look other adults in the eye. Who has self esteem, self respect, and the big clincher a child who knows how to work through their emotions. Who can observe their emotions, not be them. A child who knows they can and how to get to the calm on the otherside.. You could get child who won't have to spend their adult life learning how to feel and work through emotions or deal with repressed feelings with depression and anxiety. A child who knows how to be sensitive to another's emotions, how to hold a space for them and support another's emotions (imagine a young man like this. Whoa!). A child who knows unconditional love. Imagine the potential of a sensitive human, in touch with their feelings and others who has become an adult not having to waste too much energy on healing themselves. Imagine the energy they will have to spend and what they may offer the world. From wisdom, intuition, clarity, compassion. To me an extra 10 or 30 min here and there are worth all this. I see each minute as depositing loving energy in their bank for their lifetime. As Robin Grille in the wonderful "Heart to Heart Parenting" writes "This is a time in our children's lives when we can, through our responsiveness, most effectively assure for them a lifetime of security, emotional health and loving relationships".
Today at homeschool group, my 6 yo son was with a friend who is struggling with some emotions and wanted to play rough mean games. My son didn't want to and his friend was getting frustrated. I turned around and saw my son standing his ground, calmly looking down at his friend, fending of thrashing arms and say "let's play a nice game". He was calm in the midst of another's emotions, observing, not getting into the drama, standing grounded, staying there, trying to calm his friend down. In this flash of a moment he seemed so mature. I can't help but wonder if this gentle parenting had something to do with that.
There's a lot of talk out there on post natal depression and supporting new mothers, but not much written on depression in new fathers and how to support them. This is something close to my heart, since my husband crashed into depression in my child's second year. So here I focus on how to support fathers who are not taking to it like a duck to water, and are finding it hard. I must admit most of this is written with good old hindsight and a lot of understanding for the mother and how dire hisharmony in the home can be.
These tips are definitely not to give you any more work to do or take any energy from you. They are more tips for a useful mindset to support your husband. I think they can greatly help husband to develop a connection with baby and where he fits in. So some important ways to support a new father are:
1) Understand where he is coming from. I wrote about this last week. Accepting he may not have been chopping at the bit for fatherhood, he may have not been ready for it and he may feel completely out of his depth. As communicating such feelings may not be a mans forte, this will present in many other not so pleasant ways. Be understanding. He is in a foreign land and not speaking the language. He is lost and perhaps coming from an empty place. Aside from not having so much maternal instincts, they often aren't getting the beautiful feedback of moments you are getting. Often they are getting grizzles and want to be back in mummy's arms. As hard as it is when you might be feeling such deep disappointment, see if you can be understanding. See if you can hold a space for them to work it out. This takes strength.
2) Give him the opportunity to settle baby. This may not be as easy as it sounds. I know, when your baby cries desperately wanting you and looking at you, it is very distressing not to take them. So give the opportunity but also do what you feel comfortable with. Find a time that seems to work best, after a feed, in the evenings, then stick to it as a regular practice. A more predictable rhythm may help baby settle with it rather than him being whisked away from mum randomly. Baby wearing helps with this.
My husband would take our son after work while I had a shower. My husband would say "hurry up before he cries! He could never really settle him for the first couple of years. With our daughter I had a shower a couple of hours after she was born while my husband held her. She cried and settle within a few minutes. You could imagine the confidence this gave him.
3) Show him how to settle baby. I think it is quite common for "aeroplane rides" or waving a rattle toy in their face or other methods of distraction to be daddy's first port of call when baby cries as they try to "fix it". It was fairly obvious to me when our boy had "lost it" and was crying that being flung into the air just wasn't going to help. Have patience. They are trying the best they can. Find a way to encourage them and communicate that it is ok to just "hold the baby with empathy". This will probably be a completely new concept to them. Model it by example in front of them, which is always good with anything.
4) Encourage connection in little subtle ways. For example every night before he went to bed I would hold my son up to say goodnight. To start this was a tap on the nose with a finger 3 times and a "Bop bop bop". I would move my sons face quite close to his and somewhere along the line the tap on the nose became kisses on the forehead. Or, in toddlerhood, I would suggest ideas for where he could take our son for a one on one outing like car shows, the airport, lego shows. Now my husband is all over this and has a knack for finding great things to do on the weekend.
4) Date time. Try to give some one to one time in a way that is comfortable for you. There can be many creative variations to "date night". Letting them sleep in another persons arms while having a coffee outside! A take away at home, getting dressed up. A breakfast at the cafe while family or friend walks the block with a stroller. We lived in the country so on a rare dinner out we rented a hotel room in the city so nana could come and mind baby while we were downstairs having dinner. Any problem and I was just an elevator ride away! I found second time round just going to cafes regularly with baby and toddler in tow helped my husband as eating out is one of his pleasures in life.
5) If there is a disparity in what parenting approach to take, hold a space for the problem rather than arguing against each other. A creative solution will come. Speak from your heart. Your husband will probably be more in his head but ultimately your hearts want the same thing. If a solution doesn't come the night you are sitting on the couch talking about it and trying to work it out, that's ok. A solution may come to you in the morning. Often early on it can feel like "we have to do this or else.... baby will never sleep". That stressful fearful frame of mind won't yield the solution. Wait till a way of riding through that phase, that you are both comfortable with and doesn't go against your values, comes. It will.
For example. My son woke hourly from 4 months to 14 months. So most evenings I was resettling him. My husband wanted me to make him sleep. Close the door and let him cry. I couldn't do so you could imagine the butting heads, but I tried everything else I could. I was up through the night reading 700 page books with a book lamp trying to learn how to get him to sleep. Eventually I had the thought. On his third wake I will stay there with him. My husband was ok with that. I felt ok. It meant I would come out to the living room twice but also was helping baby and getting some sleep! As soon as a way of handling things that Everyone was comfortable with was set I relaxed, the house relaxed. The third wake soon went from 9pm to 10 and then quite quickly to 11pm, then 1pm the 3 am then 5am which at that stage I liked to call morning.
6) Try to do one little thing for him a day so he doesn't feel left out. Send a photo, buy a tart at the cafe to bring home, even just changing his towel in the bathroom! This might be really hard especially if things aren't pleasant in the home. However it can create an energy shift. Even now sometimes I still focus on this.
7) Find one thing in the daily rhythm he can do and importantly wants to do so he is part of it and encourage gently. Reading a story book is a good one.
8) Somehow let him know how important he is. And I'm not talking about their relationship with baby. What I think is so much more important. It is their holding a space for the mother. I was anxious, i was self doubting, trying to listen to my heart and process lots of advice that didn't reasonate, I was overwhelmed. Perhaps if he knew this role, this may be more doable for him and make him feel good. And perhaps if we have someone doing that we can show an appreciation of simply that a bit more. Sometimes imagery can say a lot. If something speaks to you. Use it. Willowtree statues can be great for this.
The picture of the statue says it all. I bought it straight away when I saw it. It was at a time when all there was was mutual disappointment, mutual resentment and no words left to say. I brought it home and just put it next to the steps onto the verandah so he had to walk past it morning and night.. I fully believed this is what turned him around. It says "You are needed" and shows Mother holds the baby, father holds the mother. A family in alignment.
It's also good for you to know, and to let them know - they will have their time. At age 2 a switch goes off in my husband. I saw it with our first and was waiting for it with our second. I literally saw the moment when he realised our daughter was precious and literally said in my head "there's the switch". Now they are running around and saying the funniest things and jumping up and down on the driveway when he comes home. And each day I have watched him love and appreciate them more and more. Now sometimes he looks at them and tears just well up with tears of love. He has come into his element in the preschool years with deep understanding of them, connection and patience, helping me too.. So if you can and however you can, give him time.
Protecting and nurturing the energy of the mother is my hearts intention.
When I was pregnant with my first, I immediately felt that I should be conscious of "my energy". My feelings, stress levels, busyness, emotions. I lay down on my verandah and did some meditation. "There. I ll do that each day". What I didn't realise was the conscious effort, choices and sometimes sheer strength I would need to guard, protect and nurture my energy through pregnancy and throughout motherhood. I didn't even fully realise the deep importance of it.
It is quite well known now that baby feels your emotions. Your emotions are their environment, like the air we breathe. I love the image of the Madonnas Cloak. "After birth there is changes in the mothers psychological life, ... an intensification of feeling, an out pouring of warmth and protectiveness that ripens into true mothers-love. ..... This out streaming of a mothers soul is pictured as forming a protective cloak around the baby, a Madonna's Cloak, raging out into the environment and affecting the whole atmosphere surrounding the child. Within the cloak there are the weaving of colours, warming, radiant and light filled (or perhaps dull and murky depending upon the quality of the mothers soul life). For the young child the Madonna's Cloak is a spiritual reality for the first three years... Sharing fully her soul life..... It is an intimate relationship, and each subtle change of mood brings a different nuance of colour and tone. The father weaves his own colour and tone Into the cloak. ..... Even doing the wrong thing does no harm provided the Madonna's Cloak is full of warmth, light and lovely colours. ... The quality of the Mothers Cloak is prepared during pregnancy as the mother prepares her soul." (From The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter).
It would be lovely to float around for 9 months of our pregnancy in a meditative state feeling nothing but Peace Love and Oneness to wrap our baby in wouldn't it. But life happens. Work stress, family stress, relationship stress, general busy stress. Although I fully intended to have a peaceful pregnancy, I had to consciously work on my energy during my two pregnancy journeys. Last year when I was having a homeopath consult for my son, he did the most wonderful detailed assessment. He asked questions about my sons birth, his nature, including what food I craved during my pregnancy and what emotions I held in my pregnancy. Well I could answer that last one easily - anger! I carried anger from when I supported my father at the end of his cancer battle and my sister didn't call, month after month until the very end. I tried not to be angry. I tried not to dwell on it. I even tried to have some counselling to deal with it. But it did sit in me, even a year later when I was pregnant. My little baby boy did have an instant 10/10 angry cry since the day he was born and through the toddler and preschool years, intense angry feelings are something he has had to slowly learn to work through. The homeopath says he does see this association a lot.
When I was pregnant with my second I was feeling quite low while navigating a very rocky patch in my marriage. So to help with this, I talked to my baby. I told them how much I loved and wanted them and that I was just trying to work things out. She appreciated me working through my emotions and gave me feelings when she was happy.
Pregnancy is a journey, one that is perfect for our soul., and a great time of growth. We are in "growth mode" as we create and grow a miraculous baby and our intuition is heightening. As we understand it is even more important to be aware, be mindful of our energy and consciously protect our and our babies energy, lots of intention and growth takes place. Preparation. This work is part of the growth needed for the birth and the birth of the mother..
So what can you do? Here are some things you can do to protect and nurture our energy:
Mediate - I like to meditate morning and night. Picturing a beautiful seen and the mother I want to be, until I feel that.
Choose your support circle - make a list of people that nurture you and surround you with positive uplifting energy and connect more with those people
Stand back, be aware and observe others energy that is dragging you into their drama or draining yours. Often this can be a family member. Just being aware can shift its effect on your energy.
Set boundaries if you need to. Lovingly explaining a boundary you now have if you are comfortable to.
Reflect on what is coming up for you and how you are being guided to grow. Is it strength, softness, openness, patience, ....?
Work through any anger. Explore it, write a letter and burn it or talk to someone about your feelings to help process them. Be open to forgiveness coming to you one day rather than being pressured to forgive and forget right now. Some things take time.. .
Slow down and simplify your lifestyle. You will have to do this when baby comes. This can have a huge effect on any anxiety and your energy.
Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Journal and talk to yourself as you would your young daughter.
Communicate with your partner. It might be helpful to explain where you are at and what you are going through. It always helps to feel understood. He could also help protect your energy with family members. This could bring you more closely aligned during birth and early parenthood.
Talk to baby. If you are struggling with feelings this can be calming and reassuring for you.
If you have a baby in your tummy, or are mothering children, it's now time to live mindfully, to nurture and protect your beautiful energy 🙏🏻
I feel moved to talk about slowing down this week. This week I have felt my all time slowest. It has been blissful. Like I am walking around in a meditative state with my children, strolling through the day. I was pulling out of the supermarket and actually had the thought "I feel like I am on holiday". It seems my chill out days from the previous week have merged into normal days. Children have been playing really really well. I have been pottering, the days have felt slow and spacious and I have surprisingly got a lot achieved in the day without any pressure to. Even feeling more energy at the end of the day.
This hasn't just happened. Each year I have felt slower and slower. It has been a process of slowing down with a lot of conscious intention and choices. Some big choices. Since having my first born I have put my career on hold at its peak, dropped out of instructor training, given away my business (I didn't feel like I was doing either my work or my mothering well and therefore wasn't enjoying either), I put life coaching study on hold - for 5 years!, moved to the country, well! into the countryside and decided to homeschool. These choices are not for everyone of course, but just to say that big choices were made.
This week I came across a fb page called Becoming Unbusy which I thought sounded great. I feel it's something so hard for us to do. Now a days we start out in motherhood at the peak of careers, studying courses and with a busy lifestyle. We start motherhood burnt out! and often still racing and not knowing how to slow down. Combined with not having villages or nearby family, motherhood can understandably be overwhelming. What's more is the fast multitasking pace lingers in us, in our energy field that our children are wrapped in and carried along in all day. It's almost like this is an accepted norm now, however something in me says it's not supposed to be like this. Not even in our modern world.
The book Simplicity Parenting is a great book to explain why it's so important, for our childrens' sake, to slow down and gives a blueprint how to do so. There are even life coaches specialising in Simplicity Parenting now. How good!
Apart from my big life choices, here are some small things I have done to help slow down:
* Sticking to 2 outings/activities a week, at least every second day at home for my pre schoolers. I sense that is enough for them and what they need. They love being at home.
* Minimal non plastic (non flashy lights or beepy) open ended toys. The toys in our playroom have been there for years. Being quality wooden they last. The way they change and get better is only through imagination. Minimal tv. My children have never said they are bored. I wouldn't worry if they did. Boredom is good. It exercises and stretches the brain, develops the imagination, the basis of intelligence (lateral thinking, creative solutions). When they exercise their play muscles, it is amazing. They get better and better at playing.
* Sticking to our daily and weekly rhythm.
* Keeping admin for a Monday.
* Grounding myself. Bare feet in the sandpit or grass, weeding,
* Getting out of my head and into my body. Downward dog here and there when I can.
* Lots and lots of moments taking a deep breathe, down to my solar plexus. Flushing out the anxiety in my chest.
* Meditating feeling tension and emotions in my body.
* Having a cup of tea. I don't actually like tea that much but I like the feeling of a hot cup in my hands.
* I walk slowly.
So I ll enjoy this moment while it is here. I encourage mothers to embrace slowness. It's not lazy, it's healthy ....for everyone. Clarity and inspiration flow into the space. Mothers have crystal clear clarity on the lifestyle you want and take steps big or small towards it. 🙏🏻💕
Today we went to our new dance class in our new town. It was magical. From the moment I saw the place, smelt the beautiful oils when walking in the door and saw the teacher, elegant professional, yet warm to the children and somehow earthy, I knew it would be wonderful.
My children were so excited to get into the room. When it came to Edna opening the door they rushed in. Parents don't go in this dance/yoga class, though I was welcome to since it was their first class. I chose not to, as I felt I would be a distraction and I felt like letting the magical studio to be their magical space. My children in a new environment with new people completely happy and ready to dance. And there I was in the front of the studio all by myself with 45 min free. Breath. Strange. Good. Though I have loved watching my littleones in dance class the last couple of years.
The children had a wonderful class. Finding a beautiful creative dance class is something I prioritise and am particular about. It may be the physio in me, but I feel creative movement is so wonderful for our 1-7 year olds. In this age they are "in their body". Their body is the main focus of the life force development. They feel and process everything in their body. They explore everything with their body. They express every emotion happiness joy, frustration with their body. They live in their body. Being able to imagine and express themselves with their body, play with dance can only be for them, a wonderful free joyful place to Be.
With the excitement of our move interstate to our new home, new bedrooms, new play room, Christmas, grandparents visiting and hot evenings, my children have been enjoying a late bedtime. One of us was trying but going with it, the other had had enough ... all of a sudden!
Shaken but grounded. Communicating calmly, wisely and with strength. Breathing. Staying grounded within.
Its always better to communicate early and encourage your partner to communicate early. Be sensitive to their bubbling frustrations and check in with them if you can. Share boundaries and explain why. You probably agree on more than it seems at first. Often us gentle mothers need to explain the children's perspective and needs and the many factors affecting the issue, to our partners. I don't believe in just "bad" or "testing" "behaviour". This can give your partner a deeper understanding. Then set a plan of what you are both comfortable with. Spiritual leader of your family.
Click here to edKinder transition is a really really big step for our littleones. Some are ready and busting to go and we know when they are. It can be a beautiful and magical phase for the child. But it is also ok if your child isn't quite ready. 4 is still really young! Like anything with parenting, "When your child is ready it will be easy". There is a broad range of when a child is ready. Some 5 or 7. I like the recent articles that Finland doesn't start school till 7 and they have the best results in the world. Here I open your minds and hearts to being prepared for a gentle transition with your littleone so you are not pressured on the day.
To be prepared:
You can prepare your child through reading a story book about a day at kinder. Or playing it out with cars and blocks and dolls.
Have a plan B. What will you do if your child is crying and doesn't want you to leave?
Pause and sense what you are comfortable with. . It is ok for a bit of sad feelings when mummy leaves. It's a big step and change. You know your child better than anyone. You can feel if it will be ok or not.
If the teacher asks you to say goodbye and walk away with them crying, how does that feel? Terrible? Gut wrenching? This is your heart, your intuition speaking quite clearly. It's not right. Don't feel you have to. You have spent years and countless energy being there for your child building their trust in you and the world. You don't have to change that today. Kinders should be accommodating and gentle with your child's emotional and transitional needs. Would you want your child in their care if they weren't? Do they take him off you while he is crying and walk away with him, him reaching for you? Sadly this has happened to friends and is not uncommon. Once again you know your child. Tune in to your tummy and heart to know what you are comfortable with.
Now being centred and grounded, calmly voice what you are comfortable with and work out a strategy with the teacher that you are both comfortable with.
If your child starts to have nightmares and big changes in behaviour during the term, there is a good chance there might be some issues he is having at kinder. Explore and observe for yourself.
There is no need to force your child into a stressful situation in the name of "socialisation". Your child does not need "socialisation" for 7 hours with 20 other children so many days a week. It's not hard for bullying to arise in this environment. Big or small. 2 hours 1-2 times a week with a group activity, play date or small group of 3-4 is totally fine to develop social skills. Comfortable and secure, not over tired and overstimulated, with nurturing parents nearby to guide. Lovely.
There are other lovely options. Family day care with a smaller group. Just call it kinder! Homeschool groups gathering in the Forrest (we would spend at least 5 hours in the Forrest! or at a river on homeschool group days).
There are also beautiful home programs like wholefamilyrhythms or oakmeadow kinder curriculum. Cook together Monday's, paint Tuesday's, Forrest play group Wednes, music or dance class thurs, craft fri. It's an art to set a lovely and nourishing family daily and weekly rhythm at home. Bread making, nature walks, play dates. This can be a lovely nurturing time at home for the child if you feel inclined for that. Siblings really bonding too.
Our kinder journey
I was lucky to move interstate and find the most beautiful kinder. I cried when I saw it. The teacher was very experienced, wise and gentle. The first year at 3 he wasn't toilet trained so we delayed a year. So glad we did! He was no where near ready. A friend planted a seed in my mind about homeschooling and I noticed I tended to mostly connect with homeschooling mums I met in this new city. I started to think maybe I was actually one at heart too. A new thought for me. My son started to be interested in the book "a day in the Waldorf kinder" the following summer and started to put it down, pause silently and then say "yes I think I would like to go to kinder". Before the day I had a "going through the motions feeling". A sign I know as not going with my intuition. At the orientation morning my husband looked and felt physically sick like he was going to be ill all day. That was his intuition shouting. But still our minds wanted to give our son the opportunity at the beautiful kinder and we were happy switch to homeschooling if need be.
The first day he was very brave. He was excited and solemn at the same time. I went through the motions as happy as I could. He knew to hang his bag and go play in the garden. I went to say goodbye and he was silent. He lent his head to mine and walked off to the sandpit to talk to another boy. I knew he couldn't bring himself to say goodbye but he knew what he had to do. I went away feeling so proud of him. At pick up there was a melt down. A release of emotions he had bravely built up in the day. The next morning he wanted to come home with me. I lingered in the garden and then the teacher told me to tell him I was going to the shops and I'll be back. He sat at the bottom of the garden, cried, pushed me away. The teacher told me to not look back. I did and he looked at me with the safest face. Both corners of his mouth pulled right down.
I can't believe I walked away but I guess I respected the teacher so much. I asked another boy to go sit with him on my way out and he did. He sat on a rock all morning waiting for me.
The guilt I had after was awful. I couldn't do that again. The next morning in the shower I decided. I will trust my son. It felt so good throughout my whole body. Trusting him. If he chooses to have fun and makes friends in a lovely supported environment he can, if he would rather be at home he can. I trusted he would eventually choose having fun with friends. I went out and told him "I'm so proud if you for seeing what kinder is like. I'm sorry I walked away and I won't do that to you again. From now on if you want to come home with mummy you can. I went back and gently said to the teacher "I can't do that again, that's just not how I mother". She nodded and completely accepted my words. I then said I think if we spend time in the garden and go home and have a boring day he will love it and choose to stay. She said ok. And I respected her boundaries of when I could stay till and that I couldn't go on the morning walk or in the inside space. I then say in the garden each kinder morning. He would be sad when we arrived in the car park but then run out happily in the garden, despite no one playing with him and knew I was sitting at the door and would come back and check on me every now and then. Eventually with weather getting colder and painting in the mornings he was excited to go inside and paint. He let me go back to the car to get something. Then the school shop. Then when dropping him off toward the end of term and I said "can mummy go next door to the craft room?" He looked up at the sky paused and then said "yes" and ran off into the garden. We had got there. The next time he wanted to come home with me. I said to the teacher " it's always one step forward, two back". She gently smiled and said "but when he gets there it will really be consolidated. Unlike others that need to catch up inwardly". I'm very grateful for the space she held for us that term.
However, none of the children played with him, they called him annoying as he reverted to copy what children said in order to interact. "Don't play with him he's annoying" they would say if someone went to play with him. It was heart wrenching to see his polite attempts at making friends not reciprocated. "Hello. Would you like to jump with me". But still he was happy to go.
The next term week one, he was bullied. A group of boys decided to have fun with games that bullied my son. I was aware of the run away from him game, but he seemed ok and besides there was a slower boy running behind him. The teacher informed me of pointing and hissing at him at the bottom of the garden she put a stop to. Then I was watching like a hawk. They all had treasures from the garden with my son in the middle of the circle, offering them to him and not giving them when he reached. My son was smiling so I let it go a couple of minutes but then rolling him in the grass and taking turns dragging him in the grass was when I bolted for the teacher.
When I told my husband that night he said "he's just like his old man. I know that smile and what's underneath it" and he cried. He told me that little boys don't have epiphanies of let's be nice to him now and they will just get more sneaky. We met with the teacher and she agreed. She said he could see he was stressed by all the noise and stimulation in the room and he would take himself outside. Once I told her I was very happy to homeschooling she said she thinks that would really be in his best interest.
We pulled out and joined a homeschooling group. My son made a best friend which was so heartwarming and so did I in the mother. Our children adored each other for the rest of the year and we enjoyed play dates, dance classes and Forrest days with a lovely small group of mums and children each week. My son loved being at home last year and had a beautiful time with his younger sister.
It was a journey. The universe was guiding us. We found our way. I'm glad I could hold that space for my son. My son is now saying he would like to go to school. I know he would still find 20 children too stimulating and he doesn't understand 5 days a week. I tell him "Ok. I'm just waiting for you to be a bit older". And he says "ok mummy". Trusting in each other.
My daughter is completely different. She came and sat in the garden with me at the kinder. When we would walk out she would say "But I want to stay mummy and play with the girls". They have been gently parented exactly the same way. So please don't feel guilty if your child is not ready, as if it is something you have done or not done. Each child is just unique in their way
Have you any crafty intentions this year? There are so many beautiful reasons to do craft. Doing craft can be beautiful task to do in preparation for baby. Creating something beautiful filled with your love which your baby actually feels. Quieting your mind, giving lots of quiet time for reflection and spiritual preparation. I'm sure this is part of how women prepared for birth in "the olden days"
It's also a lovely chill out time while holding a space for toddler or preschooler play. Children learn from watching you be engaged and creative producing something with your hands.
So what is your thing? What inspires you, lights you up and makes you go "Oooh that's beautiful". Knitting? Booties, a hat, snuggle cocoon, bunny rug, embroidery, seeing, quilting, doll making, dry needle felting.... There are plenty of patterns available on Etsy or Pinterest or a book called "what to knit when expecting" by Nikki Van De Car and lots of great "How to ...." videos on YouTube that teach you practically anything crafty.
I encourage you to give something a try. It's a beautiful calming slowing grounding homemaking connecting experience.
My intention is to now finish a stocking for my daughter! Xxx