Monday, May 21, 2012

Don't Judge Attachment Parenting By its Cover

Something strange is happening.  I seem to be embracing the term “attachment parenting” more ever since the Time cover.  I’ve never liked labels.  Labels by their very definition attempt to make everyone the same.  And everyone is not the same.  So labels, by their very definition, fail every time. 

So I never voluntarily called myself AP.  I never embraced that title.  Heck, I’ve never even read a Dr. Sears book, and probably never will.  But there did come a time, when I wanted to find other people who parented the way I was parenting.  I wanted friends - mom friends - and using the AP label was the best and fastest way to do just that. 

Some seem to get all caught up in this word, “attachment.”  They think that AP means that you literally are attached to your kids 24/7.  If you don’t think people think that, just read THIS, written by a DOCTOR. 

And yes, I will freely admit there really are extremists out there that do try and literally stay attached to their kids 24/7.  They are few and far between; most AP parents are not extremists. 

Just like most republicans aren’t Ted Nugent, most computer nerds aren’t Bill Gates, most George Clooney fans don’t have an old VCR tape with every TV performance he ever made recorded on it (looks around innocently), and most people who advocate spanking as a discipline tool aren’t the parents on my local news last night who beat a toddler so bad she had two broken legs and two broken arms. 

Extremists do not discriminate; and honestly, we can all probably find something we are more extreme over than those around us.    But not all of us.  See what I did there?

Most AP moms are NOT extremists.  I can attest to this personally, because I practice AP type parenting like breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing, yet I am not an extremist.  I have also used, at one time or another, a bouncer, swing, highchair, crib, and stroller.  I’ve used formula and bottles.  I’ve made wonderful parenting decisions and huge parenting blunders. 

It has been kind of my goal in life to find the exact opposite of extremist - balance.  I’m just seeking the balance of life. 

My kids balance each other out pretty well.  The 6-year-old hardly eats a thing and sleeps like a log.  The 20-month-old eats like a hobbit and fights sleep with every single fiber of her being. 

It wasn’t my parenting that made them like this.  I didn’t use one parenting style with one and a radically different style with the other.  I parent them both using as balanced a mix of education and instincts as I can.  And that balance has evolved and changed as my education has gotten better and my instincts have gotten keener. 

This is just who they are.  And for me, the biggest part about being an attachment parent is listening to my child’s individual cues.  I don’t parent by the book, anybody’s book. 

The problem with criticizing AP in general is you force everyone practicing these techniques into the same label, and that just doesn’t work.  You can’t look at one AP mom and see an AP standard.  When you do that, you aren’t seeing her, you are just seeing words on a page (or a severely staged image). 

When trying to judge an AP mom, I would instead suggest looking at snippets of that mom’s life.  This way you will be judging her, not a stigma, an image, or a cover of a magazine. 

Here’s a snippet of this AP mom’s life, today’s naptime:

When my 20-month-old daughter rubbed her eyes and laid her head on my chest, I knew it was time for nap.  It didn’t shock me, this happens every day around the same time.  Not the EXACT same time, just around. 

I could have marched her into the bedroom, tucked her in, and left the room.  Then I could have listened to her cry for an hour while I tried to ignore how awful it felt by watching TV or folding laundry.  But I didn’t.

I could have wrapped her up on my chest with my Wrapsody baby wrap and worn her through her entire nap while I tried to watch TV or do the dishes with a gigantic baby attached to me.  But I didn’t.

What I did do, was put on Linda Ronstadt’s “Get Closer” album, scooped up my baby girl, and danced around the living room singing along to some of my very favorite songs.  Scarlett immediately laid her head on my shoulder and relaxed.  This was something we both enjoyed. 

By the time “People Gonna Talk” started playing (oh, the irony!), she was fast asleep.  That was only the 5th song on side one (listening on my mom’s vinyl), which means she fell asleep within 12 minutes, 36 seconds.  It could have happened a little before that, while I was distracted by the rock and roll.

Here’s the kicker: when I noticed she had fallen asleep, I didn’t immediately put her down.  I kept holding her, snuggling her, taking in her heat, her snuggles, her love.  I was waiting for the next song, “Talk to Me of Mendocino.”  I wanted to hold my baby and listen to that song.

The reason has less to do with AP and more to do with my life experience.  Mendocino always reminds me of my mom.  We listened to this entire album together more times than I can count, and ever since she died, this song makes me miss her, feel close to her, and think fondly of her.  My mom never read an AP book in her life, I'm not even sure she ever heard the term.  I'll tell you what, I was attached to my mom until the day she died, and beyond.

Scarlett also reminds me of my mom.  She was conceived just months after my mom’s death and born on my mom’s birthday.  She reminds me of my mom in so many ways.  So as I stood there in my living room, waiting to put my sleeping toddler to bed, I decided to hold her, and dance to Mendocino, and think about how much I loved my mom and how much I loved my sweet baby.

We were attached.  

I know, that kind of gloopity glop doesn’t have any science to back it up.  There is no parenting book that advocates it as a safe and effective way to get your kid to sleep.  There is no squeaky tight definition to describe it. 

It’s love.  That’s all.  This is how I loved my child today.  This is how I parented my child today.  This is how one AP mom got her child to take a nap today.  Tomorrow she may fall asleep in her stroller during our walk, she does that quite often.  Or maybe I’ll just lie her in bed and let her fall asleep while I lay next to her.  Maybe it will take 5 minutes.  Maybe it will take an hour.  Maybe it won’t happen at all and I will be thoroughly frustrated with nap time and spend the rest of the day trying to get over the irritation.

But today... for one AP mom mom.... nap time was a beautiful, musical success.

People Gonna Talk

People gonna talk about the things you do
They're gonna talk, be it lie or true
Night or day, day or night
They're gonna talk be it wrong or right

People gonna talk about you anyway
They're gonna talk no matter what you say
Night or day, day or night
They're gonna talk be it wrong or right

It seems they've just got to
Yakety yakety yak
Though they know best not to
The minute you turn your back

People gonna talk until they're satisfied
They're gonna talk until they make you cry
Near or far, here right now
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are

It seems they've just got to
Yakety yakety yak
Though they know best not to
The moment you turn your back

People gonna talk until they're satisfied
They're gonna talk until they make you cry
Here right now, near or far
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are

Talk To Me of Mendocino

I bid farewell to the state of old New York

My home away from home
In the state of New York I came of age

When first I started roaming

And the trees grow high in New York state
And they shine like gold in Autumn

Never had the blues (from) whence I came

But in New York state I caught 'em

Talk to me of Mendocino

Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?

Won't you say "Come with me?"

And it's on to Southbend, Indiana

Flat out on the Western plains

Rise up over the Rockies and down on into California

Out to where but the rocks remain

And let the sun set on the ocean

I will watch it from the shore

Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I'll rise with it till I rise no more

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes, I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won't you say "Come with me?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fortunes from a Filthy Floor

I've been struggling to get back in my groove ever since my daughter and I came home from the hospital.  My house isn't as clean as it usually is, my inbox isn't as organized as it should be, and I can barely spell the word schedule.  I did remember to brush my teeth today.... didn't I?

Last night after I put my daughter to bed and managed to stay awake past 8:30, I found myself alone for the first time in a while.  My husband had succumbed to the snuggling snoozer and was sleeping with the baby.  I pondered what to do with my alone time.  I could sit on the couch and watch some TV.  Or I could clean.

I decided to clean.  I finally found some motivation, so I used it to just keep pushing myself.  Every time I would get something done, I would find something else that needed attention.  I'll just do these dishes and then I'll take a break.  I'll just clean up this half eaten crayon and put away this tent.  I'll just fold this basket of clean towels.  I'll just pick up the blanket of toys in the playroom.  Where would it stop?

Then, as I grabbed up the last plastic pickle from the carpet, a small piece of paper just outside the room on the tile floor caught my eye.  As I tried to decide if I was going to mop the floor or not, I picked it up and saw it was a fortune cookie fortune.  This is what it said:

"It is what you haven't done that will torment you."

Whoa.  That stopped me dead in my tracks.  I pondered the message for a moment.  Then I decided it was time to go sit on my couch and watch an entire episode of Frasier, alone and uninterrupted - unkempt floor be damned.  

Yes.  This is what I will do.  Decision made. 

As I walked by the kitchen, unable to keep my eyes off the filthy floor, I caught sight of another piece of paper closer to the door.  I picked it up and realized it was another fortune.  

"It's in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."

I can't make this stuff up, folks.  

For the record, my floor still needs to be mopped and that was one funny episode of Frasier. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yes! I am Mom Enough!

According to the internet, Time magazine has put a question to every single mother in America: Are you mom enough? I'd like to take a moment to address that question.

When I planned my first natural birth, I was mom enough.  When I instead had an emergency cesarean birth, I was mom enough.  When doctors tried to tell me how to birth my second baby, I was mom enough.  When I had a VBAC at home, I was mom enough.

When I planned to breastfeed my baby because I knew it was best for her, I was mom enough.  When I had an enormous amount of trouble breastfeeding after my cesarean birth, I was mom enough. 

When I was told in the hospital to pour formula on my nipples to help my baby latch, I was mom enough.  When it took two hours just to GET her to latch on, I was mom enough.  When I got in trouble with the nurses because I let her sleep too long without nursing her, I was mom enough.  When I let her sleep on top of my chest, I was mom enough.

When breastfeeding didn’t get any easier once I went home, I was mom enough.  When all I did for three weeks was breastfeed my daughter, I was mom enough.  When I finally couldn’t take anymore and I pumped a bottle of breastmilk so her dad could feed her, I was mom enough. 

When I started to supplement with formula, I was mom enough.  When my daughter wanted to hold her own bottle at 4 months old, I was mom enough.  When I started solid food too early (4 months) I was mom enough.  When I tried and tried and tried to get my kid to eat something, ANYTHING, I was mom enough.

When my first daughter weaned at 7 months and never wanted the breast again, I was mom enough.

When nursing my second daughter was a breeze, I was mom enough.  When I nursed her all the time, whenever she wanted, I was mom enough.  When I nursed her in public, I was mom enough.  When I kept nursing her past a year, I was mom enough.  

When my 20 month old daughter still asks for "babas" and I breastfeed her, I am mom enough.   When I night weaned that 20-month-old because I needed.  To.  Sleeeeeep.  I was mom enough. 

When I get a cold and stay in bed as much as I can, I’m mom enough.  When my extremely introverted personality just can’t handle the PTO, I am mom enough.  When I take my girls to the park almost every single day, I am mom enough.  When I let them watch TV, I am mom enough.

When I tried a horrible pocket sling with Dani and hated it, I was mom enough.  When I carried her in her infant carrier or pushed her in a stroller, I was mom enough.  When I researched wraps during my second pregnancy, I was mom enough.  When I used a wrap, sling, or baby carrier through most of my second daughter’s first month of life, I was mom enough.  When I still put my 20-month-old in a wrap, I am mom enough.  When I put them in swings and bouncers, I was mom enough.

When I made a big hubbub about what kind of carseat we would get for our first, I was mom enough.  When I THOUGHT I was doing the right thing, and turned my daughter forward-facing at 1 year and 20 pounds, I was mom enough.  When I learned how horribly dangerous that was, I vowed to keep my second child rear facing as long as humanly possible and to keep my first daughter in a five-point harness and then a booster seat as long as possible, I was mom enough.  

When I wouldn’t even consider cloth diapers with my first child, I was mom enough.  When I did decide to cloth diaper my second child, I was mom enough.  When I can't shut up to other moms about how cool cloth diapers are, even if they don't really want to hear it, I am mom enough. 

When I would go outside to smoke cigarettes, I was mom enough.  When I finally gave up smoking after 15 years, I was mom enough.

When I make carbanara, pesto meatballs with spaghetti squash, feta and kale casserole, and spinach salads for dinner, I am mom enough.  When I cook pancakes for dinner, I am mom enough.  When I take my kids to McDonald’s for dinner, I am mom enough.

When I actually get to sleep in, I am mom enough.

When I play with my kids, I am mom enough.  When I spend an entire day focused on my beautiful babies playing with them and loving them and napping with them, I am mom enough.  When I spend the day blogging or crafting or reading, I am mom enough.  When I actually find the balance between all that stuff, I am SUPER MOM!

I could go on and on and on.  And I encourage everyone reading this right now to give some more examples in the comments! My point is this:

I am the only mom my kids have.  I’m all they have ever known.  And hopefully I will be around to be all they ever know for a very, very long time.  They’re definition of perfection is me -- with all my mistakes, and my impatient moments, and my horrible mistakes (did I say that already) -- I am their perfect mom.  And as long as I always keep striving to become a better mom, I will always be mom enough for them.

And when the mom guilt comes, when I feel so insecure I think ANYbody would be a better parent to these wonderful kids than I, when I need a little help remembering that I am mom enough.... I’m going to look at my kids.  I’m going to look at my happy, healthy, well-adjusted, sometimes little farking hellions, strong, smart, and beautiful kids.  Not at the cover of Time magazine. 

I am mom enough.  And so are you.  Peace.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: What Kawasaki Disease Looks Like

This is my daughter on her first day of kindergarten, August of 2011.  I never thought of her as being particularly muscular, but she was always extremely active and very strong.  She definitely has the body of an athlete, to me.

This is my daughter in the middle of her second Kawasaki Disease, April of 2012, just 8 short months after the first picture was taken.  This is only the 9th day of her sickness.  10 days before this, she felt fine and she looked like the first picture.  What strikes me most remarkable is the loss of muscle in her legs.

She had just beaten her dad at foosball.  It was a good day.

By the way, I SUCK at Wordless Wednesdays! If you are here looking for information on KD, please check out Desperately Seeking Kawasaki and the KD page on my blog.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Desperately Seeking Kawasaki Disease

I haven’t written anything in a while because I’ve been dealing with a very sick kid.  My daughter just recently went through her second bout of Kawasaki Syndrome.  Yes, that’s right, my daughter has had Kawasaki Syndrome more than once.  I’m going to be mentioning that a lot because when terrified parents put “can my child get Kawasaki Syndrome twice” into a search engine, I want them to actually find something that may HELP.

I think I need to back up just a bit, though.  Considering only 19 out of 100,000 American kids will contract Kawasaki Disease, there aren’t too many people out there thinking about their kids getting Kawasaki Disease more than once.  Most people haven’t even heard of Kawasaki Disease.  Insert motorcycle joke here. 

If it wasn’t so terrifying when it’s happening to your own child, it would be a pretty interesting research project.  For one thing, it is an extremely young disease.  Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese pediatrician, gave this disease its namesake and definition in 1967. 

Kawasaki Disease is a self-limited vasculitis that causes inflammation in the small and medium blood vessels of the body.  It most often occurs in children under five years old, but let me just address that “most often” phrase right now.  Don’t listen to it.  Not when it comes to Kawasaki Disease.  It has been my experience, that the very nature of this disease calls for the rare and uncommon to apply to your child.

Kawasaki Disease comes with a list of really weird symptoms including (but not limited to!) persistent fever for 5 days, chapped and cracked lips, swollen and/or strawberry tongue, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, swollen hands and feet, red palms and soles, and blood shot eyes.  The biggest cause for concern with Kawasaki Syndrome is the effect it has on the cardiovascular system.  According to the Kawasaki Disease Foundation, "Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children."

The age of Kawasaki Disease can be both a blessing and a curse.  Much is still unknown about this disease, which is a big reason why it’s so scary.  There is no diagnostic test for Kawasaki Syndrome.  You can’t just draw some blood and run some labs; doctors must instead rely on observational symptoms and a thorough history, most often given by the parent.

There is also no diagnostic tool to tell us when the child is cured.  I learned this first hand when my daughter was not only diagnosed with a recurrence of Kawasaki Syndrome and A-typical Kawasaki Syndrome, but also Refractory Kawasaki Syndrome.  That’s basically a fancy way of saying the disease sometimes doesn’t go away with the standard medical treatment of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).

But the fact that Kawasaki Syndrome is such a new disease brings with it hope for more information to come.  We can only learn more, which is a big reason why I was finally convinced to start writing about it.  This second Kawasaki scare was one of the most stressful periods of my life, but it also brought out in me strength I wasn’t sure I had.  I’ve finally been bitten by the “cause” bug, I guess.  I want to learn as much as I can.  I want to share that information with as many other parents as I can.  I want to help other parents during their struggle with Kawasaki Syndrome.  I want to help other children, just as brave and strong as Dani, to fight this disease. 

I’m going to be dedicating some personal blog space to this.  Not only to Kawasaki Syndrome in particular, but I also want to talk about how to navigate the medical system.  This is so important to ALL parents of sick children, but it has special meaning to parents dealing with Kawasaki Syndrome, because the diagnosis and treatment fall so heavily on the parents’ shoulders!

I’ve also started a Facebook page dedicated to Kawasaki Syndrome.  Desperately Seeking Kawasaki will be a place parents and caregivers can find information, but also a place to vent frustrations and find support from other parents who know what they are going through.  But I can’t do it alone! I need other parents and their individual, vital information.  The only way a page like this will be successful is with the sharing of ideas and information.

The only way to beat Kawasaki Disease is to work together.  Have you been affected by Kawasaki Syndrome? Do you know someone who has been affected? Please click over to Desperately Seeking Kawasaki, share it with those you think could help, and join me on my Kawasaki Disease Awareness journey.

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