Hello this … Thursday … morning. Half past 09. But. Still sleepy morning in our holiday rhythm here. Where kids get to bed 10-11 pm. Once the sun is down…
I´ve been asked in a comment if I can write something about being alone with a newborn child. Very good suggestion. And I should be able to, as I was a single mother with my first born daughter, from pregnancy until she was 2 and a half.
It was a shock to have the first child. I think it must be for every mother. A mother is born as well as a child that day. I remember saying to my aunt, that it felt like having my heart taken out of my body, holding it in my hand, knowing that from now on, every moment, I have to look after this inner organ first, before I tend to the rest of me. 🙂 Everything else goes on hold. Espccially when you are the only caretaker in the home. Forget about that sleep. It has to wait. And clean the house?! I had a girlfriend help me go shopping. She bought foodstuffs to cook with, and then instant energizers such as yoghurt. So that I after breastfeeding could get some energy in me, so I could face the work of cooking…
It was hard. My daughter had colic. Every single day from 0 to 3 months of age, she would cry and scream and cry. I had to lay her down on our bed some times, leave the room and go into the other room of the flat, to get half a minute´s time to breathe. Fantasies on throwing the baby out the window, thank Goodness I had read this is normal, or I would have felt extremely frightened and guilty by my own thoughts and feelings in those moments…
Well. Once she was 3 months old, life became extremely peaceful. I could actually sit down in the evenings with her, instead of walking, carrying her, hour after hour. We had a cat. He´d been born same date as my daughter, in my flat, one year prior to her. He would lie in bed with us whilst we were breastfeeding, holding one paw on baby´s head and the other paw on my shoulder, spinning, watching over us. So sweet.
I felt with my newborn, like a lion mother. This was the image that came to me, in the hospital, I remember. Just so protective, and filled with new, or blossomed, instinct, to protect, to make sure everything´s okay around us… I felt to be in the innermost corner of a cave with my child, the most safe place, undisturbed by aggravating noise from half present, unaware people, talking about things that don´t matter. Chit chatter.
Well. I became a mother, all of a sudden, and. Though it was hard, it was also the best thing that had ever happened to me. I was needed, and important, now a leader. Deeply loved. We were twosomeness. Communication. Emotions. Empathy. These “things” that mean the most to me. Now it all came in handy, not just burdens of my personality, standing out as weird and misunderstood, but central character traits in me that were a blessing, and a need, for my child.
We did everything together. Were everywhere together. Of course. We spent a weekend a month at my parents´, who lived 3 hours further down the west coast of Norway. But even there, though we had company, it was still me and her that were connected at the hip, so to speak. Because I was her world. And she was mine.
It just felt natural, to be honest. I got used to managing things alone. For example I remember being in a cafe with her on my hip, big babychair in the other hand, and then pushing a door open with my elbow and shoulder for us to get through. Some stranger came rushing to open the door for us. Only then did I realize that I could have asked for help. But in a home with a baby and only one adult, there´s no one to turn to. So you get used to just fixing everything moment to moment, as best you can. And you realize that you´re capable of fixing the strangest, most difficult stuff, with just one hand, baby on your hip. 🙂
I had a beautiful baby basket hanging above the foot end of my bed. The bedroom was small and the roof slanted. She slept there a couple of half nights, but I realized that I took her up to feed her in my bed after a couple of hours anyways, so she just moved over into my bed and we used the basket for swinging in the daytime. We also had a jump harness. I strapped her in, it was attached to the ceiling, I put on some happy music and we danced and jumped about together, every evening for months and months. Laughing and joking. Very fond memories.
We created routines together. I had not been much for routines before her arrival. But with my daughter came a set rhythm of mealtimes, playtime, let´s go for a walk-to-the playground-time… Every morning started with us going downstairs to let in our beloved cat, Puma Pyjamas. (He was orange and grey in sand beachy stripes, looked like a pyjamas when he was tiny and thin inside his skin…) As an adult, he was a strong, half Norwegian wood cat, very handsome and extremely gentle and loving. I remember one time, my daughter was crawling after him to pet him / pull his ear, and he leapt up and left just before she reached him… he did it once, twice, three times. The toddler just thought it was a game. He was tired after the long night outside. Then he sat down, mid floor. My daughter crawled over to him and pulled his ear. I could actually see on his face he was fed up. He lifted his arm, claws well pulled in, and hit her one on the top of her head!! She stopped in her tracks. Didn´t cry. But I could see the message was clear. No more! Stop this! She never chased him again. Nor pulled his ears. Big brother had spoken and she got it, loud and clear!
It was amazing to be the three of us. Puma was also very useful in teaching her empathy. To be careful. Noticing others´needs. Every time she approached him, for weeks on end, I´d say “careful! A-aaah….”, showing her not to pull at his fur, but to pet him gently, helping her practice stroking his back, until she had mastered the gentle touching. Then one day she was crawling towards the edge of the bed, I shouted “Careful!”, and she immediately replied “A-aaaa”, and stroked the bed gently! Hahahaha….
I remember once we were in this church, where they had organized playtime for single parents with kids. They had this massive floor space with toys, and they gave free lunch at the end of the play session. We had to join in the singing of some christian songs, but I could live with that in exchange for some social hours with other adults! Plus my daughter was too young to get the fear inducing lyrics of some of the songs.
Point is, one day there was this Russian mother there with her twin sons. She spoke no Norwegian and hardly any English. She was clearly exhausted, and the boys were acting out, very hard to keep up with. All of a sudden one of her boys had scratched my daughter so she was bleeding from quite a deep scratch on her nose! She cried, and I comforted her. Then the Russian mother came over and was so upset, apologizing in her very limited English…. My daughter, age 18 months, looked at her and went over and gave her a long hug!! The Russian mother teared up. I shall never forget that moment. I realized my daughter´s empathic skills were top notch.
What more can I say… I just always followed what felt natural to me with my kids. Followed their lead in many ways. Gave them what they needed. Breast fed for years. Carried them. Shared my bed with them. Still do some times, and they enjoy sleeping with each other. Tons of free quality time to be gained from co sleeping. Helps us all feel connected, safe, emotionally secure and loved. Actually people who co sleep also move in and out of REM sleep together! I´ve read… I also read that my natural instinct methods are probably aligned with what they call Attachment Parenting.
Gave them what they needed. Not what they wanted. Not sugar, and too late bedtimes. Not every toy, and candy when we´re out shopping. One of the most important words to teach them, is “no”. To accept it and move on with grace. A gentle no, but a solid one. Followed up by “when mommy says no, it´s no”. Until that second sentence is no longer needed.
A “no” that comes as rarely as possible. I only use it when it is necessary. If I can, I say yes, or “maybe later”. I stretch for my children´s will, and that has the nice consequence of them stretching for my will, too. What I show them, they copy. They are so eager to co operate, it´s very moving. All they want is to be seen, understood and loved as they are. And leading by example, I receive the same from them, they try to understand me and love me as I am.
Apart from the magic of a steady, rare, but calm and solid “no”, there is the word “thank you”. Very important word. And then “I´m sorry”. Once there´s siblings, especially. “I´m sorry” doesn´t necessarily mean you did something wrong, but the recipient of what you did, feels hurt by it somehow. So you just say “I´m sorry”, because you did not mean to hurt her/him. I want this phrase to come automatically and easily, like it does from Brits in the supermarket. “Oh, I´m sorry” they will say if they bump into you whilst reaching for the milk. I like that. It creates smoothe social interaction, and stops friction. People need respect.
Another word that is important to teach them, I realized once I got the two youngest children, who are only almost 2 years apart… is “STOP!” Not necessarily shouted, but said very very clearly. And then followed up by a parent looking up, saying “She said stop! Did you not hear it?” if the behaviour continues. And then if still no respect, to walk over and remove the non listening child and say “It is very important to stop when someone says stop, because you also want your sister to stop when you say stop to her. If you don´t stop when she says it, then she will also not stop when you say stop.”
I mean it. I have used short explanations like this again and again, for phases uf their upbringing. It took ages before the youngest would stop biting his siblings! For example. Doesn´t make him evil or stupid. Makes him natural for his age.
Bad behaviour that can be ignored, I ignore, and it stops. Good behaviour gets tons of positive attention, and hence is strengthened. And then there is the biting etc. Which, before “stop!” can be used, is handled by taking the troublemaker, sitting her/him down and looking into her/his eyes, our eyes level, saying “no” in a basetone voice. They get it. From day one.
Then follow up with “Look! She´s crying! Pooooor so-and-so… That hurt!”
Empathy is a learnt character trait. Scaringly enough. These days with kids going into institutionalized care from 8 months of age…. who teaches them this one on one coaching that they need, to learn empathy and respecting others? It takes so much time and close attention. It CAN NOT be taught in a big group to the level it can in a twosome adult-child constellation.
My kids started kindergarten age 2. I could then feel they needed more stimulation than I managed to give them. They were safe and sound, ready to explore wider horizons. Great! They have all had half day care only. 9am to 1pm. And when I picked them up, they were tired and needed to come home and rest. Their ears, eyes, minds. Life in a big group of peers and adults is stimulating and fun, and also stressful, demanding.
So now they are age 13, 8 and 6. My youngest starts school after this summer holiday. I will really miss walking into the kindergarten in the mornings, greeting all the children there, having conversations with them all, learning their names. I love children for their openness, honesty, vulnerability. Loving hearts. Trust. Laughter. They are my favourite kind of people. 🙂
I think I will have to find a way to work with children. Not as a teacher in school, but. Maybe through the sound therapy or hypnosis. I don´t know yet. Time will tell, though. I rest assured.