Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Speaking to the Need

Welcome to the March Mindful Mama Carnival: Mindful Mama Challenge
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have challenges they've set for themselves toward becoming more mindful. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


On a scale of 1 to 10 for mindfulness, I would probably rate myself at around 2-3. I tend to be more on the reactive end of the scale. So, writing about how I am trying to challenge myself to be more mindful in my parenting is a particularly apt topic for me. I’ve got a long way to go to become the parent I want to be and that my children deserve. Nonetheless I actually have had a few successful moments. One way I’ve been able to bring more mindfulness to my parenting is by speaking to the need.

I adhere to the philosophy that children behave in ways that they think will enable them to meet an underlying need. Three-year old SchmoopyBoy has been struggling a bit with increased independence and the need to control what he gets to do - with his time and otherwise. Frustration can sometimes ensue. I have recently had remarkable success in diffusing meltdowns by acknowledging when he is trying to get his needs met, articulating that I also have a need that I am trying to meet, and then talking about what to do next.

Here is one example. We allow for screen time in our house, but my husband and I enforce limits on the time spent in front of a screen. Sometimes SchmoopyBoy wants to exceed the limit that we have established. One day in particular he wanted to watch more TV than we usually allow. The alternative to TV that he suggested was to play a video game on the computer. He became very upset that he was not permitted to engage in either activity. In trying to find an alternative, he requested that we bake muffins. I should mention here that I commonly bake with SchmoopyBoy during the weekend. He and I both enjoy the time together as well as the homemade goodies. I should also mention that this episode took place in the middle of the week. I was home from work in the evening and was trying to get dinner started. Evenings tend to be very hectic and busy between dinner and bedtime while the husband works evenings.

The thought that first entered my head when SchmoopyBoy requested that we bake was “Not a chance. There is no way we are going to have time to bake muffins at this time of evening when I’ve got to prepare dinner and I’m going to have to start bath time and bedtime routines for two kids.”

But then I thought for a moment and asked myself - Is that really true? The baby took a late nap that day, so there could be more flexibility with bedtime. Preparing the batter could take as little as 15 minutes. With a bake time about a half hour and about 10 minutes for cooling, we could easily have muffins prepared and ready to eat in an hour. And really, the bottom line was that I just didn’t want to bake muffins because I was feeling tired and because baking during the week at evening time falls outside our regular routine and I wasn’t comfortable with that. After acknowledging my true reasons for not wanting to bake muffins, and further acknowledging that SchmoopyBoy was so upset because he was feeling out of control and was frustrated that he wasn’t being allowed to do any of the activities he wanted, I concluded that “I just don’t want to” was not a good enough reason to tell SchmoopyBoy “No” to baking muffins.

So, I told him that I understood that he has needs that he want to meet, and that I understood that he has a need to control what he does with his time and what activities he partakes in. I further told him that I also have needs that I am trying to meet. At that moment, I felt the need to take care of my family by preparing a healthy dinner. I told him I wanted to figure out how we could both need our needs, and suggested that after I prepare dinner and we are finished eating, then we could make muffins. He enthusiastically agreed, and in fact helped me prepare dinner. All whining, complaining, or any other expressions of frustration completely disappeared. After dinner he was in such a good mood, he didn’t even want to make muffins anymore and was happy to simply play with me.

I am not always able to satisfy his desire. Sometimes I have to acknowledge that he wants to meet his need, and then explain that I am saying no because I also have a need. For example, another time he wanted more screen time and insisted there was nothing else he wanted to do. I acknowledged that he wanted to meet his need for control over his activities, and then explained that I said No to his current desire based on my need to take care of him and help him grow up healthy and strong. I told him that I limit his screen time because I believe too much screen time is bad for his brain. When asked “Why?” I tried to keep the conversation at a 3-year old level and told him that when he older and is trying to learn in school, he might have a hard time concentrating. Satisfied with this answer, we had some food and SchmoopyBoy started singing a song.

I think that SchmoopyBoy appreciates that I am making an effort to really hear him, and that I am explicitly saying to him, I get it, I understand that you have a need that want to meet. The very act of being heard in this way appears to soothe him. I still miss the boat with him more often than I’d like, but with more successes, I’m hoping speaking to the underlying need will become more second nature.


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Not So Glamourous Life of a Working Mom

"You wear a lot of hats at your house" observes a co-worker. Indeed I do.

That is how I end up, several mornings per week, sitting topless and cross legged on the floor of my bathroom in front of a mirror after a shower, with a baby cradled in my lap, my knees supporting him as he nurses at 5:30 in the morning because gawd forbid the child should sleep more than 15 minutes in the morning without my warm body by his side, my hands occupied with a hairbrush and eyeliner.

I sometimes feel like I live in the Land of Too Much and Not Enough.

Not Enough sleep.... is what I'm getting.

Not Enough milk... is what I'm pumping at work.

Not Enough time... is what I have for each child one-on-one.

Not Enough attention... is what I am giving to my relationship with my husband.

Too Much mess and clutter... is all over my home.

Too Much stress... is what I feel.

Too Much pressure... is what I am under.

"We need lots and lots of Shanas" SchmoopyBoy tells me. When your three-year old thinks you need to clone yourself, you know you're in trouble.

I can't complain because, ultimately this is the life I chose (sort of). Just sayin'... sometimes I'm just hanging on by a very thin thread...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ina May Gaskin on Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate and More

Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman interviewed famous midwife Ina May Gaskin. They talk about the rising U.S. maternal mortality rate and midwifery in the U.S. in general. You can watch the interview here, where there are links to download the audio file and read the transcript as well.

A few choice quotes:
We don’t have feedback to our obstetricians, to our hospitals or maternity wards, to find out what we’re doing wrong and why the United States is one of four countries in the world where the maternal death rate is going up, not down.
Insurance has incredible power now, power that it didn’t have 70 years ago. It’s the reason that doctors aren’t learning to do breech deliveries anymore...it’s one of the huge reasons that we have very few midwives in this country. We need 120,000 more easily.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yummy Octopus

I was talking to SchmoopyBoy about dinner, and he told me he wanted to eat an octopus. (Don't ask, I have no idea.) So, I made him an octopus for dinner.

Cucumber body/head, raisin eyes stuck on the head with short pieces of skewers, and 8 fried tofu tentacles all on a bed of couscous. (Please excuse the mess around the plate, I had a hungry kiddo so I didn't take the time to clean my workspace.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The most awesome-tastic thing you will read this week

is by, of course, the always inspiring Karen Walrond at Chookooloonks. Go read her list of 10 things she wants her daughter, and all young people, to know on International Women's Day.

Go, be inspired.

Lil' Schmoo at 5 months

Lil' Schmoo is a delightful baby. Cheerful little fellow. Easy with a smile for everyone he sees. On his 5-month birthday he was sick. Nonetheless, when I put him on his tummy to take a picture, he pulled this happy face: 

Of course these days he doesn't stay on his tummy for long. He's been rolling over for over a month, and it's hard to keep him on his tummy for more than a couple of minutes before - plop - onto his back he rolls. 

And the toes - delicious as they are cute.
Now, if only the child would sleep...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why I need to carry a tape recorder at all times

It's because the things that come out of 3 year old SchmoopyBoy's mouth are priceless.

Example 1.
We were listing colors. I have no recollection why we were listing colors, but nonetheless we were.

SchmoopyBoy: Clear.
Me: (mostly to myself) Is clear really a color?
SchmoopyBoy: Clear is a shiny color that lives in the circus!

Well, there you have it.

Example 2.
I am sitting on the floor with SchmoopyBoy and Lil' Schmoo.

Me: Are you my SchmoopyBoy?
SchmoopyBoy: I am a Schmoopy Boy. He is a Slobber Boy. And you are a Mom-er Boy.

I am one of the club, apparently. How flattering. And yes, as a matter of fact, Lil' Schmoo is indeed a slobber boy these days.

Example 3:
A bit of background information - We have been talking a bit about meat and vegetarianism because he has become interested in the show Dinosaur Train, which talks about carnivores and herbivores. He knows that our family doesn't eat meat, but doesn't fully understand it all yet.

Also, one of the imaginative games SchmoopyBoy likes to play is to pretend that he is Abby Cadaby and I am Mommy Cookie Monster and he is "poofing" me a cookie of my choice. After poofing me an imaginary chocolate chip cookie, peanut butter cookie, and oatmeal raisin cookie, he makes an announcement about the next cookie.

SchmoopyBoy: This one has people meat!
Me: (surprised, disturbed, beside myself, almost afriad to ask) What is people meat?
SchmoopyBoy: People meat is a special kind of food that is in this cookie!

Okay, then. I guess I'll just dig in to that cookie now. Mmm, people meat.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Funny or Disturbing?

The husband sent me this satire on the current women's health debate. It's basically a bunch of middle aged white men and one gratuitous black man mansplaining their positions on women's health and contraception. It's supposed to be funny, however I found myself wincing and getting a lump in my stomach a few times. While some parts are over the top ridiculous, I think a few too many men actually do think this way, which is why it made me uncomfortable in some parts.

What do you think? Funny or disturbing or perhaps a little bit of both?