Momma Mondays: quickie post

9 08 2010

Today was a day of traveling.  And, of visiting family from England.  So, this blog is a quick post.

Today, I learned how to make dogs out of balloons, with my daughter, my step mom and her sister.  it’s things like this that remind me of the pure joy of mothering. (We did, indeed take pictures, but not on my camera, so, until tomorrow, there are no pics… sorry!)

I love the pure experience of play.  Just being totally involved with the journey of playing, without any expectation of true outcome.  The balloons were blown and truly, the dog creation was quite secondary to the act of pumping the balloons, tying them and then playing with them without tying them to look like anything.

We seem to lose this in adulthood, looking towards results rather than experiences, goals instead of journeys.

I give so much thanks to my daughter for the experience of motherhood, the journey that it is, knowing that the true results will never be shown, as I will, hopefully, be long gone before she ends her life, and her children’s children will go on, all part of the journey we are experiencing now.

I like the free form of the journey, rather than the structure of results, for most things.  Definitely, little A’s life is so much based on experience rather than goals.  I find that when the I put goals in front of her, for many things, I find that she either forgets about the goal, or, once it is accomplished, she is fairly non-plussed about it, because it means that the game is over.

She knows that the game doesn’t end.  And she teaches me this all the time.



Thrilling Thursdays, or, why I love my family

5 08 2010

So, what is thrilling for me right now is this: FAMILY!

Yup, they are great.  My family is my dad and step mom and my mom and step dad.  My brother too, but he is all the way out in Victoria, so I rarely see him, unfortunately.  And, of course, my daughter.

This is pic of the Top Know Crew, my dad, step mom, little A and I sporting our top knots this spring

The reason they are thrilling is this: when I am with them, I am a better parent in many ways.  When I am with them, they, without asking, take initiative on helping me with parenting.  Instead of shying away with my screaming child, they come in and scoop her up into a thousand giggles.  They teach her things that I don’t, like how to play frisbee or how to play the piano.  Especially my birth parents, reflect to me so much of where I came from, how I can evolve our family and help me along in that evolutionary process.

They do some of the dishes, without ever being asked.  They cook nutritious meals, without ever being asked.

Now, this might not seem like a lot, but it’s the kind of support that I yearn for in a community.  Community has been my Holy Grail.  I have searched for a community that I could run away to the land with and raise our children together for as long as I can remember having independent adult thought.  I have searched all over this great Turtle Rock and have met so many amazing people.

All the galaxies shine with the beauty of the people that I have met, each an infinite star exploding its glorious light into the Universe.  I have learned so much from all of them.  Yet, when it came time for the vision to really ground, ie: when I had a baby, they were as distant as those star systems, only pinpoints of light in my vision, instead of the brilliant and nurturing suns I hoped they would be.

And that is where they were all at.  And I honour that.

And, I realize what a blessing my family truly is, because though they aren’t necessarily the most spiritually nourishing or socially conscious folks I know, they are ready, willing and HAPPY to assist me in the raising of my daughter.  And really, they have wonderful lessons too.

And while I know I can’t live with just them, I want to find some sort of middle ground, where I can be near them and also be with community, of some sort, as I still, naively or not, believe that solid people will actually be able to become a part of my community one day.

So that feels pretty monumentous, because I always thought I wouldn’t want to be near my family, that integrating them into my life would be like oil and water.  I feel like I am coming to a place where I believe that I can integrate family and community like a nice, smooth vinaigrette.

mmmmm creamy!


Transitioning away from the nuclear family

9 06 2010

I think a lot about the nuclear family, because I am in it.  I have a child, a home and, up until a little while ago, a partner.  We lived in a house, strove to save money, accumulated stuff and generally played out the role of the nuclear family.

And I definitely don’t define myself as a person who is caught up in mainstream society.

However, there is little alternatives.  The nuclear family is what we are offered.  I have, in my past, lived in community houses, on intentional community land and in different communities around North America.  I loved it, and, after having a child, moved away from that dynamic, as I found that there were little skills, inkling or knowledge within those particular communities about how to be the village that raises the child.  I reclused into the nuclear family because the nuclear family structure was what was really at the bottom of the hearts of most of the community members I was working with.

I look at the nuclear family structure as comprising several distinct elements:

1.  Social isolation from others in the community/neighbourhood

2. Private ownership of things

3. Need to deal with/hide “family matters” from others

4. Hierarchical structure of family and, often, into community

When we all live in little boxes, with fences between them, with just our immediate family of two adults and then any children that come along, many issues occur.

We get children who, often, do not have their emotional needs met, as the needs of one child are so great.  So, we get children who are then becoming increasingly more stressed, ill, apathetic and disconnected.  As children are only exposed to the viewpoints of their parents, they are often sheltered from other viewpoints, and this causes greater prejudice and judgment to occur in little minds.  We get mothers and fathers who need help but are afraid to reach out to the greater community for child care, emotional support or any number of other things.  We get a network of segregated, isolated and disempowered people.

But, wait you say, this is supposed to be a post about moving away from an oil dependent society, as that’s the theme this week and you haven’t even mentioned anything about it.

Oil dependency, consumerism and the rise of the nuclear family can all go hand-in-hand, I would say.  When we transition away from any one of these things, we transition away from all of them.

We have the ability to be physically comfortable in a nuclear family model only because of our oil dependency.  In countries where there is less abundance of oil, less consumption and generally less income, there is a higher rate of community togetherness.  Why?  Because no one can afford to do things by themselves.  They must help each other, because together they are stronger and actually able to acquire resources and get things done.  They build homes together because no one hires help to build homes for them.  And because of this, they have homes, and they are stronger as a community.

Our consumption and affluence allows us to isolate ourselves from each other, because, if we can afford it, we can get a faceless-nameless someone to do it for us.

So, how can we transition ourselves away from the nuclear family model, to allow us to support each other and our children, more amazingly?

Luckily, it’s pretty easy, though it does require a little bit guts to approach strangers.  I always think this: “strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet.”  That usually helps the process.

So, here’s a list, as I like them and find them helpful.  This is by no means comprehensive, but just gives you an idea of what you could do.

1.  Meet your neighbours.  Knock on doors, stop and say hello when you see them outside, wave at them in their living room when you’re passing.  Remember your winning smile.  See who they are, what they like doing, where they work, all that good stuff.

2.  Gather with your neighbours.  Once you’ve met them all, invite them all over for dinner.  Or out to coffee.  Or to a movie.  Whatever floats your boat.  I always like potlucks, because sharing food is such a powerful symbol and, is a great common connector.  Everyone eats right?

3.  Talk to strangers on the street.  Saying hello and opening up conversation with people on the street can spark the most wonderful connections.  You just never know who is walking down the street.

I remember once, I was walking down the street in Toronto and passed a man, said “hello” and ended up getting a series of healing sessions from him for free and did several massage workshops with him.  It was an instant connection that happened because I took a step in connecting.

4.  Share your things.  If you have something, like say, a lawnmower, and you don’t use it everyday, offer it to the neighbourhood to use.  This way, there is something that can be used, consumption is lowered and you make closer connections.  I have a mom friend that says “a great way to make friends is to share your toys.” and it’s true for adults too.

5.  Ask to borrow.  Before you run out and buy that thing that you only need a tiny bit of, like WD-40 or dried tarragon, ask your neighbours if they have any.  Then let them know if there’s anything they need, to feel free to ask you.  It saves you all, most people don’t mind sharing a teaspoon of tarragon (or whatever) and it creates stronger community bonds.

6.  Start a buying club.  Do you buy food?  Would you like for it to be cheaper?  Then you can join or start a buying club.  These are people who buy the same sorts of things and, when bought in bulk, are cheaper.  You could go in with two other people on 50lbs of flour or rice or whatever it is you eat.

6. Share your feelings with others.  When your neighbours ask “how are you doing?” open up.  Let them know that your dog just died, your grandmother just remarried at age 96 or that your child just discovered the word “mama”.  These things open up deeper and more meaningful relations.

7.  Share your backyards.  Take down the fences.  Explore the joys of seeing your neighbours, throwing a burger on the barbeque together, letting the kids play together etc.  It removes the isolation and allows our children (and ourselves) to create meaningful relations with those immediately surrounding us.

8. Create a child care collective.  Share your kids.  Meet others children and allow yourself to take some time away.  This builds a network of mutual support for children and parents. And saves money on child care.

9.  Read community building books like “the great neighbourhood book“.

10. Co-house.  Live with other people, either in the same building all together, or in the same building in separate units.  Co-housing options are amazingly diverse, for every type of person.  Research what might work best and pursue.

In short, there are so many ways to come out of our nuclear family bubbles.  All of these will help transition us to a more caring, cooperative and resilient society. And, we might just all find the village that it takes to raise our children.

on tiredness

2 06 2010

I read a book recently called “momma zen” which talked about the challenge of being tired, as a mother.  I would say that I have never been so tired in my life, as when I was mothering an infant.  Though it has gotten better, now, after almost two and a half years, I still get very, very tired.

Little A has never been a “sleeper”.  Some babies, in mythical lands, I hear, sleep more than two hours at a time, even with cosleeping and breastfeeding.  Little A slept about two hours maximum, at a time, every night, more often than not waking once every 20 minutes or so.  So, I got to experience tired.

I would say that being tired has been the greatest challenge of motherhood.  All the other things, I am able to deal with, if only I have some sleep under my belt.  With little sleep, for years on end, it can become quite a challenge to find the patience and problem solving skills necessary to parent.

In the book “Momma Zen” the zen approach to tiredness is discussed.  And this is what it says (paraphrased of course) “if you are tired, be tired.”  Don’t try to be awake, don’t try to be anything other than really tired, defenses down and surrendering to the world around you much more than if you were fully rested.

So, now, I am, again, tired.  And I am learning how to just be tired.  Not to try to do more than I really need to.  I am learning to accept that, when I am tired, drinking coffee is not the best solution to find more patience and problem solving skills. In fact, it gives me less patience.  It just makes me feel like I should be “getting more done”.  I am learning to lie down in the afternoons, instead of staying awake being mindlessly unproductive, because I am too tired to do anything but feel like I should be doing something.

It is very freeing.  And difficult.

We live in a society that says that our worth is dictated by how much we do/make/create/perform etc.  There is very little respect for the process of Being, especially centered around mothering.  So, to say to someone “yup, I lay down all afternoon so that I could find more patience and compassion with which to raise my child,” can be much harder than “I organized my desktop and did a few dishes.”   (which, is about all I can get up to when I am tired anyways).

Allowing myself to “be tired” also provides a good example to little A.  It shows her that, when she feels tired, it is OK to rest.  She doesn’t have to keep playing until she screams herself into a frenzy.  She can just take a rest.  Like mama does.

It shows her that she, too, can be in balance with her physical and mental needs.

Tonight, I am going to allow myself to be tired and go to bed now, at 8:30.

Good night!

The Gift of Motherhood

6 05 2010

What a gift it is.

The last week or so, though it has been one of the most challenging times, has been such a lesson and reminder of the Gift of Motherhood.  This path, that I’ve consciously chosen to walk, has brought me on such a journey.

Children are our spiritual masters.  Some people look for the guru, the right spiritual teaching that will bring us to new heights of spiritual awareness.  I find that children, these little, fresh-from-source creatures are the best teachers that I have found. And my own child, she is the best teacher for me.

One of the amazing gifts of motherhood is the ability to heal the family line.  I feel like the past few generations, seeing the introduction of many unhealthy parenting dynamics, is finally able to get healed by this new generation.  I feel like so much of what my mother healed, I have, and now can heal even further.

For example: cosleeping.  It has come to my attention that cosleeping is one of the single most important things to do with a baby/toddler.  Though my mother didn’t sleep with me, she slept in the same bedroom as me, which was closer than she was to her mother before her.  There are so many things about my personal psyche that I’ve tried to “work out” in my life and could never figure out where they came from: my totally irrational need to be accepted by my mother in all that I do (though I am completely OK with anyone else not accepting pretty much anything I do), being the first one that comes to mind.

I could never understand it, until I read about the psychological impacts of cosleeping.  Now, I am blessed with the ability to heal that wound and sleep with my child, giving her a sense of security and acceptance.

Another gift of motherhood is creating the future.  It is so amazingly exciting to shape the future of existence through mindful, and unconditionally loving, child rearing.

I feel sometimes like we forget about the responsibility we have, as parents, for the future.  We have children, not to better the future but to just have children.  Maybe I’m wrong about that.  I think that the realm of human development is something that ALL humans need to know, as it helps us make informed decisions about how to raise our children.  We’ve gone so far, it seems, from the intuitive nature of child-rearing that a good blast of knowledge seems to be the only thing leading us back.

The last gift that I am thinking about tonight (before my box-chair gives in, as i’m writing this, still in the middle of unpacking) is the gift of self-reflection.  Little A is such a blessing.  She takes life and reflects it back to me in such a way that I am SO able to learn from, as I see the issues I face playing out so overtly, yet subtly, in her.

This whole thing we’ve been experiencing, of little A getting super upset at me, has been such an amazing tool for me.  It has allowed me to reflect on my own “HUGE emotions”, how space is held for them and how I express them.  And it isn’t nearly as much as it needs to be.  I hide my emotions quite well and only allow huge freakouts to happen alone or with really, really trusted friends.  In the last week, I’ve been allowing myself to cry when I feel like it, as long as I feel like it, no matter where I am or what I am doing.

It is such a freeing process.

Allowing our emotions out, when they need to come, is so beautiful.  It keeps me much more relaxed and functional.  I am less irritable and more patient. Especially with little A.

I thank her so much for this gift she has given me, by choosing me as her mother in this incarnation.

My heart bursts with the love I feel for her, every moment more and more.  It seems impossible to love someone so much.

(I guess my last secret gift is the gift of learning how to Love more and more and more)

So grateful and so humbled.

So close – lessons from my move

3 05 2010

The old house is locked, keys handed over and a new chapter begins.

However, the real part doesn’t begin for another couple of days.  Right now, I’m settling into a “limbo” state for a couple of days while I hang out in Chris’ apartment so the floors can get replaced in my new place.

Which feels really strange.

Little A says she misses her old home.  She says she doesn’t like this home.  She says it’s an “old home” not a new one.  I think this is because none of the boxes are unpacked yet and nothing seems familiar.  I wish I could give her more familiarity, but for now, all I have is our bed in a living room in the house of her father.  Which she’s sleeping peacefully in.

I feel so close.  Yet, two or three days (depending on when they are done) feels like forever.  It feels like a world away, as I wait in this energy that is not mine.  As I watch Chris put his life together around the boxes of my stuff.

This move has taught me so much.  I went through some very difficult body experiences, feeling sciatica back in my body, vomiting and generally not being able to sleep very well. My body was so communicative to me.  It let me know when enough was enough.  It let me know that it wasn’t stressing itself out anymore for Chris.  It let me slow down and make Chris take responsibility for his part of the move.  Though incredibly uncomfortable, my body taught me much.

This move has taught me more about gratitude than I can imagine.  I am so grateful for the support and Love and kindness I have received through this move.  More people than I ever expected came out to help.  It made the moving process so smooth, easy and as de-stressed as possible.  Friends helped take little A so I could pack.  Friends came to clean.  Friends helped pack.  Friends hauled all my stuff around while I sat with little A resting my back.  And they did it all with such grace and Love.  It brought gratitude from the very depths of my soul to overpour out into the world.

This move taught me humility.  Again. How I had to ask for, and receive, fully, the help that I needed.  How I had to swallow my “pride” and allow people to see me in a very vulnerable state.  To get the help I needed I had to drop any pretense of “having it together” or any sort of societal norm of what success looks like.  Truly humbling.

Humility is such an amazing thing to experience.  Humility brings us to a place of being completely in awe of existence, completely vulnerable, completely surrendered to what is and not what we project on the world.  It is a place where, from every direction, we can learn and we can receive and we can give.  So beautiful, and yet, so challenging to maintain in this world of materialism.

This move taught me how to hold space and receive little A more fully.  She moved (and is moving) through some really intense emotions around the move, Chris and my separation and the general change in her life that is happening because of this.  Almost every day, for the last week, especially, she has broken down, at least once, sometimes more, per day into a huge screaming explosion.

At first, I was trying to redirect, allow her to focus on something else or, when she screamed at me to go away, I would.  And then, I read an article about parenting through connection.  It talked about staying with your children while they’re screaming, not disciplining them, not leaving, not distracting.  Just being present and receiving the fullness of their emotions.

So, I tried it.  And little A went from having 50 tiny freakouts/day to 1-3 massive freakouts/day.  A huge difference.  She was much calmer, less needy and more fun to be with.

But BOY! did it hurt.  It is so hard to receive those feelings of “I don’t want you”, “go away mama, you’re too heavy, you have too much stuff”, “I don’t like your decisions”, “I don’t like you mama” for a half hour straight.  To just say “I know. I hear you”.  To just offer compassion.  To just offer space for those emotions to be held so that they can pass.  I felt so humbled.  I felt so sad.

But I know now that I can really receive her.  And that feels wonderful.  It has really strengthened our bond together.

Now, I’m going to go to bed, wake up in the morning and do some gardening in my new garden beds.  I am so excited to be living in this budding urban ecovillage!

(pictures will come soon.  I have to find the camera. LOL!)

Participating in the world vs watching it go by

23 04 2010

Here is a thought about an attachment parenting method called “baby-wearing”.  Baby wearing is when you, quite literally, wear your baby, like a garment, either in a sling, or a backpack, or any other kind of wrap.  It is a practice that spans the world over, though is not very widely used in North America.  Here, we prefer the stroller, the car seat, the exersaucer, the baby swing, the playpen, etc etc.  (No wonder people think having a baby is expensive!)

I wore little A in a Moby wrap:

until she was about 6 months old, and then I switched to a mei-tai style wrap called a Kozy.  I still wear her in it occasionally.

There are about a hundred reasons to wear your baby (or someone else’s baby, if you’re caring for them).  First of all, it keeps you baby calm.  They are right there with you and can better ground into reality being pressed against the body they grew in for nine months.  This means less crying and less fussing.  Also, it keeps you calm, as you always know where your baby is, how it is doing and, you can get to doing other things while still having a child.  I can’t even imagine how I would’ve got anything done if I hadn’t worn little A.  I would’ve just spent all my time nursing or comforting her.  With the wrap, I could do both at once and do other things, like wash diapers, or dance. (the former I did a LOT, the latter, not as much)

The reason that I am going to go into today is something that interests me about our society.  When raising little A and learning about different parenting styles and childhood psychological development, I can often see a lot of the patterns translate into aspects of our society, of course.  One thing that I think a lot about is personal participation in society.

In order to have a good democracy, a safe community, an educated populous and a thriving creative community, we have to be participating in creating the society we live in.  We have to vote, to get involved in politics, to be out in our neighbourhoods, to learn by ourselves and to think outside of the box.  I think a lot about participation in terms of how we can actually move into a non-oil dependent society.  I think how participation by every single person on this planet is needed in order to help us out of this mess that we have gotten ourselves into with oil dependency.

I often wonder why it is so hard to inspire people towards participation. Though there are many reasons, I feel that it might partially stem from the passive observer way that we popularly raise our children.

Think of the differences in having a child strapped to your body vs having them in a stroller, car seat/play pen away from your body:

When you have your child on your body, they are approximately at the same height as you.  They experience much of the same sounds, feelings, smells and sights as you.  They are able to participate in those through your experience.  If you are cooking a meal, they are participating in that process by seeing you do it, smelling the smells of it and feeling the heat of it.  They are able to observe what you are doing, and, in time, start the process of participation (licking the spoon for example).  If a child is away from your body their whole sensory experience is different.  Especially in small infants, they learn to just watch the world go by, as they are not being brought into the action of what the parents are doing.  They learn that their role is not to be in on the action, but to stand by the sidelines.

Another example is a baby being in a stroller, wrapped up in a blanket, sometimes even with the stroller/car seat covered instead of having their heads out in the open, attached to someone’s body.  A baby who is in a stroller sees that they are there to be pushed around, to let someone else direct them and that they are outside of the moving position.  They get no means of experiencing all the differences that occur by being on a body. They miss sights and sounds and feelings, like wetness or coolness on their face.  On someone’s body, they have the opportunity to look around at the world around them, maybe point or gooble at something, and participate in their surroundings in motion.  They also learn what propels them is a body, rather than a contraption.

Let’s take the same example, only age the baby to toddlerhood.  I do it sometimes, still, when I am in a rush: put little A in the stroller.  Especially this last fall/winter.  She wasn’t walking very quickly so in order to get anywhere on time, we would take the “baby car”.  Pushing 30 pounds now, she’s a little bit of a handful on the back, though I am moving back to that, now that the bulky clothes of winter can be shed.  However, the stroller for toddlers, instead of walking or being carried, is really all about watching the world go by.

When I have little A on my back, it’s much easier to carry on a conversation with her than when she’s in the stroller.  In the stroller, her little voice is lost outwards to the noise of traffic and I have to strain to hear and understand.  However, on my back we can have a great conversation and talk about what we are seeing as we move, answer any questions that she may have (which are plentiful these days) and generally engage her in her surroundings more.

I see really active children, who could easily be walking, being pushed by mothers complaining that their children are running circles around them when they get home.  I see their eyes, in these strollers, and they are just watching the world go by.  There is no joy of discovering a snail shell in a patch of grass.  No picking up of sticks and poking them in puddles.  There is just no exploration and participation in their world, while they are going place to place.  And humans go place to place  a LOT!

I wonder how all of this affects how involved people want to be as adults. I wonder how spending our early years watching the world go by shapes our adult perceptions about our role in creating the world around us.

What do you think?

For more information about babywearing you can check out: