Watching you becoming December 22, 2014Posted by Shonnie in Familyhood, Life with a little girl, Life with a toddler, Life with Baby.
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Shonnie to Gracelyn recently: “I love seeing who you’re growing into.”
Gracelyn’s response: “Mama, you know who I am. I’m Gracelyn.”
This past week, Gracelyn and I spent about an hour sitting at my computer watching videos that Bruce and I had taken of her since her birth. I’d probably seen them all at some point, but either that point was very long ago or had gotten lost amidst other memories and thus some of the moments seemed brand new. Videos showed her pulling towels and dish cloths from a kitchen drawer, playing peep-eye with me, early crawling and stair climbing, being in her plastic swimming pool for the first time, splashing in rain puddles, and pronouncing our cat Desmond’s name for the first time that I’d understood. There was even a short video of me holding our then un-named daughter the first morning after her birth when we were still at the hospital (that one I didn’t remember).
It was heart-warming to see how she responded to each video, sometimes asking questions about the moment, sometimes remembering an experience, sometimes simply laughing or obviously entranced by these snippets of her life thus far. For me, it was a delightful and quick trip down memory lane, giving me glimpses into the lives of the people on the screen: Who was she back then? Who was I? Even though a few of the videos seemed entirely new to me, most gave me a deep sense of familiarity — I knew these people. I’d had the time and the space to get to know this child as she moved through her life phases — newborn, infant, baby, toddler, preschooler. I’d had the opportunity to bear witness to my own evolution from freshly-claimed motherhood status, to just-emerging-from-the-first-year-whilrwind mama, to mom who knows that this parenting gig is her own growth path as much as it is her daughter’s.
Bruce had originally encouraged me to stay home to be with Gracelyn for her first year of life. I hadn’t been opposed to this, though having been cared for by sweet, little ol’ ladies because my two parents worked outside the home, I didn’t think it was a huge deal to be the primary caregiver for one’s child. Within a few weeks of being home with Gracelyn, however, I’d become a convert and my desire to be with her the vast majority of the time hasn’t waned much in the intervening 4+ years.
Those cliché sayings are true, of course. Time does pass in a flash. The days are long and the years are short. By having the freedom to focus my time and attention on my daughter, I’ve gotten to see her growing. I’ve been present as she had first experiences but also as she had second, third, fourth, and more trys at her discoveries. Having the time and energy allows us the space to get to know one another. I wasn’t merely a watcher of those videos of Gracelyn’s past, I was present then, either at her side, behind the camera lens, or nearby observing. Some call my — or our experience — a luxury, and it is in the sense that not everyone can easily have this experience of being together with their child most of the time. For me, however, it has also become a necessity to my spirit — the chance to soak each other in, to come to know one another intimately, confidently, gently as we both evolve into who we are becoming moment-by-moment, one lived experience at a time.
So as Gracelyn now passes age 4.25 and I approach my 43rd birthday, I give a knot-throated, teary-eyed thanks. First for the very precious opportunity to be a mama at all. Second for the gentle insistence of my husband to be at home with our daughter for that first year. Third for the continuing blessings that allow me to devote most of my time to nurturing my girl during these early years. Finally for the innumerable, mostly unrecorded yet nonetheless indelible, gifts that have come from, and been comprised of these many moments.
Being with Gracelyn–Guiding Principles December 13, 2014Posted by Bruce Mulkey in Life with a little girl, Parenting.
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Our parenting choices have been made with discernment and purposefulness with the intention that Gracelyn remain authentic, powerful, creative, self-sufficient, grounded, happy, healthy and whole.
- We practice the Golden Rule with Gracelyn: We treat her exactly as we would want to be treated if we were her age.
- We express our love for Gracelyn frequently, openly and unconditionally.
- We believe that love, compassion, creativity and authenticity are innate qualities, among others, with which Gracelyn was born. We can merely provide a safe, nurturing space in which she retains these qualities.
- Gracelyn always makes her own decisions about whether she wants to be hugged, picked up or touched in any manner. The only exception would be an action necessary to protect her or others from harm.
- Gracelyn is a sovereign being and is involved in almost all aspects of our daily life, including decision-making, conversations, conflict resolution, meal preparation, daily chores, etc.
- Gracelyn does as much for herself as possible, including dressing herself, using the toilet, doing simple chores and cleaning up after herself.
- Gracelyn is an adventurous explorer with excellent body consciousness who runs, climbs and jumps with great enthusiasm. So that she retains her strong sense of competence and independence, we do not use language such as “Be careful,” “Look out” or “Watch your step.”
- We provide healthy, mostly-organic, unprocessed, sugar-free, tasty food for Gracelyn, and she decides what and how much she eats.
- We communicate with Gracelyn honestly and directly as a fellow human being.
- We use our normal tone of voice and vocabulary. If Gracelyn doesn’t know what a word means, she will typically ask.
- We speak directly to Gracelyn when she is present, rather than about her.
- We listen to Gracelyn when she speaks, and treat her wants and needs respectfully.
- When Gracelyn makes a request, we endeavor to say “yes” unless there is a good reason not to. However, we don’t refrain from saying “no” when appropriate.
- If Gracelyn makes a demand, we typically ask her if she could make it a request. If she speaks to us in a voice we consider disrespectful, we use a neutral tone to tell her that we don’t wish to be spoken to in that manner.
- Gracelyn is given the daily opportunity to express her gratitude, however, she only says “please,” “thank you,” etc. when she is genuinely moved to do so, not when she is asked to do so or as an automatic response.
- We avoid adult topics when Gracelyn is present, including such things as war, violent crimes, pestilence, etc., whether in conversation, on radio programs or on TV.
- We encourage Gracelyn to use anatomically correct words for body parts–vulva, vagina, anus, etc.
- We give Gracelyn the space to unreservedly express a full range of emotions–from love and connection to anger and frustration–as long as she is not harming herself, others or important material objects.
- When she Gracelyn is upset, we merely sit with her, acknowledge her upset and empathize with her until it passes.
- We do not ignore Gracelyn’s upsets, endeavor in any way to end them or try to “fix” it for her.
- When issues arise with Gracelyn, we endeavor to work them out with her as we would with any other person.
- We do not hit, spank, slap, handle Gracelyn roughly or hold her against her will.
- We do not use timeouts, withholding of treats, withholding love or any other negative means of discipline with Gracelyn.
- We do not use shaming, blaming or wrong-making language with Gracelyn. In addition, we do not yell or speak harshly to her or say anything that might harm or hinder her in any way.
- We refrain from using positive reinforcement to obtain the behaviors we might desire with Gracelyn.
- Gracelyn is typically generous with others, however it’s always her choice regarding whether she wants to share with someone else or not.
- Should differences or conflict arise between Gracelyn and other children, we allow them to work it out.
- On her birthday and at Christmas, we prefer to gift Gracelyn with a few simple gifts that are meaningful to her and, perhaps, have an educational component. Books are always a good choice as are hand-made gifts. We avoid commercialized gifts (licensed characters or commercial logos) for the most part.
- We practice forgiveness with Gracelyn, apologizing for any mistakes we might make and forgiving her when needed.
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Postscript: Many of us have unfulfilled dreams and visions, and if we are not conscious of these aspirations, we may pass them on to our kids in the vain hope that they might live out our forsaken dreams for us. On the other hand, we may just want what we consider best for our child. Yet what we consider best might not be. Each child who enters the world is unique, each with her own special gift. Our job is to love and respect them unconditionally just as they are, open the door to as many opportunities for growth and awareness as possible, then let them spread their wings and fly. We don’t have to tell them what to do or how to be; they already know much better than we.