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Archive for the ‘mommy wars’ Category

After a post went up from a Babble blogger that shamed mothers who breastfeed without a nursing cover, and piece over at Slate that indicated the simplest way for us to move forward as women in society would be for lactivists to care less and the market to over better nursing covers, I was invited to write a guest post for Annie at PhD in Parenting. I hope you will visit me over there and join our conversation about misogyny, the female body, judgments and the mommy wars.

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It’s too insane to be real. A baby-swinging mother, from Russia now living in Egypt, can show you on the internet how to do ” intense baby yoga” with your newborn. And it is crazy. Sane mothers everywhere look at their screens and hope it is a newborn doll – like the slightly surreal looking ones used in childbirth classes at hospitals.  The video quality is just poor enough to allow for disbelief. But then, Gawker says it is real.

I’m hanging on to disbelief – yes, for the obvious reasons – I don’t really think this is a safe newborn practice. I am old school:  swaddle them, support their heads, keep them warm! Plenty of time for nose-dives when they are 2, that’s what I say. I’m also hanging onto disbelief because this woman seems to be offering herself as a path for mothers to take – come, you can belong here, be part of our baby-yoga-swinging community. You can do this and belong.

We seem to be finding smaller and smaller camps to divide ourselves into as mothers. Are we so unwilling to hang out with people who do not mother similarly to ourselves? Do we do this while we tell our children they are unique and special? Do we do this while we teach them to celebrate the diversity in their communities, be that home or school, town or country?

Did our mothers so sub-divide themselves, or where their fewer divisions. You were poor, middle class, or rich and  you were black, white or latina. You lived in the suburbs, country or city – but that is all. Are we more fearful? More confused? More lonely?

When I had my first child the term “Attachment Parenting” was just hitting the streets of my community. There was no internet in the way we have now. No websites, coaches, groups and fan pages. There was one sling for sale in the whole wide world.  I visited an attachment parenting play group and felt it was a group too exclusive for me.  I could not believe there was only one right way to mother. I could not be so vehement about umbrella strollers. I’d grown up in an odd little corner of Manhattan where Harlem met Columbia University. To me, attachment parenting meant rigid hippies in suburbia who had Subarus. If they had to walk as far as the mothers of Harlem, they’d have umbrella strollers too.

I never went back. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to use a stroller and a baby carriers of various sorts. I continued to “co-sleep” until none of us slept well and then we put the baby in a pak-n-play. We didn’t call it “co-sleeping.” We called it sleeping and the babies slept, with us, until they didn’t. When friends or family asked how we slept, we said, “great!” or “terrible,” depending on the day. I breastfeed and let them grab food of my plate – and formula fed when faced with Henry’s intense medical challenges.

Before the wrath of the attachment parents visits my blog in the night, I have many friends now who refer to themselves as attachment parents. They use strollers, have a long way to walk (and some of whom have Subarus.) But I won’t pick.  I won’t pick breastfeeding or formula feeding or extended co-sleeping or cribs, schooling or not – nor will I pick attachment or whatever its opposite may be.  And I will not pick intense baby yoga swinging. I’m assuming you won’t pick that one  either, but I’d love to know what you won’t pick. Or if you have picked, why it works.

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and Why It is Okay if You Don’t.
Henry is in all day Kindergarten. The instructional day begins at 9am and ends at 3pm. Twice a week his class goes to PE, once a week they go to each music, art and library time. In the morning they have what they call “Choice Time,” during which they can pick an area of the room to explore and enjoy. The block area has all manner of blocks, as well as train track, trains and cars. The Kitchen Area includes both dolls and food as well as housekeeping toys. There beading activities, board games and two computers, as well as coloring. Half an hour each day is spent at recess, right after lunch. The kindergartners rest in the afternoon – in which they are given a few quiet activities to pick from such as reading and playing with pattern blocks. Somewhere during this time, basic instruction happens – making rhymes, counting higher and higher, word recognition.
I don’t have academic concerns about Henry at this point. He is five – turned 5 in June, so we have a nice birthday for the school year. He is neither the oldest nor the youngest here in our town with a fall cutoff date. Henry is pretty adept at counting, basic math and number recognition. He reads. He began reading this summer and make it through easy readers such as Syd Hoff’s Sammy the Seal, which is the same book my dad used to teach me to read. Henry is fine-motor delayed, because of the low muscle tone associated with Sensory Processing Disorder. I’m not too worried. His pencil grip is improving so quickly. A year ago he could barely mark on the paper with a crayon; he simply did not have the finger strength. Last week he made a tiny shopping list for us.
I do have social- emotional concerns. Henry is extremely strong willed and anxious. He sees a leaky faucet and fears it will flood the house. He saw an exit sign at school and thought it would make him leave school. He has kindness and love him. He loves other kids, but struggles against himself in how best to befriend them. He needs to figure out that give and take. He also will fight authority when it interferes with his plan to complete a train track, build a hotel out of blocks or count to 100 very loudly. All the lining up and taking turns is friction on the sharp pointy bits of Henry, filing them down a bit. He is learning – and needs to learn – how to yield, how to give way, towards the crowd, the other, the authority. I don’t want or need him to yield all the time – nor am I worried that he ever will – the child is strong-willed enough to cure cancer if he sets his mind to it & I rather hope he does set his mind to some rather large and daunting project like that because it will greatly decrease the interpersonal drama that is Henry.
When Henry has real work to do, he creates less work for me. He loves real tasks and cannot be fooled. Nothing fake will satisfy. Kindergarten is real work, there is no doubt. He is away from me for 6 hours a day – which is significant as he has been using me as his personal sensory processing decoder ring for the past 5 years. He is doing well, but it takes a great deal of work to contain the amount of energy that he has to resist the flow. The friction of spending all day with other 5 year old just as self-absorbed as he is has really filed down some of the sharper edges. The many moods of Henry that shine throughout the day are now witnessed by a teacher, a classroom aide and 19 children. They are the ones helping him move on when he gets emotionally stuck on a concept – Oh No! That Exit Sign is Blinking! It is Going to Make me Leave School and I will be Lost with No Mommy! – Guess what? It is going really well! He is listening to his peers and learning from them. He likes his teachers and believes them when they say that an exit sign does not have any power over him.
So much of what Henry is learning in school he is learning through play. In all day Kindergarten there is plenty of time for play – and we have all seen the research – and some use it against schooling at all, or against all day school – that what looks like play to us, is really learning for them. Isaac was in a morning Kindergarten program. They had 2 hours and 45 minutes, if you discount all the time settling in and getting ready to come home, not to mention snack and bathroom trips, I can’t imagine that the teaching time was more than 2 hours. There was no time to play. Isaac cried about this regularly. He had no time to play with his friends. There were not very many toys – just legos for math and books. It was more academic than Henry’s all day Kindergarten program has been. All the kids had their reading skills assessed as so much above or below grade level by the middle of October. Isaac was bored to tears. It was a rough year. They were teaching kids to read for two hours a day and he already knew how to read. He would read aloud to other children, trying to make friends. The kids loved it. The teacher wanted to love it, but had to limit it because it was interfering with the other kids learning to read. It was painful, for 9 months.
Henry’s all day Kindergarten has lots of time for playing. I know some parents who are not fans of it – but not at our school. I know people who say the state shouldn’t be paying for babysitting. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what happens at all day Kindergarten. I also know people who firmly believe that their 5 year olds are not ready to be at school all day. I can truly understand this – but in most cases the age of mandatory schooling is 7. Kids who truly aren’t ready can wait and join school in 1st grade. Preschools are increasingly offering Early Kindergarten programs for children whose parents have decided not to send them in the 5 year old year – and no, they are not free, but we live in a world of limited choices.
We often get confused and think we are entitled to have it our way, but we are not. We live in communities, and by consensus the community I recently moved to has all day Kindergarten. The common good may not be in our control, but we can choose to take a broader view and consider that what is not ideal for your child is perfect for other children. Perhaps all day Kindergarten is allowing both parents to work for the first time in years, bring more financial stability to your community – more people making their mortgage payments & able to afford both groceries and health care. Our opinions are factors of our own experiences. Many times we don’t have fully nuanced arguments to hold them up – they are just what we think we we prefer and then pronounce as best for everyone. Of course, the same can be said for proponents of all day Kindergarten. I freely admit that I prefer it & in my very limited experience it seems to be working for most kids I see. I like it – and it’s okay if you don’t.

Read Full Post »

and Why It is Okay if You Don’t.
Henry is in all day Kindergarten. The instructional day begins at 9am and ends at 3pm. Twice a week his class goes to PE, once a week they go to each music, art and library time. In the morning they have what they call “Choice Time,” during which they can pick an area of the room to explore and enjoy. The block area has all manner of blocks, as well as train track, trains and cars. The Kitchen Area includes both dolls and food as well as housekeeping toys. There beading activities, board games and two computers, as well as coloring. Half an hour each day is spent at recess, right after lunch. The kindergartners rest in the afternoon – in which they are given a few quiet activities to pick from such as reading and playing with pattern blocks. Somewhere during this time, basic instruction happens – making rhymes, counting higher and higher, word recognition.
I don’t have academic concerns about Henry at this point. He is five – turned 5 in June, so we have a nice birthday for the school year. He is neither the oldest nor the youngest here in our town with a fall cutoff date. Henry is pretty adept at counting, basic math and number recognition. He reads. He began reading this summer and make it through easy readers such as Syd Hoff’s Sammy the Seal, which is the same book my dad used to teach me to read. Henry is fine-motor delayed, because of the low muscle tone associated with Sensory Processing Disorder. I’m not too worried. His pencil grip is improving so quickly. A year ago he could barely mark on the paper with a crayon; he simply did not have the finger strength. Last week he made a tiny shopping list for us.
I do have social- emotional concerns. Henry is extremely strong willed and anxious. He sees a leaky faucet and fears it will flood the house. He saw an exit sign at school and thought it would make him leave school. He has kindness and love him. He loves other kids, but struggles against himself in how best to befriend them. He needs to figure out that give and take. He also will fight authority when it interferes with his plan to complete a train track, build a hotel out of blocks or count to 100 very loudly. All the lining up and taking turns is friction on the sharp pointy bits of Henry, filing them down a bit. He is learning – and needs to learn – how to yield, how to give way, towards the crowd, the other, the authority. I don’t want or need him to yield all the time – nor am I worried that he ever will – the child is strong-willed enough to cure cancer if he sets his mind to it & I rather hope he does set his mind to some rather large and daunting project like that because it will greatly decrease the interpersonal drama that is Henry.
When Henry has real work to do, he creates less work for me. He loves real tasks and cannot be fooled. Nothing fake will satisfy. Kindergarten is real work, there is no doubt. He is away from me for 6 hours a day – which is significant as he has been using me as his personal sensory processing decoder ring for the past 5 years. He is doing well, but it takes a great deal of work to contain the amount of energy that he has to resist the flow. The friction of spending all day with other 5 year old just as self-absorbed as he is has really filed down some of the sharper edges. The many moods of Henry that shine throughout the day are now witnessed by a teacher, a classroom aide and 19 children. They are the ones helping him move on when he gets emotionally stuck on a concept – Oh No! That Exit Sign is Blinking! It is Going to Make me Leave School and I will be Lost with No Mommy! – Guess what? It is going really well! He is listening to his peers and learning from them. He likes his teachers and believes them when they say that an exit sign does not have any power over him.
So much of what Henry is learning in school he is learning through play. In all day Kindergarten there is plenty of time for play – and we have all seen the research – and some use it against schooling at all, or against all day school – that what looks like play to us, is really learning for them. Isaac was in a morning Kindergarten program. They had 2 hours and 45 minutes, if you discount all the time settling in and getting ready to come home, not to mention snack and bathroom trips, I can’t imagine that the teaching time was more than 2 hours. There was no time to play. Isaac cried about this regularly. He had no time to play with his friends. There were not very many toys – just legos for math and books. It was more academic than Henry’s all day Kindergarten program has been. All the kids had their reading skills assessed as so much above or below grade level by the middle of October. Isaac was bored to tears. It was a rough year. They were teaching kids to read for two hours a day and he already knew how to read. He would read aloud to other children, trying to make friends. The kids loved it. The teacher wanted to love it, but had to limit it because it was interfering with the other kids learning to read. It was painful, for 9 months.
Henry’s all day Kindergarten has lots of time for playing. I know some parents who are not fans of it – but not at our school. I know people who say the state shouldn’t be paying for babysitting. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what happens at all day Kindergarten. I also know people who firmly believe that their 5 year olds are not ready to be at school all day. I can truly understand this – but in most cases the age of mandatory schooling is 7. Kids who truly aren’t ready can wait and join school in 1st grade. Preschools are increasingly offering Early Kindergarten programs for children whose parents have decided not to send them in the 5 year old year – and no, they are not free, but we live in a world of limited choices.
We often get confused and think we are entitled to have it our way, but we are not. We live in communities, and by consensus the community I recently moved to has all day Kindergarten. The common good may not be in our control, but we can choose to take a broader view and consider that what is not ideal for your child is perfect for other children. Perhaps all day Kindergarten is allowing both parents to work for the first time in years, bring more financial stability to your community – more people making their mortgage payments & able to afford both groceries and health care. Our opinions are factors of our own experiences. Many times we don’t have fully nuanced arguments to hold them up – they are just what we think we we prefer and then pronounce as best for everyone. Of course, the same can be said for proponents of all day Kindergarten. I freely admit that I prefer it & in my very limited experience it seems to be working for most kids I see. I like it – and it’s okay if you don’t.

Read Full Post »

Look! I already played along with this version of Good Mother/Bad Mother in May 2007. It turns out I have nothing more to add, except this: thank God for The Onion.

******

“Well, once you get away from all the hype and the media frenzy, it turns out, that I’m holding it together just fine,” Karen, an area mother with three boys, a full time job, had a moment of clarity yesterday. She was interviewed between loads of laundry, work phone calls and kids’ nap times, all of which she seemed not to notice that much. “Just recently,” she added, “I’ve been stepping back and bit and re-examining my priorities. Truly, being a good mother is very important to me, which is why I’m so successful at it.” She nods with a smile towards her oldest child. Speaking in full sentences, getting himself dressed, showered and brushing is own teeth are just the bottom of the barrel accomplishments for her about to be 8 year old son. “He also is very nice, funny and plays viola and baseball. I remember thinking he’d always throw a fit when we left a friend’s house. Now he smiles, hugs them and says “bye.” We’ve come along way since he was two.” What Karen is not saying is that so many of these skills are really all because of her. She signed him up for viola and baseball. She taught him to say “bye” to friends. She taught him to brush his teeth.
“I don’t mean to brag, but they’re not being raised by wolves, ya know?” Karen looked hopefully at her younger two offspring. The far away look in her eye dreaming of the accomplished about to be 8 years olds they too would become. “I used to worry a lot more and compare myself to other moms, but I’m done with that now. We go outside when we want; I’m not a bad mother because I won’t take them out it to play in the rain. And if I do take them out to play in the rain, it’ll be because I want to, not because the neighbors are doing it. They get some “screen time,” but not too much. They have scheduled activities, but not too many. I cook healthy food, but allow treats. And when we have birthday cake, it’s the good stuff. I kinda like the way I’m running this ship and I think my kids like it too. No more advice from talk shows or parenting magazines…I’m the mommy. Everywhere I look, experts and observers are trying to get me to sign my name in blood to their particular parenting technique. My kids are so different, each one of them is consuming a different part of my creative parenting strategies. I actually amaze myself that I have such an enormous capacity to give. Just when I think I can’t give any more, I’m replenished and can keep on loving ’em.”

————————-

Okay other good mommies out there play along; visit Rebecca and tell her so, or write your on post and let her- and the rest of us – know!

Read Full Post »

Yes, also feed and change them, otherwise what did you have them for anyway?


If I want to spend $400 on my baby, it won’t be on a computer that tells me I suck as a mother for only speaking 16,000 words a day. It will be on incredibly cute baby shoes, but that’s just me.

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“Well, once you get away from all the hype and the media frenzy, it turns out, that I’m holding it together just fine,” Karen, an area mother with three boys, a full time job, had a moment of clarity yesterday. She was interviewed between loads of laundry, work phone calls and kids’ nap times, all of which she seemed not to notice that much. “Just recently,” she added, “I’ve been stepping back and bit and re-examining my priorities. Truly, being a good mother is very important to me, which is why I’m so successful at it.” She nods with a smile towards her oldest child. Speaking in full sentences, getting himself dressed, showered and brushing is own teeth are just the bottom of the barrel accomplishments for her about to be 8 year old son. “He also is very nice, funny and plays viola and baseball. I remember thinking he’d always throw a fit when we left a friend’s house. Now he smiles, hugs them and says “bye.” We’ve come along way since he was two.” What Karen is not saying is that so many of these skills are really all because of her. She signed him up for viola and baseball. She taught him to say “bye” to friends. She taught him to brush his teeth.
“I don’t mean to brag, but they’re not being raised by wolves, ya know?” Karen looked hopefully at her younger two offspring. The far away look in her eye dreaming of the accomplished about to be 8 years olds they too would become. “I used to worry a lot more and compare myself to other moms, but I’m done with that now. We go outside when we want; I’m not a bad mother because I won’t take them out it to play in the rain. And if I do take them out to play in the rain, it’ll be because I want to, not because the neighbors are doing it. They get some “screen time,” but not too much. They have scheduled activities, but not too many. I cook healthy food, but allow treats. And when we have birthday cake, it’s the good stuff. I kinda like the way I’m running this ship and I think my kids like it too. No more advice from talk shows or parenting magazines…I’m the mommy. Everywhere I look, experts and observers are trying to get me to sign my name in blood to their particular parenting technique. My kids are so different, each one of them is consuming a different part of my creative parenting strategies. I actually amaze myself that I have such an enormous capacity to give. Just when I think I can’t give any more, I’m replenished and can keep on loving ’em.”

————————-

Okay other good mommies out there play along; visit Rebecca and tell her so, or write your on post and let her- and the rest of us – know!

Read Full Post »

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