Thursday, October 15

Thankful Anyway Thursday

It's easy to be thankful for the good stuff, can you be thankful for the not so good?
(as serious or light-hearted as you like)
read more here

Here's a doozy (just hover over the tiny icon there) for ya....

The last couple of weeks have been a tough mothering time.

I think it was around my birthday that I said to the Husband, for the first time ever -

I'm struggling.

I said that despite having had a newborn that has been restless, didn't sleep well, the breastfeeding hadn't been working, and I had  a maximum of 2hrs sleep a night for the first 3-5 months. And no more than 2hrs sleep in one stretch ever since she was born, and feeling wiped out or at least very tired Every. Single. Day. And then every day she won't play alone for longer than 5 minutes at a time, and wants a lot of carrying. And no more than a couple of hours as she naps for my own space (we go to bed together, 11pm, and rise together). And she wakes from 4-8 times a night....

but I still hadn't said it until now.
edit: not b/c I wouldn't admit it before, I just was getting on with the work of mothering.

She had been super needy these last weeks. Right on 18mth-old separation-anxiety schedule? This was immediately following 6 weeks of molar teething.

And then a few days ago, I cried.

The Broken Column
, Frida Kahlo

She had woken up fine and smiling. Less than 10 minutes later, she was whining. I find whining a challenge most times, but on just starting the day, this was very difficult. And then later that day she had a meltdown that lasted over 40 minutes. I stayed calm and was close to her as she got it all out. Later she was happy... and then whining in the evening. I was beat. It was the proverbial straw.

So I made sure I got all my own crying out, releasing stress.

I am thankful anyway because
... it was another chance to remind myself the healing powers of crying (for her and for me).
... it gave this once Arrogance Shadow victim the chance to be vulnerable, to be humble, and to admit a vulnerable time.
... these situations deepen my compassion for all mothers.
... it reminds me what true unconditional love is.

Girl With Death Mask 1
, Frida Kahlo

I am a Mindful mama. I never deny her carrying, or cuddles. I read books every single time she asks me to read. I reach  for a centre of calm when she whines, tantrums, or is super clingy. I speak patiently and with respect. I deny her very little. I never raise my voice. We have a lot of giggles together. We are together all the time. She has a stable environment. I come down to her level and speak gently asking her to tell me what she needs. I anticipate her needs most of the time.


I have a child who
expresses herself aggressively when she is frustrated.
builds up stress and needs to release it in a good cry every other day or a whopper of a rage/tantrum every other week.
needs me physically close.
requires holding most of the day.
will bang her head if angry/frustrated.
becomes easily frustrated.
is hyper-aware over details and so she can find it tough to get things just right.
wants things NOW.
is loud.
is restless.
She is the quintessential Aries.
Others might judge that I'm doing something wrong, or that I have a naughty child, or pity how unfortunate I am.

I am thankful anyway because
... every day she challenges me to find new reserves of patience, inner calm, and compassion.
... she will never be stifled.
... she's not afraid to voice her opinion.
... she is my proof that I'm definitely not repressing her.
... she has no concept of what is 'good' or 'acceptable' behaviour.
... she feels safe to be, and express, everything she is with me.
... she trusts that I will hear all her emotions, unconditionally.
... she adds a dynamic and exuberant energy to my calmer one.
... I feel fortunate to have a child that challenges me to grow as a person, unrelentingly, every day.

The Two Fridas
, Frida Kahlo

I have a child who in public usually,
appears quiet and reserved.
takes her time to warm up to people and situations.
shares objects.
speaks little.
plays quietly.
She is a typical Virgo moon child.
Others might (and have) judged me to be a great parent, that she is a 'good' baby, or that I am lucky.

I am thankful anyway *wink* because

... I have nothing to prove to anyone.
... it gives me a chance to say how I believe that all children are 'good' and that a tantruming or aggressive child isn't 'bad' or 'naughty', nor are they necessarily less generally content than calm children.
... It gives me the chance to let a mother who feels inferior to me (my neighbour) know that what you see is only ever a small portion of the bigger story. And that while some things I do have an influence, it can never change who she is by nature.
... it gives me the opportunity to discuss how quiet and 'good' children might be repressed, afraid, learnt to hide their volatile emotions, learnt to do what pleases or appeases his elders at the cost of his/her authenticity. We don't know.
... it reminds me how inflexible our society is about what is considered 'good' or 'well-behaved', and that I can see through the facade of my own public impression, and accept and adore her whatever she is or however she appears.

If you've done your own Thankful Anyway, go ahead and add your link - directly to the post - to the linky below (not visible in feed reader). Grab the button up the top (right click & Save As) and a link back is always nice.


  1. I always love your posts Mon mainly because we seem to be on the same planet a lot of the time but also because of the honesty in your writings. I can really relate to what you are saying...parenting is tough, constant, demanding and exhausting but like you, I thank every day that I got the chance to do it!
    I would still like to add this thankful thursdays to my blog but still struggling...any advice would be awesome.
    Thanks again for the inspiration x

  2. Wow Mon. I'm still processing this post, especially for its no holds barred honesty. I am so glad you broke down your defences and told your husband you were struggling. How brave of you. Even the "seemingly" strongest of people need to be told, "It's ok. Let me hold you. I feel for you. I'm here for you." My child is currently very different from yours in nature so I cannot completely relate. But what I can do is empathize and applaud you Mon. I don't have 1/4 of the strength, patience, tenacity and centerdness (I think I made that word up..ha!!) it would take to nurture the way you do in your daily siutations. I will judge you right now though Mon. Even though I promised, based on your last post, that I would refrain from judging other mothers. I will say that you are an amazing mother. And I'll leave it at that.

  3. Ok, I can't leave it at that. I will also say that I can't wait to see Wildflower 20 years from now. I envision the grown-up WF to be: a force, who charts her own course, who loves passionately, who questions the status quo, who has drive and determination, who takes little at face value, who questions and seeks answers, who nurtures, who leads, whose voice makes others listen. She will be like her mother and she will love, cherish and respect her mother. Maybe I'm wrong :-).

  4. Savannah screamed 24/7 pretty much for the first 5 months of her life...I thought I would go completely and utterly mad. Truly. I look back in awe of myself and, for how I somehow managed NOT to go mad (although I came very close some days!) and her, for what an amazing, incredible child she is turning into...and what a journey from discontented spirit to deeply sensitive child it has been!

    I was questioned A LOT by well-meaning folk who thought I shouldn't carry her/pick her up/sit with her/...who thought she *needed to learn* to be by herself etc. etc. etc....but I stuck to it and now, here's this amazing almost-7 year old who freely expresses emotion and calls me out when I slip from mindfulness.....she's also an extremely sensitive kid who, I think, is one of those who you describe as likely to repress in order to be *good* -- which is what happened to her when she went to school..:(...and which is what I did for oh...the first twenty-odd years of my life...*grin*

    Sebastian, on the other hand, is an entirely different creature...still highly sensitive, but it manifests very differently...

    Another amazing're keeping me honest...this post makes me remember that even though my kids are getting older, I still need to remain at the same level of connectedness that I had when they were babies...


  5. Strange moment - I've been staring at The Broken Column and crying this afternoon. Spooky? Maybe not as it is Frida Kahlo, and as you know...

    Anyway, I've had so many child-related crying moments I can't count them. I have been gifted with a highly sensitive, volatile child, who is extremely happy and non-aggressive, but no less needy, and who is, er, extremely passionate. So, um, more Gemini than Aries, (but Aries moon nonetheless!) I totally get you on all of this. My girl is very reserved and calm in public, but lets it all hang out in private. She's also very funny and does the most hilarious Yoko Ono singing impressions...but that's another story.

    And I try to remind myself that at least she's not being repressed, but it is damned hard sometimes. I haven't been with The Moon this solidly since she was a baby, and when it's virtually 24 hrs a day, it can stretch the most mindful of parents to the limit. And tiredness can be the final straw. I'm in awe that you've admitted to struggling after 18 months. I think it was 2 weeks for me! hehee...
    But as you say, you (we), have nothing to prove to anyone.

  6. Upon reading this, I felt like you were referring to my child..(or her twin hehe)the traits you describe all coincide with Emily's. Though she is an Aquarius, with most fire energy in the mix. I relate completely, and actually feel relieved to have found familiar experiences to refer to especially if I am having an off day. I had to throw away all of embedded parenting styles that were handed down from my lineage... it was difficult. She'll only sleep in my arms and at bedtime beside me which is more than okay with me.

    The crying excerpt in this post Beneficially boomeranged me. Having had to re weave patterns of emotionless upbringing, I now can relate to emotions and when expressed in any form touches me deeply.

  7. My firstborn was just as you described. She refused to be put down for any amount of time which was fine with me since I didn't want to put her down but it sure made things difficult - showers, cooking, etc. It's amazing the things you learn to do with one free arm. The exhaustion was definitely overwhelming. My advice to you - keep up your honesty, ask for and accept help - it shows strength, not weakness. Mistakes are inevitable if you don't get some rest. My daughter would scream for hours, even the doctor was perplexed and chalked it up to colic - the standard when nothing else added up. She would scream so loud the woman across the street came over and commented on it. The good news is that it does pass once they can verbalize their needs and find their sleep cycle. R is now 19 and is a brilliant,determined, strong-willed young woman. She is not afraid to speak her mind and is learning to present herself a bit more gently. Hang in there - these children teach us compassion, patience, unconditional love - they truly are a blessing - I'm so glad you're recognizing this so early

  8. I struggle with these same contrasts, Mon. These kids are shaking us out of any preconceived notions we may have had about being mothers so we can be purely present with them, and it's hard... and blissful, too, but mainly hard. Everyone else mostly sees how much of a joy Lucas is, and I feel alone in my struggles sometimes.

    I so identified with what you wrote about being a mindful mama. For me, it's the frustration of feeling,"I could be a child-abusing, neglectful, cold, or ignorant mother, but no, I'm giving you everything I've got and still, you're giving me crap. You should be:(fill in your own blanks) peaceful, loving, compassionate, gentle, respectful, etc, etc..." And instead, there's this aggressive, button-pushing, non-peaceful child at the other end of it.

    They are teaching us to release our expectations. Sure, we may be doing it all right, or at least as right as we know to be, (and I think we really are doing a fine job of being mindful) but we're holding onto an expectation that our efforts will result in a particular kind of child. That's what's causing the struggle.

    Release, surrender, let go ... This is my key life lesson this time around. I'm thankful I got such a cute little teacher.

  9. Beautiful post on lots of levels, and I love it as a counterpart to your 'When I See A Mother' non-poem;-)...not getting trapped in judging mothers or kids as good/'s interesting this week I have been judged as both, concurrent with having my kids judged as the first incident we were in a coffee shop having a little snack, and they were (amazingly) all three sitting quietly in their seats, and someone came by and said 'your kids are so well-behaved'...and I saw pride rise up in my awareness in spite of myself, even though I really don't like this term 'well-behaved' then of course (in a rare example of almost instant karma) just 1/2 hour later in the supermarket, they went completely wild, garnering many pointedly annoyed glances...finally one climbed on the side of the cart and managed to tip the entire thing over...luckily no one was hurt and nothing even broke, but a woman said as loudly as she could to her husband "I KNEW that was going to happen, I just don't know why parents let their kids DO things like that..." So good mother, bad mother, good kids, bad kids, it's all a trap...

  10. Ah, this post touched me deep within. I had a similar child, the main exception being that she often melted down in public. It took me years to discover that she was highly sensitive to the point that anything other than basic sensory input distressed her. She didn't just struggle with the intensity of external stimuli but also internal stimuli. It was hard for me to understand that our quiet life in which all her needs were met without delay could still lead to a build up of stress. I know understand it's just how her brain works, and that same tightly tuned system allows her to learn easily, do beautiful art, etc.

    What I learned to do with my mothering is probably not something you would value. I was like you - very present, in body and spirit. When she hit overload and needed to cry or lash out to release the energy, I was always right there, often trying to hold her, etc. Infact was always right there, full stop. I was too much in her psychic space. And I was doing all her calming work for her, so she couldn't develop an inner sense of the process.

    Finally, I forced myself to step back a little, let her create her own sense of inner/outer space, and I helped her to develop calming methods she could use on her own. I said no more often, which was extremely hard, so she could learn to deal with frustration in a safe environment. I anticipated her needs but sometimes did not provide them, so she learned to ask for herself. It went against all my instincts. But I used to have a child who was a shall we say "difficult", and now I have a calm, self-controlled, stable, wise child. (Most of the time!)

    I do think these children are strong-willed system busters who almost seem to push us to repress them. On the other hand, I think they are overwhelmed, in need of boundaries, and are caught up in a world that buzzes constantly with huge amounts of chaotic energy. Think of all the electricity that surrounds us. Think of the global psyche at the moment. I believe it is affecting children, and it is requiring their parents to work even harder to strengthen them against all the psychic and physical input while at the same time not repressing them. Probably sounds kooky I know, but at least I didn't mention the Indigo word ;-)

  11. sorry for the outrageously long comment :-(

  12. Sarah - why would you say I wouldn't value it?! Thee's nothing I value more in parenting than a mama using her intuition and going for it. :)

    At what age did you try helping her create her own calming methods? At 18 mths, I can't see the Wildflower ready to do that.

    However, I DO try to create space, as much for her as for me. But this age is totally normal to still require her first point of security - me.
    I leave the room just to an adjoining one and she'll always follow, if not immediately, within a minute. Then she wants 'up', I encourage something else, like playing with her cooking stuff while I try to cook, sometimes it works, sometimes nothing but what up will do. My intuition says, pick her up when it feels right, and it does so most of the time. *sigh* lol

    When she needs to thrash out I'm there and allow her to choose to hold me or push away, she alternates between both but eventually ends up in my arms. And i do think that my calm energy has got to help some.

    I'm not sure my girl is quite as sensitive as yours. We have friends whose little boy is very sensitive like that.

    But I'm definitely interested in some of the things you did with your girl.

  13. Hi Mon :-)

    I agree with so much of what you wrote and I just want to clarify that I always allowed the clinginess, and perhaps my particular life situation made that easier for me. I was one of "those" mothers who loved being right there all the time. (It is less easy now I am busier!) The hard part was when she was needing space and I wasn't used to giving it to her, lol! I still have trouble defining that particular boundary.

    Rose was older than 18 months when I started trying the calming things I described above. (My cousin did the "count to ten" thing with her son when he was younger.) With Rose, when she was still little I did a lot of distracting when I could see her stresses were building. But this was just avoiding the problem, as you know. As she grew older, I particularly worked on her breathing. This started when she was about 2/3. When she was starting to rev up, I had her take a deep breath, hold it, then blow it out. When she was little, we would breathe in colour, and blow it out as sparkles. Also she could breathe in her anger or sadness and blow it out as a wish. Sometimes blowing bubbles using detergent helped with practicing this.

    She had a stress toy. If sad or angry, she would cuddle Luca the Lion and all the excess emotions would go out through his tail.

    She was allowed to hit pillows, and to hit her bed or the floor using the pillows. She was allowed to strangle a tea towel, rip up paper, stomp on the grass.

    We discovered that although earth is her element, she calms almost immediately in water, so we'd put her in a bath if she was really tense.

    I hated time out, thought it was an insane practice, but as she got older - about 6/7 - I taught her to seek a quiet place if she needed to be alone to settle herself. She's very good at doing this. However, she also knows she can always come to me too.

    I think the most important thing was to teach her to recognise when her stress was building up, so she could deal with it before it got to the raging point. So once she had enough words we worked out what stress felt like inside of her, and verbalised that, so she had something to recognise and act upon.

    I ought to say that although she was a very sensitive child I don't think she was particularly far from the norm. I would use these techniques on every child as I think they're good skills for all people to have.

    Most of the process belonged to me, I must say. For example, I had to struggle with my own inner pacing when faced with Rose's slow perfectionism. I would say that your Wildflower is teaching you something right now about yourself, about a need you have in you. But sorry, that's just the counsellor in me, not shutting up when she ought!

  14. Mon: Again, thank you. This is my story as well. It feels so good to know that I'm not alone.

  15. Wow amazing post! The honesty, the truth, the awesome pictures, etc. I think this is one that I will have to bookmark and come back to again and again and again. I like how you said, "these experiences deepen my compassion for all mothers." Unconditional love is amazing. So much of this post is how I feel, lately. Just what I needed to hear at this very moment. Thanks :)

  16. Mon, I wish I had the patience that you have. Though if I did, I may have been blessed with a needier child than the one I have! The Wildflower is so lucky to have you. I turn into a psychopath when I don't get enough sleep.

    I'm glad you had a cry. So sorry you are struggling. Because even though struggles help us grow and become stronger, it SUCKS to go through them. Despite your struggling, you seem so strong to me. Never raising your voice? Wish I could say the same (well, never yelled AT him, but certainly scared him by screaming at the ghosts from my past!) Anyway...

  17. Jenn - your words are so lovely, thank you. But i'm still not going to accept the 'great mama' label. lol
    But I do feel that she'll become a pretty amazing woman. x

    Mel - well, I certainly didn't have that screaming. Man! I also don't agree with them needing to learn independence. That comes at a later stage, AND when THEY're ready.

    Doc - I had a different response in mind, but you know what I wondered about today? Whether you're going through the baby/toddler experience NOW, because you are ready for what you're supposed to get out of it NOW. ??

    Carla - I also discarded my parents' parenting style, although it wasn't the intense experience that you had. It can be very difficult to shift what is embedded.

  18. ismilesalot - Welcome! How wonderful to hear of your own 'high-needs' girl turning out so strong.
    Like you, I also didn't mind, in fact relished, the holding. Now into the toddler years there's less of the relishing, lol.
    But I wouldn't have her any other way. :)

    Alexis - Besides the struggle, I AM amused at the contrasts and the differing judgements that are made.
    For me, I never had any expectation that if I did X then she ought to respond Y way. I understand how thhat becomes another way we can beat ourselves up!
    Although, reading the Sears books in the early days can leave a mother feeling like that is how it works. I almost fell for it all. Do this and your baby WILL be calm, etc. No wonder it's so many attachment parents that feel inadequate. Or when it DOES work - to feel superior!

    Lisa (MM) - I just become irked at the 'good' or 'well-behaved' label. No, she's simply being quiet, content, focused, at this MOMENT.
    I love that "why parents let their kids DO things like that" line. As if you allowed her to tip it over. But to me, it's a direct result of the 'children are to be controlled' mentality.
    It's one thing someone being annoyed by what happened, especially if they had to clean up or such, that's fair, but that sort of remark indicates a narrow-minded pov that I just shrug at.

    Waves at Janice and Erin.

    Lisa - You know, I've often thought that if it weren't for my life-long insomnia I never would have got a sleepless child! How's THAT fair?! lol

  19. sarah I love all those ideas. And it makes sense to me now, that you did these when she was older. I also agree that they are useful tactics for almost every child.

    The new one for me was the stress toy - with the stress coming out the tail. LOVE that.

    One thing we have on our side is her language skills. I'm already able to encourage her to use words to make requests. I don't EXPECT her to, at her age, but I'm encourging the things that help her get what she wants and thereby not become even more frustrated.... and not make mama turn even more grey. :D

    Thanks so much for sharing all that.

  20. I think I have the boy child version of your Wildflower. (They must have been born about the same time?)

    I was struggling a long time ago, but that had a lot to do with PPD. At 14 months, we began to notice that Z would take solid naps when he slept alone, on a lovely little organic cotton mattress on the floor in his own room. In fact, he seemed to thrive when we gave him a little space to just be in his room (he would close the doors). After a few weeks of napping there, we started putting him to bed there, nursing down, and then DH will go to sleep with him when he wakes. This made a formerly "high needs" boy much more relaxed.

    He was also going to be with me around 11, and waking almost every hour. We gradually moved his bedtime back to 7:30. I realized that I was the one resisting the schedule after thinking I'd tried everything 3x...especially in the beginning.

    Just thought I'd share this. Hope it makes sense as I'm currently dancing with my child!

  21. I just read some more of the comments here and they are so insightful. It just goes to show that the best parenting "method" is using one's intuition. Totally fine to read parenting manuals, but not to take them too seriously (or other parents' philosophies)--they should be uses as "ideas" not "rules." Or as I like to call them, parenting "tools." I collect these tools, put them away in my toolbox, and then when I am wondering what to do with my child, I pull out a tool and try it. If it doesn't work, I try a different one.

    And you are so right about parenting methods making us feel inadequate when it doesn't work or superior when it does. It's too bad the manuals don't come with a disclaimer: There is no one "right" way of parenting. These are just ideas that we think might work for you, but we could be wrong. Use this book for the ideas in it, don't use it as a bible. And don't forget to use your intuition.

  22. Mon, I experienced all that you have with my first born. The first year was a complete write off for me.
    You must have incredible, INCREDIBLE amounts of energy to blog and write what you do. How do you do it, is what I ask myself.
    Do you think you will have another? The whole process would be incredibly easier. And all less intense processing wise because you've done it before.
    I had a lot of fear that I would replicate what I had already experienced with Tboy, in fact I cried when I found out I was pregnant 2nd time around, but by the time Cgirl came, I was in a completely different space, I hadn't changed anything about the way I mothered - 100% intuitive and responsive, but there were so many other things holistically speaking (relationships, self, living situation etc) that made it all the more easier. And maybe I was just used to the sleep dep also :)
    The crying - what a release eh!
    I reckon the first 3 years (and a little more at times thereafter) are the most intense to ever experience as a mother, at least they certainly are/were for me...god knows what adolescence is like seems like the goal then for raising boys is basically to keep them alive!
    Back to babies, the best advice I was given was to don't read books. That helped, although I found a book fascinating for physiological development. And second time round I read Spiritual Midwifery, which was really great. But it terms f raising, I go with my instincts, my intuition, what needs to be done in order to manage life well. I actually actively weaned Cgirl second time around (at 18 months or so) as opposed to Tboy who i let wean himself (which he magically did at 15 months on a long haul flight to the UK), but if he didn't I would have kept on feeding him, in fact I pretty much let him rule my life at the expense of my own health. Second time around I was much more confident in knowing that I WOULDNT harm Caoimhe if I said no to her and set up boundaries for myself and sanity. I feel intuitive like she responded well to this confident energy and so those kinds of transitions were all pretty nice really. So after she was weaned, she slept through the night no probs. I still sleep with her of course, the next thing is to get her into her own bed before baby is born!
    Mothering certainly turns us inside out eh! For the better I do believe...for the ones that face up to it anyway...there are soo many who seem to follow some kind of script in how to raise children, someone else's script, gives me the creeps!


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