Thursday, November 18, 2010

the rock mamas: doing it together

"I don't think I have what it takes," posted a fellow (and at the moment single) parent on facebook.

"You DO have what it takes, of course you do!" was one of the immediate comments.

"But they say it takes a village. I have something more like a hut, perhaps a yurt," was the response.

 (My village, in the Arb)

I am all for the village thing when it comes to parenting. I've relied on play dates for my sanity long before Lilly was able to play with other children. She was about 6 weeks when we left for Norway to spend a year in my native country. I immediately signed up for a new mom and baby group (barselgruppe) that met on a weekly basis that first year. And then we had baby swimming one day, mommy and baby aerobics on another day, always a coffee date some day and Friday was open.

After we returned to the US when Lilly was one, we found new routines and things to do with fellow parents. Age-appropriate read, sing and play classes at the library were a lifesaver that first year, in addition to the various play dates. Now we've branched out, incorporating "school" (ECFE) one morning, yoga another (a friend and I child swap for yoga and then often end up vising over coffee till lunch), and, perhaps my favorite, an outdoors group play date in our amazing local Arboretum. It started out on a casual basis this summer and then firmed up as a "thing" we'd all commit to doing this fall.

We call ourselves The Rock Mamas. It was the rock memorial garden where we first used to meet for play and picnic that inspired the name, but honestly, I think we all feel like we rock while we're there.  Because it doesn't get much better when you're hanging out with kids. The kids are happy playing, running around in the fields, up and down little hills, climbing and jumping off rocks, snacking on picnic treats. And the moms get to talk, often in complete sentences, which, as all parents of young children know, can be a challenge during play dates.

We'd vowed to stick to our weekly outdoors playdate throughout the thick of winter. So we felt pretty good about ourselves when we got together in the Arb this week, all bundled up after the first snow fell this past weekend. (We did make an exception the week of the extremely cold and blustery storm, described as "stronger than most hurricanes, more intense than the Armistice Day Blizzard, the 1991 Halloween Superstorm, and even the wild storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975." That week we headed over to "Wiggles & Giggles" at the YMCA instead.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

what's your asset as a parent?

asked the "teacher" at ECFE this week. Because I cringe at her lecturing approach to our (supposed) group discussion, I froze in my chair. But some good things came about from this question. Several moms expressed what they see as their assets and it's made me think more about what my assets are too.

I was talking with a friend during a play-date this morning, and I told her I see her asset as how calm she always comes about. She laughed, saying she didn't actually feel much like that before telling me about this morning's disaster at their house. Then she told me that her response to the question had she been "called on" (she's in my "class"), would have been her slapstick sense of humor (her favorite movies are slapstick comedies). So when things get really upside-down around their house, she can sometimes just laugh it off.

Then she asked me what I would have answered. But I still hadn't made up my mind. Some of the things shared by the other moms definitely resonated with me (I too love reading and singing to my child, and share my curiosity about the world with her). And I too can be flexible with my child, seize the teachable moment, and maintain a consistent approach in my parenting.

But what else? What new fun or intriguing interesting stuff could I put on the table? That I love to dance and will often turn on the radio for impromptu dance parties when things get either too much or too saggy? That I'm devoted to my nurturing care for her as I continue to attachment parent, nursing on demand, sharing my bed with her, laying down with her for nap and bedtime till she's asleep, for often more than an hour, including her in all our meals that I cook myself from (mostly) scratch, having never passed her off with baby food or offered her anything else than what's on the table, making a real effort to keep mealtimes as calm and positive?

What I told my friend is that I feel good about how I (unlike my mom) really focus on staying calm for my child, providing her with a sense of safety and security in her home environment (which I craved as a child). My friend agreed to this, but then added that what she really thinks stand out about me is my thoughtfulness; how I'll read all these things about parenting and child development that she finds really interesting when I share them with her.

Wow! Don't you just love a friend like that. What an amazing compliment. I just had to give her an immediate big hug. I guess that's just the academic in me, I responded. Not just as in that's my former career, but as in that's what I've always loved to do. To look into things I'm curious to find out more about, reading, researching, and then passing on what I find out, through talking, writing, finding out more in turn as those I share with respond with their thoughts and experiences.

So, though there was lots about last ECFE "class" that bothered me, something really good came out of it. As our "teacher" said, we talk a lot at ECFE about the joys of who our children are and what they do, but not much about what we like and are proud about when it comes to ourselves (don't you just hate it when somebody who turns you off is right about something?). It's a good exercise, to take inventory of your skills and assets that way.

How about you, what do you see as your assets as a parent? Which ones are you particularly fond of?
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