The Story-Teller

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe’s three years old, dark-haired with deep brown eyes framed by long eyelashes, talkative, loving and with an imagination so big that it engulfs our entire world.

He is my third child, probably my last. I’m drinking up every moment of him, trying to slow down time so he doesn’t grow so fast but he just amazes me with his ideas, his ability to articulate complex ideas and his physical abilities to master tasks, especially sports. He loves hockey and is an avid Ottawa Senators fan. One of his favourite toys is his hockey set with sticks and nets just his size to play with.

He’s intense. He uses his hands to pull your face to look at him, to make sure you’re paying attention to what he wants to show you or tell you. And it must always be NOW. Patience is not easy for him…

For him the world holds untold possibilities, where cucumbers make good light sabers, and Britax car-seat boxes make good garbage trucks and his bed can take him anywhere because some nights it’s Santa’s sleigh and other nights it’s a rocket ship or even the TARDIS from Dr. Who. We go on such adventures!

His first words were a simple sentence, “What’s this?” He was asking questions before he could walk. Now at three “Why?” is one of his favourite words, sometimes to our frustration, but it’s hard to discourage his enthusiasm for knowledge. Hopefully it’s a trait that will fuel a lifetime of learning.

We have a Museum membership that gives us access to three local museums and he loves exploring, playing, touching everything and weaving stories of adventures as he goes. Most visits it’s all I can do to keep up with him as he moves from one area to another, at times settling on one place for a little while before moving on. Usually just enough time for me to catch my breath!

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We also have a membership to Little Ray’s Reptiles and we love going to hang out with the animals and playing in the gift shop like the time he picked up a whole handful of bouncy balls and dropped them all at once sending them flying every which way and then he laughed as I tried to catch them all. Or the time he fed a whole bunch of tiny rubber frogs to one of the toy dinosaur heads that you use a lever to open and close their mouths. Sometimes he just goes into the empty presentation area and pretends to bring out the animals, imitating the presentations he has watched so many times. We love Ray’s and the last time we visited he insisted on taking some of the cookies we were baking to Ray. Ray loved them!

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I love that I am home with him and I can experience his love, his intensity, his questioning, his imagination full on. It’s exhausting but never dull.

This past Friday we spent an hour or more painting our tub walls with water-paints. He started out in the tub by himself but before long I was in the tub with him and we were painting each other, our nails and drawing tractors on the tub wall. We made nose prints and he drew a smile on my face because my smile was missing some lines apparently. I drew him a small John Deere tractor but he wanted one of the big blue ones we’d climbed on at the Farm Show the week before so I drew him a big New Holland blue tractor and he was happy.

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When it came time to scrub the walls clean he just as enthusiastically crawled back in the tub and helped me scrub the walls with baking soda. Most of it came off! The little faded spots of blue will be a reminder of an afternoon spent indulging his big spirit.

He is my wonder, my spirit, my story-teller, my reminder that there is so much in this world that is amazing from the sticks and rocks he collects to the whimsical stories he weaves to the fountains of knowledge he seeks but I cannot always answer. He’s also my quiet, my love over-flowing when I rest my head next to him at night and sing him “Winken Blinken and Nod” until he falls asleep because I know tomorrow he will be bigger and time cannot be stopped so enjoying him now, as he is, is the greatest gift I can give myself and him.

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If I knew then what I know now…..

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NewbornshotI have a 17-year-old son and a 3-year-old son and the way I have parented them has been completely different. Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d known some things when he was real little that I know now.  Over the last 18 months I’ve explored and read information on birthing practices, baby care, nutrition, particularly breastfeeding, circumcision, attachment parenting practices and so much more.  And I believe I’ve read pretty widely and many different view points which has led me to feel for the first time as a mother confident in my parenting choices.  Before I did what I knew and took advice only from a small group of women, which while it was not bad advice by any means, it was lacking, and not intentionally lacking either.  Practices change, improve, as information sharing becomes easier, and old ways of doing things are discredited. Every mother only wants what’s best for their children, and the wealth of information available now is mind-boggling.  I have waded through a great deal of that information and here is my list of what I wish I had known then that I know now.

  1.  Circumcision is wrong.  It’s not up to us as parents to make that decision for our sons.  It is their body, and most when given the choice do not choose it.  My oldest is circumcised because 17 years ago I didn’t know any better.  Most of the men in my family were circumcised, it was what I knew as normal.  My 3-year-old isn’t and I’m glad I just decided not to by default because I was too tired to look into it.  Now I’m glad I didn’t and wish I hadn’t with my oldest.  Aside from inflicting incredible pain on an infant too young to understand, there is just no medical reason to do it.  Thankfully in Canada we’ve come a long way and most boys are left intact now, but I still believe that this is an important message to spread as there may still be people who believe the outdated information.  I encourage you to check these sites for more information:

http://www.wholenetwork.org/

http://www.savingsons.org/

2.     Breastfeeding and more importantly, extended breastfeeding – as society has termed it – is incredibly healthy for both mother and child and completely normal.  I will admit I used to fall into the camp of thinking breastfeeding past a certain age, about a year, was wrong, but now I have learned better. The health benefits don’t stop as a child grows.  Breast milk changes constantly to meet the needs of the child, even when tandem nursing children of different ages.  Breast milk is liquid gold, and the benefits of breastfeeding an older child is huge to both mother and child.  In the mother extended breastfeeding can help lower the risks of illnesses such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  In the child it provides continued immune support against common ailments and is the perfect building blocks to help them grow strong mentally and physically.  Emotionally it is an easy way to help soothe a child in pain or who is over tired.  No matter what formula companies may say, they can never duplicate the amazing, adaptive qualities of breast milk.

That brings me to my next point on breastfeeding; support systems.  In Canada, partially because of our maternity and parental leave benefits, there’s a decent support system in place and it has definitely improved since my 17-year-old was born but there’s always room for improvement.  Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d had a stronger support system and that when he was three months old and I decided due to my extreme post-partum depression to quit, someone had said “No, what do you need to keep breastfeeding?” because the truth is I didn’t want to quit, I just didn’t have the support I needed or the words to express my frustrations.  I sometimes wonder if I would still be breastfeeding him.  He totally loved it and still will reach for my breasts occasionally like there is a lingering memory there.  So support isn’t just about hospitals supporting skin to skin immediately after birth (weighing and even cord clamping can wait, unless there is a medical reason to whisk the baby away, the baby should always be placed skin to skin on the mother’s belly right after birth), or providing good qualified breastfeeding consultants if they are needed both in hospital and after discharge, but it also includes community and family support, especially in the first 3-4 months after birth, which is labelled the fourth trimester for a reason. Community support also includes supporting a nursing mother when you see her out in public.  Women should be applauded and encouraged for providing the best possible nutrition for their children and not made to hide or feel ashamed in any way.  As a by-product of encouraging breastfeeding in public, it also normalizes it for the next generation.

3.     Birthing practices is one I’ve spent a lot of time reading about.  I started my training to be a doula a year ago but after doing the weekend course, decided to put the practical side on hold as I still have a young family to care for. I continue to read extensively on birthing practices and absorb all the information I can.  I’m an advocate of natural birthing practices as much as can be possible but each labour, each woman is different and at the end of the day just needs to feel supported and loved as she moves through this rite of passage to motherhood, whether it’s for the first time, actually most importantly if it’s for the first time, but also for each subsequent child she births as well.  Birth isn’t just about delivering healthy babies, it’s about birthing strong, confident mothers, and the quality of care and support will have a huge impact on how a woman sees herself both as a woman and as a mother.  I have learned an incredible amount and I will revisit this topic again in future posts. Suffice to say my views on the pregnancy and birth process have changed quite a bit over the last 18 months, and I hope will be an integral part of my career path. I’m actually already signed up for two Sacred Pregnancy courses this summer where I hope to extend my knowledge and care skills exponentially.

4.      There are other areas as well that I have learned so much about, like attachment parenting for example.  Some elements of the practice I always knew deep down but society insisted on different approaches, and especially with my 17-year-old I didn’t have enough wherewithal to argue the status quo.  For example, I left my 17-year-old to cry it out because 17 years ago that was an acceptable method.  Now, never, not even with my 3-year-old.  About 8 months ago he suddenly developed a fear of shadows, and after that his easy bed time routine evaporated.  It became a long protracted affair, but when he cried, I, or my husband, was always there.  And now, he’s learned to handle shadows and scary monsters, but even more importantly, he also knows without question we are here if he needs us. The relationship I have with my 3-year-old is the most connected and natural of all my children. Attachment parenting does not breed spoilt brats, it breeds confident, happy, well-adjusted children.  Yes, it’s more work but the rewards are worth it.

Below I’ve listed my favourite websites and Facebook pages for information on all the above.  It’s just a sampling, I have many, many favourites and can’t possibly list them all.  There are some amazing women and yes, even men, changing the face of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting in general.  I encourage you to check them out.  I’m sure I will be writing more on these subjects in the future, both to provide information and to relate how they apply to and affect my life.

http://www.handsfreemama.com/

http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/

http://www.ourmuddyboots.com/

http://www.drmomma.org/

http://freeyourkidsblog.com/

http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Consciousparentingnow

http://www.positive-parents.org/

http://www.birthwithoutfearblog.com/

http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/