March 2012 - Posts
An irridescent hummingbird flashed into view, framed for two
perfect seconds by my kitchen window. My
heart leapt- a true sign of spring! That
happened last week, before we were cloaked again in clouds and rain.
A friend and I were talking yesterday about the contrast
between the glowing parade of early spring blossoms and the heaviness of heart
that we were both experiencing.
Suddenly, I remembered. Nature
can be new again, usher in fresh colors and young life because it let go in autumn: sent out seeds, let the withered foliage fall,
released its life forces. All the
creatures responded to the shifting energies, as well, as autumn turned to
The ennui that hung around me as I listened to the
full-throated trilling in the camellia bush, was just the wintery dying away
that had to be completed before something new could grow up in my soul. I am sure this thought had come to me before,
but knowing that it was true was not sufficient. What is the particular thing that had to be
let go of this particular spring?
Finally, the rain stopped and I headed out to the garden. Working
up the soil in the garden beds is always instructive. The earth is rich with last year's compost.
The children squeal with delight at the worms that are wriggling free of the
overturned clods. With each shovelful,
the bed grows lighter and so do I. Soon
we will be planting this year's seeds.
Then we'll watch the robins gathering straw from the beds
for their nests. Later we'll walk down
to the pond and see if the baby ducklings have hatched. One day the hummingbird will visit us again.
My oldest child has been asking for a cell phone for the
last five years. By turns demanding,
cajoling, piteous, and furious, she has run the full gamut of human emotion and
has taken her parents along for the ride.
Now we think, finally, it is time. She is increasingly independent, and traffic
being what it is around here, it seems artificial to continue relying on her
friends' cell phones to communicate late pick-ups and changes of plans.
But we didn't want the phone to be a graduation present or a
birthday present or a present at all. We
wanted her to regard it as a
responsibility. Inspired by the Family
Year post "Home Grown Rituals", I
set out to create a personalized quest, whereby my teenager could earn her much
coveted cell phone.
Since we viewed a phone as an adult responsibility, we
wanted her to approach it as an adult would-researching phone plans and
understanding the risks associated with using the product. This became the beginning of her "Task List"
which we renamed "The Cell Phone
We also wanted to introduce her to the broader world of
adult responsibilities-earning money, getting dinner on the table, and cleaning
up after one's self.
She particularly hates cleaning the bathroom and usually
manages to trade that chore with her sister.
Making it part of the Quest assures me that she won't go to college not
knowing how to clean a bathroom.
The Cell Phone Quest
$50 of your own money. Earned through
any safe, legal means including but not limited to: babysitting, odd jobs, and
extra chores. This money will be applied
towards your phone service.
and present a short (5-10 minutes) report comparing different cell phones and
cell phone service plans.
dinner for our family. You set the date,
the menu, create a grocery list, purchase groceries (with Mom's help and $$),
cook, serve, and clean up after a dinner for our family of four.
and present a report identifying potential health risks associated with cell
phone use and texting. Include your
plans for mitigating these risks.
minutes plus questions.)
the bathroom, yes the whole thing: sink, mirror, counter, toilet, tub and
floor. Mom will do it with you once. You
do it by yourself a week later.
My daughter thought
Tasks #2 and #4 were sensible and declared the others "totally random." Even after explaining our reasoning, she
maintained that cleaning a bathroom had nothing to do with being a responsible
adult. She may be right, but that's our
story and we're sticking to it. Besides,
we may never have a carrot this big to dangle in front of her again-so we're
going to make the most of it.! I'll let
you know how it turns out.
By Cynthia Lair, guest writer
children need and want boundaries. When
we set boundaries, we are saying we care about them. When they're infants, we keep our children
very close to our bodies. With each year
we give them a little more space to roam and a few more choices to make, even
as we continue to provide limits to protect them. This concept also applies to food. An infant is given the simple security of
*** or bottle. Preschoolers may be
able to clearly tell you if they would prefer an apple or a rice cake. A 10-year-old can help plan the dinner
menu. Keep the choices simple and
limited for the younger ones while allowing older children more input. The following suggestions apply to children
between the ages of 3 and 10.
your cupboards and your refrigerator with fresh, healthful, whole foods
products. When all of the food in your
home is food you feel good about serving your children, you can eliminate many
battles around eating. It won't matter
what your child chooses or asks for. You
can't expect to keep junk foods and sugary items around the house and not be
badgered, especially if your child sees you eating those items.
you pack a lunchbox for your child, make sure the choices inside are good
ones. When there are candies and soft
drinks and such in the lunchbox, children often eat or drink the sweets and
skip the rest; however, if each item is substantial and nutritious, you don't
need to worry about what your child eats or doesn't eat.
to sharing at least one common meal with your whole family each day. The family meal is not only a time for
nourishment, but an opportunity for children to experience social education. Emphasize social patterns with ritual:
lighting candles, saying a verse, setting the table with care, serving food a
certain way. Consider keeping a regular
time for the evening meal. For some pretty convincing reasons why sharing meals
benefits children check out "Sharing the Meal" on page ##.
What's served is
not make the mistake of preparing a separate meal for your child. Let each person receive some portion of each
dish that has been prepared. If your
child refuses to eat one of the foods, encourage them to sample one or two
bites, and then say no more. A child
sometimes refuses food because of appearance, and then appreciates it when
tasted. I like what my friend Kathy
Coffey uses as a simple dinnertime rule for her two boys: "Eat something of everything, all of
who refuse to eat anything on the plate should be asked to excuse themselves
and told that no other food will be served until breakfast or until 8 o'clock
that night or whatever seems reasonable according to your child's age. If they come whining for food later, consider
offering the leftover dinner. One way to
avoid the "untouched meal" syndrome is to make sure that each meal
has a sure winner: a simple side dish you know your child will like (see
"Include a winner at every meal" below).
a "no-critics-at-the-table" rule.
Teach your children that it is inappropriate for any participant at the
table to offer harsh and cruel reviews such as, "I hate everything! or
"This looks awful!" Remind such
reviewers that their words are unkind and ask them to excuse themselves from
the dinner table. Suggest alternative
ways for expressing dislike of the dinner menu.
Let them know they will be welcome at dinner the next night, where they
can practice being more considerate. I
find that children who help prepare the food for a meal are less critical at
the dinner table.
Include a winner at
usually like simple food, and will sometimes refuse foods that have several
ingredients. Let your child learn to
appreciate simple foods by regularly offering them. There is nothing wrong with plain carrots,
plain baked squash, plain noodles or plain brown rice. Sometimes it takes an elaborate salad to
please me when a five-year-old is happy with plain sliced cucumbers or shredded
lettuce without dressing. When planning
meals, include something plain and simple that you're certain your child will
like, even if it's just a side dish of sliced bread or carrot sticks or
Don't bribe, reward
or punish with food.
or withholding sweets or any other "forbidden" food in exchange for
good behavior is not a good idea. This
sets up hard-to-reverse psychological attachments to food. Food is something you eat in order to get
energy to play and to grow. Eating is a
primal need that can be a joyful daily ritual.
Find an arena besides the dinner table to work out power struggles with
tension and save money by not serving desserts every day. Reserve home-baked goodies occasionally for
snacks or special occasions and avoid constant negotiation about dessert. Let's say doughnuts are the favorite food and
you, the parent, feel it is not in the child's best interest to serve it
routinely. Instead of forbidding doughnuts
or using them as a trade for finishing math homework (bad idea), set a schedule
and stick to it. Doughnuts can be the
Saturday breakfast treat. That way there
is a rule in place and when battles arise you can simply restate the rule.
Be firmer during
your child is ill or has an infection, remove foods known to be stressful to
the system. Enforce your greater
knowledge and forbid candy, soda, salty and fried foods. Bodies recover from illnesses much quicker
when they are given nourishing foods that are easy to digest, such as soups and
broths. Explain what you're doing in a
way your child will understand.
can be stressful, too. Most holidays we
celebrate seem to center around sugar.
Provide some reasonable rules to curb the heavy intake of sugary foods
at these times. When my child is given a
bag of candy at a birthday party, we usually let her choose one piece a day to
eat. This works, as she sometimes loses
interest after a few days. If your child
is over age 8, let them help create the rules.
Listen to your child.
have good instincts. If they are being
offered excellent foods, they will eat exactly what their body needs. Children create a balanced diet over many
days rather than within one day.
Watch. Often they will hit all
the food groups during the week. To
eliminate worry about sufficient nutrients, offer a variety of whole foods
steadily and consistently.
children's wonderful intuition can go awry.
Refined sugar and flour, foods with chemical additives and highly-salted
foods can be addictive, and excessive amounts of either can mar your child's
natural good judgment. When heavy doses
of unnatural foods have been consumed and children begin expressing cravings
for more, parents need to intervene and restore balance.
setting boundaries remember to respect your child's individuality. Children who are very sensitive to certain
foods may benefit from firmer boundaries.
Others may show so little interest in food that you may not need to set
many limits. Some children are natural
vegetarians, while other may want or need some animal protein. Listen to your child's requests and guide
them toward the healthier, whole foods way of fulfilling them.
to look down over the Cascades from my aisle seat, I wish I had more a view of
the scenery, but perhaps it's good that I don't. Perhaps my heart
couldn't bare to see the expanse of miles and the rocky terrain that now
separate me from my baby. There's no going back now and, even if I could,
I know that I wouldn't. This trip is a necessity and not just because I
would never miss the wedding of my cousin, a surrogate sister, but also because
I resolved this time to be the end of my nursing relationship with my
thirteen-month-old son, Sam -- something that his health seems to be requiring,
but also something he clearly needs in order to develop as his own individual. The
miles that distance us now are enforcing that resolve, which I'm sure both him
and I need for this to be a success since, even though it is the right time,
separation is something neither of us want -- nursing bonded us intimately
We've been preparing for this for over a month, but it still seems hard to
believe that this morning was the last time I will ever nurse him.
No longer will I filter what goes into his body with my own; now he must
take it directly from the world and filter it himself. No longer will I
be able to soothe him back into sleep with the sweetness and warmth of the milk
my body has been making exclusively for him since he lived inside me; now he
will have to rely on only my caress, perhaps a bottle, and his own will to fall
We have endured separation before. At his birth I didn't think to mourn
the closeness we were sacrificing and barely blinked at the severing of our
cord. Though this original separation was bloody and dramatic, it was so
obviously well worth it to be able to look into his dark, innocent eyes, to
smell his sweet scalp, and to kiss his soft feet while holding him close
to my ***...
But this is now the end of the mystical period of time following the birth --
that time when we were one on the outside. I've seen this end approaching
for some months. First he began rolling away from me, then crawling and
walking. Now he's capable of running away from me and he does it with
such glee -- oh how this boy loves to be chased! The glimmer in his eye as he
peers over his shoulder waiting to see if I'll take the bait and play his game
and then that joyful shriek as he hops from one foot to the other (his starting
prance) and then takes off on his tip toes, hands drawn up to his armpits,
fists closing then opening rhythmically as they used to while he fed at my
Like the first separation, with this one comes many a new joy and I would be
dishonest not to say how much pleasure I am already finding in this new stage
of our relationship and of mothering (more giggles, less poop!), but, of
course, it comes at a cost -- out with the old in order to have in with the
new. So much of parenting is about just this it seems, about letting go.
If we don't, if we cling to what was, we miss the full experience of the
child who shares the present with us, the child who is constantly growing,
changing, leaving the old behind and running full force into the new -- but not
without that inquisitive glance over the shoulder asking if we will, indeed,
take the bait and stay present with him as he ventures forth.
It strikes me that how I meet that
gaze is everything. Will I run with my child, giving him my full love and
trust as he bounds forward into his future? Or will I stay behind,
longing for the irretrievable past, ambivalent to meet his gaze, which then
becomes ambivalent too?
Sam wants to run and it's time. I am grateful that, for now, he also
wants me close behind him, running also, cheering him on.
As my plane lands instead of distance, I feel the strength of love and know
that because of it my son will be fine these three days without me and that he
will thrive once weaned. My return gaze will not be doubtful. It won't be
aimed behind us both, but straight into his wonderfully joyful brown eyes.
My gaze will be the same as it was every time I looked down at him as he
nursed -- a look so full of love it connects us no matter how far the miles or
great the mountains, and no matter how far he runs into his future.
The pinks and reds of February are giving way to the greens
of March-not only from St. Patrick's Day on the 17th--but also from
the early signs of spring poking up out of the ground.
Every family shakes off winter in its own way. Perhaps you favor a bustling spring cleaning
or a nutritious spring tonic? Maybe this is the year to get up close and
personal with your food and raise some baby
Whether you make a
pinwheel with your kids, or reflect on their wildly different personalities, March is a great time to take
action and march forth!
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