Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
If you would've asked the pre-motherhood-me about how I'd communicate with my future children, I'd have almost certainly said that any kid of mine would be speaking in complete sentences by age one. Like I did. Like my mother loves to recount. There's a cassette tape of my first birthday that features a newly one year-old Stefanie saying things like, "I hold it!" (the microphone) and singing You Are My Sunshine, reciting the ABCs. That same me, pre-George, thought baby sign language was -- you know -- cute, but unnecessary if your hearing-capable child simply got the amount and type of attention required to teach said child to talk. HA HA. I know, I know!
Fast forward to the first few months after giving birth, when I would've hacked my own arm off ala Aron Ralston just to extricate myself from the frustration of being unable to effectively communicate with the tiny new love of my life. Baby sign language? Hell yes, please. I opened and closed my hand during every hours-long nursing session, hoping that George would pick it up. Hoping that the next time he cried like his heart was broken, a lightbulb would appear over his little head that meant, "HEY WAIT! I can tell you what I need, and what I need is to nurse," and his fist would open and shut, the Halleluia chorus would sound and we would go out for a celebratory drink. Oh. Um, anyway.
One day, it happened. Five months in, my screechy little grump learned how to talk. Sort of. He was nomming away and reached up to sign right under my nose: Nurse. Milk. Nom nom. In my face, as if to say, "Mama, you better not miss this." I didn't believe it. I took video and posted it on Facebook, hoping for confirmation, which came quickly from other parents, along with hearty congratulations, the likes of which only come from people who know the magic of that Baby-English Dictionary. And with that, the game changed. He told me when he was hungry, which was more often than I'd realized. More often than "they" say babies are "supposed" to eat. I could stop trying everything else before feeding; he just put that little fist to work and I complied. Happily. No -- ecstatically. A month or so later came 'all done,' then 'more.' Like Which way to the train?, Where is the bathroom? and excuse me, the all-purpose phrases of international travel, these three signs covered a multitude of situations (I am all done with this stupid diaper change; More of those sweet tunes! Get out of my face -- you aren't funny [which can be conveyed with surprising unambiguity with 'all done']). We had a different child. The ability to tell us what he wanted made him happy and proud, and our ability to understand him came as such a relief. That crabby, misunderstood little guy was replaced by the communicative George we have now, and my stock in baby sign language went through the roof.
He began using a verbal vocabulary in what I like to consider a recreational way, because he wasn't forced to hurry up and learn to talk about his needs. Cat, dog and meow were his first words (besides Mama), and continue to be the ones he uses most frequently, almost always while pointing out an animal and grinning a grin that asks if you are getting a load of this(?!). At almost thirteen months, he is definitely nowhere near singing You Are My Sunshine or reciting his ABCs, but what I've learned from parenting my son is something that I've had to learn and relearn many times before this final (I hope) sinking in: everyone goes at their own pace, and intelligence means different things in different situations. If my six month old had been able to do what I (not so) lovingly call baby tricks -- the motions to Itsy Bitsy Spider, "SO big" (which is really freaking cute; don't get me wrong), etc., but didn't have the tools to express his most basic needs and wants, he might still have been considered "smarter" than other kids his age. But would he feel empowered, understood, validated? George won't be a Billy Collins-reading Youtube sensation anytime soon, but I know which is more important to me.
If you had asked that pre-kid Stefanie to prioritize feeling validated and the appearance of intelligence, I'm sorry to say that she would've had some difficulty deciding before arriving, in all likelihood, at looking smart being more important. I'm delighted to report, however, that a really, really clever baby has shown her the error of her ways.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)
- Affection — Alicia at I Found My Feet has finally become a hugger and kisser, now she has someone sweet and small to snuggle with. (@aliciafagan)
- Learning from Daniel — Amy at Anktangle hopes that she and her husband will always be open to learning from their son. (@anktangle)
- Kids Cultivate Awareness of Universal Truths — From forgiveness to joy, Amy Phoenix at Innate Wholeness has become aware of deep truths that come naturally to children. (@InnateWholeness)
- What the Apple Teaches the Tree — Becky at Future Legacy has learned about imagination, forgiveness, and strength.
- A Lesson in Slowing Time — Bethy at Bounce Me To the Moon revels in the chance to just be with her baby.
- Learning From My Children: I Am So Honored — WAHM Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey is learning to choose tea parties over work. (@MyMotheringPath)
- P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E — Now that she's a mother, Danielle at born.in.japan is finally learning about a personality trait she lacked. (@borninjp)
- Top 5 Homeschool Lessons My Children Taught Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what she learned from homeschooling her (now grown) children. (@DebChitwood)
- Learning to Live in the Present By Looking to the Future — Dionna at Code Name: Mama finds the patience to be a gentle parent, because she knows how fleeting childhood really is. (@CodeNameMama)
- The watchful Buddha boy — At Dreaming Aloud, they are learning to cherish their thoughtful, sensitive child in a action-driven, noisy world. (DreamingAloudNt)
- What My Children Taught Me — Dulce de Leche's children have taught her to value herself for the wonderful person and mother she is.
- Lessons from the First Year — Having a child made Emily at Crunchyish Mama realize that her decisions affect more than just herself. (@CrunchyishMama)
- Lessons from Loss — Erica at ChildOrganics learned so much from the love — and loss — of her sweet Bella, five years ago. (@ChildOrganics)
- The Socratic Baby — Erin at Multiple Musings has so-called "identical" twins to serve as a daily lesson in nature vs. nurture. (@ErinLittle)
- Learning to be a Mother — Farmer's Daughter learned the type of patience that enabled her to calmly eat one-handed for months and change clothes seven times a day, before noon. (@FarmDaughter)
- A Few Things Being a Mom Has Taught Me — Heather at Musing Mommy shares the curious, hilarious, and sometimes Murphy's Law-like tidbits we learn from our children. (@xakana)
- I Feel You — Motherhood has taught Jamey from At the Bee Hive empathy, and it extends beyond just her child. (@JameyBly)
- Lessons From My Child… — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares the inspiring ways she's learned to expect the unexpected — and have a camera ready! (@imaftmummy)
- My child is my mirror — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama has seen herself in her children – and it's not bad. (@crunchychewy)
- There is enough to go around… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life learned that love doesn't diminish when it's shared.
- Learning From Our Children, Every Day — Kimberly at Homeschooling in Nova Scotia, Canada is continually inspired by her children. (@UsborneBooksCB)
- Life Lessons From My Children — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood has learned that every slug is fascinating, doing the dishes is fun, and sharing a banana is a delight. (@crunchymamato2)
- Things I've Learned From My Children — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings uses pictures to share what she has learned from her children. (@sunfrog)
- Beyond the questions lies the answer — Lauren at Hobo Mama stopped wondering and started knowing — loving and liking our children comes naturally. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Learning from Children — Lily, aka Witch Mom, finds out just how enchanting balloons can be. (@LilyShahar)
- Life-long Learning — Lindsay at Living in Harmony has learned that what works for one kid might not work for another. (@AttachedMama)
- Walking alongside my daughter — Lindsey at Mama Cum Laude is learning to give the clock less power over her family's life.
- Things my baby taught me about me — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is proud of how she has grown as a mother. (@lvano)
- From my children, I have learned — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip has a litany of beautiful lessons, from selflessness to sleeplessness.
- The Little Things in Life — In a simple and lovely prose poem, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shows how adults worry about the wrong things and forget the little, important ones: watching ladybugs, jumping in leaves, cherishing each moment as it comes.
- The Virtues of Motherhood — Melissa at The New Mommy Files has had opportunities to learn from children as both a teacher and a mother. (@NewMommyFiles)
- My Kids Have Taught Me That It's Time To Stop Blogging — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has learned that childhoods fly by too fast to blog. We'll miss your wonderful online presence, Melodie, and we wish you much peace and happiness. (@bfmom)
- Having Kids Has Taught me a Thing or Two — Michelle at The Parent Vortex learns all day long — from fun facts about hedgehogs to tying a complicated wrap with a screaming child and an audience. (@TheParentVortex)
- We Could All Learn from the Children — Momma Jorje takes time to get on the floor and play so that she can see the world through her child's eyes.
- Teaching Forgiveness — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has a daughter who's taught her unconditional love — even when she feels like she does't deserve it. (@littlegreenblog)
- Parenting as a joint venture — Olivia at Write About Birth appreciates watching the astonishing way her children learn. (@writeaboutbirth)
- Beginner's Mind — Rachael at The Variegated Life learns from a child who builds bridges to nowhere, calls letter magnets his numbers, and insists dinnertime is truck time. (@RachaelNevins)
- A baby's present — RS at A Haircut and a Shave presents a short poem on the differences between a baby's mindfulness and ours.
- Self-Confidence Was Born With My Daughter — Sara at Halfway Crunchy learned to trust her instincts by responding to her child's needs — and saw her self-confidence bloom.
- From the Kids — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante has one list of earnest and one list of silly things she has learned as a parent. (@seonaid_lee)
- Lessons my children have taught me — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes learned that attachment parenting was the best way to meet the needs of her child and herself. (@Sheryljesin)
- Till the water is clear — Stacy at Mama-Om has learned that her energy can affect the weather patterns of her house. (@mama_om)
- I Hold It — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has learned that the ability to communicate is much more important than the number of words a child knows.
- What My Children Taught Me About Letting Go — Summer at Finding Summer is learning from her kids to laugh in the face of heartache. (@summerminor)
- Finding My Tools — The Artsymama has applied some of what she's learned as a mama in the classroom, with great results!