Easter 2017: a lesson in less is more

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(Photo courtesy of Yann Coeuru, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy Easter, friends! And, happy spring!

It truly is a glorious time of the year here on the East Coast of the US. Azaleas and cherry trees in full bloom, sunshine, birds singing, new life.  And, Easter, a very special holiday tradition from my childhood, one that I’ve always wanted to share with my own children.

I love traditions, both the high holy religious ones and the everyday ones that give rhythm to our days. And, as the parent of young children I sometimes find myself worrying “we have to create our own family traditions now while they’re young!! What are we going to do for (fill in the blank with a holiday) to make it special?”

(Since Halloween wasn’t really celebrated in my or D.’s families growing up, we’ve chosen to skip that holiday for now. And, we only this past year, E. being three years old, decided to do the whole presents under the tree for Christmas.)

My holding back, so to speak, on the whole holiday celebrations thing stems from my journey into RIE parenting, Magda Gerber’s approach to childcare. One of my favorite quotations of hers is “do less, enjoy more.” That sentiment, together with her reminder to parents that “earlier is not better,” has helped me worry so much less about when my children will accomplish X or do Y or learn Z.

Her words have also reassured me that everything in its due time, including family and religious traditions.

And, so, Easter 2017. My attempt at simplicity and less. Continue reading

How to select toys for a child’s play (“yes”) space

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(Photo courtesy of Andy, Flickr Creative Commons)

How do you decide what toys to include in your child’s “yes”/play space?

While I could have subtitled this blog post “toys for a three-year old” or “what toys to buy for an 8-month old,” I realized that that would be missing the point.

“When setting up your child’s play environment, age-appropriate space and play objects are important considerations. It is best to provide an optimal learning environment according to your child’s stage of development.” (Your Self-Confident Baby, Magda Gerber.)

What I love about Magda Gerber’s approach to childcare and play is her emphasis on the unique relationship between parent and child, one that is built on respect, trust, and careful observation of the individual child. What interests my three-year old daughter might not interest yours; the same goes for my 8.5-month old son. So, instead, I’d like to share with you a list of some guiding principles that I have used to create a personalized “yes” space for each of my children. These are principles that have helped me choose what play objects to buy – or not – for my kids.

Be encouraged, friends. Continue reading

From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey

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(Photo courtesy of Futureatlas.com, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last year I wrote about my then two-year old daughter’s language development in Spanish. My husband, D., a native of Spain, and I are raising our two children bilingually: our family’s language policy is Spanish at home/among us four and English with everyone else.

With the arrival of my daughter E. three years ago, I began my bilingual parenting journey with what some might call a “hard core” approach: use only Spanish with my children, all the time. Never English. No translating. Promote, promote, promote the minority language.

As a trained linguist, I can cite all of the research supporting bilingualism. I recognize the advantages of a family language policy that supports the minority language.

And, while I’ll be the first to raise my hand with an emphatic YES! to the benefits of being bilingual, I have to admit that my initial approach to raising bilingual children rested on nothing less than fear and control.

Constantly running through my mind were thoughts like, One day she’ll realize that English is the majority language and hate Spanish!, or, She’ll probably refuse to speak the minority language to me when she’s older, or, What if she never becomes fluent in Spanish?, or, I will never use one word of English in front of her so that she is never tempted to speak it with me.

Fear and control.

I bought book after book for E. in Spanish, I devoured all the parent “how-to” books on raising bilingual children, I joined Facebook groups, I made sure to FaceTime daily with our relatives in Spain. I even started a blog on bilingual parenting!

Fast forward three years later to today. Continue reading

Sportscasting – the language of parenting

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(Photo via in pastel, Flickr Creative Commons)

When I first started this blog as a new mother, I wrote a few posts about my journey in bilingual parenting and learning the language of mothering, which for me is Spanish, my second language. Now, some three years later, I am learning a new, different kind, of language: sportscasting.

Sportscasting, or narrating, is a RIE concept developed by its founder, Magda Gerber.

In the same way that a sports announcer is trained to give an impartial, non-judgmental analysis of a tennis match or football game, parents are encouraged to sportscast, or describe, what they see when interacting with their children. Narrate, not judge. Reflect back for a child, rather than suggest or direct.

To give you a clearer idea of what sportscasting looks like in our home, I’d like to share when and why I sportscast. Continue reading

MY “sleep training” story

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Baby J. is almost five months old. And, it’s right around this time that I begin to hear chatter among parent friends about…

Sleep training.

Probably the most divisive term in parenting today.

To some in conjures associations of “cry it out” or “abandonment” or “undue stress” or “cruel and unusual punishment.” As if babies were helpless victims of undeserving torture.

You swing to the opposite extreme, and it’s used to talk about babies like, “you have to sleep train that baby,” or “they’re going to have to learn some day,” or “while they cry, just drink some wine and put on some headphones.” Pitting “us parents” against our adversarial “them, the babies.”

Yet, I would ask, must the topic of young children and sleep really be framed between two negative bookends? Does sleep for infants necessarily imply that either the child or the parent suffers in order to reach a certain goal?

Is it really all or nothing?

Is there any middle ground? I think so.

First, as with everything in parenting, it requires a reframing of our mindset, how we view the whole notion of sleep. And, how we view babies.

Babies.

RIE has challenged me to reconsider how I view babies. To respect them as whole human beings from the day they are born.

Sleep.

Perhaps it is more productive – and respectful – to discuss infants and sleep in terms of learning, a process, something organic and fluid. And, to trust that children are competent to learn how to sleep on their own (without a parent’s interference).

So, instead of sharing baby J.’s sleep learning story, I’d like to share mine. Continue reading

What does play look like for a newborn?

 

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(Photo via Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr Creative Commons)

Recently during a Facetime chat with baby J. and his abuelos, grandfather, noticing J.’s play space, remarked, “¿Qué? ¿No le compráis juguetes? (Don’t you guys buy him any toys?)

Con E., siempre la teníais en la taca taca, o con un juguete colgado en el cochecito. (With E., you guys always had her in the baby walker, or with a bunch of toys hanging in her stroller.)

So, what’s changed for us the second time around?

Thanks to Magda Gerber’s philosophy of respectful infant care, as well as the work of play advocates like psychologist Peter Gray, preschool teacher and blogger Teacher Tom, child delopment professor David Elkind, and RIE associates/bloggers Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury (among others!), I have come to understand what play really is and why it’s important for children of all ages, including a newborn.

Wait, what?

Newborns…play?

Yes, from the day they enter the world!

So, what does play look like for a newborn? And, what is a parent’s role? Continue reading

Reflections from postpartum, round 2

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Friends! In case you haven’t been following me on social media you may have missed the great news: we welcomed baby boy J. to our family on June 28! (That explains my long absence around the blog. I think it’s a pretty good excuse, if you ask me.)

Already a month old, he’s packing on weight like a campeón, grunting like a little old man, and enjoying the moving shadows on the blank wall next to the changing table.

That last one: watching the light on the wall from the changing table. A fine, but important, detail about my son that I completely missed postpartum with E.

I attribute my noticing J.’s intense fascination with a blank wall – and my not shoving baby rattles and mirrors in his face – to the fact that going from one to two kids is so much easier than becoming a mom for the first time. Not easy, just easier than. Continue reading