Naming the struggles: transition to life with a new baby

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(“Maternity” (1935) by José de Almada Negreiros via P. Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CC)

“You name our suffering, and that makes us want to come close to You.”

(Rev. Glenn Hoburg, Grace Presbyterian Church)

The second I heard those words, I put down my pen and slammed my journal shut.

Did I hear that right? I thought. How did he know? How was it possible that those words, preached in a church about the New Testament book of Romans, could have anything to do with my parenting a three-year old and a 10-month old baby?

Although uttered in the form of a prayer, referring to God’s relationship with His children, that sentence immediately reminded me of my three-year old daughter, E., life with a new baby (yes, still, 10 months later), and my ability to accept – and confront – all of E.’s feelings.

Let me explain. 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

What is RIE anyway? And, what does it look like in practice?

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(Photo courtesy of Philippe Put, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy New Year, amig@s!

As I was brainstorming for the first blog post of the new year, I realized that, although I’ve written a lot on certain aspects and parts of RIE parenting I have never taken the time to explain its core tenets.

So, I thought why not kick off 2017 with an overview of what RIE is (the eight principles below come from the RIE website) and what it looks like in the day-to-day life of our family?

Before continuing, let me be clear that RIE is not the only respectful philosophy of childcare that exists, nor is my family practicing it “perfectly” (whatever that means anyway). Rather, RIE is an approach to caring for young children that deeply resonates with our family and which has brought us immense joy, freedom, and personal growth.

Be encouraged, friends.

Continue reading

What we’re reading, November

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(Photo courtesy of Christopher, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy early Thanksgiving (to my American readers)!

The crisp, cool weather is finally upon us and with the shorter days, I have found we’re spending lots of our indoor time reading. No complaints here!

Here are a few of our favorite reads lately, books for both children and parents.

Enjoy!

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