Saturday, 18 December 2010

Baby dancing... one day

One of the great things about being snowed under and cut off from the world is that your mail gets delivered in piles. Once a week, true, but so many goods at the same time. Diana Suskind's wonderful book 'Baby dancing' arrived on the same day as The Pikler Bulletin, so all of us had something to read that day.

Letting our babies develop naturally, on their own terms and in their own pace requires tremendous patience, and a whole lot of letting go. Letting go of our expectations might be the hardest of it all, it is, after all, impossible not to have expectations when it comes to just about anything in life. But this kind of letting go has taught me to enjoy every moment much more, as I am not busy waiting for the next step.

It's intersting how we often want things right now, and loose everything that happens on the way - the whole amazing journey. We noticed recently the same applies to babies, and so many of the conversations about them involve the 'what my baby can already do' element. I don't know how many times in the past two weeks I've had to answer the question: 'Can he sit up yet?'. Well, no, but you know look - he can roll, bend his legs like this, laugh when he hides under the blanket... 'Oh, that's ok, he should be able to sit up soon, don't worry'. You know, I'm not at all worried. He'll probably (although hopefully not) spend too much time sitting in his whole adult life, I'm kind of glad he's not doing it now...

My husband has an interesting theory about why that is - he says motor development is the only area where we can have control over our babies' milestones. You can't force the baby to say his first word, but you can sit him up. And with so little information out there, that you can do things otherwise, I'm not surprised people do. We did. With all the reading about motor development somehow I ended up thinking that once our son is six months old he will sit up. Just like that, as if by magic, on the day he turns six months we will wake up and there he will be in his bed, sitting (I'm not even going to admit to all the bouncer and high-chair beliefs we had).

Here is what Emmi Pikler says about motor development: 'Let us not force the infant. Let us provide well for her, but let us not disturb the slow, steady process that has its own rhythm and course with every child. Every healthy child will get from the lying position on the back to walking freely. The period of time may vary, but it will alway happen in correlation with that child's physical and mental constitution, that child's limbs and use of moveability as far as possible.'

When my husband and I were travelling in Asia for a few months, we visited so many breathtaking places it's hard to count. But my clearest memories are not those places we ended up in, but the journey there. How we got lost, how we couldn't get a ride fo hours in the rain, how we had to sit on the back of a truck full of piglets... and I know my son will one day sit, stand up, walk, run and dance, whether I help him or not. But I want his body to have a chance to go through the entire journey. I want him to enjoy every moment of the ride, because once he gets there he's there, this part of the journey is over. And I want him to be ready to be there.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Since you can't have a pint, how about a diaper change?

Raising a person is hard work. I feel for all the mums, whose partners work long hours, have meetings, come home late and have little time to be around. But I also feel for all the dads who are, sometimes unconsciously, left out. Who want to participate but often don't know how. Who are afraid they will fail. And to all those dads I just want to say: we are scared too. And frankly, I think maternal intinct is a tad overrated.

I was lucky to be home not even 24 hours after our son was born. Not that I would do it again, or that I recommend it. But I was lucky, because as I could not move around too much and was just plain tired, I had absolutely no urge to control anything. For the first week I don't think I changed a diaper more than three times. I occasionally dressed my son. I really only fed him and tried to sleep. My husband did the rest. That's why I think I was lucky.

I can't imagine how hard it must be for a man to try and connect with his newborn baby - we are, after all, connected to them since day one. They are physically a part of us. And on top of that we get to feed them, should we choose to breastfeed. All of this we have naturally, as part of the package deal. Our attachment with the baby seems to be of a different kind, especially in the beginning. Sometimes when I think about it I think dads have it harder, in a lot of ways...

Connecting with a tiny person is hard. It's hard in a lot of ways, as we are (in our culture at least) somehow led to believe that it is not a full person in his own rights - just some kind of person-to-be. Potentially. And since we, as mums, on our maternity leaves take care of their basic needs, what are dads to do? It's not like they can watch football together. That's why I'm happy I was let out of the hospital and could watch my husband take care of our son as I was getting my energy back, bacause in all honesty - he didn't know what he was doing as much as I didn't. We both had no idea.

So my husband is the diaper-changing guy, and I am the feeding guy. I am the stay-at-home-most-of-the-day guy, but he is the bath-time guy. Sometimes I stand behind the door when they are engaged in the diaper-changing. They are so busy they probably don't even know I'm there. It's a serious business in our house, not just a quick deal. It's almost ike listening to two friends having a pint, in a way. At first I thought they were taking quite a long time, now I know that these are their quality moments, what Magda Gerber calls 'wants something quality time'. There is a lot of talking involved, and recently not just on my husband's side. It's really great watching the two of them together, each knowing exactly what the other one is doing, occasionally having a few laughs. As all is done, the conversation usually continues on the way to the playpen, where my husband stays in for a while, while our son slowly returns to his world.

So even if you, dads, are busy, tired, stressed and scared - it's ok, we are too. You don't have to be around all day. You don't have to build up the energy to constatnly entertain your baby. One good diaper change will do. Because I hope one day my husband will be having a pint with our son and I will see the connection between them that started on our changing table.