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You are the expert in the topic of your children

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We have just come through a week of pretty angsty bed times. Some nights Ramona took a whole 1.5 hours to get to sleep. Even though we are just reading, nursing, singing and I should be able to think wonderful pleasant thoughts about spending all that extra time with my tiny delight, I don’t. I just get a bit annoyed inside, dreaming of being able to go downstairs and read without having a full-of-life  toddler flickering about around me.

And then, as quickly as the Bedtimes of Terror period began, it stopped. It stopped because I began trusting myself again.

You see, a week ago I read on a blog that I had been lurking on a bit (a blog that really resonated with me about lots of mothering practice) about children’s sleep. Sleep is always the thing that makes me a jittery mother – when Ramona was a baby I spent hours a week, it seemed, googling topics to make sure she was getting enough (or not too much!) After many months we settled into a pattern I was comfortable with and I stopped my obsession. Then I read a bit on that there blog about how crucial toddler sleep is, and how tots MUST go to bed before 7pm.  I was a bit stunned. 7pm? So certain? Just like that?  But she mentioned “circadian rhythm” with real conviction- I don’t know what this is but it seemed to be about syncing with the earth, which, y’know,  I am all for.

Now, Ramona tends to go to sleep between 8 and 9, unless she is sleepy earlier. What a TERRIBLE MOTHER! That night I vowed to give her the opportunity to sleep at 7pm. It didn’t go down too well with her but still, for the following 6 nights I tried every trick in The Book to convince her that 7pm was the right, circadian time for her to go to bed.

Every evening after she finally nodded off I’d come down, Battle Weary (a loving, cuddly one but a wrestle of wills all the same) and annoyed at having frittered so much time away upstairs.

It took six days for me to regain trust in my parenting. Six days for me to realise that the sleep pattern we had woven for ourselves was the right one, despite what other mothers do and the experts say.  Six days to sod the Circadian shizzle.

See, when it comes to Ramona, no-one is more expert than me.

And when it comes to your child, you are the know-it-all; the person most in tune with his rhythms, the detector of her subtle signs, his soul-whisperer.

Childhood charts and sleep guidelines and “Musts” and “Ten Signs of” may be helpful for some – I am sure. But for others of us they undermine what we have come to understand of ourselves, our children, and our ways. When I read that Ramona is just under the “normal amount of sleep for an 18 m old” I am wracked with guilt, especially when it is followed up with facts about how vital sleep is for development. But then I take a moment to look at my daughter and see her joy, her exuberance, her calm, her growth and  I feel okay about it all again.
When I trust that she will sleep when she needs it and eat when she is hungry, our lives have a certain flow and a tangible ease.  (My role is to provide the right conditions for these things to happen, of course,  but I need to trust her to take the bite or rest her head.)   I also need to trust myself as a mother, trust my intuition and my instincts and trust my ability to interpret my daughter and muddle through our own path.

Sometimes when I read the stories and tips and facts about others I find all of this trust just eroding a little bit. If you are like me in this, I just want to say it again:

You and your child are the best experts in all of this. You are the same flesh and blood, and your hearts beat to the same rhythm. Embrace the fluidity of your lives – don’t hide it or be ashamed- too soon they will have boring meetings to arrive promptly at and all the Schedules of Adulthood.  Feel the freedom of knowing trust in each other, to be guided by each other. Not a soul on earth knows  or loves your child more than you. And that is just how you roll.

Right, this is me using all of my blogger’s monthly entitlement for cheeseball posts.  Please forgive me, I was just really feeling this today.

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Power of Making: making makes you…

Once I sewed a weird but cute looking stuffed monster for a friend’s new born baby. As I tucked it into the envelope something pricked my finger. I had left the needle in the toy. A cuddley toy. For a NEW BORN BABY. The needle.  The things I make have charm but otherwise fail on so many levels. Yet I continue to make stuff. “Why do it, baby harmer???!”  I hear you cry. It is because I think crafting is important.

The value of craft has been given loads of air time lately – the upcoming “Power of Making” exhibition at the V and A has inspired the Craft debate at the British Museum and a brilliant article by craftivist Sarah Corbett. There is shed loads of evidence to suggest that craft has the power to challenge social injustice in an imaginative and beautiful way.

It is a topic I LOVE.  In fact just a few months ago some friends and I launched “the Make Collective” –  a group of people who make stuff together as a way to build community and explore spirituality. It is a pretty exciting time for us.

I love stories of how cross stitch has played a part in significant global campaigns, and how making your own clothes quietly subverts our damaging consumer society.

For me though, a massive and unexplored part of the “power of making” is it’s impact on the person who is doing the making. Creating (be it writing a poem, pouring paint on canvas, building an ark) puts people in touch with their soul.  When we create we reveal an often hidden part of ourselves, a side that is quite primitive the part of us that can’t fail to be overawed by a night sky jampacked with blazing stars. (As a person of faith I reckon this is because when we make stuff we are imitating God, the one who formed mountains and imagined the oceans into being. It is a deeply spiritual act.)

And when we experience that moment of connection, the satisfaction after an afternoon of making – it feels like having scratched a good itch- we are just that bit more whole.

And whole people are often the ones who feel more able to visit their neighbour, write a letter to their MP about a major issue, spend more time on the eco-ness of their homes. When I give enough time to make stuff (even terrible stuff- trousers that give Ramona  builders crack, wobbly pottery that can’t stand up let alone hold a brew) I feel things are more right, and my self efficacy goes through the roof.

Making stuff changes people on the inside for the better. And in turn this impacts society and the world.

So I think every one should get in touch with their makey selves; even people who say they are utterly unartsy leave our Make workshops after whipping up a tiny comic or piece of metalwork with a buzz. I’d go so far to say that making is as important a need as nutrition, fitness and seven hugs a day.

Some of the Make Collective creating a collaborative collage for Camberwell Arts Week

Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective is leading our October Make Workshop at House Gallery and Cafe in Camberwell. Get in touch for more info.