Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A LONG WALK TO THE TOILET

Today Leander used his small stair to go to the big toilet. We had the stairs in the bathroom for almost a year now. He refused to use them. Until today. It's been a long walk from the first poop in a potty until now.

In spring 2012 - so more than 15 months ago - Leander pooped in the potty for the very first time. It was in the creche. He was just about to 2. They sent me a message saying that Leander will have some very exciting news for me. Well considering he was barely talking sentences by then and not telling me anything about his day apart from "ate" and "slept" I did not expect much. And he didn't say a word. Still they made a big deal of it and told us that NOW the window has opened and it would be time to start potty training.

Coming from a RIE perspective we thought differently. We were rather overwhelmed with what had happened. Every now and then I got some updates on his potty being. In the cloakroom they would just quickly tell me about his pees and poops. And how things went. This is how I figured out what potty training meant in a montessori daycare centre. Basically they would ask the children every 30 minutes if they needed to use the potty. They would ask them before circle time and before garden time, before lunch and after nap time. They would c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y- ask and remind the children if they needed to use a potty or toilet. Something I simply did not want. So when we had a parent consultation the potty situation was on the agenda. We told them our point of view. That Leander was not interested in using the potty at home much. That even if he was naked he would pee anywhere but in the potty. That we believed him just being excited by all the other kids using it and that this was all the motivation for him to use it too. And that we did not want him to be reminded to go, that we did not want any training but him to learn about his body all by himself. They nodded politely but obviously couldn't just for us stop doing their thing. They couldn't stop asking all children and therefore if Leander was around he was included.

More and more often I would pick up Leander wearing no diaper. By then my husband and I differed in opinions. He believed that they couldn't harm him. I was concerned that Leander - when asked to use the potty regularly - never really filled his bladder and also for a long time did not realize what a full bladder meant. I had read the article and was concerned (and close to sending it over to the daycare centre).
Then summer came and I thought things would just calm down. I decided to let Leander walk around the house naked as often as possible to see if he really was ready to go without diapers. The result was that he went back to creche in September with diapers back on. He had a few accidents which for me were a few too many. What happened then was that we sent him to the creche in diapers in the mornings. They took the diapers off him and let him walk around without all day. He had hardly any accidents but for me this meant nothing - since he was asked to use the potty regularly I couldn't trust that he really knew when to use the toilet. That he understood his body functions in order to know what to do. Because for me this is what Toilet Learning instead of Potty training is about:

1. Realizing what the body signals are for needing to pee or poop.
2. Knowing where to do this and how.
3. Understanding the signals early enough to find a place.

By then Leander started using the potty at home frequently too, but not all the time. Not consistently. And so we started to ask him what he wanted. In the mornings he got the choice of diapers or underpants. More than often he chose diapers so diapers it was. On weekends he sometimes wore no diaper at all. It was on and off. When the end of the year was close we gave up on discussions in the creche and they did so too. In January he was moved up to the bigger groups in kindergarden and we decided to see how things went in there.

In the one chat I had with one of the teachers from the bigger groups she asked me if he was still wearing diapers. I said yes but that sometimes he would not. That it was his choice in the mornings. I don't think she understood. So for the past 7 months Leander decided on what to wear in the mornings.

Around his 3rd birthday in April this year we realized that he did not poop in the diaper at all anymore. I was excited that after all it was him who took the small steps all by himself. Almost without us realizing. I got a bit too excited and so there were a few occasions when I thought I could give him a little push and instead of offering a choice of diapers or underpants in the mornings I just offered him a choice of two different underpants. When he went in the trap those were the few occasions when I picked him up in changed clothes because he had wet himself. So I quickly stopped that.

During the parent consultation we had in May potty training was on the agenda again. They said that they thought Leander was ready to go without diapers. For the last time I told them that it was his choice in the mornings and that with all the experience we had I would leave it completely up to him. I was probably never that clear about anything as I was in that moment. Maybe because I knew they would bring it up and I was annoyed that they always seemed to know what he was ready for.

A few weeks ago we got a little confused again. Over the weekends Leander would go without diapers no problem. Monday morning he would choose diapers again. And he would pee in them. After a few discussions we decided to leave it like that and see what summer would bring. And Leander himself showed me that this was the right decision: I changed his diaper before bedtime one evening and I said that he had a sore bum and it would do him good not to wear a diaper for a while. He said he needed it because in kindergarden "all children have to go to the toilet." And he added: "I don't like that. I don't want to go." I was so amazed and somehow proud of him. For him standing to what he knew he was capable of (or not) and persistently wearing diapers. And for realizing how awkward it was to go to the toilet with all children. Something that intimate. He also kept mentioning that he was scared of the toilet in kindergarden. That he was scared to fall. From that moment on I did not mention the diaper at all anymore. Best decision ever.

Last week was his last in this kindergarden. He has been home for almost a week now. He has not been wearing a diaper ever since except at nighttime. Today he told me he needed to go to the toilet. When I aimed for the potty he said: "No, toilet!" He got the stairs out and went up.

I will not put the potty aside yet. He should not have the feeling that going one step forwards means not being allowed one step back. Because this is about him and his body. About his own feelings of his own body functions. This is important and he has shown us that he is completely capable of deciding when he is ready for whatsoever.

Parents often wonder if their children really decide to go diaper free one day. Just like that. I believe we all think that we need to show and teach and train our kids when they are born. But we don't. In fact - we mustn't. There are things they need to learn. How to cut with a knife. How to hold the pen. Stuff like that. But the things regarding their body - gross motor development, speech, toilet use, how to sneeze, etc. it's all up to them. They do it. In their own time. At their own pace. Sometimes over night.

The last 1,5years have been exhausting. At some point I said to my husband that I feel like the kindergarden pulling Leander on a tied rope and us pulling him back all the time. We felt misunderstood for a long time. But every time I heard a mother in kindergarden asking her child if (s)he needed to go to the toilet before they left, responding to a "No." with "Are you sure?" I knew I was right. I did not want to be responsible for his pee- and poop times throughout the day. Instead by now I know that if he tells me he needs to pee in the subway or on a bus I can tell him to wait until we find a toilet or tree. Oh how he loves the trees.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

OBSERVATiON iS THE KEY

The last few days have been rather challenging again with the two kids in the house. Mona is teething rather badly and Leander... well I wasn't sure what exactly was going on in his mind. But he seems to be unsettled. He is wild and loud but not in a playful way. It looks like he does not know what to do with himself at all. And what is going on with himself either. Until this morning my husband found an explanation: it's me and Mona again. Before we entered the kitchen he was fine. The moment we step in he loses it. 

I am grateful to have a husband who is so aware and observant. Who doesn't just say: "Jeez what's going on there again? What phase is that?" No. He cares.

So right now it's back to more observation. Is it rather me or Mona? Or the way I am dealing with him when he's around Mona? I realized that he became wild around her. And rough. Not obviously. I call it "silent aggression" - he leans onto her and squeezes her. He silently takes her fingers into his mouth. And bites. When she screams he smiles. I haven't had many of those moments so I am not so good in sportscasting this. Instead my motherly instinct so far made me protect her. And blame him. Although I know this does not work. The more I think about it the more I realize what has gone wrong over the last week. Yes. Just a week is all it takes to have this downward spiral start spinning again.

Magda Gerber used to say: "Observe more. Do less. Enjoy most." 

This reminder should be printed and pinned on the wall of every room in the house. It's not just that you enjoy those wonderful moments in their play or development. It's also that you discover what's going wrong right now. And where it has started. Observation is the key to successful parenting. Only then can you change your own behaviour. Because as bad as it sounds - more often it is us - the parent - who is in a strange phase or moment. If it's a stressful time at work or a moment of hunger and dehydration after a hot day - it's up to us to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of our children. A child is just a child and does what lies within his abilities. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

TiME TO THANK AND HELP

My parenthood and my life itself has been inspired by many books and online resources - but mainly: people. One of them is Lisa Sunbury - a RIE expert and wonderful caregiver. Lisa has been going through a very rough year:



Dear RIE Parents and Caregivers,

As many of you know, Lisa Sunbury is a RIE instructor, mentor, parent coach, trusted advisor and cherished member of our group who has helped us to foster a generation of confident, authentic people. Now we have an opportunity to help her. 

She put everything on hold and moved from California to Florida in order to care for her infant niece and is the midst of the adoption process. Once the adoption is complete she will then be able to return to her livelihood in California. The adoption proceedings can take seven months to a year. Until then, she is the full-time caregiver as she can only use a mandated state daycare facility, which is not an ideal environment. This makes it very difficult for her to work, but she is doing what she can from home.

I am asking you, dear parents, to consider what Lisa gives us in time, knowledge and experience and how we now have an opportunity to help her.

There are more than 2,000 of us in this group. We can assist her with the cost of plane tickets, legal fees, and incidentals that may arise during this challenging time. Any amount that you are able to donate, no matter how small will help.

Thank you Lisa for all of the support and insight you have given to us and others over the years.

Below is a link to the website where you can make a donation in the amount of your choosing:
https://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/lisa-sunbury-appreciation-/73752




This is not just to help Lisa. It's also to help R. who has been living with her for 8 months now. And - if all goes well - will stay with Lisa for good. For this girl Lisa is the best that could have happened to her. Or as Lisa has put it:

And someday, when she asks questions, I am going to be able to share with her about this group, and all of you- so many people, many of whom I've never even met in person yet, but who have nonetheless reached out, listened, shared, cared, and stepped up to help. The gift you are giving HER is amazing, and I can't thank you all enough.

So today I choose to thank Lisa for her support and inspiration given by supporting her. I have donated already. And I would be happy if you did so too. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

PRiCELESS MOMENTS

Today when I picked up Leander from kindergarden he was already waiting for me at the gate. Sitting on a tricycle watching the cars outside drive by, park and drive off again. I kneeled down next to him to say "Hi!" when he pulled my arm and wrapped it around himself. Then put his thumb back in and continued watching the cars outside. 

These are moments as a mother that make your heart melt. The little moments no ones else might notice. The ones you did not expect when you were a pregnant woman not knowing what to expect at all.

Too quick they fly by. Those moments. And in a busy life like ours they are gone in the blink of an eye. And forgotten. Maybe forever. So I decided to sit down and recollect some of those priceless moments as a mom of two.


  • Leander's happy smile when I go into his room and for a short cuddle curl up next to him after my husband has just tucked him in and I have sent Mona to dreamland.
  • The first time he said "Schuckigung" (his version of the German word 'Entschuldigung' which means "I'm sorry!") It was in the darkness of his room when I was lying next to him waiting for him to go to sleep and he accidentally hit me with his knee.
  • His smile with his thumb in his mouth when he is too tired to take it out
  • When he tries to grab a piece of my clothes while sucking his thumb all with the same hand (when he is completely exhausted and tired)
  • How he demands me stroking his neck or head after I have started but stopped "too soon". 
  • Him saying "Mama, I don't need a kiss. Dad, come on we need to go!" when they are about to leave for kindergarden in the morning.
  • Him and his Dad ringing the doorbell a minute after they have left in the morning because Leander had decided that he actually DID need a kiss from me
  • When I see him observe the world around him without actively taking part. When to others he might seem sad or upset but smiles and excitedly tells me about his observation the second I stand next to him.
  • When we both observe the world around us without talking but sitting close together. Simply enjoying each others company.
  • Him saying "Mona, mama is just gone to the toilet. She will be back soon. It's ok." when I left the two of them outside a public toilet in the hospital.
  • Mona's toothless smile in general. But especially the one she reserves for her Dad.
  • Mona's giggly laugh when Leander is jumping up and down in her eyesight.
  • Both their sobbing but slowly calming crying when they are lying in my arms.
  • Both of their real, natural and self driven giggly laugh.
  • Their sleepy faces I so love to watch before I go to bed myself.


None of those moments happen when I want them to happen. Not when I am busy with a smartphone or a computer in front of my nose. Not when my thoughts are somewhere in a different world. And if so - they are back in this world, in this very moment within a second and I know exactly where I belong.

What are the priceless moments in your life ?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF

Today during dinner Leander looked at me and said: "I was in the ambulance. With dad." I repeated what he just said and he whispered "Ambulance".
These are moments when you simply want to either erase recent history or break down in tears. First is not possible and second I wouldn't wanna do in front of my child. At least not like that.






5 weeks ago Leander broke his arm and had to wear a cast for 4 weeks. The cast had been off for two days when we got a call from kindergarden. He just fell off a bench and - broke his arm AGAIN ! My husband went over as fast as he could. The ambulance was already there taking care of Leander. Together they went to hospital and I met them there.

This time the fracture was a bit more complex and a normal cast wouldn't do the trick. So he had to undergo surgery. Meaning him getting a general anaesthetic and staying the night in hospital.
Whoever knows Leander's history - it's not the first time for him to be taken away from my arms by doctors in green coats. And it won't - in any way - help him get over his extreme anxiety of doctors or nurses. 

Children are amazing in a way. They simply get over things and go on with their life. It seems. Leander was a really poor and whiny little person all the time he was in hospital. He cried a lot, barely slept and asked for me constantly. Even when I was there right next to him. Until finally he was discharged. The moment we left the hospital he started talking "normal" again. It wasn't whiny and he was excited about the ramp we went down that was for wheelchairs and pushchairs etc. He was excited about the train tracks we saw from the subway and happily chewed on an apple. He was all fine. You'd think.

And he is. In a way. He is playing with his cars and trains and tracks. He is climbing the shelves in his room and on to his bunk bed. He wants to water the plants in the rain outside. He sings and talks a lot. 

And then he says things like the above. And you know his mind is rambling. And no matter how much you like it or not - you have to be there and go with it. As long as he can handle. Then he stops and you have to stop too.
And this is the hardest part. Of course my mind is rambling too. I can't get rid of the pictures of the doctors coming and taking him away from me. Him screaming and me crying. I can't stop thinking about the endless moment between this situation and him being "sound asleep" under the anaesthetic. How did they get the infusion in? How much did he still scream and fight in the OR? When I couldn't see or hear him? And how much of that brought back memories from deep down when he was 6 months old and all that happened already ? 

It does not matter how much I think about it and ask myself all those questions. I have to pull myself together and be there for him. And his awkward sentences. Whenever they come up. I can't just say "Hey, about that moment when the doctors came to pick you up. I feel horrible about it. Please let's talk." This may work with adults (and you are lucky if). But not with children. Not with Leander. 
With him I have to wait till he is ready to talk or he brings up a topic that leads to it. And until then I can ramble those thoughts over and over in my head. 

A couple of weeks ago he discovered his scars from heart surgery on his chest. We have always known that this day would come. And we thought we were prepared. But when my husband told me about Leander wondering about his scars and wanting to see the pictures of him in hospital I felt a tight rope around my chest. 

So with children we really have to take care of ourselves. We have to be ready for all sorts of questions and discussions. And if they are too much we need a vent to let go. Otherwise we might - at some point - break or freeze up. Neither of which is a healthy option. So in my case I chose typing them all up into a blogpost for you to read. 

Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

STOP WHiNiNG. START SCREAMiNG !

Today we had our annual medical appointment in hospital with Leander. Bloodpressure, ECG, Ultrasound. It's mainly routine for us. It's hell for him. But with every visit to hell we come out with a new insight. Today there were quite a few.

For every doctor's appointment I kept preparing Leander. I told him what was coming up and acknowledged his feelings. And yet every appointment was crazy. He was fine beforehand when I told him. He got anxious and silent when we arrived and screamed the hell out during procedures. I did my best and yet I couldn't help him. I was lost.

Then Lisa Sunbury from Regarding Baby gave me a few insightful hints. Because we figured that he was ok before the appointment and a happy boy almost the second we left the room. So what Lisa suggested was:

"I think that is a KEY point... A lot of times WE (as adults) worry, and we want to process or help our child process feelings, but for them, the way they do this is right in the moment... There is the experience, there are the feelings, there is the expression of feelings, and then, (if they are allowed to have and express all of their feelings with our support), they move on, and feel better. The younger the child, the more true this tends to be. Sometimes we hold on to the feelings or experience long after they have moved on, which is not to negate the fact when it comes time to go to the doctor again, the feelings might resurface, and more processing may need to happen."

So I watched Leander carefully the whole time we were in hospital. At one point after he was done with the ECG and allowed to put his shirt back on he suddenly went from crying to screaming. It wasn't that something was hurting him. It was a real and honest "I HATE THIS!!!" scream. You know the healthy one we as adults should let out every now and then too. It looked and sounded so honest that in that moment I felt like joining in. Because I hated it too. I hated the hassle and the lack of understanding they bring towards children and their emotions. In the pediatric clinic!!! I hated being here in the first place. I hated the whole experience that came flashing back every time I set foot in that hospital.

Leander was really really quiet and tense between those procedures while we had to wait for what felt like ages. He cried a lot during the ultrasound as well. Then he was done and he calmed down while we talked to the cardiologists about the results. When we left the room he suddenly wanted to run towards the kids corner . The area he couldn't have cared less about beforehand. When I said that we were done and ready to go he said he wanted to stay and play. Right here and there!!! So yes. Maybe Lisa was right. He had the feelings, he expressed them and he moved on. Done.  
How wonderful. How inspiring. 

All the doctors and nurses are surprised how bad Leander reacts the minute he walks into a room filled with medical equipment. That usually made me wonder. How come that my child was like this? After I spent so much time and effort into preparing him, being honest with him and supporting him all the way through? How come he still had such a hard time?  Today I saw it. It's not that we are not doing enough. It is BECAUSE we are supporting him and he's allowed to express all of his feelings and emotions. He was allowed to do so from day one. 
Distractions never work with him. Because he is not used to them. He gets really mad at nurses holding toys in his face. And so he is not used to holding back his emotions either. He is allowed to let it all out and so he does. He feels safe enough to do so.

Maybe it's about time that we as adults start expressing our feelings too instead of nicely wrapping them in a "Nae thanks, I'm alright." face.
We always just think of how mad a world would be with people screaming around all the time. But maybe we wouldn't have to scream so much if we would just DO it every now and then ?

What would you want to scream about today? 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

YOU ARE jUST LiKE... YOURSELF!


In the book "Siblings without rivalry" is a whole chapter about comparison. How much effect it can have when you compare one sibling to the other. I thought about it and was happy that (so far) I am not comparing those two. And that I couldn't really imagine doing so. Ever. Until one day I heard myself say to Mona: "Oh you like that left thumb? Just like your brother." Bam.

Just like that I had compared my children. Not in a bad way. But this is how it starts right? Especially with small children who constantly achieve some milestones. The second one will always be compared to the first. The first tooth, the first smile, the first steps. I constantly compare the two regarding sleeping  or nursing habits. Not in front of each other. But in front of family and friends when they raise the topic. And of course Mona is around most of the time. She listens.

Is that bad? I don't think it's bad to tell one child when he did his first steps in comparison to when the other one did. As long as it remains a story you tell. Not more. Can you do that?
So why not stop the whole thing right there. And start seeing your children as completely different personalities? Which they are !

I like those little challenges in life. Stopping to smoke. Stopping to praise. Remembering to smile more often. To check on my body tension every now and then. So my new challenge is to NOT compare my children to each other.

It's not easy in a world that is based on competition. But what makes our children stand up to it is not lesson after lesson in comparison by weighing one against the other. It's a lifelong lesson in supporting them in whatever they do and what lies within them. Loving them for who they are. Unconditionally.

“Comparison is the death of joy.” (Mark Twain)

Today one of the kindergarden teachers looked at Mona sleeping in her pram and said: "She is really calm." I nodded and said "Yeah she is just like that." and was about to add: "Leander was the same at that age." Instead I just smiled and didn't say anything else.