Sunday, November 28, 2010


It is this time of year again. We are thinking about the presents for our beloved ones. Where there are new beloved little persons in the house there are more thoughts and discussions on presents in the whole family. No matter how old the little person is.

I have recently scanned through this parents forum I should actually be avoiding. Some mothers are seriously asking the question "What to buy for my 6 month old boy for Christmas?" It's not just the question, it's the answers that appeared minute after minute. Parents are sending lists and lists of toys they are buying or "ordering" form the grandparents for their children.

Our son will be 8 months old at Christmas. I do not believe that what he needs are many many presents. He does not even know the term present. How can he differentiate between a present and a household item lying around ? Don't get me wrong - I would not want to exclude my son from Christmas but I seriously do not believe that he needs boxes of presents lying underneath the Christmas tree.

Are we not all complaining about the amount of money we are spending year after year for christmas, the crazy shopping stress in the city centre or in the shopping malls the weeks before christmas, the manic consumption of stuff? So shouldn't we try and teach our children better? Let them believe in Santa, let them write wishlists. But don't let them expect the whole lot. Don't let them expect anything.
I remember one Christmas with my cousin and his sons, three of them. They had sent lists to Santa and my cousin and his wife had then "ordered" the items on the list from the various relatives. On boxing day at my granny's house, when they had received the last load of presents, they looked around the room filled with toys and asked where the missing items from the list were. I was shocked. They did not just expect anything from the list, they expected the whole lot.

So far we don't even know yet how to celebrate Christmas with our son since we are not very religious. But I know that I don't want him to see Christmas as time for presents. I do not want him to relate Christmas just with Santa. I know it will be hard as soon as he enters kindergarden and school. But I am trying to live as sustainable as possible and I do believe in a better world, I do believe that there is hope and therefore I will not give up before I have tried. So I will certainly not start the Santa-present-connection in the one year where my son will surely not realise any of the festive fuzz and buzz and stress.

What I will be giving him for Christmas this year is a relaxing and quiet time with us. Enough time for him to play and discover. Maybe I look through the box of toys I have not given him because he is busy with the ones he's got already in his playpen and quietly put this somewhere in his reach. Maybe he will make himself the present of being able to crawl or sit up.

What will you be giving your children for Christmas ? What's your opinion on this and what are you doing about it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


A friend recently asked me about the "problems" with grandparents when you are focused on one (not very common) way of raising your child. I don't have any problems with the grandparents though, because like my child I decided to "let them be".

Obviously I thought about it before. And I haven't been as easy going about this from the start. We have also been so excited about our "method" (it just sounds so technical) that we dropped opinions and attitudes wherever we went. When this was my parents in law's house we had a discussion about the rocking, bouncing and carrying of babies. My mother in law told us proudly how - when Jan was little - his father constructed a system of strings in the bedroom so whenever little Jan started to cry they just had to pull the strings attached to their bed and little Jan went back to sleep eventually. We mentioned our approach, that we don't want to do any of this and mumbled some explanations. We also had her put Leander back on the sofa when he started crying after she picked him up. It worked. But only for him.
Ever since this discussion comes up again and again and you can tell that sometimes she is a little insecure about what she is "allowed" to do.

With my mother, who came to visit after we had the discussion with the "in laws" I decided to take the small road. I told her about Emmi Pikler, about those principles and what we liked about them. I made sure I did not sound reproachful. Because in the end they are our parents. They raised us and I'm sure they were just trying to do a good. Just like we are trying now. So I'm certainly not standing here with a parenting experience of a few months telling my mom, who raised two kids, what she has done wrong.

Of course I would love all people that have contact with Leander to be as thoughtful and respectful as I am trying to be. To be aware of the principles behind. But even we fail from time to time. And this is ok, this is how we learn, this is how we reflect. That does not mean that Leander is raised the wrong way on some days. He just learns that things can go wrong or - to not sound so negative - different. And so he will realise for himself that his grandparents do things different. Do different things to him. If they hold and bounce him up and down. Let them do so. If they pick him up without telling him before - he'll survive. It will not disturb what we have built up over time. And it will not disturb the relationship to our beloved parents.
There is the exception for the gross motor development. We would not want them to "help" Leander crawl, sit or walk. But fortunately so far they have not intended to do so.

And yes I do imagine there will be times when he is older and spending longer periods at his grandparents, that he gets home and we have to "fix" some habits. But this would be the case no matter which way we are raising our child. Because this it what grandparents are there for: to allow later bedtimes and chocolate before breakfast. And this is what WE loved OUR grandparents for.

so yeah... let them be.

on this topic also read this post by Janet Lansbury

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Before Leander went into surgery all our worries were about those long hours and how he will manage. I did not care about the days or weeks in hospital as long as he survived the surgery alright. I surely did not care about the time home after all would be over. And nobody told me about it either. It all just happened bit by bit.

The first nights at home were quite relaxing. Leander slept 4 hour intervals. This was not possible in hospital at all and I was happy he went straight back to his sleeping pattern. But he didn't. He was just exhausted. A few days later it all started. It was almost impossible for us to put him down for the night. When he finally slept he would wake up an hour later, accepting nothing but Mama and her breast. A few nights we took him into our bed, this way I could "feed him to sleep" and rest myself. Something I never wanted to do. But I figured that this was an extreme situation and needed extreme care.

The days weren't much easier. Leander was hardly able to stay by himself on his blanket or in his playpen. Even with us being around, sitting next to him and talking to him. He would not just cry but scream loud and painful. The fact that his voice was all croaky from the chest tubes in hospital made it sound even worse. More painful for him. And for us. He would just lie on his back, not turn onto his belly, not try and crawl as he did before the surgery. I felt like we had traveled back in time.

I was close to a break down. I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream loud. At the same time I wanted to help him, to show him that it's done, that we are home, that we are there for him. The more he cried (screamed) the less I felt able to convince him. Jan and me took rounds in holding him, the other one recharging batteries. Then we would swop. Some nights I went to the toilet because it was the room furthest away from Leander's room and even there I would cover my ears and hoped it would all just stop.

I was not prepared for this. I cared about his heart for 6 months. I was worried about the surgery. I was full of hope that by Christmas it would all be over. I simply did not think of the postoperative trauma and what it would be like.
I took him to a therapist. Craniosacral therapy was what a lot of people told me to do. To help him recover. To help his mind recover. The therapist, a lady about my age, asked me many questions and I told her about his behaviour and the "sleeping only by feeding". When she asked me if this was a problem for me and I said yes, because after a few days it WAS a big problem for me. For me as a person. For me as a woman. For me as a mother who surely wants the best for her son but also be herself and therefore be a good mom. Honest and Careful. She told me that I sounded like her grandma, the generation that "let the baby cry by himself", that had proper feeding hours. I was annoyed. I was angry. This woman knew nothing about my situation and how hard it all was on me. For a moment I felt yet again as if I would not be doing EVERYTHING I could to help him through this tough time. But then I left and took a deep breath of fresh Viennese autumn air, knowing how to care for my son.

I focused hard on the days. I tried to give him everything he needed but also tried over and over again to put him on his blanket, I stayed with him in his playpen and was happy when he played for as little as 5 minutes. When he cried I would hold him. The days were when I had most energy to try and try. I talked to him, explained the situation. Told him that I understood. Throughout the nights I was a wreck. I would get up, feed him until he was back to sleep. No matter how long it took. No matter how tired I was. Jan was there too but could only do as little.

What can I say? It all worked. Leander is playing all by himself for long periods again. I can manage to cook for him while he is playing. I can do the laundry. He his practicing hard to be finally able to crawl. He is angry that it does not work, so he gets loud. But he does not scream.
Last night I fed him as usual after he slept for four hours straight, I changed his diaper and thought I try to put him into his bed just like that. Awake. He turned onto his side and went back to sleep. He decided to give up on his daytime naps. Which is what he did before the surgery.

While my battery is pretty much down to zero I am happy that Leander is the boy I know.
Again patience is the key. Not the "giving him everything by giving yourself up completely" but the care, the explanations, the trying over and over. It will take some time until my battery is fully recharged but watching him active and smily after what he has been through gives me some reload every now and then.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I used to love going out for dinner. For breakfast. For lunch. For a glass of wine. I realised this when we did all this when Leander was in hospital on the ICU where there were strict visiting hours. In between we went out for food. But of course it wasn't the same. We missed him, we were worried, I even felt bad for doing "fun stuff".
We are now back home with Leander and are slowly getting back to "normal" (whatever that is with a child in the house). I have just received a dinner invitation and rejected it easily. Without my child I would never have done this. But today it felt easy and here is why:

Leander isn't even old enough to sit up by himself. We would be holding him all evening because with 7 months there is no such thing as putting him in the pram for a couple of hours. Not even for a few minutes if there are other people, food and a new environment. All too exciting.
Of course there would be more people and we could do rounds in holding Leander and entertaining him. This would mean that he is the centre of attraction, every conversation would be over as soon as he starts to cry or complain.

I wouldn't be enjoying the time because I would constantly check if he is alright, if his diaper would need change and where I could do that. I would probably realise that he is tired and feel bad because the right thing for him would be a deep sleep in his own bed.

I know a lot of parents do take their babies out for social occasions. And of course I did it a few times as well. But most of those occasions I went home early after having spent a good amount of time entertaining Leander, keeping him happy without him being happy.
This all may sound like I'm a ├╝bermother. Which I am definitely not. Because I don't enjoy having to hold my boy for such a long time, I am not this type of person that can spend hours amusing her son. And he doesn't either, he gets nervous and fretful when he's not able to move freely all by himself.

When I was pregnant I have experienced some nights out with couples and their children. And I thought "jeez I hope our child will not be as difficult in a situation like this". I did not know that it's not the child that is difficult, it's the situation, that is difficult for the child. Therefore I wait until he is older to sit and eat with us. Until then come over to my place for dinner, I'm still sociable. But I also have a child.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We've made it. Our son had his heart surgery, we all have walked through some tough 3 weeks and we are now home, slowly recovering. Time to get some thoughts on to paper that popped into my mind during the past weeks in hospital...

It is difficult to focus on a certain parenting method in an extreme situation like this. Imagine your child being submitted to hospital. For ANY reason. Imagine him getting poked by needles to get blood samples. Measuring blood pressure or temperature sounds like an easy ride after that. But it all can be painful and stressful for a child. Especially when the pediatricians, the nurses and all the staff around are so far off a childish mind that it hurts even us parents.

Usually an exam by a doctor went like this: Door opens, doctor enters the room. Leander is playing in his bed. The doctor is putting his stethoscope onto Leander's chest, might turn him around to listen to his lungs. Serious look. Satisfied nod in my direction. And off he goes. Leander is left like a medical training object to himself. Not capturing what has happened at all. And this only in a good case. Worst case scenario - Leander starts screaming as soon as the doctor puts his stethoscope onto his chest. It does not hurt him physically. But it does hurt him mentally.

HOW HARD is it to greet the child? To look him in the eyes, acknowledge him and tell him that you will have to interrupt his play to do a quick exam? It is painful that especially those people who should know a child from a scientific point of view do not acknowledge him as a person. For them a six month old child is just a tiny person without a brain. It sounds harsh but this is what I have experienced.
During rounds the doctors would stand outside the room and discuss the patient. Then they would enter, usually around 5-6 people, one resident and a few interns. The resident would talk to the parent and the interns would play with the baby. It was terrible. Those interns standing there in front of Leander's bed holding his Mickey Mouse up and smile at him like he would be some sort of muppet to be entertained. It was his health they were discussing before. When he was a number in a chart.

I believe that there are pediatricians out there that are great with kids. That have a special way in connecting with them. Unfortunately I have not met them yet and I have met quite a few in the past 7 months. That gives me the feeling that there are too many of them that just don't know how... And yes, a day in a hospital might be stressful for the doctors and nurses. Too many patients and not enough time. But they have chosen a profession that requires more than a morning coffee and a good attitude. It requires that even in the busiest times they remember who the opposite person is. No matter how old. No matter how small.

I wish there would be a Pikler lecture in every pediatric training. Because I believe if the doctor would take the time to talk to the child, to prepare him and to explain what's happening, in many cases it would save him a lot of time of screaming and crying by a child that does not know what's happening and does not like the way things are happening to him.