Wednesday, August 7, 2013


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


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


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:

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


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


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


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


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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


It's been a week since my last post. A week since I felt desperate and sad and was close to falling apart. But I didn't. And here is why (I think).

It's not just us
The responses to my post showed me that it wasn't all so unusual. I talked to a lot of people and suddenly realized that many many children reacted the way Leander did when a sibling was born. I wondered why nobody ever talked about it. I mean you read about a little bit of jealousy and that it's important to know what is going on in the firstborn's mind (e.g. the second wife). But nobody seems to mention HOW bad it can get. Until you write a post about it yourself.

Nevertheless that last weekend was mad. Maybe because we now knew it was all normal and we had to sit it out. Maybe because we were so trapped in a bad downward spiral and didn't see the surface anymore. But whatever it was - it changed. Somehow.

Time for myself
On Tuesday I had a day to myself. After the boys left the house in the morning it was just me and Mona as usual. But in the afternoon I had a meeting with our future neighbours from our housing project. And I was very happy to be back talking about ANYTHING else but parenting, siblings, explosions or any child-related topics. I couldn't stay for the whole meeting but I was out till the evening so when I got home I felt refreshed and a little bit more me and myself again.

Stepping out
This "day off" also helped to get a new perspective. Finally I was able to step out of this downward spiral and go back to life without the attitude of it all being so crap anyway and us having to wait until things would change eventually. I had found new energy and hope that WE could change things actively.

On Wednesday I was standing in the sunshine reading "Siblings without Rivalry" while waiting for a friend. I was still a bit refreshed and awake when I read what may have changed EVERYTHING. Maybe not everything but a major part of it.
Very early in the book they talk about how we get so focused on what our children do (to each other) and say and how we can stop that. And then they mention what could happen if we would see what our children's actions and words are actually trying to tell us. And then I saw it too.
We had been so careful with Leander ever since he was born. We allowed all sorts of emotions and feelings, acknowledged them and helped him through tough situations by simply being there for him and with him. But now - during one of the worst struggles in his life - we didn't see it. All we did was focus on stopping the yelling and screaming and hitting and spluttering. As soon as he yelled at his sister we asked him to stop. Then he yelled at us. We yelled back. He snorted and spluttered at us. We exploded. Over and over again. And now - was it the sunshine, was it me having had a "day off" I don't know - I saw it. The yelling. The spluttering. That was his language. That was all he could find to let us know how unhappy, how sad, scared and desperate he was. And we didn't listen. We just told him to stop. Hold back his feelings. The feelings that were bad and abandoned.

In this moment I may have dropped a few stones and hovered a few inches above the ground. This was it. If I could allow the yelling maybe I could get through to him. All I had to do was give him words instead. And this was when the next penny dropped.
We didn't even have the right words for what he was feeling or what we were feeling. Sad. Mad. Desperate. Alone. Hopeless. Scared. All we ever said was "You are angry, right?" over and over again.
Angry. Angry. That wasn't just it. There was much more. But he didn't know how to say.
What we had to do was see the situation itself. "You are sad because I have to nurse Mona again. You wanted me to play with you now." He needed to be seen. In Detail not in general.

I was so relieved that I was  looking forward to the afternoon with him again instead of having stomach aches by the thought of a few hours with both kids alone. And what can I say - it was great. All afternoon I was ready for the yelling and screaming. But it didn't come. Ok there was the occasional very loud "MONAAA!" he shouts at her every now and then - but I just let this happen. We got home and all went smooth. When he got a little upset because I had to nurse her again after I had just done it half an hour ago and he thought I was done with her I told him "You are upset. You don't want me to be with her again." He nodded, went away and played with his cars. It was almost spooky.

It has been like that ever since. The rest of the week and this weekend was almost quiet. When he yelled at his sister I checked her reaction first. I didn't stop him right away. So he didn't have to yell at me. I didn't have to yell at him. He didn't have to splutter. I didn't have to explode.

Go with the flow
When it comes to sleeping we don't argue or discuss with Leander. If he needs us at night he gets us. At the moment it's my husband who moves in with Leander when he calls at night. The bed is big enough and cosy. We went through times when he called EVERY night. And we just let it happen. Because we learned that if we don't argue with him and don't make a big deal all goes back to normal in no time.
Why we don't do that when it comes to playing I don't know. I got so focused on him playing by himself and how important that is that I forgot to simply drop the laundry and sit down with him. So this is what I do more and more often now. And this leads to him playing. Even alone for a little bit. I think this is all I can do right now. No more battles. No more discussions. Just going with the flow. If we try to "work" on too many construction sites at once we might end up forgetting what really is important.

He's ok
In order to have an appointment with our family counsellor we wanted to talk to his teachers in kindergarden first. We haven't had a proper talk yet but a quick chat in the morning was quite surprising to us. Apparently Leander is doing fine and laughs and jokes with the other children. He has not changed since the arrival of his sister. But most importantly - he plays. He works with the material there and can concentrate for long periods of time. So it is "just" us. And the kindergarden is his safe place right now. Where he might enjoy the daily routine. Knows how things are and that nothing will change that rapidly again.
And that was all I needed to know for now.

Well - he still does not like his sister very much. He still gets upset when I am with her more than he wants me to. But that's ok. That's what I expected and what I can handle.
And I am sure there will be more tough days to come. Especially with a week of bad weather and a closed kindergarden ahead. Because what hasn't changed is that he follows me around the house EVERYWHERE. That he needs me ALL THE TIME. And that he can't play for long on his own. So we'll see. On the other hand - who knows what this week will bring? Maybe it's a good thing having him at home for a few days. Until the grandparents come. Easter. And his birthday. And spring.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Today when I was picking up Leander from kindergarden I had to nurse Mona in order to get both kids home without major screaming issues. We went inside and sat down in the cloak room area. Leander surrounded me all the time and even tried to sit on my lap while I was nursing. He kept leaning over and squeezing her onto me. Kissing and stroking her a bit more than gentle. I asked him to be careful or to stop it. At some point I just yelled "Stop it!" A teacher sat next to me and in that very moment jumped in and said to Leander "Oh you wanted to kiss her. That's sweet but you need to be very gentle with her."

I thought "Oh is this something I should have said?" And then realized - I have said things like this. A million times. But at this very moment I felt nothing but tired and exhausted.

The usual contact Leander has with his sister is yelling her name directly into her face. Really loud. Or simply yelling. When we ask him to stop that he yells at us. Or spits. Or hits. Anything. I don't know how often I have told him that I don't want that. That hitting is not ok. That I won't let him do this or that. To his sister or to us. To be honest I think I may even have said it far too often. So I keep not responding because I feel like a parrot repeating everything over and over. Without actually meaning it. Because what I really wanna do is get up and yell "FOR F***s SAKE STOP IT !!!"

I'm sorry. But this is exactly how I feel right now. Exhausted. Tired. At my very limits.
From morning till evening I am trying to be responsive and respectful. Loving. But whatever I do - it's not enough. NEVER ENOUGH. I hear the word "Mama" around 10 times in a minute. If I respond or not doesn't make a difference- it keeps coming. I am being followed around the flat wherever I go. And since Leander is not very gentle with his sister I even allow him to follow me to the toilet. Just to know her safe.
When I nurse her he surrounds me. As soon as I stop he asks me to put her away and play with him. When I play with him he sits on my lap and wants me to play for him. Even when he plays he asks me to help him with everything he is doing while he is doing it himself without any help. When I lean back he wants to sit on my lap again. When I get up he jumps up too. And follows me.
He has realized that I won't ignore his needs so if I don't come with him when he asks me while I am caring for Mona he says he is hungry. And then watches me juggle her and his needs at the same time.

I am telling him when I need breaks. I am trying to have breaks. He won't let me have them. He will stand next to me saying "Mama!" a million times while I am trying to have a break.
I am saying No. I say it nice but strong. He does not accept it. Then I say it louder. Then he yells or spits and that drives me so mad that I yell. Or leave the room in order to stay somewhat sane.

I watch him struggle and fight with sadness. Pure sadness. But at the same time I think he needs to learn and understand. I know that at some point he will but WHEN ??? Because right now I feel close to a nervous breakdown. I wanna run into the forest and scream. Very very loud. I wanna smash things and cry my guts out. And then I want my son back. The one I used to have.

I don't even know how much of his behaviour is the almost 3-year old in him and how much is the recent arrival of his baby sister. And then there are other issues I don't know where to place. That he can't play. Not on his own. Not self directed. NOT AT ALL. It makes me sad and angry at the same time. He is almost three and should happily explore the world.

And somewhere in there I am trying to be me. In the mornings when he is in kindergarden and his sister is asleep I have a minute for myself. And the laundry. The dishes. Lunch. The closer it gets to picking up time I keep building up patience and hope for a better afternoon together. We get home around 3.30pm. By 4.30pm I am so tired I could drop dead on the sofa. If somebody would let me. Leander is exhausted too. Today he fell asleep on my lap at 5pm. And then I look at him. Stroke his hair and hope for a better day tomorrow.

I try and talk to him. But when we have a minute I am lacking words. What is there to say? "I love you now matter what?" Why would I then care for that little creature and not for him? How would he understand that better? So often we sit there and not mention her at all. Because after her being the big issue in the house all day I don't want to mention her name when it is quiet for a moment. I just want... to be together in peace and silence.

What to do? I don't know. I am at loss here. We are thinking of seeing a family counsellor we have regular group consultations with. But this time a whole session just for us. With the kids. And some springtime with visits to the playground so he can release some energy. Some sunshine. Outside and in the house. Our hearts. That would be nice.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Last night I told Leander that today I will come to pick him up from the kindergarden with his Dad. Since I've given birth I was rather resting at home and Jan had done the kindergarden round. From next week on this will be my job again so today is gonna be a first trial. Leander seemed happy and when he told me: "Mama picking up. Papa picking up. Mona picking up." although I hadn't mentioned her before I realized that he has now accepted his sister as part of the family.

I can't say it has been an easy walk for him. But we never expected that.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish mention in her book "Siblings Without Rivalry" one situation:

"Imagine that your spouse puts an arm around you and says, "Honey, I love you so much, and you're so wonderful that I've decided to have another wife just like you."

At first I thought this might be a little exaggerated. But the more I thought about it and the more I watched Leander being referred to as the "big boy" or "big brother" even before the baby was born so often I realized - this is exactly how he must feel!

As soon as it is clear that your bump is surely not just too much chocolate and ice cream but in fact a growing baby belly people ask you about you're well being, the due date and the sex of the baby. And if Leander was around people almost always turned to him and said: "So you're gonna be a big brother! How exciting!"
He usually just looked at them slowly reaching for his thumb to put in his mouth.

And so it begins. Mom is the center of attention and everyone keeps talking about "the baby". Until one day you come home from kindergarden and there it is. The baby. The "little sister" called Mona. And before you can grasp it, before you get to realize what this tiny little bundle comes with it all goes on.

"So you're a big brother now!" 
"How do you like your little sister?"
"Are you excited?"
"What's her name?"
"You need to be really careful around her!"

And they all say that with a glance of joy and excitement in their eyes. Only Leander was not so excited. So joyful. So happy.
He did smile when he saw her. He wanted to hold her, hug her, kiss her. He was very very gentle. And although it was so adorable to watch I found it really important not to get too excited. I wanted it to be normal and natural. And not something we had to act all surprised to. I didn't want him to feel as if I did not trust him to be like that.
And I also knew he needed time. And he didn't know yet what this all meant for him in the long term. That Mama would be cuddled up with the little sister for many hours of the day feeding her. That whenever Mona would wake up Mama would have to "leave" - may that be during play, meal times or bed time rituals. That this apparently fun little sister wasn't so much fun yet. Basically just lying there sleeping or eating being all cute and adored by the whole family and everyone who came to visit.
And so slowly you could watch Leander become a little less interested in his sister. And not excited by people referring to him as the big brother.

It was just all too normal that he fought. That he "acted out" and asked for every bit of attention he could get. Using all sorts of strategies he knew would get our focus. And while I was tired and lacking patience it made me so sad seeing him like that. Because the thought of my husband coming home with another beautiful and adorable woman, preferably a few years younger, maybe funnier just makes me want to shout and scream and throw things too.

And again I was thankful to be prepared. To not say things like "You are a big boy now you have to be ..." (choose one from the list of responsible, reasonable, quiet, careful, loving etc...) or something like that. Because these are the sentences we know from our own childhood, from relatives and our own parents. Sentences we say quite often without even thinking about. And I am not blaming the grandparents who came to visit and say them all. Let's say I am just glad to have quickly erased them after they have left and filled the blanks with a hug, a cuddle or a "This is all very new and confusing for you I guess?" that was usually answered with a quiet thumb sucking nod.

So together I think we made it through the first struggles quite ok. We are still trying to find a routine so that everyone gets his piece of the Mama/wife cake. But with little Mona growing and finding a rhythm we will get there. And one day Leander will be the proud big brother. Until then he is and stays my little boy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


As long as I can remember Leander has one thing that will for sure make me climb up the walls and make me go completely nuts. It's throwing. As soon as he was able to throw or drop things he did. And it wasn't just the normal developmental "figuring out how things behave when thrown or dropped". It was also wild and random. And dangerous at times.

The first times I got really mad was when wooden toys like cars, trains or blocks hit me. I would shout or yell, run off in order not to hit him. Then it drove me mad that he threw things on the floor. For one thing I am very sensitive to such loud noises. The other thing is that I would love to get as much of our deposit as possible back when we move out. And at some point I went mad already when he just lifted things up in the air. And he knew. He knew that was all he needed to do and I would become serious and drop everything I was doing in that very moment.

When we still went to the playgroup I was very nervous because he almost hit other kids with wooden objects when throwing things there. My fear and also anger would accompany us both and only now while I write this down I actually understand how much this was between us. In the air. I sent out those signals and he responded accordingly. As he does. With everything.
In the parent consultation group that was part of that playgroup I raised the topic and we made a little role play out of it. And when I played myself and another woman played Leander I had to laugh a lot. I behaved like a clown jumping up and down trying to stop him from throwing objects. It was all about stopping the throwing. For good.

So in order to stop me from behaving like a clown and him from even having a chance to throw I would take large or wooden objects away. I would offer lots of soft balls or chestnuts, corks or baskets. All stuff I was capable of watching fly through the living room. And there were times when it was better and I said to my husband: "I think the throwing has stopped."

Well - guess what: it hasn't. Over Christmas when we spent a lot of time together and some of it indoors due to some illnesses keeping us down we experienced some more of our little olympic athlete in discus throwing. And a little more of me going up the walls.
Yesterday it all had its peak when I suddenly took him, went to his room, sat him on the floor, left and went to the living room not very gently closing the doors in behind me. I heard him cry. I took three deep breaths and went back in. I hugged him and told him what had happened. And when AGAIN I tried to convince him to just stop the throwing I couldn't even listen to myself anymore. Because it wasn't just the throwing. And it wasn't just him. It was us. Mainly me. And a lot more.

One thing I tend to do when he throws things at me is either try and catch it or pick it up quickly and (here it comes): madly smash it on a wall or door or anywhere to get rid of the first anger that hits me. If I am still mad as hell I leave the room banging the doors (they must be in good shape cos none of them broke so far) and calming myself down while he either cries or silently waits for me to come back. And while I realized that the answer to throwing isn't necessarily throwing I tried hard to restrain myself from it. Resulting in even harder door banging. Or yelling even louder.

But yesterday another thing occurred to me: The way we behave in our house with objects. When I tidy up I don't just carry things to the place they belong. I might throw some books on the sofa to clean up from there later. I throw the dirty clothes around everywhere in the bathroom or bedroom to collect before I put them in the washing. Our shoes lie around everywhere in the entrance. I throw scarfs and hats up onto the hat rack. I might gently chuck the cheese from the fridge onto the table. You know not the heavy throwing but I don't always put things down gently and quiet. Especially when I am having a bad day or when I am in a hurry. I know what I can handle how and I know what books I want to be careful with and which I am about to bring to the second hand shop. Stuff like that.
Well - we are role models here aren't we? When Leander gets (un)dressed his jumper, his jacket, his trousers - they all fly. In the evening I don't care cos I might just pick it up on my way out of his room to take it to the bathroom. In the mornings it drives me mad. And these are the objects that fly that won't hit or hurt me. But what about his cars. His trains and tracks. His building blocks. His books. Or our stuff. How is he supposed to know what is ok to gently be thrown and what not? It's like trying to teach him that when no car is approaching he can cross the street although the lights are red. It's not possible. And not safe.

Today when he threw books around I remembered what I had learned in the Montessori course I did: That we want to give our children materials that are of nice quality and shape. To show them how much we worship them by letting them use real cups, glasses, ceramic bowls and stuff instead of just cheap plastics. But they also should learn that these things are somewhat worthy. And that we should be gentle with everything around us. May that be books, our clothes, plants, animals or humans.
So everything I am lifting and shifting, everything I am touching I am trying to be gentle with now. I always admired those people who have this silent aura. Who move quietly, talk slowly and silently and have this calm self. It all goes hand in hand doesn't it? And with my actual really crazy spleen of hating loud noises (having someone eating an apple next to me drives me nuts) I should have gotten there a long time ago shouldn't I? Well. Better now than never is my hope.

But after yesterday I wasn't relieved and happy with those thoughts. Leander was well upset all evening and when we were reading a book about the little mole and the mouse in it crying cos her house was broken he said to me: "I am sad too." And when I asked if it was because of me being so angry and loud he quietly nodded along.
In the evening when my husband went to sleep and I couldn't due to some kicking baby in my belly I read two of Janet Lansbury's wonderful posts on toddler behavior.

- "No bad kids - Toddler Discipline without shame (9 guidelines)"
- "No angry kids - fostering emotional literacy in our children"

Because I know it's not just about the throwing. It's way more. It's tiredness. A call for attention. Frustration. Overstimulation. A wake up call for me. You name it. And as long as I don't find a way to control my own response to it I can offer him more soft toys that are safe to fly. But the actual problem will not be solved. And hoping that it might lead to a career in discus throwing might be a tad too early I guess. (Despite the fact that it isn't really funny, I know).

Thursday, January 3, 2013


We had a wonderful Christmas break. Ok at first Leander was ill. Then me. There were some really rough days. But still. We had a lovely break. Just the three of us. Probably for the last time. Ever. I can not put into words how much that freaks me out right now.

The countdown says it's only 18 days to go until the due date of the little baby sister. So basically it could happen any time. And I'm torn. Torn between being excited and happy to walk this journey altogether again but also being sad and terrified of having to split my time and energy between two children. I have no doubt that I will be able to love them both as much as possible. I don't fear loving Leander less than I do now or being able to feel for his sister any different. But what about those 24 hours a day has. Not a second more, no matter how much I wish for it to be possible.

I'm also torn between wanting another 6 months of pregnancy just to be alone with Leander and his little sister to arrive RIGHT NOW so this whole walrus-life finally comes to an end. I'm not that big and round. But I feel big and round. I move slowly. I need a toilet around every corner. I can't hop up and down on the bed. I can't chase him around anymore. I can't drive his cars and trucks around the living room without aching and puffing. I can't join the boys to go to the swimming pool or spa. And I have my moments. When all of this occurs to me and I want to scream and be fun mommy again. When I want to jump into puddles with him because I used to loooove this as a kid AND as an adult too. I want to stand in front of every sparkly shop window and look at the bright and shiny Christmas decoration with him without needing a toilet or having the feeling of the baby falling out any second. I want to go to the parks and forests around Vienna to be closer to nature than just in the dusty grey city but portable toilets for the pocket have not been invented yet. I don't want to hold and protect my belly when lying next to Leander on the sofa.

But the worst part is - how do I tell him? I don't want to mention the baby all the time. So I'm tired. I was ill - ok that was reasonable. I'm exhausted. And yes - sometimes I just DO have a baby belly that stops me from doing things. And now Leander is saying things like:
"Mama - no toilet no???"
"Mama - not tired no???"
"Mama - where are you???" while I'm sitting right next to him.

So - where am I?
I'm in a place of letting go. I have watched the two boys here bond even closer over the past few months. Fun Daddy who takes him out when it's too much. Who goes swimming with him and who picks him up when he is too tired to walk the stairs to the top floor. I am happy for them but I feel left out at times. I feel like losing my little boy although I know this is not true. But when will I be back?
The baby is coming soon. She will need me. A lot. If all goes well I will be her main food supply during the first 6 months. I will spend the mornings with her and the afternoons with her and Leander. If I am lucky I get to spend some time in the evening with Leander. When he is tired and exhausted from his day. And I will be tired and exhausted too, let's face it.

Jesper Juul, a wonderful Danish educator, said that it is important for the first born to have lots of quality time with his dad. Because both are missing those moments with the most important woman in their life. They are sharing something common. So yes - they are lucky to have each other. But it is tough for me to watch that and not being able to do much about it. To let go. For a while at least.

But somehow I hope it will work out. And that despite of less sleep, my baby brain and the challenge of being calm and respectful to two children and a husband I will be fun mommy again. Soon.

Any experiences and advices are highly appreciated. Thank you!