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Learning from your kids…

November 13, 2009

As a teen-ager, you know you know it all, and are invincible in this knowledge and your power over death.  As an adult, you think you know it all, but the invincibility is waning somewhat – mortality is a little more apparent than it used to be.  As a parent, you realize you know nothing whatsoever, and mortality is staring you straight in the face, daring you to keep moving, like some weird game of chicken.  But if you can break away from that stare, you realize those kids (yes the ones that alternately make you want to scream and to laugh) can teach you so much if you let them.

Bro constantly amazes me.  We unschool, and always have, so that means he’s never been in a formal school situation.  He’s never been subjected to the peer pressure that says you must stay in your herd age group, and only associate with those people.  He’s never had the joy of learning snuffed out like nothing more than a little candle.  Because of this, he willingly hangs out with his parents, and he thinks his parents’ friends (who are our chosen family) are fun to do stuff with.  He builds Legos with his Dad (they have a show they’re participating in this weekend at the Colorado Mills Mall), and he helps keep an eye on Little Frog.  He asks questions out of the blue, about subjects that are flowing around in his brain, and those questions can spark an hour’s worth of conversation (at least) as the subject moves from one connection to another.  This is one of the things Bro has taught me over the course of his life – that in learning, as in life, all things are interconnected.  Once I realized that, it became clear to me what has bothered me so much about the way the majority of our schools teach subjects – divided, with none of the connections that help tie it all together.  All the things that students are supposed to be learning about are tied in – art to science to math to history to literature to government/politics.  When we learn about one in the absence of the others, it loses that spark of interest that can grab someone and spark the desire to know more.  Instead it becomes a meaningless jumble of words and statistics, a static fact devoid of life.  When you bring all the subjects together, and follow the ebb and flow of an idea that sparked a quest for more, which in turn became challenging and dangerous to those in power, and thus must be banned from public knowledge – you get a true feeling for why we are who we are.  This plays a big part in our decision to not just homeschool, but to unschool.

Little Frog has challenged a lot of my previously held child-rearing knowledge.  I knew I would breastfeed again, but hadn’t planned to breastfeed exclusively – until I started learning more.  I read more and more, and discussed things with The Hubby, and decided that circumcision was a thing we would never do, that babywearing spoke to us deeply, that vaccination was too questionable to approach without more knowledge (and once we’d gotten that, very selectively chose what we did).  We decided that gentle discipline was a necessary thing, that extended breastfeeding just made sense (especially since at 14 mos, Little Frog still hasn’t decided solid food is worth more than tasting), and that crying it out was a cruel thing to do to the tiny individual who would be depending on us for everything (this was not a change from what I did with Bro).  We drew the line at co-sleeping/bedsharing though.  He would be in his own room after the first week, and sleep in his own crib, just like Bro did.  If he cried, I would comfort him and put him back in his crib.  We wanted our space at night, our privacy.

In the first few days home, however, Little Frog’s bilirubin count was high enough to warrant being put under bili-lights.  We let the doctor know that we were exclusively breastfeeding, not supplementing at all, and that my milk had come in since Little Frog had been nursing so much.  So we had a bili-blanket brought to the house instead, and for the next three days, my brand new son spent all his time that he wasn’t nursing, in his cradle by himself.  I spent most of that time on the verge of tears.  I just wanted to hold him, but knew that the more time he spent on the blanket, the better it would work.  Once he was finally off the bili-blanket, and his count was normal, I was extremely happy, but still thinking that night-time would find Little Frog sleeping in the cradle, to be moved to his room in a couple of weeks.  He had other ideas, though… he would sleep just fine in the cradle for 30 minutes to an hour, and then wake up crying.  I’d nurse him back to sleep, wait til he was fully asleep, move him to the cradle, only to have the same thing happen.  It took me a couple of weeks of no real sleep to finally decide to bring him to bed with us… call me a slow learner if you want – I’m chalking it up to lack of sleep.  I put pillows behind me so I was semi-reclined, laid him on my chest, and he slept that night for 4 hours!  When he finally woke up and needed to eat, I sat up (hadn’t figured out the side-lying position yet) and fed him, and then we snuggled back down to sleep.  It was wonderful… better even than chocolate!  After a few nights, The Hubby said he wanted his turn.  I’d read all about how dads aren’t as aware or responsive to babies being in bed with them.  However, The Hubby was totally aware (said it was one of the most exhilirating and sleepless nights he’d had), that he’d had no idea of how erratic newborns breathing patterns are, but that he wanted to keep doing it because it was such an amazing feeling.

Fourteen months later, and we’re still bedsharing.  Little Frog sleeps between us, won’t sleep at night without us both there, and seems to be very happy about the situation.  He nurses, and then snuggles up against one or the other of us, and reaches out a hand to the other one to make sure that we’re both there.  Changing the one most strongly held idea regarding sleeping together has made for a happier family all around.  Letting Little Frog tell us what he needed, and paying attention to that need, was probably the best lesson we have all learned.  We all feel better when we know that others are really paying attention to our needs.

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. threegirlpileup permalink
    November 13, 2009 3:16 pm

    That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. November 13, 2009 8:23 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! It is always fun to find other Colorado mamas! I’ll be following along…

  3. November 15, 2009 9:09 am

    I enjoyed this story, and our experience with cosleeping was extremely similar (with some medical complications in there). Thank you for sharing your experience. I remember when my son used to do that thing where he reached back for the other one of us – so cute! It’s great that your husband is so supportive of it too. Mine tolerated it but was never thrilled with the situation. I tell him now that I’d agree to have baby #2 in a heartbeat if he’d agree we can all cosleep (my son has been in his own bed since 18 months, but still calls me in there a lot at night).

    • November 16, 2009 6:09 pm

      Lynn, that’s one of the reasons we’re still co-sleeping… I don’t want to have him have to wake up crying every night. Especially during teething, or having colds, or nightmares. I’d rather him be able to know that even in times of fear or not feeling good that Daddy and Mama (and the boobies) are right there to comfort or nurse as necessary. 🙂

  4. November 15, 2009 1:44 pm

    What a lovely story! So much of this rings true, for me. These little ones have lots to teach us, if we’re just willing to listen. 🙂

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