Best of Single Mom

Learning to Love Again. Every Day.

momma in me

When they are babies it is easy.

You rock them; you cradle them. You hold them; you kiss them. You do it out of pure love.

You do what a mama is designed to do.

You feed them and burp them and keep them alive and breathing. You check on them and worry over them and fuss over them.

Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why isn’t she sleeping? Why is she sleeping so much?

Is she happy? Is she suffering?

We wonder and worry and love, love, love.

But they don’t give much in those early days.  Just their gentle sighs and their smiles in their sleep.

They don’t say, “I love you.” They don’t reach out to hold you and hug you.

But you keep giving.

You do it because you love them. You do it out of love.

They don’t talk and give back in the way that one normally gets back love, but you love them nonetheless.

But as they get older this changes.

Your little baby is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler.

And then that little toddler is gone and in its place is a little fresh preschooler.

And with each change you learn to love again. You learn to love in a different way.

Just last week my little girl was wrapping her arms around my neck as hard as she could. She’d whisper in my ear, “I love you soooooooo much….” And I’d say it back. “I love you soooooo much…” and then I’d wrap myself up into the warmth beside her and drink up that love.

But she doesn’t do this today. She no longer wraps her arms around my neck and says “I love you sooooo much” like she did just yesterday.

In one week that has changed.

Today, I whisper to her, “Who loves you more than anybody in the whole wide world?”

“Mama,” she says, without missing a beat.

“And who do you love more than anything in the whole wide world?” I ask. “Dada,” she says.

My heart skips a beat. What do I say?

And just for a moment, out of my own need, I test the waters.

“You don’t love mommy?”

Of course she does. She loves us both, she says.

Her idea and expressions of love are changing and with that I must change to.

She’s speaking now, thinking, loving with her mind, not just her heart.

Love is no longer an unadulterated instinct that wells up from within her and springs forward out into my arms. It’s a thought and a decision and a test.

She’s maturing.

The irony is that where she needed me more in the past, I am growing to love her more with every day that passes.

And with every day that my love grows deeper and stronger, she is moving a little bit away from that precious, sweet love made strong by the mommy umbilical cord.

So I need to learn to love all over again. I need to learn to love the way that she needs it and want to.

With each passing day, I need to learn to love again.

Learn to love again.

Every day.

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Single Mothers Combat Stress by Engaging with Their Children! Who would’ve thought?

Probably one of the most interesting things that has happened to me as a result of my blog. I get a phone call out of the blue. This journalist is writing a story about single motherhood and wants to interview me! Awesome!

Christina

Single mothers combat stress by engaging with children, new study finds

 

By , Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 19 2012 3:00 a.m. MDT

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865560877/Single-mothers-combat-stress-by-engaging-with-children-new-study-finds.html

Christina Robert, a 44-year-old single mother, is headed out the back door of her home in the outskirts of Minneapolis to fill the dog bowl before it gets dark. But before she does, she turns to her 3-year-old daughter, LuaClaire.

“Do you want to come with me or stay here?” she asks.

“Come!” is her daughter’s response 99 percent of the time.

Though it will take her twice as long to finish the task, Robert regards this as valuable one-on-one time with her daughter. And if asked her opinion, she’ll tell you time spent together is not only to LuaClaire’s pleasure, but also her own.

Spending time with children combats the daily stresses that single mothers face, a new study led by a team of doctorate students at Kansas State University found.

“Being a single mother and being a parent in general is very exhausting,” study author Blake Berryhill said. “But if a mother is willing to spend time with her children, it can reduce her parental stress because she will feel that in her role as a mom, she is doing an adequate job.”

Single-handed super women

Compared to married mothers, single mothers are twice as likely to experience a bout of depression and higher levels of chronic stress, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 2001. The study also found that these women have less contact with family and friends and less involvement with church or social groups.

“Single mothers can feel constantly overloaded and overwhelmed at being a parent and trying to fulfill all of their responsibilities,” Berryhill said. Being a single mother brings extra stress, caused by decreased economic resources, longer work hours and a limited social support network.

As a mother with two jobs and a shared custody arrangement, Robert understands the pressures of single motherhood.

“Your life is so stressful,” she said. “I had no clue when I became a mother that my life was going to change as much as it did and I had no clue that being a single mom was going to be as hard as it was.”

The study followed children, ages 1, 3 and 5, to focus on parental engagement, stress levels and child temperament. Researchers found that spending time with a child through daily activities, such as reading stories, playing games or putting a child to bed, can reduce parental stress by instilling confidence that the mother is doing an adequate job in her role as a parent.

“The time that I have with her is really valuable and really meaningful, and in doing that, I try to set aside the negative things that have gone on and I allow that joy to rejuvenate me,” Robert said. “It is healing. Kids are so innocent and unconditionally loving.”

Brittany Phelps, a dental assistant living in West Linn, Ore., and single mother to Peytyn, 3, has found that the most simple of moments can ease her stress.

“I was actually thinking … when I took my daughter to the park how awesome she is and how perfect our afternoons together are after my days working full time,” she said.

Author of “Confessions of a Scary Mommy” and mother in Baltimore, Jill Smokler, says she feels less stressed when she feels her life is not so off-balanced. She enjoys the day-to-day routine that allows her to see her kids before school and several hours after school, before bed and during dinner together. “That is perfect for me, having them in big doses but also having space to myself.”

Consistency, the study showed, reaped benefits far more noticeable than time spent intermittently together.

“Our research showed that those daily things, spending time with the child in a daily routine, putting the child to bed, or reading stories to them were what really made the difference,” Berryhill said.

Creating a family unit

While a single-parent home can be unconventional, mothers such as Phelps work hard to maintain a strong sense of unity.

“We’ll do typical family activities, just the two of us,” Phelps said. They get their family portrait taken once a year and have family prayer together each night.

Robert tries to create a sense of community and a sense of family that goes beyond the two of them. She schedules play dates with other single mothers and their children, and they spend time with other adults she and her daughter have a positive relationship with.

“There’s almost this extended sense of community and family that comes out of this,” Robert said, “because we don’t have that at home.”

“No matter how much I may miss parts of who I used to be,” Robert wrote on her blog, “the little girl who calls me Mommy fills an amazing spot in my heart that no one else can ever replace.”

I Have Two Names Now: Mommy and Christina

To My Daughter, on Her Third Birthday

Three years and two days ago, I had one name: Christina.

I wore it and I wore it well. I studied, I worked and I played. I danced and climbed mountains and ran like the wind. I was free and there was no one to stop me. I loved life and it loved me.

But then one July a little seed was planted inside me and it grew. It grew and it grew and it grew. That little seed was you.

Then forty-two weeks later, on the nose, with a big belly about to explode, out you came, quicker than I thought. No long labor, no deliberation. It was time and the doctors and nurses knew, even before I did.

Faster than I could blink an eye you were in the world. And there you were. They held you up and I saw you over the sheet. You were a baby. My baby! I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

They measured you and weighed you and then they brought you to me. They put you naked on my chest, just as I had asked, right next to the sheet that separated you and me from the men and women that had so carefully and attentively brought you into the world.

You cried and suckled and took to the world like it was yours to keep.

You stayed beside me while I healed. I never let you out of my sight. You lay on me and in the crook of my arm while I nursed you, watched you sleep, and nursed you some more. I learned how to swaddle you and to change your diaper and to feed you. I learned how to care for you.

Most importantly, I kept you next to me as much as I could. Not only had I read all of the books but I knew in my heart that that was where you belonged.

The little you, who was also a big part of me, lay beside me for four long days before I could take you home. 

At first I was uncertain about this new, crying being who needed so much from me and without a pause. Is this what I had wanted? Is this what I had asked for? Is this what I had expected?

Despite all the preparation, I did not feel prepared.

Oh sure, I had the co-sleeper and the swings and the bottles and the bibs and the onesies. It was all there. But somehow you can’t buy the one thing that one really needs: Experience.

I don’t think one can ever be truly prepared for what lies beyond the birth of a first child.

People had told me my life would change but I didn’t believe them. How can a little baby like that be so much work, I’d ask? My life will be the same; I’ll just have a baby along for the ride from now on.

They would just shake their head and smile. They knew it could not be explained. And they knew I was in for a shock.

After some time of getting used to you, I started to change.

“Here, give her to me. I know what to do,” I’d say to those who didn’t know.

We worked together—she at being in the world, and me at learning to give 100% of myself to someone other than myself.

We’ve seen some good times and some bad times. We’ve worked through some smiles and some tears. I’ve watched as she’s reached many milestones – usually without any help from me. I’ve had many sleepless nights and have cleaned up a number of messes in the middle of those long seemingly endless times. I’ve seen her grow from a little baby, into a toddler, and soon into a little girl.

After three years, I think I have finally made the transition.

Yes, it has taken that long.

Up until a few months ago, I was only known as “Momma!” “Momma!” “Momma!” Usually with arms stretched high. “Up!” she’d demand.

A few weeks ago, for the first time, my little girl looked at me and said something like “Mommy, what you doing?”

My heart melted. I almost cried.

Where had she learned this word? Where did “Mommy” come from? I knew it was me, but I still couldn’t believe it….Me? Mommy? Yes, I am Mommy!

So now I have two names: Christina AND Mommy.

And there are some things Mommy knows how to do better than Christina could have ever done them.

Mommy knows how to choose a cloth diaper, fit it, change it, and clean it.

Mommy knows how to call the doctor in the middle of the night and how to put a wheezing baby on the phone.

Mommy knows how to put an infant and a toddler to the breast.

Mommy knows how to soothe a colicky baby like nobody’s business! I lovingly refer to her as “The Baby Whisperer.”

Mommy knows how to give really big hugs and how to kiss really little toes.

Mommy knows what it’s like to have a baby sleep on her chest all night long while keeping one eye open, just in case.

Mommy knows that a cookie can fix just about anything and that a song can soothe most of what ails.

And Christina knows a thing or two, too.

Christina isn’t climbing rocks much these days. Christina isn’t running as fast as the wind anymore.

But Christina knows that special feeling of having a baby kick the inside of her stomach, and that amazing “thump, thump” when the doctor checks for a heartbeat.

Christina also knows what it’s like to go to work every day while still remembering that there’s a very little girl out there who needs her Mommy.

And Christina knows when it’s time to take her baby from some other caring adult just because her girl will only be soothed by her.

And, most importantly, Christina knows to bend down when she picks her baby girl up from school because there she’ll be, a little girl now, grinning from ear to ear, running towards her, reaching out, calling “Mommy, Mommy!”

And Christina knows, that no matter how much she may miss parts of who she used to be, the little girl who calls her Mommy fills an amazing spot in her heart that no one else can ever replace.

Happy birthday, Baby Girl.

Love, Your Mommy.

The Meme: A Genetic Mutation

“A meme (  /ˈmm/; MEEM)[1]) is ‘an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond’ to selective pressures.[3]

 

“Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. ”

Answer the following questions:

How do you find time to….

Do the laundry? This is the easy part. On the way out the door the laundry goes in the washer. On the way in the door the laundry goes in the dryer. On the way up from the laundry room for some random errand, the laundry makes it to the first floor. On the way up to the 2nd floor where the bedroom is, the laundry makes its way up. The laundry gets dumped on the bed. Three piles: hers and mine and towels. I put them away while my daughter splashes around in the tub (the bathroom door actually has French doors that open into the bedroom so, yes, I can still see and monitor her. I did write a post on water safety after all!

Write a blog post? Most of the blog is written in my head while I ride my bike to work. It gets typed up while I’m on the computer or between the hours of midnight and 2:00 am! Cut, paste and cite is also a big time-saver!

Be the parent you want to be? I don’t understand this question. How do I find time to be the parent I want to be? This is a 24 hour job. Even while I’m at work I’m being the parent I want to be. I’m maintaining my identity as a professional, providing for my family and serving as a role model for my young daughter. When we’re together I may be folding the laundry but I’m talking to my child, teaching her about the world. It’s a part of everything I do.

Find time for yourself? This is sneaky time. Can I steal a few minutes here or there? Can I get someone to watch her for a few minutes while I go for a run. Can I stop at a guilty pleasure fast-food restaurant on my way home from daycare? Finding time for myself while raising a toddler almost single-handedly isn’t easy.

Foster Your Spirituality?: By running, hiking, watching my child play, attending yoga class, going to Sunday morning meditation.

***************************************************************************

Some of the questions didn’t speak to me so I used one and added one:

Rocker: Buy a big oversized chair that can be used to rock your baby in from the time they are little until they are young children. I had an uncomfortable glider from birth to 2 and now I have an electric, overstuffed glider/recliner that is extremely comfortable. I wish I had had one from the day my baby is born.

Sling: Some may gasp at this. My three year old still likes to be put in the sling and carried around until she falls sleep. Luckily she only weighs 26 pounds. I do this because she does fall asleep. It’s like a magic pill for her. My theory is that she gets over-stimulated and the sling helps her some this overstimulation. I use the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. They are kind of hard to come by.

RULES:

  1. Please post the rules;
  2. When answering the questions, give as much information as possible;
  3. Leave a comment on sex, drugs, rocker, stroller, baby if you would like. This is so we can keep track of the Meme and take a polite nose into everyone else’s lives;
  4. Add a photo that speaks to you and say why it speaks to you;
  5. Tag 3 or more people and link to them on your blog. Add new questions, delete old questions and play about with the rules.

Thank you to bellissimom for tagging me on this meme. I in turn will tag: navinatime, asnormalasnormalcanbe, sleeplessinsummerville.

The Not-So-Pretty Side of Nursing: My Breastfeeding Story

My Breastfeeding Story

Starting from day one, breastfeeding was a horrible, horrible experience for me. I was in so much pain that tears came to my eyes every time my baby latched on. And the pain didn’t stop after the latch. It continued and continued. The nurses and the lactation consultants at the hospital all said her latch looked good yet it was still excruciatingly painful.

The breastfeeding was so painful that I decided to try to pump. I had just had a c-section and had never taken the pump out of its case. I guess I just didn’t think I would be using it so soon. So there I am, recovering from major surgery, trying to pump milk. And what do you know? The milk comes out pink…from blood. This is on about day two or three home from the hospital. A day or two later my little baby spit up on a white pillow case and I noticed a tinge of pink in it. Can you imagine? I didn’t know what to do. It was 11:30 at night. I called the nurse line and they said it was probably my blood coming from the nursing. I wanted to cry. I was at my wits end.

I went to a lactation consultant available through the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program who showed me a way of allowing the baby to crawl up my stomach to latch on. Nice in theory but not very practical and it still didn’t make things much better.

Over the course of the first couple of weeks, I got gashes on the external sides of both nipples. I had a peer breastfeeding counselor through WIC and I called her frequently. No advice made any difference. I tried different positions, different approaches and always got the same results. Pain, pain, pain. Over time I developed a theory that she was latching on well for the first few seconds but then pulling her mouth out, or her tongue back, so that she was actually nursing with her gum which is what caused so much pain.

I told a visiting nurse who had come by for a newborn visit that I was having pain and she advised me to use a nipple guard. She dropped it off but didn’t show me how to use it. When I went to see another lactation consultant at a local hospital, she told that I had been given one that was too big and that as a result my baby was not getting milk properly and that my milk supply had dropped as a result of having an ill-fitted nipple shield.

I ended up trying to pump and nurse at the same time just because I felt that I needed to give my breasts a break. I’m pretty sure that my milk supply dropped simply because I did not know what I was doing.

On top of it all, I was doing all of the nighttime care by myself. My baby’s father would come over until about 11:00 a few nights a week but would then leave. She often wouldn’t fall asleep until around midnight and would then wake again around 3:00 for a feeding. I was sleep-deprived, completely stressed out, suffering from postpartum depression, and trying to hold it all together. I can’t imagine that any of this was making the breastfeeding go any better. Preparing and giving her a bottle was an easy alternative given all of the stress that I was under.

Nonetheless, I continued to try and nurse.

I am writing this because no one talks about the fact that breastfeeding might be difficult. We have this image of something beautiful and natural and, of course, pain free. That is not the case for all women.

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby but it’s definitely not the easiest.

If you are considering breastfeeding: 

  • While you’re pregnant make a list of friends or relatives who have breastfed and would be willing to help.
  • While you’re pregnant make a list of lactation consultants (more than one) with whom you can consult in case you need one. Write down their phone numbers and their addresses. Don’t wait until you’re postpartum and having to do this leg work.
  • If you do seek the help of a lactation consultant, keep making appointments with different people until you find one who can identify what the problem is and help you fix it.
  • Learn how to pump BEFORE you have the baby. If you do decide to pump for some reason after the baby comes, the last thing you want to be doing is taking apart the pump and trying to figure it out, especially if you’ve just had a c-section.
  • Be patient with yourself and with your baby. Breastfeeding is something that you’re both new at and it takes time to learn to do it properly.
  • Use the creams on a regular basis; they will help.
  • Know that the side-lying position is an advanced skill! Don’t fret if you don’t get that one right away!

Looking back, I wish that I had known how to use the pump before the baby came. I wish that I had put the baby to my breast more frequently so that my supply hadn’t dropped. I wish I had known how hard it might be.

In the end I found a lactation consultant through the hospital who was able to help me. In her office, she would position herself just right and slap the baby’s face into my breast with the right amount of force and at just the right angle that I wouldn’t feel any of the pain that I had previously felt. At those times it felt good and it felt right. More so than when things weren’t going well, at those times I wanted to cry. My baby was sucking and was getting the milk she needed. It was a beautiful thing.

Over time, things got better. I learned how to help my baby latch on better and I got a nipple shield that fit properly and helped reduce the pain significantly. The lactation consultant would weigh the baby before and after feedings and show me that the baby had taken in milk. Most importantly, I felt like I had a support system and someone who was there to encourage me and work with me until I got it right.

When the baby got a little bit bigger, the nipple shield was no longer necessary. At the end of it all, I probably nursed her about half of the time and supplemented the rest. I just wasn’t able to pump enough at work to keep her fed throughout the day.

The take home message here is that breastfeeding might not be all that you imagine it will be. For some it may be, but for others it can be a challenge and a struggle. If someone were asking my opinion, I would say give it the best shot you can. It’s important enough for your baby’s health that it’s worth a little extra effort. On the other hand, if a woman decides it’s just too much to handle, I can completely understand. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like.

My girl has just recently given up the breast completely and she is about to turn three. She went on to nurse for a good two plus years and she enjoyed every minute of it! Can’t say the same for myself, but that’s okay, it was more for her than me anyway..!

Maintaining the Balance of Mommy and Me

Have you ever tried to keep a teeter-totter in motion without someone on the other side to balance you out? Well, that’s what it feels like sometimes as a mom, especially as a single mom. Balancing my roles as a parent, a professional, and an individual feels a little like running back and forth between two sides of a piece of playground equipment just to keep it in motion!

As a parent who has made some pretty child-centered parenting decisions such as opting not to have a crib and allowing her toddler to nurse until the almost age of three, the majority of my non-working and waking hours have been literally devoted to parenting. In addition to working days, I also work some evenings; I don’t have a partner to tag team with; and I usually go to sleep at the same time as my child.

Given these circumstance and parenting decisions, I have become quite creative in finding ways to get the time that I need for myself and in maintaining my identity outside of parenting.

Below are some of the strategies that I have found useful in regaining some of the “me” that gets lost during parenting. I have somehow managed to find ways to fill the nearly “on-empty, adult-me tank” that occasionally gets low on fuel.

And these tips are not only for single parents: Anyone who knows the challenges of parenting may find them useful.

Make Your Free Time Meaningful
What do I think of when I first think of free time? Let’s see…vacuuming the living room, unloading the dishwasher, and grading papers. How much of that is restorative to me? None! I am the master of getting everything done before giving something to myself.

What I have learned in finding ways to balance the responsibilities of parenting with restoring myself is to deliberately schedule activities during my twenty-four hour free time that are meaningful to me.

For instance, on Sundays I started going to a mediation class for an hour. It’s only an hour and it feeds me spiritually and emotionally. It’s like McDonalds for the soul! I also started running with a friend on Sundays. To save time, I suggested a location that is extremely close to my house. With this arrangement, I can do something that is meaningful without spending my precious free time traveling. Perhaps running around a lake further away would have been more slightly more scenic but it would have meant one less hour that I would have for myself.

Break the Rules of Parenting Occasionally
Taking a hot bath or even a quick hot shower is a luxury for me these days. It is quite relaxing and restorative, but hard to do with a toddler in the midst. So how do I gain some me time? By breaking the rules! Tonight my daughter wanted to eat her evening snack at a late hour so I made the decision to let her take her snack upstairs where she could eat it while I snuck in a quick bath! I felt ever so slightly guilty as I watched her happily munching away on her avocado while wearing her Elmo bib in the bathroom, but for a few minutes I got to relax in tub thus bringing some balance into my life.

Work Meaningful Activities into Your Daily Routine
One of things I love most is to ride my bike. A year ago I decided to move out of my townhouse and into a single family home so that my child would have a nice backyard in which to play. My house of choice was deliberately chosen because of its proximity to daycare and my work. The location of my house allowed me to ride my daughter to daycare on my bike. This has turned out to be a wonderful bonding ex[erience for us, as well as a centering and peaceful activity for me. We have watched the seasons turn, have observed the flowers growing, and keep a close eye out for dogs. At the same time it is me at my happiest. After dropping her off I am able to bike to work and then do the same in reverse at the end of the day. Instead of commuting in a car an hour a day, I am on my bike doing something I enjoy.

Network with Other Parents
Spending time bonding with your child are special, happy moments, but from my perspective, there’s still a self that needs to be fed. By forming social relationships with other parents, you can plan and enjoy activities that are child-centered but that also allow you to engage in healthy adult-to-adult communication. Coffee shop play dates, trips to nature centers, eating out: These are all activities that can include your child, but at the same time you are able to find ways to connect with adults and explore the non-child side of you.

Find People that Care about You and Your Child/Children
Going out for ice cream is so much more fun with another adult. If you are a parent that does most of the hands-on work, it is so freeing to have another adult around who can clean up that spilled water or take the child to wash her hands. A loving adult who cares about you and your child can be a gift that you can never repay. And the best thing about it: That other adult is FRESH! They are likely in a good spot mentally spot and probably have had a good night’s sleep whereas you may have been wakened multiple times by a child calling “momma.” Going out with another adult allows you to continue to bond with your child, but at the same time you can get that break you might need. And, hey, have a hot fudge sundae while you’re at it. You deserve it!

Find Ways to Save Time
A friend of mine jokes that I have hired a husband for most everything. I have retained the services of a doogie-pooper-cleaner-uper; I pay a woman who cooks amazing macrobiotic meals and drops them off at my house once a week; and the several inches of snow that fall on my sidewalks are blown to the side by a snow removal service. Yes, these things all cost money, but if this leaves me more time to take care of what is really important; i.e., me, then it is completely worth it!

Sign your Child up for Activities You Enjoy
My little girl is enrolled in mama-baby music classes, mama-baby yoga classes and swimming lessons. Each of these benefits me in some way. The music class is fun. I get to sing and dance and wave scarves around. Yoga is one of my favorite ways of keeping fit; during momma-baby yoga class I’ll sneak in a few extra vinyasas for myself. Swimming lessons? After the 30 minute swimming class I get to hit up the hot tub. She sits on the side while I loosen up those achy muscles. Score!

Don’t Pack Too Much into Your Free Time
I have found that when I have an evening free I want to do all of the things I enjoy in one evening. I want to go to a movie AND go out to dinner. I’ve learned over the past couple of months to pick one of the two and to savor the luxury of not rushing to and from different activities. By only going out to dinner I have a leisurely hour to get to the restaurant and a good couple of hours after my outing to do whatever I want at home. It makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable evening. Plus, I can get a 20 minute nap in before I go out if I so desire!

Balance isn’t about a fifty-fifty split between being a parent and nourishing the self. As a parent with lots of hands-on parenting time, balance means being creative about finding ways to maximize the free time one does have and about being intentional about what is being gained during that time. It’s also about finding ways to bring yourself into the parenting process and to secretly gain something for your own self while you are parenting. Happy parenting and remember “nourish thyself!”

And I Don’t Believe in Boredom

I grew up in a family where uttering the words “I’m bored” were akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain. No child with as many toys as my siblings and I had any reason to be bored. We had games, blocks, dolls, toys and, better yet, books. We had a split level house with a family room, a backyard with a swing and a court full of playmates. I had an older brother and a sister two years younger than me—the perfect playmates. Most importantly I had my imagination. What possible reason could I have to be bored?

My mother grew up in the 50s in rural Kansas. Her family did not have much money and likely had many fewer toys to play with than we did. In addition, my mother was afflicted with polio at the age of eleven and was sent away for treatment over a day’s drive away from her family. She stayed in a hospital for 6 months with her family only visiting on weekends. If anyone knew what boredom felt like, it was my mother.

In the 50s there were no televisions in hospitals rooms. There were no ipods, ipads, smart phones, laptops, game boys or any of the other handheld electronic devices that the children of this era often sport. The greatest forms of entertainment were books, other children and their imagination. My mother learned the valuable lesson of how to entertain herself at a very early age.

From time to time I read about toddlers “getting bored easily” or I hear parents saying “Well, we went to that play area but he got bored really quickly.” When I read or hear those words, I cringe. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a toddler– a very active, easily distracted, slightly hyperactive two and a half year old. I understand that toddlers do not have long attention spans; however, I still do not mark up impatience or lack of interest to boredom. I mark it up to a lack of creativity on the parent’s part.

This evening I gave my toddler a bath. The twenty-five plus toys that I have bought and assembled for her over the past two years no longer seem to be of interest to her. If she is bathing by herself she will usually last for about one minute before announcing “I want ouuutttt…out momma…..out….!!!” Usually this means, I want to be with you mom. If she is bathing with her same age cousin, the bath can last for hours as she plays, dumps water on his head repeatedly, and “washes” his hair. If she is by herself and the bath has no longer become of interest to her it’s because I have failed to make it a place that challenges or intrigues her developmentally or I have failed to offer something even more important, my attention.

My daughter is not bored with the bathtub. She just needs the company of her mother or a fresh perspective.

Tonight when I put my toddler in the bathtub I took two of the toys that she’s had available to her for months and I sat down with her to show her how to make them work and to play with her for a few minutes. One was a cup and the other a cup with a wheel that spins when water runs through. Pouring the water back and forth between these two cups kept her occupied for the next ten minutes. Taking two minutes out of my evening bedtime activities opened up a world of entertainment and excitement for her. She was not bored with the bathtub – she just needed some direction as to how to entertain herself – and that is because she is two. These are the skills that we teach our children.

Adults in this era are accustomed to instant gratification. Hit a button and the computer comes on. Instant entertainment. Drive by a building with a window and viola! Instant dinner. Give your child an iphone and show them a video. Instant babysitter!

Before I had my daughter I was in a relationship with a man who was a single parent to a five year old and an eight year old. If the wait at the restaurant was longer than two minutes he insisted we leave because his children would not be able to handle it. A five minute wait for food was accompanied by a bag of toys to keep them occupied. As soon as the meal was over, he would hunt down the waiter or waitress because the kids were bored. To put it in context, this man was addicted to his Blackberry.

Regardless of whether those children were bored or not, by being constantly entertained or removed from environments in which they might have to invent ways to entertain themselves, they were being deprived of two valuable lessons: 1. We go to restaurants to socialize with the people we love, not to be entertained constantly. 2. If you want to engage in an activity while you are waiting for something, you can use your imagination to find something to keep you interested and stimulated.

In addition to being deprived of valuable lessons they were unfortunately learning a lesson that is all too common in this day and age: If there is a moment of silence or a moment of inactivity that there must be something to fill up that time.

For many parents, electronic toys have become a parent’s extension of their own need for instant entertainment gratification onto their children. Children are not being taught how to entertain themselves and how to socialize with other people, they are being taught that if they are lacking in something that is of interest they should either leave the environment or hit a button and turn on an electronic device.

Last week I was in an ice cream café and my young two year old went up to a three or four year old boy who was busying himself with his parents’ phone. My daughter was exploring her environment, socializing and finding ways to occupy herself that were pleasing to her. The boy was lost in his parents cell phone…well, lost in a non-human interaction and missing the challenge of learning to entertain himself. Refreshingly, the parents took the phone from the boy and encouraged him to socialize with my daughter. In my opinion, he should never have had the phone in the first place. Is ice cream and your parents company not entertainment enough?!

Using electronic devices to silence our children is crippling our children’s natural curiosity of the world and of their ability to socialize with others. As parents we need to be aware of this before we end up with a generation of children who are constantly reliant on some external source for entertainment. We are raising a generation of children who need it and need it now. We may be raising a generation of children who do not socialize well and who will one day be raising the next generation.

The change must begin now.

(Please leave comments in the comments section to let me know what YOU think!)

Christina