Ask Amma

Posts Tagged ‘attachment’

Crying for no reason

In Why on 11 August 2012 at 8:00 pm

My baby is crying, yelling without any reasons and wants me to play with her all day round.  Can’t do anything!  Help!

– Ma of an 18-month-old in Kolkata
La Leche League Pan-India: Breastfeeding Resource

Times when my daughter was crying or yelling “without any reason,” I thought back and tried to put myself in her shoes.  More often than not, the reason became apparent.  Maybe she had asked for something in a quiet voice but no one listened.  Maybe the day had been rushed.  I had a checklist I would use when in doubt: “Are you well-rested, well-fed, well-read, and well-hugged?”  It became a kind of calming routine that allowed us to troubleshoot.  Sometimes we used “well-worked”  or “well-played.”  You can substitute anything you enjoy doing together like “well-danced” or “well-bathed” or even “well-turned upside down.”  Even now, sometimes she herself comes and tell me, after observing her own anger or frustration, “I am not well-fed.” or “I am not well-hugged.”   There will also be times when we don’t know the reason – this happens to adults too.  You may not be able to make your child’s tears go away, but you can offer a shoulder.

Maybe, like you, she too is thinking, “Can’t do anything!  Help!”  My first thought when looking at the two pieces of the puzzle – her desire for more play and your need to do other things, is – involve her in the things you do.  At 18 months, my daughter was never happier than when at work.  She could water plants, dig in the garden, wash and dry clothes, rinse, dry and put away dishes, sweep and mop floors, dust tables, pour dal into jars (one of her top jobs), sort fruits and vegetables and wash them if needed (and even if not needed.)  Before cooking I would often give her a vessel with rice or dal and ask her to wash and mix it.  She would do this for a while and then I would cook it.  My memory is hazy with the ages, but “helping” make chapatis was also a favourite chore of hers, and by age 3 her creations were edible.

Letting her help will slow down the pace of your work, but it will meet her (and your!) need for play, which to her is not different from work.  The work is not only “your” work.  It is her work too.  As kids become verbal, these times of shared work become the setting for very interesting conversations as well.  If we think back to earlier times, or visit our rural cousins, we find that children enjoy the company of all ages, throughout the day.  They naturally take part in a range of activities, sometimes in the lead, sometimes in the background.  It can be difficult to provide such diversity of company or of activity in modern urban settings, but we can acknowledge that we are missing something important.  With a bit of creativity and if possible, help from extended family or neighbours, we can try to make up for it.


Quantity Time

In When on 3 July 2012 at 8:11 pm

My daughter seems to think time is elastic. Even for places she wants to go, if she happens to be doing something, that can as well be done later, she just doesn’t stop and get ready. “I am doing this puzzle,” she might say, even if it is 500 pieces and she just started. Then I have to bargain with her, can you just finish this one cloud? “Can I just finish the sky?” “How about this cloud and this bird?” etc.

– Amma of 9 year-old

Indulge me while I think aloud on this question, which I recently asked myself.

Nothing very profound here, but just a vote for quantity time unburdened by the pressure of being quality time. Have you heard of “quality time?” Of course you have. It was a big thing like a major discovery 20 or 30 years ago. You may have seen Doonesbury call its bluff (what if your child needs more than 15 minutes?) I am not sure if it is called something else now.  Glennon Melton, who says she “can’t even carpe 15 minutes in a row,” may have inadvertently shortened it to a few quality moments, what she calls “kairos time.”

Kairos time may seem like a kind of free lunch – the ultimate Return on Investment (RoI) when time is subjected to economic theory such as the law of diminishing return.

This law would have it that if something done for 1 hour can be done for half an hour, the enjoyment will be more intense and the other half hour may be spent in another gainful pursuit, further increasing RoI. But what if the very fact of the time limit impairs the enjoyment?

More on the economics: Philosopher Charles Karelis, says in The Persistence of Poverty that

When there is more than enough of [leisure], additional hours add progressively less and less pleasure.

Who hasn’t heard a child wail, “there is nothing to do!”

“Nothing,” as physicist Lawrence Krauss says, “is unstable.”

When I hear that wail, I scramble to set up activities.  (Quick!  Before the big bang!)  My daughter likes some of that, to be sure.  But she also defends her free time long before I could have guessed that it has run out.

Because nothing is really not nothing.

In fact, I have found at times that it might even be easier to interrupt my daughter when she is doing something, than when she is doing nothing.  Or what appears to be nothing.  Thinking she might be bored, even before she can utter the phrase “nothing to do,” or maybe just seeking to compensate for yesterday when I was too busy, I will approach her and say, “Khiyali, do you -”

Before I can finish, I am met with a version of the startle reflex.   “What?” she says, tensing, alarm in her eyes.  I start over:  “Are you free right now?”  “No!”  She will say.  I don’t ask what she is doing.  She is too busy to take such questions.

As increased leisure brings diminishing pleasure, Karelis says, so does decreased leisure bring diminished regret:

But the notable point for our purposes is that the extra misery produced by one more hour at the desk, and the extra disappointment and resentment produced by missing one more anniversary, school play, or golf game tend to become less and less as the totals mount.  As the absolute losses accumulate, the individual case gets less and less attention.  Eventually, for instance, children become inured to the no-shows of a workaholic parent, and the parent … becomes inured to the resentment that does come his way.

Many a cautionary tale in the overworked parent genre brings up the “school play” as the missed event.   What about missing things that aren’t even things, don’t even happen, and one can’t even know that one has missed?  I am talking about the time that is random and uncertain, where one may do or not do anything, plan one thing but do another, or do nothing.  When one misses out on such time, what has one missed?

*   *   *   *   *

Several years ago I remember passing by a playground on the way home. My daughter, age 5, wanted to go, and I told her that we could go for half an hour. Or, I offered, “we could go tomorrow and stay longer.”  We could even do both, I added.  What we could not do was stay longer today.  She opted to go “tomorrow.”  I was surprised that she passed an immediate opportunity to go to the playground because it did not meet her requirements. I appreciate the value of being able to do something without time limits, but unfortunately I seem to find myself in the role of time-keeper more than I would like.

To avoid this, one would need:

  • to drop some activities.
  • play along with her games for as long as she wants

Drop activities – done! The “as long as she wants” part of is hard, but I have developed a new appreciation for playing along. Though I am, alas, not so childlike to delight in all of the games for their own sake, I have found that while playing, conversations flow freely and can often run deep. Nearly every material of play doubles as a stimulus of ideas … I have found this to be true whether we are modelling with clay, building with blocks or magnetix, making up stories with dolls or moving water from location to location.

Secondly, I find that spending quantity time with my child just helps us get along better. I know this sounds less than ideal, as it is a “means to an end” that offers itself to the “quality-time” mongers who seek to make parenting more efficient and less time-consuming.  But in my experience, the quantity is the quality that my child seeks in our time together. Limited time doing some amazing, fascinating thing is just not going to cut it for her. Sometimes even without time limits the very expectation of RoI is a killjoy. My daughter has told me, in so many words, “I could miss the opportunity of a lifetime because am doing something else, even if it is very ordinary, at the time.”

Since writing this I have found quite a bit of literature on Quantity Time. The question is not limited to nuclear families in which members are together for relatively few hours each day. Apart from families living close to the Continuum Concept, where children are free to come and go as they please, and welcome at the workplace, I don’t see anyone living with a sense of abundance when it comes to time. Whether you have 6 hours together as a family or 16 (or 2!), how you manage them, as well as the remaining hours while the child is elsewhere, will determine whether you try to extract value from every hour (or quarter-hour), or allow for the sense of boundlessness that stretches over time that is unscheduled and its quality unmonitored.

Calvin: There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.

Do you have enough time to do nothing?
from Bill Watterson, The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, p213

Losing Patience

In How on 3 July 2012 at 8:10 pm

I feel I am often losing my patience these days. I end up raising my voice, or at least having that tone of anger, admonishing, or worse, I fall into the popular trap of bribing her with something to take her away from something else.

Right after I have talked to my daughter in a harsh tone, I often give her a hug, say sorry, and explain, but that is still not where I want to be.

– Mom of a 3 year old in Texas

To get where we want to be as parents, there are a number of good sources of help. You will get there. I will get there. Along the way there will be times we wish we could go back and do differently, or more likely DO NOTHING (in capital letters). Those moments hold the potential to be our best teachers. Read the rest of this entry »

Breastfeeding – done yet?

In When on 3 July 2012 at 8:09 pm

My family and friends don’t get why my son needs to nurse so often. I am an older mom and my friends with kids don’t seem to have breastfed much or don’t remember – it was all so long ago. It doesn’t help that I am not getting much else done … I am a type A personality who till last month hardly spent a waking hour at home. No one is asking me to use formula, but they don’t seem to understand why breastfeeding takes so much time! Isn’t he done? they will ask, and I get tense, as if I have to know the answer. I am hoping to continue nursing for years (not just months) and I need positive responses and positive images to keep up my spirits! – new mom in Chicago Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting the entries for the Sling Photo Contest!

In Uncategorized on 3 July 2012 at 8:05 pm

Delights await Askamma readers – 18 beautiful photos of little ones in their slings. Now it is your turn to suggest captions for these photos. Visit Slings in Use and comment on the photo to suggest a caption.

Is it true that you are still …

In When on 1 July 2012 at 3:29 pm

This article originally appeared in 2006.

Is it true that you are still …
May 2006 / Mumbai

A woman interrupted me last night as I was taking printouts of the petitions we were planning to send to the Prime Minster to stop the Sardar Sarovar project from going up to 121 m. Urging me aside, she told me, “As early as possible you should stop breastfeeding her.”

Nursing my daughter while attending a meeting.

Nursing my daughter while attending a meeting.

She was probably not the only one who noticed when my daughter nursed during the meeting, but she was the only one to state her views so directly.  Unprepared for such a confrontation, I simply said, “I am very busy, and I am not going to stop breastfeeding now.” Seconds later, more crisp responses filled my head … Read the rest of this entry »

Cloth or synthetic diapers?

In Why on 26 May 2012 at 1:24 am

Cloth Diapers Vs Synthetic Diapers: My husband feels it is quite strenuous to deal with washing and drying the cloth diapers. I feel, at least during the day time, it would be nice to use to a cloth diaper to develop a bonding and increase the baby’s communication with the parents.

-mom-to-be in Maryland

I have never met a baby who liked to sit in his own waste. Not for a moment. I have often stood by helplessly as I saw babies protest having a diaper put on them.  My husband and I used diapers for months before recognizing, in retrospect, all the signals our baby was giving us to keep the diaper off and allow her to relieve herself in peace and with dignity. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeschooling – what about future?

In What on 9 May 2012 at 3:38 am

Dear Amma, I am following the homeschooling approach, but please tell me what the child will feel after 5 years if I am not sending her school?  Will she adjust in higher classes?  Nowadays I am afraid that she is very much dependent on me. Even if I am in the other room of my friend’s house, she starts crying.

 – Mama of a 3-year old in Gurgaon

Dear Mama in Gurgaon,

Are people telling you that it is because she does not go to school that she wants to spend more time with you or near you?  This may be the case.  Then again, it may not be.  But should it be?  Wanting to be with you makes total sense from her perspective.  Eventually it would not only need to be “you” but could also be another caring adult (or responsible older child, if another adult is also in the house), whom she trusts.

You ask, how will she adjust in higher classes?  Are you talking about adjustment to separation from you, or adjustment to the routine of the class, or ability to follow the books and lessons?

Let us take it one at a time  – Right now your daughter wants to be with you all the time.  Today that means “in the same room.”  But you can probably remember when “in the same room” was not good enough and she wanted to be in your arms.   So she has gradually expanded her range of how far she can go and still feel that she is with you.  As she grows up, the sense of “being with you” will stay with her even when she goes places on her own.

The fact that she prefers not to separate from you now will not impair her ability to separate from you later.  How much later?  She will know when she is ready.  Whether she does it sooner or later than the kid next door is irrelevant.  As she continuously evaluates the opportunities available and measures their value against the comforts of the familiar, she will extend her range according to her judgment.

So on to the third question, if she is still not going to school “after 5 more years,” will this harm her academic progress?

What you should understand is that during all these years she is exploring and analysing the world and making her own academic progress, albeit without unit tests and report cards.   Perhaps the question school-goers should ask is, “if we are still in school taking tests and covering the syllabus after 5 more years will this interfere with our creativity, critical thinking, and zeal for adventure?”

Whenever the opportunities available in school outweigh those available in the world at large, she will be able to plan and make her transition.  You can trust her, and yourself, on this as well.  RTE Act says that schools cannot deny admission so this gives breathing space to those who want to explore options.

(excerpted from India Homeschoolers)

Beyond the Sling

In Books on 11 April 2012 at 4:33 pm

Amma has taken a peek at Mayim Bialik’s new book, Beyond the Sling.  So far, looking at what Bialik has to say on such matters as stuff, illness, and Pippi Longstocking, what comes to mind is, she took the words right out of my mouth.  No wonder, as I find that the author is the spokeswoman for the holistic mom’s network.   Let me quote a gem: Read the rest of this entry »

Daughter had a tantrum in the hotel

In What on 17 February 2012 at 5:22 pm

We were at a hotel with my sister and her children. My niece said that she would not have a milkshake because she had a cold. My daughter also had a cold but she insisted on having the milkshake. When I said no she lay under the table and cried. Ultimately I gave in to her demand, only requesting that it be served warm. I feel that I should have remained firm and not given in.
– mother of a 2 year old in Sion.

First of all congratulations on finding an alternative that alleviated your worries about the cold and satisfied her desire. It is not an easy situation. I gather what is bothering you more than the milkshake is that you "gave in" and "rewarded" the tantrum, weakened the belief that milkshakes are not good when one has a cold, or further, shaken the faith in mother knowing what is good for you. And being embarrassed in the hotel, in front of your sister and her well-behaved niece.

One thing I learned from Alfie Kohn is, in the event of tantrums, respond to your child only. Forget all observers. Tension about what they think will only make you less graceful under pressure. People may look, but once they see that you are in charge, they go back to their business.

Though it might appear that the tantrum was occasioned by the desire for a milkshake, bolstered by the desire to "get her way" I would ask you to consider other causes. When my daughter has a tantrum I think back through the day / week. What might have led to this frustration? Did she not get enough time to do things she wanted to do? Was she rushed? Hungry? Was she not heard? (Often when I am talking with someone else she feels a greater need to be heard!)

Regarding the milkshake, I leave it to you to decide what is healthy for your child, but I ask that you be transparent in your decisions. When you introduce your child to a food that you feel ought to be regulated in any way, explain all the regulations and hear her views on the matter as well. If you are not ready to consult your child in this way (or feel that she is not old enough), then defer introducing the food until that time. If a rule seems arbitrary then a child has no reason to respect it, or the person who pronounces it. When you respect her decisions, she will respect yours. Milkshake or no milkshake will not reflect who "got her way."

But if you should happen to find that you have said no, faced a tantrum, and then said yes, please go one step further and say, "Enjoy the milkshake." Say it with a giggle and a hug. If she has the milkshake AMA (against mother’s advice) that stress might lower her immunity more than the milk/sugar, thus rendering invalid any "I told you so" that one might be inclined to say, should aforementioned cold get worse.

This does not mean, mind you, that there will be no tantrums. While we work to prevent them by addressing underlying needs, our role is not to silence them when they occur. There will be times when there is no milkshake or other specific thing that will satisfy the child. Offer a shoulder to cry on, a comforting cuddle, a sympathetic ear.

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