Friday, March 16, 2007

To Baby Burns from your mom's Uncle Bill

BB, my wish for you is that you will have an "Aunt Betsy and Uncle Bob" as part of your life, especially for your teen years. They will be adults, either friends or relatives. They will love you and help guide you. Most importantly, they will be there to listen to you at times when it seems impossible to communicate with your parents (that does happen sometimes). They will prove invaluable in your life.

Love, Great Uncle Bill

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Poem By Aunt Dee

written for our eldest son, Dick.

           First Child

First child, you bring a special mix
       of joy and fear into my life.
Gazing at you, helpless infant
       --- whom I possess and yet do not possess,
       --- who faces the unknown in years to come,
       --- who looks to me for everything for life,
I think and dream.

What will the future hold for you, first child?
What unsuspected talents will appear?
Where will you go? Places I never knew...
What problems will assail and challenge you?

You are so precious, and so needful of my care,
And I'm so new at all this mothering.
First child, be patient, love me much,
And I will try to do the same for you...

Nadine N. Doughty

You've Got Mail from Uncle Dick

Janet and Doug:

            First of all, please know that we are so happy for you both! The birth of a child is such a joyful event, and the birth of your first child is a passage into parenthood, the next phase of your rich, wonderful lives. This phase never really ends, as you each get to share life’s marvelous journey with your child.

            My sense at the births of our children was one of awe, of love and connection, and of a strong sense of responsibility to both Michelle and Suzy and to Barb. I was also scared…of failing, of not doing it right, of somehow letting down Barb or the kids. That fear was probably more detrimental than helpful to the kids, to Barb and to me. I had a model in my own Dad as to what a good Dad was, but it all seemed to get hazy when I was called to act on that real time. I came to trust Barb, as one who took her parenting seriously and who seemed to “get it.” That trust turned out to be well-placed. Were we to do it over (no immediate plans for this), I would focus on my intention to create and sustain a loving, nurturing, fun home environment with appropriate boundaries and opportunities for coaching, and be less judgmental or critical of my actual behavior. Kids are incredibly resilient, as well as being their own souls from the very beginning.

            We tried to create an environment conducive to growing and nurturing the kids’ self-esteem and self-love. Only they can attest how well we did on that, but I still believe that’s a noble objective.

            In some of the world’s belief systems, the child’s soul chooses her/his parents and the family to be born into, on the basis of what is most important for the child to learn at that time. I like aspects of this belief, because it honors the “teacher” in both the parent and the child, while keeping responsibility for the lesson learned with the “student.” I’ve found this perspective helpful when relationships have hit a speed bump, and try to ask myself what is the lesson I’m supposed to be learning here?

            I know you both well enough to know that Baby Burns is joining a family of two caring, loving, personally self-aware, healthy, capable parents. How grateful BB would be with this knowledge, and my belief is that he/she already knows this and joins this family with tremendous love and gratitude. Together you all will share each others’ life journey, and will weave together the rich tapestry of your lives together. Who knows what that tapestry will look like, but one thing’s for sure, no matter what the scenes, it will be beautiful.

            Barb and I send our deepest love to all three of you, and we look forward to meeting BB in person.

With love and respect,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The A,B,C's of Parenting with love from Suzy

A is for Accepting your child for who she/he is and honoring his/her spirit
B is for Balance. I think it's very important to maintain balance in your life and your child's life. Do what it takes to maintain balance - you will be much happier.
C is for Consistency. It's very important for parents to be consistent with their children. Kids need to know what to rely on. It helps when both mom and dad are consistent too! :-)
D is for Discipline. Some child psychologists believe consequences are a better alternative to discipline. I have found that to be true with my children.
E is for Education. Educate yourself about whatever it is you need to make a decision on and make a decision. Never look back. Give your child the best education available.
F is for Family Traditions. I think it's great to have family traditions that the family can look forward to each year. This is what many children remember about their childhood.
G is for Guide. I believe parents guide their children. They are who they are and it's up to parents to help guide them (not change them) in a safe and secure environment.
H is for Health. I place a lot of emphasis on health and modeling for our children what healthy behavior, diet and habits are.
I is for Intuition. Trust your intuition. You know what's best for your child. Act on your instincts and trust that you know what's best for your child.
J is for Joy. Be sure to experience the joy of the child. Children are inherently joyful and their enthusiasm is contagious. Enjoy him/her. Kids are a joy to be around at all ages
K is for Kids. Kids are so much fun and so much work all at the same time. No other job will provide so much joy and heartache than being a parent!
L is for Listening. Listening is such an important part of parenting. Make sure you have a time each day when your child has your undivided attention. You'll learn a lot!
M is for Moderation. I believe that being too extreme about anything doesn't serve the child well.
N is for No. I find it's helpful not to say no too much to a child. Find other ways to communicate your desires (creatively) without saying no too often.
O is for the Outdoors. Be sure to expose your child to the wonders of nature and enjoy the outdoor environment. Sometimes that's the best way to calm a cranky child.
P is for Planning ahead and being Prepared. Always bring extra wipes, diapers, snacks, etc. You never know what might happen and you can never be too prepared with a child!
Q is for Quiet time. I believe every child needs some quiet time each day. And trust me, mom and dad could use it too.
R is for RELAX! Kids are far more resilient than you can imagine. Take a deep breath when things seem to be difficult and realize it will not last forever. Nothing ever does.
S is for Structure. Most children do best when they have structure to their day.
T is for Truth and Trust. I think it's always important to tell the truth to your children. It's okay for the child to see that you are human with human tendencies too.
U is for Unconditional Love. As a parent, you really experience what unconditional love feels like. It's beautiful.
V is for Values. Understand which values are most important to you and consciously find ways to impart those on your children.
W is for Wrong and Right. There is no right or wrong in parenting. You do the best you can with the resources you have. There's no such thing as a perfect child or perfect parent.
X is for eXtreme. Many books tend to be extreme in their recommendations. I suggest moderation (see M) as opposed to extreme approaches.
Y is for YOURSELF. Be yourself. Maintain your sense of self. Being a parent is a big responsibility and it's important to be "serving from a full platter" so to speak.
Z is for Zest for life. Enjoy!

Love from Debbie and Don

To Janet and Doug,

Well, Don and I "ditto" everything Michelle said....right on!

You are going to have so much fun and you are also going to be overwhelmed by the daily duties but don't will also be rewarded so many times over.

The only advice that I can think of right now (I'll have more later if you want it...HA) is that you must always remember that you can't spoil a baby by holding it too much or loving it too much. There are other things that do that.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. There is so much to see and do on this wonderful journey into parenthood!

We can't wait to see pictures of the baby and then hopefully get a chance to hold him/her soon!

Lots of Love, Debbie and Don

Friday, March 9, 2007

What Michelle Wishes She Had Known... Thoughts On Having Children

Dear Janet and Doug -
We are so thrilled that you will be welcoming little Baby Burns into the world soon. We await the news of BB's safe arrival, and we want before and after pictures (eg, Janet 9 mos pregnant and BB).

We will send BB a gift later, but wanted to provide this gift to you both...thoughts on having children, things I wish I had known. I admit that the below is a hodgepodge, but I hope you find it useful and/or inspiring. Mostly, just know that I support you wholeheartedly and welcome with all love your new little baby.

1) I was surprised at the incredible depth of love I had for my babies. They have true, unadulterated unconditional love for me. It is an overwhelming feeling, and it was only when I had children that I truly understood Kahlil Gibran's comment about "the pain of too much tenderness" and how one can be "wounded by your own understanding of love." There is nothing like holding a baby or child in your arms, close and warm, and pouring your heart and soul into theirs. There is also nothing like feeling powerless to help a baby feel better when s/he is crying hard for no reason you can fathom or no reason you can help with.

2) I was also surprised by the incessant nature of the job of being a mother. It is 24/7/365. There are no real vacations, no lunch breaks, no coffee breaks, no bathroom breaks. Depending on the nature of your child, you may not have any time to yourself for a long time except when the child is asleep. For the first several months, you will want to be asleep also. Gradually, you may have some additional time during naps if the child takes naps longer than 45 minutes. And I hope BB does! The absolute best way to deal with this is to reduce all other obligations, including cooking, cleaning, and ANY volunteer activities. We ate a lot of frozen foods the first several months with babies, and I just couldn't worry about the nutritional aspects of that (though I did try not to have pot pies every day!). Regarding volunteer activities, you don't have to give them up, but, realistically, it might be worth expecting to put them on hold until the child is 2 or 3. You can then exceed your expectations by taking on small roles when you feel ready for them. I had to turn down several things - and still am - though I sometimes feel I did not turn down quite enough. It is hard to say, "no!"

3) I have learned that all children are different. The best possible thing you can do for yourselves and your baby is to accept your baby for who s/he is, respect her/him, and refrain from trying to control the behavior and feelings of the child beyond what is necessary to be safe. There is so much time for the child to learn about manners and sharing and picking up after oneself. Just because at 2, s/he doesn't want to share or is afraid to join in the festivities at a birthday party in an unfamiliar place does not mean s/he will always be like that. In fact, if you can give her/him the space to just experience her/his feelings as they are, s/he'll get more comfortable faster. I regret that I compared Clare too much with other children in a quest to understand what was normal for her age. In fact, there is huge variation, and giving her the space to just be herself has been working wonders now. But I didn't clue into that until she was a little over 5 years old. Imagine those 5 years where I was trying to change her so much! Even something as simple as trying to get a baby to stop crying is controlling. Respectfully, try instead to figure out why and take care of it. If you can't do anything, then just let him/her cry. Hold her/him, but let it rip. I am convinced babies can feel the stress of people trying to get them to be quiet when they just feel like they have to cry.

4) I have also learned that all parents are different. For a long time (a little over 5 years), I felt that I had to change myself to be an effective mother. Most of this feeling came from the fact that I did not relate well to most parenthood advice books, but being inexperienced, I turned to them because I didn't know what I was supposed to do. If I could do it all over next time, I would not read them, except for a precious few. I will list those later. No one knows you and your baby better than you do. Find a good pediatrician who will evaluate the child's development on all levels - not just physical, but cognitive, emotional, etc. And go with your instincts. I am sorry to admit that I even felt like I needed to change what kind of clothes I wear because of being a mother (I thought maybe my preferred all-black wardrobe was not so appropriate). The best thing you can do for yourself and the children is to just be yourself. After all, what are you teaching the child if you feel you have to mold yourself into something else because of what society seems to expect? This is related to #3...apply it to yourself, too!

5) Raising children in a loving, respectful environment is such an incredible gift to them. Keeping them feeling good about themselves, truly trusting in their worth as human beings, is in my opinion the most important thing. This does not mean indulging them unnecessarily. When I need to help Clare and Hannah learn limits and learn to control their impulses, I try my hardest to do it in a helpful manner as opposed to getting angry. I am not always successful at this, but I hope I am more times than I am not. With this foundation, a child can do whatever s/he is meant to do in this world. Most of all, ignore what everyone thinks and says unless you feel in your heart it is the right thing. It might take a few false starts while you are learning how to be a parent. The baby is learning how to be a baby, too!

6) I wish I had started using babysitters a lot earlier than I did. Part of the challenge is finding good ones, especially if you have a spirited and sensitive child. Ed and I struggle to get time together, though we have reached a point where we can both cover for each other to go out with friends or go out to meetings or whatever. If you have a nanny, try to get one who might be able to work a night every two weeks or something so that you can spend time together. Even if you have to trade a half-day during the day, this seems like it would be worth it.

We love you so much, Janet and Doug, and we cannot wait to give you and Baby Burns a big hug!!

Michelle's Favorite Poem on Parenting

From Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet"

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Michelle shares... Helpful phrases to keep in mind (and to help you keep your mind) -

Just be yourself; let the child be him/herself.
This, too, shall pass.
Drop out the filler; magnify the essence.
Parenting is an art, not a science.

Michelle Recommends...

OK - favorite books -
Your Self-Confident Child by Magda Gerber. I received this is a gift when Clare was born, and I really love it. I have given it to several people who seem to be interested in it. If you are interested in it, I have several extra copies, one of which I would be more than delighted to send to you. But I am not offended if it is not interesting to you.

Your Child's Self-Esteem by Dorothy C Briggs. Although this was written in the '70s, I found it incredibly valuable. Just ignore the outdated parts (like a long explanation of why spanking is not good and some assumptions that mommies stay home and daddies work). I wished I had read this well before Clare was past 5. Magda Gerber kind of goes up to age 2, and her strategies work pretty well up to there, but I felt a little abandoned by her after age 2...this book would have been wonderful to have, and it is wonderful to have now.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I really appreciated knowing the biology behind sleep. Sleep has been getting even more press lately, and I am so thankful that I have had Dr. Weissbluth as a guide for helping my children develop healthy sleep habits. This is one area where I think we have done very well.

Caring for your Baby and Young Child by Steven Shelov, MD, et al. (American Academy of Pediatrics) This tells you what normal developmental achievements your child should have. If s/he meets these, you have pretty much nothing to worry about. If you are concerned, then you have concrete examples to discuss with your pediatrician. It also has some information about common illnesses, which are helpful when you are confronted with things that you have no idea what to do with.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Getting Closer...

Janet and Doug had a surprise visitor on their weekend of a real live, flesh and blood shower. I know we all wish we could have been there. Let's get the virtual party started! Look how close this blessed baby is!