The Santa Situation: To Lie or Not to Lie?

Have you ever questioned this? It’s a topic that will make some people upset. Which tells us we need to take a good, honest, serious look at it. That’s a good thing—so let’s dive in!

Santa listMany of us grew up receiving toys from Santa Claus every year. How was it for you when you figured out that Santa wasn’t “real”? As an adult and a new parent, do you have any new perspectives? How will you raise your child?

If you’ve had any tinge of uncertainty, by all means, stay in touch with that gut feeling! The magic of childhood is often cited as a reason to do Santa, along with innocence, fun, and joy of the season.

But is it really?

Invitation

This is not a judgment on parents. But it is an examination of values, habits, thinking, and action. I speak for the children and for healing. If you feel judgment or guilt, turn it around! How wonderful that you now have a new awareness. You get to make a choice—that’s where the beauty lies.

The Disappointment Can be Debilitating For Life

For real, though? Yes. For. Real. Some children don’t appear to be bothered by it. (But how do we know? Culturally, we’re usually taught to disguise—even disregard—our true feelings.)

If you have a highly sensitive child, this can be a very serious issue. High sensitivity is real—it’s a trait found in 15 to 20% of the population. Even if you’re not highly sensitive, your child might be. (Even if no one is, Santa still warrants investigation!)

I am one of those. The occurrence of figuring out Santa wasn’t real at age 8 sent me on a downward spiral. It was too good to be true. Anything, then, that’s that “good”—can’t be true. Good cannot be true. Life is disappointing. The thing I hoped in did not even exist. I can’t trust life itself.  Good and magical stuff doesn’t really happen. I was disappointed and disillusioned, and that process took many years to unwind.

This is not a judgment on my parents. It’s the way things were done, and my mom was honest when I asked. I’ve always appreciated that. Nor is my process above reflective of other potentially missing values. We were still all about family and giving.

I’m not the only one—there are many of us out there, and some of today’s children are more sensitive and honesty-detecting than ever. It’s time we looked this issue in the face. Are we really doing what we think we’re doing—fostering love, magic, and innocence?

What’s Wrong With Santa (the way it’s usually done)?

Santa toys pointManipulation Do we want children to behave in certain ways in order to get toys from a figure who’s not even real, or because of their own motivation and respect for others?

Creepiness “He sees you when you’re sleeping”? Come on! How is Santa good and a ‘peeping tom’ bad?

Disappointment and disillusionment

Potential distrust in parents and in people in general. Do you really want to risk this?

Lying Your child will take you seriously—he trusts you. We want our kids to be honest with us, right? How can we sincerely ask them not to lie to us if we’re lying to them? And if we’ve lied to them, we really have no ground from which to be unhappy when they lie to us. If your child takes you seriously, then major repair may be needed later.

Dealing with being tricked. It’s a disturbing feeling. Let’s really get in on their world: Young children depend on grown ups for safety, love, and basic needs. They believe what we say—only to find out later that they were intentionally deceived. How can one truly trust people after that? It’s not only being deceived by parents, it’s by an entire society, complete with movies, advertising, and big (scary) Santas at shopping centers. First, there’s processing the present moment of disillusionment, which can be confusing because the deception came from the people he depends on and from the society in which he lives. Then, he must grow up in a world where, on one hand he receives messages to be “good,” “honest,” and “do the right thing”; while all around him is a counter-message that deception is okay, dishonesty is sometimes the way to go, and “right” is relative to what one wants.

And… are we really preserving a sense of magic? Or are we preserving our grown-up sense of power?

As David Kyle Johnson says in his post, Say Goodbye to the Santa Claus Lie, “We need to pay attention to that twinge of guilt to steer us clear of immoral and potentially dangerous behavior. … I [suggest] the Santa Lie should be avoided for three reasons. (1) It’s an unjustified lie, (2) it risks damaging your parental trustworthiness and (3) it encourages credulity and ill-motivated behavior.

Society is full of deception. Raise children with lies disguised as “magic” and “joy,” and we raise a society of deception.

What’s the Deeper Meaning Behind Santa, Anyway?

Other than general “giving,” I didn’t know. So I looked it up. Check it out!

Was St. Nicholas a Real Person?

Who Is St. Nicholas?

But I Want Holiday Magic for my Child! What Else, Then?

Babies are amazing, aren’t they? Children “say the darndest things.” Sometimes they say things that make us stop and think, or they wow us with their compassion. They’re crazy-amazing learners, mastering language and a whole slew of milestones in relatively little time. They love and they want to relate.

Add in the story of Saint Nicholas from Patara…

That’s magic! That is where holiday fun lives—within your amazing children and your own awesome parent selves. You and your children are beautiful, wonderful, fun, and loving. You have the resources within yourself and in your family to create meaningful times. You do! Creating holiday joy and meaningful traditions can be done in complete honesty, and I believe with more satisfying results in the long run.

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Stories and imagination are wonderful! So are myths and traditions! Keep those alive! Play-acting that Santa exists and believing that he actually does are very different! Problems have arisen for centuries once a symbol/story/myth is taken as “real,” deconstructed from its deeper meaning.

Invitation, curiosity… how could you start from the realm of honesty and create magic from there? It might take some creative thinking. To get started…

Ideas From Other Parents

Mom Ali: “My son is 2.5 and I decided last year that I was definitely not going to do “Santa.” I don’t want him to feel like he is missing out or feel like the odd one out when other kids are talking excitedly about Santa. I also don’t want him to feel or speak negatively about Santa to other kids who believe. So I’m going with the explanation that Santa is a character played by people who love you and who want to do something to bring you joy. You can also play Santa for other people. I will get him a Santa present and it will be a surprise, but he will know it was from me. I will also help him make presents for others and he can give them “from Santa.” So Santa can still be “real,” we have just changed the definition to suit ourselves!!”

Mom Kate: “…we tell our kids that Santa can be anyone dressed up in a red suit and a beard. They like to know this! They still ‘believe‘ in Santa. They still get a kick out of seeing Santa. Yet, they know that Santa is just another person.”  (Have a Merry Honest Christmas)

Mom EW: “I’m so tired of seeing children have to deal with all these Santa lies! Once you give it up and understand how amazing your relationship with your children can be without it, the lying becomes even more repulsive. We don’t do Santa in any way, we just give each other gifts from ourselves.”

Mom Heather: “I do not believe in lying or in telling my kids to lie, but also don’t feel it’s my place to tell other kids there is no Santa.”

And here’s another post: “Thoughts on Santa: Tainting Trust and Magic”

Begin with your favorite values (Generosity? Quality family time? Whatever the “reason for the season” is to you) and then create activities from there that become yearly traditions. Creating ritual can bring a sense of magic. To this day, I feel “magic” when I transform my living room with candlelight. How long did the ‘magic’ of Santa last? Relatively minuscule, and it came with a high price.

Back to the Story of Saint Nicholas:StNicholas clip-mj

It’s lovely: giving to those in need, love for children, standing up for the innocent: now we’re talking! It’s one of those cases where a real person takes on mythological stature over time. Joseph Campbell’s definition of “myth” (or one of them) is: the experience of life.

Now we have Christmas –> Santa –> St. Nicholas –> generosity, protector of children, etc. –> application of this myth to current life –> the experience of giving and loving.

That means: go and do it! Go out into the world—or into your own living room—with your children, who are beautiful just as they are without manipulation, and make some magic!

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved. Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

New Tummy Time Site! Important Information For New Families

Tummy time is often either a source of fun for families–or of distress. Check out my new tummy time website! EnjoyTummyTime.com – Your Source for a Respectful and Informed Approach to Tummy Time

BusCard-EnjoyTummyTime1

Whether it’s going wonderfully or is challenging, I have some important information to share with you, including tips you will not see in much of the tummy time literature out there:

  • How Baby gets into and out of tummy time makes a difference
  • Watching for and reducing a startle response
  • What counts as “tummy time”
  • Why tummy time is not just about muscle strength
  • Allow the newborn’s bending hips and knees in tummy time
  • Empowering ways to address that stuck arm
  • Engagement vs distraction–why paying attention to fussing is important
  • How propping devices can actually make tummy time more challenging
  • Tummy time is part of a bigger picture: lying on the side and back are important too!

This approach to tummy time comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education (IDME), part of the Body-Mind Centering approach to somatic education.

Make Tummy Time a place of ease, comfort, and delight!

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Baby Play: What Does Learning Look Like? Being an Observer

Yeah yeah, babies play! With rattles and blocks; and pots with loud lids, and maybe Daddy’s glasses. Well… is there more? What are they really doing? What does authentic, baby-led play look like? What happens when we direct less and observe more?

DSC01696 crop enh high-med

Babies are fascinating Players! They’re scientists and explorers from the start. Do we need to teach babies how to play? How to learn?

Many would say yes, it’s our job to teach them how, our responsibility to make sure they’re “learning” and that their activities are “educational.”

Yes, it’s a cat toy. Or, it was. What will the baby learn about tunnels and tracks and things that roll?

Yes, it’s a cat toy. Or, it was! (There’s a green ball inside it.) What will the baby learn about tunnels and tracks and things that roll?

I say not necessarily. Babies are expert “learners” already! They come that way. Learning is required for survival. When given time to respond and explore, typically-developing babies can’t not learn.

Our role? To provide loving presence, interaction, availability, and support. To provide an appropriate environment–maybe a play area, maybe outside, maybe the scenes of your everyday life. Yes, to sing, dance, and converse! To make creative options available—but not to continuously stimulate.

Enjoy this tour of playing babies! Notice in these pics how play is not a different activity than learning, or even functioning. It’s all the same thing!

Peekaboo! Or is it really that simple?

Peekaboo! Or is it really that simple?

He saw a space and was curious. His brain “measured” the size of the space (can I fit?) and the distance, and he set out on the adventure. He got through—and confirmed his test of perception!  This is the same baby that, a few months ago, was investigating the cat-toy-tunnel (above). Only now the investigation is on a different scale, and he’s the one “inside.” Perhaps he will build trains; or have an easy time learning the subway; or be really good at devising creative ways through obstacles in his life when he’s 30.

He saw a space and was curious. His brain “measured” the size of the space (can I fit?) and the distance, and he set out on the adventure. He got through—and confirmed his test of perception!
This is the same baby that, a few months ago, was investigating the cat-toy-tunnel (above). Only now the investigation is on a different scale, and he’s the one “inside.” Perhaps he will build trains; or have an easy time learning the subway; or be really good at devising creative ways through obstacles in his life when he’s 30.

Sometimes, when we’re quiet enough, babies “read” to us! Listen for her vocalizations, even if she’s not saying words you recognize.

Sometimes, when we’re quiet enough, babies “read” to us! Listen for her vocalizations, even if she’s not saying words you recognize.

If we wait, will this 3 month old work it out?

If we wait, will this 3 month old work it out?

I’d wait for him, myself—he looks pretty serious about his business. “Play” or “work”? “Effort” in what sense? Innocent play or intense mission?

I’d wait for him, myself—he looks pretty serious about his business. “Play” or “work”? “Effort” in what sense? Innocent play or intense mission?

He is determined, concentrating. Is play always happy? Are effort and work only for grown ups? Sometimes play just “is.” In our society, we’ve separated work and play: 5 days for work, 2 for otherwise; we spend our lives working, and then in retirement we play. What if the two were objective, interwoven, natural parts of daily life, no matter our age? What if we kept on playing for the rest of our lives?!

He is determined, concentrating. Is play always happy? Are effort and work only for grown ups? Sometimes play just “is.” In our society, we’ve separated work and play: 5 days for work, 2 for otherwise; we spend our lives working, and then in retirement we play. What if the two were objective, interwoven, natural parts of daily life, no matter our age? What if we kept on playing for the rest of our lives?!

Both play and functional movement (in this case, rolling) grow out of motivation, desire, attention, and intention. Can we even separate “play” from “function” in this case?

Both play and functional movement (in this case, rolling) grow out of motivation, desire, attention, and intention. Can we even separate “play” from “function” in this case?

Just playing… And… This is also a significant developmental pattern of movement, with her weight shifted to one side, one knee bent, and the “free” arm reaching/grasping. It’s “play,” but it’s also preparation for belly crawling!

Just playing… And… This is also a significant developmental pattern of movement, with her weight shifted to one side, one knee bent, and the “free” arm reaching/grasping. It’s “play,” but it’s also preparation for belly crawling!

This baby had just reached for a toy but didn't get it. Notice your urge--would you have gotten it for her? We can see her thinking about it. Perhaps she's problem-solving. The next thing she did was reach again for the toy!

This baby had just reached for a toy but didn’t get it. Notice your urge–would you have gotten it for her? We can see her thinking about it. Perhaps she’s problem-solving. The next thing she did was try again!

He’s learning to walk! Actually, he’s doing the exact same investigation process he’s done all his life while playing—motivation, curiosity, sensing what’s possible, and making attempts. Only now the reflexes are different, and we’ll end up celebrating what is commonly called a “milestone.” He was not taught to play, he just did that naturally by himself. This baby also was not taught to walk, he found it completely on his own; and here he goes! Play = function!

He’s learning to walk! Actually, he’s doing the exact same investigation process he’s done all his life while playing—motivation, curiosity, sensing what’s possible, and making attempts. Only now the reflexes are different, and we’ll end up celebrating what is commonly called a “milestone.” He was not taught to play, he just did that naturally by himself. This baby also was not taught to walk, he found it on his own; and here he goes! Play = function!

How To Foster This Beautiful Baby-led Learning?

TTtogether2, 5mopr sm enh high-medI invite you to be an Observer. Discover—with joy and wonder (sounds cliche, but I’m serious!)—the intense, amazing, curious, and brilliant little natural explorer that you know is already is your baby!

Tips for “active” observing:

  • First, watch for signs of engagement. Before calling his name or rattling a toy to catch his attention, notice: is he already interested in something? Is he already looking, listening, planning, or doing? If so, he is learning something! Hold off for a moment and see what he does. You may find he has a longer attention span than you realized!
Take her perspective. If we were looking at her from above her, we might have called her name to engage her, not realizing she was enjoying such a spectacular scene!

Take Baby’s perspective. If we were looking at her from above her, we might have called her name to engage her, not realizing she was enjoying such a spectacular scene!

  • Interact fully when Baby initiates it . . . 
  • . . . but allow Baby to turn away when he’s ready. If he disengages, pauses, or looks away from you, his brain is likely processing something. Give him this space. He’ll probably turn back to you on his own or get interested in something else.
  • Follow Baby’s lead. When you put him down, let him decide where to go and what to play with.
  • Let Baby set the pace and choose when he’s done or not.
  • Provide non-battery toys and objects he can manipulate himself, like balls, bowls, measuring cups, rattles, and other easy-to-handle toys.

TT sm high-med

  • “Good job!!” less; celebrate along with Baby more (“Yes, I saw you crawl under the table and get that ball!”). Or, simply observe, say nothing, and witness pure discovery!
  • Trust that the level-in-space Baby can get to on his own is just right for him. What can he do on his own when he’s not propped up higher than he can get by himself (like in sitting or standing)?
  • Get down there with him! Observing doesn’t necessarily mean you’re passive. He knows you’re there. He may look at you or come to you at some point, and you can share in his delight!
Might as well get down there and do what he’s doing! The world looks different from down here. Did you know that when you’re belly-crawling age, the grass is about 1/3 of your height?

Might as well get down there and do what he’s doing! The world looks different from down here. Did you know that when you’re belly-crawling age, the grass is as tall as 1/3 of yourself?

Of course there are times when you may want to initiate a song, game, or interaction. Be sure to also build some observing-with-presence into your daily life with Baby.

Why This is Important NOW

“Educational” videos for babies, flash cards, discomfort in tummy time, pressure to achieve and look “normal,” and popular images of “good parenting”: these are just a few factors parents and caregivers face. But these factors can limit babies’ innate abilities to be movement-literate, learn on their own motivation, be at ease in their environment, and fully process what’s going on around them.

Enjoy your youngest scientist!

1Series6, RollUp, 7mopr enh high-med

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and has trained as a Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

 

Why is Movement in the First Year So Important? Check Out “The Moving Child”

601278_370307493083679_753718206_nMovement in the first year matters! Movement and brain development go hand-in-hand, and early movement experiences influence the rest of our lives.

With this post, I’d like to point you to a film in the making that involves some of my colleagues, “The Moving Child.”

Their intro video is here (themovingchild.com), and check out more info here.

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As they point out, “statistics show that not only are children not moving enough, they are not moving in the ways they need to move from early infancy onward.”

Let’s get our beautiful children unstuck!

And, it’s not just about them, it’s about us too. Our children are an invitation for us to reconnect with ourselves–with our own well-being through healthy movement.

Here are some of my related blog posts:

The Importance of Measuring (Or, The Importance of Not Propping in Sitting, Standing, and Walking)

Trust Nature: Each Milestone is Important

LongDress 8575526-a-cute-baby-with-polka-dot-dress-crawls-on-a-wooden-floor from 123rf CROP

Exersaucers and Seats for Babies–What’s Best for Baby’s Health?

Cute! But Functional? Clothing Baby for Optimal Movement

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner. 

Signs of Emotional Stress: How to Recognize When Baby Might Need to Have a Good Cry

I’m reposting this because I have some really helpful new pics, and I think this topic is super important! 

Your partner seems tense. Your best friend seems agitated. What do you do?

from wernative.com

Check in with “Are you okay?” Or offer some help or a kind word? Would you rather avoid him/her? Or maybe you freak out yourself too, or maybe feel you don’t know what to do.

What about when you’re angry, sad, frightened, anxious, or frustrated? Or even when you don’t know what’s bothering you. Or you’re just having a hard day…

Let’s really look at how we can tell—it will be useful regarding Baby in a moment!

  • Do you (or can you see your friend) hold your breath?
  • Feel those certain tense spots (i.e., shoulders)
  • Clench your jaw or tighten your lips
  • Grip objects tightly
  • Throw something (or feel like it)
  • “Check out”—become vague, depressed, low on energy, spaced out
  • Speak to others in ways you wouldn’t otherwise
  • Start rushing or feel hyper
  • Become irritable

These are signs and symptoms of being stressed, not expression of the emotion itself.

Consider babies (and toddlers)

Pensive sadBaby comes equipped with the full set of human emotions! A baby is just as much a “person” as we are. Some people assume that babies “don’t feel anything” (beyond wanting milk, mama, or a toy). I often hear parents wondering, “how much stress can a baby really accumulate (especially one in a loving home)?”

It’s true. Babies Feel. The difference is, they are thankfully still really good at expressing it—they haven’t yet lost touch with their emotions or with their beautiful healing instincts!

(If the word “stress” as applied to your baby worries you, please take a deep breath. All babies experience some sooner or later, even the healthiest ones. It does not mean you’re a ‘bad’ parent.)

Do you ever experience times when Baby cries even after all her immediate needs have been met, and you don’t know the reason? Crying (with loving attention) is healing. You may or may not already be familiar with how to support this need to cry in-arms (for more info, and why Baby might be stressed, see my blog posts). This crying or raging is the expression of the emotion itself.

Emot stress3

But sometimes Baby will show signs of feeling strong emotions, yet won’t be crying. Some of these actions and behaviors can be misinterpreted as ‘the way babies always are,’ ‘cute,’ ‘discipline problems, or manipulation. but you can learn to read when they mean Baby might need to have a good cry in your arms.

Watch for the following signs that potentially signify emotional stress:

  • Grabbing more often or holding objects more tightly than usual
  • Clingy (beyond a typical desire to be held)
  • Hitting
  • Playing fast—moving quickly from one thing to the next
  • Chewing on objects almost nervously
  • Constantly asking for milk
  • Putting fist, fingers, or toy in mouth repeatedly, may or may not also have a vacant or worried lookEmot stress-trepidation, finger in mouth
    • Note, “mouthing” is a very healthy activity for young babies. Mouthing (hands or toys) tends to be accompanied by attentiveness, curiosity, contentment, and/or deep rest, and often whole-body digestive tube wriggling. What I mean above is not “mouthing,” but an action that holds back emotion (“if Baby didn’t do it, he’d cry”).
Compare the expression on this baby's face with the one above. This baby was playfully focused on 'mouthing' Sophie until the camera also became interesting, and he has a growing smile.

Compare the expression on this baby’s face with the one above. This baby was playfully focused on ‘mouthing’ Sophie until the camera also became interesting, and he has a growing smile.

Here's another view of 'mouthing'--note how his whole body, as well as his attention, is involved in the activity. Stress-related sucking typically has less whole-self involvement and interest, with either blankness or concern.

Here’s another view of ‘mouthing’–note how his whole body, as well as his attention, is involved in the activity. Stress-related sucking typically has less whole-self involvement and interest, with either blankness or concern.

  • Baby seems higher-toned than usual—not as peaceful while being active (by tone, I mean the “firmness” of muscle, actions, or comportment)
Thumb-sucking (See note above about mouthing. Mouthing the thumb is one way the hand develops from fist to functional fingers.) Thumb sucking can also be used to stop emotion from flowing, and can be accompanied by a vacant, concerned, or un-confident look.

Thumb-sucking (See note above about mouthing. Mouthing the thumb is one way the hand develops from fist to functional fingers.) Thumb sucking can also be used to stop emotion from flowing, and can be accompanied by a vacant, concerned, or un-confident look.

  • Hanging onto a particular toy or blanket–sometimes called a “lovey” or “security item”
  • Baby looks “checked out” or vacant
General fussiness is often an indication

General fussiness is often an indication

A pacifier seems to be the only way to “keep baby calm”

A pacifier seems to be the only way to “keep baby calm”

Healer-Baby: what to do about that “stress”

Now, how can Baby release that tension? Crying can be a release of the above “symptoms.” Laughing, yawning, and coughing also release tensions, but I find that sometimes the fullest release comes through a good cry.

This is their wise and wonderful way of feeling better. They feel what they’re feeling, express it through crying and get it out, and then they go on with their day.

When you think Baby seems stressed, do one of those “check ins” with her that you might do with your best friend. She’ll let you know if she wants to cry. Here are some ideas:

  • High chair talk 12mo cropGet down on her level or pick her up, look in her eyes, and ask “how are you, are you okay?” Pause and truly wait for her response.
  • Before a nap or bed, hold her and ask, “How are you, do you need to cry? It’s okay to cry if you need to.” Pause and observe. If you and Baby aren’t used to doing this, it may take several invitations for each of you to trust the process.
  • Find a way to meet her intensity playfully and/or verbally. Such as, if Baby tosses something strongly with a shout, respond lovingly (not aggressively or angrily) with a vocal expression of similar intensity: “OOPH! I saw you toss that!!” I find that if Baby’s toss/shout came out of a need to express strong emotion, this “meeting” her in similar intensity  lets her know I’m tuned in, I understand her, and she may start crying or laughing right then.
  • If Baby/Toddler is hitting, provide a firm boundary. Keep everyone safe, and say, “I’m not going to let you hit, but I will listen if you need to cry.”
  • If Baby is chewing nervously, sucking on a pacifier, or hanging onto a security item, you could pick her up (without the toy/item) and tell her you see her, inviting her to cry if she needs to. She may frantically search for the pacifier or item—another common sign that Baby is feeling something that she’s not yet expressing. Try again later.

Crying upright

Babies don’t cry for no reason, so you can trust that if she’s crying, she needs to. After a good cry with listening attention, which releases stress, babies will often either sleep very well or stay awake very peaceful and content.

Note, some of these symptoms and behaviors, as well as repeated prolonged crying, can signal serious physical or emotional problems. The above is based on an assumption that Baby is healthy internally and externally. Please see a doctor if you have a concern.

Your baby is a wonderful communicator, and communication requires relationship. Growing in your ability to read subtle signs can deepen your bond with Baby and build a fantastic foundation for the trust that you can share in each other throughout life.

Please see Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting website for more information about crying in arms.

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

Holiday Overstimulation and Visiting Family

It’s that time of year… I don’t have a new post for you, but want to share this info again and hope it’s useful.

Please refer to my first post on this topic: Holiday Overstimulation: Let Baby Turn Away

The holidays and family gatherings seem to present decision-making opportunities to parents like no other time. How do you protect Baby’s space, needs, and your ways of relating while you’re around family members who may not understand or may feel differently?

Two examples: crying-in-arms and not prop-sitting. Both of these provide ample territory for potential ridicule. Think ahead about what choices you’ll be confronted with so you’re not caught off-guard. Protect Baby’s needs as much as you’re able to; and when you’re not, plan on some recuperation time with Baby later when you’re alone. Find fun ways to explain what’s happening, like, if Baby turns away from someone, “Oh look, isn’t that cool, he knows when he’s taken in as much as his brain can process, smart kiddo! He’ll look back at you in a minute.”

Relationship5 12mo

Another thing you may deal with is family members wanting to touch the baby (poke, prod, tickle, kiss, stroke, bounce, hold, etc.). Of course some of these will be comfortable for Baby. But some will not. Baby might need your help in this area because many grown ups–while their intention is loving–don’t realize they’re invading a person’s space by doing this. Here are a few ideas:

  • When you see someone coming, ask the baby–in hearing range of the approaching person–here comes So-and-so, are you feeling ready to be touched/held or not?
  • Turn Baby facing toward you before the approacher arrives
  • If baby pulls away from someone’s touch, deflect it somehow according to your comfort level setting boundaries and your relationship with the person. Could you say “oh, she’s not ready to be touched!” or an honest “oh, Friend, I’d love for you to connect with her. She likes to just take you in visually first, but tickling isn’t comfortable for her.” I have one mama friend who, when an approaching grown-up starts sticking out a finger to poke or tickle her baby, she does the same thing to the person, and he/she gets the message nonverbally!

Have wonderful holidays enjoying Baby AND family!

You’re a Human Jungle Gym! Playing With Your Mobile Baby

HumanJungleGym LOFDid you love jungle gyms as a kid as much as I did?

I like them because they’re “stable”—they stay in one place and allow the child to explore creatively on, under, over, around, and inside it.

But guess what?!

We, as parents/caregivers are natural-born Human Jungle Gyms!

Stable and Mobile

First, to clarify. By stable, I mean ‘stays in one place (ish),’ or stationary. By mobile, I mean ‘moves, locomotes, travels in space.’

In her first months, Baby is stable and you are mobile. Of course she wiggles! But she can’t yet traverse distance on her own—you move her. Her experience is of being picked up, moved, held, and put down.

Once Baby, on her tummy, begins pushing herself backward on the floor, spinning in a circle, and belly crawling forward—and later hands-and-knees-crawling, sitting, pulling up to standing, and sidestepping—she is mobile! She’s traveling short or long distances, going up and down in space (tummy to sitting to standing), and she’s curious!

Her mobile-ness (during safe playtime) is an invitation for you to be her “stable” partner. It’s a wonderful way to interact and play with your baby in a way that supports development and fosters connection!

How to be a Human Jungle Gym

When you’re hanging out on the floor with Baby, you automatically have built-in levels and ledges for climbing upon. It’s really quite wonderful how nature provides!

HumanJungleGym bc lap

Lap: Your lap is the perfect height for a belly crawler to climb up and over. The “up” part encourages her to coordinate her legs and push with her feet; the 
“over” part requires use, coordination, and strengthening of her arms. Both give
HumanJungleGym kneel lapher experience with a variety of territory. It’s also a perfect height for Baby to kneel (“sitting” on forelegs and “standing” on knees)–very important and wonderfully integrating positions!

Knees: Tunnels! Sitting (perhaps leaning back) with your feet on the floor and knees bent toward the ceiling creates a combo tunnel/climbing mountain! Great for belly- and hands-and-knees- crawlers.

Shoulders: Yours are the perfect height for the baby who’s pulling up to standing. Pulling up on furniture is fun too. But to discover your way to standing and find Mama’s face when you get there?! Or perhaps your hair was her motivation in the first place…!

Arms and hands: A sidestepping (“cruising”) baby may pull up on your lap and shoulder and then hang on to you while circling around you. Your arms can make creative ledges too.

Climb5 HumanJungleGymLying down: This can be a great “play gym” position for the mobile baby who’s not yet standing. Try lying on your back, your side, or even on your tummy for different heights. Baby can climb up on you; then to get off, she has a wonderful opportunity to explore balance and different relationships to gravity as she reaches off with her hands or her feet.

TT chest to chest1

On an incline: Do you ever sit down and lean back, with Baby on you chest-to-chest? This is a wonderful relational event that allows Baby to experience herself in a different way in gravity (other than upright or lying down), and it’s even “tummy time”!

These are some ideas that have you sitting or lying on the floor. Perhaps you’ll discover other ways in these or other positions!

A Word About Your Hands

When Baby climbs on you, it can be very tempting to use your hands to pick her up, prevent her from falling, “walk” her around you, or hold on to her. Unless she’s asking to be picked up or held, be curious if she actually needs your hands on her.

  • If she’s belly-crawling toward you and reaches your lap, do you pick her up? What if you “wait and see”? Does she actually want to be picked up, or is she curious and exploring, and would she continue climbing up and over you if allowed?
  • If there’s clear danger and she could hurt herself, obviously please help her! If she’s learning a new skill, like belly crawling forward off a ledge (off your lap), you might be surprised at how safely she navigates it by herself and how a slight, small “fall” doesn’t scare her. (I do mean “small” fall, and I don’t mean neglect)
  • The more she’s allowed to do only what she’s ready to do, without being propped by devices or by hands (e.g., stood or “walked”), the safer and wiser she’ll be. Think stable/mobile: if she’s mobile and you want to offer a hand, offer it as a strong and stable ledge, rather than as something that moves along with her and holds her up. This way she’s in charge of her own weight and her own experience.

Being a Jungle Gym—Benefits for Baby

  • Relationship and connection while playing, moving, and exploring
  • Balance
  • Creative problem solving
  • Over, under, through, around, on, off, toward, and away
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Strength-building all over
  • Reflex and brain development requiring 3-dimensional use of space
  • Spatial orientation
  • Inner ear health
  • Safer falling because she knows herself in different positions in gravity
  • Autonomy and empowerment—she gets to choose how she wants to relate with you and she does only what she can do herself

Go forth, get down on the floor, and have fun playing with your baby!

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.