Category Archives: Relationship

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.

Advertisements

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!

“Good Job!”, Or Not?

It’s habit, I know. “Good job!”  We love our babies. We get excited when they do new things.

But why “Good job!”? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? I mean, let’s really look this question in the face. We all have different influences. Why do you say “Good job!”?

  • To show love and pride?Clapping hands
  • Grow Baby’s self esteem?
  • Because popular literature says to?
  • To avoid behavior issues?
  • That’s what was said to you?
  • For the satisfaction of Baby looking to you for approval? (hey, honest question!)
  • Were you accepted as a child simply as who you are? Or for what you did (or didn’t)?

Invitation: does “Good job!” really foster what you think it’s fostering? I point you to an article by Jennifer Lehr: “Good Job!”  Please indulge in her words as I try to keep my post shorter! 

Let’s challenge popular thinking and make sure we’re actually saying what we mean to say!

For more reading, see:

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

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

Holiday Overstimulation and Visiting Family

Hi folks,

With the holidays upon us, I’d like to share a post I wrote last December. I can’t “re-post,” so please follow this link:

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.”

Have wonderful holidays enjoying Baby AND family!

There's his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera...

There’s his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera…

More of The Nursing Dad

In March, I wrote a post called “The Nursing Dad.” I now have another beautiful photo to share with you on the topic!

Photo credit: Maryska Bigos, Kinesthetic Learning Center

It’s true, nursing can be a special time for Mama & Baby. Find ways for Dad/Partner to have intimate connection too, whether it’s as above, bath time, or  other times. It can make all the difference…

Enjoy your babies and your time as a family unit!


Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aware Parenting.

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

Is It Really Okay When We Say “It’s Okay”?

“It’s okay” and “you’re okay” are common phrases. Most of us have heard and used them all our lives, especially for calming down upset children. But I like to take a serious look at the things we communicate to our children and to each other.

You and I have adult-sized brains and life experience, and we know that it often is “going to be okay.” But even so, in the moment we’re upset, we’re feeling whatever we’re feeling, and that feels real–right? If a baby is crying… then it really doesn’t feel okay to her. In other words, it’s really not okay. Babies are in-the-now, new to Earth’s realities, and they express their honest feelings–until they learn to squelch them.

If you find yourself saying “it’s okay, darling” (it’s a hard habit to break!), I encourage you to change it up a bit. Something like: “It’s okay to cry,” “that was scary for you,” “you sound angry,” “you bumped your head, did it hurt?”–an acknowledgement of feelings being felt or of what just happened, rather than just “it’s okay.”

This will help preserve her trust in her own feelings and intuition. For if Baby feels that it’s not okay, but we say it is okay, we have just created a conflict–a potentially confusing internal mismatch that eventually can lead to mistrust or denial of one’s feelings. Think of manipulative or abusive situations that could happen later in childhood or adulthood. We want to make sure our children stay safe, right? How do we truly empower them to know the difference between safe and unsafe situations? What if an abuser or kidnapper were to say “it’s okay, honey…”? What if the child gave in, bypassing her internal red flags because she’s used to adults knowing (and telling her) what’s okay and what’s not. We want her to trust her gut feelings that it’s really not okay.

So, in a counter-intuitive way, not saying “it’s okay” now, when we assume from our adult perspective that it really will be okay, builds trust and healthy communication skills for recognizing situations when someone with ‘power’ says “it’s okay” but it’s really not.

That’s an extreme, but extremes are all around us. On the loving-home front, this will support good stuff like self-trust, honest communication, and emotional literacy. The ability to identify our emotions is an important skill that many adults actually find very difficult. No wonder!

For another read on “It’s okay,” see this post by Good Job And Other Things You Shouldn’t Say Or Do.”

For more info about how to support a crying baby/child, without ignoring or distracting, see Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting books.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post 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®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

The Nursing Dad

The nursing who? Dads and partners, yes! Well, sort of.

Nursing can be a special bonding time that typically only mother and baby share. Dad can feel left out or disinterested. Sometimes, in order for Dad to have intimacy with Baby too, families make a choice to have Dad sometimes bottle-feed, rather than Mama always breastfeeding.

Here is a lovely and bonding way for Dad to be involved in nursing. Sit or lie in a comfy place big enough for all three of you. Have Dad behind or beside Mama so she can lean against him. Dad and Baby may be able to comfortably see each other; but if Baby doesn’t look up that far, it is okay–not looking at you doesn’t mean your support does not impact Baby.

Nursing can be a bonding time for the whole family. Photo compliments of BMC IDME training, Durham, NC, 2010. Pictured: Instructor Sandra Jamrog supporting a family attending FUNdamentals class.

Why not just let Dad bottle feed?

Typically, breast milk is produced on demand. That is, Baby’s sucking signals to Mama’s body that milk, and more milk, is needed. The less Baby nurses, the less Mama’s body makes milk, and the more challenging it can become to continue nursing. Even missing just one feeding/pumping can affect the amount of milk to be made.

Also, a different action of the tongue is required for each. While breastfeeding, Baby’s tongue goes underneath and draws nipple and milk into himself. With a bottle, Baby’s tongue must move forward and back on the tip of the nipple (tapping or thrusting motion) to stop and release the flow of milk. This can lead to confusion for some babies who receive both breast and bottle.

Breastfeeding offers so many benefits, so consider not switching between breast and bottle, but finding other ways for Dad to be involved and bond with Baby.

  • Dad can take a bath with Baby
  • Dad can set up comfy nursing spots around the house and make sure Mama eats well. It doesn’t sound like a glamourous, bonding job; but supporting Mom to support Baby is a tremendous and touching gift! If she is not nourished well, she can’t nourish Baby.
  • Spend some playtime together.
  • Nap with Baby! (adds ‘Manny’ Bern)
  • And if you do need to switch back and forth, make sure Baby is able to adjust her tongue action as necessary.

Maryska Bigos, director of Body-Mind Centering® Infant Developmental Movement Educator trainings, says: “I always encourage Dads to have their own skin-to-skin time with their child by being responsible for bathing with their infant whenever a bath is necessary. It is important after the pregnancy and birth that Dads not let a feeling of being left out discourage them. Be patient and persistent at finding comfortable nursing in side-lying as well as laid-back positions that include Dad (and siblings) in this important family time. At the most basic level, supporting and loving your child’s mother is the most effective way to love your child.”

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post 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®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.