The house has been really trashed lately. I mean, like REALLY trashed. Margo’s three year old experiments and imaginary play have taken the mess to a whole new level. She’s not destroying the house, just messing things up to the extreme. Usually I can keep up with the mess, but I’ve been tired lately and letting things slide. My husband’s been really busy at work, so everything has sort of been getting left a mess at the end of the night. Despite Margo’s messes, the biggest mess in the house, is actually caused by ME, and it’s in the kitchen. We don’t have a dish washer, and it only takes one day of not doing the dishes and you’ve got a pile…. Give it two days without doing them, and they’re literally stacked to the ceiling. Since we’re trying to save money so I can stay at home, we eat at home almost all the time… the kitchen gets wrecked daily.
A few days ago, Margo was at kindy and it was just Goldie (12 months) and I. I really value our day alone. When Goldie was a tiny baby, having the day alone with her was magic. We would go for walks, catch up on sleep, and cuddle all day. Now that Goldie is mobile and I’m not suffering from ‘new baby sleep deprivation syndrome‘ our days are a bit different and we do more ‘normal’ around the house stuff. Our task on this particular day was ‘Operation Clean Up Massive Mess in the Kitchen‘. Seriously, it had to be done. It was one of those, ‘every dish in the house is dirty‘ days. There was not one clean spoon, every inch of all kitchen surfaces were covered, and there were enough crumbs on the floor to feed a small army. It HAD to get done!
Most babies, from around nine months, start to form extremely strong attachment to their mother or main carer… Attachment is not a bad thing! Attachment is a great attribute in young babies and toddlers. It shows that they can trust in another human being. It shows that they feel safe and secure in your presence. They always want you to be around. They never want you to put them down. All great! All perfectly normal in my book… Studies show that children who are allowed to form these strong attachment tendencies when they are young, will develop into very independent, confident and self assertive children as they grow up (looking at Margo, 3 1/2, I can see the studies are true). Well, holding a baby all day is great…only, those stupid dishes had to get done. And, since we live in silly isolation without the help of a village and extended family… well, that leaves only one person (me) to hold the baby all day. You know, it was one of those messes that are so messy that you can’t even think until it gets cleaned up! Unfortunately, Goldie was having a very attached sort of day… Not only was she feeling attached, but she was fidgety, restless and grumpy too.
She wanted Up.
She wanted Down.
She wanted Up AGAIN.
She wanted Down.
I put her in the baby carrier on my back, she complained.
I took her out.
She had been fed, she had gone to the potty, she had slept…
She wanted Up.
She wanted Down.
Normally, if I sense that my kids have some emotions to release, I sit down with them and hold them in my arms… but today, I don’t know what was with me… maybe it was the full moon, or that I got my period the day before, but I was just about to crack it. I just had to clean that stupid kitchen!
So, I put her down on the floor… I opened all the cupboards if she wanted to play, I put new things out for her… but she instead came crawling over to me about to climb up my leg. I said to her in a matter-of-fact voice… ‘Goldie, I have to get these dishes done, otherwise I won’t be able to make dinner! They’ve been sitting here for two days and they HAVE to get done. If you want me to pick you up again, I’ll have to put you on my back and we’ll have to get the dishes done together‘.
She understood exactly what I had just said.
I saw her lower lip tremble.
She put her head down on the floor in defeat and started to cry. I scooped her up, gave her a quick cuddle, a kiss on the forehead and put her in the baby carrier on my back.
At first she cried this very emotional sobbing cry for about five minutes. I kept washing the dishes.
Then, for the next 20 minutes or so, while I cleaned up the rest of the kitchen, she kept crying, on and off, on and off. I didn’t say a word to her, but gave her legs and feet a few rubs, patted her on the bottom, etc. Eventually, she stopped crying and just sat there peacefully on my back while I finished cleaning the kitchen.
Finally, the kitchen was clean, and I took her out and sat with her on the recliner. She gave me a huge smile and a big cuddle and then happily jumped off of my lap and started exploring the living room. She played and went through her big sister’s toys for forty five minutes completely content and happy. She only came over to me once because she had to pee, so I took her to the sink (we do elimination communication, so I take her to the loo), and then she kept on playing while I tidied up the rest of the house. The point of letting her cry was not so that she would play by herself… it was because I knew that there were some emotions, some frustration or something brewing and it had to come out.
I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong, but in that situation, I did what came naturally to me. I think that often, as a gentle parent, or attachment parent, that sometimes we can be so focused on keeping our babies ‘happy‘ that we forget that sometimes they just need to blow off steam. I do what is called ‘cry in arms‘ with my kids (ok, in this case, it was cry in carrier, because my hands were doing the dishes). In other words, letting them express their anger, frustration, hurts and fears through crying, without leaving them alone. No dummies (pacifiers or soothers), no boobies, no rocking, no bouncing, or distractions… just allowing the pure emotions to come out.
Cry in Arms in a Nutshell
A lot of times, ‘Cry in Arms‘ gets confused with ‘Cry It Out‘. ‘Cry It Out‘, just means tossing a kid in their crib and closing the door to let them ‘learn how to sleep‘, or something like that. ‘Cry in Arms‘, however, is a beautiful way to allow children and babies express their emotions. I came across something called ‘aware parenting’ when Margo was about 5 months old and it talked about cry in arms, and it all made so much sense to me, so I started doing it. Let the kids cry… it’s normal (in arms only though). One of my biggest pet peeves is when a child is crying and someone tells them to stop, or tries to tell them that they are ok… If I were crying and someone told me to stop or that I was ok, it would probably just make me want to cry even more! You, of course, first make sure that all of their needs have been met, food, comfort, etc. And, if they’re still grumpy and complaining, then you let them cry.
Cry in arms is not just reserved for little ones. Toddlers, kids and adults of all ages can benefit from an emotional release. We all know how sometimes a good cry makes us feel better… Well, kids are the same, they probably just need to cry on a more regular basis. With older ones, sometimes you don’t necessarily have to hold them, if they don’t want it, but rather just be there and let the emotion come out.
So, anyway… the kitchen got clean (it’s a mess again, can you imagine, but not as messy as before). My sanity was restored because I could now proceed to cook dinner. Goldie was relieved after her big cry. And, life was good. I certainly don’t always put a crying baby in a carrier… usually if there are tears, I would take them out and hold them while they have a big emotional release. But, in this particular situation, it was what happened, and to me, I felt ok with it, and seeing how Goldie reacted afterwards proved to me that she was ok with it too.
For more information on cry in arms and gentle parenting, here are a few links