Archive for Attachment

Ten Therapeutic Parenting Principles to Snack On

Dear Parents,

Here are 10 Therapeutic Parenting Principles; not the only 10 Therapeutic Principles because there are many more.

10 Therapeutic Parenting Principles

  1. Be safe parents to attach to.  Safety over compliance is important in therapeutic parenting. Keep your faces and eyes soft.  If you are upset, give yourself a time out to someplace kid free until you can get your soft face back.  If the child insists on talking, insist on space for yourself first.  If the child badgers you, sit silently and read a book.  Offer the child a seat beside you. Promise to talk when you have calmed down.  This models affect (emotional) regulation.
  2. Punishment does not work.  Consequences do not work.  Emotional discussions do not work.  Rejection does not work.  Threatening does not work.  Spanking, hitting or physical force does not work.  Time out in isolation does not work.  Reasoning with a dysregulated child never works. So what works, you ask?  Emotionally regulated parent(s) using soft-eye nurture, empathy, engagement, and structure works to create the safety necessary to attach which is necessary for positive behavior change.
  3. Stop yourselves from talking, talking, talking to the child.  This will create tuning out, blank stares, and dissociation.  “Please remember that plastic can’t be microwaved, honey.”  “Thank you for quickly stopping and doing what I asked you to do.”  “Would you speak loudly please, or I won’t be able to answer you otherwise.” “When you are ready to finish your chores, then we can get on with the fun part of the day.”
  4. Be on the same page with your co-parent.  Use wait time to decide what to do.  Consult each other before making parenting decisions.  It is okay to say, “Something will happen, though I’m going to talk with Mom or Dad before deciding.”
  5. Stay calm.  Respond calmly and quickly only to real (not imagined) safety concerns that impact siblings, Mom or Dad, pets, or others. You can include property in this, but be careful. Sometimes “things” become more important than the heart of the child and that will not work long term.  Use appropriately measured restitution for property destruction instead of emotional punishment or consequences. Have the restitution discussion only when all are emotionally regulated.
  6. Do not follow, lead.  Your child needs you to be the leader.  If there are choices to give, you initiate them and you give them with empathy and understanding.  This is the kind of structure and nurture an attachment challenged child needs to feel safe.
  7. Avoid saying “no.”  This is very difficult.  Find a way to say yes.  “Yes, you can play with friends, when we come back from the store.”  “Yes, you can have candy after dinner.”  If badgering ensues, instead of ramping up your voice and thereby the emotional stakes, be a calm, broken record “Yes, after dinner.  Yes, honey, after dinner.”   Another way not to have to say “no” is to ask the child what s/he thinks the answer is?  Ignore most negative behavior.  You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.  Ignore the rest. Appreciate, compliment, and thank the child for behavior you want.  Give these things in a neutral tone rather than an exuberant tone.  Good behavior creates BIG anxiety in challenged children because they fear they will not be able to keep it up (as they think they are inherently bad somehow and it is only a matter of time before they do bad behavior).  These kids sabotage themselves, so avoid big build up to going places, seeing someone special, or getting to do or get something great.  The child will find some way to mess up the experience.  This is due to a number of internalized messages, but largely excitement dysregulation, anticipation anxiety dysregulation, and internalized negative self-concept dysregulation.  Operative word–dysregulation.
  8. Wait for regulation. Process situations with your child only when everyone is emotionally regulated.  If one of you gets dysregulated during a discussion, simply say, “Let’s stop for now and finish this conversation later when we can all be calm.”   Almost nothing requires a talk RIGHT NOW.
  9. Play, be silly, and laugh together.  Play is extremely important with challenged children. Use the therapeutic principles in Theraplay by Booth and Jernberg–Structure, Engagement, Challenge, and Nurture.  Stay away from winner/loser games.  Try not to keep score even if the game usually is scored.   Be lovingly physical.  Roll around on the floor together and switch up the play when the energy gets too high or too low.  Traumatized children get dysregulated by fun, too. That doesn’t mean they should never have it.
  10. Give lots of hugs and kisses on your terms.  It is okay to give them on the child’s terms, too; however, not only on the child’s terms.  If this is a problem and it often is, then get your therapist’s support for ways to change the dynamic.

Feel free to pass this along to any parents you think are struggling with trauma manifesting in their children.  Bottom line:  Most parents of traumatized children need the support of an attachment-based, trauma-informed therapist or team of trauma-informed professionals, and lots of respite.

For every ten principles, there are 10 more. You have plenty of time to grow.

Love matters,

Ce

The Attach Place Upcoming Events Calendar

Look what is coming at the end of August…August 28th to be exact

For more Mastermind information, click here.

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public.  NEW DAY: Every third Monday from 5:30 to 7pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks. This is a  monthly social group for the youth; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. There will also be occasional fun field trips, like bowling, ice skating, roller skating, etc. A donation of $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

UPCOMING ONLINE ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:   Adoptive Parent Support Group, July 10th, 2019.   Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm online. Open to the public.  If you would like a link to the webinar, reply to this post with Adoption Support Group in the subject line.

GIVE A BOOK OF SUPPORT TO A FELLOW PARENT ON THE ADOPTION JOURNEY: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  Buy from Amazon or order a discounted copy here.

 

 

Dad’s Are Bad

Dear Parents:

Couples Blog

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Dad’s are badass, I mean.  You are the ever-present man behind the woman behind the kid.  And, in some cases, you are the man behind the man behind the kid.  Sometimes you are solely the man behind the kid.  Every kid needs a dad like you–engaged, connected, courageous, and badass.

You may not get a peaceful Sunday relaxing in the environment of your choosing, but you sure do deserve it. You may even get overlooked in the hubbub of the celebration tomorrow–Where’s Dad?

Rest assured.  You are seen.  You are a gift in the life of your child.  Celebrate your day.  Just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is every day.  You matter immensely in the life of your family and you are badass to boot.

Love matters,

Ce

The Attach Place Upcoming Events Calendar (Click Here)

SPECIAL REPEAT: Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held on July 14th, 2018 from 9 am to 4 pm.  Childcare provided for an additional fee. CALVCB will reimburse this training. Register here or on our website!

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. July 20th, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks, right? This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

NEW!  5-Week FRIENDSHIP SOCIAL SKILLS IMPROV GROUPS FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA–5-7 yrs and 8-10 yrs. groups. The 5-wk group will be $125 total, CALVCB payment eligible, structured, and fun, too.  New groups will begin again August 4th, 2018.  Click here for more information.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Click Here to join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on July 11th, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.

GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.

 

Upcoming Events

Hello Parents,

It has been a while since I posted.  I’ve been busy in the office and out of the office providing training on Therapeutic Parenting, Attachment, and Trauma-Informed Classrooms and Afterschool Programs  Contrary to my own belief system, I cannot do it all and still have time for my own wellness.  Posts had to suffer. This is a quick update for those in or near Sacramento.

NEW!

Advanced Class: Emotion Regulation for Parents/Children

Friendship Skills Improv Group (5-7 yrs)

Social Skills Improv Group (8-10 yrs)

One Day Attachment and Trauma-Informed Therapeutic Parenting Training

On-Going!

Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group (Open to Everyone Every 2nd Wednesday of Every Month)

Other Upcoming Events Calendar in Sacramento…

Tell your friends: Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. March 16th, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks, right? This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.

FOLLOW US:  Twitter @lovingradkids and @Attachmenthelp or Facebook.

      

A Bite of Mindfulness Everyday

Dear Parents,

Mindfulness is the new, old, buzz word.  Still, more and more research is showing that daily mindfulness has a real impact on brains for the good.  Eastern cultures have known these benefits for thousands of years.  Our children from difficult beginnings have very busy brains–like you don’t know that, right? I image you are thinking “No way, Ce, are my kid(s) going to be quiet on demand for even a minute.”

To that, I say, “You might be surprised.”  First of all, we are talking about one minute to start.   And at the top end, we are looking at 5 to 10 minutes total.  Daily mindfulness practice is setting new neuropathway tracks for focus, attention and personal agency over unruly emotions.  The promise is worth the price.  Which wolf are you feeding?

Be sure when you begin any mindfulness practice with children from difficult beginnings that you are trauma-sensitive about it. Our kids often cannot tolerate the way they feel inside, so closing their eyes for a minute can be wildly overwhelming.  Hint:  that is why they are so busy in the first place.  Here are some ideas for modifying usual mindfulness practices for traumatized children.

  • Use your child’s imagination. Keeping their eyes open, ask them to imagine what their toes feel like from the inside.  No one can do that, but it is mindful to try.  Tip:  when they think they can feel them, then ask them to notice how their ankles feel from the inside.  Don’t do this for longer than a minute.  Tomorrow.  Ask for the inside of a different body part. Of course, this will only work for a bit and then you will need to switch it up with a new practice.
  • As a family, do this little rap and sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor together.  Then, ask everyone to simply rest eyes on the ball/object that is placed in front of them.  Yes, all parents in the house sit criss-cross applesauce.  That is fun to watch in and of itself. https://youtu.be/4NIEUX55hSk

  • In the spring, go lay out on the grass and look at the sky.  This can last a very long time without effort.
  • Get the Headspace app on your phone and let your children watch the one-minute body scan animation, which is free.  Watch them go into a full body mindfulness state instantly. Some children will really enjoy this.
  • Look online into investing in HeartMath. This is a well-researched method for getting your child’s breath and heartbeat in sync.  Turns out this is very healing.
  • Each day, pick a two or three minute YOUTUBE video on mindfulness for kids to watch with you.  If you have a Smart TV or Apple TV you can show it on the big screen.  You can also watch it on a laptop or your phone.  This is a good reason to look at a screen.  Here are just a few I like:

Go in there, parents, and teach mindfulness to your little wild cats by “being it” together. Be creative. Be light about it. Have fun.

Love matters,

Ce

P.S. Today is Week 2 of Friendship Improv Group for 5-7-year-olds If you want your child to learn friendship skills, drop me an email to reserve a spot in the next one coming up in March.

Yesterday’s Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place was great!  Don’t miss the next one: February 16th, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks, right? This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

Couples Blog

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

 

Upcoming Events Calendar and Other Things in Sacramento…

NEW DATE: Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held on February 17th from 9am to 4pm.  Register here or on our website!

NEW!  5-Week FRIENDSHIP SOCIAL SKILLS IMPROV GROUPS FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA–5-7 yrs group. The 5-wk group will be $120 total, CALVCB payment eligible, structured, and fun, too.  New groups will begin again in March, 2018.  Contact Ce at Ce@attachplace.com for more details.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on February 14th, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.

GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.

FOLLOW US:  Twitter @lovingradkids and @Attachmenthelp or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

                                              

 

 

CAFA CAMP Registration–Reserve Your Spot Now

Couples Blog

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Dear Parents,

Check this FREE CA CAFA Family Camp out.  You need this more than you realize.  Register today.

Love and Fun Matter,

Ce

Upcoming Events Calendar and Other Things in Sacramento…

NEW DATE: Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held on February 17th, 2018 from 9am to 4pm.  Register here or on our website!

JANUARY GROUPS ARE OFFICIALLY FULL!!!!!  Register today for the next session.   5-Week FRIENDSHIP SOCIAL SKILLS IMPROV GROUPS FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA–5-7 yrs group. The group will be $20 per session, CALVCB payment eligible, structured, and fun, too.  Groups will begin March, 2018.  Contact Ce at Ce@attachplace.com for more details.

UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:  Join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on January 10th, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.

Reminder: Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. January 19th, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks, right? This is a  monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.

FOLLOW US:  Twitter @lovingradkids and @Attachmenthelp or Facebook.

 

Promises

Yesterday I asked my 5-year-old son to promise me that when he grows up, he will not go to war.

He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said , “I pwomise, Mommy.  I won’t go to war.”

I come from a long line of pacifist men, so I’m hoping his word is good.  It’s one of the scariest things about having a son.

My mom was sitting nearby and she said, “And Amelia.  Make Amelia promise.” And even though I’m a feminist to the core, I really have zero fears about my daughter enlisting.

This is why:  I play a game to get Josh to eat his vegetables, where the broccoli is held with one hand and labeled a kitten, and the other hand is the monster. The monster chases the kitten into my son’s mouth, and his mouth is the refuge. He is distracted with fun so he will eat his veggies. But this silly game is upsetting to my 8-year-old daughter, because she feels sorry for the kitten and the monster scares her.   She has to leave the dinner table.  That child is not going to enlist.  Not even in a parallel universe.

But Josh loves to make sticks into guns, and shoot his bow and arrow at the cat. When he was 3 years old, he was poking a snail with a stick and I scolded, “Don’t do that.  It hurts the snail.”

He asked, “Can I at least pee on it?”

He was born aggressive, and with a loving family it will turn into assertiveness and drive.  But I am scared that when he’s 18 and his prefrontal lobes aren’t developed and consequences are abstractions and death is a myth and being a hero is a worthy goal, he could just amble on down to the armed forces center on a bright sunny day and sign his life away.  Nooooooooooooo.

Josh, promise me.  Promise me.  No war.

“I pwomise, Mommy.”

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Parenting with heart,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT

The Wink

It was 4 PM and my contractions were intensifying. I still felt on top of them and naively considered that maybe I had grown more pain tolerant since my previous labor. This time around I wouldn’t want/need an epidural.

Hahahahahahahaha…

The nurse examined me and shook her head grimly saying, “You are only 3 cm dilated. ” She informed me that they had a strict policy to not admit women until they were at least 4 cm.”

I said, “But I’m 42 years old.”

The nurse looked at me sadly and said she’d check with her boss before sending me home. She returned looking positively cheery. She exclaimed, “Good news! We can give you a ‘pity admit.’”

Yes, it’s a thing: “Pity admit,” for those women who are managing labor so pathetically that the staff relents and lets them take a bed.   Luckily, in the midst of excruciating pain, my pride takes a back seat.

I was instructed to walk around for an hour to speed up the labor, which I did with my husband, Randy, on my right. The contractions intensified more. I remembered my previous two un-medicated labors and insisted that we return to my bed so I could get the epidural NOW, to which they complied. The epidural nurse was magazine-beautiful with long blond hair. She announced, “I love my job,” as she stuck the needle in my back.

All better.

Then we chilled for four hours.

Finally the nurse said that I was 10 centimeters. The doctor arrived in 20 minutes. She was a slim, dark-haired, no-nonsense, energetic woman in her 50s named Dr. M.

Dr. M told me to push and I did as instructed.     Except, Sam didn’t come. He didn’t move an inch. He appeared to be stuck. Not only was he stuck, but his heart rate decelerated every contraction, which was a red flag for the doctor.

I tried harder to push. Nothing. Sam didn’t move and his heart kept dropping. Then during one contraction, it dropped down so far that the nurse and the doctor grabbed me and pushed my knees to my chest while pushing me over onto my left side. I was exhausted and in a dreamy altered state so their intervention felt intrusive and strange.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

They pointed to the monitor and said that his heart rate had dropped too much. I knew they were worried.

This is my third child, third pregnancy, third labor, and so I know something that first time moms can’t possibly fully understand. Being a mother is a profoundly vulnerable experience because you realize that your child could die right before you, and even if they live there is only so much you can do to protect them from pain. The realization is searing.   Every single parent bumps into a horrifying reality: ultimately, I am powerless. We do what we do to protect our little ones from danger and heal their hurts, but there is always that edge of powerlessness we must learn to live with at the cost of loving deeply. There is no way around it, and I hate it.

This was the first time I felt that fear with Sam. I squeezed Randy’s hand and he squeezed back.

The doctor instructed that I stop pushing.   It was decision-making time.

Dr. M said that there were three choices:

  • Vacuum
  • C-section
  • Stay the course

The third option was the most risky.

“I’m scared.”

The doctor replied, “Me too.”

When I tell people this part of the story they always gasp and express righteous indignation, “You should have told her to go get someone who knows what they are doing!!!” I don’t share the outrage.

I loved the doctor for this honesty. I loved that she gave me a choice and didn’t have an answer because that’s life and I imagine (If Grey’s Anatomy has taught me anything) that this is never truer than on the operating table. The crossroads don’t have definitive signs and cost/benefit analysis must be done in a split second. Sometimes intuition is our only guide. So when Dr. M told me she was scared, she let me know two things:

  • She cared.
  • She owned her vulnerability. She wasn’t omnipotent   She was like me, but with a medical degree.

The next contraction came and I threw up. Baby Sam skootched over to the middle of my stomach. I decided to stay the course, for now. I pushed again. Dr. M looked at me. Her face 3 inches from my vagina, her hands ready to catch the baby, and then….She winked.

When I think of my labor this is the indelible imprint of the whole experience, not my baby’s arrival. Sure, that was earth shattering and transcendent, but my tiny OB perched between my legs with a smile and a big wink cannot be erased. It’s funny that we cannot escape ourselves. Even though this was a real life, cliff-hanger moment, my brain had the stamina and the gall to have an awkward social moment. “Should I wink back?” I wondered. I decided against it.

It was 1 AM. I pushed with everything I had left. With a mighty UMMPH, he slipped out and everyone cheered. He cuddled onto my chest and I held him close. Big love. One minute into a relationship with this baby and I already knew that I was sunk. I was totally and completely crazy in love with my sweet blue-eyed baby boy, Samuel Reed Olden.

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Parenting with heart,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT

The Middle Child

Daniel Siegel, attachment researcher, neuroscientist, and author of a dozen books on the brain, teaches us that we create a life that reflects our brain.

 

We create a life that reflects our brain.

 

This isn’t just something the mystics and the new age hippies espouse with their manifestation boards and drum circles. It’s hard science.

 

So, if we believe we are unlovable then we provoke rejection from our most beloved people. This is more than a cognitive choice. It’s a reflex. It has to do with the mechanics of our brain and the wiring of our early experiences.

 

I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on November 15, 2014. My five-year-old son just became a middle child instead of The Baby. Since then, Josh has provoked disapproval from me.

 

Example: Last night I was looking up how to use butternut squash in a salad and whether or not it was reasonable to add raisins instead of cranberries (it’s not) and Josh comes by and wordlessly shuts my computer. Then he ambles away, laughing hysterically.

 

He also ate half the tube of toothpaste, for the second time.

 

After I instructed him not to touch the muffin tray, he reached out anyway, and predictably burned his finger.

 

I said, “Josh, don’t stomp. You’ll wake up the baby.”

 

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

 

I said, “Don’t put the binky in Sam’s mouth because you’ll wake him up.”

 

Josh promptly put the binky in Sam’s mouth.

 

Josh drives me CRAZY. He doesn’t listen nor follow directions and purposely does the exact opposite of what I want him to do—just to mess with me, the exhausted post partum mom.

 

I am reminded of a Louie CK joke.

 

He quipped, “Before children when I’d see a parent yelling at a child in the grocery story, I’d think, ‘Oh that poor child. What is wrong with that mom?’ After I had children, I’d witness the same scene and instead think, ‘That poor, poor woman. What has that horrible child done to her.’

 

During one of Josh’s oppositional moments I accidentally visualized sending him outside.

 

“Go play outside,” I’d yell and then enforce it.

 

I pictured him behind the sliding glass door crying; his giant alligator tears falling down his cheeks. That’s Josh’s worst fear, I think, to be behind a pane of glass separated and rejected by the people he loves the most; and yet that’s exactly the response his behavior provokes. Luckily, I have Herculean mental strength and self control not to obey his command.

 

I’m not going to send Josh outside, because the other half of the story is this boy is

bad-ass and hilarious and so intensely loveable I couldn’t imagine loving him more (or less) for any reason. He shines.

 

Josh collected snails in a plastic 16 oz cup, set up a table in front of our house, and made a sign that read, ”Snails for sale. $4.00 each.” Only one snail was purchased by his sister and she got a deal; it was free.

 

Josh wanted to invent a diving board flinger to solve his sister’s fear of diving. He imagined that he could just push a button and take the choice out of it for her.

 

When his sister cried about a mean friend, Josh offered (at about two-years-old) to beat up the culprit.

 

He wore dresses like his big sister and when he started realizing that boys don’t usually he just put on pants, too, tucking his dress into his pants when he was in public.

 

Josh is obsessed with the regular boy stuff including cars, tools and trains and he also loves Origami, classical music, and drawing pictures. He has an uncanny ability to imitate other people and can run as fast as an 8 year old. He loves to dance.

 

My heart is tied to his every single day. I believe in Josh’s soul.

 

Yet, he provokes my irritation and anger and disapproval, despite my deepest feelings about him and my intention to fill him up with love and approval every day.

 

Parenting requires ENORMOUS self-control.

 

As an antidote to this nasty dynamic, where Josh was annoying me and I sent him disapproval, which made him act out more, which caused me to disapprove more, I started noticing what Josh was doing right.

 

I assigned him little jobs around the house like getting the water for my tea and putting a blanket on the baby. I praised him with every success. I ignored the oppositional moments—when possible.

 

Then one night, I put him to bed and listed all the things he did right that day.   He said, “But I got into some mischief, too.”

 

I responded, “When I was a little girl, I did mischief, too.”

 

He said, “You are still kind of sneaky with popsicles.”

 

I told him that if he could see himself through my eyes, he’d never doubt himself again.

 

He put his arms around my neck and we cuddled till he fell asleep.   I am shaping Josh’s brain right now so that he has a template for love. Even when he is struggling with being a middle child and acting out, he is still intensely loveable. In the end, he will see himself through my eyes and when he looks in the mirror, he will see what I see: A capable and fiercely independent but also deeply loving and affectionate, beautiful boy.

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Parenting with Love and Laughter,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT

The Middle Child

Daniel Siegel, attachment researcher, neuroscientist, and author of a dozen books on the brain, teaches us that we create a life that reflects our brain.

We create a life that reflects our brain.

 This isn’t just something the mystics and the new age hippies espouse with their manifestation boards and drum circles. It’s hard science.

So, if we believe we are unlovable then we provoke rejection from our most beloved people. This is more than a cognitive choice. It’s a reflex. It has to do with the mechanics of our brain and the wiring of our early experiences.

I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on November 15, 2014. My five-year-old son just became a middle child instead of The Baby. Since then, Josh has provoked disapproval from me.

Example: Last night I was looking up how to use butternut squash in a salad and whether or not it was reasonable to add raisins instead of cranberries (it’s not) and Josh comes by and wordlessly shuts my computer. Then he ambles away, laughing hysterically.

He also ate half the tube of toothpaste, for the second time.

After I instructed him not to touch the muffin tray, he reached out anyway, and predictably burned his finger.

I said, “Josh, don’t stomp. You’ll wake up the baby.”

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

I said, “Don’t put the binky in Sam’s mouth because you’ll wake him up.”

Josh promptly put the binky in Sam’s mouth.

Josh drives me CRAZY. He doesn’t listen nor follow directions and purposely does the exact opposite of what I want him to do—just to mess with me, the exhausted post-partum mom.

I am reminded of a Louie CK joke.

He quipped, “Before children when I’d see a parent yelling at a child in the grocery story, I’d think, ‘Oh that poor child. What is wrong with that mom?’ After I had children, I’d witness the same scene and instead think, ‘That poor, poor woman. What has that horrible child done to her.’

During one of Josh’s oppositional moments I accidentally visualized sending him outside.

“Go play outside,” I’d yell and then enforce it.

I pictured him behind the sliding glass door crying; his giant alligator tears falling down his cheeks. That’s Josh’s worst fear, I think, to be behind a pane of glass separated and rejected by the people he loves the most; and yet that’s exactly the response his behavior provokes. Luckily, I have Herculean mental strength and self-control not to obey his command.

I’m not going to send Josh outside, because the other half of the story is this boy is bad-ass and hilarious and so intensely loveable I couldn’t imagine loving him more (or less) for any reason. He shines.

Josh collected snails in a plastic 16 oz cup, set up a table in front of our house, and made a sign that read, ”Snails for sale. $4.00 each.” Only one snail was purchased by his sister and she got a deal; it was free.

Josh wanted to invent a diving board flinger to solve his sister’s fear of diving. He imagined that he could just push a button and take the choice out of it for her.

When his sister cried about a mean friend, Josh offered (at about two-years-old) to beat up the culprit.

He wore dresses like his big sister and when he started realizing that boys don’t usually he just put on pants, too, tucking his dress into his pants when he was in public.

Josh is obsessed with the regular boy stuff including cars, tools and trains and he also loves Origami, classical music, and drawing pictures. He has an uncanny ability to imitate other people and can run as fast as an 8-year-old. He loves to dance.

My heart is tied to his every single day. I believe in Josh’s soul.

Yet, he provokes my irritation and anger and disapproval, despite my deepest feelings about him and my intention to fill him up with love and approval every day.

Parenting requires ENORMOUS self-control.

As an antidote to this nasty dynamic, where Josh was annoying me and I sent him disapproval, which made him act out more, which caused me to disapprove more, I started noticing what Josh was doing right.

I assigned him little jobs around the house like getting the water for my tea and putting a blanket on the baby. I praised him with every success. I ignored the oppositional moments—when possible.

Then one night, I put him to bed and listed all the things he did right that day.   He said, “But I got into some mischief, too.”

I responded, “When I was a little girl, I did mischief, too.”

He said, “You are still kind of sneaky with popsicles.”

I told him that if he could see himself through my eyes, he’d never doubt himself again.

He put his arms around my neck and we cuddled till he fell asleep.   I am shaping Josh’s brain right now so that he has a template for love. Even when he is struggling with being a middle child and acting out, he is still intensely loveable. In the end, he will see himself through my eyes and when he looks in the mirror, he will see what I see: A capable and fiercely independent but also deeply loving and affectionate, beautiful boy.

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Parenting with love,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Mom to Three

Failure To Dive

At some point I decided to stop trying to be a better parent and just work on being a better person. I realized that it matters less what you do, than who you are.

Luckily, parenting gives me x-ray vision into who I am. I am able to see my generosity right along side my control freak tendencies within the same day—sometimes within the same thought.

For example: The entire time I was pregnant with Amelia I felt overwhelmingly responsible.

I actually thought, “Now I need to make the brain. “

And then, “Shit, I don’t know how to make a brain.”

I had five fingers and five toes on my to do list for the day.

I realized that there were 8 billion cells, all doing specific jobs, and just one of them on a long lunch break meant Spina Bifida.

This was the kind of pressure I was under.

Being pregnant is the most vulnerable experience. All I could do was drink green juice, stay away from soft cheeses and sick people, and sit on the sidelines of control shouting out my preferences, as something bigger than myself put together my baby.

Even when I was in the tremendous agony of labor, my doula said to me, “Just a few more hours and you’ll be holding your sweet baby. “ I couldn’t picture it. When I tried, the baby was this translucent ghost child.

And again, when Amelia was born and she went straight to the nipple and knew just what to do, I had the feeling she was a savant. In my mind I had to take her to some sort of nipple sucking school where she would have to learn the basics of nursing.

I am aware that I am not alone in this tendency to assume control of things that I cannot control, and that my futile efforts leave me panicky and self-critical. There are moments I see the same pattern in Amelia (age 7) and Josh (age 4).

For example, last night when putting Amelia to bed, in tears she proclaimed, “I am a TERRIBLE swimmer and it is so embarrassing. I am the worst swimmer in the world.”

She is a bad swimmer. I mean, that’s just true. She is 7. This is her second time in swim lessons and she’s not a natural athlete. She’s also careful and more concerned about form than about actually swimming the length of the pool. So there will be other kids just thrashing about toward the other side, while Amelia is trying to do everything just right: with her little cupped hands and deep breaths every third stroke. Her process is slower.   At the end of every lesson Amelia is supposed to dive into the water. She is terrified. She stands at the edge of the pool for five to ten minutes contemplating the dive, but in the end she can’t force her body to do what registers as dangerous no matter how many lifeguards come by and tell her that it’s safe.

This struggle makes her feel bad.

Sandwiched between them, I am putting my Josh and Amelia to bed. We talk about our day together. Amelia is sobbing and thrashing about in Josh’s bed and I’m trying to say soothing words that have no impact.

Josh pipes up, “You can do the Bob!”

We laugh. Amelia laughs. She says to Josh, “Everyone can do the Bob. It just means bob under water.”

There is a pause in the despair, then Amelia starts up again.

“I can’t even dive.”

I again attempt to comfort, “You will. These things take time. It’s ok.”

Josh interrupts me, “I have a great idea. Why don’t we get a button by the diving board and when Amelia is about to dive in, someone pushes the button and flings her off?”

“Then all her problems will be solved,” Josh boasts.

We crack up together.

“Instead of a diving board, it’s called a flinging board,” Josh continues.

I’m laying in the middle of Josh’s bed and Josh’s head is nestled in to me and my arm is wrapped around him, while Amelia is on the other side tucked in to me with her arm around my belly. I’m suddenly very happy.

I then know what to say: “Amelia you haven’t yet learned how to swim proficiently and that’s OK, but you know what I noticed?”

“What?” she asks.

Even though you feel bad about your swimming, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday you put on your bathing suit, jump in the pool with the other kids, don’t fight about going, stand on the edge of the pool and work up your courage to dive and basically don’t give up. It would be easy to say that you aren’t good at swimming and just throw in the towel (ha ha), but you continue to try. That’s what’s going to make you a success at life.“

Maybe you won’t like swimming. Maybe you’ll fall in love with something else, like dancing, singing, drawing, or acting, but no matter what, at some point, you’ll feel like you are not very good at it. At that moment if you are able to stick with it and keep trying, then you’ll be successful.

She calmed down. She took in my words.   She understood that it’s persistence and effort and a vision that lights the path, not talent and transcendence.

It’s true for me, too, I guess. I’m not in control of Amelia’s trajectory any more than I was in control of the sperm and egg meeting and forming a zygote and attaching to the uterine wall and then making a brain. I’m not in charge or control.

Maybe showing up with hope and vulnerability is all we have to do.   We must not resign and at the same time we must give ourselves enough space to grow.

Maybe Josh’s idea of a button that flings us into life so we don’t have to sit at the edge of life and plan it all out before taking the plunge is a genius idea.

Maybe that’s all I need to do now with this new baby inside, kicking my uterus, saying hello, preparing to enter the world in a mere three months, is to just give myself space and know soon that button will be pushed and together we will fly into a new life.

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Parenting with love,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT