Monday, February 22, 2010

Toddler Taming

A few days ago I started some thing new with the boys. I talked about sleep a few posts ago, these days it is a rare morning that we wake alone. Often one or the other will crawl into bed with us around the four a.m. witching hour and we end up just letting them stay. It seems to help them sleep past 6:30 which helps Tim and I sleep past 6:30 which is a first in all the years that we have had these particular children.

Anyway, a few days ago in my yoga class our instructor introduced a new component. She started by telling us to self massage our hamstrings and then calves while we were folded into forward bend. Then the top of the feet (ahhhh...) then the shins and the knees, the thighs up to the belly and heart. I was amazed how the simple act of touch, the gentle rubbing on each part gave instant relief and unleashed a kind of joy. This realization was powerful and a bit ironic as I am a physical therapist trained in massage. It was a huge reminder about the power of directed touch, even when the gentle touch is directed at oneself.

It has me thinking about the boys and their recent troubles. Lately our household has been all sickness, and then when that takes a backseat all tantrums and whining. It has reached an unbelievably difficult impasse, where Tim and I are short and harried and exhausted and mad. So easy to get mad in the face of the seemingly incessant demands and seemingly unreasonable behavior, doubled in our case.

Big Bup
(Lip courtesy of O and an accidental bat to face. Hopefully accidental).

It had me thinking about the stages they are going through, where a certain level of autonomy has been reached. No longer are they cuddled over shoulder as the norm, rather they walk with their hands in our and their bodies self propelled. No longer hand fed, no longer hand many of those early touch opportunities fall away in the progression towards growth. Don't get me wrong, they receive as much hug and cuddle as they wish for, it is just that they do not wish for that very often. More often than not they lock us out of their room in fits of rage and fury.

So, now we have these precious hours while their sleepy bodies curl up in comfort and companionship and I really really like it. Not changing anything in that way. I like to think of it as practice for the Vanagon months ahead. But the thing I started doing in the early morning when one wakes up and is coming out of sleep is giving them a gentle massage similar to the one we started in class.

I love that they just lay there, sleepy and welcoming the day. I can see the relief melt over them, and I can feel the touch healing some of the challenge and struggle that must be part of the becoming of a person. And I am finding it heals that part of me that struggles with 'losing' my little ones.


It is easy to think we are giving them enough touch, but throughout the day the opportunities have waned. Busy as they are, Tim and I being in different places throughout the week, and the multiple demands of schedules and dinner and occasional housework, and Bam! when was the last time we sat down with focus and direction of affection.

I came across and very interesting post and it linked to this book. Now, I have yet to read it, but was caught by the description as follows ::

From Publishers Weekly
In an attempt to reclaim the primal intimacy of the parent-child bond from dogmatists who see close physical affection as suspect or indecent, Oxenhandler (A Grief Out of Season) argues that parental love is inherently erotic. Despite her flamboyant terminology, what Oxenhandler means is that the parent-child bond can have the same physical and emotional intensity as a bond between lovers. There is, she points out, some scientific basis for this magnetism. The chemical oxytocin "controls a woman's pleasure during orgasm, childbirth, cuddling and nursing." Meanwhile, a child's "irresistibleness" in infancy is also a mechanism for survival. But Oxenhandler soon leaves science behind in favor of addressing the different "erotic" feelings a parent may experience. Throughout, she stresses the importance of "attunement," a process by which parents modify their physical affection as their children grow older--after all, the same caresses one showers on a baby are hardly appropriate for an adolescent. While the subtitle suggests an evenhanded treatment of the "light" and "dark" aspects of the parent-child relationship, Oxenhandler is much more skillful at presenting its sunnier side. She admits she has little experience in dealing with victims of child abuse, incest or pedophilia, and her attitude toward these issues may strike some readers as dismissive and uninformed. (In one chapter she suggests that adults use "playfulness" as an alternative to slipping into forbidden territory, though that seems an unlikely remedy to true pedophilic impulses.) Despite the flaws in her argument, many parents will find some comfort in this beautifully written book, which reassures them about the pleasure they may find in their child's natural curiosity and unconscious sexuality.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

I first found the author via Mondo Beyondo and have her second book on order from the Library (you do order your books from the Library, don't you? Free, people, free). And I am not sure the book will add much to my belief in touch and the importance it holds as we raise healthy and attuned young people. (And the Library does not have it yet, so I can't get it for free. Free, people).

I am glad for the reminder I received in that class. That I have a tool to go to when I am feeling stressed out, that I have a tool to offer them when they are. Has it stopped the craziness? Hell no. But does it help. Anyway, I believe it does.

Me Mama


LauraC said...

I like this post! Alex needs a lot of touching, it is what comforts him and calms him. Nate needs physical space except first thing in the morning when all he wants is to cuddle.

If I can't get books free at the library, I get them through Love this service, have been part of something similar for many years.

I Saw You Dancing said...

Lovely one, you have really touched something exquisitely painful here. I read your post last night and all night the words "losing my little ones" reverberated in my head. I knew exactly where you were coming from... and it is brewing something inside me that will soon need to be sipped, like a bitter sweet coffee.
I love what you are doing and the way you are grounding yourself in all that is sacred by getting out of your head and into your body. And is there any more vital way to communicate with a little one than through touch?
I also thought of this and thought you might find it resonant...
Much love and sweet peace to you. x

Preeti said...

Somedays all they want is to be held and cuddled and other days want nothing of the sort! Just like us adults, I suppose!!

Sadia said...

Jessica is calmed by touch, Melody by her own words, really heard. She likes physical space, unless it's her sister invading it. I've taken to holding Jessie's foot while I drive, sometimes, when she's had an especially rough day. It makes the evening routine go much more smoothly.

sarah said...

That's a great reminder! We're in that same phase so I'll try to implement more into our routine as well!

urban craft said...

I also put books from the library "on order."

Which I just did, looking for forward to checking book of Noelle's books out.

I am constantly amazed at all the things you get done, knitting, quilting, yoga classes, with your 2 little guys.

Sometimes I can barely make dinner and I just have one.