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The greatest gift we have to offer our child is an invitation to rest in our care. This isn’t the type of rest that comes from sleeping, but from an enduring invitation for contact and closeness, a sense of significance and mattering. as well as sense of belonging and being known by the people a child is most attached to. To be a safe space for them.


To invite a child to rest is about inspiring them to depend on us to meet their relational needs.

As creatures of attachment, we crave connection and should seek relationships in which we can become rooted and nourished. To bring a child to rest relationally is to assure them that their hunger for connection will be satiated. It means they can take our relationship for granted and that it is unwavering across context and conduct.

To bring a child to rest means they will not be driven to pursue an answer to the question, ‘Am I loved and cared for?’ It means we have become the answer to their greatest hunger by assuring them our care taking has no expire date.

Why is relational rest important? When kids are at rest they grow. Just as arms and legs grow while sleeping, selfhood unfolds when a child is in right relationship with their adults.

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Research in neuroscience and attachment science is unequivocal in their findings that the brain is wired for attachment and will pursue this need above all else. When these needs are met, the energy and bias in a person will move away from seeking attachment and towards developing a separate self through play, discovery, learning and trial and error.

Rest matters because it frees our attention. When we don’t have to look for love, we can start to figure out who we are.

The challenge is we cannot grow if we are not first rooted in healthy relationships. The unfolding of healthy personhood is firmly grounded and sprouts from relational rest. As Gordon Neufeld states, “We liberate children not by making them work for our love, but by letting them rest in it.”

Three ways to invite a child to rest + become their safe space

We cannot make a child rest in our care but we can work to create the conditions that will foster this. There are three things we can do to give our kids an invitation they cannot refuse.

1. Let your kids know they are valued + wanted

When we accept that the person in charge of the parent-child relationship is us, we won’t hold a child accountable for preserving a sense of contact and closeness. It isn’t their job to mend fences or to cross bridges, but for us to hold onto them across conduct and in the face of immature emotional expression. To hold onto a relationship with our children means we can’t outsource all of their caretaking to others, we need to actively engage in our role.

We need to convey to them a sense that they are valued, desire, and wanted.

Working at keeping our relationship strong means we will also find ways to hold onto them by bridging the distance when separation happens. It means we work to give them a sense of security in our relationship and convey that it is enduring.

To accept the work of the relationship is to keep our fingers on the pulse of whether our children feel close to us, depend on us, and trust us. If our relationship feels strained or weakened, we need to move to repair and protect it.

To take care of our relationship means we make it safe for a child to depend on us and refrain from using separation based discipline methods. We aim to use our relationship to influence a child and not to control them. When we understand that a child’s desire to obey, follow, attend, listen, share the same values as us, all come from having a strong relationship, we will take the lead in preserving and protecting it.

2. Assume the alpha role in your child’s life

To assume an alpha role means we vulnerably accept our position as the one to lead and assume responsibility for caring for a child. We see it as our work to ensure a child has a secure home base to grow in and to keep them safe. We aim to preserve their dignity when their behavior is difficult.

To claim an alpha role in a child’s life is to act as their compass point and to help them make sense of the world around them. It means we don’t simply meet their demands but take the lead in answering their needs. It means we don’t turn them into consultants when it comes to their caretaking by asking them too many questions.

We need to seize the lead in nurturing our kids and to comfort them when they are facing all the things that cannot change. It means we sometimes have to help them accept the futilities that are part of life, like no cookies for breakfast or our limits to technology use.

To invite a child to rest in our care, we need to portray a strong alpha presence so that they feel we are in charge and can handle whatever comes our way. From their tantrums, to resistance, to emotional outbursts—there is a sense that we are holding onto them and will find a way through the impasse. To claim an alpha position in a child’s life is not about having all the answers but communicating we are the answer.

3. Provide more than your child is pursuing

To fill a child’s relational needs we will need to do more than just give them what they ask for—we need to give them more. The only way rest can be achieved is through knowing there is more there than you could possibly consume. Like a banquet or buffet table brimming with food, it is generosity that puts one at rest because you can take the invitation for granted.

To help our children rest in our care we will need to give them more attention than they demand and more connection than they seek. If they ask us for a hug we can hold onto them and give them a swirl and a kiss, too. We need to give more approval than they are looking for and more significance than they deserve. At every turn, we need to communicate we are generous with everything they need, and they can take it all for granted. Even when we have to say no, we can be generous by giving them space to express their feelings.

Why rest is the answer we all seek

Wendell Berry writes in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things, “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” It is this freedom, this sense of security, this idea that one can rest in someone else’s caretaking that is transcendent like in nature.

The reason it matters for kids is when they are at rest they are free to play. It is in the relational playgrounds we create for them where they steadily morph and shapeshift into the mature forms we long for.

We cannot control our children’s growth—we can only provide the rest they need to flourish.

We cannot make our children depend on us, we can only invite them into relationship with us. We cannot make our children become their own person, we can only ensure they are at rest in the relational roots we nourish and cultivate.

To rest in another person’s care is a vulnerable place. We can get hurt, mistreated, or ignored. It is much easier to be the one to lead and to care for another than to be the recipient of that caretaking.

Our fulfillment as parents lies in inviting our children to rest in our care and having them take us up on our offer. For both caretakers and the ones cared for – this dance of relationship is where true rest lies.

Originally published on Deborah McNamara, PhD’s Kid’s Best Bet.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's officially a sale bonanza, mamas! In addition to Amazon's 48-hours of Prime Day markdowns, Target has joined the fray and is also offering major discounts this Monday and Tuesday via its Deal Days, Walmart is offering up Deal Days, and let's not forget the Nordstrom Anniversary pre-sale is happening, too!)

Target's biggest sale of the summer is on our radar for a couple reasons. For one, unlike Prime Day, you don't have to have a membership with the retails to score the discounts. Secondly, once you've ordered a product you can select to pick it up same day at your nearest store. (Have the Target app? From there you can even choose "drive up" and pickup up your loot curbside—without even getting the kids out of their car seats!)

But the deals don't stop at Target, so we hit up a slew of other retailers to find the best deals you can get today..you know the ones that aren't available over at Amazon. Because it's all about scoring the biggest discount possible, right? Right!

Whether you're stocking up on back-to-school supplies, investing in baby gear or just need to replenish your everyday home items, these are the products you want to scoop up this week.

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Boxed: Up to 50% off Prince & Spring toilet paper (use code TPPARTY), 20% off kitchen gadgets and tools, up to 20% off snacks, home goods, and school supplies

Best Buy: Flash sale across the site—from appliances to tech

Macys: Black Friday in July sales, including an extra 25% off select departments

TJ Maxx: Summer clearance event with savings that only happen twice a year

Dick's Sporting Goods: $20 off your order of $100+

Carter's: Summer cyber sale, entire site 55% off or more

Williams Sonoma: Friends and family sale, 20% off your order and free fast shipping with code FRIENDS

Gap: Up to 50% off sitewide

Old Navy: 50% off sitewide and free shipping

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Last month Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, shared a story no parent would every want to. Their son, River, drowned at their home—and despite attempts to revive him—the little boy died tragically at just 3 years old. But River's parents managed to find some good in this absolutely devastating loss: They chose to donate their son's organs, saving two lives in the process.

River's mom, Amber, opened up about this choice in a heartbreaking Instagram post.

"I've always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me," Amber writes alongside a photo of River. "Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby."

Our hearts hurt so badly for this mama—but we're also amazed by her ability to find a way to turn her worst-case scenario into a lifesaving measure for other families.

Amber shares more about her family's gut-wrenching experience in the post, writing that doctors told Amber and Granger their son had no chance of brain recovery. As shocking as that was to hear, the parents knew they wanted to donate River's organs as there are so many people who need donations to survive.

That choice began a three-day process of determining which organs could be donated and which recipients would be appropriate. Amber shares excruciating details about the night before River's operation.

 River's organs saved two adults

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor.' We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried," Amber writes.

It's all so terribly tragic...but the outcome is bittersweet. Amber and Granger received a letter explaining that River's organs saved two adults, a 49-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man. Amber calls the decision to donate her precious son's organs the hardest and easiest of her life.

Our thoughts continue to be with River's family. We can't even imagine what they're going through, but their strength and grace in the face of all this is incredible—and we hope they'll always find comfort in the fact that little River left a beautiful, heroic, lifesaving legacy behind.

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When I was pregnant with my fourth child, my husband and I decided to shell out for a swing set in our backyard. Why? We knew with a new baby, packing up four kids and heading to the park on a daily basis would simply not be feasible. Don't get me wrong, I love a playground. But when you've got multiple kids running in every direction and a toddler refusing to only climb up a slide that big kids are careening down—well, let's just say that the park can go from super fun to incredibly stressful real fast.

Having a play set right in our backyard means that when the baby is napping, my "big" kids can get off their screens and head outside to swing their hearts out or play pirates under the canopy. And I can be inside cooking dinner or folding laundry or answering work emails while they get allllll their energy out. The swing set was one of the best investments we've ever made… and we paid a lot for ours.

Which is why my jaw dropped when I saw that KidKraft is offering its Ainsley Wooden Swing Set right now for just $269 at Walmart today. (FYI: It's a hundred dollar more on Amazon.)

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What does it comes with? Two swings, a high-rail wavy slide, a rock-climbing wall, an upper level "clubhouse" (the perfect spot for summer morning snacks or kids-only meetings), a chalkboard and a sandbox. Yup, that equates to roughly 100,000 hours of kids entertaining themselves over the next year alone. For less than $270.

If you're worried about quality, don't be. I've seen the KidKraft product in person and they're legit—big, beautiful and made of super-sturdy cedar lumber. Really I'm just here to tell ya that this is a purchase you'll never regret, regardless of how many kiddos you've got at home. Your summer (and your backyard) is about to be lit!

KidKraft Ainsley Wooden Swing Set

Sale price: $269

Original price: $399

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many new parents receive the confusing news that their newborn baby has a tongue-tie. It means the skin attaching their tongues to the bottom of their mouths is longer than normal. And while this condition can cause complications from infancy on, a new study shows that not all newborns need to get surgery to correct it.

The condition is known as ankyloglossia, which occurs in 4-10% of people, usually looks like nothing but an extra strip of skin under the tongue. But because that skin (called the lingual frenulum) acts like a taut rubber band restricting movement, babies with a tongue-tie often have difficulty forming a good latch to nurse. This can mean they don't get enough milk, so they have to nurse for longer. Meanwhile, they're causing their mother a whole lot of pain because their latch is shallower and mostly clamping down on the tip of the nipple.

I speak from experience here: When my son had a tongue-tie, it felt like I was feeding an angry piranha. He was definitely not getting enough to eat, and my milk supply was steadily decreasing.

But this new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery suggests that not all babies diagnosed with ankyloglossia need to undergo a frenotomy—a simple procedure in which a doctor snips the skin with a pair of surgical scissors.

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Infants don't usually need anesthesia, because this tissue doesn't have many nerve endings or blood vessels. Their mother is asked to breastfeed them immediately after the snip, to get the tongue moving properly and reduce the chance of the skin growing back. According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from frenotomies include bleeding, infection and damage to the tongue or salivary glands, but they are rare.

What's not rare is the number of patients getting frenotomies: Referrals for the procedure in the U.S. went up tenfold, from 1,200 in 1997 to 12,400 in 2012.

"We have seen the number of tongue-tie and upper lip tether release surgeries increase dramatically nationwide without any real strong evidence that shows they are effective for breastfeeding," study co-author Christopher J. Hartnick, MD MS, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said in a press release.

The researchers looked at 115 infants (between 19-56 days old) who were referred for a frenotomy. Instead of sending them straight into surgery, the babies and their parents met with a pediatric speech-language pathologist for a feeding evaluation. These specialists observed the babies breastfeeding and gave parents feedback and tips to overcome any challenges they were experiencing. After this, 72 (62.6%) patients did not have the frenotomy after all, while 10 (8.7%) had a labial frenotomy (releasing extra tissue from the lips) and 32 (27.8%) had both a labial and lingual frenotomy.

"We don't have a crystal ball that can tell us which infants might benefit most from the surgeries, but this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this pathway of a multidisciplinary feeding evaluation is helping prevent babies from getting this procedure," Hartnick said.

For now, parents' best bet is to consult more than one specialist to identify the best plan of action. In addition to lactation consultants, children with tongue-ties might need to see speech pathologists later. In some cases, the frenulum loosens over time. In others, they might wind up needing the procedure after all.

Anecdotally, I'll add that I visited with lactation consultants and my son's pediatrician more than once before deciding he should have a frenotomy. It was no fun for me (who wants a strange man sticking scissors in their baby's mouth?), but my kid was fine. It didn't solve all our problems, but feeding was much less painful immediately afterward.

The bottom line here seems to be that not everyone needs to rush into a procedure just because it's easy. Our kiddos deserve more than a one-size-fits-all approach to their health.

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