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Two recent conversations are leaving me wondering How much do we share? How much do we talk


about what’s going on?

In light of the current events in our country, in

light of world wide fear, the ever present anxiety that seems to be pressing on

so many of us— how much do we tell our children?

All at once our world is a place of broken hearts and a place of exquisite beauty.

How do we explain that

to our babies?

How do we show our little ones that they have the power to

repair the broken—to add to the beauty?

I assume they know it intrinsically, but maybe they don’t.

When do I start talking to them about the

importance of our thoughts, words, and deeds?

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For better or for worse, I started the other day.

My son is

5 and my daughter is 3, so of course, I feel the need to shield them from the

actual horrific things that happen to people, I want them innocent as long as

possible. But the concepts behind fear, hatred, and violence—perhaps we can

start addressing those earlier.  I’ve

decided I will. Having honest conversations that explain as much as I can to a

5 and 3-year-old seems to be one powerful way I can combat the hatred seeping

through the hearts of many people these days.

The first conversation happened about a week ago. The kids

were fighting. Not just arguing, which I can handle, but fighting.

Cruel words, angry kicking, purposeful attempts to hurt feelings. This—I can’t handle.

Arguing to make a point, or disagreeing on a topic, or debating until

compromise is reached are all skills I want them to have.  When these sorts of ‘fights’ break out I let

them go without getting involved. But when it turns mean it triggers me. I can’t deal.

I have little patience. Less

than a little. None, in fact.

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Purposefully mean fights are a rare occurrence in my home,

thankfully —but yes, one broke out last week. With my newsfeed and brain filled with nonsensical violence

around me, I simply could not handle a single moment of it in my home. Stop it! I

shouted. You are being MEAN. Mean. Stop

being mean.

They looked at me like I was a nut (which I probably am) but

with a look that said “Mom, we are kids, kids do this, what is the big

deal?”

I know it doesn’t seem like big deal to you guys. I know kids fight. I

know you don’t understand why this means so much to me. I’m going to try to

explain. People in our world can be very mean.

(Why mom? Why are they

mean?)

I don’t know, you guys. People can

be mean because they forget the love in their hearts and it gets filled with

mean, instead. But people can be mean. People hurt other people. It is very

important to me that my family is filled with kindness. That we don’t forget

the love. That we add to the love in our world by being kind and loving to one

another. If we are fighting and being cruel, that means we are allowing hate

into our house. And I won’t have that. I just won’t. It’s ok to argue. It’s ok

to not agree. It’s ok to have different opinions. It is not ok to hurt each

other. To call each other names. I have no patience for it. None. Do you

understand me?

“Yes, Mommy.” I heard.

I have no idea how much they actually

understood. But it opened a conversation.

A conversation that, hopefully, will continue with curious questions and

honest answers.  At these ages, I’m

thinking this is the place to start.

The other heavy-for-small-people conversation happened last

night.

My 3-year-old daughter, my Grace, has a heart with no filter. When

an emotion passes through her, it gets expressed. There is no other way for her

empathetic being to function. The kids watched The Little Mermaid for the first time yesterday afternoon. The

movie ended with Grace in sobs. In heart wrenching, shoulders heaving sobs.

“But why did Ariel leave her family? Will she ever see Flounder again? Is she

alone? Why is Ariel gone? Why did they explode Ursula?” she wailed. We tried to

explain it, attempted to tell her that her daddy and her sisters could visit,

that it was what Ariel really wanted, we tried to explain it all. She finally

calmed down, but I’m not sure she believed us. Later that night, she made a few

comments that alluded to the idea that she was embarrassed for having cried so

much about The Little Mermaid.

Grace. I told her,

holding her, looking right in her eyes. Do

not ever be embarrassed for how you are feeling. Your heart is one of the most

beautiful things I know. The way you love your family and your friends and

everyone around you is one of the best things in my life. When something sad

happens to someone else, you feel it. There is nothing wrong with that. That is

a special gift. Your kind and loving heart can help heal a world that hurts. We

need people like you.

At this point, I had tears streaming down my face

(obviously…I mean…we are an emotional family!) so I’m not sure how much sense I

was making. But I know she at least heard a bit of it. She hugged me tightly.

I

told her again to never ever change.

I hope she heard more than a bit of it. I hope she felt what I meant. I hope she knows the importance of being a feeler and a healer like she is.

In a world filled with hate, we need all the beings of love we can find. I don’t want the sadness and pain in the world to ever break her relentlessly kind and generous spirit.

Falling asleep last night I was replaying these

conversations in my mind and in my heart.

Was it too much? At this age, can

they understand my point?

I’m not sure. But it is important to me, as the mama

to these vibrant little beings to begin these conversations. To share why I get emotional about fighting, why it hurts me when she is embarrassed

for feeling so deeply.

I’m going to hide mass killings and police shootings and

snipers killing officers for as long as I can.

But I feel compelled to start the

conversation.

To talk about the concepts and the ideas that eventually

culminate in hate and violence.  We can

start discussing these things now.

We can open the lines of communication

within my family, so that when my small people become big people they have

words for concepts and the ability to discuss rather than fight.

Maybe.

I don’t

have all the answers for our broken world, but I’m starting the conversation now.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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