Way too low

That didn’t take long.

I’ve only published five blog posts so far and already I got my first negative email about one of my pictures! I think that must be some kind of blogger milestone, right? So I feel honored!

 

It wasn’t a very harsh or abusive email, thankfully. More just condescending and critical. I’ve been active on internet discussion groups and forums long enough to know how nuts people can get. Over things nobody would normally use much energy on at all. I’ve learned a lot about what level I’m comfortable with sharing myself, although I can see that with a blog this comfort level might end up stretching and shifting and I’ll have a new learning curve to surmount as I deal with feedback (aka criticism) on more personal levels. But I like the discussions brought forth by sharing thoughts, for me  it’s part of the point of writing a blog. Putting thoughts out there and hearing what other people think about the subject. Dialogue. So it doesn’t shock me to get a negative email, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. I’m not naive enough to think it will be the last, or the worst! Bring it on, I’m ready to hit delete! 😉 (Or maybe I’ll answer, if I think there’s something constructive and worthwhile about continuing the conversation.)

 

The negative email I got was because of this picture:

 

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In which, according to the email, my baby is too low, I’m wearing the baby carrier wrong, I’m promoting unsafe babywearing practices, and I should have just used a stroller instead! Ok, I added that last part. The whole email was just “educating” me on why I was wearing my baby wrong and why I should take more responsibility to show babywearing in a better way. Ok.

 

First point, my baby is too low. Her head should be “Close enough to kiss” which you can see it isn’t. Well, ahem, she’s being carried at this height for the simple reason that this is where my boobs are. My baby breastfeeds, on the beach, in the house, with a mouse, in the air, and everywhere. This is the beauty of babywearing for me. I can meet her needs with breastfeeding while exploring an awesome magical beach like this. Amazing. But it requires me to wear her “too low”, like this, so she’s where the boobs are. Yep.

 

Next point, I’m wearing the carrier wrong. The waist belt should be up around my waist, not resting on my hips. And the shoulder straps should be tightened more. This is of course related to the comment about wearing my baby too low. And my answer again is this carrier positioning is mostly about putting the baby at boob level. When I’m not breastfeeding and I’m walking around more actively I usually do tighten up the shoulder straps more and pull the baby in tighter to my body to prevent her from swinging back and forth which is uncomfortable for both me and her. But I don’t always bring the waist belt up higher and I don’t agree that wearing it down on my hips is Wrong. I like transferring some of the baby’s weight down to my hips and carrying it there. That’s comfortable to me. I see this a lot online, people critiquing other people’s baby carriers based on their own bodies and preferences and not being open for the fact that varying the carry position can be both more comfortable for some people. Not to mention the fact that if we use baby carriers a lot it can be a good idea to vary which type and how we wear them so we activate and use different muscles in different ways. Better for our bodies.

 

I’m all for babywearing safety. Unsafe things include anything where the baby’s airways can be compromised. A sloppy wrap job which lets the baby slump and curl down so their chin is down on their chest. Babies carried in “cradle position” where the chin again can get pressed down to the chest and block their airflow. Poorly designed “bag slings” where the baby can roll inwards so their face can be pressed in to the adults’s torso, leading to possible suffocation. Jackets and sweatshirts closed around and over the baby’s head, obstructing airflow.

 

A small baby slumping down in a front-pack carrier of this type can also be dangerous. And that’s what my emailer tried to teach me and said I shouldn’t “promote”. Because wearing the carrier this loose could lead to a small baby slumping down and not getting correct support for their body or airways. I must say my first (somewhat sarcastic I admit) reaction was to thank this person for giving me so much credit, to think I could actually be promoting anything and influencing anyone with this blog at this point, since I have about 10 regular readers (half of which are my family).

 

But anyway, I agree, if a very small baby is worn in a front-pack carrier like this, and the baby’s body isn’t fully supported with for example an infant insert or another solution, and especially if the carrier is worn loose and low, there is a risk that the baby will slide down, curl up, the airways can be compromised, it can be bad for their spine and hips, and they can even fall out the sides of the carrier if the positioning is really bad and the parents don’t pay enough attention. So yeah, scary.

 

*But that’s not what’s happening here.* In this picture my baby is a year old, with excellent control over her head, torso, and legs. I’m also an experienced babywearer, this being my fifth child and probably my 500th baby carrier. (Haha, yes, I’m serious. I ran a babywearing shop for 8 years, I’ve tried most of them.) I know when I need to tighten up the carrier because the situation demands better balance and control, and I know when I can loosen up and let her hang a bit (down where the boobs hang, I just like writing that). I agree that from this one picture you can’t tell anything about my experience level or other specifics of the situation, but I didn’t write that post to teach anyone babywearing skills or “promote” babywearing in any way. When I do teach babywearing I firmly believe in teaching people the Hows, and then the Whys, and then letting them tweak and adapt the skills so they work best for their lifestyle.  If someone looks at this picture of me wearing my one-year old “too low” and then says “hey! that means I can put my newborn in the same carrier and adjust it exactly like that and go stand on a beach!” I can’t personally take responsibility for that. There’s unfortunately a lot of stupid in the world, but we can only combat that with information. Getting good information out there so people can make decisions that are appropriate for their own circumstances. Babywearing can give people great freedom and let them include their babies in so many wonderful experiences. But as it becomes more popular it also develops more and more “rules” which can end up scaring people off from even trying. There has to be a middle ground of giving people the information they need to wear their baby safely while still being able to trust in common sense to adapt to their own specific needs and situation. Yeah, maybe I should write some blog posts on Hows and Whys of babywearing, I do have lots of thoughts and ideas about babywearing, as may be clear at this point. But there are already tons of resources for this information online. I hope anyone who feels the incredible influence and inspiration emanating from my amazing photo (haha) will google a bit and find those resources and that they won’t base their whole babywearing practice on one picture they saw on a blog. One can hope.

 

Those were my thoughts and reaction to the email I received. I’m gonna keep posting pictures of myself, probably babywearing pictures too, and I guarantee there will be many more imperfect situations involved. I’m generally quite imperfect. And dialogue is great, I look forward to it. But my answer in many cases will be this. I do the best I can with the information I have. I make things work for me and I take responsibility for my life and my children. And I trust that those around me do the same.

 

Bonus! I was looking for something else and found this picture. Bad (yet still safe) babywearing at its best! Hint: Boob location is involved in the positioning here too. 🙂

 

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The Slowness

I have Slowness on me. Big time, like I’m wading in molasses. My son taught me this word, it’s what he says when I’m trying to rush him out the door to get to school on time, “No, I can’t move faster, I have Slowness on me. See!”. Then he moves around in super slow motion to prove his point. I’m not sure if he learned this word somewhere, probably a video game or some superhero story. Just guessing, based on source information for most of the random stuff he throws into our conversations these days. But I’m also pretty sure he thinks it’s a real expression, another example of his “creative” English skills. And it’s obviously a real phenomenon, everyone with kids knows they get Slowness on them instantly when you use magic words like “hurry”or “late”.

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A child (mine) exhibiting great Slowness one morning before school.

But wherever this Slowness word comes from, I have it on me, for sure. Which may seem odd because I do tons of stuff every day, like every mom. (And yes, I know, some dads.) This house would fall apart without me. I’m busy all the time. From the moment I get up until the moment I drop at night. Keeping up with the basic housework, laundry, dishes, making food, getting people where they need to go with what they need to take with them. And so on.

The tired old housewife rant (in my case tired and old can refer to both the housewife and the rant) –

“Hello dear, what did you do today?”

“Uh, um, I can’t remember,

oh yeah,

EVERYTHING”

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Today I did this, for example. 7 people’s worth of laundry. Scintillating conversation fodder.

I roll out of bed, make the food, change the diapers, wash, clean and sort all the stuff. And most of the time I remember the dentist appointments and birthday parties too.

But when it comes to the “extra” things, the things I want to do for myself, Slowness. Molasses. Small tasks, little projects, messages to answer, letters to write, these things get pushed down the list until after that.. and after that.. and, sigh, after that too… and ok, well, maybe after the kids are sleeping. Ah, finally, everyone’s asleep, ah, sleep, that’s a good idea. Good night. The Slowness wins another day.

This didn’t just start now. I still catch myself thinking I have a newborn. I’ve been planning to write down her birth story, but I haven’t yet even though it’s been a “plan” in the back of my mind almost every day since she was born. She’s 15 months old now. And that message from a good friend I’m gonna get to just as soon as I find a moment to sit down and relax and focus my thoughts, I note with shame has been sitting unanswered for 8 months now. (And not just that one, there’s a whole list of them.) To do lists upon to do lists, written and rewritten, never getting done. And this isn’t my first postpartum rodeo. It’s pretty standard for me in the months and years after each baby, so I’m up to more than a decade (14 years in November, but who’s counting) of slogging through Slowness now.

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A delightful little Slowness Monster, whose birth story I may one day write down.

I guess I should be used to it, but it still drives me nuts, and I’m feeling extra slow this Autumn. I have so many ideas and plans right now, but I only get these ten minute windows here and there to actually focus on them. (And I spend a ridiculous number of those ten minute windows gazing absentmindedly out actual windows, gah!) In my head, especially while driving, I’m racing around, getting this done and that written and all those things sewn and sorted and built. Man if I could do things telekinetically my life would be awesome! Although telekinesis itself would be so awesome I probably wouldn’t care anymore about having curtains that were sewn up to the right length, or all my photo books for the last 10 years sorted and sent off to the printer. But right now I care, I want curtains that fit my windows and photo books of my kids. Amongst other things.

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I stared absentmindedly out the window for at least ten minutes before taking this picture today.

Is it too much to want to feel on top of things? To feel efficient? Yeah, probably. I do try to lower my expectations, practice self-forgiveness, be grateful for the little things. I do. But some days I’d just like to go to bed feeling like, yeah, hey, check check check, the To Do list is Done.

Like I said, I’ve come to accept that things slow down in the months (years) after a baby. Accepting this and really forgiving myself for all I never do has been key to keeping my sanity through many a postpartum year. But there comes a time when forgiving yourself for not getting things done turns into just never doing anything. Hard to hold your head high and be proud of your accomplishments when you don’t really have any to speak of. (Yes, I’m proud of being a Mom and all it entails, but I have so many other ideas too!) I’m ready for an upswing now, my baby is 15 months old, the energy-rebound is just around the corner, right? It must be. But it seems to be taking longer than usual. Maybe because I’m 42 this time. Or because 5 kids and a big old house full of half-done renovation projects is just that hectic. Maybe the Slowness is here to stay this time.

Or maybe tomorrow you’ll be the one who gets an answer to that email you wrote me two years ago.

And I’ll sew up those curtains.

And actually publish this blog post.

Take that, Slowness! Pow pow.

 

One parent, whatever language works!

One parent, whatever language works!

-Remember yesterday when we were on the shop?

-Batman are my favorite!

-Today at school we had a try. (a test)

My son’s English is charming. He has creative grammar and makes lots of mistakes. He superimposes English words onto Norwegian grammar, or translates directly to English from Norwegian. My kids are bilingual with Norwegian and English as their mother tongues, but Norwegian has become the dominant language in our house. They hear English from me, when I remember to speak it to them, and when we’re in social situations where switching to English every time we addressed each other wouldn’t be weird or rude, and of course from tv and movies. Other than that they hear Norwegian. They understand English but speak with Norwegian accents and make mistakes here and there. Many a fellow expat has let me know this is all my fault, as I’ve failed at holding the One Parent One Language rule. When raising bilingual children what language you use when you talk to your kids is just one more checkmark on the list of Things You Can and Probably Will Do Wrong.

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My kids in a Norwegian hardware store being Norwegian

There are so many rules and expectations about this. I’m not supposed to speak to them in Norwegian because I’ll teach them my bad accent and grammar. And I’m supposed to always speak to them in English (my mother tongue) to give them a full heart language in the language of their mother. (The guilt! My children don’t share a heart language with me, if that’s not a mama failure I don’t know what is.)  According to some I’m supposed to go so far as to refuse to answer them if they speak to me in Norwegian, waiting in stoic silence until they say it in English. (Can you imagine this approach with an overtired three-year old? What joy this would add to our family life!) On the other hand I’m supposed to help them in their daily life at the Norwegian school and Norwegian activities with their Norwegian coaches and parent-teacher meetings with their Norwegian teachers, and model normal polite behavior out in society (Norwegian), and have normal social interactions with all the children and adults in our neighborhood and community who are, you guessed it, Norwegian. Plus integrate into the society myself, you know, to be a happy, normal, social-functioning adult which helps me model happy, normal social behavior to them. And I’m supposed to do all this whilst never speaking Norwegian directly to my own children. Does Not Compute.

But I hear this again and again. Expats worried and upset at the fact that their children who grow up here don’t speak English perfectly, or (gasp) have a Norwegian accent when they speak it. I just can’t relate. It doesn’t bother me that my children have Norwegian accents when they speak English. I think it’s fine that Norwegian is essentially their first language. I can’t get worked up about this “problem” because having Norwegian as one’s first language is actually in fact not a problem at all. And one-size-fits-all rules about how we should be interacting annoy me.

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Happy kids with Norwegian accents

Kids, my kids at least, are efficient. Not in the sense that they focus on a task and jump to it when I say they should do something (I wish!), but in the sense that they don’t use brain space to force things which aren’t necessary. When we’re around people who don’t speak Norwegian (family from the US visiting, for example) they suddenly produce English, with varying degrees of charmingness, but as soon as they know everyone around them speaks Norwegian that’s the language they use. But the English is in there, they understand it perfectly, so if in the future we travel more and it’s useful for them to produce English more often, I’m confident it will come. In our daily life though they know I speak Norwegian, and I’m not into forcing them to artificially switch to English every time they turn to me.

And it’s not wrong for me to speak Norwegian to my kids either, even if I have an American accent. Give me a break, kids are smarter than that, my American accent rolls right off the language-processing-duck-feathers in their young flexible brains and they go right on their merry way speaking Norwegian like the rest of the native speakers around them.

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My son hanging out with some Norwegians at the mall.

Growing up we used to say what a shame it was that our grandparents didn’t hold on to Italian and keep it going in the family, so that we’d be able to speak it too. They were more focused on integrating and becoming American than holding on to Italian culture. Which I now understand better, because even if the circumstances are different here I am doing the same thing again in a new direction. It’s complex, isn’t it? And to be clear, I’m not saying integration should mean giving up one’s native language. Absolutely not. Language diversity and language preservation and keeping minority languages alive are crucial human rights issues. But on the personal, familial level language use shifts and evolves and flows. People move from this side of the globe to that and their language use shifts and changes along with them. For me personally, integrating and interacting with my kids as they grow up here has meant letting go of my language to a certain degree and accepting the fact that for us, in our situation, the societal language has become dominant.

And of course having English as our second language is a special situation, because English is a special language. Exceptionalismly imperialistically media-istically special. My kids, and all Norwegian kids, get lots of exposure to English all the time. It’s all over the place in tv and movies and youtube and it’s a regular subject on the school curriculum starting in first grade. Scandinavians in general are very good at English. So I’m not worried about my kids losing their English skills. It would be a different situation if their “non-dominant mother tongue” was Latvian or Sinhalese. Then I’m sure I’d feel like I needed to make more conscious effort to help them retain knowledge and use of it. Bilingual families come in all shapes and sizes. Some expat families know their stay abroad is temporary so it’s very important for them to keep their kids fluent in the home language they’ll move back to. Other immigrant families (I identify more with the word immigrant than expat, personally) have moved to a new country permanently and language integration is more of a priority to them. Some people learn languages quickly, others slowly. Some families have two immigrant parents, some have one, and the kids’ needs for exposure to the language in the society around them will vary accordingly. In my kids’ case we have one native Norwegian speaker parent and one immigrant English speaker. And they’ve grown up 100% in Norway and we have no plans of moving anywhere else.

What it comes down to is that language is about communication. If I make sounds and my kids understand them, we’re doing great. If the sounds help us create a connection from our thoughts and feelings to the physical world and to each other, then we’re doing even better. Our connection isn’t defined by which language we choose to speak. I don’t know where in the world they’ll end up living one day (except they’ll all be my next-door neighbors, right?), but I know they’ll adapt and use the language that works best for them wherever they are.

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My heart, in any language

 

Do you have two or more languages in your household? How does that play out for you?