Thursday, March 15, 2018

How to Play :Inspired by The Danish Way

While I was pregnant with Felix I spent weekends reading parenting books and magazines to try and prepare myself for motherhood. Sure, they were generally interesting and informational but none of the advice really stuck with me, except from one book- "The Danish Way of Parenting: What The Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids". This past January, when Felix officially entered the toddler stage, I thought it would be a good idea to reread the book. Now, having finished it a second time, I think it's worth dedicating a few blog posts to the fundamentals of the book because I believe they are the best out there.
Beginning in 2012, the United Nations has released a yearly World's Happiness Report and Denmark has been in the top two spots every year since then. In that same amount of time, the United States hasn't made it into the top ten and has, in fact, been declining. U.S economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote an article about this happiness decline in which he states the reason as being due to a "social crisis, not an economic crisis".  Yes, the United States is a rich country, but our people are lonely. There are many, many factors that have led to this social decline and, after having read "The Danish Way", I believe one of those factors is that in the U.S we don't let our children play enough.

I know that upon first hearing this it may seem untrue, we've all seen kids playing around somewhere -parks, schools, neighborhood cul-de-sacs, even breweries nowadays. But how much of that play is open-ended and unstructured? How much of that play is done with parents nearby but not hovering around? How much of that play is totally child-led? How much of that play isn't sports/competition related? How much of that play is done during the school week and not just on weekends? And, for how long is that play?
Play is a fundamental part of child-rearing in Denmark, not just something kids do when the parents are busy. Danes believe, and I agree with them, that play is a very important aspect of education. Just as learning to read is crucial to being a successful adult, so is having the time and space to simply just play, because it's through play that children learn important social skills: empathy, confidence, listening, negotiating, decision making, etc.  Having a good foundation of social skills at an early age leads to adults that are more confident, more empathetic, and better colleagues and partners. Adults with these social abilities are less lonely, which, in turn, means happier communities and country at large.

So how do we incorporate play here in the United States, a country that isn't structured around the importance of play in the way that Denmark is? Parents, caregivers, and educators need to make a conscience effort to make it happen regularly. These are the ways in which I'm trying to raise Felix to garner a strong sense of self through play based development.

I understand that most people are unable to stay-at-home with their children the way that I am, which is why I think it's crucial that educators and caregivers also be aware of the importance of play. Perhaps "The Danish Way of Parenting" and the follow up to that book - "Play The Danish Way" -would be good resources for teachers and caregivers to read for educational development purposes. In light of so many of the recent tragedies that have been unfolding in our country, raising happier and more social children is our responsibility and we need to work together to make it happen.

Happy Thursday everyone, have a great and fun weekend filled with play!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Los Franich 2.0

Hello, it's been awhile - a year and five months of a while, but who's counting, anyway? Me, the control freak over here. Obviously a lot has changed since my last post, which was about the first four weeks of Felix's life. I'm not going to sum up the last year and a half, that would take too long. I just want to let it be known that I'm back to blogging because I've missed it dearly. 

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately and I've discovered several truths about myself. One of those is that writing is good for me. Even if only four people read this blog (hi Chris, and Mami and Papi, and Coot), the act of writing settles my frazzled mind. 

Another truth is that I'd like to be more authentic. In general I feel that I'm pretty true to myself, but I want to be more so, especially in my writing, even when it's uncomfortable. I want to authentically write about my experiences post-partum, motherhood, and my opinions about the world at large - all within my own feminist-liberal viewpoint. 

If the words "feminist" and "liberal" have you rolling your eyes, don't worry (but also, what's wrong with you? Just kidding!), I won't be discussing theory or citing academic texts. I just mean that I may occasionally write a post where I discuss why I encourage Felix to play with dolls and other non-stereotypical "boy" toys. I might also write a heated post about guns. These issues fill me with emotions which I handle best when released through the cathartic art of writing.

Basically, this blog is self-care.

But there will also be pretty photos and laid-back musings about life - old school Los Franich style.

For example, here are some photos of  the Oceanside pier. We live near it now and enjoy walking it together during the sunset.

And here is a simple musing of late: While the clutter of our house can sometimes make me feel stressed, I have begun to find beauty in the mess. Nothing establishes that a house has become a home faster than a toy discarded in haste mid-motion, board books strewn about the floor, and the bright primary colors that have invaded our "grown-up" hues.

Another musing: Felix's belongings mixed alongside ours makes me realize that anything in small scale is adorable. 
Except tantrums. Tiny tantrums are not cute.

Well, that's all for today. Just easing my way back into the world of public journaling and I sincerely hope you'll follow along. Have a great week!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Four Weeks

     Thank you for all the positive and heart-felt responses about my last post on our birth story. Many of you said that it made you cry. I get it, it was emotional. I cried while writing it. I'm not sure what emotions this post will stir but it may cause some tears; tears of joy, relief, and a little fear. If my memory of Felix's birth is painful why do I choose to not only remember it but also immortalize it in writing? Shouldn't I let go of the past and live in the present?
     I write about it so that I can't forget about the little things that kept me going when, otherwise, I didn't know how I was going to make it. Like the cloth hearts some hospital volunteers made that were always somewhere on his body - his head, stomach, or back. Those little hearts that, one by one, day after day, I'd fold and place into my bra by my heart so that they'd smell like me when they'd be placed on my baby, hoping that they'd give him some comfort and a semblance of bonding through the sedative induced sleep he was in. And vice versa, so I could carry the scent of Felix around with me when we weren't together. Every night before falling asleep next to an empty crib, I'd pull one of those little hearts out from my bosom, hold it up to my nose, and deeply inhale his smell. Incidentally, they also worked well at wiping away tears.
     I write down the memories so that I don't forget that for the first nine days of his life he was exclusively fed through a skinny orange tube in his nose due to having a breathing tube in his mouth. Then, when the tracheal tube was removed, he began to occasionally nurse from me and drink pumped milk from a bottle so the feeding tube wasn't used as much. And then, on July 23rd, the feeding tube was removed entirely because his suck-swallow-breathe coordination was strong enough that he no longer needed the tube to help him eat. I write about this difficulty so I can remember the challenges he overcame. That way, when my nipples are sore to the point of cracking and the last thing I feel like doing is breastfeeding, I'll remember to grin and bear it (okay, maybe not grin) because we are lucky he was able to latch on in the first place!
     I write down these difficult memories so that on the nights I'm frustrated that he's waking every two hours I'll try to remember to focus on the weight of his small body in my arms instead of the sleepiness in my eyes. A weight I longed to hold and couldn't until the tenth day of his life and a weight I literally ached to nurse and couldn't until the third week of his life. Before that, the only touch we were allowed was a little pressure on the top of his head and on the soles of his feet, which you can see us doing in several of the photos in this post. So remembering what wasn't possible helps me be grateful for what became possible, thus, these sleepless nights.
     I write to remember the machines that kept Felix alive and filled up his room. And the alarms that came with the machines which went off with unwavering (and unnerving) consistency seemingly every five minutes. Whenever a medication was running low - beep, beep, beep - or his oxygen saturation wasn't right - beep, beep, beep -  or his heart rate was too high or too low - beep, beep, beep - or his food was done being administered - beep, beep, beep - and on, and on, and on. And with every beep I grew a gray hair. Then the machines and their noises began to disappear, one by one, and we knew it meant our time at the NICU was coming to an end. Now when I'm at home with Felix and it seems too quiet and I'm getting restless I'll remember those alarms and immediately be thankful for the peace.
     I write to remember all the wonderful support we had during the hardest time of my life. Like my wonderful friends and co-workers who created a meal train so that my family would have fresh meals waiting for us when we'd arrive home late after a long and stressful day at the NICU. It was such a blessing to open the cooler we'd leave on the front porch and find pizza, pasta, enchiladas, taco bowls, beer, wine, and more. Food is such a comfort during difficult times.
     Then there's my family, Team Felix, who spent the long days and nights by our side and helped us pull through. My sister, who canceled her flight home twice and drove my mother and I back and forth from the hospital every day for two weeks. My mother, who canceled her flight and stayed an extra month to give us extra support and to give Felix extra love; who kept our stomachs full, washed my pumping accouterments, and maintained the house decent; who kept my extended family in the loop, and who bathed me in my recovery room shower a day after my c-section when I was too weak to do it myself.  My mother-in-law, who understands trauma and is calm in emergencies, who always stayed at the NICU late and arrived there first thing in the morning, and who, on one of those early mornings, decorated the room with a banner and small balloons to celebrate my 35th birthday. And Chris, my God what would I have done without a partner like Chris? Who had to balance the weight of both my distress and his, who spent fourteen hours a day by Felix's bedside, who advocated for his son tirelessly by asking all the right (and sometimes wrong) questions, and who managed to remain an optimist through it all.
     I write about the painful past so that when I'm feeling bad and being hard on myself I can remember how strong I am. The strength I had in dealing with infertility, to overcoming the grief I experienced for the beautiful birth I had planned, to treading that tightrope between despair and hope, to finally making it through with just a couple of battle wounds: the physical one that brought my son out into the world and the emotional one embedded into my soul. Wounds that heal a little more each day as they evolve into tough scars. Misfortune aids resiliency.
     In writing these memories I'm forced to reckon with how fragile life is because I've witnessed its fickleness. So when motherhood has me entrenched in dirty diapers, fussiness, and clutter to the point where I'm too overwhelmed to leave the house and cranky because of it all, I can take a deep breath and remember our history. Remember that life is short so I need to be grateful for every day and try to forget the stuff that ultimately doesn't matter - the messy house, the unwashed hair - and remember what's important - the little boy who almost didn't make it, who now counts on me to sustain his life, whose every breath is a reason to celebrate the present, and who, in writing, has become immortal.