Thursday, August 22, 2013

A for Actions and Awareness

As Ellie’s first birthday rapidly approaches, I wanted to do a series of posts about what I’ve learnt in my first year of motherhood. I’m going with a bit of a theme here, because there is so much I could talk about, so I’m going to restrict myself to twenty six topics, which I will dub my A to Z of having a baby. This also forces me to make sure I write more often. With that introduction, let me start with my first topic, A for Actions.

Before Ellie, I put a lot of thought into how I’d like to raise my child so that she would grow up strong, confident, sassy and independent. Mr Fork and I discussed our ideas and came to an agreement about the sort of environment we wanted our baby to grow up in. What it came down to for us was that we wanted to allow our daughter to grow able to express herself and know she was unconditionally loved and that her parents would meet and acknowledge her needs as required. Without knowing any terms such as ‘attachment’ or ‘responsive’ parenting we decided that we would be attentive to our child’s needs. If she cried, we would comfort her. If she was sleepy, we would let her sleep. If she was hungry/dirty/playful we would feed/clean/play with her. If she wanted closeness we would hold her. Simple right?

 Just because babies are so small, it doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate and make themselves understood. I believe that they can. In fact, one of the first things Ellie did after birth when we were having skin to skin time was to root around for a feed. She knew what she wanted and instinctively made it happen. She communicated her needs to me and she was only a few hours old! After she’d made her want known, I responded (with the midwife’s assistance) and let her feed. My actions demonstrated to her that I would answer her cries.

To me, actions speak louder than words. I remember being told that as a child and it’s stuck with me. I always try to act nicely, as well as speak and think nicely too. I don’t always succeed but I do try. Children learn through actions before words, so to them, the way you act is so important. I’ve spoken before about teaching boundaries and demonstrating through consistent actions that I support Ellie’s right to own her own feelings and responses. I believe completely that Ellie understands what is going on around her, and so we acknowledge that understanding and tell her what we are doing. We explain what is happening – that we are about to change her nappy, that we are going to daycare. We ask her questions and allow her to answer them in her own way: does she want to give daddy a kiss? Go to granddad for a cuddle? Is she hungry? Thirsty? We also respect her boundaries when she answers.

Don’t worry, I’m not crazy, I do know that children this young can’t talk. They can however, understand. And I know Ellie can communicate so to facilitate a method that is easy for everyone, we have been using some baby sign language since birth. Just for the key signs: hungry, thirsty, milk, book, mama, daddy, finished. I’m pleased to report that Ellie has started to sign them back now to indicate when she wants something. Yay! 

I guess the point of this post is that I wholeheartedly believe that actions do speak louder than words. That I need to show Ellie, by look, word and especially by deed that I’m on her side. That I listen to what she has to say and react appropriately – I’m aware of her and acknowledge her feelings and thoughts. I believe that children are always learning and I want my actions to be something my daughter learns from even before she learns to speak.

Do you ever have problems getting your actions and words in sync?

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