Monday, December 10, 2012


In January Leander will become a big brother. I had a lot of ideas and images in my mind on what it will be like being pregnant and having a toddler. And again I had to learn quite a few lessons over the past 34 weeks.

When we discussed that we want to have a second child and when that should be we had a few thoughts in mind. My own brother was 5 years older than me. A tad too old if you ask me, certainly if you want the two to play along when they are little. All I can remember is being a stone tied to my brothers legs until we were both teenagers and started to get along really well. But I certainly didn't want the second child to be born too early after the first either. I enjoyed watching Leander grow and develop so much that I wanted this exclusive time not just for him but for myself too. I figured that I wouldn't be able to sit and observe him the way I am still doing it. Until the age of 3 so many developmental milestones are happening - I just would not want to miss any of it. Or only be half present.

And there were a few practical things I had in mind. I had the idea of Leander being out of diapers so I would only have to change one child. And I wanted him to be able to walk most of the ways we are going daily himself. So I'd only have to push the pram and have a toddler walking next to me.

I also had the idea of Leander being this toddler that's all excited about his mommy being pregnant. About that little boy asking awkward questions about how the baby got into my belly and how it will get out. What it will look like and when it will finally come. And most importantly I wanted him to be able to communicate with words. So once the baby is here he'd be able to say that he wants her to "go away" rather than hitting her or throwing a tantrum. Because no - I am not as naive thinking that he might be all happy and excited about this new arrival. In fact - I would find that really worrying.

So yeah. Many thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind before I got pregnant for the second time.
And now - 34 weeks into this pregnancy I have learned a few lessons.

I do know that development just won't stop. But I am very glad to still be able to carefully watch and enjoy everything that is going on right now. Most of it is related to speech. Leander also started singing songs and counting randomly. I am laughing. A lot. With him. And about him, yes. I admit it. I try not to do so in front of him and when I can't stop I explain why I am laughing. It's just too funny the sentences he creates. The songs he sings back to front and upside down. Combining them withe the actions he learned in the creche. I am simply enjoying every minute I am spending with him.

Regarding the practical thoughts I had... well with a bit of clarity and the fact that I simply CAN'T pick Leander up anymore he is very cooperative with me. He does know that his dad is still able to carry him around and up and down the stairs so he gets this treatment on weekends. But when he is with me he walks. A lot. I am pushing the stroller home empty all the way from the creche. That means taking twice as long as we would if he'd be sitting in it but that's fine. If we would have the time in the mornings we could probably leave the whole thing behind us in general. But so far we are happily using it in the early, dark and cold winter mornings and will somehow figure out a way on how to do that once the baby is here.

The diaper is a story of its own. Over the past year I have read a lot into that topic and came to the simple conclusion that there is nothing I can do to speed up this process. Well - nothing I want to do. So much of it is related to his development physically and psychologically that we decided to completely follow his lead there. Right now this means that most of the days he walks around in underwear. Only sometimes he insists on wearing diapers in the mornings but will change into underpants at some point during the day. There are hardly any accidents. He knows where the potty is, what it is for and he uses it. Still he likes to wear diapers every now and then and if that gives him the feeling of security - fine by me. Because somehow I have the feeling that this is what he is asking for A LOT at the moment. Security. He needs constant reassurance of what is happening and when. That I will fully be with him once I've finished what I am doing. That we are there when he asks for us at night. What Dad is doing. Who is picking him up from the creche in the afternoon. And so on.
It's like this big ship out on the ocean, the coast line behind slowly vanishing but the one on the other side not visible yet. So he keeps holding tight to the coordinates he has for sure. Everything he can rely on he holds tight. May that be a diaper or the assurance that we won't leave him alone.

I believe that he is sensing the upcoming change now. How couldn't he? Baby clothes are moving in. Furniture get rearranged in the bedroom. I guess it's just something I hadn't thought about before. The stuff that is going on in his mind. The invisibility cloak his thoughts are wearing sometimes. The silence that covers what he is feeling and if we are not careful - wipes it out without being noticed. He will be a big brother. But still small and fragile.

The part with the excitement and joy, the awkward questions and everything? That never happened. This is something I had to swallow down and it tasted bitter. It was just this romantic picture I had in mind. But Leander is different. He is dealing with all that all by himself. Quietly. And what can I do? I won't sit down with him every day telling him about what's happening. How could I? Because to be honest - I don't know what to tell him. I don't know what it will be like with another baby around. I can't promise him anything else but to love him as much as I do now. I can't do more but be there and try and see what is going on inside him. Even saying things like "Yes, I am YOUR mommy" feels weird because it used to be followed by a "Your one and only mommy" which I don't say anymore.
And what would it change if he would be all excited and asking questions? Would that tell me anything about his reaction once the baby is here for real? No. Because this is difficult for us to grasp so how can he have the slightest idea of what it means "becoming a big brother"?

So that's the end of that. I am just mentioning the obvious and reading the Baby book with him when he asks for it. I will start preparing him for the big event once it is closer to the due date and we have figured out all emergency exits for him. Until then it's just us.

It feels a bit like the first Christmas with him. You know when you are all excited about the first Holiday season you are spending with your own child? When you imagine the shine and sparkle and their excited eyes over the presents? And the disappointment when you realize that they are simply too young and not getting what exactly is going on right now but instead get fuzzy because it's all a bit much? Yeah. This is a small percentage of how I felt when I figured that my thoughts and ideas were not quite what reality had to offer. With the slight difference that Christmas is over within a few days. Pregnancy and birth of a baby is just the beginning of this - obviously - unknown and mysterious journey we are facing right now. Scary. But at the same time highly exciting. Leander simply surprises us in many ways. Not just the fun ones. And we are growing on it. Somehow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


When Leander was 10 months old we had the idea of moving him from the crib in a bigger and open bed. He kept banging legs, arms and head against the sides of the crib and we felt it's time for him to be able to climb in and out of his bed himself. 

So we went and bought a bunk bed. We put a mattress on the floor underneath and with curtains around this was a cosy "cave like" bed for him. We put part of the playpen on one end so he would not fall out too much during his sleep. He loved it from the very first minute.

But with a bed that children can climb in and out themselves there is the thought of what is going to happen - will they stay in when it's really bedtime or will they come out again?
By that time I still nursed Leander at bedtime. So I cuddled up with him in his bed, nursed him, then put him down and stayed with him until he was asleep. Shortly after I weaned him but kept staying with him until he was asleep. When my husband put him down for the night he did the same. And in no time we had created a habit of staying in bed with Leander until he was off in dreamland.

We somehow knew that we had taken a short cut for now but quite a detour in the long run. We raised the question of how to stop the habit once in a parent consultation group but never went ahead with the advice we got (being clear, leaving while he is awake, not quietly sneaking out). Instead we kept going and at some point enjoyed it. It was a time of day when we did nothing but lie in a dark room waiting for our son to fall asleep. No phone, no computer, no book. Nothing. Just us and our thoughts. It was nice. Sometimes.
But there were days when it took Leander forever to fall asleep. And we actually had plans on what to do that evening. Work. Read. Household. It happened more and more often that we fell asleep with (or even before) him, then woke up completely knackered without the energy to do anything. So we missed out on our "spare time".
There were days when we got really angry. Occasions where I cited the book title "Go the f*** to sleep" in my head over and over again. Or even told him to "go to sleep for heaven's sake now!" in not such a nice tone. He usually did go to sleep quite quick after an outburst like that but it felt terrible to end the day together like that.

Almost 2 years later it so happened that Leander started waking up during the night again. Frequently. I had no idea why. He wasn't ill and his teeth were all where they should be. When he did wake up one of us went into his room and simply curled up next to him in his bed and kept sleeping there for part or the rest of the night. Around the same time he needed us more and more in the evening. He wanted us to cuddle up next to him in his bed until he was asleep. He wanted our arms around him very tight. And asked for the same when he woke up in the middle of the night. And while I enjoyed the evening snuggles the nighttime wakings became more and more exhausting. My growing belly did not allow me to curl up just like that next to him anymore and my husband was tired of moving beds. And with the new baby arriving in Januray we figured that it was time for some major changes here. NOW.

My husband went to the parent consultation group we are currently visiting and raised the topic. When he got back we were ready to take on the challenge. And somehow much more convinced than ever before. Because what Daniela, who runs the group and who I am doing the Pikler foundation course with, mentioned the real problem behind everything that we just figured was becoming complicated. When staying with Leander in his bed until he sleeps, cuddling him and holding him - the focus is shifted. For him this is not about going to sleep, it's about some snuggle time with us. During which he just so happens to fall asleep. But in order for him to realize that this is his bed, that it is for sleeping and that sleeping in there all by himself is good and healthy it is important for him that we shift his focus back. So this is what we were gonna do.

The next day I was not at home but Jan went ahead with "the plan" anyway. During dinner he told Leander what was going to happen that night. What was gonna be different. He told him the whole routine and what would change. "Tonight after we read the books I will not come with you in your bed. I will stay a little while with you but I will sit in front of your bed. And then I will go to the living room. If you need me, I will be there for you."
Leander's response to that was a simple "No."

Jan went ahead anyway. After he read him several books he told him again what will be different now. And when Leander went into his bed and realized that in fact his Dad wasn't coming in he started to cry. Jan stayed with him and explained it again. Leander got quiet and Jan left the room. It didn't take long and Leander came back out. This time crying and asking for Mom. Surely if Dad was weird Mom would be all cuddly and normal. But Mom wasn't there so his Dad went back with him, sent him off to bed, stroke his head, waited a little and left. Again Leander started to cry. Jan went back in again and sat down with Leander again, explaining the whole thing all over until Leander eventually said: "Ok."
Jan left and Leander went to sleep.

the next morning Jan talked to Leander about the previous night. And what was new. And Leander listened and then said: "Important."
The next evening was similar to the first and then the next challenge arose. It was my turn to take him to bed. And to disappoint him - because suddenly I was as weird as Dad was behaving lately. So he cried again and I stayed and explained that this was important to all of us. I stayed until his crying stopped but left before he fell asleep. I can't say it was easy. I was sitting in front of his bed listening to him breathing and sucking his thumb. No more crying. All good to go but to find the moment to get up and LEAVE felt like leaving a whole lot more behind. But I knew how important it was, how much I wanted this to become honest and clear. So I got up and left. I had to go back in once when he started to cry again. I said down again and told him that we were not leaving him alone. That we were there whenever he needed us. That I understood that this was new to him and difficult to accept. But that I knew that he was capable of doing this. I stroke his head and kissed him. The crying had stopped. I left. And he fell asleep.

Day after day the crying period was shorter. But more than that - from the very first night we started this transition he slept through. And when he woke up in the morning he wasn't as tired and whiny as he used to be. He got up and started talking. He was happy and in a good mood. He was active and much more aware. All that convinced us that this was the right thing to do.

After only a week it was done. We left the room and that was that. This was when Jan told me that Daniela had said: "It might take a week for him to get used to it."

Two weeks later it might be fair to say that the transition is history. Yesterday during storytime Leander said: "Mama reading book. Then Mama come bed and cuddle. Then lights out and Mama living room. I sleep."
I told him that yes, this was how we were doing things now and that it was going much better this way because we all sleep much better now. He nodded.

Another thing that feels much better now is the leaving. It's not a case of quietly sneaking out hoping not to wake him. It feels honest and right.
His crying never felt desperate. It was crying because surely it wasn't something he would have decided just like that right now for himself. So we made sure he wasn't alone when he was crying. We allowed it all to come out. Allowed him to be frustrated or even angry. And at the same time we were clear and he felt that it was really important.

Still I'm not looking back thinking "We should have done this earlier..." or anything. I know we could have but somehow we weren't ready. We didn't see it important enough to really go after it and think about when and how. It was just important that when it wasn't bearable for either of us anymore we DID change the pattern. All together.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Apparently Superman isn't wearing a cape - but his baby. At least that is what I was invited to promote on Facebook recently. And it wasn't the first post that praised Daddies who wear their babies. Despite the fact that I dislike the saying "wearing a baby" especially in relation to "showing off" and "being super Daddy" - because that's what those posts implement if you ask me - I don't think that any child would say that their Daddy is great, cool or wonderful because he has "worn" them as a baby.

Instead my Dad sat me on his lap in the car when he drove me to the creche in the village we were living back then.
What else he did I don't know but probably not too much. That's the impression I get from the stories my Mom and Dad tell me. And well, since they got divorced when I was only 2 years old I can't really rely on any of their stories because they are mixed with their feelings about their own relationship at this time. But I can tell you that:

My Dad didn't spend regular weekends with us but he was there for our birthdays and Christmas. During winter and summer holidays we spend weeks at his parents' - our grandparents'- house in the countryside and he came and visited us there quite often.

From what I remember he cared for our education and later kept asking how things went in school. He was there when I finished High school and supported me throughout my studies - despite his opinion that women don't need to study at all. Yes - he has his views on life and I have mine. Many of them differ but we know that, we talk about them and we respect them.

When I split up with a boyfriend he asked me if I wanted to talk about it.

When he calls me he knows within a minute how I feel and even says things like: "I hear you are not in a good mood. Do you want to tell me or shall we talk later?" I am 34 and it still surprises me how well he knows me.

When I was a student I regularly went to visit my Dad and stayed with him for a night or two. It wasn't rare that we'd spend the night talking up until 1 or 2 a.m. And by talking I don't mean the weather. He told me about our past. About his divorce from my Mom. How he felt back then and what went wrong. He told me his feelings about my brother's sudden death and about everything I am doing. He talks about his parents and their relationship. And I know that I can tell him everything. He knew when I was in therapy and he knew that it would do me good.

When I was little my Dad took my brother and me to football matches or other sports events. I always thought he did that for my brother. But I enjoyed it too and later when my brother was dead he still took me. At some point I realized that he loved to go to sports events and enjoyed it that I joined him.

I was the only one supporting his crazy hobby of riding a motor cycle like a maniac until the age of 60. I supported his crazy decision of buying a new one after he crashed his and was flown to hospital where I visited him at the ICU. I won't deny that I was relieved when he sold the machine but I also knew that if he would have died riding it - he would have died doing something he loved.

He loves his grandson and is sad to live that far away so he barely sees him. He does not agree on all parenting decisions we go for but he tells me that, we talk about it and he respects them.

He supports my decision to ditch my Diploma and the job I had and I studied for with (partly) his money. Because he wants me to do something I am happy with.

He has the best sense of humor - one, that sometimes only I understand.

So no, my Dad may not have been the best Dad when I was little. He cheated on my Mom when she was caring for their children. But that is their story. When it comes to what - FOR ME - was a good Dad I wouldn't trade him for the world.

And therefore I don't care if a Dad is carrying his baby in a sling or pushing him in a pram. I wish for every child to have a father that - from birth on - tries to understand him and his feelings. That is a person to look up and talk to. Talk about the good and the difficult things in life. One to laugh with but one to be quiet with too. One to share joys with. And concern. One that knows his child. Even if that means getting to know him again and again over time.

Monday, November 12, 2012


The other day Leander was playing with his cars on the floor while I was lying on the sofa. He came over and said: 'Mama, come, wanna show something.' I was tired and couldn't think of what he could possibly show me that I couldn't see from the sofa myself. I told him that I am tired but he insisted: 'Mamaaaa! Come! Wanna show something!' for at least three more times until I got really curious and slowly rolled myself from the sofa down to the floor where we then sat down next to his cars.

Well. What he wanted to show me was that he had parked them all. In line. I could see that. I already watched him do it and saw the result from the sofa. But for him it was really important that I got up, came close and most importantly: shared his joy! And so I did. I looked at him and smiled and said: "Yeah, you parked them all in line." and he nodded and said: "Yeah!"
It was something he had done like a million times before. But he was excited about it NOW. His eyes wide open, sparkling. And he told me that the police car did not fit in that one spot but instead he put it over there! And the more I let his excitement overcome me the more I got really excited myself. He ran away and found a tractor that he needed to park too. And then I needed to help him rearrange the whole parking situation. And we continued parking the cars for a while. Sometimes he told me what I did wrong but mainly we had the same idea of how the cars should be arranged. And more: I had fun. I actually felt some satisfaction in this game. His game. I was where he was and he enjoyed me being there. Not just around but right down there on the floor IN his game. The two of us in one universe.

Two weeks ago I attended a course in which we experimented with Hengstenberg toys and climbing materials for children. But it wasn't just about climbing and playing. It was a lot about going back to our own awareness and how we have become so goal orientated. That we always wonder: "What is that for? What am I supposed to do with it? What is it good for ?"
Heinrich Jacoby, a German educator on sensitivity and awareness, used to say: "Thing - what do you want from me?"
And while - in this course - I was lying on the floor playing with a simple wooden object for 45 minutes, discovering its shape, smell, weight, sitting and standing on it, holding it - all blindfolded - I had so many thoughts going through my mind. I was wondering along an unknown path so open minded feeling so light and curious. So many ideas on what to do and explore with this piece of wood came to my mind that suddenly I did not just remember Jacoby's saying but also felt it. Deeply.

And amongst all this playing I suddenly heard Leander saying: 'Mama, come with me.' to what I used to respond with: 'Why?' or 'Where are we going?' And I realised how sad that was. How sad for me not being open for the unknown. Not being curious. And how sad for Leander - always having to "convince" me with a certain reason to follow his excitement.

Obviously I don't always have time to follow him. But the more I allow myself to do so when there is nothing else the more often he accepts when I really have to refuse his begging for a particular reason. And then he goes off, maybe doing something completely different than what he had in mind. Because he still is open to the unknown while I am re-learning hard the joy of saying "Ok. Let's go!" instead of "Where to?".

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This weekend we spent with the grandparents and they live in an area with many spas. So we decided to enjoy a day in there. Leander has been rather respectful, mostly scared of water for most of the time and we thought if we are careful it can't really harm anything anymore but maybe help him get a little closer to liking it.

When we arrived at the spa he was all excited and got changed. He carried his little toy bucket and a ball we took for him. He looked around a lot and held my hand. Tight. Very tight.
Inside it was loud and very busy. Fortunately we found the kids pool pretty soon. It wasn't too busy so when I walked a step in he quickly followed me. He stopped on the top step. And when he tried to go down the second step I could see his little foot carefully measuring the depth until he felt the stone floor underneath. He was checking how deep he would get. And if it felt safe enough. In the end it was not even knee deep and Leander felt comfortable. Still holding my hand. Tight.

He walked around the outline of the pool a few times, getting to know the place and carefully observing what the other children were doing. At some point he figured that there was a deeper square in the middle of that pool so he decided to give that a try. Again he measured the depth with his feet before actually setting his foot down. Now in the water up to his belly he looked at me. And Smiled. He walked through this deep square a number of times. Now even without holding my hand. You could actually see his confidence growing. And his joy.

When water suddenly started coming out of several columns and walls he got frightened a bit and we went to the outer steps, sat down and he started pouring some water with his bucket over his legs and feet. Something he wouldn't even do in the bath tub (where he preferred to stand rather than sit).

A while later Jan asked him if he wanted to check out the bigger pool for adults. It had a very long slope going in so he could try and walk as much as he liked and what felt ok for him. I was sure they'd come back in a wee while. Well - I was wrong. On Jan's back he was actually up to his neck in the water, holding tight like a monkey but enjoying himself. A LOT.

When they got back he told me to come with him. To the big pool again. And he started walking into it himself. Step by step. Deeper and deeper. Until he was standing in the water up to his chin. Swallowing water. Trying hard not to fall. When he turned around there was this big smile in his face. I had to make sure that it was really him who was standing there in front of me. My son.
I stayed close by so when he would slip and fall I could bring him back up. He fell only once and pulled himself back up. He cried a little but when I told him what happened and he realized that he was actually ok he kept walking. And smiling.

He wasn't going under water again. Not by accident and not on purpose. But that's nothing I'd expect. He's done a great step for himself yesterday. And the way he mastered it all by himself without us pushing or encouraging him was just so overwhelming to watch. We must have looked like the weirdest family on the planet. All just quietly watching each other. All smiling and enjoying Leander's new discovery.

Boundaries and fears accompany us for most of our life. Some a little longer, some only for a short time. Many boundaries we never stretch, many fears we never overcome. Some boundaries we don't even recognize as such. Or we let others step inside our comfort zone without feeling good about it. Children are much more honest. What feels weird or strange they do not allow. If we respect that they might be more open to overcoming fears on their own before they can foster and harm them all their life. Something many of us adults have unlearned.
Today I decided to overcome my own fear of water eventually. I don't even know what the reason behind is, what the real problem is and how to start. But once I am no longer carrying a baby belly I will go for it and figure. Stepping into my son's tiny footsteps.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Instead of "Please say Thank you." I think: "I trust you."

When I go and pick up Leander from the creche he comes running towards me and cannot wait to go. Well at least out to the front garden where the bigger children play. He does not turn back. He does not say „Good bye.“ I know that this is something I can not force him to do. But the teachers are making a real effort in meeting and greeting all the children by their names. Every day they say „Good bye Leander, see you tomorrow.“ Sometimes I ask him if he wants to say Good bye. Sometimes he does. Sometimes not.

I know that teaching a child when to say Hello, Thank you or Sorry is not necessary. And I don‘t. Yet there is this tiny bit of „Good behaviour“ that I have learned from my parents and the society‘s critical look sitting in my neck.

Then I remember how my mom used to tell me to say Thank you to my granny for my birthday or Christmas presents. And although I obviously had done it already I did so again and when we left the house I did again. And still wasn‘t sure if that was enough. When I grew older and Christmas presents resulted in a money transfer to my bank account my mom would call me to ask if I had called my granny. Again I wasn‘t sure how often I should call her to make sure she knew that I indeed was grateful. It was awful and even today I am sometimes not sure how to thank people. Is it enough to say it? Do I have to give something back? How often can one say „I‘m sorry“ so the other one really believes that I AM sorry indeed? How often do we say sorry, although we aren‘t really?

Alfie Kohn has made it quite clear: ‘Thinking a child is going to feel sorry just because you make him say he’s sorry? The only thing that’s going to do is teach the child to lie about his feelings!’

So no. No matter how much society expects my son to be well behaved. I am not teaching him to say „Hello.“ to somebody stretching out his hand towards him. Because I trust him that he can learn that himself. He watches us. Watches society. Carefully and closely. You might think is a little out of space, sitting in his stroller, sucking his thumb. Instead he is trying hard to get to know the world around him.

The other night I was lying next to him in his bed waiting for him to go to sleep. He suddenly sat up and asked: „Mommy, where are you?“ I said „I‘m right here.“ But it was so dark, he couldn‘t see me. So he startet crawling around to find me and he accidentally kicked his knee on my head. It didn‘t hurt much and I didn‘t say anything. Suddenly I felt a tiny warm hand stroking my forehad and Leander whispering: „I‘m sorry mommy.“
That‘s how I know that I can trust him.

Monday, October 22, 2012


When I was about 7 or 8 years old I told my mom that I couldn't eat the bread because it tasted like the dentist - the smell that is in the air and the after-taste of a dental procedure. She got really angry with me. I could not understand how she could NOT taste it. But obviously she was just annoyed that she had food and dinner prepared and then I came along with a silly sentence like that. I still feel how badly out of space I felt back then.
A few months ago I read an article on highly sensitive children and the title was "This tastes like energy!" and when I read that I felt so peacefully gliding back to Earth.

So I started wondering if I am a highly sensitive person. Since this isn't something you can quickly answer I am not sure if I am but many many situations in my life would suddenly make A LOT of sense. When I read that High Sensitivity is genetic I was very carefully observing Leander. So far I would say - he is sensitive. Yes. But not HIGH sensitive. And in the end - does it matter ?

If a child is wild, loud and active he has written ADHD on his forehead before he can actually spell those letters. If he is quiet, observing and easily hurt - he is highly sensitive. What does normal mean in our society? And - is it really desirable to be normal? Do I want my child to be normal ?

When I lived in Britain for almost 5 years I was struggling a lot with who I am and what I am. And what normal was. Coming from another country and a slightly different culture I did dare to question a few things including binge drinking, all sorts of food abnormalities, meaningless small talk, forbidden to use but perfectly neat front gardens, separate water taps... You name it, I questioned it. I felt like an Alien for not just accepting the things the way they were (and surely still are) but instead in a German and very direct kind of way asking questions that felt no one had ever asked before me. (Fortunately I met people who indeed had too, phew).

It might sound hard but one of the best British people I met was my therapist. He took me back to the right path. The one that lead to myself. I finally realized who I was and most importantly: that I was OK the way I was. So all fears of suffering depressions, anxiety or any other mental disease he shook off me and instead stood me right back up. Of course this was his job and not something he did the first and one and only time. But he did it so well that I didn't feel that before I failed and afterwards was fine but instead was fine all the way through just never realized it. I am still very grateful to have found him.

So it doesn't actually matter if I am a highly sensitive person or not. It matters that I have discovered that all the things that seemed so abnormal ALL MY LIFE are just part of me. They have formed me and if others have a problem with that I shouldn't worry.

And I shouldn't worry if others now tell me that my son is a little more sensitive than other kids and that there are "various possibilities" I could do in order to help him... yeah well... help him do what actually ? All I know is that what he needs right now are parents who accept him this way. And who support him in this by helping him figure out his feelings and emotions so eventually he will be able to name them and find ways to deal with them. If he does not want his rice because it tastes like glue than he can have something else. If he decides that he will not go to a kid's birthday party I will not (unlike my mom did with me) force him to at least go over there and apologize for being so rude. I will do all I can to make him feel confident about himself and to stand up for himself and all his weirdest thoughts and emotions. Possibly (and hopefully) without him having to visit a therapist or by reading an article at the age of 33 when he has kids himself.

Somehow I have got the strange feeling that through parenting along the RIE principles I am actually doing all this already. At least a bit. And maybe (as my dear friend Anna from Every moment is right pointed out) children who are raised respectfully, whose actions and emotions are taken care of instead of thrown into boxes and drawers with tags like "terrible two", "stubborn", "shy" or "another phase" etc. might turn out to be more sensitive. Well with only having one child so far and him being only 2,5 years old all I know is that he might have taken his time to enjoy sliding, climbing, playing with sand, sitting in the bath tub etc. - but enjoys those things so much NOW, is so careful and observing that I won't dare "doing anything about his sensitivity".

Monday, August 20, 2012


Recently the little man was facing his what felt like 1000th vaccination in his short life. While I don't want to go into the pro & contra debate about vaccinations I would like to share some meaningful moments and experiences I had that day.

In the morning I told the little man where we were about to go and what was going to happen. He was really interested when I told him about the doctor, the stethoscope, the ear- and throat examination just to check if he would be ok to get a shot. And then I told him about the painful part. He was nodding away, even when I said "This may hurt a little."
"Doctor! Doctor!" was all he said and when being told we would be going there by bus happiness was all over him. He loves riding the bus.

So all was well. We took the bus and we got off way too early (in his mind he would be going 3 rounds from one end to the other before getting off a bus again). We went into the building and put the stroller in the hallway. He climbed up the stairs and we went in. All happy. All smiley.
I went to the reception, handed his health insurance card over and said why we were there. He looked around and when he looked at me all the happiness was gone. Big teary eyes looked at me, he shook his head and said "No! no!"
I said: "You know exactly where we are, right?" - "Yes." Even though I told him before - reality just hit him.
He had a shaky voice. I felt shaky too. All I wanted to do is to protect him, take him and run away. But I had put this off for so long. And he already had 2 of the necessary shots for this vaccination. It would be really silly to leave out the third now. So I picked him up and went into the waiting room with him.
There were toys, small cars and other children. He couldn't care less. Sitting on my lap sucking his thumb he watched the other kids play. But I knew he wasn't watching. He was dealing with what was coming up. So I jumped in and talked to him. Again. About what was going to happen. "No!" He shook his head and started to cry. I started to cry too a little. I felt so bad for taking him there.
I looked at the other kids and felt the parents look at us, probably thinking I was mad for frightening my boy that much. And I wondered....

The other kids looked happy. They were playing away, talking and smiling. But they were here in the healthy kids waiting room so what else could they want apart from vaccinations ? So why were they not scared? Did they KNOW why they were here? Did they know what was about to happen?
So what was better? Having a happy kid playing along and suddenly facing the truth the moment the doctor set up the needle? Or a kid being scared all the time, probably building up more and more fear the longer it took till we were called in? It seemed that the first way seemed happier and healthier. But if you know me you know that I believe to be more behind all this.

I am scared of the dentist as hell. I refuse to go until it's really bad. As soon as I get the appointment I am nervous until it's all over. What if I wouldn't know about it and would be taken somewhere and suddenly realize what was about to happen? I wouldn't go in. I would run. Fast and far. I NEED this preparation time, as painful as it is.
Our neighbor is a dental assistant who does mouth hygienic treatment. It is quite expensive but for us she tries to make good deals or even swaps jobs so we help her out with stuff in exchange for a treatment. Before Christmas the practice where she works was closed but she had to go and take care of some phone calls anyway. So she called me and said that the next morning I could go with her and get treatment for free. I am scared of this as much as I am scared of the dentist itself. I couldn't. It was too short notice. I couldn't get ready for it.

What I need during those times is somebody who takes me serious. I don't need a "Come on, it won't be that bad. You will survive." kind of talk. I need my husband who is not that scared at all but says things like "You are really nervous about that right? I wish I could help you at all with this." That's it.

And so I knew that this was what the little man needed in this moment too. Me. Not us running away. No fun playing games distraction. No "It won't hurt you." talk. So I pulled myself together and decided to be there for him.
And I wanted him to experience his fear. I couldn't take that off him all his life. So why not help him go through this instead of trying to avoid for most of the time? OK I do believe that we tend to do it because we ourselves have barely learned to deal with our fears, not mentioning the fears of others. So it is probably a self protection to try and "protect" your child. But from what? Again - from dealing with his own fears. And that's no protection. That's danger.
Plus - I want him to trust me. How can he do this when I take him somewhere to play and suddenly in another room for some painful treatment without any warning but obvious knowledge of any of it?

We were called in the doctor's office. She wasn't there yet. They have a few of them and you are always called in way before she shows up. So it was waiting again. The nurse came in and prepared everything. Then it was just us again. The little man cried. A lot. And I kept talking to him. "You are scared. That's ok. You are allowed to cry and scream as much as you need. I will be there and hold you. But it is necessary that we do this."
His crying changed eventually. It went from the "I want to go NOW!" to the "I see I don't have a choice but I still don't like this" crying. And I liked this. Because he was allowed to NOT like it. I was happy with that because I could deal with that much better.

He started to look around and pointed at a picture on the wall. Cars that were painted all over the room. We looked at them and he said "Bus!" I said "Yes, when we are done we will be going home by bus." He nodded. He kept repeating it as if he was making sure that WE WILL BE GOING HOME. It seemed to help him a lot. There were moments of laughter too. All of this initiated by him, not by me trying to distract him from anything. It felt so right.

When the doctor came in it happened all really fast. I knew this because I know her. I can't remember much of what she said because before the little man and i became such a great team that I just sticked with him. Told him to scream if he needed to. He needed to. And as soon as she was done and let go off him he said "Bus!" and I smiled and nodded and said "Yes. We're going home by bus now."

It was all done. The whole day he kept repeating everything the doctor had done to him. He had an imaginary stethoscope and checked my heartbeat and his. He showed me where he got the shot and stated that it hurt. But apart from that he was fine. And I knew that we were took the right path that day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I used to be a very pessimistic person. The glass always was half empty, the grass greener on the other side and there was just no point in doing anything. Gladly this has changed. A lot. Especially since I became a mom and being pessimistic would be even more in my way than it used to be already. And this is probably why even now I find a good thing behind this "phase" we are going through.

Recently the little man has been what many parents would probably call "difficult", "hard work" or even "annoying". Since I refuse to think that children want to manipulate us and stretch our nerves on purpose, I started spinning my own brain to figure out why he was acting the way he was - screaming a lot, hitting me, biting, throwing things, throwing even more things,... you name it. And probably know a bit of it.

There are moments when I yell at him. For throwing wooden blocks at me that really do hurt. Then I leave the room to not throw these things out of pure anger and aggression myself. Then I sit down, breathe and think. What did just happen? And why? And like a sudden thunderstorm thoughts come down and explain everything. Well, almost everything.

For one thing - Baby number two is on the way. And while the first few weeks were a bit of trouble and I was told to rest I had to say "No." to a lot of fun things the little man was asking for. Like going for a ride with his little bike. I just couldn't chase him along the streets. Especially not in the extreme summer heat we have had the last couple of weeks. When he wanted to show me things or simply come with him explore the world I felt like sitting down putting my feet up. Worst of all I had to refuse to carry him 3 storeys up to our flat. Gladly he can manage himself easily but sometimes (and I totally understand that) he is just too tired.
Yesterday I did not refuse. I'm allowed to slowly get back to normal again so I really wanted to carry him upstairs. He raised his arms, said "Mama arm!" and I picked him up. After a few steps he looked at me and said: "Mama! Arm!!" and he smiled. Then he put his head on my shoulder and although I was short of breath already I enjoyed carrying him more than ever. I could see how hard it must have been for him the last few weeks.

Another thing is that I am in between jobs. And many ideas. And a few new educational courses. I have been to seminars on weekends. Had to leave the house in the evenings the minute my husband got in. The little man just handed over from one to the other. Always just checking who's there and when. No quality time as a family. This doesn't just frustrates the little man I guess. It frustrates me. All of it. The in-between-jobs situation. The packed full weekends. And an unsatified feeling about all those ideas and no time, energy or ability to chase them. So my frustration adds up with his frustration. He cries and I'm annoyed. He cries even more and I feel guilty. Days that I just want to erase from my calendar.

Now what is the good thing behind all this?
Well - maybe that I learn to reflect my actions. In a live without children we tend to refuse that. On purpose or not. Because it is not easy, uncomfortable. Sometimes hard.
And of course with children it's easier to say "Phew what a day. He's in a tough phase right now. When will this end?" And even if it is him and his speedy development and growth - we are all in this boat. We all have to get through those days and it is easier to do it together than blame a single person.

It also helps me slow down some more. Children grow so fast, they learn new things all the time and develop skills almost over night. So sometimes it is hard to focus on how small they still are. And we expect things that are simply too much, or refuse what they might still need most. I'm glad that the little man shows me what he needs. And what he's not capable of. May it be in screaming or hitting. As long as his speech is not fully developed this is his way of hitting the emergency break (literally).

So as much as I don't understand why the creche is closed all August while they don't rely on school holidays I am very very much looking forward to a month of quality time with my little man. No courses or seminars. No work. And hopefully no more pregnancy troubles. Because once this pregnancy ends things will change. Rapidly. And there is no way in properly preparing the little man for it. Because we don't know either what it will be like with two kids.
So all I can do is to be there for him as much as I can and give him all he needs. Because I love him.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I have taken parenting to another level.
Pretty soon it became clear, that I wasn't just in for our son and us. I am fascinated also by the jobside of it. I want other parents to learn about the wonderful philosophies that make our parenting journey so much fun. This is why I am doing all sorts of trainings that have the words Pikler, Montessori or counselling in it.

But this is a long journey and I am not that patient. Plus - I don't think you can just switch and be this regular employee one day and a family counsellor the next. It's a learning process. In the field.

You know Anna- She is the author of Every Moment Is Right, mother of a 2 year old and a dear friend of mine. We're in the same boat - between one life and another. Figuring out what is our calling and going for it.
We've always been doing similar things - moving to Scotland, enjoying red wine, having a son, writing a blog about it, doing Pikler trainings... you name it. So why not actually do something together instead of together alone? Exactly.

Here it is. Our baby.

A space to write and discuss - not just for us. For everyone.
"So feel free to drop by for a coffee and a chat, introduce yourself, let us know what you're thinking about, or just stay a while and play in the sand..."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The little man just turned 2 weeks ago. On that day my husband mentioned the "Terrible two". I had never heard of this phrase and just said: That sounds terrible!" By that I meant the phrase and not the developmental stage that stands behind it.

Exactly on his birthday the little man became what I'd call "a little more independent". Now he decides what he wants and especially WHEN. If we ask something there will ALWAYS be a "No." At first. And we were a bit confuzzled with that since he has been this easy going laid back sort of person. I thought.

So here it was. The struggle. Diaper change, getting dressed, brushing teeth - all situations of asking, pleading and in the end - enforcing. It took us a couple of days, we were glad we were on Easter break and didn't have the hassle of getting up early in the morning with the time in our neck. And decided that patience was just what we had on offer.
So that's what we gave him. Patience. Allowing him the lead as much as possible. I remember one diaper change where my husband called me and asked for coffee while he was waiting for the little man to get ready so he could take his pyjama off. Of course this is not the perfect way but if sometimes you don't mind and there's nothing else to do - go for it and use the time to observe your child!

I'm not always THAT patient but I try. So what I do is work with the understanding. "You really want to run along that cycle path. It seems very exciting for you." While I have a screaming 2 year old on my arm just rescued from some speedy cyclists.

In the end it's a mix of both - patience and understanding - that works. We don't have to allow our children everything at all times. But we should really try and understand that THIS is what they (don't) want right now and put their feelings and expressions into words. We don't have to explain much either. A short "I see you really want this mobile phone of mine now." and then wait. Allow the child to react to it. It's amazing how often the "thing" is not interesting anymore after he has been understood. And if he's still struggling you could still add the explanation of why he can't have this or that right now or offer something else instead.

What also helps a lot is clarity. On the weekend we were at the playground and suddenly realized that we were running late to meet up with friends that were staying at our house at this time. So my husband went over to the little man and said: "We really have to go Leander. Right now."
Leander, just on his way to push his toy buggy the hill up again turned around and followed. My husband looked at me: "That was easy." and I said: "Well you have been very clear about it."

Unfortunately we don't often manage to be clear once the situation has been filled with quite a few "No!"s from th little man's side. But it helps to bring it back and remind us that this is also what it needs to get anywhere with your child.

Now this all sounds so perfect and round. Of course it isn't always like that. But a couple of days ago I said to my husband: "So, the terrible two seem to have been very short." and we realised that it's all going pretty smoothe again. So it seems every stage is a built up for the next. You learn to become more and more patient, more and more clear and the "explosions" become less and less. Because when I thought about it - it hasn't ALWAYS been that easy. There were struggles and difficult times when I realized that there's much more patience in my rucksack than I thought. I just had to dig deep for it. And this wa then just the trial for what would come next.
Now I'm not scared what else will come, I'm excited!

And I hope that more parents will be intrigued to understand WHY a toddler acts the way he does and is open to grow with him instead of just calling it a terrible named phase everyone has to get through no matter how.

A great article by Lisa Sunbury of Regarding Baby on why toddler do hings they do you can read here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Today in a room with 30 other people the little man lay on my chest. For at least 20 minutes. Just like that. Hands on my arms. Legs wrapped around me.
This will not seem worth a mention to you. But considering that he has never done this before (when he was not ill) this was a great first time for me.

From the very beginning he wasn't a very cuddly person. Of course there were times when he fell asleep while nursing or afterwards, when I tried to get him to burp. But the livelier he got, the more he could see of the world the less he wanted to be close to me for longer than a wink. It was fine that he was excited and interested in the world. But it was also hard at times that I simply couldn't lie down and cuddle with my baby as I've always pictured it.
When he was grumpy or unhappy I couldn't just pick him up and hold him and the world was fine. If something bothered him it had to be looked at, talked through, changed. Mama couldn't just come and play "Happy world". On one side this was a good thing. It made me learn what exactly bothered him when, it made me really care for his needs and not just distract him. But sometimes it was hard and frustrating when I just wanted to hug him to help him get over a frustrating situation but he would shake me off.

In the creche he was not one of those children who would run towards me the minute he saw me. He would rather take my hand and lead me towards the door as if saying "Ok then, let's not waste any time, let's go!" or he would continue playing what he just played. Things need to be finished in his world. Whatever finished means for him.

I always hoped that one day he would be the person that would come towards me and hug me. Just like that.

As with I think every parent the moment came when I started thinking about our attachment. Throughout my online course to become a family counsellor I recently read a lot about the attachment theory and the attachment patterns that have been identified. Obviously that got me thinking if everything was "alright" with us. So for a while when I went to the creche to pick up the little man I carefully watched his reaction: He saw me, continued to play, looked at me again and still continued playing. All alarm buttons went off, I got nervous. "little or no visible response to return. Ignoring or turning away with no effort to maintain contact if picked up" (Mary Ainsworth) ---> therefore avoidant attachment pattern!
A door fell into its lock! I felt trapped. How could that be? I thought and thought and squeezed my brain. What could have gone wrong? And where? I went through the last 20months of the little man's life. Could the surgery have shaken our attachment? Did I not carry him enough? Am I a bad mother?

Until I figured - those attachment patterns are categories. Based on some studies that in my opinion are quite vage. Is it really that easy? And what exactly does it mean, if you are A, B or C? Am I really trying to say what type of relationship my son is going to live with other people in his life based on how I see he reacts when I pick him up from the creche? So I finished the part of the course about attachment and put aside the readings. I stopped thinking about the whole theory. And listened to my heart again.
And you know what? When I went to the creche the last couple of weeks the little man would come towards me right away (unless he was eating, which he ALWAYS finishes up). He would come close, rest in my arms, tell me the names of the other kids or show me some toys or materials he likes.

What I see now is that a lot of this big and heavy stuff about attachment is in your head. It is so intense and important that it scares the hell out of new parents. And stresses them. So I think do theories that apparently help you build a stronger attachment by carrying your child, nursing intense and for long, co-sleeping etc. If parents really feel like doing these things and are happy and relaxed with it I think that's great. But I also think that there are other ways to achieve a strong attachment with your child.
This was also what Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber were aiming at: By respecting your child's needs, allowing free movement and play and accompanying him on his way in the world rather than leading and directing him you can build a very fine relationship of love, trust and respect that will be a strong foundation for the child to grow on.

And therefore I think: listen to yourself. To your inner feeling. And listen to your child. Enjoy your relationship together and treat it with love and respect exactly the way you would want to be treated in a loving relationship.

So today, in a room full of 30 adults the little man has seen before and that are going to be his future neighbours he felt the need to be close to me, to lie on my chest and rest. And I loved it, every second of it, his tiny hands on my arms, his legs wrapped around me. I stroked his head and knew: we are attached. And we don't need a cupboard with 4 drawers to tell us how well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"Parents are often eager to give their babies the breast or the bottle whenever the baby shows signs of any discomfort. For a new mother with a crying child, it can seem like a much too long-term project to find out why the baby is crying. The breast (or bottle) is available and the crying stops right away. No wonder many people believe and advocate that the breast is the ideal comforter and soother. I do not."

When I read this quote from Magda Gerber today I thought it was quite clear what she was saying. When I read the comments below that quote I was shocked how many mothers misunderstood her words. And how many actually - in my opinion - misunderstand breastfeeding.

Most of the mothers said that breastfeeding is also comfort and closeness. And I completely agree. But that doesn't mean that a baby that is showing any sign of discomfort is seeking this. Of course especially with newborns it works quite well to just pick them up and feed them at any sound of cry. But I can also hold a baby very close and stroke his head or body and then see if he is looking for he breast. This I think is a very easy way of firstly showing your presence and respond to the cry without instantly offering food.

One mother actually said that breastfeeding shows love in a way nothing else can and I get really nervous with such words. There are mothers out there who would give a world to be able to breastfeed but can't and this is just a slap in their face. And I would take this further. Especially when I breastfeed my child any time it starts crying or is obviously unhappy the feeding becomes such a routine that it's no longer this close intimate moment together. Because it then just happens in any situation, anywhere. You see mothers on the playground picking up their child that just fell or hit himself or cries for god knows what reason and offers the breast and - continues talking to her friend. (not to mention the ones on the phone, watching TV, checking emails etc.)

This is the point where I really see the line between breastfeeding and breastfeeding. So many mothers insist on the fact that breastfeeding is THE way of showing love but then don't really show their love in this very moment. Because it's not just about the breast in a baby's mouth right away. It's about the inner closeness, eyecontact, presence. How would you feel if you were crying and a persons hugged you but continued talking to a friend on the phone? You could also hug a pillow, couldn't you?

And here we can bring the breastfeeding in line with the bottle feeding. Because even if the physical closeness is not there - as long as the mindful presence is, it's all the same I dare to say.

I was looked at quite strange when even at some prenatal gym class where there were only mothers with babies I went outside to feed Leander. But I just wanted to be with him.

I wish Magda's (and Emmi's) words would be understood with the respected and loved baby in mind and not the abandoning adult that's refusing love and comfort. And that's why - even if my posts are a little clumsy at times - I'll continue to try and wipe out these misinterpretations of their wonderful work.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Delighted I read Anna's "personal note on rewards, praise and punishment". We have made similar experiences too, throughout our childhood and now with Leander. Of course we were excited when he did his first steps. He was too. But we didn't clap our hands. And that's the difference.

In an Austrian magazine there was a very important article about the so called "overprotected child". It was all about how parents nowadays hover around their children trying to protect them from every accident and every little stumble or fall. By doing so instead of keeping them safe they are holding them from the absolute necessary experiences of balance, height, speed etc. Those children don't learn their own limits, they don't know their own body and become insecure. And then experience accidents (maybe later in life) as a result of the overprotection. By being so well watched and put in classes and courses rather than taken on trips to the woods or the park children become dependent and passive, they can't develop self confidence and self esteem.

That's what Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber both observed and included in their work. That's what the parent-infant-playgroup is about (amongst other topics): to sit and observe, not watch your child in a security kind of job, but with interest: "Where is my child right now?" (development), "What does he like, enjoy, can or is he trying to achieve?" To then follow this observation knowing what I can do or offer to let him explore free and self motivated in an appropriate environment at his very own stage of development.

A very good and important article that was. Up to the point where the psychologist Lieselotte Ahnert says, that parents need to praise their children, when they achieve something new. That this is the "drive children need to continue learning." And I disagree. If a child does not know praise for developmental steps he is going to achieve at some point anyway (considering he is healthy) he will not need it to get going. What he needs is the company of parents who actively "see" what the child is achieving and what effort went into this, who value the process and who enjoy this moment with their child. Not by clapping and sitting him on this imaginery throne but by simply laughing with him, hugging him or offering words for what just happened. "I am so happy for you!" - so simple, so light yet so true and honest.

Elsewhere in the article it is mentioned that when achieving a milestone or goal children (or people in general) experience joy and happyness which again leads to the release of dopamine, a very important neurotransmitter. Dopamine then encourages the continuation of that learning process. I think we all know how happy we continue a work that has just reached a new milestone we've been working on for ages. But to make sure this dopamine is released a child does not need praise, it just needs joy and happyness. Of course we can somehow almost stop this cycle by not reacting at all to this joy. But we mustn't overreact neither. It's enough to smile, nod or laugh.

Now is it so bad if I praise my child out of some inner drive? No it's not I'd say carefully. If a mother really has the need to shout "Wow super!" it is not that bad. If this does not become routine because then this "Wow super!" can become the drive the child one day really needs and does things not to for the sake of it but to be praised. And THIS can be counterproductive because then we raise little zoo animals that hop through a loop for a piece of cake.

And that's why I don't like articles like these where such lines like "The parents' praise is the drive a child needs to continue learning." might become the core of the whole point they were trying to make. And that was the one about the problem of overprotection if you remember. You don't? See - that's what I mean.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Yesterday I saw Leander pressing his forefinger against his lips saying "pssst!" after he put his little toy rabbit to sleep. Although it was as cute as everything he is doing for the first time I was wondering where he got it from. Maybe naptime in the creche, maybe somewhere else I don't know but it got me thinking how well the non-shshshing went for us.

As with many things I would have done if I hadn't met Emmi Pikler's approach to wonderful parenting I would probably have tried to shshsh my child to sleep, to shshsh him over a little accident and emotional rollercoasters. But I didn't. And I didn't miss it.

I read about how important it is for Babies to cry if they need to cry when all their basic and existential needs are met and from this moment on I never tried to stop it just for the sake of it. Of course I have been frustrated and desperate at times and would have given a kingdom for him to stop crying. But by then I knew too well that simple shshshing wouldn't do. Not with a child that has gotten so used to his thumb that I could be sure that if he cried, he needed crying, that in this situation the thumb was not enough. (Another reason why I'd always prefer a thumb to a pacifier - it tells the parents if somethings wrong or not, not the other way around).

When Leander falls he usually takes a moment to realise. I do so too. If it's not too bad he will get up and keep doing what he was doing. If he's tired or exhausted he will cry a little and point with his little fingers to the exact place where he tripped or stumbled then to the part of his body that got hurt. We always need to explain what happened and after a few reconstructions of the scenario he'll keep going. When Leander falls badly, gets his fingers stuck in the elevator door or the toes underneath a door he doesn't just cry. He screams. These are the moments he needs us. He needs us most. We need to pick him up and hold him. And then we still have to explaing what happens. When such rather bad things happen he keeps telling them to us even days afterwards. Interestingly I wasn't there when he threw his room door but had his feet in the way. It was his Dad who was there so it was only him who he told what happened every time they went in or out his room together. He knew exactly who was with him in the situation and who would understand what he's saying. He hasn't really got the words for it but my hope is that once he has - he will be able to express not just what happened but also how it felt. For now we try to find words for him and he nods along sobbing when we are right.

The other day I didn't even see how he fell. But he was lying there screaming so I picked him up and held him. In this moment it felt so right and so true. Simply being there. With him. It looked like he just tripped a little, it was dark and cold and snowy and his huge snow suit is a little in the way sometimes so I didn't think it was much. But he screamed so I simply held him in the middle of the footpath and was there for him.
Later on when I changed him and got him ready for bedtime I saw a little bruise above his upper lip. He must have fell on his mouth. And there it was - the moment I realised how bad it can be if we shshsh a child in a moment we think wasn't too bad or a situation we feel uncomfortable having a screaming baby. So out of this relief I just said "Oh you even got a little bruise today, this must have hurt." and I hugged him.

For me - these are moments of true love. Not asking. Not questioning. Not shshshing. Not hectically brushing the dirt of his trousers and jacket while he still screams. Just being there - giving.
In times where I am back to work life and Leander is in the creche, where quality time is limited to certain hours of the day it his not easy to be sure if your child knows how much you love him, how much he means to you. Leander is not a cuddly child either, well he wasn't, he's getting a little cuddlier now but usually it's him who decides when to cuddle and how and how long. But in these moments where he got hurt or scared I hold him and let him cry as much as he needs and know that he knows I love him. Because I do.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Eye contact is a very important way for newborns and infants of communicating with their parents. It is after all also for us a very special moment when we realise, that our child is looking into our eyes, not straight through them anymore. It is also the time, when the first smile brings happy tears into mommy's eyes. I could spend ours looking into Leander's eyes, trying to read his thoughts and feeling completely connected. And yet, I lost it somewhere along the way.

When I look around I realise I'm not alone. But that's not a relief, it's sad. Parents often talk to their children over the paper or the phone or the computer. At the breakfast table we tend to look at the mess that's about to happen, at the changing table we fight with a diaper, poo and wipes.
The only moments that pop into my mind when thinking of a parent-child-eye contact is the angry parent yelling into the child's face or the parent leaving the sad child with a caretaker. Is that all?

When did we loose this special connection? The opportunity to raise a person, that won't avoid the eye contact to a stranger?
Well I've got some thoughts.

1) As soon as the child becomes mobile we start walking ahead. When before I looked at Leander and said: "I'm going to the kitchen, I'll be right back" I then just said I'd leave knowing he would follow anyway. At some point I even started walking out because there aren't many places I could go to in our flat. But the main part is that I didn't necessarily look at him anymore, even if I did say something.

2) We had Leander facing towards us in the stroller for quite a long time. But when he started being artistic trying to face the other way I gave in and turned the seat around. The trailor we've got now doesn't even give us that choice. And most strollers don't give that either. When I talk to Leander I don't even know if he's listening. Until I hear an answer. Or not.

3) The diaper change became much more lively when we started changing Leander while he was standing up. Especially since he can walk I'm trying hard to keep the poo where it belongs while Leander is busy doing... what actually? I never distracted him with toys, I actually took them off him when he was up there on the changing table. But I didn't think that using an unattended moment of his to get the trousers off or the diaper on was some form of distraction too. Until I had another three days of intense Pikler traning last week.

In that training we looked at pictures and videos of diaper change situations in the Lóczy orphanage in Budapest. What struck me was the connection between the children and the nurses. Most impressive for me was their eye contact in so many moments, an eye contact in which you feel a strong relation ship and trust. It was something everyone would expect from children and their parents, but not in an orphanage. And again it made me rethink our (diaper) changing situations at home.

So in the evening I tried what felt easy and doable. And I learned that it wasn't. Because we had lost it. Even when I did remind Leander to "take part" in taking his trousers off, his pyjama on or anything, he did. But he wouldn't look into my eyes. And when he did, I tried to stretch the moment. Because I felt how special it was.
We're still not there yet but I feel that it is getting easier. Because while trying to bring him back to the moment, not using unattended situations to get on, I eventually get him when HE is ready to. I then have this cooperatve child Pikler always talked about. And this is not - as it may sound - a passive unwilling child, it's a happy one that feels being respected and trusted. The other bonus is - I am so focused, so right in this moment trying to connect with him that I don't think of anything else. I'm right there. With him.

As I say - I'm not there yet, but I feel that this is a wonderful upward spiral I just have to hold onto very tight and I will not just have a cooperative child (with moody exceptions I hope - because a "No!"from his side is important too, but that's another topic) but also a very strong and loving connection that's worth every minute we're late for all sorts of appointments.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


In my recent post "Montessori was right" I have mentioned how important it is to allow children to take part in our life for real, not just with plastic toys in their room. And while I'm convinced of the amazing and wonderful work of Maria Montessori and agree with what Nicole from Montessori School of Mount Pleasant and Little Learners Lodge wrote in her recent post I do think that at the age 0-3 the Pikler or RIE principles are much more valuable.

When I first heard about Montessori and Pikler I thought "Now what's actually the difference between their approaches?" and found out that Montessori mainly focused on the age group 3-6 (The Children's House) and Pikler on the age group 0-3. Then I discovered some writings and information on Montessori's thoughts on the very young infant e.g. the book "Montessori from the start" and with Leander attending a Montessori creche I figured that - in the end - both women had very similar approaches. I still believe that to be true, but I have found a few Montessori ideas to lead in the "wrong" direction.

The material
Montessori is especially known for her own special materials she has thought through and developed with a lot of experiences in mind. With most of these materials she is aiming for some skills to be achieved, sometimes in various steps, sometimes straight away. A few materials are self explaining, a few need demonstrations to the child from a teacher or caregiver. I do believe that especially at the age 0-2 this is just not necessary and partly even obstructive.
According to RIE principles what we want to "teach" a child is to be free to choose whatever he wants to play (with). Until a child can speak it is - in my opinion - much better if all the toys or materials are open (as Pikler called it), so no didactic background, no skills needed or to be achieved. Simply playing and having fun. Montessori actually said "Children can not not learn." So why go and place materails in their reach that need demonstration?
Of course it took me a while to come to that thought and I have been there myself letting Leander pour water from one jug into another or shovel beans from one bowl into the next. Of course I had to show him, if I'd only placed two jugs on a tray on the shelf he would not have known what to do with it. And of course he enjoyed it. A lot. But it was not HIS decision to play with that. It was me who asked him to, who showed him how to do it and who watched him the whole time. At this very young age (he was 18 months old) this is just not necessary. Even now (he is almost 22 months old) he is happy playing with toys that don't need explanation. He loves cars, books and small toy animals he shows to us waiting for us to say what it is. He is developing his speech more than anything at the moment, what does he need to shovel beans for?
He does learn how to use a spoon simply by using one for his meals every single day.

Another problem is that at this age children still take a lot of things into their mouth, they throw things (oh dear, when will it stop?) and they drop things on purpose (discovering physics). If you are happy collecting beans, whiping the floor, changing clothes and fishing little things out of your child's little mouth you are welcome to offer those materials. I for myself have found it too stressful for all of us.

As mentioned before - at this age children want to take part in the household and they are very proud if they are allowed. Dusting, hoovering, helping with the laundry etc. It is all great and I can only recommend it. But the cooking - which is a great part in Montessori houses - I would postpone. It again has some aim - a proper meal. With the laundry or the dishes I don't mind if he replaces them, if he carries them around or places a cup on his head. When he hoovers he enjoys switching the hoover on and off more than actually hoovering. All fine. But when it comes to food I'm quite strict. I don't want it to be thrown, I don't want it to be wasted but I also don't want to cook a proper meal and a fake meal. So there will be so many "rules" that again I find it too much and too difficult for a child that age.Keep it simple and don't make a great effort of a simple daily task that in the end will actually have nothing to do with the task itself anymore.

Potty training
I know from the creche Leander attends that the Montessori approach is very much aiming for the independence of a child. But it goes that far that potty training is something they are quite keen on because obviously it helps with the self dependence. But this is not a skill you can practice day in day out. It is a physical development that takes time. For some children more than for others and I believe that no pressure here will lead to way more success than anything else.

Montessori suggests giving your child a floor bed rather than a cot as he can choose when to go to sleep and can easily climb in and out himself. Again the self dependence is the great goal behind this idea. And while I have to admit that a big bed can be very helpful and relaxing for the whole family I do believe that a child
a) needs a cozy and secure boundary around himself and
b) will not go to bed and stay there all by himself until he is sound asleep. Life is just too exciting at this age to simply lay down and sleep.
We have exchanged Leander's cot with a bunk bed where he has the mattress basically under the bed with curtains around and the actual bed is used as a big changing table. It is very very cozy, he loves it and it has proven very helpful at nights when Leander is ill or just can't get back to sleep. Because that way we simply lay down next to him and sometimes even sleep in his bed with him for a while. The down part is that he is NEVER falling asleep on his own in the evening. We have to stay with him until he is in dreamland otherwise he will just follow us back to the living room all the time. So although he might say "Brush" when he gets tired and wants to brush his teeth in order to go to bed he still wouldn't just doze off all by himself. And I have to say: That's okay! He is not even 2 years old, he needs us and we're there. So the floorbed is great if you enjoy cuddle times with your child in the evening but not with the expectation of a tired child just laying down for the night all by himself.

In general, what I do believe to be the "problem" with the Montessori pedagogy for the agegroup 0-3 is that the independence is this great expectation in the back. Every toy, every material seems to have an achievement in its description.
Especially at this age children and most parents have all the time in the world. Nobody should be rushing them, no milestone should be more important than the joy and happiness of an exploring child.

Why is my son in a Montessori creche then? By no means I am meaning to criticise the creche Leander is attending. Of all places I could leave him while I simply have to work this is the best I can think of. As I said - Montessori has a similar approach in mind - and after all the children in this creche have a lot of time for "free play" and are treated with a lot of respect. Compared to many other creches where the children are entertained all day I am very happy with the place I leave my boy in in the mornings.

I just believe that if you've got a choice or if you are at home with your child for the first few years focusing on the RIE principles rather than expensive Montessori material can be much more valuable.

Friday, January 20, 2012


This evening I had a meeting within our housing project. I had to take Leander to the office because his father came to pick him up there on his way home from work. While I was preparing the flipcharts and the To do list in the meeting room, Leander made himself busy in the kitchen. Usually I would run after him and carefully watch what he was doing. Today I just took all the knives out of the drawer and placed them out of reach. Then I did what I had to do and Leander did what he felt like doing.

Since I am recently doing the Montessori children's house teacher training I am aware of the joy and excitement children bring along for all sorts of housework. Basically everything they see us doing. They want to be part of our world and society. So they don't just copy us in their play, they want to take part in the REAL world. And it is our job to LET THEM (in a safe environment).
This does not mean placing plastic cups and cutlery and knitted fruits in their reach. It means to trust them and allow them to experience with the real stuff.

I have been really keen but also a bit scared with that myself. I bought Leander glass bottles from the beginning (until I learned that he would refuse any type of bottle or drinking item that is not the breast). He learned drinking in a plastic cup called the "Doidy Cup" because it was THE ONLY thing he would accept when he started eating and needed to take in a bit more fluids. After that he was allowed to drink from glasses, ceramic cups and eat from ceramic plates with stainless steel spoons and forks. So far he broke one plate in two halfs so we could glue it back together (because it is a plate from me when I was little and I love it) and the handle of one cup. I was almost hoping there would be more damage in the cup section as we have too many anyway.
It took me a while to empty the dish washer with Leander around because as soon as he sees the machine open he comes running over reaching me every single glass, cup, plate and spoon. He loves to help and he is so careful that so far nothing happened. It's in our heads and once it's there - it happens. But even if it did - don't we ever drop any plates by accident?
If we keep taking things out of their little but careful hands the minute they grab them we take chances and opportunities from them to learn, to experience and to practise. And at the age of 14 we might shout at them for not being independent and careful.

So here is what Leander felt like doing and although I didn't need him to because we had a meeting planned and not a dinner I couldn't help but watch (and film):

Unfortunately I stopped too early but here is a picture of him a little later with a pizza plate that is almost as big as himself in his hands:

Montessori once said something like "If we give them precious material to work (play) with the children will feel precious too." Without words, hugs or kisses. And I think I have seen the living proof of that today.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Recently I haven't been the most patient person in the world. The little man was ill, then I was ill and we all were sneezing into each other's directions too often, annoying the other one until the situation became highly explosive. And this is what happened. I did explode quite a few times until one evening I was lying in the arms of my husband crying about me being such a bad mother.

I'm not. I know. I care a lot about my son and I love him all the way to the moon and back (and even further). I want him to know that and to be sure of that. All the time. And this is the hard part. No matter how often we tell our children how much we love them, how often we kiss them and stroke their wonderful little heads. It is not all.

Think about it. When your partner tells you that he loves you every day, over and over again you might enjoy it, but at some point it becomes a phrase rather than a moment that makes your heart jump. It's the other things, that make you realise that (s)he loves you. And it can't be said what it is. Because every person is different, every relationship sailing on a different sea. And so it is with children. There is no "you have to carry your child all the time!" or "You have to breastfeed as long as possible." It all depends on the child too and what it really needs and wants and what YOU need and want.

So this is our path. Always trying to figure out where our child leads us and where we are willing to follow. What's possible and what's a NO!go (that might result in a mad tantrum). But even that is not the same every day. Today I might be willing to flip through "Goodnight Gorilla" about a 500 times after we've already been through the caterpillar and the crazy cat with that hat and the Curious George collection. Tomorrow I might be tired after a couple of books because I've had a rough day, the kitchen looks like a bulldozer has just lost track and the washing is waiting for a few rounds in the machine. Then this isn't the moment to be super mommy and loving by continuing to read and flip and... not enjoying it. Because the little person is not that stupid. It is not stupid at all!

Leander is really good in sensing these moments. While sitting on my lap with his back to me he turns his head around looking at me like "Mom, are you still there?". I'm real if I'm saying "No honey, you know I'm really busy and I will look at more books with you when I've done all this and my head is clear." This might not be followed by a happy "Hooray yeah that's ok mom!" but this is exactly the situation our children have to learn to deal with. And they are capable if we allow these situations to happen from the very beginning. AND: if we allow them to appear mind- and respectful. Which is an even harder problem especially when patience has been swiped with a cloth full of headache and flue bacteria. In these moments we tend to say things a little louder and in a much more accusing voice. "No Leander, I'm sick of flipping through those books over and over again. You can look at them all by yourself anyway! Give me just ONE minute please, will you?"
Why am I accusing him like that, he's done nothing but being there having fun with me and all of a sudden I'm turning into monster mommy. So how did this happen?

Well, most of the times it actually adds up bit by bit, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. And we might feel it or not. And then the moment comes when it's just too much. The trick is to step out of the situation just BEFORE that moment kicks in and the you-phrases begin to pop out of our head. I know it's not easy but raising children simply isn't. And while we have to be very aware and present to get to know them we have to be aware and present with ourselves too. Usually we aren't. There is too much going on and we're focusing on the wrong things. Stop that and listen. Listen to yourself, get to know yourself so you can make sure your child can get to know you too. Because this is what he wants - knowing who this person is he is loving unconditionally.

Having thought about this and written about it I am surely not super mommy myself all of a sudden. But I'm a little step closer. Because in the end super mommy does not exist. But a wonderful neverending way up aiming to become one does.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Leander wasn't the fastest in his gross motor development. He took his time crawling, sitting up, standing and walking. But whenever he achieved one of those steps he enjoyed it A LOT. So it was only clear to me that once he could walk I would let him do so as much as possible. Which - as it turned out - isn't that easy and natural when you live in a city with a child who LOVES cars and is not interested in playgrounds or parks.

We have the Prater in Vienna, partly an amusement park with the famous Ferris Wheel and behind that a huge green park with a big wide alley running through it. The alley is closed to traffic except police cars and garbage trucks. It is THE place to be for runners, walkers, parents with prams, cyclists and Segways (some weird electronic vehicles). So I thought this was the best compromise to my son. No boring green park with only trees and grass but no main road with too much traffic either. What I did not expect was that he would not be interested in walking ALONG the alley but preferred CROSSING the alley. With a stroller and a bag it was quite a hassle to stop him from being run over by cyclists or the occasional garbage truck. I got frustrated. All parents (so it seemd) would sit in parks or on playgrounds with their children playing happily in the sand pit or the grass. Which is always greener on the other side and I know I wasn't right there.

My last idea turned out to be the greatest solution of all: Our house is on quite a big road but the next left or right turn leads us into very small roads with loads of cars parked and just a few cars driving past every now and then. I told Leander to hold my hand until we would turn into the small side roads and then I let him lead. And this was it. We would walk around for hours but never get much further away from home than 200m. In that area he could watch cars, touch cars and - the most exciting bit of all - cross roads. Here I had made the one and only rule: Whenever we would cross a road he would HAVE TO hold my hand. He did not like that but I was clear and strict about it and without really knowing the reason behind he got that I meant it. It wasn't as easy as it sounds though.
The first few days and weeks we would have the occasional screaming child lying in the middle of a junction. He sometimes just let go off my hand while we were crossing and would not - under no cicrumstances - move. In these moments I picked him up and - while he was screaming and trying to get down - explained to him why I now had to sit him back into his stroller. After such moments I then pictured those relaxed parents on the playground again... I had doubts if I expected too much of him but what could I do - force him to be happy on the playground?

During that time I had my first block of my Pikler training course. I learned that in the orphanage in Budapest the children who could walk were allowed out with a nurse and had the exact same rule - to hold hands when crossing roads. And if they didn't they were told that they COULD go back to the house. It was a matter of words. They didn't HAVE TO go back to the house, they COULD. Because they saw that the child didn't do it on purpose to annoy the nurse, they were just too overwhelmed or too tired for this situation in this very moment. So they got the possibility to go back to a safe place and play.I started using that wording too and it worked so well that sometimes when I told Leander "I need you to hold my hand now, if you can't do it you may go back into your stroller." he would nod. I learned that he in fact was too tired most of the times. The first few junctions he would hold my hand but after a while concentration was gone, it was all too much and he needed a break.

Still this was the best that could happen to him. He now walks a lot. I gave him a little toy car on a string and a wooden duck on a string and he always pulls one of them behind. These are our afternoons. We walk around the area, along the shops week for week a little further. Before we reach a junction he already stretches his arm out to one of us. The other day Jan just crossed a very quiet road without noticing Leander's hand so Leander stopped and shouted after his dad. He knows the rule and he takes it serious.

We get a lot of smiles from the people who pass us. It is a rare picture to see such a small child walking on his own (and pulling a duck or a truck) behind him. I understand that it looks dangerous with all the traffic around. But if we trust our children and allow them to learn the rules as much as we allow them to rest we might be surprised of how capable they are. I know children are different but it is worth a try before we just go ahead and push our children in strollers from playground to playground.Because it's not just that this way Leander gets enough exercise in order to enjoy a good nights sleep and a brighter day to follow. It's also that HE gets to choose where we go most of the time and you can tell how much he enjoys that when he points at a road and I agree to follow his lead. Sometimes I even think of different routes to the same destination (supermarket, subway station, home etc.) so even if he can't choose freely which way we go - he still has a choice. This may sound like a bit of a hassle for me but it isn't. I enjoy just leaving the house not knowing where we'll end up. And I believe that this way we have fewer arguments of which way we go because even if I have to decide "I need you to sit in the stroller for now, we need to be quick." (e.g. In the mornings) I can still add "But in the afternoon (or tomorrow) you'll get to choose again." And believe it or not, even if he does not like it, most of the time he nods and is fine with it. It's all about wording, explaining while respecting his feelings.

When I pick Leander up from the creche he asks for his "Pieps" immediately. It is his duck and he takes it and walks off. At the gate I used to stop and put him into the stroller because from the garden we go straight across the road to the subway station, up the elevator to the platform. One day I decided to let him walk those few metres. He took my hand, we crossed the street and in the station he let go and turned left straight for the elevator. Standing in the elevator moving up he smiled and laughed so much - as if to be free and grown up. Those are priceless moments I don't want to miss.