This story begins in November 2003 when my eldest daughter Julia was just 14 months old. It had been a few months that she had started biting and hitting and becoming very upset if I would be too slow in getting her breakfast ready each morning. I noticed that she seemed to have a lot of negative energy, like shaking and angry gestures in the morning if breakfast was not immediate upon waking.
I felt that the hitting, biting and aggression warranted some further investigation, as I have never been of the belief that children are inherently bad. I have always felt that we must try and understand the cause and deal with that and the difficulties will subsequently disappear.
At the time I was doing my training in baby wearing with a lady who had recommended The Aware Baby as one of the books we should be reading to prepare us for our work. I began reading the book, which started to enlighten me as to what was happening emotionally for Julia. I had always nursed on demand, and when I returned to work when she was 6 months old she received a bottle during the day from the Nanny, which was always given on demand. I realized that the nursing and bottles had been interfering with her being able to release her daily stresses and trauma naturally, through release crying. They had been her Control Patterns.
I then sought help from an Aware Parenting Consultant / Psychotherapist in our area to support me on this journey. It was obvious that I had a lot of my own childhood trauma to heal from in order for me to clear the way to help Julia to release her stress and trauma. Julia is now 5 years old and I am still on this jouney, and it has been a wonderfully healing road that has opened many doors.
We started our Aware Parenting with Julia by delaying breakfast in the morning and allowing her to release upon waking. I explained to her that I would get her breakfast soon, but not immediately and she didn’t appreciate this of course, so I would take her to a safe, carpeted space in the living area of the house and she would scream and scream while throwing herself around on the floor, all the while demanding that I get her breakfast. It was very intense and quite challenging for me to begin with, but I knew I was doing the right thing by helping her to release this tension in her body. This would last up to an hour until she would calm down, at which time I would get her the breakfast. It was interesting that she no longer seemed quite so desperately in need of as it just became food, not the intense Control Pattern that had developed. After only 3 – 4 days of this the biting and hitting had ceased completely. I was amazed at how quickly we began to see positive changes. As we continued our journey down this road, helping Julia more and more to release we noticed that she had had quite a growth spurt and was more cooperative as well as being happier and more content.
When Julia was 2 we moved from Europe to Australia and shortly afterwards her sister was born. It was a very intense and difficult time for all of us. Julia had endured a lot of changes that were difficult to understand and the year or two following Alina’s birth was incredibly intense with Julia’s emotions. Tantrums were regular and we all weathered them as best we could. It was when Julia was 3 years that we had reached boiling point and I needed to reach out for more help. I had been to workshops during this time with Aletha Solter, and it was at these workshops that I had heard of Marion Badenoch-Rose, an Aware Parenting consultant living in Australia, I had also seen her advertisement in a parenting magazine. I called Marion and scheduled a phone appointment at a time convenient; she also sent me a questionnaire to complete to help her understand the problems before our talk. Her voice was gentle and accepting and I knew that I had made the right decision to call her.
Often when we are in a situation it can be difficult to really see what is going on. What is that saying ‘couldn’t see the trees for the forest’. I had been missing Julia’s calls for help and was not connecting with her properly. I had allowed myself to become too busy and not take enough time for her. I had to make some serious changes if we were all going to find peace. I slowed down, learned to put things off, or say no to things that were not important, and nothing was as important as my family’s health and wellbeing. I started to see that Julia was not getting eye contact with me, she would turn away and refuse to connect, this was the first sign of disconnection. I knew if I allowed this to continue things would spiral and become too hard to manage. I would then find eye contact, sometimes this means getting down on the floor, anything that would help me reconnect, then I would let her know with a gentle, loving voice that I was listening. I was well prepared for what would follow, as I had been down this road before. She would begin to lash out, trying to take all her anger and frustration out on me, although I would not allow her to physically hurt me, I knew that this was a positive step, it meant she felt safe enough to express this toward me, knowing I would love her unconditionally. Some days the raging would go on for up to an hour, sometimes less, sometimes more. I tried to make space for these to occur, knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel. It would be especially intense at bed time, as this is typically when problems occur as we all find it hard to suppress our emotions when tired. She was refusing to go to bed, or settle down in the evenings and I knew this was a classic sign of suppressed emotions. When required I would hold her in my arms, providing containment for her to release. Again it was intense, but the amazing calm that would follow would always affirm that this was simply intense healing in practice. Every day we experience emotional releases after which we always have a happier, healthier, more cooperative child.
Marion also helped me to see that although I had been much more Aware with my younger daughter, Alina, I had allowed nursing to become a control pattern. Alina was nursing frequently, and as we have a family bed (co-sleep, or sleep share) she was nursing a lot at night. I knew I had to help her to release her stresses, so she too could sleep better at night. When we were over the most intense releasing with Julia and I had some more space within myself, I decided it was time to support Alina better. I began by removing nursing overnight when Alina was about 18 months old. I asked my husband to sleep in the spare room so he would not be disturbed by the intense crying overnight, as I knew if I had to worry about waking him it would cause undue stress to me which I didn’t need. I needed space and time to be with Alina and support her thoroughly. I explained to her that we would not be having ‘booby’ during the night anymore, so I asked her to say goodnight to the boobies and that she could have some milk again in the morning. There was a lot of waking that night and a lot of crying. I would like to emphasize that I held her in my arms at all times, at no time was she left alone to cry and affirmed with a gentle loving voice that I was listening and here to support her. It was difficult at times to not allow her to nurse just so I could get some sleep, but I also knew that by allowing her to nurse when I had already said no would be confusing and give mixed messages. This would not be fair to her. It would also give her the message that I don’t want to listen and I am not prepared to support her to release her stress and trauma, clearly I do not want my children to get a message that they cannot feel completely supported, regardless of emotions, by their parents. The night crying went on for about 3 – 4 days, decreasing each night, until she stopped waking overnight. This also helped me to implement more Aware Parenting into our every day parenting style and I was getting better every day at recognizing when the girls would become stressed and need to release.
Listening to and encouraging my children to cry and release has created an even closer attachment and understanding between us. Julia and Alina are happy, easy-going, content and cooperative children.