"The parents' challenge is to establish a home environment that encourages the development of concentration from the child's infancy and that supports flow experiences for all family members. Such a home reflects the complexity of life."
When we're inside we spend our time in the playroom. It's my favourite room in the house. It's beautiful and sunny with big windows, a skylight and a Northerly aspect. Most of Bear's toys are kept here. The piano is here. It's the centre of our house. There are doors leading out to the yard, Bear's bedroom, the bathroom, the laundry and the carport. I've made some changes to make a special place for Fox to join us in this space.
It is a challenge balancing the needs of the 2 boys in the same area. Bear needs freedom, independence and lots of movement. Fox needs safety, calm and predictability. On the one hand I want to allow Bear plenty of access to his little brother but on the other I need to protect the little guy from Bear's clumsy and enthusiastic affection. I think the only way to have them share the space at the moment is with constant, diligent supervision. This is how the space is arranged so far:
A Floor-bed and Mirror
During the day Fox spends a lot of his time on a floor-bed. It is a thin cot-sized mattress tucked away in a corner. Bear brings his toys to work on the black and white rug so it's very close to the action. Fox is still asleep most of the time so he sleeps here covered by a small crocheted blanket. When he is awake he is happy for short periods looking at himself in the mirror or watching and listening to us play on the mat. Most of the time he is happier being held when he is awake.
I am trying to teach Bear that this is a quiet, gentle area. He is welcome on the bed and he is allowed to touch Fox gently. He's starting to get the idea. He often comes and lies next to Fox, or brings toys over for him, of pats his belly.
A Changing Area
I'm using the top of a chest of drawers as a change table. The drawers are stocked with nappies, wipes and all his clothes. All the drawers have child-proof latches to keep Bear from rummaging through them and emptying them out!
Bear sometimes carries his little chair over to us and stands on it so he can participate. He likes to pull out a baby wipe and help wipe Fox. Or take a cottonbud, dip it in water and clean Fox. I love it when he does these things. It reminds me how closely he watches the things I do because he imitates them so carefully.
An area for feeding
There is a comfortable couch next to the play area that faces out the window. Through the window I can usually see the goats grazing and the chickens wandering around. There is a high table next to the couch where I can sit my hot drink out of reach of little hands. On the floor next to the couch is a basket of books for Bear that are rotated weekly. It is perfect for us all to cuddle up together and read a book while I breastfeed Fox or it's close enough to the rug for Bear to chat to me while he works.
I have a few mobiles for Fox but I haven't put a hook in the wall to hang them yet. Hopefully I'll get them up sometime this week because I think he is already developmentally ready for them. I would also love to make a black and white quilt for Fox to lie on for tummy time. I'm not sure when I'll find time to do that but I can dream...
Tom started back at work last week after having time off for Fox. So I've had Bear and Fox at home with me during the day and I've had to do "night duty" so that Tom can sleep.
I have to say that now we're well into the 3rd week the novelty and excitement of a new baby has worn off and I'm feeling the toll of sleep deprivation and being constantly in demand. Fox is still new and exciting but this is hard work.
I am buried in a heap of dirty nappies bigger than I ever dreamed possible.
There is laundry hanging to dry in every corner of our house (it's been raining a lot!).
I have a lot of time for reading/blogging from 1-4am when Fox is wide awake and insisting on cuddles.
Bear is refusing to sleep during the day.
There is an ever rising level of chaos within our home.
We did survive. I am incredibly grateful for the little things Bear can do independently. I am incredibly grateful for Bear's ability to choose an activity to work on by himself. It has meant our house has been unexpectedly peaceful when I need to tend to Fox. I was expecting extreme tantrums.
Now we're heading into week 2.
So what did we do last week?
- bassinette on the floor so he can look in whenever he likes
- allow him to gently touch, kiss and hold Fox whenever he is interested
(I've only had to enforce one rule so far - "Touch the baby with your hands not your feet!")
I think things will get easier and harder. The days and weeks fly by so quickly with a newborn. I need to make sure I am enjoying my children at this particular stage. I was given an excellent piece of advice when Bear was a newborn (I can't remember who said it): "don't wish it over". Embrace the chaos - it won't last.
We decided to get a dog soon after moving onto our farm. Our cats and chickens were being terrorised by a huge and very bold fox. We realised we were going to need a guard dog for our peace of mind.
Izzy was a stray. She was found near Maitland, was taken to a shelter in Newcastle then made her way to the RSPCA vet clinic in Ugoona. My sister had been scouting the shelter for a while to find us a dog and it looked like Izzy might be a perfect match for us. She was big but still a puppy, had a quiet temperament and not much of a prey drive.
She had a problem though - she had been diagnosed as "unhousable" due to separation anxiety. She had proved herself to be extremely destructive and an escape artist. When she came to live with us as a foster dog she was taking an antidepressant and a tranqueliser and had a regime of relaxation and meditation exercises to do twice per day. Needless to say we were nervous about how this might turn out!
It turned out great! She was a lonely and very energetic puppy who needed a family and lots of space. Her separation anxiety has translated into loyalty and her destructive energies have been redirected with lots of exercise.
Izzy's like a big sister for Bear. They have a lot of common interests - sticks, balls, dirt, puddles, steeling clothes pegs... Sometimes Izzy snatches Bear's toys or Bear hits Izzy with his shovel. Other times they play so beautifully together. She's found a special place in our family.
I'm writing this at 4.30am with my precious little Fox bundled up on my lap - wide awake. The perfect time to write his introduction.
Praise God Fox was born naturally without induction 3 days before his due date. My labour was speedy and dramatic. Contractions started in the middle of the night and within a few hours were coming every 1-2 minutes. We were met at the hospital by my brilliant midwife just before I started to bleed and Fox blocked off his cord. The midwife called for the doctor to come straight away but amazingly we were able to deliver the little guy safely before he arrived. I've never been more relieved than when I heard him cry for the first time!
Fox has been a wonderful newborn. He's very calm and relaxed - he seems to have a very different temperament to Bear (if it's possible to tell this early on - and I suspect it is possible). He's sleeping and feeding really well so far and I am absolutely soaking up his sweet newborn cuddles. It's so nice to have a soft, warm little person who just loves to be held close (Bear's much too busy for cuddles most of the time!)
Bear has also been wonderful. I was so nervous about how he would react to this big change. I had heard stories about toddlers ignoring their mothers completely, or having violent tantrums, or regressing developmentally. He hasn't done any of these things. He has just accepted the change. He seems to understand that there are times when I need to tend to Fox and I can't do as he asks. He goes off and does something else or sits with us and talks to me about Fox or reads a book with me. Developmentally he continues to thrive. He's in the middle of his word explosion and continues to communicate more and more effectively. Toilet learning progresses - yesterday he even did a wee on the potty! I'm sure it is our Montessori environment and attitude that has allowed him to cope so well. He can access his work and entertainment without my help. He wants my interest and my company but he doesn't need me to be hands on.
It's been just over a week of being a family of four. I can't believe how lucky we are - our boys are wonderful. I'm so excited about all that lies ahead.
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.