We had recently visited my father and grandfather in the Philippines over summer. I had been once before when I was eighteen but I was that young, naive, little girl who kept her skinny little bum in a rattan rocking chair, that happened to be in the only room with air conditioning, while watching MTV music videos all day long. All I can recall from that visit was Rhianna had on while dancing in puddles of water under her “Umbrella ella ay ay ay”. However, this time around I am closer to my thirties and have two young children. My life went from watching music videos to watching children.
As a mother, I find it natural to be drawn to other mothers and babies while observing the interaction between them. Walking around the malls and streets of the rural areas we saw many families. We saw parents, grandparents, we saw babies, we saw toddlers, and some teens. However, what we didn’t see much of, or even at all, was pushchairs, strollers or body wraps. Children were either being held or they were walking; and when I say ‘they were walking’, I mean they were walking close by their elders. Whether it was their father or mother, grandmother or older brother, the child was always near them. I cannot remember hearing any temper tantrums or screaming. I found myself looking around in awe and feeling at peace. A motherly peace.
How? How do they do that? No tantrums? No running off? No anxiety oozing from the mother? No sweaty pits from the stressed out father? My first thought was: Were the children scared of them? Did they discipline them another way that I was not able see?
I had to ask my Dad what the secret was? He simply responded, “They just tell the little ones to ‘come, stay here.’ Or, ‘don’t do that’,” but Dad, come on that seems a bit unrealistic. However, when we kept discussing the topic I realised that he was just trying to explain a way of simply parenting, or shall I say parenting at it’s simplest form.
Here, in our first world country, us parents get sucked into purchasing baby items that we become brainwashed into thinking, it will make this parenting thing a bit easier. From baby rockers rocking our babies to sleep, to prepackaged baby food puree in jars and then strapping our children onto leads so they can’t run off. Why do we feel the need to purchase items that take away from what us mothers are meant to be enjoying?
Our babies love to be cuddled, held, and rocked to sleep in our arms. This is okay. Why do we convince ourselves that this means we are spoiling our baby? Why do we feel the need to put them in a rocker for most of the time and have those precious moments be taken away from us? Is it because our laundry is so important that it needs to be washed, when we have enough clothes in our closet anyways? Or maybe we feel the need to tidy up the place, just to tear it apart again? I understand times can get hard and we are tired, the baby is crying and we think the best thing to do is put our baby down. For the both of us. However, in the first few months of birth all that baby needs is us. We are his comfort. We have all the baby’s needs in us. Why are we looking for more ‘convenient’ ways to be the ‘perfect’ mother when its right there in the mirror?
Prepackaged foods. Don’t get me started. I cannot fathom the fact that we as parents think it is okay to be feeding our babies, who’s tiny little bodies are so new, these prepackaged puree. Not only have they been sitting on the store shelf for days but they are just disgusting. It’s just not right, but we do it anyways because it’s convenient. Is it because we feel like we don’t have the time to make purees ourself? Or to even try sitting with them and watching them explore solid food for themselves. Actually sit and play with them.
Child leads or leashes some would call them. Can we get anymore demeaning? Who even invented these? Again, is it convenient to use these as well? So we don’t have to bother getting on our knees, down to the child’s level for eye contact in order to explain why they should stay close by? I witnessed the other day at the park, a little boy run behind his mother and nearly strangle himself on his backpack lead. Not to mention a father who picked up his little boy by the lead because he wasn’t listening. Why is it so hard to let our children know that we trust them? Is it really because we don’t trust ourself? “Hold my hand and lets walk together.” I know sometimes this is easier said than done, but things take time. Be persistent and these little things will make them respect us a whole lot quicker and make things so much easier in the long run. What are we in a rush to do that we think we have to attach a child to a lead?
“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must trust ourselves and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” – John Holt
That’s enough of my critique rant, but Where has our society gone wrong? We are always looking for the best thing to do as a mother, but we are looking in all the wrong places. We are searching online, in the doctor’s office, or in the nearest baby store. However, the only place we need to look is: in ourself.
Trust. Respect. Safety. Guidance. Happiness.
Trust ourself as a mother. Listen to our gut feeling. Trust that we know what to actually do. Because we do, trust me. Trust our baby. They know what they want and what makes them happy. Love and attention. We can never spoil them with too much love. There’s no such thing. Love is free. How we, as a society, have taken that for granted. Trust that our baby knows us better than we know ourselves. If she is crying for our attention, maybe it’s that time when we just need to slow down our ‘busy’ life to breath and enjoy the love our baby wants to give us and vice versa. At any age, as baby, toddler, child, or teen, listen to them. All they want is our attention and how we underestimate how far attention will get us. We as adults need to remember that, attention is what we desire for as well.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family” – Mother Teresa
Respect motherhood. Remember that we were given such an opportunity to guide these little people into good people. Give them the best that we can. Respect their little bodies. Food feeds the soul. We all have different taste buds, different sized tummies and maybe sometimes we just aren’t hungry. The same goes for our babies. Respect our children enough to not just be on behaviour patrol but to take the time and be silly with them.
Safety. The feeling of being safe. I am having trouble explaining this one because is there any such thing in our society anymore? When we are born we all have one thing in common, vulnerability. When we feel safe, we tend to act with more confidence. We take more risks, ask more questions and then grow.
Guidance. Where we sometimes need to hold back from saving them before they make a mistake. Simply letting them make that mistake and be there to cheer them on, or cuddle them if it all goes wrong. We are here to hold their hand, not to drag them along through our experiences or expectations.
“The more risks you allow your child to take, the better they learn to look after themselves” – Ronald Dahl
Happiness. Once we can overcome the thought of being an adult, a behaviour patrol officer, or a supermom, we will all soon find happiness again. Not only as a family but as an individual. When children are happy they cannot hide it, they laugh from the core of their bellies. What a joy it would to be able to find that happiness in us again. We just need to stop rushing around figuring out what the best thing is for us and our child, when the best thing is just: to slow down.
Now, I am not perfect. I cannot stress enough that I am continuing to grow each and every day. I can admit based on my experiences of motherhood so far, I have had my ups and downs and still riding the roller coaster. When I found out my little Koa-Rae was a superhuman I started taking this parent thing serious. With all her doctor’s appointments, was getting wrapped in what I needed to do rather than what felt right. In some twisted way, I think Koa had to push me into this extreme ‘strict’ parenting nonsense in order for me realise that all I needed to do, to smoothly sail, was just follow my own instincts. Knixon and Koa-Rae are here in my world to teach me how to be a child again. To not take life so seriously. To laugh when I am happy, cry when I’m in pain and scream when I am angry. They constantly remind me to simply just be, rather than trying to always achieve.
Back to the Philippines, maybe it is a third world country and maybe some of the families don’t know how it is to have these ‘amazing’ baby gadgets. However, is convenience really adding value to our lives or is it taking away the pure bliss of just living?
Sign, Squeal, Mumble,
The Bennett Babes
We absolutely loved our experience in the Philippines. Even though there are beautiful beaches and luxury hotels out there, we stayed with family for the core part of our visit and were lucky enough to be shown some of the rural areas of the country.
Just to warn you all, I tried to use a GoPro on our journey, however I thought I was being clever and didn’t test it out before using it. So some of the film is not what I expected it to be, but I feel like we still were able to captured moments in photos. So enjoy!
The amazing baby carrier I used for our traveling is from Integra Baby Carrier
We also stayed at two hotels due to how far the airport was from where my father and grandfather lived. The night we arrived we slept over at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila and the night before we departed we stayed at The Hyatt. They both were really nice and definitely can recommend if staying in Manila.