Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

30th April
written by Michelle

When we were in the states a few weeks ago, a sweet mom, whose own kids are earning drivers’ licenses’ and college degrees, pulled me aside one afternoon after seeing how much Elena talked about “Frozen.” (which she affectionately calls, “Oafen” and may or may not have watched a total  of 27 times while driving from CA up to WA)

“I got something for her, but you I wanted to show it to you first to make sure you’re ok with it.” 

I thought that was super kind and thoughtful of her.

She proceeded to pull out a blue sparkly, Elsa Barbie doll. “And look, if you push here. She sings.” Let It Go, Let It Goooooooooo.”

I know all of you parents of young ones right now, are like, Noooooooooo.

I smiled, ignoring all of my anti-princess-no-Barbie-doll-feminist-leaning tendencies.

“She will love it.” I said.

And she did.

Elena’s big eyes and curious fingers, wasted no time in figuring out that blue button. Elena was tiptoeing around the kitchen with her singing Elsa, who she calls “ah-chay,” twirling high above her head.

She was mesmerized. And I was kinda dreading the next 6 days our trip. 

I wouldn’t exactly say I am anti-Disney princesses, but I am definitely not for them. I don’t like the message they portray to young girls. The whole princess-culture, that says your worth is based on your external beauty. It seems to only reinforce what so many woman and girls grow up fighting against.

I was explaining all of this to my husband on one of our 4-hour car rides. His eyes were focused straight ahead, but I knew he was listening. “It’s just, I don’t want our little girl growing-up thinking some prince will come and rescue her, you know? I want her to know that women are made for so much more. I want her to be brave and confident and full of compassion and gratitude. I want her to be strong and smart and know that her outer beauty is only a reflection of her inner beauty.”

I sighed loudly, expecting him to nod along and agree with me, but he didn’t.

“Michelle, she’s not even two.

“ok. You’re right. She’s not even two.” I repeated to myself as I imagined her singing ‘Let it go’ for the next 10 years.

. . .

We got home last week and while un-packing my suitcase, I came across the singing Elsa doll. I was tempted to hide it. She won’t remember if Elsa just “disappears,” I thought.

But something stopped me.

I don’t want my personal preferences to get in the way of paying attention to what my daughter likes. And right now, she likes Frozen. So I will play with Elsa and talk about Anna and Olaf and buy her Frozen pajamas and underwear because she likes it. I will enter her world because that’s the only way I know how to really understand someone. Sure, as the parent I will set boundaries. We will not watch Frozen every day.

But I will care about Frozen, because she cares about Frozen.

And if in five years she starts caring about inch-worms and frogs and beetles, I want her to know I will do my best to care about those things too.

If in nine years she comes home from school crying because she didn’t get invited a friend’s birthday, you better believe I will provide hugs and empathetic nods. I will care because she cares. Feeling left out of a birthday party is sad and hard at any age, but especially when you’re nine.

And maybe in twelve years, if she starts caring about a silly boy band, I will care about that silly boy band, too. I will listen with her and try to remember their names and let her put up posters in her room.

And if in seventeen years, her interests move on from a boy band to an actual boy, I will tell her he’s welcome to come over. I will place my hand on her daddy’s arm for reassurance, and show her that if she cares about someone we will, too.

If in twenty-one years she comes bouncing in talking about an internship where she gets to study malaria prevention, but all I hear is “gone” “whole summer” and “not-deadly,”  I will keep my thoughts to myself and congratulate her. I  will hug her and ask her to tell me more. Because if something makes her this excited, I will want to understand why.

And if in twenty-five years she says she wants to move to another country, one where I don’t speak the language or understand the culture, my heart might sink for a second, but I will buy a plane ticket to visit and see her life. I will pray for her protection and growth, not that she changes her mind. I will sit awkwardly waiting when I don’t understand what’s being said and watch as she lights up, explaining to the taxi driver where we’re going.

Because loving someone means caring about what they care about.

It’s easy as parents to see our children for who we want them to become, but I think it’s sometimes all too easy to miss who they are right now. That’s why we need other people, a spouse, a friend and an observant older mom, who may see interests that we may not.  You know, a fresh pair of eyes to notice how much a certain little one loves singing ‘Let it go.’  The truth is I can introduce my daughter all day to books, and climbing and colors and picking flowers. And I can hope that one day she’ll learn how to play the piano or join a soccer team, but for now she loves putting her baby dolls “nigh nigh” and singing with Elsa and Princess Anna. And that is just ok.

Gerber and I talk a lot about how in community development work, before people care what you know, they want to know that you care. And I think the same in true in parenting. Of course I want to teach our little girl all kinds of things, but I know before she is ever going to care about what I know, she has to know that I care.

So I will start by caring about the singing Elsa Doll.

21st June
written by Michelle



Dear Mija,

Tonight like most evenings I gave you a bath and wrapped you up in your turquoise towel, but I held you a little bit longer. I nuzzled my nose under your chin and you giggled. We sang Head & Shoulders Knees & Toes as I wrestled your legs and arms into your striped pajamas. We read one of your favorite books, On the Night You Were Born.

I can’t help but think about this night one year ago.

Elena, the night you were born the rain pattered against the window. And I remember watching the moon raise higher and higher in the sky. My summer sostlice baby, it’s like you too wanted to enjoy the longest day of the year before you made your appearance. After 17 hours of labor, you finally arrived at 8:35pm. Hannah placed you in my arms, wrinkled, wet and slippery…and just perfect. You opened your little eyes and looked right at me. My heart burst open with a mix of joy, pain and unbelievable responsibility. I am your mom?!



Mija, the night you were born changed our lives in a thousand ways. You ushered me into motherhood at that moment, but it is going to take me a lifetime to keep learning how to be your mom.

I spent the past week in the wee hours when you were soundly sleeping on the floor going through thousands and thousands of pictures. Yes, thousands. So the fact that I’d dwindled this video down to 200 is pretty dang good I think. When I look back over the past year of pictures I remember how dark you were when you were born and how your little tongue almost seemed too big for your mouth. I remember how since day one your preferred place to sleep was (and still is!) wrapped up tight in some one’s arms. Man, I carried you around everywhere because it was the only way you’d nap. I forgot how bald you were for a while and how intent your deep brown eyes were. It’s still the thing people comment most about. Your eyes and your gaze and your ability to stare down anyone.

Elena, I look at these pictures and see how loved you are by grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends. People here and people there have loved you and me and your Daddy well this past year.

So, tonight, June 21, I pause and remember one year ago.

I remember the night you were born and I have a new appreciating for the word birth in “Birthday.” 

Elena, it has been the greatest privilege to be your mama during this past year.

Happy 1st birthday mija!

All my love,


3rd August
written by Michelle

I didn’t cry at Elena’s birth. The pure joy and sweat dripping from my forehead replaced any potential tears, but last Monday morning I sat at my kitchen table with big tears rolling down my face. It’s been 6 weeks since Elena’s birth and my body has mostly healed, my milk has come in and our days (and nights) have a new rhythm. But motherhood stretches your heart and makes your tender and fragile in ways you didn’t know possible.

•  •  •

My parents were just here for a week. It was such a good visit. They got to meet Elena and I got to watch them become grandparents. They rocked, changed and loved our little girl. They took turns holding her so I could shower. My dad sang songs to her with made-up lyrics. My mom made us dinner with enough leftovers to freeze and we even took a mini-family road trip to one of my favorite places in Guatemala, Lago Atitlan. My parents treated us to dinners in Antigua and helped around the house. It was so good to have them here, but we had the worst kind of goodbye.

Gerber had gone to work in the morning and was running late. Meanwhile our contractor asked to stop by for just “cinco minutos.” My parents suitcases were packed and sitting near the door. Somehow the “5 minutes” turned into a much longer conversion about counter tops and paint colors and left Gerber and I arguing about the difference of 15cm. We went back and forth in English, then asked the contractor a question in Spanish.  My parents stood waiting, listening to the half of the conversation that they understood.

I was still trying to convert centimeters to inches in my head, Gerber was concerned about hitting traffic on the way to the airport and Elena was starting to get fussy. I gave my dad and mom a quick hug good-bye, some i love yous and thankyous were exchanged in between me ssshhh-ing the baby girl.  I watched as the grey pickup pulled away.

Then just like that they were gone.

And just like that, the tears came.

Looking down at my own daughter, I have never wanted my mom more than in that minute. I wanted her to come back, to take care of me, to tell me I’m doing an ok job and to help me take care of this tiny little human who somehow made me a mother.

•  •  •

My mom is wonderful. She has an empathetic heart, a deep love for each of her 4 kids and actually means it when she says, “I’ll pray for you.” She can tweet, text and order the book you mentioned from amazon all at the same time. Since getting married and moving to Guatemala my need for my mom has changed. Or maybe just looks different. And part of that is probably a healthy aspect of growing up. However, there is something about becoming a mom that has made me want my mom in a new way. I now completely understand why its nice to live close to family when you have kids. We live about 20 minutes away from Gerber’s family and I am grateful. They love and adore Elena and help us greatly, but it’s not the same as having my mom here.

•  •  •

I sat at our kitchen table, my eyes still wet with tears. I picked up my cell phone. “Gerber, can I talk to my mom?”

Mom? We said goodbye too fast. I don’t want you to leave….We didn’t make banana muffins, or finish the headbands. Elena still isn’t napping.

She listened. Said, it wasn’t a good goodbye. She reminded me to be gracious to myself. And told me I’m doing a great job.

•  •  •

Rocking my daughter in my arms, I looked down at her sweet little face. My first born. Motherhood fills you up and then deflates you. This rhythm of breathing in a deep joy and satisfaction one moment and then a nagging self-doubt that I must be doing something wrong.  As I sniffled though the tears, I felt incredibly thankful for my mom. And I imagined that she had probably rocked me in her arms like this and had maybe felt something similar.




8th May
written by Michelle

 las mamas

If you’ve followed along here recently then you definitely know that I have a baby on the brain. And it’s true our Baby Girl is coming soon and her pending arrival has opened up a whole new host of feelings. My heart is thrilled and beyond excited to meet her and learn how to be her mom. I waver back and forth between feeling calm, like the timing couldn’t be better, to panicking and making frantic lists of things we have to buy or get done before she comes.

I hear motherhood has a quick learning curve. And lately I have been fascinated by how cultures and mom’s around the world learn how raise their children. I never planned on living in a country different than the one I grew up in or raising my children bilingually. I am like a sponge soaking up information, noticing how moms care for their babies, respond to a cry or don’t, and realizing how different our cultural upbringing shapes how we think about parenting and kids.

I’ve been reading books on this topic. I find myself nodding along when moms describe things that other cultures do and how our first response if often to raise an eyebrow, give a stink eye and judge. But how there is often something to learn, maybe first and foremost about our own cultural values. I just downloaded and started I reading this book: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) thanks to my friend, Sarah, who is also raising a bilingual daughter. And I loved French Kids Eat Everything and I even put this book: Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent on my registry because it looks so interesting to me.

{I am kinda counting on hours and hours of breastfeeding time to read. Is this totally unrealistic? just tell me now…}


A few days ago an article I wrote appeared on InCultureParent, a great online resource and link for parents anywhere.

This quote by Nicholas Day, author of Baby Meets World, influenced the whole piece:

“every society has what it intuitively believes to be the right way to raise a child.”

Here’s an except from the article:

In a few short months I will be a first time mom. So, like any U.S. mom-to-be, I have been doing my reading; bits of BabyWise and Attachment Parenting, WebMD and my favorite mommy blogs are always open on my browser. I mean what new mom doesn’t want to have the Happiest Baby on the Block? I am a firm believer that our U.S. culture convinces us if we read and plan ahead of time then we will be better parents. And yet somehow I know nothing in these books or websites will totally prepare me for the birth of our first baby.

Read the rest here.


Have you ever thought about how much of your own ideas about parenting and raising kids are influenced by our culture? And I wonder if even two US parents, bring their own sub-cultural expectations into raising kids? Thoughts? Do share.

{photo: taken in 2007 without permission of these two moms… If I were to re-take it I would probably ask their permission first and their names and how how old her baby is : ) }