Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV: Listening

Often times in my life I have felt that although someone is listening to me, I am never truly heard. Or maybe it's the other way around - they may be physically hearing me, but not truly listening with their heart.

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Whatever the case may be, I have come to realize that this is what most of us need and desire -  for another human being in this world to really "hear" us. I did a lot of listening growing up. As an only child I was privy to many adult conversations and I listened like my life depended on it. I was fascinated by the way adults interacted with one another, the things they debated and more importantly the tone in which they spoke to each other and the non-verbal communication that was involved in these exchanges. I also bore witness to a lot of conflict and arguments in the process - and even as a child I knew that if these adults would only be quiet for a moment and listen; they would realize their opinions weren't actually that far apart.

 

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Chico I hope you feel listened to - like, really truly heard. Not just humored because I am busy or because you are a kid and I'm an adult. If you feel like I'm not "getting" you, please try not to grow frustrated with me, but tell me - "Mama no, you're not listening," and try again to explain to me what you are saying. The biggest disservice would be to dismiss you. I know what it's like to be dismissed - by adults, by bosses, in relationships...and it makes you feel like you don't matter to the other person.

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 And no one matters more to me than you baby boy.

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I also want you to listen to your heart son. This is the strongest voice inside of you. This voice tells you what you should do when you are scared, indecisive or confused. Unfortunately we tend to let the noise of life and other people's opinions grow louder than our heart's voice. Whenever you feel this way I want you to close your eyes and call that voice to the surface of your mind. The answer you are looking for will be right there - you just have to be patient and call for it to come forward. People call this "your gut." People tend to lose touch with their guts when they become busy, stressed adults. Try to always keep the volume on your guts turned as high as possible - it'll guide you well.

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 Chico you will come across people someday that you listen to and don't like what they say. These people may provoke you and make you angry. I want you to try something for me. Try your best to listen to their perspective as a fellow human being vs the subject they are speaking about. If you focus on their ideas instead of their words this may help you to empathize with them instead of judging or disliking them. Being a good listener means being introspective and thinking about how this person may have come to a place in their lives where they feel this way. It doesn't mean you have to agree or that you should change your opinion - but you will grow as a person if you can come to understand how they became the person they are today.

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When all else fails listen to music. Music has always calmed you and made you happy. The right music at the right time seems to refresh you. You are always calmed by Kurt Vile, Mirah and Elliott Smith. If you need energized then listen to rock and roll. Remember that commercial hip hop makes you incredibly frustrated so don't leave the radio on! Know what music you need at certain times, because if you're anything like me you will come to find that listening to good music can save your life.

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Sweet boy, whatever you feel is okay and I will always be here to listen to you as I do now. I listen to you babble and "tell" me lots of stories already. I can see by your facial expressions and wild hand gestures that your stories are elaborate and full of drama. I promise to remind you to listen to your heart and your gut and help you wade through all the things in between. Just promise me that you will listen with kindness and an open heart as often as you can - not just for the other person but for your humanity as well.

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I love you baby.
Mama

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume IV: Everything Shines. I am wearing Chico in the Essential Silk Baby Sling in Midnight & Sandstone.

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Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV: Education

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Learning.

Playing.

Talking.

Laughing.

Discipline.

Rules.

Games.

Friends.

Bullies.

Trips.

Books.

Music.

Art.

Dance.

School.

Education.

Growing up I moved ten times before I was 14 years old. This means I attended almost ten different schools before I entered high school. I have been a student at private schools, Montessori schools, Catholic schools, Quaker schools, public schools, year-round schools and even home schooled. I am also the daughter of educators. My father taught high school students who were second language learners. My mother was in early childhood education for years and continues to teach elementary school today. My grandfather was a photography professor at the University of Southern California and several other family members have been early childhood educators my entire life as well.

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To say education was a huge part of my life would be an understatement. I’ve always excelled academically. I was at an 8th grade reading level at age 7. I was an honors student in high school and received early acceptance to Loyola Marymount University where I later graduated with a BA in Chicana/o Studies and Studio Arts (photography).. I earned my masters degree from Pacific Oaks College in Marriage & Family Therapy with a specialization in Latina/o Families. I am so proud of these accomplishments. My schooling is a huge part of who I am as a woman of color, a mother and honestly just a human being in this world.

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Is education everything? Of course not. Is it bad? Is it good? Nothing is that black and white unfortunately. But I was given the opportunity to experience formal education and informal education and plan to make that choice for my son until he is old enough to do so.

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My father came to this country from Mexico and was put straight into Catholic school. The nuns were cruel and practiced corporal punishment often - especially when it came to my father and his brother - who broke the rules by speaking Spanish; although it was the only way they knew how to communicate. I can’t help but think that this shaped his choice to get a degree from Cal State Los Angeles during the Chicano Movement of the 1960's and become an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. This enabled him to help young people who found themselves in this country not knowing the language just as he hadn't. He may not have been the best father to me, but his students loved him and he was able to show them a kindness and compassion that he wasn’t able to show me at home. There is not much that he and I ever spoke of, but whenever I received a report card with good grades I could see the pride on his face.

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My drive, although partially affected by my need for my father’s approval, was really something that came from within me. I have always had a fire for learning and school is something that kept that fire burning. I always wanted to be the best and school was a place where I could be the best (or one of the best) and thank god for that - because growing up in my home was really fucking hard. School was a place that I looked forward to going to so that I could forget about my life and focus on reading (my first love), music (I was a flutist and total band geek), and later in college other passions like ballet, photography and community organizing.

I was also told that earning a higher education represented my freedom. Freedom from a man or unhappy marriage as shown to me by my mother, who was in school my entire childhood  while simultaneously raising me and working full time. Freedom from a system that isn’t tolerant or accepting of people of color or people outside the norm. I understood my privilege as an American (first generation) and the access to education that I had and what it would mean to turn my back on it.

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And so I went - straight out of high school to go to a private university. Completely oblivious as to what student loans really meant after school was over. Blindly thinking that I would pay these loans off as soon as I graduated and got a job. Two years in I dropped out. The financial burden was too great for me on my own and despite working two jobs and going to school full time - taking the bus all over the greater Los Angeles area to get to said jobs I was done. I was exhausted and felt like despite trying so hard, maybe school was only for the privileged. So I worked. And I was in a string of dysfunctional relationships. And I moved to different cities. And that life was just as exhausting and unfulfilling and I knew I had to go back. And so I went and finished my education with a new flourish and passion of someone who truly appreciated the cost, the commitment and the power of what a higher education could help me attain. I didn’t skip classes (I knew how much each class was costing me - and I believe at that time I figured it was over $100 per hour), I focused, I didn’t fuck around and it felt amazing.

So when I think of my “college experience,” sure it involves dorm life, navigating the world on my own, eating pizza and drinking beer but more so it is my journey of being young and naive, the devastation of thinking I was giving up and then growing up and taking life by the balls and getting my shit together. Did I get a job right after and pay off those loans. No. I am currently drowning in the financial debt of attending two private schools for my higher education. I may go to the grave with that debt.

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Will that stop me from encouraging my son to seek a higher education? Hell no! But I will show him how to do it in a smarter way - either community college for 2 years or a public college for undergraduate at least. Who knows - he maybe he’ll be a brainiac or amazing athlete and get a scholarship. Maybe he’ll be into the arts or music and go that route - point being there is a route for everyone. Every child is different. I don’t know yet what environment my son will thrive in. But once he shows me then I will put him where he will thrive. If he is an artist like his Papa then you better believe we’ll encourage him to attend the LA High School for the Arts (public). If he’s an academic I will find an amazing all-boys private school that focuses on whatever area is his passion. Depending on how much structure he needs that could also be found at a public school. But to say I know today what path I will guide him would be foolish.

Education means a lot of things but mostly it means school and formally being taught mixed with life in general. My job as a mom is to deal with the life part and to find a school I trust to do the formal teaching. I do not want to be both things for my son. He needs to learn from other people that aren’t his mother and father. We will be busy teaching him EVERYTHING else: Social skills like how to treat people and be a good person, helping him to form his view of the world.  Political, social and gender issues - in general how to be a worldly young man who is informed and who has an opinion on these things. We will explore, travel and have fun - because this is also how you learn and what makes up the character of a person.

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Traditional education is full of rules, tests, expectations, standards and discipline. But guess what? So is life. If I want my son to succeed in the world he needs to feel pressure and know the goodness that comes from it. I refuse to have him live his life in a bubble where he never knows stress. Stress shouldn’t be seen as negative or hurtful (more on that here from the amazing Kelly McGonigal - watch it - it could literally change your life- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU).

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If I sound like a bit of a tiger mom maybe I am, but in reality I’m more like if a hippy, commune-living dad and a tiger mom had a baby. I was raised by hippies who were babywearers & homebirthers when that stuff was still taboo. My mom made my baby food and used cloth diapers just because she's a bad ass, thus her "badassery" rubbed off on me. My mom did the most amazing activities with me - art projects, baking, learning to sew, gardening, playing Swan Lake and Kraftwork records so I could dance to different types of music. These are the awesome things I was taught at home. And then come Monday my mom sent me to school to allow others to teach me English, music, math and science. Just as I was sent to a ballet company 3x a week to learn how to dance.

It may sound like I’m being facetious but I’m not - I say this only to illiterate my point that you cannot be everyone to your child. It’s not all or nothing. As a parent there are teachable moments in everything you say and do with your babies. Even when your child has a teacher you don’t agree with or another child who is teasing yours - THIS is a teachable moment. How will you prepare your son or daughter to deal with and move through such issues if you don’t allow them to experience them?

With all the schools, teachers and children I experienced in my life I had great experiences and terrible ones. My parents taught me how to deal with children who teased me and called me a “wetback” when I came home in first grade asking what that meant. They also showed me how adults handle things like this by going to the school and talking to administrators. Will my heart break if my son ever comes home and asks me a question like this? Of course - and I hope I never have to deal with something like this, but the reality is that if its not that then someone will tease him because of the way his father and I look, or because of the clothes he wears or the shoes he likes or the way he’s chosen to comb his hair that day. Trust me - it will be something.

But with our support my son’s going to be okay. Actually not just okay, he’s going to be great. Because the person he will become is so much more than what school he goes to - who he is - his spirit and heart will be one formed by the education he receives from me, his father, extended family, his Godparents, friends and the teachers we trust to teach him from 8-3 pm every day.

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume IV: Everything Shines. I am wearing Chico in the Essential Silk Baby Sling in Midnight & Sandstone.

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Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV "Everything Shines"

  This post was written by my husband Adam. We are the first husband and wife team to be chosen as Sling Diarists for Sakura  Bloom Series - Vol IV: Everything Shines!

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"The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking." -Robert H. Schuller  (yeah, I started this with a quote) As a kid I was encouraged to dream of becoming such things as a Doctor, or a Lawyer. I was taught that the level of  "success" and financial stability would gage my happiness. I was taught to always "do better" than what my parents could do. The words "Do as I say, and not as I do…" were often heard around our house. I understand my mothers desire for me to succeed, but without guidance, resources, and with such vague direction, how could I possibly believe in myself enough to accomplish such seemingly impossible goals? I was overcome by anxiety and sleepless nights at a very young age, for the fear of disappointing my mother and the consequences at hand if I were to let her down. The older I got, the less I cared, and the less I dreamed. When thinking about "dreams" the first thing that pops into my head as a father, are the dreams I have for my son. My dream is to foster an environment where Chico has the opportunity to inspire his OWN dreams. To experience the innocence of looking at the world and really believing that ANYTHING is possible.  I want him to dream the way all kids should dream, without hinderance, and know that the sky is the limit! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I dream that one day men will realize how baby-wearing can directly influence a bond between them and their children and will not be self conscious or afraid of being perceived as effeminate. Its 2014 and gender roles are long past. We live in a world that is so "PC" that we often question what we can or cannot say, but for some reason it seems totally ok for women to approach me and say things like, "Oh what a good dad!". I can only ask myself, "Why?" Why is the standard for being a responsible father so low that someone would assume I'm a "good dad" simply for wearing my son!? Taking care of your children isn't something that should be praised, it's something that should be expected. My dream is to influence other dads to realize the importance of bonding with your child. As men we don't have the opportunity to nurse our children, so anything I can do to build a trusting bond with Chico, I'm going to do! That is why I took the six weeks of family leave when Chico was born even though I was ridiculed at work and treated like I was going on a six week vacation. That is why I woke up at every feeding and changed Chico's diapers, bounced him to sleep for endless hours on the yoga ball, and did not think twice about wearing him close to me when the opportunity arose. These are ways that I have bonded with my son, and although many men might think he will never remember any of that, I can look into my child's eyes and KNOW how much it matters. And no, I'm not trying to be "the best dad on Instagram", I'm not playing a role here, what you see is what you get. I'm just trying to give my son what I never had and always sought after, nothing else matters.

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Growing up I never thought about being a father, wait, I take that back, I never thought about being a GOOD father. Why would I? I assumed I would have illegitimate bastard children running around the San Fernando Valley who hated my guts! Sad to say, not a far off assumption for a teenager who didn't think about living past his twenties. I was consumed by drugs and alcohol, and the older I got, the more real shit got. So I drank and got loaded to distract me from an unfulfilling life. Four years ago I got sober and I was given a second chance at life. Im lucky to have met my soul mate who became my best friend and wife. I was blessed with a baby boy who totally flipped my world upside down in the best possible way. You see up until then, my dreams were non existent. I was too afraid to dream because I was so used to low expectations. I thought as long as I could stay sober, support my wife financially, and enjoy living, I was a happy camper. The second I looked into that babies eyes and said "Chico, this is your papa…", witnessing him recognize my voice was like no high I ever experienced. Fatherhood is something I KNOW I am good at, because everything I ever wanted in a father is exactly what I dream to provide for my son today.

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Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV: Culture/Cultura

I was born of two cultures.

Two people. Two ethnicities. Two nationalities. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am. Biracial, bicultural, mixed, mestizo, American, Mexican. On my mother’s side - German, Irish, Scottish. On my father’s - Mexican; Tarahumara, Chicano.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe people that made me couldn’t have been more different culturally. My mother was born here in the United States. My father had not spoken English until he was 9 years old - and he did so only out of fear - the nuns who hit him with rulers for speaking Spanish at school made sure of that.

My parents had been brought up with completely different values, but what brought them together was their passion for what was socially just and of course their passion for each other. It was the late 70’s and both were still immersed in and living a bohemian lifestyle that was made up of hippies, artists, musicians and social activists - people who fought hard for social change and partied even harder. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Raising a child changed things for them as it tends to for most. My father had a very firm hand and far more traditional “machiste” values than I think he even realized he would. My mother was more patient, loving and accepting and his disciplinary values scared her. When they would argue my father would always say - “You’ll never understand - we are culturally polar opposite. This is why we will never agree on how to raise her.

And sadly, it was true. And yes this is something that should have been discussed before deciding to have a baby together. But sometimes when you fall in love you forget about the other person’s deep, core values and how different they might be from your own. And sometimes when someone is black and you are white (or in this case brown and white) those differences are also what draws you to them and somehow it blinds you to the fact that these fundamental differences are what could tear you apart down the road; which in my parent’s case is inevitably what occurred.

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That’s why I have always known, I had to do something differently. I wasn’t clear on what needed to be different exactly, but what I did know was that whomever  I chose to make a life with - they needed to feel the way I did and want what I wanted - not just for themselves, but for us.

And so it is...completely different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause culture is important. It is the core value of who I am. It’s the music, the food, the language, the customs, traditions, raucous family parties filled with drama and chisme, the Catholic guilt without even having to step foot into church…

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Because Adam and I have another culture - the culture of our family. It is something that we have created for ourselves and Chico because what we were given by our parents, although it was the best they could give, wasn’t enough. We’ve taken things we like from our past and left the rest behind forever...

And so today our family culture is exactly that - our own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd to my sweet baby boy, I want you to always keep the following in mind as you go about the journey of life...

  • Be kind to others and search to see people’s best intentions.
  • We gave you Ninos (Godparents) to show you by their own example how to be a good person as opposed to teaching you about God and religion because we’ve got that part on lock! They value things that we value and this is why we chose them for you.
  • Have respect for others and treat people the dignity they deserve; always say “Please,” and “Thank You,” and mind your manners.
  • Have respect for your elders. They are the wisest and sadly, most disregarded people in our society.
  • Remember that life is about compromise … the give and take. It’s about knowing you’re going to make mistakes (Lord knows your Papa and I have made plenty!) and having forgiveness for yourself.
  • We hope to show you the difference between humility and pride and the importance of having both.
  • Always try to do what’s right baby - this will not mean always looking out for yourself first, but rather, the greater good of the family and others you care about.
  • Lastly - keep fighting the good fight every damn day.

Remember Chico Bear - that you are culturally a lot of things - but you are the person of your own making and choosing most of all - so choose wisely and carefully; as we have for you.

Love you, Mama Bear

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume IV: Everything Shines. I am wearing Chico in the Essential Silk Baby Sling in Midnight & Sandstone.

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To My New Friends...

photo 2Since being announced as one of the new sling diarists by Sakura Bloom for their "Everything Shines" series I have gained a lot of new followers and friends on Instagram & here at 9 Months & Beyond. It's such a one sided relationship though - me blabbing about me and my life and not learning about you - the reader! I would love it if you would share something about you as we start this journey together! photo 1

Motherhood is rad but it can easily feel just as isolating as it is rewarding. Sometimes I don't have time to talk on the phone or hang out with friends and family. By stark contrast I am interacting and communicating with people I have never met in real life on Instagram all day long! It has become a really great place to ask for advice, receive encouragement and just chit chat with other mamas.

I can only imagine the new friends that are in my future!

I had a wonderful day making new friends with mamas from IG that I have been getting to know for a long time. It pushed me out of my comfort zone (introvert here!) but was SO worth it. I know there are so many more great friends to get to know ! Buenas Noches y Duelces Suenos!

xx,

Emily

Exciting Announcement - We are Sling Diarists!

photo 1Adam and I are happy to announce that we were chosen to participate in Series IV of Sakura Bloom's Sling Diaries - "Everything Shines." It has been torture keeping mum about it, but it was finally announced yesterday so now we can blab about it to everyone. We are still in shock and pretty damn giddy about being chosen [imagine kids on Christmas Eve]. We will be the first husband and wife team and during the next six months we will be splitting up the different theme assignments. He will do 3 themes on his instagram [Adam's IG] and I will be doing 3 themes here at 9 Months & Beyond.

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I am SO looking forward to the next six months. I plan to make lots of new connections with fellow babywearing/blogging/picture taking/mamas & papas. It's going to be awesome. I can't wait for all of you to join me on this journey!!

xx,

Emily