Transcript of this week's interview with mother of two young children (and founder of Lil'ollo), Alexandra Nicoletti. Our discussion focuses on Alexandra's experience becoming a mother, and how her access to The Heart Of It as a beta tester has changed that experience the second time around, on both an emotional and practical level.
Ayelet: I'd like to welcome, Alexandra Nicoletti, who is a good friend of mine. We met when I was pregnant with my first child, and she was also pregnant with her first child at that time. Since, she has become the mother of a beautiful baby girl who is now just over 3 months old. Alex, thanks so much for being here with us on Strength In Words today. I just want to talk to you because you’ve been beta testing “The Heart Of It” curriculum for the last 3 months or so, since Nel was born. [baby coos in background]… And there she is!
As a parent of young children, you’ve had the experience now of going through infancy, both your “first time parenting experience” and then, now, with this added curriculum access. So, what was it like for you to become a parent, what are some of the feelings that went around becoming a mum for the first time?
Alexandra: Well, I… there’s so many different emotions, and I approached motherhood, the first time, a bit like a research project. And I thought that… I like to research, I like to be prepared, and I like to understand everything. And I thought that if I read all the books and all the internet articles, and I prepared, and I was fit and I was strong and I did the yoga, I would follow my birth plan, and Marco would just be really happy and there’d be no problems, and he’d obviously sleep through the night from three weeks and be doing headstands by five weeks, because, you know, I’d done all of my preparation! And obviously, as you know, it doesn’t work out like that! These amazing little people are born as they are, they’re not blank slates, and it was a huge shock to the system because Marco, poor thing, had the colic and the reflux and the cow’s milk protein allergy, and all these things you can’t prepare for really, and research and it’ll all be ok. They’re things you have to move through with them as best you can, and I found it an incredibly tough experience to start off… with this huge amount of love for this little man, and I wanted to just do the absolute best I could, but I felt completely at sea.
There’s no manual for parenthood, although people do try very hard to claim that they’ve written one. There’s no manual, there’s no one-size-fits-all, these people are individuals, and the early days were really challenging. And of, I think, the delights in Marco’s first year, was meeting you, being with you on this starting journey of Strength in Words - and just wishing that we could do the classes every day, because they were so helpful! It provided a tool kit, and it provided an ethos. It wasn’t… what I love about “The Heart Of It” curriculum and also Strength In Words and your podcasts is that you don’t say, “this is what you must do.” It’s general guidelines and ideas, which are so helpful because our children are all so different! At no point do you ever say, “your child should be helping themselves to their breakfast, standing on their head…” there’s no… they’re general guidelines about development, which are so helpful. There’s an awful lot on the internet, lots of information, I found, especially when Marco was little, of saying, “this is what should be happening at this point,” and often, it doesn’t! And, you’re going through this the first time, and you think, “what am I doing wrong? What’s wrong with my baby? They’re not doing this!”
I honestly felt anxious about moving through infancy again, because this first six months with Marco, I found incredibly challenging. And I was worried. It’s so fantastic to have “The Heart Of It” curriculum with us, every week, every day. It’s been incredibly reassuring. And what I’ve learned is that it’s… when we have these guidelines, and this knowledge, it’s so supportive. A lot of the things, and other parents will find this as well, is it's those things that you already have within you, what you already know, you sort of need that to be brought out of you, and you need that reassurance… you think, “oh, I’ve got this! It’s ok, we’re fine.” But having that every week is great. And I think it is… [baby shouts in the background] – yes! It’s an amazing time, chatty one. It’s an amazing time and it’s also, it is, it can be really tough! You know, some babies sleep better than others, but a lot don’t for quite some time, and that can add to the feeling of being a little lost when you’re really tired. So having these emails and having this information is incredibly helpful!
Ayelet: So, what are some of the things that you feel specifically have changed for you, especially with your experience with Marco, your first, and now with Nell?
Alexandra: I feel… more confidence, and more calmed this time around. And I know part of that is that I’ve done it before, and Marco’s turned out ok, I think, I hope! He seems happy! And, it’s also having that confidence to have fun and be creative. And, I remember, when Marco was this age, thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” because you do get lovely feedback in the form of smiles, but not the kind of feedback that you get with a slightly older child. Like, Marco can very clearly say what he’s enjoying and what he’s not, or what he’d like to do now, but at Nell’s age, you know, it’s not… I remember thinking with Marco at 3 months, I didn’t know what activities would be helpful. And with your guidance – and I think that’s so helpful that you say what’s going on developmentally, and also some ideas of things to do and it’s… once you’ve had them, once you’re, say, 3 months into the curriculum, you think, “oh, well, these are some ideas that Ayelet suggested, and I can think of some others that we can do.” And singing this time around – I’m singing a lot more – probably not very well, but she seems to enjoy it! And having the Strength In Words podcast at the same time, having access to that is fantastic, because they fit so well with the curriculum. I’m so excited about your album that’s coming out, that’s going to be brilliant! So, reaaaaally looking forward to that! And, I know that people who sign up early can get access to that can get access to that, too, which is fantastic.
Ayelet: That’s right, that’s a, sort of, special incentive for that first week of the cart, as it were, opening up! I mean, so much of what Strength In Words was born out of was that interactive musical experience because they can be so rich. So, I’m happy that “The Heart Of It” will be supplemented with the podcast, and then also, of course, the transportable album for those who get into that!
But let’s get back to you for a second. How has “The Heart Of It” changed your experience of parenting?
Alexandra: I know this is going to sound awful, because I did feel joy with Marco when he was first born, as well, but it was intermixed with so much anxiety. So, I’m just feeling so much more of the joy without the anxiety this time around, which is great.
Ayelet: And as you said, I mean, I’m sure it’s not all the curriculum – I mean, I’d love to take credit for that but so much of it is you as well, because you’ve been through it and because you have the knowledge that you can do it and, you know, Nell’s not going to break. But, it sounds like you feel that it’s nice to have access to something that’s just leading you through the experience of parenting an early developing person.
Alexandra: Absolutely. Yes.
Ayelet: I wonder, you also have sort of a unique story as well, and we won’t get into it too much, but I know that your experience with Strength In Words has led you to create something of your very own, and if there’s anything that you wanted to share about that, I’d love to just hear a bit about that story. We’ll get into it a bit more after you launch your fantastic new business, Lil'ollo, but…
Alexandra: Oh, thank you. Yes, and I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your help and support, because, everybody, Ayelet’s been with me on this journey right from the very beginning. She’s one of the first people I told about this idea when it was in its very early infancy, when Marco was… I think he was probably about 4 months old when I first started thinking about it.
Just to go into it briefly, my husband GianLuca is Italian – hence the names Marco and Ornella. We speak Italian and English and now Spanish, as well, at home, and I couldn’t find any products in both languages that were… I could find a few books, a few bilingual books, but really, I struggled to find posters, and toys, and games, and things that we could really start creating a world at home to really enjoy learning languages together, and not for it to be a process of “Now we are going to learn English,” or “now we are going to learn Italian,” which, I quickly learned from you, Ayelet, that early learning doesn’t work that way… it needs to be fun and engaging, and part of everyday life. So, I started creating a series of simple products, with a family of animal characters that can be used in any number of different ways, to play games with and to have on the wall, and to just have around the home and take out and about with you – and to learn two or more languages. Or just one! If you are just speaking one language at home, and like the idea of saying a few words in another language, it’s for the whole spectrum of language learning! So, from learning one to learning as many as you like! Apparently, children can pick up up to five up to the age of five, which is absolutely incredible. I’m constantly amazed by how these little brains develop and work. As you say, we’ll talk more about that closer to the launch, but everyone can hear more from Ayelet on our website – because we’ve got you on film, which is very exciting! And I really look forward to working with you more in the future as our resident speech-language pathologist!
Ayelet: I’m so happy to be involved in that project, it’s very exciting. So, again, we’ll chat more about that once it’s officially coming, but just as a little teaser! How nice! Thank you so much, Alex, it’s a really nice thing to hear about your experience and I think it will resonate with a lot of people. That’s great.
Alexandra: Oh, thank you so much for having us today. Thank you so much for having us involved in beta testing such a wonderful program. It’s really exciting, and I know that some of my friends who are expecting, or who have babies who are within their first year will be getting lovely presents, because I really am, I’m so excited about sharing this with everybody.