The Big Lessons

February 14th, 2011 by Dionna | 13 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance

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Savor the moment!

My dear sweet baby boy is fifteen months old already. He is no longer a baby really, but a confident, curious, lovable and loving toddler. A lump still wells up in my throat whenever I have a moment to glance at his baby photos or read a snippet of his birth story.

Going into the parenting adventure, my husband and I were about as prepared as we could be. We’d read voraciously on everything from labor and delivery to parenting styles and breastfeeding to vaccines and circumcision.

Looking back now, I see that we were indeed well prepared, but that all the reading in the world is nothing compared to that first year in the trenches. We learned a million little things specific to our baby – the best latch positions, how to interpret his tired signs, and how to distract him from eating the telephone.

But it’s the big lessons I’ve been pondering today.

Don’t try to control.

Like many women who’ve waited to have children until their careers were well underway, I have a desire for organization, schedules and control. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having one’s life in some semblance of order, but babies are not just another task to be managed. Pick up nearly any baby book off the shelf at your local bookstore though, and you’ll be led to believe that babies acting normally (nursing more than every three hours and needing help to fall asleep, for example) are an inconvenience to a parent’s life and with a rigid schedule, these “nasty” habits can be abolished. With this sort of “expert” knowledge flowing so freely around the new parent, it’s difficult to not feel that maybe you should be dictating more about your day and spending less time responding to the needs of an infant. But just as a baby is in no way trying to control or manipulate his or her parent, a parent should avoid manipulating a baby’s behavior simply for convenience. For me, when I stopped feeling resentful about our sleep struggles, I started to feel a lot happier. I tried to internalize the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” I found that letting go of the notions of how things should be helps me to enjoy things as they are.

Community matters.

Living far from family when starting a family of one’s own is extremely difficult. While there is no substitute for the loving arms of family, finding a community to call on can make a world of difference. I’ve been blessed to have some great friends with young families who support me though the day to day questions regarding the introduction of solids, sleep habits and the best brands of various baby gadgets. But a strong community doesn’t have to be physically present. Much of the support I receive is from online communities of like minded parents. I can confidently say that I am a much better parent because of a whole suite of natural parenting blogs and forums. So find support, ask for help and seek out like minded mamas wherever you can find them.

Trust your gut.

Advice flows freely to the new mother. I’m sure it’s because mothering causes a great swell of emotion to rise up within each of us and when another is struggling, we want to help. Trouble is, not all advice fits within our personal style of parenting. For us, many mainstream parenting philosophies go directly against our gut feeling of what is right for our baby. Crying it out as a means of teaching sleep and scheduled feedings have no place in our toolkit of parenting strategies, yet well meaning friends, strangers and health professionals will often recommend these. While we nearly succumbed to the supposed quick fix of sleep training during a time of desperation, the experience led us to question our beliefs and to solidify our commitment to our parenting principles. So, listen to the advice you receive, but then do your own research and trust your gut in the end.

Ignore baby wisdom.

I hear the funniest things said about babies. “Oh, better not let him sleep with you or you’ll just have to break that habit in the future.” “If he doesn’t learn to self soothe now, he NEVER will.” “A baby over six months of age should be able to sleep twelve hours without nursing or comfort from a parent.” “They say it only takes three days of sleep training to break the baby of his nighttime neediness.” I sometimes wonder if people listen to what they are saying. I can’t stand the word “break” when it’s used for horses, but when it comes to babies it’s simply an unacceptable term. Babies are individuals who deserve our respect, tenderness and compassion (night and day). Question assumptions that you hear about baby’s behavior and ask “who says?” The ubiquitous “they” probably never met your baby so when in doubt, listen to your baby rather than the experts.

Savor the moment.

Hard as I try to be fully present, the days just keep slipping by with disturbing speed. It seems like only yesterday that the universe shifted to make room for a very special new person. And now here I am, chasing a toddler around and wondering what he did with my keys. Before I know it he’ll be asking for the keys and pushing for a later curfew. This thought always prompts me to both respect my baby’s needs as an individual and to enjoy the moment. How I treat him now will shape the man he becomes. If he is treated respectfully, disciplined gently and loved unconditionally, I will have done what I can to mold a kind and honorable man. And a man he’ll be in just a blink of an eye.

________________

I’m pleased today to host a guest post from Jenn. Jenn works in the field of environmental management and education and is the proud mama of a little boy who has turned her world upside down in the best way possible. She writes at her travel turned parenting blog, Adventures Down Under.

13 Responses to:
"The Big Lessons"

  1. Kate

    Control, yeah, that’s a big one. I got a lot of not so supportive reactions when people would ask things like “when does he nap” and I would say “when he’s tired.” Not that I wasn’t happy when he got a little older and developed more a regular schedule (because it made planning things so much easier) but the key was that he developed the schedule, not me. Now that he’s almost two we still don’t have a strict schedule for naps and bedtime, just a general time frame when he usually gets tired. I just keep an eye on how tired he seems to be and when I think he’s ready to go down I ask him and 90% of the time his response is to start walking up the stairs to bed. On the rare occasion when I put him down and he then decides he’s not tired I just pick him up and we try again later. I’m convinced that one of the reasons he is such a good sleeper is that we’ve always allowed him to follow his body’s natural sleep cues.

  2. Jessica

    Thank you for this. Your words have perfectly captured what I’ve been feeling lately. Our 11-month old son has been teething non-stop for months and it’s wreaking havoc on his sleep. We have many friends with babies the same age and it seems that everyone around us is sleep-training and crying it out. My husband is eager to jump on the bandwagon, but I know in my gut that it’s not right for our baby. He’s waking up and crying because he’s in pain and wants his Mama! I have stuck to my guns, but sometimes I feel like the only attachment-parenting oddball in our circle. Luckily, my parents are big supporters of AP, so I have them to turn to. Just wish I could get hubby on board a little more.

  3. Wow, I really enjoyed this post! Thank you so much for sharing it. I have a beautiful and magical little 16 month old girl and everything that was written in this piece really hit it right. That first year really did fly by, and I continue to try and savor every sweet moment even as they continue to speed past.
    Thanks so much for this! :)

  4. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    Excellent lessons! I couldn’t agree more with all of them!

  5. Oh, control… yep, that was a big one for me, too. I started off trying to keep the twins on the NICU schedule, but soon found that letting go of that control made everyone happier, especially the babies!

    Thank you for a well-written, important piece.

  6. Tat   muminsearch

    Releasing control is so important. I had this big issue with everyone (in particular, my early childhood nurse) telling me how my baby was supposed to sleep and it just didn’t work for me. Once I gave up on trying to make it work and went with the flow, I enjoyed being a mum so much more. It was bitter sweet because I felt like I had wasted a few weeks focusing all day every day on sleep. But on the other hand, it could have taken me much longer…

  7. Amie   babyinbliss

    I think for me, the hard one is savor the moment. The older she gets, the faster I seem to be running our lives forward, missing out on those moments. Or sometimes, I am so busy trying to take a picture of the moment for her to have for posterity, that the memory I have is through the camera lens, and not the actual live action sequence. Very sad. Second is the control thing, but I think everyone here has agreed with that one thus far.

  8. Brynn   babyinbliss

    I think it’s hard to let go of control as they get older. When they are little, it feels so hard- but it is really just that long adjustment period to parenthood that, in retrospect, was difficult. I love how my sister put it, “Isn’t it great we give birth to babies and not six-year-olds?

    Every part of parenting the growing child becomes progressively more involved, but at a pace we can manage, if we allow the lessons and experience to splash over us.

  9. Lily Shahar Kunning   LilyShahar

    I love these and wholeheartedly agree!

  10. Well you must be doing things right because your boy looks so happy! I love your advice of trusting your gut – so apropos in all things. We know. We just do.

    I’ve been trying to conceive and have a successful pregnancy for four years now. One day I hope to be blogging about raising my child instead of my infertility journey.

    Thanks for sharing your journey!

  11. Thanks everyone for all of your insightful comments. This post was published on a day that found me battling with the very control issues that I was writing about. Who was that calm, collected and eloquent woman who wrote this piece anyway? This week has been filled with fatigue and a feeling that I must DO something about the lack of sleep in our house. I find my attitude shifting wildly and I wonder if anyone else’s swings as greatly as mine does. One week I am happy to meet my son’s needs for comfort at all hours of the day and night and the next I am so over it that I want to run away. Oh it’s a hard job this one. I take comfort in all of you out there facing the same issues and doing the best you can!

  12. cassondra law   sondramama

    totally agree on all those aspects! with my first born, i was very scheduled, i never nursed him to sleep, i never rocked him to sleep, etc. i took other’s advice and thought i’d be a noob and disrespectful if i didnt.
    this time around, i am following my baby’s schedule while maintaining my own schedule. i mean, he’ still on a schedule. its not play time at night and vise versa.
    i rock him to sleep. i nurse him to sleep. i swaddle him to sleep. i will nurse until he’s at least 2. etc. … things have changed since i have grown.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Good for you Cassondra – isn’t amazing what we can do when we listen to our instincts and our babies?!

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