I wanted to start this post with a clip from “Sex And The City.” Unfortunately, my countless searches on YouTube never yielded the needed results. Instead, bear with my summation of a particular scene, which until recently, I had know idea how on point it was on parenting.
In this scene, baby-obsessed Charlotte is visiting an unintentionally pregnant, and not-exactly-enthused-by-impending-motherhood Miranda at her apartment. Well-meaning Charlotte begins to lecture her friend on parenting, even suggesting a good spot for the crib. She proceeds to ask Miranda what type of mom she plans to be. To which Miranda has the perfect response?
“Um, a good one?”
Of course, for Charlotte, that is the wrong answer. But, for anyone who has ever had children, she absolutely nails it.
Sure, we read the books, skim the articles, partake in online forums and seek guidance from friends and family. Some of us may even map out our goals for motherhood. However, no matter how much we plan and prepare, we all inevitably change something about the way we thought we would parent.
You could be a family like mine who bought the fancy crib only to end up still co-sleeping almost nightly with that baby nearly four years later. Or you may be a mom who was all set to home make every ounce of baby food only to give up on the project a few weeks in. Or perhaps you decided to change careers to become a work-from-home-dad, only to find it impossible to both parent and be a good employee. It is easy to have good intentions before you actually have to follow through with them.
We bought a crib because we thought at some point our baby would need one. Then I gave birth to one of those babies. You know, the ones who never want to be put down, who nurse constantly, who never seem satiate? If you took attachment parenting at its most literal definition, then I became one the day my oldest was born. He was on top of me nearly every moment of his first days of life and several weeks and many months later. There was no way he was going in a crib, I could barely keep him in the bassinet next to our bed. There was only one way he slept. On top of my chest.
Never during my pregnancy did I expect to have a baby who slept that way. There was no baby book to tell me what to expect when your baby is a barnacle. I had to put outside my former assumptions, ditch my thoughtful plans and just accept the reality of my baby.
The more I accepted what was best for my family, the better things became.By no longer trying to fit my baby into my mold of parenting, I let go of much of the anxiety caused by new motherhood. I adapted. I wore him more, nursed him often and continued to have him in the family bed.
Now he is a preschooler, and my methods continue to evolve. There is less physical attachment, but my sensitive boy still craves lots of love and affection. This can be especially tough to dole out after a long day of tantrums, but I remind myself that when he is at his worst, he needs me the most.
I would love to conclude by saying that once you find your style it will carry you through raising all of your kids. More likely, you will shift in a different direction.
My youngest has his own personality, temperament and emotional needs. Whereas my oldest craved constant touch, my youngest was eager to move from birth. If he wants to go somewhere nobody can hold him back. Nursing and rocking him was never a foolproof plan to get him to sleep. He sleeps when he is ready, and often without any assistance from me. Everything he does is on his own terms, and woe be to those who try to stand in his way.
For my son, who lives up to his Ares sign of going head first into every situation, no matter how dangerous, my son is much more cautiously hands off. He is constantly testing the safety limits of our home and showing me what it is truly like to have your heart in your throat. There isn’t a single day that I am not pulling him off of furniture or shooing him away from sharp objects. All I can do is fight the urge to shelter him and give him the right environment for exploration.
To all the soon-to-be-parents pouring through every book, reading every online article and taking every class to ensure they will raise their children right, I implore you to not get caught in your preconceived notions about child-rearing. Accept that each kid is different, and that no one style works for one family.