Friday, October 11, 2013
I don't claim to have all the answers- or even most of them. I've only been at this parenting thing for two years, so I only have a small scope to draw from. However, I have received some really great advice along the way from those who have been doing this a lot longer and quite successfully. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice I've received regarding parenting in the early years:
"In those first few months, you're really just buying for time."
This has been true with both of mine. There will be a period of time after you bring home your precious, wiggly, sleepy little newborn angel where you will think "Why can't I do this right?!" Maybe your baby is having eating problems, or digestion problems, or can't sleep and needs to be held ALL the time, or maybe he/she started teething at three months (ahem. My babes) and you just want to make it all better for them. But sometimes you just can't. There are things that happen in those first months of development that every baby goes through that are necessary for healthy growth, and sometimes those things are uncomfortable for your child. You sit and watch him day after day and you feel so helpless and alone as if this is a unique problem to your baby, but trust me when I tell you that every single baby has these sorts of problems in the first few months. It's called growing. Now, that's not to say that you shouldn't be vigilant over your child's issues and be in close communication with his/ her pediatrician regarding them, but sometimes, you just have to wait it out. He'll figure out the latch. Her little tummy will learn what it feels like to digest real food. He WILL sleep. It's biologically impossible for that baby not to sleep. It will happen. And those teeth will pop through. You're mostly just buying for time.
Around six months, both of mine started to level out. They learned to become more independent and their little tummies started to figure out this digestion thing. We got to a point where we were finally in a routine instead of just surviving day to day. It will happen. Hang in there.
"The secret to enjoying your children is to surrender yourself to the chaos."
Man, this one is hard for me. I don't like chaos. I don't like feeling out of control. I like order and routine. I thrive on it. But having two babies under the age of two doesn't allow for much predictability. None of our days are the same. I keep us to a schedule as best I can, but most days, that schedule gets thrown out the window by mid-morning. My notebook is full of To Do lists that aren't done. My living room has been taken over by toys and baby items, and I've just accepted that our couch will never smell the same way ever again. Having a baby changes everything. I'm sure you've heard that before, but think about it. Every single thing... the way you eat. The way you drive. The way you think. The way you walk across the floor and close doors and listen to the tv (just quietly enough to allow the baby to continue sleeping during nap time). And sometimes taking even the quietest of steps isn't enough to make that baby take her full nap. She'll wake up crying for you after only half an hour and you know what? You'll adjust. Because the truth is that you don't really have an option. It's pure chaos most of the time. Beautiful, messy, infuriating, wonderful chaos and you're helpless to stop it. So just surrender yourself to it.
"Do what works."
This was a big one for us when Vesper came along. She was our first baby and I had lots of preconceived notions about what I was and was not going to allow/ do. For instance- of COURSE I was going to breastfeed for a full year. (Nope. Made it about six weeks.) And no way in hell was I going to let my child create a soothe-crutch for herself out of a pacifier. (At nearly two years old, she sleeps with one at bedtime.) I obviously I would never plop my kid down in front of the television just so I could get something done/ have a minute to myself (A woman has to cook/ pee/ keep her sanity, okay?). And never will I ever allow her to contribute to childhood obesity by chowing down on McDonald's chicken mcnuggets (I think we all know where this is headed...)
So here's the thing, if you have a plan in place for your baby that doesn't go the way you want, and you end up completely chucking it and giving in and just GIVING HER THE FREAKING PACIFIER OMG GO TO SLEEP you're not a quitter or a failure. You're adapting. You're doing what works for you and your family.
Also, and this is very important, if you see another mom doing it differently, keep your thoughts to yourself unless that mom asks for your advice.
"Take lots of pictures. Look at them after they've gone to sleep."
Everybody takes way too many pictures of their kids. But the key part of this phrase is the latter: look at them after they've gone to sleep. In reality, it's probably the only time you'll have to look at them, but there's something about seeing those photos of their sweet faces and knowing that they're sleeping like little cherubs in the next room that just melts your heart. Even if all your photos are of the epic tantrum that your daughter threw in the middle of the store earlier today, you'll look at the picture and giggle and be able to think clearly. You'll let out a deep sigh of relief that you survived the day, give yourself a pat on the back and make yourself a promise to do better tomorrow.
"You are doing holy work."
It doesn't feel that way does it? Because it's only 9 a.m. and I've already cleaned up spit up three times, wiped poopy bottoms, disciplined a child for hitting her brother, picked up the crayons (again), fed breakfast to both babies, refilled sippee cups, done two loads of laundry, and consoled Vesper every single time a commercial came on during her show (kids these days...) I don't feel holy or appreciated or useful or anything at all right now except tired and frustrated. But I remember that this thing I'm doing every single day- this repetition of motions that we fall into and call "motherhood"- this is a calling. It's not a job or a "position" or a career. We wake up every day and as soon as our feet hit the floor we're on the clock. And we stay that way until after every child has gone to bed, and usually long after. Sometimes it's tedious and exhausting but it's splashed with these beautiful moments that only mothers get to experience. In between reminding your toddler to be quiet because the baby is sleeping and applying teething gel to your son's swollen gums and saying "No!" over and over, there are these insanely cathartic instances that you will remember forever. We're all short on sleep and patience and time and we rarely feel ahead of the curve. Sometimes we feel undervalued and completely alone, but hope can be found in remembering that our work is from God.
We've got a full weekend of packing ahead of us, so I'll say good bye for now! Have a lovely weekend!