Monday, October 7, 2013

parenting the child you have

When Gwen was a baby, I remember wishing that she came with some warning lights and maybe an LCD panel that told you exactly what combo of things would work today. Warning: tired baby. Use sleep sack plus fan plus white noise and hold an extra 5 minutes. Warning: just fussing in sleep. Leave her be! It was an interesting juggling act, trying to figure out what would make my girl happy.

Babies don't come with warning lights though. Nor do they have owners manuals. But you do figure it out. Eventually I realize that if I trusted my intuition and really listened to her, I could start to "read" her cries. I could tell the difference between a cry that meant she needed something, and one that was just a sleep whimper (aka. leave her alone or you'll wake her more!).

Every mother has to learn to use her intuition. We all seek advice at some point, and commiseration often. That's why blogs such as this one exist: a place for like mined Mamas to come together and share some collective knowledge, to share their experiences so that they, and other mamas, can know they not alone. I love these places for that purpose.

This is why I will always ofter advice if someone asks for it: I'm happy to tell you more then you ever wanted to know about breastfeeding, babywearing, baby lead weaning, safe bedsharing, and gentle parenting; not to mention offer copious amounts of commiseration on sleepless nights and strong-willed toddlers. But every baby is different.Which is why I completely understand if you ask for my advice, listen to my advice, digest my advice, then ultimately throw that advice right out the window!

The biggest lesson most mothers go through, no matter what parenting style you use, is learning to parent the child you have. We all form an image in our minds, pre-baby, of what kind of mother we will be. These unique little people though, they have their own ideas. What worked perfectly for others would not have worked for Gwen, and what works perfectly for Gwen would not work for others. That is okay. It says nothing about me as a person and everything about my child as an individual.

For us that looked like full-term breastfeeding and BLW, continuing to babywear, bedsharing for a few months then transferring to a crib where she stayed until 3.5. It means always trying to use our gentle words and gentle voice, giving my child lots of whys, but using time outs if needed when everything is just too much and she can't listen anymore. To others it looks VERY different. That's okay. 

Too often mothers pit themselves against one another for the "right way" to do things. Even within communities, even within the Attachment Parent community, there are debates about what makes you AP enough, who's doing it the right way. But my ultimate advice for the most AP thing you can do when parenting? Listen to your baby, listen to your heart, and not to anyone else. Parent YOUR baby.


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