I excelled at the “follows directions” exercises at school. Isn’t that what school is – learning to follow directions? Do this, just the way I told you, and I’ll give you a gold star. I was an A student. At times, an honors student. (Until I figured out that, sadly, many honors programs are exactly the same work you have in regular classes, just twice as much of it. Just because I’m smart doesn’t mean I want to do homework with all of my free time.)
I approached parenthood in much the same manner. I read books, researched online, had my plan. Long before I got pregnant, all through my pregnancy, and after her birth. I didn’t study this hard in grad school. This was the class I’d waited to take my whole life, the one subject I needed to excel at.
This is me throwing the book away.
Breast is best.
Yes, but some of us can’t. I tried. God, did I try. But I just wasn’t able to breastfeed. So I have a healthy, happy, formula-fed baby. I was worried about bonding, about nutrition, about allergies. I suspect the allergies may be an issue (she’s awfully snotty), but the rest? Pfft. I have finally accepted that I agonized over nothing here.
Back to sleep.
I was fanatical about making her sleep on her back. I would even roll her over if her dad put her on her belly or side, even if it woke her. Then she learned to roll over. What am I supposed to do – sit awake all night turning her when she rolls to her side or tummy? The kid’s a side sleeper. When she’s gassy, it feels better when she lays on her tummy. I let her sleep however she wants now.
Co-sleeping is evil.
The baby will die, or at the very least sleep with you until she goes to college. Everyone’s been beating this drum, from the pediatrician down to strangers in stores. So I was furtive in my co-sleeping. I’d lay her in her bed, then bring her into our bed when she woke for her middle-of-the-night feeding. Sometimes she’d make it back to her bed; sometimes not. I just did what I could so we could all sleep a little more.
Now I cut to the chase: When I’m ready for bed, she and I lay down together. I put on a lullaby CD and turn on the ceiling fan, and we snuggle up. We’ve never slept better. And she wakes up smiling, because she’s happy to see me – not crying because she’s alone in a crib and doesn’t know where I am.
I’m her mother. My job is to protect her and make her feel safe. Not to put her through baby boot camp. She’ll move to her own bed when she’s ready.
At first, I squashed my instincts and followed the instructions on my pediatrician’s website to a T. I waited until she was 4 months old, though she showed all of the readiness signs much sooner. I insisted she eat cereal, though it looked and tasted like slurry. I fed exactly the right things in exactly the right order, with exactly the right amount of time between new foods. I panicked when I read other sites: Feeding X too soon will ruin her kidneys! Never give the baby Y before the age of 2, or she’ll swell up and die!
Then we went in for our checkup (due to scheduling problems, her 4-month checkup was closer to 5 months). And the doctor basically said “whatever you want to feed her is fine.” So aside from spacing new foods for allergy reasons (I have food allergies myself; I still do that), I listen to my gut when feeding her. She love strawberries. Could take or leave peanut butter. And will follow me around the house for a taste of chocolate. (I’m not feeding solids yet, because I’m terrified she’ll choke, but I do put little crumbs of chocolate on her tongue so she can taste them. She loves it.)
In loosening the rules of feeding, I’ve made eating a more relaxed, enjoyable experience for us all. She loves to sit at the table with us and share a meal. She likes going to the grocery store and seeing the food that becomes her dinner. She likes to watch us cook. And she likes trying new foods. If she doesn’t like it, or doesn’t want to eat, she doesn’t have to finish it. Period. But for the most part, she is an avid, adventurous eater.
Food can be such an issue with kids; I’m doing what I can to keep the issues out of eating.
Well, except one. I’m raising her (lacto-ovo) vegetarian, at least for now. Against the grandparents’ wishes, I might add. R says we’ll let her decide when she’s older if she would like to eat meat. I’m cool with that. (Though I do hope she chooses to stay vegetarian.) Part of me is reluctant to fight this battle; I know how hard it is to eat in restaurants when you’re a vegetarian, for instance. But I’m wanting to foster a healthy lifestyle in her, and frequent restaurant meals is not part of that lifestyle anyway. I may have to revisit this when she’s old enough to know McDonald’s, but for now, she’s a vegetarian.
Look, my kid doesn’t really even watch TV – just the commercials. Just like her mother did at her age. I didn’t grow up ADD, I’m not a TV addict, nor am I an overweight couch potato. I’m an intelligent, productive member of society. Get over it.
You must set a routine.
I’m a routine junkie. I learned how to spell “schedule” in early grade school because I made myself one. But trying to enforce a routine in a life that’s filled with irregularity just causes more stress. So I abandoned the routine. We’re fine.
So my big lesson: Being a mom means learning when to say “Fuck you – this is my kid. I’ll raise her in whatever way works best for us.” 13 months ago