“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.”
– Jane Austen, Persuasion
They say the problem with having children is that they don’t come with an instruction manual. That may be true – they block off entire sections of bookstores with “instruction manuals” – suggestions/strategies telling you how to parent “the right way”.
Instinctive, attachment, helicopter, authoritative, permissive, peaceful, concerted, positive, grace-based, slow… when it comes to how you decide to parent/raise your children, it seems the professionals come at you from all angles – selling “what works” and “what’s best”. Overwhelming? I would say so.
Unfortunately for me, putting the strategies set forward in a book is a lot easier said then done. I am the first to say it – I am what I know and when times get tough and our children aren’t following the text book example set forward for me, I revert back into the parent I’m trying not to be.
It wasn’t until I was entertaining a visit with a friend, that it all came to light for me. I had been explaining to her that we were worried we were spoiling our twins, that they were starting to get used to being soothed in our arms, and that it was becoming the only place they ever wanted to be. We talked about how it should get easier, as they get older. She turned to me and said, so plainly, “Spoil them. It’s not like they’ll remember when they’re 16.”
This, as silly as it sounds, was an a-ha! moment for me.
These will be our last babies. Which means, I will never again carry a newborn in my arms that belongs to me. Now all I want to do is hold them. After all, it’s not like they’ll remember when they’re 16.
Parenting infants, I’ve learned, is all about “parental survival”. Infants have one job – to grow. And they will do everything in their power to do that job. The strategies for parents in these books, about where, when and how long babies should sleep, eat, poop – it is more about providing our babies with the opportunity to do their job, in order to maintain OUR sanity – so parents can get as much rest as we can, when our job is more demanding than we care to admit.
Parenting children, by contrast, is all about “child survival”. That’s when our job really starts. It’s no longer about what we can do to maximize OUR sanity as parents, that luxury is over, but to really introduce ourselves with our child, get to know who they are and what they need. We need to figure out what they need from us in order to survive and grow into these productive members of society, adults ready to perpetuate the cycle with their own children. This involves the toughest stuff – like self-confidence, honesty, kindheartedness, respect – stuff you can’t really teach, but have to instil.
I think I’ll take parenting infants.
I’ll leave you this week with an adorable video from Johnson’s company – about there only being one right way to parent.
I’d have to agree with them. Enjoy.