Newton’s Laws of Parenting

photo (1)I witnessed something incredibly interesting (at least to me) recently that has made me wonder what I will do in similar parenting situations and what lasting impact my decisions in these situations will have, on me and on my daughter.  It made me wonder if what I do, or what I will do, in any given situation is “wrong” or “right” and how I will know. It made me consider, and has me continuing to consider, how every action I take in parenting my daughter will have a consequence, a reaction — and depending on when/how/why I react, that reaction may not be what I bargain for.

I was at the SDCJC and they have this gorgeous stone garden, with a fountain and a little rock/slate walkway by a tiny pond…it’s a small little garden.  You can see from one end to the other very easily. I was by the fountain and on the other side of it sat this father.  He was just sitting, relaxing.  His daughter was flitting around the rock garden, running after hummingbirds and bees (yep, she was chasing the bees) and simply having a charming time.  But, she was running.  On concrete.  And at one point she fell.  And she fell hard.  I mean, I would have sworn that she cracked her face wide open, literally, based on the sound she made when she hit the ground. Needless to say, she screamed and ran over to her father.  Her father did nothing. Not a thing.  He let her climb into his lap and bury her face in his chest, but he didn’t really even “hug” her and he certainly didn’t say anything soft or gentle or encouraging. Nor did he say “don’t worry” or “stop crying” or any of the ‘suck it up -isms’ we sometimes hear people say (or say they’ll say) to children when they fall.  Now, to be clear, there was no blood.  I looked.  The kiddo really was, it seems, fine. Probably more rattled and startled and with some stinging hands and maybe chin, but overall…fine.

And within one minute, she was done crying.  Up and running again and looking at the water trickling down to the rock pond.

A full five minutes later her mom walked out of the building and into the garden and the girl ran up to mom and started crying again.  Mom cooed at her, “what happened?” and the girl explained through actual sobs, what had happened.  She kept crying, and mom cuddled her and lifted her up and the girl whimpered into her moms shoulder.  And this went on for some five minutes longer.

Isn’t that interesting?

She was totally, fully comforted by the presence of her father, even though he did not say a word. She was clearly NOT hurt that badly.  She got over it quickly and was completely fine.  Then her mother appeared and she reverted to hurt child mode and started crying again, clearly long enough after the initial fall that she was not in any pain any longer.

What messages are both of these parents and their reactions sending?  What is this child learning from these messages?  It was clear to me that the child knew that her parents have different responses and while she was fine with the one she got from her father, she also wanted the response – softer? gentler? coddling? comforting? nurturing? – of her mother.

What will I do, when Charlotte falls down for the first time and scrapes her knee?  She clearly will be all right…but I’ve been wondering ever since this. What will I do?  What is more, I wonder, what will what I do “say” to my daughter?

Will I tell her “it’s OK, honey, you’re ok” and pick her up and comfort her with kisses? Will this teach her that I will always be there to comfort her? Or will it teach her that she needs me to fix things for her?

Will I say “get up, it’s all good, you’re ok” and not pick her up, but just be there for her and brush the dirt off her knobby knees?  Will this teach her to to be strong and resilient?  Or, will this send a message to her that I do not think her pain is a big deal?

What will happen when the scraped knee is something bigger? Something more painful? Something more significant?

I know, I know.  I’m overthinking this a bit. But, it’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?  It’s worth considering how we respond to our children, in their moments of triumph and their moments of pain.  It’s worth considering what messages we are sending to them so that we can be sure that they are getting the messages we want, the messages we actually intend to send.  Perhaps the message that we think they can do anything but that we also will be there for them always.

I’m not sure what message I think these parents were sending, or what message their daughter was receiving from their actions.  What I do know is that the message of their actions and interactions has certainly got this mama thinking…

Too Fast

toothYesterday my daughter did not have any teeth. Yesterday she was five months and 23 days old.  Today she has a tooth.  One. Day. Later. It happened that fast – nobody tells you it happens that fast.  I thought that I would be happy about this, excited for this next stage of our lives.  She would then learn to sit up totally on her own, we’d work on baby led weaning, starting with something yummy like avocado, as we are in Southern California after all.  But I’m not happy about it.  In fact, after my initial excitement and double checking and trying to get a picture and posting on FB, I became increasingly sad about this.

It’s happening too fast.

All of it, all of her growing up.  And, what’s more sad to me, what brought me to tears as I watched her gnaw on this teething ring that’s been waiting patiently to have a purpose, is that her dad, my husband, has missed so many milestones already because he is deployed. In the past, I have been very good with deployments.  I haven’t liked them, but I’ve managed pretty well.  I’ve worked out more, learned to cook some fun dishes, organized and re-organized closets…all good.  Even this deployment, which has been hard with a new baby, our first, has been OK. Not great, but OK.  I have not loved at all having my husband gone – for the middle of the night wake-ups, the first illness, the laundry, the dirty diapers – but we’ve managed.  We’ve Skyped or FaceTimed when we could, though not often enough.  He’s called when he could, though also not often enough.  Neither of which are even close to as good as having him here, for all the hard stuff, but for the good stuff too.  But, regardless, we’ve managed even though: He’s missed her first real smile.  He’s missed her first giggle. He’s missed her first fever (he’s probably happy about this). He’s missed her rolling over and sitting up and finding her hands and her feet.

I knew for all of these firsts that he’s missed that there were going to be so many more firsts that he WILL be here for that I just took pictures and sent him an email and simply soaked up being with my baby – mama and Charlotte time.  But today, this tooth. This tooth took me by surprise.  I wasn’t expecting that I would be so NOT ready for this.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy, sort of.  I am happy that she’s reaching milestones and she is happy. I’m enjoying every single minute of our lives together right now.  But I am just not ready for it to be going by so quickly.  It’s all happening so damn fast. I want to press pause and savor these moments for longer than they actually are lasting.  I want to keep, permanently, the sweet baby smell of my toothless (not any more!) smiling gift of a baby.  I want to have her remain in awe every time she takes her tiny little hand and touches it to my face.  I want to keep the snuggles and the cuddles and the breastfeeding bonding and the little “I’m tired” whining and the “I like that” grunts — I want to keep them all and I want to give back this tooth that is making it all go by so quickly.  Too quickly.  I want to keep my baby a baby.  At least until her daddy can come back home to us.  😦

It’s not Rocket Science, It’s Parenting

For thousands of years (c’mon, don’t quote me, I’m not an historian) parents hav500e been raising children. For thousands of years this has happened. It’s been without books, blogs, the “interweb” and and, frankly, I think the world, mostly, has seemed to do just fine.  Babies have grown up, for the most part, into happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults. The tiny humans have, mostly, grown into larger humans that have thrived enough to, shocking, procreate and create more tiny humans!

Why then, as a new parent do I fall into the trap that I feel many new parents fall prey to: feeling the need to read, research and stress out over every single step of our new parenthood.  What happened to instinct?  What happened to just raising your baby?

Things that there is, in my opinion, simply too much information out there on include: diaper rash, nursing to sleep, colds, toys, teething, immunizations, starting babies on food, sleep training, and so on and so on and so on. I know that there is a lot of GOOD information on all these topics but there is just as much bad information and honestly, my brain is starting to hurt from trying to sort through the piles of malarkey to find those gems of advice.  Admittedly, I find myself going to a few sources for information on the regular (Semi Crunchy Mama, Badass Breastfeeders of San Diego, San Diego Breastfeeding Center, KellyMom, just to name a few…) and I try, somewhat unsuccessfully I might add, to avoid all the other “crap”.

But, what if it’s not crap? I wonder to myself (literally, because the only other person in my house right now with the baby-daddy/husband off on deployment is my 5 1/2 month old…). What if someone has a new idea that would work better? I find myself scrolling through “just to see”.  And don’t even get me started on Google searching.  Talk about a Can o’ Worms!

Here’s the thing.  I want to rely on instinct.  I think my instincts are, generally, pretty good.  Solid, I’d say, for a mom who is new to this whole mom thing.  I’ve taken a gander around at other moms long enough to know what I want to do and what I’d like to try** and avoid.  When I find myself unsure, I reach out to other mamas whom I know, from my interactions with them, have similar desires for raising their kiddos and similar beliefs.  Will we all always agree?  Probably not.  For example, I had our daughter immunized (separate post on immunizations to follow).  Not everyone does that. Everyone DOES have their opinions about this and I respect that my opinion differs from some of these same mothers whom I adore and respect.  It does not bother me one iota that they have chosen, because of their instincts, to not immunize their child.  And I suspect, because they still interact with me, that it does not bother them that I have chosen to immunize our daughter.

That all being said, if as an older, well-educated, relatively self-assured woman, I am overwhelmed with the amount of information that is thrown at new parents, I can only begin to imagine how other parents – younger and/or older than me – are feeling.  I think being a parent is hard enough without having to sort through all this information and to “know” what is right and what is wrong – or to be made to feel guilty when you don’t know.  My advice to new parents:  trust your instincts.  Every baby is different, and you will learn to know what your kiddo is telling you in their cries, their smiles, their looks and you will learn to know what they need – until they can tell you and then, well…you still have to trust your instincts, I think. 🙂

**Notice here that I don’t say “what I don’t want to do” — and I’m purposeful about this. I have learned to “never say never” because you never do know what this life called “being a mom” is going to throw at you, and when, and how you are going to handle it…so, just take notes.