The former refers to keeping my cool and perspective as a parent; the latter, parenting choices that I hope will help raise a happy, self-aware world citizen. Here are some ways I do that. Ways I fall short will come in another post.
Being a Peaceful Parent.
1. Accepting the way I parent. I’m certainly not perfect. There are things I do that I didn’t expect, things I don’t do. I am a lot more physically engaged with my daughter (throwing, chasing, rolling her around) than I expected; I am a lot less vocally engaged, though I do sing to her a lot. I thought I’d put a lot more effort into research the best way to do things – best toys, best drinking cup, keeping her cleaner, monitoring her food. Instead, I’m fairly (this is relative, people!) laissez-faire and okay with imperfections. Letting myself be the parent I am rather than feeling guilty over not measuring up definitely adds some peace to my parenting.
2. Letting myself love her like crazy. She’s my daughter; I adore her. Everything about her delights me. I think her wave is the most amazing thing ever. When she screams at the top of her lungs in public spaces, I think it’s adorable. I want to eat her up all the time. Letting myself fall madly in love with my girl centres me, sets my priorities and brings me joy. That’s what it’s all about.
Parenting for Peace.
1. Sleeping with my angel. A lot of my approach to parenting is mutually informed by my intuition (which is probably guided a lot by my mom’s approach to parenting) and by reading in the attachment parenting genre. The approaches that resonate with me draw from research showing the importance of the child-parent bond, especially in the early years. Though I was nervous about it at first we ended up sleeping with our baby from a few hours after she was born as we didn’t get it together to make any other sleeping arrangements. Aside from the fact that it’s been amazing to have this sweet creature beside me all night, and that it makes night nursing SO MUCH EASIER, my understanding of all the research is that babies are made to be near parents for the first few years. Separation – for some babies, this can even be another bed in the same room – increases stress and (depending on the degree) decreases trust and negatively impacts the child-parent bond. On the flip side, a securely attached baby who has never needed to feel abandoned grows up with a stronger sense of confidence and security. I believe that these attributes can help our girl go out and be in the world in a powerful way.
2. Listening to her voice. More than anything I think this principle guides my parenting choices. From birth babies are trying to communicate. I believe that the degree to which their communications are responded to influences their sense of self-efficacy and confidence. When a baby tries to say “I’m hungry” and this request isn’t met, she learns that her voice doesn’t matter. (This haunts me when I think about her first few weeks when she WAS hungry and not getting enough food.) When she wakes up and cries, we’re there (or running to be there if we’re in another room) so she knows that if she needs someone [interrupted by dash to bedroom to comfort waking baby], she just needs to ask. Even with going to the bathroom – when she signals that she needs to go and we respond, I know that both strengthens our bond and reinforces her sense that she can make things happen in the world.
When applying this to babies under a year, it’s not a question of “giving in” or spoiling them. If something isn’t good for her, of course she won’t get to have it even if she asks. I take the perspective like the Sears do that babies’ communications are about needs: food, comfort, elimination, sleep, interaction. When I think of it that way, it’s in the best interests of the parents to listen so they can figure out how best to assist their baby not only in meeting these needs, but also in reinforcing their role as trusted guide and support, and finally, their baby’s growing sense of self in this new world.
So those are a few things I’m trying and doing. Not always perfectly. And I’m sure my understanding of what they mean will grow over time.