The "R" Word
Parents receive the news of the impending expansion of their families with a myriad of thoughts and emotions. I remember being a young bride sitting with my husband and planning our family. It was all so romantic. However, I found out shortly after the arrival of our bundles of joy though, that children are the other “R” word.
Infants are relentless. My response to young women who say they want a baby so they can have someone to love them is a hearty snort and some perspective. I say to them, “if an infant was a man, you would break up with them in less than a week.” Imagine being with someone who only ever cares if their needs are being met and who never seems to take in consideration how you are feeling at the time they need you.
Or someone whose communication style boils down to you trying to decode in a “what does that cry mean?” way. And when you do successfully provided them with the thing they needed to be happy in that moment, they offer you a brief smile, a passing of gas and rolling over and falling asleep as your reward. Hardly the making of a romantic relationship, but this is a reality of what it’s like to have an infant. Hair on end, nerves on edge, covered in all manner of bodily fluids (theirs and sometimes yours too), your baby will scream and cry until you render unto them exactly what they require for their optimum homeostasis.
I chose to look at this part of parenting as a trust building exercise that is necessary for the cornerstones to parent/infant bonding. As I began to trust my parenting instinct, the more fun I had nurturing my babies and the more confident I became as a parent. Thankfully, cries were replaced with coos and over time when we just approached the crib it filled them with such happiness they would breakout into huge smiles and a full body, wiggly happy dance. Now that’s what I call a reward!
I believe routine is the saving grace for any family with toddlers and children. Listening to the “Schoolhouse Rock” cassettes over breakfast, counting bones at afternoon nap time (this rouse included my toddler laying on their stomach and gently encircling each of their vertebrae with my finger tips and quietly counting until they drifted off to sleep), pant- less Saturdays, and church on Sunday morning, my family found respite in routine. The choice to raise our children without TV or internet made routine easy to accomplish. The bedtime routine included them being read a bedtime story, but making dinner time meant them “reading” us a story. Reading pictures was the start of the love affair with books my children still have today. If you have a preschooler in your life I urge you to include “read the pictures” of our favorite children’s books into your daily routine. The results can be unexpectedly sweet or side-splitting hilarious, but always hugely imaginative.
Before my divorce I would joke that every mother was a single parent, just some of us have duel incomes. But as an actual single mother, I can’t convey the weight I felt of being the only parent on full time duty. As a single parent, my first priority was to make sure not to slide any portion of parenting responsibility from myself to my children. I strongly believe that childhood IS sacred and Children ARE NOT roommates. Whether parenting with your ex-partner or step-parents, the responsibility of the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children lay firmly with the adults.
I can honestly say I have enjoyed every part of my parenting journey. I truly value and trust in the relationships I have built with my children. Those trust exercises of the early days have paid dividends throughout the years and I am thrilled that they still light up when I enter the room (and vice-versa).
For me parenting, like anytime I'm working with children, fills me with a duty to take a breath, consider the consequences and respond to situations as the best version of myself in that moment . And as an official Humanist that’s something I truly relish!
Until next time, remember child development is human development.