As a rookie mom ten years ago, I scoured through countless books searching for answers to many parenting queries. I treated these volumes like “biblical encyclopedias” and sought to resolve all dilemmas and pre-empt others by arming myself with a stockpile of psychological weaponry. This book-devouring was accomplished mainly while pregnant- when I still had time to read.
Upon the birth of my firstborn, whatever the predicament, I consulted with my “team of experts” and attempted to proceed according to the logic dictated in my texts. This practice lasted no more than three months.
When first baby was about four months old, I allowed my maternal “instincts” to evolve. Soon enough, I started to trust and eventually rely upon them. Not to discredit all the "academic giants", but our parents and all generations before them, didn’t have instant access to this vast sea of information available today- and they figured it all out as they paddled along.
Most of us turned out OK despite Mom not having read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, for example. Mothers were encouraged to develop their maternal “sixth sense” and trust in their own judgement. Pediatricians were consulted when we were really ill; not to find out why, at 15 months, we weren’t babbling the "recommended average" word count.
Whatever the developmental stage, Mom knew we’d “catch up” when we were ready and didn’t despair. Maybe I’m raising my children in this generation with the spirit of a mother from generations past because I never worried about milestones the way many moms in my day do.
Here are a few fundamentals I’ve learned on the job-
When Mommy's nervous, we get scared.
My kids all have received their fair share of cuts, bites, bumps, bruises, welts, burns and stitches. Most battle wounds have been hard-earned through rough play. I realized by Kid Number 2, that they’d rather risk injury and have fun, than sit safely by the sidelines avoiding participation. I allow them to explore their surroundings and when someone does get hurt- I STAY COOL. Their response to the wound-at-hand is a direct reaction to the level of anxiety I wear on my face. When I’m relaxed, despite my internal panicking, (because I know we’ll soon be en route to the ER), they’re brave.
Don’t butt in when we bicker-we’ll work it out.
I remember going on play-dates with my eldest and at the first hint of a “toy struggle,” all anxiety-ridden and embarrassed, I’d intervene and explain the concepts of “sharing” and “friendship” to two disinterested and oblivious tots. The few times that we didn’t flee the scene, I noticed that before I'd finished my sermon, the kids would once again be completely immersed in play as though nothing had happened. Witnessing this, I realized that they will find a way to work it out compelled by their main objective- continued play. So now I only meddle when I see bloodshed or possible broken bones.
Don't run us ragged with activities-just pay attention and take an interest
This one was learned when our “chips were down” financially. My children adapted to the new “situation” and discovered alternative ways to pursue and practice their interests. Each one returns from school and indulges in dance, art, soccer, drama, singing or gymnastics “class.” Practice takes place anywhere, albeit a walk-in closet; to then subsequently perform for the family audience. If we respectfully pay attention to one another and offer sincere NON-EXAGGERATED praise, schlepping them all around town isn't necessary- at least for now!
Truth be told, these little creatures, have taught us so much about the nature of children and parenting- the kind of stuff that's NOT in the best-selling texts.
As hubby and I continue to explore our relationships with the kids from a more relaxed, hands-off and “back to the basics” perspective, a wealth of unanticipated creativity sprouts forth from both us and them- and our family life is forever simpler and much richer as a result.