Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Paradox of Parenting

I'm going to be honest here. I feel like I am a much better mom to a six-month-old than I was to a six-day-old. In hindsight, parenting was so easy then. Sure, we slept less and eating was a lot more high maintenance. But those were the only things on the agenda: eating and sleeping.

Maybe it's because I was so new at this then. Maybe it'll be different if and when you have a little brother or sister. Maybe it's because you were so new and so small and so fragile. I was scared. I was scared of everything. I worried that I would drop you, or that you would just stop breathing at some point and that if I blinked I would miss it. I could not wait for you to get bigger so that it wouldn't be so scary. Somehow, in my eyes, an older child was a child I was less likely to screw up.

One of our friends is a pediatrician, and he made a really interesting comment to me the other day. He said that he thought it was funny to see the anxiety over childcare from his friends' perspective. When I asked him to elaborate, he said that he worries about his patients eating enough to survive and whether there are signs of abuse and whether their parents are practicing obvious and safe habits like using a carseat. As long as a baby is fed and loved and safe, she'll be fine. Everything else, he said, is more than enough.

And it's true. When I think about how much has changed in the laws of childcare, even just in recent years, he has a point. The "back to sleep" campaign is such a big deal nowadays, and your daddy and I both slept on our tummies when we were babies. We obviously survived. I always viewed my childhood as a very pleasant one, and now that I'm a parent, that perspective isn't so rosy. Not that my parents did anything wrong, but there are definitely some things that they did that I'll choose not to do with you, and vice versa.

This brings me to my next point: I find that I'm much less judgmental of parenting now that I'm a parent. Before you were born, I was very quick to think, "I can't believe so-and-so does this; I'll never do that." Now, even when I encounter someone whose choices are so different than mine, I'm much more empathic. Even when I feel judged, I'm less defensive. There's a sense of unity among parents, and that unity should lead to support rather than to shaming. We're all just doing the best we can.

So now that you are bigger, I look at you and I wonder who replaced my tiny newborn with this giant child. I'm now a mom to a big girl who invents games and makes choices and expresses herself in so many different ways.
I look at this growing child and I wish I could have told that new mom that successful development was almost inevitable for a cautious and loving new parent. In hindsight, I would have wasted less time worrying about how I was ruining you. I would have cut myself some slack. And I certainly would never have wished for you to grow bigger faster. Because now that you are so big, I realize that it went by way too quickly. (Apparently, this is a universal concept and it doesn't end with infancy. I'm sure your grandparents would say the same thing about your mommy and daddy!)

Even at just six-months-old, there are already things you don't do anymore that I find myself missing. At the same time, there is nothing I love more than seeing you do new things every day! I love to watch your personality develop; I love to watch you become you. I can't wait for you to start walking and talking, and there is so much that we have to look forward to as a family. It's amazing how you can feel nostalgia and excitement over what's next simultaneously. But that's the paradox of parenting: you're always looking backward and looking forward at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. Such wisdom! And these last 2 photos are my favs & the ones I have chosen to finally frame! It's very hard to pick. I LOVE READING YOUR BLOG. It is a wonderful gift to us all. And Elllie will treasure it for a lifetime!