Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let Him Cry It Out

So it's no secret that kids do not come with an instruction manual and as a new mom, I've had many well intentioned people offer me little gems of wisdom.  Some of these tokens truly are gems, but then there are the "let-him-cry-it-out" types.  I have always believed in nurturing children and my philosophy of teaching centers of true, genuine compassion towards them, so it's not surprise that the idea of letting a baby cry it out seems ludicrous to me.  I can lend sympathy to those who were told years ago that this was "best" for baby, knowing that doctors can instill doubt and make parents feel as though what they prescribe is best, but I find it really difficult to accept this advice as sound or in the best interest of a tiny human being.  I will not mention who has recommended this advice to me, but I have firmly argued my point to no avail.  I may be going out on a limb here, but I do not believe it's possible to "spoil" a baby... it's like saying you can love your baby too much, tell me how that's possible.  From my new mom perspective on my little William, here's what I have gleaned about what a baby needs:

William needs:

  • soothing when he's sad, this could take the shape of rocking, slow dancing, stories, music, tummy time, or any number of tricks, but he does not need to cry all alone in some dark room, of that I am sure!
  • stories read to him daily
  • love
  • clean diapers (in abundance!)
  • warm knit hats (okay, he may not NEED them per se, but they are SO CUTE!)
  • snuggles 
  • eye contact
  • conversations 
  • his daddy
  • his mama
  • cuddly footsy jammies
  • laughter in the tubby
  • time exploring the world in his stroller/sling/bjorn/backpack 
  • the love of his immediate & extended family
  • a warm, cozy quilt at night
  • boobs... 2 of them ready at his beck and call ;0)
  • parents who are best friends, who love each other, talk to each other, and always put their family first
I recently read an article by Brene Brown & have included an excerpt below that I found inspiring as a new parent:

One of the very best pieces of parenting advice that I ever received was from the writer Toni Morrison. It was May of 2000 and my daughter Ellen was just shy of her first birthday. Ms. Morrison was on Oprah talking about her book "The Bluest Eye." Oprah said, "Toni says a beautiful thing about the messages that we get about who we are when a child first walks into a room," and she asked Ms. Morrison to talk about it.
Ms. Morrison explained that it's interesting to watch what happens when a child walks into a room. She asked, "Does your face light up?" She explained, "When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. . . . You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you're caring for them. It's not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What's wrong now?" Her advice was simple, but paradigm- shifting for me. She said, "Let your face speak what's in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I'm glad to see them. It's just as small as that, you see?"
I literally think about that advice every day -- it's become a practice. When Ellen comes bounding down the stairs dressed for school, I don't want my first comment to be "Pull your hair back" or "Those shoes don't match your dress." I want my face to convey how happy I am to see her -- to be with her. When Charlie comes in the back door and he's sweaty and dirty from catching lizards, I want to flash a smile before I say, "Don't touch anything until you wash your hands." So often we think that we earn parenting points by being critical, put out, and exasperated. Those first looks can be prerequisites or worthiness-builders. I don't want to criticize when my kids walk in the room, I want to light up!

I've come to learn first hand that in most cases, new parents should be allowed to love their sweet little babies the best way they know how without judgement or criticism.  If they choose to co-sleep, use pacifiers, breast feed, whatever... it is their choice based on the needs of their child.   It is really easy to pass judgement but no one knows someone else's child as well as their parents (as long as those parents are truly dedicated to being parents).  I feel truly blessed that our William is such a happy, easy baby.  He smiles nonstop, rarely cries unless he's wet, hungry, or sleepy, and he breast feeds like a champ.  I don't think that gives me the right to criticize anyone else's parenting though... and I think all parents need to feel supported and be trusted to find the parenting style that works for them. 

Brene Brown concluded her article with this little gem that I will carry with me in my heart:

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions--the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.