Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eight months, eight lessons

I'm taking a note from Teresa and writing eight things I've learned in my extensive eight months of parenting. This is as much for me to process and think through things as anything.

1. Trust my instincts. We struggled with breastfeeding for three months. I have had a strong-willed daughter from the start (I promise I have NO idea where she gets this), so when she refused to nurse, it was full on back-arching screaming. Some lactation consultants and doctors (not our own) told us to give up and go to formula. We debated, but we knew she could get it, and I really wanted to nurse. Lo and behold, the day before her three-month birthday (and the day after the girls in our small group prayed about it with me), she latched on and never looked back. We had the same back-and-forth with whether to use cry-it-out (we didn't). We struggled over whether to put her to sleep on her belly once she could roll over (we did). In every case, so far, we feel like our instincts (yes, daddies have them too) have led us to do what's good for her. Books and theories who don't know my child -- not as helpful.

2. I was made to be a mommy (not just a mommy, but a mommy). I love planning outings, researching good activities for her development, giggling with her. I love nursing and cuddling and seeing her grow. Being a mom is not my identity, but it's definitely one of the reasons God put me on this earth.

3. I need to build in stress relievers, things that remind me I am more than a mommy. I've been doing Dance Central on the Kinect. Yes, I don't like realizing how much has changed in my body since I danced in high school and college. But cutting loose, dancing around our basement, being stupid -- it's so good for my soul. Same with crafting or scrapbooking, writing, reading a good novel, having a kids-free girls' night, creating a new report for work. All of these bring me back to who God made me to be, outside of the fact he made me to be a mommy. I LOVE being able to stay home with E and wouldn't change it for the world. But there are times where I realize that I haven't had a single moment alone in days. I need to build those times in.

4. Thanking each other goes a long way. I thank Ryan for giving E a bath. He thanks me for putting her to bed. I thank Ryan for emptying the dishwasher. He thanks me for making dinner. It's not constant (that would be really annoying), but the point is we're showing appreciation for what the other one is doing, even if it's mundane or expected. In a time where it's really easy to have the "my day is harder" battle, thanking each other for simple things means we don't let a lot of the resentment or frustration build up. We could NOT do this without each other, and it helps to remember that.

5. Being laid back is worth it. This is one thing I'll give myself mommy props for. We had a lot of conversations before E was born about wanting to be laid back parents. We joke we're trying to raise her like she's our second child. Of course we worry, because we're parents. And of course we keep her safe. But not freaking out over every potential germ or over getting dirty or over keeping the house spotless or over every little bump or bruise means we get to enjoy E more. And I think that's critically important -- not just because they grow up fast like everyone says (they do), but because kids KNOW when you enjoy them. And really, my life is much more fun when I'm not consumed with thinking about how much dog hair E has probably already ingested.

6. Don't be competitive. I cannot fully express how much I hate the subtle competition between so many parents. "Oh, your baby isn't sleeping through the night? Lulabell did that when she was 6 weeks old. You know what worked for me? [cue advice I don't care about; see lesson #1]." "Is she [rolling over/crawling/talking/doing long division] yet? I know mine was a little bit early [cue annoying story]." Caveat -- if I know you well in real life, if we talk about our kids as well as other topics, if I've asked you for advice -- this does not apply. If you are a random cashier at the grocery store, someone I've forgotten to unfriend on Facebook or can only talk about your kids, then this probably does apply. Why can't we support each other as parents? It's hard, it's confusing, and let's be honest -- we're all BSing our way through this. So let's stop measuring our value as parents and people over things we can't control. PS. If I ever do this to you, call me out on it. Please.

7. Your own kid's diapers, spit up and drool aren't nearly as bad as everyone else's. It's some miracle that when you have your own child, his or her bodily fluids cease to be as gross as every other child's. Both Ryan and I have been spit up on (Ryan currently holds the win for this; E spit up all over his face, and he hadn't shaved in a few days) and peed on. We've fished pooped out of the bathtub. And you know what, it's not as bad as I thought. But if someone else's kid pees on me, I still need an immediate outfit change.

8. I have a lot -- A LOT -- more to learn. I used to be one of those people who judged parents whose kids were screaming in the grocery store line. Never. Again. We have already done a lot of the things we said we'd Never Ever Do as parents. Sleeping in bed with us? Check. Sniffing her butt to see if she's poopy? Check. Letting my 7-month-old play on the iPad? Check. I still have a few bastions left, a shred of hope that our sweet little girl will never throw a public tantrum. But if I'm honest, I know that I have no clue what the next 18-plus years of raising this little one will be like. Praise the Lord for the adventure, and praise the Lord for his grace along the way.

What have I missed??