As I write this, I have my laptop propped on the kitchen island while cooking breakfast. This is how inspiration hits me: my husband is roaming around the house upstairs and down holding our five-month-old baby while he cries and fights sleep. It’s taking everything I have in me not to intervene, to breastfeed him to sleep with no tears and less struggle.
But I’m holding back, at least for a few extra minutes, to give my husband the opportunity to do this on his own, in his own way.
A lot of the early parenting articles I come across display headlines like “What They Didn’t Tell Me About Becoming a Parent” or “10 Things I Didn’t Know Until I Had Kids of My Own.” The assumption sometimes in these headlines is that:
- Information is being withheld from us, as if us new parents must be initiated in the same way those before us were, and
- This information is somehow transformative. That, once we have it, we have access to a special code that will solve all our problems.
I’ll admit I went into my pregnancy with the idea that the more information I had the better. Knowledge is power, right? The more I knew, the less afraid I was about what I might experience. I told myself that I didn’t necessarily need to USE all the suggestions myself, but having it in my toolbox would prove helpful at some point.
Five months into this parenting thing, however, and I am nowhere near as confident or wise as I expected to be. I haven’t found an article that solved all my problems or even the problem at hand, and I am finding that having all the information in the world isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s a pretty defeating realization, accepting that sometimes there is no solution. Sometimes, there are many different possible solutions. On my bad days, this makes me feel pretty bitter.
On my level headed days, like today, I understand that harboring resentment because NO ONE TOLD ME so many things is the wrong way of looking at it. NO ONE TOLD ME because NO ONE has MY child. It feels silly saying out loud, but how many times have I needed to remind myself that my child is an individual? Not only is he an individual, but he also has moods and feelings and circumstances that affect him each day, each moment, ESPECIALLY now, when he is growing and changing SO rapidly.
I have had to remind myself many many times on a daily basis of this fact and this fact alone because, while the articles offer solace, comfort and provide nifty tips sometimes, they do not solve my problems. They shouldn’t.
Parenting is hard but it’s supposed to be challenging. We as parents need to be initiated. If we are somehow offered a fast lane to this whole experience, we are potentially less equip for more difficult times ahead like when our child splits his chin in the swimming pool or has a severe allergic reaction and needs to go to the hospital. Our ability to act in the moment, to make the call to get help or solve the problem on our own depends on what we know about our child and our awareness of our place in his life as his parents. No “10 Things to Do When…” will help us in these moments.
The best and the hardest thing to accept about as parents is that all the information we need is gained in the time we spend them. The more we observe and get to know them, the more we can gauge what works and what does not.
We have ideas and instincts that I think sometimes living in the information age obscures. In my moments of exasperation, I keep asking how parents of yesteryear figured things out, before all these websites and classes and coaches were available?
The answer is simple: people were able to still parent successfully without all that, our parents did, our friends did, and we can too. That isn’t to say the additional resources aren’t helpful, just that you shouldn’t deny the power of your own instincts. We just need patience, and patience is something that feels like a curse when we are so accustomed to instant gratification.
Surprise surprise, this essay is not here to solve problems for you. Maybe in not trying to, it will serve as a gentle reminder that no one has the solution, but you.
And how is my baby doing now? He’s peacefully napping in his nursery. It took my husband three attempts to put him down without crying, but without my intervention, he still succeeded.
And what are we doing now? We are sipping coffee and enjoying a home-made breakfast before 10:30 a.m. for the first time in a long time together, alone. Here’s to celebrating the little victories.