Parenting H

Month: December, 2013

He is too attached to you. You are too attached to him. You respond to him too quickly. He has to learn that he can’t always have his mother. He has to learn to be independent. It is good for him to cry. He should sit in his chair. He should be quiet while we eat. He shouldn’t play with his food. He shouldn’t make a mess. He shouldn’t cry. You are too soft. You are coddling him. He needs to self soothe. The world is a hard place. He has to learn. You have to teach him. He has to sleep. You have to do something to make him sleep. You have to let him cry. He wouldn’t be so small if your body had been able to carry him to term. He wouldn’t be so small if he were eating more solids. He would be eating more solids if you weren’t still breastfeeding. He would be eating more solids if you had started with purees. He would be walking if you didn’t pick him up so much. He would be talking if you hadn’t taught him baby signs. Your parenting is the reason he hasn’t bonded as strongly to his father as to you. Your parenting is ruining your marriage. Your parenting is ruining your life.

It is what is in my heart that matters. I know. And yet the voices of others can be deafeningly loud, shouting down my heart and crowding out my voice. If I let them, these cacophonous voices are my edge to lean into, my soft spot to breathe into. Hearing them is my chance to be more open, more kind, more tenderhearted, more gentle. Sitting with them is my chance to remain steadfastly with myself.

You are parenting from the heart. He is securely attached to you. You are securely attached to him. He is growing and thriving. He is gentle and sweet. He is becoming  independent and confident because of, not despite, your love.

This is my voice. H is my heart. This is what matters.

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One of my favorite things to do is lie in bed awhile after H has fallen asleep and listen to him breathe.

Waiting It Out

Bedtime. Turning down the blinds. Turning on Ocean Waves. Crawling into bed. Pulling him close. Nursing on the first side. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Humming Silent Night, Away In A Manger, and What Chid Is This. Feeling his little hand tip my torso toward him so he can nurse from the second side. Smiling at the hint of what it will feel like to be hugged by him someday. Humming We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Auld Lang Syne. Tipping back when he asks to switch sides. Feeling the strength of his legs as his feet knead my thighs. Gazing down at him lying on the bed next to me. Marveling at how long he has grown. Relaxing my body. Matching my breathing to his. Crawling quietly out of bed. Covering him with a blanket made by his grandma. Pausing for a moment to watch him sleep.

Sometime before H’s first birthday, he helped me decorate the white craft paper we used as wrapping paper for his birthday present. We worked alongside each other in crayon, me making polka dots and H making marks. My heart thrilled watching him make short and long, faint and strong, and straight and crooked scribbles over my dots. I felt there could be no better marks in all the world than the ones coming from H’s hand.

Sometime after H’s first birthday, we received a mysterious gift. Someone left two hand made paper cones for us, one each on our front and back stoops. They were fashioned haphazardly, the edges mismatched at the top, each held together by a single, short piece of Scotch tape. One cone was decorated with repeating patterns of shapes, but the other had only scribbles, just like the ones H had made on his wrapping paper. I don’t know who gave the cones to us. H and I talked to our neighbors on either side, both likely candidates because of their young children, but neither knew anything about them. Both had received similar cones and thought they had been from H. The cone giver remains a mystery.

I thought a lot about those cones around the time we received them. I even kept them for a while. I enjoyed turning them over in my hands and thinking about the child who made them. How old was he? Was the child a she and not a he? Was she anything like H? Most of all, my heart felt happy at the possibility that this mystery child’s parents thought the marks on the cones were as lovely as I found H’s and that somewhere out there was someone just as loved.

Love. H has taught me what unconditional love is. He has never had to do anything or be anything different than who he is, and I love him. I often long for moments with H to stop or at the very least slow down. I want to remember everything forever, including the quality of my love for him, but everything is happening so fast and so much has been lost already in the fog of my mind. And so I write. It is like a meditation, a way of being in at least a few moments longer than I would be otherwise, and it is as close to stopping time as I have found. I imagine reading these stories years later, the memories fresh and vivid for having spent the time it takes to capture them in words. I imagine H reading them someday and smiling at the things he did and was but won’t remember.

The stories I write about H are ordinary moments made extraordinary to me by the fact that he is my baby. He is growing and developing in his own way and at his own pace, yes, but he is growing and developing just as all babies grow and develop. In a way, it is astounding that he pulls his hands midline or stands unassisted, but in another way, it is nothing special at all. He is not he first baby to do these things, nor will he be the last.

Sometimes I feel self conscious sharing these stories. “They are too ordinary,” I tell myself. “No one will care about this. Everyone will think I am making too big a deal about nothing. It’s silly to write so big about something so small.” But then I think about the marks on the mysterious cones and the child out there somewhere who made them. I think about how much joy H’s marks bring me. I think about all children everywhere and imagine them as loved as I love H. The cones are a reminder that I am not alone. There are millions of parents out there shepherding millions of littles through life, and I am connected to every one of them through H and all of the big and small things he does and through the love I have for him. There is nothing small about this, and, from that perspective, there is nothing too small to celebrate. And so I write.

H is standing at his toy bin. He has one hand on it, but casually, like he doesn’t really need it there. He fishes out the musical turtle, leaning his buddha belly against the bin so that he can hold the toy with both hands. He shifts his weight back just slightly so that his body lifts away from the bin, and for three, maybe four seconds, he is standing unassisted. For three, maybe four seconds, my world stops. We are suspended in time, me and H, him standing, me sitting, my heart swelling, every cell in my body vibrating with love, excitement, and pride. The feelings ping around, crashing into each other and pushing against my skin, and the tension of it makes me feel as though I might burst. Then H gently puts his hand back on the toy bin. He lets go of the turtle, drops to his knees, and crawls away. My world moves again.