Motherhood brings with it some remarkable experiences. You’ll know what it’s like to lie quietly in bed, looking at your baby’s face and feeling your heart melt with a sweet, aching love which is beyond words. You’ll also know what it’s like to:
– Change 6800 nappies.
– Cook and clean up 15,000 meals.
– Wipe countless snotty noses.
– Sit for two months of your life in doctors’ waiting rooms; and somehow enjoy it!
The inner experience ofsubtly and gradually tells you what to do. There is an in-built guidance system which comes from two sources: from carefully listening to your own feelings and from paying attention to the signals sent out by your child.
It’s all about trying things out. As you get on with the job, day by day, you will find that some things work and some don’t. So you change. Some things work partially, but don’t feel right, so you drop them. (Many parents feel this way about smacking children — it gets obedience, but at what price?) Often, of course, you can’t tell what is right until you try. The point is, you decide.
PAT was a woman of about 60, cheerful and rosy-faced, with wisps of white hair escaping a bun and the look of someone who has just walked across English fields with spaniels.
She told us in a group workshop that she had raised five children. Her husband, a doctor, had insisted they follow ‘the book’ which, in those days (the ‘40s), meant leaving children in ato cry and not cuddling or holding them for fear of spoiling. Pat went along with this, but when their fifth — a boy — was born, she told her husband, ‘This one is mine — I’m going to spoil him!’ She fed him in her bed, went to him when he cried, and cuddled and jiggled him on her knee as a toddler — all highly suspect practices in those days. ‘And you know what?’ she beamed. ‘He’s grown up to be the most well adjusted of them all.’
Parents usually do things their own way, given the chance. A good friend of ours slept with her baby daughter for the first three years, fearful about her restlessness and troubled breathing.
People advised her not to, as it tired her out, and doctors told her there was nothing wrong with the child. All she knew was that she couldn’t let her baby sleep alone and that something else was not right. Eventually, at six, her daughter was diagnosed with very enlarged adenoids. She had them removed and was immediately able to sleep soundly, and gained weight, health and vitality.
Toilet training features high on experts’ lists and parents’ concerns. One mother had no idea how to approach toilet training. She had only house trained puppies and that method didn’t really apply! While she was trying to decide what to do, she simply let her toddler accompany her to the toilet and bought a potty which waited, hopefully, in the bathroom. One day, her child came to her with the potty and an urgent but excited look on her face. The mother whipped off baby’s nappy and she performed beautifully, both then and (pretty much) ever after. She might have been lucky or just smart enough to read the signs. She is certainly widely envied.
The same advice will work for one person and not another. Listen to other people, but make up your own mind. Have a go and change tack if it doesn’t work. Children are programmed to grow up anyway and parenthood is meant to succeed (or no one would do it again). It may be the first time in your life that you listen to your own judgment and go with it. It’s a feeling that grows on you.