Freckles and Being a Mom

I have not posted much about my little man since I stopped the monthly updates for the first year of his life. Over half of another year has passed and he continues to challenge my mom skills on a daily basis. Elliott has always been more. He has always done more crying, more fussing, more screaming. He is more energetic, more playful and always, always on the go. He is wicked smart. He can get his own cup, ask for ice, fill it with water and successfully take a drink before spilling it all over himself and the floor. He can buckle himself into carts and wants to “do” everything for himself. He is so busy and so much like the parts of me that I am still working on improving. But he is just a baby, so the tantrums and frustration are understandable and expected.

The first year was so much about all the big milestones, all those “firsts”… first time rolling over, sitting up, walking. First smile, first words. I watched his eyes change color from newborn blue to hazel, starting with a spot of brown in each. I watched him grow a little more into his personality and have realized that although he is not the sweet baby I had hoped for, he is in every sense of the word, more. Making myself see the world through his eyes has taught me so much about him and about me. I may not always feel like the best mom (hello, tantrum in the middle of a grocery store because I told him no, he could not knock everything off the shelf after getting the cart too close) but I am learning. I care and I try and I am here for him as much as I can be, given that I work full time.

It is not easy, thinking big picture, wondering how to better handle tantrums and best teach him how to communicate feelings he does not yet have words for. But then I notice something so small that my thinking is forced back into that moment. A freckle. One tiny, single freckle that yes, I tried wiping off in the bathtub. It was a bad day for both of us. Both overtired from him waking too many times the night before due to bad dreams, teething pains and whatever else wakes a toddler. Too much thinking put towards hoping the coming night was just a little bit better, all wiped away by a freckle that would not budge. And I smiled, so he smiled and splashed the water and showed me the foam bath toy starfish, proudly saying “Star!” And it was better. It all makes sense. The sleepless nights (still), the change of plans. The massive overhaul to everything I thought being a mom would be.

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The freckle and a fake cry. Ten seconds later he was laughing. I would share a picture to prove it except he promptly kicked my phone out of my hand.

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Attachment Parenting

The little has been asleep for about a half hour now. I can hear him dreaming in his pack ‘n play next to the bed. It has been a chaotic day. Nothing seemed to make him happy for very long. Every few minutes went like this… “Mom, I’m bored. Pick me up. Where’s the cat? Put me down. Feed me! Never mind, I’m full. Don’t ignore me! Find me a better toy.” >> Just guessing what he was thinking based on his actions. A bit of an exhausting day, to say the least.

And then I checked Facebook, as I’ve come accustomed to doing, while nursing him to sleep. My newsfeed was all cute baby pictures and random group posts until I stumbled across an article shared in my AP, attachment parenting, mom group. A former AP mom, not linked to our group, ranted about how that lifestyle ruined her life for almost a decade. She described how babywearing was literally throwing her back out, safe co-sleeping/co-rooming made it so she never slept or had time alone with her husband, and responding to her first child’s crying made it so that he never learned to self-soothe and refused to nap. The second half of the post detailed how crying it out, limited nursing and a more strict sleep schedule with their second child, worked like baby magic to create a much happier family unit. (I won’t link to the post because I would hate to have anyone scared away from the great intentions of this gentle parenting style due to the author’s bias.)

What annoyed me most about the author’s rant, was that she made it sound as if parenting was an all or nothing game. If I have learned anything in the past six months, it’s that parenting is not black or white. There are many, many parenting styles and techniques out there. Not everything that works for one baby or family will work for another. I will go as extreme as saying that not everything that works one day for us will work the next. She also completely missed the boat on what AP is all about.

Just thinking of the attachment parenting principles… The little was exclusively breastfed, up until this past week when he tried bananas for the first and second times. (Post on that soon!) Struggling with my supply, and not knowing the root cause, has given me an appreciation for why many moms resort to using formula. It is almost always a failure of the system, not of the individual. There are definitely moments when he cries and I don’t immediately tend to his needs; like when he’s strapped in his car seat and screaming his head off one red light from home. Or when his spirited nature (see first paragraph) is wearing on me. I didn’t “wear” Elliott until he was five or six weeks old. He felt so tiny and fragile before then, and the fear of accidentally suffocating him scared me. And then there are definitely days he wants nothing to do with a baby carrier, and that’s okay. I still consider us an AP family, because of the way in which we instinctively respond to his needs.

I guess all I’m meaning to say, is that this parenting style fits me. I’m not perfect at it, but parenting isn’t about perfection. It’s certainly not all black or white, and that’s coming from someone who admittedly struggles with seeing the world as such.

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