Parenting Roadblocks

What do you do when you have a well-meaning grandparent, aunt, sister, best friend, neighbor – you get the idea – who doesn’t necessarily agree with your parenting choices? Tread lightly, but stand strong.
There is something about a pregnant belly that attracts comments. Everyone knows everything about parenting, and their way is always best. This can put new parents in a very awkward position. As if the struggle to maintain basic hygiene in the beginning isn’t enough, many newly minted moms and dads find themselves defending their parenting choices. And often it is a battle with those they love the most.
When it comes to explaining your parenting choices to your own parents, the dynamic is interesting to say the least. They are usually more than ready to remind you that, “I raised you and you turned out ok.” Well, that is a tough one to argue. Today is not the parenting environment of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Your intent is never to insult the choices your parents made. It is, though, your turn now. You need to stand up for yourself and claim this child (or children) for your own. Difficult, but necessary.
One suggestion that repeats itself through many aspects of parenting (and will find its way into many of my posts) is being proactive. In many of the parenting classes I teach at Women & Infants , I assign homework. You read right…homework. The homework is,  while you are still pregnant, have conversations–many of them–with your partner, friends, parents about the way you would like to raise your child.  Most importantly, explain the reason behind those decisions.  You might be surprised that you and your partner may not agree on some things. Are you going to use a binky? Do you let the baby fall asleep in the swing? Are you really going to take the baby for a drive to settle him/her down? Small things can make a big difference. I am here to tell you, too, that what seems like a small thing when you are sitting calmly will be a huge thing when you are sleep deprived and in the heat of the moment. Huge. By pre-planning, you can make reasonable decisions. Keep in mind, though, that flexibility is also key to your success.
So just how can you contend with well meaning people who don’t agree with you? It may be difficult, but it is in the best interest of your child, and your sanity, to take a stand. Politely, but firmly, share your parenting vision and ask for the opportunity to take the chance. It may be one of the hardest parenting tasks that you will face. You alone know what is best for your child. That is not to say that the people around you , your ‘village’ should be ignored. They can be a major source of information and help, if not just a sounding board for your thoughts. Honestly, it is honesty that is the skill that will serve you best.

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Milestones…and moving on

I stood staring at the teddy bear mobile hanging from the ceiling. It hung over our spare kitchen sink. Yes, spare. Our 111 year old house has a pantry on the second floor, complete with …you guessed it…a kitchen sink. The sink comes in handy. I soak white baseball pants in it. I clean up craft projects in it. And I bathe babies in it. It is the perfect size for that task. When I was pregnant with my first child I did what any respectable, first-time pregnant mommy did. I registered for baby ‘stuff’. I registered for sheets, onesies, a buggy…and a tub. Which we used. Once. From that point on, every tubby that my kids took, until they were big enough to bathe in the big tub, was in the sink. So when my ten year-old was just a baby, we hung this mobile over the sink to hold their attention. It was a crank kind and it played a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We used it for all four babies. Now that our youngest has used the big tub for over a year now, I thought it was probably time to take down the mobile. No one needed it anymore. At least none of the kids did.

When the older three kids reached their ‘milestones,’ I was always excited. I looked forward to what was next. Never rushed, mind you. Just excitement. With my forth, things are different. Maybe because I am pretty sure there will not be anymore. Each stage we finish means a stage I will never experience again. And it almost seems like Cait knows. She cruises through the milestones with an ease that bites my heart. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get her to hold on to being a baby. Every day she figures out another way to be a ‘big girl’. What is her rush??? Slow down. With each proclamation from her that ‘I am a big girl’ comes the end of an era in our house. She potty-trained fairly quickly, so we returned an entire case of diapers to BJ’s. The changing station that had been set up on the first floor (because we all know that new mommies shouldn’t climb the stairs) ten years ago was dismantled. Each time I walk into our first-floor bathroom it is another heartbreaker. I thought I would ease her into her big-girl bed. In true Cait style she informed me that the crib was no longer needed. And another heartbreak. She feeds herself. She dresses herself. She makes choices for herself.  She is more than ready to let go…and I am more determined to hang on.
I know I should be happy that she is ready to move on. My mommy friends are amazed at how at ease she is with separating from me. As we dropped one of my sons off at kindergarten the other day, she turned to me and said “It’s OK Mommy. Cait stay here at school now. You go home.” She is not yet three. I know I will appreciate this. Some day. That day is not now.
So I have a decision to make. What do I do with the mobile? Do I leave it up as a reminder of the milestones that have passed? Or do I take it down and move on? You know, it really isn’t in the way…yet.

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Evolving as a Mother

As I laid there gazing at my little one, the roundness of her cheeks, her sweat dampened curls on her forehead, it hit me. This Mother’s Day would be different from all the others. My mind traveled back to what seems like so long ago, to my first Mother’s Day. My first child was only a few weeks old when Mother’s Day came around, and the discomfort of his cesarean birth was still very fresh in my mind. My husband and I had been married only a few years at the time. We got into the game a little late, and I was back at URI studying Nursing as my second career. People questioned the timing. “Enjoy married life,” “Wait until school is done,” “Establish your career first.” We had been together long enough before we tied the knot, and graduation was another 2 years away. We wanted a family, as soon as possible. We started trying with no regard for timing. Everything else could wait. School would still be there. I knew there would be plenty of time for me to work my life away. When the two pink lines appeared, we were more than thrilled. We were having a baby. I was going to be a mother.
Nothing dramatic happened that first Mother’s Day. That is the way I like it. I was a mom, and I had a beautiful little life to take care of. We celebrated, but for me, the real celebration was in the quiet moments where I sat and snuggled my baby. I had done it. I had achieved my biggest goal in life, I had climbed my Mount Everest, I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. I had become a mother. It wasn’t long before we were pregnant again. The thrill wasn’t lost this time around either. It seemed to multiply. Again. And again…
We have been blessed to create, deliver and raise four beautiful children. This will be my eleventh Mother’s Day. All the others have been very similar. Flowers, heartfelt homemade gifts, nice meals. This year will be different for me, though. I am turning a corner in my mothering career. A corner I am not sure I am ready to turn. You see, our family is complete. Four is it. This will be the first Mother’s Day that I will not change a diaper, nurse a baby, plan for another. That stage is over…I am growing up as a mother. I am facing new challenges. My oldest would rather play his DS than sit and snuggle with me in the rocker. Even the rocker, my true and beloved friend for the last ten years will be different this Mother’s Day. My gift this year is a set of brand-new cushions for my dear old friend (since we don’t have to worry about baby stains anymore). Times they are a changing. Like it or not.
So those cheeks, those curls, they did something, stirred something. I cannot imagine life without my children. Parenting isn’t for everyone, and even those of us who have chosen this path have our moments of question and doubt. As Mother’s Day comes, I will be reflecting on the days of past, and dreaming of whatever lies ahead. Regardless of what the future holds, today I know one thing. I am many things. I am me first, and then I am a mother. I hope I do the title justice.

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