Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trust your children!

I've realized that nothing teaches you how little you know about parenting like having another child. 

Here are my darling daughters... notice they look nothing alike.  And their personalities are as different as their looks.  Gigi takes a bit to warm up to people, while Emi Lou crawls out of my arms to be held by strangers.  Emi Lou is a party animal who is perfectly happy running on less sleep than me, while Gigi would stay in bed with me all day cuddling and sleeping if I wanted to.

I pretty much thought I had parenting figured out with Gigi.  We had a few challenges, but for the most part, Gigi made becoming a mommy feel easier than I had ever dreamed.  But then little Emi Lou came along and none of my tricks worked!  The baby wrap and the boob were the sure-fire solutions to everything with Gigi.  With Emi Lou, the boob mostly seemed to frustrate her and she always tried to wiggle and squirm out of the baby wrap.

Now, lest you get the wrong impression, I'm not trying to say Gigi is "easy" and Emi is "difficult".  (That's actually kind of the opposite of my message!)  I noticed right away that Emi was actually easier in certain ways and a bit more challenging in others.  I used to sometimes wonder if I was doing something wrong when Gigi would burst into tears if my dad would try to talk to her or when my sister would try to hold her, but I was reassured when my social butterfly, Emi, took to everyone she met. (And Gigi has become much more friendly and outgoing as she's gotten older, even though she's still a bit timid around people she doesn't know.)

I think that one of the most important parenting lessons I've learned is to trust my children:  trust them to tell me who they are and what they need, and trust that they will learn and grow at their own pace, and both eventually learn to walk, talk, read, etc.  I know it's hard as parents (and as humans!) to fight that urge to compare our children/ourselves to others.  I find there's a fine line between observing differences in two people/children and comparing them.  Of course we will notices differences between our children and others, and between ourselves and others... it's human nature. 

An example of the differences between my husband and I :)

But when we start "comparing" our children and wondering why our kid isn't walking or talking as well as his friend who's the same age, I know it can put undue stress on ourselves and our children. 

I have a good friend who's daughter was nearly 2 before she started walking.  I know many parents start to panic if their kid isn't walking by 12 months, but this lucky little girl had a mama who knew her... her mama knew that she was extremely cautious, and that even though she had the ability to walk on her own, she wasn't going to do it until she was totally confident and comfortable walking. 

I'm honestly not sure I would have been able to trust my child that long.  Even though I knew that Gigi was a bit timid and had more intense separation/stranger anxiety than other babies I knew, there were times I didn't trust that she would outgrow it. I was so embarrassed when she had a melt down at my brother's wedding as he tried to hold her for a picture (along with her cousins who were the same age, who sat happily on his lap).  I was so frustrated when I couldn't even leave Gigi with her dad while I ran an errand without some serious waterworks.  So I tried to force separation on her for a few weeks, until I noticed how badly it was backfiring.  She became more clingy and anxious, and it wasn't until started trusting her again that she started to come around. (Plug here for The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution ... this book changed our lives!)

So I'm continuously striving to trust my children more and to compare them less.  And hopefully someday I'll get this parenting thing figured out for reals :)


liz canaan roberts said...

read this the other day but didn't get to comment till now. both the points you make about trusting and not-comparing are so true. i think these are two really important keys to strengthening our relationships with our little ones. i find myself comparing our girls all the time (at least mentally). like Gigi and Emi, they are so very different!
but i've been thinking a lot lately about individuality and the importance of respecting it.

i personally think our culture is more friendly toward conformity and consequentially discourages personal creativity and individuality. it therefore becomes the responsibility of parents to instill a sense of individual worth in our children, and one of the best ways i can think of to do this is through respecting them as people. and showing trust is showing respect. it's displaying confidence in them as people. regardless of how "late" they choose to walk or talk, etc. like you said.

btw, Dinah's thing lately is jumping. just jumping by herself without holding on to anyone or anything. she's so empowered by it! who cares that she's nearly three. :) it's hilarious.

thanks for posting! wonderful thoughts, as always. it's great to hear others experiences and thoughts. finding other parents with late-walkers and reading their stories helped calm me down considerably when i was tempted to freak out about Dinah.

share on, my friend! share on!

The Happy Hippie Homemaker said...

Thanks Liz! It's so true... we live in a culture of conformity, and even though I like to think of myself as a strong individual, there are definitely times I feel pressure as a parent if something about my kids doesn't seem quite "normal". (Especially if it's family members making the comments.) I've always sought to respect people's individuality, and I have to sometimes remind myself to respect my children's individuality as well :)

El Fukuda said...

My little 3 month old baby boy BAF, came here for very specific reasons. He chose me as his Mom for very specific reasons. I will NEVER, EVER tell him who he is or who he should be. I will never erode his Magnificence. He will tell me who he is and what he is trying to accomplish coming here. I will always let him be who he is and who he came here to be. He is Perfect. More parents need to let their children tell them who they are. More parents need to let their children be who they came here to be. Parents and adults of all kinds need to STOP eroding their children's Magnificence.


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