What I've Learned
Something I have learned over the years is that there is a difference between loving your children and being a good parent. I know this because I have done both. Nineteen years ago I had a beautiful baby daughter. I loved her with every fiber of my being. I had the usual fantasy about being her best friend, and though I was very young, I felt that she completed my life.
Back then I felt that being a good parent
meant feeding, changing diapers and boiling bottles etc. And of course I really loved her with all my heart. I never thought twice about putting her in the swing to make her stop crying or to let her entertain herself in the playpen, what difference did it make? After all, she was just a baby. I never bothered to read books to her; she couldn't understand them anyway, that seemed like a waste of time to me.
Nineteen years later, I have a new daughter. And I have changed my ideas about good parenting. I think the first thing I have learned is that I no longer want to be my child's best friend. No, she will make a lot of friends. I just want to be her mom. Her mother. Her mommy. And I want to be the best one ever. Yes, I had a swing and a play pen; she used the swing a couple of times. And still hasn't seen the inside of the playpen. (I am saving it to take along for camping trips.) The whole house is pretty much her playground and yes, it is a mess! But it is safe and she is free to explore almost anywhere she wants. I chose to use her "snuggly" instead of the swing and I just carried her everywhere I went.
I started to read books to her when she was two days old, I have not stopped since. She wouldn't let me if I tried. Some days I feel like hiding her Elmo book so I won't have to look at it for awhile. I have never seen a child so addicted to books in my life. But you know-that is a gift that I gave her, and she will never lose it. Reading will forever be a part of her life, because I took the time to sit down in my messy playground of a house and spend time with my daughter.
Another thing that I have done differently this time is talking to her all the time. This is another thing I started doing as soon as she was born. Part of it was because I didn't have any one else to talk to, but the other reason is that babies pick up on language from a very early age. And she is proof of that. Today at 15 months old her vocabulary is amazing. Of course there are days that I wish the talking would stop for a while but that's not too often. I have learned now to get down to her level (literally) and if that means the dishes don't get done that's okay. Playing with bears and babies is more fun anyway.
I read almost every parenting
article I find and I have learned a lot, one of things that really clicked with me was the Rob Reiner one called The First Years Last Forever, It kind of validated my new way of parenting. It talks about how stimulation in the brains of babies causes more and more brain cells to develop and make crucial connections. Every experience they have awakens some little neurons or something like that. And interacting with people they love makes all the difference. Every texture they touch, every new sound they hear helps the brain make new connections. This doesn't happen in the playpen or swing, and not from the TV. I am also much more careful about what I watch on television, even if I think she is not watching. She loves Sesame Street, but even that is done in moderation. What I am trying to say is, that I "get it" now. And it has made all the difference in the world. I don't look at parenting as a job, it is my lifestyle.
I have learned that kids need limits as well as love. And that this does not include yelling all the time. I still get frustrated, even angry sometimes. But by being consistent, she is not confused about what her limits are. The rules don't change depending on my mood, and I don't guilt myself to death if I get cranky now and then. She must see that I am human every once in awhile, but now I have learned how to direct my anger
at the situation, not my daughter. She knows that mommy has bad days occasionally, but I want her to know that it is never her that I am angry with.
I was born with strong maternal instinct, but it takes more than maternal instinct and love to be a parent. I believe it is a skill that we learn with time, I believe it takes patience and that too can be learned. But the rewards are so worth it!! It's not like dieting, with parenting you see instant results (some faster than others.) And these rewards have been priceless to me.
© Perris Lindstrom
Credits: Family Content