April 11, 2006

De-Babying the Baby

I'm having one of those days when I wish I could swap places with my 1 year old. I know, just yesterday I was saying that I would never go back to youth but I changed my mind. Being 1 would rock. Two daily naps, 3 balanced meals presented at dependable intervals, new clothes every 3 months and underwear only days. I could definitely go for that. That's the whole trite thing about it though- we never appreciate the perks of our situation until we examine it through the hindsight scope.

It does seem bizarre to me how long human babies take to become fully independent. Depending on the culture it's anywhere from 12 to 30 years. I'm trying to encourage as much independence as possible in Pixie's without getting the attention of Social Services. But it has paid off. I was taking care of a baby today Pixie's age who cried every second unless you were hugging and singing to her. Pixie hasn't been like that since 4 months (she's 15 months now) so it was hard for me to understand this sweet little beast who didn't know how to create her own comfort. On the one hand, it's a nice feeling to be able to calm a baby but in the long run it's less exhausting if they just do it themselves.

Before I had a baby, I read all the books about the different philosophies of parenting and determined that I would have a "natural" baby that was inseparably connected to me and who relied on me as her inner strength and comfort. Then I had Pixie. She demanded constant attention or else. The whole "natural" thing was driving me crazy and all I wanted was for my baby to release me from the 24/7 servitude of rocking, feeding and patting. Driven to my wits end, I shifted gears when she was 4 months old and haven't looked back once. I'm now one of those "un-natural" parents who believes that their baby isn't going to spontaneously combust if they cry for 5 minutes and doesn't believe in germs. Now when I see moms who sling their babies until they are 2, breast-feed past a year, rock their babies to sleep and never get babysitters I can't understand how they could possibly be happy. Don't they ever need a break? I do. I had to acknowledge that I wasn't capable of giving 100% of my energy to a baby. I give a lot, but I have to keep some back for me. Luckily in the end Pixie and I are both happier than we were when I was trying to be Mother Earth. Our independence somehow brings us even closer.

Just so we're clear, Pixie has her bad days like anyone else. I don't consider myself super-mom but do think that I've found a dimension that we can both happily exist in. Not than anyone needs more random parenting advice but here are some of the things I do with Pixie to encourage her independence if anyone is interested:

* If she is playing happily then I don't disturb her

* When she wants something, I show her how to get it rather than just giving it to her. This works for most things except for stuff like food.

* I don't baby talk. I talk to her like I would talk to my husband and really try and make her understand.

* I've made the whole house (except bathrooms which stay closed) totally baby proofed so she can wander and explore unsupervised without having to worry about red tape.

* She has been taught ASL for all her basic needs so instead of general fussing, she can walk up to me and tell me exactly what she wants.

* If she asks to be picked up, I'll squat down and give her a hug instead. She'll usually then just toddle off to wherever she wanted to go in the first place since I'm no longer standing to carry her.

* If she comes to me with a book or blanket or request, I'll always stop what I'm doing and give her undivided attention until she's satisfied. She should always know that I love her and think she's more important than any other daily activities I'm doing. I think this helps her feel more secure in entertaining herself.

* The main thing about getting an independent baby has to be luck. I'm sure my next baby is going to be a clingy, mamma's boy who drives my crazy. Oh well. I'll love that one too.

Okay, okay - this is way too long. "Why don't you write a book about it so that nobody will have to read it?" Good idea. Every other self-righteous parent has.

1 comment:

kelsey said...

Sarah, I just wanted you to know that this will probably be the only child-rearing manual I read. I was planning on winging it, but now I have your good ideas. Thanks!