I was recently told that I’ve raised Casey to be independent just like my mother raised me. I took this as a great compliment. I want to raise a child who is independent, who has confidence in themselves and their abilities. So I walk the line between hovering and standing back; catching him and letting him fall. I try not to care about a little mess, a little crayon on the table or the wall or the carpet. I don’t mind when Casey plays with his food and I try not to be too angry when Casey picks the flowers in our garden or pulls something up other than a weed, because he generally thinks he is helping me. He has no malicious intent yet. He’s mischievous, though. He’ll give me that sly sideways glance when he’s about to do something he knows he shouldn’t- and then squeals with delight when I “catch him” and pull him away. I try to distract him instead of always saying ‘no’ (although I say ‘no’ a lot) and I pick my battles, letting him throw a temper tantrum if he needs to because it’s important for him to learn that he can’t always get his way. He may throw himself to the floor and writhe there, crying, for a bit but when I simply walk away and ignore his antics he stops fairly quickly. Of course when he is hurt or tired or hungry, I take him into my arms and comfort him and give him what he needs, be it a kiss or a nap or a snack, because I am his mama and as much as I want him to be independent and learn his limitations, I also want him to continue to run back into my arms as long as possible.
Before Casey was born, a friend asked me what type of parents Alex and I planned on being. The truth was we hadn’t really put much thought into it. Sure, I had my thoughts on natural parenting and attachment parenting and punishment and montessori. In conversations, before Casey was born, Alex and I agreed that we weren’t going to let Casey watch TV or play video games or play with our phones; that we wanted him to grow up playing outside, exploring nature, using his imagination to go on extraordinary adventures like we did when we were young. Beyond that all we really wanted to be was good parents who would accept their children unconditionally and provide a strong foundation and a loving home and, to that end, we have achieved our goal so far. But you learn very quickly when you have a baby, that all your best laid plans for parenting are best thrown out the window.
Casey is nearly a year and a half now. We are still breastfeeding. He doesn’t sleep through the night yet. He does love to play outside and explore nature. He also loves watching truck videos and some cartoons and, lately, football (that’s our boy!!). He plays with our phones, knows to press the space bar to pause his videos on the computer and aims our remote at the T.V. because he knows that somehow the two are related. On the playground, he can climb up and down the steps a hundred times without getting tired of it. He is usually interested in other kids, but not always. Sometimes, he doesn’t care about all the sensory or art activities I try to engage him in but he loves playing with or in water. He throws his toys sometimes but he will gladly bring us books and sit in our laps while we read to him. He loves french fries.
What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that parenting is not easy. It’s not something you can plan out. It’s something you have to live day by day. It’s easy to have good intentions, to read all the books and decide to practice attachment parenting or sleep training or want your kid to eat only organically. There’s a lot of mommy shaming on social media and it’s easy to get sucked into that. It’s easy to want to try to fit into a “category” of motherhood. But the truth is every child and every mother is different and sometimes your child doesn’t want to do the sensory activity that you spent hours researching on Pinterest and putting together, that you are so excited about. Sometimes your child wants to watch videos all afternoon, or you want him to because you need to get stuff done, and sometimes your child would rather have french fries from MacDonald’s then the healthy lunch that you prepared. And that’s ok. It’s all ok. We go with the flow as mother’s, as parents, and some days are harder to get through then others.
We encourage Casey to follow his heart, to explore things, to try new things, to fall and get up and try again. We kiss his boo-boos when he has them and we get really excited every time he learns a new word, identifies a new color or letter, eats his food without spitting it out. We take him into our arms as much as we can and give him a thousand kisses and then a thousand more. He is our inspiration, our muse, the light in our lives but most of all, he is our son. We are his parents. We may not be the most patient parents, the most informed parents, the toughest parents, but we are the absolute best parents for Casey and I’m proud of us. I think we are doing a great job.