Last week I shared an emotional and moving guest post by a friend of mine who’s story really got me thinking. Her journey has been a long one, and having arrived at the shared destination of “motherhood,” it struck me that her challenges aren’t over. Far from it, they now look a lot like mine. These shared post-mother struggles are something I not only live out on a daily basis, but are something I see playing out on Facebook feeds and blog posts across the world, as I watch friends navigating the tricky waters of parenthood. The baby isn’t sleeping. The baby isn’t eating. The baby might be possessed. The baby bites the cat. The cat bites the baby. The baby locked me in the bathroom and I said shit approximately 1,000 times. I LOVE THE BABY! The baby the baby the baby.
Reading her story triggered some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder type of whirlwind reminiscing about what the last 24 months of life has been like with Baby 1.0, which, if it were to be summed up with one word, would be SWEETMOTHEROFGODTHATWASCRAZY. I thought about the books we read, and debates we had/have about what the “right” way was/is to do something (everything). I thought about milestones and feeding schedules, sleep training and the ever-popular growth spurts and sleep regressions our baby often seems to be going through. I thought about crazy tantrums and beautiful laughter and the word “NO!” and her incredible brain that impresses (and scares) me every day. I thought about how I questioned, and continue to question, literally every single decision I make, all day, every day, regarding how to best raise this amazing little girl. I thought about how our rocky, colic-filled beginning proved to be the surprisingly stable bedrock for the foundation we based our parenting on, and how, against all odds, we seemingly have a totally normal toddler, and totally adequate parenting skills.
And perhaps, this is the craziest thing of all.
How could we have made, what at times, has felt like all of the wrong decisions, and yet still end up here, neck in neck developmentally and behaviorally with all of the other toddlers, with all of their varied pasts and parenting styles, left to wonder if we are magicians or maybe living in the Truman Show?
Perhaps the incredible resiliency our children show in surviving our questionable parenting techniques has to do with some magic spell, cast upon them from whatever higher power you believe in (or Harry Potter). Maybe it’s science. Or maybe, just maybe, our questionable parenting techniques aren’t that questionable after all. Maybe we are actually doing everything right.
I tend to think it’s the latter, and that all of those 1.3 bajillion decisions you’ve made since becoming a parent have been the right ones, not necessarily because the best choice has always been made, but because no matter the outcome, a lesson was learned, and everyone survived. Looking back to the first few months of parenthood especially, those decisions we made were made with the sole purpose of surviving another day. Some of them, like for example nursing Baby 1.0 to sleep every night even though every book, website, pamphlet and sky writer was telling us to put the baby in her crib “drowsy but awake,” have taken longer to correct. But they are being corrected. Because aside from some sort of gross misconduct, nothing you do now will have such longstanding and detrimental effects that one day, 25 years from now, you will shriek at your husband, “SEE! I told you we shouldn’t have let her watch The Little Mermaid!”
So when you find yourself in the thick of it, and you are analyzing every last detail of every last aspect of your kids life in an effort to figure out how to make the tiny human you are responsible for happy and healthy, just remember there is no one right answer, but rather a whole rainbow of great to goodish options.