|A much happier Little Man|
So we have been going along happily with a plan and following our routine that we have grown accustomed to and out of nowhere Little Man decides this plan doesn't work anymore. At this point there are two choices for me - and you if you find yourself in the same situation, fight or embrace the change. There is also an important opportunity which can test the muster of our parenting skills for the future.
For 11 months I have had the same routine with Little Man when it came to bedtime. It is the only structured part of our day. I used the term "structured" loosely because I had a plan of action and flow but it never occurred at a specific time. We do bedtime much like any other part of the day: when Little Man wants to, be that 8:30 or closer to 11. I have always embraced the Attachment Parenting theory of providing consistent and loving care which you can find more information about on Natural Parents Network. In a nutshell it means listening to and responding to your baby's cues about their needs and not mandating strict feeding or sleep schedules.
So on to the two choices that are presented to myself and other parents when you hit a wall like I did and the things you thought you knew, you really didn't.
Option One: Fight the Change
As well all learned in yesterday's post this doesn't work. Sure you as a parent you have the ability to put your child in their crib or time out whatever the case may be but you are only teaching the child that their feelings are invalid to you. If you have up until this point followed your child's needs and cues when it came to feeding, sleep and play you cannot expect that they are going to understand when you don't.
The only thing that is going to happen when you run into a brick wall is someone is going to get hurt. I hurt Little Man by ignoring his pleas and then I was hurt when he refused to nurse from me because of it.
Option Two: Embrace the Change
I have come to learn from teaching and now parenting inflexibility never works when you are trying to coexist peacefully with another's will. Last night we returned to parenting with love and respect. I did not try to put him to bed when I felt it was time. I waited until he was ready (10:00). I did not try to force him into his crib when I was finished with bedtime - I waited until he was ready (11:00). When I went with the flow this time he returned to the basic structure of our plan. He went to sleep and did not wake until 4:00 in the morning. By allowing him to enlighten me of his needs I actually in turn got some of my needs fulfilled - computer time and uninterrupted sleep.
In my post for the January Carnival of Natural Parenting I wrote about finding my tools. This was the first of what I know will be many opportunities to hone my skills as a parent and to realize was does and doesn't work. I now know that ignoring my child because he isn't doing what I want does not work and makes things worse. I don't want my child to ever believe that his feelings are invalid to his Mama and Dada. I know that he may come across people as he grows who will try to invalidate his feelings but I cannot do anything to change that. The only thing I can do is change myself and in turn give him tools to accept that people may not always agree with you and sometimes you may not be right but that doesn't mean what you are feeling isn't important.
The other bonus opportunity that I am reminded of is that children live in the moment. They have enormous capacity to forgive and forget. It isn't until we train them that they hold onto grudges and hurts from the past. I am taking this moment to un-train myself and return to the presence of living in the moment. I am not going to hold onto past hurts and ways of doing things that did not work. I am going to experience the moment and do what is necessary for that one instance in our lives and remember the practice of impermance that was discussed by Natalie Fee. That is the only thing I can give myself and you walking away from this moment. The tools are there but they are forever changing and evolving as we do.
Links for Resources
The Emotion Machine- "This Too Shall Pass: A Lesson in Impermanence" 07/24/2009
Code Name: Mama- "5 ways to Deal with Mama Guilt" 02/01/2011
Natural Parents Network- Responding with Sensitivity, Use Nurturing Touch, Practice Positive Discipline and Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life
 Really if I look back I knew this change was coming. The week up until our meltdown he had been pushing bedtime back and running out the room during the first attempts to play. I just was not following my own beliefs when it came to my child and trying to bury my head in the sand.