Friday, December 6, 2013

Here and Now

It's a little too easy with babies to get distracted from the here and now.

It seems like a lot of contemporary child-rearing "philosophy" is about getting your child quickly to the next stage.

I agree that hitting milestones is important--be is physical or social or emotional.  But what I don't agree with is the idea that we should actively push our kids to hit these milestones because "earlier is better."  

(I could go on about how this idea is seriously--and mistakenly--at play in public education right now, where my kindergartener is expected to hit many more educational milestones by the end of this year than his brother was just three years ago, and how this isn't going to solve the problem of apathetic, un-motivated, entitled American teenagers who keep scoring so much lower than their international peer-group.  But today I'm talking about babies.)

One of these milestones consistently pushed early for babies is sleep, particularly "independent" sleep!  Because what new parent doesn't like the idea of getting the baby to sleep through the night so that THEY can sleep through the night?

It's tough to be the parent of a newborn.

I remember distinctly when Owen, my first baby, hit three months old.  He was still sleeping so poorly, and I was so miserable that I had a worried conversation with Jeremy about how I was afraid that Owen would end up an only child because I could not see myself ever going through this horrible period of no sleep again.

In a similar manner, one day when Rory was just a month old, I wondered if he would be sleeping in his wind-up swing still when he was a year old, because it was the only thing he would sleep in then.

The problem with my thinking in these two memories, and the problem with the advice to push babies towards independent sleep earlier and earlier, is it's based on the faulty belief that they will never grow out of their current sleep-situation (or lack thereof) on their own. 

One day when Rory was about 4 months old I was tired of it.  Tired of the stage of sleep that he was in.  I set him in his cradle and walked away as he fussed.

"It's time for you to figure out how to sleep without being rocked to bed!" I thought.

After I took a few deep breaths in the other room, I went back to him.  I looked at him in his little cradle and asked myself why I put him to sleep in a cradle?  Was it not the knowledge handed down by our mothers, and grandmothers, and great-grandmothers that babies just sleep better while being rocked?

And I remembered a common piece of furniture I had seen in the tiny homes on our trip this spring to Nauvoo.

It was these long rocking benches, where there was room for one person to sit at one end of the bench and the length of the bench had a guard rail so the mom could place her baby to sleep on the bench and sit and rock the baby to sleep while she worked on something like sewing or reading.


I need one of those.

But mostly I need to remember that babies keep growing, the keep developing, and frankly they do a lot of it without any input from me, thankyouverymuch.  I can't get my baby to crawl before he's ready or talk before he's ready, so I'm not going to bother trying to get him to sleep independently before he's ready. 

None of my other three boys still needs to be rocked to sleep, so I am confident that one day Rory too will outgrow it. 

My 6 month-old boy has lost all his luscious dark brown baby hair already, and I want to soak in each baby stage he goes through before it too is gone.   I'm going to enjoy my baby right where he is: here and now. 

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