Baby, You Rock My World!
Oh, I know what your thinking. But no, I mean it literally. Children ROCK our world. They take what we think is true and right and normal and they squish it up in their chubby little fists and throw it into the toy box to be lost among a myriad of other forgotten treasures. Nothing looks the same, nothing feels the same, nothing is the same. And there is no way to explain it. The only way to get it, is to live it. And even then, sometimes it isn’t clear.
I remember distinctly having the belief that children would be a wonderful addition to my life. I talk to people every day that echo this same sentiment. It was clear to me that the world my husband and I had designed and planned would continue on, simply with the addition of a small person sitting in the back seat. Our plus-one. Our course was charted. Our understanding of the world was clear. Our plans were laid. Our baby-to-be would easily and naturally fit into our scheme, and we would continue on. As you were, soldier.
And along comes baby. Sweet and innocent and amazing. And a vicious destroyer of previous lives.
And we emerge from a sleep-deprived baby fog to find a world that bears little resemblance to the way we thought things would be.
Friends change. Priorities change. Finances change. Energies change. Jobs change. We are suddenly regretfully aware that the words “Yo gabba gabba” have a meaning. We are suddenly regretfully unaware that weeks have gone by and we haven’t returned a phone call to a once-close friend.
Time and time again I hear parents ask the same questions: Who am I? Where did I go? I used to have thoughts, opinions. I used to know things and think about politics and like music. I used to love to travel and I had such dreams and plans. And now?
Well, this baby, who is the love of my life, rocked my world.
And maybe, a part of me is a little bit bitter about that. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.
I was recently reading a post by Authentic Parenting that talks about a paradox between parenting strategies that seem to hurry kids towards autonomy versus parenting strategies that seem to keep kids dependent. It rang true. In our culture we want kids to potty train early, but make pull ups for kids well into elementary school. We want kids to wean early, but encourage pacifiers. We want them to speak up for themselves (in theory), but not question their elders. We want them to eat solids early, but still have them using a sippy cup in their preschool years. The list goes on and on.
At first glance, it does seem paradoxical. But then I realized, all these things are the same. They are, in essence, attempts to have the child fit into our adult world with as little impact on us as possible. When we want our newborns to sleep through the night, it is not because this has any developmental relevance for them, but rather because we are tired and are used to sleeping through the night. When we want our children to potty train early and wear pull ups longer, it is because it makes it easier for us.
And what’s wrong with that? We have needs too right? What happened to the idea that my baby would fit into my world? What parenting strategies can I employ that will help them fit into my world? I want to sleep through the night. I want to travel and go to restaurants and relax at the end of the day with a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Show me the book that tells me how to do that and that is the parenting strategy that must work.
And maybe, that is what is inherently wrong with all those parenting strategies. Those strategies are aimed to meet parent needs rather than kid needs. Maybe, rather than trying to figure out how to make our plus one play by our rules, we need to figure out new rules that work for everyone. Parent needs, kid needs, family needs. There is no such thing as “us plus a baby”. There is only a new us.
Our kids enter our world and change it. Completely rock it to the core.
And we hang on for dear life to the idea that we can get our old selves back. If only our kid would (fill in the blank)…. We hang on to the idea that it is possible to have a quiet, well behaved, go to sleep early and wake up late, potty train by themselves, happy to stay with a babysitter, self soothing, I-don’t-really-need-you-because-that-parenting-strategy-nipped-my-developmental-needs-in-the-bud kind of kid, because that is the kind of kid that would allow my world to turn the way I thought it would.
Only it never works that way. Because their needs are constant and changing and ever evolving, and we are their parents. And our needs are constant and changing and evolving. And that is that. It’s not that there is something wrong with them. There was something wrong with the idea that they would be our plus-one to the party.
Nope. They are the party.
And the party is pretty amazing. As long as we can stop fighting it.