It seems like everywhere I go I am hearing new information about what is best for a babies development.
“Don’t let them watch too much T.V. Research shows how devastating it is on development.”
“Children need consistency- make sure they have it every day.”
“Attachment parenting is the best method for a child’s self-esteem.”
“If a baby doesn’t get regular naps he or she will not be a happy baby.”
You really cannot win. Either you are too rigid, or too flexible. Either you don’t play with your baby enough, or you don’t have a life. Either you coddle your baby too much, or you don’t attend to their needs.
The more I get around other parents the more I already feel the silent pressure. I attended a book babies class the other day and overheard a few parents talking about sending their children to gifted, private pre-schools and how there is no other education around that can beat what they will be paying lots of money for.
Here is the deal- I like to think I am a pretty decent Momma. I have the privilege to stay home with Lillian, so she gets plenty of attention. We make it to the museum here and there, I try to read to her books and play CD’s and limit the amount of television she watches, yet I still feel like I do not do enough. Perhaps it is the self-pressure of knowing so much of how she grows up lands squarely on my shoulders and the values I teach her. Perhaps a part of it is the competitive culture I am raising her in and the tendency of parents to want their kid to be the “best”. There are days I feel like I barely played with her, days she is a total mess of a child, days I am frazzled and exhausted, and days I have not an ounce of consistency with her. I have had a difficult time getting her on a nap schedule, at ten months I finally got her to sleep in her crib, and we basically go with the flow day in and day out. Many moms would cringe at how we do life.
I have spent a lot of time and prayer thinking about this, and decided I care much more about how Lillian grows up treating others than I do how she stacks up academically. I am a bit more concerned with her understanding things like honesty, love, forgiveness, and self-control, than I am about her worrying endlessly about being the best in class and the all-star on the sports team. I want her to truly see herself as equal to all and be willing to help others regardless of what they can do to benefit her.
This does not mean I can shrug off helping her to quench her thirst to learn- but it does mean a shift in my priorities as a parent. I can no longer rely on a specific parenting style or curriculum to teach her what I truly want her to learn. The only formula I can use is love.
I have seen plenty of moms who are stretched way too thin do wonders with the “love” formula. Children have grown up phenomenal learners, teachers, spouses and friends by having mothers who simply loved their kids well. The amazing thing is it is so simple. For centuries moms have balanced lives of raising their kids and everything else women tend to. Some women do it solo (I am amazed by them), some do it working full time, some do it as widows. Sometimes you just cannot give your child everything or spend hours teaching them endlessly. Sometimes, as a mom, the best you can do for your child is to show them love however you have the means and capacity to do so- and it truly is enough. Children watch. I think they see our intentions, our actions, and our hearts. They feel love, acceptance, and grace if those are being radiated from their parents. They cherish the laughs, giggles, cuddles, and story times. I can teach my daughter how valued she is, how loved she is, and what an important purpose she has in this life that goes beyond success or how much money she can make. She can impact lives.
I have found encouragement in this. I remind myself that while I may not get to teach my daughter Spanish, sign language, guitar, math, reading, and everything else in the world I could be teaching her to be fluent in- I can teach her how to love. Nothing can replace the powerful effect of love, and nothing can help her build a more solid foundation in which to place everything else upon in her life.