Before I gave birth, I knew that I’d have to do a lot of smiling and nodding at unwarranted advice and pointless comments. I did a lot of that during my pregnancy, actually. People constantly warned me of how much it sucked to lose so much sleep. How life would change forever, in what sounded like not so great ways. They told me to never, EVER, EVER let the baby sleep in my bed. People said I had to buy tons of formula just in case the breastfeeding thing didn’t work out. The list of pre-baby advice is endless. I’ve stopped judging people for their advice because, and I really do believe this, that motherhood has made me kinder. I understand what it’s like to be a parent. I know that no one is wishing me or my family ill. They just truly believe their words of wisdom are going to be helpful to me. They’re supporting me in their own way. So, in motherhood, I’ve taken the same approach to the advice, concern and comments.
I get looks a lot. We have a family bed. Baby has only ever had breastmilk. We only give baby fresh solid food (we make it or buy frozen fresh baby food). We dont’ strap baby into any contraptions (ala swings, jumpers or bouncy seats…though the bumbo is tres popular in our home). We let Baby D play by herself. We don’t let her watch television (only one movie a week on Sundays). We try to focus on wooden toys or natural materials for the items she plays with. I get looks from people for telling them how we run our house. I get the looks from everyone- old, young, parents, singles. And I think more often than not the look is a defense mechanism because it’s not what they are doing in their household. I don’t tell people what we do to pass judgement or to preach that our way is the only way. I share because I like to share (and probably because you asked…duh!) and so that we can engage in a conversation about parenting. Generally, though, it’s not so much a conversation in the true sense of the word but more of a tennis match (cosleep-crib, love-love, BF-FF, love-love).
In pregnancy, I read every pregnancy book I could get my swollen hands on. I took in as much information about babies coming out of vaginas that I could find (figures I had a C-section!). I realize now that I probably was a school semester behind on my reading. I should have read the pregnancy books when we were TTC and then the parenting books while I was pregnant. Once Baby D arrived, I had a ton of questions and concerns about what to do- Spit-up vs. vomit- how do I tell the difference? Is she supposed to poop like that? Is one less feeding than yesterday going to kill her? I had no idea that I would have no time to read once she arrived. I had to get all my answers from web searches or forum postings. Then came the realization that I had to be a parent- become responsible for this life- not just in bringing her here but helping her to become a fully functioning member of society. I realized quickly that I had missed a lot of necessary reading! (and this matters because I’m a planner and a reader…my BFF isn’t…she’d rather go into pregnancy blind and let things roll-and it worked perfectly for her…me on the other hand I want more info than I need just so I have options to daydream about worse case scenarios).
Luckily, though, my poorly planned reading habits haven’t doomed us. I found that parenting came kinda naturally to us. And in the process of getting answers to questions online, I found a name for the kind of parenting we practice attachment parenting. I haven’t done a ton of research, but we seem to ascribe to many of the traits of APers- breastfeeding, family bed, we don’t believe in CIO and we babywear. It’s been comforting to be able to label our way of parenting and to know that other parents are doing it. Giving our ways a label makes me feel like we’re making ok choices for Baby D. Don’t get me wrong I lack no confidence in what we’re doing because we can see that she is growing into a wonderful child. But it is comforting on some level to know that we’re not the only ones co-sleeping and babywearing, etc…maybe, just maybe the people giving me the looks are the freaks! (I mean that in the nicest way possible…but you catch my drift).
Another example is our use of Montessori methods with Baby D. We have read several of the books on it and have used it to guide us in her development. When I really grasped the concept of our responsibility, I felt like their had to be a more proactive and structured way to aid my daughter in her development. I was kinda freaking out because I didn’t think that parenting was just feeding and sleeping and diaper changes. I don’t know how I stumbled upon Montessori but I’m super glad we did. We have designated play areas in each room with a mirror. We allow her to play by herself. We put everything away after playing. We talk to her and respect her. Montessori, another label I’m glad to carry.
I’m no expert at AP or Montessori but from what I’ve learned thus far and from observing our daughter I know our style of parenting is working. I’m proud of the parents we are and the choices we make. It’s tough sometimes to deal with other people’s opinions but I just smile and nod because at the end of the day we’re gonna keep on doing things our way. Some people might say that I should educate people when they make silly comments. I try to but I’m not a preacher and it’s a tricky line to navigate with other parents. I know parenthood isn’t always easy so I respect and never judge what other people do- everyone should make the choices that are best for their family. I just know that I’m one proud Cuban-American Jersey AP Montessori Mama!