My parenting prowess peaked about three months before I actually became a mom. By then I’d scoured the parenting websites, looked at the blogs, read the various parenting theories, developmental time lines and best of all, had tons of opinions on what every parent I encountered was doing wrong.
Name any common household object and I could instantly tell you its dangers. My mom took me up on it. “What about pillows?” she asked, thinking of the most innocuous thing she could. “Suffocation hazard!” I snapped back. I knew all the theories. I knew the importance of swaddling, baby wearing, breast is best and certainly my kids would never watch TV before age two.
Then my daughter came. While I’d imagine her newborn self to be a moldable lump, it was clear from the beginning she had her own (very strong) opinions on things, which had nothing to do with mine.
When we were still in the hospital, she was sleeping peacefully sprawled out on my bed while I puttered around the room. The nurse who came in assured me that my daughter was in fact quite miserable and feeling insecure if given so much space and quickly erected a small nest around her to comfort her.
As if her spider-sense was tingling, my daughter’s arms and legs instantly flailed about and when they bumped into the nest, she started to wail. It was as if after nine months stuck in close quarters, she was luxuriating in her freedom. I removed the nest and she promptly went back to sleep. Needless to say, all my carefully prepared swaddling clothes were met with equal distain.
Pre-baby I was a firm believer in baby carrying. I loved seeing the earth mamas gliding around serenely. Their sweet baby curled up warm, spine properly developing, rhythmically entwined in each other’s heartbeats. That was DEFINITELY going to be me.
When I was pregnant, I did a lot of research and chatting with moms to select the perfect range of carriers, wraps and slings. I carefully practiced taking them on and off and confidently predicted I’d never be the frazzled mom trying to jam the big stroller on the bus.
Then I tried with my real baby. My daughter acted as if I was trying to kill her. I walked around hoping she’d calm down. I reasoned with her that all babies love it. I tried other slings, wraps and carriers. I talked to more moms. Did more Internet research. Stalked moms I saw baby carrying on the street. No matter what I did, she hated it all equally.
She did, however, love her big stroller, turning her impossibly large, gorgeous eyes up to the sky to watch the tree tops go by.
Since those early days of motherhood, it’s been a cycle that repeats. The organic salmon baby food recipe that’s so perfect for brain development and I spent an hour cooking? Rejected immediately. The million books I read that promised to make the terrible-twos painless? Great door stops!
In my current frazzled, decidedly non-perfect haze, I sometimes feel a bit nostalgic towards those times when I had it all figured out. However, through all the momentary frustrations, there’s such joy in watching a little human unfurl with all the likes, dislikes, and odd quirks we all have. I just hope I remember to listen.