Thursday, August 23, 2012

MotheringMyth #2: {The Perfect Baby}

Continuing on in my response to the 'Myths of Mothering' (expounded upon here) ...

Mothering Myth #2:  {The Perfect Baby}
"... the myth of the 'perfect baby'"
I have never ... EVER ... seen people more competitive than when it comes to their children.  A typical conversation between two mommies at the park often goes something like this:

Mommy 1:   Little Sally is so cranky lately.  She's cutting her teeth, bless her heart ... she's only 3 months, you know.

Mommy 2:  Oh, you poor thing.  I remember when my Billy cut his teeth.  He got both upper and lower sets all at once!

Mommy 1:  ... Of course, now Sally's chewing on everything she can get her hands on.  Her favorite thing to gnaw is her board books.  She simply loooooves her books.  She won't pick up any other toys.

Mommy 2:  Did I tell you Billy already knows ten signs?  It's probably because we read so much at home.

And on and on it goes.  I have participated in my fair share of mommy brag-a-thons, so this post is written at myself as much as at anyone else.

Here's the thing.  There's nothing bad about bragging about your kid - it's great that we feel so proud of our progeny that we want to sing their praises to anyone who has ears.  But the problem is that when we only hear the good things about everyone else's children, it's easy (very easy) to fall into the trap of believing that your child is the only one who hits their sibling when they're angry.  Who throws a fit in Walmart.  Who refuses to talk to adults when addressed.

I think new moms are especially susceptible to this tendency.  When you hold the new, perfect little life in  your arms for the first time, this fear sneaks up on you and you think, "Oh boy, I hope I don't totally screw this kid up."  Then, when baby doesn't hit certain milestones when doctors (or your friends, or your mother) say he should, it confirms the fear that yes, you are indeed screwing your child up.  You're screwing him or her up royally.  And you feel helpless to do anything, because you can't make a baby sit up by himself (for example).  They just do it, when they do it.  On their own time.

It's so very easy to internalize every little thing your child does, and let it reflect negatively on yourself.  Example:  Manasseh is 3 months old.  And he still hasn't laughed.  He barely started smiling a few weeks ago.  He's content, doesn't cry much, but is just a solemn, serious little guy.  It is so so easy for me to start vociferating on the fact that he hasn't laughed yet, and try to figure out what I have done wrong to cause this:  Was I too stressed out during pregnancy?  Is it too loud and chaotic in our home?  Do I not look into his eyes enough and give him enough attention?  What if he doesn't feel loved?!!

Do you see the crazy cycle?  Do you see how easy it is to spiral onto the crazy train?  Meanwhile, everywhere you look there are happy, seemingly perfect babies and mommies, because everybody's incredibly proud of their progeny and broadcast their little offsprings' every accomplishment.  Only the accomplishments.  And when you're already feeling self-conscious about this mothering thing, and nervous that you're doing it right, you become acutely, desperately aware that your baby is not a perfect baby.  This, if internalized, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and ultimately depression.

We need to give our babies, and ourselves, permission to be who we were created to be:  Individual. Unique.  'Special Little Snowflakes'.  Defined not by what we do, or what we accomplish, but by who we are.  We need to learn to see our kids as exciting, interesting little treasures with unique personalities and characteristics that slowly unfold over time.  Because, in the end it won't matter when your baby cut his teeth, or learned to walk, or how many words he knew by the age of one.  What will matter is, did he grow up and into the person God designed him to be from the very beginining?

3 comments:

  1. He hasn't laughed where you can see him, because he's a smart little cookie. He knows the longer he holds out, the harder you will all work at it! He's cracking up inside!

    And my bright little child got put into time out TWICE for doing the exact same thing today, and then refused to speak to the teacher who was trying to give her a popsicle, and last night said nice and loud that she doesn't like an adult friend of ours. AND I swear to goodness, as I was typing that, she just walked over and mooned me!!! What the !!!

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  2. Motherhood: the biggest competition. It makes the Olymypics look easy. Atticus was a late smiler. Now he is a little ham who laughs at farting noises.

    They are just all so different. It's a beautiful thing. They all have different strengths.

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