As a new parent, trusting my instincts isn’t always my strong suit. I’m impressionable and sometimes insecure. Here’s this beautiful little girl, and I feel this incredible responsibility. In the past that word – responsibility – has carried with connotations of obligation or burden, but I say “responsibility” with a gladness and wistfulness. Weight and girth of this responsibility feels enormous. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but most of the time, it just feels like the most important thing in the world.
Yes, there are other important things. I am a wife, friend, daughter, teacher, dreamer, runner, and so many things in between. I have an identity beyond motherhood, but I’m also struck by the gravity of bringing life into this world and being the bow that bends and set that arrow forth (to use the words of Mr. Gibran). I know that I will makes mistakes – believe me, I already have – but I want desperately to do my best for her.
Which brings me to Attachment Parenting. Never has a body of thought pertaining to parenthood struck so many chords. In Lily’s first year, it seemed that every instinct – whether timid or sure – aligned with this thinking. I loved co-sleeping. Breastfeeding, although rocky at first, became a cornerstone of our relationship. I loved carrying Lily from place to place in the Ergo or the Bjorn, and we did everything pretty much on demand: no hard and fast bedtimes, no regular nap times, and nursing whenever the need arose.
But after the first year, I’ve begun having my doubts. It’s strange, because no one told me, “hey, Attachment Parenting is the only real parenting, and anything else is a surefire way to detach your child,” but for some reason, I’ve internalized this body of thought. At first, I was searching for unconventional ways to parent children, and when I found something unconventional, I leaned hard on its conventions. It became my barometric for good parenting, and I accepted it nearly wholesale.
Yes, yes. Very ironic. I know. But I’m getting there, so bear with me. It’s an evolution, people.
So now, 18 months in, I’m discovering some things that aren’t working so well, and I’m having a hard time trusting my instincts, because – like I said – Attachment Parenting has become my barometric for good parenting, and deviating feels like I’m failing on the barometer.
The impetus for this post? Well, Lily and I got home at 12:45 like we usually do, and I nursed her in our bed for 10 minutes like I usually do, and Lily wasn’t feeling it. She rubbed her eyes, exhausted, and sat up, ready to play. So I took her into the kitchen, made myself some lunch to share, and then we ate. Actually, I ate, and Lily winged and literally put her head on the table, absolutely wrecked.
So I took a page out of Brittaney’s book. I grabbed her blankie, a stuffed toy, turned on instrumental music, and held her for a couple of minutes in my arms. “Night, night,” I said, and I laid her down in the Pack N Play.
She cried for three minutes – not hard, but consistently – and I went back in to rub her back for a few seconds. And then I left again. She cried – hard – for five minutes, and now she’s asleep.
I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve literally never let Lily cry it out. I’ve never put her to sleep without holding her or nursing her or laying next to her. In her first year, letting her cry it out seemed draconian, but after months and months of being responsible for Lily’s journey to sleep, I’ve decided that something has to change. My instincts tell me, of course she’s going to cry. This is her pattern. This is what she’s used to. But my instincts also tell me that she can learn to fall asleep on her own, and that once she does, she will sleep better and longer, because she will no longer be dependent upon me.
So I don’t know about tonight. I’m not even sure about tomorrow’s nap, but those are my thoughts for today. We’ll just try to figure this out one day at a time.