My daughter is on the move. At only six months this is earlier than I expected. And it’s exhausting!
I suddenly find myself uttering the words I promised myself I never would. “F, No!” (F being her initial rather than me swearing at her!)
As she once again heads for the one corner of the room that doesn’t contain toys, to grab at, and chew the wires, I put on a firm voice that Supernanny would be proud of and tell her, “No”. She looks at me, she smiles, she laughs, she carries on.
Of course she does. She has no experience of “No”. Why should she? At six months of age she she is only beginning the adventure of life, (an adventure that makes me cry just to think of). To tell her “No” is to tell her to stop, to give in, to quit the adventure before she has passed the starting line. This is why I had promised myself that “No” was a word I would not utter until she was old enough to understand it.
Thus far I have parented by instinct. It’s so easy as a parent to find yourself drowning in a sea of books, routine instructions and advice from well meaning sources. This can overwhelm you and easily let you lose sight of the perfect individual you have created. An individual that didn’t come with an instruction manual. So I can’t understand why we try to make them fit a rule book.
I feel that I most fit the slot of attachment parenting, in that we babywear, breastfeed, bed share and I would never ever use cry it out. However, I would hate to call myself such a thing for fear that I am caught out when I do something others in that field would not agree with. I’m a parent, and not a perfect one, but I know my daughter best and I parent according to how I feel I can best meet her needs.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love rules, and I certainly agree with (appropriate) consequences. I’m a teacher after all! However, you can’t punish someone for something they don’t understand, and you certainly can’t punish a baby for exploring the world and learning about life.
This is why I am so cross with myself for my firm (and wholey unsuccessful) “No”. I need an alternative. A distraction, an explanation, a removal of the problem or a way to teach the lesson. (and I don’t mean through letting her eat the wires!)
A cuddle, a suggestion. This is what I will try next. “Let’s play over here.” or “Where is your ball?” (and if that doesn’t work I’ll try something new.)
Words are so important. They create us and can all too easily break us. When I think back on my week it’s what was said that I remember first. And when I think back on life, it’s memories of words that make me smile or cry. We build our children through our words. They grow in the image we paint for them with our words. My husband and I have, for a long time, been affectionately calling our daughter grumpy bum when she is crying. This is unfair of us, and I have decided it has to stop. Instead we need to help her understand her tears. “I think you are tired and sleep will make you feel better”, “I think you are hungry, would you like some milk?” or perhaps, “shall we change your nappy? Is that the problem?”.
If she grows into the image our words have created then grumpy is a dangerous term. As a teacher I try hard to swap, “You forget everything” with “How can I help make sure you remember?” and the like. As a mother this is even more important.
Words are indeed all I have. And with these words I need to teach, guide and build a whole person.
Of course I am also not suggesting undue praise or compliments, for this is a sure way to make them lose their value. But, just as the negative needs explaining, so too does does the positive. “You are a very clever girl for hitting the button on your toy.” “I am so happy that you are smiling today.”
Inevitably, try as I might, I know that I will use the words I have promised myself not to. And there will be days, (many I am sure) when I am disappointed in myself for my poor explanations. But at the end of the day, the most important words I can tell my daughter, the ones I use everyday, and have promised to use every day for the rest of my life, are the ones I do not need to explain.
“I love you.”