Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laid-back or lazy?

As you may have figured out by now, we're a pretty laid-back pair of parents. This parenting style, as it were, is partly based on personality and partly on philosophy. Which is to say, Jon and I are pretty chilled out people to begin with (okay, mostly me for that one, but Jon goes with the flow within his own set ways, if that is possible). But I would be stricter with myself in a heartbeat if I thought that was what Gus needed. I just happen to think that babies do well when their needs are addressed in a child-led, as opposed to parent-led, way.

In our house, this manifests itself in a variety of ways. Gus doesn't have a set napping schedule or bedtime. There is a pretty regular rhythm to each day, and I try to pay close attention to his mood and then nurse him to sleep (or attempt to, anyway!) when he starts to act tired. We have a fairly regular bedtime, but we don't force him to sleep or ignore him while he stays awake after that time. I breastfeed on demand. Solid food meals are baby-led as well, so I don't force him to eat a certain amount. I do try and encourage him to taste the various things I put on his tray, but if he is not in the mood for food, then he will just skip that meal and make it up at the next meal or with milk.

This all works really well for me. I am not the type of person who could  follow a schedule where I have to put baby down for a nap at a certain time every day--I need more flexibility in my life than that. And while some people would hate not knowing that their baby is eating x meals a day and drinking y ounces of milk, it would drive me up the wall to worry about an extra ounce here or a missed meal there.

More importantly, this seems to work really well for Gus, too. He is such an easy-going little guy. People often comment on how happy he is (or, more often, how "well behaved" he is, which I interpret to mean he seems contented). To me, this shows that the way we are doing things fits his personality just as well as it fits ours.

The thing I worry about is taking things too far. I thought about this the other night when it was 9.30 and Gus was still crawling back and forth on the bed, playing with everything he could get his hands on. I felt maybe I should have been doing more to get him to sleep. Was I, as a parent, just letting him down, and thereby nurturing a child who would never listen to any authority, never do anything but what pleased him in that moment? Sure, he's only 7 months old now, but do we need to start instilling better habits? Am I just letting him stay up late because I am too lazy to impose a bedtime?

People talk a lot about how children "need limits" and "crave boundaries". This post at Demand EUPHORIA really made me think about that little axiom. She says:
I'm still the same person as I was as a child. I have the same feelings and thoughts now as I did then. I think kids are just like adults in terms of how they want to be treated. I think people, young and old, want to have ultimate control over their bodies and their lives.
It all comes back to the idea that children are people too, and they deserve to have their feelings and wishes respected. Do I really know better than Gus what he needs at any given moment? And if he does need boundaries and limits, are these things that can be malleable, that we can work out together, as a family, as he gets older, or do they need to be imposed upon him?

I think a big part of the difficulty I have with this is that "common knowledge" says that this is what parents do: impose limits, set boundaries, ensure that the kiddos toe the line. One thing I have found out about myself in the last 7 months, though, is that the decisions I make are not mainstream (you would have thought I'd have figured this out about myself earlier in my life, but apparently not!). But just because we, as parents, are making decisions we feel are best for our family doesn't mean it is always easy to go against the cultural norm.  I am very conscious of how others might see me (I'm a people pleaser, for sure), and I think I have a fear of being labelled permissive--in a bad way.

I *think* Jon and I are doing okay parenting our little babe. But it's such a journey, this parenting thing, and I feel we constantly have to step back, take stock of how things are going, and think about what needs to be tweaked. At the moment, I'm going to say things are mostly good. But I really want to parent intentionally, doing things because they are best for our family, not because I am too lazy to do any differently.

Friday, June 3, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 10)

We have had milestones right and left these past couple of weeks. The first was really more a milestone for me--I left my baby for 10 hours! Not on his own, of course, and with every intention of coming back to him. I went to a friend's hen do the other weekend and left Jon and Gus to have a boys' day together. A good time was had by all, and I think I was the most stressed of the three of us! I always think I should leave Jon and Gus to have an hour or two alone at the weekends, but I find that there isn't all that much I feel like doing by myself--I would rather spend the time with my family.  So it was a good opportunity for them to spend some time together and good for me to have a break. Next time, it doesn't need to be quite so long, though!

The day after the hen do, I was playing on the floor in the living room with Gus when he noticed an empty bottle under a chair (it was way too much to ask Jon to have Gus all day--for the first time--and keep the house tidy as well, especially when I don't do a very good job of tidying, and I have practice every day!). Anyway, Gus was really excited to see that bottle. Of course, I just wanted to shout, "I'm right here! What do you want a bottle for?"  Poor mama :)

As for milestones number 2 and 3, Gus started crawling and pulled himself up to stand for the first time on the same day. Where has my little baby gone?!  He had been army-crawling and bum-scootching for maybe 2 weeks already, but this Tuesday, he was up on his hands and knees and there was no stopping him. I, of course, am getting even less done than normal around the house. I feel like I need to watch him all the time. We have tried to baby-proof the main areas where he goes, but he keeps finding things that aren't really suitable for him that I didn't even think of. Constant vigilance!   

Our trip to visit the American family is getting close now--yay!  I am so excited. We haven't seen everybody since Christmas, and Gus has grown and changed so much since then, I can't wait to show him off ;)  The one thing I am not excited about is the flight. Gus and I will be going out first, with Jon joining us a few days later. Anyone have any suggestions for ways to keep a newly-crawling 7 month old entertained for an 8 hour flight? Please??

Do you know what I hate? Scented laundry detergent. Ugh. It is so awful. Laundry detergent is the most difficult part about cloth diapering. I use Ecover for my regular clothes, but apparently that is not very good for cloth diapers because it doesn't rinse out properly. Or something. So last time I bought the Tots Bots Potion, specifically designed for washing diapers at lower temperatures. But I didn't really think it was worth the price tag (not least because nowhere on the packaging does it tell you how much to use!), so I thought I would just go for some standard biological detergent. In the UK, they have two types of detergent, bio and non-bio. I do not know what the difference is (something to do with enzymes?), but I normally use non-bio. I read that bio works better on the diapers, so I thought I would try it. But I could not find any unscented bio detergent in the shop. Isn't that weird? They only have non-bio unscented. I bought one that said "with essential oils", hoping that it would mean the scent wasn't too awful. But it is. I just took the clothes out of the wash, and my head still hurts, just from hanging them up. Yuck yuck yuck. I don't think I can use that again. I might try the Rockin Green next time. What do you use for your nappies?

Gus is asleep in the bed next to me as I write this. He keeps moving. A lot. I don't notice it in the night when I am asleep, but today during his nap, he was practically up on his hands and knees at one point, before lying back down, completely asleep! He's obviously very excited about his newfound crawling abilities!

All week, I kept thinking of things I might put in my quick takes today. And now I can't remember any more of them. Oh well! Hope you all have a lovely weekend. And happy second birthday tomorrow to my nephew Ben! (That's way better than the card that I haven't yet put in the mail, right?)

Don't forget to head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes fun!