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.