Is it just me, or do all parents have serious doubts about their child-rearing abilities? Are there mothers out there who have it all figured out? Who know how much attention to shower on their kids or how many cookies are too many? If they are out there, I don’t want to meet them. I have doubted myself as a mom right from the start. In the early days of motherhood, I remember crying my eyes out and whispering (I didn’t want babyZ to hear me) to the Husband “I am not cut out to be a mom. This doesn’t feel right.” And he would calmly reply, “You are doing great. You are such an amazing mom.” And I would think, “He is so sweet, but what does he know? And how is he so calm?!” Ten months later, I am still faced with uncertainties every day. Is the floor clean enough? Am I “smothering” my baby with too much affection? Should I let her cry right now? Should I stop buying chemical laden products and make my own cleaners and detergents? (Who am I kidding? That’s never gonna happen). But there are a few things that I practice in my everyday life with my baby which I am confident about and I know for sure that these are positive reinforcements for my child. Such as;
Reading and Talking – Research shows that reading aloud to your baby has many benefits. Aside from the bonding time it provides you and your baby, it is said to improve a child’s vocabulary in later life and expand his mental capabilities. Adults who are read to as babies turn out to be high achievers in university. So when babyZ entered, I started reading whatever book I was reading to her. When I saw how much she enjoyed it, I started downloading books for her on my e-reader. She loved listening to Peter Pan because I used different voices for all the characters (She was scared of Hook and loved Smee!) Eventually we started buying board books for her. And now it is a regular part of our day to read a few books and she looks forward to them at her bed time too. BabyZ can spend a good 10 minutes with a book, which is an hour in baby time. Each new page is as good as a new toy! And I am quite sure I am setting the foundation for a good habit for the rest of her life. I also talk a lot to her, which is said to have similar benefits as reading. I am sure that it expands her vocabulary when she hears me talk about how much I dislike folding laundry and how much salt is enough for potatoes. So I am looking forward to having a highly articulate two year old.
Minimum TV and technology – I am aware that a half hour of TV for the baby could provide me with a much needed window to finish a pending task, but I kill this urge and trap babyZ in her high chair instead. There is a lot of speculation in research circles as to the negative effects of TV viewing on infant brain development. And although it is all inconclusive, I plan to delay her full exposure to technology for as long as I can, especially because I am at home to spend time with her. I am not saying that she has never watched TV. I put on an age appropriate show for her at lunch time, but I keep repeating the words she hears on TV. So she spends more time looking at me than the TV. And the only thing she knows about the smart phone is that you have to use your index finger on it and then you have to put it to your ear and shout something! I don’t know if TV and phones have any disadvantages for her mental development, but I am quite sure that nothing can compete with the benefits of reading and talking.
Healthy eating habits – I weaned babyZ when she was four months old and any other parent who has done that will know that it is not easy. There are very few things that you can feed a baby at that age and you want to make sure to keep it interesting for her, so you have to be very creative with the limited choices you have. I worked quite hard with it and I must say that right now I am very proud of my baby’s eating habits. She takes three complete meals a day interspersed with snacks. I believe that I have been successful in developing a healthy palate and she seems to really enjoy food. The other thing that I am really proud of is her ability to feed herself. She is a great fan of finger foods and as much as I am bothered by the mess she makes, I let her do her thing. I think I have done well in this area.
Sleeping schedule and sleep training – This is something I was quite adamant on doing as a new mom. I knew that if I got my baby into a sleeping routine, it will make my life extremely pleasant. It took me two months of trial and error but I finally nailed it. I figured out the signs she gave when she got tired and started to put her to sleep before she got too exhausted. I fixed her sleeping and waking times and as much as I was tempted to let her sleep another fifteen minutes, I never let that happen. This might seem harsh to some people, but it really suited my routine. The result was that when babyZ was awake she was well-rested and hardly ever cranky. So we really enjoyed the awake hours. The mistake I made in this process was that I got her used to my presence for sleeping. She couldn’t sleep unless I cuddled with her and tapped her gently on the back. When she turned 7 months old, I decided to change this too. I started the dreaded sleep training. This was probably one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my life or will ever do. Every nap was my worst nightmare. My baby cried her heart and lungs out in the bed room and I cried my eyes out in the living room. The Husband would look at me with eyes full of pain and was traumatized by the injustice and atrocity his daughter was going through, but I stood my ground. Six days of this torture and on the seventh day she learnt to put herself to sleep without crying. Now all I do is kiss her and put her in her crib. She grabs her blankie and smiles when I say “Sleep well!”. I am immensely proud of her but the Husband is proud of me. I did good!
Independent play time – As a new mother, it is very hard not to hover on your happy baby when she is playing. I say happy because let’s admit, we have all wanted to run away from our crying babies at one point or another. But when she is in a great mood and playing on her own, I am tempted to pick her up and kiss her or be involved in her games. I learnt with experience that all this does is interrupt her thought process and make her more demanding. So what I do now is stop myself and let her play alone for as long as she doesn’t ask me to come and join her. And when she does, I always commend her for playing independently. I believe she understands encouragement, even at this age, because she claps when I say “Good job playing on your own!” I think this is a good practice. It allows her to get creative with her toys and she is absolutely fine with me sitting at a distance and interacting with her from time to time. Great for the baby and awesome for the mom!
Positive words – I learnt this tip from my sister who was taking a course on parenting (You see! It’s not that easy. You have to take a course to get good at it.) She told me that you have to find alternative ways to say No to your child. This means that no derivative of the word ”No” should be used in conversation with your kids. Instead use reasoning and consequences of actions to teach your child why he shouldn’t be doing a certain thing. Since babyZ is too young for reasoning and has just started crawling, not saying No is extremely difficult for me. But how I apply this tip is to use more positive words when stopping her from something. I do tell her the consequences of what she is doing even if she only smiles in return and gets back to what she was doing. But I noticed that taking the edge off of my tone when stopping her really reduces my stress of having a curious crawler in the house. I smile more which I am quite sure is comforting for my child. I am still not very good at applying this technique but I am hoping to get better with practice.
Healthy family environment – I am very pleased with the home we have made for our daughter. The basis of this is obviously in the relationship between me and the Husband. I consider myself extremely blessed that there is a great deal of affection, unconditional support and a general atmosphere of care in our household. For this, I have to give credit to the Husband. Without realizing what he is doing and by just being himself, he is playing a huge role in creating an environment of love and trust around his daughter. I have no doubts about the positive impacts this will have on her personality growing up and who knows? One day she might want a relationship just like her parents’! I am beaming with joy right now.
When I started writing this post, I was afraid I will not have enough material to talk about. But reading back what I have written, I am getting assured that I am laying a good foundation on which my daughter will develop her individual self. So maybe I am not as clueless as I thought I was. Maybe I am cut out to be a mom after all! Like my first blog post, this is also a never ending list. I am quite sure that I will doubt my parenting skills at every stage of babyZ’s life. This is because children don’t come with a handbook (That’s why we need courses!) So I just have to give it my best shot and hope that I do enough things right to help shape my child into a stable, confident and responsible adult one day, an adult I can be proud to call my own.