A lot of being in the world of parenting is like being adrift in the open ocean. We can’t know what is far below us or the challenges we will face when storms happen. Likewise, we don’t know when we will manage to snag that illusive catch that always seemed to be just out of reach.
Confession. I didn’t really read up on the whole switching from a crib to a bed thing. I don’t really like reading “mommy articles” or books on mothering. Not because I’m above it, I know there are some great resources out there. But mainly, I really believe that if I think about parenting with a clear head and a loving heart I have all of the tools I need to be a great mother to Abigail. She’s a little bit of me and a little bit of Ryan and little bit of her own. I don’t need a book to tell me how to get to know her, to find out what motivates her. It’s all trial and error anyway. Starting and stopping and being flexible.
I’ve been to message boards, read people’s reactions to facebook posts, perused parenting texts or online articles and it mostly leaves me feeling either highly skeptical or disgusted by the divisive, definitive opinions I see. “Be careful…” I think. It’s lonely up there on that parenting high horse. And the fall? It’s going to hurt.
Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I am a black or white kind of person about everything. I don’t ever feel that what I’m doing is the absolute best or right way to do something. I question myself and feel insecure sometimes. Other times I feel proud of what Ryan and I accomplish. Often I change my mind or Abigail changes hers and that creates new challenges. But always I view our parenting as the thing that works for us at that moment. It’s not the only way.
Floating around on this open sea can be scary. It can test what you are made of and even break you down. You can’t sail that ship alone, you need support. And it matters, greatly, who is on that ship with you. After 2 years of mothering under my novice belt, I feel I am getting my sea legs. I can finally let comments of the self-righteous roll off my back without making me feel inferior. I have found my greatest ally in Ryan and feel so lucky to be on this journey with him. I look to our families for the wisdom of their experiences, knowing I have a lot I can learn. And when I want the opinion of someone who is in the midst of the waves themselves, I turn to aces in my back pocket — those cherished friends who don’t judge and listen carefully, commiserate with you or pick you up appropriately, never judging, always accepting you just as you are.
Should I have read “The Complete Guide to Being the Most Awesome Mother in the World?” specifically the chapter on big girl bed transitions? Maybe. I’m sure reading that sort of thing can help you define who you aspire to be, to give you fresh ideas and new knowledge. But maybe reading it would just echo the sentiments you already feel in your own heart or worse leave you feeIing guilty or inadequate.
What are we doing about the Great Toddler Bed Fiasco of 2012? We are surviving. We are getting through it. We take two steps forward and one step back. If Abigail needs just one more book after I’ve already said no more, we sometimes give in. If it’s four in the morning and she hasn’t been able to get back to sleep for 3 hours after diaper changes and cuddling and night light reboots we sometimes let her whine in her bed for 20 minutes. And if I sneak upstairs to check on her and see her sweet, sleepy face smiling softly back at me I sometimes lay down to cuddle with her even if I promised myself I wouldn’t. In other words, I’m not going to worry too much about what everyone else, including the experts, would have say about it. We’re doing it our way, making mistakes, picking up the pieces, celebrating victories, and always, always loving her with everything we have.
And when a friend opens up about a struggle she might be having? I will listen respectfully, reserving judgement, knowing she’s doing the best she can and handling it her way.