Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Multiplicity of Methods

Today I am really grateful for the way that the Lord humbles me.

I have been reading a lot of books about parenting and developing a very firm paradigm of babies and the best way to care for them. In my pride, I've cultivated an unhealthy scorn for parents whose philosophy is on the other end of the spectrum. I thought it was in a good spirit, that I just wanted to tell everyone about the mindset and patterns that saved my sanity and changed my baby's temperament. And I was gloating about how peaceful and predictable my life was, forgetting the times when Soren is completely miserable. He's pretty easily placated (except at church) and I figured it was because I had become such a wonderful mom.

So when we set up a babysitting co-op with another couple in the ward, I figured caring for their five-month-old boy would be a piece of cake. They would bring their fussing, confused infant and I would take him and offer comfort, stabilization, and rest. He would love my home in which everything is orderly and calm; my confidence would lull him to a serene state.

It was quite the opposite. Alisha brought her tiny little boy Wallace over at around 6:00 pm. He was cheerful and played on the floor with toys for about five minutes after his parents left. Then he began to cry, looking from Scott to me and back to Scott again, wondering where in the world his beloved parents were. I put him through the gauntlet of tricks I try with Soren. First, I picked him up and rocked him, making soothing noises. He cried. Then I offered some toys to him, demonstrating the fun noises they could make. He cried. Maybe a change of environment would make him feel better? I put him in the swing. Nope, he just cried. His mother had just barely fed him, so since he didn't want to play with toys or people, I figured he must be tired. Poor thing, so exhausted. I could offer him the gift of sleep. I laid him down in Soren's bassinet and rubbed his back gently. He cried harder. I clung to my paradigm, figuring that there could be no other solution to his pains. He just needed time to grow accustomed to a new place to sleep. I wouldn't overstimulate him or disturb his sleep pattern by pulling him out so soon. I just kept rubbing his back and shhhing him. And he just kept crying.

Finally, knowing that his mother wouldn't want me to just let him cry, I changed my strategy. I gave up on my perfect "fool-proof" soothing rituals and offered the methods I had so often scorned in other parents. These are things I don't offer Soren to sooth him, because I am trying to teach self-soothing methods, which he has taken to really well. First I tried to sneak a bottle into his wailing mouth. He continued crying. Then I swaddled him and offered a pacifier. He cried. Finally I stuck him in a sling and took him for a walk. He whimpered, but at least he wasn't crying. That lasted about 15 minutes, then he picked up again.

Needless to say, when his mother and father came to pick him up at about 8 pm, I was happy to hand him over and embarrassed to see how happily he settled into the nook of his mother's hip. How could I have ever doubted this loving woman who so obviously loved and cared for her child, even if it was in a way different than the way I cared for mine? Soren and Wallace are very different people and I feel lucky to have discovered the routines, games, and techniques that sooth and entertain my son. Just because they work on Soren does not in any way mean that they are superior. I forgot that the only necessary ingredient in parenting is love. If we love of our children as our Father in Heaven loves us, we can never go wrong.

I'm not sure if any of this makes sense but I am very grateful for the things I have learned from this experience. I am grateful to have learned that I do not know everything and I am not a fool-proof parent. This will prevent me from getting stuck in my mistakes, being too blind to see them. I am grateful that the Lord has not asked me to be perfect yet, but to rely on His perfection rather than the flawed philosophies of men. I am grateful for the example of the Savior and hope that I can follow His commandments as I raise my children.

1 comment:

Madelyn said...

Me too! I so often am annoyed by the obvious "mistakes" other moms make. Then I have to remind myself, we're really all just doing the best we can.