Friday 8 November 2013

H for habits

When Ellie was still brand new and we were still in the getting to know each other phase, I joined a mother's group. It was one of the best things I did as a new mother, because it gave me something to commit to once a week (therefore making me leave the house), and it allowed me to connect with other new mothers in exactly the same situation as me. The mother's group I joined was one organised by a community health nurse, so for the first four weeks, we had someone come and talk to us about various topics, provide some gentle education and generally make us all feel that we were doing a good job and all these new feelings and emotions were completely normal.

One of the things the nurse said sticks with me through until now, almost a year later. I'm paraphrasing, but it went along the lines of, there is no such thing as a bad habit. You simply raise your child in a manner that you can accept. That resonated with me. How often has someone told you to put your baby down and let her cry herself to sleep? That, if you go and pick her up or rock her when she is sleepy, she is just manipulating you? Children are only small for a short time. They are born innocent and don't understand the concepts of 'winning' or 'manipulation'. A baby will cry because it needs something and why should you feel guilty for holding her and providing comfort if they ask the only way they know how to?

I have used that as my parenting mantra… that it is all about the habits that I am prepared to accept. There was a time when Ellie would only fall asleep during the day if she was lying on me. I loved that time, it was lovely to have that close connection and watch her peacefully dream and sleep in my arms. After a week or so when I hadn't gotten anything done because I was watching her sleep and couldn't move around, that habit stopped working for me… so I started to transition her to something else and found another sleeping habit that worked for both of us.

Similar story with co-sleeping. We tried having Ellie sleep in the room with us, and it didn't work at all. She didn't sleep well, I didn't sleep well (although Mr Fork slept beautifully), and so we found a solution that worked for us. I am actually a little jealous of those that can make it work for them as it would make feeding and resettling overnight so much easier.

Ellie is going through a phase at the moment where she wants to be close to me  all the time. She is almost like a little barnacle - if she isn't being touched, she is unhappy. I know that there is advice out there that would say, teach her to be independent. But why should I, when she likes to be cuddled and I like to give cuddles? She learns by being with us and seeing the everyday things that we do. This is where baby wearing - wraps, slings and the Ergo come in ever so handy. She gets to be close, and I still get to go about my day and get things done. Win all around!

Another habit which I really love at the moment is what I have dubbed the "Ellie tax". Our morning routine goes a little like this: Ellie wakes up at 5, and I change her nappy then get her bottle ready. While she is drinking that, I make my breakfast and coffee and sit at the dining table. When she has finished her bottle she will walk over to me, raise her arms to ask to sit on my lap, where she will then proceed to talk to me and tax every third bite or so of what I am eating. Sure, it's probably not the best habit to get her into, but I love a few extra minutes of closeness in the morning, and I've noticed that she is getting much better utensil control because she can see how I feed myself (and her) from the correct perspective. She won't be small enough to sit on my lap forever (she is already half my height!) so I'm going to treasure it while I can. After eating my breakfast, she will move to her highchair and eat her own food (which she sometimes will generously share with me too).

So that's what I ask myself all the time now – is this a habit I can live with? Does it work for me? If not, how can I modify it so that it does?

Do you have any habits which mightn't be very conventional?

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