I thought a lot about the kind of mother that I wanted to be. Before even going off the pill, I had ideas about the kind of education I wanted for my rugrat, the kinds of games I wanted him or her to play, and all the books and films I wanted to show him or her. I knew I wanted to be loving and warm and supportive. I was filled with all kinds of wonderful theories about raising a child, even as I realized that I was totally clueless. Being a mom isn’t quite what I expected… at least not at this age.
Okay, some things I’ve been able to follow through on… for the most part. In general, unless I’m on the brink of a breakdown, I don’t let my kid “just cry it out”. I don’t believe it’s healthy; it just teaches the child not to ask for help because they won’t be heard anyway. In fact, new research backs up my thoughts – the more cuddles the better, not just for infants but as they grow up, too. Of course, I sometimes beg Harley to stop crying for a few minutes, just so I can eat my meal or drink my coffee while it’s still hot. But it’s about being the kind of mother I want to be.
Part of raising Harley to be confident is for her to know she’s loved, to never doubt that she will be heard and for her to know that she is important. I remember being a pretty young kid and telling my mom that I wasn’t interested in something she said (ugh, kids, right?). She responded by saying that it’s not always about what is being said, but about the person saying it – she always listened to every word I said because if something was interesting to me, it was important enough to be interesting to her. It’s a lesson that has stuck with me forever. Sure, sometimes people I care about will want to talk about seemingly boring things, but it’s their interest and passion in whatever the topic is that brings it to life and makes me see what they find interesting. As such, even though I don’t always know what she needs or wants when she cries (I don’t think she knows, either), I pick her up, hold her, try to comfort her and do my best to ensure she knows that I’m hearing her. No, she won’t remember these moments when she’s older, but it must sink in somewhere.
I have also embraced some of the lessons from baby massage class. It’s all about opening up her skin, making her aware of her body and helping her to develop physically. It’s been so helpful for me because I was feeling like it was very hard to help a baby develop this early on. Sure, I can read to her and sing to her, but there’s not much else to engage with her and help Harley to grow and learn. However, the physical side is also so important and plays a big role in brain development. Teaching her about her body, helping her to be aware of the world around her as experienced through her skin is a big deal and will help her for years to come. It’s not just about motor skills; it helps with all kinds of development and bonding.
Harley and I are still finding our feet, with each day offering a new adventure. But I feel like I’m getting ever closer to being the kind of mother I envisioned. Helping my baby to grow may include more consoling cuddles than books at this point, but every hug, kiss and massage is helping her make sense of the world around her, even when I’m exhausted and hungry.