March 5, 2011

Parenting on Instinct

Baby wearing love
I'll admit it.  When I was pregnant, I was totally lost.  I had no idea what I was going to do with a baby- for those first six months I really couldn't think of anything that babies DID.  I figured it was a weird time of limbo where you just waited for your child to finally get... interesting.

I did a few of the standard pregnant and clueless things.  I bought a few books, I accepted sometimes completely contrary advice from anyone who would offer, and did what I do best.  I decided to wing it.

Now, I know that it might seem to you out that I officially subscribe to a few defined parenting techniques.  I never did that on purpose.  Everything that I've done as a mother has been done following a few basic guidelines.

Breastfeeding love
What's best for the babies?
What's best for ME?

Best for the babies?  Breast feeding.  Best for me?  Moving the girls to their own room.  Best for the girls?  Baby wearing.  Best for me?  Potty training.  Starting last week, sort of.

We use cloth diapers because of the environmental impact, but more importantly because I think it's best for the girls to be aware of their bodily functions and to avoid the nasty rashes that come from artificially dried poo.  We breast fed until the girls self-weaned, because the human breast milk is ideal baby food, and they were happy to eat as much of it as they could.  I made most of their solid baby food, because I knew every ingredient was natural, healthy, and delicious.  I was constantly shocked at what Gerber and the like will put gelatin into.  That said, we're keeping the girls on a vegetarian diet until they're old enough to make an informed decision on their own.  It all seems pretty crunchy, huh?

Solid food love
But I never let myself feel like I HAD to do (or not do) something because of some ideal of granola parenting.  I supplemented with formula without giving myself a guilt complex- hell, nursing twins at all was an accomplishment, I wasn't going to treat myself like a failure if I wasn't always able to produce enough milk for two hungry babies.  I got my kids vaccinated on the pediatric recommended schedule- I wouldn't know what the measles looked like if I saw it, and frankly the same goes for whooping cough and mumps.  I moved my kids into their own room when they were about four months old.  After all, they comforted each other better than I could, and we all slept better.

In short, I've been basing my entire parenting philosophy on instinct.  Does this feel like the right thing to do?   Do I feel like this is a good idea? 

I found as I was reading parenting books- ALL of them- that I found the authors at best irritating and at worst complete idiots.  The multiple specific books were no doubt the worst of the lot.  I constantly felt like I was being talked down to, and if there's one thing on this earth that is guaranteed to enrage me, it's condescension.  I stopped reading parenting books before half of the full shelf I'd acquired had even been opened.  I just couldn't be bothered.  I obviously knew best.

Sleep-in-your-own-room love
And I still felt like I didn't know anything.  It was all a matter of watching my children, listening, and trying to figure out what they were trying to tell me.  I introduced solid foods as soon as the girls started acting really interested.  I stopped breastfeeding when they made it clear that they were just plain done.  I started vaguely potty training when they started acting upset about being around their own feces.  (And I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants here, too.  Right now my version of potty-training is a lot of "see Mommy using the potty?" and reading potty-themed books.  They know what the potty is, and I think they're starting to get an idea of what it's for.  So far, we haven't even tried actually using it for its intended purpose.)

Book worm love
We human beings are bad at remembering that, fundamentally. we're ANIMALS.  We're mammals, primates, bipedal, social, verbal... those are the things that define most of our development.  The things that we do for babies are completely tied up in being those things.  Being a highly civilized creature just complicates matters.  Everything about having a baby is primal- from pregnancy until the child is functionally verbal.  So as far as the parenting of my own babies is concerned, I guess you could say that I've reverted to some kind of inner animal nature.

I think my kids are remarkably close to perfect.  So is it undignified that I tend to think of us as neanderthals in order to get through the immeasurably difficult years of baby- and toddler-hood?  Perhaps.  But it's working.  It makes me feel good about our lives and every milestone my children reach, and I have no regrets whatsoever.

The parenting choices that M and I have made have made all of us very happy animals.

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