There's no doubt about it . . . a newborn changes everything. And, in an idealistic, romanticized way, a newborn is a sweet blessing. Disney characters flitting through the back yard and all that stuff. But, let's be real. Change is H.A.R.D. Really hard. Adjusting to the demands of parenthood is daunting, overwhelming, and did I mention, just plain, hard?
Part of human nature is to come up with strategies to overcome the challenges we face. A great survival skill. But, parenting is one of those paradoxical situations. “A problem-solving strategy that might work in other situations” may be counter-productive in parenting. Why? Because babies are people not problems.
The sticky parenting trap nearly all parents step into is treating the challenges the baby brings to the family as “problems to overcome” when really, relationships involve “making adjustments” to the routines, accommodating others, and learning about the other person. I have given this a lot of thought. New families talk about this all the time! They ask questions like:
“How do I get the baby to sleep through the night?”
“How long does the baby have to sleep in our room?”
“What's the best way to get back into a normal routine?”
Can you hear it? We are looking for strategies to improve our (adult) experience. Parents don't say, “I'm thrilled my baby is eating so much at night; how can I get more sleep and still nurse throughout the night?” Right? The “problem solver” in us wants to figure out a way to get the baby to sleep through the night because WE want to sleep through the night. Not because it's better for the BABY (it's not!) but because it's easier for us.
May I propose a different approach? Be curious. Consider what motivates the challenging behavior. Instead of “assess-and-fix” approaches to parenting, let's explore and learn. Let's embrace the change. Understand the baby -- a new person with whom you are building a loving and trusting relationship.
Baby's not sleeping at night? Why? His he/she over-stimulated during the daytime? Maybe introduce massage, diffuse relaxing essential oils, create a bedtime routine including a bath.
Does baby sleep when being held but not in his own bed? Why? Maybe he/she has reflux, back pain, or some other physical or emotional condition that makes the position you hold them in more comfortable than a bed. Consider chiropractic care.
You know what makes me feel loved? When someone takes the time to see past my behaviors to my heart. I love being “seen and known.” Love it. And, I am deeply touched when someone takes the time to look at my actions and wonder what's going on in my heart. It hurts when people are so focused on behaviors that they miss my heart.
Great parenting requires whole-hearted intention. It's easy to see our baby's behaviors, but it's a beautiful gift to see the heart.
Embrace the change . . . Embrace the baby. Change and growth will happen organically more than strategically. On both sides. Throughout your lifetime.