Wednesday, June 29, 2011

they learn what they live

I'd seen this saying on signs for years, "Children Learn What They Live",  but hadn't really taken the time to think about its meaning until recently.

Lately we've been talking about parenting at our house.  Babies are easy to parent: meet their social, physical, emotional and mental needs and they're good to go.  "Parenting" starts becoming a little more intimidating when topics such as oh I don't know, discipline, school, chores, expectations of children and the other parent, appropriate behavior, feeding and sleep schedules and more come to the surface.  Charlie and I are very much on the same page when it comes to parenting (thank God), but we are VERY lucky in that I feel like we should have had these conversations before we even became pregnant.

I mean, what if Charlie firmly believed in the adage, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."? I couldn't disagree more, you can't possibly make me believe that intentional, deliberate spankings do ANYTHING for disciplinary action except make the parent feel better.  I don't believe that intentionally hitting (except for the occasional swat on the rump to get attention or make a direct point) children is a necessary means of discipline.  Some parents use them constantly, others as a last resort and as something with which to threaten the child in case she or he acts up.  Not in my house.  But that's my opinion, and how other parents discipline their children is none of my business.  Same with bedtime and sleep training.  Charlie and I agreed that a mostly baby-led schedule would work for our family.  Some families would disagree entirely with me, one of which includes our loving and wonderful doula! And I would wager that the La Leche League, one of my go-to resources for all things breastfeeding and parenting, would probably shudder at the fact that we started Lydia on solids fairly early and that my world doesn't revolve around nursing her anymore.

We really did hit the ground running with parenting Lydia.  The first few weeks I was pregnant were spent stewing and fretting over her being alright after two holidays (Christmas and New Year's) worth of alcohol in my system.  And for the following four months after we found out I was teaching kindergarten and finishing coursework for my graduate degree in Alaska.  When I returned home, Charlie and I were busy moving in together and finishing our home--unpacking, painting, reorganizing, installing home appliances, fixing windows, etc.--and he was working on average 12 hours a day.  Until she was born, we didn't have time to talk about the important stuff, not that we knew what the "important stuff" was.  Her growing up always seemed so far away in the first few months.  The "important stuff" back then was breastfeeding, sleeping, and diaper changes.

Now we're out of our league here.  Lydia is an active, big healthy girl with an agenda and the will of a hungry T-Rex...when it comes to getting what she wants, if there's a will, there's a way.  I read parenting blog after parenting blog, reading to see what other granola-liberal-treehugger mamas are doing out there.  I talk to the public health nurse about Lydia's diet.  Charlie and I try to put her in the crib before she's asleep to "let her figure out the whole self-soothing thing" but it always ends up with one of us rocking her back down.  Hey, at least she's not demanding I nurse her to sleep anymore! :)  I talk to other moms constantly, trying to get a read on their methodology for how to properly parent a nine-month old.  The saga is endless.

I have a feeling this will always be the case, even when Lydia's 25.

So.  "Children Learn What They Live."

How does Lydia live?

Well, for starters, she lives in love.  From sun-up to sun down, she is fully aware that there are many, many people in her world that love her without reservation, truly and deeply.  She knows that her mommy and daddy love her with every fiber of their beings.

Next, she lives without fear.  This is a tricky one, because I feel like there's good fear and bad fear.  Or maybe there's good and bad judgment when it comes to potentially dangerous situations.  She knows the people familiar to her, and she is a better judge of people than me.  Lydia knows that Charlie and I won't hurt her, that she can openly trust us without hesitation or worry that we won't deliver on meeting any of her needs.  But the "no fear" thing extends to her needing physical boundaries so that she won't hurt herself by exploring places she shouldn't, or crawling right off the bed, etc.

She lives in a house with a granola-crunchy-liberal-treehugging-babywearing-breastfeeding lactivist-feminist mother, and a truck driving-redneck-gunslinging-manlyman-bullshitting-twohotdogswrappedinbreadslicesisasupper father.  We're going to clash on things, it happens quite frequently.  But do we fight in front of her, or put her in the middle of an argument? Never. Do our fights get ridiculous away from her? Yeah, it's called being in a committed relationship and hashing out differences.  All Lydia sees, though, is healthy banter and that her parents love each other very much. For as many raised eyebrows and grimaces there are, there are twice as many hugs and kisses.  We never make her feel uneasy with our relationship.

She eats real food.  She visited the local farmer's market when she was barely a week old, and she has an incredible grandmother who happens to be a Master Gardener and shares in the rich bounty of garden-fresh produce as often as possible.  We cook and eat as many meals together as we can; Lydia sits in her high chair or plays with pots and pans while food simmers away on the stove.  She's tried everything from catfish to curried lentils.  Charlie hunts and brings home game--venison and pheasant--and we go fishing together too. Bottom line: She'll grow up knowing where her food comes from.  And, with any luck, she'll learn how to cook as well as her mother :P

Lydia is learning balance. She can have a taste of ice cream, but not at every meal.  We try to buy produce and other products organic as much as possible, but she'll learn that sometimes we buy conventional to either save money or because it's just not that necessary.  She is learning that Mommy and Daddy need time for each other and themselves, and that while we love her with all our hearts, our world doesn't revolve around her.  It revolves around keeping our whole family happy.  And she's learning that there are things that we don't compromise on, and things that we do.

All in all, parenting is tough.  But it's the best kind of tough, that tough that keeps you on your toes, keeps you learning, keeps you amazed everyday that you manage to pull off another day raising children.  Children learn what they parents we need to take the best from what we learned growing up, and apply new knowledge to go one step beyond :)

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