Well, we survived. Our little man just turned one and we (and he) lived to tell the tale. I really feel like the first year is all about survival. This year I learned how to survive on less sleep than I have ever thought possible, how to change the diaper of the wiggliest boy on the planet (you may say yours is wigglier, but I beg to differ. I learned how to survive sticking my hands in the toilet to clean out countless diapers and how to clean up the biggest puddles of spit-up I have ever seen. We survived car trips with a crying child in the back seat and "we forgot the binky" meltdowns. Don't get me wrong, this year has been so much fun! My husband and I often sit and wonder what we did all the time before we had Caedmon. But as we move into toddlerhood, which I am sure will be a whole new kind of survival, I feel the need to reflect on the past year, especially the things I think we did right and the things I think we could have done better. Everyone wants to know how to be the perfect parent these days, I was not the exception, and I was so far from it, but there are the things I would do the same next time and things I would try to do differently.
First, the things I think we did right. I have learned that there is no universal right or wrong in parenting. Every family is different and parents have to parent in a way that makes sense for their family. Our family is busy! I think that many of our parenting choices reflect that. It also depends on what you value as far as characteristics for children. We tend to place a lot of emphasis on independence in our family. Anyway, the number 1 best thing I think we did was always have Caedmon sleep in his own bed in his own room. We really wanted him to be able to fall asleep on his own in his own space. I am also glad we did this because we learned pretty quickly that he did not like transitions, so eliminating the need to transition him to his own bed was nice.
The other thing I think we did right was include Caedmon is as much life as possible. Yes, it would have been easier to take that trip or go to that event without a baby in tow, but doing things together as a family was so much fun. I hope that we can continue to provide him with all sorts of experiences and adventures, because what is life without a little adventure, right?
Now, here are some of the things I learned:
1) Knowledge is not always power.
Since I am studying School Psychology, I know a lot about typical child development. I really feel like this was more often a curse rather than a blessing. Every time he didn't meet a milestone exactly on time or at the same rate of his peers, I began analyzing what was holding him back and fretting that he was falling behind. At different points during the year, I was sure that he was never going to sleep through the night, roll over, eat table food, speak consonants, and probably several other things that were so silly that I can't even remember them. What I have learned is really a reinforcement of how averages really are averages with some earlier and some later. I also learned that my child tends to go from 0 to 90 when it comes to skills and most likely will begin a new skill and master it within a short time when he makes up his mind to do it.
2) Keeping calm is often hard, but often best.
Earlier I wrote a post about the parent I want to be and painted a picture of the cool and collected parents that I admire and aspire to be like. I have reverted many times over the past year, but I feel like I am starting to make some progress. Both my husband and I have watched our son escalate as we do and we both lose it sometimes. It always goes more smoothly if we stay calm, even though that is never the easy thing to do. Always.
3) Nothing is easy.
There are many people who tend to classify babies as either "easy" or "hard/difficult." I have been one of those people and prayed with all my might while I was pregnant that I would get an easy one. I defined an easy baby as one that slept through the night by 8 weeks, didn't cry unless they were hungry, wet, or tired, and met every developmental milestone on time. Well, my baby didn't sleep through the night until he was 10 months and that wasn't even what first comes to mind when I think of why I would say he was difficult. Saying nothing is easy is ironic for me because we used the Baby Whisperer book as a guide for getting him on a schedule and she describes the parts of the routine using the acronym EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You-time). As a rough guide, it worked pretty well for us. We accomplished my main goals of not getting him in the habit of eating to fall asleep and keeping him from mixing up days and nights. But, some things just did not work for us, which turns out, was fine. We have had many struggles with Caedmon, as I am sure now that all parents have. I figured out that there are always hard things and easy things about every baby. I also learned that people should not assume that a baby that is usually happy is not always an easy baby to parent. There are other hard things than grumpiness.
Overall, it has been a great year and I look forward to what this next year will bring. Watching a child grow and learn has been so much fun. It felt like a crazy whirlwind, but I never wanted to get off.