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Finding The Happy

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Babywise

Her Mother’s Voice

So Arddun’s doing a splendiferous job of ignoring me. Already.

While pregnant, I had touched lightly on the concept of first-time obedience and how the perfect child would ideally respond to your every god-like command with a cherubic “Yes, Mommy.” It’s a Babywise thing, if you’re familiar with that parenting philosophy. Basically, Growing Kids God’s Way aka Babywise/Toddlerwise/Childwise advocates teaching children to obey from the start. No 1-2-3 strikes and you’re out. No counting from 1 to 10 before they do your will. You say, they do from the get-go.

And there’s a bunch of stuff in between about a child allowing to appeal or something. It’s not a dictatorship we’re trying to establish here.¬†But basically, the ideal is this very French parenting thing of a quiet word and some very calm compliance.

Enter Arddun.

Now for months, I’ve been training Arddun to crawl to me when I ask her to Come Here. Like, I’ve been literally trying to train her. If she sees something shiny and asking to be gummed to death, and is about to make a beeline for it, I’ll choose that moment to call to her. And when she turns around – and she usually does – I’ll firmly yet gently ask her to Come Here. And then I’ll sit there and watch her make up her mind. And most of the time, she has turned around and come crawling back.

And it sounds ker-razy. It sounds like I’m turning Arddun into my poodle. And I’ll admit there are days when it even feels like it – particularly when compliance is rewarded with very enthusiastic clapping and breathless “GOOD GIRL!”s. And when the child swings around with a toy clenched in her teeth. But the way I see it, between a quiet “Arddun, come here” and the alternative – running through a shopping mall and screaming for her to come back to me while she dashes into the nearest supermarket and snorts contraband candy powder and red cordial… guess which scenario is preferable.

And so I’ve been practising. We’ve been practising. But lately, it’s gotten harder. And while I don’t believe in original sin or the idea that Babies are Secretly Manipulative, there is something to be said about the spark behind the eyes. That flash of cognition I’m starting to glimpse when I call her and she looks straight at me, before turning back and trotting off calmly in the direction she was headed.

What’s that saying again? “I’m not deaf. I’m just ignoring you.”

Bazinga.

It’s starting to get more interesting. Where once I wasn’t sure if she even understood my meaning to begin with, I now know she does. I now know she makes choices. Her movements, though still babyish and clumsy, are also more purposeful and controlled. She may not be yelling NO like a tatty two-year-old… but she is still saying no. Sometimes.

It’s fascinating to watch. It’s also transition time for both of us.

I come from a long line of smackers. Like, generations of people who believe in punitive punishment. Spare the rod, spoil the child, etc etc. It’s not the done thing nowadays, but lots of parents today still smack their children even if they’d never be willing to admit. It’s become very un-PC to do so but personally, I believe there is a time and place for it and I’m not going to write it off as something we’ll never do.

I’m just not convinced it actually works right now.

Because babies, I’m starting to realise, really DO need something to be repeated 200 times before it becomes understood and accepted as de rigueur. And while it’d be a lot quicker to smack the bottom or yell at the kid – and I’ve had words with her more than once, buh-lieve me – I’m finding that the really hard part is the consistency.

Modelling the same way. Enforcing the same consequence. Teaching the same lesson. Doing the same thing at least 200 times. And finding that you may still not get the message through, even then. Or worse, that you seem to be regressing.

And it’s in times like these that I find myself losing sight of the prize. So I call her to come here and she ignores me. So what. Big deal. She’s an 11-month-old. I have plenty of time. Maybe I’m trying to control her too much, I say. Maybe I’m being too unreasonable. Maybe I’m being too hard on the both of us.

Perhaps.

But in the long road ahead to instilling a healthy respect for her crazy mother and an inherent trust that my voice will bring her to safety, this is literally our first step together. And a crucial, fundamental one, at that.

Morning clarity

So this has been my morning.

After receiving some discouragement about my mothering methods last night, I spent the greater part of this morning battling with Arddun during breakfast when usually, it’s our favourite time of the day together. And then she got down from her highchair, crawled for a bit, slipped while getting up to stand, fell, hit her face and got a nosebleed.

Yes. My baby got blood.

And so I’m sitting here feeling frustrated, relieved, and annoyed in equal measure. Relieved that her nosebleed turned out to be nothing serious, frustrated that the morning wasn’t handled as well as I’d hoped, and annoyed that I had allowed some well-intentioned advice to get in the way of my momfidence.

Like all other parenting books and theory, I have a love-hate relationship with the Growing Kids God’s Way series – mostly because I’m suspicious of anything that tries to reduce the art of parenting into a paltry science. I’m particularly torn about the GKGW series because of its clever branding – I mean, as a Christian, how does one feel good about NOT growing a kid “God’s way”? And yet, I have enough marketing savvy to know that the GKGW series doesn’t have the monopoly on godly parenting any more than Woolies has the monopoly on fresh food. And yet, like a sucker, I wonder anyway.

I’m mostly annoyed with myself because I lack major mommy mojo. I’m so completely new at this still, that I can feel myself clutching at most advice and pitching one against the other in epic court battles conducted only in my brain, so I emerge resentful and unsure of my instincts. This morning’s breakfast skirmish had all to do with how Arddun communicates that she’s done with a particular food item – in that she tends to clear her tray table by dropping what she’s had enough of outside of her tray. Messy? Yes. But she’s communicating and at this stage, I’m more interested in nurturing a healthy attitude towards food and self-feeding than I am about this particular table manner. Other manners and social expectations are being taught at the moment. The dropping of food is not our current priority, and has never bothered me.

Until it was brought up as an absolute no-no by another mother.

On hindsight, I wonder why I felt compelled this morning to rid Arddun of this seemingly appalling habit of communicating her preferences just because another mother said I should. As it is, we teach very different feeding habits to our babies – she spoon-feeds her baby completely until nigh age, while Arddun has been feeding herself since 5.5 months. And both of us are going to reach a stage of change over – where she will have to teach her baby to feed herself, while I will have to teach Arddun to keep food in her bowl or on her tray. In the calm of the morning, I can see this. But last night, I went home doubting everything I’d been doing since day dot – all because I had been in the company of women who chose to feed their children differently.

Anyhoo… I still haven’t decided if it’s time for a change with Arddun’s feeding habits. And don’t get me wrong – like all parenting books and theories, GKGW has some fabulous tips and tricks which I fully intend to tap into. But it isn’t parenting gospel, despite its catchy brand. And parenting is an art, and not a science. And I’m going to stop blogging so I can hug my child, kiss her sore nose, and then let her have some quiet time in her play pen. Without a kitchen timer telling us when to stop.

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