COLUMN: A parenting milestone reached

Reflecting on a year of being a mother.

COLUMN: A parenting milestone reached

My little girl turns one year old at the end of this month, and with that milestone approaching, I thought I would reflect on a few things I’ve learned.

Sleep, or lack thereof, has been the centre of a lot of lessons this year.

Elise had colic for months two and three of her life. We would calm her fussiness any way we could, but as a result she didn’t learn to fall asleep on her own until a few months later.

I would do anything to let her get some rest. I learned I can walk endlessly in November with an 18-lb. weight bundled against my chest, energized by her peaceful, angelic face.

I learned how much I value a nap and a hot shower.

I learned from Dr. Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (my Bible during the first six months) that unlike adults, babies have more trouble falling asleep when they’re overtired. When your well-intentioned relative tells you to keep your newborn up in the evening so they will sleep better at night, smile and nod politely and then mentally run.

More importantly, I learned every stage comes to an end (this will be my husband’s mantra once baby number two comes along). One day the colic, suddenly and inexplicably, ends. Napping only in a carrier? That ends, too. It’s one piece of advice you always hear as a new parent, and while each stage may feel like forever while you’re in the moment, it turns out it’s true.

Now that sleeping in a crib has been settled for a few months, I’ve learned that for me, sticking to Elise’s sleep schedule is more important than anything I could possibly want to do outside the house.

Also, I’ve learned Ellen is on at 3 p.m., during the second half hour of the afternoon nap, and her positive energy is absolutely joyful.

Other realizations have taken longer to come by.

I learned I need to give Elise more credit. She now knows “clap,” “tongue” (sticks her tongue out), and “fish” (opens and closes her mouth like a guppy and makes a “pop pop” noise) – she probably understands so much more than I think she does.

I learned it’s okay to want a break. And while you don’t need a village to raise a child, it certainly helps. Elise was one month old when my husband had the summer off from teaching, and my mom has been a doting grandma since Elise entered the world. I am one lucky mama.

Also, I learned it’s okay to admit I get bored. I think all moms of babies get a little bored. That’s why we’re all at the B.C. Ministry of Education’s free Strongstart program, baby sign language classes, and the playground when our critters can barely use the bucket swing. But bored doesn’t mean we’re not busy. These little ones need attention and stimulation, not to mention taking care of the extra laundry and dirty dishes they create.

I learned I lean toward the style of attachment parenting, although I don’t believe it’s all-or-nothing. I ended up co-sleeping with my daughter until she was three months old. I’m not sure when I’ll stop breast feeding (probably before she is two, but who knows). I don’t think Jamie Lynne Grumet, featured in TIME earlier this month, is weird for breast feeding her almost-four-year-old son until he self-weans.

Finally, one of the most important things I’ve learned this past year is that my lofty ideas on how I thought I’d parent often differ in reality, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. No, I don’t make all of Elise’s baby food from scratch and yes, I did let her cry herself to sleep. We hear that every baby is different – well, every parent is different, too, and we’re doing the best we can with a whole lot of love.

Kristine Salzmann is a Black Press reporter on maternity leave and mom to 12-month-old baby girl Elise. She writes monthly for The Leader on parenting issues.

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