If you’ve been following our family on Instagram, you know that our first months with Nan took a lot. He had a hard time getting used to not being in my tummy, and we had to adjust to being moms. Getting to know ourselves as a new family was rough. As a coping mechanism I started putting a lot of emphasis on his development, obsessing over hitting all the milestones, because then at least that part of our life together ‘worked’.
So when I saw babies his age holding their heads up at six weeks (damn you Instagram and your perfect, clean babies) I put him on his tummy every day, kicking and screaming, because he had to learn. “He should’ve been doing this already” I thought, and since he didn’t that must mean I was failing as a mother. Nan hated tummy time, he never seemed to understand what I was trying to teach him. Instead of pushing himself up he would just lie there, arms and legs flailing, screaming bloody murder until I flipped him on his back.
After struggling for weeks, I gave up. I would rather have a content baby on his back (he still screamed for hours a day, but that’s a story for another time) then forcing my boy into doing something he didn’t get. That’s when all of a sudden, within days, I noticed he was pushing his head up when I would burp him after a meal. That way too big baby head would wobble while he rested his body against mine, safe in momma’s arms. Our strong boy was picking his own time and place to look at the world around him. My focus on a milestone had made me blind for his personality and his path.
I let go of hitting milestones, let go of treating Nan like a project with success or failure as a result. Instead, I started listening to my gut and looking for his signals. Babies want to learn, it’s instinct. There’s no need to push anything, love will grow them.
Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m now a perfectly serene mom with a shiny happy baby. I still need to remind myself from time to time that he’s a tiny person with a mind of his own, not a project that I can manage. If I forget to remind myself, luckily he is vocal enough to do it for me. When I butt in too much, Nan’s little hands actually push me away, or he crawls away to play on his own. He is fiercely independent, but he always finds us for reassurance.
Letting him find his own way in the world doesn't mean we're not there to teach him things like patience, being gentle with others, or how to fall asleep. It just means that he guides his own development, while we make sure he gets the right tools and lots of cuddles along the way.