We stayed up late the other night watching little videos we’d taken of our first daughter, Ramona, a few years ago. They were hidden deep in the caverns of our computer, buried under about 9 googleplex (the children’s current favourite number) of photos. We have so many photos that if we were to print them out I think we’d be able to stretch them to the moon and back, or we’d at least be able to bundle them into bricks and build ourselves a house.
Anyway, the films. Oh! How they made me BLUSH! I was absolutely criiiinging. It was so, SO obvious, in a way I hadn’t really processed, just how differently we are doing things with our second daughter, Juno. (There were also lots of really lovely ones – like this perfect example of that phantom breastfeeding thing babies do – once your nipple has left their mouth, they keep sucking. It is one of the loveliest things to look at in the world!)
I was trussing her about, waving her around, smooching her enormous cheeks, making her wave, making her stand, sitting her on my knee for Humpty Dumpty even though she was crying. I was having fun with her, almost like she was a prop or accessory to my–life-and-soul-of-the-party good time. And I wasn’t really treating her like a human at all.
It made me think of all the ways we have changed our parenting since having a second daughter. And the common theme to all of them is that we came to realise that even the tiniest babies are people – with unique feelings and important rights, with their own body to be respected and their own drive to be allowed to flourish.
It is so basic, but it took me such a long time to realise. I was a loving mum to Ramona, I ticked all the right attachment parenting boxes, but it wasn’t until she really showed me her bare face will, age 2, that I understood that she had had one all along. It was Ramona that paved the way for me to see Juno in the way that I did the second she was born. Juno turned up and her beautiful and glorious personhood was glowing out of her newborn folds of furry skin and baldness.
Here are some examples of how differently this actually looks:
1- With Ramona we sat her up almost from the day she could hold her head up, we propped her and put her on her tummy and stood her on her big, rugby-player pins. Then I read about natural motor development and something clicked, so with Juno we tried to only ever put her in a position that she was able to get into by herself. So no tummy time, until she could roll, no sitting until she could pull herself to sitting. WHAT AN AMAZING JOURNEY!
The difference is that when they choose to do something, they are absolutely and utterly ready for it. It often means a different way round – crawling before sitting, for example- but they totally nail it. Juno crawled first and then sat a few days later and never, ever, ever tipped over.
This just fits in SO perfectly with the idea that children very often know what they are ready for, that they can be the lead on their own development and learning. It is awesome.
2- With Ramona I had quite strong senses of what she should and shouldn’t play with, where she should go, what she should be doing. Age six months for example, I had no worries about taking something straight out of her hands with no warning, or distracting her from something she was enjoying just so I could admire her cute face, or pulling her out of the way of something I didn’t want her going near. With Juno we hang back A LOT more. If we do need to take something away from her, mostly we simply ask for it, and she has tended to hand it over… but by and large we’ve just been able to let her go for it, and to REALLY let her get into it.
3- With Ramona, we had very little respect for the idea that her body was her own, we were convinced we were in charge of her body. We’d pick her up and plop her down and put a jumper on her and take a hat off her and wipe her nose and yank a nappy on. We have tried really hard to not do this with Juno. If ever we want to interact with Juno’s body, we ask permission first, even waiting for an invitation as a very small baby- such as the lift of a pelvis to change a nappy (Juno fully did this!) or extended, open arms from a 6 month old when we ask if we can pick her up.
4- We found Elimination Communication when Ramona was 3 months old and within a few days we saw it to be the way forward. With Juno it began on her very first day, when she was wriggling and distressed and Tim offered her the potty and she pooed and weed straight into it! Brilliant! However, with Juno we tried a lot harder to respect the fact that her body was her body, not insisting on her going if we felt she needed it (with Ramona we were like “C’mon, love, we can SEE you need to go!”) and we tried really hard not to interrupt bowl movements once they had begun, out of respect. We had no qualms about moving Ramona about mid-poo, to get her on the loo.
I was introduced to a lot of this via Pennie Brownlee and Clare of the Pikler Collection – through the concept of Natural Gross Motor Development. It sounds a bit technical, but ooh look here is a simple introduction to exactly WHAT that is!!! *brand new vlog alert*
I was speaking to someone about all of this and they were like “WHAT! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW ALL OF THIS STUFF?! EVERY ONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS THIS!” And I was kinda like… well… we can’t know everything, all at once! I really didn’t know many people doing this in London. All the connecting, attachment stuff just blossomed naturally but the standing back and giving full respect to babies didn’t happen instinctively or me at all.
We can only parent with the knowledge we have to hand right now, don’t you think?
Of course, parenting IS the most world-changing job ever so therefore we should take it seriously and take our open minds and find stuff out and make conscious decisions.
But still, even the President of the Post-Graduate School of Parenting doesn’t know every one of the good and beautiful ways we can be with our children at the exact perfect time.
C.S Lewis, in the final Narnia book, says that we can only act according to the light revealed to us.
I love it, I love it for life and I love it for parenting. You can’t believe that and have many regrets, or have much judgment.
Have you changed your parenting much, from one child to another?