He should sleep by himself.
He should be medicated.
He should be in school.
He should eat more.
He should be in a social skills group.
He should spend less time on his iPad.
He should know how to play alone.
He should answer when spoken to.
He should stop nursing.
He should cry himself to sleep.
Over the short life of my son, these are some of the pieces of “advice” I’ve heard from people with good intentions. At times, I’ve been inundated with this well meaning “advice”, most of it going against my instincts to parent him in a respectful, connected manner. At times, I’ve felt the weight of this “advice”, nearly crushing me with its weight and the guilt of not doing the perceived “right thing” for my son.
My son’s arrival into this world was anything but the peaceful, natural hospital birth I had prepared myself for. Our first night home, I tried to put him in the bassinet next to our bed to sleep. He cried. I picked him up, made sure he was fed and dry, tried again. He cried. I halfheartedly tried a few more times with the same results. Exhausted, and recovering from a cesarean section, we decided it was okay to bring him to bed with us that night. Unbeknownst to myself at the time, that first night home was my initiation into the world of gentle parenting.
As my son grew, it become easier to figure out his needs. He wanted to be held constantly, which worked for me as I would pop him into a carrier and go about my day. He wasn’t interested in solids when “they” said he should be and it made no sense to me to try and force food on a thriving baby who was an excellent nurser. My son would only sleep next to me so that just meant I got to nap or rest with him every day. Why fight it?
He has gotten older and I’m much more confident in my decisions on how to best parent him, to figure out what he needs at any given time. Perhaps more importantly for me, though, has been the ability to decipher his behavior and meet his needs accordingly. Some of that ill fated “advice” I’d received had been about him being “bad” and needing more discipline. Children are not born into this world being “bad”. Behavior is communication from a child, even more so from a child with a language delay. It would certainly be much easier to write my son’s behavior off as him being “bad”; however, for me, some of the richest connections I have made with him have been through digging deep and meeting him where he is at. That, perhaps, is at the heart of gentle parenting.