One of the happiest days of your life was when you looked into your newborn child’s eyes. Squishy face, wrinkly forehead and covered in the vernix that protected him while growing inside your body. You've spent many countless hours tending to the needs of this new life. Holding when holding was needed, rocking when rocking was needed, feeding when feeding was needed.
Although you have no textbook to guide you while wandering down this winding path of parenthood, you brave the peaks and valleys with gusto. You savor the moments of triumph and you learn from the unfortunate moments of regret. As your child grows and changes physically and developmentally, you also grow and change in the way you parent. Upon arriving at your child’s first birthday, you almost feel like you know what you’re doing in this crazy parenting game.
In this great circle of parenthood, there are always going to be questions. The ones we ask ourselves in the night while patiently rocking a baby back to sleep and the ones asked of others, sometimes with an expectant tone or air of judgment. We can often silence the self-questioning by looking intently at the life we are leading. We feel good about the answer. We are confident in our ways and continue to glide seamlessly into that direction. Then there are the other times, the ones when another’s voice asks the questions. You get this feeling deep inside your belly and it washes over you like morning fog with doubt leading the way like Helios on his chariot.
Our culture is one of achievement. This voraciously applies to children. Society says that our children should have accomplished any number of things by the time they are approaching their first birthday.
“Your child should be standing alone, and may even have taken those first tentative solo steps…”
“Your child should be sleeping less during the day and more at night…”
“You can make the transition from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk…”
Listening to so-called experts instead of our own paternal intuition most often causes undue stress and uncertainty. At every stage of your child’s life, there will be some grand preset guideline that you can look to for insight on when milestones should be reached. Weighing our child’s milestone against this chart is done out of curiosity; fear of “abnormal” development and frankly, because it’s widely available to us.
The checklist for a 1 year old can be overwhelming, and to some, feel like a countdown to making their child do things you as the parent do not feel they are ready for. How daunting it must feel as a parent to look at your beautiful child and think there could be something developmentally wrong with them because they aren't pinching cheerios by their first birthday.
You begin to wonder if something is developmentally wrong with your child if they aren't hitting these check points that Google tells you are normal. Maybe you aren't doing everything you should be as a parent to help your child hit those milestones? You turn to the Internet for advice. And the uncertainty spiral begins.
Stepping fully into parenthood relies on intuition, natural evolution and willingness to make a mistake from time to time. As parents, it is our duty to react to our children in a way that is gracious and respectful. Gently listening for and to their needs and offering to them what we believe in our hearts to be the answer. Watch your little one for clues on how this offering is received. Did it fulfill their need or was it something else they required? Make adjustments when necessary.
The truth is, parenting a child who has been on this earth 12 months is no different from parenting a child who has been here for 12 days. They look to you for comfort, security, nourishment and enjoyment. While it will look different at 12 months than at 12 days, it really is important to let the process evolve organically. With every shift in routine, there will be positives and negatives both for you and your child. Holding space for this to be okay is essential. Trust your intuition and be gentle with yourself when you don’t get it quite right.
“Earlier is not better. All children accomplish milestones in their own way, in their own time.” Magda Gerber
(originally published on Sacred Whisper OKC)