When Outside Opinions Compromise "Letting Them Be Little"
Let them be little. You've no doubt heard the phrase or seen the hashtag. How often do we let outside factors influence this sentiment for our little one? Whether it's close loved ones, family, or friends, sometimes others can cause us to alter this state of thinking. Looking back and reflecting on the early years with my firstborn as a first-time mom, I realized I let this happen far more than I was truly comfortable with.
It started with allowing simple suggestions or questions to get under my skin as a first-time mom. Instead of allowing my intuition to guide me and our little one's readiness, I would question myself by thinking: "Maybe I should be? Maybe we should be? Maybe my son should be?"
I allowed the mom guilt of being, at the time, a full-time working mom to make me believe I truly didn't know—or couldn't know—what was best.
I had one constant influence in my life, who influenced me more than others when it came to mothering. She was also my primary care provider for the first year of my son's life and someone near and dear to my heart. I allowed her constant suggestions and questions to dictate the direction in which to head with our child's development and growth. Although I will be forever grateful for the guidance and care she provided in my son's early years, I look back differently now that my firstborn is 4-years-old, and we have added twins and a 3rd pregnancy to the family dynamic. I see that I have gained my confidence as a mother and have developed my own sense of readiness for MY babies.
It all started with small things that seemed to push the "let them be little" boundary for me. For instance, positioning my baby to sit in seats or propped up with pillows when he wasn't quite ready. Pulling him up to stand on his legs or into a crawling position, which meant holding him in a way that body clearly wasn't ready for. Engaging in constant play and toy stimulation without allowing him to sit with his own thoughts and curious actions. Wanting to rush and alter food choices based on the thought that my son needed more, or it was "time" for teething biscuits or other snack options. The list goes on.
Outside opinions even caused me to believe that any amount of crying wasn't okay, and I should frantically try to distract and quell any discomfort if he uttered a noise. When in reality, crying is a baby's only form of communication. Not only should these emotions be expressed, but they should be allowed to be felt in the presence of our love and guidance after all basic needs are met.
I began to feel the weight of choices that were not 100% mine, but I wasn't quite sure yet how to combat it, and I didn't feel confident enough yet in myself to take control.
We took potty training advice and allowed our loved one, who was helping with care to "start potty training" using a method that I don't believe instilled a lot of confidence in my toddler. Through suggestion and question, we went from a crib to a toddler bed to a big Jeep bed from 2 to 2.5 years old. When in my heart, honestly, my firstborn could have stayed in a crib until 2.5 or 3 years old and been perfectly fine. We actually had to work through a lot of fear and anxiety around the rapid bed changes, even though the thought of a "Jeep bed" to a truck-obsessed 2.5-year-old seemed exciting at the time. And as first-time parents, we were thinking if he's so happy about it, what could go wrong?
Sleep habits also seem to be commonly questioned by outsiders. From co-sleeping to sleep training to literally all sleep routines and lengths of sleep, I'm sure you mommas can relate. We experienced a lot of outside input. The main suggestion we struggled with was nap times be taken away at 2-years-old. This suggestion was based solely on someone else's "personal experience" and my 2-year-old not wanting to take his naps under their care. Through a consistent naptime routine, my son actually still takes a nap at age 4.
There is no doubt that the first years of motherhood are in place to grow you into the mother you will become. These years teach you hard lessons and show you the nitty-gritty of what it's all about.
Through these experiences and watching others receive the same bombardment of opinions and questions, I knew I had to take control over my journey and my choices as the mother of our children. I needed to take a stance and protect our children's childhood and "let them be little" by our standards because time would rob that soon enough. I began researching and reading about the types of parenting methods that aligned with our beliefs as parents and listening to what our children seem to so easily convey to us when we allow our intuition to listen. I took back my own motherhood journey, because in reality, it is each and every one of ours to decide. We chose to not to let the opinions of others waver our decisions, no matter how unsure we may have felt as new parents or how convincing the other person's methods may seem.
It's your choice, momma. The way you feed, nurture, potty train, provide, and play with your baby. The way you discipline and redirect your child in growth and development. It is easy to be swayed by others during these crucial, bonding years. Do not go against your bond with your child, or what you feel is right, based on what feels right to someone else. It's all up to you, down to the rhythm in which your family runs best at—from routine to coordinated chaos.
We must start believing in ourselves, whether it's our first or 4th child to make the decisions that best suit our families. Stay confident in your choices no matter what. A mother knows what is best for her tiny beings and it's okay to say no. It's okay to let our children be little. Arm yourself with your beliefs and the knowledge of your preferred parenting methods, and get comfortable with the idea that you truly know what is best for the growth of your child.
Everyone is going to have opinion, ideas, or suggestions based on what worked for them. Some of these people will be near and dear to your heart, and others not so much. Some may be coming from a place of love and others from a place of judgment. The idea is to become so confident in your choices that you can boldly move forward, respectfully declining unneeded advice, and firmly protecting your children's childhood.
You will always know what's best, momma. Even in times of doubt, you've got this.
Photo Credit: Megan Simpson Photography