Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Priorities of Parenting.

With the birth of a child comes the inevitable reality that life will never be the same ever again. Ever. For many parents, coming to this realization takes time and a considerable amount of effort. It is not uncommon for some parents to feel overwhelmed and try their best to continue with life as if nothing happened. This is done by finding ingenious ways to keep the same schedule, the same activities and social life as before the child was born. When this happens, it is the child who must adapt to parents work schedule, shopping and vacation time... while also trying to learn what it is their fingers and arms are for. For this reason, coming to the realization that life has changed forever once there is a new child in the family, is one of the most important milestones in becoming a parent (as opposed to just an individual). Because of all the needs that a newborn has, there is no person more important to them than their parents. For this reason, the best thing a parent can do is to be sure that they are making their child the most important priority in their life.

The responsibility of tending to an infant's basic needs lies with the parents. They are the ones who will provide food when the child is hungry, a quiet place when a child is ready to sleep, and a safe comfortable environment when the child needs to play. These activities should take place on the child's schedule, not at the parents convenience as is often the case. From the first moment, the communication between the child and parents will begin to evolve and the best way to foster that it is to be very patient and pay very close attention to the child’s body language, expressions, and physical appearance. In doing so, a parent will learn when it is okay to take a step back and when to intervene or help a child with a task. Because a parent has been very observant, they will know not to be too imposing on the child as well as avoid overwhelming the child by being overly permissive.

Having a new person in the family is a reason for great joy and naturally parents will want to share this with their friends and relatives by having everyone “meet” their child right away. Friends and relatives will watch with delight as a child eats and sleeps or even comment on how cute they are when they cry. A parent who puts their child first will learn to limit and prevent exposing an infant to even this kind of discomfort, no matter how well meaning and founded in love it is. This could cause some social discomfort for the parents and even a little conflict, something parents who put their child first should become very accustomed to.

Providing a child with a constant and comfortable level of privacy is essential to their well being. Allowing the child to have an intimate environment free of outside distractions, unfamiliar faces etc., gives them a secure and comfortable place to develop at their natural rhythm. This applies, for example to eating. Breastfeeding is it's self a very private moment where a mother and a child are physically and emotionally connecting in a very private way. For this reason, a mother should always find a moment and place that is suitable for this important moment. Keeping in mind, how the child is first nurtured, that same level of respect and privacy should be kept and extended even when a child has moved on to solid foods. (More information about the importance of feeding time can be found in this post)

Equally important to providing a child with privacy is allowing them the freedom to express themselves and learn through play. Children enjoy the company of the parents during play time, but they have the right to play in their own way. Watching a child at play can feel like a time machine that takes parents back to the memories they have of playing with their toys. Children often use the toys in ways totally different to what the parents would presume or the instructions indicate. For example, blocks don't have instructions saying, “taste before building.” Sitting back and letting the child lead the play can be very hard for a parent who may have found joy playing with a similar toy in a specific way when they were little. Putting your child’s needs first means having present that the child is trying to find their own way and this is a unique experience to have the privilege to witness as a parent.

Sleeping time should be seriously respected because it is so important to an infant's development. As is the case with most adults, children must be provided with a quiet and peaceful environment to sleep in. A parent who puts their children first will know when their child is tired and will be able to take them home to sleep and not expect them to have a full nap in whatever they fall asleep be it a mall or a playground.

Simply acknowledging what an incredible blessing it is to raise a new person for the world makes accepting the lifelong responsibility of having a child seem more like a privilege and less like an obstacle. It is absolutely true that raising and caring for a child as a number one priority is not easy by any means, but in the scope of life, those precious early years go by very quickly. This level of dedication and care does not go unrewarded. Parent will be providing them with the most important and essential tools that will shape the way they live the rest of their lives.