Life has been a little insane lately, which seems to be pretty typical these days. But, the one thing I have finally found time to do, is throw my parenting manual in the trash. I've never owned a copy of the actual "books on parenting" but I certainly had created my own version in my head without even realizing it. Here's the thing, kids really don't come with a handbook and the sooner you realize that the better off you'll be. In fact, you could begin writing a "how to" book based on experiences with your first child, but it will expire immediately upon having your second.
When my husband and I had our first son, we were obviously morons. The funny thing is, I realized this week, that we are four children into the game and we are JUST as clueless. Our first child is very mild-mannered and rule-oriented. The kid slept 14 hours at night and then took TWO naps during the day, and I would still have a heart attack at the thought of going to Wal-Mart with him "by myself." He really never threw an actual tantrum and he weaned himself off of the pacifier and potty-trained himself. Of course, at this point my husband and were pretty sure we had cornered the marked on children. We were parenting GODS!! This is why our second child came so very quickly after our first, and we were "prepared" this time. We knew everything because we'd already had a child. Let the genius continue!! And it did...until she was born.
You see, my second child has an opinion...about everything. She came into this world screaming and I have no doubt that she will be making noise on her way out. She DID NOT sleep well. She DID NOT share well with others. And she DID NOT know that we had already decided how we were going to parent and that she needed to follow our "book." My husband actually gave her a "length of travel" cap when she was four months old. If we were taking any trips that lasted longer than 45 minutes, Addison was not allowed to go. I believe he also threatened to throw her out the window one night while I was working and she wouldn't take a bottle. The kid would go 14 hours without eating just so she wouldn't have to use a bottle. Obviously we decided that at this point, a second "book" may need to be in the works.
When Addison turned two we had our third child, Morgan. Honestly, looking back, I think she has pretty much raised herself. She was seriously the easiest baby I've ever met. I would actually MISS her and want to go wake her up because she slept so often. Any mother reading this right now is hating me and thinking I'm insane for wanting to wake a sleeping baby, but don't you fret...I'm paying my dues!
Even though our second child was mildly exhausting at times, we still parented in the same way. We were creating a sort of "standard" for our children without even knowing it. We built up these walls of safety and security. We had routines and certain ways of doing things. We did, that is, until we welcomed our fourth and FINAL child.
Understanding the eating habits of an infant are important of course, but what if your child lacks the ability to suck and swallow, or if they are capable of those tasks cannot digest the food they've eaten without aspirating or hurting themselves? And having an established bedtime routine can be vital to a parent's sanity. Having children who can soothe themselves to sleep can be life changing. But, what if that child woke you up in the middle of the night seizing uncontrollably? Can you then, EVER put them back in that bed without such a mental picture? Where are the books that talk about these things? Where are the "experts" on these children? I'll tell you, there is only one rule in the "how to parent a special needs child" book:
Sometimes it is all we can do breathe in and out on any given day, and that is all that can be expected. And actually, whether you're a special needs parent or not, we all have those days. We may feel like we've failed as a parent that day or even failed as a human being, but it's our response to those days that count. Every parent makes mistakes and every parent has at least some successes. And while the walls of safety and security are nice and comfortable, sometimes they block the sun. We forget to enjoy the good moments because we're too busy making everything run smoothly and efficiently in our dark, little corner of the world. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my son, as difficult as he may be, for letting a little light back into our lives. But just so he knows, this is no free pass. He owes me at LEAST one homerun on the "parenting book" best-seller list.