NO. Babies don’t come with a manual but mine came with a head so strong and a personality even stronger. She just knows it all, sometimes even better than me. And THAT leads to a lot of frustrating and challenging moments. Originating from me and landing on her #BabyWars.
Right from the day she was born, everything had to be just the way she wants, in the capacity she wants and at the time she wants. And it was as if she was born to challenge all of of those baby books and all of those baby milestones, one page and one step at a time. Not only does she strongly oppose to the stuff that she doesn’t want/need, but she also gives it her best shot to resist everything new. She’s is a stubborn creature of habit, since day 1. Of course, this trait is great to go about with routines but it’s a struggle to introduce her to anything new. Her powerful memory and association skills never stop to amaze me and yet makes it so challenging to bring about a change of any sort in her life, however small or big. In fact, she’s swiftly adapted to bigger changes much easily than to those smaller ones. Defies logic, doesn’t it. Well, that’s my baby for you! She has her own logic in place.
Moms have it tough really… we work hard on establishing routines and at the same time want to see them grow to achieve their milestones. Irony being, growth is a kind of change and change requires us to break the routine – the very same routine we bent backwards to create. And just when I succeed to bring about a change in my little one’s routine, even before I get a chance to adapt to that new routine, I already find myself heading for another change. Just when I feel I have aced the motherhood skill, I am somehow posed with a brand new challenge. #TheRealMotherhoodChallenge. This is already challenging for me as a mum, I can only imagine how my little one feels when she’s subjected to her mum’s frustrating requirements to strike a balance between routine v/s change. Thankfully, my little one doesn’t have to go through the long list of milestones and skills that she is expected to ace. But I do. And over the months, I have learnt to take those milestones as a mere guide, not an absolute. My baby, on the other hand… wants, can and will do it all… but all in due time. And although that time taken is an adventurous exploration for my baby, it has proven to be quite testing. For ME!
Let’s talk about some basic baby milestones for example. We typically look forward to the physical milestones like the baby’s tummy time, rolling over, crawling, sitting, standing, walking, running and finally the speaking. There’s tonnes more, but we have grown to broadly focus on these. Not only did my baby challenge these milestones in terms of their timing but she also challenged the whole sequence. For starters, my baby never really enjoyed tummy time, unless it was on me or on my husband. She did work hard on her rolling over skill but that was only to please me I guess. She just moved on very quickly as if she knew what was next and what she needs to spend time on. #Baby’sPriorities. From what I remember she went from rolling over to sitting and then standing. She didn’t really crawl for long, she could, but she didn’t want to. #Baby’sChoice. She didn’t spend much time on crawling but was often trying to scoot around. She wanted to be on the move but just not crawl. Once, she realised that she could sit and then hold onto stuff to stand, that was it. She simply held on to stuff and took baby steps around. Then it was all about balancing for her. It was as if she knew that once she could ace the balancing part, she would get what she wanted all this while – her ability to walk and run. Then there was no stopping her. #EyesOnThePrize. Around that time, she discovered her vocal cords and got distracted with the cooing and babbling like fun sounds. So, she started to multi-task as she worked simultaneously on her balancing, standing, walking and speaking skills. While she was “at work”, it was kind of frustrating for me, to see her not really mastering anything at that point in time. #MasterOfNone. I was all about a certain skill and trying to get her to master them one a time. My plan was simple, stress-free and systematic. But little did I know that my baby had a grand plan, one that was complex, challenging and involved serious multi tasking. #Baby’sLearningStyle. While, as a first time mum, I’m already looking at how my baby is challenging all of the milestones “by the book”, hearing other people’s experiences and expectations only added on to the mental chaos. My mental chaos, my baby was focussed like a laser beam – doing what mattered the most, TO HER. Even today, my 2 year old believes in taking her own sweet time to master a new skill or get used to a new routine, but once she’s in, she’s multitasked her way into mastering multiple skills, and like a pro. She literally never fell or stumbled as she learned to stand, walk and run. She was not only focused on multitasking but was also very cautious. Such is her solid foundation work, in which she invested a whole lot of her time and effort. She didn’t care so much for the timelines as she cared for perfection and caution. She was and still is crystal clear in her mind about what she wants and how. Like I remember how she had instantly dismissed the push car I got her and barely even used the jumper. Instead she thought of using those in her own unique way, to master her balancing and jumping skills. She didn’t really hold on to the push car to walk, instead she “pushed the car” and held on to the walls to walk to it. And yes she did jump gripping the jumper, but from the outside (outright refused to step in). No amount of demonstrations convinced her to change her mind into “using it correctly” (according to me). It’s as if she knew of all those milestones I was reading about and voluntarily chose to do it all her way, in her own time, in her own sequence.
Through these “out of the box” experiences, I learnt A LOT – about me, about my baby and about life. I basically learnt that my baby knew more about child development than me. Me? I had only read about early childhood development, studied it through my degrees and worked in the field for a decade. But she?! was living it all and although she was new at it too, somehow she knew much better than me. This fact was evident in my anxious frustration and her composed confidence through it all. What I learnt is that I need to read the milestones as a reference to guide me. And then, all i had to do was let nature take its course … I had to leave my baby alone to do as she pleases, under supervision of course. Today, as my baby turns 26 months, I don’t see any point in stressing her with toilet training or any of the other milestones that she should be working on achieving, well at least according to the books and “experts” around me. I have learnt that somehow she will do it her way and tell me when she needs me to step in. After being impatient with her milestone achieving style in the initial months of her life, I have learnt to relax a bit and let go. I have learned to trust my baby to do it all, at her own pace, in her own way.
But I’m a mum after all, so I do give her some gentle “nudges” from time to time on matters like eating and sleeping. I do pose her with incidental learning opportunities to grow but I leave her alone to achieve it. I learnt first hand that anything more than a gentle push and subtle opportunities, would only delay or disrupt her learning process. #ToddlerMindGames. Although it might appear that she’s rejected my inputs outright, I have learnt that she has it on her mind and will get to it when she’s ready. I still get frustrated with her outright refusal to learn and grow but at the same time, I have learnt to respect her and her plan of action. I learnt that I need to appreciate her efforts and her achievements rather than quickly moving on to pushing her to achieve the next one. I learnt that I can make it an exciting learning journey rather than a challenging rat race. I have come to accept that she is a little human with a mind of her own. Although challenging at times, I see it as her strength. Eventually, with such a strong mindset and an even stronger personality, she is going to have to learn to not only survive but to also thrive in the real world. And I trust her to chart out her own plan of action then too, while I will always continue to appreciate her efforts, celebrate her achievements and encouragingly “nudge” her to grow. Learning from my baby’s style, I will continue to play multiple roles in her life as I will try my best to juggle between being an affectionate mum, fun playmate, strict discipliner, frustrated partner, toughest critic and yet be her biggest supporter. Mums do have to do it all, and so I will! My little human taught me that life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments… learning moments, bonding moments… #BabyKnowsBest #PerfectlyImperfectMum.