Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do what's best--then do what works.

One of my best friends from college, Emily, and I had this motto: "When in doubt, do nothing."

This motto served me very well in college. When aren't sure if you should drunk dial that guy you met yesterday, don't. When you aren't sure if you should do that shot of Jim Beam when you have class at 8 am, don't. When you aren't sure if you should spend your last $5 on a forty of beer and some cheeseburgers, don't.

 The motto didn't always work the way it was intended.

I do well when I can regularly repeat a mantra to myself. The old college saying still serves me well (when you aren't sure if you should take your child out when she hasn't napped, dont.) but I got to thinking about what my "parenting" motto would be. I decided that the overall theme of my parenting journey thus far has been "Do what's best--then do what works"

I really wanted to nurse Austen for a long period of time. If I had to list my greatest disappointment to date, my nursing experience would probably rank very close to the top. I wanted to do what was best for her. I wanted us to find the perfect latch, get supply issues under control, and have that intimate bond. In reality, at 5 weeks into our journey, a lactation consultant and Austen's pediatrician urged me to introduce formula. In the end, we did what worked to keep her happy and healthy. I still have some regrets in that area, but I know that I tried with my whole heart--and then I adapted to my child's needs.

I want Austen to sit at the table every night and eat a well balanced meal. I want her to participate in our dinner time experience and be happy to be there. I want that because it is what's best. In reality, sometimes the only thing that works is standing at the kitchen counter making airplane noises while trying to shove yogurt in her mouth. But she eats, and that's what counts.

I wanted to be there for every broken heart, every scraped knee and every prize-winning smile when she is filled with accomplishment. After all, a mother's love is best. However, it's not what worked for our family. As a stay-at-home mom, I was restless and bored. I missed working. Do I necessarily think that Austen is better off at preschool? Well, more and more--I am starting think so. She is thriving there! In the end, doing what worked ended up being what was best...

I am learning not to be so hard on myself. My intentions could not be better when it comes to my family, but sometimes our execution of our goals just falls short. And that's okay. Austen is almost 14 months old and still takes a nightly bottle, still sucks a pacifier--things I swore we would be done with on her first birthday. Sure, its probably best to be done with them sooner rather than later--but I am letting go of worrying about what someone will think of me or of it's the perfect way of parenting--and learning to just do what works.

Parenting is a commitment, a life-long promise to care for someone else. It is impossible to think that we will always do what is best when in reality, it just might not work. Adaptability is our greatest ally.

When in doubt, don't give a cranky toddler spaghetti.

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