I’ve learned a lot of things as a new mom: what different cries mean, how to change a diaper in midair and the best way to quell a tantrum (well, actually, I am still working on that last one). But by far the most important lesson I have learned is to never say “never.”
I could come up with a list of a million little things that I researched, heard about, talked about and thought about before my little one arrived. When it comes to my convictions, it’s typically pretty darn hard to sway me in a different direction, and I was dead set on how to raise this child from the outset, determined in all matters feeding (no sugar before 2 years old), clothing (no pink!) and diapering (only cloth).
But as soon as my bundle of joy arrived, she took over and turned everything I knew (or thought I knew) on its head.
Here are three of my for-sure-never-going-to-do-because-I’ve-done-all-the-research-and-thinking-and-talking-about-it-so-don’t-try-to-tell-me-otherwise ideas that my baby girl completely changed my mind about:
I knew co-sleeping was not an option for me. I lost a brother to SIDS eight years before I was born. My husband sleeps like a rock (a thrashing, snoring, pillow-stealing, bed-hogging rock). Co-sleeping wasn’t going to be safe for our baby or comfortable for me, and most importantly: It terrified me. We bought both a bassinet and bedside co-sleeper. Our baby would be close enough to touch, but far out of the “danger zone” of our California king.
Then, reality set in — my little munchkin nursed nonstop, and I was just too exhausted to get up every 45 minutes. After a particularly rough night of sleep deprivation, I did the unthinkable: I tucked her into bed with us. And guess what? We all slept soundly. She nursed as often as she needed, I got some much-needed sleep, and my husband didn’t crush us or even steal all the pillows. So, I did some new research and reading and talking and discovered a new comfort (and, dare I say, joy) in co-sleeping.
2. Sleep training
We were in a blissful state of co-sleeping for more than six months: all three of us safely, comfortably and happily tucked into bed together night after night. I sang co-sleeping’s praises: It’s natural! It’s beneficial for the baby and parents! It’s practiced all over the world!
Do you know what isn’t natural or beneficial? Sleep training. I’ve done the research.
But then my baby girl grew, nursed less and turned into a party animal. Gone were the nights of sweet baby breath on my cheeks, replaced by not-so-tiny baby punches and karate kicks to my head. After trying to gently convince her to take up residence in her crib (a proposal met with much resistance), I decided it was time to do something drastic. I did more research and reading and talking (again), and discovered a newfound comfort in sleep training.
My baby girl and I both had a few rough nights with the transition to her new room — The Rock (Dad) of course slept through it all — but here I am writing this very article while she is safely, happily and cozily sleeping on her own.
3. Head shaving
In my husband’s Vietnamese culture, it is traditional to shave a baby’s head so the hair grows back thicker and longer. He mentioned this to me while I was pregnant, and I laughed. He mentioned it again a few days after our baby was born, and I ran him off. He mentioned it right before her first birthday, and I practically ejected him from the room head first. There is no evidence that shaving a baby’s head will make the hair grow back thicker (again, I did the research)!
But she did have an Einstein-esque poof in the front, a mullet in the back and a tonsure in the middle of her pate. She was cute, but the hair didn’t make for a great look. After a year of saying no, we took her to get her first haircut — the same cut as her father and uncles have.
We shaved the kid completely bald.
And you know what? It may not have grown back thicker, but it is perfectly even, and she couldn’t be cuter. Now I even recommend this for other fuzzy-headed cuties!
So, what have I learned from my baby, this beautiful child who wears a disposable diaper and a pink sweater, and eats chocolate chips? The best lesson of all: To be open to making changes based on the day or week (or month or hour) that best suit our family’s collective needs.
Raising a child shouldn’t be a battle of wills and convictions, approached without flexibility, but a walk through a changing landscape. There are ups, there are downs, but you’re always moving forward. And, when you find that the path you’re on isn’t taking you in the direction you want to go, simply make a new one.
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