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The Best Parenting Decision I Ever Made

24 Mar 2016 by Lisa Rogoff

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About four months ago, my husband and I welcomed our second child, Maddy, into the world. Unlike 20 months earlier, when Oliver was born, we weren’t worried about having all the right baby gear. I wasn’t waking with nightmares about the birth. Quite frankly, our hands were so full juggling full time jobs and a toddler that child #2 was more of an afterthought. It would be simple—I knew exactly what I was doing.

Then Maddy arrived. And despite a rough birth (oh, epidural, if only you had worked this time around) and some sleepless nights early on, everything was status quo. I knew how to calm a crying baby, nursing was just like riding a bike, and she started sleeping through the night within a month (I know, I shouldn’t brag, but if you knew what Oliver put me through, you would know that I deserved this gift). At two months, I was back at work full time and Maddy was in child care. We had a good routine, and I was pretty proud of myself. I might have even used the term “supermom” a few times.

At three months, I took my first trip away to one of our regional trainings in San Antonio. I try to get to a training at least once a year, and this time, I opted for our Infant Observation Training. I figured that since I was now an expert, this training would be a breeze.  

I could not have been more wrong.  

I spent the first day of training kicking myself for being such a crappy parent. Sure, I had our daily routines down—getting the kids off to school in the morning, prepping bottles the night before, finding fast dinners, sticking to bedtimes—but I was missing the more crucial (and painstakingly obvious) part: my interactions with my daughter. Sure, we spent a lot of time together, and some of that time was high quality: I read to her every night, I made sure we got in tummy time. But in my quest to be everything to everyone (#supermom), I was shortchanging Maddy on the interactions that really matter: the ones that lead to deep connectedness and cognitive and social growth.  

I managed to drag myself back the next day, prepared for another eight hours of guilt-ridden training. But as our trainer, Cierra, helped us work through the training videos and deepened our understanding of the four dimensions, I began to have those “aha” moments that our field staff always talks about and I’ve never fully understood. I watched exemplary teachers connect with the babies in their classrooms and began to see and understand what actions they were taking and how they were getting results with the children. As the day went on, my guilt was overcome with an excitement to get home and try out some of what I was learning.

Fast forward to today, almost a month out: my interactions and relationship with Maddy have done a 180°. I started by making small changes:

  • I began listening more intentionally to my tone. With a toddler so often in the picture, I wasn’t focused on using a calm and gentle voice with Maddy. Being more conscious of the need to offer her warmth and comfort, I began adjusting my pitch and tone.
  • Instead of just going through the motions, I was much more aware of the need to use language when doing things like changing her diaper or moving her from place to place. I began “sportscasting” and using more descriptive words as I bathed or nursed her.
  • I also made sure that I was more respectful of her needs. Instead of just moving Maddy through my day (crib to changing table to car seat to stroller), I started to prepare her for these transitions, explaining what we were doing, and using “please” and “thank you.”

Then I focused on some of the more challenging aspects:

  • With Oliver running around like the crazy toddler he is, it was easy to leave Maddy on a mat by herself for long periods of time, particularly because she is so well behaved. Today, I’m much more intentional when I’m alone with both kids about remembering to acknowledge Maddy, even when she’s not making bids for my attention. While Oliver plays with a toy truck and demands my hands-on attention, I’ll make sure to position Maddy close by so that I can constantly turn back to her, give her a tickle and smile, and even get Oliver to involve her in his play.
  • I’ve zero’ed in on how I help Maddy learn and explore her world. She’s just starting to roll over, and instead of simply cheering her on, I now lay down next to her with one of her toys and encourage her to reach for it, explaining what the toy is and what she’s doing. Before, I might have passively sat in a chair and said, “Come on sweetie, you can do it.” Now, I am on her level, and I say things like, “Maddy, I see you trying to turn over. Good girl! Try to reach for the yellow giraffe; look, it squeaks when you grab it.”

I am by no means perfect, and I still have a long way to go, but I’ve seen a big change in the way Maddy seeks out my attention and looks to me for comfort. Sure, these changes have taken time and have cut into my productivity, but not nearly as much as I would have thought. So much of what I learned in training is about enhancing the daily interactions that I am already having with Maddy. I’m not sure that I’ve gotten my supermom status back, but unlike my Pre-K reliability test, I passed my Infant reliability test on my first attempt.  

Most important, however, I have seen such a shift in my relationship with my daughter and her own growth and development. As someone who reads pretty much anything I can get my hands on—everything from Baby Center’s weekly emails to the Scary Mommy blog—attending Infant CLASS training was hands down the best parenting decision I’ve ever made.

 

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