I have an easy child, by all accounts. In her 16 months, R has been consistently cheerful, social, independent, and adaptable. As an infant the quickest way to get her to sleep was to take her out to a restaurant. At 16 months, one of her favorite games is to put her toys away while saying, “Clean! Clean!” (Okay, “Keen! Keen!”)
And being her parent is still, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It took us three weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding, possibly the longest three weeks of my life. Lots of sobbing at four in the morning, and I don’t mean Busy Bee. It was probably during one of those 4am moments that I realized I was never again going to be able to judge any mother who stopped breastfeeding. My ultimate success in breastfeeding is entirely circumstantial. I am completely unable to attribute it to any inner strength of will or personality. Okay, yes, I’m awesome and put in a huge amount of effort to make it work, but I had every informational and financial and social support conceivable and it was still really, really tough.
From those first few weeks on, parenting has continued to be basically a crash course in empathy. R had a couple nights of hours of unexplained screaming–I realized there were parents who had to deal with that every single night for months on end. R woke up every two hours, all night long, for a solid year–I realized that sleep deprivation can lead people to do things they never ever thought they would do. Parenting has taught me to trust myself, to trust my gut instinct of what is right for my baby and what is right for me. And having realized that I have to trust myself, how can I not trust other parents? I can believe other parents need more information or money or social support or sleep, but I can’t believe their gut instinct is leading them astray.
So if you couldn’t get breastfeeding to work, or took a look at your options and said, “Nope, no can do, pass the free formula samples,” my hat’s off to you and I think you’re a terrific mother and I wish I could give you all the support I got. Moms of 9 year olds who are still breastfeeding, hats off to you too–I put that much effort into making something work, I’m not going to stop because of somebody else’s arbitrary deadline. If you’re co-sleeping, or crying it out, or trying a mishmash of random techniques based on what feels right that day (represent!), you’ve got my support. Public school or private school or charter school or homeschool or unschool–if you’re sure in your gut that you’re on the best road for your family, two thumbs up from me.