One of the hardest things about parenting is that when you are a parent you constantly have to change your parenting to suit your child’s growing needs. And it’s not always apparent that the needs have changed until things start getting out of hand!
When an infant cries it’s because they have a need. They need to be fed, held, changed, etc. When an older infant cries they often need comforting. They are overwhelmed, frustrated, and have needs as well. They cannot fully express what they are feeling.
I have always done my best to respond to Svara’s cries lovingly and with understanding. However, as she has gotten older this has sometimes led to me feeling used, resentful, and not very caring.
Point in case, bedtime.
Our nighttime routine is shower, pajamas, stories, prayers, nurse, lullabies, then I put on her music and say goodnight. Ideally she will then fall asleep without needing me further. However, she will sometimes come to the door and call for me to change her diaper. Fine. I change her diaper. She asks me to hold her. I hold her. She asks me to sing again. I sing again. She lets me leave.
I say no more singing.
She cries and cries and won’t calm down until I sing.
I feel used. I feel resentful. I get angry.
Naren has more than once kindly talked to be about giving in too much to Svara. I wasn’t sure. I want to be firm, but kind, but also not ignore true needs. But I decided to give it a try and be more firm.
I started with daytime (emotions don’t run so wild during the day). One of our “issues” was how much Svara wanted to be carried all the time. She’s three years old. She’s heavy. If I sit down she cries and pulls on my neck until I stand up again. No fun! I decided no more carrying! She cried, she screamed, she tried to pull on me but I told her not to. I stayed calm. And I noticed something. She had no tears. She eventually calmed down enough to accept my terms – I will hold her while sitting down if she wants some comfort, but I will not stand up and walk around carrying her. And she’s gotten to be okay with it.
So slowly she has been seeing that when I say “no” I mean no and she can go ahead and scream and I will calmly wait for her to be finished and I am there for her, but will not let her manipulate me.
And consequently bedtime has gotten better. She will still ask me to come up and change her diaper sometimes, if need be, and will sometimes ask me to hold her, but if I tell her that it’s the last time and she now needs to go to sleep, she’s okay with that. She’ll ask me to come up and turn her music on again if she needs it, but will then let me leave the room peacefully.
Parenting sometimes seems like this big mud puddle. I want to do what’s best, but I have no idea if what I do is right, if it is the best. I read parenting books and sometimes they help, but sometimes I just end up feeling more confused.
I guess my biggest accomplishment in all of this is allowing myself to stay calm while Svara expresses her angry emotions. Previously I would feel guilt when she screamed and cried because I felt as if I was denying her a need. And of course she does have real needs and I care for her and her needs, but as she has grown older she has wants as well as needs, and I am learning that I do not have to cater to all of her wants. In fact, it is not healthy to do so.
I have hopes that someday I’ll feel capable in my parenting abilities, but I also know that as Svara grows older and we add more little ones to our family, our parenting will have to continually evolve and change and I’ll never feel completely confident or capable. But I’ll do my best, and I’m glad to have Naren by my side in this journey to help me find the balance I need at times.