They say that new babies are like sponges; absorbing everything around them, discovering and learning. I think new parents are like sponges too – we find ourselves so eager to find out how to care for our babies, how to play with them, how to help them develop, how to overcome the challenges of being a new parent. We seek it out and soak it in. And from every direction information, advice and anecdotes come. It can all begin to feel incredibly overwhelming.
Today, perhaps more than ever before, we stand with the grand precipice of the internet endlessly sprawled before us. The information we seek is hidden in a bottomless well, and within it we find every contradictory piece of advice on how to do this new thing we’re doing called parenting. Rarely are things so divisive as opinions on how to do things when it comes to being a parent – and I am only 5 months into it! Parenting rivals both politics & religion (sometimes overlapping with them) in how strongly people can feel, this way or that (or that, or that, or that), about any given point. And again, it can all begin to feel incredibly overwhelming.
We are repeatedly told ‘trust your instincts’ – truly, some of the best advice I think – but so difficult to do when faced with the greatest ever of responsibilities, that of caring for and raising a new human child! What if my instincts are wrong? Hadn’t I better just check with Professor Google? Or when the advice to follow our own instincts is reliably accompanied with additional advice, which goes against them?
It’s a new, unexplored world you land in as a parent – and yet it resounds with a cacophony of voices calling you this way and that. How best to block them out and come back to your own still, small voice? And more so, to tune in to the emerging voice and desires of the one you’re doing it all for, your baby?
Maybe it is time to put down the mobile phone, take the books back to the library, log out of Facebook and stop. Yes, millions have been here before – they have figured things out that you might find useful, or might not. They may have tips and tricks which would make your life easier, or perhaps just more confusing. They mean well, and sometimes they don’t. Maybe, when you have found some space to breathe you will tentatively seek out a supportive voice or two again. But for now come back to you, to your child. Listen, watch, learn with them. Of all the billions of relationships which have existed before, none of them has been this one: you and your baby.
How can you trust your instincts if you don’t know what they are? How can you know what they are if they have been drowned out by everyone elses?
The map is yet to be created; you and your child are building it together; you navigate by feel, sensing when a bump steers you in a different direction, or a groove draws you into it when you feel something click. You climb some mountains together, ones you thought you would never reach the top of, and when you do you look and see how much you have discovered along the way and enjoy the new perspective. As stillness settles, clarity is restored and you feel assurance that you went the right way at the right time.