an imaginary bonfire (and other important ideas)

During a recent conversation with a good friend about my life as a new mom, she gave me some interesting advice.

Me: “Yeah, I get a little overwhelmed when I read my parenting books. It seems impossible to do everything they advise. I forget about tummy time, I forget to read to her, I don’t know which soap to use, I don’t know what she’s supposed to be doing this week. I’m not sure if I’m doing anything right. It’s tiring.”

Her: (and imagine this in an adorable Australian accent, by the way. Not just because it will seem more interesting, but because she actually has one.) “You know what Jess? Just toss all those books in a bonfire. You don’t need them and they’ll make you crazy. Especially the ones written by men.” (ha!)

Now, this woman has four children. They have impeccable manners, kind hearts, and carry on conversations with intelligence and humor. They aren’t perfect (she claims) but they are some of my favorite kids on the planet. She and her husband are doing a great job. She is motherly wisdom in a lovely, tiny Australian form and I listen when she talks to me.
But…aren’t these books written by experts? Don’t they know what they’re talking about?

I LOVE reading advice, and I take it seriously. I read the back of my shampoo bottles, I read recipes, I read blogs, I read books, I read texts from my friends and sisters; and I do what they say. Because I want to do things the best way possible. Like today.

I wanted to make cookies today. For dinner with my family, and for our staff meeting at church tomorrow. And I was all, oh, this will be so idyllic and sweet, I’ll put the baby in her carrier and we can make cookies together! But first I nursed her, and then she started to whimper. Maybe from a stomach ache, or because she was tired. Either way, into the carrier she went for some precious mommy/daughter time.

*cue sobbing baby.   loudly sobbing baby.

Sometimes…here we go…sometimes my baby does not want me to hold her. DOES NOT WANT ME TO HOLD HER. I fight this little factoid about once a day because I want to be her comfort; I want to be a good mother. I mean, for goodness sake, who doesn’t want a good snuggle when they are sad?

I’ll tell you who. Clara Noelle Horney, that’s who.

She wants me to hold her when she is happy. She wants to smile and laugh together, and she loves when I talk to her. And she usually likes me to hold her when she’s tired. But then there are times when her little life starts to fall apart, and she wants me to find a warm blanket and lay her somewhere cozy by herself, like on my bed, or in the ever-present (and, in my opinion, over-zealous) bunny chair.

But all those parenting books! They all tell me to hold my baby! To sway, shush, swaddle, duck, dodge, dive, whatever. So why isn’t it working?
It’s not working because Leanne (that sassy little Aussie mommy) is right. Parenting books are fine. But they are not absolute. They do not know me and my baby. They do not know that Clara couldn’t give a rat’s behind if I want her to make ginger cookies with me and blog about it later.
She wants to sleep by herself.
And you know what? That’s ok. I can let her do that. Because I’m her mom. And I know best. (gulp) 

This isn’t to say that I went ahead and tossed all of my parenting books into our fireplace, mostly because it’s a gas fireplace with fake wood and I feel like it wouldn’t have gone well for me or my house.

But I did light a small metaphorical match and held it up to the “expert” advice that I struggle to follow.  I have to trust myself. I have to trust that God gave me this particular little girl for a reason, and He will help me figure out this parenting thing, one step at a time. One bunny chair napping, solo cookie making, quiet afternoon at a time.

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