I have many friends and family who are getting ready to enter into the joyful world of parenting. I know this because I have a stack of fabric that keeps crying out to me to be sewn into something gift worthy and yet each time I take it out- I have 3 sets of little hand who would like to help with the project. So then I put it away, hoping maybe later that evening I will have enough energy to try again. I don't. It taunts me. I relegated it to the corner in the other room,out of sight secretly hoping the girls won't make it into a tent and spread butter all over it when I am turned the other way. Why butter, you ask? Well in our house- butter encompasses all things of a certain consistency- there is peanut butter, butter butter, cream butter(cream cheese) - my kids love basically anything that clings, stains, starts to smell and contains the word butt. I think I just stumble on a new nickname, Bella Butter.
There are about 1 million and 1 books on parenting. I have only looked into about 3. My husband summarized one for me on a chapter by chapter basis. I didn't know if I should be pleased he was looking into the matter or entirely affronted. There are so many aspects of parenting that you can truly only learn by parenting. There are so many grand hopes and dreams that form in the expectant stages, who will they look like, will they be colicky, how can I do all the things my parents did wrong-different? Then you learn real quick that you don't have this little ball of playdough that you just mould into what you want- you have this ball of playdough in an amoebalike consistency, butter if you will. It clings, it stains, and if you don't wash it regularly it totally starts to smell. Everytime you mold one part, another part goes off in a half cocked fashion. You then have to figure out how to contain the half cocked half while molding the other half, all the while feeding it, bathing it, and loving it to pieces.
There are so many parts of parenting that are entirely unnatural. Breastfeeding is the first one you run across. Breasts. You spend the first portion of your life giggling at their mere mention. You spend the second part of your life either trying to prop them, dress them, frame them or merely be near them. Then you want to take this innocent little mouth, which obviously knows what to do- and secure it in a fashion that will be beneficial for both parties. Yet somehow the initial act of breastfeeding is completely and totally confounding for both parites. I spent the first weeks with lil Phillip crying, me crying, trying to calm down while he fought against me to get at what we were both trying to achieve. I would have the La Leche League Tome a la breastfeeding open on my knee, while trying step by step methods to make this work. I took every step possible to avoid the lactation consultants whose peronal boundaries in the hospital did not include other people's tat-tas. I mean I know it's their job- but yeesh- you would ask a person before you grabbed a jug a milk outta their fridge- I am merely asking the same courtesy. I learned later that most of my severe discomfort was caused by a lonolin allergy and we actually did figure out how it worked. It wasn't easy. It was pretty darn infuriating when he would roll over and latch on to just about anything that protruded- elbows, chins, fingers. It caused me to re-evaluate what we were doing and why. That is parenting. I decided that I wanted to breastfeed- the perfect nutrition, convenient packaging, yadda yadda. It got to the point where we were both crying and upset multiple times daily that I thought- maybe I should just give him formula and be done with it. I wandered to the commissary, gandered at a $20 tin of formula which would last a couple days, went home and gave it another go. I am not going to make a commentary on the benefits of breastfeeding, it's not the point. The point is parenting is full of these kinds of choices- weighing what benefits you want versus the pains you are going to have to go to in order to achieve them. The next battle was getting him to go poo like it wasn't the end of the world and then it was to stop screaming from 3 to 9 every night, and then it was to sleep through the night and then it was to wear a helmet while riding a bike. Someday it will be to impress on him, a good wife is more than a good set of breasts- although they are a really nice asset.
My advice is this. Decide what is important and make that happen. Whether it's breastfeeding or manners or education. Try to balance the rest and let what you can't slide. And it will slide. It took me having 4 kids, one with cancer to learn the art of letting things go. If the whole idea of breastfeeding grosses you out, but you really want your child to have the benefits- suck it up. I have had many a friend who tried breastfeeding and couldn't get the baby latched on, ever. It happens. I have friends who took the time to pump every meal because it was that important to them. That is good parenting. Doing the best you can to give your kids what you think is best for them. It won't always be good enough and someday they will have their own kids and they will try to do things different. You will then have to see if you let the right things slide.
My children remind me of my strengths and weaknesses daily. When they snap at each other, I remind myself to be patient. When they are kind, I revel in how good it feels. If I knew then what I know now, I would parent differently- but then we wouldn't be where we are today. People who wait to have children later in life will not necessarily be better parents because they are mature. Sometimes that maturity can work against you in the world of a child. They are inherently immature little creatures. Just say the word breasts when one is around, you'll see.