You Can’t Sit With Us: Navigating the Cafeteria of Parenting

It’s hot. Summer in NYC has arrived. And even though I grew up in the hot and sticky, unbearably balmy summers of the South – there is something about summer in this concrete jungle that feels like a different form of anguish. Some mornings I feel like I would sell my left hand for a dip in a pool. (Looking at you waterfront luxury buildings!)

Anyhow, the times are changing and we aren’t feeling quite so infant-ish these days. Well, probably because my little girl is not really an infant anymore. She’s eating (re: playing with) solids, drinking from a sippy cup and growing more and more opinionated by the day. I am finally one of those moms at the coffee shop in the middle of the day I used to muse at. “They look so…normal. So used to having a baby,” I would think as I held my newborn, frazzled, agonizing over how I would make it through the day. It changes, it really does.

As I grow closer to my girl, we create a stronger bond each day. She recognizes and knows me, I actually feel like we have a relationship. I love the intimacy as I nurse her down for her naps. I love to tote her around the hood and take her to coffee with me. I adore the mornings when we’re all in the bed and enjoying breakfast as a family.

I’ve pulled my hair out plenty of times trying to figure out what type of parent I want to be. “Attachment parenting” doesn’t come very naturally for me. I’m trying to forgive myself for that. I am not the most patient of parents. I get frustrated even though I know she isn’t crying to be outright manipulative and mean. I look at other mothers who seem to have it more together. If I talk to a mama that oozes “gentle parenting” I feel vulnerable and self-conscious. Have I been insensitive and cold? If I talk to a mom who values a more independent relationship with their child, I feel like I’ve been too clingy with my girl.

Sometimes I feel like because I was 24 when I got pregnant, without a career in place and without a 5 year plan, I can not be at the table with the mommies in power suits. Then, because I had a home birth, it must mean I’m a hippie and worship the moon cycles so I can’t sit with the moms who vaccinate. (We actually do vaccinate.) Oops, now I can’t sit with the crunchy moms. And because we haven’t sleep trained yet, and we bed share (for the time being) and exclusively breastfeed at 6 months, well, let’s just say there’s not a lot of tables left to sit at.

Of course, the irony is that nothing is ever so black and white. We don’t fit in perfect little boxes, and neither do our babies. But I’m not so sure my parenting style is something I can easily define. It changes as my child changes. It will change if I have hopeful future children. And I’m willing to bet that you, too, don’t fit squarely into a cafeteria table seat.

I heard something recently that really spoke to me. When it comes to parenting you have 3 questions to ask yourself. Does it respect the child? Does it respect you? And can you live with it? That’s it. There’s nothing in there about your mother, your mother in law, your neighbor, or that mom in that playgroup.

This realization isn’t really all that novel. But it’s important for me on my journey. I was given Amata and she was given me. There must be a good reason in there somewhere for that. I’m trying to cultivate a more relaxed atmosphere around my parenting choices. So few of the bajillion decisions I make day in and day out will make or break us.

Postpartum anxiety wrecked me. I think the immediate sleep deprivation that followed birth was a shock to me. I knew sleep would be scarce but it hit me in a way I didn’t expect. I panicked and grasped desperately to manage my new life, to find a new normal. But there is nothing normal about the postpartum time. My boobs were leaking through many shirts a day, my lady bits were healing from the mammoth task of laboring and delivering a child (even with a complication free birth), I’d wake up soaked in sweat even in December and did I mention that my hormones felt like this?

Jack_Nicholson__TH_2662450k

Heeeeere’s Johnny.

I still find myself clenching my teeth when we’re out and about and Amata is awake during a time she would normally sleep if we were home. I still feel my blood pressure rise when I’ve tried to set her down for what feels like the 876th time (realistically? It’s probably more like the 5th or 6th time) after she peacefully falls asleep in my arms. I still get uptight when she wants to snooze two hours before we usually do bedtime. But hey, listen, I’ve come a long way. I’m learning to slacken up a bit. I’m aiming to let go and be in the moment, that is always fleeting with childhood.

I’m not an “attachment parent”. I’m not a “babywise” parent. I’m not a free range parent or a helicopter parent. I’m just Cassie. I’m a Cassie parent. I breastfeed. Often in public. I feed her purees sometimes, I give her food to eat with her own hands sometimes. She sleeps in a crib sometimes, she sleeps in our bed sometimes. We haven’t sleep trained yet, but maybe we will, who knows. I love baby wearing, I adore my woven wrap and frequently use my ring sling. Sometimes I desperately need a break from being so close to her. We don’t cloth diaper. (Although if I owned a washer and dryer you can bet your bum I would.) I had a home birth, no I did not eat my placenta. I’m neither proud nor ashamed, this is simply our story.

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One thought on “You Can’t Sit With Us: Navigating the Cafeteria of Parenting

  1. Michael Naughton sr says:

    Cassie,
    You are a very talented writer! And from your written voice I feel like you are a mighty good Mom and parent, too. I became a parent at the same age 24 and as a Dad, I questioned my parenting abilities a lot. The thing is you do the best you can with little formal training and/ knowledge. Then you learn from your mistakes and adjust, adapt and start over again every time your child reaches a new milestone. At a certain point, I became more relaxed and realized my children were pretty adaptable and forgiving of my parenting style . And the great thing they each turned out to be fine adults!

    I enjoyed your blog and your sense of humor. I hope you continue to write more!

    Mike

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