My parenting is anything but conventional, but definitely not alternative!
I would like to think of myself as the alternative to an alternative mom. I am very old school when it comes to manners, respect, and clear distinct roles of parent and child. But I am also very modern when it comes to feeding, to caring, and to playing. I might characterise myself as a somewhat hippie, but not the kind who doesn’t vaccinate (you can read my post about vaccination here for my full opinion on vaccinations). I am also somewhat of an aloof mother who can be over-protective at times. You see, my whole approach is rife with contradictions. I have read A LOT about parenting, about babies, about kids. But ask me something and I can only tell you what I feel, what my gut says. And that is what I would classify my parenting style as – intuitive, with a large dose of skepticism.
My style makes it very easy to raise two kids basically at the same time (A1 is 2 years and 9 months and A2 is 9 months, so both are still babies), since your gut will tell you different things for the different kids. For example, A1 started with solids not long after she turned 3 months. She could sit with assistance, but that was not really part of the reason we decided to start with food. She slept badly, didn’t want to breastfeed that much (she weaned herself at about 4 months and only started feeding again around the 6/7 month mark) and already had 2 teeth. She was much happier when she started eating! We followed the baby lead weaning approach with her, combined with some spoon feeding. She also enjoyed baby purees in pouches, like the Squish range (we liked them because they are 100% pure fruit and veg, with no starch, sugar, or preservatives) and liked them for a long time. The spoon feeding didn’t bother her, she definitely didn’t prefer the one over the other. Then came A2. We only started with solids around 4 months although she could already sit unassisted, had 2 teeth, and showed an interest in food. Somehow she just didn’t feel ready, so we held back. When we eventually started she went big! Again baby lead weaning, but this time almost no spoon feeding. She allowed it for a little while, and then started to refuse food that was offered per spoon. She wanted to eat by herself, even with a spoon. She was also a much fussier eater than A1 ever was. If she didn’t like something she would rather go hungry than be forced to eat it. And liking something now did not mean she would like it tomorrow, or even later today. She had some of the pouch foods, I even made her a few batches myself (Thanks Nutribullet, you are great!) and then she decided she hates purees. Now she will only have it if she is thirsty, but it does not count as food. A1 loved spicy food with pronounced flavours. A2 fares better with subtler tastes. A1 loved yogurt, A2 can take it or leave it. Same parents, different kids.
My gut told me something was off with A1. She was slow to reach some of her milestones, she was an extremely fussy baby who cried about 90% of the time, and she loved extremes – from movement to tastes to textures, the more pronounced something was the better. At just over 12 months she was “diagnosed” with SPD (read our story here), explaining all or at least most of her eccentricities. A2 is a different child all together. Fast to reach all of her milestones, she rarely if ever cries, can self-soothe, and HATES any extremes. She is the low and slow kind – slow movement, low noise levels. But that doesn’t make her any less busy than her sister! Both of them seem as if they have ants in their pants, not sitting still for even a second. The difference is A1 is uncontrolled busy, running from one thing to the next without much thought or reason, while A2 seems more controlled, calculated, and thoughtful. I can just imagine the nonsense that they are going to cause when they are a bit older!
I always believed that I had no mother-instinct, and I still kind of believe it to be true. Most of my approach is a shot in the dark, with me hoping that I don’t screw up. And if I do, that my kids will one day look back and know that whatever I did I did out of love, and never meant them any harm. Some things just feel right, with no way of explaining why. But so far, once I do the research, I can confirm that it was the right thing to do. I practised baby wearing (carrying your baby in a sling or carrier close to your body, e.g. on your chest or back. Read the post here), and to most people it seemed strange. Why I don’t know – wouldn’t you want to keep your baby close to you, especially in the first few months when babies still struggle to regulate their own temperature, heartbeat and breathing? I carried them like that for almost the first year, working with them strapped to my chest. Research later confirmed that babies who are carried like this, for prolonged times, have better control over their emotions, are happier, sleep better (with A1 hah!), eat better, in general are healthier and more content. My instinct was on the money!
A1 is now almost 3 years old. I cannot believe how time has flown by, and how fast those terrible moments actually passed. We made a lot of mistakes with her, and will still make a lot of mistakes with both the kids. But I can swear that the things I regret the most are those things we did because other “experts” said to. Things that didn’t feel right, that went against anything and everything I believed in. The biggest piece of advice and truth I can offer any parent? Listen to your gut, and follow your instinct!