What Deacon needs in a mother is not what Charlotte needs, or what Finn and Graham need. Every child is unique, of course, but at a more basic level, different ages call for different parenting approaches. At Deacon’s age (infancy) a good parent is physically involved 24/7. I dress him, I bathe him, I feed him. He sleeps in my room, right by my bedside. He spends part of each day strapped to me in a womb-like front carrier. “Attachment parenting” is a respected strategy for easing the transition from womb to world. It can be taxing, but I have to enjoy the opportunity to smother him with attention without risking negative repercussions.
When Deke leaves the baby/toddler stage behind, “attachment parenting” will turn into “helicopter parenting” if I don’t change my approach. And helicopter parenting is a big no-no among child-rearing experts. Evidently, I would be crippling my child’s independence if I brought his forgotten lunch to school or carried his backpack for him. It is surprisingly hard to back off and not do everything for everyone. My mothering instincts tell me I should be helping my 4-year-old get dressed and cleaning up after my 7-year-old rather than letting him tackle his own messes. However, it does feel liberating when I relinquish some of these tasks, and my kids feel self-satisfaction when they do more for themselves.
Being a mom is exhausting, emotionally and physically. Part of that comes from trying to be four kinds of mom simultaneously.
My kids all need these things from me (not in any specific order):
- Discipline/Guidance *This one is complicated! It means different things for different ages.
- Hugs *I am a strong believer that preteens and teens need hugs just as much as little kids need them!
Apart from that, each one needs myriad other things from me in varying degrees. Charlotte needs mature conversation. She needs to talk about friendships and feelings and the changes a preteen girl faces. She needs a push to stay on schedule—because she will get things done, but left to her own devices, she moves so s.l.o.w.l.y… She also needs rides! Rides take up much of my day, and the older the kids get, the more they’re involved with, demanding more time in the car.
Finn is a capable and self-motivated 7-year-old. He does well with clear direction and preparation. He is also an anxious little guy, so he needs calming reassurance to ease his worries. He also sometimes needs a reminder to run around outside and get exercise—this makes him happy, releases anxiety, and helps him sleep better at night. As much as he thinks more video games=more happiness, the inverse is actually true. Regulating screen time is an important mom job these days.
Graham needs his own responsibilities—and he needs me to step back and let him do more for himself! His recent transition from baby to middle child meant a shift in that direction. However, he also needs more time and attention than I sometimes think he needs. And he needs anger management. Finn and Graham are my two closest in age, thus they often need a mediator to break up their fights. There is love, but there is also a lot of yelling and fighting, especially when they’re tired.
Then there’s Deacon. He doesn’t need much in the way of conversation, but he does have a lot of physical needs. Nonstop feeding, snuggling, diaper changing, bathing dressing, carrying … But it’s so nice that it’s OK for me to baby him to my heart’s content!