(Image from “Are French Parents better?” by Parent24.com)
I think I have a little bit of real French in me. I don’t know how much-maybe 1/10 or 1/25, I am a mut of sorts, but I know for a fact there is some French in there because my crazy grandmother has proudly claimed to be French. I do not wish to be an uppity French asshole…definitely not, but I would like to parent the French way.
I read less than a handful of books before the arrival of Kinsey Hope. I knew that Baby Wise was not for me, or Baby Whisperer, because to me, I felt like parenting should come naturally. Women had been having babies for years and years, and most of them, did not have a how to manual. I didn’t read about birthing, because again, women had been doing it for years, and one way or another the baby was going to come out, and it made more sense to me to just do whatever came naturally (hello induction and epidural–imagine if I had a birth plan? Out the window in hour 10 of 22). My point here, I wanted to rely on my instincts, and hope to God that I had some.
Then, the Wallstreet Journal did this article on the new book ‘Bringing Up the Bebe’ by Pamela Druckerman. The article had me hooked–because it essentially parallelled my personal parenting beliefs. Do what comes naturally, do not over think or over educate or over analyze, it is the French way. So, I’ve been reading it for the last few months, and everytime I get through another cultural comparison I have this overwhelming desire to move to Paris and drink espresso and eat crumpets and dress Kinsey in little berets.
We just conquered a 2 week sleep regression. Kinsey went from sleeping 10 hour stretches to sleeping 3-4 hour stretches, and I completely lost it. I thought maybe I was wrong, that my plan to nurse on demand, and rely on my instincts was a terrible plan because suddenly it was failing me. My Mama friends gave me advice, and their advice was based on their own parenting methods, which of course was nothing like what I had been doing all along, which is great for them, but I was completely stressed out thinking about switching to one of these ‘methods’ because thus far, I was method free. I kept hearing a lot of “shoulds” like “she should be eating ___much” or “she should be sleeping ____ hours” and I loved talking it through with them, and I so so so appreciated their advice, but when it came down to it, it left me feeling overwhelmed, and like a total failure. So, 3 nights ago, Kinsey woke up from a nap to eat, but was tired, and all of these methods said to keep her awake, to make sure I fed her on a schedule and then have awake time, but, she was tired, so I let her go to sleep. It was 2 hours earlier than normal, but I didn’t feel like it was right to keep her awake. I was all stressed trying to figure out my next move–wake her up to feed her? Dream feed her? Only let her sleep for an hour? By 10:30pm it was too late for me to really do anything, so I just let her sleep. I was anxious and stressed out, coming up with how I was going to start fresh the next day and get her onto one of these new methods because I had taught her a bad sleep habit or I had completely messed up her inner appetite, but, she did not wake up. She slept 10 hours. She woke up at 5am, ate, then went back down for 3 more hours. 7pm-8am. And that was when it hit me, I had forgotten how to be French. I had ignored my instincts for 2 weeks, trying to make her go longer in between feeds, trying to nap her differently, putting her to bed later, and all around just jacking things up. And, completely by accident, I just let her do what she needed to do, and it worked. The next night, we did the same thing, and Kinsey went to bed at 8pm (closer to her normal bedtime), and she slept 9 hours, then back down for another 4. Last night, she fussed a bit more in the beginning of the night, so I fed her as she had demanded, but she rewarded me, with another 9 hours, plus 4. My instincts are not wrong, and practicing “le pause” and allowing myself to parent more naturally has brought us out of the sleepless nights and back to fabulously happy days and gloriously relaxing nights.
Every baby is different, and what works for some parents, doesn’t work for every parent. You have to do what is comfortable, and when a baby suddenly changes things up, its better to try to stay consistent, then to abandon what you were already doing right. My fellow Mamas are so appreciated, and their advice and support was helpful, but in a different way. It helped me realize that my instincts are just as great as theirs, and their way is no better than my way. The French have a saying, its “amour-propre” and it means self-love or self respect. As parents, I think there needs to be a whole lot more “amour-propre” going around. We got this Mamas, and we need to love ourselves and respect what we are doing just a little bit more.
Kinsey has started playing with Sophie the Giraffe. Now that she can grab things, Sophie has become a favorite, because she has legs that are easy to grasp. I’ve started to bring her with us when we go out, but more for me, than for Kinsey. Sophie reminds me to embrace my inner French, to trust that I can do this, to trust that my instincts are not far off, and to have a little bit more “amour-propre.”