Validation?

It has been a long and trying few weeks. We had a whirlwind of visits from my parents and my father in law. Shortly after my FIL went home, my daughter became sick, and she was having a horrible time with her allergies. When I took her into the doctor for what I thought would be an ear infection check, just some congestion and coughing, but no fever, the doctor told me that my daughter was actually developing pneumonia! She could hear a crackle in her lungs and my daughter was having the worst time at night, especially, choking and throwing up on it. Poor kiddo. My sweet two year old was very ill, indeed.

During our time as Newbie Parents, we had successfully instilled a powerful aversion to liquid medications in our daughter. She absolutely, positively, and sometimes violently refused all medication. Especially what she previously had just taken a few weeks before. Berry flavored whatever. Mmm. But no! Not no, but Oh Hell No! She literally threw it up everywhere. And by literally everywhere, I mean, all over herself, her hair, the downstairs floor, the stairs running up to the bathroom, the landing, and finally the bathroom, itself. Poor thing. Oh, and the diaper blowouts, thanks to antibiotics.

But since she wouldn’t take them orally, she had to have shots. The Rocephin antibiotic shot is very thick and has to be administered in two shots, one in each leg, over the course of three days. So I had to take my poor kiddo in to get shot in the legs six times in total. I’m a very gentle parent, we don’t do punishment, I don’t force her to do things, by and large, we don’t use physical discipline of any kind. So to have to hold her down while she screamed was pretty awful. Obviously, the effects of pneumonia are measurably more terrible. But still. It has sucked.

I have nursed her more often than when she was newborn, some days. Literally, she would ask for it every fifteen minutes, when not sleeping, she was pulling at my shirt, laying across my lap with her feet in my face, asking for it. I honestly never thought I would be so glad to be nursing, because as annoying as that sounds, it’s much better than a whining, crying, miserable baby. Instead, she just took comfort in the boob. And you know, I wore her a lot more so I could be mobile and not tied down to the couch.

Since the visit from my parents happened, I think my parents have done some thinking about how they parented. I did not stop nursing my child. I don’t know any woman who just “whips her tits out”, but you know, there’s no whipping, here. It’s just, you know, my kid needs a nap. In the Ergo she goes, and passes right out. Effortless. I walked around the entire Fort/museum for over an hour with a sleeping child on my chest. It was great – and for all the criticism I got in the beginning, they saw it working in action for me. Criticism for both breast feeding and for baby wearing.

My child is also relatively well behaved and listens as well as you can expect for a two year old. But we don’t do punishment, per se. I just lay down how I expect my daughter to behave. When she starts hitting, I ask her if she wants to high five or give a hug instead, because hitting is not acceptable. And this works most of the time. When she really wants to throw a fit, I let her. So what. Get PISSED. She is totally allowed to be mad at me for whatever reason, and when she decides to explode, I respect her. As long as she doesn’t do something to hurt herself, then fine. It only lasts a little bit (right now) and I’m able to scoop her up and hug it out. I know she’s mad because I won’t let her play with something dangerous or eat something she shouldn’t. Or whatever the thing is. And I get her anger. That’s okay.

When I was a kid, when we got mad for things like that, we were punished. We did not throw a fit over, for example, being told not to play with the dangerous thing. Because even though we wanted to, the threat of being hit over the protest was greater. So we just submitted. And it caused huge disconnects with my parents. Better not get angry. And then as a result, later on, we all had issues managing our outrageous emotions, because we weren’t allowed to as kids. So I do it differently now. Be mad. So what. It’s how we act when we are mad that matters.

The other day, I was on the phone with my step mother (who does not know about my little blog here), talking to her about my girl’s health, after the pneumonia diagnosis. What medicine, how is she feeling, how am I feeling, how is she acting? All that. I expressed that I was happy I was nursing still, and I also expressed how her behavior is certainly reflective of a sick kid – moody and all. I felt so sorry for her. She can be moody if she needs to be. I’m a bitch when I’m sick. It’s okay.

My stepmother then said something that I never thought I would hear, in a million, trillion years. It’s a hypothetical conversation I have played out over and over in my head, so many times. But the reality – while it didn’t go exactly as I thought, I still am a little taken aback that it happened. She apologized to me and told me she thought I was such a great mom.

More specifically, she said that she has learned so much from me. (I flood my FB feed with all kinds of parenting articles that I tend to agree with) She said that she thought that what I was doing with my daughter was amazing, and that she was sorry for everything. She knows she made a lot of mistakes and she was sorry, and she hoped that we could be close. She was very proud of me.

I was pretty floored. I thanked her. I told her that you know, there were things that I wouldn’t do that she did, but there were plenty of things that I would repeat. We did have some fun times, and you know, wasn’t like all bad, all the time. But it meant a lot. I feel both validated and vindicated. It’s very strange, because I never thought I would get that. I never thought I would hear, “I was wrong” from someone so adamant that they were right. They did what they had to. That I brought things on myself. But I didn’t. And they could have done better.

I recognize they only had so many tools in their parenting toolbox. But now it feels like – well, it doesn’t really matter now. I do not have to go forward in my parenting journey, feeling like I’m parenting out of defense. As in, diligently being so gentle as a way to defend myself from the way I was punished as a child. That defensive feeling isn’t there. Now, I feel a freedom to really parent how I feel like I need to. I feel like I can follow my instincts. And I feel like they see that what I am doing is working for us.

I feel like this frees me from the judgement of others, and also my judgement of others. I don’t have to mentally compare myself with someone to feel like I’ve got a handle on something, or I need to learn something. It feels like I can more easily just let go of how others do it. Like – good for you and yours. Hope you figure it out, or if you have, great. I’m over here doing my own thing. There’s such a confidence in that, and given my newfound feeling of validation, I have to say, it’s also very liberating.

Also, the guilt. Why do we feel guilty for not doing things the way our parents did? We are individuals. We don’t feel bad for not liking bacon dipped in chocolate, when our parents do. But we feel terrible if we don’t raise our kids in their way. Never mind the admissions of not wanting to be like them, or vows to raise our kids differently (before we had them). I don’t feel the guilt over thinking I have convicted them of something by virtue of doing things differently. Because so what – but they acknowledge that doing it differently from them is right for us. Now I don’t have to feel guilty about it. I can just go forward with my daughter on our journey together.

This is a really interesting feeling. But I feel like a heavy burden has been taken off my shoulders.

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