Is it possible to unlearn parenting wisdom? I think I did, but fortunately I came to my senses.
You see, this whole adoption thing threw me a curve ball. Up till this point, I had been feeling pretty confident about my parenting. Sure, there are always glitches along the way, but I felt like I could follow my mommy intuition and things would work out alright. Or, if it was beyond my base of knowledge, I had family, friends, and outside resources to help me find the right path.
Let's have a little flashback to set the stage for my gained, lost, and regained parental wisdom amnesia.
It happened when I became a mother for the first time. The low parenting moment occurred when my husband headed back to work a few days after we got back from the hospital and my little girl, Bridget (now a 9 years old and currently at sleep-away camp for the first time) and I were home alone for our first full day since she was born.
I had just changed, fed and rocked her to sleep. I was going to take a quick shower so I took the baby monitor into the bathroom with me because clearly being in the room next to baby was too far to trust my ears. I had just finished lathered up the shampoo when she began to cry. I panicked. "WHAT DO I DO NOW!?!" Should I leap out of the shower immediately? Did I have time to rinse out the shampoo? How about conditioner? Could I condition? Instead of reacting calmly, I froze in panic and cried a little myself.
I must be a slow learner because it took me a couple of weeks after that to figure out my little baby wouldn't die in 5 minutes. "Of course!" you may say. "Physiologically your child will survive." You can insert an optional exasperated sigh and "Duh" here if you wish.
I carried that knowledge through the following three kids.
And then there was the adoption.
I found that the more research I did on adoptive parenting, the less confident I felt in using my own judgement and trusting my maternal instincts. I became indoctrinated into the adoption lingo of bonding and attachment. Some of the recommended books will give you nightmares. The Weaver's Craft about toddler's adoption would keep anyone up all night.
While I believe knowledge is important, I began to think that every moment was a crucial bonding moment. Every time there was a pause in meeting a need or comforting my child, attachment would be set back months and months. I forgot that a good mixture of knowledge, common sense and compassion would take me far in this mommy business.
Please don't misunderstand me. I try to meet Veronica's needs as quickly as possible. If she cries, I comfort her. If she wants to be carried, I oblige. If she needs a snack, out come the generic crackers. All these things are rational.
What isn't logical is the stress I was feeling if she grew frustrated at anything. If I was cooking supper and she fussed in the high chair for 5 minutes while I finished I would freak out thinking I should be somehow holding her and mashing steaming potatoes at the same time. When she cried in the car on the way back from Target I wondered if she felt abandoned in the seat a foot and a half behind me. Fortunately, Veronica isn't very fussy, but when I couldn't immediately help I stressed out.
And then I remembered she wouldn't die. And she is only one. And one-year-olds get impatient sometimes. And my daughter is resilient. And she will still learn to love me if I make her wait until I have both contacts in before playing ball with her. And I meet her needs promptly 95% of the time. And its going to be okay. It is really going to be okay. For both of us.
So, I'm going to cut myself some slack and call it a rookie adoptive parenting mistake. Since my delayed epiphany, life has been much better.
Now I don't have to worry about chopping vegetables and emotionally scarring my child at the same time. I just have to chop the vegetables, smile at my sweet girl and tell her, "Everything is going to be all right. Mama is here. I am right here and I'm going to take care of you just as quick as I can."