Madden Matthew was born on July 8, 2009. He was 8 pounds 4 ounces of pure perfection, I tell you. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I KNEW that I was going to have a boy. And now, here he was. We had picked out his name before we even got the official tell all that he was in fact the boy I had been dreaming about. Once I saw his sweet little face, I couldn’t believe that this person was who I had been calling Madden all these months. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the name anymore, it was just surreal that now that name had a face! Ohhhhh, what a face. So much of his face was my husband’s. Nothing about him looked like me at all, as far as I could tell. It was agreed upon by most of my family and friends that I had in fact just been a vessel for Marc’s genetics to formulate this perfect little being. From the very beginning, Madden was what most would consider an “easy” baby. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very very trying times that I wouldn’t ever describe as “easy” with him as a baby (see: 4 month sleep regression) but generally, he was not too tricky to figure out as far as his basic needs and wants. I think I was a pretty typical first time mom. I read a lot of books, I researched as much as I could, and I probably took way too much of other people’s advice to heart. As time went on I began to find my stride as his mom, and I gained confidence in my own instincts. We breastfed with ease once we got over some latching stuff at the beginning. I mistook what I know now as a typical nursing strike for an absolute refusal to ever nurse again at 8 months, and began my journey as an exclusive pumper to finish out the remainder of his year of breast milk that I had committed myself to. I made 80% of his baby food purees, and let him watch way too much TV than I care to admit.
Despite too much tv, never being worn, sleeping in his own bed, and probably a million other shortcomings I’ve made as his mother, he has grown and flourished into one stellar little guy. At 4.5 he is absolutely hilarious and has more energy than I ever believed one human could possibly have. I think most people say that about their children, but I am not kidding here people. The child can’t even be still in his sleep. He has a very unique way of thinking about the world, and because of that it often seems that he doesn’t really “get” a lot of situations that other kids his age seem to have a good handle on. This can be worrisome for me at times, to feel that my son is behind in some way in comparison to his peers. Luckily, I have my husband to snap me out of that place and remind me that I am completely correct. He IS different! There is NO ONE like him. He fits no mold, and as he grows up, he probably never will. I need to remind myself often that this characteristic is EXACTLY what I want for him. Those are the kind of people, I want to raise. Leaders, follow your own path-ers, do it your own way-ers, and generally think for yourself-ers.
It was Madden who brought me into non-punitive parenting methods. Punishements simply did not work for him. Timeouts, counting to 3, sending to his room, yelling, begging, bribing, and even once spanking, only exacerbated whatever issue he and I were having. It was so hard for me to accept that I could not control this child. (Hi. My name is Cristin, and I have control issues.) Let me be clear, I am not saying that non-punitive parenting is the only way, or the right way to parent. I am only saying that for Madden, punishments of any kind for his behavior have never resulting in the extinction of said behavior. I certainly do not have a perfect method to our discipline and I most definitely do not have a perfectly behaved child because I never give him timeouts. What I have, is a (mostly) peaceful relationship with my son that I feel is based on respect, intrinsic motivation, and an acceptance for who he is and how he feels no matter how absolutely ridiculous I think those feelings are. I try my very best to listen to how he is feeling about something and not negate those feelings simply because “The color of your fork DOES NOT MATTER!” because to Madden, the color of the fork DOES matter, and it matters more than anything has ever mattered before in the history of things that matter. Let the record show, this type of parenting method is HARD AS HELL. Let the record also show, that most days I feel like I totally suck at gentle parenting. But, I can honestly say that timeouts, counting to 3, and yelling until I was blue in the face were just as hard. A different kind of hard, but just as hard none the less. Gentle parenting is the hard that I have chosen to weather through.
In typical “me” fashion I’ve researched and read up a bit on the philosophy of peaceful parenting. If you have any interest in the subject I highly recommend “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn and “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” by Dr. Laura Markham. I’m always up for new book suggestions if any of you have a great read on gentle parenting or another parenting style that you’ve been successful in implementing with your children. My parenting style is always evolving and I am not naive enough to believe that what works well for one of my children will work equally as well with another. In fact, child #2 has shown me just exactly how much I had to learn about being a mom from the day she was born! But, that is a blog post for another time.