Monday, April 14, 2008

Mother knows best.

I've discovered as of late, that I am an unconventional mama by western standards. Hayden is now almost a year and a half and he still nurses. It's trickled down to a few times a day now that I'm back at work, but we still enjoy some peaceful, cuddly moments in the morning and evening.

Now I'm perfectly fine with this arrangement. It allows me to eat what I want without gaining weight, gives Hayden some extra nutrition and fat and it gives us a special bonding time. What disturbs me about it is society's perception of our daily ritual. Somehow, those of us north of the equator have established bizarre guidelines for rearing our children. Strange ideas like: children must sleep alone, boys can only play with "boy toys," babies have to learn to self-soothe by crying themselves to sleep, nursing should only occur for the first year - tops. All very foreign ideals to me.

Hayden slept in our bed for the first year of his life. He didn't sleep one night in a crib until after his first birthday. And I don't regret a single minute of it. He now confidently falls asleep and sleeps 12 hours a night in his own bed without needing me. I think that knowing I'm always there for him when he needs me gives him the reassurance that he can do it on his own.

And as far as nursing past a year - it's the most wonderful thing to nurse a toddler. I was one of those naysayers before I had Hayden. I thought that if a child could walk up and ask for nursing, that child was too old to get it. But now I understand. I understand that with a busy boy, it gives you 10 minutes to just rest and cuddle. I understand that when owies happen, nursing is the best way to make it better. I understand that children have their own cycles and their own needs and you just have to listen. They will tell you when they're ready for a change.

The strangest idea of all for me is our stereotyping of what little boys and girls can play with. I got more than a few sideways glances when I bought Hayden his own kitchen. It didn't seem to matter that helping me in the real kitchen is one of his favourite things. While it seemed perfectly rational to me to offer him his own culinary space, I was barraged with statements that I might be effeminizing my son, turning him gay. Bullsh*t is all I have to say. If Hayden is going to be gay, he'll be gay. Buying him a kitchen is not going to change his genetics. And if he does turn out to be gay, he'll probably appreciate that his mum accepted him for who he was even before he had any idea of sexuality.

This is how I'm raising my son - by listening to his needs and guiding him when necessary. I'm not raising a spoiled child, but one who feels that his opinions and preferences count for something. I believe that his needs are way more important than society's views on what we should be doing. It sure doesn't hurt anyone else if we nurse for a few more months.

So to all you naysayers and those of you who just can’t help but give a mother your opinion on how she’s raising her child, just stop for a minute before you speak and consider that age-old adage, mother really does know best.

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