Awhile back, when my second child came into the world, I got a great piece of advice from one of my sister-in-laws who had a few more children than me at the time. I was lamenting that I didn't feel I could properly juggle everything and keep everyone happy-especially the baby. She responded with, "Hold him more and hold him less." I didn't quite understand her logic as it seemed quite contradictory. Nevertheless, as the weeks wore on, I began to see what she was talking about. She meant, hold him when he needs to be held and carry him in a carrier if need be, which would amount to me holding him more than I had my first child. Basically, don't sweat the small stuff, just get him fed and get him some sleep. She also meant, when you have to deal with your other child or an emergent situation, put him down even if he doesn't like it, and do what you have to do. And here's the kicker-don't feel bad about it! Very simple. Very logical. Very wise.
You see, what she was getting at was, keep your motherly instincts intact and your parenting/infant skills, namely your principles, but stop over-analyzing, give up or merely restructure your methods, and go with the flow. Having been a very "structured" mom the first go-around, this advice was monumental to me in parenting an infant. Caleb helped me to hold to my standards and structures more loosely. Structure is not bad but when it is seen as gospel, then it gets in the way.
Nancy Wilson, in her book The Fruit of Her Hands, addresses this very topic but in a broader sense when she talks about women and their methods.
"Not only do Christian women need to distinguish between principles and methods, but they must cease looking for a simple list of 'how to's as the guide for Christian living. Today, in the evangelical world at large, numerous people seem very eager to give us a list of do's and don'ts. Women are particularly vulnerable to such 'lists' because they provide a false sense of security. 'I'm okay because I'm obeying the rules!' These rules are often presented to us, couched in appealing phrases like 'God's way for...' or 'the biblical view on...' When we adopt a method, it would be preferable to call it a biblical approach rather than the biblical approach. These rules tell us how God wants us to approach courtship, birth-control, child-feeding, and child-rearing...what kind of music is permissible, whether we may have a television in our home, how and where we must educate our children, whether our sons or daughters may play sports, and on and on." pg. 60
Now before the alarm is sounded and you all think I am merely espousing relativism, hear the logic. We're not talking about principles here, we're talking about methods. We're not talking about whether or not to feed the baby (principle) but rather how to feed the baby (on demand vs. schedule feeding). Principles are derived from the Bible. God tells me to love my family; therefore, the loving thing is to feed them. Methods are simply how one chooses to carry these principles out. How I feed them is my choice-organic vs. fast food, breastmilk vs. formula, and demand vs. schedule feeding. You get the idea. And these methods will vary with each family (and change as time goes on!!) Some really are superior to others but how one chooses to carry out their own principles really is their choice. If my neighbor decides to home school, I shouldn't judge her and think her kids will end up social freaks. Nor should she look at my kids and think that they'll grow up delinquent fools just because they're educated in the classroom. Different methods can coexist in Christianity and being different is good. God calls us to wisdom in these decisions not conformity.
When I started to understand this very thing, I suddenly became much lighter and free. You see, I didn't have to try and adhere to a set of rules (which as you know from a previous post I already struggle with). I got to figure out what worked for our family and I didn't have to worry about any of my friends. I also started to see the beauty of some of my friends' methods, even though I didn't employ them myself. I personally don't let my kids sleep in bed with me but, I have friends who absolutely love this arrangement and I've seen wonderful fruit from it! Seriously! And why do I care if I think they're doing the right thing when I don't have to deal with the outcome anyway? And really, when it came down to it, I learned a lot from my friends who were different from me which helped me be a better wife, mom and most importantly a better Christian.
So why do I bring this all up? I guess I've been thinking about it yet again as we learn how to incorporate Elliana into our family. What are our methods going to be this time? How can we keep our principles intact and still get her needs met according to her personality and the dynamics of our family? These are all questions I've been mulling over these past couple of weeks. I guess if I just remember that sometimes my methods need to change depending on what she needs then I'll be okay.
And I'll keep those little words in mind as well...."Hold her more...hold her less."