It’s much easier to make parental sacrifices and meet your little one’s needs selflessly when the need seems “valid”. Like staying up most of the night with a little one who doesn’t feel well. But when the need doesn’t feel “valid”…it can be a lot harder. Such as a night this past week, when, for no apparent reason, and even though Vivi acted very tired and never got hyper, it took over 2 hours to get her to sleep for the night. But as it turned out, she woke up with a cold- a cold that was probably beginning to bother her the previous night, even though I couldn’t see any symptoms. Suddenly, her need felt valid.
A thought hit me the other day. Something that is somewhat repetitive of what I write about a lot on this blog, in meeting your children’s needs, including emotional needs. But it hit in a new and inspiring way: every need of my daughter’s is valid. Sometimes, I might not see the validity of it till later, like our rough night. Sometimes, I might never see the validity of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are valid needs.
And when I say needs….I’m not talking just diaper changes and feedings. I mean every time she cries. I mean the nights she wakes up every 45 minutes. I mean the times when she’s clingy and fussy. I mean the times when she wants to spend the whole day nursing at her ripe old age of 11 months. I mean when she makes it obvious that she’s tired early in the evening, putting an end to our evening plans. I mean the times she takes hours to put to sleep. I mean the times she gets scared by too much hub-bub and needs to be taken away from a social situation.
As an attentive, caring parent, most physical needs are easy to see. It’s easy to see when a child’s sick, hungry, tired, etc. But a lot of people have a much harder time with the emotional side. Which makes sense…sometimes, those needs aren’t as tangible….which perhaps leads to them not feeling “valid”. Sometimes the reason for it isn’t seen till later, sometimes it’s never seen. You may never understand why your baby needed to be up every 30 or 45 minutes throughout the night. You might decide she simply didn’t, and resort to cry it out in frustration. But what if your baby really needed the extra emotional connection with you? Perhaps she’s more active and spends more of her day away from you. Perhaps that particular day she was separated from you more than usual. Maybe something happened that jarred her, causing her to need to extra emotional output from you.
As parents, we need to trust our instincts, and trust our children. We need to trust that all their needs are valid, not just the ones that seem valid to us. We need to believe that for some reason, extra care/attention/whatever is a real, tangible need for the child, and whether we see it or not, it will pay off.
Although, if actions speak louder than words, some parents really seem to believe this, it isn’t true that babies are nuisances on purpose. They don’t make it their life goal to keep you up all night so you’re nice and irritated. They don’t see how many ways they can come up with to pull you away from your “good time” just so you miss out. They aren’t annoying (unless that’s how you see them), and they aren’t trying to manipulate you into a miserable existence. They’re babies, and children, and they’re conveying needs.
As parents who’re very concerned about our children’s emotional, as well as physical, needs, this has always been a priority for us. I could tell you countless stories of times Vivi needed us, even though I couldn’t necessarily see why or what was wrong. Stories of times when she needed to go to bed extra early, and it interrupted our plans and what we wanted to do. But, there’s too many, and they aren’t really needed. See, they happen everyday. Everyday, our children have needs that will inconvenience us if that’s how we want to view it. Everyday, they depend on us and reach out to us to show them the love they need to feel.
I remember a time when Vivi was 6 weeks old, and we went to a CHEO convention (homeschool convention in Ohio). She was with me in the ergo most of the day, and all her needs were seemingly met, and she was happy, so I slipped into the next session I had made plans to hear. As we were pacing the back of the room, she started getting fussy within a minute of being in there. We went out, and tried going back in a few minutes later, since she seemed perfectly content again. Same thing happened. As it turned out, she was trying to convey to her mommy that she just needed some connection time. Being held all day wasn’t enough, she needed my full attention. So, she and I found a quiet spot (which wasn’t difficult, because most of the crowds were in sessions), and enjoyed some mommy and daughter time. We laughed and talked and gazed at each other for close to an hour, till Ben, my mom, and sister were done with their sessions. I love this story, because of how clear it was that she was trying to reach out and connect emotionally. You don’t always see it so clearly at 2am. :-) Similar stories have happened many times since…and it’s always heart-melting to see her reaching out to me.
I want to be the mom who sees all her children’s needs as valid.