I Refuse to Spoil You, Daughter.

Dear Daughter,

Five months and ten days from when you were born, you are perfect and unspoiled and everything that a baby should be. I do not wish to destroy that.

When you were born you were perfect. You knew little about the world that you were born into. You had curious little dark blue eyes and tiny hands with long graceful fingers that grabbed purposefully at the things that you wished to hold onto rather than grasping at everything that they touched. You are perfect, still.

I refuse to spoil you, daughter.

When you cry, I try and listen. Not only to the sound of your cries but to the way that you move your body in search of what it is that you need. I do not wish to spoil your understanding of your needs by assuming that I know when to meet them and when they can be ignored. I do not wish to spoil your understanding of your needs by insisting that you be pacified above your objections and your demands that I help you fix what is wrong. Later in life we will have talks about wants and needs and the world of today and how our bodies sometimes tell us things through instincts better adapted to times past than to today. Later in life we’ll talk about hormones and how they make us want things that are not healthy for us in the world that we live in now. We’ll talk about hunger in a world of abundant and unhealthy foods. We’ll talk about order and simplicity in a world of chaotic stimuli. But I will not teach you today that when you have a need it is something that you must deal with on your own before you have the ability to understand or cope. I will not teach you today that love comes at a scheduled time of convenience.

There are many things that I want for you, little one.

I want someday for you to find a man (or a woman) that you trust the way I struggle to be able to trust your father who has given me no cause to distrust him. I want you to recognize when someone loves you simply and permanently and without strings attached. To recognize that it is safe to speak freely of the things that you feel and to seek context for the things that make you happy, sad, angry, lonely, and deeply in love. I want you to be able to trust a person who is trustworthy, and to speak freely of your needs and wants and joys and feelings and hurts and angers without the fear of not being listened to, of chasing him away, of being manipulated by the things that you feel, or of being manipulative with simple descriptions of what you feel.  I never want you locked in a ball where you feel unable to speak the simplest of things for fear of being misunderstood and held accountable for something that someone else has chosen read into your words.

I want you to always understand how much I love you and how hard I work to understand what it is you are feeling and what it is that you need, so that you will clearly hear the warning bells clanging if you ever meet someone who takes the shortcut of convenient assumption. I want you to understand that I will not pass judgement on your reasons for the needs that you have, even if I try to help you understand where those needs fit into the life that you have and the obligations and responsibilities that you have to your family and to your life. I want the chance to work with you at helping you make yourself understood clearly through the upset of another without sending you off to your room to try and struggle to formulate the words for your feelings before you have the insight to do so.

There is too much talk about spoiling children and too little talk about preserving the qualities that they are born with. I believe strongly that they are one and the same. I can spoil you by ignoring the things that need to be paid attention to just as easily as I can spoil you by burying you in toys and candy. And I can spoil you more easily by denying you trust and love when you need it than I ever could by being there for you when you need those things.

I can spoil you more easily by making you wonder when I will be there for you willingly and when I will not. By teaching you to work harder to gain my attention for the things that you want deeply or judging you for the expression of want and disappointment rather than simply understanding your hurt and holding you through you tears until you do as your older brother does now at two. “All done crying. Alexander feel better now, mommy. Let’s go play.” Something that I want your oldest brother to understand in us even as he learns distrust elsewhere. Something that I want all three of you to understand even as you move out into the world into the lives of those who have had their trust spoiled and who seek to spoil the trust of everyone else by constantly suspecting their expressions of feeling as attempts at manipulation.

I refuse to teach you that needing to be held is manipulative, and that having the need to cry in someone’s arms is a weakness. I refuse to allow you to go through childhood believing something that someday will earn you an abusive relationship rather than the ability to curl up in the arms of someone who loves you deeply. I refuse to spoil that thing that will someday give you comfort and closeness. I will not teach you that it is okay to curl away from comforting arms in the darkness when you could be held close by someone who will never hold that need against you. I refuse to send you away to cry alone so that I will not need to deal with the strongness of your emotions.

I will not spoil you like that, daughter. I refuse to spoil you.

<3 Mama

15 thoughts on “I Refuse to Spoil You, Daughter.

  1. Wonderfully written, as always. My little boy is six months and a week old. I’m constantly being told that now he’s six months I’m spoiling him by holding him when he cries, that he should be left to cry it out each night so he learns to sleep alone. That I should leave him with someone else so I can have some “me” time, so I could go out with my husband and not talk about our little boy the entire time we’re out (I spend all day everyday with him, what more do I want to talk about)? They don’t realise that I’m happiest when I’m with my little boy, that when he happily naps in his crib, I have all the “me time” I need (I don’t know what to do with the time I have then)! That my husband and I enjoy going out for meals with our son (and seeing him enjoy different foods, and different places to eat).
    Holding him whilst he cries his sleepy tears is so much better for him than crying alone in the dark… (He fights sleep until it overwhelms him and he has to cry until he drifts off-I wish there was another way)…
    Thanks for this…you truly are amazing

    1. Thank you! *hug* My middle child was (and sometimes still is) a sleep fighter. I found that holding him in a different position was sometimes helpful. Facing away from me instead of towards me, straddling my waist like a bear hug while I tickled his back, etc. I believe it is a side effect of having weaned himself when I was pregnant because of the change in the milk and not because he was “ready”. I feel badly for that. Poor booger. He’s making a lot of progress though and has started saying when he’s ready to go to sleep and will try crawling into his own bed to put himself to sleep. :)

  2. I have a question and might as well post it here as on another post. I love your blog and read it often. I have a two year old and a three month old, and the ‘wait it out’ posts are really helping me in the dark of the night. However, my husband and I often need to travel at weekends. We try our best to time our travels with our little one’s naptimes (the bigger one is easier to entertain/explain things to usually). We almost always still end up with some period of tears in the car seat. I try to keep it minimal, and to know when a feed or change is needed. But sometimes we just have to keep going. When we just had one I would climb in the back and nurse him in the car seat, but with two rear-facing, I don’t fit. We repeatedly reassure our little man that everything is ok, hold his hand, rub his head, and give him toys to look at and hold, but still sometimes we just have to get there (or get home) – we have found that stopping for a cuddle and then getting back in the car makes things worse. Any suggestions?

    1. We have a mini van, so I climb in back with my daughter. I have found that if I tuck her in with a receiving blanket or give her a toy (only recently has a toy worked) or let her suck on my hand she’s happy longer. But generally speaking babies don’t like being in the car for long periods of time and when we mis-time it a bit she will scream too. As you have found, stopping can sometimes make things worse and if we’re getting close and it’s getting later and our older kids have to be home we have no choice after we’ve made sure that she’s changed, fed and as comfortable as she can be and I’ll rub her head and hold her hand and tell her that I love her and we’ll be home soon.

      Sometimes changing to a convertible car seat that has more padding and a slightly more upright position can help babies like it more. My daughter also likes her soft monkey mirror that is on the seatback that she faces. Sometimes babies will accept a pacifier in the car when they won’t accept it elsewhere. (not my daughter).

      I don’t think that there is any magic for the car. They simply want to be held. And in this case the safety issues make it so that it’s hard to meet that want/need and the choices for how to respond are limited. I offer as much verbal and physical comfort as I can, and we get home as quickly as we can.

      When it’s going to be more than 10 minutes we tend to try a longer stop like 15-20 minutes, and sometimes she’s okay with going back into the car.. Sometimes not so much.

      1. We used these techniques w/each of our 3 kids- as babies-toddlers- in the car and while it is difficult to hear the cries a bit longer than usual compared w/outside the car moments, it is better to keep driving safely than to stop and prolong the journey. The fact is: we can all be conditioned and while as intentially nurturing parents this is not our usual mode of response, when used sparingly, it works and the ends justify the means–> we get to destination quicker and shorten the overall time in the car seat. I also agree about switching to the older infant car seat sooner because it holds the child in a more upright position – all of my kids were much happier in this seat and mirrors help and special toys only for seat time and I made up shooting songs that I sang to soothe them during these difficult trip moments. I know it is anecdotal, but maybe it will encourage someone to know that my kids are all grown now w/happy memories of driving all over the country & Eastern Canada, including funny memories of the splattered milk on the ceiling of one old car(from the child who was learning how to use a straw…) and all the baby car sick moments thru different mountain drives. None of my 3 express any horror or misunderstanding of the few times someone cried in the car. They are only positive about all of our travel opportunities and very understanding & non-judgmental of crying babies and willing to lend a hand to soothe them.

        1. I view the car crying as one of the reasons why I want my children to know that I will always respond to them when I can. I’m glad that your kids are grown now and that they don’t have miserable memories of car rides! My older two do just fine now that they can really play with each other, but they haaaaaaated the car as infants.

          I mostly use public transportation and walk, so the car rides are not very frequent and mostly happen on weekends, it’s rough to know “She just wants to be held” but at the same time understand that right then is not the time to stop for two hours. It really runs against my parenting and I wish I had better ways to deal!

  3. It is soooo refreshing to know that I’m not the only one who believes that cries are communication, not complaints. Thank you for reaffirming that.

    1. There are many of us. :) It’s always good to meet another person in the ‘tribe’. We are often raised living and breathing a culture that says children are terrible manipulative things and that feelings are manipulation. I went for a while with my oldest where I had to remind myself “This is not an indictment of me. He is crying because he is upset. He is upset… NOT upset with me. Upset. Period. And he is less upset in my arms than he is otherwise.” It was hard because at that time I was very stressed out and everyone was judging me for EVERYTHING and I found a lot of peace and happiness in responding to my baby and being there with him even during his hard witching hours.

  4. wow. I just love your writing. so powerful. what an amazing mama you are. we want so so much for our little ones, don’t we. blessed by this tonight. thank you.

  5. Hd a terrible time once in the car ride and learned our lesson, the next time he started and it was obvious that he wasn’t gonna take 9 hiurs of this I took him back home on a plane, our first plane ride and it sure was an adventure at the last minute witout my husband and on top of that I forgot my cell in te car :-) we have been avoiding the car since then, he is four and a half months now and my hubby wants to try again. I just don’t want to stress him unnecessarily and refuse it.. He doesn’t even like his stroller and hates the car seat..

    1. It seems like yesterday that we gave birth to our first daughter… and equally so for our next daughter and then our son. Our oldest daughter is now 30, and our others are grown as well. We trusted our hearts and gave birth to our girls in home births. They slept with us in our bed. We used cloth diapers. We never gave them formula. We did it because that’s what we believed in.
      (I eventually realized that all of their friends who wore Pampers and had Koolaid in their bottles were probably equally as well adjusted as them, however we would not have done it differently!)

      Parenting is not easy. You get a lot of stern advice from relatives and friends, and rude comments on your parenting from complete strangers. THERE IS NO BOOK that really helps this… It is your heart and what just feels right to you. Raising our kids was not always easy… (I remember asking myself, “Was it something I did?.. Was it something I said? Was it something I DIDN’T say.)

      I am not saying I was the best mother… I think of all of the times I was tired and just had enough. But I also remember that their dad and I always tried our best, and I know that they always knew that we loved them (and still do) despite the pain they were going through at the time. (Call me when they become teenagers. I won’t be able to change anything, but I can listen.) And it wasn’t always roses… If I told you what we have been through, you would think I was making it up.

      The true “test” is seeing who they become… honest, caring, hard-working and humorous young adults that I am so overwhelmingly happy to spend time with. They all are so different from eachother, yet each so special in their own way. I love them all for different reasons… yet I love them all equally. And I am never so happy as when we are all here under one roof at the same time. I know this sounds so trite, but time really does go by so

      I guess what I am saying is to continue to do what you feel is best… You are doing a great job, all of you!

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