I'll confess. I was in the let's-never-let-the-baby-be-unhappy camp during my children's early years. You know the kind of mother of which I speak. The one who doesn't pass around her newborn. The one with the crib doubling as a hamper because no human creature has ever managed to remain in there for more than three minutes. The one nursing her toddler in the grocery store--while she's pushing the cart.
This strategy, I must say, honestly worked well for me. I was stretched and tired and worn out at times, but leaning into what my kids needed made me personally as a mom really happy. I was glad for the extreme measures and felt a kind of satisfaction to be going the extra mile. Call it sick, I know, but it was the right decision for me.
And for many years, it was absolutely the right decision for my kids. Except, of course, when it wasn't. My kids spent their baby and toddler years eating when they were hungry, sleeping when they were tired and playing to their hearts content. This was all fine and good until it was time for Madeleine to go to school. And then. Oh dear. Our follow-your-bliss do-what-you-want-when-you-want-to plan wasn't going to work at all.
Because school has a start time. And a lunch time. And a lesson time, complete with learning stations that changed every twenty minutes. Which turned out to be way too short for my (then) tv-free kids who had figured out how to do the one thing they loved for at least one hour at a time, preferably two. It took me one whole year of kindergarten to get bedtime down and then a whole other horrific year in first grade to realize she needed to go a different school altogether.
School has been the one glitch in my follow-your-bliss parenting strategy. I've adjusted by working on bedtime routines, figuring out how to get out the door in the morning and how to get homework done at night. So far, so good, for the most part. It's only taken five years.
Now we have much more serious decisions on the table as the kids get older and we need to decide which schools are best for them as they outgrow our cozy neighborhood schools. What would make them happy right now might limit their opportunities a few years down the road--because inside the Beltway where we live, the invitation to this or that track of education starts early. Following their bliss may naturally exclude a host of experiences that might open new avenues of interest that will delight them--even more than they can imagine right now as they change and grow.
This puts me in a delicate spot as a parent. Do I demand that they go to schools they might not truly want to go--in the spirit of hope in new experiences? Do I relent and continue to allow them to follow their natural inclinations--a deeper lesson in following their hearts--and risk another kind of missing out?
I think for me it comes down to trust. Do I trust my instincts about this child enough to follow my own intuition? Do I trust my tween to know her own mind well enough to make a reasonable choice? Especially after eleven years in the follow-your-bliss incubator?
These parenting decisions reflect our basic outlook on life, work, joy, fulfillment and responsibility, so snap decisions or quick edicts won't do. It's only when we have insight into why we're doing what we're doing that we can feel solid and brave in our choices as parents, even if we're not entirely sure. That's where I am this morning, and this is what I'm trying to do.