Intentional. Now, read the word again and say it to yourself softly, intentional. It has such a nice ring to it, evoking other adjectives like thoughtful, meaningful and wise. People write books about intentional parenting, build intentional communities, commit to intentional simplicity and label bookshelves with intentional living. These ideas and movements are lovely and admirable; I’ve often used the phrases myself. But, there are times when I want to throw my hands up in the air because of the word, and wipe the smug out of anyone who puts on intentional airs.
I hope I can convince you my feelings do not stem from an immature sullen attitude but, rather, from my experience as an eight-year old parent. Judging by the books I have read I should be the most organized,calmest, craftiest, deeply spiritual, baby-whisperer of a mom you’ve ever met. The fact is I am not. I am bumbling along on this path of motherhood hoping something turns out right; not unlike my friend, whose teenage daughter ran away this weekend, or my neighbour, whose son doesn’t want anything to do with her.
Perhaps I mistakenly equate “intentional” with “having it all figured out”, and I know for certain I don’t have it all figured out. Not when it comes to parenting. (I admit, my husband would be surprised to hear that one!). Our bed time saga with Susanna is a perfect example.
Neither of my daughters was a “good sleeper” as an infant. Somehow, I expected we would simply soldier through the baby phase and then be home-free after toddlerhood. Unfortunately my theory proved untrue. From the 38 nights of letting Susanna “cry it out” when she was nine months old (my grandpa insisted it would only take three–I broke down on night #39 and let her nurse) to the frustrating evenings laced with foot stamping, cajoling, threats, shouts, and desperate pleas to GO TO SLEEP, we couldn’t seem to find a solution for our little Susannie.
Then, only a few weeks ago, it came to us. You might think the answer to our problem was very complicated, considering it took us six painful years to arrive at it, but it’s not. It is embarrassingly simple.
We lie down with her. And, here’s the clincher–we stay this way until she falls asleep. We face each other, my head touching hers, our hair swirling together on the pillow. My cheeks, only inches away from hers, feel her warm breath, and my hand lies heavy over her rib cage, just the way she likes it. And, low and behold, the child falls asleep… within minute(s)!
Yes, I know. All of you co-sleepers out there are rolling your eyeballs and muttering, “Well, it’s about time,” but please understand: I can barely tolerate sleeping with my husband. Introducing our children into our bed was never a consideration, even for logistical reasons. And besides, this isn’t really a discussion about whether or not we should practice attachment parenting. The point is, it took us six long years to figure out our little trick.
And so, I’m willing to make a concession regarding the whole business of being intentional. It may be just a question of semantics, but the only label I’m willing to identify with is “intentional learner”. And, hopefully in the next six years I learn something more about how to parent my little girl.