Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Parenting is not easy. It has been one of the steepest learning curves I have ever experienced. I cannot tell you all of the sleepless nights I have spent reading up on the next stage of development, what to expect in terms of growth spurts, times of transition, sleep challenges, and so on. One helpful tip about finding your parenting flow has helped countless parents and families learn to find balance and understand a bit more about their child.
For those of you who have read the Whole-Brained Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, you will know this analogy. Daniel describes this peaceful river that you are floating down in a canoe. On one bank is chaos, lack of control, and lack of predictability. The other is rigidity, structure, and inflexibility. The goal is to stay in the middle of the river to have some semblance of balance. While you may veer off to one bank or the other at any given time, you can bring yourself back to the gentle flow in the middle.
What does this look like? It is basically being able to have a routine, rough plans for the day, something predictable your children can learn to expect and roll with. Yet, when things happen that shift your routines (i.e. changes in nap schedules, growth spurts, teething, etc.) you are still able to go with the flow and be flexible. Let's use the example of a little one experiencing teething. This may mean your little one is a bit more irritable (teething is painful) and in need of more cuddles, more carrying, and more comfort than usual.
Rather than being frustrated that your baby is being fussy right when you are trying to cook diner, instead find ways to be flexible (go with the flow). Try carrying your baby. Ask a friend/relative to help with dinner (if possible). Or have some pre-made food ready in the freezer to just pop in the oven for when your baby is teething. Then you can focus your energy, attention, and affection on your baby when they need it!
This is easier said than done! Sometimes it takes a second to step out of the reactive mindset. (This can be hard to to at times, especially when your typically happy baby has spent the day screaming/crying). It is important to step back and think about the "why" behind their behaviour. This is how you can find your parenting flow.
The really neat part about this river/canoe analogy, is that our kids are floating down the same river "in their own little canoes" (See Whole-Brained Child). The most challenging experiences for us as parents are often when our kids are veering off to one bank or another. The teething meltdown? A child is in pain and feeling out of control of their own body. Life right now is scary and painful - chaotic. They are searching for sense of stability/control and they are looking for you to help them with that.
Don't get me wrong, this is not the magic fix-all parenting tool. But it is a great mindset to have when you experience challenges in your adventures of parenting.
I wish you all happy paddling!