One of the greatest disadvantages I see in modern-day childhood is that children are often exposed only to a limited set of adults along with children roughly their own age. I think there is a great deal to learn from mixed-age and mixed-generation interactions. I also think that there is a special benefit for children who get to spend time with babies. After all, exposure to babies in the UK has been shown to reduce bullying and aggression in schools. Babies are excellent teachers of patience, love, and acceptance.
We don’t have a baby in our house at the moment, so the kids and I especially love it when friends with babies come to visit. Johnny especially adores babies – I have seen him spend hours building towers, just so that a 9-month-old baby can knock them down over and over. My kids don’t typically get to hold the babies who visit, but baby R’s mom is a good friend, and she offered them the chance to hold him gently with help.
Parenting came easily to me, in part because I had six younger siblings – the youngest arriving shortly before my fifteenth birthday. Three older siblings, too. I still face parenting challenges. But I had spent years holding and caring for babies before I held my own, and a large family one phone call (and, in a couple cases, a car ride) away. I have it easy.
I remember watching a dear friend struggle to adapt to motherhood. Her baby was the first infant she had ever held, and she was recovering from an extraordinarily difficult delivery. She persevered, and is a spectacular mother. I can’t help but wonder how much easier her journey would have been if she had entered motherhood knowing that newborns don’t sleep and wake on demand, familiar with the feel of a baby in her arms. What if, instead of resorting to a few trusted friends and medical doctors for help, she had been surrounded by a village of helpers?
What were your first weeks as a parent like? Did you feel prepared when you held a child of your own for the first time?