This is my son. This is my son
eating playing with his food. I gave him some small bits of banana, and like always, they ended up nowhere near his mouth, smeared all over his tray and the floor.
Had I followed the advice of most parenting books, he should be eating by now. We would've started with rice cereal and progressed from there. But because of my gluten intolerance and the likelihood that he will have trouble digesting grains, we're going a different route: starting with bananas, avocado, and sweet potato. He seems interested in all of them, but as soon as they touch his tongue, he grimaces and gags it out. He's still 100% breastfed and (obviously) growing well, so I'm not worried a bit that he's only had 3 tablespoons of food in his entire life. But I wish you could see the concerned faces of many a fellow mother when I tell them that he's almost 8 months old and hasn't had rice cereal.
It isn't just about food. Young and old mothers alike have opinions when it comes to diapering and sleeping and disciplining and the like. If you're a new mom, this isn't news to you. You've probably been bombarded by advice laced with good intentions, but it still leaves you feeling like you aren't doing things quite right. But did you know there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to mothering a child? That's the sweet lesson I'm learning these days: there's so much grace. There's a mother's God-given intuition. There's a lot of prayer. For believers, there's the Holy Spirit who guides us in how to parent our children. Not our neighbor's children or our sister's children or children in the nursery at church.
When I read Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel a few months ago, there was one insight that has freed me in parenting more than any other. Proverbs 22:6 is often quoted in regards to parenting, and rightly so: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." This verse is often applied to say, "Teach your children about God, pray with them, and make sure they never miss a Sunday at church... and when they are older, they will know God, pray, and never miss a Sunday at church." But that, according to Dr. Kimmel, is not what the verse actually means.
In the original Hebrew, that verse can be more accurately (and much more richly) translated, "Train up a child in the way he is going" or "according to his unique inner bent." In other words, listen to your child. Know the uniqueness of your child. Appreciate that he has been preciously, divinely created by God to be one of a kind - and that he should be parented that way. Trust that God didn't make a mistake when He created your child to like certain things or behave in certain ways.
That thought has been more freeing in my 7-month journey as a mom than any other. Liam is unique. Precious. And while I could easily get frustrated when other moms question why he isn't eating rice cereal (I write that and think - aren't there bigger fish to fry?!), I choose to love Liam deeply for who God created him to be. I commit to him to try not to compare him with other children - even other children of my own. And I believe that if he knows full well that he is loved for who God created him to be, I have mothered him well.