Amalia is going to be a one year old a week from tomorrow. I have no clue how that happened so quickly and I spent way too much time over the weekend weekend thinking about the last year and browsing through old photos, crying like a fool. It also got me thinking about what we’ve done well and not so well this first time around. Anel and I try our best as all new parents do but sometimes our tactics hit the nail on the head and sometimes they miss the mark.
We’ve learned a lot over the last year and I hope that some of my lessons can help you mamas and future mamas out there. Here are some of the ways where we really crushed it… and the ways where we didn’t. Plus some cute photos from the last year that are currently making me cry yet again as I write this!
Our Parenting Wins
Night sleeps: When I tell people that Amalia sleeps from 6:30pm to 7am every night and has done so since she was seven weeks old, they look at me like I have three heads. I know it sounds unbelievable but it’s true! Obviously she has her moments when sick or teething or we’re traveling, but for the most part she’s a great night sleeper. Naps are another story for another day but we always know no matter how happy or cranky or crazy she is during the day, she’ll be asleep by 6:30. And that is a really great win in my book! This was how we got her to sleep through the night and I still swear by Babywise which we started very early on.
While sometimes it sucks that we have to leave BBQs or parties early to get her to bed or to a nap “on schedule”, she doesn’t really ever have epic meltdowns (unless we stray from that plan) which is a win for everyone involved!
Establishing independence: I read in Bringing Up Bébé that French mothers give their babies a few minutes of “alone time” to establish independence from an early age. I remember one day when Amalia was about two weeks old I thought I’d give it a go. I strapped her into the Rock ‘n Play and walked out of the kitchen to leave her for five whole minutes. I was peeking around the corner to watch her the entire time because #firsttimemom and #alloftheanxiety, but she was happy as a clam just sitting there and looking around with her big, curious eyes. The next day I did it again… And I kept repeating it until it became a daily habit.
I wasn’t sure if it was working or not until we took her to a Halloween party when she was three months old. There were probably six other babies around her age, all being held by their moms. Amalia looked around the room and locked eyes with a play mat that was similar to the one she had at home. I knew she wanted to lay on it so I put her down and she was suddenly happy and smiling. I stood up to talk to another mom and she was like what just happened!?
Now that she’s pushing a year, she’s going through a more clingy phase so leaving the room isn’t as easy as it used to be, but if we’re sitting in the same room, she is great at playing on her own or “reading a book” without needing me. Alternately, she also loves to play with us or other kids so it feels like the best of both worlds.
Daycare: Figuring out childcare was quite the process. The cost of a nanny and daycare were pretty similar, but my sister and I were daycare kids and I always knew that I wanted that environment for my kids one day so it was a no brainer for me. But then I started writing about it and got backlash which was shocking to me. After a year of this parenting thing, I’ve realized that people have very strong opinions about things like this so I can let it roll off, but at the time I was heart broken. I second guessed our decision and was worried that it wouldn’t be the best place for my baby girl.
But after six months in daycare, that guilt and second guessing has flown right out the window. She is so happy being around other kids and her fun teachers all day, she learns new things and does all kinds of exciting activities. She’s comfortable around adults and kids and is starting to (kind of) even understand concepts like sharing. Daycare is definitely the best place for her right now, but I know that’s not the case for all kids and families so, as always, I encourage you to go with your gut when thinking about childcare for your own little ones.
The only major downside to daycare is all of the sickness. Everyone tells me that after the first year it gets better and that the kiddos build up their immune system, but since she’s started, it’s been rough. We’ve had everything from Croup to stomach bugs to ear infections, and everything in between.
Reading: Amalia’s love of books is definitely in her genes. Both of my parents were English majors and my mom even writes a book blog! I read every single night before bed, we’re clearly a family of book worms! From day one, I read to Amalia every single day. At the beginning it was a lot of her just staring and falling asleep half the time but I did it daily no matter what. I think it was partly that and partly her family history that has caused her serious interest in reading.
When she wakes up in the morning, the very first thing she does is point to her bookcase. I have to take her straight from the crib to the chair for a morning read. That happens multiple times throughout the day but I try to never say no unless I’m really busy or can’t do it because I want to encourage this habit! I’m hoping that it translates to her nose in a book and her schoolwork one day but who knows. Here is a list of her favorite books for the first six months.
The current list is coming soon but I’ll say now that Jamberry is still her absolute favorite followed by Snuggle Puppy. If I tell her to get either of those she goes to the shelf and picks them right out. Proud mama over here!
Not panicking when she falls: Babies fall and bang into things a lot. When she first started being mobile, I would gasp every time she hurt herself but Anel encouraged me to stay calm in those moments because she would pick up on that energy. Now when she falls over or hits her head, she just sits right back up again and keeps moving without a care in the world. I love that she has learned that lesson from an early age. Obviously there are some time when she really hurts herself and needs hugs and kisses, but when it’s a little bump, I just hold in my gasp and watch her for clues. It really works!
Our Parenting Not So Much Wins
Focusing on the future: I talked about it more in this post last week but Anel and I have been so excited for her to enter each stage of life that I think we sometimes forget to really relish in the current stages. Once we realized that, we tried to really slow down and enjoy each and every day and moment with our baby before she turns into a full blown toddler!
Napping habits: While it’s amazing that she sleeps so well at night and does a great job of napping when we’re at home, we’ve created a situation where it’s hard for her to nap on the go and even at daycare. It takes 20 minutes of crying for her to fall asleep in the car every time without fail and at the beach or on a plane? Forget it! That limits how and when we can do certain things which can be a bummer sometimes. It’s been a challenge with daycare too because she’ll only take one hour long nap on those days and is often fussy by the time bedtime comes around. I’ve come to terms with it, but next time around I’d love to figure out a way to have the best of both worlds… Is that even possible?
Anel and I used to boast that when we became parents our baby would have to fit into our schedule and not the other way around. LOL, good one pre-baby Julia and Anel, good one!
Eating habits: When she first started eating, she would pretty much go for whatever purées I gave her but when we moved to solid foods, she got a little more picky. She was still a pretty good eater though and then a flip switched about a month ago and it’s been tough. I know there’s not a whole lot we can do about that but when it first happened I freaked out and would give her fruit or a pouch or something I knew she loved instead of letting her figure it out on her own.
Now she knows how to play me at dinnertime and she tries hard. At school she eats whatever I pack for her (lunch ideas post coming soon!) but at home it’s a bit of a battle. I’m finally establishing rules and boundaries around eating time like no more feeding the dog until she’s done and no giving in with a pouch instead of dinner. Any feedback or help here would be amazing. I don’t want mealtimes to be a constant stressor for both of us!