The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned

James just turned 13 months old, so naturally I consider myself a newly minted expert on all things related to parenting. But seriously, there is one thing I’ve recently realized that I think will be really helpful to new parents. Get your notebooks out—Your child will do things when they’re ready.

I know that’s incredibly obvious. But if you really accept it as truth, it removes so much anxiety. For the first 12+ months of his life, James would not nap by himself. (link to blog post where we talked about his sleep). Initially, he would only sleep in our arms and then he started to sleep on his own at night, but still needed to be held for naps.

We had tried every suggested strategy and spent so much time trying to figure out a way to put him down for a nap, but the best we ever got would be a short 20-30 minute nap and then a very grumpy and tired baby. It was maddening and stressful on all of us. But this past week, while holding him for his nap he would be tired but start kicking like he didn’t want to be held. So I’d set him down in his crib and he happily went to sleep for over an hour. He has done it for both naps each day for a week. He just wasn’t ready to nap alone, and now he is.

This has been the case for so many things. We spent a few days trying to give him a sippy cup and it was another kind of messy, awkward ordeal where he would either be having a blast spouting water ev-er-y-where, waterboarding himself, or getting frustrated and cry. So we gave up for a while. And then when we tried again, he miraculously knew how to do it. Now I’m sure the previous experience helped him a little, but the truth is I just don’t think he was ready, either physically or intellectually to figure it out. But once he was, it was a cinch.

It can be frustrating when you google milestones or behavioral quirks and read about other babies who are composing symphonies, writing novels, and deadlifting 400 pounds at 10 months. The reality is babies develop at different rates and the range of normal development and behavior is huge. So let go of the anxiety and just accept that your child will master skills or outgrow undesirable behaviors at their own rate. Something Daniel used to say was “I don’t know any adults who need to be held and rocked to sleep,” meaning that even though it can be a long and bumpy journey to get there, eventually every baby figures out how to sleep on their own.

I’d love to know—have you found this to be true for your child or children?

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