It’s so easy to go with the flow, to do what everyone else is doing, to follow the latest advice and listen to the ‘experts.’ What’s harder is questioning commonly-held assumptions, making up your own mind and taking responsibility for your decisions. When swimming against the tide it can sometimes feel like it would be easier to let the waves wash over you and let the tide take you away.
In the 1970s when my mother had a three year old son and a newborn baby, the advice from most paediatricians was to introduce solid food when your baby was 2 weeks old. So when I was two weeks my mother dutifully gave me solid foods, the way her doctor had instructed her. How, you might ask, did she actually administer these cereals? Well, I can only guess that they were thinned and spooned into my mouth. Soon enough I turned into a very unhappy baby and my mother found that giving me solid foods at such a tender age simply didn’t agree with me or with her. She found another paediatrician, one who was willing to go against the grain, who suggested that she cease giving me solid foods and only let me have them when I could pull them off the table myself! And so at the age of 2+ weeks old, I was already furrowing my own path and rejoicing in my individuality, thanks to my mother’s intuition and strength.
I can well remember the pride in my mother’s voice when she told me this story. I don’t know the names of the doctors involved or the reasons for the advice she was given. What I do know is that my mother was strong enough to follow my lead and listen to her own instincts. Rather than slavishly following the advice from her doctor, she considered my needs first. Rather than forcing us both down a path that didn’t suit us, she was willing to stand up for me and choose something different.
When my children are in their thirties, I want them to feel the same way about me as I feel about my mother. I want them to imagine me as a young mother. I want them to consider the pressures that society places on me and I want them to feel the same admiration for me that I feel for my own mother when I think about this story.
While it can help to consult ‘experts,’ books and friends, the only person who will be held to account for the decisions I make is me. Being willing to look to my child and to make decisions based on my own instincts and values– to take the advice that suits us and leave behind the rest– this takes courage. There have been plenty of times I have listened to others rather than my own heart, and come to regret it. But as time goes on, I feel more able to do what’s best for my family, regardless of the opinions of others. One day when my children are older I hope that I will have taught them that swimming against the tide doesn’t mean that you have to drown– it just makes you a stronger swimmer.
Photo credit: Nevit Dilman, Wikimedia Commons.