Friday, August 30, 2013

The Over-Zealous Plans of an Inexperienced Mother, or, Notes to My Unborn Baby: 7 Quick Takes (Volume II)


"Stop kicking.
Mommy's on the
In about two months, our baby is expected to join us out here where it is much harder to kick mommy’s bladder. It gives me a strange feeling to think about holding baby. The thought is a good one, full of wonder, yet it carries the kind of awe that is tinged with fear. A baby. We have a baby, and before long we will hold and feed and raise it.   

I hope we do a good job. We have lots of excellent ideas about child-raising, but what if we forget them in the heat of the moment? I am going to record some of them here. That way, if anyone sees me doing something awful as a mother, you can send me a message with a link to this post. Or maybe you will have written a much better post of your own and can send that.


Dear Baby,

I want to remember to talk to you a lot. I don’t do it yet because I can’t make eye-contact with you.

Looking at the babies and little children around me, I’ve noticed that babies seem much more engaged with the world if their mothers are always pointing it out. They seem to learn English faster if people say things like, “Look, there’s the red car! Do you see the red car? It’s a red car!” A baby who knows English has alternatives to screaming.

I’ve also noticed that babies seem calmer and more relaxed if their mothers’ narration conveys a cheerful attitude toward life. “Uh oh! That’s OK,” I’ll say. “We just need to pick it up! Help Mommy pick up her toast.”  You will probably always understand a little more than I think you do.

On the other hand, I’ll try not to be too obnoxious about it. Sometimes I’ll shut up and let you talk or just observe the world. I’ll try not to be like that lady at the book sale who chattered to her baby the entire time she was browsing—and told baby all about the ideological flaws in all the books. “Oh, this doesn’t look like a nice book! This book is about war, and we don’t like war. War is terrible. You wouldn’t like this book.”

I might tell you too much about Jane Austen, though.


I want to remember that you are capable of more than I think. As you grow, I want to consciously teach you how to behave well, be happy, and show respect for things and people instead of just waiting until you can speak and reason. It’s going to be a lot harder if I wait. Being a baby may make it natural for you to pull my hair, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t actively teach you not to.

You can learn respect by learning to obey “No, don’t touch,” and, “Gentle with the kitty.” That means I won’t completely child-proof my house. You can play with most of the stuff within your reach, but there will be a few things around to teach you respect. Those things will NOT be my china tea cups or anything so valuable that I’m not prepared to sacrifice it to the good of child-training.

I’ve seen parents who say, “Give that to Mama, please,” and who are able to gently retrieve an item without their baby fussing. I think this is because the baby is accustomed to obedience and is also treated with so much respect that he doesn’t feel threatened by his parents’ decision to refuse him the pleasure of eating the table ornament. Hopefully this theory stands the test of you.


Let's not devolve into this, OK?
(Image from HERE).
I know that my personality leads me to want to please everyone, and I want to make sure I don’t let my personality run away with me while I’m mothering you. I want to try to decide ahead of time what I will allow and what I won’t, so that I can provide firm boundaries without too many rules. When I say, “No,” I want it to mean something definitive. That way we won’t have to exhaust ourselves with needless negotiations and unpleasantness. Because I would probably give in. That wouldn’t work out well for either of us, in the long run.


I hope it’s OK if you don’t have Sophie, the teething giraffe. Apparently all the other babies do (I know this from facebook pictures).

(Apparently, everyone wants Sophie.)


I’m a little worried about what you will do at night. I read some books that talked about infant sleep, and they all contained cautionary anecdotes that indicate I’m going to ruin your life no matter what I do. Dr. Sears’ anecdote says that if I let you cry it out, you won’t trust me anymore, and because we will grow distant, I’ll start leaving you behind while I go on weekend and then week-long trips. Actually, I don’t think that will happen, because I can’t imagine pumping a week’s worth of breast milk.

The sleep people say that if I don’t let you cry it out so that you sleep through the night, you will develop ADD or ADHD or otherwise be miserable. The Dr. Ezzo stuff goes farther and says that you will turn into an obnoxious brat who will cause your father and me to divorce. Don’t worry, we won’t do that even if you are a brat.

Here’s my theory: I realize that when you cry at night, you are communicating with me. That’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t ever answer your communication with “No, dear, go to sleep.” Hopefully I can pick the right developmental stage to do this in.


There is one thing that I am not worried about at all. It’s an amazing thing that I can’t possibly mess up. We are going to take you to church to receive the washing of Holy Baptism. Through this Sacrament you will receive life. As the Small Catechism explains,

How can water do such great things?

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

This is why we can dare to be your parents. Even if we do forget our good resolutions and carefully formulated child-raising philosophies (and I guess we will, sometimes), we can turn to God’s grace and forgiveness. We can’t save you, but He can. 



  1. The most important thing to remember about parenting is that your kid isn't the kid in the book and you aren't the mom in the book. You need to work out your own relationship based on love, trust and the needs of both of you.

    1. This is something that I had to learn as a teacher, too-- I couldn't always use other people's brilliant techniques, because they just didn't work for my personality. It's a good reminder that the same principle applies to parenting!

  2. We didn't have a Sophie giraffe. (even though I wanted one because it's so cute) Have you seen the price tag on those? And Della popped out most of her teeth, including molars, in a 2 month span. We survived just fine without the mythical soothing giraffe.

    1. Teeth in two months sounds intense! Did it make life hard for her/you?

      Good to know I'll be fine without the giraffe. :-)

  3. We have 2 Sophies (long story), and they've only held the interest of my girls for approximately 7 minutes.

    1. Maybe Sophie isn't mythical after all, then-- just plastic.

  4. Sophie is cute, but my daughter prefers plastic spoons. ;) And the whole "your baby is not the book baby"-- YES. The most important thing is to pay attention to YOUR child and give YOUR child what he/she needs. Maybe that is lots of cuddle time. Maybe that is a little bit o' crying. Time will tell! You're the mama.

  5. I remember feeling like a bad mother for never really talking to Clarence while I was pregnant. Each time I tried I would get too emotional. My husband was talking to and teaching him from the very beginning (and yes, it made me cry every time). I felt like I was supposed to have the same kind of connection as Aaron did. I felt like I was denying that there was life inside of me by not being able to talk to him--which is silly because I was feeling him kick all the time. To be honest, during the pregnancy I just assumed Clarence could read my mind, so I talked to him that way. :)
    When Clarence was born and the doctor put him on my chest, all chubby purple and crying, I just naturally began talking to him and comforting him. My husband was the one without words then.
    Even though your baby won't be able to respond to your words, he (or she?) will be so fascinated by the world that you will have no problem being excited with them.

    There is SOMETHING about that Sophie giraffe that babies love. Clarence just got one from a friend and it fits so nicely in his little hand. :)

    I'm so excited for you and all the wonderful things you have ahead of you in motherhood. God keep you!

  6. P.S. About sleeping...yeah. You will hear every single piece of conflicting advice out there. My advice (not that you asked) is Do What Works For You and Your Offspring. Try all sorts of things, or don't. You're not going to knowingly put your child in danger, and your instincts really will kick in. Realize that if you glean ideas from two sources that contradict each other, it's okay, as long as it works.
    And believe me, it won't work for very long and you'll be able to try something new!

    Now, since I know you're always hearing about how difficult and awful baby sleep is, I want to say this. A little babe drifting to sleep in your arms is the most wonderful thing in the world. Even when you are dead tired, enjoy how they feel in your arms, calm, happy, and safe.

    1. Kezia,

      Thanks! That's very encouraging. I'm looking forward to the sleeping baby scenario that you describe. :-)

  7. My oldest is only 4 years old, but already I've come to a startling and humbling realization: I will not parent my children correctly. I will screw it up. I will screw it up on two levels.

    (1) I will not live up to my own parenting expectations. As a depraved sinner, I will not do what I know I ought. I will fail to do that which I strive to do.

    (2) Even if I COULD somehow always do what I know to do, what I "know to do" will be wrong (!!!). This is, for me, the most humbling aspect of parenting. What I think is correct will very often be wrong. The ideal I envision is not ideal.

    Talk about opening my eyes to my own condition! In parenting, I see tangibly, personally, and constantly how I directly lead to the pain and suffering of another. What's worse, that "another" is my own child. Self-deception has been replaced by stark reality: my parenting will cause harm to my children that would not have been, would I have parented differently. Oh the depths of sin!

    At first this was distressing and even depressing. But, after careful consideration, I've come to see it as clarifying and calming. Nothing--nothing!--is ultimately up to me. If what I know to do is correct, it is by the grace of God. If I am able then to do it, it is by the grace of God. If my children in the end seek to glorify God and enjoy him forever, that, guaranteed, is by the grace of God. There is no place for boasting. At the core, my children are not in my hands, but God's.

    Will I try to always be discerning what I ought to be doing? Of course! Will I continue to parent as best I know how? Certainly! I will do everything I can to be the best father possible, but throughout all, the hope for my children is not in their father by blood, but in their Father, by Spirit, through Christ.

    May God use my successes and failures to bring about his purposes. May the Holy Spirit grant me peace in those purposes and wisdom in seeking his will. May I truly trust in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins--especially when those sins have so great an impact on my children.

  8. Wesley,

    Thanks for this comment. It's funny how the most "discouraging" truths are actually encouraging-- or, at least, the truths that help one find peace.

    I guess it's because they are true!

  9. Just found your blog today. Speaking as a Lutheran pastor, I'm very happy to see The Small Catechism being quoted but I'm even happier to see it being taken seriously & also baptism being seen as the great gift, treasure, & blessing that it is. Blessings to you & your husband & your little one.

  10. Your blog is delightful, thoughtful and inspiring.
    Ashley (yes, the one who wrote you letters :))

    1. Thanks, Ashley! I AM planning to write back-- I'm afraid I'm a rather unreliable correspondent!


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