As we journey through our lives, from beginning to end, the level of control we can exert would probably resemble a bell curve for most people. At one end of the scale is my little girl – now 6 months old. As she wriggles and shuffles, holds objects and moves them to her mouth, she is starting to truly experience the joy of having control over her physical being. Her desire for independence seems to grow daily.
At the other end of the scale is my disabled Grandmother, who needs round the clock care. Although she understands the limits of her physical condition, she has a fiery spirit and an unbreakable determination to grip on to what remnants of control she has left. Unfortunately for my parents, this translates as her constantly firing (or refusing to hire) her carers for the most tenuous of reasons. Examples include “she has once worked in Greece”; “she used to be a nurse. Nurses spend their time sleeping with Doctors”; “she was too nervous” (err, I wonder why..); “anyone under 65 will be too busy thinking about love”. Perhaps her standards are so exacting because really, her ideal carer would be herself. Although even she wouldn’t meet her own criteria, as an ex-teacher and therefore “too intelligent”.
When we become parents we teeter at the top of the curve. Not only do we enjoy full control over our own lives, but also can wield as much control as we choose over our little dependents. As a loose parenting philosophy, I aim to apply control sparingly – as little as is necessary to provide a safe and comfortable environment for my baby and those around her.
The first real test of this has come now that my Daughter is old enough to have food. The concept of Baby Led Weaning is that from 6 months babies are able to eat real food, and feed themselves – thus affording them full control over their own weaning process. As well as the autonomy this offers to babies, it also means no money or time wasted creating various purees – winner!
I’m pleased to report the process is going well so far. She has been munching on the best fruit and veg Bulgaria has to offer, plus toast, yoghurt, chicken and various other things. She isn’t swallowing much, but at this stage she doesn’t need to. As a parent it can be really tough to let go of the reins. I have to control my own sense of panic when she quite literally bites off more than she can chew. But then watching how she carefully and deliberately moves the piece in her mouth until it inevitably comes out is a magical thing indeed.
It’s early days, but I love how quickly BLW is developing her curiosity around food, and her sense of self-sufficiency. I loaded a spoon with yoghurt and held it right in front of her mouth – so she could easily have sucked yoghurt from the spoon as I held it for her. Instead she deliberately took hold of the spoon herself before putting it in her mouth as I let go. Setting the tone for the years to come, I had to trust in my child, and just let go.