Thursday, May 10, 2012

Journey to weaning

Rather, I have stilled my soul, 
     hushed it like a weaned child. 
Like a weaned child on it's mother's lap, 
     so is my soul within me. 
             Psalm 131 vs. 2

About three weeks ago, Caroline greeted me at the top of the stairs. "I'm ready to wean, Mommy!"

I was a little taken aback, and responded with a non-committal "Well, ok." After all, she and I had been chatting about weaning for a few weeks and she hadn't shown a lot of interest in stopping. I admit I didn't really take her seriously.

But she was serious.

The next day, she bumped her head and crawled on my lap, asking to nurse. I asked if she was sure, since she'd told me the day before she'd wanted to wean. "Oh, yeah!" she said, and hopped off my lap to go about her business.

And that was it. She was weaned.

My perspective on weaning with this second child was of course colored by my experience with the first. When I found out I was pregnant with Caroline, I took a wait-and-see approach with Sam. I'd just follow his lead, and if I felt like I could still fulfill what felt like still a real need for him, I would. If that changed, we'd revisit. One thing I've learned with parenting is that nothing is forever, whether you want it to be or earnestly wish it would go away as soon as possible.

So, Sam nursed throughout my pregnancy. He nursed after Caroline was born. When it became apparent that I'd be tandem nursing, I told myself that I could commit to this for a year, and after that if he needed some nudging I'd provide it.

A year passed. He needed nudging.

That nudging was provided in the form of a weaning party, and a "big boy present" - a new bike. We talked a lot about how when you outgrow things, you also grow into things - new responsibilities and privileges. This took root with him, and we celebrated his "Big Boy Day" about a month later. We invited some friends who were in on the reason for the party, and had a grand time a Chuck E. Cheese.

Which brings me to the girl at the top of the stairs. Maybe you understand now why I was so taken aback. No back-and-forth, no carrot-dangling, just a discussion about weaning and a decision, completely on her own and in her own time, to stop.

And three weeks later, she is totally at peace with her decision. She sits on my lap, no stray hand wandering to its former place of comfort, no whining or pulling at my shirt. She is just completely content.

Two very different kids, two very different paths to weaning. And they both reflect each kid so perfectly. Restless, high-need Sam who always needs me so much more than I think I'm willing or able to give. Sweetly stubborn Caroline who, although thoughtful and careful, makes her mind up about something and sticks with it.

I can't say I have no regrets about how things played out with each kid. With Sam, I think upon reflection that I could have let him lead a bit more. With Caroline, I wish I had more solid memories of the last time I nursed her, since I didn't have any warning.

But that's just the way it is. We don't always get an engraved invitation to "lasts." We don't always see the complete path before us when we begin. That's only for God to know. I won't get warnings about these things in the future either, which I will be wise to remember.

And here I am, for the first time in seven years completely unattached bodily to a child. The hormones have certainly been a real kick - laughing one minute, weepy the next. This is a big change for me, too. But old needs are replaced by new ones. They might not need to nurse anymore, but they still have needs that are fulfilled solely by me. They'll continue to have those as long as we are both still on this earth. And it will be my job as long as I'm around to continually balance those needs with everyone else's and my own.

In a way, nursing and weaning provided the training ground for this life-long balancing act, and I'm grateful for it. Ideally, they will always be able to count on me as a lap to sit on, both literally and figuratively, where they can be content, stilled and hushed.

Weaning is just the beginning.