Marco! Polo! Nuzzle, nuzzle, nuzzle.
In my former life of college admissions, I frequently had the opportunity to wear my safari jacket, channel my inner anthropologist and observe parenting styles. In my current life as resident vagabond (an oxymoron to be sure) and yog-er, I have similar opportunities as an amateur wildlife biologist.
My unsubstantiated hypothesis based on these observations is: the spectrum of parenting styles in the human world is much wider than that found in the animal kingdom AND that we can use this to our advantage.
Non-Animal Parenting Styles
You are likely familiar with the phrase "helicopter parent" are you not? It means a parent that circles their child's head, protects them from any possible harm, infection, insult, abrasion, or dirty look, twarting foes and admission professionals alike. It isn't what you would call a compliment. But it is exactly the kind of parent you need to be for the first many months of your child's life. The problem? Some people get stuck in helicopter land and never branch out to the various other styles of mothering. If the child willingly accepts this relationship (and why wouldn't you?!), it can be hard to stop hovering.
The opposite of the helicopter is the absent parent. This parent responds to nothing, does not reach out to the child, and is as involved as a rock. I recommend against this style of parenting during the first several months of your child's life, but as odd as it may seem, this style of parenting also needs to be part of your deck. It will come in very handy when said child does something attention seeking that is completely inappropriate. Stone-faced-mama is a rarely used but effective persona.
Let me first clarify that I KNOW not all animals are great parents, nor do all animals from the same species have the same personality. However, there are great parents in all species and what matters most is that you are able to utilize different styles when they are appropriate and stick them into your bag of tricks when they are not.
Bear Mama The bear mamas I have met are all excellent mothers. They keep their babies close and nap frequently (although not in public). They play with their babies and in playing, they teach them how to fend for themselves.
Moments to channel bear mama? Learning to roll over. Get frustrated, try again. Play with mama. Peek-a-boo. Co-nap time.
Mountain Lion MamaI've only seen evidence of these around my home and have never met one in person, but the characteristic I associate most based on the years of nature videos I watched as a child is picking battles. Cats of all types seem to enjoy lounging around as their little ones play (multiparous mamas that they are), and they don't get involved or upset until someone crosses the line. When they do, mama addresses the problem immediately, with authority, and then moves along.
Moments to channel mountain lion mama? Supervised but not involved play time, discipline.
Bird Mama The closest to "helicopters" that exist in the animal world, bird mamas respond to each and every call for food... by vomiting into their babies' mouths. This visual might make you laugh the next time your infant rings the dinner bell.
Moments to channel bird mama? Any time baby is sick, injured, or has just received vaccinations.
Deer Mama My favorite of the mamas are the deer mamas, who appear to be excellent at setting and asserting boundaries. The photo above is a sweet moment that this mama and baby got together after several minutes of grazing on opposite sides of the fence behind them. Occasionally mama would vocalize (something deer don't otherwise do unless mating) in an ancient Marco Polo-esque serenade with her baby. "I'm eating on this side of the fence, what are you doing?" "I'm eating on this side of the fence." Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Moments to channel deer mama? Most of the time. I know where you are, you know where I am. Sometimes we do different things in the same place. Sometimes we nuzzle noses. Sometimes we play Marco Polo.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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