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Can’t it just be parenting? June 26, 2012

You have brains in you head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. (from Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss)


You want to know what I’m sick to death of? Parenting debates. Parenting books. Parenting “styles.” Every day there is some article or picture or facebook status or recommended book about “attachment” or some other form of parenting, some new fad or other. And every time I want to say, “Why does it have to be a style? Can’t it just be called parenting?” Before I get very high on my soap box, I should lay down my credentials: I do not have a PhD in neuroscience, have never  written a parenting book, and am not a certified parent educator, pediatrician, or any other kind of expert. My credentials are that I am a parent, I have two parents and two parents-in-law, am married to a parent, and know a lot of parents. Those are my only credentials.

I am the coordinator of a local MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group and we have a diverse bunch of mamas in our number. They are all wonderful. I mean, wonderful. There is one young woman, pretty new to our group, who has a lot of questions about attachment parenting, baby-led weaning, introducing solids, elimination communication, etc. She must be reading parenting books and websites all the time. She doesn’t have to do that. She’s already a good mom. She was practically born that way. That’s my problem with all of these parenting trends and styles. You don’t need a method to follow. You are already a good mom. If you fail at one system, if you never pick up a parenting book in life, you will still be fine. Your children will be fine. That’s what I honestly believe.

I breastfed my son until he was sixteen months old. It was important to me to get to breastfeed and I had a good support system with my mom and my husband so I was successful at getting through the hard part and getting into the really enjoyable part of it. My sister breastfed her son for two months. When she went back to work at six weeks, it was incredibly hard for her to keep it up. She had to pump in a bathroom stall at lunch, her one break during the work day. It was gross and it was hard. Her husband was a genuine abuser who dragged her postpartum emotional state through the mud. She lost way too much weight from stress. She loved her little boy like crazy, eventually left the abuser and became an incredible single mama. How high on the priority ladder do you think breastfeeding was? I would put my son next to hers and dare you to tell me which one was breastfed and which one was formula fed. There’s no way you could tell. Which of us is the better mom? If you answer that question at all I’ll slap you.

One time I saw someone with her baby strapped to her in a wrap. I thought, “That looks handy!” So when someone was getting rid of a similar wrap, I took the hand-me-down and have used it happily. It’s wonderfully convenient even though it’s sometimes really hot. I didn’t know when I accepted the wrap that what I was doing was called “baby wearing” and that it is part of a method called “attachment parenting.” I just thought it was handy. I have since seen articles and interviews with followers of this method that praise the virtues of baby wearing and look right down their noses at moms who instead of wearing their babies, put them in what they call “containers.” Since I’ve been accused of being a baby wearer, rightfully so, I should probably now tell you that if my baby falls asleep in the car seat and I have stuff to do, I have no problem carrying her inside the house in it and setting it down in a cool place until she wakes up. Today I wore her in the wrap for the entire time that I ran errands. But this afternoon she slept in the car seat carrier for an hour. Gosh, I hope she doesn’t grow up unable to trust me and feel safe. We also have a swing and a bouncy seat and a stroller. I’ve actually heard people criticize strollers as “containers” to hold a baby when the mom should be holding the baby. Give me and my back a break.

We have a bassinet in our bedroom for the baby and a crib in the kids’ room down the hall. She’s almost eight weeks old so she’s still sleeping in the bassinet at this stage. I’m not ready to tackle the concept of my three-year-old and my infant sleeping in the same room yet. I know there are a whole slew of sleep methods out there–how you schedule your kids’ sleep, recommended bedtimes, where is ideal for kids to sleep, co-sleeping, etc, etc, etc. Here’s what flies in our house. Our son’s bed time is technically 8:00pm. If he’s in bed by 8:10 we call it a win. If he’s asleep by 8:30 we call it a miracle. He’s almost always asleep by 9:00. I know you’re all shocked and horrified. He goes to bed in his toddler bed, with a lamp on, and after we read stories and pray, my husband has to sweep all the monsters out of the room (my son has a great imagination). The baby usually is asleep enough that I put her in the bassinet around 10:00. Last night she would fall asleep and I would put her down and then ten minutes later she would be awake again over and over and over again. So I finally put her down on her tummy (I know, I know! But we have a movement sensor monitor on the bassinet so get over it) at 11:45pm. She slept until 7:00 this morning. I call that a win. I rolled out of my deep sleep around 6:00am and discovered that my son was sleeping between me and my husband. I don’t know when he came to our bed. I didn’t care. I just rolled over and kept sleeping, too tired to carry him back to his own bed. Sometimes when the baby gets up to eat at 5:00am, I nurse her lying next to me in my bed so I don’t have to wake up too much. Then she stays there until after I get up in the morning because I’m too tired to stand up and take her back to the bassinet. So, it’s kind of like what some people call “co-sleeping.” But I wouldn’t say that we intentionally co-sleep. I would just say that we sleep. Any way we can. Which ever way makes everyone sleep the longest time at a stretch is the way I prefer.

I read an article the other day in which a woman said she would consider putting your kids in front of a television to be child abuse. That kind of made me mad because when I worked in a public school I saw kids who had actually been subjected to child abuse. Television is not child abuse. Call it lazy parenting if you want to, but it’s not abuse. My son is watching Kipper The Dog right now because the baby is asleep and I want him to be quiet. It’s literally 109 degrees in my town today so we’re not going outside to play.We’re staying in and watching a show until she wakes up. He also watches gentle cartoons like that pretty much every morning because I am not a morning person. I throw a bunch of grapes or strawberries on a plate with a slice of bread, shake up a sippy cup of chocolate milk, turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and go back to bed for another half hour at least. Then, if he’s still watching, I take a shower and am ready to be a pretty good mom. If you call that child abuse, we can’t be friends.

We used disposable diapers on my son until he was potty trained earlier this year. For my daughter, we are using cloth diapers. We really like the cloth diapers and we feel like we’re saving money by using them. But we still use disposables at night. I don’t feel like a better mom for using cloth diapers. I just feel like I’m saving some money. I couldn’t care less what anyone else puts on their babies’ butts. That’s a really crappy debate.

I pray for my kids. Not because someone gave me the book The Power Of A Praying Mom but because sometimes parenting is terrifying. I pray for them because I want so much more for them than I could ever, ever give them. I pray for them because I’m exhausted and scared sometimes and I just want to hand it all over to a higher power.

I read to my kids because I like books and I want them to like them too. I don’t have a set number of words I read to them in a day. I just read to them.

I take my son outside to play but not when it’s 109 degrees outside. When it’s 109 degrees outside we don’t even go out for snow cones because we would melt in the line. I’m a weeny about the hot days.

My three-year-old is a picky eater so I kind of rely on Flintstone vitamins to supplement his nutrients. I know the experts say that if you only offer them what you’re eating, they will eventually eat it. But the experts are dead wrong. He will flat out starve himself. Thankfully, he likes fruit and vegetables but he eats a lot of chicken nuggets for protein. At least, I hope there’s some protein in there. And he won’t drink milk without Nesquick powder in it. When I worked in an elementary school there was this one mom who always made these beautiful bento lunches for her kid. I kind of wanted to be like her but really I just get the food on the plate and try to get him to eat it. No fancy preparations.

If I were ever to write a parenting book (which I never ever would), I would call my style “winging it.” Because that’s what I think most everybody is doing anyway. And most of us are doing fine. I honestly think that if you are not an abuser, you are a good parent and the best parent for your own kids. So just relax. You don’t have to follow a method or a trend. You can do whatever you want, whatever makes things go smoothly in your house. It doesn’t have to be this kind of parenting or that. It can just be parenting. And, at least you’re doing it.

Wingin’ it

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15 Responses to “Can’t it just be parenting?”

  1. Shanna Says:

    If I’m ever a mom, I hope I’m awesome like you. 🙂

  2. soosieq Says:

    So true! I love this, Kristi.

  3. ALL of my friends have had children in the last 12 months. It seems all we talk about is parenting and children – so many opinions, questions and experiences. I too sometimes question the various methods some of them use, but after reading your article I realize they are all just as amazing as you sound; they are all just winging it, day by day by day and that’s ok. Thank you.

  4. Liesl Moring Says:

    I totally agree with everything you said. Sounds like you are describing how my husband and I parent. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine too!

  5. Jennifer Says:

    Bravo, great info. for new parents and those parents that find themselves feeling like they don’t measure up. Sometimes we set standards because of the latest research or parenting philosophy that leave us tired and feeling like we must be doing something wrong if our newborn isn’t sleeping through the night like BabyWise says. Parenting is hard, there are no magic tricks, but instead we were given an innate sense of what seems right for our baby and us. There is no one way to parent…thank goodness! Instead we should strive to do our best to help our children grow to be healthy and happy and not completely lose ourself in the process.

    • anonymous Says:

      I agree to an extent… I love the post… but I also think that having the variety of information is really important. Like Jennifer says above, about sleeping through the night… I was stressed to no end when my little guy didn’t sleep through the night because I thought I was doing something wrong. If I hadn’t have gone out, and read some other research on baby sleep, I would never had found Dr. Sear’s book on baby sleep, and I would have continued to feel like a failure. After reading Dr. Sears I finally felt like a success, and I learned that it was OK to nurse my baby to sleep if he wanted… I wasn’t going to create a spoiled brat… So in some ways I agree with what you are saying, but in other ways I think that having the variety of parenting books available is really important. Having access to information is always important so that YOU can make educated decisions that YOU feel good about, instead of just ‘going with the flow’ or ‘winging it’…. does that make sense?

      • Kristi Says:

        Absolutely! Just don’t ever add to the already exhausting job of parenting the stress of feeling that you HAVE TO live up to some label or another. If you tried one method and it didn’t work, it doesn’t mean you did it wrong or are a failure as a parent. You just do what works best for your family, whether you got the idea from a book or a friend or your own intuition and you sure don’t judge another mama for what works best for her family if it’s different from yours.

      • Dez Says:

        I totally agree with you both. “Winging it” is what has worked best for our family, in a sense. I’m not against parenting books. I’ve read plenty. Sometimes finding sound advice, and then in the same book thinking, “Does this really work for anybody? Because I KNOW it’s not right for ours.” I’ve found things in those books that gave me ideas of something to try. All things considered, my conclusion is this: YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S best parent(s). So read all the books, magazines, and blogs you want. But use the information to suit your child and your family (in that order), not as an instruction manual. Listen to every parent who gives you advice from experience, and take from it what you will. Whether it be, “There’s no WAY that will work in our home!” or, “It’s worth a shot…” Experience is our best guide. Be it our own or someone else’s, if you’re loving your kid, they’ll know it. And that’s what truly matters. That they know you love them.

  6. I was overwhelmed by the numerous parenting theories and practices touted in books, articles and on the internet. I also felt guilty for not being versed in the latest craze (and yes, I think of some of them are truly crazes/fads.) I ended up going with parenting by trial, which is try something. If it works, you have a keeper. If it doesn’t, try something else. I call it organic parenting because it is tailored made for that specific child.

  7. Amanda (Dodson) McKee Says:

    Very well said!

  8. themamabeth Says:

    Goodness. It’s like you’re *me*. Except I prefer to call them Baby Storage Devices rather than containers.

    I just hate that the books and labels and such do so much to drag mamas down and make them feel like they aren’t good enough.

  9. Carrie Says:

    I love this!!! So true!! We each just do our own thing, and it’s good enough!! You sound like an awesome MOPS coordinator!! Very realistic and down-to-earth! 🙂

  10. Me too mama…”winging it” in Buffalo NY. =)
    I used disposables on Ben until 2 nights ago (finally switched him to cloth) and he’ll be 3 in a month. Oliver’s been in cloth since the week I went back to work. Ben slept on his tummy from day 1 (he was in the NICU for the first 10 days of his life) and I didn’t have a movement monitor. Oliver is more “traditional” and was just moved out of the bassinet around 3.5 months old because I just wasn’t ready to move him downstairs to his crib. And I dare someone to tell me (the right kind of) TV isn’t good for kids. Ben can already count to 10 in Spanish thanks to Dora & Diego and I feel he learns a lot from watching shows (and reading stories at night) like Clifford, Curious George, Super Why, and the like. I do the best I can with my two hands and the precious hours I get to spend with my boys. Being a full-time working mom, those hours are way too few for my liking but I try my best to make them count.

  11. RGO Says:

    This is great! Tonight I got through the last three hours of the day with a margarita. I don’t drink much, so technically it was half a margarita, but it was just enough to make me quit stressing about every little annoying thing my three year old daughter did to push my buttons and make me insane (and believe me, there are A LOT). Instead, I danced and sang silly songs through bath and bedtime and that made both my kids, my husband, and me happier. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a book or style called, “Tipsy with Tots.” Too bad. (And before you all gasp in horror, just RELAX–it was half.a.margarita.)

  12. cath Says:

    A friend posted your piece on Facebook – I’m long past the hands on parenting and watching my kids have their turn at it – this was my reaction:

    one of the best posts I’ve read. Ever! One of my friends was not able to breastfeed her first and was sneered at by the local contingent of the La Leche League. Others I know have been castigated for having their kids in bed with them and only in one case would I say it was inappropriate (when you ask your 4 year old what he wants to do and he suggests getting out the diaphragm and starts to hump your leg, you might wonder what you’ve been doing wrong – true story that). You have to do what works for you and your child/family – what anyone else thinks isn’t worth a rat’s ass. If you’re having a problem with something that isn’t working, it helps, sometimes, to ask friends what they have done to deal with the same situation. And in the end when you’ve gathered advice, you still need to distill it down to what works for you.

    And books can be helpful too – but it still goes back to doing what is best for YOU


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