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.