“Opinions are like butt-holes. Everyone has one and they stink.”- Frank
Ah the wise words of my husband.
I’m pretty sure he heard this quote from another source, but he is the one I heard it from so I’m attributing the quote to him. Oh how true this is. I’ve never known this to be more true than as a parent. If your kid misbehaves, everyone has a thought on how to solve the issue. If your kid doesn’t sleep, everyone has a suggestion on something that will surely work. If your kid is well-mannered, individuals will offer praise or ideas on how to maintain this behavior. Sadly, we’ve lost sight of how intricate and complex humans are. Personalities and temperaments are not just a source of nurture. Nature plays a role in behavior development as well.
Some kids are just difficult. Mine is easy. My daughter is carefree and easy-going. I’d like to take credit for that. I guess I can, to an extent. I prayed heavily for her personality. However, I am fully aware she was born this way too. Based on personal experiences, I can attest that nature does play some role in temperament. My sister and I have the same parents but are completely different individuals. We have varying ideals and senses of morality. I can say it is a result of her being coddled and I was instructed to be more independent. I know that as infants, she was fussier than me. My sister has always been more strong-willed than myself. Yes, kids are born with some traits and others are learned. I’d just like parents and non-parents to agree on this fact. Let’s stop tearing each other down with opinion and bias. Instead, it would be more productive to offer support to sleep deprived adults, struggling single mothers or fathers, and floundering parents (which, if we are honest, we all are).
I had so many theories about being a parent. I knew exactly how I would handle a situation. Then I had a kid. My parents always insist that their methods are full-proof. [To which I wonder due to my struggles with depression, anxiety, and self-deprecation. I know that my struggles are largely a response to my choices, but how we are treated by our parents, siblings, and peers can affect response too. I have good parents, flawed as we all are, but overall, decent and loving parents. Still, no method is full-proof.]
I didn’t anticipate on sharing a bed with my infant. Why would I share my bed with my infant? Babies sleep in cribs. Then I brought my daughter home. The first night I stumbled around my bed as I cradled my fussing infant, trying desperately to instill sleep. I laid her back in her bassinet after swaying her back and forth. Upon setting her down, she would flail and scream. I picked her up. Groggy and desperate, I crawled into bed with her. Resting against my chest, she settled down and we finally slept. I now share my bed with my infant going-on-toddler. It has become comforting to me. I giggle at her sleep talking (hi is her favorite word…even in sleep, it is hilarious). I am able to soothe her quickly when teeth pains startle her awake. Now, I’ll confess, it is beginning to be draining. She wiggles and kicks far more now than she did when she was a newborn. I’m beginning to think it is time for her to transition to her own mattress. She is. It is just a SLOW process. I’d like it to go faster. Then my mom guilt for working late or wanting time alone without my daughter, be it with my husband or entirely solo, sets in. Bed sharing helps assuage the deep-seated guilt for not being as present as I’d like to be, or how I feel I should be. We’ll get to the independent sleep arenas soon enough. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that one day I’ll wake up and she’ll want nothing to do with me, asleep or awake…ah teenage years. As such, I’ll choose the sleeping positions that are conducive to our current situation.
My child would not have much sugar. Healthy eating would be enforced. Then I had a kid. I have to work. I have babysitters. Coming home from work, I’m exhausted. I want easy meal preps. Sometimes dinner isn’t prepared in time to satisfy the impatient and screaming infant who simply wants to eat. To stave off increasing hunger, a quick snack of cheerios or a cookie before dinner is granted to the inconsolable child. Ah, silence…well more accurately, the soft sound of munching and sighs of relief replace ear-breaking wails. Babysitters purchase an endless supply of puffs. Sweet treats are offered to the endearing and begging child. It shouldn’t continue to the extent that my daughter is spoiled, by me or her care providers. Occasionally though, we can’t refuse the smile and outstretched hand. Plus, if I’m snacking on it or they are, am I not, and them too, guilty of instilling bad habits? We should practice what we preach. Yes, there are certain things adults are privileged to that kids are not and that is part of the maturing territory, but overall, shouldn’t we be agents/ vessels of the practices and behaviors we’d like to see in the next generation. We learn best by modeling. Isn’t now the time to start?
Technology should be minimized. Kids are meant to play outdoors. Screen time should be limited. Oh theories are nice so long as they remain theories. I became pregnant with my second child far sooner than I had anticipated. I work and my plan wasn’t to do so once I had children. Life isn’t always what we expect. I get home from work after a long day (not so much stressful as I’m an extrovert toiling in a laboratory…a predominately introverted position which leaves me drained) and want to disengage from reality for a brief moment in time. (I’m sure that is selfish. I’m a sinner in process of refinement. That statement might seem heretical and anti-biblical to some.) I turn on the TV when my daughter is still awake. I am sick on the weekends and have little to no energy for anything but flipping stations on Netflix. We watch more TV than I anticipated. Her sitters have TV constantly streaming. It isn’t my preference, but I can’t stress so long as I find a balance occasionally. As a kid we watched TV frequently, but I’ve become an adult that is inclined to limit screen time when I have energy to do so. Technology doesn’t have to destroy my child if I ensure that there is at least some face-to-face interaction and meals without screens. Screen time as a kid didn’t ensure I’d be a lazy couch-potato. Instead, it probably made me realize that media can leave us disillusioned. Perhaps it made me question opinions rather than merely accepting them.
Everyone will have opinions. I know I do. (Sorry for times when I’m overly judgemental. I’m working on this. What works for me might not work for someone else. Please understand that I am in no way promoting relativism. I believe that there is such a thing as truth. I just think that in terms of parenting, life is more nuanced than Western society has deemed it to be.) I thought I would parent one way. I am parenting differently than my theories. We are all just trying to figure out what works best with the tools and resources at our disposal. Let’s lend encouragement and support when things are tough rather than unwarranted and several times, unhelpful, non-constructive criticism. If we are going to offer advice, may we do research that comes from reliable and credible sources, not just culturally “normal” practices. Some cultures deemed child sacrifice as acceptable. Just because culture says something is correct doesn’t make it so. May we find research that uses an adequate and sizable study pool for analysis. We must have data that is accurate and precise. We will not gain such data if our sample size is not representative of the study at hand.
In terms of parenting, sometimes instinct, prayer, and a heaping dose of humility work best.
Hopefully this is coherent and flows well. I’m writing this on minimal sleep while at work. Don’t worry, my instrument performs automatic analyses so I’m not technically slacking off.