Monday, September 13, 2010

Parenting Advice

I read a blog starter today that made me want to write - the best parenting advice you ever received. As you may have noticed if you have been around here for a bit, parenting advice isn't always something that I treasure - so often, it comes with the teeniest bit of implied criticism. It isn't all bad, though, and I was given a couple of real treasures along the way so I thought I would share (and Gin, so you know it isn't all bad!)

When I was pregnant with Pk, the parents of the kids in my class threw me a shower. I am not generally a bit "shower" kind of girl - I don't like being the centre of attention and the silly games that often go along with these things are NOT my cup of tea. This one was wonderful, though. They had gotten permission from my principal to use the school library and at lunchtime, I was paged to the library and when I got there, a full meal and all the kids in my class and most of their mothers were there. The gifts were very thoughtful and the kids were beside themselves with excitement, which was so much fun. The best part for me, though, was the talk time I got with the moms. After the kids went outside to play (part of our school lunch routine), the moms and I sat around talking. They regaled me with stories of deliveries and life with babies and there was a bit of advice thrown in. I found myself treasuring the advice of V.H., a mom of three who seemed to have it all together. Her son, her firstborn, was a challenging baby - he cried all the time and nothing would console him other than nursing. She said that she got so bogged down in advice that her head was spinning - "don't bring the baby into your bed," "don't use a soother," "don't let him suck his thumb," "don't let him take a bottle until he has been breastfeeding for six weeks," etc., etc., etc. She said that he lacked the ability to self-soothe and that she was so worried about all the don'ts that she didn't have any tools left to help him to cope. He cried for the first year of his life and didn't sleep until he was two. She said that when her second came along, she decided to ignore all the advice and help her child to do what she needed to do. Her daughter used a soother until she was 3 and slept in their bed but she was happy and they had things to help her stop crying. V.H.'s advice to me wasn't so much about the things to do but she just kept saying, "Get to know your baby and do what feels right - it takes real strength to ignore all the advice but really, you are the baby's mother and your choices will be the best for him or her." When P.k. was a baby and I was struggling and feeling like I was giving in on all the don'ts, I just kept remembering what V.H. has to say and how wonderfully her kids were turning out. ( I also got a kick of the K telling me that every mother feels totally inept at first - she didn't change her baby in the first 14 hours in the hospital because she didn't know how to change a diaper and was too embarrassed to ask for help).

The second bit of parenting advice, which was less advice really and more just permission to do things my way, came from Kittenpie. Pk had been a terrible sleeper for four months at this point and I was going insane. I was tired beyond belief and from the in-laws, I was getting a lot of feedback that implied (or outright stated) that I was being manipulated and that I needed to take a stand. I had a friend from church who really pushed a sleep training manual on me and kept telling me that everyone she knew who was struggling with sleep had gone that route and all had been solved. I bought the book, read it and, despite the fact that it all felt wrong, set a date to begin the sleep training. Kittenpie and I had a conversation in which she very gently reminded me that Pk was very young and that, while she was not telling me what to do and respected any choice I made, that sleep training was one approach but not the only approach. It was enough to get me to really think about what I believed and what would work for me and I felt like she was giving me permission to do what felt right and not what someone else felt I should do. That may not sound like much but I am enough of a people-pleaser and am so concerned about "doing it right" that having her give me that permission really helped me to come up for air.

Thanks V.H. and Kittenpie, for the great advice. What was the best parenting advice that you received?


  1. I would say that I got similar figure out what worked best for my baby. Each and every baby is different, therefore you must tailor your approach to fit your baby. It's still that way. We must be "students" of our children, so we know how to guide them.

  2. My very favourite things often came from the Girlfriends' Guides, and basically came down to what you are talking about here - that there are lots of different ways to do things, and that despite the dire warnings you will get, very few healthy children if any ever go to kindergarten not sleeping, wearing diapers, and with pacifiers in tow.

    Figuring out which things were important to me, and which parts of those things, made the smaller details easier to let go of.

    I've also found that I like to live in the grey areas - I fed breast milk, but from a bottle. I coslept, but only for a while. I will go to comfort my waking child at night, but not in my bed. You can figure out your compromises so that they work for you, preserving the part you think is important, and fudging the details.

    All that, and ALWAYS DRAPE THE TINY PENIS. Otherwise, you WILL get peed on.