Sunday, October 3, 2010

Different Strokes...

When it comes to mothering, I try to follow the "different strokes for different folks" philosophy. As I have said here many, many times before, when Pk was an infant and impossible, I got lots of advice and most of it just made me feel inept and like a failure as a mother. I try not to offer advice unless asked and even then, I suggest a book or an article, saying, "It worked for us but that doesn't mean it will work for you..." I try not to be judgemental and to let other people do things their way without my judgement, despite the fact that, in this house, we are hard-core against cry-it-out practices until a child can articulate what is wrong, we don't believe in spanking (largely because the times when I would most likely use it are the times when I would be least responsible in its application) and I am a very firm believer in the "breast is best" mentality. Most of the time, I can live and let live but once in a while, it's hard to bite my tongue and in the last couple of weeks, I've hit two such situations.

The first cry-it-out fight came via our church nursery. Pk has never been willing to go to the nursery alone. I haven't sat through an entire church service since she was born (well, since she was old enough not the sleep through the entire service). From what I have heard from other mothers, I am not alone in the "church nursery struggle". I tried to leave her quite a few times but the hysterical crying wasn't worth it. She goes to her babysitter without any fuss and now to her dance class so I am not concerned that she will be attached to me when she is 25. Given that I leave her Monday to Friday when I go to work (when I am not on mat leave, which I am right now - hooray!), the last thing I want is to "abandon" her on Sunday, especially at church, which is supposed to be a wonderful, pro-family place, not a place of stress and trauma. I have somehow become one of the people coordinating the new nursery curriculum at our church (something which I enjoy, by the way) and we needed a few new volunteers for staffing. The minister asked me to see if I could drum up someone so I went on Facebook and asked. Whew! The discussion that ensued was fast and fierce. What emerged was that our church has two distinct camps - the "I'm leaving my kid no matter what and if he cries, he'll get over it and the volunteers with just have to deal with it" crowd and the "I will go to nursery with my kid until he/she is o.k. with my leaving even if I have to be there until he is 15" crowd. It got kind of fierce and I found myself feeling very defensive. It seemed that there are those who feel that I am in the nursery to socialize with others and that if I just left Pk, she would deal with it. I don't know about you, but I feel a bit unfair leaving a poor once-a-month volunteer who already has his or her hands full with some of the almost feral boys with Pk in full-on meltdown. It was one of those situations in which defending myself would almost certainly come across as being critical of the choices of others. Not fun.

The other situation happened at the park the other day and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. There is another mother I have gotten to know from the area who we see at the park. I have always experienced her parenting techniques to be a bit harsh (not abusive, not in the least, just very different from the way that we do things). She has a four year old daughter and a baby boy who is 5 days older than Baby Bean (making him 14 weeks). We were chatting last Wednesday about the fact that both boys had done very little napping during the day and that almost always leads to a fussy evening. I said that I wasn't looking forward to it and her response was that it didn't matter to her - he would probably cry for an hour in his room but it wouldn't be a problem since he would be doing it alone with the monitor turned off. I just keep thinking about the little guy, less than four months old, screaming for an hour alone without any comfort. I think that even a lot of the hard core cry-it-out advocates would say that less than four months is too early for that. It kind of took my breath away but I kept my mouth shut. I wonder if I did the right thing?

So, I guess what I am saying is that you are allowed to do things your way and I won't judge you, unless you disagree with me :-).


  1. It can be hard to find the diplomatic way, that's for sure, because everyone feels defensive about their parenting in this climate.

    I'm with you on just taking a "this is how we do it at our house" approach, and offering advice on a "this is what worked for us/our friends" basis only. It's a little less preachy, and better received, as far as I can tell.

    I would have maybe asked the park lady if it didn't break her heart to let him cry like that, just to gauge her reaction, and maybe added that I am way too soft-hearted about my babies to follow that method.

    Of course, we do let The Bun cry in his crib a bit now, because we know that he CAN put himself to sleep since he used to, but he would just now PREFER that we slept beside him! He's not extremely upset, and we reassure him that we are around when we walk by the door every so often until he settles. Something in between, as I usually am.

  2. For me, the difference is that your little guy can tell you if he hurts or feels sick, even if he doesn't have sophisticated language to share. I just can't do it with a little one who is entirely powerless in the world. You are probably right, I maybe should have said something but in this case, I don't think it would have changed anything. She is a hard-core "don't let the baby manipulate you" kind of mom.

  3. Totally agree that Bean would be too young for me to feel comfy with it yet. I had both of mine sleep with me until 6 months, anyhow, and often enough slept/sleep in with them when they need it in the middle of the night. (like all last week - urgh)

  4. I let my son cry it out a little... never longer than 10 minutes though (and usually it never lasts more than 5). He seems the type that needs to cry himself to sleep a bit. I will say that I didn't like it at first and it was very hard, but I came to understand that unless I want to walk around and try to put him to sleep in my arms (which doesn't really work either, as he's too busy wanting to see everything and fighting sleep), than I will just have to listen to him cry a bit. That said, I can always tell when he's crying to fight sleep, or crying because he's really truly upset about something.

    I didn't really have to do that with my daughter. Children are so different from each other. It's like you have to relearn parenting all over again.

    As for leaving the child in the nursery crying... man, that is a tough choice. I think it also depends on the child. With my daughter, I know that she may cry when I leave, but when I'm out of sight she will get distracted and all will be fine. I've had to do that before... always nearby, waiting to see if she continues to cry or not. I think we have to be willing to try different avenues, and allow others to parent their own children instead of harshly judging them for their decisions.

    I agree with you... what works for one child may not work for another. Children are people, individuals, not dolls. ;)