Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#ParentOn | A Pep-Talk for my Fellow Parents

I shared this video on Facebook last week because it is so wonderfully brilliant and beautiful.

Well done, Tommee Tippee.  Well done.

I've been a parent for just over a year now, and I am by no means an expert on parenting (duh).  I've done my best to become as knowledgeable as possible through the help of parenting books, Mommy & Me classes, Google searches, pediatrician visits, advice from veteran mommies, and good ol' trial and error.  There are so many different parenting philosophies out there--it can be overwhelming!  Add to those philosophies all of the advice from your parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles...many of whom haven't had a baby in their care for 20+ years.  It's hard to know which advice to follow and believe.

First and foremost, you need to believe that you're an awesome parent.  You need to tell yourself that every single day.  There will be some days where you will feel less than awesome: days when your child throws tantrums in public, days when your baby won't nap, days when your baby is sick, days when your kid refuses to eat anything but cookies. days when it seems like everything you do is wrong.  Parenting is hard!  But...if your child is fed, clothed (on warm days, wearing a diaper counts as "clothed" in our house), safe, and relatively happy on a regular basis, you are a parenting ROCKSTAR!

When it comes to your parenting choices, there's always going to be someone offering unsolicited advice or gentle suggestions.  As of yet, I have not found an effective (and polite) way to end these unwanted pearls of wisdom.  No amount of whining to husband/friends after-the-fact or exasperated declarations of "I know what I'm doing!" in the heat of the moment have caused these activities to cease.  It seems as though they come with the parenting territory.

I have been told how to dress my baby for whatever season/temperature/occasion that is currently on the horizon.  I have been told exactly what to feed Max for lunch on a particular day.  It has been suggested that I'm spoiling my child by not keeping him confined to one space for playing.  It has also been suggested that I'm doing something "wrong" because I'm not doing it the same way that someone else did it.  Sometimes I wonder if I have "Moron Mommy" tattooed on my forehead when I hear some of these comments, as if I'm not qualified to make decisions for my own child.  It can be incredibly irritating and offensive.  I've found that the best way, for me, to handle these situations is to discretely roll my eyes and change the subject.

I've had 15 months to really think about what advice I feel is most important to give to other parents.  I could recommend lots of products, books, blogs, and practices that have worked for our family, but that doesn't mean they'll work for you.  Instead, I've come up with a few of my own "pearls of wisdom" to help you feel confident(ish) in your role as parent.

Just because you were offered a piece of advice doesn't mean you have to follow it.  Along with the role of "parent" comes this awesome thing called "parent intuition."  You may not notice that you have it when you first bring your new baby home, but as the weeks, months, and years pass by, you'll recognize its presence more and more and learn to trust it.  You'll consult many books, websites/blogs, medical professionals, friends and family, etc., in your journey to parenthood and throughout your tenure as mommy or daddy.  (Shoot, when I was a new mommy, I was a "by the book" mommy, meaning I only did what the books said and exactly what the books said.  I felt comfortable with that).  All of these resources can be very helpful...and sometimes they won't be helpful at all.  You have to decide which tips, tricks, and practices to implement into your family routine and which to pass by, and YOU are the most qualified person to make that decision.  A personal example: The Sleep Lady Method of sleep training.  Max was 6 months old and regularly waking up 3-7 times a night, every.single.night.  Max wasn't getting enough sleep, and neither was I, and it needed to be remedied STAT.  I did my preliminary research online and came across some Sleep Lady principles that really spoke to me, so I purchased the book and started studying.  Then I began implementing the principles and it was awful.  In the end, I ended up wasting about 3 months of my life forcing The Sleep Lady Method on my family, and we were all worse-off for it.  I eventually came to terms with the fact that it wasn't working for us, and we tried the Ferber Method instead.  Worked like a charm (with some hard work, patience, and consistency, of course) and now Max is a wonderful sleeper.  This is not to say that the Ferber Method will work for your family OR that the Sleep Lady Method won't work for you.  Just keep in mind that just because you decided to follow one bit of advice, you don't need to stick with it if it's not working.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice: do what you think is right for your baby (and your family) and to hell with all the baby books/blogs/Google searches/doctor recommendations/unsolicited advice.  YOU are the expert on your child.  Not your mom, not your mother-in-law, not even your child's pediatrician.  YOU ARE.  You'll know when to switch baby to the next size diaper or clothes.  When you and baby are ready, you'll put an end to room-sharing.  You'll know when it's time to sleep train or when it's time to wean off the swaddle/breast/bottle.  You'll know when it's time to introduce solids and whether you need to get rid of the pacifier.  You're the best judge of when you and your child need change or adjustment.  If you don't know exactly when to implement something new or how to do it, then you will know when to start asking/researching.  You'll figure it out.  Have faith in yourself and your choices as a parent.

There's no teacher better than experience.  You will learn a lot about parenting "the hard way."  Remember that story about sleep training?  Do you want to know how many times I asked myself "Why didn't I do this sooner?!?"  My most recent lesson is evidenced in the photo below, from our trip to the grocery store yesterday.

How many times have I taken Max to the grocery store with me?  Pretty much once a week since he was born, give or take.  He's very grabby lately, so while we're in the check-out line, I need to occupy him with something to keep him from emptying the shelves.  Yesterday, I gave him this magazine.  He loves looking at magazines, but it's only a matter of time before he's ripping it to shreds.  I thought I'd be done checking out before he'd have the chance to mutilate this one and we could put it back on the rack.  Clearly, I was not, so this magazine was purchased.  I thought the lesson learned here was to bring a book in my purse for him to look at, but after thinking about it, the real lesson is to give him a magazine I actually want to read so when he rips it up, I have to buy it.  Lolz.

You aren't going to be 100% prepared for everything all the time...and that's OK.  A personal example: I typically have a change of clothes for Max in his diaper bag for the unexpected diaper blow-out/spit up/drool-soaking incident.  However, last Easter, I forgot to bring a change of clothes with us to church.  As Max slept in his stroller during Mass, the angle at which he was sleeping combined with the stroller's crotch strap placement caused his pee to flow completely out of his diaper and all over his fancy Easter suit.  After changing his diaper in the car, Max had to ride home in just his diaper while his clothes dried in the back.  "You know, Rachel, you should always have a change of clothes in the diaper bag for times like this."  Yes, that was said to me.  Yes, it made me mad.  And yes, it also made me feel like a big fat Moron Mommy.  But then I realized that forgetting Max's change of clothes didn't put him in danger that day.  It didn't compromise his well-being at all.  In my haste to get out the door on time, I forgot to check the diaper bag for extra clothes.  Big. Flippin'. Deal.  Forgetting something doesn't make you a bad parent.  It makes you human.  And you know what?  When Max is old enough to benefit from a "teachable moment" such as that one, he'll learn a valuable lesson in being flexible and going with the flow when Mommy forgets something...because that's not the last time mommy will forget something important.  In fact, just a couple of weeks later, I forgot to pack pajamas for Max when we went to the beach for the weekend.  He's still too young to learn from that, though...

You're going to make mistakes, even when you know better, and even when you have the best of intentions.  A personal example:  Max fell off the couch on my watch.  He had thrown up a couple of times one evening after I put him to bed, and I wanted to keep a close eye on him in case he kept getting sick (didn't want to end up in the hospital again).  So Max and I were on the couch together at 2 AM.  He had been sleeping peacefully next to me for an hour or so, and I was dozing off myself.  In fear of him falling off the couch as I slept, I got up to make a bed for him on the floor.  I considered lying him on the floor while I made up the bed, but it was only going to take a second and I didn't want to move him twice and chance waking him up.  While I made the bed on the floor, Max squirmed a bit and slipped off the couch.  I saw it happen and rushed to catch him, but I didn't make it to him in time and he hit his head on the floor.  He woke up and screamed for a bit, then fell back asleep.  I cried and cursed myself repeatedly and didn't get a wink of sleep that night as I stared at him, asleep on the floor, checking for signs of head trauma.  Thankfully, the only injury that was sustained that night was a serious case of mommy guilt, and I learned a valuable lesson.  Making a mistake/bad judgment call with your kid doesn't make you a bad parent.  It makes you human.  Also, I have never left Max unattended on an elevated surface ever again, not even for a second.

Victor and I are raising Max alongside several sets of friends who are also raising young kids.  We're doing some things similarly and other things completely different.  Some of us use Pampers, others use Huggies, others use whatever's on sale.  Some of us co-sleep with our kids; some of us let our kids cry it out in their rooms.  Some of us breast-fed while some formula-fed.  Some go to daycare; some stay home with mom or grandma.  Some play with electronics and some have no interaction with technology at all.  Some use the grocery cart cover and some let their kid chew on the bare, germ-infested handle of the grocery cart (totally me).  Some of us put our kids to bed early, and some of us are flexible with our kids' bedtimes.  And you know what?  We all have happy, healthy, thriving kids.

There is no one perfect method for parenting, no end-all, be-all answer for what to do and when to do it.  Do what's right for your family.  Trust your judgment.  You're going to be a parent for many many years.  You're not going to get it "right" all the time.  You're going to screw up, people are going to disagree with you and even criticize your decisions.  But whatever you do, stand by your choices, forgive yourself when you mess up, and love that baby the best way you know how.  Remember, you're a parenting rockstar.

Parent of the Year: I let my kid wear his pajamas past lunch time and watch Sesame Street while sitting in his toy box.


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