Last night, we had some friends over. It wasn’t really a party. For one thing, I looked terrible, and I dress properly for a party. I was wearing yoga pants, no make up and Baby Daddy’s sweatshirt. Second, I served no food. Third, there was no theme.
Originally, it was supposed to be a gathering of our Politics on the Porch group. The faux snow day messed up everyone’s plans, so they ended up on my back porch talking and drinking. There was pretty much no subject left untouched. We solved all the world’s problems, just so you know. It was a good time.
One of the couples there is expecting their first child. They are excited and scared and all the normal things expectant parents are. When they first got to the house, Monkey Boy challenged Greg to a foot race. Greg thought that was funny. Until he realized he was going to have to do that over. and over. and over. Somewhere in all of this I said, “Helpful Parenting Tip: Never do anything once, you’re not prepared to do 800 times.”
We all laughed at the moment, but then I realized I was doing the very thing I despise: Telling other people how to parent. I’m mortified to write my recent revelation: I’ve spent more than 4 years telling to well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) meddlers to back off, while at the same time telling parents just after me what to do. I have to stop that.
My dear friend Misty had her first baby on Thanksgiving. I went to visit her and and the new little guy. I was holding him and he started crying. (This is not exactly unusual, but she had mentioned it was near feeding time.) I asked if I needed to help her get a bottle ready. She looked a little panicked. “No, he doesn’t eat for 15 more minutes.” I must have looked confused. She blurted it out as a run-on sentence,”We’re doing BabyWise I know you hate it Don’t judge.”
I had forgotten until that moment, but when Monkey Boy was two weeks old, I tried BabyWise. It was a disaster. Baby Daddy came home to find us both crying and miserable. He asked me why I changed what had been working relatively well for two weeks. I sobbed, “I don’t want my baby to go to Hell.” Sleep deprivation coupled with high anxiety can do seriously messed up things to a new mom. He took all the books away, ordered me to go back to the previous plan and all was as well as it can be with a days-old baby, which is to say he was the only crying. I’m sure I told Misty that story.
All the feelings of inadequacy came flooding back. I saw them on her face. She was barely a month into all this and she was terrified her old friend was going to judge her. My heart went out to her, “No, honey, no. Well, yes, I do hate BabyWise. For me. For my kid. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good for you and your kid. Honey, tons of our friends did BabyWise. (I named several of our mutual friends who used the system.) It’s all fine. Do what works.”
She looked like a weight was off her shoulders. It led to another run-on sentence, “It’s just my family is teasing me about it and I know you hated it, but I’m the one who has to get up with him at night and he’s actually started sleeping doing this and I really need some sleep and I think it’s because of this and it’s what I want to do.”
I hugged her and her baby. We could all use a little more understanding… and sleep.
That’s why I was thrilled to hear my friend Amy tell Brandi and Greg the best advice I can imagine: Whatever you do, stay off those Mommy message boards. It will make.you.crazy. If you have a question, you call the doctor or one of us. Do not seek help from the crazy. They will convince you that your child will be RUINED and possibly going to Hell if you use the wrong brand of diapers or you don’t breastfeed until she’s 10. You’ll have enough trouble without them.
Being a parent is exceptionally hard. It cuts into the very core of your humanity. Every child is different and as wonderful as some books or methods may be, nothing works for every kid and every parent. This is why there are options. I think the reason people (me included) get so defensive about their decisions is the fear that if someone else does it differently, that might mean I’m doing it wrong. And I can’t possibly do this wrong, it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.
Judging people and running my mouth are two of my biggest talents. I’m working on taming both. Please bear with me. The only thing harder than raising my son, is raising myself.
However, I’m not compromising on jeggings. I will always judge those as just.wrong.