There’s nothing more refreshing than perusing a parenting book/article/blog and realizing that you are totally screwing it up. *Cue Borat:* Nooooooot. As a seasoned mother of 4 (soon to be 5!) children, I have come across a looooot of parenting advice. For every milestone you will experience with your precious little ones, there are literally hundreds of articles out there to confuse the crap out of you. I have learned, over the years, to put these all through my own personal ‘common sense filter’ before coming to my own conclusion on how to handle the situation. Still, I can slip into a shame spiral if I’m not careful. Constant vigilance! As a resource for young (and old!) mothers everywhere, I have compiled a list of scenarios you might come up against that will have a plethora of corresponding solutions. You’re welcome.
Breastfeeding. Tummy time. Swaddling. Soothers. Babywearing. Cosleeping. Being a brand new Mom is harrrrrrrd. Like really hard. Like woah. And yet this is the time where you will be the most bombarded by conflicting information on how to best keep your baby alive. Ahhhhhh!! This is the most important time to use your parenting filter. Your baby is a unique snowflake and the latch technique/swaddle maneuver/sleep trick that worked for ‘so and so’s miracle baby’ might not work for you. It’s okay, she’s probably lying anyway. I kid! I kid. Anyway, there is so much guilt layered into the new mom experience. The learning curve is just so steep. This is one of those situations where you really just gotta do you. Trust your instincts. Go against the grain. Tell the public health nurse to talk to the hand. You got this! Try things out, see if they work, and kick em to the curb if they don’t. I have done a litany of different things with all 4 of my kids and just when I think I have it in the bag, the next one throws me for a loop. Nursing has always been relatively easy for me, which is why I have done it with each of my children for an extended period of time (all under the coveted one year mark though. Looooollll #maybenexttime). However, if it had been a huge pain in the neck and had caused me to hate my body/life??? Nope. Hard pass. 3 out of 4 kids have love love loved the swaddle. Only 1 ever took a soother (Rowan – the angel). I coslept with some until 2 months + and others until only 4 weeks. Every baby is different. And you will be different with every baby! If anyone prefaces their unsolicited newborn advice with ‘You have to…’ or ‘I only…’, just glaze your eyes over and nod politely while imagining yourself floating down a chocolate river on a graham cracker raft, with a marshmallow cushion for your head. Ok now I’m just hungry. But you get it. Protect yourself. And bring that baby over here – I need newborn cuddles asap.
Crying it out. Sleep sense. Dr. Sears. Happiest Baby on the Block. Routines. Sleep training. Voodo. It’s all out there. First off, let me just warn you now to stay away from anything that claims to be the ONLY way. There is NEVER one way to do things. There are millions of children in the world and therefore millions of combinations of things that will work or not work. There are the hardcore sleep trainers who will NEVER GO BACK IN THE ROOM once they put little Bobby in his crib. And there are the attachment parenting moms who cosleep until their kids are in middle school. I am what
Clinton some would call a ‘sleep addict’ and cherish every precious Zee I can get. When it comes to getting my babies into a sleep routine, which then translates into me getting exponentially more sleep, I don’t mess around. I have done some form of cry it out/sleep training with all of my kids, but it certainly hasn’t been a cut and dry 1-2-3 solution for each one. 4 kids = 4 different approaches. They all started sleeping through the night at different ages and had their own setbacks and issues. Some were ready earlier, some needed a lot of extra cuddles. Now with Jasper, I am trying to hold onto the baby moments for as long as I can, so I still feed him his bottle before every nap until his eyes flutter closed. It literally makes me swoon. I definitely did not feel the same way when I was trying to put Desmond down for his naps at this age. I was so tired and touched out (and also very very pregnant with Corban – ha!) Things evolve. And that’s okayyyyyy. Again: filter.
NutritionOy. This is one of those topics that can make or break mom friendships – for real. The opinions are endlessssssss. From the mom who swears her child won’t touch a grain of sugar before his tenth birthday, to the one who lets her kid eat Cheez Whiz sandwiches on Wonder bread because ‘That’s what she ate growing up and she turned out just fine’. There are a multitude of articles out there with information on how to get your kid to chow down on quinoa nuggets or go gang busters for broccolini. Alternatively, there are articles on how to get your child to eat something – anything – other than carbs + cheese. There are the take no prisoners parents who require their children to eat every morsel of food on their plate. And there are the pick your battles parents who make every child their own meal. It’s a very deep pool. Personally, I have always approached my kids’ eating habits with a very nonchalant attitude (never let them smell your fear). I don’t make my kids special meals that are separate from ours, but I do occasionally alter part of the meal to better suit young children vs adults. Example: making penne instead of spaghetti noodles, because they are infinitely easier for children to eat. I also try to make sure there is at least one food item at every meal that I am fairly certain all the kids will enjoy/eat (although you can never be certain when 2 year olds are involved…). I also try to incorporate new foods/recipes so that they can experience new things. Sometimes they have pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese for lunch. And sometimes they have hot dogs. It’s called balance, people. Again, you have to use that filter. I don’t cater to my kids’ every culinary whim, but I don’t try to torture them either. Also, hot dogs are delicious.
Dun dun duuuuuuuun! The big P.
(Disclaimer: this one is still pretty raw for me, as I am currently in the process of potty
torturing training my almost 3 year old. Lord have mercy. I have read it allllllllll. I have bribed. I have threatened. I have begged on my knees. This strong willed little rapscallion is literally going to kill me – probably with a toilet seat.)
There will always be that well meaning friend who goes on about how easy it was for her – ‘It took 24 hours! And no accidents at all! And he/she was only 18 months!’ And that other friend with a horror story worse than yours (although I feel like I am that friend now… case in point: Rowan pooped in his undies while I was solo navigating ‘meet the teacher night’ last Fall with all 4 kids. I had to scoop it out with my hands before taking off his pants and undies and washing them in the sink, then try to blot them dry with paper towel and eventually tie a jacket around his waist to hide the carnage. May I point out that he is STILL NOT FULLY TRAINED!! It’s been 6 months. Sooooooooob.) Anyway, my point is that even after successfully training two other children I still have no idea what I’m doing. Where was I going with this? Oh right. Filter filter filter. Read up, soak in the knowledge, absorb the information – then filter it out. Beware the naysayers with their ‘Oh he’s not ready’ comments. Conversely, ignore the bullies with their ‘Oh he’s definitely ready’ comments. The only person that really needs to be ready is YOU. Also, DO NOT LISTEN TO ANY ADVICE THAT STARTS WITH ‘YOU MUST’. You really mustn’t. Maybe sticker charts are the holy grail for your child. Or perhaps a potty dance with accompanying song. The options are endless. Most importantly, ignore any articles that boasts a 24 hour solution – that is just a shame spiral waiting to happen. Maybe – MAYBE that will be your experience. You child might be the Usain Bolt of potty training. I’m happy for you. You are truly #blessed. But, if not…. it’s okay. The bathroom is a sacred space. Your child is spiritually attached to their waste. Give it time. Relax. Drink. Let it go. And please if you figure something out – HELP ME!
Calm jars. Time outs. Confiscating. Talking it out. Rewards vs punishments. *gasp* Spanking. There is what one could call a gamut of options. No one topic will be more personal or polarizing for parents. So many books. So many studies. So little time. I’m not going to get into this too much because it really is one of those things that needs to be discussed by both parents and implemented with love. Ultimately, we all want our kids to be kind and courteous – and also not to spit food at each other at the dinner table (especially if that dinner table is at a public restaurant…). When it comes to your child’s behaviour/your method of discipline, you will need to be especially careful to filter out your friends advice/anecdotes. They mean well I’m sure. But it doesn’t help to hear that someone else’s kid never talks back or always cleans their room without being asked or hasn’t bitten anyone, ever. As previously stated, your son/daughter is a unique snowflake. It might take more or less than a firm talking to in order to get your point across. Get creative. Keep them guessing. I had it very easy with Desmond, he tends to be a naturally obedient child. Corban is much more of a wildcard. And Rowan….well, he has what I like to call ‘leadership qualities’. He is also 2 years old. The perfect storm. Jasper is obviously never going to do anything wrong – babies are the best. Anyway, keep on keeping on and refer back to my chocolate river happy place when people start spouting their well meaning but potentially soul damaging advice.
I don’t want to get too cliche here, but you’re doing a great job Mama! There is no ‘right way’. No magical equation to produce perfect children. We are all trying to keep our kids alive and hopefully teach them some manners and social skills along the way. And we are all falling short of the ideal every single day. It’s ok. With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, take these words to heart and remember that we are all in this sticky, tear stained mess together. Be kind to yourself.
And know this: I’m screwing it up, too.