He knows how to grow

My mother thinks that moms these days are under tons of pressure.  When she had us, there was Spock and not much else.  Now there are entire bookstores full of parenting manuals.  Everyone is a lay developmental psychologist and we’re still recovering from several decades where it was trendy to blame your parents and childhood for everything.  It’s not enough to have a kid anymore, one has to have a parenting theory and the anonymity of the internet means that we get to bash strangers over the heads with the self-proclaimed superiority of our particular theory.

I am of the humble opinion that most of these theories follow certain steps…

First, they lay the ground work by asserting that these first few years of your child’s life are vital and if poorly handled you’ll miss out on developing a mother-child bond (for some reason most of these theories seem to be throwbacks to a time when Dad only started bonding once the kid was old enough for baseball), succumb to neuronal atrophy (the kid, not you), have delayed school readiness and the inability to form social relationships as an adult.  That’s a lot of pressure and now that they have you suitably anxious….

…the theory-markers then go and find some supportive research.  This research usually takes place in non-humans (mice and rats are popular) or involves extreme cases (children who were severely neglected) but it is nevertheless gets extrapolated to your child.  You’re 100% human, non-neglected (and never to be neglected no matter if you co-sleep or use extinction, or if you happen to use the stroller *gasp* instead of a home-made organic sling) child.  If you were anxious before, now you might be terrified.  Not only are these first years vital to everything, actual research has been done to scientifically describe and quantify just how badly you might screw this up.

But do not despair!  The theory makers have a convenient solution!  They can make it all better by selling you stuff.

Books, courses, child activities, special food and supplements…and my personal favorite….attachment parenting bum-wipes.

I know I would feel 300x better about myself as a parent if I just had those attachment parenting bum-wipes!

Marketers, as we all know, find it very effective to play off of our emotions and it seems that inducing parental anxiety is a very effective way of moving product.

The problem is, it’s working.  On me, anyway.

It’s not that I’m buying stuff, but I am anxious.  My head sounds like this:

Is my son getting enough stimulation?  The right stimulation?  Am I talking to him enough?  He’s not babbling and the books say he should be babbling.  Is he doing enough tummy-time?  Why hasn’t he learned to roll yet?  Does he laugh enough?  Is he sleeping enough?  Why doesn’t he laugh as much as the other babies in his swim class?  Is it because I don’t laugh enough?  Is he picking up on my mood?  Why aren’t I enjoying this stay-at-home mum thing as much as the other mom’s I know?  OMG, my baby knows I’m not having a good time.  I’m screwing this up. 

TAF doesn’t have these kinds of anxieties.  Maybe it’s because expectations for fathers aren’t nearly as onerous as they are on mothers.  Maybe it’s because he hasn’t spent 9 years in medical training seeing every kind of ill kid; every kind of developmentally delayed kid; every kind of neglected kid.  Or maybe it’s because he’s much smarter than I am.  He didn’t read any of the baby books.  He doesn’t read anything about parenting on the internet, instead he reads about hockey.  When he holds our son he just makes funny noises at him and tickles him until they are both giggling.  And a few evenings ago, when I was lying in bed unable to sleep because I was wondering how badly I was screwing this up he just turned to me and said, “it’s okay.  He knows how to grow.”

Now, when I wonder if I am actually The Inadequate Mother, I close my eyes and take a deep breath and say, “it’s okay.  He knows how to grow.”  And it helps…sort of.  I still wonder about the tummy-time.

And if maybe everything would actually be better with those attachment parenting bum-wipes.

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8 comments

  1. One of the best things that my eldest son’s pediatrician told me when he was little was that I was not going to break my son and that I would make mistakes and it would be ok. My son was born with a heart defect and had a stroke at nine months old. I was beyond stressed feeling that I needed to get him every kind of therapy right now so that he could be back to “normal”. It was such a relief to have someone tell me that whatever path he took would be the right one for him and that perfection would never be achieved. That said even after having four kids I still find my self comparing and wondering if my 6 month old daughter should be further along developmentally than she is just because I can’t help obsessing now and then. Maybe I should try and find those wipes to make everything all better.

    1. I don’t think you need those wipes, Awesomemom!

      I’ve made a resolution…no more message boards, no more baby websites. It’s about time I rediscovered my other interests anyway.

  2. I was talking to a fellow mom while we were sleep training Oliver, and lamenting that I was feeling a rather judged by all the attachment parenting advocates.

    We don’t co-sleep; never have. I understand that it’s the norm in other cultures, and that it had a very real necessity at a certain point in the evolution of our species. I also think it is absolutely the right decision for a lot of families. But that doesn’t mean it’s the optimal decision for our family.

    Not only do we not co-sleep, but we moved the baby to his own crib in his own room, 75 feet away from ours. We let him cry (not “cry it out,” mind you) when he was learning to sleep. He sleeps on a fairly rigid schedule that we devised, not on his own whims.

    Anyway, the mom responded, “I have worked with some severely detached children. Trust me, you’d have to do A LOT worse than sleep training to screw Oliver up.”

    Take comfort knowing that no matter what you do — no matter how perfect of a parent you strive to be — your kid will eventually blame you for something 🙂

    1. I really liked this part:

      “Take comfort knowing that no matter what you do — no matter how perfect of a parent you strive to be — your kid will eventually blame you for something”

      So true.

      I felt judged for sleep training too. But I’m getting over it. I like the results!

      There isn’t a magical formula for bringing up happy kids – but that doesn’t stop parenting theorists from proclaiming it so. I don’t have an issue with those that make different parenting choices than I do…and as long as they work for their family and weren’t blatantly harmful I wouldn’t judge them. But I sooooo take issue with this idea that you have to engage in someone’s defined “collection of behaviours” in order to have a healthy happy kid – especially when those behaviours are somewhat arbitrary. Is parenting one-size-fits-all or should it be a process by which you pull out different tools depending on your family’s situation at the time and the particular personality of the kid in question?

      Having the baby in his own crib and sleep trained worked for this kid…This perpetually bright eyed curious, unable to shut his eyes for fear of missing something, kid who, even as a newborn would just stare and stare and stare and stare. I had to provide him structure or there would be no sleep.

      However, if we are lucky enough to have another kid, that kid will likely have a different personality and need a different approach. And the approach I take will also have to take into account that there is a toddler running around who also needs attention.

      Attachment parenting is great…for those that have the economic resources to have a parent stay at home for extending lengths of time…for the first kid who doesn’t have to compete for your attention…but for the proponents to be so judgemental and pushy about it, given that most of us have to have two working adults to support the household (especially in Vancouver, right?), given that lots of women don’t get paid maternity leave (esp south of the border)…I just don’t get it.

      Dr. Sears said that that women who go back to work are detached mothers who are trying to escape their children. He also said that if his no-cry sleep solutions don’t work, and the family is at the end of their ability to cope, he recommends drugging the baby with chloral hydrate. Really? Those two statements destroyed his credibility in my mind but the webstore selling bum wipes and nutritional supplements for toddlers was really the nail in the coffin.

      Ah…ranty rant rant. Anyway, after all that, thank you for your comment. It really made me feel better!

      1. I’d never heard about the chloral hydrate recommendation, but I just looked it up, and lo and behold it is true. It boggles the mind that a doctor would ever suggest that drugging a baby is preferable to engaging in gentle behaviour modification techniques.

        Nutritional supplements for babies and toddlers make me angry. I despise the fact that manufacturers manipulate anxious parents into thinking that sugar-laden milkshakes are the best way to “make sure your picky eater is getting the nutrition he needs” or that gummy vitamins, aka candy fortified with minute quantities of vitamins, are essential to a child’s well-being. In fact, it’s been on my list of topics to blog about for a long time — might have to visit that one in the near future.

        1. I agree wholeheartedly about how those nutritional supplements. I’ll look forward to your post!

  3. P.S. If you want to feel better about only being “adequate” ;), have a look at some of these blog posts where moms confess all of their attachment parenting sins, like giving their kids McDonalds, putting them in front of the tube, using disposable diapers, etc. I am totally going to use this idea for my next blog carnival!

    http://theartfulmama.com/2012/02/half-planning-a-natural-birth/

  4. Michelle · · Reply

    “However, if we are lucky enough to have another kid, that kid will likely have a different personality and need a different approach. And the approach I take will also have to take into account that there is a toddler running around who also needs attention.”

    And here is where reality separates the books from reality. My second child is the polar opposite of my first. My parenting toolbox, designed for a super-active, intense, high needs type of kid is woefully ill-suited for the mellow, calm introvert that my second child seems to be. He’s easier, yes, but his needs are clearly different even at 7 months.

    The books are written with a single set of strategies in mind, with a unifying theorem. I have news- people are the world’s wackiest variables, and children might as well be electrons lost somewhere in a chaotic orbit.

    Burn the books and be Your child’s parent.

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