Monday, August 11, 2008

So I'm Raising an Ax Murderer

There are so many different schools of thought on parenting--the Ferberizers, the Fockerizers, the attachment parents, the cry-it-outers, the babywearers, the self-soothers, the baby whisperers, the happiest kid on the blockers, and probably at least a hundred more that I haven't heard of. It seems that if you have been lucky enough to get knocked up or knock someone else up, you have all the credentials you need to write about the way you raised your spawn and why every other parent is doing it wrong.

As far as I can tell, these methods fall somewhere in one of two camps. On one side is the group that believes that babies are creatures that need to be tamed. Infants, they believe, come into their parent's lives as wild, unruly critters with one and only one goal--to fuck their Mom and Dad's orderly world up. The experts on this side advise parents that a well-trained infant is a happy infant and that the reform can't start too soon. "Your 4-month old isn't keeping to your schedule? Well quit coddling that S.O.B. and teach him what you expect out of him!!" They advocate for things like "sleep training" and while I'm not exactly sure what this entails, it calls to mind an image of a large group of babies donning p.j.'s, sitting on benches in a locker room, pillows in hand, being yelled at by Bobby Knight about REM patterns and napping too long.

The other group of experts represents the "babies are born perfect and with good parents who promptly cater to their every need, they can stay that way" philosophy. This is definitely the more hippie-friendly approach to parenting, and includes such catch-phrases as co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and the family bed. These experts look to nature for their advice on parenting and recommend pureeing your own baby food and avoiding pacifiers (nipple dildos, as I once heard them referred to!).

My guess is that, like me and Shawn, most parents are going to fall somewhere between these two camps with a tendency to lean more one way or the other. We're definitely a little left on the spectrum and I'm OK with that. I've always been a little more hippie at heart. While I could never bear hearing my baby cry for an extended period of time, I also like my showers. Today, I plopped Violet in front of a Baby Einstein video so I could squeeze one in. She made it through about 5 minutes of my 7 minute shower before she started to howl. I did not jump out covered in suds to soothe her and I don't plan on getting a mesh sling so I can shower with her. I don't think the 2 minutes and 45 seconds she cried are going to be her undoing but wouldn't have let it go on much longer than that.

People are constantly asking about our sleeping situation. "Is she sleeping through the night?" is one of the most popular questions for friends and family to ask. We answer truthfully-yes she is-but then I almost always feel compelled to tell them that her 8-10 hours of sleep are in our bed. "Ohhh," they say like there should be an asterisk on our answer. Like it isn't valid sleep if it's not in a room of her own. Like we've almost made it to that sacred parenthood ground of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep but we are stuck right outside the door. The fact is, I barely remember Violet's first 14 days because I was so damn tired. Every night I'd nurse her, she'd fall asleep, and when I tried to put her somewhere where babies "belong" like a crib or a bassinet, she'd wake up and cry and need to be nursed again. When I finally realized that I wasn't going to roll over on her or otherwise smother her in our bed, I began to get some sleep again. And, at least right now, I don't have any yearning to move her to another room all night. She is such a little snuggler--why would I want to miss out on some great cuddle time with her? I have no delusion that this stage of her life--or mine as a mother to young babies--will last very long and I intend on soaking it up, even at night. Ferber would surely report me to Child Protective Services.

As parents, we get all sorts of advice, discard most of it, and keep the bits and pieces that work for us. When we talk to another parent with a normal kid who shares our philosophy on something--sleeping, eating, discipline--we rejoice. When our friends parent totally differently than we ever would, we question their judgement, then our own. The thing is, this is such an important job, probably the most important job any of us will ever do, and we all need to believe that we're doing it right. We would never knowingly do it wrong, so we have to take some comfort in the fact that we do the best we can. But it is hard not to be defensive about our choices. We read a lot, trust the "experts," and when in doubt, call our own Moms.

So as Violet naps away in her swing (still the only place she'll log any nap longer than 1 hr), I have to wonder how well I'm doing as her mom. When she's 10 and unable to go to sleep away camp, maybe I'll regret our decision to let our baby dictate when, where, and with whom she will sleep. That's the thing, though, you don't know the ways you're screwing up your kid til the damage is done. Until then, it's whatever gets you through the night.


Jen said...

SLEEPING IN YOUR BED???? Alright, what's the number for CPS? You're a wonderful Mommy, Jilly. Don't listen to all the hype. Parenting seems to have come naturally for you already, so just keep doing the best you can. And don't ever hesitate to count on me for help, should you have one of those, "What the hell am I doing?" moments. There are bound to be some along the way, and I'm here for you, Shawn and Violet always.

Babs said...

SHE is the cutest ax murderer I've EVER seen!

Aubs said...

What an awesome picture. Look at those big eyes. She's a cutie, and you are awesome. Never doubt that!