Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Parenting Style May Raise Eyebrows, and I'm Okay With That: Part Two

Apologies for my lack of posting this personal goal is two posts per week! The stomach flu hit this family hard, and I was preoccupied with copious amounts of throw up. It was a fun time. But we are all back into the swing of things, so without further ado...

If you haven't read my last post regarding the topic of parenting styles, you need to do it. If you don't, it will be like trying to read the seventh Harry Potter book before you've read all the rest. Which means the world will explode. So I'll give you a few minutes to do that. I'll go get some stuff done while you do.

*Cue Jeopardy Music*
*Start attempting to do laundry but get distracted by something shiny*
*Decide that I'm too pregnant to lift the heavy laundry basket anyway so I should do something less strenuous*
*Go wrestle with my 100lb dog instead, which is clearly much less dangerous than attempting laundry*
*Realize that wrestling my dog was a bad idea because now the amount of fur on my clothes makes me look like I'm Bigfoot*
*Wonder where the idea of Bigfoot came from anyway? Google it.*

Okay, done? Great! Let's move on. I was very productive while you were away.

When Elizabeth was a newborn, Trent got me this awesome book for us to read together called "How To Raise Nearly Perfect Catholic Children" or something like that. During my breastfeeding sessions, I devoured the book (Meaning, I read it quickly...not like I was so hungry I ate the book. Just clearing that up). I loved everything it said: the importance of sacrificial love, communication, and self-giving parenting. I made a mental list of how I would handle certain situations as Elizabeth grew: tantrums, feeding, etc.

Then, just as I thought I had it alllll figured out, I got to the chapter about: *dun, dun, dun* Attachment Parenting.

What many unknowing people think of when they hear "attachment parenting"

For those of you that are not aware, I'll give you a quick summary of what attachment parenting is. It's a very popular way of parenting, especially with young mothers in my generation. These are the eight principals of attachment parenting (summarized by me) from

1) Prepare for pregnancy and birth
2) Breastfeed (or "bottle nurse" if breastfeeding is not possible) on child-led feeding schedule
3) Always respond to baby's crying or distress, as immediately as possible
4) Use touch often (skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, baby massage, etc)
5) Co-sleep (family bed)
6) Consistent care giver (baby stays with main caregiver at all times if possible)
7) Positive discipline (don't react to bad behavior, instead learn the needs causing the behavior)
8) Strive for balance (make time for yourself)

Well they make this attachment parenting thing sound picture perfect!

Some of this was obvious to me. My thought process in response to these eight principals B.C. (before children):

1) Duh. Take all the classes, read all the books. Check
2) Duh. Why wouldn't you breastfeed? (Post about this coming soon)
3) ?
4) Sounds good to me.
5) .........
6) Ok, sure.
7) Ok...sounds good to me...
8) Good. Make occasional spa days and have date nights. Agreed.

In response to number 3:
This seemed like advice from another planet to me. I come from a German family (extended family too, not just parents). In relation to child rearing, the biggest piece of advice my aunts ever gave me was: "LET 'EM CRY." It was really the only piece of advice I'd ever heard, and I didn't even know there was another option. I was terrified of spoiling my child.

Elizabeth cried A LOT as a newborn. No matter what we did.
So...we had plenty of experience with crying babies.

In response to number 5:
My mother is a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) instructor and has done extensive research on the topic. She has told me horror stories about the babies she has seen in the hospital, all victims of unsafe co-sleeping. It was drilled into me from a young age to never, never sleep with a baby in my bed.

Sorry mom....It was during the day, I swear!! I wasn't sleeping!!

So, back to my book. I was on board with most of this attachment parenting stuff. But when I got to the chapter about never letting your child cry and co-sleeping, I was more than skeptical. I almost didn't even read it. But when I did, I received this basic message:
"If you ever let your child cry, she will suffer from mental problems, social obstacles, and trust issues her entire life! You are not being a Christ-like parent! BAD Ashley, BAD!"
"If you sleep train your baby, she will never feel truly close to you! You will sever your bond with her FOREVER!"

Well, that's all I needed to hear. I never let my baby cry for extended periods of time, but it never bothered me to let her cry for a few minutes as I finished a task. I didn't feel bad letting her cry for 5 or 10 minutes as she fell asleep. I started freaking out, researching more about this "attachment parenting" stuff. Was I doing it wrong?? Was I going to emotionally scar my child forever? I agonized over every decision I made for a long time.

I got to a point, with the help of a very good friend (hi Kim!), when I realized that I can't be so concerned about what others are saying in regards to raising my children. What really matters is what my husband and I think, and of course, what God thinks. 

Let's fast forward to present day. Here's what I've learned about parenting so far:

There is no "right" way to parent.
I normally despise relativism, but in this case, I buy it. What I do to raise my child might not be right
for you, and vice versa. Maybe you do co-sleep and have great success with it (it is possible to do it safely). I could never do it. I would never sleep. I like having my own bed, and I'm not a bad parent because of that. Perhaps you do use the "no cry" method. That's great! Crying babies do not bother me. I don't think it's possible to spoil newborns, and agree that a parent should try to constantly meet a newborn's needs. But once babies reach a certain age (less than a year old), they KNOW how to work the system. And I simply can't tolerate that. Does that make me a lesser parent? I don't think so. 

I can trust my instincts.
I am very influenced by what I read, especially in regards to parenting. I get consumed by guilt by books and articles telling me how my parenting decisions will negatively affect my children for the rest of their lives. So I've learned to just not read them anymore. I know instinctively what the proper way to deal with my child is, and that's awesome. It might not be the "popular" way. But I know that I'm doing the best I can and that the decisions I make are best for my child and my family.

I'm done worrying about what's "politically correct."
Is it just me, or does it seem like parenting sometimes feels like tiptoeing through broken glass? What I mean is, I often feel like I'm so worried about offending others because my method of parenting might not be "mainstream" or "common." Honestly? I think spanking is fine. I have no problem with it. I don't think it's child abuse. People gasp when I say that. When Elizabeth doesn't listen to me the first time, there are immediate consequences. I either put her in a pack and play "timeout" or lightly smack her hand. And it works for me. You cannot sit a one year old down and have a conversation about why her behavior is incorrect. Some parents would hate that, and would never dream of disciplining their child in that way. And that's great! But don't tell me that my disciplinary techniques are "mean" or "inappropriate." They aren't. They just might not be right for you.

In regards to parenting styles, I don't care what "research has shown"
"Research" is a buzz word right now. "Research says!" "Research shows!" Research has proven!" The frustrating part about this is that no matter which side you are on, there is "research" to back up the effectiveness of it. So what do you believe? I have come to the conclusion that because every parent and child is different, there can't really be one "correct" way. And researchers can say all they want, but they don't know my child like I do. They aren't the ones taking care of her every day, trying to prepare her for heaven in the best way possible.

It has taken a long time for me to get to a place where I am comfortable and confident with the way I parent. And I know, especially with a new baby coming, my style will have to change and adapt to whatever life brings. I will never have it totally figured out, and that's okay. No one does. Information is a wonderful thing, but it has the capability to bind us if we let it. Our diverse world is a beautiful place. Instead of filling our hearts with worry and guilt and judgment, we can learn from our differences!

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go fetch my child. She's busy organizing the items in our "dangerous electrical equipment" box, and I need to get her ready for her playtime at "Swimming With Sharks R Us."

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