Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Belligerent Parenting

In the past, I've been apprehensive about posting on parenting.  All parents feel judged by other parents, and with good reason: all parents are judged by other parents.  This is not to say that all parents are judgy, but I'm pretty sure that all parents have a moment where they think to themselves, "I wouldn't do it that way!" I know I have on occasion and I don't like that about myself.

What it comes down to, I believe, is belligerent parenting.  That is to say, parents develop a belligerent shell about the choices that they have made in raising their children for the sake of their sanity.  There are so many books on parenting out there, so many options all say "pick me, pick me, I'm the best!" and they can't all be the best as they often contradict each other.  Counter-contradict?

All children are different and none of them come with manuals.  There are manuals, however.  Plenty to choose from and buy.  Not one of them is perfectly tailored to any given child other than the one being written about.  When you do learn/discover the things to do for your child from these manuals, advice or trial and error, you're willing to fight about them (the things that work, I mean).  I'd like to tell you about some of them.  (Adrian and I are on the side of attachment parenting, which is intense, but we think has many benefits.  That is to say, we do a good deal of attachment parenting, but not all.  We aren't co-sleepers except in cases of sickness or upset.)

When our son was very, very young (when you count growth in days, not even weeks), I read a book that implied, heck it blatantly said that babies can all put themselves to sleep with no help from the get-go.  I'm the youngest and had never spent that much time trying to put newborns to sleep.  This sounded genius.  But it didn't work.  And I must admit, I never actually allowed little fellow to bellow and shriek for 10 minutes to go down.  Handily, my mother was around at this point and she helped me realise that rocking little man was a good thing.

We really did try everything that we were supposed to:  watching for sleep signs, putting him to bed right away, getting a schedule in place, rocking and patting, standing near and singing.  He needed more help.

During that very trying time, I have read some books that have really helped me understand baby sleep.  They said that some babies just need a bit of help to get to sleep.  And that's okay.  I could be belligerent about my son needing help to sleep when people looked askance at us rocking him, holding him, "coddling" him beyond the "appropriate" time.

He sleeps well now.  He still wakes up at night for a few reasons.  Wet bum.  Teeth hurt.  Bad dream.  Wants his parents because a) he's lonely, b) he's scared, c) he's a sinner.  I go to him.  If I'm exhausted, my dear husband goes to him.  He settles easily.  It's the choice we've made as parents.  It's not always easy.  And he can (and has) sleep (slept) through the night.

Our son received nothing else to eat except for breastmilk, directly from me from newborn to 6 months.  Sure, it was difficult.  I could never be away from him for more than a few hours, and it had to be around the feeding schedule.  I've never pumped and dumped.  I don't actually understand how breast pumps work.  We have no bottles.  He was comfort fed at times, though I did generally pay attention to the clock.

Even when he was 6 months and had "started" solids, he wouldn't really take any rice cereal in 'til about 7 months.

We very slowly started him on different foods.  I tried to do the whole new-food-every-three-or-four-days thing and wasn't always successful, so while most of his friends were eating plenty, he was still learning about fooding.

It hasn't stopped his appetite and now you wouldn't know the difference.  Except he hates pasta.  Who hates pasta?

I wanted to feed him until 18 months or so, but didn't think that through and when I got pregnant realized that I didn't want to put myself into a tandem feeding situation.  Plus, I was eating all day long to maintain livingness and was still losing weight.

We waited til after we got home from Canada to wean him.  Then I cut out day feeds and then night.  Comfort feeding and night snuggling made our travelling much easier.  It made flights less painful for his ears and was an easy remedy.  He got a bad ear infection while we were there and sometimes that's all he would eat.  It was really hard on me, but I'm incredibly glad that we did it that way.

He was weaned at about 14 months.  Adrian would go to him at night.  Sometimes that would work, sometimes it wouldn't.  But now he's quite done being fed by me and we can cuddle again at night or in the day, no problems.

Toilet Training
Watch this space.  Haven't gotten there yet!  We're in the preliminaries (sitting on the cool cars seat before bath.  But he doesn't seem to know why.)

These are things that we do with our son.  This is how we are raising him.  Sometimes we'll learn something new or read something which will change our thinking about something.

I'm not saying that we have it right and you have it wrong.  This is what works for us, and I'd probably fight for your parenting choices too, even if they contradict mine if someone was attacking you.  Parenting is hard enough without all the backlash and fear of judgment from other people.  Be firm in your decisions.  Know why you are doing them.  Do what is right for your baby and your family.  And if you're interested in any of the books I've read (and partially ignored, I'm sure.  I've even thrown a few out that I didn't like at all) feel free to ask.


  1. That sounds about like my non-method of parenting :D

  2. It sounds to me you have found the true secret f parenting!  Be flexible with a plan and pray a lot! I'm well past your stages of parenting and well into the teen years, but I remember those days, many fondly, many with, thank you, God, for getting me through that without irreparable harm to my kids or my sanity!  (With a collicky, screaming baby, I also learned to put the baby down and walk away from the baby... I felt horrible and like a failure, but I understood in that moment how easy it would be to shake a baby, and I thank God for giving me the strength to give us both space and me more patience when I went back to her.) One of the important things I learned to accept (albeit slowly with my sinful nature) came from my husband and his psychology background, and was validated in my faith in God's grace.  There is no perfect parenting and, a child needs imperfect parents. Yup.  You gots to make those mistakes. That is how children learn their own identity, about their own body, their own wants versus needs, they learn how to solve their own problems, and most importantly, they learn that no one, not even their seemingly omnipotent, omniscient parents, are perfect. They learn that only God is perfect. They learn forgiveness for their mistakes through our forgiving them, they learn to forgive us when we fail them, and they learn as they grow how great the forgiveness of Christ is in comparison.  And we learn how to let them grow and make their own mistakes.  No one ever learned to walk without falling down.  I try not to say "enjoy every moment, they grow so fast". Truth is, they do grow very fast, but many moments are not meant to be enjoyed. It is not enjoyable to discipline a naughty child, or freak out inwardly over a sick child not responding to treatment, praying feverishly all the while speeding to the hospital.  But it is God's vocation for you and you will mess it up as much as any parent can, and by God's grace, that's okay!

    Sorry to be so long winded.... You caught me on a reflective day!

    Miss you guys!

  3. Amen Sister!