April 16, 2012
What kind of parent am I? (April PAIL post)
This is my first month joining in the PAIL (parenting after infertility or loss) monthly theme post, and I’m super excited. I found the group after last month’s theme (of breastfeeding) had closed, but I really enjoyed reading everyone’s posts and points of view. And I think this month will be no exception. Here’s the topic:
What kind of parent am I or do I want to be? If you’re already a parent, what kinds of things work for you now? Did they always? Has your view of what kind of parent you are changed? If you’re pregnant or TTC, have you given this topic much thought? What is your style likely to be? Are you a structure sort of person? Will you or did you cry-it-out? Will you or did you try to get your baby on a schedule? Did you or will you demand feed? Did you or will you subscribe to a method like Attachment Parenting or Babywise or some other method? Do you think you can spoil a baby by holding it too much?
I almost don’t know where to begin.
I think the easy answer is that I’m an “everything in moderation” kind of person, and that is (and was) my goal for parenting. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
I’ve tried to write this post a few times but it just feels too big…too important. I started to write a whole post about my “goals” in parenting, but I realized that everything I had initially been focusing on was for the early days (breastfeeding, immunizations, etc.), and while all of that is important, to me that’s not actually parenting.
It has been obvious to me for a while – since A turned 8 months or so – that our job has shifted beyond just keeping him alive to actually raising him. My goal with A, and any other child we’re lucky enough to have, is to raise him to be kind, considerate, respectful, self-sufficient, and happy. I also wouldn’t mind if he’s outgoing (more like his father than like me), because I think the world is easier for people not afraid to jump right into a situation. S never went to college but now owns a very successful business and I’m very proud that A has that as an example, along with a mother who went to college and now works part-time out of the home.
Anyways…now that I’m viewing everything through the lens of what kind of man I want to raise A to be, every decision seems so much more important. Whether that is getting him onto a sleep “schedule” or teaching him to be patient as I get his food ready, I feel like everything I do is a potential lesson, which is actually really daunting. Especially since he’s not at daycare and there’s no one else (educated in child development!) available to help. 😉
I have always been a pretty “scheduled” person, but since meeting S almost ten years ago (wow…), his spontaneity has mixed with my planning for what I think is a nice little balanced life. When A was born (after he got home from the hospital), we let him feed and sleep on demand, and continued letting him set the pace until it naturally developed into a rough schedule around 8 or 9 months. My challenge now is to maintain that schedule without locking us up in the house or making all of our friends and family work around us. I’m still figuring out exactly how to do that and how much I can push him without jeopardizing his overall sleep (and mood!), but I’m working on it!
Speaking of sleep, that was the one place where S and I have really disagreed. Getting A to sleep well has always been a priority for me, because I think that well rested children are healthier, happier, and maybe even a little smarter. (Don’t argue with me on that point – I have no proof – but I know that I think clearer and learn better when I’m not tired.) A was a great little sleeper as an infant. He literally only woke to eat – and yes, I know that we were super lucky – but around five months, his napping started to go south, and his overall sleep didn’t get back on track until he was nine or ten months old.
After trying a few different things, and eventually getting to the point where A was in our bed and no one was getting any sleep, I decided we needed to try to “cry it out.” S hated hearing him cry, and we had more than a few heated middle-of-the-night discussions about who actually worked and needed their sleep (grr!), but I always insisted that the end justified the means. Maybe it’s because of A’s NICU stay, but I know that there are certain things in life that are a necessary evil (shots, etc.), and that none of those things (have or) will affect our bond with A or his secure knowledge of our love and commitment to him.
[Sidebar – I always thought that S would be the tough guy and I’d get to be the softie, but as we’ve discovered, S is like an M&M (hard on the outside, and mush on the inside), and I’ve had (and will continue) to be the parent who sets boundaries. As A gets older, I think I’ll probably do the daily disciplining, with the occasional invocation of “telling his father!” when necessary. ;-)]
I know that some people don’t agree with cry-it-out, and while it was definitely our last resort (and I absolutely didn’t enjoy it), I also didn’t feel like it made us bad parents or even for a second showed A that we didn’t love him and weren’t there for him. We did the graduated check-and-console method (after making sure that all of his needs were met of course) and ended up with a little boy who can go to bed himself, takes two good naps, and sleeps 10-11 hours a night.
I also know that all babies are different, and that for some people things like cry-it-out simply don’t work, either because the baby gets him/herself so worked up that they puke, or the mom/dad gets so upset that it’s just not sustainable. But it worked for us, and I think it’s a perfect illustration of the roots-and-wings theory. Raise your child to be secure in their parent’s love and support and they will have the confidence to do anything. That is my ultimate goal. I also think that sleep is the earliest way of setting boundaries and promoting self-sufficiency, which to me is one of the most important things you can do for your child. This is why I don’t understand or subscribe to attachment parenting, although I’m very interested to read about how it works for other people!
At the end of the day though, we’ve also just been lucky. We have a really easygoing little boy, who enjoys playing by himself and with others, who has always eaten and slept relatively well, and really only cries when something is wrong. Don’t let me fool you that he’s perfect though…he comes from two very stubborn and passionate people, and he’s already definitely getting an opinion of his own. 😉