Thursday, March 31, 2011

parenting with, I think?

How many parents does it take to dress a baby?

Most people will eventually get to a point in their life where they can consider themselves a "parenting expert." Then they have children.  If having a child has taught me any one thing (and believe me, it has taught me much more than that) it is not to judge or attempt to compete with other parents.  It is so easy to fall into the habit of comparing your parenting skills with those of your peers by assessing where your little one falls into the amorphous developmental spectrum.

So easy, and so completely silly.  But how often do I get asked  (or catch myself asking someone else) questions like, "Does your baby sleep through the night yet?" Or "Is your baby crawling yet?"  "How many teeth does your baby have?" etc.. etc... And that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as topics you can enter into "mom-petitions" over.  Don't even get me started on who is the best baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, organic-home-made baby food making, crafty supermom who whittles teething rings out of the bark of the sacred yew tree.  (Its me, of course, so you all can stop trying so hard now)

The thing about parenting is...there are a lot of ways to love and care for a child, and as the African proverb goes: what works for you, works for you.

I was over at some friends' house the other day and they have a little girl who is 2 months younger than Sadie.  It was interesting to watch their approach to parenting and see how they do things differently than Loren and I, and you know what I saw when I looked at their little girl?  A delightful, rosy-cheeked, happy baby.  Sadie's cousin Dimitri is visiting right now, and at 4 months he already sleeps for  8+ hour stretches at night AND he goes to sleep by himself.  He is another happy, smiling bundle of joy.  The thing that these two little ones and Sadie have in common?  They all are lucky enough to have loving, supportive parents to care for them in their own ways.

It is easy to see other babies doing things that you wish maybe your own baby was doing (ahem, sleeping through the nigh. *sigh* or being a small, normal-sized baby, etc...) and then get down on your own parenting process.  Sadie sleeps with us in the bed.  Actually, she sleeps with me.  She wakes me up several times a night, not so much to eat anymore, but just because she wakes up and starts crawling around like a little zombie baby until she bonks her head on the wall and starts crying.  She would probably eventually put herself back to sleep (or knock herself out) if she was in her crib in her own room, and I wouldn't have to wake up. But it is so easy for me to just reach out to her, snuggle her up, and soothe her back to sleep.  What's worse is that I have no exit plan for getting her out of our bed, in fact, I like her in there.  I won't lie.  There are some nights that I lay there trying to fall asleep, crammed in between my two snoring loves, and I just want to have a bit of space to myself--to sleep in a position of optimal comfort and be able to roll this way and that without worrying about stealing the covers from one, or covering the other with the covers. So I see how some people can totally NOT co-sleep. 

Another thing that is stressing me out about Sadie right now is her impressive level of separation anxiety. It is so hard to leave her with a sitter or even a family member (which we have rarely done anyway) because she cries and cries.  She just wants her mom or dad.  I find myself apologizing for her a lot on this topic--and also to whoever was watching her and got to listen to her cry for x number of minutes.  It is stressful on all of us.  There are people who suggest that this behavior is the beginning of Sadie being a spoiled child, and it makes me question myself.  Can I, should I be doing something different?  But I don't know what a parent CAN do, apart from leaving your baby with sitters on a regular basis and letting them just cry it out.  I just can't do that.  So I am trying to have faith, faith in my own process and the confidence that if I remain loving and consistent that Sadie will turn out okay. I would just like to take a leave of absence from this whole mom-petition thing.  Maybe we can have a rematch when are kids are in their 20's or 30's and raising families of their own... then we will have some idea of how effective our parenting strategies really were.  Still, I think for the most part its going to be a tie. 


  1. Dear Tara, I do detect a bit of frustration in your posting. Guess what? It goes with the territory of being a mother.- Having just returned home from visiting with all of you,I saw first hand how much Sadie misses her Mommy and Daddy when they are not around.But is that really so bad? Doesn't it just mean she really, really loves you, and wants to be with the most important people in her life(who are obviously doing a great job of raising her?) Yes, she will eventually outgrow it,and yes, it seems like forever.-I remember when little Loren would cry when someone else was with him, and the wonderful feeling I felt when I came home to his outstretched arms and happy-to-see-me face.-Hang in there and "keep the faith."

  2. P.S. - Where was that picture taken? (Just curious?) P.P.S. - What are you (me) doing up so late?

  3. The Grandmas affirm you. One look at Sadie's sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks and there's no doubt she's loved. Co-sleeping? did it many years? with 6 busy little sleepers. Separation anxiety? tried it both ways. Tearing myself away from screaming babies and the stricken faces of Sunday School teachers and keeping babies with me 24-7. Seems to be something that's grown out of, either way. Mom-petition? there is nothing more humbling than children. Sooner or later it dawns that if you take credit for whatever fabulous qualities your child may have, then it's only fair to assume credit for their dismal failures as well. Still, it's a thrilling ride and the end results---priceless.

  4. gah this post sounds 99.9% exactly what is going on around here. except i sleep in blaine's bed with him (talk about spoiled; he's got a big bed AND crib) and hubby is never home to know the difference! LOL. mainly the problem is the 4 to 6 wakeups; it was just getting WAAAY too tiring walking from my room to his room and back all night long so i just let myself fall asleep with him. I WANT TO SLEEP ALL NIGHT JUST ONCE DANGIT!

    the separation anxiety thing got so bad he wouldnt even play with his great grandma while i made dinner for like a month. but now he will so we are making strides. haha.

    love that pic! you guys are sooooooooo cute!! i dont know about you but i'm out of breath and in need of a nap after getting my child dressed in the morning ;)

  5. Separation anxiety is normal! Do not feel like you need to leave her with other people more often or that you are spoiling her. Parents were meant to raise their OWN kids, not pass them off to someone else (the occasional baby-sitter being okay, of course). Babies are meant to be with parents, and kudos to you for staying at home. She is not spoiled, you are not doing anything wrong, it is normal (and healthy) for her to prefer you and daddy over anyone else. So take your breaks when you need them on occasion, but don't feel like you need to leave Sadie with others just for the sake of toughening her up. She'll grow out of it, but at this stage in her development, she's not meant to spend a lot of time with other people. (I know I sound opinionated, but I'm a child psychologist/early childhood specialist, so I actually have grounds for what I say.) ;-)

    As for co-sleeping, you can find any book that will tell you 500 different things on whether that's good, bad, or other. It's totally cultural that we don't have family beds. In a lot of countries, that's just the way it is - everyone together. My pediatrician told me once that I would regret keeping my 9 month old son in bed with me. You know what? I never did regret it. Sure, it got difficult the older and more mobile he got, and then when he started taking head plants off the bed, I began to reassess and then we put him in his crib for the full night. Whatever works for your family is what you should be doing.
    And I support your separation of the mom-petition! Use others input as just that...input and ideas. Not as guidelines. Bottom line, you have a happy baby and you are the primary caregiver. You go, Mom!

  6. Dear sweet Kiki,

    First off, I'd like to say you all can quit wasting your time in the mom-petition because we all know I will win every time...

    I'm just joking (well sorta) ; )

    No, but seriously, I think you are right. Competing with other parents is a HUGE waste a time and it certainly won't help you through the sometimes frustrating roller coaster ride of parenthood. It would be wiser to remember that parenting styles are as unique as the children we raise. Do not compare your techniques to those of others cause what works for one person does not necessarily for others. Fortunately for us the universe was not so cruel and did give us a few basic standards to expect from our kids regardless of their temperment or our parenting styles. One of these golden standards just happens to be separation anxiety. My pediatric text book tells me this is a normal developmental phase, beginning around 4 months and peaking, yep, at right about meow because your little angle has also passed yet another developmental milestone, object permanence. So sweet little Sadie is not spoiled, and you are not doing anything wrong, she is just developing exactly as she point for team Prosser, yeah!

    I should probably interject here to tell you this same text book is good for little except helping me score C's on my nursing exams, banging your head against in a moment of frustration when you score a C and weighing down my baggage so Alaska Airlines takes all my money in overweight baggage fees...but, I think there just may be the answer you are looking for in its impersonal explanation of the development of your child.

    So lets look at this analytically, because thats how I roll...our kids our going to experience separation anxiety, how can we, as the loving parents that we are, help them through this difficult period of their lives? Cause thats what we do right? Well luckily there are a few things we can do to help, not meaning that you aren't going to see a few tears now and then (or a lot) but if you do these things you can leave the sitter and screaming Sadie and know you did your part to help your child trust you as they figure out that being attached to mom and dad 24/7 is just not going to be possible. So here it is, my professional advice as a mom and a pediatric nursing student, with rationale, in 3 simple steps:

  7. 1) Try a transition object. Even if this does not work, as it doesn't for some kids, its worth a shot and will ease those difficult moments of separation. This can be anything, just make sure its something you are ok with them toting everywhere with them and most importantly something THEY love. Killian's is Ganip. You never know what kids are going to become attached to, like a stuffed iguana from the USVI, so just roll with it.

    2) When it is time for you to leave, make it short and sweet, no need to prolong the anxiety. Try to give as few clues as possible that it is time to go. Give her a hug and kiss, say goodbye and tell her when you will be back, then, and this is the most important part....LEAVE. Do not apologize for anything, why should you associate guilt with the situation? Leaving your child periodically is perfectly normal and healthy and allows her to rely on all the other people that love her in this world. Walk out the door, just go, don't even look back unless you can be strong and give her a cheery smile and wave, keeping the situation positive. I could never do this, cause I'd start crying. But don't cry, or at least don't let her see you cry, remember you are the adult and even though it is the WORST thing in the world to leave a screaming child, YOU have to be the adult and suck it up so you can help them through this. You will get better at it too, and so will she.

    3) FInally, return when you say you are going to. This will help her develop the trust she is supposed to out of this situation. GIve her love when you return, even if she rejects it, and she probably will at some point, this is just part of the separation anxiety and it will hurt your feelings and make you doubt yourself and worry you are traumatizing your child, don't. Remember her brain is not developed like yours, children are not tiny adults like we sometimes think they are. When this happens you do whatever it takes to show her you love her. This is important. I have actually chased Killian down and held him down to hug and kiss him, they can't fight the love for long, don't worry : )

    I know you know all this too, because you are a fantastic mom, but you seem frustrated right now so I thought I'd post this to try to help you out. I know the steps are simple enough to write and much harder to execute but I know you can do it. You have to do it, otherwise another parent might win the separation anxiety race, and we just can't be having that now can we? ; )

    Good luck Tara and happy parenting.

    P.S. I hope you are ready to institute this parenting plan in Hawaii with Aunty Ana and Cousin Killian...can't wait to see you guys!!!