“You should control your kid.” I said this. To my uncle. I was 10 talking about his 6 year old. My mother took me aside and strongly scolded me, “You never tell someone how to parent their kids.” That stuck with me, to this day. So, much so that I am embarrassed to write about my behavior as a 10-year-old. But, I am writing in reflection… in understanding what it’s like to be a parent as a parent.
My mother often says to me in our phone chats when I explain how I’m doing something differently that it’s my right as a parent to correct those things I view as mistakes. She reminds me that Levi will have the ability to do the same. To me, the point is to make “new and different and more interesting mistakes” so that Levi can in turn make “new and different and more interesting mistakes” with any offspring he may have. That’s evolution in a nutshell, isn’t it?
So, I criticized my uncle for his imperfect parenting. Now-a-days it seems we have so many parents really trying to right the mistakes their parents made, but some advice, it seems, borders on attempting perfection. Why are we trying for perfection, though? Don’t we know we’re not perfect? We can’t do it all at once, so why do we burn ourselves out trying? This is a struggle for me in many avenues, so I’m not trying to question folks who do try to be better, I certainly do daily. But, when do we realize our boundaries in parenting? When do we say, “You know, this has to be good enough.”
Sure, we want our kids to grow up and be bright, polite, well read, educated, with the ability to follow their hearts, implement boundaries, stay safe, explore, be courageous, compassionate, generous, thrifty… but it doesn’t all come when they are 3 years old. We’re always learning, turning to our parents and friends for counsel and advice… why wouldn’t our kids do that to?
There are some different methods of parenting out there. In fact, folks have written books on them. Several years ago (12-15), I was visiting my relatives in the good ole U.P. (Yooper land, the Upper Peninsula, Michigan), and I was chatting with one of my aunts. She made the comment to ignore the magazines and baby books and encouraged forging your own path. I’m not sure I could do this entirely because I have found some books to be very helpful. For example, I wouldn’t have had a clue what milestones were if it weren’t for the USDA nutrition/health pamphlets I received before Levi was born (likely because we were on W.I.C.). I don’t know what I would have done, though, if all I had read encouraged breast feeding when breast feeding wasn’t working for me. I was uninsured, even if Levi wasn’t, so going to a Lactation Consultant wasn’t something I was going to do because we couldn’t afford any out of pocket expenses. I didn’t find out until 6 months after we went on formula that it was likely my Grave’s Disease telling my body to take the proteins that would have otherwise been in the breast milk and keep them for my own use.
Levi likely suffered failure to thrive because I was adamant to breast feed. Breast is Best as they say. While that may be true for many, what happens when mom is so sleep deprived the irritability, memory loss/forgetfulness overwhelm the days? So, a trip home, and another aunt who recognized the kiddo wasn’t sleeping, suggested formula. And he ate. And we didn’t fight. And it wasn’t a sob fest of frustration. And he started to sleep, but not completely.
A friend suggested a “Low-Cry” method. A method where you let the small one cry in increments before soothing, starting with one minute and increasing one minute a day until the small one can fall asleep on his/her own. I know we’ve been blessed with a child with a decent temperament, but this method is one of the reasons people say, “He’s asleep? Through all this noise?” I also had the story of my youngest maternal uncle, when as a sleeping infant my grandmother encouraged noise making to ensure the kiddo could sleep.
Good enough, not perfect. No thank you parenting magazines, I’d rather have conversations with my friends and family to trade stories of what worked and what doesn’t. Trying to take care of my basic needs so not everything is put aside to others, including sleep to achieve some semblance of balance where irritability doesn’t cloud our days so Levi can grow up to be all that he can be.