The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, March 07, 2005

I am my own parenting manual

I spent this morning with a couple of friends who've each just had their first children. The babies slept quietly in slings and carseats while their mothers discussed all of the usual new mommy stuff -- cloth vs. disposable diapers, stroller and diaper bag brands and how to meet like-minded moms who tell it like it is instead of waxing eloquent about the Hallmark joy of parenting. Listening to them talk about the things they're learning and discovering was a total flashback to 3 years ago for me. I still think of myself as a new mom, but in this company, I was clearly the old pro.

I tried to keep quiet and let them share what they're learning, but I had to laugh at all of the discussion about parenting philosophies and what the books say. I finally suggested to them that they can find a book that will tell them anything they want to hear, so they might as well just save the cash and follow their guts. They agreed that they were coming to similar conclusions about parenting books ("I finally just threw away the Baby Whisperer book," one laughed), yet neither seemed fully comfortable with trusting themselves yet. Both continue to search for the perfect sleep solution and the ideal schedule as they strive to do things the "right" way.

"I've started bringing the boys into my bed at about 5:30 most mornings," the mom of twin boys confessed sheepishly. "We've had our daughter in the snuggle nest, but I've clearly got to get her out of our bed quickly before she never leaves," her friend replied. I assured them that both of my kids had spent some portion of time in our bed over the past 3 years with no long lasting ill effects. "Yeah, but was it philosophical?" they asked. Uh, no. It was preservationist. I did what it took to get through the nights. And as my kids got older, it took less and less until they both just preferred their own beds to mine. Both mothers stared at me when I told them this. "So did you follow a technique?" Not unless you call "let's do whatever's easiest right now and we'll deal with the ramifications later" a technique. I'm sure I lost Mommy credibility when I admitted this today, but really, my kids both sleep 12 hours a night in their own beds, so how wrong could my approach have been?

Almost everyone I know started out with intentions to do "by the book" parenting. My friend Cheryll called me the month before her son was born to get my opinion on the "best" philosophy to read up on and my friend Laura went through "What To Expect The First Year" every month for a while checking off all of the skills her daughter had mastered. Me, I read voraciously and acquired a vast amount of knowledge, but then found myself too worn out from the act of researching to actually implement the techniques I'd learned about, so I ended up winging it anyway. Eventually, we all calmed down and just went with the flow.

I'm sure my new mommy friends will run out of time to research as soon as their kids start moving and will eventually find themselves in routines they don't even recall implementing, same as the rest of us. I missed a good deal of the discussion today chasing down Evan as he headed for stairways and bargaining with Julia as she requested an eighth donut hole, but I heard enough to know that as sweet and snuggly and easy as those new little babies look in comparison to my mobile, mouthy toddler and preschooler, I would never want to go back to that unsure time in my life. I still don't know anything about what lies ahead for me as a parent. But I trust my instincts enough now to know that I'll figure it out as I go along.

I left today feeling good about being on solid footing and proud of the knowledge that I'm the only expert I need to tell me how to raise my kids. Someone please remind me of this next month when one of my kids does something unexpected and I become a researching lunatic again.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Being comfortable in your own skin is a great thing...too bad our skins seem to shed every once in a while, though. ;-)


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