So, I changed the subtitle of my blog's heading just for this post.
"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories."
I found the quote in Wayne Dyer's book, "What Do You Really Want for Your Children?" The quote is from John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester from the seventeenth century. Just goes to show it doesn't matter what century you live in, none of us know what we are flippin' doing when it comes to raising our kids. All we can do is dive in and hope we don't screw them up too terribly. Because you do know that you will screw them up in some way. It is inevitable. None of us are perfect parents. Dammit.
So, just let me say that I had oodles of theories about kids before I had one. Oodles and oodles. Oh, and I was silently judgmental of other parents before I had a child, as well. I know. Strike me down. I am now learning my lesson.
One of those "theories" of mine was that babies should not, under any circumstances, be given a pacifier. Never. Never. Never. It was lazy parenting to poke a pacifier in a baby's mouth when they are crying or screaming in public or babbling too loudly. My theory was that the baby would eventually believe his or her need to speak out was unimportant and a nuisance. And it would be a crutch for the child that the parent would have to eventually take away, therefore scarring the poor kid.
Fast forward to day two of my son's life.
He was born on a Thursday evening and this happened on Saturday. My son was breastfeeding for hours at a time in the hospital. If he wasn't breastfeeding, he would cry like he wanted to be breastfeeding. Some of you may know that I hadn't slept since the day before he was born. I was no doubt losing my mind. A nurse comes in and tells me that he is using my breasts as a pacifier and why don't I let her give him an actual pacifier?
For about half a second, I thought, No, we don't believe in pacifiers. Half a second. Then, in desperation, I yelled, "Give him one! Hell, give him five pacifiers! I don't care! Just get him to be quiet!" Ok, I didn't say that exactly, but it was what I was thinking as I said, "Ok, I guess."
Everyday since, he has had that dang pacifier in his mouth...and I can't tell you how many times it has saved my hanging-by-a-thread sanity.
More silly theories of mine? I was not, under any circumstances, going to let my child watch television until he turned two years old. TV bad. Mommy and baby time good. While I still believe this is true, it has not stopped me from sticking him in his jumperoo to watch Baby Einstein or Elmo for thirty minutes while I get some much needed ME time, including activities such as eating, doing the dishes, switching the laundry, sitting on my hands so I don't pull ALL my hair out, staring out the window wondering if I ever brushed my teeth, and looking for my perpetually missing cell phone.
Another theory: no baby of mine was going to eat jar baby food. I was going to cook and steam and puree my little heart out and be the best mommy chef ever. Until I had a child who won't eat anything BUT jarred baby food, who throws up at the first taste of anything that has taste. Now we should take out stock in Gerber, Earth's Best, and Organic Baby.
And a final theory about child rearing: a child should sleep in the same room as his/her parents until the age of three months, at which time he or she should be moved to his or her own room. This promotes bonding and security for the baby and easy access in the overnight feedings. Ha ha. Fast forward to five weeks after my son was born. I couldn't get him in his own room fast enough. He was always grunting and groaning in his sleep which gave me anxiety because I was never sure if he was about to wake up and dash my hopes and dreams for a little shut-eye. So, at five weeks, into his own room and his own crib he went. Anxiety level lowered...aaahhh, much better. So much for bonding and security and easy access.
So, basically, all my child raising theories were silly and shot and not part of my actual experience at all. Every once in a while, I kick my own backside for thinking such silliness. Every child is unique and there is no one size fits all. We, as parents, do whatever it takes to ease our children's pain, dry their tears, keep them happy, healthy, all the while trying to maintain some small piece of who we are outside of our parental roles. What is my lesson in all of this?
Never, ever judge something you have yet to experience. Have no expectations or theories about how each day should unfold. Cut yourself some slack. No one is a perfect parent. Judging and expecting always come back to bite you, well, you know where.
These are hard to remember when the day gets long, but I'll keep trucking. After all, we do get to start over tomorrow and that fact keeps me jumping out of bed every morning with a renewed sense of hope! Whew, thank God!
(Ok, last one! I believed in exclusive breastfeeding. Fast forward. My son has been on formula since seven weeks. Gotta love it.)