January 21, 2014

How to Do Parenting the "Right" Way

We have tried everything.

Cry it out. Pick her up and put her back down again. Nurse her to sleep. Rock her to sleep. But she is a fighter, a stubborn child, that one.

At different points in the past five months of Jocelyn’s life, Dr. Ferber, Tracy Hogg, and Dr. Sears would have moments of pure pride and joy in our tactics for taking care of her, especially in the “go-to-sleep department.” (And I'm sure they would equally have moments of shaking their heads at us.)

Trying the rice cereal thing. Surely that will help her sleep through the night.

While I was pregnant I read way too many books on parenting styles, sleep training, and baby development. Since my time (and interest) for parenting books has greatly diminished, I have jumped on the faster track of searching Google, mommy forums, and my fellow sister/friend moms to answer my growing number of questions about how to do parenting “right.”

And what I have found is this: Every parent has different opinions, (some obnoxiously strong opinions,) about the best way to raise children, about how to do parenting the “right” way.

These opinions cover a very wide range of topics, starting with pregnancy, slipping through childbirth, and weaving through parenting. All natural or epidural? Bottle or breast? Parent or baby-led schedule? No schedule at all? Self-soothing or baby wearing? Vaccines or not? Spanking or spanking-equals-abuse-and-I-will-call-CPS?

And I have reached the point of information overload. (So please, do not take this as an opportunity to offer any unsolicited parenting advice.)

Look what Jocelyn can do! (Sit up on her own!)

But in all of my research, and in all of our experimenting with Jocelyn (poor guinea pig child), there are a few things about parenting I have come to learn and wonder about. (Like why she couldn't have just come with a step-by-step manual.)

1.) I am selfish. So much for marriage highlighting my “I am number one” attitude. Parenting puts marriage to shame in the “let-us-learn-to-put-others-first” class of life. Before I thought I was being selfless if I took time to make a good dinner for Collin or let him choose the movie. Now it’s all “I’m going to change your diaper for the forty-third time today,” and “if I don’t get up at 3 am every morning to feed you, you will surely starve,” and “of course I will pick that toy up off the floor for you AGAIN, even though I KNOW you thoroughly enjoy throwing it on the ground while you look me in the eye.”

2.) I need to give up some horribly preconceived notions of parenting. Newsflash to me: not all babies are the “angel” kind that you can just lay in the crib and fall asleep on their own for twelve hours straight by the time they turn one month. There are a lot of different baby personalities out there. I would describe ours as slightly “spirited.” You know, the kind who likes to scream when she is upset, likes to be held, and likes to be bounced or rocked to sleep.

3.) Seriously, I am REALLY selfish. Sometimes I wonder if all of my research, all my trial-and-error methods, all of our troubleshooting parenting is simply me not being accepting of this new phase of life we are in. Most of the time I am just trying to make something easier on myself. But just because something is “easier” for me, does that make it best for Jocelyn? (Wise words from Collin.) Every couple of weeks, Collin would come home to me saying “let’s try this to get her to go to sleep!” Or “let’s do this so she will sleep through the night!”

Or maybe let’s just start to accept that it might be a few more months before we sleep through the night, and it might be awhile before Jocelyn can fall asleep without us rocking her, and it might be a couple twenty years before we can do everything we want whenever we want. And let’s just agree that the baby might have a meltdown if she doesn’t get at least one solid nap during the day, and there might be a few afternoons where she just needs a good cry. (Which I can totally relate to.)

4.) Every parent LOVES to share how they do things the “right” way. And I am completely guilty of this too. I could just kick myself when I start sharing all of my pregnancy, delivery, and rookie parenting experiences and advice with my pregnant and mommy friends. Because of course, all of their experiences will be JUST like my own. And all of their children will be JUST like mine. So naturally they are going to want to know exactly how I do parenting the “right” way.

(I know, there are times when fellow mommies and daddies do ask for advice or opinions, and that is a perfectly acceptable time to share what works best for you and your family. Just make sure to add an asterisk after your educated statement explaining that not all pregnancies, deliveries, and babies are the same.)

Let me prove my point by blabbering on for a minute about my parenting opinions and how I am an in All-Natural Delivery, Breast is Best (even though there are days I hate it), Flexible Routine (not a time schedule), Baby-Wearing, Only Get Required Vaccines, Eating Dirt is Healthier in the Long Run than Washing it Off, Spanking-is-totally-Biblical kind of mom.

But that does not mean that the Epidural, Full-Throttle-Bottle, Strict Time Schedule, Stroller Only, Ya-Drug-‘Em-Ya-Love-‘Em, Antibacterial Soap Addict, Don’t-You-Dare-Touch-My-Child kind of mom isn’t raising great kids too.

5.) No matter what we do, they’ll probably turn out just fine. (More wise words from Collin. Where would I be without that guy? Always the voice of reason.) Now, we realize that there is a little “nature vs. nurture” involved here. Some kids are horribly nurtured and naturally turn out great. Others are nurtured well and are naturally plain awful. Sometimes the best-intentioned parents who consistently discipline and raise their children in the faith still end up with a child who decides to depart from the way he should go.

But for many, the parents who do their best, who mean well, who are consistent in their methods and discipline, and keep Christ as their guide have a good shot at raising great kids.

Oh my, that sweet face.

6.) It’s time to trust my instincts. While I do think Dr. Ferber, Tracy Hogg, and Dr. Sears all have great ideas that make sense in different situations, there are also times when they need to be thrown out of the nursery (or the family bed if you’re into that sort of thing.) I'm a mom, so I know I have at least a little bit of motherly intuition.

7.) Yikes, this parenting thing is difficult and complicated.

8.) We’ll make sure to do it right when the second kid comes around. Haha. :)

So, I lied. I don't have all the answers in how to do parenting the "right" way. And neither do you, which makes us both equally fantastic parents as we do our best and say a couple hundred prayers each day that they'll turn out just fine. 

Grace and Peace,