It’s remarkable, to me, how much parenting has changed that. Which is to say, you can criticize what I wear and I don’t care. You can criticize how I vote and we may debate or I may roll my eyes. But criticizing how I am parenting? I get mad. Easily. Reflexively. And I am far more likely to get defensive for others, when I see them being criticized.
With little Lain, we’ve had some failures and some successes. It’s impossible to know what we can and cannot take credit for. She is a delightful little girl. We can’t take credit for that winning smile, but sometimes I want to maybe take a little for providing her with a home and environment that has her smiling so much. But not too much, because I don’t want the blame if the next one is a non-stop fussbucket.
We cannot get her to sleep to save our lives. The worst part of the day is when it’s us, her, and the Sandman.
She is delayed in some respects. Walking and speech in particular. We’re keeping an eye on it, but my inclination is not to hold her up to a bunch of benchmarks and pass along how she is meeting them or not. This was my perspective prior to her falling behind, after having dealt with a lot of friends who seemed braggadocios. It helps me keep an even keel, and not freak out when she goes another day without saying “Excuse me, father, I am the slightest bit parched and would greatly appreciate it if you could procure for me some milk?”
I don’t know if it’s an ideological thing or that I am simply lazy, but by and large I view parenting as a matter of loving her, reading to her, and making sure to engage, feed, and change her. We engage mostly in unstructured play without cue cards or a pediatrician’s recommendation that this will aid in her cognitive development.
My basic philosophy is not to sweat the small stuff, to whatever degree I can avoid it. Maybe this is the right way to go, or maybe not. I suspect if differs from kid to kid. This has lead to some concern as the mild delay in her development has become known. We’re giving it a bit more time, but if necessary I will cue up the cue cards or do whatever it takes, as delayed development makes some of the small stuff into bigger stuff.
I nonetheless do find myself, at times, extremely self-conscious at times. Not because I really think we are doing it wrong, but because of Judgment. That anything that goes wrong will be further proof that cue cards were needed all along, that I failed in my primary duty, and that she will end up a pot smoking pregnant high school drop out because I didn’t navigate the waters perfectly.
This manifests itself in the typical ways. There are at least two schools of thought when it comes to napping. We come from the Not Cry It Out school. Which means that putting her down is tough. In the daytime, she has found a pretty natural sleeping rhythm. After weeks and months of trial and error, she does best under a relatively reliable schedule where she’s up for 4.5 hours, naps for a couple hours, and then is up for six. On the one hand, there are people who believe you have to Take Control of the sleeping situation. On the other hand, there are people who think that at the first rub of the eyes, putting her to sleep needs to be an immediate priority if you want to attend to the needs of your kids.
It’s something a little like the latter that ends up really frustrating me. Because after her being awake for a couple of hours, they see her rub her eyes and think “She’s tired, I think maybe she needs a nap.” I hear “I noticed that she rubbed her eyes. If you care about your child, you should drop everything you’re doing and spend the next hour in frustration as you prove me wrong. (As opposed to waiting for a bit, and having her down within ten minutes.) I know it isn’t meant this way, but such is the level of defensiveness I feel.
This also manifests itself in some odd ways. We’ve found that raises some eyebrows is the fact that she still wears onesies. This is mostly a function of her size, which makes it hard to get pants that fit her. Pants that don’t fit pull her diaper down. This has been presented to us as Something That Needs To Be Fixed. I could spend fifty paragraphs explaining and justifying it, but it ultimately comes down to “In an ocean of things that are necessarily complicated, this is one way we can make things easier.”
Another, admittedly potentially more significant thing we decided not to worry too much about is that she still drinks from a bottle. We recognize this as suboptimal, though we simply have bigger fish to fry. She knows how to drink out of a cup. She just likes the bottle for the same reason that some like pacifiers (which she was never in to). Also, since she still breastfeeds (another area where eyebrows get cocked, though this is actually in accordance with professional recommendations) it helps act as a substitute for the breastfeeding in a way that the sippie cup doesn’t. I could write like fifty paragraphs explaining and justifying it.
And that’s just it. I can spend fifty paragraphs explaining every little aberration. There is almost no aspect of my life where this is the case.
All in all, one of the most exasperating things about parenthood seems to be the overall sense of dedication and omniscience that seems to be required. Parents who think along the lines of “I care about my kids, and I do X, so parents who care about their kids should do X.” Along with a vague belief among people who’ve never had kids or got extremely lucky that a baby is only upset if they obviously need to be fed, changed, or put to sleep. (Or if you fell down on the job and they managed to hurt themselves.)
As an aside, I do love my family, and my in-laws. By and large, they’re supportive. I love my friends and those that have children are, without a doubt, doing the best they can with the limited information they have. By and large, we’re all supportive. But to some extent, we’re married to what we do, and it’s easier to imagine that there is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to go about things than it is to accept the sheer amount of ambiguity. Throw in some good old southern judgmentalism, and experience with said judgmentalism, and it aggravates things.
I am reasonably confident that I will never be a helicopter parent. I do, however, seem to have a better idea of how it happens. Some people who just need to do everything possible that they can to help their children. I suspect a lot more who incorporate the judgments of others, accept it as right, and go on from there. It’s extremely tempting. As long as you play from the playbook, you can’t be blamed if anything goes wrong, right? Not just by others, though there’s that, but the judgment of others that incorporates how we judge ourselves.
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