Parenthood, Judged


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    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.

    I actually agree that someone needs a nap. I’m just not sure it’s Lain.

    I think you are very close to hitting the nail on the head regarding the motivations of helicopter parenting. I think it’s interesting that nearly everyone universally agrees it is horrible and nearly every parent then proceeds to do it. There has to be something more complicated going on.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Parents need to show that they put their children first. Even if it’s above common sense and fiscal prudence. I was talking with someone on the bus about “how to deal with credit card debt”… yeah, the idea that maybe they could lose the car for some time was … “but my kid needs to go to X practice!” (way back in my day, my parents got other parents to drive me places, some of the time).Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      I disagree. I, for one, am quite vigilant in my absenteeism.

      “Where’s your son?”
      “I dunno… I think over by the slide somewhere.”
      “What?!?! You’re not hovering over him??? What if he falls???”
      “Then he’ll learn to get up.”

      As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the primary issue is not that people generalize their actions, but that people generalize their goals. People struggle with what I do because they can’t accept that I have prioritized things differently than they have and am acting accordingly.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        I wasn’t going to comment, but I did notice this from the OP Or if you fell down on the job and they managed to hurt themselves. – which I don’t think (necessarily) represents the parents falling down on the job. Hurting ourselves is part of how we learn our limits, and how we learn that a bit of pain isn’t the end of the world.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I agree. Some “hurt themselves” is not only okay but a positive. In the OP, I was referring to injury in excess of that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I tend to use the old sports adage of differentiating between being hurt and being injured.

        Also, Mayo seems to have no response to pain and zero fear. If we were rich, he might be the next Batman.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      So about two and a half hours after the baby woke up, my mother-in-law observed that she was rubbing her eyes and maybe in need of a nap. This was repeated about four times over the next hour. At which point, I took the baby upstairs. That was about an hour ago. Right now she’s standing in her crip and looking out the window.Report

      • Avatar TrexPushups says:

        For more fun try having your mother in law live with you when she has Alzheimer’s.
        My poor wife spends all day at home with her and our infant son.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        To be fair, though I’ve complained about her twice now in roughly as many weeks, my m-i-l is actually pretty awesome. Not just “as far as mothers in law go” but more generally pretty awesome. (Which makes it harder when we butt heads, because I can’t just out-and-out dismiss.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Two hours ahead of schedule, there have been three inquiries and/or observations about whether or not the child is sleepy and should have an early bed time.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    Meh. Just continue to ignore the opinions of others. It’s your kid. You decide. Anyone too interested in tell you what to do is a nosey busybodyReport

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Zazzy and I had a very stupid argument the other night after I bought brand new hangers for Mayo’s closet. She thought it was a waste of money. She thought I was just indulging my anal retentiveness and controlling nature. Which was no doubt a part of it. But before I ordered the hangers and set to work re-organizing the closet, the thing was a mess — mostly filled with clothes too small for him and which he never wore because we never dared venture into the mess. This felt like an area of “parenting fail”. So ordering the nw hangers was also about addressing my own parental guilt, something all parents feel. I don’t know if I’m evolved or callous that I feel more guilt over a neglected closet than I do over him face planting onto a garden stone, but I similarly can see why people end up helicopter parents but doubt I ever will be one (at least in the traditional sense of the term).Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Well, isn’t that a partial hint at the mechanism here by which no one has to think of themselves as helicopter parents? You are giving yourself points for letting him explore the park because you think *that* is the context in which it is important for him to achieve independence and blah, blah. Meanwhile other parents can look at your micromanaging his closet and feel content that *they* would never be such a controlling helicopter parent like that Kazzy guy.

      Because there has to be some reason that everyone can think that everyone else is overprotective.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Yes… BUT… I don’t plan to do his closet forever. I just wanted to make it functional, something he can’t do right now. It is currently an “adult space” but I want it to eventually become his space. The playground already is more or less his space. I want to give him as much “his space” as possible. Which I think puts me at direct odds with most helicopter parents.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I agree you’re at odds with who you think most helicopter parents are. But I also think (without evidence or even much experience at all) that those people you put in that category wouldn’t self-identify as helicopter parents and have their own criteria that they use to judge themselves as less helicopter-y than others.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Agreed. Had I stopped after my first sentence or two, I would have then said: “And I bet everyone says that!”

        I will also say that I tend not to use such labels as “helicopter parents” as I just don’t find them particularly instructive or constructive. Still, self-awareness and self-reflection and intentionality are things that are generally hard for people and particularly so when dealing with something as personal and emotionally laden as parenting. I doubt most people have a clearly articulated philosophy of parenting. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t thoughtful or doing a good job. Just most people are existing as parents. I’m probably somewhat of an outlier in part because of my general nature and in part because of the extent of my training with regards to chi,d rearing.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        fwiw, the term “helicopter parent” has become a self-identifier in some circles. a positive one. i would not have believed it had i not heard it with my own ears.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I have a hard time believing it too. Then again, you’re a person on the internet telling me you’ve heard it, so I guess it’s true.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    I do not mean to lecture, so please don’t take this as such, because my parenting style sounds pretty close to yours.

    On sleeping, the whole cry-it-out thing, etc. There’s only one thing here that seems important to me, worthy of serious consideration, and something that will, potentially, help shape a child’s future ability to cope with the world: the ability to comfort oneself; to calm down and relax and go to sleep.

    As long as you feel that’s happening; she can withdraw when too tired or overstimulated, and calm herself, comfort herself, nothing else really matters. If she always needs you or her mom to calm herself, need the bottle or breast, she’s got an important skill to develop, and may need some gentle nudging in that direction.

    On slow development, that’s a bigger kettle then just slow, and perhaps more so for extremely bright kids. My elder sprout developed pincer grip before fist grip; talked late, walked late. Sometimes, what’s perceived as slow development is actually development in different order then what’s presumed standard and normal. My elder went from not talking to, somewhere around 21 months, taking a Christmas gift to a friend who was visiting, and saying, “Here you go, open it up;” from baby words nobody but us could understand to full, clearly articulated sentences. Talking late, and then having full vocab/sentence construction early. Out of order stuff, focusing on the fine detail before the gross.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Self-soothing is the goal for most methods. The Cry-It-Out says that if you let them cry it out then they will necessarily have to learn to self-sooth. The Attachment Method says that they will learn whenever they are good and ready. We are in between, though closer to the second.

      When she was littler, I had a “twenty minute rule” which was that she would have twenty minutes to go to sleep after I left her. If she was still crying after twenty minutes, then she wasn’t ready. Different kinds of crying ellicited different time frames. Some crying, if heavy enough, got only five minutes.

      Baby timeframes don’t work like “All I have to do is cry for twenty minutes…” though the five minutes did become a bit of a problem after she learned to ramp it up (she learned, basically, how we perceive the differences in crying style and knew which one to deploy so that she didn’t have to wait twenty minutes).

      She’s older now, and so when she wakes up in the night we give her time to sort it out and go back to sleep. Three times out of four, she does.

      All of this does go out the window when our routine (insofar as we have one – it’s our biggest struggle) gets interrupted, and/or she’s not in her crib.

      We could probably push her a little harder on these things, but this is one of those areas of parental negotiation. Clancy and I agree broadly, though there is a bit of daylight between our viewpoints (the twenty minute thing was my idea, which she had to come around to), and we don’t always agree in execution.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      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’m with Zic, don’t sweat the development stuff. One of the smartest things my wife & I did is to join PEPS. We gained a great group of friends with kids all about the same age as Bug. The really nice thing is that we get to watch the kids develop alongside each other & you can really see what Zic is talking about, how they all develop different things in different order. Each one of the kids has managed to master somethings much better than the other kids. Two of the girls are already potty trained (did it themselves too), none of the boys are. One of the boys has scary language skills, a few of the other kids are barely speaking. We got a couple of kids already on the ball with the alphabet & are recognizing words, some – not so much. Some are natural engineers, others… you get my point.

      It’ll all shake out at the end, just keep an eye on it & keep your pediatrician informed. They’ll let you know when to worry.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    My mantra has become: “Children do not come with an owner’s manual”

    I still repeat it often, and they are in their 20’s now. There is no perfect answer, just stuff you have to work at, try things, and keep refining what you do.

    We didn’t have quite the trouble with getting them to sleep at Lain’s age that you seem to be having. All kids are different, though. The big sleep trouble with them was when they were older – 3ish. Then they would not stay in their room when it was bedtime. All the routine that worked before stopped working – they’d come charging out of their rooms after 10-15 minutes.

    This was a nightmare, until we found something that worked for us – I got a bunch of cheap plastic toys from a mail-order catalog. I told them that if they stayed in their rooms for the whole night, they could choose a toy in the morning. This worked spectacularly well. After a few weeks, they didn’t even care about the toys any more, they just went to sleep.Report

  6. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    FYI, I just saw an episode of Louie in which he has to babysit a kid whose mom has told him that any choice he makes is good as long as he loves himself.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Interesting, @vikram-bath . I’m guessing you shared this specifically with me because you assume my parenting style as I’ve described it would inevitably lead to that sort of thing. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. While I currently give Mayo a lot of freedom and plan to continue to give him a lot of freedom with the idea of him gaining agency, self-empowerment, independence, and a sense of autonomy, I do not want to see him take these things to an extreme. So there will be times where he will have little to no agency, where he will be told what to do and expected to comply or, at the very most, express objection in an appropriate manner. My parenting is not l’aissez faire; rather, it is defined by setting up clear structures and routines and then letting the child operate within them. It mirrors my teaching style (with some key differences owing to the different relationship and environment). For instance, in my art center, the students are more or less free to create as they will; I see unhindered creative expression as fundamental to the artistic process. So you will never catch me in the art area saying, “No, you can’t make the cow blue,” or “No, you can’t use popsicle sticks that way.” However, the children are still expected to follow the guiding tenets of our classroom community: care for self, care for others, and care for the classroom environment. So, if you want to use those scissors to cut paper into whacky shapes, have at it. If you want to use those scissors as a projectile… “That is not a choice” [exact quote]. If you want to bring paint over from the easel to paint your cardboard box, awesome! If you want to paint the floor, unfortunately that is not something we can do.

      Here are the limits. Sometimes they are wide and vast. Sometimes they are tight and constrained. I put trust in my little ones to work within them and give them the freedom to.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I’m guessing you shared this specifically with me because you assume my parenting style as I’ve described it would inevitably lead to that sort of thing.

        Actually, I thought the opposite. I assumed you would be on Louie’s side. Sorry for the mix up.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      My favorite part of that episode is that he won’t make his daughter spend time with the boy, even though the boy is at their house.

      Also, the bathtub scene.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      He has to babysit a kid whose mom has told him that any choice he makes is good as long as he loves himself.

      Typical Louie.Report

  7. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I just read this recap of a series on Motherhood around the world
    The whole thing is interesting, but here is a blurb on sleep in Australia:

    On sleep camps: Government-subsidized programs help parents teach their babies to sleep. I haven’t been to one (though I did consider it when we were in the middle of sleep hell with our daughter) but many of my friends have. The sleep camps are centers, usually attached to a hospital, that are run by nurses. Most mums I know went when their babies were around six or seven months old. You go for five days and four nights, and they put you and your baby on a strict schedule of feeding, napping and sleeping. If you’re really desperate for sleep, you also have the option of having a nurse handle your baby for the whole first night so you can sleep, but after that you spend the next few nights with your baby overnight while the nurses show you what to do. They use controlled crying and other techniques. I have friends who say it saved their lives, friends who left feeling “meh” about the whole thing, and a friend who left after a day because, in her words, “they left my baby in a cupboard to cry.”


  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Maybe she is just in some alternative reality with serial experiments?

    A friend of mine and his wife just had their first kid a few weeks ago. Apparently their house cleaner just told his wife that “she didn’t know what she was doing” re comforting her child.

    I think people were always judgey of other parents.Report

  9. Avatar Maria says:

    In my real world interactions with other parents, with friends, and with my family, I have experienced very little in the way of criticism of my and my husband’s parenting choices. If people are rolling their eyes behind our backs at how we have proceeded on some of the more hot button issues, they have the grace and good sense to keep their opinions to themselves. The online parenting world, however, is a whole other kettle of fish. Everyone proclaims that all children are different and if what you do works for your family, then that is all well and good…but. There is always a “but”, and that “but” can be so loaded with backhanded judgement and criticism that it takes a truly thick skin to not feel your hackles rising as you read that your choice to do x is fine, but this other person would NEVER do it because of all the damage it can cause your kid. So basically if you do x, you are a horrible, horrible parent, but hey, whatever works for you! It can make one start to feel a little defensive and that can sometimes spill over into real life as well. We parents do enough soul searching and experience enough self-doubt that a little criticism can go a long way towards breaking our confidence in our own choices.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I write enough about this in posts and comments that I’m not going to go over all of my irritation on this topic again. Instead, I’ll just say this to Will and anyone else who’s listening.

    Here’s parenting in a nutshell: You show up, you do the best you can with what you have, you send them out into the world, you cross your fingers, and you pray for the best.

    That’s pretty much it. Anyone claiming to have figured out something that’s both universal and more detailed than that is fooling themselves.Report

    • Avatar Angela says:

      Having multiple kids really highlighted how little control we have over basic personality. Same parents, same environment, pretty much starting with the same rules (until they totally didn’t work): vastly different results.
      All three kids (now 22, 18 and 17) seem to be reasonably OK, although very (very!) different in many ways.
      You don’t get to rerun things, so just be content that you’re doing what you think best for them (and you) at the time. And hope it works out. And when it doesn’t, try doing what seems best for them (and you). And hope it works out.

      And have a great time!! Raising children has been an astonishing source of joy.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Having multiple kids really highlighted how little control we have over basic personality

        No kidding, @angela. I had some friends who disbelieved in innate personality until they had kids of their own and realized that distinct personality started revealing itself within the first months.Report

  11. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    I subscribe to the Neolithic parenting philosophy. If you can keep the kid from being eaten by a bear you’re about 90% there.Report