I’d like to pass along four of the most important things I’ve learned about this whole child-rearing business. Given that my children are the very advanced ages of eight and six, I have the luxury of hindsight and the wisdom of experience. So listen up!
• There is rarely a quick fix to your parenting problems.
You will get lots of advice, solicited or not, from people you know, those you don’t know and those you don’t want to know. And for the holy grail of baby advice, the “Expert Opinion,” the sheer volume of books and articles offering you the answers to even the most specific kiddie questions will wow you. Each expert will likely offer a definitive answer for anything you need to know. So what if they all contradict each other?
Your baby isn’t sleeping through the night?
“Let him cry it out or he’ll be mommy-dependent and never leave home.” Or, “Don’t let your baby cry herself to sleep or she’ll have insomnia, fear of intimacy and an aversion to good colleges.”
Potty training problems? If “stay at home for three days and let your child pee and poop on everything in sight or they’ll wear diapers to their high school graduation” doesn’t sound like fun, there’s always, “Let your child potty train when he or she is ready or she’ll end up orally-fixated and living with you until she’s 43.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all expert advice is to be avoided. But you should use it like that emergency stash of chocolate you keep hidden on the top shelf of the pantry — only when really needed.
• Much of those baffling things your baby will go through are phases.
The baby who will only fall asleep if being held vertically at a slight 45 degree angle while you do a version the “Cupid Shuffle” and simultaneously whisper “shhhhhhhh” in a steady monotone until you feel lightheaded — that’s a phase.
Not sleeping through the night, pacifier addiction, embarrassing tantrums and any other number of things that can drive usually rational adults to the brink of insanity — all phases. Meaning they pass, never to be thought of again because you’re so busy dealing with the next confounding thing.
• You will always feel guilty.
No matter what you do with regards to your little angel, it’s never going to feel like you’re doing enough. That old friend guilt will sit on your shoulder and whisper in your ear, “I can’t believe you let Jakey watch ‘Baby Einstein’ for an hour so you could shower and wash your hair.”
There is no beating this. Just accept it and once in a while take a step back and say, “I’m working my butt off here. Can’t I get a little appreciation?” And then answer yourself, “Yes, you can. You are a great mom. You are doing a great job.” Repeat until it makes sense.
• All babies are different. I know, shocking.
One-size-fits-all advice, therefore, doesn’t work. Beware of moms of older kids (like me) telling you what you absolutely have to do, try, buy.
Parenting advice, from experts, friends and relatives, is like making soup. Take what you need – a dash of your mom’s wisdom, a chunk of your mother-in-law’s suggestions, a few spoonfuls of your best friend’s must-read parenting book, a dollop of an article you read online and then, for the base, pour in your own intuition. And know that you are doing the best you can and your baby will turn out to be a loved, well-adjusted adult even if he hasn’t met the latest email milestone from that obnoxious parenting website that never fails to make you feel inadequate.