Baby Advice (part 1 of 3)

Written by on February 25, 2013 in Learning to Breathe - 2 Comments

The other day, someone I am Facebook friends with — but who I really don’t know very well — wrote a Facebook post asking for some sage baby advice from anyone who would give it, as his wife was just about to give birth. My instant reaction: wow, that’s pretty brave asking people you may not know very well for baby advice on your newborn. But then I started to think about how much advice I’d requested, and listened to, when I was expecting and how many books I, myself, and other friends had read on the topic. In fact, asking people you may at least sort of know, and who have been there and done that already, may actually have been the best thing to do after all.

So I went to give this person my baby advice, but only after reading the other clever advice that was written there. In fact, many people had taken the time to write something, even those who did not know the asker all that well. Upon reading it, I saw just how much of it I agreed with, having now raised my own two daughters, mainly as a single mom, and mainly (I’d like to believe given how well they’ve turned out so far) not too badly as they’re both (mostly) very well-behaved little girls.

There were the important and highly detailed pieces of advice regarding routine and sleep and, which I agreed with instantly. Then there was advice from people who had chosen a different route than I had, which also sounded quite sound, even if different from the way I’d elected to raise my kids. But the main thing that shown through everyone’s comments was the one that was really the most important: however you choose to raise your kids, do everything you do with the love for your children in mind. Love was the feeling that echoed strongest throughout every piece of advice. Love was really the most important emotion — true unconditional love was what truly mattered.

That idea brought about in me the following thought: I have chosen one way to raise my children, and I know people who have chosen a different way whose kids have turned out just as wonderful, even if through following a different path. The one thing we have in common, however: true and complete adoration for the little beings who now occupy our space and who we cannot imagine a world without. So is there really a right or a wrong way to raise a child, if the way is filled with love?

For example, in my circle of friends, I am considered a mom that walks a middle line as far as indulgence and strictness. I neither over-indulge my children nor over-spoil them, but I do certainly, on occasion like to lavish them with little gifts and prizes for good behaviour or good work done, just to make them happy. Usually, though, the prizes have to be earned (as earning something, I’ve learned, makes it seem more valuable). Though there are many areas in which I am not that strict (whether they finish the food on their plate, for example, and occasionally letting them have snacks or sweets when some of my friends would be afraid it would interfere with a meal) there are certain areas (like bedtime routines and morning rituals) in which I can occasionally be mistaken for a lion-tamer. Areas like bedtimes during school-nights, homework being done on time and before playing, and no TV on school-nights are non-negotiables for instance. Interestingly enough, my kids (mostly) have long ago stopped negotiating these areas with me (though they occasionally try with a new babysitter). And though I’m not as strict as some moms I know about eating rituals, my kids actually have a pretty good diet and good eating habits –  in particular my older daughter who loves vegetables more than most kids her age that I know and would always choose salad over chips (that’s french fries for my American friends).

A good friend of my ex-husband’s, who managed to raise two very good kids, took the opposite view of me about routine. Her kids were allowed to go to bed when they were tired, kept their pacifiers until they were ready to give them up, and toilet trained themselves when they decided they were done with nappies (or diapers in America). I never dared to try her way with my own kids, as I’m pretty sure that it would definitely backfire. My own kids, for example, are occasionally allowed to stay up late during holidays and weekends. And I have yet to come upon a time, no matter how late, when they actually told me that they wanted to go to sleep without my telling them it was time.

A very good friend of mine from University has decided to use attachment parenting with her kids. What this means for her family is that kids are carried when they want to be (and for sure up to the age of 3 at least), weaned off nursing when they wean themselves, potty-trained when they choose to be, and can decide themselves if they feel like attending nursery school or not. The last time we came to visit them, I also learned that their kids can choose what they eat and when. In that particular meal, for example, their older son was in his “crackers phase” and decided that the only thing he wanted to eat was crackers even though there were no crackers on the table and all the rest of us (including my own kids) were eating “proper food”. Attachment parenting also means sleeping with your children. In their case, it meant that my friend shared a bed with her youngest, the daughter, while her husband shared the bed with the oldest, the son.

In my house, my kids don’t even share a floor with me as our place is too small to have more than one bedroom on a floor, so they sleep upstairs from me. Though I let them cuddle in bed with me in the morning when they get up – something that all of us really enjoy as our little bonding time – I can’t imagine sleeping with them the whole night, especially if I was married and wanting to cuddle up to my husband at night. I can’t imagine this kind of routine can be very good for the intimacy between a couple, especially as the parents have to lay down with their little ones to get them to sleep at night. I must admit too that the crackers incident made me cringe (to myself of course as I wouldn’t have wanted to disrespect my friend). One of my own rules with my kids is to make sure that they eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. Because of this – and my rule of good food first, dessert after (at least most of the time) – both my girls love to eat fruits and vegetables and are even fans of salads at their young age. The other day we were in a restaurant with an all you can eat buffet with my girls where I allowed them to choose their food themselves. Both, on their own, chose to begin their meals with a salad that they put onto their own plates. It made me gush with pride when some other parents in the restaurant exclaimed with complete incredulity in their voice about how they could barely get their own kids to choose to eat potatoes that weren’t french fries. My kids, I must say, are pretty healthy and rarely sick. Thanks, I’d like to think, to their healthy diet and good bedtime routine.

But despite my friend’s children’s very strange eating and sleeping habits, they both seem to be happy and well-adjusted kids. And though my friend and her husband have, in fact, sacrificed quite a lot of intimacy and couple-time (not to mention alone-time) for their kids, they both seem to be on the same page with how to raise them and hence have the whole way through put out a very warm and loving united front. Both my friend and her husband have agreed that their priority will be to focus all of their love and attention on their children and everything they do is towards that means, even if sacrificing their own needs occasionally (or often). I have to respect that, especially as my ex and I almost never presented a united front, which is why I think my kids are better adjusted, and better behaved, since after we split (despite some usual issues that come from living in a single household of course). Though I could never ever (ever) live my life in the way that my attachment parenting friend has chosen to, I have to give it to her that she is most definitely a very loving mom and that she seems to be very happy in her way of raising her kids.

I’ve now read so many parenting books on raising kids in a “Tiger mom” and “French” way and on raising them with rituals and without, and though I now have chosen a very clear way for myself, I can’t say still that there’s one way to do it better. Perhaps the right way is the way that works for both parents and kids and leaves both feeling happy. Personally, I would struggle in a household where my kids can eat and do what they wanted when they wanted and where there were barely any rules to keep them in check, but in my friend’s case, because her own upbringing was so different, this is the path that feels best for her. My way wouldn’t work for her any more than her way would work for me. But both of us have chosen the way of love – through very different paths and ways of giving this love – but still love is what rules our choices.

So perhaps that is really the only lesson: no matter which way you choose, choose what is best for you and your children and always choose the path of love. Of course, if the way you’ve chosen doesn’t seem to be working for some reason, then perhaps it may mean that you may want to rethink and choose a different way. But always, always remember that the ultimate emotion is one of unconditional and complete love.


Stay tuned for next month’s blog entry where I write some of my own baby and child advice and how I’ve done it (or have tried to do it).

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2 Comments on "Baby Advice (part 1 of 3)"

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