3.23.2006

understanding

My mom likes to tease me about "the books." If you have kids you likely know the ones she refers to. I think every first-time-pregnant woman has them. The ones that tell you all you ever needed to know about parenting. I didn't have many books, actually. I had one for pregnancy and one for each the first years and the toddler years. I used them as reference books - "Hmmm, how high is too high again for a fever?"

I did, however, have articles and internet sites. I read a lot. And after a while, I tossed the vast majority of that crap out the window.

Don't get me wrong. I think there is value in expert 'guidance.' I think parenting trends and techniques are worth being aware of. I just think wedding yourself to any as *the* way to go is missing the boat. In fact, I've even come to think that anything you're going to stick to with rigid adherance is unrealistic.

For me, anyway, parenting requires flexibility. It's a fluid artform.

I was at the gym with my mom. When Logan was at the peak of seperation aniexty the only way to be successful in leaving him with someone else was to let him know you were leaving. It really was very by the book. No risk of ruining his trust of damaging his esteem. We waved good-bye, reassured him we'd return and made our exit.

Megan, on the other hand, does not adhere to what the books stipulate. She needs us to just go. No show. No mention we're on the way out. We bring her in. We get her invovled and we leave - unannounced. Unbeknowst to her. Typically she'll ask for us once and when she's told we'll be back soon she goes back to her play. Except sometimes she doesn't take to that it that easily and sometimes we end up back in the child care room at church of gym reassuring her.

This partular afternoon we were on our bikes getting ready for Spin. A young mom walked in to retrieve her bag. She wasn't staying. "Every time I tell her I'm going, she cries. I can't even get near the door," she said.

My mom nodded. She told her about Meg's perferred technique. The mom's eyes got wide "But the books say..." My mom shot me the look.

Logan took to sleep training fairly well. He was loud for a night or two and then he slept. He's been putting himself to sleep without issue since the year and half mark. We do his bedtime routine - bath, stories, sleep - and he happily settles down under the blankets. We moved him from crib to bed without issue. The only time we see him at night (unless he's sick) is if he needs to use the bathroom. He won't get out of bed on his own unless the sun is up - his idea, not ours. I, quite frankly, would be thrilled if he'd just get up and use the toilet at 2am without me there.

Megan, on the other hand, has been horrid with sleep training. We've tried a zillion different things and it all ends the same way - failed because she works herself into a naseauting tizzy. Quite literally. Except naps. It happened quite by accident. I was rocking her to sleep for a nap one afternoon and Logan came running down the hall in great need. I don't even remember what it was but I do remember that ignoring him wasn't helping me get Megan to sleep. I laid her down. I told her I'd be back. She never cried. She talked to herself and her bears. I left her alone. She was asleep without me.

We just kept it going. Every day I give her lunch. I tell her as she begins eating that when she's done it's nap time. She happily blows kisses to her brother while we walk down the hallway to her room. I lay her down. I leave her. She's out.

It wasn't translating to bedtime though. Except then we talked about it - her and I. The first night she laughed. She told me no. The second night the child was bouncing off the walls. She would not settle down. I laid down the law "You can only be rocked if you're going to settle down and sleep. This isn't play time. If you're going to use rocking as playing we won't be able to do it. How about we try doing it yourself like nap time."

I laid her down. She never yelled. She never cried and most importantly, she never threw up. She just talked to everything in her room. She turned her fish tank music on. She went to sleep.

We tried it again last night. Same result. Not only that - but she slept all. night. long. (Since she has done that before, however, I'm not going to get too excited until she does it many a night in a row.)

It was like a little light switch went off. "Ok, I'm ready." When we think of it, this is just pure Megan. She's like this. She'll resist a change and then suddenly, when it's on her terms, she takes to it immediately. With Logan we spent well over a week weaning him rocking to sleep. We whittled the process down until he could sleep on his own. Megan went from all to nothing in one fell swoop. She was ready.

And that's what the books don't get. That children don't fit neatly into cookie cutters. They don't all adhere to same set of rules and guidelines. They don't come with an instruction manual for a reason. The only thing we, as parents, can do is understand our options almost as well as we understand our kids.

6 comments:

keda said...

quite right!

i have twins and even they are completely different.
well done and enjoy the nights sleep*

Tropical Screamer said...

And the same priciples apply to grown-ups and managing people. Some people need money, some need recognition and some need to be left alone to do their jobs.

The world would be a gentler place if everyone took the time to treat each person as an individual. No matter what the books say. ;)

Darilyn

Laura said...

I was a "book" mom too. When my oldest daughter was born, none of my friends had babies yet, and I really didn't know anyone at the time with little kids.

So I read those books... religiously, and I worried endlessly that I wasn't doing the right thing.

Eventually, like you, I tossed the books and went by the seat of my own intuition with a healthy dose of common sense. they're 17 and 13 now, somehow they survived! ;)

I loved the cookie cutter line, Sandy. Only a mom knows what her kids need for sure. You sound like a great mom!

Carmi said...

I wish I had read this entry before we brought our firstborn son home from the hospital.

We, too, raided the bookstore when we found out we were going to become parents. We, too, read them religiously and tried to follow each chapter in its perfectly laid out form.

We, too, eventually learned that parenting isn't about repeating a recipe. It's about subtlety and nuance. And speaking of which, so is your writing and your perspective on this whole parenting thing. Thanks for that!

ƒåυνέ said...

LMAO My son and daughter are like night and day. I've come to learn that whatever worked for the first, if I do the opposite, it will work for the second.

Love your site; found you via Michelle's

expatmama said...

Oh, I'm so glad you've found a solution for the sleep thing-- although as you say, it sounds like the "solution" was just Meg being ready. Anyway, I bet it's a relief!