Saturday, October 16, 2010

I've been to every single book I know

(Today's subject line is brought to you by Sting.)

There are a lot of parenting books out there. I have mixed feelings about them. If you are the kind of person who can take what you need out of a book and leave the rest, then the books would probably be very helpful for you and you should knock yourself out.

If, however, you are like me, and you overthink everything until it is at least ten times more difficult than it has any right to be, and if you are lacking in the self-confidence department, then DO NOT READ THE BOOKS. Oh my God, I have driven myself crazy.

At first it was fine. I figured, hey, I have never done this parenting thing before, there cannot be any harm in finding out what people have to say about it. Right? HA HA. Turns out that there is no such thing as an objective parenting book. They are all selling ideologies, and all of them conflict with all of the other ideologies. And they all say that if you do not follow this one specific method of parenting, you will ruin your child.

A big offender in that department is Dr. Sears, the "attachment parenting" dude. If you do not wear your baby in a sling all day long, she'll be much more likely to be insecure and clingy later on. If you don't co-sleep (the fancy term for letting the baby sleep in your bed), you'll be creating all kinds of sleep problems that will ruin your whole life. If you ever let your baby cry, he'll be much more likely to mow down the other kindergarteners with an AK-47. You get the picture.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for showing my baby all the love and attention I can give her. I believe that babies who know that their needs will be met will grow up to be confident kids. That makes sense to me. But I also believe that there is more than one way to go about this. I do often carry Ellie in a sling, just because it's so convenient to be able to snuggle my fussy baby and also get things done. But she doesn't sleep in our bed, and she is sometimes allowed to cry for a few minutes while I finish my dinner. This has yet to kill her.

Dr. Sears is also really bad about talking up parenting "in Africa," where presumably they are closer to nature and therefore more intuitive than we are here in North America. This drives me CRAZY. For one thing, he never specifies where in Africa. Egypt? Kenya? Botswana? Côte d'Ivoire? Dude, Africa is an enormous continent. You gotta be more specific. Also, I do not believe him when he says that babies don't cry in Africa because their mothers carry them all the time and don't worry so much about "modern" parenting methods. Babies are babies. They cry, even in third-world countries. I heard them personally when I was in Tanzania. Shut up with your stupid colonialist nonsense.

At the other end of the spectrum is that Baby Wise book. I have to admit that I've never actually read this one, but from what I understand they say you should control every single thing about your baby from day one. Won't sleep? Let him cry in his crib until he learns how to fall asleep on his own. Doesn't nurse for long enough? Keep her at it until your clock says it's time to stop, even if she's obviously finished. Um, no.

And then there's the Baby Whisperer, who presents herself as the "happy medium" between these two ideas. I read her books cover-to-cover while I was pregnant and thought, "Yeah, this sounds reasonable, this is what we'll do!" And then the baby was born and - gasp! - reality did not match up to the book. I've also learned that a lot of what she says about breastfeeding is just plain wrong. I don't know how she expects a young breastfed baby to go three hours between feedings during the day. Ellie is three and a half months old and she still can't go that long. It's nuts.

But all of these authors are VERY persuasive, and they all have bits of useful information scattered into the ridiculousness. Just enough to be convincing, at least to me. So I spend quite a lot of time worrying that I'm doing it wrong, and then forcefully reminding myself that Ellie is MY kid and I can do it however I want. This is a very strange feeling. I am a person who likes to be thoroughly educated about a thing before I start doing it, but in this case that has totally worked against me. For the first time in my life, books are my enemy!

But it's getting better. I am gradually learning to trust my own instincts and ignore what the "experts" have to say. After all, they've never met my daughter. They don't know what's best for her. I do, and I'm learning to trust that. And if any of you catch me reading another parenting book, I want you to slap it out of my hand and set it on fire. SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.

And since I know y'all are really just here for the baby pictures, here ya go. Is she not the cutest baby you ever did see?


Jennifer C said...

you take such awesome photos!!
i haven't read too many parenting books, but i have read a lot of stuff on the internet. currently i'm worried that i'm ruining my baby because i'm letting her nap in my arms during the day instead of putting her down. i feel guilty when i do this, but she's only going to be this small for a short period of time, and i keep telling myself that no teenagers nap in their mother's arms, so eventually she will get over it! that only sort of helps (more makes me feel like i'm justifying myself!). sigh.

Elizabeth said...

I have never read a single parenting book. I did borrow one about potty training, read the first two pages, realized that would not work on Merry and gave it back.

I say, you know your daughter best. And any child that fits perfectly to the ideal that those authors hold up for you to mold your child to, is going to be a really boring kid.

My kids are very much their own people and I think, lovely.