Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Just what the world needs: more parenting advice

Baby is sleeping which is how I am able to be here writing at the moment.  She's not a great sleeper . . . in fact during the day she doesn't sleep much at all but finally, by the third child this doesn't stress me out.

(Here I am beginning a rant about babies and sleep again, and coming dangerously close to offering more unsolicited advice to any new parent who may be reading . . . because if you are a new parent the thing you need more than anything . . . even more than a mr. milker or fetal kick-Twitter updater  . . . is more parenting advice.  Especially sleep advice).

Sleep is apparently the most accurate indicator of your child's future performance in life.  In fact, in some Christian circles getting a child to sleep through the night is nearly as crucial as total emersion, and the earlier a baby sleeps eight hours the more likely he is to be a missionary to China, or a wealthy tithing church member.

And I have a newborn and I can't help myself, I have to talk about sleep.  It's the number one thing that controlling concerned parents want to talk about: how to get baby to sleep through the night so we can get back our uninterrupted t.v. schedule early morning prayer time.

So here is my wealth of insight on the issue:
Sometimes babies sleep.  Sometimes they don't sleep.
Sometimes they wake up at really inconvenient times, like mine just did.
What you decide to do about that is up to you.

Insert: it is now three  now it's five seven days later . . . after Baby #3 woke up, I got a call from my mom who was watching the older two, but Annie was having some constipation issues and was upset and wanted me to be there.  So I went.  And since then we have been dealing with this issue on a daily basis . . . it typically involves several hours a day of on and off the potty accompanied by a panicked, hysterical toddler and bribing with chocolate.  I am sure there must be a Christian parenting book on getting this particular function into a schedule, too, but I've yet to find it.  

The first house we lived in when we got married butted up directly to the house behind us.  I pretty much could have popped my head out my kitchen window and into their kitchen window to borrow a cup of sugar.   The lady who lived there was a precious little lady who used every square inch of her yard to plant something.  (She'd dig up her border of spring bulbs to make room for planting beans, and then re-plant the bulbs in the fall).  And she used to bring me little bits of things- a cup of cole slaw or a few beets or piece of pie they couldn't eat and she didn't want to go to waste . .. like I said, Precious.

And she told me one time . . . in the fall as I was hugely pregnant and she had likely brought me a head of cabbage or a dish of leftovers . . . that the greatest thing about becoming a mother is that, for the first time ever you get to do something any way you want . . . your baby is all yours, and you get to decide now how you will do things.  Of all of the parenting advice I received, this is the one I remember.

And along with this little dish of advice I would also offer this one:

Kids are inconvenient.

They are babies who cry and don't sleep and you don't know why, and in the moments that you will most desperately beg them to sleep because you simply cannot survive one more night without it, they will cry and cry and not stop crying, and you must get your sorry tired self out of bed and care for them.

Then they are toddlers and at the most inconvenient times they cry and they still don't sleep and still you don't know why . . . maybe because they are teething, or have ear infections or they're just simply miserable but you don't know and so you must pick them up and rock them, and talk to them, and kiss their toes and make them laugh or finally just dump their toys out in the middle of the night and lay on the couch and weep because you're just. so. tired.

And then surely they'll become two year olds who cry because they're afraid, or frustrated, or just because they are two and life isn't easy on two year-olds . . . and they throw fits in front of your grandmother and color on the walls and become constipated on the days when you don't have time to sit on the bathroom floor all day . . . but they are two and that's what two year olds do.

Parenting is clumsy and messy and hard.  It requires sacrifice and selflessness and, yes, sleeplessness.  This is the advice that expectant parents need to hear . . . Somebody needs to write a parenting book with the title, This Isn't Going to be Easy.

For a hopeful perspective from a mom on the other side of the baby phase, read Charrette's excellent post, Beyond Baby Tenderlove .


amanda said...

Jess, that is the parenting advice that i remember the most these days, and i might have already said that to you, but having the freedom to decide how i will raise Violet is so freeing, in a left-brained world of schedules and such that i just don't fit with.

Thanks for sharing this. Vi still wakes up at night, and I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong. But maybe I'm not... oh to not feel guilty as a new parent, is it possible?

You blessed me today. er, tonight.

Ruth said...


Young Mom said...

Great post! I love the advice from the little old lady. She is so totally right! Even though as new parents we forget it all the time and feel as though there is a specific way we are supposed to do this.
And so you know, my second child was the one who never slept (and I do mean never) I'm not sure how I survived her first year on the snatches of sleep I got in the rocking chair with her attached to my boob. :)

Jake and Kristin said...

Great advice Jess! I'm laughing about the constipation still...i babysat at 3 year old one summer as her nanny 5 days a week. We kept prune juice on hand all the time for her constipation! Worked like magic! not that i'm giving advice or anything! ahaha!

Heather of the EO said...

Uh huh. Right now I really want a third. And part of the reason is that I've finally relaxed, gotten over it, so to speak. My two boys have given me a lesson in chilling out and going with the flow. I wasn't one to sleep train, per se...but because of all the pressure, I always felt like I was doing something wrong because they NEVER slept except in short snippits. I want to go back now, and wear them constantly in slings instead of back and forthing over to the crib to tighten the swaddle, begging for it to be over and for the child to It IS hard and it IS about sacrifice and in the end...there is NO rush.

Loved this.

robin.sayers said...

Great post! I really needed this! I sometimes feel like a closet co-sleeper so worried about what everyone else thinks, but it is what works for Titus and me. Each child is so unique and needs a different version of mothering... I'm finally starting to not feel like a failure b/c Titus still isn't sleeping well at 7 mths... why is it that Christian circles can be so much more judgmental, especially to attachment parenting?