Being a “by the book” Parent

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This is a tough subject. Just know that all of this is my personal opinion, and if you feel differently, I’d love to hear from you. The irony in writing a blog post about the potential pitfalls of parenting based on what literature you read shouldn’t be lost, but regardless, here we go.

My wife and I have a two month old, Reagan. We love her to death and would do anything for her. With it being our first child, advice from what seemed like everyone and their newborn was plentiful, which we really appreciated. But like some of you might know or have experienced, too much advice can sometimes get in the way of how¬†you want to parent. My point of all of this–your child, your way. No one should tell you how to parent your child.

That being said, I recognize there is a lot of good literature out there, and the books we have gotten and read have been helpful, but those books are not the parent. You are.

Recently, my wife and I got a book from a good friend. Great book, honestly I have nothing against it and I am really grateful to those friends who are letting us borrow it. For me, the problem happens when a parent listens too much to the book and not enough to their child.

Here is what I mean. My wife and I have learned, over the past two months, to recognize when Reagan is sleepy, hungry, grumpy, or needs a diaper change. We understand (somewhat) her schedule and she is still working on sleeping through the night. With the recommendation of this book came the promise that it would train Reagan sleep through the night in no time. We were excited, but as my wife began to read it, she became frustrated because what they book said contradicted what we thought Reagan needed. Suggestions to get your baby on a strict feeding schedule and sleeping program sound ideal, yes, but we were recognizing signs that Reagan was not as happy with the changes as we were hoping she would be.

For a few days, Reagan screamed and cried herself to sleep and wouldn’t eat well; she was just really grumpy. When my wife and I were trying to figure it out, we decided that it might have been because we were trying to listen to this book, rather than Reagan. Since then, we have fed her when she wants to eat, let her sleep when she wants to, and done what we, as her parents, felt she needs. We have seen a complete change in her demeanor.

Now I have to stress again, this is a personal choice our family has made. If you and your spouse follow baby books and have a happy child, power to ya! Keep it up. But listen to your child more than you listen to a book. A two month old doesn’t understand that you’re trying to keep them on a feeding schedule, they are just hungry. They don’t know the sleeping schedule they should be following, they’re just tired. This following is my wife’s perspective:

“I think the lesson I learned is not to completely swear off parenting books, but take them with a grain of salt. Because sometimes it is ok to let babies cry themselves to sleep. But not all the time. I also think that there is a time and a place for not listening to kids anymore, like toddlers or older babies are going to be manipulative and want things that aren’t good for us or them like falling asleep with a bottle in their mouth or playing in the street and we as parents need to set them straight…So bottom line is use your best judgement on what’s best at that particular time for your particular baby. You’re the parent.”

I guess, for me, what it comes down to is that every child is different. They need different care and attention, and a book cannot serve as the comprehensive owners manual to your child. Rather than using the book to guide what you do with your child, maybe we should use our children to guide what we do with the information in the books.

Parenthood requires sacrifice, motivated by love and a desire to care for something you created. It’s an awesome responsibility, not something a book is going to take care of for you.

So, instead of being a “by the book” parent, I’m going to be a “by the child” parent. That’s my choice. What’s yours?

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