Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: The Parenting Rules: You Can Go Your Own Way

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Parenting Rules: You Can Go Your Own Way

Now, I will freely admit that I am no Dr. Spock and I must confess that I have never even opened a parenting book. Whilst I would never claim to know anything about rearing a child beyond what my two, very individual progeny, have taught me about themselves as individuals, I do believe that we, as parents, are very hard on ourselves. We have been indoctrinated to believe that there is a "right way" to do things; a single code of conduct which we must adhere to in order to be "good parents" and lambast each other when we dare to deviate from the norm. We constantly benchmark ourselves against others' heavily edited best version of reality which they have choosen to share with us on social media. Please do not think that I am criticising this, after all it takes a village, even a virtual one, and there are plenty of #blessed individuals who brighten my day when I fall down a scrolling spiral whilst  I take a break from my never ending tea party with my "pet cat". 
I, however, place trust in the belief that the human race is a resilient breed and will learn to cope with any number of failings in their parents as long as they are provided with limitless love and support. To err is human and all that, plus my children are divine. 

So now that we have all that out of the way, I need to admit to two significant parental "failings" of mine:

1. I have never sleep trained either of my children.

2. I have never pressed either of my children to ditch the bottle.
Case in point
These two failings are wholly intertwined with each other, my children's ability to play me like their Fisher Price xylophone and my insatiable need for sleep. 

You see, my first child was a dote, as in she was 5lbs when she entered this world, and despite having survived the gauntlet that is gestation in my rather hostile womb she had not been left unscathed. This may or may not have been the reason that she refused to be parted from us for the first 6 months of life; clinging on to us like a barnacle on the tail of a whale. When we finally convinced her to take to the bottle at the grand old age of 8 months (freeing up her mother to do the same) we found that its soporific effect enabled us to put her down in her own room before sprinting to the comfort of our own, temporarily uninhabited bed and catch a few unadultered hours of shut eye without having to wrestle the angry octupus. This routine continued for longer than I care to admit and although we managed to swap out the corrosive milk for sugar free diluting juice, the bottle and bed partnership was unshakeable; the Ant & Dec of the toddler bedtime routine.
Bottle and Bed
When my son came along, all hardy and such, I thought I would be different. I thought I would be able to listen to his anguished cries at bedtime, emboldened by the fact that I knew that I was doing the right thing. I was teaching him the art of falling asleep unaided. Mumsnet told me so. I once read that a child needs lots of love and reassurance but not in the middle of the night; in the night they need to learn to self soothe, preparing them for the harsh realities of life (like sharing and the like). I repeated this hypothesis frequently to my husband; citing its formal academic references in the vain hope that this would arm me for the night ahead but as I closed the door behind me I remembered that, as a child, when the night sky rolled in and the house took on an eerily quiet stillness, my previously welcoming bedroom would fill me with a sense of dread and unease. I hastily retreated back into his room, picked him up, kissed his beautiful rolls of skin, cuddled him into me and eased him into slumber with a reassuring bottle. 
Easing him into sleep
Don't get me wrong, now that he is two and able to understand the majority of what we say whilst also being able to make his (rather dramatic) feelings known to the world, we don't rush to answer his every summons. We now grade his anguish on our "placid through about-to-spontaneously-combust" scale and act accordingly but he still goes to bed with a bottle. I go through periods where the worry about the health of his teeth consumes me and I fear that I am affecting his long term ability to be resilient but then I see him plant his lips around that teat, watch his eyes roll back into his head in sheer ecstasy and I reassure myself that you don't hear of many 17 year olds still using a bottle to slip into the realm of unconsciousness. 

Well, none with a teat.

Drunken bum

3 Little Buttons
The Pramshed

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