Please accept my apologies before reading: This is one of those posts that I must get out of my system or it's going to burn a hole in my brain. That, or I won't sleep until the birds start chirping at dawn. So instead, here it is. You lucky readers, you.
I read a lot of mommy blogs. And a good portion of those mommy blogs tend to feature the same types of things: outrageous birthday parties, a zillion pictures of the kids (sometimes several per day) nearly always dressed to the nines, picture-perfect homes with organized rooms and even more organized schedules for everyone under the picture-perfect roof, and so forth. Now, I have nothing against a really great birthday party (except for, well, wasteful spending, but that being such a subjective thing, I tend to leave it alone) or well-dressed babies or even a fabulous example of organization (duh). However, the one thing that I see featured on a lot of mommy blogs that really sticks in my craw over and over and over again is the assertion that fostering "independence" in children from the get-go (yeah, that means *birth*) is the right way to go and the "correct" method of parenting.
Well, if that's right, then I'm here to say I'm wearing wrong from head to toe. I'm wrong all over, y'all. When I was pregnant with Will, I was given several books on parenting (methods, topical, Q&A's, etc.). A few weeks before his birth, I cracked open the one on breastfeeding, but just so I could get some answers to a couple of questions I had -- that's it. At baby showers, at church, at the grocery store, I was told to read this person, watch this DVD, check out this website. Dear readers, I didn't because I just didn't want to. Rather than having everyone and his brother tell me what kind of parent to be, I wanted to figure it out for myself. Marty and I both did. And we still do. When we need advice, we ask my parents. I ask my best friend. I poll other mommies who I know aren't going to push a program on me, but who are going to offer guidance based on their own invaluable experiences. I take everything in, talk it over with Marty, and then we forge ahead with a plan, a mutual plan, *our* plan -- no one else's. Because our children are *ours* and God gave them to *us* and thankfully, He also gave us brains and instincts and love and compassion and patience (more than we thought we had).
I say all of this because I want to counter the conventional "wisdom" floating out there in blogland about raising "independent" children. Prepare yourselves, I'm about to make a super controversial statement: If you are uncomfortable with "crying it out" and methods that espouse this strategy, please feel free to reject it and them. Yes, I'm giving you permission. Permission to keep your baby in your room with you, in a cradle, in a bassinet, in a bouncy seat, even in a car seat if that's what makes your child comfortable. Keep your baby with you as long as you need to, even if it's (*gasp*) for your own sanity and peace of mind. Let me also give you permission to feed on demand. Oh, and while I'm at it, here's permission to enter your child's room if he or she cries during the night, even if Baby is fed and dry and safe and "should be perfectly fine." Because let me remind you and all of us about a little something called the human condition, which is this in a nutshell: It's dark out there. Things can be scary and sometimes we all have a need to reach for comfort, and when you're 6 weeks removed from that most perfect of all environments -- the womb -- you might be a bit shocked by this dark, scary world and want your mommy's touch and voice and warmth. And guess what else? Mommy might need some of that comfort, too. Even though she's dead-tired and believes that sleep is something beautiful experienced only by other, outrageously lucky people. Despite this, Mommy might just want to scoop up her precious bundle and smell his hair or stroke her little fingers. She might want to nurse him and she might want to rock him until he's fallen asleep with a gentle sigh. She might take the greatest of pleasures and the deepest of comforts from these simple activities that, for some reason that seems to escape me, are somehow verboten in current (trendy) parenting methods. Oh yeah, the reason is this: You want an "independent" child. You want a child who sleeps through the night. You want a child who can problem-solve, who can look inward for comfort and reassurance. What if I told you a secret? What if I told you that you could ultimately achieve these things *without* listening to the heartbreaking cries of your child in the night, without clenching your hands so tight you have nail marks because you're fighting every mommy instinct you have in your attempts to ignore those cries?
Take our experience with parenting and hold it up to the others that you'll read (and you'll read far, far more of those). Just know that you have another option. Just know this: we kept our son with us in our bedroom, in a cradle, until he was 8 weeks old. Even after he moved to his own room, when he cried in the night, I nursed him -- I fed him on-demand. I fed him and then I rocked him until he fell asleep. I did this as many times in the night as he "requested." Yes, I was bleary-eyed, I was exhausted. But we pushed onward... Our son is now 2 years old. He sleeps through the night with no problems whatsoever, and has been doing so for a little under a year. Yeah, there were some difficult nights. There were times we thought we'd never sleep normally again. There were moments we thought we were absolutely doing things wrong. But we never rejected our instincts, never gave up on our own ideas about parenting. And you know what? We ended up in the same place as everyone else: our child sleeps through the night. And guess what else? Everyone who has ever observed Will has remarked that he is "the most independent child" they've ever seen. I kid you not. And they're right -- he loves to play by himself. He gets very involved in his own world and doesn't like to be disturbed, especially by his little sister! He can even self-soothe...I've watched him do it. If something upsets him and I can't get to him right away, he'll seek out his pacifier or his "silkie" (blanket) and he'll sit down in his chair and watch Dora or hold his cars to his chest for a few minutes and voila, he's happy again.
But guess what else? When my child cries in the night, which he very rarely does -- over a nightmare or a diaper leak -- he knows I'm coming. He knows Mommy or Daddy will be there. He knows it's just a matter of minutes before one of us will appear at his crib. He knows that help is on the way.
Yes, Marty and I suffered through quite a few more sleepless nights than the cry-it-out crowd. But I did not have children just so I could immediately make them function without me. I did not have children to teach them to get used to handling problems alone. No, I actually had children so we could enjoy a relationship, so I would know the joy of offering comfort and companionship and shelter and love and help to someone and so that someone could receive it. Period. Plain and simple.
Please know that I have nothing against those who adopt the method of crying-it-out. I just have something against that method being touted as "correct" or "right" and other methods being frowned upon, or worse, being rejected without consideration simply because they're unpopular. Look, we all have to work things out for our own children, our own families. Let's just offer grace to each other. We're all headed toward the same destination: happy, healthy children. There are different paths to getting there.
Okay, my brain might not have a hole burnt through it after all. I might very well sleep tonight. But if you're not sleeping tonight because of a wakeful baby, hang in there. You don't have to listen to me, but please do listen to your instincts. They won't misguide you. And you will sleep again!