Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wherein I (Mostly) Agree with the Mainstream Mags
During my first couple of years of mommyhood, I eagerly read every issue of every mainstream parenting magazine out there. I nodded along with each bland, middle of the road article. After a few months, though, they all began to sound like reruns of the same cheesy infomercial:
Breastfeeding: Breast is Best! For a limited time only! (6 months. 1 year, max.) Supplies are limited!
(You probably won't make enough, anyway, or at the very least will want to get away some. You also need to add rice cereal by 4-6 months.) Go hands free! (Make sure someone else feeds the baby once in awhile, so that they can bond, too.)
Sleep: Are you tired of your baby sleeping like a...baby? Then you need to try our sleep training program! Just pay three easy installments of CIO, and you will get more sleep, guaranteed! (After all, your baby doesn't really need to nurse during the night after [insert arbitrary time period] and is probably just doing it out of habit. Of course, it is hard to listen to them cry--we aren't heartless--but we know that it is being done For Their Own Good.) And our approach is gentler on the stomach! (We don't advocate leaving them in their vomit. Just let them cry in gradually increasing intervals).
Punishment: Try our diet-consequences! Our punishment-lite has all of the flavor, none of the guilt! Just combine one minute of time out per year of age, add a sticker chart and several "Good jobs!", apply consistently, and you will see results! (For maximum results, add at least one meaningless choice per day--aka blue shirt vs red shirt--so that your child has the illusion of control. Those attitudes will melt right off!)
I won't even get into the bimonthly reprint of the same article telling us that it has been thoroughly proven that the mercury in vaccines does *not* cause autism, but it is such a classic that it hasn't changed since 2004.
But, snark aside, there is one topic that I basically agree with them on. Surprised? Me, too. I won't try to read too much into that. But with one major caveat, I agree with them on favoritism.
We all know that playing favorites hurts. But what about when it is your child, not the parent, who plays favorites? Despite our best efforts not to let it get under our skin, it can still sting. In fact, one of the preferred arguments in favor of formula-feeding is that the baby will be too attached to the mom (literally) and that dad will get left out.
I've talked with a lot of moms who mention that in those first several months after becoming a parent, their husbands do feel a little left out of the loop. The mom and baby are bonding and so focused on each other that they don't seem to need anyone else. Sometimes the dads are hesitant to try or take any displeasure by the baby personally, and just default to letting mom care for the baby. And some moms reinforce the dad's feelings of inadequacy through hovering, "helping", or correcting.
Our oldest daughter has always been extremely close to me. And I suspect there were times when her toddler cries of, "Mami do it!" hurt just a bit. It would have been easy to blame breastfeeding. Instead, we gave them more time together and more ways to connect.
With each new child, one of my favorite things has been to watch the increased closeness that the toddlers develop with their dad. While I try to reassure them a lot, and tandem nursing provides plenty of mami-time, they always wind up doing a lot more with Daddy. Watching him snuggle them to sleep, calm tantrums with play, and do fun things with them provides much needed peace to all of us.
I don't know if part of it is simply his increased comfort level with babies, or if it is simply a personality thing, or what, but the last two have showed a distinct preference for Daddy, even as infants. Our seven month old squeals with delight as soon as he walks into the room and immediately raises her hands and calls, "Dadee! Dadadee!" If he waits for more than a split second, her indignant squawk of protest makes it clear that she is outraged by the slight. As he cuddles her, her face beams satisfaction.
When I have to work or just want to meet a friend for coffee or do some solo shopping, I am comfortable knowing that they are with him. Does he do things differently than I would? Sure. That isn't a bad thing, though. In fact, I believe that they benefit from seeing how different people handle things differently. Flexibility is important for everyone. There have certainly been times when a toddler told us coldly that "Daddy/Mami doesn't do it that way!" but we all learn more from that. Sometimes the kids adjust, sometimes we do. Either way, it is good.
So, my advice to parents going through a distinct stage of preference on the part of the child pretty much boils down to what "they" would say: Don't take it personally. This too shall pass. Give both parents the opportunity to parent without you parenting the other parent.
My one deviation is that I do not think that the other parent must feed with a bottle or miss out on bonding. Even with my marathon-nurslings, there are plenty of moments in the day for the other parent to step in and have close times with the baby. (My personal opinion was that if one parent is handling all the input, the other can be responsible for all the out-put. While my husband has definitely done his share of diaper duty, he isn't quite 100% behind that one, but as I said, flexibility is good.)
If this were a magazine article, I would try to tie it all up with a cute bow. I won't, though, because I know it isn't always that easy. I have the best possible scenario--a wonderful husband who is devoted to his kids and fully trustworthy. He wants to be with them, and they want to be with him. Even so, each of the kidlets has expressed favoritism at one point or another. It isn't a competition, though, and we continue to discover in more ways that we are all on the same team. I still need to work on a catchy commercial slogan, though.