Parenting styles - just adjust

Whiskey and children don't mix? You've got a lot to learn.  A humorous look at preparing for baby. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

TAMPA, Fl., May 2, 2012 - No one would ever suggest that someone practice medicine, file a lawsuit, foreclose on millions of homes, or dance around a pole half-naked without some kind of training. Every year, students spend a lot of time, and most of their parent’s savings, on education. Despite the fact that this generation will leave college straddled with more debt than any before it, and fewer opportunities, as a society, we recognize the importance of learning a trade and reward those who go on to higher education with higher salaries.

In theory anyway.

People become experts at everything, yet show up for the birth of their children, arguably their most important job, woefully unprepared.

This is unacceptable.

A traditional classroom setting isn’t the way to learn about parenting. A blend of several learning models must be adapted by all prospective parents in order to discover what works best for you and your little one.

Prepare in three important ways.

1. Read books. Long before the egg and sperm meet, you should read lots and lots of books. Occupy Parenthood is a good start, but there are lots of other choices, too. Thousands of tomes at the library or book store explain about a pregnant woman’s changing body, how baby boys differ from baby girls, which birthing plans end in catastrophe and which might be more successful, and how many diapers are needed the first month.

Wouldn’t you rather have a fully-stocked medicine cabinet and game plan for emergencies before the kid swallows a mouth full of Comet?

Ignorance isn’t bliss, not in this case. Books can open up ideas you’d never otherwise consider. They are treasures. And they also come in handy years down the road when your little miracle starts talking back.

2. Learn from older family members. Books are great, but they don’t have all the answers. Only a grandmother would share the best teething remedy known to mankind. (Fill a shot glass with whiskey. Dip your pinky and rub the whiskey on your baby’s sore and swollen gums. Then drink what’s left. Repeat as needed.)

Parenting books might actually argue against whiskey in a baby’s mouth, but Nana knows it works. She’ll give you the remedies for a million other ills and you can pick and choose what works for you.

3. Meet regularly with moms and dads who are going through similar experiences. When you take a birthing class (notice I did not say “if”), make eye contact and smile. Your peers are the best way to find out new information. Try online groups, too. Keep up-to-date on the latest parenting trends, both those to avoid and those to attempt, as well as recall lists, medical advancements, and government guidelines.

Then, after nine months or more of solid preparation, take everything you’ve learned and put it away.

Don’t throw it away.

Put it away.

Tuck all the books, knowledge, and advice in the same drawer where you store your lotions and massage oils. You will need this information and refer to it often.

That is why you’ve gone through the process of learning it.

But parents must adjust to their baby, in flesh and blood rather than theories, because it’s game time now.

When Marc and I first discovered we were pregnant, I wrote a birthing plan with my doctor. We decided it would be a natural, drug-free water birth with candlelight and soft music playing in the background. I practiced yoga and memorized all the mantras and postures that would bring our little Eagle or Eaglana into the world with little or no trauma.

Then we discovered there was a second fetus inside me; a fetus whose rear-end faced the wrong way, thus requiring a c-section and half the hospital’s supply of Codeine.

In the beginning, I was a La Leche League lunatic and well-versed in the benefits of breast milk. I planned on nursing Jake and Zach for at least a year. I started off strong with the pump, the boppy pillow, and the coordination to nurse them at the same time while changing channels with the remote control.

I loved every minute of it.

My boys, however, did not.

We lasted twelve measly weeks.

When they first started screaming, at three months of age, I immediately read up on the issue and talked to experienced nursing mothers. I altered my diet. I stopped eating tomatoes, garlic, my mom’s cabbage dish and anything else that would cause them gas or discomfort.

It didn’t matter. Jake and Zach were in such distress that I began to wonder about future therapist sessions when they’d surely blame me for an aversion to strip clubs.

I cried.

I cursed.

I yelled at friends, my husband, and anyone else who dared to mention the F word: formula.

Then Stepdad said, “Just adjust.”

I gave it a try and for the first time in weeks, my twin infants slept like babies.

I also stopped squirting Marc in the eye with breast milk during sex.

Don’t hold on to your ideas and plans, as helpful as they are, from books and experts when your kids require something else. Don’t keep sticking your boob in the baby’s mouth if she needs Enfamil. Don’t force Little League on Junior when he really wants to dance. And don’t keep pointing to books and experts when your mom suggests a remedy that’s worked for your family for ninety years.

Blend the different lessons, use what you need, and wing the rest. Just adjust.


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Catherine Durkin Robinson

Catherine Durkin Robinson is an award-winning humor/parenting columnist and mother to twelve year-old twin sons who, despite a fondness for Latin and stringed instruments, can still throw a perfect spiral and name everyone in the NBA. She writes columns about how American parenting can improve in a voice that’s as familiar as a hunting permit and apple pie. In her spare time, she investigates missing socks.

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