The Right Stuff

by Kelley on May 12, 2009

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I will admit to being extremely susceptible to all types of marketing. Cell phone camera doesn’t have a flash! Hair dye has glimmering highlights! Chicken at the farmers’ market is locally sourced and fed an organic vegetarian diet! Statements like these make me forget so, so easily that I don’t take pictures with my cell phone (except for when the baby or kitten’s momentary cuteness needs to be captured for posterity), that I don’t want to dye my hair while I’m nursing, and that like my feathered friends, I’m a vegetarian. With my incapability to resist ads in mind, it is remarkable that we have yet to buy the majority of the products that have been marketed to us as not only convenient, but totally necessary and also capable of turning us into the Swedish supermodel parents Sweet Pea deserves.

However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have more than our share of baby “stuff.” In my closet, there are literally four devices for wearing Gwyn – some structured, some not – and this is AFTER getting rid of the ones that didn’t work (don’t worry, they were reused, not trashed.). There is an assortment of pacifiers, of bottles with different sized nipples, and of rejected toys in a cupboard in my kitchen. In our bedroom, there is an Amby baby hammock that Gwyn occasionally deems acceptable for a nap, and let’s not forget the amazing vibrating Boppy chair which allows me to vacuum and cook dinner safely.

Bafflingly, though, I’ve recently had a few heated discussions with my family over our apparent lack of baby stuff. I find this fascinating, as I literally can’t walk two feet without tripping over something bought for the littlest member of our family. From various sources, we’ve been told that we need a stroller, a playpen, or to give Gwyn a bottle now and then. Our answers are always that we enjoy wearing him when we’re out, that he would rather be held with us than playing on his own, that he’s home with me and so doesn’t need to take bottles. Here’s the hard part, though: we are then met with, “Oh, I don’t know HOW we managed to raise YOU!” (or some variant thereof). Immediately, the other party seems to believe they need to be defensive about their parenting choices, and refuse to believe that I respect their parenting choices as much as my own. The thing is that wearing him most of the time works for us. Holding him works for us. Breastfeeding works for us. Why change a good thing?

Obviously, this defensiveness and perceived slight doesn’t make us change our ideas about our parenting style. We enjoy our lives with the type of parenting we’ve chosen, which is largely exemplified by the stuff we have and the stuff we don’t. My problem, though, is the idea that because I have chosen a certain type of parenting I am critical of all others. My family isn’t like everyone else’s, and neither is our parenting – we choose bits and pieces that work for us, and thus become ourselves!

Does this difference in choice about stuff ever lead to a larger debate about parenting in general for you? How do you manage to talk about your parenting style while still emphasizing respect for other peoples’ parenting choices?

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Kelley (5 Posts)

Kelley lives joyously with her Sweet Pea and husband in northern Pennsylvania after surviving preeclampsia and sixty-seven days in a NICU. She hopes to one day be living totally sustainably and cruelty-free while teaching yoga somewhere warm. She loves nursing her baby, the Roomba vacuum cleaner, being an Obamamama, and rocking totally impractical shoes. Her infrequent blogs about life after a NICU are posted at www.petergwydion.com.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

justine May 12, 2009 at 5:24 pm

I have always thought that simply letting the sweet-nature of my children speak for itself was the best method of justifying my parenting choices …but, honestly, my kids are not always the poster-children for *obedience* which is often the only result the naysayers will accept as success. And ignoring those who question your choices can seem like you are purposefully being stubborn, or worse yet, cannot actually defend your parenting choices with intelligent responses–lending credence to the belief that you don’t know what you are doing and need the advice they are giving you :)

I have found that the best way is to simply avoid the topics that you know will be hot-button issues with family. Don’t lie or be dishonest, but certainly try to avoid inviting the criticism (or the well meaning advice). I know not to ever complain about not getting enough sleep to my mother because I will get a lecture on how the baby “really needs to be in her own bed” There is no use arguing about how i actually do get MORE sleep than if she were in a crib, or that it makes it easier to nurse her. I am not going to convince my mom, and she is not going to convert me. So when she asks “is the baby sleeping well for you” i answer vaguely about how “we had a few great nights earlier this week” Which is usually true, and gently proves that our method is working for us. Save the problems, the questions and the frustrations for fellow AP families who understand what you are going through and can offer some realistic solutions.

And all parents love their children …they loved us so much that they did what the experts (and their friends) told them to do way back when. And they love their grandchildren so much that they want to make sure that they are being taken care of just as well. It certainly doesn’t feel good to think that their children are indirectly accusing them of being “bad parents” by choosing something different than they did… (it worked for them, why change a good thing by doing it your way?) I always try to imagine my daughter or daughter-in-law parenting much differently than i do and how painful it would be for me to see them doing something that i thought might be damaging to them or to the baby (what if they chose to cry it out? to start solids at 3 weeks? to circ? it would break my heart, but how could i change that without being the meddling grandparent?). Many of our parents were told that it would be damaging to hold the baby too much, dangerous to co-sleep, burdensome to breastfeed, and silly to not leave the baby with a sitter.

I guess my best trick is just being compassionate and trying to find common ground as often as possible. It is such an emotional topic…we all feel very strongly about our parenting choices, past and present. I hope that you can find some peaceful middle ground to share the joys of AP with your extended family! Keep up the incredible work and just think–someday soon he will be too big for a stroller, or a playpen, or a bottle, and you will all move on to a new issue :)

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David May 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm

If you’re interested in discovering your parenting style based on the latest research, please check out the Parenting Style Application by Signal Patterns on Parenting.com.

The underlying model developed by our team of psychologists reveals an underlying complexity far richer than just ‘strict’ or ‘relaxed’ classifications.

And what’s particularly interesting is that you can take the test for a spouse and see where potential conflicts might lie and get advice on how to deal w/them. You can also compare results to your friends’.

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Stacy (mama-om) May 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I think I’ve been lucky not to have many heated discussions with loved ones about parenting, though I do know my mom is baffled by how I “overthink” things.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable talking about parenting choices with anyone… When my first was young, I was just too sensitive (and emotionally fatigued) to get into debates with anyone. I mostly stayed quiet about my choices because it did seem like every suggestion was taken as a criticism or as support for one side over the other (I am thinking, specifically, of one of the moms’ groups I was in).

But as my children grew, and my own experience and sense of ease increased, it became much easier for me to have compassion for the people I was speaking with. I can’t really explain it, but there was just more space for me to hold different experiences, and by declining to frame the discussion as a debate, I had more energy to listen and truly hear where the other person was coming from.

Keeping everyone’s good intentions in mind, as Justine writes, has also been helpful for me.

Blessings to you and your little one,
Stacy

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