About an hour ago I had this great idea for a blog about motherhood. Unfortunately, motherhood got in the way of writing it. A diaper, an outfit change, and a shower later, here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to remember exactly what it was that I wanted to say about that wonderful and perpetual condition.
When I first found out that I was going to be a mommy, I started amassing all the books I could find on the subject., Dr. James Dobson, and Dr. Kevin Leman became my best friends. When I found out that my little bundle of joy was going to be of the male persuasion, however, I went into high gear. The first book I bought after that news was Bringing Up Boys, in which Dr. Dobson describes climbing the highest tree in the yard with a bungee cord, tying himself to a limb, and jumping. Unfortunately, the cord was longer than the fall. At that point I began to panic.
That hasn’t been the only time I’ve panicked in the last year and a half. In fact, in the 9 months since his arrival, my little cruiser has managed to dump bathwater on his face, choke on canned green beans, hit his head on any number of things (mostly the floor), eat food he threw on the floor at the last meal, and crawl or roll off of my bed, the couch, and a recliner. But in spite of all those “mishaps”, the little man keeps going. Exploring, pushing boundaries, experiencing new things all the time, he’s learning the borders of his world.
Sometimes it feels like all I do is give him borders and boundaries. “Don’t touch that.” “Those are Mommy’s, not Baby’s.” “That’s not for eating, just for touching.” Sometimes I get frustrated because even a smack on the hand or a thump on the chin doesn’t seem to deter him from grabbing or biting. Parenting isn’t always playing and cuddling, though there is plenty of that, too. Sometimes parenting is being the bad guy, and I hate being the bad guy.
Of all the parenting books I’ve read, I haven’t found one that doesn’t discuss discipline and punishment. I’m not big on punishment, especially for the ‘three and under’ crowd. But I do believe that discipline at a young age lowers or even negates (for the most part) the need for punishment later in life. Some experts, and I use the term loosely, will tell you that setting boundaries for your toddler will stunt him emotionally and developmentally. They say that telling him not to throw his food on the floor will prevent him from discovering the effects of gravity. (No joke, I actually read that in a parenting magazine.) I’m not here to argue what is or isn’t effective behavioral control. Whether you believe in spanking, time-out, or just firm words, the best advice I ever read was from Dr. Dobson’s book, Raising Your Strong-Willed Child, where he says that the key to any effective parenting is consistency. If I tell my son not to touch the remote, I’d better be prepared to back up my words when he goes after it five minutes (or five seconds) later. And let me tell you, being consistent is tough.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do for my sweet little one was sleep training. When he was about 5 months old, he had gotten into a really bad habit of only sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed. And when I say he, read “I”. I was getting very little sleep at that point because he was waking up about 5 times a night, and it was easier just to put him in bed with us and nurse him back to sleep. I hated the idea of the “cry it out” method, so we tried everything else we could find in my library of parenting books. Nothing worked. If I wasn’t holding him, he was crying. We decided to give “CIO” a try. I have never been more stressed in my life than those 4 weeks. It’s supposed to take about 2 weeks for baby to get used to going to bed alone and stop screaming. Not my determined little boy! Every evening at about 7 PM my husband would mysteriously disappear to the shop, my brother-in-law’s door would close and his headphones would go on, and the screaming would begin. I didn’t blame them; I would have joined them if I could. By 7:15 I was generally on the phone with my mom, begging her to reassure me that I was doing what was best for my baby. I’d like to say that one night he just “got it”, and there was no more crying (him or me). But I’d be lying. Instead, the crying bouts gradually got shorter as he realized that Mommy was really serious, and it was time to sleep. What was 45 minutes became 30, 30 became 20, which became 10 and then 5. Nighttime crying went even quicker. Now he will occasionally spend 5 or 10 minutes crying, but he knows I mean it now, he’s just testing me. If I’m consistent, he goes right back to easy bedtimes. Maybe that’s what I need to do with the remote. I just hope it doesn’t take a month for him to stop muting “Law and Order”.


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