When I started my private practice I wanted to be a safe haven for parents- I wasn’t going to push them to wean or get a babysitter or kick their kids out their bed. I believe in “whatever works for your family” and defend however you choose to feed or care for your baby and your family’s sleeping arrangements. I know that everyone wants their kids to grow up to amazing human beings and there are no simple answers.
I’m on the side of “whatever works” but I also know that some of you might not be being totally honest with yourselves.
Whatever works for your family has to mean it is actually working for your family.
Both parents and babies get into patterns, habits that seemed necessary in the survival mode of infancy. Things that were needs when they were little become wants as they grow older. What was done because it was just easier that way actually isn’t really that easy anymore.
I had planned on gently weaning my youngest but as his 4th birthday approached I admitted to myself that it just wasn’t working for me anymore and I needed to be done. He wasn’t going to understand my limit or thank me for taking care of myself, in fact he was pretty damned furious. “I wanted presents, not this”…when I mistakenly tied his weaning to his birthday. Nursing had become a chore. Because I was doing something I didn’t honestly want to be doing anymore, it was hurting our relationship. I wasn’t setting a good example. I wasn’t honoring his needs. I was stalling.
Now that your kids are bigger, what are you putting up with? What are you too tired to fight about? What is not serving your family anymore? Pick your battles means pick some and pick the ones that really matter.
Sleep– I support co-sleeping and totally get that babies don’t “sleep through the night” in any predictable way for much longer than anyone told us. You can’t expect your baby to respect your need for sleep but when does that stop? How can you prioritize everyone in your family getting the sleep that they NEED? Taking on sleep is going to mean pissing off the kid who is sure that their wants around sleep are actually needs.
Separating– Maybe you were pushed to get a babysitter or put your little one in daycare or drop them off at Grandma’s for the weekend way before you were ready. Attachment is important and having a strong connection with your child is commendable. Attachment is also a powerful, resilient thing that once established, is not easily disrupted. You are not the only person who can meet your child’s needs. Creating a village, teaching them that others can respond is a powerful lesson. Your need for time to yourself, time with your partner, or exercise are going to bump up against fear of separating- both yours and theirs. Parenting inside of fear isn’t serving your family. Push for courage, for success, for broadening your range of good caregivers for your family.
Food– I posted a great link about food this week. Simplify. Put healthy food on the table and stop fussing. Trust your kids. Believe me, 3 meals a day plus snacks 365 days a year x18+ years….no fight is more important to get settled once and for all than “I am not your short order cook.” However you got into the mess with your kids and food- fix it.
Sibling Stuff– Ditto. #2 biggest struggle over the next couple of decades…maybe longer is “MOM! He started it!” Maybe you used to need to protect the baby from big sister but get yourself out of the middle. Let them figure out their relationship. Don’t be judge and jury. Protecting your “baby” into their teenage years is not going to help them in anyway. The best trick is to always yell at them together- “You guys have to stop”…. “If you guys can’t settle down….”
Hitting– Not hitting each other… for that see sibling stuff… siblings hit. Make them stop…expect it to happen again. Do not let them hit you! Ever. Do not let them hit you. This one is serious. Set limits. Limits are how you would never let them go anywhere not in their carseat. NO EFFING WAY! Change the way your respond. Defend yourself. Model an appropriate level of anger when someone crosses the line.
Discipline– Do your friends and family think you’re raising brat? Do you look like a push-over? Does your kid act better for everyone else? Ok… this one’s a bit complicated. Most kids act their worst for mom, worse at home than preschool. If you are practicing positive discipline, your 3 year old may look way more intense than 3 year olds who got a swat on their butt. It is hard to know if you are part of the problem but I actually think you do know. You do know that you might not be setting firm limits, you might be caving rather than being flexible. It might be time to up your game. It might be time to face your demons.
You might be tired. You might be too busy or overwhelmed or stressed out. Changing any one of these patterns is going to mean investing more energy with the idea that it is worth it in the long run. Be honest with yourself. If you want things to change, you are going to have to change them. And you don’t have to. Letting it go for now is also ok. Just admit now isn’t the right time and make peace with that decision. Circle a date on the calendar and promise to revisit it.
You also might be scared. That’s ok too. It just doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to be the strong leader that your child needs you to be. Don’t be afraid you will wound them or they won’t love you or you’ll turn into your mother. Or be afraid and do it anyway. Be brave, be bold, up your game. And please, ask for help when you need it.