March 7, 2010

Being the Parent I Want to Be

There are two things that bother me in parenthood land (and did long before Nora came along) and they are both slightly related. The first is when parents overreact when their child falls or has a minor injury and the second is parents who don't take a long-range view of parenthood and get overly wrapped up in details (minor things do not a psycho-killer make in my opinion). Just this week I exhibited both of these tendencies.

The first incident occurred when I was moving Nora's bouncy through a door frame with her in it (bad judgment) and her finger was hit on the doorway. She let out a shrill cry (which I've only heard before when I accidentally nipped her finger when trimming her nails) and I immediately freaked out. I swooped down to grab her and comfort her and my mind went to the worst possible scenario first- I had broken her finger. (I don't think it's possible for babies to break their fingers because of the nature of their bones but I freaked out none the less). I looked at her slightly red finger and contemplated the nearest emergency room. In two seconds she was completely fine and so was I. I was then taken aback by my complete and total overreaction to the situation.

The second situation happened on Thursday night. Joel and I were both overly concerned that Nora hadn't rolled over yet. Maybe we hadn't given her enough tummy time, maybe she was in the bouncy seat too much etc. We were completely overreacting about something that didn't matter - a milestone that can happen at any time. I knew that at some point she'd be a 30 year old who knew how to walk, talk and roll-over so why was I so preoccupied with this little achievement? Of course, the next day Nora rolled over and again I was given a lesson in not overreacting. Nora may be the first or last to do many things and I need to remember that she's going to complete things at her own rate. She's her own person with her own personality and she'll develop according to her own path. I need to not put all that crazy parenting pressure on her or myself.

I think I'm going to have to become more nimble and flexible to really get this parenthood thing down. I guess by the time she leaves the house in another 20 years I'll have a slight understanding of how to do this thing called parenting.

I've really been trying to avoid reading too many books. There are too many parenting camps and I'm just not interested in joining any of them as they all contradict each other. I want to be conscious of her milestones and her development but I'm not interested in subscribing to any particular philosophy. Babies, children and people are all so different and I think it's important to remain flexible to your child's needs. Whether your child sleeps with you, cries it out or lives somewhere in-between I don't think this will impede them for the rest of their lives or provide that added boost to become a Nobel Prize winner. I need to remember the long-range view of parenthood and keep my anxious overreactions in check. It's the whole picture that matters.


  1. Jen- completely agree with all of those points! I also do not read parenting philosophy books. I would rather parent by common sense and attachment driven then the need for my child to fit my way of life or thinking. Every child requires varying approaches too- there is no one size fits all even within the same family.

    I will say with the age of your baby, I don't think you over reacted about the finger! Had she been a 2 year old, maybe. But when little babies get hurt it is always so sad even if they are totally fine because they can't tell us how bad it is. And it is especially hard when it is us (their mommies) who accidentaly inflict the pain! :)

  2. Great post. I over react and worry more than I ever thought I would. But it's hard because raising these little one's is our most important job right now, and it's only natural to grasp onto indicators of whenther we're doing a good job or not. Perspective is a hard, but important thing to keep :)

    WRT books, I learned that, on any given parenting decision, there is a book that will tell you you are doing perfectly and one that will tell you you deserve to go to jail and your kid will be a serial killer. I've chosen to only read the books that support what I already feel is right. That way, my anxiety is relieved, I feel confident (which helps me be a better mama), and I'm still making the same decision I would have had I read the book telling me I'm the devil, I just have less angst.

  3. Great post...I know I have felt the same way many times throughout this past year (!!) with C. I still catch myself wanting to overreact every time he falls or bumps anything, which is a lot lately now that he's Mr. mobile baby. The thing is, you can totally tell when they really are hurt so I think the overreaction to the other stuff is just that ingrained desire to protect above all else.

    I also completely agree about the parenting camps thing. I'm definitely an eclectic mom but that's how I like it because I think I get the best of all worlds, and I pay attention to the needs of my son rather than when he's "supposed" to be doing. These are both great reminders for all us moms to keep in our tool boxes, thanks for the post!


    P.S. I doubt we'll ever really have it down, even in 20 more years! I'm sure when our kiddos are 20 there will be some other unforeseen challenges through which we have to muddle. The humanness of the parenting experience is also what makes it so rewarding though. :)

  4. Parenting is like law and dentistry and medicine, they're something you practice. :)

    You're in my head writing my thoughts!

  5. I read the books, but as you, can't subscribe to any particular philosophy. Besides, none of them agree!

    This post made me think of another thing, and that's the mommy police. Everyone is reading some book and everyone is faithful to whatever it is the book they read tells them, and so they all have strict views and something to say about anything you do as a parent. I simply ignore them and follow my instincts.

    Like Laurie said, I don't think you over reacted to your baby's little finger. If you over reacted to that, then I must be institutionalized for my reaction when I slightly pinched my baby's skin with the snap button of one of her bibs. I cried with her and vowed I not to use the damn thing again. Couldn't stand the sight of it! :o|