Worst Parenting Advice

I asked Jason once what the worst piece of parenting/baby advice that he heard before we had Scout was and first he said, “the whole ‘sleep now’ line that everyone repeats.” And that one is really annoying (like I’m some kind of bear that can hibernate through pregnancy in order to be ready for “spring”) but we knew that one wasn’t true. It was so obviously off base that it was easy to shrug off. It didn’t dig itself deeply in to our minds.

So then he said, “It was the idea that someone else’s personal experience has any bearing whatsoever on my experience. What worked for them has no affect on what will work for me.” Well…I was going to say something about buying baby clothes, way to show me up hubby, but you’re absolutely right. Everyone’s kid is different from mine. Everyone I know is a different person from me. Their special combination of kid and parent is going to lead to a totally unique result.

It is incredibly helpful when you’re having a bad day or week or month to be able to commiserate with other parents, to share your frustrations and even to get ideas of what to try, because we can’t think of everything ourselves. But we have to remain humble. Just because you managed to do A, B, and C and make little Jimmy sleep through the night at 5 weeks old does not mean that those things will ever work for anyone else, EVER. Feel free to tell your story and share you ideas, (don’t be surprised if I start to hate you a little) but don’t walk around believing that you have it figured out. And it may be that a few weeks or months down the line you yourself are having to reinvent how you do things.

That is what happened to us. We had a great sleeper, at a very early age. It took no more than half an hour or so to put her down to sleep quietly in our bed and she slept for 5-6 hours at a time (technically that counts as “through the night” for an infant, who knew?) and I thought I was amazing for making it happen. At four months three weeks (two days, 14 hours, 37 minutes) old it all ended. She started fighting sleep, waking more and more often at night, and just generally making me wonder, “what the heck did I do wrong?” I still don’t know how to answer that question, but I suspect it is, “nothing.”

Conversely, just because your friend did A, B, and C and has a great sleeper (or eater, or independent player, or car rider, or whatever your personal struggle is) and you can’t manage to do those things or to make them work for you does NOT mean you are failing or even that you’re doing something wrong. It just means that you’re part of a different parent/kid pair than your friend is. Many couples even find that what works for Dad won’t work for Mom or vice versa. It’s just different chemistry, a different relationship.

Remain humble and be compassionate with yourself.

You are trying your best. You are tired. You are spent. You wonder when this will end, when will it get better? No one knows the answer to that question except to say that it WILL get better. Searching for that day when it will be better will bring more pain than it will comfort. Stay in the moment and try to accept the little wins. When your baby takes a longer than expected nap tell yourself, “that was nice!” but don’t let yourself start thinking, “OK great! Now we’re moving in to a phase where she will nap longer!” or even, “Fantastic! She’ll be in a great mood for the rest of the afternoon after having that long nap!” Both of these projections in to the future are bound to lead to disappointment and a feeling that something is “wrong” when really, she’s just a baby and things will be as they are until she’s ready for things to be different.

Just let go and let things be.

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