Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Parenting Style is Roller Coaster*

*First, a toddler anecdote: Our new house is close to an interesting train crossing. It's a fun twisting-turn at the top of a small hill, and it's bumpy as ----. K thinks crossing it is great fun, and she excitedly cries out "roller coaster!" every time we go over it. Bob's even got her putting her arms up in the air. For someone who has never been on an actual roller coaster, she's got great form!

In general, I consider myself a proponent of attachment style parenting. We exclusively nursed for the first six months, and practiced* extended breastfeeding. We co-slept for a long, long time (and, if I'm being honest, we probably would still be co-sleeping if Bob wasn't in the picture. Alas, a toddler in the bed makes a new romance difficult -- though she's a terrific form of birth control.) I did the babywearing thing. She was with me constantly until I had to put her in part time daycare at 18 months.

*I'm as pro-breastfeeding as they come but, Dear Baby Jesus, please get this thing off my boob already. 

When I'm well-rested, I don't believe in "crying it out." I don't believe in corporal punishment. I don't believe in foods made with high fructose corn syrup. Naturally, I do believe in unicorns and fairies.

When I'm especially not well-rested? When I've spent half the night trying to get her to sleep before tiptoeing down the stairs, trying to will the 100 year old hardwood floor not to creak, then crawl with cautious optimism into the grown-up bed, then hear "Mommy, where are you?!?" right as I'm starting to fall asleep?

My parenting ideals go out the window. I want to spank her little baby butt. I want to not only let her cry it out, but also lock her bedroom door and find my earplugs. The next morning I want to go ahead and hook her up to an IV of Capri Sun "juice" if it'll buy me five minutes of relative peace.

Yesterday K woke up at 5am after going to bed at 1:30. (I hadn't gotten to bed until 2!) She ignored my threats of great violence  gentle urgings to go back to bed. I lay down with her (contorting one's body to be half on the floor and half on a toddler mattress is good for you, right? Like yoga?) and instead of graciously accepting her partial victory in the Make-Mom-Sleep-With-Me-Not-Bob battle, she wanted to engage in an epic staring competition. Around 7 I gave up, went downstairs, turned on the coffee maker and fired up the laptop. I grumbled. I worked. She sat next to me on the couch with a smug little smile on her (admittedly adorable) face.

Bob, conveniently enough, had taken the day off work. He volunteered to stay home with her while I went on a much needed work-off-the-stress run.  (I like this having a co-parent thing.) I was in the middle of making a snarky comment about how with each step I was going to imagine ... well, maybe not stepping on her head, but --

then she threw her arms around me in an enthusiastic toddler hug and said, "Love you, Mom."

Way to work that guilt, baby. You've got this down to a science.

I went on my run. I came back feeling less homicidal. I didn't beat myself up (too much!) over the things I'd thought under the cloud of sleep deprivation and general parental stress. I know that there will always be a discrepancy between the kind of parent I want to be and the kind of parent that I am. I get that that's a part of the game.

I don't like it, but I get it.

Parents who have survived the toddler phase: at some point this evens out a little, right? I kind of feel like starting an It Gets Better campaign for parents of two-year-olds wouldn't be a horrible idea. . . (Consider this an open invitation to leave inspiring stories in the comments section!)


  1. I don't have any inspiring stories for you, because we haven't quite hit the rotten toddler stage since we're still only a little over a year into this whole parenting thing. But I can still commiserate a little bit, as Brigid always seems to know when she's been too rotten, or even too nice, because she does a complete 180 when she thinks she needs to even things out a bit. I'm amazed that they pick up on the parental manipulation so quickly...and I think it spells doom for the teenage years :)

  2. As my little munchkin is still only 17 months and my wife's and my parenting style is a bit different than yours (although we're of the same school of thought as you on the not letting her cry it out) I don't yet have any inspirational stories. I think I've mentioned before that my daughter has learned the art of feigned innocence... lately she's expanded upon her feigned innocence talents. She used to merely say "Oh no!" or "Oh my!" when making a mess, she's started adding, "Wha happen?" as if she really has no clue!

    And the co-parenting is certainly a sanity-saver. I make it a point to take my daughter upstairs to play for about an hour when I first get home from work every day to give my wife a bit of a break. She also gets a "girl's night out" at least once every 2 weeks if not weekly.

  3. funny how we both seem to be going thru the same thing at the same time. My son, who just turned 2 a few weeks ago, is going thru this phase where he wakes up multiple times a night crying for no reason. After reassuring, checking diapers and rocking a million times, if the crying continues I let him cry it out. My husband hates that. He's the parent that will continue the cycle of going into his room until the carpet wears out. After arguing about it, he agreed to my method. And guess what, a few minutes later, he was sound asleep.

  4. Hi,

    I'm way into the parenting thing, as my kids are now 10 and 12. I can't remember exactly when it got "easier", but I vaguely recollect that the three's were worse than the two's. Then, apart from some real difficulty with separation anxiety concerning preschool and kindergarten on the part of my elder daughter, it got easier as they became more independent.
    This post strikes me as boring after your great story, but I have to conserve my time--I'm typing while the 8 month old I'm babysitting is napping. See, I'm even willing to do it again--it has to get better! Or maybe I just forgot how bad it was?! Hmmm...

  5. Tara (first Tara!): I know! I'm scared of the teen years too if they're already this "good."

    Perplexio: It's sort of amazing that they've learned the feigned innocence thing so early, isn't it? Genuine innocence must run out around 6 months or so! K is a big fan now of the "huh? huh? I don't know what you're talking about" act, too.

    Tara S: I'm to the point where I'm willing to let her cry a bit at night, but right now I don't have any way to keep her in her bedroom! I know who is getting an extra-tall baby gate for Christmas...

    Lynne: I don't know how they ("they" being babies or ... a greater evil) make us forget these things so quickly. I'm going through it RIGHT NOW and I *still* totally want another one. I'm not expecting any genuinely "easy" years, but I have to believe that once we get a bit more independent and get basic human needs like sleep covered, that we'll be better able to deal with whatever challenges the next phases bring!

  6. Other warning signs that I'm in for trouble as my daughter gets older:

    1. Her level of enthusiasm for new shoes.
    2. Her favorite toy is her toy cell phone.
    3. Her second favorite "toy" is any actual real phone (regular or cell) that she manages to get her hands on when my wife & I aren't paying attention. She actually prefers these to her toy phone but obviously there's the lack of access issue that keeps these @ #2.


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