Baker’s Dozen – Parenting Advice We Received (and Mostly Ignored)

It’s a fact of life that when you are pregnant and have babies and children, you will receive a lot of advice.  A lot of bad advice.  A lot of unsolicited advice.  A lot of advice from well-intentioned, but inexperienced people.  Yeah, I loved getting advice on parenting from people who weren’t yet parents themselves.  They had ALL the answers!

So, I made a promise to myself that when I was “old”, that is when my children were grown and were having children of their own or when I was around young mothers and fathers, that I would never give out unsolicited advice on parenting.

Here we are the day our twins were born.  They are now in college.  So far.  So good.

My mother-in-law, who raised four children, always set a good example for this.  I have never known her to criticize our parenting techniques or even to give unsolicited advice.  She would share information or anecdotes of her own experiences, but nothing that could ever be construed as critical.  And she ended up raising her youngest children alone when her husband passed away at an early age.

My mother-in-law on her 65th birthday surrounded by her grandchildren.

My mother, who had eight children, and can handle a baby better than anyone I have ever met, is a different story.  While she has been pretty much absent from our lives, the few times that she has been around us and our children, she has been critical.  In all fairness, she tends to be critical by nature.  It’s probably a good thing for our sanity that she has chosen to be a remote figure in our lives.

The family friend (see #10) and my mother gave us lots of parenting advice.

Here is some of the parenting advice that we received over the years as we raised our children:

1)  Enjoy them now because they grow up so fast.

Now that they are all out of the house, it does seem like it went by quickly, but I haven’t forgotten all those years of pregnancy, breastfeeding, diapering, potty training, doctor visits, school conferences and activities, and so on.  The years when I thought, when I wondered, am I ever going to get past this stage?  Am I ever going to get them all off the breast, out of diapers, into school, out of the house?

I am glad that I can look back on all that NOW with a smile, but I would never want to tell a young parent, in the MIDST of all of this mayhem, to enjoy them now because they grow up so fast.  I also wouldn’t tell them not to enjoy every last hug and kiss because there will come a day when you will have to ask for them.

2)  Why do you want to breastfeed?

This was the single most important thing that I was able to do for my youngest three children that my mother didn’t do with her children.  I loved nursing my babies.  Well, not at first.  The first month was a living hell, but after that I loved it.

My mother never understood my desire to nurse my children.  Hers was the first generation to be afforded the luxury of being able to use bottles thus giving them more freedom.

I just chalk this attitude up to what goes around, comes around.  But, I would never think to judge a woman by whether or not she chooses to nurse or bottle feed her baby.

3)  Never give your baby a pacifier.

Another bit of advice from my mother.  She hated mothers who allowed their babies to use pacifiers.  I had two kids use pacifiers and two kids who sucked their fingers.  It seems that every child uses something to calm themselves.  In retrospect, I wish my finger sucking kids had used pacifiers because it would have saved some on the orthodontia bills later on and getting rid of a pacifier was infinitely easier than getting rid of fingers.

4)  It’s okay to let a baby cry.

There is a time and a place to let a baby cry.  And that time and place is not when they are newborns.  Enough said.

We figured out, eventually, the whole crying thing.  Fussy crying versus hungry / dirty diaper crying versus manipulative crying.  After awhile, you do learn by experience.

5)  They’ll never sleep through the night unless you start feeding them solid food right away.

We ignored this advice and worked with our pediatrician and used our own instincts to guide us.  We believe in healthy food and healthy kids, but realize that there is a wide range of opinion about this topic.

6)  My kids slept on their tummies and it never hurt them.

I *loved* getting sleeping advice.  The prevailing opinion when my oldest was born was to lay babies on their tummies to sleep.  By the time our middle child was born, the advice was to lay them on their sides with a rolled up blanket wedged in their backs to secure them in this position.  By the time our twins were born, the advice was to lay them on their backs.  We had the same pediatrician during this period, and he laughed about this with us for each of our pregnancies as he shared the NEW AND IMPROVED advice on sleeping babies.

I do wonder how my kids survived!

7)  You should never let your children sleep with you.

The old family bed debate.  When we had our twins, there were times that I fell asleep in my bed while they were nursing.  And I don’t feel guilty about it.

We had two kids who would get up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with us.  And I don’t feel guilty about that either.

Our other children never slept with us.  Thank heavens!  I don’t think our bed was big enough for that many kids!

8)  The only way to be a good mother is to stay at home with them when they are young or The only way to be a good mother is to work outside the home so that you can be fulfilled.

At different times in my life as a parent I have been a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a part-time working mom, a super mom, a not-so-super mom, and a mom who doesn’t work but whose kids are all away at school.  Hey moms!  It’s okay!  Do what works best for you and your family and don’t let anyone, including yourself, make you feel badly about it!

9)  When you kids were growing up we intentionally exposed you to other kids who had “insert disease here” (chicken pox, measles, mumps).

I’m not going to get into a debate about the value of immunizations which have gone viral since my oldest daughter was born, but I would never intentionally expose my child to a disease for any reason.  Thanks, mom, though for making sure we received our natural immunities in this manner!

10)  Kindergarten teachers want to teach children who are blank slates so you shouldn’t teach them their numbers, the alphabet, or read to them until after they start school.

We had a well intentioned family friend who shared this with us when our oldest daughter was young.  She was appalled that our daughter was able to read at four years old.  Because she knew that it would create problems for her Kindergarten teacher.  Yikes.

11)  You’re too hard on your kids – just like your father.  You’re too easy on your kids - you kids never acted like that when you were that age.

The first sentence was spoken by my mother.  The second sentence was spoken by my father.  No matter what we did, we weren’t going to get it right.

Oh, mom, our kids are turning out all right.  Thank you very much.

Oh, and dad, I’m sure that when we were two or three years old that we didn’t act like we were two or three years old.

12)  You shouldn’t make your kids work.  There will be plenty of time for that after college.

Gosh if you think parenting advice is hard when your kids are young, just you wait until they get into middle and high school.  Teenagers, it seems, are universally despised and looked on suspiciously by just about everyone.

While it’s hard to get through the baby and toddler years, it is also hard when they get older and the choices being made can dramatically affect their lives and their futures.

Yes, we did expect our kids to get jobs while in high school.  And have checking and saving accounts and debit cards which they managed.  But, many of our friends have kids that do not work while in high school.  And they all seem to end up just fine in the end.

13)  When are you going to have grandkids?

Ugh.  We don’t know, and we aren’t going to start pressuring our kids about it.

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