When my oldest was 2 1/2, I was chatting with a lady at church about how I “really should” take her pacifier away, but I was hesitant because I was sure that would be the end of Ms Action’s afternoon nap. The lady responded that if the only thing keeping her napping was the pacifier, she was probably to old for a nap anyways. Instantly my Mommy hackles went up and I felt defensive, who did she think she was to tell me whether or not my baby needed a nap any more, heaven knows I needed Ms Action to take that nap!!
It gets worse.
Actually, I didn’t have a problem with my daughter having a pacifier in the first place! She only got it for bedtime or nap-time, and it helped her sleep. I figured she would stop needing it eventually. But I kept hearing from books and websites that she was too old to have a pacifier. And friends and family asked when I was planning on taking it away. So I questioned my own judgement. Maybe she was too old to have a pacifier. Maybe I was letting her be too dependant on it. How was I going to take it away!?
This kind of thing is a common occurrence in my life as a mom. I come up with a method for something that works for me, my family, and my baby, and I feel good about my ability to mother. Then someone disagrees. It doesn’t matter if it is a innocent question on their part, or terrible story about “someone else they knew who tried that”. Either way, I constantly doubt my own ability to parent.
When I stopped spanking that wasn’t a confident decision either, I had to stop reading anything that suggested that spanking worked because it made me question my decision over and over again. I know that gentle discipline is a much better choice for me and my children, but all it takes is a suggestion to the contrary and all my fears of failure come rushing back again.
Recently I was telling a family member about an incident involving Ms Action’s intense hatred of uncomfortable clothing. The family member said something to the effect of “you can’t cater to her” and instantly I found myself wondering if I was being to lenient when I let Ms Action exchange her shirt for a less “scratchy” one?
I thought about it for several days. Then it dawned on me. Every parent has different issues that are important to them, and every child is different. The family member I was speaking to may not “cater” to her children’s problems with clothing, but she is fine “catering” to her 3 1/2 year old that is still not potty trained. Every situation is different, and there is no way anyone else can know all the factors that have gone into a parenting decision. Why was I feeling threatened by someone else’s opinion on child-raising? And how many times have I unintentionally given that family member identical treatment, with all of my suggestions and “encouragement” for potty training?
I am starting to think that unless someone explicitly asks you how or why you do something, they don’t want to know. Sometimes I can get so excited when I discover something works for me, I assume that it will work for everyone else. I shouldn’t be so sure that other people would have the same results as I do if they only did the same as I. And I shouldn’t feel threatened when someone else accidentally or intentionally pressures me to do something. It’s just the way it worked for them!
So when a nursery lady at church told me to “enjoy a church service for once”, and leave my weepy, clingy 9 month old because she needed to “get over it”. Instead of questioning myself, or feeling intimidated because I wanted to look like a parent who has everything under control, I remembered that I know my baby best. I knew that she had just come home from vacation and was having a rough time with all the new faces she’d seen lately. I know that she doesn’t “get over it” very easily, and I know that I don’t mind having to hear the sermon from the foyer while carrying my baby around. And I was able to respond confidently “It’s OK, I’m not really a get-over-it kind of Mama.”
I’m so over being insecure about my parenting decisions. At least I think I am…