[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] T[/dropcap]he number one thing that shocked me the most after I had my first child was all the advice that’s given on parenting. And how you get advice whether you asked for it or not. And everyone has their way, which is the right way.
You should sleep with your baby or you should never sleep with your baby.
You should breastfeed for x amount of time as breastfeeding comes so naturally to you and baby, and you know, formula is pure poison.
You should immediately put your baby on a schedule and keep to that schedule or you should do child led feedings.
You should start solids at this time or you should never give your child solids before 6 months. Whatever you do, do not start with giving the baby fruit as they’ll have a sweet tooth for the rest of their lives and grow up to be obese. (By the way, it’s quite interesting to visit other countries and see how they handle this . . . not like the US.)
You should let your child decide everything; always give two choices . . . purple spoon or blue spoon? Pooh blanket or train blanket? Go to the nursery at church or go with Mommy and Daddy (so that one parent will be forced to walk the halls the entire 2 hours.)
Never let your child watch TV ever. Their brains will morph into jelly and you’ll raise a less than intelligent being.
You know your baby best, so you, more than anyone else, should make all decisions. If the doctor says this, but you don’t agree, you go with your gut. You, the first time parent, are an expert in all things related to your baby.
All of that is fine and dandy if breastfeeding comes easy (or if you can even breastfeed at all!), you don’t work so if you co-sleep you’re able to be up all hours of the night with your little one, your child is not mega-hungry and going through 8 ounce bottles by 4 months of age, you are okay with accommodating your child’s every want and need (which increases with age) so that instead of offering the choice of a blue spoon, you’re having to offer multiple dinner choices, multiple clothing choices, and multiple schooling options. You’re okay with never going out in public as your child will see something that they want, which will force you to decide what you’ll do to avoid a screaming tantrum.
Lucky for me, my firstborn didn’t adhere to any advice that we were given. He did not sleep longer than two hours for the first 5 months of his life, he could not suck properly so no lactation or sucking specialist was able to get him to nurse, he hated all solid foods except apples, which he still loves, and giving him choices results in his coming up with a third option that he will not bend on. It doesn’t matter that mom said that the third option was not a good idea and not an option. That’s what he wants. So you go on to a screaming temper tantrum and battle of wills, and again, you’ve worked through every parenting method you can find. Really, you stick to your guns, do what you know to do, and are okay with being called a mean mommy who should get hit by a train. (You also pray that this phase of life ends soon.)
And in the end, you know what works best? Lots of prayer, using the Bible as the parenting manual (Old and New Testament), teaching a lot about why we do things, what God says, why there are rules, and why disrespectful, bad attitudes and screaming tantrums are not getting the child anywhere. It’s a learning process, and four years into it, we still deal with screaming. We still deal with “No Mom, I am not doing anything then!!” We handle it in the way that we’ve found works for this child; but mostly, we’ve taken the Word and what the Word says and apply it in every way we can as we train up this young person. We pray it works, but we walk in faith trusting that God knows best as He actually is the expert in parenting.
No child is perfect. No parent is perfect. I find myself clueless on most days when it comes to parenting my almost four year old. I find myself thanking the Lord that my second child rarely throws screaming tantrums. But I also realize that my second born has his moments as well. He’s not perfect. We’ll have seasons of ups and downs with both kids. And the most important thing I can do is accept the wisdom of older parents who have raised great kids, keep seeking the Lord, keep applying the Word to parenting, and accept God’s love and grace for both my sons and myself.
Lastly, I’ve about thrown out every parenting book, every parenting website, every type of advice that does not a.) put the Word first and b.) allow for the fact that every child is different. My second child is so completely different from my first; his behavior is so very different from his brother’s. It doesn’t make my firstborn a worse child or less loved; it just pushes me to seek my Father more. He doesn’t love any of His kids less; in fact, all of us are His favorite. He knows how to parent each of us in the exact way that we need, so He knows how my kids need to be raised. And He’s happy to advise us.
I have no idea what our third child will bring to the family or what she’ll be like, but I know that she will be her own unique person who will cause her mom and dad to seek the Lord on how to raise her, just like her brothers have done. And in the end, it’ll all work out no matter if she sleeps in our room, her room, eats pureed apples at 4 months, drinks formula, gets vaccinated, eats a sucker at age 1, goes to preschool, or goes to work with Mom. All of it will be preceded with prayer, and that is the most important thing. I am not required to raise my child to fit into this culture nor am I required to do what all the other mommies do so that I fit in.
I’m required to make the best decisions that I can, to politely decline advice that’s not needed, and to always remember that I’m a steward of what God has gifted me with, and that includes children. Our family is a bi-cultural family, and so it’s easier for us to put cultures aside as both our cultures parent in different ways. But there’s even a variation of parenting cultures within the Christian community, and I don’t agree with all of it. I don’t have to though, and I don’t need to feel pressured by what other moms are saying or doing. I don’t have to stress over the little things . . . I just have to be true to what God has said in His Word and go from there.