Thursday, February 07, 2008

the bumps and bruises of parenthood

Parenting is a tricky business. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books-websites-experts that tell anxious parents that YOU MUST DO THIS OR YOUR CHILD WILL SUFFER/HAVE UNDERAGE SEX/DEVELOP ALLERGIES/USE DRUGS/NEVER DEVELOP SERIOUS RELATIONSHIPS/ALWAYS NEED A NIGHT LIGHT. After 9 months of pregnancy where you are obsessed with avoiding caffeine, mercury, sushi, alcohol, etc., (and who knows how long obsessing over trying to get pregnant), trying to figure out what to do with your bundle of joy once he/she gets here can be even more nerve-wracking.

Trying to negotiate the swiftly moving waters of daycare/nanny/SAHM, breastfeeding/formula, crib/co-sleeper/family bed, or cloth/disposable/"elimination communication" can open you up to instant criticism from everyone from your mother to the grocery clerk to random people on the internet. It may take a village to raise a child, but does that give every village resident the right to critique a mother's (or father's) every decision? Most parents are just trying to do the best they can for their children.

Some of the decisions that Rich & I have made for Vivian maybe aren't for everyone. But they work for us, and for her. For example, we are breastfeeding. Viv was exclusively breastfed through 6 months, when we started to add solids. I plan to keep breastfeeding until she's at least a year old, but I'm trying to stay flexible (and not pressure myself too much), so if it doesn't work for either of us at any time, we can stop. On the solid food subject, I'm making Vivian's food, rather than buying pre-packaged. For me, it's cheaper, I like to cook (although it's hardly cooking -- boil or steam and throw in the blender!), and I know exactly what's going in to the food. But again, I'm trying to stay flexible, so when we travel, she eats organic pre-packaged stuff. And if it gets to be too much, I'm trying to give myself permission to stop. But for now, it's working. On vaccinations (a very touchy subject for many parents), we decided to vaccinate. It was our feeling that Vivian was at more risk from those preventable diseases than any potential side-effects.

But you know what? Other parents, in their efforts to do the best for their kids, come up with different decisions. I also use disposable diapers and Vivian is in daycare full-time. I have friends who choose to keep their kids in cloth diapers and friends who are able to stay at home. I have tremendous respect for them for making decisions and sometimes sacrifices to do their best for for kids. Those options just didn't fit with our lives. And you know what? It's ok.

Sometimes I feel that so many people are quick to assume that parents make decisions out of ignorance, stupidity or a lack of interest. Believe me, if the parents I know are any indication, almost every decision is taken with care and thought. It may not be the decision you'd make, but that doesn't automatically make it the wrong one.

All of this has been a long lead up to a confession. I made a decision this morning that was the wrong one. In my struggle to get out of the house only 30 minutes late, I put Vivian in the middle of the bed while I ran into the bathroom to put on some makeup. And then I heard something every parent dreads, "thump! WAAHHH!" Vivian, who is newly mobile, had rolled off the bed.

First of all -- she is fine. She cried for about 2 minutes and then calmed down. I iced her head and then nursed her. By the time I dropped her off at daycare about a half an hour later, she had only a faint red mark on her forehead.

I am a wreck, though. I knew she was mobile. Richard and I had just had a conversation about how we had to be careful and observant. And because I was tired and hurried and not thinking about how much she has developed (this whole rolling thing is very much a new development!), she got hurt. As her parent, it's my responsibility to keep her safe. And no matter how much I have going on at a time, Vivian is always my priority.

I know that kids will get bumps and bruises. It's part of being a kid. I got my fair share when I was little. But I'm a mom, and I will beat myself up every time something bad happens to Viv.

Parents make decisions every day, some good, some bad. I guess that's the point of this whole long-winded essay. Life is a series of decisions, and hopefully we learn from each and every one. Parents are responsible for making decisions for their children, and most parents work really hard to make the best decisions they can. Some decisions don't work out, but hopefully we learn.

But hopefully you won't have to learn the hard way not to leave your mobile 7-month-old on the bed in another room. Just take it from me.