Parents of young children are undoubtedly some of the most opinionated people I know. And they share those opinions with everyone, preying particularly on nervous parents-to-be or new parents seeking reassurance about whether what they are doing is “right” or “wrong.”
Opinionated parents don’t mean any harm – quite the contrary, in fact – they see themselves as child-rearing veterans by virtue of having at least one day more of experience than you, and generally they simply want to help out by sharing their successes, assuming what worked for their child will inevitably work for yours. This is particularly true in the case of big issues in the first few years of a child’s life, such as eating, sleeping, potty training, discipline, and schooling. If I had a dollar for every piece of unsolicited advice that was given to me since Logan was born, I’d most certainly be a millionaire.
Here is something I’ve learned from those opinions during my 22 months of motherhood: disregard most of them. Every child is different, every family is different, and the environments in which children are raised are complex, varied, and constantly changing. Just because a technique or method works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you. It also doesn’t mean it will work for your child.
Let me give you a case in point. Logan has never been a good sleeper. Whenever we mention this, people feel obligated to give us advice about how to right the situation. We’ve been judged for letting Logan sleep in our bed when he awakes in the night, not letting him “cry it out”, and checking in on him frequently. My husband and I know we’re both softies, and while these judgments make us feel some amount of guilt, they certainly haven’t changed our parenting style. With the impending arrival of a new baby, we mentioned excitedly to many of our friends that we were going to graduate Logan from the crib to a “big boy bed.” To us, it seemed like it could be a very good change for him; to everyone else, it was an awful idea. “Keep him in the crib as long as possible;” “he’ll crawl out of his bed and come to your room in the night and you’ll have to keep putting him back;” “this was a terrible transition for our son/daughter and we wish we had waited longer,” and so on and so forth. Listening to the experiences and advice of others around us, you would have thought we were in for the biggest challenge of our adult lives. We got so much negative feedback about making the transition before Logan turned two that we started to get nervous about the whole thing. But you know what? Call it what you may – a tiny miracle; the fact that Logan was never fond of his crib; that he wanted more space and independence in his sleeping arrangements; that a bed is just more comfortable than a crib when you get down to it; that he was just ready for a change; or any other variety of factors – the transition for Logan (and for mom and dad) went beautifully. Since making the transition, Logan hasn’t once gotten out of his bed to come to ours during the night (and yes, he does know how to get out of his new bed), he has slept through the night more than ever before, and he has slept in hours longer in his new bed than he ever did in his crib (8:15am versus 6:30am; I’ll take it)! The only question we’ve been asking ourselves is, why did we not do this sooner?
So at the risk of throwing any unsolicited advice out there, I’ll only say this: do what’s right by your child and your family. Don’t take others’ critical judgments of your parenting style to heart. If your child isn’t ready to start potty training at two, then wait. If your child is ready to transition from the crib to a bed at one and a half, then make the transition. If you enroll your child in preschool at two and he/she isn’t ready, then don’t feel guilty about trying again in six months or a year. You know your child best – so do what you and your spouse think is best for him/her, regardless of the opinions or advice of others.
And with that, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Mr. Logan’s big boy room and bed.