February 2, 2015

I knew everything about parenting before becoming a parent! Or not.

I started babysitting when I was 11, got my first nannying gig at 16 then worked in my first daycare at 19. It was then that I pretty much knew I'd always care for kids in some capacity for rest of my life.  Thanks to this experience, Le Moyne College for the Psych degree and my thirst for knowledge into adulthood (that sounds so lame, really I just read ECE and parenting articles or blogs I find on facebook and instagram) I have cultivated a vast and varied knowledge of child development and technique. You can never know it all but by the time I was pregnant I already knew what parenting choices to make and those to avoid and I was going to STICK TO IT!

I thought I knew what it was to be a good parent and that at the end of the day it was only as hard as you made it out to be.  I was lucky to witness and learn from every single parenting choice in the book. I saw the causes of these choices - you'd be surprised how much economic situation, lifestyle preferences, education and personal experiences effect the way people raise their young. I also got to observe the impact these choices had on the children themselves. I already knew so much that I actually thought I wouldn't have to do the hard part of trying out what might work, I'd just dive in with the "best" way as I had determined based on all this information. Ha! Hahahahaha is all I can say now.

In reality, this thinking just set me up for my own demise. I knew being a parent was hard but because I thought I'd seen/heard/done it all over the course of caring for hundreds of children I thought there was nothing it could throw at me I couldn't handle in stride. I had no freaking clue. The idea that I could control things, that I had any say at all in how my children ate, slept, behaved, etc. is laughable now. In child care you can control things to a certain extent. You say jump and most kids say how high. Parents used to tell me all the time that their children were great, for me, but I would be shocked if I saw them at home. I watched incredibly wonderful, polite and kind children dissolve into whiny, pushy, mean kids when mom walked in and thought,"That will never be me! I know better!" If I only had a spoon big enough with which to eat those words.

The truth I now know for sure is that no one way works with every child forever, no matter how hard you try. And what worked for a hundred other parents might not work for you. And that's ok, it's a part of the learning curve of actual parenting. I wish I had armed myself with THAT in-depth knowledge beforehand but I didn't, so I, just like every other parent that ever lived, am doing the dirty work myself and learning from my own mistakes and experiences. All the while laughing at the sheer naivete of my younger, child-less-child-care-provider self. Here's a few examples of this that I encounter on the daily now that I have 6 month old twins!

I knew that the tricks to teaching a baby to sleep were a having a good routine, staying consistent and that sleep begets sleep!

This is actually true, what's not is how easy I thought it would be for me. I have helped a lot of children to sleep at night, soothed them through nightmares and night terrors, eased the transitions from 3 naps to two to one to none and advised many parents on how to help children go down at night. I've heard and shared many success stories thanks to my tips. Oh my god if I could go back in time and prepare myself and also smack myself for ever thinking "SMH these parents are just making it harder on themselves!" when someone came to me with a sleep problem. I had NO CLUE how hard it actually was, especially with two, especially when you would sell your freaking soul to the devil just to get three straight hours of quality sleep.

Maybe I'm just lucky enough (or have enough bad karma stored up) to have two terrible sleepers but I cannot for the life of me get my children to go back to sleeping through the night or on a consistent nap schedule no matter what I try. It's gotten to the point that I'm looking in to hiring a sleep consultant (as if ever we could afford one). This was my first real eye opener that led to me writing this post. It's comical actually. Despite my vast experience with and past success with getting children to sleep I can't actually manage to do it with my own. It has become the bane of my existence and led me to question all that I know to be true in this world.

I knew I would never want my baby to take a pacifier!

I always knew we'd have them and use them if needed. I see no problem with kids using them to a point, although seeing a five year old with one kills me, especially if they talk around it.  They're great soothers and babies are born with a killer sucking reflex which is why pacifiers were invented in the first place. I prepared myself years ago with a plan for using them only when needed and weaning them off them before it became a problem. If they gave them up early I would celebrate! I never thought in a million years I would end up practically begging my children to take them just to get some effing sleep in my life. Now that I have two sleep fighting six month olds who basically scream at the sight of their once beloved bobos I am ready to lose my mind and wish so much that they would just take the damn things.

Up until about a month ago, when they got their first colds, we could pop one in and off to dreamland they would go. They even learned how to find them on their own thanks to the nifty invention of Wubbanubs! Then out of nowhere they went on a binky strike and we have been fighting and losing the battle of sleep deprivation ever since. Now I am their pacifier and they simply will not settle without the boob. I don't mind it during the day, it's at night that I wish they could just pick up their wubs (which they love while they're awake and playing of course) and drift back off to sleep rather than demanding to comfort nurse every hour on the hour.

I knew it wouldn't be hard for me to leave my children for a night at a sitter or at daycare because I knew they (and I) would be fine and I would be dying to get away! 

Considering the fact that I haven't gone back to work despite being seriously poor since last July we all know this one is shot to hell. It's not that I couldn't get a job, I've been offered several over the last 9 months, two of which were sight unseen based on my resume alone. But the thought of someone else caring for my children strikes a fear in my heart so strong I literally burst in to tears at the very idea of it. My past in child care has led to a strong distrust of strangers and all I have to say to working moms is a nanny cam is your best friend. You just never really know people. My girls have been away from me for exactly two evenings and both times were with my own mother or godmother and not until after they were four months old.

I remember thinking that I couldn't wait until we could go on our first date night, that I would be taking everyone up on their offer to watch them as soon as I was all healed up and got the go ahead to have a drink. So not the case. We have yet to go on an actual date, just the two of us, because I can't for the life of me leave them behind without a very good reason (like a friend's birthday or a special adults-only Christmas dinner). I don't think they will ever be in daycare unless we become truly desperate. And honestly, if it got to that point, I would probably work nights and watch them all day while CJ works before they go to a sitter. It's scary.

I knew my husband and I would always see eye to eye on child rearing decisions because we were proactive and figured it all out before!

This one caught me most off guard. We had discussed so many things prior to the arrival of our little sleepless bundles of joy and we were almost always on the same page. We agreed that we were lucky I had so much experience, most things would come naturally to me and although in the beginning he deferred to me often he was a fast learner and loved participating. Now as we encounter our first real parenting struggles we find ourselves butting heads over the stupidest things. He's convinced they're hungry when I know they just want to suck or be held. He doesn't think they're tired when I think nothing else makes sense and try to lay them down. He thinks when a baby cries something is always wrong, I think sometimes babies just need to cry to release frustration, much like their mother. He likes to rock them or hold them until they're passed out I would rather put them in the crib drowsy but awake.  Lately, he thinks they're waking up all night because they're not eating enough during the day while I'm pretty sure it's teething and a growth spurt. At the end of the day we always make up and talk about the issue and we are still each others' rock but man it's trying at times. I absolutely could not do this without him and yet I am so surprised at the things we argue about and how adamant each of us is that we're correct.

I knew co-sleeping was great, it just wasn't for me!

I discussed this at length in my first Great Debate post. I totally understand co-sleeping for security and closeness but never in a million years saw myself actually doing it. Fast forward six months and they've spent more nights in our bed than their own. The shift happened gradually but went full steam once I started nursing. It is so true that nursing moms get more sleep as we have the ability to side-lay nurse which allows both mom and baby to fall back to sleep in the same bed rather than everyone getting up and aroused with bottle making and feeding then putting them back in their cribs and trying to fall asleep for a few hours before the next feeding. I just keep them in bed with us and wait for them to stir, roll over and "boob 'em" as we call it. Sure it's probably the cause of our sleep issues but it's also the solution so, uh, there you have it? Really, it's just another one of those mind-fuck cyclical dramas of parenting. How messed up is it that co-sleeping is not only the cause but also the cure of our sleep problems? Excuse my language but I am le tired.

I knew I would never lose my cool, they're just babies for god's sake!

This. I naturally have a hot temper and a short fuse but I have always been able to keep myself in check when it came to kids. I used to get super pissed when a parent would scream at, spank or threaten their child in my presence. I knew well enough to walk away, take a break and come back calm, cool and collected and ready to tackle the problem at hand. If that wasn't possible you put hte child in a safe place and take a break wherever you could. This was super easy when I worked in child care as I just tagged in my assistant and went outside for a breather. By the time I came back she had diffused the situation and I was able to approach it again with a fresh set of eyes and clear mind.  I figured when I had my own I could just walk away and return ready to face the problem. No go. This is impossible when you have your own children.

Not only do SAHMs (especially with multiples) rarely get an actual break let alone a minute alone, if you do happen to you feel incredibly guilty for feeling the way you do so it's not really a break at all. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the crying I just want to give up and go outside for a minute but then I look at them and actually feel like a bad person for feeling that way. Plus, what if something happened in that second I was gone? Everything I know goes out the window when I look at them and hear their cries, luckily the anger ususally melts away as well when I remind myself they're just babies, but still, I've gotten to that point more often than I would like to admit. I have learned to bite the bullet, yell or cry right along with them then swallow my frustration and press on. Who knows what I will do when I have real-live tantrum throwing nay-saying toddlers on my hands!

And finally, hand in hand with the last one, I knew what it was to really love a child like my own!

I think this must come as a shock for all us child-less child care providers. Most of us genuinely care for the children we watch and some of those children we may feel like we actually love like our own, depending on the depth of our relationship with them. The kids I nannied for or my niece for example, I have been through so much with them and I really truly love them. But my heart had no clue. I had no idea what it meant to really love your own child until I met mine and that same heart evolved right there in my chest never to be the same again. Sure I knew it would be different, stronger maybe, but love is love right?

Nope. I still love the kids I cared for but I never before understood this fierce mama bear love that would make me want to lay my own life on the line like I do for these two little girls. This is the kind of love that makes you forget all logic and prior knowledge, that leads you to make the craziest choices for no good reason, hell, this is the love that allows women to lift cars to save their children's lives. No matter how frustrated or sleep-deprived I get I would do absolutely anything in the world for these tiny people and they are the only people in the whole 8 billion on earth that I can say that for. It's an incredible feeling and one you absolutely cannot know until you have children you can call your own.

So, needless to say I've learned more in the last six months than I did in 20 years of child care. I'm happier and better for it too but damn if I wish I didn't have to learn it all the hard way!


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