Ask Mr* Google
Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across 2 articles on parenting. On my newsfeed they were 2 posts apart, posted by totally unrelated people, both with a serious message and positive advice to give out.
The problem is, they were quite contradictory. One was about how excessive screen time and permissive parenting has ruined our children’s attention span and ability to learn. The other is about how leaving children to cry and not tending to their every need creates dangerous adults. As a mother to 2 young children, reading them back to back leaves me hurt and confused. Hurt because I feel like I may have made all the mistakes mentioned in both articles and confused because I don’t know now what I should be doing.
Of course, the answer, as with most things to do with parenting, is somewhere between the two. Children do need rules, boundaries, routine and consistency, but we live in the real world and everyone has to survive somehow, so some flexibility in these things is helpful for everyone. A crying baby or young child does need someone to tend to them, but sometimes it’s not possible straight away and a baby left crying for a few minutes while you nip to the loo or finish feeding the toddler is unlikely to become a psychopath based on that alone.
After his lunchtime nap the same day, The Boy has a full-scale meltdown. 45 mins of high-pitched, hysterical screaming. He wasn’t tired, his nappy was clean and he wouldn’t take any milk. A quick google would tell me that ‘food before one is just for fun’ and that if he wasn’t taking his milk then he wasn’t hungry. But I know my baby, and after establishing that he wasn’t going to go back to sleep, I took him downstairs and turned the milk into baby rice. A relatively huge bowl of baby rice for a little boy, but he ate the lot, and was very pleased with himself for it. The screaming had stopped, the baby was happy. Mr Google would tell me I was wrong, I should be exclusively doing ‘baby lead weaning’ and milk should be his main source of calories, but Mr Google hasn’t met The Boy. I have. Besides, what’s the difference-he still has all the milk I offered in his system, all be it in a different format, but it’s still got the same nutrients in it.
Now, when The Girl was 8 months old I am not sure I would have done this. I might have continued to try milk and had an even longer baby-screaming experience. It has taken me two babies to get the confidence to follow my instincts even when they go against overwhelming contrary advice, and sometimes I have to remind myself to do so. (I am not saying all advice is wrong, please don’t think that!)
Since having babies, actually, since falling pregnant, I have never ‘googled’ so many things in my life. From 3am ‘why is my baby not sleeping’ to afternoon ‘recipe for baby lead weaning muffins’ I have relied on google to give me advice and opinions. However, this method should be treated with care. Google will give you 100s if opinions, often in opposition to each other, my job as the parent is to look at our context and my baby and decide what will work for us.
In the past I have been told by other mums that I allow my daughter to ‘rule the roost’ because I was still going to her at night when she cried, and often feeding her at 10/11 months. According one of those articles I saw on Facebook I was ruining her chances of being a successful learner by allowing her to do what she liked. According to the other article I was risking her having attachment disorder by leaving her to cry for a couple of minutes to see if she would self-settle. Another article would tell me she will never learn to self settle if I continue to go to her and feed her in the night. She did learn to self settle, in time, and now, if she cries in the night, we still go to her if she can’t settle after a few minutes because we know it means something is wrong. It dosen’t happen very often and it is what works for us. It is the middle ground, between the two articles, because that is what works in our household. It may not work in others. Google has been both my friend and my enemy in this parenting journey, and should be treated with caution when being used in any situation.
*I refer to Google as a Mr because he just gives you an answer, without any context and then gets on with his life without a second thaught. This, in my experience is more of a male trait. Just saying.