A Tale of Two Parenting Styles
Posted by JLK
Last week I spoke at a childbirth education class for parents expecting multiples. I was excited about it because I love to speak in front of a group and I felt I genuinely had something of value to share. The only guideline I was given was to talk about my experience being a mom of twins. I had no idea whether there was a time limit (in retrospect, I really wished I’d asked for guidance on that). I knew I would be sharing the time with another couple, who have 11-month-old fraternal twins.
I arrived just after the first couple did and my adrenaline started pumping right away. I LOVE this shit! I couldn’t wait to get started. The other couple went first. I was mortified the instant the woman opened her mouth. She seemed completely devoid of personality and spoke in a monotone. I noticed she had the book Babywise on her lap and felt my heart sink. She was going to tell these poor, unsuspecting parents how great their lives were after they let the babies scream for hours several nights in a row beginning at about 7 weeks of age. Babywise is in almost every way the exact opposite of the attachment parenting style I believe in. It advocates “parent directed feeding” (scheduled feeding), crying it out beginning at 6 weeks, forced playtime alone, and punitive discipline starting at 6 months of age (including corporal punishment and isolation). The whole thing makes me completely sick to my stomach.
I understand that not everyone has the same parenting philosophy I do and I try to be respectful of others’ choices, as I hope they are of mine. Some things cross a line even I can’t ignore though. Most of this couple’s talk was not about Babywise methods, although they did cite it specifically for sleep training. Still, their experience reflected the consequences of following this advice. For example, The mom said that her milk started to “dry up” and she was finished breastfeeding by three and a half months. She said she felt sort of conflicted about it but figured they’d gotten “all the good out of it they were going to get anyway.” Following a feeding schedule and refusing to feed at night beginning by only 8 weeks of age is a sure way to diminish your supply, and don’t even get me started on the advantages of breastfeeding through the first year.
I tried not to screw up my face while she was talking. I tried to sit calmly, knowing that I would soon be able to present a different view of parenting, but I could feel myself becoming wild with fear that these parents would go home excited about the prospect of wising up their babies.
I have an issue with obsessive-compulsive disorder and this is one of the areas in which I suffer. In my non-OCD moments I do realize that neither I nor this other couple is likely to sway someone so much to one side that it defines their parenting. Each parent must research parenting styles and do what they believe is best for their family. At that moment though, I suddenly felt an intense need to “save” my audience. The thoughts started swirling around my head so quickly and so forcefully that I don’t remember much of what the other couple said after the first ten minutes or so.
When my turn came I was practically jumping out of my skin with anticipation. I may even have begun babbling. There was so much I HAD to tell these parents-to-be! I was a tent revival evangelist and my flock needed salvation. I demonstrated both a front and back carry with the mei tai. I recited the Gospel of Breastfeeding. I extolled the virtues of natural childbirth and co-sleeping and cast out the demons of crying it out and scheduled feedings.
Truthfully, I did not assail them with attachment parenting doctrine, though I would have loved to. I did try to focus on life with twins from my attachment parenting point of view. I told them about redefining success in various areas, including childbirth and breastfeeding.
I told them that the hardest part about having twins, for me, is having one cry while I’m caring for the other and not being able to do anything about it. The Babywise mom must not have been paying close attention because she piped up with, “oh you’ll get used to it.” I replied that I didn’t think I ever could. She responded that it was harder for her husband than for her but that after a few nights they stopped crying. I was horrified. I started to stammer and tried to make it clear that I was most certainly not talking about crying it out, rather that I couldn’t always comfort both at once. I reiterated that I would NEVER get used to that.
After that I continued to go on and on and on about what items I couldn’t live without and so forth. The poor instructor kept giving me cues to let me know that my time was up but I was too caught up in my spiel to notice. Thinking back, I do remember her saying “Well thank you SO MUCH Jenny!” at least a couple of times.
I just felt so passionate about sharing my “wisdom” (bwahahahaha!) that I couldn’t stop! I wish I’d worked up something more resembling a speech so that I could cover the points in a logical order, keep from rambling and seem sane. I have a lot of trouble editing myself. That’s true in my everyday life as well as here on this blog. How do I learn to moderate myself? I feel like I’m going to pop like a cork out of a champagne bottle when I try to hold things in. I love to write, I love to speak to an audience, and I love to chat with people.
Are you like that? Have you learned to edit yourself? Share your wisdom with me!