Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 5, 2013

WHOLE FAMILY: Parenting questions are like dandelions


BRISTOL — Unless something really bizarre happens, I’ll be growing and birthing no more babies. No more. I’m happy — and busy — with the three I carried and the sweet, little bonus package who came to us as a baby some six years ago.

Four, my friends — including having a toilet-training toddler while in my 40s — is enough for me.

While I won’t ever go there again myself, my line of work requires I throw back to the fresh issues of parenthood, that I remember and analyze those early mothering days. Parenting issues start, for sure, before a woman’s even pregnant — hopefully with mom and dad considering how if and how they’d like to raise children. Then, parenting questions and concerns ramp up greatly as the birth nears and, for sure, when the baby’s home in mom’s bed.

Or is that in a crib?

Wait, should babies sleep in a swing? Should I get a swing? And what was that I heard about not letting your baby fall asleep in the car seat? Isn’t there something I should know about car seats? Like, don’t they expire or something?

Now that I’m thinking of it, should babies sleep on their backs, sides or stomachs these days? Should I buy those bumper-like things for the crib? What about a mobile? Or one of those baby carriers, like a sling? I heard one of them — now, which one was it? — wasn’t good for their hips.

These parenting questions, you probably know, go on and on and on. They’re like dandelions, popping up everywhere, and it seems the more you mow, the more you grow.

Questions, issues, concerns — oh my. And I’ll be the one to tell you, if no one has, that they never go away — only grow greater in number and more complicated.

WHEN I TEACH A FOUR-WEEK childbirth preparation class, I tack on “Parenting Questions and Concerns” to the last week’s agenda. It feels a little disingenuous, frankly, because I know that after the albeit important rite-of-passage process of birthing for which we’re preparing, of much greater issue are the years and issues that follow.

But it’s not within the purview of a childbirth class to teach parenting, so I reconcile that my job is only to get people thinking and, hopefully, to help them begin to realize that while they don’t know it all, they can find a way to figure it out.

Here’s what we talk about:

• Parenting philosophies begin long before a woman’s pregnant. They’re woven through her life choices in general, by her ethic or philosophy of life. Months before a baby is in her arms, a woman is already making decisions that will affect the child forever. Wow.

• The minute your baby’s born — before, really, we’ve already said, but we’ll go from here — the questions begin. You won’t get a break. You get to start making decisions from which newborn tests and procedures you want — think vaccinations to circumcision — to what pediatrician you’re choosing to what you’ll be feeding your baby. Consider also: where your baby sleeps, who gets to hold the baby and why, babysitters and caregivers, what kinds of toys you want or don’t want, pacifiers or no, cloth or paper diapers. As the baby gets older, it’s how to toilet train, if preschool is necessary, methods for teaching and training — think punishment, maybe — and how to keep your children safe. Then there’s schooling, the issue of friends, money, schedules and activities. I am exhausted.

• Everyone — and I mean everyone — will have an opinion or a theory or an idea of what parents should do. Many will feel free to share their opinions, too. In general, I suggest parents choose their advisors wisely. Keep an open mind and be teachable, but if you’re moved by every opinion or piece of advice, you’ll spin in circles. I use a pretty simple, straightforward rule of thumb: Whomever is offering this advice — does he or she have what I want, meaning does he or she exemplify the results I’m hoping for? If so, then listen. If not, move on. You have to be careful if you’re that black-and-white about it, but it’s an easy way to weed through the myriad opinions you’ll get from everyone from family members to your best friend to the checkout lady. If you’re a book person, choose one or two books and don’t accept or buy any more. I like William and Martha Sears’ “The Baby Book.” It’s simple, straightforward and somewhat “naturally” minded.

• The most important objective as a parent is to find your “sea legs” in the rockin’-and-rollin’ journey on the choppy waters of raising children. When you get sea-sick, just throw up and get back on deck. Your children will.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”