How to Raise a Child

Posted on | September 8, 2011 | 13 Comments

Everyone and their grandmother’s second cousin has an opinion on how to properly raise a child.  And those opinions start cropping up the minute you announce to the world that you’re expecting.

“Don’t eat too much dairy or your child will have a milk allergy!”

“If you want your child to be smart, play Mozart into your stomach!”

By the time the baby actually arrives, you are so full of mostly-useless information and ridiculously over-priced “necessities” that you never actually use that there’s almost no room left in your mind or home for what is actually important.  On Saturday morning, I am holding a yard sale and I am selling … everything.  The mechanized swing, the bouncy seat, the acres of clothes, and toys, and socks… oh my LORD the socks.  I have enough baby stuff in this house to run a small but profitable nursery out of the back room. I have so many 0-2T clothes that I wonder when J ever had enough time to wear them.

I was so concerned with having everything I needed… the right thermometers, the right bottles, the proper pacifiers… that I let myself get lost and carried away in the madness of baby.  But here’s the thing… they are only babies for such a very small amount of time.  And then they grow, and learn, and the expensive swing is collecting dust in the corner while the bouncy seat becomes a chair for a stuffed bear.  They outgrow the ridiculously overpriced Baby Gap clothes and Stride Rite shoes.  They bend and break and rip the books and dolls and stuffed animals.

All of the things I thought I needed to care for my child are stacked neatly in the corner of my front room, priced and sorted and ready to sell.  He is two years old.  He has his entire life ahead of him.  He will one day look back on his childhood and never remember any of these toys and trinkets and time occupiers.  And so I box and mark and ready them for sale, wondering what other nonsense items I’m currently coveting or purchasing or whining about.

I wonder what I will be selling in six months or a year, or even two.

I wonder what advice I am clinging to that will never amount to anything.

People often give me the stink eye about the way I raise my child.  My boss told me I wasn’t doing J any favors by not spanking him.  My co-workers think the fact that J sleeps in my bed is strange.  And don’t get me started on the looks I get at the grocery store due to the fact that I keep up a running commentary with him on what we’re doing, buying, seeing or smelling.

Am I doing it right? Absolutely.  For me and for my child.  Would my way be right for anyone else? Probably not.  Because the secret is to do what is best for you and your family.  There’s no secret “right” way.  There’s no trick to learn, no lesson to repeat.  There is no class you can take that will ever properly prepare you to be a parent.

Oh but when I was pregnant, all of that mattered.  I wanted to do this right: I wanted all the right tools to raise my son the right way.  I wasn’t going to let him sleep in my bed.  I certainly wasn’t going to let him dictate when and where I went to sleep; he would follow MY routine.  I was going to raise him “right.”

And then he came and on day one he announced to me and to my heart that there was 100% no right way to raise him other than whatever way I chose to do it.  I didn’t need the matching Fisher Price Rainforest set of chairs and bells and whistles.  I didn’t need the fancy pack ‘n play that played music and vibrated.  I didn’t need the high priced monitor or the “mommy sounds” doll or crib bumpers or head stabilizers or whatever crazy idea someone planted in my head.

To raise a child, you just have to love them.  Fully.  Totally.  Completely.  And be willing to let yourself go, to love with abandon the little people they become.  Yes, you have to be the parent.  Yes, you have to make the tough decisions and tough calls and yes, you will make that little face crumple on occasion by the weight of your disapproval or the tone of your “no.”  But if, above all else, you love them?  Well, then everything else falls into place… even if that place isn’t a high-priced, hand-carved, converts to a toddler bed shaped like the letters of their name, crib… with a matching rocking chair and dresser.


13 Responses to “How to Raise a Child”

  1. beachmum
    September 9th, 2011 @ 1:31 am

    Amen sistah. I’m just trying to get through each day.

  2. Anonymous
    September 9th, 2011 @ 2:07 am

    Fwiw you’re doing exactly the right thing developmentally by talking to him about what you’re doing at the store (or any other time for that matter). I know it can feel a bit silly but it’s one of the best ways for littles to learn language.

  3. Cari Huddleston
    September 9th, 2011 @ 2:16 am

    Mine is 9 months and I too carry on a commentary about what we’re doing/buying/looking for at the grocery store. I get the strange looks. But I find comfort in the fact that now, instead of me talking to myself at least I have a small person to talk to 🙂

  4. Mrs MidAtlantic
    September 9th, 2011 @ 2:31 am

    I thought I was the only crazy carrying on complete conversations with the passenger in the grocery cart! I am so glad I’m not the only one! Power in numbers!!!

  5. Kristinayellow
    September 9th, 2011 @ 3:52 am

    So true! Everyone has to do the right thing for their family and their child. I’m pretty sure I want to homeschool and I get so many “helpful” thoughts from friends, family, and coworkers about that. I smile, say thanks, and change the subject. I don’t spank and I hear about that. I didn’t let her cry it out and heard about that. But it’s my child and we found what works for us. And she’s happy and healthy and we are doing fine. Everyone is different, every family is different, and every child is different. If people would stop thinking there is only one right way to do something and instead focus on actually listening to other people’s experiences and thoughts, we’d be in such a better place. Reminds me of the mommy wars–stay at home moms fussing at working moms and vice versa. Aren’t we all in this for the same reason–to raise happy, healthy, and independent children?

  6. Cindy
    September 9th, 2011 @ 4:14 am

    The same holds true at 2 or 12…I am having a rough time with my 12 year old son, their faces still crumble at this age and life’s lessons seem even harder, but I continue to be the parent, I say no….because I love him too much not to….

  7. Nellie
    September 9th, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    Pumpkin and Sunshine have been sleeping in bed with me since the day they were born. And they are well adjusted smart little girls that everyone loves being around.

    You’ve got the right attitude, good for you.

  8. Nellie
    September 9th, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    Pumpkin and Sunshine have been sleeping in bed with me since the day they were born. And they are well adjusted smart little girls that everyone loves being around.

    You’ve got the right attitude, good for you.

  9. Julie S.
    September 10th, 2011 @ 1:50 am

    I love this post. There really is no “right” or “wrong” way- it has to be what is best for them and you, and I think you are doing it just fine. Now that I am prepping for baby #2, I see how much useless stuff I was gifted with the first go around. This time, I have only the necessities.

  10. Tressam
    September 10th, 2011 @ 4:17 am

    I perfected the smile and nod response to “well-meaning” advice givers because they seem to come out of the woodwork once you have kids. We co-slept our older daughter and were told we’d never get her out of our bed – wrong. She went to her crib just fine when she was ready. We cloth diaper and were told it was so hard and so much work and we’d regret it. Wrong – it worked so great for us that we’re doing it again with our newborn. After having my girls I think I became a lot more tolerant of other people’s parenting and am now comfortable enough (like you!) to let it all roll off. As I tell some of my students when we encounter nonsense information, “thank you for sharing but I don’t care.”

  11. Kim
    September 10th, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    You SO have to include this commentary with every gift you give to a new mom. The one thing I needed when I first had my kids was a good dose of self-confidence. Once I figured out that a good day was determined by how many of us were still living at the end of it, I was able to relax and have fun with them. Which includes talking to them at the grocery store. BTW, everyone compliments my kids on how well they can converse with adults. Duh, they’ve had lots of practice!

  12. Heather Griffitts Clark
    September 12th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Oh how I love this post!!!! (and ditto bookwork81 – I do the same thing and get the same silly looks)

  13. Heather Griffitts Clark
    September 12th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Oh how I love this post!!!! (and ditto bookwork81 – I do the same thing and get the same silly looks)

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