Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Make Babies the Old-Fashioned Way...

We spurn them. Good old John Houseman. I loved that guy - had a philosophy professor in college who was a dead ringer for him. He would ramble poetically about one theory or another, have us all eating out of his hands, hanging on every word, agreeing with every thought, then would invariably end his lectures by saying (a la Houseman), "You may all think this theory is absolutely correct (unanimous nods), but in fact you will soon see that it is (pause) totally wrooong."

For months now I've wanted to start a second blog called, to which I'm absolutely certain I'd be submitting to more often than this one. On a daily basis she reveals new phobias or cautions me with catastrophic, worst-case scenarios in response to completely innocuous situations. If she catches me giving Amari - god forbid - a piece of paper to crumple up, she might say, "You should really be careful about paper cuts," then add, "there are lots of arteries near the hands," and conclude with, "she could get infected and die." Thank you, Dr. Becker.

Tonight, however, it was not her irrational fear of the world that pissed us off, but rather the unsolicited parenting advice that she felt compelled to walk all the way over to our house and yell at Carrie. I came home to similar sides of the story which can be summed up as follows: Carrie was stressed, Amari was tired, and Carol was frustrated. The details are irrelevant, but the skinny is that Carrie changed her mind about asking her mom to watch Amari because Amari was being very needy and clingy. Carol got upset that Carrie was responding to Amari's tears and changing the plan and felt so strongly about it that she came over to our house a few minutes later to give Carrie a piece of her mind.

Carol proceeded to tell Carrie that we are spoiling Amari, that Amari is manipulating us, and that we need to just let her cry sometimes or else we're going to end up with a little brat...probably some etcetera and some "you listen to me" and some "I've lived a lot longer than you" and some "blah, blah, blah." When I spoke with Carol later I was very diplomatic. I said, "Carol, if you I weren't completely confident in the job I'm doing, I might take what you said personally. Do I have blind spots as a dad? I'm sure I do, but I don't think you're describing one of them. I do let Amari cry, but I also let her know that when she's done she can come talk to me or if she wants to cry and be held I'm happy to do that, too."

I went on to explain the transition Amari is going through - that gap between understanding everything but not yet having all the words at her fingertips. It takes time, patience, and in my opinion, love. I don't really care if I spoil Amari by picking her up, holding her, giving her attention, and letting her know that she's safe. What else do kids really need? Discipline, guidance, boundaries - for sure - but all of those things will come more easily when a child feels safe and loved.

Manipulating us? Please. Amari is as much a behaviorist as I am. She knows that she gets a response when she whines or cries. Until the recent development of her language it was her go to move, so she still reverts to it in a pinch. Our responsibility as parents becomes encouraging her to elicit the same response (our attention to her needs) through different means such as talking, being patient, asking, helping, etc. I know I sound like some kind of robot, but I'm not. I'm just saying that although Carol thinks Carrie and I are haphazardly responding to Amari's every whim, there is a lot of consciousness in what we're doing and how we're doing it.

Are we immune to mistakes? Hell no. Are we perfect parents? Not even close. Do we know for certain the impact our actions will have on Amari's development? Of course not. But we are raising Amari with a philosophy that makes sense to us, that we believe in, and that we hope will help Amari develop healthy, secure relationships with us and the other important people in her life.

As always, more will be revealed. In the meantime, Carol, please take your unsolicited parenting advice back to your place, and the next time your dogs are whimpering, whining, or barking for no apparent reason, I encourage you to ignore their evil and manipulative ways, and just let them cry it out.

Manipulative Little B-Word

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