10 June 2013

Questioning the "Norm"

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I feel like the internet is my parenting coach. There are a gazillion ways to parent in a child, but they mostly fall into a few categories. Old-school, new-school, and sort of a mishmash.

I would say the "old-school" or "traditional American" parenting is stuff like jarred baby food, disposable diapers, baby formula, and other conveniences that have come around in the past 60 years or so. Our parents used these items, so they are now "traditional" to the culture. If you don't think too much about parenting, this is probably where you'd fall. America's obsession with quickness and convenience has had a very heavy influence in the parenting world. When you go to make a baby registry, you'll be handed a suggestion list based on the "traditional" American parent. But as many of us have found out, you don't need (or even want) a lot of that stuff. (Yeah, most "baby towels" suck, so don't buy 8-12 of them, and a healthy baby usually doesn't need an air purifier. Or at least mine didn't.)

The "new school" type of parents (me, and probably you) start questioning these things, often retreating to an even earlier time or a different culture's type of parenting. Old ways have even been re-made into something more modern. Cloth diapers have been making a comeback, but in their own modern way. Breastfeeding has many loud and quiet proponents (and laws protecting your right to nurse in public!), and many of those parents are also the same ones to champion co-sleepers instead of cribs and (proper) babywearing in lieu of strollers.

Personally, I think it's great to question the "norm" and even your doctor. Parenting has changed a lot in the last 100 years. Back then, you learned all you needed to know from your mom or your sister, who probably lived close by (or even in the same house). Most of us now live alone with just our immediate nuclear family and may have never even changed a diaper before our first child was born. I haven't even lived in the same state as my family since before meeting my husband.  Because of those changes, my parenting style can be vastly different from what my mom did or what my sister does without causing a huge scandal. Heck, both my mom and husband were confused and slightly terrified at the thought of using cloth diapers, but a year later, they are happily on board! The internet has actually helped me make informed choices on breastfeeding issues, starting solid food, sleep training, and even just fun activities to do with my child at every age.

I'm actually starting to get annoyed when people don't question. I have heard my mother-in-law talk about how she just did what her doctor told her, and I still see some of that today. I want to tell my friend who works full-time and pumped but weaned after 9 months because it was "disruptive to her career" that she can do combination feeding! Who says breastfeeding is all or nothing? By the time your supply evens out (6 months or maybe even earlier?), you can most likely train your body to nurse at night and give formula during the day. I want to shout at people who throw the classic Baby Bjorn on their registry that they won't use it past 3 months but if they put an Ergo on there instead, they would love it! (Don't get sucked in by the alliteration, all you hormonal pregnant women!) When I hear people complaining about the expense of jarred baby food, I want to exclaim that you don't have to start feeding them at 4 months, and you don't even have to give your child purées of any sort!
My child eating soft-baked apples at 7 months old.
And, most importantly, I want to shout from the rooftops to any pregnant woman who has been told her baby will never make it and advised to terminate (like this gal) to never ever ever EVER stop believing in miracles. Because they do happen. And even if a full miracle doesn't happen, your baby's fate will be in the hands of God and not a doctor, and hopefully your heart will be changed forever. Because even the most well-trained doctors are going by statistical evidence, but you and your child are so, so, so much more than a statistic.

(Okay, that escalated quickly . . .)

On a lighter note, the next "norm" I'm about to conquer is potty training. It seems the "American" thing to do is wait until the child is "ready" and then they'll just potty-train in a weekend. However, a lot of kids don't reach "ready" until almost 4 years old, as I saw with my nephew. Then it's just a battle of wills for a year or so before that happens. I have heard of a lot of people having success at training a child younger than 2 (and it is actually the "norm" in many cultures!), so we are going to start trying at 18 months. I know you can't say it's "complete" potty-training since I'll have to help her with her clothes, but I'd sure rather do that than change a diaper until she's 4. And if we fail, oh well. At least we tried. As with most parenting decisions that probably don't really matter in the long run, it can't hurt to try.

Completely unrelated but adorable picture of my baby about to bunt a piñata
What have you done to question the "norm"?


  1. Lulu just turned 18 months and she tells us when she has to go poop so we rarely have to change a poopy diaper at all anymore (sometimes after nap). Seriously! And she's starting to tell us about pee too, although she can't usually hold it until she gets to the potty, although I'm sure that's not far in the future. Cora can do it, I'm sure.

    Love, love, love the post!

  2. While I don't have children I definitely feel like parenting is so personal, how could you NOT question the norm? Every child is different and some will progress quicker or slower than a doctor is saying. Good luck with potty training! I've heard all kinds of tales and I think it will be an interesting time in your journey! I hope she does awesome for you!

  3. Great post! Love it! What haven't I done to question the norm, lol. I will say that my methods of parenting have changed quite a bit from my first to my third. I am much more into "natural" parenting now - we co-sleep, I'm still nursing and Daphne is almost 2 years old and we're starting potty training (she asks to go actually). What I have found, is you have to be in tune with your body, and your child. And then follow your intuition. When I have ignored my intuition, I have regretted it. The result, my third is my happiest, most secure child. The other two are happy and secure, but not like the third. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I'll stop for now. Good post, again. And I'm sure you're a great Mom! :D Keep up the awesome job!

  4. Good luck with potty training; I'm very intrigued about training before 2!

  5. I sent you a code for a free Shutterfly book, an 8x8. :) Enjoy! :D

  6. Regarding previous comment - apparently I didn't read the fine print, and the free photobook only applies if you are new to Shutterfly, otherwise it's 20% off. I'm sorry about that. :(

  7. Totally agree with you on the abortion thing. And Millie started showing interest in potty training right around 2 (actually a little before), and she picked it up right away. I think as long as the kid is on board and not stressed out, it's never too early!

  8. Questioning/researching vaccines. oh yeah, and the whole home birth thing ;)

    Also we are holding off on wheat and dairy until after he turns one since there are food allergies on both sides of the family. Waiting can help avoid those allergies..but this has not been a popular decision with the traditional or the attachment parenting groups...I've gotten flack from a lot of people! Oh, well!

    Great post