The other day on Facebook, a post popped up in my
newsfeed from another mom who was seeking advice. She said that her
6-month-old baby will only finish his bottle if she sings to him while he
drinks it. That made me smile. It seemed like a lovely, harmless little way for
that bright boy to get his needs met. He wants his mama to sing to him, and
since he can't ask her with words, he's come up with a creative and effective
way to communicate with her. I was proud of the little guy.
But the rest of Songbird Mama's post stated that
her pediatrician advised her to stop singing to him when he's taking his bottle
because it might create a bad habit. She said that her husband agreed with the
doctor. I think my mouth fell open.
Now, I will admit that I'm only getting part of the
story here. I obviously wasn't at the six-month well baby exam. But, come
on—a bad habit? Wanting your mom to sing to you is a bad habit? I mean, the
baby isn't requiring his mama to feed him while turning cartwheels or holding
her breath or embroidering a onesie with her free hand. Those might be bad
habits. But singing? Sounds like normal, healthy, mom-baby stuff to me.
Here's where the parenting myth comes in—the myth
that I have fallen for and maybe even promoted a time or two: Your child's
current quirks, habits and preferences will likely go on forever if you don't
put your foot down ASAP.
Someday your child will wean. Someday he will sleep on his own. Someday she will be completely potty-trained. Someday he will eat an actual vegetable.
When you read it there in black and white, it
sounds stupid, right? I mean, even just typing it out nearly made me scrap this
entire post. But think about it—how often do we convince ourselves that if
our children cosleep, they will never be able to sleep in their own beds without
using us as their personal teddy bears? How often do we tell ourselves that if
we give our toddler a piece of candy for using the toilet, she will demand
post-bathroom break Skittles from her kindergarten teacher? How often does
Grandma or Aunt Francine convince us that if we rock our baby to sleep every
night, we are going to turn into that (slightly creepy) mom from "I'll Love You
Forever" rocking her man-son on her frail little lap?
We do it all the time, right? Something is working,
but you get that twinge of anxiety, either from somebody else or from deep inside
ourselves, telling us that our kid is going to create a "bad" habit,
one that's going to be nearly impossible to break. So we stop doing what's
working—for us and our child—to quench that fear and appease the masses.
So if you're a new(ish) parent, let me speak
directly into your worries: If it is working right now—for you and for
your baby—keep doing it.
Keep cutting those sandwiches into shapes if that's
what it takes to get her to eat it. Keep patting that diapered butt to the tune
of Old MacDonald if that's what gets him to fall asleep. Keep the white noise
as long as you need it. Keep buying blankie backups just in case your daughter
leaves her most prized possession at daycare. Someday your child will wean.
Someday he will sleep on his own. Someday she will be completely potty-trained.
Someday he will eat an actual vegetable.