My shelves are lined with them: the parenting books passed
on by well-meaning friends. I’ve got books about schedules and vaccines—ones
that specify bonding necessities and baby potty training, and reads committed
to detailing proper infant nutrition. It seems as though there might even be a
few books designed solely to tell me which books I am meant to read.
Most of these books were given to me by parents who swore by
their contents. A lot of them contradict each other on fairly major points. A
few have become valued references, while most have left me feeling inept or
otherwise annoyed in some way.
Because the reality is I don’t fit into any of their molds.
It seems as though these books all cater to the extremes.
The attachment parents. The sleep trainers. The schedule followers. The
cry-it-outers. They are parenting groups which become defined by a few key
points, and are then painted in these books as people who couldn’t possibly (or
shouldn’t possibly) veer from that predestined course. These books are each
written to a specific subset of parents, and a few of them are quite harsh in
the way they condemn “the others,” aka the parents who follow a different course
I’m starting to think the whole mommy wars start with these books, the ones that tell us precisely what it means to be a “good
parent,” making it OK to look down on others who don’t move forward with the
same philosophies as you. The funny thing is I don’t actually know any parents
who follow the same parenting philosophies. Not to the extremes many of these
books advocate for, anyway. I know sets of friends who have basically the same
ideas, but they vary in small ways across the board. While two friends may be
committed to helping their children gain independence, for instance, one might
deem crying-it-out as necessary, while the other has no interest in even
I am following our philosophy, as disjointed as it may be.
For my part, I’ve borrowed and blended from each of these books. I couldn’t even really tell you which philosophy I subscribe to, because my methods are all over the place. I have been an extreme baby wearer since my daughter was born, never even removing her car seat from the car. But the thought of co-sleeping never crossed my mind, and I was pleased as punch to have her snoozing through the night in her own crib in her own room at 3 months old.
Now that she is eating solids, I make all her baby food myself
using organic ingredients, but she has been on formula since the day she was
born, and I have never had any regrets. At 7 months old, that kid is already
using sign language to tell me what she needs, but trying to potty train her
before she is even speaking seems way above both our heads, and my lame attempt
at cloth diapering was a comedic failure at best.
We pick and choose. I go with what feels right, and I don’t
spend a whole lot of time worrying about what everyone else is doing. If
anything, those books were all a blessing, because they helped me to realize
there are far too many philosophies and theories out there for any one of them
to be “right.” Kids are different. Parents are different. Families are
different. And the answers aren’t all in a book. In everything I do, I am doing
what is right for my daughter and for me. I am following our philosophy, as disjointed as it may be.