13 June 2010

Kid Philosophy 101: I'm a Believer

There’s a difference between believing something and knowing something. To believe implies a level of faith; in other words, you’re pretty certain, but admit that maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong. When you know something, you know it. There’s no faith involved. You’re certain.

For instance, I don’t believe in gravity. When I jump into the air, I don’t ponder whether I’m going to come down. I’m not reasonably sure—I’m certain. I know that gravity exists, so I don’t have to believe in it.

What does this have to do with Eamon? Well, before I had a baby, I Knew how to be a good parent. I knew that there was a Right Way and a Wrong Way, and I was going to do things the Right Way. Whenever I saw a parent with a screaming child out in public, I knew that they were doing things the Wrong Way, and if they just thought about it a little more, or tried a little bit harder, they could do things the Right Way. They just needed to apply themselves.

And then I gave birth, and every second since then, I believe I’ve been a good parent, but it’s hard to know for sure. In fact, almost every decision is suddenly based on belief.

Because here’s the thing: for “kids” in general—there are plenty of guide books out there. But there’s no book specifically entitled, “Eamon Wolfe for Dummies.” (Is there?)

For instance: I theoretically know that Eamon should be sleeping through the night. And he does, almost every night. But then he gets sick with the stomach flu, pretty sick, fever and everything, and doesn’t eat much beyond crackers and cereal for about a week. (I was pretty sure we didn’t need to take him to the doctor, but that one was a bit of nail-biter, too). Eventually he got better (yay! I guessed right), but he had lost at least a pound, and when you only weigh about 25 pounds, that’s a lot. Add that on to the fact that he grows like a weed, and once his appetite came back, it came back in force.

He started waking up in the middle of the night, desperately hungry. Well, what do we do? The books say not to feed a kid in the middle of the night, because it’s a bad habit, but they also don’t say anything about purposefully starving your children. So, okay, we feed him in the middle of the night, because he was just sick and he needs more calories to make up for it. He goes right back to sleep, problem solved.

Then it happens the next night. Well, he’s still looking thin, so okay, feed him again. He goes back to sleep relatively quickly.

But at some point, this goes from being necessary to just being a bad habit. When is that day? There’s nothing in any of the books that says, “If your child has had the stomach flu for a week and has lost a pound, it is permissible to feed him in the middle of the night for 3-4 days but after that you’re just a sleepy sucker who needs to let the kid cry a bit because he’s getting spoiled.”

As they tell us in my administration classes, “You just have to make the best decision with the information that you have at the time.” And you have to believe that you made the right decision.

This isn’t the only example. In fact, as I said, almost every decision with Eamon is what we believe is the right thing to do. It’s impossible not to wonder if you’re being too firm, and other times if you’re being too soft; if you spoil him with too many toys or if you don’t provide enough sensory experiences for him; if taking occasional naps with him in your bed is a great way to bond or instead promotes a dependency that keeps him from wanting to sleep in his own crib. Do we bathe him enough if we only bathe him every other day, or would bathing him more just dry out his already dry-skin? Is he not talking much because he knows some sign language, or because his frenulum is too tight, or because he just isn’t ready yet? Should I just chill out, or at what point do I worry?

I’m not trying to make it sound like I spend all my time in a nervous, hand-wringing huddle, because I’ve mostly accepted the fact that sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, make a decision, and hope for the best.

Sometimes, you just have to believe.

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