Written by Malinda Just Tuesday, 19 October 2010 15:56
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love books. If given the time, I can hammer through a solid 200-plus page novel in a day. Although the opportunity for several uninterrupted hours of reading a big-girl book has eluded me since my 2-year-old was born.
Now I read in rhyme. And most stories have animals as protagonists. Some titles I read over and over. So many times, in fact, that my daughter, Gracelyn, can read the book word-for-word.
I love that I share my book fetish with my daughter. And I can’t wait until she’s old enough for me to read her my all-time favorite series: “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
My infatuation with Laura’s life grew while watching PBS re-runs of the popular TV series of the same name. (I know you are singing the theme song right now!)
And Gracelyn will have the same opportunity. I own the books and the entire DVD collection.
So now you know. I’m a book-loving nerd.
But here’s the irony—I have a stack of books on my desk that I can’t wait to get rid of. They are the worst kind of book. Their subject: Parenting.
Nothing can bring a parent down faster than a parenting book. There’s something about reading the words, “just follow these three (or four, or 10) simple steps and your child will sleep (or eat, or potty train) in no time.” And then guilt sets in when those simple steps aren’t so simple.
I got sucked back into the parenting-book trend shortly after our family returned home from Gracelyn’s surgery in Kansas City. (The surgery was a success, by the way.) After we returned, our schedule was shattered. And we were having major sleep issues.
Gracelyn no longer fell asleep quietly. And Jemma, my 5-month-old, refused to sleep for naps or night. Surely, I thought, some well-meaning author could help me through the insanity. And get me some sleep.
Instead, I got more sleep deprived as I tried to enforce all the sleep “rules.” “Babies should sleep every 90 minutes,” one book said. OK. That one worked for about a week. Then Jemma resisted. And by resisted, I mean she threw horrible fits every time I tried to put her to sleep. It took about an hour to get her to settle down for a 20-minute nap.
On to the next book. “Make sure you don’t teach your child poor sleep habits.” OK. This advice sounds familiar. Like maybe something I read and disregarded the first time around. But not until I had stressed myself out about teaching my infant how to go to sleep on her own.
Forget cuddle time and rocking. Make your child “cry it out” while you cry it out in the other room. There’s just something fundamentally wrong about that. At least in my book.
What finally worked with Gracelyn was following my instincts. We went through a phase where she needed to be rocked. We also went through a phase where she was distracted by rocking. She wanted to sleep on her own. And then we went through an easy phase, only to end up in a screaming phase. And now we’re heading into calm waters again. We’ve navigated the muddy waters without the help of Dr. Don’t-ever-nurse-your-baby-to-sleep.
We know our child. And if we let ourselves, we will learn to know Jemma as well. It takes time. And then needs change, and we’ll have to adjust.
But I’m finding that it’s easier to parent when I don’t know what the popular trends are in parenting. When I take a look at my beautiful girls and really pay attention to their needs, instead of the needs a stack of books say they have.
A friend and mom of girls older than mine gave me a good piece of advice. You don’t need books, she said. What you need is a glass of wine. And maybe some “Little House on the Prairie.”