Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some Straightforward Parenting Advice

I don't know if its because of the lack of sleep from travel, or the fact that I am now an incubus of viral plague..yep hubby and I got sick on vaca, but I am decidedly annoyed at this soul searching form of parenting that has arisen lately. I don't know if its because society has been raised on Oprah and New Age guru crap, but really people parenting is a very natural phenomena. Quite frankly, it doesn't take much soul searching to parent your child. It takes love and understanding and an inordinate amount of hard work, if you are going to do it properly. That by the way goes for typical and non typical children alike.

I remember when CM1 was born and everyone was racing out to buy the What to Expect books. I did it too.  I also remember that my obstetrician told me it was OK to have one glass of wine a week if I felt like it. Honestly I was so sick until the middle of my second trimester that I didn't really eat, never mind drink alcohol. But for my thirtieth birthday I had a glass of champagne. Then I read in this book how even the smallest amount of alcohol causes the baby to lose oxygen in the womb, causing them to suffocate and promoting brain damage. I became hysterical. My husband immediately called the doctor who told us that that was nonsense. I threw the damn book out. I don't know if they have rewritten that part of the book today, but you can rest assured it was the first and last baby book I ever read.

Then there was "the baby should cry themselves to sleep at three-months-old" movement. So every pediatrician and umpteen number of books told you how to accomplish this task. That over a week of hell your child will learn to soothe themselves to sleep at night and not need to wake for that middle of the night feeding. We tried that for one night and then forget it. If the child is hungry he is hungry. Get up off your ass and feed your child. Of course, my pediatrician at the time also told me to only feed CM1 every three hours instead of on-demand as you are supposed to do with an infant. So CM1 didn't put on the requisite weight, in the first three weeks, considering he was a very hungry little baby and was growing at an alarming rate. Needless to say that after these two incidents with this doctor I changed to another pediatrician in the practice.

By the way, CM1 was 35 pounds at a year (the new pediatrician yelled at me about that) and 35 pounds at two. When he was hungry I fed him and a very hearty and balanced diet it was. I let him eat his way through his first year. When he decided it was time to move and run, his weight stabilized as it should have. This was my second major lesson in listening to yourself. You don't tell a Jewish mother that they are not to feed a hungry child...(Who ever heard of such a thing. Also one more thing too..don't go to a pediatrician who has no children of their own. Our first know-it-all pediatrician had no children when CM1 was born. His entire attitude changed, however,  once he himself became a parent.)

Another issue we faced was the idea that you don't bring your child into your bed at night. I know there is a movement now called "attachment-parenting" and there was even a movement at the time when CM2 was little called "The Family Bed." But pediatricians warn that you are asking for trouble when you sleep with an infant. Now I am not telling everyone you should. I just know that if we didn't bring CM2 into our bed at night we would never have gotten any sleep. They used to say let him cry himself to sleep in his crib. CM2 would get so upset he would throw up in fact. The books said  let him throw up and then let him sleep in his throw-up in the crib. That way he will learn to soothe himself and not liking to sleep in vomit he will sleep before he gets so upset again. What a smucky idea that was. Did you ever in your life? Sleep in their vomit. What sick weirdo comes up with this crap and then writes a book, calls themselves a child psychologist/pediatrician/sleep specialist and people listen yet too?

Well CM2 slept in our bed until he was two. He hated his crib. He hated his junior bed. But what he liked was red racing cars. So we bought him a red-racing-car-bed. He watched as they brought it into the apartment. He watched them put it together. He watched as I put on the linen. He watched as we pulled out the car logo'd sheets, pillowcases and blanket. He then sat on his bed, took out the toy steering wheel brilliant-computer-sis had sent and never ever to this day has ever gotten back into our bed. Guess what, he is also quite well adjusted, has no mommy-issues except for the typical teenage ones and has no issues sleeping anymore, in fact you can't get him out of bad at times.

Parents used to worry when to toilet train their children as well. They used to worry and fret and argue about what method to use and how to do it without causing life long trauma to their child's psyche. I would turn to everyone and say, if he is still not toilet-trained by the time he walks down the aisle to get married then it becomes the bride's problem. (This was before we knew about the autism diagnosis and the issues there can be with toileting.) CM1, by the way trained in one day. Grandma called and told him he was "wonderful" for using the potty and he never had an accident. CM2 we tried the same  method but it didn't work. Took a little longer, But as with most things, once CM2 made up his mind, there were no more accidents, too. Still, parents need to get a grip. The average person toilet trains and has a fine life, with no lifelong psychological effect because of the way they were potty-trained Children actually do it when they are ready. Parents sometimes worry about the stupidest things.

I have decided to nickname these types of worries First World Issues...when you have food, clothing, shelter and education for your children then you can worry about normal developmental things that just occur naturally. Find issues and problems were none really exist. Think about horrible outcomes and disaster lurking around the corner. Hypothesize about trauma and devaluation of the ID and EGO because of the type of diaper used or whether the potty you chose promotes sexism. When you have the luxury of not having to worry about survival, you can make up stupid crap to worry about, hence, First World Issues.

Another issue to discuss and very, very important, too. (Like you thought I was done.) No one could figure out what was going on with CM1 and honestly they would even point to how easily he potty-trained that he couldn't possibly have any overarching development issues. I have regaled everyone with stories about how our pediatrician at the time, who by the way is a developmental pediatrician, missed all the warning signs with CM1, simply because he was and remains so intelligent. They kept telling me that he was too bright and that the nursery schools were just plain wrong. It didn't help that the schools and the camps in the City were just plain evil to my son, or the school psychologist  asked me if I feel threatened by having a child with issues and if I thought this was about me. OOOOHHHH She did get an earful for that one.

But in all honesty my mistake was not following up on my instincts earlier. I learned that even though, inside I knew something was not right I allowed the pediatrician to assuage my fears rather than going for some more advice. OK when I did go for professional advice the psychologist told me that CM1 wasn't really reading (which he was) but acting like a "little monkey" at that point I was less inclined to listen to anything they had to say either. Truth is though I should have just kept digging.

Then finally we did find people who were able to set both boys on the right path. It was not easy let me tell you. There were days that I thought I wouldn't make it until tomorrow. But I did and they did and we are all  in a "good" place for now. Yes and in all honesty this place still takes alot of work. I am not sure it will not always be this way either. C'est la vie in the world of autism.

There have been arguments, fights and battles with teachers, psychiatrist and sometimes the district itself. But we kept going. No one was ever going to tell me the boys can't if they wanted to. No one was ever going to tell me what they can and cannot be because of a disability. The answer I have always given was, quite frankly if that is what they want we will find a way for them to do it. End of the story.

But I never in my life ever thought to sit down and evaluate one type of parenting over the other. I did what my boys needed. I helped them where they needed to be helped. I supported them where they needed to be supported. I figured out how to manage the world around them so that they can take the time they need to learn to manage their world's for themselves.

But most of all and this is very very very important...I also let them fail. I let them learn to strive for what they want. I helped them along the way to figure out how best to approach their world and how they adjust to life itself, but as with every other child, they at times failed. It was painful. I can't even tell you. The trauma. The anxiety. The sheer feeling of being overwhelmed at times is unimaginable. But guess what. They rise from that like the mythical phoenix to be stronger, better and more productive. They rise to be more self-assured when they figure out how to handle issues, problems and start down a new right path.

People need to learn how to right themselves in life. Knowing how to help yourself doesn't just start when you are thirty. People need to build this skill over a lifetime. It comes little by little. It is like any skill. You need to build upon it as if it were building blocks. They used to say about children..little children, little problems..big children, big problems..Well not to be deprecating to the child, because even little ones think their problems are major. Yes they are major for a small person but to teach that child how to handle issues. This is so when more complicated problems arise they will have inculcated the knowledge of how to handle smaller problems, which will then help them learn to handle bigger more life effecting issues as they grow.

Now also don't get me wrong. None of this happened in a vacuum. None of this happened with the children standing alone. The children always had  a "village" of support that would keep an eye on them. Pull them out when needed. Help them readjust when needed. Help provide a hug, a high-five, a pat on the back when needed too. But still the children would fail. And it was OK. It's part of life. All children need to fail at times in order to grow and develop and discover and learn. You cannot protect them from everything or they will never be able to figure out how to be happy, independent and self-reliant .

By the way, I mean failure not just in school and grades, but failure to be able to enjoy the world around them. The failure to be able to process stimuli. The failure to be able to make themselves understood. The failure to be able to channel their emotions be it sadness or anger or joy. The failure to have friends, be a friend and make friends. (By the way, this is not bullying we are talking about. That is something that doesn't ever get a pass.)

I think in today's world, so many parents are afraid that their children will fail. I think so many are afraid that their child's self-esteem will be destroyed. I think so many parents are afraid..I think they are just downright afraid...

My advice, do what I did. Throw the freakin' parenting books in the garbage. No one knows your child better than you. No one knows what they need better than you. No one knows what to do for them and how it needs to be done better than you do. OK this doesn't mean you don't stay abreast of the latest information when dealing with your child's disability. But it means you also don't have to listen to everything the so-called "experts" say is important, needs to be done or how it should be done either.

Listen there is no cosmic greater all-knowing power with crystals, pyramids, auras, chakras and even the Holy Bible (with excuses to my God-fearing friends) that tells you how to raise your child. There is no amount of soul searching that you need to do, nor do you need to reevaluate your inner-child, your inner-mommy or your inner-daddy, either. (This doesn't mean you don't do an occasional evaluation of what is and is not working of course.) You look at that child and you know, you just know, what you have to do. You don't need to defend your self to anyone and you don't have to analyze any of the-moment-parenting-philosophies. If society doesn't like it then society be damned.

Be forewarned, you don't make many friends with this kind of attitude, especially if you live among those A-type personalities where everyone is in lock-step, competitive about their children, successes and glorifications. Yet in the end your child will have one hell of a future and that, in and of itself, is our life's goal.

Until next time,