Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scarring Them for Life

It's a common half-joke with parents that anything we do wrong will "scar them for life." And as a family that recognizes the value of mental health, chances are our kids will go to counseling for something-or-other at some point. The goal is just to minimize the things they can blame on us, right?

I'm being lighthearted about this, but as Claire gets older, I make more comparisons and have noted several differences in the way I've parented my two girls so far, and really wonder how these choices affect kids down the road. (I say "I" even though Matt is a very involved dad just because I am the one that makes most decisions regarding the issues at hand—the feeding of babies.) I've gone "by the book" on some things and not on others, and the typical parental fear that the way a child "turns out" will reflect on these parenting choices is there, no matter how irrational it seems.

Cry-It-Out v. Nursing-On-Demand
I wonder if Claire and I will have a closer bond because I nursed her, and all the implications of that difference in breastfeeding that I wrote about a month or so ago. Lately, my main concern on the breastfeeding front is that I've basically fed Claire on demand, and I wonder how that will affect her long-term. She doesn't nap well, she doesn't take a pacifier; she nurses when going to bed and whenever she wakes up in the night. By contrast, Kate (who was bottle-fed pumped breastmilk at regular intervals) napped reasonably well, soothed herself easily with a paci, and went to bed in no time—we laid her down, and if she cried, we maybe replaced her paci a couple times and let her cry it out if the situation was dire. Easy peasy.

So, I worry that Claire will be a comfort eater, since nursing is pretty much the only way to soothe her. (Good thing she's tenth percentile in weight now, since she'll be hitting up Ben & Jerry's whenever she's down in future years!) I worry that I've done her a massive disservice by feeding her whenever she wakes, making it harder for her to learn self-soothing. How could I have gone against my convictions with her, after such "success" with Kate? I guess it's just so easy, since the boobs are right there and it's all up to me, as opposed to Matt doing Kate's 11 pm dream feed while I slumbered away. Still, it's frustrating, since Claire did sleep through the night by three months, as Kate did, but then relapsed, it seems, and I'm not sure how to get her on track again.

Advantage: Kate, theoretically. If you listen to folks that advocate nursing-on-demand, then Claire has the advantage, but from what I've witnessed so far, a stricter approach to feeding and sleeping seems to make for a more well-adjusted baby.

Fruit-First v. Veggie-First
This was actually the conversation that inspired this post. Claire started solids a couple weeks ago, with oatmeal first. This past week, I gave her sweet potatoes, peas, and squash as well. I hadn't gotten around to looking up (in my Birth to One Year Essential Baby Organizer) what foods beyond cereal we gave Kate first. Common parenting wisdom says to give babies veggies before fruit, so they won't grow accustomed to the sweeter flavor of fruit and resist eating veggies.

I mentioned to Matt that that was why Claire was getting veggies this week. He responded sarcastically, "yeah, and Kate eats her veggies sooo well..."

I opened my Baby Organizer then to see what we'd fed Kate first after cereal (whole wheat in her case), and turns out, it was applesauce and bananas. Ha! Point proven... perhaps.

Matt turned to Kate and said, "Have we scarred you for life, Kate?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Are you going to talk about this in counseling?" Matt asked.
"No," Kate said.

Well, that's good.

Who knows if that's the reason Kate loves fruit and her main veggie is raw carrots while she has to be coerced to eat cooked peas, green beans, or zucchini, but I'm sure it didn't help. With Claire starting on sweet potatoes and peas first, maybe she will love mushy veggies as much as I do. Advantage: Claire.

There are so many things that influence who a child will become, there's no way to know how each specific parenting decision at this young age plays into things, but nonetheless, I'll be wondering as they grow how this or that affected their personalities, aptitudes, and behaviors.

I just hope any advantages or disadvantages I've given my girls balance out in the end. We do our best in every case, and at the end of the day, that's all we can do.


Jennifer said...

I think every parent probably wonders and worries about these things. And each baby is different and unfortunately does not come with their own manual. Sometimes I think it feels like a guessing game trying to figure out what works best for each baby and for your family. I know I often feel that way- and I've only been a mom for 8 weeks! Just praying got lots of wisdom and grace. And not too much "scarring" of our little Kate!

PS. Jess, I really enjoy your posts. :)

EMU said...

Have you tasted breastmilk? It couldn't be any sweeter! I think it's silly that people suggest you should resist giving babies fruit first because you'll give them a sweet tooth. Hello! You've been giving them nothing but sweet milkshakes for the first 6 months of their life! :)

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

Good point, EMU! I hadn't thought about that! I wonder why the veggie-first maxim still exists, even, since you are so right. Very interesting.

Kristen said...

I literally laughed out loud at the Ben and Jerry's comment. Hilarious.

I did the same thing with Landon (nursed on demand throughout the night) and he was a terrible sleeper. Although I nursed Addie, too, I was far more likely to nudge JM to check on her if she fussed in the middle of the night than I was with Landon.

Addie will read this comment one day and be scarred for life, thinking I cared for her less.


Lauren said...

We just had our second last month and I'm already noticing that I'm doing a few things differently the first time around. Hopefully no scarring will occur.

Glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I have two daughters and am also a pastor's wife. Nice to read the blogs of others who are going through similar situations.

God bless!

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