Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Extreme parenting

One of the upsides of being an infertile (surprise surprise, there actually are upsides!) is that you get the opportunity to watch your friends bring up their child/children. We have been using this as an chance to make a mental list of "what to do" and "what not to do" that we can refer to when its finally our turn for parenting. Most of my friends' kids are in the 1 - 2 yr range, an interesting time in the life of a child when their personalities are forming. We have come to the conclusion that the child's basic nature contributes to 30 % of his personality formation, while 70 % depends on his/her parents.I'd like to compare 2 of my close friends who had kids in 2010. I believe they are on extreme ends of the parenting spectrum.

We had the opportunity to spend almost two weeks with one couple (lets call them the cool couple) and their cool kid, since they stayed with us for 2 weeks when cool kid was around 6 months. We had already predicted that this couple would make great parents, because they are both calm composed people. And it turned out to be just as we predicted. I loved the way cool mother took care of cool kid. She would feed the baby only once in 4 hrs or so, and the baby was really good with eating/drinking. He would gurgle down the entire amount of milk given and get a little upset when the bottle was taken away (its not that he didn't get enough, I think he didn't know when to stop, he would probably have drunk double the amount, given a chance). She would never run to him with a bottle of formula as soon as he got fussy. Actually he rarely ever did get fussy. She co-slept with the baby. But she never walked around with the baby trying to put him to sleep. She would just lie next to the baby, turn the lights off and give him the pacifier. He would sleep on his own, no fuss, no wailing etc. And he usually slept at night for at least 6 hrs, waking up in the morning only when he was hungry. I've never seen a child wake up with such a huge smile on his face. He is the happiest cutest baby I have seen in a long time. And I think that has a lot to do with how his parents take care of him. They also came and stayed with us for a few days when he was almost 1. He had grown up into this adorable little kiddo, unsteadily walking around the house, trying to open cabinets, eat leaves off our indoor plants, and put everything in sight into his mouth. He would eat on only while seated at his designated chair (since we didn't have a high chair) and his mom would feed him only at that place, and only once in 4 - 5 hrs. No intermittent snacking on junk. At meal time, he was sufficiently hungry, and would eat up all the yuck stuff his mom would feed him - including pureed carrots, spinach, broccoli or peas. Once again, his sleep routine was as before, his parents would lie down with him, lights off (and now he's almost off his pacifier) and he would fall asleep, waking up happy in the morning after a good long nights sleep. His routine meant that we got enough time with his parents to talk to them, go out with them and generally spend time with them. The child did not dictate the rules. Happy parents and happy child. We have mentally taken notes about "what to do" from this couple.

On to the couple 2, whom we will refer to as anxious couple. Now their basic nature is to be anxious about everything, and exaggerate every situation (this was true even before they had their child). Don't get me wrong, they are very close friends whom we love very much, but they are what they are! They spent 2 days with us recently, with their son who is around 13 months old. They traveled to our place with almost a house full of stuff, everything from bedding to toys to bottles and enough clothes for a month. They are obsessive about their child, to say the least. Most of their day is spent trying to feed this child. Now as far as we could make out, this child is as healthy as any 13 month old. Anxious mom and anxious dad take turns to try and feed their child. We noticed that the child was getting his fill. He is supposed to eat like a 13 month old, and is not expected to eat like an adult, correct? And as soon as he had his fill, he would start throwing his food around, bat away his mother's hand, or retrieve stuff from his mouth and throw it at his mother. It appeared like this was his signal that he was done. But they would continue to try and force feed him, trying to push stuff into his mouth, which he would promptly spit out (all the while, I was having panic attacks looking at all the stuff that was ending up on our couch and carpet and walls). Then they would walk after him, as he went from room to room, trying to coax him to eat a little more. After 2 hrs of this ordeal, they would set about making his next meal, which they would again start feeding him in 2 hrs. I mean, shouldn't the child be given at least enough time to digest his previous meal? Add to that, they try and give him snacks every 15 min or so. Both hubby and I were getting increasingly surprised at their parenting methods. As for sleep time, I remember we went to their home when their baby was about 5 months. They would walk around with him, rocking him, for at least an hour before he finally fell asleep. Then he would wake up every 2 -3 hrs through the night. These days, they continue to take at least 2 hours trying to put him to sleep. They even use soothing music all night long to try and keep him asleep. Now I understand that some babies are more fussy, take longer to sleep, and are harder to feed. But this baby's antics seemed more because of his parents reinforcing his behavior. For example, if the child falls (which is normal I think when they are learning to walk), they go into overdrive ooohhhing and OMGing, so the child now knows to cry and wail every time he falls, even though its obvious that the fall was harmless. I could go on and on about this couple and their child. We barely got to spend any time with them, because most of their time, they were too anxious that their child hadn't eaten enough. They seemed tensed all the time. We have definitely made a long list of "what not to do" from this couple.

We have a few months before we begin to test our own parenting skills. I know that a lot of my comments may come back to haunt me. Who knows if I will turn out to another Indian mother complaining about how her child never eats (I think 90 % of Indian parents have this complaint), or doesn't sleep. I know hubby definitely won't be that way, and I tell him often to reprimand me if I turn out to be another obsessive crazy mother. I know its probably wrong for me to judge people and their parenting skills, but I think that its one of the perks of having kids late. We get to judge others for a long time, till we finally get to be parents. Shouldn't we at least be able to enjoy the perks of being an infertile?

Have you encountered such extreme parenting methods? I'd love to hear some stories about crazy fertile parents!

1 comment:

  1. Watching others parent their children is fascinating! ML and I have a smilier list of the good and bad, but at the same time I hesitate to comment on any of it because, well, what the heck do we know about being parents! The one thing that I do take comfort in is that our instincts seem to be pretty well aligned, so that when we walk away from a 'parenting experience" we tend to agree if it falls into the good or bad category. As silly as it sounds, I also take great comfort that we've seen eye to eye on how to raise our pets :) Heres hoping that as we embark on this new journey that we'll somehow figure out what works for us as parents!