Parenting: Live And Let Live


Early this morning, while I was sipping my first coffee of the day and browsing through my Facebook feed, I came across a thread that made me feel incredibly sad. It was a post about co-sleeping, and one of the first comments was from a woman saying that she believed co-sleeping was fine as long as it was done safely, that she had co-slept with her first child and that she would co-sleep with any future children.

The thing that made me sad was how other moms lambasted this woman, told her that she was uneducated, and said that if she lost a baby, it would be her own fault.

I have no interest in starting another debate about co-sleeping. Quite frankly, I don’t have a strong position about the subject one way or the other. One of my babies slept in a crib, the other co-slept with me. I did what I felt was best for each child, and in both cases, I made safety the paramount concern.

What I do have a strong position about is the idea that the vast majority of parents do what they think is best for their children, most of them research their choices, and most of them do everything they can to keep their kids safe. Unless a mother is being deliberately and blatantly abusive or negligent, she should be allowed to make those choices for her children without worrying about what other people think.

It always fascinates me that a species as diverse as the human race tends to think in such absolute terms, and parents are no exception to this. Many of them tend to believe that there is only one right way of doing things, and it’s their way, and anyone who does things differently is a <insert insulting adjective> parent.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. When will parents just accept that what’s right for them is – well, right for them? The fact that some moms breastfeed their kids until Kindergarten does not give them the right to criticize moms who are unable to breastfeed or who simply choose not to do so. Parents who limit their kids’ screen time should not be accused of being unreasonable, and those who do not should not be branded as lazy. If you let your baby “cry it out”, you are not heartless and mean, and if you pick up your baby whenever he cries, you are not spoiling your child.

Your own personal experience – no matter how tragic – does not entitle you to judge other people. Your child’s autism diagnosis may have come shortly after a vaccination, but you don’t get to accuse pro-vaxers of being uninformed and ignorant. Maybe your formula-fed child developed life-threatening food allergies, but that doesn’t give you the right to tell other formula-feeding moms that breastfeeding would be possible if only they would try harder. If your baby died while co-sleeping, I am truly sorry for your loss, but please don’t go around telling parents who choose to co-sleep that they are potential child-killers.

I’m not suggesting that we all shut up about our beliefs and opinions, or that we stop sharing our experiences. On the contrary – parents who speak out about what they go through can be valuable resources to other parents who are struggling with their choices or looking for information about their options. It’s even OK to be passionate about something that you have a strong opinion about.

Just be respectful about it, that’s all. No blame, no finger-pointing, no judging.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: mariana f. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


My Children Are Getting Tall, But…

When I was a child, my mother regularly marked my height and my brother’s on the door frame in the kitchen. Every Christmas morning, we would stand against the frame in our stockinged feet, and she would use a ball point pen to draw a line over the tops of our heads. An initial would be added – P for my brother, K for me – along with the date. By the time I was 15, there were over a dozen blue lines on the door frame, telling the story of how and when we had grown. For years, the kitchen door frame was the only part of the house that never got painted.

I started to follow the same tradition with my kids when they were little, but it became one of those non-essential things that I just didn’t have the energy for. Things were difficult for me back then. My dad had died, my older son had been diagnosed with autism, I was experiencing post-partum depression after the birth of my younger son, we were trying to recover from a financial crisis – drawing lines on a wall just didn’t feature anywhere on my list of priorities.

I may not have my boys’ growth recorded all in one place, but I do have photographic proof that they were once little. Like this picture, taken seven years ago:


And now the kid who once needed a chair in order to reach the counter is big enough to ride a bike. With no training wheels.


And the one who was barely peeking over the counter is almost as tall as the fridge. Taller, if you count the pineapple on his head.


My firstborn son’s hands are bigger than mine now. I can comfortably slip my feet into his shoes, and he is less than three inches shorter than me. My younger son is catching up rapidly. He has outgrown his shoes four times in the last year, and when he falls asleep on the couch, I can no longer pick him up and carry him to his bed. He can sprint around a 300m track faster than I can.

And yet.

They are still my babies, and they always will be. When they come stumbling into the kitchen first thing in the morning, their faces puffy from sleep, I don’t see the teenagers they will one day be, I see the newborns they once were. When they are standing in front of me with tear-streaked faces or scraped knees, I still have the ability to comfort them with a gentle touch, with a kiss, with a Band-Aid sprinkled with magic dust. I can still make them laugh by acting like a goof.

When they greet me with a smile, throw their arms around me and hold on as if they are never going to let go, my heart still explodes with love.

And that is never going to change. Because even when they are taller than me, they will still be my babies.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. All photos accredited to the author.



Fleeting Moments Of Babyhood

On my way home from work a couple of days ago, I saw a young woman nursing her baby on the subway. The baby’s father had his arm placed protectively over the mother’s shoulders, and his body was angled in a way that provided mom and baby with some privacy. Both parents were looking at their baby with absolute love and tenderness.

As I sat gazing at this perfect picture, the mom looked up and met my eye. She gave me a beatific smile, and then turned her attention back to her baby.

I went back to reading my book. I felt that I had been given the privilege of witnessing a beautiful family moment, but I did not want to outstay my welcome. I sensed that continuing to watch them would have been intrusive.

I was not able to concentrate on my book, though. Instead, I found myself daydreaming about my first few months of motherhood, almost eight years ago.

When my older son was a baby, I felt that same sense of peace and contentment that I saw in that family on the subway. There were baby blues, to be sure, and I went through the same sleep deprivation common to most new parents. But the baby blues passed, and behind the haze of exhaustion I was happy.

Thanks to Canadian maternity leave provisions, I got to enjoy a full year at home with my baby. Back then, my husband and I each had our own car, so while my husband was off at work, I would load the baby into my car and we’d go out.

Sometimes we would go to the park, and I’d spread out a blanket for us. I would nurse the baby if he was hungry, and then I would drink my coffee and talk to him about the clouds and the trees and the birds.

Other times we would go to the bookstore to browse. I would pick out a book from the bargain shelves and pay for it, and then we would go to the coffee shop. I would take the baby out of his stroller, and he would doze off in my embrace while I lazily read my book.

We went on excursions to the mall, to stores, and to mom-and-baby groups. From time to time, I would strap my son into the baby-jogger and we would go running together. We would walk to the coffee shop down the road, I would buy myself lunch and nurse the baby, and then we would take a long, circuitous route back home.

I loved those early days of parenting. They were exhausting yet idyllic. I knew absolutely nothing about being a mother, but I was happy to find my way with this beautiful boy in my arms.

When my younger son came along, everything was so different. Financial pressure had forced us to give up one of the cars, so while my husband was working, I was stuck at home with both kids. I felt a sense of entrapment that I only started to get some relief from when a friend very generously sent me a double stroller that she no longer needed. Even though it was the middle of winter, I would put the boys in the stroller and go trudging through the snow, so desperate was I to get out.

At around this time, we were starting to get the sense that there was something wrong with my older son, and I felt crushed under the worry that came with that. And to top it all off, I struggled with post-partum depression that was undiagnosed for almost a year.

When my firstborn was a baby I felt bliss. With my secondborn, I felt desperation. And to this day, I feel intense guilt over the fact that I did not do all of the babyhood things with my younger son that I had so enjoyed with my older son. I am doing my best to provide them with childhood years filled with joy, and judging by their smiles, laughter and hugs, I am doing OK in that department. But I cannot help feeling as if I missed out on a part of my younger child’s life that can never be recaptured.

Going back to the family on the subway that started off this whole train of thought, I wish them all of the joy in the world. I hope they savour that period of babyhood that is all too fleeting.


Make A List, Check It Twice…

They should provide customized checklists when they issue children to parents.  I mean, think about it.  We pop out these babies, and we follow the generalized instructions in baby books, which pretty much say the following:

  • Whenever the baby cries, shove a nipple in its mouth.
  • Rest when the baby rests.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Don’t let the baby sleep on his tummy.
  • Cover a baby boy’s willy with a washcloth during diaper changes to avoid being peed on.

There is very little consideration given to the fact that:

  • said nipple is attached to a human being who is capable of feeling physical pain from literally being sucked dry, and besides, baby bites on nipples can really hurt, even when no teeth are present;
  • when the baby is resting, Mom actually has time to take a shower or, you know, eat;
  • babies will throw up on parents who try to impose routines that they don’t like;
  • if the baby is very determined to sleep on his tummy, there’s very little you can do about it;
  • baby boy willies can be very wayward and have a mind of their own.  Kind of like grown-up mens’ willies.

And that’s before you even get into the individual differences between regular babies.  I’m sure new parents would appreciate knowing up front that their child will barf all over their nice new couch, that their daughter will like peas until the age of four and then start throwing them at everyone, and that Junior will be sent to the principal’s office on the first day of Kindergarten.  Don’t you think our lives as parents would be much easier if we knew ahead of time what contingency plans should be made?

Things get even more complicated when you add a child with special needs into the mix.  While I would certainly want the ability to eliminate the things that George finds frustrating or distressing, I would not want to change who he is (who would?  The kid is SWEET!). However, it would have been good to know some things about him right from the beginning.  My checklist for George would include the following:

  • He’s going to bang his head when frustrated, so you are going to have little dents all over your drywall.
  • Baby-proofing devices will not even slow him down, so don’t waste the money.
  • By the time he is five, there will be no such thing as a “good place to hide stuff”.
  • He will find out the password to your YouTube account simply by watching you type it in.  Very visually oriented, these autistic kids.
  • He will be freakishly good on the computer, and he will be counting backwards from 100 in increments of 3 by the age of four.
  • You will need several large boxes to store all of the Mr. Potato Head stuff, but you won’t mind because Mr. Potato Head will prove to be a major catalyst for speech.
  • He will use Lego for stimming.  You will have to make sure you have plenty of the long Lego pieces in pink and yellow.  If you don’t have the same number of pink and yellow Legos, there will be meltdowns.
  • He’s going to know how to fix your DVD player!
  • He’s going to rip down your mother-in-law’s wallpaper and write his name in Magic Marker on her couch.

And what about James?  What would his checklist say?  Let’s see…

  • He’s going to be obsessed with cars so you may as well start collecting them now.
  • He’s going to come flying out like a cannonball at birth and he’s going to just keep going.
  • If he’s anywhere near water and you’re within a thirty-foot radius, you will get soaked.
  • He’s going to go to the emergency room five times in his first four years.  He’ll just be that kind of kid.
  • Don’t let him anywhere near the diaper cream.
  • Don’t let him anywhere near the talcum powder.
  • Don’t let him anywhere near the toothpaste.
  • Be prepared for the fact that he will publicly ask his Granny if she has a willy.

The checklist would also say that the boys will fight like cat and dog but they will be the best of friends, that George will make off-the-charts progress after his autism diagnosis, and that parenting would be the best thing to ever happen to me.

I love my boys.  They are a joy and and adventure.