Need Parenting Advice? Listen To Your Gut.

Warning: This post talks about potty training.  The word “potty” is used quite a bit.  Sorry non-parents, this is just the type of thing you can’t help but talk about once you have kids.

 

 

Parenting.

You can read all the parenting books or listen to advice from all the experts, but every child truly is different. No one knows how to care for your child and meet his or her needs quite like you. That gut, that instinct surpasses any expert.

I have tried to hold on to this and remember it whenever I doubt myself. I had a few baby books in the beginning but gave up on those early in favor of where my own instincts guided me. Still, sometimes it’s hard to drown out the exterior noise, and my belief in myself as a parent has really been challenged over the past few months.

It all started with a pacifier. As L neared 2, I knew it was time to break her of her beloved paci. She was one of the kids who has used it 24/7 pretty much from the day she was born, and even mastered the art of talking with it in her mouth. I originally told myself I would let her use it till she was done with teething, but then the move happened and I couldn’t imagine taking one of her comfort items away from her as her world got turned upside down. But after the move, we had several trips planned and I couldn’t imagine all that time on the road without the one thing that was sure to keep her calm. So 2 turned into 2 ½ and though she wouldn’t put up a fight when her teachers asked her to put it away at school, as soon as I picked her up at the end of the day, the first thing she asked for was “paci?” (or, as she likes to pronounce it, “haci”).

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Here is where the experts would lecture me. I am the parent, I should have/could have just taken it away, but I couldn’t decide where the line was between allowing her to be ready for the next stage and me forcing her to move on because it was in her best interest. My indecisiveness meant she got her way, and I eventually got a reprimand from her teacher.

“She doesn’t need it anymore. It’s bad for her teeth,” she told me one afternoon as I picked her up. “I know,” I sighed, but handed her the paci anyway as we walked out, still contemplating what my strategy would be for making this happen.

The next day, she pressed me on the issue again, a little more harshly. “It’s bad for her teeth,” she said in a scolding manner. “None of the other kids in the classroom use one.”

This is where she got me. When she compared L to the other kids in the class, it was hard not to take it as a personal attack on my parenting. I popped the paci out of L’s mouth and carried her out of the school, literally kicking and screaming. I felt angry and judged, and thought it was extremely unfair that she had compared L to the other kids. I was shaking as I dialed JD’s number, then immediately started to cry. He was pissed, and had some choice words for the teacher, stating it was “none of her business.” He wanted to call the school, but I wouldn’t let him. I actually really like this teacher (this incident aside), and I didn’t want to create any tension.

Maybe she did step over the line. Maybe I took it personally when I shouldn’t have. Maybe she could have presented it in a different way. Still, the thing I kept coming back to was this… Right or wrong, I think her intentions were in the right place. Though she was the one to push me in that direction, it was still my instinct telling me she was right (as much as my pride wanted her to be wrong).  So, this was a little bit of noise that I chose not to block out, and JD and I finally made a step forward. L still uses the paci at night and in the car (I just couldn’t imagine going cold turkey), but we’ve broken her of it during the day.

Just as we moved past this little bump, we were faced with a new beast- potty training. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t been going well.) L has shown no interest, and similar to the paci, I didn’t even want to attempt this till we were back from our summer trips. I entered into this phase much more decisively than the paci-weaning, and when she didn’t respond to pull-ups, I stuck her in “big girl underwear” one weekend in an attempt to force the issue. I figured after a few accidents, she might be more motivated to pay attention to when she needed to go. Except that she wasn’t, and unlike a pacifier that you can take away, there’s no way to force a kid to use the potty.

Of course, she is the model of forward progress at school, and has no problem using the potty there, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when I went in for pickup one day and her teacher (yes, the same one) emphatically told me that they were reading “Diapers Aren’t Forever” when I came in. She also made a point to compare her (again) to the kids who were out of pull-ups and fully potty trained.

That was the moment I finally wanted to punch her.

So I took a deep breath and defended myself. My parental gut was telling me we were doing the best we could in this situation, and I wasn’t going to let her tell me how to raise my child. “I know she does great here,” I said, “and we’ve been trying at home. I even took her out of pull-ups one weekend but she kept having accidents.”

“It’s okay if she has accidents,” she interjected.

Another deep breath.

“I know that. We weren’t mad about the accidents, but she won’t tell us when she has to go like she does at school. And even when we proactively put her on the potty, she won’t go.”

She didn’t really have much to say after that, so I think I made my point.  L is L.  She’s very smart, but stubborn (a personality trait that snuck in from her father).  I know she knows when and how to use the potty, but she likes being able to control it and the fact that there’s not much we can do to make her use the potty at home (though bribing her with marshmallows has helped, this is a personality trait that snuck in from me).

I know these things because I’m her parent.  I observe her every day.  I know because my gut tells me.  No expert advice needed.

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Transition to Daycare

L has officially been at the new daycare for a week and a half and it’s been going relatively well. It’s still an adjustment for both of us, but I think we’re doing okay.

The weekend before she started, I was REALLY nervous about her first day. Obviously, I was happy and comfortable with the place I chose (otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it), but the transition was making me nervous. For a year, I was taking L to the same person (K) every morning; I was leaving her in someone’s home, an environment that felt intimate and nurturing. K and I had a mutual trust, and L’s smile when I dropped her off always assured me that she was safe and happy.

As much as I liked the new daycare, the teachers, and their philosophies when I toured, there was something intimidating and almost chaotic about the preschool classrooms to me. Her class is small- no more than 10 kids for her age group (and 2 teachers to corral them), but walking in there made me want to cry. Like I was going to be dumping her off, left behind to be just another being in a sea of children.

But beneath my insecurities and fears, I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. L is a bright, curious, intelligent and social kid. Mom instincts told me she would thrive with the additional stimulation that a daycare center would provide. She is also easygoing and adaptable, so the change wouldn’t be too rough on her.

There have been some tears at drop-off, but that’s to be expected. Still, it’s hard to hand her off to the teacher when she’s crying, shaking her head no, and reaching for me (kids have a funny way of making you feel like the worst parent ever), but the teachers have assured me (repeatedly) that as soon as I’m out the door, she’s done crying (I have confirmed that it does get quiet once I’m out of sight), and that overall she’s transitioning better than average and is happy to play outside, read stories, and make new friends during the day.

I don’t think either of us are fully comfortable with our new routine yet, but we’re getting there. In the meantime, I just have to trust my instincts and know that I did what’s best for her.

Upheaval

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of the past week. Upheaval.

The weekend started out fantastically. It was JD’s weekend off and his first weekend back on a day schedule for the month. We grilled out with our neighbors Friday and kicked off the weekend with drinks and plenty of laughs. Saturday morning L slept in till 9- 9!!!– and we went out for breakfast as a family. We had the whole weekend ahead of us- sunny skies, warm weather, and no plans. I was giddy with possibilities.

But it was all downhill from there.

JD went to the opening of a new skatepark in the area. BMX is one of his many hobbies, although he hasn’t done it in quite some time, so he was really excited for a local park to open up and get some riding in.

A couple of hours later, I got The Call.

“Don’t be mad,” he said as soon as I answered.

I immediately knew. I’ve been married to JD for 5 years. I’m quite familiar with The Call.

“You hurt yourself.”  (It was a statement, not a question.)

“I dislocated my shoulder,” he specified.

Saturday afternoon was spent at the ER, then JD followed up with an orthopedist on Monday. I had held out hope that surgery wouldn’t be necessary, but talking with the orthopedist made it clear that was the way to go. He’d torn ligaments and JD’s job depends on him being physically active and strong; we couldn’t risk him not healing correctly or fully, so we went ahead and scheduled surgery for Wednesday.

I was already feeling tired and vulnerable when I picked L up after work Monday. Unfortunately, the babysitter had another bomb for me.

“So, I have some bad news,” she began.

I immediately knew. What other news it could it be? What other news could she possibly share with me that would be considered bad? I could already feel the tears welling up.

She confirmed my fears when she said, “We’re moving.”

The tears came. She jumped up and hugged me. I assured her I was happy for her (her hubby got a job with the Sherriff’s department on the coast- how could I not be happy for a fellow LEOW?) but those tears had been building up for days, and I had just reached my breaking point.

When I drop L off in the mornings, I’m entrusting a piece of my heart to someone else. K has watched L for just over a year, and to lose her, the trust we’ve developed and, most importantly, the relationship L has with her, is almost unbearable.

As much as I like to pretend otherwise, I’m not Superwoman. These few days were overwhelming for me, but the good cry I had Monday night helped me take a deep breath and just move forward.

I started researching daycare centers in the area. As much as we’ve loved having L in an in-home daycare, she is transitioning to toddler, walking all over, exploring her world, talking more and more, and ready for more social interaction. I found a local daycare center I’m actually really excited about, and plan to visit in the next few days.

JD’s surgery this morning went well and he’s now on the road to recovery. It will be a long, tough journey.  Once he’s back at work, he’ll be off patrol and assigned to light duty somewhere (his worst nightmare). He can’t lift or hold L for at least 6 weeks, and he’s under strict instructions to avoid combat sports for 6 months (his other worst nightmare).  He does what little he can at home, but without use of his right arm, that’s not much. Poor little L doesn’t understand what’s up or why daddy can’t pick her up, which is hard on everyone.

The silver lining to these situations always seems to be the friends and family that step in and offer to help.  Many have offered to watch L, and David’s grandma stepped in last minute to pick her up at the ER Saturday afternoon then took her overnight last night since JD’s surgery was so early in the morning. We had a friend who let us borrow a recliner so JD could sleep comfortably (sleeping in bed is out of the question) and another friend who picked up the recliner and delivered it in his truck. Where we would be without these people, I’m not sure, but I can tell you we’re forever grateful for caring people who go out of their way to help out.

For me, I guess my new motto is, “Just keep swimming.”