A first time mother at the age of 34, I had lots of big ideas about what I would never or always do as a new parent. Naturally, I didn’t yet know what I was talking about. It turns out that for every rule I created, there were equally good reasons to break them all.
1. No Co-Sleeping
After a lofty notion that my child would sleep peacefully in a bassinet all night was dashed by the howling creature who woke every hour, co-sleeping became a necessity. When you haven’t got more than two hours in a row for months, you’d sleep standing up in a harness with the baby strapped to your head. After a period of adjustment, I grew to love co-sleeping. Now that our son is 6, Friday family slumber parties are still in effect.
2. No Formula
An entire generation of baby boomers survived on baby formula, and may just outlive many of their children. My son, breastfed to the age of 2, received an occasional night of formula so I could make it through a day without sobbing or wearing my shirt backwards. My husband pointed out that my suffering was needless, and we all slept better.
3. No Sugar
My health-nut father didn’t want me to touch the stuff when I was a child, but gave me an allowance; I grew up a sugar addict who sneak-indulged my way to the most number of cavities my dentist had ever seen in a 10-year-old. Moderation is a healthy thing—I’ve since learned. While my child loves a good gummy worm, he turns his nose up at a lot of sweets and doesn’t have to hoard a pile of Skittles in his room.
4. Only Organic Food
In an ideal world, we would all eat organic, but since my son’s birth, our income has fluctuated. Sometimes, convenience rules over perfect nutrition. Also, see No. 2: My parents’ generation grew up on Jell-o and Spam in a can.
5. No Television
Not big TV watchers ourselves, it was easy to stick to the “No TV before age 2” recommendation from the American Pediatric Association. But, because I am a work-at-home mom of an only child, TV has become a necessary evil (and I’m dating myself calling it TV anyway—Netflix shows and Minecraft YouTube videos are more like it). Now that my son is in first grade, in school for hours a day, with homework since kindergarten, I’m okay with giving him an hour of downtime. Just as in teaching him the moderation of sugar, there’s beauty in teaching our son how to deal with his feelings when it’s time to break from the screen.
6. No Separate Meals
The fact is, we don’t all share the same taste buds. My son dislikes mint and plums, which I love. Despite growing in my body, his tastes are 90 percent like his father’s. On top of that, three years ago I learned that my lifelong digestive struggles are the result of celiac disease. While I have to eat gluten-free, my husband and son like their French bread and donuts; I make a main dish we all share and add in sides the two of them enjoy.
7. No Time-Outs
I was a child who was rarely disciplined, and the time-out seemed a cruel form of abandoning a child before my son was born. While still not a fan of sending a child to his room alone, I quickly learned that time-outs were most often crucial to calm me down, and soon my son learned that Mama was the one who needed to sit in the corner to breathe for a while.
8. No Bribery
When you’ve successfully made it to the checkout counter after a hairy shopping trip with a child who has sprouted octopus tentacles, or to the doctor for a dreaded set of shots, if a piece of chocolate or the promise of an episode of Slugterra is the only way to prevent a full-frontal meltdown, believe me, it’s a psychological price worth paying.
The only rule I’ll never break is to show my son that boys deserve to give and receive affection, to have their toes tickled at bedtime, to be able to stay long to cuddle, and to come back for extra kisses and reassurances, no matter how late, no matter how many times, because he’s only little once.