My husband told me the other day that I’m into competitive parenting. What he meant is that I’m determined to find the best way to mother Babykins, as well as become intensely focused on finding the perfect solution for any problem she displays.
While the desire to do what is best for my child certainly isn’t bad, the obsessive tendencies I display in this quest can quickly consume me. That doesn’t help either Babykins or me.
Unfortunately, people like me have all too easy access to information to fuel this parenting obsession. Browse a bookshop and you’ll find shelves devoted to keeping your child happy and healthy. Likewise, Google anything child related and you’ll easily have a hundred websites and blogs to peruse. Most of these books and websites have conflicting information, making the search for the perfect parenting plan even more maddening. But it’s also an addiction that I can’t seem to quit.
I’m finally starting to realize that obsessively researching all things baby doesn’t give me any perfect answers. Rather, it just slowly drives me insane (yes, Mom, I know you told me this months ago). So to help me take a proverbial chill pill, I’ve started to take up this mantra:
What is “WWMIS?” It stands for “What Would Ma Ingalls Say?” Because nothing can help you take a parenting chill pill more than thinking about a pioneer mother.*
For example, sleep is often an issue that tortures parents of infants and toddlers. Do you let them cry-it-out or do you cuddle them throughout the night? Is it okay to feed your 3-month-old during the night? What about your 9-month-old? What if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night by 6 months, have you failed at parenthood? What if your baby only naps on you? Will you emotionally scar your baby if you sleep train? Will you kill your baby if you co-sleep? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
Food is another issue that causes great divides among parents. Is exclusively breastfeeding far superior to any other form of feeding? Is a little bit of formula okay? When should you offer a bottle? When should you start solids? Should you start with rice cereal? Purees? Finger foods? If you don’t give your baby organic produce and grass-fed meat, will they sprout a tail? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say**:
Play is another hot topic issue among parents. How much time do you spend focusing solely on your infant? Are you hindering their budding genius if you skip over Kindermusik and don’t bother with the “Mommy and Me” classes? How much “free play” do you schedule into your day? If you let your baby watch a Baby Einstein DVD, will their brains ooze out their ears? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
There are many more examples of things that parents get worked up about today that didn’t matter one whit on the frontier. Education decisions? You hoped there was a one-room school house within a couple of miles. How many children a your family should have? Well, contraceptive options were limited and you usually assumed a few of your children would die before adulthood. Parenting style? You went about your business during the day and hoped your children stayed close enough that they wouldn’t get eaten by a bear or a wolf.
So, if you’re a competitive parent like me and you find yourself becoming consumed by your quest to find the perfect solution for every problem, just ask yourself:
*Note: I realize pioneer life wasn’t perfect and that infant mortality was high. Likewise, I also realize that many pioneer families went back East because it was a hard life. I’m not saying I would do everything that pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective on parenting options. Remember, I’m trying not to go insane here! 😉
**Another Note: I also realize that breastfeeding didn’t work 100% of the time even before the introduction of commercialized formula (even what is “natural” isn’t perfect because of a sinful world, blah, blah, blah) and sometimes babies were given something other than mother’s milk. Again, I’m not saying we should do everything a pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective!
Today I have a snow day–a rare occurrence for me. The last snow day I had was during the “Snowpocalypse” of 2011. Unlike that snow day where it just snowed and snowed and snowed, this snow day has come with frigid temps and icy winds.
It’s quite drafty in our old farmhouse. The blowing winds bring in a chill that require us donning several extra layers to keep the cold from creeping into our bones. Still, my husband and I are happy to have a snow day together and we’ve kept a pot of coffee brewed to help fight the nippy air.
On our porch, the farm cats seem to be fairing the arctic blast reasonably well. The house I made from Styrofoam coolers keeps them relatively warm and dry. However, the bitter cold from the cement porch stings their paws and causes them to growl.
Staying indoors all day isn’t an option for us since we have to keep the furnace fire going. As long as I bundle up in the proper attire, the -33 windchill doesn’t seem so bad. Granted, I’m only outside for a few minutes at a time.
The snow continues to blow across the flat farmland and piles drifts everywhere. Seeing the bright sun and the desolate winter landscape reminds me of the story from the chapter Jingle Bells in These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
“[Laura and Almanzo’s] sleigh was one of the line of sleighs and cutters, swiftly going the length of Main Street, swinging in a circle on the prairie to the south, then speeding up Main Street and around in a circle to the north, and back again, and again. Far and wide the sunshine sparkled on the snowy land; the wind blew cold against their faces. The sleigh bells were ringing, the sleigh runners squeaking on the hard-packed snow, and Laura was so happy that she had to sing.
‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,/Jingle all the way!/Oh what fun it is to ride/In a one-horse open sleigh.’
All along the speeding line, other voices took up the tune. Swinging out on the open prairie and back, fast up the street and out on the prairie and back again, the bells went ringing and the voices singing in the frosty air.
‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,/Jingle all the way!’
They were quite safe from blizzards because they did not go far from town. The wind was blowing, but not too hard, and everyone was so happy and gay for it was only twenty degrees below zero and the sun shone.”
Like Laura, it’s hard for me to not feel happy when the sun shines on a winter’s day.