With each new child part of my nesting process seems to be looking back and reflecting on the experiences with our previous little ones. As we are preparing to welcome baby number four, I have found myself reflecting on parenting. And before I get to my point, allow me to say that if someone tells you they are about to have their fourth child, “On purpose?” is not the appropriate response. Neither is, “Don’t you know what causes that?” Of course I do, and if I hear that again I may request that the person saying it perform the aforementioned act solo. But I digress.
One of the things I have found myself reflecting on is the host of parenting advice that I have received over the years. Some of it has been good and some of it I really could have lived without.
As it turns out, tidbits of parental wisdom like, “Don’t say no often, but when you do make sure you mean it and don’t back down,” qualifies as good, but it’s the stuff I should have ignored that stands out the most these days.
For instance, one friend told me about the pressure point at the base of your neck. This was useful he said because when you are in public and your children are misbehaving it hurts just enough to get their attention but not enough to constitute…say…abuse.
The theory was sound, so I tried it on my oldest son once. In application you would have thought I had stabbed my son in the shoulder with a fork. He writhed and screamed like there was electricity pulsing through his body, causing more of a scene than the initial bad behavior. Needless to say, I gave up on the pressure point strategy and instead adopted the less obvious, “If you don’t stop, I’ll drag your butt to the car,” tactic of my mother’s generation. Seems to work pretty well.
Another piece of counsel really seems kind of silly in hindsight. Someone once told me that it is quite good to let your child run around naked for a while before his bath. “Lets things air out and they learn to hold their potty sooner,” I was told. I’m not quite sure why I thought this was feasible, but when we tried it all that happened was that my son peed in a fan and dry-humped the baby sitter. Both of which left a lasting impression, mainly on the babysitter.
I think the worst advice I ever received actually came in those first few days and weeks of parenting a newborn. And not just any newborn…a firstborn newborn, which is definitely a period more prone to wacky advice than the second, third, or fourth-born.
We all know the period when a newborn is nursing and the dad doesn’t quite feel equally bonded yet. The advice I received at that time went something like this: “Take off your shirt and hold your child with much skin-to-skin contact. You’ll share body heat and bond that way.” Sounded a little fishy, but what the heck, I tried it. A couple of teachable moments resulted from that gem of an experience.
First, I should have made sure my wife had fed the baby before I attempted it. The fact that I am not equipped to provide a meal did not stop him from trying to latch on and help himself. The second lesson was that I should have paid attention to how to break the seal of a nursing baby — those little guys can really hold on. It is probably needless to point out that these two lessons were followed by my squealing in pain.
We’ll see what kind of lessons this kid brings.