My best friend is pregnant. If you read my blog, you know this already. She sent me an e-mail the other day with some book titles and asked if I read any of them. They were books about raising children. She wanted to know if I think reading books on how to raise a happy, calm and healthy baby is worth the time and effort. I read probably three books on this topic in my life. I thought all of them could be 100-200 pages shorter. I don't like that they repeated themselves a lot. I have enough with myself repeating the same thing over and over to the kid that doesn't do what I ask him to anyways. But I told her - truthfully - that I learned something from each one. I took some advice and disregarded other. My friend's e-mail made me think about the past two years and different things we've tried with the kid.
Before Kai was born, we read about the danger of introducing the pacifier to the baby too soon and thus creating a nipple confusion, which would lead to him not latching, which would lead to breasts not producing enough milk, which would lead to the baby starving, which would lead to the discovery of a black hole that would swallow us all exactly 17 minutes after you're done reading this post. So Kai spent the first 36 hours sucking on my and Peter's pinky, because as we found out, that was the only thing that would shut him up. Then the pediatrician that was discharging us gave Kai a pacifier he loved until he turned 6 months, when he decided on his own he didn't need it anymore. As far as any nipple confusion goes, he happily sucked from any surface imaginable without any signs of discrimination. So as you can see, nothing terrible happened. I suspect the black hole won't show up either.
There is a lot of advice out there, often conflicting. When your baby refuses to sleep for a year, you'd try pretty much anything. You know you most definitely should not mix any alcoholic beverage into their night bottle, but you are really tempted at that point. There is an African proverb that says "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child". If you are like me, you don't have a village to help. If you are like me, maybe you sometimes appreciate that you don't have a village to help, because it also means hearing a lot of advice you don't really care to hear. But raising a baby is hard when you spend most of the time home alone with him. It is hard to get a perspective on things sometimes. Which, in my experience, is what you need the most. Everything is easier if you get a glance at things from a slightly different perspective. If I am at home with the kid all day, I can't look at his tantrum as something that is short lived, common and expected. But then my friend comes over, with a little boy who is exactly the same age as Kai, and he throws himself on the floor and makes the exact same squealing sounds that pierce eardrums, and I am suddenly at peace. I can feel a smile spilling over my face. This is not because I am a mean person who enjoys seeing a friend struggling with her toddler's moods. This is because now it is not just me alone dealing with the situation. Suddenly I can see others have to deal with the same issues and struggle just as much as I do.
I love watching Peter and Kai going through the same scenario that drove me crazy earlier in the day. Peter: "Kai, it is not OK to pull the cat's tail, do you understand?" Kai, silently looking around the room. Peter: "Do you understand, Kai?" Kai: "Banana." Peter: "We are not talking about bananas, Kai. Do you know what it was you did wrong?" Kai, looking around the room, then fixing his gaze at Peter, nodding: "Banana, Daddy! Banana!" When you are in this situation 30 times a day, it really irritates you. When you watch this situation from a side bench, it is incredibly funny.
One way or another, this is what I heard once - it takes a lot to break a child. If you love the kid, if you let him know that you love him, and if you have a decent relationship with your partner, other things won't matter that much. What you really need is a sense of humor, safe outlet for when you are tired and angry, and perspective. That's why you need your village. The amount of TV, sleeping habits, organic foods or not...those are just choices you make because they may (or may not) work for you. That is not what makes or brakes the baby.